Thanks were given: The Sneaky Genius of Thomas Spencer Monson and Kung Fu Panda

My very first post at By Common Consent was a half-serious, half-satiric analysis of a talk by President Monson (newly appointed). In it I posited that there is a method to the madness of President Monson’s talks, that the seemingly random stories and aphorisms are carefully chosen for the mood that they convey, rather than for their content. I stand by that analysis; but I have also personally regressed from it. To be honest, I have had a hard time being inspired by President Monson, because he has often seemed out-of-touch to me.

Take the most recent Conference. President Eyring begins the Sunday Morning session with a call for faith in troubled times. Elder Packer calls for moral clarity and repentance in troubling times. Excellent talks follow regarding following the Spirit and working the Gospel into your daily walk. Elder Oaks tries to describe the differences between ecclesiastical and personal revelation. And, after a lot of doctrine and controversy to chew on, President Monson asks us to remember our pleases and thank yous. I, personally, deflated a bit when his topic became clear, thinking “what? This again?” This is because I am a spiritual midget, of course, but also because I didn’t know what to listen for. [Read more…]

Subversion at General Conference

It has been a month and I have yet to see the most controversial talk at General Conference discussed. I suppose it falls to me. [Read more…]

Missing It

A brief list of things that I missed because I was on a mission from 1994-1996:

* Steve Young (and the 49ers) winning the Superbowl.

* The Atlanta Braves winning the World Series (this has made me indifferent to baseball, when I used to be passionate about the Braves)

* The University of Florida football team becoming National Champions under Steve Spurrier (note: these were my three favorite sports franchises at the time of my mission)

* The Arrival of Jim Carrey (I missed the first Ace Ventura movie, Dumb and Dumber, and the Mask)

* The Death of Grunge Music (I heard Nevermind, Ten, a couple more singles and that’s about it)

* The entire O.J. Simpson trial (I heard about the day he was chased and the day he was acquitted, nothing else)

* Laserblast *snif*

For a while, when I got home I felt a real need to catch up on pop culture. I watched Apollo 13 and Forrest Gump in one sitting. But some holes got filled in whether I investigated them or not. I now know who Judge Ito and Kato Kaelin are. However, when I’ve watched the early Jim Carrey stuff, it’s never caught on. Maybe you had to see it with friends in a theater for it to make an indelible impression.

So, what did you miss? Do you feel the lack? How did you catch up?

Tuesday Morning Lived Mormonism Poll: The Blame Game

Consider yourself and your fellow church members. When something is wrong in our local society (define it however you choose), who do we tend to blame for the problem?

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The Big Three

I don’t think that I like the notion of “Sunday School Answers.” Which isn’t to say that I don’t like prayer, scripture, and church attendance (the clear winner of last week’s poll), but rather I worry that the too frequent repetition of that triptych turns it into vain recitation, rather than a sincere attempt to seek and know the word of God. [Read more…]

Tuesday Morning Lived Mormonism Poll: Anti-Christ du jour poll

In keeping with the current Negative Nellie atmosphere amongst the Bloggernaclites, I give you the following poll. Who is your ward’s preferred scriptural Anti-Christ (note: neither Glenn Beck nor Barack Obama is an option).

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Monday Late Night Lived Mormonism Poll: Third Answer Edition

We are all familiar with the “Sunday School” answers. They are prayer, reading the scriptures, and…

It seems to me that we all have the same first two answers, but that there is some variation on the third. So, what do you think is the third Sunday School answer? I’ve come up with some possibilities, but feel free to chose and post a different answer in the comments. Or feel free to object to my saying that the first two are always the same. You’d be wrong, of course, but I can live with that.

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Movies, Mormonism, and Meaning

I’m going to start this off with a couple of Nike commercials that I watch on Youtube when I am trying to motivate myself. No endorsement of Nike (or YouTube) is implied. [Read more…]

Monday Night Lived Mormonism Poll: R-rated Movie Spirituality Edition

If yes, can you provide specific examples? If no, what specifically leads you to believe that this is the case?

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Talking with God: A Review

Robert Millet’s recent book Talking with God: Divine Conversations that Transform Daily Life is about the practice of prayer. He is encouraging sincere daily prayer because he believes that it is key to increasing the spirituality, faith, and charity of the saints.

Bro. Millet is proselytizing for “dialogic revelation” in prayer. As Terryl Givens has pointed out, Mormons have a long tradition of approaching prayer as a kind of conversation with God. Prayer, understood in this manner, is not just a matter of reporting our thanks for the day’s good events and requesting comfort, forgiveness, and blessings to make up for the day’s lacks. [Read more…]

A Public Service Announcement, by me

Just a quick note for all of you folks out there jumping on the anti-secularism bandwagon (you know who you are). Calling atheism or secularism a religion renders religion meaningless. You might as well sincerely call football, accountancy, or being involved with a political party religion. It’s a useless, tired attempt at a metaphor and, ultimately, it doesn’t mean anything. So, just don’t. Thanks in advance.

