Jeff's online journal, ramblings, whatever.

The Church of Dances of Latter-Day Basketball

Recently my sister Kjersti shared with my family an article written by LDS author Orson Scott Card titled “Holding on to the ‘others'” that I found quite insightful. The article is definitely worth a read, but for those who want a summary, it basically states that in Mormon culture those who excel at sports are traditionally celebrated, while those who are bookish or artistic are usually put off to the side and ostracized, and that’s a real problem. I had a few choice comments about it, many of which I want to share with you here.

What the article really makes me think of was back to the time when I was Elder’s Quorum President in one of my BYU wards. We were trying to reach out to the less-active members of the quorum, and I noted that a lot of them liked playing video games. So I proposed having an EQ activity where we’d have a Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart tournament in the courtyard of our apartment complex, projected up on a big screen. Since it was right next to people’s apartments it would take little effort for those who live in seclusion to join the party, and it would be a nice change from the sports and/or date nights that formed the basis of every other activity we ever had.

When I brought it up in a ward council meeting, however, I received vehement opposition to the idea. Not from the bishopric, who gave me their full support, but from other girls in the meeting (I don’t even remember what auxiliaries they belonged to) who literally stood up and started yelling (well, speaking loudly anyway) about how that was a terrible idea! Video games are evil! Anyone who plays video games is forcing themselves to be alienated from society! They just need to start coming to those sporting events and date nights if they ever want to learn how to function in the church! If the ward holds a function with video games we might as well be telling those sinners that we fully embrace their corruption!

I was totally flabbergasted. They were so passionate that this was a bad idea that it was like I had suggested that we reach out to inactives by holding an orgy. How could such blatant, short-sighted bigotry exist in the Church? True, an obsession with playing video games can be a detriment to a person, but so can an obsession with almost anything (Church Ball, anyone?). But for a person to suggest that the Church would be better off not reaching out to less-actives in a way that they’d respond, rather than plan an activity that wasn’t a common one in the LDS culture? Yet this sentiment, while not always so loudly and obviously expressed, is very alive and well within the Church.

This is one reason why I’m finding it tough to remain active these days, at least on days other than Sunday. I know the gospel is true, and I’ll defend it to the end of my days, but I’ll be darned if I can find someone in any of my recent wards to whom I can relate. Life isn’t carving pumpkins, playing volleyball, baking bread and going to awkward church dances! I love the gospel too much to go totally inactive, but the social aspect is making it harder and harder these days. Maybe it’s the ward? But I haven’t felt comfortable in a ward since at least 2008, both including times I’ve moved and times where the semester change-over cleared out large chunks of wards, in effect making them different animals. It’s saying something that the most interaction I’ve had with people in my current ward has been with the bishop’s wife. It’s also saying something that the only time I’ve felt entirely at ease with a group of other people this year has been when I was on a cruise and hanging out with my cousin Katrina’s wacky friends who were progressively getting more drunk as the night went on. (I don’t quite know what it’s saying, but it’s saying something.) True, I don’t really want to live the lifestyle they live, but it was really nice to be able to be myself without having to worry about social rules that I’ve never quite grasped yet am expected to follow at church activities.

Speaking of which, Kjersti also recently shared an article detailing how the Church can reach out to singles better. While many points I would make about that particular article I’ve already made before, I think that really, these two problems are related. It falls under one umbrella: people don’t know how to treat people that are different. And often it has to do more with who’s in authority than with any particular side. There have been times where I felt like an outcast because I knew about football in social situations where everyone else was making fun of it. It’s just that right now, more often than not, those in charge in the Church, at least on a local level, are more likely to be sports fans than academics or artistic folks. And it’s definitely true that most of the people in charge in the Church are married (since it’s a requirement for a lot of positions, such as bishop). It’s simple human tendency to listen to those they agree with and discount the other side as ignorant.

I had that point driven home for me recently when I responded to a review by an semi-famous Internet reviewer. In high school he played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: the Gathering, but by doing so was ostracized by the public at large and often had to play these “devil games” (which are actually quite harmless) in secret. The reason I felt I had to respond personally to this was that he grew up in Mesa, AZ, and a large group of the people either shunning him or trying to convert him from his evil D&D playing ways, were members of the LDS faith. I posted a comment trying to explain and apologize for the situation, but had it pointed out to me that it wasn’t anything uniquely Mormon, but more human nature for people to ignore or preach at anybody they didn’t understand.

