Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Piercings, Beards, and other Pharisaical “Encouragements”

Yes, the damn piercings. Again. I know. I’ve been simmering for a good rant, and I’ll warn you right now: it’s a rant. Offense may happen. Unpleasant language. I could get rid of it, but at the moment I really don't want to. Some may also find it negative - I do. I also criticise a leader.

Consider yourselves forewarned and please keep the comments thereof private. Again: This is a rant. Thanks.

I have to get this out. I’ve had more than one person suggest this isn’t so much doctrine as it is encouragement if not expectation of our leaders. But this is, as I’ll show in a minute, not just some off the cuff remark because back in the day girls just didn’t wear more than one earring (and certainly no where but the ear) and boys – well, that’s just…weird.

To the uninformed,


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. This relationship was developing during the time that President Hinckley counseled the Relief Society sisters and young women of the Church to wear only one earring in each ear.

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. This was a valuable piece of information for this young man, and he felt unsettled about her nonresponsiveness to a prophet’s pleading. For this and other reasons, 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. The young man was quick to observe that the young woman was not quick to observe.

- Elder David A. Bednar, Quick to Observe, December 2006 Ensign.

To anyone who does not consider themselves Molly or Peter (or to the non-member), this is ridiculous. To a newly zealous member or reinvigorated member, this is wise counsel. This is a faith-promoting story. Do the piercings matter? Noooo. But following the prophet at all times does.

*hits head on desk*

Sorry, but if these ears could hold piercings without infection and I had three or four, I’d keep them. It would be of no disrespect to President Hinckley, but I hardly believe God cares if I have two earrings in one ear. For that matter, I used to want to pierce my eyebrow. If that was still something I wanted, such a story would propel me to get the piercing. This kind of petty stuff serves only to encourage rebelliousness and guilt to those who feel the way I do. "Geez, would I take mine out? What would Elder Bednar think?"

Because it's not about the piercing, is it?

I presume that some of you might have difficulty with my last example. You may believe the young man was too judgmental or that basing an eternally important decision, even in part, upon such a supposedly minor issue is silly or fanatical. Perhaps you are bothered because the example focuses upon a young woman who failed to respond to prophetic counsel instead of upon a young man. I simply invite you to consider and ponder the power of being quick to observe and what was actually observed in the case I just described. The issue was not earrings! (continued from article cited above)

Yes, I believe the young man was too judgmental and I would indeed add fanatical. I might even call Elder Bednar slightly fanatical for bringing it up along with other stories he speaks of in the same talk. We are worrying about the stupidest things. It’s an earring!

If I were that young woman’s friend, I would quickly tell her how lucky she is that her guy showed his true colors before they married. Can you imagine? What if she took a few extra steps on a Sunday? Okay, okay. Hyperbole. But how's this: What if she…now sit down…had an energy drink? *gasp*

I at least hoped this guy talked to the girl beforehand. Oy vey. “Sorry honey, it’s me or the earring.”

Now before anyone throws a fit, I get it. I really, really do and I really, really resent the implied guilt trip pointed at anyone who is doing everything they can – reading the scriptures, attending meetings, honest, chaste, true, benevolent, etc, etc -- and yet has an extra earring. Nothing, nothing is mentioned about this girl's character. Just her unwillingness to take out an earring.

Are we really this nitpicky? What really matters here?

I think the thing that bothers me most about this is that Elder Bednar spoke about it, and not just in the Ensign. This was originally spoken of at a BYU Devotional. Many consider the Ensign to be Scripture when an authority is the author. These little anecdotes only feed the Molly and Peter fires that take the general membership away from the message of CHRIST. For heaven’s sake, can’t we puh-lease talk about Christ instead of these stupid earrings or even the Prophet?

It is because of talks like these that young men and women (and grown men and women) are judged not on their character or heart but on a fucking earring. As an apostle, I would hope Elder Bednar would rather speak of how we can become more charitable. I would rather he spoke about Christ.

Earrings.

And don’t even get me started on beards. Someone suggested this is a BYU thing – well, not exactly. It’s not necessarily church wide, but I can't seem to remember ever seeing a General Authority sporting a good beard, at least not in the last thirty to forty years. In my stake, any male being extended a leadership call (boy scouts, YM, EQ, etc) are asked “How attached are you to that beard?”

My SIL, a very active faithful member, bristles when she tells this story. Nobody asked her, she says. It’s part in jest, but she likes her husband’s beard. Her husband, a laid back guy, doesn’t care. Out comes the razor. Heaven forbid a boy see his leader with a goatee, especially if he's aware - what does it say? What will others think?

I have a good idea of what he'll think: he'll grow up thinking anyone who has a beard is somehow unworthy.

I get that the outside should reflect the inside and we often assume it does – and most times we’re *wrong*. Lest I’m misunderstood, though, I get that it’s important to be clean. I get the importance in dressing nicely when we’re representing the Church (because we understand that when we represent the Church, we are effectively representing Christ. At least that’s how it’s been explained to me). It all makes sense, but if the beard is clean and the earrings aren’t ridiculous than who cares.

Moving on. Deep breath.

Tattoos. Many of our members sport a good tattoo (I'd like to know more who do!). I am curious to know if we have any members - men and women - who have tat sleeves. Are they called to leadership positions? Oh sure as long as it’s covered, but again: women. Would we ever have a Relief Society president who sported a couple tats on her arm (inked before her conversion), tats impossible to cover up? Would we insist on long sleeves each Sunday regardless of weather?

I’m not being facetious; this is for real. We are not to be robots. We’re not to be stepford children of God, there to emit the impression of perfection. We have this weird preoccupation of striving for perfection in a futile journey to be just like Christ in this life. If we were supposed to look the same, it would probably have showed up in scripture somewhere.

And this, I think, is where some of the “avoid the appearance of evil” crap comes from.

Enough with perfection! Should we go nuts? No! But allow a person some self-expression. Allow a person a tattoo if it helps them remember something that is important to them (watch Miami or LAInk if you don’t know what I’m talking about. TLC). Allow a person an earring for heaven’s sake without having to question their loyalty to…who again? The prophet?

I’m sorry, but I think our focus is a little skewed. We talk about the churchchurchchurch. We are to give all we can to the effing church, not to Him whom this Church is supposed to represent.

If you look hard enough, Christ is in all of us. Piercings, beards, tats and all.

It's stuff like this that makes me wonder why I have any hair left at all.

52 comments:

Katie said...

Oh, Lisa, your posts are so great. I just wish you would publish, oh, 15 a day or something...

