If I Were In Charge: Stop Counting Earrings

by: Mike S

April 27, 2011

This is the start of a new series which will run intermittently with the Science & Religion posts.  It is based on some of the comments from a previous post (Good vs Great: Iomega and General Conference Statistics) discussing Church membership statistics and where the Church may or may not be heading if recent trends are any indication.

In my opinion, there are some very real issues going on.  Convert rates are trending down.  The number of people formally leaving the Church is going up.  A whole generation of people from age 18-30 are inactive, with numbers suggesting 80-90% inactivity rates in this demographic.  For more discussion of these facts, please refer to the post.

The typical response to all of these is typically structural.  This past week, the Church reorganized student and YSA wards and stakes in response to the YSA activity rate.  On my mission there were various new programs.  They restructured the missionary discussions into the Preach My Gospel manual.  We change the manuals out of which we teach from time to time.  But, fundamentally, nothing really changes.  It’s like the proverbial rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.

This all leads to the point of this series.  My own theory is that there are specific things about the Church that don’t appeal to people.  There are artificial stumbling blocks that get in the way.  They may seem like molhills to some people, but to others they are mountains.  These are different for each person, but they are real.  For some members, these are “extra” things through which they might be able to “prove” something.  For many people, however, they are enough to get in the way of seeing the bigger picture.

So here are a few points for the series:

  • I have no interest in changing anything DOCTRINAL.  These are just going to be PRACTICES / POLICIES that we discuss.
  • These are obviously my own opinions.  They do not necessarily reflect anyone else’s thoughts, let alone the Church
  • I welcome discussion, so the original posts should just be starting points for civilized discussion.  Any personal experience with any of these would also be helpful as examples.

Some of the practices and policies we’ll cover in the future have their roots in the past.  Some of them have been around for so long that they may seem like how things HAVE to be.  To give an example of how this isn’t necessarily true, I want to start this first post with earrings.  This entire development happened in the past few years and is well documented.

Rather than retype it, I’m copying this from one of my own comments on the post referenced above about Church growth.  Here is the comment from there:

———
Regarding how things progress – take earrings.  It’s recent and well documented:

On Nov 12, 2000, President Hinckley gave a talk to youth and young single adults.  He said:

May I mention earrings and rings placed in other parts of the body. These are not manly. They are not attractive. You young men look better without them, and I believe you will feel better without them. As for the young women, you do not need to drape rings up and down your ears. One modest pair of earrings is sufficient.

And that’s about it.  He didn’t say “Thus saith the Lord…”  It was never an official commandment or policy.  He gave his opinion, which was probably an opinion shared by 99.9% of the men of his generation.

But, by May 10, 2005, Elder Bednar told a story – telling the following:

Sister Bednar and I are acquainted with a returned missionary who had dated a special young woman for a period of time. He cared for her very much, and he was desirous of making his relationship with her more serious. He was considering and hoping for engagement and marriage…

The young man waited patiently over a period of time for the young woman to remove her extra earrings, but she did not take them out. … he ultimately stopped dating the young woman, because he was looking for an eternal companion who had the courage to promptly and quietly obey the counsel of the prophet in all things and at all times.

So, now an opinion has been elevated to the level that a “special young woman” isn’t worthy of marriage because of an extra set of earrings.

It continues.  You cannot go to BYU if you have two sets of earrings and are a female.  You cannot even go if you are a High School student and want to go down to EFY.  And opinion has been elevated to a “commandment from the Lord”.

And this is symptomatic of one of the main points of the post.  Obedience to our leaders is obviously important, and I’m not arguing that it isn’t.  Obedience is an important part of our role on earth.

But, the Church continually raises hedges like this.  Now, the number of earrings may seem meaningless to you, but to someone else is it NOT meaningless.  To someone else, our focus on the superficial is enough that they have no interest in hearing our message on eternity.  And for someone else it may be that glass of wine with dinner.  They may be so confused by our focus on something that even Christ Himself drank that they have no interest in hearing that He actually appeared to Joseph Smith.

So, I’m NOT clamoring for a “lowering of standards” as some people have suggested. Instead, I suggest that perhaps we see if we can get rid of all the stumbling blocks.  Instead of “Mormonism” encompassing a list of hundreds of features, ranging from the truly amazing and sublime to the absolutely trivial, why not jettison the things that might be a stumbling block so we can truly focus on the few amazing things.

If something as trivial and non-eternal as the number of earrings someone has causes even a single person to stumble or perhaps not even investigate the Church, what purpose has that really served?

————

So, that’s the first post of the series.

  • What are your thoughts on earrings?
  • What are other topics you might find interesting to discuss?

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93 Responses to If I Were In Charge: Stop Counting Earrings

  1. Small Dog on April 27, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    I’m glad someone did a post on this because I’ve been thinking a great deal about this sort of thing lately: the use of physical/temporal/outwardly/whatever things as a spiritual yardstick to measure one’s inner faithfulness.

    You make an interesting point about how Pres. Hinkley never commanded anyone about the wearing of earrings but expressed his personal opinion on, I feel, how one would be perceived wearing multiple pairs (unmanly, etc.). It is other authorities and GAs who have evelvated this from prophetic counsel to prophetic commandment. There is an unsubtle distinction between the two.

    I can’t help but wonder how many other instances of “good advice” have been amped up into something used to take one’s spiritual temperature…

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  2. jks on April 27, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    I’ll say this as a mother of four children. One of the benefits of church/school/community/family has always been that children need more than parents to raise them. Parents are most important. But in today’s world it seems like there aren’t many places to get any support.
    Schools have to worry about crossing lines. Families are busier than ever. The media certainly doesn’t care.
    Sometimes when people nostagically think about the good old days it is because in 1960s ONE THIRD of the population in the US was under 18. Think about that. That means that more things were geared toward families and children.
    Nowadays, Hollywood just says its the parent’s job to monitor what the child sees, don’t expect any help from that quarter to care about what we are teaching and showing young people.
    So as a parents I don’t want church to refuse to tell my kids that hygeine is important or that tattoos and earrings are a bad idea. My children are clueless and there is so much to teach them.
    So very much.

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  3. Jayme on April 27, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    As a member of the “inactive generation,” I feel the need to comment. My single’s ward is to be relocating to another city, and while I find creating student/ysa stakes to be a great idea, I decided to return to my family ward. I have no desire to drive that far for something that can be obtained closer, with the same basic concepts and people being at both.

    As far as being inactive, a while back, I had a job requiring me to work every other Sunday; and it was really annoying to have to re-introduce myself to the same people every time I made it to church. At one point, when my records had been in the ward for months, I was asked if I was new. It was just easier to not go back.

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  4. jay on April 27, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    you could replace “earring” with “beards” and also have a good point.

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  5. Dan on April 27, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    stop counting earrings. stop bugging about smoking. stop bugging about drinking tea and coffee. baptize people and let them come to Christ. That’s what I say.

    if we can let an offensive gasbag like Glenn Beck into our church, or a vulgar guy like me, then surely we can a nice girl with five earrings.

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  6. Mike S on April 27, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    SmallDog: I can’t help but wonder how many other instances of “good advice” have been amped up into something used to take one’s spiritual temperature…

    That what this whole series is going to be about. We’ll get into a bunch of things.

    I do also think it’s interesting how non-committal President Hinckley’s original statement was when I went back to look it up. I was expecting something more than someone’s opinion, that’s probably the same opinion as anyone else that age.

    And it’s even more interesting to me how people need to “outdo” each other in how they interpret things. It went from an opinion to something worth cancelling a marriage over to something that I think the majority of people in the Church actually think is a policy. It became something that will keep you out of BYU. It’s kind of crazy.

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  7. Mike S on April 27, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    jks:

    I absolutely agree that it “takes a village” to raise children. I have four myself and am thankful for extended family, the Church, good friends, good neighbors, etc.

    The point of this post, however, is that earrings mean absolutely nothing about anything. It is a generational thing, not a doctrinal thing. The younger generation chooses their number of earrings as a fashion statement, just like a hair style or makeup.

