Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Vaunting

April 12th, 2016 by G.

One of the old standbys among the SJWs of the Bloggernacle is whether telling a missionary it would be better to be dead than to dishonor themselves on their mission is the literally the worst thing ever, worse than Hitler. The argument, somewhat strained, is that the injunction is encouraging missionaries to commit suicide if they do sin.

President Harold B. Lee was apparently not aware that he was wandering into a internet controversy when he came across a similar situation, so he gave a much more sensible caution. Here is the story in his words.

There are a number who are listening in tonight, and one particularly who will remember this very vividly—an incident that took place a number of years ago in Japan. . . .

It was just after the war; things were tense. We were at one of the upper camps where the planes could take off, and within half an hour they could be over on the Russian side. We were holding a noon meeting with our servicemen. They called on a young man to speak first. He announced his text from the prayer of the Master when he prayed for his disciples: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them [my disciples] out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15.) Then this lad delivered one of the finest talks on chastity that I have ever heard. He closed by saying, “Rather than lose my virtue, I would die and have my body sent home in a pine box and my dog tags follow after.”

There was a hush over that audience of servicemen, and then he bore his testimony; and as he started to leave the pulpit, he stumbled and fell, draped over the pulpit. We lifted him off the pulpit and worked with him until he was revived, and then took him down in the audience.

As they carried him down, the mission president said to me, “I wonder if he has a bad heart.” And I said, “You know, I have had a feeling that there is something quarreling inside of him against what he has been saying to us.”

When it came my time to speak, I said to him, “Now, my boy, you have made a profound impression upon all of us. You have said you would rather die than lose your virtue. But remember, the devil heard you, as we heard you, and if I don’t miss my guess, he is going to make you prove that you would give your life before you would lose your virtue. You had better be on guard.”

From President Lee’s Talk, The Strength of the Priesthood.

The Dark Ages Europe of the warrior bands had a custom called vaunting. Long winters, warriors boozing and talking, led to someone leaping up and boasting about themselves and making some kind of reckless vow. Then tragedy struck when the warrior had to follow through with it later. That is the plot of many of the sagas. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a high-falutin’ version with a happier ending.

There may not be much obvious similarity between a warrior band and a Mormon priesthood quorum, but apparently there are some. President Lee’s lad was giving a classic vaunt. Whether from desperation or a kind of heady fae recklessness, it is the same. In fact, in whatever setting, there is something male about it. Men have boasted all over the world. Mike Fink was a vaunter. Arab Muslim terrorism often makes more sense as a vaunt, or a fulfillment of a vaunt, then as a war strategy.

The truth is that “phony macho” is a redundancy, a pleonasm. Machismo is always to some degree phony by definition

-thus James Bowman.

But whether through desperation or through feeling one’s oats, through that intoxicating sense of self-exultation that we men get sometimes, its dangerous stuff. Strut up the devil like the cock of the walk and spit in his face and grin, and he may just wipe that grin off your face. It almost happened to President Lee’s lad–he came very close to falling in with the easy prostitution around Army bases until his quorum made a determined effort to head him off.

That is the way of men. We vaunt on our own, but we cannot fulfill the boast without the brotherhood.

Oaths are boasts.

Sin, that old gator, must be wrassled with.  And whether you vaunt or not, the gator will wrassle back.

 

Other Posts about the Priesthood Session of the 1972 General Conference

The Position of the Church, by Nathaniel Givens
The Power of God Resting upon the Leaders of This Church

The Priesthood, Three Reasons to Honor It

 

Comments (22)
Filed under: Birkenhead Drill,Deseret Review | Tags: , , , ,
April 12th, 2016 07:30:17
22 comments

[…] Vaunting by G […]


Mike Fink
April 12, 2016

That tain’t nothing. Why, I’d rather die twice and get shipped home in any number o’ pine boxes afore I’d give up my Chastity. Or my Faith, neither. Them’s both pure piz’n when riled up, but otherwise Chastity and Faith ‘r purt lil gals and I don’t aim to give them up to any feller.

