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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mormon Radar - How to Spot a Mormon

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

Gaydar is the ability of homosexuals to intuitively recognize one another. Mormons seem to have a similar instinct (of detecting other Mormons, not homosexuals. Although gay Mormons may have both powers. They are like superheroes.) Mormon Radar, Mormon-Dar, and Mo-Dar are differing terms that describe this skill. I can’t decide which one I like best.

My Mormon-Dar seems to be pretty dang spot on. Ask my wife. I’m not quite sure when I realized I had it, but grace to grace, it has developed into a well-oiled machine of discerning efficiency. Unlike Gaydar, Mo-Dar cannot be purchased with money. But don’t worry, here are some tips on developing your own clairvoyance.

Ways to develop your Mormon Radar:

Pray and read the scriptures.

Know what to look for. Be perceptive of the tell-tale signs that make us visibly unique.
  • Clothing - Mormons love to layer clothing. A t-shirt under a tank top or dress is common. Shorts that are just a little too long and slightly dorky are a dead giveaway. Also nothing screams priesthood quite like socks and sandals.
  • Garments - Look for a white t-shirt under a t-shirt. Who needs to wear two t-shirts? The “celestial smile” can be seen from a mile away. The half-inch line above the knee is harder to spot, but can be seen by a trained eye. (Although beware! I’ve heard of men putting electricians tape there to bait and switch the young women.)
  • Vocabulary - We use odd phrases in everyday language such as “fiber of my being,” “nourish and strengthen”, “tender mercies,” etc. We’ll drop “the Adversary” like he’s a guy that lives down the street. Don’t forget substitute swear words (SSWs) like fetch, fudge, flip, shoot, crap, gosh, geez, dang, darn, and heck, to name just a few. Acronyms galore: SSWs, CTR, BOM, BOA, TBM, NOM, BKP, NCMO, DH (this one has a dual meaning), MMM (also dual--crap!).
  • Kids - Lots of ‘em.
  • The gift of tongues - You’ll notice the whitest dude you’ve ever seen speaking perfect Spanish at your local Alberto’s restaurant. This one’s a freebie.
Beware the red herrings. Subtle variations can make all the difference. Don’t fall into these common traps.
  • The business goatee - It’s just not done. Mormons have goatees, sure. But not the suit wearing MBA types. If you see an otherwise clean-cut guy, on a weekday, wearing a suit AND sporting a goatee, I guarantee you it’s a non-Mormon cell phone salesman.
  • Praying in restaurants - People often mistake this as a Mormon trait. I grew up in Utah, I even worked in a church-owned restaurant, and I’ve never once seen anyone do this. I think it’s more of a Southern thing.
  • Women in dress pants - A cute, young family dressed up and walking down the street on a Sunday has to be Mormon, right? Wrong. Look again. The mom is wearing slacks. Even in a progressive city like Seattle, I’ll only see a pair of slacks in church once a month. I’d love to see some more though.
  • The white t-shirt - If the white shirt peeking up from beneath the collar is actually white, it’s probably a no-go. We wear these things until they’re grey and yellow and falling apart.
Test your hunches.
  • Good places to do this include the airport, tourist destinations, the hospital, the grocery store, and Idaho.
  • Try to work subtle hooks into a conversation to see if they bite. Drop words like Utah, ward, funeral potatoes, or Kolob (add Kokob and Kokaubeam if you’re feeling adventurous).
  • Once you become more confident in your abilities, you can always just straight up ask. You’ll be rewarded for your faith. However, if you’re wrong, you may get some funny looks.
Trust your gut.
  • I cannot stress enough how Mormon-Dar is more of an overall feeling than anything else. Please don’t take the cues I listed above as a literal checklist. Being Mormon affects everything about you. It becomes a part of you. And it becomes apparent to the attentive observer. Be patient. Be sensitive. Be believing.
I’ll close with a story. My wife and I were at the doctor’s office being helped by a man in his late fifties. There were no exterior clues that he was Mormon, but I somehow just knew. I was trying to think of a way to work Utah into the conversation when he mentioned his son’s friend being a professional photographer. I asked where this photographer lived. He said Utah. Bam. We confirmed his Mormonity and realized we even knew his daughter. Turns out the photographer he mentioned was also our wedding photographer. It’s a small, small world within Mormondom.

Old School Sportsmanship

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Read this excerpt from a recent Sports Illustrated's article on Joe DiMaggio and, like me, you'll wonder what has happened to the world of sports.


Photographers knelt along both foul lines at Griffith Stadium, as if it were a World Series game, and saved their film for when DiMaggio came to bat. Motion-picture cameras were also trained upon him, to capture his historic at bats for newsreels. DiMaggio remembered to smile casually into the lens, give a short wave, a friendly salute. When he prepared to hit, swinging two bats before tossing one aside, his face revealed nothing.

Inside, though, he churned. He had been like that for days now, as he neared Sisler's record, and at times this stress affected his behavior. A couple of games back DiMaggio had done something he could not remember having done before. A pitch came in that he believed was off the plate for a ball, and when the umpire barked out, "Strike!" DiMaggio turned back and gave him a sharp look. Every strike mattered; each hitless at bat could hasten the end of the streak. Yet the moment he turned his head, DiMaggio regretted it. Looking at an umpire this way was a sign of disrespect. More than that, it was an act of insubordination, a self-inflicted scratch upon his polished image. DiMaggio simply did not question umpires. He played the game as well as he could; the rest, he felt, was not his business. So uncharacteristic was DiMaggio's reproof that the umpire was taken aback. "Honest to God, Joe, it was right down the middle," he said through his mask. DiMaggio, chiding himself, turned back to face the pitcher without saying a word.

