Tag Archives: General Conference

Family: Isn’t it about…gender roles?

The wife and I gave talks in Sacrament Meeting today, the wife on the Book of Mormon and mine on the The Family: Proclamation to the World. I’ll admit, talking about family in a public gospel setting is something I don’t really enjoy, mostly because there are a million ways to legitimately offend someone. However, lots are lots, and I drew this one, so I decided the best way to talk about the family is to be upfront about what kind of family we will most likely turn out to be.

If we were to put our family on a resume, it would actually look really Mormon. When we got married, one of us was almost finished with a degree in accounting, so the other spouse decided to delay school for the accountant to finish and start a career to support the family. One of us is, on the Meyer-Briggs personality test, an INFP, a rare, classic nurturer. The other is an INTJ, a rare, classic career person. When our baby is born this July, we’ve arranged it where one of us will stay at home with the child, and the other will continue to work. We try hard to live frugally, and we’re happy that we’ve found a great arrangement to complete the things we need.

There is no resentment in our current arrangement. The soon-to-be child-rearing spouse finds children adorable and loves to teach things. This spouse finds the monotonous schedule of housework Zen-like and fulfilling. The other spouse loves working and advancing in a career. This spouse finds the fast-paced office life exciting, and enjoys shouldering the responsibility of providing.

Of course, by now, you’ve probably figured out that my wife is the provider, while I’m the nurturer. It’s just how God created us. One time, we tried to live the traditional gender roles, and it was an unmitigated disaster. The wife stewed at home, bored out of her skull, while the husband toiled in a thankless office job, wondering how he found himself in such an existentially demeaning anomie. We soon switched again and never looked back since.

As a completely unintentional gender role smasher, life can be hard in the Church. You’re constantly having to justify your very existence and membership and faith. For the first few years of our marriage, we would evade questions with vague answers and try to keep up the facade. Finally, we decided with this ward, we’d stop trying. Go figure that this Sunday I would have to talk about our Church’s teachings on the family.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t love the Church’s teachings on the family, because I do. Joseph Smith had a sweeping vision of what family life’s potential could be. He lived in an age where industrialization and unmitigated capitalism was ripping the extended family system apart, in favor of the more isolating nuclear family structure. He saw a visionary end goal for humanity — to be saved as a family of God, working together in perfect harmony on Earth as well as in Heaven. For Joseph, Zion was more than just an economic utopia or a political theocracy, but a radical re-thinking of what and who family is. This obsession with family permeates every level of everything we do, and as an INFP, I love it.

The ideal Mormon family, circa 1860s.

Which pains me when I see the Church emphasize that all families must look cookie-cutter, because that’s not what Joseph had in mind. Ironically, the Church, which so repudiated the nuclear family in the early days, now wholly embraces it, sometimes at the expense of everything else. Families come in all shapes and sizes, made up of all kinds of people. Does it really matter whether it’s the wife or the husband who does the job, if both are working their hardest to provide the best home possible for their children? If husbands and wives are really supposed to work equally, side by side, as Elder Cook recently said in General Conference, then does it really matter if the husband passes off the provider duties to the wife and the wife tosses the baby into the father’s arms?

In the end, family is greater than what husbands are supposed to do and what wives are supposed to do, or specifically, what boys are supposed to do and what girls are supposed to do. Families are about love, charity, experimentation, adaptability, of teaching and discipline, of working together and learning to be a team player. It’s about never turning your back on family, even when times are tough, and yes, in our crazy Mormon family, about how everyone is a potential brother or sister that you just haven’t met yet.

So let’s not get hung up on the little things and focus on the big things — of the eternities, of creating heaven on Earth, of the immortal soul and the heritage of the Lord that we’re all a part of. In a trillion, billion, million eons, when we’re all hanging out in heaven still, sitting around with our eternal family, rubbing shoulders with the trillions of people who’ve lived and died and passed on, basking in the presence of Ultimate Goodness, will it really matter that I did the dishes and my wife worked in the office a trillion, billion, million eons ago?

Ideal Mormon family, circa today (not pictured: The six other children).

Or will it matter more that when the clock was ticking and the odds were stacked against us, my wife and I pulled together as a team and pulled out our brilliant Hail Mary play for an upset victory against Team Satan? That when times were tough, we knew each others’ strengths and weaknesses enough to consult Coach Jesus, and trust him enough to do what he told us what to do, even if it seemed to fly against common convention?

I expressed these thoughts (expressed is a generous word; in reality, I fumbled awkwardly through them) and sat down.

