Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I am officially tired of the claim that the toes of the figure in Daniel 2:31-33

This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.

refers to the countries of Europe. You know, if my religion allowed me to wager, i’d place serious money on there being texts from the late pre-Xian era saying that the toes of iron mixed with miry clay referred to the Greek states or the Macedonian empire or somesuch.

Just give up on saying that the symbology of Daniel proves that the second coming is day after tomorrow, okay? It’s gotten old.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

In (dis)praise of simplistic arguments

I’ve heard it lots of times in church meetings, you’ve heard it lots of times:

Joseph Smith was a true prophet—and if Joseph Smith was a prophet, then The Church is true.

You know, that’s absolutely right! If Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the Community of Christ is…Wait, no, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—you know, the Strangite group—is…Well, um, then maybe the Church of Christ with the Elijah Message? The Church of Christ (Temple Lot)? The Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times? The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? Zion’s Order? The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days? The Restoration Church of Jesus Christ?

Wait a minute—what was the question?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

In honor of Xmas

Family from overseas coming in semi-unexpectedly and spending a vacation in your house takes up time, you know? I guess it’s something you need to be better prepared for when you live this close to Disney World, but really, it’s time-consuming—and, of course, a few corners end up being cut. For me, one of the cuttable corners is this blog.

But, as penance for being out of contact for so long, a twofer mostly-serious Xmas special!

First: I make it a point to write Christmas as Xmas in most cases. I have two reasons for this. The first is that it annoys a certain sort of people i feel need to be annoyed. (Similar to the reason i don’t capitalize the word i, actually.) The second is that the sort of people who get annoyed by Xmas don’t get that the X stands for both Christ himself (the Greek letter Χ—a.k.a. chi—is the first letter of the Greek word from which we get the English word Christ, and it looks a lot like a Roman-alphabet X) as well as the cross that was a crucial part of his atonement for us.

Second: Some people think it’s way important what color Jesus’s skin was. (Some people have even formed whole churches based on what they think his skin color was!) The truth is, though, that we don’t know the vaguest bit about what he looked like, except maybe that he was probably bipedal—they didn’t have cameras back then, and we don’t have any surviving paintings of him from that time. However, most people from that part of the world have what’s generally called “olive” skin—kind of an in-between skin color. My uncle (a non-practicing Roman Catholic) once offered what I think is a deep insight about this—he said he thinks Jesus had in-between olive skin because that way if it’s important to you that Jesus had light-colored skin, well, that’s kind of light, and if you believe it’s important that Jesus had dark-colored skin, well, it’s kind of dark, too. The most important thing, really, though, is that Jesus lived. The skin color is just accidental.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tips for speakers

Here’s a tip for when you’re reading scriptures up in front of everybody and you don’t want all the linguists in the congregation to snicker:

The word shew sounds the same as show, not shoe.

Really, the ignorance of Early Modern English irregular verb forms in the church is shocking, just shocking.

Next lesson, bade and forbade.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Follow(ing) the prophet, part 2

Another thought (as promised) on one of my least favorite Primary songs: “Follow the Prophet”.

Part of the problem is that some of the coolest prophets are left out. Take, for example, the prophet described in Judges ch. 4—no mention at all in the song. Therefore, to rectify this situation, i provide the following (which works best, by the way, if the name in the first line is done with two syllables, and the name in the second line is done with three syllables):

Deborah was a prophet,
Israel she judged.
Led Barak to battle
When he wouldn’t budge.

Then they fought with Canaan,
Scared the king away.
And when it all was over
The women saved the day.

She was a great prophet—can’t imagine why we don’t sing about her. Can’t imagine at all—can you?

Verse copyright ©2008 David Bowie. May be copied for home, church, or other incidental noncommercial use. All other rights reserved. And yes, that really is my name—now you know why i just go by David B on the net.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I’m a man of wealth and taste

So i’m back after a week spent pretty much flat sick. Fever without chills for part of it—one of the weirder symptoms i’ve ever experienced. But i recovered enough to go to church today, and one particular conversation left me with a burning question:

Am i the only member of the church who isn’t convinced that rock music is proof that civilization is about to collapse?

