Monday, February 28, 2005 

Why are we self conscious?

This is a question I have been thinking about and discussing since the middle of last week. I started the week thinking, “what on earth am I going to write, I’m not self-conscious” and ended it deciding that I am self-conscious and spent the week actually being more self-conscious then normal because I was conscious of the fact that I would be writing on the subject within a matter of days. In fact it became a little joke for me, an excuse of sorts. Anything about my behavior that I examined during the week I blamed on being self-conscious. “Yes I know I am going to be late to the meeting, but I have to try on twenty different outfits this morning because I am self-conscious.” I felt bad for not finishing the book for book club Tuesday evening and later laughed to myself that the reason I felt bad is because I am self-conscious, really the reason I felt bad is because I didn’t finish the book and couldn’t fully participate in the discussion.

The very handy dandy dictionary.com defines self-conscious as follows:

self-con·scious adj.
  1. Aware of oneself as an individual or of one's own being, actions, or thoughts.
  2. Socially ill at ease: The self-conscious teenager sat alone during lunch.
  3. Excessively conscious of one's appearance or manner: The self-conscious actor kept fixing his hair.
  4. Showing the effects of self-consciousness; stilted: self-conscious prose.

The first time I sat down to write some notes for this week I wrote, “I am not self-conscious, I am merely conscious of myself. I am aware of my actions.” So when I later went elsewhere for assistance on the topic, i.e. friends and dictionary.com I thought it funny that the very first definition provided was almost word for word the same thing I had written as to why I claimed I was not self-conscious… making me realize that I am. A friend I had emailed on the subject wrote “I think I personally am self conscious about some things, but when I think about these things they are not negative (as in the teenager example.) They are more closely conscious-of self. I think "self-conscious" has over time swayed from its original definition, and has taken on some baggage and slang.” Her comment made me realize that I had been defining self-conscious as insecure and I am not insecure, not like I was as a teenager.

So what am I self conscious about?

When I am among a group of friends and I don’t know everyone in our discussion, or don’t know them well, and the story I am going to contribute comes from an experience that involves my ex-husband I do what I can to avoid talking about being divorced. I very consciously said during a conversation, “when I lived with this guy” rather then “when I was married,” which in the end sounded weirder then if I had just said, when I was married because it made everyone who knew that I was talking about my ex-husband (the majority) smirk, some even chuckle out loud. It was obvious I was extremely conscious of the words I had used and as a result they came out sounding dishonest, like I hadn’t lived with a guy at all, which wasn’t true, it was just untrue how I portrayed it and made it clear that I was embarrassed that I was divorced. It ended up being really funny for all of us and now I no longer try and say something else in place of “when I was married”, but I am still very conscious of when I bring up being married in conversations.

I am also very conscious of what I wear. I spend a great deal of time and money filling my wardrobe with young hip business professional garb and young hip going out garb and then still spend hours trying to figure out which I want to wear for which occasions. I will begin working at a new company in the middle of March and I have already thought about which outfits I will be wearing the first week and a half – you know, to make a good first impression and all.

My list of what I am self conscious of could go on, but I am going to choose to end it here because, well, I am self-conscious about the things I am self-conscious of. Which leads us to the “why”?

Why are we (am I) self conscious?

I believe, or maybe hope is a better word, that all of us strive to be better individuals. I want to be perfect and I want the people around me to view me a certain way, perfect. I try and present myself to people as the person I want to be seen as and I try and become this person. Sometimes it is as simple as putting on a nice pair of slacks and a nice sweater with tall heels and tying it all together with the perfect handbag or broach in hopes to appear as if I take my job seriously even for early morning meetings. I am conscious with myself in the use of language when I am speaking with clients, meeting people for the first time, etc. I consciously avoiding using the words, “like” and “uh” and “so”, words I don’t consciously think about among friends and family. I am conscious of my self because I want to be seen and see myself a certain way, a way that takes effort and doesn’t come naturally.

In general I don’t think that it is a bad thing to be self-conscious, although I do think there are occasions when it can be and I think those occasions always represent the insecurity part of the definition of self-conscious, the negative connotation that my friend I quoted earlier brought up. Two examples of this come to mind. First, some things about us can’t be changed, such as my divorce. I got married and now I am not. This is a fact just as I am 5’2” is a fact. Maybe I wish I would only be married once in my life and that this once would last through out my life, not just for a portion of my twenties and maybe I wish I were taller, but wishing, being embarrassed, being self-conscious about these facts isn’t going to help me in anyway and it isn’t going to help anyone around me either. Second, over examination of ones self can end up hurting us rather then making ourselves better. The person that is already thin that constantly tries to diet, that is never comfortable with the body she has and harms it in the process of becoming this concept of perfection she has created in her mind is dangerous, yet it is her self-consciousness, her insecurities that have brought her to this point. It is the same self-conscious that makes some people better people that make others self destructive. It is a fine line and what drives all of us is our desire to be seen and be certain perfection we have created within our minds. Self-conscious can be a good thing if used properly.

Last night I had finally figured out what it was that I was going to say… which is what is above. But then I called my parents to chat… When the topic of this week’s blog came up my dad explained that philosophy doesn’t believe in a self-consciousness, it simply doesn’t exist. So in the end maybe I am not self-conscious, how could I be if it doesn’t exist? Or am I possibly just being self-conscious about what a philosopher would think?

Sunday, February 27, 2005 

Lance Has Not Left the Building

So just glancing at the book’s cover my first thought was – Ok, Lance you dumped your wife, the one who was at your side through all those testicular cancer ridden chemo years so that you could gain a little celebrity time by bumping uglies with Sheryl Crow and now 50 million or more people are wearing those yellow rubber-band bracelets of yours like dysfunctional open-toed condoms on their wrists and you know? I’m a little amazed, a little dismayed and a lot a confused!

“But does anybody else see the irony in all this like I do?” - Patrick O’Neil

And in the long run just what have you really done that deserves me, or anyone else really, to be taking up our valuable free time reading your book? Sure, sure, the Tour de France thing and the massive amount of physical training it takes and the few times that I actually watched the damn thing on telly it looked like you guys were being a tad imperious and let’s not even mention the animosity of nationalism that was sprouting up everywhere like a certain rally at Nuremburg some 60 odd years earlier!

"Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live." - Adolf Hitler

But come now! Do you really expect us all to believe that “written by Lance Armstrong” tag plastered on the cover of your book? Now really? So who’s this Shelly Jenkins woman? Some “friend” like Ms. Crow? Or is she really the one who wrote the darn thing after she picked your diluted brain for minor details – like quoting you when you said intelligent things like "I had to learn to be smart" or when you affectionately called your ex-wife a “real stud”.

"He was like a mathematician, with the calculator every day. It was crazy." -
Kristin Armstrong

Had I been actually able to read this book I think that I would still hold a bit of contempt for America’s newest fleeting hero; because as unintelligent as most jocks and athletes are Lance does nothing but reinforce these stereotypic perceptions, and in the end grubbing for our approval while boasting of heroic deeds it is but another example of the narcissistic tone of his degrading demeanor that a generation will hold dear as scared truths from a supposed noble source.

“The truth is, if you ask me to choose between winning the Tour de France and cancer, I would choose cancer. Odd as it sounds, I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour, because of what it has done for me as a human being, a man, a husband, a son, and a father.” - Lance Armstrong

I think you forgot to mention being a multi-millionaire due to multi-national corporations and their lucrative sponsorships (Coca-Cola and Nike to name a few) - oh and Sheryl Crow’s stud muffin, eh Lance?

Alright so I hear everyone of you out there screaming because I’m not really being fair, and in reality what did our Lance do that was so bad? Doesn’t this capitalistic society of ours tell us to – go for it! And what is Lance doing but going for it? True. But do we all gotta buy into the unhealthiness of stardom? And what are the future Lance Armstrongs doing out there right now? Pedaling up and down those rural hills of America with their impressionable minds filled with hopes of unfathomable riches, a rock star girl friend and a nation of brainwashed individuals wearing rubber-bands inscribed with their names and singing their praises!

“All of a sudden, a figure moved up on my left. It was a woman in her 50s on a heavy mountain bike, and she went right by me.” - Lance Armstrong

Lance? You are so right it’s not about the bike! It’s about the all mighty dollar versus integrity and influencing others to do the same!

Please Lance – Leave the building already!



Guest Blogger: Fromage de Merde…

Saturday, February 26, 2005 

It’s All About the Attitude

The thing that struck me most about this book is the power of attitude.

I have agreed, to an extent with many of the opinions of the week. The book is not great literature, if you’re NOT rich and famous you might get crappy health care or none at all, sometimes fame and work can “out-excite” family life, but generally speaking, I liked this book. I was impressed by Lance Armstrong even through his faults. I think he is doing the best job he thinks he can do.