It all boils down to pride. One person or group is in charge, so their preferences are right and they have to make everyone else see that. Or one person or group isn’t in charge, so they feel resentful at the group that is, and especially at whatever that group likes or represents, however benign that thing may be. Heaven knows I’ve been guilty of this more times than I’d care to admit. Would I be happier if every week the Church had activities based on video games, or theater, or intellectual discussions, or even tabletop RPGs? Probably, but then the sports fans would be grumbling about all the accolades heaped upon the “drama freaks.” It’s finding that elusive equilibrium that has proved to be difficult: where we all can come together, united in purpose. I don’t know if that will ever happen. Even the Lord lost a third of the host of heaven because they disagreed. What hope do we have of being all-inclusive?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try. While we can’t include everybody, we certainly can try to include as many as we can. That was my purpose behind the video game activity in Elders’ Quorum those years ago. I didn’t force those people who were opposed to the activity to come. I do think that leaders both in and out of the Church need to be more cognizant of different groups and their interests & accomplishments. I do think that the current emphasis on sports is waay out of proportion. Even in sports there’s an imbalance toward basketball and football (did you hear about the amazing performance of the local lacrosse team? Me neither). And I do think that, as a body, the Church needs to provide as many different opportunities for different groups to do what they love, even if it’s not the norm.

In short, I hate dances and playing basketball! Give me somewhere else to meet people, please, singles’ wards!

And, as a coda, the Mario Kart activity succeeded quite well. A lot of guys came that I’d never even seen before, and while many of them just as quickly sunk back into the shadows, a few started coming to other activities as well. Even some of the girls that otherwise would have been making bread or something at a Relief Society activity snuck out early to join in. (That actually became a running gag in the ward: on nights where the Relief Society had an activity the elders would plan one as well, and there were quite a few girls who would prefer our activity to theirs. Like when the girls were all going on a campout somewhere and so the guys planned to watch the manliest movie that we could get away with and still call it a Church activity, which ended up being Rocky, for some reason. Some of the girls ditched the campout because they wanted to watch Rocky instead of being in a canyon somewhere with a bunch of other girls.)

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8 responses

  1. Jen

    That was also the same RS activity where some girls were being yelled at because they were watching some sports game during the camping part.

    I loved this post. A lot. I’m going to share it with a friend of mine. 🙂

    March 3, 2011 at 9:59 pm

  2. Okay, first of all Jeff, I agree with you.
    2nd of all, I gotta say that I love both basketball AND dances, but that’s me.
    Third of all, I’ll go back to my first point (wherein I agree with you) to say I REALLY agree with you, and here’s why: even though I like basketball and play it all the time, it’s not really my favorite sport. My REAL favorite sport is soccer and I played it like a fanatic growing up, but I also played young mens’ b-ball, which we usually played every week after mutual and every morning between seminary and school. My priest quorum advisor had a great idea to let each one of us be in charge of a mutual activity to focus on a particular interest of ours. I chose indoor soccer (’cause it’s awesome) and it would be a break from the norm and it would be easy to do because of the church’s gym.

    We played and I thought we all were having a good time, until after about an hour or so, when the bishop’s son said “I’m sick of this!” and we went back to playing b-ball! And I was like, “Really!!! We do b-ball every week and every freakin’ morning!” But, alas, no one would hearken, and we ended up playing basketball.

    Another occurrence happened last year in the middle of a fun glow-in-the-dark dodgeball activity with my singles branch. Before we had even finished playing, a couple of ballers jumped in and started shooting hoops. Apparently, we couldn’t hold there attention for more than a half hour.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I love basketball, and I’ve grown to be much better at it, but it’s been more of a sport of necessity, since all that the guys at church play is b-ball, and I’d have to sign up for a league or pay to play YCMA soccer. (I can’t however, since the hours always conflict with my work schedule and money’s tight.) So, I take the default and play b-ball.

    But my point is, that people can be pretty close minded and it’s hard to find anyone who can see past outward appearance. That’s usually why I enjoy small groups to large ones.

