A Mormon Aside: 90's alternative and urban legends

Listening to Pandora, an angry 90's girl mix, Sheryl Crow is singing, "if it makes you happy it can't be that bad. If it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad." I realize that my inner teenage mormon-girl is sadly shaking her head-- if you are unhappy it MUST be bad! Although as an adult I believe that  happy lives can look very different from each other, that being good can be miserable, and that breaking the rules can be right, I still sometimes get pings from my inner zealot.

But I suddenly realize that Mormonism, our values of abstinence, cleanliness, and self-improvement aren't special. This is a shock: we are the peculiar people! We are the exclusive heirs of the restored truth-- whatever else is good in the world is incomplete if it doesn't include Mormon temples, Mormon priesthood. When we present our ideas to other people, we must speak slowly and carefully because "the World" just won't have ears to hear our special language. Unless. We. Speak. Very. Slowly.

But maybe I was the one who didn't have ears to hear? What if Mormonism isn't listening to "The World"? Listening to Sheryl Crow's existential anxiety I realize that Mormonism is an outcropping of the American mountain-- not a different kind of rock. Our commandments are explicit renderings of sometimes obfuscated cultural anxieties, prejudices and standards.

Just look at urban legends to reveal the subconscious of the wider American culture. In the internet we finally have Jung's collective unconscious made manifest! Snopes is a latter day library of parables and morality tales. Girls go to parties alone? They get slipped roofies and get raped! You have a one-night stand? You wake up in a bathtub full of ice, organs missing and a note: "call 911." Don't even try making out in a car-- hook-handed felons and dead hitchhikers are watching!

Sex is not the only thing that urban legends honk warnings about: technology, hubris, consumerism, selfishness are all brutally punished by the undead, the serial killers and the drug addicts-- the seamy hand of God.

So Mormonism is not the last bastion of conservative values-- when just made them conscious, organized them into nice clear youth pamphlets.  And that's what I learned from listening to Sheryl Crow.

Comments

  1. It's funny how that as time has passed, I see more and more how all religions have the same underpinnings -- and that many non-Saints (heaven forbid) are actually much closer to sainthood than the Mormons that surround me with their pious cries. Even since I was a missionary, I've loved to go to other churches to see God through their eyes, giving me added perspective.

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