The Law of Chastity Spin Off

Yesterday at Church, the topic was supposedly the Law of Chastity. Both speakers discussed various aspects of this law. I was somewhat taken back (but not really, as I’ve grown up Mormon) by one particular example of following the Law of Chastity.

This particular speaker shared a story of how her visiting teaching companion came over when she (the speaker) was not home. Naturally, the speaker’s husband answered the door and invited in his wife’s visiting teaching companion. But she (the visitor) boldly declared that she would not enter the house so that there would be no question as to what she had done with her visiting teaching companion’s husband.

Interestingly enough, the speaker and her husband reflected on how “strong” this woman is and what a great example too!

Both talks were full of references to the notorious “appearance of evil” doctrine / pseudo-doctrine. I suppose I wonder to what extent our Church (or members within the Church) feel(s) the need to make sure plenty of appearances of evil exist, which we can have good reason to avoid.

But really, the issue I have with the whole idea is that it automatically creates an uncomfortable / awkward situation in which either party is probably subconsciously wondering, “Is he/she attracted to me in someway? How flattering (or, how creepy!). Oh, but maybe it’s just that he/she is trying to be a good Mormon and really isn’t attracted to me. Gosh, it’s so hard to tell. I don’t know that I would even necessarily think to be attracted to that person (or, creeped out by that person), but now that I remember that one talk in sacrament meeting, I better create some evil in mind so that this situation can constitute an example of avoiding that evil, which might not have even existed had I not heard that talk yesterday.”

Obviously if thoughts really worked that way, then the next thought would be, “This whole thing is just plain silly.” I imagine those who handle these situations in different ways often get pigeonholed fairly quickly. The visiting teacher at the door must be attracted to every man whose wife isn’t in sight and is proud to indirectly proclaim such a message whereas I must be in denial and am secretly attracted to every woman whose husband isn’t in sight and just won’t admit it.

So I wonder if there is a problem here or if there isn’t. Like most things within the Church, there probably is a problem (for some), which I suppose should be dealt with in the same awkward fashion by all so as to disguise those who really have the problem? I’m speculating here; I don’t know.

Comments

  1. I wonder if not going into the home, is really just betraying our natural relationships? On average, I imagine that VTers and HTers really aren’t “friends” and the consequent relationship is one of mechanism. I wouldn’t particularly feal comfortable in a strangers home (regardless of the sex of the occupants). Once the resean for the mechanized relationship is gone you are left with the fundamental relationships: strangers.

    However, having lived in a country where one kisses everybody on the cheek (even at church), I still can’t figure out why no one touches each other. I’m greatful for my non-mormon friends who keep me in inter-personal reality. I also feel sorry for the person that struggles with temptation when they have dinner with a female business colleague while traveling.

  2. Bob, interesting post. I wonder if there aren’t some very good foundations for this practice, based on negative experiences. I imagine that the similar rule about male missionaries not teaching single women is rooted in some missionaries being accused of inappropriate behavior, scandals, lawsuits, and the like. In other words, there’s no ‘real’ reason for this behavior, but it is incredibly prudent and a good institutional rule.

    The problem, though, is that it’s an institution with a lay clergy, so ultimately we as members find ourselves having to follow institutionalized behavior patterns which are bizarre for everyday human interaction.

  3. When I was about to get married, my fiance, now wife, lived with a number of girls from her ward which were not too fond of her. In order to avoid the awkward situation she began to sleep over at my parents house or I would do so while she slept at my apartment (I lived alone). Naturally her roommates immediately went to the bishop to tell him that we were living together and this ‘worried’ them.

    So when the time came for her to get her temple recommend so we could get married the bishop brought the subject up saying that he had no doubt that we had not done anything wrong, but because of the ‘appearance of evil’ which our actions showed and due to the impression that the roommates had of what we were doing, he could not grant her a temple recommend.

    I eventually made things right (according to how I saw them) and we did get married, but as is probably pretty apparent, I get very, VERY nervious when anybody mentions the appearance of evil anymore.

  4. Bob Caswell says:

    J Stapley, I see what you’re saying. But don’t you think “not going into the home” could be handled slightly more naturally?

    Steve, It’s funny you bring up the missionaries-with-single-women rule, as it was a difficult one for me to follow on my mission. Firstly, we had hardly any sisters (and they were usually a minimum of four hours away by train/bus). And secondly, women in my mission were much more interested in the gospel (this may or may not be the case elsewhere). I had only two baptisms on my mission and both of them were women who we (my companion and I) taught with no one else present most of the time. Both are temple endowed and still active after five years. In other words, it would have been a shame had I lived by that rule.

    Jeffrey G, my goodness! The bishop said “no doubt you’re fine” followed by “no temple recommend because of the appearance of evil”? That’s borderline leave-the-Church material for many, I’m sure. Way to hang in there!

  5. Well, I did go in there and give the bishop a stern talking to, as well as calling my bishop then the stake president to set him straight. Had something not happened I’m not sure what would have happened.

  6. J Stapley, I see what you’re saying. But don’t you think “not going into the home” could be handled slightly more naturally?

    Absolutley. I don’t know the specifics for the example you showed. My recomendations would be 1) if she were friends with the family, then she could go in and have a nice conversation. 2) She is really not friends. Instead of declaring she is avoiding the appearance of sin, she just leaves.

  7. Justin H says:

    My in-laws are very strict on this “rule” (i.e. not being alone with someone of the opposite sex, and especially not being seen along with someone of the opposite sex).

    While I respect their position (mostly because they respect my divergent views), I wonder sometimes whether the concern is grounded in reality, or just in the heightened sensitivity/paranoia created by desire to avoid the appearance of evil.

    That is, would my in-laws, if they saw me in a car with another woman or dropped by to find another woman from my ward and I conversing in the kitchen or living room when my wife wasn’t home –would they suspect me of infidelity?

    I think they wouldn’t–the thought might cross their minds, but it would quickly be followed by Bob’s reassurance that it’s all just silly. Because they know and trust me.

    I wonder, though, if in our desire to avoid the appearance of evil, we don’t imagine that evil in everyone who doesn’t adopt our own hypersensitive praxes. I wonder if we start to suspect the worst in everyone instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    Of course, as has been noted, there are those for whom such co-presence is a severe temptation. Maybe it’s worth the social awkwardness of the many to help prevent the devastation of the few.

  8. a random John says:

    May I suggest the benefits of the co-ed dorm? It allows young people to learn to have appropriate non-dating friendships with members of the opposite sex. I hope that my children have the opportunity to live and learn in such a place.

  9. This seems more like the Mormon ability to take some examples of where something bad has happened and proclaim from the rooftops “You could be next!” Much like anyone who drinks is an alcoholic (or one step away) in our Church, anytime a man and woman are together, they’re only seconds away from ripping each others’ clothes off.

    I heard a similar story where a member of a bishopric left a woman to walk home in the pouring rain as to avoid the very appearance of evil. There’s no doubt something *could* happen when two people are alone, but something could happen regardless of what we do in life, so we all draw the line somewhere. We still get in our cars and drive around, even though we could be killed in a car accident. But we try and minimize the risk with seatbelts and by not driving like maniacs.

    It seems the same rule could apply here. There’s no reason not to give someone a ride home when they’re caught in a downpour, but spending lots of alone time together may not be the wisest move either.

  10. ARJ – you, as usual, speak words of wisdom.

    I think the “not being alone with the opposite sex under any circumstances rule” is fine in theory, but I think that we take away many meaningful – non-sexual relationships – between men and women if we’re not allowed to socialize with each other. And, in the extreme, I think this idea can create problems with seeing women and men only as dangerous sexual objects, and any unsupervised interaction with them should be avoided at all costs.

    What happens in work situations where you have to be alone with members of the opposite sex for extended periods of time? On overnight business trips, etc? I have enjoyed getting to know men I’ve worked with in the course of my career – and I’ve never had sex with any of them. Sure, there are sexual harassment policies in place that would discourage this kind of thing in the workplace, but let’s not sexualize all relationships between men and women. It’s demeaning to both genders. (Of course, you all may subscribe to Billy Crystal’s view in When Harry Met Sally that men and women can’t ever be just friends).

