We Are All Enlisted
I've written a bit about my journey as a gay man growing up in the Mormon church. If I'm being honest, there are not a lot of things I miss about being an active member of the LDS Church, although there are many values it taught me that have definitely shaped who I am and which I still hold onto to this day.
One thing I do miss sometimes is the music. Granted, compared to some other religions, I would not say that the LDS Church is the most vibrant in the music department. Often our "making a joyful noise" sounds more like we're at a funeral. There are other churches who are far more celebratory and diverse in their musical selections.
Nonetheless, Mormon hymns are what I grew up with, and I still catch myself singing and listening to them from time to time. Certainly, the messages of many of them are still moving and inspirational to me. And there are some tunes that I still absolutely adore, "Our Savior's Love" being among them.
I woke up two mornings ago with one of the hymns I grew up with bouncing around in my head. It is not even a favorite of mine, but for some reason it was in my mind. It is the hymn, "We Are All Enlisted." To tell you the truth, I could only remember snatches of words until I reread the lyrics. This is the first verse:
We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er;
Happy are we! Happy are we!
Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store;
We shall win and wear it by and by.
Haste to the battle, quick to the field;
Truth is our helmet, buckler, and shield.
Stand by our colors; proudly they wave!
We’re joyfully, joyfully marching to our home.
It is a rousing tune, which you can listen to here (although even this version is sung in a milquetoast manner, in my opinion):
The two lyrics that really stood out to me as I was trying to recall them were "Happy are we! Happy are we!" and "We're joyfully, joyfully marching to our home."
I have many happy and gratifying moments from my time in the LDS Church, but much of it was filled with sadness, angst, dissatisfaction, guilt, shame, and inauthenticity. These particular lyrics from this hymn feel almost ironic to me because "happy" and "joyful" were not often what I was feeling when I was trying to be the kind of Mormon I thought I was supposed to be. More often, it felt like drudgery and unachievable.
There is this idea taught in the Mormon faith that following its tenets are the only real way to achieve exaltation and happiness. For someone like me who tried so hard to fit in that box and deny what I really felt inside, that path just felt so impossible and exhausting. And the thought of leaving the faith was equally terrifying.
Yet, it was only when I embraced who I feel I am and left the LDS Church (and at that time, not willingly) that I truly began to be happy. I am so much better off emotionally and spiritually than I felt I was in the place and condition where I was "supposed" to be.
The thing is, I wasn't "enlisted" into my faith by choice; I was born into it, and that was the only path I knew for a very long time. I'm not blaming anyone for that. Mormonism brought both of my parents much joy, I believe, and so of course, they expected it would do the same for their children. And perhaps it has to my siblings, all of whom are active.
I do remember, though, times when my mom would kind of beat herself up because she thought she wasn't measuring up to the kind of Mormon she sometimes felt she ought to be even though my mom was a terrific and very good woman. I think I inherited that trait from her: wanting to live up to the ideals of my faith, but in my case, it felt even doubly hard because what I really desired was so contrary to what the LDS Church taught and teaches.
I was telling Isaias not too long ago that if the President of the LDS Church, who is considered a prophet by Mormon followers, were to come out with a statement tomorrow that said a revelation had been received directly from God that homosexuality was no longer a sin and that anyone in a gay relationship who had left or been excommunicated from the faith was welcome to come back and live their full gay life without any repercussions, I don't think I would come back. In fact, no, I wouldn't come back.
What I've discovered is that I don't need Mormonism—or any organized religion, really—to be happy and right with God. I'm better off without it.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, if organized religion works for you and brings you tons of joy, great! You do you.
I have a friend who went to the same ward I did for many years. We grew up together, although he was a year or two older than me. But at one time, he had been called to be the Sunday School teacher, and he was one of my favorites. I always enjoyed his lessons and spirit.
I was surprised to learn many years later that he had resigned his membership and now holds much anger and resentment towards the LDS Church. He feels enormously betrayed by the organization and actively encourages others to leave the faith because, in his view, the whole organization is based on lies. He resents his former membership and regrets that his missionary and church service may have brought people into a faith that he now considers abhorrent.
I do not carry the same feelings of bitterness or regret regarding Mormonism that he does. I'm not obsessed the way he seems to be with trying to deter people from being involved in Mormonism. But I also have not lived his life or experiences. What I do know is that I don't regret any of the things I remember him imparting when he was my Sunday School teacher. I don't need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
I don't regret having been a Mormon. I don't regret my mission. I don't regret the callings I served in or the good values I obtained from being steeped in Mormonism nor do I have a desire to dissuade anyone from living according to their own beliefs. I can respect someone else's right to believe something I no longer believe in without feeling the need to lambaste them for believing it.
But I don't need Mormonism to be happy and, quite frankly, am happier without most of it. And I feel like Heavenly Father and I have a pretty awesome relationship. I have so much to be grateful for and so many blessings. My faith is not one that can be contained within the walls of any organized religion, and as I get older, I see the damage that organized religion can sometimes do to people. I'm just better off without it.
On a completely unrelated note, but sort of related, I was watching the first of the June 6th hearings last night. Pretty powerful stuff. I wish I believed it would turn people's hearts. I hope it does. But I'm skeptical.
I think it is unconscionable, though not at all surprising, that Fox News, a supposed news network, chose not to air it; instead, choosing to spew the toxic propaganda it does from the likes of Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.
I do not think it hyperbolic in the slightest to say our democracy is in serious trouble if we allow the likes of the June 6th insurrection to go answered for. There is much accountability to be answered for for the lies that caused those riots, deaths, and destruction and which still pervade and damage our democratic ideals to this day.
As the song says, "Truth is our helmet, buckler, and shield," and as fatigued as we all may be by our political divisions, "we are all enlisted till the conflict is o'er." Those responsible for eroding our democratic norms and for attempting what amounts to a failed coup need to be held to the fire. These things can't be swept under the rug. And in my opinion, whether you voted for him or not, whether you like him or not, one narcissistic, irresponsible man who couldn't gracefully relinquish power when he lost a fair election and who still continues to erode people's faith in our electoral system, needs to answer for the damage he's done and continues to do as do those who are too spineless to stand against him.