Vort

Creeping mediocrity masquerading as virtue

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I expect that all list members, especially those who are Latter-day Saints, felt a bit miffed when reading @Ironhold's thread. "What is the matter with people?" many of us thought. Why would anyone, much less a father, exhibit such a seemingly anal retentive attitude so as to require someone to kneel on BOTH knees, not just one, when performing an ordinance? I mean, seriously? It requires, like, zero insight to figure out that's not good.

However, I am not without sympathy for Ironhold's dad. He was wrong, to be sure. @NeuroTypical's Joseph Fielding Smith "mic-drop" comment about the sacrament really nails this fact. I can't come up with any reasonable scenario where acting as Ironhold said that his father acted could be construed as acceptable, and I can't imagine that Ironhold would prevaricate or exaggerate such a matter. But I have long noticed a "creeping mediocrity" within the Church, often overlooked or dismissed, or worse yet, justified as somehow a charitable virtue. Maybe this was Ironhold's father's concern, too.

Kneeling for prayer is a worthwhile example to examine. It's not a natural position, certainly not one that we can comfortably hold for any extended period without first being inured to it. It's like sitting in the Japanese floor-sitting position called seiza. If you're not Japanese and haven't practiced sitting like that since childhood, odds are you'll find it uncomfortable if not downright painful. The older you get, the harder it is. Yet Japanese, both young and old, sit in seiza for minutes or even hours at a time with minimal discomfort. Similarly, kneeling becomes a comfortable position only as we practice doing it a lot, for minutes or even hours at a time over a period of many years.

So why would anyone kneel to pray? Well, perhaps in a way because it's not natural. Kneeling is a long-accepted demonstration of humility, a way of bowing before a greater authority, literally humbling ["humble" = low to the ground] oneself before another. This attitude is absolutely vital in praying to God. We do not approach God as an equal with whom we're carrying on a peer-to-peer conversation. Or if we do, then our prayers will not lead anywhere good, because we don't understand our position before God. We must approach God with an attitude of utter and abject humility, or else we don't approach God at all. Thus, kneeling is spiritually a completely natural and desirable act, the flesh mirroring the spirit in attitude.

Then what of those who cannot kneel? They must therefore be cut off from all contact with God. It only follows, right? And the better one can kneel, the more acceptable he is before God!

This is transparent nonsense. No one believes that. It's a Pharisaical attitude that probably would out-Pharisee the actual Pharisees.

BUT...

That's not to say the principle is untrue. Dwelling on the openly hypocritical nature of the above example tends to lead people to decide that any prescription of action such as kneeling is a hypocrisy. And thus we follow the garden path right down the slippery slope, until anything is acceptable and nothing has a real standard. Baptism by sprinkling? Infant baptism? Sure, why not? For that matter, why worry about baptism at all? It's all good!

We kneel because it is our place to kneel before God. We kneel in such ordinances as the sacrament because we're instructed to do so. We kneel in our personal prayers because it serves as a physical reminder of our correct place before God. And the more we practice kneeling, the less onerous it becomes. If we can't kneel, then we don't kneel. But which of us has never found ourselves praying while lying down, just to get it over with, without even bothering to drag ourselves to our knees because we're just too tired (i.e. it's just too inconvenient)? I try always to kneel when I pray alone or with my wife, even when she prefers to sit. I kneel because I want to show God through my physical actions that I'm trying to humble my spirit. If my wife doesn't see things that way, that's okay. She doesn't report to me in such things. But that's what I feel, and it's what I have tried to teach my children.

Another example I can bring up is the monthly fast. (Yes, this is an issue I have addressed multiple times in the past. If you're interested, here's my most recent post on the matter from about sixteen months ago.) Now I am in no position to judge individuals in this matter, so I make no such pretense. But I have eyes in my head and a brain in my skull. I have observed myself very closely over the years. I have observed family members, friends, fellow ward members, and congregations I have visited. I have observed in-laws, both my own and those of my children and relatives. And what I have noticed is that Church members very often make up excuses for why they cannot or will not fast. It's often the idea that they have low blood sugar or diabetic intolerance or that fasting makes them feel bad, so instead they'll give up something else like watching TV for Sunday, and THAT will count exactly the same as a fast. Because that's what a fast is, really. Sacrificing something. Right?

No. Not right.

From what I can see, people don't fast because they don't like it. Going without food and drink, even for a short 24-hour period, makes them feel weak and achy and uncomfortable. But as I have often quoted President Woodruff as having said:

It was remarked this morning that some people said they could not fast because it made their head ache. Well, I can fast, and so can any other man; and if it makes my head ache by keeping the commandments of God, let it ache.

