I've been having a hard time lately, dealing again with my arch-nemesis: labeling.
It seems that everyone is so very strongly intent on labeling themselves these days. I'm coming up against it in so many different aspects of my life right now.
my educational choices
my parenting choices
my social/political ideas
People who I admire and respect through all these different areas of my interests are taking certain labels on themselves. That's their business right? It shouldn't effect me at all--except for the fact that as soon as people take on a label they suddenly start to talk about "them," "the others," and suddenly all the rest of the human race is put in the category of "Everyone else not carrying the label." And suddenly everyone from the ignorant, to the conscientious objectors, to the curious, to the un-interested, to those actively fighting against the tenants of that label are mashed together in one group as "them".
That's the part that bugs me--I don't want to be a "them".
I'm a thinking person. I appreciate conversation and discussion. I like to learn and talk about issues. So I really get frustrated to hear people I respect for many of their ideas talking about "them" (me) in ways suggesting that I am unintelligent, a shallow thinker, narrow-minded, ignorant, or uninformed simply because I don't choose to go by the same label they have chosen to. The bigger problem is that often I agree with these people on many issues--that's why we're friends, or that's why I read/listen to the things they say. But that doesn't matter. As soon as someone takes a label on them-self it is all or nothing. You're either in or you're out. It's frustrating to me to feel like people who I like and respect, and--in some cases--care about, no longer have respect for me.
I've thought often about this idea of labeling, and my hesitancy to participate. Beyond the negative effects of its practice--which I have experienced-- it comes back to my faith. In Mosiah 5: 7-9 King Benjamin, speaking to those who have been baptized, states:
7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.That's it. That's the only label I desire to take on myself. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (Some people use the label "Mormon" and I'm ok with that as an intermediate step to getting them to know the real name of the church I take on myself.)
8 And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
9 And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. (emphasis is my own)
But I think the scriptures and our baptisimal covenants are pretty clear that taking upon us the name of Christ is the most-important label we should be seeking for ourselves.
I have performed numerous "checks" on myself to make sure I don't take some of my personal passions too far. I have been careful, for example, to check my passion for real food against the revelations in the scriptures and from the prophets (his fifth point). I have made sure to do so in concert with my reading of good books of the world on the subject because Nephi taught:
28 [. . . ] O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.I want to be learned--I love learning new things! But I never want my learning to make me think that I understand things of myself and no longer need to follow inspiration from God in that area of my life. I resist taking on additional labels, because I never want one of those labels to slip into a spot of greater prominence in my life than the name of Christ.
29 But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God. (2 Nephi 9:28-29)
A few years ago when I first wrote about this subject I posted our label-free family manifesto. I feel just as good about it today as the day I posted it, so I'm going to go ahead and state it again:
We want our family to play outdoors, to appreciate nature, to have creative minds. We want our family to appreciate the things they have, and not be wasteful. We want our family to not buy too much into consumerism, and to be actual producers of many beautiful and useful things. We want to be good stewards of the earth. We want to be healthy. We want to be active and eat good foods. We want to enjoy the food that the earth provides us--grains, fruits, vegetables-- not just food that comes in plastic packages. Most importantly we want to be free to make the choices we feel good about. Free to follow inspiration not fads. Free from labels.