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!)