    I’ve also gotten the same reaction you got from Cindy about the video games. This girl friend of mine (notice the space, since she wasn’t my “girlfriend”) who was very athletic (a ballerina, actually) asked me what I had been up to the day before, and I told her nonchalantly that I had been playing a video game for a few hours (it was Saturday, after all). I was as equally surprised as you when she exclaimed, “What! VIDEO GAMES!?” as if I had just told her that I’d robbed a liquor store, or raised the dead or something (or maybe both at the same time).

    Now, you have to understand that while I used to be a loner as a kid and played a ton of video games, I had since moved on in my life and was just enjoying some down time and relaxing by playing Shadow of the Colossus (which, by the way, was voted the best game on the PS2 by some and is one of the most awe-inspiring stories I’ve ever experienced, due to the artistic and immersive nature of the game-I’d highly recommend that game to anyone, including the Prophet). But the mere mention of “video game” to this girl and to others elicited an image of a 16-hour a day WoW addict (no offense to any of my previous roommates who played WoW 6 hours a day 🙂

    As for myself, I work a full time job for Sony Playstation tech support, which ironically gives me little time for actually playing the game console that I’m paid to support!! And since I’ve gradually begun to spend more and more of my time with other things over the years: girls, sports, work, girls, reading, watching movies, drawing monsters, girls, writing horrible songs about monsters, girls-I very rarely play video games anymore. But I still enjoy them on occasion.

    My point that I was trying to make is (I believe) the same as yours: people need to appreciate that others have different interests and be willing to try new things. New things like MegaMan. ‘Cause MegaMan’s awesome. That is all.

    P.S. My branch just had an activity that actually combined one of your loves with one of your hates: a “Wii Dance Party!” It was awesome. And everybody liked it. So maybe there is hope for some of those eggheads out there. Then again, my branch is pretty cool (and probably older than yours) so maybe you just have a lame-sauce ward full of dumb kids.

    March 4, 2011 at 6:42 pm

  3. Hey, Jeff.

    I know that I commented a long time ago on this, but I enjoyed reading this again, and the point you made about the girls who got on your case over the video games got me to thinking about an experience that I had last weekend with my nieces and nephews.

    I was over at my sister’s house for the Fourth of July weekend and I had planned to watch the Women’s Soccer World Cup Final game once we had returned from church. I was watching my nieces and nephews while my sister was occupied, so I invited them to watch the game with me. We had an enjoyable time watching the game, and were especially excited when the United States ended up winning over Japan.

    However, once my sister got back, my seven-year-old niece decided to “tattle” on me to her mom. She told my sister that I had been watching TV, and that that wasn’t right to do on Sunday. My sister, being a level-headed person, downplayed the seriousness of my “crime” and assured my niece that I was a responsible adult and could make intelligent decisions for myself.

    I also chimed in, trying to remind my niece that we had just spent some quality family time together. During the game I hadn’t been yelling or shouting or drinking or smoking or telling the kids to shut up or anything like that. While watching, I had answered my niece’s and nephew’s questions as to what the rules of the game were.

    I also explained to them the historical importance of this particular match: being that the US had lost to Japan four years ago in the previous final, but that they had won over Japan two years ago in the Olympic Games. Some other important things I told them were that this was a very high scoring match for a soccer game, that this was the first time that two World Cup finalists had ever had a rematch in back-to-back finals, and that an American player had not only scored three points by herself (a hat-trick), but had also scored the first two goals on the first two shots in the game. Pretty remarkable feats for any athlete.

    I finally commented to my niece that I saw this as a very appropriate way to spend a Sabbath afternoon and especially on the day after our American Independence Day; by supporting an American sports team in a finals game on an international level. I reminded her that this was a “special occasion.”

    Unfortunately, my words fell on deaf ears (possibly because I had included too much sports trivia?). My niece still clung to her notion that I had broken a crucial commandment, and at least one of my sister’s kids sarcastically said something to the effect of, “Oh sure, you can get away with anything if you call it a ” special occasion. “‘

    They had missed the point.

    They were focused on the letter of the “law,” rather than on the spirit of the “law.“

    I was trying to get across a principle that Jesus had tried to teach to the pharisees. When they accused him of breaking the ” commandments” by healing a man on the Sabbath, he asked them whether it was better to do good or evil on the Sabbath (see St. Mark 3:4 http://biblehub.com/mark/3-4.htm). At other times, the Savior reminded them that it wasn’t unlawful for him to break the extra little addendums that they had added on to the original Law of Moses.