    As an aside, one of my single non-Mormon girl friends I work with told me she felt very uncomfortable after she offered to give her male, married Mormon boss a ride home after a work function, and he refused – telling her that he couldn’t be alone with another woman. My friend was bugged by this because she felt like her boss was insinuating she was trying to put the moves on him. She quit soon thereafter. And, by the way, her former boss used to give ME rides home all the time. Don’t know quite what to make of that.

  11. Yeah, I think the hyper-sensitivity creates an expectation of evil if none exists.

    I’ve got a great story. I remember working late, due to the bad planning of the senior partner. We ended up working until almost midnight, at which point he announced he needed to run if he was going to catch the last train home. I told him I would give him a ride to the train station (even though it was out of my way). He said he would take the train. He’s married; I’m single. He managed to insinuate that he was uncomfortable with accepting a ride from me (keep in mind this is after we’ve been the only two people in the office for at least three hours).

    I got ticked off. “If you think I’m going to work until midnight due to your poor organizational skills, then walk alone at midnight through downtown to a dark parking garage, you’re out of your mind!” I gave him a ride home. Believe me, I wasn’t thinking about hitting on him, I was thinking that I wouldn’t get involved with a jerk like that for anything!

    I also refused to work late with him thereafter.

  12. a random John says:

    Tess,

    Will go further and state that it seems that an argument could be made that the BYU date-first, become friends later environment might contribute to this sort of attitude in the church. My understanding is that it is common for singles at BYU to be always on the lookout for an eternal companion. Even if you are not on the lookout, everyone else assumes that you are. This situation is not fertile ground for simple friendship.

    Oddly enough, there are real advantages to living in close proximity to non-members that you will never date. There are dangers as well, but I think those are actually pretty minimal. This and other related dorm topics were discussed in great detail on M* recently. (I think it was M*, haven’t spent much time there. Don’t care to bother to check if it is up. Or even to check the “is M* up” beacon on T&S.)

  13. ArJ,

    The beacon is down, and as far as I know, the m-star is functional. In fact, I think they just put up Lyle’s guest post.

  14. Very interesting post. I agree with the above sentiment that the missionary rules and other similar rules (a stake relief society president can’t travel alone with a high counselor to a speaking assignment) are in place because of problems occurring in the past. Because of a few incidents, the rules have to bend to the lowest common denominator. It does have the strange effect that men and women in the church often feel like they can’t freely speak with each other by themselves for any length of time, even casually at a ward party. I find it very hard to build friendships with men in the wards I’ve been in, and often at any social event, there is clear gender segregation (no doubt due to many reasons).

    While I agree that there must be a reason for these rules, sometimes they just aren’t practical to follow. I lived in branch where I had to attend branch council. Most members didn’t have cars, but I was one who did. I would drive to branch council, volunteering to pick up or drive home male members of the council so as to significantly shorten their transit times and help them return home in time so as to assist their families in getting to church. Usually, there was no problem, but there was one particular man who insisted that the handbook was never to be deviated from. He rode home with me and two other men one Sunday and I dropped the other two off first since they live closest to the church. He was obviously very uncomfortable riding alone with me, and refused to sit in the front. Then he told me the story of a young Elder Kimball picking a woman up who worked at the church office building and was standing in the rain. Two senior apostles (?) saw him and told him later that he should avoid all appearances of evil. (Don’t quote me on the details–this is the gist of the story.) Anyway, I just found it a very strange experience and didn’t quite know what to make of it.

  15. Brandy B. says:

    Mimi: Then he told me the story of a young Elder Kimball picking a woman up who worked at the church office building and was standing in the rain. Two senior apostles (?) saw him and told him later that he should avoid all appearances of evil.

    This is so wrong. I’m reminded of the counter example of a Person who decided to help others rather than to “avoid the appearance of evil.” Remember Him? He met with sinners and publicans, and He even let a sinful woman bathe His feet. He knew that serving others comes first.

  16. The version I heard involved Elder Packer and a RS President standing in the rain.

  17. N Miller says:

    It seems that I may be on the other side of the line than the rest of you. Whether we are talking about good or bad, happiness or sin, it all comes about line upon line. It starts as something small, not really sin, but starts slowliy creeps into your life. As you continue in doing whatever you are doing, it will then be easier to go a step further. Nobody ever started their day off by thinking, “You know what, I think I am going to be unfaithful to my wife today.” Not unless they have already started to become unfaithful. It is by small and simple things that great things come to pass. (sounds like a scripture, eh?) If I let my wife’s VT in to our home, I am sure this in and of itself is not sinning. But what happens if it starts to become a habit, she is always early and you always let her in. Next thing you know, you are so comfortable with her that not only are you letting her in when she is doing her VT, you start to invite her in when she is walking by your house while walking her dog. This moves on into more things, and you start to get to know her. As is the case with many things, you are so accustomed to your wife that she is in a sense “boring” and find this VT kind of exhilerating. One thing turns into the next and, voila, sin! Is letting her in the house one time such a bad thing? Not necessarily, but it allows it to be much easier the next time and so on. Nope, I have been made fun of for not accepting rides by single (or married for that matter) co-workers, but my wife understands and is very appreciative of my efforts, as am I.

  18. N Miller, I would think that progression model of sin to be ridiculous if I hadn’t witnessed it myself.

  19. I don’t buy the slippery slope argument. At some point between letting your wife’s VTs in early and jumping into bed with them, you exercise your free agency to make a conscious choice to sin. Talking to your wife’s VTs is not sinning, neither is developing a friendly relationship with them (maybe this even includes chatting while walking your dogs).

    The issue is that you see your wife as boring, and so what are you going to do about it? Don’t use other people as an excuse for your own marital problems, and then take the easy way out by saying you couldn’t help sleeping with the VTs because you started letting them in early.

  20. N Miller says:

    Why is your wife boring to you? Probably because you slipped. It’s not like I got up one morning and decided she was boring. One day you stopped holding her hand, the next you stopped looking into her eyes, the next you started to pay attention to the TV more often, etc, etc, etc. Of course we have to work on it, the same is true for all commandments.

  21. Justin H says:

    I too have to cautiously disagree with N. Miller. Doing things that are mildly sinful may lead to greater sin. Doing things that are completely innocuous does not.

    E.g.: Watching G rated movies will not eventually make me a rabid pornography viewer. However, watching movies with questionable content may, if I am particularly susceptible to certain temptations, lead me down the slippery slope.

    As Tess notes, it’s my responsibility to know when I am engaging in behaviors that foster temptation, and to take appropriate measures. Hence, I don’t hold it against anyone for refusing to give someone a ride–just as I don’t put up with people jumping to conclusions if I choose to drive someone home in the rain.

    We shouldn’t judge the VT in Bob’s initial example: maybe she was mildly attracted to her companion’s husband and knew that even if nothing would have happened, she would have been indulging in what was, for her, a sin.

  22. N Miller says:

    Also, it’s not an easy way out, it just happens. Look at your life and how you change your wants and desires. Although there may be times that drastic changes have been made, it is through a line upon line, precept on precept method that most things change. I am not saying it is ok, just the opposite. That is why you have to “watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds” other wise you will “perish”. (from King Benjamins talk in Mosiah 4)

  23. N – I agree with your second post. Thanks for clarifying. I’m particularly sensitive to the slippery slope argument, especially in this context. I think slippery slope is a cop out, ever since I first heard it in my law school torts’ class (and its corollary of “where do you draw the line???”)

    I hear so many times that affairs “just happened”, well, sure, they don’t “just” happen, and little things along the way bring you closer to having an affair, but don’t use the excuse that you were working late one night and then just found yourself in the middle of having sex with your secretary. Oops! Yeah, right.

  24. N Miller says:

    Justin –

    I would agree with you that everything is not going to lead you down the wrong path. Letting your wifes VT in (assuming that your wife will be home soon) is probably nothing of note. In fact, I am sure I have done something similar, but as you say, there is no reason to hold it against the VT who says she will wait outside, or the boss that says no to you taking him home. Quite the opposite in my view.