    What I DON’T want is a church that even suggests that the number of earrings someone has means anything about their true character. I don’t want my children raised thinking that having more than one pair of earrings is somehow “not following the prophet”. I don’t want them to think that the person they see walking down the street with four earrings in is any more or less of a child of God than they are.

    That’s what I don’t want. Like you, I DO want the Church to focus on the good things it has to offer (which are many and beautiful).

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  8. Badger on April 27, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    Mike, Mike, Mike…grammatically correct either way? Stop counting earrings? Obviously you’re some kind of moral relativist!

    “Moral relativism” is often used as a term of disapproval, but in fact moral decisions are almost always relative in the limited sense that different moral principles may point in different directions in a given situation. Obedience, as you say, is important, but is it always right to make it our exclusive guide?

    In the gospels, Jesus shows anger about two matters: money changers in the temple, and the blind guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel, whited sepulchers full of dead men’s bones. We seem to be more comfortable remembering the first, but the gospels give a lot more time to the second. The fury of the language in Matthew 23 takes my breath away every time I read it. The lesson is reinforced by gentler means as Jesus forgives those who crucified him, associates with harlots, publicans, adulterers and Samaritans, and so on and on, without ever using harsh language.

    What is it that Jesus condemns in these passages? I would suggest it is hard to imagine the Bednar story being followed in the talk by a gospel passage quoting Jesus on the subject of scribes and Pharisees. At the same time, the message of Matthew 23 has to be deeper and broader than “stop counting earrings”.

    This aspect of the gospels, and the Rameumptom in the Book of Mormon, stand out in my mind as two scriptural messages that the Church as a whole has been unable to accept and integrate.

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  9. Mike S on April 27, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    #4 jay

    We’ll get there in a future post.

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  10. Jeff Spector on April 27, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    Mike S

    Great post. I do agree with your assessment to some degree. There is always going to be a separation of the Wheat and the Tares and I do not see the need for lowering the standards and commandments of the Church (as Dan has suggested). But, I do object to suggestions or opinion being elevated to commandment status.

    I personally do not like tattoos and would not have one. I have a son with a few and they are just dumb. I might feel different if they were really cool, but they are not.

    but, we are bound to have converts with Tattoos who want to live the Gospel to the fullest and so we have to be tolerant.

    And there is a dichotomy between preaching against tattoos from the pulpit and then condoning them at the PCC because they are a “cultural thing.”

    Well, guess what, they are now a cultural thing here as well.

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  11. SidneyRose on April 27, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    Thank you for this post. I can’t wait to read the responses.

    “To someone else, our focus on the superficial is enough that they have no interest in hearing our message on eternity.”

    I am a “someone else” that you are speaking of. I am a convert to the church, baptized in 1999 while in college.
    I love the doctrine of the church, growing up catholic, so many things in the LDS church just felt right to me.
    My husband is a big picture guy. He’s the kind of guy that wears colored shirts to church just because he knows he can. He can see the superficial things and look right past them because he knows they are crap. He can ignore the people in our church spouting off “church culture” as doctrine because in his heart he knows it doesn’t matter and they will not be the person whom he must answer to. Logically, I know that too.
    Realistically, I CAN NOT DO THAT! I have tried, but I can not see past it.

    Maybe because of my family who are not members, I can’t answer them when they ask. I can’t explain to them and when I try to do the whole, “that is culture not doctrine” I get back, “it sure seems like its the whole church” type of thing. And they are right, it may NOT be doctrine, but we treat it so and it make judgements based on it and to so many, it IS what we believe.

    I want my children to believe in God, to love and be comforted by all he gives us. I love that in primary they do lessons like “I am thankful for Insects and Bugs” and teach love and compassion and universal morality. Kids need that.
    But how can I raise my children in a church that teaches multiple earrings is a deal breaker?
    Pick any number of things… tattoos, caffeine, dating under the age of 16, swimming on a Sunday, running in a race on a Sunday (yeah, the Sunday thing is a tough one for me), tank tops, bikinis, rated R movies…. on and on and on….
    How can I believe in a God, how can I teach my children to believe in a God that would care about these trivial things?
    Not that I think everyone needs to do/wear/want these things. I think it is wonderful to have family rules. No dating until your 16? If I had a daughter maybe it would be 20! I’d rather my children did not tat up their bodies. But it would be MY rule, our family rule. I certainly wouldn’t try to force it on other people and I certainly do not believe in a God that would make final judgement based on those things.

    I’m trying to look past. I want to, mostly for my husband’s sake, but I just don’t understand. Friends trying to help tell me that it is not the church, its the people… I think the church is the people. We are what makes up the church. Maybe I didn’t see it 12 years ago. I was SO excited about that eternal message that I skipped the small stuff. Now the small stuff makes up my daily life and the life of my children as I am helping them learn. I don’t know how to look past it.

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  12. Mike S on April 27, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    Jayme:

    Sorry about your experience. It is certainly hard to go somewhere you are always “new”.

    I also think the whole YSA policy is wrong. The point of the Church should be to teach eternal truths. It shouldn’t be to recreate a “single’s bar” mentality where you go to find a potential mate.

    I am interested in your thoughts on some of the little nitpicky things like earrings or beards or things that have nothing to do with the gospel. Are these things that affect your peers and their attitude towards the Church? Or is there something deeper and more fundamentally wrong? Or is it just that you’re busy doing lots of different things at this stage in your life?

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  13. Mike S on April 27, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    Dan:

    We agree much more about this than we do economics. :-)

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  14. Jayme on April 27, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    Mike: That is exactly why I don’t feel bad about abandoning all of my student/ysa wards. I don’t see the difference in doctrine or spirit and I enjoy a family ward a lot more.

    As far as beards/earrings, I feel like guys get away with a lot more, yeah, they can’t have beards at BYU, but I go to UVU and I would say that close to half, if not more, of the males in my classes have beards. I even have professors with beards. I just don’t get the big deal about it. Earrings have never been a problem for me because I am just not super into jewelry. I try to wear earrings for nice days, but that’s about it.

    Also, I used to work for Disney World, and it actually had similar dress/appearance standards as Mormons so as to have a clean appearance.

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  15. doglover on April 27, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    I have to admit the “made up” rules bother our family. In the teacher’s quorum you must never roll up your sleeves. If you do, you get in big trouble. Their reasoning is that if you don’t look like a missionary you won’t behave. The quorum is a behavioral challenge and so they are focusing on outward appearances, but they believe you have to change the outside before you change the inside of a kid. My son (who of course is perfect) is so sick to death of made of rules that he keeps rolling up his sleeves just to tick them off. He is always in trouble, yet the kid w/sleeves down (one of which has substance abuse problems) is considered missionary material (and hopefully he is, all kids do stupid things and I hope he’ll change). I wonder how long we’ll be able to keep our son going to church.

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  16. Paul on April 27, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    I wonder if President Hinckley ever did anything to reign in those who used his earring comment to set new standards. Apparently not.

    It’s one thing to have a dress standard at a church school like BYU (where beards have long been verboten and short hair has been required on men) and quite another to forbid it for the whole church. Happily, in my ward, beards and earrings are welcome. I don’t hear anyone talking about them. Long-haired priests bless the sacrament each week.

    #4: Where has anyone from the pulpit in conference or a general meeting suggested there’s a problem with beards? (The only restriction I’m aware of is for temple service, and I’ve assumed it’s in deference to older temple patrons.)

    #15: I hear you. When I was a bishop (with a beard!) I can tell you we learned pretty fast that while we did recommend white shirts for the sacrament, we worried much more about what was going on in youth’s lives than what shirt they wore, what color their hair was or how often they’d been pierced. Getting them to feel the spirit will help them get to a point where they might choose to dress like a missionary.

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  17. Paul 2 on April 27, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    Elder Bednar is a very detail oriented person and very obedient to authority. It has worked really well for him and it makes sense to him to think his perspective is universal. Most people really do think that their perspective is more universal than the next guys.

