Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Intimacy, Friendship, Romance, and Dating

Peggy Fletcher Stack’s Salt Lake Tribune article “Why young LDS men are pushing back marriage” got my thinking. For now, I’d like to leave aside the exaggerated extent of hookup culture and the anxiety over dates as marriage auditions and focus on questions of intimacy. (I am also assuming a heterosexual setup for purpose of conversation; I would appreciate that, if that setup and wording throughout upsets you, you read into the following what gender pronouns and specifications you wish.) What follows is going to be a muddle of thoughts and obviously flawed sociology, but I’m just trying to get a few thoughts and questions out in the hope that I can spark discussion.

Despite my reservations about alarmism concerning new technology [1], I think the article does bring up an interesting issue: if one already knows so much about one’s potential romantic interest from digital communication and social media, what does one do on a date? For one, I wonder to myself whether apostles would have been alarmist about other mediated communication, such as letters, in the past (“Can you really presume to know the soldier who’s been serving in the Pacific for four years, young ladies, when all you’ve done is written each other in that time? I am worried for this envelope-addicted generation.”). On a more significant note, however, it raises a very important question about intimacy.

The question assumes that one must enter a potentially romantic relationship with significant holes in one’s knowledge about the other person; courtship must entail getting acquainted, even with things that seem to be the matters of small talk on a first date. If this ignorance of the courted person’s identity is compromised, however –say, by “meeting” him or her on social media – the topics of conversation on the date will have been prematurely exhausted and courtship will be stunted forever. In this conception, group dates, hanging out, and social media threaten the foundation of marriage: premarital starvation with regard to emotional intimacy. 

As it stands, this idea of courtship and marriage argues that in intergender social relationships (pairings that could, potentially, become romantic), non-romantic  (and non-sexual) emotional and personal intimacy threatens the potential for romantic intimacy later on. 

First, I think we might be witnessing a social shift wherein non-romantic intergender friendships, even outside of professional spheres, might be more and more socially acceptable. The very fact that men can complain, in various degrees of unjustifiability, of being “friendzoned” is evidence of this shift; those that complain of such things are experiencing the tension between an older conception of intergender relationship wherein emotional intimacy was invariably a precursor to romance/sex and a newer conception that denies that invariability. In past years, friendships would be almost exclusively homosocial: men with men, women with women, and the only emotionally intimate cross-gender relationships were marital ones. Now, they can be otherwise. Friendship, however, carries with it by definition a degree of non-sexual, non-romantic emotional intimacy. In this newer notion of friendship, one can experience emotional intimacy with the opposite gender outside or before marriage. Is cross-gender friendship itself objectionable? (I hope not.)

Second, maybe we’re witnessing a shift in emotional intimacy overall: we can express ourselves more openly in public through social media. Does this openness, this public self-revelation, impair us in our in-person relationships that should be intimate? Do we have a finite measure of emotional intimacy to expend? Does baring one’s soul relatively impersonally frustrate baring it personally? While there might be some degree of truth to this, I think that cracking down on premarital emotional intimacy has a particularly gendered aspect. It is expected in American culture that men be emotionally closed, that they deny excesses of feeling or negative sentiments that might be deemed weak or womanly (anger is more okay than depression, for instance), that they put up a tough front to other men, while women are not socially penalized for enjoying emotional intimacy with their “girlfriends.” (I recognize that this is a generalization mitigated in some contexts by LDS culture, which allows men a more open expression of emotion in matters of family and spirituality.) If we denounce premarital general emotional intimacy, men might suffer more than women, as they would lose a potential outlet.

Third, if we agree that cross-gender non-/pre-marital non-romantic emotional intimacy is possible and acceptable, then we will have to redefine romantic intimacy differently. No longer would a date necessarily mean small talk. What is romance, then, in an era of cross-gender friendship? What can we share with a romantic interest or partner that we do not with friends? In many non-LDS settings, this is easily settled: sex. However, in an LDS context, one can have asexual/celibate romance; in fact, one must have it, as sex is reserved for marriage, which comes only after romance. Is romance a matter of opening up parts of oneself to the romantic interest that are closed to others? In a monogamous society, it seems that personal openness is a hallmark of an exclusive romantic relationship. What, then, do we close to our friends that we open to our lovers and our fiancés? Where is the line between cross-gender friendship and romance? What can a date become in this new world?