Wikipedia (DiMaggio): here
Hall of Fame (DiMaggio): here
The Streak (Sports Illustrated): here
Image via Google Images

Monday, May 30, 2011

Joplin, Missouri

by Saint Mark (bio)

I don't know about you, but I have never been a witness to devastation. I've never been to a war torn zone or been to the aftermath of a destructive natural or man-made disaster. Yes, I've seen images reproduced on screens whether computer, television or cell phone, but the four corners of a screen can never give a 360 degree perspective of an eyewitness experience. I had never seen true devastation until yesterday.

Having graduated last Sunday, my family and I started our trek across country. We had heard the horrible news that tornados had reaked havoc in Joplin, Missouri. Because my mother-in-law is from Joplin, Missouri, we decided to visit Joplin and "mourn with those who mourn."

It was overwhelming to the senses. The whole town was not destroyed. A six-mile swath of it was, however. It's eerie to drive along and see homes, stores and schools that look like any other Midwestern town and then suddenly you enter a scene from a WWII movie. My wife and I watched The Pianist recently and when Adrian Brodie jumps over the hospital wall and sees the wasteland that was once his city, it looked scarily similar to Joplin. This was not a movie set or CGI-created scene; this was reality and it made me want to vomit from the sheer awesomeness of it. Not awesomeness in the Jack Black Kung Fu Panda way. Awesomeness in the only-God-and-nature-could-do-this manner.

Tahiti: Ocean Voyage

by Clark (bio)

Looking for a place to vacation? Try watching this and answering anything other than Tahiti. My friend Devin shot this video while visiting Tahiti this past winter (good time to go to the South Pacific) while he was working on a documentary. Not only did he capture the majesty of the islands, but of the people too. He said his visit there was life changing because of the generosity and selflessness of the people he got to know. I'm sold.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Guest Post: How I Started My Abolitionist Journey

John Burger is a graduate of Brigham Young University, where he received a BA in Communications with an emphasis in Advertising. During the day he sells watches as the Online Marketing Director for Precision Time. At night he fights modern slavery as AbolitionistJB. In between he enjoys his time at home in Dallas, Texas, with his gorgeous wife, three little kiddos and two chickens. Chickens, that's where it's at these days. His eternal church calling is with the Young Men and he still dreams of dunking a basketball. You can learn more about John's abolitionist work here or you can email him directly at abolitionistjb at

A little over a year ago, my wife and I came across the website Love146 is an organization that combats the slavery of children. We started reading through their site and were surprised to learn that slavery is still rampant with over 27 million slaves worldwide. That's more slaves than anytime in history, including the transatlantic slave trade. The Department of Justice estimates there are over 300,000 slaves here in the United States with nearly 15,000 people trafficked into the U.S. each year. These statistics blew my mind.

As we continued through their site we came across a video titled, "Imagine." This video didn't just grab me, it shook me. This was my call to action.

Imagine from LOVE146 on Vimeo.

Utah Meat Trifecta

by Seattle Jon (bio)

I recently spent a week in Utah for my youngest sister's wedding. Seeing family and friends was great, and the wedding was nice and all, but could the highlight of the trip have been completing the Utah meat trifecta? Cafe Rio's pork, Crown Burger's pastrami and JDawgs'... hot dogs are meat, right? What other Utah establishments should be on my must-visit list?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Are You a Biblical Sex Scholar?

by Luke Warmer (bio)

Click here to take the recent New York Times "Religion and Sex Quiz." Because, after all, who couldn't use a good historical reminder on the sins of the Sodomites?

The Age of Partrepreneurs

by jpaul (bio)

The first question that begs to be answered is…what is a partrepreneur? The dictionary according to me defines it as – A person who has full-time employment and benefits while working part-time on entrepreneurial projects in the evenings and weekends. Everywhere I turn these days I see partrepreneurs, and I like what I see.

Admittedly, this idea is not new, but what excites me is the number of forces coming together at this moment to make the next few years the Age of Partrepreneurs. Here is a list of factors that are converging to usher in the next era of entrepreneurship:

• Low cost to start-up
• Access to learning and collaboration
• Gen Y’s need for “meaning”
• Current economic uncertainty

It is incredible how easy it is to create a business these days. If you don’t own a business yet, you should set a goal by the end of 2011 to have one, or at least be collaborating with someone who is working on one. For those of us who work in Corporate America, this act alone will unlock brain capacity and creativity that has lain dormant since graduation. With the relative ease of building a website these days with a hacker friend or using one of the numerous sites that offer templates or outsourced programmers, you can have a site for less than $500 - including legal fees to incorporate on Increasingly common these days are ideas that are completely free to start using Blogspot, Facebook, eBay, etc. Think Modern Mormon Men (an excellent example of mormon partrepreneurs).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DMB: You & Me

by Seattle Jon (bio)

I love Charlie a little more every time I hear this song. Give it a try (for your own partner, not mine).

DMB official website: here

Kid Praise

by Ken Craig (bio)

Normally, I’m pretty skeptical about any new-age pop-psychology mumbo jumbo slapped onto a magnet and strategically placed front and center on a refrigerator. However I recently came across one such attention-grabbing public notice, and I have to admit, I was intrigued.

It read: 101 Ways to Praise Kids

It was produced by some company that goes by the name of Nannies & Housekeepers U.S.A. At first I was discouraged, as it appeared that it was something solely created for nannies, which we don’t have because a) we don’t have the money, and b) there is only one Mary Poppins, and I don’t think she’s available. But although it was targeted at nannies, I couldn’t help wonder if it might work for parents too, as they sometimes interact with their own children as well.

I gave it a shot.

I’ve carried it around in my pocket for a week now, and I’ve really noticed a difference in my children’s confidence. Used to be that when they ran up to tell me something or had accomplished something, I just didn’t know how to react. But now I do!

I tried it out on my oldest first.

Oldest Daughter:  Dad, I made 8 loaves of bread today.
Me: (Scanning the card for the right thing to say) You’re a pleasure to know!  (Nailed it.)