    One thing I am trying is growing my hair out. My wife likes it, but it makes lots of men in the stake really uncomfortable. I have never publically violated a community standard before and it is surprisingly hard to feel comfortable when I see how uncomfortable some people are. It is a surprisingly strong experience.

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  18. Gilroy on April 27, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    Mike S-

    For one of your posts you could explore the Mormon repulsion to swearing. For example, when I told my mission companion that I was “so d@mn tired” of investigators lying to us, he freaked out. But he was totally comfortable throwing around “d0uchebag,” or “sucks.” Of course those words aren’t as bad as “d@mn.”

    Not too long ago I was talking to an RM, and I asked him what other missionaries did that had bothered him most. First thing he said was it really bothered him that some missionaries swore. I felt like saying, “Really? That bothered you more than ZLs who got on your case for being disobedient, and then turned right around and did worse things? Or missionaries who talked openly about screwing over new missionaries by selling them their used bicycles for much more than they were worth?”

    I could go on, but I think you get my point.

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  19. joe on April 27, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    It’s also interesting that President Hinckley said at a later date that he actually wanted to say NO earrings at all, even for ladies, but his wife talked him out of that. i don’t think we are talking about a direct commandment from on high, if the details were negotiable.

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  20. Will on April 27, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    Mike,

    Let us not forget that by “small and simple things are great things brought to pass”. This would imply the opposite, “avoiding the small and simple things would cause one to miss out on great things”. I see this in the work force – I see employees that dress like slobs and miss out on promotions as a result. I see employees that use foul or crude language and miss out promotions as a result. I just can envision one with tattoos, spiked hair, excessive earrings on dressed like a tramp in front of an important client. They are just not taken seriously. I don’t see why the church should be any different.

    For that matter, if I went to your office and you came out with tattoos or spiked hair or excessive piercings or were a man dressed like a woman; I would find another doc.

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  21. Gomes on April 27, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    Will:

    Does the clothes or hair make the person? It’s an employers prerogative to promote who they will, but I highly doubt the Lord holds the same standards… something about “your ways are not my ways” sort of mindset.

    Church can AND should be different because we’re not talking about Babylonian measures of worthiness. Church can AND should be different because the Lord himself was incredibly inclusive while we tend to be incredibly exclusive. We tend to think things are universal – i.e. if I don’t feel like I should be doing something, I tend to hold you to that standard as well, entirely forgetting that each of our paths are different (Sidebar: Mike, we should really read and apply Romans 14 to this discussion).

    Comment #8 said it best, but you might have skipped over it:

    “This aspect of the gospels [Matt 23], and the Rameumptom in the Book of Mormon, stand out in my mind as two scriptural messages that the Church as a whole has been unable to accept and integrate.”

    It’s amazing to me that we don’t see the parallels between that whole Rameumptom story and what we see in Church on a weekly basis, but that’s me.

    To the guy experimenting with long hair:

    I tried that from 2009-2010 and remember those feelings quite well. Coincidentally (or not) I didn’t have a calling that entire time – not even one was extended. I also had a beard (though I kept it mostly trimmed) at the time.

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  22. Mike S on April 27, 2011 at 8:21 PM

    Will:

    First of all, not coming to me as a doctor because of how I am dressed is absolutely your choice. I am free to dress however I want, and you are free to come to me or not. This is completely DIFFERENT from the point of this post.

    Also, that is a complete misapplication of the scripture about “small things”. Perhaps the best example of what we are talking about is around the time of Christ. By the time He lived here on earth, the Jews had added layers upon layers of “rules” to the basic gospel. It was all done by well-meaning religious leaders, but it got to the point of obscuring the primary message.

    Christ very specifically ignored all of the silly rules that got in the way, and refocused on the core of the gospel. And this obviously made the leaders mad. They chided him about ignoring the “small things”. And even for something as profoundly a part of the gospel as circumcision, He told them that didn’t mean anything either.

    So, at the end of the day, I completely disagree with you. I may be in the minority. I may be in the majority. Certainly, most of the current Church leadership agrees with you, adding more and more programs and rules to jump through.

    Some people actually like this. Perhaps having more and more requirements for “small things” makes them feel like they are accomplishing “great things”. I would argue, however, that it is NOT working. Converts are slowing. People are leaving. Young adults are showing this with their feet.

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  23. James on April 27, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    Some topics that come to mind that might be interesting

    1) The elevating of a particular type of appearance and equating it with righteousness. Such a post could also relate to perspectives like the one will presents where something like a second set of earrings or a discrete tattoo negate other aspects of professional appearance. (Obviously, this suggestion is related to the one you’ve written about here, but just on a broader scale)

    2) How conventions of the business world have become part and parcel with LDS policy, meeting style, dress and appearance, record keeping, and even terminology.

    3) How it came to be that political and economic conservativism became an adopted tenant of American Mormons. Particularly what could be interesting would be a discussion of how the church’s obvious interest in socially conservative perspective eventually extended (in the minds of many) to political and economic conservative perspectives. For example, I get why the church would involve itself in “moral” matters, but how did it come to be that members saw not only social concerns like the ERA or Prop 8 as relevant to discipleship, but also issues like Supply-side economics or political ones like distribution of power or regulation in general. What is it that first connects the moral social issues to the political ones, and then to perceived orthodoxy within the church?

    4) How conventions of appropriate discussion have come to lead to the conflation of disagreement and debate with contention (which is of the devil). For example, most Sunday Schools I’ve ever been in grow noticeably tense when someone expresses disagreement with another, even if it is done in a very non-confrontational manner.

    5) The updated reasoning for maintaining archaic pronouns and verbal declensions in prayer. In languages that continue to use formal and informal pronouns, it seems that most use the informal mode to represent the intimacy one has with God. Compare that with how our once intimate mode of the informal thee/thou etc are not discussed as being used to heighten intimacy with God, but rather the opposite: to maintain formal respect (which is very different from the original reasoning for the use of that type of terminology).

    6) The development, or rather maintenance of earlier views, of a “black and white” view of morality, and a perspective where every action is either moving someone closer to God, or closer to the Devil. I thought about this often when I was young when topics of music would come up and people would condemn music that doesn’t invite the spirit, and the I would reflect that the day before I was a at a Stake dance and we were dancing to Beastie Boys or something like that. Why do we want to erase morally neutral ground, such as dancing to dance music at dances.

    7) Taking the sacrament with the right hand.

    8) Viewing our obligation to care for the poor as fulfilled by paying a fast offering (this has been my experience at least in the wards I’ve been in across multiple western states).

    9) Viewing art (in broad terms: painting, sculpture, music, literature, film, etc) in predominately moralistic terms e.g. if art uplifts (read: makes you feel good) then it is good and of God, and if it does anything else it should generally be avoided.

    10) Emphasizing obedience over agency. This may be an overly reductive way of viewing this practice, but it seems that we hear from the pulpit often that even if your conscience says something else, you should just do what your priesthood leader tells you and you will be blessed. I wonder how far back this approach to authority extends. Why is it that obedience is so often cast as obedience to church leaders, rather than obedience to the revelations and promptings of the spirit one may receive?

    11) As far as policy and practice go, how much regional variance is there? How much variation exists in the implementation of policy in California, in Utah, in Oklahoma, and in Maryland, and for that matter, how about from country to country? Do the policies that seem like stumbling blocks in the western United States have the same existence around the world?

    12) Why don’t more women wear pants to church (as they do in the professional world)? Non-white shirts on men is a pretty common sight (even if some do look down on it), but pants on women are far rarer in my experience, even though in the business world they are common fare. (I guess this is also a question of how appropriate church dress for men still very much resembles what is appropriate professional dress, but with women such a parallel does not run as closely at all. If men take their church fashion ques from what is popular in professional business, where are women getting their ques?)

