Should Mormons feel obligated to support Vocal Point in the Sing-Off?

This can apply to all sorts of reality-ish contests, but I want to focus on Vocal Point for two reasons. [Read more...]

Depressing Discoveries About My Libertarianism, Part 1

I have posted about 150 times here at BCC, but as I went back through the archives recently, I realized that the very first post I wrote is far and away the best one. This discovery depresses me in no small measure. One of the things I liked about it is that I let my love of free markets be seen, at least indirectly. I’ve generally shied away writing or commenting on politics since then, after discovering that most of the readers and most of my co-bloggers take a less-than-sunny view of market economics. I’ve told myself that I’m trying to avoid debates; in reality, I’ve realized just a coward. This discovery also depresses me in no small measure. In recent weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about my political ideals, and have discovered several things about myself and my beliefs–nearly all of which–you guessed it–depress me in no small measure. [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...]

Review: Ken Jennings, “Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks”

Title: Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks
Author: Ken Jennings
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Geography
Year: 2011
Pages: 276
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN13: 978-1-4391-6717-5
Price: $25

I think that the constant study of maps is apt to disturb men’s reasoning powers,” Lord Salisbury, p. 207.

You have to wonder if Ken Jennings’s parents realized their son was a different sort of fellow when he chose to sleep with a World Atlas next to his pillow, rather than your average child’s teddy bear. As far back as he can remember he’s loved maps. While researching for his new book, Maphead, Jennings discovered he wasn’t alone. “Cartophilia” is alive and well, and Jennings hopes to spread the love: “If you never open a map until you’re lost,” he insists, “you’re missing out on all the fun” (120). [Read more...]

A Life in Pearl Jam

I am, and will always be, a child of the 90s, a member of Generation X, an unrepentant bore who still believes that Nirvana’s Nevermind was, just short of the fall of the Berlin Wall, about the most important socio-cultural event this side of Sergeant Pepper.

I say this aware that the kool kids will — clutching their vinyl copies of old Mudhoney records  — no doubt sigh at such ‘MTV’ sensibilities.

Rubbish. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ changed the world. But Kurt is dead and so we look to others to help us reconnect with those splendid days when Mariah Carey and her evil minions were dumped from the charts. Enter Pearl Jam, whose biographer in the new movie Pearl Jam 20 seems to have benefited from the Mormon injunction that we record everything for posterity. Cameron Crowe’s film gives us amazing and encyclopaedic  glimpses of Seattle circa 1991 when out of the ashes of Mother Love Bone, Eddie Vedder and co. arose.

It will sound melodramatic to call Pearl Jam’s music the soundtrack to my life, but watching the film follow Pearl Jam over the last two decades I kept being reminded of who I was at the time of each song. Here are a few highlights: [Read more...]

The Decline and Fall of Something or Other

I don’t know if it’s because of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, or because my part of the country just went through a freak earthquake and hurricane scare in the same week, or because I’ve been watching the market a bit too closely, but the idea of American decline has been on my mind recently.

An article in this week’s New Yorker says I’m not alone. “Decline, Fall, Rinse, Repeat,” by Adam Gopnik, is a jaunt through the long history of American “declinism” (new word?) and the popular literature of the declinist movement.

I haven’t yet read the books Gopnik examines except Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, but the article grabbed my attention by speaking to some current cultural memes:

  1. Is America going down?
  2. Is the Western World as a whole in decline?
  3. Is such a decline inevitable or can we slow/stop it?
  4. Why are we so obsessed with envisioning our own downfall?

[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...]

The Mormon Conservative Anti-War Movement

[Note from Admin: Recently, while under the influence of some (allegedly) fermented root beer, a rogue BCC perma suggested that permas from M* and BCC switch places in the name of building bridges or increasing dialogue between two groups who often don't seem to play nicely with each other.  Although no one was sure if anything would come of this proposal, Geoff B. has made good on his end of the agreement.]

Geoff B is a convert to the Church who writes for Millennial Star.  http://www.millennialstar.org

For a relatively recent convert like myself, President Hinckley’s April 2003 talk right before the U.S. entered the Iraq war was very confusing.  On the one hand, it was clear to me after reading the Book of Mormon two or three times by then that the Church’s message is one of peace, non-aggression and avoiding offensive wars.  On the other, President Hinckley seemed to be justifying the Iraq invasion.

[Read more...]

Mormons are Taking Over the Internet!

The Washington Post has an interesting article about the church’s success with search-engine optimization, PR, and “controlling its image” online. There’s plenty of hyperbole in the article (have we really “infused SEO into [our] culture?” C’mon), some sloppy sourcing (of course a Protestant digital strategist says Mormons are taking over the web), and a misuse of the word “bloggernacle.”

