Monday, June 28, 2010

The n+1th commandment, where n≥0

Seriously, i’m tired of the meme that the first commandment given to Adam and Eve was to have kids. The first one we have record of? Sure. The first one ever? We have no way of knowing. (And that’s even assuming the Garden of Eden story is non-allegorical, which the church has no actual position on, as far as i can find.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Not better, just different

I’m not a fan of the “my wife is better than me” meme that you hear guys offer up occasionally in sacrament meeting speeches and class discussions. (I’m also not a fan of its less-often-heard “my husband is better than me” analogue.) The truth is, everybody’s better than everybody else, if you focus on an overly narrow slice of characteristics in each case. So your wife’s better than you, and you’re better than your wife. Stop trying to impress us with your fake humility, and you might become even better.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A simple request

Please, y’all, stop apologizing for your speaking skills when you get up to speak in sacrament meeting. It’s not helping the rest of us take you seriously, really it’s not.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Involvement by assignment

As a bit of a transition out of my last few posts, a thought about boy (and especially cub) scouting and the Mormon church.

Boy scouts makes a big deal about how its leadership is drawn from parent volunteers, and in fact that cub scouts is a primarily parent-driven program. However, adult positions within Mormon-church-affiliated boy and cub scout organizations are issued as “callings”—which means that even though those positions are technically filled by volunteers, they’re actually filled by assignment.

This leads to the issue of people being involved in boy and cub scouting who might not want to be involved in it, or in some other way aren’t invested in it. I’m not certain that this is optimal.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Boys and girls: Access to authority

Organizational leaders in the Mormon church get extra-special bonus meetings* on top of the meeting load that comes simply with being an active member of the church. Two of these are “priesthood executive committee” and “ward council”.

Priesthood executive committee is a meeting that includes the bishopric, those holding a couple of administrative positions, and the heads of priesthood groups.** Ward council is a more expansive group, including the priesthood executive committee plus the heads of the “auxiliary organizations”—things like the primary and relief society organizations, the young women’s organization, the Sunday school, and so on.

This means that the head of the young men’s organization attends both priesthood executive committee*** and ward council meetings, while the head of the young young women’s organization attends only ward council, thereby giving the young women’s organization less access to the bishop—and, probably more crucially, fewer opportunities to schedule things—in such settings, and only in a situation where the access is much more diluted. I’ve seen this lead to miscommunications before (never anything major, happily, but it certainly happens).

Of course, you could always do what a bishop i knew some years ago did, and say that since ward council includes everyone in priesthood executive committee, they’d be combined into a single ward council meeting. With our religion’s love of meetings upon meetings upon meetings upon meetings, though, i figure that many would consider that a heretical solution to the problem.

* Yeah, great joy and stuff.

** I seem to recall reading once that church leadership had said that the head of the relief society organization could be included in this group at the option of the bishop, but i’ve never known that to actually happen. Anyone know if that’s just a Mormon urban legend, or if it actually is an official option?

*** Ostensibly as the person in charge of the Aaronic priesthood-age boys, but the bishop is actually the head of the Aaronic priesthood in the ward (according to canon), so i’m not sure exactly what’s going on there.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Boys and girls: Adult investment

The structure of cub scouts with lots of age-defined packs within a single den, and the widespread institutional Mormon desire to split things up into small atomic units,* means that 8–11-year-old boys generally end up with more adults directly invested in their midweek activities than the girls of the same age do.

Concrete example, from a ward i’ve recently lived in: Achievement days has about eight girls who attend regularly, with two adults directly involved in running the program.** Cub scouts has about eight boys who attend regularly, with seven adults directly involved in running the program.***

Yeah, that’s balanced.

* Which i really don’t understand—i mean, given the way a decent number of people in any given ward are unwilling or unable to accept callings, you’d think you’d want to combine stuff, not split it up. But there we go, with tiny numbers of kids in primary classes, tiny numbers of kids in cub scout packs, tiny numbers of grownups in any given Sunday School class (aside maybe from gospel doctrine class), and so on.

** That is, one class, not two. This goes against the trend of splitting things up atomically mentioned above, and i have no explanation for that—but even if that was done, it’d probably only be two classes, and so four adults.

*** And i’m not counting people who work with both cub scouts and boy scouts in the count. The seven are one wolf pack leader plus assistant, one bear leader plus assistant, one webelos leader plus assistant, and one cubmaster.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Boys and girls: Presidencies

Here’s something that’s more an interesting oddity than anything else: Pretty much every organizational presidency or presidency-equivalent (e.g., the high priests group leadership) in a ward involves the bishopric* calling the president, and then getting recommendations for counselors from the newly-called president. Those counselors are then called if the bishopric (or stake presidency, for some organizations) approves.

