Burning Bosom

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Are You Down With P.D.P.?

Posted by Andrew on December 18, 2007

Submitted by: Shawn L

Monday’s New York Times had a short article on the “growing popularity of public displays of piety” in Islamic society (found here). Apparently in Egypt, which has long maintained some semblance of secularism while the Middle East sinks further into extremism, Muslim men are now taking great pride in the size of their “zebidahs”: big red skid marks on their foreheads which come as the result of constant and, presumably fervent, prayer. Men work hard to gain these very visible markings in hopes of expressing a pretense of religiosity.

This got me thinking: do we Mormons have our own “public displays of piety”? (hereinafter, P.D.P.’s) Here are three that came to mind:

(1) Worn-out shoe soles (active missionaries only): I served in the wilds (and I mean, wilds) of the Guatemalan jungles. Unlike all those nancies who complain about only be able to drive an allotted number of miles or having uncomfortable bike helmets, I walked every single mile of my mission on dirt roads. Hence, every few months, I would have enormous holes in the bottoms of my Rockports (purchased, of course, at the Mr. Mac store in the Cottonwood Mall). Although doing so hurt like the dickens, I always walked around in them for a couple of days in this sorry state before taking them into the local zapateria. I loved showing them off to those big-city missionaries who were fresh from Guatemala City, with its comfortable sidewalks and easy access to McDonald’s (I’m not bitter after all these years, I swear). For me, those holey/holy shoes gave me instant credibility.

(2) Scoop-neck G’s: Seriously, in this modern age, is there any reason for us worthy males to wear these things other than to broadcast our “Utah Smile” in hopes of currying favor with, and proving our worthiness to, others of our Brethren? In this vein, I’ve heard (likely apocryphal) tales of non-member Utah professionals wearing low-cut undershirts with their dress shirts in hopes of “passing” as a Mormon.

(3) Color-coordinated Scripture markings: When I actually make a mark in my Scriptures, it’s generally an indecipherable note scrawled in the margin with a pen, the meaning of which is lost to me within hours. However, I have friends whose Scriptures are works of art: green = repentance, blue = the Atonement, etc. Invariably, these folks take great pride in showing off their handiwork, all of which was done, or immediately after, their mission, and has not been updated since. This always strikes as a red flag for OCD, not spirituality.

What other P.D.P.’s have you seen amongst our folks? Remember, this is all in good fun, and should not be a launching pad for unduly harsh criticism of others’ behavior.

19 Responses to “Are You Down With P.D.P.?”

  1. Andrew said

    My favorite Mormon P.D.P. is white shirts worn by men at Sunday meetings. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a white shirt. If you wear a white shirt because you like the color, or because it’s the only clean shirt you have left on Sunday morning, then wearning a white shirt does not make you guilty of P.D.P.

    But if you’re wearing a white shirt to Church on Sunday because you feel compelled to in order to demonstrate your faithfulness to an unwritten, unspoken religious requirement to wear a white shirt, then you be guilty of P.D.P.!

  2. shawnlarsen said

    On the flip side, I know folks who wear anything but white shirts (stripes, blue, gray, etc.) expressly as public display of non-conformance with that very unspoken rule. In my mind, that’s the same song, just in a different key.

  3. Andrew said

    Shawn, I believe the phenomenon to which you are referring is techically classified as P.D.N.-Public Displays of Nonconformity.

    I try to compromise by wearing a Metallica t-shirt under my white oxford to my Sunday meetings.

  4. shawnlarsen said

    As long as it’s got a scoop neck, no one will be the wiser (for the sake of fashion, I suggest a “Ride The Lightning” tank top).

  5. ChrisH said

    So, to combine themes from two threads…. how about offering a blessing over the food in a restaurant? I was out with LDS friends several years ago and, when the food came, they said that they’d like to pray before we ate. And did I mind? The truth is, I kind of did mind. I never, ever pray before I eat in a restaurant, but afterward I felt bad about minding. Should I have? As I think about it, I recently had a client who is a devout Christian and who, before lunch or dinner, always unobtrusively bowed his head and said a quick prayer. In this case, I was not made at all uncomfortable and, in fact, felt a measure of respect for his devotion. And, I’m sure that if I were to dine with a devout Jew or Muslim who wanted to pray before he ate, I would not be made at all uncomfortable. So, was my discomfort with the prayer of my LDS friends an instance of putting my light under a bushel? Perhaps it was situational. Perhaps it was the prayer of these specific people, which I judged (probably wrongly) to be pharisaic in nature, rather than prayer itself. I don’t know. But, I still don’t pray in restaurants.

  6. Andrew said

    Praying in public eating areas, how could I forget that one? I remember feeling uncomfortable when I’d walk past the CougarEat(TM) at BYU and see, at any given time, about a half dozen heads bowed in prayer, right there out in the open where everyone (including, ostensibly, prospective eternal companions) could see them. I’ve always thought praying in restaurants was taboo for Mormons because I thought we were supposed to take seriously Christ’s admonition in the Sermon on the Mount:

    “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
    But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

    One way of reading these scriptures is that prayer should always be in private (with the exception of prayers in church meetings, which are not held out in the public where everyone can see). Another way of reading these scriptures is that we are not to pray in public if our motive is to be “seen of men,” but if someone wants to offer a prayer in a public place, and their motive is sincere and not to be “seen of men,” there is nothing wrong with it.

