Sep 19, 2008

What's Your Mormon Patronus?

Those who know me well know that I love Harry Potter. OK, I love Severus Snape more, but I just love the Harry Potter series in general, I don't care how evil Jack and Rexella van Impe think it is.

Those of you who are familiar with Harry Potter books or movies will know what a Dementor or a Patronus is. For those of you who don't, here's a very quick summary, courtesy of Wikipedia:
  • A Dementor is a wraith-like creature who can suck the happiness and soul out of a person, make them feel like they will never be happy again, feed on peoples' happy emotions, and force them to recall the most horrible memories they have had in their lives.
  • A Patronus is conjured as a protector, and is a weapon rather than a predator of souls: Patronuses shield their conjurors from Dementors, and can even drive them away. A Patronus cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so Dementors can't hurt it.
Spiritually speaking, I seem to be getting regular visits from Dementors in my life right now. I have my ups and downs and I always get through them, but the Dementors keep on coming back no matter how much chocolate I eat (chocolate is the Harry Potter remedy for getting your strength back after a Dementor attack). The problem is that these Dementors are very sly and they know that they can't really get to me the same way when I'm out in the world as when I'm at church, reading General Conference, the Ensign, or reading other church material.

I've been reading The Bible For Dummies. Even if you're a well-read Bible enthusiast, you'll probably enjoy this book because it's not just for dummies like me. It actually has some very useful, in-depth information about the Bible and its history. For me, it's been a very useful tool to absorb the messages and symbolism in the Bible that I just don't get when I read the Bible itself.

I like simplicity. When I read Christ's teachings, they seem brilliantly simple. If I could just stick to Christ's teachings, then perhaps I would truly feel that "(His) yoke is easy and burden light" (Matthew 11:30). But I get so easily distracted and consumed by all the nitty-gritty details at Church that I feel more like I'm on a bridge to nowhere (Oh man, I just quoted Sarah Palin. Help.) I find that I think less about Christ's teachings and more about details. I'm not saying that the details aren't important. Or, on second thought, maybe I am. Stuff like whether or not my husband ever gets baptized, whether or not I have kids, what political party I vote for, what political system I prefer, how many earrings I have in my ears, whether or not I have a tattoo, whether I'm gay or not, whether I use birth control or not, whether I go swimming on a Sunday or not, how I wear my bra, or whether I wear pants or a skirt to church on Sundays. These are all things that Mormons (myself included) can obsess about. I don't think any of these things are bad. I just wonder how important they are in the grand scheme of things.

I'm sure that I'm not the first Mormon who has felt a bit like a misfit. For starters, I'm very liberally-minded by Mormon standards, married to a non-member, no kids, and I live in a place I can only describe as a spiritual desert. For the most part, I actually welcome these challenges and deal with them just fine. But sometimes, the guilt and pressure from within weigh on me very heavily. Without going into every detail about my personal life, I can just sum it up by saying that I've known for as far back as I can remember that I'm very different from other Mormons in a variety of ways. Yes, as a fellow human being, I have many similarities with them as well, but the differences create a distance between myself and others. No, I'm not gay, but I see certain parallels between the struggles of gay Mormons and my own struggles, so that is perhaps why I'm aways so quick to defend them and encourage compassion and understanding. I know what it's like to try to shape myself into the Mormon mold, fail, and feel guilty about it. I'm trying not to turn this into a "woe is me" session because I know that some of you probably struggle with things even greater than I do. Therefore, I would like to know how you accept yourselves without feeling tortured by guilt.

I believe that there is room in the Church for people like me and even those who are way more "out there" than me. I believe that we should all be focusing on molding ourselves into a disciple of Christ, instead of molding ourselves into someone that we can never be. I believe it, but I have a hard time feeling it and that leads to doubt. Is being a conservative-heterosexual-temple-married--Republican-voting-mother/father-of-five-who never-doubts-or-questions the only way to Christ? I don't think so, but it often feels that way. (By the way, I don't think there's anything wrong with being the above. I just can't be that person.)