(If only we could get him to listen to the missionaries! Wouldn’t he be the MOST awesome youth conference or EFY speaker? Imagine the firesides! If Lance would just be humble enough to accept the notion of a Heavenly Father and a Savior…he would be unstoppable! I’m just saying…)

I was really impressed by Lance’s attitude. I believe in the power of a positive mental attitude. In the POWER… Attitude has a force that can actually MAKE things happen. I also believe in visualizing… If you can imagine it, it can happen. (That sounds a little bit Disney-esque…) But if you can imagine it in detail, and practice it out in your mind repeatedly, you’ve won half the battle. I don’t think that in our current lowly human state we can even fathom what we are capable of doing with our minds and bodies.

I am very interested in the LDS notion of spirit + body = soul. Because I consider myself a very weak person, I have pondered this principle many times in conjunction with the principle found in Ether 12:27

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for it they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then I will make weak things become strong unto them.”

I’m counting on this.

But I am constantly aware of the need for balance; imagine an overdeveloped body with an underdeveloped spirit, and vice versa. Then imagine the balanced soul; that’s where I want to be, the master of my mortal existence.

Lance Armstrong is blessed with many natural gifts that I don’t have: low body fat, huge lung capacity, low lactic acid production, high tolerance for pain, physical endurance, determination, self motivation, confidence. I really admire the way he was able to take some of those natural gifts and focus them into a career, into something he loved to do.

Cancer forced him to develop some traits he wasn’t born with: patience, empathy, dependence, love, admiration for the talents and skills of others, humility, serenity.

Thank goodness we are not being compared to each other. I couldn’t hold a candle to Lance’s self motivation, and he couldn’t hold a candle to my faith in a living God, my faith that God has a plan for each of us.

But I was happy to read the story of a fellow human being; a brother, if you will. I was left with a happy impression; an impression of hope, an impression that I can be in more control of my life, an impression that there is more to me than meets the eye.

Friday, February 25, 2005 

Turn off your computers and get outside

Today my post will be short. Because I am getting annoyed with the amount of time that I am spending on the computer, and the internet. So my words on the book are this. I don’t care if it is well written; I really doubt that Lance would critique anyone on how bad they are at riding bike, so I am not going to judge his writing skills.
I am going to say this to the 8 people that have emailed me with their dislike of the book, I am sorry you just did not get it. I am sorry that other things got in your way of understanding the point of the book. You have missed something that I know thousands and thousands of cyclists, cancer patients, and general people have seen. Like JP said, its not a story more miraculous then other miraculous stories. It’s just another way of telling people they can make. No matter what the circumstance, you can go on. There is hope. But you have to have the attitude, maybe not the cocky attitude that Lance has, but you need a positive attitude. And if you are not in a situation that requires you to sink or swim, then you need to help those that are in that situation.
My reason for having picked this book was because the first time I read it, I put it down, and I can honestly say that was the day I stopped a lot of the whining I had been doing in my life. I stopped complaining about some physical discomfort I feel from my medical problems, I stopped complaining about the misfortunes that have been in my life. I realized something I had not thought about since living in Brazil. There is ALWAYS someone worse off then you. Since I read this book, and now reread it, I have confirmed in my mind the importance of being happy. I hope as people have read my personal blog, and have read my rantings here they have picked up on the fact that I want people to be happy. I want them to look above their problems; I want them to help others, and to make this world a better place. I had a room mate once that could never get a second date with a girl. I doubled with him once and when I got home one of my other roommates asked if I saw what the problem was. I said yes. He spent his whole time telling the girl how bad of luck he had in life. How he could never get a second date, how miserable he was in life. Why would any girl in her right mind want a second date with a self deprecating guy? Why would anyone want to be friends with someone who has this as their attitude? Smile once in awhile, and don’t just do it to mask your pain, put your pain behind you,
I am sorry that so many people missed the point of this book. I feel bad that people did not want to hear a story about a kid who had nothing but a mother that loved him more then anything and a awesome attitude. A story about a guy who came from nothing and made everything of himself. I for one loved it. I felt better about myself, and I have made major changes in my life because of Lance’s words, and his attitude.
Love ya, and please do me a favor, turn off your computers for a few hours this weekend (except to read Carrie Anns) and get outside and go for a walk, or a bike ride, life is too beautiful to sit behind a computer all the time. I know I will.

* PS while I am on my high horse, my I suggest a general boycott of the Oscars? How about not honoring someone who is paid 15 million dollars to do a movie? How about honoring all of the Kaycees’ out there, teaching the kids. How about the single mothers working 2-3 jobs to support there family because they got tied in with a dead beat? I think it absolutely ridiculous that we give these people such honor and glory, when they really do nothing more then a job. Plus come on lets face it 90% of the movies out there are pure filth, that the world would be better off if they were never made.

PPS For those of you in Utah, Dillard’s is having an awesome sale, highly recommend it. I got $350 worth of clothes for $42

Thursday, February 24, 2005 

My Not So Secret Crush on Lance Armstrong

My brother in-law works for Nike. So not wearing a LIVESTRONG bracelet was out of the question. I didn’t mind. I thought Lance was cool. I thought his intentions and foundation were honorable but I really didn’t know his story in its entirety. One day I even made the mistake of saying (in front of said brother in-law): “He’s such a cool guy…it’s too bad he dumped his wife and kids for Sheryl Crowe.” That didn’t go over so well. “HE DID NOT LEAVE HER…SHE LEFT HIM.”

Dude, my bad.

“It’s Not About the Bike” is not a fantastically written book. For this, Sarah and I agree. However, I was able to look past all that and see the story inside the book. It’s about a man who beat unbeatable odds and then told his story. I don’t think his story is any more (or less) remarkable than that of another cancer survivor, but it is remarkable. Each person who faces the evil that is cancer is a hero in my eyes. Each one has an amazing story to tell. Isn’t it okay that Lance has his story too? Yes, he had/has more resources than most people, but I don’t think less of him because of that.

One aspect of this book that I loved learning more about was Lance’s Mom, Linda. She rocks. I have a lot of respect for single mothers that rise above…and she surely did. In the book Lance talks about his mom always teaching him to make every obstacle an opportunity. I took this to heart because that is not something I am good at. The two of them, mother and son, worked hard for everything they had. Linda Armstrong wanted the very best for her son and tried to always make that happen for him. No, of course they weren’t perfect. But I admire the two of them for moving past the obstacles given to them in their life and making each on an opportunity.

Warning: Here comes the shallow part:

The more I learned about him, the more it caused me to have a bit of a crush on Lance Armstrong. Sure, it’s not like my LOVE for Johnny Depp…but it’s a crush. He’s not a “conventional” stud like Brad Pitt (and Johnny Depp) but there is something mildly dreamy about him. I’m not quite sure what it is. Maybe it’s because he’s an athlete. Maybe it’s his eyes. Maybe yellow just really is his color.

But maybe it’s because I have a wish that someday I’ll have the resources to start a foundation for a cause near to my heart. I admire him for the work he does and the money that is raised through LIVESTRONG for cancer research and awareness. I admire him for never giving up…which would’ve been so easy to do. I admire him for admitting that cancer humbled him and it taught him so much. I admire the hope that he gives to so many through his foundation and from his story.

It is because of that admiration and the fact that (I think) Sheryl Crow is so cool, that I’m willing to step aside and let them be happy. That’s just the kind of person I am.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005 

Livestrong



It's Not About the Bike is about a lot of things, including "the bike." It's about who Lance Armstrong is, and his emotional scars. It's about how he beat cancer because of his good physical condition, high tolerance for pain, and experience with endurance. It's about his friends and those who reached out to him and made his successes possible. It's about his wife who supports him to the point of self-deprecation. But all of these things don't make me care about him. His story, although engagingly told in simple everyday language that was clearly his, did not make me care about him.

It did, however, make me think about the work he does for cancer research and treatment. A friend's parent recently died while undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments for breast cancer. My friends began to wear the "Livestrong" bracelet after she was diagnosed and still wear it daily.

The fact that someone survived cancer and went on to do great things athletically is great. The fact that they began devoting energy and time to raising funds and awareness for cancer research is fantastic. The fact that the person who did these things was Lance Armstrong is inconsequential.

The people who fight for awareness about and funding for diseases are those who have had their lives traumatized by that disease. If you happen to be famous, you are usually more effective. By enduring their trials, people become humbled and understanding of other peoples' pain. They understand the pain so well that they refuse to stand idly by and not help. This is why most charities are started.

I think that it's a great thing to give back. I think that Lance Armstrong telling his story of survival is good because it helps others understand the emotional and physical processes of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

But Lance Armstrong didn't do it by himself, and he never claims otherwise. Every step of the way there was someone helping him. When he was going through cancer treatment people were constantly with him and assisting him. When his wife was going through the painful process of in-vitro fertilization, she bore the brunt of the pain. When he raced, he was able to win because of the team he worked with.

I think that his honesty about how he didn't do anything alone was good, but I wished he had. It would have made the story more compelling.

