Saturday, December 20, 2008

Too Many People, or Too Many Westerners?

The Family Proclamation states the following: We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.

So, we are a people of reproducing. We marry, we have children, we increase the world's population. What affect does this have on the world? What about concerns of over-population? Ask most LDS people what they think of over-population, and they will tell you it's a myth, that the Earth's problems aren't caused by an excess of people, but by improperly distributed resources. I whole-heartedly agree, but do we practice what we preach?

How many people can the Earth support anyway? To save time and for convenience, I'm going to rely on this article for my information. I encourage you to read the article.

The point of the article is that the Earth can sustain the amount of people currently on it, but only if we stop consuming at our current rate. Unsustainable practises and over-consumerism are destroying the world and the brunt of the blame lies on members of the Western World. Mormons are no exception, despite the preachings of several church leaders, past and present.

The fact is, the culture of Mormonism and the doctrine don't always match up, and I think this is definitely a case where that applies. Mormon culture adores the rich and ambitious. Sometimes this manifests itself subtley, and sometimes with such blatantly ignorant statements such as "poor people obviously aren't righteous or they wouldn't be poor" and "people who live in poor countries were less righteous in the pre-existence." It makes me think that the Book of Mormon really was directed at us, considering the ad naseum warnings of the "pride cycle". The Nephites repeatedly succumbed to pride, classism, and the "wearing of costly apparel."

Back to the point, I don't think wealth and consumption are nearly as venerable as people seem to think they are. If we really are all about the family (and having children), if we really do believe that the Earth is our inheritance, if we really do believe that everyone on Earth is one of God's children, then why do we take more than our piece of the pie? Why do we uphold an unsustainable and exploitative culture of commercialism? Aren't we supposed to me in the world, but not of the world? I think we should all be striving to be a "one Earth" type of person. That is, I would like to live in such a way that if everyone lived the way I do, we would only need one Earth.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brigham Young Was Onto Something, Doc!

I recall reading a while back about how Brigham Young encouraged women to become doctors, as they were natural healers. I was reminded of this as I lay on my stomach getting stitches in my leg in the ER last week. The doctor tending to me was a woman.

Thinking back over the past few years, I've had quite a few experiences with female doctors. I've given birth to two children in recent years, so I've been to clinics and hospitals more than most people in a relatively short time frame, what with pre-natal check-ups, labour and delivery, then having to take my son to the ER on two occassions. It seemed to me that most of the younger doctors were women. My regular physician often has student doctors, which were mostly women. I wondered if it was my imagination or if there really were more women becoming doctors. I looked into it, and apparently, women are dominating medical schools across the board.

Based on my experiences, women do make better doctors than men. The short answer as to why I think so, is that they're nicer. I sense that the male doctors are more interested in looking at test results than listening to their patients and that they see things in very black-and-white terms. They act like authority figures rather than public servants, which is what I think they should consider themselves. I also think that it would be more comfortable for women patients to have women doctors. I know I feel this way. Plus, I insist that my healthcare professionals not only tolerate my stand-up routine, but like it. I like my current doctor but I still wish he was a woman. He'd make a funny-looking woman, but then again, he makes a funny-looking man so I guess it doesn't matter.

Regardless of my personal belief that women are superior physicians, there seems to be some worry over the increasing number of women graduating med school. One concern is that the pendulum has swung too far and that now men are being discriminated against. I doubt it. My hunch is that women honestly find themselves more drawn to the profession. I think women become doctors because they think they'll enjoy it and be good at it, whereas men become doctors because the income, title, and status in the community appeal to them, hence why they act like authority figures.

The other worry is that women are more likely to work part-time, so staffing problems will become an issue when all the older, male doctors retire. My answer to this is that there should be efforts made to make full-time work more achievable and appealing.

Now, perhaps you've read this and think I'm being a little hard on male doctors. Maybe so, but experience has les me to prefer female doctors. What can I say? I think they're just plain ole better at it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Burnt Out on Works

There has been talk in my Sunday school about grace vs works lately, and it seems that no two Mormons can agree on the matter. If you ask the question, "Are we saved by grace or by works?" you might hear either one, but the most popular answer seems to be "both".

How wrong that is. How very, very wrong. How someone could spend X number of years in the Church and think that works has anything to do with being saved is beyond me. According to our scriptures, both the Bible and other uniquely LDS scripture, we are saved totally and 100% by grace. Not only are we not saved by works, but we aren't even partially saved by works. It isn't a question of doing the best you can and God making up the difference. This mode of thinking is reinforced by such stories as The Parable of the Bicycle. I hate that stupid parable.

I don't really want to get into why we are saved by grace and not by works, because it isn't really even an up-for-debate topic. Church doctrine is clear on this, even if many a Sunday school teacher is not. I do want to address the fact that a great deal of Mormons seem to think that we are saved, at least in part, by works. I had a thought after reading an exit letter from an ex-mormon stating her reasons for leaving the Church. I won't get into names and details, but I don't need to because it's a common theme among exit letters. The author often begins by explaining how they were the model Mormon for years and years, how they tried to be perfect in every way, maybe even held positions of authority, served missions, made a million casseroles for their sick neighbours, or whatever. Then they describe how they weren't happy, even though they were trying so hard to be perfect. In the particular letter I'm thinking of, the person left the LDS church for another Christian church, where the emphasis was not on responsibility or actions in the least bit, but simply a matter of declaring belief in Jesus Christ and leaving it at that.

All I can say is that it's no wonder people get burnt out if they think they're saved by works. What a chore, trying to do Christ's job! Trying to be perfect? I may as well try to reach my tongue out and lick the moon. I'm not saying works don't have their place, nor am I saying that we need to all start slacking off so that we can be happy, but perhaps our desire for perfection in the here-and-now is shooting us in the foot. In my opinion, it leads a lot of people giving up on trying to actually be perfect and settling for the appearance of perfection, or just giving up all together. Our works should be inspired by our love of humanity, not our fear of hellfire. We should be so filled with gratitude for the grace of being saved that we want to pour out our hearts and our lives to others.

Not to mention, it's a little ungrateful trying to take (albeit partial) credit for what Christ has done for us. Let's focus on our works as a means of saying thank-you, instead.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Existentialism and Mormon Women

I follow the Exponent II blog and one of the posts caught my eye. It was this one: The Existential Crisis: A Common Phenomenon for Mormon Women? The main issue discussed is that LDS women who don't have a career (in other words, are stay-at-home moms) are prone to existential crises. If you don't know much about existentialism, check out this Wikipedia article. I would say that the hallmarks of existential crises are feelings of disconnect and futility. How does this apply to Mormon women? Well, this is what I wrote in the comments to the blog:

Society has ingrained in us from a very young age that everything that has value has a price, therefore, a person’s value depends on their jobs. In other words, a person’s value is tied to their ability to produce profits.

So, yes, it’s common for those who opt out of the workforce to feel unfulfilled. They can’t shake the feeling that they aren’t accomplishing what they should.

We need to remind ourselves that society and commerce exist FOR people not, vice versa! The contribution of healthy, well-adjusted human beings is more valuable than any job.

Of course, on that same note, a mother is just as human as her children and should pursue any worthwhile interest that she pleases. Personally, I prefer volunteer work and artistic hobbies to having a job, so I relish in the opportunity to let my husband "bring home the bacon."

In my opinion, the existential crisis is one of many by-products of a processed and industrialised society. It's easy to feel like a queen bee forced to live the life of a worker bee when our society pushes both individualism and loss of self in the economy. The answer? I say we start focusing more on people. I mean, not in an individualist way and not in a Thomas Hobbes' Leviathon way, either.

Individualism, and it's twin sister, hedonism, are vices pushed by big business to make you want their products. How many times have you seen something you don't need advertised with the words, "Go ahead! You deserve it!" What you really deserve is to have a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle, not to give in over and over again to entirely unfulfilling products that will make you less happy in the long run. Materialism is just another way for your brain to get it's dopamine fix; it's a cheap substitute for sustainable happiness. Avoid it like the plague.

On the other hand, you don't want to "selflessly" throw yourself away, either. Proponents of utalitarian governments and communism are quick to state that the happiness of the individual is less important than that of the "community." I agree to the extent that a healthy community makes for healthy individuals, however, a community is also made up of individuals. So, while I don't condone exploiting others for your own happiness (that's happiness at someone else's expense), I also don't condone exploiting yourself for someone else's happiness. This ties into motherhood because a great deal of women feel guilty when they pursue interests outside the home and feel that if they do anything besides care for their children, they're being selfish. Really, if one of their children wanted to pursue a hobby, they wouldn't tell them not to because they need to be more concerned with helping others pursue their hobbies. Mothers need to take their own happiness into consideration as well. On the other hand, you don't want to fall for the trap of feeling useless because you're not in the workplace, either. You don't exist as a food pellet to shove down the gullet of the Market. You and your children are more important than creating profit for whatever company you end up working for.

Here's a comment posted on the Exponent II blog entry I linked to that I really liked. It's by a man, but I still agree with the sentiment:

I just can’t accept my stayathomelessness. I can’t face the next twenty-five or thirty years of career ladder garbage without knowing that I am also working towards my ultimate Eternal goal. I can’t face the mind numbing irrelevance and unnecessary competition of my career without a plan for how I will someday contribute to my community by raising a righteousness posterity. And I can’t figure out how to shake the feeling that the days I spend in my career are days of meaningless time wasting.

-A career Dad

I know, I’m a man, I don’t understand, but I really found myself unsympathetic to the comparison between staying at home and contributing to a community through a career.

What is so great about careers and working anyway? It is an means to an end, and we shouldn't mistake it for our life's work. That being said, some women truly do find fulfillment in the workplace, much as I find fulfillment in having and working with my dogs (an uncommon interest, and one which I don't think most people understand).

My advise for stay-at-home moms who feel unfulfilled is not to smother their feelings in guilt or to jump up and run to the workplace. Do some soul-searching, find what makes you truly happy, and pursue it. You may find that volunteering for a charitable organisation part-time and getting involved with your community is more fulfilling than earning a weekly paycheque. You may also find creative and artistic endeavours deeply satisfying. Be open to new concepts. Find a way of living and thinking that makes you happy.

I also really liked the D. Todd Christofferson talk at the next General Conference. Here's a link to it. It speaks of materialism in a way I really appreciate.