Friday, June 29, 2012

The Illusion of Choice

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Having an investment banking background helped me not be shocked by the graphic above, but seeing all the brands on one graphic caught my attention. How many of us realize only ten companies control a majority of the products in our local grocery store? Do we realize that when we narrow down our candy bar choice to Peanut M&M's, Snickers or Twix, it doesn't matter to MARS what we buy. To MARS, we don't have a choice. This is called the illusion of choice.

I've been thinking about how this graphic relates to the free agency of our children, more specifically the free agency of my eleven year-old daughter who turns twelve today. Thinking back to my own youth, the pressure to follow the prescribed path - priesthood, group dating, eagle scout, testimony, mission, temple marriage - was ever-present and weighty. I had some flexibility, but it was expected my decisions would lead to me "choosing MARS."

The problem was not with my feet - they were on the path - but with my heart. I played the part when I had to, and hit all the milestones, but ultimately satisfied my desire for what I thought was "real choice" by looking outside the walls of my home and ward. This mindset - that real choice does not exist within the church - continued until just a few years ago when I realized I could change my approach.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mormon Doppelgängers 10: Howard W. Hunter & Peter Boyle

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

See all Doppelgängers here.

Honestly, I couldn't even tell them apart, so I hope I got their pictures in the right places. And they have so much in common too.

For example, neither of their dads were Mormon. And neither of them served LDS missions as youngsters. Actually Peter Boyle was a monk in the Christian Brothers Order. I'm assuming before playing Young Frankenstein's Monster and Everybody Loves Raymond's dad (yes, that's phrased correctly).

Both men were actually really hip too. Peter Boyle's best man was John Lennon. John Lennon! Howard Hunter played six instruments and formed a band called Hunter's Croonaders. Can't get much cooler than that.

Oh wait, there's also this: While preparing to speak at a fireside at BYU, Hunter was confronted by Cody Judy, who rushed onto the rostrum and threatened Hunter and the audience of 15,000–17,000. Judy carried a briefcase that he claimed contained a bomb and held a detonator-like device. Judy demanded that Hunter read a three-page document that supposedly detailed God's plan for Judy to lead the church. Hunter refused to do it. The audience spontaneously sang "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet", during which students from the audience and then security personnel overtook Judy. After Judy was taken away, Hunter delivered his prepared remarks, a talk entitled "An Anchor to the Souls of Men."


“Colorado Is On Fire”

by Saint Mark (bio)

"Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire." (Isaiah 29:6)

After seeing an uplifting film about redemption and resurrection (The Lorax), my family and I walked to our car in the parking lot which overlooks the valley and the mountain range in Colorado Springs. The view of the mountains is breathtaking usually for “purple majesty” reasons but on this day our breath was taken away by fire.

A massive grey-orange cloud curled and stretched high like a waking calico from the Pyramid Mountain and the Waldo Canyon area, just above Garden of the Gods. It plumed like a mushroom cloud, and on this hot June day, with nary a nimbus on the horizon, this felt like the beginning of something horrible.

Now, only four days later, some of our worst fears are reified: the fire has crested the mountain range and surfed down the mountainside, consuming the residences and other structures who built next to this once beautiful and lush mountain side. The smoke and ash have continued to billow and obfuscate the bright sun with burnt orange blackness. Yesterday, while I drove home, street lights, car lights and other automatically triggered lights came on, shining eerily in the late afternoon because the fire cloud had nestled in our hills and neighborhoods.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Things To Worry, Not Worry and Think About

by Seattle Jon (bio)

In a 1933 letter to his 11 year-old daughter, F. Scott Fitzgerald produced the following list of things to worry, not worry and think about. Reading this got me thinking about my own 11 year-old and what I would suggest to her. What about you? What would make your list? Or what have you already communicated to your pre-teen?

Things to worry about:
Worry about courage
Worry about cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship

Things not to worry about:
Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:
What am I really aiming at?
How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:
(a) Scholarship
(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Giveaway 11: Winners

Good news! We've awarded THREE winners for this giveaway. Winners can choose any item(s) from the PopRocks Design shop up to $36.

Congrats to the following readers. Email us your address and choices by Saturday, June 30th to claim your prize.

Marcus Shields
Madison L
Emily M.

Didn't win? You can still use discount code MODERNMORMONMEN to receive 15% orders for the next few weeks.

Happy Anniversary to My Sweetheart

by Pete Codella (bio)

My wife and I have been married for 13 years this week. We met in a singles ward in Orem, Utah a few years after both of us graduated from BYU. We have spent most of our married life living in Henderson, Nevada, but have also lived in Orem, Holladay and Bountiful, Utah. We've been blessed with two very different and wonderful children.

We're celebrating our anniversary with a trip to Florida. I'm speaking at a public relations conference and then we're spending a few days together, just the two of us. Every now and then a couples escape is in order, don't you agree?