Its an interesting concept, some of these things, and I think it largely depends on where you live. Our ward is not strict. Let me repeat that in a different way - EVERY ward I have lived in (except at BYU) has been downright liberal. From upstate NY to Philadelphia. In my current ward, we have a lot of convert youth. A LOT. They have had problems. We've had girls who have had babies at the age of 12. And yes, we baptize them. The boys wear earrings and, yes, the pass Sacrament with them in. They are wearing jeans and ghetto chains, too, and they pass Sacrament in them. Usually the ward keeps a supply of white shirts and ties in the clerk's office for them to slip into before passing, but other than that, its all good.

There are women in the ward who have tatoos who are stock Mormon, and they have held leadership positions in YW and Primary. Not RS as far as I know, but then I don't know everyone whose ever had a tatoo, either. I've had priesthood leaders with beards and goatees, and have seen men in the Elder's Quorum with them. Stock Mormon guys, not new converts. I think its what's in the heart.

On Tuesday after the inaugaration, a group of us were chatting about some of these things, and they mentioned how Sister Julie Beck's talk at the RS Conference in 2007 was greatly altered before she gave it at General Conference that year. As in, all references to homemaking = housework and "good Mormon moms have clean kids with freshly ironed clothes" were removed. I don't think every talk given at a "God's University" devotional is Truth. I also don't think every talk is ok'ed in its entirety by the Prophet b/f its given.

Another example - Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce R. McConkie. He was a member of the Quorum of the 12 when he wrote it. He didn't get it ok'ed by the Prophet before publication, and was subsequently asked to not have it reprinted, as it contained a number of errors. "But it was written by a member of the twelve," you say. Yes. Yes, it was.

What I see as the worst part of this talk by Elder Bednar is that poor RM's girlfriend KNOWS he is talking about her. She knows it. Gee, how would that make me feel? I also agree with you about the getting an earring b/c they say not to thing. I have a hard time doing something when I am ordered to do it. Its like how I feel about ordering moms to be in the home.

Personally, I think God only cares what we have in our heart. I think if I do something out of rebelliousness, as I am prone to, that is not a good thing to have in my heart. So I try not to.

Katie said...

"in Elder's Quorum" was supposed to be "in the Elder's Quorum Presidency"

Kengo Biddles said...

Lisa, you are right, there is some of Christ in all of us. My wife had her ears pierced twice, but felt that she should take out her second piercing.

Yes, it doesn't really matter. I mean, there are two guys in our wards with tattoos that I can see through their white shirts. But hey, you know, that's between them and God -- I just know I wouldn't get one, nor would I pierce my ears, because it's partially a culture thing, a belonging thing. Just like the Jews and their prayer shawls, their yarmulkes and the Hassidic Jews crazy sideburns.

My point is this: We need to make our decisions with our life in spiritual balance with the Lord.

A fellow blogger said "I respect and admire anyone who, with their life in balance, makes a conscience decision to chart a course that may differ from mine."

What do I mean? I mean that we need to look past the outside and understand that people are people and make their choices whether they're in line with God or not. And what's okay for one person isn't always okay for someone else.

The church doesn't preach "God can tell you to get a divorce" over the pulpit, yet my mother and I both felt to divorce from our first spouses after much prayer and fasting.

Are we wrong? No. Is this answer meant for "general consumption"? No.

And I think that's where some of these things that you find nitty-gritty and nitpicky fall...things that are meant as a general blanket statement to help those members who aren't ready to think make decisions that will hopefully get them to the point that they CAN think.

Does that make sense?

And Katie, I like what you've said.

Lisa said...

Katie:

The thing about Mormon Doctrine that bothers me is that our leaders feel free to quote from it in their teachings, but yet we're asked not to.

I get that Elder McConkie had a few things mixed up, and I'm glad someone put him "in his place" so to speak (he's got some...interesting theories), but..ergh. I don't know. Our leaders still quote from it, which lends to the work a certain authenticity regarding its subject matter.

Oy! To be in a liberal ward! You'd think I'd be in a liberal ward, California and all, but nope. I get to live in probably the most conservative counties in all the State (i've been in a few, all in the same general area).

I didn't even consider that the girl knew who he was talking about. Family probably knew too, and probably a few friends.

That's not even right.
*gasp* She didn't say that?

"good Mormon moms have clean kids with freshly ironed clothes"

Nononono. Oh gosh. Yeah, I would've thrown a HUGE fit.

Man! Hopefully when they "edited" the talk they explained to her why it wasn't okay to say stuff like that.

Lisa said...

Oh, and Katie: I'm prone to as well and am very careful not to do things out of rebelliousness :)

Kengo:

"things that are meant as a general blanket statement to help those members who aren't ready to think make decisions that will hopefully get them to the point that they CAN think."

To encourage them to continue doing little inconsequential things? That wouldn't get me to learn how to think. It would compel me to follow blindly even further, you know?

Ah. I do like what you said about it being between you and God, but Elder Bednar didn't allow it to be between this young woman and God, and by giving this talk not once but twice (maybe more), he's telling us that it's not okay either.

That's my issue.

"I mean that we need to look past the outside and understand that people are people and make their choices whether they're in line with God or not. And what's okay for one person isn't always okay for someone else."

Couldn't agree more!

Kengo Biddles said...

"To encourage them to continue doing little inconsequential things? That wouldn't get me to learn how to think. It would compel me to follow blindly even further, you know?"

-- It worked with the Nephites and some of the Jews ... the sacrifices they made at the temple were "little" and "inconsequential", yet it lead many of them to have hope in Christ, to get beyond the stupid little daily things.

And yes, I know from your perspective, (and mine, too, to be honest) the earring thing is a HUGE Stretch. (I could almost go so far as to say ginormous) At the same time, I think it goes along that same line, which is why I can feel okay with it.

But you're not alone with your frustrations...I feel the same way about stupid white shirts and ties and "worthiness" to bless and pass the sacrament. But this is your blog and I'll not hijack it.

Laura said...

"What? Know ye not that ye are the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
(1Cor 6:19-30)

I take that to mean that my body does not belong to me yet because I haven't earned the right. And that is why your reasoning is flawed.

"I’m sorry, but I think our focus is a little skewed. We talk about the churchchurchchurch. We are to give all we can to the effing church, not to Him whom this Church is supposed to represent."

Gloryfying our bodies, which belong to Christ, is giving of ourselves to Him.

"I may flirt with the line regarding criticizing leaders."

Sorry to be the one to tell ya this Lisa, but you crossed that time a long time ago. In fact, reading this post, I had to ask myself why I was still reading it.

You say you want the church to focus more on Christ, yet each of your posts are so incredibly negative and each I time I read it, I leave feeling worse. The spirit of Christ is not one of contention.