However, in real life, although individuals get the credit for making a difference, no person can to something truly great without some help from others. I think that's why he decided to help others in his own way and support cancer research. Understanding that you didn't do it by yourself makes you want to help others in return.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005 

It's Not About The Writing

I hate to admit it because I've been fighting it for as long as I can, but I can fight it no more. I am a snob. More than that, I am a LITERARY snob. There is no room in my life for genre writing, there is no room in my life for bad writing. This book was both. This book made me nearly suicidal. Yeah, it was THAT bad.

I make no claims at being a great writer, but I am a damn fine reader. It's probably the thing I do best in the world. I love to read. I have been devouring books for as long as I can remember. Because of this love for language, and this love for the written word I have, over the years, developed some pretty intense opinions and am willing to share them with just about anyone. All I can say is, you need to all be REAL thankful that no one chose a science fiction novel for book club this year. THAT would have been tragic.

I am actually a rather big fan of the memior. I love reading other peoples stories. I love people who can turn something ordinary into something extrodinary. Lance Armstrong didn't do that. I started reading this book with a very open mind. JP and Cameron were both very excited about it, and I adopted their enthusiasm. I was sure it had to be good because two people who I loved thought it was great. Yeah... um... not so much.

By the end of the first chapter I was in hell, and let anyone who would listen know about it. I often found myself on the phone with JP complaining about the lanugage in the book, the way the sentence structure made me sick, how inconsistant the tone was and what a crime against writing that was. I cursed Sally Whats-her-name again and again for letting this man produce such a poorly written memoir. JP would, no doubt, roll her eyes and tell me to "look past the language and get into the story." I would attmept to explain (to no avail I might add) that for me, the language WAS the story. But I was just told to stop being a snob and get over it.

That didn't happen. I couldn't stop looking past the language. More than that, the more I read the more I couldn't bring myself to like Lance Armstrong. The entire time I was reading I kept thinking, "Am I supposed to like him? Because I hate him. If I met him in real life I would probably be annoyed to dizzying levels by him." The arrogance that he pocesses, even when claiming humility, is mindboggeling. There wasn't one thing I liked about him. Sure, he beat cancer. Good for him. But I have close friends who have done the same thing, more valiently and beautifully than Lance did. I have watched chemo destroy the body of someone I love first hand, I have seen remission and surviorship and the rest of it with my own eyes. And what Lance is so painfully missing is grace. He is all piss and wind. I couldn't help but think that there were just much better ways that he could have handled the situation, better ways he could have treated people, and there MUST have been a better way to write this book.

Like Rebecca, you will not find me recommending this book to anyone. But if you would like a moving memoir about surviving cancer, please check out Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. There is a cancer survivor with grace AND writing skills... a WONDERFUL combination if you're going to WRITE A BOOK about surviving cancer.

Monday, February 21, 2005 

Who’s he kidding? It’s about the bike.

When I read books I know that I am supposed to write about I don’t wait until the end to figure out what I am going to say, I start constructing from the very first page. As a result I have three different topics that went through my thoughts as I read; cancer, in-vitro fertilization and biking.

My opinion on cancer now that I have read this book is that if I get cancer I need to be rich and I need to be famous so that I can get the best treatment available to me. If I am famous I will have fans who write me telling me that I need to seek out other opinions and which opinions those are. I will have fans that are willing to talk with me on the phone and willing to go over my blood count and really tell me what it all means. If I have money I will be able to fly all over the U.S. at the drop of a hat to get opinions from the best of the best and then make an educated decision based upon the many opinions I have been offered and able to choose a doctor who makes me the most comfortable and confident with the outcome of my grave situation. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Lance Armstrong has done many wonderful things for cancer research and cancer patients, I just don’t think it was his book.

Before reading this book my knowledge of in vitro fertilization (IVF) was limited. I appreciated the honesty with which Lance approached a subject that many people prefer not to discuss. After reading about the shots Lance’s ex-wife, Kik, had to administer to herself nightly and the surgery she had to undergo to remove the eggs from her womb for fertilization and then have the eggs re-implanted all the while doing much of this alone because her husband was on the road training, gave me a real respect for any woman that will go to this effort to have children, especially a wife that is later left by her husband so that he can ride on the back of a motorcycle with a rock star into the sunset.

But what the book is really about and what I learned the most about is cycling. I discovered it is not the solo sport I thought it was, but rather a complex, strategic team sport, a sport Lance admits he didn’t really fully grasp until after going through cancer, nearly dying and coming back with a new outlook on life, on cycling, on everything. I do believe that some of the most important lessons we can learn, the ones that make us over completely are taught through some of the most painful experiences, ones that we would never wish for, but once we’ve gone through would never take back. Cancer reconstructed Lances body, making him leaner, lighter, easier to carry up mountains on his bike. Cancer also reconstructed his mind. Lance had been humbled, he began to understand he can’t do it on his own, but that he needs to work as a team, he needs to rely on and help the ones he cycles with.

In the end I wouldn’t recommend this book because the only part I really enjoyed is the part about the bike and clearly this is not what Lance, or is it Sally Jenkins, wants us to get from the book and if they do, then the title doesn’t really fit, now does it? I believe that if you want to read a book from a cancer survivor’s perspective there is a better one out there, and if you want to read a book about the process of IVF there is also a better book out there, but if you want to read a book about racing bikes, not the “how to guide for dummies” but the book that tells you the story from a personal perspective then I think this is the one to read, the one written by the best cyclist, the book that isn’t about the bike.

I give the book a six out of ten, I am the guy sitting in the chair, not the one jumping up clapping. It’s just all right.

Saturday, February 19, 2005 

Thirty-five years and still hanging on

Unless Rebecca was fooling us, we are supposed to talk about two related questions: "If I marry what does this mean religiously?" and "If I never marry what does this mean religiously?"

LDS doctrine is pretty straightforward: those who are sealed in a temple and endure to the end remain married to each other for eternity; those who are not sealed in a temple or who do not endure to the end are not married to each other after this life. That is, however, probably not enough of an answer for a blog post. So we add a question: "What does that mean?"

One thing it means is that ultimately we are not merely individuals. We are most fully who we are in relation, and marriage and parenthood are the relations in which we are most fully who we are. Presumably marriage and parenthood in this life are analogous to marriage and parenthood in the next life, and our experience with them now prepares us for life with our Father. So marriage in this life and parenthood as we know them are important preparations for our eternal lives, lives of relation rather than individuality. We think that explains why those who remain in an individual state can be angels in the celestial kingdom but not more.

The problem comes when we move from straightforward—and abstract—doctrine to particular cases. What about people who desire to be sealed but cannot? What about people who cannot have children? What about people who choose not to be sealed? Here, too, the doctrinal answer is straightforward: God will not withhold blessings from anyone who did not have the opportunity to receive those blessings, but we are responsible for the choices we make and the outcomes of those choices. Deciding what that means in individual cases is not so straightforward. Paul reminds us that we "see through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12), and this is an area in which the glass is particularly dark. There are a lot of things about sealings, marriage, and family that we do not understand well. But we know enough, in spite of the darkness of the glass, to say a few things: the highest form of human relation is marriage, it can be eternal, and God will not deny its blessings to anyone who comes to him in faith.

That said, we would rather talk about a different question: "What can I do to have a marriage that I would want to last eternally?" (We've all done this as students, right, taken the essay question that the teacher asked and turned it into the one we wanted to answer?)

As we approach thirty-five years of marriage, we see some marriages survive that we thought would fail, and we see marriages fail that we thought were perfect. We have often talked about the role of "luck"in a successful marriage, and we have to admit that luck probably played a role in ours. We didn’t know each other that well when we decided to get engaged after dating for less than a month. We knew each other a bit better after the four-month engagement. But there were still some surprises after marriage. Janice was shocked to discover that Jim didn’t think it was his sole responsibility to keep the car’s gas tank full, something she has not yet fully gotten over, and Jim was a bit surprised to discover that she didn’t feel any responsibility to make sure he had a clean shirt to wear. He has gotten over that. It ceased to be an issue about twenty years ago when Jim discovered the BYU Laundry. After years of struggle we have made the necessary Christmas compromises: Jim has agreed to help put up the tree as soon after Thanksgiving as possible, and Janice has accepted that we are not ever going to have any outside lighting that involves someone getting on a ladder.

But we think that luck may be only tangentially related to success in marriage. What makes or breaks a marriage in the long run is commitment. Both people have to be committed to the relationship. Both have to make sacrifices for the relationship and both have to want the other person to be happy and fulfilled. It sounds simplistic, but a marriage works if both people are committed to it, and it fails if one or both people want something else more than they want the marriage. It is luck if you get someone who defines a clean house the same way you do, but commitment is being willing to discuss the cleanliness of the house and to make compromises if needed.

A couple of weeks ago we were cleaning up after a dinner party and one of us said, "We work pretty well together don’t we?" That about sums it up. When you work well together, you want it to last a long, long time—eternally.

 

Happy Ending

How felicitous that my post lands on my 5th anniversary! I cannot even believe that it was FIVE YEARS ago that Todd and I got married…FIVE YEARS!

I’ll let you know in the comments if I got any good loot…

I think the topic has been well covered this week, don’t you? And I think it is AMAZING that not two of us are in the same place as far as marriage goes either! We are at totally different levels of singleness, engaged-ness, married-ness, and family-ness (with kids-ness).