Specifically, part of the conversation included the evils of the Rolling Stones song “Sympathy for the Devil”. Now, leaving aside the weirdness that is using a song from 1968 to indict popular culture in 2008, have any of the people who so intensely believe that this song was an attempt to get people to worship Satan instead of God actually read the lyrics?

No, sorry, silly of me to ask. Of course not. If they had, they’d’ve realized that the song really doesn’t present Satan in a very positive light—but why bother to actually figure out what a song’s saying when you already know what it means, right?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Follow(ing) the prophet, part 1

Not sure if it’s actually my least favorite, but among my least favorite Primary songs we have in the church is “Follow the Prophet”. (You really should follow the link to get an idea of how insipid it is. Listen to the audio, even—yeah, it’s that bad in real life, too.) I mean, not only does it sound awful, it’s a problematic message (if only because it assumes that everyone will automatically think of prophets the same way, which is wrong). Really bad is the chorus, which is nothing if not mindnumbing on many different levels (for maximum effect, imagine a huge choir of small children tunelessly shouting this in unison):

Follow the Prophet,
Follow the Prophet,
Follow the Prophet,
Don’t go astray!

Follow the Prophet,
Follow the Prophet,
Follow the Prophet.
He knows the way!

Therefore, i am eternally (and i really do mean that!) grateful to Raymond Bingham for providing an alternative chorus (and one that actually works well if you imagine a crowd of shouting kids):

Follow the Prophet,
Follow the Prophet,
Follow the Prophet,
Don’t burn in Hell!

Follow the Prophet,
Follow the Prophet,
Follow the Prophet,
He knows da*n well!

Makes the song almost listenable, i tell you.

(There are other issues i have with the song, too. Stay tuned.)

* Raymond had darn in his original version, other words have been used since then. Use your imagination.

Post-Thanksgiving grumble

So the younger of my sisters (Heather of Camian Academy) has “tagged” me. This means, she says, that i’m supposed to post the rules on my blog (you can follow the link to Heather’s blog, the rules are there), write six random things about myself, and tag six or so people to keep the chain going.

So, therefore, here are six completely non-random things about me:

  • I don’t forward or participate in email (or similar) chains.
  • I don’t forward or participate in email (or similar) chains.
  • I don’t forward or participate in email (or similar) chains.
  • I don’t forward or participate in email (or similar) chains.
  • I don’t forward or participate in email (or similar) chains.
  • I don’t forward or participate in email (or similar) chains.

But Heather already knew this, i think.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The testimony glove

So my oldest comes home this past week from achievement days, wearing a single white glove. After the inevitable Michael Jackson flashback moment, i saw that each of the five fingers [insert pointless argument over whether the thumb counts as a finger here] had a small picture pasted onto it: Jesus (the Del Parson version), the Salt Lake temple, a rendition of the first vision, Thomas S. Monson, and Joseph Smith.

This seemed odd to me, so i asked what it was. The answer? It’s a “testimony glove”.

Yes, folks, we’re now coming up with cheat sheets for things that are supposed to come from the heart. Go figure.

To be honest, it wouldn’t bother me except for the reasoning behind it: that these five things are

The Essential Parts of a Testimony

Some go even further—for example, saying that

teach[ing] children to express thanks for parents, brothers and sisters, for teachers and for home, is commendable, but it is not a testimony unless it is expressed within the five essential elements.

In fact, while poking around i even found what looks suspiciously to me like a testimony glove-driven script:

A Pure Testimony Is…
  1. I know that God is our Father in Heaven and He loves us.
  2. I know that Jesus Christ is His Son, our Savior and Redeemer.
  3. I know Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, and he was the instrument through which the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth. He translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.
  4. I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s church on the earth today.
  5. I know this Church is led by a living prophet who receives revelation.

