Tradition & Authority

While I was visiting Trinity yesterday, I got to sit in on a PhD course on 19th century Protestant thought taught by Douglas Sweeney. He asked us these questions for a discussion on tradition and I thought they would make for a good discussion here.

These questions can be answered by evangelicals, Mormons and anyone else.

1. Which theological tradition do you identify with?

2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how authoritative is your religious tradition in determining what you believe and how you operate? (1 being “not very authoritative” and 10 being “very authoritative”)

3. Why isn’t your answer to question two “10”? Or, if you actually did answer “10,” explain why.

4. What other factors apart from tradition have shaped the theological views you hold to today?

5. Can you think of colleagues within your own tradition who are giving lip service to your tradition but don’t seem to be working in continuity with it?

6. How do you decide when someone has crossed that line and no longer has a right to identify with your tradition?

Here are my answers.

1. This is a tough question for me. I was baptized into the Nazarene church as an infant but was not raised with a religious upbringing, and I’ve been pretty eclectic with my theology and style since my actual conversion. Still, if I had to pick one word to describe my brand of evangelical Christianity, I guess I would say “Pentecostal.”

2. 3

3. Tradition boils down to men’s interpretation of and attempts to live what God has revealed. I’m very trusting of the Bible (as we have it) as God’s revelation; I’m not very trusting of men (or women).

4. Two main things. (1) The people I’m trying to reach out to. I’ll freely admit to attempting to form a type of evangelical Christianity that is closer to Mormonism and thus more appealing to Mormons. (2) My own theological study for truth.

5. I’m not really sure if I can name specific names since I’m so unlearned on internal Christian issues. Oneness Pentecostals probably qualify.

6. Doctrinally, any church that claims to be Pentecostal but denies the Trinity or the practice of the gifts of the Spirit (especially tongues) would qualify. Anyone who denies or minimizes the significance of being baptized by the Holy Spirit would also qualify.

Those are my answers. What are yours?

Also, I don’t want to overstay my welcome, so this will be my last guest post. Thanks, Tim, for letting me start some discussions and thanks everyone for participating.

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This entry was posted in Evangelical, Mormonism by Bridget Jack Jeffries. Bookmark the permalink.

About Bridget Jack Jeffries

Bridget Jack Jeffries is a human resources professional living in Chicago. She holds a BA in classics from Brigham Young University with a minor in Hebrew and an MA in American religious history from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She is a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church and a single mother of two. You can read more of her writings at www.Weighted-Glory.com.

47 thoughts on “Tradition & Authority

  1. Huzzah! Welcome back, Jack!

    1. Mormon (LDS, SLC-HQ brand). But even then, we’re discovering some elements of diversity within that group, aren’t we?

    2. What I believe: 2-4. It’s sort of a hard question to answer, because “authoritative” makes it sound like I _must_ believe something just because my church says so. I don’t believe anything until I actually believe it for myself, so in that sense my church is not forcing me to believe anything at all. On the other hand, I recognize that there are beliefs I must hold (at least loosely defined) if I want to enjoy full membership in my church—e.g., if I rejected Pres Monson as a prophet, then I would be denied a temple recommend. One more nuance to this question: if it were worded “how influential is your church on what you believe?” then I would answer 7-9.

    …how I operate: 8. Here one must distinguish between religious tradition (i.e., how most Mormons act and how I conform) and the actual teachings of the church (which are in some cases less strict than Mormon culture). I buck some trends a bit (e.g., suitable Sunday activities, only white shirts at church), but for the most part I’m your standard Mormon.

    3. Above.

    4. My career. I’m a biomedical scientist. Not to bore you with details, but that influences my thoughts on: evolution, homosexuality, abortion, stem cell research, and probably a few other hot-button issues. It also means that I need data before I believe something (e.g., the whole Heavenly Mother debate).

    My family. I’m a father of four daughters. That doesn’t directly shape my theological views, but it raises questions about women’s roles and those questions sometimes conflict with the beliefs/practices of other Mormons (taking us back to question #2).