Repentance, Insurance, and What I think is wrong with President Obama’s approach to the BP Oil Spill

I tend to think that, as a church, we don’t understand repentance very well. We have the 5 Rs down, but we still have the wrong attitude regarding it. It is viewed too often as distasteful or as unfortunate, instead of taking on the role that I think it has in the scriptures and in the Gospel. That role being the engine of the Atonement in our lives; the primary means for our becoming like the Father. I think that the reasons that we see repentance primarily in a negative light are, first, that we are ashamed of our sins (and we should be) and, second, we just don’t think repentance is powerful enough. My purpose today is to argue that the second of these reasons is based on unrealistic and unscriptural ideas about what repentance can do.

The comparison between insurance and repentance is a problematic one, but I’m going to make it anyway. [Read more…]

Doubt as a Hobby

I was recently reminded of a blog where I used to participate. While there, I wrote this, which I think is pretty good (except for the ending, which I’ve changed).

On a whole, I think that Latter-day Saints fail to appreciate the power of doubt. It may be natural; we are a movement that demands faith and demands acts that indicate our possession thereof. At the same time, we say that it is good to have questions. We seem to approach doubt as a hobby; something that we keep working on in the basement level of our mind; something which we always work on when something more important isn’t pressing; something that fundamentally only the individual is interested in and which, therefore, ought not to be widely shared; something that can always be set aside and returned to after an appropriate interval. There is much talk in and out of the church about compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance, both of which seem to accept the hobby form of doubt as the only legitimate form. People often push us to bring the doubts up from the basement; saying that there is nothing wrong with doing it. However, there is a persistent sense that, in so doing, one will become a freak, a stamp-collector or D&D player, unfit for normal company and consigned to only finding like-minded, acne-faced peers at symposia and conventions. The public airing of our hobbies risks real public consequences. [Read more…]

Lust, Pornography, and the LDS approach to Sexuality

Sex is complicated. Why we engage in it is a matter of emotion, psychology, hormones, genetics, pop culture, high culture, low culture, spirituality, love, lust, and destiny (or not). I tend to be skeptical that there is one true approach to it, but I can think of several unhealthy approaches (heck, I embody at least a couple). In our church, where belief in something like celestial sex is common (even though it is of murky doctrinal origin), I tend to think it is even more complicated. The traditional Christian approach of general disapproval of sex is more consistent, as is the modern amoral outlook. It’s appropriate (even necessary) for us to argue for and to seek a position between those two, but church members tend to adopt aspects of those approaches instead of figuring out our own path. Generally speaking, we tend to approach sexuality as if it is the most important thing on earth and, therefore, we should know as little about it as possible.

Over conference, there were two talks that focused on issues of sexual immorality in particular. Elder Holland’s Saturday afternoon address and President Monson’s Saturday evening address both referenced pornography and both offered advice regarding controlling lust (along with subsidiary issues). What I write today is going to draw on both talks, but my purpose is to get one point across that neither addressed directly. As I’ve said before, I think our discourse on sexuality is drowning in useless euphemism and misdirected effort. So, I’m going to be blunt and explain what neither of these great men were explicitly stated (although it is implied in both talks): Orgasm is not the end of your creation. [Read more…]

Zombies and evil: An Easter Post

This Easter morning, I was riding a train to Salt Lake, snow-covered mountains, bathed in sunlight while their tops are erased by the cloud cover. It was a beautiful scene, reminiscent of the fickle nature of spring along the Wasatch. This visual combination of the light and the dark, the warm and the cold, winter and summer, and the living and the dead seemed especially appropriate for Easter. And, because I am who I am, so did contemplation of zombies. [Read more…]

The Magic Words

A couple of weeks ago, I encountered something I never expected during the Sacrament: politesse. [Read more…]

The Emperor Ming Bitter Awards [A Winner is Declared!]

Now that it has been confirmed that I will not be receiving a Niblet this year, it’s time to shift from the official BCC stance of indifference to my personal position of outright hatred. I hate you all. With the power of 1000 suns my rage burns within! I will crush you all, by means of blogpoll. [Read more…]

The Black Hole

This post will likely make you uncomfortable. I know that I am going to be uncomfortable writing it. [Read more…]

Everything that is wrong with LDS Gospel Teaching, Part Three: Organics are better for you

This is the third in a series of three posts. In the first post, I mostly whine about Sunday School and Gospel Teaching. In the second post, I’ll get more specific about what I think the problem is. In this post, I actually propose a possible solution.

Ok. So now I’ve blathered on for two long posts about how horrible everything is and why it is so horrible. “That’s great, Whiny McWhinikins!” you should be saying, “Where are these solutions you promised us?”

