I Have A Question: Can You Break Commandments in the Holodeck?

Our semi-regular feature at BCC, in which we answer questions from our readers and then Rank stuff. Have a question you want us to answer? Send us an email!

Your questions have been burning a hole in our inbox. We must answer.

If I’m walking across the BYU campus in the morning when the national anthem plays over the speakers, do I really have to stop walking and put my hand over my heart?

Scott B: Uh, wut? Does this really happen? Does byu literally play the Star-Spangled Banner every morning over speakers around campus? Like “sunrise” has achieved sporting event-status? That school is an abomination.

Steve: Let me answer your question with another question: are you a total jerk?  If so, carry on.  It’s a when-in-Rome thing to do.  When I was a young undergrad at BYU from Canada, I skipped freeze-and-show-devotion thing precisely once.  The looks of disgust were pretty obvious.  And I wasn’t even American!  So if you want to be a pariah, go ahead and march right on. Maybe start singing the USSR national anthem while you’re at it.  Pretend you’re Zangief and taunt people as you walk past.

Why does a room full of church members all open up their hymn books to ‘read’ a hymn, even when it is a one that everyone knows? (such as Love One Another) What’s wrong with just singing it from memory?

Scott B: People pull out the hymn book because they don’t actually have the hymns memorized. Hymns are only memorized when they are sung, repeatedly, over a long period of time. If you have the hymns memorized, this suggests that you sing the hymns more frequently than everyone else. The only reason you would have to sing hymns more frequently than everyone else is because you have dirty thoughts more frequently than everyone else, so you need to sing hymns to make the bad thoughts go away. So, basically people still whip out the hymn book because they’re more righteous than you.

All callings are important and provide opportunities to provide meaningful and important service, but is there an underrated calling? I know a lot of people complain about it on the internet, but I liked working in the Scouts, for example.

Scott B: There are certainly underrated callings, but it’s critical that we don’t talk about them. If word gets out about them, they’ll become the hot new calling that all the glory boys in your ward will aspire to. And Bishops and Stake Presidents will start saying stuff like, “Trust me, Brothers and Sisters–you don’t want MY calling! It’s a beast! What I wouldn’t give to be serving in that UNDERRATED calling instead! I hope they put me there 9 years from now when I’m released!” and everyone in the audience will nod their heads in approval.

So yeah–if you know what the underrated callings are, keep it to yourself.

Steve: Sunbeams. Snacks!  Barely relevant lessons!  Playtime!  Sunbeams represents the pinnacle of our Church experience.  2nd place underrated calling is probably Sunbeam Snack Coordinator.

Scott B: Dangit, Steve!

I’m a (not so) young single adult in an area where eligible prospects are few and far between. I’m currently dating a member of another faith who attends church with me and even shared a testimony last month. Should I settle?

Steve: Yes! Settle!  For heaven’s sake, settle!  Man, ALWAYS settle.  If people never settled, we’d be nowhere in this world.  If you love the dude/dudette and they otherwise are up to snuff, I say take it.

In the future, when many of us live on federation starships, if I get one of those really tasty-looking Costco food court mocha freezes from the replicator, is that against the spirit AND the law of the Word of Wisdom, or just the spirit? I mean, it’s a replicator right? So I’m just replication-sinning, not real-sinning. Also, in that same vein, what’s your take on holodeck sex? Is it like Vegas where what happens there stays there?

Steve: Replicated food is just as real as the original.  When Picard drinks Earl Grey, do you think that’s it’s not actually tea?  Some Adamsian Advanced Tea Substitute?  Nay, the Star Trek replicator makes the real thing. So your replicated raktajino is still against both spirit and law.  NICE TRY, Barkley (the most Mormon character in Star Trek).  As for holodeck sex, it’s no different from porn.  It’s just super-porn.  But I guarantee you that’s what the crew is doing in there. Never take a blacklight to examine the holodeck structure.  The results would horrify you.


Rejected Church Essay Topics, Ranked
As always, these rankings are authoritative.