  25. danithew says:

    My mother taught me I should avoid being alone in a car with a woman who is not my wife. She told me a horror story about a bishop who would give a female co-worker a ride home each day — and then the co-worker became pregnant and for some reason said the bishop was the father. He was innocent but had the hardest time clearing his name. I carry that story around with me and it makes me very conscious of whether I’m alone with someone of the opposite sex.

    The appearance of evil has other sad applications as well. When our priesthood covers nursery duties during Relief Society homemaking or home-enrichment meetings, we have a rule that there will be at least four brethren there. I believe the main reason for this is to make absolutely sure that the Church won’t be potentially liable for abuse accusations. It’s sad what you have to worry about these days.

  26. N Miller says:

    Not only for liability but for actuality as well. The more you have around in the nursery, the more unlikely something will happen.

  27. So the reasons in favor of “avoiding the appearance of evil” are:

    1. Slippery slope
    2. Minimizing opportunities for false accusations

    The reasons in favor of not freaking out if you are alone with the opposite sex are:

    1. Platonic friendships are good
    2. Being too hyper-sensitive could turn you into a Pharisee who sees sin everywhere

  28. Even if avoiding an “in the house” or “in the car” scenario is sometimes advisable, that doesn’t mean that boldly declaring that as one’s reason is the proper course. Boldly declaring that one’s sense of virtue or one’s concern with appearances counsels against accepting an offered invitation is both pretentious and easily misconstrued. Better to make a simple excuse and move along quietly if that is what one chooses to do.

    Even repeating such a story in church seems misguided, as it teaches members to regard appearances as equivalent to the bad acts they are linked to, and even to regard innocent social interactions as evil appearances. It hearkens back to a social era when any unsupervised meeting or visit between a man and woman (in whatever circumstance) was treated as fair game for gossips to engage in speculation and slander, a practice rooted in sexual stereotypes that are out of fashion (and out of place) in the 21st century.

  29. Bob Caswell says:

    Wow, leave for a couple hours and you miss some great comments!

    I have to say that I don’t know who either Tess or Janey are, but I am glad that blogging with them doesn’t get confused with giving them a ride home! I would have missed out on some great, great stories.

    And can I just say AMEN! to everything Dave said. The awkwardness of boldly declaring was the clincher for me much more so than the act of avoiding the appearance of evil.

    Even if I did avoid appearances of evil consciously (and I think sometimes I do), I’m not sure why I’d ever feel the need to announce it each time.

  30. Bob Caswell says:

    And Janey’s summary of today’s discussion is excellent, though I’m not sure where it leaves us…

  31. Bob – my summation leaves everyone exactly where they were. There are good reasons on both sides.

    I think Dave’s comment was fantastic – do what you’re comfortable with, but be tactful about it.

  32. The slippery slope is all to real. In my ward growing up the bishop and relief society president spent a lot of time together, as allmost all do I am sure. BUt they would spend time at the chapel alone, and then would talk about church work over dinner etc. Before you knew it you had 2 divorces, the bishop & RS president were married and 16 kids were in a broken home (9 in one and 7 in the other). My stake president told me the standard he lives by and I think it is a good idea. he is NEVER ever alone with a person of the opposite sex. He never took his secretary out to lunch alone (in a group sure). He never would give a RS president a ride home alone. He said this rarely happened, and when it did he let her take his car and he walked.

    So many times we see a good guideline (ie never be alone with the opposite sex) and then throw out extreme situations to try and get rid of the rule. I live by my stake president’s rule. It is an easy one to do. If some sister were hurt alone at the church, would I take her to the hospital? Sure. But how often is someone really stranded at the church? How did they get therE? I think there are ox in the mire exceptions. The problem is that when we start looking for them and focusing on them It can too often lead to looking for opportunities to be in them.

    It seems silly but it happens.

    I think men and women can have friendships together. But why does it have to be alone? The risk for temptation increases exponentially when you are alone.

    The missionary rule by the way does not prevent teaching of a single female investigator. At least in our mission you simply had to have local priesthood holder present (melchizidek). While this doesn’t eliminate all problems, it does strike a balance between avoiding evil and being too restrictive.

  33. darn – you leave for a bit and whole bunch of comments get submitted before you hit post.

  34. Eric S. says:

    I agree with N Miller.

    Though also skeptical of slippery slope arguments, on this front I think it is wise to have a general rule against being alone with members of the opposite sex. At the same time, one should not be a complete freak about it as the woman in the posted story was–why make such a fuss?

    I think there is also merit in the “keep yourself safe from unfounded accusations” idea. I know I am uncomfortable driving a female babysitter home late on Saturday night, even if it is a short drive. My wife will often drive or I will have my son accompany me.

    Billy Graham was quite aggressive on this front. When on the road, he would have an associate enter the hotel room ahead of him just to make sure there was not a woman in the room ready to jump in his arms while someone else could take a picture to blackmail him.

    At the same time, I agree that the whole “appearance of impropriety” stuff is really overblown in the church as a whole. We should worry MUCH less about appearance of evil and more about doing good to others, IMHO.

  35. Anyone who doubts the slippery slope argument with respect to improper relationships between men and women should visit http://www.marriagebuilders.com and go to the doscussion forum and read the many stories of infidelity.

    Jay’s story (#32) above is VERY common. Affairs alomst always begin “innocently,” move to friendhsip, and so on until the participants are led carefully down to their own private hell.

  36. I’m surprised that nobody here has bothered to correct this non-scriptural interpretation of “appearance of evil.” It does not mean “something that might look like it’s evil.” It means, “whatever form evil may take.” The RSV renders the phrase “abstain from every form of evil.”

    As my friend Peggy summarizes: Do good, regardless of what it looks like. Don’t do evil, regardless of what it looks like.

    Glad to see Dave picking up on the “boldly proclaiming” part of the story. That phrase set off my “smug self-righteousness detector,” big time.

  37. Julie in Austin says:

    Dave in #28 is spot on: there are too many nutcases out there to take the risk of putting yourself in a compromizing situation (when what, exactly, were the benefits?), but you are slipping into nutcase territory yourself by advertising it.

    VT: “Is your wife here?”
    Husband: “Nope. Want to come in?”
    VT: “No thanks, but tell her I stopped by. Good evening.”

  38. Bob Caswell says:

    “It does not mean “something that might look like it’s evil.” It means, “whatever form evil may take.””

    Hmm… That is a very interesting observation (and potential definition, could you give scripture references please?), which — based upon my own non-statistical observations — negates easily more than half of the uses of “appearance of evil” I hear in any given year.

  39. I have an idea. To avoid the appearance of evil, every child should be kept in solitary confinement until age ten, preventing any ability to learn to speak or communicate with other people.

    And then castrated.

    And then sent off to live on a desert island with no other inhabitants.

    Sure, it’s a little drastic. But on the other hand, we’ll be absolutely sure that those kids aren’t committing adultery or watching internet porn. And sometimes drastic problems call for drastic solutions.

    Who’s with me?

  40. For those interested in Ben S.’s exegetical wizardry on the appearance of evil, they can check it out over at IMD.

  41. I’m with Kaimi. Not that I want to get into details here, but I didn’t think females could be castrated? Am I missing something? Besides FGM, of course.

  42. solistics says:

    If you check out the verse at scriptures.lds.org (or in your handy LDS KJV), you’ll notice a footnote “GR Kinds” on the word “appearance”. In other words, a better translation for the word “appearance” would be “kinds”, yielding, “Avoid all kinds of evil.”

  43. Laurie DiPadova-Stocks says:

    This interpretation of the “appearance of evil” not only invites hypocrisy and judgmentalism, but has the effect of excluding women from meaningful input into the Church power structure. In the Church men hold the power. Men can be alone with other men, but women cannot be alone with men.

    This “appearance of evil” rationale is thus a reason not to talk with women (or listen to women) on the same level as one talks with men. This has been highly costly for the Church.

