Monday, December 20, 2010

Re-enact the cursing of Laman and Lemuel

Just in time for the holidays, our friends over at Latter Day Designs have released Laman and Lemuel figures in both light-skin, and cursed dark-skin varieties. In an unfortunate market twist, it seems the Church is trying to phase out some of the focus on dark skin = curse, as a story in today's Salt Lake Tribune notes.

So, order the dark-skin cursed Lemuel while you still can!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mormon Fakebook

There are some great, fake Mormon Facebook posts from my friends over at Doves and Serpents. Creative, and good for some laughs. There are some other interesting Mormon-related articles on the site as well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New 'Mormon' Rules

Not that I’m a fan of Bill Maher, or would recommend viewing his heretical show on HBO every Friday night at 10pm, but I’ve heard that the weekly show is always closed by a segment titled, “New Rules.” So, in the humble spirit of Internet idea 'borrowing', I’d like to introduce my very own, “New -Mormon- Rules.”

Rule #1 –
At any one time, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles should have at least one really old, loose-cannon Apostle, like J. Golden Kimball was in his era. Think of how Conference media coverage would increase dramatically if an occasional Conference talk was so far removed from reality that it just blows people's minds. The exposure we'd receive would be huge!

The downside, of course, is if it's too far out there, the Church might have to quickly edit the talk, and then publish a long apology and explanation that said talk was completely misunderstood and that we really don't support those ideas as a Church.

Rule #2 -
For LDS Men: If you've been sealed to more than one wife, you should be required to wear a wedding band for each wife that you're sealed to, whether they've passed away, or not. Single women in the Church should know what they're getting themselves into and avoid the awkward meeting of unknown wives in the Celestial Kingdom. "It will all just work itself out," doesn't cut it where celestial polygamy is involved. Women have a right to know who their sister-wives will be.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Those Were the Days

I was looking at some pictures the other day from the 70's and remembered the good ol' days when church was more diverse in shirt and tie colors (even while less-diverse in other colors).

I present a classic article from the New Era, February 1971 on the topic of ties. Great advice on picking a tie to match that brightly colored shirt. My favorite advice? "For more daring souls who want both shirt and tie to have big, bold patterns, choose colors that are less intense."

Ties Article, New Era, February 1971

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Biblical Literalism

A funny cartoon that I thought I'd share, as I've commented in the past about how us LDS generally take a literal approach to the Bible stories. Unless you have super-vision, you'll probably have to click on the picture in order to enlarge it enough to be legible.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Environmental Stewardship

While Utahans rarely have environmental concerns at the top of their priorities, I’ve overheard a lot more people talking about this topic lately with the BP Gulf oil spill disaster constantly in the news. So, I thought I better take advantage during the week we still care about this issue, to offer my concerns about some areas where Utah may be adding to the overall environmental pollution problem.

  • Jello packaging – I think few people give proper thought to something as small as Jello packaging. But add up the tens of millions of these little boxes and bags over the years, and it’s an environmental time-bomb.

  • Xanax wrappers – With a consumption rate of over 1.17 billion pills a year in Utah, the aluminum and plastic pill wrappers must be adding tons of long-term waste to our landfills. Here’s to hoping that we can move to more environmentally-friendly anti-depressant wrappers before it’s too late. For the environment, of course, not for the people. It’s never too late for you. Unless it’s after 9pm on a week night, and then I'm sure it can wait until the next day.

  • Minivan exhaust – I should throw in all SUV exhaust, I suppose. Utah possibly leads the nation in SUV-to-person ratio. While Californians have really gotten into the spirit of emissions reduction with driving those teeny, little, gas-sipping Toyota Prius’, in Utah it’s super-size all the way. My solution? Reduce the speed limit to 20 MPH, and only allow cars with four passengers. If you need to haul more than four people around, you’ll need to attach a Red Flyer wagon to the back of the car.

  • Used gun shells and lead shot – Drive to any out-of-the-way area in Utah and you’re bound to find truck-loads of empty gun shells. The average Utah male shoots six times his body weight in bullets per year, making Utah the only state to expose the environment to more lead from guns than from Chinese imports.

  • Empty two litter soda and gallon ice cream containers – Utah is one of only a handful of states that even sells the one gallon plastic ice cream containers. Place these containers end-to-end along with the two litter soda bottles discarded each year, and the line of plastic would reach the moon. Six times. Please, do your bodies and the environment a favor at the same time.

  • Methane production at the MTC – Bringing in thousands of young men from all over the country and providing them access to buffet-style eating for three meals a day produces more methane gas than a commercial dairy farm. Any of you that have visited the MTC, or served a mission, know exactly what I’m talking about. We stop by every few months to serve as “investigators,” and I’m telling you, they should be required to hand out gas masks for any visitors entering rooms with more than three missionaries. Someone really needs to do a long-term methane-exposure study on the teachers there. Who knows what that level of exposure can lead to?

  • Solo cups used for signs - I believe Utah is unique with people feeling authorized to use millions of plastic Solo cups each year in making personal signs in the chain link fences guarding overpasses. I can rarely drive from Orem to Provo down University Parkway without having to read a, 'Welcome Back Elder X,' or, 'I Love you X,' message on the overpass fence by Shopko. Can't we limit these signs to biodegradable paper in the front yard of the message giver, or receiver, like everywhere else?
  • Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    Say It Won't Be So

    I was perusing one of my favorite funny websites this morning, Awkward Family Photos, when lo-and-behold, the new picture for June 1st, 2010 happened to be of a more-than-obvious Mormon family in their temple-whites. They’re all ready to be taken up, as they engage in familial chit-chat without anyone actually looking at the camera.

    Apart from the obvious awkwardness of looking at the picture itself, and reading the comments that quickly point out that this had to be Mormons (doesn’t any other religion like white clothes?), the thought struck me: spending my eternities in stark-white will not only be an eye strain (if you still get eye strains), but incredibly boring and dull.

    Is anyone aware of the proclamation that there will only be white attire available in heaven? Perhaps the whites are only required in the Celestial Kingdom, and the lower K’s will get to have some flavors to choose from? If this is the case, along with no eternal child-rearing, chalk me up for the Terrestrial K.

    And is it just me, or does the goofy family standing in the boxes (picture also from June 1st) also look like they're LDS with the father's celestial ring around the neck. Two awkward pics in one day. Sheesh!

    Any other suspected Mormon families in Awkward Familly Photos? Post the link in comments!

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010

    The Ten Commandments - An Update

    In discussing the Ten Commandments during Sunday School this week, I realized that since the Bronze Age, The Ten Commandments have long been looked at as an ethics guide, even though many of the commandments really don’t involve ethics at all. Additionally, the recipients of this set of rules only placed emphasis on how they treated other tribe members, and not their neighbors. They wholly accepted owning slaves, treating women as property, genocide with neighboring tribes, etc. We live in a far more global community now than they could have ever imagined, and I would suggest that it’s time for an update to the Ten.

    In examining the existing Law, the first two commandments just instruct the followers of Moses about the need to worship a particular God, and to make no graven images. Most Christians have ignored the second commandment completely and see no issue with creating religious art and images. The third, taking the name of the Lord in vain, is vague and interpreted in many different ways today. Like the first two laws, this doesn't really cover an ethics issue either.

    Keeping a day of rest is a great idea. Heaven knows that with our busy lives, having a day of rest is greatly needed. Unfortunately for many LDS, Sunday is anything but a day of rest. Many times I feel that Sunday is just a full-day of Church work, instead of office work. Hopefully I’m not black-listed by The Brethren for this comment, but how about a three-hour limit on any Sunday meetings, including pre- and post-block? For most, I think this would go over as well as winning the lottery.

    Honoring thy Father and Mother is another great idea. Its implementation back in the day included the prescription to stone or kill unruly kids – not the pinnacle of our current idea of ethical behavior.

    Do not kill. It seems simple enough, although it’s hard to imagine a community that actually encouraged killing amongst themselves. And, immediately after issuing the Ten, the Israelites are commanded to annihilate their neighbors. To kill every man, women, and child. Except the virgins (girls only, of course), whom could be kept alive just to help out with housework, I assume.