  1. Corn Dodger and Pumpkin Beedles: Joseph Smith’s teachings on Foodstuffs
  2. Race In Heaven: Heber C. Kimball’s Prophecy of the Disembodied 100m Sprint
  3. “A Sweet Savor Unto the Lord”: What Counts As Actually Cooking vs. Just Warming Things Up in the Church Kitchen
  4. Grad Students on Welfare
  5. Hot or Not: Ranking the Ancient Prophets
  6. Why Friends of Scouting Is Totally Not Priestcraft #Ponderize
  7. Secret, Not Sacred: KFC’s special herbs and spices, Dr. Pepper’s 13 flavors, and Bruce R. McConkie’s Soda Fountain Suicide
  8. #ldsconf: How the 1st Presidency & Quorum of the 12 Agreed on a Hashtag
  9. What the heck does Defending the Family mean, anyway?
  10. BCC Permabloggers, Ranked

Honorable mentions:

  • In the Same Room, but Not the Same Bed: A Field Guide to Missionary Companions
  • Salem Wasn’t So Bad: How to Spot a Witch in Your Ward
  • Moon Men: A Summary of Pronouncements by Church Leaders on Extraterrestrial Beings
  • Kobol’s Last Gleaming: 17 #MormonMoments from Battlestar Galactica You Probably Missed
  • Defend Your Neighbor’s Family as You Would Have Your Neighbor’s Family Defend Your Family: A New Approach to the (G)old Rule
  • Podium Hijinks: When General Authorities Go Off-Script in Conference


  1. If you could hie to Kobol in the twinkling of an FTL jump…

  2. Your Mom Goes to College says:

    Dat holodeck tho…

  3. “What’s wrong with just singing it from memory?” Foreign-language mission totally screwed with my memory of English hymns, that’s what.

  4. Clark Goble says:

    Reminds me of when I was at BYU some friends and I figured out where the wiring for the speakers for the national anthem was. We made an induction device to take over and play Twist and Shout in place of the anthem. Just before we did it they all got encased in steel pipes. Someone must have squealed.

  5. How do we know we aren’t on a holodeck right now?

  6. Mark: people would be more sexually interested in you.

  7. Why is the national anthem played at sporting events? Maybe patriotism, like a vampire, has no vitality of its own and has to feed off people’s *real* loyalties.

    As for sinning on a starship, remember that even a holographic bullet can kill.

  8. Would it be acceptable for me to shadow the Friends of Scouting guy and ask for a matching donation for the Friends of, er, Activity Dayers? (Seriously, is there a more nondescript name than “activity days”? “Mom, what did you do when you were little?” “I went to activities. On days.”

  9. Clark Goble says:

    To be fair it’s not like scouts spend much time scouting locations or looking for enemy locations.

  10. Clark Goble says:
  11. They play the anthem at night. They move the time around so you can’t time it.

  12. Clark Goble says:

    They used to do it at 4:30 nearly exactly back in the day. There was a tape deck in a building (forget the details – it’s been 25 years now but I think it was the political science building) and then the speakers were on the ESC. I’m sure it’s different now. Despite living only a mile away I rarely make it up to campus anymore. Plus half the buildings, like the ESC, have been gutted and don’t have nearly the same character anymore.

    An other tale that turns out to be true is the grad student who chloroformed a cat and put it on the keyboard for the bell tower so it woke up at night playing the bells. Took them a while but they eventually found out who it was.

  13. We had a high councilor who was also an army chaplain. He once told us about how he’d visit with soldiers on deployments and they’d have dirty pictures hanging in their quarters. He explained that in addition to confessing everything he’d seen that week to his wife when they spoke on the phone (ew!), he had found a particular hymn that always drove impure thoughts from his mind. I have never prayed so fervently as I did during that talk, asking that he not tell us which one it was, therefore ruining it for the rest of my life.

  14. Left Field says:

    When I was at BYU 35 years ago, during the anthem, no matter where they were, people would stop and face in the direction of the flag in front of the ASB. Not me. I actually followed the US Flag Code, which states that you face the flag only if it is visible. Otherwise you face the music. I got dirty looks sometimes when I turned my back to the ASB, and faced the ESC. But the heck with them. Follow the Flag Code, you commies!