    5. Uhhh, the bloggernacle. Just kidding (really!!). No, I can’t think of anyone.

    6. I don’t know. I’d probably draw a line somewhere around disparaging church leaders, scripture, or covenants—but what constitutes “disparaging” versus just “criticism” is difficult to define.

    7. Jack. Oh wait—you didn’t ask who the coolest blogger is. Scratch that answer.

  2. Yes, welcome back, Jack! 🙂 Hope you had a nice trip.

    This is a very interesting questionnaire (which doubles as a marvelous distraction from work). So thanks.

    1. I self-identify as a Mormon.

    2. Like Brian, I feel like this should be separated out into “how I believe” and “how I operate” (which I read to mean “behave”).

    BELIEF: Up until a couple years ago, 10. Up until a couple months ago, 5. These days…maybe 1 or 2.

    BEHAVIOR: 10.

    3. BELIEF: Quite frankly, I’m not convinced the church is “true” (at least in the traditional sense of the word).

    BEHAVIOR: Having said that, even if my belief world is a little mixed up right now, I still behave pretty much the same as I always have because a)–habit; b)–I think it’s basically the way God would want me to live anyway (though I would love me some mocha, I won’t lie); c)–I’m not ready to “come out” to my friends and family (besides my husband), the vast majority of whom are LDS. In other words, it’s my way of not rocking the boat while I figure stuff out.

    (Yikes, this is making me rethink whether or not it’s such a good idea to post this…Oh well. Mom, if you’re reading this, I still love you.)

    4. SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE. I have sought for answers from God and I believe He has led me in the past, including to where I am right now in my beliefs.

    CULTURAL EXPERIENCE. My experience with LDS culture has been both negative and positive, which allows me to see much good, but makes me intimately (and sometimes painfully) acquainted with its flaws.

    5. Sure, what faith tradition doesn’t have that? I won’t name names though; gossip ain’t right.

    6. When a person no longer sincerely desires to self-identify with my faith tradition. Until then, I say we welcome all kinds, mistakes, confusion, tattoos, and all.

  3. 1. LDS Christianity.
    2. Belief:9. But with the severe caveate that there are a lot of things some Evangelicals and some Mormons say I should believe, but don’t because it doesn’t fit the data I have.
    Actions 8.
    3 Actions: I’m imperfect. Beliefs: I’m imperfect.
    4 Interactions with other and reading great works of literature.
    Evangelicals who try and beat me into believing they’re right have shaped me into not believing they have any truth (Jack doesn’t try beating, she’s exempt from this).
    I met many loving Germans who taught me that they were followers of Jesus by their kindness.
    I also met many hateful-religious germans, like the lutheran minister who started cursing me (not swearing, literally cursing me) when I rang the doorbell at his (clearly non-church house).
    Reading CS Lewis, George McDonald
    5 Unnamed Mormons who are trying to change the definition of chastity to include practicing homosexuals.
    6 When they no longer recognize the authority of our tradition.

  4. Time for some mainline Protestant thoughts!

    (Except that my beliefs are probably offensively squishy, so here goes…)

    1. Methodist
    2. 5
    3. I’m actively working on getting that number to go up with respect to how I live my life…as for my actual beliefs, I’ve been firmly in the “big tent” camp since I was about 12. I’m working on firming that part up, but like any good law student, I’m spending a lot of time arguing both (or all) sides of everything in my head. It’s getting exhausting.

    At the same time, I have a strong belief in the resurrected Christ, I talk to God daily, I have felt the Holy Spirit guiding me and giving me strength, and I really love the Methodist tradition and approach to scripture and faith, so that’s why #2 is right in the middle.

    4. I grew up in Southern Idaho and have a wide circle of Mormon friends, so LDS beliefs are ever-present in my mind (I don’t subscribe to them, but they do make me think a lot). I also have family and close friends who are a mix of Catholic, Evangelical, atheist, and ashram-type folk, so they factor into how I see God working and what that might mean for each of them.

