BCC Zeitcast 75: Mixing Religion & Politics

With only one year left before the big 2012 Presidential Election, Newsweek and Daily Beast reporter McKay Coppins checks in with Scott B. on the goings-on for Mormon candidates Mitt Romney and John Huntsman, Jr. Later, Scott and Joanna Brooks discuss Harold Bloom’s recent travesty article in the New York Times, and Joanna’s response at Religion Dispatches.

And if that lineup isn’t sufficient, our very own Kristine Haglund stops by to help Scott understand big words.

Episode Content Guide (below the fold) [Read more...]

Church-Hacker #16: Impromptu Ward Choir

BCC reader Joanne has an easy way to fill out too-short sacrament meetings (we’re assuming there is such a thing):

(“The Holy Ghost led them…to sing” — Moroni 6:9)

When the Sacrament Meeting talks finish unexpectedly early, why not fill the time with impromptu music instead of impromptu speaking? The person conducting Sacrament Meeting could invite all willing congregants to come forward and sing a hymn of their choosing as a group. Those folks would have one minute to quickly decide how to sing the hymn (1st verse unison, 2nd verse men, etc.).

Another alternative would be for the bishopric and music chair to ask (in advance) a few versatile, confident musicians to prepare a few simple backup musical numbers for these situations.
Sounds good, right? I like the idea of an impromptu ward choir. The organist in my ward (the incomparable D. Fletcher), has been known to take to the podium before the closing hymn and organize a simple arrangement for it. Last week’s example, for Adam-Ondi-Ahman: All versus sung in unison, men sing the 2nd verse, women the 3rd, listen for the key change before the last verse, and repeat the last line three times.

Sometimes D. will also organize an impromptu hymn as his testimony on Fast Sundays. These off-the-cuff musical moments are often the highlight of my Sabbath.

Any similar experiences with impromptu music in your ward? (If not, you should totally move into mine.)

____________

Got your own Church-Hacker idea? Submit it! (The church-hacking guidelines are here.) See all entries in this series here.

Reader Question Box #7: Halloween edition: “body hair resurrection”

Leia and Jabba - Mormon Halloween Dance

Leia and Jabba at a Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions that show up in our website traffic monitoring statistics as Google search terms that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. (In case you missed our previous editions: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6)

Question: “body hair resurrection” [Read more...]

BCC Zeitcast 74: Matt Bowman, Bigfoot, Monsters, & Mormons

In this special Halloween episode, Scott B. and Steve Evans play host to BCC’s long-time friend and Juvenile Instructor blogger Matt Bowman, who thrills the children with tales of Cain, Bigfoot, and secret UFO societies. Later, recent BCC guest blogger Theric (Eric Jepson) gives us an update on the soon-to-be-released anthology “Monsters and Mormons.”

And if that lineup isn’t sufficient, our very own Kristine Haglund checks in to help the ladies design Halloween costumes depicting famous Mormon women.

Episode Content Guide (below the fold) [Read more...]

Church-Hacker #15: Christ-Centered Testimony Meetings

An idea for better testimony meetings, submitted by Tevya of Mormon Life Hacker. (Sounds like Church-Hacker, but it isn’t. Go check it out.)
Testimony meetings that are about anything but testimonies seem to be a common problem. In college, a few of us were very concerned about this after a particularly bad testimony meeting. My good friend had an idea he’d seen done in another ward–he suggested it to the bishopric, they implemented it, and it worked fabulously!

It’s simply this: print a nice picture of Christ (here’s one that’s high-res enough for printing), and then beneath it, print these 3 steps in a very large, plain font:
  1. Tell us your name.
  2. Tell us a little about yourself.
  3. Tell us how you feel about the man in the red robe.
Put it in a sheet protector, to keep it nice. Each fast Sunday, put it on the pulpit. The first time he does it, the conducting bishopric member could explain it, and it may even be appropriate to explain it each month, so people are aware it’s there when they come up.

I love that the 3rd one doesn’t say “talk about Jesus” or something like that. It requires just that little bit of extra cognitive effort to make the association, and get’s them thinking a little more, rather than just skimming it and going ahead with what they planned to talk about.

Let’s stay focused, people!

