Friday, July 29, 2011

Guest Post: Living on a Prayer, Indeed

Have a post you think would be good on Modern Mormon Men? Both modern mormon men and modern mormon women can submit guest posts via email. In addition to your post, please include a post title and a paragraph of introduction (on yourself) to run above the post.

Dustin Peterson lives in Houston, Texas, with his supermodel wife and three extroverted kids. His days are consumed at Rice University molding the malleable minds of college students and preaching the doctrine of leadership development. His work focuses on becoming more authentic and self-aware, leading more effectively, and helping people figure out what to do with their lives and careers. Dustin enjoys changing diapers, eating bacon, and tending to his fourth child,, where he searches, ponders and writes about self-development and the art of leadership. You can contact him directly at thenewtonapple at Also, read Dustin's first guest post here.

Several weeks ago my wife surprised me with every modern mormon man's dream: two nose-bleed seats to "A Night with Bon Jovi" at the Toyota Center. If you and I were face-to-face, I would laugh mockingly and shake my head at the band and their fans. But in reality, on that night I stood proud next to 40-year-old women with teased hair and every New Jerseyan living in Houston, screaming the words to "Livin' on a Prayer" like a 14-year-old female.

The show reminded me of a similar performance the band did on American Idol about six months ago. After the performance, which was sub-par, Ryan Seacrest interviewed Jon Bon Jovi himself and asked the inevitable question: "You guys just released an album and are touring yet again. You are so successful and have reached a whole new fan base [of young teenagers]. How do you continue to do it?" Without hesitation, Jon launched into a typical staged answer. But what he ended with has stuck with me and is the inspiration for this post. He said, rather matter-of-factly, "We have found that the harder we work the luckier we get." Simple as that.

Now, from a gospel perspective, there are two things I would like to add to what he said. The first is that the harder you work doing something you love that the Lord would have you do, the luckier you will get. Working hard at a monotonous or tedious task will not likely yield great luck. Nor will toiling away at a task that is contrary to the will of the Lord. But working toward a valiant effort that maximizes our God-given talents could produce great results. The Lord said it this way in Matthew 25: 20-21: "And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents...[and] His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." I'm all for ruling over many things, so how do we put ourselves in situations to maximize our talents?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

When Has Emotion Taken You By Surprise?

by brettmerritt (bio)

A few weeks ago during the closing hymn of Sacrament Meeting, I was ambushed.

As the chorister approached the stand and I reached for the gently-used and familiar green hymnal, my seven year-old daughter snuggled closer to me and took a corner of the book in her small hand. This had never happened before. Not thinking much about it, I looked down at her and then at the text and, as the intro began, prepared my pointer finger to guide her through the tricky beats, syllables and phrasing.

Then my daughter and I began to sing a hymn in church together for the first time.

Within 30 seconds, I had tears streaming down my face, choking back a rush of emotion that made it impossible to produce any sound from my mouth.

Now, understand that she and I sing a lot at home. We make up songs, sing show-tunes, and hum pop hits pretty often. I know she has a musical side. But, as a new reader, she is usually content to sit and color or set her head on a lap and wait out most songs in church meetings.

It all took me by surprise and it was one of the most spiritual and rewarding moments I've had as a parent next to being sealed together or baptizing our son. My wife witnessed the whole thing, although as it was happening I didn't know she was watching. I wiped the tears with my tie and gave my little girl a kiss on her blonde curls and sent her off to Primary.

It's moments like these that make being a dad the best job I've ever had, even if I'm under-qualified. What moments as a parent have caused you to get side-swiped by emotion?

Sunday Stations

by Bitner (bio)

When I was a kid my family had a weekly tradition of doing Sunday Stations. My five sisters and I would rotate through a gauntlet of productive stations in our house on Sunday afternoons. I remember the kitchen and dining room tables were often the locations for letter writing to a missionary in the ward, a grandparent or a cousin. One time I wrote the Prophet. (And got a reply!)

Letters were just one possible station, however. I would often have some time to work on merit badges while the sistas could work on YW stuff. Stations included journal writing, scripture reading, church videos, arts and crafts, scripture memorization, and the list goes on.

But the climax of any Sunday Station was the interview in my parents' bedroom.

No, they weren't interviewing each other! They would interview each of us kids one by one. During the meeting we would be paid our allowance for various weekly and Saturday chores (which were significant enough that the allowance, we all felt, was warranted). Once paid, we would set aside our tithing and savings monies and then have the rest for 'fun money'. (We were responsible for paying for our own school clothes, so 'fun' was kind of a broad term.) After any financial matters were cleared, we chatted about almost anything. It never seemed too lengthy, and with six kids to rotate through, it probably never was that long, but I'm guessing the over-under was seven minutes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Roald Dahl's Boy

by Seattle Jon (bio)

I recently finished the wonderfully short and sweet book Boy by Roald Dahl in which he describes his childhood up to age eighteen. For those of you not familiar with Dahl, he is the author of such classics as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Matilda (as well as the screenplay for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, one of my family's favorites) and has been called one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century. Here are two excerpts from the book I found especially heart-warming.

Speaking of his father, Harald, Dahl writes,

"He harboured a curious theory about how to develop a sense of beauty in the minds of his children. Every time my mother became pregnant, he would wait until the last three months of her pregnancy and then he would announce to her that 'the glorious walks' must begin. These glorious walks consisted of him taking her to places of great beauty in the countryside and walking with her for about an hour each day so she could absorb the splendour of the surroundings. His theory was that if the eye of a pregnant woman was constantly observing the beauty of nature, this beauty would somehow become transmitted to the mind of the unborn baby within her womb and that baby would grow up to be a lover of beautiful things. This was the treatment that all of his children received before they were born."

Are we developing a sense of beauty in the minds of our children? If so, how?

