Friday, September 28, 2007

Theories

Over the past few months I've been working out some theories of mine - theories which I can use to guide me on my journey. Theories which help me understand the meaning of life.

My first theory I've blogged about before:
Girls are weird.

Does anybody understand girls? Straight guys certainly don't understand them. Gay guys haven't a chance of ever understanding them. Sometimes I wonder if other girls even understand them.


My second theory is one I've alluded to in recent comments on other blogs:

Straight guys are boring.

I'm still refining this theory; but, think about it - the only thing most straight guys ever want to talk about is sports, cars, and girls. It all starts when they are teenagers - I've worked with the youth in the church for most of my adult life and have witnessed it on numerous occasions. As they near that magical age of 16, most young men go through some sort of metamorphosis where they get memorized by the mere scent of perfume and gasoline. Now, the scent of sweaty guys, I can kind of understand that one a little. But, come on, it's a girl, it's a car - get over it, let's go do something fun.


This morning, after reading the latest blog entry by Romulus titled Re-evaluation, a new theory is starting to brew in my mind:

Mormons are goofy.

I'm referring specifically to the Mormon culture, not the religion (although, admittedly, there are some who consider the religion kind of goofy, but I'll leave that as a corollary to be worked out by someone else). For example,

  • Where did this whole don't drink caffeinated beverages come from? I once had a missionary companion who believed we should avoid caffeine in any form and in any amount - including chocolate. When we taught investigators about the word of wisdom, he would actually tell them that they would have to give up chocolate - a point of serious contention between us. He was totally unfazed when I pointed out that they sell chocolate desserts in the cafeteria at the Temple. But, in a sense, I could understand where he was coming from. If caffeine in beverages is bad then why is it OK in food products? As a young neophyte Mormon, I even asked that question. The response I invariably got was that the level of caffeine in chocolate is much lower than in coffee. But, if caffeine is bad, at what level does it become OK? As I matured in my Mormonhood, I started to ask where it was written that we were to avoid caffeinated beverages? Nobody has ever been able to point me to any official statement stating such. All I've ever gotten is explanations like "my aunt has a friend whose cousin attended a regional conference where the general authority in attendance said ...". My only conclusion is that Mormon's who believe we shouldn't drink caffeinated beverages are full of hooey. And, so I partake (I prefer Coke over Pepsi). On my mission, we had a secret combination of Elders who drank coke. We called ourselves the "Church of cheese and rice of rattle day snakes".
  • On a similar vein, who thought up that ridiculous notion that face cards are evil and of the devil? I've always been amazed at Mormon's who see nothing wrong with playing poker with Rook cards; but, let them catch you playing gin rummy with face cards and they start dusting off the bottom of their feet. This one I've actually done a fair amount of research on. The only thing I ever came up with was a talk from the early part of last century that equated card playing with wasting time - that poor GA is probably rolling over in his grave as he sees video games and other clever ways we've come up with to waste time even more effectively.
  • Have you ever heard a general authority come right out and say we aren't supposed to watch R-rated movies? No, I doubt you have. They tell us: "Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable." (For the Strength of Youth, p.17) Some simpleton has translated that to say that R-rated movies are inherently vulgar, immoral, and/or pornographic - the implication being that PG-13, PG, and G rated moves are uplifting, moral, and clean. I've got news for you - there are some PG and PG-13 movies out there which are pretty vulgar, immoral, and even pornographic. And, there are some R-rated movies which are none of those. Something else to consider. As I understand it, Canada has a rating system similar to that of the US; however, there are some movies which are R-rated in the US, but PG rated in Canada. Does that mean it's OK for Canadian saints to watch them but not US saints? Now, I'm not saying this to justify me watching R-rated movies. Quite the contrary - I don't watch popular R-rated movies - period. The simple reason is that I work extensively with the youth in the church - and they will sometimes ask, point blank, if I've seen a certain popular movie. It's much easier to just be able to respond "No" then to either lie or say "Yes, but ..." and go off into a tirade about how some R-rated movies can be OK (much like I did above). Now, I didn't say I don't watch any R-rated movies. I specifically qualified my statement by saying popular R-rated movies. A guilty pleasure of mine is to watch gay-themed R-rated movies. But, I have little fear of a church youth ever asking me "have you seen Latter Days?" If one ever does then I guess I'm pretty much screwed.
  • "... when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. " (Mosiah 2:17). I believe very much in giving service to others. This is a principal I've tried to instill in my children. But, in the LDS church, I've seen service gone awry. For example, I once saw a brother putting up chairs after church. I went up to him and pointed out that the ward that follows us will need the chairs setup. Undaunted, he continued putting the chairs away saying "I don't want to deny them the blessings they will get from setting up chairs." Uh huh!
  • Some Mormons take great pride in their pioneer heritage, and that's OK. But, I've seen some take this even further - as if having Mormon pioneer ancestors who came across the plains somehow makes them better, smarter, or more qualified. My grandfather was a drunken bastard who died before I was even born - so what! That has no bearing on who I am. And your Mormon pioneer ancestors have no bearing on who you are. You and you alone are responsible for who you turn out to be.