____________

Got your own Church-Hacker idea? Submit it! (The church-hacking guidelines are here.) See all entries in this series here.

Because, Dear Readers, We Love You

As part of BCC’s ongoing quest for World Domination, we feel the need to recognize a vital part of what makes blogging fun and what makes BCC a great place to hang out: YOU!

If you’re a follower of our Facebook Page or Twitter feed (and if you’re not, then please get with the program!), then you’re already aware of a new feature, which we hope will become a fun and exciting part of the regular programming here at BCC. Starting next week, BCC will be dishing out two awards every other Friday (unless we forget or get burned out or something), one for the Best Comment of the Week and one for the Worst Comment of the Week. Now, before you start penning your acceptance speeches, there are a few guidelines to be aware of. [Read more...]

Reader Question Box #6: “how do you pronounce paradisiacal”

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions that show up in our website traffic monitoring statistics as Google search terms that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. (In case you missed our previous editions: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5)

Question: “how do you pronounce paradisiacal” [Read more...]

Reader Question Box #5: “what’s tmi for a sacrament meeting talk”

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions that show up in our website traffic monitoring statistics as Google search terms that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. (In case you missed our previous editions: #1, #2, #3, and #4)

Question: “what’s tmi for a sacrament meeting talk”
Answer: Sometimes it is best to learn by example, rather than explanation. I could describe to you what TMI for a sacrament meeting talk would be, but it would be so much more instructive to just get many examples, and I’m sure our readers have them!
[Read more...]

BCC Zeitcast 73: Ken Jennings vs. GST

BCC’s beloved podcast returns! It’s been months since the last podcast, but we hope the new episodes are worth the wait.

In this episode, Scott B. listens in as John C. outlines his hopes for the upcoming General Conference (Hint: 2-hour block!), BHodges talks with long-time BCC friend Ken Jennings about Ken’s new book “Maphead,” and Mormon blogging legend GST makes an appearance to tell the world what it feels like to be humiliated on national TV. And if that lineup isn’t sufficient, we also have the sound of our very own Kristine Haglund listening to songs by Michael McLean.

Episode Content Guide (below the fold) [Read more...]

Church-Hacker #14: Ender’s Game

Here’s a mischievous (but useful!) idea from our very own Norbert:

“Today I caught a guy calling other member’s phones during sacrament meeting, at about 11:05. (We start at 10.) He said he always starts when a speaker has gone over and doesn’t look like he’s about to finish. He feels like the ringing phone triggers the speaker to wrap it up. I did not discourage him in this practice.”

It’s the ultimate church-hack, harnessing a wireless network to trigger on-site devices to trigger a reaction from the speaker. Brilliant!

And now, an ethical question: Is doing a service to the many (the congregation) justification for rudeness to the one (the speaker)? Is the one’s own rudeness sufficient to justify a retaliatory rudeness? And is rudeness an appropriate word when talking about efforts to end or prolong sacrament meeting?

____________

Got your own Church-Hacker idea? Submit it! (The church-hacking guidelines are here.) See all entries in this series here.

Reader Question Box #4: “what are the disadvantages of being a mormon”

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions that show up in our website traffic monitoring statistics as Google search terms that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. (In case you missed our previous editions: #1, #2, and #3.)

Question: “is it harder to be an lawyer or architect”
Answer: I’m going to throw this one to the audience. Please note that our audience consists almost entirely of lawyers (see posts here and here), and interpret the result accordingly.


[Read more...]

Reader Question Box #3: “lds bishop ‘no more than two nights per week’”

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions that show up in our website traffic monitoring statistics as Google search terms that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. #1 here, #2 here.

Question: “lds bishop ‘no more than two nights per week’”
Answer: Dear reader, No, being an LDS Bishop definitely takes more time than two nights per week. Typically, bishops will attend the weekly youth activity (Wednesday nights), then there are youth “firesides” (a kind of evening devotional, sometimes held at the church building and sometimes held in someone’s home) on many Sunday nights. Then there are the endless pastoral duties of meeting with individuals, couples and families in his office (couple nights a week) or visiting their homes. Just about the only night a Bishop is likely to have for his family (barring emergencies) is Monday night, which, by LDS tradition, everybody in the church reserves as “Family Home Evening” (brief scripture study/devotional, then board games and the like, then dessert). The church has perennial concern about the amount of time bishops, who are lay ministers with regular day jobs, spend in their service. Bishop’s wives, especially if they have young children, carry an enormous burden due to the frequent absence of their husbands (and of course children miss their dad). See BCC posts here and here.