[1] I’m one that’s skeptical of alarmism about technology in general. I’m not sure if the quality of one’s relationships decreases through use of new technologies, or whether relationships are just reconfigured and adapt. For example, while chatting and social media can open up the opportunity for the rather impersonal sharing of thought and information, they can open up the opportunity for the rather impersonal sharing of thought and information, which is really cool! People have the opportunity to explore and express in ways that would have been impossible before the internet. While this can cause problems (for example, Mormons finding troubling Church history), it can also be awesome (Mormons incorporating that history into narratives of human-divine interaction)!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Report on "Myths of the Dog-Man" by David Gordon White

This isn't really a book review; I have few things to which I can compare the book, favorably or no. Mostly, these are my reflections upon reading the book, which I place here to catalog them and share with those who might have interest.

I discovered and checked out Myths of the Dog-Man [1] one day, hoping that it would, at least, provide some useful background information on St. Christopher Cynocephalus for a story I’ve had jostling around in the back of my mind for several years about an Argentine werewolf exploring various religions in search of a cure for his condition. I was also excited to see an entire book dedicated to half-humans, even if in the end I discovered that it barely touches on werewolves or lycanthropy, instead focusing on cynocephaly (dog-headedness). That's okay, though, because it was fascinating!

White’s purpose in the book is two-fold. First, he seeks to explore the variations in social treatment of Otherness through the lens of medieval European, Indian, and Chinese mytho-historical records of the half-human, half-canine hordes beyond their borders - myths that are remarkably consistent across all three cultures in question. This leads to his second purpose: to argue that these myths re-present (proto-ethnographically) indigenous mythologies of various Central Asian peoples who saw themselves as having mixed canine/human ancestry. The Europeans, Chinese, and Indians took the origin myth of a male wolf/dog mating with a female human, for instance, and derived ideas of a races of humans wherein all males were dog-headed but the females were human (the origin of the Amazons in mythology).Thence they applied this characterization, in turn, to all peoples beyond their borders and at all corners of the map - to whatever people or direction was the latest threat, whether internal (peasants/”vilains”, untouchables) or external (“Huns,” Scythians, Turks, etc.).

I must admit that I skipped or skimmed about half of the Indian and Chinese sections, but this is in part because White does such thorough historiographical research that I felt bogged down. If I find myself wishing to investigate Indian or Chinese myth, though, I’ll certainly revisit those sections.

