If you’ve had any cooking training, you almost certainly were told to salt the water in which you cook vegetables. It turns out that, objectively/scientifically, it doesn’t matter whether you do. The salt doesn’t
make the water boil faster raise the boiling point by any amount that makes a difference. It doesn’t make the vegetables retain their color any better. It doesn’t make them taste any differently than if you salt them afterward. In spite of that, I continue to salt the water in which I cook vegetables. I feel like I’ve done something wrong if I don’t. I know “better,” but that doesn’t mean I can comfortably do it.
Learning to cook isn’t just a matter of learning the science of cooking. It is also and, in fact more so, learning the behaviors of a cook and the lore of cooking. It is becoming part of a community of practice. Almost (can I delete that “almost”?) everything we do we do as part of a community of practice. Even science is a community of practice, with specific language and expected behaviors that are not absolutely correlated with the objective facts about science, laboratories, etc. In other words, even scientists “salt the water before cooking.”
However, not everything members of a group do is necessarily one of its practices. Salting the water before cooking is a practice of cooking; throwing spilled salt over your shoulder isn’t, even though a significant number of cooks do. Even they recognize that it is, instead, something outside the practices of cooking.
So, what kinds of practices make us uniquely who we are as Mormons?
A friend of mine went to culinary arts school for awhile, where he saw master chefs, day in day out, measure their ingredients by eye/ rote sense, feel. So, when he cooks for this well-to-do couple, he somehow feels it to be below his level of expertise to use a scale or gradiated cups and spoons to measure his ingredients, resulting in the quality of his meals being catch as catch can. That is: sometimes too salty, sometimes too sweet, sometimes too bitter, et cee. But: true professionals measure, whether by rote experience or by using measuring cups or referencing the storehouse of authoritative recipes. And the rest of us —
Mormon prayer-speak, and blessing-speak.
But are you talking about things we do as part of mormon-ism, but aren’t really doctrinally necessary?
So we are looking for unique LDS practices that are a necessary part of being in the Mormon community, but practically do not contribute (or detract) from actual… worship or salvation? Would we want to first define the practical essentials to Mormonism or what it is we want to cook? I imagine anything contributing to the final goal of salvation- faith, repentance, baptism (and all the other saving ordinances), and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. These would be ruled out as salt in the water ingredients. My first thoughts, then, would go to the programs of Home Teaching, Visiting Teaching, Home Evening, etc. However, while these seem like uniquely Mormon programs and maybe unessential, they are certainly very useful to producing a well cooked salvation, so I don’t think we would call those programs the salt in the water of Mormonism. If we rule out anything that would actually contribute to generating faith, repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost, and the ultimate goals those principles and ordinances lead to, what are we left with? Green Jello with carrot slivers? The “Every fiber of my being” phrases? Those examples seem pretty trivial, non-universal to Mormons, not to mention unsavory for many. What then? It seems like any practice that would be considered both uniquely Mormon as well as universally participated in by Mormons would be a practice that in some way could contribute meaningfully to the actual goal, which I have assumed to be salvation or at least true worship.Even if just from an added flavor, the meal is different because of it.
So, what kinds of practices make us uniquely who we are as Mormons?
Reading T&S and commenting on it of course;^)
Folding our arms when we pray.
No applause after musical numbers in Sacrament Meeting.
Almost all males in positions of authority that I have seen in church wear the suit-white shirt-and-tie.
You don’t take your suit coat off until the presiding authority at the meeting takes his off.
Standing in silence when the prophet enters the room.
That deep instinct that tells a lifelong member when controversial opinions or constructive input really isn’t wanted.
“Scripture reading, prayer, Sacrament Meeting attendance, home teaching, Word of Wisdom” and knowing when those answers are expected of you.
Dressing up for church in general.
The EQ President is addressed as “President Smith,” but the Relief Society PRESIDENT is addressed as “Sister Smith.”
6 year olds doing chin-ups on the lecturn during fast and testimony meeting.
Fast and Testimony meeting.
DKL’s example, arm-folding for prayer, is a good one: we find it almost everywhere we find Mormons. Some of Seth R’s also stand out for me: the white shirt and tie, knowing when controversial opinions or constructive input (the difference is almost always in the eye of the beholder) are wanted, and knowing when to say “scripture reading, prayer, etc.” I’d never thought about Fast and Testimony meeting in that way before, but perhaps it is.
Scouts; church basketball; cultural halls in chapels; the existence of chapels to begin with. (Fun fact that Richard Bushman pointed out: The number of chapels that Joseph Smith built in his lifetime was Zero). Angel Moronis statues.
And of course, Mormon blogs. :)
I’m not sure I agree with you Jim. Adding salt will raise the temperature at which the water boils – making it boil slower than regular water. Granted, the difference with the amount of salt that you probably add is negligable. Also, boiling potatoes for potato salad without salt reduces the quality (i.e., flavor) quite dramatically. Also, with certain vegetables like asparagas, having salty water permeating all the nooks is soooo much more delightful than the sprinkled on saltiness (put about a half centimeter of water in a fry pan. Add salt (and maybe some MSG) and bring to boil. Add the asparagus and cook until barely dark green…wow).
However, the point you make is valid on a larger scale. I had a friend who served in eastern Germany explain how in one of his wards, halfway through the service people got up and switched sides of the chappel. No one knew why, but it was considered part of the liturgy. Come to find out, one of the old lady’s in the unit remembered to just after the war and the building they met in had only a small heater on one side of the room. In the winter they swapped to be equitable in sharing the heat.
