Our Week in the Media: Small Stuff and Big Stuff

Talk about overexposure: Newsweek and BusinessWeek in the same week! Prevailing wisdom in media circles is that once the newsweeklies have picked up a trend, it has reached it apex—so I guess the church’s slide back into obscurity starts now. (Don’t worry, Russell!)

What’s striking to me has been the reaction to the different stories. From what I’ve seen in my own social circles on Facebook and elsewhere, we’re supposed to be mad at Newsweek and thrilled about the BusinessWeek article.

But that’s exactly backwards.

The reasons for the ire against Newsweek seem to revolve around the cover and a few snippets of text within the article. Let me briefly debunk two of the phrases I’ve noticed Mormons getting hung up on:

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A Few Thoughts on the LDS Church’s New Statement on Immigration

The LDS Church issued a new statement today regarding immigration policy in the United States. This is not a new topic, of course. However, the statement from the Newsroom this morning is a little bit different from past missives, I think. The full text of the statement can be found here, but here are a few of the main passages, along with my thoughts on them.

  • “As a matter of policy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discourages its members from entering any country without legal documentation, and from deliberately overstaying legal travel visas.”
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My Personal Bishop’s Storehouse

Luke 10:31-32:   And by chance there came down a certain priest that way:  and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 

The recent devastation by tornadoes in Joplin, MO has reminded me  of one of the finest men I have ever known.  He once taught a lesson in a 5th Sunday combined Priesthood/Relief Society meeting.  He taught us that the bishop’s storehouse is not just the warehouse on the other side of town where people go to fill food orders.  He emphasized that the concept of the bishop’s storehouse extends to the food storage in the homes of each individual member.  In a time of disaster or emergency, the bishop can call upon members of the ward to share their food, warm clothing, blankets, and everything else they have with others.  I left that meeting with a strong conviction, confirmed by the spirit, that the wheat, canned goods, bottled fruit, frozen vegetables, powdered milk, dry beans, camp stove with propane, and everything else in our basement was a resource of the church to be used for the building of Zion, and to be shared as necessary with my neighbors, LDS or not.  A bishop’s storehouse exists wherever a latter-day saint practices provident living. [Read more…]

BCC goes to Washington

You should all want to know what kind of moisturizer I use, because a couple of weeks ago, I was invited to participate in the White House Roundtable with “Young” Mormons. You can read about it here. Paul Monteiro, who invited us and chaired the meeting, along with Kalpen Modi (yes, you’ve seen him somewhere before), will be guest-blogging here in the next little while about his work with religious communities. You can also read Chelsea Shields Strayer’s more detailed account at Exponent II. Also, if you’re curious about the background of this meeting and the other work the organizers do , you can subscribe to the Office of Public Engagement’s listserv–write to them at public@who.eop.gov with “LDS” in the subject line. [Read more…]

The Seeker: Bin Laden’s death elicits varied responses

The angst being expressed over whether it is proper for a Christian to celebrate the death of an enemy reminded me of a story from the Book of Mormon. [Read more…]

Immigration Lolz

Imagine, if you would, the phrase ‘neener neener neener,’ sung to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus…
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Elder Holland on Japan: “These are solemn times; these are sober times.”

In response to the devastating events of the past several days in Japan which have resulted from an initial earthquake, followed by a tsunami and several large-magnitude aftershocks, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles gave a press conference moments ago.
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A Shinto Prayer

With all the respect from the depth of our hearts we ask that the gods hear us, such as the spirit that hears our intent together with the spirits of the Sky and the Land. Take the evil, disasters and sins and purify all.

Kimigayo wa
Chiyo ni yachiyo ni
Sazare-ishi no
Iwao to narite
Koke no musu made.

War and Peace in Our Time: Mormon Perspectives

The people at Claremont Graduate University continue to outdo themselves. On March 18-19, 2011, the Howard W. Hunter chair for Mormon Studies is sponsoring this conference.

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Technology, Humanity, and Jeopardy

The inevitable future, as depicted by Matsby

All the hubbub around IBM’s new Jeopardy champ has stirred up talk in pop-futurist circles of the coming Singularity—the idea that one day humankind will create a machine that is intelligent enough to build an improved version of itself, which will then replicate and improve itself in the next generation, and so on until eventually humans are rendered obsolete.

Another vision of the Singularity is that human consciousness will somehow be “loaded” onto machines, freeing us from the bonds of biology and anatomy.

Both are fun theories to think about, and form the basis of lots and lots of bad sci-fi stories and a few good ones.

