Monday, November 30, 2009

Wherein David B claims to have read Obadiah

Serious thought: I read the entire standard works in 2½ weeks of (mostly) 9a–9p days while my missionary companion was sick and effectively bedridden. It’s cool what you notice in, say, the book of Doctrine and Covenants when Obadiah is still in medium-term memory.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Silencing Brigham Young

Every once in a while you get a sacrament meeting address or class discussion where we hear the meme about how it’s the calling of women to be good mothers. Odd how you don’t hear a lot about Brigham Young’s declaration about it being the calling of women to use their talents in whatever way uses those talents best, including in a number of occupations that can only be done outside the home.*

Quite seriously, i wonder why.

* For those of you who might not know it, here’s my favorite Brigham Young quote on the subject:
We think the sisters ought to have the privilege to study various branches of knowledge that they may develop the powers with which they are endowed. Women are useful, not only to sweep houses, wash dishes, make beds, and raise babies, but they may also stand behind the counter, study law and physic, or become good bookkeepers, and all this to enlarge their sphere or usefulness for the benefit of society at large. In following these things they but answer the design of their creation.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

For those of you in the US, a happy Thanksgiving. For those of you outside the US, happy Thanksgiving anyway—just feel free to pretend i posted this on the appropriate day for your locality (4 October in Germany, 12 October in Canada, and so on).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Missionaries who don’t want to be there

A thought resulting from going through some old papers of mine: When i was a full-time missionary, i had a number of companions who didn’t want to actually do missionary work. That didn’t bother me, really,* but it did bother me that they all (without exception among my own small sample) rather obviously hadn’t thought the reasons for their decisions and attitudes through.

* I mean, to be honest, i’m not temperamentally well-suited to missionary work, myself, i just forced myself to do it, and to do it well as i could.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just one quick question

So what is the point of ward conferences, anyway?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Movie theatres aren’t my thing, anyway

Heard in a sacrament meeting address: “There are few movies that Latter-day Saints can go to these days without being embarrassed by the language used.”

Well, i don’t know if that’s true, but apparently there are few movies that Latter-day Saints can go to these days without being embarrassed by being seen by all the other Latter-day Saints there!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nobody comes to Utah by chance

During my exile in Utah, i was at a sacrament meeting that was focused on increasing missionary activity in our town.* One of the things that was said, in an attempt to get us to feel that we would be successful in talking to our neighbors about the gospel, was “Remember, nobody comes to Utah by chance.”

Given my own experience, i can attest that this is true—some come well-prepared so that they can learn the gospel, some come so that they can help build the church up even stronger, and some come so ill-fitted to the local culture that they give the angels giggling fits. You get one and exactly one guess which group i fell into.

* This happened in a town where the population was more than 95% nominally Mormon, and where sacrament meeting attendance among those Mormons was higher than 80%. Think that through, and the whole subject becomes very, very different.

Monday, November 16, 2009

More thoughts on Family Home Evening

Holding family home evening on Monday nights seems weird to me, if it’s actually (as i’ve heard stated often enough) intended to reinforce the lessons learned on Sunday so that they don’t atrophy during the rest of the week. If this is really (part of) what it’s for, why don’t we hold family home evening on Wednesdays or Thursdays? I mean, if Sunday’s lessons are going to atrophy over six days, it seems to me they’ll atrophy over five days nearly as well.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

David B gingerly touches the third rail of Mormon blogging

I don’t entirely get why the whole same-sex marriage thing is such a big deal (for either side of the argument), but i get that it’s a big deal for a lot of people. However, when it gets mentioned in church meetings it often gets really weird at me—like statements that marriage has to be between one man and one woman and that history has shown that “alternative forms of family formation” are doomed to failure. Well, if anyone would know that, i guess it’d be us Mormons…

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Things being a parent teaches you

Anyone who believes that calmly, rationally discussing church meeting behavior with your children will lead to them behaving better needs to stop feeding their children so much Benadryl right before church.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yet another phrase we could do without

Has there ever been a musical number in sacrament meeting that wasn’t very special?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My family hasn’t been shot at, for one thing

I’ve heard a lot of people in church claim (mostly in gospel doctrine and priesthood classes, but occasionally in sacrament meeting speeches) that “the family is under attack”. Can someone explain to me exactly what in the world that phrase is supposed to mean?

And i mean that seriously—i really just don’t get it.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Our oldest child has reached the age where we need to decide whether she gets the Gardasil shot or not.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a shot that provides some immunity to a number of strains of HPV, which is probably the most widespread sexually transmitted disease out there. This is a big deal healthwise, because these strains of HPV are the main causes of cervical cancer.

A number of people out there—most of the voices out there are mainstream Xians, but there are some Mormons among them—are vehement in saying that girls shouldn’t be vaccinated against HPV. There are a number of arguments raised, and some of them are outside the scope of this blog (for example, the whole Vaccinations Are An Evil Communist Plot Against America nonsense), but one is clearly worth mentioning here: The idea that HPV (and, by extension, any cervical cancer that results) is a punishment for the sin of sexual promiscuity, and we shouldn’t be immunizing kids against the effects of sin. Also, there’s some worry that girls will be more likely to be sexually promiscuous if they know they’re not in danger of one of the possible drawbacks to such promiscuity.

A number of people have pointed out that kids don’t necessarily think of the drawbacks that go with having sex when they have sex, so that last argument has flaws. However, i’d like to take issue here with the other one, which i think is much more insidious.

Should we be preventing people from experiencing naturally-occurring punishments of their sins? It’s an interesting question. However, it doesn’t really work as an argument against vaccinating girls against HPV. Consider the following ways in which a woman may have contracted HPV, neither of which involve sin on her part:
  • She, as a virgin, marries a guy who isn’t a virgin and is a carrier of HPV.
  • She is the victim of a rape, and the rapist is a carrier of HPV.
In addition, arguments against Gardasil on the basis of HPV being a punishment for sin seem to make the claim that repentance really shouldn’t be allowed to be as complete as God promises, and they don’t deal with cases like, say, a woman who was never taught to limit her sexual activity, but then repents and is baptized and lives a sexually sinless life after that. She gets to be punished because she was raised in ignorance? Really nice thinking, folks.

We’re vaccinating our daughters against HPV—we actually trust our kids to make decent decisions, and if they don’t, we’re evil enough that we believe repentance should be allowed to actually work.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spiritual communication

Why do Mormons get so into this whole “God speaks to us through our feelings” thing? Where’s the scriptural justification for claiming that that’s God’s primary means of communicating with us? (Hint: Galatians 5:22–23 doesn’t actually say that, so that one’s out.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Who can pass the sacrament?

Here’s a puzzler: Technically, it’s a deacon’s responsibility (or at least the responsibility of priesthood holders) to pass the sacramental emblems to the congregation, but obviously even a nonmember can pass the bread and water down the row to someone who wants to partake. Does this mean that a woman could take the sacramental emblems into the mother’s lounge? More generally, what is the role of the priesthood holders in the process?

And this becomes more interesting when you look at the scriptures, where one reading limits the distribution of the sacramental emblems to the priests*—and there’s no scriptural reason for the deacons doing it (though, presumably, it could relate to their responsibility to assist the bishop as needed), nor for restricting the preparation of the sacramental table to the teachers and not the deacons.

When it comes down to it, i’ve often thought that these policies were actually instituted as a means of making early-teen boys feel important, but that’s probably overly cynical for even me.

* See Doctrine and Covenants 20:46,58, where we run into the problem of what precisely administer means.