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.