And so it is that I can no longer read your blog.

I do wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. Thanks for always respecting my comments here.

Lisa said...

I want to respond more fully to Laura's comment, and I hope she'll read it.

First, thank you for the scripture and that reminder. It's easy to forget, and I understand.

However, Elder Bednar neglected to give that as reason. Also, I thought back to when the counsel was given regarding piercings. I was just as bad as whoever I am screaming at now. If I had three piercings at the time I probably would have removed one because I loved and deeply respected President Hinckley. Not because he is the Prophet, but because he is like everyone's grandpa. He earned my trust and my respect, and I would do it for him.

I find it very difficult to respect Elder Bednar for various reasons in his use of this story.

That said, I don't remember ever directly criticising leaders. Perhaps I've flirted before and crossed the line here. I have to say I flirted before out of fear. Now I don't care.

This post as well as many others have been negative. I don't really apologize for that, though I do wish I felt better. It is stories and things like this that makes me take another look at the road out.

I do wish we spoke about Christ more and less about the Church. To me, anymore they are two separate entities bound by a hope, but the Church seems rather narcissistic. The Church will not save me.

I do wish you all the best. Thank you for your thoughts here :)

Hepworths said...

Wow, one of the best rants ever! This hit so close to home for me! You have inspired me to go out and put my extra earrings back in... even the *gasp* cartilage one.
Oh, and I might just get a tat some day too. Of course, I have to make sure it's hidden so no one sees it and judges me!

Lula O said...

You're right Lisa. The only person that can save you, is yourself. If getting this off your chest makes you happier then so be it. If you tip the scales for a few more people in your favor, then that's the road you take. The church or your feelings for it should not be the acid test of your happiness. About how you feel about yourself. Yet you seem to be letting in affect you. The stuff you find and write about on this blog is amazing. Where do you find it? It must take some serious effort. Only a Herculean testimony could withstand what you've discovered.

Do you mind if I ask why you're doing it to yourself? Are you honestly happier because of it?

I'm a science geek and I recently read an article by two Harvard researchers who discovered that people are generally happier about irrevocable decisions: once you are locked in a decision, you tend to focus on its positive aspects and ignore the negative ones. But if you are allowed to change your mind, you ruminate in both the positive and negative aspects of the choice, which makes you less happy.

You know what makes me happy? Watching Wuthering Heights on PBS. Part two is on Sunday night.

Lisa said...

Lula:

I freely admit I've had some downright angry posts in the past, and this is definitely at the top of the list.

I've asked myself a few times the question you've asked. I don't have an answer. I'm looking for people who understand where I'm coming from. I don't feel I'm completely off base, yet here (at home) and online with fellow members, my thoughts are treated as such.

I do have a lot of anger. I think it's more at myself, though - for example, I mentioned that at the time I felt some guilt when I heard Elder Bednar's talk. "Eek, I should be better"

That's not right. I'm tired of guilt trips, and that's how I see this talk and sentiments similar to it.

I am letting it affect me. Surely you know the Church becomes such a part of you that it's damn near impossible to disconnect the two. Perhaps this is a way of my writhing away from it. I don't know.

As for the stuff I've found, no it's really not that difficult. It's largely things I have stored away in my mind over the years. I remember Elder Bednar's talk and how much I hated it, but I wasn't supposed to so I shoved it away.

Am I happier for this? I could be happier. Negatively surely doesn't breed happiness, but it's cathartic. I need to come to some sort of confidence before I can move on, and that means finally and honestly addressing issues that I felt I couldn't or shouldn't before. That much I know.

Thanks for the comment :)

Steve M. said...

The prohibition on second earrings, tattoos, etc., is arbitrary. Some might justify it on the ground that "our bodies are temples," but if that is the true rationale, then why would one set of earrings be appropriate? And if one set of earrings doesn't deface our personal temples, then why can't guys wear an earring?

The truth is that these prohibitions, like BYU's dress and grooming standards, are rooted in a religious culture that cherishes the conservative, clean-cut image. President Hinckley was especially big on preserving this image. In Priesthood Session talks during General Conference, he repeatedly instructed the young men not to dress in a "slouchy" manner. In this respect, Hinckley was similar to Ernest Wilkinson, the man primarily responsible for the dress and grooming aspects of BYU's Honor Code.

The counsel against multiple earrings, tattoos, and the like, seems to contradict scripture. As every LDS seminary student knows, 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

But whenever this point is made in a church setting, we can all anticipate the standard response: Our appearance--our hairstyle or the way we dress, for instance--says something about who we are.

Of course, the problem with this argument is that it assumes that whatever having a second set of earrings or a tattoo or a mohawk says about us is bad or undesirable.

Anyway.

As for McConkie and Mormon Doctrine, I'm pretty sure he was a Seventy when he first published it. And the circumstances surrounding its republishing were pretty shady.

Lisa said...

Steve: Good points.

Yes, I know that about Mormon Doctrine, but leaders still use it. See the latest (or was it two months ago?) Ensign :)

(yes, I do read it)

"And the circumstances surrounding its republishing were pretty shady."

Could you clarify?

Matt said...

I like to think of the earrings and the caffeine as something given in the original spirit of the Word of Wisdom, before it became enforced and became a cultural boundary between Jew and Gentile: a principle with a promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints.

That is, we're going to err on the side of caution and encourage you to stay far away from the edge because many of you, the weakest of all saints, cannot be trusted to make good decisions. Not all of you need every proscription, mind, but enough of you do to warrant it.

That whole following the prophet business is fine, except that directives on earrings are sent by way of greeting, not by commandment or constraint. BYU can't tell the difference, which is why they can no longer dress like Eastern prep school students transplanted from the 1950s. I was at BYU when the earring guidelines came down, and there were plenty of folks publicly patting themselves on the back in church and in the Daily Universe for their piety, and plenty of pity for those who just didn't have the faith to obey.

Sorry, didn't mean to fan the flames. I'll come to the point:

I've come to believe in this idea that many of the things that we as a church do and many of the rules we follow aren't to make a stand between right and wrong. Iced tea, wrong? Hardly. But some things we fiercely cling to that look strange to outsiders create a cultural boundary between the church and Idumea (there's the absolute boundary again) and make us a peculiar people, whether we like it or not, and no matter how many American Idol contestants we produce. Mitt Romney will always feel like an outsider when he goes out for drinks with the other candidates. That glass of milk isn't helping things.

You're Mormon? You're insulated. You can't touch whatever it is that's going on out there because it's against the rules, or because it doesn't understand you, or because it doesn't like you very much, or because it's not for you. You don't represent the church; you represent otherness. You're being kept unspotted from the world in a way that is painful but effective. Said Mary Poppins: "People who get their feet wet must learn to take their medicine."