Speaking of his first boarding school experience, Dahl writes,

"The first miserable homesick night at St. Peter's, when I curled up in bed and the lights were put out, I could think of nothing but our house at home and my mother and my sisters. Where were they? I asked myself. In which direction from where i was lying was Llandaff? I began to work it out and it wasn't difficult to do this because I had the Bristol Channel to help me. If I looked out of the dormitory window I could see the Channel itself, and the big city of Cardiff with Llandaff alongside it lay almost directly across the water but slightly to the north. Therefore, if I turned towards the window I would be facing home. I wriggled round in my bed and faced my home and my family. From then on, during all the time I was at St. Peter's, I never went to sleep with my back to my family. Different beds in different dormitories required the working out of new directions, but the Bristol Channel was always my guide and I was always able to draw an imaginary line from my bed to our house over in Wales. Never once did I go to sleep looking away from my family. It was a great comfort to do this."

Do our children feel loved and comforted when they face their family? If not, why?

Why Dogs Stopped Flying

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

Most of you will probably remember Josh’s post, I Know This Is Going To Make You Mad, regarding his strong dislike of dogs/certain dog owners. I really liked Josh’s post. I thought it was refreshing and funny and needed to be said. A LOT of you felt the same way. What a response! It seems he was a voice for the voiceless. Perhaps dog owners are the new cigarette smokers -- we’ve accommodated their obnoxious behavior long enough, and now it's time to finally speak up and take back our country from their evil grasp.

While I enjoyed Josh’s post, I also happen to be a dog lover. I don’t currently have a dog, but I grew up with one, and I will have one in the near future. When I do have one, I will try not to make the faux pas (paws) that Josh outlined. I love dogs for varioius reasons. To me, they represent loyalty, comfort, and unconditional love. They also possess a certain indefinable nobility that is sometimes fleeting, but often palpable (well, not in all dogs). My dear friend shared with me this obscure yet stirring poem by Ken Brewer, former Utah poet laureate. It beautifully articulates my opinion of our furry friends. I know not everyone feels this way, but I wanted to throw the dog lovers a bone. (Also, I'm really sorry about both puns in this post.)

Why Dogs Stopped Flying

Before humans,
dogs flew everywhere.
Their wings of silky fur
wrapped hollow bones.
Their tails wagged
like rudders through wind,
their stomachs bare
to the sullen earth.

Out of sorrow
for the first humans--
stumbling, crawling,
helpless and cold--
dogs folded their
great wings into paws
soft enough to walk
beside us forever.

They still weep for us,
pity our small noses,
our unfortunate eyes,
our dull teeth.

They lick our faces clean,
keep us warm at night.
Sometimes they remember flying
and bite our ugly hands.

-Kenneth W. Brewer

Image by ScottHeff.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest Post: Mission = Prison?

Reed Soper was born and raised in southern California.  He considered attending the Lord's University but opted for BYU instead where he met Kathryn Lynard doing his home teaching. They married in 1992 and have seven children. Friends and loved ones often describe Reed as "difficult" or "a slow learner." In his spare time, he likes (virgin) pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.

I live in a neighborhood that is possibly the most mormony neighborhood in the heart of mormondom. Every home adjacent to my home is filled with mormons. The homes adjacent to them are also filled with mormons. You have to go out two or three more levels before you hit your first gentile. One of the characteristics of a neighborhood like this is that there are a lot of missionaries. A lot. Let me repeat, a lot. At one point, my ward had 24 missionaries out. There are fewer in my ward now but the adjoining wards are picking up the slack. This leads to a lot of missionaries coming home.

There is a custom that occurs in my neighborhood when missionaries come home. Of course, there is an obligatory sign that might say something about honor or service or something like that. The yard is almost always decorated with yellow plastic plates decorated with happy faces and stuck in the front lawn. Balloons have been seen attached to fences, mailboxes and other front yard features. Those balloons are also generally yellow [1]. I am generally perplexed at how 50 or more happy-faced plastic plates convey the love and emotion a family may feel at the return of their son or daughter. But even more perplexing is the common sight of one or more coordinating ribbons tied around one or more trees in the family’s yard. That’s right: yellow ribbons.

Now, I realize that readers under the age of 40 might have no clue why this sight is so bewildering, so let me explain what yellow ribbons mean to those of us born before the end of the Vietnam War: bus-riding ex-cons with unresolved relationship issues. This was explained to us by the musical trio, Tony Orlando and Dawn. It starred, not coincidentally, a music artist named Tony Orlando and two women back-up singers referred to as Dawn [2]. TO&D had a hit song in 1973 called “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.” This song, which sold 3 million record in three weeks [3], led to them starring in a weekly variety show in the heyday of variety shows [4]. For those not familiar with it, the song is about a guy getting out of prison. He wrote to his wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever hoping they could get back together, but he emphasizes that he doesn’t want a reply by mail -- for some undisclosed reason, he couldn’t bear that. Apparently, their post-prison arrangement never came up while he was in the pokey. I'm going to go out on a limb a bit here and suggest that the friend never contacted him at all during his sentence. So he suggests that he/she/it tie a ribbon on a big tree (an old oak tree, specifically) “if you still want me.” By contrast, no ribbon means he’ll “stay on the bus; forget about us.”

Monday, July 25, 2011

If You Like Movies, You'll Love Moving Furniture

by Ken Craig (bio)

Get ready for the game sensation that is sweeping the nation!*

(*Please note, this game has yet to sweep this or any nation. But when it does, I would like full copyright benefits. Also, I would like it to be called Ken’s Movie Game. Catchy, right? Well, I got my degree in advertising – so yep, I know some things.)