    I guess my “take away” from this conversation is that I never know whether someone is doing something good in public out of a sincere heart, or to be “seen of men,” and so it’s best for me not to turn myself into a judgmental Pharisee by judging them.

  7. Lee "Mac Aoidh" Mackay said

    For another angle on the Utah Smile visible through a white shirt: Having grown up in CA and never attending any LDS schools or living in Utah for more than a week at a time during ski season, I always considered scoopneck Gs the way to go so that they didn’t stick out the top of a t-shirt. Now that I know better regarding the informal PDP that it conveys – a wink and a nod that you are in the club, I’ll have to reconsider. I know the older brothren like them because it gets stuffy around the collar if you carry some weight on you (too many layers), but the points above are good ones.

    Andrew is the man for having the vision!!

  8. Shawn L said

    Another thought: if scoop-neck G’s garner high points for purported righteousness, just imgaine the value of wearing the one-piece variety(aka “Brother Brigham style”). That’s old school, baby! Get a couple of Diet Cokes in me and I’ll tell you about the misery of wearing one-piece scoop-neck G’s for two years in the Guatemalan jungles.

  9. Smart A(ttorney) said

    Good friend of mine solved the public prayer issue–he would pray in public, but wouldn’t bow his head or close his eyes. It was hilarious–he’d just look around for a minute and then dive in.

  10. Brent A said

    I think one of my favorite forms of P.D.P. is when people wear their church clothes all day on Sunday. I understand not changing if you have meetings later on in the day, but some people feel like they need to stay in Sunday best all day in order to get everything they can out of the Sabbath. Maybe I’ve haven’t discovered the benefits of this practice becuase I’ve never given it a shot. However, I’ve never found it particularly hard to feel the spirit while wearing a pair of shorts.

  11. Is the consecrated oil container on the key chain PDP? I have seen these range from functional stainless steel to gold-inlaid in olive wood from the holy land. I use one because I work in a hospital setting and have had it come in handy on a number of occasions. I haven’t worried about whether or not people see it on my key chain.
    Why are we leaving out the ULTIMATE MORMON PDP, THE MOTHER OF THEM ALL!!! THE CTR RING. What better way of conveying you are a good guy than that CTR thumb ring.
    To piggy back on Brent’s comment, I have often had people extol their virtue at not watching TV on Sunday. I have always figured, if it works for them great. As for me, I have enjoyed many happy moments watching movies with my wife and kids on Sunday.

  12. Shawn L said

    There’s only one P.D.P. that trumps the CTR ring — a CTR ring in a foreign language, i.e., the HLJ ring (for “Haz Lo Justo”). There is no excuse for such a thing.

  13. Andrew said

    How about invocations and benedictions that exceed the one-minute-mark? When a prayer at a church meeting goes on and on and on and on and on, it’s hard not to wonder whether that person was offering the prayer to God or to the congregation.

    “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

    “Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”

    (Matt. 6:7-8.)

  14. je said

    I like to be seen in public with my numerous children.

  15. Shawn L said

    Even better: “I like to be seen in public with my numerous wives.”

  16. Jay said

    1. Bishops who require all Aaronic Priesthood to wear white shirts in order to be allowed to administer or pass the sacrament.

    2. Any Church leader who goes out of his or her way to insist that they or someone else always be addressed by their title.

    3. Temple workers who instruct that the garment is to be put on right hand and right foot first.

    4. Church members who shun red meat or chocolate because they’re “against the Word of Wisdom.”

    5. Church members who won’t allow anything but G-rated movies at home or who refuse to get home Internet access because they don’t want “that filth” coming in.

    And yes, I’ve actually seen all of these.

  17. Niña de dios said

    Shawn L Says:
    December 28, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    There’s only one P.D.P. that trumps the CTR ring — a CTR ring in a foreign language, i.e., the HLJ ring (for “Haz Lo Justo”). There is no excuse for such a thing.

    Hi Shawn L,
    Do you think that it is ok to wear a HLJ ring (Spanish version of CTR ring) if you are a native Spanish speaker – or must we all wear the English version even if our first language is not English?
    I have one, but not as a P.D.P. – no one I meet knows what it is! For me it is a personal reminder to make right choices each day. I live in an area far far from Utah (yes there is a REAL world out there!), where I will often only encounter others LDS’s (not mormons!)at meetings. It is often hard to keep on the right path when you are the only one trying to walk it.
    My ring is also a good conversation point that can start off a gospel coversation thus being a useful missionary tool also.
    P.D.P’s. for a Utahn is not always so for the rest of the world.
    I suppose it depends which rock you stand upon.

  18. Does carrying your scriptures in your smart phone count? How about if you also carry your priesthood manual in your phone?


  19. Shawn L said

    Mark — good one. I’ve never understodd the fascination with PDA scriptures. Seems like a whole lot of squinting just to save yourself the trouble of carrying an extra book around.

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