I recently made a brief visit to Utah. I’ve never lived in Utah, not even briefly for school or a stint in the MTC. But there is a sense of being among my people that has always imbued my visits with a deep soul sense of returning home. Tracy M described it well. On this trip, I was so focused on business and rushing in and out that I didn’t have much time to soak in that feeling. Just about 24 hours after arriving, I was dashing back to the airport to leave again. As I handed the keys to the rental car return attendant, he saw the BYU logo throw blanket I carried, and the BYU institutional charge for my rental, and asked me cheerily if I was a member of the LDS church. He was older and a little stooped, but very spry in doing his job. I said yes. Suddenly his mad rush of handling the many arriving customers stopped, and he gazed directly into my eyes with an intense earnestness. He told me about his wife. He told me about how he lost her. And he told me how every minute of every day he makes decisions conscious of a striving for total righteousness, to return and join her one day. “I know she’s going to the Celestial Kingdom!” I can’t imagine anyone having more intense focus and determination than he had to join her.
I thought it could be helpful to others to post a few resources for how I approached this month’s topic, Ordinances and Covenants. I want to both normalize Mormon high church liturgy, and also highlight what is unique and special about our approach. (If you aren’t sure what those words mean, feel no shame because we don’t use them in our day-to-day, though they do nicely describe us. Click the words for simple definitions.) To do this, I showed a series of videos of formal oaths taken in secular contexts.
This is a post examining the number of members living in jurisdictions where the legal status of marriage changed due to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Among members of the church in the U.S., Obergefell triggered celebration from some, angst from others, and plenty of Facebook conflict between the two. It also triggered an unusual, highly visible step by the brethren: sending a letter to all U.S. bishops, accompanied by lengthy member education talking points, to be read to all teen and adult members of the church. The impending reading of the letter unleashed a wave of concern among members at variance with the church’s position, questions about whether to attend or skip, and worry about emotional harm to LGBTQ members. The primary message of the letter is that a change in the nation’s laws does not affect church doctrine, to correct any notion some might have had that Obergefell would cause or force a change.
On a day when many will say “secularism” is winning (both those who think that is a bad thing, and those who think that is a good thing), we have an absolutely overwhelming demonstration of the power of God and the power of shared religion:
May is Bike to Church Month here at By Common Consent. See our previous weeks of celebration here, here, here, and here. Today we have pictures from readers Lori, Jon, Lisa, and Mark, biking to church in Valencia, Spain. Thanks for sharing your fun family commute with us! Keep reading below the fold to see BCC writer EmJen and her kids enjoying a bike ride to church in Farmington, Utah, USA. I hope this inspires you to #biketochurch. Snap a pic and share it on Twitter and/or add a link to Instagram here in the comments. Happy biking!
There’s just one more Sunday in our month-long celebration, so hop on your bikes and send us pics! Share with us by commenting, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweeting @bycommonconsent #biketochurch. [Read more…]
I’m declaring May “Bike to Church” month at ByCommonConsent. May has good weather for biking to church in both the northern and southern hemispheres. I’d love to see photos of BCC readers biking to church. Email email@example.com, or tweet them @bycommonconsent with hastag #biketochurch.
It has been a difficult few years for me, trying to sit and listen and just be with several friends in my ward and larger circles going through acute crises of faith. The causes are varied: feelings of having been hurt by the church’s policies or actions, social alienation for having the wrong kind of family, troubling historical facts, or just feeling like they needed a break from church activity. At times I felt overwhelmed by selfish personal sense of loss of not having these friends with me at church, overwhelmed by the emotional exertion they sometimes called on me to help them bear for a time, overwhelmed by my own complex feelings and faith in a time of tension between different parts of the flock. So often talks from our leaders seemed to ignore or belittle these struggles I saw all around me and within me. Even when it was addressed in conference, it often felt oblique or keeping the doubts (and by extension the doubters) at a safe arm’s length. Speakers usually seemed to misunderstand or mischaracterize the concerns, and there was a lack of feeling like voices of this struggle were even heard, much less having an impact. Then came today’s talk by President Wixom. Wixom, tenderly quoting a woman in her ward who faced doubts and left activity for a time:
“I did not separate myself from the Church because of bad behavior, spiritual apathy, looking for an excuse not to live the commandments, or searching for an easy out. I felt I needed the answer to the question ‘What do I really believe?’”
