OK...I've been thinking about something over the last couple of days. Well, I guess it's something I've often thought about, but especially over the last couple of days. I'm not sure right now what I'm going to say; I hope whatever this post says when I hit the "publish" button won't offend you.
So this Brian Williams guy (a famous NBC reporter) has a show called Rock Center, and the other day they aired an episode called "Mormon in America." Of course, this was probably of interest, due to the fact that Mitt Romney (a Mormon) is going to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States for 2012. Now, I'm not here to talk politics. (I know---surprise!!!) This post has nothing to do with politics, actually. The reason I'm talking about all this is because I've been watching the Facebook threads and reading the comments on Youtube, in response to the "Mormon in America" special. And the thought running through my mind is this: Why is it so difficult to be genuine?
Before you go off about how you're totally genuine and, who is Wade to talk about this anyway, let me qualify my thoughts. I am who I am, right? I mean, I can't really be what I'm not. Many of you who have met me might be able to say a few things about me. And I hope that you'd have nice things to say. But is that only because you are people to whom I haven't been completely forthcoming about the totality of myself? Am I completely honest with you about who I am? Do I give you the not-so-good about me, along with the good? Hmmm......really makes you think, eh?
My driver's license says several things about me. It says I am 5'9". But did you know that I'm actually only 5'8", and that's in certain pairs of shoes? Barefoot, I'm maybe 5'7 1/2". I've been 5'9" before, in a pair of well-heeled boots. And so I told the guy at the DMV that I'm 5'9" because, in boots it's true and, 5'9", to a short guy, is much better than 5'7 1/2". And if a stranger over the phone were to ask me what color my hair is, I'd tell them blonde. But what I'd likely withhold is the fact that I'm going bald, and have been since I was maybe 20 or 21. I can't even hide it any more; the male balding pattern is there. I often wear a hat, because I'd rather people just think I'm some dude in a cool hat, rather than a young guy with bad hair genes. I like a good pair of pants. Not just any fit either. I have my particulars, and a lot of the comes down to which pair of pants will most successfully hide my "chicken legs?" So most people who pass me in the hall at school, or in the grocery store, will walk right past my very average, even forgettable look, without thinking a thing. I'd much rather that than for them to see that I'm skinny-legged. (I am a little pleased to say I've sort of given up on trying to cover the chicken legs. It's just too damned hot for pants in the summer!!!) Now, these are the little lies and cover-ups I'm guilty of as it pertains to my outward, physical appearance. What about what's on the inside? That's "what counts" after all.
I do believe I'm a genuinely good person. I actually believe I have a pretty good heart and that I care about others. And for those of you who know me, whether superficially or more deeply, I'd imagine you'd at least rate me "a good guy." But do you know I've been guilty of lying, cheating on grade school homework, forging my parents' signatures to my 6th grade band practice sheets, bullying, homophobia, hypocrisy and even racial slurs? When I tell you that I'm happy and doing well, do you know that there have been times in my life when I've been about as low as I can imagine going? When I give you the impression that I'm a pretty good student over at UVU, are you aware that finishing school has been, and continues to be one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life? That simply registering for my classes sometimes seems like a mountain too high for me to climb? The truth is, while I do try to be a good person, and I have had moments of great strength in my life, I am also incredibly weak, and I struggle everyday, trying to find the strength to go about life as I perceive every "normal person" to do.
Cut to my original paragraph...the one about "Mormons in America." As I've read the comment threads, I wonder...Why do we have such a hard time just being genuine? People on those threads are offended at the TV episode because "Brian Williams interviewed the wrong people." Or because unfair assertions were made. Or because they showed the sacred Mormon underwear. Or because they didn't make a strong enough point about how today, Mormons don't practice polygamy. And how Mormons aren't racist. And why would they interview Abby Huntsman or any other "inactive" Mormon? And the solution I must have read 200 times over the past 2 days is just "....and if you have questions about the church, go to lds.org or talk to the missionaries. Now any member of the church, who has actually read and studied Mormon doctrine and history, could answer your questions. And they might give you the bad with the good. AND THERE IS BOTH. If you do as the people on the comment threads advise, you'll be able to get the very simple, water-down, sometimes sugar-coated answers. But we're afraid of that much honesty sometimes... And this all brings me back to my question: Why is it so difficult just to be genuine?
I'm a Mormon. An inactive, unorthodox Mormon. I was even "disfellowshipped" at one time. Does this disqualify ME from answering others' questions about Mormonism? No. It does not. I was raised Mormon, in a family of Mormons with a history of Mormonism. I have polygamous ancestry. I was baptized at age 8. I was ordained and given the Aaronic priesthood at age 12 and then ordained to all of the successive offices of the priesthood, on up to an Elder in the Melchizedek priesthood. I served a full-time, 2-year mission. I was married in the temple (to my ex-wife, whom I later divorced) and I've been a part of the different ceremonies in the temple. I've read the Book of Mormon a few times. I still read the talks from the prophets and apostles in the Mormon magazine "The Ensign." So...I feel plenty qualified to answer questions about Mormonism. I'm probably a lot like Abby Huntsman. I may see the world differently than some of you see it, or differently than some choose to see it. I'm very honest about what I know about Mormonism. And it's not all roses. There are some thorns. And those thorns are what I'm getting at, I guess. My perception of those who were so offended at the "Mormon in America" special is that they're afraid of the thorns. They only want the world to know about the good stuff. They'd like Mormonism to "appear to be perfect."
Many of you are really good friends and family of mine. You've known me for a long time. You know most everything about me. And you still love me. You still want to be my friends. You still want me in your lives. You've proven to be the type of friends who love me for my roses, as well as my thorns. And so, I owe it to each of you to try and be more genuine; to try and be exactly who I am; to stop hiding from under my hat and from inside my baggy pants, and from behind my driver's license which lies and says I'm taller than I am. Just as I don't think Mormons should be afraid of who they are and what Mormonism is and has been, I shouldn't be afraid of who I am.
None of us are perfect. We can't be. Does that make us un-loveable? Does being imperfect make us abnormal? Do our scars and our bruises and our emotional traumas take away from our pretty eyes and our good-to-the-core souls? Hell no. It's what makes us human. And there's nothing wrong with it. Humanity is beautiful.
So can we all take off our masks? Can we all begin to accept ourselves and to love every part of ourselves? If we keep on sugar-coating, we'll soon run out of sugar. And that's just going to make everyone mad!