Safety Valves

This is Kathleen from Dialogue. I would like to address the topic of the safety valve sins and modest heresies.

In 2003, in the winter issue of Dialogue is a short personal essay by Bessie Soderberg Clark. She describes a trip to California via Nevada where an object lesson about the futility of gambling goes awry. She won a jackpot from the quarter slot machine at a gas station. On the return trip when they stopped at the same gas station, “something” pulls her hand to the same slot machine. She deposits the hot quarter, pulls the handle, and leaves, but suspects she may have won again. Should she go back and claim the money?

I decided not to, since it was the Sabbath. I hurried and caught up with the others, saying absolutely nothing about my weak moment. I didn’t want them to know that I, their strong, upright, God-loving, church-going mother had succumbed to gambling. No, especially not on the Sabbath and entering the pure state of Utah, home of my church-loving ancestors. All the rest of the day, a little weird thought kept nagging me. Did I actually hit the jackpot? I felt very virtuous in not knowing. (p. 205)

The second anecdote to consider comes from the recently published biography of Levi Peterson, A Rascal by Nature, A Christian by Yearning. He describes learning to drink coffee through the “evil example” of a colleague in the English Department. “I still have the bad habit. I do not think I am a serious caffeine addict. I like coffee mostly because it is a convenient sin. It is a very handy, inexpensive way to stay out of harmony with your church.”

It is my contention that a in a church that has a lot of rules and suggestions for comportment, and one that values conformity, lots of us need a safety valve sin or modest heresy: a way to let steam off so the conformity boiler doesn’t explode. It has to be something not too serious, maybe something that falls in a grey area, but which has the potential to get a rise out of someone else. The “collateral damage” has to be small. A slight shoplifting habit, a gift for the white lie–these do not qualify. I am thinking of things such as:

  • Buying a lottery ticket
  • Not voting Republican
  • Enjoying coffee or rum raisin ice cream
  • Cooking with wine
  • Drinking caffeinated soft drinks
  • Hating the sound of adults singing “I Am A Child of God”
  • Allowing a discreet piercing or tattoo
  • Growing some facial hair
  • Watching sports on Sunday
  • Jogging on Sunday
  • Thinking “I Believe in Christ” is way too long
  • Refusing to keep a journal
  • Violating the Sunday dress code
  • Not having a picture of a temple or a framed copy of the Proclamation to the World prominently displayed
  • Skipping Sunday School
  • Not keeping a garden (this word of a prophet comes from the Spencer W.
    Kimball era and hasn’t been brought up recently.)

Except for the safety valve explanation, I don’t know where the perverse need to assert that individuality comes from, especially from people who otherwise take their religion seriously and are committed. I think it is a kind of genius that the Church provides so many ways to go astray without doing anything really harmful, where the journey back to harmony (if one chooses to take it) is short and doesn’t require an interview with the bishop.

Will anyone else admit to a safety-valve sin? A modest heresy? Or is this just another liberal rationalizing her way out of her slacker ways?


  1. Nick Literski says:

    Good heavens! When I was still in the church, I was “guilty” of seven and a half out of your list!! I was too virtuous for piercings and tattoos, though I wanted both. (Not really…I was in a calling where I met with the stake presidency every week–tough to hide well under those conditions!) Those waited until I had my name removed from the records. ;-)

    Here’s the funny part about LDS “sins.” I came out of the closet right before having my name removed from the records of the church (which entailed more than just the fact that I was gay). My eldest daughter soon decided that I wasn’t worthy of being called “dad” anymore. She assured me that it had NOTHING to do with my being gay–she understood that part just fine. It was….wait for it….because “my dad would never have gotten piercings or tattoos!”

    Ah, what warped minds LDS-ism can create!

  2. I swear and enjoy dirty jokes. I used to think that getting a higher education [as a woman] and working was a form of rebellion, but most LDS people refuse to be scandalized by that and most LDS women where I live work. So I don’t get to feel rebellious for it.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    I violate an even 10 of these sins on your list. I wonder whether there is a cumulative effect; if you violate 10 little sins, maybe it adds up to one big sin.

