Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween costumes

So the church doesn’t have a ban on cross-gender costumes (i.e., male people dressing up as females, female people dressing up as males), but every ward i’ve been in during my adult life* has sent out the word that such costumes wouldn’t be allowed at church events.

Is this one of those weird cases where there isn’t a de jure rule on what’s allowable in the church, but there is (at least in most cases) a de facto rule? What is everyone else’s experience?

* Possibly leaving aside my current ward—we opted out of our ward’s Halloween activity this year in favor of family stuff, so i didn’t pay attention to the rules here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Does size matter?

Nothin’ but a rant today—several decades worth of bitterness, coming to the surface.

Also, this doesn’t have anything to do with Mormonism as such, but it would never have been an issue if i hadn’t grown up Mormon and thus been in contact with a lot of Utah Mormons during my growing up, so i’m putting it here anyway.

See, i grew up on the United States east coast—small rolling hills, with the Appalachian Mountains a quick drive to the west, and we went out that direction fairly frequently to spend time in the mountains. All was good.

But like i said above, i grew up Mormon, and at the time there were a lot of transplants from Utah who’d come to the area for work.* This wouldn’t have been a problem—and i’m all for cultural exchange—except that many of these Utahn transplants were so intensely dismissive of our moutains back east.

“Hah!” they’d scoff. “The Appalachians aren’t real mountains like we have back in Utah!” And this wasn’t an occasional thing—i got to hear this over and over and over.

Now, i’d never been to Utah,** but i’d seen pictures of the Rocky Mountains in Utah, and i knew that they were, well, rocky. So after a while i got tired enough of the mountain smugness from the Utahns around me that i started pointing out that their mountains were bigger, but at least mine had trees. The Utahns would consistently completely miss the point, generally answering that the Rockies have trees, too.***

Basically, there was no way to avoid being faced with expressions of superiority about how the mountains in Utah were better than the mountains in the east. (I have to say, i don’t actually know why those Utahns expressed such smugness about their hometown mountains, and my continued inability to figure out the answer to that question, even after living for a few years in Utah—where, by the way, i’d get smugness about how the Appalachians are so terribly tiny, as well, so it’s not something that came from people feeling the stress of living away from their hometowns—kind of bothers me.)

However…

I've lived a few places now in my life, both mountainous and flat. My adopted hometown, though, is in Alaska, where we have mountains.

The nearest mountains are the Chugach Range, which don’t go up to as high an elevation as Utah’s Wasatch Front, but they’re nearly exactly the same size—it’s just that the base of the Chugach is at sea level, while the Wasatch cheats by having its base start higher.

No problem, though. What i’d really like to draw attention to is the following picture, taken from my adopted hometown. It’s not the greatest picture ’cause there was a bit of haze the day i took it, but you can still make out…

Left to right: Foraker, Hunter, Denali

…that it’s Denali, the highest peak in North America, which stands more than a mile taller than King’s Peak, the highest point in Utah. And Denali doesn’t cheat, either—its base is low enough that it’s actually the largest base-to-peak mountain on land anywhere in the entire world.

Or, in other words, and i mean this most sincerely and in as much politeness as i can muster:

     ☞ Suck it, Utah.

That is all.

* The church where i grew up produces its own Mormons much more than was the case back then. Careful, Utahns—eventually the rest of us are going to take over!

** First time in Utah: the Missionary Training Center (which i’m not sure counts anyway).

*** Um, have any of you actually seen Utah’s Rocky Mountains? No. Yes, there are trees, but compare it to the Appalachians. The Utah Rockies have trees at the level of a technicality. Sorry, but thanks for playing.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What if?

Given my conversations with people, i’m starting to think that there are a number of US Mormons at all points among the political spectrum who are starting to worry that Mitt Romney will end up winning the US presidency…and fall flat on his face, as a bit of an embarrassment to us all.

