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.