    I hate to admit this publicly, but I broke a lot of rules when I was on my mission (listening to rock music tapes, that sort of thing). I was such a goody-two-shoes growing up, that this actually gave me a safe way to rebel without actually doing anything really wrong or dangerous. I agree with you that it is a brilliant strategy, even if I doubt that it is intentional on the part of the Church.

  4. I’m guility of 11 of those sins. I think you should add something like not having FHE and skipping Sunday School. The only time I’ve ever did FHE was when I was on my mission and we were invited by families to go.

    Unlike, Kevin, I was a straight arrow on my mission. I didn’t go overboard on the obedience, but I didn’t listen to rock tapes. (However, I did like to go to a particular taco stand in Ensenda for two reasons. One, they had the best damn fish tacos in the world. And two, the owner was a smoking hot Mexican woman. My companions and I said we only went their for the fish tacos. If it makes it better, we gave her and her husband a pass-a-long card.

  5. I’m surprised you haven’t had as many slammers, after Amri’s personal post along similar lines. Is it because you are not making it personal? Or have we become a kinder, gentler Bloggernacle?

    It’s funny to me that you have things like “growing facial hair” mixed in with “discreet piercing or tattoo”

  6. How can you not love a people who are so bad at sinning that some consider drinking a can of Coke an act of rebellion? I’m proud to be associated with the church and its members. A firm belief that “I Believe In Christ” keeps me from a perfect score.

  7. Err–a firm belief that “I Believe In Christ” is the perfect length keeps me from a perfect score.

  8. “a way to let steam off so the conformity boiler doesn’t explode.”

    Another way is to not care whether you conform to your neighbors, but rather to God’s will. Yes, that sounds very holy of me, but note that I’m not saying that I’m good at it. I commit plenty of sins you would put on the “real sin” list and others on the “safety valve” list.

    But this whole idea reminds me of Isaiah 29:8:

    “It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty.”

    Someone votes for a Democrat—then they can proudly say, “I voted for Smith so I would be different.” Is that really fulfilling? Why not vote or Smith because you actually think Smith is the best candidate?

    Or someone who cooks with wine and the main satisfaction is the sense of non-conformity. What about the sense of taste (ie. wine-based marinades are incredibly delicious)?

    I think your observation is both accurate and sad.

  9. I don’t think most people care about most of the things on your list. They don’t do some of the things on the list because they don’t want to, not because there’s some “rule” that forbids it. And they do other things on the list because they don’t consider that it violates any important principle.

    It’s like a friend of mine who, interviewing people for temple recommends, would get “confessios” on the word of wisdom question about Coke. He’d ask them if they thought that was a problem, and if they did, he’d advise them to stop drinking it. Since he drank about two liters a day himself, I don’t think that he thought it was a problem.

  10. BrianJ,

    I had the same reaction you did when I initially read the post. On a second reading I decided my reaction was likely an internal attempt to do the very thing the post was about–make myself different from the “other” Mormons.

    Maybe some Mormons cook with wine to be rebellious rather than because they know and enjoy the taste, but why is that sad? We all do little ridiculous things to assert our individuality whether it is choosing to live in a grungy part of town or self-consciously avoiding labels. Why is it sad when Mormons do the same thing?

  11. Mark B.,

    I think you are exactly right. Most Mormons I know don’t care at all about the things on this list–but it is the idea of playing against type that is important, even if that type is a minority at best.

  12. Matthew: I doubt you had the “same reaction” or you would have written the same comment. {smile}

    More seriously, I can see how one could have the reaction you describe, but that was not mine.

    “Maybe some Mormons cook with wine to be rebellious rather than because they know and enjoy the taste, but why is that sad?”

    I think it’s sad because they are focusing on something that they wrongly think others care about and in turn they are missing out on the real benefits of what they are doing. And I would apply that to anyone—Mormon or non.