    No adultery. No stealing. I’m again not aware of any historical customs that would have encouraged or rewarded these behaviors.

    No false witness – great example of an actual ethics issue that is as relevant today as 4000 years ago.

    No coveting they neighbor, nor their asses. Fortunately, we don’t have the Pitt/Jolie family in our Ward boundaries.

    Here are my suggestions for an updated set of ethics rules:

    1) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Unless you a sadomasochist, in which case, just don’t do unto others.)

    2) Do not judge, or pass laws, based on ethnicity, religion, color of skin, or sexual orientation, for God made them as-is to add diversity to this otherwise-boring world

    3) Those who do violence against children shall be despised above all other criminals and removed from society forthwith

    4) Treat women and men equally - not separate-but-equal – especially in religious practice and authority.

    5) All other questions, refer to number 1 (above)

    I know I’d take heat from some, especially including the wild notion that men and women should be equal in all religious authority. But, I seriously believe this would make for a much better religious experience and world in general. Not to mention that handing over half of these weekly meetings to women to manage, would truly be an answer to prayers!

    So, what are your suggestions? What did I miss?

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    The Book of Mormon Storms Broadway!

    I was thrilled to hear the recent announcement that The Book of Mormon Musical is coming to Broadway in March 2011!

    Sure, it’s from the creators of South Park, but I have it on good authority that their presentation of the Book of Mormon will be nothing but fair, unlike their previous treatment of Mormons in the South Park episode, “All About the Mormons”.

    So, here are my choices for the leading roles. Please feel free to make additional suggestions/replacements:

    Nephi – Gerard Butler: With the fierceness of 300, and tenderness of The Bounty Hunter, Gerard is a natural choice. Can he sing? Who cares!

    Laman – The Rock: It’ll give, ‘lay hands upon’ a whole new dimension

    Lemuel – Jay-Z: For some cross-culture boost in sales, and can double as the assistant music director/remixer

    Sam – Sean Astin: can just port his great supporting friend/brother role from Lord of the Rings

    Lehi – Ian McKellen: With the role of Gandolf under his belt, who better to lead a rag-tag group on an adventure with a plethora of supernatural occurrences?

    Sariah – Penlope Cruz: Put some Mediterranean sassy into this role!

    Zoram - Donny Osmond: With just coming off a high of winning, ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ it’d be a great cameo. And really, can you have a Mormon musical without Donny?

    Laban – Chunga from the 101.9 morning show in Salt Lake. He could really breathe new life into the role of Laban until, well, you know…

    Just think of all of the missionary opportunities this will open up after so many new people are exposed to The Book of Mormon! I can imagine the missionaries now, lining up outside the theater with Books of Mormon in-hand, to answer all of the burning questions the eager theater-goers will have after seeing the production!

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Mormons and Evolution

    From time to time, a Ward member inquires about the Church’s official stance on evolution. I’m usually surprised that for the most part, the member had a very strict anti-evolution world view that they’d like confirmed, but had somehow been challenged on those views.

    What most anti-evolution supporters don’t realize is that to nearly anyone educated in biological sciences, an anti-evolution world view today is almost equal to holding a position that the Earth is flat, and the sun revolves around the Earth. Yet, from lack of education or interest, many people in general (certainly not limited to LDS members) lack a basic scientific understanding of evolution and just make the assumption (supported by many in our LDS culture) that the LDS church is 100% anti-evolution. And this is simply false.

    The most ‘official’ information on evolution as a whole comes from the famous ‘BYU packet’ on evolution. For those attending BYU as a Biology major, they would have received this approved packet as part of their standard curriculum. The packet was approved by the BYU Board of Trustees, which includes senior general authorities and members of the First Presidency. The packet includes the following four articles covering past Church statements on evolution and the origin of man, all of which are available online with a quick search:

  • “The Origin of Man” by the First Presidency, Improvement Era 13:75-81, November 1909.

  • “Words in Season From the First Presidency,” Deseret Evening News, December 17, 1910, part1, p.3.

  • “Mormon” View of Evolution, Improvement Era, Vol. XXVIII September, 1925 No. 11.

  • “Evolution,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, by William E. Evenson.

  • Excerpt from this article:

    The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33). In 1931, when there was intense discussion on the issue of organic evolution, the First Presidency of the Church, then consisting of Presidents Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley, addressed all of the General Authorities of the Church on the matter, and concluded,

    “Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church ... .”

    My guess is that the LDS Church most likely learned their lesson from the Catholic Church in that making definitive statements on scientific topics is a very bad idea that comes back to bite you. If the Earth being flat, the sun revolving around the Earth, or that evolution never happened becomes religious dogma, there’s a good chance that down the line you’ll have to do a lot of backpedalling. So, the semi-official LDS stance is to leave science to scientists, while we try to understand the salvation of man and not the specific process of how he came to be on the Earth.

    My recommendation for Ward members troubled by science: educate yourselves. Our Church places a very high value on education, and this should not exclude scientific education. Read the books about evolution, starting with Charles Darwin’s, “On the Origin of Species,” and other books on the topic, so that the Ward member might have a solid base for understanding the principles of evolution by natural selection. Through education, the member will then be far more prepared to form an educated opinion of what to believe on a topic that the Church officially leaves very open – regardless of individual comments made by some leaders in the past.

    Let’s face it, if we’re going to be expected to build our own worlds some day, we may as well learn something about this business while here on this Earth.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    YM & YW April Activity Calendar

    In the past I've taken some heat from parents of the Young Women who, for what ever reason, feel that there's a discrepancy in YM & YW's activities and funding. So, I'm happy to point out that in April we're going all-out and paying for a professional, EFY-certified speaker for the YW!

    YW/YM Calendar for April:
    April 6th
  • YW – Combined activity: “Quilting for Haiti”
  • YM – Combined activity: Soccer and hot dog BBQ at the Spanish Fork Sports Complex

    April 13th
  • YW – Baptisms for the Dead
  • YM – Due to the one year temple ban for our YM from issues during the last visit, the YM will have to unfortunately go swimming at the Springville pool.

    April 20th
  • YW – Combined for guest speaker from EFY program, Carol Barksith, “Charity Suffereth Long”
  • YM
    Deacons – Shotgun merit badge
    Teachers – Archery merit badge
    Priests – Guest speaker from Electronic Arts, Mark Spitzer, “Exciting Career Opportunities in Video Game Design”

    April 27th
  • YW & YM Combined – Service project TBD
  • Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve

    I was perusing the Church News yesterday in some free time between Oprah and American Idol, when I came upon this talk by Elder Glenn L. Pace addressing students at BYU earlier this week. In his address, Elder Pace pointed out the obvious: Women’s sacred role and destiny is to complete men. It made me think of the line in the edited version of Jerry Mcguire, where Jerry (Tom Cruise) tells Dorothy, ‘You complete me.’ Truly inspired.

    Well, instead of using Jerry Mcguire, Elder Pace furthered his example using Adam and his need for “an helpmeet.” I’m not sure how this goes over in your family, but I know the last time I called my wife “an helpmeet,” well, let’s just say it was the last time… For others, perhaps it’s perceived as more endearing?

    Elder Pace said that, “men have the priesthood and women have been given the blessing of procreation.” I’ll be the first to admit that whenever I hear that, I immediately think, “Yeah, baby! Did I ever get the good end of the stick on that one!” I just always think that, but never say it out loud unless I’m in High Priest Group (the circle of trust).

    The Elder concluded with the following:

    "Sisters, I testify that when you stand in front of your heavenly parents in those royal courts on high and you look into Her eyes and behold Her countenance, any question you ever had about the role of women in the kingdom will evaporate into the rich celestial air, because at that moment you will see standing directly in front of you, your divine nature and destiny."

