Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

And now for Saturday afternoon, when everybody seems to relax just a bit.

So, if you’ve missed the preceding explanations, these posts are each made in reverse chronological order by speaker, so that you can scroll down on the page and cover the entire conference from the bottom up; however, the bullet points for each speaker are top down (i.e., from the speaker’s name, working downward). It’s moderately confusing, but i’ve been doing it that way for some years now and people seem to be able to figure it out well enough. And so, with that as background, here’s where you scroll down to the bottom, unless you wish to relive this session backwards.

Closing thoughts
  • On the whole, i liked the Saturday sessions (even the priesthood session, which usually leaves me a bit flat) better than the Sunday sessions.
  • I usually have a favorite address from the conference. It’s a hard call this time. I think my favorite was Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Saturday morning address, but Jeffrey R. Holland’s Saturday afternoon address was the most important. In addition, Edward Dube’s address (Saturday morning) was incredibly meaningful and stirring, and i hope we hear a lot more of him in the future.
  • Multiple sessions ended a few minutes early. If this is a subtle message to the rest of us (if you’re done, then you’re done), i have to say that i heartily approve.
  • The members of the first presidency and quorum of apostles mostly seem to have left the stand with their wives. (Some, of course, couldn’t; Thomas S. Monson left with his daughter, and not all of them did all of the time.) How did their wives get there? Were they sitting on the stand the whole time? Now i’m curious.

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • As is usual for him, his closing remarks are mostly a mild pep talk.

Russell M. Nelson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Each day brings decisions that have eternal ramifications.
  • There are sicknesses and deformities, as well as things like aging and death. Even with all these, the body is an amazing gift.
  • We were chosen to come to earth at this time not so much for our physical attributes as for our spiritual attributes.
  • God’s doctrines do not change, even when civil laws do.

Terence M. Vinson (of the quorums of seventy)
  • Rather than solve problems for us, we are to develop the faith in the Lord that will allow us to gain the inspiration about how we should gain the help of the Lord to solve those problems.
  • If we align our will with that of the Lord, then the Lord will bless us.

Adrián Ochoa (of the quorums of seventy)
  • We need to pay attention to the signs of the times
  • Both the viewing of pornography and of anti-Mormon resources have the same effect on our spirits.
  • [I’m not sure i’m following this address. It’s not his accent or such—his fluency in English is pretty high—but i wonder if he’s basing the structure of his address in a rhetorical tradition i’m unfamiliar with.]

Kevin S. Hamilton (of the quorums of seventy)
  • [I’ll be totally honest: The sort of story he opened with—the family left the church because one day they decided to take a ride in the country instead of going to sacrament meeting, and then they didn’t come to church again—bothers me. I mean, there’s something else going on in there, there has to be.]
  • We have three Sunday meetings, with separate purposes: Sacrament meeting lets us participate in worship and be edified, Sunday school lets us teach each other, and priesthood and relief society meetings let us learn our duties.
  • [This is sounding basically like a plea to not skip the non-sacrament Sunday meetings. Do that many people really skip out on them?]

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency), announcements
  • [He announced "Called to Serve" as the choir+congregation song, and there was quite a bit of susurussing from the crowd. I'm thinking people liked that choice.]

David M. McConkie (of the general presidency of the Sunday school)
  • Church teachers need to teach as the Savior would teach.
  • Church teachers do not have the right to mingle their own philosophies with the truths they are to teach.. [Does this mean that i get to stop hearing little code-worded asides criticizing the policies of the current president of the United States in church classes? No? Oh well, a boy can hope, you know?]
  • When teaching, you have to have the courage to follow the Spirit’s promptings, even if that takes you away from your prepared content.
  • If you pay attention, when you teach by the Spirit you will learn something from what you teach. [I like the conditional clause at the beginning of that.]

Neil L. Andersen (of the quorum of apostles)
  • All of us can have a home blessed by priesthood power even if, on the surface, it seems that we can’t (e.g., single mothers).
  • Raising the issue of why only men are ordained to the priesthood. [He didn’t really answer why, though he did, it seems to me, do a bit of rhetorical dissociation of priesthood—or at least priesthood power—with ordination.]
  • Both requesting and performing priesthood ordinances requires humility.
  • The decision on the age change for full-time missionaries included many discussions with relief society, young women, and primary leadership; local leaders should follow that example.

Quentin L. Cook (of the quorum of apostles)
  • A comparison of the messages (similar) and missions (different) of Jeremiah and Lehi.
  • A description of the falls of Israel and Judah, with some relatively indirect connections made to the present day.
  • Righteousness is a prerequisite for assisting in the gathering of the elect, as well as the literal restoration of the people of Israel.
  • [Did he just say that businesses need to make it possible for all parents (both female and male) to appropriately balance their family and work responsibilities, with a lean toward family? ’Cause that's what it sounded like.]

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Big leagues! Sunday morning, when the server load peaks, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir women wear their most attractive robes (well, at least usually—remember the not-found-in-nature pink from last time?), and everybody’s on their best behavior.

So: As with all these, the first speaker appears at the bottom of this post, the second speaker above that, and so on until you get to the end of the session, which is what looks like the first entry below the intro.

And so we begin…

Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • Opening with a eulogy for his wife. [Very intense, and very sweet.]
  • As we face challenges, we need to respond with faith, as Job did.
  • Remember that others have faced similar challenges, and overcome them and remained steadfast and of good cheer.
  • This is possible to do when the gospel of Jesus Christ is at the center of our lives.
  • Sadness and suffering are universal, but we can still recognize the goodness of God in the midst of our sufferings.
  • “This should be out purpose: To persevere and endure—yes, but also to become more spiritually refined…”

Richard G. Scott (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Sins, even those repented of, may have long-term effects—Satan can use our memories of what we have done before to tempt us back into them.
  • We must fortify our weak points to be able to avoid temptation.
  • The Lord sees weaknesses differently than rebellion—he views weaknesses with mercy.
  • [He’s not saying this directly, but i think there’s applications here to Mormons who build fences around the law. That is, it’s fine for people to go beyond the word of wisdom by avoiding all caffeine, or who go beyond the laws of sabbath observance by never changing out of their church clothing, because that may be helpful for them, shoring them up against some sort of weakness that they perceive in themselves. However, such rules shouldn’t be preached to others, since those aren’t everyone’s weak points, and those others may need to focus on different weaknesses.]
  • As you serve others, Satan’s temptations lose power in your life.

Richard J. Maynes (of the presidency of the seventy)
  • Spiritual endurance, like physical endurance, comes at a price: dedication, perseverance, and self-discipline.
  • When tragedy strikes, we should remember that tragedy isn’t forever—and having the spiritual strength that lets us endure will let us know that tragedy isn’t forever.
  • If we develop such spiritual strength, we’ll be able to face any challenge we’re faced with.

Bonnie L. Oscarson (young women general president)
  • Living the principles of the gospel and sacrificing for them leads to conversion to those principles.
  • True conversion is a continuing process that takes place by following gospel principles over time.

Dallin H. Oaks (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Another early-speech reference to Jesus’s statement of the greatest commandment!
  • A listing of things that we may prioritize higher than God, and then something like “if these don’t apply to some of us, we can come up with others that do”.
  • [He’s decrying falling birth rates. I have to admit that i don’t get why this is a problem. If infant mortality rates have dropped, it seems like lower birth rates is the reasonable reaction.]
  • We need to be tolerant of others’ beliefs (including lack of belief), and ask that we receive the same tolerance for ours.
  • Concern about large number of out-of-wedlock births and cohabitation preceding marriage.
  • Our standard of behavior needs to be based in God’s law, not civil law.
  • [I have to admit that i'm not sure what his overall message is—is he saying we need to change civil law to match our religious beliefs, or is he saying we simply need to follow religious beliefs when civil law would allow us to not follow those religious beliefs? There’s a big difference.]

