Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes." -Maggie Kuhn

As a self-proclaimed iconoclast, I have been focusing on debunking the myths perpetuated in Mormon culture. But I can rebel against society in general's falsehoods, too!

I sincerely and earnestly believe in defending freedom of speech for everyone. I believe in the principle "I
may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it." My opinions on this subject mainly developed when I learned about Skokie vs. Illinois in my high-school government class. After careful consideration and discussion with my teacher, I realized that I would defend the neo-Nazis' right to peacefully march. You need to look at it objectively--they were a minority whose message was controversial to the majority. I am not defending their message, but just because an idea is controversial and not widely accepted doesn't mean it's wrong. In another instance, the minority could be blacks whose message is racial equality who want to march in an area populated with Klansmen. The minority could be Mormons in Missouri in the 1800s. And, in a twist on the actual Skokie situation, the minority could be Jews in Nazi Germany (yes, they weren't not subject to American law, of course--it's just an example). You can't pick and choose the minority you're going let have free speech.

I may disagree with you (I'm looking at you, Reader's Forum contributors!) and may think your ideas are stupid and that you should not think the way you do, but I will never say that you shouldn't have the right to express those ideas. However, this becomes very hard for me to continue to believe when I consider the opinions of others evil and damaging to spiritual well-being.

An acquaintance ("friend") on facebook posted a note called "Defending Pornography." Hoo boy. There was even a lovely accompanying picture of a woman's barely-and-suggestively-covered behind. This friend did have some research to back up her opinion, but some arguments I considered logical fallacies and some research I thought was misinterpreted on her part. I read this note yesterday afternoon and have been thinking about it. When I read it, one person had said they liked it, and two people had commented on how they liked the picture (shudder/vomit). I debated whether I should post a reply--I barely knew this person in high school and wasn't a fan of the choices she made; she requested to be my friend--wondering if it would be inappropriate to argue with someone I barely knew and had never actually spoken to directly before!!! I knew I wasn't trying to convince her that she was wrong; I just wanted to represent the opposing side. I also have been trying to overcome my aversion to expressing my opinion on controversial subjects for fear of insensitive rejection; I thought that this could be good for me, since I did want to write a reply. I finally realized that if she did post the note on facebook, which meant she expected comments. I posted my thoughts on Prop 8 (which, by the way, I'm not so sure about anymore) and wasn't mad that people posted dissenting opinions. So I did it!

To sum up her ideas: Pornography is good because it promotes sexual freedom and all the enjoyment that comes with it. Women in countries that fight against pornography feel less safe and respected, while women in countries that approve of and allow pornography feel the opposite [I wonder if it has more to do with the society's view on sex in general--whether it's inherently good or inherently evil]. Countries like Japan, which approves of pornography and whose youth commonly look at "porno comics", have lower rates of sex-related crimes, which disproves the notion that pornography encourages violence against women [yeah. right. OK.] If Pornography were illegal in the U.S., the millions-of -dollars industry would go down and hurt the country economically, which we don't need more of. Almost half of internet surfers look at pornography. Adults should be allowed to view pornography on their own because it doesn't hurt anyone else.

OK, and here is my response:
I'm not trying to argue or change your mind, but I want to share my opinion since you posted this publicly. Pornography does hurt people. Sex is inherently good, and it does involve pleasure, but I think its main purpose is to express love to someone else. When it becomes selfish and about giving yourself pleasure by viewing pornography and being aroused, I think that perverts sex. When someone views pornography, they develop certain responses to it and develop expectations. It hurts their significant other/partner when that partner can no longer meet those expectations through sex. Pornography and the feelings it brings becomes stronger than actual sex with another person--which is a sad thing indeed. Something virtual and unreal is replacing actual human contact. That significant other gets hurt because they aren't needed anymore and can't give their partner what they need. I won't make any comment about whether it should be legal or not (because I'm not sure about that myself), but if the issue is if pornography is right or wrong, defending it by saying it would hurt the country economically is not relevant. Whether something is economically profitable or not is not an indication of whether it's right or wrong. If someone were arguing for more gun control to reduce violent crime, fighting them by saying that people who sell handguns would lose their jobs and businesses would lose their revenue wouldn't do a whole lot to convince them. It is also irrelevant how many people view pornography--that may make it socially acceptable, but it doesn't make it right.