Um…pay no attention to the man behind the curtain… [Read more…]

Everything that is wrong with LDS Gospel Teaching, Part 2: Bigger, Faster, Weaker

This is the second in a series of three posts. In the first post, I mostly whine about Sunday School and Gospel Teaching. In this post, I’ll get more specific about what I think the problem is. In the final post, I will actually propose a possible solution.

Here is where I shift from whining to crazy talk. [Read more…]

Everything that is wrong with LDS Gospel Teaching, Part One: Everybody hates Sunday School

This is the first in a series of three posts. It was going to be one long post, but then I hit 1,000 words and realized I was only about a third of the way through it. I’ll put the other two parts up tomorrow and Thursday. In this post, I mostly whine about Sunday School and Gospel Teaching. In the second post, I’ll get more specific about what I think the problem is. In the final post, I will actually propose a possible solution.

Two caveats: First, I realize that I’m just some schmoe and I’m really in no position to lecture anybody on teaching. Please recognize that is a rant, not a list of demands. Second, I also realize that this isn’t my church; it is God’s church and he is gonna do what he wants to do. But a guy can dream, right? (that God wants to do what I want to do; not that it could someday be my church)

In order to participate in Sunday School, do you need to read your scriptures in preparation? [Read more…]

Book Review: Women of the Old Testament

The Old Testament is a fairly intimidating source of scripture as it was produced thousands of years ago by a culture that is greatly foreign to our own. The strangeness of the Old Testament text and cultural milieu is likely particularly potent for women who approach the text. Among the few things that we can say with confidence regarding the culture of Ancient Israel is that it was misogynistic. Therefore, Camille Fronk Olsen’s recent book Women of the Old Testament is best considered as a good introductory text to help teachers, particularly those interested in applying scripture to women’s lives, tackle this very difficult work.
[Read more…]

Tuesday Night Theological Poll: Mormon Monism*?

Post your reasons below.
*Monism is the belief that everything in the universe is made up of one substance.

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Sympathy for the devilish

The day after Thanksgiving, I was walking around a track, listening to an episode of This American Life. It was broadcast a couple of weeks ago and one of the stories considered a “haunted house” put on by a Texas church called “Hellhouse.” The house features real-life horrors, including abortion, suicide, and, in possibly its most famous set, a version of the Columbine massacre. [Read more…]

Longshots – Lance Allred’s polygamous roots and my family’s narratives

Longshot-book coverI don’t much care for basketball. I’m horrible at it myself and I’ve never really lost myself in the game watching others play it. I can respect what Michael Jordan accomplished, but it doesn’t interest me all that much. That said, I was moved by Lance Allred’s description of the early morning practices he would have with his coach in high school in his memoir, Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf, Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA.

Those mornings were the purest form of basketball I ever knew. Just me, [coach Kerry] Rupp, and a ball. No money, no boosters, no politics. It was the pure love and innocence of the game, when it was still a game for me. We both worked and sweated, our shoes squeaking and echoing out the gym and down the empty hallways. I’d pay to have those moments again, those moments of hard work and sacrifice when I knew not what to expect as far as what my future held, with no sense of entitlement, no reward or motive in sight other than just the pure love of the game. I had no idea if I was ever going to be good enough to play college ball. We were challengers of the unknown.

I wasn’t playing for the future on those mornings with Rupp; I was playing for the moment, for the present. I wanted to be good at something; I wanted to excel at something.

While I have never been a particularly dedicated athlete, Allred’s drive to excel, to find the limits of his physical ability and push himself beyond them, is inspiring, in spite of the likelihood that it is, at least partially motivated by his obsessive-compulsive disorder. The drive to be good can be, I think, found in all people: the polygamists amongst whom Allred was raised, the athletes with whom he competes in amateur, semi-pro, and professional basketball, and his own family, struggling to define themselves within and without the Apostolic United Brethren, the fundamentalist Mormon sect of Allred’s youth. [Read more…]

Acquiring Spiritual Guidance

Elder Scott’s recent General Conference address, To Acquire Spiritual Guidance, begins on a somewhat ironic note. After noting that in times past if one sought guidance they would turn to mentors or advisors, the current technological information overload means turning to others for advice can be a very risky proposition. Rather than bemoaning the death of trust, we should welcome the excuse to turn our eyes upward for inspiration. Elder Scott seems to be saying that human interlocutors will always be inadequate and that we will be better served by seeking to commune with the Lord directly. [Read more…]

Overheard at UVU

I heard this in the hallway as I walked to class today.

“They’re not coming to church, but not for any legitimate reason. They’re just too lazy.”


Modern Martyrs?

This past week in Sunday School there was a discussion of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom and Doctrine and Covenants 135. My Sunday School teacher, whom I love and believe to have been sincerely sharing her thoughts on the martyrdom, went a little crazy. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but the line “Joseph Smith died for us” was uttered. [Read more…]

Halakhah and Aggadah

Advice comes in two forms: rules to live by and personal narratives. [Read more…]

Two Great Commandments

We all know that the two great commandments are to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. I find the differences between the two refreshing and apt. [Read more…]