  15. In the future, General Conference talks will include warnings about the addictive nature of

    As for the national anthem, this is yet another reason I’m glad I went to USU.

  16. Left Field says:

    “17 #MormonMoments from Battlestar Galactica You Probably Missed”

    #12 will astound you!
    And lds.org will set up the essay to require 45 mouse clicks, 17 showing photographs of the MormonMoments, 17 revealing a one-sentence text explaining the previous photograph, and the remaining 11 misdirecting you to ads for CTR rings, white shirts, framed copies of the proclamation, and leather-bound scriptures.

  17. The hymn book thing is a sore spot with me. Over the years I have held many music callings. Ward music chairman, choir director, sacrament meeting chorister in four different wards. Let’s just say I’ve learned a few hymns. Yet every Sunday at some point as I sing from memory a different ward member will come over and forcibly put a hymn book into my hands. EVERY SINGLE WEEK. It’s a game I play now. How long until someone comes over and puts a hymn book in my hands. (I get more out of the hymns when I sing from memory because it makes me think about the words.) Honestly, I think we are a little too hung up on conformity. That’s the only reason I can think of for why this keeps happening.

    And FWIW I loved my Sunbeam calling.

  18. Thanks, Steve, that clears up any misconceptions I may have had about dating success in the afterlife. And by “more interested”, I assume you meant “interested at all”.

    I remember the anthem playing on campus at 5:00 every weekday and halting foot traffic. The loudspeakers would crackle a little when turned on and people would scurry to get inside a building before the first notes. It was okay to walk around inside, just not outside, so I’d use long hallways as part of my route home.

  19. BB,

    Ward members seriously get up from their seat, walk over to you and shove a hymn book in your hands while giving you a glare for not conforming to their vision of everyone having a hymn book?

    Or did they just notice that you have no hymn book in your vicinity and noticing that they have enough to go around they offer you one of their extras?

  20. John Mansfield says:

    “Seriously, is there a more nondescript name than ‘activity days’?”

    My wife was Primary president when Activity Days was rolled out under its original name, Achievement Days. She learned what was supposed to happen, from the stake Primary president I suppose, and then met with the branch president to explain it to him.
    “It sounds like a good idea, Sister Mansfield, but “Achievement Days”?
    “It’s not my idea, and I didn’t come up with the name.”

  21. I’m going to sound like a jerk here, but I have a bit of an issue when it comes to the National Anthem and church (yes, I know we are talking about BYU and not sacrament meeting, but I think to some degree it still applies) … I actually don’t think patriotism belongs in Church settings, no less the hymn book. I know how unpopular this opinion is, but my national patriotism takes a FAR back seat to my spiritual patriotism. let me explain it it terms of a hierarchy. My loyalties go in this order:

    1. God//Christ/Spirit
    2. Faith/Doctrine
    3. Family
    4. The Church/Church Policy
    5. My country
    6. My employer
    7. My friends
    8. Cultural norms

    Any time any of those come in conflict with one another (aka “cognitive dissonance”), I choose a path that favors the higher loyalty. For instance, if I have a family member that behaves toward me or compels me in a direction contrary to my spiritual conscience, then I will either (as politely as possible) express my inability to follow the family member in this regard or withdraw from the situation altogether. In short, I strive to FELL more loyal to my God than anything lower on the scale. Likewise, if I find myself in a worship setting, it seems (to me anyway) against my conscience to sing a National Anthem when I should be singing a hymn of praise to my Heavenly Father.

    It has, in recent years, progressed to the point that my patriotism is so far down the scale that I often catching myself thinking that I cannot be a very good patriot at all, because I am (hopefully) first a Christian — and everything else takes a back seat.