Every single ordinance that we perform has the cultural relics. I would love to see someone give their child a name and instead of saying, “and the name by which you shall be know upon the face of the earth and upon the records of the church is Jeremy” they said, “we are going to call you Jeremy.”
The sacramant prayer sounds the same in every ward I have been to. Same pauses in the middle of a sentence and emphasis on certain non-important words. Its like very priest went to a training camp.
After you bless the baby, you hold it up for all in the congregation to admire. (Think of the Grondahld cartoon where a brother does this and the baby is hideously ugly.)
J. Stapley (#10),
You should be in my ward! I’m someone who actually tries not to “salt the water”, or do the things which are cultural practices but actually unnecessary. I feel it distracts from the purpose of what I’m doing, and have often been told after performing ordinances this way that they were spiritually powerful (as they should be). One example is blessing my children, when I don’t say “the name by which this baby shall be known on the records of the church is …” and simply declare “the name which we give you is …”. I did hold them up after the blessing, but that’s because I wanted people to admire them, not because it was common to do (although I felt comfortable doing it because it was common practice).
Ironically, I do actually salt water — I thought that in raising the boiling temperature you could cook things more effectively, especially at higher altitudes where the boiling temperature is lower.
Er, that should be #9. How did I get that wrong?
The concept I had worked under with salting the water was that it reduces the osmotic pressure across cell membranes to avoid swelling the vegetables with water and bursting the cells. I’ll have to pull out Harold McGee this evening to check how valid this colligative scenario is.
And in terms of the metaphor, … without salt, those who are immersed in the boiling water will swell and burst.
J, when I blessed my youngest daughter, that’s pretty much what I said. So after addressing Heavenly Father and stating my authority, I simply said, “…we give you a name. That name is Hanna Landrith. And we will now give you a blessing…” and I continued. As you may well imagine, I don’t like nonsensical, pseudo-grandiosity of the traditional blah, blah, blah. (You’ve heard me rail on the KJV, haven’t you?)
Anyway, the procedure in the manuals says to (1) address Heavenly Father, (2) state your authority, (3) give the baby a name, (4) give a priesthood blessing, (5) close in the name of Jesus Christ.
There is, of course, the obvious issue that one might just as well prefix the blessing portion of the ordinance by announcing that you’re doing it in Jesus’s name. My guess is that saying that at the end is another way of salting the water.
“Every single ordinance that we perform has the cultural relics. I would love to see someone give their child a name and instead of saying, â€œand the name by which you shall be know upon the face of the earth and upon the records of the church is Jeremyâ€? they said, â€œwe are going to call you Jeremy.”
Why are you so eager to do without the “cultural relics”? It seems to me that part of what blessing a child does is to place here within a community. Using archaic verbal formulations used by previous generations serves to place her within the community temporally as well as spatially. A world without cultural relics is a world of Wall-mart and nothing else…
Chapels without windows
We were driving in South Georgia a few weeks ago thru this nice little town and suddenly the ugliest building appears before us–I think to my self that is a truly ugly building it looks like a LDS church a lo and behold that’s exactly what it is–how come we build church’s that do nothing to inspire worship or spirituality?
J Stapley: You are right about salt raising rather than lowering the boiling point. I was, I suppose, confused. And I’m with you about adding MSG to foods, particularly to vegetables and soups. The business about allergic reactions to it is folklore (http://www.msg.org.au/main.html), and it brings out the umami taste exceedingly well if not overused.
J Stapley and John Mansfield: Herve This (Molecular Gastronomy) says that scientific tests show that salting the water rather than salting the vegetables afterward makes no difference in blind taste testing. As I said, I still salt the water (and I prefer flakey or crystaline shaped salts rather than granular ones) though there is no scientific evidence for doing so.
Sideshow: Salting the water does change its boiling point, but not enough to make a difference, not even at higher altitudes.
Sideshow and DKL: I agree that the formulae we use in blessing children are an excellent example of salting the water, as is our habitual ending in the name of the Savior, even if we began with his name. I think that another of them is blessing the food. I understand quite well why we should say thanks at our meals. I don’t understand why we bless the food “that it may nourish and strengthen our bodies.”
Nate, evidently you were posting while I was writing. I agree with you: that something isn’t strictly speaking necessary doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it. I’m not in favor of getting rid of all of our “merely” cultural practices. Indeed, as you say, without such connections to each other and to the past, we are left with nothing but “a wolrd of Wall-mart and nothing else.”
cje: I agree that it is easy to spot LDS chapels, though I find them utilitarian rather than ugly–but I agree with you about chapels without windows. They are distinctly LDS, on the one hand, and their absence is odd, especially from inside, if not unappealing.
Jim F –
the stuff about allergic reactions to MSG being folklore?
I’ll tell my missionary companion who would often go temporarily blind and then black out for short periods when accidently fed MSG. I’m sure he’ll be comforted to know it wasn’t real.
The site you link to is a clearly pro-MSG site. Didn’t we once have doctors proclaiming the health benefits of smoking?
While wikipedia is not always reliable, this part seems fairly accurate:
Nate, I am all for cultural rellics as long as the mean something. But what does anointing with oil that has been “consecrated in the household of faith” do for anybody beyond regular consecrated oil? As to the Walmartization of the Chruch ordinances…well, I’m not quite sure what that means.
I don’t rememvber ever attending a non-LDS worship service where a clerk got up to count the house in the middle of the service. Given our obsession with numbers, I undersand why we do it, and I guess that means this is not quite the cultural custon that Jim F. was originally alluding to in “salting the water,” but it does strike me as a practice that is distinctly LDS.
