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Friday, December 30, 2011

Saintspeak 5: Conservative Mormon

by Seattle Jon (bio)

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

Reproduced with permission from Signature Books

Conservative Mormon

1. As perceived by a liberal mormon: someone with a completely closed mind who goes through the motions of obeying church policies without ever understanding the spirit of the gospel. Conservative mormons spout cliches about charity and then devote their lives to crushing out any sign of intelligence or compassion that dares to surface in the church.

2. As perceived by another conservative mormon: someone who is dedicated to serving god in the manner god has prescribed, who therefore tries to keep his own life pure and help purify the church to be worthy of the lord's approval at his second coming. Conservative mormons listen attentively to the words of the brethren and try to do all they are asked to do without presuming to second-guess the lord's chosen servants.

The Tree Of Life ... No, Not The Lehi Version

by Luke Warmer (bio)

I described Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life to my parents as "the temple movie meets a family drama." I don't know if that's a fair description, but it got my parents to watch with me.

At the risk of sounding like a wuss (or disclosing I am a huge wuss), I sobbed through this film the first time I saw it.

The second time I saw it, I wept quietly.

The third time I saw it, I cried again. I looked over and saw my dad, a surly old longshoreman, crying. Coming from a generation that saw crying as a sign of weakness, he's not accustomed to showing emotion. He didn't cry when my brother died six years ago, and says he hasn't cried since. If my mother cries she looks at him apologetically knowing the show of emotion disturbs him.

When the film ended. I hugged him. He surprised me. He clung to me, all of his macho collapsing, swallowing air, choking back tears, and then giving in to a deep heaving sob.

I don't remember a more meaningful moment with my father.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mormon Of The Year

Our friends over at Times & Seasons (we’re missing on their blogroll, though, so maybe we aren’t friends) have been taking nominations for Mormon of the Year for a few weeks now, but there are still a few days left to submit your own nomination or second someone else’s. Public voting on the candidates begins January 1st, so make sure you VOTE NOW and then head back after the new year to vote for your favorite mormon.

Giveaway 7: LDSScriptures App

The LDS church has put out some pretty good apps, but there are other excellent options as well. Today, we feature a giveaway from what many consider the best option out there: LDSScriptures.

LDSScriptures is a leading innovator of scripture study tools and provides the app across all major platforms, including iPhone, iPad, Android, NOOK Color, Kindle Fire, PC, and Mac. The app backs up from each platform, syncing markings so you never have to start over with your digital scripture study. Perhaps the biggest reason to own the LDSScriptures app is the new Lesson Builder feature, which allows you to easily create talks and lessons and present them right from the app. Adding notes, scriptures, images from the Gospel Art Kit or URLs (including youtube videos) is a snap. As far as we know, no other app has this feature.

For this giveaway, LDSScriptures is generously providing two free downloads (regularly $15 each) for both the iPhone and iPad. To enter the giveaway, follow the guidelines below.

Giveaway Guidelines:
• You have 7 days to enter (closes Wednesday, January 4 at midnight).
• Make one comment on this post to enter (anonymous comments ignored).
• Four winners chosen via and announced January 5.
• Winners needs to respond via email by January 6 to claim their download.
• Or, you can shop now here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tech Gifts From The LDS Church

by Pete Codella (bio)

In case you missed it, this month The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released two pretty remarkable pieces of iPad technology.

During the First Presidency Christmas Devotional they announced Bible Videos. These are new videos that depict the life of Jesus Christ. There are about a half-dozen stories so far, each two to six minutes long. The production quality is excellent and the videos look great. You can watch them online and on the iPad. The mobile app, which can be found by searching for Bible Videos in the iTunes App store, also features an interactive map where you can learn more about Biblical cities and customs of the day.

On December 16th the Church announced Ensign for the iPad, which is found by searching for LDS Ensign in the iTunes App store. This is a beautiful app that delivers the power of a digital, multimedia magazine to your fingertips. The app takes the printed Ensign and turns it into something you can read, listen to, watch and explore. The issue currently available is the November 2011 issue, which features October 2011 General Conference addresses. Now, rather than just reading conference talks, you can watch a short video highlight of the speech, listen to the complete audio or go to the Church's website to watch the talk, with just a couple fingertip touches.

Think about the powerful teaching opportunities these new apps provide.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Goodwin Project

by Clark (bio)

I just came across this little teaser video about a young family embarking on an around-the-world trip over the course of this next year. They are a surfing family from Kauai with a knack for finding the good in the world. I must say I'm jealous of their project and wish I could join up and be some type of film crew helper-outer or something. So far they have hit up Iceland, Ireland and Israel. Follow them via their blog. I'm looking forward to the finished project but in the meantime their travel blog will tide me over. I need to find me a wife that is down for this sorta jazz. I can't think of a better way to see the world. Disagree with me all you want but I'm as serious as a heart attack.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Jesus Says, "Mormonism ... All True"

by Saint Mark (bio)

It's official (again, see D&C 1:30). Jesus says that Mormonism is true. Alright, I know it's the Saturday Night Live version of Jesus, but I'll take it. I mean, how could the show that brought us Toonces the Driving Cat, Dieter of Sprockets, Wayne and Garth, and Eddie Murphy be wrong? I just knew that I moved to Colorado for a reason.

Check out what I'm talking about below. In a recent SNL skit, Tim Tebow prays Jesus into the Denver Broncos locker room, which is not too far-fetched a possibility in the imagination of a Denver Broncos fan.

