Saturday, January 30, 2010

No more memorizing?

The new (well, newish, really, since it’s a few years old by now) approach to the missionary discussions (yeah, yeah, i know, lessons—distinction without a difference, folks) gets portrayed as a huge shift from previous practice, particularly in that the full-time missionaries aren’t expected to memorize the discussions now, but rather to try to teach the various principles in their own words.

Really? This is new? I didn’t memorize the discussions when i was a full-time missionary nearly twenty years ago. Jeanne (my wife) didn’t memorize them when she was a full-time missionary almost as long ago. I’ve met very, very few people, in fact, who memorized the discussions as full-time missionaries. So how is this a big change?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

So who are they, anyway?

Random serious scriptural question: In the book of Doctrine and Covenants, section 133 verse 34, who are Ephraim’s fellows?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Not loving the love

Love at Home” is a horribly boring piece of music. The only way i can make it through happily is if i sing it in a really bad Russian Boris Badenov-type accent.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A presiding non-high priest?

Idle weird thought: If your ward’s bishop is a bishop by virtue of being a Levite (and thus can hold the office without being ordained a high priest) and isn’t a high priest, who’s the presiding high priest in the ward?

Friday, January 22, 2010

The cross and the garden

I don’t know what to think—i give y’all better than a week to talk about lust, and all i get is one comment.

Apparently sex does not, in fact, sell.

Oh well. I’m back, so on with the three or four times a week schedule, starting with:

Where’s the doctrinal evidence behind the common Mormon meme that Gethsemane was of bigger importance to the Atonement than Golgotha? Is it just a way of distinguishing ourselves from mainstream Xian groups that focus on Christ’s miracle on the cross, or is there something deeper?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On lust

I’m about to head off to Columbus, Ohio for an academic conference. (It’s on pedagogical practice in linguistics, if you care about that sort of thing.) As a result, i won’t be posting anything after this here for about a week—so i’ll give you something interesting to talk about.

Let’s talk about lust.

As far as i can tell, the word “lust” is consistently used in a negative sense by church leaders. I didn’t have the time to do an exhaustive search, but if you run a search of general conference addresses, “lust” doesn’t seem to come up in positive contexts.

This makes sense, i suppose—lust can be distracting, to say the least, and we do a lot of counseling teenagers to beware of lust, ’cause lust ups your chances of falling into sexual sins. Fine.

But what about those of us who are married? Is lust always a bad thing, or is it acceptable to feel lust toward your spouse?

True story: In a ward i used to live in, i was in a gospel doctrine class where the topic was the law of chastity. (By definition, not having sexual relations with anyone other than your spouse who you’re legally married to.) This led to discussing how Satan uses sexual urges to tempt us, and how we need to resist them. (Yes, how we need to resist sexual urges, not how we need to resist temptation. I disagree, as you’ll see, but it’s a pretty widespread Mormon cultural meme.) There were a handful of people who talked about how we need to do everything we can to avoid giving in to “unhealthy sexual urges”, and the word “lust” was used a couple of times in a very negative sense. Eventually i raised my hand and, when called on, said that lust is actually a good thing—if we didn’t have them, then people would probably be much less likely to have children to raise, and since part of God’s plan is for people to raise children, then it’s a good thing that lust happens.

Well, a bit of an eruption followed—and i basically got lectured by several people on how healthy sexual urges have nothing to do with lust. But you know what? I think that’s hair-splitting—the difference between “healthy sexual urges” and “lust” isn’t a difference of kind, it’s purely a difference in what you care to call it to keep yourself from shocking your Puritan neighbors.

For my part, i feel lust toward Jeanne regularly and frequently, and i don’t think it’s a sin. In fact, i would probably find it troubling if i didn’t.

But i’m curious what y’all think. Is lust always a Bad Thing? Is there actually a difference between lust and what people call “healthy sexual urges”? (And just to keep things on an even footing, let’s limit ourselves to lust directed toward one’s spouse—we can all agree that extramarital lust is wrong without having to get into those sorts of details.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Things we learn from the scriptures

Moral of the Noah story: Build on high ground, and caulk your windows really well.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

We have three, so it’s a valid question

My last post got me thinking: How does one make Brigham Young University plural?

As an initialization, it's pretty clear: BYUs seems the best way to go. But for the full name, Brigham Young Universities just doesn’t sound right to me, even though i figure that’s probably the best way to do it in the end.

The linguist in me gets overly amused, though, by analogizing from Book of Mormon > Books of Mormon and making the plural of Brigham Young University into Brigham Youngs University.

The only thing that would be better is if we decided that the university wasn’t named after Brigham Young so much as it belonged to him—then it would be Brigham Youngs’s University. Maybe even better: Brigham Youngs’s Universities.

Right? Right? Hey, where’d everybody go?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hiring at the BYUs

Back a few weeks, there was a discussion on this blog about women working outside of the home and what the church’s actual position on it might be (which i claimed isn’t very black-and-white, as opposed to church culture, which is pretty intensely one-sided, i think). I said in an email conversation with one of the commenters on that post that at some point i’d post my thoughts on it given hiring practices at the Brigham Young University campuses (i used to work at one of them), so here it is:

I have to admit that i have difficulty believing that the prophets actually want women who desire to work outside the home not to do so. I mean, consider that faculty appointments at the Brigham Young University campuses are subject to approval by the Church Educational System Board of Trustees, and that group includes half of the Quorum of the Twelve and all of the First Presidency (among others). If the prophetic stance was actually that women (or at least women with children at home) shouldn’t work outside the home, then wouldn’t there be no appointments of women with children at home to the faculty of Brigham Young University? And yet there they are…

And before it happens, in case someone says it’s because of nondiscrimination rules, that doesn’t apply here. Colleges and universities in the United States with clearly defined religious missions are exempt from nondiscrimination rules in two ways: They’re allowed to discriminate based on religious affiliation, and they are allowed to discriminate in other ways that clearly relate to the religious doctrines of the affiliated religion. In other words, the BYUs can give hiring preference to practicing, devout Mormons—which they do—and they can refuse to hire anyone whose hire would contradict the religious doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That they hire women with small children at home anyway at the very least sends a signal that that isn’t a point of religious doctrine for the church.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Movie-going discomfort

Heard in a sacrament meeting address: “You shouldn’t go to a movie you’re uncomfortable with.” So does that mean that if you’re someone like me who has a very, very high threshold for feeling uncomfortable with stuff, then anything goes? The logic works for me!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Counting baptisms

Why, oh why do people talk about a full-time missionary’s “number of baptisms” (meaning the number of people who that missionary taught who immediately chose baptism) as if it’s a valid measure of success, or even a valid measure at all?

(And yes, i say this as someone who taught more people who were baptized than my mission’s average, so i get to ask it without it seeming like it’s sour grapes.)

Friday, January 1, 2010

A new year

Well, reader, you have a new year here, patterned after the old one in which we used to live.

The question, i suppose, it what you’re going to make of it. But that’s always the question, isn’t it?