Back in 1996, my friend Steve and I were coerced by our wives into attending some sort of “party.” (Think Amway, but with make-up.) I don’t remember the entire theme, but I do remember at one point both of us soaking our fingers in adjoining bowls, in preparation for manicures. I can’t say it was my proudest moment, but Steve and I had been friends since before puberty, so it wasn’t the first time we’d found ourselves in a situation that would never be discussed afterwards. (Like the time we decidedly kicked a fellow Scouter out of our tent at Scout Camp, so a younger Scouter with a much more attractive sister could stay in our tent and tell us what she might be looking for in a rugged, almost-Eagle Scout. That was probably the least talked about incident, pre-manicure.)

Anyway, we started talking about movie previews. And then we started talking about how often you see a tag line on a poster or preview that says:

If you liked _____, you’ll love ______.

You’ve seen them.

“If you liked Rocky, you’ll love Hoosiers…”
“If you liked Pretty Woman, you’ll love Green Card…” 
“If you liked Airplane!, you’ll love The Naked Gun…”

And so forth.

So out of an awkward moment of pampering, and all in the name of comedy, a game was created where we would try to come up with movie tag lines that connected two movies in name only (or a nebulous association), but not really in any other similarities. In other words, the movies had to have a similar word in the title, but would actually be almost polar opposite in subject.

Steve had the first one:

If you liked Dirty Dancing, you’ll love Dances with Wolves. It took off from there.

Kids vs. Parents or Kids & Parents?

by Saint Mark (bio)

A few General Conferences ago, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared a story from his own life. It's an anecdote about an interaction between his grandson and him:

"I have a grandson who once asked me to go with him to a popular but inappropriate movie. I told him I wasn’t old enough to see that film. He was puzzled until his grandmother explained to him that the rating system by age didn’t apply to Grandpa. He came back to me and said, 'I get it now, Grandpa. You’re never going to be old enough to see that movie, are you?' And he was right!" (Elder Robert D. Hales, "Our Duty to God: The Mission of Parents and Leaders to the Rising Generation," April 2010 General Conference).

Now, with Elder Hales' example in mind, consider this video of two toddlers smoking on a Chinese train that has all of China in an uproar. The children look as if they are ages four and two.

There's a saying, and I think Elder Hales' story expresses it, that "If it ain't good for kids, then it ain't good for adults." Do you agree?

I think when not only Mormons but all people have a visceral repulsion to something, like kids smoking, the inner light of Christ that we all have is telling us something about the value, or lack thereof, of that activity. Smoking seems to be an obvious application of the rule. Marital intimacy seems to be an obvious exception. Can you think of any other examples that the rule applies to or that are exceptions?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Guest Post: The 5 Mormon Books Every MMM Should Read

Scott Hales reads books for a living. He also writes about them on his blog The Low-Tech World. When he isn't reading or writing, he is with his family or finding new ways to crash his bicycle.

Back in May, Esquire put together a list of “The 75 Books Every Man Should Read.” Not surprisingly, no mormon writer made the list. I mean, who reads books by mormon writers, anyway? Probably not anyone who writes for Esquire.

Of course, mormons writes books. If you live in Utah or subscribe to the Deseret Book catalog, this comes as no surprise. They tend to be of the inspirational sort. Hardcovers. Glossy dust jackets tagged with fancy gold lettering. Familiar images by Greg Olsen or Liz Lemon Swindle draped across the covers.

You know what I’m talking about.

But mormons also write fiction - serious fiction - and it’s just as good as most of the stuff on Esquire’s list. The problem is, it’s not something many people - including mormons - know much about.

So, with due respect for Esquire’s 75 books, I’ve drawn up my own list of “The 5 Mormon Books Every MMM Should Read.” Like Esquire’s list, mine is made up of novels by and about men.

1. Dorian by Nephi Anderson (1921)
Once upon a time, mormon men were defined by wives, crops, and kids. Then polygamy ended and agrarianism waned, and mormon men were faced with a kind of identity crisis. Enter Dorian Trent, a mormon man for the twentieth century. Intellectual, compassionate, courageous, and tough, Dorian showed readers that you didn’t need to be a pioneer to be a real mormon man.

2. The Backslider by Levi S. Peterson (1986)
Often heralded as the best mormon novel ever written, Levi S. Peterson’s The Backslider is an irreverent -- and frequently bawdy -- celebration of the mormon man’s struggle against the Natural Man. While its relatively explicit content (for a mormon novel) has offended no small number of readers, its ultimate message of atonement and grace speaks to the souls of saints and sinners alike. And Peterson’s vision of the Cowboy Jesus is the stuff of legends.

Books: Michael Lewis

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Author Michael Lewis has a knack for picking topics I enjoy - finance, Wall Street, baseball, football, fatherhood - and writing entertaining, hard-to-put-down books about these topics. I've read all of the books linked to in the last sentence and I can honestly say I loved each one of them. Now, his books are starting to be made into movies. First came The Blind Side, for which BYU should have also won on Oscar. Next comes Moneyball, the story of how the Oakland A's modernized baseball scouting with an analytical approach to assembling a team. Could this be the next great baseball movie after The Natural?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Familiar Callings in Funny Places

by Pete Codella (bio)

In the LDS Church members of the congregation accept assignments to carry out Sunday teaching, youth activities and service projects. We have what you call lay leaders - meaning they have day jobs then devote time - in some cases many, many hours - each week to fulfilling their church assignment, or calling.

A notable example of this is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, where its members volunteer their time and talents to be part of what Ronald Reagan called "America's Choir." And just to show you how unfamiliar my upstate New York high school counselor was with the Mormon Church, she once suggested I move to Salt Lake in order to get a singing job with the Mormon Choir. Funny!

I've had the opportunity of serving in many capacities in church. I've been Mr. Scripture where I did my best to bring the scriptures to life for young children. I've worked in the Boy Scouting program with the young men many times. And I've taught Sunday School, both for the youth and adults.

Most of the time leaders of the congregation invite you to the church building to talk with them about a new assignment. But sometimes circumstances prevent the traditional visit in the bishop's office when you're extended a new calling.

