Responsibilities of Zone Leaders, Ranked

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!

Like a Boss
As before, these rankings are authoritative. Don’t kick against the pricks.[1]
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The Sociable Heaven

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. [1]

[Read more...]

Keeping Vigil with the Dying

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...]

Your Missionary Troll

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...]

How much is “too much”?

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?

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The Ray Rices Among Us

She Will Find What Is Lost, by Brian Kershisnik

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...]

Thoughts From A Mid-Single Mormon

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...]

“…there’s a ton of stuff that should be covered in the MTC.”

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[1], 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...]

Germany’s Church Tax

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...]

Mormon Man Causes Controversy

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.
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Responsibilities of Deacons, Ranked

Sam Weir
These rankings are authoritative.[1]
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It takes a long pull to get there.

I recently watched Porgy and Bess at the 5th Avenue Theater. My knowledge of opera is fairly limited, but this one is my favorite. I am aware of its problematic elements, but I’m a sucker for Gershwin.
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Skateboarding for Jesus

Mission 18

There is a strange thing in the land; a wild man hath come among us.

It was a warm and muggy summer afternoon. My trainer and I had a single appointment that day with a family we had met the week before while tracting. Their interest was lukewarm at best, but in this corner of the Lord’s vineyard you take what you can get. [Read more...]

Chances for Learning

359532891_680af26c0e “And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches” (3 Ne. 6:12).

For the last two years, my kids have gone to decidedly less-advantaged public schools. Out of necessity, we lived in a higher-density, lower-income neighborhood. There were a lot of rentals and turnover (though my own neighbors stayed stable for the entire two years). While our neighborhood wasn’t great, it also wasn’t scary, and our neighbors were kind and friendly, even if we frequently didn’t share a language. I knew my kids would be a minority in their schools, but it didn’t really hit me what that meant until the first day of school, when they were the only white kids at each of their bus-stops. Aware others frequently face those statistics in their own demographic helped me encourage my kids to enjoy school and make friends. My oldest son started middle-school, and while he made some good friends, he also had a terrible time. Bullying rapidly became a huge issue. I was forceful with the school about addressing the bullying, but my previously happy son was now loathing school. It was bad enough that I had to threaten police action at the school. I had hoped being in a different environment would be good for my kids, stretch them a little. It was a rough two years, and my youngest was the only one who managed to maintain her enjoyment of school. [Read more...]

Workers Celebrate Labor Day

Labor Day is the one day ants all over the world celebrate their lifestyle, which is all about labor. This holiday is their most religious and sacred. Today I will share with you some of the joy of these celebratory activities. Here an ant rises to greet with the dawn with the traditional Labor Day carol: “Sun Arise! Ye Merry Sisters Rejoice!”
640px-Camponotus_flavomarginatus_ant
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The Science of Reminiscence: Joseph Smith Vignettes. III

This is the third in a series of posts on memories about Joseph Smith. The same cautions apply as noted in part 1.

Bro. Gates said. One day while at Far West. Br. Joseph was talking to Bishop Partridge concerning the lost tribes. Joseph remarked that they are hid from us. “Yes” said Br. Partridge in a rather unbelieving tone. I guess they are by land and water. “No” said Joseph, “by land and air.” Br. P smiled as if he thought Joseph did not know what he was talking about. Joseph continued, “Yes, they are hid by land and air in such a manner that the Astronomers cannot get their telescopes to bear on them because they are at an angle that they can’t be seen from the earth.[1]
I heard J. Gates relate this little incident in the St. Geo Temple. June 1880.[2]
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Brigham Young

Melinda-Blog-Image-Brigham-YoungA word today in praise of Brother Brigham (d. August 29, 1877). Brigham Young was a man of his times, and those times were, by all measures, rough. With an iron will he and the Saints endured the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, finished the Nauvoo temple sufficiently that ordinance work could go forward there, and then worked day and night so that the Saints could be endowed and sealed there before their departure into the wilderness. In the semi-desert of the Great Basin, Brigham Young and his followers planted their crops and commanded them to grow with irrigation water channeled from the rivers and lakes, then raised up more temples, and sought for Zion.

