4/19/14

Is it Still Prom if She isn’t Modest?

Modesty. It’s one of those words with shades of meaning depending on how closely you examine it, not unlike the theory that time elapses more slowly the further away you get from Heaven. (If that last one’s too deep, check out Genesis and the Big Bang by Gerald Schoeder.)

When I was younger, AKA before baptism, modesty was nothing but a word I read in Daphne Du Maurier books, or Little Women, an anachronism if applied to modern times. When I got to Berkeley, not that I heard the word a lot, it would have been an insult, something applied to Republican women, more so if they were Christian since Christians were so ignorant and provincial.

When I think back on my attire, what would be called and what I proudly acknowledged as “hoochie mama,” it had not a shred of modesty in it. That was the point.

In those days, I wanted, naturally, to be attractive to men. In fact, that kind of attractiveness to men, the hoochie mama kind, was the only kind I knew, having been raised in a largely secular culture. As my LDS church life progressed, there came a point where modesty required a dramatic change in my clothing, and I literally panicked thinking I would no longer be attractive to men. Since I wasn’t married yet, this spelled potential doom for my future. (The fact that I became more attractive to men once I was modest is the subject for another blog.)

My son’s prom date showed up in a beautiful, flowing, strapless dress which showed off her ample desirability to males. My husband and I both liked her immediately. She was a good sport about having her picture taken in the sudden raindrops and didn’t want to hang out with one potential group of kids that she thought might be smoking. What mother doesn’t love a girl who influences her son for good?

In all the pictures proudly uploaded by my friends on Facebook, not a single other immodest dress appeared. I was slightly embarrassed to post my own proud picture because I was afraid of being judged (the universal human horror) for showing my son’s prom date in less than celestial kingdom attire. And then I realized it doesn’t matter her attire because we strive for celestial kingdom standards, not that anyone will see them in a photo on Facebook. They are the same standards that allowed a returned missionary co-worker of mine to see the good in me despite the coarse language, hoochie mama clothing and frequently wanton values.

It’s so easy to judge, dismiss or ignore others when they don’t ALREADY have our standards. And maybe they never will have all of our standards, but they may still be stellar individuals with something to contribute to our lives. If I had been judged, dismissed or ignored by my co-worker, I wouldn’t be sealed in the Temple to my husband or have our children sealed to us. And if I had never chosen to follow the gospel path, my friend would still have seen the good in me, and I would have been changed forever by his love. We talk about missionary work all the time as though its about bringing people to the Church, but what about just bringing God’s love to people in general?

This young woman my son took to prom seemed lovely, both outside and in spirit. Maybe she will one day choose to dress more modestly and maybe she won’t. Maybe she’s a better person than half the girls at her high school no matter what she chooses to wear. Maybe it was just a date and maybe my son had to work a little harder to control his hormone-driven impulses.

Do I wish she’d been modest? Yes. Can I relate to a young woman wanting to feel appealing to her date? Yes. Can I understand what causes her to think strapless is what makes her appealing? Yes. Do I understand that people live the values they’re taught, and different people will define modestly differently? Yes. Do I think Heavenly Father wants me or my son to reject this young woman because she doesn’t live all of our standards? WWJD.

4/12/14

The Roots Get Religion

I’m guessing most of you have never heard of The Roots. They’re one of the best bands ever to make music, formed originally in 1987 by two high school students at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Today they’re the Grammy-winning house band—ranked #7 of the best 25 hip-hop groups of all time by about.com—for Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, their follow-up to six years as his house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and one of the main reasons that Fallon kept The Tonight Show in New York. If you have no interest in the intersection of popular music and popular culture, i.e., a late night talk show with Jimmy Fallon, ignore the following clip. If, however, you’d like to see what all the fuss is about, the completely G-rated clip is 2 minutes and 45 seconds.

Why on earth am I writing about The Roots on a Mormon blog? I see the gospel everywhere, and yes, even in The Roots. One of my all-time favorite songs is their The Seed 2.0, and when they say “seed,” they mean exactly the same thing we do when we talk about Abraham’s seed. That’s the first hint that there’s something bigger here than a cultural divide of language, fashion, and worldview.

In brief, the song is about a man who wants a child, a legacy, a continuation of his seed, that “the world gonna know [his] name.” His partner is on birth control so he goes behind her back to make a baby with another woman and sings surprisingly touchingly about his “baby girl” that’s about “to drop.”