Pornography does make people into objects because it emphasizes only the physical aspect of a relationship and not the emotional one. It puts too much emphasis on the body. I don't see how the accompanying picture of the woman's behind does anything back up your point that pornography doesn't make women (or men) "abused and degraded." The first two comments were on how sexy that picture is, not on your research or arguments, which I think says something.

In my personal opinion, pornography doesn't lead to sexual freedom; it leads to slavery because it addictive. It warps your reality and hurts your feeling of self-worth by overemphasizing the body and ignoring all the other parts of your identity. It distorts and perverts something that is supposed to be good, enlightening, and enriching. It is insulting to both women and men to be viewed as mere instruments to satisfy sexual desires.

I believe in your right to express your opinions, my friend on facebook, but you make it so hard when they're so devilish. Sometimes I really wonder what the drafters of the Constitution would think of the things today that are protected by free speech. James Madison, what do you think???

I have to admit that I hope mentioning the word "pornography" so much in this post and using it as one of my tags will direct some people looking for the real stuff to this humble blog. Evil laughter. Except it's good laughter, I guess.

Also, posting a reply on facebook is a lot easier than saying something in person (plus, I can get all my thoughts out and not be interrupted), but it's still nerve-racking for me because I wonder how critical people are of me. I know what people who comment think, but not the people who merely read my thoughts and don't reply. But really, it doesn't matter what they think. Still, I hate for people to be mad at me or label me as a bigot/right-wing nut/judgmental fool. I have always hated for people to be mad at me. No one has openly accused me of being a zealot or anything, but people did come pretty close to the bigot label when Prop 8 was the hot issue. I consider posting this reply a victory for self-improvement. I also need to remember this feeling--how good it is to express your views and not be ashamed--and not let any scorching replies bother me.

"What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

That "they" they're always talking about

So who am I afraid of when I'm afraid of being judged?

Fire side speakers and general authorities whose messages seemed restrictive at the time I probably just took too literally, so not them.  And even though I think that everyone in the ward is just waiting to call you out for doing something wrong, I don't think that's how they really are.  I think I should instead direct my anger towards Satan, because he's the real culprit.  He's the one making me feel judged, because he's judging me!  He wants me to feel awful and bad about myself.

Even though I do have an exaggerated view of who is just ready to judge me, there are a few people who bother me mainly because they are this nightmare come true: they really do judge me.  I do mainly blow it out of proportion, but these people I'm right about.  They include the former youth leaders who tell me that praying and reading scriptures will end my depression because I won't be separated from God.  And it's those dang Daily Universe readers' forum writers.  Those are the judgmental, narrow-minded idiots I loathe and am afraid of.  

In the end, it doesn't matter what people think of me.  All that matters is what I think and what God thinks --not because I'm afraid of Him, but because He has the clearest view of how I am and the best intentions.  

Peace, love, and happy Easter!
And now back to my critical side.

Honestly, I'm seeing more and more how this blog is just an outlet for my critical side, which I don't reveal often.  I wish I could be more comfortable showing that side of me to people without fear of being judged or dismissed.  I write this blog to an audience, but only two other people know about this blog.  So, I'll keep writing, and hopefully I'll get the courage and opportunity to mention it or list it on facebook as my blog.

I found an April 7th Daily Universe article (the headline, in fact) unintentionally amusing (the phrase I use is that I find things like this "perversely humorous"). 