I mean, here we were all comfortable thinking he was our edition of Al Smith, a sacrificial lamb to pave the way for later Mormons who might want to seek the presidency, but no, here he has to go and start creeping up in the polls—so let the stressing out begin.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

So here we are for the final general session. (Worn out yet?) As with all of these entries, if you want to get these entries in chronological order, you should go to the bottom of the post and scroll upwards. And with that…

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • “Let us not be critical and judgmental—let us be tolerant.” So does this put a fork in sacrament meeting speakers using the “we first endure, then pity, then embrace” line ever again, then?
  • “None of us is immune” to an unexpected calling. Uh-oh…
  • And we’re done—ponder on what’s been taught, be good, and be better than you were before.

David A. Bednar (of the quorum of apostles)
  • There is a relationship between receiving a testimony of Jesus Christ and being converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Any honest seeker of truth can gain an testimony and become converted.
  • Speaking of which, given the way he just pulled out textual parallelism in his use of the phrase “honest seeker”, i suspect that he is, as is so often the case, delivering an address that's intended to be read more than heard.
  • Testimony is the beginning of full conversion.
  • Testimony is important, but insufficient to give us enough spiritual strength—we need to be converted.
  • From my oldest: “Didn’t he give this exact same talk last year?”
  • I know this makes me evil and all, but strained interpretations of the parable of the ten virgins really do nothing for me.

Don R. Clarke (of the quorums of seventy)
  • What do we think about during the sacrament? Well, when i’m taking the sacrament, i’m generally thinking about whether my youngest is taking the opportunity to crawl under the seats.
  • We should care about the sacrament—it’s not just a chance for a (really, really tiny) snack in the middle of church.
  • By cleansing yourself through the sacrament each week, you ensure that after you die, your spirit will be clean.

Daniel L. Johnson (of the quorums of seventy)
  • We need to become like Jesus, which is not easy (though necessary).
  • Trials aren’t limited to things like death of a loved one or the loss of a crop, but can include worldly popularity, artistic or athletic talent, or such.

Marcus B. Nash (of the quorums of seventy)
  • What is it about Mormons and faith/mountain analogies?
  • How long has it been since we’ve had a Martin and Willie handcart company story in conference?
  • Wait a minute! “The Lord’s antidote for doubt is” [drum roll] belief? I mean, isn’t that kinda tautological?

Russell T. Osguthorpe (general president of the Sunday school)
  • And here’s the official rollout of the church’s new youth curriculum. (And it’s about time, i say.)
  • Teaching as an active work, not a semi-passive pursuit.
  • The one who learns has to decide to learn, but they have to be taught by those who can teach.
  • “We want our youth to understand.” (May have gotten a word or two wrong, but the content is correct.)
  • Someone online just pointed out that a new curriculum is absolutely needed, what with Missionary Training Center stays being shortened.

Richard G. Scott (of the quorum of apostles
  • Wow—Sunday afternoon, and this is the first extended mention of temple work?
  • Interesting idea, that doing both family history work and proxy temple work for those you find brings you “both halves of the blessing”.
  • Don’t selfishly hold on to names for proxy work, let others help out.
  • I love it when he talks about his wife. You can hear the love and pain and joy in his voice. It’s always a good reminder that these aren’t just guys in suits, they’re real people.

Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Is it just me, or is he looking a lot healthier than he did last conference?
  • The grace of God is important, don’t ignore it!
  • This is sounding like it’s going to be the obligatory general conference “no, we are Xian, so there!” address.
  • Good question: Given that we are Xians, “what kind of Xians are we?”
  • He’s framing this as a call to repentance for all Xians, not just Mormons. Interesting.
  • I’m quite liking this address. That makes four favorites by now.
  • Lots of explicit calls to (temporal and spiritual) service this conference, aren’t there?

Opening couple of choir songs
  • Okay, what’s with the amazingly slow arrangements? MoTab was all upbeat and cheery yesterday, and today they’re trying to put me to sleep.

[didn’t catch the name], opening prayer
  • Okay everybody, admit it, you all said “amen” after the first time he said “in the name of Jesus Christ”, didn’t you?

