I am a recent convert to “Mormonism” myself. Not too many years ago you could find me vigorously arguing on Mormon-themed blogs about the importance of avoiding the word “Mormon” as a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the time, it felt like a concession to detractors of our faith to self-identify by the nickname they derisively gave to us in the nineteenth century. Ironically, however, it was precisely our nineteenth-century ancestors in the faith who had made peace with the descriptor and good-naturedly co-opted it to describe themselves, leaving us with the lasting nickname. [Read more…]
We’re on summer holiday, but I dropped by the school to check on something. In my mailbox I found a gift from a student. It was the eighth bottle of wine I received this year. Clearly I have failed to make my status as a Mormon known to my students. It’s not their fault: the only clues to my Mormonism are a BYU diploma on the wall and what they perceive as an eccentric interest in herbal teas, neither of which signify any meaning to my international students.
I’m afraid this is not an isolated incident. A few years ago, I had a former student email me, a bit out of the blue. She had graduated about six years before, but I remembered her well. She had been a stage manager when I directed the school play, and we had a fair number of quite serious conversations. In this email, she explained that something had happened to her that she wanted to share with me. As you’ve already guessed, she had joined the LDS church, and she wanted to share her testimony with me. She wrote that the gospel would help me find the answers and (I remember the quotation very well) ‘leave my confusion behind.’ I sheepishly returned her email, explaining that I had been a member of the church when she knew me, although perhaps not very deeply involved with the church at that time.
So: please share your failures as a member missionary. Think of this as the anti-missionary moment.
I was thinking today about Alma’s little wish:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
We all know that Alma self-smacked himself down soon after writing this, but let’s say, for argument’s sake, that he (or, you) got this wish. Then what? [Read more…]
Early in my teens, my mother and her sister got the idea that they should take ship to England and pick up my aunt’s daughter who was serving a mission in Scotland. I got drafted as guardian, being a robust youth. Not really. I think Mom worried about my fate in the hands of my brothers and father in her absence. Wise woman. There are many tales of this trip and I won’t bore you with most of them, but I will offer you a few.
I guess I could say that I’d prefer someone else baptize her, but that wouldn’t be true. I want to baptize her, and she wants me to baptize her, too. She’s been part of our family pretty much since she came to visit. No one else really knows her, except some of the old women. Still, all we have done is give her a ride to church every week and talk a little bit. Why did she agree to be baptized? I didn’t think she’d taken me seriously when I told her that I wanted to baptize her as soon as she believes that I won’t let her drown. No, there’s no one else that should do this if I don’t. Maybe Bishop. No, me. I just don’t think that baptizing visitors who are leaving soon is a very good idea. In fact, I think it’s almost uniformly a bad idea. I think it’s an even worse idea when that visitor is 82 years old. And when her knees don’t bend. [Read more…]
Yesterday I attended a meeting at which Gary Lawrence spoke about the research he conducted which forms the foundation of his book, How Americans View Mormonism. His firm contacted 1,000 randomly selected Americans and asked 55 questions. The answers given by the respondents clearly demonstrate that we are doing a poor job of communicating.
Behold my bi-monthly, post-mission ritual: I’d be strolling across the BYU campus, minding my own business, when suddenly I’d bump into a returned missionary from my mission who’d returned home after I did. I myself had only been back for 6 months, but this was long enough for me to view each RM as a potential gold mine of information and updates about my old areas. So I’d make the predictable inquiries … about my baptisms, my investigators, my favorite ward members, my mission companions. Interesting tidbits of information were few and far between, but the potential was always there, so I never stopped asking. Occasionally I’d get some morsel of gossip, but nothing to write home about. Until one fine afternoon – as I interrogated a recently returned elder about each of my junior companions – I participated in the following bombshell exchange:
RM: “Dude, did you hear about what happened to Elder Sorenson?”
Me: “No, I didn’t. What happened to him? He was my comp, you know.”
