I really like what I did here before. I think that I will start things up again when I have time.
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I don’t know what it means to follow my leaders anymore.
When I was in High School I believed that every word that anyone in a position of authority in the Church said were as good as scripture. This point of view got me into a very bad situation at the end of my senior year of high school. A very well meaning bishop told my family that as long as I was taking medication for an attention deficit disorder I would not be able to serve a mission. I unquestioningly followed his counsel and found myself going through serious withdrawals and became very depressed and delusional. I would later find out that he waswrong and that I could have served but would have most likely stayed in the states as a result of my needing to be medicated to deal with a very real disorder.
The second example of bad counsel that I received was just after my mission. For some reason the Church has adopted a policy for the youth of discouraging steady dating before young men serve their missions. I followed that and found that upon returning from my labors in California that I did not have a clue when it came to dating. I approached one of my leaders for some advice. It made sense that my leaders would have the answers. His relationship advice was worth just about as much as Confederate States of America currency after the South fell.
On the other hand, my bishop at BYU Hawaii really helped me out. His advice probably helped me stay in the Church whereas some of my friends have since left or decreased in their activity for one reason or another. He told me to trust in the Lord and not in men, which has really, really, helped. My branch president in Georgia has also helped me out too in ways that I cannot even begin to describe.
But because I have had very mixed experiences with following counsel, I am not sure what to do. So when in doubt, blaze your own trail. Define your own faith.
I look at it this way. As long as my leaders are talking about things that square with how I understand the scriptures, I have no problems. If what they are teaching is not congruent, I don’t feel obligated to believe or do what they are saying. But there is always the spirit. If I feel the spirit about what they are saying, then I have no problems. The only time when fire shoots out of my ears is when someone tells me to suspend my own reason and just go along with things. Experience has taught me that that is the worst thing to do.
Don’t get me wrong, the Church needs leaders, otherwise nothing would get done and it would probably fall apart and other places do not take to kindly to people who believe in the Book of Mormon. But the following has become my perspective for the past couple of years. In my scripture case on a small sheet of paper that I take out from time to time is written, “My leaders have opinions. God grant me the ability to know when they are speaking for you and when they are stating their own opinions”. That has worked so far without any meltdowns like I mentioned above and hope that it will continue to serve me well for years to come.
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I feel guilty for a lot of things. For instance I am going to my favorite wings shack to purchase a whole mess of spicy bbq wings. After devouring them, I will most likely feel bad because I know that even though they are so good, they are really so really so bad.
I also feel guilty when I go for more then a week without blogging. There many things that are worthy of noting here, but unfortunately when I get home from work, I don’t seem to have the mental energy to write anything significant, and if I do have the energy, end up writing something like this. I sometimes feel like I am wasting my time and that what I want to be a serious endeavor ends up being little more then a Myspace page (I don’t like Myspace).
But here are some things worth noting. The PBS documentary has satisfied my interest in all things controversial that has to do with Mormon history. It was gratifying to see General Authorities on such a program and adressing topics that have been important to me for a couple of years. In the end I have concluded, that the Church is true, the people are not perfect, and that much more good comes from emphasizing the positive instead of chewing on the same controversies over, and over, again. I even started reading a book by the late Elder Geoge Q. Cannon about the life of Joseph Smith and am finding it very interesting.
I am getting really excited about moving to Provo. While I have been there before, I have never lived there, and am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that will come along with that.
Well, I must be packing.
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Last Saturday I read a ridiculous op-ed piece in Scroll the unofficial, official, student voice of BYU-Idaho. The staff was writer was pleading with the readers to give an alleged thief a break. But you will find it interesting that the man was not stealing textbooks, computers, or even from the local Wal-Mart. No. This guy, a forty year old man from a neighboring town, was stealing womens’ panties from the laundry room at at least one approved housing complexes in Rexburg.
To see how ridiculous this is, you can read the article in all its’ glory here.
I thought this incident to be more serious then he did, and penned a response Saturday afternoon. Today, Monday, I put the final touches on it, eliminating everything that was inflamatory or overly condescending. It is in the opinion editors in-box now. I wonder what they will say?