Question: “is dry humping against law of chastity”
Answer: I’ll let our readers handle this one. [Read more...]

Reader Question Box #2: “do mormons consummate their marriage in the temple”

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions that show up in our website traffic monitoring statistics. These are actual Google search terms that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. (Series introduction)

This is temple misinformation edition!

Question: “do mormons consummate their marriage in the temple”
Answer: No. Heck no. However, sometimes, as a result of nothing more than the hopeless naivete of some among us, we have been known to report a wedding being performed/officiated in the temple as having been “consummated” in the temple. Yes, we can in fact be that cluelessly naive.
[Read more...]

Reader Question Box #1: “is arby’s jamocha shake against word of wisdom”

Welcome to a new series! The WordPress.com software that runs BCC tabulates detailed statistics on traffic to this site. One thing it shows is what search queries led readers to BCC each day. Aside from the usual top traffic terms (“bycommonconsent” “by common consent” etc), there are always miscellaneous surprises. Sometimes, these search queries can spark ideas for a post, because they afford a window onto the topics our readers are wondering about and what questions they have. For example, here is an issue that one of our readers needs guidance on:

is arby’s jamocha shake against word of wisdom

[Read more...]

Mormon.org very nearly converts Stephen Colbert

The Mormon.org website, and associated ad campaign, has received plenty of attention at BCC (here, here, here and here) and throughout the bloggernacle (here, here, here, here and here, just to name a few). This week the ad campaign basked in an extended moment in the Colbert Report spotlight. Many of you will have seen the clip already, but it seemed fitting to officially memorialize this moment in the BCC post archive, given that By Common Consent named Stephen Colbert the 2009 Boggs-Doniphan Gentile of the Year.
[Read more...]

Church-Hacker #12: Freedom of Speeches

This week’s church-hack comes to us from Connie Chung:

When my old singles ward started letting speakers choose their own topic, the quality of talks went up. Sacrament meetings became an opportunity for ward members to speak about something they felt strongly about and could knowledgeably share.

When people couldn’t think of what to speak on, the executive secretary offered a topic or asked “What do you like about being a Mormon?” to get the juices flowing.

It’s also great because with the knowledge that you will inevitably be speaking, you can start working on a talk whenever inspiration strikes.

I can see this working in my ward, with only a couple exceptions (I’m one of them). How about in your ward? And what topic have you been waiting your whole life to give a talk about in Sacrament Meeting?
[Read more...]

Church-Hacker #11: Isn’t It About…Time?

This week’s Church-Hacker is inspired by a comment left on a post I wrote a few months ago. Thanks Zefram!

The next time you’re assigned to give a Sacrament Meeting talk on “families,” with the Bishop’s permission, share a one-minute testimony on the value of family time and end the meeting 15 minutes early.

You’re only giving 15 minutes back, but I bet a sizable chunk of the congregation will think differently about that sabbath day with their families.

If nothing else, you’ll spend a week as the ward’s favorite speaker.

____________

Got your own Church-Hacker idea? Submit it! (The church-hacking guidelines are here.) See all entries in this series here.

Church-Hacker #10: Church in Reverse

BCC reader Katie W. says we should go to church backwards. What the what?

Several years ago our stake reversed the order of meetings. We now start with RS/PH, then Sunday School, and last is Sacrament Meeting. No class goes overtime when Sacrament meeting is the finale; it just doesn’t happen, it is too obvious that a teacher isn’t letting class out in a timely manner if the class members straggle into Sacrament meeting.

At first people were getting to RS/PH/Primary/YM/YW a little late, but when the leaders started on time, folks started getting the idea that their children would miss their assignments, and announcements would be made whether they were there or not. A miracle occurred as after a few months, people were getting there on time. Sacrament always starts on time and ends on time except for the rare occasions when we get out of Sacrament meeting 5 minutes EARLY. Families are not late for Sacrament meeting or trailing in from the parking lot. [Read more...]