Middle Child: Dad, I drew this picture for you.
Me: What a great listener!

Youngest Son: Dad, I had an accident when I couldn’t climb up on the toilet fast enough.
Me: You’ve earned my respect!

Baby: Pffffpts.
Me: Thanks for caring!

Oldest Son: Dad, in Cub Scouts we talked about coin collections.
Me: The time you put in really shows!

Middle Daughter: (And I wish I were making this one up…) Dad, listen to the song I memorized from West Side Story! “My daddy beats my mommy; my mommy clobbers me; my grandpa is a commie; my grandma pushes tea; my sister wears a mustache; my brother wears a dress! Goodness! Gracious! That’s why I’m a mess!”
Me: Class act!

So, turns out, as you can plainly see, that sometimes this stuff really works! I can really tell a difference in my children’s attitudes. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if this parenting thing doesn’t work out, I could totally be a nanny. Kenny Poppins.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Segullah Magazine & Diet Coke

by Seattle Jon (bio)

I gave my wife a subscription to Segullah for Christmas and her Spring issue arrived a few weeks ago. A few days later, I was verbally ordered to read the magazine. “Isn’t it a magazine for mormon women?” I asked. She pointed to the photograph on the back cover, a picture of sunglasses and a can of diet coke. I habitually reached for the soft drink, cursing Charlie (and Segullah) for taking advantage of my weakness for the fizzy drink.

The magazine isn’t thick – I read the issue in one sitting. The articles, poems and art were all well done, and some of the content was exceptional. There were no ads to distract my attention. I felt a range of emotions while reading – sadness, empathy, fear, joy, love – and once or twice felt a strong connection to what I was reading. For example, in Jessica Rasmussen's Making Footprints, she talks about what seems to happen when more babies arrive. I knew I was reading something important, something I should reflect on frequently as I interact with my own children. I'm not exactly sure why this happens, but it does.

"Another baby arrived - turned toddler - turned little girl. I learned another way. A way where I seemed to give less to everyone. A way divided. The sum of my parts was now less than the whole of me."

In short, I think this magazine should be in every mormon home. Just make sure the back cover – with the picture of the diet coke – isn’t resting on top of your copy of the Ensign. Just in case diet coke really is against the word of wisdom.

Upcoming Ward Calendar Items

by Bishop Higgins (bio)

June 5 - Take your daughter to Priesthood meeting day
June 5 - 11 - Avoid the appearance of evil week
June 7 - Ward Steak Night
June 10 - Stake ward night
June 15 - Old people appreciation day
June 16 - Really old people appreciation hour (2 p.m.)
June 17 - Ward roadshow
June 18 - Ward car show
June 24 - Ward abs buster night (we only have this once a year, so you won't want to miss it!)
June 29 - Ward temple night
June 30 - Home teaching reminder

Update: The Bishop left an item off the calender. Go here to be reminded.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How Goodreads Gave Me Anxiety

by brettmerritt (bio)

Reading. It's this thing you're supposed to do if you're a writer or, more specifically, if you ever want to be a good writer. I know this and yet struggle to be a recreational reader let alone a voracious one.

I have great intentions. It's not that I don't have a desire to read. I do. This desire leads me to start a lot of books. I buy books at Borders and download classics from Google Books to my iPhone for free. I even joined a readers' social network called Goodreads all with the purpose of reading more and reading often.

It hasn't worked. In fact, it's given me anxiety and probably high blood pressure.

Here's why Goodreads is frustrating. I have friends who read a lot. I mean A LOT. Some of my friends finish two or three books a week. The only time I have ever done that was when I read the Hunger Games trilogy (because apparently I lead a double life as a teen-age girl). So, most of the time when I get automatic Goodreads updates telling me my friends Courtney, Amy and Josh have read six more books, I end up feeling like a uneducated, lazy, ignorant writer.

I've come to realize I'm maybe not the reader I thought I was. But I can't give up. I need a victory. Here's where I ask for your help.

Currently, I have eight books showing as "Currently Reading." These are books I've started but can't seem to finish for one reason or another. I need you to tell me which one(s) to finish first.

The books are:

1. "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" by Seth Grahame-Smith & Jane Austen
2. "Art by Committee: A Guide to Advanced Improvisation" by Charna Halpern
3. "White Noise" by Don DeLillo
4. "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" by Daniel H. Pink
5. "The Copy Workshop Workbook: 2002" by Bruce Bendinger
6. "The Intent to Live: Achieving Your True Potential as an Actor" by Larry Moss
7. "Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need" by Blake Snyder
8. "Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live" by James A. Miller, Tom Shales

Now, these are very different books. Some are entertainment, some will help my work, some will help my goals, etc. It's a tough favor to ask of you. I need your help because I'm going to get another Goodreads email soon telling me Josh read twelve more books and I don't know if I can take it. Then again, maybe I can just change my email settings.

P.S. If you want to look me up, see what I like or add me on Goodreads, click here.

What Happened to the Comma?

by Bitner (bio)

Something happened to the comma. Incomplete sentences are commonplace in nearly all forms of writing now. The poor comma can't buy an appearance. Or maybe that tiny little grammatical tool - after a couple down years - began taking performance enhancing drugs and now looks like a period.

I. Don't. Know.

But I do know that the comma is being used less frequently and the period is all over the place. All. Over. The. Place.

Best. Punctuation. Ever.

Which brings up a second grammatical quandary: the exclamation point is over the hill. Unless it's paired with the word 'right' and a question mark, right?!

I know. Right?!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Judgment Day or Just Another Day of Judgment?

by Saint Mark (bio)

So, this Sunday, May 22, 2011 is my graduation day. After three arduous years, I'm finally graduating from law school. I was filled with relief and excitement until I saw the billboard on the left. Great! The Savior decides to come the day before I graduate? Why not during law school? Then, I would have been saved from three-hour exams and the loss of eyesight that comes from studying case law as thick as analog telephone books.

