Several things I thought were interesting, with no unifying theme:
(1) The debut of the new Relief Society Presidency. It looks like I had the same reaction that most others who have blogged about them have: relief (ha!) that they don’t use the “sweet sister” voice and great pleasure that they discussed substantial doctrinal topics.
(2) The much-anticipated new youth curriculum is now available here. I’ve just glanced at it, but I am pleased to see no “made-up” stories. I’m worried that switching Sunday School to topic-based instead of scripture-based lessons will decrease scriptural literacy. (And, that the kids will perceive the overlap between YW/YM and SS as boring.) I suspect that divvying up lesson topics might be somewhat cumbersome for YM, YW, and SS teachers. I note that it will be easy to update the curriculum, since it exists primarily online. I note lots of women’s voices as authoritative sources. I wish I had time to analyze the gender messages and gender differences, but not today . . .
(3) Elder Oaks and Elder Cook talk a lot about protecting religious liberty. I have no idea what they mean because they almost never use concrete examples. (I’ll discuss one exception in a minute.) I did a quick-and-dirty survey of some thinky Saints and found vastly different interpretations as to what they meant: some people thought it was issues like school prayer, crosses on public lands, etc. Others thought it was the recent attacks on Muslims’ rights in the US (i.e., the so-called “Ground Zero” mosque). Others thought it was fall-out from Prop 8, like boycotting LDS businesses. I wonder if it isn’t a shift in anti-SSM policy: an acknowledgement that that cat is out of the bag and SSM will eventually be permitted, but a focus on protecting the rights of people who do not support SSM marriage for religious reasons (such as: wedding photographers who don’t want to photograph SS weddings). Honestly, I have no idea what they mean.
The one example that Elder Cook has used is of a Christian couple in Britain who weren’t allowed to be foster parents because they could not encourage/permit/support/condone homosexuality. This strikes me as a very difficult situation. (We were, briefly, foster parents and there is all sorts of awkward when private people, in a private home, are agents of the state.) If an LDS 9yo in the US ended up in foster care, how would we feel about evangelical foster parents who worked daily to convince the child that she was going to hell if she didn’t renounce Joseph Smith as a false prophet? Would we go to the mat for their religious liberty to teach a foster child according to their own religious beliefs?
(Having said that, it bothers me deeply on a personal level to dismiss a topic that two apostles speak frequently about, so I’m trying to figure out how to understand and accept their position, not debunk it.)
(4) I’m deeply troubled by most of recent LDS modesty discourse. So I was equally thrilled for this recent comment by Elder Holland:
I was invited to speak in a stake single-adult devotional—one of those open-ended “18-and-over” sort of things. As I entered the rear door of the stake center, a 30-something young woman entered the building at about the same time. Even in the crush of people moving toward the chapel, it was hard not to notice her. As I recall, she had a couple of tattoos, a variety of ear and nose rings, spiky hair reflecting all the colors now available in snow cones, a skirt that was too high, and a blouse that was too low.
Three questions leapt to my mind: Was this woman a struggling soul, not of our faith, who had been led—or even better, had been brought by someone—to this devotional under the guidance of the Lord in an effort to help her find the peace and the direction of the gospel that she needed in her life? Another possibility: Was she a member who had strayed a bit maybe from some of the hopes and standards that the Church encourages for its members but who, thank heaven, was still affiliating and had chosen to attend this Church activity that night? Or a third option: Is this the stake Relief Society president? (Somehow I was sure she was not.) Citation
Note that his reaction to her was to thank heaven she was there. Not to call her walking pornography or a hypocrite or to shun her, as others recently have. So thank you Elder Holland.
(5) Our RS recently did the sabbath observance lesson. I was surprised that the overwhelming thrust of comments focused on the “what’s right for OUR family is most important and we should never judge others.” I thought maybe it was my ward, but I’ve seen other blog comments along those lines. I am worried about this. I think our veneration of the family may have led to thinking that the family has more power/authority to define the commandments than it should have. (Of course, I would have been more ticked by an RS lesson that was judgmental of people for observing the sabbath differently than they do, so there really is just no winning with me.)
(6) Let’s say that every teaching (scripture, general conference, etc.) of the Church were exactly the same as it is now, but the behavior of the members was positively vile: people would spit on the homeless on their way into chapels, people would call racial minorities “filth” from the pulpit, etc. Would you leave that church or still attend it? (The point is this: is there a point where the behavior of the members is such that you could no longer in good conscience affiliate? Does it matter if you have children?) On the one hand, we say that by their fruits ye shall know them. On the other hand we say that the church is true even though the members are imperfect. Let me pre-empt: no, I am not leaving the Church. (But, yes, I am completely disgusted by the behavior of some members and, yes, this does have to do with political posts on Facebook. And bumper stickers in the church parking lot.)
And thank you for reading my brain dump on this fine Monday morning.