Garments? Cultural boundary, among other things. Nothing says not-of-the-world like the frustration of not being able to wear a crew-neck shirt with my crew-neck garments.

Polygamy? Cultural boundary. Was it wrong? It sure was repulsive. We often hear that it was to care for the widows or to quickly raise up a righteous prosperity. But what it really did was to quickly raise up Mormonism as a cultural identity. And maybe that's what "a righteous posterity" means. It incubated the church, made the prophet a powerful authority figure, sifted out dissenters, opened up the way for some radical social experimentation like the united order, and gave us our persecution complex. If God is omniscient, he does what he does to get desired outcomes. If the lasting consequences of polygamy both good and bad were the will of God, then it was a success -- just like New Coke.

The Word of Wisdom? Cultural boundary. When polygamy ended, something had to take its place. Why not this? I can't think of any other reason to make green tea anathema.

Denying black men the priesthood? Cultural boundary. Maybe. It didn't start out that way when Brigham Young let it happen in the first place (or for whatever reason it started) but by the time we ended it, many saw us as the racism church. Many still do.

Caffeine? Earrings? Beards? Fad cultural boundary, just in case you forgot that you're supposed to be different.

Proposition 8?

Christ said that the world would hate us. Maybe he wants the world to hate us, so that we remember that we're different, so that we won't touch unclean things. And I don't think that gay civil rights or frappuccino or tattoos are the bad things we're not supposed to touch. Otherness affects us personally.

I don't understand Elder Bednar's story. I don't like the boy he's describing. None of it makes sense to me except to believe that God is going for this final result. Maybe God even wants us to be offended by the resulting sanctimony.

Katie said...

Matt - I think I would have to disagree about the church purposely choosing things to make us a peculiar people, polygamy in particular. I think it more likely that it is another example of the spirit/letter of the law. People were not obeying the WoW when it was released, hence why it was made a mandate. Its the idea of a fence - you put a fence around the fence around the fence to keep us from sin. Perhaps we keep these things b/c we as a Mormon church and its people like "peculiarity we can believe in," but I don't think God's intent was to make us kooky.

I sometimes think that what we get as strict mandates (such as the earrings, etc) are social adaptations of a general priciple (body as a temple ergo social implication is no more than 2 earrings). They need to say SOMETHING because some people just don't get the idea of being "well-groomed". And it isn't just about how others see us; I see it as, if Christ came again right now, what would I want to be wearing? Would I want to have put ink on my body and holes in my skin? (Then again, I am one of those girls who won't even get my ears' pierced for that very reason).

BYU is a very, very, very weird place. Utah was the one place on earth that I feel LEAST comfortable, BYU in particularly. There is something altogether too "pharisaical" (thanks for the word, Lisa) about having ward prayer together (who is here? who isn't? should we go and fellowship them?)and the no-beard rule. I agree with you there about it just being BYU wanting to be even more pious and righteous, and it is enough to make anyone puke.

Like I've said before, though, my thoughts are definitely influenced by the liberal wards I've lived in.

The Boob Nazi said...

I have 3 holes in each ear. And I went to BYU. I just put an earring in each hole every once and a while when I got bored. I pierced 4 of those holes AFTER the prophet told us not to. It was my "rebellion" hahaha. I was a wild one.

Steve M. said...

I sometimes think that what we get as strict mandates (such as the earrings, etc) are social adaptations of a general priciple (body as a temple ergo social implication is no more than 2 earrings). They need to say SOMETHING because some people just don't get the idea of being "well-groomed". And it isn't just about how others see us; I see it as, if Christ came again right now, what would I want to be wearing? Would I want to have put ink on my body and holes in my skin? (Then again, I am one of those girls who won't even get my ears' pierced for that very reason).

I see what you're saying, but I think it really just begs the question: Why should we be "well-groomed"? If Christ did pay us a visit, what would it matter if I had ink on my skin or holes in my ears?

All too often we make these assumptions about right and wrong without really questioning them.

Katie said...

I see what you're saying, but I think it really just begs the question: Why should we be "well-groomed"? If Christ did pay us a visit, what would it matter if I had ink on my skin or holes in my ears?

Because He paid for my body with His blood.

Katie said...

I went to a Catholic school for high school They had all SORTS of kooky rules - uniforms. Skirts at the top of the knee. Earrings not bigger than a quarter. Certain makeup was ok, others was not. God-given hair colors only.

Yes, they came around with quarters and rulers to check to make sure you complied with these things, and you know what? The worst "offense" ever in the history of the school was someone "vandalizing" someone else's painting from Art 100 (they took a marker to it). They were expelled for it.

None of the rules had a point, but they did keep us from doing the bigger (and stupider) things, like drugs and fights and stuff.

I think thats why you get some of the weird rules at BYU - no shoes off on campus, no beards, no sandals, etc. - its to keep them from doing the really stupid things. College can be a tempting and rebellious time. Seriously, if being rebellious is wearing 3 pairs of earrings, I think you're doing A-OK.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

I agree with you completely Lisa.

The insane judgementalism inherent in the church always made me crazy. I think that it's a natural outgrowth of the superiority complex the church teaches its members to have - Mormons can get so obsessed with judging outsiders as deficient, they also feel the need to judge others inside the community.

Because of the constant guilt heaped on the members, they often feel the need to somehow prove they're really more righteous, and judging people based only on their outward appearance gives an easy way to appear better (rather than actually making themselves better, nicer, more loving people).

And of course, many aren't like this, but I think the intense pressure that believing members are put under by the leadership to be perfect - a totally unrealistic and unhealthy expectation - is the main cause of petty things like breaking up a relationship based on the number of piercings a person has.

If indeed there is such a person as Christ, he would surely be very disappointed with the church's obsession with judging outward behaviours and mostly ignoring true positive traits like love, acceptance and respect.

Katie said...

Sorry, Steve, that came off as saracastic, and it wasn't meant to be. What I meant was this:

I see what you're saying, but I think it really just begs the question: Why should we be "well-groomed"? If Christ did pay us a visit, what would it matter if I had ink on my skin or holes in my ears?

Because He paid for my body with His blood, and I believe that means taking good care of it and respecting it, not painting it, and not putting holes into it.

Steve M. said...

Because He paid for my body with His blood.

But this still begs the question: Does a belief that Christ "owns" our bodies necessarily mean that he would disapprove of tattooing or piercing them? One might argue that such practices celebrate the beauty of the human body and are an expression of gratitude for that body. You're still assuming--without explaining why--that tattoos and piercings are bad.

