Recently, I went camping near Burke, VA. The weather forecast called for 50% chance of rain, but it never opened up. Only a lovely constant mist spritzed us as we played “croquisbee.” What’s that you ask? Well, it’s a cross between croquet and frisbee, of course.
Growing up in Florida, we didn’t camp much because mosquitoes are the size of rats, but while attending BYU, I frequently enjoyed camping. Much of it included marveling at the creative hand of God beneath a blanket of stars while lying on a tarp outside of Zion or Moab national parks. The next morning would bring a hiking or canyoneering adventure. The best snapshots held in my mind capture the slight movement of the Milky Way across a vibrant blue-black backdrop of shimmering wonder.
On this excursion among the lush green Virginian landscape, I was friends with one of the hosts and another girl, but didn’t know many other people, so it was a great opportunity to become freshly acquainted around a campfire.
Myers-Briggs and Me
Through the course of some incredibly engaging conversation that in part addressed concerns for cultivating critical thinking skills in the rising “Digital Generation,” a fellow camping fella brought up the Myers-Briggs personality test. His perspective on the judging vs. perceiving portion was of particular interest to me. The words are poorly chosen, but in this case judging means that in dealing with the outside world, a person prefers to get things decided and perceiving means they prefer to stay open to new information and options. He described himself as a perceiver, to which my friend agreed she was too. She said that when choosing a parking space, it’s difficult for her to choose because there may be one closer. I told her I’d prefer to park and be inside the restaurant instead of driving around and around the parking lot. She told me it’s funny I’d describe it as driving around and around because that’s just what happens. That would drive me nuts!
She said she read the book, the Paradox of Choice (Schwartz should have had more wardrobe choices in that linked video. I wonder if he was trying to prove a point or if he just has no style). This book describes how having too many options disables people. She described an example in the book of a mall kiosk selling candles. It does better with less inventory because buyers are not halted with many options. The fella asked me about my buying behavior. I said I go in with what I want in mind and when I find it, I buy it. I don’t care if there are five different shades or smells of candles available. Once I make a decision, that becomes the best option because it’s my choice. I got what I wanted and if it’s on sale, even better. He asked me if I ever have buyer’s remorse. I said if I really like it in the store, I like it even more bringing it home. After I decide, I don’t get hung up on what’s behind me at the store.
He described perceivers as essentially the opposite. He said that even after a perceiver makes a decision, they constantly second guess themselves. He said after he makes a purchase, he often looks back on the other options. He described how he finds his perceiver-ness influences his approach to dating. He said he can see one woman’s good qualities, but then wants to keep looking for more good qualities in other women. In my decisive mind, I thought it was unfortunate because it prevented him from really enjoying any of the women if he could decide on none of them. At that point I made a note to myself–Think twice about dating a strong perceiver, they may have high buyer’s remorse after “purchases.”
I also then realized that I consider decisiveness akin to manliness wondered if that was an unfair perception that I should change. I haven’t decided, yet.
Myers-Briggs and Some Mormons
We further discussed other aspects of the test and wondered which combination described the Perfect One, Jesus Christ. We profiled Him as being both deeply contemplative, which is an “introversion” behavior and also well involved with people, which is “extroversion”.
Other than that, it was difficult to peg Him, so we moved on to our Church leaders. Here are the categories to provide context:
Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).
Before I show my preference for some Apostles over others, which a Mormon actually shouldn’t do, here’s some context on myself.
As I’ve already confessed, I’m a strong “J.” I’m also a strong “N.” This means I like ideas and interpretation. I’m almost evenly divided between introversion and extroversion and though I’m typically dominant in a “T,” the last few years, my “F” has developed significantly (serving a full time mission and loving people with the Spirit without conditions was the catalyst to my “F” cultivation). You could guess my “F” awareness from how often I’ve written about emotional literacy. I have found an increase in my sense of fulfillment and life satisfaction as I’ve understood and experienced more of this dimension of myself, but I rarely make emotional decisions. In making a significant decision, I usually have to think things through quite a bit before I allow my “F” to even have space in the matter. But I’m very heightened to my “F” when dealing with other people. Weird combo, but I like it. I’d change it if I didn’t like it. This essentially amounts to me possessing both INTJ and ENFJ characteristics.
Now to the Apostles. Latter-day Saints have an open scripture cannon because we accept that God has called again living Apostles and Prophets in our time. When one of these speaks by the Holy Ghost, it is equivalent to Peter, James or John. And actually, a living Prophet or Apostle trumps a dead one because the message is given specifically for the generation. We also believe that God speaks through the human instrument’s understanding to communicate the message, so that’s how the messenger’s personality can be discerned through scripture that is also a message from God.
We determined Elder Bednar to be a strong “N” and “T.” He often teaches concepts with which Church members are well familiar, but adds new insight so we think about it in a new way. His last conference talk ”The Spirit of Revelation” is an excellent example of this. He used light as the metaphor to teach revelation. In some cases, revelation comes like the flipping of a light switch into a darkened room. Most Church members have this perception of revelation. He also described the rising sun, even on a foggy day where there is gradual enlightenment. Someone could even miss how they’ve been enlightened if they are not careful to watch for it. This completely changed how I will seek to discern the Spirit in my life. He also changed how I think about the hymns in meetings with ”The Tender Mercies of the Lord” and changed the way I think of the command to ”Receive the Holy Ghost.” These paradigm shifts are incredibly satisfying for me as I wrestle to discover and decide my spirituality in partnership with God.
We thought Elder Holland was both an “N” and “F.” He seems to me both brilliant and kind, which is why I benefit so much from his teachings. I feel like he “mourns with those that mourn,” which is among the Latter-day Saint baptismal covenant. This is reflected in his “Place No More For the Enemy of My Soul” address where he grieves over broken marriages because of the plague of pornography in the world, which the Church does not escape. The likely best talk to illustrate his “N” and “F” is his talk, “None Were with Him”, which was intended for those “who are alone or feel alone or, worse yet, feel abandoned.” He then taught how Jesus Christ‘s role as our Savior included taking upon Him all these pains, so He can comfort us, “… Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so.” Ideas mixed with feelings are a wonderful way to instruct me of the goodness of God.
Then there are Apostles who are strong in “S.” This means they focus on basic, everyday life circumstances. Though I am always attentive to them and seek to draw lessons from what they are describing, the Spirit doesn’t speak to me as powerfully through them as with those who are strong “Ns.” I think that’s because the Spirit’s ability to reach us heightens as we understand. I know when I better understand something, that is usually when I feel the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost. But, there are likely lots in the Church who are strong “Ss” that the Spirit speaks most strongly to them through these mouthpieces. The Church is a big tent. If every speaker was according to my preference, it would miss a whole lot of people. (I’m likely something of an outlier when it comes to broad Church membership.) It’s wise of the Lord to call varied personalities to lead His Church to meet the needs of His flock.
With that said, I think that our Prophet now, Thomas S. Monson, is an “S.” I also think that our preceding Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley was also an “S.” They usually use stories from people’s lives to illustrate basic gospel principles. How does it affect the Church having the Prophet be focused on the basics of everyday living? It means the message to the Church has taken on a “live a good life” tone, rather than the more hardliner tones of preceding generations. That sounds like a good thing to me, though I personally don’t get as much out of their addresses as other Apostles’. Focusing on living good lives, centered in the gospel, may be the best approach to take the gospel to all the world as it encompasses more and more peoples and cultures. Man, the Lord really is good at what He does.
What do you think?
Here’s a demonstration of President Monson’s “S.”