So what's your Mormon Patronus? What's your charm for chasing away the Dementors that suck the fun out of church, when you feel like you have no place there, or when some well-meaning member gives you an unsolicited recipe to happiness? What about that miserable Dementor that makes you feel lonely? And what about those nasty Dementors of guilt that discourage you when you study Church publications or watch General Conference and get the feeling that that you're never doing enough?

16 comments:

Maraiya said...

I pray. A lot. God never tells me that I suck and rarely tells me that I need to try harder. He just tells me that He loves me and that I'm wonderful and beautiful and all sorts of good things. I remind myself that this is my church too and I'm not going to let someone else ruin my opportunity to worship. Then I focus on my spiritual path, feeling the Spirit and my relationship with God. Everything else tends to fall away.

Clint said...

Hmmm... you know, I don't guess I do have a Mormon Patronus. Well, maybe I do. Whenever I get discouraged, I just keep reminding myself that how I am feeling is temporary and will ease up eventually. Pretty simple and almost more of a mantra, but it is the only thing that has consistently worked for me.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Maraiya,

God has never told me that I suck either. I love that and I'm going to remember that sentence from now on. I sense someone who shares my sense of humour. Thanks for that. ;)

Clint,

You're right, the tough times will always pass eventually. And thank goodness for the breaks. Although I must say, sometimes I feel like I'm spiritually bi-polar. My spiritual life tends to be a bit of a roller coaster.

Bored in Vernal said...

Comments on my blog.

Many times I use my blog to unload all my frustrations with the Church, and when I get comments I feel like someone out there is listening to me. Whether they agree or not doesn't matter so much, I'm just happy that they've taken me seriously enough to read my words and engage with them.

pb said...

I examine my relationship with the present moment. Am I fully present with what I am doing now? Discouragement about the past or worry about the future can only enter when I am living in my mind and not present in my actual life. Right now I'm sitting in front of a computer typing this. My body feels relaxed. I'm enjoying my tea. That's all there is. In a few moments I'll be finishing my brief that's due today. I'll attempt to be fully present as I do that as well. There's no room for mental constructions such as guilt and despair when each moment is filled with the present.

Sanford said...

Faithful D,

I am curious. Do you feel more or less connected to your ward members in Norway? Are Mormons the same everywhere? I feel like I live an extremely conservative ward, much more so than my last ward, and it is harder to fit in. Are the people that choose Mormonism in Norway similar to your former Canadian ward members?

As for my odd fit in my ward. I take some comfort in that idea that although I do experience the Church differently than the way most of me fellow ward members do, I think they appreciate the alternate point of view I bring to the table. I think many of them get pretty bored and they enjoy hearing my take even if they don't agree.

Also, once I got past the issue of truthfulness it was much easier for me to make Mormonism work for me. I just look for things that are helpful to me and try to not too worry too much about the other stuff. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Last Sunday the Stake Presidency taught our Sunday School and Elder's Quorum lessons. Sounds interesting doesn't it, having your Stake President teach Sunday school. I was excited to see his style and feel his presence. Well, I almost died of boredom. He didn't prepare anything in advance and drifted all over the place. It was terribly disjointed and there was no discussion whatsoever, just him shooting haphazardly from the hip. I fell asleep. Whoa, that's it -- that's my Patronus -- boredom. In cases of Mormon induced boredom I do the exact opposite of pb, I flee the moment and live to attend another day.

The Faithful Dissident said...

LOL... Sanford, I'm going to be thinking of you next time I'm bored at church. :)

You ask some very good questions. First of all, let me give you a brief summary about each of my wards.

My home ward in Canada was the only ward I was ever in before I came to Norway. We had around 100-150 active members, depending on when big families moved in and out. So the attendance fluctuated a lot over the years. I feel my home ward is still "home" to me. There were a few individuals that still feel like family to me, since I've known them all my life.

