Friday, October 28, 2022

Part 5 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real"

In Part 1 of Debunking "30 Bizarre Mormon Rules You Won’t Believe Are Real", I covered the first five of thirty different false narratives about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our beliefs. If you're jumping into this current post from a search engine result, I recommend reading at least the first part of Part 1 for better context before continuing. I'll wait here. 😁

All done? Let's get cracking with these next five, shall we?

Young women at a youth activity
Young women at a youth activity

21. Church Dress Code

There is a strict dress code at Church which stipulates men must wear a white shirt and tie and females are forbidden from wearing trousers. This is to separate the sexes as to their duties within the home. The male is the bread winner and goes out to work to support the family and the female, in her dress or skirt, will cook and clean.
This one is related to #18 in Part 4 in that there is no "strict dress code" in the sense that anyone gets punished or excommunicated. There are traditional and cultural expectations, most of them on their way out, that most people follow with regard to how to dress at formal church meetings.

In the home, there is no dress code whatsoever. I guess that for members who have been through the temple and now wear the symbolic undergarment, we do have the expectation that a person at least wears a t-shirt and shorts over them. That is more to honor the sacredness of what those garments symbolize and not to "show them to the world" of people who have not made temple covenants. 

But other than that, if he knows what's good for him, no LDS man living in this modern world is going to tell his wife she has to dress like June Cleaver. She'll dress however she wants. And vice versa. No LDS man is going to force his wife into any task or role. She, herself, gets to choose of her own free will what she does in the home. Ideally, though, husbands and wives will counsel together and mutually choose what they do, and wear, inside or outside the home. 

Men and women are equals in the Church and neither is allowed to exercise any form of autocracy or unrighteous dominion over the other.
22. Piercings

That should read ‘lack of them’ if Mormon rules are to be abided by. Females may have their ears pierced but only once at each side whereas males are not permitted to get anything pierced, not even their nipples! It’s all to do with purity and disfiguring the body which, in turn, means you are not totally committed to your religion.

This relates back to what I talked about in #14 (tattoos). The same principles apply. Culturally, it was the (mostly Western) custom for a long time, until the last 30-40 years, to have one piercing in each ear for women and none for men.

But the prophetic counsel, again, is about the extremes of bodily mutilation that has manifested itself in a slippery slope competition of "Piercing Bingo" about who can put the most holes into their bodies the fastest. That slippery slope has paved the way for more than just piercings. There are now a great many other types of mutilations that are not only medically unnecessary and inadvisable, but also irreversible, highly risky, and even deadly.

None of us, at the relatively young ages when tattoos and piercings are first desired, is able to query far enough ahead to get permission from our future selves for the permanent things we are thinking of doing to our bodies. That goes not only for piercings and tattoos, but for drug use, risky stunts, single motherhood, and not taking care of our bodies through diet and exercise.

23. Teachings

Each member of the Church must visit other members once a month and deliver ‘teachings’. For men these are called home teachings and for women they are visiting teachings. The Church will do random tests on members around 3 o 4 times a year to check their knowledge.
As I've prepared this series of posts, every time I've read this one I chuckle in both amazement and in dismay. Not so much twistedness of this narrative, but at the fact that this is, counterintuitively, one of the most difficult parts of our faith to get right.

Yes, in the past we had a program for what was called "Home Teachers" and "Visiting Teachers". The former role was automatically expected of all of the men and the latter of all of the women. The idea was that, yes, once per month we would formally visit each person or family assigned to our stewardship and offer a lesson, counsel, prayer, and any material assistance we could.

However, it was never a thing that we would do random knowledge tests on members. Not even once, ever, let alone three or four times per year. This honestly sounds like an accusation some disaffected member made up after they didn't like being visited by people who were just trying to fellowship with them. You know, like Christ and the apostles counseled us to do in the early Christian church.

The problem has always been a willingness to go out and serve in that capacity. Lots of men and women didn't enjoy having an assignment "route" to commit to each month. And some families simply didn't enjoy regular assignment-based visits to their homes. I get it. I'm one of them. 

It's not that we didn't appreciate their efforts or couldn't make time for them (though some families do struggle with that). It was more that my family prefers more organic friendships that happen to have a spiritual component to them. Someone showing up with a lesson to teach is never not going to feel like an obligation to us.