“My testimony had become like a pile of ashes. It had all burned down. All that remained was Jesus Christ.”
In 3 Nephi, it reads:
5 And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.
6 And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:
7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
Since his ascendance as Pope, Francis has provided a bold new vision of engaged, bridge-building religious leadership in the 21st century. From brokering a detente between the United States and Cuba, to perhaps suggesting animals can also attain heaven, to taking a strong religious stance on preserving creation by stemming global warming, Pope Francis has successfully caught and held the attention of a world that had seemed to be slipping inexorably to secularism.
This has even left some Mormons, especially more liberal-minded Mormons, thinking aloud about a growing Holy Envy (or maybe just envy) of the Holy See. What could LDS leadership or LDS people learn from the Pope? [Read more…]
Here’s a computer science lesson and craft activity that speaks to my geeky heart. I do it with groups of all ages, and it would be perfect for Activity Day girls. It could also work for Cub Scouts, perhaps with a hemp cord for a masculine look. It was inspired by the Code.org-sponsored “Hour of Code” event last year. The lesson plan by Thinkersmith is excellent, and covers everything you need to know. It is comprehensive enough for someone without any computer science background to run the activity successfully. I’ll summarize a few points here, but you should go read it. The necklace craft was my own addition. My daughter is modeling her necklace in the photo at left.
I was asked to give the faculty address at Stanford’s annual LDS Convocation, held in Stanford Memorial Church. This is the text of my remarks. Video production is by Ken Allen, posted with permission.
In Computer Science, our traditional greeting is, “Hello, world” So, “Hello, world!”
My task this evening is to join our identities as scholars and saints, and so I want to explain what I think is a particularly Mormon moral obligation we assume as members of the Stanford community. [Read more…]
I understand some of you spent last night watching some game where guys run around carrying a ball that isn’t even spherical, when you could have been watching an epic Giants-Nationals game that ran the longest in MLB post-season history: 18 innings for the Giants win. The game clocked in at 6 hours 23 minutes, shattering the previous playoffs record by over half an hour. And here we gather for hours 7 and 8 of the general sessions of General Conference weekend….
As a reminder, all comments on this thread will be moderated by me. Giants fans only, please.
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.
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?
A common complaint of recent decades, from both within and without the church, is that the church leadership culture is too corporate. Complainants say there is too much of an MBA aesthetic, as opposed to, say, some ideal of religious leadership that exudes a more Zen, ascetic, or monastic sensibility. Not me! I wish we took the MBA theme just a little bit further! Case study: a flyer for a Europe area “Sisters’ Meeting” featuring photos of three headline speakers, all of them male.
I dearly hope we can yet step back from the brink, but assuming Kate Kelly and John Dehlin are excommunicated, I predict it will have no effect on Internet Mormonism. There will be anguish, bickering, and loads of clicks, but the world of Internet Mormonism will go on unchanged. The Bloggernacle vs “Nothing Wavering” vs anti-Mormon lines were etched in stone long ago; we’ve long since self-sorted into a stable system, and that system isn’t going anywhere. Neither will there be much of a chilling effect, because there is simply no way the church can discipline every blogger, and it’s not going to happen. But don’t call me a Pollyanna. My prediction is that the outcome will be much, much worse than the loss we would suffer if Internet Mormonism were damaged in some way.
Instead, the outcome will be great damage to bricks-and-mortar Mormonism. [Read more…]
Last week, Karen wrote a wrenching and important post about her observation that many women she has always known as faithful, devoted Latter-day Saints seem to be throwing in the towel on formal activity. It wasn’t a post about rumored statistics or surveys. It was a personal post about her friends, about women she loves.