Again the disclaimer: I am only expressing my views and my views are based on MY experiences…and therefore have tainted my opinions on things, right?

AND again I will be HONEST and admit (sheepishly) that I thought that I would be married before my sophomore year in college. It’s not that I was pressured to think that I HAD to get married young (well sort of, but we’ll get to that). Most of that reasoning made sense because my mom and dad had married young (19 & 23…Mom as a sophomore in college) and it had worked VERY well for them. I think most of us assume that what worked for our parents will work for us.

I spent my first two years of college (Rick’s…I can’t call it BYU-Idaho) being miserable that I wasn’t dating someone. I had a couple of really lame boyfriends just because I wanted one so desperately, and I had LOOONG stretches of loneliness. I was really pathetic, and I didn’t have a whole lot of maturity and self esteem. Luckily I had awesome roommates who helped me have fun anyway.

I never planned on going on a mission until I had a major testimony experience when I was 19. I was always thinking that missions were things OTHER people did. But I got the call pretty strongly and then tried to deny it for two years.

I am SO glad that I went on a mission. A mission isn’t for everyone. I really believe that I was called to go. HF needed me to gain some maturity and independence that I wasn’t getting on my own. He could see further down the path than I could, and knew this experience would shape me for later purposes.

When I got home, though, I still had to get myself out of that mentality that marriage was next. It took a little while, and I had to go through some more lame boyfriends.

Slowly….it started to sink in that I could be happy without a husband (DUH!). I was never the type of girl who always had a boyfriend or who “needed” one to feel whole; I was actually super shy. I got into my major and got really excited about a career. I was good at what I did, and I could really offer something to the world out there.

The thing that gets you suddenly ready for marriage is finding the person you want to marry. Seriously… I was friends with Todd for two years before we even started dating. He’s the type of friend who I would hang out with everyday and my sisters would say, “What about Todd? He’s adorable…and so nice!” and I would say, “Todd? But we’re just friends…” I even set him up with my best friend…

Now here’s the part where I drive the point home that I DO NOT believe that HF has only one person in mind for us and that if you can’t find that person or if you blow it with that person you are forever “doomed”… HF lets us CHOOSE who we want to be “saddled” with… It doesn’t make sense any other way, and if any of you out there disagree…I challenge you to a duel.

How could we possibly be held accountable for a decision we were “forced” into? It’s TOTALLY false doctrine to believe that we have ONE SOULMATE who was meant for us. That is not to say that HF is not able to condone or not-condone certain pairings… We’ve covered this before, how HF lets us know when we’ve made a good decision…

I also don’t believe that if we have the opportunity to get married and we don’t, for good reasons, that we have missed the Love Boat entirely and somehow forfeited our blessings. Again false doctrine… The whole purpose for marriage is to continue along the Plan of HAPPINESS… not coercion…

I almost fooled myself into marrying the wrong person. I didn’t have the spiritual peace of mind about this person that I always thought/hoped I would have, but I worked by hardest to convince myself that it could work. I really wanted it to, but I really knew that it was better to wait for a better person than to settle for someone who didn’t “have all his ducks in a row”. Even I could see down that path…I can’t believe I was so dumb…but that awful experience made it SO much easier to see the better way once it came along.

DISCLAIMER: this is not the way I would encourage my young daughters to find out if they like someone or not, and I even hesitate to tell you…

Todd and I were up late watching a movie one night, and while my whole life I have maintained a strict “NO KISSING FRIENDS” policy…I kissed Todd, and my whole world changed. Literally, it was like he was a new person to me. Why had I never seen him in this light before? Why had it taken me SO long to find out he was SUCH a GOOD kisser?

So we started to “date”. We really liked each other. We are still amazed by this (considering our strange history of me almost marrying his roommate and him dating mine…). We got married 7 months after our first kiss and 2 and a half years after we had met. We were both 25.

It’s easy for me to say now that I could learn to be happy whether I was married or not. But even as a married person you still have to learn to be happy on your own. You are still responsible for your own growth and maturity and for having FUN. I think there are DEFINITE advantages to getting married when you are older (than 25). I will encourage my kids to wait to get married. There is NO rush…Finish school. Work. Gain some mad skillz in life and the workplace…daughters (especially) and sons alike.

While I LOVE the youth program in the church, I do think that they USED to gloss over the facts of life; that not everyone will get married when they THINK they should or that some people don’t ever marry. It was not even discussed in my experience. The church makes a much better effort at encouraging education for the ladies now. I make sure that my girls and young women connect getting an education with work experience and gaining independence while still maintaining the goal of temple marriage.

Gratitude ending: I am grateful that I found Todd when I did. We have grown into each other quite nicely. It sometimes embarrasses me at how “good” our marriage is. Todd keeps saying it’s because we’ve got some insane trials coming our way. Marriage is SO different than I thought it would be; it’s SO much better! I won’t bore you with the happy details…but this part of the overall Plan of Happiness is FUN. Now I just need to keep having faith that having kids is part of the joy….

Friday, February 18, 2005 

Marriage What it means.

OK, So I have not really been into this topic this week. Work has been a bear, I went skiing Wednesday, and I have been busy with some personal "stuff".
Great it has been 15 minutes since I started this post. I started then switched over to Freecell. I have a current streak going of 421 wins!!!! Please send emails of congratulations to my personal email. OK it has been another 5 minutes, I ran downstairs to get some breakfast, but enough with all the things that keep taking precedence over my blog for today. The reason I am not into this topic is because of my religious beliefs. My religion does not believe in marriage. No wait we don’t believe in reincarnation. So the actual reason why I am not into the topic is because of “The Princess Bride” (Only the most watched and quoted movie at BYU). I got so sick of people wanting to watch this movie, I have seen it 3 times tops, and if I never have to hear that guy say “Maweege” again I will die happy. That is basically what has turned me off to marriage.

And as to the topic for the week, if I never marry what does it mean?
Well it means I file my taxes as a single. It means that I may never get to claim any dependents. It means that I have to buy half as many groceries. I have my weekends free to go skiing, camping and generally whatever I want. It means that instead of some sort of democracy running the house, I have a monarchy in charge, and I am the King. It means there will be no fighting over the remote when I get home from work when I want to watch The Simpsons. I can watch all the Jazz games (EVEN THOUGH THEY SUCK). It means my parents will have to settle with the grandkids they have, and come on lets face it, my brother and sister have done more then there share. It means I get to sleep in on Christmas morning, and I can go straight up skiing. It means I can buy a $700 tent and have no one get mad at me.
And most importantly I get the joy of having everyone annoy me with there constant questions of who I am dating, when we are getting married and even why I am 32 and not married. That’s what it means if I do not get married.
I love it when people say that they are so much happier after marriage. As if your whole happiness in life depends upon you being married. If that were the case, then God would be a respecter of persons. I really do not think that God has reserved the soul happiness here on earth for married people, and the rest of us get the shaft. The happiness marriage brings may be a different type then the happiness I know, but I strongly believe that I can, and have found happiness, and satisfaction in my life as a single adult. There are many things that I have been able to do because I have not had the commitments upon me of marriage and family. I have enjoyed these experiences, and have grown and found happiness in many of them. I look forward to the time that I am married, and can experience all the joyous and pain that are associate with it. My advice to everyone is enjoy where you are at in life, because tomorrow it will change. And if it does not change, then maybe you need to do something about your life. One of the single greatest triumphs from human beings is to find true happiness in whatever life deals you. I can not tell my friends that complain about being single enough that they need to stop focusing on that, stop feeling sorry for themselves, stop basing their self worth on the fact that all their friends are married and have children, and they do not. Look at your life with joy, and if you don’t see any, FIND SOME.

Have a great presidents day weekend, enjoy yourselves, and remember who you are and what you stand for.

Thursday, February 17, 2005 

Going to the Chapel and We're Gonna Get Married...

I should probably insert some sort of disclaimer here. You know, that the views expressed here don’t represent so and so…that I’m not promoting anything…that I’m just telling a story. My story. I almost feel like I have to take a step back and write this from another’s point of view. It feels odd, for some reason. But I think that I’m the one that made it odd. Let me explain…I haven’t even really told this side of the story. Please know that some of this is kind of hard to put down on “paper” and I’m worried that this might suck. But here goes nothing:

It is quite obvious that Hubby and I didn’t follow the “normal” path of courtship and marriage, for anyone who has followed along with Various Stages. I was pregnant with Paige (my daughter) when I became engaged to my husband, Paige’s father. Hubby and I had gone to high school together. We had been good friends and then started dating. But I wasn’t even 19 when I found out I was pregnant. Although our love and devotion to each other was there, marriage hadn’t been in the picture at that point in time. We felt we were too young.

Things happen…situations change and several months later we were engaged to be married, but we had not set a date. We just knew that we were meant to be together and were committed to conquer whatever obstacles we were given. We knew our path was hard, but knew we could handle it. We truly felt that our love could see us through.