Katie said...

I personally think that He wouldn't want me to poke holes in it or have tatoos, like I explain in my 2nd "paid for my body" comment. I felt this way before I even became a member of this church, back when I was Catholic, when earrings and tatoos and such were just fine docrinally. Its maybe just a me thing.

The reason for why people accept it when the Prophet teaches it is either 1) they have a personal testimony of it, or 2) they have the testimony of the Prophet, then they just accept it as "Well, its not a big deal, so I'll do it." Lisa's got the double-whammy that this rule seems to make no sense AND she is still struggling with whether or not she believe that Thomas S. Monson is God's choen Prophet. If you don't believe that, then there is no sense in doing something you don't feel makes logical sense to you.

Jake said...

Katie, what about people who believe Thomas S. Monson, or President Hinckley, or any other church president or apostle for that matter, is God's chosen prophet, but just think he is wrong? While I wouldn't get a tattoo, or a piercing for that matter, the main point is the part of follow the prophet no matter what. If you truly believe the prophet is wrong, should you follow him? Or, assuming that it was a lack of faith in the case of the second pair of earrings, is it righteous to judge another person in that way as lauded by Elder Bednar? To me, the worst part of the story is the implication that having "less faith" is a serious flaw when faith is a gift of the spirit that not everyone has to the same degree. The other implication is that such a small thing is more important than the two great laws as enumerated by Christ himself. Back to my point above, if one truly believes that piercings or tattoos are not condemned by God, basically church leaders are wrong on this issue, what do earrings have to do with the two great commandments? Pharisaical encouragements indeed.

Katie said...

Oh, good grief, NO, its never right to judge! For any reason, let only something like a stupid pair of earrings. There's the whole thing with "judge ye not unrighteously," but I would just prefer to avoid judging altogether. I don't know anyone's heart but my own.

I can't say what someone should do if they think the prophet is just wrong. I dunno. I haven't been in that position. I guess if we were called to practice polygamy tomorrow I would just have to figure it out. I personally don't see anything wrong with taking out my earrings, though. And I don't think obedience is by any means more important than "love one another," or "love God." I hope there was more to this story that just a simple pair of earrings...

Blah, its late, I don't even know if that made sense. Jake, how on earth did you come to this blog? (This is my bro-in-law, btw, Lisa.)

The Faithful Dissident said...

I remember hearing that Bednar talk and rolling my eyes with that story. All I can say is, that girl can probably be glad that she didn't take out her earrings because otherwise she could have ended up with a guy who would have left her over something so petty. Wherever she is now, she should be breathing a sigh of relief.

Amanda said...

"Because He paid for my body with His blood, and I believe that means taking good care of it and respecting it, not painting it, and not putting holes into it."

Katie - first, I want to say I'm not trying to argue with you or make fun of you by asking this. I'm just trying to make out what you're saying. As far as I know, the church says poking one set of holes into your ears is perfectly fine - I can't tell by your statement if you believe you shouldn't poke any holes at all, or if you think Christ would approve of one set of holes but not more. If it's the latter, why one set specifically? And why only on girls? If it's really about changing the body Jesus paid for with his blood, why are the standards different between genders?

Personally, I have two holes in each ear and haven't worn earrings in so long that I hope the holes have closed completely, and I wish I'd never gotten them pierced. But that's a personal belief, not a religious one.

Lisa said...

Katie: "I hope there was more to this story that just a simple pair of earrings..."

Go check out the link. I'm pretty sure there's not. The talk was about being quick to observe; this was just a supportive anecdote.

Regarding tattoos and whatnot, I really respect and love those who decide to not "desecrate" their bodies. I have no issue with that. I take issue when others try to tell me I'm unworthy if I have three piercings.

But I'm with Steve here: Who decided that was desecration?

On the one hand, we don't want society to dictate who we are as children of God. On the other hand, we allow society to get in the way of how we dress (heaven forbid we look like bikers, tweakers, etc).

I get that we should take care of ourselves, be clean, etc. But this - if you'll look at Standards of Dress and Grooming,

"They [standards RE: beards] are responsive to conditions and attitudes in our own society at this particular point in time..."

I hate this. The article goes on to talk about how beards are often unkempt...so what if they aren't?

Is BYU really that scared? Gotta make cookie cutter Mormons so no one gets a "wrong" idea, gotta keep making that box smaller and smaller for the "weakest of saints" (shit, why don't we live in a compound?), nevermind if some of them are rebellious on the inside?

Same with piercings and tattoos. If I wanted one, a "modest" one with meaning and significance, would it be desecration? To who? Society, or the Church? I'm not convinced it would be God who would find it wrong.

One could quote Leviticus 21:5, but in its context we would also have to ban bald heads on our high priests.

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth within you?

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”

Does this really speak to the body, or the Spirit which dwells within it?

Which would desecrate more the temples we enter in today – graffiti on the outside walls, or the admission of those who openly defy God’s teachings?

As Steve said, God cares more about the heart. Just look “heart” up in the Topical Guide – it’s everywhere.

Matthew 15:11 states,

“That which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”

While I’m all about good grooming, our fixation on how we look and how we appear to others openly defies everything Christ spoke of and taught. Christ wouldn’t turn us away if we came to him in our imperfect glory (if tattoos and piercings are imperfect), and neither should we. He would look upon our hearts. At least the Christ I believe in would.

Lisa said...

Matt: I actually agree with much of what you've said. Interesting...I hadn't thought about it that way before.

Boob Nazi: lol, interesting name :) Yes, we can be a rebellious bunch can't we? There's a reason such things are so funny. It's because they're rather ridiculous to many. Do piercings matter? No, but the idea behind it either struck people as (a) stupid, (b) indifferent (c)inspired.

Jake: Welcome! Great points, and something I had to deal with this past summer, though I'm not sure it has to do with me believing in President Monson as a prophet because I do have a hunch President Hinckley might have done something similar regarding Prop 8.

I don't believe we are bound to follow the prophet if we believe he's wrong/misguided, especially if such hunches are backed up by personal prayer. Such "rebellious" ideas are swiftly rejected by much of the church as I found, though.

Katie said...

Ugh, just because I had 50 people jump on what I said, I'll respond.

True, we don't know what God does/doesn't want intrinsically. Some may argue that anything the Prophet says or does will tell us that, but agreed - if you don't believe in the prophet, or think he is right about something or another, then this is a mute point. Some may know what God wants for their own bodies (through personal revelation). You can't ever apply personal revelation to others, though - its a personal thing. I try not to judge others b/c they have made decisions of their own that differ from mine (and there's alot of them).

