Wheat & Tares is pleased to feature today’s guest post.
Mormons clearly value happiness on Earth, and they have the pithy quotes to prove it. If you ask me (and nobody is) happiness is pretty much the point of any spiritual journey. I mean, deep down, the idea of eternal bliss after death ought to make life pretty enjoyable. It’s like having your house paid off.
Which leads me to the Duchenne smile. I’m sure you’ve seen or taken photos of kids flashing a big wide—and clearly fake—smile. You know it’s fake, but you can’t quite pin it down. Something about the eyes? You’d be correct. In a true smile, the eyes crinkle a bit, and that’s what makes it genuine.
Play a game with me. Cover the faces of these three women just below their eyes and examine the faces individually. What’s your sense for each person? Happiness? Pride? Distain? Judgement? Fear? Arrogance? There’s no right answer. Just give it a shot.
My wife and I have traveled and lived in lots of places, and we spent a few years in Utah, but moved away a couple of years ago. We viewed Mormon culture and Mormons with fresh eyes, and what we saw was a certain superficiality. We got the sense that many of the Mormons we interacted with tried hard to appear happy and successful, but we sensed an underlying despair.
We moved to Utah with no preconceptions. We had barely heard of Mormons nor the LDS Church. We had never met Mormon missionaries. We knew nothing about the culture, the religion, nor the people. Both of us, independently, sensed things weren’t right. For us, it was like living a fake smile.
Leaving aside polls, statistics, testimonies, and anecdotes, what’s your own personal sense about the happiness of Utah Mormons, in particular, or Mormons in general? Is happiness on Earth an important aspect of religious experience, or is it something to be deferred to the after-life?