Thursday, March 31

Jimmer

The first time I met Jimmer Fredette was actually on the football field. I was visiting friends for a few days and, guys being guys, we played sports. A lanky, quiet kid was on my team and answered to the name "Jimmer." He didn't talk much, and explained he was going to take it easy because he didn't want to get injured. But he could throw and catch, and ended up on my team.

Today the name "Jimmer" is nationally known for basketball. But a list of statistics has never really defined a person when they get off the court... which lends itself to an interesting experience when watching from the outside.

Jimmer was a leading scorer for BYU. He was named player of the year by multiple sources. He's 22. He's majoring in American Studies at BYU. He has an older sister and brother.

But there's another stat that comes to mind - one that's empty. Jimmer never served a mission for the Church. And to an outsider who knows, that stat holds much more of a hidden story about who he is than the number of 3-point shots he hit in the last ten games.

Through the prophet, the Lord has commanded all worthy, able young men to serve for two years as full-time missionaries. That's the expectation. So when anyone chooses not to, it opens up the discussion to the universality of principles... and the difficulty in judging actions, applying them to life, and not judging people as a whole.

In the case of a national star like Jimmer Fredette, there are usually two strongly felt opinions. One - that Jimmer is infallible, or must have good judgment, and is in the public spotlight... and hence there must be some spectacular exception in his case. The same thing is happening with David Archuleta, and in his case all sorts of strange things have gone around - from people claiming to have overheard their cousin mention that the prophet had told him not to serve, to others asserting that he had been called as a lifelong full-time music missionary and ordained by God before he even came, so "obviously" he wouldn't serve a full-time proselyting mission.

The other side believes that the teachings of the prophet, when he speaks about all worthy and able young men, truly apply to all young men... and have big issues with the fact that anyone in the public eye wouldn't take the time to serve the Lord.

The potential dilemma comes as soon as I try to make a distant judgment of Jimmer as a person, and of his situation. I know that serving a mission is a commandment. If I judge him though, I align myself with one of the above camps - either claiming that God's commandments are not absolute, but relative, optional, and/or dependent on circumstances, or disregarding personal circumstances altogether.

Neither camp is ideal. Here at (Gay) Mormon Guy I get responses from both sides, usually passionate, trying to project themselves on my life. Sometimes they are accurate, and sometimes they're not.

But there is another option... one that holds much more power to love and understand others. And it comes when I don't judge people when I don't need to.

If I don't know him, does it really matter to my salvation whether Jimmer served a mission? Should his decision affect my own, or anyone else distant from him? I'd say no - except to cause me to turn to God and find personal direction in my own life. If he were my brother, it would be a more pressing issue. 

At the same time, his decision also doesn't change my conviction that all worthy young men should serve a mission... and my push to help them serve faithfully.

So was it right or wrong that Jimmer didn't serve a mission? 

I think that's the wrong question.

Here's a better one. Should all young men serve missions?

The Lord has asked all worthy and able young men to serve as full-time missionaries. So yeah, they should.

22 comments:

  1. I think it's an admirable thing to serve a mission; however I think that one should do it because one feels a great calling to do it, rather than as a "requirement".

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  2. I love your point of view on this issue. My husband is a huge college sports fan. His favorite college to root for is BYU so this is a discussion that comes up quite a bit in our house. In fact, just the other day him and a friend were talking about Jake Heaps and his decision to not serve a mission. And I had a hard time with it because I see all the amazing blessing my husband has because he served a mission. I see that he is a better husband and father because of his service. But I also see GREAT men in the gospel that didn't serve a mission. So yes, it is a commandment. And yes, probably every worthy male should serve a mission. But at the same time, we can't judge someone just because they didn't serve a mission. Like you said, it is honestly none of our business unless the person is extremely close to us. It is not our place to judge others.
    Thanks for your wonderful blog. I always look forward to reading your insights.