    5. I don’t think I’m in a position to be drawing boundaries on my faith tradition. But I think those who reject Welch’s grape juice during communion are definitely jack-Methodists.

    6. I think Methodism is actually compatible with quite a few other traditions, but I suppose some of the high-level concepts (e.g. the Trinity and the ability to “lose” the grace of the Holy Spirit) would be deal breakers on actually being Methodist. But I’m quite sure I toe the line anyway, so I’ll be over here in my big tent doing some more reading on the subject.

  5. 1. Mormon, but I get envious of E. Orthodox and Jews sometimes.

    2. 7

    3. I don’t think my grasp of tradition is as comprehensive as it could be. Therefore, it doesn’t have the impact it could. To the extent I understand it, it is highly influential (though I do break with tradition on a few issues)

    4. Hugh Nibley, fighting with Evangelicals, liberal Mormon angst on the bloggernacle, apologetics

    5. No.

    6. I don’t really. I even consider ex-Mormons still “Mormon” and am perfectly fine with them affiliating with us.

  6. 1. I’m tempted to make that question more complicated than (I think) it’s intended to be, so I’ll just say LDS and leave it at that.

    2-3. If we’re talking about the LDS scriptures and the clear and unequivocal teachings of the church, I’d say 9. (I wouldn’t say 10, first because I don’t believe in infallibility for anyone outside the godhead, and second because a key teaching of the church is that we’re supposed to seek understanding for ourselves, and 10 implies some sort of a blind acceptance, which I don’t believe is what the church teaches.)

    However, the clear teaching of the church is surrounded by all sorts of cultural expectations, speculation, folk theology and so on and so forth (and they’re often confused with the gospel). I’d give those about a 2.

    In terms of “how I operate,” it sounds like I might be a bit like BrianJ. I do pretty much the things that are expected of a faithful church member in areas such as tithing, home teaching, avoidance of alcohol/tobacco, church attendance and so on. I think those are all good things and I did the applicable ones when I was a Protestant. But some of the cultural artifacts I kind of ignore. I don’t like white shirts (they look too Republican) and basically don’t wear them except to the temple, and when Jesus said that the sabbath was made for us and not the other way around, I take him at his word. I occasionally see R-rated movies if I think they’ll be edifying. And if I were socially outgoing I’d probably have lots of non-LDS friends.

    4. Certainly, my background as one raised in an evangelical domination and my adult years as a Protestant in both evangelical and mainline churches have brought me to where I am today. In current times I am influenced by my own study of the Bible (always in modern translation), the Ensign and other church publications, books by various Christian writers (one of my favorites is Philip Yancey), the bloggernacle, discussions with family members, the studies I do when I prepare to teach class, and so on. I am also well-read on current events, and I’m sure that influences my theology although I’m not sure how.

    5-6. It really isn’t up to me to decide who’s a “true” Mormon (or Christian, for that matter). That’s a matter for church authorities and/or God to deal with. I believe that because of the Atonement God is willing to deal with us wherever we are in life, so it isn’t up to me to say that someone should be in a different place or think a certain way. That said, I can’t help but wonder why some people stay in the church (or would if they could) when they actively oppose key teachings.

  7. Here’s some thoughts and follow-up questions:

    I think it’s safe to say that there are different Mormon traditions in that every splinter group can be considered its own Mormon tradition. However, we don’t have any splinter group posters here (not since I broke Rick Hurd in half, anyway), so as far as this group goes: are there different traditions within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Is liberal Mormonism a tradition? Is ex-Mormonism its own tradition?

