Thursday, August 21, 2014

Guest Post: Remarks on the Passing (and Likely Suicide) of My Son

My son, Maxwell Defiance Landbeck, was killed early the morning of July 13, 2014. I’ve written about Max before, about our troubles. This post is my effort to make sense of his death. To find personal context and peace with it, to see the meaning in our loss and grief. It is comprised mostly of the remarks I gave at his memorial service, though I've included a few passages from the eulogy his sister read (the entire eulogy is here).
"Grief is the natural by-product of love. One cannot selflessly love another person and not grieve at their suffering or death. The only way to avoid grief would be to not experience the love; and it is the love that gives life its richness and meaning."
A little over two years ago, Max was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. In the months prior to that, he struggled with substance abuse. It is now obvious he was self-medicating. The burden of bi-polar disorder is swinging between depressive and manic episodes. For Max, when he was Manic, he would become delusional. Delusions of different realities, grandiose visions and fantasies. He was never violent, but pursued his bizarre notions no matter how strange or dangerous.

When Max would use drugs, even marijuana, he became even more delusional. But he sought out bizarre drugs, custom hallucinogens, spice, gleefully experimenting with substances that were not technically illegal. During these years, family and friends tried to help him, offering him a place to live if he promised to quit for good. Max was easy to love, but difficult to live with. Addiction is a terrible burden. He could not resist the draw of trying drugs one more time. Each time Max was certain that it would help. Each time he was terribly wrong.

In the very early morning of Sunday, July 13 Max was struck by a freight train and killed instantly.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

More Mormon TV

by ldsbishop:

Previous installment can be found here.

Summer is almost over, the days are getting colder and the nights are getting longer. Lock your kids in their bedrooms, put your snuggie on and settle down to watch the latest and best Mormon TV shows.

Stake of Thrones
Fantasy drama following the many stories of the members of the Westeros 2nd Stake. Stories include that of Brother Robb Stark, out to get Stake President Joffrey who had Robb's father released as the Stake Executive Secretary. Also see Sister Daenerys Targaryen get lost on a YW camp hike.

Brother Bauer is a veteran member of the High Council. His talks seem to go on all day and make people want to commit acts of extreme violence.

Food Storage Wars
When the local supermarket goes out of business, members of the Relief Society engage in physical fights to get a good deal on a case-lot of kidney beans.

50 Shades of Grey
Lengthy review of the suits worn by your favourite General Authorities. This week, Dark Charcoal #18 as worn by President Henry B. Eyring during the April 2010 General Conference.

Elder Pythons Flying Stake Roadshow
Wacky revue featuring your favourite sketches. Includes "Nobody expects the Stake Disciplinary Council" and "The Quorum of Silly Walks."

Man vs. Food
After recent employment problems, Brother Richman is inundated with meals provided by his local Relief Society. He feels obliged to eat them all, in spite of gaining 300lbs over the last three months. The latest episode sees him attempt to eat 5lbs of Sister Jensen's famous "all beef" lasagne in one sitting.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Saintspeak 23: The Letter S, Part 2

by Seattle Jon:

Another installment from Saintspeakthe mormon humor dictionary from Orson Scott Card. Previous installments can be found here. Reproduced with permission from Signature Books.

Service Project  The festive springtime ritual in which teenage Mormon boys and girls descend upon the home of a defenseless widow, trample her garden, break down her fence, and gouge chunks out of her lawn, all in order to paint large sections of the walls and windows of her house a color that she doesn't like.

Set Apart  The point of no return: Once you're set apart, you can't turn down the calling.

Shake the Dust of Your Feet  What missionaries do in order to trigger the destruction of towns, homes, and dry cleaning establishments that offend them.

Signify By the Usual Sign  Mormons communicate many things with special physical signs of great significance. For instance, closed eyes and a nodding head signify, "My, what an interesting talk!" An upraised right hand signifies, "Thank heaven I didn't get called to do that." And picking up a screaming child and carrying him or her out of a meeting signifies, "The auction is beginning. What am I bid for this child?"