  13. Jelly Man says:

    First post on this site. I’m a little nervous. Maybe reading this site (or Dialogue for that matter) might be someone’s saftey valve sin :-)

    One that could be added to the list, for the brethren at least, is the wearing of a non-white button up shirt to church.

  14. BrianJ,

    It strikes me as presumptuous to set yourself up as the arbiter of what constitutes a “real” benefit. The benefits of expressing one’s individuality through choice of beverage, clothing or adornment are certainly real and I see no reason why you should privilege the benefit derived by the person who chooses a wine marinade for its taste over the person who chooses the wine marinade because they want to think of themself as an edgy Mormon.

    BTW, there is only one ‘t’ in my name–one of the many things that make me unique in a world of Matthews.

  15. This is interesting. In high school and at BYU I had a reasonably large iconoclastic streak. It probably wasn’t too evident, because I like white shirts and dark suits. While on my mission, I gave up the iconoclasm and had an extremely positive experience.

    While there are a handful of things on your list of which I am guilty (cola drinking, no proclamation, etc.) I find that the older I get the less interested I am in iconoclasm and the more interested I am in the gospel. I find that I don’t get bothered by the quotes from Mormon Doctrine during gospel doctrine as much and appreciate more the individual who loves it.

    I’m not sure how much of a safety valve the slip of the coin into the slot really is. I doubt that if she didn’t do it that she would have gone off the deep end or suffered some sort of turmoil. Perhaps what we she was doing, was exploring herself.

  16. Nathan Oman says:

    “Or is this just another liberal rationalizing her way out of her slacker ways?”

    Probably ;-> (I thought that Levi’s defense of coffee drinking was silly.) That said, I think that the basic thrust of this post is right on. Mormonism is all about defining deviancy up. I think that we can get most of our I-am-a-wild-rebel kicks by engaging in relative rather than absolute deviance, which means standards serve as much to facilitate non-destructive deviance as to to facilitate perfect compliance.

    The absolute best example of this, of course, is the BYU dress and grooming code.

  17. D. Fletcher says:

    I do all the things on the list, but not because of rebellion, or trying for non-conformity. Most of those things mark our modern life — nothing to feel guilty about.

    “I Believe In Christ” would like you to believe that it’s 4 verses long, but it’s really 8, since the melody comes around twice in each verse. It’s exhausting, and I refuse to program it in our ward.

  18. D.

    I Believe In Christ works best when Bruce R. breaks in after the first verse to read in stentorian voice the second and third verses.

  19. I think it’s okay to cook with wine because the alcohol cooks off. That’s what I was told, anyway.
    I have a really good recipe for chicken with white wine and garlic and green onions.

    I allow myself not to like my stake president.

  20. Kathleen! I’ve missed the window on your other posts, but I’m glad you’re still posting. I always enjoy them.

    That said … I think the general thrust behind the safety-valve sins is correct. I also think it highlights a tricky tension in mormon theology: becoming one (as in becoming unified with God, families, friends, etc.) and becoming one (as in becoming a self-actualized and fully-realized individual).

    On one level we strive for unity, and on another for the unique. Re: “I Believe in Christ,” notice how many of our hymn focus on our own individual testimony and experience—we are always being encouraged to develop and know for our own unique selves. Perhaps individual knowledge of One Truth provides for both unity and the unique.

    So it doesn’t surprise me to hear that many of us want to find ways to assert our own individuality against what we want to perceive as the homogenous background of our religious faith and culture. On my mission the big thing members talked about this way was a hot herbal (and very traditional) drink called mate (mah-tay). Mmmm. So I think the SVsins are somewhat culturally contextualized.

    PS I purposefuly try to find ways to get the YM leadership to do things the ward normally asks the YW to do … even when my comments in ward council are a tad contentious …

    PPS Yes, I’m that Jenny.

  21. I do some of things on your post–but it is not to be different–it is sincerely because I don’t think they are wrong–and I don’t think the church thinks they are wrong–I don’t think a lot of the stuff on your list is “doctrinal” at all. Maybe the irony is that you think they are sins–and tehy aren’t.