Rather than buy jewelry like diamonds or pearls, this year I've opted for writing her a song. I decided it was a more personal gift. She'll always have that part of me and my thoughts on our time together will forever be preserved.

I'll surprise her with the song on our anniversary. She has no idea I've been working on it. So fun!

I'm sharing the song and the lyrics here as a tribute to my beautiful, loving and perfect-for-me wife.

Love That Can Last

Do you remember our first kiss?
That’s when I knew.
I only dreamed I’d end up with
Someone like you.

You were the right one I was waiting for.
I don’t know how I ever lived before.

I can’t imagine my life without you,
Now that you’re here with me.
I searched forever for this kind of love.
Sometimes it seems like a lifetime.
Sometimes it feels like it’s just a dream.
I would give everything for what we have.
A love that can last.

So many memories through the years.
The joy we’ve found.
And somehow we made it through the tears.
We’ve held our ground.

A million miles could never keep us apart.
You know you’ll always have the key to my heart.

I can’t imagine my life without you,
Now that you’re here with me.
I searched forever for this kind of love.
Sometimes it seems like a lifetime.
Sometimes it feels like it’s just a dream.
I would give everything for what we have.
A love that can last.

I will give everything for what we have.
A love that will last.

9 Eyes

by Aimee (bio)

Have you ever peeked at Jon Rafman's Tumblr, He collects artistic, interesting, random images from Google street view. 9 Eyes refers to the nine directional cameras to capture the 360° views on each of the google maps vehicles. I am amazed at what he finds and posts. Can you imagine all the still shots he must weed through to find some of these gems? His work is an act of love just so I can get a little eye candy every time he posts in my Google reader.

Whenever I see a Google car I get excited. I so rarely see one that when I do I declare it my lucky day. Have you ever street-viewed your house? My father-in-law made it into their street view which thrills me every time I look. 

The raw world as art. Lovely, no? Here are a few of my favorites from 9 Eyes. For more images click here. 

And as a tribute to my childhood and because I wish I could still get away with toilet papering ...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brave: The Disney Princess Paradigm Shift

by LJ (bio)

I'll tell it to you straight: Brave not only had me crying like a little girl on multiple occasions, it also turned my Disney Princess paradigm on its sweet little head.

The tears shouldn't have come as a surprise. I first cried in a Pixar watching Jessie's tragic donation-box montage in Toy Story 2, and then went home and arranged all my stuffed animals on my bed. (I was 15 at the time.) Then there was Sully's expression when Boo says, "Kitty!" at the end of Monsters, Inc. The airplane bombing scene in The Incredibles where Elastigirl is yelling "Abort! Abort! There are children aboard!" sent me into tears of pure stress as a sophomore in college (this still happens to me, by the way) and when my husband and I bought Up around our first anniversary, we were crying so hard after the first 10 minutes we had to turn off the TV and recuperate. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

This Week's Most Popular Sins: Historical Edition, 1828

by Bishop Higgins (bio)

Hiding your sister's bonnet
Losing 116 original manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon
Snake charming
Lady charming
Predicting that in the future, beards will be allowed at a learning institution called Ricks Academy
Wearing a dress that shows your ankles
Skipping out on sock-darning class, again
Public farting (for attention)
Gluttony (including casseroles)

MMM Quotes 9: Lowell Bennion

by Seattle Jon (bio)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son, via Sacred Art Pilgrim

Does it matter if Jesus' parables actually occurred, or can they be true because they teach truth?

"Jesus' parables are creative works of art, the product of a vivid imagination and profound insight combined with a remarkable ability to articulate. Jesus observed the human scene and the ways of nature. His stories are drawn from the experiences of his listeners. His parables are true to life. Whether or not they actually happened, they could have happened just as he told them. (A sower does cast his seeds on all types of soil.) Many contain the phrase "like unto." His parables are analogous to life situations. They are true not because they actually occurred as reported, but because they teach truth." - Lowell Bennion, Jesus the Master Teacher

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Guest Post: Hitting 30, A Retrospective of a British Dad-To-Be

Have something to say? Anyone can submit a guest post to Modern Mormon Men. Just send us an email with your post, a post title and a paragraph of introduction (on yourself).

Halit Bozdogan works during the day as a writer (you can read some of his work at The Crom Report). During his downtime, he likes to read, do a spot of gardening and listen to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. He has backpacked around Europe, lived in Japan and almost got punched by Sean Penn. True story.

England has had its fair share of problems over the years; Nazis, terrorism, Simon Cowell. But we’ve always gotten through it with a cup of tea and a stiff upper lip. But I get the feeling that lip will start quivering soon, when I hear the first cries of my new baby son. You see, I’m going to be a father for the first time in July and although it scares the heck out of me, I also feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I made a person. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

Having a baby has caused me to look back over the past 30 years of my life. The pitfalls and the possibilities that have come my way. The highs and the lows. To be fair, I’ve led a pretty interesting life. I’m just a 30 year-old guy from England. But I’ve seen things. I’ve been to places. I’ve had some amazing experiences mixed in with a few not-so-amazing ones.

