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Wednesday, August 17, 2005 

Uh, it’s all just so hard…

Please welcome today's guest blogger Adrianne. You can check out her blogs here, here and here. Read below for Adrianne's take on personal false idols and gods.

"I like the word 'indolence'. It makes my laziness seem classy." --Bern Williams, programmer/consultant

What are my personal false gods/idols, eh?

More appropriately, the question is what AREN’T my personal false gods/idols?

If conveniently ignoring things that you don’t really like or agree with and pretending they don’t apply to you counts as putting things above God, then I’m the leader of the pack. I should start my own support group. I find a rationalization for not doing (or doing, as the case may be) EVERYTHING.

R-Rated movies? Well, some of them DO have artistic value. Or are just amazing by any standards. Anyone seen America Beauty, for example? The Life of David Gale (I thought I was going to DIE when I saw this one--it’s SO good!) Or Fight Club, which may not have any artistic value to it but it’s just so freaking good I can’t stand it? Yeah, I disobey the counsel on this one.

Tattoos? I have two. And am going in for a 3rd. Any reason? No. I just like them. And I think they are cool. Again, not following counsel.

Making out? Uh, duh. Although I’m not sure too many people follow the counsel on this one.

Judging people? You bet--but I mean, really, if you are going to go out of your house in a plaid shirt paired with your best leggings that give you a HUGE wedgie and walk around in public where everyone can see you, isn’t it only natural that I wonder “What on earth was that person thinking?” This one, however, I think I’m ok on, since it clearly says in 3 Ne 14:2 and Matt 7:2, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” So I figure I’m ok on this one, since I’d never die in a bad ensemble and when I get to HF, He’ll look at my track record and say, “Judges on attire and shoe choice…well, you are wearing a really nice pair of Steve Madden silletos and those are some slamming jeans…paired with a GREAT top! I judge you based on your attire--way to go!”

Swearing? For a girl, I’ve got one durrrty mouth! I’m not going to lie! I could make a houseful of frat boys blush. And I revel in it…I think it makes me funny. Hmm…a good LDS doesn’t use inappropriate language like that, but I sure do.

Dirty jokes, Cosmo magazine, immodest halter tops and cleavage-revealing shirts, extreme love of money, a deep love of rap/hip-hop music with as many sexual references and swear words as it can have, inappropriate dancing, breaking the Sabbath to go swimming at the lake, etc, etc, etc…The list goes on and on.

Realistically, I know that all these things obviously chip away at my relationship with my HF, since I know the counsel on these things and I choose to ignore it. Why on earth do I constantly choose to ignore counsel, hence placing things of the world above the Lord’s wishes?

Uh…good question…

I’m very much an “of the world” Mormon, even when I’m not trying to be. I grew up with an insanely liberal mom who went through stints of going to church and not going to church. She doesn’t even know all the rules and counsel on things that the Church lays down (for example, when I told her that you weren’t supposed to masturbate, her jaw dropped and she said, “What?! Are we made of stone?! That’s just ridiculous!”). So, I internalized these sort of lackadaisical ideas about following church counsel. It wasn’t uncommon for my mom to crack open a beer after work on Saturday and then go to church on Sunday. Conveniently ignoring things.

Really, my personal false gods and idols are periphery things. Things that in my opinion aren’t hugely important, other than that I’m being disobedient. I obey the WoW and try to pay my tithing. I attend my meetings, engage in intellectual conversation about the church, and try to do my best when it comes to things that I quantify as “big” things. The little things, though…I let those slide.

There are many reasons why I choose to ignore the little things. It’s a product of my upbringing, for sure. It’s also my way of thumbing my nose at authority and being rebellious in safer ways than doing drugs or whatever. I mean, TAKE THAT, Church leaders! I will totally watch that boob scene in Titanic and I will not avert my eyes!

It’s also probably because I’m lazy. And those things take effort. Not a ton, but honestly, I’m supremely lazy. I mean, really, do I have to flip over the DVD cover to see if it’s rated-R? And honestly, why should I hunt around for something else to do on a Friday when everyone I know is already going to the club down the road to engage in closer-than-a-quad dancing to music that is highly inappropriate? And do I really want to think of a bunch of silly phrases to say instead of swearing? Nah--too much work.

