The “V” Words

July 15, 2010 | 21 comments
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399px-Schwappender_WeinThis post is brought to you by the letter “V”. (Don’t worry, that’s grape juice in the picture. Really. I’m sure it is.)

Vigor.

Verdant.

Vibrant.

Vivacious.

AliVe.

These are the qualities I expect true religion to inculcate.

Does it make me think more?

Does it make me love more?

Does it make me see more?

Does it make me do more?

Does it make me be more?

“These things are fun and fun is good.”

Does it make life awesomer, and does it make me awesomer? Or, as Parley P. Pratt so effectively stated:

The gift of the Holy Spirit…quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It develops and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.

In the presence of such persons one feels to enjoy the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of a sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuse and thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit…

So why is religion so much associated with the “D” words?

Dumb.

Dangerous.

Debilitating.

Depressing.

Dead.

Our religion doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The church is as true as we make it.

21 Responses to The “V” Words

  1. Dan on July 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    that is a gorgeous picture!

  2. Dan on July 15, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Dane,

    So why is religion so much associated with the “D” words?

    Who associates religion with these “D” words?

  3. Cynthia L. on July 15, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    So why is religion so much associated with the “D” words?

    Want a little cheese with that whine, Dane?

    (I couldn’t resist! I couldn’t resist!!)

  4. Cynthia L. on July 15, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Seriously though, I appreciate the post–Joseph Smith, of course, was big on the notion that religion should bring us joy in this life, if not without a lot of sacrifice too. But I think that bon vivant is not necessarily in conflict with true religion.

  5. Renee on July 15, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Interesting post. I love that P P Pratt quote, and have read it many times when teaching the yutes of our church. And yet…

    I know some pretty awesome people, who are brimming with many of the great qualities mentioned in that quote, who are agnostic in their views of God–so not really concerned about the effects of the Holy Ghost. Their personalities, however, are fabulous, and they just radiate a love for life and for friends and family and humanity in general. These are real people. They are some of my closest friends.

    And what of those many many members of the church who have been blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost, but who in real life are just real downers. Hows that for a D word? You know what I mean, right? If I believe that the Holy Ghost is responsible for making a person more delightful, then why so many Saints who seem to be earnestly striving to live the ideals of the gospel, who are in essence depressed, down trodden, and dull.

    I don’t know anymore. I’m not sure those qualities of awsomeness can be attributed to something Devine any more than the ugly D words can be attributed to the Devil. We all come with genetic inclinations. While the Holy Ghost certainly enlightens my mind sometimes, I know plenty of enlightened people who are probably not super ‘in tune’ with that power.

    I usually just lurk here, so sorry if this seems abrupt or out of line. I really wish I still bought into the notion that religion = goodness. But I am not longer of that mind set.

  6. Dane Laverty on July 15, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Dan, do you have many close friends who are non-religious?

    Cynthia, my spiritual gift is the gift of melodrama. I do my best with it :) I think it’s interesting that you say, “bon vivant is not necessarily in conflict with true religion” — my point in this post is not only that they are “not necessarily in conflict,” but rather that they actually close friends!

    Renee, thank you for commenting — your insights are welcome here. You’re right that some people are naturally radiant, and some people are naturally off-putting. As I understand Bro. Pratt, the process of the Holy Spirit is one that transforms us toward radiance (and every other good thing). That doesn’t mean we magically become glorious beings on receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, but (as I understand it), if we live in ways that exercise the Spirit in our lives, we will progress in that direction. So then the question is, how do we identify which parts of religion serve to invite the Spirit into our lives?

  7. Jenn on July 15, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Sorry to say, of late I agree with Renee. Could have written her post, but she did it so well I’ll just leave it at that.

  8. Cynthia L. on July 15, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    > Cynthia, my spiritual gift is the gift of melodrama

    Oh, no, I was just sort of satirizing the “why do bloggers complain so much” type commenter, plus the image just made the cliche phrase so sillily apt.

  9. Dane Laverty on July 15, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    I don’t think my response to Renee was as clear as I wanted. I’m trying to echo sentiment I hear in the Savior’s words, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” May our religion be a blessing and not a curse upon us. If our religion isn’t invigorating us, then let us find new ways to live it. That’s what I mean when I say, “The church is as true as we make it.”

  10. Dan on July 16, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Dane,

    Yes I do.

  11. Cameron Nielsen on July 16, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Dane, my favorite post of yours by far. Thanks!

  12. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 16, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    We are all familiar with the conventional picture of the dour religious puritan who acts on the principal that anything that gives pleasure must be sinful. Brigham young was raised in that kind of household, in which even listening to someone play the violin, or dancing, was forbidden. He praised Joseph Smith for liberating him from such a constricted view of God’s will for mankind, and revealing that God’s purpose for us is that we have joy, both now and eternally.

    It still surprises some people when they learn how energetically Mormons are engaged in the arts of musical instruments, song, dance, painting, and theatrical performance, as well as writing fiction, with an intensity that many American communities have lost. Certainly the Church and the communities it engenders provide room for the expression of exuberance and “enthusiasm”, in the original theological sense of that word meaning “God in us”.