    While I couldn’t compare my watching of a sports game to the miracles of Jesus, the principle is the same – doing good by spending quality time with your family and teaching them is better than doing evil.

    (I’d like to point out at this point that while I’m using my sister and her kids as an example in this case, they really are good people trying to do what’s right. My sister’s not a rule-Nazi and her kids aren’t total hellions. 😉 My sister had taught my nieces and nephews to respect the Lord and his day, and my niece was just trying to be obedient. )

    The problem that I think both you and I have found in our culture, Jeff, is that we keep running into adults who have the same mentality as my seven-year-old niece. They hear some advice taught from their parents, or a Church magazine, or from the pulpit, and with good intentions, and they forget to ponder, pray, and study out the meaning behind the teaching. By so doing, they end up distorting the message or missing the original point entirely. Unfortunately, these “distorted commandments” or “cultural commandments,” as I will now begin to call them, get passed down and around as family traditions, through peer pressure, and many times through our popular LDS literature and media. In essence, they become the “false traditions of our fathers” that were mentioned in the Book of Mormon. They become false traditions in that individuals just start taking them as foundational doctrine. They continue as false traditions in that people stop thinking about the important “why“ behind commandments, or very often, they never start thinking in the first place. They become very damaging false traditions when people start following the cultural tradition over what the Lord himself and his holy prophets said in the scriptures and especially when they supercede what the Holy Ghost tells you to do at any given moment.

    This spiritual and intellectual immaturity needs to be addressed by the individuals in our culture and by the culture as a whole or we will become (and are becoming, I might add) just like the wicked Lamanites and Nephites and Pharisees of old: more focused on how many knots we should tie on Sunday (see the Aaronic Priesthood Manual 1: Lesson 26: “Do Good on the Sabbath”) than on loving God and loving our neighbor (Mark 12: 30 – 31).

    Since I’m on a rant, I’d like to address just a couple of our cultural traditions that have caused me to think, ponder, pray, search, ask, listen and study about their true meanings in our society.

    1. Video Games: Relaxing Hobby, or Sinful Addiction?

    As an Elders Quorum advisor, I taught a lesson recently about Elder Quentin L. Cook’s talk entitled: “Choose Wisely” (Oct. 2014 General Conference). In the talk, he shares the story of a young man who “was spending a large amount of time on video games and social media.” The context of this talk was not about the vilification of video games themselves, but about the young man being distracted from the more important task of preparing for his mission by spending too much of his time on relaxation and entertainment. Also note that Elder Cook includes spending too much time on social media as a negative. The important part is not the choice of entertainment in this case, but rather the “large amount of time” aspect.

    Another talk that addresses this is “Nurturing Marriage” by Russell M. Nelson (Apr. 2006 General Conference). Elder Nelson talks about an experience he had on a flight where he saw a man “focused solely upon an electronic game player,” rather than on the man’s wife, who was sitting right next to him during the whole flight.

    Notice that the point of Elder Nelson’s rhetoric was not about the sinfulness of the video game machine, but rather about the distracted man not having his priorities straight. Elder Nelson even goes on to say how he personally might have overreacted to the situation and he jokes that the man might even feel sorry for him for not appreciating his “exciting toy.”

    Unfortunately, my experience has been that many LDS people tend to gloss over the “in excess” factor behind these talks. As soon as they hear the words, “video game” you would think that they’d just heard the Prophet command them to “run for the hills, organize a mob, and go burn down Nintendo headquarters!”

    For instance, recently I was at a Family Home Evening where we were discussing productive uses of our time. One of the first comments was from a lady friend of mine who was quick to point out that “playing too many video games” wasn’t productive. I was quick to say, “Let’s not forget too much Netflix!” She blushed and sheepishly confessed that she was guilty of binge Netflix -watching. My point was not to vilify Netflix, since I enjoy watching that streaming service, too. My point was to point out the fact that it’s easy to point the finger at someone else when it’s not your sin (see St. Mathew 7:1-5), but harder to point the finger back at yourself and analyze your own behavior. My other point was that it was the spending “excessive amounts of time,” that was the issue, whether it be video games, Netflix, social media, exercising, eating chocolate, reading, dancing, playing basketball, or whatever your recreation of choice may be.

