Archive for April, 2007

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A Little Authority Goes a Long Way

April 30, 2007

by Carrie Ann

A lady in my congregation ASKED the bishop to be called as the “bread provider” for the weekly sacrament. She had sent her own cancer into remission by changing her eating habits, and felt that the morsel of white bread she ate every Sunday morning might reverse her hard work. This was in 1986, when healthy eating meant iceberg lettuce salads, Diet Coke, and huge bowls of pasta; whole grains were still confined to communes at this point. Even to my now health-conscious palate her bread was pretty gross. There were many children (and adults) on our ward who only pretended to take the sacrament…for years.

As for taking callings too seriously, there are a few who do. And I admit, there have been instances when certain people have been suggested for callings within Young Women’s, and I could not get spiritual confirmation (would not allow myself?) because I had seen what that person had done when given “a little power”. That cracks me up. What also cracks me up is people who are defined by their callings, and people who constantly “hint” that they would just love to “be in Young Women’s” again! Hopefully, if I am taking my calling too seriously, I am hiding it well. After being in Young Women’s for almost 6 years, with 20 Mia Maids at a time, and considering their various “problems”, I worry that I am not taking it seriously enough.

I’m just glad that I have not been called to scouts yet (did I just jinx myself?). Because I fear becoming one of those adult scout leaders who wear their uniforms everywhere: wedding receptions, the grocery store, church… But I will never let that happen; khaki is just not my color.

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Rituals of Rudeness

April 29, 2007

by Ronan

I have a suspicion that I was asked to write about “courtesy” because
I’m British. Apparently, being a Brit means that manners, politeness
and etiquette are part of my DNA. This is rubbish, of course. Britain
is as much the country of the football hooligan as it is Jane Austen
and Her Majesty the Queen. Has anyone ever watched Prime Minister’s
Questions in full swing? The House of Commons is a den of
contradiction. Members call each other the “Honourable Gentleman” or
the “Right Honourable Lady” whilst simultaneously screaming insults
and abuse.

In general I believe in being courteous and having good manners,
disagreeing without being disagreeable, and all that. But there are
exceptions to this rule, times when rudeness is imperative. Rosa Parks
was being rude when she refused to give up her seat. Ghandi’s Salt
March to Dandi was rude. Tipping tea in Boston Harbour was rude.

Too often, it seems, calls to courtesy in politics are calls to
sugarcoat difficult issues and stifle dissent. If there is a
deficiency in the American system of government it is that the head of
state is also the leader of a political party and chief of the
executive branch. Most countries get around this by having a
figurehead president or constitutional monarch, thereby taking the
patriotic sheen from chancellors and prime ministers. When Tony Blair
enters the room no “Hail to the PM” greets him. Instead, pomp and
reverence is reserved for the Queen who remains aloof from partisan
matters.

Cue BYU and the Cheney “controversy.” I find it unfortunate that some
people feel obligated to “do honor to the office” regardless of the
character of the man inhabiting it. When a partisan figure like Mr.
Cheney comes to a university campus, he ought to be fair game for
protest. I’m not necessarily talking about egg-pelting here and
certainly in person there would be little gained by screaming in a
politician’s face, but organised rituals of rudeness serve democracy
well. Our leaders should be wary of the people they govern and silence
in the name of courtesy is “rude” both to our nations and the
principles they hold dear. It instead only stokes the egos of the
rulers. This is both stupid and dangerous.

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Betimes with Sharpness

April 29, 2007

In my experience, there is a tendency for we Mormons to be judgmental.  I can’t think of a reason for this, since the Lord repeatedly tells us not to be judgmental.  Probably we just like looking at ourselves as being in the right.

Along with any tendency to judgmentalism comes a tendency to judge vocally, offer advice, and demand respect.  These are also failings I have found among the Saint, though I hardly think we are alone in it.  In any case, we do have  tendency to think that when we get a little power, that gives us the right to comment on everyone else.