Yeah, that’s just what we need—make testimony meetings even less interesting, with everybody getting up and saying the exact same stuff.

Funny, but here i always thought the angel was pretty straightforward in telling John that

the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Apparently, though, that’s just all nineteen hundred years ago—we’ve moved beyond that point now.

Makes me want to pray for us to be saved from cutesiness, you know?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Political humor (plus a scorecard)

Something i ran across yesterday on one of the Washington Post’s politics chats with only slight Mormon content, but still worthwhile (presented here slightly altered from the original):

There has to be a joke: A white grandma, a Mormon, a Jew, and a cool black daddy walk into a bar…

Like the person who offered this said, whatever you might think about it, and whether it’s the result you wanted or not, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel, and Barack Obama are a most interesting change from your standard US government of the last few…well, centuries.

And, while on the subject, i still find it more than amusing that the most powerful Mormon in the US legislature is a Democrat. And for those keeping score, the US Congress is about to go (counting American Samoa’s territorial representative) from 16 Mormons (75.0% Republican) to 14 (71.4% Republican), but that’s still a higher rate of representation than our share of the US population would predict, so i figure we’ll take it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Well, it took me longer than expected to dig out from under everything that piled up during my business trip, but i’m now properly back—and so, in honor of all the housework my family did earlier today, i offer a reworked version of a well-known Primary song:*

Saturday is a special day,
It’s the day we get ready for Sunday.
We brush our teeth and we comb our hair
So we won’t have to do it ’til Monday!

Thank, i’ll be here all week. Remember to tip your server.

* With credit given to Janelle Simmons, who i first learned this version from.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My latest pet peeve

I cycle through pet peeves, but my newest is a revival of an old one. It’s the frequently-offered—often over the pulpit!—advice that

If something bothers you enough to ask whether you should do it, then you shouldn’t do it.

If people keep offering this particular bit of stupid, stupid advice, i might just have to start asking myself whether i ought to go to church the next Sunday—i mean, according to their own logic…

Administrivia, by way of coda: I’ll be traveling (for professional reasons) next week, so the odds of getting new snark up on the blog are fairly small. Don’t worry—more will be on the way after next weekend.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


So i just got back from my ward’s Halloween party. Since i went there shortly after voting* (we’re amidst early voting here in Florida) i went dressed as myself so that I could tell people i was the scariest of all possible things at a Mormon Halloween party: A Democratic voter.

*For the record, i have never voted a straight party ticket in my life. Ever. And i hope to never have the need to do so.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quick hit

And I bear witness that…A bear witness is an ursine missionary, right?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Making up words

What’s up with people in sacrament meetings saying that we should (like Jesus) be shepherds of the flock, and not merely sheepherders? I’ve heard this multiple times now, and it’s starting to bug me.

You know what the difference really is between a shepherd and a sheepherder? One herds sheep, and the other is called by a word that 20th-century Xians made up to try to bring tortured non-existent distinctions into discussions of scriptural texts.

Yes, in my day job i’m a linguist. Not only does this sort of thing bug me at a personal level, it’s also a professional thing.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another sacrament question

So it’s received wisdom that the sacrament is a weekly renewal of the baptismal covenant. But where in the world did this idea come from? I mean, the sacramental covenants (as given in the prayers themselves) and the baptismal covenant (at least the hint of it that we get in Mosiah ch. 8—it’s always vaguely annoyed me that the actual content of the baptismal covenant is never laid out at all directly) are pretty similar, but why can’t they be separate? Seems to be it cheapens both of them to pretend that they’re the same thing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Apologies, and the sacrament

First of all, administrivia by way of apology: Sorry about the lack of posts lately. Having to work ten or twelve hours a day to meet deadlines and getting nastily sick at the same time—well, let’s just say Real Life™ can be most unfun at times.

But enough of that—let’s get to today’s topic: The sacrament.