There is one** exception to this, though: The presidency of the young men’s organization. In that one, the bishopric selects the president and the counselors.

Interesting, and i wonder why.

* Well, in the case of a bishop the calling comes from higher, of course. Also, in some cases, such as an elders quorum presidency, the organizational president is called by the stake presidency upon recommendation by the bishop. However, the general pattern beyond that is the same, it’s just the authority issuing the calls that’s different.

** I think i’m right that this is the only one, that is—i don’t think i’m wrong, but if i am i’d like to hear it. In any event, the presidency of the young women’s organization is certainly not an exception.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Boys and girls: Callings

A few years ago, the church set up policies to protect children from sexual predators. (A good goal, certainly.) Among these, rules were set up for teaching primary classes that required that a primary class be taught by one woman, two men, or a married couple (i.e., a man and a woman). This makes it rather less efficient to have a man called to teach a primary class, since if a man is called to teach a primary class two people have to be called to teach it, not just one.* This means that, in most wards, women are more likely to be called to teach primary than men are.***

I tend to think that the heavy preponderance of women teaching primary classes simply serves to give support to the stereotype that women are the ones who should be involved with children, and that men should feel free to be the aloof father of Bambi type—in my own opinion, not very healthy.

* The policy puzzles me, incidentally. I mean, yeah, the popular stereotype of a sexual predator is certainly male, but there are a lot of female sexual predators out there. So why are women allowed to teach primary alone?**

** And yes, i know that the policy does provide some situations in which a man can teach a primary class alone. That’s certainly not the default, though.

*** This was probably already the case, but the current policy, i think, makes it even more so.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Boys and girls: The purpose of the thing

Once Mormon children turn eight, they get to participate in midweek activities. For the 8- to 11-year-old boys, this means cub scouts—a weekly program with clearly stated aims that moves the boys along in a progressive building of skills with formal recognition of progress made along the way. The 8- to 11-year-old girls are in achievement days, a biweekly* meeting with vague goals that don’t really progress to a specific end and don’t naturally lend themselves to any recognition for intermediate progress.

Of course, my experience with this is in the United States, where the Mormon church and boy scouting are linked to a very high** degree. In some other locations, achievement days is a sex-neutral (though still, as i understand it, sex-segregated) church program. I’m curious how the implementation of the program might differ in those areas.

* In most wards, that is—in my current ward, achievement days occurs weekly. Of course, my current stake has never met a meeting it didn’t like, so this difference makes sense in that context.

** And unhealthy, in my opinion, but that’s just my opinion.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Boys and girls: High adventure

The general policy of the church, as i’ve heard it from multiple bishops in widely dispersed areas, is that a large chunk of a ward’s budget allotment in any given year is supposed to go to the youth. This makes sense to me.

In addition, most bishops try to be fairly evenhanded about the way the budget is allotted*—the same amount of money for the young women as the young men,** or allotting the same amount per individual to each of those groups.

So far, so good. But then there are what might best be called special allotments—and, in my observation, the only one of these for the youth is annual or biennial funding for the priest-age boys to go on a “high adventure” trip.

Yeah, it’s cool that the 16- and 17-year-old boys get to go white-water rafting a few hundred miles away from home, or camping out at a national park none of them have ever gone to, or traveling by horseback through the mountains. But what do the girls get along those lines?

Yep, that’s right—bupkis.

Incidentally, this is a recurrent theme over at the Spanish Fork 401st Ward blog—see, for example, their Young Men/Young Women activities calendar for this past April.

* This is spelled correctly, but doesn’t look like it is to me.

** Not that great of an approach when there are very different numbers of young men and young women, but it’s an easy way of dealing with ward budgets, and having seen ward budgets up close, i’m not going to begrudge making them easier.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Boys and girls: Networking

I am not a fan of boy scouting. Not at all. However, i have to admit that there’s one thing it has going for it: There’s a built-in mechanism for the boys involved in it to meet other boys with similar interests through the institutions of camporees and jamborees.

Girl scouts have similar things, but the church doesn’t sponsor girl scout groups, for whatever reason.* Odd, really, that the church would be linked at the hip with a group that has as a stated purpose the development of boys into strong-willed, independent men, but has nothing to do with a group that has as a stated purpose the development of girls into strong-willed, independent women.

* I’ve heard that this is because of the cookie sale fundraising requirement, but that rings false with me. If fundraising was an issue, the boy scouts wouldn’t be allowed to send people to scout training meetings at Mormon churches to drum up donations—but they do, they most certainly do.