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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Descendants of Mormon Polynesian Pioneers Return to Skull Valley

   
Author Topic: Descendants of Mormon Polynesian Pioneers Return to Skull Valley
Noemon
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I came across this article in the Christian Science Monitor and thought that it was interesting enough to be worth sharing. The article itself is just okay, but since I'd had no idea that of the history it discusses, I found it worthwhile.
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BlackBlade
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Very interesting article, I did not know about this at all. I also found it interesting that upon construction of the temple in Hawaii the church offered to pay for folks to return to Hawaii.

quote:
"Sorry, don't speak Spanish," read one young girl's T-shirt. "I am Samoan."
I dated a gorgeous girl from Hawaii and she told me she gets pulled over by the police several times a month and they all ask her if she speaks English or Spanish because they assume that she is Latina.

[Frown]

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katharina
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I didn't know this either. Kind of cool. [Smile]

There is a huge, huge population of LDS in the Polynesian islands. One-third of Tonga and one-fourth of Samoa is LDS. It seems like that's been going for a while - I know the first temple outside of Utah after the western migration was in Hawaii.

Which setting, by the way, is BEAUTIFUL . When I was walking up to it, I thought I'd fallen into a painting.

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pooka
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A lot of Mormon settlements for white people were in inhospitable places, like Mesa, AZ and Alberta. After Nauvoo I guess it was decided that gathering all in one place wasn't too wise.

The church still holds a principle that cultural integrity contributes to family and social well-being. But it can appear exclusionary, and there have been recent remarks by the Prophet that if a man and woman are from the same culture, their marriage is more likely to be successful. He hasn't ever said people should stick to their own kind, which is how it could easily be interpreted.

At the same time the Church is always accused of converting foreign people and turning them into little rubber-stamp American capitalist consumers. There was a very controversial talk by Apostle Scott several years ago saying people needed to abandon cultural practices that were incompatible with the gospel. He mentioned a few specifics like sexism, but overall it was taken as a statement against cultural diversity.

Anyway, it's just one of those things.

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imogen
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Intrestingly, I just attended a conference where Polynesian and Melanesian culture was one of the topcis.

From what I understand, some 85% of Polynesian islanders abide by cultural law. I'm not sure how that meshes with the LDS statistics - I am sure that some values of the two conflict.

(In particular, I wonder if the LDS statistics are based on baptisms and do not follow people after that.)

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katharina
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All memberships in religions are based on things like that.

Like most churches, the percentage who attend frequently is about half.

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Cashew
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The church has always said that cultural practices that conflict with gospel (not Utah/American) culture should be abandoned, just as it has always said that cultural practices that are in line with gospel practices are to be emabraced.
Examples of the former would be tattoos, kava drinking (except as part of specific cultural ritual). Kava is a traditional Polynesian mildly narcotic drink, and gives rise to a number of social problems. Counsel like this can be seen as being Euro-centric, but modern European/American cultural practices are just as much part of this counsel as any other cultures'. New Zealand culture tells me I ought to be out getting drunk with my mates every Friday night - obvious conflict with gospel culture there!
I remember a stake conference in Hawaii where the stake president, speaking through an interpreter, told the Samoan saints that members acting under the matai system, whereby (as I understood it) a family elder could over ride the authority of the father of a family, would be in danger of losing their temple recommends.
I have also heard several prominent GAs over the last 30+ years speak strongly against inter-cultural marriage. Most of these I heard while a student at BYU Hawaii, a hotbed of intercultural marriages. (Important to note they never talked about inter RACIAL marriage, the concern was always expressed that marriage was tough enough when the couple had a common culture, without the stress of cultural differences as well.)
As a very happily interculturally married couple (32 years this month), my wife and I have listened to this counsel, agreed with it in principle, but have never felt as though we were part of a second-class marriage in the church's eyes. Our son's wife is Japanese, our daughter's married to an American, so they've continued the family tradition. I'm a Kiwi and my wife is Filipino.
We've also seen instances where intercultural marriages have ended disastrously, specifically because of the cultural differences. So the counsel is justified.