  22. I have to believe you’re joking on more than half of those but you do have a point. Damn and hell were always acceptable words growing up (my parents couldn’t shake ’em and didn’t expect us to) but I guess saying them in front of ward members does make me feel cool. Another safety-valve sin for me is eating meat un-sparingly. We all know how valued that counsel is.

  23. Nothing on this list bothers me. I’m square with God and don’t care what the neighbors think.

  24. Jelly Man,

    Reading BCC (and Dialogue) is like the forbidden fruit. It’s a transgression, not a sin, and actually leads to greater light and knowledge.

  25. Wearing a rock’n’roll t-shirt to church activities.

  26. Reading non-church/non-religious books during church meetings.

  27. If you come from a rural background, you probably smoked cornsilk stogies out behind the barn.

  28. My safety valve sin is the movie Blazing Saddles.

  29. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, Ronan #24, I bet you’ve just been waiting for a good time to pull that line out! Very funny stuff.

  30. Yeah, Kevin. I mean, BCC is Satan’s Blog, but as we all know, Ol’ Beelzebub did us a favour.

  31. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 19 Yes, but if you sniff what you’re making you inhale the escaping alcohol molecules and they rush directly into your bloodstream. You’re been free-basing booze all these years!

    Just kidding. Maybe. I’m not sure if that is true or not but I heard it once. Any chemists here?

    My personal favorite is when Mormons swear in code by slightly changing words like “f–k.” They’ve even picked that up on the new Battlestar series. Fracking cylons!

  32. OK,

    I doubt that anybody cares about the things on the list.

    Just to give you an idea. 5-7 of my current Bishopric members and PH leaders, ward clerk etc regularly have facial hair. PEC looks like 1880 or something. Its Goatee’s galore

    I guess if you wanted to you could see the list as safety valves. I think thats a function of personality. I do quite a few of the things on the list. But thats just cause I care more about the big stuff and do not sweat small things.

  33. Mike,

    What if you swear for real?

    A favourite way for me to figure out whether someone is going to be a buddy-Mormon is to drop a few verboten words in their company and see how they react. My best friend in my old ward was destined to be my best friend as soon as I said “damn” and he said “hell” in the car on the way back from a home teaching visit.

  34. When I was a teenager in Southern California the prophet at that time, Joseph Fielding Smith and his wife Jessie Evans Smith visited the area and held a youth meeting.

    Imagine the gruff, authoritative President Smith. His wife was the polar opposite, almost ditzy. You wondered how they ever got together.

    She got up to speak and told a story very similar to the Dialogue essay (which I can’t access, the link doesn’t work). Once when traveling through Nevada with her husband on the way to some stake conference she begged a quarter off him, put it in a slot machine when he wasn’t looking and hit the jackpot, much to her husband’s chagrin. Imagine how all of us teenagers reacted to that story.

    Another highlight was when she cajoled him into siging a duet with him. The gruff apostolic exterior of President Smith melted away and we got to see a little bit of the man who probably courted that woman by singing together in her parlor.

  35. Space Chick says:

    So Kathleen, are you suggesting that Church leadership deliberately allows all these silly cultural rules to persist precisely so people can have “safety valves”?

  36. I have enjoyed reading everyone’s posts. (Hi, Jenny. How is Lucy?) The piece wasn’t intended to be taken too seriously. None of the sins and heresies mentioned is going to keep anyone from serious spiritul progress. In my own case, however, good little socialized do-bee that I am, I am always conscious of stepping slightly outside a line if I think or do one of them. Mentioning any of them might bring laughter, but sometimes it is nervous laughter. Conformity is valuable if you want to get anything done; ask anyone who has been a den mother. Sometimes, though, I need a breath of non-conforming air.

  37. Space Chick, thinking about your question, I’m wondering if maybe it’s just under the “everybody’s human” category. I’d sure like to see the Quorum of the 12’s list under this topic.

