The Self Portrait Saint

Man, I am feeling misunderstood.

I guess my last post caused quite a controversy in my community and inbox. Some people thought it was embarrassing, uncomfortable, not virtuous, seductive, line-crossing, bordering into the land of "food pornography."

There was discussion about the photo I used, the idea being that the angle was suggestive.

I appreciate a thorough examination of what I am as a writer, I really do. I publish myself knowingly and subject myself to opinions and feedback--I consider all that I gather. The formula is this: if feedback hurts I've got work to do.

After reading comments and emails I found I was not hurt by any of them, but a little confused. Sometimes when my reality gets a bit whimsical, I rely on a team of advisers to pull me back into re-examination. In this instance, I became somewhat interested in knowing what those closest to me thought of my post.

One reader suggested I was not listening to my mother's advice about modesty--as made manifest in posted picture. So I called my mother.

"Did my last post go against what you are trying to teach me about modesty?"

"Huh? What was your last post about?" The Councilwoman responded, unphased.

"About eating at Rooster." I reminded.

"Um, no honey, I didn't think anything about it, other than it sounded like a nice night." She sounded a bit disinterested.

"And what about the photo I posted, did you think it was immodest?"

"What was the photo of?" I was beginning to think she hadn't really read.

"Of me with chopsticks reaching over to eat Chup's plate."

"Let me get on the computer and see for myself."

Then there was typing noises and the dog barking in the phone, all while I was waiting in line at Sonic for a Route 44. The Chief was in the back having a one-sided conversation with Chup's work name tag.

"I don't see anything wrong with the photo." My mother said in finality, as though she were sitting at her seat in the council chamber wrapping up a vote.

'Thanks Mom."

Next I took time to ask my sister-in-law Megan who happens to be one of the most normal people I know. She's never too salty or too serious, always just about right.

"What?" She responded when I told her about the feedback. I took it as a sign that she too was a little confused about the fuss.

Instead she asked me to come over to her house for dinner, which I sadly had to refuse because it was my best friend Wendy's barbecue and pool party. How do I have the time for all the fun?

Then Chup, on our date night, eating sushi:

"When you took that photo of me, were you trying to make it about my anatomy, rather than the food?" because Chup would do that, let's just make that clear.

"No. Oh gosh. No." He said as I watched him swallow a Dynamite Roll. (Don't eat Dynamite Rolls unless your ears need a good steaming. This sushi tip was brought to you by me in the middle of this post.)

As it stood, I still felt pretty good about the post. Though maybe I haven't done my job making clear what my blog is about, or what I am about. I think I may have caught some off-guard.

Allow me: I am a Latter Day Saint blogger who seeks after experiences that excite my senses and teaches me about my soul. When the Lord tells me in the Doctrine & Covenants that the fullness of the earth is for "taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and enliven the soul" to "please the eye and gladden the heart" I take it seriously. I believe that divine experiences fill our soul with love and joy--and this is how we judge our moments, from eating . . . to worshiping, did I exit that experience as a more enlightened human being?
Did I gain light, knowledge and understanding?
I was able to rediscover my premortal self?
Do I feel charitable towards humanity?
Was I taught?
Did I listen?
Did it make me want to testify of the love of the Lord?

With this framework I negotiate my way through life. For example, I don't rely on a movie rating system to choose which movies are appropriate for me. (I have seen many PG 13 movies with massive regret.) I do my homework, and seek out movies that will entertain the best part of me. I try to choose wisely what to feed my senses, but I do not subscribe to narrow streets with no opportunities of expansion. I believe that Christianity--with its building blocks of faith, repentance, baptism and confirmation--should be thrilling, full of waiting treasures (" even hidden treasures") and uncovering of "mysteries of God." I believe in baptizing my soul in the best of what this earthy experience has to offer, within the bounds of a wise God. I don't do hallucinogenic drugs, but I have hallucinated with joy. So did Ammon. All of this to say, if I thought my religion was strictly puritanical, I would lose interest and leave. Even still, like most saints around me, I try, I fail, I repent, I listen to council, I want to obey, I hopefully renew covenants, I pray for personal revelation.

(This long-winded explanation of my personal religious theory was also, ahem, brought to you by me.)

On Saturday night Page and I attended an evening church fireside for the adults in our area. After the meeting was over we stopped to say hello to some of our neighbors. Happily, I bumped into the admirable wife of our Stake President (see Wikipedia for what a Stake President does) .

"I just read your blog about Rooster. I must go. It sounds so good."

And I don't know, the Stake President's wife? I like that company.

(I hope I am making sense.)

*Chup and I love this April 2009 Conference Talk by Elder Allan Packer Finding Strength in Challenging Times. We strive to subscribe to what he teaches about personal revelation.

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