I had some very strange problems with my computers/internet connections--hence the week-and-a-half absence. I wish I could return with something better. Instead, I have another story about my past religion coming up at work.
That seems to be happening a lot more lately.
Anyway, one of the kids who works for me has mentioned that he goes to school with a Mormon kid. I asked him the kid's name, and, sure enough, I recognized it. It was a family that moved into my ward around the time I had begun to fully loathe attending. They moved in probably a year before I left. I don't think I ever had any direct interaction with the kid, but I could probably pick him out of a lineup.
So I asked my coworker if he'd ever mentioned anything about his Mormon boss to his Mormon friend. He said he hadn't, and I asked him to keep it that way just in case word of the non-Mormon-approved things I do at work trickles back to my parents.
"No, I wouldn't say anything," he assured me. "But how do you even know your parents know his parents?"
"Oh, they definitely do," I said. "They go to the same church every Sunday." Then I thought better of it. "Well, maybe not, since they changed the boundaries of the congregations since I left, so it's possible they go to different places now, but they definitely know each other."
"Wait," the kid said. "You're saying if you're Mormon you have to go to a specific church depending on what area you live in??"
He said it like it sounded crazy. And I realized that it kind of does. "Yeah, we used to go to the one in Place-town-ville-opolis every week when I was growing up."
"Place-town-ville-opolis?! That's like twenty-five minutes away!"
"We averaged about nineteen minutes," I said. "No traffic on Sunday mornings."
Yet another thing I'd never thought of before. It is kind of weird to have your church assign you where to attend, isn't it? I think the average religious person has his own set of beliefs, and he chooses which church to attend based on which one aligns the most with his beliefs and which one is the closest or easiest for him to get to every week. But not Mormons.
Or maybe that's just the Protestant way. It seems a little different for more organized religions like Catholicism. And I don't know much about Islam, so it could be different for them too. But it seems to me that a lot of the religious people I've known in my area attend where they please and switch congregations if they disagree with their pastor.
But you can't do that in Mormonism. You go where you're told to go, and you believe what you're told to believe. My dad and I used to home teach a former member of our ward who had been assigned to be the branch president of the teensy Boondock-stick-hickville-hamlet Branch. Apparently the branch was in desperate need of leadership. So he and his wife made the almost two-hour round trip out to that area several times a week. But that's where they were assigned to attend (and to serve as leadership), so that's where they went. At BYU, when I had a complete asshat as a bishop, I continued to attend that ward because that's where I was assigned to attend, even though I lived literally a hundred feet from about three other ward boundaries and attended sacrament meeting a few yards away from another ward's sacrament meeting.
And you can't leave a Mormon congregation based on doctrinal disputes because the church makes such an effort to have the same things taught in every unit. If you think it's crazy that your bishop is teaching that masturbation makes you ineligible for temple blessings, it won't serve any purpose to attend a different congregation. The other bishop probably teaches the same thing. So if you find something you disagree with, you're left with the option of sticking it out while dismissing your doubts, sticking it out while acting pious, or leaving the church entirely.
And that doesn't seem right to me.