Sunday, May 30, 2010

Introducing a theme: Boys and girls

Sometimes i feel like i’m the only active Mormon guy around whose family is done with childbearing and has only daughters, no sons.* Having all daughters, though, has had the result of me being intensely aware of differences in the treatment of girls and boys in church culture and programs.** I have a few thoughts on the subject, and i’ve been wanting to see what happens if i devote a series of four or five posts to a theme—so the next few posts will be on that subject.

We’ll see if it works out well.

* And no, we didn’t keep “trying” to have a son until we gave up. Actually, i only wanted daughters, even before Jeanne and i started having kids—and i can produce witnesses to that fact. The assumption that all daughters was some sort of a disappointment isn’t a Mormon thing, though—i get that from all directions.

** Me being me, that would have probably been the case anyway, actually. Having all daughters and no sons certainly makes it more personal, though.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Buying prom dresses

I’ve heard lots of people complaining lately that “it’s impossible to find a modest* prom dress” these days. This is generally taken to be an indictment of how horrible “the world” has gotten lately.

Well, two problems.

First, i remember hearing precisely the same complaint back when i was in high school (the mid-80s, for what it’s worth), and i’ve seen such complaints in print from the early 60s, and much of me thinks that Ardis over at Keepapitchinin** could probably dig the same thing up from the mid- to late nineteenth century. And even if i’m wrong on that last one, it’s not like this is a new complaint—so exactly why is this surprising anyone these days?

Second, i take issue with the entire proposition. There’s lots of modest (see the first footnote) clothing out there, including formalwear for teenage girls—though i will readily allow that the “prom” section of any semi-randomly selected department store is unlikely to provide many (if any) prom dresses that would be allowed in the door at a church dance. Move to other sections of the same store, and you’ll find a lot of prom-suitable dresses and sets with covered shoulders, knee-length or longer skirts, and so on.

Really, as i see it, the real problem is that people actually believe the branding at their local department stores.*** So please, stop trying to use it to indict people who aren’t you.

* This is using the usual Mormon meaning for the word modesty, which i still think is wrong. Given the context for the discussion, though, it makes sense to use it here.

** An amazing and wonderful blog on, for lack of a better description, the cultural history of the Mormon church. You should add it to your list of regular reads.

*** Well, and that they actually think prom is worth blowing that much money on for a single-use piece of clothing. But that’s a whole nother issue, and beyond the scope of this blog.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mormon headlines

Photocopier humor, not by me, from an unknown source. I like them, though, so if you know where they’re from, let me know.

Ancient Tins of Wheat Discovered in Garage

Investigator Admits Feeling Tingle in Big Toe, Agrees to Second Discussion

Deacons Quorum Advisor Compares Priesthood to “the Force”

Family Maxes Credit Card at Costco to Replenish Food Storage

Area Man Feels Holy Ghost During Disney’s “Lion King”

C.S. Lewis Rejects Posthumous Baptism

Elders Quorum Instructor Skims Lesson During Opening Exercises

Pioneer Reenactment Reenacted

Family Home Evening Degenerates into Pudding Fight

Spirit Whispers for Area Man to Sell Amway

Prototype of Franklin Planner Found in Nauvoo Dig

Priest Reporting on Campout Says “It Was Fun”

Area Woman Calls for More Stylish Male Temple Caps

Ensign Forgets to Use “Name Withheld” on Sex Abuse Article

Steve Martin Finally Admits to Conversion

Area Man Surprised at How Dirty Temple Slipper Soles Have Become

Richard Dutcher Announces Feature-Length “Johnny Lingo” Remake

Church Approves Hometeaching Via Email

Steed Family Book of Mormon Auctions for $23,000

Scrapbookers Scrapbook About Themselves Scrapbooking

Temple Escalators Remarkably Clean, Area Woman Observes

Ward Has Potluck, No Jello Served

Ward Discovered Where All Sing During Hymns

Sacrament Meeting Speaker Forgets to Apologize for Poor Speaking Ability

First Presidency Issues Letter Asking Members Not To Submit Elvis Presley’s Name For Temple Work Again

Magna 122nd Ward Relief Society Sends White Shirts and Ties to Africa

High Councilor Begins Sacrament Meeting Talk Without Attempt at Joke

New Church Policy Forbids Use of Church Parking Lots for Teen Driver Instruction by Parents

