I want to start out with full disclosure. I have said it 800 million times before, but I am a fan of hyperbole. I think hyperbole makes a good story a great one. The story of how I broke my foot becomes exponentially more funny and interesting when I tell the “story-teller’s version”. Hyperbole employed to improve our lives and our enjoyment is a glorious thing, I am convinced of it.
Where hyperbole is not a good thing is where it is used to subjugate others, or guilt them into thinking the way we do. Anyone who has spent any amount of time as a heterodox Mormon will be familiar with the tell-tale signs of someone who is utilizing this type of rhetoric. All of a sudden if you disagree you are Satan, if you wear pants to Church you automatically grow a penis, and if you are interested in equality of opportunity between the sexes you either want to be a man or you want sameness which of course will lead to everyone having at-will abortions and making covenants to obey Satan.
In the bright light of day, of course these suggestions look ridiculous. So why is it that they are employed so often? Why do so many people feel that if you do not fit into a tiny little box of Mormonism that you’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing? The answer of course is fear, but why should we fear? Why should we not at a minimum be able to respect that people think differently than we do? If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that I did not understand The Gospel and should just leave I would be a billionaire. One need hardly explain that these types of tactics are not the best missionary efforts and certainly fall entirely short of mourning with those that mourn.
I have a pretty thick skin, so I get more of a laugh and enjoy the ride down the slippery slope but many others aren’t like me. They are genuinely hurt when people accuse them of being evil merely for being different. I will admit when I first started to engage with Mormonism online I was devastated the first time someone called me an apostate. The ease with which such an insult was thrown around (for nothing!) was alarming to me. I was ready to give up, but decided to keep involved and it is a good thing I did. It is part of a condition that especially impacts the online world called “anonymity-affords-me-safety”
I can be a pretty imposing figure in person and so I have never had people say the things to me in person that they do online. I don’t know if that is everyone’s experience so I have no way of gauging whether it is a given. All I do know is that while people who employ these tactics think they are doing so as righteous defenders of the faith, what they are really doing is attempting to bully and stifle others using the unholy hammers of guilt and spiritual abuse. The Gospel does not require hyperbole; the good news makes a great story all on its own.