…MSG can be metabalized poorly by some folks, but it is in no way an ellergic reaction.
J. Stapley –
then why did the FASEB report (according to the article I linked to) discover that:
An unknown percentage of the population may react to MSG and develop MSG symptom complex, a condition characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:
burning sensation in the back of the neck, forearms and chest
numbness in the back of the neck, radiating to the arms and back
tingling, warmth and weakness in the face, temples, upper back, neck and arms
facial pressure or tightness
bronchospasm (difficulty breathing) in MSG-intolerant people with asthma
sounds like an allergic reaction to me. People too cavalierly use MSG. My mission companion wasn’t the only person I know who had potentially deadly reactions to MSG. Apparently these people are just folk tales. Funny, they seemed real to me.
Um, it happens because some people can’t metabolize it very well and it is involved in brain chemistry to a limited extent. If people were truely allergic to it, as it is a component of virtually all proteins, they would die.
Ah – I should probably nip this threadjack in the bud. I don’t want to derail this anymore, so I’ll just say:
There are, of course, people who are allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, etc. So people being allergic to MSG shouldn’t be a surprise. Likely MSG is about as safe to use a peanuts – but we should realize that if we feed peanuts to some people, they will get severly sick.
That’s about it.
Back to salting the water (which I do as well).
Also, I think I was using a much looser definition of “allergic” than J. Stapley was.
In the episcopal churches where I have been organist, they count every week the number of attendees an the number of communicants. I don’t remember anyone ever standing up, however, so maybe they do it more discreetly. On the other hand, in some wards I’ve been in, whichever clerk was assigned to count didn’t always get up either. When I did it, I remember first standing, probably influenced by what I had seen others do, but eventually I found this was not necessary, and performed the function less obtrusively.
J.: Why must a ritual “mean” something? Why isn’t it sufficient to say something like, “That is how we have always done it, I will do it that way because that is how I show my continuity with my community’s past”?
Let me give you another example: The Supreme Court always begins its sessions with the Clerk shouting “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” There is a very real sense in which the word no longer means anything. It is a bit of law French decended from the Anglo-Norman “oyer” meaning “to hear” and originally meant something like “Hear ye!” ie shut up and pay attention. We could certainly replace it with the words “Hear ye” or perhaps better yet “Please be quiet, court is about to begin.” Yet such a replacement would be a real loss of continuity and tradition. I certainly expect the Senate to institute impeachment proceedings against the first Chief Justice who tries to dispense with the “Oyez!”
Why must a ritual â€œmeanâ€? something?
I tend to think that meaningless traditions are simply that – meaningless. Say Mormons traditionally wear orange. Inasmuch as that is a unifying and community building expression it is great. It is the confusion of meaningless tradition with meaningful tradition that is tragic. It denigates the latter at the exaltation of the former. I fail to see how blessing the food “so that it nurishes and strenthens us” builds our communities. In the most extreme cases, tradition is the impediment to our future.
The EQ President is addressed as â€œPresident Smith,â€? but the Relief Society PRESIDENT is addressed as â€œSister Smith.â€?
Actually, in my ward, I have heard our bishop refer to our RS Pres. as “President.” :)
J.: you are sounding horribly modern to me. Quick! Quick! Where are Adam or Russell when I need them?!
I donâ€™t understand why we bless the food â€œthat it may nourish and strengthen our bodies.â€?
I’m sure there is something of tradition in that, but I just got to thinking about what we might be able to learn from that usually mindless request. We are encouraged to pray before feeding our spirits (reading the scriptures or other such gospel study — that we can be filled with the Spirit). Why do we do that? So we can be better able to do God’s will and live righteously and all of that, right? Why not pray that what we eat to feed our bodies will give us strength and help? I have sometimes heard the clarifier tacked on that it would be blessed so we could be available to serve and do the Lord’s will. Both body and spirit are important in being able and available and ready to serve and to do the Lord’s will. Maybe it’s not so useless, at least in a philosophical kind of a way…???
Interesting…for me, thinking about the things we don’t think much about can actually sometimes give some added meaning (maybe just for me, but, hey, whatever works, eh?) (I’ve been thinking about the whole mortal body thing the past couple of days, too, so that may have something to do with it — just how much time it takes to take care of our bodies, and how important they really are in the whole plan of salvation thing.)
(I have to add that, for those of us with a paranoia about getting food poisoning, that added blessing on the food is always appreciated.) :)
Oops! I almost threadjacked my own thread and not just Adam’s on credentialism.
Of course whether a ritual must mean something depends on what we mean by “mean” (and I intend no references to Bill Clinton’s infamous gaff). J. Stapley proposes a hypothetical tradition of LDS wearing orange. He says “in as much as it is a unifying and community building expression it is great.” Surely unifying and community building is meaningful, in which case wearing orange means something. However, he also makes a good point when he says “the confusion of meaningless tradition with meaningful tradition is tragic.” If I change the wording, I agree: “the confusion of less meaningful traditions with more meaningful ones is tragic.”
Mulling and Musing: Thanks for helping give meaning to something that, for me, has always been meaningless.
Talking about the law of chastity as though it only applies to single people. In other words, endless talks to the youth on how they should remain morally clean so that they can qualify for a temple marriage. But when was the last time you heard a talk on chastity that mentioned the word adultery? We somehow assume that once people are married they all go happily off into the sunset. I think that this naivite is unique to the LDS world view.
I am reminded of a Relief Society class I attended a number of years ago taught by a sister who was a teacher by profession but who was fairly new to the church. The lesson was on the law of chastity and she gave the whole lesson on remaining faithful in marriage. Talk about not salting the water!! (By the way, what followed was one of the most memorable and mature class discussions I have ever experienced.)