But there were also some nuggets we can learn from, and plenty we should be discussing.

[Read more...]

Like a Trampled Flag on a City Street

I enjoyed and was humbled by Aaron R.’s great post today about the London riots. We live in neighboring wards in London’s eastern outer boroughs so we have both experienced the riots first hand, though thankfully my particular neighborhood was not touched, though others in my ward were more affected. His post reminds me once more that he is a better man than I — and he’s a sociologist, so I understand the charitable and analytical place that his post is coming from. I am grateful for his good example! He reflects well on Latter-day Saints with this perspective. [Read more...]

Riot van

This is a difficult post to write, not least because people are still trying to come to terms with the damage, and so I hope not to offend; but if I have I apologise beforehand and ask that if you disagree please do so with respect.

Britain is currently reeling from a series of riots that have hit many of the major cities.  My local town centre was vandalised and robbed but my family have not witnessed the worst of the damage [1].  Shops have been looted, historic buildings have been burned and innocent people have been attacked.

During my honeymoon violence flared in Paris.  Two young men had been shot by police and the youth of the Banlieue’s took to the streets in protest of police oppression.  The riots rippled through France but eventually order was restored.  London was again fairly quiet last night but riots recurred in various city centres around the country. [Read more...]

Call to the Brain Trust: New ‘Mormon Moment’ as Jimmer enshrined in Lil Wayne lyric

Forget running for president or having a show on Broadway–Mormonism’s next big moment is here: BYU athlete Jimmer Fredette has been featured in Lil Wayne’s newest song in the following lyric:

“I got a chopper in the trimmer, shootin’ like Jimmer.”

This website helpfully translates:

Lil Wayne is describing his “chopper” — which is a gun for those that aren’t fluent in hip-hop — by saying it shoots like Jimmer

I think we should do our part to foster more positive press and public awareness of Mormons by encouraging more Mormon-theme lyrics to be included in popular songs. Jimmer has the advantage of being easy to rhyme, but I think we could come up with many other helpful 1- or 2-line suggestions for vocal artists to adopt.
[Read more...]

Resource Constraints & Shifts In Religious Behavior Patterns

The recent issue of BYU Studies contains a paper written by my co-blogger Jonathan Stapley regarding the Relief Society’s burial services the early 1900’s.  The paper addresses a decline in Relief Society burial preparations, and largely attributes this decline to the Relief Society’s inability to compete with professional burial service providers. I think this is reasonable, but found it somewhat incomplete when I looked at the data.  In particular, I was curious about the speed of the decline in burial preparations over time, and wondered if there might be more to the story than an inability to provide equally good burial services. In any case, it seemed like an excellent opportunity for rampant speculation. [Read more...]

Pluralism and Persecution in the UK

Despite the Telegraph’s deliberately provocative title (“Christians are more militant than Muslims, says Government’s equalities boss”), which doesn’t accurately reflect the content of the article, the Chairman of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission recently raised some interesting points and makes some insightful observations about integration, pluralism and claims of religious persecution in modern society (ht:M*). [Read more...]

Radical Homemaking, Radical Enrichment

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

I first heard about Shannon Hayes work through Laura McKenna’s blog nearly two years ago. I was already disposed to like the sorts of localist, agrarian, and traditional causes that Hayes urges us to consider when I first read about her (after all, Melissa and I vaguely aspire to that sort of lifestyle ourselves), but it was Laura’s concluding line–“There is absolutely no reason that feminism should mean a devotion to capitalism”–that really pulled me in. When I finally got a copy of Hayes’s book, Radical Homemakers, I confess it wasn’t what I expected–rather than a serious, theoretically grounded critique of consumer culture, family life, and the structural obstacles that often stand in the way of adopting a simpler, more communal lifestyle, I found an often sloppily researched but nonetheless impassioned instruction manual-cum-rallying cry. A cry and a manual for what? Very simply, for rejecting the economic demands which insist of dual-income households (p. 17), for relearning how to grow and preserve your own food (pp. 78-83), and for refusing the economically and environmentally devastating materialism of modern American life (pp. 93-94). And I thought to myself: now, wouldn’t this make for a great Relief Society lesson?

[Read more...]

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:

[Read more...]

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.”
  • [Read more...]

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...]

Do We Want Our Religion To Be Mainstream?