    I think that is enough for now. It’s more than likely my suggestions are just too obvious, or not all that interesting, so I should probably stop amusing myself with coming up with topics. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the future of the “If I Were In Charge” series. I think it will be great!

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  24. James on April 27, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    hahaha.

    That should be a number “8” but apparently an 8 and a ) get translated as 8)

    That made me smile.

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  25. James on April 27, 2011 at 8:44 PM

    Mike S, that was a great response to will. I think your thinking makes a lot of sense.

    And Will, I hope my endorsement of Mike’s response to you doesn’t sound like a mob mentality support or anything. I think you’re right to think about how, on an individual level, little things in our lives have an impact on the larger issues, but such thinking can easily turn into a slippery slope fallacy, and that is why it seems to me that focusing on earrings as an indicator for righteousness can potentially be more detrimental than helpful for a person’s spiritual growth.

    As an aside, when Mike S said “Certainly, most of the current Church leadership agrees with you, adding more and more programs and rules to jump through” I had a question come to mind that may be another suggestion for a future post, or may just be a curiosity on my part. The idea of correlation in the church, as well as adding more programs and rules (regulations) seems to use a similar logic that liberal politics uses. I wonder how people see the centralization of administrative power of the church as different from the same thing in the government? How is it that a predominately conservative church membership supports something in church administration that is adamantly opposed in government administration? I know the simple answer is that “the church and state are different,” but I wonder in what substantive ways are they different, and why that difference makes such a paradox possible? In other words, why does something work for the church that wouldn’t work for the government? Or the other obvious response I’d be interested in is if people see a substantive difference between the approach of church and government administration (effectively rendering my comparison false), then what are those specific differences?

    I do apologize if the latter part of this comment is not on topic and results in a thread jack. I probably shouldn’t even post it, but since I see how it could be relevant to a future post on the relationship between church policy and political perspectives, I thought I’d post it, even if it leads to a side discussion.

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  26. Gomes on April 27, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    James:

    Fantastic points above.

    I did have one thought on your last comment:

    How is it that a thoroughly conservative majority in the church clamors for “transparency” at all levels of business, charities and, especially, government somehow not ask for any transparency at all within the Church?

    For instance, a none-too-small portion of LDS members are religiously conservative and are more than willing to call for “transparency” within the Federal Gov’t and the (not really) Federal Reserve with regards to its finances, where the money is going and why. However, you enter in the Church and they not only donate money hand-over-fist year in and year out, but have specifically stated (to me) that we have no right to even ask where it’s going (which is contrary to the practice of the church even 50 years ago).

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  27. Gomes on April 27, 2011 at 9:33 PM

    P.S.

    Mike + Others:

    Some of the thoughts shared here and in the initial post were touched on here on a satirical piece about the recent Japanese Tsunami. Some great nuggets of wisdom (IMO) both there AND in the comments that followed.

    From that this particular comment I loved:

    =======

    I like to divide up what some call “the church” into three categories: a 501 3 (c) corporation; a “church” and then there is the “Kingdom of God.” We confuse and conflate the three with each other. The corporate aspect which has grown and dominated IMO policies and everyday operations more and more with the passing years. Corporations engage in corporate behavior and it is simply a tool of the “church; the “church” is amalgamation of entities/structures that like the corporation is also a tool to do what? Create people that are fit to enter what Jesus called “The Kingdom of God.” Jesus did not IMO say my “Kingdom” consists of such and such corporations/structures/ and He did not outline an organization profile–that came later after He was gone. Rather He described a quality of persons that those that become part of His Kingdom have: they are those that live consistent with his teachings—love all including enemies; merciful, pacifist essentially, etc. etc. In the end IMO the only issue is whether I/you/we are “kingdom” like people—we either are or we are not. Elder Robbins in last general conference gave a very profound talk on this subject—it is about “being” and not just “doing.” I can do all a church, our church requires but still be a self-absorbed narcissistic pharisee that despises the poor, grinds the face of the “others’ and hates my enemies–and everyone is my enemy who does not think and act as I do. I have grown very weary of hearing “the CHURCH is true.” It is becoming increasingly irrelevant to me to hear that or I am certain that it does not mean the same thing to those that seem a need to parrot that constantly. On the other hand, I can be a Buddhist, JW, or heaven forbid a Muslim and have the “pure love of Christ in my heart and deeds and if so I believe such a person is in fact part of the Kingdom of God. Isaiah said it best when describing the final kingdom: “FOR MORE ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THEN THE MARRIED WIFE” in that final kingdom. And they will come from “north,south, east and west”. Jesus of Nazareth understood this. He told those that held the legal authority of the priesthood that these sinners, publicans, samaritans, losers will “enter the kingdom before you will.”

    anyway, this is going too long and maybe should be initiated by another post, but I am less and less interested in someone telling me they have some nugget of truth or truths or that they have the nicest or “truest” car or church but rather tell and show me if you are a sheep or goat as described in Matthew 25—do you have compassion for the least or not? Do you serve the least and give them voice or do you simply have an “us v. them” mentality on everything–do you simply use, as CS Lewis expressed so well, your “church” and its image for self aggrandizement and to constantly reinforce your “chosenness” over all creation—being chosen you see all things and people subjugated to “your” ends/desires as is manifest in wars of aggression because you see “god on your side” to despising/grinding the face of those in your own community—the very, very least whether it is illegal immigrants (our version of Samaritans); Muslims; non-mormons; and even those who have the misfortune of same sex attraction.

    Church can be used for good or for evil–just as a car can. I can drive my car to do much good or I can plow down the street honking my horn for all to get out the way, blaring my music and gloating in my shiny, new vastly superior car and running over anyone that gets in my way—all the time indifferent to my environment and all on the side of the road. Like you I see and sense much of the later at least in the mormon corridor where I live. this web site exists as a push back to what I perceive as a large, boisterous majority here that endorse wars of aggression, despise the poor in a myriad of ways, grind the face of the poor, uninsured (try getting medical help without insurance); condemn illegal aliens, and any that are “others.” Then proclaim loudly “we are true” and have “truth.” Whatever that means.

    IMO no church is eternal and it morphs all the time as it should (the BOM demonstrates that well) –the only thing that is eternal is our intelligences/souls and relationships—that’s it—. Something is “true” only to extent it moves us toward being more like Jesus of Nazareth who embodies the perfect prototype. Mormonism has many truths/elements that speak to us to be stewards and emulate christ, but it also can and is used as a platform much like those who Lehi saw in a great and spacious building “pointing a finger of scorn” to the suffering “losers” such as those that are victims of disasters, illegal immigrants, poor, etc. etc. …..the City Creek mall (billions to create an edifice for the well connected and pretty people) being like the COB literally dwarfing the temple grounds. So we chose how to use and interpret our “mormonism” and our “church.” How we interpret it and use it IMO determines whether it is “true” or rather good. The jury is still out and even in doubt (see 3 Nephi 16 and Mormon 8 warnings to us).

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  28. Stephen Marsh on April 27, 2011 at 10:02 PM

    Well, while my next post is on economics again ( http://www.wheatandtares.org/2011/04/28/where-does-money-come-from-more-economics-on-the-way-to-zion-and-utopia/ ) I have also been thinking about “what is a Church?” since there has been a lot going on in that area.

    I’m wondering again if a Church ought not to be an ethnic group, which means that the Old Testament type group markers would be important, the only question being which ones.

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  29. Ron Madson on April 27, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    #27–thanks Gomes for linking my post and my follow up comment….

    And Mike S. this is a IMO a highly relevant topic. I am personally convinced that when a faith community begins to move more and more towards emulating Jesus of Nazareth, then that community becomes increasingly inclusive/universal, whereas, the more a faith begins to worship its’ own image then it becomes increasingly exclusive. The Pharisees/Zoramites, and their types wanted to raise the bar constantly. Their reach was vertical believing that in constructing their own tower of babel founded on conceit they would be saved while leaving more and more excluded. Whereas, Jesus came seeking horizontal relationships and was a study in inclusivity–descending below all things and embracing everyone.

