Who cares what the neighbors think?

May 18, 2007 | 129 comments
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You should.

Over at BCC, Norbert has posted a useful clarification of the familiar language in Thessalonians 5:22: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Read his post for the full discussion; in brief, Norbert concludes that “the scriptural justification for giving half a damn about what the neighbors might think appears to be a dodgy translation.”

Norbert may be right about the meaning of the verse in Thessalonians; I defer to the expertise of his sources and the corroborating views in the comments. But I think his conclusion is wrong. One doesn’t have to go to Thessalonians to find scriptural justification for the idea that we ought to care what our neighbors think, that we ought to attend to the spiritual effect of our choices not only on ourselves but also on those around us. Paul spends a great deal of time and language in Romans 14 on just this idea. (Perhaps he should have spent more; the passage remains a bit confused, and, imbricated as it is with unfamiliar dietary and ritual practices of early Christian converts, the effect is somewhat obscure, at least for this reader.)

If I have descried the meaning in this chapter, the relevant verses seem to be 13-15:

Let us not therefore judge one another any more; but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself, but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

The specific question here is the claim of kosher dietary laws on Christian converts from Judaism, but the larger principle seems to be this: whether or not a behavior is forbidden (either because it is immoral or because it is merely prohibited), it is uncharitable to engage in that behavior if it will spiritually harm one’s neighbors, leading them either to sin by judging unrighteously or to engage in the behavior themselves, believing it to be forbidden. In his excellent notes on the New Testament, Kevin Barney glosses the passage thus: “Paul is saying that if we take advantage of our Christian freedom to do things which hinder the spiritual development of others, we are doing evil.”

This seems to be a case in which a double standard applies: I ought not judge my neighbors for behavior that seems to me to be evil; but I ought to behave so that my neighbors will not be tempted to judge me for behavior that seems to them to be evil. Of course, one can imagine a scenario in which one must risk the neighbors’ misunderstanding in order to avoid a larger evil, and in that case the larger evil must be avoided. But in most circumstances, both can be avoided. We should care what the neighbors think.

(By the way, New Testament scholar I am not, and many if not most readers will have both a better knowledge of this passage and a better understanding of its meaning. I invite your readings, and your gentle corrections, if necessary.)

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129 Responses to Who cares what the neighbors think?

  1. Tom on May 18, 2007 at 11:02 am

    More than just avoiding placing stumblingblocks for our neighbors, there’s also the positive side to caring about what your neighbors think: “Let your light so shine . . .” Not only should we avoid things that would cause others to perceive us as bad, but we should do things that would cause them to perceive us, and the Gospel that we live, as good.

  2. DKL on May 18, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Jesus obviously didn’t care about the appearance of evil. According to the New Testament story he broke bread with publicans, engaged in the tirades against the Jews that have justified millennia of anti-semitism, and was executed a convicted criminal.

    For my part, I think that Jesus had it right. Associating with sinners is way more fun than associating with saints. And it’s often better for career prospects as well.

  3. Julie M. Smith on May 18, 2007 at 11:12 am

    Interesting post. The problem that I have with this is what we do when the rubber hits to road. For example, let’s say that some uppity old bat in my ward thinks that chocolate is a violation of the Word of Wisdom. Should I not bring brownies to the ward pot-luck out of deference to her nuttiness? What about the recent convert to the Church from an evangelical background: Should my nine-year-old not dress as Harry Potter at the trunk-or-treat because she thinks HP is satanic? Should we cancel trunk or treat entirely out of respect for her?

  4. Julie M. Smith on May 18, 2007 at 11:14 am

    I should also say that I think we are conflating two issues here:

    (1) Doing something OK that appears not-OK (i.e., drinking a virgin margarita at a Mexican restaurant out of concern that someone would think I was drinking alcohol).

    (2) Not doing something OK out of concern for someone who thinks that it is not OK (brownies at the potluck).

  5. DKL on May 18, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Julie, I think that you’re wrong about #1. It’s not OK to drink virgin margaritas, because they contain neither orange liqueur nor tequila. Yuck! It’s like drinking non-alcohol beer.

  6. Phouchg on May 18, 2007 at 11:19 am

    My life has become so much easier when I adopted the maxim “What somebody else thinks of me is none of my business”.

  7. annegb on May 18, 2007 at 11:20 am

    You know, Rosalynde, this is timely for me. I have a friend who is mostly inactive and sort of bitter, for good reason mostly. She attends another ward when she does go to church and criticizes our ward all the time.

    I stood by her in a situation that required it and was glad to do so. But I get tired of her constant kvetching.

    The other day she called me to gripe about a family in our ward and I told her that most of the ward feels awkward with the father, he’s very taciturn, to the point of rudeness. I was hoping she would feel validated and realize he’s just that way.

    “Then why do people respect him?” she asked. That was a break-the-camel’s-back moment for me.

    I replied, “Because he’s worthy of respect. He’s a good person, but he has flaws, as do you and I. I respect you, but you’re not perfect. I certainly am not.”

    She said, “I know, but he’s an active Mormon and he’s rude to my husband at work.”

    I said, “George (her husband) can be rude himself. Why do you expect more from Jack just because he goes to church? Jack’s been through hell this last year. Why isn’t there more compassion for him?”

    That took her back, probably offended her, she hasn’t called me since. But, back to your point, Rosalynde, I agree and disagree (my usual point of view LOL).

    I suppose it’s at it’s heart a high compliment that people expect more of active Mormons, but it’s also unfair. I feel quite motherly and nurturing toward others in my neighborhood, we’re good neighbors. I realize where much is given, much is expected and I try to give back. But where are the allowances for my humanity in my inactive neighbor’s mind?

  8. Julie M. Smith on May 18, 2007 at 11:22 am

    DKL,

  9. Mark IV on May 18, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Rosalynde,

    I don’t have any corrections to offer, gentle or otherwise, but I do want to contribute to the conversation.

    I agree that we should set good examples and make efforts not to create stumbling blocks for one another. But if we are not careful, this approach can give our neighbors veto power over our own behavior. The fact is that sometimes our neighbors have bad judgement and can safely be ignored. A personal example is the criticism I once received from a quorum member after he found out that our family had gone to the art museum. Since there are nude paintings there, he thought I was setting a bad example. I concluded that his objections did not apply.

    There are plenty of faithful Mormons who consider Signature Books to be an apostate enterprise. In fact, there are people who have lost their testimonies and left the church over something they read that was put out by Signature. Still, Times and Seasons provides a link to the website, and occasionally discusses books produced by that press. But it would be ridiculous to suggest that you are promoting apostacy, or that you ought to be more careful of appearances.

    I did have a really funny experience once. One Sunday morning, we discovered that we had run out of baby formula. This wasn’t just an ox in the mire, it was the whole herd. It didn’t bother me to go to the store on Sunday under those circumstances, but I did want to go somewhere I would not be recognized. I went to an Albertson’s store at least ten stakes away (this was in Utah) and ran into our bishop’s wife, who was there on the same errand.

  10. Matt W. on May 18, 2007 at 11:44 am

    One of my drinking friends once got me to get a virgin mudslide he bought for me. I thought it was hilarious, because it was pretty much chocolate syrup and whip cream. It was good because he clearly respected my choice not to dring, and I clearly respected his choice to drink, and we got along fine.