Don't get me wrong - I love Mormon's - I love being a Mormon. Some church leaders have told us "we are a peculiar people" - and I guess some have taken that statement literally and have gone to great lengths to be peculiar - even to the point of being goofy.

9 comments:

Foxx said...

To address three of your points about Mormon culture, the quick answer is that they are remnants of older expectations. While you will almost never hear talk of caffeine, face cards, or R-rated movies at General Conference anymore, they were once topics of frequent discussion in Church magazines and meetings. Some examples, which were common in another generation of Mormonism, as found on lds.org:

•In the Word of Wisdom the Lord so narrowed down the width of the road leading to good health that, among other things, he placed alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine out of bounds. None of the several million American alcoholics or the other millions of lung cancer victims ever deliberately headed for the dreadful places at which they finally arrived. They made their mistakes merely by making the road broad enough for some extra indulgences in the wrong things.

•“It must be added that relaxation from the regular duties of the day is desirable and necessary for human well-being. Wholesome games of recreation are advocated by all right-minded people. Moreover, the … objections [to card playing] are not directed against the many and various card games on the market not employing the usual ‘playing cards.’ Most of these furnish innocent and wholesome recreation, and many are really instructive. It is true that they may be played to excess, but in fact it seldom happens. This is true even when such cards are used in games imitating those with ‘playing cards.’ It is true that such cards may be used for gambling purposes, but in fact it is almost never done. The pall of evil seems to rest upon the ‘playing cards’ handed down to us from antiquity” (Evidences and Reconciliations, Murray & Gee, 1943, pp. 218–19).

The R-Rated movie prohibition was declared by President Ezra Taft Benson:
• All too often, we get ourselves enmeshed in the process of trying to understand why God gave us a particular commandment. We want to rationalize. I don’t know where that is more evident than in watching movies. Young people know they should not watch R- or X-rated movies, and yet time after time I hear them say, “Well it’s only rated R because it’s violent.” What difference does it make why it is rated R? The fact is, a prophet of God has said not to go to R-rated movies (see, for example, Ezra Taft Benson, “To the ‘Youth of the Noble Birthright,’ ” Ensign, May 1986, 45). That ought to be good enough.

I have the links to each article if you want them.

Beck said...

Foxx beat me to the punch. I think there is also, as I remember, a detailed description of the negative affects of caffeine in Legrand Richard's "Marvelous Work and a Wonder", though I don't have time to look it up so you'll have to take that for what it's worth.

As for the R-rated movies, that was pounded hard during Pres. Benson's period as Foxx stated. For family members of mine who come from outside this country, hearing such guidelines doesn't mean anything to them. They live in a country where no such rating system exists. They interpret the Prophet's guidelines to be an admonition of personal interpretation of what is uplifting and edifying and not by some movie marketing rating bureau. Thus, in their country, they see movies that may be rated R here in the USA, and won't see movies that are rated PG-13 here as well.