I know it may be a little sacrilegious, but the parting words of Jesus are like Visa: priceless. After watching this skit, I began wondering: what other televised authorities have spoken on the truth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Check out this theological statement of the correctness of Mormonism from South Park. Hey, who can argue with the greeter from hell?
Laughs aside, the skit from SNL was a great Christmas gift to my family and me. First, because we are fans of the Broncos. I kind of have to be since I married a fan. And second, Jesus and his support for Mormons. It's sweet to get a little positive fist-bump from the media after we've taken such a virtual stoning for the past, um, 180+ years.

Being a convert to the LDS church, I know the great value of joining the LDS church and I didn't need an actor playing Jesus on a comedy show who wore athletic socks to tell me that. But, it didn't hurt either. Thanks Mormon writer on SNL (aka Tina Fey); you just made my year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve on the Desert

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

Photo by ScottHeff.

Ten years ago my mission president shared this poem with all his missionaries. It has stuck with me ever since. I like to read it to myself every Christmas and contemplate my life and the Savior.

Christmas Eve on the Desert

Tonight, not one alone am I, but three —
The Lad I was, the Man I am, and he
Who looks down the coming future years
And wonders at my sloth. His hopes and fears
Should goad me to the manly game
Of adding to the honor of my name.
I'm Fate to him — that chap that's I grown old,
No matter how much stocks and land and gold
I save for him, he can't buy back a single day
On which I built a pattern for his way.

I, in turn, am product of that boy
Who rarely thought of after Selves. His joy
Was in the present. He might have saved me woe
Had he but thought. The ways that I must go
Are his. He marked them all for me
And I must follow — and so must he —
My Future Self — Unless I save him!
Save Me? - Somehow that word,
Deep down, a precious thought has stirred.
Savior? — Yes, I'm savior to that "Me."
That thoughtful After Person whom I see!
The thought is staggering! I sit and gaze
At my two Other Selves, joint keepers of my days!

Master of Christmas, You dared to bleed and die
That others might find life. How much more I
Should willingly give up my present days
To lofty deeds; seek out the ways
To build a splendid life. I should not fail
To set my feet upon the star-bound trail
For him — that After Self. You said that he
Who'd lose his life should find it, and I know
You found a larger life, still live and grow.
Your doctrine was, so I've been told, serve man.
I wonder if I'm doing all I can
To serve? Will serving help that Older Me
To be the man he'd fondly like to be?

Last night I passed a shack
Where hunger lurked. I must go back
And take a lamb, Is that the message of the Star
Whose rays, please God, can shine this far?

Tonight, not one alone am I, but three —
The Lad I was, the Man I am, and he
Who is my Future Self — nay, more:
I am His savior — that thought makes me four!

Master of Christmas, that Star of Thine shines clear —
Bless Thou the four of me —out here!

-Harrison R. Merrill

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Labors Of The Nativity

by Aimee (bio)

Here is ScottHeff and me, 42 weeks pregnant and going on 23 hours of labor. Walking the neighborhood and climbing the stairs was our last-ditch effort to get this baby past seven centimeters. Otherwise, I had to report to the hospital from the birthing center. Little did we know we had 8 more long hours to go before we would officially become parents.

You can probably guess that we ended up at the hospital.

And now, 15 months later, as I look down at my belly and find myself ripe with child again, I can’t help but anticipate the next delivery ahead of us. Hopefully this one will go smoother (please, oh, please!). I am crossing my fingers that this baby comes spontaneously so I can try for a VBAC (apparently now called a TOLAC—Trial of Labor After Cesarean). If not, a c-section is not the worst thing in the world. Prepare yourself for the classic cliché: All we really want is a healthy baby.

And we do.

Speaking of deliveries, did you see CJane’s beautiful post on their recent unassisted birth? It is worth a read. Articulate, relationally loving, spiritual, and body positive. She also had a post a few days later that mentioned the ultimate birth story of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. Her words combined with my state of  pregnancy during this season got me thinking ...

Who was there to see the Son of God take his first breaths and hear his sweet baby cries? Did they bring in a local Bethlehem midwife? Or did Joseph deliver the baby boy? If so, was this progressive of Joseph for the culture of the time? (Would we dare call him modern?)  Did someone teach him how to cut the cord? For some reason I love to picture him learning how to do that task. What an incredible man he must have been to be so trusting and to have so much faith in Mary that he would be by her side to deliver this baby (not his) with her.

Clearly, Joseph was one of the good ones.

And close beside the manger bed 
He dimmed the lantern's light, 
And held the little Jesus close upon that holy night. 
-Children's Songbook #38

MMM Sermons: "The Way"

by Saint Mark (bio)

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints call them "talks," but most (non)Christians call them sermons. This is a series of sermons that many Latter-day Saints love and believe. I hope these sermons promote and perfect your faith as they do mine.

Watch or read the talk here.

I am always fascinated and frustrated by those who believe that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not Christians. I guess it is true that we are not "Christians" by way of the Nicene Creed, but we are Christians by way of following Jesus Christ, by believing the Holy Bible to be the word of God as long as it is translated correctly, and that there is no other way to salvation but through and by Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master. The fact that there are individuals out there who try to speak authoritatively for all of Christianity and falsely claim that members of the LDS Church are not Christians feels extremely arrogant and misinformed (see this video, for example) It would be akin to my being an American and stating that people who look, think and talk like me are Americans but those people who don't are not Americans. How proud and ridiculous would I be to make such a remark, to even think that I speak for America regarding who is an American? If the Ku Klux Klan can validly claim that they are a Christian group, then unequivocally members of the LDS Church are Christians.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"The Inner Life Matters": Tyler Chadwick on Fire in the Pasture and Mormon Poetry in the 21st Century

by Scott Hales (bio)

In a recent post, I praised Fire in the Pasture as "the most important work of Mormon literature published in 2011." To prove (or belabor) my point, I lobbed a few questions in the direction of its editor, Tyler Chadwick, with the hope that he would lob a few answers back.

