Middleaged Manners Man

No, Middleaged Manners Man is NOT going to be my new blog name. However, something that happened this week makes it an applicable title for this one post. (Some of you might have seen a snippet of this in Facebook, but there is a lot more to talk about…)

On Friday I was walking out of a Circle K, giant beverage in hand, as a woman was approaching the door from the outside. I stopped, stepped back and held the door open for her to pass. She looked at me with a hateful stare and said, “I don’t NEED you to open doors for me.”

I replied: “I’m sure that is true, but you NEED to learn some manners.”

And then I beat it out of there before she could respond – or hurt me.

That Facebook post got a lot of response, most of it condemning of the woman, like the tone of the post. Since then, I have thought a bit about it and want to break it down further.

  1. Opening the door for her was a polite (and correct) thing to do. It wasn’t sexist or even chivalrous, because I would have done the exact thing for a man, or a kid.
  2. Her attitude and response were simply rude – no matter what her feelings about chivalry, or even good manners, happen to be.
  3. I made a mistake by sniping back at her and telling her she needed to learn some manners. Not my place, not my problem. I should have just let it go and walked away without taking a shot. (Even though my response was praised by others.) Maybe she was having a rotten day? Maybe I look exactly like her ex-boyfriend?
  4. Besides, this woman was not young. The ship that should have taught her proper manners has probably long since sailed.

I also got a taste of another kind of coarseness later that night. We were at a movie theater and there was a gaggle of teen girls in line behind us that were talking blue streak that would make a longshoreman blush. Every sentence was peppered with F-bombs and OMGs. I know, I know – it’s how it is nowadays. But still!

I decided to spend some time looking at manners and vulgarity from a Latter-day Saint standpoint and see how it holds up in today’s world, and the Church. I found a General Conference talk that told this story:

“One evening I was watching a TV movie with my sixteen-year-old son. When some crude language was used, I suggested that we turn off the TV. My son said, ‘All right, Dad, but that’s nothing compared to what I hear at school all the time.’ In visiting with some of the youth in our community I receive the same report. One boy commented, ‘Everybody, nearly, talks that way. The girls are just as bad or worse than the boys.’” (link)

And also the following observation:

“I cannot remember when I first heard profane and vulgar expressions in common use around me. I suppose it was from adults in the barnyard or the barracks. Today, our young people hear such expressions from boys and girls in their grade schools, from actors on stage and in the movies, from popular novels, and even from public officials and sports heroes. Television and videotapes bring profanity and vulgarity into our homes. For many in our day, the profane has become commonplace and the vulgar has become acceptable.” (link)

The first story is from a Conference talk by President Gordon B. Hinckley, and the observation was from Elder Dallin H. Oaks.  BOTH in 1987! That is over THIRTY years ago, and they were disturbed by it then. Having lived through 1987, I assure you that it seems like “The Andy Griffith Show” compared to today’s society.

Bad manners, profanity, vulgarity, sloppiness and just plain coarseness are common in today’s world.

But we aren’t supposed to be like today’s world. Anyone who advocates that members of the Church as just “regular folks” like everyone else either does not understand what “everyone else” is up to, or they do not understand what God expects of us.

I found it interesting that the word “vulgar” is defined as morally crude, but also as “relating to the common people.”  “Coarse” is defined as “crude and unrefined.” (link) “Unrefined” is defined as “lacking fineness or elegance of feeling, taste, manners, language, etc.” (link)

Are members of the Lord’s Kingdom on earth supposed to be “commoners?” Or is there an inherent obligation to seek refinement? Joseph Smith did write, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (link)

Does holding a door open for a woman at Circle K mean that I am “refined?” Probably not – but it is an action that increases my personal refinement, and lets that other person know that I acknowledge their existence – even if just for a moment..

What about President Hinckley’s concern? I have had the exact same experience where something offensive is said on TV and one of my kids say “It’s okay Dad, I hear worse than that every day.”

Maybe – but not in my house!

Continuing what President Dallin H. Oaks said, “For many in our day, the profane has become commonplace and the vulgar has become acceptable. Surely this is one fulfillment of the Book of Mormon prophecy that in the last days “there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth.” (Morm. 8:31.) (link)

He went on to explain that, “The people of God have always been commanded to abstain from language that is profane or vulgar. Indecent and vulgar expressions pollute the air around us. Relations that are sacred between husband and wife are branded with coarse expressions that degrade what is intimate in marriage and make commonplace what is forbidden outside it. Moral sins that should be unspeakable are in the common vernacular. Human conduct plunging downward from the merely immodest to the utterly revolting is written on the walls and shouted in the streets.”