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

And now for the Sunday of general conference, or, as it’s better known to lots of Mormon men, “no tie day”.

The Sunday morning session of general conference is, i strongly suspect, the most widely watched session (i have no idea where i’d look for good evidence of that, though). It seems like there’s been a concerted effort to make sure that any big announcements get made in other sessions (cf. Monson, Thomas S., Saturday Morning Session, October 2012), but i feel like this session still has the cachet of being the “big” one.

But whether this really is the big leagues or not, it’s here. To get my comments, scroll down to the bottom of the post and move upward to get things in order. (or you can just be a rebel and start here. Doesn’t matter to me either way, really.)

[didn’t catch the name], closing prayer
  • I think he may have touched on every address this session—way to prove you were listening, dude!

Closing song
  • Sorry, can’t help it, but i keep hearing “She’ll Be Comin’ ’Round the Mountain When She Comes” every time the organ refrain kicks in.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • We are blessed with much, but it is hard to look around us and not be discouraged—so we need to step back and look at the blessings in our lives.
  • Hurrah! For encouraging optimism and happiness with regard to “the world”.
  • The more we pay attention to promptings from the Lord, the more the Lord will entrust us with divine errands.
  • I feel like President Monson had moved away lately from the story-based style he historically used. Not this time, though!
  • “He attributed the solution to luck. But all of the youth knew better.” That’s actually a good reminder of the way people can observe the same phenomenon and come to very different conclusions of its provenance.

Jeffrey R. Holland (of the quorum of apostles)
  • “I think we sometimes forget just how inexperienced [the eleven apostles right after Jesus’s death] were.”
  • Fun job pulling the story of the eleven after Jesus’s death into modern language.
  • You know, i feel kind of sheepish in having to admit that i never caught the parallel between the initial meeting of the fishers-to-be-apostles and Jesus, and their meeting in the same way after Jesus’s resurrection. I’m always happy when i learn simultaneously obvious and new stuff about the scriptures.
  • I love exegesis. I don’t know, if this is what we usually got every week from our speakers maybe i wouldn’t find it as cool. But coming from the Mormon tradition, this approach rocks.
  • And now he makes the turn and applies it to our lives today. Really amazing work.
  • A baptism isn’t supposed to just change the life of the convert, but also the person performing the ordinance.
  • Wow. This one, President Eyring’s from last night, Sister Burton’s from earlier this session…Anytime you get three addresses that are that impressive, it's been an amazing conference, you know? I’m not even going to try to pick a favorite. (And we’re not done yet.)

Walter F González (of the presidency of the seventy)
  • The gift of the Holy Ghost as a gateway to knowledge.
  • We can learn knowledge that cannot be gained through modern technology or secular study. Interesting claim about the separation of spiritual and secular knowledge buried in there, really.
  • When are we going to let conference speakers speak in their native languages? It’d create some difficulties for those in the Conference Center itself, but i’d love for people like Elder Gonz├ílez to be able to express themselves in a more natural way.

Linda K. Burton (relief society general president)
  • I’m a sociolinguist. As a result, her Wasatch Front vowel system is going to be astonishingly distracting for me throughout this entire address.
  • Stopping bullying by being nice to the bully? Wouldn’t work every time, of course, but a good reminder that it should be in our toolkits.
  • Grrrr…Yeah, i know how it was intended, and i know I’m taking this wrong, but as a father of daughters, I’m tired of being told that the personal progress program is intended to help my children become good mothers. It’s teaching them to become good human beings, thankyouverymuch.
  • Interesting—she often adds “and women” to scriptures that speak about things like “all men”. I like it.
  • Sweet! A pay it forward story! (And, as my wife points out, someone is now sitting somewhere saying, “That was me!”)
  • Wow. Really, really great address.

Choir interlude
  • And we get a vocal solo!

