The baptism of a friend of mine took me to a local LDS bookstore a few months ago. I went to find him a baptism gift- something that would help him with his journey towards Christ. I admired the CDs, the book marks, the CTR rings. I thumbed through the books that promised to make the reader more productive, less addicted, and differently destined.
But nothing said, “pick me, I’m what he needs!” (I’m picturing the Pier 1 Import ads like this one that always makes me giggle.) They were all rather silent, and kind of coldly silent.
And then I realized that I was surround by what I have began to think of as Mormon Junk. You know- “LDS” recipe books, 25-color scripture markers, CTR ties, Young Women’s Values themed hair clips. The stuff that we Mormon’s love to love.
There’s a second class of “Mormon Junk”- and I hope you will forgive me for calling it junk. This class includes all the music, books, videos and art that many find to be faith promoting. Sometimes they are faith promoting; sometimes they are just clutter.
I once read not one, but two appalling descriptions in a catalog for a large LDS book and gift company. The first was in the description of a set of scripture markers: “In colors that Joseph himself would approve of.” Yes, I’m sure that Joseph Smith spent his time comparing shades of royal blue, deciding which would add the most meaning and depth to his scriptures. The second was for a temple bag, described as: “A fashion must-have for temple attendance.” I’ve made a lot of trips to the temple, and let me tell you, fashion is always at the very top of MY list of priorities when I go.
I still don’t understand how anyone thought it was a good idea to use descriptions that were so inappropriate, and which I honestly feel are insulting to my religion. These examples of trivializing sacred things for the sake of selling stuff show us how we get “Mormon junk”. They relate to religion, but are mostly (and usually entirely) powerless in bringing us unto the Savior, through whom we find salvation.
Now, I’m not saying that these things are bad. They are not bad. They are often good- useful and encouraging. What I am saying is bad is the confusion we sometimes have between “Mormon stuff” and the things that actually sanctify us and make us Christians.
Now it’s honesty time: I used to eat up all that Mormon junk.
During my early years in the church, I was all but obsessed with the stuff. I wore shirts to (university) class that read “Modest is Hottest” in flaming letters. I cut up church magazines and made collages to give to my friends who I thought were struggling spiritually. I got my hands on every church-related book I could find (even though I never really read any of them with them- I just liked having a collection on my book shelf). I made burned “mixed CDs” of MoTab and EFY music. I literally sewed the letters “MPWW” into a pair of pants. It stood for “Mormon pride world wide.” (I know, I have now totally embarrassed myself in front of the entire internet.) On my mission I reveled in missionary themed stickers that I could use to seal letters home with.
But as I stood in that little book shop at 25, I realized that something had changed. I no longer had the fascination I had when I was 17 or the zealousness I had at 20. But did that mean that I didn’t have the faith anymore? Was it because I had become hard that these knick knacks didn’t inspire or excite me anymore?
I think, and even more so, I hope, that the answer is no.
As I wandered through the contents of this little shop a few months ago, I think I had a different objective than I had when perusing the same little shop a few years ago. Whereas I had once sought things that would entertain and uplift, I was now only looking for things that would save. Through my time as a Mormon I’ve began to see all the nice things we have (Liz Lemon Swindle paintings, EFY, hand-sewn scripture cases) as just that-nice. I used to see them and their equivalents as signs of a full, gospel-centered life.
But there is one thing and one thing only that makes us full, Jesus Christ.
In my own life, the Mormon Junk just wasn’t cutting it anymore. It has long since lost it’s ability to help me feel comforted, secure, relieved, or enlightened. Maybe this is just a sign of my own spiritual immaturity. Maybe everyone reading this is thinking “wow, I can’t believe how wrong she’s had it.” And they would be right, I have had it wrong.
We are often taught that gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon is the jumping off point to our testimony of the gospel in general (you read it, you pray about it, you believe it, Joseph Smith was a prophet, everything goes from there). But for me, there is one origin of my testimony and that is in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, my daily and compassionate Savior.
I ended up buying him a copy of the book Believing Christ by Stephen E. Robinson. I still didn’t feel 100% good about it. What I was looking for was little bottles of the joy or canisters of faith or cellophane wrapped baskets of the miracles of the atonement. I was looking for the things that we get one way and one way only, by walking day by day in the pursuit of Christ.
I still like Mormon Junk. It’s fun and cute to have around. Some can even be a real force for good. But I want to be able to feel and appreciate the influence of Christ in every little trinket I attach to my key ring or pin to my wall.
He is the point of it all.