And it has.

I moved in with Hubby and his family right after Paige was born. Much of this time period is still a blur to me…but I remember my mom being totally devastated that I was going to be “living in sin” even though it meant that our new little family would be together. That’s really most of what I remember; how bad I felt that I was hurting my parents. From that day forward, I felt an insane amount of pressure to set the date and get married. And when I say pressure…you have NO idea how much pressure. And much of it I put on myself. I had so much G.U.I.L.T. for not following the standards I had held to for so long. So not only did Hubby and I jump into something called parenthood, we had stress from our parents and pressures to get married (and not get married from other sides) all around us. But I think I gave in to my guilt. From August (when Paige was born) to October (when we finally set a date) we had, what felt like, constant stress and pressure. And on November 1, 1997, I was married to the love of my life.

But I was not ready to get married to the love of my life.

I don’t exactly have any happy memories of my wedding day. The stress of our life seemed to creep in and take over our wedding day, too. My in-laws were the main source of the contention (another blog for another time) but everything wasn’t their fault. Religiously, yes…this is what was seen as “making things right” and moving on. But, in truth, I wanted everyone to just but out and let us be. I wanted to just be able to love Hubby and Paige and do things on our time, when we were ready. I had no idea how to do that. I had NO CLUE that that was what I really wanted. I just wanted to get it over with and be married to this man that I love(d) so much, so that I could move on AND JUST LIVE.

I regret not making decisions based on what was best for us (at the time) and sticking up for myself and for my family. I regret that so much of our beginning was so rushed and we didn’t have a chance to just breathe. I regret that, in a way, the religious pressures were just as heavy as all the other pressures that surrounded us.

Having said all that, I do NOT regret marrying the man the makes my life better every day. I do NOT regret loving this man with all my heart and sharing a life that has been so hard but that has been so wonderful. I do NOT regret the two amazing, beautiful daughters that we have together. I do NOT regret thanking Heavenly Father daily for answering spastic, scattered and even ridiculous prayers and for blessing me with so much when I felt that I didn’t deserve it…and when I didn’t even realize it.

Jills fam

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 

Under Pressure

I almost married someone I shouldn’t have.

I graduated from BYU in December of 1999. I moved back home and out of Utah to be close to friends, family and because I would have better prospects finding a teaching job.

But… I moved back very apprehensively. I felt like an outcast because I graduated from BYU without getting married (I never did receive that tuition refund for failing to receive my M.R.S. degree). I felt that my chances of finding someone weren’t very good. I did the most logical thing I could; I threw myself into the social scene.

At one dance I was joking with a guy and said, “Yeah, some people think that there MUST be something wrong with you if you graduate from BYU without getting hitched.”

“Well… is there?” he asked.

Maybe there was. Maybe I wanted it too bad. I found it soon after, though.

I got engaged to someone that I’d dated for just a few weeks. This is not a guy that I would have been attracted to, respected, or considered a possibility for myself when I was at BYU. There were specific things about him that I hated from the beginning, but I smothered those feelings. After a few weeks of our engagement, I broke it off.

Agreeing to marry him was the stupidest decision I’ve made in my entire life. I am positively ashamed of it to this day.

Why did I do it? There were a few contributing factors. I was lonely—all of my friends from home were married when I got back. I felt like there was something wrong with me that made Mormon guys not like me—too outspoken, too educated, too tall? Plenty of other people got engaged to people they barely knew and it worked out fine—but this wouldn’t have.

There is something in Mormon culture that makes getting engaged and married in a short time acceptable. The primary reason seems to be to prevent fornication. Does it actually work? Not well enough to warrant the pressure that is put on people to marry quickly and/or make bad decisions.

This was the event in my life that put the seeds of doubt in my mind. I didn’t leave the church for over a year after this, but this is where it started. I’m happy now with my life as it is now, so maybe it’s a good thing that I went through this, but I still reflect upon those events with embarrassment and some self-disgust for being so weak and spineless in the face of the pressure.

I will be married this August to a man I’ve loved for the last four years. We will be married outside at a vineyard by a judge. I know exactly what our marriage will be based on—our love for and commitment to each other and the desire to build a future together. It certainly won’t be hurried on unduly on by outside pressures or a desire to prevent fornication.

And I’ve got to say… that’s just how I think it should be.

Monday, February 14, 2005 

Eyes Wide Open

I remember sitting on that park bench with John* very clearly. It was early summer, and the weather was warm and breezy. He and I had been spending time together since Memorial Day... actually, we had spent every day together since Memorial Day. And there we sat, one June night under a sky full of stars with our hearts all but bursting. We were having the DTR; we were figuring things out. I was so scared of the things he might say, I was so unsure of what it was I hoped for. After what seemed like hours of talking he took my hand in his, "What are you doing?" I asked him.
"Holding your hand," he replied.

"Why?" I questioned, not brave enough to look at his face.

"Because I want to," he said in a voice so sincere it shook me. "Because I have wanted to since I first met you."

I couldn't breathe. Part of me wanted to snatch my hand away from him, part of me wanted to throw my arms around him and hold on for dear life. Instead of doing either, I sat frozen in my place, staring at my feet as he caressed my hand. It was quiet for a long time.

Finally he spoke, "Sarah, you look so sad." He brushed my then long hair away from my face. "Why are you sad? This is a very good thing you know."

I sighed so deeply, taking in as much of that summer air as I could. I finally grew brave enough to look into his eyes. "Just promise me, promise me that if you ever get to the point where you can't see me... I mean, REALLY SEE me... just promise me you'll let me go." I kept my eyes on his. He didn't flinch; he didn't look away.

"I promise to always see you. I promise."


I was engaged to John for about a month and a half. It didn't work out between he and I for various reasons, but the biggest one being we didn't see each other. He didn't look past my skin, he couldn't see beyond the surface and I was too willing to look at what he could have been instead of what he was. John didn't keep his promise to see and neither did I. In the end, things less important than what brought us together in the first place blinded us. In the end we realized we were bad for each other, toxic in ways we didn't think possible. So, we needed our relationship, and I walked away from the man I thought I was going to marry. Every day, I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for loving me enough to help me walk away from what I thought was my only chance at happiness. In reality, it was just another chance for misery.

I have never been one of those girls that goes from boy to boy to boy trying them on like skirts in a dressing room until I find the one that fits right. It takes me years to recover from loving someone, years to get the smell of their skin off of me, ages to erase the feeling of their hand in mine. I don't think that's such a terrible thing to be honest. I think it is what works for me, and that's all that matters. It has also helped me into my mid-twenties without so much as a prospect for marriage. I am constantly aware of how unmarried I am, mostly because 90% of my friends are so married. The four best friends I have (pretty much all since birth) got married within 18 months of each other. Tiff got married out of the blue, Aubrey met the man of her dreams and has the best marriage I've ever witnessed. I have stood alone at all of these weddings, watching my best friends promise eternity to these men who they are making families with. And I suppose that is really the thing that I want the most - a family of my own.

If I never marry in this life that is the thing I will be missing. I will miss out on being part of a family that I helped form. I won't get to make rules and start traditions. I won't get to experience the joys and sorrows of being a parent and wife. That is the thing I want the most. To share this life with someone, to create something with them from scratch, to try out this "God in Embryo" thing. It's not so much about the pressure from family and friends (though that is there, believe me) it's not so much about The Church telling me I need to be married - this is about knowing what I want. This is about knowing who I want to be, a wife to a man who sees me and who I see clearly in return, and the mother to spirits I have been promised are waiting to be just mine. If I never marry, I know I will be given the opportunity in the life after this, but I don't think this life would be complete without the experience of having my own family - without being seen. I look forward to meeting this family of mine... I have prayed for them often, I have walked away from things I wanted so badly it made my head spin so I could be with them someday.

I hope that someday isn't too much further off.


*Names have been changed

 

Expecting Nothing

The questions this week are, If I marry what does this mean religiously? If I never marry what does this mean religiously? The answers to these questions are simple for me. Whether I marry or whether I don’t means nothing to me religiously. This is because my religious life consists of my rantings at VSoM and the occasionally church meetings I attend while at home visiting my parents, but the latter is merely for social reasons -- to get the latest gossip on everyone in the neighborhood.

For the sake of having something to write I am going to alter the topic just a bit. “If I never marry what does this mean? If I marry what does this mean?” These questions are difficult because, while I feel comfortable and unconcerned with whether or not I’ll marry due to my “been there, done that” attitude, I watch too many women struggle through these issues. I don’t know if single males go through the same struggles, but I know many women often experience a panicking feeling that they will never marry, that they will never be wives or possibly mothers. I think that almost every woman at one point has felt that if they never marry then they have failed in some way.