RM: “Yeah, he got sent home a few months ago. Something to do with homosexuality.” [Read more…]
Armand Mauss has recently written on the costs of membership in the Mormon Church for European Mormons. They are high. Read any of Wilfried’s old T&S posts and you will have this view confirmed. I would like to note another way in which European Mormons shoulder a heavier burden than do their American co-religionists generally: missionary service.
My insight is largely anecdotal and Britain-specific. It may not elicit any sympathy (after all, Zion is a city of sacrifice). However, some realisation of the specific challenges of international Mormons is useful for an American audience, I hope. [Read more…]
I find it interesting that the new Broadway show THE BOOK OF MORMON throws a freshfaced missionary into Uganda, where the setting is supposed to show the ludicrousness of mormon faith and idealism when confronted with the hellish realities of man’s cruelties to man.
The reality is that Mormons are already in Uganda, and we’re doing just fine, thanks. [Read more…]
You can read the full paper here.
Grant Hardy, “The King James Bible and the Future of Missionary Work”—Synopsis
The King James Version of the Bible has a long and storied history, but the LDS Church is entering a period when the drawbacks of that 400 year old translation will become more and more apparent, for several reasons: [Read more…]
In this episode, Scott B. listens in while Aaron Brown tells a story from his mission that probably should have stayed in his mission.
Links for your convenience:
In my mission, they were called investifakers; I preferred inventigators, but the name is immaterial. At certain times, companions and I deemed it necessary to report that we were teaching an investigator who did not exist. I built up considerable talent in this creative endeavor, and now I would pass my experience and knowledge on to any who might find it useful.
Before I begin, I need to acknowledge those who gave me so much. Of my four companions who were ‘older’ than me, three described having created investigators. (My trainer, a steadfast fellow who went on to become AP, never mentioned having done so: he was merely willing to round any segment of an hour up to the full hour and was generously inclusive in the definition of street contacting [including playing chess in the park and video games in an open arcade]). Truly I stood on the shoulders of giants. [Read more…]
And now for something completely different!
In this episode, Scott B. interviews the Cyber Elders–a pair of missionaries who have been called to serve in an experimental mission devoted solely to online missionary work. And no, we are not making this up. [Read more…]
The second area I served in was Burlington, Vermont. Our mission was referred to as the New England Mission. It no longer exists. Huge by today’s standards, it has long since been broken up into many smaller missions. I was in Burlington during the winter months. Our apartment was the attic of a building very near to Lake Champlain. Down below was a rest home. The apartment had no provision for heating or cooling and that is the beginning of a number of fun stories, which I will not go into here.
This is part 2 in a series of posts about my post-mission trip back to my mission in Argentina. Part 1 is here.
The Bandar family loved me like a son. At least that’s how it seemed to me. And I really loved them back. A pleasant, unassuming married couple with two teenage girls, the Bandars were baptized 3 or 4 years before I served in their area, and they remained stalwart, committed members of the faith ever since. They were not high-profile members of their ward, and they didn’t serve in any notable callings. I never taught any missionary discussions to them. But they were beloved by many missionaries who’d known them, much more than most other member families in the ward. The obvious joy they derived from every waking moment spent with the elders was the reason why. Typical evenings at the Bandar house consisted of the four of them plus two of us, sitting around the dining room table, eating and drinking, chatting about everything under the sun into the wee hours. They often liked to break out the family atlas. They’d ask us where we’d lived, where we’d traveled, and my companion and I couldn’t seem to say anything that wasn’t treated by the family as absolutely fascinating. Our visits were long, but we were never made to feel we’d outworn our welcome. And in truth, we really hadn’t. We could have stayed all night with the Bandars, and they undoubtedly would have remained chipper as can be. As a missionary, it’s really hard not to love a family like the Bandars.
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?
This is the first in a multi-part series of posts on this topic. Sorry for the length.