    He went on to say (but for some reason it was cut from the print version), “And lucky for you Sisters (and luckier still for your husbands), this divine destiny may very well include sharing your celestial home with a few dozen sister-wives, and into the billions of children. Endless, infinite child bearing! It brings a tear to my eye just thinking of all those little ones scampering around.“


    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Noah and his Ark, or, “Swim, Lemur, Swim”

    One of the stories that stands out from my tender years is the story of Noah and the Ark. I was taught this story a dozen times in my youth, and always had a lot of fascination about the technical details of such an enormous endeavor. I’ve had some of my more ‘liberal,’ or, ‘learned,’ (and probably Democrat) friends from Provo point out the horror of the idea of a Heavenly parent literally choosing to drown millions of His children to purge them from evil, and how we feel today when we learn of mothers (why are they almost always mothers?!) drowning their own children using the same excuse.

    In the LDS church, we never mention the possibilities of Bible stories being a metaphor in our correlated teachings. While many Christians gave up a long time ago on the literalness of the story of Noah and the Ark, and just interpret it allegorically, not us Mormons. And, why would we? It’s fun to imagine all those tiny lemur arms paddling their way towards the Ark all the way from Madagascar. They must have figured out the back stroke early into their 4,000 mile swim. Their determination to reach the Ark is truly inspirational and miraculous.

    While we’re not really given many of the details in the Bible that went into building the Ark, recent archeology (in Jackson County, Missouri, no less!) turned up some writings with previously-unknown details from Noah and the Ark, written in reformed Egyptian by Noah himself on papyri. The writings provide tremendously-valuable insight into some of the solutions to the technical issues that are nothing short of amazing. Here are just some highlights from this newly-found source:

    To water the thousands of animals on the Ark required an unbelievable amount of fresh water (millions of gallons). Come to find out, the water issue was resolved by God floating down some large icebergs to Noah, who then just had to tie them to the Ark once adrift. The process used to chip off and melt the tens of thousands of pounds of ice into water daily, however, still remains part of the mystery. This, not by coincidence, also solved the mystery of how the Arctic animals stayed alive in the temperate climate of the Middle East – they just burrowed into the icebergs.

    Feeding the thousands of animals and insects, many with special-needs diets on the Ark, has always been a head-scratcher. It’s enough to make a nursing home food preparation seem like heaven in comparison. As it turns out, Noah was instructed in how to build a few thousand acres of floating gardens and then attached these to the Ark to provide the thousands of pounds of grains and specialty foods required daily for the animals on the Ark. Koala bears had their eucalyptus leaves, silkworms had access to their necessary mulberry leaves, bees had blooming flowers, giraffes had everything they needed (except head-room). Brilliant!

    Another requirement of Noah’s family that is not well publicized, or commented on, was the requirement that between the eight humans, all human-specific diseases had to be carried by at least one person in order to keep these diseases intact for the post-flood humans. Noah had to decide who would carry the human-specific diseases, including: measles, pneumococcal pneumonia, leprosy, typhus, typhoid fever, small pox, poliomyelitis, syphilis and gonorrhea. Talk about taking one for the team! Poor Ham, it appears, drew the short-stick and was stuck with syphilis, gonorrhea and small pox. I guess poor Ham’s wife, as well. No wonder those two were fed up with Noah and took off on their own after that ordeal.

    On the topic of Ham, these writings from Noah provide some more personal notes that are not included in the Bible about the day-to-day management problems on the Ark. One piece of interesting news that we didn't hear about previously was the ten or eleven species that went extinct on the voyage due to Ham’s insatiable appetite for meat. According to Noah, hardly a week passed without Ham being caught in an illicit barbeque of some large, meaty animal that we’ll now never enjoy. And the big shocker for Book of Mormon students: Ham’s favorite meat just so happened to be roasted cureloms! Fortunately for the cureloms, Noah caught Ham while there were still a couple left, leaving a few examples of these marvelous creatures in the world that were then miraculously found by the Nephites. Sadly for us, they must have been very tasty indeed, and no traces are left to sample today.

    Hopefully this newly discovered information was as helpful to you as it was for me in clearly up some lingering doubts about the literalness of this story. With luck, some similarly-helpful information about that Towel of Babel will be discovered...

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Neanderthal Baptism by Proxy

    Our trip to the temple this week for youth baptisms went as expected. Three boys were asked to leave after displaying scoring cards, Olympics-style, as the young women climbed out of the font in their white, clinging frocks. A dozen, or so, of the youth had cell phones confiscated while engrossed in texting (hopefully not taking pictures of other youth in wet-whites).

    When it was my turn to baptize, I started out with great zeal. I think I knocked out about 20 within the first minute, but then I started getting those Eastern European names that are impossible to pronounce for us internationally-challenged Utahans. As the names got harder, my mind started drifting to stories I’ve heard since my youth about the spirits of the dead gathering around the fonts in the temple, waiting for their baptisms to be completed, or pointing to the dropped baptism card that was theirs. Then, something struck me like a slap from a drunken hillbilly. (No offense meant, Sister Larken, I know you don't drink.)

    I’ve never heard anyone ever mention having a vision of any Geico-esque Neanderthal spirits standing around the font waiting for their turns, having ditched their furs for white togas. Is this just a matter of lingering Neanderthal-denial and prejudice in the Church? If most members still hold on to a young-world belief, do we just dismiss the need for Neanderthal baptisms for the dead on the technicality that they were born on the earth before the earth was? Or before the earth was ushered in as, ‘official’ by a talking snake?

    Maybe there was a line drawn on earth’s evolutionary timeline by the council on Kolob where only Homo sapiens were past the ‘eligible for baptism,’ line. It could also be that a species might have to achieve some benchmark of technicality during their allotted time on earth before becoming eligible for baptism, like creating a writing system or figuring out metallurgy and animal husbandry.

    And, I suppose that Neanderthals might still be eligible for baptism, but we just don’t have their names. They could just be waiting around like the other 99.99999% of people that have lived on the earth that we’ll never have a record of until after the Second Coming. Also, it could just be that they’ll need to wait for other Neanderthals to perform the proxy baptisms themselves as I’m not sure intra-species proxy baptisms are allowed, regardless of the evolutionary-proximity of the species.

    I do know that someone is going to have a lot of rules to go over in the next life, or whenever the Millennium starts. And there better be some darn good crowd control in place, otherwise it’s going to be utter chaos with all the unbaptized trillions trying to cut into mile-long baptismal lines.

    Hopefully we’ve learned enough by that time to not have Neanderthal-only baptism fonts. If there’s one thing the Geico Neanderthal has taught me, is that they just want to be treated as a fellow hominid, and not singled-out.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    Celestial Voyeurism

    As I was reading the New Testament the other night in 1 Corinthians 13 - the wonderful chapter from Paul about charity - I had a strange epiphany that brought back youthful memories. First of all, at my age I always get concerned when having an epiphany, hoping it’s not just a stroke. Fortunately, this time it didn’t end with a trip to the emergency room. The verse that brought about this insight was:

    For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Cor. 13:12)

    Sometime in my seminary years I was introduced to the then-horrifying quasi-doctrine that not just God, but everyone, would have full-access to view everything about everyone else’s life in the afterlife. Very explicit examples were given of our lives playing out like a movie, where others would have a virtual-remote, more-or-less, and view our lives at their pleasure – our lives would be an, ‘open book’. All would be known. And shared. With everyone.

    Now, for someone who growing up thought the idea of Santa and his peeping elves was creepy, this really freaked me out. And, as these graphic portrayals tend to do when introduced to the young and impressionable by someone respected, they stuck with me. Every now and then I’d shudder and think, “Whoa! Who’s going to be able to see this? I really don’t want my mother-in-law looking in on my ‘sexy-time’ with her daughter, if you know what I mean.”

    Well, in thinking about the creepiness of everyone knowing all about us in the afterlife, I realized that this plan was already in motion. God is actually starting to acclimate us to this eternal eventuality. It’s all around us, hiding in the open.

    It became clear to me that Google, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube actually have a purpose in the Great Plan, and we’re just getting a peak of what’s to come. I observed a couple of weeks ago that Google is becoming God-like in its ability to provide answers for all questions, but I failed to connect all the dots. Google is only part of God’s much larger plan of introducing us to the truly Orwellian future that awaits us in the afterlife.