Let’s look at my time on Earth. I come from a working class family in the north of England. So let’s just say I’ve dealt with my fair share of rain and bad weather. I went to University. I did some travelling. New York was amazing, although I’m a little sad that they no longer sell Lucky Charms cereal in the UK any more. I’ve lived in the Far East. I’ve even eaten raw horse meat (a delicacy in Japan).

To be fair, I’m glad I’ve done all that. Because as much as I’m going to enjoy being a dad, I know that I’ll probably never get to do those kinds of things again. I mean sure, there’ll be holidays but they will be centred around the kid. Beaches and fun fairs and water parks. I don’t think they would find the New York Guggenheim or the waterways of Venice quite as stimulating in their early years.

But I certainly can’t complain. I almost wasn’t here. No, honestly. In 2007 I was hit by a bus and for about a minute or so, I died. Which can really put a crimp on your day. Obviously I got better, so I kind of feel that maybe someone was watching out for me.

I don’t regret the things that I’ve experienced. Because they’ve made me the man I am today. I only hope that when my child is born, they get to experience everything the world has to offer. I want them to travel to new far off countries, to eat strange and wonderful things, to meet interesting people and to learn things that make them a better person.

Obviously, it goes without saying that I don’t want them anywhere near a fast moving bus, but the rest is okay.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ode to Summer

by Apparent Parent (bio)

Stop hiding there, I can see you,
Keeping my kids awake,
Making us all laugh and play,
Because daylight is at stake.

It's 10 o'clock, and just right now,
My kids went down to sleep,
And yet I hear them laughing,
And the noise is pretty steep.

Why is it I like you?
When all you do is rise,
Up with the sun,
And abandon with the dusk,
All the summer fun.

It may just be a good thing,
That your stay is pretty short,
When my bones start lagging,
At the break of dawn so early,
And after all those games of tagging.

But even if you did stay,
I think I wouldn't mind,
Because unlike some people's in-laws,
You fill me up inside,
And I can see past all your flaws.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

MMM Search Term Roundup 6: October & November 2011

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

When someone finds Modern Mormon Men via search engine, we get to see what they typed to get here, giving us a small glimpse into the thought processes of those who happen upon our site. I think our readers need to see these, so I'll be sharing them monthly. Some are funny, some are sad, some are disturbing. Maybe we can work together to give some context or help answer some of those curious questions. WARNING: Although some of the more explicit entries have been excluded, saucier phrases that are included have not been edited. See them all here.

how to punish your wife mormon
I would venture to guess that she’s already been punished enough.

i hate scouts lds
The program or the actual kids? Either way, me too.

i am mormon and don't think being gay is wrong
i am mormon and think i am gay
i am mormon and i am gay

I like to pretend this was all the same person. There is a progression there.

dunking mormon
This could either refer to baptism by immersion or Thurl Bailey.

word of wisdom of facial hair
The word of wisdom allows for facial hair “only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.”

Monday, June 18, 2012

Live Deliberately

by jpaul (bio)

Let me share what I have learned from a family I recently connected with through Mormon Explorer. Meet the Dennings, a homeless family I can’t help but envy when I visit their website and see the life of adventure they are living. After living for the last few years in Asia and Central America, they are now enjoying a nomadic lifestyle as they drive from Alaska to Argentina. That is an amazing feat for any couple, but what still blows me away is that they are doing this with 5 kids.

When I first contacted them last month, I didn’t even know where to begin with my questions. How can you afford that? What about insurance? What about school? Can I come? As a delved into their blogs and videos on their website, I found that they had answered many of these questions themselves.

To my first question on finances, and probably the top concern for anyone considering a similar expedition, Rachel Denning responded,
"We’ve found that there is a misconception about travel. Our monthly budget for all seven of us is about $1500 - $2000. (Our cheapest month was actually about $950) That's for food, rent, utilities (internet, cell phone), etc. That's less than we used to pay in the states just for a mortgage. REAL travel is cheap. Vacationing is expensive. We don't vacation. :) And we don't have any other bills back in the States. We gave them all up. Travel is one of the most important parts of our life, so everything else ('stuff', etc.) gets a back burner. We own everything free and clear. We buy everything with cash.”
The idea of Traveling vs. Vacation is an amazing point that I hadn't really thought about before, but the idea resonates with me and what I enjoy about traveling. I love to explore. I don’t really care much for vacation. Spending money on a fancy hotel and taking pictures of the same landmarks that millions of others have already captured doesn't do much for me. I want to meet real people and experience their culture. I look back on my most memorable experiences while traveling, and they have never occurred at fancy art galleries or museums … it's usually when my family and I wander off the beaten path that we find unique experiences that we carry with us long after the trip has concluded.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

10 Best Movies About Dads

by brettmerritt (bio)

I love movies. There is almost nothing like the way a film can convey hundreds of messages to nearly all of our senses at the same time. Movies have always had an effect on me but as I've aged and gathered more experiences, I find myself being especially touched by movies where fathers must overcome some type of obstacle to end up doing what's best for their wife and kids.