    But on the other hand, I would be very uncomfortable going to Hooters. (I’ve been 1 time since I joined the church for a bachelor party. Our Waiter was a girl I knew in high school. It was weird…)

  11. Pesach Chumitz on May 18, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Jesus obviously didn’t care about the appearance of evil.

    Nonsense. The Torah made numerous proscriptions of practices that were culturally alien and superfically connected to idolatrous practices so as to divorce them from the actually idolatrous practices of their neighbors. Jesus endorsed and observed the Law. What he rejected was the hypocritical and self-serving applications of it. Big difference.

    According to the New Testament story he broke bread with publicans,

    Eating with sinners is different from sinning with sinners. Eating is not a sin.

    engaged in the tirades against the Jews that have justified millennia of anti-semitism, and

    Tirades? An inflamitory characterization of his very measured responses to those seeking to murder him.

    was executed a convicted criminal.

    No. He was executed with convicted criminals. The ruling Roman authority pronounced him guilt free.

    For my part, I think that Jesus had it right. Associating with sinners is way more fun than associating with saints. And it’s often better for career prospects as well.

    For my part, I think you have it wrong. I can only assume you are writing in a satirical fashion.

  12. Frank McIntyre on May 18, 2007 at 11:47 am

    RW, I agree. I think that passage by Paul is a really important one, for all the difficulty in understanding it and applying it.

    Mark,

    “But if we are not careful, this approach can give our neighbors veto power over our own behavior. ”

    Oh yes, that is certainly my problem; caring too much about my neighbors so that they have veto power over my life. Definitely a major problem in the world is people caring too much about helping others be more comfortable. I say cut it out! :)

    Of course Paul’s counsel can be taken to the extreme, but so can “do unto others as you would have others do to you”. Usually this type of conversation consists of people arguing against the _other_ extreme and how bad it would be. And so the answer is to care for others’ views until the marginal costs exceed the marginal benefits. And if there is uncertainty about what the costs and benefits are, then do it until the expected marginal costs exceed the expected marginal benefits. Voila!

  13. Mark IV on May 18, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Our Waiter was a girl I knew in high school.

    Matt W.:

    I truly and sincerely hope that the word you were looking for there is *waitress*.

  14. HP on May 18, 2007 at 11:48 am

    “because she thinks HP is satanic?”

    MWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA

  15. Raphael Enos on May 18, 2007 at 11:49 am

    One must admit that Jesus wasn’t concerned about placing sticks in the spokes of the Pharisees, to the point even of goading them sometimes.

    To me it seems that one of the major points of His teaching method was to show us that what we think we know about what constitutes righteousness and perfection may be holding us back from really becoming righteous and perfect. He asks us continuously to challenge our own paradigms and to examine our belief systems and when we have a problem with a particular idea to work with it.

    I think that that is what makes these blogs worth doing. They let us examine and refine our own paradigms and thus, hopefully, come closer to the mind and will of God.

  16. Russell Arben Fox on May 18, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Whenever anyone brings up the costs and necessities of living in a community, of being part of project that obligates a certain amount of social concern above and beyond what pure rules or doctrines demand, people feel a need to fine-tune it and nail down particulars. What about the crazy person next door: do I have to conform to their expectations for the neighborhood’s sake? What about the unrighteous quorum member: is it correct to submit to his judgment for the sake of ward comity? I suppose this desire is natural for moderns like ourselves: we’re concerned about our own freedom and choices, and therefore want to make certain there will always be wiggle room for ourselves. I do it as much as anybody, and I’m not exactly haunted by my various self-interested negotiations.

    Still, it seems to me that there is something fundamentally wrong with approaching the issue in this way–that is, in treating the whole matter as an aggregration of discrete units, upon which we need to set limits so as make certain other units–other members, that is–don’t have “veto power” over ourselves. Rather, I think being baptized into a covenanted community–or just moving into a new neighborhood for that matter–should be seen as becoming part of a larger, positive whole; we aren’t “fitting in” or “making room for ourselves,” we’re “sustaining” or “submitting to.” Not all of those wholes are equally demanding of course: a family is intensely demanding, while my obligations to the human community of the world (or my philosophy reading group) are extremely small, and the whole that I’m building through my ward is somewhere in between. Still, they’re all there. So, when you ask yourself whether you should wear the white shirt to church or refrain from drinking the Coke or bring up an issue in Sunday School, we should probably be thinking in similarly positive terms: not “to what extent might this hurt others, and how might I be hurting myself by acknowledging that possibility?” but rather “what does this choice/behavior/question/whatever add to the communities I’m beholden to?” I suspect that such an approach wouldn’t leave us significant any less “free” of cares than our current, more common calculations, and would have numerous benefits besides.

  17. Russell Arben Fox on May 18, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    Of course Paul’s counsel can be taken to the extreme, but so can “do unto others as you would have others do to you”. Usually this type of conversation consists of people arguing against the _other_ extreme and how bad it would be. And so the answer is to care for others’ views until the marginal costs exceed the marginal benefits. And if there is uncertainty about what the costs and benefits are, then do it until the expected marginal costs exceed the expected marginal benefits. Voila!

    While I suspect that the methodological assumptions and economic framework of Frank’s recommendation may well do damage to our very ability to conceive of the question properly, the fact is his answer is substantively the same as my own. It is also shorter. So I think that means he wins.

  18. Adam Greenwood on May 18, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    I liked your answer as much as Frank M.’s. They both gave me lots to chew over.

  19. DKL on May 18, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Julie M. Smith,

  20. Mark IV on May 18, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Frank, # 11,

    See, that’s the danger of T&S. Not only do you have to watch out for apostates and lowlifes, but you can wind up associating with econ professors, too, if you’re not careful.

    I’m interested to know how you equation about marginal utility would apply to the following situations. They have all happened to me within the last two years.

    1. Museum experience described in comment 9.
    2. We invite neighbors (non-LDS) over for Sunday afternoon cookout. Within the week, three different people question our Sabbath observance.
    3. I give a lesson to the teacher’s quorum where I include an off-the-cuff reference to Harry Potter. Before we are even out of the church building, a mother of one of the boys takes me aside to say that she does not want me to introduce her son to satanic influences. See Julies’s # 3 above.

    I really do try to follow the spirit of Romans 14, and I appreciate what Rosalynde is getting at. But there comes a time when we also need to invoke what Brigham Young called The Mormon Creed: “Mind your own business”.

  21. ronito on May 18, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Yeah. DKL had it right. Appearance is just appearance. Keep in mind, Judas kept wonderful company and appeared in all the right places and appeared to do all the right things.

  22. mlu on May 18, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    I think Rosalynde gets it right at the top.

    It’s not an either/or question but a “how much” and “to what degree” question, in which principles must be weighed against each other. There are things that may matter more than the messages our appearances send, but this doesn’t mean that we should never be concerned about those messages.

    Except for DKL. He should purposely create the appearance of evil because he believes this is more challenging and more fun.

    If I lived in the world Mark IV lives in, I would lean toward indifference to appearances.