    Many of the things Parley says here are expressions of what D&C 84 says about the transforming effect of the Spirit on our persons. And we count on such transformations, institutionally, by entrusting the work of proselyting to minimally trained young men and women, who learn to be more than they thought they could be.

  13. Andrew S. on July 17, 2010 at 1:13 am

    RTS,

    But is it possible that we have just exchanged one kind of dour religious puritanism for another? We don’t think dancing or playing the violin is sinful or deleterious, but at the same time, drinking coffee is?

  14. WJ on July 18, 2010 at 8:22 am

    “We don’t think dancing or playing the violin is sinful or deleterious, but at the same time, drinking coffee is?”

    Yes, because of course all three practices are equally habit forming and deleterious to one’s health. Most mornings I greet colleagues with a short “don’t talk to me, I haven’t played my violin yet this morning.”

  15. Adam Greenwood on July 18, 2010 at 10:28 am

    These V’s sound like marketing slogans aimed at BoBo consumers, or like a real estate tout’s description of a gentrifying urban neighborhood (Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants within walking distance! Colorful ethnic murals!). Ironically those sort of people are the least likely to applaud when we actually do act boldly. A forthright assertion of our idea of marriage, for example, is not vibrant vigor but intolerance and hate.

    Even if we adopt a consumerist approach to religion, the V’s are inadequate. Some people come to stop the tears, some people come for peace, some people come to fix their brokedness. The V’s are a terrible description of what they are looking for and what they need.

    Further, its not at all clear that the consumerist model is or should be what religion is about. Jacob tells us to “view his death, and suffer his cross and bear the shame of the world.” Christ tells us that who He loves, He chastises. God commands us to ‘be still and know that I am God,’ and we are told that eventually ‘every knee shall bow and every tongue confess’. Its hard to characterize any of these as consumer benefits. New and improved, now with 50% more sacrifice! In fact, its hard to characterize some of these as for our benefit at all. We kneel to Christ not because it makes us happier and so on, but because he is our Christ and it is right and proper that we kneel. We probably are happier as a result, but this is not the point.

    The V’s also mistake the end for the means. Even if you accept that they are an accurate account of the ends, it doesn’t follow that the process of getting to that end is going to be zesty and full of va-voom.

    And, obviously, the V’s are not at all the full story of what our end is. We are trying to be like the weeping God of Mormonism. We are trying to do good and endure in doing good, which requires a lot of sober calculation and steady plodding. A high emotional pitch is probably a good thing from time to time, but its not sustainable.

    Your V’s also ignore diVersity. The kind of personality you are talking about is, to my mind, a spiritual gift. There’s lot of reasons why we don’t all have the same gifts. The body of Christ needs hands and eyes and many other things, grim cynics and absorbed optimists.

  16. Andrew S. on July 18, 2010 at 11:33 am

    re 13:

    WJ, this is just a replacement of one standard for judgement of the sinfulness of an activity for another. People would argue against the deleteriousness of coffee drinking, for example, and could also point out that “moderation” seems would seem to be a more reasonable injunction than abstinence.

  17. Eliezer on July 18, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Dr. Seuss is awesome:

    Did you ever fly a kite in bed?
    Did you ever walk with ten cats on your head?
    Did you ever milk this kind of cow?
    Well, we can do it. We know how
    If you never did, you should
    These things are fun and fun is good.

    (From One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish)

    I admit I’ve never done those things. And I’ve never done most things that people consider fun. If I were closer to the Spirit would I feel more comfortable at the “fun” activities put on by my Singles Ward? Or can I be aliVe and Vivacious in my own introverted way? Perhaps by reading Dr. Seuss books to myself. :)

  18. Dane Laverty on July 18, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Eliezer, in name of Adam Greenwood and by the power of diVersity, I grant you the right to liVe ViVaciously in whatsoever manner suits you :)

  19. WJ on July 20, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Andrew, people would argue against the deleterious effects of a multitude of different practices. Its a steeper hill to climb, however, when defending coffee consumption than say, playing the violin. The standard is not different, its the practice that has changed. And when the practice changes, so will the outcome.

    Moderation can take us a fair distance, but it can’t carry us forever. Killing, lying or even smoking, to name a few, don’t epitomize Virtue, no matter how moderate our indulgence. Sometimes, its simply more advisable to abstain altogether, no matter how Dumb it makes us appear.

    “Our religion doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The church is as true as we make it.”

    Amen.

  20. Andrew S. on July 20, 2010 at 9:33 am

    “It is better for one man to die than for a nation to dwindle and perish in unbelief.”

    Apparently, even distasteful things can epitomize virtue.

  21. WJ on July 21, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Andrew, if your argument is that God has commanded you to drink coffee, to sacrifice your body for the good of civilization, then you have a good point. But I’m going out on a limb here, and I’m guessing that just isn’t the case. In fact, in this instance it is just the opposite.