My response to the day of judgment that will allegedly happen tomorrow, May 21, (note: the sign doesn't give a year; as a lawyer, I appreciate the ambiguity) is tongue in cheek. Although we as latter-day saints believe that Christ will come again (that's why we're called "latter-day" saints and not just saints), we do not believe it is happening this weekend. "And they have done unto the Son of Man even as they listed; and he has taken his power on the right hand of his glory, and now reigneth in the heavens, and will reign till he descends on the earth to put all enemies under his feet, which time is nigh at hand--I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes." (Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 49:6-7; see also D&C 39:21; 61:38; Matthew Chapter 24).

While walking through Boston Commons yesterday, I ran into a parade of May 21st believers. I tried to make a deal with one of them: I'll read your brochure on why this Saturday is the day of judgment if you will take this pass along card and call the number on it on Sunday, if Sunday happens. He wouldn't accept the offer. He said he couldn't say "if". He was sure judgement day will be this Saturday. It intrigued me that he was so against my hypothetical because that's all my offer was: IF Sunday comes without a judgment day, then he would make the call. What does he have to lose?

But, then I thought of myself and my beliefs: am I so against open discussion with others who use hypotheticals or other types of logical arguments that I foreclose conversations that could lead to understanding? If someone was to offer me a pamphlet or literature for their religion, like The Watchtower or the Qu'ran, would I reject them so quickly as well? If someone debates me and pushes me on my beliefs, am I so quick to reject their theological explorations as ignorant or persecution? Maybe, like me, they are just curious and their paradigms do not include prophets in the modern days or days of judgment coming on the day before law school graduation.

Granted, it is difficult to discern someone's motives for challenging our beliefs through dialogue. But, if I give "doubters" (ie people who are questioning my beliefs) the benefit of the doubt and realize that understanding only comes through asking questions, then I may have more efficacy in my gospel conversations and bring a soul to Christ, whether Christ comes tomorrow or not.

Guest Post: Spectrum of Gray

Seattle-based Bow Tie Guy sent in the following post on tithing. Maybe for his next guest post, Bow Tie Guy could provide us step-by-step instructions for tying a bow tie?

Image via Post Sacred. R.I.P.

What is Tithing?
I'll tell you every time--
Ten cents from a dollar,
and a penny from a dime.

In my high priests group we recently got to the gospel principle chapter on tithes and offerings. I expected (and got) the standard pronouncement that the only authorized statement on what constitutes tithing is the Section 119 revelation that it represents 10% of your interest (or income, say the modern interpreters) annually.

I decided to mix things up a bit by asking the instructor to let the group share some of their thoughts on what should and shouldn't be in the numerator of that little equation. My stated purpose was to understand how different people think about close cases so I had more grist for my personal mill in deciding where to draw my line. I was also curious if there were accepted interpretations that everyone else but me knew about (by way of background, my Mom was a convert, my Dad a non-member, so I grew up without a lot of the cultural collective consciousness many lifetime members enjoy. For example, I first heard about garments when I was a freshman in college, three months before my mission. That was a surprise.).

What followed was an interesting and wholly inconclusive discussion:

• Some pay on gross income without any adjustment.
• Some deduct social security taxes, but then pay on the payments when received later on, while others reverse that. One brother (an accountant) tracks how much he has contributed to social security and then has committed to pay tithing after his receipts exceed his contributions.
• Some pay on income net of all taxes because those dollars aren't in their control and the personal benefit derived from taxes is perceived as remote.
• Some pay on gifts, others only on earned income.
• Some pay on inheritances, others don't.
• Some deduct for 401(k) and IRA contributions currently but pay on distributions paid out. It was unclear whether folks were making a distinction between Roth and traditional accounts.
• There seemed to be consensus that you would encourage kids to pay on their allowances, but not on the value of the shoes/clothes/food/movie tickets/ice cream/etc., that you provide them. Most folks put tuition and mission payments on your kids behalf in the shoes category and not the allowance category, despite the fungibility of cash.
• Similar consensus that you'd pay on investment capital gains even if the profits are reinvested, but that you wouldn't pay on capital gains on your house if you reinvest those profits in a new house (though that distinction makes no sense).
• Some are self-employed and they just make stuff up.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Letter To The Lord

by Seattle Jon (bio)

I will be giving a talk this Sunday on the topic of testimony. The starting point of my preparation is usually to review talks I've given in the past to see if there is anything helpful I can use this time around. The first talk I reviewed was one I gave last year on Mother's Day. I'd forgotten about the poem I wrote for my wife, which opened the talk. I thought I would share it with you.

Dear Lord,

A dozen Mother’s Days ago,
you blessed me with a woman so,
Wonderfully suited to who I am,
I count myself a fortunate man.
She adds to where I need adding,
and shapes where I have too much padding.
She knows when not to speak, but look,
and boy can that woman cook.
She’s incredibly selfless, sometimes to a fault,
and sometimes the cracks she opens I can’t halt.
But isn’t life more interesting with lots of cracks?
They build our muscles and strengthen our backs.
Cracks make us question our deepest beliefs,
and make us look for sweet relief.
I guess that’s it, I feel relief.
I might not know a lot, but I have belief.
In you, that you lived, and died, and live once more.
I hope if that’s all I have, it will open the door.
But for now, an expression of gratitude, for her, is what I give.
And an expression of love, to her, each day I live.
I sign this with my pen.



by Saint Mark (bio)

So, I had an interview the other day with an iJerk.