Not that any of this is an excuse. It’s my own admission of my lazy reluctance to do what I’m supposed to do. And I think most people have their things that they just don’t want to do, for whatever reasons. And isn’t that part of the point of this life? To look at all that stuff that is soooo much fun, soooo convenient, or soooo much easier and then suck it up, to prove your obedience to the Lord and your faith in His ways? I doubt I’ll ever understand what’s so inherently terrible about an eyebrow piercing or a tattoo, but I’m sure I’ll eventually understand that by following the counsel on this, my life will be blessed. Arguably less pretty and decorated, but blessed none the less. And that’s called growth. And that’s a good thing.

Welcome Adrianne! I'm glad you have agreed to guest blog. Thanks for your total honesty and disclosure. That's what we like here at VSoM.

I love that while you know that you are making conscious choices to do or not do some things, you have an open mind to the fact that your way is not the ONLY way either. You are willing to concede that you could try harder. We all could. And your mom sounds like a riot.

Your line about not following counsel could have been so much more interesting if you had taken it to its logical conclusion:

Thou shalt not idolize the Brethren!

When the "Brethren" speak, they are speaking for the Lord. If one thumbs his nose at them, he is thumbing his nose at Christ. If you "idolize" them, you are in fact worshipping their Master, Jesus.

When President Hinckley states in General Conference that tatoos, for instance, are inappropriate, he is not just passing on his personal prejudices... he is delivering a message from the Lord. And I'm not sure we're in any position to suggest to the Lord which of His instructions are the important ones, and which are not.

Why is it a "little thing" when the Prophet of God tells us not to watch R-rated movies, but a "big thing" when he tells us to pay tithing? I'm not sure where the hierarchy of commandments comes from... perhaps fromt the temple recommend interview questions? (if the bish didn't ask me about it, it must be ok....)

Certainly there are the big three named in scripture as the worst (Denial of the Holy Ghost, mureder, sexual sin), but after that I'm not sure we are justified as lumping our sins into "major" and "minor" categories.

"If you "idolize" them, you are in fact worshipping their Master, Jesus."

I respectfully disagree. The Bloggernacle has taught me that, if nothing else, the stubborn determination to hold to the beliefs of one prophet over another (assuming that neither is the current prophet) is something that often leads us away from Christ, not toward him. Putting anything, including his earthly spokespeople, in the place of Christ is a form of idolatry.

And I believe that you are right, the hierarchy of sins does seem to derive from things that you have to discuss with your bishop or that keep you out of the temple and everything else. If the entrance into the celestial room is symbolic of other possible entrances, then there may be something to it, too.

The notion that god does not want me to see Schindler's List is bizarre. In this day and age, everybody should see Schindler's List. It is character building and teaches an important lesson. "Commandments" to the contrary are clearly not from god but remind me of the pharisees.

Lets remember that Jesus violated the Sabbath to heal the sick. He refused to rebuke his disciples for roving grain on the Sabbath when they were hungry. All those rules that the Brethren impose on us are subject to a higher principle. Even if they are not, the example of the disciples reminds us that it is legitimate to satisfy our own needs. Rules that get in the way are apparently not legitimate in the eyes of Jesus.

The gospel ain't a check list. The Brethren aren't infallible. In the end, I am responsible to God. Jesus didn't allow silly little rules to constrain him. Neither shall I.

Arguments to the contrary may well cross the line with respect to idolatry.

Oh yeah, Adrianne's post.

Laziness is also at the root of many of my pet sins. I'd bring up examples, but I don't have the energy.

Helmutt-
let me see if i understand you right... any commandment that we don't understand the need for is "bizarre"? It's okay for us to disobey the Lord if we think it will be a "character-building" experience and teach us a lesson? I'm not sure which of my "needs" viewing an R-rated movies is supposed to satisfy, but i'm fairly certain i can gain the same wisdom in a way which was not condemned by the Lord through His prophet.
The Lord said, "whether by my own voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same." So, even the silly little rules carry the full weight and authority of Christ, if they come from His prophet. Jesus had the authority to disregard His own rules at any time of His choosing. The rest of us do not have that authority.