Why in the world do we call it the sacrament? Nearly other religion that uses the word sacrament, they mean what we mean when we say ordinance. In some other languages—i can vouch for German, at least, where Abendmahl is used for the eucharistic ordinance, in common with loads of other churches—we’ve avoided this confusing usage, so why do we feel the need to retain it in English? Seems bizarre for a missionary-oriented church.

Of course, the Community of Christ—the former Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—calls theirs the Lord’s supper, in common with a lot of other Xian churches. Maybe it’s an easy way to prove we’re not like them (whether them is the Community of Christ or mainstream Xianity in general)?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fast Sunday prohibitions

Some years ago, I was part of an argument on a USENET* discussion forum about Fast Sundays. The main point of contention was whether it was permissible to have sex on fast Sundays (assuming that everything else was in order—you know, married couple and all that).

It was a frustrating** discussion, since there were actually decent points made by both sides—you’re supposed to deny the body on fast Sundays, but it’s a day to do good and build relationships with others (including, presumably, your spouse)—but i felt like both sides really ignored the obvious most basic solution to any of the can-i-or-can’t-i discussions Mormons are so fond of: The only one who can tell you for sure is God, through the ministration of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, both sides claimed to have spiritual backing for their positions.** But this brings up something that Mormons are culturally very bad about—we’re a religion based on the idea that everyone is entitled (entitled!) to revelation from God, but we seem to be unable to deal with the possibility that God may inspire somebody else to do something different than what we ourselves are inspired to do. I mean, why do we have this idea that if God has told me to do something a particular way, then God will automatically tell you to do the exact same thing? Where in the world does that come from? You mean that God doesn’t know each of us well enough to be able to lead each of us down that particular path that will help each of us individually?

(Of course, there’s also the fact that we Mormons seem to be really bad as a culture with the possibility that maybe God doesn’t actually, you know, care whether we do things like have sex on fast Sundays or not—but that’s grist for some future post.)

*Y’all don’t know what USENET is? Kids these days! Well, it was like a BBS system that…What’s a BBS system? What? Stop asking these stupid questions! Go learn about your roots! And get the h*** off my lawn!
**No puns intended.
***No, not a dirty word—I meant “get the h”. You thought otherwise? Get your minds out of the gutter!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

General Conference review

So looking back on General Conference, i have to say that there were a number of moments that were worth keeping stored in my brain (chief among them for me: David A. Bednar giving the most complete and yet most succinct definition of the mysteries of God that i’ve ever heard), but there was really only one thing that sums up the memory of watching the entire ten hours of general sessions:

Dang, but we’re a buncha white folks!

I mean, there weren’t even enough visible minorities* in the choir for the camera people to perform their gratuitous zoom-in-on-the-one-person-of-color-in-the-crowd shots we’d all gotten so used to in previous conferences.**

*Many thanks to Statistics Canada for providing me with a most useful, though not uncontroversial, term.
**Not that i lament its passing. I mean, it got to be almost embarrassing, the way it looked like a desperate attempt to say “No, really—we are diverse! See?”

Friday, October 3, 2008

General Conference rumors

Every year, of course, as General Conference approaches there are rumors flying around about what major policy changes or new doctrine will be unveiled. I’ve been out of the Conference rumor loop somewhat since we moved to Florida, but I was glad to come across a document with the expected changes commencing tomorrow:

Priesthood Session:

  • Report on the Adam-Ondi-Ahman conference held this summer.
  • Request for members to immediately begin living off their food storage until told otherwise. Any food purchased within the past three weeks should be discarded.

Welfare Session:

  • Plan to merge U.S. Health and Human Services department with Church Welfare System formally announced. The resulting Department of Self-Sufficiency will be headed by an Area Presidency, which will have a seat on the President’s cabinet. Vacant urban areas will be converted into canneries and welfare farms. This is a pilot project expected to be rolled out world-wide within 2 to 5 years.