You may not know what I mean at first, but I bet you have met this person before. In pre-iPhone days, this person could have been known as a know-it-all, a wise guy, disagreeable, clever dick (there’s that word again. I promise I didn’t make it up - look here), or just one of those people who likes to find out every fact so they can tell you why you are wrong. In the old days, people would go to the dictionary or the encyclopedia or, the worst, an ADULT to find out information and then come back to you days later and tell you how you were wrong about such and such a fact (remember that time you said roadrunners weren't cuckoo birds...).

Now, we have iJerks. An iJerk is a person who during a conversation reflexively goes on their iPhone or other smart phone and types in one, some or every fact you state to confirm whether it is true or false.

Back to my interview for an example. I was asked about PF Changs restaurants in Boston and how many there were. Being an impoverished law student, I hadn’t seen the inside of a PF Changs for years nor seen one in Boston in two years of living there, so I assumed and stated (incorrectly) that I didn’t think there were any PF Changs in Boston. The iJerk quickly searched and found one PF Changs in a hotel where I had not been. Face! He didn’t say it but I felt it. This was just one of many iJerks I have met and I’m sure you have met as well and had the unfortunate displeasure to (not) communicate with.

As a personal plea to iJerks everywhere: Please put the iPhone back in your pocket. Let’s have a normal conversation where some immaterial factoids are left possibly correct or possibly incorrect. Who knows if there are rings around Uranus? Who cares. I know there are only three things we can take with us when we die: relationships, knowledge, and character. But does knowledge defeat relationships and character so completely that we can’t be agreeable when we know someone is wrong? Or, we can’t seek to improve the relationship first instead of improving our ego? Let’s just talk like imperfect humans, have some laughs, share some stories, and not treat every interaction like an electronic Inquisition.

Have you met an iJerk today?

Guest Post: Rookie of the Year

A guest post from our first Millenial. Seattle Jon is still getting used to someone living with his little sister.

Image via Leah Naomi Design & Photography.

I played basketball in high school. I lived in a foreign country for two years. I survived a parasailing accident. I got my Bachelor’s. I live with a girl now … what?

I live with a girl? You mean I hang my jock strap right next to this frilly cardigan from Banana Republic? How did this happen?

Well I got married, you see. That’s what happened. Don’t get me wrong; I’m really happy it happened. I married a person that makes me happier than anyone else. I’m just saying that the concept is still hard for me to comprehend sometimes.

I realize that some things I may never understand. For example, why do you assign me a task and keep your timetable for completion a secret? I didn’t know you wanted it done immediately until you started to do it yourself! Guilt.

Look, I’ve been married for just over a month. All that means is that a month ago we were given plenty of unsolicited “advice” about marriage at our reception. Here is a sampling of the "positive" encouragement we received:

• It's not about you.
• Marriage is really hard at first.
• You have to work at it in order to make it work.
• Being married requires tons of sacrifice.
• The honeymoon is fun, and then real life starts.
• How comfortable are you with debt?

Thanks, everyone. I’m stoked. MMM readers - how about some encouraging advice?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Giveaway 2: Winner

Congratulations Jared Jones, winner of our Official Best of Fest giveaway. You have five days to email us and claim your Volume 1, Volume 2 and Kids box sets. If you didn't win, pick up your own box sets here or look for the show on BYU TV.

The Six TV Shows That Make Me a Better Man

by brettmerritt (bio)

Of the 25 or so shows listed as “Season Series” on our family’s DVR, a few are shows that only I like to watch. I got thinking as I looked at my list of shows. I started wondering which ones I could let go. I started asking, “Do the shows I like do anything to make me a better man? Do they teach me anything? Or are they just filler, a means to escape for a few hours a night?” If they were only filler, I deleted them.

Of the shows that were left, I could honestly say each one meant something to me personally. Some are shows I watch not only because they entertain but specifically because I like what a specific character shows about being a man in today’s society. Here they are:

1. Friday Night Lights - Coach Taylor

I only started watching FNL this year. I had heard how great the show was from a number of friends and so when the entire series -- minus the final/current season -- became available on Netflix Instant, I started watching. I was instantly hooked for one reason: Coach Taylor. I could do an entire post on this guy. I watched this character and wanted to be just like him. I can say that I have never felt that way about a fictional TV character before in my life. Here are some qualities Coach Taylor has that every man should admire and emulate: totally faithful to his wife, leads his home, loves his job, works hard, makes time for his family, is a consistent father, has principles he will not back down from, keeps his word, picks his battles, admits his mistakes, preaches and practices honor and humility.

Quote: “Listen to me. I said you need to strive to better than everyone else. I didn't say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That's what character is. It's in the try.”

2. Modern Family - Phil Dunphy

He often takes things too far (it’s a comedy, after all) but Phil Dunphy is a well-meaning, lovable, earnest goof. He isn’t afraid to risk and try something silly. We all shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously. When we screw up, we should admit it, apologize and move on. He also loves the hell out of his wife and kids.

Quote: “I am brave. Roller coasters? Love 'em. Scary movies? I've seen Ghostbusters like seven times. I regularly drive through neighborhoods that have only recently been gentrified. So yeah I am pretty much not afraid of anything. Except clowns … I am not really sure where the fear comes from, my mother says it's cause when I was a kid I found a dead clown in the woods. But who knows?”

Marveling at Creation

by Seattle Jon (bio)

The kids spent a recent Sunday afternoon marveling at God's creations, while Charlie and I spent the afternoon marveling at ours.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vote or Die 2: Presidential Dreamboats

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

See all Vote or Die posts here.

In my opinion, the Mormons have got the two most handsome presidential candidates (at least now that Donald Trump  is out). Romney may be more devout, but does righteousness make you hotter? Both clean-cut and majestic. Both salt and pepper (one more salt, the other more pepper.)

Women: I know you’ve thought about this. Heavenly Father knows you’ve thought about this. It’s time to admit it and tell us where your loyalties lie.

