It’s that time of the week again… I get to pick a post I’ve written in the hopes that some of you will read it. The pick this week was an idea I had that didn’t stimulate the type of discussion I was hoping for the first time around. So either it’s a dud or I didn’t have the golden crowd I do now. Here goes the second try:
As Logan and I dove deep into our conversation on appropriate music, I began formulating my own theory and have decided to name it the Mormon "We" Problem. I like to think of it is a paradox, but it may not quite be that. I’d appreciate anyone’s feedback as I try and articulate something that is more of a thought and less of a researched, proven fact.
It all started when I asked a simple question of "What music should we boycott?" To which Logan responded, "You seem to operate on the assumption that some music should be boycotted."
My next thought was, "My main point is that although I don’t have a very good set of criteria for boycotting music somehow I still do boycott music based on musicians actions (like Marilyn Manson) and I wonder if I should do it more." To which Logan replied, "By equating everything you reject with a "rule" — or "standard", or whatever you want to call it — you are saying that if you don’t like it, nobody can."
We go on (like we usually do) not only here but via email. But these few quotes should be enough to set the scene for the Mormon "We" Problem:
I really do agree with Logan in that members of our Church continually need to be slapped around into making their own decisions rather than relying so heavily on "the brethren". But can you blame them (us)? "We" believe heavily in modern revelation. "We" abstain from such specific substances as alcohol, coffee, and tobacco. "We" also wear funny underwear. "We", as members of the Church, to a certain degree, live our lives so specifically tied to certain standards, that it’s not crazy to think that "we" search for standards in many other aspects of our living.
The brethren, of course, only spell out what they feel is needed to be spelled out and leave the rest in our hands. But when I say, "spell out", I mean things like the WofW. Obviously, never has a GA said over the pulpit, "Here is a list of music groups [or movies] to avoid in order to be a better person." That would be preposterous. But yet "we" still find a way to discuss these specifics in our own spheres because "we" do want to be better people.
But now comes the tricky part. When "we" discuss appropriate media, it is extremely easy for one of "us" to find "the answer" and assume that it applies to everyone just like abstinence from alcohol and wearing garments does. Logan has called me on this a few times even though I never specifically said something like, "I have come to believe X to be true for me, so it must follow that it is true for you". Where X is avoiding a certain type of music. But wait! That’s exactly the formula we use in the discussions when teaching the Mormon-curious. It’s no wonder we implicitly think that way with other aspects of our living!
But Logan still has every right to pick on me because he’s so sick and tired of living in an environment where personal decisions become extrapolated in order to provide a Church-wide pseudo-policy. Thus, Logan tries to nip these thoughts in the bud, before they can develop and annoy him further (which is helpful to me, as well).
But the question of the day is, how do we reconcile the specifics of things like the WofW or the garments we wear with the day-to-day individualistic personal decision-making? The paradox is that especially for a church that collectively believes in modern revelation, it’s just too easy to assume "we" believe a whole ton of other stuff together as well. How can we better catch ourselves before we start making lists of ways Mormons "should" live (even though a mini-list has already been started a.k.a. the WofW)? How do we deal with the Mormon "We" Problem?