General Session (Morning):

  • Announcement of the Compact Meeting Schedule, shifting the requirement for Sunday School from the ward to the home. The two-hour block will consist of Sacrament Meeting, followed by a 50 minute Relief Society, Melchizedech Priesthood, Young Women’s, Aaronic Priesthood/​Young Men’s, Primary and a Nursery. Those currently working in Nursery callings will be given time to rise to their feet for a shout of Hosanna! at the completion of the announcement (please wait for the signal).

General Session (Afternoon):

  • A description of the new three year cycle of manuals for Relief Society and Priesthood lessons will be given. These new manuals will be the last ones printed by the church, and will not be re-used once the cycle is complete. Members will be encouraged to contemplate the inner meaning of this announcement.

So that’s all I have heard. Nothing very exciting or unusual.

(With grateful attribution given to a friend of mine, Craig Olson, who’s way better at this sort of thing than i am.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A breathtaking idea

Given all the people who go all out of breath/creaky in testimony meetings, maybe the church should do like the National Football League and install oxygen masks on the sidelines.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Are Mormons evil?

Lots of people think Mormons are somehow inherently evil—and Mormons, for their part, have been running from such claims since before the church was even organized in 1830. However, it’s time to come clean on this—and so here, finally, is the truth about Mormons in the United States, in convenient field guide format:

  • Utah Mormons are evil and know it, but cover it up frantically.
  • California Mormons are evil but don’t know it.
  • Mormons in the rest of the US West are evil and know it, and would cover it up if only they knew how.
  • Mormons in the Midwest are evil and know it, and are constantly ashamed about it.
  • Mormons in the deep South are evil and know it mainly ’cause everyone else tells them they are, but they cover it up to the extent that they can to keep the neighbors quiet.
  • Mormons in the East are evil and know it and glory in it!

Hope this helps.

Yes, i’m an easterner. Why do you ask?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pointless Sundays

Later today in my ward we have what is either my least or second-least favorite day on the Mormon liturgical calendar: the Primary program.

I mean, what is the actual point of this annual exercise? From what i understand, Mormons are commanded to ”meet together oft” (that’s a scriptural text, making Mormons one of the very few religious groups required to attend church meetings by canon) so that we can instruct one another in the mysteries of God. Well, unless one of the mysteries of God is that small children mumble (or, occasionally, shout painfully loudly) when they deliver lines that grown-ups have written for them, then the Primary program isn’t really serving any discernible religious purpose I can see.

(And no, before anybody says it, it is not cute to watch my own or anybody else’s children mumble incoherently in front of a sacrament meeting crowd. If you think it is, then sorry, but you need a good taste transplant.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lesson manuals

My youngest sister recently wrote on her blog that she has now finished reading the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manuals. I thought i might as well reproduce my reply to her post here (edited slightly for context), since it seems to fit the general spirit of this blog, even though it’s a bit serious:

The Joseph Smith manual has been my wife’s and my least favorite of the series. We’re not entirely sure why (though it certainly seems that the editors seem to have chosen blander quotes than they needed to, maybe because of the cultural importance Mormons attach to anything Joseph Smith ever said). I think most of our botheredness about it, though, is the editorial insistence to try to shoehorn all the quotes into a chronological “life history of Joseph Smith” framework (even though the quotes aren’t chronological), rather than doing the pure topic-by-topic approach that has worked so well with the others. Maybe church history lessons should be left to church history classes, you know?

I wouldn’t mind seeing the Brigham Young manual redone with the pedagogical lessons learned since then (most particularly, that there’s no reason to be afraid of extended quotes—sometimes it felt like there was no single quote of more than two sentences in the entire Brigham Young manual).