When I was a sophomore in college my elders quorum president came to my apartment at night to extend a teaching calling to me. I had already gone to bed but my roommates let him in and sent him to my room. He knocked then proceeded to turn on the light and talk with me about teaching elders quorum on Sundays.

I was a bit out of it and caught a tad off-guard there under my covers in my underwear, but I accepted the assignment. He thanked me, turned off the light, shut the door, then left the apartment. I rolled over and went back to sleep, wondering the next morning if that had really just happened.

I'm curious to know if any of you have received callings in unfamiliar or non-traditional ways. If so, please share in the comments. Let's see who received a calling in the funniest, strangest place or way.

Music: Rough Island Band & Paul Simon

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Charlie threw one of my favorite albums - The Essential Paul Simon - into our car's CD player the other day. It reminded me of the video below, which I'd found a few months earlier and had bookmarked for later viewing. Whether I'm singing along, or thinking of Chevy Chase playing the trumpet, I love the way this song makes me feel.

Rough Island Band homepage.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

MMM Supports the Arts

If you live in Utah or are there on vacation, check out the following before they are gone. We've been hearing great things through the grapevine.

30 Strangers Exhibit
The works of Justin Hackworth, a friend of the blog, are being featured during the month of July in the Auditorium Gallery on Level 1 of BYU's Harold B. Lee Library. The photographs are from the fourth year of the “30 Strangers” project and feature over 100 mothers and daughters from all over the United States. Instead of paying a portrait session fee, those photographed made donations to Provo’s Center for Women and Children in Crisis. Seattle Jon's wife and daughter were photographed as part of this year's project.

The Hit
Our own Topher Clark has a new hit show called ... The Hit, playing at the Hale Center Theater in Orem. Topher was either extremely confident the show would do well or else the plot centers around a hit man. Turns out, it's about a hit man, although word has it he was also confident it would be a great way to spend a summer night. Click here to learn more and to buy tickets. Hurry, the show only plays through July 30th. Oh, and we are told it is kid friendly and very, very good.

Member Missionary Work: What Does Success Look Like?

by Bitner (bio)

For the last couple years I have been heavily involved in the missionary work in our ward. I have struggled to find a groove. Struggled to feel successful. After all, missionary work is hard.

Over the last several months we have placed a lot of focus on, which is a phenomenal resource. In fact, we have had an entire family and two other singles join the church in large part because of the exposure they had to Have you created a profile yet? You should. The spectrum of mormon profiles on is extremely uplifting.

But I digress.

I was talking about struggling to find success. What is success in the realm of member missionary work, anyway? Is it helping someone to and through baptism and confirmation and beyond?

At a recent MBA conference up in NYC, I heard Clayton Christensen -- the well-known Mormon professor at Harvard Business School who was on the cover of Forbes this year -- speak about a variety of things. One thing he touched on was member missionary work (at an MBA conference?! Yup!). Turns out he knows a lot about it. He wrote an Ensign article about it and he has a website dedicated to it. From his Ensign article:

"Once we realized that we succeed as member missionaries when we invite people to learn and accept the truth, much of the fear that kept us from sharing the gospel vanished." Ensign February 2005

Touche, Brother. Success is in the invitation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Wizard and I

by May Jones (bio)

The year was 2000. It was June and I was eight months pregnant with my first child. I thought that when I wore my overalls, no one could even tell (a picture taken on the night I went into labor proved me horribly wrong, and I believe I burned the things after that. Please don't ever let overalls on grown women be a "thing" again, fashion gods.)

For my major, I had to earn one credit working behind the scenes on a main-stage play. I guess that's how they try to teach us actors what the crew members go through, so we're more compassionate toward them. I think it must have worked, because I've been known to bring gummi bears to my stage manager.

I signed up to help with costumes for a British farce that all my friends were in, as I figured being hugely pregnant was as good a time as any to be an awesome crew member. Most of my work was before and after curtain, so I had a LOT of down time backstage during the show. I got my hands on a copy of a little children's book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone because people wouldn't stop talking about it. For some reason, there was a full mattress lying on the ground backstage. Most nights, between the hours of 7:30 and 9:30, I could be found lying (on my side!) on that mattress, wearing my techie uniform of a black t-shirt and black stretch pants, engrossed in that little novel.

Eleven years later, I was sitting on a subway next to my eleven year old daughter. "Hey!" I exclaimed to her, "You are exactly the same age as Harry was when the books started!" And then it hit me. These books and movies had been with me for my entire parenting life. Having just seen the final installment of the final movie that morning, we had now come full circle. Where would we go from here? I couldn't believe it was over.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vote or Die 3: Prodigal Sons

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

See all Vote or Die posts here.

Who would we rather have back? Aaron Eckhart or Richard Dutcher?

Aaron Eckhart is a famous Hollywood actor well known for such films as Thank You for Smoking, The Dark Knight, and Battle Los Angeles. He was also raised Mormon, graduated from BYU, and served a mission to France. He keeps his spiritual life rather private, but has commented, “I'm sure people think I'm a Mormon, but I don't know that I'm a Mormon anymore, you know? To be honest, to be perfectly clear, I'd be a hypocrite if I did say that I was, just because I haven't lived that lifestyle for so many years.”

Richard Dutcher is known to some as “The Father of Mormon Cinema.” He wrote, directed, and starred in God’s Army and Brigham City, among other films. He also gave us God's Army 2: States of Grace. In 2007, he famously wrote a parting letter to Mormon Cinema and expressed his stance regarding the church, “I am no longer a practicing member of the church. The private answers to the questions I have asked in my prayers, and in my films, have led me on an unexpected journey, a spiritual path which may ultimately prove incompatible with Mormon orthodoxy.”

Now of course we want them both back. We want 'em all back! But if you had to choose, what would make you happier? Brother Eckhart on Ellen DeGeneres, discussing his search for a worthy young woman to make his eternal companion in the Los Angeles Temple? Or watching God's Army 3: Pops Hies to Kolob?