Here is what I wrote:
Dear XXXX XXXX
Your recent article in Scroll about the alleged “Panty Thief” is frightening and represents how ignorant in society some are about sexual predators and generally how people at BYU-Idaho were naïve enough to have an “it will not happen here” type of attitude.
While I was attending BYU-I from 2000-2002 a girl was shot when a burglar broke into her apartment. Thankfully the Idaho Falls police department caught the man and he is now behind bars.
On another occasion, several BYU-I students were implicated in a burglary ring that had been preying upon students who were naïve enough to leave their doors unlocked thinking that Rexburg is a “theft free zone”. In most cases perpetrators walked in and took whatever they wanted. After they were caught, the thieves were implicated in stealing thousands of dollars worth of private property and in many thefts that had taken place over the past few months. The story was covered in Scroll.
Perhaps you have heard the urban legend about a student run brothel in an approved housing complex in Rexburg. While that story, specifically, may not be true, I spoke with a gentleman who used to work in law enforcement in the area and was involved in several operations to deal with prostitution among Ricks College students (Some were actually putting up red lights to let people know they were open for business).
Prior to my mission I took a class from a counselor who works on campus. Our teacher indicated that every year there are a number of girls who report that they have been either victims of date rape, or were coerced into sexual intercourse.
I hope that these, and the files of the campus police department, will help you and others realize that while it may seem that you are isolated from the rest of society and it’s ills, that even a place as small as Rexburg, and a school that tries to stay squeaky clean like BYU-I can have problems that are in fact found on other campuses albeit to a much lesser degree.
You should count it as a blessing that this guy was caught. What’s next, girls begin reporting that there is a peeping Tom lurking about? Or worse, will Scroll be writing about some unfortunate girl who was raped because those who knew about the man stealing panties did not think it was important enough to report it?
Don’t get me wrong; I like girls as much as the next guy. But because of my background in psychology, this kind of behavior screams of someone who has a problem, and might be on his way to becoming a sexual predator, the kind that either molests kids, or rapes women. You should be thankful that the Rigby and Rexburg communities will not have to read about this guy and how he sexually assaulted, or abused someone, and how people had seen warning signs but simply thought that he was an odd duck.
Yes, BYU-Idaho is a great school, one of the Lord’s schools. But we have to remember that as great as place, as it is, not everyone who attends BYU-I, and not everyone in the surrounding communities are as peachy keen as we sometimes would like to think.
Chris Rusch (Alumni 2000-2002)
So those were my thoughts on the matter. Who knows, they might open a file in Salt Lake City about me :-)
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One day in the halls I overheard some students talking about how it was not an uncommon thing for Mormons to have an extra digit (i.e. finger or toe) on each hand and foot. This was funny to me. It made think about the so called toad, that if licked, will cause one to hallucinate as if they had taken a significant ammount of LSD. I should have combined both rumors at that moment and said that if you lick one of the extra fingers or toes of a Mormon, it will cause you to trip out.
Humor aside, the PBS documentary The Mormons has been not only been the hot topic for LDS bloggers, but has caused a stirr in the newsroom at LDS.org, the official website of the Church.
This first statement has to do with documentary. Basically I agree with what they said. As far as documentaries go, this was good. But as far as representing me, as a member of the Church, and who I am as a Mormon, it fell woefully short. Honestly, most of the Church’s membership spends very little time thinking about polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, or intellectuals who get the boot for their apostate writing. Because it is so much bigger then that, I am frustrated that Helen Whitney decided to spend so much time on these two historical issues. But I will not go so far as my high councilor friend who decries the whole thing as anti-Mormon filth.
The next statement is interesting. It has to do with what is considered doctrine. Personally I am glad that there are no longer attempts to define the doctrine as some have attempted to do in the past. Largely I have found that this leads to apathy on the part of the membership when it comes to things like scripture study. I am glad that in General Conference, speakers stick to very basic principles. I have found that you can learn profound truths through prayer and scripture study and do not have to consult Mormon Doctrine on everything.