Like most American elders in my mission, I promised countless investigators and churchmembers that one day I would return to Argentina to visit them. Unlike most American elders in my mission, I actually made good on that promise. Roughly 16 months after I returned home, I travelled back to Argentina with a friend who’d also served there — once-a-year BCC commenter John W — and together we embarked on a whirlwind tour of La Mision Bahia Blanca. Our trip was intended as part mission visit, part tourism, but once we arrived, we quickly jettisoned all touristic ambitions, and spent every day retracing our old stomping grounds, looking up every memorable person we’d ever had any meaningful interaction with. (We’d eventually hit 5 of my 7 areas, and 3 or 4 of John’s). It was quite the adventure…. in more ways than we ever anticipated.
Although I swore that this podcast would never see the light of day, public protests and private threats helped me change my mind. In this episode, Matsby and GST join me for a (short) discussion of the Church’s recent talks with Chinese officials.
You see, GST’s microphone didn’t work, so we had to get his commentary over instant message.
Links for your convenience:
This is the second in a series from BCC Guest Nicholas S., known to many of you as Latter-day Guy. Part 1 can be found here.
Iuste iudex ultionis, Donum fac remissionis Ante diem rationis.
The sun is bright for the graveside service, and most of us are melting. Beneath the layers of cotton and wool, my body attempts––unsuccessfully––to cool itself. Whatever heavenly engineer thought up the idea of perspiration must not have considered the effects of high-humidity. The discomfort is not entirely bad though. Like attending a Portuguese Mass with my Spanish-speaking ears, it has a certain blunting effect. I make brief eye-contact with some of the familiar faces around me; a few offer wan smiles. Several of us are surprised that the graves will not be dedicated, but the cemetery is owned by the parish. Their turf, their rules. A brother tells me in a near whisper that the dedication will happen later, very discreetly. The revelation is strangely (and inappropriately) amusing. There is something gothic and Van Helsing-esque about the thought of this genial, balding elder’s quorum member breaking into a graveyard to exercise his ninja priesthood in the dead of night, dispatching a zombie for good measure on the way to a home teaching appointment. Like sawdust on running water, the crowd moves away en masse, slowly separating into smaller and smaller companies. One of the more gregarious young women (her dad used to be our ward mission leader) greets me and Elder Latu, and we talk for a moment. All I can remember now is her confidence that God would mete out justice, and the hard set to her jaw and the gun-metal glint in her eye that this conviction gave her. She is probably right, but the thought is not comforting. Despite the heat, something inside feels cold.
The BCC Zeitcast returns from a short summer vacation! In this episode, Scott B. is joined by DKL and a random John for a discussion of too many topics to list, including Glenn Beck, Church block programs, thinking evil of your fellow saints, chocolate, and a fractured [BLEEP]. Download this episode here or subscribe to the BCC Zeitcast in iTunes. (And don’t forget to leave a rating/review in iTunes!)
Links for your convenience:
Recently a friend expressed some anxiety over the possibility that his daughters might serve missions for the LDS Church. He was concerned that such an experience might lead them to internalize too much of the intensely sexist rhetoric and behaviour that is observable among some LDS missionaries. The following day, while meandering on Temple Square, two sister missionaries intercepted me and began trying to obtain a referral. In that conversation I learned something so obvious that I am ashamed it had never occurred to me before, but which I think could influence the ‘missionary culture’ if it was universally adopted: Sister missionaries, in that mission, hold leadership positions. [Read more…]
At the recent FAIR conference in Utah, some interesting data were shared. Guess what? People don’t like us. No, let me rephrase that: people really don’t like us. According to the polling firm which gathered the data, LDS people have an unfavorable to favorable rating of 5 – 1. For every person who thinks well of us there are five who do not. To compare, notice that Jewish people have a favorable rating of 7 – 2 (seven likes for every two dislikes) and Catholics have a favorable rating of 2 – 1. Where are we going and how did we get in this handbasket?
BCC is thrilled to welcome Nicholas S., known throughout the records of the Bloggernacle as Latter-day Guy, as a new guest blogger.
