The following I wrote as a monologue for a play that I’m working on. The title is either “In and Out of Zion” or “10 Things I Hate About Utah”.
“Expectations. I hate that word! I really do. It seems like life is all about expectations. People expect you to be a certain way, act a certain way, think a certain way, and it’s all you can do to live up to those silly expectations.
Take Provo for example. Everyone here assumes, and assuming is as bad as expecting. They assume you’re a member, they assume you’re going to BYU and then they expect you to live according to their assumptions. Well, now, I am a member and I am going to BYU, but that’s not the point! People shouldn’t just assume I am.
And then there’s dating! Dating is where you meet all kinds of expectations! As an RM, I’m expected to be dating, regularly. What does that even mean? Whatever. And girls expect you to be smart, funny, charming, well-dressed, a good listener and a great conversationalist! They expect you to be Mr. Perfect, or Mr. Right, or worse! They expect Mr. Darcy!
I am not any of these. I am me. And if you cannot accept me for who I am, then don’t expect me to be anybody different.”
I was reminded of this little vicarious rant of mine when talking to a friend recently. Interestingly, we were also talking about the expectations imposed upon people when attending Church. That is one thing that really bothers me about the oppressive LDS culture in a place like BYU. Everybody has this idea about what a ‘good Mormon’ is, and they expect everybody to fit the mold.
I will be the first to admit that I am not a ‘good’ Mormon. I have had a hard time fitting in here in Provo, partly because I do not want to. I have never been one who likes conforming to the crowd, but it’s a little ridiculous at BYU. It’s hard, because I do believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe in the doctrine and the covenants of the Church. Where I usually have a problem is not in official communications from Church leaders, but in the way those words are interpreted and implemented by individual members.
There seems to be so much emphasis on conformity, of doing things the ‘right’ way, believing the ‘right’ things. I belive what I believe. And I believe in a personal relationship with Deity. I believe that the Gospel is different for different people because they understand it differently. Of course, the basic tenets are the same for all, but beyond that the individual is responsible for learning and finding out what the Gospel is and what it means for him. As individuals we make and keep covenants, as individuals we grow nearer to God through his Spirit. Friends and family can help with that progression, but ultimately it is a personal decision and a personal step toward perfection.
I am not the same as others, I am not in the same place, spiritually, as others are. And for them to expect me to be is wrong. We can encourage people to be as spiritual as we are, or to believe what we do and understand what we do, but we should not look down on those who do not. We need to start learning to value the individual, to find worth in the unique experiences that individuals have. That is the strength of this Church – its membership. If we truly have the attitude that we want all to be as good as they can be, then we will selflessly seek to help the lowest achieve. It is in that attitude that the root of the solution is found. In an amazing talk given by President Ezra Taft Benson, Beware of Pride, he said, “Christ wants to lift us to where He is. Do we desire to do the same for others?” That is a question I feel I should ask myself daily. What do I want to do for my friends? For those around me? And how can I develop a Christ-like love and desire to lift them up?
Expectations are dangerous if they are coupled with judgement. If we judge someone as lacking when they do not live up to the expectations that we have set for them, then we are not full of Christ-like charity and love. Rather, we should be helping all to set high expectations for themselves and helping them achieve their goals. Did not Christ ask us to be perfect, even as he is? That is quite an expectation, but together, and with Christ’s love and his help, we can achieve. There needs to be more love and more acceptance and more understanding, and then there will be more success and more achievement. As General Conference gets underway today and tomorrow, I’m sure we will hear similar messages from those who speak to us. I hope we can listen with the Spirit and find those words and those thoughts that the Lord will put into our hearts and our minds that will help us become better than we are.