In my new ward, my husband (that is still SO weird for me to say) and I have been called as Ward Missionaries. The last time I was really involved with the missionaries was 12 years ago when I walked up to them after Sacrament meeting, baby in my arms, and asked what I had to do to be baptized (Hi Elder Fish and Elder Pendlebury!). After my divorce, it was ridiculously hard for me and my kids to have regular contact with the Elders- and I missed it. (The rules can be explained ten ways from Sunday, but it’s still a drag single mama’s aren’t able to have the Elders over for dinner.) With my new calling and marital status, the world has again shifted. [Read more...]
A Book Review by Michael Austin*.
The Miracles of Jesus
Eric D. Huntsman**
Deseret Books, 2014
(Click on each spread to enlarge.)
OK, I’m just going to admit it: I was a little bit skeptical when I first got Eric D. Huntsman’s newest book, The Miracles of Jesus, and saw that it was a glossy, gorgeously illustrated book fit as much for framing as for reading. High production values in books make me nervous, as I always wonder what they are hiding. And then there is the fact that it is published by Deseret Book — the official publishing arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Official publishing arms make me even more nervous, as I usually have a pretty good idea what they are hiding. All I needed was a third strike to set it aside and move on to the next book in my pile. [Read more...]
In every April General Conference, we hear the Statistical Report for the prior year. Roughly speaking, the Statistical Report tells us the number of church units, the number of members and baptisms, the number of missionaries, and the number of temples.
And reading a Statistical Report in conference has at least a century of precedent. I’ve been skimming through a number of early-20th-century April Conference Reports, and in April 1915, Pres. Joseph F. Smith read a statistical report in his opening remarks. [fn1] [Read more...]
We share a building with like 19 other wards, so every third year we have church meetings that don’t kick off until 1pm. It’s the worst thing in the world, by several yardsticks.
Saturday is supposed to be a special day–it’s the day we get ready for Sunday! Not with late church, though. Because with late church and our own mortal weaknesses, we put off shining our shoes and washing our hair and all that stuff until Sunday morning, because Jiminy Cricket there is literally nothing else to do for like 5 hours and if I couldn’t kill an hour with making the kids take showers and stuff, I don’t honestly know what I’d do. [Read more...]
Fridays around these parts used to be a time of firestorms. I don’t know what happened to that, but today I caught wind of what appears to be a development in Germany worthy of closer attention. The Telegraph reports:
“Criminal law is not the appropriate means to preserve a social taboo,” the German Ethics Council said in a statement. “The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”
Incest as a fundamental right?! Only in Germany! (Let’s hope!)
As spiritual preparation for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (collectively, the “Days of Awe”), the Selichot — prayers and liturgical songs of repentance — are recited and sung on four days before Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year or Day of Judgment/Day of Remembrance  that began today at sundown and extends until Friday evening at sundown. This year, the first Selichot (according to Ashkenazik tradition) was on Sunday, September 21 in penitent anticipation of Rosh Hashanah. In fact, Rosh Hashanah falls within the period of repentance known as the “Season of Teshuva” or “Days of Favor” lasting 40 days from the first day of the month Elul until Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. During Rosh Hashanah, we hope that our names might be written in the Book of Life; whether written in that book or elsewhere, the Judgment entered on Rosh Hashanah is sealed (though most believe not permanently!) on Yom Kippur. In anticipation of this, the “Sheima Kolenu” is often sung at first Selichot: [Read more...]
Walking around the campus of the Church’s flagship university today, I noted various states of clothing. No, this is not about skirt length (or pants now, apparently). I just noticed some shoes were *very* used, some other articles of clothing were clearly from a past age. Not a lot, but some. This got me to thinking about my own university experience. In grad school, I rarely had lunch because we could not afford it. And I frequently stayed at the campus until late in the evening studying (3am was not unusual). So I ended up with a piece of toast in the morning and some casserole in the late evening and sometimes if I was lucky enough to get a quarter or two, some sort of junk food from a vending machine during the day. Those Hostess Apple Pies were mighty good.
