True or Bizarre: A Poll

While there are moral truths that all religions tend to share (don’t kill, don’t steal, be nice to people, etc.), religions also include “bizarre” differentiators to distinguish each religious community (often in food prohibitions, clothing choices, or supernatural beliefs). These “bizarre” elements hedge up the community and create borders between the religious group and those not in the religion.  Without these “fences,” a church would cease to be a community.  But a negative byproduct of these “bizarre” elements is that they are indefensible on grounds of logic or “truth.”  So, what elements of Mormonism are “true” and which ones are merely “bizarre”?http://farm1.static.flickr.com/18/68772823_3e3fcf5f3a_m.jpgAll religions contain elements that are “bizarre” or unique to them.  These elements often contain a built-in justification or a way for members to explain why this bizarre or unique element is best.  Some elements in other religions that might be viewed as “bizarre” to outsiders:

  • Growing out “forelocks” as Hasidic Jews do.
  • Eschewing technology as the Amish do.
  • 7th Day Adventists considering Saturday as the Sabbath.
  • Celibacy among priests and nuns of the Catholic faith.
  • Jews not eating shellfish or pork.
  • Muslim women wearing the hajib or burka.
  • Scientology – where do I start? (not technically a religion, but you get the point)

http://plainlydressed.bravepages.com/images/zoe.jpgIt’s easy to distinguish the “bizarre” from the “true” when considering other faiths because we tend to think that the things we have in common are “true” but the ones we don’t are “bizarre” and can be dismissed.  The same holds true when Mormonism is viewed from someone on the outside, unfamiliar with our practices.  Consider how the following things look to outsiders:  Word of Wisdom, garments, fasting monthly, paying 10% in tithing, the temple, not seeing R-rated movies, polygamy, and Sabbath day observance.  Which  of these are “true” and which are “bizarre”?

Generally, a practice is justified using one of the following means:

  • There is an underlying principle that drives the practice. This can be tricky, though, and different people may accept different underlying principles.  Consider the following possible justifications for the Word of Wisdom:
    • A health code.  Tobacco has been shown to be unhealthy, so one could say that the Word of Wisdom is a health code.  However, alcohol, tea and coffee have not been shown to be unhealthy (users of these substances don’t have significantly shorter life spans, for example), so it could be difficult to convince outsiders that this is a “true” principle on the grounds of being a heavenly health code.  Also, the WoW does not outlaw some more clearcut unhealthy practices like eating too much fatty fried foods.
    • Addiction Avoidance.  The principle could be that there should be moderation in all things and because some people become addicted to these substances, this is how to preserve one’s ability to choose.  But because this is not true of all people, it’s kind of a shotgun principle that results in abstinence for all that only benefits a few.
    • Spiritual enlightenment.  As RSR pointed out, JS’s view of the WoW was that it would foster spiritual enlightenment.  Of course, since it was not widely adopted until much later, this calls the practice into question.
  • Secret or revealed knowledge.  One justification for unique practices is that it’s touted as “secret” or “restored” or “revealed” knowledge.  The “we don’t know” defense might fall into this category if the assumption is that the practice was revealed, but God’s ways are too mysterious for our limited human understanding.  In the latter case, the “defense” of the practice is really just an assertion and may sound illogical to outsiders not prone to believe in revelation.
  • Symbolic meaning.  Some justifications for unique practices are that they have a symbolic meaning intended to teach adherents through allegory.  Sometimes this is used in conjunction with a “revelation” defense to bolster a difficult to explain justification.  While no one would dispute that circumcision has a “symbolic” purpose, early adult convert Christians were naturally reluctant to adopt this Jewish symbolic practice, which created a big division in the early Christian church.
  • Proof.  There is generally an underlying assumption that the unique element is ultimately “provable,” or at least so adherents believe.  IOW, adherents would believe that ultimately the “truth” of the practice will be revealed, either in this life (born out by science, for example) or the one to come (when God says, “Yep, that was my idea!”).

OTOH, a practice might also serve a purpose to create sociological benefit by defining the community or making “a peculiar people.”  If these elements are more “bizarre” or unique to create boundaries between groups and not necessarily based in truth, they may exist primarily for sociological reasons:

  • To identify who is in and who is out of the group.
  • To control the weak members of the organization and keep them in line.  This makes the group more easily identifiable for admirable traits and aids missionary efforts.
  • To discourage intermarriage outside the group.
  • To provide an Abrahamic test of faith to new adherents and to foster loyalty through arbitrary requirements.

The tricky thing is that it’s not always cut & dried whether a unique practice is based in truth or is just there to reinforce group boundaries.  Here are some possible classifications for unique practices.