Four weeks and four days later (he counted, not me), the lob showed up in my inbox--complete with Tyler's insightful take on why every Modern Mormon Man should have a copy of Fire in the Pasture on his nightstand! Modern Mormon Men, read away!

Scott Hales: What is Fire in the Pasture and how did you become a part of it?

Tyler Chadwick: Fire in the Pasture is an anthology that includes the work of 82 twenty-first century Mormon poets. It was released October 15 by Peculiar Pages, an independent publisher of what the company's proprietor, Eric W. Jepson, calls "auspicious multiauthor anthologies" — like The FOB Bible (2009) and Monsters & Mormons (2011). In the publisher's words, Fire in the Pasture is "a major landmark boundary-disrupting game-defining historic unmissable must-read book." As the book's editor and as a poet myself, I'm much less modest. In fact, when I think of the book, I think legendary. Heroic. Epic — in length as well as in importance to Mormon culture. Also, canonical. Or better yet, canon-busting. Then, canon-remaking.

Let me explain: Since 1989 the standard for Mormon poetry has been Eugene England and Dennis Clark's anthology, Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems published by Signature Books. And it should hold an honored place in Mormon letters: England and Clark gathered hundreds of poems from 58 poets whose writing careers spanned the half-century before the book was published. But that was over two decades ago. And poetry didn't die in or around the '80s, contrary to what some people have written. Neither did Mormon poetry retire nor drift into apostasy after Harvest hit bookshelves. In fact, it may have just been breaking into stride.

Eric acknowledged as much in April 2009 when he asked me if I'd like to edit a new anthology of Mormon poetry. "People are always talking about how we need a new volume of poetry,” he said, “that Harvest, great as it is, was long ago and needs to be supplemented. But, to the best of my knowledge, no one is actually putting anything together. It's all talk. No action.”

And he wanted to take action: "Here's what I have in mind,” he continued. “A survey of the best stuff published [from] the dawn of the millennium ... through the end of 2010." I jumped at the chance to update Harvest and, before I'd even closed out of my inbox, I started the marathon effort of gathering poems and contacting poets — because, really, who wouldn't want to help the world of Mormon letters move past its apparent Harvest-envy?

How Books Are Made

by Seattle Jon (bio)

A dock worker at our local Deseret Industries said something interesting when I dropped off two large bags of books the other day. He expressed concern at the number of books he's seen dropped off, thinking it meant the end of paper and hardbacks. I responded by telling him the number of books I'd purchased from D.I. over the last few months (it's an addiction), hoping the large number would make him feel better.

After returning home, I went searching for a video I'd seen once showing how books were made. I remember thinking how amazing the book-making process was and how important it was to keep buying and reading "real" books instead of moving exclusively to e-books. I hope this video makes you feel something, too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Linger Longer 1

image via Flikr

Linger Longer is a new series where we highlight articles that caught our attention over the last few weeks. Add your own in the comments.

BYU-Idaho Responds to Testing Center Policy on Skinny Jeans (Student Review)
I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay (Single Dad Laughing)
Amazing Response to "I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay" (Single Dad Laughing)
The Case For Girls (Fast Company)
Mormons Gambling! (Media-ite)
Americans: Undecided About God? (New York Times)
How to Pay Your Financial Advisor (Wall Street Journal and The Big Picture)
A Mitt Romney You Haven't Seen Yet (Parade Magazine)
The King of Human Error (Vanity Fair)
The 45 Most Powerful Images Of 2011 (BuzzFeed)

LDS WAVE: Words of Wisdom

Help support our friends at LDS WAVE (Women Advocating for Voice & Equality) by purchasing their first book, titled Words of Wisdom: A Collection of Quotes for LDS Women. Some of the proceeds from your order will go towards their efforts to become a Non-Profit Organization. To purchase a copy of Words of Wisdom, click here.

From the introduction:

Throughout Relief Society’s history we have had remarkable women leading and teaching us. Recently, General Relief Society President Julie Beck encouraged us to learn more about our history and get to know the words of women who came before us. To this end, we started searching for the voices of women, about women, and for women. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find their voices in Church curriculum and manuals, which inspired us to compile quotes on a variety of gospel subjects. By making these quotes accessible in this booklet, we can better follow our leaders and learn from our history.

In this booklet, you will find quotes that speak to our hearts the good news of the gospel. They uplift and encourage us on our sometimes difficult paths. We hope you will find the Spirit here as we have. This quote book is intended for private use. It can also be used to prepare talks, lessons and Family Home Evenings or in personal study.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How to Hijack a Meeting

by Dustin (bio)

image via Flikr

Mormons do meetings. Lots of them. Three meetings during Church with break-out meetings during the meetings, meetings before and after the block, meetings during the week ... meetings to coordinate those meetings. There is no end to our gathering and this will likely never change. We are a people who congregates and does so often. This culture of meetings means that we have a higher chance of being well-coordinated. It also means that opportunities are plentiful for meeting-sabotage.

