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The Cost of Liberty
 
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I went for a walk at lunch today.  It's something I do whenever I want, and not as frequently as I ought.  But it's a beautiful spring day, and it coaxed me outside for a stroll through a nearby park, where I saw eagles and pelicans, song birds and mallards, and the people who are grateful that it is finally warming up in these Northern climes.

 

Among the folks I encountered was a trio of young girls, probably 12 years old or therabouts, who stood out from the rest by virtue of the clothes they wore.  Unlike their peers, they wore long, homespun dresses, black stockings beneath and practical boots.  Their blouses and sweaters went to their wrists, and their hair was long and braided, likely never having seen a barber's sheers.  They were happy, and running along the creek, waiting playfully while their mom (or teacher) prepared their picnic lunch.  She, like them, was dressed in a long grey flannel skirt with matching jacket, dark tights, and practical shoes.  I know nothing of these ladies, but I suspect their choice of clothing today was dictated by rules of some sort, most likely of a religious nature.

 

I wondered how they felt about the rules by which they live their lives, and it got me to thinking. 

 

Flash back several years.  I was speaking with a colleague who was crippled as a very young child by polio.  For the last 55 years, she has hobbled around on one good leg and one shriveled leg, supported by a crutch.  She never played softball.  She never hiked the trail over a mountain pass.  She never even rode a bike.  But when I asked her about it, she was indifferent.  What she explained was that when its all you've ever known, your life moves in directions that are unimpeded by your limitations, and you never stop to consider all the things you can't do.  It's her life, and it's fine.  It only SEEMS unfortunate to ME in comparison to MINE because my life has moved--unimpeded--according to the same principles.  It's all I've ever known.  But, like her, I do not suffer over the fact that I have never been an NBA star--I have very real limits in that area, and so my life just never coalesced around basketball kinds of things.

 

Still, recognizing that the life of my friend at work, and the lives of those three young girls, are governed by limits placed upon them that are NOT placed on me, I wondered how they might feel if those restrictions could be lifted?  Would the polio victim, if given the choice, have her leg restored to health, and thereby at least have the CHOICE to hike the mountain pass, or play softball?  And would those three little girls, if given the CHOICE, choose homespun long dresses, or something more akin to what the other girls their age are wearing?

 

For me, I think what I value about my experience through and out of Mormonism is that I appreciate now the freedoms I once didn't have.  The rules that no longer apply are still resident in my brain, only now I get to decide whether or not to abide by them.  Some I choose to.  Others I do not.  But the choice is mine.

 

And for that, I am incredibly grateful.

 

I know that some rules and restrictions are a benefit to us.  We all agree that taking each other's stuff is not in our best interest.  Same is true for killing each other.  We create rules for traffic, to permit us to navigate safely and (hopefully) efficiently through the system of roads.  In principle, most of us in the west are inclined to value the highest degree of personal liberty, and the minimal degree of state intervention in our lives.  We tolerate some--it keeps us safe--but we balk when it gets to be too much.

 

But what of rules for the sake of rules? 

 

I recall when we were in graduate school, a man and his daughter lived just down the hall from us.  Clearly not from "around here," we asked him one day where he was from.  This was the early 1980s, and he was embarrased to tell us.  "Persia," he said reluctantly, and I had to look it up to realize he meant "Iran."  He was a single father for one reason:  When his wife came to the United States, and realized that here, the law made no effort to dictate her dress, her relationships, her education, her career, or virtually ANY freedom we take for granted...she promptly filed for divorce and began the long process of becoming a naturalized citizen.  There was no way that once she realized what it meant to be free would she ever be willing to return to the limits she once knew.  Even though it had, up to that point, been ALL she ever knew.  Her former husband would one day return to Iran.  She--and her daughter--would not.

 

Once released from arbitrary rules, does anyone ever go back?

 

I guess that's part of the reason I ache for my Mormon friends.  On the one hand, I do honor their right to practice their religion.  I believe them when they say they are happy, and that they don't feel the limits to their freedom.  In fact, the suggestion doesn't even compute.  But I'm sad for the personal sacrifices that they make in the name of their faith that...well...aren't necessary.  If the sacrifice really gained you something, then it's no sacrifice at all.  But really, what has tithing ever gained anyone?  What have garments ever gained anyone? What has the consecration of every Sunday ever gained anyone?  Perhaps eternal salvation, but I doubt that, myself.

 

But I'm here to tell you, once you have come to an appreciation that arbitrary restrictions are optional--those rules quickly find themselves relegated to the mental trash bin. 

 

When I say I'm happier now then I've ever been, I think this is why.  I know now, and appreciate more than ever, my freedom to choose the way my life works.  It is as if the health has been restored to my shriveled leg, and the doors to The Gap have been opened to me for the first time.  My life now flows, unimpeded, in more directions than I have lifetimes to explore.  Limits?  Sure--I have plenty.  But not as many as I once did.

