30 April 2006

Family Drama

This post is an update of an old personal narrative of mine. I found it again while doing some spring cleaning in my filing cabinet. Since then, I've been thinking about it a lot, especially in light of Katherine's blog. I think it's relevant to most of our families, so I thought I'd post it here.

Who am I? The oldest, the clean freak, the over-achiever, maybe the bossy one, probably not the kindest, and certainly not the most athletic. That part's easy, but since this act is my life, identifying me gets more complicated.

Act I
The oven timer buzzes in the kitchen, begging Mom to return to cooking dinner. She claims she has stepped away for just a moment. I doubt it. Plastic swords click and clack down the hall, eventually interrupted by wails of terror and pounding feet. Josh has decided he's done with the duel. Michael decides he's not. The opening theme of Star Wars and the clinking of knitting needles comes from the back room, where Heather is working on her latest project: a fluffy scarf in shocking pink.

From the front room, Spencer's fingers fly up and down the piano, the buzzing notes forming the incessant melody of "The Flight of the Bumblebee." Listening to it for the first time was quite a remarkable experience; the song sounded so like a bee flying around your head at a picnic. However, the droning melody could be tolerated only so many times before the desire to squash the insect overpowered the listener. Spencer had been playing the song obsessively for the past hour, and now my fingers itched to take a flyswatter to the keyboard. Luckily, Dad was at work, or the cheering crowd of the NBA semifinals would be added to the already intolerable din.

"Spencer, could you please practice later? I need to study and that song is driving me insane," I pleaded, trudging into the front room with a week's worth of biology notes.

"You messed me up! Now I'm going to have to start all over," he said, with a suspiciously undisappointed grin. "Go study somewhere else."

"I can hear you everywhere in the house, so it doesn't really matter. I have a test tomorrow! Come on!"

"Then go outside. I was here first."


Act II
"Michael, leave Josh alone. Josh, stop overreacting to Mike. He's just tring to bug you," I quipped, trying to diffuse yet another fight.

"Shut up, Liz! Stop being the mom!" Mike shouts back. His words deflate my false sense of impartiality. Those syllables recall weeks and months of built up tension, mostly from parents who wanted me to stop being so critical and finally coined that wonderful phrase. Of course, the issue couldn't be handled privately and personally. Our family never addressed any elephant sitting on the front lawn until tempers flared and someone wanted to inflict maximum damage.

"You're not the mom, Liz." That phrase, in all its variations, served quite well as the all-purpose comeback, and my siblings had used it to a fault. Seldom could I speak a word without having that refrain echo back to my ears. The constant repetition had created a definite bitterness.

But it's not as simple as that, I rationalize. I know I'm bossy, but I don't do it because I want to be or because I think I'm in charge. All right, sometimes my motives are purely selfish, but sometimes they're not. Sometimes I just want some peace and quiet, for the chaos to just stop. Is it so unfair to want some peace in my own house?

Irrationally, against anyone's better judgment, fragmented emotions stream out of my mouth, the ones that had stewed for weeks. Now they made little sense outside my own head. "You shut up! I know I should stop. So thanks for telling me again, as if I don't get reminded of my biggest fault every second of every day! And I try, I really do. But could you just stop? I can't take all this any more. I'm just trying to help! I don't care what you say."

It's a lie, an act.

"What?" I said.

I had lost them in November. It was now June.

"We found your DVDs. While Heather was gone at camp, I was cleaning her room and found them under a pile of socks in her closet," said my mother, holding up the discovered items.

I grabbed the DVDs out of her hand and shuffled through them. "But I've been looking for those forever! I specifically asked her if she knew where they were, like, a million times!"

Mom drew her breath, trying to figure out how best to put what she had to say. "When I asked her about them, she said she was sick of you watching that show all the time. You know how she hates it. So she took them."

She stole them.

