Once Elder Cook realized who exactly Mick was -- which required Mick showing him a picture in a magazine and saying, "That's me" -- he began to ask him about rock music. He asked Mick what the impact of his music was on young people. Mick apparently replied, "Our music is calculated to drive the kids to sex." At Elder Cook's shocked expression, Mick apparently retreated a little bit and said that it was up to them what they do; he was just making money from it. Elder Cook and Mick then proceeded to talk about various things, until eventually Mick told him the Book of Mormon was a lie, whereupon Elder Cook whipped out his own copy and challenged him to show him one lie, which Mick couldn't do. Elder Cook then testified that it's a true book and that God would hold Mick accountable to the extent of his understanding if he didn't change his ways. End of anecdote.
Now, the way this story is used in the church, by Elder Cook and by those who repeat it, is to illustrate the idea that there is "good music" and "evil music" in the world and that LDS should avoid "evil" music such as that produced by the Rolling Stones. This story was repeated in my daughter M's Seminary class shortly before the winter break. (Seminary is a program of one-hour daily classes on religion for LDS high school students.) According to M, the other students in the class responded, "Yes, yes, that's bad music, we shouldn't listen to it."
M's response was rather different, in two ways. First, she said she couldn't believe that Elder Cook actually took Jagger seriously. She thought it was obvious that he was having Elder Cook on a bit, trying to shock him with his "evil ways." Second, she said something like, "Have any of you ever even listened to the Rolling Stones' music? It's great. I love it. And it's certainly never driven me to have sex."
Those of you who know me from the internet will probably recognize that I might have said the same sort of things. In fact, M and I had a bit of a laugh discussing this conversation and the idea that Mick was probably rather excited to still be able to shock someone. It probably even made him feel relevant again.
So, she's a bit of a chip off the old block. She's learned -- and I guess I'm the one who taught her -- to think critically and independently. She doesn't automatically accept everything she hears at church as The Truth. She questions and thinks, and recognizes poor reasoning and illogical thinking.
And I ask myself, did I do the right thing? Should I have taught her to do those things? I recall this passage from Chaim Potok's The Gift of Asher Lev, where Asher and his father discuss Asher's son Avrumel.
"How can we expect to know everything about God?"
He looked at me, his eyes narrowing.
"I call that ambiguity," I said. "Riddles, puzzles, double meanings, lost possibilities, the dark side to the light, the light side to the darkness, different perspectives on the same things. Nothing in this world has only one side to it. Everything is like a kaleidoscope. That's what I'm trying to capture in my art. That's what I mean by ambiguity."
"No one can live in a kaleidoscope, Asher. God is not a kaleidoscope. God is not ambiguous. Our faith in Him is not ambiguous. From ambiguity I would not derive the strength to do all the things I must do. Ambiguity is darkness. Certainty is light. Darkness is the world of the Other Side. Tell me something, Asher. Do you think Avrumel will be better off if he learns ambiguity from you or certainty from me?"
I said nothing.
And I ask myself if I should have taught M to accept her religion uncritically, if I should have striven to teach certainty rather than ambiguity. And, like Asher Lev, I don't know what to say.