Boyd K. Packer (president of the quorum of apostles)
  • He’s really not looking well. I’ve listened to addresses of his from past decades, and he was an incredibly vibrant speaker. A good reminder, i suppose, that one person really can life multiple lifetimes.
  • “If you have made no mistakes, you do not need the atonement.” This is, of course, as he points out, moot, since we all have made mistakes, and so are all in need of the atonement.
  • “We do not know how, exactly, the Lord accomplished the atonement.” Bet it won’t stop folks in gospel doctrine classes from insisting they do, though!

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • He’s into the family stories this weekend, isn’t he
  • You know, speaking as an academic, going from tenured prof at an R1 like Stanford to president of a junior college like Ricks College isn't a usual career path, but i don't know that it would be seen as a (worldly) downgrade in the way he presents it.
  • We can create barriers between ourselves and God. I wonder, is that phenomenon always quite so one-way?
  • I like the idea that it can sometimes take a change of focus on our part (like in the story of his daughter-in-law, where she had to move from a hyperfocus on motherhood to one on service generally).
  • “The Lord’s delays can seem long. Some can last a lifetime…[but] we can be sure that he always keeps his promises.” Deep and heavy words there.
  • I love this Jesus’s statement on the separation of the wicked and the righteous at the final judgment, ’cause the righteous have no idea that they've done good, it was just part of them. “A change in your very nature”, in President Eyring’s words, anyone?
  • Moral of the story: Service is the grand key to communion with God.

Marlin K. Jensen (formerly of the quorums of seventy), opening prayer
  • Yes, he’s giving a prayer in conference. Can we stop the whisper campaign now?
  • The trend is for general conference prayers to be shorter lately, which made this one seem longer than it was.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

So now we have priesthood session, the general session that isn’t.

Anyway, as with the others, scroll to the bottom of the post and read up to get the entries in chronological order.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • Everyone here has at least some level of a testimony.
  • There are many without a testimony who would gladly have one if we would just share ours.
  • People say that women need to be told that they’re beautiful and valued and worthwhile—but men also need such encouragement.
  • Leaders shouldn’t be shy about giving priesthood responsibilities to those who aren’t fully active.
  • I do think that i heard an endorsement there of running prisons as rehabilitative rather than punitive institutions.
  • We need to develop the capacity to see people not as they are, but as they may become.
  • Interesting story of John Groberg bearing his testimony to the King of Tonga.
  • Lots of quotes about the importance of preaching the gospel.
  • We need the tenacity to extend the hand of fellowship again and again and again, and the humility to accept God’s mandate to preach.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • Something like: Everything i’ve experienced in the priesthood has come because individuals saw something in me that i didn’t see in myself.
  • You should help your children recognize their unique gifts and contributions that they can make.
  • No one is detined to fail.
  • Make sure your children (and others you mentor and lead) have a view of what they can accomplish.
  • You can be blessed to recognize the gifts that your children have, and how to help them see them.
  • He gave a really excellent story of hiking with his son, and his son couldn’t make it to the top—and then, when his son asked if he (the son) would be sorry he didn’t make it, Henry B. Eyring’s response was that he wouldn’t be sorry, and he’d always know that they’d hiked to where they’d gotten together.
  • Family prayer and scripture study will bear more fruit than you think.
  • Even things like going to a sporting event or attending a movie with your child will lead to good results (especially if the child suggests it).
  • You know, i’m sure that some people will read this sermon as a child-brag, but i think it’s sweet, and it’s my favorite address of the conference so far.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
  • Ah! So here’s the airplane story we didn’t get earlier!
  • Our individual experiences of service may be as different as flying a Piper Cub or flying an F-18, but they are all still valid.
  • There is always imperfection, always something to complain about, but we have been given authority and are called to bless, serve, and act—could anything be greater than that?
  • Something like: As a pilot i have touched the skies, but as a church member i have touched the face of heaven.
  • We can easily recite the definition of the priesthood (the eternal power and authority of God), but do we understand what we’re saying when we say it?
  • People who don’t grasp the significance of the priesthood are like people grumbling about the size of their packet of peanuts while they’re soaring through the sky. (Cue thoughts of Louis CK’s “everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy” bit.)
  • Quote: “As we honor the holy priesthood, God will honor us.”

