Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to make sin boring

Heard in a sacrament meeting address:

  • We don’t have to break all the commandments to know that we should follow them.

This leads to idle speculation on my part: How long would it take to break all the commandments, anyway?* Sounds like a full-time job to me.

* Yeah, yeah, i know that James says that to break one commandment is to break them all. You know what i mean, though.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Children have no free will!

I’ve heard it claimed—over the pulpit, and multiple times—that the future church activity of a family’s children is the direct result of whether the family had family home evening when their kids were children and teenagers. I find this amusing, since family home evening was actually pretty rare in my growing up,* but all of my parent’s children married in the temple and are currently active in the church, achievements that can’t be claimed by a number of other people i know who held family home evening every week. This leads to three semi-unrelated thoughts:

  1. Claims about correct practice based solely on anecdotal evidence are, if not completely stupid, only a half step removed from complete stupidity.
  2. Wouldn’t the vital importance of family home evening make it impossible for converts to the church to remain active?
  3. Why do we find it so hard to admit that children have free will no matter what their parents taught them?

* I’m not an eagle scout, either—in fact, i completely dropped out of boy scouting when I was thirteen. Oh, the wickedness!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Anybody wanna parse this for me?

Heard in sacrament meeting, from a teenager who’d just participated in one of those horrible, horrible “Trek”* things:

    And i really gained a testimony of my ancestors.

That was it—it didn’t tie in to anything that went before (despite the “and”), it was a complete sentence, and there was no further explanation. It just makes me wonder what in the world “testimony” means to Mormons nowadays, anyway.

* And i promise a really good rant about the idiocy of those one day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Can we just stop handing out magnetic things to put on my refrigerator to remind me about some gospel principle or another? I mean, not only is it like i have room for them on there anyway, i’ve never even gotten one that’s made with a decent-enough quality magnet to hold up a single sheet of paper!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Presiding in the family

The leadership of a stake i used to live in was really into the idea that the head of household (well, really, they talked about the father of the family, but they clearly meant the head of household) was responsible for calling the family together for things like family prayers and family home evening, and that that responsibility couldn’t be either delegated to or taken on by anyone else in the family.

Upon thinking about it, though, the whole idea of the family having to wait to do a good thing until a particular person says to do it strikes me as, at best, dangerous. (I mean, there are some heads of household who aren’t into the whole religious life thing, or a head of household might be distracted one particular evening. And anyway, why not let everyone help out?)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Things to be thankful for

A not-uncommon item heard in testimony meetings: “I’m thankful for my wonderful husband…”

I just always want to mentally finish it with “…but not for my no-good, two-timing, non-wonderful husband!”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Disney fathers: Not diminished

Another thought on this sacrament meeting meme that the role of the father in the family has been diminishing in recent years:

If this is going on in society as a whole, could someone explain to me how the role of the father in Bambi was completely natural for its time, and the role of the father in the Lion King was completely natural for its time, and yet fathers have less of a role nowadays?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why serve?

Back a few years ago, President Hinckley announced a new policy to rein in the excesses of missionary farewells—basically, trimming them down to maybe a short address by the one who’s leaving. A response from some people (including some i know personally) ran along the lines of “But how will we get them to want to serve a mission, then?” Kinda sad, if you think someone’s willing to spend 18 or 24 months of their life doing missionary service in exchange for 35 minutes of fame in their home ward.

(Even sadder, if there were actually a few who were themselves willing to make that exchange.)

Friday, September 11, 2009


So a few days ago i was saying to Jeanne that it semi-bothers me that the church has added “virtue”* to the Young Women’s theme, since study after study has found that girls that are faced with intense pressure to not have sex (most visibly in the form of things like purity pledges, virginity rings, and—creepiest of all—father-daughter chastity balls) actually end up starting sexual activity earlier and engaging in riskier sexual behavior than those who aren’t faced with such pressures.

Then yesterday i got pointed to the Spanish Fork 401st Ward** and saw that a recent post there dealt with this exact same issue.

Also—and this is kind of a different issue, but still—wasn’t the Young Women’s theme long enough to be boring-sounding already?*** Did we really need to add more syllables?

* At least they didn’t decide to call it “purity”, which is just icky, or “moral purity”, which is just a stupid circumlocution. Why they didn’t go with something still-roundabout but more straightforward like “chastity”, though, i’m not sure.