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • “The wonderful world of family creation”. [Let’s just say that isn’t a phrase i’ve heard before, and that i don’t expect to ever hear again.]
  • To have an excellent family life, follow the two great commandments.
  • It is only by having the companionship of the Holy Ghost that we can have a marriage free of discord.
  • Amazing quote from George Q. Cannon (i think it was) on the love that God has for each of us.
  • “God has devised means of saving each of this children”, and those means are often our family members.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

Priesthood session, now on pay-per-viewthe internet! (Though i watched it at the church building, ’cause that way i was able to chat with a few people, which, when added to a post-priesthood session dinner out with the family—a nice perk of living in this time zone—explains the delay in posting these notes.)

So anyway, as with the rest of these, the first speaker appears at the bottom of this post, the second speaker above that, and so on until you get to the end of the session, which is what looks like the first entry below the intro (but each speaker’s entry is arranged top to bottom).


Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • Priesthood holders have a shepherding responsibility; one significant way this is done is through home teaching.
  • He went over some very specific, basic things about home teaching here: make an appointment rather than just dropping by; make a real visit rather than just pass by so that you can report good numbers; when youth are part of the companionship, make sure that they have a significant teaching role; and so on. [Are we really doing that badly at such basic stuff?]
  • If we are conscientious in visiting and teaching the members in their homes, we will be the means of blessing many lives.

Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency)
  • ”All of us are blessed with the responsibility for others.”
  • The parable of the good Samaritan can be read as a parable of an overworked priesthood holder—just make sure you’re not the priest or the Levite!
  • The Samaritan stopped because he had compassion—and he didn’t just feel compassion, he acted with compassion.
  • Priesthood holders can be assured that (1) we will be given, if we ask for it, the compassion that God feels; (2) the Lord will provide others who will help us; and (3) the recompense for what we do will be more than enough.
  • As a priesthood leader, you will be inspired about not just who to ask to help provide service, but also who not to ask—after all, while many would benefit from an opportunity to serve, some may need to, say, spend time with their children that day. You must pray to receive such inspiration.
  • If you are faithful and see that someone’s faith is being attacked by Satan, you will feel compassion and minister to them.
  • To minister to someone and strengthen their faith, you must first continually build your faith beforehand.
  • In the end, we must have charity.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
  • What may seem impossible can suddenly become possible when someone looks you in the eye, takes you by the hand, and says “You can do it”.
  • No one likes to fail, especially when others see us fail; however, we mortals don’t become champions without making mistakes along the way.
  • Prophets have given the message over and over again that people can repent. This doesn’t mean that we should be comfortable in our sins, but it does mean that we shouldn’t despair in them.
  • When guilt leads to self-loathing it impedes rather than promotes repentance.
  • If we see doing good as something we are and something we desire, we are more likely to do good than if we see those things as just expected of us by others.
  • Those who are focused on divine goals may still stumble and fall, bit they will rise up and continue to move forward, becoming better and happier as a result.

Randy D. Funk (of the quorums of seventy)
  • How could someone who was underprepared to be a full-time missionary end up fulfilling that calling with power? Answer: An apostle has given your assignment, a prophet of God has called you, and you have been set apart by the correct authority, and so you are guaranteed power.
  • To have this power, missionaries must be humble, be obedient, and hear and follow the Spirit.
  • Cool wordplay: Soil is broken to plant crops; wheat is broken to make bread; bread is broken to provide the emblems of the sacrament; one who partakes of the sacramental emblems with a broken heart and a contrite spirit is made whole.
  • To gain enough knowledge to be a good full-time missionary, first be obedient to the commandments of God.

Gérald Caussé (of the presiding bishopric)
  • [He doesn’t use an initial or a middle name, but he’s still a general authority!? Is that even allowed?]
  • While the church is growing in diversity, we all share a common heritage—we are all a part of the family of Abraham. [Hurrah! An address about our heritage that doesn’t devolve into a “We are all pioneers” bit.]
  • The people of Israel were commanded to treat outsiders who lived among them as if they were native-born.
  • Jesus Christ was an example of accepting those who were outsiders, in national, regional, and cultural senses.
  • In our church, we have no such barriers—we are all brothers and sisters.
  • [I’m thinking that when he heard Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s address earlier today, he did a little internal fist-pump for having apostolic backing for his ideas.]
  • It is very likely that the next person who enters the church in your ward will come from a different background than you do; you are to welcome this person, no matter their background, with love and a spirit of unity.
  • Unity is not achieved by marginalizing those who are different; rather, it comes about by serving all.
  • There is no one who is a stranger to God.
  • He referenced the parable of the sheep and the goats, referencing the fact that one of the things the sheep did was to see strangers and take them in.

L. Tom Perry (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Memorizing the Articles of Faith means nothing if you don’t learn the doctrine underlying them.
  • The Articles of Faith provide doctrinal instruction helpful for following God’s plan. He then went into this in quite a bit of detail.
  • We have personal revelation; an additional source of such revelation is our church leaders.
  • Investing the time to learn about the Articles of Faith will result in knowledge that will allow us to testify with power before the world, and help us throughout out lives.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

And now the Saturday afternoon session. As with the other sorta-liveblogging posts i do, this is done in reverse order—the first speaker appears at the bottom of this post, the second speaker above that, and so on until you get to the end of the session immediately below this introduction. Each speaker’s entry, though, is arranged top to bottom.


Closing thought
  • Can we have kids in the choir all the time from now on? Watching the yawns and the faces being made and all, it just all seemed so…well, real.

M. Russell Ballard (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Using the word “command” deliberately to refer to the directive to perform missionary work.
  • The Lord is hastening his work, but this requires all members of the church (not just the full-time missionaries) to participate in it.
  • Two basic reasons for not sharing the gospel: Fear (even fear of praying to receive opportunities to share the gospel) and a misunderstanding of what missionary work actually is.
  • When members and full-time missionaries pray for help, fear of doing missionary work will be replaced by faith.
  • Even if the time isn’t right for someone to hear the gospel message, they’ll still feel and remember your love.
  • Receiving the gospel is a matter of someone else’s agency; sharing the gospel, however, is required of us.
  • To the full-time missionaries: If you want to teach more, you must speak to more people. [True for everyone, actually, i suppose.]
  • We’re not asking everyone to do everything, we’re just asking everyone to pray—and then if everyone, young and old, reached out with the gospel message to just one person by Christmas, imagine how many people would come to the gospel.

Jeffrey R. Holland (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Speaking directly about mental illness. [Not a frequent topic in general conferences, you know?]
  • There should be no shame in saying you’re facing mental illness, any more than there would be in saying you’re facing a physical illness.
  • Real depression isn’t just what’s colloquially (and in the scriptures) called depression, but something much, much more significant.
  • He says he’s a strong advocate of moving forward past trials with strong shoulders, but this is something that can’t be solved through such means.
  • He himself faced serious depression early in his married life. [An apostle saying out loud and publicly that he faced depression! And i was just about to immediately follow that last sentence with “Does that mean we get to talk about George Albert Smith’s depression now?” only to have him beat me to it.]
  • “If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to get a priesthood blessing and go to the doctor for it. The same is true with emotional disorders.” (I think i got a couple words wrong, but the meaning’s there.)
  • Those caring for those with any type of illness need to make sure they maintain their own balance through the ordeal, too.
  • Whatever struggles you face, do not deal with it by ending your life. Wait for the power of God to repair your life, as it will.
  • One day everyone will resurrected in a perfect frame; imagine the joy that will result from seeing those we know freed from what bound them!
  • [President Uchtdorf’s and Elder Holland’s addresses were both amazingly important to different (though in a few cases overlapping) groups. Elder Dube’s address was amazingly stirring. And we're only in the second session!]

Timothy J. Dyches (of the seventy)
  • Difficulties happen in this life, but the grace of God can help us become whole.

