Ken Jennings vs. Watson: Mormon to save humanity? (cue allusions to White Horse Prophecy)

Last night, I gleefully skipped celebration of Valentine’s Day, in favor of sitting rapt in front of the television to watch Jeopardy! mega-winner (and longtime friend of BCC’s Police Beat Roundtable) Ken Jennings go up against IBM’s latest massively parallel Artificial Intelligence engine, Watson.

The Atlantic has dubbed their coverage of the matchup “Liveblogging the robot takeover or humanity’s finest hour,” and it is hard not to read this confrontation in such sweeping, maybe-apocalyptic terms. Especially when there’s a Mormon in the mix!
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Remembering the captivity of our fathers: A Rant

Today was High Council Sunday in our sacrament meeting. Our ward is going on trek come summer. If you know me, you know that I am not a fan of trek, but that I generally just ignore it.

The high councilor’s speaking companion said, “I know that those noble pioneers suffered what they went through in order to inspire the youth of today.” Martyrdom ain’t what it used to be, folks! [Read more...]

Proposal Stories

Mormon culture, especially of the Wasatch Front variety, is big on creative dating. There has been a lot of discussion of whether this is a good thing, but that there is pressure for bringing creativity to the dating enterprise among at least some groups of Mormon young people seems clear. [Read more...]

Why Mormon Mothers–Like Chinese Mothers–Are Superior

I grew up in a heavily immigrant neighborhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. My high school was minority White, with most students being 1st or 2nd generation Chinese and Taiwanese, or one of several other Asian nationalities in the mix. So when I saw this piece by Amy Chua in a friend’s Facebook feed, it really caught my eye: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”.
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‘Shipping Klaine? What Mormons think about Glee

A few weeks ago I finally yielded to the raves of several friends and gave Fox’s hit show Glee a try. Over the past few weeks, my husband and I have raced through all of Season 1 on Netflix. It’s everything my friends said it would be: funny, charming, musical, a bit campy. What struck me immediately was that amid the knowingness and too-smart-to-be-anything-but-cynical vibe that defines everything in our generation, this show stands out as relentlessly cheerful. I searched and scrutinized for the “we’re being so happy ironically angle,” but my search was in vain. This really was earnestly chipper. Je savais what this je ne sais quoi was: it was high-octane Mormon.

That’s right, if BYU-TV thinks they have a patent on happy-go-lucky “see the good in the world,” it’s past time for their lawyers to initiate a barrage of cease and desist letters to Fox headquarters. Yet the litany of reasons why Glee re-runs won’t be syndicated on BYU-TV anytime soon is lengthy and pointed.
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Movie(s) Review: Veggie Tales! Veggie Tales!

They’re a little “loud” for my taste (I prefer a more Mr. Rogersesque vibe in my children’s media), but I have to admit, they’re pretty entertaining and they do a good job of teaching scripture stories.

I haven’t found any material or lessons I find objectionable, and many have surprised me with how much I appreciate the lessons taught. For example, An Easter Carol confronts the evils of consumerism and commercialization of sacred holidays, without going so far into zealotry the other direction that it makes me uncomfortable. Madame Blueberry is a full frontal assault on the idea that material things make us happy, even not-so-subtly sending up Wal-Mart. And Sweetpea Beauty is a perhaps cliche, but still much needed, reminder for girls that beauty on the inside is what matters. [Read more...]

Primary Sharing Time Idea: Repentance

This is a Sharing Time I did this year on the topic of Repentance. (Previous entries in my Primary ideas series are A Chieko Okazaki Sharing Time Lesson and How to Sincerely Enjoy Working in Nursery.)
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Reflections of a Single Mormon Mama

This last Saturday, I was invited to take part in a panel on Alternative Latter-day Saint Families. After struggling to figure out how exactly a single mother was alternative, I prepared the following remarks. Most of this was not used in the panel discussion, and we instead talked about my son and his preference for wearing tutus. Go figure.

It’s Saturday morning in November. It’s unclear if the sound of rain gurgling down the gutters wakes me, or if it’s the cold little feet of my daughter under my side as she flops sleepily, arms akimbo, in the pre-dawn light. When I fell asleep to the muted monologue of Letterman, I was alone in my bed, but as happens so often now, I wake with one or several little people pushing on my warmth and needing their mama. [Read more...]

Notes from the Worldwide Training Broadcast

Yesterday morning I attended the worldwide training broadcast announcing and distributing the new edition of the General Handbook of Instructions. Below are some notes and thoughts I had from the meeting. For those also in attendance, please add your own highlights in the comments. Everyone can watch an archive of the broadcast (I expect that will be a routine instruction to newly called presidencies for some time).
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TGIF afternoon poll

Poll below the fold. [Read more...]

A Short Post for Election Day

I wouldn’t have known one of the candidates running in my California congressional district is a Mormon, except that everyone felt inclined to tell me as if it was the dealmaker. “He’s a Mormon,” they said, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a Mormon in office?”  Of course some people aren’t voting for him only because he’s Mormon, they also affiliate with his political party (or parties, in this case). But the underlying factor for many of my friends is not that he’s Mormon, but the assumption that he’s more honest than any other candidate because he is Mormon. That’s hardly fair. [Read more...]