Sister  The Mormon equivalent of Ms. It is used equally to refer to married and unmarried women. While Brother is used to refer only to those male Mormons who do not hold high positions, Sister can be used to refer to any adult Mormon woman from the general president of the Relief Society to the humblest ward member; whether this is because women are more democratic or because no woman is regarded as having genuinely high status in the Church I dare not guess.

Monday, August 18, 2014

5 Practical Tips for Getting Personal Revelation

by Shawn Tucker:

It can be difficult to distinguish what the Lord might be telling you. For my Institute students I call this the BB Principle: is this sensation a heaven-sent Burning in the Bosom or just the result of that afternoon's Bean Burrito. What follows are some practical helps for making that distinction. I will add that this already assumes that you are doing the fundamentals to get personal revelation, including being as obedient as possible, praying and reading your scriptures regularly, searching for answers in the scriptures, in modern revelation, in one's patriarchal blessing, and from trusted people around you, and perhaps going to the temple, fasting, or seeking a priesthood blessing. Even doing all of those things, these tips might be useful.

1. Expect mistakes. I am of the opinion that recognizing answers to prayers is a skill that requires time and practice. It also requires a lot of experience, and some of those experiences include making mistakes. When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I felt inspired that we would have a boy. I didn't really care whether we had a boy or a girl, but the notion that we would have a boy was quite strong. I was more than a little surprised when our first child was a girl. I have pondered this experience many times, and now I just chalk it up to making a mistake. I feel fortunate that it wasn't a very serious issue or mistake, but it does help me to see that mistakes are part of the learning process.

One thing I would add is that communication from Heavenly Father seems to come through thoughts and emotions. Sometimes distinguishing those thoughts and emotions is like playing the piano with boxing gloves. Instead of fine distinctions between one finger and another finger, between different inflections of emotion or different qualities of thought, I just have thoughts and emotions. But it does seem to be that over time I can distinguish the qualities of different thoughts and emotions in ways that make it easier to differentiate what is from God and what is not. This is an ongoing learning process, and knowing that mistakes are part of the process is very reassuring.

2. If you don't have to do anything, wait. Sometimes you want an answer to a prayer for a decision that needs to be made. One helpful tip is to neither rush yourself or the Lord. If a decision does not need to be made immediately, then wait. This can allow time for a correct decision to become clear. The problem of course is that waiting can be painful. Uncertainty is painful. Uncertainty is like lifting weights in that you are doing something and it is painful. You want that pain to end—you want a clear answer. Sometimes you want to put the weights down and be finished with the painful uncertainty process perhaps too early. The problem with putting the weights down too early is that you are probably not getting the best answer possible. But a second and perhaps even more important problem is that putting the weights down early will mean that the weights and the waiting have not yet done their job. Lifting weights makes you stronger. Waiting on the Lord and on yourself for the best answer and its confidence to emerge requires patience that makes one stronger and more resilient. Perhaps God doesn't just want to give you an answer, He wants you to gain power and faith that only come from exercising patience.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rock & Roll Parables: Rush's Conform Or Be Cast Out

by Reid:

It's a well-documented fact that Rush is the greatest rock and roll trio that ever toured the planet. Neil Peart not only has superhuman abilities as a drummer, but he's a gifted lyricist as well. In the chorus of Subdivisions (Signals, 1982; music video here), he captures that all-to-familiar pressure to conform to those standards established by our peer group, or risk being cast out. It makes for a another excellent Rock & Roll Parable.*

(Lyrics by Neil Peart)

Sprawling on the fringes of the city
In geometric order
An insulated border
In between the bright lights
And the far unlit unknown

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone
Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone


In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out
Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth

Drawn like moths we drift into the city
The timeless old attraction
Cruising for the action
Lit up like a firefly
Just to feel the living night

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory of lighted streets on quiet nights ...