    2. Food Prayers: Essential or Unnecessary?

    I find too many food prayers both excessive and repetitive. This is another instance in which I see that our culture needs to “grow up.” We teach repetitive food prayers to our children because they are easy to remember and give them a basis to communicate with their Father In Heaven on a regular basis. We err when we take these simple childish prayers into our adult lives, and keep vainly reciting them over and over until both the words and the prayer lose all meaning (just like Millhouse on the Simpsons having to say, “Jiminy Jillikers, Radioactive Man! an umpteenth-illion times).

    The point of prayer is communication as God’s children with our Heavenly Father (see LDS Bible Dictionary: Prayer).

    Can you imagine walking up to your dad and saying,” Hey dad! I got something important to tell you…uh…I wrote it down here on this…yeah, I know you’ve heard me say it a million times before, but here goes, “Uh…thank you for the food you’ve given me, please bless it, make sure I don’t have any harm or accident, help me to have strength and nutrients…uh..I don’t seem to have anything else written down here, so… End Communication! Bye!”‘ and then you run away and don’t talk to your dad the rest of the day, except to come back at dinner time and read off the same card to him.

    I can imagine that, and while it might be cute for a little while to see a kid do that, your earthly dad would eventually want to have an actual conversation with you. And so would your Heavenly Dad.

    Also, asking God to bless refreshments to be “nourishing and strengthening” doesn’t make much sense if the actual desert (like a high-calorie strawberry cheesecake) by it’s nature isn’t particularly nourishing or strengthening, and we are knowingly partaking of it. (When called upon for these types of prayers, I usually like to either thank God for the desert, ask him to help me make wiser dietary decisions in the future, or just ask him to bless the high-calorie strawberry cheesecake that it may be delicious. 😉 )

    History of Food Prayers:

    I have heard some say that our habit of saying repetitive things during food prayers comes from our Mormon Pioneer heritage; the pioneers out on the harsh plains supposedly would ask God to bless that their food would be “nourishing and strengthening” because if it wasn’t “nourishing and strengthening,” they would die from extremes. I don’t know if this true. I will have to do more historical research. What I do know is that my challenges are different than what the pioneers faced, and so I ask God for different things than what the pioneers would have asked.

    Also, I found this article insightful as far as it shows a scriptural basis for praying over your food: (“Blessing on Food” by Christine Quinn Christiansen, BYU 1992) eom.byu.edu/index.php/Blessing_on_Food

    What Does the Lord Say?

    Personally, I like to follow what our Lord taught in the Sermon on the Mount, as far as asking the Lord to “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). To me, this means that I usually will say one food prayer during the day, it can be short or long, and I try to avoid vain repetitions. The point is to have a meaningful communion and holy experience with my Maker.

    3. Men with Beards: Unkempt and Uncouth, Unprofessional and Unworthy, or Handsome, Righteous, Worthy and Manly?

    We don’t like beards as an LDS society. Rather, a majority of our culture doesn’t appreciate bearded men in our society. This is strange to me, as a fair number of our early prophets, apostles, and righteous priesthood holders wore beards, as well as our Lord, Himself. I walk into any LDS meetinghouse or temple and all I find are pictures of Jesus and the 12 Apostles with beards.

    But some might protest, crying, “But you wouldn’t go around in a robe and sandles would you?!” To which I would reply, “I would, if the time and place were appropriate!“

    I generally have a beard. I like beards. I like the way I look in a beard. I like the way my beard feels. I occasionally get food stuck in my beard, someone points it out, and I clean it up. I shave for job interviews to look “business professional,” and then I grow my beard back if the job’s dress code allows for it. I shave or trim my beard if I think it’s getting too shaggy or I’m sick of it or want to try a new look. I don’t look down on men who choose not to grow beards. I don’t look down on men who can’t grow beards (like many men of American Indian or other descent). A lot of the girls I’ve known or dated have told me that I look good with a beard. A lot of men I’ve known, including some Priesthood leaders, have told me they liked how I kept a well-timed beard I wonder why some others look down on me or make disparaging comments because I choose to have facial hair.