Men: Don’t pretend like you can’t tell whether a man is attractive or not. Again, God knows when you’re lying (even if you’re lying to yourself). Time to man up and get in touch with your feminine side.

Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. may have to verbally duke it out in the near future, but who will look better doing it?

It's Not Easy Being (Forced to Be) Green

by Josh (bio)

My wife and I are Oregon transplants. We moved here a few years ago, and have fallen in love with the place. The scenery is gorgeous, the people are uncommonly nice and we adapted very quickly to life here. If you can survive the rain, the summers here are unreal. Plus, we have Trader Joe's. What more can you want?

We weren't here long before we realized that the issue of environmentalism isn't really optional here. Our regular garbage is one third the size of our recycling can. Even if you want to wastefully throw unsorted trash into the garbage willy-nilly, you will soon run out of room. Recycling is the only way to make it fit.

We are charged $.05 for each can we buy, as a deposit, and have to return the cans to get the money back. I know this practice isn't unique to our fair state, but man, is it annoying. The can drop off centers smell like fermented fruit punch passed through a recycled catheter. They are swarming with flies and bees. (I guess if you have a bee allergy, the government gets to keep your nickel.) At least 80% of the machines are broken or jammed at any given moment. And there is always...ALWAYS some crazy old homeless man who has appointed himself the mayor of the can-do, who offers slurred advice about the fastest way to get the cans through. I'm scared to take my kids there. If you want me to recycle so much that you are holding my money hostage, then why do you make it so difficult?

I'm all for being green. I think as believers that the world is a creation of God, and as part of our divine birthright we should feel strongly about protecting it. But how much of what we are doing really helps? I'm all for buying a more fuel efficient car when mine finally dies (though really it is more motivated by not having to sell my oldest child to pay to fill it up and less by a desire to reduce pollution). We dutifully use our cheerfully decorated Trader Joe's reusable shopping bags. Though I often wonder, when you weigh in the environmental impact of that whole industry that has sprung up to manufacture and ship those bags, is the fossil fuel cost really less than a few paper bags? We have CFLs all over the house, and I guess they are better, but they remind me of being back on my mission in Italy where the questionable wiring in our apartments caused every light to take forty-five seconds to really turn on.

I am, clearly, not an environmentalist. If you are, weigh in and tell me where I am wrong. What are the most important (read: easy) things I can I do to be more environmental? Or am I doing okay? I guess you could say I'm lazy. I'm happy to do what I can...if it isn't too inconvenient. Hey! Is that why the movie was called An Inconvenient Truth? Good one, Gore. Good one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Welcome Casserole

by Bishop Higgins (bio)

Brother Royal Samuelson, executive secretary, calls members of the ward for various reasons. This time, to bring over a welcome casserole.

Guest Post: A Newborn's Perspective

by Bitner (bio)

Steele was born last Wednesday morning; the third child of MMM contributor, Bitner. He has some insights to share from his last few days in the premortal realm and his first few days on earth, all of which have been in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

It was about 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning when I needed a good stretch. An unintended consequence of my stretching was that my life-sack broke and one-third of my Vitamin Water disappeared. I love my Vitamin Water! Why would I intentionally get rid of some?

Well, regardless of any intentions, the process had begun. I was going to be born in a matter of hours from "stretch-gate" as it is now called. (By the way, wouldn't you want to stretch if you were upside down for a few weeks? So don't judge me.)

My mom, bless her heart, had intended to go natural. A hippie friend of hers talked her into it. As it turned out, I know she went natural because the doctor was saying, "whoa, ok, let's take that energy from the screaming up there and focus it down here, ok?"

And I was like, "Amen, Doc! If I can't have my Vitamin Water, it ain't that comfy here."

But nobody could hear me because I can't talk yet.

Talking is overrated. But this typing thing? Solid. I use my mom's netbook when she's asleep.

Anyway, so it was only about 20 minutes from the time we arrived at the hospital to the time I was out. I nearly pooped everywhere because the doctor nearly DROPPED me. For reals. That was not cool.

There's def some pluses and minuses to being a newborn. Getting bathed and cleaned = nice! Getting cream slathered in my eyes and shots in my heel = weak!

Learning new things is fun. I had to learn how to eat now that the Vitamin Water was gone (love you V-dub!) and I had no idea how the process works but I felt this urge to suck on something. My dad was holding me and I felt this thing on my cheek so I turned and started sucking. It was my dad's bicep. No nourishment there. It wasn't until later that I found some rich goodness flowing from my mom's chest area. She keeps saying "my boobs hurt" when I'm eating so I think that's what they're called, "Boobs Hurt."

But I can't see well, so I still get confused when I don't know who is holding me when I'm hungry. I still try sucking on my dad's bicep and I'm not sure what that says about his bicep. Or what it says about my mom's boobs. You decide.

I'm really glad my dad is clean shaven. All the brothers in heaven are clean shaven. All. Even the Top Two. Just sayin'.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Happy Valley Syndrome

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Charlie was traveling, so I was alone in the pew with my three kids on Easter Sunday. My two boys saw me listening to the first speaker, so stopped being quiet and started bugging me to draw them "awesome army bases and medieval castles" so they could stage mock battles on paper. I obliged, but realized listening time was over, so pulled out a book. I've found it's much easier to shush them during sacrament meeting with "I'm reading a book" than with "I'm trying to listen to the speaker."

I keep a few books in my church bag for just such occasions. I chose Richard Poll's History & Faith: Reflections of a Mormon Historian (available free here, email me for Word doc), a collection of his interpretative and reflective essays, for no particular reason other than it includes his famous, and to me personally meaningful, sacrament meeting talk What the Church Means to People Like Me. I opened to The Happy Valley Syndrome, a speech given at Brigham Young University in November 1969, and started reading. I've summarized what I took from the speech below, but I encourage you to read it yourself when you have time...preferably not during sacrament meeting (unless someone from the high council is speaking).