Of course, it doesn’t.  However, sometimes we like to think that the Lord calls on us to rebuke.  In those cases, we are just being instruments in the Lord’s hands (mean, spiteful, bitter instruments).  Usually, I think we are wrong when we think this way.

To that end, I offer my unsolicited advice.  If you ever believe it time to call another to repentance or to demonstrate the superiority of your belief, stop and ask yourself if you really want to do this.  If you do, I would assume that the Lord doesn’t want you to.  If you don’t, then it may be necessary.

Good luck with that.

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On Courtesy

April 27, 2007

by Alice

There was a moment in my life when I thought that Mormons were the least courteous people ever. I viewed them as a group of judgmental tattle-tales who took pleasure and felt success from others “failure.” I could provide examples to support why I felt this way, but what would be the point?

Then, almost exactly eight years ago, I moved to San Francisco and discovered that it isn’t Mormons who have the corner on the market for lack of courtesy. It is humans in general, myself included at times. I just happened to live in a place with a lot of Mormons and so I applied actions by individuals that seemed cruel or hurtful to an entire religion. Moving made me realize that this judgement was misguided. Ass-holes are ass-holes, plain and simple.

When I look at the life I used to live versus the life I live today, I’m forced to recognize that courtesy plays a very prominent role in the Mormon religion. The gospel is literally the gospel of Christ, and Christ, hands down, has an even better reputation than Miss Manners for being courteous. But the Mormon religion takes courtesy to an entirely different level, it takes it further than Christ’s gospel: Courtesy is carved into the daily lives of the religions members. For instance, every family in the church is assigned two home teachers to assist with their physical, mental, and religions well being. Every adult woman in the Church is assigned two visiting teachers to assist with her physical, mental, and religious well being. Young men and young women create projects to assist their communities in an effort to earn their Eagle Scouts and Young Women in Recognition Award. The tithing, the monthly fast offerings, and the many other contributions and donations that all go to worthy causes across the world are viewed as courteous acts. And how can we forget the endless homemade casseroles and platters of Jell-O that find their way into the homes of families who have someone ill, or in the hospital, or struggling in any manner. And silly me, I must recognize the wedding punch and the funeral potatoes as their own courteous acts as well. I could go on and on forever, but my point quite simply is that, through their behavior, as a community, Mormons promote courtesy among one another.

Of course, even otherwise courteous Mormons can still be judgmental tattle-tales who take pleasure and feel success from others “failure.” But again, that’s just ass-holes being ass-holes.

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A Spoonful of Sugar

April 26, 2007

By JP 

When it comes to courtesy, much is dependent on how you were raised.  The examples and teachings you were shown growing up directly impact the courteous adult you may or may not turn out to be.  Sure, I grew up in a Christian (Mormon) family and surroundings, but I give full credit to my parents for applying Christian principles of courtesy into raising their family.  After all, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has witnessed or been a recipient of a Christian/Mormon interaction that is anything but courteous.

12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.  (Matt 7:12)

Do unto others as you would have done unto you.  The Golden Rule.  We’ve all heard of it…but do we all live by it?

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I took my oldest daughter out to breakfast after a particularly awesome soccer game.  (The awesome goal she made totally warranted a breakfast out, my friends.)  Our waitress, who was very nice, had made a slight error of not putting our order into the computer.  We had received our various juices, etc but it seemed that we had been waiting a very, very long time to receive breakfast.  We’re a courteous sort of family…but when the manager game out and asked how everything was we couldn’t help but ask where our food was.  Preparing for angry (hungry) customers, the mangers stammered on about the waitress forgetting the order, that she had placed a rush order for us and that he would comp our meal as an apology.  Understanding that mistakes happen, we kindly said thank you for the complimentary meal and also for the rush placed on our order.  The waitress brought our food not too long after that and was so embarrassed and apologetic.  Assuring her that we understood and that there really was no reason to worry she looked incredibly relieved and also a bit surprised.  In her line of work, I’m sure she (as her manager was) geared up for an angry tirade from our table.