The great thing about my home ward is that it's a ward where you have it all. You have the true-blue, conservative Mormons, like the type who would freak if their kid when on a date with a non-member and whose worst nightmare would be a blog like this. :) You have strong Mormons, who are yet still down-to-earth and open-minded. And then you get totally dysfunctional Mormons who do everything that Mormons aren't supposed to do. While I was never really able to connect with that first group, I probably felt more at home with that second group, but also learned to really appreciate that third group. Between the epidemic of out-of-wedlock pregnancies (we probably had at least 10 in the span of a few years) and everything from messy divorces, to petty gossipers, to murderers (we had 2!), adulterers, to possible incest and abuse, my home ward has it all. :) It's funny, because my brothers and I would always joke about it, about how "weird" the members were, etc. Yes, they were weird, but the weirdness had its charm. It feels more real that way. Here you had a ward of people who lived in the real world, had real problems (some of them really huge problems), and still fought to stay active in the Gospel. It was kind of humbling, actually, to see what challenges some of these people went through and are still going through. Ironically, most of the people I know who have moved away to a new ward say that they miss the old ward, that there's no ward quite like it.

Now there's my branch in Norway. On a typical Sunday, we get about 15 people. Most are over the age of 60 and there are a ton of inactives. When I look at the member roll, I only know a handfull of the names. I have mixed feeling about the Church here. The pros are that since it's so small, there's not really any room for gossip and so the branch acts more like a family. This is difficult though, because we are all so spread out, sometimes hours away from each other, so that's probably one factor as to why I haven't really connected with anyone here. Another pro here is that I haven't really encountered any of those hard-core ultra conservative Mormons. It's kind of hard to be that in Norway. Being such a liberal society, you have to learn to fit in and tolerate the things that Utah Mormons would probably have a hard time with. I don't think you necessarily have to compromise your standards, but you do need to be tolerant and open-minded to get respect or to be seen as a non-fanatical Christian. You need to be able to relate to non-Mormons. Another pro about the church in Norway is that because it's so hard to stay active and strong here (especially for young people), part-member families and parents with inactive kids is totally the norm. Being married to a non-member, I think I've had it easier here than I would have back home because there is less pressure from fellow members. Members here can't take being sealed in the temple for granted, not to mention having all their kids attend church with them. Singles have a very, very hard time finding a Mormon mate and so I think that they're generally more sensitive to members like me. As well, primary and youth are sometimes the only ones in their branch, so there is no support from their peers. Those are all the cons.

So, where do I feel more of a connection? Definitely back home, but I think it has more to do with the history I have with the members back home. As well, the differences of age and life experience (and perhaps culture and personality to an extent) are more noticeable here. I would say that the members here have treated me very well and made me feel welcome, but it's definitely not like I'm talking them outside of church or doing activities together. That's kind of a rarity.

I often think, though, that I never would have had the spiritual growth (if you can call it that :) that I've gotten if I hadn't lived in this "spiritual desert," as I like to call it. Because I'm virtually alone here spiritually-speaking, I've done a lot of thinking and re-examining when it comes to my faith. I suppose that's what gave life to this blog.

Sanford, being a liberal Mormon in conservative UT, how do the members react to your views? Or do you share them much?

This blog and the Bloggernacle in general are my outlet. I may give the impression of the type who likes to discuss, debate, and ask provocative questions. But when I'm at church, I pretty much keep it to myself. Part of it is shyness, part of it is lack of confidence in what I'm talking about, and part of it is because I don't want everyone to just assume I'm going apostate. I'm not sure they would understand where I'm coming from. Sometimes when I'm sitting in Sunday School and hear something that I don't feel good about, I really have to resist the urge to speak up. Maybe I should, and yet at the same time I feel it's not really fair because they wouldn't have a clue what I'm talking about. Even though pretty much everyone in the branch is fluent in English and can read English, their knowledge about the Church is probably limited to the kind of books that either are put out officially by the Church, the Liahona, or the type of books you'd find at Deseret, that were written by prophets or apostles, etc. I highly doubt that anyone here has read "Rough Stone Rolling," or even heard about it. I don't think anyone has heard of the Bloggernacle. Not even I had until a few months ago! (But hopefully it'll stay that way or else someone is bound to recognize me. How many Canadian Mormons in Norway can there be? LOL.)