    J. Golden Kimball Mormonism probably isn’t its own tradition, but it should be.

    I figured that #2, for most Mormons, would have to be a matter of orthodoxy v. orthopraxy. Still, I think there are orthopraxy things LDS tradition has taught in the past which not necessarily all Mormons practiced, such as:

    ~ Don’t get tattoos
    ~ Don’t have piercings (other than the one set women are allowed to have)
    ~ Even before you’re endowed, wear clothes that would cover the garment lines
    ~ Don’t watch rated-R movies
    ~ Women should wear their bras over their garment tops
    ~ Don’t drink caffeinated soda at all
    ~ Don’t swear
    ~ Don’t buy anything on the Sabbath, not even from vending machines
    ~ Dress up for church (and perhaps, by extension, men wear white shirts to church)
    ~ No beards/men must have short hair
    ~ Don’t wear crosses
    ~ Don’t date until you are 16+

    How influential has LDS tradition been in getting you to do those things?

    Do your private beliefs ever lead you into thinking that the church needs to make a change to doctrine or policy, and do you do anything to try and facilitate that change?

    Thanks everyone who has been answering. Thanks Whitney for dropping by, sorry that my discussion questions are focusing mostly on LDS answers, I’m happy to see you here again though. 🙂

  8. I promised so here goes. It may be a bit confusing to some, so feel free to ask follow ups and I’ll try to explain.

    1. Ex-Roman Catholic from Europe (Flanders). Currently, none yet. If I had to pick… probably Non-denominational Bible Believer. If that’s a tradition at all.

    2. 2 or 10, depending on what you mean.

    3. 2 because I haven’t really found a denomination, partly because I don’t know enough. 10 because I don’t feel like changing and be “pigeon holed”. I really like the Church I’m a member at. There’s a great balance between tradition and scripture. For instance we don’t just baptize, there’s a class to take before you commit. We have the Lord’s supper weekly, we have a Lenten devotional which walks through a 40 day devotional, we accept the Nicene creed as statement of faith and for all the rest “The main thing is that the main thing remains the main thing”. It’s pretty much back to the beginning of Christianity where all those things were celebrated or adhered to as well. It’s very Scripture focused with a lot of study around the original texts, the interpretation of Scripture from a historical perspective. In other words: not how do we as 21st century Western civilization interpret it, but what could Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Paul, etc have meant when they wrote (divinely inspired of course).

    4. Lots of reading of Early Church Fathers, history (since I’m a history buff), lots of dialogue with people from other faiths (especially Mormons thanks to a career opportunity a couple of years ago), marriage to a wife who grew up Southern Baptist. How’s that for one curve ball.. An RC marrying a Baptist 😉

    5. Yep. But I see them in every tradition. And I’m probably one of them on occasion. Although I think that if you take the Nicene creed as core belief, it’s pretty fundamental to accept that to be called a Christian.

    6. Love, care, discourse, explanation, trying to understand. However if you reject the Nicene creed, including the “homoousios” in it, I would say you’re not really a Christian. Besides that… we’re all sinners who need a Savior.

  9. How influential has LDS tradition been in getting you to do those things?

    Not very, considering that I haven’t done most of them that are applicable to me and/or haven’t established such rules for my kids.

    But I’m not sure how well those things fit in with the concept of orthopraxy. Most of those “rules” you could break and still get a temple recommend (as I can testify from personal experience). Many of those things are as much a matter of subculture as anything else.

  10. Here are my answers:

    1.LDS Christianity (belief/theology influenced by teachings of Jesus, Joseph Smith, Tolstoy, King Benjamin, Alma, Nephi, Ghandi, Tolstoy, Frankl, Nietszche. (probably in that order)

    2. How authoritative is my tradition (read the LDS Church): 4 out of 10

    3. WHY NOT a 10?: As Henry Eyring said so well, “in this Church you don’t have to believe anything that isn’t true” Some of what the Church teaches I am not convinced is true.

    4. OTHER FACTORS THAT HAVE INFLUENCE: Experience, conscience, study, education.

    5. OTHERS NOT IN CONTINUITY WITH LDS Christian TRADITION?

    Yes (maybe even me?)

    6. WHO HAS CROSSED THE LINE AND IS NO LONGER MORMON?

    Those who claim to that Mormons aren’t Christian.