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Book Review: Neylan McBaine, Women at Church

women at churchWomen at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact (released today) appears at a tense moment for LDS church members with regard to gender issues. Some members have advocated for ordaining women to the priesthood while others have asserted that manifesting dissatisfaction with the status quo is inappropriate. As for author Neylan McBaine, she loves being a Mormon woman. But she also believes “there is much more we can do to see, hear, and include women at church” (xiii). Situated between these two poles without disrespect to either, her book has two main goals: First, to identify and acknowledge the real pain felt by some LDS women, and second, to offer solutions to provide a more fulfilling church experience for them—solutions that fit within the Church’s current administrative framework. [Read more...]

LDS Dating Culture

Ever since various general authorities started drawing attention to the dating scene among Young Adults, I’ve taken an interest in the current status of dating, especially among LDS people, but also in general. I’ve polled my students about it occasionally and also my friends, single and not. As a borderline narcissistic introvert, you might be surprised to learn that I have friends, even friends from many different lands (states) and persuasions. But it’s true. Of course the rest of you won’t be surprised at all.

But to the point. Here, in no particular sequence of topics, are some observations from students, friends, and neighbors on dating culture among Mormons, and sometimes, others.
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The Church and Ordain Women: Three Months On

It has been about three months since the disciplinary process that eventually led to Kate Kelly’s excommunication from the Mormon church for “apostasy” began. Now that the initial furore over that act has died down, it is worth spending a moment to see where the Church now stands regarding Kelly and OW in particular, and women’s issues in general. A recent piece by BBC World Service radio offers a fascinating glimpse into the Church’s current mindset. In the report, Head of Public Affairs Michael Otterson and Deseret Book CEO Sheri Dew offer their thoughts on the affair and women in the Church generally.

Given the chronological distance from the excommunication (affording plenty of time to take stock), the setting of the interviews (a very fair BBC report), and the people involved (Otterson — who has reminded us he speaks with the Brethren’s approval; Dew — the senior female conservative voice in the Church), I believe it is fair to assume that what was said represents a good indication of current Church opinion on the issue.

Before I summarise what I believe that opinion to be, two things need stating: 1. Obviously, we don’t have the transcript of the full interviews. The Church is welcome to correct anything here that is not properly representative of what was said. 2. A sensible discussion of the conclusions I am going to draw can only really happen if you listen to the piece.

So here, in no particular order, is what the Church most likely thinks about Kelly, Ordain Women, and the current and future state of women in Mormonism:
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Embracing and magnifying our MBA culture!

Sisters' Meeting Broadcast Flyer 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.[1]

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The Desert Blossoms as the Rose (at Burning Man)

Burning ManThis week, somewhere in the middle of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, 50,000 people are gathering for the Burning Man festival, where they do…well, pretty much whatever they want. They trek in their RVs, buses, cars, motorcycles, and erect Black Rock City, where they live for a week in a state of “radical inclusion” and “radical self-expression.” The name “Burning Man” comes from a huge wooden effigy (‘The Man”) they erect at the beginning of the week, and which they burn at the end of the week—the Burning Man.

At the end of the week, no trace of Black Rock City remains. The whole city is built by Burning Man attendees, inhabited for a week, and then torn down and completely erased. (This is not as easy as it might seem—imagine your total water needs for a week in the desert. You’d have to bring that with you, and then carry out any waste and trash.)

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Breakfast of Champions (UPDATED)

Dear Leader Steve Evans has been griping INCESSANTLY to the BCC backlist this morning over how I was mean to him when he tried to explain that he has a tummy ache. In the nature of transparency and to set the record straight, I provide the details on our conversation, unedited:

Steve: I would like to tell you about my breakfast this morning.
Sent at 9:16 AM on Tuesday

Scott: i am listening

Steve: it started off as a collection of dried fruits and nuts.

