Friday, December 31, 2010

The primacy of family home eveningNew Year’s Eve

According to the official handbooks, the church does not allow any church activities to take the place of Monday night family home evenings. Ever. Under any circumstances.

Well, except

If New Year’s Eve occurs on a Monday, church activities may be held that evening.

This is actually a longstanding policy—so, i have to ask, why? What’s so special about New Year’s Eve as opposed to any other holiday that’s frequently celebrated with late nights (like, for example, Independence Day in the United States)?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Youth dances and hair

A couple weeks ago, i chaperoned a church youth dance for the very first time.

It was a weird experience, being the grown-up. But that’s not the aspect of it i want to talk about today.

Here’s what really caught my attention: There’s a dress and grooming code for attending dances in my stake. (As far as i can tell, there’s such dress and grooming codes for church dances at least nearly everywhere, though the details of what they are may be different.) Here, the dress and grooming standards are, essentially, the same ones that Brigham Young University requires of its students.

For the most part, this isn’t a problem, because my stake allows youth who come to the dances but aren’t following those dress and grooming rules to change their appearance on the spot, and then they’re allowed in. So, for example, a girl with more than one pair of earrings (or a boy with any earrings, or anyone with any visible non-ear body piercing) can simply remove the piercing and they’re good to go.

This even goes to the clothes the kid is wearing—if, say, a girl comes in wearing a skirt that’s too short, the stake holds a bunch of teen-sized clothing in reserve that they can change into so that they’re then following the rules. (In my opinion this is good, by the way—if you’re going to have rules on appearance that have somewhat subjective boundaries, providing a way to adhere to them on the spot seems only reasonable.)

There are, though, a few rules that don’t lend themselves to on-the-spot changing—and there lies the problem. For example, one of the rules in my stake forbids youth with multiple colors of hair (you know, like bleached ends or a streak of color)* from attending youth dances.

Fine. You can make whatever rule you like. But i wonder about whether this is actually a good sort of rule to have, one where the so-called “problem” can’t be fixed on the spot. (Basically, if someone shows up with multiple hair colors, they’ve got to go home—there’s no good way to cover it up, especially with hats not being allowed.) What, though, if a non-member who has, say, blue and blond streaks gets invited to a youth dance here? They’re not allowed to enter—if they show up, they get barred from going in. Of course, if that happens they’re less likely to show any interest in the church in the future, i would expect.

And there we have a real issue (and not necessarily the one you’d immediately think of). The big problem: Our expectations start to feed our reality—i mean, a kid with blue and blond streaks clearly isn’t the sort of person who would ever have any interest in the church, anyway, right? After all, they never seem to want to come to our dances, so their hair color must just be a reflection of a hard heart and spiritual weakness, right? And we wouldn’t want someone like that in our church, would we?

* Of course, the enforcement of this rule doesn’t extend to girls with blond highlights. I suppose they can’t really enforce that one ’cause if they did, they’d have to ban some of the youth leaders from showing up. Amazing how the practices of the ones holding more power are acceptable, even if it goes against the literal statements of those in power, isn’t it?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holidays and meetings

As much as i loathe extra-special bonus meetings, i do wonder why we don’t do Xmas Eve meetings, like so many other Xian faiths do. I mean, if you’re gonna have one extra meeting, you’d think that’s the one you should have.

(Of course, not having a bonus meeting on Xmas is, i suppose, better than what we do with Easter, which is to have the regularly scheduled meeting anyway but pretty much ignore the specialness of the day while we’re meeting.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Looking at the calendar

Can we stop it already with the repeated claim (over the pulpit sometimes, even!) that we’re special because Doctrine & Covenants 20:1 tells us that Jesus was born on 6 April, 1 bc?

I mean, especially since it appears to be simply not true, what with the reference to the year most likely being just a hyper-flowery way of saying ad 1830? (Not to mention the issues of mapping a solar calendar to a lunar one, and the fact that each solar year isn’t always the same length anyway, and…) Also, it seems especially impolite to make such unsupported-by-scriptural-text statements right around Xmas itself.

Yeah, i know, we won’t (stop, that is). A boy can dream, though, can’t he?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mormons and persecution

The next time somebody starts going off in a church meeting about how persecuted they are as a Mormon,* i’m going to direct them to the recent NPR story on Iraqi Christians being singled out for death threats and even actual killing simply because they’re Christian.

That’s persecution, folks. People look at you weird or won’t vote for you or laugh about your beliefs ’cause you’re a Mormon, that’s simply life. Get over yourself. Mormons in the 1830s and 1840s were persecuted. Mormons in the 1880s were persecuted. Nowadays? If Iraqi Christians had the time or energy to spare, they would scoff at your delusions—and they’d be justified in doing so.

* A surprisingly common meme, really. Occasionally it’s blatant (the “somebody laughed at me at school because i’m Mormon” sort of thing), but usually it’s more subtle, and couched in terms of “attacks” on religion or the family or somesuch, but set up with a clear attack-on-Mormonism sort of spin.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Missing sleep

Can somebody explain to me how it’s healthy for our church’s teens to have weeknight church activities once a week that go until (in most places i’ve seen) 8:30 or 9:00 pm, and then have to get up early in the morning the next day for seminary? Seriously, what’s up with the logic? Have we decided our teenagers are superhuman, and don’t need sleep for healthy functioning?*

No, really—i don’t get it.

* And y’all in the Mormon Dominance Area, where you don’t have early-morning seminary, you don’t get off easy on this one. What i want to know from you is how it helps our youth to pull them away from their academics in the middle of the day, instead of putting gospel study in the home, where all the rhetoric we use says it rightly belongs.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Decorum and performance

I have, not infrequently, heard members of the church talk about how horrible and apostate—yes, the “A” word comes up occasionally—certain other faiths are because they allow things like drums and electric guitars and such into their meetings, and members of the congregation do things like dance or or shout or cheer.

All i can say is that if you don’t sometimes want to get up and dance or cheer in sacrament meeting, well, then your ward’s choir isn’t doin’ it right.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why these meetings?

Can somebody explain to me the purpose of the priesthood executive committee at the ward level? I mean, why is there such a group that has to meet quite so often, as opposed to just doing everything through the ward council?