  11. Do your private beliefs ever lead you into thinking that the church needs to make a change to doctrine or policy, and do you do anything to try and facilitate that change?

    Sure, there are policies I’d like to see changed, although it’d be a bit strong to say the church “needs” to.

    Basically, I’m not in a position to push for any change in policy, and it’s more important to live the kind of life I should be living than to spend time trying to get other people to do things differently. In most cases, I’d say that where church leaders are wrong, that’s something for God to deal with, not me.

  12. Could you break them and still be a bishop or Relief Society president though?

    It depends on the local leadership and the particular “rule.” My wife was recently an RS president and thinks about things pretty much the same way I do, definitely not legalistic about many of those things in thought or deed. And I’ve known more than one bishop who drinks Coke (and not the caffeine-free kind).

    How about a GA?

    As far as I know, they’re pretty much expected to toe the line. But I have no personal knowledge one way or the other.

  13. Is liberal Mormonism a tradition? Is ex-Mormonism its own tradition?

    I don’t know that these subsets of Mormonism are organized enough to be their own tradition. Maybe now with the advent of the bloggernacle, and people forming groups online like NOM and what have you, this is changing…but I think it’s been relatively recent that many of these folks could gather in large enough numbers to interact in any kind of meaningful way.

    Something like BYU Honor Code Mormonism is much more organized, and has been around for much longer, and I think you could make a case that it has become its own tradition within the faith.

    Other traditions we might not see so much here in the US but elsewhere in the global church would be the result of people mixing Mormonism with the religious traditions of their countries. For example, Bulgarian Mormonism looks and feels different than U.S. Mormonism does. I expect many people who have served missions or spent time in other countries would say the same.

  14. Re: the orthodoxy/orthopraxy thing…I personally have about 50% compliance on the “optional” list above. Most of it is based totally on cultural expectations. If it was okay to have multiple piercings, a tattoo or two, and dress down on Sunday, I probably would.

    I doubt a heavily tattooed or pierced person would ever be a bishop or RS President (at least in areas that are predominately LDS). Most of the others, I expect Eric is correct when he said that you can get away with it in the lower levels of leadership, not s’much in the higher.

  15. Katie ~ Most of the others, I expect Eric is correct when he said that you can get away with it in the lower levels of leadership, not s’much in the higher.

    There’s plenty of things on the list that I could see bishops and RS presidents and even GAs quietly getting away with, but the visible things (piercings, visible tattoos, “appropriate” hair length and grooming, wearing crosses) I imagine are rarer the higher up you go. And that raises the question, if they’re okay at lower levels but not at higher, are they really acceptable variations in practice? Or is it just that no one cares to go through the trouble of enforcing them at the bottom level?

    BTW (honest question) can a guy have a temple recommend if he gets his ears pierced?

    The Bloggernacle and NOM are still relatively young. It will be interesting to me to see if they do spawn new traditions within the LDS church, and see if the church ever tries to crack down on them September-Six style.

  16. Seriously, Seth? I would think it depends on the guy—as in, whether he is willing to push back by appealing to the stake pres or even GA.

  17. I’d be really surprised if someone was flat-out denied a TR over an earring.

    are they really acceptable variations in practice?

    I dunno, what does “acceptable” mean? Do most Mos think you’ll lose your spot in heaven over something like that? I doubt it. Do you get funny looks and overly helpful ward members suggesting it’s time for a change? Probably so.

  18. Thanks guys

    I thought I knew Mormons pretty well and I knew there was some reservation against piercings, but never quite understood.

    Can someone elaborate a little more ? Like where ? What doctrine / scriptures, etc… tattoos and earrings mostly.

    No wonder I got some weird looks down in Orem.. I have (more like used to lately) an earring. Just like I used to have long hair.. nowadays..it’s more like “What hair” LOL.

    In Him
    Mick

  19. “BTW (honest question) can a guy have a temple recommend if he gets his ears pierced?”