My breath lodged in my throat as the universe paused. Heather and I had never been close, except in age: sisters, but not friends. I was the designated honors student; she hated me for it and made sure not to do anything that I had ever tried. We even went to separate high schools. We were too different. Despite that, I suddenly felt betrayed, unsafe in my own house. I had found other things of mine in her room before, but never anything as costly and arbitrary as this. What about that brush that disappeared last week? Is that hiding in a drawer in her dresser? Was my favorite shirt stashed under her bed? That single act forcibly removed a security blanket I didn't know I had, leaving me old in my own stronghold.

She stole them.

The universe and my breath rushed back in shuddering sobs.

Act IV
"Mark, Cristina, and the new baby are coming to Salt Lake on Thursday," Mom proclaimed that afternoon. "Cristina's still very sick; she needs people to help her take care of Amelia."

I was still in a state of shock at the suddenness of the events. While most of our family lived in Salt Lake, my aunt and uncle lived across the country. When Cristina became very ill after giving birth, they had no family around to help them. So we brought them here, just like that, without a second thought. I heard the phone conversations myself. "Don't worry about the money." "You just need to be here so you can get better." "It'll all work out."

Mom continued, "Our family is going to fast for Cristina tomorrow, and we're getting together tonight to start with a family prayer. It would be nice if you all could come. Are you guys doing anything too important?" Afterschool clubs and parties quickly melted away.

That night at Aunt Tera's house, we gathered my mom's side of the family--about 40 people, on a few hours notice. The younger cousins chased each other around the house, creating the usual bedlam of a family party, except without the food. Aunts and uncles deftly completed travel and living arrangements, discussed earlier by phone. Those who didn't have room for houseguests offered to baby-sit or provided money for the plane tickets from Washington, D. C. Then, children were herded back into the main room and silenced as we prepared to begin our fast with a prayer. Though the exact phrases weren't memorable, the spirit in the room was extraordinary. I felt a sense of unity . . . and something else, something that I had been so lacking.

This unselfish act set me thinking. There's more here.

Act V
Something was unfinished. I couldn't sleep.

So I began to walk around the house. I shuffled over the forest green carpet in the basement, dodging the usual clutter: unfinished Lego sculptures, a jumble of video tapes invariably not rewound or put back in the case, torn-out pages from YM and Teen, stacks of paper filled with Heather's drawings and story ideas, Discover card bills, and manila folders. But whatever I was looking for wasn't there.

I walked up the stairs, covered in green also. In the kitchen, dinner dishes remained unwashed because of the usual fight over whose turn it was, with more bills and offical looking papers covering the counter. The refridgerator hummed invitingly, but I didn't exactly feel like a midnight snack. What did I need?

The family room: Dad fallen asleep watching TV on the blue sofa again, after another 12-hour day at the job he hated. In the flickering blue light of the local newscast, Spencer was still avidly watching the results of the Jazz game (he never missed the sports--every night at 9:45). As I look at him, something finally clicks.

Inexplicably, I shuffle over to the couch. I reach over to give him a hug, which he is too tired to resist.

"I love you," I realized, and shuffled back to bed.

It's hard to whittle down a lifetime's worth of pain and love into a single play, with themes and a conclusion, mostly because there isn't a conclusion. Life must keep going and going. People keep getting broken and pieced back together, reshaped, and remade. I'm never quite sure who I am, but I keep acting out the play the best I can because that's the way it has to be.

29 April 2006

Ginny Weasley Hat . . . Sort of

So, I finished this hat Easter Weekend, but I didn't blog about it because I wanted to wait until this week when I finally got a camera phone! Yea! You can expect to see a lot more pictures of knitting projects . . . and probably just pictures in general. The quality's not too bad, for a phone. :D

Anyway, this is my interpretation of the Ginny Weasley Hat. I know, I know, it's supposed to be orange. But I don't own anything orange, so I decided to just do it in a nice brown. The hat was fairly easy to make, though I had to adjust the pattern a bit as I went along. Since the original pattern is fairly confusing and incomplete (at least I think so), here's my pattern:

Ginny Weasley Orange Hat

US size 8 needles (circular for Magic Loop method, or double pointed)
MC: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Worsted Weight [36% acrylic, 10% wool, 4% rayon] or other suitable yarn for gauge. I used color #127 (Mink Brown), but if you want authenticness, you should find some very orange color.
CC: Oxford Italian Fashion [60% acrylic, 20% new wool, 20% alpaca] #701 or other suitable rainbow, varigated, chunky yarn.

