31 October 2007

I LOVE House



One of my LDS friends and I both adore House M.D. Imagine our surprise when a Mormon character was added to the show. I have been following the new season closely since his addition, but she is teaching English in Russia right now, and has not been able to tune in. I finally found a link to a site where she can watch the new season after each episode airs, plus any from the past seasons.

On last week's episode, "Guardian Angels," House made a bet with a fellow doctor claiming that the Mormon was too wimpy and pious to lose his temper. As you can see, if you watch the episode, House lost the bet.

I realize that somewhere in America, surely someone was watching the show and thought to him/herself, "See?! Those Mormons are crazy! I knew it, they're the devil's chosen!" And I'm sure that somewhere not too far off, some Average Joe Mormon flinched and thought great, now people are going to think we advocate punching non-members in the face! And I suppose I could come up with a tangent about how this character will only add to our negative stereotypes, and how irresponsible the show's writers are for making him so non-traditional. But then I thought about the implications of that statement, and the character himself.

The writers have created an educated (not stupid), African American (not white) single (not married) father that cares about his faith and the Church. Considering the Mormon stereotype is a white man with multiple wives and a slew of children, having a character on a prime time show that deviates from this stereotype is a gift in disguise. Viewers all over the planet were forced to confront their misconceptions, if any, about our church and its members before Cole ever said a word. By portraying him as a college graduate pursuing a career in medicine, viewers must consider that Mormons are not blind; they are not hayseeds that maintain their faith out of tradition alone, or because they are too stupid to know better.

The writers also chose to make Cole African American, confronting the misconception that only white people can be LDS. But my favorite aspect of Cole's character is the fact that he's a single father; reminding all, including even LDS faithful, that families come in all shapes and sizes. And considering that Cole attempts to give a patient a blessing, the viewer can assume Cole to be a worthy priesthood holder. (How he is a single father, then, remains a mystery that has sparked my curiosity-- but that's not the point.)

When House descends upon Cole with irrelevant insults about Joseph Smith, the viewer's natural reaction is to sympathize with Cole; even the viewers with preconceived notions of Latter-day Saints recognize that he is being attacked for no reason. The viewer was waiting and rooting for Cole to finally snap long before he ever threw the hook to House's face. If that were me, I would punch him right in the face! the viewer thinks to himself. And when Cole finally caves, the viewer cheers, Yeah! Just like that!


For the space of ten seconds, everyone watching House was sympathizing with "the Mormon Guy." When Cole punched House in the face, it was like he completed a rite of passage with the rest of America. And maybe his reaction was not that of a kosher Mormon. Lashing out certainly is outside of the bounds of LDS doctrine. But like everyone else on the planet, even Latter-day Saints have a breaking point because they're human.

Could it be that Cole's reaction was a blessing to us? Could it be that behind the polygamy stereotypes, beneath the "magic underwear" of a Mormon is a person? With feelings?! And he lashes out when you make fun of him?!!


Imagine that!

Revelation in the form of an episode of House M.D.; non-traditional, I'll admit. But then again, so is life and the people in it. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.

19 October 2007

The She-Bear



My senior class valedictorian tried to rip me a new one with secular logic when we were discussing a Richard Russo short story ("The Whore's Child"). When my friend saw that his disdain for religion in the context of the story did not impress me (there's a surprise), he resorted to bringing my own religious beliefs into the discussion; a cheap parlor trick that aggravated the she-bear within me. He won't be so lucky to escape with his pride intact next time.

A day or so later, one of my teachers discovered that I'm LDS. She informed me that she was LDS through most of her youth, and she laughed when she heard about my new (and first) calling as first counselor in the laurel presidency. Apparently, she served in her laurel presidency too. She explained to my friends and I that she is currently inactive, does not believe in God, and that her disdain for conformity and the enigma Joseph Smith led her to abort her own testimony.

Then she stared at me for a long time, like she had never seen me before. I finally had to provide a rebuttal to break the awkward silence. I offered a feeble explanation of how the enigmas in the Church's history a.) make it interesting, and I like it that way, and b.) do not influence the truth of the Church as it stands today, and that's the Church I joined.

President Hinckley teaches us that "the subtle reasoning of men, no matter how clever, no matter how plausible it may sound, cannot abridge the declared wisdom of God." I don't think members of the Church are the only ones who know that. If anything, that statement explains why a valedictorian, Russo's professor, and my teacher would feel so threatened by me when "all I did was pray."

I refuse to be intimidated by scholars and historians who will try to strong arm me out of the beliefs I've waited my entire life to find. I will not be bound to the notion that I must have a footnote and a tangible piece of evidence for every religious truth I claim! I would not accept a religion that could because it wouldn't be a religion.

At some point, you have to make peace with the mysticism of life. You cut the magic out of life, the raw beauty of the unknown, and your reasoning becomes a futile mess of nihilistic whining and/or logic without premise and motivation. And surprise; the number of people who aren't content with that is still a majority.

If you adamantly wish to cut religion out of your own life, far be it from me to stop you. But when you try to become the abortionist for others, that is when she-bears like me draw the line.

03 October 2007

Emmeline B. Wells: My Favorite Mormon

One of the many, actually.

From the diary of Emmeline B. Wells
Feb. 24. 1845.
"This day like all others is full of trouble sorrow and afflic- tion are my attendants O my God how long wilt thou suffer this once I could have filled this book with expressions of happiness but Alas sorrow is my portion I behold those around me enjoying the society of their dearest friends while I am cut short and why is it is it because of my sin and wickedness or is it a trial of my patience Heavenly Parent is the name of thy Holy Son Jesus do I beseech thee to pity and send comfort and consolation to an afflicted soul have mercy and forgive and grant me the desire of my heart and I will forever praise thee O that I had a mother or sister to advise me but I am cut short of all these blessings I have friends dare I unbosom my heart to them no no I know them not but those I have tried and proved I am not afraid to trust Grat Father of merciest be pleased to grant me the request of my heart."

I discovered Emmeline B. Wells while doing research for my women's history Personal Progress project over the summer. I instantly fell in love with her story because of the parallels that exist between it and the life I am living.

Emmeline Wells joined the Church when she was 14. She left her family on the east coast to join the Saints in Nauvoo, and finally settled in Utah as a plural wife. She blossomed as a writer, and was deeply involved in the woman's suffrage movement, writing articles for The Women's Exponent. She was a proponent of polygamy because she realized that the resulting social structure allowed for women to advance in propriety and spiritual growth. She became a Relief Society general president, one of the oldest women's organizations in the United States. She was also the first woman to graduate from Brigham Young University with an honorary degree.

Emmeline B. Wells did not confine herself to the ordiary life dealt to her at birth. Because she strived for something more, she lived an extraordinary life, and left an inspirational legacy behind her. And its her example that has come to mean so much to my life as a writer and a member of the Church.

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