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Taking Exception to Exceptionalism

By Rosalyn Eves

As a student of rhetoric and an aspiring writer, I worry about words. I worry about the way they sound or don’t sound. I worry about nuance and assonance and consonance and rhythm. But mostly, I worry about the meanings (intentional or not) that we send with our words.

Currently, I’m serving as the first counselor in my ward Young Women’s organization. Which means, not surprisingly, that I spend a lot of time thinking about the messages that get sent to our youth, both inside and outside of the church.

One of the messages we send to our youth concerns their exceptionalism–the idea that they are, to borrow Peter’s words, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.” This message isn’t particularly new: I heard it 20 years ago. And there’s nothing implicitly wrong with the message–as a church, we believe that the current generation(s) were held back in the pre-existence to come to earth today.

What concerns me, however, is how this (and similar messages) may get taken up and misinterpreted. One of the difficulties with chosenness is that it only happens in opposition–one is only chosen if another is not. Exceptionalism works the same way. To be exceptional, one has to be an exception. One has to be better than others. (The Free Dictionary defines it as “well above average; extraordinary.”)

Don’t get me wrong. I love the youth I work with. They are smart, strong, vibrant young women full of integrity and faith. But exceptional? I find myself increasingly resisting that concept. The moral standards our youth (and adults) hold themselves to are exceptional. But I’m not sure it’s healthy to extrapolate from this that we ourselves are exceptional. I think it sets a dangerous precedence and expectation.

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He and Me – Can We Be (Just) Friends?

By Kellie Purcill

I have lots of friends. I have friends I talk books with; go to movies with; friends I sweat on or near during Kung Fu; friends that know what I look like both when I’m feeling good and (especially) when the world is trying to kill me, the way I know how they look at their best and worst. There are friends that suffer through the same exams as me; friends that laugh and cry with, on and for me; friends that live too far away and are burrowed deep in my heart at the same time. Some of my friends fall into one category; most fall into several or many of the groups.

The vast majority of my friends – at least 95% – are female. It’s the other 5% that I’m wondering about.

Is it possible for a male and a female to be “just friends”?

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Boys to Gentlemen

By Leslie Graff

“Please grab the door for me, son!” I  implore as, laden with Sunday bag and child, I attempt to make it through the perilous double set of doors at the church with three kids in tow. “This is how to be a gentleman,” I whisper and wink as I pass him in the breezeway.

I have three sons. Growing up I only had one sister, so this realm of boys is new to me. Sure, I have a degree in child development, but that doesn’t seem to give me any edge in raising these somewhat foreign creatures. I’ve come a long way in nine years of boy-momming. I’ve learned to handle Venus fly traps, master knowledge of Star Wars planets, build amazing Lego ships, make parachutes out of tarps, and embrace loud noise and dirt. Still there is a long way to go to get them from where they are now to where I hope they will be as men.

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