Intermediate song (“Guard Us, O Thou Great Jehovah”)
  • Wow—this song has some truly vicious lyrics, if you pay attention to them.

Anthony D. Perkins (of the quorums of seventy)
  • Anyone can fall from grace at any time
  • God has given us the “twin guardrails” of deep personal conversion and strong family relationships
  • The danger to conversion is pride; the danger to family is sins like anger and lust.
  • To safeguard our sense of conversion we need to pray often (to counter temptation), study ancient and modern scriptures (to connect us to God; he includes church magazines and websites in this), and worthily participate in ordinances (which lets the Spirit guide us).
  • To safeguard our family relationships, we need to show true love (which is the characteristic at the heart of both conversion and family relationships), obey the law of tithing (to counter greed and covetousness), and fully live the law of chastity (which lets us be confident before God).
  • Dude—this guy is talking fast.
  • He says to beware of hypocrisy, and his example is participating in priesthood ordinances when one is unworthy to do so.

Gary E. Stevens (presiding bishopric)
  • Lots of stuff, but one major theme: One individual taking a stand can do much good.

D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Some have promoted the interests of women (“which we applaud”, which seemed an interesting aside), but have simultaneously denigrated the interests of men—but that’s not the right way of doing things, since it’s not a competition.
  • We need to be men that women, children, and God can trust.
  • Wasting your life in cyberspace is “ironically, being in the world but not of it”.
  • Whatever your path—college, trade school, the arts, or whatever—become proficient at it.
  • Here’s something you don’t get very often: notice that a first presidency letter is coming soon (on the importance of family history and temple work).
  • Quorums need to help their members.
  • We need to help our children experience “a mighty change of heart”.

Jay E. Jensen (recently of the quorums of the seventy), opening prayer
  • A reference to Thomas S. Monson as “the senior apostle”, which is something you don’t hear mentioned all that much.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

Due to hanging out with family and friends (you know, the stuff Dieter F. Uchtdorf told us earlier today that we need to be doing more of, right?), this entry won’t be posted until i can put my notes into the computer, sometime Sunday (since i just barely got my priesthood session notes together, and it’s really late already). So until then!

Second general session! (Which reminds me—how many non-general sessions are there?

So, like with all of these entries, this post runs chronologically from the bottom and runs up the page by speaker, with notes for each speaker running top-down. It’s confusing, but i can’t figure out a better way to let people read all five general sessions in chronological order once they’re all up. So, then, scroll down to the bottom, and let’s begin…

Dallin H. Oaks (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Doesn’t “i can’t talk about politics” usually actually mean “i’m about to talk about politics”?
  • Abortion is bad, and then a pivot to endemic malnutrition and AIDS. I’m not entirely sure where he’s heading with this.
  • And now psychological abuse and bullying. This is a rather sprawling address.
  • Kids with various issues, explicitly including same-sex attraction, need to be protected from bullying.
  • Ah! And now we get the Proclamation on the Family. I was wondering how long it would be ’til we got a quote from it.
  • Interesting rhetorical strategy: He keeps quoting from people like “a Harvard law professor” and “a New York Times writer” without actually giving names. It bothers me, but i suspect i’m in the minority here.
  • Okay, as a social scientist myself, i have to say that it bothered me when he said that we “should assume” that growing up in a same-sex-couple-headed household is damaging to children, although the research literature on the subject is “controversial” due to its politically charged nature—and then he backed up a claim about the research literature with a reference to “a New York Times writer”?!? Really, i’d suggest reading about social science research in social science research journals, not the New York Times.

Neil L. Andersen (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Tragedy happens, but God can comfort us.
  • Really, really good point: What is a simple test for one person might well be a fiery trial of faith for another.
  • Interesting how he turned a general focus on tests and trials of faith into an address on the need to avoid nonmarital sex. It almost feels like he wrote one full address but also had the core of a second one, so he just dropped the one inside the other.
  • You know, i have to point out that some of the information critical of the church on the internet is true. Implying that it is all false won’t help those who run across the true stuff to understand why they should still stay with the church.
  • Wow—how long has it been since we got a salamander letter reference in general conference?