    Further, the interpretation presumes that Church members are so irresponsible and sex-starved that being alone with a member of the opposite sex will result in their losing control of themselves. Like most emotionally stable women in the Church, I can assure everyone–I could be alone for hours on end with almost any man and amazingly, I would not have any sexual interest or inappropriate desires. There are a variety of reasons for this laudable self-control, among which is that I do not place men on a pedestal as innately more valuable (or less) than I am.

    That being said, in the power structure of the Church, some women can be very prone to approval seeking, vulnerable, emotionally distraught and abused, and so forth, and in that situation be alone with a priesthood leader and develop feelings and desires. Maybe.

    The issue at hand is NOT the situation of being alone together–the issue entails other dynamics which the Church refuses to address, and which actually perpetuates a mode of hiding problems.

    The appearance of evil is appearing weaker than we really are.

  44. Bob Caswell says:

    Laurie,

    Thanks for bringing up an aspect of this not previously mentioned. Within the context of your comment, it does seem like little collaboration can happen between men and women in the Church if “appearance of evil” is used as an excuse. Men will continue to decide Church policy while women make quilts.

  45. I’m with Kaimi.

    Generally, slippery slope arguments are weak, regardless of where they’re coming from. I don’t like them because they imply that because of the actions of a few, the rest of us are idiots who have to be protected from ourselves. They suggest there is no middle ground in life, no happy-medium.

    Why is it that some people get to tell us when and where we draw the line? You’ll never hear: Why even have an internet connection with the temptation of pornography? Slippery slope, after all. Don’t ever eat at a restaurant where they serve alcohol or where other people are smoking. Don’t go to a movie theatre – bad movies, you know.

  46. I can assure everyone–I could be alone for hours on end with almost any man and amazingly, I would not have any sexual interest or inappropriate desires.

    Laurie, obviously you have never met me!

    I agree completely with your other observations.

  47. “This whole thing is just plain silly.”

    Amen.

  48. So when the time came for her to get her temple recommend so we could get married the bishop brought the subject up saying that he had no doubt that we had not done anything wrong, but because of the ‘appearance of evil’ which our actions showed and due to the impression that the roommates had of what we were doing, he could not grant her a temple recommend.

    I find this disturbing. She was not granted a temple recommend because someone else made an inaccurate judgment about her behavior?

  49. Tess,

    From textbook: Biopsychology by John P.J. Pinel, 6th edition, pp. 323 Pub. Allyn and Bacon.

    Ovariectomy is the removal of the ovaries, and orchidectomy is the removal of the testes (orchis means “testicle”). Gonadectomy, or castration, is the surgical removal of gonads – either ovaries or testes.

    So, yes, women can be castrated.

    Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, where I work, this is a relevant piece of knowledge.

  50. Sorry, I put my first couple posts up before reading all of the comments. I don’t have much to add to the dicussion, but I blogged about this a few weeks back on my own blog. I find the “appearance of evil” pseudo doctrine to be, on the whole, unhelpful and pharisaical.

  51. Thanks for the info, Ribo! Good luck with your spaying and neutering. :)

  52. Bob Caswell says:

    Glad to see you here, Ribo. Your wisdom in all areas is appreciated.

  53. Mark B. says:

    Obviously Laurie is Sally, not Harry.

    I don’t think that the “avoid the appearance of evil” is a psuedodoctrine, however weak the reed of I Thess. 5:22. In I Cor. 8 Paul describes at some length the effects of offering meat to idols (it has none), but then after reflecting on the effects that his eating such meat might have upon the weak among the saints, he concludes:

    Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

    Thus, we avoid that which may appear to others to be evil, not for our own sakes, but for theirs. We are not given license by the scripture to condemn others for doing that which may appear to be evil–instead, we are told, in a backhanded sort of way, that such condemnation is a sign of weakness in him that would judge or condemn.

  54. Mark B. says:

    I dont’ think it’s a pseudodoctrine either.

  55. Mark B.:

    Thus, we avoid that which may appear to others to be evil, not for our own sakes, but for theirs.

    In theory, I have no problem with this. But we take it to such a degree in our culture that the phrase has, for me, lost a lot of meaning, particularly when it is routinely used to condemn things that simply aren’t evil. In fact, as someone pointed out to me recently, it often seems to be used to say, in effect, “I don’t agree with what you’re doing, but I can’t really justify my discomfort, so I’m just going to say that it appears evil.”

    We are not given license by the scripture to condemn others for doing that which may appear to be evil–instead, we are told, in a backhanded sort of way, that such condemnation is a sign of weakness in him that would judge or condemn.

    Yes, this is what the doctrine teaches us. This is the lesson that we should take from it. This is not how I see many Latter-day Saints applying it.

  56. AnonyMouse says:

    I won’t ever be alone with my children, because that’s the way child abuse _always_ starts. I’ve read lots of case histories and never found a single case of child abuse where the parent hadn’t first started to slip by being with the child alone. First they’re changing diapers unsupervised and the next thing you know a child’s life is crushed and a parent rots behind bars.

    Just kidding. I think Christ wants us to help children – and others – even when it raises eyebrows among the judgmental.

    I also think Ann is right about most people wrongly interpreting “appearance of evil.”

  57. Bob Caswell says:

    “Thus, we avoid that which may appear to others to be evil, not for our own sakes, but for theirs.”

    Mark B.,

    But where do we draw the line? As John H. pointed out, why single out this particular issues? Why are we even parking in the movie theater lot let alone going IN. At some point, we have to stop and realize that others who see certain things as evil (or as the appearance of evil) are just wrong. I think we’re doing people a disfavor if the default position is to agree with their interpretation of this, just “for their sake.”

    Plus, I think it would be difficult to live a double standard. “Well, Joe’s here so I better avoid those things Joe avoids while he’s here.” Unless you are suggesting we don’t live a double standard and avoid EVERYTHING any one person has ever avoided so that we stoop down to an internal society of avoiding everything ever avoided for everyone’s sake.

  58. Laurie — Good comments.

    I think we can get really carried away about worrying about the appearance of evil. If we’re so worried about men and women being alone together let’s get rid of interviews with bishops and other priesthood leaders too. :)

  59. AnonyMouse says:

    Mark B., to follow up on Bob’s question, some evangelicals are offended by the Book of Mormon because they believe it’s a mockery of God’s holy word. Do you understand Paul to be saying that we shouldn’t read the Book of Mormon in their presence?

  60. So do the appearance of pride and self rightousness qualify as appearance of sin? I think it pretty ridiculous that anyone would feel the need to proclaim their reason for rejecting a friendly gesture in such a way. If the gesture had truly been unappropriate, that’s another story. As for accepting a friendly gesture, their is a difference between a cordial 5 min conversation on the doorstep or in the entry way, and an hour long visit behind a shut front door.
    And if feelings of even friendly intimacy arise that seem inapproriate, next time say you have to go. We are masters of our own destiny, it is what seperates us from the beasts.

    All in all, I think the appearance of evil a poor reason to excuse ourselves from the befriending of fellow saints or offering a hand in service. It is behavior that may even be deemed evil in itself.

  61. N Miller says:

    In responding to Ann #36 and others on a similar thread, I think it’s how we define evil. I may define it different than somebody else, which may be different from another. The question then needs to be, what does the Lord think is evil? Perhaps that is a tough question becuase I think “evil” is different from “sin”. If the phrase were to, “avoid the appearance of all sin”, it might be a little more cut and dry, but “evil” I think is harder for all of us to collectivly assign the same definition to.

  62. John Mansfield says:

    A song from my youth comes to mind. “He ain’t wrong, he’s just different, but his pride won’t let him do things to make you think he’s right.”

  63. Bob Caswell says:

    “If the phrase were to, “avoid the appearance of all sin”, it might be a little more cut and dry…”

    Really? How so? I, for one, think sin is just as ambigious as evil.

  64. The problem is that people assume that if a little of X is a good thing, then a lot of X must be a better thing. And this ignores the reality of trade-offs between worthy objectives.

    We’re not on earth just to not-commit-adultery. We’re also here to meet and marry an eternal companion, to raise children, to learn gospel principles, to develop our minds and spirits and bodies and become more like God.