  38. Last year the sisters in my Utah stake were asked to dress more appropriately. Whatever that means. We were given a long list of do’s and don’ts read over the podium by the bishop from a letter penned by the stake presidency. Included in the letter was a recommendation for the sisters to wear nylons. Soon, every woman in the ward was wearing nylons as a badge of faith. I have resisted, of course. As long as my hem is long enough and my legs aren’t too Sasquatchian, I’m not subjecting myself to the Tyranny that is Pantyhose. I guess that baring my legs is just one of my MANY “safety-valve sins.” That and leaving the room anytime the funereal song, “I Believe In Christ,” begins to play.

  39. Beware of the spring wound too tight. We brought an Italian dessert to a dinner group that had a filling made with wine. A High Counselor and his wife wouldn’t touch it because they thought it was inappropriate. He was later disfellowshipped for a nasty cocaine habit. At least my dessert didn’t lead him astray.

  40. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 33 I seem to draw that type of Mormon, Ronan. My only (active) LDS acquaintances all clearly relish hanging out with the gay guy and showing me that they too can swear, drink cola, etc. Maybe that’s my role. Ironically, I’m the one who instinctively uses smarmy pseudo-cursing like “Oh my gosh.” One of my colleagues finally said “What kind of f—–g boy scout are you, anyway?” to which I responded “A darn good one!”

    re: 39 LOL. That’s a great story. It’s just like how sometimes the most moralistic men are the ones busted with all the porn, ya’ know?

  41. Mine are silly. Mostly it’s TV shows I wasn’t allowed to watch as a kid like “The Simpsons.” Also I let myself indulge in a thorough hatred of “Love at Home” because everyone feels the need to gliss all over the place during the chorus instead of singing discrete notes. “LooooooovVAAAAATTTTHHHOOooome!” Ugh! And sometimes I wear my pink converse tennis shoes to church.

  42. Buying a lottery ticket- any time the jackpot is over $10 million (who wants to win less than $10 million?)

    Not voting Republican – don’t have any in Canada, even our conservatives are liberals

    Drinking caffeinated soft drinks – no, but only because I don’t drink anything carbonated.

    Allowing a discreet piercing or tattoo – almost got a tat in Vegas once, but chickened out

    Growing some facial hair – I love visiting my sister at BYU, I’d always grow a goatee before I went, the bad boy factor was off the chart, her roomates loved it!

    Watching sports on Sunday – always

    Jogging on Sunday- too busy watching football/hockey

    Thinking “I Believe in Christ” is way too long
    Refusing to keep a journal – YES!!! Couldn’t agree more! I loath this song!

    Violating the Sunday dress code – whenever possible. I am the YM president and the 1st coucelor took a shoot at me this past Sunday by congratulating the boys for dressing appropriatly when passing the sacrament. He was staring at me the whole time…must have been my blue shirt.

    Not having a picture of a temple or a framed copy of the Proclamation to the World prominently displayed – almost got into a fight with the Elders quorum councelor who said it was the job of home teachers to see if these things were displayed in the homes of their teachees, and if not to make some “suggestions”.

    Skipping Sunday School – always, until I was called as Gospel Doctrine teacher

    Married to non-member – yes, and too the amazement of many extremely happy. Said non-member wife wore (gasp!) pants to church on Sunday because it was cold out.

    Swearing – like Ronan I pick my friends among those who do, and avoid those who don’t. I’m not British, but bloody hell! is a favorite of mine.

  43. I think safety valves ought to be part and parcel of the missionary discussions.

  44. Mark Butler says:

    This is rather relevant:, per “any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too“.

  45. Starfoxy #41,

    If you really want to condemn yourself to hell, when you sing “Love at Home” swap “when there’s” to “making.” The hymn will take on a whole new meaning…

  46. I have a real problem with these things being set up as “sins.” I don’t think we should make the gospel more or less than what it is.

    In my ward, there are several women who wear pants to sacrament meeting. They are nice pants, and they seem to be truly wearing their best, which is the principle. It pains me to think that when they visit other wards of the church, they might be seen as “heretical.”

    The danger I see with the “safety valve” approach is that it is all about attitude. And adopting a rebellious attitude can lead to “offenses” that are less “safe,” such as the coffee-drinking, which would keep one out of the temple.