[…] Vaunting G […]


Bookslinger
April 12, 2016

Alma 32:3-16. Something about humbling oneself versus being compelled to be humble. It has to be one way or the other. “Before exhaltation comes huniliation.”


W.H. Clinton
April 12, 2016

Define “die” and “chastity” please.

I tell you what. I’d rather not not not die and would be not not happy to violate whatever was incumbent to myself at that time. I believe it’s clear we should value freedom and equally give each opportunity due consideration.

I hope that’s perfectly clear.

[…] Vaunting by G […]


Bruce Charlton
April 12, 2016

Very shrewd post.

You get a lot of this vaunting on the internet, too – including from anonymous persons… I suppose each vaunter is then his own and only audience, because nobody else will ever if he lives up to his boasts…

Another angle on this kind is the danger of making a vow (which doesn’t mean we should never make vows, but that it *is* morally dangerous – and so is breaking a vow).


Simon
April 12, 2016

I’ve thought of this topic a lot, and found the exchange between Elrond and Gimli about vows to be particularly helpful.


G.
April 13, 2016

Vows *are* dangerous. “Oaths are boasts.” I believe that is why Christ tried to discourage people from making them. We nowadays do not take them seriously but spiritual reality does. In the right time and place, one of Satan’s traps is to extract an oath to do folly or evil.


G.
April 13, 2016

Is this the exchange you mean?

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,” said Gimli.
“Maybe,” said Elrond, “but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.”


Bruce Charlton
April 13, 2016

Michael Drout calls this passage the battle of the proverbs!

Elrond says that no member of the company (except Frodo) is required to go all the way to Mount Doom. Gimli dissents, and replies with the proverb “Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens”; to which Elrond replies “Let him not vow to walk in the dark who has not seen the nightfall”; Gimli continues: “Yet strong word may strengthen quaking heart”; “Or break it” – finishes Elrond.

This passage demonstrates that in ancient societies *all* traditional wisdom is regarded as true (nobody wise denies the validity of a proverb) – ‘despite’ that proverbs superficially contradict one another.


G.
April 13, 2016

Joseph Smith definitely came from a folk background so I have sometimes thought that his statement about proving opposites referred to something like this–the kinds of truths that are proverbial.


Zen
April 13, 2016

It seems to me, that so much of this post, and the other on on status systems, is wrapped up in Pride.


G.
April 13, 2016

I might put it exactly the other way around. So much of our discourse on Pride makes sense if you think of it as a rejection of alternate status systems.


Wm Jas
April 14, 2016

Not so long ago it was standard practice for Mormons to declare that they would sooner die than break certain covenants — but perhaps the declarations were made in a place where the devil couldn’t hear them?


Vader
April 14, 2016

It’s still standard practice. And, yes, there is significance to the fact that it is made in a sacred space, witnessed by peers who have made exactly the same vow.


Wm Jas
April 14, 2016

Is it standard practice again? It wasn’t in my time (1997-2001).


Vader
April 14, 2016

It’s always been there. It’s just been more explicit at some times than others.


JKC
April 15, 2016

I once wrote a prose poem/mediation on the sacrament where I reached the conclusion that the covenant of baptism, if it is seen as a promise to strict obedience, is basically a rash vow (a “vaunt”), because an oath to strict obedience obviously exceeds our strength given that we are commanded to be perfect, and that the covenant of the sacrament, with its emphasis on willingness to obey, and remembrance of Christ’s body and blood, rather than on obedience itself, is a merciful deliverance by the grace of Christ, from the rash vow of strict obedience.


G.
April 15, 2016

Exactly right, JKC.

I see the meaning of the contradictory commandments in the Garden of Eden in the same terms. It is sinful–i.e, it is limiting, it is “damnable” in the Mormon sense–to not strive for perfection and growth. But we do not have the capability to do it right. And it sinful to take on tasks beyond one’s means. So the contradictory commandment to not take the fruit and the multiply is not arbitrary but reflects a basic reality about the human situation.

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