    I’ve thought about and studied this for a while, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

    Many modern businessmen adhere to a “clean-shaven“ standard. BYU has a “clean-shaven“ policy. LDS missions have a “clean-shaven” policy. The current Prophet, Apostles, Seventies, and other general authorities and general officers of the LDS church keep themselves clean-shaven. In this way, they are all adhering to a modern “professional look.” However, the modern “professional look” is just that: modern. It is a product of our times.

    Early Latter-day apostles and prophets wore beards. Think of Lorenzo Snow, Wilford Woodruff, and Brigham Young (Orson Pratt had the wicked-coolest beard I’ve ever seen!)

    President David O. McKay was the first latter-day Prophet to go beardless, ushering in a dispensation of clean-shaven prophets.

    Then the dark times came, namely the Sixties and Seventies where hippie and counter-culture reigned supreme (and subsequently ruining the whole thing for the rest of us beardos), prompting the then President of BYU, Elder Dallin H. Oaks in December of 1971 to deliver the speech, “Standards of Grooming” to the BYU and Church Educational System student body.

    His talk focuses on keeping a good appearance in order to not appear like you’re a part of the “rebellion and drug culture” of the time. His talk makes sense. It’s reasonable and thought out and spoken with authority. It’s a far different message than I’ve gotten from some of my peers trying to tell me that I’m somehow “not honoring my Priesthood” by having a beard, even though they can’t explain to me through scripture or by plain reason why that would be so.

    I’m glad that I came across Elder Oaks’ talk. I plan to study it more in the future. I will use it, and other canonical sources, to form my own conclusions about personal appearance in the future, rather than relying on the uninformed opinions of others.

    I’d also like for anyone else to point out to me any links they can find about dress and grooming standards found in current or former Priesthood Manuals.

    Another interesting discussion I came across on this topic was in LDS Living, Lifestyle Section, entitled “Beards: Yes or No for LDS Men?” by Ashley Evanson. The views expressed in the comments section seem to touch on many of the thoughts I’ve had on this matter.

    I won’t treat other people who disagree with me about beards like garbage; so all I ask is the same respect. Remember that “love thy neighbor” is a greater commandment than “don’t wear a beard.” You’ll convince me better of your case if I see that you’re treating me with love.

    4. Being Single and a Little “Older”: A State of Sinfulness, or Simply a State of Life Created as a Product of Our Current Society?

    This is the big one. This the one I, and my other single friends, are sick of hearing about all the time. We’re sick of the advice. We’re sick of the prejudice. We’re sick of the elephant-in-the-room being constantly pointed out to us, especially by our married friends, family and leaders who either never knew what it was like to be a single adult for more than a couple of years, or who have been married so long that they’ve forgotten.

    I’m 32. I’ve been trying to get married for my entire adult life (sans the mission). I’ve read all the talks about marriage. I’ve improved myself socially and financially. I’ve listened to countless talks from Priesthood leaders rebuking me for not “trying” to get married. I’ve listened to the prophets and apostles reminding me at General Conference time to “not put off marriage.” I’ve read the church articles. I’ve actively gone on dates. I’ve been in serious relationships. I’ve followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I’ve gone to the temple. I’ve kept the commandments. I’ve fasted and I’ve prayed. I’ve prayed and I’ve prayed and I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed.

    So then what?

    So after all that, people will say to me that “You’re trying too hard,” or (laughably) that “You’re not trying hard enough!” or “You’re not dating “enough,”‘ or the always favorite, “It was easy for me, what’s your problem? “

    Whoah.

    Stop.

    No.

    You didn’t just go there.

    You didn’t just act like you had the right to judge me.

    You didn’t just act like you had the ability to see inside my heart.

    You didn’t just act like you had the authority to take away my agency and make my choices for me.

    You didn’t just disrespect me by saying that the one thing that matters most to me, the one thing that I’ve wanted the most in my adult life (for more than ten years, no less), the one personal decision that can only involve me, the Lord, and the person I will eventually marry, is any business of yours.

    Wait a second, yes you did. You did if you asked me any of those questions. You did if you judged me based solely on my marital status, and not on the worth of my soul (see Doctrine and Covenants 18:10 and note that it doesn’t say, “the worth of the “married” soul”). And you did if you’ve treated me with the same bigotry I and my fellow single adults have experienced for much of our adult lives (bigotry from our fellow Latter-day Saints, ironic since those are the ones who are supposed to love and appreciate and nurture and fellowship and be understanding and kind towards us).