Police Beat Roundtable #22 – Halloween Edition!

No Candy Here.

Sorry, kids!

The 22nd installation of our ongoing look at that most charming column of the Daily Universe. Previous installments can be read here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
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Interview with BYU student Cary Crall

On Tuesday, BYU’s student newspaper, the Daily Universe, published a letter to the editor from pre-med student Cary Crall about Prop. 8 and the ensuing Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial. Crall noted that many of the arguments that were used during the campaign were never even presented at trial, and those that were presented did not stand up to Judge Walker’s scrutiny. Crall’s letter concludes that, “The real reason [for supporting Prop. 8] is that a man who most of us believe is a prophet of God told us to support the amendment.” His letter has since been removed from the Daily Universe website (the above link is to google cache), with this explanation:
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Religious Art: ‘Saint Francis Standing in Ecstasy’

Francisco Zurburan (1598-1664), ‘Saint Francis Standing in Ecstasy’, c. 1640, oil on canvas; Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.

A few years ago another blogger started (but never continued) a series of posts on Religious Art.  As someone with an uninformed, amateur interest in Art I thought that it might be interesting to give it another go.  The first painting I have selected, though feel free to make suggestions for future posts, is a painting by Zurbaran entitled ‘Saint Francis Standing in Ecstasy’. [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...]

Mormon Studies “auf Mish”!

My title is borrowed from Ronan, I hope he does not mind me plagiarising.  Following a brilliant post at JI on Nibley, I was talking to some Missionaries the other day about their Mission reading habits and rules (they apparently have quite strict guidelines in this Mission) and it reminded me of the time and money (photocopies are not cheap) I spent trying to gather everything I could find about the Church.  Yet, apart from Ensigns and the odd mimeographed essay from yester-year, pretty much everything I read was from either Truman Madsen and/or FARMS. [Read more...]

Gender, Authority and Strange Loops

I want to expand on thoughts expressed by commenters in the Sunday PM General Conference Open Thread, specifically, “…Or maybe, if we’re going to talk about how wise mothers are, and what good teachers, and read sentimental poems about grown men longing to hear their mothers’ voices, we could just, y’know, hear their voices….”

The immediate context of this comment was Brother Foster’s talk, “Mother Told Me,” but the point applies to the entire conference, and more broadly to women’s influence in the church. I’d like to delve deeper into an analysis of some details in Brother Foster’s talk. I want to emphasize that this should not be read as a condemnation of the whole talk. It is both much narrower (a quibble with just one particular example he selected), and much bigger (the whole situation of women in the church), than his talk. Also, on some level, this is just a golden opportunity for me to geek out on some of my favorite geeky topics: logic, paradox and feminism.
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Creativity, Generosity and Humility: Grand Fundamentals of Mormonism

At a recent FAIR conference, Terryl Givens, while introducing his work on the history of the Pre-Mortal life in Western thought, made this statement: ‘What I have come to appreciate is this cardinal insight: If the restoration is not yet complete, then other traditions have much to teach us. Not by way of confirming, corroborating, or verifying the truths we already have. But by way of actually adding to the body of revealed doctrine we call precious and true. The Restoration is neither full nor complete… What if, instead of scrambling frantically to find explanations when Joseph appears to have borrowed from the masons, or Ethan Smith, or Tom Dick, we instead see another marvellous possibility of his actually practicing what he preached.’ [Read more...]

Marie Osmond, Mormondom’s Princess Di

Like so many other women, who didn’t think they thought much about Princess Di while she was alive, my grief at her death surprised me. Many in the media expressed confusion that average people would care so much about a woman who spent more on cosmetics in a year than many of us earn. A woman who, even before marrying into a royal family, and after divorcing from it, had a life of great privilege. I myself couldn’t understand it. But just as the news from Paris thirteen years ago cut an unexpectedly personal wound in me, so too did today’s news of the death of Marie Osmond’s son.
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Boggs-Doniphan Award 2009 – Voting

Update: Reader opinion poll now open! Voting is closed.

If T&S is running Mormon of the Year, it must be time for the BCC Boggs-Doniphan Award for the non-Mormon with the biggest impact on Mormonism in 2009, be it positive (Doniphan) or negative (Boggs). Let’s discuss candidates and we’ll vote later.

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In Memoriam: The Cambridge (Mass) Chapel

The LDS Chapel on Longfellow Park in Cambridge, Massachusetts started on fire this morning. Various eyewitnesses have emailed alumni/ae of the wards that meet and have met in the building over the years. As of 12:34 EST, none of us knows anything about cause. While I’m sure that the details will soon be sorted out, I wanted to open this post as a space to remember that chapel. While I know this sounds melodramatic, I’m feeling really quite sad about this and suspect there are others mourning today. Go ahead and share your memories.

Updates: FPR had initial Blogdom coverage, the roof has collapsed but the brick walls still stand, many though not all of the library books are being preserved, area churches have graciously offered their support, and the current best guess is an electrical fire that started in the attic. One memorable moment was the retrieval, intact, of a painting of Jesus counseling with the rich man, by firefighters.