Some interesting tidbits, however, were these:
  • The Canary Islands have nothing to do with the birds of that name; instead, they’re named for the Canarii, a can-ine race that supposedly lived there.
  • “Cannibal” derives from “Cariba” (i.e., Caribbean) through conflation with can-ine anthropophagic races of the Far East in the European imaginary.
  • Not only do Central Asian people’s canine origin myths lend to the cynocephaloi/Amazon link, but also their unique practice of polyandry, wherein the women are seen as the authorities.
  • He traces the Christian myths of “black” dog-headed monster races being the descendants of Cain, Ham, or Nimrod back into earliest Christianity; there are even myths of cynocephalic converts who, upon baptism, become white. (This is of interest to me because all too often historically ignorant Christians accuse Mormons of having created these racist myths whole cloth in the mid-1800s; nope!)
  • White favorably contrasts St. Augustine and Isidore of Seville with an early Nestorian Christian writer, Pseudo-Methodius, in their treatment of the cynocephalic human races. Whereas the latter adopted a dualistic perspective, applying goodness to the human Christians and evilness to the barbarian cynocephaloi (a perspective he attributes to Nestorianism’s imbibing of quasi-Zoroastrian Gnostic ideas, something that’s a little problematic given Zoroastrianism’s highly positive theologizing of dogs), the former two allow the myths of the dog-men to expand their view of Christian salvation, reading cynocephaloi as different from typical humans only in degree, but not in kind. Interestingly, he does this in order to defend the place of montrous children in Christian society as signs (monstra) from God, within the bounds of God’s saving power. He legitimizes and sacralizes the Other within and without.
In my language, this would make Augustine the first contributor to alien theology, a category I entered with my recent paper on Mormon animal theology (animals are, basically, aliens among us). Augustine differs from, say, Mormon theologian BH Roberts in the fact that for the former, the final frontier was still located on the Earth’s surface; for the latter, who imagined civilizations in other star systems subject to the same God, that was the only place left where you could find (somewhat) alien humans. (Not to mention that Mormonism’s common teaching that God’s body is literally anthropomorphic actually threatens to foreclose the soteriological potential of non-humans in a way that Catholicism’s metaphysical God does not.) White acknowledges this shifting of borders:
There no longer is an outside world or chaos lying beyond the last known body of water or shadowy mountain to harbor real or imagined monsters. If monsters exist, they must be sought on Mars, or on some Star Wars planet in an unpronounceable galaxy — or in the human subconscious. In this last case, it is the psychoanalyst who has become the modern monster-hunter and exorciser. (208-9)
Despite the fact that the final frontier of human/sapient/monstrous life is now space, however, we still participate in the same dehumanizing discourses that gave rise to the ideas of Hun/Mongol/Turkic hordes throughout the Middle Ages (itself a reified “Other” in the view of the Enlightenment!). For example, he ends the book with a musing on Ronald Reagan calling Muammar Qaddhafi the “Mad Dog of the Middle East” to justify the US’s assassination attempts on the Libyan dictator. For the geographically and culturally ignorant the globe, populated with peoples and names, is still mostly blank; the following could apply as much to a young girl in Baltistan as an American who cannot find Iraq or Benghazi on a globe:
And indeed, in those parts of the world where maps and photographs and teaching have not sufficiently penetrated to lend a cosmopolitan view of the planet, such fears are still understandable. (208)
I would like to end by quoting perhaps my favorite single paragraph of the book, demonstrating White’s fabulous (pun intended) writing style and the essence of his inquiry:
One of the ways in which we have allowed our world to be charged with new energy and life has been through our has been through our fascination with the monstrous and horrible, a fascination that today translates into the great success of war, horror, and science-fiction films. In our timorous quest for meaning, we are moved to push to its very limits our experience of human reality, in spite of all the logical, metaphysical, institutional, social, and cultural defense mechanisms that shelter us from such questions. This sporadic existential brinksmanship implies having the courage to face the limits of our own humanity—the courage to gaze into the troubled nightside of existence, into the world of dreams and nightmares, of our own dark passions and impulses, and to reach a satisfactory compromise by which we may carry on with our lives. (207)

[fn1] White, David Gordon. Myths of the Dog-Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Ecosoteriology of Tithing: Preliminary Thoughts

This is a very rough outline of some of my thoughts that arose during my preparation for an Elders Quorum lesson on Chapter 12 of the "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow" manual.

And Amy, here's a brief outline of what I taught (going much more into depth/radical than what I actually said in class, lol):

The amount paid in "tithing" changes over time. In D&C 85:3, it's straight-up consecration (and receiving inheritances of land in the land of Zion). In D&C 119:1-5, there are two tithings: giving up one's surplus property when one moves to the land of Zion, and giving the church 10% of your "interest" ever after. Today, of course, it's 10% of your increase (whatever you take that to mean).

On pages 162-3, LS talks three separate times about tithing "sanctifying the land," and when I read that I realized I had no idea at all what he meant by that. How does TITHING sanctify the LAND?

We need to note, first, that he's quoting D&C 119:6, where it says that upon the payment of tithing, the land will become sanctified unto the Lord (how can something be sanctified unto the Lord?!) and will become a "land of Zion" unto the Saints. (The immediate context of tithing in D&C 65:23 and D&C 85:3, moreover, talks of a specific Zion, a geographical, topographical /place/, not just an abstract social concept.) It might be worth it to mention here the Sacrament prayers, which talk about something (bread/water) being sanctified unto the partakers: sacredness is something, apparently, that is only perceived; is it inherent in the object at all?

Here's the ecosoteriological part, though. In our modern age when paying tithing amounts to writing a check or turning over some cloth-like scraps of inked and numbered paper, it's really easy to metaphorize tithing: it is a generic sacrifice, or it merely provides the resources for the Church to work and build temples, etc. However, historically tithing was often paid in kind: wheat, eggs, what have you. Paying in kind would remind us that "blessings" DO NOT come from God's hand out of heaven/nowhere. Just as prayers are often answered by other people, our blessings are always mediated by the planet on which we live: the Land. In the absence of consecration, paying tithing should remind us that we owe everything we are to the Earth that God has given us; to the fields that yield their grain; to the animals we entrap and slaughter; to the mines and wells where we un-earth long-dead plants to burn them; to the people who, back bent, harvest our food. All our wealth is literally Earthly.