John-
I'm not talking about idolizing a man, i'm talking about idolizing the office of the Prophet. And not worshipping him, obviously they are human and make mistakes. However, in their inspired counsel to the Church, Prophets do NOT make mistakes. President Woodruff stated that they would be removed from their place (i.e. caused to die) before the Lord would permit that to happen. I'm not talking about perusing every journal entry Brigham Young ever made, and using that to justify disobeying the current Prophet. I'm talking about regarding what the current Prophet says from the pulpit as equivalent to Christ saying it. That's what I mean by "idolizing the Brethren".

"I'm not talking about idolizing a man, i'm talking about idolizing the office of the Prophet."

I think that the end result of this is that we start creating a mythos regarding the infallibility of our Prophets. I am not sure that that is what we ought to do.

I am familiar with (and agree with) Pres. Woodruff's statement. I just don't think that this means that our prophets are perfect. I am not saying that this is what you believe, but rather that too much emphasis on the infallibility of prophets leads to this assumption. I understand the need for this belief in order to have faith that the prophets won't lead us astray, but many people I have met have taken this to mean that prophets will always behave to the impossibly high standard that we have arbitrarily set for them. I don't think it works that way. We have a hard enough time living up to the high standards we set for ourselves, as Adrianne's post demonstrates.

Regarding Hellmut's example, I do believe that there are good things to be learned by watching Schindler's List. It may be impossible to learn them in other ways. One might suppose that similar effects could be had by reading a biography of Schindler or Holocaust literature, but I often find the pictures I create myself are more disturbing adn lingering than the ones that Hollywood provides for me.

Rob,

When Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath, he did not invoke his authority to justify his actions. He explained himself in terms of principles. It is more important to alleviate suffering then to keep a rule about the Sabbath.

When the disciples harvested to eat on the Sabbath, Jesus did not invoke his authority to give them dispensation. Rather Jesus reasoned that the Sabbath is to benefit the people, not the other way around.

Therefore there is no evidence for your contention that the Savior's actions regarding the Sabbath were a matter of authority. The text indicates fairly straightforward that Jesus justified his actions in terms of reasons. That is what He expects of us. Anyone can do it. It does not require special authority.

Read the Gospels closely. It's worth it. Speaking of close reading, I don't remember having argued that viewing Schindler's List satisfies human needs.

I find your hierarchy of sins troubling. The most important commandments are to love the Lord thy God as thyself and to the love thy neighbor as thyself. It would seem to me then that the violation of those commandments are most serious. Being unkind and judgmental may well be worse than the sins of those who we judge. Especially when it comes to appearances. It is unsettling to witness how much emphasis the Brethren put on appearances.

The problem with Mormon authoritarianism is the sloppy distinction between revealed truth and personal opinion. Therefore I cannot buy into the "Do anything the Church asks you to" mindset.

If folks cannot explain instructions to me in terms of the first two commandments then they are probably not all that inspired, how can they expect me to follow them?

Is it okay if I idolize Rob? ;P

Adrianne,

From your post, I sense that you are unencumbered by guilt. You recognize your shortcomings, whittle away at them as you can, but you don't let them get you down, you don't wear a cloak of sadness. I think that's a valuable lesson that Mormon culture has missed. I know I'm not alone in feeling too guilty over the little things, and that extra guilt hinders improvement in any way.

Carrie Ann-Thanks! Glad to be here! And I totally love my mom--she IS a riot!

Rob-in response to your question about why it's a big thing to pay tithing and a little thing to watch a R-rated movie, here's what I can say, from my own opinion.

It's not a "temple recommend" thing, because there are important things that aren't asked in the temple recommend questions. However, I've always felt, whether correctly or incorrectly, that some ins were more grevious than others. For example, not being humble enough didn't seem as big of a deal to me as say, smoking marijuana. So I've always catergoized sins based on what I perceive to be their seriousness. A lot of the things I lump into "smaller sins" are things that will affect me and only me should I choose to follow or not follow them. If I get a tattoo, that's not going to afftect anyone else. But, should I choose to not pay my tithing, then that has a ripple effect on others, since that money is used to help the church and its programs. So, there will be less money to help others, even though my contribution isn't that big to begin with. So, a lot of my "smaller" things are more personal things or internal ones--stuff that doesn't involve other people. I'm not saying that I'm right in my catergoziation, but that's my rational on it.