13 sts/24 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stich (knit in the round)

Using MC, CO 60 sts. If using magic loop method, divide in half. If using double pointed needles, distribute evenly across needles. Use a cast-on method that will leave purl bumps on the right side of the hat. I used the knitting on method.
Join the cast-on row, being careful not to twist.
Row 1: K all sts.
Row 2: P all sts.
Rows 3-7: K all sts.
Row 8: [YO, K3] until end.
Row 9: [k2tog, K2] until end.
Rows 10-13: K all sts.
Row 14: P all sts.
Row 15: K all sts.
Row 16: P all sts.
Repeat rows 3-16.
Row 30: K all sts.
Row 31: [k7, k2tog] 6 times, k6.
Row 32: [k6, k2tog] 6 times, k6.
Row 33: [k5, k2tog] 6 times, k6.
Row 34: K all sts.
Row 35: [YO, k3] until end.
Row 36: [k2tog, k2] until end.
Row 37: [k4, k2tog] until end.
Row 38: [k3, k2tog] until end.
Row 39: [k2, k2tog] until end.
Row 40: K all sts.
Row 41: P all sts.
Row 42: K all sts.
Row 43: P all sts.
Row 44: [k1, k2tog] until end. (14 sts left)
Row 45: [k2tog] until end. (7 sts left)

Cut yarn and gather through remaining sts. Secure end.

Use lengths of CC to thread through each set of eyelet holes. The original hat looks like it uses a double strand, but single strand looks nice too. Tie bows where ends meet.

Yea! My first pattern! Tell me it's not too horrible.

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Modernist Despair: A Need for Faith

A comment I posted on Katherine's blog, that has sort of gained a life of its own. You may want to read this post of hers first.

You know what? I'm pretty sure that almost everyone feels this way sometimes. I mean, my family's one that you would probably consider very normal, but I went through a year in high school where I was convinced that I was completely alone, that no one cared. I didn't have any friends, much less any who only put me second to family. Among the girls our age at church, I felt left out and disconnected. My siblings, parents, and I constantly fought. I felt crushed by my family's relatively-not-great financial situation and overwhelmed by expectations at school. No one seemed to care about what I cared about, and I just couldn't connect.

I still feel that way sometimes, despite the relative stablity of my situation. I've begun to think that this feeling comes not as a result of our situation, but because we are human. Every one of us, in the extremity of our loneliness and isolation, feels the same, regardless of the relative "severity" of that extremity. An argument with a friend, the break-up of a family, or a devastating disease all can make us feel the same way. I've come to the determination that, in a strange way, these feelings are comforting because they remind us that we can feel, that we are part of the larger vision of humanity, who also endures the same suffering we do.

I've been feeling sort of annoyed towards Modernism at the moment. I feel like it forces us to only ask questions, rejecting the possibility of finding an answer. What it really has cut out of our lives is faith. We only trust what we can know, and since we can't know that we know anything, we are left with a broken pile of shattered questions. Not only do we have no answers, we can't even be sure that the questions are right. It essentially haults all progress in its tracks, paralyzing us with fear and doubt. (Hamlet much?)

What modernism needs to realize is that we don't need to know everything in order to do, act, and be. Sometimes we must do the best we can, and then just go, trusting in God to fill in the gap between our intent and our action. When I do that, I always find that I gain the knowledge I was looking for in the first place. When I refuse to try or trust, that's when I find I myself more in doubt than before. Those who do not act will not gain more knowledge; rather, they diminish, gradually losing even that which they had.