Meeting-sabotage occurs when individuals knowingly or unknowingly take the power in a meeting, often without warning. Meetings are prime territory for power struggles, although in our oftentimes meek Mormon culture, the power usually goes and never returns.

As a career teacher, below are several tricks of the trade that often get deployed in my classes. I haven't yet found effective means for rescuing meetings or classes after these weapons have been discharged, but I enjoy witnessing their skillful use. Whether you are a teacher or student, recognizing these implements and learning how to effectively manage and/or utilize them can yield immense power in the classroom or cultural hall. Use them wisely:

#1 The "Just Real Quick"

This phrase immediately excuses a comment of any length, regardless if it's actually quick or not. Use it to introduce a topic, derail a conversation, or free-flow a monologue. For optimum power combine this move with "I was just going to say" or "I was thinking." For example:

Tami Teacher: "So let's move on to the Beatitudes."
Paul: "Oh, just real quick before we move on ...
Tami: "Oh, uh, yes Paul? Something to add?"
Paul: "I was just going to say that I think there are several reasons why camels wouldn't fit through the eye of a needle, logistically speaking. First ..."

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Coat

by Saint Mark (bio)

All I know is that if you're heart is not touched by this video, you don't deserve to have a heart. With no need for words, this story about a boy and his coat encapsulates the meaning of Christmas.

I saw my youngest do something similar this weekend. We went on a Daddy-Son date to Barnes & Noble, read Star Wars Lego books and had a sugar cookie. When we came home, my son hadn't finished his cookie. He went right up to his brother, showed him his cookie and offered the rest to him. I thought he was going to brag about what he got on our date but what he did tugged my heart string and made me proud to be his dad.

What things have your children done lately that have touched you?

The Tree

by Seattle Jon (bio)

My boss sent this to me the other day. The explanations under each picture certainly relate to business, but how can we relate it to life and religion?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Among the Mormons, A Story

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Among the Mormons, Historic Accounts by Contemporary Observers is one of several books currently in my church bag. The following story, from Jewish artist Solomon Carvalho as he traveled in Brigham Young's party through Cedar City in 1854, touched my heart today.
The morning after my arrival at Cedar City, I arose very early, and taking my sketch-book along, I sauntered around the city; in the course of my peregrinations, I saw a man walking up and down before an adobe shanty, apparently much distressed; I approached him, and inquired the cause of his dejection; he told me that his only daughter, aged six years, had died suddenly in the night; he pointed to the door, and I entered the dwelling. 
Laid out upon a straw mattress, scrupulously clean, was one of the most angelic children I ever saw. On its face was a placid smile, and it looked more like the gentle repose of healthful sleep than the everlasting slumber of death.
Beautiful curls clustered around a brow of snowy whiteness. It was easy to perceive that it was a child lately from England, from its peculiar confirmation. I entered very softly, and did not disturb the afflicted mother, who reclined on the bed, her face buried in the pillow, sobbing as if her heart would break.
Without a second's reflection I commenced making a sketch of the inanimate being before me, and in the course of half-an-hour I had produced an excellent likeness.

Friday, December 16, 2011

5000 Days of Christmas

If you haven't seen The 5000 Days Project movie yet, please support this wonderful project by purchasing the movie for yourself or someone else for Christmas. There are three ways to buy the movie - DVD, download, or stream. Visit the movie website here to get more information.

This ten-years-in-the-making feature film about two LDS brothers, Sam (guest posts here and here) and Luke Nelson, is a surprisingly candid journey through time involving their adolescent struggles with brotherhood, depression, peer pressure, forgiveness and growth in their mormon faith. The film features in-depth interviews (by filmmaker Rick Stevenson) and life footage, as well as first-of-its-kind mission field video diaries from Sam. This is a film everyone should see and a project everyone could feel good about supporting.

Guest Post: ADHD & Me

Tanner was born and raised in Georgia, with a few years in Alabama. He has a delightful wife, Sarah, and a fat, adorable and cheerful six-month old son, Nikolai. He is currently completing his master's degree at Georgia State University focusing on corpus linguistics. He served a mission in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Tanner played football and rugby though high school and college and was a male cheerleader his last year at BYU. His time is mostly split between family, school and work (and trying to watch college football on Saturdays). For work, Tanner is a linguist analyzing less common languages and writing language tests, as well working as an academic research assistant. He also has a pressure washing business on the side.

Image via Flickr.

People hear about ADD and ADHD among children, but the condition seems to be looked down upon when it comes up in the adult world. When I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with ADHD. My elementary school later put me in a special education classroom to give me extra attention. In the later years of high school, my dad told me that my special education teacher was "so proud" of me when he saw me in the local newspaper after winning a talent show and noting that I was going to teach swing dance classes. My dad reenacted how the teacher had mimicked crazy movements that I was "always" doing and explained that I could never sit still in a desk. I was shocked how bizarre my dad looked as he waved and swayed about as if he were dancing and on drugs at the same time. I don't remember acting like that. However, I feel a sort of pride when I think about how far I have come in relation to my ability to focus and get things done. Over the years, the "hyperactive" part of ADHD has lenitioned, but ADD persists.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Foul Language

by Seattle Jon (bio)

"I won't go to Hell for swearing because I repent too damn fast." - J. Golden Kimball

After Scott Hales wrote this post, I put The Backslider on my short list of books to read. I finished it last month, and while I imagine a lot of mormons won't like the novel because of the frequent irreverence and bawdiness, I rather enjoyed it.

