Monday, March 12, 2012

Let Your Darkness Hide Under A Bushel



by Apparent Parent (bio)

I'm pretty sure when Jesus said "Let your light so shine
before men," he didn't mean for us to set the church on fire.
Jesus declared in his Sermon on the Mount that we should let our light shine before men (Matthew 5:16). We Latter-day Saints take this to mean we should let people see the good qualities in us as easily as they would see a candle on a hilltop.

Unfortunately, there are members of the church standing on that same proverbial hilltop with a blowtorch aimed directly at the temple standing on it. This is sad to me. As powerful as a good example can be, a bad example can etch itself into our memory much more quickly and powerfully than a long-term good example. It's like branding a cattle instead of marking it with a permanent marker every few weeks for its entire life.

I learned this lesson today while shopping for a new cell phone. After a helpful salesman showed me which dumbphones got good reception (since I live in a cell-phone dead zone), he left me to talk with his co-workers. While not intending to eavesdrop, the word "Mormons" soon wafted across the store.

Eavesdropping suddenly became inevitable.

I think he had been talking politics, a topic which touches on religion more than ever with a stake president trying to drop his stake affiliation to just become "President." The salesman told his co-workers he used to work with some "Jack Mormons." And boy did those guys know how to portray the church.

"Look," one once told him. "Never invite just one Mormon to your party, because he'll drink all your beer. But if you invite two Mormons to your party, both of them will stay sober."

"And it's so true!" said the man who had recently been on my nice list by helping me with cell phone questions. And he said it with the conviction of someone who had invited solitary Mormons to a series of parties and scientifically measured their blood alcohol level upon leaving, and then repeated the experiment with the control group of two Mormons invited to the same types of parties.

He then expanded the conversation to BYU dorms. He claimed the same former LDS co-worker had told him of overarching sexual frustration on the church's college campuses because we believe fornication is a sin. Not like the Bible ever mentions fornication, right? That's pure Mormon doctrine, right? (1 Corinthians 6:18, or lest ye think it's just a pesky New Testament doctrine you can get around, Ezekiel 16:26. Yeah, it's been around for a while.)

While he related these stories, I feigned interest in myriad cell phone accessories: "Oooohh, a pink skin for a cell phone I don't own ..."

Anyway, he went on to tell about how in the girls' dorms, it became a universal sign of "being open for business" when a girl's dorm room had a broom in its window. Now this is the one portion of their Mormon-bashing conversation that he actually lowered his voice for, leaving me wondering whether he was insinuating small-scale brothels at BYU or just girls signalling their boyfriends. But he did say "open for business," so you can interpret that for yourself. Supposedly, this led to the tradition of every girl's dorm placing a broom in their window on Halloween.

Now, this story has the ring of something that started as fact and blossomed into full-scale rumor. Like, one time Suzy had a blind date coming over who insisted on picking her up at her dorm room door, which was against the rules at the time. So to be furtive about it she placed a broom in the window when her roommates left for their own dates so Haliburton could pick her up under the "roomy radar." And this blossomed into a rumor labeling all college-age Mormon women as Jezebels. You get the idea.

My point here is, if your church flashlight bulb went dead, either stow it or recharge it. If no one would ever guess you are LDS, don't tell them you are LDS. If the last time you went to church was during the Nixon administration and you've spiked your coffee ever since, please do not self-identify as Mormon while telling about how bad people in the church can be. And most importantly, if you drink all of your host's beer, please hide the keg under a bushel. It's your choice to drink, but anyone who knows you're Mormon will likely spread your bad example farther than any good act will be carried.

Instead, do things which will help them to "see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." That way Latter-day Saints won't have to walk into Radio Shack to hear people bad-mouthing their religion.

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