We must act like scientists: we can't perform every experiment possible, so we have to simply draw conclusions the best we can and do with them what we can. If we are proven wrong, then we change. We can never know if we are exactly right, but that's really not as important as we think. Even with the incomplete picture we have right now, there's so much that we can do. Why should we despair over what we can't?

As for finding a center, you won't be suprised to hear me says that the only center that can work is the gospel. Not the church, not family, not friends, not self, not intelligence. All other centers shift and change, sending our lives off balance if we allow them. As for finding that center, a relationship with God is the first thing to work on. Don't look for the Sunday School answers; you already know those. Look for Him, a being as real as anything. Once we can understand Him, all the rest falls into place.

25 April 2006

And . . . .

Finals are over!! Hurrah!!!

Actual posts are forth coming.

22 April 2006

Ambition, Planning, and Willpower

So, it's finals week. In other words, my spring break, since BYU doesn't have one and I don't believe in "studying." I've been using this time mostly to catch up on some of the cool stuff out there on the net (read: surfing around wasting time). I did find a few nifty things, like librarything.com, on which I've already cataloged most of the books I own (should finish up on Monday). Thus the cool book thing on my sidebar. :D

Which leads me to the real point of this post. Not really, but anyway. . . . I've come to realize over the years that I am very good at planning things, but extremely poor at actually carrying them out. I spent about 2 hours last Sunday planning out a study schedule, which I had absolutely no intention of keeping. I mean, why should I? I took my Stats exam cold yesterday and got a 95%. Was the other 5% that I possibly could have gotten worth studying for a couple hours that I could have spent taking over Russia on Civ IV? Not really.

So that's not really a problem since I'm not losing anything by it, but in other cases my lack of willpower holds me back. For instance, for the last few years, I have been sketching out plans for a website/zine/wiki about the history of the Harry Potter fandom. Yes, I'm a nerd, I know, but the development of online communities really facinates me. I even went so far as to take a web design class last summer (not that it taught me anything I couldn't have figured out in a couple of hours--what a waste of $50). I brought up my idea on a Harry Potter discussion group and was actually approached by Melissa from TLC, who's only like the most powerful HP fan ever, about developing it as a subsite of the Floo Network. Unfortunately, I just sort of let the project slip. I could have been part of something really cool, that I'm actually interested in, but I just didn't do anything about it.

This is my problem: good ideas that I have no intention of following through with. Books I want to write (I've got three really interesting ideas floating around, one fiction and two non-fiction, but have done no research and written nothing), projects I want to accomplish (organizing my filing cabinet, actually figuring out some more web design stuff, like CCS and maybe PHP), things I want to get involved in (essay contests, volunteer efforts, volunteer in a chem lab, a social life, you know). And the problem is that I seem to be okay with having these things continue to float in my brain, and on paper even, but never materialize. Lots of ambition and planning, but no willpower to actually accomplish anything.

And I'm not really sure how to go about gaining willpower. I mean, the times when I actually feel like accomplishing something coincide with the times when I am too busy to do anything. When I have time, I just want to sit around and play computer games, watch movies and surf the net. Even catching up on my reading list feels like too much effort to put forth. Any ideas? I just want to feel like accomplishing something again.

Now off to conquer Russia.

19 April 2006

How Google Saved my Life

No, really.

Okay, it's a slight exaggeration, but Google did save me from being stuck alone on the highway for several hours, which is a small portion of my life.

To start from the beginning: I went home to Salt Lake City for the Easter weekend. It was lovely: friends, family, candy, and all that. On Sunday night, I left for Provo at about 9:00 pm. About half an hour down the road, I started to smell smoke in my car. Not good at all, so I pulled over to the side of the road. My brakes didn't appear to be working too well either. I managed to stop, but it took forever and I nearly ran out into the on-ramp.

So, now that I was stopped, I needed help. I really had no idea what was wrong with the car. I don't know that much about them, and all the problems I could fix myself (flat tires, overheating) didn't appear to be it. I hopped back in the car to call my dad for help, but alas, dead cell phone battery. Shoot.