Anyway, the article's called "Parents bring focus back to the Savior" and describes how parents teach their children about the real meaning of Easter and don't let the commercialized aspect overwhelm them.  One parent says they do the Easter egg hunt on Saturday.  Another makes cookies where all the ingredients represent the Atonement (sorry, but I think that's weird.  I'd feel weird/guilty eating those cookies). All the parents were quoted as saying were uplifting things they did to make Easter religious-from making weird cookies to having a Sunday Easter FHE.  But every single kid quoted said that their favorite part of Easter was finding the Easter baskets or making eggs.  Every single one.  I like this quote:

"I love the Easter Bunny," Connor said.  "I like to make eggs and the egg hunt."

"I like when we color  paint on the eggs" Alexis said.  "I like to do glitter ones.  It's really fun."

Alexis said she also likes to learn about Jesus.

Does she now?  Then why didn't you quote her saying that?  Including only quotes of kids where they do not mention any religious aspect of Easter as being their favorite make the author look like an idiot for the poor use of quotes or make the parents' actions seem futile and their attitudes overly confident in their parenting skills.
I say, lighten up about being religious.  Kids get it --they have pure hearts.  We should try being more like them instead of trying to make them act more like us.  Kids are not as jaded as adults and don't see the Easter bunny and egg hunts as being just commercial fluff.  It's happy and fun, and if they connect happiness to Easter, that's great.  Also, I think so much "serious stuff" goes over kids' heads, but they get it deep down.  Once I was helping out with a primary activity, and I asked a little boy if he wanted to go hear a story about Jesus.  "No!" he answered.  "I don't like Jesus!"  Puzzled, I answered, "Well, Jesus loves you.  Why don't you like him?"  "Because He's a dinosaur!!!"  Now try teaching him how a dinosaur was resurrected.  

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Some Good News, actually

Here's a positive post!

On, people who have questions about the church can chat online with a missionary.  I recently volunteered at the MTC as one of those missionaries and had a surprisingly good and uplifting experience talking with a guy I'll call Bob.

For awhile, there wasn't anyone online, so I was just reading Preach My Gospel and waiting.  Finally, Bob came on.  He knew the Bible really well and had some thoughtful questions.  The bulk of his questions were about baptism for the dead and how I knew it worked and why it wasn't mentioned in the Bible.  It was great–he was skeptical, but he seemed like he wanted to learn and was open to hearing about my beliefs.  He would give me certain verses and ask what they meant, I would give my interpretation and ask what his was.  It was a nice discussion, and it really got me thinking.  At first, I experienced a little anxiety because I wanted to say the right thing.  But that soon disappeared, and I realized how much I loved discussing the Gospel.  He asked how old I was after I said I had been a Mormon all my life (because he wanted to know how long I had been a Mormon, he said).  I just said I was a college student, and he said he was too.  I'm naturally skeptical, and I don't know if he was telling the truth, and I still don't.  But anyway.

We also talked about faith and works, and it helped me realize new things about those principles: What separates faith from mere belief is that you act on it.  So, if you don't have works, you don't have faith.  e.g. You could say you believe in prayer, but if you don't pray, it seems like you really don't believe in it.  [Side note: e.g. means "exempli gratia" ("for the sake of example") and is used when you're given an example.  It's like "for example, . . ."  i.e. means "id est" ("that is") and is used when you're clarifying something.  Yes, I was a linguistics major.  Yes, I am taking Latin next semester. :) ]  In the end, it's really not your works that save you --it's Christ's grace -His atonement.  We are saved by grace.  But we must also have faith, belief in Christ, to be saved, and you can't have faith without works.  

When 10 o'clock rolled around when we volunteers have to leave, I told Bob that I really didn't want to but had to go; I said to keep searching for the truth and said again how much I enjoyed talking with him, a true Christian who loved the scriptures.  He kept saying, "Wait, one more thing. . . ." and then asked if he could email me?  He gave me his email address and some scriptures to read, and I promised I'd email him.

So, I left the MTC happy and excited to continue our conversation through email.  I emailed Bob after I had read his "assigned scriptures" and asked what he wanted to talk about.  Well, apparently, he wanted to talk about how those scriptures were at odds with Mormon doctrine because they continually assert that there is only one God.  He said that Mormons "preach three gods," which I took to mean that we say the Godhead are three separate beings, not one.  He had some other things to say about how Mormonism was wrong, too.  Bob also prayed that the holy spirit would teach  me the truth.