What I really enjoyed, though, was the cursing - real zingers like "Wheegizz!", "Goldummit!" and "Oh sweet horsepuck!" These choice words got me thinking ... and questioning the importance we place on clean language.

Is all swearing and substitute swearing wrong? If it's not all wrong, when is swearing okay? Share what you think in the comments, then visit the links below to see what others around the bloggernacle have to say.

A Few Choice Words on Swearing (Mormon Matters)
Elizabeth and Me comments section (Modern Mormon Men)
Swearing By Example (The Exponent)
Why I Quit Swearing (Again) (By Common Consent)
Oh, The Bomb (Segullah)
For the Strength of Youth: Language (LDS Church)
Who Are the Swearing Elders (Swearing Elders)

The No Cussing Club

by Saint Mark (bio)

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
(1 Timothy 4:12)

I had one of the foulest mouths I knew growing up. Being raised on Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor and Andrew "Dice" Clay, I could cuss with the best of them. Moreover, as an amateur rapper (yes, I used to rap), it was part of my persona to use the explicit lyrics the warning labels warned parents about. Unfortunately, cussing was an addiction for me. I used profane language even when I didn't have to.

Around the time that I was investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I read an article in a waiting room of a dentist's office. My girlfriend was getting a check-up in St. George, Utah and I decided to come along for the trip from Las Vegas. It was in an article in the New Era that challenged me to overcome my addiction to profanity. One of the steps was to commit to someone to stop cussing. So, when my girlfriend came out of the dentist's area, I told her, "I promise you that I will stop cussing." She was bewildered but happy about my choice.

It hasn't been easy, but stopping the use of profanity has been a great blessing in my life. Here's a video of a kid who I admire for rising above the profane to be a light to all of us.

Giveaway 6: Winner

Congratulations to TopHat, winner of an advanced reader copy of The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes from Signature Books. Send us your address via email by December 16 to claim the book. And happy birthday!

Remember to check out our exclusive interview with the author, John Dinger, before heading to Signature's online store to buy this and other award-winning titles for Christmas.

Signature Books is a press specializing in subjects related to Utah, Mormonism, and Western Americana. Signature published its first book, Saintspeak by Orson Scott Card, in 1981, and continues to publish eight to ten books a year dealing with Mormon history, fiction, essay, humor and art.  from the press include Peterson's The Backslider, Quinn's Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, Compton's In Sacred Loneliness and the diaries of Joseph Smith, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, B. H. Roberts and Reed Smoot, among others.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fatherhood Top Fives

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

Photo by Carrie Stroud Photography.

This is our little boy (the cute one on the left without the beard). His name is Cash (we really like money). My wife and I recently celebrated our first year as parents. I was absolutely terrified to become a father, but I find it suits me as much as I had hoped and more than I thought it would. I wasn't expecting the absolute unconditional love I could feel for another human being. Here are some observations and reflections from my rookie year—some superficial, others sentimental. Some with general application, and others are self-indulgent. The format is a jumbled concoction of non sequiturs... much like I have found parenting to be.

Top five songs I sing to him while getting him to sleep:
1. Kathy’s Song - Simon & Garfunkel.
2. The Trapeze Swinger - Iron & Wine.
3. Ballad for My One True Love - Mason Jennings.
4. The Obvious Child - Paul Simon.
5. While You Were Sleeping - Elvis Perkins.

Top five pieces of fatherly advice to pass on:
1. Empathy is one of the great keys to life. Be understanding. Be kind.
2. The world is not black and white. The world is complex. People are complex. God is complex. Find simple joy in the complexity.
3. Question authority.
4. Read The Little Prince.
5. Don't take advice from a person whose mantra is, “Never apologize, it’s a sign of weakness.”

Top five little victories:
1. Successful transfers (keeping him asleep while getting him into the crib).
2. Diaper changes under 30 seconds.
3. Voluntary kisses.
4. Mastering the swaddle.
5. First word: “Dada!”

Top five little defeats:
1. Unsuccessful transfers.
2. Poop on my hands/poop on his face.
3. The inability to get the puke smell out of the carpet.
4. The inability to put the car seat back together after dismantling it to wash the puke out of it.
5. Conceding to the fact that he has become that kid with perpetual snot coming from his nose.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Christmas Traditions

by Bishop Higgins (bio)

We all have a number of family traditions that make Christmas special. If you're looking for a new tradition or two to add to your family's list, then I have inspired ideas that I'd like to share with you. Here we go!

Make reindeer kabobs.

Slip popular church pamphlets (like, How To Stay Morally Clean and that one about tithing) into your childrens' letters to Santa.

Look up "Jews" on Wikipedia.

Using hilarious joke coal as a neighbor gift to send the message you don't appreciate it when then leave trash in your yard. Joke coal is actually a candy they can eat, so you're still being a good neighbor, while letting them know that they aren't.

Take the homeless bowling, but only those that have their own bowling ball.

For married people only - The day after Christmas, take your spouse on a special erotic Christmas date night. Come up with some of your own possibilities, but feel free to use the line "Santa's been a bad boy" or something like that. I repeat. For married people only. If I find out my son Nathan does this, I will be madder than a wet bee.

Guest Post: I Challenge You To Read The Book of Mormon by Christmas!

