Q: I am a convert of 9 years, and in that time, I have noticed something that bothers me. In particular, I've seen this happen to a couple friends, to two of my own cousins, and even my husband.
They grow up totally devout Mormons, learning to go to primary, young men/women's, serve a mission, get married, go to the temple, etc. But then sometimes people hit a snag. The church says "you must do A,B,C,D and then you get to go to heaven.” But I've seen some people get to "C" and because of something beyond their control, they can't do that thing. (For example, not qualifying to go on a mission for medical reasons)
For example, one person had a hard time finding a wife. He's only 27 and he acts like his life is over because he's not married yet. My cousin didn't go on her mission and the guy she was with left her, and now she's lost like she has no purpose.
It's like they suddenly don't know what to do with themselves. Like their life just ended. Like they had a map of what to do and the map is messed up so they fall into this really sad and really pathetic depression.
Personally, I don't want my kids exposed to that! I don't want my son to be depressed and feel like a failure because he didn't follow the A,B,C,D plan to a T. Watching what this stuff is doing to my friends and family is so sad. My cousin literally just sits in her room crying and feeling sorry for herself because she didn't qualify for a mission. AND ITS NOT EVEN HER FAULT! She's even becoming apostate over it!
I'm so close to pulling my kids out of church and just teaching them at home. I don't want my kids mentally screwed up because of this church and the ridiculous pressure and expectations put on these kids.
Am I wrong? Does anyone else see this?
A: You are not wrong to be concerned and repelled when you see your friends and family suffering from feelings of inadequacy, depression, and guilt at what they perceive to be their failure to adequately live up to gospel requirements.
Your friends are not alone. Many Mormons who are doing their best to follow God’s commandments can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight and number of things they have been asked to do as members of the church. Some, like your friends, may wrestle with feelings of inadequacy and failure when they don’t manage to measure up.
This is unfortunate, because your friends and many others like them don’t need to feel like failures. They don’t have to feel like they are stuck, or like their life is over when something doesn’t happen the way they think it is supposed to happen. Your friends are laboring under some misconceptions about how the gospel is meant to be lived, and this wrong thinking is making them miserable for nothing. From where I’m standing, there are two problems: First, they (and you) seem to be proceeding from the assumption that there is a checklist (A, B, C…) that we have to follow to a tee if we are going to go to heaven. Second, they also assume that getting into heaven is the whole point. Also, as you may have noticed, the problem with this checklist mentality is that it almost immediately starts to fall apart when things in life don’t go according to plan.
Serving a mission, marrying in the temple, paying your tithing, and so forth are all important things, but none of these things is the ultimate goal of gospel discipleship. Accordingly, the church does not teach that you have to follow a rote list of A, B, C, and D to get into heaven. What the church does teach is simultaneously simpler and also more complex and elegant than that.