I sat there for a while, trying to figure out how in the world I could get a hold of my dad. Then I remembered that my laptop was in my backpack. I pulled it out, fired up Windows, and *tada* got a wireless internet connection from a nearby business.

Now I was connected to the world, but no one on my instant messenger lists was online, so I had no way of instantly getting hold of someone. On a whim, I searched Google for "free text messages," hoping I could send one from online. Lo and behold, Google SMS has a free service that you can send text messages from online. I was saved! I sent a message to my sister, who called my dad at home. Soon after, Katherine later came online on MSN, so I had her call my dad too, just in case. Thanks Katherine! My dad came and fixed my evil-van-of-doom. Turns out the fan belt on the brakes was totally dead, so it was a good thing I stopped.

Moral of the story: Don't secure your wireless network. You never know when it could save someone's life. (Just Kidding!)

12 April 2006

Thoughts on Homosexuality, Part I: Choice

Some recent blog entries concerning Soulforce’s visit to BYU have lead me to think more clearly about why I personally, and the Mormon church generally, feel the way we do about homosexuality. In particular, Alison’s comment—containing all the standard left-wing arguments against those who think homosexuality is a sin—has inspired me to write this essay expounding on and defending my position. I hope everyone will bring to this essay the same spirit of open-mindedness and understanding that I have tried to convey in my consideration of the various positions. In the way of citation, my position owes much to Orson Scott Card’s “Hypocrites of Homosexuality,” C. S. Lewis (particularly his books on Christian philosophy), and LDS church doctrine, both in the scriptures and through modern revelation. To make this essay more manageable, I’ve divided it into three sections according to what I see as the major counterarguments. The first, and main, argument presented by Alison is the issue of choice. Over the past few weeks, I’ve realized that when people debate over the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, the issue they are really debating is whether homosexuality is a choice.

Part I: Choice
When examining what makes a person who they are, we generally recognize two types of traits. First are those that a person is born with, including gender, race, and hair color: the genetics category. The second group includes all the choices we make in our life based on the traits we are dealt from the first set: the choice category. In other words, human nature is a combination of the genetics we are born with (nature) and what we do with it afterwards (nurture, in a sense).

As gay rights advocates are quick to point out, condemning traits from the first set as immoral would be unfair. I agree whole-heartedly. We cannot condemn something which a person has no choice in, because morality implies an incorrect action. (I derive my definition of morality from C. S. Lewis’s. Please consult the early chapters Mere Christianity or perhaps The Problem of Pain for a more thorough discussion of it which I will not reconstruct here. In general, morality is man’s natural sense of “I ought” and “I ought not” about his own actions, whether or not he follows it. In other words, it is our sense of guilt, which, yes, must be natural, for other explanations are painfully lacking.) It is ridiculous, and cruel, for example, to condemn a girl for not being a boy, because she simply has no choice in the matter (setting aside gender change operations, which still really don’t cut it anyway). These rules are pretty much universally agreed upon.

However, condemning traits from the second category is perfectly fair because they are under our control. The word “condemn” may seem strong to left-wing opponents, who associate condemnation with such ignominious movements as Nazism, the Inquisition, and McCarthyism. Please understand that my definition of this word is something more along the lines of saying something is immoral, or perhaps unethical if you prefer. Two fairly universally condemned actions would included theft and murder. Condemnation means recognizing an action as wrong and, if you are in a position to do so, initiating appropriate actions to prevent it. Let this be very clear: by condemnation, I do not mean that if someone takes an action which is deemed “wrong,” it is alright to hate, ostracize or in other ways torture that individual. As is part of LDS church doctrine, we condemn actions, not people. People are all children of God, and their right-ness (or righteousness) cannot be “judged” by us with our limited perspective. But more on that subject later.