Church-Hacker #9: For Type-A Teachers

When I taught Gospel Doctrine, I completely gave up hope that any class members would ever read the material ahead of time. BCC regular Chris Gordon says there’s another way:

I had a teacher once who, you know, actually did something other than beg to try to help his class read ahead and participate in the discussion. Nearly every week around mid-week I’d get an email like this:

Dear Gospel Doctrine Class,

For those of you who missed class on Sunday, we hope to see you soon. We had a great discussion on [insert lesson name with hyperlink to lesson and related scriptures], in which we focused primarily on x and y.

As a reminder, for Sunday we’ll be covering [lesson name with hyperlink]. I’d like to spend some time discussing a and b, but we’ll see where the discussion goes.  Hope to see you there.

Have a great week,
Teacher

It was never particularly long, worked great for when I was in toddler limbo, and was a great way for me to at least glance at the lesson ahead of time via hyperlink. I also understand that the teacher made it a point to include on the mailing list those whose callings keep them from attending Sunday School, to help them feel included.

Occasionally the teacher would also include links to talks or other resources related to the subject matter, probably depending on how much preparation had already been done by email time. The teacher would often also include attachments or links to resources and/or quotes used in lesson prep in lieu of or in addition to handouts.  There are always the folks who don’t use email and I’m not sure what the teacher did to help them.

Love the idea. And if sending the email becomes a part of a teacher’s regular lesson prep, it might not even be that much of an extra burden. The only issue for me would be revealing my sources (I wouldn’t be able to crib quite so liberally from Feast Upon the Word Blog and Wikipedia anymore).

Teachers, would you be up for this level of engagement with your class members? And class members, would you care?

____________

Got your own Church-Hacker idea? Submit it! (the church-hacking guidelines are here.) See all entries in this series here.

Whither Mormon Environmental Theology?

The Summer issue of Dialogue, ably guest-edited by BCC’s own Steven Peck, contains a nifty little piece by the only person I’ve ever heard of with a joint degree in Forestry and Divinity, Jason Brown. Jason has kindly agreed to talk about his article a little bit here. Being the aging curmudgeon that I am, I will encourage you to READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE before opining based on the synopsis below.
——————————
‘Whither Mormon Environmental Theology?’ was written in its current form during the last few months before
I graduated from graduate school in May of this year. The piece is an attempt to organize my reflections on
approaches to Mormon ecological theology that I have observed in my cursory review of the steadily increasing
literature. [Read more...]

Church-Hacker #8: Take It Outside

This week’s Church-Hacker is a celebration of summer by BCC perma Aaron R:

I love one of the stories Mark Richards recounts of a time when Eugene England was his Bishop.  Bishop England ‘suggested we take the ward up Provo Canyon and hold our meeting in the Sundance amphitheater.’  Although some ward members were worried that ‘it was improper to hold sacrament meeting in the canyon… Bishop England responded that chapels are merely buildings for us to meet in and that the pioneers and other early Saints worshiped in Heavenly Father’s true chapel, nature.

[Read more...]

Church-Hacker #7: The End Time

This week’s Church-Hacker was submitted by BCC reader Raymond, and should immediately be instituted in every ward throughout the church.

Why is it acceptable to go over the allotted time in meetings, but taboo to end early? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

It kills me whenever I see a teacher nervously look at the clock wondering how to “fill” more time. Just stop. No one will complain if we finish early. Another recurring problem is teachers who can’t stop until they get through their material. We appreciate the effort you put into preparing your lesson, but we’d appreciate it even more if you stopped on time. I tune out the teacher as soon as it’s time to leave anyway.

[Read more...]

Church-Hacker #6: Make ‘Em Pray

A great discussion or lesson in priesthood meeting can be the highlight of my Sunday, but it’s tough to squeeze a great discussion into the small window that quorum teachers are allotted. Sometimes the teacher has as little as 15 minutes left by the time priesthood opening exercises are over. And yet the brief window doesn’t have to be a limitation—I can think of several ways we can use that 15-30 minutes to strengthen the quorum. Some of these ideas involve looking outside the classroom/lesson paradigm we’ve adopted for quorum meetings, but maybe that’s OK.

