Friday, July 29, 2011

No seat for you!

One more thought from the branch where i attended church last Sunday—we met in what appeared to be a recently-built building (for example, it had the current church logo on it, rather than any of the ones you see on older buildings), and it was clearly built for a small branch (not that many classrooms, a smallish chapel, and so on). There was one rather odd bit about the building’s design, though: There was no place for chapel overflow seating—the influx of visitors that Sunday meant that those who came in just a few minutes early (that’s right, not those who came late, but rather those who were only a couple minutes early) had nowhere to sit for sacrament meeting, but had to stand in the very small foyer.

Not exactly a welcoming design, really.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Truth is beauty, beauty truth

So a couple posts ago i mentioned that i was going to be traveling to family reunions, and as i more or less expected, that resulted in my complete radio silence over the past week and a half or so. However, stuff that happened over the time i was away gave me a couple things to write about.

For example, this past Sunday my family attended church (along with most of the rest of that mostly-Mormon branch of our family) at a smallish branch.* While i was there i saw something i haven’t seen in a Mormon church service in years:

Metal sacrament trays!

(Old-school represent!)

You know, i certainly understand that they can get dinged up, and they’re noisier than the plastic ones,** but the metal ones are so much prettier—and i hadn’t realized how much i’d missed that.

* Those of you who know how church unit budgets are calculated will understand why i kept imagining that the branch president was thinking to himself, “Why couldn’t their family reunion have been in June instead of July?”

** Unless you use the paper cups—but for whatever reason, the paper cups cost noticeably more than the plastic ones.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Who teaches those who teach the teachers?

So (since i brought up church lesson manuals a couple posts ago) i was looking through the church’s Preach My Gospel manual.* This is an important manual—it’s the sourcebook for teaching the teachers of those entering the faith (i.e., the full-time missionaries).

Unfortunately, the teachers apparently aren’t always being taught things that are consonant with current church policy. For the specific case i noticed, a quote from p. 77 [emphasis added]:

Chastity requires faithfulness in thought and action. We must keep our thoughts clean and be modest in our dress, speech, and actions. We must avoid pornography in any form. We should treat the God-given procreative power and our bodies as sacred. Baptismal candidates are to live the law of chastity, which prohibits any sexual relations outside of a legal marriage between a man and a woman. They are not to participate in abortions or homosexual or lesbian relations. Those who have committed sexual sin can repent and be forgiven.

This paragraph summarizes church dogma nicely, except for the bit i bolded—the church’s policy on abortion is actually a bit more nuanced than that, holding that abortion (while always regrettable) is justifiable to the point of not being sinful in cases where the life or health of the mother is seriously jeopardized by the pregnancy, where the fetus will not survive birth, or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.**

However, these exceptions†† aren’t mentioned anywhere in Preach My Gospel—and that’s important information for our missionaries to know! If someone asks a missionary what the Mormon church’s position on abortion is, and they base their understanding on the contents of the manual explaining what they’re to teach, our missionaries will be teaching something that doesn’t actually match our church’s policies.‡ This can’t be a good thing, can it?

* I can’t find an online version of it aside from a PDF file containing the whole thing, which seems a bit unwieldy to link to here.

** Such exceptions are one reason some of the more ardent† anti-abortion activist groups consider the Mormon church a pro-abortion group.

† Well, extreme would be a better word than ardent. Even most anti-abortion groups that think the Mormon church carves out too many exceptions generally find the church a worthwhile ally in their cause all in all, i think.

†† For one more exception, as far as i can tell (read: i may well be wrong in this, and would appreciate finding out—but i know of nothing about it either way in the church’s handbooks), a medical professional who is required to perform abortion procedures as a condition of employment has their church standing under no threat (assuming they don’t actively seek out opportunities to do so, presumably).

‡ Rather, the missionary would teach them how to be a good Roman Catholic. I’m happy that we’ve got Catholicism in our world—absolutely beautiful rites, especially if you can find a nice high mass, just nothing but beautiful—but it’s not us.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More ways to talk about the priesthood

My last post got me thinking more about priesthood and terminology, particularly something Jeanne and i have been wondering about as we’ve been reading some old church history stuff:

Why don’t we use the term lesser priesthood (for what we nearly consistently call the Aaronic priesthood) anymore?