Scott D. Whiting (of the quorums of seventy)
  • I recognize the importance of quality control, but some of this seems excessive. I mean, a ⅛-inch deviation out of two inches, and that could only be recognized with a measuring tool, on a window that was to be hidden? Requiring a lack of grittiness under wallpaper? Maybe we could have just let it be, and sent the quality control guy to make sure that folks were getting the right nutritional balance in the church’s humanitarian efforts.
  • So the parallel turns out to have been that we need to rectify any issues of sinfulness in our lives, just like the contractors were required to rectify any issues of poor quality in the temple. Not really compelling to me, but i get it.

Robert C. Gay (of the quorums of seventy)
  • “Would you sell your soul for a nickel?”
  • Serious question: If any one little sin, or even a lack of doing good things, is just as bad as big sins, then what’s to keep someone from logically concluding that since they’ve done a little bit wrong, they might as well go full-bore down that road?

Larry Echo Hawk (of the quorums of seventy)
  • Okay, let’s all admit it: This guy’s on all your all-name GA teams, isn’t he?
  • Really, really fun story to open.
  • His grandfather was born “in what is now Nebraska”. Nice little reminder that there was a there beforehand.
  • Cool personal take on the Book of Mormon by an indigenous American, and then extending that to others.

M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)
  • And cue the bee pollen and honey folks in 3…2…
  • Individual contributions, though seemingly insignificant, are a necessary part of the results of the whole.
  • The takeaway: Service is good, and must be undertaken for selfless reasons.
  • Specific instruction: Pray each morning that you’ll get a chance to serve someone, and then look for opportunities to serve.

L. Tom Perry (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Dude’s ninety years old? He’s holding up pretty good for reaching that point.
  • The big message: Families are good.
  • I don’t think he’s saying this, but i worry that a good number of Mormons are going to read this as saying that Mormon culture (and, in particular, Utah Mormon culture) is utterly and completely right, and doesn’t have any problems at all.
  • Interesting—he said allowances are a good thing, ’cause they allow children to learn to do things like save and pay tithing.
  • Was the jab at “entitlement culture” a case of political code words, or something more benign? The sad thing is that in this day and age one can’t tell—though, unfortunately, i’m sure folks on either side will interpret them that way.
  • Shout out to guys who are actually involved in their kids’ learning!
Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency), sustaining of church officers
  • Change in the presidency of the seventy, and in the office of church historian and recorder, plus the usual turnover in the quorums of the seventy. Overall, really, nothing headline-making.
Gerritt W. Gong (i think; of the seventy), opening prayer
  • He called this the “Sabbath day”. Does this mean we’re merging with the Seventh-Day Adventists now?

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

So welcome to General Conference Saturday, the twice-yearly weekend when Mormons across the world convince themselves that they’re finally going to be able to get a decent amount of light housekeeping done, and then utterly fail to do so.

So it goes.

Anyway, this is also my twice-yearly weekend of sorta-liveblogging General Conference. As i s my complaint each year, blogging and social media have opted to go against centuries of English textual tradition, with the chronological order of stuff people write going from bottom to top, rather than top to bottom. Therefore, this post (after this intro) will begin chronologically at the bottom, with entries ordered by speaker or event from the bottom up. (Therefore, once conference is done you’ll be able to go to the bottom of the entries for the five general sessions and read through everything in one long bottom-up sweep.) However, any entries under a speaker will be ordered as one would normally expect them, from the top down. Confused yet? Good. That means it’s time to scroll to the bottom of this post and start reading backwards.