Have a guest post for Modern Mormon Men? Both modern mormon men and women can submit guest posts via email. In addition to your post, please include a post title and a paragraph of self-introduction.

godasman served a mission for the Church in the Philippines and now has three beautiful children. Having taken seriously the injunction to study from the best books, he secretly carries with him to church a copy of Moby-Dick alongside his quad. For a long time he has considered himself a Mormon not in the traditional vein, though he has heretofore maintained a respectful silence about his less-than-orthodox views. Ever the self-justifier and amateur Church Historian, he has a ready defense for all of his oddities of opinion. You can check out his blog here.

The name of my Stake President has been changed.

At the conclusion of his remarks at Stake Conference this last September, President Clark dropped the bomb on us.

“I invite everyone within the sound of my voice to read the entire Book of Mormon, cover to cover, by Christmas. I promise that if you do, you and your family will be blessed. I make this invitation and offer this promise under the direction of the revelation and inspiration I receive as your Stake President.”

There once was a time when I took things like this seriously, eagerly accepting whatever new gauntlet my leaders threw at me; followed by a time when I rolled my eyes and only say the negative; now, at the third stage I guess, I smile and whisper to myself a rebellious yet reverential, “No, thank you.” I fancy that I understand the useful purposes of such challenges, though I respectfully (and silently) decline from participating. I knew in my heart that I was already fervently studying the scriptures, and I took it that those who felt deficient in their meditation on the word of God would take up this assignment with relish. (Though, it should be noted that I define “scripture” much more broadly than most Mormons. Lao Tzu, anyone?) The following is something like the thoughts I had at the moment he gave the challenge.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Giveaway 6: Upcoming Title From Signature Books

Today's giveaway is special. Not only do we have an advanced reader copy (ARC) of an upcoming Signature Books title to giveaway, but we also have an exclusive first interview with the author. And ... an ongoing partnership with Signature promises to bring our readers more ARCs and author interviews.

Signature Books is a press specializing in subjects related to Utah, Mormonism, and Western Americana. Signature published its first book, Saintspeak by Orson Scott Card, in 1981, and continues to publish eight to ten books a year dealing with Mormon history, fiction, essay, humor and art. Best-selling and/or award-winning titles from the press include Peterson's The Backslider, Quinn's Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, Compton's In Sacred Loneliness and the diaries of Joseph Smith, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, B. H. Roberts and Reed Smoot, among others. Purchase any of these titles and more through Signature's online store.

For this giveaway, Signature is generously providing an advanced reader copy of its forthcoming title The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes. The winner will have a few days jump on the rest of us who have to wait until the book releases on December 19th. To enter the giveaway, follow the guidelines below.

Giveaway Guidelines:
• You have 3 days to enter (closes Wednesday, December 14 at midnight).
• Make one comment on this post to enter (anonymous comments ignored).
• Winner chosen via and announced December 15.
• Winner needs to respond via email by December 16 to claim the book.
• The timeline is compressed due to the upcoming release date, so comment now!

"Not a Clear Separation": An Interview with John S. Dinger

by Scott Hales (bio)

Even though we are Modern Mormon Men, we appreciate history - especially Mormon history. That's why we're always on the lookout for books that help us dig a little deeper into the Mormon past.

The forthcoming The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes is just such a book. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview its editor, John Dinger, and learn more about his thoughts on Joseph Smith, the Expositor, and the separation of church and state in Nauvoo. Readers should feel free to engage John with questions via the comments section.

John's book is available December 19 from Signature Books.

John S. Dinger is a graduate of the S. J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah, where he was an editor at the Utah Law Review. He is presently Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Ada County in Boise, Idaho. He has published in the Idaho Law Review, Journal of Mormon History, and Utah Law Review. He is a member of the editorial board of the Mormon History Association. He and his wife have three children.

Scott Hales: In the Church today, the High Council is usually associated with dull talks, long meetings, and corny jokes. What, then, makes The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes an interesting read?

John S. Dinger: Anyone who enjoys Mormon history will not find this volume anything like a high council talk in sacrament meeting. The Nauvoo High Council minutes are especially interesting because it was the council at the center of the church and thus, had jurisdiction over any other high council. Much of the discussions in the records are appeals from other high councils. Once the Nauvoo High Council made a decision, the only other place to appeal would be the First Presidency of the Church.

The high council regularly held disciplinary councils for many reasons, they formulated responses to polygamy rumors, they played a very important role in the dispute over who was to lead the church after Joseph Smith’s death, and they had a hand in establishing the city council and in electing the town’s civic leaders.

The two most interesting issues that faced the high council were polygamy and the trial of Sidney Rigdon when he would not submit to the twelve apostle’s leadership. With the rumors of polygamy going around, many people started practicing it without the permission of Joseph Smith. So the high council would hold disciplinary hearings and cut off people living polygamy impermissibly. The high council would deny that it was being practiced, while many knew it actually was. The high council also held a public trial for Sidney Rigdon when he refused to submit to the authority of the church. This in part solidified the power of the twelve while it showed the high council submitted to them. Before Joseph Smith’s death, the Nauvoo High Council was not under the authority of the twelve.

The City Council minutes are also very interesting because we see the Saints build a city from scratch. They pass a lot of laws and ordinances, from the mundane to the extraordinary. Some of the more interesting laws passed are the one dealing with Habeas Corpus, those that kept Joseph Smith from being extradited to Missouri. In fact, they likely passed the most expansive Habeas Corpus laws ever passed in the United States. Also, probably the most interesting thing contained in the city council minutes deal with the Nauvoo Expositor. While they may have had their minds made up to destroy it before it was discussed, they really did a thorough job when they discussed. They looked at the legal treatises of the day, the Illinois state constitution, the U.S. constitution, and really had a spirited discussion. In fact, the decision to destroy the press was not unanimous.