I find one of the greatest experiences of life is discovering the meaning of a tradition, manner, or ritual that previously seemed meaningless. So before we throw out a convention as meaningless perhaps we might stop to consider why it became a convention in the first place, even making up a new meaning if necessary.
“I donâ€™t rememvber ever attending a non-LDS worship service where a clerk got up to count the house in the middle of the service. Given our obsession with numbers, I undersand why we do it,”
I thought it had to do with the fact that the ward budget is based on Sacrament meeting attendance. Seems to be less a “tradition” than a fiscal necessity.
I think carrying on meaningless traditions can get vacuous, but I would like to err on the side of too many than too little. Traditions, like Nate said, serve as a way of connecting people, and can be a sign that you have joined the community. I would even argue that saying “nourish and strengthen our bodies” could be unifying to the community, if, say, it was a person who wasn’t used to praying before meals at all who now prayed “in the Mormon way”. Not earth shattering, and certainly I don’t think the prayer police need to show up if you are not blessing the food to nourish and strengthen the body. But it serves as something we have in common, and commonality is powerful stuff.
“No applause after musical numbers in Sacrament Meeting”
That is a classic uniquely Mormon experience. You may have heard the most inspiring musical rendition that emotionally overpowers you – and yet you have to put yourself in an emotional straight jacket devoid of expression, and be satisfied by the dry High Council speaker’s affirmation…”wow, that was really nice….thank you.”
Here are some more for you –
1) Being put into EQP the first month and tallying the hometeaching stats for the first time….10%
2) Sending around service sign up sheets (cleaning building, Enrichment Night babysitting, etc) in EQ and having them all come back with 1 name on it (usually a counselor in the EQP or yourself)
3) Asking if anyone is available to go on splits with the missionaries, and watching the entire priesthood body simulataneously stare at their shoe laces until the moment passes…
4) Finding yourself cleaning the Church toilets and suddenly realizing….”My gosh man…these haven’t been cleaned in perhaps years”
5) Emptying the Mother’s lounge diaper pale and praying for a plugged up nose or an empty stomach.
6) Hearing the annual Boy Scout fundraiser drive for six weeks straight during priesthood and at the end hearing they had raised a total of $55.
7) Hearing from the Bishop that they have so many active members they have problems finding callings for everyone…(but you wind up with 3)
8) At the end of the month, like a zodiac calender or lunar time cycle hearing the words, ” Brethren it’s the end of the month, let’s make sure we get our hometeaching done.”
9) The statistically rock solid chance that your ward has at least 2 or more
so-called “tent women.” That is women who are so obese that they are dressed in what appears to be a large bed sheet or tent like material for clothing.
10) Seeing the ward choir comprised of 80% women and youth. Why don’t the brethern join?
11) Sitting in PEC and wondering…”wow this is incredibily inefficient or less productive.”
12) Seeing a stalwart, high-caliber professional be baptized and thinking…”now that’s refreshing to see.”
13) Feeling the spirit strongly as you read the Book of Mormon and realizing or re-realizing that the gospel is true, as is the Restoration….and accepting that you have to put up with items 1-12
Mark Butler: I agree. sometimes we can gain a good deal of spiritual insight from trying to understand what seems at first glance to be meaningless.
Heather O: Ward clerks were up counting the people in meetings long before the central Church contributed anything to the ward budget.
Seth R and Razorfish: I have not seen applause for musical numbers in any religious tradition that doesn’t already include clapping as part of its liturgy. I don’t think that this is uniquely LDS.
I’ve wanted to bring my friend who was raised in a generic Protestant tradition, who currently serves as a music leader in a college-age generic Protestant church (of the sort that use the Bibles with the really colorful covers and worksheets inside,) and who intends to go to Divinity school after completing her music degree, to any Sacrament meeting in which there was a “special musical number” just to see what she’d do for ages. I think it’d be educational for us both; she thought her parents’ church was a tad stuffy, and they had a bell choir and occasional peppy guitar numbers. If she ever visits me here in Ohio, I think I’ll drag her along just to see the look on her face.
Ahem, anyway, how about carpeting on the walls? Or maybe the formulaic “I’d like to bear my testimony that…” opening (I’ve been waiting for a long time to hear a simple variation on the order of “I bear witness to you that,” or a straightfoward “I know” opening not said by me — I’m worried about saying that in Sacrament meeting, so I reserve it for my Primary kids instead, for whom angels sometimes say things like “Look, Lemuel, Laman, y’all are being really stupid about this… come on, guys, chill out!” and Moses says “dude.”) And of course, though I still don’t see the connection to the 50’s that people keep mentioning, the (male) missionary “uniform.”
The following are from Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, First Scribner revised edition 2004:
So an application of salting the water is that sometimes we think we know why something is done as it is, but our explanation makes no sense; a practice may still be rational and have a correct purpose even when incorrect explanations are substituted and fall short.
You mean other religions don’t fold their arms? What do they do?
J. I love asparagus, I’m going to try that.
#16, Nate, I find myself often taking that iconoclastic road. I would like to see that tendency (a lot of us on the blog are like that) addressed, how about having it as a topic?
I don’t like the no applause rule. It’s so hard for me when somebody just lifts my soul with a beautiful musical number and we sit there silently. I didn’t understand
#39 Razorfish, very profound. That’s how it works for me, too.
I’ve thought that visiting teaching is a unique and somewhat weird practice, actually. It’s the ten commandments way of living the golden rule. I wish there were a better way.