    But I suppose I will receive correction and flames for having stated this. So … bring it on. :)

  22. Bryan S,
    Yes, seriously they do. No glaring looks. They do it very nicely. Lots of hymn books in the vicinity. Hymn books in the bench slot in front of me. I’m singing along with no difficulty and the person beside me will take their hymn book and put it in my hands. Then I explain that I know the hymn and put the book down. Then in Relief Society the whole thing happens again. And yes, I have seen people cross the RS room to put a book in my hands. And don’t even get me started on manuals or hand-outs! ;D

  23. MeeHoo,

    Your persecution complex is a little misplaced here. The majority BCC authors and readers are likely to agree with you.

  24. BB,

    How strange. In the wards I’ve been in most people don’t even make a pretense at singing.

  25. MeeHoo,
    I had a friend from France who was the music director in his French ward who told me he got into an argument with his bishop because my friend refused to let the ward sing “La Marseillaise” on Bastille Day because the song is way too gory for church. I think he had a point!

  26. John Mansfield says:

    MeeHoo’s hierarchy of exclusive loyalties is interesting to contemplate, particularly involving family, friends, and cultural norms. No acknowledging the existence of friends while in the presence of family. No observing cultural norms while in the presence of friends or family. Trying to serve two masters by wearing culturally appropriate clothes and speaking to a friend while a relative is in the room would be disordered.

  27. No one in France likes to sing La Marseillaise.

  28. Didn’t President Hinckley share his opinion that the order of loyalties/priorities should be the following?

    1. Family
    2. Employer
    3. Church

    Anyone else remembering that?

  29. Sidebottom says:

    I prefer the “same bed, different room” arrangement

  30. John Mansfield says:

    I remember that talk on the use of our time. Not loyalty priorities as I recall it. I don’t think he was telling us keep church hymns out of our homes.

  31. John Mansfield says:

    “The Church needs your strength. It needs your love and loyalty and devotion. It needs a little more of your time and energy.

    “I am not asking anyone to give more at the expense of his or her employer. We have an obligation to be men and women of absolute honesty and integrity in the service of those who employ us.

    “I am not asking anyone to do so at the expense of your families. The Lord will hold you responsible for your children.”

    OK, President Hinckley did bring up loyalty.

  32. yeah, that’s right — prioritizing use of time.

  33. I’ve always opened the hymnal so I know what note to sing at what moment, even if I’ve memorized the words. But apparently I’m alone in that.

  34. The original hymnals were tiny and had no music at all, just words. They would also switch up the words to different hymns with different melodies, as long as they had the same time signature. For instance we know that “Now Let Us Rejoice” was sung at the very first Relief Society meeting but we don’t know what melody they sung because we don’t know what melody they chose on that particular day.

  35. Can a person be baptized by someone holding the proper authority on a holodeck? The authority would be real, but the water would be holographic. Can simulated water wash away real sins?

  36. Talon: The scriptures require water. Sorry.

  37. Everything is subject to change. The scriptures require wine for the sacrament but that changed, so the acceptability of holographic water for baptism could be also be made kosher by some future space prophet.

  38. Holodeck sexual ethics really get to the heart of what is objectionable. If it’s risking pregnancy, then obviously the holodeck’s not a sin. If it’s being intimate outside of a relationship, putting the other person at risk for emotional harm, also not a sin. It’s really only a sin if masturbation is a degrading act due to a purity violation. Otherwise, not a sin. Different religions would view it differently.

  39. Left Field says:

    I don’t usually have people just hand me a hymnal. But I have quite often had a random person next to me insist on sharing a book. Doesn’t matter if there are plenty of hymnals for everyone to have their own. Doesn’t matter if I obviously know the song. Some people still want me to use one hand to suspend half their hymnal out in space at the most uncomfortable location possible. If I suspect this is going to happen, I can try to head it off by ensuring that I have my own hymnal, even if I don’t actually need it. Even then, I’ve had people grab *my* hymnal from its comfortable location near my lap, lift it up to eye level, and do the sharing thing. Why would I want to hold one arm out in front of me for the duration of “I Know that my Redeemer Lives”? If we *need* to share, I’d much rather hold the whole book myself where it’s comfortable for me, and where we can both read it. What would be so wrong with that?

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