On Monday my EC and I were standing in a loooong TSA line at the Sea-Tac airport. There were hundreds of people, and the line was moving ever so slowly.
One advantage of being tall is that you can scan crowds. As I looked at the masses of people corralled in the lines that doubled back on themselves, I noticed something: Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – in the line was wearing black or gray coats, sweaters or shirts. It was a never-ending line of monochromatic bleakness.
Yes, I understand that it was a dreary, rainy day in the middle of winter. I also know that winter colors tend to reflect the season and be less colorful. But man, it was like living in a black and white movie.
And then there was me. I was wearing a bright salmon shirt (same one as pictured above.) You might call it pink, peach, apricot or orange – but I’m sticking with salmon. Not only was it bright, it was covered with little pelicans.
Obviously, I am secure in my masculinity. Yes, the shirt screams of summer, and yes, I was one of the few people in line not wearing a coat. (I’m plenty insulated already)
When I brought my uniqueness to Chrissie’s attention, she reminded me of the young lady standing directly behind us who was wearing a bright orange sweater that you could probably see from space.
I turned to her and said, “I like your sweater. I guess we are the only ones here who aren’t afraid of color.”
She laughed and looked around and replied, “I guess it’s up to you and me to bring some sparkle to Seattle.”
Rather than feel sheepish about standing out, I felt kind of good that I was willing to stand out among the countless grayscale minions. Fashion is a funny, and ironic, thing: People try so hard to look like everyone else in order to show their uniqueness. It is in a lot of our natures to try and blend in. Standing out carries comes with risk.
But it can be a dreary world. A splash of color can brighten it.
Later in the week, I was thinking about that experience and wondering if there was a message in there somewhere. It was about that time that that I read an article that I found online that was making the case that “Latter-day Saints” are just like everyone else…
No, we’re not.
At least we shouldn’t be. If our goal as a religious people it to convince everyone that we are “normal,” like them, we lack understanding. If we work to convince everyone that we are Christians like the rest of Christendom, we don’t understand our own theology
We are different. We are supposed to be different.
Not my idea. Peter came up with it a long time ago, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Last year in General Conference, Sister Becky Craven said this, “As a covenant people, we are not meant to blend in with the rest of the world. We have been called “a peculiar people”—what a compliment! As the influences of the world increasingly embrace the evil, we must strive with all diligence to stay firmly on the path that leads us safely to our Savior, widening the distance between our covenant living and worldly influences.” (link)
It is a simple, yet profound thought: As the world continues on its downward spiral, we, as members of the Church, will become less like the world. The contrast of our “peculiarity” should become more obvious. It has gotten to the point where the only place we can really blend in with the world is by hanging out in the infamous Great and Spacious Building.
Yet there are many of us who have little desire to stand out, rather we try to blend in. We often embrace the world; its behavior; its language; its fashion, its purposes and its selfishness.
A long time ago, (1977) Elder David B. Haight taught this, and I think it still rings true today:
“I testify… that you are different. You need not look just like the world; you need not entertain like the world; your personal habits should be different; your recreation will be different; your concern for your family will be vastly different. If you establish this distinctiveness firmly in your life pattern, only blessings await you for doing what is right.” (link)
I have observed that those who rail against “conformity” are usually just trying to find a way to “conform” with the World instead. A quest for “uniqueness” can get in the way of what really matters.
As we are living in the world, there might be times where we feel like we are different. Better said, we SHOULD experience times when we feel different, like we don’t belong, or don’t fit in. Because we don’t. We shouldn’t. If we never feel that way, maybe it is time for us to reevaluate where we are.
It would be effort better spent trying to let our unique light so shine, rather than trying to be like the rest of the world. Or, as Powerline so eloquently sang:
“Ya gotta believe that I got what it takes to stand out
Above the crowd
Even if I gotta shout out loud.” (link)
President and Sister Nelson held a youth devotional last year where this idea was the main subject matter. Our prophet taught:
“The Lord needs you to look like, sound like, act like, and dress like a true disciple of Jesus Christ,” said President Nelson. You can live differently from the rest of the world! We don’t usually have to do anything extravagant to stand out—just living as a true disciple of Christ is enough to share light with others. “And if you are sometimes called ‘weird,’ wear that distinction as a badge of honor and be happy that your light is shining brightly in this ever-darkening world!” (link)
He added “embrace being different!” (link)
When we find ourselves bingeing the same stuff on Netflix as the masses do; dressing and grooming like the masses do; treating sacred things like the masses do; focusing on the trivial rather than the eternal like the masses do – it demands some reflection.
We need to seek after, and be what God wants for us. We need to seek to edify ourselves and others.
As Peter said, God has “called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.“
I enjoyed being the oddball at the Seattle airport. As for more important things, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not “normal” as the world defines it. I’m okay with that, too – because if the world considers me “normal,” I’m doing it wrong.
(Here is a link to an old post that digs a little deeper into uniqueness and conformity: A Bunch of Penguins: A Case for Conformity.)