Pithy Phrase

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why I didn't change my name

In case you didn't know, my full name is exactly the same as it was before I tied the proverbial knot.  You may be confused as to why I would choose to be unorthodox in this way.  Let me enlighten you.

1. I like my name the way it is.  It rolls off the tongue nicely.  My parents did a good job naming me.  Although I do sort of wish they would have gone by my mom's fantastic French Basque surname: Etchepare (etch-a-pear).

2. My name is fraught with genealogical significance. Yes, Miller is about the most boring last name in America* (and, incidentally, Germany), but it is the name of my forebears, and I revere it for that reason.  I like to remember that it was once the German Müller (we have this cool Amish family history book that dates my direct namesake line back to the first Miller to come to America, back in the seventeenth century).  My first and middle names are derived from the first names of my maternal grandparents, Jean and Olive.  I come from a long line of Basque "Jeans" and "Jeannes".  And besides being the name of my grandmother, Olivia is just a really awesome middle name.  There was no way I was going to scrap it.  I value my ancestors not only because of my religion.  As a geneticist, I find genealogy particularly interesting.  So I chose not to eliminate my heritage from my name just because I decided to change my marital status.  Those of you who have researched your ancestors and done family history know that the maiden name is the only one that counts, anyway.

3. I am the only child of the oldest child, of the oldest child, of the oldest child down the Miller line.  I am also the first female born on my father's side (obviously) in one hundred years.  I feel that this somehow gives me especial reason to retain my original surname.

4. My mother didn't change her last name . . . until I was in high school (I was kind of mad when she did that without telling me).  When she married she was an established, successful person.  Changing her name would have been extra-complicated and would have ruined her impact factor.  I remember people calling for Ms. Etchepare all the time when I was a kid.  I didn't think anything of it; that was my mom's name.  Because of her decision, I have no pre-existing notions that a woman must change her surname to that of her husband upon her marriage.  Also, my mother-in-law hyphenated her name, so Husband doesn't have any problems with my decision either.

5. I eliminated hyphenating because Husband wouldn't hyphenate too.  He likes his name the way it is (plus he didn't grow up being indoctrinated to believe that one day his name would have to change to that of his spouse).  I probably would have hyphenated if he had been willing to take on the hyphenated last name as well.

6. The name Herrick reminds me of two things.  The first is Robert Herrick, the famous poet (whose father was, coincidentally, named Nicholas).  The second is the species of fish known as herring.  While I find Robert Herrick's poetry amusing for its irony (a clergyman writing sensual poetry that urges young, unmarried women to be sexually active), I loathe seafood.  Wikipedia describes the herring as an "oily fish", which does not help matters.  Miller reminds me of a happy, pleasant middle-aged man living on the outskirts of a small village in Germany in a quaint cottage with a windmill behind it.

7. This motivation is shameful and perhaps immature, but I've included it anyway: I want to see people's reactions.  I have already had the pleasure of explaining to members of our branch that Husband and I have different last names.  No one seemed very taken aback by this.  Everyone calls me Sister Miller.  But I really can't wait to get back to Utah and ruffle some feathers there.  I'll try not to be annoying about it.  If someone calls me Sister Herrick, I won't correct them.  But I'll make it clear in my introductions what my full name is and what Husband's full name is.  I am confident they will all catch on eventually.  Am I being too optimistic here?

If you are married, why did you/your spouse keep or change names when you got married?  If you are single, what would you do with your name if you got married?

*I've found that famous people with average first names and boring last names tend to go by their full three names.  For instance, Sarah Parker becomes Sarah Jessica Parker; Catherine Jones becomes Catherine Zeta-Jones, etc.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's a Great Day to be Alive

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite bloggers told a tale of some women she knows wishing they lived in Jane Austen or Victorian times, when men were "gentlemen".  She scoffed at this ignorant viewpoint, and so do I. Wearing rose-colored glasses when viewing the history of the treatment of women may make the past look romantic, but it's incredibly inaccurate.  I decided to post about this topic myself rather than leave an annoyingly long comment on her post.

Husband and I have discussed this a lot recently. We concluded that the din of complaints about our current state of affairs is a bit louder than it needs to be.  Are there things about our culture/government/economy that need tweaking these days?  Of course.  But when we complain about these things, we are often failing to recognize just how good we have it.  Injustice and fear have been facts of life for thousands of years.  But back in the day, instead of worrying about the injustice of social programs or fearing credit card payments, people were worrying about the injustice of tyrannical leadership and worrying about their town being pillaged and burned.  The injustice that humans have inflicted upon each other throughout history is horrifying.  I am especially disturbed when I think of the historical suffering of women, usually at the hands of men. I'm not just thinking about the unfulfilled 1950s housewife or the stifled, weak Victorian lady on a pedestal whom some ill-informed women envy. I'm thinking about the ancient Roman armies that always came equipped with a harem of sex slaves. I'm thinking about the women who were raped and abused, often by their own husbands, while everyone perceived it as business-as-usual or else blamed the woman (granted this still happens today, but it's much less widespread . . . I hope). I'm thinking about the religious leaders who taught that women don't have souls and the philosophers who taught that women are incomplete forms of men.  Of innocent virgins brutally sacrificed to pagan gods, of women whose children were slaughtered at the command of rulers, of the millions of women who lived as slaves, whose life was not their own, but belonged to someone else.

Add in the many women who were goaded to marry for monetary or political purposes, whose talents weren't recognized due to their sex, who had no method of birth control and constantly risked pregnancy and thereby death, who were molded into the unrelenting stereotype of frailness, daintiness, and illogicality.  History sounds pretty bleak for women. Would you really like to be Elizabeth Bennett, who was subject to a sexist contract that would render her homeless upon her father's death?  Or Juliet, whose parents were pressuring her to marry a smarmy man at thirteen years of age (okay, I suppose few people actually want to be Juliet; she was kind of an idiot)?

We can fantasize about living in another time all we want, but I would rather live now than at any other time, when the status of women is almost equal to that of men. People complain about the world but, at least in my culture, 2011 is a time of incredible decency and safety and respect. It fills me with gratitude.  I am so grateful that God did not send me to Earth at a different time.  I probably would have been lynched for being a witch (for my sinister handedness alone), thrown into a mental institution (which were hell-holes themselves back in the day), or would have become some sort of mass murderer (the misogyny would have gotten to me eventually).  I'm perfectly happy to live in 2011, without the Mr. Darcys, the knights in shining armor, and the theory of wandering womb syndrome.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What Marriage is Really Like

After reading several blogs that portray marriage as nauseatingly idyllic and husbands as perfectly adorable and righteous beings, I have decided to set the record straight. The following is a factual story from my life. In "choose your own adventure" style, I have written two endings. One is the actual ending to my tale, while the other is a tweaked version in the style of these other blogs. See if you can tell which is which.

The other day I was laying in my bed attempting to read a classic novel on an iphone. This was proving somewhat difficult, and so I adjusted the substandard, oddly large and square pillow provided in our furnished apartment here in Germany (I forgot my Tempur-Pedic pillow of the gods at home; my mom sent it to me forever ago and I'm starting to fear it has been lost in transit. Sob). As I did so I found, to my horror, that there was a big squashed bug underneath said substandard pillow! Such an experience would be awful enough for the average person; I, however, have especial reason to panic.

When I was around twelve years of age, I found myself in a similar situation. I was laying in bed reading a book (this is one of my favorite pastimes). I noticed there were some short, bent-looking hairs on either side of my pillow. I gingerly lifted my pillow to find none other than an enormous flattened daddy long-leg spider! What I had perceived to be hairs were actually detached spider legs! Lots of screaming and hand-wringing ensued. For years to come, even after the pillowcase was banished and the sheets washed, I never moved my pillow to reveal the fateful spot, and never let my feet touch the corresponding area at the bottom of the sheet, just in case it had been put on the other way. Obsessive-compulsive disorderly behavior? Perhaps. Suffice it to say one day I got new sheets and felt safe again.

Ending One: I rushed to my fearless knight in shinning armor, who proceeded too hold me in his arms and quiet all my fears. He then attacked the offending insect with a tissue {he's so smart like that!}, and that night he went without a pillow and we fell asleep cuddling on his side of the bed {but not before reading scriptures and having personal AND family prayer because we're way spirchul}. Isn't he the BEST husband EVER?!?! We're SO in LOVE. The next morning I washed the sheets because, duh, that's women's work! Luv him!

Ending Two: Having grown up just a bit, there was no screaming or hand-wringing. There was, however, a sharp intake of breath and a rush to big, strong, husband man. He, having been asleep, was not thrilled by his awakening and did not see the dire nature of the situation. He promptly flicked the bug onto the ground and told me I was being ridiculous. I did not appreciate this reaction. I asked him would he at least trade pillows with me? This request was met with equal derision (at this very moment he is making the noise of "bugs crawling over your face at night" for my listening pleasure). Feeling slighted and as though my supposed lover did not care about my feelings, I proceeded to sulk for the rest of the day (immature? Yes. This is what happens when you get married at 21). At long last, he relented and traded pillows with me, but not without that "this is insane" attitude.

Ah, marital bliss. Can you tell which is the true story?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thank You Autotune

If you shift your gaze upward a couple inches, you will see that I have found a sufficiently pithy phrase to go underneath my blog title!  It is a quotation from the fabulous Madonna episode of the hit television show Glee.  To those of you who are judging me for watching such a depraved show, know that I even watch it on Sundays!  Gasp!  Yes, it is depraved, but it also has fantastic music and hilarious one liners.  Therefore I deem it to be a pleasant way to pass the time.  Plus, as I was the most celibate teenager on the planet, I find the subject matter of Glee particularly interesting by comparison.  Yesterday, while Husband and I were having an epic Glee marathon (aka laying around in our jammies all day watching reruns and gorging ourselves on Oreos and root beer [good old Amurrcan food]), we stumbled upon this awesome phrase and decided we needed to call attention to it somehow.  So now it is my blog's subtitle.  I hope, by and by, the content of my blog will do it justice.

Speaking of Glee, I have been meaning to write about this topic since my blog's inception: autotuning.  I have heard many a music enthusiast deride autotuning as a disgrace to music and a slap in the face to truly talented musicians.  The argument is that by digitally altering singers' voices to hit every note perfectly, vocalists appear more talented than they actually are.  Make no mistake; this argument has truth to it.  Autotuning is used to catapult semi-talented yet highly marketable individuals to fame.  My question is, why is this a problem?  Let's face it, marketability will win out over talent every time (think Milli Vanilli, every season of American Idol, etc.).  But with autotuning, my ears don't have to suffer for it.  Reader, I'm going to be frank, at the risk of sounding conceited.  I am musically gifted.  I know when something's in tune and when it's not.  And when it's not, I may become uncomfortable.  Thanks to autotuning, when I watch my beloved Glee, my ears are not assaulted by ill-sounding chords or poor intonation.  Every song is absolutely flawless.  It's incredible.  We use technology to enhance every aspect of our lives.  Why not this one as well?

Plus, autotuning resulted in this gem:

So here's to autotuning: my impeccable pitch thanks you.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Amurrca the Beautiful

 I really like writing posts in list form.  So here's another one.  You're welcome.

Last Saturday I went to an early 4th of July celebration at the Vogelweh army base in western Germany.  We went there to visit Husband's aunt and uncle and their four kids, who are stationed here.  What better place to celebrate Independence Day while in Germany than a United States military base?  It was like an oasis of American culture in a desert of Germanity.  Seeing all the stuff I've been missing has made me realize just how much I love "Amurrca".  I have compiled is a list of reasons I'm proud to be an Amurrcan, in light of my recent experiences:

1. Food is cheaper and comes in bigger quantities in America.  I've never been an "I break for Costco" kind of person, but our current state of poverty has shown me the virtues of buying in bulk.  Our charitable relatives took us to the Commissary, the American grocery store on the base.  It was like Christmas had come early.  We ran from aisle to aisle, collecting as much nonperishable food as we could carry.  This included huge cans of fruit, four packs of Kraft macaroni and cheese, a 12-pack of root beer, Craisins! and several jars of real salsa (as opposed to the German version, which is basically ketchup with chili powder in it).  We peed our pants when we found the enormous jars of peanut butter (due to the prevalence of Nutella, peanut butter is virtually extinct here.  We have found this to be problematic as PB&Js are pretty much the only thing we can afford these days).  There's no such thing as a gallon of milk in Germany, and the rare package of Oreos contains a mere sixteen cookies within.  Apparently Germans are used to going grocery shopping every day.  This does not suit me, not only because it reeks of inefficiency, but also because we live at the top of a very steep hill and the only way to the top (for us car-less folk) is on foot.  Hopefully the substantial amount of food we purchased will last us for the rest of our time in Germany!  Okay, that's exceedingly optimistic.  Especially considering that we ate half a package of Oreos just on the drive home.

2. In the U.S. everybody realizes that smoking kills.  I have observed the most peculiar phenomenon here in Germany.  Yes, the prevalence of cigarette smoking is high, but that's not the strange part.  The strange part is that the people smoking are young adults.  You'd think the only people smoking would be those older individuals who just never managed to kick the habit.  But the number of young people smoking suggests that German youth either don't know or don't care about the risks of smoking.  Doesn't everyone have at least one grandparent who died of lung cancer due to a smoking habit?  I have two.  I just don't understand it.  Oh yeah, I'm tempted by fancy cocktails and wines, but smoking is one activity in which I have absolutely no desire to participate; this includes the second-hand variety, which I've been inhaling a lot of lately.  So it was nice to get away from the unending cloud of smoke for a while.  I smelled all of one cigarette at Vogelweh.  It was heavenly.

3. We do not tolerate graffiti in the U.S.  In this neck of the woods graffiti is viewed as self-expression.  I'm all for self-expression, but please do it on your own property.  My heart breaks a little bit every time I see an ancient, historical building desecrated with spray paint.  I will admit that the graffiti is quite well-done here in Jena.  Graffiti artists strategically tag around words and signs, making sure not to cover up important messages.  Some taggers even employ stencils in their craft.  I'm partial to a widely-used stencil that depicts busts of two bearded, early modern-day prophet-looking men with the words "boys in the hood are always hard" underneath them (oddly, a ton of the graffiti is in English).  That said, it still makes our quaint town look trashy.  So it was nice to get away from that for a while.  Of course there was no graffiti on the base, and I don't remember seeing any in the surrounding area either.  This is probably because the area is largely inhabited by American military personnel.  While with our relatives, we also visited this awesome touristy town called Cochem, in the Mosel river valley.  It boasts an incredible castle on a hill in the middle of the town.  You better believe there was not a trace of graffiti there.  It's beautiful hamlets like Cochem that make me realize just how visually unappealing Jena is in many places.  Decrepit buildings may be charming, but adding graffiti to them makes them look slummy.  Legal graffiti is an acceptable art form, but I fully support the practice of destroying misdemeanorly art that we employ in the States.

4. America really is a melting pot.  From the second I walked on the base, I realized that I had been missing the diversity that we enjoy in the U.S.  And this is coming from someone who has lived in Utah for the past four years.  It was so refreshing to see an even mix of all different races.  There were Hispanic kids playing with Asian kids, interracial couples with their halfie children, and even some Polynesian people!  My favorite moment of the whole day occurred when a funny little black boy approached an elderly Asian couple and started making silly faces at them.  The Asian couple laughed, the boy laughed, and I wept with patriotism.  I knew I would never see that in Jena.

5. We have a dang good national anthem.  On a seriously patriotic note, I was touched to watch all the military people stand at attention while "The Star Spangled Banner" played before the fireworks show.  I particularly enjoyed watching one man try to look solemn and reverent while simultaneously attempting to discipline his rowdy kids.  While I stood there, I thought of how the national anthem plays at BYU every evening while the flag is retired.  You're supposed to stop walking and talking until it's done.  Whenever I have the misfortune of being outside during this occurrence, I usually keep walking to my destination and try to avoid the judgmental glances coming my way.  I don't hate America, but I feel like people who stop and gaze misty-eyed in the general direction of the flag are just doing it for show.  I don't need to prove my patriotism to anyone.  And yet I'm writing a blog post about it.  Anway, when I stood for the national anthem at Vogelweh, it was not for show.  Something about being out of the good old US of A has made me realize that I really am a patriot.  I'm exceedingly grateful that I hail from the sweet land of liberty.  I'm still not going to stop for the national anthem at BYU, though.

God bless Amurrca.  I miss you.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ode to Nickolas Pickolas

Well, today my Old Man got even older.  That's right friends, Nickolas Pickolas has reached the ripe old age of six and twenty.  In honor of the anniversary of his birth, I have compiled a list of the reasons why I'm rather partial to him.  I hope you do not find it nauseating.

1. He has a beard.  This is desirable not only because it makes him look rugged, but also because it's fun to watch people get their panties in a twist about it.  Like this one time after a choir concert when a couple of elderly women came up to him and asked, "So, why the beard?" His sage reply: "I don't know, this stuff just grows out of my face!"  Classic.

2. He uses his brain.  This may sound obvious at first, but if you ponder a little more you will realize that we perform all kinds of rote tasks whilst our brains are totally disengaged.  I can't count how many times he's steered me into the obviously shorter of two lines, while everyone else is inexplicably causing a huge backup in one line only.  The other day, we went to a ropes course for a young adult activity (it was an institute activity, so we were allowed to be there.  But we go to lots of YSA stuff too because practically everyone our age is single and what else are we supposed to do, stare lovingly into each others' eyes?).  There were several different courses to choose from, and we decided to try The Most Difficult Ropes Course in Germany.  They actually charge you if you want to quit and need to be rescued, because without the fee the employees would be rescuing people all the day long.  Undaunted, we took up the challenge.  It began with this awful rope wall, and some could not make it to the top.  Well, I'm a bit of a monkey*, so I got to the top fairly quickly, although my muscles were screaming at me.  Then it was Nick's turn.  The other guy up there with me plainly stated that he didn't think Nick could do it.  Well he did!  And how?  By being a smartypants.  He came up with a way to hook his arms through the ropes that made getting up a lot easier.  Nick then proceeded to find lots of clever ways to cheat our way through this ropes course of death.  In the end, we triumphed and gloated at our accomplishment.  I feel no less triumphant that we cheated, because we used intelligence and muscle.  Moral of the story: brains will always win out over brawn.  This is why Nick is always saying he'll be the one to stick to in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

3. He's always coming up with strategies for suriving in the event of a zombie apocalypse.  This makes for great conversations and vivid mental pictures.

4. He's gotten me to expand my horizons.  This includes things like getting me to jump into waterfalls, but it's more than that.  He has gotten me to take a good, hard look at why I believe what I do and at what my true motivations are.  He's helping me to grow up, make decisions, and be more assertive in life.  Well, he better, since he insisted on robbing my cradle.  He's also breaking down that prejudice toward the Democratic party that I, as the product of two Republican people, inevitably hold in some degree.  It couldn't have been that strong to begin with if I married a Democrat though, right?

5. He's really good at using the internet to stalk people.  This has come in handy many a time.

6. He sticks it to the hypocrites.  In a church culture full of facades, Nick tells it like it is.  He does not pretend to believe something he doesn't, he will openly question doctrine and policy, and he isn't one to publicize his righteousness.  I get the impression that some people think he's apostate (apparently his family is jokingly called The Heretics in his home ward).  He is critical of BYU dress and grooming standards (see beard, above) because it encourages judging by one's outward appearance and, therefore, alienation.  He's all about honesty and getting your heart in the right place.  He understands that making mistakes doesn't make someone a bad person (he usually likes people better once he learns about their problems, because then they seem more "real").  He recently shocked the members of our branch by openly telling them that he doesn't believe in blessing food.  He thinks saying a prayer of thanks is well and good, but has noted that there is no scriptural precedent for blessing food (unless it's being miraculously multiplied or is being used for an ordinance).  Well, our friends did not like this, and proceeded to pray over the Texas sheet cake again, because apparently his opinion invalidated his prayer.  I laugh heartily over this occurrence now, but I seem to remember it was not quite as hilarious at the time.  Is it just me, or is discomforting people with unorthodoxy much more fun in retrospect?

7. He's a self-proclaimed feminist.  I had no intention of getting married within the next five years or so, but how many male Mormon feminist scientists with fantastic tenor voices do you think there are out there?  Lately he's been encouraging me to think outside my career path tunnel vision, maybe even about going to medical school.  How many BYU students do you think want their wives to be physicians?  I just had an imagination of a faux-hawked BYU undergraduate waving a Family Proclamation in the air and saying that it's a sin for a wife to make more money than her husband.  Heh.

8.  He's got good hair genes.  I flatter myself that I, too, have good hair genes.  This bodes well for any future offspring we might have.

9. He's got a cool family.  I "finally" agreed to marry him after we spent a weekend with his family. What could be better than having a biologist dad and a feminist mom for in-laws?  'Twas a match made in heaven.

Alright, to make it fair, I'll list a few attributes that do not contribute to my partiality:

1. His sleeping habits.  Snoring, talking, blanket hogging, elbowing me in the face, you name it.  Plus when he sleeps he turns into scary sleepy zombie Nick, not at all like the awake version.  There are a lot of references to zombies in this post.  If you know Nick, this should not be surprising.

2. His eating habits.  He's not a messy eater like me (I try so hard, yet all the bread crumbs still manage to get all over the place).  But he doesn't know how to enjoy his food.  He just snarfs down as much as he can as fast as he can, I'm pretty sure without even tasting it.  And then he can't bear the mention of food until he's hungry again.  For a budding foodie like me, this can be distressing.  I see the eating of food as an experience to be savored.  He sees it as a means of staying alive.  Except when it comes to Hostess brand pastries (gag me).

3. His social ineptitude.  Somehow he did not learn how to say please, how to not play games on his phone during dinner with friends, or how to not tell the missionary that her dad sounds like an idiot.  We're working on it.

As you can see, the positives outweigh the negatives.  So I guess I'll keep him.  Why do you like Nickolas Pickolas?

*One of these days I will post about evolutionary theory and will discuss how I literally am a bit of a monkey.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Chiasmus of Blather

I had an epiphany while writing this post.  I realized that the flow of my thoughts often conforms to a chiastic structure.  I start on a topic, get sidetracked several times, and then have to backtrack to finish each tangent.  Since time and a patient audience are usually lacking, the chiasmus is rarely completed. This is precisely why I have a blog now!  Without further ado, a torrent of tangential thoughts that testify of my thought process:

Last Sunday I was asked to speak in sacrament meeting.  I actually enjoy speaking in church, mainly because I get to bloviate for at least ten minutes and everyone has to listen to me.  Well, at least they can't interrupt me.  So I was excited at the prospect of sharing my pearls of wisdom with the members of our little branch here in Germany.  And then I looked at the date of my speaking assignment.  July 24th.  And my heart sank.  Pioneer day.  I always hate the 24th of July sacrament meetings because invariably some old guy gets up and rambles about his pioneer ancestor no one cares about.  This even happened in a singles ward once, complete with old guy.  I was initially dreading this subject, because not only do I have zero pioneer ancestry, but I really don't hold any allegiance to the pioneers.  It's great that they sacrificed so much for their beliefs.  But the pioneers have no saving power.  Pioneers are not a principle of the Gospel.  Also the Church was a bit different back then and it kind of freaks me out sometimes.  For these reasons, I prefer not to worship them.  I fear that sometimes people make pioneers into false gods.  I was hoping to talk about oh, I don't know, maybe Jesus or something.  Instead I have to talk about dead polygamists.

But here's my actual topic: We are all pioneers.  Phew!  Not a single dead polygamist need be mentioned!  Are we not all pioneers on our sojourn through the lone and dreary world?  Do we not all have tests of faith, patience, and sacrifice?  Are we not all working to build up the kingdom of God (especially in a tiny branch in a godless nation like Germany)?  The majority of the members of our branch are converts.  I think I'm going to go along this route.  Husband suggested I just talk about Jesus with a little pioneers thrown in.  I'm not sure how to do this, but I'll think of something.

I also may try to work in this quotation by Brigham Young:

The worst fear that I have about this people [the saints] is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and his people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell.  This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty and all manner of persecution, and be true. My greater fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches, for they will become the richest people on this earth.

I may do this because it's a good contrast between the trials faced by pioneers and modern trials.  The difficulties we encounter today are different from, but no less challenging than those endured by the early saints.  Then again, perhaps I won't use this because the Jena saints are significantly more humble than those greedy business majors at BYU.

I attempted to teach the principle behind Brigham Young's quotation in gospel doctrine this last year.  A bunch of guys started going off about how it's okay to seek after wealth if you seek it to do good.  They were bringing up examples of wealthy members of the Church, like the Marriotts, who are really good people and donate money to charity and such.  That scripture in Jacob is true, but I think most people use it as an excuse to feed their greed.  How many of us really only want to gain wealth so we can give it all away?  And finding examples of individuals who did it right is the worst.  Just because another person's heart is in the right place doesn't mean yours is.

This makes me think of the doctrine of Christian liberty.  You may do whatever you want that is not addressed by the scriptures or other valid revelatory sources (prophets etc.).  However, if something you do that is neither good nor bad results in someone else sinning, maybe you shouldn't do it.  This concept is explained in 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul talks about the idolatrous temples built to the Roman gods.  People used to like to go visit these temples because they gave out free meat that had been sacrificed to the patron god or goddess of the temple.  Paul explains that it is not the least bit wrong to go eat meat offered to idols, because we know they're figments of someone's imagination (plus meat is yummy and expensive).  However, these temples also had free prostitutes to go along with the free meat.  This is a potential problem for those who lack willpower.  If you can partake of the meat but not the prostitutes, go for it . . . unless your friend sees you hieing to the pagan temple, follows you up there, and ends up getting a little more flesh than was intended.  In that case, Paul says you stand condemned for causing your friend to sin.

Here's where things get a little murky.  I dislike the thought that I am responsible for the sins of another person.  What about agency?  Did the friend not choose to indulge in the prostitution?  Was that not his choice?  That reminds me of this quotation by Dallin H. Oaks to young women: "Young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you."  Sometimes I like this statement, and sometimes I dislike it. I dislike it because it seems to place the blame for one person's sins on the head of another.  This way of thinking can lead to a horrible mindset, such as rape myth acceptance ("she's such a skank, she was going to get raped eventually", "that's what you get when you go jogging late at night", etc.).  On the other hand, I sometimes approve of this comment because it subtly calls out the fact that many women want to be objectified.  Looking at it this way illustrates the higher law: that choosing to dress modestly should be because you respect yourself, not be because "those poor boys can't help themselves" (again with the negation of agency).

I suppose that choosing not to go get free meat at the idolatrous temples could be considered the higher law (the lesser law being that if there's no doctrine against it, it's okay).  That's how Paul portrays it.  But I see a different higher law here: charity.  If you choose to abstain from the meat at the temples, it should be because you love your friend and don't want him to be unhappy.  It should not be because you fear being punished for your friend's sin.

That doesn't really relate to the few people out there who manage to be wealthy and righteous.  You can't tell them to stop being wealthy lest they lead people astray.  You also can't tell them to be an example of the pride cycle so people won't try to emulate them.  Let's try to be honest with ourselves about your motives instead.  Do I really want to buy a mansion,  put a bunch of orphans in it and feel warm and fuzzy?  Or do I want to buy a mansion, put a bunch of expensive crap in it and feel superior?  Am I really going to need a seven-figure salary to take care of my family?  Is that underground basketball court absolutely necessary?

To finish off the story of my Sunday school lesson: I responded by saying that Jesus said it's easier to put a camel through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, so if you want to take on those odds, be my guest.  Needless to say, the rationalization promptly ceased.

As for my Pioneer Day talk: any suggestions?  Has anyone ever heard a Pioneer Day talk that didn't put everyone to sleep?  Or included actual doctrine?  Or mentioned Jesus?  Dankeschön.

And there is a little insight into my brain for you all.  I'll try to be more concise and on-topic in the future.