“Because I said so!”
Are you familiar with the old story about the newlywed and the pot roast? Surely you’ve heard it at the beginning of some sacrament meeting talk, somewhere. The newlywed bride is making a roast for her new husband. She cuts the end of the roast off before placing it in the pan. When asked why she did that, she replies that her mother always did it that way. The bewildered husband asks his mother-in-law about the roast amputation, and she explains that her mother always did it that way. Finally, the grandmother is asked about the mysterious technique. Her answer? “My pan was too small for the roast!”
Usually this story is met with chuckles about the silliness of the bride and how such silliness gets passed on until someone–the smarter one, the man–asks, “Why?”
I am in a place in my life where I ask “Why?”
Growing up, I really hated when my mom answered my never-ending “Why’s” with “because I said so.” I vowed that I wouldn’t do that when I was a mom. (Just one of the many, many words I’ve eaten). “Because I said so” is actually sometimes appropriate, especially with a toddler that cannot understand the rationale for every rule. But toddlers grow up, and by the time they are teens, “because I said so” often yields the opposite of the desired effect.
How many aspects of our religious observance answer “why?” with “because I said so!”?
Studying church history last year really impressed upon me the very human, imperfect, bumbling processes and opinions that led to so many things that are considered absolutes today. The variations of the Word of Wisdom, the varieties of dress standards, the hair/beard/piercing fluctuations (why in the world were men required to wear socks at BYU?), sabbath day observance, and the list goes on. So many points of contention and grief come down to “because I said so” even if it’s called something else. “That’s the way we do things.” “The unwritten order of things.” “Just because.” “We need to have faith.” “Line upon line.” “We’ll understand when we are on the other side of the veil.” Those answers kind of worked for me for a rather long time.
But now I am a grown up. And when I ask “why?” I want an answer.
I am not quite sure how to get my answers, but study and pondering and prayer seem to help.
I am looking at the fruits of various practices and traditions. If the fruits are good, that’s a good answer to “why.” If the fruits are not good, maybe the way things have always been done is not a good way. I haven’t figured everything out yet. Not even close. The fruit test is working pretty well. It is streamlining the gospel for me. Love one another, show that love through kindness, and respect each person’s autonomy is what I am going on at the moment.
How do you answer your “whys?”