How many blessings do we completely miss out on because we Just Won't Fast? I don't think it's right to berate ward or family members for not fasting. That is not my place, and it is not what I'm trying to do. But it doesn't take a genius or a prophet to look at what's going on and realize that, as a people, we appear not to keep the monthly fast as we should. Is this not another example of creeping mediocrity that ends up being oh-so-ironically justified as some kind of virtue?

We have to walk a line. On the one side is Pharisaical insistence on rules and adherence to all sorts of measures that somehow show physical proof of our spiritual righteousness. Such hypocrisy is abominable to God; it seems to me that the only people toward whom the mortal Jesus ever seemed to show anything approaching disgust or revulsion were those who displayed just that sort of hypocrisy. But on the other side is the universalist tendency to say, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die...and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God." This sort of pooh-poohing of the commandments and teachings cannot be any less damnable than the previously mentioned hypocrisy.

The very first and most important gift that we as Saints are given is the gift of the Holy Ghost. Through that gift, we can—indeed, we must—learn to distinguish right from wrong and truth from error. If we depend on the Spirit, I don't think we'll have too much trouble finding the balance between the two extremes portrayed above. When we get off-track to the one side or the other, the Spirit will correct us. Until we've developed that spiritual maturity, it behooves us greatly to pay attention, follow the teachings, and be very strictly honest with ourselves about our efforts and motivations.

In any case, let's be slow to embrace mediocrity, and never try to justify it as some sort of holy thing. In this, I'm speaking to myself at least as much as to anyone else.

Edited by Vort

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4 minutes ago, MarginOfError said:

I won't say that I love mediocrity, but it's okay.

It's sort of, I don't know, lukewarm.

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I think King Benjamin touches on this. In Mosiah 4, vs 27, we often read, "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order, for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength." and stop there. We then rationalize ourselves that we don't need to try as hard as we think. If we continue, though, "And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize." we see that, while it's true we don't need over exert ourselves, we should be diligent.

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For a while now I have thought that this is one of the biggest factors behind people (especially young adults) leaving the Church. They go to church but don't pay a whole lot of attention, they read a little out of the scriptures but don't really search them, they pray but its not very heartfelt. And then surprisingly they don't recognize the fruits of the Spirit in their lives and start to wonder "Why bother keeping the commandments if it doesn't make a difference?" I have noticed this even in my own life. There have been times when the "reward" doesn't seem to match the effort but when I humble myself and do some honest reflection I invariably find that my efforts fall far short of what I seek from the Lord. This level of effort might be noteworthy for someone just learning the gospel but for someone having grown up in the Church and who knows better it frankly doesn't cut it. Its a trait of those eventually find themselves in the Terrestrial Kingdom: "These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus" (D&C 76:79). From the little we know the Terrestrial Kingdom is a pretty amazing place and to reach it requires putting off the world to a good degree. But if someone has their sights on the Celestial Kingdom they had better be willing to pay the price because no one gets in by simply showing up.

 

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Somebody somewhere, I don't know who and where and when, said to my son who is currently serving a mission that 60% of returned missionaries become inactive or leave the Church.  On one of my son's p-day calls to me, he mentioned it to me and said that he can believe it by just his experience in the Philippines of those missionaries who are going home because of covid.  He said the ratio is about that much on the maladroits versus the assiduous while they're all stuck in the Mission Home and the MTC waiting to go home.

Anyway, my son gets 1 hour a day to proselyte while in the MTC.  Unfortunately, they can't leave the building.  And there are a lot of missionaries stuck in the MTC trying to share very few internet-capable devices.  And, because my son has only been in the field for ONE DAY out of his now going on 3 months in service, he doesn't know anybody in the field he can contact and the ones he has been teaching in Florida are all asleep.  But he still manages to find one of his cousins or two to talk to about the gospel when he does get 10 minutes on a device.  Sometimes I would see him online and say, Hey!  And he would admonish me on his p-day that I should not do that when it is not his p-day!  I told him - if you can't find anybody to talk to, you can teach me instead!  And he told me, that's not his work - he needs to find somebody who is willing to listen to the restoration and not just his mother who just wants to talk to his son because she misses him.