From the comments section at KSL:
“I went to Tai Pan Trading for the bi-annual Ladies Night they have every conference weekend. The store was full to the rafters with women acting like…well acting like women who rapsodized over plates, wreaths, vases and easter decorations. Many were with at least 3 if not 4 generations of women. Grandmas, Mothers, daughters and granddaughters. They laughed together, asked each other for opinions on home decor ideas, and had a great time. It was a sisterhood of women shoppers, doing only what other women can understand. Any man would have felt like a total fish out of water at Ladies Night, just as I would feel at Priesthood Meeting.
I know a night of shopping for home decor seems trivial, and it is, but what lies behind it has a greater meaning. For most of us, home is where the heart is. We receive our greatest rewards and power within our homes and families.
I’m all for women who want to go for the board room. Do it, if that is what you want, but don’t drag me into by assuming that is surely what I want. It isn’t. I was proud to be a part of the sisterhood at Tai Pan tonight. After getting through the long checkout line, I had to hurry home so I could hang my new spring wreath on the front door. It looks beautiful.”
What’s wrong with this picture? More men in women’s meeting than women in general sessions of conference
I was talking to a friend about these images of gender imbalance in the speaking parts in General Conference. In trying to convey how alienating such an overwhelmingly male meeting can be for women in the audience, I posed this hypothetical: if there were a meeting as female as general conference is male, would men in the audience perceive it as a meeting for them, that related to them, where they felt comfortable and welcome? Or would they perceive it to be a women’s meeting? 
It occurred to me that this isn’t merely a hypothetical. We do have a meeting that is mostly female, the annual Relief Society meeting. Although we understand it to be a women’s meeting, there is actually more male participation in this “women’s” meeting than there is female participation in the meetings that are supposed to be for women as much as they are for men, the general sessions of conference. This is illustrated in a newly updated infographic (click to enlarge):
The Boggs-Doniphan Gentile (Non-Mormon) of the Year award honors the non-Mormon who had the greatest impact on Mormonism, for good or ill, during the year. (See that other blog for Mormon of the Year.) The previous winners are John Turner, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez, Judge Vaughn Walker, Stephen Colbert, and Mike Huckabee. There’s no need for nominations and voting this year. This happened:
Marco Petrollini believes in God, family, and country–Italy. He’s an architect and project manager and father of four young children. He keeps bees in his backyard vegetable garden, and finds much to admire in their selfless work ethic. So often in the church we think of the God-family-country trifecta in narrow terms of American exceptionalism, so I loved seeing how Marco proudly and naturally owned those themes as a Mormon and an Italian man. Meet Marco:
We return from summer vacation with a pair of videos about my favorite summertime activity: rock climbing. Meet Matthieu Bennasar, who heads up an IT security consultancy and escapes the pressure of his job by climbing up sheer, vertical rock faces (it really is very stress-relieving, trust me).
You’ve probably heard about dancing, cosplaying, YouTube sensation violinist Lindsey Stirling. Her fanciful creations include enchanting ice caves, Lord of the Rings medley in New Zealand, and Zelda medley in quite convincing Zelda costume. Her live tour recently brought her here to San Diego, to the ecstatic delight of my coworkers, self-described biggest fans of Lindsey. Lindsey’s Mormon.org video reveals how she has battled eating disorders and other challenges in her career. Meet Lindsey:
I’ve always fantasized about living on a farm, going out daily to check on my henhouse with a trusty dog ever at my heels. The lifestyle enables eating homegrown food, and embracing the raw physicality, smells, and textures of the natural world. When Kathy Peterson says, “I’m in heaven,” I believe it. The icing on the cake: to keep her children open to the world, she takes them traveling. Meet Kathy:
Lola is a barrister in training, working in the prosecutor’s office in London. She’s a huge football fan (check out the victory dance at 3:24) whose own career in the game was cut short by a major surgery to treat severe scoliosis just as she was set to accept a soccer scholarship at an American university. Meet Lola:
(Hey, it’s better than the original.)