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.)