Returning to the point at hand, we have two categories of traits we can ascribe to people, one of which we can condemn, and one which we cannot. Now, the essential root of any gay rights argument is over a definition: to which of these categories does being homosexual belong? Clearly, gay rights advocates, such as SoulForce, will argue that being gay is a genetic trait, that gays can’t help being who they are, and therefore condemning or excluding them is a barbarous act, “homophobia,” which is akin to racism. On the other hand, the “religious right” would argue that homosexuality is entirely a matter of choice, that these people chose wrong, and must repent.

So which of these views is right? And which do I subscribe to? Neither of them, actually. The problem is that, unlike hair color or what you eat for dinner, most human characteristics cannot be easily classified as inherited or individual agency. Modern science also leads us to believe that many behaviors, which we might before have exclusively relegated to the choice, are influenced by inborn tendencies from the genetics category. For example, behaviors like depression and alcoholism are widely recognized as having both a genetic and a “choice,” or in this case reaction/coping-mechanism, component. It is this in-between-ness of behaviors that creates the moral problem.

Below is the discussion of one study that shows the in-between-ness of homosexuality. As far as I can tell, it is fairly well-conducted and representative of most other research, but of course I am not an expert on the subject. I invite you to leave a comment for me if you have another study you want me to look at. In this study with identical twins (abstract here), when one twin was gay, the other twin was gay only 52% of the time. When the twins were not identical, the percentage dropped to 22%, and only 9.2% for regular siblings. If homosexuality was a genetic trait, we would expect a result of 100%, since identical twins by definition share the same DNA. Even if homosexuality had to do with how one was raised, we would still expect a higher percentage, since twins are presumably raised in a very similar environment. Interestingly, 11% of adopted brothers were also both gay. Now, this study clearly debunks the myth of gay-determinism, but doesn’t provide evidence that there is no genetic component either. In fact, if these statistics are as I believe them to be, then the fact that there is any correlation at all provides evidence that there is a genetic component, but this component is far from being the only or most powerful influence.

It's great that Ali and SoulForce have a “personal belief” that homosexuals have no choice. However, science currently doesn’t support this idea, and rather tends to debunk it. And no matter how much they believe the world is flat, if the evidence continues to say it's round, it simply can't also be flat. And an argument based on bad science simply holds no weight in a rational society.

And what of this argument that homosexuals wouldn’t choose something for which they knew they would be persecuted? As “not too pensive” pointed out, this argument is just clearly wrong, as people do it frequently through out history. I'll just use one example to prove this, but I'm sure you can think of many more. An ironically relevant example is that of the Mormons in Missouri, threatened, harassed, driven from their homes because of their choice of religion. Yet many of them chose to endure those things because it was something they believed. Therefore, people do sometimes make choices that lead to persecution, and stick with them in spite of it.

In fact, the example of religious persecution gives us a good opportunity to examine why people would choose something in spite of overwhelming odds. In the case of religion, people convert in the face of overwhelming odds because a religion strikes them as true, and once they know it is true, the consequences they believe will come by ignoring truth are too severe to be ignored, even in the face of physical consequences. A similar argument can be made for those who give in to a homosexual tendency, or really any other kind of genetic tendency: they believe that the benefits of improving and acting on the tendency outweigh the cons they incur by “repressing” or ignoring it.

Which brings us to the next major problem of this argument. The entire previous section has merely established the fact that homosexual behavior is a valid human trait to have an opinion on the rightness or wrongness of it. It is an entirely different matter to determine what that position should be and how that opinion should be incorporated into society.

Stay tuned for Part II: Judging.

06 April 2006

The Weather and Conference

Oh, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmaaaaaaas . . . . everywhere in Provoooooo.

Sorry, family tradition. When it snows, we call each other and sing that song. :D Yes, it is snowing in Provo. And the slacker UofU has cancelled school. How lame.