Scott: Read: Granola Bar

Steve: no — prunes, apricots, cherries and almonds
Then I noticed that I brought a bag of cookies with me to work.
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Olav’s Way in Photos

For technical reasons (WiFi connections few and far between, tethering slow as molasses in January) the Olav’s Way Liveblog did not feature very many photos despite the fact that many that were taken. This post will help fill that gap in our coverage by giving you, the gentle reader, a better idea of what it was like to walk through the Norwegian countryside. [Read more...]

Fornication Pantaloons (updated)

Tellason_jeans,_button_fly

Can we all agree that this is an abominable Gentile fashion? Because Brigham Young certainly can.

For the last year or so, the last page of The Atlantic  has been a column called “The Big Question,” where various notable people answer a question posed by the magazine. In September, it asked: “What is the most significant fashion innovation in history?” In Jennifer Barnett’s mind, the runner-up was buttons down the front of men’s pants in the 1830s. Which is how this question ties into Mormonism: Barnett says that this innovation “prompted Brigham Young to denounce them as ‘fornication pantaloons.'”

I had two reactions when I read this. The first was that those two words, put together, may be the greatest phrase in the history of clothing. The second, though, was skepticism. That sounds like too good a story to actually verify.  [Read more...]

New Blogger: Peter LLC

Every once in a while, humankind takes a giant leap forward. This is one of those moments. Peter LLC, longtime commenter and erstwhile guest, has agreed to join us as a permablogger. We’re stoked. Everyone, please welcome Peter aboard!

“Blogger’s Anonymous,” or, thoughts for when you’d rather visit the Bloggernacle than do your Visiting/Home Teaching

ijDavid Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest explores the problem of entertainment-fueled solipsism (getting stuck inside your own head). The massive novel was published about a decade before we began carrying around Internet chat rooms, blogs, message boards, and Facebook in our pockets, but it anticipated some of the anxieties people feel about recent technological developments. In the book, a group of wheelchair-driving Canadian separatist terrorists from Quebec (don’t ask) are trying to get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction in order to bring the United States to its knees. It’s not a nuclear bomb or a toxic virus or anything like that. The weapon is a movie. A film. A film that is so perfect, so pleasurable, so captivating, so entertaining, that the moment you begin watching you will forgo everything else in your life (food, sex, friends, sleep, everything) just to keep watching.

Pretty much until you literally die. [Read more...]

The Science of Reminiscence: Joseph Smith Vignettes. II

This is the second in a series of posts on memories about Joseph Smith. The same cautions apply as noted in post 1.

Easton Kelsey heard him [Joseph Smith] say that he (Joseph) had been with John, the Beloved Apostle of Jesus who told him that he was busy among the ten tribes organizing and preparing them to return.[1]

 
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Sunday Morning Poem: “Hear Me,” by Czesław Miłosz

I’ve loved the poetry of Czesław Miłosz since a friend gave me a slim collection of his poems over a decade ago. Especially searing are the poems he composed amidst and about the Warsaw Uprising as a sympathetic Catholic outsider. Even after coming to the United States, Miłosz composed his verse primarily in Polish, often collaborating on the translations. This poem comes from his final collection, Second Space.

Hear me, Lord, for I am a sinner, which means I have nothing except prayer.

Protect me from the day of dryness and impotence.

When neither a swallow’s flight nor peonies, daffodils and irises in the flower market are a sign of Your glory.

When I will be surrounded by scoffers and unable, against their arguments, to remember any miracle of Yours.

When I will seem to myself an impostor and swindler because I take part in religious rites.

When I will accuse You of establishing the universal law of death.

When I am ready at last to bow down to nothingness and call life on earth a devil’s vaudeville.

Blessed are the Divorced

Many of us have recently participated in the “Eternal Marriage” lesson from the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. The lesson’s final section carries the heading “As a husband and wife faithfully observe all the ordinances and principles of the gospel, their joy in marriage grows sweeter.” The paragraphs in the section, however, lean toward defining this joy negatively, in terms of avoiding divorce. This tendency can have the effect of making our divorced sisters and brothers seem “less than” those whose marriages are currently working.

[Read more...]

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