    Today on earth I can instantly find the answer to such diverse questions as: how many women Tiger Woods slept with, who were the survivors of the Titanic calamity, or what the distance is from the earth to the moon. I can also receive instant updates via Twitter and Facebook from my friends, family and complete strangers, day and night. There are currently hundreds of millions of personal videos available to consume from individuals openly available on YouTube. All of the pieces needed to capture your entire life, for all to see, are already in place.

    Think of how shocking these personal movies must have been for the poor Neanderthals that reached heaven after only being exposed to fire as the ultimate technology! These days with TV shows like, Big Brother and The Bachelor, capturing lives of people 24x7, we’re all going to be well prepared and think it’s no big deal to have our lives presented 24x7x365x100,000,000,000…

    I wonder if we’re still going to have celebrities in the afterlife? Will certain people have millions of subscribers to their live-feeds? Perhaps new celebrities will be made: The woman who births the most spirit children in a given millennium, the man with the most worlds-under-management, the ‘Swinger of the Century’ for, well you can imagine.

    If one thing is certain to me, it’s that voyeurs will undoubtedly find heaven to be, well, heaven. No pesky cops keeping them away from neighbor’s windows at night. No need to wear dark clothes and a mask while doing their peeping. No sir! In heaven, voyeurism will be an encouraged and well-facilitated practice. It does make me feel somewhat sorry for the poor souls assigned to review the infinite number of life tapes for any peccadillos. Hopefully they have a fast-forward button.

    I suppose we should approach this inevitability with a, “glass is half-full,” attitude.

    “Well, hello Angelina and Brad…”

    Friday, January 29, 2010

    Determining Your Optimal Religion

    Ok, so I found this online and thought it was really funny, so hopefully you'll enjoy a good laugh for Friday. The more I thought about it though; I realized that this could greatly simplify the missionary discussions. Just hand the people this chart at the door, and see if it peaks some interest. From my personal experience, it'd be difficult to reduce the effectiveness of the door approach.

    Monday, January 25, 2010

    The Year in Review

    So, I’m one year in as a Bishop, and I feel that I’ve learned a great deal about myself, about the Ward members, and why the Church now requires two men to be placed together in the Primary. No offense, Brother Perkins.

    The year in review of what I've learned as Bishop:

    Don’t speculate out loud about polygamy or being neutered in the afterlife (TK Smoothie)

    Speaking about Satan gets Ward members as excited as a new Jello recipe (That We Could All Be Like - Satan?)

    When speaking about stay-at-home-moms, those that stay home love the positive reinforcement, while those that work hate the guilt trip (Staying Home… Again)

    We have some great resources to help young men beat (no pun intended) the urge to masturbate (The ‘M’ Word).

    Uber-Tithing program a huge boon to the donations (Uber-Tithe Initiative)

    Wearing a Speedo at a Ward swimming party is not humorous to most members.

    Well, I'm sure I still have much to learn, and I'm looking forward to a productive 2010.

    Friday, January 22, 2010

    If Any of You Lack Wisdom

    Back in the day, whenever I lacked wisdom, I would frequently turn to God for an answer. I’ll admit that it was hit-and-miss at times, but such are the mysterious promptings of the Spirit.

    Working a lot with the youth at Church, I was pondering the other night on how a young man of fourteen might search for answers to life’s questions these days, and how different it may be when compared to Joseph Smith in the 1820’s. Back then, to search for answers to profound questions in life, one might have sequestered himself/herself in the woods, prayed, and hoped for a vision or spiritual experience.

    Fast forward to today. How many youth or adults out there think of posing difficult questions only to God these days, hoping for some discernable or tangible answer that’s reliable? Wouldn’t most people just start with Google and do some in-depth online research into the options? I imagine that this is the reason the Church has been pouring so many resources into online information, advertising, encouraging pro-Mormon blogging, etc.

    So, the question struck me: In what areas these days is God more reliable in clearly answering questions than Google? Perhaps Google is God’s new-and-improved conduit to man for communications from on-high? Have we finally been given a reliable source for near-instant answers to hard questions? I’ve felt this possibility many times while receiving Google’s answers to age-old questions. How do I lose that extra holiday weight? Does a certain Ward member have a criminal record that I should be aware of before calling them into the nursery?

    So, perhaps an update to the oft-quoted scripture is due: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of Google, that giveth to all men liberally; and upbraideth not; and it shall be given to him. As a bonus: no faith required to use Google.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Use Proper Sources!

    So, as most of you know, the Gospel Doctrine class this week fell into chaos when the teacher, Sister Simms, “went off the reservation,” and started talking about nuances from the Book of Abraham papyri that made others in the class uncomfortable. I have to apologize. Clearly there was a misunderstanding about the need to stay on-task and teach strictly from the manual, and the buck stops with me. (Well, I suppose that Brother Squires also shares some responsibility, as Sunday School President, in not training teachers properly).

    So, talk about inspired timing! This Monday - as every Monday - I eagerly unfolded my crisp, new Church News and there was the answer to the dilemma - straight from the inspired-horse’s mouth, if you will. The article, Use Proper Sources,” from the January 9, 2010 edition of LDS Church News provides a terrific example that all teachers should study and follow.

    In the article, a poor woman was trying desperately to plan an interesting lesson from the not-always-thrilling lesson manual by bringing in additional information. The process was, "time consuming and frustrating." Her kind daughter found her in this condition and had some loving, thoughtful advice (and I quote from the article):

    "Why," the daughter asked, "are you trying to boil down information? An inspired Church-writing committee has already done that for you."

    The committee's work, the daughter continued, has been approved by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. It has been translated into dozens of languages and sent around the world. It corresponds with the lessons and information taught at the same time to other auxiliaries and quorums in the Church.

    "Everything you need — and more — is in your manual," the daughter said."

    The article continues with:

    "We may be tempted to do more, to turn to unofficial lesson plans, resources and information found in books and on the Internet. Sometimes, the material might seem like an easy solution to meet the time-consuming demands of Church service. Other times it might feel like a way to spice up a lesson or activity.

    But leaders and teachers in the Church do themselves and the people they serve a disservice when they turn to unofficial — not correlated — materials in the planning of lessons and activities.

    The woman then turned off her computer, shut the dozens of books open on her dining room table and picked up her manual and scriptures. The frustration she had previously experienced disappeared. She knew the material was doctrinally accurate. She knew its source was valid. She knew it had been approved by the men called to lead the Lord's work on the earth today and that it was what they wanted her to teach.

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in his October 1999 general conference address that as he traveled the Church he had been pleased and impressed with how Relief Society and priesthood lessons were presented and received.

    "However," he added, "I have sometimes observed teachers who gave the designated chapter no more than a casual mention and then presented a lesson and invited discussion on other materials of the teacher's choice. That is not acceptable. No matter how brilliant he may be and how many new truths he may think he has found, he has no right to go beyond the program of the Church."

    Well, I have to admit, that this brought a tear to my eye. Such a simple, inspired solution to all the needless and time-consuming lesson planning! I know way too many members (well, Sisters), that instead a quick once-over of the lesson manual during Sacrament meeting like the Elders and High Priests, spend countless hours at home trying to figure out interesting methods of enhancing their lessons. No more!

    Additionally, I've now heard rumors that by next year all classes Church-wide will be delivered via DVD videos. Classes will still have teachers, but solely for noise control and pushing the DVD ‘play’ button. Classes will be allowed the last 2 minutes of the alloted class time to discuss the current topic and have a closing prayer.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    New Year Resolutions

    Since the calling of Bishop is such a public position in the Church, I thought I might as well make my New Year Resolutions open to all, just in case I need some reminders during the year.