    When we take increased steps to move us ever further away from committing adultery, we need to be mindful that at some threshold, those defensive steps may have net negative impacts on our goal of exaltation. The desert island scenario makes sure that a person doesn’t commit adultery, but it would do more harm than good because it would interfere with all of the things that we _are_ supposed to do.

    It’s like armoring a tank. You start with a bit of steel, and that’s good. You add several more inches of steel, and that’s better. But at some point, you stop getting a return for just adding more steel. If you focus singlemindedly on the idea of adding steel to the tank, pretty soon you’ve got ten feet of metal and a tank that can’t drive or shoot or even move.

    So instead of focusing on a narrow aspect, we’ve got to say “what is the overall effect of this policy?” Perhaps leaving a sister out in the rain means we’re less likely to commit adultery. It also may have a negative impact on our quest to develop Christ-like love. Is that a net gain or a net loss? Arguments can be made either way, but we’ve got to bear in mind the possibility that our actions may be positive on one axis but harmful on another, and that it’s not enough to just evaluate them on the “does this prevent adultery?” axis — we’ve got to evaluate the sum of the parts and decide whether it’s a decision or policy that is, as a whole, moving us closer to exaltation, or moving us further away.

  65. N Miller says:

    Bob,

    Your’re right, upon further consideration I can see how people have differences in defining sin. Thank you.

    Kaimi –

    Aren’t we then glad that we have the spirit to decipher when we should stay and when we should go. If we are not spiritually in tune, a potentially helpful situation could end up leaving a sister out in the cold, or it could mean picking that sister up and potentially ruining your family. How important then is to live to seek out the spirit at all times so we know what to do at all times and all places.

  66. Bob Caswell says:

    Of course, if you were in tune with the spirit when driving by the sister out in the cold, then wouldn’t it follow that you probably wouldn’t impregnate her in your car when you pick her up? I mean, if we’re back to the “have the spirit” answer, then we shouldn’t have any problems when we’re alone around the opposite sex, especially if we recognize that as a time to have the spirit even more so (if that’s all it takes to solve this problem).

  67. a random John says:

    Bob,

    By the same token, we could only judge others for the “appearance” of evil when the spirit tells us to. After all, isn’t the bigger problem one of perception of others rather than any slippery slope?

  68. Bob Caswell says:

    Is one of the purposes of the spirit to inform of us of when to judge others (especially when they’re outside of our stewardship)? If so, I’ve totally missed out!

  69. a random John says:

    Nope! We’re not supposed to judge on appearances at all!

    http://scriptures.lds.org/john/7/24#24

  70. N Miller says:

    Just because you have the spirit doesn’t mean it can’t be driven away. Maybe the spirit is telling you not to pick her up becuase the spirit knows where your weaknesses are. Also, the spirit may know about her intentions which could lure you into temptation. I don’t know why the spirit would tell you not to pick her up, but if in your mind you say to yourself, “Well, the spirit spoke to me to stay away, therefore I have the spirit, therefore, if I have the spirit, I will not fall to temptation, therefore, let me take her home.” I don’t think so. Talk about disobedience to the one thing that personally guides you through life so you can have the happiness we all seem to desire. The “have the spirit with you” answer is the key.

    Additionally, in answer to post #68, yes, the spirit is there to help us know when to judge. We need the spirit to know how to judge. If not, we may judge unrighteously.

  71. N Miller says:

    a random john,

    I am not sure if you are using sarcasm or not. Check your JST on that verse and let me know.

  72. Bob Caswell says:

    “Well, the spirit spoke to me to stay away, therefore I have the spirit, therefore, if I have the spirit, I will not fall to temptation, therefore, let me take her home.”

    I could see that being a scenario if the woman on the sidewalk was a hooker disguised as the Relief Society president. But I think the person driving the car might have bigger issues if every time a woman needs a ride he has the spirit say no.

    I’m not trying to be judgmental here, I’m just saying that if a member of the Godhead has to constantly remind a person to avoid service in the name of bridling his/her passions, then maybe he/she should try to fix the real problem instead of the symptom.

  73. a random John says:

    N Miller,
    So we ARE supposed to judge on appearances then?

  74. N Miller says:

    Bob – if you have the spirit, are you in need of fixing? Think about it. It’s not hard to understand that if one has the spirit, and it’s ok to take a sister home, and he listens to this, then all is well. If the spirit says no, then don’t take her home.

    Some people have a harder time with the ambiguity of letting the spirit tell them one way or another. Here is what you do if that is the case:

    Decide what you will do on a normal basis, either take a sister home or leave her in the cold. Once this is decided on, ensure that the spirit is with you at all times and be willing to listen and obey the spirit. If the spirit tells you nothing when that moment comes up, carry on as you had decided. If it tells you to not do it and do the other, then obey. Perhaps this will take the ambiguity out of the decision when it the moment comes up.

  75. N Miller says:

    a random john –

    Supposed to or do? Although we would like to think we don’t, as humans we always judge on appearance. Some are more damning judgments, and I believe we should stay away from those types of judgments.

    However, if I see somebody reclessly speeding with his kids in the car, I won’t necessarily want him driving my children around. Whoa! I made a judgement. Yet, that judgment may keep my family safe. Or do I not make that judgment and let my kids ride with him to the amusement park? I won’t take that risk. Am I an evil man for that? Answer that yourself. But if you do, note that you are judging me.

  76. N Miller,

    Isn’t the default rule by itself very important? I agree that we always need the spirit so that we will know God’s will in any given circumstance. But if we choose the wrong default rule, can we really expect God to correct us every time we enter into the situation that triggers that rule? I think God cares what the default rule is in the “leave the woman in the cold” scenario and he expects us to get it without having the spirit whisper every time we approach a woman standing in the rain.

  77. N Miller says:

    My assumption would be, question as you may, that if the spirit is truly with you, you will likely go with the best default option in the first place. If, for whatever reason you are off on your conclusion, I would hope you are not simply a mindless creature, but learn that if you initially decide to take the RS president home when those times happen, and more often than not you are prompted to not pick her up, then your default perhaps needs to change.
    Again, this is assuming you have the spirit with you. If you have it and listen to it, it will guide you, if not, there is great cause to worry about who you are with (or what you are doing).

  78. titan_85 says:

    Here’s a good quote on the subject:

    Related to the discussion of sexuality is the prevailing attitude toward heterosocial relationships between men and women in the LDS church. The belief expressed by Billy Crystal in the movie When Harry Met Sally–that men and women can never become “just friends” because sex always gets in the way–holds sway in the church. Most members have known or at least heard of people who have committed adultery and have lost church membership as a result. (Bishop-Relief Society president adultery stories are probably far more prevalent than their actual incidence.) The tragedy of broken families and damaged relationships that stem from infidelity needs no elaboration.

    Some church members therefore take the position that all extramarital male-female contacts or friendships are wrong. The following examples clearly illustrate this point. A man and a woman, neighbors in their ward, attended a series of church-related meetings approximately twenty-five miles from their homes. They drove to these meetings separately and never considered car-pooling. When queried about this, the woman spoke of the impropriety of being alone with someone of the opposite sex and the importance of “avoiding the very appearance of evil.” The implication was that during these drives, the two of them might be sexually tempted or at least give others the impression that they were romantically involved. This same heterosocial discomfort is evident in the common practice in assigning older men as home teachers to young divorced women rather than sending men of a similar age. At a time when closeness and support of people of the opposite sex are most needed, in the church they are often least available. Another therapist has discussed this frustration and suggested that we need to distinguish emotional closeness from erotic feelings.32 Sexualizing heterosocial relationships creates the very atmosphere that is feared simply because people do not have opportunities for platonic intimacy.