Saturday afternoon I received a voice male from one of my closest girlfriends. She was calling me to inform me that her last friend from her group of high school friends had just gotten engaged and while she was happy for her friend she felt a huge pressure, a concern that maybe her day wouldn’t come. My friend is 32, successful, intelligent, an amazing cook and a wonderful friend and human being. These feelings she was having are common. I see them all over blog world, especially among Mormon women. BUT I don’t just see the concerns there, I see them everywhere, among my friends, among my co-workers, in telephone discussions with clients, with the check out girl at the grocery store, with the lady standing behind me in line, the concern is there. The fear of never being married seems to lurk like a dark cloud above too many of our heads.

Why is this? If you are Mormon being sealed (married) to another individual is one of the necessary steps needed to live happily ever after for all of eternity. Seeing that I don’t know enough on the subject I am not going to get too far into “what does it mean if you are Mormon and never get married” aspect --we have all week. But, whether intentional or not these pressures begin for young Mormon women earlier then I believe they do for the average individual. For all women, not just Mormon, the pressure of marriage is everywhere. Besides the pressures of parents who want grandchildren (fortunately mine already have 7) and mothers who want to plan weddings (fortunately mine has already been through 4, 1 of them my own) families are the core of society, we all come from a family, we all know families, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that a family unit is part of a natural progression of human life, the concept of marriage and family is inescapable.

Seeing that we can’t escape the societal pressure of marriage we must do something to reduce the stress, the pressure for ourselves. I feel fortunate to be 29 and feeling no pressure or desire to get married what so ever right now, but to just feel happiness in every relation I have. Of course how I got to this stage was by being married and then being alone and discovering that being alone is often less lonely then being with someone and feeling alone – a process I don’t recommend, but an experience I wouldn’t ever take back. I suppose I want to warn every person who is feeling alone, especially on this very special hallmark day, to be careful what you wish for. We have no control over our destinies. If you truly believe in the teachings of the LDS church then you know that God will find you a worthy partner in your next life if you don’t find one in this life. I don’t believe in these teachings but I do believe that I would rather be alone and happy then settle for something as a result of pressure. I would rather not focus on something I have no control over and spend my time focusing on the things that I do have control over, such as making myself happy for me, for my family and for my friends.

The questions, “If I never marry what does this mean? If I marry what does this mean?” mean nothing to me. My concern is for me and my life and the life of the ones I love. I need to work at making me whole rather then depending on, waiting on, desiring another to complete me. I will make compromises to be with the person I love, but not until I meet this person and know that they would also make compromises to be with me too, so that we both will be better.

So please, don’t compromise early, don’t settle and don’t let something you have no control over rule your life.

May this Valentines Day be one of love to all the people that are important in your life… not just one for lovers.

Sunday, February 13, 2005 

What I would, that I do not

Romans 7:14-15
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I

2 Nephi 4 17-19
17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.




When I saw the topic for the week before any one had posted Romans 7:15 popped right into my head. 2 Nephi 4 (The Psalm of Nephi) also seemed appropriate, and has always been a section of scripture I quite enjoy.
When I was asked to guest blog, I was quite pleased. Various Stages has become my favorite of the Mormon blogs for reasons I’ve already mentioned. As some one who was not only fairly into scouting but is still considering a career working for the Boy Scouts of America- I had wanted to guest blog on the girls camp/scout camp question. However, I not only think that Christian did an excellent job there- I can’t think of a better week than this one for me to guest blog. Those who know me in person know that I am pretty much all about the conflict of not doing what I feel I should be doing. I think that “I should” used to be the most common couple words in sentences I spoke.
“I should be working harder on that”
“I probably should be visiting Velma in the Nursing home more often”
“I should be visiting other people too”
“I should have graduated by now”
“I should be studying”
“I should work harder”
“I should recycle more”
“I should really have a more vegetarian diet.”
“I should exercise”
“I should…”
“I ought to…”
“I should really stop…”
And obviously- a whole lot of the things I “should” be doing are trivial- but they are good things even if trivial. Some of the things I “should” be doing are closer to essential- some of which I am already doing, some which I could improve on, etc. This is probably compounded by my belief that James was right in his epistle when he said that to know good and do it not is sin.

After such a great week of posts from the regular contributors it is kind of hard to know which direction to take. When looking at the topic knowing what is right v. doing what is right there are so many parts to consider. How do we know what is right? How can we be sure? How can we do what is right when we aren’t certain? Why do we so often not do what is right when we are quite certain?
I kept myself from commenting much during the week- I wanted to read the posts and the comments and make sure that I didn’t totally throw out all my thoughts before putting them together in a formal post. But now I am left with the question of what to address- should I comment on what others have said? I think I want to talk about little parts of all the different questions that have already been looked at and answered by others- but hopefully I can give another perspective on those things- or at minimum write a few things that are entertaining.

I liked the reference to the CTR ring and the discussion that followed. (including the basic moral code that Kaycee talks about there.) I think both our perception and the perception of others of the “choose the right” concept is often interesting (and sometimes funny.) When I was in high school I wore a CTR ring (I still wear one actually) but it took on almost mythic proportions to many of my nonmember friends. People seemed intrigued by the ring itself- wondering what it was- what the initials were. Sometimes people before looking close assumed it was a superman shield, others for some reason thought it was the Warner-Brother’s logo. Explanation over time led to the basic understanding among my peers that it was my “mormon ring” – though it was still sometimes called my superman ring which was appropriate the way the ring itself seemed to be attributed powers. People would sometimes try on my ring and felt that because they had on the Mormon Ring they couldn’t swear or do other publicly non mormon things because of the ring. It was as though my CTR ring had some sort of magical powers- that when the rings in the Lord of the Rings were given out there was obviously the one ring to rule them all, 9 rings to the race of men, a ring to the Elves, A ring to the dwarves, some rings to the wizards, and a whole bunch of rings to the Mormons. (The mormon rings of course having the power of: instilling a moral code, reminding of said code, improved ability to make good choices, bestowing guilt, wearing your religion on your sleeve, and providing missionary opportunities.)
Along with the occasional fascination with the ring came the frequent belief that removing the ring would remove the moral code- that if friends could somehow get hold of my ring I would drink, smoke pot, and raise hell on a level never before seen in the sleepy upper-middle class suburb of Edmond Oklahoma. I ended up getting my best friend a CTR ring for graduation which led to a few instances of confused interactions in college classes with Mormon classmates. Basically he would explain that he wasn’t Mormon and he takes the ring off when he goes drinking.

I think that the question of “Is the CTR concept flawed” is a good one- but I think it is kind of inevitable to have that flaw. Even if we did attempt to try and teach children how to understand complex moral distinctions or determine for themselves what is right and what is wrong- in a lot of regards some of that is beyond the cognitive ability of most children. So the “good” kids understand the cookie cutter list of what is right and what is wrong and they do their best to follow it. Hopefully they have opportunities to develop greater understanding in ways that don’t have too serious of consequences. I think that sometimes we don’t give teenagers enough credit in complexities they can understand- and the oversimplification makes it seem like the whole thing is flawed (often because for that person it is) and it all gets thrown out.
Really, it reminds me of the DARE program. Anybody else have to do DARE in school, or maybe Just Say No? Some studies have shown that the way they oversimplified in those programs may have led to more serious drug use later on. I haven’t done a statistical analysis on the subject- but I do have an entertaining personal anecdote. My senior year in high school one of my good friends (who would have liked me to temporarily lose my ring so I could go smoke out with him and had fairly recently discovered what he believed to be the wonderful world of marijuana) while completely sober and not on any drug at all is driving with me in his GMC Jimmy and somehow has a conversation turn to the his statement “They lied to us in DARE. They f**king lied to us- drugs don’t make you completely lose it and flunk out of school and not able to think. Drugs are cool.” (I swear, this wasn’t an after-school special- this was actually said with real intent) There wasn’t really any anger- mostly there was just amusement. Kind of a “hey- I figured out what’s really up.” And the thing is- they do lie to you in DARE, kind of. They distort and demonize drugs- especially pot. They don’t really make distinctions between drugs in severity and they don’t give any opposing view. If you smoke pot- bad things will happen and they will happen right away.
Unfortunately, according to some studies (and according to my personal interaction with my friend) this simplification once revealed discredits the messenger and a lot of kids really just throw out everything that was said. Pot isn’t as bad as they say, thus it must not be bad at all, thus all the other drugs must not be as bad as they say, etc. Yeah, these kids should probably know better- but when they are looking to justify their actions not much does more to help than finding out that the people who told you those actions were wrong weren’t completely truthful.
(by the way, my friend went on to use more drugs more often, be kicked out of the University of Chicago twice, work at the Foleys department store back in Oklahoma while not attending school, and eventually getting fired there due to lack of reliability. He eventually got his act together and is now in school here at OU.)

I think the whole CTR concept can be a bit the same way. Because things are oversimplified- even in sincere desire to help kids in the future- sometimes later on it is easy for people to either continue to rely on the simplicity and not learn to really make complex moral decisions, or to throw out much of what was taught when they realize it was oversimplified. Some go so far as to reject their former “brainwashing”- and really that may not be too terribly inaccurate a term for the positive social conditioning we apply throughout primary.

