The LDS "bloggernacle" is full of common complaints, like with any community. I sympathize with most issues raised, but reading them rehashed over over again is exhausting. Many approaches are very negative, and I decided to find some semblance of progress, to add to the positive (but still problem-acknowledging) voices.
Except I couldn't really find any. I wanted to scour the young women's manuals to find something that had changed since I went through the program, but I don't think the manuals have been majorly updated since then. I wanted to point out that the perpetuation of the feeling of being "dirty" was cultural to the point of not being in the manuals. And then I looked at my sharing time lesson for the week and laughed.
The title was I should read, listen to, and look at things that are pleasing to Heavenly Father. Not so bad, though I would have preferred an approach like I should read, listen to, and look at things that are uplifting, with the approach that we should seek for a good spirit in our lives. It's not that I inherently object to using Heavenly Father in this way, but I think we shouldn't be teaching the appreciation of beauty and personal growth from an obedience perspective.
Anyway, I looked at the lesson and saw a big bowl of fruit and big bowl of (absurdly clean-looking) dirt. The corresponding text: Show the children a bowl filled with fruit and a bowl filled with dirt. Ask the children which would be good to eat and why. Explain that Heavenly Father wants us to fill our minds with things that are good for us rather than things that are harmful. Hm.
I don't like dirt metaphors. They imply that if someone makes a choice that is contrary to Church teachings, they are dirty and should feel guilty. While I feel that certain social pressures can be good for societies, helping to maintain order, some are not healthy. While personal change and improvement is good, as are some level of social standards, excess guilt can drive people away from communities and prevent much-needed personal or community change. This metaphor was better than others, seeing as it was about eating dirt rather than being dirty, but it still didn't work for me.
I also don't like the black-and-white aspect of the fruit-vs.-dirt metaphor. As is, the kids might come away feeling like they need to read scriptures and near nothing else, which obviously wasn't the intent of the lesson. (The obvious intention was to prep kids for anti-pornography and anti-R-rated-movies lessons in their teenage years. Okay, there was more to it than that, but I couldn't help feeling that it was laying that foundation. I mean, what kind of "dirt" can six year olds read?)
So I went for a "balanced diet" metaphor instead. I brought in a bunch of food, and I also brought a book of fairy tales, a robotics textbook, a cookbook, and a book on Jesus Christ. I brought a picture of family, the sacred grove, and an impressionistic painting. We talked about how each of these was good in their own way, and that how Heavenly Father wanted us to fill our bodies, minds, and spaces with things that are good and uplifting. (And what I mean by uplifting isn't makes-you-feel-happy. You can be "uplifted" by a really sad movie because it helps you understand the world better. Is there a better word for this? Enlightening?) We talked about listening to the spirit, how you can get sick if you eat too much candy, and how everyone will have a different diet, literally and metaphorically. Instead of focusing on the dirt, we focused on the fruit.
I don't want to be blind to problems, but I think that we need more fruit-focus in our lives, in the traditional church setting, in the bloggernacle, and in all areas of life. Even when we're trying to change things, we need to acknowledge the changes that have already been made, and work towards a better community. People don't like to be unhappy; if we reframe some desired changes into the good that can come of it, rather then the bad things that are happening now, more people will stick with it because it builds them up. And then change might actually happen.