And my favorite in the series so far? The Heber J. Grant manual, which surprised me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Washing cars

From the i’ve-heard-it-too-many-times-in-church-meetings file: I really don’t like the “nobody washes a rental car”/​“nobody paints a rented house” claim. After all, everybody who rents a car washes it, and everybody who rents a house paints it—the rental charge includes payment for those things. Actually, given the way some non-rented cars and houses I’ve seen lately look, a lot of renters are doing a better job at upkeep (or at least paying for the upkeep that gets done) than owners are.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The sound of silence

Today was testimony meeting, and we had a lot of silences—nothing in the minutes-long range, but several of those pauses that run just noticeable enough to make people in the congregation nervous.

Why do those silences make us nervous? I mean, is it really so wrong for us to enjoy hanging out in silent communion with the Spirit? Or are we afraid that if someone’s not up there talking we might actually start having to think through stuff for ourselves?

I’m thinking that most Mormons would simply explode if they went along with a friend to a Quaker “unprogrammed” (i.e., silent worship) service.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Reverence begins with…

You’ve heard it, too: “Reverence begins with me.”

No, it doesn’t—reverence begins with re. No wonder the kids can’t read these days!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Not an American church, eh?

So i found out that the good folks over at Worldmapper (an absolute nirvana for a demographics geek like me) have come up with a map of the world’s distribution of Mormons. The map follows, but you should look at the page it’s from to get all the background and such:

I plan to point to this map anytime somebody tries to say that we’re not an American church—really, we’re not that strong outside the Americas (with the minor exception of the Philippines), and the sooner we admit it, the sooner we can get to improving our preaching elsewhere.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Musings on the sacrament

You know, I’ve had some Sundays where I’ve felt up to (worthy of?) the sacramental covenant stated in the prayer for the bread, but not for the water. Not sure what to do about that one, since I’m still not certain whether the bread and water of the sacrament of the sacrament is/are two ordinances or one.

Sorry, a bit serious there. I’ll try to do better next day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Political neutrality

In honor of today’s primary elections here in Florida, a political thought.

The church has a statement on political neutrality on their website, which includes an interesting comment (and one that was read from a letter over the pulpit in sacrament meeting, at least here, a few weeks back):

Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.
This is pretty densely phrased, so i will provide here, as a free service, a translation into normal language:

Please, please, please stop sending us letters demanding that we excommunicate Harry Reid!
Hope that helps.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Not quite as amazing

Just a quick note to say that “I Stand All Amazed” was way cooler before the changes in the 1985 hymnal eliminated the tenor/bass antiphony.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wheat? What wheat?

Haven’t been able to post the past few days, what with living in Central Florida, and therefore having to deal with more consecutive days of a tropical storm than is really ever supposed to happen.

Being in Central Florida ties in to my thoughts for tonight, though, because as much as people like to say the church is the same everywhere, it really isn’t—the differences may be small, but they’re real.

Case in point: food storage. Everywhere we’ve lived before Florida, the word on what to store for long-term storage (i.e., the stuff past your three months’ worth under the current program) has been all wheat, all the time.

Here in Florida, we’ve heard little to nothing about wheat—any time anyone from around here talks about the core grain for food storage, it’s rice. (I think there’s also a local preference for black beans over white beans, but I’m not as certain about that.) In fact, those few times people bring up storing wheat, the general reaction seems to be along the lines of “Well, you could store wheat if you wanted to, but why?”

(Of course, since we’re not fans of food storage wheat, and our meals are way more likely to feature rice than wheat, it only seems right to us…)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stand up, all victims of oppression!

Could people please stop referring to Moroni’s title of liberty as a flag or a banner? Be straight about it—it was a revolutionary manifesto! A publicly displayed broadside, exhorting the people to rise up and destroy the establishment around them. (I mean, really, what was the message? Something like this: Xians of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains…)

Monday, August 18, 2008

A truth about parenting

Having small children means never, ever closing your eyes during prayers in sacrament meeting.

Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

Serious comment: I have never really understood what the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood actually is. (For those needing a reminder, it’s a half-dozen or so verses in Doctrine & Covenants sec. 84.) I understand the beginning (you do good) and the end (you inherit eternal life), but I don’t get the middle—how does getting from A to B work? And here’s what feels like everybody else in the church, blithely talking about the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood like what it’s talking about is a simple given—and so I feel like I’m missing some blatantly obvious thing. So what is it, then? (Not to mention that it talks about living up to “this” oath and covenant, while I can’t figure out where exactly the antecedent is.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A panoply of prophets

How is it that so many sacrament meeting speakers have only ever managed to run across people who are uninformed enough that their answer to questions like “Who else [but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] has a living prophet?” is “Nobody”? I mean, even leaving aside the other LDS Movement religions, there’s a whole world of faiths outside of the USA, some of which claim prophets, too.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Overshooting for Zion

Quick question: If the early Mormon settlers of Utah were willing to travel so far to get to Zion, why didn’t they stop there instead of passing it up on the way?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

How many church meetings can you have in one week?

Not wholly original with me, but I observe that, in the interest of honesty, we need a fourteenth article of faith: We believe in holding sacrament meetings, priesthood meetings, Relief Society meetings, missionary correlation meetings, welfare meetings, and in holding meetings for all imaginable purposes; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of the Correlation Committee—We believe in meetings, we hope for meetings, we have endured many meetings, and hope to be able to endure all meetings. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we will hold a meeting to discuss it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The pulpit as a folklore vector

Anytime I hear someone in a class (or especially in sacrament meeting!) preface something with “I heard a story, I don’t know how true it is”, I really start to worry…

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Death and the Mormon pioneers

Why did the Mormon pioneers go through such privations, people often ask? Why, so that later generations would be able to bore us all with endless repetitions of stories about the <5% of the groups that faced abnormal injury/mortality rates, that’s why!

Monday, August 4, 2008

On the power of the Spirit

I (probably) don’t mean this as flippantly as this sounds, but since when did God become powerless enough not to be able to cut through the noise and bustle of everyday life, and be limited to communicating with us only when we’re in some sort of quiet meditative state? (After all, this pervasive-within-Mormonism idea just could’t have any useful side effects, like allowing us to dismiss charismatic/Pentecostal/evangelical-type spiritual experiences out of hand, so it’s not like we get any rhetorical mileage out of the idea, right? Right.)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Are Mormons Xian?

Why do Mormons want so intensely to be perceived as Xian? Given the state of modern American Xianity, I’d think we’d want people to perceive us as non-Xian.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Congregational singing

What is it with some wards and commas in congregational singing? The most egregious are at the beginning of the fourth verse of “Behold the Great Redeemer Die” (where you get “Father [gratuitous eighth rest] from me remove this cup”) and the middle of the chorus of “The Spirit of God” (“Hosanna [gratuitous eighth—I’ve even been in wards where it was a quarter—rest] hosanna to God and the Lamb”).

My guess? It’s the legacy of overzealous choristers/organists who have internalized the rule of thumb that commas are places to pause and take a breath, and somehow can’t realize that it’s more important to not break the flow of the music. Score one for those faiths that have a tradition of professionally (or at least semi-professionally) training their musicians, I suppose.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yet another Mormon blogger?

Yeah, i know, there’s way too many Mormon-oriented blogs out there already. I hope I can make this one different enough, particularly by starting out with one guiding principle:

We Mormons do a lot of things that can be made fun of. In fact, we do a lot of things that should be made fun of.
Therefore, i intend to make fun of them. Every few days, i’ll post an observation, many collected from years of being evil and passing notes about the weirdnesses that occasionally go on in sacrament meetings and various Sunday classes.

Really, none of what i’ll be posting here is going to be very serious (hence “snark” as part of the blog’s name). My hope is that you’ll see a little bit of yourself and your ward in these postings, and that you’ll smile—and if the old joke about God’s people being a peculiar people in the most modern sense of the world rings true, well, that’s fine. After all, if we can’t see the humor in ourselves, why should we expect anyone else to enjoy our company?