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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My Mother’s Day Talk About Not Being a Mom

As I’ve written about before, children did not come easily to our family. During those struggles, Mother’s Days at church were excruciating. Even after becoming the mother of two, I still struggle with Mother’s Day-–the sense of inadequacy as people wax poetic about their Supermoms, the echoes of painful Mother’s Days past. I’m happy to report that those echos are fading, and each year I better appreciate the beauty of a day when we celebrate the very real sacrifices of the mothers of every one of the 6 billion people on this planet, of mothers of past generations, and our Heavenly Mother.

Still, I have immense empathy for Mother’s Day angst. While (barely) enduring a Mother’s Day Sacrament Meeting during the infertile period, I fantasized about the talk I would have given if I’d been asked, an antidote to the typical Mother’s Day talk.
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Good News for vegans

In his latest column, Robert Kirby lists numerous parties who have (or should have) grievances with the church. He’s looking for someone to replace gays who, despite email rumors to the contrary, won’t be protesting outside General Conference next weekend. Among the aggrieved parties are vegans [emphasis mine]:

Vegans should have a real bone to pick — oh, sorry — with the LDS church. Mormons are serious carnivores. The church owns huge welfare farms including some with cows. The bread we use in our Sacrament is made with real dairy products.

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SCIENCE!

BCC Labs is always working on innovative ways of maximizing the upsides of your online Latter-day Saint information consumption, interaction, and generation experience. Studies have shown that the marginalization of insufficiently critical approaches to the theological exploration of appropriate ethical behavioral actualizations by means of negative sporting and humorous contumely are market desirable. Therefore it is with great excitement that BCC Labs presents to you its latest innovation: the Daily Universe Letter to the Editor, deconstructed by Science!

BCC Lab’s methods of examination are explained below:
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Stem Cell Research and BYU

by Emily Updegraff

Emily Updegraff is a BYU alum an holds a PhD in Biology. Emily submitted this wonderful post to us, which we are excited now to share with you.

Last week President Obama issued an executive order removing a lot of restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. Federal funds can now be used to support research using hundreds of stem cell lines, not just the 21 lines President Bush approved in 2001. Over the past eight years, embryonic stem cell research has been limited to private research institutions that have sufficient support to run without NIH grants, and a few academic labs that have carefully partitioned themselves into NIH funded and privately funded domains. Research at universities across the country will be significantly impacted by the executive order, both in the long and short term. I believe Obama’s executive order is the beginning of a new era of stem cell research, one that will likely require the Church to re-examine its position on stem cell research, and consequently its position on when life begins.
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Liveblogging Big Love

I’m watching the episode now. The bishop and SP just came to visit Barb at home. They mentioned that she and Bill haven’t paid tithing for seven years. She says yes, they’re “inactive now,” they went through a bad time, and she was very sick. So the bishop just comes right out and asks if she’s living in a polygamous relationship. She’s shocked by the question, but after a pause acknowledges that she is. She explains that Bill got a testimony of it. She didn’t at first, but she thinks she does now. They informed her that they were there to determine whether they needed to take action regarding her membership.

I’ll post this now and then in the comments describe the further developments as the episode unfolds.
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Mormon YouTube Progress Report #3b (Elders & Misc.)

Elder Ballard told the December 2007 graduates of BYU-Hawaii to use new media to spread the gospel, and the exhortation was repeated to all church members in a cover story in the July 2008 Ensign. Among other things, members were encouraged to “create videos that illustrate aspects of your membership in the Church and post them on video sharing sites like YouTube.” I’ve taken it upon myself to compile a preliminary progress report for Elder Ballard. Humbly submitted: more good, bad, and ugly of Mormons on Youtube. [Read more...]

Mormon YouTube Progress Report #3 (Prop 8)

Elder Ballard told the December 2007 graduates of BYU-Hawaii to use new media to spread the gospel, and the exhortation was repeated to all church members in a cover story in the July 2008 Ensign. Among other things, members were encouraged to “create videos that illustrate aspects of your membership in the Church and post them on video sharing sites like YouTube.” I’ve taken it upon myself to compile a preliminary progress report for Elder Ballard. Humbly submitted: more good, bad, and ugly of Mormons on Youtube. [Read more...]

Note on History’s Margins

Front and center today in Bolivia’s electoral decision on whether to accept a new constitution stands a Latter-day Saint, José Luís Exeni.

President of the National Electoral Court, Exeni was raised in the Church. His mother was a long time member and one of the central figures in what was called Rama Cuatro, or Fourth Branch, in La Paz, Bolivia. I vividly remember Exeni when he was a little boy and I served as a missionary in his Branch. I am told he is a returned missionary, although it has been decades since I spoke with him.

Nevertheless, for me, the importance of Exeni’s position in this question of a new constitution, Indian rights in a multinational state, and a new vision of the left is both his legal rulings and the fact that he represents how much Latter-day Saints have been woven into the fabric of Latin American society. In the US we can look to Harry Reid and a host of Latter-day Saints in Washington, but there are also Latter-day Saints in high positions of government in Bolivia, and probably in other Latin American Countries. The LDS Church has gone native.

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