Tag Archives: life

Scriptures, the Tarot, and other universal archetypes

I’ve recently been reading a lot about (and collecting) Tarot decks in conjunction with a project that I’ve been working on. The Tarot deck has always fascinated me, even since my childhood, not because I believed that such cards held some kind of mystical clairvoyant power, but mostly because of the archetypes the Major Arcana represented. Concepts such as Judgment, The World, Temperance, The Sun, The Moon, The Emperor, The Fool — they all felt like symbolic poetry, a world of ideas and feelings and connotations packed into a single card with a single image.

In retrospect, my fascination with  Tarot cards most likely stemmed from my strict religious upbringing, especially one such as Mormonism which is still obsessed with the idea of symbolism. We continue to, like many other religions, employ symbolism within our worship, and also within the way we speak about and act out our faith. How could I, a kid raised to automatically ferret out symbolism and derive great joy and satisfaction from decompressing it, resist the rich symbolism of the Tarot?

"Okay, I tap The Emperor and sacrifice the Nine of Cups to deal five damage to your Hierophant."

"Okay, I tap The Emperor and sacrifice the Nine of Cups to deal five damage to your Hierophant."

While learning about the symbolism of the Tarot, it was inevitable that I learned a little in how to use them in the traditional sense of fortune telling. So when some friends came over, I offered to do some Tarot readings as a sort of parlor trick. They agreed and said it sounded like fun. I proceeded to lay out spreads for each of my friends. Some of them mirrored their life situations perfectly while others, predictably, did not. All in all, however, I was very surprised to see how invested people get into Tarot readings; they automatically seek out to relate their life to the cards, or extrapolate meanings in the symbolism to apply to their own life.

One friend, who recently got out of a bad relationship, took the Tarot spread’s interpretation to mean that he needed to stop dwelling on the past and look forward with an attitude of healing. My wife, whose spread told her that her life had recently seen massive changes (like a baby perhaps), interpreted it to mean that she needed to look at her situation at different angles rather than trying to fix problems by just trying harder. My spread told me that I needed to be more careful with how I spent my money, and that perhaps my life is not in accordance with the values of modesty and temperance.

We all sat back afterwards, somewhat surprised but satisfied by our readings. As I contemplated this later that night, it struck me at how optimistic and even — dare I say it? — helpful these readings were. I’ll admit that lately, I’ve been a lot more wary about where my money goes. My wife has been a lot more diligent and creative in her approaches to personal problems recently. And our friend who had just left a bad relationship felt almost a sense of relief and a much more positive outlook for the future. None of these things are really bad.

In fact, this is a lot like reading the scriptures.

Now, before every Mormon decides to crucify me for daring to compare the occult like the Tarot with the scriptures, let me explain.

Scriptures are mostly story. They are intensely human stories rich with symbolism and meaning. We often must sit back and work to decompress the sheer amount of knowledge, information, and advice within them. And most importantly, like a good Tarot reading, we extrapolate those symbols and appropriate them for our own, working hard to match them with what is happening in our personal lives. I could read the conversion story of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon and derive a completely different interpretation than my father would, and we would most definitely apply them differently in our lives. But when Mormon sat down to write the abridged account of Alma the  Younger, he could not have had all of these things in mind. Yes, the Book of Mormon is for our day thematically, but that’s exactly why it’s so successful as a piece of religious literature — the themes are broad, universal, and archetypal. They are applicable to every situation and station in life.

Like Tarot readings, the person giving the reading does not have to work hard. In a Sunday School class, one simply has to read the story out loud and people will immediately begin to draw connections to their own lives. And often, these lessons are beneficial. The Alma the Younger conversion story tells parents to be patient and trust God. It warns against the personal sorrows and pains of sin, but it also extols the virtues of forgiveness and love. It’s a treatise on the fallen nature of man and the dependency one must develop on God’s grace. It talks about the hurt errant children can inflict on parents. It talks about social consequences in not only ignoring family and religious traditions and customs, but also in actively rebelling and fighting against it. This is not even a comprehensive list of what this simple story can teach.