Arnulfo Valenzuela (of the seventy)
  • Great things comes from small things, even stuff like a simple conversation or singing a hymn together.
  • There are less-active members whose hearts have already been softened by the Lord, and are simply waiting for us to reach out to them.

S. Gifford Nielsen (of the seventy)
  • Quoting from the morning session? Way to move fast, dude!
  • Former football player, and totally using football metaphors.
  • [A guy who speaks like this notices exclamation marks? I'm shocked. Shocked!]
  • We need to do missionary work, and be excited about it. [Oh, sorry. That should be: We need to do missionary work, and be excited about it!]

D. Todd Christofferson (of the quorum of apostles)
  • Women have provided much of the moral force for good throughout history, and this has traditionally been underappreciated.
  • [He totally just got the meaning of “mommy track” wrong, along with using that wrong definition as a means of building a strawman attack on feminism. I wonder if that will be corrected in the conference report?]
  • Three philosophies that diminish the moral authority of women are the demeaning of homemaking as a career, the promotion of sexual immorality, and pushing women to adopt masculine roles (in relation to things like toughness, coarseness, and violence).

  • Praising the moral authority of women should not be taken as excusing men from exercising their moral authority.

Boyd K. Packer (president of the quorum of apostles)
  • [Boyd K. Packer’s looking better than the last few conferences.]
  • A listing of the evils all around us, based on Paul’s and Moroni’s lists of evils in the last days.
  • The evils around us shouldn’t make us despair—looking to the future can be an optimistic act.
  • ”Righteousness is more powerful than wickedness.”
  • The effects of transgression can be erased through the atonement of Jesus Christ—a promise that exists in every era.
  • Troubles will come, but peace is promised to all who turn to the scriptures and to Jesus Christ.
Henry B. Eyring (of the first presidency) , presentation of church general officers and authorities
  • No real surprises, except that there was a call to the young men general presidency without a concurrent release—what happened there to create the opening?

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

Well, i’ve been away from blogging for the past several months—but seeing as how we’ve arrived at another general conference, it’s time to get this party restarted.

That’s right, time for my twice-yearly semi-liveblog of General Conference. As i’ve done before, i’ll be making commentary on the addresses throughout this session, and i’ll be posting (once you’re reading this: i will have posted) the whole thing shortly after the session.

Since social media has trained us to read bottom-up rather than top-down (a development i’m still kind of cranky about, but who am i to withstand the latest fashion?), and so i’ll be posting this in that sort of order—the first speaker appears at the bottom of this post, the second speaker above that, and so on until you get to the end of the session, which appears immediately below this introduction. Each speaker’s entry, though, will have bullet points running from the top (which is a heading with the speaker’s name) downward. Confusing? Yes—but you’ll manage.

Anyway, now’s when you scroll down to the bottom of the post and start working up.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the first presidency)
  • Lots of laughter in response to a story in which he details how much of a timesink the church really is.
  • So why would anyone ever want to join this church? Because we can feel the power of God in our lives through priesthood ordinances and covenants, along with other aspects of Mormon religious life.
  • ”We see Baptism as the starting point in our journey of discipleship.”
  • A direct rebuttal to the common Mormon meme that those who leave the church leave due to laziness or wickedness or such!
  • We should honor the right of those who leave the church to worship God as they wish, just as we ask the same right. [Wow. I don't think i've ever heard that in a general conference, and i've listened to archived conferences going back to the 1930s.]
  • A direct recognition that Mormon leaders have made mistakes.
  • Even if members or leaders of the church make mistakes, that doesn’t mean that the church itself is anything other than the church of God.
  • A call to those who have left to come back and lend their talents and efforts to the church, even if they still have doubts.
  • ”Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”
  • We need a diversity of people and backgrounds in the church.
  • [You know, this wasn’t just a call for people who may have doubts or otherwise may be disaffected with the church to come back or not leave, it was also a fairly firm rebuke to those who would hold that those without firm testimonies of the church, or those who aren’t willing to conform to their cultural expectations should just go away.]
David A. Bednar (of the quorum of apostles)
  • [Poor Elder Bednar—he gets called to the quorum of apostles at the same time as Dieter F. Uchtdorf, and now he gets overshadowed by following the coolest accent at a general conference ever—just can’t win.]
  • If we pay tithing, we will receive spiritual and temporal blessings for it.
  • God gives us blessings for following the commandments, but they’re not always the blessings we expect or even that we think we need.
  • If we are spiritually observant, we’ll be able to recognize the ways, thoughts, and blessings of God more completely.
  • A discussion of the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes—not something you hear all that often in general conference.
  • The Council on the Disposition of the Tithes runs on two basic principles: 1. The church lives within its means and doesn’t spend more than it takes in; 2. the church sets aside a portion of its income so that it can deal with unforeseen shocks and difficulties.
  • [Cuteness at home: The internet feed started stuttering, and so the 6-year-old figured that the speaker must be nervous.]
  • And a closing call for those who aren’t full tithe-payers to start paying a full tithe.
Edward Dube (of the seventy)
  • [ Can i just say right here how much i have loved Zimbabwean- (and Botswanan-)accented English for pretty much my entire life?]
  • We have to look ahead to the future in our efforts to build the kingdom of God—we can learn from the past, but should not dwell on it.
  • [Here’s a bit of craziness: He was one year old when Thomas S. Monson was called to the quorum of apostles!]
  • In order to move forward and hasten the work of salvation, we need teamwork (with a reference to Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s “lift where you stand” line).
Carol N. Stevens (of the general presidency of the relief society)
  • The temple endowment is a gift of power, and specifically priesthood power, given to both men and women.
  • Interesting thought: The core reason to want, e.g., the non-member husband of a female member to be baptized so that priesthood power will be in the home isn’t so much that someone who holds the priesthood will live at the home, but rather so that they can be sealed and together receive that priesthood power. [Heavy stuff, both doctrinally and culturally.]
Ulisses Soares (of the presidency of the seventy)
  • ”Christlike attributes are gifts from God.”
  • The main theme, it appears, is that we need to control our tempers—even when we’re right.
  • Controlling your temper is part of what qualifies us for the gift of meekness. [Interesting thought—i think i’d pretty much conflated them in my own mind.]
Robert D. Hales (of the quorum of apostles)
  • A general conference address about how one chooses what to speak about at general conference. I’m feeling very meta right now…
  • ”What is said [at general conference] is not as important as…what i feel.” [So if i come away from conference feeling like we have way too many administrative meetings in the church from week to week, do i get some sort of award?]
  • [He said that things the proclamation on the family came from church leaders in advance of when we needed them most, specifically saying that the proclamation on the family came in advance of spiritual attacks on families. Does this mean that all those general authorities who talked about attacks on the family before 1995 were just joking? Or, from the other direction, that, say, teen pregnancy rates weren’t declining before that proclamation was issued? (Sorry—that just hit a sore spot about Mormon rhetoric with me. I’ll be quiet about it now.)]
  • Archived general conference addresses, and other online and mobile resources from the church, should be used by families to study the gospel and strengthen their relationships.
  • [I remember when a general conference shout-out to was an unusual event. Does that make me old?]
Thomas S. Monson (president of the high priesthood)
  • We’ve just recently passed 15 million members. [No matter what the activity rate must be, that’s a pretty insane number, you know?]
  • We now have 80,333 full-time missionaries, up from under 60,000 a year ago.
  • He’s hitting missionary work pretty hard for an opening pep-talk-type address (including a call for continued donations to the church’s general missionary fund to help those who come from poverty to be able to serve).
Kent F. Richards (of the Seventy), opening prayer
  • Unusual to hear mission presidents mentioned along with the full-time missionaries in a prayer.
  • Hurrah! For short prayers!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Fun with platitudes!

So yesterday was Mothers Day, and we got to hear all the usual Mothers Day sacrament meeting platitudes, along with a number of actual insights.