It seems a completely serviceable term, and it also seems to have been the preferred one a century and a half ago (not to mention that it has solid basis in canon), so why has it fallen out of fashion so thoroughly?

Monday, July 11, 2011

What do you call a synonym that actually isn’t?

What’s up with the use of the word priesthood to actually mean men?

It gets ridiculous at times, like when i’ve seen active-but-nonmember husbands of members of the church included in the blanket label the priesthood.

Not to mention, of course, that the priesthood doesn’t direct traffic at stake conferences, people do. Is that really such a difficult distinction to make?

p.s. I’m going to be traveling and at family reunions the next bit, so posting on this blog may be sporadic the next month. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bad science! No biscuit!

So my wife and i had a snarf-the-beverage-of-your-choice moment the other day, when we ran across this gem from the current year’s young women manual* (ch. 25, p. 91):

Explain that one of the primary aims of science is to discover additional laws. When scientists discover these higher laws and obey them, marvelous things can happen. The successful landing of men on the moon is an example of the importance of obedience. Men spent years concentrating on discovering and obeying the natural laws that governed gravity, jet propulsion, and other things. Their obedience resulted in the successful landing of a man on the moon.***

Um, no.

Or, for emphasis: NO!!

That’s not the way scientific laws work. Folks didn’t make it to the moon because they obeyed natural laws—those laws were going to be obeyed whether they wanted to or not. (Gravity doesn’t really care if you believe in it, after all.) Now, the successful application of their understanding, yeah, that was necessary. But choosing obedience? No, that had nothing—really, nothing—to do with it.

I mean, seriously—who vets these things?

* Why are the young women manuals so out of date? It’s like the church decided that all the rest of the manuals would have an up-to-date feel, but the young women could make do with a manual with a copyright date of 1994, but content that feels so, so much older.**

** Like the clearly made-up (i.e., not based on true events) stories that start “A girl and her friend were invited to a party…” that the church has (happily!) moved away from in its other materials.

*** And i’m not even getting into the fact that humans making it to the moon isn’t just before the girls-being-taught’s time, it’s before my time. Apparently, scientists haven’t done anything lesson-manual-worthy during my life.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Apparently David B hates America

I realize that this is borderline heresy, especially in July (when all USAmericans, and especially USAmerican Mormons, are xpected to be nothing but hyperpatriotic),* but can we stop hearing that the United States Constitution is divinely inspired—or at least can we stop saying that over the pulpit?

I mean, even if it is,** there’s no real evidence for that claim in canon,*** and so it shouldn’t be presented as if there were.

(I only hope that we don’t get such jingoism among Mormons in other countries, ’cause it’d just be totally sad if we do.)

* Not only do we get Independence Day on 4 July, but 24 July brings us Pioneer Day, when those of us with no real connection to the Mormon pioneers are expected to get up early for breakfast and salute the flag on their behalf anyway.

** And i would argue it clearly isn’t—i mean, slavery being legal? Women having no say in government? Hello? Anyone willing to admit there might be some uninspired bits in there?

*** The book of Doctrine and Covenants states that God allowed the United States Constitution to be established, and that those who wrote it were raised up for the purpose of establishing it. There really is a big difference between that and saying the document irself is divinely inspired. (See, for example, the previous footnote.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

What’s the fascination with sleeping on dirt?

What’s with the Mormon adoration of camping? I mean, we’ve got scout camp, girls* camp, father-son campouts, ward campouts, relief society retreats (generally involving camping), and so on.

I mean, really—why? Do we really feel that sleeping on dirt helps people commune with the Spirit? Or at least that it helps people be friendlier with each other?

’Cause i don’t. It just tends to make me irritable for having neither easy access to a well-working shower nor a safe place to hide from the mosquitoes—not my idea of happiness in building the Kingdom, you know?

* <ahem /> Young women’s camp, if you don’t mind.