Monday, January 31, 2011

Relative scriptures

I feel the presence of God’s love much more intensely in the Old Testament than in the other parts of the standard works. People often look at me strangely when i tell them that, but it’s true.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Men on this side, women on that side

So why do primary presidents have to be female, while Sunday school presidents have to be male?

I mean, i guess i can kind of (but only kind of) understand why primary presidents are female, ’cause there’s the whole women-taking-care-of-children thing. But Sunday school presidents having to be male, that i don’t get at all. Seriously, that requirement seems like it was simply made up to give some guys something to do. It’s not like a female Sunday school president wouldn’t be able to be in charge of male Sunday school teachers, since female primary presidents are in charge of male primary teachers, so it’s not even something that can be explained away by appealing to stereotypes of sexism and authority. So what’s up with the policy?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How young is too old?

Where did the widespread Mormon cultural imperative for (comparatively) young marriages come from? I mean, it’s not like terribly young marriages were the historical norm throughout human history and age of first marriage has just recently started to rise*—so it has to have started sometime. Did it get ported in from some other group? Is it of relatively recent vintage, at least among Mormons?** More interestingly (for me), why is it such a taken-for-granted thing nowadays?

* For example, according to Stephanie Coontz’s Marriage: A History, the median age of first marriage for women in England between 1500 and 1700 was 26.

** Looking at age of marriage for general authorities throughout church history, i actually do suspect it’s a relatively recent cultural development.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Deciding who speaks when

Is there actually a church policy that someone who holds the Melchizedek priesthood (or at least a man) must be the closing speaker for sacrament meeting? (Or maybe that a woman can’t be the closing speaker?) There actually is, as far as i can find, no direction on this, which presumably would mean that it doesn’t matter—so why have most of the wards i’ve lived in treated things (sometimes explicitly, even!) like that was the rule?

Friday, January 21, 2011

One word, different worlds

You know, it occurs to me that the abbreviation “WoW” means very different things to Mormons and non-Mormons.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I have a dream (that sacrament meetings will sound interesting)

So yesterday was a holiday here in the United States in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. As a result, i heard a bunch of archival recordings of Dr. King on the radio, especially of his most famous speech.

Listening to that, i wondered why our church speechifying is so, well, boring. I mean, not necessarily in terms of content, but in style—even when the speaker is saying something stirring, there’s almost never any prosodic shifting going on, there’s no serious attempt to bring the congregation into the flow of the words.

And it’s not like this flat delivery is something inherent to Mormonism—if you listen to old general conference addresses, the old-school speakers (those who came of age in the nineteenth century) got into it. So apparently it used to be part of Mormon preaching—but now it’s not. So what happened? Why did we move away from interesting-sounding sermons to monotonous-sounding ones?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

People are weird about blood

(So i’m back from Pittsburgh, and fully settled back in. Good trip, though intensely sleep-depriving. But enough of that—on to content.)

Something i’ve been thinking about a good bit lately: In at least some temples, girls who go to do baptisms for the dead are asked beforehand if they’re on their periods, and those who are aren’t allowed to participate.* Why is this done?**

In fact, one woman i know very well*** had her ward’s youth temple trips coincide with her period often enough in her early teen years that she simply stopped going on them. This highlights an unintended and rather serious consequence of this tradition (i’m assuming it’s not a formal policy)—teenaged girls are being excluded from participating in the highest level of religious rites that they can at that age, due simply to factors they have no control over. Yeah, that’s useful priming for these girls’ future activity in the church.

* I come by this knowledge via conversations with several women over the years. Yes, i have a history of having had lots of conversations with women i’ve known about menstruation-related issues. No, i don’t see this as in any way strange.

** And when giving your answer, please remember that public pools seem to have no problem with menstruating women being in the water.

*** Who i doubt would mind being identified by name, but she’s not here right now to ask for permission.****

**** Gratuitous footnote, just so there’s one more.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gifts and influences

I’m off on a business trip for the next several days, and so i doubt i’ll have the chance to post again until sometime next week—so, then, a question i’ve been trying to figure out the answer to for a long time now:

     → What in the world is the Gift of the Holy Ghost, anyway?

The Gift of the Holy Ghost is generally described* as entitling the recipient to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, as long as the recipient remains worthy of it. This is contrasted with the influence of the Holy Ghost, which allows those who have not received the gift to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost in their lives as long as they’re worthy of it.

Sorry, but i don’t see a difference here. This is especially the case when you look at how “companionship” and “influence” are described, and you discover that they’re describing the same thing.

Yeah, it often gets described metaphorically as a “flashlight” (the gift) vs. a “flash of lightning” (the influence). This presumes, though, that those with the gift will remain constantly worthy, and those without the gift won’t—and i really don’t think you can make that claim with any validity.

So what’s the difference?

And, to add an additional wrinkle, i have to say that i’m not certain that the Gift of the Holy Ghost actually has anything to do with receiving inspiration from the Holy Ghost (in the usual ways we talk about it, at least), anyway—i mean, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is generally described as a saving ordinance, which means that there’s something way beyond experiences in mortality going on with it. Receiving inspiration from the Holy Ghost doesn’t seem to be quite comprehensive enough to have it have that sort of effect, you know?

So, i repeat: What in the world is the Gift of the Holy Ghost, anyway?

(And now i think i’m gonna have to break out the “serious” tag on this one.)

* In the current edition of the Gospel Principles manual, even!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Not preventing teen pregnancy

I’ve read a few things lately that have noted that a teenage girl who wants to have children rather than not wanting to have children is at higher risk for teen pregnancy.* However, we spend a lot of our time in young women’s lessons and activities talking about how marvelous and glorious motherhood is, and how a girls’s highest calling will be that of a mother.**

It seems that we’re sowing the seeds for teen pregnancies with that—or rather (more likely, i’d say) we’re at least counteracting some of the protective influences against teen pregnancy that active Mormon girls tend to have.***

So, then, why do we push the whole baby-making thing? I mean, it’s not like women who aren’t raised in contexts where their religion goes on and on about the glories of motherhood automatically refuse to ever conceive children, so why do we cling to our rhetoric on childbearing when it may actually even be harmful?

* For “teen pregnancy”, read “unwed teen pregnancy”. Also, the studies i’ve seen have shown no difference between girls who want to have children and those who are ambivalent about it—basically, the only protective effect comes from actually actively not wanting to have a baby.

** Which annoys me, actually, if for no reason other than that some of them will not be mothers. Way to set ’em up for an emotional fall, folks!

*** Strong religious belief, familial and community support, and such—not that all active Mormon girls have all of those, but the likelihood of any given active Mormon girl having those is comparatively high.