    So where does that put us today? In the ultimate act or irony are we unwittingly become like the Zoramites the ones pointing the finger of scorn at those that do not measure up to “our” commandments/ rules, etc.?

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  30. Badger on April 27, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    From Gomes @21: It’s amazing to me that we don’t see the parallels between that whole Rameumptom story and what we see in Church on a weekly basis, but that’s me.

    I think the problem is rather that the parallels are too obvious to overlook. It makes the subject too fraught for open discussion. When the Pharisees come up in Gospel Doctrine class, does anyone want to be the troublemaker pointing out that we have leaders greeted as Elder, President, and Bishop, who occupy the chief seats in our churches? Is there any point to an argument in which “no earrings” competes with “no legalism” for the status of greater commandment? It’s a minefield.

    So it is left up to individuals to do what they can with it on their own. We can all enjoy quietly judging each other as disobedient or Pharisaical. Some of us will find our way past that approach to something better, but it’s a handicap to have such limits on discussion.

    However, there are pretty strong incentives to avoid the uncomfortable topics. I don’t think it’s an easy problem to solve.

    Gomes, I like your recommendation of Romans 14. My first experience with that chapter was at the age of 10 or so. Our Sunday school teacher didn’t approve of one of here teenage son’s friends, and he quoted “judge not” to her. She told us of her triumph in finding Romans 14:13 (judge…rather, that no man put a a stumblingblock…in his brother’s way). It was ok! She wasn’t judging the friend, she was only judging his stumblingblock-ness. Take that, rebellious teenager! Sometimes you can’t beat human nature.

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  31. Aaron L on April 27, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    “I have no interest in changing anything DOCTRINAL. These are just going to be PRACTICES / POLICIES that we discuss.”

    If only there was a reliable way to tell a difference between the two. Unfortunately, the line is pretty blurry, no matter which standard you choose to use to judge.

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  32. James on April 27, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    I really need to go to bed and stop noticing all the ways I make myself look incompetent.

    In 23, “ques” should be “cues.”

    What the heck was going through my head when I wrote that? Maybe I was hungry for some queso and wanted to watch something in my netflix queue, and thus “que” was born. I hereby claim the term “que” as indicating a desire to eat cheese while watching something from your netflix queue. It can be either verb or noun, as in: “I really want to que right now”; or, “I really need to cut back on my ques.”

    So, happy queing!

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  33. joe on April 28, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    the 90% inactivity rate of YSAs is not perhaps as startling a number as it appears. from the previous posts it looks like there is overall a 75% inactivity rates for the general body, so that just means that YSAs are only a little more likely to be inactive, which makes sense given all the other factors involved.

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  34. rob on April 28, 2011 at 1:43 AM

    Some thoughts:
    The number of earrings or the color of your shirt while in church have nothing to do with your relationship with Christ.

    My sweetheart once mentioned I should wear “priesthood white” while performing a blessing. I shared with her it never occurred to me that the color of my shirt would have an effect on the spirit or authority of the pristhood while giving a blessing.

    At the beginning of a conference talk many years ago N. Eldon Tanner said he thought labor union leaders were guilty of leading men astray (this must have been in conjunction with a strike at the union pacific railroad or some other corporation in which the LDS church has a financial interest)I was stunned to read that remark by a counselor of the prophet.

    I was then a very active union president and led many an organizing fight in order to secure better wages and benefits for workers and their families. While I was upset with it I realized it was not a pronouncement of scripture. I filed it under “corporate LDS affairs masquerading as religion” not to be confused with the gospel and Christ.

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  35. GeorgeAnne on April 28, 2011 at 6:08 AM

    How about give women equal rights… just saying…

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  36. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    James & Gomes:

    There are some really good ideas there. I obviously don’t have enough time and/or space to address them now, as each point could be an entire post by itself. I have added the topics to my list of blog ideas, however, so look for them addressed in much more detail coming up.

    Thanks.

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  37. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    Aaron L:

    I agree that it’s hard to tell what is actually “doctrine”. I did try to help determine this in a previous post in the Science & Religion series entitled “Religious Search for Truth”.

    It is muddy though. Since we actually haven’t had any canonized revelations in a LONG time, I think people tend to cling to ANY word from a Church leader as a “revelation”, whether it’s an opinion or not.

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  38. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 7:46 AM

    Gomes:

    I like the idea of the three categories. I think the dichotomy comes when the Church talks in General Conference about the “Kingdom of God” aspect, but then treats us as the “Church” aspect then goes and builds a $3 billion mall. At some point, the cognitive dissonance builds up too far.

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  39. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 7:49 AM

    Ron:

    I really liked this comment: when a faith community begins to move more and more towards emulating Jesus of Nazareth, then that community becomes increasingly inclusive/universal, whereas, the more a faith begins to worship its’ own image then it becomes increasingly exclusive. The Pharisees/Zoramites, and their types wanted to raise the bar constantly.

    I think this attitude is prevalent in the Church today, both among the leadership as well as among many of the members. The problem is that the more “inclusive” members are fine accepting people with the more “exclusive” attitude, but the converse is rarely true.

    I really don’t care if someone has one set of earrings or wears a white shirt because it makes them personally feel closer to God. But when they think someone else SHOULDN’T have more than one set of earrings or a non-white shirt, that is drifting into Pharisaical land.

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  40. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 7:51 AM

    GeorgeAnne:

    Hang in there. I have a number of topics on this, where we can change practices in the Church WITHOUT changing doctrine.

    For example, the next post in this series is going to address garments and the different levels of imposition they place on men and women. And it will also have some ideas on how we can fix that, WITHOUT changing the fundamental function of garments any more than they have already been changed in the past.

    So stay tuned.

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  41. Howard on April 28, 2011 at 8:02 AM

    The practice of succession of lifetime callings by seniority is worth discussing it continually creates elderly Utah celebrities. Noticeably absent is representation of young adults their leaders are 3 generations older. If this practice continues it is unlikely that anything significant will change in our lifetimes.

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  42. Gilroy on April 28, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    I just thought of something in regards to the two earrings issue.

    A lot of members of the Church would read the opening post, and say something to the effect of “Well, our leaders aren’t infallible, and sometimes they do say things that are just their opinion. Or an apostle might mistakenly interpret something the prophet has said as being official/doctrinal when it’s really not. No one is perfect.”

    While the typical member may be right in saying this, it ignores the fact that something as dumb as a girl’s second set of earrings might have prevented what could have otherwise been a wonderful marriage.

    Whenever I hear members of the Church glibly excuse the GAs, or Church culture by using the cliche “The Church is perfect, but the people aren’t,” I always cringe a little bit. It would be okay for the GAs to say things like this, and for these Church culture defects to exist, if they both didn’t seriously effect so many members of the Church in detrimental ways. We have to remember we’re not just talking in the abstract about ideas and attitudes that bother us; some of these issues are very real for the people who have to deal with them.

    For example, there is nothing doctrinal about a young man needing to go on his mission right when he’s 19. It seems that the GAs (at least in recent years) haven’t explicitly said that boys should go right when they’re 19. However, there may be times when the GAs are implicitly suggesting that young men need to be ready so they can go as soon as possible (i.e. at 19). And there’s definitely a lot of ostracism for boys who decide they’re not going to go at 19.

    That ostracism often ends up making a young man feel so uncomfortable that he stops coming to Church, and he eventually may become inactive. And it’s all because he didn’t leave on his mission right at 19. How ridiculous and tragic! And then to boil my blood some more, a typical member might say “Well, that’s his choice to remain active or not.” And that lack of empathy REALLY bothers me, but it is found all over among members of the Church.

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  43. Paul on April 28, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    39 Mike S: “I really don’t care if someone has one set of earrings or wears a white shirt because it makes them personally feel closer to God. But when they think someone else SHOULDN’T have more than one set of earrings or a non-white shirt, that is drifting into Pharisaical land.”

    Bingo.