So, long time no post. Finals are coming up, so less and less time to write random rants on here. But also, I've been working on a really long essay in answer to Ali's comment on my homosexuality post. Don't worry it's coming. It's already like three pages long though. I will try to finish it this weekend so I can post it on April 10th, when Soulforce is here. Then I hopefully won't have to think about that topic for a while. :D

Anyway, I've been meaning to write some comments on the General Conference talks from this weekend. There were several that I really liked a lot. I know, we shouldn't have pet gospel topics, but several of these addressed my current gospel hobbies.

First, I felt like one of the major themes of conference was agency, as mentioned by Elder Hales in the first talk. This makes sense to me, since so much in the world around us is encouraging us to blame our problems on genetics, parenting, natural tendencies, etc., and give up on changing them. While it is true that we are born with certain natural tendencies, we can choose to give in to them, fight them, or change them for good. For instance, my family has a natural tendancy towards depression. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I didn't inherit the tendancy as much as some of my other siblings, but I still have it just the same. Now, I could give in to my sadness, saying it's just the way I am, or I can fight it, which is what I choose to do. And really, how sad would life be if who you are is determined simply by your DNA? If you had no choice about it, there would hardly be any point to being alive at all. You might as well be a little machine.

President Hinckley's Sunday morning talk did freak me out. I must admit that I felt corrected when he said he didn't want us to think of this talk as an obituary. Seriously, it sounded to me like a farewell. And his last minute decision not to open the Saturday morning session also points towards that. I mean, the man is 96 years old, so I guess we should expect him to be called home soon, but still I will miss him. He is the prophet that I remember the most. The only thing I remember about President Benson was the notice of his death scrolling across the screen when I was watching Sesame Street on KBYU. It will be interesting to have a new prophet. But in the meantime, President Hinckley is the prophet and I fully support him.

Speaking of President Hinckley, from what I have heard, his priesthood session talk was good, not that I've gotten around to reading it yet. I've kind of been annoyed by the backlash of it though. One part in the talk seems particularly directed at "Utah Mormons," who are often viewed by the church as being exclusive, rude, and extremist. Ever since President Hinckley's talk, I have noticed how much criticism and stereotyping of "Utah Mormons" goes on around me each day. Personally, I don't see the problem as being just of "Utah Mormons," but general to the entire church. However, since the church population is larger in Utah, the problem seems greater here. I personally have never known a church family who would forbid their children to play with non-members. I didn't even make the distinction between members and non-members in my own head until I was in third grade (I can clearly remember the day).

Really, those who do such cruel things exist in all communities, not just the church. Outside the church, they do it for race, education level, wealth, lifestyle choices, and other factors. In some cases, I can see how it might be justified. There are some things you don't want your children exposed to. I don't feel that I am qualified to make a judgment about which cases were right or wrong, and I'm amazed that anyone would. Additionally, if you are shallow enough not to realize that one family refusing to let their children play with yours does not represent the whole church, then I am amazed that you have survived this long in society. For every one person with a particular bias, hundreds exist without it. It's like condemning all whites as racist because you happened to meet one person who was. It's a reverse-bias and just as dangerous. Really, we should all be striving to avoid stereotypes of any kind when dealing with anyone else.

Which, ironically enough, brings me to my next and final favorite talk by Elder Wood of the Seventy. He talks about something that is so true of modern society: it is viewed as cool to be extremist and to try to offend other people. He then goes on to talk about how members of the church must strive to understand other viewpoints before correcting them with love and kindness. It reminded me of Elder Oaks' CES Fireside from this summer. In that talk, he said that the members of the church should strive to be moderate in all things EXCEPT in their testimony of Christ. Here is where we differ from the worldly view of tolerance. I believe it is important to understand others and treat them all with kindness and respect; however, as a church member, and more importantly as a human being, it is my duty to stand up for standards of what is right and wrong. We condemn actions as wrong, but we should not be unkind to the people who do them, only firmly but kindly point them in the right direction. (See my New Year's Post on Relativism. PS - I Hate It.)

Yeah, so that's all. Time to go work on some homework now.

Oh, and I found a new knitting project today. Must make Ginny Weasley Hat!