  • Take at least one No-Doze before Sacrament meeting to reduce head-nodding caused by my deep pondering that takes place during the ever-fascinating talks by our members. In the past, some members have misinterpreted this deep pondering as sleeping
  • Equalize the budgets between the Young Men’s (including Scouts) and Young Women’s organizations
  • Refer to the leaders of all auxiliaries as, ‘President,’ including Primary, Sunday School and Relief Society, instead of just Elder’s Quorum. Hopefully this is okay with The Brethren, as it makes sense to me.
  • Stop referring to the non-LDS in our neighborhood as, ‘Them,’ ‘Those,’ ‘Gentiles,’ or, ‘non-members,’ and use their actual names
  • Keep the same Primary teacher for the Schumer twins’ class for more than a month
  • Refrain from using, ‘gives me the creeps’ when referring to any Ward member
  • Find a calling for Brother Hicks that does not involve personal interaction with any other Ward members (see previous resolution)
  • Reduce Sisters anti-depressant use in the Ward to under 40%
  • Reduce male teenage and adult porn addiction to under 70%
  • Shake hands before Church meetings without wearing surgical gloves and trust the Spirit to keep my hands clean of all horrific infectious diseases commonly spread by this behavior. Is it the Spirit that’s responsible for this, or Jesus? I’ll cover all my prayer-bases on this one.
  • Don’t let my immense popularity in the Ward and neighborhood go to my head
  • I was going to try and lose 20 lbs. in 2010, but I decided a life without steak, Coke and jello is not a life I want
  • Reduce the meeting block to two hours on Sunday. Why not shoot for the stars?
  • Read scriptures every day, say prayers, have FHE. (Had to throw those in!)
  • Monday, December 14, 2009

    Sanitary Sacrament

    Last week several members noticed that Johnson kid sneezing over the bread tray, and looked on in horror as the Deacon continued to pass the tray of the sneezed-on bread to additional isles. Well, since Tuesday when the boy was diagnosed with swine flu, I’ve had calls from more than ten concerned members asking if germs can stay alive on blessed bread. I really don’t have an answer for the germs-on-holy-bread question, but this incident has prompted me to make some long-needed changes to our method of administering the sacrament to ensure a safe and sanitary forgiveness of sins.

    So, here’s the plan (pending approval from The Stake Brethren):

    Starting next week, sacrament preparation of the bread will begin with viewing the Priests and Deacons (via a live video feed shown on a wall-mounted LCD) performing a, ‘scrubbing-in’ procedure. This will be very similar to the procedure that we’re all familiar with from watching Grey’s Anatomy and E.R. They will use surgical-grade anti-bacterial soap with small brushes to scrub their hands and arms up to their elbows. Then, an also-sanitized adult assistant will help place protective rubber gloves on their hands, and a face mask to cover their mouth and nose.

    While delivering the bread to the members, the Deacons will stand at the end of each row, and members will stand and individually file past them to receive the bread from the gloved-hand of a Deacon, then circle back around to their bench. This eliminates the health risk from all of the children’s unsanitary fingers rifling through the bread to get the biggest, non-crust pieces. And if a sneeze occurs, that Deacon and his tray will be retired for the day.

    After partaking of the bread, the Priests will say the normal blessing on the water, but they will be blessing the water in the hallway drinking fountains. Sometime during the remainder of the Sunday services, each member can take a sanitary sip of water from the several fountains around the building at their leisure. There should be enough water in the tanks at the time of the blessing to last all the way through the week. Members can even grab a drink after playing basketball, with the added benefit of wiping the sin-slate clean of any offensive language used during the game (definitely a plus for Brother Markie).

    Yours for a Sanitary Holiday Season,

    Bishop Young

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Classic Mormon Art

    After the holidays have past and the Christmas decorations have been taken down, we usually feel it's a good time to refresh our house decorations. Like all active Mormons, we like to fill some of our walls with familiar Mormon art, just in case some of The Brethren stop by to issue a promotion.

    So, here are a few of the classics that we're considering. If you have some you'd like to suggest, please post a photo or link.

    We prefer the smiley, pirate Jesus over the serious pirate Jesus. I just love the open collar and toothy-smile look. It makes me think Jesus is saying, 'Hey Bro, it's all good. Don't worry so much.':

    Perhaps something truly unique to Mormons:

    I picked out this gem, but Sister Young shot it down for some reason. Maybe I shouldn't have referred to it as, "Jesus goes all FLDS":

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Mormons in Space

    Growing up my Mom used to tell me, "Be proud of being different. It’s what makes you interesting and stand out from the crowd."

    There was a time, not too long ago, when LDS leaders would regularly go out on a limb and talk about very far-reaching and speculative doctrine concerning life on other planets with gusto and conviction. The speculation didn’t always pan out, but at least it was interesting and kept young minds engaged on the possibilities. Often these days, I yearn for the return of truly unique doctrine delivered without care of how it will be viewed by non-LDS churches.

    I was reminded of our bold past when I came across this article from the New Era printed in 1971:

    People on Other Worlds, New Era, April 1971

    This is what I’m talking about! Bring back these types of articles. Sure, most people might think we’re nuts, but many do anyway, so at least we can have some interesting and unique speculative doctrine that involves space travel and extraterrestrials. We may even use this as our primary missionary message in some parts (New Mexico comes to mind).

    In a Q&A topic on the New Era from 1985, the question was asked, “Is Jesus Christ the Savior of all the worlds God created or just ours?” (You have to scroll down past the Q&A on "Petting" – and no, it's not instructional info on cat-care).

    The article points out that Jesus not only died for the sins of our world, but countless worlds. I remember vividly this topic being taught to me by my parents and being discussed among the Elders in my mission. This doctrine had created awe in my young mind as I tried to understand how people on other planets could possibly believe in an alien dying for their sins on some other unknown planet. I had a hard enough time understanding what happened on my own planet. Talk about faith in extraterrestrials! How could our Earth, in all the eternities and infinite space, be the planet chosen by God for Jesus to die on? How lucky I believed we were!

    So, what say ye? Do you also wish we delved into the mysteries more, at the expense of appearing odder to our neighbors? Are we better off assimilating into the common Christian masses more and more? By becoming more conforming in our doctrinal emphasis to mainstream Christianity, should our Church expect more converts?

    Has Mom’s sagely advice run its course?

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Surely God Understands Modern English

    Would it be too much to ask that, as a Church, we move to addressing God in common English that everyone can be comfortable with, instead of trying to sound like Englishmen of the 17th century? I've never really understood the affinity our Church has to this archaic dialect of English that everyone else happily jettisoned a couple of centuries ago along with blood-letting and witch burning (ok, someone forgot to send that memo to Salem).

    Growing up, there were many times when I was in non-LDS homes where prayers would be offered before meals. Without exception, all of these prayers sounded very similar to how normal people spoke every day. They never used the fancy-pancy King James English that we, as Mormons, use in our prayers that no one else understands. Hopefully God understands this and doesn't just keep wondering if he's hearing stray prayers from the past echoing throughout the eternities.

    To be honest, I've never been really comfortable speaking in King James English, even as a life-long member. It's old, awkward, and follows grammatical rules that people aren't familiar with. The more you understand the proper use of King James English, the more you notice just how few people actually get it right. It's even more strange that the only part of King James English that we use are the personal pronouns (Thee, Thou, etc).

    In serving a mission on a Spanish-speaking country I quickly realized something very interesting about their prayers. In Spanish (and other languages?) members of the LDS Church pray to God in the most common, familial form, as if God was their best friend, just like my childhood neighbor Protestants in the USA. And, strangely, it's believed by members that God listens and understands these friendly, 'common language' prayers.

    From the Wikipedia listing for 'Thou' we find the following information:
    In a deliberately archaic style, the possessive forms are used as the genitive before words beginning with a vowel sound (for example, thine eyes) similar to how an is used instead of a in an eye. This practice is followed irregularly in the King James Bible but is more regular in earlier literature, such as the Middle English texts of Geoffrey Chaucer. Otherwise, "my" and "thy" is attributive (my/thy goods) and "mine" and "thine" are predicative (they are mine/thine). Shakespeare pokes fun at this custom with an archaic plural for eyes when the character Bottom says "mine eyen" in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

    Did you get that? Right.