Jim, great topic, I read every post and enjoyed them.
We bless the food “that it will nourish and strengthen” because, deep down, many LDS persons are actually uncertain that the food in front of them has much chnce of nourishing on its own.
Ever been to a ward potluck?
A lot of that food needs all the help it can get.
1. Referring to men as “the priesthood”.
2. Opening talks by “brothers and sisters”, rather than “sisters and brothers”.
3. “Thee” and “thou” in English prayers.
4. Assuming practicing Latter-day Saints must be conservative republicans.
5. Doubting evolution.
6. Passive aggressive, rather than honest, responses to assignments, or callings. It is better to say yes (“I have never turned down a calling) and not perform, than it is to decline an assignment or calling.
7. Not swearing or drinking Coke in front of other members.
8. Stake conference weekend as family vacation time (the only time free from ward responsibilities).
9. Prelude music as conversation background.
10. Cheerios and “quiet books” in sacrament meeting.
11. The “hallway”/”foyer” class (or presidency meetings) during Sunday School.
12. Faith promoting rumors.
13. Very few beards on men.
14. Implicit discouragement of crosses.
15. Implicit discouragement of “WWJD” stickers versus “CTR”.
16. CTR rings.
Like I said, I appreciate blessings on the food for health reasons as well! [grin]
“Seth R and Razorfish: I have not seen applause for musical numbers in any religious tradition that doesnâ€™t already include clapping as part of its liturgy. I donâ€™t think that this is uniquely LDS”
Jim – Fair point perhaps not uniquely LDS but an interesting tradition nevertheless. The conventional wisdom would probably suggest we don’t clap or applaud to maintain a spirit of reverence, and tranquility which is conducive to the spirit and sacred nature of the meeting. However, how many of us have seen a religious rip-roaring musical performance outside the Church where we have also felt the spirit strongly etc. I mean take a page out of some services in the South where people are really enjoying the atmosphere and experience.
Baptismal Ettiquette – I remember on my mission while I was confering the gift of the Holy Ghost to a new member in the middle of the prayer I heard a loud snapping of a Poloroid picture from another recently baptized member. Apparently nobody let her know this breached the conventional baptisimal ettiquette. As strange as that experience was, it was even stranger when I got the picture in the mail two weeks later with four men in suits with their eyes closed performing the ordinance.
The one thing about the nourish and strengthen thing that always gets my funny bone is when we have some sweet and fattening dessert that is being “blessed.” It seems that often, the person offering the prayer will hesitate, realizing that asking for heaven to bless junk food seems a little weird….
#36: If there is an emphasis on teaching the law of chastity to yound people, it is because we find them particularly vulnerable, and more teachable. We also encourage them much more than we do older people to dress modestly, prepare for missions, etc. Something I like about the church is its clear framing of chasity — no sexual relations except with our husbands/wives. No fooling around, either with others or with ourselves. Period. It applies to old and young, male and female, single and married. I agree this needs to be taught to all, but I don’t think there is anything too strange that seem so to be primarily directed toward the youth.
Note also that young people do not go to the temple. Many of our older, married people do. The young people, then, need to be taught in classes some of the things that they will eventually be taught in the temple as appropriate. Chastity is a good example of this.
But yes, it would be good for older, married people in the church to be reminded that the law of chastity applies to them too. Much of this goes on in more private circumstances, as, for example, during the temple recommend interview.
#48: I agree — hearing the blesing of “nourishing and strengthening” on, say, a batch of hot fudge sundaes always seems a bit odd. In my own case, what I should pray over food is that the Lord would help me not to eat too much of it. Why don’t I do this? Perhaps I am afraid my prayer would be answered…
#39: “You may have heard the most inspiring musical rendition that emotionally overpowers you – and yet you have to put yourself in an emotional straight jacket devoid of expression, and be satisfied by the dry High Council speakerâ€™s affirmationâ€¦â€?wow, that was really niceâ€¦.thank you.â€?”
I have to say that some of the most emotional, spiritual moments have been the silence that succeeds profound musical numbers. There is something deeply personal in that moment that I can’t describe. But for me, it bests, by a mile, clapping and shouts of “amen”.
I agree that teaching and emphasizing the law of chastity to the youth is important and entirely appropriate. I was thinking more of the way the law of chastity is regarded among adults in the church and more specifically of the whole simplistic notion of get-people-married-in-the-temple-and-they’re-home-free.
When I was in Young Single Adults it seemed that every second Sunday school lesson was on chastity or temple marriage. And in Single Adults it only gets worse with workshops and retreats all devoted to the same subject over and over again.
It’s a little laughable, because after all the talks you’ve heard, if you have made it as far as Single Adults, you have probably reconciled yourself to your single state by now. And if you haven’t, there is probably no hope for you, and one more talk is not going to make any difference one way or the other. And what are you doing at a singles activity anyway if you don’t want to live an LDS lifestyle, when there are an endless number of other places you could be? (In other words, we’re preaching to the converted.)
In the mean time, if you are a single woman of a certain age and you are even reasonably attractive, you are going to get hit on by married men. Unfortunately, this includes men in the church. I’m not talking about the majority of men or even a lot of men. But even a few is too many and there always seem to be a few around.
After taking an unscientific straw poll of my single friends I don’t believe I’m alone on this. We’ve all experienced the home teacher who cared too much, if you get my drift.
Now I have no desire whatsoever to become involved with a married man. And believe me, I make that pretty clear. But nevertheless, I am single, and unless I want to just completely let go of my appearance i.e. stop bathing, stop doing my hair, gain a hundred pounds — and thereby kill all hope of ever changing my single state — this is going to be an issue.