    The belief that friendships with members of the opposite sex automatically lead to romantic feelings or sexual relationships effectively separates members along gender lines. This especially damages women, who already have little access to leadership and the decision-making process. Gender separation in interpersonal relationships deprives male church leaders of female perspectives and opinions. Married men and women must then rely solely on their spouses for opposite-sex interaction and feedback. Access to unmarried individuals is further restricted, especially when they are seen as potential threats to marital relationships. Removing heterosocial taboos would empower both women and men in the church to take full advantage of the resources offered by others, regardless of their gender. For women to share a more equal voice, intergender desexualization of relationships is necessary, a process that will mitigate some of the pain and isolation felt by many single members of the church.33

    Another negative byproduct of sexualized heterosocial interaction is an environment in which single men and women relate to each other primarily as romantic objects or potential mates. After marriage, members avoid male-female friendships because they have not learned to relate to each other on a purely social basis. This predominantly masculine avoidance of the (nonwife) feminine results in a knowledge deprivation which devalues women’s ways of knowing and being. Women, on the other hand, must daily acknowledge men’s ways of knowing and doing since men hold virtually all authority over their spiritual lives. If we could create a culture that validates non-

    threatening relationships, people could socialize and work together without sexual interference. Gender imbalances might begin to disintegrate, especially as men become more aware of and responsive to women’s needs and respond to them as intellectual, spiritual, and social equals. Developing healthy heterosocial relationships after marriage may, in fact, reduce marital infidelity and enhance marriages as men and women replace suspicious, fearful attitudes with affirming, nonsexual ones.

    They Shall Be One Flesh”: Sexuality and Contemporary Mormonism, Romel W. Mackelprang
    Multiply and Replenish: Mormon Essays on Sex and Family
    Copyright © 1994 Signature Books, Inc.

  79. This has been an interesting discussion. I had no idea this issue was such a problem and I find it a bit bizarre frankly. I guess it’s the result of living in a litigious society. Too many lawyers I guess.

    I’ve been home teaching single sisters for years and the thought never crossed my mind that I was doing something wrong. Actually, I thought I was doing something right for a change for getting off my butt and out the door to get it done. If I waited for my partner to go with me I’d rarely get it done and feel guilty when the HP group leader calls me each month. It just shows that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    Also, as a missionary we must not have had this rule in our mission. I served in Chile and since all the men worked it was mostly women we met with during the day. If we had this rule and followed it we would have had much less success.

    Life is full of little risks. I suppose the 65 year old widow I’ll be home teaching tonight might accuse me of sexual harassment and the neighbors might think something’s up since I come by once a month, go inside, close the front door, and stay for an hour. But I’m willing to take that chance. Anyway, I’m off to go home teaching…

  80. jayneedoe says:

    What about two Mormon men spending time alone together, resulting in a homosexual relationship?

    I am completely speculating, but I would think the risk of this happening would be on par with the homosexual population at large. Even if the danger is not that statistically significant within the Mormon population, the risk does exist.

    My step-nephew is homosexual, went on a mission, and was excommunicated for having sexual relations with two of his companions.

    How much does the fact that he spent a significant amount of time alone with each of these men contribute to his actions? I have no idea. But the fact is, if he had not been left alone with his companions, the sexual encounters would probably not have occurred.

    IMO, it is entirely possible for a homosocial relationship to move into the realm of a homosexual relationship in the same exact manner as N. Miller’s example of a heterosocial/sexual relationship.

    Therefore, should all Mormons simply refuse to be alone with another Mormon, period?

    Or is it acceptable, even if a homosexual relationship does occur, because most Mormons would not look at two men alone as anything sexual, and therefore the scenario does not have “the appearance of evil.”

    I find this discussion bizarre. The Church can, of course, say whatever it wants about avoiding the appearance of evil, but at what cost? It is simply impossible to avoid all “appearances” without going to extreme, ridiculous measures.

    Leaving a person, male or female, out in the pouring rain? Unthinkable.

    Jaynee

  81. a random John says:

    Jaynee,

    I have posted elsewhere on the fact that missionaries in Brazil are often called out in public as being homosexuals. It is meant in jest or as an insult, but it is particularly effective since they are always seen as a companionship.

    I for one, don’t mind walking in the rain. Especially the weak rain that generally falls in Salt Lake.

  82. Bob Caswell says:

    ARJ,

    You, for another, are a man and not a woman (I think). This generalization might get me in trouble with the Bloggernacle Police, but it has been my experience that women tend to have more issues with walking in rain than men. Not that that has anything to do with anything, I’m just hoping a sudden flux of women will start posting on this thread saying, “But I LOVE walking in the rain.”

  83. N Miller says:

    The comments that have been said are all great. I think my point has been misconstrued to saying that we must stay away from the opposite sex. Nope, just that we need to understand when and where it is appropriate to be alone with them, via the spirit.

    Concerning homesexual relationships, if the spirit is with you, you will know if and when to get away from somebody. The same is true with so many evils we are tempted in. If we have the spirit, and follow it, then we are safe.

    Let me tell you a story that happened to me a while back. I was called into the stake presidents office and was issued a call to be the elders quorum president in my ward. I was instructed to pray about counselors and get back with the stake president within a set time frame. As I had some extra time, I found that going to the temple would be the best place for me to contemplate this decision. After a good session in the temple but nothing out of the ordinary I got back in my car and started to drive home. Before long I got this distinct impression to go to the stake center to get a list of names (our ward had just been created from two different wards, and I didn’t have a complete list of names). Although I thought this was an odd impression, as it was 4:30 in the afternoon (and how often are people at the church at that time of day) and I didn’t have keys to the building, and even if I got inside, I didn’t know how I was going to get a list of names. Right as I pulled up, the stake president pulled in behind me. He greeted me and thanked me for coming. A sister had just called him up and asked for a blessing to be done at the church. Although I could make some pretty strong assumptions of what was going on in her life from the blessing, I don’t exactly know what she had done. But this stake president said that he was unable to get in touch with any of his counselors or high councilors, and needed to leave to meet the sister. He felt a strong impression that he should not be alone with her at the church, and prayed that there would be somebody there to help. Sure enough, I arrive, dressed in shirt and tie, able and willing to help him.

    I don’t know why he wasn’t supposed to be alone with her. I don’t think there would have been any sexual connotations going on. Everything I knew about this stake president would have proven him to run if she happened to make some sort of advance to him. But again, I don’t think that would have happened, for goodness sakes, she asked for a blessing, which he could do himself if nobody else was around. If this is the case, then why did he feel prompted to pray for help and why did I feel prompted to go to the stake center? The spirit wanted this to happen, and luckily I was in a position to listen and obey. Some of you may say coincedince, others may say it wasn’t because the stake president wasn’t supposed to be alone with this sister. I guess we will never know what could have happened, becuase the spirit talked and somebody listened. That is how it needs to be done, always, if so, we will have those moments to create platonic relationships with those people that we need to.

    OK sorry about the book and the personal story, but I feel strongly about the “have the spirit with you” answer to this question. I don’t think you can ever go wrong if you follow that simple rule.

    BTW, my wife loves walking in the rain, but not in some downtown cities sidestreets or if she has to be somewhere where her hair needs to be done right.

  84. titan_85, that was an awesome quote.

    Story: When I got my first calling in my current ward, I met with the counselor. During the course of our conversation, he mentioned that he had never talked to an adult, single, active sister before. Holy cow. (Yes, I live in a cute little corner of Happy Valley in which the entire ward is either happily married and attending church, or divorced and inactive. I’m the only adult single in the ward who goes to church.)

  85. a random John says:

    Bob,
    You are correct that I am a man. I didn’t mean to imply that I think that everyone else enjoys the rain. My first instinct is always to offer a ride to those that might have to venture out into the rain.

    N Miller,
    To confirm what you already suspect, some of my previous comments were meant in jest. I do think there are aspects of LDS culture (summed up very nicely in the excerpt from Mackelprang) that cause problems that don’t need to be there. I agree that listening to the spirit is the best course. I doubt that the spirit would prompt you to proclaim that you aren’t giving someone a ride because you want to avoid appearances of impropriety, but if it did prompt me to say such, I would do my best to follow through.
    My guess is that many people default to avoiding the situations discussed above for cultural reasons, not spiritual ones.

  86. “Another therapist has discussed this frustration and suggested that we need to distinguish emotional closeness from erotic feelings.32 Sexualizing heterosocial relationships creates the very atmosphere that is feared simply because people do not have opportunities for platonic intimacy.”

