By Gina Colvin
(An earlier version of this article was posted 9 September 2013 at Patheos.)
THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS of Mormons all over the world attend temple services on a daily basis, all of them watching a metaphorical reenactment of the creation story. Included in this drama is an exchange between God and Satan.
In a rage with God for cursing him, Satan threatens to overcome the will of the “children of men” and take them as his followers. God counters by declaring that he will implement a bugfix in humans: a feeling of natural repugnance toward Satan’s purposes.
As his rage climaxes, Lucifer storms (paraphrasing):
If that is the case then let my intention be clear. I will harness human aggression to my purposes and use it to raise financial capital enough to purchase military power wherever it might be found. I will speak my will through bogus clerics who press down upon the people, and despots and tormenters whose exercise of power causes death and terror throughout the world.
And then, at the conclusion of the temple service, thousands and thousands of Mormons, having been apprised of the darkest of Satan’s intentions (i.e. his interest in a systemic takeover of the world’s institutions), happily change out of their polyester whites, grab a burger, and go back to believing that the world is going to hell in a hand basket because of porn, beer, Muslims, and body piercings.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not in favor of porn or beer, but I think they are simply a distraction, rendering humans politically impotent, rather than ripening them for hell.
My question is: How did our religious culture get to the point where its most recent efforts to be politically influential fell upon countering gay marriage rather than spear-heading a much needed critique of the corporate/state nexus, the failed “just-war” rhetoric, and the maintenance of oppression and systemic inequality—all integral parts of Satan’s master plan as revealed in the temple? How did we get to the point where trolling through dead white dude quotes in the Gospel Doctrine manual has become preferable to dialoging about real life political and economic contexts that are proof of Lucifer’s ideological and systemic assault on humanity—and about how Christ’s message of salvation could counter that?
In the wake of the Syrian debate, the Pope called for a day of prayer. Catholics leaders in Syria argued that a U.S. invasion would simply fuel extremists. The World Evangelical Council denounced a military assault. And the Archbishop of Canterbury cautioned against military action in Syria. Meanwhile, in the Mormon Newsroom? Well, go look for yourself.
Why, one might ask, did the Church not produce a statement of moral position on Syria (or on other political crises)? Is it for the same reason that McDonalds, Ernst & Young, Intel, and Microsoft haven’t made a statement of moral position on Syria? Why would a corporation trafficking mostly in spiritual maxims and emotional aphorisms with the promise of an uncomplicated middle-class lifestyle be interested in upsetting its economic and cultural base?
If the endowment ceremony really means something to the Latter-day Saints, why was there no moral outrage over Secretary of State John Kerry’s admission that with a financial investment certain Persian Gulf states are willing to buy up U.S. armies and navies to execute a strike on a sovereign state that poses no direct threat to the U.S.?
If the temple service has any practical credibility, why has there not been an LDS contingent deeply questioning the world leaders who wish to grow their strategic influence through the use of blood and horror?
I believe that this tendency to avoid the world’s real-time heartaches and pain can eventually plunge the LDS Church into irrelevance and oblivion. If the only response we can muster when the screws are on is one that protects our own resources and stability then we cease to have purpose as a religious institution—we are merely a religious ethnicity rather than a powerful voice guided by moral vision.
The tendency to dismiss our own canon and our own ceremonial discourse will have its consequences. And perhaps it will be that people of my ilk will bail—which I’m sure will be met by many with a sigh of relief and a sneer of derision. But without a robust voice demanding a reconciliation of theology with action, and moral vision with moral purpose, Mormonism will be on its way to becoming politically obsolete. And having been commissioned to establish a Zion society premised on a clear vision of equality, kindness, and compassion, that seems rather pointless and self-defeating, doesn’t it?