  23. DKL on May 18, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    A guy at my work just told me about this song by the Reagan Youth that shares the title of your post. From the way my friend talks about it, it’s something of a classic:

    Father comes home mixes up another drink
    And brother comes home and throws up in the kitchen sink
    And sister dies on more green and pink
    And mother’s wondering what the neighbors are gonna think

    Well who cares about the neighbors
    Who gives a damn about the neighbors
    Who cares what the neighbors think
    Who gives a damn about the neighbors
    Did they ever ask us for a favor
    What will the neighbors think

  24. Julie M. Smith on May 18, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    “Judas kept wonderful company and appeared in all the right places and appeared to do all the right things.”

    Ten points for Gryffindor!

  25. Frank McIntyre on May 18, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    All of these are examples where you think they are misapplying the gospel, it reminds me of Julie’s clever point in 4 that this is actually different than “appearance of evil” arguments, though still important.

    Is there a cost to person X from your behavior? How does that compare to the benefit you get from it? Russell edition: substitute the word “community” for person X. But the point is, as mlu points out, you do what works, weighing costs and benefits, rather than deciding there is only one true way.

    Since you asked, just so you know how I think about these things and not because you care about my advice, here are my thoughts on the 3 examples:

    Perhaps you think that you are actually helping this Philistine with your flaunting of your love of the nudes. Well okay, then you would consider that a benefit, wouldn’t you? But maybe you should be sensitive to the fact that porn is a major problem for a lot of people. A much bigger cost than what little benefit many people get from seeing nude statues (which, for the non-art types among us, is probably not that much). It might be wise to consider that as you discuss the issue with your neighbor about why you do or don’t think nudity in art is a problem.

    I would guess people associate cookouts with Saturday leisure activity. OK, fine, you can ignore them, or you can prepare a meal in the house when you invite the nonmembers over, and do your cookouts on Saturday. No biggie. But, maybe it is a big deal to you. Maybe you will get all bitter and whiny if you can’t have your Sunday cookout. Fine, then go for it.

    In the Harry Potter example, it seems to me that it is low cost for you to avoid referencing Harry Potter in class. It is probably also very low benefit to the family, but this is her precious son so it pays to be mindful. You are just the helper, she is the one with the principal stewardship. Obnoxious, yes, but not a life threatening request.

  26. Frank McIntyre on May 18, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Jesus flaunted the Pharisees because they perverted the law and ignored the higher things. And they despised sinners. I think it is safe to say that despising sinners is wrong. And there does some a point (one they had reached) when the benefits of accommodating the Pharisees were less than the costs. A major one being that their beliefs stood in the way of their salvation. A great example of extremism and how to deal with it. But not the archetype by which to judge how we relate to our (more average) neighbors and fellow Saints.

    As for Judas, this is deeply fallacious. Judas appeared good but did bad. This does not mean that we should not appear good! It means that appearing good is insufficient. But, well, we know that already.

    “…judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

  27. Peter LLC on May 18, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    #7: “I suppose it’s at it’s heart a high compliment that people expect more of active Mormons, but it’s also unfair.”

    And from an alternate universe: “Which was quite rude of her. It’s a wonder I didn’t leave the church after that insult.”

  28. ronito on May 18, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    The Judas point isn’t “No let’s not try to do good.” It’s in the second sentence “Appearance is just appearance”.

    Point is there’s nothing wrong with avoiding evil. But the moment you start letting appearances drive what you do and do not do you embark on a road full of folly.

  29. anon on May 18, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    I understand Paul to be saying that we should avoid behavior that might be a stumbling block to our neighbor, in the sense that it might induce our neighbor to do that which is wrong. Actions which only give busybodies a reason to engage in idle gossip about us should be of no particular concern to us and I don’t think that is what Paul was getting at.

  30. Norbert on May 18, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Ack! I’ve been caught in posessession of an oversimplified hyperbole! Damn my cheeky attitude!

    Actualy, this is an interesting scripture which makes lots of sense, especially after some erudite explanation, starting with Kevin Barney’s. I think it’s impossible to live a normal spiritual life worrying about the result of innocent behavior on people who know me or even just observe me, but I should at least be aware and humble.

    I also think this applies to >Wilfried’s recent post about Sundays in Europe, and how local cultural practice will affect Mormon cultural practice.

  31. Mark on May 18, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    #27 Anon,
    Very astute and straightforward summary!

    #24, 25 Frank,
    As usual, you have shown there is an economic construct to answer any question. I’m suddenly remembering taking Econ 110 and applying the principles to my life at the time. Let’s see, I could invite Katie to go the concert, but the opportunity cost would be a Friday night spent without Julie…

  32. DKL on May 18, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Frank McIntyre: Jesus flaunted the Pharisees because they perverted the law and ignored the higher things. And they despised sinners

    Second, this proves my point exactly. In the New Testament, Jesus deems it more important to make a few fairly trivial doctrinal points by behaving self-righteously toward Jews than to behave in a more moderate way that wouldn’t have justified millennia of anti-semitism.

    What’s more to the point, however, is that you’re wrong. Jesus is shown attacking the Pharisees, because the primitive Christians needed textual support to distance themselves from Judaism in light of the Roman persecution of the Jews.

    But Jesus’s remarks against the Jews are one of the two or three worst parts of the Bible — right down there with God’s commandment to Saul to destroy the Amalekites. The genocide command comes from primitive tribal legends, and the anti-Jewish rants stem from someone altogether ignorant of Jewish practice at the time. No surprise here: When idiots write scripture, the result is idiotic.

  33. Anita on May 18, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    I’ve wondered about this issue myself, hiding a Starbuck’s hot chocolate so no one wondered if the Gospel Doctrine teacher was apostate…
    I don’t think the answers are simple–caused the early church much grief!

  34. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    anon, if you believe that gossip is a sin, then giving your neighbors cause to gossip does indeed “induce your neighbor to do that which is wrong.” Since this chapter begins with an exhortation to avoid judging, I understand Paul to be making precisely this point.

    Of course, as I noted in the post, the idle gossip of my neighbor should not prevent me from doing a positive good, or from avoiding a larger evil. But if I take care to cultivate good relationships with my associates, I don’t think this dilemma will appear on a day-to-day basis.

  35. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    DKL, do you think I’ve misinterpreted the passage from Romans, or do you think the New Testament gives two different messages on this matter, one from Paul and a different one from Christ (or attributed to Christ)?

  36. Mark IV on May 18, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Brother McIntyre, you’re a pretty funny guy. Often inadvertantly, but still pretty funny.

    Of course, you’re also often mistaken. Did I call my neighbor a philistine? Did I say I went to the museum in order to gawk at depictions of nekkid people? Nope. And bitter and whiny are adjectives that simply do not apply to me. Whenever people threaten to be offended by my museum-going or Sabbath keeping, I just give them a copy of Elder Bednar’s talk and tell them to get over it already.

  37. ronito on May 18, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    “if you believe that gossip is a sin, then giving your neighbors cause to gossip does indeed “induce your neighbor to do that which is wrong.”

    Are you seriously saying that we should live our lives so as to not allow people to gossip?

  38. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    Ronito, that’s not what I’m saying, that’s what I think Paul’s saying. I’m open to better readings of the passage. Got one?

    Edit: I think Paul is saying we should live our lives so as not to give our neighbors reason to gossip (rather different than not allowing them to gossip).