Note: The interview is continued after the jump ...

Friday, December 9, 2011

2011 MMM Gift Guide

We asked our contributors to play Mr. & Mrs. Claus and share with you what they're giving and getting this Christmas. Happy holidays from all of us here at Modern Mormon Men.

Flag Football Flags, Set of 12 - every Turkey Bowl needs a set or two
Toshiba Camileo HD Camcorder - not only tiny, but waterproof
The Book of Basketball - the book's a year old, but one of our contributors didn't get it last year (hint, hint)
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - the latest in one of the greatest video game franchises of all-time
Kindle Fire - the bigger the bird, the angrier the bird
Microplane Herb Mill - just like a pepper grinder only for herbs
Brian Kershisnik Art - his 2006 work titled Nativity brought the wife of one of our contributor to tears
Yubz Retro Handsets - who doesn't miss talking on these things? (enter GOOP2BUY419 for 10% discount)
ProSource Chin-Up Bar - for those without rippling back muscles
Alpen Waterproof Spotting Scope - what you spot with your scope is your own business
Bicycle Bookends - might make you want to take a spin through some of your favorite book titles
Best Made Badges - the C.C.G.F. Badge Set and Be Optimistic badge are cool
Retro Star Wars Prints - get something for the Luke or Leia in your life
Skullcandy Headphones - big cans with big sound ... or at least that's what he said
FAO Schwartz Muppet Whatnot - who hasn't wanted to create their own Muppet
Swissmar Raclette Grill - the latest trend in G-rated tabletop entertainment
ONA Camera & Laptop Bag - called "well-designed and downright drool-worthy" by one website
Brondell Swash Toilet Seat - endless warm water washes via positionable nozzles

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Evolved Man

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Dan Wotherspoon, of Mormon Matters fame, takes us through the following exercise in Episode 49: Mormonism’s Messages about Motherhood (at about the 1:25 mark).

Can you describe the stereotypical man? How about aggressive, tough, courageous, analytical, strong, forceful, arrogant, intellectual, egotistical, boastful, hard-headed, masculine and dominant.

What about the stereotypical woman? How about passive, earthy, affectionate, sensitive, appreciative, sentimental, sympathetic, feminine and emotional.

Now describe the "evolved" man ... passive, earthy, affectionate, sensitive, appreciative, sentimental, sympathetic, feminine and emotional. Wait, huh? The evolved man is the stereotypical woman? Interesting.

As a man, I get praise when I exhibit evolved characteristics. Do women have evolved characteristics that are defined? If yes, what are they? If not, why not?

MMM Mail 2: Chivalrous Or Chauvinistic - Who Pays?

Q: As a single lady in the dating game, I feel really awkward having my date pay for me. Not necessarily for one date, that's nice and normal and polite to do when you ask someone out. However, once I'm in a relationship it gets iffy. You have to work out who's going to keep paying for dates and/or hangouts and I don't feel comfortable with the idea of my guy always footing the bill. The transition from traditional first date (where the guy pays) to the relationship arena (where we go dutch or equally split) is awkward, but in a good relationship you can work through that with communication. So imagine a scenario where a guy asks me out and I say, "Sure! I'd really like that. This may sound strange, but how would you feel about going dutch?" Is this too much for a first date? To me, if we both pay our own way, we'd be more relaxed and our expectations would be more realistic. But I realize that in the past I've unwittingly stomped all over a guy's need to feel manly when I've ignored "social constructs" that to me don't make sense, so I'd like to be more sensitive in respecting my dates' ideas of their roles as men. Is my interest in paying my own way too much? Should I let it wait until the second or third, or even the seventh date?

A: Call it old-fashioned, but most men feel they should pay on the first date. A few of our contributors give their two cents below and we hope many more of our readers will open their opinion wallets as well.

I think you hit it on the head with "in a good relationship you can work through that with communication." Because, really, the goal of dating isn't to see who pays or if his manliness or your feminism will stay intact, but to begin the discovery process of what could be a solid relationship. My suggestion would be to just enjoy the dates and if you go on more than two or three and you're really getting along, then bring up the possibility of you paying for the next one or something. If he's cool and you really are compatible, he'll be open to it. Asking to pay on the first date (of before it) can be weird for the guy even if he is totally on board with your feminist tendencies.

Apparent Parent
As a man, I want to be able to pay for the first date. It's not so much a manly thing or a hunter-gatherer thing, like "I'll take care of you and provide for you, because I'm a man." My cro-magnon self has evolved beyond that. It's more like, "I invited you out here and I don't want you to incur unnecessary expenses on my behalf. After all, it's my fault you're stuck with me for an evening." Maybe after a successful first date a woman who would like to pay her own way could say something like, "Next time I'll pay." That shows an interest, expresses a desire to get back together and shows a willingness to chip in on the dating experience. But on a first date, if the guy asks you out, let the poor dude pay. It'll make him feel like you haven't fully accepted his offer for a date otherwise. It's almost like saying, "I'll go, but as a friend. You can't pay for me or it'll be too much of an (eeewww) date."

Seattle Jon
Here is my definition of the kind of guy you should look for. He will plan on paying, but won't be too overbearing. He will realize that some women find it disempowering, old fashioned or chauvinistic when men insist on paying for everything. On the other hand, he will recognize that some women find it chivalrous. Most importantly, he will get a feel for what you prefer and then do what makes you most comfortable.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guest Post: If God Be For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?