    But then, I don’t think the church values conformity, leastways where I live. We see the diversity that various members bring as a strength. For the first few decades of my life, I was disparaged and disdained as a nerd. When I joined the church, my talents were suddenly appreciated as contributing to the greater good. Nobody tried to make me into something different.

  47. I’ve got all you chumps beat: I have a BR McConkie tattoo on my forearm. Also, I hit my kids.

  48. Chas Brown says:

    This brightened my otherwise terrible day
    thank you

    How about not using one scripture or general authority quote in a SM talk?

  49. How about using the NRSV at church instead of the KJV?

  50. Mathew: Sorry about the extra “t”. I don’t think that you actually read my comments, but I enjoyed the irony in yours (#14).

  51. BrianJ,

    I read your comments. I think I also comprehended them–but opinions will differ.

  52. Mark Butler #44,

    Surely so.

    But I guess much of what is at discussion here is whether or not those types of things really fall under the category of Celestial Law or, rather, under fake commandments.

    Even when our attitudes are those healthy ones of staying away from the edge, I think we hurt more than we build when we preach these things from the pulpit. It makes us look petty, to say the least.

  53. I think the number of Mormons who’ve apocraphally stuck a quarter in a slot machine and pulled the arm and won the jackpot probably exceeds the total number of jackpots won on Vegas one-armed jackpots.

    Seriously. I’ve heard this Morman Legend about 15 times, all relating to different individuals.

    As for me, my safety valve is shooting down Mormon legends and variations of Paul H. Dunn stories when I hear them at Church.

  54. I’ve discovered that iconoclasm takes way too much energy. It’s a trait I like in other people, however.

    If I had a safety valve, it would be fasting. I don’t feel spiritual, and it gives me a terrible headache. :( I don’t like it. I swear I’ve tried. Even after I’ve eaten again the headache stays, so the whole day except for church is spent curled up in bed. That just can’t be the idea.

  55. Kathleen, I hated your list. However tongue-in-cheek it may have been, it was a reminder that “offenses,” such as the ones you list, really do cause certain members of the church to cringe. And why do you have to declare yourself a “liberal” anyway? For me, all of this falls under the category of “So what!” Must we really apologize for following the dictates of our hearts instead of the preconceived notions of certain holier-than-thou members?

    This entire blog screams “OTHER!” Live your lives, people. You can congregate here in the name of liberalism if you want, but I really think you would do more good if you expressed your opinions in church and in front of “real” people so that they could see your heart and not just your rhetoric. It’s all about the heart anyway, isn’t it? You make it hard on those who DO have alternate opinions and viewpoints, but who feel left out of the Mormon mainstream simply because they DON’T follow the rules on this list, and don’t feel bad about it either.

    Why do we have to be cookie-cutter models of each other anyway? Come out, let people see who you are, celebrate your differences, and stop making yourselves so “acceptable.” It doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help anyone else either. If you ask me, the greater “sin” is living one life while promoting another. Do you really think you’re going to undermine our testimonies with your “safety-valve” sins? You might actually make the rest of us feel as “normal” as we really are. Just something to think about.

  56. Steve Evans says:

    justme, thanks for coming out.

  57. Steve Evans says:

    (read: sarcasm)

  58. Sarcasm isn’t necessary. It is obvious that you have misunderstood my post.

  59. justme, I am literally laughing out loud at your latest comment. The irony levels are OFF THE CHARTS! You show no real sign that you read, let alone understood, Kathleen’s post. I’m not sure how you stumbled your way in here, but let me give you some of your own advice:

    I really think you would do more good if you expressed your opinions in church and in front of “real” people so that they could see your heart and not just your rhetoric. It’s all about the heart anyway, isn’t it?

  60. And you show no signs that you even tried to understand mine. But if it amuses you, fine. As for having “stumbled [my] way in here,” you have made my point better than I could have made it myself.

  61. justme, if I’ve made your point better than you could have made it yourself, I assure you it was completely unintentional. Aside from expressing a weird rant, I didn’t know your comment had a point at all — promise!