** Subtitled “Just south of liberal-leaning Provo”, which made me, as someone who served time in Provo and Salem (just south of Spanish Fork), laugh out loud for longer than the people around me were comfortable with.

*** And “divine nature” as a value? I mean, what’s up with that? It doesn’t even make sense.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I wonder if bishops and branch presidents are ever tempted, after particularly, um, content-filled opening prayers, to stand up and say “And now that the sermon has been given, we’ll close the meeting with a prayer by…”

Monday, September 7, 2009

’Nother thought on Jonah

One thing i really like about the Jonah story: Jonah delivers his prophecy, and the Ninevites proceed to repent—and the King joins in, saying something like “If we repent, then God might turn away his anger.” That’s a lot different than the way you usually hear it glossed, saying “Let’s repent so that God won’t punish us”—and, i would argue, it isn’t just a more correct way of going about it, it takes a lot more faith.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Good translations

Time to give credit where it’s due.

The mainstream Xians who do the Veggie Tales videos got the content of Jonah’s prophecy to the Ninevites beautifully right (in my opinion) when they glossed it:

    Stop it!

(Probably a reminder we all need now and again, now that i think about it.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Yeah, i’m a social stats geek—so?

Thanks to Dave Sundwall at A Soft Answer, who turned me on a few weeks ago* to the Pew Center’s study of sociopolitical views held by Mormons in the US. It took me a while to get through it properly, but it was worth it. There’s some interesting stuff in there, but unfortunately a lot of what people seem to be taking away from it a simple comparison of percentages, concluding that all it says is that Mormons are all hyperconservative (but with an intriguingly nuanced view of abortion). This isn’t what the report says, though.

Well, that is, it does say that Mormons are generally more sociopolitically conservative than the US population overall. It’s the details that make that the wrong conclusion to draw.

First of all, there are some interesting regional differences. Unfortunately, the study didn’t appear to separate people out by where they grew up, but rather only by where they live. Given that lots of wards and branches across the US are populated by Mormons who grew up in the jello belt, i suspect that the findings mask what i believe is a truth about Mormonism and sociopolitical leanings: It isn’t that Mormons are generally conservative, it’s that Mormons generally hold sociopolitical views that more or less match the population they grew up with—but most US Mormons are from sociopolitically conservative parts of the country, and that skews the overall results. The Pew Center’s results give us no way of actually determining whether my expectation is true, but it hints that it may be more true than false.

Another interesting finding: Converts really are different than lifelong Mormons. This may be a regional effect, as well, of course—there are likely to be more lifelong Mormons from areas that have a large number of Mormons. I really wish the Pew Center had reported the results of multivariate (and nonlinear!) regression analyses—i know they have the ability to do so, given the people they have on staff, so why they don’t release that sort of thing i don’t know.

One really interesting thing is the age difference—younger Mormons are more likely to have religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices that are associated with higher degrees of religious devoutness. I don’t know if this stems from younger Mormons being actually more devout in general or younger non-devout nominal Mormons being more likely to self-identify as non-Mormon (and therefore not part of this survey)—it’d be interesting to know.

And finally, the last thing i’d like to point out is that a clear majority of Mormons polled state that there is one true way to interpret Mormon teachings. To be honest, this amused me—i mean, i suspect that what people were saying was one of two things: either “i know how to interpret Mormon teachings, and i’m right” (yeah, and every Mormon who disagrees with you on stuff like caffeinated beverages feels the same way), or “our prophet has the correct interpretation” (which is more interesting, since the respondent wouldn’t necessarily know what the one true interpretation might be).

Yeah, it may well be true that there is one correct interpretation of Mormon teachings—i suspect there is, though i don’t know that i’d give a firm “yes” in answer to that question, maybe a “if you mean does God know, then yes; if you mean does any mortal know all truth, then no”, but I doubt that would fit on the form—but i still haven’t seen a comprehensive Mormon catechism,** you know?

* If you follow this link, ignore the comments—somehow, it devolved instantly into namecalling and ax-grinding over immigration issues.

** I own a copy of the most recent Roman Catholic catechism. It’s a fascinating reference work, really—i’m kind of jealous. Yeah, we’ve got the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, but it’s just not the same.