Here, in order of their manly-cry factor, are the best films that address fatherhood in all its many forms:

Finding Nemo - What would you do to protect or save your kids? Everything.
Memorable Quote: "I have to get out of here! I have to find my son! I have to tell him how old sea turtles are!"

About a Boy - While Hugh Grant isn't technically the boy's dad, the movie shows how, in order to be a dad or father figure, we have to get over ourselves first.
Memorable Quote: "Once you open your door to one person anyone can come in."

To Kill a Mockingbird - It's almost unfair how good a dad Atticus Finch is. Still, it's a nice benchmark to strive toward.
Memorable Quote: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

My Life - I often think about what my video history will show my grown-up kids about the kind of dad I was. Will it be a record they'll watch with fondness?
Memorable Quote: "It's not enough to marry goodness, you have to find it in yourself."

Friday, June 15, 2012

Evertaster, On Sale Now

Adam Sidwell's debut novel, Evertaster, is on sale now.

Evertaster is the story of 11 year-old Guster Johsonville who rejects his mother's casserole for the umpteenth time and so she takes him to the city of New Orleans to find him something to eat. There they meet a dying pastry maker who tells them of a legendary recipe called the Gastronomy of Peace -- a recipe created hundreds of years ago, shrouded in secrecy, and sought after by connoisseurs everywhere. It's a recipe that people will kill for. The Johnsonvilles have to leave their home because they're in danger when a maniacal chef attacks them. So they set out on this quest because it might be the only thing that will save Guster's life. They meet sinister enemies along the way, as well as a duplicitous celebrity homemaker who is bent on discovering the One Recipe at all costs.

If you missed LJ's recent interview of Adam, go read it now. Otherwise, click the link below to purchase your copy today!

MMM Sermons: "Pray Always"

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.

Do you ever have the feeling that you finally have a handle on a gospel principle, e.g. repentance, tithing, the sacrament, and then Elder David A. Bednar comes along and, as my son says, "blows your eyes out"? Elder Bednar in October 2008 General Conference showed me how my prayers needed deepening.

Here is just one example:

There may be things in our character, in our behavior, or concerning our spiritual growth about which we need to counsel with Heavenly Father in morning prayer. After expressing appropriate thanks for blessings received, we plead for understanding, direction, and help to do the things we cannot do in our own strength alone. For example, as we pray, we might:

• Reflect on those occasions when we have spoken harshly or inappropriately to those we love the most.

• Recognize that we know better than this, but we do not always act in accordance with what we know.

• Express remorse for our weaknesses and for not putting off the natural man more earnestly.

• Determine to pattern our life after the Savior more completely.

• Plead for greater strength to do and to become better.

Such a prayer is a key part of the spiritual preparation for our day.

Moreover, through the example of Lehi, Elder Bednar's insight about praying for others was something I had never considered before. As I am always looking for the most effective and most efficient route (which are sometimes mutually exclusive), I appreciate Elder Bednar explicating how my prayers could become more efficacious.

Did you have any experiences with using Elder Bednar's suggestions?

Check out the entire sermon or watch it here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Giveaway 11: Poprocks Design

by Aimee (bio)

Primary songs have been a huge way in which I connect with the spirit. In times of trial, joy, difficulty and happiness, there is often an appropriate Primary song to use as my personal, spiritual soundtrack. My mom's favorite calling in church was being the Primary chorister, so from a young age the songs have found a home in my soul. History is being repeated when I sing my son the songs as I rock him to sleep, which I hope my children will do to their children and so on and so forth.

In a previous ward, I was the Primary secretary and I was in a particularly heavy season of life. One Sunday, the primary kids were singing My Heavenly Father Loves Me. The simple words powerfully reminded me of some of my favorite truths, making me teary-eyed and thankful for the beautiful world we have been given.

Sharing a love of hymns and Primary songs, Scott and I have created LDS-inspired, retro-style images based on our favorite Primary songs. Today, we want to give an image to a Modern Mormon Men reader.

The winner can choose any item from the PopRocks Design shop up to $36.

Giveaway Guidelines:
You have THREE chances to enter. Each entry requires a separate comment.
1. Leave a comment with the print you like best or your favorite primary song (anonymous comments ignored).
2. Like the PopRocks Design or Modern Mormon Men Facebook page. Or follow MMM on Twitter. Leave a comment here letting us know you did.
3. Share this giveaway post via Facebook or Twitter. Leave a comment here letting us know you did.