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BlackBlade
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Cashew: I was told, and I could be wrong, that there are some allowances in the church made for pacific islanders to get tattoos as far as they are part of a coming of age rite.
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Samprimary
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what's gospel got against tattoos, anyway?
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porcelain girl
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Blackblade, that is correct. The First Presidency has said that it is okay for Samoans/Tongans/Maoris to get their coming of age tattoos.
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Occasional
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"what's gospel got against tattoos, anyway?"

MORMONS believe the body is a Temple of God and created in His image in fact as much as metaphore. To mark or otherwise damage the body can be considered a mockery of God's creation and thefore spiritually questionable.

Edit: corrected for a very bad mistake.

[ June 09, 2007, 03:48 PM: Message edited by: Occasional ]

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Puffy Treat
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What's wrong with electric needles puncturing to the deepest layer of the skin in order to inject permanent pigment that can only be erased via expensive, inconvenient measures?
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Samprimary
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quote:
MORMONS believe the body is a Temple of God and created in His image in fact as much as metaphore. To mark or otherwise damage the body can be considered a mockery of God's creation and thefore spiritually questionable.
But the precedent set by the Samoan/etc ruling would be to say that it is not inherently mockery. How about body piercing!
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Puffy Treat
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
How about body piercing!

Yeah, how 'bout it?

From what I recall in numerous conference talks by President Hinkley that mention the subject, it's not encouraged to do anything that deliberately mars and/or punctures the body. Though he has mentioned that women getting their ears pierced for the purpose of wearing earrings is okay.

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porcelain girl
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But only one set of earrings. I was indignant about that when it was announced, but now it's just one of those faith things.

I am sure in varies based on what culture you are a part of, and what body markings/modifications stand for in that culture.

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Cashew
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In relation to the tattoo question: I'm on somewhat shaky ground, my knowledge is fairly superficial, but I haven't heard about any exceptions re Samoan traditional tattoo, although an exception for it wouldn't surprise me. The church rarely comes out flat against something like that, allowing each individual's spiritual maturity to determine what they do with counsel (the "teach them correct principles they govern themselves" approach).
Tonga doesn't, as I understand it, have any strong tradition of tattoo.
As I understand it (I'm a white NZer) New Zealand Maoris don't have a "coming-of-age" tattoo, certainly not nowadays, but there is a growing movement among some Maori, old and young to get a facial tattoo, women traditionally on the chin and lips, men full facial, as a sign of cultural pride. You rarely see a full facial tattoo on anyone other than extremists or gang members, and there is feeling amongst at least some older Maori that the young people who do this have no right to do it as they don't know what the individual parts of the tattoo represent, are combining them in inappropriate ways and haven't earned them.
I feel sure that a Maori Latter-day Saint who got a facial tattoo would be counselled not to, from the point of view of to whom is your first allegiance, a temporal earthly culture, or an eternal 'celestial' culture. I don't think it would impact on their membership though, in terms of disqualifying them from the temple, for instance.
As a side note, the church is going to see more and more members with tattoos as converts are made amongst those who have embraced the fashion. My own daughter-in-law has a prominent Maori tattoo on her shoulder. She joined the church about 8 months ago, about a year after she got it. I wish she didn't have it, but it doesn't bother me or effect my feelings towards her. She's a neat girl and the best thing that could have happened to our son. I haven't seen any negative reactions to her because of it from any members either, which is good.

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sarcasticmuppet
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my brother-in-law has tattoos, and holds a valid temple recommend.


Just sayin'.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by sarcasticmuppet:
my brother-in-law has tattoos, and holds a valid temple recommend.


Just sayin'.

Well remember that the church has placed no restrictions on being able to attend the temple if you have any sort of piercing or tattoo.

My first time through the temple the temple worker who helped me had a naval (as in navy) tattoo on his arm and let me tell you that was actually reassuring for me rather then repulsive.