"Why does got say ok for earrings for girls, but not boys" (I'm paraphrasing here). I think the Church has said it takes "no official stance regarding the use of 1 pair of earrings for women," so technically they neither condone nor condemn it. I guess some would say that is essentially condoning it, but I do think its a worthwhile distinction. Personally, I don't wear earrings at all, because I personally feel it to be a desecration. Personally. (Have I stressed that I personally feel this way enough?) I don't care if, say, Jake decides to get 5 pairs of earrings on his mission. Whatever. Its his life. Its his body. I probably would view it as ridiculous-looking, but no, I wouldn't look at him and say "Gee, he's desecrating his body." I may not choose to marry him, if only b/c I think he looks stupid. Oh, and because I'm married to his brother already. I learned this all a long time ago with my sisters and dad that you can't apply what you may think you know through personal revelation to anyone else w/o being a self-righteous prick. The same goes for personal revelation regarding a prophet as it does to personal revelation regarding, say, whether or not you drink bottled water.

About the original talk and the issue at hand of whether it really is a mandate from God. I think its another of those "society influences on doctrine". Hard to untangle. Do I think its ok that Elder Bednar is using some poor girl as an example in his talks? No, although I agree she is better out of this relationship than in it. No, I don't think its fair that the boy judged her based solely on her choice to wear 2 pairs of earrings. I think its a really dumb way to end a relationship, and, as Jake said, places "follow the prophet" about "love your neighbor." I also don't think it warrants being in a talk - nothing about this RM kid made him "holier" than his girlfiend, which is what Elder Bednar is trying to imply. Its a dumb talk. I'm glad I didn't hear it.

I had a boyfriend (who I was dating at the same time as my now-husband, incidentally) who told me that he views drinking soda/cola products as the first step to apostacy. I drank cola. I suspect that was part of the reason he broke up with me, and I am better off without him. So, yes - these idiots that judge people on exterior things exist. I have another BIL (not Jake) who has told me he would "never marry a girl who watched R-rated movies". Incidentally, this same BIL watches porn, so I would argue that he is insanely hypocritical. In some ways, it does seem like the Church promotes that judgement with these sorts of rules. However, as it isn't part of the temple interview process, I kinda view it as Pres. Hinckley's take on things, which gets disseminated as "pure and unmitigated Gospel".

Finally, I think it is important to remember that there are eternal truths, things that are intrinsically right and wrong. Sometimes I think the Church tries to keep us from corssing the law with these fences, in the name of "following the prophet". I still contend its what's in your heart.

I personally had a really hard time giving up rated R movies. I personally thought it was a dumb rule. I prayed about it, and experimented on it, watching an R-rated movie praying before and after. I got an answer for myself that I shouldn't watch them. Do I try to judge others for watching them? No. Would I argue that we should all simply and blindly "follow the prophet"? No. I would probably just say, pray about it and decide if it works for you. We are all entitled to personal revelation and confirmation of whether or not something is a true principle. I usually experiment upon the word before I accept any proclamation given. If it doesn't jive with me, then I view that as my personal revelation and move on with my life (see: working mothers outside the home). If it is something that really isn't a big deal and doesn't affect me (like the earring/tat thing), I just do it, because the prophet asked us to.

Just MY answer. Personally.

(Please, please, please don't jump all over me!)

Lisa said...

Katie: I hope you didn't feel I was jumping on you, though I can understand you feeling that way. I appreciate your thoughts here and want you to feel welcome. You add much to the debate, and I appreciate that.

"I try not to judge others b/c they have made decisions of their own that differ from mine (and there's alot of them)."

That's why I love you being here. I wish there were more like you. Thank you.

Amanda said...

Katie, I hope you don't think I was jumping on you. I tried to make clear in my comment that I wasn't, that I was just curious what you thought about the one-hole rule, and you answered that you don't even like one pair of holes, on a personal level. That's all I was curious about. Since I'm not Mormon, I don't really get into the doctrinal issues. I don't believe it that sort of thing from a religious standpoint, so I was only curious what your individual opinion was. You had spoken so forcefully about not putting holes in your body at all, that I wondered if you were against, personally of course, a single set of earrings.

(oh my goodness, my word verification is my name!)

Jake said...

Katie, you posted a link on your blog. I also wasn't trying to jump on your personal beliefs, which I believe you stated. I was mostly talking about the general church culture that glorifies judgment over such small things as earrings under the guise of following the prophet, when I believe there are much more important things such as being a good person.

I'd guess that everybody has at least one issue where they wouldn't be "quick" to follow the prophet, including judgment over political views. Without discussing my personal views on the matter, at least in this thread, prop 8 in CA provides an excellent example. The church counseled members to support it with time and money, while officially stating that faithful members could hold opposing political views on the matter. From what I've heard, members who openly opposed it, especially in CA and at BYU, were regularly called apostates and ostracized. What is the difference between having an extra set of earrings or opposing prop 8? Culturally, I'd guess very little since both involve prophetic counsel. But *officially, it is ok to judge someone based on earrings but not political viewpoints, despite both involving following the prophet.

Officially because an apostle stated it in general conference.

Katie said...

So, didn't mean to be testy. I'm just relatively thin-skinned, and its been a long work-week for me (and its just beginning, blah).

Faith is an interesting thing... and I've come to realize that not everyone in the LDS church approaches it the same way. For me, its all about personal revelation. If I receive prophetic counsel that contradicts what I've received in personal revelation, I go with the personal revelation. In my personal opinion, personal revelation is a commandment of its own, and trumps everything else. It does mean that I do clash with people in some of my viewpoints in the church, and I have often had "Follow the Prophet" thrown back in my face. However, I can live with myself better when I know the decision I am making is right for me. I try really hard in such instances to stress that I have prayed about X, Y, or Z and the Spirit has prompted me to do such-and-such. People can't argue with it too much except to say that I am being led away by Satan (which so far no one has been dumb enough to do, to my face anyway).

Because I have received personal revelation for things that are contrary to what others believe or think to be true, I try really hard never to apply my situation on theirs. Everyone has the right to receive personal revelation that may differ from mine. I also realize that what I feel personally "commanded" to do by this revelation may (and does) change with time and with the circumstances I am in. So I always reserve the right to alter my stance, because God may lead me in different paths at different times (and has).

I typically get answers to my prayers about such things, so that makes it easier, but "to some are given some gifts and to others, other gifts." I'll readily admit that I haven't much thought about how to counsel someone who fundementally disagrees with something the prophet says, but doesn't have a confirmation of the Spirit either way. I suppose its something I should think about, since I have a son now, and he will likely have different spiritual "gifts" than his parents.