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  44. Jacob S on April 28, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    When I first moved into my current ward I had a beard and was quickly called as Scoutmaster. So just a word to the wise about that one.

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  45. The Other Clark on April 28, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    Why do we build gyms (or “cultural halls”)even outside the U.S?

    Why are high council speakers typically so boring?

    Why is scouting the only option for Aaronic priesthood activities? (see here http://www.mormontimes.com/article/19921/Holding-on-to-the-others)

    Why is the somber worship style more appropriate than joyous drumming (e.g. even in Africa)?

    Why must missionaries wear white shirts and ties, even when culturally inappropriate?

    Why the ban on stained glass and brass instruments in chapels?

    I could go on, but Mike S. probalby already has enough for two year’s worth of posts before I submitted this list!

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  46. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Howard:

    Great idea. In most medical organizations, for example, there are specific representatives from younger members. I’ll add this to my list of posts and we’ll go through it in more detail.

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  47. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Gilroy:

    This is EXACTLY the point of these posts. All of these things may be seen as “minor” to some people, but that are MAJOR to other people.

    As I mentioned in the post, if there is something that doesn’t really serve any eternal purpose, but which may serve as a stumbling block to even a single person, perhaps we should consider changing those things.

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  48. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Jacob S:

    It was either the beard or else the pick-up truck, gun rack, and smell of campfire on your clothes.

    :-)

    God bless you for serving as scoutmaster

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  49. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    The Other Clark:

    Thanks for the ideas. I’m always looking for more to add to the queue.

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  50. Howard on April 28, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    45 Good questions. It’s just a guess but brass instruments produce simple harmonics from a single note at a time and therefor cannot harmonize with themselves it requires many brass instruments to harmonize well but then you have created the sound of a marching band!

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  51. Jen on April 28, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    I can’t believe a RM decided not to marry someone because she wore too many earrings. He said she was a special girl, so I am assuming she had qualities that were important in a partner. What a wake up call he is going to have when he marries a woman with one hole in each ear, but nags him to death because he isn’t perfect enough for her.

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  52. Senile Old Fart on April 28, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    If a group is to remain separate and “chosen,” then Old Testament group markers (comment #28) are useful in maintaining that separation. Until a generation ago, the Word of Wisdom was a sufficient marker. Now, much of the world (at least, the US world) has adopted enough of the Word of Wisdom that it no longer serves its marker purpose. (“Can’t tell the Lord’s Anointed from a Gentile,” as Arrington had J. Golden tell it.) There does not appear to be a consensus regarding an appropriate boundary marker for today, so we have evolved multiple such markers – none very useful.

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  53. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Jen:

    That story was actually told by Elder Bednar in General Conference, so I have to assume it’s true. But even if it was only “true” in a Paul Dunn type of way, the point is certainly disturbing.

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  54. Jon on April 28, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    I’m a little late to the discussion and haven’t read all the posts, so forgive me if I’m repeating someone.

    All organizations tend toward more and more bureaucracy and rules. Occasionally these organizations need a “shake up” that once again will allow for more liberty. Monopolistic organizations tend to not be able to have a “shake up”. Like governments.

    Likewise we can compare this to churches. As the organization increases in size more and more bureaucracy is needed and more and more rules are created. In a free market these tendencies of “bureaucracritization” is hampered by competition. In a church that claims to be the sole supplier of salvation this is made more difficult to offset.

    How to make the church more nimble? How to lower the bureaucracy? How to make less rules?

    I think the main thing is to make sure we focus on principles rather than on the periphery. When we focus on the principles we can understand where we are headed and stick with the core of the gospel. As individuals we can achieve this. As a group it is much harder. But, when a larger group tries to teach these principles then perhaps, they can affect change. Otherwise, as always, there will be another split.

    As Mike S pointed out the split currently is with individuals, voting with their feet. There are other factors involved in this too and won’t claim to be an expert and have the only right opinion.

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  55. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    Senile Old Fast:

    Perhaps remaining separate and “chosen” was nice in the Old Testament time, but Christ didn’t hang out with the religious leaders of His time. He hung out with the riff-raff, the troublemakers, the looked-down-on, etc.

    And I’m not sure what you mean by much of the world adopting the WofW. Is it because they are they vegetarian and don’t eat meat except in times of famine? Is it because they drink mild barley drinks (ie beer)? Is it because they still use wine in the sacrament?

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  56. Jen on April 28, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Mike S-

    I wonder, how many of us knew people that were wearing a lot of earrings when Pres. Hinckley gave this talk. What were they like? Could anyone see a difference in their depth of spirituality at that time compared to someone who was only wearing one set of earrings? I personally knew a woman who, at that time, wore a lot of earrings. Compared to her sisters who did not, she was the only one in her family who didn’t gossip about others when they were not around. From my perspective, she had a lot more spiritual depth than her any of her one holed family members.

    I do get the point of separating ourselves out from the world, but should that not be our decision to make? I think as a suggestion it is something we all need to think about in relation to ourselves, but to use it as a measuring stick of whether or not to marry someone….what a mistake! Heaven knows we all go through stages in our lives where we wear things that we look back on and think were ridiculous. This girl (in Elder Bednar’s story) may have just been going through a phase and needed more time to come out of it. I hate to think that as a people we are judging people on their outward appearance. Where can that possibly go but downhill.

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  57. Ryan on April 28, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    All:

    Can we not imagine the effect Bednar’s story had on that specific girl? Seriously, though no names were mentioned, I bet there is a definite non-zero chance that that girl felt seriously judged, seriously ostracized (if even in her own mind) because of this story.

    Just a thought that came to mind.

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  58. Senile Old Fart on April 28, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    Mike (@55). Don’t get all scriptural on me, now. We both know that the WoW isn’t contained in Section 89. Rather, the WoW is what your bishop, or one of his counselors, has in mind in your biennial temple recommend interview: refraining from consuming tea, coffee, alcohol, & tobacco. (I guess other undefined “drugs” have slipped in there, too, while I wasn’t watching.) He won’t ask you about meat or grains or fruits in season. And sacramental wine has gone the way of medicinal brandy.

    You probably already know that the comma after “used” in 89:13 was inserted by Talmage in 1920 – thus reversing the meaning of the verse. Besides, unlike some others, we don’t recognize gluttony as one of the seven deadly sins; we ignore the comma as a people and prefer what 49:18-19 has to say about consuming meat.

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  59. The Other Clark on April 28, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    In October of 2000 when President Hinckley made these remarks, I was engaged to a girl with multiple piercings in one ear. Being raised with a Packer/McKonkie/Benson brand of Mormonism, I asked her to remove them as soon as the topic came up. And it caused me considerable heartburn when she refused.

    I am not the individual Elder Bednar referred to, as I went ahead and got married. And my wife eventually removed the extra earrings shortly after we were married.

    BUT… a few years later, my mother (who never saw my wife with the triple earring) brought up the Bednar story as a great example that we should all be striving for. It made for an awkward moment…

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  60. James on April 28, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    re: 58

    That comma argument is just dumb. Talmage didn’t change the meaning of the verse into something that is not argued for in sec 89, he corrected it (Joseph sucked with punctuation) to reflect the argument about meat in verses 12 and 15. The textual WoW clearly encourages vegetarianism, and the convoluted verse in sec 49 doesn’t negate that sentiment.

    You’re definitely right that the WoW is not contained in sec. 89, but I think the comma argument doesn’t make any sense in the context of the surrounding verses discussing meat.

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  61. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    I agree the comma argument is dumb.

    I think “Senile” is being sarcastic, although I didn’t pick it up in his/her first comment.

    (NOTE: I hope the moniker “Senile Old Fart” is for a male – if not, it’s just a disturbing image)

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  62. Geoff-A on April 28, 2011 at 10:02 PM

    Mike S a couple of areas that concern me are to do with youth.

    How can there be a higher standard for anyone than temple worthiness, especially why expect it of youth?

    The opressive emphasis on modesty (we get talks on this at least once a month) that includes a whole package of things including the ear rings, and I don’t know what other conservative cultural baggage.

