I live in Los Angeles … a city known for many things, of which righteous living is not among the top 100 descriptors. And yet, I find myself better able to not be of the world precisely because I am very much in the world. It’s the rebel in me. If I lived in a place where everyone was the same, I’d probably experiment with going against the grain just to break up the monotony. So, it’s probably a good thing that I live in a rather sinful place where I can explore the far reaches of my righteousness (such as it is), instead of living in a hyper-righteous place and exploring the limits of my wickedness. And sometimes I wonder what this says about my character, that I have a certain need to feel … what? Rebellious? Special? Unique? And what would happen to me during the millenium? I don’t know. I can only say that I feel more ownership of my righteous choices because I don’t feel socially obligated to make them.
In the LDS church, we’re taught that there must needs be opposition in all things (2 Ne 2:11), a doctrine that I find a lot of comfort in. I like the idea that every issue or concept is multifactorial, and finding out where I do (or don’t) fit. The idea of a spectrum with opposing ends is not a uniquely LDS concept. The most delectable culinary dishes are the ones that find the best balance between sweet, sour, salty and bitter. The perception of beauty is heightened by contrasting ugliness. One’s ability to feel joy is often deepened by one’s past experiences with pain. The complementary yin and yang pairing in asian cultures. And so on.
I’m reminded of a movie that a friend told me about. I must apologize here, because I can’t remember the title of the movie, or WHO is was that told me about it, but I picture a Marvel-esque setting, and cartoon animation. Also, I am probably embellishing the story here, but it’s just how I remember it. An Evil Villain is being chased by the Good Guys. EV is about to be caught, when he inadvertantly stumbles through a portal that transports him to another world inhabited solely by super-heroes who go about their lives as normal people, but occassionally rip off their regular-people-clothes to reveal super-hero-attire in order to rescue other unwitting superheroes from accidental catastrophes such as falling pianos, after which point the rescuer is delighted at the break in monotony, but needs to go home and dress in RPC again. Anyway, EV starts doing EV-type things again, and the local super-heroes have the time of their lives catching and imprisoning him. At this point, the GG’s re-enter the scene, having found a way through the portal. They approach the leader of the SH community to extradite EV back to their home world and are rebuffed. Turns out that the SH’s had developed a fondness for EV, and were planning on letting him out of jail every once in a while for a “Hunt the Evil Villain” spree. In short, they were very loathe to surrender him and give up all that good fun.Talk about a twisted plot …
Anyway, my point in bringing this up is not to bombard you with images of bulked up people in spandex, but to explore the pitfalls of entrenched cultures. I won’t discuss them here, as they have already been wonderfully explored in emilycc’s and Nate Oman’s blog posts. In terms of change, I think the church culture moves at an excruciatingly slow pace … slower even than the pace of the general leadership, which I happen to think is a tad bit more progressive. In Feb 1996, church membership outside the United States outnumbered that within the states. Last year, the first foreign general authority born in the last century was sustained as an apostle (all the other ten foreign apostles were born prior to 1900). And at every general conference, although I’m sometimes irked at not being able to understand their accents very well, I always look forward to hearing from general authorities who have spent a significant portion of their lives outside of the United States. The church is growing and diversifying, and that fills me with joy. It gives me hope that as the membership of the church grows to include those who have very different origins … be they racial, geographical, philosophical, cultural or intellectual … it will also invigorate us to further understanding of what it means to be a child of god, and how we can love each other despite and because of our differences. Thus my personal goal is to rejoice in unity without feeling stiffled, and diversity without feeling fear.
So where does that leave me, with my trenchant desire to be other than what is expected? When the millenium comes, will I go mad at the lack of opposition? I hope not. I fervently hope that when the time comes, I will have worked long enough to see others as God sees us. I hope that I won’t be distracted by race, gender, age or physical beauty. I hope that I will be able to see someone as the distinct being that they are, with unique blessings, talents and struggles. And I hope that my desire to be a rebel will be put to rest as I fully realize that we are all rebels from the adversary’s plan for enforced monotony.