  39. Lupita on May 18, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    This has made me think about the importance of knowing my neighbor, period. I am careful around certain people because, gathering from what they talk about, they have drastically different worldviews, let alone perceptions of personal righteousness (I could start by listing immediate family members).
    Yet, I wonder at times if that isn’t a type of hypocrisy, a betrayal of my true self. If I’m interpreting this correctly, Paul would agree that I should keep my mouth shut, my bookcases edited, etc.

  40. ronito on May 18, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Really? You really think that?

    I read it and I get “Hey, don’t give an alcholic a drink.” Much different than “Hey, don’t let the Jones’ see you getting a Starbucks hot cocoa.”

    When appearances drive what you do I’d call that vanity.

  41. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Ronito, Paul doesn’t say not to *give* forbidden things to a neighbor, he says “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.”

    I’m not trying to harangue anybody, I’m just trying to understand the passage, and understand what it claim it has on me.

  42. Frank McIntyre on May 18, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    “But the moment you start letting appearances drive what you do and do not do you embark on a road full of folly.”

    Appearnce unrelated to doing good, sure. But appearance is not unrelated to doing good.

    DKL,

    Your response convinces me that your approach to the scriptures in this instance bears too little resemblance to my own to make the marginal benefit of further discussion worth our time. :)

    Mark IV,

    Don’t worry, it was advertent. As for being mistaken, no, I was just playing.

    Examples sound better when they include the word “Philistine”. As for “bitter and whiny”, that was referring to the counter-factual under which you should continue Sabbath cookouts, not a description of the real you who is considerate and kind, Sorry if I offended you. Would it make you feel better if I gave you one of these?

  43. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Motivation plays a role in this, too: we shouldn’t be pridefully concerned about appearances in order to protect our own reputations; we should be charitably concerned about what spiritual effect our actions will have on those around us.

  44. Mark IV on May 18, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    I think we need to be mindful of those who are weak in faith, and take care not to discourage or mislead them.

    I remember reading a talk that Elder Oaks gave after he was president of BYU. He was out driving someplace along the Wastach front when it was dinner time. He stopped at a restaurant and ordered dinner, and Postum to drink. Part way through his meal, he realized that many people might recognize him, and notice a cup of hot, black liquid by his plate. He requested that he be given an individual Postum wrapper to place on his saucer.

  45. Mark IV on May 18, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Frank, good one.

  46. ronito on May 18, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Rosalynde,
    My point still stands. Ok perhaps it\’s more like \”Hey, don\’t eat ice cream in front of a dieting woman (which all men here will admit is very sound advice)\”. Still doesn\’t mean \”Let not they neighbor see a Starbucks cup in your car, lest they be lead to evil.\” Again VERY different than don\’t live your life in a way so that others can gossip about you. If time has proven anything, it\’s the people that can\’t find anything to gossip about, will make up to stuff to gossip about.

    Mark IV, I\’ll see your Elder Oaks and Postum and raise you a David O Mckay and Coca-Cola.

  47. ronito on May 18, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Rosalynde,
    My point still stands. Ok perhaps it\’s more like \”Hey, don\’t eat ice cream in front of a dieting woman (which all men here will admit is very sound advice)\”. Still doesn\’t mean \”Let not they neighbor see a Starbucks cup in your car, lest they be lead to evil.\” Again VERY different than don\’t live your life in a way so that others can gossip about you. If time has proven anything, it\’s the people that can\’t find anything to gossip about, will make up to stuff to gossip about.

    Mark IV, I\’ll see your Elder Oaks and Postum and raise you a David O Mckay and Coca-Cola.

  48. Mark IV on May 18, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    ronito,

    Indeed. My testimony increased when I read that about David O. McKay.

  49. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Ronito, I don’t see the principle distinguishing the different cases you describe.

  50. Frank McIntyre on May 18, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    RW: I would wager that the principle potentially separating them is expected marginal benefits and costs.

  51. DKL on May 18, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Rosalynde, I think that the advice to avoid the appearance of evil is mere practical advise with no spiritual import at all — it doesn’t amount to any more than a general admonition that it’s a good idea to take reasonable steps to stay out of trouble. We gain salvation because Christ’s atonement can cover the evil things that we do, not because it can cover the apparently evil things we do.

  52. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    That’s nice, DKL, but it doesn’t answer my question (if you were intending to respond to it).

  53. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    In other words: Paul says it is uncharitable to do something that will spiritually weaken another by leading them to judge you unrighteously. Uncharity is real evil, not just apparent evil. So do you reject what Paul is teaching in this passage?

  54. DKL on May 18, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Peseach Chumitz: The Torah made numerous proscriptions of practices that were culturally alien and superficially connected to idolatrous practices so as to divorce them from the actually idolatrous practices of their neighbors.

    If adopting elements of the cultural environment into one’s worship makes a church false, then no church even stands a chance at being true — even Mormonism.

    Peseach Chumitz: [objecting to Jesus’s rants against the Jews] Tirades? An inflammatory characterization of his very measured responses to those seeking to murder him.

    I think that you’ve got the order of events wrong. The Jews didn’t seek to murder Jesus until he made statements that they took as threats to tear down their temple. Many Mormons would have a similarly hostile reaction to anyone threatening to tear down Mormon temples.

    But I think that you’re missing a larger point: Jesus’s accusations against the Jews are false; for example, the Jews did not prohibit medical healing on the Sabbath, and saying that they did is a slanderous lie. So either Jesus is lying, or the account is flawed. I argue that the account is flawed. When it comes to making a pronouncement that Jesus is a liar, it takes more to convince me than mere scripture.

    Peseach Chumitz: He was executed with convicted criminals. The ruling Roman authority pronounced him guilt free.

    Pilot had the power to absolve Jesus and set him free, and he did not. Therefore, when Pilot says that he finds no guilt, he’s merely offering his opinion, not making a pronouncement. Our Lord and Savior, the King of Kings, was altogether a convict.

  55. ronito on May 18, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    RW,
    You don’t see the difference? Really? To me it’s as plain as day.

    One you’re doing out of consideration of the other person, to not knowingly make their time harder. As you said, charity. The other you’re doing so that your actions can’t be misconstrued and you don’t look bad. This, to me, is not charity.

  56. Frank McIntyre on May 18, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    RW:

    I agree that Paul was talking about real evil. But is it just encouraging others to judge unrighteously?

    ” For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

    It seems to me that a possible problem is that you are tempting someone to do something that would in their mind, be wrong. And Paul says that if they believe it to be a sin, for them it _would_ be sinful to eat the meat. Alternatively, we look like we take commandments lightly and so we may accidentally encourage others to do so. Neither of these is about neighbors gossiping or judging unrighteously, but they are about being uncharitable towards neighbors in doing things that the neighbor thinks is wrong.

    To me, this just seems wonderfully perceptive of Paul and shows a real concern for his brethren’s well being.

  57. Frank McIntyre on May 18, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Ronito,

    I think it makes it harder for my fellow Saint to live the WoW if he thinks I don’t. So I should take reasonable precautions against giving the appearance that I don’t obey the WoW.

  58. DavidH on May 18, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    Is the reason caffeinated beverages are not sold at BYU or in temples to avoid encouraging the “weak” to think that caffeine, and therefore coffee, is acceptable? Is the reason only right-wing republican vice presidents are given honorary doctorates by the Lord’s university at commencement to avoid encouraging the weak to think it is acceptable to be a left wing democrat (and therefore Satan-lover)? I am pretty sure the reason Deseret Book (at least the branches I have visited) no longer sells Dialogue or Sunstone is to avoid suggesting to weaker Saints that it is acceptable to read either journal (and therefore to apostatize).

