I may choose to ignore anonymous comments. I consider this type of anonymity dishonest. Also, I don't post regularly. I post when I have something worth writing and something worth reading. I explain all this in: Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Official Church Halloween Policy: Moral Decision Making in Mormondom #8

(This is an occasional series that discusses normative questions. Too often we do not consider the inferences and implications of what we do. In short, we fail to realize when a moral decision is necessary. This occasional series will do so. Readers are encouraged to pose their own questions and views in the comment forum.)

The newswires are abuzz with the latest outrage supposedly perpetrated by Mormons. The following story, eloquently stated in The Salt Lake Tribune, was also distributed by numerous papers and wire services including the Associated Press.  From the Tribune:
Any little girl who wanted to dress up as Harry Potter or boy who chose to be Lady Liberty would not have been welcome at a recent Mormon Halloween party in Sandy.
The invitation, circulated in the neighborhood, specifically barred "cross-gender" costumes.
The local Bishop of the offending congregation explained the flyer thus:
LDS Bishop Dennis Toone — leader of the Crescent 16th Ward, which hosted the party — did not write the flier, but he defended the prohibition against cross-gender costumes, saying "it’s church policy."
It isn't Church policy:
"The flier," LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Friday, "does not represent church policy."
The local Bishop justified the action with:
"we thought it was a church policy,"
I consider this whole cross-gender dressing issue secondary to the more important question: WHY DIDN'T ANYBODY CHECK CHURCH POLICY?

Church policy is not obscure, complicated or obtuse. In fact, it is available and clear. It IS online for heaven's sake -- exactly, for heaven's sake.

Not all are critical however. Homosexuals are coming to our defense:
The Mormon party organizers likely did not intend to hurt any nonconforming or transgender kids, said Jude McNeil, who directs research and training at Salt Lake City’s Pride Center. They were just unaware of the potential consequences of such guidelines.
"[U]naware of the potential consequences of such guidelines." Moral decision making requires taking into consideration the potential consequences of any action, that's what makes it moral decision making.

Cavalier references to Church policy are unworthy of ANY Mormon! Toone should have approved that flyer before it went out. The person(s) responsible for the activity should have submitted it to Toone and other leaders before it went out. Everybody involved should have checked Church policy.

Instead, we have a major public relations disaster compliments of local leaders not paying attention to their responsibilities.

Great, just what we don't need . . .

Monday, October 24, 2011

Muscles, Meals and More . . .

Mormons are big on service, or at least they say they are. We've got a pretty good track record of helping people move in and move out. Generally, we have a whole squad of people show up and help. If you need muscles, meals or cleaning done, Mormons don't bat an eye. They get right to it.

My husband and I have moved a number of times. We appreciated all the help we've ever received. We're pretty good at moving by now. But, I realized that what we truly needed was a little outside the normal spectrum.

Finally, I got the courage up to tell people what we REALLY needed help with when we move -- bathe our dogs. Okay, everybody was incredulous even after I explained myself. But, I wasn't making it up. That was truly what we needed. It wasn't what people were used to hearing though.

It's very simply. My husband is allergic to dogs, which includes our dogs. When we moved, we had to have them in the truck cabs with us. My husband could handle them a lot better if they were clean. They didn't affect his allergies as much. Also, if we had to stay overnight anywhere along the road, the doggies had to be in the room with us. Again, my husband could handle them a lot better if they were clean.

Bathing them myself was an enormous task anyway. It was even worse if we were trying to move. For example, I had to bathe them in the tub with the spray nozzle. If we were moving then often the spray nozzle had to be packed, as well as the tub mat, any towels, the shower curtain etc. Cleaning the doggies meant I had to deep clean the bathroom after I was finished. This was enormously difficult if all my rags were packed, if all the cleaning supplies were packed, etc. In addition, the washing machine and dryer had to be unhooked for moving as well. This all made cleaning the little characters extremely difficult as well as cleaning up after the task was done.

Take the little critters away, bring them back clean. It was that simple. Okay, at about 100 lbs. each it wasn't THAT simple but it was straightforward.

Only one congregation ever took us up on this challenge. They arranged for a lady who did dog grooming in her home to bathe them for us. She was largely inactive. I'm hoping that this contact with the Church did something for her that was lasting. It sure helped us.

Often, people are embarrassed to ask for what they truly need and we have trouble identifying it ourselves in order to serve them.

Let's start observing more and thinking more. Let's start PRAYING more and solicit Heavenly Father's help in truly helping people with what they need and not just what we are used to doing for them.

We'd all be a lot better off!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Relief Society is Raucous

I've been observing a particular phenomenon for some years now. I've observed it across the country in Utah, Kansas, Indiana, Virginia, Michigan and every other place I've lived or visited.

Relief Society is raucous.

Raucous is a terrific word. Essentially it means disorderly and rowdy to the point where it is harsh or grating. I hate to attach such a label to a Church meeting, but I think it applies.

Relief Society ceased to be reverent a long time ago. I first noticed it when we had guest presenters at weekly meetings and such. I was embarrassed that women kept chatting amongst themselves and making comments to near neighbors about a variety of things instead of giving the presenter the courtesy of their attention. I try not to encourage these conversations, but I'm often the unwilling object of them.

I may have noticed it on those occasions because I was more concerned about treating non-Mormon guests appropriately and what impression they would have of us and our meetings.  Anyway, raucousness is pretty widespread now, so much so that no Sunday Relief Society teacher can depend on being able to command attention during a lesson.

I leave Relief Society meetings feeling jangled and on edge because of the constant chatter going on. I have some theories as to why this condition currently exists in Mormondom. I don't think the fact that it DOES exist is in dispute.

Here are my theories, not necessarily in order:

- Leadership is disorganized and/or unprepared. All leadership guidance suggests opening exercises should be well-organized and brief. Usually, it is neither. This sets a tone of raucousness.

- Teachers are often disorganized and/or unprepared. This also sets a tone where raucousness thrives. If other people make comments, then the teacher doesn't have to present as much. It is easy for the teacher to hand control of the meeting over to commenters. This aura of inclusiveness and participation is only that, an aura. The participation is usually pretty off-topic and irrelevant.

- People are selfish and self-absorbed. Most of their comments are simply telling others how the discussion relates to them or trying to be funny or entertaining. Few examine their comments within the framework of "Will this be a valuable comment that can help others understand or apply the concepts being taught?" Having taught as a career I can often tell if something could derail a discussion, despite the best of my intentions. I've kept silent on occasion in Relief Society, and other meetings, because I know my comment won't be taken in the proper light or it will spur tangents that may be detrimental. Very little self-disciple of this sort is evident in raucous Relief Society meetings.

- Humor and entertainment are being inordinately emphasized. Why does no one seem to wonder if something qualifies as excess laughter or lightmindedness? There is certainly nothing wrong with appropriate humor, but I think raucous Relief Society crosses the line. Entertainment pervades our society. It is pervasive at church as well.

If Satan were to try and short-circuit or disrupt Relief Society, raucousness would probably be the tool of choice. Any other tool people would probably reject.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mormons and Honesty: Part 6: Conclusion

It is difficult to admit we might be a liar, cheat and/or thief. But, do we deserve the label? Probably. We deserve it for most of the reasons I've discussed in this series.  We ought to admit we are liars at the very least.
To repent, we must admit to ourselves that we have sinned. If we do not admit this, we cannot repent.
I always wondered why wicked people had to be TOLD they were wicked. Didn't they know? Didn't they guess? How can people NOT know they are sinning? From the scriptures we have to conclude that either they didn't know or they resisted the information.
. . . I perceive that it cuts you to your hearts because I tell you the truth concerning your iniquities.
So often it is simply the classic reaction:  Shoot the messenger! or burn him or her to death or whatever. I wonder what fate is in store for me? I can only guess.

Many years ago I heard the best rationale for why people absolve themselves of their sins while condemning others. This is supported by research. The answer is simple. We judge others by their actions. We judge ourselves by our intentions.

I don't think Heavenly Father looks kindly on this tactic:
Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins,
One of the best talks on this subject is by D. Todd Christofferson entitled, "As Many as I Love, I Rebuke" from April 2011 Conference. I'll extract some of my favorite quotes:
Though it is often difficult to endure, truly we ought to rejoice that God considers us worth the time and trouble to correct.
Divine chastening has at least three purposes: (1) to persuade us to repent, (2) to refine and sanctify us, and (3) at times to redirect our course in life to what God knows is a better path.
If we are open to it, needed correction will come in many forms and from many sources.
Even when we encounter mean-spirited criticism from persons who have little regard or love for us, it can be helpful to exercise enough meekness to weigh it and sift out anything that might benefit us.
Remember that if we resist correction, others may discontinue offering it altogether, despite their love for us. If we repeatedly fail to act on the chastening of a loving God, then He too will desist.

In one of my classes at BYU, my professor suggested the concept of "measured honesty." What he meant by that is that we don't use honesty as an excuse to destroy people and relationships.

People who pride themselves on being brutally frank generally get more satisfaction out of their brutality than their honesty.

Think about the times Jesus was silent. Think about the times where He could have said much more than He did. Think about the times where He obviously avoided being cutting or harsh.

Jesus was honest, but he wasn't unkind. It was just how people reacted to his honesty. Some were chastened and repented. Others, well, they didn't react so well . . .

But, their reactions didn't change what He said they were.

Mormons and Honesty: Part 1: Introduction

Mormons and Honesty: Part 2: Honesty and the Church

Mormons and Honesty: Part 3: Honesty and Society

Mormons and Honesty: Part 4: Honesty and Others

Mormons and Honesty: Part 5: Honesty and Ourselves

Mormons and Honesty: Part 6: Conclusion

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mormons and Honesty: Part 5: Honesty and Ourselves

We know Satan tries to get us to lie to others. It makes sense that he also tries to get us to lie to ourselves as well. It don't think this point gets enough attention.

When I've heard people express lies, I've often observed them closely. It is evident to me that sometimes they believe their own lies. How is this possible? How does this happen? I can only guess.

Self-deception often takes the shape of rationalization. Somehow we have reasoned things out to the point where we convince ourselves that we haven't done anything wrong.

I had a friend who worked as a prosecutor. He was telling me about a child molester he was prosecuting who had been operating unhindered for over thirty years. They found dozens, perhaps hundreds of pictures, videos, materials etc. in his home. They were able to locate about 100 victims, over 30 of which were willing to testify against him.

I had two questions for my friend: After all this time how did he get caught and second, how did he justify his behavior? To the first question, my friend told me that finally a little boy reported him to his parents because they had taught him that no one should touch certain parts of his body, even if they were a grown up.

To the second question, he told me the man said, concerning all his victims, "I was just sharing my love with them!"

Molestation, abuse, damage, exploitation and everything else was just sharing his love with them? Surely this man could lie to himself quite well.

I once heard a woman justify abortion with the rationale: "If I give the baby back to Heavenly Father, it will be so much better off."

What lies are you telling yourself? Perhaps one of the following . . .

I'm a good Church member despite the fact that I rarely attend Church, read the scriptures or do anything for anyone other than myself.

I'm a good Christian despite the fact that I yell at my employees and otherwise verbally mistreat them.

I'm honest despite the fact that I don't pay all my taxes and lie about my kid's age so that I can get a better price at the movie theater.

I'm a nice person although I'm constantly stabbing other people in the back.

I'm a good worker even though I waste my employers time and trust in playing video games on my office computer and visiting my Facebook page.

I'm a law abiding citizen although I exceed the speed limit, lie to cops about why I was speeding and try and get the judge to reduce or dismiss my ticket.

The examples I've given so far are pretty large and obvious. What about the small self-deceptions we engage in every day?

Tomorrow I will make it to work on time.

I'll make up for punching in on time today when I really wasn't.

I won't use work materials for personal use.

I won't phone that friend on company time.

I won't do my child's homework for him next time. 

I won't tell someone they look nice when I don't think they do.

I won't act interested in my friend's conversation when I'm really not.

Clearly, few of us could survive socially if we were truly honest. But, can we survive in the hereafter if we aren't?

If you truly want to be honest in this life then you are going to have to work on your character. If you want to just appear honest, then work at being a good actor. There are many examples around you.