Since humans are innately social creatures, they feel pressure to conform to the standards of the peer groups to which they belong. Every day, virtually every sentient person feels this pressure to some degree. It is not limited to young people with tattoos, stupid haircuts or ridiculous fashion statements; it goes all the way up the food chain. When an older generation describes this phenomenon in a younger generation, they call it peer pressure. It is usually (and often rightfully) portrayed as bad. Non-conformity is frequently generational, with the younger generation rejecting conformity with the older one. Accordingly, themes of non-conformity are extremely common in Rock and Roll. Watch Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) for Roger Water's bold rejection of conformity over thirty years ago.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Letter to My Non-Mormon Friends

by A-Dub:

Dear MMM Readers - I was too chicken to post this on Facebook.


Dear Non-Mormon Friend,

You probably know that I'm a Mormon. What you may not know is that I want to share my religion with you really badly. Not because we want your tithing money. Not because people will think I'm cool. And not because we have a quota we're trying to fill. Being a Mormon and a follower of Christ helps me be happy and I think it would increase your happiness as well. It's really something that I want to share with other people, but it's genuinely difficult sometimes.

You see, to me, sharing my religious beliefs is like a guy who is eating a really, really great piece of pie at a party. I mean, amazing, knee-buckling, you-have-try this kind of pie. And he goes around to people at the party, fork in hand, offering it to them: "Holy crap! This pie is amazing! Take a bite!"  And then he tries to feed it too you. Yes, it could be that you love the pie too and that one bite begins a life-long love affair with the best thing you've ever eaten. But it's weird that I'm trying to feed it to you. So I try and think of lots of ways that I can get you to try the pie, without it being weird. But I'm still a little socially awkward.

So often, because of the pie thing, I don't share my religion with you ... mainly because I am a chicken. Here are some examples:
  • I'd like to give you a copy of The Book of Mormon, but I'm afraid you'll feel like I just gave you homework. And afterwards you'll avoid me because you don't want to have to admit that you didn't read it when I invariably ask you about it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Forging the Generations Through Indexing

by Bradly Baird:

This past week, I finished indexing my 4,000th record for FamilySearch. I didn't believe when I started the process in March of this year that this simple task would become a part of my daily routine, much the same as reading the scriptures or personal prayer. It really only required me to index about 15-20 records a day, which takes up about 20-30 minutes; and, as I work, I am filled with the spirit of Elijah and can feel "hearts turning" as prophesied by Malachi. Incredibly simple!

I also started arbitrating records for my stake, since each stake unit is responsible to arbitrate its own indexed records. This is a little more daunting task because the final word on a submitted and published record is mine. However, the deeper I move into the tasks of arbitration, I feel the process reflects the principle that, "in the mouth of two of three witnesses, shall every word be established." I am learning to rely on the Spirit when faced with the more difficult choices.

So, the time has come for the thousands of you who view Trip-M to get with the program and start indexing through FamilySearch (if you are not already involved). Indexing is not difficult and does not take up much time, once you establish a regular pattern; not to mention that the process can be somewhat addicting once you get rolling. You will feel the Spirit of Elijah.

"The Spirit of Elijah is a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family." (Russell M. Nelson)

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Bradly Allen Baird is the father of two amazing children and has been married for almost twenty years. He served a mission in Finland, though he was really supposed to serve in Uruguay. His professional meanderings include everything from education to economic development, to human capital management in the IT industry (hopefully this one sticks); and spends his Saturdays hanging out with the missionaries in Provo, or racing back and forth between his children's activities in tae kwon do and elite cheerleading. Bradly also survived an MBA program; developed a somewhat limited interest in music, theater, film, urban planning, judaica, liberation theology, politics, israel, and latin american history; studies the influence of graphic imagery on public space; wrote a thesis about Leonard Bernstein, is obsessed with the American Symphonists, and reads publications like The Tablet and the Jewish Daily Forward.

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