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Are perfect people all the same?

August 26, 2010
Barbie family

This isn't what the ad campaign is about, see

MormonTimes’ Joel Campbell summarized some of the responses to the ad campaign rollout yesterday. At one point, he quotes Scott Swofford, the director of media for the church, who has something interesting to say:

“The more members who come onto to share their beliefs, the more people will understand we believe in Christ, we follow Christ and we expect our behavior to model that. Having said that, we don’t expect everyone to be perfect. We have not made an effort to only show famous or perfect people. You are going to see warts in this campaign, and people aren’t used to that in Latter-day Saint communication and hope they will be patient and understand we are all fellow strugglers trying to align ourselves with the truth.”

What’s interesting about this is wondering what parts of the people showcased in these campaigns are the imperfect warts. What is the struggle, and what is the truth to which the people in the ads are struggling to align themselves?

It seems that such a quotation can be wielded too widely. For example, one could easily say that a mother working outside of the home represents one kind of imperfection, of sin in the sense of missing the mark, one struggle to align with the truth.

It need not be the case that the ads are pulling any sort of “bait and switch” for the simple reason that really, these ads could only represent what the members believe and live. It could be the case that the church is saying, “Hey, even though these people fail to live up to the standards in every way, we tolerate their screwing up — to an extent.”

As long as we recognize that these people are screw-ups, are missing the mark, etc., then there’s no problem. The problems arise when people forget that these are compromises and imperfections.

…of course, this makes me wonder…are perfect people all the same? I’m sure that there is diversity among perfection, but what is the extent of this? I mean, I highly doubt that if there is a heaven, that the sole ideal family is husband as breadwinner, wife as butterchurner at home, etc., Yet, that’s what I continue to hear people advocate (among other things). Even when people have allowed for “alternate” role arrangements, they have been explicit in saying that the “ideal” is one traditional construct.

So, would a perfect world squash out all those nontraditional forms? Do celestial people learn to appreciate white shirts and patriarchy?

This doesn’t seem so appealing. I’d rather have more diversity. I guess it’s like Leo Tolstoy wrote (with one modification). Perfect people are alike. Imperfect people are imperfect in their own ways.


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  1. nathankennard permalink

    Good question. Are perfect people all the same? It strikes me as in the same vein as the question posed to me by my son – Who would win in a fight between a vampire and a zombie? … I told him that my fantasy can beat up his fantasy.

    Perfection is unattainable at least in part because it is subjective. As a tool to create a feeling of guilt it may be useful.

    As far as a Mormon perspective goes, as with everything, people will focus on what they want. Suggesting that in the campaign warts (evidence of viral infection) will be seen confirms that normal human variation will not necessarily be hidden –

    Are perfect people all the same? Yes, if that is how perfection is defined (uniformity). At the same time, a person may hold the view that all people are inherently ‘perfect’, in which case, No (all perfect people are not the same).

  2. A perfect world is a world where freedom and love rule. So we should have almost infinite diversity in such a world…

    I thought, in the Mormon world view, Satan was the one who wanted to crank us all out of the barbie and ken factory, and force us to be a certain way…

  3. Nathan,

    at another site, I got into a discussion that morality relates to facts about the wellness of conscious beings. (This is actually something Sam Harris has talked and written about).

    The person at the blog argued though that Sam Harris couldn’t determine for sure what these facts were without God and an afterlife. He wasn’t saying that God and an afterlife are certain, but rather that the dichotomy is “There is a god and an afterlife” or “There is no absolute convergence in morality.”

    And his argument was that with an afterlife, we have enough time to “converge” with facts about human wellness, even if we were blind in this life. In other words, if we sinned and didn’t feel remorse in this life, then whatever we get in the next life will eventually make us feel remorse, make us wish we hadn’t missed the mark, etc., etc.,

    I’m really glossing over many of the points…but in such a case, he was arguing that subjectivity wouldn’t necessarily mean that perfection is unattainable. Just perhaps not in this life.

    John G-W:

    The fact that freedom is available doesn’t mean that freedom is the ideal. After all, so much of what we learn about freedom in the church drills down to, “We have freedom so we can learn never to do x, never to do y, never to do z.” Freedom is about discipline, even if discipline is of our own will instead of “factory made.”

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