Have a guest post for Modern Mormon Men? Both modern mormon men and women can submit guest posts via email. In addition to your post, please include a post title and a paragraph of introduction (on yourself).

Laurie Stradling is a middling housekeeper, a good cook, a college grad and a recovered marching band nerd who is currently nursing a small nerd crush on Ken Jennings. She is wife to a superb husband and a son who makes her squeal-y with glee. See the last seven-ish years of her writing drivel here.

I am terrified of success.

This is the only reason I can give for mucking around in odd jobs instead of flexing my writing muscles and waving around my perfectly good BA in print journalism. Since our son was born in February, I have done the following to try to bring in the benjamins:

  • Started an Etsy shop called "Homemade Crap", which has sat empty since its inception when I realized I don't like crafting
  • Posted an ad to Craigslist titled "Résumé Ninja"
  • Posted an ad to Craigslist to give cooking lessons
  • Posted an ad to Craigslist for "Nanny Poppins" (I hardly need add those last three were done in rapid succession between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. and no, I didn't get one e-mail back)
  • Subscribed and paid for a medical transcription course, only to realize I'd been lightly scammed in the bargain and hustled to get my money and pride back at once

I haven't given my struggle against success much thought until the other morning when I walked in my housecleaning job to find three sizeable smears of poop on the carpet of the kids' closet.

I'm not going to lie, that ruined my whole day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Guest Post: On Becoming Sterile

Have a guest post for Modern Mormon Men? Both modern mormon men and women can submit guest posts via email. In addition to your post, please include a post title and a paragraph of introduction (on yourself).

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. Check out Reed's first guest post here.

image via Neatoshop
The time for discussion was long since over. Seven kids. We had bagged our limit. (1)  And with our combined hyper-fertility, something had to be done. We had discussed our options and it came down to this -- the least invasive, least expensive and least risky procedure also had the quickest recovery time. The only downside to it was that I would have to be the one subjected to it – a vasectomy. (2)

I had spoken to a few friends who had downplayed the procedure. “You’ll be fine in a day,” one said. Another told me that he actually drove home from the doctor’s office where the procedure was performed, which is a big no-no, but he did it anyway. I read a piece in Slate about how about a third of those scheduled don’t show up. Maybe the fear was all in their head and this was going to be the equivalent to getting my ears pierced or something.

Kathy drove us to the urologist’s office. We made jokes to lighten the mood, but I can honestly say I was not looking forward to the next hour or so. I had been to this office a number of times the previous summer after passing some kidney stones. The office staff included the Urologist, a man who looked like he could have retired years ago but just wasn’t quite ready to give all this up. The receptionist was a large, angry woman who breathed exclusively through her mouth. As she became agitated, you could hear the hiss of her breath as she lashed out at the poor soul who didn’t properly fill out all the forms. There was also a potentially transgendered nurse who literally bounced around the office. At each visit, it seemed to me like some progress was being made towards a final gender, but oddly, I could not tell which direction it was headed.

On this day, we needed to fill out another form. Kathy needed to give her consent for the procedure. I felt a wave of indignation -- what about “My Body, My Choice”? Then we were both ushered into the urologist’s office to be interviewed -- his way, I guess, of determining why we wanted me sterile. His office was the embodiment of sterile. The lights were dim, the windows well-tinted, with a large dark desk, bookshelf, chairs and an examination table. There was at least one ceramic looking replication of male genitalia. I don’t know if that was swag from a urologist convention or perhaps a plaster casting of some of his better work.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Let's Party!

by Topher Clark (bio)

Image via Flickr.

When I was a teenager I was invited to be the youth representative on my ward activities committee. Kind of a big deal, right? I took my responsibilities very seriously. I attended monthly meetings where we talked about various picnics and different ways of playing horseshoes. One year we got all serious about the ward Christmas party. This really nice lady, Sally Todd, was in charge of the committee. She asked if anyone had a good suggestion for a party theme. Nobody responded, so I suggested something which I thought was very innovative and meaningful: An Old Fashioned Christmas. Nobody else had an idea for a theme, so Sally Todd, who was very nice - she could have rolled her eyes or thrown up or something - declared that An Old Fashioned Christmas would be our theme.

I'm sure when I gave that suggestion I had some specific notions about how An Old Fashioned Christmas should go, but at that age I didn't really have the wherewithal to make that happen. I was visualizing something very Currier & Ives. Like, for instance, all of the ward members would show up in horse-drawn carriages. That kind of thing. We would all get excited over dumb stuff like oranges and butter like they do on Little Women. I thought it might really help us remember the traditions of the past; things like bells on bob tails and Miss Fanny Bright. Little did I know that our Christmas party would turn out to be the same ward Christmas party we'd had for fifty years, and the same ward Christmas party we have today. Where there are about 25 giant fold-out tables covered in rolls of paper, a lot of plastic utensils, kids causing havoc on the stage, a hastily arranged Nativity scene, and the mutual kids doing a bell choir.

I'm not being critical. With the recent dissolution of the ward activities committee, I understand that times are tough. We have to have a Christmas party, but nobody wants to plan it. So I'm here to help. But not help like plan your party. More like help by giving helpful feedback and suggestions. First the feedback.

1. You really need to make this party fun for my kids. I don't want to hold toddlers on my lap while someone sings "O Holy Night." They don't want to be held. They want Santa Claus, and you promised.

Other MMM Posts

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