Just last p-day, he told me about how he has been setting himself goals for the day/week.  His companion has already "checked out" mentally as he is headed home, he just couldn't get on a flight yet.  So, in his mind, his mission is complete but he is not released, he is just stuck.  So he tends to not follow mission rules and shows bouts of frustration.  He has only served for going on 6 months of his mission, 1 month of which he spent in the MTC waiting for flights to open so he can go home.  He has no intention of going back on the mission after he gets home.  My son made it his goal for the entire time that he is his companion to keep him engaged in the mission or at least, keep him from becoming the 60%.  Then my son make daily goals, the goal he set for the day before his p-day was to maximize everything he does on that day.  So, for example, he was in gospel study class and the branch president asked him to get a paper towel.  My son stood up, said, "Yes, President", ran off like a rocket to get the paper towel and was back in class within seconds.  The branch president said, "You didn't have to get it to me that fast!" and my son told him that he took the assignment and found no reason to delay its fulfillment one more second than necessary.  He lived the entire day and several more days before it that way.

Anyway, mediocrity is born out of habit.  The antidote to it is building new habits.  Joe Rogan asked Elon Musk in his podcast, "How do you find the time to do all these things you do?".  Elon Musk has no answer to the question... he simply shrugged and said "I just do".  Musk was stuck in Silicon Valley traffic again and thought, we can build roads underground.  So, when he got to his destination, he started the process to dig a hole - he said, it's not that easy to dig a hole in San Francisco - you need lots of permits - but you can't get to building an underground traffic system without first digging a hole, so he has to push through and dig a hole.  It's just a hole.  But that hole is going to lead to many things.

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19 hours ago, Vort said:

It's sort of, I don't know, lukewarm.

I think Jesus said something to specifically address being "lukewarm".  That considering the possibilities of "hot", "cold" and "lukewarm" that the least preferable is "lukewarm".  Even though it is likely the easiest to swallow.

 

The Traveler

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5 hours ago, anatess2 said:

Somebody somewhere, I don't know who and where and when, said to my son who is currently serving a mission that 60% of returned missionaries become inactive or leave the Church. 

Hi again...  Perhaps the reason so many drop out is that they are forced to go on missions and have no choice in the matter.  I was forced to go by my mother who I think just wanted to play the part of the martyred mother who could brag that her son was a missionary.  I hated it, and I met quite a few missionaries that also hated it.  One of my companions confessed that he and his girlfriend had been "going at it like rabbits" hoping she would get pregnant so he would not be able to go.  His mother, like mine ordered him to go and to lie about the sex he had had.  

If I had not been forced to go, I might have at least stayed on the fringes of the church instead of completely running away from it.  It seems like from birth, boys are brainwashed into thinking they have to go on a mission or be a failure.  The herd mentality of the church puts a lot of pressure on a young boy. 

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5 minutes ago, Gomezaddams51 said:

It seems like from birth, boys are brainwashed into thinking they have to go on a mission or be a failure. 

I've seen that a lot. 

When I first joined the church someone asked me where I went on a mission-I told her that I didn't go on one. She looked disappointed in me, like there was something wrong. My wife said "We're converts." and the lady seemed relieved. A good friend of mine (lifelong member) explained it to me. He said the same thing you did-that for years it was just expected you would go on one, and if you didn't go on one or complete it, you family was ashamed. 

 

Edited by MormonGator

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1 hour ago, Gomezaddams51 said:

Hi again...  Perhaps the reason so many drop out is that they are forced to go on missions and have no choice in the matter.  I was forced to go by my mother who I think just wanted to play the part of the martyred mother who could brag that her son was a missionary.  I hated it, and I met quite a few missionaries that also hated it.  One of my companions confessed that he and his girlfriend had been "going at it like rabbits" hoping she would get pregnant so he would not be able to go.  His mother, like mine ordered him to go and to lie about the sex he had had.

I am sorry to hear of such vile hypocrisy, and even sorrier to hear that you were a part of it. Rest assured, the vast, overwhelming majority of us returned missionaries served because we wanted to honor our commitment to God, not because we were "forced to go". That very statement is a sad reflection on the fiction of adulthood at 18, and a great illustration of why we should absolutely not allow 18-year-olds to vote.

Quote

If I had not been forced to go, I might have at least stayed on the fringes of the church instead of completely running away from it.  It seems like from birth, boys are brainwashed into thinking they have to go on a mission or be a failure.  The herd mentality of the church puts a lot of pressure on a young boy. 

Your decision to leave the Church was exactly that—your decision. Please don't try to pretend someone else was responsible.

As for "brainwashing", that's a term that's trotted out any time someone wants to criticize. If you like what a child is taught, you call it "responsible upbringing." Otherwise, it's "brainwashing."

That "herd mentality" that you reference goes by another name: "Socialization". It's the reason decent young teenagers don't go around raping and murdering people. The herd mentality, you know.

Edited by Vort

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I didn't go on a mission, and nobody ever treated me any differently.

