Friday, March 29, 2013

Profanity

I had an interesting conversation with a non-Mormon, Christian, co-worker recently. Our conversations are always interesting, really, but this one I wanted to blog about. (I will blog about another one later.)

My co-worker (whom we will refer to as L) surprised me by saying that she finds most contemporary Christian music trite and offensive. I couldn't believe she was saying that. I thought all modern Christians were in love with all contemporary Christian music, considering they use much of it in their contemporary worship services! It was awesome. I told her that I thought I was alone in my disdain for that particular genre, and thought that maybe it was because I am Mormon. I guess other Christians have ears, too :)

Image: Christian Metal (Wikipedia)
We both agreed that today's "Christian" music is trying really hard to be the same as all the other non-Christian music out there. From their clothing to the way they trail off whine-ily at the ends of their songs. (Warning to Scrabble players: Do not attempt to pass off whine-ily as a real word.) The Wikipedia page for Contemporary Christian Music has an excellent section addressing some of the controversy surrounding it (here). Surprisingly, L also mentioned that she likes Christian metal/screamo (you know, the screamy-type music). I told her that I wondered how those artists would feel about playing their music in front of the Lord. You can hear some samples on Wikipedia's Christian Metal page, and decide for yourself.

One of the reasons that I personally am offended by most of what comes out of the contemporary Christian music genre is the way they repeat the Lord's name so many times. It is, of course, a Mormon peculiarity to avoid speaking the Lord's name too frequently (see D&C 107:1-4), but it wasn't always just a Mormon thing: this used to be common practice among many, if not all, Christian religions. (I seem to remember a scriptural proscription against this practice...)

I once found a Little Golden Book at a thrift shop, which I purchased and have subsequently lost over the years, the point of which was to provide a simplified explanation of Catholic teachings and/or practices to small children. I found it fascinating - and really it was the reason I bought it - to find that back when this book was published, it was apparently a common practice among Catholics to whisper "Blessed be God" under their breath whenever they heard someone take the Lord's name in vain. My, how things have changed! Nearly every non-Mormon I know today, including Catholics, takes the Lord's name in vain without giving it a second thought!

Today's pastors have definitely dropped the ball.

Image: Profanity (Wikipedia)
The discussion with my friend L lead me to think about how the too frequent use of the Lord's name robs it of its significance. This may be difficult to understand at first, but when you realize that the opposite of sacred is profane, it all starts to make sense. If you look up the word profane on Dictionary.com, you will see that one of the several definitions is common. Interestingly, all of the other definitions basically boil down to the same thing: the sacred is special, unique, uncommon, while the profane is frequently observed, common, and therefore not special. The very act of making something which is sacred into something common is profanity.

As I pondered this, I thought about what we commonly refer to as profanity, and wondered how this sacred/profane approach might relate to the use of foul language.

The most interesting thing to me is that, in English anyways, nearly every swear word refers to either a body part, or a physical act associated with those body parts. In particular, the elimination of bodily wastes and the procreative act find the most frequent use among English profanitizers (Scrabble warning #2!), with the abuse of the Lord's name rounding up the top three. Since Satan is the driving force behind profanity, we might ask ourselves if there are any possible reasons he might have for focusing on these things.

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism has the following, under the heading Mortality:
Mortality is not viewed as a curse by Latter-day Saints, but as an opportunity and an essential stage in progress toward obtaining exaltation. The ultimate purpose of the period of mortality from birth to death is to prepare to meet God with a resurrected body of glory (John 5:25-29; Alma 12:24)...

Although mortality is a temporary stage of life, it is essential for an individual's eternal progression for two reasons. First, it is necessary to receive a physical body. God the Father, in his perfected state, has a body of flesh and bone, as does the Son (Luke 24:36-39; D&C 130:22). Mortal men and women, as the spirit offspring of God, also gain physical bodies in mortality that are indispensable to their progress, and will rise in the resurrection and be perfected (Job 19:25-26; Luke 24:39). Without a physical body one cannot have a fulness of joy.
From this, we learn that A) God and Jesus have bodies, and B) since we are meant to become like God, we also need bodies; therefore, our physicality is important. Satan will never receive a body because he rejected the Plan of Salvation (see Abraham 3:26-28). This is certainly a point of contention for him.

Another thing we learn from this is that we cannot have a fulness of joy without our bodies. So, what does Satan do? He drives people to hate, destroy, and mar their bodies with poor self-image, eating disorders (anorexia/overeating/etc.), tattoos, brands, mutilation, and false philosophies that claim that our physical bodies are unimportant and corrupt. He ridicules necessary bodily functions, turning them into a cause of embarrassment and shame.

The scriptures teach us that our bodies are temples (see 1 Cor. 6:19). Our sense of morality and modesty teaches us that our bodies are not things for display, but are to be kept hidden away from the prying eyes of the world, just as the most sacred areas of the temple were kept hidden from the common people. Notice the connection between that which is sacred and that which is kept hidden. Psalms 31:20 tells us that this is to protect the sacred from "the pride of man" and "the strife of tongues," or verbal profaning. Prideful people do not keep sacred things sacred.

Once upon a time, it was virtually unheard of for people to have sexual relations with partners they were not married to. At least, if they did so, they did not do it openly, preferring instead to keep such things a secret. It was looked down upon by society, and adulterers were shunned, or worse. Today, however, so-called "casual sex" is extremely common, and people frequently discuss their escapades openly and without shame.

In another article from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Procreation, we read:
Latter-day Saints have an exceptionally positive view of procreation. After God commanded Adam and Eve to "multiply and replenish the earth" (Gen. 1:28), he pronounced all of his creation, including the power of procreation, "very good" (Gen. 1:31). President Joseph F. Smith noted, "The lawful association of the sexes is ordained of God, not only as the sole means of race perpetuation, but for the development of the higher faculties and nobler traits of human nature, which the love-inspired companionship of man and woman alone can insure" (IE 20:739).
Mankind existed in a premortal life as spirit children of God (see First Estate). This earth was created to provide physical life and experience in a second estate. The divine plan of procreation provides physical bodies for premortal spirits. Thus, "children are an heritage of the Lord" (Ps. 127:3). To beget and bear children is central to God's plan for the development of his children on earth. The powers of procreation therefore are of divine origin.
 Procreation is closely associated with the previous theme of physical bodies. People must have sex so that they can create bodies for God's children to inhabit. They must do so within the bonds of matrimony so that children can develop "higher faculties and nobler traits of human nature" which is only possible when two parents are present in that relationship that God intended for them.

When sex ceases to be something sacred, and instead becomes profane, or common, as it has today, it loses its value both for bringing children into the world (since cheap, easy abortion rids the carrier of the consequence of her action), and for creating family units (which are not formed when sex is merely sex for the sake of sex).

Why has Satan promoted the profaning of body parts and functions? It desensitizes us to the true sacred nature of our bodies, and the joy they can bring us - a joy that he will never know.

Why does Satan encourage the profaning of sexuality? The sexual free-for-all that we now see in the world brings children into the world in a handicapped state, without the presence of both mother and father; it encourages the selfish murder of the unborn; it frustrates the "great plan of the Eternal God," although it doesn't stop it; it promotes the spread of disease; it causes the adulterer to lose the joy that comes from parenthood, from intimate association with one loving partner who is focused on them, and, above all, keeps them from experiencing the influence of the Holy Ghost.

I hope you will think of these things the next time you swear, or you hear someone else swear.

Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

-- 1 Cor. 6:15-20