And this Earth should be regarded as sacred to us. As Mormons, we don't believe in an exclusively human afterlife; the D&C specifically states that the Earth itself will receive its celestial glory. Unlike many other Christian churches, we should be wary of assigning value to the earth, plants, animals, and the like only inasmuch as they are useful to humans, for whether or not we use (or, more often, abuse) the nonhuman elements of Creation, our Heavenly Father still stretches forth his hand to save *all* of it. The Earth and all that is on it are valuable because God loves it/them and seeks to exalt it/them. In D&C 130:2 states that "that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy"; it's my conviction that this extends beyond human relations, and that we should strive to have relationships worthy of celestial glory with the Earth, plants, and animals. (Can you picture factory farms in the celestial kingdom?) In this perspective, tithing makes the land sacred for us by obligating us to model celestial Zion relationships and valuations. Through tithing, the land becomes Zion; the Lord will rebuke the devourer for our sakes (Malachi 3:11) and cause the destroying angel to pass over us (D&C 89:21). (Could we see one manifestation of the devourer as obesity brought on by overconsumption of cheap meat, processed foods, and sugars?)

If I had had time, I would have tied this into Elder Bednar's talk "Things as They Really Are." I have a couple quibbles with the talk (it could be expanded to all technology that enables non-vocal, within-earshot communication!), but I think that the principle is sound: do not let the possibility of disembodied thoughts and voices in virtual worlds (mediated by technology) remove you from your sense as an inherently embodied being. I would expand this to say this: do not let the possibility of abstract resources and labor mediated by money, currency, digital markets, etc. (especially in a world of fiat money!) remove you from your sense as an Earthly being. (To use Carol Adams's words, tithing could help us forget the acres, ore, vegetation, and animals that are the absent referents when we use money.)

Interestingly enough, too, tithing as today understood (10% of increase) works to undermine that very understanding through the building of temples, wherein we covenant to observe the most expansive definition of tithing: the law of consecration! Further, temples are meant to be artificial geography: they are mountains of the Lord built by human hands, places where humans can commune with the Lord as did Moses on Sinai and the early Utah Saints with their prayer circles atop peaks near Salt Lake. Further, temples enforce the idea that religion is not something you can do alone in a dark room: temples are places, geographically situated, built of materials, axes of sanctity on the land; we must cross land to get to them, we converge on them with other humans. We purchase land for the temples in part to undermine the logic of that very transaction.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Post on Rational Faiths - Divine Family Modeling

In which I analyze the Mormon discourse in which we sometimes cast Heavenly Father as the model Man and extrapolate that Heavenly Mother must be the model Woman, and question that framework.

A preview:

"...perhaps we should not take the individual members of the Heavenly Couple as our models for men and women, but instead see the Heavenly Couple as a unit as a model for each earthly couple as a unit. It is the couple that is divine and godly; individuals are to an degree insufficient for exaltation."

You can read the full post HERE.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

to Mourn with Those that mourn

“…as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, … what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord …?” – Mosiah 18:8-10

We Mormons make a big deal about our baptismal covenants, renewing them every week with the Sacrament and citing the scripture above – Alma the Elder speaking to his congregation upon the founding of the Church in the Book of Mormon – as an explication of our responsibilities as baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

However, I wonder if we misunderstand some of the things we covenant to do upon baptism. I feel that I have been more often than not willing to negate others’ burdens, to solve their sorrows. We tend to meld Alma’s words: we help others cast aside their burdens, and we comfort those that mourn in an effort to arrest their mourning, like attending to a bawling baby in the middle of the night.

I have two points to ponder.

1. We covenant to mourn.

We like citing 2 Nephi 2:25 that “men are that they might have joy.” We live in a culture rampant with rhetoric of becoming happier, wherein sadness is seen as an anomaly to be cured. Indeed, the most recent edition of the DSM (the manual that provides a guideline for psychiatric diagnosis) has removed the “bereavement exception,” which stipulated that doctors should be loath to diagnose a patient with depression within the two months following a death of a loved one. Now, grief over death can be classified as medically-treatable depression after only two weeks. Being sad is wrong, or even dangerous.