Yes, I had a grandma and mom who wrung their hands and worried about my soul.  But that's what grandmas and moms are for. 

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4 hours ago, Gomezaddams51 said:

If I had not been forced to go, I might have at least stayed on the fringes of the church instead of completely running away from it. 

The truthfulness of the Church is not determined by the decisions of individuals. I get that for a young person that may be hard to understand but it sounds like you are now of sufficient maturity to understand that. Don't judge the Gospel by people's failure to live it.

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4 hours ago, Vort said:

I am sorry to hear of such vile hypocrisy, and even sorrier to hear that you were a part of it. Rest assured, the vast, overwhelming majority of us returned missionaries served because we wanted to honor our commitment to God, not because we were "forced to go". That very statement is a sad reflection on the fiction of adulthood at 18, and a great illustration of why we should absolutely not allow 18-year-olds to vote.

Your decision to leave the Church was exactly that—your decision. Please don't try to pretend someone else was responsible.

As for "brainwashing", that's a term that's trotted out any time someone wants to criticize. If you like what a child is taught, you call it "responsible upbringing." Otherwise, it's "brainwashing."

That "herd mentality" that you reference goes by another name: "Socialization". It's the reason decent young teenagers don't go around raping and murdering people. The herd mentality, you know.

Unfortunately my mother controlled both me and my father and we learned that it was much easier to go along with what she said.  She was the master at psychological torture.  Although I do remember her hitting dad once so she could get physical if she wanted.  So, when she said I was going on a mission, I went on a mission whether I liked it or not.  No choice.  The same when she hated the various girls I tried to have a relationship with.  Even though I really liked them, it was easier to just let them go.  She finally and grudgingly accepted the girl who became my wife since she was a member and "by damn we were going to get married in the temple (or else) and have her grandchildren".    When you grow up being controlled, it is very hard to think for yourself and stand up for yourself.

The problem is not the 18 year olds, it is the parents (mothers OR fathers Or both) that put pressure on the 18 year olds.  And it is the church that is putting "Socialization" pressure on the parents to make the kids toe the line.  There is little room for individuality in the church and it is hard to be an individual when you get the "Because god and the prophet(s) said so" to conform.

Yes it was my decision to leave, but then I never believed even as a 9 year old, but boy howdy I definitely did not want my mother to find out I felt like that.  I suffered through until I was able to get out and away on my own.  When I was finally free I ran.

 

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By coincidence, earlier I had a rather unfortunate exchange online. 

I don't think the other person is a member of the church, but it's still illustrative of the point. 

You see, the person saw a risque bit of fan artwork someone did of a video game character and started in guns a-blazing about how it was vile and "disrespectful" to the character. 

I joined with a few others in trying to explain that regardless of how one feels about something like this, it's comparatively minor. Politely talk with the artist if you must, but leave it at that. 

Simply put, if a person spends all of their time and credibility going off at the least little thing, they won't have enough of either one left for when something critical comes up. 

In this case, it's just a doodle. It's not a real person being harmed. I save my energy for people like cyber-bullies, corrupt / incompetent media figures, and others who are doing real harm to real people.

This person has since been trying to drag my name by saying that I'm just fine with all things explicit.

This person appears to be relatively new to the internet, and so doesn't understand that "things to be offended by" are a dime a dozen. They lack this perspective, and so they don't realize how draining and counter-productive it can be to keep trying to argue every last thing that gets someone's goat. The concept of "deal with what you can, entrust the rest to God" seems lost on them.

I imagine that's how it is for a lot of the people who get uptight over minor things but can't comprehend major things. 

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4 hours ago, NeuroTypical said:

But that's what grandmas and moms are for.

Fun fact-my grandmother is an agnostic. She's the first one I ever met! 

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On 5/5/2020 at 5:39 AM, Vort said:

In any case, let's be slow to embrace mediocrity, and never try to justify it as some sort of holy thing. In this, I'm speaking to myself at least as much as to anyone else.

In my scripture reading this morning, I came across what could be misinterpreted as an alternative view:

41  And also he hath need to repent, for I, the Lord, am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel, and he is not sufficiently meek before me.

(Doctrine and Covenants | Section 58:41)

 

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On ‎5‎/‎5‎/‎2020 at 7:56 AM, anatess2 said:

Somebody somewhere, I don't know who and where and when, said to my son who is currently serving a mission that 60% of returned missionaries become inactive or leave the Church.  On one of my son's p-day calls to me, he mentioned it to me and said that he can believe it by just his experience in the Philippines of those missionaries who are going home because of covid.  He said the ratio is about that much on the maladroits versus the assiduous while they're all stuck in the Mission Home and the MTC waiting to go home.

