I often wonder if I belong to a church or more of a ranking system.
I grew up BIC, TBM believing that the God had restored his one and only true church to the face of the earth, through a modern-day prophet Joseph Smith. As I grew, I was taught that God is no respecter of persons, and that every soul is valuable in the sight of God. I was also taught that God judged men on their heart and not on their outward appearance. It seemed as thought God was really fair-minded, and as God's mouthpieces on earth, the church leaders were likewise fair-minded and true followers. I grew up believing that the color of one's skin did not matter to God. I was also taught that someone's weaknesses would become their strengths, with the help of God. It seemed that everyone was empowered and considered equal in God's sight. I was taught that we would not be judged for others transgressions, and that it was wrong to judge others.
Then I went on a mission. I realized that those missionaries who were related to General Authorities, or "important" members of society, were given preferential treatment. The preferential treatment was received by way of leadership callings, good companions and assignments to the most beautiful parts of the mission field. One Elder I clearly recall was a grandson of Spencer W. Kimball. He was an average guy without special abilities or missionary skills. Yet, we knew about him. Everybody knew about him, and nobody was surprised when he was called to be an AP and serve in the most beautiful zone of the mission to close out his two years of missionary service. There were a number of other Elders in my mission who were sons or nephews of some of the Quorum of the Seventy, and likewise received great companions, great areas, and leadership callings. At the time it was kind of an irritant, there was some cognitive dissonance involved, but I got over it. It was pretty funny when this grandson of SWK, and the son of a US congressman, were assigned as AP companions together, and neither had been an outstanding missionary. It started the wheels turning.
Since those initial wonderings, I've noticed a clear effort on the part of the church to take care of its leaders and their progeny, as well as the high-society members and their progeny, while seemingly ignoring the rank-and-file membership, and their service. Fame and fortune are worshipped by the brethren. On a local level, Bishopric members sons serve as their quorum leaders, or in the Young Women's leadership. The sons and daughters of members of the High Council are treated differently than those of the rank-and-file membership. I've also noticed that our high profile members, professional athletes, and so forth who don't serve missions are not held under the same tacit condemnation as other members who do not choose to serve mission. Indeed, if any member has any noteworthy position in society, once again they are treated as mormon royalty. No one need go any further than the example of the Osmonds, who parlayed their 60's and 70's fame into a position of special treatment in the church. As it turns out, a young man at BYU who wanted to date Marie Osmond had to have a special recommend from his stake president, to be considered for a date. Not a temple recommend mind you, but a special "you are good enough for Marie Osmond" recommend. I have no idea what questions were asked in order to receive one of these.
I have also noticed that those who are given leadership callings many times take it upon themselves to walk around with a chip on their shoulder. Indeed, the higher ranking General Authorities of the church must be addressed a certain way by the membership, as "Elder" or "President" so they are afforded the proper respect of their high calling. It makes me wonder if Jesus would want me to call him Elder, or bow and kiss his ring if I met him. Local leadership such as Stake Presidents and High Councilmen ofttimes take it upon themselves to offer their "special" interpretation of a scripture, or to change the words of a scripture to somehow make it "more" relevant. Most local members assume that these men are above them, and somehow score more points on some imaginary "righteousness" scale.
Is there an unwritten righteousness scale within mormonism that allows its members to self-righteousness judge one another? I believe that there is. I believe that many members assess one another on whether or not someone is wearing garments. On whether or not they obey the Word of Wisdom. Many times members judge one another on whether a priesthood holder is wearing a white shirt, or has facial hair. Women are judged on how many children they have, and whether their children are active. Men are judged on their profession, their financial accomplishments, their educational attainments, and their leadership position within the church. If you are on the high end of the judging scale, then maybe a member will "allow" you to be their friend. Certainly many members who employ these methods of judgment will not allow you into their social circles until they know more about you, and have judged you worthy.
I would dare say that many members of the church constantly look at others in order to make a thumbs-up or thumbs-down determination, in quite a few categories, depending on the ward and its particular viewpoints. Some Salt Lake wards I lived in were very cognizant of which General Authorities you were related to, or which of your ancestors was prominent in church history. If you had many ancestors in Nauvoo and Kirtland, who later became pioneers, your score would increase accordingly. In other wards, financial position and possessions are the benchmarks. What kind of car do you drive? How large is your house? Is it on the east bench? Do you have a BMW? Is your house over 5000 square feet? Where do you vacation? Where do your children attend school? Who are your friends? Are you connected socially? Are you going to Italy again this summer? How do like that private school? Your family is friends with the Huntsmans? Oh, you dated Marie Osmond at BYU?
On the other hand, negatives are also seemingly sought out, and factored into the equation. Are you divorced? You are single at 34 and never have been married? Your sister is gay? Your uncle served prison time? Your father declared bankrupcy? You declared bankrupcy? You had a drug addiction? Your brother was excommunicated on his mission? You dropped out of college? You don't shop at Nordstroms? You have examined anti-mormon material? You used to get drunk as a teenager? You didn't serve a mission? Your spouse was layed off? You don't have any foodstorage? You don't go to a professional hairdresser? Your credit is bad? You cheated on your spouse? Your son left the church? Your father was never a member? You're a convert? You don't have any pioneer ancestry? Your son was convicted of fraud? Your brother-in-law is serving time in the state penn? You don't pay tithing? You can't afford a boat? You never go on vacation? You don't own a suit? You won't shave off your beard? You have three earrings in one ear? You don't have a temple recommend? Your spouse does not wear garments? You only attend Sacrament meeting? Did your sister really marry a black man? Why can't you afford to go with us to Antigua? What's wrong? Have you lost your testimony?
This constant barrage of nonstop judgmentalism takes a toll on the rank-and-file members who are simply nice people trying to do their best. Many members are silent notes taking. Do they really realize how intrusive and non-christian it is to judge others? Why do they feel they can be judge and jury? It would be nice if all of the things I was taught about equality and non-judgmentalism were actually practiced within my religion. Sadly, it is the exception rather than the rule.
Is mormonism a church, or a ranking system which filters out as many as possible so only the "cream" can rise to the top? Does God love the annointed ones more than anyone else? Is there a mormon "royalty" that can do no evil, and receives preferential treatment within mormonism? Does God love the rank-and-file members too, or is he only concerned with the mormon royalty?
Oh yeah, Happy New Year!!!