In fact, both scriptures and Tarot rarely communicate anything new in our lives. Instead, they work with the material that we do have, roiling beneath our conscious thought, and give it some kind of metaphysical form. It allows us to access feelings deep within us, some joyful, others uneasy, and bring them up to the surface to face and examine. Deep down, I knew that I should be more careful with my money, but “finding it in the cards” gave me a little bit more of a kick out the door to actually do it. My wife knew that trying the same old things to solve her perennial problems wouldn’t work; the Tarot interpretation that she created for herself helped her to finally face up to it and act out on it. And my friend, reeling from a personal loss and trying to patch up the wounds he sustained from it, found the reading helpful in fighting back the personal insecurity that can sometimes haze over a good, if not difficult, decision.

Now, I know that there is no actual, real power in the Tarot. I know that the deck has been around forever but it was only in the 19th century when people began creating mystical interpretations of what was once an absurdly complicated card game (like Bridge) to build a way to tell fortunes with it out of whole cloth. I know very keenly the somewhat dubious history of the Tarot, and especially how this Tarot undermines the idea that there can be no good that comes from it. However, the Tarot’s power, I believe, is not because it has some kind of inherent occult-devil power, or because there is power infused within the cards, but because they happen to depict universal themes that speak to everyone in some way. The cards do not tell the future; we tell the future for ourselves, using the symbols provided by the Tarot as prompts.

What is interesting to note about the power of scripture is that they, too, do not have to be “factually true” to have such power. I don’t want to re-open a whole “Is the Book of Mormon historical or not?” debate. In fact, my main point is that such a debate is counter-productive. The mythological figure Mormon (and he is more mythological than historical in our religion), despite his historian status and profession, did not compile the Book of Mormon to provide factual dates and statistics and observations for any kind of academic reason. Rather, he compiled his civilization’s mythos, from its mythical founding father Nephi, to various characters with superhuman abilities. How is Ammon the arm-slayer any different from the heroes of old? Mormon understood that encoded within the genetic material of these myths were powerful human emotions and archetypes that could motivate us to realize what we already know what we must do but were too afraid to face.

Joseph Campbell once wrote, “Whenever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. The living images become only remote facts of a distant time or sky. Furthermore, it is never difficult to demonstrate that as science and history mythology is absurd. When a civilization begins to reinterpret a mythology in this way, the life goes out of it, temples become museums, and the link between the two perspectives is dissolved.” When we argue about whether or not the scriptures are historical, and when we get offended when people point out that there’s not a whole lot of scientific evidence for the Book of Mormon’s historicity, we shouldn’t bat an eye. Because historicity only matters if you’ve based your faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ on carbon dating and archaeological digs. We derive religious meaning, significance, and utility from accessing instead what Carl Jung called the collective imagination and consciousness of humanity. True efficacy of the scriptures comes not from whether or not it actually happened in the past, but whether or not these stories continue to play out in our everyday lives.



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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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Celibacy, agency, and monasticism

“Celibacy is undertaken voluntarily as part of the monastic vocation; but an unsought celibacy is the lot of many people, something they would never have thought of as their vocation, though it now seems required by their fidelity to Christ. Many of the separated or divorced who believe their former marriage to have been valid, the spouses of the seriously ill, the people who hoped to marry but somehow never found the right person — all these may be driven to find God in a painful aloneness….

“Fasting, celibacy, night vigils: all traditional monastic disciplines that have their counterpart in the lives of many for whom the experience was neither freely chosen nor laden with obvious spiritual significance. Within the unthinkably close union of us all in Christ’s body, there must be a communion of life and grace here, and in some cases perhaps a hope and encouragement, when those who struggle can use the monastic parallel as a sign to help them find God in their own situation.”

– Maria Boulding OSB, “Living the Rule in Solitude,” The Benedictine Handbook

I recently picked up The Benedictine Handbook, published by Liturgical Press. Ever since learning about St. Benedict and his famous Rule, I was keen on getting my grubby little hands on a copy. So, when The Benedictine Handbook showed up at the local Half-Price bookstore, which included a translation of The Rule for actual Benedictine monks, as well as a slew of commentary and a collection of the prayers and lectios used, I purchased it without a second thought.