My point here isn’t to show that nice and courteous behavior will get you a free meal when your order is forgotten.  We would’ve probably gotten a free meal for the mistake even if we had been nasty.  (But I’m sure not the huge container of freshly baked muffins.  I’m just saying.)  My point is that, more than anything, I felt good not being angry at the poor waitress who just made a simple mistake.  Glad that I used the courtesy I had been raised with and added a little kindness toward her for good measure.  I had also (hopefully) taught my daughter a little lesson in courtesy to those around us.  What it comes down to is that as a parent, I am responsible for teaching my daughters to be courteous to those around them.  We all are responsible for our actions and also our reactions.  I realize that this week’s topic is Courtesy AND the Gospel my take is that you can have one without the other.  I have seen many instances within the Gospel that would make you wonder if courtesy had ever been invented…and I have seen some pretty spectacular amounts of courtesy from people who don’t even believe in God. 

I just happen to be of the belief that courtesy and kindness (more often than not) breed more courtesy and kindness.  I think this world could use a little more of that.

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Mind Your P’s & Q’s

April 23, 2007

Courtesy and the Gospel
by Carrie Ann

Courtesy is often tossed onto the smoldering heap of Pollyanna virtues. It makes me think of  men in stiff Victorian collars and spats tipping their straw hats to corseted ladies with parasols. But then again, my heart swells with gratitude when another driver lets me into the long queue of traffic. That’s courtesy too!

But really, courtesy goes a long way. Ask anyone who works is the service industry. As a former retail executive with Macy’s department stores, I had plenty of opportunity to see the full spectrum of courtesy and non-courtesy. As a customer, you get a lot more out of being nice than you do out of being nasty and demanding. We would bend over backwards for a customer with a problem who was polite and calm. With nasty customers, it is very easy to just resort to policy. And as a manager, I could soothe any wild beast with genuine courtesy and kindness as opposed to snootiness, which was not always easy with someone screaming in your face.

So courtesy for gain… hmmm, it works for me. Most spiritual rewards have to wait for Heaven, but I see courtesy as something that can be rewarded in the here and now.

It’s like Karma. I believe in some form of Karma. I think my God must have another name for it, but it might sound a lot like courtesy.

I am an unapologetically positive person. Pollyanna to the core, but by choice, not by nature. I choose to create rather than destroy, and courtesy is in my toolbox. I am not always successful. Sometimes it feels SO GOOD to be nasty, to be a snob, to look better, richer, more MORE than you! Oh, but the bad vibes I am sending out into the universe when I do this!

I want my behavior to be infectious in a positive way. One courteous act from me might promote a courteous act from another, and another, and another, ad infinitum. Good vibes for the universe!

The idea of courtesy is very New Testament; very love-thy-neighbor. Courtesy allows me the opportunity to live above reproach. If I act with courtesy, most of the time I will have behaved in a Christ-like manner, but it’s a way I can be Christ-like without having to be super-human. That’s it! Courtesy is Christ-like, but human, attainable.

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WAR IS A NECESSARY EVIL THAT WE MUST CONTROL

April 22, 2007

By Tacitus

My name is Josh Kim. I am currently a student at BYU pursuing a degree in History. From 2001 to 2005 I was on active duty with the U.S. Marines and took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was a singular event in my life and I am still uncertain as to whether or not it was a good experience for me. Never before in my life had I seen such poverty and destruction. It was definitely unlike any war film I had ever seen. What do I think about the Iraq War and all wars? I think that war is a necessary evil. I think that the Global War on Terrorism is a necessary evil; innocent people were attacked on September 11, 2001 by 19 hijackers who saw no distinction between civilian and military targets. The only way to stop people like these is to kill them.