    I feel comfortable making the general statement that when a dialect is old and archaic enough to be made fun of by Shakespeare, it's time to move on. While unkind to point out, the only people that would miss this, will themselves be missed very shortly, and the rest will just heave a big sigh of relief. If we want a personal, accessible God, let's address Him accordingly, as most of our non-US Brothers and Sisters have the pleasure of doing.

    I'm going to kick this suggestion up to The Brethren. Keepest your fingers crossed.

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Honing Your Mo-Dar Skills

    Whether it's the Spirit emanating from the person, the tell-tale garment lines, or the 8 kids-in-tow, I've developed a particularly keen sense of Mormon Radar, or 'Mo-dar' over the years. I find it especially fun to use this gift of discernment while visiting outside of Utah and trying to figure out who's Mormon. I think I can give myself a solid 8-out-of-10 for picking up Mormon signals. For you just trying to build your sense of Mo-dar, here are some items that I've found to be key indicators. I've also included a scoring mechanism that can help beginners. Just add up the numbers, and as the total gets closer to 100, you can feel confident that you've found a Mormon. Anything over 100 is a sure-bet.

    Haircut - If the man has a military-qualifying haircut you can usually place that person into one of two groups: a man that is currently in the military, or a Mormon. Score = 20, unless on a military base where it would only be .05

    Women's haircut - This used to be a far better marker, but these days if you find yourself staring down a 1850's Prairie-style do, you've most likely encountered an FLDS lady. There are the occasional hold-outs in smaller Utah communities, but it's a dwindling bunch. Score = 1

    Kids - This is always a good indicator, especially outside of Utah. Most have long-since-realized that we've reached a fairly good level of replenishment here on the Earth, and adding significantly more people is not in anyone's best interest. Sure, we still have a large portion of Southern Utah and Northern Nevada to populate, but maybe those areas are just best left to rabbits. So, when large families are spotted I generally narrow my sorting to Mormons or Catholics. Scoring starts at 20 for four children, and increases by 10 for every child past four.

    Celestial Smile - When looking for this with men, you have to be careful. When I was just starting to hone my Modar skills I'd mistake the common wife-beater tank top for garments unless the wearer was also smoking. So my advice is to look not only below the neckline, but also at the sleeves. No sleeves, no g's. Score = 20 due to ambiguity

    Celestial Crack - Unlike the Celestial Smile, the Celestial Crack is a sure give away. This is witnessed when a lady is sitting or bends over. You don't have to be looking directly at her to notice the sometimes-blinding white flash, with today's low-cut waists, results in typically 2-3 inches of 'g' exposure that can be seen from 80 yards out. Nothing identifies a Mormon lady, and mystifies those outside of Utah, more than this. Score = 90

    CTR Ring - Well, this is a big one, of course. Many religions have their symbols: crosses, yarmulkes, hijabs, etc. Mormons have their CTR rings. Back in the day, there was only one type of CTR ring available - junky aluminum rings that turned your ring finger green faster than dipping it into Lime Jello. These days, the LDS paraphernalia-hawkers have really zeroed-in on CTR rings. Now you can get these rings in gold or silver and in any language you like. They come with diamonds for the bling-bling crowd, black lettering for the Mormon Goths, glow-in-the-dark letters for reminding you to CTR just before making a mistake you'll regret for a very long time, and my favorite - the, 'Sidewinder Royal Spinner CTR Ring.' Seriously. I couldn't make this stuff up. Score = 80

    Participant in 'American Idol,' 'So You Think You Can Dance' or, 'Dancing With the Stars.' Score = 10

    Well, those are a few tips to help those building the accuracy of their Mo-dar. I'm sure I missed some others, so please add those markers that have helped you to identify our own.

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Time for a Word of Wisdom Refresh?

    As any LDS member who's taken part in a Word of Wisdom discussion in Sunday School knows, the correlation between prohibited items and health benefits are a little hazy these days. We're still on solid ground for one of the Big Four: tobacco. It looks like we really nailed that one. Except for the helping sick cattle oddity. However, the other Big Four are in a losing battle with scientific research.

    Tea is widely heralded for its health benefits in all current research (something the Chinese have known for thousands of years). The only substance in tea with a potential downside - caffeine - is still widely consumed by many LDS members in diet soft drinks and hot/cold chocolate. A quick search on the Journal of American Medical Association's website produced these highlights on tea's healthfulness:
  • Habitual moderate strength green or oolong tea consumption, 120 mL/d or more for 1 year, significantly reduces the risk of developing hypertension in the Chinese population.
  • There is evidence of green tea as a cancer preventive for humans in other parts of Japan where quality green teas, "typical" as defined by the National Cancer Institute, are traditionally consumed.
  • Green tea consumption was inversely associated with mortality due to all causes and due to cardiovascular disease.
  • Habitual tea consumption, especially for more than 10 years, has significant beneficial effects on bone mineral density of the total body, lumbar spine, and hip regions in adults.
  • The theaflavin-enriched green tea extract we studied is an effective adjunct to a low-saturated-fat diet to reduce LDL-C in hypercholesterolemic adults and is well tolerated.

    Coffee fairs quite well in studies, showing a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes and benefits from the antioxidants found in coffee.

    Alcohol is a mixed bag. Clearly, there is a danger of abuse associated with alcoholism, and Joseph Smith was painfully aware of this as there are many reports of his father's abuse of alcohol during much of his life. However, nearly all recent medical studies show ample health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, especially red wine.

  • Journal of American Medical Association: The consumption of 2 alcoholic drinks or fewer per day was inversely associated with extensive coronary calcification. The risk of extensive coronary calcification was 50% lower in individuals who consumed 1 to 2 alcoholic drinks per day than in nondrinkers.
  • Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research: "The benefits of alcohol are all about moderation. Low to moderate drinking – especially of red wine – appears to reduce all causes of mortality. The breadth of benefits is remarkable – cancer prevention, protection of the heart and brain from damage, reducing age-related diseases such as inflammation, reversing diabetes and obesity, and many more."

    I believe it may be time for a Word of Wisdom doctrine refresher. It's clear we already do a substantial amount of picking and choosing of what's important, so maybe it's time to really have an overhaul of Section 89 to better represent more current health understandings. We could start by removing coffee and tea completely from the prohibitions. The idea that hot drinks create an imbalance of the humors in the body (the common wisdom of the 1830's) has been replaced by more sound understanding of how our bodies actually function.

    Instead of seeing this refresher as a negative comment on Joseph Smith, I think he should be applauded for providing a health code that took the best advice available at the time, and was delivered in the hopes of improving the health of the Saints. It should be emphasized that with changing times, comes more relevant information and we also now face some different health concerns.

    We'd certainly keep the prohibition on tobacco, but perhaps lessen the restrictions on alcohol to 'moderate consumption.' By most literal readings of D&C 89, moderate use of alcohol would be considered as approved, even though this use has been prohibited in more recent times. In sec 89, verse 17, we read, "Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain." Mild drinks from barley would universally be recognized as 'beer' both in the 1830's and today. Many Latter Day Saints continued moderate drinking of alcohol, including many leaders, until the early 1900's, when a much greater (and stricter) emphasis was placed on the Word of Wisdom.

    Now, I'm not just in favor of loosening the definitions of the Word of Wisdom, but also expanding it to include more recent dietary information. I think LDS members would be well-served if we added to the Word of Wisdom some guidance for the moderate consumption of sugars and fatty foods. These weren't real concerns in the 1800's, but today are the leading causes of health issues, as least in the U.S. Perhaps adding some support for regular exercise would be helpful as well. Those American frontier people certainly didn't have to worry about lack of exercise, but we're not pushing too many hand carts, or hand-sewing fields these days.

    It would also go a long way towards improving our health by actually emphasizing the restrictions placed on the eating of meats in the D&C. Verses 12 and 13 of DC 89 read, "Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine." Even though it's some of the clearest language in the entire section, the advice has always been completely disregarded.