Sanford, have you (or anyone else out there) told fellow members or friends about your blog? How would they react to it? I tend to think that most of the members I know would think it dangerous, or perhaps going overboard and borderlining on anti-Mormon or apostasy. Strangely enough, though, if there is one person here that I probably think would understand somewhat, then it's my stake president. I don't know him that well, but he's a younger fellow and I've felt a connection to him that I haven't felt to anyone else here. I've told him about some of my concerns and I felt he understood (he even said that he has had them himself), even though he didn't really have any answers for me. He's also been great with my husband. But, I'm not about to run and tell him about my blog. :)

The only non-family members who know about my blog is one liberal Mormon friend whom I've never met, but who shares a lot of my views, both religious and political, and so I just had to tell him about it. The rest are all family members. Luckily my parents and siblings understand my sense of humour and are more liberal than most Mormons. It took me a while to tell them about it, but eventually I did. My dad is a bit conservative, but once my mom assured him that I was "alright" (LOL), I guess he quit worrying. He even decided to bring his question about the donor egg (the "odd question" post) to the blog to see what others thought. My mom reads my blog regularly and gets a kick out of it. She loves the comments that you guys leave, especially Mormon Heretic. She pictures him as an older, very wise and sensitive man. :)

Mormon Heretic said...

FD,

I'm really not a Harry Potter fan at all, so I really didn't have much to say about a Patronus. But I loved your perspectives, and answers to Sanford, and I just had to share my 2 cents. (I really hate Lord of the Rings, and every other wizard story. I'm not sure why, because I do like Star Wars, which my wife tells me is like a wizard story, but I disagree.)

Is 40 old? That's my age. I teach part time at a community college, and while I still think I'm young, I'm definitely not a traditional college student. (I am a college student pursuing a masters degree in statistics, FYI.) I feel both old and young.

I better not give away too many more details about myself, or someone in my ward will discover me too! I haven't shared my blog with very many people either. I met a few people at Sunstone (which I attended for the first time this year), so there are a few people who know about it, but my wife doesn't even know about my blog. Most people I talk to have never heard of the bloggernacle here in Utah, so hopefully I'm safe. My wife caught me on my blog one day, and I just told her that I really enjoyed the author's perspectives. Is that bad? I played hookey at work and went to Sunstone without her knowledge either.

My wife is much more conservative than me, but I "fake" it pretty well. Even though she's a true, blue from BYU, she seemed to like me when we dated even though I never wore a white shirt to church, and had a goatee. I guess she's a little wild! Most people I know assume I'm quite conservative, until I tell them I go to the U of Utah and vote democrat frequently.

I have to say that it is fun to defend democrats when I feel argumentative. I really am independent and vote republican about 45%, Demo 35%, and 3rd party 20%. I also root for the Utes over BYU.

She didn't hear my lessons as Gospel Doctrine teacher, but when I talked about them, I could tell she thought I was a liberal, and didn't always appreciate my gospel opinions. I live in the most conservative (politically and spiritually) county in the world, so I generally keep my opinions to myself at church since I got released for voicing them.

I loved hearing about your ward in Canada. I think most wards are like that (except for the murderers), even in Utah. Of course having said that, my wife grew up with the Laffertys. "Under the Banner of Heaven" was written about them. So there are murderers here in the most conservative county in the world too, even if nobody wants to admit it.

I like your mom, even if she thinks I'm old! ;)

Gay LDS Actor said...

I enjoyed your post, Faithful. I certainly understand your woes about not always fitting in. I don't know that I necessarily have an answer to your query about how to deal with Dementors (I love Harry Potter, too, by the way, and I think Severus Snape is probably my favorite character) other than to say that even though we don't always fit in, it's important to remember that you always have a place at God's table no matter who you are. I actually wrote a post about it today. It may not help you at all, but you may find it interesting reading.
I have a feeling you and I would get along well. I'm one of those Mormons who just think we (as a religious body) really obsess about a lot of things that aren't all that important in the long run (or maybe are even important, but we put too much importance on them). I also think we can be a very judgmental lot sometimes. In all honesty, since I came out of the closet, I haven't "sweated much of the small stuff," so to speak. And I've realized God's love transcends even my religion which I so love. Don't get me wrong, I'm still very active and still enjoy my religion. I've just come to realize that a lot of the stuff I thought was so vital and important to my happiness isn't as pressing as I once thought it was, and as a result, I'm actually a lot more relaxed and stress-free in my life because I've let some of that go. I'm not saying that's the right path for everybody, but it turned out to be the right one for me. I spent so much of my life trying to live up to other people's expectations of what I needed to be that I forgot to be what I wanted to be. Now that I'm doing that, life is much better.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I've really appreciated reading all your comments. Keep them coming!