I have come to terms with my circumstances, but it would be really nice if church was the one place in my life where I didn’t have to deal with this issue. It would be nice, but it’s not the reality.
Now maybe these men are receiving counsel from their leaders in their temple recommend interviews. I don’t know if they are or not. But if so, it’s not working.
I, for one, would very much welcome some counsel directed at these men from the pulpit, or at least some acknowledgement of the problem, whether in sacrament meeting or General Conference. But the silence is deafening. Alas, I think we prefer our hazy 1950’s ideal to reality. We like to keep our blinders on. But you can’t fix a problem you don’t want to acknowledge.
Ooops, gotta run… I think I’m late for another Single Adult fireside on chastity. Or was it temple marriage? Or was it chastity and temple marriage? I can’t remember…
Your points (in #51) are well made and well taken. Something that misleads many people is that they do not see the connection between chastity and faith. One who is apt to hit on other men or women is apt to hit on other gods, to put it simply. One who is not chaste is not faithful. One who commits adultery in only his or her own heart is not faithful. It’s not just about hormones and titillation. It’s about staying on the straight and narrow path. There is much that we could teach better. Thank you for your thoughtful remarks.
You are absolutely right that it comes down to faith and the law of chastity is a pretty good test of that.
I also often wonder about the women who are married to these men and how isolated they must feel in a church where this issue is never publicly acknowledged. Especially when the ideal family is held up as an example so continuously. At least I get to walk away from the situation.
1. The vestigal anxiety/knee-jerk defensiveness when it appears that LDS will be the topic of: news program, conversation, joke, etc.
2. Menu items: green Jello, funeral potatoes, etc — but, I suppose these aren’t water salt because they provide a link to cultural stability at a time of personal upheaval
3. Primary kids’ std testimony (you know the cadence):
“I want to bear my testimony
I know the Church is true
I know Joseph Smith was a prophet (optional line)
I love my family
In the name …”
4. A little too much interest in the fortunes of BYU’s sports.
Steve Young, Danny Ainge, Dale Murphy featured in special firesides for playing when we would break the Sabbath to watch. Maybe it’s OK to play sports on Sunday if many of people pay money for you to do it.
5. Vocabulary: “Recommend” as a noun.
6. Names: “La (insert favorite syllable here)”
7. Health claims. We’re brag that WoW and settled lifestyle results in 8-10 years longer-than-U.S.-average life for us — stepping over the vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists’ average 20 years longer.
8. Unusual interest and ability in generally declining skills:
* Adult and child piano players available in every ward
* The world’s surprise at opening entertainment for the SLC Olympics. One journalist wrote, “Could this happen in Utah?” My response, knowing the dancers mostly were BYU dance students/performers, was, “Could this happen anywere but in Utah?” BYU winning International Ballroom Championships — in Europe because there weren’t competitive domestic rivals. I only was on the Bronze Team, for only one year, but it’s a novelty to mention it at work in SoCal.
* Articulate lay people that unload well-prepared discourse in front of hundreds of people in Sacrament meetings… or well-prepared lay people that unload articulate discourse in front of hundreds of people in F&T meetings.
* Rich availability of 2nd, 3rd, +++ language skills anywhere in the tribe. It doesn’t even occur to us that it might be difficult to find finding speakers of Korean, Africaans, or Chamorro in Heber Valley.
manaen, I disagree with your reluctance in 2. It is exactly the fact that “they provide a linke to cultural stability in a time of personal upheaval” that makes puts them in this category: they aren’t, strictly speaking, necessary, but doing them is part of what makes us who we are.
I especially like 5. 6 is a good one for those of an older generation in the Intermountain West, but does it remain true there, or was it ever common outside of that area?
As mentioned by others, one reason I eschew practice is to focus on what’s (more) important; after all, I’m not changing the steps to blessing a baby, just not including the unnecessary phrases so I can better focus on the important part: the blessing. One reason I do this may be to compensate for a distractable nature, although I spend so much time making sure I don’t get distracted I’m not sure if I am distractable.
As far as community goes, you can have it — I don’t tend to feel a part of communities, even when I do participate in “community building” practices. I understand there are people who enjoy or need the practices and want to be a part of a community, and that’s fine, but I’m not one of them and I hope they don’t lose perspective about what’s important.
One example of such loss of perspective: a common “salting the water” practice is proscribing the consumption of caffeinated soft drinks. A woman once told me that she drank coffee, but explained it wasn’t that bad because she didn’t drink Coke. When I reminded her that coffee consumption keeps her out of the temple, she huffily responded, “Well… at least I’m not one of those Coke drinkers!” That may be an extreme case, but in terms of statistics, there will be a large number of people with skewed priorities if the difference between “important practice for real reasons” and “practice for cultural reasons” is not made clear.
BTW, am I wrong about caffeinated soft drinks? The only evidence I know of that would suggest we shouldn’t is Pres. Hinckley’s agreeing with Mike Wallace that Mormons don’t drink caffeinated soft drinks, yet that seemed to be mostly not to cause a stir. If it is a requirement, why hasn’t it appeared in
1) General Conference
2) The Temple Recommend Interview
3) The materials missionaries get about what to tell people to avoid re: the Word of Wisdom?
5. Vocabulary: â€œRecommendâ€? as a noun.
“I feel it distracts from the purpose of what Iâ€™m doing”
I rarely ever find myself distracted by someone following custom. I often am distracted by people who find custom stifling and try to invent their own. Healthy customs are one’s you don’t have to think about. Saying hello doesn’t distract from greeting people, it smoothes it. Consciously deciding to say something like “expression of good will” or ‘I recognize that you have entered my presence’ is freakish.