And one final note
  • Lots of upbeat arrangements of songs offered by MoTab this morning, and nice key changes in the closing song.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency
  • How in the world does he make “we’re all gonna die” sound so happy?
  • Busy-ness is not a sign of a good life, said directly by a member of the first presidency! Cue happy dance.
  • Slam at social media, then explaining to say that trivial interactions aren’t fulfilling in the way that deep personal interactions are.
  • This is actually a pretty intense call to repentance address, but he’s coating it in a presentation style that sweetens it a bit.
  • Doing is better than desiring.
  • We need to let ourselves be happy. (Does this extend to people talking about the evils of the world around us?)
  • He called his wife Harriett rather than Sister Uchtdorf! (And he reports her calling him Dieter!) Cue another happy dance.
  • “We will not be truly ready to die until we have learned how to live.” (Not sure if i got the precise wording right, but the basic meaning is correct.)

Russell M. Nelson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Directing comments to the non-members watching. How many non-members actually watch general conference?
  • Interesting approach in talking to non-members, though—talking about the service of full-time missionaries, rather than basic gospel principles.
  • Way to thread the needle on calling the church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Mormon church.
  • Fun story about a non-member receiving direct and specific revelation.
  • Interesting suggestion, to ask the missionaries for help in things beyond just preaching the gospel. (Gotta put all those new younger missionaries likely to put in their papers this week to good use, eh?)
  • If you want to help us in humanitarian work, even if you’re not of our faith, that’s cool, and the missionaries can help you figure out how to help out.

Shayne M. Bowen (of the seventy)
  • Talking about the deaths of children? Heavy.
  • Good (as far as i can judge) description of survivor guilt, and the problems related to it.
  • “When did you get over it?” His answer is not yet, and never in this life—but one has to look forward to the fullness of joy in being reunited in the resurrection.
  • “Wouldn’t it be tragic if we didn’t feel sorrow when we lose a child?” Heavy.
  • I wasn't liking this at the beginning. He drew me in. Beautiful address.

Intermediate hymn
  • Please promise me that we will never have to hear this arrangement for the organ of this song (“We Thank Thee, Oh God, for a Prophet”) ever again. Low-end dissonance is okay, but only in limited circumstances.

Craig C. Christensen (of the presidency of the seventy)
  • The phrase “sacred feelings” to refer to the influence of the Holy Ghost has always felt a little weird to me.
  • “The Holy Ghost loves us and wants us to be happy.” Interesting to hear that in phrasing usually used to refer to God or Jesus Christ.
  • You don’t often get an entire address specifically on the Holy Ghost.
  • I’ve never actually grokked the “influence of the Holy Ghost” vs. the “gift of the Holy Ghost” thing. He’s explaining it as extra benefits from the gift; is that what it is?

Ann M. Dibb (of the general presidency of the young women’s organization)
  • Sidebar: Sister Dibb is President Monson’s daughter.
  • The idea of a faith statement on a T-shirt would be silly from anybody other than a member of the young women general presidency. From that group, it’s both fitting and (in a good way) cute.
  • An increase in gospel knowledge lets us apply the gospel in our lives. (There’s a lot packed into that, really.)
  • Snark: She’s giving Quentin L. Cook’s address way better than he did.
  • So does anybody else think that the odds are pretty high that there’s already been a bunch of orders placed for “I’m a Mormon. I know it. I live it. I love it.” T-shirts for sale online? Welcome to the newest Mormon pop-culture phenomenon!

Quentin L. Cook (of the quorum of apostles)
    Good point, that a reduction in full-time missionary age has happened before.
  • I’m always happy when general conference addresses include bits from non-Mormon theologians (here, a Baptist)—it’s good for the church to be reminded that we don’t hold a monopoly on religious insights.
  • He includes a lack of respect and civility in with abuse—a heavy concept, if you think it through.
  • He said there’s no real pushback in the world at large against pornography (as there is against, say, smoking)? Part of me thinks that he needs to start reading more anti-porn feminism.
  • Yes, i’ll say it: I’m tired of the Eric Liddel story. Find another Sabbath-keeping story for us, please.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • Foreshadowing of topics in a later address—you don’t actually get that very often.
  • Two new temples: Tucson, Arizona and Arequipa, Peru.
  • A reduction in the minimum age of full-time missionary service for men to age eighteen…and women can serve full-time missions at age nineteen now! High-fives from my daughters!
  • Seriously, though, how often is there an address from the prophet where the throwaway line is that there will be two new temples?