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Thar He

The recent events in Egypt have kept me thinking about our history of non-violent protest in the United States.  Between the observance of Martin Luther King day in January and Black History month, I’ve tried to make a formal study of the speech that King delivered in Washington, D.C. in August, 1963.  You can read the text of the speech or watch it online.  I found that my appreciation grew the more I studied the speech and the events leading up to it.  In particular, I’ve come to appreciate how important it was for King to emphasize “the fierce urgency of now”, because at that time we still lived under a regime of racial segregation.  We see August, 1963 as a watershed moment for civil rights in America.  It is hard for us to now imagine how deeply our country  was divided by racial hatred and ignorance.  King and the others in the SCLC displayed enormous personal courage by their actions — it could not have been an easy thing to stand in the street as mounted policemen rode towards you, swinging lengths of rubber hose wrapped with barbed wire — but it is also important to remember that others before them also exemplified moral courage, sometime at great personal cost.  This post is about one of those men. [Read more…]

Boggs-Doniphan Gentile of the Year Award 2010 – WINNER!

Voting is over, and the 2010 Gentile of the Year is Judge Vaughn Walker!

Judge Vaughn Walker

Judge Vaughn Walker. (Photo credit: Mike Linksvayer for WikiMedia Commons)

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The Illuminated Matsby, Vol. 11

Another Image of Faith and Devotion

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Idaho Mormons: Elk Poaching Politicians Edition

One of our All-Time Favorite politicians and made news this week.[1]

“Former Idaho gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell has been charged with poaching an elk in eastern Idaho.

“Idaho Fish and Game said Rammell was in illegal possession of an elk on Dec. 8. When an officer asked Rammell for his hunting permit, he produced one for a different zone that expired in October.”

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Thursday Night Theological Poll: Morality according to O’Donnell and Jeter

Republican Senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell appeared on Politically Incorrect many years ago, and opined on honesty and the moral imperative to avoid telling lies:
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An Appeal to Mitt Romney for Republican Leadership on the Mosque Issue

Does the Park51 Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan (also known by the misnomer “Ground Zero Mosque”) present an opportunity for Mitt Romney to assume and evince leadership in the Republican Party, possibly even ousting populist Tea Party Anti-Federalist demagogues based on fundamental Federalist principles in the process? [Read more…]

Look Out, World!

At the recent FAIR conference in Utah, some interesting data were shared.  Guess what?  People don’t like us. No, let me rephrase that: people really don’t like us. According to the polling firm which gathered the data, LDS people have an unfavorable to favorable rating of 5 – 1. For every person who thinks well of us there are five who do not. To compare, notice that Jewish people have a favorable rating of 7 – 2 (seven likes for every two dislikes) and Catholics have a favorable rating of 2 – 1. Where are we going and how did we get in this handbasket?

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A (Secular) Turkish Delight

Any general arguments against the safeguards provided to all religions by the maintenance of a secular public sphere should take into account whether it is better to live as a Christian in Saudi Arabia or Turkey. [Read more…]

World Cup Knockout Round Open Thread

And thus it continues.

THIS IS A THREAD FOR BLOGGERNACLE WORLD CUP FOOTBALL FANS. HATERS GO ELSEWHERE. [Read more…]

Zane Grey, Arthur Conan Doyle, the Associated Press, and the Resuscitation of the Avenging Angels

This is another post from the Dialogue editorial board. Many of you know Matthew Bowman from Juvenile Instructor. He is a graduate student in History at Georgetown, and is the Associate Editor of Dialogue.

Related article at Dialogue

If there’s anything that, in comparison, might normalize polygamy to that vast majority of Americans for whom Mormons are but cultural curiosities, it’s probably blood atonement.  I’ve earlier written in this space about the ways in which representations of Mormonism in HBO’s Big Love reflect a certain religious ethos on the part of the producers; the show is in a lot of ways a leap forward in the cultural normalization of Mormonism precisely because it is capable of imagining its Mormon (and by ‘Mormon’ I mean followers of Joseph Smith; this strikes me as a more useful definition of the term than any other) characters as basically normal people, who take their SUVs to the hardware store and have kids with part time jobs. And indeed, this normalization of people in previously exotic marriage relationships is in all likelihood the producers’ agenda. If their ratings are any indication, they may be succeeding; indeed, it appears that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can come into the very heart of their adversary, to the shadows of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, and garner sympathy.[1] Religious freedom and all that. [Read more…]

World Cup Group Stages Open Thread

And so it begins!

THIS IS A THREAD FOR BLOGGERNACLE SOCCER FANS TO DISCUSS THE WORLD CUP. HATERS GET LOST.

Mission Soccer Football Stories

In keeping with our promise of more coverage of the upcoming World Cup, Ronan and I thought it would be fun to invite everyone to share stories from the mish about soccer.

My home town was small enough that our high school didn’t participate in all sports, with soccer football being the most notable omission. However, when I was a junior in high school, plans announced to field a competitive high school team in a few years, and we started a community league and a club team to develop players. Although I wouldn’t be around to play on the official school team, I had always enjoyed playing soccer football and was eager to join the teams. Though I was certainly no Pelé, I had a decent enough kick and reasonable reflexes and found that I was fairly competent relative to my peers.