  1. Justifiable / truth-based.  There is a clear, easily explained justification for the practice that is based in true, verifiable events.
    • Rule of thumb:  If you explain the practice, you find your logic convincing.
  2. Partially justifiable / principle-linked.  There is a justification or a link to a principle that can be used to explain the practice, but it is not self-evident and probably sounds a little weird to outsiders.  Others might consider the justification unconvincing or weak.
    • Ergo:  You find the logic of the practice partly convincing, but partly weak.  You have to make up what is lacking in logic in faith or suspension of disbelief or only accept the practice partially.
  3. Bizarre / unjustifiable / faith-based.  There’s really no justification or explanation that makes any kind of logical sense to non-adherents or non-believers.  Trying to explain the practice leaves one tongue-tied and feeling a bit silly.
  • IOW:  You neither have a convincing explanation for the practice, nor do you buy the ones you’ve heard.  You may suspect the practice primarily exists for sociological reasons, to make us a “peculiar” people.

Of course the other difficulty is that someone may have what they feel is a good explanation for a practice, but another adherent may not buy it or believe it or may find it weak, so there’s a good deal of subjectivity.  And subjectivity means it’s a perfect time for a poll!  For each of the below unique Mormon practices, please choose whether you think it is True, Partially Justifiable or merely Bizarre.  Be honest!  (I apologize in advance if my descriptions of what might constitute a true, partially justifiable or bizarre reason don’t work for you individually – as I said, lots of subjectivity involved here!)

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So, what do you think are some of the difficult to justify practices, from your perspective?  Are there some I didn’t include here?  Do you see value in this kind of boundary definition or do you think all religious practices should have logical justification or be discarded?  Does your lack of justification for an individual practice make you less committed to the practice?  Does it impact your religious devotion overall?  Were you surprised by some of your answers?  Discuss.

Comments

comments

47 comments for “True or Bizarre: A Poll

  1. Thomas
    January 27, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Word of Wisdom re: tea and coffee. (I always had a hard time considering the Wow a “health code”; if the Saints’ health were the main consideration, then at least until the installation of modern water systems, the Apostle Paul’s health advice (“Drink no longer water, but take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities”) would have saved far more Mormon lives (all those thousands dead on the plains from cholera and dystentery) than the Word of Wisdom.

    Religious clothing.

    Polygamy.

    That’s about it. I don’t (as others might) consider the Temple liturgy “bizarre,” because some ritual and symbolism seems clearly useful in generating religious experience. It generates a sense of reverence and otherworldliness, which reinforces the essential religious notion that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. It may not matter what the actual content of the ritual is, as a faithful individual generally projects the same sense of reverence onto whatever the ritual happens to be.

  2. January 27, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    I have a hard time committing to any practice that isn’t supported by some shred of logic, but many people like ritual for the emotional attachment it gives. I guess that’s why most churches retain practices in each of the three categories.

  3. Matt
    January 27, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Hawk,

    I struggled a bit with some of your distinctions. Take tithing as an example. I can agree that it is “a key principle.” I don’t agree with the blanket statement that “blessings follow” (even though I think I voted “true” on that one). On polygamy, there is one circumstance under which I would consider it justifiable — which is, if God requires it (for the record, I voted “bizarre” because I don’t think the two examples you gave would make it justifiable). I long ago gave up wondering whether God required it for the early saints, whether it was a consequence of Joseph Smith’s libido, or whether it was simply a tragic mistake. I’m just happy that we don’t have to deal with it any more, although I really sympathize with those whose lives are still affected by it.

    Moving on to your post, here are a few thoughts on what I consider “bizarre”:

    To alter Thomas’ response a bit, the Word of Wisdom re: complete abstinence versus moderation. The Word of Wisdom did not involve “commandment or constraint.” I’ve been active LDS my entire life and have never had a drink (the only alcohol I’ve tasted has been in foods, wine sauces, desserts, etc.). But the older I get (now in my mid-40s) the less able I am to justify interpreting the WOW this way, and I’m tired of making excuses in social engagements as to why I don’t drink wine or coffee. I simply comply with the WOW to avoid family conflict. I would love to see the church treat the Word of Wisdom as a set of principles designed to encourage us to respect and honor our bodies — in other words, discourage overindulgence, rather than participation. It makes no sense to me that someone who consistently exercises and watches what they eat but drinks an occasional cup of coffee or glass of wine is excluded from the temple, while a grossly obese person who takes no thought for his/her own health is not.