  59. DKL on May 18, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    Rosalynde, yes, in a very simple sense, there is a contradiction.

    I have a question for you: Let’s say that there’s some single guy in his 20s, and he lives next door to 20 year old single woman in her 20s. On days when she’s wearing sweat pants with an oversized T-shirt or a standard business suit, he doesn’t have any problems with dirty thoughts. But on days when she wears mini-skirts and blouses that show cleavage, his mind goes wild. Is this woman taking advantage of her Christian freedom to do things which hinder the spiritual development of this man, and therefore doing evil?

  60. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    Ronito, then it sounds like you’re talking about intention rather than the behavior itself—selfish concern for reputation v. unselfish concern for others—and, as I said in #43, I agree that intention is central to the question. It’s perfectly possible to forego a Starbucks run on your way to Relief Society out of unselfish concern for the spiritual wellbeing of others rather than selfish concern for your reputation.

    Frank, I agree with your #56. As far as I understand the passage, I think Paul is making both points (and I think I alluded to the one you highlight upstream somewhere).

  61. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    DKL, you’re baiting me in an attempt to disrupt the thread. I’ll decline to answer that here; ask that question on your blog and I’ll answer it there. Also, how does your #54 fit into the discussion here? It looks like it was misposted.

  62. Frank McIntyre on May 18, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    David, BYU invites lefties, they just don’t come.

    But I would guess that you are fairly close on the DB front. I doubt DB wants to let themselves get wrapped up in appearing to endorse whatever comes out in the latest issue of Dialogue or Sunstone. And, looking back in time, one can see why they might feel that way.

  63. DKL on May 18, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    DavidH: …a left wing democrat (and therefore Satan-lover)

    I think that’s a bit harsh. Just because they do Satan’s bidding mean that they are knowingly embracing evil.

  64. Frank McIntyre on May 18, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    RW, that’s what I get for skipping comments.

  65. DKL on May 18, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Rosalynde: …you’re baiting me in an attempt to disrupt the thread

    Oh, geeze.

    Rosalynde: How does your #54 fit into the discussion here? It looks like it was misposted.

    It’s a response to Pesach Chumitz’s comment #11 made at 11:46 am this morning.

  66. DavidH on May 18, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    Hey this is fun. Let me try another.

    Male missionaries, BYU students, and temple workers cannot have facial hair because weaker Saints otherwise might think: 1. it is okay to look like a male Mormon polygamist from the 19th century, and therefore plural marriage must be okay, 2. it is okay to look like a male professor at a secular university, and since those professors usually smoke pipes and don’t believe in God or George W. Bush, those things must be acceptable too, or 3. the appearances of some of those missionaries, students or temple workers might give rise to thoughts that humans did indeed evolve from a common ancestor with apes.

  67. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    Ah. Sorry, DKL, somehow I missed comment #11.

  68. It's Not Me on May 18, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    #66 “Male missionaries, BYU students, and temple workers cannot have facial hair because . . .”

    Perhaps it’s because the cleanshaven look is considered to be more . . . clean-looking by the greater culture, individual preferences and tastes notwithstanding.

  69. Jim F. on May 18, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Frank MacIntyre: I’ve agreed with you to this point, but when you said “BYU invites lefties, they just don’t come,” I had to respond: GIVE ME A BREAK!

    We don’t invite lefties with nearly the frequency that we invite those from the right (and that has been true since the 60s, at least), and I don’t know of any lefties who’ve been invited and turned us down. As one of the associate vice presidents of BYU recently said to me, “At BYU we think that if we have thought about inviting a Democrat to speak, that counts as inviting him.” My experience exactly.

  70. Travis Anderson on May 18, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Rosalynde,
    I don’t think one could better express Paul’s point than you did in comment 43. This is one of the many passages in the New Testament where a Levinasian interptretation seems to provide the only sensible reading, since the ostensibly double standard disappears when the focus is on others rather than on ourselves. If we truly act out of charity, then in either of the two cases you cite above (either when I am refusing to presume I can fairly or accurately judge the actions of others, or when I am sincerely trying to avoid offending others by my own actions) the real standard we apply is the simple question, am I primarily motivated by a desire to help and better those whose lives I touch, or am I not? If I am, then I will withhold any unrighteous judgment of others out of a genuine love for them; and by the same token, I will avoid acting in such a way as might reasonably and unnecessarily lead others to misjudge me–again, out of a genuine love for them rather than out of a concern for my reputation. A Levinasian reading of the passge in question has the additional virtue of obviating the need for extreme self-scrutiny or unreasonable efforts at image-manipulation, since monitoring my every move in an effort to cater to those who actively seek offense or intentionally misjudge actions does them (or anyone else) no real good, but can become a form of destructive complicity. So, yes, out of a concern for others I should try to be good, and also to appear good so as to forstall reasonable misunderstandings, but I should not become so focused on managing appearances that I sacrifice spontaneity, torment my friends and family with ridiculous expectations, and ultimately relieve others of their responsibility to act reasonably themselves.

  71. Travis Anderson on May 18, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    As a former missionary and ordained temple worker, I think the reason why missionaries and temple workers have been asked to dress and groom themselves in a uniform manner should be sought in a consideration of whom they represent at the altar, at the veil, and in the various ordinances and duties in which they officiate. I think the case for uniformity among BYU professors and faculty is much less defensible.

  72. Travis Anderson on May 18, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    I meant BYU professors and students–sorry to be redundent.

  73. It's Not Me on May 18, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    I don’t think BYU needs to defend it’s grooming standards. If someone doesn’t like it they can go somewhere else; there are plenty of colleges and universities that will allow faculty and students to dress/groom however they want.

  74. Travis Anderson on May 18, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Comment 73: Even an institution where policy dictates that “anything goes” needs to be able to defend that policy if it is to be taken seriously–and the more restrictive or consequential the policy, the better the reasons ought to be. “Love It or Leave It” is the universal retort of feeble minds at a loss for genuine reasons.

  75. ronito on May 18, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Well I admit I am shocked that there are others that seriously think that getting a hot cocoa at Starbucks will make it harder for other members to keep the WofW.

    Still though, if that is your reasoning, go forth. You’re more than free to do it. I’d like to think the members to be a bit more faithful and intelligent than that. But to each their own I guess. If you do it out of charity of your heart instead of trying to attain a sense of superiority or worries about what others might say. Then good on you. I definetly don’t agree. But that’s the beauty of it. We don’t have to.

  76. Veritas on May 18, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    Ronito, you speak wisdom.

    I swear, sometimes I wonder if I belong to The Church of Faulty Logic. I hope that Oaks story about the Postum isn’t true, thats just silly.

    If someone feels threatened to sin by seeing me sipping a virgin Margarita with my fish tacos, they have bigger issues. This idea that we shouldn’t ‘appear’ to be violating any rule or cultural construct to avoid the ‘appearance’ of evil has just gotten out of control lately. It seems like all we talk about anymore (including half the talks in GC) are all about appearances. Its going to drive me to drink for real :)

  77. paula on May 18, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    “I don’t think BYU needs to defend it’s grooming standards. If someone doesn’t like it they can go somewhere else; there are plenty of colleges and universities that will allow faculty and students to dress/groom however they want.”