MH,

Don't worry, 40 isn't that old. :) I'm exactly between 20 and 40. I think my mom got the impression you were somewhere in the age range of Galileo in your profile pic, based on your thoughtful wisdom. :)

I find it interesting that you manage to remain who you are while living in such a conservative community. When it comes to politics, I've always been interested but have never gotten involved. I voted back home in Canada, of course, but Canadian politics is a little more subdued than US politics. American politics is unique because of the cultural-religious wars that often result. For many years, I was a political fence-sitter. Couldn't decide whether I was a Conservative or a Liberal, even though my non-member friends were probably positive I was a Conservative. Now if someone asks, I'm not so ashamed to say I'm a Liberal, despite the negative connotation that carries for a lot of Mormons. I've "come out of the closet." as a Social Democrat. :) (Perhaps you can relate in a way, Gayldsactor? :) It's funny because outside of the Church, I'm probably still fairly socially conservative, but inside of the Church I'd be considered very liberal. And yet I'm the same person.

I understand your hesitance to share your blog with your wife. I remember working on mine and quickly minimizing the screen whenever my husband came into the room. It's not really that he would have minded at all, I just wasn't quite ready to share it. I think I started my blog last March but didn't tell anyone about it until I was home for a visit in May. And the only reason why I did was, like I said, because my family is fairly liberal. Even though we were raised fairly conservatively, I never felt like any questions were off-limits. Maybe it's because my family is not really orthodox in many ways. My dad is probably the most conservative of the bunch, and yet he's the convert (he got baptized about a year after my parents got married). I can't remember whether I've told my "life story" on my blog already, but I'm the oldest of 5 kids and the only girl. My mom is from Mexico, my dad is Canadian, my brother is married to an African-American member of the Church (a proud Democrat :), the next brother down is married to a non-member, he's inactive and trying to make his marriage work, the brother in the middle is scheduled to leave for a mission to Argentina in November, and the youngest is probably the smartest of the bunch, even though he doesn't say much, and he considers himself a Liberal. I have loads of relatives in Mexico and Utah, but the last time I was in Salt Lake was in 1990.

My faith, values, and standards were what attracted my husband to me. Or so he says. :) I guess he's fairly conservative by Norwegian standards, but I think it took me a while to really "get" how foreign and strange religion can seem to a Norwegian. Religion is generally viewed as a private "don't ask, don't tell" matter. Being "religious" here consists of attending the state Lutheran church when you feel like it, saying that you believe, and perhaps uttering a prayer on occasion. Anything more can easily get you labelled as a fanatic if you're not careful about it. That's why I want people to get to know me before they have the chance of finding out that I'm a Mormon. Once they do, they realize it can't be so bad afterall. :) After I moved here, I told my husband just how brave I think he really was to dare to go to church with me and my family when he came to Canada for the first time. For all he knew, we could have been the type of church that you see on the GOD Channel, with faith healings, shaking, and fainting. I think that would be a traumatic experience for the average Norwegian. :)

Oh, and by the way, I agree with you that Star Wars is NOT a wizard movie. Haha. :)

Gayldsactor,

I agree, I think that you and I would get along great. (In fact, I can say that for all of you.) And the fact that you're a Snape fan gives you extra marks in my book. :) My Snape obsession has become legendary in my family (along with my dad's crush on Condoleezza Rice :). I never like the dark, bad guys, but I just love Severus -- enough that I had to name one of my cats after him.

