I believe I have mentioned before that His Majesty is not a member of the Church.
Nevertheless, he occasionally joins me in watching General Conference. His motivations are obscure, though I sometimes wonder if it is simply a case of “seeking to know your enemy.” I cannot say I really welcome his company.
His Majesty joined me this year in watching the Saturday morning session. At one point, during the opening song, the camera zoomed in on one of the sisters in the Tabernacle Choir. The choir was in the middle of vocalizing a rather melancholy phrase, yet the sister had a huge smile plastered on her face. His Majesty snarked, “Never trust anyone who smiles too much.” I admit I found it a bit jarring myself.
You all have doubtless sensed that I am prone to dark thoughts. I tend not to respond well to folks who try to rub their happy in my face. I’m pretty sure that about 90% of the Church’s public relations efforts would be a complete turnoff to me if I was not already a member. (Actually, you can probably drop that last conditional clause.) Fortunately, when the Lord says that “every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language”, he seems to mean it in a temperamental and philosophical, as well as linguistic, sense.
So I’m grateful for the breathing mask when I attend Fast and Testimony Meeting; it hides the way I wince when someone breaks into tears over what really seems quite trivial to me. Oh, I know. It is not for me to judge what is deeply meaningful to another, but still. There are times when both the happy and the tears seem a little too forced in the Church.
I was ruminating darkly on this, egged on by His Majesty, and then Elder Bowen began to speak. He spoke honestly and straightforwardly of his experience of having one of his small children accidentally choke to death. It was a trial of his faith that, in the end, brought him considerably closer to God. His talk was deeply moving, and I was glad I was watching from my meditation chamber, where I had the helmet off and my own tears wouldn’t short out the photoreceptors. His Majesty wandered away at about this point, and I didn’t see him again for the rest of the Conference.
There was nothing forced about Elder Bowen’s tears. On the contrary, he was struggling, not to force out the emotion, but to keep it restrained. Perhaps there is a lesson there for how we should approach all our passions.
So am I excused in being impatient with a sister’s tears over how beautiful the morning is, when there are much better things to cry about? Two observations:
First, I am reminded of something I read a nonbeliever write once. He declared that it is obscene to claim that God has blessed you in in some small matter when He allows children to die horribly of cholera in India. This is wrong. It is also analogous to my own question.
(Incidentally, His Majesty’s response to the nonbeliever’s declaration was not quite what I expected. His Majesty snarked, “So, the more God blesses you, the more that just goes to show what a b—–d He is?” His Majesty may not be a believer, but he is apparently as irritated by the shallow logic of glib athiesm as he is skeptical of the faith some believers wear on their sleeves. Or maybe it’s just His Majesty’s contrarian streak. Or maybe His Majesty just hates to be outsnarked. Go figure.)
Second, I recall an experience in Jedi Posttrial School. I had passed my Jedi trials just a couple of months before and was now off to polish my skills, but it was a strange world to me. I was assigned the only open room in the dormitory, which it turned out was unoccupied because it sat directly over the boiler room. The temperature never got below 304 K or so in my room the entire time I was there; for once, I was grateful to have been raised on a desert planet. Furthermore, while my studies were going well enough, I missed Padme (it would have been too obvious if she had accompanied me) and I was feeling rather overwhelmed.
For some reason, the dormitory had a tortoise cat. I don’t think it particularly belonged to anyone (not that cats ever do) but it had a collar and there were food and water dishes in the common area. I came home one night feeling just beat, physically and emotionally, and as I unlocked my dorm room, the cat made a beeline for me and did a couple of affectionate rubs around my ankles. It was a little thing, but it moved me to tears.
Yeah. While children were dying of cholera in India.
I’m not saying there isn’t a certain amount of forced emotion in some Church situations, or that this is a good thing, or that we should not strive for a broader perspective at times. But maybe I can cut some slack to a brother or sister whose emotions sometimes run a little more shallow than my own.