But here we have a command to mourn, and not only that, but to mourn when others are mourning. Not only are we supposed to experience sadness, but it’s not even necessary that it be personal, individual, private sadness: this is social sadness.

Further, it’s more than just a bit of feeling “down.” What does it mean to mourn? Have we done away with our mourning rituals? What are the bounds, if any, to our obligation to mourn?

I used to (and still) find a great deal of comfort in Revelation 21:4, which always recalls to my mind the final chapter of the Chronicles of Narnia: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” But as Mormons, we know that this is not really the case. We are meant to become like God, and God feels sorrow and pain – and weeps. Weeps because of their apathy and hatred. Mourning, weeping, is a godly activity; does our cult of happiness impede our pursuit of godliness?

2. Mourning… because of what?

Another tendency I believe we have is not only to squirm around those mourning, but to mourn with or comfort only those whose mourning we find justifiable.

Perhaps we’re thinking of Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:10, where he states that contrary to “the sorrow of the world [which] worketh death,” “godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of.” Wishing to be godly, we discern between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow, letting ourselves empathize with the former and admonish the latter.

Can we, however, distinguish what sorrow is godly, and what is worldly – especially in a way that does not judge ex post facto? Does Alma distinguish between the two? What does it mean if our baptismal covenants require us to mourn empathetically for non-godly things, with people who might not be, in our judgment, steering toward repentance?

Perhaps God wishes us to develop this sort of radical empathy, for it is all too easy to Otherize those we deem evil, wicked, or deluded. If instead we treat all mourning alike, we might grow to love more of our fellows more than we already do. Indeed, this might be necessary to cultivate charity. We cannot forget that Alma’s son Alma taught that Emmanuel, God-with-us, “[took] upon him the pains and the sicknesses [and the sins] of his people”(Alma 7:11, 13). Are others’ potentially ungodly mournings things that we must dare to take upon ourselves to be Christlike?

Just a few thoughts. What’re yours?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

LDS Temple Square Footage throughout the World

In Sacrament Meeting today, I was struck by an idea. It’s always hard to measure the geographical spread and diversity of the LDS Church and its members. For example, membership numbers are understandably fraught with problems. Yes, the records of the Church show 14 million plus members in the world with over half outside the US; further, within the US, only one third of Mormons live in Utah. However, these basic calculations do not account for members who have been lost or who are entirely inactive. Further, it does not account for differences in attendance rates across geographical regions; Mormons in Provo, Utah tend to be much more active proportionally than do Mormons in Presidencia Roque Sáenz Peña, Chaco, Argentina, where at times the attendance hovered around 5%.

What I realized, though, is that there is a metric that could be evidence of Mormon activity rates in a curious fashion: square footage of LDS temples by region. In the temples, Mormons participate in the highest rites of their faith, and are encouraged to go often. Until the late 1990s, temples were typically large buildings that required significant resources to construct; however, since around 2000, many smaller temples have been built to facilitate attendance by members in far-flung regions of the globe. As a result, temple construction more closely reflects habits of temple attendance by members. Further, temple construction also reflects on the size of local populations and the proportion of those members that pay a full tithe.

With this in mind, I tabulated all the square footages of LDS temples by region throughout time, showing the geographic expansion of the Church*. What I found is very interesting: though the majority of LDS members live outside the US, 66% of temple square footage is found within the US – 27% in Utah alone, and 50% in the western states.

Of course, temple attendance and demand cannot be equated with LDS activity rates or practicing population, for it is certain that American affluence (more leisure time, more dispensable funds, and more readily available transportation) inflates American attendance rates. For many outside the US, a visit to the temple might be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence (though the prevalence of that is, hopefully, decreasing). Still, it’s very interesting to consider what this data might entail for the Church. What, for example, how would the worship of a highly active LDS population that cannot attend the temple regularly look like? Does the availability of temples affect LDS activity rates? What does this mean about different regions' cultural capital within the global LDS community?

* I included La'ie and Kona Hawai'i in the "Pacific and Oceania" region based on the populations they typically service, put the Philippines in "Asia," and included Santo Domingo in "Central America."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Blessing the Sacrament in a Purple Tie

Cross-posted from Scholaristas.