If The Mormons gets people to take a deeper look at the Church, then that is good. But so far, I do not know anyone other then my member friends who have watched it. After all “The Bill Moyers Television Network” has some stiff competition in the form of whatever else is on during the time slots in which The Mormonsaired.
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The four hours that I spent watching Helen Whitney’s Frontline/American Experience documentary the Mormons, was almost as good as watching the extended version of Peter Jackson’s Return of the King.
On the whole it was fair. Many different perspectives were given as much time as they could to respectfully make their points. There were some things that could have been better, but first I will talk about what stood out as good.
The documentary was not supposed to be about the origins of the Church, Joseph Smith, or the pioneers. As the narrator said in the opening statements of the show, it was an attempt to answer how could a people, as reviled as the Mormons were by America at large, make a one hundred and eighty degree turn and become the embodyment of that country’s dream and ethos. So with this guiding question in mind, one understands why so much time is spent on magic, polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and other issues that so many in the mainstream find troubling when discussed.
In answering the question, it must first be demonstrated that there is a question in the first place, and in order to do so, a hard look must be taken at the history of the Church in its’ entirety up until things got significantly better in the twentieth century. This a huge task when you consider all that has ever been written about Mormon history. It was wise to zero in on Polygamy and the Mountain Meadows tragedy in order to understand why Mormons were the pariah of America.
Like a well written work of research, Whitney did a fantastic job of answering that question to those who are outside of the Church, the same way that Richard Bushman has provided a work on Joseph Smith that is not only good for members of the Church, but is accesible and comprehendable to those who are not members of the Church. In the end it was fair and that is all that I can ask for.
But as any work it was not without flaws. First the format makes it difficult to cover every necessary detail, even when four hours are devoted to it on the “Bill Moyers” television network (PBS). So with those constraints in mind, it must be realized that you cannot cover everything. You can only cover major issues and find articulate talking heads on both sides to provide snippets and sound bites that are edited in such a way as to produce a documentary with a coherent narrative and provides an answer to the essential question that the program seeks to answer.
If there was any section where things were tilted in favor of opponents of the Church, it was the section devoted to intellectualls who were excommunicated for things that they said in scholarly publications and symposia. I have nothing against Margaret Toscano telling her story, but the ammount of time alone devoted to her tilted things slightly into the realm of bias. In order to restore balance, they should have consulted Richard Bushman, and maybe Terryl Givens, about how they have dealt with the tension some academics might feel. It also would have been nice if they pointed out that Hugh Nibley had been critical of the Church for years and was never subject to disciplinary action.
Also they could have pointed out that even the most conservative, perhaps right wing authors, have been censured for their work when they overstepped their bounds in their attempts to produce orthodox works. One example that comes to mind is Bruce R. McConkie and the first edition of Mormon Doctrine. I think that that story is important if you are going to discuss those who have been censured for their scholarship.
Leaving out those possibilities, I think, tilted things away from being even handed in that segement.
I hope that Helen Whitney will put the full interviews into book form, or at least sell the rights so that someone might be able to compile this material. There are just too many people, on all sides, with too much important stuff to say that it would be a shame for it to meet its’ end on the cutting room floor.
If you are so inclined, purchase this dvd. I know that it will be gracing my dvd collection and soon. Who needs tuition money anyways?
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After watching part one, I have somewhat mixed emotions. Let me be honest, years ago I would discounted the documentary as anti-Mormon trash and that if you wanted the real history, you should go talk to the missionaries or any active long time member of the Church. But now, after watching the first two hours, now that I have reached the place I am intellectually and more importantly spiritually, I can say that is was well done, and that it was able to respectfully present many different perspectives. My mixed emotions comes from how will I talk to people at Church, many of whom, will have very different, if not negative feelings about the documentary.
I am interested in truth and do not care who is telling it. If it is the Church, that’s fine, if it is someone else, that’s okay too. As long as you are telling what is really the truth, I don’t care and believe that I will only be a better person for knowing things that are true.
In the end, the truth is what really sets us all free.
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