    I assume the rate of teenage pregnancies would be an indication of success achieved by modesty. The last figures I could find were for 2006 at 55/1000 for Utah compared with 70/1000 for USa which is highest in developed world. Some european countries are 5 and 6 per 1000. who is getting it right?

    As the father of 4 girls I was concerned about the messages they sent with their dress, but it is nothing to do with the Gospel.

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  63. Mike S on April 28, 2011 at 10:21 PM

    Geoff-A:

    I absolutely agree that we are missing the point. There was a great article on this a few days ago by Amelia on The Exponent entitled “The Modesty Myth: Why Covering Up Just Won’t Do”.

    And stay tuned for next weeks post in this series: If I Were In Charge: Fix Women’s Garments (And Men’s)

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  64. Justin on April 29, 2011 at 7:23 AM

    The oppressive emphasis on modesty

    Lol — what else do you expect from a principle that originated with Satan? Body modesty is not a principle of the gospel.

    Also,

    And stay tuned for next weeks post in this series: If I Were In Charge: Fix Women’s Garments (And Men’s)

    I currently make my own garments from my existing clothing. It’s funny to me that most LDS go around trying to wear two sets of clothing — and then complain about how difficult it all is. I guess I’ll wait to expound on that once you publish that post.

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  65. Rigel Hawthorne on April 29, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    “I also think the whole YSA policy is wrong. The point of the Church should be to teach eternal truths. It shouldn’t be to recreate a “single’s bar” mentality where you go to find a potential mate.”

    Call me strange, but I found my student and singles wards to be full of spiritual experiences. Sure there were some very ‘unique’ individuals that required friendship and ministering. There were also remarkable people who at a young age could fill the organizations with great creativity and competency. It was the opportunity for those with similar life circumstances (student/single) serving those in the same circumstances that provided a medium for meaningful acknowledgment of the spirit to be recognized.

    I long for the days when my sacrament times were not filled with the task of correcting kids (fold your arms, stop talking, put your toy down, take only one piece of bread, put your cup back in the tray).

    Some weeks/church activities in the singles ward turned out to be disappointing, but it happens currently in my family ward with the same, if not greater frequency.

    Thinking of how young adults or missionaries do complex organizational/intellectual tasks with wisdom and confidence makes me chagrined to see the media’s portrayals of LDS individuals. Because they take on a cheerful countenance, others assume that they are superficial or dopey–giving way to the expression on the face of Andrew Rannell’s performance in The Book of Mormon.

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  66. Rigel Hawthorne on April 29, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    “And stay tuned for next weeks post in this series: If I Were In Charge: Fix Women’s Garments (And Men’s)”

    I’m not interested in tailoring my own garments, but if I could request someone else to make a pair for me, I would like a pair out of the ‘under armor’ type material.

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  67. hawkgrrrl on April 30, 2011 at 1:08 AM

    I think religion is one of those things that doesn’t necessarily make us better or worse but simply reveals the kind of person we are.

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  68. hawkgrrrl on April 30, 2011 at 2:52 AM

    I am also not surprised to hear that he was on the verge of opining that women should not wear earrings. My mother is from that same generation and has never had her ears pierced based on the rationale that if God had wanted holes in yer ears, he’d have put ‘em there. This is 100% generational.

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  69. Angie on April 30, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    Practices/policies of the church that are not necessarily doctrinal:

    Baby blessings
    Home dedications
    YM/YW programs
    Missionary farewells, or missionaries speaking in sacrament meeting right before they leave, or right after they return
    Primary programs

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  70. jay on April 30, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    mike, all these teasers about your garment post makes me think you are going to propose a garment thong .

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  71. Mike S on April 30, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    #69 Angie

    I agree that none of those are doctrinal. In fact, most things in the Church are non-doctrinal but are practices.

    The whole point of this series is NOT to eliminate the non-doctrinal things, as that is impossible in any organization, religious or not. The point is to look at things that are potentially detrimental and see if they could be changed.

    Looking briefly at a couple of your items, as we’ll cover some of them more in future posts:

    YM/YW: I think having a place for youth of similar interested to gather is a good idea. I think many groups do this. There are Christian youth groups. There are many other groups.

    However, it needs to be rational. I think the undue focus on “Scouting” as a basis for the YM program might have outlived its usefulness.

    Also, when I was YM President a few years ago, we had 65+ YM. This included 25 priests with whom I was more directly involved. In summer, we would plan great activities and only have 2 priests show up. I asked the bishop if we could cut back to 1 big activity each month, but otherwise cancel YM for the summer. He thought that was a good idea, but that it was NOT ALLOWED according to whatever. So that was a non-doctrinal, counter-productive policy.

    Missionary farewells: Absolutely non-doctrinal. But, if a young man or woman is willing to give up two years of his or her life, at a very productive time of their life, can’t we at least honor this willingness with an hour of our time.

    Baby blessings: Not an official ordinance. So, why not have the mom hold the baby in the circle? And why does the entire bishopric feel the need to join in? Unless they are close friends or family, ???

    We’ll go into more detail in all these things over the coming months, but I wouldn’t get rid of something just because it is non-doctrinal, but if it’s non-doctrinal AND potentially counterproductive.

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  72. Mike S on April 30, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    #70: Jay

    Not quite, but getting there…

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  73. Mike S on April 30, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    #68: hawkgrrl

    And if God wanted us to show skin, we would have been born naked :-)

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  74. Douglas on April 30, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    There’s a balance between heeding “wise counsel” insofar as number of earrings (or whether men should wear any), hairstyles, etc and not “being commanded in all things” (D&C 58:26, by far my fave LDS scripture).
    If I were to get Elder Bednar in a one-on-one (assuming that he has the time, which I severely doubt), I’d tell him that his anecdote about the RM judging his GF’s worth on the basis of her multiple earrings comes across as anal-retentive, controlling, judgement, and self-righteous. And he would likely retort, “is another piece of costume jewelry worth one’s salvation”?
    I, for myself, usually dress rather conservatively. Of course, being on the verge of “senile old fartdom” (just turned 52), it’s a matter of wanting to look good, and, though having the build where I certainly wouldn’t feel self-conscious on the beach, I don’t feel the need to impress anyone. Most of my wardrobe, if not built up through sales at “Jacques-Penee”, or “Target-Jeht”, or “Wally-World”, is supplemented via DI, St. Vincent de Paul, Goodwill, etc. I like to look good, but on a strict budget! My most “daring” statement is to wear coloured shirts (but no pastels or pinks, thank you). A decent build is what never goes out of style.
    For what it’s worth, when a young lady (or even those not necessarily so young but still good-looking) are dressed in appropriate attire for the occasion, and they are fresh, healthy, and vibrant, that catches me eye far more than exposing cleavage, exotic hair dye, a “shrink-wrapped” booty, or wacky piercings. The latter impress me as the sort of gal that’s good for but a “joyride”…and I’m too old and too ingrained in the Gospel to seriously contemplate such tomfoolery.
    To sum it up, clothes, adornment, and hairstyles are all about making a statement about oneself. WHOM do we wish to favourably impress??

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  75. Ryan on April 30, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    “And he would likely retort, “is another piece of costume jewelry worth one’s salvation”?”

    To which I would retort, “since when does any piece of jewelry have any bearing whatsoever on anyone’s salvation?”

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  76. hawkgrrrl on April 30, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    There’s something to be said for being humble and willing to submit even to what is silly. There’s nothing good about judging one’s own or others’ righteousness or ostracizing people based on what is entirely irrelevant. There’s something to be said for wanting to help people be more successful by giving them well-meaning advice. There’s nothing good about underestimating the passive-aggressive nature of our culture and leadership arbitrarily sharing opinions that will inevitably crystallize into tests of worthiness.

