2011: The Year of the Mormon

What a wild year it’s been. Never has Mormonism been so culturally relevant, and never has the undulating curve of popular opinion shifted so wildly, so quickly. As the year draws to a close, I think we’re safe in naming 2011 “The Year of the Mormon.” The BCC permas have picked out a few reasons why:

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Out of respect for them


The Provo Daily Herald reports “Authorities break ground for new LDS temple in Payson”:

Following his remarks and the closing exercises, Oaks invited the four general authorities in attendance to shovel a scoop of dirt from the shallow trench, followed by the 26 stake presidents in the Payson Utah Temple District, then local government officials, and lastly, any 12-year-old ordained deacons.

Oaks noted that he purposefully excluded women from the ceremonial shoveling out of respect for them because of the muddy conditions in front of the podium. He didn’t want their shoes to get soiled.

No comment.

Depressing Discoveries About My Libertarianism, Part 2

In my previous post, I confessed that I am probably not as charitable as I try to say I am, and then insinuated that you probably aren’t, either.[1] The second Depressing Discovery about my libertarianism is that I feel, politically speaking, very lonely at church. Whenever I meet other libertarians, I tend to sense that they aren’t my political kin, and I am not theirs, because the truth is, I find much of the LDS Liberty rhetoric to be kinda crazy and borderline dangerous.[2]

Although I know the text of the Book of Mormon certainly omits scads of details that would give much needed context, given his “join me or die” approach to peace, I don’t understand how a libertarian can see Captain Moroni as a political hero.

Sure, I prefer private education…but I don’t think that support for public education causes a man to lose his priesthood or grieve the heavens.[3]

(I strongly encourage you to follow that link–read the post and comments and just bask in the Cocoa Puffs. You can’t make this stuff up.) [Read more…]

The Decline and Fall of Something or Other

I don’t know if it’s because of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, or because my part of the country just went through a freak earthquake and hurricane scare in the same week, or because I’ve been watching the market a bit too closely, but the idea of American decline has been on my mind recently.

An article in this week’s New Yorker says I’m not alone. “Decline, Fall, Rinse, Repeat,” by Adam Gopnik, is a jaunt through the long history of American “declinism” (new word?) and the popular literature of the declinist movement.

I haven’t yet read the books Gopnik examines except Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, but the article grabbed my attention by speaking to some current cultural memes:

  1. Is America going down?
  2. Is the Western World as a whole in decline?
  3. Is such a decline inevitable or can we slow/stop it?
  4. Why are we so obsessed with envisioning our own downfall?

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Reader Question Box #3: “lds bishop ‘no more than two nights per week'”

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions that show up in our website traffic monitoring statistics as Google search terms that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. #1 here, #2 here.

Question: “lds bishop ‘no more than two nights per week'”
Answer: Dear reader, No, being an LDS Bishop definitely takes more time than two nights per week. Typically, bishops will attend the weekly youth activity (Wednesday nights), then there are youth “firesides” (a kind of evening devotional, sometimes held at the church building and sometimes held in someone’s home) on many Sunday nights. Then there are the endless pastoral duties of meeting with individuals, couples and families in his office (couple nights a week) or visiting their homes. Just about the only night a Bishop is likely to have for his family (barring emergencies) is Monday night, which, by LDS tradition, everybody in the church reserves as “Family Home Evening” (brief scripture study/devotional, then board games and the like, then dessert). The church has perennial concern about the amount of time bishops, who are lay ministers with regular day jobs, spend in their service. Bishop’s wives, especially if they have young children, carry an enormous burden due to the frequent absence of their husbands (and of course children miss their dad). See BCC posts here and here.

Question: “is dry humping against law of chastity”
Answer: I’ll let our readers handle this one. [Read more…]

Reader Question Box #2: “do mormons consummate their marriage in the temple”

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions that show up in our website traffic monitoring statistics. These are actual Google search terms that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. (Series introduction)

This is temple misinformation edition!

Question: “do mormons consummate their marriage in the temple”
Answer: No. Heck no. However, sometimes, as a result of nothing more than the hopeless naivete of some among us, we have been known to report a wedding being performed/officiated in the temple as having been “consummated” in the temple. Yes, we can in fact be that cluelessly naive.
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Mormons are Taking Over the Internet!

The Washington Post has an interesting article about the church’s success with search-engine optimization, PR, and “controlling its image” online. There’s plenty of hyperbole in the article (have we really “infused SEO into [our] culture?” C’mon), some sloppy sourcing (of course a Protestant digital strategist says Mormons are taking over the web), and a misuse of the word “bloggernacle.”

But there were also some nuggets we can learn from, and plenty we should be discussing.