Opening prayer (didn’t catch the name)
  • Wow, that was a short prayer!

Before everything starts
  • Why does everybody stand when the current President of the High Priesthood walks in? I mean, i know it’s a sign of respect and such, but when and where did the tradition start?
  • I’m not a fan of MoTab, but i have to admit that they do the switch into a capella better than anybody else. (And really, “How Firm a Foundation” is one that they pretty much nail every time.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Unintended consequences

Not original to me, but courtesy of a Facebook friend: Even if you want Romney to win the upcoming presidential election, don’t you worry just a bit that he will and that that will cause certain Mormons amongst us to become just a little more insufferable?

Monday, October 1, 2012

A questionable fast

So over the weekend i became the latest proud(?) recipient of the email going around asking all the Mormons in the country to spend Sunday, 30 September fasting and praying for the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney.

Can i just say how utterly wrong that is? Or even if it’s not wrong, it’s at least icky. And it’s icky and wrong—or at least it should be—no matter what side of the recent political debates you’re on. (That is, if you even care—and with that, a big Hello! to what the Blogger dashboard tells me is the occasional reader from Germany.)

I mean, c’mon, folks. Get real. Especially when the email contains lines like God loves the United States of America and he wants us to be successful as a nation, followed immediately by If we do all that we can through our hard work and prayers in behalf of Mitt Romney miracles will happen. (I have to admit that when i read that, my first thought was “What, we’ll suddenly be presented with a candidate who’s better than either of our choices? That’d be cool.” But then again, i’m pretty much an unreformed cynic, so you might not have thought the same thing.)

I mean, sure God loves the United States of America. I’m pretty certain about that—just as i’m certain that God loves Canada, and Mexico, and Germany, and Russia, and Kenya, and Djibouti, and Fiji, and India, and Pakistan, and Iran, and Israel, and Syria, and Uzbekistan, and [continue the list for nearly 200 more names of countries]. So why is our presidential election suddenly such a big deal to God? I’m pretty sure it isn’t, at least no more than elections in, say, Rwanda are. God loves all of us equally, after all.

And besides, we’ve already got Mormons in positions of power in the United States, anyway—isn’t Harry Reid, senator from Nevada, the Senate Majority Leader?

Oh, wait—that’s right, i think we can guess from the tenor of this email that since Harry Reid’s politics are (very slightly) left of center, he quite simply doesn’t count. Nope, we apparently need Mitt Romney.

Well, maybe we do—it’d be fun to see a pair of Mormons at utter and complete loggerheads, using every parliamentary trick in the book to stymie each other’s political plans. Maybe then we’d finally get people (and by “people” i’m including a lot of Mormons, too) to realize that we’re not as socially and politically monolithic a group as they think we are.

But back to the email, and another bit of ickiness: We are so excited to be a part of this time in history, to have this special opportunity to stand for liberty. Liberty? Huh? It seems to me that folks on both sides (most all sides, for that matter—let’s not forget the minor candidates) are fans of liberty. It’s not like we’ve got the Archangel Gabriel running against Benito Mussolini here, after all.

The absolute worst part, though, was the bit urging recipients to Please contact all your friends and family everywhere and ask them to join with us in this special day of fast. Ask them to contact all of their friends. Take this message to the churches.

Nuh-uh. No. Absolutely not. The Mormon church is, after all, very fond of its tax-exempt status in the United States, and (at least partly) as a result, this advice is simply against current church policy.

You can take such a message to other members of the church, but to take it to your entire congregation (which is what i get from to the churches)? Not in a Mormon church—if the bishop has been reading his leadership Handbook at all lately, you’ll get smacked down hard and quickly.

And so, on second thought, maybe i actually do wish people had done that—that would have been fun to see.