[Read more...]

Church-Hacker #5: Missionary Moment 2.0

This week’s Church-Hacker idea comes from BCC’s own Kevin Barney:

My ward has a tradition that every Fast Sunday, the conducting bishopric member reads excerpts from letters sent home by the missionaries from our ward out serving in the field.  This might not be practicable in a Utah ward with a dozen people serving, but we’ve never had more than three so it works for us.  I love it.  It helps us remain connected to our young people so far away, and when we hear the things they are going through it gives us a greater appreciation for their sacrifices.  And this is far superior to some strained “missionary moment” in priesthood opening exercises.

Think this would work in your own ward? Already tried it? Let us know in the comments.

Got your own Church-Hacker idea? Submit it! (the church-hacking guidelines are here)

BCC Zeitcast 72: Russell Fox, Communitarianism, and What Really Matters

One of the true Fathers of Mormon blogging steps into the virtual studio for the first time, as Scott B. interviews Russell Arben Fox, a professor of political science at Friends University. Topics revolve primary around RAF’s favorite ism–Communitarianism–and the path his philosophical, political, and religious values have taken to arrive at their current state. Some discussion is also devoted to RAF’s beard.

Episode Content Guide [Read more...]

Thursday Morning Quickie #24

[Note: The following text was taken verbatim from the M Men-Gleaner Manual, "Love, Marriage, and You" used in 1956-1957. Previous entries in this series can be found here.]

Lesson 25

Enhancing Family Solidarity

Tom and Jane had been married three years and were getting along very well in most respects. They had had a successful courtship and engagement and had married when he was twenty-four and she was twenty. After their marriage he had gone to school for two years and she had worked as a stenographer. Now they were settled down and were starting to establish a family of their own. [Read more...]

Church-Hacker #4: The Fifth-Sunday Swap

This week’s Church-Hacker idea comes from BCC reader Chris Gordon:

We make it a tradition on 5th Sundays to swap presidencies in Elders Quorum/Relief Society. The RS president comes to priesthood to teach and vice versa.

The focus is generally on something family-oriented, but it’s been fun and enlightening.  The best, though, was in an early iteration when it was done in lieu of a first Sunday presidency message.  The visiting rep from the RS wrapped up with 10 minutes to spare for testimony time.  The class enjoyed 10 minutes of crickets chirping as the brethren stared blankly at this development.

Think your ward could benefit from this leadership swap? Already doing it? Enlighten us with a comment.

[Read more...]

Thursday Morning Quickie #23

[Note: The following text was taken verbatim from the M Men-Gleaner Manual, "Love, Marriage, and You" used in 1956-1957. Previous entries in this series can be found here.]

Lesson 19

Living Your Religion

IN 1933 the World’s Fair was held at Chicago. Among the many excellent displays by the churches was one by the Latter-day Saints. Thousands of visitors learned about some of the principles of the Gospel and had an opportunity to ask questions of capable young men who were in charge of the “Mormon” booth.

One particular day, two businessmen, who possessed little firsthand knowledge about the Church, visited the display. As they approached the booth the following conversation was overheard:

“Say, Jim, I’ve heard that the Mormons are the only people in the world who really know where they are going. Let’s find out something about them.” [Read more...]

Church-Hacker #3: Speaker Upgrade

This week’s Church-Hacker idea comes from BCC reader Gdub:

This is something that a former bishop of mine did, which greatly improved the quality of speakers in our ward. [Read more...]

Thursday Morning Quickie #22

[Note: The following text was taken verbatim from the M Men-Gleaner Manual, "Love, Marriage, and You" used in 1956-1957. Previous entries in this series can be found here.]

Lesson 16

Keeping Morally Clean

AFTER a sumptuous dinner had been served, several young, married couples were relaxing leisurely around a glowing fire in Helen’s front room. Most of the group had been married two or three years. The conversation went from children to “projected satellites” and back to children again. Soon a serious discussion developed about what each couple considered to be the most basic values in life. [Read more...]

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