I responded kindly and explain that when I had read those scriptures, the assertions that there is only one God was comforting to me.  I agreed with it.  It made me realize that even if you have a different idea of God, when you pray to God, you are praying to Heavenly Father.  I explained that our view of the Godhead still means we believe that God is the only God and that the three members of the Godhead all work to bring about God's purpose: to help us gain salvation/be saved.  I discussed the other things he had brought up, too, and I also asked him not to tell me what Mormons preach, because as a Mormon I have the authority to know what we do and do not preach.

His next email was even more emphatic that Mormonism was false and that I was wrong.  It was a full-on effort to convert me (or un-convert me I guess).  He gave me websites, one anti-Mormon and one from a former LDS bishop who was now a born-again Christian.  The anti-Mormon one asserted that we are not Christians, etc.  because we believe in "another Jesus" which bugs the crap out of me.  Just as there is one God, there is one Jesus, and we believe in Him!  Yes, this touched a nerve --people telling me what I do and do not believe.  I think I know what I believe, people.  Back off.  

These emails made me sad, because our relationship had turned from a friendly discussion to a one-sided one where his only purpose was to prove I was wrong.  Yes, I believe that my religion is true and so that naturally contradicts other religions, but I knew I could learn from him too and wanted to.  He didn't want to learn at all from me--every point I could ever bring up he could contest.  I decided to email him and be straightforward: If his only purpose was to tell me I was wrong instead of to discuss religion, and didn't want any further contact from him.  It's always hard for me to be straightforward and I "verbally hedge" by throwing in maybes and if-you-coulds and such, but I'm really trying to work on it, and I've gotten a lot better.  

I ended the email with my testimony of Jesus Christ in response to the website's assertion that I was not Christian.  I said that I knew He is the Son of God, that He came to earth, atoned for our sins and died on the cross.  I knew He was resurrected three days later and lives now, and that He and God love us.  I wished Bob a happy Easter.

I still haven't checked my inbox to see if he responded, and I wanted to write this before he did.  I don't know how much this whole experience affected him, but it has helped me tremendously.  Let me tell you what I learned/further realized.

I am a recovering pharisee, I really am.  I was oh so letter-of-the-law in high school.  Sheesh.  So much.  I was continually passionate about rejecting the pharisees' beliefs when reading the Bible, partly because I knew I had the tendency to do the same thing.  There was a quote that hung on the wall in my seminary classroom that got to me.  I can't find it right now, but I'm still looking.  It was about how testimony could be lost if we did not seek to preserve it every single day, every single morning.  It had something to do with it being your goal every morning, so it lent itself to encourage us to come to early-morning seminary.  I was really bad at being on time since I am neither punctual nor a morning person, and I felt bad for missing so much seminary and worried about my testimony.

Well, let me tell you something.  I don't remember the last time I read my scriptures or went to the temple.  I can't.  I would feel sorry about that earlier in my life, but I don't now.  I still pray.  I still go to church.  I still pay tithing.  I went to general conference.  I'm not just going through the motions.  But what earlier in my life I thought I had to do to stay righteous/good/keep a testimony, etc. . . .I don't know.  I know God understands my situation.  Right now, it's hard to read the scriptures because of the emphasis sometimes on our nothingness and our status as sinners.  I know that's not the main point, but those things just stand out to me and get me right now.  He knows I'm still searching for truth by pondering.  I've been reading a lot more books, and I get gospel insights from them.  

Anyway, my point is, it would seem to a lot of people that a girl struggling with her view of the church who hasn't read the scriptures or gone to the temple for awhile should also be struggling with her testimony.