Katie said...

Oh, and lest anyone think that "Everyone has a right to receive personal revelation that may differ from mine" means that if you don't receive personal revelation you are less faithful, aren't praying enough, have less faith, etc. - that is NOT what I meant. I just meant that if you personally have received revelation and it differs from mine, that doesn't threaten me. Each person needs to do what they feel is best for them, in their heart. I see personal revelation as a spiritual "gift" that not all are given, and in this way I have been abundantly blessed, through not action of my own. There are other gifts I have not been given, and thats ok, too - I don't consider myself less faithful for not having them, nor do I consider anyone who does not easily receive personal revelation to be less faithful than I am.

Hope that made sense, as I was re-reading my post I realized I might have been ambiguous.

Lisa said...

Katie: I would hope most of those who have been here regularly understand that's not what you're saying.

I get the thin-skinned part. I was scared to *death* to post this as well as a few other entries. Hell, I was scared to start this blog. That was in the middle of the Prop 8 biz, but I'm learning how to stand up for myself. I'm also learning how to be chill and not take it personally.

Notice I said "learning" - I'm still not very good at it :)

I love that you're cool about other people receiving different revelation. I think the straw that broke this girl's back is the knowledge that there are just some things the Church will not allow me to dissent on. For example, I can believe all I want that homosexuality isn't sinful. If I were to tell someone I prayed and recieved that answer, I'd be told to pray again because I'm wrong. The Church hath spoken.

Then again, perhaps it would be "Fine, believe it all you want just shut up about it."

Even that bothers me.

The reaction of friends and family, as you well know, really hurt too and seemed symptomatic of a larger disease. I only wish I could be in a more liberal area...that said, ironically enough 5+ years ago I would have seen liberal LDS to be as oxymoron-ish as others do now.

I just see it as this: The Prophet speaks, you pray to receive confirmation (if you don't receive confirmation, then you need to check yourself. Are you really listening? Praying with faith? How's your testimony? etc). Everything as I can see it is meant to be as cut and dry as those in my area seem to think.

I don't know. Perhaps I'm wrong; I'm really not all that well-traveled nor will I get the chance to be for some time. It seems to me through my research and reading (as well as online interactions) that the general leadership intend to be staunchly conservative. The piercing thing is just the tip of the hat. For me.

Katie said...

For example, I can believe all I want that homosexuality isn't sinful. If I were to tell someone I prayed and recieved that answer, I'd be told to pray again because I'm wrong. The Church hath spoken.

Lisa, just out of curiousity, what is your definition of "homosexuality"? Behavior or feelings? Would you define someone as homosexual for having same-sex attraction, or only if they engage in homosexual relations/acts? Or do you not see a difference between the two? Sorry, I don't want to thread-jack; I was just curious b/c in my opinion, I don't think same-sex attraction is sinful, and I don't think the church teaches that either (although things like Prop 8 really does make things all murky, and seem to give people permission to be homophobes).

I agree that you need to live in a more liberal ward/stake/area. Although the overall church leadership is more conservative, having local leaders that are not makes a HUGE difference in terms of how things are interpretted and what is seen as important/unimportant. You shared your story about your rejection after your were against Prop. 8, and I felt like screaming b/c that would NEVER happen here. If someone chose to not actively work for Prop. 8 (or something similar) in my area, the bishop and most of the ward/stake would be perfectly fine with it. There's a lot to be said for a diverse ward with people from all over the world and from every religion. It changes perspectives.

Maybe Eric will consider relocating to Philly?!!?

Lisa said...

Oh I know the Church's stance on homosexuality. I actually mean the act.

My feelings on it are getting sorted out right now, but here's how I see it:

If a person is genuinely only attracted to a member of the same sex, then who the hell am I to tell them to live a completely celibate life? I cannot imagine such a life.

But yeah, I don't want this to become a "is homosexual activity a sin"?

I do believe in a deep respect and deference to sex and sexuality. I don't think it's something people should just do to do. That can be dangerous and screws with emotions...

For another post, yeah? :)

Eric and I have discussed moving out of state in the past, but we only discussed Missouri (it's where he served his mission and he really liked it there). I do very much want to see the east coast, though. It's a must-do-before-i-die kind of thing for me.

:)

I do wonder how the general leadership would view largely liberal wards, though.

Katie said...

Well, they haven't had to re-dedicate our building or anything yet, and we ARE getting a temple, so we must be doing alright, yes?

I think alot of these problems come when you try to focus on the church as an American church, and lose site of its globalness. We're suddenly worried about gay marriage, which has been legal in Europe for years? We have a lot of Hispanics, West Africans, African Americans, Laos-ians, Vietnamese, you name it, in our stake. They really don't sweat the small stuff and tend to focus on things like "We don't believe in the Trinity - God and Christ are spearate entities" and "No, the bread and water do not LITERALLY become Christ's flesh and blood". Our Sacrament talks are on the Savior, and everyone is welcome to them. There are language barriers galore, and we have folks who come from an evangelical background who sing their testimonies in fast and testimony meeting.

Like I said, we try not to sweat the small stuff. That said, lots of Utah transplants end up hating it here (they think its apostate, maybe? Or that the church isn't "as true"?) and end up leaving.

Katie said...

Oh, and we have had church leadership come visit our meetings, too - since I've been in this area, we have had Elder Holland, Pres. Hinkley, Elder Oaks, Sister Pingree, to name a few. They tend to encourage us and say we're doing well.

That said, things like "Time Out for Women" do NOT go over as well here - hence why I wonder if there is a cultural/doctrinal disconnect.

belledame2 said...

Lisa, please keep up these posts. You always hit the nail on the head everytime.

Frankly, I think it's so hilarious how the GAs feel they have to micromanage our lives by all this nonsense about appearance. I'd never even heard about President Hinkley's thing about a one-earring policy until years later when David Bednar mentioned it in General Conference! I've had two holes in my ears for years and no one ever said anything to me at church about it.

Another example of this for me is Julie Beck's infamous talk at General Conference in October of 2007 and her comments about how "They bring daughters in clean and ironed dresses with hair brushed TO PERFECTION; their sons wear white shirts and ties and have missionary haircuts." Gees, is outer apparance a lot more important than what's in a person's heart?

I also want to commend you for your great memory. Yes, I have posted some comments at MFH. that was how I found out about your blog. Keep up the posts and it's so nice to know we're not alone.

Tom said...

Lisa -

At its base level, this is about control. The church wants to control the lives of its members. Ostensibly, it wants to do so for a higher purpose -- to ensure that as many as possible inherit the CK.