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Church-Hacker #12: Freedom of Speeches

This week’s church-hack comes to us from Connie Chung:

When my old singles ward started letting speakers choose their own topic, the quality of talks went up. Sacrament meetings became an opportunity for ward members to speak about something they felt strongly about and could knowledgeably share.

When people couldn’t think of what to speak on, the executive secretary offered a topic or asked “What do you like about being a Mormon?” to get the juices flowing.

It’s also great because with the knowledge that you will inevitably be speaking, you can start working on a talk whenever inspiration strikes.

I can see this working in my ward, with only a couple exceptions (I’m one of them). How about in your ward? And what topic have you been waiting your whole life to give a talk about in Sacrament Meeting?
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A Chieko Okazaki Sharing Time Lesson


This was originally posted one year ago. It is being re-posted in honor of Sister Okazaki, who passed away this week.

Continuing with the theme of how awesome I am at my callings, I thought I would share one of the more successful Sharing Time lessons I’ve done in my current calling in the Primary presidency.

The theme for Sharing Time was “Family members have important responsibilities” (last year’s program). I was to do a week on mommies’ responsibilities, a week on daddies’ responsibilities, and a week on kids’ responsibilities to the family. Sis. Okazaki gave a great talk about the Japanese word kigatsuku, which means being aware of one’s surroundings and doing good without being asked, which fits perfectly with kids’ responsibilities in the family.
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Chieko Okazaki (1926 – 2011)

Chieko Okazaki

Chieko Okazaki

What is the appropriate way to mourn the passing of an individual with such limitless optimism and cheer as Chieko Okazaki? How can our hearts not ache and rend at the loss of someone whose life deeply influenced so many? And yet, can a memorial full of anguish appropriately honor the one with the sunny spunk to tell us to Lighten Up?
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Call to the Brain Trust: New ‘Mormon Moment’ as Jimmer enshrined in Lil Wayne lyric

Forget running for president or having a show on Broadway–Mormonism’s next big moment is here: BYU athlete Jimmer Fredette has been featured in Lil Wayne’s newest song in the following lyric:

“I got a chopper in the trimmer, shootin’ like Jimmer.”

This website helpfully translates:

Lil Wayne is describing his “chopper” — which is a gun for those that aren’t fluent in hip-hop — by saying it shoots like Jimmer

I think we should do our part to foster more positive press and public awareness of Mormons by encouraging more Mormon-theme lyrics to be included in popular songs. Jimmer has the advantage of being easy to rhyme, but I think we could come up with many other helpful 1- or 2-line suggestions for vocal artists to adopt.
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Our Week in the Media: Small Stuff and Big Stuff

Talk about overexposure: Newsweek and BusinessWeek in the same week! Prevailing wisdom in media circles is that once the newsweeklies have picked up a trend, it has reached it apex—so I guess the church’s slide back into obscurity starts now. (Don’t worry, Russell!)

What’s striking to me has been the reaction to the different stories. From what I’ve seen in my own social circles on Facebook and elsewhere, we’re supposed to be mad at Newsweek and thrilled about the BusinessWeek article.

But that’s exactly backwards.

The reasons for the ire against Newsweek seem to revolve around the cover and a few snippets of text within the article. Let me briefly debunk two of the phrases I’ve noticed Mormons getting hung up on:

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The Seeker: KJ Bible finds new life in Mormon Church

Beginning in 1604, 54 scholars labored for seven years under the sponsorship of King James I to produce a new translation of the Bible. While the influence of that text over the past 400 years is unquestioned, what is the place of that venerable old version in the actual life of the church today? [Read more…]

What is Religious Persecution?

During the Reformation, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was chained together with the Bible in protestant churches. One of the tenets of Christianity has long been that believers are persecuted. Persecution somehow proves one is righteous.  Today some churches still use stories from the martyrs in sermons, and Christian media outlets run news updates about the persecution of Christians worldwide.

I think we can agree that we, as Mormons, sometimes display a persecution complex. Like sects that cling to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, we routinely use Our Heritage and stories from our history to illustrate times of persecution and the sacrifices made in behalf of our faith. I don’t think this is a bad thing, it is our history. One of the things it does for good and bad, is tie us together in the common cause of defending our faith against persecutors. But some members of the Church are always on the defense, with arrows aimed for any slight against Mormonism, firing often when no shot was fired at them.

The Book of Mormon Musical has been heralded by some as good publicity for us (which I believe in the end it will be); while in contrast, seen by others as a gross misrepresentation of our faith as a whole. Is making fun of us okay if it’s good for us in the end?  Does it set a bad precedent in a cultural landscape where religious tolerance is supposed to be the rule? Is mockery an expression of intolerance, and is intolerance synonymous with persecution? When should we ignore, or even laugh along at ourselves, and when should we take a stand?

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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…]