Stained Glass in New Chapel “An Exception”, Says Church Spokesman

Secret Girls Camp Video Spurs Copycat WWF Series

“I Hate Homemaking Meeting Crafts”, Admits Local Mom

Male Primary Teacher Called

Priesthood Holder Completes Home Teaching by 25th of the Month

Local LDS Ward Starts Sacrament Meeting on Time

Elders Quorum Moving and Storage a Real Moneymaker for Church

Ward Boundaries Realigned, Everyone Happy

Elders Quorum Instructor Prepares Centerpiece for Lesson

Bishop Attends Sunday School, Is Welcomed As Visitor

Church Basketball Injuries Fewest In Years

Ward Chorister Sets New Record for Slowest Singing of "Come, Come Ye Saints"

Jewish Family in Provo Confused When Called “Gentiles”

Provo Baptist Family Reports: Never Invited to Sacrament Meeting, Regularly Invited to Dinner by LDS Neighbors

Utah Legislature Passes Bill to Restrict Sales of Cola Drinks to Minors

Ensign Publishes 135th Article with “Legacy” in Title

High Priest Stays Awake in Sacrament Meeting, Wrestles Children While Wife Dozes

Returned Missionary from Hawaii Fails to Reprimand Congregation for Not Responding Loud Enough to His "Aloooooha!"

Sacrament Meeting Talk Ends Early, Bishop Closes Meeting Anyway

Congregation Sings "How Great Thou Art" in Under Two Minutes

Monday, May 24, 2010

Why we should not repent daily

Jeanne and i have been reading through the B.H. Roberts-edited History of the Church together. (It’s taking us a long time.) Recently, we ran across an interesting line from Joseph Smith (on 27 June 1839):

Repentance is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God.

This goes against what i think is a fairly common Mormon meme, namely that we sin every day, and therefore we have to repent every day. According to Brother Joseph, though, God thinks—or at least hopes—otherwise.

Anyway, just throwing this out there as an interesting item. I don’t have much to say about it in depth right now, though, ’cause i’m still mulling it over.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Against overextension

God seems to be into dietary restrictions without regard to whether it's a health thing or not. (Consider the prohibition on shellfish in the Mosaic code, and on meat sacrificed to idols in the early Xian church.) I think we've done ourselves a disservice by treating the Word of Wisdom as a “health code”—it's not, it's a dietary restriction. Full stop.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yeah, it probably is just me…

Is it just me, or does anyone else start thinking that they’re gonna be breaking out the Jenna Jameson movies when they hear announcements about the “adult session” of stake conference?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Just a brief rant today

We just had stake conference here, and there were dozens (seriously, dozens) of mentions of the importance of getting 19– to 25–year-old men to serve as full-time missionaries, but only two phrases given in passing that even acknowledged that 21+–year-old women can serve as full-time missionaries.*

Well, as a father of daughters and no sons, i started to get annoyed at having to sit through being told multiple times that i was remiss in my spiritual duties if i didn’t “prepare [my] sons to serve a full-time mission”—so i have this to say:

No, i’m not preparing any sons to serve as full-time missionaries—but i am preparing my daughters to, and i’m preparing them to be better teachers on their full-time missions than your sons will ever be.

* And this is through priesthood leadership meeting, the adult session,** and the general session.

** That reminds me of something. I’ll post it next time.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

’Nother thought on Mothers Day

Also, as far as i can tell, there is no directive in the Church Handbook of Instructions for the youth to hand out chocolates or flowers to the adult women in the congregation at the end of sacrament meeting on Mothers Day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Doctrine vs. practice

You know, there’s no canonical requirement for the Primary children to sing on Mothers Day. Just sayin’, you know?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Naked people doing naked things

I’ve heard a lot about pornography lately (read: the past few years) from church leaders, both local and general. It would be correct to sum up everything i’ve heard from them in two sentences: “It’s a bad thing” and “Don’t consume it”.

I think it’s interesting that the reasons given for this take a number of different forms, but they tend to center around the claim that pornography leads to sexual lust among the unmarried, and to sexual separation among the married. In particular, since the consumption of pornography is an individual act, it leads the one using porn to become sexually fixated (even if temporarily) on individuals other than one’s spouse. Another, less frequent but perhaps more potent, reason is that the consumption of pornography by one member of a married couple is effectively a form of adultery, given the New Testament view that lusting after someone who’s not one’s spouse is equivalent to adultery.