Here is a Mormon Channel video that is making the rounds on the Facebook. I don’t usually watch Mormon Channel videos because I don’t usually watch any video unless I think it’s going to be funny, and Mormon Channel videos are not usually supposed to be funny. (This is not to say that they’re never funny, intentionally or otherwise. I just haven’t ever heard of a funny one. No, I do not need links to funny Mormon Channel videos. Try to focus, people!) My life is too short to watch every video that gets shared on Facebook, no matter how inspiring. (I never watch anything on Upworthy. NEVER.) But my husband went to the trouble of sharing this one with me and asked me what I thought, so I decided to watch it (even though I knew it would probably not be funny).
If you know a story about Mary Fielding Smith, odds are it’s one of these four: she blessed an ox that was about to die on the pioneer trail; when, on another occasion, a search party had been unable to find her lost cattle, she prayed and was told the cattle’s exact location; when Captain Cornelius Lott gave her a hard time about attempting the trek as a widow, she swore she’d beat him to the Valley, which she did; or, later, she insisted on paying her tithing because she would not be deprived of the blessings.
While these stories have the benefit of being more or less true—on Lavina Fielding Anderson’s search of primary sources, they seem to agree that Mary asked her brother and another elder to bless the ox—the fact that they represent the sum of what we as a people generally know about her ought to give us pause.  To say that she was more complicated is obvious, and complicating details aren’t hard to find: letters between her and Hyrum indicating some disagreement over her tactics as a step-parent, as well as other evidence suggesting that her marriages to Hyrum and, later, to Heber C. Kimball as a plural wife left her feeling lonely and not altogether satisfied.  I share these details not to point out with gleeful cynicism that Mary Fielding Smith wasn’t all she’s been made out to be, but rather to reflect on what it means for us as Latter-day Saints to honor our forebears.
I was born and raised in the Church, and have been an active member all my life. From those two facts, you might reasonably assume that these lips have never touched alcohol. And you would be wrong. [Read more...]
As Steve highlighted earlier today,[fn1] the BYU-Idaho dress and grooming standards are arbitrary and relatively absurd. I mean, seriously, as a born-and-raised Californian, I can’t comprehend a dress code that bans flip-flops.[fn2] The dress and grooming standards can’t be all about modesty, because ankles and toes and beards, oh my! And if all they’re about is obedience, well, that’s stupid. There’s no spiritual value to obeying arbitrary rules.[fn3]
But maybe their actual function isn’t modesty. Or obedience. May it’s economics. [Read more...]
Is it just me, or has the LDS library app become a bit cumbersome to navigate? If I preload the Screens with one screen each of Hymns, Old Testament (or current Sunday School scripture book), Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith (or current RS/PH manual), and Children’s Songbook, then it’s more manageable. But if I ever stray away from that structure within a screen, heaven help me try to go through layers and layers of library menus to get to the hymn we’re singing sooner than about verse 3 (yes, our ward enjoys wonderfully at tempo Sacrament meeting chorister and organist!).
As I was sitting at the back of the overflow in Stake Conference last Sunday, without a program, struggling to identify and then pull up the hymn we were singing, I had the Eureka! moment: my phone should just be able to hear the organ’s opening notes or measures, and pull up the corresponding page of lyrics. Shazam for Hymns, if you will.
According to the song, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. But when it comes to the history of marriage, pairing marriage with love is putting the cart before the horse. If we look at why people used to get married, traditionally, we’ll quickly see why marriages today are less stable. And why that may not be a terrible thing.
The phrase “traditional marriage”  is currently in vogue to describe opponents of gay marriage. Just what does marriage look like over time? Why do people marry and why is marriage changing so much? [Read more...]
This is my third time working through the Old Testament as a teacher (Gospel Doctrine twice, seminary once, kinda), which means I’ve drawn a lot of pride cycles on chalk boards. There was no chalk this time though, so I just used my finger on the chalkboard to trace the familiar circle during class on Sunday, while we talked our way through first Joel and then Amos.
The faint circle was still on the board during Elder’s Quorum, as the class discussed how we can raise our kids to be faithful adults. The instructor asked what we’re most worried about as we think about our children’s futures.
