Recently I got into a discussion about Elder Bednar’s “second earring story” in which an RM at Ricks College broke up with a young woman who didn’t remove her second pair after hearing Pres. Hinckley recommend it during a CES devotional. Someone commented, “Boy, she really dodged a bullet, eh?” I laughed and one of my friends shared that during the late 90s his mother had a second ear piercing done and she felt young and fun and sexy and really liked it. He remembers after hearing the one earring counsel watching his mother come downstairs sad and dejected after removing the second set. He said that eventually she came to be proud of her decision to follow and obey and felt spiritually strengthened.
What followed was an spirited discussion as some people discounted the spiritual experience of removing the second set of earrings and others supported her; essentially digging into the difference of
“obedience to gospel doctrines” and “obedience for the sake of obedience.” To me these hedges around the law (earrings, byui honor code ankles, beards, etc.) are not useful. I don’t think strictly trimming the hedges around the law bring us closer to Christ, especially when there are such negative social consequences to others in their life as a result of higher hedges.
Another friend decided to defend the mother – that we should be the last ones to discount what others testify is a spiritual experience and has strengthened them. If someone obeys a small counsel and says they were blessed spiritually, they should be believed and respected for it. The man had a point; how often have I heard that same sentiment expressed to me from others:
“Your spiritual experience is false, wrong, and invalid”
My own experiences have often been discounted and I’ve been told it’s impossible that I was led to my new beliefs by the Spirit. Am I doing the same to others who believe themselves to find spiritual strength in hedges? Back when I was at Ricks I became super orthodox, and I do feel that I drew closer to the spirit while there even though I believe I was misguided on a few things.
I think we have to judge things by their fruits – because it is true that small things that seem innocuous can have mixed effects and even negative unintended consequences. Your (or your leader’s) opinion or belief can be based on misinformation, confirmation bias, or just lack of information. Your belief could actually be a misconception (you can pray away the gay, “Miracle of Forgiveness”) that is harmful to others. Do we respect and embrace something (LGBTQ+ rhetoric) that comforts a lot of people but causes harm to others (LGBTQ+ suicides)?
I know this may seem like a knock against orthodox mormon beliefs because of my examples, but in general I don’t have problems with orthodoxy. I don’t think that everyone needs a faith transition to be a better person, a good Christian, or good Mormon. There are countless good orthodox mormons. I believe that God knew for me, that this is what I needed. I have a brother and sister in law who seem to have had a faith transition the opposite way, and God bless them for it if they are better disciples for it, you know? But can we respect each other, is the question of the day, I suppose.
Can I maintain my position of discarding harmful practices/beliefs and still respect the claims of spiritual experiences of others that differ from mine? Is this a divide that can be overcome? Does an opposite spiritual experience invalidate the other? If we’re both becoming better disciples on opposite paths – can we respect the spiritual experiences of others in things we believe are harmful for others (whether hedges/feminism etc.)?