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In future talks, I suppose Elder Bednar will relate the story of a woman who dumps her boyfriend after he lingers too long on Celebrity Poker when flipping through the channels. What a time to be alive!

As Elder Bednar explained, his story was not about earings, but about following the counsel of a prophet. He also said this was just one of the things that led this young man to break up. Earings were not the issue, but an outward sign of ignoring the prophet, the important issue. Yes, judged by the world's standards this seems extreme, but those who've have experienced the great blessings of following prophetic counsel (like this young man) want a companion who will do likewise when the stakes are much higher than wearing earings.

For me, this represents the very worst of Mormonism: judging others for failing to conform to pointless outward shows of faith.

But I think we can all agree that it is a good thing that these two people didn't get married.

The question might be asked "What would someone dump me over?"

Do you think people really took Bednar's example seriously? To anyone outside Mormon country, the two earring scandal is a tempest in a teacup. Why don't the GA's use their time to discuss some real issues? Like tolerance for others?

I am just wondering why so many of the examples used bv leaders to teach us certain principles deal with outward expressions of obedience. I mean really, how many of us are righteous enough to say we heed, much less follow most of what the prophets teach or have taught. I am offended when we as a church single certain, highly visible, individuals and take note of their disobedience. It is so cruel and hypocritical.

How many of you have actually read the talk? Seems to me like Dill T. is the only one taking it in context and the other comments are ignorantly passing judgement.

The talk is available here.

To focus exclusively on the earring issue does not do justice to the talk. However, is it really fair for Elder Bednar to raise earrings as an example, and then say that it is not really about the earrings? It is very much about earrings. The girl obviously did not believe that this particular "commandment" was important or applicable to her. She may be right or wrong, but it is very much about earrings. I have noticed that both Elder Bednar and his wife have made a point on several occasions of emphasizing the need for strict obedience to the brethren. It is unclear to me how one can justify teaching strict obedience to any and all counsel given by leaders when we (a) clearly do not believe that they are infallible and (b) have taught by some of those leaders that they teach general principles that may not be applicable in all circumstances to all people. (See Elder Oaks recent CES fireside address--sorry I don't have a link.)

Having now read the whole talk, I can say that the BYU Newsnet article was a fairly accurate and detailed summary of the talk. I don't really see what extra insight Dill and Ben supposedly have into it that I don't. (Unless "reading it in context" is code for "agrees with me.")

Obviously, earrings were just one example in his talk. But can we agree that it was a bad example? I think Elder Bednar realized this and tried to defend it unconvincingly in the following paragraph, "It's not about the earrings!" Then why did you bring them up?

Because it really is about the earrings!

Personally, I think the young man in question needs to work on his communication skills. He should have discussed his concerns with her, after building the appropriate relationship of trust, and then helped resolve her concerns and commited her to fuller obedience.

Honestly, why would you want to be in a relationship with somebody who would dump you for secret reasons?

It is an unnecessary example for BYU students, however, because they don't wear two earrings in the first place. It might have made more sense at a CES fireside.

Which, I think, is the point. He wasn't instructing them to not wear two earrings because no one in the entire audience was. Rather, he was teaching them about obedience and specifically mentioned the smallest thing possible so as to provide an example of strict obedience.

I find it scary that people would willingly submit to this kind of specific command that seems completely unrelated to living a Christ-like life. But then I guess at what point do we say we will follow the prophet? I've had my ears pierced twice since I was 15 years old, and I can honestly say that wearing two sets of earrings didn't make any difference in my life whatsoever. Guess I'm a bad person according to Elder Bednar. Good thing I'm already married.

Strict obedience? What about the atonement? The gospel is about believing in Christ and his power to save us from our sins. Since when did it become a test to see if we would do everything the leaders of the church tell us to do? Where is the joy in that?

What happened to "hate the sin, love the sinner"?

Communicating his main point, the importance of following a prophet's counsel, was best served by picking a minor point of counsel. If the story had featured a poker-playing child abuser, then the main lesson would have been that there ain't no good in an evil-hearted woman.

As always, I am amazed at the response any post on BYU generates. I have several tentative theories on why BYU is such a touchstone or flashpoint for Mormons: Because so many LDS went to school there? Because the leaders hold it out as something like a showcase for Mormonism? Because visiting GAs deliver so many discourses there (on broader topics than one generally sees at Conference)? Because a GA runs the place?

I didn't think of this as a BYU post at all. I thought of it as a "stupid thing a GA said, and Dave makes a really funny joke about it" post.

I also did not view this as a BYU post, but another "let's make a charicature of what our leaders have said " post.

Was Elder Bednar's point really that we/they should "focus on the really important things in their quest for an eternal mate: earrings" ?

Though in all fairness, that comment was not aimed only at Dav'e blog or all his posts...

Well, I'm sure that wasn't his point. That's just what he said.

Interesting discussion. I think the overriding principle is that it has always and will always take faith to follow the prophets. When the counsel makes sense, it's easy, but when it doesn't, that's when we prove our faith. This is not the first, nor will it be the last time the prophet counsels faithful Latter-day Saints to do things that do not totally make sense to us AT THE TIME. I believe (as prophets) they have insight that I don’t (and yes, I am well educated and open minded).

...AT THE TIME

That's a relief. One of these days all those non-Christ-like teachings the church promoted(s) will make sense! I can't hardly wait!!

I guess the question is, how long do we need to wait? Do we just wait until it all makes sense; or in the words of Buzz Lightyear, to infinity and beyond?

I agree with Dave that this is very much about BYU. Within that type of environment incredible consistency exists of discussing topics that get half the Church rolling their eyes with the other half scolding the half that rolled their eyes.

This is not the first time I have heard of the earring story being recounted by a Bednar. Apparently, Mrs. Bednar told pretty much the same story in a modesty talk at BYU-Idaho (in which nipples were referred to as "bumps"). Do you think such a talk would not be presented by a Bednar outside of a CES environment?

But I think we can all agree that it is a good thing that these two people didn't get married.
Yup, that's for sure. I think the purpose of the talk is to separate the "more than one earring is a very, very bad thing" Mormons from the "good grief almighty, is there anything that could possibly matter less than the number of earrings worn?" Mormons. You definitely wouldn't want a member of the first group to marry a member of the second group.

Mark N., I agree.
Except I would put it as a separating line between “follow the prophet” Mormons and “who gives a damn what the prophet says” Mormons. And you don’t want to put those two together.

Whatever happened to "opposites attract"? Remember, this alleged multiple-earringed female did choose to attend BYU, so she cannot be one-tenth as rebellious as most of you are assuming. She probably would have done the pretentious guy a world of good, and he might have done the same for her. Alas, 'twas not to be, despite the apparent fact (from the story itself) that there was some mutual attraction.

"Remember, this alleged multiple-earringed female did choose to attend BYU"

A technical quibble here, Dave. There is no mention that either the girl or boy were BYU students. And most likely she was not, because if she were she couldn’t have kept the second pair in as she did.

And why is obeying the prophet pretentious?

I should note that Rosalynde Welch had a nice comment on this matter a few months ago in a great post by Jim F. that I think speaks to the issue.

I said that it was a good thing they didn't get married because the guy sounds like an insufferable prig. But then again, she was dating him, so maybe she was too.

And no, Eric, he wasn't "obeying the prophet." He dropped his girlfriend because she wasn't. That's an important distinction.

I would put it as a separating line between “follow the prophet” Mormons and “who gives a damn what the prophet says” Mormons.

I suppose it could also be classified as the line between those who studied it out in their minds and felt a burning in their bosoms as a result, and those who also studied it out in their minds and received a stupor of thought that caused them to forget the whole thing.

Is it possible that two equally righteous members of the Church could receive two different revelations on the subject?

No.

Unless you can also receive revelation that you should gamble and look at pr0n.

Bob wrote Within that type of environment incredible consistency exists of discussing topics that get half the Church rolling their eyes with the other half scolding the half that rolled their eyes.

Or is it the other way around: consistency of discussing topics that get half of the Church criticizing the half that submits to the voice of the leaders?

Multiple earrings is on the same moral eqivalency level as looking at pr0n and gambling?

Well, I've guess we've cleared that up, but maybe you can let us know where on the scale does it fall by comparison with third-trimester abortions?

What?? No one ever said anything about moral equivalancy.

It doesn't matter what the examples are. It could be abortion, it could be flat out murder. The principle remains the same: as a general rule, when the prophet commands X, X is not up for personal revision.

Look, the narrow-minded attitude at BYU bugged me just as much as anybody. Accusations that many at the institution focus too much on the visible and superficial manifestations of religiousity are probably true (although I don't think such narrow-mindedness is as widespread there as some here are asserting).

However, don't confuse Elder Bednar's counsel with what the stuffed shirts in Utah County do with that advice.

Personally, my take home message from the speech is not that "earrings are bad." My take home message is that obedience is important. If the girl I'm dating isn't willing to do something so stupid and insignificant as remove an extra set of earrings because the prophet asked. That does not speak well of her spiritual maturity.

The accusation that the earring policy is stupid cuts both ways. Those who refuse to remove the earrings are being just as petty as those who obsess over the outward obedience of others.

You are no better than the BYU stuffed-shirts you criticize. You're both being juvenile, petty, and spiritually shortsighted.

Just take the stupid earrings out!

There's a lot of scriptural precedent for being asked to do stupid things by church authorities and being blessed for it.

I don't care one way or the other about earrings. I do care about obedience to the prophet. Especially over something that is so ridiculously easy to comply with.

A person who is unwilling to even take out a pair of stupid earrings on prophetic direction is unlikely to be of much use to the Lord when really serious issues arise.

Seth said: There's a lot of scriptural precedent for being asked to do stupid things by church authorities and being blessed for it.

Now that is an interesting statement, Seth. I can see nice discussion on both sides of that issue. Perhaps I'll start a new thread on that topic tonight.

Dave: Please do start a thread on this issue. It's one that I feel deeply torn about, and I'd love to hear your thoughts and the thoughts of others. On the one hand, there's the faith and humility involved in submitting to what seems to be bad advice--probably a source of spiritual growth. On the other, there's the growth clearly that comes from personally evaluating a decision and making a good choice.

To put this in perhaps the sharpest contrast: when Brigham Young was teaching the Adam-God doctrine, would it have been better to believe it or reject it? (This dilemma is easier to use than anything modern, simply because almost none of us have a personal stake in this one.) Believe it, and you follow the prophet and show faith. Reject it, and you are much closer to what we today see as the truth.

I'll second that.

RT, I agree. We should follow the prophet, wrong or right.

But are you so sure about Adam-God? I mean, I know Joseph Fielding Smith didn’t believe it, but I’m not convinced there’s any Mormon doctrine that says it’s wrong, necessarily. There might be better examples.

I'm just glad to see that we mainstream Mormons are so different from those wackos down in Colorado City. Before we say "follow the prophet, wrong or right"--not to point fingers at Eric, but he has spoken for a whole lot of us with that phrase--we should probably read up on the Warren Jeffs crowd.

A few days ago, somebody posted in the blogosphere asking for mormons to explain the difference between the LDS and FLDS, and how would he know which to join to get the right one. Based on our current discussion, the answer would have to be "because our prophet is better than their prophet." Step out of the box, and that doesn't sound so convincing.

Alright, by popular demand, I have opened up a new post on this topic. Have at it.

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