And it just so happens that one of my least favorite Mother Day illustrations got vectored. It goes as follows (you may recognize it):

A good mother is someone who, upon discovering that there are five people at the table and only four pieces of pie, suddenly declares that she never cared much for pie anyway.

Even leaving aside the glorification of such self-abnegation as a uniquely and positively maternal quality (which is simply wrong on many, many levels), i’ve long thought that there is one good thing about this false statement about what it means to be a mother: It lends itself well to parody.


A real mother is someone who, upon discovering that there are five people at the table and only four pieces of pie, suddenly points out that it is time for everyone to go to bed. Fortunately, when the morning comes she has disposed of the pie so that there can be no arguments about it.

Alternately, we could go all mathematical about it:

A smart mother is someone who, upon discovering that there are five people at the table and only four pieces of pie, recognizes that if four people each get 80% of a piece of pie, what remains gives the fifth person an equal share.

In a perhaps more serious vein, Jeanne (my wife) jotted down her version, which emphasizes foresight in avoiding arguments:

A good mother is is someone who, upon discovering that there are five people at the table, cuts the pie into five pieces.

Any of y’all have any other ways to spin this?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Just asking for equal time

So i still don’t get the reflexive need that so many Mormons have to loudly and vociferously declare that the Law of Consecration* isn’t communism each and every time the Law of Consecration comes up in a church class—but i’ve come to terms with it as one of those things that will simply always be, whether or not there’s a good reason for it.

So fine, whatever, go ahead and remind everyone that the Law of Consecration isn'’t communism. Knock yourselves out over it.

But please, when you do that, could you also mention that whatever ism it might be, the Law of Consecration also most definitely isn’t capitalism, either?

* Or the United Order. They’re different things,** as i’ve noted before, but yeah, they’re closely enough related that either one fits here.

** Also, the comments on the post linked to there exhibit a most excellent example of what i’m talking about in the main body of today’s post.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just a little vignette for you this evening

So my family* is going through the Book of Acts in the Bible. At one point, Paul and his companions stop for a while at the home of Philip the Evangelist, who has four unmarried daughters who all prophesy.

Well, we use a lot of different Biblical translations simultaneously in our family scripture reading,** and the version that was being read through at that moment rendered it “four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy”.

My oldest recognized the parallel in the family structure, and said “Well. That would be hectic.”

So it would, kid. So it would.

* Which, in case you don’t know (and this is necessary information for the story), is me, my wife, and our four daughters.

** Yeah, i know, i just started J. Reuben Clark, Jr. spinning in his grave again. Not to worry—he’ll stop eventually.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Just making sure

So today has been 20 April, a date on which it has become tradition (in the United States, at least) for certain people to hang out and smoke marijuana publicly.

So i figured it was a good idea to re-read the Word of Wisdom, and i found that, fortunately for us all, it’s totally cool with contact highs.

I mean, the text has definitely got nothing against them, right? Cool, then.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Riddle me this, dear reader:

The Mormon church leadership has repeatedly stated its opposition to permanent body modification, specifically tattoos and body piercings.*

However, they do not offer counsel against certain permanent body modifications such as, for example, elective breast augmentation.

So what’s up with that particular inconsistency?

* Except for single ear piercings for women on which—and this makes me giggle every time i think about it—they take no position.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday afternoon session

Final session! The big question: Will everyone be able to stay awake for the ninth and tenth(!) hours of church this weekend?

And as with the other general conference entries, the first speaker is at the end of this post, with the most recent speaker at the beginning, with each speaker’s entries made in top-down order.

Thus, starting with the bottom of this post …

Thomas S. Monson, president of the high priesthood
  • Be good neighbors in your communities, including reaching out to members of other faiths.
  • Be tolerant, kind, and loving to people who don’t share our beliefs or standards. (Yes, or standards—he totally said that.)
  • There are challenges, but there are plenty of grounds for rejoicing, particularly if we put our trust in the Lord.
  • Nice close to conference—it was the usual closing pep talk, but with a little more substance than usual.

D. Todd Christofferson, of the quorum of apostles
  • Interesting idea: That part of the atonement that redeems us from physical death is universal because it’s a universal state that we’re simply born into, but the redemption from spiritual death depends on our own choices because that state is a result of our own choices. I don’t think i’ve ever heard that before, and my initial reaction is that i think i like it.
  • Jesus was said to have gone about “doing good”, which included both spiritual and temporal redemption.
  • I’m really liking this one, which is cool, ’cause i have to admit that Elder Christofferson’s sermons usually leave me a bit cold.
  • Some redemption requires a collaborative effort, which is why God created a church.
  • Interesting—talking about the church’s humanitarian efforts not in number-of-dollar terms, but (mostly) in number-of-people terms.
  • Yeah, i think that overall i liked Elder Holland’s address more, but this one’s a really, really close second.

Bruce D. Porter, of the first quorum of the seventy
  • God has promised that there will be peace in Zion and in her stakes.
  • If we trust God, we will be given direction and peace in our trials.
  • This is totally turning not into a “why do bad things happen to good people?” sermon, but rather a “who cares why bad things happen to good people?” sermon.

Erich W. Kopischke, of the first quorum of seventy
  • “What no one around us knows, we surely know.” We need to be honest with ourselves as we judge whether we really are the sorts of people we should be.
  • If we are contrite we acknowledge our sins and are willing to repent.
  • Sacrifices don’t have to be big to be important.

Enrique R. Falabella, of the first quorum of seventy
  • First really good laugh line of the conference!
  • Lowering the boom on emotional abuse! Not something you hear mentioned directly in conference all that often.
  • “It is not enough to know the scriptures—we have to live them.”

Christoffel Golden Jr., of the first quorum of seventy
  • South African accent in da house!
  • The world has (and has had) a lot of God-fearing people, and this certainly isn’t just limited to Mormons.
  • Joseph Smith’s vision of the Father and the Son accords well with such visions in the scriptures.
  • The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the key of the knowledge of God. This sermon suddenly just got deep, and will require later reading rather than on-the-fly interpretation.

Dallin H. Oaks, of the quorum of apostles
  • “Like all other Christians, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…” Makes me almost wish i was still faculty at Brigham Young University so that i could bring this up as an example in the linguistic presupposition unit I’m in the middle of teaching right now.
  • This is the second address in this conference that’s mentioned “political correctness” as a bad thing, and that seems to presume everyone knows what was meant by it (and i’m not certain that i do).
  • Did he just try to mandate that family prayers have to involve everybody kneeling?
  • It’s not terribly often you get precise dollar amounts of church charitable service in conference.
  • This one’s being difficult to summarize. Part of that’s because it followed what really was an amazing address, but part of it is also that i’m having trouble figuring out what the central thesis of the whole thing is.

Jeffrey R. Holland, of the quorum of apostles
  • Just the beginnings of faith are enough for God. I like this. Nice echo of topics in Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s addresses this conference, too.
  • He’s addressing his comments to those who are young, whether young in years of age, or young in years of membership in the church, or young in years of faith—and he says (interestingly) that that includes all of us.
  • The level of your faith is unimportant—what’s important is your integrity with regard to the faith you do have.
  • Rather than focusing on acknowledging your lack of faith, make an honest declaration of the faith you do have.
  • You have more faith than you think you have, anyway.
  • When you see imperfection, be patient and kind and forgiving.
  • If you can’t say you know that the church is true, but you believe it is, you never need to apologize for “only believing”—after all, Jesus himself said “Be not afraid, only believe”.
  • I’ve said before how amazed i am at Elder Holland’s exegetical skills—this one’s not fully exegesis (though it started with one), but I’m still liking it. Probably my favorite of the conference so far.
  • Also, this.

Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the general presidency of the relief society organization
  • After having heard on the interwebs some people grumbling about how Sister Stevens’s prayer yesterday was a closing prayer and so wasn’t as high-profile as it should’ve been, along with a few people grumbling that women shouldn’t be authorized to close off a meeting, here’s a woman saying an opening prayer just so that both sides can knock themselves out at silliness some more.

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Sunday morning session

Sunday morning session—the one session where the speakers can be guaranteed an extra-large audience for their message.

And as with the other general conference entries, the first speaker is at the end of this post, with the most recent speaker is at the beginning, with each speaker’s entries made in top-down order.

Thus, starting with the bottom of this post …

Closing prayer, didn’t catch the name, probably of the seventy
  • Did he just pray that we’d be blessed to come back to the next session of conference on time? If so, has this been a problem?

Closing song
  • What’s with the dirge-level tempos for the songs this conference? I mean, here’s “Come, Come Ye Saints”, which is supposed to be a joyful song, and it sounds like…well, like it’s about death and mournfulness.

Thomas S. Monson, president of the high priesthood
  • A parallel between a child learning obedience to parental rules to us learning obedience to God’s laws.
  • Thomas S. Monson, pyromaniac!☺
  • I have to say, the fact that he’s so willing to admit stupid things he’s done is very humanizing, and i think that’s a very healthy thing for us as a church, to recognize the humanity of our prophets.
  • Obedience has provided prophets with spiritual strength, and all of us are entitled to the same strength through our obedience.
  • I’d previously heard the story of Johann Denndorfer receiving home teachers in Hungary after World War II and taking the opportunity to turn in his accumulated tithing at that point. You know, it’d make for a bit less busy-ness for bishops on Sundays before church if home teachers could accept tithing payments nowadays.

L. Tom Perry, of the quorum of apostles
  • <nerd>He just hypercorrected the card-cord merger (in the word armaments)!</nerd>
  • Satan fills “a role in God’s eternal plan”. That’s a pretty obvious thing, but you don’t hear it described as such very often.
  • As a larger society, we routinely ignore six of the ten commandments.
  • Here’s a difference stemming from age: The release of Proclamation on the Family seems recent to him; it seems a good while ago to me; and for my kids, well, they weren’t even born when that happened.

L. Whitney Clayton, of the presidency of seventy
  • “Repentance and humility build happy marriages.”
  • Husbands treating wives as secondary partners are going against divine law. (You know, this has big implications if people were to take it seriously, and a lot of Mormon culture doesn’t actually match well with this bit of counsel.)
  • This address is one of the few blunt attacks on sexism I recall ever hearing in general conference.

Rosemary Wixom, president of the primary organization
  • This is an amazingly bright, bright yellow outfit, and very Nehru jacket-like, too. (Kind of a pity to focus on the clothing a female speaker’s wearing, but let’s face it, there isn’t enough variation in what the men wear to focus on theirs, you know?)
  • Soft voice=spirituality. So: Is this actually true?
  • In a description of a parent being around but not really interacting with their child: “In both cases, Doctor Halcomb [or however it’s spelled] observed a dimming of the child’s inner light.” Um, how exactly does one measure that?
  • Basically, we need to be nice to kids.
  • And that was a rather abrupt ending—makes me wonder if she had more to say, but the time-over light went on or something.

Neil L. Andersen, of the presidency of seventy
  • A pep talk on full-time missionary service.
  • After the age limits were changed, there were a number of applications from 18-year-old men and 19-year-old women already in within five days.
  • Those who aren’t serving as full-time missionaries need to catch (or regain) the spirit of missionary service.
  • The important thing in missionary work is the invitation, not the acceptance of that invitation.
  • A pitch for sharing the gospel online.
  • An interesting story on how to deal with preaching the gospel in areas where there are sociocultural barriers to full acceptance of the gospel (in this case, in Mozambique). Wish we had more details about how they got past the dowry thing—did they just teach people to ignore it, or did they manage it some other way?

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the first presidency
  • He’s is a fan of semi-representational art! Does this mean we might start getting decent abstract stuff in future church art competitions?
  • Continuing the anti-bullying theme from his priesthood session address, it seems, but this time with a direct focus on the bullied/abused person.
  • Another continuation from last night: God’s okay with and understanding of our occasional stumbles.
  • I love that he calls his wife by her first name in conference addresses. He’s not alone in that, but he does it pretty frequently. The whole tradition of general authorities calling their wives “Sister X” squicks me out a bit, and it’s been filtering down to the local level, too—so here’s hoping that that trend is on the way out.
  • No airplane stories today, or last night. The times, they are a-changin’!

Opening song
  • Really, MoTab? Pepto-Bismol pink dresses? Not a good idea, seriously.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Priesthood session

So now for priesthood session.

Question: Nearly every ward i’ve ever lived in, there’s been an ice cream get-together for all the priesthood holders in the ward following priesthood session. Why? (And why ice cream?) I mean, it always seems a bit weird to me that after we’ve had two hours of being told how much we need to pay attention to our families, we end up not going home to hang out with them. Weird, really.

Anyway, as with the other general conference entries, the first speaker is at the end of this post, with the most recent speaker is at the beginning. However, within each speaker’s entries the various bulleted comments i have made are in top-down order.

So now, starting with the bottom of this post …

Thomas S. Monson, president of the high priesthood
  • Dedication to missionary service results in eternal glory.
  • How to be successful in missionary service: search the scriptures with diligence, plan your life with purpose, teach truth with testimony, and serve the Lord with love.
  • Remember that missionary service is not limited to time spent serving formally as a full-time missionary.

Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the first presidency
  • Members need to find the honest in heart for the missionaries to teach.
  • He told stories about his experiences in New Mexico and New England, both ending with the district he was in being organized into a branch on the last Sunday before he moved away. The moral of these stories: If you want to live in a stake, invite him to live there and simply wait for him to move away.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the first presidency
  • We have all sorts of titles that identify us in various ways, but there are four that apply to all priesthood holders: son of God, disciple of Christ, healer of souls, heir to all that God has.
  • Satan tries to take advantage of our feelings of weakness when we come up short of the glory of God, but just as a father doesn’t scold a toddler for stumbling while trying to walk, our loving heavenly father isn’t bothered by our stumbling attempts to grow.
  • Even though we stumble, we shouldn’t use that as an excuse to keep from trying to reach our goal of eternal life.
  • While the atonement is intended to make us like Christ, it isn’t intended to make us all the same as each other.
  • Personal differences are not sins, they are part of the plan of God. The fact that we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences strengthens the church.
  • We are healers, which ranges from blessing the sick to feeding the hungry to comforting with the word of God.
  • Given that we are heirs to all that God has, it doesn’t make sense to spend so much effort simply to gain wealth or prestige.
  • You may feel unwanted or unloved, but you certainly aren’t unwanted or unloved by God, and the church needs your special contribution.
  • Did somebody shout something (one word maybe, i didn’t catch what) at the end of this address? What was up with that? Was it like the folks who shout “You da man!” after their favorite player’s swings at professional golf matches?

David L. Beck, president of the young men organization
  • He related, in some detail, the story of Chy Johnson and Carson Jones that target="_blank">made the news last year.
  • There are people all around us who need love—and “virtually anyone could benefit from your ministry”.
  • ”There are more active Aaronic priesthood holders than ever before in the history of the church.” Interesting little factoid, that.
  • Quorum meetings involve counseling together and sharing feelings—mocking and demeaning are right out.
  • This whole address was a pretty intense smackdown on bullying, and it’s in the running for my favorite address of the conference.

Tad R. Callister, of the presidency of seventy
  • He’s directing his remarks to Aaronic priesthood youth (and especially Aaronic priesthood presidencies) and their adult leaders. I am none of these, so can i take a nap now?
  • We should entrust, e.g., deacons quorum presidents with large responsibilities just as we do with full-time missionaries.
  • Aaronic priesthood quorum presidents will rise or fall to the level expected by their leaders.
  • Youth leaders need to teach youth how to lead, and not simply lead the youth.

