Wednesday, June 21

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will always shape me.

"It's only talk," and "It's just a joke," are, I believe, some of the cleverest lies out there. Perhaps it's my love of words, reading, and hearing my own voice, that lead me to it, but I believe that words are powerful tools and dangerous weapons.

It's a little known, and for some reason suprising (is it my spelling?) fact that I left high school with my eye fixated on an English degree. I arrived at college and had the understanding that I was likely to switch my major. This is where things get fuzzy; I'm not sure if my "I'll do this English thing until I decide what I *really* want" mentality came from a lack of committment to English, or from an over-committment to my belief in switching majors. The point being, I'm not sure that I didn't want to be an English major.

Anyhow, on to my more general point. I firmly believe that the words we choose to use continuously shape our understanding. Positive and negetive connotations travel with every word wherever it goes. The tone of voice used can often convey far more meaning than the word alone. For instance I knew a guy who said "fat" with such derision that I could feel his contempt for anyone to whom that term may apply, even if he was only talking about fat bike tires.

I'm inclined to see it as the common LDS thought that you can gain a testimony by bearing it. Normally the thought process says that as you speak the Holy Ghost will bear witness to you of the truth of what you are saying. In this way bearing testimony can be a leap of faith, a desire to believe, that is rewarded by increased confirmation. Whenever we speak we are, in a sense bearing testimony. Though the Holy Ghost may or may not be involved in our daily speech we are certainly outlining, and reinforcing patterns. Patterns of thought, tone, and action. I'm sure my friend didn't start out saying the word 'Fat' like he was spitting it out, but he certainly said it the same way every time he said it. By using it with contempt a few times, it became a contempt filled word. By making excuses for being a stay at home mom, I come to believe that I need excuses. By stating my beliefs in an apologetic way, I come to believe that they need to be aplogized for.

I remember a line from Gattaca where Antone is trying to convince Vincent that he doesn't belong at Gattaca, and can't succeed. Vincent's pithy response is "who are you trying to convince?"

I'm fond of an idea from CS Lewis, where he says that (paraphrasing) "it is useless to sit around trying to manufacture feelings. The best way to create a feeling of love for someone else is to act as if you already do love them." Part of that action, I believe, are the words we say.

Tuesday, June 20

The other side

I was raised in a very conservative household. My parents would disown me if they knew that I called myself a feminist. To them feminists are every bad stereotype you can imagine. Man-hating, bra-averse, unwashed, baby-killers, who would like nothing more than to see every man in the world castrated. However, Janna's question at Exponent II got me thinking. She said
I'm curious about the feelings and thoughts of women who *are* completely comfortable with the traditional approach to [the Male-only Priesthood]. Why do they feel comfortable with and celebrate what Caroline describes as the God-Man-Woman hierarchy?

I'm not quite sure I know the answer, but given my background I think I can make a pretty good guess.

I think most of these women very much buy into the "women are more spiritual so they just don't need it." I think many LDS feminists really discount how attractive that idea is to non-feminist LDS women. I recall hearing that, and similar statements as a youth and feeling not just special, but down right countercultural. There was a "in-the-know" feeling about hearing things like that. You could look at the sister sitting next to you and have a little wink-wink nod-nod affirming that both of you knew who was *really* running the show. 'These poor hopeless lunks think they're running the church. We'll let you think you're in charge while we do all the important stuff behind your back.' While we congratulated ourselves on being so spiritual we didn't notice our Hopeless lunks run off to meetings that we would be forbidden to attend. Just like that classic line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "The man may be the head, but the woman is the neck and she can turn the head any direction she wants." One forgets that the neck has no brain of it's own, and only does what the head tells it to, so oddly enough, she always wants to turn the head to the direction the head wants to go. (BTW I had a man I considered marrying tell me that line to make me feel better about him presiding over me. It didn't work.)

Part of what makes this approach so popular is really that it is so easy. First, it removes from women the commonly felt pressure to civilize men, and places it on the priesthood, or more accurately changes it into "supporting his priesthood duties." Women who felt that pressure from their mothers and peers are now free to say to themselves, "serving a mission will help him mature," or "he learns how to be a good man at church." In other words, "you other ladies can't blame me for my husband's slovenly ways because I support his priesthood."