They spend so much time and effort (and look how much WE are spending!) on these minor things because if they can keep you obedient on the small stuff, they are more likely to keep you obedient on the big stuff.

The church wants an army of believers to step up and take the church's position when it is threatened. They believe the day will come when an evil force threatens the very nature of society and god's kingdom and the church will be required to do battle with that force of evil, and...oh, wait. That just happened, didn't it? And the church had done such a good job with earrings and beards and modest clothing that when it came time to ask members to work tirelessly to remove civil rights from a group of people that hundreds of thousands of members didn't think twice.

Christopher Hitchens is right -- religion poisons everything.

Soxy Pirate said...

I thought you might enjoy this:

"The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism... the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances."

-Hugh Nibley

Natalie said...

Hey Lisa,
Wow! Your readership has grown! I've become suddenly and immensely busy in the last two weeks, so I haven't read your stuff recently, and don't have time to read all the above comments.

I just wanted to let you know when I was first called to be YW pres, I called a counselor who had a very prominent tattoo on her neck from pre-church days. :) And she was fabulous, and accepted without questions.

Oh, and I also almost murdered a missionary once when I was helping a 14-year old convert prepare for her baptism. She had made the huge leap of giving up dating a boy she was wildly crushing on because of her newfound faith, and then the missionary (while she was freaking out with nervousness at the baptism!) started lecturing her about her extra earrings. I just shook my head at him and steered her in the other direction. :)

Oh, and Katie and I are in the same stake (use the same building) so she might have already mentioned this. But our former YM pres was a guy with a scratchy voice, scruffy face, and a big round gold earring.

So people really aren't crazy everywhere, I promise. :)

Lisa said...

Katie: "We're suddenly worried about gay marriage, which has been legal in Europe for years?"

It would be interesting to know how our Church involved themselves in that (if they had a chance to, I know nothing about European politics). If you paid attention, though, the Church and the alliance it was in pointed to Europe as an indicator as to how gay marriage would ruin society :P

hahaha, I'll bet Utah transfers don't like it there. They don't like it here! I know!

Time out for Women? I don’t believe I’ve heard that talk…ugh. What about “Mothers Who Know”? I hated that talk and felt so alone for so long because every single woman in this area sung its praises and I spent the time biting my tongue. Ow.

Belledame: Nuh uh! Crap, where’ve I been? I might’ve screamed if I’d heard THAT one. That’s awful.

Thanks for coming back :) Glad you like it here.

Tom: Certainly seems that way, doesn’t it? :(

Soxy: roflmao, that’s priceless. Thank you so much. I think I’ll put that on my quotes – I’m well overdue for a good new quote (though the one I have is fabulous as well).

Natalie: Oh good, you’re back! I would’ve murdered that missionary too, and that’s awesome about the YW counselor. The sad thing is there are some out there who would receive inspiration to call a woman with a tattoo and yet ignore it because she has a tattoo (what message would it send to the girls?!). So grateful for members like you. Wish there were more.

Steve M. said...

Gees, is outer apparance a lot more important than what's in a person's heart?

Although the standard LDS response to this question is that one's appearance says something about who she is inside, what we wear might actually have an effect on who we are inside--or at least that might be a subconscious motivation behind clothing-based restrictions.

I'm currently reading The Lord's University: Freedom and Authority at BYU (Waterman & Kagel). The authors write:

"Preventing communism from creeping onto campus depended in large measure, for [former BYU President Ernest] Wilkinson, on his ability to prevent student unrest. Wherever the president saw change, discontent, or challenges to traditional authority on other campuses, he moved quickly to prevent the possibility that such evils would emerge from within his school. During his first fall semester address tot he student body after returning to BYU, Wilkinson launched into the issue of student dress--a topic that would preoccupy the president for the remainder of his term at BYU. . . . Wilkinson's main concern in the fall 1965 address . . . was sloppiness in general and what he perceived as the anti-social and anti-authoritarian culture of campus unrest. . . .

"Wilkinson's talk belied an increasing anxiety over 'control.'" (pp. 128-29)

In other words, the hope may be that by creating proscriptions against certain styles of dress and appearance, the Church can discourage dissent among its membership.

Lisa said...

I do agree that the way we dress can influence our actions...to a degree.

But when we take it to a level where tank tops are banned (seriously, guys, do shoulders do it for you?) and extra piercings and a clean beard...

Yeah. I don't know.

I had a guy in my ward some years ago who worked as an undercover cop. He had to look like a scary tweaker, and he was a big guy. It was loads of fun when he'd get up to bear his testimony and there was a visitor in the ward :)

And I'm tiring of this whole "for the weakest of the Saints." Starts to sound like a copout to me when it's extended beyond the Word of Wisdom.

That said, I had to learn a lesson at 16 that how I dressed *did* affect others perceptions of me. In my insistence to NOT dress nicer (think Alanis Morissette and mid-90s grunge), I lost job opportunities.

But in everyday life I should be able to dress as I please. Generally as people age they become more "modest" anyway - you won't see many 40 year old goths or women in micro-minis (and if you do *shudder*, right?). It's part of growing up - that said you won't see me allowing my daughter to be the next Paris Hilton. Extremes aren't cool and can hinder progress, opportunity, and invite problems.

However, some of the best people I ever knew were the goths in high school, the tattooed, the pierced, etc. By focusing so much on appearance we're ignoring the inside. That's the point of most anti-authoritarians I've ever known.

Dress does affect perception and has its place, but we take it to a ridiculous level. Some will fight back, and they do.

Steve M. said...

Lisa,

I totally agree with you. In my last comment I was merely speculating as to why the Church does what it does and says what it says with respect to appearance.

Steve M. said...

IOW, I'm not saying that one's dress really does affect their behavior, but rather, that some of the powers-that-be in the Church might think micro-managing church members' fashion options will make those members less likely to question or rebel against authority.

Lisa said...

Steve: I thought that's what you were trying to say. Brought up some thoughts and memories :) Thanks for contributing those quotes and church history. I love that stuff - quite revealing.

I think you're right as to your theory. There's probably lesser reasons, but I imagine that's right up there even if noone will admit it.

team-weezy said...

im guessing you were dating him then? lol

Shans said...

I needed to read this today. And you and I need to become best friends.
I've been active LDS my whole life. And I find that tattoos and piercings can be beautiful. I have many holes in my ears... In fact I got my 10,11 and 12th last night. I also have a nose ring and a tattoo. And the judgements are hurtful...but should I change what I like and find beautiful just to conform to what others, who really don't even care to get to know me, feel? I'll never hold a calling with yw or even anything but behind the scenes in RS because of them..but that's the culture of the church.
I'm glad the Lord sees past that.