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Puffy Treat
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I don't think anyone in the LDS leadership has said it's sinful, just that it's discouraged.
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Tatiana
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They've never spoken out against people dying their hair, or wearing makeup, or curling or flat-ironing their hair either, for that matter. Maybe because these things are less permanent than piercings and tattoos. It's hard to know how to interpret the teachings against tattoos and piercings. They may simply come from a cultural bias toward bourgeois aesthetic sensibilities.
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Puffy Treat
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They've never spoken out against people dying their hair, or wearing makeup, or curling or flat-ironing their hair either, for that matter.

That's not exactly true. While I'm not sure about the current guidelines, when I was a teen back in the 90s the First Presidency did release a pamphlet aimed at the Youth in which (among other things) the more extreme styles of hair and makeup were discouraged. Not banned, not called sinful...but discouraged. [Smile]


Maybe because these things are less permanent than piercings and tattoos. It's hard to know how to interpret the teachings against tattoos and piercings. They may simply come from a cultural bias toward bourgeois aesthetic sensibilities.

From the way President Hinkley explains it, it comes from a belief that the body is literally a temple for the spirit, created by God. Anything that permanently marks or pierces it thus becomes a rather serious decision.

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Cashew
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To me, it comes back to a basic disrespect for the body, (from the point of view that it is sacred, made in God's image and all that,)and the idea that the body can be pierced, malformed, decorated, etc, in ways that detract from its simple beauty. President Hinckley made the parallel between graffiting on the temple walls and tattooing/piercing the body.
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Tatiana
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What I'm thinking is that makeup, hair dye, jewelry, and fancy clothes also detract from the body's simple beauty. I was thinking along the lines of the old ladies like me who dye their hair to cover gray, not the kids who go with pink and green streaks or whatever. It seems that the only body-marring practices the church takes to task are things done typically by young people instead of old. Has there ever been a talk against cosmetic surgery? Or perms? That's why I personally feel the teachings are rather loose guidelines than hard and fast rules. Perhaps I'm alone in this.

It's also true that Maori coming-of-age tattoos are more accepted by the church. To me it seems that the church can't really make hard and fast rules that apply to all cultures and all times, so the central message is "respect your body" and "your body is beautiful just as it is", and that should be applied by everyone to the time and place in which they live.

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Puffy Treat
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I have yet to see someone say they're hard and fast rules. I'm not sure why you feel alone in this thread when no one's yet said "They're commandments, written in stone!" [Smile]


I've seen them discourage such things, though. Many times. And assuming it's singling out teenagers would be wrong. As a general rule, adults find a look and stick with it. Again, as a general rule, such looks tend to be on the less-extreme side. That's why there seems to be more focus on the Youth, because the Youth tend to go more towards the trends...and the trends tend to be more extreme. Especially in the past couple decades.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
President Hinckley made the parallel between graffiting on the temple walls and tattooing/piercing the body.
But you paint the temple walls, right?
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
President Hinckley made the parallel between graffiting on the temple walls and tattooing/piercing the body.
But you paint the temple walls, right?
Yes we do,
Would you agree there is a difference between painting a building and a gigantic rainbow fire breathing dragon wrapped around the figure of a nude woman on my back?

The tattoo equivalent of painting would be to simply color your skin, not draw anything.

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Scott R
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I think he was joking, BB.
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porcelain girl
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[QUOTE]The tattoo equivalent of painting would be to simply color your skin, not draw anything.[QUOTE]

gotta disagree with this, anyway.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
I think he was joking, BB.

I'm not so sure.
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Kent
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I have to disagree with just about everybody's explanations here. I believe the reason that Mormons are asked to avoid multiple piercings and tatoos is almost entirely cultural. In America if you dress a certain way, do your hair a certain way, get tatoos, etc.; you are communicating something about yourself. You are broadcasting a message that you either conform to a group, fashion, or a "counter culture" (and people that are pierced and tattooed are the ultimate conformists).