Images via and

Saintspeak 4: The Letter C

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Another installment from Saintspeak, the mormon dictionary from writer Orson Scott Card. Previous installments can be found here.

The Letter C

Celestial Kingdom - to get there you have to be righteous, hardworking, baptized, married in the temple, and willing to go for years without seeing any of your friends.

Chapel - to children, the worst place in the world from which they endeavor to escape at any cost. To teenagers, a place where they can talk endlessly without anyone yelling for them to get off the phone. To fathers, a place of refuge from the world where they may sleep. To mothers, the exact equivalent of a nightmare amusement park, where they must tend the children without rides, refreshments, or relief.

Church - 1. A building with a pulpit and a basketball hoop. 2. A loving fellowship of believers who gather together to help each other and serve God.

Clerk - the invincible and the invisible. If you ever want to move a mountain, parcel it out to all the clerks in the church and it will be done by the last Sunday of the month.

Conservative - after the presidency of Heber J. Grant, what all Mormons were perceived by nonmembers to be.

Correlate - to censor. "I thought when I wrote it that my poem was inspired; now that it's been correlated, it has achieved something finer: it is inoffensive."

Councilor - a member of a stake high council. A person with much responsibility and uncertain authority.

Counselor - one of the two non-presiding members of a presidency or bishopric. A person with much authority and uncertain responsibility.

Crickets and Seagulls - from the mormon point of view, the crickets came as a phenomenon of nature; god sent the seagulls. From the agnostic point of view, the coming both of the crickets and of the seagulls was natural. From the anti-mormon point of view, god was definitely on the side of the crickets.

Signature Books: here
Wikipedia (Orson Scott Card): here
Image via Signature Books

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guest Post: The Real Reasons Babies Don't Smile

Mark Wilcox is a professional writer and photographer living with his family in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Beside loads of freelance writing, Wilcox also manages to write blog posts for his own blog:, which is featured on He has three kids that keep him busy as a loving "Daddy" to his children. Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone else entirely to be "Daddy." Wilcox writes about that little extra magic it takes. His topics vary widely from family outings to advice on bedtime from the battleground itself. Mark is also a repeat guest poster, having already written about parenting with a zone defense here.

I know so-called “experts” say babies don't smile because of that whole “not developed enough” thinger, but I think there's more to it than that. So, I got to thinking what reasons a baby would have not to smile. All of this came to me as I was cooing and wiggling my head and grinning like an idiot trying to get my two-week-old daughter to smile at me and show off her dimples. Here's the list:

1) They're asleep. Yes. Even when they're awake they're asleep. Eyeballs don't mean anything. Just because they're looking at you doesn't mean they're consciously aware. They're just sleeping with their eyes open.

2) They're little. Think about it. If you were that tiny and everyone else around you were ginormous, happiness probably wouldn't be on the docket. Emotions you would feel? Paranoia, fear, helplessness, and indigestion. Technically the last one's not an emotion, though it sure causes some.

3) They have indigestion. Nothing worse than not being able to digest liquid easily. How hard can it be? But those little kids have a rough time on it, if the looks of concentration mean anything.

4) They're about to puke. All the time. My kids have never even been anywhere near what some kids have, but man have I gotten doused with our newest little girl. The word shower comes to mind, but not in a good way.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Keeping Mormonism "Weird"

Scott Heffernan was invited to participate on the Mormon Matters podcast to discuss the pros and cons of keeping Mormonism "weird." He also got to meet his crush, Joanna Brooks. Check it out here.

MMM Stories: The (St. Charles Place) Bailout

by Max Power (bio)

Modern Mormon Manly Stories is a collection of some of my favorite stories. I like telling stories, and since all of these stories include at least one man, typically a Mormon one, and occur in the present (making them modern, by definition), I thought I'd share them here. All of these stories are true. (And by "true," I mean they are mainly accurate, with adjustments solely for purposes of improving the flow of the stories. For example, if I am telling a story about being chased by a cat, but that is just not flowing well, I may slightly adjust the facts so I am being chased by a brown bear. So, basically all true.) Most of these stories have been told (by me) before. So, stop me if you've already heard this one.

As a Wall Street lawyer, I am often asked by friends, family members and barbers to explain the bailout. Much like Jesus, I find the best way to teach complex subjects is by allegory. Here's my bailout allegory. (Feel free to identify all the ingenius symbols in the comments.)

A couple of years ago, my brother, David, was in town for the weekend, and Sunday night found my wife May Jones, David, my daughter AIG (fake name) and me in a heated game of Monopoly.

I seriously hate Monopoly (can you tell I lost?) The entire game revolves around lucky dice rolling the first few times around the board. That night, I honestly only ONCE landed on a piece of property that was available for sale. It was Marvin Gardens, one of my personal favorites. While we are on the topic, has anyone else realized how lame the pink and red property series are? They have far lower rent than their orange and yellow respective counterparts, and yet you pay the same price for houses and hotels! And another thing, why on earth does mortgaging your property mean you can no longer collect rent on it or have houses? If the real world had similar rules, the entire real estate industry would grind to a halt. Anyway, back to the game...

So, I was having a horrible game. I parlayed Marvin Gardens into Park Place, which I then traded to AIG for New York Ave. I then traded NY for the three light blues (worthless) and then bought back all three oranges. Broke and with all my property mortgaged (thereby yielding no rent for some absurd reason), I crippled along.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guest Post: The 'F' Word

DJ was born and raised in Salt Lake City, and has learned everything about other states and countries from TV and returned missionary reports. He is a proud father of four and husband of one and convincingly portrays someone who knows what he is doing. Read DJ's first guest post here.

Probably my most hated word is the 'F' word. Not the actual F@$% swear word. Just the "the 'F' word." And as generations will often do, they tweak it and take the impact out of a word or phrase until it becomes a commonly used one.