” “9) The statistically rock solid chance that your ward has at least 2 or more
so-called â€œtent women.â€? That is women who are so obese that they are dressed in what appears to be a large bed sheet or tent like material for clothing.
13) Feeling the spirit strongly as you read the Book of Mormon and realizing or re-realizing that the gospel is true, as is the Restorationâ€¦.and accepting that you have to put up with items 1-12 ”
Har. I’m sure you don’t mean it this way, but does it really put us out to have to associate with fat people? Caesar was a sicko, I guess.
“I tend to think that meaningless traditions are simply that – meaningless. Say Mormons traditionally wear orange. Inasmuch as that is a unifying and community building expression it is great.”
There is no such thing as a meaningless tradition, because by definition every tradition has a “unifying and community building expression” element to it, given that the past is also part of our community.
Traditions can be evil but they are never meaningless.
One last thought on meaningless tradition:
In Metropolis or some movie named something like that (Manhattan?), one fellow says to another, I never saw the point of that tradition. But other people did, says the other fella, that’s why its a tradition.
A soul who rejects a near-costless tradition because it appears meaningless is proud, very proud.
“As far as community goes, you can have it â€” I donâ€™t tend to feel a part of communities, even when I do participate in â€œcommunity buildingâ€? practices. I understand there are people who enjoy or need the practices and want to be a part of a community, and thatâ€™s fine, but Iâ€™m not one of them and I hope they donâ€™t lose perspective about whatâ€™s important.”
I hope they don’t either. It would be a shame, for instance, if they stopped feeling that being part of a community was important and decided that the same atomism and individuality that exists among us now will exists in the heavens. Family and community are to love as body is to spirit.
Most comments in a row ever.
“Har. Iâ€™m sure you donâ€™t mean it this way, but does it really put us out to have to associate with fat people? Caesar was a sicko, I guess.
Adam – I don’t mean to disparage the tent people (in case you read this and you happen to be one of them). Frankly, it’s not the Church but our society where 70% of people are either overweight or obeise. So with a large ward, we shouldn’t be surprised. I know a lot of people battle genetic and or medical problems that may result in super obeise conditions, so my apologies if I crossed the line and insulted anyone…
Frankly, I like fat people (generally they are large and in charge)…
Sideshow, how do you deal with the commandment that we are to be one, i.e., a com-unity?
I have no problem with thinking that for lots of people, being fat is their fault. I just don’t think fat people are *icky*, but apparently you don’t either.
Wow, when I first hopped onto the T&S main page I thought there was some sort of error with Adam’s string of comments… How often I am proven wrong… *sigh*
I rarely ever find myself distracted by someone following custom. I often am distracted by people who find custom stifling and try to invent their own.
I’s got some mixed feelings on this one.
I don’t ask a blessing on my food mostly because Tim, Dave and Michelle, my nonmember, non-religious friends have not blessed food in their entire existence and yet they remain just as healthy as I. In fact, when sitting in a warm home in front of a freshly cooked plate of food with my family all around me, it seems a bit awkward to ask for more stuff… No, I shirk that tradition and stick with a prayer of thanks, I figure there’s lots of other opportunities to ask for x, y and z.
It’s also been a good conversation piece that has been the catalyst for some great dinner conversation with friends about prayer (in all it’s traditional and non-traditional forms)
Having said that, I have also seen the value of traditions in putting members of a first generation branch at ease while they slowly but determinedly learn the workings of the gospel. These experiences include watching a father bless his child for the first time while relying on the “traditional” phrases to help him verbalize the sometimes vague promptings of the spirit. It would be sad to have him be denied such an experience because some of the old-timers were bored with the culture.
“I donâ€™t ask a blessing on my food mostly because Tim, Dave and Michelle, my nonmember, non-religious friends have not blessed food in their entire existence and yet they remain just as healthy as I.”
Note that this isn’t an argument against tradition, per se, but an argument against asking for blessings that you haven’t seen empirical evidence God is more likely to grant you if you pray for them. This would be the death of petitionary prayer. Lots of people have a problem with petitionary prayer, but I think its a good thing, and its also been commanded. It should be enough that (1) we want a thing and (2) its not wicked to want it. If that’s the case, fire away.
Adam Greenwood: A soul who rejects a near-costless tradition because it appears meaningless is proud, very proud.
Or perhaps he just has a good eye for vain repetitions.
Or a bad exegesis of famous verses from the Gospels.
Adam, are we talking about gratuitous rhetorical flourishes in blessings or self-castration? (and why on earth would you consider either of these to be an appropriate tradition?)
#56, Cola drinks appeared in General Conference as far back as 1922. http://www.doctrinal.net/archives/2004/01/05/dc-89-vs-the-word-of-wisdom/
I do more of a thanks for the food, because God has certainly provided and I’m glad I don’t live in the Sudan or Iraq.
56 & 72
RE: Cola and caffeine
The most definitive statement of which I’m aware is in the Priesthood Bulletin, 2/1972, p. 4. It was quoted in the 5/1972 and 6/1972 issues of “The Ensign:”
Cola Drinks and the Word of Wisdom. â€œThe Word of Wisdom, section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants [D&C 89], remains as to terms and specifications as found in that section. There has been no official interpretation of the Word of Wisdom except that which was given by the Brethren in the very early days of the Church when it was declared that hot drinks meant tea and coffee.