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  3. Well written, like always, Mormon Guy. I have also thought about these kinds of things. For example, a friend of mine recently married a convert to the church. She had always been active and was dating an investigator who was baptized when he was 18 and she was almost 20. They were married the next year in the temple, even though that was the age that he would have served his mission otherwise. Ultimately, I came to the same conclusion- their choices won't ever effect my eternal salvation and such, but I have made it my goal to marry someone who has either 1) gone on their mission or 2) would have served a mission but joined the church too late in life to have that opportunity. Honestly, everything we do in life should be based around the circumstances presented to us and the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost. It will never lead us astray =D

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  4. I didn't know he served a mission. Now I've lost all respect for him!!!! I'm kidding of course. I think you're right. Judge not that ye be not judged. We all fall short and have no business worrying about everyone else's conviction. Focus on your own testimony and love others for who they are and not what they do.

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  5. For real? A 16 paragraph post on whether or not we should judge JF and Archie for not serving missions? Is this the best thing you can find to do with your spare time? Obsess about how other people are living their lives?

    Have you noticed that your blog is always about YOU? How you are saving the world. How determined you are never to sin. How "rough" your life is. "But oh yeah, by the way make sure after I teach all you GMG groupies how you should live the gospel according to GAY Mormon Guy, and after you tell me how wonderfully brilliant I am, don't forget this blog really isn't about me at all. It is really all about God. So once you have spent an appropriate amount of time gushing to me how amazing I am, make sure and give all the glory to God."

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  7. The Lord has asked all worthy and able young men to serve a mission... This is true.

    It is, however, also an ideal. Ideals are exist so that we can strive for them, and through the journey become better people. Sometimes, the ideal is not attained, and because of Christ's Atonement, that's OK.

    Some are unworthy and able; some are worthy and unable. I believe you're right when you say it is not one's place to judge another.

    Any "hidden story" that is conjured up to explain why someone didn't serve a mission is harmful and hurtful. It says nothing of the character of a young man if he does not serve a mission. The idea that "by their fruits ye shall know them" only goes so far.

    Blessings are NOT withheld from a young man just because he didn't serve a mission. Blessings are based off of eternal principles. True, missionary work is based in eternal principles, but the blessings of missionary work are not exclusively tied to two-year mission service.

    Also, I think it is important for women to realize the pressure they put on young men when they say they will only marry an RM. It's the same type of pressure that is put on the young women out here in Provo to get married. There are cultural expectations for young men and women in Mormon society. The ideal is not the norm, and our love and acceptance of others should not be conditional to adherence to cultural expectations.

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  8. Well said! I for one am glad to worry about myself and encourage others while allowing them their agency and loving them either way. Thanks for saying that so well.

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  9. Anonymous:

    The post isn't about whether or not we should judge Jimmer. It's about a principle - whether we should judge people when we lack the background for their actions.

    This principle easily transfers into the important topics of today - how to treat those of other religions, how to treat those who live "in sin" according to your value system, or how to treat those who do things that could be hurtful without understanding context.

    Your comment was definitely not one that immediately built me up or evidenced support for me as a person. But I don't know who you are, or the context behind it...

    I don't obsess about other people's lives. I obsess about how I can find common traits and trials in humanity mirrored in my life and somehow give back to the world that has given me breath and hope and life. I can't do much else than write, so this is the way I try to help others.

    And yes, my blog is almost exclusively about me. Because I lack context to write about other people's decisions or the thoughts in their heads. Because I can't comment on their motivation or what moves them. That's the whole point of this post - as I focus on improving myself, instead of seeking out the flaws in others, I am better supporting them.

    Your comment was either meant to be mean, or to highlight a problem you'd like to see addressed. If there's still an issue, what specific things would you change about GMG?

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  10. I'm sorry that I have to disagree with you on this post.

    How do you push to help all worthy young men to serve a mission? When you answered your question with a "yes, all young men should serve a mission." You've set your judgement.

    I'll tell you another story.