But, there are also many members of the church who absolutely love being assigned to and receiving visits from various members. Especially men and women who are widowed or single and/or who are shut-ins due to health issues.

A few years ago, the program of Home and Visiting Teaching was revised. It is no longer called that but is now called Ministering. It brings things closer in line with what God has always expected: that we more voluntarily seek out our brothers and sisters outside of church meetings and seek fellowship with (or minister to) them. 

Yes, there are still assignments (someday we'll get it right and this will all be totally natural because of increased love towards one another). But the visits are no longer tracked individually, nor is it even expected that visits occur at all. Members simply try to make some kind of conversational contact, however minimal and however seems most natural. It can be a short "how ya doing" conversation in person at church, going out to lunch, stopping by occasionally with baked goods (yes!!), and even emails and text messages. It can be offers of service like babysitting, yard work, or giving someone a priesthood blessing when they're sick. 

We strive to tailor our ministering to the individual needs of each member in our care. Exactly what Christ taught.
24. No Abortion

Members of the Church strongly oppose abortion and refuse to allow it as one of the Commandments says ‘ Thou shalt not kill’. Church leaders have opened the possibility for abortion in extreme instances such as danger to the mother’s life, incest and rape.
So far, this is the only one that has been true insofar that we change it to say "most members" instead of implying that it's all members. 

I personally know many members who are very progressive in their stance on abortion. Up to and including the moment of birth (and some even after, sadly). They have not been excommunicated and they continue to attend Church meetings and go to the temple. The Church does not dictate exactly what opinions every member will have. The only time the Church gets involved in the membership status of anyone along these lines is when the member is intentionally working to draw away other members from Gospel doctrines.

In the Church of Jesus Christ, we are taught that life is sacred at every stage, from conception to birth and beyond. Obviously, murder is 100% "right out" (as the British say). We believe Jesus meant what He said when He stated:

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Abortion, in terms of Church policy, has some grace-based gray areas when it comes to the mother's life, incest, and rape. However, abortion is not automatically prescribed in church policy in those instances. 

While choice is respected in those situations, leaders are still within their stewardship to counsel members seeking abortions, if only to ask them to seek revelation from God as to what the truly best course of action is. While it may be that God will reveal to the member seeking the abortion that it is ok to do so for their particular circumstance and life plan, He may choose to reveal to another that a bigger blessing will come from allowing the child to live than surgically or chemically ending its life. It's up to each woman to make her own decision from there.

In all cases, the member seeking the abortion still has their own choice. If it is done merely for convenience (i.e. not under the umbrella of the mother's life, rape, or incest), they can probably expect that a membership council will occur.

Men or women who are seeking to join the church, but have participated in an abortion in the past, are interviewed by the president of the mission in which they reside. The mission president can then provide baptismal authorization, or not, depending on the individual's circumstances and/or measure of repentance.

Statistically, not many LDS-member abortions under rape, incest, or the life of the mother circumstances have occurred. But among the few stories I've encountered, some women truly prayed and asked for knowledge of Heavenly Father's will and found they needed to carry the pregnancy to term. The phrase "beauty from ashes" definitely applies to those poignant and uplifting stories. Plenty of women outside the Church have also had similar experiences.
25. Pornography 
Mormons see pornography as a sin. Viewing it in a magazine or online is treated as seriously as burglary. They believe it is incredibly belittling to women to treat them as objects and again refer to the Commandments which say ‘Thou shalt not covet’.
Chalk up another true one. Yup. We do. It's treated as a "burglary" in the sense that the truly priceless purity and dignity of any person who is featured in pornography have been stolen. 

The person who is viewing it is being robbed (or is allowing themselves to be robbed) of purity, dignity, self-respect, and an addiction-free life.

A huge amount of pornography is driven by the powerful and violent human trafficking industry. Here are some statistics that drive this fact home.

By now (2022), in absence of the most recent data and at the rate it has grown year over year prior, it is likely that over 80% of human trafficking is sex trafficking. An astounding amount of it is likely allocated to pornography. How could it not be, since online pornography has become a growth industry and child pornography has grown 35 percent between 2020 and 2021?

With all that we know academically and anecdotally about how it is produced and the toll it takes on individuals, families, and nations, anyone trying to argue that pornography is "harmless" or that those against it are "puritans" cannot be taken seriously.

Time to end this post, but there's more in Part 6!

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