• 7 days to enter (closes Thursday, June 21st at midnight).
• Winner announced June 25th.
• Winner must respond via email with their image choice and mailing address by June 28th.

Can't wait? Use discount code MODERNMORMONMEN to receive 15% off.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On An Intersection of Faith and Politics

by Seattle Jon (bio)

With my own state (Washington) anticipating a November referendum to roll-back marriage equality laws passed by the state legislature in February, I am making more of an effort to educate myself ahead of the vote. Votes like this require me to navigate the intersection of faith and politics, and aren't as straight-forward as I used to think.

Consider Senator Harry Reid's May 2012 statement in support of marriage equality:

“My personal belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman. But in a civil society, I believe that people should be able to marry whomever they want, and it’s no business of mine if two men or two women want to get married. The idea that allowing two loving, committed people to marry would have any impact on my life, or on my family’s life, always struck me as absurd.

In talking with my children and grandchildren, it has become clear to me they take marriage equality as a given. I have no doubt that their view will carry the future."

What is clear is that Reid's position sets him apart from the official stance of our church,  which considers homosexual behavior a sin and has repeatedly campaigned against attempts to sanction same-sex relationships (though in recent years the church has supported political efforts to provide some legal protections to gay people). What isn't as clear is why this stance is permissible for the highest-ranking mormon in the U.S. government.

LDS leaders regularly point to the church's statement on relationships with government, which says public officials who are Mormon make their own decisions and may not agree "with one another or even with a publicly stated church position." Rather, elected officials "must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent."

What about us as members? Are we granted the same leniency to choose which side of the issue we support? For me, it's very simple. When my children grow up, and are living in a world where the gay community has equal rights, including marriage, I want them to look back and know that their parents did something during one of our generation's most important civil rights efforts. I want them to know that we did everything we could to advocate for equality, and that is why we will vote for marriage equality in November.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mormon Mashup 2: Movies

by A-Dub (bio)
Rated G
·         Lord of the CTR Rings
·         Salt Lake City Slickers
·         No other success can compensate for failure in the Home Alone
·         I Hope They Call Me on a Mission Impossible
·         Dead Poets Relief Society
·         Sunday School of Rock

Rated PG
·         Mission Impossible: Holy Ghost Protocol
·         Sweet Rush Hour of Prayer
·         Quorum of the 12 Angry Men
·         Scripture Power of One
·         Big Momma’s Bishop’s StoreHouse
·         Choose The Right Stuff

Rated PG-13
·         Beware of Pride and Prejudice
·         Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Rough Stone Rolling
·         The Firm a Foundation
·         Ernest Goes to Zion’s Camp
·         We’d like to recognize our high councilor sitting on the Stand and Deliver

Monday, June 11, 2012

Linger Longer 9

Linger Longer is a series where we highlight articles that recently caught our attention. Add your own articles or reactions to these articles in the comments.

Bloggernacle (religious)
Preparing a Funeral for a Baby and Feeling the Influence of a Life (Segullah)
God is Not a Puppeteer (By Common Consent)
Is Creationism Satanic? (Times and Seasons)
A Sacrament Talk for Young Women (Feminist Mormon Housewives)
Step 1: Be Mormon ... and Male (Zelophehad's Daughters)
When Breasts Offend (The Exponent)
Club Unicorn (The Weed)
Are There Angels Anymore? (Wheat & Tares)
Closing the Loop (Beginnings New)
Queen Victoria: “A new Sect, which is sprung up, in America” (Keepapitchinin)
The First Anti-Mormon Poem? (A Motley Vision)
400 Churchgoing Mormons March in SLC Pride Parade (Religion Dispatches)
The Sacred Parking Garage Effect (The Juvenile Instructor)
Seminary Series: What is Seminary For? (Faith-Promoting Rumor)

Off-Bloggernacle (non-religious)
Facts, 360 B.C. - A.D. 2012 (Chicago Tribune)
Historic Photos From the NYC Municipal Archives (The Atlantic)
Against Chairs (Jacobin) *language*
What I've Learned About Learning (Zen Habits)
Singularity University: Meet the People Who are Building Our Future (The Guardian)
How to Live Unhappily Ever After (The Wall Street Journal)
The Most Important Decision of Your Life You Make Every Day (Forbes)
Why Fiction Is Good For You (Boston Globe)
The Inquisition of Mr. Marvel (Grantland)
How the Blind Are Reinventing the iPhone (The Atlantic)
Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don’t Need (Lifehacker)
Love, Dad (Letters of Note)
Four Ways Happiness Can Hurt You (Greater Good)

Vote or Die 7: Uninvited Guests

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

See all Vote or Die posts here.

