I woke up this morning with the word “expectations” running around in my head. I’m not really sure why, but I figured it was time to put (virtual) pen to (virtual) paper and see if this speaks to anyone else.
As a child, I became aware of certain days each year that held significance in my life. With the usual childish view of “the world revolves around me,” those days were of course, my birthday and Christmas. During my childhood years and into my early teens, I developed certain “expectations” (see there’s that word again) surrounding these days. I would build them up in my mind for weeks prior to the actual event and the next thing I knew BAM it was over and I felt completely let down. I’d often be awake most of the night before, imagining the events of the next day.
Then came one of my birthdays early in my teenage years where I had my most disappointing day ever. Everyone forgot it. I felt pretty devastated. It was, in retrospect a rather illuminating experience. I vowed that from that day forward I would do my best to simply forget my birthday. If I did remember, I just assumed that everyone was going to forget and if they did – well, it was no big deal. It was, after all, just another day.
Something rather strange happened. In losing my expectations, I discovered that when things did happen on these (no longer) special days, they turned into delightful days.
I submit that it was my “expectations” which were the problem.
Mormonism is a belief system which creates “expectations.” You are “expected” to live in a certain way, you are “expected” to do certain things, and you are taught to “expect” certain blessings for living up to these “expectations.”
Let me give you an idea of what I mean. As a returned missionary marriage came with certain…well – expectations. First and foremost was the idea that I would, above all else live to a certain standard. This standard included perfect church attendance, obedience to church rules, service, paying a full tithe, have a big family, provide for that family, maintain strict fidelity to my spouse, be the sole wage earner so that my wife could be a stay-at-home-mom, and attend the temple regularly. I was expected to be the priesthood “authority” in my home. My children would be baptized, confirmed, taught to be obedient (again, to the church), encouraged to serve missions and continue the Mormon circle of life.
The blessings are also something that is to be “expected,” right? As it states in the D&C 130:20-21 –
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
From the Mormon paradigm, these expectations seem to be…not only normal, but “right”… even “promised.”
Over the years, I discovered that these expectations also came with an enormous load of guilt, judgment, and condemnation. Perfection wasn’t a goal, it was a necessity. Minor infractions were viewed as major sins. The necessity of perfection ruled in our lives. After all, “I God, cannot look upon sin with the LEAST degree of allowance.” D&C 1:31 and Alma 45:16
This is, in my humble opinion, what has given rise to the pharisaical culture of Mormonism. I think it also the source of deep depression which seems to be so prevalent among the Saints. As social animals, humans seem to be especially sensitive to the power of “expectation.” Likely, it is occurs from the basic need for acceptance.
Mormonism teaches us some very egregious doctrines that enable “expectation” as a weapon against us. In addition to the scriptures listed above, Mormonism also teaches that “The natural man is an enemy to God.” The one thing that is consistent throughout these teachings is the basic idea that God has rejected us, and we must “earn” our way back into his presence. Even in Christianity, one has to earn their way by “accepting Christ” at the very least. Mormonism seems to take that considerably further with the idea that Christ’s sacrifice only offset’s Adam’s transgression (“By Adam, death came into the world, through Christ came the resurrection and eternal lives”) but “exaltation” requires us earning our way into the Celestial Kingdom. This “rejection” by God becomes the foundational premise of which we must accept in order for religion to exert control over us.
To state this another way, expectations are a form of “conditional love.” Love which is “conditional” isn’t love, it is the expression of manipulative power.