When you said, "In all honesty, since I came out of the closet, I haven't "sweated much of the small stuff," so to speak. And I've realized God's love transcends even my religion which I so love," that really struck a chord with me. Like you said, all the small stuff may be important, but HOW important is it in the long run? Is it worth obsessing over it? No, it's not. I'll be honest, I can listen to all the "small stuff" and see that it's good. Take tattoos, piercings, and implants, for example. Most people who get tattoos will probably regret it someday. And as for implants, well, after seeing scores of naked old people at work (I work with dementia and Alzheimer's patients) and how gravity eventually takes over no matter what, I think people should really give it some more thought. :) So, I definitely think that people are probably better off with this stuff and the advice from Church leaders is wise. But I remember a talk in General Conference by Elder Bednar, perhaps a couple of years ago, where he told about a young man he knew who was interested in a girl but gave up on her when she didn't take out her second pair of earrings after President Hinckley spoke out against piercings. He wanted to make a point about obeying the prophet even in apparently trivial matters, but I thought how sad it was that this guy would dump this girl over a pair of earrings. (Well, sad for him and maybe not for her.) We tend to judge people on trivial matters. One of my favourite sisters from my home ward was inactive for many years. If I remember correctly, I think one of the reasons for her inactivity was because she had once asked one of the more conservative sisters of the ward if she could come to church in pants instead of a skirt and this sister said no. How sad!! I've started to wear pants to church sometimes, although it has less to do with being a rebel and more to do with the fact that when it's cold out, pants keep me warmer than a skirt. But maybe part of me relishes in being such a rebel, like MH with his goatee and coloured shirt. LOL. :)

Actor, I'm going to check out your new post now.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Your dad has a crush on Condoleezza Rice? Eww! lol

I love Severus, too. I was so glad his character arc ended the way it did. I would have been disappointed otherwise, I think.

Yeah, I agree with you that the small stuff is important, but not always worth obsessing over. Your tattoo example is a good one. I, too, think it's good advice in the long run not to get a tattoo; but I also think that people who choose to get tattoos shouldn't be shunned or thought of as less worthy just because they've made that decision, and I think there are members out there who can't look past stuff to that to see the person rather than the choice and end up alienating the very people they hope would draw closer to Christ (the way they look at it).

Your reference to the talk by Elder Bednar reminded me of a talk I heard by John Bytheway to the youth of the church where he rhetorically asked the question if double piercings would keep one out of the Celestial Kingdom. Then he sort of cocked his eyebrow and just said, "I don't know." His point was that we should follow the counsel of the prophet, which was all and good, but there was kind of this attitude that was a bit off-putting to me. I am one that doesn't think double pierced ears will keep one out of the Celestial Kingdom, and, for example, I find BYU's rules regarding facial hair troubling, not because they don't have the right to set whatever rules they want, but because sometimes it causes people to look at those who choose to have beards and long hair as less than worthy when I personally don't think it makes any difference to one's moral character whether one's hair is long or short.

I remember one ward I attended where I was forbidden from passing the Sacrament because I wasn't wearing a white shirt (I haven't worn a white dress to church since I returned from my mission), and at the time I was otherwise worthy to pass the Sacrament, and I was just perplexed over what the color of my shirt had to do with my personal worthiness. Was the color of my shirt important enough to risk offending me?

And I admit I am a rebellious soul at times. If somebody tells me I have to do something, I am more likely not to do it just to annoy them. In that case, even, forbidding me from passing the Sacrament because I was wearing a colored shirt only made me want to continue wearing colored shirts even more. Perhaps that's a bad attitude, but that seems to be my nature.

I remember I had to shave my head bald for a role I played, and at church that week, there were a couple of members who treated me like I was some sort of heathen because of it, and it only made me want to keep it that way just to bug them.

When I did attend the temple, one time I had very long hair (again for a role in a play), and people again treated me like I was some sort of sinner because of it, and I remember at the time thinking that of all the places in the world I shouldn't experience that type of judgment, it was the temple. I wasn't so much offended as I was perplexed by the irony of it.

I agree it would be a shame for a guy to drop a girl simply over an extra pair of earrings. The girl's probably better off. lol
People focus too much on insignificant things. Talking about pants instead of dresses and colored shirts and goatees only made me think of my own attitudes about such things and how I am exactly the same way.

Thanks for your comments.

Mormon Heretic said...

Actor,

I concur with your take on grooming. Some of the cultural norms of Utah mormons are downright silly and pharisaical. It is funny to me how many mormons are blind to this pharisaical attitude.

