An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Circle or Noose?

As a gawky junior high kid, I loved MIA firesides. Dressing up and checking out guys from beyond my ward boundary was a cool way to spend Sunday evenings. As I advanced into high school, I enjoyed firesides less since they tended to dwell on chastity and I wasn’t having much opportunity to practice dating let alone restraint of passion. So I gave up on firesides until I qualified for those aimed at Young Marrieds.

Firesides (did we copy the name from FDR or was he copying us?) are an optional LDS meeting. Everyone is invited, but, unlike Sunday block meetings, it’s not a duty to attend. I like having the agency to choose my meetings. If Chieko Okasaki is speaking, I’ll forego Desperate Housewives to hear what she has to say. If the speaker is Sheri Dew, I’ll stay home. I already know my divine role on earth is motherhood.

Voting with my feet has always been my way of registering disapproval. That is why the Harry Reid fireside incident disturbs me. Apparently, a LV stake presidency scheduled Brother Reid as a speaker on their “Why I Believe” series of stake firesides. A flood of angry protests ensued. Both the senator and the stake presidency who invited him were called evil minions of Satan and threatened. The fireside was cancelled due to safety concerns. 

Why couldn’t church members who disagree with the senator’s politics have just stayed home? The fireside was not a political rally. It was an opportunity for Senator Reid to share his conversion story and bear his testimony. Why the fear that anyone who doesn’t share all our opinions is an enemy?

I wonder how people unable to see a church member of an opposing political party as a child of God treat family members who differ from their opinions. Is love for their spouse or child conditioned on adherence to correct political beliefs?

Drawing our circles to include only members of our own faith and members of our own political persuasion restricts our associates and our opportunities to learn and grow. And if we restrict our circle to members of our own party and church, what’s to keep us from tightening the circle to exclude people of different skin colors, different ethnic origins, different incomes, even different occupations? The circle could even constrict enough to exclude fans of different sports teams, drivers of different cars, owners of different styles of homes, non-home owners. The circle could shrink until it includes only the self. At that point, the circle becomes a noose. Shouldn’t church help us to expand our circles and keep us from choking ourselves off from the rest of humankind?

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Comments on: "Circle or Noose?" (6)

  1. charlene said:

    I agree with the concept of drawing our circles wide. It’s a practice I’ve tried, with varying success. For a time, I even tried to include Rush Limbaugh, but I finally had to give it up because of the constriction in my gut from the contention he stirred up.

    However, I fear you may be a victim of your own finger pointing. (one finger points forward and three point back at you) I had another wonderful surprise listening to Sheri Dew speak, when it wasn’t for television. Her talk included personal growth and struggle and perservance when life doesn’t go according to plan. Preaching does get hard to take and, well, “preachy,” while opening up to real people rarely disappoints.

  2. Kathy Curtis said:

    I have really liked Sheri Dew when I have heard her speak. I missed those on divine motherhood I guess. She was my visiting teacher and gospel doctrine teacher years ago and I didn’t find her precious or judgmental. However, as to the circles I agree and it does upset me when people don’t just take care of themselves. No one listens when shouted at or threatened. One reason I also dislike picketing. Just take care of yourself and don’t go, don’t buy, or don’t watch those you don’t like.

  3. Two of Three said:

    It has always bothered me that there is no room in the church for differences of opinion- on a variety of things. The “straight and narrow” is becoming more narrow all of the time.

  4. Charlene and Kathy–

    I was expressing my personal reaction to Sheri Dew’s talks which I’ve only seebn on TV. I’m glad you’bve both had good personal experiences with her.

    Two of Three–

    The “straight and narrow” crowds a lot of people out. I hope to see change.

  5. I was sickened when I heard about this particular incident, and, like you believe that attending or not attending would have been the best (and most Christian) way to express my feelings on the matter.
    All I really wanted to say though, is that I love the imagery of a circle becoming a noose, very striking.

  6. This is about politics. Mr. Reid and company pulled the same stunt (yes I call it a stunt) in our stake in North Las Vegas. In our Ward Conference the week before the fireside the Stake President re-read the letter from the First Presidency regarding Church buildings not being used for political purposes and that the church does not affiliate with any political party. I thought to myself, “Ah cool an election is coming up and they must want to remind people of the need to remain neutral.” It is then followed with, “There will be a special fireside that will be held at the Stake Center and the speaker will be Senator Harry Reid. We wish to invite all to attend this fireside entitled Why I Believe.” If you had fell asleep already you woke up with this announcement. You could hear a pin drop. The Stake President went on to say his boss (General Authority) had called him the night before to ask if he would preside over the meeting and that he would be there and hope his councilors would be as well. Many were not impressed to say the least.

    Understand a few things now. Harry Reid is not popular in Nevada anymore and especially with members of the church. He is fighting for his political life in his riding. He is a professional politician at this point. Most would like to see him removed. At the time he was literally in the middle of this health care debate in Washington. It is also know that he has played a significant role in getting Visas for missionaries of the church to foreign countries that do not really like the USA. No politics in church policy I would start to beg to differ.

    Here is a simple solution I brought forward to my Bishop that was handed onward to the Stake President. If this is not about politics then simply hold the fireside after the coming elections. No problem in that is there. Why the need to rush a one week notice of a fireside anyway when you are obviously busy in Washington working on our important future with Health Care. I would love to hear the man’s testimony at that time because then of course politics would not play a part. (smirk) If he wins or loses his seat it would not matter. Then share the spirit Harry. Alas it would probably not be so as why would you hold a fireside after you have lost. It serves no benefit to your career. Shame on Harry Reid for using membership in the church and a spiritual gathering such as a fireside to quietly sway a few votes.

    If Mitt Romney pulled this stunt (again I call it a stunt) I would be just as upset. I would ask that he hold it after the election as well. The spirit of contention has no place in the buildings of the Lord. Why invoke it with what I see as truth in the statement, “True of not, perception is reality”.

    Oh and one last question. Harry why don’t you just hold this fireside in a Washington area Stake? I’m sure they could benefit just as much as we lowly Nevadans could. Ooops, they don’t vote for you now do they.

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