    Parts of the endowment. In the 1990 revisions to the endowment, the following sentence was added (I don’t mind quoting this in a public forum since it is merely the definition of the endowment given by Brigham Young at the time the Salt Lake Temple cornerstone was laid in 1853, and the sentence has been published in both the Journal of Discourses and Discourses of Brigham Young): “Your endowment is to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord which are necessary for you . . . to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the keywords, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation . . .” I mean no disrespect to any readers who believe that literally, but I was aware of the quote before it was inserted into the endowment and I have never believed it in a literal sense. My frustration is that I know that there are people who DO believe it literally and who see that as the purpose of the endowment, which I believe is very limiting. I do believe there is tremendous value in the endowment as a reminder of covenants and obligations, and a sort of archetypal portrayal of our journey back to God, but it would be much, much easier for me to actually try to share the gospel with non-LDS professional colleagues — with the goal of introducing them to the temple some day – if that sentence were removed.

    I suppose the belief/practice I copnsider most “bizarre” is the notion that the only way to return to God is through the “saving ordinances” of the LDS church, and in no other way. I’ve been lifelong active LDS, have always had callings, and have always tried to take my faith seriously (returned missionary, served in a bishopric and on a high council, currently in a YM presidency). I love and respect the church; although I have plenty of flaws, I know I am more patient, kind, giving, and forgiving because of the influence of the church. The church has helped bring me closer to Christ. My family has both had opportunities to serve, and been served, because of our association with the church. I’m grateful for all of that and am perfectly willing to concede that the church is good, and in many ways, “true” (a topic for a different discussion). But I no longer have the intellectual or spiritual capacity to boldly proclaim what I once did: that the only way to achieve full exaltation and return to God is OUR way. Hopefully it will work for me; hopefully it will work for my family; and hopefully it will work for those of us in this forum who actively belive. But there are a host of reasons that an honest, objective, well-intentioned person could thoughtfully evaluate the church and conclude that it was not “the only true church.” I can’t believe that God would consign such a person to a lesser fate.

  4. Matt
    January 27, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Regarding other things that are bizarre, I was going to mention the lyrics to the hymn “In our lovely Deseret”:

    That the children may live long
    And be beautiful and strong,
    Tea and coffee and tobacco they despise,
    Drink no liquor and they eat
    But a very little meat;
    They are seeking to be great and good and wise.

    It’s cute for us, but I cringe wondering how investigators would react to that as a form of worship . . .

  5. January 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Word of Wisdom, garments, fasting monthly, paying 10% in tithing, the temple, not seeing R-rated movies, polygamy, and Sabbath day observance…

    Good list, but you forgot a few:

    Single ear piercings for females only, skirts below the knees and no bare shoulders (even for single high school girls), temple recommend interviews where bishops feel fine probing into the deepest recesses of an individual’s private life (not really endorsed, but it still happens), no foul language, and that’s not including things that seem more limited to Utah culture.

    On the other hand, fasting once a month with no food or water at all may seem bizarre, but lots of other religions fast. Muslims have Ramadan, and many Evangelical churches fast, just not regularly. Fast and Testimony meeting, a.k.a open mic time, might seem strange to some, but it doesn’t seem nearly as bizarre as what some other religions allow. The meetings of the Church of the First Born in rural Oklahoma are basically Fast and Testimony meetings, only with even less structure and they go on for eight hours or more (!!!)

  6. Martin
    January 27, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    I’m struggling with this a little. Seems a bit of false dichotomy. Many things I consider “Bizarre” are simply manifestations or symbolic illustrations of a true principle. For example, the Word of Wisdom. I think it’s a true principle that we should keep our bodies healthy and our minds facile so we’re open to the Spirit. It’s a true principle that we should avoid losing our agency, eg. through drunkenness or addiction. However, the modern proscription on alcohol is bizarre — Jesus drank wine. Yet maybe Mormons can’t be trusted to drink in moderation. After all, I bet Mormons eat as much meat as anyone, “eat sparingly” injunction notwithstanding.

    Besides, I think being “bizarre” is a true principle. We’re to “go out from among [the world] and touch not their unclean things”. I think we’re to be separate.

  7. domestic goddess
    January 27, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I feel the same as Matt. I’d add that I don’t appreciate someone choosing my underwear for me and then asking me what I sleep in. It bothers me. Although as I look as the positive things the church has offered me and my family and it outweighs the negative. It has more that rings true for me than other religions. I can’t say I believe it is the only way to eternal life but believe it is a way to eternal life.

  8. Martin
    January 27, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Matt — “But I no longer have the intellectual or spiritual capacity to boldly proclaim what I once did: that the only way to achieve full exaltation and return to God is OUR way. Hopefully it will work for me; hopefully it will work for my family; and hopefully it will work for those of us in this forum who actively belive. But there are a host of reasons that an honest, objective, well-intentioned person could thoughtfully evaluate the church and conclude that it was not “the only true church.” I can’t believe that God would consign such a person to a lesser fate.”

    I think I read another false dichotomy!

