On Fulfillment and Staying at Home

Before marrying me, my wife was a well-known interior and furniture designer in Finland. She is a SAHM, but to stay current in the field, she enters design competitions and does pro bono work from time to time.

I’m a school teacher who recently started 9 weeks of summer holiday. We decided it would be better for her and the family if she were to do her design work ‘full time’ for the summer when we aren’t traveling. She leaves at 8 and returns at 5, roughly the schedule I follow during the school year. She does a lot of visits to exhibitions, architects and manufacturers, plus my school gave permission for her to use my empty classroom as an office space. And I take care of our two year old boys. [Read more…]

Local church news

My Ensign comes from the UK, and my favorite part is the eight page insert, ‘News of the Church / British Isles.’ This month’s starts with an article by Elder Patrick R. Kearon, (Second Counsellor in the Europe West Area Presidency, from Clevedon, England) entitled, ‘Midsummer’s Day — Out of Darkness and into His Marvelous Light.’ OK, it’s a Mormonish metaphor, but a metaphor about Midsummer, not baseball or beet farming.

The articles that follow are like a small town newspaper: ‘Long-Term Blood Donor Receives Award,’ ‘Girls Praised for Saving Man’s Life,’ ‘Musical Sisters,’ ‘Relief Society Sisters Help Children in Kenya.’ The articles tend to focus on service projects, with great pictures of RS presidents handing over giant cheques and youth groups making quilts. [Read more…]


David Salisbury (1836-1918), my great-great-great-grandfather, joined the church in England, crossed the plains and settled in Nephi, where he had 12 children. He wrote an autobiography, so we know a lot about him.

We also have eight letters he wrote to his son Jacob (my g-g-grandfather) between 1916 and 1918. They are not casual letters; they are in the style of Benjamin or Alma, letters of an aged father to a son. Apparently David thought Jacob and his family were straying from the gospel. [Read more…]

Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt

Last week, Reverend Jerry Falwell, founder of Moral Majority and religious-right pundit, passed away. I’m sure he will be missed by his community. Tributes poured in from the expected sources.

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Neighbors and stumblingblocks

Over at T&S, Rosalynde Welch responded to a provocative (and obnoxious) assertion I made that we need not care what the neighbors think with a discussion of Romans 14:13-15. (Sorry for keeping this going, but I found I had a lot to say about it and didn’t want to pack on a massive response.) [Read more…]

The reality of the appearance of evil

Thessalonians 5:22: ‘Abstain from all appearance of evil.’

This was used, in my youth, to explain why you should not, among other things, drink ginger ale in a bar, go to drive-in movies with a girl even if you are completely virtuous, go into a liquor store to buy candy or pretend a Tootsie Roll is a cigar. Maybe some of you could add to this list. The idea was, you shouldn’t even LOOK like you’re sinning, even if you’re behavior is innocent. [Read more…]

8 observations from a morning at the temple

Helsinki, Finland. Saturday, 12 May, 2007. [Read more…]

What about Madsen?

Last week, I was chatting with the institute teacher, and he handed me a 500-page book called Five Classics by Truman G. Madsen, and said it would increase my testimony tenfold. (My wife thinks I should be offended.) I’ve never read Madsen before, and I was curious. I’ve gotten through the first ‘classic,’ ‘Eternal Man,’ and skimmed some of the other chapters. [Read more…]

Working with teenagers

When I teach Catcher in the Rye, students spend a period writing a short guide for adults who deal with teens: teachers, parents, coaches etc. I’ve been doing this for about five years, and I’m usually surprised by the depth of the response, this year especially. [Read more…]

Happy May Day

While many of you in the USA will be nursing PBS hangovers, we are celebrating Vappu, or Finnish May Day. [Read more…]

A Male of Tears: Spiritual Gifts

Tears have not always come easily to me. I remember being at my grandfather’s funeral when I was 14, feeling miserable and wishing I could cry but not being able to summon tears. It had little to do with feeling too manly: my testosterone-overload of a football coach cried before and after every game, while my incredibly sensitive and caring father has cried only once in my presence. In my late 20s, a clutch of tragedies befell people I knew well, and I found I had acquired the ability. And now I can’t stop. [Read more…]

So what does this faith of yours do for you?

My friend Lloyd is 78 years old. He is English but has lived in the Baltic region since the early 60s, a widower since 1992. He is a complicated man with some major moral flaws, but I adore him, and he is a part of our family. We have lunch together regularly, he often comes to our home in the evening, and when I have time I join his oldtimers’ cafe newspaper reading group. [Read more…]

Considering the Lilies

I was looking for someone’s name in one of my old journals and starting skimming; I came across this entry:

Feb. 7 1997

Last night was stake priesthood. A farce. First talk starts with ten virgins and prodigal son and uses them to say we should be careful with our resources. Is that what Christ meant? Hmm. Then talked about 401Ks and mortgages and whatnot. Very practical I guess. Next was the importance of appearances. White shirts! Get your haircut! No references to scripture. Then came how Christlike attributes will make you more successful in your career, and some advice on career planning for boys. Apparently Monson doesn’t care for basket weaving [1]. Last was an appeal for more fast offerings. No problem, but not spiritual. I can’t believe I dragged [named some YM] there. Like a bad joke by Mencken [2], or from a Sinclair Lewis novel. These are not my people [3]. Weren’t we supposed to consider the lilies?

[1] I think this obscure statement was responding to an anecdote about President Monson, but I don’t recall.
[2] H.L. Mencken: ‘Perhaps the most revolting character that the United States ever produced was the Christian businessman.’
[3] This is a phrase that runs throughout my journals when talking about the church. It’s from a Joe South song.

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Culture and my family

M. Norbert Kilmer was a kid from an obscure corner of Los Angeles County. He now lives with his wife and two boys in Helsinki, Finland, where he teaches high school English and hangs around looking cool. He will be guest blogging for the next couple of weeks.

I left the United States in August 2001 because of a serious case of restlessness. I was 31 and single; I had just finished my MA and thrived as a high school English and Media Studies teacher … but the restlessness haunted me. I considered several options, all of which left me with a stupor of thought. Then I heard about international schools and off I went to Finland, never having been here before. After two happy years I married a Finnish Mormon and we moved to London, planning to globe hop until our feet itched no more. The birth of twins and the ensuing chaos cured us, and when I was offered a job back here, it smelled like a blessing. And, dear reader, so it has been. [Read more…]