Sunday, October 11, 2009

About Mormon Tears

Many times, usually during testimony meeting, a member of the LDS Church will cry while talking about life and the gospel. The message is clear; they are experiencing a spiritual moment. What is not as clear is if the tears are genuine. Most of the time they are, but sometimes its hard to tell. Sincerity isn't the issue, but there can be a question of necessity.

One of the most famous "crying Mormon" is Glenn Beck, the controversial Conservative pundit. He is known to shed a tear either about his testimony or topics about the U.S. Constitution. Next to him in recognition of tear soaked words is Elder Richard G. Scott Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He is often like Pa in Little House on the Prairie; each time you hear him there is going to be tears by the end.

There is much that could be said about the article on Glenn Beck, but there is one paragraph that seems wrong:

Beck’s oft-ridiculed penchant for punctuating his tirades with tears is the hallmark of a distinctly Mormon mode of masculinity. As sociologist David Knowlton has written, “Mormonism praises the man who is able to shed tears as a manifestation of spirituality.” Crying and choking up are understood by Mormons as manifestations of the Holy Spirit. For men at every rank of Mormon culture and visibility, appropriately-timed displays of tender emotion are displays of power.

This sounds more like feminist self-indulgence not based on everyday facts. Besides Elder Scott as mentioned above, very few leaders of the Church cry often. The Mormons who are most likely to cry and choke up are the Women, particularly younger ones. Worst offenders are those who get up on the podium and shed tears the moment they start talking. Once you get to know a congregation it isn't hard to predict who will tear up every time they reach the podium. Personally, instead of sharing in their spiritual experience it can be annoying. My own encounters with the Spirit can make me smile.

It isn't to say that crying when you feel spiritual, or what is known as "the gift of tears" in other traditions, is to be avoided. The most famous shedding of tears was when Jesus wept (John 11:35) at the grave of Lazarus because of the sadness of his friends. More tears were shed by him as the Christ looking over the Nephites and Lamanites. However, there should be judicious use and careful examination of the sincerity involved. Powerful moments of spiritual expression can be made less by overdone presentations. Don't cry if you don't feel it.


Tigersue said...

I used to never cry when I gave a talk or shared my testimony. That all changed for me when I had children. Honestly, I think being tired, hormonal, and life perspective changes how I "feel" about things. I would rather not cry when I teach a lesson, or shared my testimony, I don't want my emotions or feelings to sway the spirit in the room.

At the same time, I do not see it as weakness if someone cries when they are passionate about something, it takes a strength to allow tears and not be embarrassed by them. I think it is high time that we accept that men can have tender, sensitive souls as well as women. If someone doesn't cry okay, but can we honestly forget the power of President Holland's testimony this last conference. I call it a testimony not a talk, because that is how my spirit took it. It was passionate, full of truth and power, and yes tears. I saw my father cry, and cry hard at the end of it. He is a man that does not often shed tears, particularly in a spiritual moment. Men need to be allowed to shed tears when they feel them, perhaps women would not feel they need to shed them if men were "allowed" to do so more often.

CJ said...

Baring your Testimony--or sharing any intensely private, genuine feeling--can be incredibly hard. In fact, the more genuine it is, chances are, the harder it is (for us more private folks, anyway) to share. In essence, you're taking the best of yourself, and putting it out there for people to stare at.

And, in so doing, you're exposing yourself to ridicule. The fear of seeming overemotional, or of revealing your true weakness in the face of the Spirit, can be horribly daunting. I would argue that, the more "masculine", the more reserved the person, the greater the likelihood of tears.

Yes, you may respond with smiles, but not everybody is the same. What is the constructive purpose of judging others' reactions, simply because they're different from yours? This doesn't seem uplifting to me at all. Even worse is the idea that even one person, after reading these dark suspicions, might hesitate before baring their testimony--for fear of being perceived as weak, or insincere.

Jettboy said...

I didn't say crying or tears should be avoided. I am just asking to be genuine, because if you are not then it brings the sincere tears of others into question.

CJ said...

But this is a situation where outsiders truly can't judge your sincerity. One person's tears might not seem genuine, and another's might seem very genuine--but who knows what's really going on in their hearts?

I suppose I'm horribly naive, but I doubt most people are turning on the waterworks on purpose. At least, I truly hope nobody sees baring their testimony as an opportunity to show off. What a disturbing thought.

brxb said...

The problem is precisely that we cry because we feel like it. It's an emotional affect -- often a false note (in my opinion). We allow our emotions to overcome our common sense. We cry in order to be convincing. It's something that we must unlearn -- not completely, but largely. We need to point out to our children: why is that man crying? Teach them not to mimic this cultural artifact. It's not seemly.

Anonymous said...

i think all your tears are fake. i think that's why you think these other tears are fake too. i feel sorry for you.