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?

Friday, August 21, 2009

MLM - No, Please Not Another One!

Having grown up outside of Utah, I feel that I lack an understanding in a foundational Mormon Institution: multi-level marketing, or MLM. In nearly a quarter of the interviews I have with adults, some form of an offer to join an MLM comes up. I've even received Christmas cards with MLM pitches making up the majority of the card's text. Christmas cards! I know that most Mormons likely believe that Jesus was a Republican capitalist, but this is ridiculous.

From an outsider looking in, I've observed the following commonalities in most of these MLM schemes:
  • Smooth-talking salespeople with products who's actual value defy common sense (mystical berry juice from the Pacific Islands, over-priced commodities like vitamins, and many health-related creams and lotions).
  • The requirement that all participants themselves spend hundreds of dollars a month on these products of dubious value, ensuring that the founders have a steady income, regardless of any actual sales to non-members. I'm positive that these required-purchases by the sellers themselves make up 90% of total products ever sold.
  • Pressure for these recruits to constantly harass friends, neighbors and family about 'getting in at the top level,' of one of the hundred new MLM pyramids introduced every month in Utah.

    I know members that have jumped from one scheme to another for years. They've paid thousands of dollars for boxes of junk that still sit in a garage, or pile up in the Utah County landfill. Yet, as soon as the next-new-thing comes out, it's full-steam cycling through the friends again.

    After many years of counseling people in financial matters, here's my advice - avoid MLMs like the plague. The only people making any money are the shady founders at the very top that quickly move on to the next scam. If you want to become financially secure, try the proven method of spending less than you make, paying off debt quickly, building a savings and retirement account, and investing in long-term value. And as a bonus, you'll still have some friends and family left that don't avoid you like a leper.
  • Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Not Quite Intelligent Design

    I'm not usually one to complain, especially about God's creations, but in some instances He leaves me to ponder, 'What the heck was He thinking!?' I've read many articles on the idea of Intelligent Design, or Creationism Lite, and thought to myself - what about all of the unintelligent design in nature? Who designed that, and for what purpose? Were there a few semi-purposefully designed creatures (of course, we'd always have to lump us humans in with this group), but the rest of what we see was left to its own devices to evolve however it pleased? Even with humans, there are enough oddities to believe that at the very minimum, someone with a good sense of humor had a hand in this design.

    Take vestigial organs. Was the appendix just designed with the fore-sight to ensure adequate financial support for the surgical profession? And to spread the wealth, I have to assume that wisdom teeth were most likely designed to provide financial support to oral surgeons? Couldn't God at least have removed these for all future missionaries and saved them the time, money, and pain - just a little token of appreciation to two years of full-time service? How about that tailbone in humans? I suppose there might have been a change in plans mid-design about us homo sapiens having tails, but someone forgot to remove all the evidence? And male nipples - what in the world do I do with these?

    Hair is another interesting design aspect of humans. Our early ancestors started out completely covered. We shed some hair by the Neanderthal times, and now we're left with only a few small patches of hair, with the only hair we're really interested in being the stuff on top of our head, which also happens to be the only spot susceptible to balding. Couldn't we have been designed to bald in the nether-regions, and grow thicker hair on our heads as we age as a small compensation for a slowing metabolism? And why do we still have erector pili that cause our hair to stand on end (goose bumps), but we have no hair to really notice, where most animals have this trait as a defense mechanism to appear larger/fiercer to predators?

    Our poor digestive systems. For some reason, they seem only designed to handle grains and proteins efficiently. Couldn't we have been designed with some fore-sight to better handle the abundance of refined sugar and carbs that we now consume in-mass, instead of being designed with what appears to be more for an environment tens of thousands of years ago? Why weren't we provided with some mechanisms to break down hydrogenated trans fats and oils so that we could enjoy our Big Macs and Super-Sized fries guilt-free?

    And lastly, the duck-billed platypus. I rest my not-always-so-intelligent design case.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009

    Staying Home … Again

    The article, "Staying Home... Again," from the August 2009 Ensign caught me a bit off-guard, even after reading the article several times to make sure I fully understood the points being made. The entire article can be found online here.

    Over the years, the Church has clearly held the position that mothers should stay at home whenever possible, although the Church has clearly reduced its rhetoric on this position. From my experience speaking with members, today's reality is that in most cases, women work to help their families make ends meet. In our Ward, I would estimate that about 65% of the wives work outside of the home. Knowing these families well, I can say that these women are not working to provide jet boats and European vacations, but rather food on the table and clothes for their children.

    Ironically, I've noticed that a fairly-strong correlation exists between a need for this second income, and the members adherence to a strict interpretation of multiplying and replenishing the earth, paying a full tithing, and spending much of their free time in Church-related callings and activities.

    From the example in the article, a woman goes to work to save a business that her family owns from going under. She finds that she actually enjoys working - a lot! And that's a very bad thing, indeed.

    The woman begins to feel a great sense of guilt and starts to pray to have the desire to stay at home. In the end, their business fails, at the cost of, "hundreds of thousands of dollars," to her family. The lady interpreted this business failure to be an answer to her prayers, "Through this experience I have come to realize just how important it was to the Lord that I be home with my children, regardless of the consequences," and "He had first helped me to change my heart, and then He helped change my circumstances."

    Well, I'm all for faith-promoting stories. Heaven knows I've had to come up with quite a few for F&T meetings, but this article was way too over-the-top and extreme for an example of why women should stay home, in my humble opinion.

  • Wouldn't a business failure of several hundred thousand dollars put more pressure on a marriage than a wife that chooses to work? Is it rational to view this business failure as an answer to prayers?
  • The wife had a seemingly-legitimate reason to want to work in trying to save their business. Are we to understand that the Church doesn't support women working under any circumstance? Would it have been preferred that this women not even try to save the family business?
  • The article seems to support the position that women should feel terrible anytime that they have to work outside the home. There's not a single sentence in the article that supports any reason for women to feel okay about working outside the home.
  • After working a short time, the lady in the article states that she didn't want to be home anymore, but instead wanted to be anywhere but home. Having counseled many families, I've yet to see hear of such an extreme position. In my experience, the wife might feel some guilt, is probably more tired when she does come home after work - but doesn't want to come home at all? Really?
  • The lady in the story, "asked for forgiveness for straying so far from my divine role." Again, I can't correlate trying to help your family save a business to straying far from a divine role.

    The moral of this story (article) - If you're not particularly happy with working outside of the home, consider the potential consequences before praying for a change!