Later, a bunch of people came up to us, saying they enjoyed their talks, as usual, introducing themselves. But near the end of the line, one good sister came up and said, “In my family, we had a disabled child, and I had to work as a teacher because it was the only way to get insurance. I worked as a teacher for 35 years. And I have never regretted my decision, because I gave my children the best gift I could — a father. We do what we need to do to get the job done.”

I loved how she put it — we do what we need to do to get the job done. I want to make this our family motto, write it in fancy calligraphy on our family crest. Of course, the wife and I prefer the way we’ve assigned “gender roles” to each other, but it’s more than that. They’re family roles, at this point, regardless of gender. It doesn’t matter if the husband or the wife does them, as long as they get done. We’ve divided the tasks and now shoulder them the best we can, because we do what we need to do to get the job done. We don’t do this to make some kind of political or social statement; we don’t do this to break gender barriers; we don’t do this just to gratify our own selfish desires. We do this because we’ve found a perfect medium that maximizes our individual gifts while minimizing our individual quirks and shortfalls. We do this because we’d rather be realistic and work for the best outcome rather than have false hopes that God will somehow miraculously change us to match some 1950’s American cultural ideal. We do this because we love each other and we love our child and we love our family, and we are determined to make this work, come hell or high water, even if it means I’ll be scrubbing toilets and changing diapers, and the wife will be working overtime occasionally.

I honestly don’t think God asks for more than that.

Our Mormon family, circa 2008.


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Obligatory President Packer’s talk edits analysis

If only I had waited a day later to post my obligatory President Packer talk analysis. Just one day.

Oh well.

I planned on this one being short, but I ended up ranting. I ranted, deleted, ranted, deleted, ranted, then deleted some more. This is the short version.

By now, most of you have probably heard the hullaballoo of the edits made on President Packer’s talk once the written form of Conference hit the Church website. The three major changes of import (and you can see a great blog post comparing the spoken and written version here) are thusly:

1. The edit which changed the Proclamation on the Family from a “revelation” to a “guide.”

2. The edit which changed President Packer’s statement that “tendencies” cannot be inborn to “temptations.”

3. The edit which completely eliminated President Packer’s rhetorical question: “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?”

My thoughts:

1. This one is huge. I had always heard of the Proclamation on the Family as some form of revelation. It’s always been considered psuedo-scripture, or even with the same force as scripture. Whenever people want to cite the Church’s prophetic mantle, they cite this as revelation. Whenever people ask “Where have all the revelations gone?” this one is usually cited. I find all of these views on the Proclamation on the Family as problematic, but kept silent since this Proclamation is a huge sacred cow in the Church. For the deliberate edit demoting this officially from “revelation” to a “guide” is of great import, but will most likely (predictably) ignored.

2. This one people will probably be cheering about. There’s already a level of smugness about it for more liberal Mormons. This one doesn’t move me, nor did President Packer’s original statement bother me, but that’s because I’m jaded. Does this edit really change much? It’s moving the talk more towards the centrist “we talk about action, not orientation” position of the Church when it comes to homosexuality, and that’s that. Will it change the thoughts of more conservative Mormons when it comes to homosexuality? No. Absolutely not. Those who want to continue to believe homosexuality as a choice rather than part of your biological makeup will continue to trawl through past General Authority quotes to find what they want. In reality, this edit has a net difference of zero in our current situation.

3. This edit made me sad. Why? Because it’s a really, really good question, that’s why! I feel this is a dangerous move our Church has made in the interest of reducing some of the hate it’s attracted. But by golly, this is a deep theological question that everyone should struggle with for the rest of their life.

Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Why would he allow people to be born in abject, spirit-breaking poverty? Why would He allow children to be born to abusive parents who don’t even want them? Why would He allow women and children to be sold into sexual slavery and raped until their intestines fall out? Why would He allow people to butcher each other in wholesale slaughter? Why would He allow child molesters to kidnap children and brutally torture and scar them? Why would He allow that young mother of six to die of cancer when her family really needed her? Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?

Ruminate on this question. Let it marinate in your soul. This ultimate question of evil is that which we should wrestle with all night long, like Jacob did with the angel of God. We are the inheritors of the birthright of Israel, literally he who wrestles with God. Yet when President Packer brings up such a crucial theological question, we sweep it under the carpet. Sigh.

First thought that went through my head when I saw the update: What’s the point of watching General Conference anymore? Watching General Conference is like participating in a beta – it’s buggy, there’s bad information and code, and in the end, it’s probably gonna be fairly different when it finally ships.

This brings up a really good question, though. President Packer’s message was off enough where the Church (or, at least President Packer) decided to edit the remarks for the printed, written format. In a way, outside political events forced this issue, but it’s an important one.

What if prophets are wrong?

It’s just as hard as the “Why would Our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” question. Another really good one to think about. It holds thunderous implications about how we view the Church and God’s interaction with her.

In closing, I feel bad for President Packer. He’s an 80+ year-old man. He’s someone’s grandpa. Oh no! An 80+ year-old man thinks that gay people choose to be gay? WHAT A SHOCK. JUST LIKE, OH, I DON’T KNOW, EVERY OTHER 80+ YEAR OLD MAN EVER IN THE EXISTENCE OF 80 YEAR-OLD MEN. Seriously. Let’s all calm down. I’m done talking about this, really I am. I’m so sick of the whole gay issue. Let us all agree on this as Church members, yes? Gay people are still Heavenly Father’s children and they deserve to be treated as such, and if we so much as judge them mentally, or mistreat them verbally or physically, or refuse to accept them into the family of God, imperfections and all, then we bring upon ourselves the displeasure and judgment of a God who knows that we know better.

Nobody is benefiting from this. Not Church members, not gay rights activists, no one. No one is benefiting, and no one will win. We will only have losers if we continue down this route. We need to change tactics, we need to change how this discourse pans out and fast, because right now, nobody is winning. Everyone’s just losing.

And it’s making me sick to my stomach, how we’re so willing to tear each other apart and scream and rant and throw feces at each other like the primates we descended from.

That is all.


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Identity, spirituality, and video games

I remember vividly the first time I encountered the problem with identity. I was 14 years-old.

We’ve learned that the brain is a collection of electrical impulses. And it is only a matter of time before we will be able to manipulate DNA and clone our bodies. If I can decode the series of electrical impulses that determine my personality and knowledge, and continually transfer them into new clone bodies, have we discovered immortality?

I chill ran up my spine. My brain reeled at the possibilities! What is identity?! Is it your personality? The electrical impulses in your brain? Your body? The mind-body connection? The continuation of personality, knowledge, and experience? Could this be considered immortality? On top of the usual questions, my knowledge of Mormon doctrine compounded the problem even further. I noticed that I had stopped breathing. Eerie, futuristic music filled my ears as I staggered at the very idea.

No, really. Eerie, futuristic music really did fill my ears. I was playing the video game Chrono Cross.

The last General Conference had speakers talk about video games, and I will admit, I shifted uncomfortably. I fumed. What were the video games these General Authorities played? Minesweeper? Grand Theft Auto? Bejeweled? I can see why you might not like those games, but have you not encountered the sweeping artistic grandeur of some of these games?!

Of course, Roger Ebert tapped into this vein a couple months ago by saying video game was not, and could never be, art. This sparked a firestorm of controversy and it was kind of crazy, guys. And, not surprisingly, I will defend the art of the video game to my dying breath, because a lot of what video games taught me made me what I am.

Earthbound was perhaps my first encounter with smart, sarcastic, self-referential humor. “Kids shouldn’t be out here this late at night!” a policeman warns the protagonist. “You should be inside playing video games!”

Never into sports, Secret of Mana was the first real activity that taught me the value of teamwork. One of the first multi-player games worth playing that involved more than one player, my brother, sister, and I would get together and play this game, each taking our individual roles, bonding together as we saved the world and beat up bad guys.

Final Fantasy III revealed to me the first epic story. Sure, I read the Hobbit, and I read my share of fantasy books and all that, but Final Fantasy III was so cleverly crafted, so engrossing in background story and character development and had one of the most clever plot twists (M. Night Shamalayan, eat your heart out!) that I feel my value as a writer and story-teller increased forever-fold just by my interaction with this epic.

Chrono Trigger revealed to me an entirely new dynamic of storytelling – multiple endings. Sure, some were canon, some were non-canon, and some were throw-away humor endings, but the storytelling itself is incredibly tight and compact, and like Final Fantasy III, is an epic worth experiencing. It really challenges the idea of a strict narrative form for storytelling.

Chrono Cross was my first encounter with some serious philosophical stuff. The problem of identity, ethical and moral quandaries, the power of choices and consequences. Where do alternate time streams go? How do we navigate the tension between nature and progress? Who are we, really? If we switch bodies with someone and everyone treats us as our identity and not our old identity, do we become that new identity? This sparked my interest into philosophical questions, to the point where when people told me that the Dark Night dealt with moral/ethical quandaries and I saw what it was, I merely said in classic Internet forum fashion, “Meh. Been there. Done that. What’s next?”

I could go on. Final Fantasy Tactics could possibly be described as the first true tragedy of video games with an incredibly unreliable narrator, forcing you to piece the narratives together. Okami completely changed the way I looked at deity (in a good way). Dragon Age takes those ethical quandaries and forces me to make decisions, painful, horrible, terrible decisions. Braid challenges my perception of time, experience, and forgiveness.

Video games can be a fruitful, incredibly fulfilling experience. They can also be destructive and addictive. But that’s the case with movies and television spots and cable broadcasts and Twitter and Facebook and blogging. We still use this technology to progress the Church’s message. I’m patiently waiting the day when we make a Church iPhone game. Video games are just a medium, and some of them have great messages. Let’s not paint them with a broad brush and forbid them. Because I’ll have you know – more people in the North American Church have read Twilight than have played Chrono Cross. I can assure you that the latter deals with much more erudite and spiritual material than creepy, pasty vampires staring through windows at flimsy damsels in prepetual distress.


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Obligatory President Packer talk analysis

I am late on this bandwagon; most everyone else I know personally who owns a blog and is Mormon has touched on this. Surprisingly, because of what I’ve written about before on this blog, President Packer’s talk did not really upset me that much (my wife is of a different story). In fact, the only line that irked me within President Packer’s talk was his warning against what he described as “legislating immorality,” but more on that later.

President Packer’s talk didn’t surprise me. He didn’t really say anything that was essentially different than his views in the 1970s. If anything, President Packer is consistent. He didn’t cross the currently established line that the Church has drawn, namely, orientation is different action, and we will only talk about actions, not orientation. Unfortunate, then, that many people came to the conclusion that President Packer had conflated orientation to sin. I don’t believe that was his point, but I can see how that interpretation came to be, and all I can see is that language as our primary mode of information transfer (as much as I love it) is faulty, and miscommunication can occur.

The cynnical part of me wonders, though, if people just simply read into the talk what they wanted/expected to hear. Those hurt by Prop-8 took it as rebuke. Those who want to justify Prop-8 despite the rapidly evaporating reasons found their stick to beat people back into orthodoxy. In reality, President Packer tackled the issue of free will, especially associated with the decision to follow God and resist temptation. This is a core principle that President Packer and I will disagree with as well, but only because I believe free agency requires caveats in order to more clearly reflect our fallen world. But that’s a topic for another (series) of blog posts.

Either way, everyone will read into it what they want to, and with a subject that emotionally charged, it would be almost impossible not to.

My fundamental disagreement, however, came from President Packer’s statement that we as Saints should not “legislate immorality.” This, I am confident, President Packer did speak of in connection to Prop-8, and this is where President Packer and I fundamentally disagree on.

My stance when it comes to religion in the public sphere is thus – you may counsel on moral issues as vigorously as you want; indeed, this is your right. But the minute you organize your flock into a voting bloc, you will lose more than you will gain.

The stance on political neutrality is a long-standing tradition of modern-day Mormonism, one which we’ve only broken several times, specifically in polygamy, Prohibition, the Civil Rights Act (sort of), the ERA, abortion, and now, gay marriage. Oh, and Joseph Smith ran for president once. And I guess we have Senator/Apostle Smoot. But for the most part, we stay out of politics, and when we follow that policy, I’m tickled, really. We rarely promote a particular platform or candidate, and I’d like it to stay that way.

President Packer is not a lawyer, nor is he a political scientist. He’s a teacher by profession, and he’s served as an apostle for a very long time. I respect his counsel and his position in the Church. And so I feel I can safely disagree on this point without jeapordizing any kind of eternal salvation. We simply differ on religious-political theory, and so be it.

I’m of the opinion of Augustine – we are the City of God, not the City of Man, and we have no need to be part of the worldly process. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and what is God’s to God. I am also of the opinion that sometimes, we need to tolerate some kinds of sin, because trying to stamp out some kinds of sin will only introduce more numerous or more serious sins (see also: Prohibition). I am also of the opinion of Thomas Aquinas, who demonstrated that there is Divine Law and Human Law. Because we cannot stamp out all kinds of sin (in fear that we’ll introduce worse ones) with Human Law, the Church implements Divine Law. This law is seperate from the world’s laws. While the consequences are eternal, participation and recognition of Divine Law is voluntary. The Church cannot haul off people not of the Church because they disobeyed Divine Law. In fact, the Church shouldn’t, because then it interferes with the purpose of Human Law (preserve order, equality, and justice) and Divine Law (the exaltation of man). Sometimes, those two are incompatible.

Anyway, before I keep rambling (too late!), I will sumarize crudely by saying that I firmly believe that when an ecclesiastical organization steps in and tries to legislate law, it will fail. Why? It loses legitimacy as an aribter of spiritual, not earthly matters. We sully the Church, and we sully the law. And honestly, we kinda suck at it. Why? Because we have different goals (as mentioned above). So we will fundamentally disagree with what Human Law will sometimes allow, but because we have our sphere in the realm of morality, we can still stridently preach against it. Other wise, per President Packer’s words, if allowing gay marriage to occur is the equivalent of “legislating immorality,” we should also be vigorously legislating against the following legalized activities:

– Pornography
– Infidelity
– Fornication of all forms
– Gambling
– Immodest dress
– Alcohol
– Tobbacco use
– Tea drinking
– Coffee drinking
– Multiple pairs of earrings

Okay, the last five are kind of silly, but also I say it seriously (since that is the general stance the Church has on those five practices – the partaking somehow will cause the Spirit to flee, and thusly they are “immoral”). Could you imagine the Church working against these practices? And yet, this is the same justification we give for legalizing same-sex marriage, that somehow, it will degrade society. Well, here’s a thought experiment for you. Suppose the Church did manage to succeed in criminalizing all of these things. If you sleep with another woman besides your wife, you’re jailed. Every time you walk outside with your belly showing, you’re jailed. Whenever you’re found with two pairs of earrings, you’re fined.

Which country does this resemble the most?:

A. Iran
B. Afghanistan
C. Pakistan
D. All of the above

Would you like to live in any of the countries in the previous question’s answers during it’s current political climate?

The very thing the Church absolutely loves about America (religious freedom) we undermine when we attempt to organize our congregations into voting blocs. Yes, I am aware that other churches do it all the time. But we don’t use crosses as adornments and we don’t pass a plate around for collections. We don’t have clergy that are paid and trained in divinical schools. Should we adopt these practices as well? Disclaimer: I wouldn’t mind. But I know that a lot of Mormons would loathe to be “like the other Christian churches.” Well, there ya go.

We should be standing up and saying, “These are our moral stances, but we feel that agency is so important – so important that God cast out 1/3 of the hosts of heaven because they wished to destroy the principle of agency – we will allow people to do what they will. But be warned there will be consequences, and we expect our members to live by standards x and y.” This is not a cowardly stance. This is a courageous stance, namely because very few large ecclesiastical organizations have that much faith in their members and in humanity. Most would rather control everyone and ensure that immorality never occur through legal means rather than through long-suffering, patience, loving preaching, and tolerating other peoples’ imperfections and mistakes, even downright rebellion. Much easier to force everyone with the power of the State into moral submission. Less back-talk, too.

Quick pop quiz for Mormons: Whose plan does that sound like?

I’ve heard the argument that we should be returning to Judeo-Christian values for our legal matters. Ha! When was the last time we did that? Ancient Israel. No, really. Israel has a basis for returning to Judaism for their legal roots. We don’t. Our entire legal system is based off of English common law (which was basically a bunch of nobles getting together and saying, “Sod the King! We’re gonna do our own thing!” and utilitarianism – Go Enlightenment!). Case in point: How come whenever you take a civics class, you’re required to learn about Rosseau, Voltaire, John Locke, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and the Enlightenment, both vanilla flavor and Scottish, but not the Holy Bible?

And if you answer with “It’s a liberal plot,” then please conjure up some evidence. Until then, let me tell you about a particular Bible that Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers, wrote where he edited out all of the supernatural miracles, or maybe Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason (hint: he’s also the guy who wrote Common Sense! Not Glenn Beck, contrary to popular belief).

The minute we throw our hat into the political ring, we damage the moral ground on which we stand on. You know how it seems that everyone in America right now hates politicians because they are duplicitous and sketchy? Do we really need to have people feeling that way about our Church leaders, too?

The temptation to wield the power of the State to legislate on moral issues is incredible. But, as President Packer said, I do not believe God would create a Church which could not withstand that temptation. And I suppose this has something to do with gay marriage. So there you go. I talked about it. Yay. Now, let’s move onto more interesting things, like President Uchtdorf’s absolutely sublime talk of focusing on the basics! Yes!


Filed under politico, religion

The Origin of Standards?