I need not summarize the saga of the Pantspocalypse; if you’re reading this, you probably know it already. What is relevant is that after last week I decided I would be wearing a purple tie to church meetings on Sunday. My decision came as a result of my sympathies with imperfectly gender-conforming women (and men) who are often marginalized, the desire to show solidarity in the face of recalcitrant and exaggerated norms of gendered dress and behavior (as well as death threats), and the conviction that cultural change often starts with the culture in question – and that culture lags behind Church pronouncements. Also, my purple tie is one of my favorites.
Of the arguments arrayed against the latter-day bloomers, however, I found the most thought-provoking to be that of not marrying “political statements” with sacred ordinances like the Sacrament. Would not knowledge of a grassroots event simmering among Church members distract the congregation from the object of the meeting, Jesus Christ? If I cared not for the sanctity of the ordinance and the value of not distracting from it, I actually would have worn my dishdash (the white, robe-like formalwear of Arab men). Since I did care, however, I was left with some reservations about my violet neckwear, though not enough to dissuade me from wearing it.
Almost immediately after entering the chapel of my YSA ward I was approached and asked to help bless or pass the Sacrament. I intentionally took the spot on the stand next to my roommate, the only other purpled man in the room. There were no trousered women. I’m not sure why I did that so deliberately. I placed a feminist critique of latent, baseline patriarchy into the locus of patriarchy in weekly worship – the Sacrament.
I’ve blessed the Sacrament countless times before, but today was different. I was extraordinarily self-conscious, aware of every single one of my thoughts. As I knelt, I knew that I, with my concerns, worries, and stresses, was coming before the Lord on behalf of the congregation. And as I read, I pronounced the words more slowly and with much more precision than my average. Wearing a purple tie had made me hypersensitive to myself and, in turn, the Spirit, whose presence I found myself seeking more fervidly than I have for a long time in Sacrament meeting. Under this influence, I noticed several things:
“Oh God, the Eternal Father …”
All of worship is humans coming to the mercy seat, laden with their own burdens to be relieved. Some of our burdens might be socially acceptable and widely recognized, but others are not. Some women feel marginalized by the sometimes strict gender roles and norms assigned to them by their fellow Saints (stricter, often, than those embodied in modern Church proclamations). Some do not. A myriad of statements are made tacitly every week in the clothes we bear, statements that, though often not part of a wider movement, nonetheless have some political content. Further, we are constantly negotiating the boundaries between minimalist divine ritual and totalizing cultural trappings.
“…we ask thee …”
Though we partake of the pieces of bread and cups of water each individually, we all are parties to the prayer offered to consecrate them. We – the old and the young, the man and the woman, the new convert and the descendent of pure pioneer stock, the patriarch and the feminist, the conservative and the liberal, the straight and the not-so-straight, the pants and the dresses. All of us together implore God to sanctify unto our souls the emblems of the Sacrament, to soothe the wounds our fallen natures cause with the healing balm of the holy.
“… in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ …”
Not only do we all come before God, but we come before Him explicitly as disciples of Jesus Christ, in representation of Jesus Christ, in our strivings to beJesus Christ: the friend of women of ill repute and the nemesis of men of good repute; the political radical and the prince of peace; the king of kings and the servant of all. We have made covenants to mourn with those that mourn, to comfort those that stand in need of comfort, as He did. While it is problematic if we expect the Church to institutionally affirm every facet of our identities, it is necessary that we empathize even with the most other Other. If we find we cannot empathize with people’s experiences that are wholly different than ours, we are not fulfilling our covenants. Yes, we come to meetings in order to worship God, but we do it in a community in part to be disturbed and humbled by those around us, to serve them in their specific anxieties and infirmities that we probably don’t share. Our efforts to be Christlike require a dedication to diversity; people can be disciples of Christ, oriented toward God, and differ in a million other ways. It would seem that beauty and variety are also values Divinity wishes would adorn Zion’s unity of heart. And given that we seek to convert the world, we had better be ready for diversity in our membership.
Unlike any other time in recent memory, I returned to my seat pondering the Sacrament and its symbolism, all because I, through my purple tie, had bared a bit of my soul before my fellow man and my God.
That didn’t stop me from smiling, though, when I noticed that all the chapel’s upholstery was purple.