Sunday, May 3, 2009

Comparing Trials

If you’re like most people, you probably look back on your life and think, “Life hasn’t been half bad. I haven’t, say, been laid siege on by Indians, having to escape with my nursing child dangling from her clothing clutched in my teeth as I snuck away on all fours in the middle of the night, surviving on rose buds and roots for ten more days before the rescue party found us. I’ve never had to decide which of my children gets to eat the last serving of beans and knowing that I’ll have to listen to the other two cry from hunger throughout the night. And hey, I’ve managed to live indoors and eat just about every day of my life. In fact, I’ve been able to eat so much that my body actually has actually taken on the round shape so coveted by ancient cultures.”

“Yes,” you say, as you lean back in a comfortable sofa while cool or warm air blows directly on to you, as if magically, “I don’t have it half bad.”

If this is your attitude, however, you would make a very bad Mormon. While Mormons regularly exhort one another to count their many blessings, yea, even one by one, there is nothing more Mormon than counting your trials. Trials, it turns out, are the true sign of righteousness. And in any group of Mormons you’ll be sure to hear more than your share of them. An account of hardships is usually delivered with one of those fake, pained smiles and a sigh. “Yes,” your Mormon friend or neighbor will say, “we’ve had more than our share of trials in this family, but doggone it, we just get through them.”

Many a Sunday school lesson has descended into an hour of one-upsmanship, where Mormons strive to top one another as they enumerate difficult times. “You lost your job and your house?” One will say. “Why that’s certainly a tough one. Of course, my husband left me for the babysitter right after our daughter hit our dog and totaled the minivan. That was a tough day.”

As with many Mormon circumstances, the more visible and obvious the trial, the more it can be brought up in discussions as a talking point. A house burning down or a rebellious teenager, for example, gets much more attention than a quiet fight with depression or dealing with a mentally ill sibling. The idea is to strike that balance so that your fellow Mormons will say, “Sister so-and-so sure is strong,” and not “man, Sister so-and-so’s life blows.”

Mormons often remind each other of the story of Job. Where a man was so righteous that God and the Satan made a bet about him. These stories, rather than encourage righteousness, however, seem more to remind the average Mormon to dial it back a little. The logical path when confronted with this story is to shoot for that little area between so wicked that you don’t get any cool stuff and so righteous that your kids all die.

Submitted by Matt Howard


karen said...

I don't think I'll ever have to worry about being so righteous that my kids all die. Yeah. That never keeps me up at night. I do worry that they'll all die because I need to be taught a lesson, however.

kels said...

I don't like this.