    I agree that the extreme example Bob cited is, well, extreme. The woman handled the situation tactlessly, and subsequently bringing it up in a sacrament talk seems a bit much.

    But I disagree with the idea that if we were only less ridicuously prudish, we’d be able to be emotionally intimate with married members of the opposite sex without having to freak out about the possibility of physical infidelity. If my husband were to become emotionally intimate with another woman, I’d be devastated even if I knew they never had sex. In my mind, there is such a thing as emotional infidelity, and any (tactful) steps that can be taken to avoid the possibility of any kind of infidelity are worthwhile.

  87. Bob Caswell says:

    So Allison, if there is such a thing as emotional infidelity, is there such a thing as an intimate emotional relationship without infidelity (i.e. with someone other than one’s spouse)?

    Speaking of which, does that mean that there is spiritual infidelity and/or mental infidelity? If I do my homework with another woman (which has happened) or my wife does her homework with another man (which has happened), do we need to be on high alert?

    I guess the main point I wanted to drive home is that the word “intimate” has so much baggage that you could say it in combination with practically anything and it is bad news if it doesn’t involve your spouse. But the truth is that I’ve had emotional, spiritual, and mental relationships with many women other than my wife. Whether or not these relationships have been intimate depends entirely on the reader’s preconceived connotations associated with the word “intimate.”

  88. Allison – I’m going to agree with Bob. The way you use the term “emotionally intimate” conveys a dirty connotation. As I look back over the last five years (thursday is our anniversary), some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve enjoyed have been with women. I think my wife has had comparable relationships with them and their husbands as well. Nothing dirty there. But I have loved them and miss them and their husbands (now that we have parted ways). It would seem that am describing intimate relationships.

  89. Of course I’m not talking about a simple friendship with a member of the opposite sex. There’s intimacy as in a good friendship and there’s intimacy as in a special friendship such as one you’d ideally have with your spouse (separate from the sexual relationship you’d ideally have as well). What I’m saying is that infidelity is possible without physical contact, and that it’s not a bad idea to steer clear of ambiguous situations. YMMV.

    To use a pop-culture example, if you’ve seen “Lost In Translation,” it’s my view that Bill Murray’s character cheated on his wife. There was no sex, but the emotional intimacy they shared was greater than what either put into their marriages.

  90. Allison-

    I loved Lost in Translation. I thought about Bill Murray’s character a lot. Not that any form of “cheating” is ever justified, but, Bill Murray’s wife was portrayed as emotionally distant and obsessed with irrelevant details (the Fed Ex box of burgundy carpet samples). What happens if your spouse changes through the years, and no matter what efforts you put into the marriage, you get nothing back in return? I can’t imagine going through life never being able to connect with anyone again because your wife is ignoring you. Granted, then you should re-evaluate your marriage and perhaps leave the relationship, but I think it’s pretty harsh to say that Bill Murray “cheated” on his wife with Scarlett Johansen. Now, the red-headed singer is another story…

  91. Anonymous says:

    I am very uncertain about how close one can get to a married member of the opposite sex. I asked someone who I thought would be in the know if it is okay to exchange emails with married men. This person said it would and that I would be able to tell if we crossed the line. Maybe he said this because he knows of my circumstances and that an actual relationship is unlikely due to the fact that I seldom go places. I have had several exchanges with married men on various sites and most of them pretty innocent. However, there was one who I did not know if he were married or not at first and exchanged a few emails. I had a horrible crush on him even before I knew he was married as he was so charming, funny, intelligent. I also believe he was an all around good and decent person. We never shared very personal information for the most part. Our pm’s were infrequent and short. I planted something in a thread that I knew could cause bad thoughts. He flirted a little in a pm and so I felt we had to end it then and there. It was nothing like he was talking about actually having a relationship or anything like that. However, what he said was not appropriate. I am convinced that he did not intend for anything like this to happen when we started conversing. He never wrote me unless I wrote him first even if there was a great deal of time between. He never shared hardly any personal information. Mainly he was funny and supportive in turn. I think he was just trying to give me some self-esteem as he was such a nice person. Although I have never seen or talked to him, ending this relationship was one of the most emotional experiences that I have had. I never felt so much passion for somebody. Also, the fact that he was so emotionally supportive of me even though our exchanges were so infrequent made it so hard to give up. One thing I notice about some of the men that pm me is that I would get to excited about getting a pm. I could never understand how someone knowing adultery was wrong would do such a thing. Now I can realize that when you are desperate how a little pick me up can mean so much. It is easy to become selfish and care about your own needs. In my twenties, I was considered attractive and expected to marry but obstactle ensued. However, through the years I would rather stay in a sometimes abusive situation in my parents home than risk the possiblity of adultery. Not that I had any plans of doing such but I heard a lady at work say that she let her best friend stay with her and she ended up cheating with her husband. Just the very thought that such a thing could happen would make me rather take the abuse in my home than go into such a situation. Yet, with the person who I exchanged emails with who I am not actually sure how old he is or what he does for a living, I could see myself doing things that I never would have justified contemplating before. The passion that swept over me was incredible. I did not have much regard for his wife or family even though I had seen the devastaion and sobs of my mother when we think my dad cheated on her. By the way, my parents are not members of the Church. Before this, any feelings that I ever had for a man were more like school girl crushes. This is not to say there was not physical thoughts but nothing that equals in intensity. So my advice. Be very careful. Maybe I am the exception because I feel so stuck and hopeless and undervalued much of the time. I still email married men on occassion, which is bad considering my history. I have a huge pet peeve if someone does not write me at least one sentence in return that is friendly, but not too friendly. I need to cease and desist such unless there is a practical reason for needing to have contact. I hate to feel this way because I think there are so many interesting married men who I would love to pique their brains and know them deeply. I would also love to have some of them as mentors for my self-education goals. In the end, it is not worth the risk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  92. Anonymous, when one is already involved in relationships and all of the baggage that accompany them, people outside the sphere of those relationships can appear disproportionately attractive. We only see those people who are outside the sphere of our intimate relationships at their best, while we have to take the good and the bad (to some degree) in our intimate relationships. Of course, judgments that result from comparing people that we know only in passing with those we are intimate with are based on sheer fantasy. But it’s unfortunately quite natural to make such unfair comparisons, and this makes it easy for the minds of men and women alike to wander to inappropriate thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with corresponding with married men per se, so long as you make sure that you have clear guidelines about what is appropriate and stick to them (it sounds like you’re already doing this), though it’s hard for me to imagine very many situations wherein a long correspondence would be appropriate. That said, I do not think that it is appropriate for a single woman to be seeking out married men to correspond with. And perhaps I’m unduly victorian, but my opinion on PM’ing is that I don’t think that it’s a good idea for married people to PM with single people on anything approaching a regular basis.

    As far the situation that you describe at home, I don’t know nearly enough to make any kind of terribly meaningful advice. Nor have you asked for any kind of advice. That said, here is some small bit of very generic advice: I think that the alternatives you describe of abuse at home and adultery sound like a false dilemma. Again, this is offered from an almost entirely ignorant point of view, so keep that in mind.

  93. Brian G says:

    Now this is an interesting topic. A friend of mine coined a phrase I like called extra-marital e-mail. It’s difficult to say when e-mail communication with another person becomes inappropriate. I don’t know that it’s necessary to set a boundary such as I will not e-mail married people, but I think one useful test is to consider if you’d be comfortable with your spouse reading the e-mail. Changing your password, deleting e-mails, rapidly minimizing a window when your spouse walks into the room, these all might be signs that you and your correspondent have crossed a line, or are perhaps toeing a line.

    I think e-mail communication is particularly appealing to Mormons because it has a sense of safety about it–it’s only words, after all, but I think that safety also is misleading, it’s only safe in that the possibility of physical infidelity is less, but the possibility of the emotional infidelity Allison refers to is perhaps even greater. E-mail is more private than a whispered conversation if you think about it. Plus, I think the lack of hearing a person’s voice, or seeing any body language makes it more ambiguous. This ambiguity of meaning can make it easier to justify saying something you’d never say in person, and it can be a playground for flirtation, I think.