About a year after playing my last game in my community league, I was shivering from a chilly breeze in Savonlinna, Finland. I was a greenie missionary, and my companion and I had been invited by the young men from the branch (all 3 of them!) to come play soccer football at the local pitch with some guys from their school. I stared around the field, wondering how on earth anyone could call this hard, grassless dirt a “soccer football field” and immediately assumed, in true American fashion, that I was clearly going to be playing with novices who likely didn’t even understand the sport, and certainly wouldn’t be able to compete with me. [Read more…]

BCC World Cup Predictor

BCC’s World Cup festivities begin here, starting with a World Cup Predictor:

Go to the BBC predictor and tell us who you have in the final and who will win.

I have Argentina beating Brazil in the final. Of course, what I really want to happen is for England to win a second star. First we need to beat the Yanks on Saturday.

More events to follow…

Can a Good Mormon Make Over $100,000 a Year?

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

This post is, in a sense, a sequel to two older posts: “Can a Good Mormon be a Meritocrat?” and “Can a Good Mormon be a Socialist?” In case you can’t be bothered to read until the end, the answers to the three questions are: “Probably not,” “Yes,” and “Sometimes, maybe, but seriously, why would you want to take that risk anyway?” [Read more…]

“Mormon” is Back (and Just as Confusing as Ever?)

A few weeks ago when I was in Salt Lake City for General Conference, I overheard a conversation between a couple of journalists for the SLC media discussing an article from the Salt Lake Tribune about the proper use of the LDS Church’s name in media publications or transmissions. The title of the article, written by Peggy Fletcher Stack, is “The Name ‘Mormon’ Is Back, Thanks to Its Internet Popularity” and describes how, after about a decade of Church statements discouraging media representatives and Church members alike from using the term “Mormon” to describe themselves or the Church as an institution (while still desiring to steer the use of the term “Mormon” to itself and away from schismatic groups), the Church appears to have backed away from that stance and accepted its “Mormon” self. [Read more…]

What if they actually listened to us?

I was captivated when, in October of 2004, Jon Stewart took his media criticism behind enemy lines, telling Paul Begala and be-bowtied Tucker Carlson to “Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America,” to their faces, on their own show. Those on the left, and many who just value intelligent commentary instead of inane partisan bickering, were cheering. There was even more victorious jubilation when it soon became clear that CNN would actually listen to Stewart’s pleas to cut back on the political hackery and theater. In a recent column, Ross Douthat summarizes CNN’s response to Stewart, and the surprising results: [Read more…]

Religion Without Culture: Self-Identifying as a Mormon

Since the results for the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Study (RLS) were released, there has been fairly little attention paid in the Bloggernacle to the outcomes as they pertain to LDS belief and policy–a few posts here and there, mostly reporting a particular outcome: As a Church, we are more effective at retaining life-long members than any other of the major religions included in the study. However, an eye single to this stat robs us of a more curious one: the LDS Church is the only major religion in the United States in which lifelong members exhibit higher degrees of religiosity than converts. Julie Smith at Times & Seasons provided a link to a summary article on this topic last October, and I recommend reading the comments in her thread, as they touch on the key purposes of this post.[1] The full paper can be found here and contains considerably more detail.[2] [Read more…]

2010 or 2012?

Yesterday, the largest organization involved in 2008’s failed campaign to defeat Proposition 8 in California announced that it would be waiting until 2012 to make another attempt at legalizing gay marriage. While some other groups, such as Courage Campaign, have indicated that they will continue to push for a ballot measure in 2010, this decision by Equality California, which was based at least in part on feedback from many of the largest donors/contributors to the No on 8 campaign, could determine what actually happens, and for the purposes of this post, I assume that it does. Because I live in California, I personally am grateful for the possibility of not seeing this fight again next year. However, there are implications of this delay for everyone with a stake in this issue, politicians included.
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Especially For Glenson — Covered Wagon Feminism

Brother Lars Glenson is a good, though misguided and simple-minded soul who shows up hereabouts from time to time. He holds the study of Mormon history in special disdain and refers to it as Mormon Minutiae. Our Christian duty requires us to bear with Lars in his difficulties and to shed as much light as possible on his darkened path. It is in this spirit that BCC announces it will provide from time to time a new feature as a public service called Especially For Glenson. This service will be carried out in the form of short, inspirational posts, much like the format of Especially For Mormons. However, the BCC iteration will be better because the stories will actually be true. Please enjoy our first feature, which we will call Covered Wagon Feminism.
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The Biggest Loser Makes Me Cry

Every time. It’s embarrassing. I only ever see it at the gym, so I’ll be galumphing along on the treadmill with tears streaming down my face. I suspect this is mostly leftover ugly-kid-jr.-high-school trauma, but there might be a Mormon element, too, in the stark conflict between the “natural man” and the will. The communal aspect of the struggle resonates somehow, too–a small (er, in numbers) band of the righteous fighting together against the powers of evil and donuts, casting out the wicked from their midst as necessary (but afterwards showing forth an increase of love!).

I’ve probably overthought this. But it’s Friday–seems like a good day to talk about TV if you want to.
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