The Book of Mormon teaches us that we not only have a right to defend ourselves but it is also our duty. It is our duty to defend our women and children. It is our duty to defend the freedom that affords us the right to worship as we please, to conduct our lives as we see fit. I believe that all avenues of diplomacy should be exhausted before making the decision to go to war and once you do go to war, you’d better be prepared to wage total war until victory is one. You can neither fight nor win a war on half-measures. I believe that the Iraq War is a mistake. It saddens me to see my country be so misled and so disrespected in the world.

There is a book called Starship Troopers which was written in the 1950s by late sci-fi novelist Robert Heinlein. The film version, I must protest, is a horrid adaptation of the book; and that statement is no mere snobbery. The film only briefly touches upon philosophy and the debate on civic duty during peace and war. Much of the book is devoted to political and moral philosophy. The novel is on the reading list of nearly every branch of the Armed Forces and required reading for most military academies in the country. The book has been controversial for its perceived fascist tone. What I got out of the book is that there are things and principles worth fighting for and that everyone owes a duty to their nourishing society to help defend it. I believe that this defense should be shouldered equally by all segments of the population and not just by the willing few. There is a danger to any society when there is a growing emotional gap between those who serve in the military and those who do not. Military veterans feel that their peers who do not serve in the military are soft and vain narcissists. Military veterans are perceived to be either dupes or willing pawns of an illegal war. Neither is true. There must be a middle ground where the members of the Iraq War generation can come together in understanding and trust or else we risk repeating the Vietnam era in America.

I don’t believe that the Iraq War was necessary. It contradicts a longstanding policy of the U.S. in intervening only when there is an absolute vital interest or threat to national security. The Bush Administration mined for a reason to go to war. They embellished shoddy intelligence and bullied Parliamentarians into authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. When the original justification for war fell apart so did the support of the majority of Americans. I find it cynical for Bill O’Reilly or Oliver North to interview troops in Baghdad or Fallujah. Of course they are going to voice support of the President while in front of the cameras. Members of the military are punishable by the Uniformed Code of Military Justice if they contradict or saying anything derogatory about the President and his policies. If they are not court-martialed or disciplined they can expect a good butt chewing from their superiors. Many of the Marines I served with in Iraq in 2003 could not understand our presence in the region, particularly when there were no weapons of mass destruction. Now, many of them are against the war. They have voted with the feet. They have refused to reenlist, choosing to go on with their lives; the military must now spend at least $ 1 Billion in reenlistment incentives to retain personnel. The Army had to lower standards for enlistment in order to meet their quota. My fellow veterans and I feel that the sacrifices we made and the sacrifices of our fallen comrades have been squandered in an unworthy mission with no end in sight.

The Book of Mormon makes repeated mention of wars and rumors of wars in the latter days. I do not know if our time is indeed the latter days. Maybe it is a blanket term for all wars which take place after the end of the Nephite civilization. I do not know why wars break out nor do I know how this war figures in to the grand scheme of things. All I know is that while I cannot control the actions of kings and magistrates I can control my own actions. I am not a mere victim of circumstance. War is not a morass of immorality as one might think. There are differences between right and wrong, black and white.

When Giddianhi, the Gadianton leader, demanded that the Nephites surrender their cities over to the robbers, Lachoneus (The Chief Judge) responded by rallying and gathering his people together in the cities of Zarahemla and Bountiful. There they fortified themselves and fathered provisions because they knew that the robbers lived by plunder. Some of the Nephites wanted to go and destroy the robbers in their own lands but their chief captain Gidgiddoni, who happened to be a prophet, warned that if they went against the enemy in their own lands they would be destroyed. And so, they waited for the robbers to come out of their hiding places and mountain sanctuaries and when they did, they fell upon them with guerrilla like tactics that would make Vo Nguyen Giap proud.

I will end my wandering thoughts with a reference to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Brutus and his co-conspirators hoped that by killing Caesar they would end the tyranny and restore the Republic. Tragically, the new triumvirate would destroy Brutus and Cassius and it would be 13 more years of civil war between Antony and Octavius. By murdering Caesar, the conspirators created a great evil. Maybe the lesson here is that some things are better off left alone.