Within every religion lives a tension between authority and personal spirituality. If you veer too much towards the authoritarian side, you have a cult. But if you err too much on just personal spirituality and opinion, you have scrambled, decentralized New Age mumbo-jumbo, not a vibrant religious community. Now, some people like cults (as Creed says in The Office, being a leader is more profitable, but being a member is more fun), and some people really like decentralized New Age stuff, but for most of the people I know, people want a sense of belonging and community, but don’t like it when religious leaders try to tell them what to do with every single aspect of their lives.

Mormonism is no exception when it comes to this tension, which leads to many people trying to define where to draw the line. The recent General Conference tackled this issue in a variety of ways, but of all the talks, I believe Elder Oaks’ talk on “Priesthood lines of communication” and “personal lines of communication” will stand the test of time. Elder Oaks built a model of communication with God that involved two basic lines of communication – Priesthood and personal. Priesthood lines involve how God dictates church-wide changes and instruction. For example, only annointed, faithful leaders have a direct channel to the Priesthood line for changes to their stewardship to prevent any kind of miscommunication or power struggles within the flock. However, for personal situations, circumstances, and instructions, the personal line of communication with God is always open. People can contact God and through the Holy Ghost, they can receive instructions for their own specific lives.

Elder Oaks, of course, presents some caveats. For one, the personal line shouldn’t ever contradict or fight with the Priesthood line. So if God tells the prophet to tell members to say x, you really shouldn’t be getting y. But Elder Oaks also provides some specific instructions to the members not to demand instructions from leaders on every little thing, and also to not abdicate moral decision making to the Brethren. This accomplishes a lot of things – mainly, it forces members to make decisions on their own, but it also (hopefully!) prevents leaders from passing down erroneous, man-made advice as doctrine at the request of members.

This brought up an interesting question to me. What about our “standards”? Are they derived from Priesthood lines or personal lines of communication? My wife says, immediately, “It’s a personal thing.” But what about the For Strength of Youth pamphlet, which encourages members to follow certain standards? Some of the advice is pretty specific, like the (in)famous one pair of earrings only rule. And these standards are most definitely handed down from Priesthood authorities (and most members expect themselves and others to keep those rules).

Others I ask say immediately, “It’s a Priesthood thing.” After all, that’s the whole reason why we have a prophet, right? But then how do we parse Elder Oaks’ talk? What exactly do we have jurisdiction to say that our personal line is more relevant than the Priesthood line (if at all)? The Brethren encourage us to make our own decisions. Are these just empty words, lip service to the concept of agency?

This tension is nothing new; in fact, this last General Conference reeked of it. Despite Elder Oaks telling the members to explicitly not look to the Brethren for specific, individual advice, especially on how to run their families we had:

David M. McConkie of the Sunday School Presidency, who told us that we shouldn’t ask questions that have already been answered in the manuals or scriptures;

Elder Claudio R. M. Costa, who based his talk on a previous talk by Elder Benson, which took a fairly conservative, Priesthood-line-oriented stance on following the prophet (basically, you better if you want to be faithful in any sense of the word);

President Boyd K. Packer, who now infamously warned members to not vote to “legalize immorality”;

and Several other speakers of the Church who warned against, among other things, the “addictive” power of video games (one suggested hiding controllers from the children) and sleepovers, both fairly specific advice.

So where do “standards” come from? We have some pretty official rulings in the Church when it comes to things that require obedience. Faith in God and the Atonement is one thing. Baptism is pretty important. Temple marriage is a huge deal. Church attendance is heavily encouraged. But then we have all of these, for lack of better terminology, “minor” rules, most often refering to dress, how we conduct ourselves, and what various activities are appropriate or not for children. For example, grab a random subset of Mormons and ask them what activities are or are not appropriate for the Sabbath day. You will get a myriad of answers.

Sometimes, we like it that way. After all, personal flexibility is always a good thing when it comes to individual weaknesses and strengths. My wife doesn’t care about earrings or swearing, but she really likes playing video games with her dear husband (as nerdy as it sounds, she feels like our marriage grows closer when I keep her out of danger by healing her in raids), and she hates gore in media (and wishes everyone would stay away from it). That’s just how her spiritual personality operates. And that’s where the trouble comes in. We say the Church should not have to legislate in every little thing. So how come they do, and how come the cultural majority expects us to follow them without question or regard to circumstance? Couldn’t we do away with the rules and stick with our “personal line” interpretation, or shouldn’t we expect our religious community to follow the rules and have specific expectations?

Sometimes, navigating or reconciling the divide seems impossible. But still, we try.


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