What is really messed up, and why I hate it, is because if someone is talking to you, or relaying an experience they had - they can make you say the actual word. Here is an example.

"So the little Johnson boy got sent home from school today, did you hear about that?"

"Oh my gosh! Why?"

"Well he was in school and he said the 'F' word."

And that simple last sentence makes you say the actual word in your head. You don't repeat "the 'F' word" in your head. You actually think the real word to yourself. Now in some morally twisted ninja-like way they have made you as bad as the person they were talking about. (Yes, you are now as bad as a 10 year-old on a playground.) You could have gone the whole day surrounding yourself with people that speak respectfully, and this one phrase just made you say the mother of all cuss words, like little Ralphie changing a car tire, without the other person having to say it.

The Scarlet Letter "F"

by Saint Mark (bio)

A few years back, my family and I were discriminated against. It wasn’t the first time. And it wasn’t until the last time that we learned it was illegal and we decided to do something about it.

Being married with young children seems to be an acceptable reason for discrimination here in Boston, Massachusetts. Fortunately, it’s illegal. However, that doesn’t stop many landlords, leasing agents, housing brokers and the like from refusing to rent or lease apartments to young families.

When my family and I moved to Boston, we found our familial status to be extremely limiting to our housing options. I don’t know if any of you have had this experience in urban centers but in Boston being a young family was like wearing a scarlet letter “F” on our shirts. Young families are the modern lepers in housing circles. Time after time we heard that the apartment couldn’t be rented to us because of “lead paint problems” or that the “neighbors like the building quiet” or that there was “another apartment that we would probably be much more interested in.”

Being novices to Boston living conditions, we thought this limitation to finding housing was definitely frustrating but it wasn’t until a management company out-and-out lied to us that we found out that discriminating against someone because of their familial status was illegal.

My wife contacted a management company regarding a perfect apartment for our family. It was near parks, spacious, and in the community where we currently lived. The broker was cordial and ready to have us view it that day. Unfortunately, at the end of the conversation when my wife let the broker know that we had two young children, the broker abruptly said she “would get back to her.” After not receiving a return call, my wife contacted the broker the next day. The broker said that the apartment had already rented and not only had she rented it but she had rented it to "someone with children." She said this despite the fact that craigslist had a new posting for the same apartment posted that day! My wife had had it. She called me, told me the situation, and had me call to see if I received the same response. When I called, the broker told me I could come by that day or the next to see the apartment and rent it if I liked. After hearing what had happened, my wife was on a mission. She talked to people. She called various city services. She googled all she could to find out if there was anything she could do to fight for our rights. And it turned out, there was.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mormon Crushes

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

A crush is generally understood as an intense, often temporary, romantic attraction to someone—a state of being inspired or carried away by love or passion. It can also refer to the object of said attraction. So what is a Mormon Crush? I’ll start with what it is not. It does not describe a person I am physically attracted to, who also happens to be Mormon. Rather it is a passionate respect for the way one approaches Mormonism and faith—an infatuation with one's "Mormon style." Seinfeld brilliantly helped familiarize us with the concept of a non-sexual crush. With a non-sexual crush, one can still have a deep admiration for the person, but not hope for romantic reciprocation.

I’d like to welcome any of our readers to share their Mo-Crushes in the comments. It would also be fun to see any of our contributors tackle this theme in a separate post (maybe this could be an ongoing series). Here is the criteria I used. 1) They must be somewhat of a public figure. My Uncle Dick is wonderful, but you can’t Google him to learn his take on things and only I know how to access his blog. 2) They must currently be living on the Earth (and no loopholes saying they’ve been resurrected, or translated, or they are living in the spirit world, which is “all around us”). Due to the fleeting nature of crushes, I feel this guideline is appropriate to the spirit of the theme. 3) No church leaders at or above the level of a seventy. They’re great, but it would be a pretty boring list if we all just picked our top five GAs. I don’t think we’re supposed to do that anyway—it has to do with not being a cafeteria Mormon (or something). Besides 92% of us would probably just pick Elder Uchtdorf anyway.

Without further ado, here are my current Mormon Crushes:

Dr. Joanna Brooks

Who is she?
Joanna Brooks is a professor, author, and a go-to fountain of knowledge on religion, race, culture, and Mormonism. In addition to being featured and cited in various prestigious publications, she is frequently interviewed on podcasts and radio. She’s a permablogger at Religion Dispatches regarding Mormonism and American religious history. She also runs the advice column Ask Mormon Girl. She is a highly respected scholar among Mormons, ex-Mormons, and never-been-Mormons alike (or in other words, you know, “people”).

Why do I crush on her?
Joanna (yes, I can call her by her first name, these are my crushes after all) is one of the most articulate people I’ve ever listened to. When I hear her, I often think, “Thank you for taking exactly what was in my mind and putting it into words in such an eloquent yet audacious manner.” I find it difficult to disagree with her because everything she says comes across so...reasonable. In discussions with those she disagrees with, she is always civil and classy. She is a feminist and a true intellectual, and still fully embraces her Mormonism with arms wide open. The bottom line is that I feel prouder to be a Mormon just knowing that she is one too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Guest Post: Am I A Father?

Kyle August would like to smile, say hello, look you in the front-facing camera, and give you a firm digital handshake. He would like you to know how fanatical he is about the Portland Trail Blazers, brown sugar, packing a car, and being married to the conqueror of his heart. Because he's 24, he's confident that you'll find his perspective either naive, or fresh. You decide. He's just trying to make it through life without doing anything too stupid. Join him, but not before reading his first guest post here.

For the first time in my life I woke up to the smell and sound of crackling bacon. You could say that’s because you can touch our bed and the kitchen sink at the same time. Or, you could say that I was excited about my first Father’s Day.

