Playing the Rules vs Playing the Game

Playing the Rules – World Cup Version

Another World Cup has passed with some exciting moments and some … flopping. For those who avoid soccer, flopping is when players try to dramatize falling to the ground to have the ref call a foul and give their team a penalty. Neymar, the Brazilian star, became quite the sensational meme and soccer teams around the world are “doing the Neymar” by falling ridiculously to the ground. Flopping has been criticized for a variety of reasons, whether as deceptive or as an affront to masculine norms of ‘machismo’. However, there’s a logic to it – doing so at the right time and with the right dramatization can provide quite the advantage in the game.

Yet – in my opinion – it’s also a tactic that breaks up the game. The rules of soccer are there to manage the game and protect the players from fouls, but players like Neymar are making the game about the rules. They dribble into players, hoping to catch them off-guard, hoping to be tripped and draw the foul. If they don’t get fouled, they want to be close enough that if they take the fall themselves, it will look like a foul (1). Rather than showing their own skills of the game, they so their skills of manipulating the rules. By playing the rules rather than playing the game, you lose the art and essence of soccer (and all sports). Continue reading

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The Not-So-New First Presidency: Defending the Status Quo

As everyone probably has seen, the new Prophet of the LDS Church made waves today by not retaining Elder Uchtdorf as one of his counselors. I had been hoping for keeping the same two, I loved both Presidents Uchtdorf and Eyring. My mother had hoped they would call Elder Christofferson after reading Tom Christofferson’s book That We May Be One. Instead, President Nelson brought up Elder Oaks, the Apostle called at the same time as him and likely the next Prophet as well. As many Mormons lamented throughout today on social media, this seems to mark a decision for retrenchment for the near-future of the Church. The discussion in yesterday’s broadcast and news conference did little to provide marginalized members of the Church any hope for change. Instead, the First Presidency spoke to defend the status quo rather than provide a vision for something better.

My reaction to this is similar to the feeling I have when I played soccer and I realized that someone had just kicked a ball straight at my face. I’m powerless. All I can do is tense up, clench my fists and scrunch my eyes, and wait for the impact. The most likely scenario: I’ll end up with a bloody nose or black eye. Maybe – JUST MAYBE – the ball will miss me. But instead, I’ll probably be knocked out. Continue reading

Ending the “Culture vs. Doctrine” Distinction

This last Sunday, I was fortunate to hop on the train to church with a good friend of mine in the ward. As happens with us, the conversation turned to questions of the LDS Church and experiences of people living on the margins. This conversation happened to revolve around our shared disdain towards “Single-Adult” (SA) wards or even “Young Single-Adult” YSA wards. [That subject alone can fill the pages of many a blog post.]

My friend discussed how the Church doesn’t know what to do with single members and puts them in SA wards as if it was a forgotten backroom storage unit. And whether or not you agree with that designation, it made me think:

It’s become the norm in the church to relegate anything undesirable to this amorphous thing called “culture”. As a sociologist, I recognize how awfully nondescript this term can be. A fun project for the future might be analyzing how Mormons use culture and what they think it means. However, I might take a stab at what it might be (although this is notably premature as I have done nothing analytical to arrive at this conclusion-it’s simply a hunch). Continue reading

What it Feels Like…

As I was going to sleep, I started thinking what tomorrow’s church would be like as I often do. This will be the “post-conference” week, so I imagine EQ/RS lessons will largely be discussions of which talks were are favorite, what impressions we had, and the importance of following the prophet.

I dread tomorrow.

This is the Sunday of the worst platitudes Mormonism has to offer. People will say they were so glad that Elder Holland talked about how all voices in God’s kingdom matter. Someone might say they liked Elder Renlund’s talk on sin because they felt he was talking to them and they needed to know that Christ felt past their sin. The class will probably make a joke about whether or not Elder Uchtdorf used a flying metaphor.

I started reflecting on why I dread tomorrow–four years ago, I’d be the one exclaiming how much I loved conference as well. And tonight as I thought about it, I realized it’s partly because it’s hard to talk about how ‘applicable’ conference is or how ‘it was as if the leaders knew me’ when that’s exactly the opposite of how I feel. At least in this moment, it’s hard to imagine that any of the Apostles or other leaders of the Church–maybe even my family and friends–understand how I feel. Continue reading

For a Progressive Mormonism

As a Mormon who acts and believes perhaps on the fringe of what is socially acceptable to be or act Mormon, I am often faced with remarks or questions like, “But don’t you believe that we are led by prophets and apostles?” OR “I believe that the Brethren aren’t out to get anyone, so what comes from them must be good.” OR “We’ve been promised that the prophets will never lead us astray. So I think we’d all do well to remember that.”

However, strikingly absent from this discussion is the fallibility of man, even our prophet and apostles. (For a thorough and conservative discussion of this, see this FAIR Mormon’s report on it.) This creates an important question: in what ways are the leaders of the church fallible? And while I’d love to write about this question, I’ll save that for a later date or for someone else. But, I’ll write a quick blurb on what I think is going on before getting to the topic of progressive Mormonism.
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The Problems of Eliminating ‘Identity’

During the last couple of months, we’ve had a number of specific responses to what I am going to call the “gay question” by three apostles: Elders Nelson, Bednar, and, most recently, Holland. All three have been prompted by either individual members or a growing voice of discontent, rightfully so, to specifically address the LGBTQ+ population in the church (although, this is usually framed as “same-sex attraction” or something more watered down). While Nelson’s talk, which framed the recent policy towards same-sex marriage as the will of the Lord merits discussion, I will be focusing on the responses of the Elders Bednar and Holland. Continue reading

Loving, Even Amongst Differences

After Church leaders formalized their stance on same-sex marriage by officially labeling them as apostate in its Church handbook, the Church went through a lot of pain and confusion, both for those who were LGBTQ+ and those who were not. Many of us noticed the bitter feelings by both those who respected or even agreed with the decision and those who felt the Church was moving in the wrong direction. Facebook fights, antagonistic blogging contests, and more.

This was then amplified after it was leaked that the policy had been influential in a number of suicides around the nation, especially by non-heterosexual youth. As I attempted to bring light to the fact that, regardless of one’s position on the policy, even one suicide was one too many and that it was time for a discussion on how to make the Church culture more inclusive. (This, I believe, can be done even before-or without-a change in the policy. It may be harder, but I think it is time for members to take a stand on changing church culture, regardless of how progressive or conservative you feel towards the religion as a spiritual institution.)

One of my dear friends sent me this Facebook message: “I was thinking about what you wrote about the suicides, which is definitely a tragedy. While I personally don’t disagree with the policy, I can understand the hurt that is very real for others. So since you have worked with many LGBT Mormons, I have a question. How exactly do you reach out to those that are gay and are hurting. You are correct, the “hate the sin…” rhetoric is not working, but I think there are many members who want to know what they can do to support and love those that are gay and are not sure how to help.” Well, here are some answers. To all of you wondering out there, here are a collection of what some LGBTQ+ members are searching for in your ward families. Continue reading