    Depends on his bishop.

    Technically, if I understand the system right, a temple recommend isn’t supposed to be denied on the basis of things that aren’t in the official list of questions.

    But, of course, there are those bishops or stake presidents who would consider such “defiance” to be the equivalent of not sustaining church leaders and deny the recommend on those grounds. Others wouldn’t.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve received a temple recommend while having a ponytail. But that’s not quite the same thing.

    I thought I knew Mormons pretty well and I knew there was some reservation against piercings, but never quite understood.

    When Gordon B. Hinckley was president, he spoke about them pretty directly. Although I consider his words “inspired counsel” rather than “commandment,” but maybe that’s a distinction without a difference. I have no desire to punch holes in myself, so I haven’t really concerned myself with the issue.

  20. And that raises the question, if they’re okay at lower levels but not at higher, are they really acceptable variations in practice? Or is it just that no one cares to go through the trouble of enforcing them at the bottom level?

    It depends on the issue. Most of what you list aren’t rules per se but social norms, and thus there can’t be explicit enforcement.

    1. Caffeine: Church authorities have made very clear that the prohibition applies to coffee and nonherbal tea only, although we are also counseled (wisely, IMO) not to partake of substances in such a way that we might become addicted or cause harm to ourselves. I’d be surprised if there aren’t some GAs or higher that drink an occasional cola.

    2. Dressing up: Even the general handbook makes clear, or so I’ve read in the bloggernacle, that a white shirt isn’t required to perform priesthood ordinances. I don’t see higher-ups abandoning the practice anytime soon, but in recent years I’ve seen variations more and more often from the white-shirt-and-tie look. Same for men’s facial hair. At least in my neck of the woods, it’s perfectly acceptable (even for a recent member of my bishopric).

    3. R-rated movies: I haven’t heard that mentioned from the pulpit in at least five years. What I have heard is that we should avoid any inappropriate entertainment regardless of rating.

    4. Wearing crosses: I’ve never heard that mentioned at church (although I don’t know any wear them).

    5. Not dating until 16: Yeah, that’s still pretty much the norm, and not a bad idea either. I told my kids they couldn’t date until they’re 25. (I exaggerate only slightly.)

    Good night.

  21. Michael, just to expound on what Eric writes: there are no scriptures forbidding piercings or tattoos, per se, just scriptures talking about the body as a temple. Those scriptures are often used by leaders as support when they counsel to avoid piercings and tattoos (and other “extremes” in appearance). The only members who really must follow that counsel are the full-time missionaries and (probably) the leaders themselves.

    Jack, is this ear-pierced guy not a hypothetical then?

  22. The only members who really must follow that counsel are the full-time missionaries and (probably) the leaders themselves.

    Don’t forget everyone who attends a church-run school or works for the church in an official teaching capacity. Reason #25,762 I could never have attended BYU. Jack (and any other BYU alum on this board), don’t know how you survived there. But heaven bless you for finding the strength.

    I will say most of the appearance rules rub me the wrong way because they often lead to judging by the outward appearance. The no dating before 16 rule, though, really is solid council if we want to help kids avoid gettin’ a little too friendly with one another…well, okay, at least to a certain extent.

  23. Brian ~ I’d really love for my husband to pierce his ears, and he’d like to do it too. I got my ears pierced because he wanted me to, so fair is fair, but he has a TR interview coming up and I think this bishop already has issues with him, so… best not to do anything to further piss him off.

    @the topic: I know that the counsel on piercings and tattoos comes from the “your body is a temple” scriptures, but I’ve always seen that counsel as needlessly arbitrary since it allows women to have one set of piercings. In my opinion it’s either all or none; if a man piercing his ears defaces God’s temple, then so does a woman piercing her ears, but in our culture almost all women have their ears pierced from a young age, so they can’t really prohibit that. It’s culturally conservative counsel that has nothing to do with what actually violates God’s temple.