These reasons make sense to me, but they leave out one particular market for porn: married couples—specifically, married couples who consume pornographic material together as part of their sexual experiences as a couple. (This is not one of my particular kinks, but i know people for whom it is.) This leads to an interesting question: Is the consumption of pornography by such couples as couples the sort of thing that would be considered acceptable by church leaders? I suspect (with a likely 100% certainty) that the answer is a firm “no”, but none of the reasons* generally given in church settings against the consumption of pornography necessarily lead to that answer.

So: Why would the answer be negative?

* One possible exception: That the creation of pornography necessarily involves immoral acts, particularly fornication, by those creating it, and so the consumption of pornography rather directly encourages immorality. For the sake of argument, let’s limit ourselves to pornography involving only sexual acts between people married to each other, so as to make that one less of a distraction.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ignoring the prophets, again

M. Russell Ballard’s “Raising the Bar” address was delivered in the October 2002 general conference. (Yes, it was that long ago, and yes, you really are that old.) The quote everyone seems to use from it is:

Please understand this: The bar that is the standard for missionary service is being raised.
To my mind, though, the most interesting thing was stated very near the end of the address (emphasis added):

Upon you bishops and you stake presidents rests the responsibility to recommend only those young men and women whom you judge to be spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to face today’s realities of missionary work. Brethren, judge wisely and remember: Not every young man needs to be called to serve away from his home; some may best serve under your direction as ward missionaries.

In my observation, however, this has been pretty much ignored—the goal is still to get every male 19-year-old in the church to serve as a full-time missionary, and those that don’t are viewed as failures on the part of the young men’s program leadership and/or the priesthood leadership of the ward and/or the young man himself (or, possibly most often, on the part of all three). And even if that’s not the view in a particular case, there’s certainly still a cultural bias against a young adult male in the church who opts (for whatever reason) not to serve as a full-time missionary.

And so, as is always the case when i notice something like this, my question is deceptively simple: Why?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ignoring the prophets

I remember Boyd K. Packer speaking in the October 1998 general conference—and it was striking enough that Jeanne and i looked at each other with a “Did he really just say that?” reaction—about scheduling youth activities, and the need to make sure we don’t overschedule our youth with church things. The entire address is worth reading, but here’s the money quote:

I must touch upon what must surely be the most difficult problem to solve. Some youngsters receive very little teaching and support at home. There is no question but that we must provide for them. But if we provide a constant schedule of out-of-home activities sufficient to compensate for the loss in those homes, it may make it difficult for attentive parents to have time to be with and teach their own children. Only prayer and inspiration can lead us to find this difficult balance.
We often hear, “We must provide frequent and exciting activities lest our youth will go to less wholesome places.” Some of them will. But I have the conviction that if we teach parents to be responsible and allow them sufficient time, over the long course their children will be at home.
There, at home, they can learn what cannot be effectively taught in either Church or school. At home they can learn to work and to take responsibility. They learn what to do when they have children of their own.

Or, to summarize: Please cut back on scheduled activities!

Didn’t happen, though—leading me to wonder why. Any ideas?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What other people think

Heard in a sacrament meeting address: “You shouldn’t go to any movies that don’t follow church standards, because non-members might see you there and think less of the church because of you.”

Now, beyond the fact that i strongly doubt that non-Mormons care at all about what movies Mormons watch, it brings to mind something i saw in an email forward once, which was a list of lines headed by “You know you’re a victim of bad timing if…” One of them was “…you don’t have an umbrella, so you take shelter in the only place available, the awning of a local movie theatre—but it’s an X-rated theatre, and that’s the moment your minister decides to take a walk around the neighborhood.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On the meaning of an adjectival affix

Serious question: Is becoming Christlike the same thing as becoming like Christ?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Even a child can see through it!

So my 9-year-old was looking at the current nursery manual with me this evening, and she saw one of the first suggested activities in the “I Belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” lesson (lesson 25, page 104, for those who care to follow along). It reads:

Display the picture on page 106. Tell the children that this is a picture of Jesus Christ and we belong to His Church. Point to the picture and ask, “Who is this?”
Answer: “Jesus Christ.”

Anyway, my 9-year-old read that and said “Isn’t that a little silly? You tell them what the answer is, and then ask them?”

Basically, she was calling the manual out on being manipulative. I think this is evidence that i’m raising my children right.*

* And yes, i realize that there are people out there who would argue that this is evidence that i’m raising my children exactly wrong, and that i’m evil. That’s okay—i’ve learned to live with that.