    Seems to me that “OUR” way doesn’t consign others to a lesser fate, even if we truly believe it’s the “true” way. I believe the church is God’s church and that it’s ordinances are absolutely necessary, but that doesn’t in any way mean that a sacred covenant a non-LDS makes with God isn’t valid. Many have undoubtedly come closer to God through their rituals than many a Mormon has through his. We just believe they’ll accept those ordinances later, just like our ordinances will mean more to us over time as well. Also, being the “true church” doesn’t mean we have an exclusive lock on truth — we’ve been taught to accept truth from where ever it comes.

    Self-appointed false-dichotomy spotter out. (Be gentle with me, I’m not nearly a burly as I sound!)

  9. Mike S
    January 27, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    I feel much the same way in many ways as Matt and others:

    WofW: Certainly not for health, per se, but for obedience or “peculiarity”. Granted, everyone knows tobacco is bad for you. California’s smoking rate is about the same as Utah, and they have 10x the number of people. Moderation is probably better than abstinence. A glass or two of wine a day – healthy. Being alcoholic – bad. Eating some food – healthy. Being obese – bad. Having a cup of tea each day – healthy. Drinking 8 cups of coffee each day – bad. So this is a completely illogical thing. If it was truly a code for health, it should be rewritten. As is, it’s a code for control.

    Garments: There is a purpose – a reminder of temple covenants. Perhaps they serve as a reminder. My argument is how bizarre they are, especially for women. They make the majority of women I have ever talked to feel extremely unsexy. They are cumbersome. Granted we can’t get rid of them, but why not change the top into a camisole with straps. It would involve shortening the arms 2″, and wouldn’t affect the marks at all. The arms have already been shortened several feet over the years, so what it wrong with 2″. Similarly, how many people have garments that actually reach their knees? The mark is therefore symbolic. Why not make that a more reasonable thing?

    Tithing: 10% is the definition. For someone in Europe who is already paying 50-60% tax, and VAT, etc., if paying 10% of your “increase” is defined at 10% of your “Gross”, this seems a stretch. No one has ever actually explained officially what the 10% is actually of.

    Dress: Tattoos, earring rules, white shirts, beards, etc. are absolutely bizarre. These are personal preferences that happen to have been elevated to pseudo-doctrinal things.

    Fasting: Actually healthy for your body. Done by many religions, and in many other non-religious groups. It actually also serves to help teach self-discipline. And benefit the poor. Good principle.

    R-Movies: Bizarre. Some PG-13 movies are trash. Some R movies have a great message. I ignore this one but use common sense.

    Temple: Mixed. There is this strict compulsion to make sure everything is done word-for-word, implying that the actual words are exactly what God wants us to hear, but the words are quite different from earlier versions of the temple. The practice of shuffling everyone out of the Celestial Room quickly – bizarre. It can be a peaceful place. The wardrobe is still bizarre to me, even having been there dozens and dozens of times.

    “One true Church”: Bizarre. Less than 0.1% of the world are active LDS Church members. Do we really think God is going to banish the other 99.9% from His presence? We make an exception saying that for the 99.9%, it doesn’t really matter if they are members, as we can always “do their work” later. In that case, realistically, what is the point of missionary work, since for the vast majority of the world, it doesn’t really matter if they’re LDS.

    Callings: Bizarre. Good chance to serve. But why do they often call the man to offer a woman a calling? They don’t generally check with a wife to see if it’s ok to offer a man a calling. And why do they even go through the motion of “sustaining” someone?

    3-hour Church: Bizarre to the world. Let’s bag Sunday School.

  10. Holden Caulfield
    January 27, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    I’m in a minority on this one, I’m sure, but I have never liked disciplinary councils where a group of men, whether a bishopric or high council, was convened. I remember sitting in them many times thinking “What am I doing here.” I used to shake my head when high council members would say they “love disciplinary councils”. Having someone discuss intimate details of their personal lives to as many as 16 men, most of them strangers, did not seem necessary, let alone “true” to me. “Bizarre” is a better label to me. I’m sure Hawkgrrrl could come up with a good adjective for my feelings, I’m at a loss.

  11. January 27, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    I’m with #6 Matt on this one. I finally abandoned the quiz because some items which I would have rated true are also clearly bizarre to the non-believing. So I must have misread the directions (wouldn’t be the first time).

    Should I count things with which I’m not comfortable as bizarre, or should I strive to find comfort over time?

  12. January 27, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I actually had an experience to day that ties in with this post. I was at the deli counter at my local health food store looking for a snack. (I have several health issues that limit my diet selections and this store has a great deli.) There was a basket full of individually wrapped gluten-free chocolate brownies that looked delicious, so I picked one up and read through the ingredients. Much to my dismay they contained ground coffee (organic, of course). My first thought was to say something to the deli manager (who knows me), but then I thought, “What would I say? That my religion forbids me from eating chocolate brownies containing a small amount of ground organic coffee?” I couldn’t bring myself to say anything because I realized how bizarre that would sound.
    So yes, I think the WoW is one of those bizarre things, though before today I had really never thought about it that way. But the most bizarre to me are some of the dress and grooming restrictions, i.e., white shirts,no bare shouders, beards or second earrings–truly, truly bizarre.

  13. January 27, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Oh, and Holden, I have to agree with you on the disciplinary councils. They’re just nonsensical.

  14. Dan in NB
    January 27, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Wow, I am surprised at the number of fence sitting or run of the mill LDS people here. I would have thought the site full of Ultra Orthodox. Most of those questions I believe whole heartedly. Temple endowments do exactly as Brigham was quoted as doing. As for Hymns I have to agree especially since having spent time in Rural Utah and learning first hand that no one is home the first day of Deer Season, kids even get the day off school in many districts. And I never had a meal at a members house without a large helping of meat by my standards. And have you looked at the hymn that starts Ohhh my Father, thou that dwellest.” Although I agree whole heartedly with the line regarding Mother, it made for a few interesting discussions with nonmembers.

  15. Dan Timon
    January 27, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Since when have they said no beards? When has the leadership of the church ever flatly denied that only LDS people will go to the celestial Kingdom? There is letter and Spirit people, lets remember that. This church is true, some will take a little more effort to see that then others, some will be led away by wolves, some will have lousy or poorly matched missionaries on their door but those that come to live with God one day will need to have all the ordinances, keys, signs etc.

  16. Chris
    January 27, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    If only LDS people (currently) will go to the celestial kingdom, why do we do temple work for the dead, allowing countless people to choose to accept the fulness of the gospel?

  17. shannonj
    January 27, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Overall, I think the WoW is a good thing to follow and way above it’s time when J.S. introduced it. The thing that I just can’t justify is not drinking tea. You can not tell me that drinking a diet soda is some how more healthy than green tea. Of course it needs to be drank in moderation because of the caffeine but there are way more health benefits than diet Coke.

  18. GBSmith
    January 27, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    #15 “Since when have they said no beards?” I’m pretty sure you can’t be a temple or a veil worker if you have a mustache or beard.

    Things like the WoW, the temple, garments, etc. are just good examples of how something can be introduced to reinforce a sense of being “the other”. If you give people charisma in hidden and secret teachings to make them feel special and set apart or above those around them, it’s more likely that they’ll stay together as a group. Looking at the years from about 1828 to 1844 and then later in Utah you can see a layering of this sort of thing. That combined with asking extraordinary sacrifice like relocating, temple building, missions, more temple building, more relocating all makes people feel chosen and in a humble way better than everyone else. I don’t know if JS did it consciously but he did it none the less.

  19. Hawkgrrrl
    January 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    #10 Holden – based on your description, the word I came up with was “Stepford-like.”

    #11 Paul – Because each person’s views are going to be subjective, I would mark it bizarre if you find it hard to justify (if you don’t even believe your rationale), not what others would say (outsiders, for example). It’s your call whether you need to try to find a reason to justify the practice for yourself or not. For example, polygamy which is taking an enormous hit above is one I find bizarre and unjustifiable. But it’s also not a dealbreaker to me as I feel sufficiently detached from the practice. But someone who has a real issue with the implications of it not being justifiable is probably in a different boat. Again, it’s all totally subjective.

    #12 CatherineWO – You are probably taking a very orthodox approach to the coffee prohibition. Do you also avoid tiramisu and coffee ice cream? I consider those not prohibited, although some do consider them out.

    I’m not that surprised to see that over time most of the responses are coming out somewhere in between at “Partially Justifiable.” The ones that are most convincingly true seem to be Fasting, Tithing, and Sabbath Day. Temple, Garments & Word of Wisdom are all kind of a mixed bag with a good dose of unjustifiable / bizarre in there – probably because these are practices that are big differentiators from non-LDS. And I’m surprised to see that the prohibition on R-rated movies is almost as unpopular / unjustifiable as Polygamy! Polygamy as unjustifiable makes a ton of sense since it is entirely historical to us (not to mention weird as all get out).

    This has been interesting to watch.

  20. jjackson
    January 28, 2010 at 12:55 am

    Weddings for TR holders only is BIZARRE

  21. James
    January 28, 2010 at 2:55 am

    Temple oridinances, R Rated Movie and Polygam, shocking results on pole for what I consider a fairly conservative blog

  22. CarlosJC
    January 28, 2010 at 3:27 am

    Garments.

    Although I do feel different when using them, and in a spiritual way, I’m starting to think that we could get by with a change of model. Maybe just some boxers with a leg mark is enough and a neat jewelery type chain with Moroni or these mason’s symbols for the really hot day. We’d still be wearing the marks anyway.

    I mean it got to 112.2oF last week here and I still had to go to work in a business shirt tie and the obvious T-shirt underneath ie garment tops, which everyone could tell I was wearing off course. I got plenty of strange looks as I was sweating in our unbearable heat wave. At that point at least the top garment became bizarre to me. Next time it goes over 100F I’m leaving the garments at home.

    R-rated movies? nah, only X-rated are a problem.

  23. CarlosJC
    January 28, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Well my first comment disappeared.

    I would also rank Garments as at least borderline bizarre. Although I do feel spiritually different when wearing them I think we could get by with just some boxers with the ‘knee’ mark higher up and just a gold chain with the marks on it. After wearing full garments last week when we reached 112.2F here, I’m hoping there is a better way to remember our Temple covenants next summer.

    Re Holden Caulfield #10, I agree too that disciplinary councils are somewhat bizarre but I’d also say that they are somewhat misleading too. Although I claim a testimony of the Lords participation in them, and as bishop I felt that light coming down almost as a lightning bolt saying what the Lord’s decision was, the fact is that only the bishop and the stake president see this and everyone else is there to help him reach that point. Also they are there to allow this church judge to later say “15 of the stakes finest Melchizedek priesthood holders agree” and so on, in case of objection or dissent later on. But the member being judged thinks that the entire council reaches a verdict like a jury does. It doesn’t. Fact is that in many DC there isn’t agreement but the stake president pushes his decision and at the end all HCmen simply choose to vote with him. Those dynamics, I think, make most DC both bizarre and misleading.

    As to what is heard in there, the most bizarre story I remember was a gay young man who claimed that an intruder broke in through his bedroom window and just ‘landed’ on his manhood and because of that he couldn’t stop and had sex with him. We all listen but in that DC no one asked any questions at all and it was finished in about 15min (no pun…). He was excommunicated. I’m still not sure what was more bizarre though, his story or the fact that 18 men (with 3 clerks) were in a church room at 6am Sunday morning listening to him!

  24. CarlosJC
    January 28, 2010 at 4:51 am

    Huh???

    now the first comment is back…..Bizarre!!!

    Can you delete that first one, #22?

  25. January 28, 2010 at 7:06 am

    a practice might also serve a purpose to create sociological benefit by defining the community or making “a peculiar people.” … “the law was a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ” Paul said, to keep us as an un-assimiliated group that the Messiah could be welcomed by. More or less.

    But the striking thing a friend of mine got from going to the Harvard MBA program was their advice to take half a day off a week and just relax from your labors. A sabbath day is a true principal.

  26. January 28, 2010 at 8:35 am

    #21 – Whether this is a ‘conservative’ blog or not I don’t think it the results are surprising. Primarily because there is a sense that faith drives many people to do what they do and that this idea often relates to choosing to believe in or do something that does not have all the rational connotations laid out. We may have some assurance that we feel that a certain thing is good, or even bizarre but this should not be counter-posed to that is ‘true’ or good. it seems to be setting up a false dichotomy.

    #23 – I am not sure that DC are bizarre, in fact I think they are similar to many religions that have a tight view of membership status, moreover I think they are linked to the democratic culture of early mormonism and then they fitted nicely with the bureaucratic/lawyer influences on Mormonism after McKay. That they have been retained through these cultural influences suggests that it is not that weird.

    So although I think the OP is interesting, I am not sure we can deduce much from it.

  27. Mike S
    January 28, 2010 at 9:10 am

    The overall feeling I get from this is that there is a “core” of principles that seem “eternally” true and therefore make sense. Things like having down time, fasting, charity, trying to be healthy, prayer/meditation are common across religions. You find these common things (in various iterations) in multiple religions including all the aspects of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jewish, etc. People tend to find these principles “true”, not specifically because they are “revealed principles” (which Buddhism doesn’t really do), but because they are principles that make sense and have a benefit when followed.

    I think many of the things that people find more bizarre are those that aren’t really eternal principles. White shirts, R-rated movies, beards, earrings, tattoos, etc. are all cultural things that the current older American generation doesn’t like. People make a big deal out of these now, but at some point, they will change with the culture. Things like polygamy and blacks/priesthood are also seen as bizarre because they aren’t eternal principles, otherwise we’d still be practicing them. And even the WofW is partially bizarre for the same reason. Granted tobacco and being an alcoholic are bad, but Christ, Joseph Smith, etc. all drank wine, so that’s not an eternal principle either. Tea has been shown to be good for you. The one area that is probably the best for us – avoiding meat – is the area that we basically ignore.

    So, I think where something is along the continuum of bizarre true is very correlated with how close to how if is perceived as “useful” across cultures and millennia.

  28. Eric Boysen
    January 28, 2010 at 9:37 am

    I must be a TBM because the only thing I didn’t rank as “True” was the prohibition on R-rated movies, which I consider a purely cultural thing as the R-ratings are not established by revelation. The general principle of avoiding “dark” things as dangerous to the spirit I wholeheartedly endorse. I believe that since I have joined the church I have only seen 5 R-rated movies. Silence of the Lambs, The Postman, Schindler’s List, The Patriot, and The Passion of the Christ. The first two I saw with groups and was not bold enough at the time to not go. The others I was glad to see despite their darker elements.

  29. January 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    The only thing on the list I have a hard time to handle is the blanket rule against R-rated movies. Especially that it’s usually the boobies and the fake love-making scene or something that give the R.

    While I’m against public nudity, I think a person has a sort of distorted ideas about sexuality, if flashing boobies darkens their spirituality. They’re just part of a human body; as I said, I am against public nudity, but it’s a little weird to get obsessed about it.

    But hey, if you feel it works for you, it’s fine with me. I’ll stick to using my own faculties, hopefully guided by the Spirit. I have ejected the DVD quite a few times when I’ve decided that the movie just glories in graphic portrayals of violence or it seems to be primarily meant to be titillating (sexually).

    Damn you, Quentin Tarantino. Your movies can be really good, but why the blood? Are you obsessed with some Christan blood symbolism or is it Voodoo?

  30. manaen
    January 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    RE: Temple garments being “sacred symbols of covenants that serve as necessary daily spiritual reminders. They provide spiritual protection.”
    .
    I was going down a wrong road, long ago, when I came to the moment in which I’d have to take off my garments to continue. I likely was weak/willing enough to do what would come next but I couldn’t do the physical act of removing them. I’ve been eternally grateful for this reminder and protection since.
    .
    #16
    RE: LDS being the only ones to obtain the celestial kingdom. IMO, it’s also likely that no one else will become sons/daughters of Perdition; no one else will gather enough light to sin against in order to qualify.

  31. Dan Timon
    January 28, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    #30 And there I agree hole heartedly Manaen.

  32. stepheny
    January 28, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    I might have voted on partially justified on some that I did not because the question had qualifiers that made it impossible to do so. The option under polygamy was one of those. If the part enumerating what circumstances might make it OK had been left out I might have selected that answer. In general I think most of the questions had that kind of effect on me. I also think bizarre is too strong a word. Some of the things you mention may be unusual or unique. I don’t think they are bizarre.

    Most churches have some form of tithing. Some people contribute more than 10%. Fasting is common in other religions as well.

    I associate smoking and chewing tobacco with back room meetings by politicians, union organizers and other conspirators. I associate smokey rooms with pool halls and bowling alleys. It was this atmosphere in the school of the prophets that prompted the Word of Wisdom. These are not the kinds of places where minds are enlightened. Further many religions have some kind of health code. We are not different in that respect.

    There are some things that I would like to be different. Mostly those are things that are not policies or practices as much as they are things individuals perpetuate. If we want to be like everyone else then what is there to logically justify our continuing to be organized as a religious institution?

    I don’t need someone to tell me to avoid R rated movies. I can decide what is offensive. The longer I live the less I want to see them.

  33. Cameron
    January 28, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    I agree with #6 – it’s a false dichotomy. God’s ways are not man’s ways. If everything my religion asked me to do or believe was popular with man, I wouldn’t be at ease. Often, the truth is bizarre.

  34. dmac
    January 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Some of these I can understand as having a place in reminding us of what we believe and that we should hold to a greater plan for our lives. But some I just don’t get and never did. The WoW is bizarre. I always feel like it was either half finished or a knee jerk reaction to something. I think it only serves now to keep us mindful of what we partake and to be moderate.

    I have never been comfortable with the concept of polygamy. I cannot see it as anything but bizarre and misogynistic concept regardless of how many times people tell me that it is ordained by God. It does not ring true for me.

  35. MH
    January 29, 2010 at 12:56 am

    I wouldn’t call this a conservative blog. I’d say progressive, moderate, or even liberal (though I prefer progressive.) Still, I was a bit surprised at the polygamy result. (There’s more people that believe it’s bizarre than I thought.)

  36. Hawkgrrrl
    January 29, 2010 at 11:15 am

    These results continue to shift, and it is just fascinating:
    – WoW is clearly coming in as a Partially Justifiable. I’m surprised there isn’t a stronger “True” contingency.
    – Garments is a three-way split – people are very evently divided between True, Partially Justifiable, and Bizarre, with True leading the pack. Interesting! But by contrast, fewer people consider the temple “True” – with the majority coming in on Partially Justifiable. That speaks to a major disconnect IMO.
    – People find tithing, sabbath day, and fasting the easiest to explain to outsiders and themselves. More strongly held principles here.

    Anyway, an interesting study if not terribly scientific!

  37. January 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    What makes this exercise difficult, notwithstanding the explanation, is that even a totally baseless and silly exercise/sacrament may serve a valuable purpose. So long as no harm is incurred due to a particular practice, I think repetition, education on symbolism, etc. can make any sacrament or exercise appropriately spiritual and therefore positive. However, I think it’s important to remember how Jesus is portrayed to have dealth with sacrament/tradition. While he was obviously observant of most then-current practices, and was by Biblical accounts, a devout Jew – he was always willing to give up, change, or disregard traditional norms in favor of building loving relationships (see, woman at the well, take up your bed and walk, eating with tax collectors). While traditions/sacramental practices may be very true, and very justifiable, the Gospel reminds us that they should never be held up as truth, in and of themselves, for real truth is found only in loving our neighbors.

  38. January 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Getting back to what’s bizarre it’s been jarring to watch Big Love and hear the actors say words and phrases that at church are just part of the culture but on TV come across like fingernails on a blackboard. I guess amongst ourselves things can seem pretty normal but from the outside be a little round the bend.

  39. Thomas
    January 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    #38 — I have the opposite impression of “Big Love.” HBO can do great TV, but “Big Love” utterly fails, most of the time, in presenting a remotely credible impression of Mormon-influenced culture.

    Hollywood cutthroats just can’t fake “Mormon Nice,” no matter how hard they try.

  40. January 29, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    What I was thinking of was an episode last year when Bill, the hero, was trying to convince an Indian tribe to let him build a casino. They were needling him with questions about being lamanites and if they’d become white and delightsome. It reminded me of the time I was chased off a doorstep in Fredricton, New Brunswick by a college professor who took issue with the same BoM reference. As I said, bizarre.

  41. Vin
    January 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    One thing I’d point out about the garments —

    I know a Bishop that would ask someone who’d committed adultery, “What was going on through your mind when you took off your garments?”

    I can see that being a practical preventative symbol.

  42. Hawkgrrrl
    January 29, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Vin – ouch. That is a killer question. Not sure how appropriate I feel it is to be discussing your sex life with a bishop behind closed doors, but once you’re talking to someone about your adultery, I guess the door is open. In a sense, that does make it a control mechanism, but more of a reminder / self-control mechanism. Probably one reason spouses might feel threatened if their spouse stops wearing them.

  43. January 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    #41 On another bizarre note, when I was young people didn’t remove their garments for sex so may not always been much of a preventive.

  44. Mike S
    January 29, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    #43: I remember hearing my parents talk about that too. It is truly bizarre.

    #41: I think someone actually getting to the point where they are “taking off their garments” physically have already got there mentally 99% of the time. In my mind, this question does nothing to help the person repent, which is technically what talking about it with the bishop entails, but merely another way of making the person feel like a dumbass.

  45. Hawkgrrrl
    January 29, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    “#41: I think someone actually getting to the point where they are “taking off their garments” physically have already got there mentally 99% of the time. In my mind, this question does nothing to help the person repent, which is technically what talking about it with the bishop entails, but merely another way of making the person feel like a dumbass.” I think the question is designed to convey the gravity of the situation, but to your point, the person has likely committed adultery in their heart beforehand. I guess it makes it easier to commit adultery with other endowed members than non-members, n’est-ce pas? (Adultery makes me think in French for some reason).

  46. January 29, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    I love Big Love. Their inflections aren’t quite right, even when they nail the terminology (which isn’t always) — but I actually think they do a decent job of capturing Mormon nice. It’s not quiiiiiiiite nice enough, but Margie’s friend Pam is particularly credible.

    I voted WOW, garments, R-rated movies, and polygamy as bizarre. I waffled on garments, because I actually appreciate their symbolism, but the fact that they’re so dang ugly and that everyone thinks it’s just fine for some dude to pull me into an office and ask me what kind of underwear I’m wearing every other year is totally bizarre, let’s not lie. The Word of Wisdom made a lot more sense when it was just a suggestion; polygamy was crazy and I’m glad that’s over; and prohibitions against R-rated movies are controlling.

    Temple rituals I voted as partial. I don’t think I believe that they’re literally salvific, but in many respects they’re quite beautiful and I find a lot of spiritual value in them. Same with fasting and Sabbath observance.

    Tithing I voted as true, though to be consistent, I’d probably switch it to partial if I had to do it over again. I just LOVE the idea of tithing, though — remembering that God is the source of my blessings and giving Him 10% has really made an impact in my life. If my hubby were a bit more liberal, I’d probably choose to give that 10% to a few different organizations, but for now it’s the thought that counts.

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