    However, I can’t send my children to another university subsidized by my tithing dollars. There should be good reasons for the policies and “love it or leave it” is not a good reason.

  78. DKL on May 18, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    Last time Travis Anderson and I commented on the same thread, I got banned.

  79. Costanza on May 18, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    ” I think the reason why missionaries and temple workers have been asked to dress and groom themselves in a uniform manner should be sought in a consideration of whom they represent at the altar, at the veil, and in the various ordinances and duties in which they officiate.” Yes, because everybody knows that Jesus is clean shaven.

  80. MCQ on May 18, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    All those in favor of banning DKL please signify in the usual manner..

  81. queuno on May 18, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    @79 –

    But would have Christ gone to BYU?

  82. Costanza on May 18, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    I doubt it queno. He probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the caffeine free coke. :)

  83. ronito on May 18, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    Queno most absolutely not.

    He’d say something about giving everything to the poor and loving your enemies and he’d be ousted for being a long haired bearded leftist hippie. ;)

  84. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    LOL, Ronito, I think if you review our exchange, it was you who introduced the Starbucks theme! I don’t know any neighbors who would be spiritually harmed if I showed up with a Starbucks cup in my car, so if I started jonesing for Starbucks, I guess I’d indulge. Like you, I think there are probably few Saints who would be harmed in that way. But if I had reason to believe that some in my ward would be, then yes, I’d stay away from Starbucks on my way to RS. What I strongly dislike is the attitude I sensed on the BCC thread: “If you’re shallow enough to judge me for something stupid, then screw you!”

    I guess I resent the implication that I’m focusing on the trivial and obsessing over appearances in a shallow, judgmental way, when it’s been my interlocutors who have introduced and focused on the trivial situations. I’ve simply been trying to understand what Paul is teaching in this passage.

  85. Rosalynde Welch on May 18, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    Travis, thank you very much for your contributions. I think the Levinasian gloss clarifies things beautifully. I really need to read Levinas. Anyone up for a study group?

  86. Mark IV on May 18, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    Rosalynde, if you will indulge me. . .

    I guess I’m one of the guilty parties who have introduced to this thread situations you characterize as trivial. Be assured that my intention was not to trivialize or distract, but to attempt to understand by using real life situations. I agree that the examples of Sabbath and WoW observance are shallow and pharaisical, but is Paul’s example about meat consumption any less so? The other real world example that comes to mind is the connection between a woman’s immodesty and a man’s impure thoughts, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want the discussion to step into that particular batch of quicksand.

    The Book of Mormon tells us that it is impossible to enumerate the ways we can sin. It follows, then, that it is impossible to even imagine the ways in which I might contribute to my neighbor’s sinning. So, it is not surprising that the majority of those situations might be very trivial.

    I believe that Paul is teaching us to exercise care for our fellow saints, especially those who are struggling. I think the ideal is to assume that everyone is striving, and to give one another a lot of leeway.

  87. It's Not Me on May 19, 2007 at 12:26 am

    #74 “Love It or Leave It” is the universal retort of feeble minds at a loss for genuine reasons.”

    My mind may or may not be feeble (and I don’t represent BYU), but try this on for size: BYU considers itself as an institution to be different from other places–to have certain, higher standards. Grooming/dress happens to be one of those areas BYU wants to distinguish itself. So it is what it is. People know that going in. If that’s not the kind of institution they want to attend or work at, then don’t go there. That’s not being flippant; that’s just life. If I don’t like the way Pizza Hut makes its pizza, I’ll go somewhere else. What right do I have to complain about how it conducts its business when nobody is forcing me to go there?

  88. It's Not Me on May 19, 2007 at 12:28 am

    Moreover, if an institution wants its policy to be taken seriously, it doesn’t need to defend it, it only needs to enforce it.

  89. It's Not Me on May 19, 2007 at 12:31 am

    #79 “Yes, because everybody knows that Jesus is clean shaven.”

    That’s a very tired argument.

  90. Norbert on May 19, 2007 at 12:46 am

    I just can’t get my head around how this actually works.

    1. How do I know if something is going to be spiritually harmed by something that is not a sin? In many cases, it seems impossible to guess.

    2. If this is applied, even as a general principle, it seems to me that the most judgemental people will set the behavior of everyone else. While it may be uncharitable of me to say so, I do not wish to live in that sort of spiritual society.

    3. Is it possible that Paul’s counsel is quite specific to people struggling to make the breach between the old law and the new law? The practicalities of this do seem to fly in the face of some of Christ’s teachings.

  91. ronito on May 19, 2007 at 1:37 am

    sometimes the old arguments that are old stick around because they have merit.

  92. Norbert on May 19, 2007 at 1:55 am

    ‘Moreover, if an institution wants its policy to be taken seriously, it doesn’t need to defend it, it only needs to enforce it.’

    Is that Machiavelli, or your own?

  93. Seth R. on May 19, 2007 at 1:58 am

    DKL,

    You’re infesting again.

  94. Eric Russell on May 19, 2007 at 2:10 am

    Norbert, I think your concerns are addressed by Travis Anderson’s #70. It is indeed impossible to guess what will be potentially harmful to others at all times and even more impossible to live ones life walking the edges of the least potentially misunderstood behaviors. But as Travis says, “the real standard we apply is the simple question, am I primarily motivated by a desire to help and better those whose lives I touch, or am I not?”

    What is seemingly extraordinarily complex is really that simple. To focus on the actions misses the point. It’s not about the actions but their motivations. When our hearts are wrong, any choice we make is wrong.

  95. MCQ on May 19, 2007 at 4:12 am

    Doesn’t it seem a little silly that we should worry about appearances causing others to stumble? If someone wants to know why it appears as though you or I are sinning, they can just ask can’t they? Isn’t an explanation of the circumstances a perfectly reasonable remedy to any “appearance of evil” that our neighbors might think they see? I’m a little too busy worrying about accomplishing (or rather failing to acomplish) my actual duties in my job, family, calling, etc. to worry too much about appearances, and if you want to know why I was at the liquor store, just ask me, I’ll tell you.

  96. Costanza on May 19, 2007 at 8:30 am

    “That’s a very tired argument.” It’s not an argument. It’s a fact offered in response to a very specific assertion, namely that temple workers are required to be clean shaven because they represent Christ.

  97. Norbert on May 19, 2007 at 9:32 am

    I thought a lot about this, and had too much to say in a comment. So I posted a new thread over at BCC. If this is a breach of Bloggernaccle etiquette, I’m sorry.

  98. Russell Arben Fox on May 19, 2007 at 11:55 am

    A follow-up to Norbet’s new post which takes us back to an old T&S post here.

  99. Rosalynde Welch on May 19, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Mark IV, I’m the indulgent type. I don’t mind considering the quotidian applications of the principle, as long as you promise not to pull a bait-and-switch and accuse me of being shallow! (I don’t think you would ever do this.) What you say about the passage—“I believe that Paul is teaching us to exercise care for our fellow saints, especially those who are struggling. I think the ideal is to assume that everyone is striving, and to give one another a lot of leeway”—is certainly a nice sentiment, but how do you get, interpretively, from the actual text to this rather benign koan?