 

 

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Outstanding! One for the books!
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The only true currency in this bankrupt world if what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.

 
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A great post...extremely well expressed.

 

It reminds me of things I saw in my younger years in the primary/scout program.   I was the kid in scouts and primary with inactive parents and was therefore suspect in the eyes of others especially the parents of the kids around me.

 

So, I made a conscious effort to 'be good' and not give any of these people any fodder to feed their beliefs about me. 

 

In scouts there were two boys whose parents were way into the church and forbade their five kids (2 boys, 3 girls) to be a part of the 'outside world'.  They were told what to wear down to their shoes, (the fad at the time was semi-high top bootlike things commonly called 'Beatle Boots'), they couldn't go to school dances, go to the beach with friends, you get the idea.

 

I watched as each one of them grew older and got a taste of freedom that comes with a driver's license and a car.  Well, that was the end of them and church.  Each in their own way found trouble through drinking, drugs, sex and the like.  

 

In my mind, I deduced that the newfound liberty didn't come with the ability to make good decisions in the 'real world' that would have come with a normal exposure to life as it is known outside the church. 

 

They found themselves in way over their heads, and had they been able to wade around in the shallow end when they were young, they maybe would have been able to handle the 'secular world' a little better.   

 

 

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YesIAmAPyr:

They found themselves in way over their heads, and had they been able to wade around in the shallow end when they were young, they maybe would have been able to handle the 'secular world' a little better.   

I won't pretend to know anything about this, but my gut tells me you're right.  I think liberty is like an immune system.  You have to build it up before you can tackle the big things...  When everything is dictated for us, our decision-making muscles atrophy, and we are left weakend by the good intentions of others.

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PM

 

 

 

Thank you for the inciteful post.

 

 

Each day of my life postmormon is a day of rejoicing in the " liberty wherewith I have been set free".  Life has NEVER been more of a joy. The simple evidence to me that leaving the Mormon Church was right for me resides in the level of pure joy I feel in my life now. It is the same joy I was promised as a Mormon that never materialized. The roots of this new found joy are threefold.

 

1 Thinking for myself and trusting my own judgements.

 

2 Freedom to explore intellectually anything I want. Including information damaging to Mormon claims.

 

3 Deciding for MYSELF, within the laws of the land, what I consider to be sinful. Internalizing my values.

 

No man can ever attain joy without complete unfettered free agency.

 

ft

 

 

 

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It is one’s willingness to become uncomfortable and face the fear that what we might uncover could rock the foundations of our world that will allow us to escape the bonds of Mormonism.

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free thinker:

 

 

No man can ever attain joy without complete unfettered free agency.

 

ft

Isn't this just the most ironic part about Mormonism?  Or religion in general?  The joy we sought was there all along, we just couldn't see it hidden among all the rules meant to make us happy...

 

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Peter_Mary,

 

Are you keeping a copy of these essays somewhere?  I copy them off now and then for future reference, but I'm sure I've missed a ton.  I'd love to have a copy of the complete works of Peter_Mary! 

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jamech:

Peter_Mary,

 

Are you keeping a copy of these essays somewhere?  I copy them off now and then for future reference, but I'm sure I've missed a ton.  I'd love to have a copy of the complete works of Peter_Mary! 

You could probably do a search on "mindless ramblings"...  Might get you there....

 

But thank you for your supportive words! 

 

[Everyone else is saying, "Don't encourage him!  We're gonna have bandwidth issues!"]

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[Everyone else is saying, "Don't encourage him!  We're gonna have bandwidth issues!"]

 

 

 

Actually I too have thought about this. I think I would call it  THE DISCOURSES OF PETER MARY . 

 

 

Just havin a little fun.

 

 

ft 

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It is one’s willingness to become uncomfortable and face the fear that what we might uncover could rock the foundations of our world that will allow us to escape the bonds of Mormonism.

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OK, OK, lets cut the joking.  I was being perfectly serious!!!!!  Peter_Mary I think it would be an absolute shame if these gems are getting buried in the old threads!! 
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free thinker:

Actually I too have thought about this. I think I would call it  THE DISCOURSES OF PETER MARY . 

 

 

They would contain more truth, inspiration and insight than the other discourses.  There are a lot of powerful stories expressed here and on the other exmo boards. 

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“If a Faith that will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be weak”. George A. Smith August 13th, 1871 Journal of Discourses Vol. 14 pg 216

“As religion is only found in man, so its seed must be in man. Men live always in fear, and make gods of things to praise and blame for their condition.
” - Thomas Hobbes Leviathan

 
       
 


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