Note: Among my many deficiencies as a missionary were my journal keeping habits. These habits were deficient mainly in that they did not exist. The events described are true to the best of my recollection, but there may well be some inaccuracies regarding certain details and timing. Also, names have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty.
Merear, Domine, portare manipulum fletus et doloris… 
Both too early and too late, the phone rings. It is after seven o’clock in the morning when Elder Latu picks up the receiver and mumbles a groggy hello.
“Yeah, let me get him, President.” [Read more…]
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…]
WARNING: This post is gross.
The Mormon Mission experience is a significant rite of passage for many LDS young men and women. But there is another important rite of passage within this rite of passage — at least for a signficant subset of LDS missionaries — that is less widely recognized. I refer, of course, to the various intestinal adventures experienced by elders and sisters who serve in the Third World. Many of us have stories about our adventures; not all of them warrant a retelling, to be sure. But some do. And I flatter myself in believing mine does, so here goes:
One of my callings in my ward is that of ward missionary. Among other responsibilities, this calling requires me to teach the investigator/new member Sunday school class once or twice a month. For as long as I have been in the ward–coming up on four years now–this course has been going through the Gospel Principles manual, front to back, and starting it over upon completion. The idea, of course, is that new members, recently activated members, and investigators should be given “milk before meat” (or “MBM” hereafter) and learn the basics of the gospel before moving into the standard Gospel Doctrine courses with the rest of the adults. After a couple of months of this, a couple of issues occurred to me.
First, I am sick to death of the Gospel Principles manual. [Read more…]
A local Jehova’s Witness has put me in his “finding pool.” Oh, I know he probably wouldn’t call it that. But the truth of the matter is unmistakable. Sporadic morning visits have evolved into regularized bi-monthly drop-bys, and I’m handed a bright new copy of the Watchtower and other assorted literature each time. This Witness is paired with a different “companion” on each visit. Sometimes he’s the “senior companion,” clearly showing his greenie the ropes. Occasionally, he’s the “junior companion”, accompanied by an obviously senior leader, who I imagine gives him pointers after our brief conversation ends and the door closes.
I suspect in this Witness’s mind I am a “golden contact”. I answer his questions semi-thoughtfully, and in a way I know is helpful to the flow of his sales pitch. The truth is, I can’t help but be nice to these guys. They remind me so much of a 19-year-old me. Yes, many of our theological assumptions and conclusions couldn’t be more different. But our door-knocking approaches are oddly similar, both in the leading questions asked, and in the slight awkwardness of bearing and conversation that inevitably characterizes our forced chatter. I find myself wondering, “Do they hate this as much as I did back in the day?” “Do they really think the questions they’re asking me are as religiously pivotal as their script would have me believe?” The whole experience is like a trip down memory lane, yet I must confess I’m kind of glad when it ends.
In keeping with our promise of more coverage of the upcoming World Cup, Ronan and I thought it would be fun to invite everyone to share stories from the mish about soccer.
My home town was small enough that our high school didn’t participate in all sports, with
soccer football being the most notable omission. However, when I was a junior in high school, plans announced to field a competitive high school team in a few years, and we started a community league and a club team to develop players. Although I wouldn’t be around to play on the official school team, I had always enjoyed playing soccer football and was eager to join the teams. Though I was certainly no Pelé, I had a decent enough kick and reasonable reflexes and found that I was fairly competent relative to my peers.
About a year after playing my last game in my community league, I was shivering from a chilly breeze in Savonlinna, Finland. I was a greenie missionary, and my companion and I had been invited by the young men from the branch (all 3 of them!) to come play
soccer football at the local pitch with some guys from their school. I stared around the field, wondering how on earth anyone could call this hard, grassless dirt a “ soccer football field” and immediately assumed, in true American fashion, that I was clearly going to be playing with novices who likely didn’t even understand the sport, and certainly wouldn’t be able to compete with me. [Read more…]