My sister got a tattoo on her ankle about 2 years ago, to the chagrin of our family. She lived with me for a time right before she got it, and became friends with my bishop--the same bishop who released me for my liberal views of using a non-King James Bible in Sunday School class. (He's a great guy, and I still respect him, but I disagree with his stance on the Bible.)

I remember being struck by his answer when I talked about the tattoo. He said, "Ya know, we get hung up on a lot of stupid things. If she gets married in the temple, that's good enough for me. I couldn't care less about the tattoo." Well, she did get married in the SL temple about a year later, so it definitely taught me a lesson. I work with quite a few women who have tattoo's, and I just remind myself that they're probably just as good of people as my sister, though I don't recommend tattoo's to anyone. I find that I still want to judge people too quickly, but I'm trying to do better.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I think people need to be very tactful when it comes to grooming and style. I remember a few years ago my husband heard a talk by James E. Faust where he was kind of dissing people with long hair. My husband's brother is still stuck on 80's mental bands and has always had long hair. Can't imagine him not having it, actually. It's just him. :) Anyways, my husband thought it was a pretty judgmental talk, but he also understood what President Faust was getting at. When we go to church, we're supposed to look our modest best. We should be clean and dressed neatly. But sometimes we overreact to stupid things. Like when you shaved your head, Actor, some people in the ward reacted. How silly! What if you had lost your hair to chemo? It happens to people, so why all the fuss? If someone is bald, does it really matter whether it's because of chemo, old-age, or personal choice? And as far as long hair is concerned, a lot of men have nicer hair than me, so I think it's totally possible for a man to have long hair and keep it "neat." Even dreads look neat when they're taken care of.

I always understood that they were strict with hair and facial hair for men to enter the temple. Do you guys know if that's still the case? I remember some guys in my old ward who had had beards forever, but had to shave them to go to the temple. There was one guy who had a beard and when he became bishop he had to shave it off. I remember many years ago my dad saying how ridiculous he thought this was since Jesus had a beard and long hair. So they wouldn't let Jesus into the temple? :)

The way I look at it, there's nothing wrong with encouraging people to tone it down, especially when going to the temple. But unless someone wants to come to the temple looking like Pamela Anderson or Marilyn Manson, I think most people seem to manage looking neat and modest pretty well using their own judgment. And when it comes to church, well, is there any reason to not let Pamela Anderson or Marilyn Manson come to sacrament meeting? OK, well, maybe Pam Anderson isn't the best example. I'm not sure I'd want her coming to sacrament meeting in most of her outfits. :) I remember when I was in Italy and visiting some of the big Catholic churches there, at some of them there were people standing outside making sure that no one entered with a hat or too-short shorts. I felt that was appropriate because people should have some respect and that's far away from the minds of most tourists who are totally lacking any reverence. I think, though, that there is a difference between going to church looking like a whore and going to church looking modest, though perhaps a little "sloppier" than what most would find ideal. But at the same time, I wouldn't want to be the one to turn away the whore when she wants to come worship. I think I'd feel really bad about it.

Mormon Heretic said...

I got married with my goatee, and have been to the temple several times since then. Nobody will be turned away for facial hair, long hair, or tattoos. I'm sure some people cringe, but nobody will be turned away. One time my dad needed to use the bathroom real bad and wasn't dressed up. They even let him into the temple. The important thing is the temple recommend. God looks on the heart, but man looks on the appearance. FD, I think you bring up great points about not dressing provocative or slovenly.

Incidentally, the first counselor in my bishopric had a moustache for a few years until the stake pres asked him to shave it.

This whole beard thing has taken on the role of urban legend. Every prophet until Pres McKay had a beard with the exception of Joseph Smith. Muslims and Orthodox Christians believe that beards are a sign of piety. It's funny how piety and sin can be so easily interchanged, depending on culture.

The Faithful Dissident said...

MH,

Come to think of it, maybe it's just the temple workers that have to be clean-shaven and hair short?

Mormon Heretic said...

Yes, that would make more sense to me. But I'm sure temple workers under Lorenzo Snow had beards....