There was a day when women who had pierced ears were viewed as immoral, so "good" women had clip-ons. That was not a "Mormon" thing, but a cultural thing. Modesty is another example. In the Pacific islands, African tribes, and other warm climates, women's breasts are not viewed as sexual objects. Covering them or leaving them bare is not a question of modesty. Modesty is a culturally defined issue and what individuals do when they dress "immodestly" in America is draw attention to their bodies. Culturally that is generally interpreted to mean that the individual is insecure and needs to exploit his/her body as it is one thing that others may value. People often see an immodest individual as being promiscuous, etc.

If you ever visit a nude beach, you may be surprised that modesty has little to do with what you are or aren't wearing, but rather the attitude that accompanies it. Nudity can be non-sexual and not call attention to the body, while people that dress immodestly are rather calling attention to their bodies. Many Europeans also have a non-sexual view of nudity, as it is not immodest to go topless or nude at a beach, since it is not drawing attention to the individual.

Ultimately, I believe the church wants members to be seen as wholesome, very slow to accomodate to the fashions of the world, and not draw undue attention to our bodies, but rather respect them and view them not as objects but as a part of the human soul.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Would you agree there is a difference between painting a building and a gigantic rainbow fire breathing dragon wrapped around the figure of a nude woman on my back?
About $400-600, depending on the quality of the inking.
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pooka
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quote:
Though he has mentioned that women getting their ears pierced for the purpose of wearing earrings is okay.
Actually, he said the church has no opinion on women having on pair of ear piercings. You'll still run into people who think it is wrong, but it seems to be more of an archaic class thing than a church thing. My husband, for instance, insists pierced ears are a symbol of slavery and won't let my daughter get her ears pierced. Mine are pierced, though.

Painting the temple walls is equivalent to wearing clothing. Some of the temples are decorated ornately and some are mind-bogglingly simple.

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katharina
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I think the earrings and tattoos thing is a cultural thing - it isn't that tattoos are inherently bad, but that getting one carries a meaning in our culture. It's personal branding, it's a subtle rebellion, it's identity by appearance and vanity, it's a little bit bad***.

1. Personal branding - being a disciple of Christ should be our goal and identity. If you brand yourself with a poorly-translated Japanese symbol, that's not in line.

2. Subtle rebellion for its own sake - my stars, have you ever researched "rebellion" in the scriptures? In there, rebelling against the Lord is not even a tiny bit okay. In a church where humility and obedience is a big deal, rebellion for its own sake is not cool. (Don't tell me - I know the issues.)

3. Focus on other things - there's a lot to think about and do and learn about in this world. Choosing one eliminates others.

4. Vanity - it's getting one's identity by appearance instead of spiritual allegiance.

I think any one of these things isn't enough to prompt a discouragement of extra body decoration. I think the preponderance of them tipped the scales.

I also think, at this point, that it is self-perpetuating within both the church and the larger American culture. Piercings and tattoos mean rebellion because they have been spoken against, so if it wasn't a rebellious act before, it would be now. I do not, however, think it is wrong on a moral absolute scale.

It isn't good to mistreat the body. Sometimes I pluck my eyebrows in a strong bout of self-loathing. I don't think the Lord is happy about that, and it isn't because he has a thing against plucked eyebrows. It's because I have occasionally done it because to relieve internal pain, and there are better ways to do that. Plucking eyebrows is a temporary fix, and the Lord loves me too much to desire temporary fixes for me.

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Kent
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No matter what, we need to remember that when over 70% of communication is non-verbal, we are always communicating something by our demeanor, clothing, jewlery, hair styles, etc. People should not judge others based on these things, yet it is also rediculous to expect that others will "redefine" a symbol to mean something other than the shared meaning a society gives it.

If I wear a swastika on my arm, or put one on my backpack and tour the western world with it, it will communicate something to others; even if I say that I love Jews and just like the design. If I go to a jungle tribe in New Guinea, they probably won't even notice it because they don't share in the cultural symbolism or have experience with Nazis.

We can't say we want to communicate a different thing than what the cultural symbols mean in a shared sense. Now cultural meaning can and do change (as women's ankles are no longer sex objects), but you are always communicating something about yourself to others; ALWAYS. To pretend otherwise is a lame form of conformity to the group that thinks that whatever marginalizing symbol/behavior is cool/good.