    I don’t know, I think the only solution is constant vigilance and self-awareness. Because I already feel guilty about so many things, I don’t think I’m going to drag myself over the coals for being thrilled about getting an e-mail from a friend, married or not, sometimes it’s the little escapes like that, that help you get through a day.

  94. anonymous says:

    You know I am actually a very sensible person when it comes to love and relationships for the most part. I knew everything Arturo said. I also knew that there is a difference between feeling attraction to someone and true love thanks to a class at my Catholic high school and also classes through LDS Church at Institute or Sunday School. I could see how someone not armed with such knowledge could easily fall into the trap of thinking that this was true love and that they “deserved to be happy together.” Yes, I knew it was a lot of fantasy interwined in this temptation. However, it has given me such a greater appreciation for those who succumb to temptation. I was one of those practical girls in high school that did not date because I did not want to risk thinking too much about a boy and hurting my gpa. That was easy given the fact that I went to an All Girls School and did not party. You are right about the fact that I did not ask for advice on my home situation although I never mind any advice. My situation is such a Catch 22 that it will not help. My fears though hypothetical as a family has never offered me shelter do concern me. You see I do not think any single adults going to school would be able to take care of me as I have a lot of problems where I am dependent on others. It is not likely that a stable family would want to take me in either as people do not offer shelter to people who are in their thirties so my dillemma was merely conjecture. I think the abuse in my home is better than living in a shelter though. Those places are scary. There has not been any physical abuse for years and the mental and psychological abuse are not as frequent or bad as they used to be. Of course, I realize that having been so specific people will probably not want to give me any more advice as they will feel to vested in my situation. Well, I have made my peace with my situation. However, I think all the mental and psychological abuse does make me more vulnerable to an inappropriate relationship. In reality, I have to many phobias to really pursue such a relationship. My mom helps me get ready before I live the house. I do not like to go any place other than work without her. I do not think I would take mom along with me to have an affair. In truth, I would be ashamed to let her know the extent of my pm’s with this gentlement. She knows a little and likes to tease me. My mom is definately a woman of virtue and she did tell me to stop sending pm’s when I found out he was married. This was even before things got out of hand but she knew that I had a crush and was wonderfing if he were married. Also, I think being over thirty makes one more vulnerable. When you notice that some men still flirt with you at work but that some of the men in their early twenties seem to ignore you, you look for ways to validate that you are still attractive to men. The person that I sent pm’s to never actually saw me or even a picture, but the attention was compensurate with such feelings. Well, that is my story. Hopefully, I will not let history repeat itself. I have no plans to send a pm or email to any more married men unless it is for a brief or practical reason. Ongoing correspondence is definately out. I really am not quite as pathetic as I seem. Almost but not quite.

  95. A friend that I met on one of the LDS forum sites shared with me an experience that his sister had. He said that she was one of the most righteous people that he knew. She was in a bad marriage. She started corresponding with someone in the same city by email. She committed adultery. She experienced so much shame. As far as avoiding the appearances of evil, I say draw the line far back and do not risk it. It is not just for what other people think it is your own safety in mind. The question posed at times is whether we should do something just because we think another may judge us. I will share an event that may have only been the appearance of evil but it effected me not because I have a desire to be judgmental but rather because I had so much respect for the person involved. What transpired was that my sister who had switched high schools was playing her former high school. My mom said the person keeping the score board from the opposing team kept changing numbers around back and forth until the score was ahead for the other team. She did not think anybody called him on this. From what my mom said, it sounded like it was my Sociology teacher although she could not remember his name but recalled him being one of my teachers from parent conferences. He was the teacher that really opened my mind more than any other teacher thus far. Through the years I have pondered so many of the things that we touched upon in that class. I also believed him to be a person of such integrity. To hear that he could be guilty of such an offense was shocking to me. Since then, I have become more mature and realize that everyone may have a slice of their life that would not be flattering. That does not mean that the person is devoid of all good characteristics. This was minor so in a situation where law of chastity is involved one must skate ever more delicately. I was always a big believer in the no hugging of people of the opposite sex when I was a missionary. I guess I was considered one of the uncool ones because I wanted to live the rules to a “t”. I will say that I felt there was so much protection and safety in doing right as it allows when to be worthy of the Holy Spirit. People can rationalize all they want but that does not make right, right and wrong, wrong. I do not want to come across as somebody without faults. I have fallen from where I was. Yet, in my fall I can see many of the errors of my previous self-righteous self. However, being self-righteous is certainly, in my opinion, a lesser crime than having the attittude that permission is hard to get but forgiveness is easy. Maybe I still have some pride there that I need to work on. You think?

  96. I should quit but I think I will make another quick comment. You know saying that I was self-righteous one would probably conjure up images that I was pretty unlikeable. Actually, I was one of the nicest most easy going people unless there was a rule involved. I never was mean to anybody. Also, I did not judge investigators or less active people for their life choices for the most part. Although I did sometimes judge people for being less active just for being offended. I just had lack of comprehension when it came to people not always being obedient, reading the scriptures, and praying as they should. I think this is sometimes common of converts of many faiths. I was a convert at 19. My companions used to comment how they were difficult people to live with and how I would forgive them on the spot if they were mean to me. That was true, I knew it was important to be unified with your companion when you teach so that was a lot of my motivation. Also, I like people in general and like to get along. So where does this fit in with the appearance of evil? It probably does not but I wanted to clarify the early digression. I really was such a sweet person after I joined the Church until I had problems that led me to become less active. True I was on the self-righteous side. However, I had absolutely no edge to me and was so loving and naiive. I still like people and see a lot of good in people but unfortunately have lost some of my youthful idealism. Well, at least being less active myself now, I have seen the life from both sides now. I like the other side much better less the self-righteous part. I really was blessed in those days to feel close to God. I felt a solemn responsibility as a missionary to be worthy that they would feel the Holy Spirit. That is all that I had to say. So if someone has all the appearances of being a little self-righteous, try to be nice. Maybe someday their eyes will be opened as mine were. I sure hope they do not have to go through the painful experiences that I have to learn what I have learned. I know this is way too much about me but I sincerely hope it might in some way give people some benefit.

  97. Barb Anonymous says:

    Well, I thought I would give this environment a try but seem to find myself posting way too much about myself. I am glad that I had an opportunity to share what I hope may in some way be enlightening. It is probably silly of me to even say good-bye as I was not here long enough to officially say hello. If you are wondering if I can tend to get a little manic at times, you are very correct. That is why unless it is an innocent topic such as travel, that I have to avoid these sites where one cannot edit. Sorry that I share way to much about myself. I bid you all farewell and I will take my baggage with me. Barb/anonymous

  98. Visiting Today says:

    What, really, is the purpose of the Law of Chastity as a Church rule? Is(n’t) it just to keep teenagers from getting their groove on? Everyone knows that adultery is wrong not because of the sex, but because of the breach of contract with the spouse.

    So when LDS adults in their 30s, 40s, etc. and older are forced to act like teenagers just because no one marries them, what does that do to their psychological and social development?

  99. Visiting Today says:

    Oh, and by “forced to act like teenagers” I mean
    1. dating in groups
    2. feeling guilty for making out
    3. never having sex
    4. running crying to the bishop for “going too far” and confessing one’s private thoughts and actions to an unrelated man behind a desk

  100. Steve's Evil Twin says:

    Visiting,

    No no no, you’ve got it all wrong. Here’s the formula:

    Dating: Make sure to do so in groups. Doing this just as a couple is discouraged.

    Chastity: Wait until you’re married before you have sex.

    Sex: Make sure to do so in groups. Doing this just as a couple is discouraged.

    Any questions?

    Mormon life — great!

  101. Adam Sorensen says:

    I think that people should avoid the evil that is in their own hearts and not make a lot of show to the rest of the world.

    A visiting teacher who does not want to enter a married man’s house when the wife is not at home could easily refuse the invitation to come in, stating that she will just return another time. Making a ruckus about refusing to come in sounds to much like praying in the streets before men or wearing sack-clothe and ashes (or however its goes).

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