â€œWith reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided.â€?â€”Priesthood Bulletin
(â€œPolicies and Programs,â€? Ensign, June 1972, p. 46)
This is discussed in General Conference from time to time. A couple talks, both available at lds.org, are:
* Keith McMullin, GenCon 4/1999 (5/1999 “Ensign”)
* Vaughn Featherstone, GenCon 4/1975 (5/1975 “Ensign”)
Thanks for the links, that’s more information from General Conferences than I had previously found. Although this is a little tongue-in-cheek, I’m no longer as surprised by the skewed perspective on caffeinated soft drinks, seeing as how it is lumped together with adultery, drug use, and inadequate attendance of church meetings when mentioned in General Conference.
Adam, I don’t reject traditions that are “costless”. To the extent they distract from what’s important, they have a cost. I heard from someone who once addressed an Elder’s Quorum about wearing a white shirt, who told the quorum that the white shirt was only important to the extent that it helps a priesthood holder be spiritually prepared and effective. As he left the priesthood meeting, he overheard one elder ask another, “Does that mean we should wear white shirts or we shouldn’t?” It appears that tradition continued to distract that elder from what was important, even when the speaker made an express attempt to focus the quorum on the important principle. Is it costless if a priesthood holder is spiritually handicapped in situations where he must act in his priesthood capacity without wearing a white shirt? Granted, this is not incredibly common, but it does happen and doesn’t need to.
That is a good question — and it gives me the chance to clarify myself. I don’t avoid being a part of communities and I do participate in (some) community practices that seem to have no purpose, but I don’t feel a sense of community with members of the church in general. So can I be united with the Saints and not enjoy it? For several years I’ve felt relief from the idea that while you do need to keep the commandments, you don’t need to like it. Is there anyone who doesn’t enjoy keeping some commandments more than others?
In any case, what’s meaningful to me in the church are my personal relationships with the Godhead and the members with whom I have some kind of personal relationship. The “being part of a community and tradition, etc.” just doesn’t do anything for me emotionally. Obviously there are some that do feel that aspect of the gospel is rewarding (I’m looking at you, Adam and Nate), and I’m glad for that: it means those traditions aren’t _entirely_ pointless :).
actually, there is a purpose–salting the water makes the salty taste spread out evenly.
In Primary, my daughter started to repeat a prayer. The president said, “We don’t do that in our Church”. I was about to say, “But we do that in our home and other places, too”.
My daughter (young) dances during the Sacrament hymn.
In Primary, my daughter, who was clasping her hands, was told to fold her arms. “No, we can do this, too.” The president, not wanting an argument, finally conceded and said, “Ok”.
Re: Caffeine & Cola (#56, #72, #74)
If you could distill the essence of life into a powder that could be added to carbonated water and sold to the masses, that powder would be caffeine.
I may die when I’m 40, but thanks to caffeine, I’ve already lived more waking hours than most people twice my age.
So if you’re Mormon and you want to enjoy life rather than spend your time napping like your ward’s High Priest group, you’ve got two choices: caffeinated soda or NoDoz. For my part, taking caffeine by swallowing a NoDoz makes me a bit more irritable than drinking the same amount of caffeine in a soda. Thus, I’m forced to disagree with all of your general authority quotes and recommend drinking cola.
Hmm: DKL, your version of Mormonism is, among a host of other things, to brazenly drink Coke and vote Republican? lol. Even so, I hope you haven’t turned your inborn religious imperative and your having been bred a Saint into merely a knee-jerk, reactionary conservative on all fronts but that instead these tendencies reveal you to remain in all issues a free-thinker! — Smirks while raising a few times up and down the eyebrows to indicate but partial seriousness.
Although I guess what I’m referring to isn’t about DKL|*| at all! It’s about people’s being beholden in a good way to principles versus their being beholden to a mere organization or some legalistic set of practices. That is, if entreaties are made to a person in a position of power who’s beholden to enlightenedly liberal PRINCIPLES, this person’s more likely to adjudicate his decisions from authority within such a way as to do the least harm; whereas entreaties to a. cynic who merely holds to forms and a status which even he HIMSELF sees as meaningless would be less inclined to seek the underlying virtue inherent in them. (But maybe no one can follow me here? That’s OK. Smiles.)
|[*(As, well, ACTUALLY it’s true that since my brother-in-law was my bishop when I reached adulthood, who I saw at the time as tending to be a Coke-drinking, racist anti-intellectual seeing Right Wing politics and surface-ly holding on to Mormonish stylistic norms as some “true spirit of Mormonism”!(?) — I tend to wonder about members who make good ol’ boy coments about the girls in the bikini’s while they slurp down their Cokes, but then get all uptight — laughs — about whether somebody’s facial hair looks like the standards hewed to by the general authorities! Whatever. Shakes head. I guess I’m still trying to get over this stuff now three decades later?!)]|
In LDS theology we have good reason to value both abstract principles, eternal truths, and the ordered, organization implementations of those principles. A proper theology of heaven (as we have discussed lately at New Cool Thang) should consider the consequences of indifference or disagreement in distinction to the consequences of the destructive impulse. The former cannot be said to be against natural law – it just eventually places one in a sort of limbo just beyond the gates, while the latter is usually a cynical expression of the promoters of an anti-Kingdom – cynical because the same principles turned inward would level the kingdom of the devil himself.
Mark, I suppose institutions rightfully demand loyalty. (Yet my point is only that while Christ teaches us to transcend mere forms for spiritual promtings to love/ forgive/ judge not, now some claiming to be His followers unfortunately seem to reverse this emphasis?)