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called ye out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). *underline mine

Interestingly, Poll points out that "a peculiar people" appears in both the Old and New Testaments with different meanings. In the Old, the phrase "meant both physical and psychological segregation to ancient Israel." In the New, it "meant a ministry of light among nations in darkness to the disciples of the Lord."

Poll's thesis, and concern, is that some latter-day saints are preoccupied with an Old Testament interpretation of the phrase. He labels the preoccupation Happy Valley Syndrome ("HVS"), and suggests doses of self-examination and repentance to those who are afflicted by it. How do you know if you have HVS? Poll gives the following three symptoms: first, a marginal awareness of past reality; second, a myopic perspective on present reality; and third, a mechanical approach to divine reality.

I don't want to get into how Poll feels about each of the symptoms, although I will say I think he approaches each from a very faithful point of view. I will tease you with what he suggests in order to combat each symptom.

Past Reality: Poll encourages us to (i) gain a sense of our history, (ii) read the great scholarly writings about Mormon history (Arrington, B.H. Roberts), (iii) embrace institutional change within the church and (iv) exercise the principle of common consent to drive change, not to "gripe to peers or engage in passive resistance, both of which are indirect ways of producing change."

Present Reality: Poll encourages us to (i) become interested and informed about the problems of the world beyond our own homes, (ii) get involved in our communities to make the world a better place and (iii) relate to both one and two as a believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Divine Reality: Poll encourages us to (i) focus first on those requirements (love others) upon which our regular rituals (home teaching) depend, (ii) look to God in situations "for which the church has not provided neat answers" and (iii) examine the nature of our communication with our Heavenly Father.

Poll ends his speech by questioning whether, for some, it is even a good idea to recover from Happy Valley Syndrome. I have friends, and family members, for whom I might answer in the negative. They have a kind of security that other mormons, including myself, lack. Whether you're in the valley or out, though, I think we all can and should take Poll's final challenge to heart in a way that feels genuine to our situation.

"Let us, as part of our commitment as latter-day saints, face the reality of our past, seeking understanding of the processes by which the unfolding of the divine plan has so far come to pass, so that we can relate constructively to present developments, trends, and possibilities."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

This Is Not A Post About Swinging

by Aimee (bio)

Before I got married, I didn’t realize how complicated finding married friends would be as a couple.

The ladies need to like each other.
The men need to like each other.
I need to like the guy of the couple.
My husband needs to like the girl.
And the same goes for them.
They both need to like both of us back.
The same rules apply for our same-sex couple friends too. 

Once married, you think you have been released from the dating world, but little do you know that you have merely graduated into a whole new world of dating.

Couple Dating.
(And you thought dating alone was hard?)

Finding successful couple friends is an art form. Everyone needs to genuinely like each other in order for it to be a successful couple friendship that will last a lifetime…the kind of friendship where you get choked up at their children's weddings.

"How did the kids grow up so fast?" {tear}

This may seem like it would be easy to find, but in the real world, couple dating is a complicated, delicate, relational, and highly important marital matter.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Tallest Man On Earth

by Clark (bio)

Kristian Matsson is the man behind the catchy name. He is from Sweden but plays his guitar and sings like he grew up with Bob Dylan. The first video is my favorite Take-Away show of all time. I look forward to visiting this music store (Music Inn) next time I'm in NYC. Something about its disorganized and eclectic mix of instruments make me want to just tinker around for an afternoon.

About Blogotheque, they have tons of great artists. You can get lost on the website for hours.

The second video is a very well done recording of a live show by Matsson in Spain. The Dreamer is the best track (in my opinion) off his latest release.

Finally, here is Mattson in another neat video of one of my favorite songs, I Won't Be Found.

Giveaway 2: Official Best of Fest

Ever wonder where all of the good movies have gone? According to Seattle-based director-writer-producer Rick Stevenson, they haven’t gone anywhere. You just need to know where to find them. That's where Official Best of Fest comes in. Using an exclusive list of curators, Rick finds the best independent films from around the world. Films about love, films that will make you laugh, inspire you, and more.

And the good news is, Official Best of Fest came to BYU TV in April and will play every Saturday night until Christmas 2011.

For this giveaway, Rick is generously providing Volume 1 & Volume 2 box sets from his PBS television show, as well as the Kids box set. You can find these box sets, as well as the many others, at the Official Best of Fest online store.

Giveaway Guidelines:

- You have 7 days to enter this giveaway (closes May 17th at midnight).
- Make one comment to enter (anonymous comments ignored).
- Winner will be chosen via and announced on May 18th.
- Winner needs to email us within five days to claim the giveaway.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Leap of Faith

by Ken Craig (bio)

As summer approaches and Church-sponsored activities are poised to abound, I'd like to regale you with a little incident I like to call “The Time I Jumped Out of a Tree and Nobody Caught Me and I Almost Completely Shattered My Back and Kind Of I’m Still a Little Mad at Those People Who Didn't Catch Me.” Sure, I’ve had 23 years to come up with a better title, but I’m not very good with titles, so that’s what you get.

It was summer, 1988, my friends. George Michael was still straight (maybe), Guns n’ Roses were welcoming me to the jungle, and Def Leppard was requesting that I pour some sugar on them. (Which, under no circumstances, was I about to do. It’s unsanitary and it creates a horrible mess.) Growing up in southern California, the summer was rife with trips to the beach, water skiing, pool parties, and theme parks. But perhaps nothing was as highly anticipated each summer as what is commonly known in the LDS world as Youth Conference.

Ah, Youth Conference. An annual event for Mormon adolescence, ages 14 to 18, that spans three to four days, promotes new friendships and affords youth the delights of engaging speakers, well-organized games, obligatory dances, and if all goes well – opportunities for smoochin’. But not this year. No, this was the year of a “new” Youth Conference. A “fresh” Youth Conference. A Youth Conference “outside the box.”  A Youth Conference “nobody wanted to attend.” Brothers and Sisters, I give you…“The Wilderness Youth Conference.”