Steve and I would like to formally apologize for our previous list. In retrospect, we should have been more sensitive to the possibi- OH FORGET IT I can’t even keep a straight face long enough to type this. On with the rankings!
As before, these rankings are authoritative. Don’t kick against the pricks.
A poem by Sara Teasdale has gotten me thinking about heaven lately.
How can our minds and bodies be
Grateful enough that we have spent
Here in this generous room, we three,
This evening of content?
Each one of us has walked through storm
And fled the wolves along the road;
But here the hearth is wide and warm,
And for this shelter and this light
Accept, O Lord, our thanks to-night. 
Editor’s note: this post was originally published on September 11, 2011.
Thinking back today on that unimaginable morning in 2001 I am reminded of how long I sat, glued to the images repeating themselves on the television screen. It seemed the more horrific, more unbelievable the images became the more I had to watch. Like all of us, my mind was reeling, trying to make sense of what had happened and what was going to happen. I sat in our little apartment with my brand new baby and toddler, wondering what was coming for us and how I could possibly keep them safe. And I watched.
It is this watching that is curious to me. [Read more...]
BCC’s John F. wrote a powerful and prescriptive post on the challenges facing the Church’s missionary program. With younger ages and a world gone digital, some of these appear formidable. Craig Harline’s recent delightfully funny book Way Below the Angels, has shown that missionary work has always been daunting even before these challenges appeared, but now with more missionaries, these concerns become even more fraught. Recently Elder Bednar charged the saints to spread the message online and to create a flood of interweb memes and messages that share the gospel and let the world know what our beliefs mean to us. With missionaries spending more time online, how can their time be better used and with more effect?
I have an idea. [Read more...]
Julie M. Smith has a thoughtful and measured look at some comments by Elder Ballard (clip or full) that have been garnering some attention. I’m inclined to be forgiving of a man who has consistently spoken out in favor of council-based decision-making that includes women, and I agree with Julie that several interpretations are possible and it is unclear if he was attempting a joke. However, whether a joke or serious, clearly there is some feeling that “too much” is a threshold that could be crossed, or he wouldn’t have said it. So, either way, the interesting question is, how much is too much?
As the Ray Rice horrors have unfolded, I’ve felt disgust at the NFL’s cowardice and anger at Ray Rice. I don’t know why Janay Palmer has stuck with him and I won’t question her decisions. It seems to me, however, that we could do a lot more to aid victims of domestic abuse with a couple of simple changes. [Read more...]
Not long ago I suffered from a back injury and decided to arrive at church early to assure myself a seat in the more comfortable pews. I attended a family ward and always sat by myself. After sitting down, a woman with her family in tow asked me to move because this was their spot. I moved. The same thing happened with a different family and I moved again. After being displaced a third time, I looked around and found the chapel already filled up. The only seats available were the stiff chairs in the back for the latecomers.
Instead of sitting down, I left and drove down the street to another denomination’s church. [Read more...]
In Sam’s post about tax liabilities stemming from membership in an organized religion in Germany, someone mentioned that missionaries destined for that land should be prepped on the topic. Sam’s reply was that “…there’s a ton of stuff that should be covered in the MTC.”
Back in my day, the MTC stay was 8-9 weeks for those requiring language training, and 3-4 weeks otherwise. Perhaps it’s longer/shorter/different now, but the point is missionaries don’t spend very much time in the MTC before being sent packing. A month or two, like! That’s not very long! And missionaries are really
ignorant youthful! [Read more...]
A couple days ago, the Wall Street Journal highlighted (subscription required[fn1]) the accelerating loss of members certain churches in Germany are facing. The popular press is placing the blame at least partly on the new administration of Germany’s Church Tax.
What? you ask. A church tax? What’s that?
So glad you asked. [Read more...]
My boyfriend is 47 and lives in the 1850s. Nerdy writers understand those late nights, at least I’m hoping. Explaining my book to people living in the twenty first century, though, takes a bit of finesse. Researching a Mormon man, deceased as he is, shouldn’t stir any controversy. Not until he’s published, at least.