I’m way behind the times, I know. But as you know, I’ve been getting my house in order.
When I watched the recent “Rock Center: Mormon in America” they asked if our strict code of conduct meant we were too uniform and conforming.
I liked how it was answered by the wife in the family they interviewed. (BTW, nice to see an interracial family represented!)
“I don’t see it as a kind of uniformity code that we all have to march to. I want to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to live the commandments of the Lord. And they bring me happiness. I’m not doing anything that I don’t want to do.”
You can view the segment here.
But I wanted her to say more. I wanted her to say we aren’t uniform at all!
Our strong code of conduct allows us to live healthy, be free of worrying about what others think and free of the consequences of selfish behaviors. Our diversity isn’t in our outward appearance. That’s a shallow kind of diversity. It’s in our talents. We are each unique, and by striving for excellence and lifting up those around us, we will shine in many diverse way, making the world a better place.
Our universe is very ordered and predictable, enough so that we’ve been able to discover that there are rules by which it runs, such as the law of conservation, the laws of thermodynamics, planetary laws of motion, and more. These aren’t laws to be obeyed, but sets of descriptions (often mathematical) about the way things work. There are no exceptions to those laws. If we find exceptions, it means we got it wrong somewhere and need to do some more observation.
It sounds like a recipe for too much uniformity. But it’s not. It’s because of this scaffolding of orderly activity that molecules could come together in a great dance and evolve into something more. Life is fantastically diverse, from the simplest single celled creatures to dinosaurs, sequoia trees, butterflies, tigers, salmon, humans, and millions more species that exist and have existed on the earth.
The commandments of the Lord are the same way. They are not descriptions like scientific laws, but they are a recipe for order. Following the commandments encourages true diversity and will help our society evolve into something more.
If a Mormon (or anyone else, for that matter) keeps the Word of Wisdom, they don’t have addictions sucking out their time, talents, and health. Further, the Word of Wisdom encourages us to eat an overall healthy diet. This healthy lifestyle supports a well functioning brain and allows hard physical work.
When we keep the Law of Chastity, our family life is stable and our marriage is a strength to us. Not only is this good for the married couple, it’s good for our children, who grow up with a strong support system. This is good for our social and emotional state.
Modesty is a supporting law to Chastity. It’s not that our naked skin is ugly, or sinful. It’s that we are beautiful creatures, and our beauty distracts our ape minds. Now, sex is great, but not all the time and not with just whoever happens to be walking by being beautiful. Even if we’re decent human beings who are faithful to our spouse, it takes brain power and time to turn our thoughts back to the task we were previously doing. Modesty helps us to turn it on or off when we need to.
And then there is another kind of modesty: humility. This means we don’t put ourselves above others. We are teachable. And if we’re teachable, we can learn more our whole lives. And if we learn more – you got it. More diversity. Also, a humble person isn’t worried about their status. They don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. This means that they don’t feel the need to conform to damaging social convention and traditions. On the flip side, they don’t judge other people either. So they’re happy to work with someone who is outside their typical experience. They’re even happy to learn from people who they might otherwise disagree with on many subjects.
And the most important commandment: Love one another. When we lift each other up and celebrate who each individual is, this is the ultimate affirmation of diversity.
Other strong ethics of the LDS religion is that we increase our learning and our talents throughout our life, work hard, stay out of debt, and become self reliant.
Now, add these all together. Mormons aren’t just trying to make a living so they can party on the weekends and holidays, though sometimes their jobs are just a way to support their family. They are trying to improve themselves and make the world a better place, often through their work. They keep clear heads in order to do this. This is why you see so much success among business minded Mormons. This is why a wave of Mormon speculative fictions writers is breaking out.
And finally, I think the 13th Article of Faith sums it up well.
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.