I have always been intrigued, and simultaneously terrified by the supernatural. I love watching scary movies, but then slightly regret it when I'm trying to get to sleep at night.

I posed this question on my old blog and some interesting points came up. Ghosts don't seem to be able to do much more than actually scare you. They move furniture, make your dogs bark, and breathe down your neck. Creepy. While aliens are associated with abductions, probing, and genocide. Messed up. However, it seems that one is more likely to encounter a ghost than an alien (if you believe in either one). Also, you could, in theory, physically fight an alien. (I'm keeping a baseball bat under my bed from now on.) So perhaps that evens out the overall score. I guess what it comes down to is where your thoughts turn when you're all alone and hear a bump in the night.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Guest Post: How 44 Days of Kindergarten Changed Everything

Eliana is married and has kids and a dog and is the only woman in her ward who kept her maiden name, which has provided thirteen years of awesome conversation. She writes and teaches English at a community college and swims and travels and tries not to go crazy.

image via deviantART

I’m a champion of public education. I spent six years teaching high school English, work part time at a community college currently, have a master’s degree in multicultural education, and share my opinion with pretty much anyone who asks. But all that was before I had a kid go to school.

When we got our class list, my son Cole was number 18 in the class. Score! I thought, nice and small. By the time we met the teacher, Cole was 28 out of 32 kids. The little tables were so squished together with tiny blue chairs, even without bodies, that I felt claustrophobic just walking into the room. But the teacher was a veteran of more than twenty years and a reading specialist to boot, so I figured she could handle things.

The first two days of kindergarten went well. Things were exciting and new, Cole got to wear his awesome new Spiderman shirt. Things fell apart on the third morning when he wanted to drive instead of walk. No big deal, till I looked in my rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of my boy when he couldn’t see me. Slumped in his booster seat, looking at the window more like a defeated teenager than energetic 6 year old. My heart broke a little.

I knew public school would be an adjustment. Cole went to a private Christian preschool near our house, one with nurturing teachers and a warm environment where he felt smart every day. He’s also a kid who takes time to handle new things—we call it ‘getting nervous,’ others might call it worrying a lot.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Evertaster: The Debut Novel of a Modern Mormon Man

by LJ (bio)

It was my great pleasure to interview Adam Sidwell on the upcoming release of his debut novel Evertaster, a story about a picky kid and his family racing a cult of overzealous and sinister chefs to find the legendary Gastronomy of Peace ... the one greatest recipe in the world. Adam's day job is (I'm not making this up) working on computer graphics for movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and TRON Legacy. He and his family live in L.A. and his claim to fame is once showing a famous movie star where the bathroom was. Evertaster will be released by Trident Media Group on June 14th.

LJ: Adam, how are you? Also, who are you?

Adam: LJ, I’m having the time of my life. The story for Evertaster has been pent up inside me for four years now, and it's like I finally get to tell my big secret to the world and to all my friends. Who am I? I'm a guy who likes to live stories and then tell them. I love adventure, whether it's to a far off place or just in the mountains out back. I never want a good adventure to be lost, so I always feel obligated to write it down. That's one of the reasons I just had to write Evertaster.

LJ: Do you seriously work for Disney? Doing computer-y things? (If you do, that's seriously badapple.)

Adam: Sort of. I work in Visual Effects and Animation for film. It's all the same industry. I've had some opportunities with Disney and Pixar, but just wasn't ready to move cities at the time. I've worked for Industrial Light + Magic, which is really fun because every day Boba Fett is there to greet you when you walk in the door. I also worked in New Zealand at Weta Digital where they made Lord of the Rings. That place IS Middle Earth. There were elven swords and orc shields from the films hanging on the walls, but employees were not allowed to use them to settle workplace disputes. I did have a great opportunity to build the digital characters for TRON while working at Digital Domain. Digital Domain worked with Disney to get the film off the ground in the first place. All of the lightwalls in the film and most of the characters riding the lightcycles were my work. We build digital versions of all the human characters because actors don't feel comfortable getting de-rezzed into millions of tiny cubes. It's against union contracts.

LJ: I just have to ask ... who was that famous movie star you directed to the bathroom?

Adam: It was Jeff Bridges. Disney put on a big show at work for some of the executives prior to the release of Tron. I was in the office -- it was a Saturday -- and this bearded, weathered fella who looks like a cowboy comes trotting down the hall.

"You lookin' for the bathroom?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said.
"Down there to your right," I pointed it out to him.

Then I said, "Hey Jeff, you want to see the digital version of yourself?" since I was working on it only five minutes before. But I could tell he had to go.

LJ: HILARIOUS. Okay, so give me the scoop on your book Evertaster.

