Thursday, March 24, 2011

Judge Not That Ye Be Not Judged

Warning: This post was composed at 5 AM, so if it doesn't make sense that is probably because I'm still half-asleep.

One of my best friends spent from October through February trying to convince me to go to U of U next year. They still have an Arabic program (albeit, their program is not as high-quality as our program). They still have a ton of Mormons, but hopefully all the holier-than-thou types are busy at BYU.

I filled out the application completely, the only thing that is missing is for me to pay the $45 fee. The application isn't actually due for another week, and even if I were to miss that deadline, they would still accept me if I were willing to pay $75 instead of $45.

When I talked to my parents about the possibility of transferring, my mom, who graduated from BYU, seemed okay with it. My dad, who attended five different colleges/Universities (eventually graduating from U of U), did not approve.

The Relief Society President in my home ward is cool. She is funny, nice, and runs the ward better than any other RS president I've seen. She is not one to be bossed around but she has a testimony that the gospel is true. Normally, I do my best to screen out adults from my home-ward/extended family and not add them on FaceBook. I hold that FaceBook ought to be my peer social-networking area. I did add her though and I have my mom added and a good friend of mine who happens to be 61 (but she is cooler than most people my age).

When I went home for winter break, Bishop sought me out and requested an interview. I obliged so during second hour I was sitting in his office, trying to figure out what he was digging for. "Someone has informed me that you think BYU is too mormon-y" he asserted, his eyes drilling into me as if to say that if I had a courtroom confession to make, now was the time.

I told him that Provo had been quite a culture shock (completely true) and that although I tolerate BYU, I think I would flourish somewhere else. He took this about as well as if I had told him that I tolerate the church but I think I would grow more as a Wiccan. Bishop is a nice enough person, but I've never been comfortable confiding in him. He's pretty close with my dad, which probably explains part of the discomfort--although telling my secrets to a not-professionally-trained-middle-aged-man sounds like so much fun, seeing him when he comes to our house to watch football or basketball games just seems awkward. Plus throughout my youth, any time I went in for an interview he said "Do you keep the law of Chastity? That includes watching pornography and masturbation, but those a boy-sins." During my time in his ward, I never had a problem with either of those, but I can't imagine how that affected others. Not only are you sinning, but you're committing a "boy-sin". As I've talked to other women within the church, I've learned that the damage of this culture goes far beyond my ward so I guess I shouldn't blame it all on my bishop. Most of them never knew what masturbation was until after having established *years* of habits. Honestly, it ought to be the job of the parents to explain that type thing, but how many lessons do the YM have the mention it? How many Priesthood session talks do YM hear about living clean lives that actually talk about masturbation? I'm honestly not sure, since I've never been in YM, but I'd guess they're more common than in YW.

Whether or not one feels that this behavior ought to be regulated by the church, anyone can see that girls who suddenly realize that they've been "sinning" for years probably aren't going to feel very good (not to mention the fact that within the church it sometimes seems like we're not suppose to have a sex-drive until we're married, so that's all the more reason to feel guilty).

Anyway, back to my story, the interview continued, while the bishop interrogated me on my club attendance (uhhh, none--USGA isn't technically a club) and tried to convince me that if I started joining clubs then I'd realize that BYU is the One True School. I realize he had good intentions--but as someone who has no stewardship over me, not that I wanted to discuss BYU with any ecclesiastical leader, I definitely felt trapped and frustrated.

Then he asked about what I thought of my Book of Mormon class. I don't remember how much I've spoken of the frustrations of that class, but it is sufficient to quote him in saying that “Tolerance is just a word that gays use to try to convince us that their lifestyle is acceptable. They’re trying to legalize evil, and like I said earlier we can’t change the laws of God. Even atheists admit that this country was built on religion and taking that out of the system will make this country weak", “These homosexual thoughts are given to them by Satan, but nowadays, when people experience them, they don’t just let them go. They begin thinking about them, and then they think about them more and say “this must mean I’m gay!”... This is the gay agenda, to get homosexuality to be accepted so that everyone will think that they are gay. Satan will influence us by any means possible.", and "[Jesus said love everyone] is what gays say to further the gay agenda. Just think about Matthew 23, was Jesus showing love to the Pharasees? No, he was showing them the law. Jesus wasn’t showing love because they were going against his commandments".

I couldn't exactly honestly say that Book of Mormon was my favorite class. So I told the bishop that the way some doctrinal points were presented frustrated me, but the teacher was only in his first year so it was understandable. He pressed me "Like what?" I claimed that I couldn't think of anything off the top of my head. "Well, we have time, take a minute to think". I panicked, I didn't know what to say.

Awkward silence ensued and finally I mumbled "I didn't like how he handled the topic of homosexuality".

"So..." he inquired "how do you feel about homosexuality?"
"I, I... I uhhh. Well, I'm not sure, I feel that it is something many people struggle with"
He nodded "Just like adultery". I sighed, and he went on to say "In my day, everyone in high school got drunk--alcohol was the big thing. Nowadays, homosexuality is the popular thing." I tried to disagree, and submitted that kids often call each other names and being gay is anything but popular, especially in high school. He ignored my comment, saying that the world has accepted homosexuality but that we shouldn't.

I left this interview feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and rejected. Most of all, I felt angry with whomever turned me in. I immediately asked the RS president, who I had added on FaceBook, and she admitted that she had been concerned about me. I gave her a piece of my mind (although she felt that she was helping, I'd prefer her to talk to me as a friend if she feels uncomfortable with my passive-aggressive status updates as opposed to ratting me out to someone who really doesn't have any authority over me anyway). She apologized. I definitely felt like she had been unfair and quick to judge.

Jump forward to Monday. The friend who has been pressuring me to transfer to the U told me that he is not going to go to the U, but instead he is going to go to culinary school which is near the house of the person he is dating. I found this mind-boggling as he already has an associates degree and he is within a year of a bachelors. I was quick to decide that he was throwing away his future because of someone cute and that he couldn't possibly be happy with this choice long-term.

He has been with me since the day I began studying Arabic when I was 15. Unlike my Arabic, his is fluent and beautiful. When he told me his plans, I wasn't as worried about what would make him happy as I was about the hard work he was wasting and the future he was sacrificing. I told myself that I was just looking out for him because he has a gift for languages and a BA is a good first-step on the path to acquiring a decent job. It isn't what he loves though. I love him and want the best for him but to be a friend in this situation means supporting him in his decision.