[Cross posted to In Medias Res]

This cover story in Newsweek is pretty much the only thing Mormons in my crowd have been talking about this morning. (They’ve also been talking about the other features in the package, as well as a wonderful sidebar article on Elizabeth Smart, but not as much as the main piece.) The main article, “Mormons Rock!”, written by Walter Kirn–who is a long-lapsed member of the faith himself–apparently started out as a piece on the new “The Book of Mormon” musical on Broadway, but grew from there. The editor primarily responsible for putting the package together and guiding it was Damon Linker, my old friend and frequent intellectual sparring-partner, not least when it comes to things Mormon. Here, thanks to the work of some fine other journalists, he’s developed something that might well be read as a basically innocuous puff-piece (running through some of the basics of the church’s history and current institutional culture, quoting several prominent members of the faith about how they deal with the misunderstanding and marginalization that comes along with being a minority faith), but which, to me anyway, presents a fairly challenging question, a question that might be legitimately asked to believers of any non-dominant religion: should you, as a adherent of a faith, actually want to have your “moment”? [Read more...]

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...]

Where Does It End? The Real Danger in Warren Smith’s Perspective

Dave noted yesterday at Times and Seasons the inherent incivility of journalist Warren Cole Smith’s recent dismissal in Patheos of Mormons’ eligibility for the office of President of the United States precisely because of their religion. I found Dave’s analysis cogent and important. My concern with WCS’s viewpoint runs deeper than whether he and those who share his views have simply departed from the bounds of civil discourse. [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...]

BCC Zeitcast 70: Two Brothers, One Constitution

Scott B. hosts the first of a two-part debate between liberal wacko John C. and his older, wiser, more conservative brother Robert. Today’s topic: The U.S. Constitution, and what YOU can (should?) do to save it.


[Read more...]

Rosalynde Defines Mormon Art

Rosalynde Welch, with her characteristic intelligence, has laid down a concise, cogent, and challenging explanation of why American Mormon authors tend to congregate in “genre” categories, like science-fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, or some combination thereof, rather than pursue “serious literary fiction”: [Read more...]

Duck Beach: A Contradiction?

This guest post comes from Stephen Frandsen, who is a co-founder and executive producer of Big Iron Productions. In addition to working on film sets in New York City, he produces photo shots, commercials, documentaries, and the like. While he is currently a “29 Year-Old Single Mormon,” he is engaged to be married this fall.

I saw a headline on Gawker the other day that made me look twice: “Mormons Conquer New York.” I’ve been in New York for six years, and this was maybe the first time I saw Mormons and New York linked together positively in the media. Of course, the headline was referring to yesterday’s news that The Book of Mormon Musical received 14 Tony nominations.
[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...]

On the Royal Wedding

I have before me the souvenir issue of the Daily Telegraph, awash with the colour and joy that was the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. For me, a favourite image is not the balcony kiss or that dress, iconic though they already are; rather, it is the image of the mass of people on the Mall. In all its massive yet polite reverie, this image offers a strong contrast with another scene from yesterday’s news, namely that of angry Syrians tearing down a poster of President Assad.

And so I am led to wonder: what is the secret of peaceful, consensual government? Part of it may be chronological. Where once English kings were reviled and even beheaded, the centuries have led us kindly to this happy place. The Syrian Arab Republic has existed for not much longer than Queen Elizabeth has been on the British throne. Still, the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom does seem to be a singular, remarkably robust thing. Let us explore what all this means. [Read more...]

The Constitution Hangs by an Umbilicus

Smart people make more money.
Smart people don’t reproduce.
High intelligence is genetic.
Dumb people make less money.
Dumb people reproduce a lot.
The rich get richer because there are less of them.
The poor get poorer because there are more of them.

Slacker Educated Mormon Men need to get married.
Gradually, smart Mormons,
(who reproduce a lot)
will take over all positions in the US Gov. requiring
high intelligence.
The constitution is saved.

Corollary. The Devil fought polygamy, not Joseph Smith.

Leave Them Sister-Wives Alone!

Now that Big Love is over with, I’ve started watching Sister-Wives on The Learning Channel. This is a show about a polygamous family: One husband, four wives, 16 kids. It’s actually very interesting and I’ve been enjoying the show. [Read more...]

Come Ye Poets of the Bloggernacle!

[Note: Due to the unforeseen martyrdom of Jon McNaughton's art sales in the BYU Bookstore at the hands of Teh Godless Libruls, we feel the need to eugooglize this fine art, and thus we have resurrected this thread. Haiku only, please.]

Originally posted on September 29, 2009

Art inspires art.  This art, found on the sidebar, inspired me.

I choose to respond in haiku.  You may respond as well, but we will only accept comments in haiku.  (5-7-5 for those of you who don’t remember high school English….)  Here are some thoughts to get you started: [Read more...]

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