Adam: Here’s the scoop: Evertaster is the story of 11 year-old Guster Johsonville who rejects his mother's casserole for the umpteenth time and so she takes him to the city of New Orleans to find him something to eat. There they meet a dying pastry maker who tells them of a legendary recipe called the Gastronomy of Peace -- a recipe created hundreds of years ago, shrouded in secrecy, and sought after by connoisseurs everywhere. It's a recipe that people will kill for. The Johnsonvilles have to leave their home because they're in danger when a maniacal chef attacks them. So they set out on this quest because it might be the only thing that will save Guster's life. They meet sinister enemies along the way, as well as a duplicitous celebrity homemaker who is bent on discovering the One Recipe at all costs.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Telling Our Own Stories: An Interview with Playwright Mahonri Stewart

by Scott Hales (bio)

Mahonri Stewart is more than a cool guy with an apocryphal Jaredite name. He's also the award-winning author of a handful of critically-acclaimed plays, including Farewell to Eden and Rings of the Tree. If you aren't already familiar with his work, you ought to be. Mahonri and his Zion Theater Company are at the forefront of Mormon theater and drama.

Recently, I had the chance to chat with Mahonri (via email) about two of his plays -- The Fading Flower and Swallow the Sun -- which were recently published in a single volume by Zarahemla Books. (Purchase your copy here!) Mahonri was also kind enough to share his thoughts on Joseph Smith's family, Church history, and why Mormons can't get enough of C.S. Lewis.

(Oh yeah: he also has a few things to say about the controversial Book of Mormon musical and Angels in America.)

SCOTT HALES: Tell us a little about your plays The Fading Flower and Swallow the Sun. Why did you decide to have them published by Zarahemla Books, a publisher known primarily for publishing Mormon fiction?

MAHONRI STEWART: Both The Fading Flower and Swallow the Sun were plays that I produced through New Play Project in Provo several years ago. Unintentionally, the two plays have some subtle similarities despite being very different plays on the surface.

The Fading Flower tells the story of Emma Smith (widow of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet) and her children, primarily her youngest son David Hyrum Smith. After Emma’s son Joseph Smith III took the invitation to lead the Reorganized branch of the Latter-day Saint movement, David joined his brother’s church and went on missions to Utah to convert us "Brighamites." Once there, David confronted a very different version of his father, which conflicted with what his mother had taught him. The play's conflict centers on this tension, and addresses how honesty (or the lack thereof) plays into the worldview of our faith.

Swallow the Sun tells the story of a young C.S. Lewis, the famous Christian author and apologist who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters and (his best work) Till We Have Faces, among a lot of other incredible work. What is less known about C.S. Lewis (who actually went by Jack), was that he was once a passionate atheist. It’s his journey from atheism to Christianity that the play follows.

As to why I chose Zarahemla, I had already established a working relationship with the publisher, Chris Bigelow, when I pitched an anthology of Mormon Drama by some of Mormonism’s best playwrights that they’re publishing later this summer. Once my work was finished on that project, I pitched this book of plays, which he accepted.

Even more than that, though, I really like what Zarahemla Books is doing and what they’re publishing. They are publishing some of the best Mormon literature on the market right now. Mainstream Mormon publishers like Deseret Book definitely have their place, and of course it would be great to be picked up by a national publisher, but these particular plays (especially Fading Flower) seemed to fit well with Zarahemla’s more adventurous take on Mormon literature. Zarahemla Books is brave and honest and can take on challenging material, but they’re also intent on taking an approach that is not at odds with the Church. I'm not a dissident and I don't want to be seen as a dissident, so that was important to me as well. They were a perfect fit to my approach to the Gospel.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Is the iPad iBad?

by Saint Mark (bio)

I have a neighbor with kids the same ages as my sons (6 and 4). They are good kids and the family is upbeat, friendly, and the type of neighbors you would dream to have. However, since the time we moved in next door to them, I have never seen the son without a Gameboy-type of device in his hands. For four months, throughout the summer and into fall, while his siblings ran and played in their amusement park of a backyard, he would sit under a tree and play his video games. My oldest son inevitably would be sucked into the video game with my neighbor's son instead of running through the fountain, playing on the gigantic swing set or doing any other fun and healthy activity that kids do in the summer.

Now, my oldest son loves video games as much as the next kid. But, I didn't want my son to waste his summer and the perfect Colorado weather staring at a screen and throwing angry birds at flimsy structures. So, I limited the time my sons played with my neighbor's sons. This was a sad choice for me because I could see the benefit of neighbor-friends for my kids. But, I feel that my neighbor's son was addicted to the handheld device and my neighbor was not doing much to halt it. In casual conversation the topic of video games came up and I shared with him what we do in our family to limit "screen" time. He heard me but it didn't seem to change his actions or his son's addiction.

Fun With Kids

by Pete Codella (bio)

Some of my fondest childhood memories center around activities I did with my parents and siblings. We were involved in Scouts, soccer, church and community theater, and I was involved in band and orchestra (I played the trumpet from sixth to twelfth grade). Those things pretty much occupied my youth and teenage years.