Robert D. Hales, of the quorum of apostles
  • A statement that nowadays temptations are greater and more available than in earlier times. Is this actually true (especially the part about temptations being greater now), or is it just remembering earlier times via rose-colored nostalgia?
  • A claim that “the world” has changed its standards, but the church hasn’t.
  • We all know people who say “i’ll be your friend if you change your values to match mine”, but a true friend wouldn’t try to make us give up our values. This leads me to wonder: If we’re true friends to people, do we then let them keep their values without trying to swing them over to ours?
  • We are not authorized to negotiate the conditions of [God’s] eternal plan.”

Opening comments, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor on the first presidency
  • And so we finally get a mention of Eldred G. Smith’s death!

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday afternoon session

The Saturday afternoon session of conference: When we get to find out who got released.

To remind, the first speaker is at the end of this post, and the most recent speaker is at the beginning. However, within each speaker’s entries the various bulleted comments i have made are in top-down order.

So now you scroll down to the bottom of the post, and start there…

Closing prayer, J. Devn Cornish, of the second quorum of seventy
  • So does that give us a new record for shortest ever general conference prayer?

Closing song
  • This is slow. I guess they didn’t want to finish up ten minutes early, like the last session.

Russell M. Nelson, of the quorum of apostles
  • Encouragement to apply to colleges before missions, because many institutions of higher education will grant an 18- to 30-month admissions deferral. Really? As someone who’s in higher ed, that seems like a really long deferral to grant. One year, sure, but two or more?
  • We preach the gospel because God wants everyone to achieve immortality and eternal life. (And yes, he used the word wants, which was kind of fun to hear.)
  • This was a wide-ranging address, and thus is really hard to summarize.

David A. Bednar, of the quorum of apostles
  • Straight-up mentioned at the outset: This will be an address on chastity.
  • “And Eve became Adam’s wife and helpmeet.” He said that like he was quoting scripture, but helpmeet doesn’t occur in the scriptures. Was he quoting something or was that original text, then?
  • The church only accepts sexuality expressed within the bounds of heterosexual marriage—or at least that’s what he just said in about twice as many words.
  • Our goal is to overcome the “natural man” and to “bridle all of the passions of the flesh”, and the atonement can help us do that.
  • Interesting idea, that part of Satan’s motivation is based in jealousy at a bodily resurrection.
  • The greater the sin, the rougher the road to repentance.

John B. Dickson, of the first quorum of seventy
  • This is a pretty straightforward “we are a missionary church, just like the early Christian church” address.
  • Ah! Here’s the turn—moving from the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to those of African descent as a parallel to Peter’s revelation extending preaching the gospel to the gentiles, to the state of the church in west Africa.

Stanley G. Ellis, of the first quorum of seventy
  • He says he’s wearing his “virtue tie” (it’s solid yellow). It got a laugh, but i didn’t find it funny. Different strokes, i suppose.
  • He grew up as a farmboy in Burley, Idaho. Hasn’t that town produced a few other general authorities? Seems like Burley may be overrepresented.
  • He says that if we do what the Lord says, the Lord “is bound to bless us”. Is that actually what the scriptures say? It’s not how i read it, i have to say.
  • I hear stories of people buying a house to be in a particular ward, and i don’t get it. Having just bought a house last year, how would you do that? It really quite honestly boggles my mind.

Quentin L. Cook, of the quorum of apostles
  • He delivered the eulogy for one of the children killed in the recent Newtown, Connecticut shootings. I hadn’t known that.
  • This is being a straightforward “Why do bad things happen to good people?” address.
  • If we do good, even with all the evil around us, “we can achieve the peace that is the promised reward of righteousness.”
  • The peace promised by Jesus Christ is not only desirable, it is a gift from God (quoting John Taylor).
  • About those who say they feel spiritual but not religious: Feeling spiritual is “a good first step”, but the church gives us more (including not just fellowship, but saving ordinances). Interesting that he still mentions such partial progress as worth appreciating—we get faced with all-or-nothing judgments more often than not, you know?
  • Sidebar: Since an apostle has talked in general conference about how horrible the Newtown, Connecticut shooting was, can all the Mormons i know online who have been going on and on about how it’s actually just a conspiracy for the government to take away their guns simply stop now? Please? Pretty please?

Richard G. Scott, of the quorum of apostles
  • Did he just basically say that if you’re not marking off all the family practice checkboxes (family prayer, family home evening, &c.), then you won’t make it? Depressing, if that’s what he meant.
  • Technological advances can be improperly used, but they can also be a great help for spirituality if “used with discipline”.
  • “Become friends with your children’s friends” and be a good example to them.
  • “Reach out to those living in adverse circumstances. Be a true friend.” I like that, and especially the linkage he makes between the two thoughts.
  • “Recognize the good in others, not the stains.” Even if you need to help someone with those stains, that shouldn’t be what you focus on.
  • “We can’t simultaneously do all the things the Lord has counseled us to do” and that’s okay. There’s some comforting words right there.
  • This one started out slow, but got most excellent—and early contender (along with Henry B. Eyring’s) for my favorite address of the conference.

Conducting remarks, Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the first presidency
  • He specified that everybody should stand once we get to the intermediate hymn—not something that gets mandated all that often at general conferences.

Statistical report, Brook P. Hales, Secretary to the first presidency
  • All figures as of the end of 2013,
  • Total membership a quarter milling shy of fifteen million.
  • Over 22,000 church service missionaries—cool to hear that number reported separately.

Auditing report, Robert W. Cantwell, managing director of the auditing department of the church
  • Seriously, why do they even do this? It made sense back before the church closed its books, but now? No point now that i can see.
  • Though i gotta say that he at least put on a non-boring tie for the occasion, so there’s that.

Sustaining of general officers and authorities, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the first presidency
  • It’s gotta be weird to say your own name during this ritual—or maybe by the time they’re at this point they’re used to it. I know i would find it kind of odd to be presenting my own name for sustaining, for sure.
  • One change in the presidency of the seventy.
  • Lots of releases among the area seventies.
  • One advantage of being Dieter F. Uchtdorf, as a native speaker of German presenting non-English, non-German names in an English-language broadcast is that nobody expects him to pronounce them “right”. (Of course, he gets to—i think it was—Manfred Schütze, and there were no questions about it.)
  • Release of the young women general presidency and board.
  • New members of the first and second quorums, including one called from being a counselor in the young men general presidency.
  • And here’s the corresponding large number of calls to being area seventies. I wonder how long before they move these out of the general conference sustainings, so as to save time.
  • Hugo Montoya? I would have been so tempted to call him Inigo.
  • New young women general presidency. Don’t recognize who they are, but the names (McConkie, Marriott,…) are certainly Mormon aristocracy, you know?

Opening prayer, Russell T. Osguthorpe, president of the Sunday School organization
  • Not a general authority (he’s a general officer), but he spoke in the last general conference and is praying in this one. Interesting, that’s all.
  • “We thank thee that all the priesthood keys have been restored…” All of them? Is that true? Or does God reserve some of them? (Serious questions—i don’t actually know the answer.)

Sorta-liveblogging general conference: Saturday morning session

So welcome to the only reason more than half of our unique visitors ever come to this site—my twice-yearly semi-liveblog of general conference!

(Definitions, for those of you new to this: This isn’t a liveblog, ’cause i’m not putting things up as they happen—i’m typing them as they happen, but i’m not uploading them until right afterward.)

For those of you new to these, or those of you who haven’t looked at one for, oh, six months, a note on formatting: Because blogs have changed the way we deal with chronological order, putting the most recent stuff on top rather than at the bottom, each of these posts is arranged the same way, so that the first speaker is at the end of this post, with the most recent speaker at the beginning. However, within each speaker’s entries the various bulleted comments i make are in top-down order.