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  77. […] please read on.  And as mentioned in last week’s introduction to this series entitled “Stop Counting Earrings“, I don’t actually suggest changing anything doctrinal, so the suggestions regarding […]

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  78. […] have trouble understanding Mormon experiences: others don’t always get that Mormons have a different idea about boundaries. Take, for example, a Mormon mom who got angry that someone politely declined her […]

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  79. Mike S on May 4, 2011 at 10:54 AM

    For some other views on the Church’s retention issues and some ideas about possible changes, I’d also refer you to a nice post by Winterbuzz on FMH entitled “The Church is Losing Us…. How Can They Keep Us?”

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  80. […] in the previous post about earrings, this wasn’t stated as a commandment from God.  It wasn’t added to our canon as a […]

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  81. B. Lloyd on July 11, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    I want to side with this article and all of the comments, because I want the church to relax some of it’s more “oppressive” standards. It would be more convenient for me, and, like everyone said, it’s got little direct correlation with someone’s relationship with Christ.

    HOWEVER, there are drawbacks to having looser (or less) standards. People really do gain a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie by striving for a “higher level” of living, one that is hard to do because it’s demanding or popular. So avoiding tattoos, bikinis, swearing, and multiple earrings really becomes a religious boot-camp where spiritual cadets like us gain confidence and close bonds with each other while doing hard things, even if some of the obstacles really are just there for the sake of having hard things to do.

    And if you lose those challenging experiences then being Mormon might, I hate to say this, feel like it means less to people. It REALLY is a big deal to randomly meet another mormon somewhere and not just because it’s rare, but because you automatically feel you have so much in common, that no-mo’s don’t, and can’t ever, share. And it’s the hard, weird stuff, that forms the bond, cuz that’s the stuff that no one else would really be able to appreciate except for fellow mormons, that’s what makes being mormon unique.

    If you were teaching this psychological phenomena from a gospel perspective you might quote J.S. with his “a faith that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power to produce the faith necessary for life and salvation” quote. It’s the sacrifice that gives a religion staying power, or at least part of it.

    Not saying that we should keep all the pharisaical rules, I’m just saying that here, like always, there are (not inconsequential) trade-offs.

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  82. B. Lloyd on July 11, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    *because it’s demanding or UNpopular. oops.

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  83. Ray on July 11, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    Way late to this conversation, but two recent examples from my current ward:

    The lady who was baptized last Saturday has 7 earrings in her left ear. I couldn’t see her right ear when she was confirmed yesterday, so I have no idea how many she has there.

    She also has two tatoos just inside her shoulder blades that were visibile with the sleeveless, open-back summer dress she wore when she was confirmed yesterday. That confirmation alone made my day.

    The teenage girl who was confirmed a couple of weeks ago wore dress pants and a blouse that kept riding her shoulder and showed her bra strap. She’s a wonderful young lady.

    I know neither of those examples is typical in most places and with most baptisms, and I know I live in a great ward. The key is that my ward is very focused on sharing the Gospel – the real, core Gospel, and it shows in the success we are having and the people who are joining.

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  84. Mike S on July 11, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    B. Lloyd:

    I see your point and actually agree with the concept in theory. But I think there are two main issues:

    1) These things are all superficial things. While they can theoretically be seen as an outward expression of an inner value, they have in many ways become a measure of what it means to be a “Mormon”, as you correctly state. But being a true Mormon requires A LOT besides these superficial things. We should focus on charity and love and honesty and all of the core issues.

    Interestingly, from my readings of the New Testament, this appears to be one of the things that Christ taught as well. The religious people of his day had also come up with all of these superficial, outward expressions of inner piousness. Each rule meant something, and I’m sure the people following them could use the exact same logic you did. But at the end of the day, Christ dismantled all of them. They were meaningless hedges around the law. He wanted us to focus on the core essence of the gospel. When the entire point of an article in the Friend (Hannah’s New Dress) is about a 4-year-old not wearing a sun dress her grandmother gave her because it shows her shoulders, we’ve lost something.

    2) The other issue is that it keeps people away from the fundamental truths. This was also an issue in Christ’s time. Some people taught that circumcision was ESSENTIAL to following Christ, but this impeded missionary work. Some followers suggested that it was a sign of commitment, that people should be willing to sacrifice whatever it took, etc. But it was also jettisoned as an unnecessary impediment to spreading the gospel.

    Similarly, all of the things in this series (listed here) cover the same issue. There are unnecessary molehills that we cling to for the sake of “Mormonness” that drive people away. Our fixation on what shirt we wear or number of earrings or whatever makes people LESS likely to want to hear any eternal truths we may want to share.

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  85. Irony on July 11, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Ray:

    I, for one, hope those women stay that way. We need more personality at church.

    For your reading pleasure, I might point you over to this article at BCC. It sounds like the author was a lot like the ladies you mentioned… that is, until some relief society sisters got to her. Great, great article, IMO.

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  86. Mike S on July 11, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    Irony:

    That is a great article. I’d recommend it as well.

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  87. Lester on July 11, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    Mike:

    When the entire point of an article in the Friend (Hannah’s New Dress) is about a 4-year-old not wearing a sun dress her grandmother gave her because it shows her shoulders, we’ve lost something.

    That’s an inappropriate article “based on a true story.” A 4-year old isn’t “modest” until she puts a shirt on under a sundress?

    Think of the readership of that article and how many parents read that to their kids last month, world-freaking-wide. :0

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  88. Ray on July 11, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    #85 – I read it when Tracy published it, and I agree totally that it is a great article.

    Pretty much everything Tracy writes at BCC is amazing. If you have time at some point, I highly recommend reading other posts she’s written there. She is one of my favorite authors in the entire Bloggernacle, and it’s worth spending some time reading what she writes.

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  89. JB on August 3, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    I ran across your article and found it fascinating. I’m Catholic, not a Mormon, but I see so many similarities between Roman Catholicism and the LDS church (patriarchy, one leader of a worldwide church, claim to have lineage back to the original church, etc…). This reminded me of how Catholics handle the head guy’s opinions. The pope might put out encyclicals stating his well-thought out ideas about theological topics, but these are for general edification and guidance. The pope has said very few things under papal infallibility since the beginning of the church. This, I assume, would be the equivalent of the LDS church President having a revelation from God. The infallible doctrines are obligatory for Catholics, but the rest Catholics see as guidelines. How could you not? It would probably be near impossible to follow every single suggestion from 2000 years of tradition to the letter. So outside of the obligatory things, people tend to pick and choose what to follow and what not.

    Yet, there are those who really like all the details and will argue over things that others might consider trivial. A few uber-religious folk like to be seen following as many rules as they can and give the external impression of piety, yet they may severely lack human kindness and empathy and be highly judgmental of others who are not as perfect as they are.

    So I understand the struggle to know what is really important. What is the reason or the spirit behind this rule or that rule so that I can adapt to changing circumstances while still following the essence of the law? Those seeking to understand the spirit of the law people can easily conflict with the letter of the law folk who see everything in black and white. Personally, I think there are some things God just really doesn’t care about…how many earrings I have in my ears happens to be one I’m pretty sure is unimportant for my salvation. Eventually I suppose I’ll find out :)

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  90. hawkgrrrl on August 3, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    JB – welcome to the site. I agree that these observations are about human nature more than they are about actual spirituality or religion, which is why I find them fascinating. I too find the link to Catholicism relevant for the same reasons you list. I hope we hear more from you in future!

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  91. Mike S on August 3, 2011 at 11:14 PM

    JB:

    Thanks for dropping by – we always love to get different insights. And as you alluded to, there are a lot of similarities between different denominations. There is also a lot of blending of culture with doctrine in any religion, which can cause unnecessary issues.

    Feel free to comment any time…

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  92. […] in the church or investigating the church.  Some of these things we’ve discussed include Stop Counting Earrings, Changing Women’s Garments (And Men’s), Separating Marriage From Sealing, and Ignoring […]

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  93. […] changing non-doctrinal things that can act as potential stumbling blocks.  We’ve covered Counting Earrings and Women’s Garments (And Men’s).  And, as mentioned in the initial post on General […]

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