  62. Your rudeness is unwarranted.

  63. Steve Evans says:

    Sorry justme; you’ve caught me on a Monday morning by posting an ill-worded rantish comment to a thoughtful post by one of my favorite people. A losing battle if e’er there were one.

  64. It might surprise you to know that Kathleen is one of my favorite people as well, and, knowing her personally as I do, I really doubt she would have reacted as you have. I could be wrong. . .

  65. Steve Evans says:


  66. You don’t let up, do you?

  67. Steve Evans says:


  68. Steve Evans says:

    ok, ok. I’m sorry for being over-the-top rude in response to your comment, justme. I still don’t get your remarks, and think you were wrong, blind, foolish, etc., etc., but I’ve thrown enough mudballs in your direction for one morning. I apologize for the harrassment and promise to be nicer to you from now on.

  69. For me, all of this falls under the category of “So what!

    Not a very good way to treat one of your favorite people. But that’s justme.

  70. If calling me “wrong, blind, foolish, etc., etc.,” is your idea of apology, I’d rather you kept it to yourself.

  71. Steve Evans says:

    no, justme, that was my idea of still disagreeing with you but coyishly framing it in a wrapper of hyperbole, which you took literally. Sigh.

  72. justme, thanks for your comments. Although I liked the original post for this thread — while you didn’t — I can see the basis for some of your concern. In particular, I agree that Mormons sometimes limit ourselves with labels, walling our “perfect” subset of Mormons off from conversation with others by declaring ourselves not their kind of person. That’s an anti-Christian attitude; Christ’s instruction is for us to be one. So I share the concern that you express with not reinforcing such divisions.

    At the same time, I think this post is helpful in that it opens up a conversation that many of us are too sheepish to have without someone giving us “permission” by starting the conversation for us. So I think I can see why Steve and CJ reacted to your very negative comments as they did; we at BCC have a firm prejudice in favor of civil and respectful discourse.

    Steve also fell a bit short of the norm with respect to civil discourse in his comments this morning. Sorry about that! I’ll give him his meds in a minute and then we’ll get back to normal…

  73. #70, By “So what!” I meant that I don’t CARE if she is a liberal. I like her that way. What I DO care about is that we accept each other for what we ARE, not what we AREN’T, or what everyone thinks we SHOULD be. Go ahead and use your intelligence to mock me. It is a waste of your God-given talent.

  74. Conversations over the internet are tricky. You can’t see people’s facial expressions or hear the tone of their voice. Instead we have to rely on the words alone to understand the true meaning of a comment. Often people use CAPS or exclamation points! to make up for these limitations, as you have. That being said, your original post jumped out of the screen at me. I agree with a lot of what you said but I imagined that for Kathleen it would have been a harsh way to learn that you disagreed with her.

  75. #73, I sincerely apologize for writing “negative” comments, but thanks for trying to understand. I would try to explain, but I don’t think it would do any good. I am clearly out of my league. I have never posted on a Mormon website before. I’m just tired of being beat up by fellow Mormons, not that that was Kathleen’s intention, I realize. But we DO criticise others for the types of things that were on her list. I find it frustrating, for as mainstream Mormon as I am (or try to be), I often feel like a misfit—no more so than today.

  76. justme,
    Just roll with the punches. I’ve been reprimanded by Steve on more than one occasion. He’s a little over protective of this space but means no harm by it. And if you read the comments to the post, most of them confessed being partakers of most of Kathleen’s “safety sins”. So you’re in good company-we’re all misfits.

  77. Steve Evans says:

    “a little over protective of this space”

    WHAT?!?!?!? TAKE THAT BACK!!!

  78. meds please?

  79. I’m tired of being a misfit. In any other circle, no one would bat an eye at my lifestyle or my decisions relating to it. I find myself becoming alientated with the Church, or, rather, the people in it. It is breaking my heart and I don’t know what to do about it.