I’m not going to link to the song because even though I give it a PG-13 rating, it’s so far outside the wheelhouse of most of the people I know who read this blog. The point isn’t to shock or upset anyone. Anyone reading this is smart enough to find the video on YouTube if they want. I will say that it has only one unmistakable curse word, and not even the worst one at that, and some phraseology that the powers that be find coarse enough to bleep. I personally don’t see why. It’s coarse, yes, but it isn’t profane, and from the culture within which it’s expressed, it’s actually kind of poetic.

I’ve listened to my share of rap and hip-hop back in the day, and the attitudes and lyrics about women leave a lot to be desired. This song is almost respectful by those standards but is still hardly in the vein of a virtuous woman whose price is far above rubies (Proverbs 31:10) or Joseph running from Potiphar’s wife to maintain his loyalty to his employer (Genesis 39:7-8). But if that’s all you’re looking for, you’ll miss the fascinating reverberation of the biblical commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. We can all agree on that one, can’t we?

Truth is truth is truth, no matter where you find it. One of my greatest pleasures in life is searching and finding truths that resonate from wildly different corners of the world. The Lord’s commandments track our divine design: we’re commanded to be fruitful and multiply and built into us is the overwhelming drive to do so. Some of us, let’s say Mormons, believe we are following the Lord’s prescribed way of doing it, and some of us, let’s say The Roots, go about it in about the most opposite way from us possible. What I love about this song—besides the beat, the vibe, and the incredible musical talent—is it’s honoring of the universal drive to procreate, in this case expressed in very Black (African-American if you prefer) urban language and ethos.

It might be going out on a limb to say so, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lord worked in such mysterious ways that he finds specific messengers to deliver custom-crafted messages about universal commandments to all of his beloved children. The commandments are what they are. We are all divinely designed to fulfill those commandments. The Lord is creative if nothing else. And I think we would all agree he has a sense of humor. Maybe he is skillful enough to leverage phenomenal, eclectic musical talent as well.

P.S. What the heck. Here’s a clean version of the song.

4/6/14

Christian Dirty Laundry

Answer me this: why is it so heinous to say the LDS Church “is the one true church?” I’m not even saying it’s true. I mean of course it’s true that we say it, but we can’t prove it, so for the sake of argument, I’m not even saying it’s true. I can see why those words, that idea, bothers some people, heck it bothers me just because it really leaves no wiggle room for other churches to be just as true. I don’t like being right if it makes other people wrong but that’s a whole other blog. Let’s just say I get that those words, that idea bothers some people.

What I don’t get is why other people, also Christians, don’t get a bad rap for taking dramatic action to insist that we aren’t the true church. Who cares what we think and say if all we do is think and say it? It’s not like we’re out there trying to disrupt anyone else’s religious ceremony or conference.

Every Christian worth his salt stands behind the scripture in John 14:6:

Jesus saith . . . I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

In other words, all Christians think we Christians “are the one true and only religion.” Why then are we as a church wrong for thinking we’re the only way to go, but we as Christianity are not wrong for thinking we’re the only way to go? I guess my logic just can’t make sense of it. I’m more of a “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” kind of girl.

I saw protesters on Temple Square yesterday in preparation for General Conference today. They had placards with New Testament scripture (which, by the way, is where John 14:6 comes from), and they were chanting the scriptures out loud. Why? Giving them the benefit of the doubt, they really do think we’re going to hell, and they’re trying to save us. I’m willing to believe that most people of that mindset mean well. I question their tactics, however, because it’s hard to believe that loud, public, quasi-embarrassing, and decidedly disruptive demonstrations don’t have other agendas as well, but again that’s another blog.

Back to us thinking “we’re the one true church” – let’s give us the same benefit of the doubt. We really think others aren’t going to the highest level of heaven, and we’re trying to show them the opportunity that’s there for them if they want it. We do ask our young men, and young women if they wish, to sacrifice two years of their lives to bring that message to those seeking it. A lot of slammed doors, and, as we heard today, food in the face and mashed potatoes in the back, hardly equates to public demonstrations against a religious body of believers. So I ask again, why are we the ones that take the heat?

Whether we’re just so dang happy and/or self-righteous and/or prosperous and/or judgmental that other Christians love to bring us down a peg or two, or whether Satan is awfully effective in getting a divided Christian house to fall, or whether some people just need a hobby, it seems to me a bit farcical: They’re galvanized against us because we think we’re right when they know they’re right so they have to prove to us that we’re wrong in front of everybody else. And you wonder why the world is going more secular all the time.