But why was I excited? I’ve only been married for two months. Am I father yet? Good question. Let’s roll out the definition and see if I can pick out something to justify receiving that king-sized Snickers from the young women.

father |ˈfäðər|
1 a man in relation to his natural child or children.
• a man who has continuous care of a child, esp. by adoption; an adoptive father, stepfather, or foster father.
• a father-in-law.
• (usu. fathers) poetic/literary an ancestor.
• (also founding father) an important figure in the origin and early history of something.

Let’s see. Children? Negative. Plus, this isn’t really the right place for an announcement.

Adoption? Continuous care? This may be stretching it, but do golf clubs count?

Father-in-law? No kids = nobody can marry what doesn’t exist. (Sorry to break it to all of you who still fantasize about glistening vampires. It ain’t happening!)

Ancestor? The oldest? C’mon, I’m 24.

All right we may have something here, “an important figure in the origin and early history of something.” I’m pretty sure I started that whole “pick the pepperonis off your pizza, stack them on your plate, and eat them like a sandwich” thing. Man, I’m striking out.

Let’s face it; according to definition, I’m not a father. But I’ve been fathered by plenty of people that aren’t Mark Christensen. Church leaders, coaches, teachers; the list goes on. The important thing is to recognize that men hold a special place in the raising and rearing of children, no matter who those children belong to. The day should be changed to “Influential Males on Children Day.”

Have I been influential in the life on a child? I think so. I’m pretty sure playing Batman with my nephew counts. So, if you, too, have ever slobbered all over yourself while imitating a machine gun noise, then let us raise our Snickers to the sky, clank them together, and eat them with a clear conscious.

That’s my definition of being a father. What’s yours?

Richard Bushman: An Interview

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Richard Bushman, one of my personal heroes, recently gave an off-set interview to CNN’s In the Arena. Here are some highlights, but I encourage everyone to read the entire interview.

About The Book of Mormon musical…
Mormons experience the show like looking at themselves in a fun-house mirror. The reflection is hilarious but not really you. The nose is yours but swollen out of proportion.

On blacks and the priesthood…
For over a century, the Church did deny the priesthood to blacks for reasons Mormons themselves did not understand: perhaps there was a doctrinal basis, perhaps it was a policy adopted by Brigham Young in an era when blacks were commonly excluded from many white activities… The Church is conservative in the classic sense of changing slowly, but it does change deliberately in its own good time.

About his testimony of the book of mormon…
I studied everything and prayed hard for some kind of light. In time I arrived at a rational explanation that allowed for a miracle in the book’s production, but along the way I experienced something more important than the book itself. I caught a glimpse of a higher form of human flourishing, something forceful and ennobling which I can only call sacred. It was this encounter with a kind of elevated goodness in the book that won me over.

About the upcoming election…
I am one who is pleased to have Mormonism in the spotlight. I don’t mind the ribbing we get, or the attacks from skeptics, or the evangelicals’ objections to Mormon presidential candidates. I like the feeling that we are all in this together, trying to reconcile religious belief, politics, and our conflicted views of policy. We all want to know how they can work together for the public good.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Music: Jake Ballentine

We first discovered the music - and harmonica-playing - of Jake Ballentine when he followed us on Twitter. His newest venture, Acoustic Hymns, features new-every-month versions of well-known LDS songs. The MP3s are free to download if you sign up on the website. His first release, As I Have Loved You, you can watch below. He just recently released his second acoustic hymn, There Is Sunshine In My Soul. Head over to both sites to support Jake!

Music: Hip-Hop and the Modern Mormon Man

by Seattle Jon (bio)

As DJ mentioned yesterday, it's a challenge for some of us mormon dads to contemplate giving up the hip-hop we used to listen to. In my opinion, the key is not to give up the genre but to find rap that speaks to who you've become. For example, this single about the parking lot at Whole Foods really speaks to me ...

Note: Given our readership's sensitivity to curse words (see comments on this post), please mute your speakers at approximately 2:33 for three seconds.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Guest Post: The iTune-al Struggle

DJ was born and raised in Salt Lake City, and has learned everything about other states and countries from TV and returned missionary reports. He is a proud father of four and husband of one and convincingly portrays someone who knows what he is doing.

I have found myself fighting an internal struggle with my teenage daughters’ music. She isn’t listening to explicit lyrics or death metal, but most music seems so suggestive now. What kind of a father am I if I allow bad music in our home? I found my answer, and we only have to flash back 25 years . . .

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s you were literally imprisoned by your parent’s music collection. There was no iTunes, internet radio, mp3’s to pass around or cds to easily copy and share. I was stuck with The Moody Blues, Neil Diamond, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and an album with Barbara Streisand in her underwear and a superman shirt if I remember right. With the exception of Streisand, not a bad bunch of cellmates.

As I grew up and went through elementary school, there was a jail break. Of course I had the Mormon Rap and Bart Simpson’s debut album, and I would have agreed to do anything to spend one day with Weird Al Yankovich, but there was something else calling to me. My cousin showed me the answer with what looked at the time like a very disturbing, evil collection of music. Men in women’s clothes, men with women’s hair do’s, men in make-up – and they looked . . . manly. Poison, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Metallica and Quiet Riot were shamefully hidden under my bed in some dark, twisted congical visit. Thankfully my dad was so old school that the thought of dressing like these neon queens of debauchery never crossed my mind. And as I look back now I wonder – were my parents more disappointed by the sneaked hair metal or the out in the open New Kids on the Block tapes?

Adventures in Homeschooling: Part Two

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Adventures in Homeschooling: Part One can be found here.

Once the initial inspiration to homeschool came, Charlie started mentioning it to a few of her friends. The response she got was overwhelmingly positive, which surprised her. One friend even shoved some books about homeschooling at her. "Here," the friend said, "I've always dreamed about homeschooling but every time I pray about it the answer is not to do it." I continued to remain skeptical until Cher had me read one of the books her friend had given her. I finished A Thomas Jefferson Education in just a few days and was in. Since Charlie is the driving force behind our efforts to homeschool, I’ve asked her to describe what the last three years of our kids’ education has looked like.