Wrong.  Bob's attacks did nothing to make me falter.  I know that this is Christ's church and that everyone who has a calling in it is called of God (including me!)  I know Joseph Smith was a prophet.  I know all these things.  That hasn't gone away.  It is so ingrained in me that I could never deny it--it is written in my heart.  This seems obvious when I say it, but it's not about the outward manifestations of faith.  It's about your heart.  It really is.  Naturally, as I said before about faith and works, reading the scriptures and going to the temple would be consequences of testimony.  But people can also do these things to just go through the motions.  Good ol' Bob helped remind me of my rock-solid testimony built on "the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God."  (Helaman 5:12).

Happy Easter, everyone.  We have so much to be thankful for.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I am embarrassed for the sheer imbecility of this failed rhetoric.

Here are two letters to the editor from today that made me sit in silence and mentally weep for the people who think like this about me. My comments are in bold. I hope you enjoy.

Refresher course
In the March 30 letter, "Proper appreciation," the author openly suggests that BYU is forcing women to be subjects of society pressure. Your tone, sir, suggests that this is a bad view because it is wrong. Nope. Perhaps a refresher course on the church's viewpoints would help. Thank you sir, for taking the time out to educate a flighty, ignorant female. Your tone is patronizing, and I don't like it. First of all, perhaps BYU and the Church encourage women to prepare themselves to get married and raise a family in order to fulfill the gospel. I am not saying those things are all a woman can do, but the church does state that the woman is responsible for those things. You don't mention anything else a woman could do in a positive light in this entire letter. Just because you say, "I'm not saying that. . ." doesn't mean you're not implying it. As the Proclamation to the World on families I didn't know this was about families; thanks for enlightening me. By the way, I just love it when people quote scripture, etc. in these letters. implies, men and women have different roles. They are equally important, but they do have different roles. This sounds just like lip service ("they are equally important") because he doesn't seem to believe it. Also, the roles are not mutually exclusive; they overlap. Men have family responsibility too.

I apologize to the author for being behind the times, what a generous apology. but I personally encourage the Church's (and BYU's) efforts in helping women prepare for a more traditional role. This sounds really nice coming from a man. Last time I checked, women still could take classes to learn skills such as managing your finances and other classes to help women break through "the glass ceiling." Come to think of it, I think you can even major in whatever to want these days. OK, those two sentences are just stupid. I have never heard the argument that BYU restricts what classes women can take and majors they can pursue. He makes it sound like this is a great point that's supposed to stop the opposition dead in their tracks, but it's just dumb. I am embarrassed for the sheer imbecility of this failed rhetoric. The point is what these classes and majors are preparing women for.

Lastly, I am sorry the author's experience at BYU has been so outdated. You don't sound sorry, sonny. Perhaps you could transfer to a school that is more ready to openly support a woman's right to have an abortion, sexual promiscuity, and all the other things that our women's rights activists fight for today. Yeah! Those dang feminists, fighting for abortion, promiscuity, equal pay in the work place, equal respect for women if they choose to have a career, prevention and punishment of sexual harassment, the list of these sinful things just goes on and on. And yeah, like there's no sexual promiscuity (hang on, what other kind of promiscuity is there??) here or anything. I wonder if a lady rejects Blake's NCMO invitation, he would say that she is not yielding to his natural authority as the man and is one of those sinful feminists. And I hate the implication that all other schools are just filled with promiscuous women who abort their babies. That's pretty dang judgmental. There are good people everywhere. Hey, you might even get the priesthood there HA! Woman having the Priesthood! Preposterous! It's not called the Priestesshood, hardy har har! and find buildings that have women's names on them! HA! Women's names on them! Take that! Yeah, like that'd be a good idea! Ha ha ha ha ha! I don't know how anyone could even consider such a ridiculous idea! That was a good joke, there, Blake.

Blake Johnson I want to smack you. Oh, that could be misinterpreted-I mean physical violence, not public affection.

Orem I could say that you're so narrow-minded because you're from Utah, but I won't stoop that low.