It has been fun and rewarding as a father to participate with my kids in activities. Our daughter took dance lessons and performed at recitals for a few years while we lived in Henderson, Nevada. Here in Bountiful, Utah she has taken piano lessons, sung in the school choir, and last summer started playing soccer with the local recreation league.

Eliana, who’s now 10, likes to do things right. In other words, she’s a Type-A personality, like yours truly. It sure is interesting how different kids’ personalities are, even in the same family.

Monday, June 4, 2012

An Abundance of Missionary Opportunities

Marvin Perkins, an important member of the church's Genesis Group and a friend of the blog, contacted us about the following missionary opportunities. Help us spread the word to interested parties.

Mormon Beliefs Explained at Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center Exhibit (link)
What do Mormons believe? Are they Christian? How do they worship? Those are a sampling of questions answered by a new exhibit in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ visitors’ center in Washington, D.C. The exhibit, entitled “We Follow Jesus Christ,” will be on display at the visitors’ center through the end of August. It provides answers to 24 questions about the Church that seem to have captured most people’s interest.

African American and Mormon - Why I Believe Fireside
Bring friends and neighbors to hear the powerful and compelling stories of five African American families.

Sunday, June 10, 2012 – 6:00 p.m.
Westwood Chapel (behind the L.A. Temple)
10740 Ohio Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90024

Fireside: Using the Scriptures to Understand and Answer Race Questions on LDS Doctrine Relative to Blacks and the Priesthood
Per Marvin, the media is covering this topic the most and interestingly, most members know very little about the topic. Come with friends and neighbors and be prepared to get answers.

Saturday, June 16, 2012 – 6:00 p.m.
3601 Alameda De Las Pulgas
San Mateo, CA 94403

Sunday, June 24, 2012 – 7:00 p.m.
7885 West Robindale Road
Las Vegas, NV 89113

Take a Survey on Race Relations Within the LDS Church (link to survey)
From the author: I am wondering if you could help with this initiative. I am working on a study to see just how members of the church feel about race in the church. So far I have over 1000 completed instruments but very few Black members of church have participated which is skewing the data. Could you please help me by taking the survey yourself then disseminating the instrument to other members? In order for the project to be successful I really need participation from a larger number of people of African descent, no matter where they are in the world. The church, due to the campaign of Romney, will be attacked for the Church's past views and this information will provide a voice with some strong research on the matter.

Recording Artist and Mo-Tab Member, Alex Boye
Alex will be performing at Dodgers Stadium for Mormon Night on June 29th. He also has two new music videos (here and here).

What Makes A Man?

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Since the dawn of time, men have pursued it, women have yearned for it, but what makes a man?

Not the answer you were looking for? Let's see what our own Topher Clark has to say.

Well, he can climb trees, but he abandoned his wife (who is Pretty Darn Funny, btw) to a pack of starving children. I guess the question remains unanswered ... at least for today.

Friday, June 1, 2012


by Casey Peterson (bio)

Image by Seyed Mostafa Zamani. 

Recently as Mother's Day was approaching, I was asked what kind of flowers I was getting for my wife. It seems like this is a question that I get around Valentine’s, anniversaries, birthdays, Columbus Day, Cinco de Mayo, Arbor Day, etc. ahhhhhhh!

Flowers for me are an interesting paradox. I love growing them in my yard, love seeing them in the mountains or deserts, in fact I even know the Latin names of many of them. Yet, something about buying them just doesn’t appeal to me. I assumed for many years that the root (no pun intended) for my flower aversion came from either a financial or a safety perspective. Financial because they are terribly overpriced right when we need them most, and they wilt and die quickly, no matter how many little powder packets are sprinkled in the water. An average bouquet costs roughly the same as a rack of ribs, a pack of steaks, or something that can cheerfully be marinated, basted, and grilled. While using a modicum of money is convenient, true value is established when compared to the currency of barbeque, and flowers wilt in comparison.

Safety, because as a product of the early 90’s, I remember the trauma of formal dances complete with cummerbunds, awkward tuxes that have too many weird snaps and buckles, and seemed to always push on my latest sports bruise or broken bone. The misery and fear only was exacerbated by an equally nervous teenage girl trying to pin on a bulky corsage. The pins on those things are huge, roughly the size and sharpness of the bangs of that era which were stiffened and sharpened to ridiculous points with cans and cans of aerosol hairspray. Dodging the bangs would usually result in a jab from a pin, or vice versa dodging a pin would get me impaled by the bangs. Navigating around other perspiring teenagers in a stuffy lunchroom or gymnasium while avoiding sharp objects, to the perpetual beat of screaming cocaine fueled screamers like Vince Neal, Axel Rose, and Bret Michaels was not a calming atmosphere. This certainly caused my discomfort with flowers to blossom.

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