    I can see GA’s breaking the most minor things on my list. I even have anecdotal accounts from someone who worked security for the GAs that some of them have potty mouths (!). I can’t really see any of them having piercings (past the one set women are allowed to have) or visible tattoos or longer haircuts, and I’m betting that if one of them wore a cross pin on his lapel while giving a talk at General Conference there would be quite a stir. And the only complaint I have about the caffeine thing is, why the heck doesn’t BYU sell it on campus? Always having to go off campus to get my caffeine fix was annoying.

    Funny story about that though: I had an evangelical friend who attended BYU in the 90s. He wanted to blend in with his roommates and not make them uncomfortable or anything, so when he went shopping he purchased cases of decaf Coke and decaf Mountain Dew. Then he came home and opened the fridge… and put them in next to his roommates’s caffeinated Coke and caffeinated Mountain Dew.

    BTW, I’m actually completely against dating at 16. I’m a fan of what Joshua Harris advocates in I Kissed Dating Goodbye: I think having a romantic relationship when there is no hope or possibility for marriage is a waste of time and only leads to trouble. So I guess I’m more conservative than Mormons on the issue.

  24. I think the reason the church doesn’t like men wearing earrings is the same reason they don’t cotton to swearing.

    It is unseemly in polite society.

    Tattoos are similar, when I was a cadet at West Point, another rules based institution, they ruled out tattoos for cadets because it was considered out of character for officers to have tattoos. (you actually had to register pre-existing tattoos so that you didn’t get in trouble for having them)

    I think the Church wants to maintain these sorts of standards in the leadership ranks to promote/preserve polite, civilized image and prevent the “corrupting” the flock.

    This sort of puts off those of us who like to swear, etc.

    Of course it makes swearing in church all the more fun.

  25. Brian, If you’re anything like me, you try not to think about them much (‘cept when the Aggies play the Cougars in basketball), so it’s easy to forget. 😉

  26. I’ve always seen that counsel as needlessly arbitrary since it allows women to have one set of piercings. In my opinion it’s either all or none; if a man piercing his ears defaces God’s temple, then so does a woman piercing her ears, but in our culture almost all women have their ears pierced from a young age, so they can’t really prohibit that. It’s culturally conservative counsel that has nothing to do with what actually violates God’s temple.

    I agree, mostly. Where I disagree is that if women were counseled by the prophet and/or First Presidency not to wear earrings in their piercings, and parents were counseled not to get their girls’ ears pierced, most active church members would comply.

    I will say most of the appearance rules rub me the wrong way because they often lead to judging by the outward appearance.

    If I were to list the top things that “rub me the wrong way” about the church’s culture, that would be in the top two or three. There’s way too much emphasis on how people look, and I think it’s especially hard on some of the church’s youth. And most of it has nothing to do with the gospel.

    As an aside, when the no-more-than-one-earring-per-ear-for-women standard was first uttered, my wife’s instant response was “That’s just what we need, something else to judge people by.” Sad, but true.

    Reason #25,762 I could never have attended BYU.

    That’s one of the main reasons my daughter didn’t consider BYU; another was the curfew (“I’ve never had a curfew!” she said. “Why would I want to start now?”). The irony is that once she went away to college, she started dressing more conservatively and now, as a recent grad, almost never dresses in a way that would keep her from BYU. She prefers to dress in accord with LDS cultural standards (except at the beach, but that’s another story), she just doesn’t want to be told that she has to.

  27. I love to swear.

    One time my husband was visiting his family in Toquerville, Utah (yes that’s really its name), and went to church. The old rancher teaching Elder’s Quorum said, “We gotta remember to be nice to everybody, ‘cuz we don’t want people talkin’ about all them [buttheads] over in Toquerville.”

    Oh, how I longed to have been there.

  28. I’ve found that Mormons out in the rural Mormon heartland tend to get away with more than they do in major populations centers along the Wasatch Front.