What is most important
In the March 30 letter, "Proper Appreciation," I read her complaints about the church's emphasis on motherhood, and how she wishes BYU would concern itself with the glass ceiling and names of buildings. I agree with her concerns. I then turned on page 8 of the same day's paper and read Sister Mary N. Cook's enlarged quote,Oh ho ho, what clever juxtaposition! Gold star. Not. "[Satan] I don't trust that his bracketing is accurate. Who knows if this quote really was referring to Satan??? has made motherhood seem less important. He has been successful in confusing women about their roles in the Lord's divine plan. Then I went online and watched President Monson's talk What, like, immediately? You got up from first reading the letter, then the quote (just the quote, apparently, not the whole article), and then immediately went online? How righteous of you. from the Saturday Young Women meeting I wouldn't admit that, dude. JK. where he counseled them to have the courage to stand up for their beliefs and their divine role. He cited scriptures including Nephi's vision (also known as Lehi's vision)where those who ate the fruit were ashamed and fell away, Ooh, that nasty juxtaposition again! He's not saying it outright, but he means that people like the author of that letter are like the ashamed people who fall away and the warning to beware of those who call evil good and good evil. Equality in the workplace=Evil. Deleting all sense of your identity apart from being a mother=Good. Whoops. I just failed to listen to your advice. I fail to understand why the honor and challenge of raising the generation that will prepare the Earth for the Lord's return Wow! He even knows the date of the Second Coming; now that's impressive. appeals less to some women than the drudgery of the corporate world. Because that's the only type of career to have--working for some corporation. And let's salute the men for slaving away every day in the drudgery of the corporate world. Good job. And if it's so great (and yes, it is), why don't you mention that men should also participate in this privilege? It is not an insult to promote motherhood. That's correct, actually. It is a compliment to women's strength, intelligence and potential. It depends on the way it's done, bucko. For both men and women, our best effort and ambitions should be focused on what is most important in life: our families and our homes. OK, I do agree with that; I like that he says it's both the man's and woman's job to care for the family. But he doesn't give any hint of this view in anything he says previously.

Cameron Nielsen

Aloha, Ore. Why is there a city called Aloha in Oregon? Now that's just whack.

Don't judge me

You know what I wish?  I wish people weren't so quick to label someone as doing something or thinking something that's "wrong."  It's not necessarily wrong; it just may be different.  People seem to just automatically denounce someone without learning his/her (werf's) whole story.

People who do this peeve me so much, and a large part of the reason is I used to totally be like that and have since seen how wrong I was.  

Don't denounce people who are emo/suicidal/depressed.  They're not just some selfish, overly dramatic person.

Don't denounce gay people.  They're looking for love too, and you have no idea how they feel.  I think it would be cool to make a version of West Side Story/ Romeo and Juliet where instead of the two leads being from different families, they were both the same gender and from bigoted families.  That would get people thinking.

Don't denounce feminists.  It's not that we don't want to be mothers, it's that we don't want that to be a choice made for us by society.  And whoever says she doesn't need an education because she's just going to be a stay-at-home mom is an idiot (and will stay that way.  Ha ha.)  If you know me well, you know that I want to be a mom so much.  I really do dream about being a mom and having kids.  But that doesn't mean I don't have other dreams, too (like being a teacher and doing humanitarian work and getting an education).  To me, being a mom is more important than these other goals I have, but I still have other goals and don't want to be told by some pinhead that I'm listening to Satan when I say that (OK, this was inspired by today's Daily Universe letters "What Is Most Important" and "Refresher Course."  I really need to write a separate post on this.)

Don't denounce people of other religions.  They aren't necessarily hard-hearted (though I will admit that some are; but there are hard-hearted Mormons too, folks), and they're not backwards, sinful, or ignorant.  Instead of saying that other religions have "slivers of truth" that are just little pieces of what we believe, we need to see what doctrines other religions talk about that we have forgotten about or ignore.  There are good people searching for truth in every religion.  And there are stupid, narrow-minded, hypocrites and every religion too, probably.  Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

That's about it for now.  Basically every point I need to expand into a separate post (and I will, I promise).  I have already addressed the emo/suicidal/depressed issue in the post "Happy Happy Joy Joy."

Peace and love.