I really liked Cameron’s post and his discussion about how in general he thinks a lot of good choices are being made and that people generally want to do what is right. Cameron came down pretty hard on the black and white side of the black and white vs. gray discussion and was kind of surprised his actual post was as broad based as it was (good on ya Cameron!) I kind of want to talk about black and white vs. gray- but I need to use the British spelling when talking about grey areas- because somehow “grey” seems to so much more accurately capture the color than “gray” does.

I think there are concrete black and white right and wrong. I think truth is eternal. I do think that there a lot of things that really don’t matter eternally- so it isn’t even that they are in the black and white, or the grey- they just aren’t part of the discussion. We as Latter-day Saints try to be, and claim to be, a principle centered people. The Church attempts to teach proper principles. We understand that commandments exist as express direction from God as to how to best fulfill eternal principle and law- thus commandments in some regards are circumstantial- and we as Mormons accept a system of morality much closer to conditional than many traditional religions. (Or at least our doctrine is more open to the fact that we do so- even though most Latter-day saints will balk at the idea of embracing conditional morality. I suppose what we accept is only partly conditional.) But really with the scriptural narrative which we have unique from other Christian churches- The completely different understanding of the fall, the book of Abraham and his being commanded to lie, Nephi being commanded to kill a drunk and defenseless man (even if the man was a jerk) show a much greater understanding of the competition of different “goods” and the necessity in choosing not simply a good choice or a choice in line with the commandments- but seeking the better part.
I think the grey areas come when we have competing morals or commandments and we are trying to figure out how to properly balance what we do. We have all these different competing values and commandments:
Avoid the appearance of evil vs. don’t judge. Go into a closet and don’t do works to be seen vs. be a light on a hill. Make good friends who have the same values as you vs. be in the world, reach out to others, be a sincere friend even to those with different views.

It was said that we have agency- but we don’t have freedom to avoid consequences. A whole lot has been made of growing and learning from these consequences- I think that grey areas often become a whole lot larger or more prominent when we have to face the consequences of initially choosing to not act in accordance with the commandments, what we knew was right, societal pressure, or all of the above. JP provides a good example of this. She spent her whole life doing what she was supposed to- and then when she had an experience where she stepped outside of that the consequences forced her to choose where none of the options seemed perfect. It wasn’t even that there was solid white and solid black with grey in between- all that was left due to the circumstances was grey. She chose her family and I think she made the right choice. Other people probably disagree. But people would have disagreed if she decided not to get married- if she did get married but her marriage didn’t work because she did things she knew would tear it apart, etc. I think sometimes we don’t do what we think is supposed to be right because we are doing the best we can to do what we feel is right, or what we think actually is right. I think it was Rebecca that talked about the synthesis of what your heart wants and what your head wants- I think this can be a pretty good guide. For me personally this has to be there along with the things that Carrie Anne discussed in seeking the spirit. I think sometimes Heavenly Father will tell us pretty directly what we should do- but most of the time he gives us some guidance and direction but requires a lot out of us in figuring it out. And that’s a good thing. Otherwise, how else are we supposed to grow? I agree with Cameron’s comment that I think I really want to side on the advice fro my Father and following God over man or my own wisdom- because frankly on occasion I can be a real idiot.
Despite all this I often fall. But a lot of the times I don’t really fall and then rise because I never try. I don’t rise in the first place. I don’t fall, but I’m really in basically the same place where I would be had I fallen. Right there on the ground. Sarah talked about feeling nothing inside- about seeking new experiences and consciously trying to stretch boundaries and find new experiences. Sometimes I have similar feelings of just a numb or a nothing inside- but I don’t really address it the same way. I don’t seek to actively go out and do- much of the time I seek to just avoid. Most of the time, my not doing what I consciously feel and or know I should do stems from somewhere else.
But then I feel super guilty about all the things I’m avoiding. In his book Healing the Shame That Binds You John Bradshaw says some interesting things. I agree with some of them but not with others. One interesting thing he talks about is the false success/failure dichotomy that we as a society have largely embraced- it often causes us to be hyper critical of others- but much more often it influences the way we judge ourselves and can lead to a lot of self hatred. This is remedied often by two opposite approaches- trying to do everything or experience everything or fear and not doing anything. And strangely they sometimes show up in the same person. With me it is largely a feeling of obligation to do everything- but also a requirement that it be done very well vs. fear. This does a couple things. First it means that sometimes rather than fail at something where I put all of myself in it I either avoid it or half-ass it. Conversely I feel overwhelmed at the need to do everything since I have a knowledge of what needs to be done- I know I have been blessed with a halfway decent intellect and an occasionally very good perception, which in turn means great obligation. So- I see this obligation, know that all of the things individually should be things I can accomplish- and further assume that collectively they should as well but I just don’t know where or how to start- so I pretty much do nothing.

So why do I personally not do what I know I should-
Well, lots of reasons.
Not overcoming the natural man and a fair bit of laziness
Fear
Confusion
And a whole lot of other things.

Boyd K. Packer said something to the effect of correct doctrine understood changes people and changes their behavior. You will do more to change behavior through the study of correct doctrine than you will through the study of behavior.
We talked about this a bit in institute this last week- Alma’s in Alma’s discussion with his sons we see little actual discussion of the sins Coriantimur committed or how to change- but we see a lot of discussion on the doctrine Coriantimur misunderstood.

But sometimes I hear this and I think- now wait a minute. More correct doctrine and understanding of obligation is only going to make me feel more inadequate, make the task seem more large, and give me less of a starting point.

But then I think- maybe it is a matter of which doctrine I’m not understanding. For a long time through some study, through some spiritual experiences and through just making sense the principles of balance have seemed very important- but often a bit out of reach. I don’t really know how to achieve that balance and often desire it right away and see reaching a good spiritual and overall balance as another aspect of that big unattainable (unattainable because I believe it should in fact be attainable for me) whole.
But I think that I start to be reminded of things. I need to remember that a man can’t run faster than he has strength. I need to remember how repentance and how growth actually happens. We learn line upon line and we grow that way too.
I posted on my blog about Jacob 5- and I have always loved applying this to me personally and to people as individuals rather than simply being an allegory of the history of the house of Israel. But I somehow had kind of missed the verses in the 60’s talking about how that change happens. You can’t do it all at once- if you don’t do enough the wild will take over- but if you do too much the tree will be overwhelmed.

I think it is a good message. I don’t have to be overwhelmed. I don’t have to know exactly how and where to prune- just keep nourishing the roots little by little and do what you can to prune out a little bad and add a little good each day. It doesn’t matter where you start just start and don’t over do it.

I think when I more fully learn this I can then more fully join with Nephi in his psalm and not just stop at the sorrow. I can rise above- and the fact that I still haven’t yet (because even Nephi felt like he hadn’t yet) doesn’t mean I’m not on my way. Doesn’t mean I can’t recognize where God’s hand has been, and doesn’t mean I can’t praise him and thank him even though I’m far from perfect.

2 Nephi 4:30
Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.


-Mike

Saturday, February 12, 2005 

It Isn't All About Me...

So basically I want to just copy and paste everything that has already been said (as usual). But I hope my perspective can add one more aspect to this discussion. Keep in mind this is MY perspective…I am not projecting this view upon ANYone else. This is so very personal. And I also want you to know how difficult this post is for me. I am not eloquent (or concise) when it comes to this specific topic. I still have a lot of my own issues to work out here.

But here’s how it works for me…very personally.

I have a conscience. I was born with it. It was a freebie that came along with the package deal of being a human being and not a mollusk. Having a relatively normal brain and relatively normal psyche, I know and understand what the rules of humanity are (Kaycee spelled those rules out for us quite nicely). I will know when I have done well by the good feelings I feel. When I have crossed the line, I will know it by the bad feelings, the guilt I feel. But for me, it goes a step deeper.

When I was eight years old, I received the gift of the Holy Ghost (the Spirit) through an ordinance that was performed by someone who I feel had the authority to do so. I was promised that as I came upon choices I had to make, I would be shown the correct answers or that after I had made a choice, I would know if it had been the right or wrong thing to do.

I would “know” these answers to choices in several ways: I might have peace of mind, I might feel happy, the choice might have natural positive consequences, I might feel like I want to hide or be secretive, I might feel guilty, the choice might have natural negative consequences…

Through extensive experimentation, I have been able to hone my skill of “listening” to the Spirit. Sometimes I listen, sometimes he speaks and I pretend that I am busy and I didn’t hear him.

And Cameron’s dinosaur story provides the perfect segue into my next and more difficult point… I know that I have a father in heaven. He has blessed me with things that I cannot even begin to count nor do anything to repay.

I had a BIG decision to make last week. So first, I called my dad. We spent almost an hour talking on the phone about ME, and my question. I talked, he listened, he talked, and I listened. He had a lot of good things to say. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything, nor did his single opinion sway my choice, after all, it’s up to me…but I was really thankful for his input.

Then later that night, I took the same question to my other father. I knelt and thanked him for sending me to such great parents. I thanked him for my health, my husband, my home, and my life of leisure. I knew that I could ask him my big question, and that he would care, he would have an opinion, and maybe some advice. I don’t always agree with what he tells me, nor did his single opinion sway my choice, after all, it’s up to me…but I always appreciate his input.