    It seems that in this Church, once your loyalty and allegiance has been firmly established, you get a lot more latitude to speak your mind. Hugh Nibley is probably a case-in-point. Few people were more harsh on popular Mormon culture than he was. He even got away with criticizing the top LDS leadership.

    Read his talk “Leaders vs. Managers” sometime. It takes on a whole new dimension when you realize that he was directing that talk directly at “the brethren.”

    But his loyalty had been proven beyond doubt. So he was allowed.

  29. Katie, here is one for you:

    In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer.

    – Mark twain

    (I would add that circumstances don’t have to be that urgent and disparate for this to be true)

    Eric said: That’s one of the main reasons my daughter didn’t consider BYU; another was the curfew”

    There was a curfew at BYU? I suppose I didn’t read the rulebook as closely as I did when I was at West Point. BYU for me was like a half-way house between West Point and the real world.

  30. I’m with you, Jack, I’m with you.

    Seth, a professor I worked with at BYU, who was also a Stake President and a rancher (former rodeo champ, too), said about swearing: “When you work with livestock, the Lord forgives.”

  31. It was my evangelical Mormon professor friend who taught me my rule for swearing, that if a swear word is in the Bible you can say it.

    There was a curfew at BYU? Damn, I don’t think I knew that. Wonder how many times I broke it.

    Katie ~ I will say most of the appearance rules rub me the wrong way because they often lead to judging by the outward appearance.

    I wear off-the-shoulder sweaters to my husband’s ward all the time. I figure I’m giving people practice in not judging others by their appearance and so performing a valuable service.

  32. “It was my evangelical Mormon professor friend who taught me my rule for swearing, that if a swear word is in the Bible you can say it”

    Sorry, but that is kindof a ridiculous rule.

    I suppose I am finally getting over my inhibition on swearing that was ingrained in me as a Mormon child. That was one of the first “sins” I remember feeling guilty for, saying a swear word. I never swore at all until my mission, and indulged in the ridiculous surrogate words that most Mormons used for swear words (heck, flip, fetch, etc.)

    Now I try to swear as much as possible (except around my kids, where I rarely swear). I have to maintain some hypocrisy, I am a Christian/Mormon aren’t I?

  33. “When you work with livestock, the Lord forgives.”

    I think he is just as forgiving to those of us who have to deal with women and children.

    /duck

  34. if a swear word is in the Bible you can say it.

    Does that mean I can’t say bastard? Because I’m pretty sure I could never give up saying bastard.

    I never swore at all until my mission

    That’s funny. I actually stopped swearing (for the most part) on my mission. I thought I had it licked. I was wrong.

    I figure I’m giving people practice in not judging others by their appearance and so performing a valuable service.

    That is true charity if I’ve ever seen it. 🙂

  35. The bible on Bastards:

    Deuteronomy 23:2— “No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD.

    If I was a bastard back then I think I would swear a lot.

  36. You know… all this makes me somehow muse about going back to Roman Catholicism…

    I had a pastor who smoked, drank beer on occasion and wasn’t afraid to use an occasional cussword. But not the ones with God in it.

    Guess I’m just trying to be like him… except I got married 😉

    /musing cultural differences.

  37. Correction: It was BYU Idaho that has a curfew, and BYUI was the school my daughter wouldn’t consider though even though she enjoyed her visit to the campus and had friends going there, not BYU. I don’t have knowledge one way or the other about about curfews at the Provo campus. Sorry about the typo and confusion.

  38. There would be at least one plusl, if they had banned me from church, I probably wouldn’t feel guilty for skipping.

  39. When I first came to BYU, I did not swear at all, and not only did I not watch R-rated movies, I didn’t watch PG-13-rated movies.

    I don’t know what happened… something about being around Utah Mormons made me want to be bad, and now look at me. I eagerly tune into Yahtzee’s Zero Punctuation reviews every week and none of it bothers me.

    And World of Warcraft, that definitely increased my tendency to swear. Guild drama and having to raid with dumb people who couldn’t kill their constructs pissed me off to no end.

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