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Thursday, February 10, 2005 

It's Your Thing...Do Whatcha Wanna Do...

We don’t live in a perfect world. None of us have perfect lives with perfect choices. Anyone who says so is either highly delusional or lying through their teeth. It doesn’t matter what religion you are or if you believe in God or not…nothing in this world is perfect. NOTHING. Our journey or our mission or whatever you want to call it is all about our choices and our discoveries. It’s all about discovering for ourselves what is wrong or what is right and then taking that information and making our decisions. As you get older there are some gray areas that have to be dealt with. Sometimes those gray areas get in the way. Sometimes you’re not even sure which path is right and you just have to take some time to figure out what is best for you. Even members of the church have to deal with those gray areas.

I never really had to make that many choices growing up. I just did what was expected of me. It’s amazing how little you think about your choices when basically they were made for you. I wasn’t a robot…I was just JP…the girl that did everything she was told. I was, by no means, perfect. I had my faults (Jess…not ONE word) but for the most part I followed the rules with not too many exceptions. YES, I did have the choice of whether or not to do what I was told, it was just never an option NOT TO. That was the way I operated.

During The Big Oops of 1997 I had some very hard decisions to make in my life. I had made a mistake. I had. But because of that beautiful mistake, I was forced into those hard decisions and I didn’t have a clue what to do with them. I had never made a serious, real decision in my life. I had been so caught up with doing what I was told, I guess I never really forced myself to truly choose right from wrong because that choice was always made for me. But there I was. And there was a lot riding on all of those decisions. There were also a lot of people ‘out there’ waiting and expecting certain decisions from me. But that’s not how things happened.

And that’s where the gray area comes in.

I made a choice for my new little family. No one made me make this decision…no one swayed me one way or the other…I made a choice for my family that had such a hard beginning. Did I make the “right” choice according to my religion and “other Mormons”? No, I didn’t. Did I make the “right” decision according to some of my friends and family? No, I didn’t. Did I make the “right” decision for me and my new little family that I loved so much?

Yes. I did.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I have the perfect life because I’m not active in the church. I have hard times just like everyone else. I’m also not going to sit here and tell you that I’ve made the wrong decision. I know in my heart that I did the “right” thing…for me. That’s the beauty of it. Yes, there are commandments, rules, codes of conduct, lists or guidelines…but it all comes down to what is right for you. If you don’t believe in God, it’s a personal (or ethical) decision for you daily. If you do believe in God, it’s having a personal relationship with God and being comfortable with your decisions.

It really is such a challenge and all of us are going to make the wrong decision at one point or another. But it really is our wrong decision to make. You have to decide what your definition of RIGHT is…believe in it…stay true to it…live it.

Live it the best way you know how.

JP - Great post. I agree with you that it's about US, it's about the choices WE make, not about anybody else. It's about what is doing what we feel is best.

I think there is a lot more grey in the world than most people are able to deal with. Not everything IS black and white, not everything is right or wrong. Sometimes the lines get blurred. 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

I think you are wonderful. I know that in times of big decison making, a lot of people will give their unsolicited two bits. Because you were young when you had to make this big decision I'm sure people were especially "generous" in offering you "what they would do."

I really hope that people in you or people in your life (all those advice givers) still don't think you made a"wrong" decision (that really bothers me...). I can think of a million (OK, a lot) of times when someone got an answer that was not the norm, or was contrary to the ususal plan. That doesn't make the answer wrong just because other Mormons, even most Mormons (or non-Mormons) do it another way.

"By their fruits ye shall know them..." or something like that. The fact that although your marriage was jump-started while you were very young, the fact that you are together and happy and you have chosen to bring another child into the world are good indicators that things are going very well indeed!

I am so happy that you made the right decision for you even with all that pressure around you.  

Posted by Carrie Ann

You touched on a very interesting topic I would love to explore further. Being raised Mormon, or being Mormon, we are taught to choose the right, CTR, from day one, what is right is spelled out for us, what is wrong is spelled out for us. We don’t necessarily have to figure anything out, make decisions; instead we identify what matches right and go with it. These guidelines make life easy until we are faced with a situation where right and wrong don’t fit into this perfect little box. I don’t recall where you spoke about this before, but in one post (possibly from your own site) you discuss how this is especially difficult if you are an adult and have not developed this skill that others learn in their youth. I think you are showing that CTR, while initially a good concept, also has its flaws. 

