A few Sundays ago, after mentally slogging my way through another sacrament meeting—a feat made possible only by focusing almost exclusively on the latest issue of American Short Fiction—my 11-year-old daughter gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Then she laughed and said, “Dad, I’ve figured it out. You’re a church loser. You come and everything, but nobody asks you to do anything.” Then she gave me another hug and scampered down the hall to her primary class.
If my religion were a sports stadium, then I’m in the nosebleed section. I’ve got a big Diet Coke, a bucket of popcorn, and the field is the size of a postage stamp.
It’s no secret that I’ve got a lousy seat. I remind myself that I haven’t always been a church loser. I can remember the congratulatory backslapping that accompanied being asked to serve in visible positions of authority. That was four or five years ago.
Now, I’m a Mormon in the cheap seats. It’s a label I came up with myself. Yesterday I went to godaddy.com and registered it.
There are all sorts of labels. The Salt Lake Tribune did a piece on it. There are Iron Rodders, Liahonas, TBMs (true blue or true believing Mormons), NOMs (new order Mormons), Open Mormons, Internet Mormons, Chapel Mormons, Uncorrelated Mormons, the DAMU (the disaffected Mormon underground), Jack Mormons, Cafeteria Mormons, PostMormons, ExMormons, and anti-Mormons, to list a few. Many of these labels have their own Wikipedia entries. Some have their own websites.
In my stadium, the ticket takers are inside the building, not on the outside. They’re standing in the aisles down close to the field. And they’re not just checking tickets, they’re selling them (and they’re doing their darndest to get people sitting higher up to move down closer to the action).
I’m not sitting in the cheap seats because better tickets weren’t available. My parents were devout Mormons, so I was born on the field. It took effort to get up here. Like most arenas, mine is shaped like a bowl and the field is at ground level. It doesn’t matter if you walk in from the street, or start out on the field, it’s roughly the equivalent of forty flights of stairs to get to my seat. Looked at from the right perspective, I’ve climbed a small mountain. I should feel like I’ve accomplished something.
It occurs to me that regardless of whether I decide to make my way back down to the field or decide to pack up and leave, gravity will make the trek down easier than the hike up.
“If I’ve climbed a small mountain,” I ask myself, “does that mean that, sooner or later, I’m going to have to come down one side or the other?”
Maybe that’s pushing the analogy too far.
–To Be Continued–
[A Mormon in the Cheap Seats is a new weekly column that will explore Mormon religious and culture issue from the perspective of a skeptical insider.]