This is confusing, but it works. We’ll all survive.

Oh—and before we get started, anybody know the betting oddslikelihood that Peggy Fletcher Stack’s right, and a woman will finally say a prayer in general conference? (More interesting may actually be which session, if she’s right.) And with that, onward!

(So this is where you scroll down to the bottom of the post. Or not—suit yourself.)

Closing prayer, Jean Stevens, first counselor in the primary presidency
  • History in (very, very slow) progress, folks!
  • And she’s done, and got us out early so that we have ten minutes extra for lunch/brunch (depending on your time zone)—see y’all in a couple hours!

Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the first presidency
  • I love, absolutely love general conference exegesis. Elder Holland’s my favorite at it, but President Eyring’s work is nicely impressive, too.
  • This may change, but there isn’t really anything to comment on yet in this address—but it’s still a good one, and worth listening to again, i think.

M. Russell Ballard, of the quorum of apostles
  • Sidebar: I must say that i like being part of a religious tradition that doesn’t get freaked out by our world being simply a part of something cosmologically much larger.
  • Nice job dismantling the priesthood (male) vs. procreation (female) dichotomy.
  • Nice allegory (based on a story of a tomato plant): We have great potential, and we can still reach it even when we seem too far away from it to ever reach it.
  • Did he just talk about Mary Fielding Smith using the power of God—or in other words, given the definition he gave earlier, priesthood power—to raise her family as a (single) mother? Why yes, yes he did.

Craig A. Cardon, of the second quorum of seventy
  • The requirement to forgive, and the ability to repent, isn’t just limited to “small” sins.
  • Not really a groundbreaking discourse on forgiveness, but a quite interesting one nonetheless.
  • “The Savior wants to forgive.” (And the emphasis was certainly there in the way he delivered it.)

Elaine S. Dalton, president of the young women organization
  • My sociolinguist self is so going to have to one day finally do a proper study of female speakers’ intonation patterns in general conference addresses.
  • Kind of fun that she got inspired n her discouragement by the same thing as David O. McKay did when he was discouraged. (It was parallel enough that at one point in her story i was wondering if she was actually quoting McKay’s story and i’d simply missed the intro.)
  • Her mother insisted that all of her daughters receive a college education so they could fully contribute to the world. Most excellent.
  • Nice turn! She quoted something about the importance of mothers for their daughters, and then extended it to fathers, as well, and it didn’t seem forced at all.
  • Sometimes being a linguist is distracting: virtue has, as its root, a word meaning man, as in a male person and not the generic meaning, and so once in a while it weirds me out when it’s applied to female behavior. (Yeah, I’m just odd. Carry on as if this never happened.)

Dean M. Davies, second counselor in the presiding bishopric
  • I’ve lived this! (That is, not this specific earthquake, but thinking i must have a flat tire before realizing it’s actually the ground shaking.)
  • It’s a general conference address on structural engineering!
  • He’s being at once very focused (here’s how to strengthen yourself spiritually) and very general (as in he’s covering lots and lots of parts of that). Given its structure, i’m thinking that this is one that’s more intended as written than as oral text.

Boyd K. Packer, president of the quorum of apostles
  • I was afraid this whole poem thing was going to be kind of annoying, but it’s actually turning out to be funny, and in a very good way.
  • Somehow, hearing about a possible “once in a lifetime event” has some extra poignancy coming from someone who’s aged and frail.
  • Sidebar: I really wish that if general conference speakers are going to react to trends toward allowing couples of the same sex to marry, that they’d just talk about it directly rather than talking around it. That is all.

Thomas S. Monson, president of the high priesthood
  • New temples to be built in Cedar City, Utah and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • 65,634 full-time missionaries, with over 20,000 who have received called but not started and over 6,000 more with applications at some earlier point in the process.
  • Requests to contribute to the general missionary fund of the church to support the increased size of the missionary force.

Before things get started
  • So everybody’s walking in, there’s some chatting going on, a bit of a murmur of voices—so why do so many stake and ward leaders around the world insist that we ought to have deep, profound silence whenever we’re in a meetinghouse chapel?
  • Why do Mormons stand when the prophet enters a room? Yeah, yeah, respect and all that—but you can respect someone while you’re sitting down, you know? So why do we do it that way? When did it start?
  • I can’t decide whether i like this shade of purple on the Tabernacle Choir women. I generally like purple, so i’m inclined to like it, but it’s a little unexpected.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fun with ages

So we have an April general conference coming up soon, and i for one am quite looking forward to the statistical report, to see what the full-time missionary numbers look like after the ages to qualify for a full-time mission were lowered in the past October general conference.

I figure we’re going to see a notable increase, if only because you’re getting close to a couple years’ worth of new full-time missionaries all at once.* I’m hoping that we get some sort of idea of the increase in male and female full-time missionaries separately, actually, ’cause that would give us an early idea of whether any stigma connected to women serving as full-time missionaries† is disappearing.

But that’s not what i really came to talk about today.

I came to talk about the practicalities connected with the fact that we now have female full-time missionaries entering the mission field who are nineteen (i.e., put in their application as early as they possibly could once the new age limit was announced), twenty, and twenty-one (i.e., they weren’t affected by the age limit announcement ’cause they’d already reached or very nearly reached the previous age limit).††

I’m thinking that the women who are currently entering service as full-time missionaries at twenty-one can have some fun with this in a year. Then they’ll be twenty-two and clearly didn’t start their mission service at age nineteen, but nineteen-year-old women will be starting up as full-time missionaries—which gives the now-twenty-two-year-olds a chance to say things like, “Well, yeah, i would’ve gone on a mission when i was younger like you, but i had to get that whole, you know, gang thing cleared up first.”

* Though i suspect that a chunk of that increase will come in over the coming summer, as people put in their applications for calls beginning during college summer breaks. Probably not as big of an issue for the men, since their age was only lowered by a single year, but quite possibly for women who might want to time things so that their missions start at the beginning of summer break and end prior to the spring semester** in a year and a half.

** For Brigham Young University, read winter semester. I’ve written what i’ve written to reflect normal school calendars, not theirs.

† Yes, in some corners of the church, there is a stigma connected with female full-time missionaries. The technical term for this attitude is, i believe, idiocy.

†† And, of course, some who are older—but just for simplicity, i’ll leave those aside.

Monday, March 25, 2013

All those in favor, please signify…

I’ve been thinking lately about the asymmetries in the ways girls and boys are treated in the way things are currently structured within Mormonism, and here’s a subtle but (i think) important one: Active teen Mormon boys get more public approval of religious rites of passage than active teen Mormon girls do. Consider:

When a boy turns twelve, he gets presented before his congregation for being ordained as a deacon, and gets the affirmation of having everybody there affirm his worthiness.* When a girl turns twelve, she gets…well, bubkes. If she’s got a reasonably progressive bishop, she gets called up in front of the congregation and congratulated, but no affirmative vote by the congregation.

Age fourteen, same thing. Age sixteen, repeat it. And at age eighteen or nineteen, yet again. Every time, the boy gets positive affirmation, while the girl gets something rather less.

I’m not sure how this could be fixed, but i don’t think this is something rooted in doctrine so much as a “that’s the way we do stuff” sort of thing. I don’t know that the solution would be to have a sustaining vote for the girls at various ages (i mean, i don’t know what would be voted on, to begin with), but there’s got to be something. Thoughts?

* Yeah, i know, it’s possible that somebody in the congregation objects—but that’s rare enough that we can ignore it for the purpose of discussion, i think.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Breaking (musical) rules

So you should go sing along with “’Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love”. (It’s okay, i’ll wait.)

Now go and do it again, and pay close attention to the way you sing the bit that goes (in the first verse) For Jesus died on Calvary. Now do it again, but pay attention to the soprano notes.