JLS-I agree. I think the "extra", over-thetop guilt leads to that sense of "I am so bad I'll never be able to make it, so why try?" And then it feels really hopeless. Guilt is good to a degree--conscience is good to a degree--but if it gets out of hand, I think it's a tool of the adversary to make us feel like it's no use to even try.

Adrianne, you sound like my kinda girl. Have you seen Children of a Lesser God? I always remind people that Schindler's List is R-rated.

I would recommend against the movie Seven, though.

Annegb--I've seen Se7en.

And I totally knew what was in that box before he did.

Ish.

Adrienne-

I would submit that ALL sin affects other people. If I swear and someone else hears me it might affect their spiritual state at the time. If I pay money to rent or go to an R-rated movie, I am essentially paying someone else to swear and get naked. (even if it's "arty" nakedness). If I smoke pot when I'm all alone, I'm still supporting the chain of grower-seller, and probably some of that money trickles into crime. If I grow my own and smoke my own, I'm still risking my health, which was a gift to me from God, and thereby taking away from Him a badly-needed servant in His kingdom to do His will. If I look at pornography when I'm by yourself, a) if I paid for it, I'm financing someone else's sin, and b) I am affecting whatever relationship I may have with a current or future spouse. If someone else sees my piercings or tattoos, they are going to be affected by them. We cannot pretend to live in a vaccuum.

John-
I would rather err on the side of always following the prophet, even in his mistakes. I mean, if he screws up and we follow, I don't think we'll be held accountable. If on the other hand, it turns out that he WASN'T wrong after all, and we chose NOT to follow based on our own "intellectual" reasoning, I think we're in deep water. This doesn't mean they're infallible. It means treat the current prophet as if he speaks for Christ.
There may also be some good thing i can learn buried in the interview section of Playboy, but i don't think i'm going to be justified in sorting through all the filth to get to it. Now it's ridiculous to compare Schindler's List to Playboy, but the crux of the matter is, if the prophet speaks, we should do it, no matter how trivial or old-fashioned it seems to us.

Helmutt-
I think we have some fundamental worldview differences, and I'm not sure further debate would help us come to any agreement. All I can do is bear my testimony that Gordon B. Hinckley and his predecessors and successors are men of God, directed by Him, and that by following them we will not be led astray. "Trust in the Lord, and lean not on thy own understanding".

JLS-
NO! :)

Adrianne, I love you no matter how filthy your mouth is and am glad you don't use it around me. :)
These people are good debaters. I'm not gonna even try. Sometimes when you get into this stuff, your words get twisted and you start doubting what you really believe. Maybe I've said too much. Poop!

And Adrianne. I didn't know you had 2 tattoos. When did this happen missy?

Rob--I never said we lived in a vacuum. And I understand your point. As I said before, my catergorizing may not be correct, but that's how it works in my head. And there is also the argument that if someone sees my tattoos and is affected by them, that's THEIR decision. I can't control someone else's emotions or feelings or thoughts. If someone wants to be affected by my tattoos, that's their prerogative.

The Bluths--Um one was in 2002 and the other was in April. It was my birthday present to myself.

I think following ANY church leader BLINDLY is foolish and it is NOT how the Lord intended it.
Seek the Lord in prayer and find our FOR YOURSELF. Seek out for that personal revelation.

There's (more than) a good chance that those leaders are on the level...but you shouldn't you be having that relationship with Heavenly Father to know for sure?

JP-

I agree totally. But some people try to reason it all away and forget to do the asking. By all means, ask the Lord. I can guarantee you, the Spirit will always back up the Prophet. But if there is any doubt, we should still ask.

Here's an interesting topic for (another) discussion... can we receive answers to prayer from other sources than God? Do we sometimes answer our own prayers and miss God's answer?

Two more last questions: should we follow Christ "blindly"? And if I pray to know if Gordon B. Hinckley is a true prophet and receive a "yes" answer, will that suffice, or must i pray over and over again about each bit of cousel or commandment he gives me?

"i pray over and over again about each bit of cousel or commandment he gives me?"

I would say that it depends on how troubling you find the advice.

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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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