Monastic life has always held a fascination to me. If I was not Mormon and married, most likely I would have become a monk by the end of my years. During my high school years, I fantasized about running away to a Buddhist monastery (and for a while, seriously contemplated my escape from this earthly world). Mormonism as a whole rejects the idea of monasticism (though it’s arguable that missionary service is a type of Mormon monastic service), mostly I feel on the grounds of celibacy. Mormonism is a very earthy, mortal religion, celebrating not only what is to come, but what has already come to pass and what continues to come to pass today. We celebrate mortal families as a type of the immortal family of God, and we teach that marriage is essential to exaltation and living in the presence of God. Families and marriage are Big Deals in Mormonism, and this is part of the strong draw it has on many people.

Still, while celibacy is not required for, say, clergy, because of our strong belief in a strict law of chastity, many Mormons can and do end up in a form of involuntary celibacy. As Maria Boulding suggests, they enter into this celibacy because “it now seems required by their fidelity to Christ.” Unfortunately, because of how our religion is set up, this celibacy often comes without much support. Aside from the more apparent “single” situation that many adults in the Church find themselves in, Boulding suggests also those who have chronically or terminally ill spouses, or the divorced and widowed. These, too, need support, but often, both members and church programs come up empty-handed and clueless on how to help them. What compounds this type of celibacy, as opposed to that celibate vow freely entered in by those of monastic orders, “the experience was neither freely chosen nor laden with obvious spiritual significance.” Celibacy can act as a type of fast, a communion and sacrifice with God. But involuntary celibacy often is seen as a heavy burden that one must carry, possibly for the rest of their lives, and many see it as unfair and wholly unwarranted. Worse, in some cases (perhaps even in many cases), other members may often view this unwanted celibacy as “their fault in the first place.”

Here, Boulding suggests that monastic life can act as “a communion of life and grace here, and in some cases perhaps a hope and encouragement, when those who struggle can use the monastic parallel as a sign to help them find God in their own situation.” This is not to say that all of our members who find themselves in celibate lives should run off to a monastery. However, while reading about monastic life from various primary sources, I can see how some of the activities and principles those who participate in the monastic life live can help heal that rift between God and child, and even consecrate that sacrifice to God as a gift and grow ever stronger and closer because of it.

I’ve met singles who are bitter, and singles who have learned to work around this unexpected life development. Those who learn to accept and transform the trial into a blessing often incorporate some of the ideas in monastic life — deep contemplation and self-examination, honesty to self and others, simplicity in life, selfless service to others, a deep understanding and love for the scriptures, consistent prayer, and so forth. I am no expert in monastic life and I offer no real concrete suggestions at this time (nor am I really qualified to do so). But Joseph Smith once said, “One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” While we as a religion may reject the idea of life-long monastic living, certainly the principles found therein can be used to fortify those areas in which we lack. And certainly, as members, we could all show a little charity to those who have found themselves in such a vow of celibacy, and do all we can to bring them fully into the body of Christ. In a church with a doctrine so intrinsically focused on traditional nuclear family life, we continue to offend and drive away many of God’s children through our well-meaning, but unintentionally wounding, attitudes towards celibacy, family life, and agency.

One should ponder from time to time if there is at least some value in monastic tradition, as it is just one more way to bring another subset of people into the shepherd’s flock, rather than turning away others because of a single-minded, narrow world view, which is most tragic when those who feel rejected have come into life circumstances through no fault of their own.


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Sleep Paralysis

"The Nightmare" by Henry Fuseli

"The Nightmare" by Henry Fuseli

I’m currently writing a piece on sleep paralysis after some inspiration from a really vivid episode. Here is an excerpt from the rough draft describing it. It’s a pretty wild experience:

The last episode began when I noticed a disturbing shadow sneak into my bedroom just out of the corner of my eye. Undeterred, I ignore it, wondering if it will roar and cackle at me ominously like the last few times. I cannot move. My hands and face tingle uncomfortably, just on the threshold of pain. I decide to try and experiment. I force my arms to reach over to the pair of glasses next to me. I place them on my face. The room remains unfocused and blurry. I twirl them in my hands and snap them in half. I can feel the tension right before the break and feel the satisfying release. I twist the plastic in my hands, snapping the halves in half once more. Hallucination, I conclude. There’s no way I could have broken my glasses so easily. I tell my arms to throw the pieces behind me. I hear the sound of them hitting the floor next to my right ear.

Wait, did I actually break them? I panic. I squeeze my eyes shut and nonsense words like propilphany flash in the darkness, made out of bright, thin electric currents. I’m starting to feel the rising disoriented hysteria that always accompanies an episode. Maybe propilphany is the magic word that will snap me out of this, I think. I try to yell it out loud, but, of course, I cannot talk. I notice that the room is growing very dark; was it always this dark in my room? And then, the buzzing begins, again next to my right ear, as if a fly decided to do the samba by my face. This will drive me insane; I can already feel the nerves in my back tense up into a painful bundle. I enter a full-blown panic attack; I can’t breathe.

After a brief moment of sheer horror, graciously, the episode slowly releases its grip. My vision clears. My body wakes up and I can breathe again. My hands rest on my stomach, balled up in fists, still tingling furiously. My glasses remain unbroken next to my head. The buzzing disappears. The shadow is gone. It’s over.

For the longest time, I felt that for some reason, Satan was out to get me. Imagine my surprise when I discover that I actually suffer from a medical condition with a clinical name and diagnosis! Still, despite this new knowledge, my life with sleep paralysis, from childhood to adulthood, has colored and affected me in some very dramatic ways. If you or anyone you know has any experience with sleep paralysis, please contact me at tylee85[at]gmail[dot]com. I’d love to hear your (or your friend’s) stories.

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Believe all things

I have never heard of a man being damned for believing too much.

– Joseph Smith

In the 13th Article of Faith, Joseph Smith writes that as Latter-day Saints, we believe that “we believe all things.”

What exactly does that mean?

Our religion is governed by rigid orthodoxy. Not only do many of the higher blessings involved require a consistent belief in Mormon orthodoxy (per the temple recommend interview), the very possibility of entrance into our Church necessitates a desire to live Mormon cultural standards for a period of time before they even integrate into the community through the rite of baptism. Just as much as we emphasize a need to do the right things, we also firmly insist that we must also believe the right things (and conversely, we must also reject a belief in the wrong things).

Elder Robert C. Oaks, in the July 2005 Ensign article titled Believe All Things, not surprisingly writes a very orthodox interpretation of the phrase “believe all things”:

For us, to “believe all things” means to believe the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as well as the words of the Latter-day prophets. It means to successfully erase our doubts and reservations. It means that in making spiritual commitments, we are prepared to hold nothing back. It means we are ready to consecrate our lives to the work of the kingdom.

I find the answer less than satisfactory, however. This is not to say that Elder Oaks’ definition is wrong; the desire to consecrate our lives to God, to eventually defeat doubt and grow faith into knowledge makes up a large part of our daily lives. However, in light of the context of the 13th Article of Faith, however, I do find Elder Oaks’ definition incomplete.

The 13th Article of Faith reads in its entirety:

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things (Emphasis added).

Joseph Smith seems to imply that there is little distinction between “good” things and “Mormon” things. If something is good (or as Joseph puts it more succinctly, virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy), then it automatically falls under the auspices of Mormon theology, thought, and culture.

So is this what it means, to believe all things? We are supposed to spend our lives seeking for that which is good – but what does it mean to be good? We are supposed to spend our lives seeking to improve and influence the world for good – but what does it mean to do good? I have no doubt that a strong connection between thought and action exists, but what does it mean to have good thoughts and good actions? As a Church, we acknowledge that there lies many a good thing beyond our cultural borders – so how do we acquire it? And perhaps most importantly, could it be possible that what is good for one person is not good for another? How do we go about believing all things?


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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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Resolutions 2009 – The Sequel: 2010

It's that time again...

It's that time again...

1. Go camping at least six times this year.

2. Get a 4.0 gpa this year.

3. Volunteer more often, whether it be at community radio, the library, or Habitat for Humanity. Preferably all three, or some other combination of the above.

4. Finish my card game to a point where I can pitch and present it to various interested companies, people, organizations, etc.

5. Finish three plays and submit them to New Play Project.

6. Get published in something more prestigious than the Daily Universe – twice! This means two different publications, not two articles in one publication.

7. Learn Tai Chi and establish a daily yoga practice.

8. Be at a healthy BMI of 24.

9. Attend the following: A Jewish passover/seder, a Catholic mass, a Protestant bible study, a Buddhist meditation session, a Hindu festival, an LDS conference, an anime convention, a farmer’s market, a book reading, a museum exhibit, a live show (music), a live show (theatre), a live show (dance).

10. Set up free English classes for minority immigrants in the Seattle area, possibly working with LDS missionaries.

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