Friday, April 23, 2010

Quick Poll

Read the following excerpt, and then I have a question for you about it. The question doesn't have to do with whether or not you agree with the story, but rather what the story's point is. Think of it like an SAT Critical Reading question, I guess.

“A few years ago a young couple who lived in northern Utah came to Salt Lake City for their marriage. They did not want to bother with a temple marriage, or perhaps they did not feel worthy. At any rate, they had a civil marriage. After the marriage they got into their automobile and drove north to their home for a wedding reception. On their way home they had an accident, and when the wreckage was cleared, there was a dead man and a dead young woman. They had been married only an hour or two. Their marriage was ended. They thought they loved each other. They wanted to live together forever, but they did not live the commandments that would make that possible. So death came in and closed that career. They may have been good young people; I don’t know. But they will be angels in heaven if they are. They will not be gods and goddesses and priests and priestesses because they did not fulfill the commandments and do the things that were required at their hands.

“Sometimes we have people who say, ‘Oh, someday I will go to the temple. But I am not quite ready yet. And if I die, somebody can do the work for me in the temple.’ And that should be made very clear to all of us. The temples are for the living and for the dead only when the work could not have been done. Do you think that the Lord will be mocked and give to this young couple who ignored him, give them the blessings? The Lord said, ‘For all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.’ (D&C 132:7)”

Again, I'm not asking if you believe either of those options represents reality, but which do you think the author is trying to say? In the interest of full disclosure, this is taken from a talk given by President Kimball* in 1975 in an Area Conference in Japan, but I'm not asking whether you agree or disagree with the prophet on this issue, just what you think he meant here. And for further full disclosure, I understood option #2 was meant, but I have a good friend who has always understood the story to mean #1. Hence this blog post.

* So if anyone on earth could have the authority to let us know the final outcome of these two people's exaltation via revelation, it would be him (that is, this fact makes #1 at least plausible in my mind)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Honor the Code

My former roommates at BYU put together a rap about the BYU Honor Code. I understand that at least half of the humor comes from knowing these guys, that the chorus is kind of hard to listen to, and that the video is a bit weird, but I think the words are clever and funny enough for me to share it with a wider audience. So give it a listen, and the lyrics are included below.

Just graduated from high school
Now its time to to college
Gonna up my mad IQ
Continue thirstin' after knowledge

So I'm going to the Y
Wanna get an education
Yeah Its kind of like the U
But without the fornication

They got this righteous code
To preserve the students honor,
To block the path of sin
Like the snow did to the Donners

So I studied it up close,
And of course you know I signed it
Now a stain of sin on me?
You ain't never gonna find it

Yo my record's stayin clean
Yeah I ain't no lying weasel
And I always get mad props
Every time I talk to Cecil

Says he knows the code’s important
His generation paved the way
Im lookin at his face
And yo I don’t think that he shaved today

I don’t hesitate to act
Ain't nothing gonna phase me
I've got my spare gillete
And its time for you to shave G


My roommates they don’t get it
Yeah and trash they always talkin'
They wont talk it up so loud
When the Bishop come a knockin'

They say the bish he doesnt scare em
And it ain't all that important
Well I’ve only got two words
Ecclesiastical Endorsement!!

And I always find em sneakin'
Lookin at their nudie pictures
And the only thing I'm reading?
Yo the Ensign and the scriptures

They put on their dirty movies
With the swearin' and the violence
But like Simon n Garfunkle
I prefer the sound of silence

Yeah they go to church on Sunday
Only trying to save some face
But I always go to two blocks
Yo six hours just in case!

The code they always breakin'
Thinkin that they’ll still excel
Well eat drink and be merry
For tomorrow you’re expelled


Now cruising up on campus
Gonna make a good impression
All the honeys stop and stare
At the standards of my dressin'

Yeah I'm always lookin sharp,
To the standards I adhere
I shaved 3 times this morning
My hair's cut above the ear

They know I keep it real
Walk the walk and talk the talk
And that it's always virtue
That be garnishing my thoughts

So all the ladies they be lookin
Trying to find a way to me
But you don’t even have a chance
If that skirt's cut above the knee

So if you think that can handle this
We can take a walk
Or come over to my crib
If its before 12 o'clock

So if you got what I need,
Ima tell ya little story
Its involving me and you
and some celestial glory


When my journey here is through
and it's time to graduate,
I'll be ready for a job
and ready for the pearly gates

So if you think you’ll reach the top,
well you know I'll make it higher
when Elijah comes to get me
in his chariot of fire

If you want to be exalted
Don’t forget what you been told
Be putting oil in those lamps

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Depression within Mormonism

Depression sucks. Let's just get that out there.