Posted by Rebecca

Are the lines really getting blurred? Is there really more gray areas in our choice making? If there is it is because of us, and the attitudes we take. One fundamental truth is that right is right, and wrong is wrong. We have allowed the gray areas to slip in, we have let the line get blurred. People are afraid to stand up and say, this is wrong, and it needs to change. We let laws get passed that blurs things up. If someone opposes these laws, then they are “religious nuts” trying to push their beliefs on us. I like to think of it as less of a gray, but more of a transition from white to black. We have to be politically correct, we can not listen to what the majority wants, we have to let people have all the rope they need to hang themselves. Personally I am embarrassed for our country. I am embarrassed that we are more worried about personal freedoms then we are maintaining some sense of self control. Well I will get off my soap box now, but not before saying that though the lines are getting blurred, there will be a time when we have to stand say no more, here is the line, which side are you on. (Except for in decisions regarding hot dogs at the Weinerschzital, if someone does not want cheese on the chili cheese dog that’s there choice, of course I think they are IDIOTS for not wanting cheese!) 

Posted by Cameron

I really liked the post and the discussion that it has raised. I will agree with Cameron, to a point. Not only is there a line (a fine one at that) between right and wrong...and depending on your attitude, you decide what line to walk. Of course I would add my $.02 and say that it doesn't really MATTER what side of the line you are on, as long as you take RESPONSIBILITY for the choices you make.

I'm sorry...writing isn't my "thang", so if this makes no sense at all, please disregard!

*HUGS*
Sandy 

Posted by Sandy

Interesting, Cameron...very interesting. Are you ever faced with a decision you just don't know what to do with? Yes, we each have our own way of "finding" the right and wrong of the situation...but its not so easy sometimes. (You rock, by the way...)

A lot of people have thought that I just shouldn't have ever started dating or ever let myself fall in love with a "non-member"...that ALL my hard choices would've been washed away if I had just avoided the "non-member."

I choose to believe differently. I believe that Heavenly Father is giving me a way different test than I had EVER planned on... 

Posted by JP

Gray areas exist because we lack information that would support our decisions.

Showing that CTR, while initially a good concept, also has its flaws. - I disagree; CTR is only flawed because we have gray areas. We lack the support (information) to make a correct decision.

How do you over come the handicap of gray areas? Well you study, you learn and you build a massive amount of evidence or experience. You also build a habit of viewing the world in a more correct perspective based on your evidence and experience.

Sometimes in life we are afraid to learn more because it threatens our foundations and beliefs. For one example one can look at the Creationists and Evolutionist they are both trying to CTR.

Everyone is choosing decision based on the information and experience they have. Some people choose to be ignorant only because it threatens their beliefs and experience example Creationists. We can add more examples of course including Scientist.

It affects us all right?

Good Post JP 

Posted by Rodrigo V

JP-I think it took a lot of courage to make the choices you have and stand by them. Free Will is a beautiful and scary thing. Free Will is what makes this life worth living, and the opportunity to make of our lives what we will. The cause and effect of these choices will always be a daily reminder of our free will, and that is the best thing of all. Learning and growing from the our choices. Gray area's, known area's in our lives, and the unknown, each day is a beautiful discovery. I hope you enjoy the journey with all its ups and its downs. Keep choosing your path......it's yours, no matter what anyone may say. I own my choices for good or bad. It sounds like you do too!

Lots of love to you, and a great insightful post. 

Posted by herevilsister

JP: I am not saying I am perfect, I do think that when a decision is before me, I can look back to the things I have been taught and say right, wrong. However, it then is turned over to my imperfect state to make that decision, and unfortunately it is not always the right choice. I can say with all honesty, that is the most miserable part of my life. Having a knowledge of right and wrong to the level I do, and not always living up to it. It makes me sad, it makes me hurt, and there are times when I completely loose faith in myself for the stupid choices I make. But there is one little glimmer of hope for me. Its one little word that I do not think has ever been written on VSof M (I may be wrong on that one). There is always repentance, and I can say when all is said and done, it’s a process that I know all to well. Nothing better then some good heart felt repentance to make a person good, and cure them of what is ailing them.
 

Posted by Cameron

This week's posts and the conversation they have generated have been great. I'd like to address the "flawed CTR" question that Rebecca brought up.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding your questions, but I don't understand how having rules eliminates decisions. We all have a belief system which influences our decisions. Does the LDS belief system handicap our ability to make decisions in a way that other belief systems do not? That doesn't seem logical to me. How does being told to choose the right eliminate the resonsibility to first decide what is right and second make the right choice?

I think the most important thing that has come out of this discussion is the distinction between freedom of choice and freedom from consequences. We are free to choose for ourselves. We are even free to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. We are not free from the consequences of our choices.