I have heard the statistics, but they were somewhat lower than 60%.  Things could have gotten higher since then, as the original numbers I heard were when missionaries were still going out at 19 (so they were a little more mature and many had time to think about whether they really wanted to go or not by the time they sent in their papers). 

One of the reasons some people felt they lowered the missionary age was that originally a person had a higher chance of remaining active after a mission than those who did not go.  If the inactivity among returned missionaries has shot up to 60% I wonder how much of the original numbers had to do with the type of missionary who went would be more likely to remain in the church rather than the mission itself being the cause for them to remain in the church.

That's an interesting percentage of returned missionaries that are falling away (if it is 60%) and...somewhat alarming.  If 60% of returned missionaries are becoming inactive or leaving the church, it is probably far worse among those who did not go on missions in the first place.

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12 hours ago, MormonGator said:

Fun fact-my grandmother is an agnostic. She's the first one I ever met! 

The following really has nothing to do with your post, but your post got me thinking about it which is why I quoted it.  I'll repeat, it has nothing to do with your grandmother...at all...or any relation to it.  Your comment just got me thinking about agnostics in my own life which led from one thought to another, until I had the following thoughts.

It is also anecdotal, meaning I do not have studies on it, it's just personal observations of those that I know or meet around me in my field and other academic fields.

Something interesting I've found (though it is anecdotal) among my associates at the university and in programs in general are the number of atheists and agnostics.  There are quite a few.  One weird thing I've noticed is that the harder the science, the less likely they are to be agnostic or atheist.

What I mean is that the ones that have the least agnostics or atheists actually tend to be in the hard sciences such as Physics, Chemistry, Engineering and such.  There are those in the public who are famous who were agnostic or atheistic physicists and such (though now days, I wonder if it was their views that promoted them to popularity while the majority who are religious are NOT well liked by Hollywood), but overall, those I know in the hard sciences seem to hold closer to religion.

On the otherhand, the further one is from science, the more they claim science as the basis of their atheism or agnosticism.  It seems far more in history are atheist or agnostic, and even more than that by a great number in areas such as philosophy to the point where you can't go more than 1 or two students without hitting them in English or Art or other such studies. 

I'd also say that there is a vast difference between agnostic and atheist, and those who are more in the hard sciences will tend to be agnostic more than an atheist, those in the areas further from science will more likely be atheist than agnostic, at least when claiming such in front of the public.

It's rather strange, as those who know the least science in the academic fields seem to be the ones who claim science as the reason and proof for their unbelief in any sort of higher being or life, while those closer to the actual studies of the ideas tend to find a way to their own religion or way of belief. 

The apoplexy that some of those who have no study among the field of science go into when dealing with faith or religion comparative to the devotion that some of those that actually study and are involved with the sciences amazes me at times.  It would seem the opposite should occur, but instead I see the further someone is from science in their academic expertise, the closer they are to atheism in many cases, and the closer they are to science the closer they are to whatever religious belief they practice. 

(admittedly, I think engineers tend to be more religious than anyone else, so it's not a perfect scale, but engineering is still pretty involved with hard sciences).

It's a strange oddity, which as I mentioned, could be completely anecdotal in relation to those I know and have met in the academic fields of study.

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12 hours ago, askandanswer said:

In my scripture reading this morning, I came across what could be misinterpreted as an alternative view:

41  And also he hath need to repent, for I, the Lord, am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel, and he is not sufficiently meek before me.

(Doctrine and Covenants | Section 58:41)

 

I don't know that I would call it an alternate view. I'm guessing the word excel here is referring to someone who is looking to glorify themselves rather than God. At least that is how I read it in context of the rest of the verses around it. But it does make a good point about our motivations. The religious leaders in Christ's time were very obedient in some respects but did so to elevate themselves which Jesus pointed out as not being a worthy motivation.

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2 hours ago, JohnsonJones said:

I'll repeat, it has nothing to do with your grandmother...at all...or any relation to it. 

No worries bud, we're cool. 

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4 hours ago, JohnsonJones said:

That's an interesting percentage of returned missionaries that are falling away (if it is 60%) and...somewhat alarming.  If 60% of returned missionaries are becoming inactive or leaving the church, it is probably far worse among those who did not go on missions in the first place.

Cumorah project gives an estimate of activity rate at 40% for the US, 25% in Latin America, and 35% worldwide.

https://cumorah.com/

All the stats are pretty old though with none I see newer than 2007.

I suspect (but am not certain) that activity rates have declined since then.

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