While I'm not currently depressed, and haven't been for a good while now (for which I thank God), I know something about it. Which is why I very much appreciated a thoughtful series of posts from the Mormon blog By Common Consent titled "Living With Depression." In the series, a number of Mormons talk frankly and openly about how they've dealt with (or wished they could deal with) depression. It felt to me a little like my gay Mormon friends tell me it feels to just be around other Mormons struggling to come to grips with their sexual orientation. While I can never understand what it's like to be gay (or any number of other characteristics I don't have), just hearing other people discuss the issue of depression felt like a breath of fresh air for me.

One thing that really resonated with me and strikes me as something that those who haven't ever been truly depressed (meaning more than just sad or down for a day or two) is just how inescapable it feels, at least for me. Not only that, at its worst I don't even want to escape. Apathy is absolute. I once tried to explain depression to one of my roommates, and while he was as supportive and caring as possible, his advice was basically that depression is a tool of the devil's and I needed to pray and read my scriptures etc etc in order to ward it off. Trust me, I've done that. And so far, it hasn't ever helped, at least not in any way I could discern. When I'm really depressed, I eventually just stop praying and reading scriptures for a while until I come out of the hole. Not that I don't think they could help--I've had many powerful experiences with both--but that it just doesn't make sense when I'm in that depression to do those things. It just does not compute in my brain to perform those simple acts. It seems like it's a storm cloud that comes from time to time (triggered no doubt by my situation and own choices at times, but sometimes seemingly at random as well) and goes when it goes. I feel very powerless when I'm depressed.

I think one of the writers captured a similar feeling when she said:
It seems to me that we have become more comfortable in Mormon culture about talking about depression, precisely because it has been medicalized, and we can explain it in comfortingly technical terms like “serotonin re-uptake” and “dopamine receptors.” What we still can’t do is talk about the spiritual aspects of it–it’s ok to stand up in testimony meeting and say “the Lord has helped me recover from postpartum depression through priesthood blessings and medical care,” but it simply isn’t ok to say “I feel abandoned by God.  When you talk about your close relationship with Him, I wonder why I can’t feel what you do, and it makes me feel terrible.”

We countenance talking about grief, depression, and anger only when they’re safely in the past tense, or when we can explain them away as a physical, brain-based phenomenon.  It’s understandable, of course, because it is painful and unsettling to see someone suffering and have prayer or priesthood blessings seem not to work–”mourning with those that mourn” can be (perhaps must be) a genuine challenge to the faith and testimony of the comforter, as well as the comforted.  What does it mean to bear one another’s burdens, when one of our brother’s or sister’s burdens is despair, or the absence of hope and faith?

Well the point of this post was two-fold: first, to break down a little bit of the stigma around depression by sharing a little bit about it in my life; and second, to encourage whoever reads this and might be interested in learning more about depression and how it relates to Mormonism to read that series. Here are the links to each post. They are long, but I think very useful and instructive.

Living With Depression
Series Overview
Part I: Recognizing Clinical Depression
Part II: Impact on Daily Life and Family Relationships
Part III: Depression and Spirituality
Part IV: Everything Else, For Now

If you or someone you know struggles with depression, I think patience and support are the best things. While I've never gotten to the point of needing medication, I understand that it can also be extremely helpful for many people. And since I'm an avid PostSecret reader, I've seen the suicide prevention number (1-800-SUICIDE) there and figure it's a great thing to let everyone know about. Ultimately, I know God's love for us is as infinite and eternal as it is sometimes unfathomable.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Touching Bottom

I often feel that life is like floating and swimming in a vast beautiful lake. There's a lot of freedom: you can go with the flow or move purposefully in your chosen direction. But lakes are big and deep and can be overwhelming sometimes. The free-floating feeling can get to be too much, and you just wish you had something solid to stand on, that your feet would touch down on a sandy lake bottom so you could stand for a bit before continuing your swim.

Spiritually (and in most ways, really) I tend to see a lot of gray area. I generally am ok with this and like the freedom and diversity and agency and responsibility that it gives and requires. But sometimes, I need to touch bottom, and just feel a solid reassurance of real, true faith. I got one of those experiences today, and it was sweet. I'm very grateful for loving Heavenly Parents who give me the grace to believe in Them. I feel reassured, having touched down on a wonderful, cozy, sandy, lake bottom. Now I'll swim on.