  80. Sorry, I meant to type “alienated.” I’m more articulate than you might think.

  81. justme, one way to deal with feeling alienated from people in the church is to hang out here at BCC. Either you’ll find some sympathetic viewpoints or at least you’ll realize that there are a lot of rather alien Mormons out there.

  82. hardlyperfect says:

    Living in the northeast,otherwise known to residents of Utah as the realms of outer darkness, the items on the list are not viewed by the majority as grey areas, safety valves, or guilty pleasures. They are simply facets of our daily lives. Of course, it remains to be said that that is proably because the church really isn’t true here… as has been implied by the cookie cutter citizens of Provo and Idaho Falls for many years.

  83. hardlyperfect,
    Atleast you’re not generalizing and stereotyping like they do.

  84. I don’t mean to be unkind, but I don’t think hanging out at BCC would help my feelings of alienation. Aside from a rough intro, I really don’t think I would fit in very well anyway. I don’t deal well with the type of badinage I have experienced here. Frankly, it hurts.

    On one hand, I admire the type of intellect that can and does explore the mysteries of God, not to mention ferreting out some of the lesser known aspects of Church History. On the other hand, I don’t personally find it necessary. The gospel is much simpler for me than it seems to be for most of you. Perhaps *I* am more simple, but I don’t want to be criticized for it. I am happy to take a lot of things on faith. It doesn’t mean I am stupid.

    All I want, really, is to be accepted for who I am. I don’t regard any of you as “alien” Mormons, and I don’t want to be thought of that way myself. My rant, if you will, was designed to encourage you to take your attitudes and opinions to church rather than hashing them over in the safety of this forum, where the bulk of people feel exactly as you do, or so it seems. What I’m saying is, OWN your safety valves. Guilt is so destructive.

    I’m terribly idealistic, I’ll admit, but I would like to think that it is people like you and others on this forum who could expand the tolerance of more close-minded Mormons, simply by admitting, or accepting, or just not apologizing for feeling as you do. Why should it be shameful to admit that you hate the song “I Believe in Christ”? It doesn’t mean you hate Christ himself. There is room for everyone in this Church, not just those who follow party line or walk right down the center of the path. Just don’t fall off it. That’s how I feel.

  85. justme, I think it’s a bit problematic to assume that writers and readers at BCC don’t “take [our] attitudes and opinions to church.” I know that I do. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine how one might do otherwise. Nor is it the case that BCC is an echo chamber of the like-minded; I can’t remember a single major statement that I’ve made here which hasn’t been vigorously contested.

  86. J., I really don’t know any of you well enough to assume anything. It is just my impression. I know a lot of people who are not as forthcoming with their ideas in church as they might be on a relatively anonymous forum or with their personal friends. If you are, then I applaud you. Personally, I find it difficult to be as forthcoming with my ideas as I would like, and this is what I am fighting against. As Kathleen says, our church “values conformity.” Because of that, and because I am a peace-loving person, I am careful not to stoke the fires with people who I already know disapprove of my ideas. In my circle of friends, it is the Mormons who are the meanest, most judgmental people I have encountered. Sad, but true.

    I have seen the debating that goes on here (which is why I felt free to jump in), but I should not have made it sound like you are all like-minded. It does appear that liberals would be more comfortable here than more traditionally-minded Mormons. Please note that I do not follow this forum so my impressions may be flawed. And, with that, I think I would like to leave now. I much prefer face-to-face communication.

  87. katie, #54: you just have to get pregnant. being pregnant and then nursing saves you from fasting. as a token of sacrifice, i will abstain from some things, sure, but three pregnancies in the past 3.5 years means it’s been a looooong time since i’ve REALLY fasted. i do feel guilty, though, when someone sees me at the drinking fountain. and i’ve learned to hide any anti-morning sickness snacks from primary kids!


  1. […] Kristine’s post at By Common Consent discussed various ‘little sins’ that people commit here and there. And the idea was raised that perhaps some of those commandments are there specifically to be broken. For example, when one feels like a rebel and gets a thrill out of drinking green tea, they get to feel the rush without doing anything really wrong. […]

%d bloggers like this: