Narratives

July 5, 2014

A while back in the comments on a blog I read someone described the church as “rigid and Pharisaical” and my first response was “are we talking about the same church?” After further reflection I think I have an idea where this description might have come from.

As human beings, we try to find meaning in everything that happens, and our main tool for doing this is to construct stories to organize our experiences. Since we’re also social animals (most of us, anyway) we share our stories, and some often repeated plots or themes become societal narratives that people use to construct their own stories: instead of piecing our own experiences into unique stories, we find a narrative that’s similar in some way to what happened to us and then tailor our story to conform to that general plot. One example where this seems to have happened is in early Roman legends. Georges Dumézil showed that many incidents in early Roman “history”, such as the founding of Rome or the expulsion of the Tarquins or the career of Marcus Furius Camillus closely parallel myths found in other Indo-European societies. These were probably actual historical events, but as the stories were told and retold people subconsciously altered them to fit the pattern of other similar stories they knew.

Many years ago I noticed that when religious leaders are portrayed in movies or TV shows, they always fall into two stereotypes: liberal, “tolerant”, anything-goes, God-is-love types, and strict, hypocritical, self-righteous types. My personal experience with LDS church leaders doesn’t match either stereotype. Instead, they tend to be strict but humble and loving. After all, if you really love someone and understand that true happiness comes from obedience to God’s laws, you’re not going to say “oh, that’s OK” when they start committing sins.

However, by nature we have a strong tendency to make our experiences conform to the narratives in our society, so many people who see the church’s strictness interpret it as rigidity and enforced conformity. This is unfortunate, because then they are less likely to listen to prophetic counsel and make choices that lead to happiness and exaltation.

Societal narratives arise from human nature and are important tools for helping us make sense of our lives, but when followed too closely and uncritically they can lead us to misinterpret our true experiences.

Amanda’s blog

June 30, 2014

After posting her emails home for eight months or so, I finally added Amanda’s mission blog to the links at the side.

Iraq

June 14, 2014

In November 2012, after the election, I kept thinking, “This will lead to bloodshed.” By which I meant, that Pres. Obama’s policies would eventually lead to armed conflicts in many parts of the world. I wish I had been wrong, and I’m afraid this is just the beginning.

Women power

May 1, 2014

For a non-Mormon view on the power of women, sci-fi author Sarah Hoyt: What a Mess of Pottage.

Priestesshood

April 27, 2014

I like this: Zion in Her Beauty Rises: Current Discourse on Women and the Priesthood by Ballard, Dew, and Oaks

Tim Bray, Punishing Peter Jackson:

On a recent 10½-hour flight I watched The Desolation of Smaug. Now we have to work out how to punish Peter Jackson for this travesty.

(If you don’t know who Tim Bray is, he helped develop a lot of web technologies. Also, he worked on the project that computerized the Oxford English Dictionary, an enterprise that Tolkien also worked on many decades before digital computers came along.)

Long time, no blog

February 17, 2014

I didn’t realize it had been that long. When I have time for such things these days, I mostly use it to update Amanda’s mission blog. I’ll try to do some more soon, though.

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