The next day was Fast Sunday, the slowest Sunday of the month (especially when you have early church). I thought about my question a lot. I thought about what dad had said, and I listened for hints of what father was trying to say to me (through his messenger, the Spirit). I eventually got my answer. No angels or lights; I got my peace of mind. And I haven’t doubted that I made the right choice.

And now the toughest part of all… My father loves me so much. He is always there whether I want him to be or not. Sometimes (so often!) I don’t even kneel because I feel so unworthy of everything that I have been given at his hand. I can’t even bare to speak to him. And worse of all, he gave me the most precious gift he had, the life of his own son, so that I shouldn’t ever hesitate to come back to him.

When I make a bad decision, my dad doesn’t always know about it (thank goodness). NOTHING is worse than disappointing Mom & Dad. Except, Father knows… every time I make a bad decision, it hurts him as much as it would hurt my mom & dad, and then some. Not because I went contrary to his advice, his authority, his tradition, or his “rules”, but because I took one step away from him. I gave him the cold shoulder in the midst of all his generosity.

Now a lot of people don’t like to feel guilty. I don’t like to feel guilty. Sometimes we feel guilty for really stupid reasons: we think people are judging us, we ate too much at dinner, we aren’t living up to someone else’s standards. But I have slowly learned to tell the difference between earthly guilt, the kind I can usually shake off when I realize that it is my own insecurity causing it, and what I call true guilt; the guilt I feel when I KNOW that I have gone contrary to my truest self. (Sometimes I forget who that “true self” is, and I get terribly lost and really unhappy….)

But it isn’t all about me. It’s not all about how I feel. Like most people, I am not making decisions that only consider MY consequences. We all make decisions daily, often selflessly, so that the people that we love are taken care of and feel loved. We don’t just make decisions that will give us pleasure and comfort. So I am trying to make decisions that don’t hurt or turn away the ones I believe in and love. Including my father…he is at the core, he is my compass…

Friday, February 11, 2005 

Those stupid dinosaurs came back to bite me.

The comments are working again, and I have moved everyones over from my site, thanks guys. And sorry, my blog got mixed up, I will fix it know so my dinosaur story makes sense. I have reposted my blog sorry, you all must have thought I was an idiot!


Having failed so many times in my life at so many different things I have picked my life heroes very carefully. On the top of my list is President Abraham Lincoln. All his failures make me realize that life is not so bad. As I was thinking about the topic this week, I remembered a quote by Lincoln that I love.

"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference."


And that's all I have to say on the matter. OK its not, you all know I am long winded, so here it goes. I quoted Lincoln here because of the phrase "I do the very best I know how- the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing it until the end" Having failed so badly at life, I love his attitude. I love the fact that he does the best he can. Some people may have a more clear understanding of right and wrong, some people may have a better capacity to select the right choices, and there are some that are great at learning from making the wrong choices. My suggestion to all is to do the very best they know how to, and keep doing it to the end. On top of President Lincoln's words I add to always strive to do better, to be better, and to make your own life and those around you better.

We all have some knowledge of right and wrong. We all have the ability to pick right over wrong. I believe that in general we are doing alright. We are not perfect, but there is a lot of good being picked over evil in this world. There are times when we all fall; there are moments of weakness that become defining points in our lives. A lot of times we focus on the negative, and the wrong we have done. It is better to focus on the lessons we have learned. The strengths we have developed to overcome our weaknesses, and our wrong choices. I think if we were to ask JP if she is a strong person for having been through what she has been through, I bet she would say yes. I am sure that anyone reading this could share the ways that they have been strengthened by having made unfortunate mistakes in their lives. As the old adage goes, "The Glory of man is to rise each time we fall".

I do not think it is a question of knowing right from wrong, or knowing right and hoosing right, I think it is a question of are we raising each time we fall? Because you would have to be an idiot to think that we are not going to fall.

Now as to the title. Oh the infamous dinosaur incident of the first grade. I remember it like it was yesterday, and not some 25 years ago. Mrs. Miller had just let us go to recess, and P.M and I acted like we were going out to play. But really we were not. We were plotting to steal the plastic dinosaurs from one of our classmates, which he had left in his bag in the coat closet. Did we know that taking something that did not belong to us was wrong? Well after we got caught that was our excuse, but I can say now, yes, yes we knew it was wrong, and we still did it. We got about three days worth of excitement out of those dinosaurs. But the entire time I had a nagging sickness in my stomach. That misdirection of good choices in my life weighed as hard on me as any wrong doing I have done since. I was literally sick. Of course there can the fateful day a few days later when my dad got the call from P.M.s dad and he marched me across the street and the four of us sat down and discussed what had happened. I remember the first cover was to lie, lie and lie some more, anything to get out of trouble. But the guilt built more and more. The nagging sickness worsened very second. And then it hit. The reason I was getting sick. I had let my dad down. He had taught me that it was wrong to take something that did not belong to me, and I did it. I was in tears and scared to death, was my dad going to hate me for life? That was all I could think about, (that and what was going to happen when my mom, the enforcer of rules in our home was going to do to me). Well the dinosaurs were returned, some sort of shamed apology was made to E.B. and over the course of a few weeks the incident slowly went away, except for my brother making fun of me for it for years after that. I remember trying extra hard to return to my fathers grace over those weeks. Trying to be extra good, and do what I was told. I somehow made it back into my dads favor. Of course now that I look back at the meaningless incident that took place 25 years ago I was never out of my father's grace. He may have been disappointed in my decision, but he never stopped loving me. So it is with our family and friends, and with our God, we make mistakes and we fall, but they never stop loving us, (unless they are dead beats, in which case, I still love you). I fully believe that there comes a great joy for our family and friends to see us rise and over come. So to sum up my thoughts, I say this: None of us are perfect, we make mistakes, but you have to rise above them. You can not dwell on them, you can learn from them, but don't dwell. Take the lessons you learned write them in a journal, talk about them with a friend, but do not dwell on your mistakes from the past. And never think you are a bad person for having made a mistake, "To err is human, but to forgive is divine," and we always have to forgive ourselves for our short comings. I had a seminary teacher who used to yell to us as we left the building BABU, everyday, BABU, without fail BABU. A very simple phrase, with a lot of power. Be A Better You.

Love you all and have a fantastic weekend!

PS to the Faulconers: I would like you both to sing "Love at Home" prior to
leaving any comments here.

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.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005 

Choose the Right

When I was in high school I had a CTR ring. This symbol, that I should always "Choose the Right" was supposed to be a constant reminder to make the right decisions. More often than not, though, it was just a way to identify the Mormon kids.

This one kid I knew would always ask me if I could ever choose the Left, instead, so I didn't go around in circles. The future math teacher in me explained to him that you can still get places by taking three right turns for every left turn you would make... it just takes a lot longer.

Doing the right thing is sometimes more difficult that doing the wrong thing. However, the degree of difficulty of doing the "right" thing is totally based on your personal definition of "right" and "wrong."

My definition of doing what's right meets some pretty basic, but stringent guidelines.
  1. Don't hurt anyone.
  2. Don't hurt yourself.
  3. Try to leave things better than you found them.
  4. Try to make yourself a better person.
These are very basic, but that's my whole morality system. The simplicity should mean that it's easy to follow, but I still make some decisions that don't meet these guidelines... exactly.

For instance, I blog about my coworkers. While this may be a poor decision on my part, I rationalize that as long as they don't know about it and I only report absolute fact in discussion them, that no harm can come of it. If they did find out about it, I'm sure that they would be very hurt, but since everything I've written is a fact, I simply enjoy the catharsis it provides me.

Am I hurting myself when I drink? Technically alcohol is poison to your body and the feelings that result from it are just symptoms of that. My brother once asked me if I drank, and when I said, "Sometimes," he proceeded to lecture me on how a single drink could do me harm. Oh well... I enjoy drinking, do it in moderation and at socially appropriate times, and don't endanger others. To me, it's the same as eating chocolate, which is also not very good for you.

I believe that I leave things better than I found them. I pick up litter. I adopt animals from shelters. I teach at a school where 90% of the students receive free or reduced lunch (a key indicator of poverty in US schools nationwide). Yet... there always seems like there's more that I can do. I've actually had to cut back on some responsibilities at work because I was trying to do so much that my teaching was suffering.

Making "yourself a better person is vague," but the way I do this is by working on doing all of the things above better and by continuing to educate myself. I think that I'm a good person but am all too aware of my faults. There, too, lies an endless amount of "right" choices to make to make myself a better person.

I have some hard and fast rules (not to harm) and some that are more general (make things better). The commandments in the LDS religion fall into these two categories as well, but there are more specifics and they are more stringent. I think I've lowered my degree of difficulty in choosing the right by leaving the church. The basic ideas are still the same, but some of the specifics where there are hard and fast rules, are no longer there for me.

I guess I decided to choose a few lefts, after all.

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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