 

Posted by Christian F

I really appreciate this post, JP, and everyone's comments. Each person's life experience is so different and "customized". I don't think that is an accident. We each need different things. It has really invoked some strong feelings in me, so here goes...

There has been some talk about "not needing to figure anything out, or make decisions" because that is done for us as members of the Mormon church (if I understood correctly). Just because Mormon parents do their best to teach their children what they believe is right and true, and to protect them from bad influences does not mean that a child or teenager doesn't have any decisions to make. It may be an active Mormon home, but it certainly is not a "bubble" protecting one from every influence of the world. Our individual nature coupled with our parents' influence guides our decisions as children. Trust me...I know some children you would never guess come from "good LDS homes".

I feel lucky to have been given a good start because of my faithful parents. So, stealing a pack of gum from the store was one of the worst things I did up until the teen years...but, I can assure you I had A LOT of decisions to make once I was 12 or so, and not so easily influenced by my desire to please my parents. Like, "Will I put myself in 'this type' of situation?", "Am I going to obey my parents at all?"; this list goes on and on.

I guess what I am saying is that I think more credit should be given to people who were given a lot of "sheltering" and "protection" from their parents as children, but then took the initiative to figure things out for themselves, find out what was true FOR THEMSELVES and to stick by their beliefs as they continued to study what is true and what is not (or "black and white"). I feel deep convictions about Mormon doctrines and how to live my life not soley because of my parents' influece, but because of the life experiences I have chosen, and the times I have studied and then gotten on my knees to ask if they were really true.

And of course I still give in to things that I would rather do, or not do, and have to repent. But it is because I CHOOSE to.

I'm sure most of you already understand this point of view, whether you agree with me or not, or feel the same way as me or not. But, I just felt really passionate there about saying that. I'm glad for this forum...it really makes me THINK!

 

Posted by Suzie Petunia

Christian's previous comment was NOT there when I made mine! I'm always doing that... 

Posted by Suzie Petunia

I was hoping someone would respond to my statement.

My point with regard to the Mormon structure of Choose the Right is that the Mormon culture often overlooks the “how” aspect of choosing the right, we are taught to identify right and to take right over wrong, wrong being drinking a beer, drinking coffee, swearing, taking the lords name in vain, having premarital sex, etc. But the “how” of decision making is important and shouldn’t be overlooked. I think that it is often overlooked because in the Mormon culture the right choice is told to you from birth, so do what you are told and you will be right. This being the case why would you need to learn the “how” if you follow these simple rules? Well, the answer to that is because sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where your dilemma doesn’t fall into either of the categories of right and wrong you have learned to identify and now, for the first time, you have to figure it out on your own. Often these “dilemmas” don’t arrive until you are an adult which leaves you at a disadvantage because you are learning some basic skills that are taught to many children outside of the Mormon culture at a young age. Of course this is a generalization, but I stand by my statement that it IS flawed and can put individuals at a disadvantage if they never learn the how of the process and only live by doing what they are told.
 

Posted by Rebecca

I thought the point of my comment was YOU CAN learn to make decisions for yourself as an adult, even if you were brought up LDS. SOME people may *appear* to choose to continue to follow somewhat blindly their whole lives, but how do you know? How do you know what inner struggles have led them to where they are spiritually? There have been times I was forced to discover if this was what I really believed. I don't think anyone can really go through life without having serious moments (that may last days, weeks, years...) that help them discover what they really believe in, and why. 

Posted by Suzie Petunia

Suzie. I was responding to Christians comment not yours. Yours was not posted when I wrote mine. BUT in response to yours I agree that we can learn to make decisions as an adult, but this doesn’t mean that the “how” of it shouldn’t be stressed more then it is to the youth of the church. The idea that so many have to figure out the how later in life makes the system flawed.  

Posted by Rebecca

Rebecca, I guess I don't know what you mean when you say that the youth of the LDS Church are not taught the "how" of decision making. The how includes teaching a foundation of belief that goes far beyond "Don't drink, smoke, do drugs, or have sex." I have been a primary teacher on two occasions and a teacher to the Priests' Quorum once and I think the curriculum taught to the youth is very impressive.

Maybe you could explain what you mean when you say the "how" isn't taught because I completely disagree with you. There is far more emphasis on teaching correct principles and values and letting children make choices governed by that moral foundation than there is teaching about specific decisions. Specific decisions are often used as examples to illustrate a larger point, but this was true of the business ethics classes I took in graduate school as well.