    There was a young man that was raised in a good Mormon family. He strongly believed the gospel and lived his life accordingly. But he did not serve a mission. Why? His answer might surprise you. He said,"I don't feel worthy."

    All "worthy" young men should serve a mission...

    I do admire your faith and strength, and I know that your are not sick even if you are gay, you do not need a "physician" to heal you. With the faith you build up in Christ, you can over come all your difficulties even if they are hard like hell, because "the Lord God is your strength."

    But not everyone has the same amount of faith in the Lord as you do, and not everyone is as strong as you.

    Most of the people are very sensitive, they view themselves as the world views them. I know you don't, you know who you are.

    The question is not to judge them or not, nor should it be "should all young men serve a mission because it's the Lord's commandment".

    As a person, as their brother or sister, we should instead ask, "Did I let the good people around me feel that they are worthy of the Lord's blessings, did I tell them that they've done so much for me."

    Just like you feel like helping others, others also want to be the one that can help and be acknowledged. Let them know that they've helped. That's how you can help them.

    I don't mean to offend you, neither do I mean to be "smart". I just want to tell you what I think on this topic.

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  11. I'm especially grateful that the church is now making it possible for those who are physically or mentally unable to serve missions, to serve as a service missionary.

    I have a friend serving as a temple worker as his full time mission duties, and another working in the family history center. With the resources nowadays the church is opening it up more and more to those who wish to serve, but would not be able to serve a full-time "regular" mission.

    I agree though, that to help prepare all young men, we should help them feel worthy to go. We can also help them learn and prepare themselves in ways that would make them good missionaries. Bishops encouraging them to give talks, female friends who want to serve and have strong testimonies.

    There are several women/YW in my home stake that are excited to serve missions. Some are determined to, others would love to if they get the chance. These influences are both positive and encouraging, and I'd love to see it happen more often among the mormon community. (especially at BYU and BYUI)

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  12. I don't think it's appropriate to focus attention on a specific well-known individual and a very personal decision, like a mission. I think it is insensitive, however well intended, to use words like an "empty" "stat" even if it serves the purpose of teaching how to treat others. Do people really have "strong opinions" and take "sides" about their perception of other's choices? After reading your response to Anonymous, I have one final question: Do you feel that publishing a posting on the internet with a famous person's name as the title and including the fact that he did not serve a mission is supportive?

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  13. Mandy -

    One hard thing I've learned through this blog is that as you become a more well-known individual, you garner the attention of more people. Yes, people take sides about their perceptions of others' choices. You can see it here. Some people think what I write on my personal blog is good, others judge the action inappropriate and the writer insensitive... and the only reason they care is because I'm somehow in the spotlight. If I were a no-name blogger that hadn't ever had an impact on the world and had only myself as a follower, you and any other readers who found this post wouldn't feel a need to agree or disagree. But when we see others who have influence in the public sphere, it's incredibly common to align ourselves with each of the perceived messages we think we see through their actions, then to condemn and disagree or applaud and support those explicit or implicit messages - feeling the need to vocally take sides.

    I have a good friend who never served a mission. I actually have plenty of good friends who never served missions. In some cases, they regret the choice. In some cases, it was out of their control and even Church service wasn't possible. And in some cases they are trying to change their lives to actually serve - even outside of the normal age range for proselyting missionaries... since service missionaries with local assignments can be anyone at any age. Do I judge them? The topic of missionary work comes up a lot in conversation with me since I'm crazy passionate about it. And I focus on sending them on missions - however I can, whether that means making them into member missionaries, or telling them about service opportunities in the area, or setting a date and starting a fund for them to go on missions with their spouses.