For this special Youth Conference, we were to spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday camping in the mountains above Santa Barbara. There was no electricity and no showers. On top of that, the rules were that there was to be no make-up for the ladies, no toiletries for either gender, and no Walkmans or music of any kind. (See kids, a Walkman is the predecessor to the iPod. It weighed 8 to 10 pounds, included headphones the size of fighter-pilot helmets, and played what the Smithsonian calls “cassette tapes.” Cell phones, iPods, laptops, and any paraphernalia of that nature had not yet been invented, but you can bet your Drakkar Noir cologne that they wouldn’t have been allowed either.)

The final blow was when the leaders told us we would be placed in assigned “family groups,” and not able to handpick our friends to be in our groups, or to even have down time to hang around them. They then told us there would be no traditional Saturday night dance. If they expected a mutiny on this issue, they were sorely mistaken. Nobody was excited to slow dance with anybody who had been marinating in their own B.O. for 48 hours, or kiss someone whose teeth felt like they were wearing a sweater.

Guest Post: Paradox

"Grizzly" Adam Lisonbee lives in Utah with his wife and five kids. He enjoys mountain biking and backcountry skiing. He writes about his outdoor (mis)adventures at He recently finished his first book, Mythical and Tangible: Tales of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Singletrack. The book chronicles Adam's ongoing journey to find spiritual and philosophical meaning while exploring the outdoors. It is available in print or digital editions here. Adam also tweets at

I live in a paradox. A world in which an authoritarian government –injected with divine supremacy and farseeing prophetic implications – oversees and advises behavioral and social traditions, from our dietary choices to our clothing and personal appearances. And yet, it is a world wherein men are left to themselves, free to judge the merit and caliber of such seemingly intrusive admonitions, and to act accordingly. Unlike the thugocracies of most authoritarian regimes, there are no jackboots and brownshirts. There are no gulags or prisons for dissenters and heretics. Rather, we are taught correct principles, and left to govern ourselves. I am a Mormon.

And as such, I live out my days in the cultural and religious anomaly of individual personal salvation and the ongoing and persistent command of bettering the larger collective. And like any clash of groupthink and the unique particularity of the self, there are massive contradictions, questions, and wonderment of just how exactly one is supposed to navigate the labyrinth of Mormonism. I don’t have the answers to such questions. However I have found a realm of consistency and clarity that, on its surface, is aloof and separated from the whitewashed method of institutional worship that has come to define the Sunday meeting experience of the here and now. A place more textured and layered, colored and varied. A place that for me, has provided a lucid peering into the spiritual intangibility of God and Gospel. The mountains.

And no, I am not claiming any higher authority or knowledge or experience. And no, I am not acclaiming that the mountains ought to replace the church-house or that I am now intending to trade Sacrament Meeting for aspen and penstemon. I’d hope that if I ever were to leave the Church that I’d be able to come up with an excuse much less cliche and tired and predictable. Alas, there are few original reasons given anymore for shaking off the shackles of the oppressive and totalitarian theocracy—such as it is often called by those who freely walk away—and so, I may as well claim originality and radicalism in my lack of apostasy and unbelief. Indeed, perhaps the new non-conformity is simple and optimistic submission. And anyway, there is absolutely nothing about being a practicing member of the LDS church that prevents me from seeking and finding those ethereal and elusive revelatory moments while above treeline, or deep within the sandstone expanse of the desert. I wonder, in fact if my days in the wilderness are not enhanced by my belief in God and that those places originated in His handiwork.

I think the Prophet Joseph Smith understood and expressed this idea when he wrote:

"Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever!"

And so, I submit. Except when I don’t.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Saintspeak 1: Blessing

by Seattle Jon (bio)

This is my first installment from Saintspeak, the hilarious mormon dictionary from writer Orson Scott Card. The book is available free online from Signature Books.


1. The ordinance in which hundreds of male relatives, home teachers, and members of the bishopric surround a newborn baby and bounce it up and down while someone, usually the father, mumbles into a microphone. Trapped and outnumbered, the child usually screams, unless it is unconscious.

2. A traditional prayer offered over meals. Members of normal Mormon families take turns saying pretty much the same phrases a thousand times a year. Fervent believers insist on saying something new at every blessing. Fanatics do the same but also say blessings over candy bars, medicine, and party refreshments.

3. The ordinance of anointing and laying on hands to heal the sick; most commonly done to those not sick enough to need a doctor or so sick the doctors have given up hope.

Signature Books: here
Signature Books (online library): here
Wikipedia (Orson Scott Card): here
Ender's Game (movie update): here
Image via Signature Books

A Surprise Trip to Disneyland

by Pete Codella (bio)

Please welcome to the blog Pete Codella, our newest contributor.


We’re a family of four with a nine year-old daughter and five year-old son, not counting our eight year-old weimaraner. In the space of two years we have moved three times. After getting settled in our new home, when the New Year rolled around my wife started talking about going on a vacation to spend some quality family time together while the kids are still young.

Of course I thought back to the quality family vacation of my youth — the ONE vacation where we drove from upstate New York to Florida to spend a handful of days at Disney World, then drove back home. I was seventeen and, because we were unexpectedly going out of town, had to postpone my driver’s test at the DMV to finally get my driver’s license . . . but that’s another story.

The more my wife and I talked about a family vacation, the more we both felt like it was the right thing to do, and the right time. She suggested we make the arrangements for four days at Disneyland, book the airline tickets, and keep the plan a secret. And I agreed to leave my computer at home, informing my clients that I would be unavailable for a few days while I vacationed with the family.

It turned out to be a pretty fun surprise for the kids.

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