It also allows women to glorify in everything that is feminine, even if they maybe shouldn't. Immodest dresses are readily overlooked if they're adequetely feminine. Spending too much on makeup and clothes is alright because woman is God's greatest, and most beautiful, creation. We gloss over most female failings, because women are more spiritual than men, they have no failings. (As a side tangent, I think it is very important to be aware of, and roust out feminine failings. If I can be a daughter of perdition, it means that I can have the knowledge and agency required to become one. One thing that many leaders are so quick to decry is that all these "sweet angels have corrupted themselve with masculine habits." That track is best counteracted by showing that the "sweet angels" never really existed.)

Next, there is a common (to me) joke about making money (it relates I swear). It goes like this:
Step one: [outlandish silly sounding thing here, like "patent prosthetic foreheads"]
Step two: ???????
Step three: Profit!
All we need to do is figure out what step two is.

As it relates to the topic at hand, the steps are as follows:
Step one: Allow only men to hold the priesthood.
Step two: ?????
Step three: Presto! Men and Women are completely equal before the Lord!

Many of these women are taking on faith that there is, indeed, a step two. They are also taking on faith that step two is probably beyond mortal understanding, so it's futile to try and figure it out. But what they aren't taking on faith is that our leaders, who we trust to advise us constantly assure us of steps one and three. We almost hear them saying, "It doesn't look like it makes sense, but just trust me, it does." The same way we might hear a doctor saying "It doesn't look like taking calcium supplements will cure your menstrual cramps, but just trust me, it does."

So there's my take on that. It may be disjointed, but that's how it goes.

Friday, June 16

Does the fact that you're going to Hell concern you?

So I followed a link yesterday, that took me to an evangelical Christian site. The title of this post is taken from that site. Sometimes I enjoy reading things like that, it gives me stuff to think about, and this website delivered. There was a page about witnessing to Mormons which encouraged missionaries to learn the Mormon vernacular. at one point the author suggested telling Mormons that they are going to "outer darkness" because that is the closest approximation to Hell that we have. It went on to say that most Mormons will find that idea disconcerting because they believe that nearly everyone will live in one of Heaven's three kingdoms. More specifically, we believe that the only people in Outer Darkness will be people that have knowingly chosen it, and that what makes it miserable is the misery the people there make for themselves.

The author was right, I did find the idea of me going to Hell disconcerting, but for reasons they probably didn't expect. Consider this: Hell is a place where people who have committed even the smallest of sins are sent, by God, even if they didn't know that what they were doing is a sin. Furthermore God, the being responsible for bringing these people into existence, created the world and mankind so that by our very natures every single one of us cannot help but sin and will be sent to Hell unless we have the rare benefit of learning about Christ during our mortal lives. The earthly practice that most closely approximates willfully creating beings that are doomed to suffer? Having babies just to torture them to death.

My worldview allows for a God that is just, and will not tolerate sin, but one that is also merciful and isn't bound to send more than half of His children to eternal suffering.

Let's consider eternal suffering for a moment. Try this, draw a line on a piece of paper. Now, I hate to break it to you, but the line you drew isn't a real line. It's a limited approximation of a line, or a "line segment." A real line goes on for forever. Think about that for a moment. Not just to the edge of the paper, not just beyond the desk. A real line goes on beyond your house, your backyard, city, state, country planet, solar system and beyond. It goes on for forever. Now draw another pathetic attempt at representing a line parallel to the first one. Now I ask, how much area is between your two pathetic lines? A few square centimeters, right? Imagine, if you will, the two real lines, the ones that go on for forever, and ask how much area is between those two lines? The amount of area between those to lines is infinite. What if the lines started on left, but still went on forever to the right? The area between them is still infinite.

Alright, Lets say that the distance between the two lines is the limited, finite you. The left end points are the moment you came into existence. Let's now say that the area between the lines are representative of your suffering were you to be sent to Hell for eternity. "Wait a minute!" you say, "doesn't that means that my suffering would be infinite?" Let's say then that the sin you committed that got you sent to Hell was that you were born and your parents failed to baptise you before you died shortly after birth. Or even that your sin was stealing money from orphans.

"But," you say (and I do wish you would stop interrupting) "God *is* merciful. Christ suffered for our sins, and all we have to do is claim Him as our Savior, and we'll be saved." What of the millions of people who lived without ever hearing of Christ? They did not willfully reject Him. They had no chance to save themselves. Did God keep that chance from them on purpose?

Do these finite temporal sins and failings *really* require eternal, infinite suffering to satisfy justice? Does the fact that you believe in a God who is cruel and heartless concern you? It should.