Generally, we sing the melody of our congregational songs such that they match the soprano line (transposed an octave or so down for the males and contraltos among us). Oddly, though, i have never heard a Mormon congregation sing the melody of this line of this song such that it matches the soprano notes—they sing along with the alto line, but a few notes higher (i.e., in the normal soprano range for the song).

I find this really interesting, ’cause i don’t think that it’s something that ever gets overtly taught—people just learn to sing the melody this way by hearing other people sing the melody this way. I wonder where it started, you know?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Blessings from others

Sometimes* it’s cool to be part of a religion that holds that even though we’re the One True Church,** God listens to the sincere prayers of all who pray in good faith, no matter their religion.†

With that in mind, the cardinals of the Roman Catholic church elected their new pope today (Pope Francis). I listened (with near-simultaneous translation—i don’t speak Latin) to his first address as pope to the world,†† and such addresses involve a traditional blessing,‡ which he delivered not just to the Roman Catholics who were in the audience, but to “to the whole world, to all men and women of good will”.

And i wish to say that i feel honored to have been the recipient of such a beautiful and (i believe) sincere, and thus very very real, blessing.

* Read: very often.

** A terribly underdefined term, by the way.

† I tend to think that this goes so far as to include atheists who, say, wish good for people even though they’re not acknowledging any sort of deity at all. I do realize that some Mormons think that goes too far, though (but i think they're wrong, of course☺).

†† Technically, urbi et orbi—that is, to the city [of Rome] and the world.

‡ I’m guessing there are some Mormons out there who might be bothered by the fact that the blessing is word-for-word the same every time it’s given, but these are presumably the same people who don’t understand why our prayers for the sacramental emblems‡‡ make that, quite simply, a non-issue.

‡‡ Among other things.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Laws? What laws?

The position of the Mormon church is that one should obey the laws of the nation in which one resides. In fact, holding (at least most, maybe even any) callings generally requires that one is not currently in a state of breaking local laws. However, the church makes it a point to not inquire into immigration status—so if someone is a resident of a place but they are breaking the law by not holding a legally valid residency status (i.e., citizenship or some other sort of residency permit), they can still hold a calling. In fact, i have known people who did not hold legal residence status in their country of residence but still received callings as full-time missionaries.

I figure that a number of people find this either good or bad,* but i simply find it interesting that the church has effectively decided to ignore one statutory part of the nature of national borders.

* And note that if there are any comments that seem to me to be even remotely a rant about immigration policy and enforcement, no matter how cogent they might be, will be summarily deleted.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Finishing early

So the (Roman Catholic) pope has now resigned, which got me to wondering: Can a Mormon prophet resign? I mean, we already have a precedent or two that a Mormon prophet doesn’t get removed from office when disabled (even in such a way that he’s mentally disabled to some extent), but could one simply announce that he’s not the prophet anymore? (Of course, part of the answer might simply be to ask what would stop him from doing so, if that’s what he wanted to do.) Also, if it happened, what would the ripple effects be?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Would anything change?

So the Boy Scouts of America is currently debating a change in policy, so that gay and lesbian individuals could participate in scouting. (Under current policy, homosexual youth and leaders are banned from participating in scouting.) There’s been some whispering around that if their policy is changed, several churches (including the Mormon church) will stop sponsoring scout troops.

Would the Mormon church necessarily have that reaction, though? I mean, according to church dogma, being homosexual (as opposed to participating in homosexual acts) is not sinful. Therefore, why wouldn’t the Mormon church be more than cool with having a celibate homosexual participate in church-sponsored scouting activities?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Settling an old one

As you may or may not know, the Lion House was one of Brigham Young’s homes, but it is now run by the Mormon church as a reception center, and it has a restaurant. I don’t know how long the image will be live, but this link shows an image of the daily menu for the Lion House Pantry (the name of the restaurant) for this past January. Note that one of the entrées is [drum roll] Coca-Cola pork.

I’m glad that the church has embraced cola beverages, so we can stop arguing about caffeine and start arguing over important things, like whether women must wear nylon stockings to church or not.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Politics and callings

One really interesting political thing i remember from my exile in Utah is the conventional wisdom that the quickest, most efficient way for an active Mormon male to be called as a mission president was become one’s party nominee for a high-profile Utah state office (e.g., the legislature, governor, congressional representative) and lose. Of course, Utah politics being what they wereare, that means running as a Democrat.* I don’t know if the conventional wisdom is (or ever was) true, but it seemed to be widely held: Run for office in Utah as a Democrat, end up called as a mission president.**

This leads me to wonder: Just idly accepting the conventional wisdom as correct (whether it is or not), we’ve now got Mitt Romney, who unsuccessfully ran as the nominee for national office (president) as a Republican. What’s the script on this one?

* I still remember the blurb in the newspaper one election day talking about the state party gatherings that night in Salt Lake City to watch the election returns come in: The Republicans will celebrate a lot of victories at XXX. The Democrats will celebrate a lot fewer victories, but have a better party, at YYY. The Libertarians will celebrate no victories, but have the best party of all, at ZZZ.

** I heard theories about why this might be the case, as well. The least charitable was that it was an attempt by the Mormon church to weaken the Utah Democratic Party by taking its experienced campaigners out of circulation. The more charitable was that if you’re looking for someone to run a church mission who knows how to deal with the frustrations of spreading a message you firmly believe in to an often-hostile population, you could do worse than use the experience of Democratic politicians from Utah.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Be careful what you ask for

From a family member: Maybe global warming is actually caused by all the Mormons praying for a break from winter cold.

Given all my Utah friends complaining on Facebook about the snow they got recently,* i found this quite amusing.

* To which complaints my transplanted-to-Alaska self simply replies: Amateurs!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Does it actually work?

What is it with church leaders saying over and over again that we have to make sure new converts “get to the temple” so that they’ll stay active in the church? I mean, i’ve known plenty of inactive endowed members…

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Basketball for girls (or not)

So there’s a longstanding Mormon meme about basketball being the default youth night activity for the young men when the leaders don’t have anything real planned.

But after having lived a couple places with a daughter in young women, might i suggest that “health and beauty nights” serve exactly the same purpose for that organization?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Reverence is more than just quietly sitting…

This has been making the rounds lately, and i liked it enough that i wanted to archive it here:

    Q: What do you call a Primary child who’s been gagged and handcuffed?
    A: Reverent.

Yeah, that seems to be a pretty good explanation of what “reverent” really means, no matter what they might say…

Friday, January 11, 2013

What’s up with the cities?

So i’ve been traveling to the east coast the last little bit (hence the lack of posts), and that led me to an observation:

     →We are such an incredibly non-urban church!

Or, more precisely, we just don’t seem to do central cities. I mean, the way conferences in my field work is that they generally end on Sunday around noon and then i spend my afternoon flying home so i don’t get to go to church, but this time i actually had the time to go to church after the meeting ended—but there wasn’t a Mormon congregation anywhere i could have gotten to.

And i was in downtown Boston, which is a pretty big city—over 625,000 people. Really? We only have one ward in the entire city,* and i’d’ve had to have figured out a way to the suburbs to get to another one?

And i’m not cherry-picking here—Philadelphia has a similarly meager presence in the city itself compared to the suburbs, as does Washington DC. Even here in Alaska, where we’ve got a good presence in Anchorage, the suburbs have more congregations than you’d expect given their comparative population.

And even in the heart of Mormon country, there’s gobs and tons of church units in Salt Lake City, but compared to its suburbs? Not even close.

So what is it about our church that doesn’t appeal to city dwellers so much?** Back when i was growing up on the east coast people used to chalk it up to our whiteness (what with the cities having such a large number of non-white individuals), but that kind of falls apart when you see the same pattern in Anchorage and Salt Lake City.

So: Any ideas?

* One English-speaking non-singles ward, that is.
** In the United States, at least. My intuition is that you’re more likely to see Mormonism as an urban church is some other parts of the world.