For a book club I’m part of, I’ve been reading the popular organizational manual The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – and purging the obligatory old toys, clothes, and books.
The author, Marie Kondo, argues that when we don’t love something and relegate it to the back of a drawer or closet, it still burdens us in ways we don’t always recognize. The object may be invisible to others, but we know it’s there, and this makes us less free than we would be if we had simply let it go.
She recommends sweeping out such clutter in several steps:
- Consider every item you own. Touch each one. Reflect on it.
- Ask yourself: Does this item spark joy? Do you love it?
- If not, say a ritual thank you to the item, remembering what good fruit (if any) it brought into your life at one point, and then discard it.
My closets and medicine cabinets are cleaner to be sure, but what if we applied Kondo’s wisdom to less tangible things—like those pesky old Mormon doctrines that have never been repudiated and are technically still on the books, even though they’re unloved and rarely, if ever, taught?
So I canvassed some friends and we came up with a list of “What were we thinking?” pieces hiding in the very back of the LDS theological closet:
- Kolob is like those orange tie-dye pants you still have from the 1970s: it’s kind of groovy, but also pretty Out There. Recently, the LDS Church quietly disavowed the idea of Mormons having our own planets. (But if we do get them, I am totally calling Pluto. Back off. It’s mine.) So a literal interpretation of Kolob is already on its way to Goodwill; let the rest of the closet purging continue in earnest.
- Blood atonement. People, this malingerer stains every single other thing in the Mormon wardrobe. It’s the kind of mistake that requires not just letting go of it but also begging forgiveness that our ancestors ever thought it might have been a valid wardrobe choice.
- The Adam-God doctrine. No. Just, no. Adam and God have never belonged together as a viable outfit.
- Folkloric explanations of the priesthood and temple ban for Latter-day Saints of African descent. I know we tried to accessorize this terrible ensemble in various ways throughout the years, but those embellishments only made it worse. This was never anything but wrong, no matter how we dressed it up.
- Polygamy. We haven’t worn this outfit in well over a century, but it’s still hanging on in the back of the closet, threatening Mormon women who worry they’ll have to wear it FOREVER, even against their will. Just lay the thing to rest already.
- Jackson County. As a Midwesterner, there’s a part of me that loves the heartland-centric notion that the Garden of Eden began in Missouri, and that Christ will base his return right there in Jackson County. But it’s a bit parochial to imagine Jesus zooming down from the sky in a Mizzou sweatshirt. Just sayin’.
- Heavenly Father as the literal father of Jesus through actual sexual intercourse. A friend alerted me that this particular fashion disaster was tucked away in our closet; I’d actually never heard. Despite my lack of awareness, the idea isn’t even that old: in Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie affirmed that Christ was the “literal son” of Heavenly Father, continuing a longstanding tradition from the nineteenth century. “There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events . . .” Oh dear. Can we just put Mary in the blue veil and leave it at that?
- Barring children of same-sex marriage from baptism. We only acquired this piece very recently, but it already has “What Not to Wear” written all over it. We will be embarrassed by this outfit in years to come when our kids and grandkids stare, dumbfounded, at any evidence that we once clothed ourselves in it.
But here’s the best part of the life-changing magic of tidying up: being free of what is old and never utilized brings you space to recognize what you are using and loving.
When you’re unfettered by the past, you’re able to recognize what’s beautiful and life-giving all around you. Such as:
- Belief in Christ’s atonement. This is evergreen, a wardrobe staple. It’s the indispensable little black dress of theology. Wear it every day.
- Grace. We’ve been donning this beautiful item a good deal more in the last few years. It covers every single sin in our closets, everything we’ve been hiding away.
- Heavenly Mother. This was front-of-closet for decades, but then gradually shoved to the back. It’s time to highlight this distinctive and marvelous item once again.