People shouldn't whine about being "misunderstood", rather they should have the integrity to stand up for themselves and say, "I know a tattoo (or anything else) will be perceived as x, y, or z by the majority; but I don't care because I am comfortable with them thinking those things. The value I get from the stigma attached to this symbol is worth the price I may pay for it."

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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by Kent:
No matter what, we need to remember that when over 70% of communication is non-verbal . . .

I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but that number is completely bogus. It gets passed around a lot in motivational seminars and other arenas, but it was apparently pulled from thin air and not based on any kind of research.
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Kent
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Fair enough, the rest of my points do not rest on that assertion. I will rather say that a significant portion of our communication is non-verbal.

Jon Boy, you may be interested in a few sites on the subject which clarify percentages and under what circumstances they apply (link and another link).

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Artemisia Tridentata
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I read a quote the other day from a former IBM executive, who quoted his first IBM boss as saying "when you wear a colored shirt, I feel like you spit in my face". Non-verbal communication is cultural and important.
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pooka
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So I guess in his culture, spitting in someone's face is... bad? [Wink]
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Tatiana
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I think interpreting a colored shirt as a spit in the face is what's weird and wrong. I think it's wiser to not take offense where none is meant, and not to read things into others' dress or body decoration that they don't intend.

I think in each sub-culture, there are characteristic sins that trip people up. For instance, in my rough inner-city high school, the most prevalent sins were addiction to illegal substances, with all the associated dangerous and irresponsible behavior, and personal violence, accompanied by bullying, pride, hatred, disrespect of others, and intolerance for differences between people. The LDS subculture doesn't seem to have that many problems with addiction or violence. (Some, of course, but not nearly as much as at my high school.) However, there's a lot of difficulty still, I think, with intolerance of other people's differences. It's as though really changing ourselves on a deep level is too hard, so we focus on easy outward things that we all can achieve. I pay tithes, follow the Word of Wisdom, wear knee-length shorts and only one pair of earrings, therefore I must be righteous. These outward things are what we sometimes tend to focus on, because loving our neighbor as ourselves, worrying about the beam in our own eyes more than the mote in our neighbor's, and giving of our substance to the poor is just plain hard.

I definitely see it as an improvement over getting drunk and beating each other up 5 nights a week, but still we do have our characteristic pitfalls. We need to get over the focus on outward signs, I think, and take it on up to the next level. No doubt when we reach that next level there'll be plenty of new pitfalls to keep us busy. [Smile]

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pooka
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quote:
The LDS subculture doesn't seem to have that many problems with addiction or violence.
:cough: Codependency :cough:

But that is the substance of what you are getting at, that our hearts are so much set upon the things of the world, that we forget you can't force righteousness.

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kmbboots
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Tatiana, that was a great post. I think you have it exactly right.
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Zalmoxis
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Agreed.
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Artemisia Tridentata
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quote:
I think interpreting a colored shirt as a spit in the face is what's weird and wrong.
You missed the part about IBM. During their hay-day, IBM had a strict dress code that required a white shirt and tie for all salaried employees. After the written code mellowed, it was still a strong Corporate culture element. IBM was THE WHITE SHIRT COMPANY.
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Steev
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quote:
Originally posted by Artemisia Tridentata:
quote:
I think interpreting a colored shirt as a spit in the face is what's weird and wrong.
You missed the part about IBM. During their hay-day, IBM had a strict dress code that required a white shirt and tie for all salaried employees. After the written code mellowed, it was still a strong Corporate culture element. IBM was THE WHITE SHIRT COMPANY.
Some LDS wards I've lived in had white shirt and Tie requirements for all young men. I promptly rebelled to my fullest abilities.

I also have turned down jobs that required me to wear a tie.

I served my two years in a noose; Iím not going back.

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Scott R
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quote:
I served my two years in a noose; Iím not going back.
Meh-- if you get a good shirt, and know how to tie them, ties are not uncomfortable.

Lots of people have problems with the ideological implications of dress, not with the standard of dress itself.

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