    Don't be surprised if sometime in the near future you're asked to answer questions concerning sugar and meat consumption during a temple recommend interview, and receive a steely-glare from the Bishop who just yesterday saw you serving yourself a large Slurpee and three hot dogs at a 7-Eleven.
  • Monday, October 12, 2009

    Only in Utah

    I was enjoying a little heaven-on-earth this weekend at the best pizza restaurant in Utah County - Nicoitalia Pizzeria. I noticed this sign and couldn't stop laughing. Only in Utah...

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    General Conference Predictions

    As Fall General Conference nears, electricity is in the air, at least in Utah. And I'm not just referring to yesterday's lightening storm. I've heard a lot of speculation from neighbors (in Utah, Wards and neighborhoods are synonymous) about what's going to be covered in GC this Sunday, so I thought I'd throw out my own predictions. You can judge for yourselves how inspired I am, and add any of your own predictions.

  • The Brethren will finally decide that reading scripts from teleprompters make the talks feel robotic and cold. They'll ditch the comfort of scrolling words in favor of warmth and sincerity.
  • A Sister will be allowed to say a closing prayer at one of the four sessions. I'd hope for an opening prayer, but small steps...
  • One speaker will slip up and refer to gathering in The Great and Spacious Building, when they meant to say The Conference Center
  • A Sister leading the MoTab Choir during a normal session. Nearly all of the Ward Choristers I've ever seen have been Sisters, so why not let a Sister enter the Major Leagues of choir directing?
  • Talk covering the Word of Wisdom, specifically about eating meat sparingly
  • A single talk from a GA with a non-white shirt to really make a point about the Church's efforts to reach out to the Youth and be more inclusive, rather than all the speakers appearing like members of an Old English Country Club or a gathering of bank executives
  • A talk from a GA sporting a goatee, mustache, beard, or even sideburns as The Brethren realize that the 70's and Hippie movement are sufficiently behind us. We no longer need to feel threatened by facial hair.
  • A stern talk about online social networking addictions, with an example story of the potential heartbreak that this can lead to (reading Ward blogs is excluded). On-line porn addiction is becoming passé.
  • In the current state of economics with members out of work and trying to make ends-meet, expect a talk about the blessings associated with paying tithing
  • Announcement that the end is near, and that all Saints everywhere need to pack up and head to Missouri. Or, do we still believe this? It's been awhile since I've heard of this one being discussed, so maybe just an update on whether, or not, this is still expected to happen at some point would be nice.
  • A talk by one of the Three Nephites. One can dream...
  • Thursday, October 1, 2009

    General Conference Jitters - Continued

    Here we are, back where we were six short months ago. And again, with General Conference approaching rapidly I'm feeling that this time I just might be receiving the call to join the Major Leagues. Over the past six months I've really focused on building my resume and mingling with the visiting General Authority Brethren during Stake Conference.

    Just to be clear, I've lowered my sights from going directly into the Q12, to starting out as a humble Area President or Seventy. What are we up to now, like twenty quorums of the Seventy? Surely there's room for a humble, handsome Bishop from Spanish Fork. It's only 45 minutes from Salt Lake. They've called some Seventies that live farther away than that, although none come quickly to mind.

    So, if there are no new posts for several weeks on the Spanish Fork 401st Ward Blog site, you can safely assume that I've received The Call. Or that I had a heart attack and passed into eternal child-making bliss, and if that's the case, just know that you're all welcome to visit my planet any time you like. Wait - are we all on the same planet, just different cities? I think I'm having a melt-down from all the excitement.

    The Callings Process

    First, a little background. I was at the MTC on a visit several years ago and had the opportunity to listen to a talk to the missionaries by President Monson, who discussed the process by which Elders and Sisters are called to different areas for missionary service. Before this discussion I had some idea that the process involved some mystery element whereby people were selected to go to a specific destination through supernatural involvement. Come to find out, missionary information was all in a computer, and automatically assigned to areas based almost solely by need (X mission needs X number of missionaries in March, the computer assigns the appropriate number). While it was initially a let-down, logically it made perfect sense. How could assigning tens of thousands of missionaries a year be handled any other way?

    While brings us to today's post. I've been asked many times about the process by which callings are made. Most would like to believe, as did I in the past, that callings come straight from above, whispered into the ear of the Bishop, who then merely extends the call to the member. Needless to say, that's not exactly the typical process.

    With callings, I first spend some time pondering about the open positions. Usually this is done with my eyes closed while relaxing in my leather recliner. After pondering for some time I might feel particularly inspired that a person should be asked to fill a position, while other times I have no idea at all.

    If I'm at a loss, I may ask my wife for her inspired input. Let's face it, until women are officially running the Church, why not at least admit that they have great influence at every level and a great instinct for who might fill a position particularly well.
    In the next Bishopric meeting, any names that I've thought of are discussed and the other members of the Bishopric provide valuable input. Sometimes we go with my initial thought, other times another name is presented that seems to be a better fit for whatever reason. We can usually come to a consensus on the names during this meeting.

    Lastly, we extend the call and have about a 60% acceptance rate, even from those we felt good about. Of course, members are always able to use their free agency, and as it turns out there are many situations that we weren't initially aware of that make people unable to accept the call.

    So there you have it - callings in a nutshell.

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Ward Suggestion Box

    It looks like the theme of this week's suggestion box entries is 'luxury accommodations' at the Ward building. I'm not sure about some of these, so we may have to put them to a vote in PEC meeting this Sunday. I'd put the items to the vote of the full Ward Council, but I'm fairly certain I already know which way the ladies would vote on most of the below items, and I'd like to skip any uncomfortable debates.

  • Install deer jerky dispensers in each hallway. Every season our Ward hunters harvest tons of deer and elk meat. What better way to encourage others to join in thinning the local deer population than sharing the blessed bounty of the hunts. The dispensers would be locked on F&T Sundays.

  • Install bidets in the bathrooms - experience that 'just-showered' freshness anytime at Church. Feeling a little sweaty down below from sitting in wool pants on a warm seat for two hours? Swing into the restroom for a quick under-carriage refresher!

  • Dark pull-down shades on the classroom windows. As a teacher I'm afraid the kids are having a hard time seeing media presentations in such a bright room. Note: I think that this may be just to enhance the 'meditation' by the teacher during these 'media presentations.' Been there, done that.

  • Add, as an addition to the perks for the Uber-Tithers, 'Magic Fingers' chair massagers that can be carried from room-to-room (by the non-full-tithers).
  • Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Blessings Shout-Out

    It's time to catch up on some of the blessings that our faithful Ward members have experienced lately:

  • Brother Harvey - for the second year in a row was blessed with killing a beautiful, large elk in the fertile Wasatch Mountains. His wall is filling up faster than the refreshment line at an adult-singles dance.

  • The Anderson's are now able to fit their entire family of eleven into one vehicle. I didn't know they were still making the 'extended-full' vans, but there it was - truly a monument to being fruitful and multiplying.

  • Brother Neilson had the shingles this week. Not usually considered a blessing, but having it this particular week got him out of hitting up all his neighbors for money for "Friends of Scouting," eating burnt hot dogs and warm potato salad at the High Priest social, and the 7am Sunday Stake Leadership meetings. I'd place that squarely in the 'blessings,' category.

  • Sister Young was blessed last week with the hot, dry weather she'd been praying for. Unfortunately, it was at the expense of firefighters currently battling a dozen fires in the area caused by the dry weather. Please, Brothers and Sisters, think of the possible consequences when asking for divine weather intervention.
  • Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    BYU vs. Florida State Prep

    Well, I don't think there's been this much excitement among the Brethren of the Church since the announcement of polygamy. BYU may, once again, have a shot at a national football title. Watching ESPN the past two weekends has been surreal with all of the BYU-praising going on. They're even talking frequently of a potential Heisman trophy bid for Max Hall.

    Of course, there are a dozen games left in the season, and painful past experience has certainly taught that the chances for BYU's success usually diminish relative to the overall buildup of expectations and hopes of the faithful.

    Count me among the optimistic - at least until the first loss!