    Norbert, on your #2 and #3: I can also see some potentially aggravating community effects in (what I understand to be) Paul’s teaching here. So what do we do with that? This takes us in some ways back to the discussion in Russell’s recent thread: what do we do with the bits of scripture that don’t sit well? Can we write them off as irrelevant to the present day? Can we drastically dilute or misread them? I was intrigued by the suggestions of Nate and Jim on that thread, but I still don’t have satisfactory answers to these questions.

  100. It's Not Me on May 19, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    #98 “#89 That’s an extremely tired way of responding. ”

    I was actually thinking of engaging this argument on the merits, then I thought–you have got to be kidding me. You pepole actually believe that if the men in the Church all began looking like Jesus in grooming that it wouldn’t have an effect on how . . . oh, never mind. It’s a very silly issue, and frankly, thought it was beneath most of the people here. I guess I was wrong.

  101. Ivan Wolfe on May 19, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    But Jesus has a beard in all the pictures of him that I see at church! Which one is it? Is Christ clean shave or not?

    And should I shave my beard because it might offend my neighbor?

  102. Costanza on May 19, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    Ah, the old “I would engage the argument but it’s silly and beneath me gambit.” Always a classic.

  103. It's Not Me on May 19, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    Yes, a classic. But do you really believe the men in the Church, or society at large, should all grow their hair and beards out?

  104. Seth R. on May 19, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    Actually Costanza,

    That’s the first time I’ve heard it on BCC.

  105. Seth R. on May 19, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I’m more concerned with whether our Church should support display of male back hair at the ward swimming picnic.

  106. DKL on May 19, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    Travis Anderson: “Love It or Leave It” is the universal retort of feeble minds at a loss for genuine reasons.

    In other words, you belong to an elite group of intellectuals who pander to victim-mongers, and those who don’t like it can leave.

    Fighting fire with fire. I like that.

  107. It's Not Me on May 19, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    #106: “I’m more concerned with whether our Church should support display of male back hair at the ward swimming picnic.”

    A much more salient point. Back hair is much more likely to offend and/or cause others to sin. Let’s go with this one.

  108. DavidH on May 19, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    I’d like to combine the topics of two threads–one on avoiding doing things that might lead members or nonmembers to believe sin is acceptable, and the other on proper Sabbath observance. I have assured my children many times that the reason I chose not to play professionally in the Major Leagues, the NFL the NHL or the NBA is that I was concerned that my fellow members (or nonmembers) might think I implicitly did not believe in honoring the Sabbath. This might lead them to do things like watching professional sports on Sundays, or even going to a non-LDS concert in the evenings. And so I sacrificed that potentially lucrative income and chose another less remunerative career.

    Sticklers for accuracy (even when accuracy is not faith promoting) might point out that, actually, I was never invited to play professionally. That is beside the point. In any event, it could well be that reason I was never drafted is that the leagues knew that if drafted, I would not accept, if placed on the team anyway, I would not play.

  109. Costanza on May 19, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    “But do you really believe the men in the Church, or society at large, should all grow their hair and beards out?” Of course not. I never suggested (or I certainly never intended to suggest) any such thing. I simply pointed out the rather significant flaw in the logic that Travis Anderson offered when he wrote that male temple workers are required to be clean shaven because they represent Christ. My larger point, though implicit to be sure, is that I really don’t think that facial hair has anything whatsoever to do with ones level of discipleship.

  110. It's Not Me on May 19, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly that facial hair is not a fair indicator of one’s level of discipleship.

  111. It's Not Me on May 19, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    On the other hand, I’m not sure I wouldn’t be a bit razzled by being greeted at the temple doors by ZZ Top impersonators.

  112. It's Not Me on May 19, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    On the other hand I might find it a bit odd to be greeted at the temple doors by ZZ Top impersonators.

  113. DKL on May 19, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    Seth R: DKL, You’re infesting again.

    WTF?

  114. It's Not Me on May 19, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    That didn’t work out right..

  115. Costanza on May 19, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    ZZ Top! Now that would be an interesting session.

  116. Seth R. on May 19, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    It’s a word I made up. Others might just refer to it as “the DKL show.”

  117. DKL on May 20, 2007 at 12:47 am

    Get over me, Seth R.

  118. Seth R. on May 20, 2007 at 6:27 am

    Wish I could.

  119. Chance on May 21, 2007 at 3:21 am

    I think someone has been talking to my mom. She used to (ok, still does) pull Thes. 5:22 on me on a regular basis.

    More to Rosalynde’s post, when we couple this scripture with Mosiah 18:9 (and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God…) we can understand it’s true meaning.

    It’s late, and I hope this is coherent…

    Thes. 5:22 is not about our having to worry about our neighbor’s judgment; it’s about maintaining our own moral cleanliness. It’s about erecting a barrier around us so that there is no question in our minds as to our personal worthiness as we serve as priesthood holders, temple patrons, temple workers, fathers, mothers, missionaries, visiting teachers, home teachers, etc. I cannot tell you how many times doubt was implanted into my head by some questionable act that I had committed at some point during the week, and how those doubts always surfaced when it was time for me to perform one of those listed duties. I think we can all identify with that, and can all agree it’s best when we approach our duties with a clean slate.

    In my mind, the Gospel makes this world black-and-white, and if you have to question whether or not something is correct (i.e. that grey area), it’s most likely something you should be avoiding. I realize that is something that goes without saying, but I have a compulsive need to state the obvious…

  120. Mike on May 21, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Here is my favorite Appearances of Evil story. (If it is too long just skip it.)

    After serving in the military I moved back to SLC on the southeast bench. The ward missionary committee had a larger number of members on it than the number of non-LDS people living in the ward. I was assigned to fellowship my neighbor Ric and his very hot shack-up girlfriend Jenny who appeared not to be members.

    Based on his initial caustic remarks I assumed Ric had already been the recipient of aggressive conversion tactics. He also complained that the previous occupants of my house had let this patch of periwinkle run wild and take over one of his flower beds. I asked Ric if I could fix the problem by transplanting the periwinkle when it cooled down that fall and he agreed. He was not that keen on yard work. One Sunday in August I came home to find Ric and Jennie out there digging in that flowerbed. Ric told me if I wanted to save any periwinkle I’d better come and get it. I got the sense that he intended to prove to himself that I was too self-righteous to get my hands dirty on the Sabbath and therefore he would have another excuse to not have to deal with me. I was determined to be a good neighbor and so I put on my Levis and went to work.

    Jenny wore a pair of short shorts and many members of the ward walking home from church stared at me and at her long legs. She was doing most of the work, digging and bending over while I trotted the wilting periwinkle refugees to their new home. It was hot and sweaty work and Jenny pulled off her T-shirt. She was only wearing a sports bra beneath it. Even more neighbors seemed compelled to walk by. The afternnon heat was turning this into a wet T-shirt contest and I was loosing. Ric sat in the shade with a grim on his face and asked me if I wanted a cold beer. I told him it was too early to be drinking and then I admitted that: “You’d have to deactivate me from the Mormon Church first.” Ric laughed at that.