As for pioneers, my dear ancestor worked herself to near death to make enough money to send her family one by one to America and eventually to Zion. Her dying wish was to be buried in Zion. She made it to SLC on the railroad in 1874 and ended up living another ten years and is buried in the SLC cemetery. Because, however, she came by railroad, she isn't considered by "purists" as a Mormon pioneer. And my mother is a convert - the first in her family. As far as I am concerned, she's definitely the definition of a pioneer.

Mormons are funny. Culture sometimes (a lot of the time) gets ahead of gospel principles.

Young men are funny. Girls, cars and sports, (and doing stupid things like knocking over mailboxes) pretty much sums them up.

I love girls - at least my daughters. I've decided they are more level-headed and less moody than my teenage son.

Abelard Enigma said...

Well then, I guess there are some historical reasons for these idiosyncrasies. You've obviously done your homework as nobody has ever been able to give me such succinct answers when I asked very specific questions about these after joining the LDS church in college. I guess there are certain advantages with growing up protestant and not having all of that unnecessary baggage heaped upon me as a youth.

President Ezra Taft Bensen also said "The living Prophet is more important to us than a dead Prophet." As you pointed out, the living prophets ain't saying much about these things any more. So, I will continue to indulge in diet Coke, playing face cards, and the occasional gay themed R-rated movie - without guilt. Heck, I may even do all 3 at the same time :)

One thing I am confused about - I joined the church under President Kimball; so, I was a member under President Bensen (RM, married in the temple, and raising a family) - and I don't recall him pounding on about R-rated movies. Maybe I was sleeping, I don't know. Or, maybe he did most of his pounding in the Wasatch Front :)

And, btw, just because girls are weird doesn't mean I don't love them :) Heck, I even love straight guys - even if they are boring.

Max Power said...

Abe,

This may be my favorite post of yours, ever.

I'm with you on the Diet Coke wagon. Hmmm, would it be a double sin if they made Chocolate Diet Coke and I drank it?

And if I'm sinning by playing spider solitaire on my computer at work (since it uses face cards), then I'm screwed.

Abelard Enigma said...

would it be a double sin if they made Chocolate Diet Coke and I drank it?

A couple of weeks ago I would have answered "Yes, that is a sin" - just because it sounds disgusting. But, for my wife's birthday, my son made her a Dr. Pepper cake, which had chocolate in it - and it was actually pretty tasty. I suspect a Coca-cola cake would be equally tasty. So a chocolate diet coke might not be bad either. Hmmmm, maybe we should start a letter campaign to Coca-cola.

Chedner said...

I think a Dr. Pepper cake sounds good right now... in fact, make it an ice-cream based cake, and I think I'd be very satisfied.

MoHoHawaii said...

I have to agree with you on straight men... dull as dirt for the most part.

There's nothing that makes my eyes glaze over faster than a rehash of last night's game. What is it about all that sports talk?

Another funny thing about straight men is that they are usually clueless about women. They know more about what's under the hood of their car than what's under the hood of their wife's clitoris. I mean, seriously.

(Sorry for the mention of girl-parts.)

Foxx said...

President Ezra Taft Bensen also said "The living Prophet is more important to us than a dead Prophet."

That is not to say that one should not heed the counsel of a dead prophet. Otherwise, when President Hinckley dies, you're not culpable if you get your ears double-pierced or get a tattoo -- until the next prophet mentions it.

It just seems backwards to me to say, "The current prophet hasn't said anything about it, so I'll do what I like and ignore what dead prophets have said because a dead prophet said living prophets are more important." *shrug*

Abelard Enigma said...

We are talking specifically about cultural mores which can, and do, change over time. So, something a previous prophet may have once said on a particular topic could very well be obsolete today. For example, President Kimball used to say "every young man should serve a mission" - that mantra is not true today - the emphasis being on young men who have a firm testimony and a sincere desire to serve.