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    By Common Consent

    Something hit me this past Sunday while standing in front of the congregation conducting business (and thankfully, it wasn't Billy Crugan throwing soggy Cheerios again). Is it just me, or does anyone else think that it's odd to ask for a raise of hands for a consenting vote of fellow Ward members? In my many, many years at Church, I've yet to witness one hand being raised publically in opposition to a calling. Would anyone really feel comfortable these days raising a hand against a fellow Ward member, other than the small children or members with Alzheimer's? I think most members are just glad it's not them receiving another calling.

    At the center of this issue is a conflict between the core ideas of common consent and that of inspiration or revelation. The Church was founded on the idea of revelation, yet introduced common consent, where , "all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church" (D&C 28:13), and "No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church" (D&C 20:65).

    It seems that common consent has been basically dropped within the Church over the years. Meeting notes from early Church history show that dissenting votes were somewhat common, followed by public comment and discussion on the matter or person. Instead of the original purpose of actually asking for input into the decision, common consent has really been replaced by just a promise to sustain the leader's decisions. So, I'd propose it may be more appropriate to just ask for a raise of hands for those that are willing to support the person, and leave it at that, if that's the only culturally-acceptable result.

    I think I'm going to float this one by The Brethren. Does anyone have the hotline number?

    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    New Ward Callings

    Look at who's about to receive untold blessings - mostly in the afterlife:

  • Marilyn Mathers - Ward Gossiper (might as well make it official)

  • Ron Studdard - Ward Parking Valet- another perk I thought of for the Uber-Tithers

  • Mark Landress - Ward Sports Updater - I decided that having one man listen to the big Sunday games, and provide some timely feedback, might motivate more men to stay the full three hours, instead of catching the Fall Football cold.

  • Shirley Dowen - Ward Boy Scout badge seamstress

  • Todd and Susan Templeton - Ward Obama supporters
  • Friday, September 4, 2009

    Ward Calendar Update

    Thursday, September 10th - Enrichment Night: "Making More From Less." Unlike the name suggests, it's not a lesson on the effects of overeating or alchemy, but rather some insightful strategies of running an efficient household.

    Sunday, September 13th - Welcome back Elder Clemens! Yes, it's only been eight months since his farewell, but he's returning home for mental health issues. We want to make sure he receives a warm welcome and feels right at home with the 65% of our adult Ward members currently using anti-depression medication.

    Tuesday, September 15th - Combined Youth Activity: "The Dangers of Pre-Marital Sex" If the normal Sunday School lessons hasn't scarred scared them enough, perhaps pictures of people suffering from genital herpes, the clap, crabs, and syphilis will. Snacks will be served.

    Thursday, September 17th - Temple Night! Wahoo! Mark your calendars now for that one night a month you can feel good about being a cheap-skate. Root beer jello shooters and ice cream will be served afterwards at Brother and Sister Snyder's house.

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    Modest is Hottest

    For some reason, I imagine the 'Modest is Hottest' slogan being coined by a group of wannabe-hip-Nuns, religious fundamentalists, or very large older ladies. No offense Sister Crouser.

    Is it just me, or is there a rising creepiness in the attention that we, as a society, are placing on the sexuality of teenage girls? From unnatural interest in Brittany Spears during her teen years, to virginity pledges and now 'Modest is Hottest' clothing being all-the-rage in many Christian groups (including Utah County's primarily-LDS population), I'm becoming concerned with the unintended consequences. Is the message here to cover up to hide from boys, but by dressing like this they'll attract the attention of boys? The whole idea is extremely bizarre. LDS chastity ideals are starting to get pushed to extremes in some areas that may become unhealthy for the sexual maturation of young women.

    As an example (and I may get in trouble for this one), our Stake prohibited the wearing of shorts at the Stake-sponsored Young Women's camp this year. This is in the middle of July. And, they made it a point that it was about modesty. Let's get some common-sense and balance in here, please. Not allowing girls to wear shorts in the middle of summer while among other girls is an unbelievably-strict standard to push. Why in the world would wearing shorts among other girls be a modesty issue? On the other hand, shorts weren't an issue at all for any of the Young Men's scout camps this summer.

    As LDS members who strongly emphasize chastity, I feel it's very important to pair the chastity talks with frank discussions about sexuality in general to ensure that sex isn't just viewed as a dirty, nasty, sinful, embarrassing act that we save only for the one we truly love. Ideally, of course, these talks should take place in the home.

    In a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, over 14,000 teens were asked different questions about sexuality and sexual activity. Some of the study's findings shocked a lot of people when it was found that teens that had taken a 'virginity pledge' were more likely to engage in higher-risk sex, including oral and anal sex, than the non-pledgers, and were far less likely to use condoms. This highlights a problem of focusing on just one aspect of sexual behavior (abstinence) to the exclusion of well-rounded discussions. When a teen feels that having unprotected anal sex is the answer to remaining a virgin, there's something drastically wrong with our approach to sex education.

    As Ward members, I strongly encourage you to be open, honest, and realistic when having age-appropriate discussions about sexuality with your children. Relying on marketing slogans or abstinence-only sex education is simply ineffective and dangerous. It's time to become comfortable with being uncomfortable about sex education in our homes. Let's actively help our children to become the educators among their peers, instead of naive recipients of dangerous information.

    And for goodness sake, let those poor Young Women wear shorts at summer camp!

    Friday, August 28, 2009

    Sexting? Not our teens!

    Most parents of teenagers with cell phones can safely assume that when their child is up late at night with the cell phone cradled in their sweaty little palms, more than likely they're sexting with other teens, sexting with a creepy man pretending to be a teen, or sexting with a school teacher. Informed parents, from my experience, are more concerned about their teen's use of texting/sexting than even their Internet use.

    But LDS parents need not be concerned any longer about what Nephi or Sarah are doing under the covers with their cell phones at 1am!

    Thanks to this ad for the Church's website that I've noticed now several times on different sites, Mormon parents can be assured that their teens are just texting about God, the LDS religion, and life's questions at this hour with other interested teens. Seriously. Rest at peace.

    I'm going out later today to purchase cell phones for all of my teen age grandkids just so that they CAN text. What a load off my mind, and I'm sure you're just as relieved.

    Now, if I could only figure out those enigmatic texting acronyms like 'ROFLMAO'...

    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Oquirrh, Oak-her, OQrrxxj

    Yesterday along the Wasatch Front - Zion to many (except the Jews) - The Brethren felt inclined to give us a break from the normal grind meetings so that we might attend the temple dedication sessions. A newly gilded (careful not to confuse with 'gelded') Moroni was in place after the earlier mishap with the lightening, and music was in the air.

    I've been wondering about the choice of this temple's name, and I believe I may have figured out the mystery. Until now, nearly all of the LDS temples have been named after the city of their location (Salt Lake City, Logan, Boise, Draper, etc). However this new temple is situated only a couple of blocks from the already-existing Jordon River temple. So to avoid confusion, the Temple Naming Committee selected a name very familiar to both of the still-living Goshute Indians: Oquirrh Mountain.

    I've yet to speak to anyone outside of Utah who has the faintest idea of how to pronounce the name of this temple. Then the thought struck me - maybe this obscure and difficult-to-pronounce name was by design. I know a lot of people that, while visiting other areas, try and attend a new temple. It's like seeing a tourist site, without the entrance fee - well, sort of. In the case of this new temple, perhaps the idea was to discourage any out-of-town visitors - a "locals'only" hang out sort of thing.

    I can imagine that when visitors might think of selecting a temple to visit, they start with, "how about that new temple, the OQr... temple?" They'd get funny looks, make a few additional attempts at an intelligible guess in pronunciation, and then settle for the Draper or Salt Lake City temple. I think they also had this in mind when naming the Mount Timpanogos Temple, but that turned out to be phonetically sound enough to at least get close to the name. 'Oquirrh,' on the other hand, might as well have been named using cuneiform letters.

    I may be way off base here on my guess. Perhaps people enjoy the challenge of learning new, exotic Native American names and feel a connection to our quickly-fading Lamanite heritage. Have I missed any other obvious reasons for the selection of this name?