One of the loveliest things about Seattle is that due to the popularity of homeschooling, several of the area school districts have homeschool resource centers (“HRCs). Each HRC has a principal, staff teachers (employed by the district) and workshop teachers (independent instructors who come up with classes that get approved by the district). Our HRC is housed in an old high school, so it has a cafeteria, a library, a computer lab, a theater and a gym. HRCs can best be described as “college for kids.”

Classroom settings are what you’d expect to see in a normal school district except that they are mixed-grade classes. For example, our ten year-old might take a class in Latin and have 4th and 6th graders sitting alongside her. Below is an example of some of the classes our kids have taken over the years, as well as a video of Will giving a speech on Chief Seattle in his Great American Speeches class (sound is horrible, apologies).

Musical Theater (the school puts on several plays a year)
Latin and Spanish
Greek Myths
Simple Machines (they study simple machines and then build them in Legos)
Great American Speeches (study great orators and memorize a speech, see video below)
American Girl History (history taught through the stories of the American Girl dolls)
Art & Literature (illustrate stories and poems they write)
Report Writing

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Another eHarmony Success Story

by Ken Craig (bio)

image via strollerderby

I was recently the recipient of a most intriguing text. It was 10:18 in the P.M. when my cell phone vibrated in my right, front pants’ pocket. Instinctively, I demanded everyone stop talking or moving around or carrying on with any frivolity and shenanigans, so I could give the proper respect and attention to my incoming text.

But I was suddenly perplexed by what I read:

Hi Ally. Just wanted to say hi. I hope it’s not too late. Justin.

Now, for those of you keeping score at home, my name is not Ally. Never has been. Not even to my most intimate friends. And the only Justin I know who would text me is my brother. And he rarely calls me ‘Ally.’ And he knows I keep late hours, so unless he was texting to ask me if it was too late to apologize for breaking into my locked trunk while I was out of the country for two years on my LDS mission and subsequently losing not one but TWO mix tapes I had made before leaving, then I couldn’t see why he would be asking me if it was “too late.” (And no, Justin, it’s not late to apologize for that. I forgive you. Whew – I’ve been waiting for that one! Thank goodness that’s over. Water under the bridge, brother. Water. Under. The Bridge.)

Anyway, I immediately surmised that this fellow had the wrong number. So as a common courtesy, I simply typed:

Of course it’s not too late. Come on over. And giggled to myself at the thought of Justin showing up to Ally’s residence, unannounced and late in the evening. But then I thought, “This Justin character (if that is his real name) has my cell phone number. He could really make things annoying for me. Best I just leave him alone.” So I deleted my original message and went with the safer:

Justin who?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Guest Post: Parenting With Zone Defense

Mark Wilcox is a professional writer and photographer living with his family in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Beside loads of freelance writing, Wilcox also manages to write blog posts for his own blog:, which is featured on He has three kids that keep him busy as a loving "Daddy" to his children. Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone else entirely to be "Daddy." Wilcox writes about that little extra magic it takes. His topics vary widely from family outings to advice on bedtime from the battleground itself.

I'm pretty sure it was Confucius or some other wise philosophy type guy that once posited “When your third child you have, transition to zone defense you must.”

The syntax makes me wonder if it was Yoda.

I'm learning after our third child arrived last week just how true the principle is. Before, my wife would take one child and I would take the other, keeping mischief to a somewhat manageable minimum in the process. However, after my wife delivered our newest daughter with some complications, the man defense has been tossed. Now, my resting wife's zone happens to be a very large armchair with a sleeping infant on her chest. Since she's on doctor's orders to rest, relax and recuperate, I'm pretty okay with that, if not a little jealous.

Let's just say my zone covers a little more ground. Not that I'm complaining. I saw what she went through this week between childbirth and complications. The chair is hers, dangit.

Part of my zone is outside where I take the kids to the park. I get steamrolled, grass-stained, jumped on, slid upon and more. My kids ask me to climb the playground equipment in an odd place, which means doing it all with upper body strength. I dutifully ratchet myself up some bars going across a bridge, only to find I have seriously strained some muscles in my neck and shoulders, giving me the equivalent of a kinked neck after a week of camping on sharp granite boulders without a pillow.

Park time is over, but the zone defense has only just begun. Returning home, I fertilize the lawn while doing my best to keep stray children from swallowing the weed pesticides in the lawn feed because they look like yellow Nerds.

Snakes. Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?

by brettmerritt (bio)

“I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” — Psalm 34:4

"Never fear." I forget this counsel often. I think I'm doing better than I was when I was younger though. I used to fear a lot of things. I was afraid of tornados, sharks, hurricanes, witches, kidnappers, Dracula, men in camouflage, green men in suits, elderly ladies, bullies, getting punched, being laughed at, Russians, people with accents, thermonuclear war, ventriloquist dummies, and snakes.

Sweet Odin's raven, I was petrified of snakes. I used to have recurring nightmares about them. Once, when we lived in Idaho, I found a harmless garter snake by our mailbox and immediately and irrationally pummeled it to death with rocks from a distance because somehow, if I didn't, it would find its way into my bed and kill me.

Most fears on this list have since left me ... but not the snakes. You remember Raiders of the Lost Ark, right? It's one of my favorite movies but I still had to close my eyes during the snake parts until I was probably seventeen years old.

You can imagine my horror when a news story was recently brought to my attention. It was about a house in Idaho located on a hibernaculum and is subsequently infested with squirmy, aggressive, anal-musking garter snakes. Have you heard about this? If not, go here or watch the video here and prepare to get what scientists call "the heebie jeebies."

Other MMM Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...