    As far as your last question, I'm not sure I really understand. You look up a famous someone's name, get a Wikipedia posting that is his name, read the biographical section and it gives a thorough synopsis of his life - mentioning the decision to serve a mission or get married or whatever else or not. I don't think that information about someone's life is positive or negative - it is the surrounding context that makes it so - and that's the entire point of this post. I don't condemn or support people in the choices they make when I don't have knowledge of the actual, real context... because I don't have enough context to make that decision, and the point of this post was to highlight the importance of withholding judgment, either way - not just not condemning others. Some decisions are obviously good, because they match with gospel principles. Some are obviously wrong... because they don't. But in the cases where there could be gray, I feel it's important to neither support nor condemn - wrongfully judging people we don't know goes both ways - sometimes we project negative light and condemn them... and sometimes we project positive light and support them. Either way, judging the actions of others without context in a specific choice they have made is a huge issue in our culture and society.

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  14. "and the only reason they care is because I'm somehow in the spotlight. If I were a no-name blogger that hadn't ever had an impact on the world and had only myself as a follower, you and any other readers who found this post wouldn't feel a need to agree or disagree."

    While reading, one just naturally shapes his/her own opinion, he/she may agree,disagree,or may further develop his/her own opinion based on what he/she just read.

    This is not because you are a "spotlight" blogger.

    If I read a post from a "no-name" blogger, I'd still know if I agree or disagree on the blogger's point. It's not a need, it's my natural reaction after reading.

    Mandy's question is so clear. How can you not understand?

    First read your reply to Anonymous:
    "as I focus on improving myself, instead of seeking out the flaws in others, I am better supporting them."

    And Mandy asked,
    "Do you feel that publishing a posting on the internet with a famous person's name as the title and including the fact that he did not serve a mission is supportive?"

    Do you think you are contradicting yourself?

    I feel the "need" to comment here not because you are a famous blogger, but because I feel like sharing my opinion after reading. Of course I can choose not to share, I guess this would be the last time I share my opinion here.

    Thanks for reading.

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  15. Faith -

    I hope you still feel welcome here.

    I don't think that posting a post and mentioning that they haven't served missions is supportive. I also don't think that it's seeking out their flaws. I honestly have no idea whether the decision was a good one or a bad one - and that was the point. But I don't think we should support that decision or any decision where we lack context. Often in the Church we claim "withhold judgment" when in reality we support and condone decisions we have no right to support...

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  16. not our place to judge... leave that to the Lord, we can determine if the person is someone we need to associate with, or look up to, but really to judge them as a person for whether or not he served a mission, not our place.

    Thank you for your thoughts, and thank you too for your testimony and strength to live the Gospel. I admire that.

    PS my brother did not serve a mission, he made some choices that he had to repent of, but, now, he has one of the strongest testimonies of anyone I have ever seen. And I have seen RM's make very poor choices, lose their testimony and leave the church. Only the Lord knows our hearts. So, to me, it doesn't matter as much if someone actually served or not, to me it is their overall character and testimony.

    PPS--to anon commenter about a blog being all about the person writing it... HEL-LO!?! Most blogs are that, a daily web log or journal or diary...

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  17. Sorry Mormon Guy. Not buying it. You are considerably smarter than that and I don't have to know you to recognize your insightfulness. That you brought the subject up at all, especially the way you approached it, does not support your premise about not judging people. As you know, during the priesthood session tonight there was an "every worthy young man should serve a mission" talk. The approach of that talk only mentioned individual's names in a positive context. Kind of the opposite of your approach.

    Yeah I write anonymously as do you. You're right, you don't know me. I am a member of the church who, like you, is happy to be a member. I served a mission. It was one of the most significant experiences of my life. But I don't feel it is my place to assess whether specific individuals made the right decision for their lives by not going on a mission. By initiating the question you invite judgement.

    It would be no different than some other Mormon blogger asking the question about whether you, Gay Mormon Guy, are following the advice President Monsen gave in his talk this evening. Particularly the quote by Pres. Harold B. Lee. You know what I'm talking about. Should your (gay)ness be an excuse for you not following his counsel? I could write a post about that but it would not be fair to you. I would not write it because I do not ask myself whether you are following the counsel of the prophet in your personal life. I can not know your heart our what answers you receive to your prayers. But if I ask the question using you as the specific example and then end my post with, "yeah, they (everyone) should", I have already invited the judgement.