Do you see how often the word “commonplace” comes up?

Why is this a big deal? Why is being vulgar, or profane, or having bad manners something that should concern the Lord’s servants, or us?  Back to President Oaks: “Vulgar and crude expressions are also offensive to the Spirit of the Lord,” and “Let us recognize profanity and vulgarity for what they are. They are sins that separate us from God and cripple our spiritual defenses by causing the Holy Ghost to withdraw from us.” (link)

I believe President Oaks has it right. I can’t believe for one minute that the Holy Ghost likes fart jokes. (Please don’t quote me on that. It is definitely not a “legacy” quote.) I also can’t believe that he will hang around while we are watching shows with nudity, profanity, vulgarity. (Sadly, this leaves very few things to binge-watch on Netflix.) Because of this, profanity and vulgarity aren’t just things that make us part of a coarse society, they are Spirit-killing habits that leave us without the safety and protection of the Holy Ghost.

I remember that as a young missionary, all of us brought challenges to overcome in the field. Some brought a lack of manners and appropriateness in behavior and speech that took effort to overcome. A refining. Teenage boys are the worst at this – cussing, burping, telling crude jokes, laughing at crude jokes, etc. But, I think we all learned that being a representative of the Lord and behaving the way were not conducive to a spirit-filled life.

Kids learn manners from their parents. Even simple things lie saying please, or thank you, or making eye contact when speaking to someone are learned in the home. It is very possible that the woman at Circle K was raised right and has perfect manners – but chooses to abandon them when they conflict with her personal ideals. (Or maybe not.) This is so visible nowadays in the public eye: Politicians, protesters and celebrities are hard-charging down a path of coarseness, vulgarity and profanity, from which, I sadly doubt, society will ever return. Even so, I’m gonna keep holding doors and trying to mind my tongue – no matter what the world around me considers “normal.”

When we drill down to understand what we should be about, a line from a Primary song is adequate self-condemnation: “If the Savior stood beside me, would I do the things I do?”  Or the second verse, “If the Savior stood beside me, would I say the things I say?” (link)

The reality? Nope and nope. But it does present some interesting scenarios:

Would I hold the door for Him?

Would I be looking at my phone while I talked to him?

Would I challenge him to a burping contest, or worse?

Would I binge-watch a Netflix show with Him?

Would I use coarse, vulgar or profane words in His presence?

Would I regail him with a dirty joke, or a crude story?

It all sounds pretty horrible, no?  Yet… have you seen this scripture? “For inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me.” (D&C 42:38)

As for me, I’m gonna keep holding doors open, even if it is unwanted. Why? For MY refinement. I also need to teach my kids these things. President James E. Faust said, “This means we will have to teach our children a life-style of our own and provide moral anchors in the sea of self-indulgence, self-interest, and self-service in which they float.”

(“Self-indulgence, self-interest, and self-service.” Sounds to me like a great definition of someone who is oblivious to the person coming through the door behind them.)

President Faust referred to “A lifestyle of our own.”  – not commonplace. Not just like “regular” folks. To me, that is another way of saying “being IN the world, but not OF the world.”

“Manners Maketh the Man.”

Brad


PS: I am still planning on making the name change, but I am taking the time to do it right.

PSS: GO Cougs!

PSSS: Here are a few links on the topic that you might enjoy:

Purifying Our Minds and Spirits. H. Burke Peterson

Are You a Saint? Quentin L. Cook

President Kimball Speaks Against Profanity.

Constant Truth for Changing Times.  Thomas S. Monson

The Unspeakable Gift. Joseph B. Wirthlin

About the author

Comments

  1. It is so sad that women don’t like to be treated kindly. I do like it and express profuse gratitude when anyone holds a door for me or helps me in any way. Kindness is society’s lubricant that helps smooth our path through life. Keep up the good work! And may I say that with four sons one of my most common sayings at the dinner table was, “We’re not at Scout Camp!” to curb any unrefined comments or noises.