    Ric gave Jenny this look like they had planned this out before. Then Jenny pulled her top off and continued working bare-breasted, as if nothing was out of the ordinary. After a couple minutes I commented to Ric; “The scenery sure is beautiful around her, pointing eastward, especially you know, the mountains.” They both cracked up laughing. After rescuing all of the stray periwinkle I continued working to help them plant the tulips. Jenny, completely exhausted, wanted to plant them in straight rows. I suggested we plant them in clumps and in curves because it was easier and they would be suggestive of the shape of a beautiful woman and look better. One nosy old neighbor stopped to gawk at us. Jenny stood too close to me and actually bumped my arm with her breast. The old lady almost spit her dentures out and scurried down the sidewalk.

    I got my garden hose out to water the tulips and periwinkle and just for the heck of it I squirted Jenny off. She looked shocked and then admitted it felt cool. She asked Ric to get out of the lawn chair and come over and help her, presumeably take the hpse away from me. I handed her the hose and suddenly stuffed it down his pants. They chased each other around the yard and into their house laughing playfully. Members of the ward called my wife all afternoon long to report exaggerated versions of these events. She didn’t seem to be any more than mildly concerned. Ric and Jenny asked us to go camping with them the next weekend. We agreed and struggled with whether it was worth it to miss one week of church to become better friends with them. It snowed and we all decided not to go.

    Several weeks later Ric’s mother had a stroke which disabled her body but not her mind. He moved her and a hospital bed into his front room. I didn’t think he could take good care of her. The first chance I got I visited them. The old lady told me she used to be Mormon but “got run out years ago.” I relayed to her that down South where I had moved from, I had watched other religions besides Mormons perform blessings for the sick. I offered to give her a Mormon Priesthood Blessing or a more generic blessing southern style whichever she preferred. She replied: “How about one of those generic blessings?” I put my hands on her head and felt the Spirit guide me to give her a beautiful blessing. Jenny was in tears when it ended. I did not use oil or invoke any Priesthood power; it was more like a prayer. Later that evening Ric came over and wanted to talk to me about the most difficult decision he ever had to make. I mostly listened as he worked himself around to the idea that the best thing for his mother was to put her into one of the nicer facilities nearby with plenty of nurses and good company. He would a have to get a second job to afford it and he would have to visit his mother every day to keep her from feeling abandoned. He would have to give up some of his weekends in the mountains.

    I offered to help him with the yard work so he would have more time with his mother and, snicker snicker, I’d not forget to keep those tulips watered. Ric never expressed any interest to me in coming back to church. I later found out that he had lived in SLC all of his life and he had been baptised but left as a teenager. So they moved him from the missionary committee to the perfect committee and released me from my assignment. He did not like any of the other Mormons in the neighborhood who were leading far more exemplary lives and certainly avoided every appearance of evil.

    Do you think it was worth it to win his friendship by planting periwinkle and tulips with his topless girlfriend one hot Sunday afternoon? I think it was.

  121. annegb on May 21, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Me, too. Although…that had to be sort of difficult. This guy showed up to paint my house dressed only in shorts–he was active. He was very pale and unattractive.

    If he’d been really hot, it would have been difficult, and because he was sort of gross looking, it was difficult. I kept my eyes on his face.

    Not the same thing, I know, but that picture of Steve all pale and flabby. Can’t get that out of my head.

  122. Ken on May 21, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Dear Times & Seasons Forum,
    I always wondered if these letters were real, but I never thought anything like this could happen to me! That all changed one hot day last summer while I was re-planting my neighbor’s periwinkle…

  123. Fenevad on May 21, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    #87: “Grooming/dress happens to be one of those areas BYU wants to distinguish itself.”

    It also happens to be a political response to cultural associations of beards (sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll) at a certain point in history. The problem is that those associations have largely changed, so it’s become a litmus test. When I was at BYU I had fairly severe dermatitis on my neck. I thought I\’d go get the beard card thing, but was told by the receptionist that I had to have the irritation all over my face before they’d give me the card. When I responded that I only had the problem on my neck and that I wasn’t about to shave only my face but not my neck, she recommended (pragmatically) that I do whatever would irritate my face so I could have an outbreak all over my face to get the card.

    It annoyed me quite a bit because the dress and grooming standards are supposed to be about caring for and respecting the body. I was being told that to comply with them I had to harm my body. The other problem I had was that it was assumed that BYU students would lie to get the card: otherwise I should have been able to simply report the problem and get the card. The assumption was that students were fundamentally dishonest and not to be trusted.

    So, yes, “[g]rooming/dress happens to be one of those areas BYU wants to distinguish itself,” but it’s more than that: it’s an area where BYU wants to exert low-level social control.

  124. It's Not Me on May 21, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    That story about doing the yardwork . . . you know that nobody is going to believe that, don’t you?

  125. Travis Anderson on May 21, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Rosalynde. I’m sorry the post comments haven’t stayed on topic—I thought you asked an interesting and important question. And speaking of study groups, I’ve very much enjoyed my infrequent visits to your Abraham discussions, so I’d find any Levinas group very interesting.

    David: I have neither the influence nor the inclination to ban you from anything. I’m not sure what you meant to imply in comment 78, and I don’t know what thread or incident you were referencing, but for the record, I had nothing to do with it.

    Costanza (and others): I meant to stress the uniformity of the look, not its accuracy; I think it’s safe to say that no role played in the temple (by participants or officiators) is meant to reproduce accurately any person’s real appearance—for a host of good and obvious reasons. And my (apparently ill-considered) remark about uniformity of appearance at BYU was only meant to suggest by comparison, not that BYU’s dress and grooming standards are indefensible (though I personally think that modesty issues aside, a good many of them—like “no sandals without socks”—have come pretty close), but that whatever reasons I have heard offered in their defense are generally less compelling than those for uniformity of appearance in referential religious rituals.

  126. Costanza on May 21, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    Thanks for the clarification Travis. I think I see what you’re getting at.

  127. Bev P on May 22, 2007 at 5:17 am

    A very long time ago now, as a BYU student, I really resented those silly rules about dress and grooming. I was incensed after I’d climbed Y mountain on a really hot day to be refused a drink because I was wearing chino pants. I still think they’re silly, but probably pretty wise.

    A few years later I realized that we had used up all our furies of rebellion and imperative choose-for-myself occasions flauting silly rules, and there was no fury left for taking over the administration building, burning records, daubing paint, doing anything that required the presence of tear gas and armed police. I didn’t realize that till in another situation, with my young baby with me, I ran into tear gas aimed at other students. We’d thought we were ever so daringly wicked knowing how to get around in the heating tunnels and being the first ones to put dishwashing liquid in the Smoot Bldg fountain. [I hope there’s a statute of limitations on that one…] Living in a squeaky clean environment where the tiniest speck looms large gives one a funny sense of proportion.

    My nonmember neighbours, friends and colleagues know I’m imperfect, [witness the fact that I’m at home right now nursing a stinking headache brought about by indulgence in a colleague’s wonderful chocolate brownies, to which I am profoundly allergic] but they also know I have a lot of respect and care for the good people they are. I don’t have time to worry a lot about impression management, but I’m aware of its power. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” might well be the most important lesson Jesus taught. Forgive me too, for I know not what I’ve done sometimes when I’m too busy to manage the impression I’m giving, or too tired, or careless, or just plain insensitive.

  128. Mike on May 22, 2007 at 9:17 am

    Hey Joe. That story about the gold plates, you know that nobody is going to believe that, don’t you?

  129. It's Not Me on May 22, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Yeah, nice analogy.