    "Mean"? No, that is not my nature. Perturbed. Slightly.

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  18. I write with good intentions as I say this, especially because I have often said that I admire you and your faith in the Atonement. I appreciate your insight and the understanding you have gained because of your trials.

    That being said, I am with Faith and Anon. Highlighting a person's name in a negative light to describe a principle is not appropriate. It does invite a spirit of judgement and disappointment. It happened to me when I first read this post, but then I realized that what Jimmer or David Archuleta choose regarding their service to the Lord is between them and the Lord. We can do nothing else but to love everyone as the Savior has taught us. What we should ask ourselves when we are told that all worthy and able young men should serve missions is not whether the man sitting next to me is going to do so or has done so. Is whether I will do so if I a fill that description.

    I am grateful for what you do and would ask Anon and others to continue visiting your blog because in it I have found ways to explain difficult subjects to non-LDS friends, especially those who don't appreciate where we stand on homosexual issues. But do ponder and consider if Jimmer and David would appreciate this post.

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  19. A few days late in the game, but I was interested to read the comments associated with this post. Perhaps my personal background has changed the way I perceived what was being said, as is the case with any sort of conversation. I felt an appreciation for the invitation to each of us to take the counsel of the prophet as scripture and refrain from judgment in anyone's life but our own. This includes petty speculation. I think we often use speculation to try and justify the actions of others to ourselves and those around us, and in doing so we also form a sort of judgment. I am guilty of this as well, but while reading this post realized what this might mean at times. When presented with unfounded negative judgments we are given an opportunity to negate, but without knowledge of circumstance we cannot make a true judgment either way. More importantly, I loved how the post clearly invited to set all of those things aside and focus on ourselves. How will we choose? What will we choose? Are we following what we know to be the best choice for ourselves and encouraging those over whom we may have influence to do the same? When the choice is to love others, not what they are doing, it matters little whether or not they are perfect.

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  20. (I'm not THE Anonymous poster who has been posting)

    I'm surprised at how everyone has come out to tear you apart (G)MG. I thought it was a good post about not judging others decisions, but still not allowing their decisions to influence your own determination to do what you believe is right.

    Ironically those who criticize your comments are picking at the tiniest details in an attempt to unravel your entire premise. I also am very passionate about missionary service. My two years as a missionary were some of the most important of my life (thus far), and I grew immensely during those times. That being said, I have plenty of friends who chose not to serve or who were disqualified from service for one reason or another. I believe the words of the prophet(S!) who have said that every young man who is able and worthy should commit to serving a full time mission. It is a commandment. Arguments that those who choose not to serve do not miss out on any blessings because of their choice are wrong. However, the choice to not serve a mission does not disqualify someone from obtaining other blessings.

    I think of it this way: When Christ was on the Earth he commanded all men (and women) to repent and be baptized. Some choose not to do so in this life. Does this exclude them from salvation? According to LDS belief, no. Should someone choose not to accept baptism in this life, but they later accepts baptism in the hereafter they are still qualified to achieve salvation. If this were to happen the end destination of this person would be the same as if they were baptized at eight and were faithful members their entire life. While the final destination may be the same, the path taken to get to that destination would be much harder. The blessings they might have enjoyed, learning experiences they might have had, and the trials they might have avoided would all be forfeited when they chose not to be baptized.

    So it is with missionary service, while choosing to not serve a mission may not affect the final destination of a young man's soul they can never know what "might have been" had they chosen to serve a mission.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you (G)MG. Serving a mission is a commandment for every young man. We should all do everything in our power (within the confines of appropriateness) to encourage those we know to obey this commandment. However, like every commandment, if someone should choose not to obey the prophet we should not "stone" them, but instead support them and leave any judgment to Christ.

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  21. What an excellent post! I think you've changed my paradigm on judging to a more enlightened one--putting several good ideas together. Thank you!

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