I don't think anyone is laying out a limited list of potential decisions and saying "This is the correct answer -- memorize it." That's clearly a flawed approach. Instead, the teachers that I had when I was in primary and Sunday School (many of the same teachers you had) taught us the principles of the Gospel. Cameron mentioned the two commandments that Christian's use as a basis for decision making: Love God and love they neighbor. That's the introduction to a foundation that helps in all sorts of situations -- even a lot of gray ones.

I'm not saying that everyone will agree with the moral system taught by the LDS Church, but it seems wrong to say that teaching a moral system to children hurts their ability to make decisions. "Choose the Right" is a simple reminder to children to make good choices based on that moral system -- it is not the system itself.  

Posted by Christian F

I can't speak for others, but in my situation I "blindly" followed and never thought about any of the decisions. I'm not blaming my parents or the church or CTR...I'm just talking about my experiences.

Christian, you're right...having rules does NOT eliminate decisions. But when you just 'do what you're told' without thinking about if you even want to do it or not, you're blindly following. That's what I did.

Suzie, I think I also need to comment on how relatively young I was when I was faced with all these decisions. I was still living in that "bubble" (if you will) of my parents. That's just how I grew up...my sisters didn't. They made different choices than I and maybe they actually learned how to make decisions. I lived on faith, I guess. No, it's not a bad thing...but like Rebecca said, the "how to" of it all was not a lesson I learned because I just did what I was told/expected of me. I've had a lot of "growing up" to do that I didn't do when I was younger, so to speak...

Maybe I don't explain it well...but I love all of your points of view. It makes ME think. I love that we do this. 

Posted by JP

I think, what Rebecca, is trying to say is that a lot of LDS kids, are woefully unprepared to make or deal with real life situations, because of how sheltered they can be. For example, a girl who was near my own age started out at the large highschool, but because of the daily pressures of dealing with so many types of people, not just the tight knit group of LDS kids she grew up with and went to school. She transferred to a much smaller school. The pressure was lessened. There were a couple of kids like this.

LDS kids tend to hang with LDS kids. It makes it easy. Once, you step outside the community of your extended LDS family, it is hard place for kids who never had to think beyond CTR or the principles and doctrines of the church. The real world is a hard place to be. Most LDS kids don't even realize that there are other options. It's not quite as segregated as say the Amish, but ask most LDS kids who their friends are. A good 80% or better are probably other LDS kids.You goto church on Sunday with these same people, you do activities once a week, then the ward functions, trips for the youth, ect. Growing up LDS kids hang with other LDS kids. They may see things, but as long as they are within the same social group of same core value people, there isn't a lot of different life experiance.

It's not wrong to want to protect and keep the evils of the world away from our kids. However, in my experiance a lot kids I grew up with were inadequatly prepared for the world outside of the Church. 

Posted by herevilsister

Christian. As I stated I understand that I am making a generalization. I suppose my comments are a bit strong. And you have provided great examples of the LDS youth being taught the “how”. I had many wonderful Sunday School teachers and I know that you were a wonderful Sunday School teacher, not because I ever sat in on your class, but because I know you are a wonderful father that teaches his children well. I believe that there ARE members of the Mormon church that only understand the CTR “memorized” right and wrong aspect, especially among younger members who are living on borrowed faith. BUT seeing that the points you have countered my statement with stand stronger then my mere statement backed by nothing more then my opinion/belief, I recognize I may be wrong and being judgmental. Possibly this is a result of “CTR” only preparing me for a life of choosing the right if I continue to believe in the gospel of the LDS church, “In the right the holy spirit guides … be safe through inspirations power, choose the right” (don’t remember the lyrics exactly but you get the idea... follow the holy ghost). I may be wrong, but I felt that JP was making a reference to not being taught the skills to make a choice once she found herself in a situation that was not come to through CTR standards. I do believe that people, not only me, find themselves at a disadvantage with regard to decision making, building a set of morals by which to live by when they have been taught a “this is right/this is wrong” set of morals all of their life and then have to define it for themselves for the first time, often with contradictions to what they have learned. I feel extremely comfortable with my set of standards/morals I have decided to live by (so Suzie of course I believe that you can be taught as an adult) but I don’t think the process was an easy task, but possibly made more difficult by the CTR standards. But then again I can’t expect to the LDS church to teach me how to live a life outside of the church, now can I? If the CTR plan was perfect it could teach both, but that isn’t its responsibility.

*My lack of response from here on out has nothing to do with the fact that I am at all offended by how you or anyone responds to my above statement. (I don’t mind disagreements whatsoever). I won’t be near a computer until very late in the evening and am unable to respond to this extremely insightful discussion. In my opinion one of the best discussions so far. Thanks, especially to Christian.
 

Posted by Rebecca

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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