    Do I sound angry?

    You bet I’m angry.

    Do I sound preachy?

    I certainly hope so. I would call our entire culture and society to repentance if it were within my power and authority and stewardship.

    But it’s not within my stewardship.

    And that’s kind of my point.

    What is my stewardship? Or rather what is my responsibility?

    As far as marriage goes, it’s to do all the things I’ve already listed as far as living a righteous life goes, in order to accomplish what the Lord has planned for me.

    What’s the Church Leadership’s responsibility?

    To preach repentance to all people, generally. That’s why they are “General” Authorities, they “generally“ don’t make house calls. They live that to the “specific“ authorities.

    Who are these magical “specific” authorities and what’s their responsibility?

    They’re our local church leaders and their job is to get to know me personally, on an individual level, and not as a number. Unfortunately, in my case I’ve too-often experienced many local leaders just passing off the “general” advice from the General Authorities, and not taking the time to address my individual needs, or to follow the Spirit or the counsel of our Lord from the scriptures to “leave the ninety and nine, and seek out the one” (Luke 15:4).

    Oh, and what is your responsibility?

    To butt out.

    Seriously.

    If you’re a jerk to me, or a prude, or a gossip, or condescending, or a loud-talking, butting-in, non-listening, holier-than-thou know-it-all who has never experienced what it’s like to be single into your thirties and treated like a pariah for years, than I won’t care what you have to say.

    If, on the other hand, you are a nice, kind, loving, listening, patient, understanding friend of mine, I will probably be more apt to listen to your opinion and have a pleasant conversation with you on the subject.

    You see, the thing with me is that I’ve studied marriage. I’ve studied the scriptures and the words of the prophets and apostles, and although much has been said about marriage, I’ve never come across the phrase, “Thought shalt get married at X age.” The reason for that is that each person is different and we each need to trust in the Lord’s timing. Not mom’s timing, not Brother Brown’s timing, not cousin Fran or Sister Betty-Lou’s or Bishop Christensen’s timing. The Lord has this worked out. Stop trying to get in his way. He will let me know when the right time is for my marriage.

    P.S. For those of you anxious to quote to me the ole’ “Menace to Society if over the age of 25,” quote: forget it. That quote doesn’t exist. It was either falsely attributed to Brigham Young, or it was said by Brother Brigham in jest or as a personal opinion, or it was said by some other early church leader as a joke or personal opinion. Don’t believe me? Research it. I did. A good place to start would be LDS Living’s article: “Are Single LDS Men Really A “Menace to Society”?” by Jessica Carter, and the Deseret News’ article: “Legend of ‘menace to society’“ from December 15th, 2002.

    If you want an actual documented quote on marriage from a modern-day Prophet that is actually in one of our actual canonical manuals, than you need look no further than a quote by Spencer W. Kimball from our current Sunday School Manual (see “Gospel Principles“ Ch. 38: “Eternal Marriage” Pg. 222, 1st Paragraph).

    P.P.S. As Jeffery Parkes reminded me, the point of my arguments here are to try help others understand that many of the things we do in LDS culture that we think of as “commandments,” may just be extra traditions that our society has added on here and there over the years. In the right time and place, some of these extra traditions can be good, some are bad, and some are downright awful, but none of them should be the status-quo.

    If we don’t search, ponder, and pray to know the difference between what is an actual commandment, and what is simply a cultural tradition, then we risk making the same mistake that the Scribes and Pharisees did, by building a “hedge around the law.“

    (Phew! That was a long post! As always, thank you, Jeffery, for letting me rant on your blog wall. I’ll expect 75% of the proceeds from likes and clicks. Also, if this coment is full of grammatically errrs, then I blam it on auto-corect.)

    July 12, 2015 at 12:36 am

  4. P.P.P.S. A good source for the “hedge around the law” quote that I quoted above is this article: http://www.bible-history.com/Scribes/THE_SCRIBESA_Fence_Around_the_Law.htm

    Something else that I feel I can relate to from that article is that “Jesus came into conflict with the Scribes often because He and His disciples did not observe their traditions.”

    July 12, 2015 at 1:05 am

  5. Pingback: Is it wrong to watch TV or sports on Sunday? | “Commandment?” or “Tradition?” Let’s Find Out!

  6. melissa

    This is an interesting read. for anyone reading my comments that does not know, I am Johnathan’s aforementioned sister. 🙂 I agree with many things both Jeff and Johnathan commented on. I spent alot of my young womenhood desiring that our activites would consist of more things than crafts, vollyball, and girls stuff. I even suggested more than once that, heaven forbid, we do something like learn how to fix a flat tire, or change the oil on a car. (because heaven knows there is not going to be a knight in shining armor ready to help every time a girls car breaks down) I actually figured out that if I was going to learn about these things I would have to do them on my own, which I did in a college course, but I digress…my point is that there are many lds cultural norms that are not necessarily doctrine. Both my husband and I went to Ricks College (BYU-I) and saw the interesting responses to beards. My husband was also looked down on many times for drinking Pepsi. One of his most adament, and might I say silly, roomates even refused to touch a box of the “pernicious nector” when my husband asked him for help taking the groceries out to the car. The Gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints is true and it is senseble. it is the members who at times are not. I totally agree with Johnathan that it is up to each individual to know when, who, and where it is the right time to get married. I met my husband at Ricks. We had a “lengthy” 😉 courtship of two and a half months, and after only a week of actual “dating” we got engaged. Most people say “Wow” or jokingly comment that we are a product of Ricks, but I am here to attest that if I and my husband had not been spiritually where we were supposed to be, we would have missed the Spirital clues that lead to that decision. I had been praying and preparing myself for years so not only that I could meet the right Eternal mate for myself, but so I could be the the help meet my eternal companion needed me to be. My husband has told me many times that he was prepared before he met me. And all during the dating process and especially after we decided to get married i spent many hours counseling with the Lord at whether this was the correct decision. My husband and I also spent countless hours together before we were engaged dicussing our hopes and dreams, our desires out of life, our past experiences, everything. We got to know each other as much as possible mentally. This is what I think prepared us the most to be married. Each person is prepared in thier own way and in thier own time and, in conjunction with the Lord, they are the ones who dictate when it is thier “time” to get married. Not anyone else.
    On the comment about “proper” Sunday observance:
    Both Johnathan and I were brought up to respect the Sabbath Day. I have spent many years teaching my children the importance of this observance. Sometimes it is very basic. Thus my daughter’s comment. But I have also taught them that each person welcomes the Spirit in thier own way. Each persons idea of family time is different from others. And although our family does not normally watch sports on Sunday, it was really nice to spend the time as a family and experience that once in a life time game. Our family Sunday observance after church changes from week to week. Sometimes we listen to music. Sometimes we watch “Sunday” movies. Sometimes we play games. All are activities centered around our family. But no matter what we do, my counsel to my kids has always been that there is always special exceptions to Sunday worship. We have helped neighbors with thier animals on the Sabbath. We have had to go to the store for emergency items for sick family members. We have had to repair heaters and cut and haul in wood for warmth on Sunday. Some people have to work on Sunday and that is the way life is. My husband is a Nurse. He works at a nursing home and because of that he is called upon many times to work on Sunday. And although I would prefer him to spend Sunday with our family, I am proud of him for spending his Sabbath day helping the sick and the needy. He is lucky here in Utah that he has the opportunity to partake of the Sacrament while at work. (A ward meets in the building for residents who wish to attend) We have lived many places where this luxury wasn’t an option. Just like everything we do, our Sunday observance is between us and the Lord.
    Well, to conclude, I guess I just have to reiterrate that it is the Gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ that we follow, not her members and each person needs to remember that. I am greatfull for constant revelation from our Father in Heaven through our Prophet. And that I have the opportunity to pray to my Heavenly Father and recieve answers to my questions. I know that if we all just remember to do that it won’t matter what the Jones’ think about our life or our actions. After all…. the only person who will be standing with us as we are being judged up in Heaven will be the great Mediator Jesus Christ. 🙂

    July 12, 2015 at 3:25 pm

  7. I appreciate your comments, Melissa.

    July 12, 2015 at 5:29 pm

  8. Also, we must be related, as it seems neither of us is capable of posting a response in less than 10,000 words.

    July 12, 2015 at 5:31 pm

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