  2. This evening I found this quote from President Russell M. Nelson in a news article about his visit to the Caribbean: “Please keep the commandments of God. We need to purify our language, elevate our thoughts and live our lives in obedience to God’s commandments.” Sounds like you’re both on the same page! Being on the same page as the prophet is a very good page to be on.

  3. I think I live in a bubble in my small S. Utah town of largely Church-going, neighbor-helping Saints trying to do their best to navigate through life, but every so often I bump into the real world that brings me back to reality. It’s interesting your topic comes when it does because as I was watching the BYU game last night I noticed a stark contrast between the fans in our stands vs. the fans in the AZ stands, many of whom weren’t wearing much clothing. There was just such a vast difference between the two groups it was impossible to miss. I appreciate your insights into the language we use having the potential to be a great pollution upon the earth. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms before! 🙂

  4. Worked for 30+ years in a heavy industry, and occasionally with longshoremen. I always was circumspect in my speech. It was noticed. On more than one occasion someone would “let loose” then stop and apologize when they realized I was there. Our influence and example, though we may not think it great, is noticed and may help guide, if only for a moment, others to a slightly higher plane. Being in Texas there are many cases where door-holding manners are shown, and thank you’s exchanged. We can strive to always look up and act well, and hope.

  5. My question is, what do I do when in a meeting or social gathering that turns vulgar and base? Normally I leave if at all possible.

    There have been times when I couldn’t leave and so asked, gently, for the person to not use that language in front of me. That usually ands with more foul language.

    I honestly don’t know what to do.

    1. I found Heather’s comment about her discussion with her daughter to be instructive. Sometimes we can’t control our circumstances, and I’m sure God is aware of that.

  6. You were missed,MMM. Great post. The world will continue to go in the opposite direction that we are heading. So be it. Will share your thoughts with my teens in my Sunday school class. Love the questions about behavior in the saviors presence. Whatever you decide to call yourself, just keep these posts coming. You are appreciated. ☺️

  7. I read an essay recently that called this idea “spiritual elitism.” Not in the sense of comparing one’s self to others… rather to one’s best potential self.

    The author would say, “I don’t have to behave this way. I’m better than this.”

    I LOVE that way of thinking.

  8. Great post as always. May I skirt a political issue for s moment regarding this? I’m disgusted by Trump’s language and personality as much as the next guy. However, he’s no different than most of the world. So it’s humorous to me when Americans express outrage at his antics, yet it’s very typical of their own and is a reflection of most of society and what we’ve become. I love the counsel to be different and apartb from that commonplace behavior.
    xoxo

    1. I think it is pretty obvious that the people protesting Trump have done more to coarsen the nation’s dialogue than anything he has ever said.SOme of the things they shout at protests and the signs they carry are really terrible.

  9. Thank you for your post. I am amazed with what is considered alright and accepted. As I read your post I received the confirmation that this is a perfect subject to have a First Sunday Council on in Relief Society. So, thanks again.

  10. I had the same thing happen to me when I was a student at BYU. I was a bit shocked that someone, yes it happened to be a female, but that really anyone, would not be grateful for someone, male or female, holding the door open for them.

  11. You were missed while on your “sabbatical.” Truly do enjoy your posts, although I don’t always agree with a few comments now and then. Are you still taking suggestions for your new name?
    Russ

  12. Thank you! As a teen, I was often been accused of being “prissy” for not appreciating crude, vulgar language and behavior. I wasn’t trying to be preachy or prissy–just trying to act like a lady and behave with refinement. I guess I was “peculiar.”
    I appreciate your thoughts about language inside our homes. We can do better with what we binge watch.

  13. I know we are not associated with the Boy Scouts any more. But, so much of my adult years were. The Scout Law, includes being …, ‘clean’, … I sure hope it is included, (or something similar) in the new YM program.

  14. The most shocking thing in this post is that 1987 was 30 years ago…still trying to wrap my head around that. 🙂 Thank you for the new insight into D&C 42:38, I hadn’t thought about it that way before.

  15. My high school daughter made an interesting observation about vulgar language at school vs. home. She noticed that the language at school didn’t bother her, but when we watched a movie or tv show at home and it had offensive language it did bother her. We came up with this, she has no choice at school. She has to be there (sure we could home school), so the Spirit doesn’t withdraw from her, as long as she doesn’t also participate. However, at home, we make the choice of what we watch. So, the Spirit and our spirits are offended and notice when we hear the language.

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