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Friday, August 31, 2012

Here Come the (Cultural) Mercenaries

by MAB (bio)

Pena National Palace, Sintra, Portugal
We just got back from a four-week vacation that included extensive travel in Europe. Some of the highlights, of course, were trips to castles and museums (enjoyed by the adults much more than the kids). Europe is unique in that you can travel relatively short distances to experience a variety of ancient and modern cultures.

All that culture got me thinking about my time as a missionary in Honduras. Since I was born and raised in the U.S., and had only been to one border town in Mexico for a day, I was eager to soak up the new culture despite the inevitable "culture shock." And it was shocking at first. But eventually I adjusted. But there is a deeper level of history and culture lying just beneath the surface. I think this is true of anywhere, even for a mission in ... Ohio for example.

I'm a fairly immature person to this day, but was much more so back then. If I had been more mature, had done more research and had a better understanding of history and culture, I think I could have enjoyed the people and my time in Honduras even more. But perhaps I am not fully to blame. My mission president would rarely let us do anything other than missionary work (and we had the standard four or five books we couldn't deviate from). I presume that's still the case in most missions. It would be nice if missionaries were given culture time so they could travel, with the objective of gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the people they serve.

Mormon World Records 2

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Paul Skousen might not be the best known of the Skousen crew, but he did pen The Skousen Book of Mormon World Records and Other Amazing Firsts, Facts, and Feats. This is my little tribute to his good work. Read previous Mormon World Records here.

via U.S. National Archives

Q: Was a Mormon involved in raising one of the most recognized flags in the world?
A: The famous flag raising in 1945 on the captured Japanese island of Iwo Jima was made possible, in part, thanks to a Mormon. The original flag wasn't dramatic enough for the photographer, so Elder A. Theodore Tuttle, a marine, was sent to his ship to retrieve a larger flag. The resulting photo became world famous. As for that smaller flag, it was stowed away to see glory at another island on another day.

Q: What was the world's oldest unpaid medical bill?
A: When mobs broke into Carthage Jail in 1844 and murdered Joseph and Hyrum Smith, John Taylor was shot four times but survived. Dr. Thomas Barnes cared for Elder Taylor's injuries and nursed him back to health. In a letter dated November 6, 1897, Dr. Barnes gave his daughter, Miranda, graphic details of the shootings, and added, "We took the best care of him (John Taylor) we could till he left us. He got well but never paid us for skill or good wishes." Many decades later, Taylor's grandson, Raymond, became aware of the unpaid debt and decided to settle things with the family. In Santa Rosa, California, he finally located Mrs. Bertha Haskett. She was a direct descendant of Dr. Barnes. Upon hearing of the Brother Taylor's quest to pay his grandfather's medical bill, Mrs. Haskett declined money but suggested any funds to to Southern Illinois University to create a collection about Mormons in Illinois. She quit-claimed the bill to a history professor at the university, Dr. Stanley B. Kimball. Some time later, Taylor received this letter from Dr. Kimball: "Please consider this letter as a statement to you for the sum of $1 which will fully satisfy this more than one hundred year old medical bill." Taylor dispatched a dollar immediately.

QWho undertook the longest bus ride to an LDS temple in history?
A: In 1979, the longest round-trip bus ride for patrons attending the Mesa temple was for families in the Canal Zone of Panama. The 8,000-mile bus trek was over some narrow, dangerous roads through all kinds of weather and danger of attack by gangs of robbers in some areas. On January 12, 1979, several families were the first to make the journey. The $160/person trip required most of them to sell many of their personal belongings to afford the once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

QWho in the church has walked the farthest to church?
A: Ranking close to the top must be Annie Starling Pilcher of Enoch, Texas. For 43 years, she walked from her home to church and back again, a round trip of about 11.5 miles. This totaled more than 25,800 miles, or the equivalent of about once around the earth.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Filter Bubbles

by Seattle Jon (bio)

I've recently started attending Elders Quorum again after a longish period of back-room inactivity. Back-room meaning I would find a back room and read rather than attend. The reasons for my inactivity are not the point of this post, but I will share why I’ve returned and continue to attend - I decided to be a more active participant in the lessons. The point of this post, then, is to say what I wanted to say in a recent Elders Quorum, but didn't have the chance to say because time ran out with my hand in the air.

I don't remember the instructor’s question, but a fellow Elder’s response was what caused my own hand to go up. Here is what he said: "I recently overheard several of our youth talking in the hall. One of them said, "If I found out another kid was smoking or drinking, I wouldn’t be friends with them.""

I’m not surprised one of our youth said this. The church’s emphasis on obeying moral and behavioral codes (the Word of Wisdom in this case) comes early and often in our children's lives. Combine this emphasis with guidance in the home to avoid such behavior for health and safety reasons, and what mormon youth wouldn't believe such thinking is okay. If smoking and drinking are bad for me, then I shouldn't smoke or drink, then I shouldn't be around people who smoke or drink, then I can't be friends with people who smoke or drink. The leaps are not illogical, but at what point do our youth's filter bubbles need to be popped?

The phrase filter bubble was coined by Eli Pariser, the president of, in a June 3, 2010 talk at the Personal Democracy Forum. The phrase, as he uses it, relates to a person's search results, recommendations, and other online data having been filtered to match that person's interests, thus preventing the person from seeing data outside of his or her interests.

Considering the fact that more information is now created in a single year than was created from the beginning of human history through 2008, we, the human race, need filters. But we need to think of the values embedded in the filters we use. Personalized filters are a great corporate strategy, but they're bad for citizens because ultimately personalization could lead to the end of public conversation. The LDS church has its own filter – correlation (read Brad’s 9-part series on correlation over at BCC) – which in my opinion has been less than positive for church members because it too is leading to the end of conversation, to lively discussion, to variety and to debate.

The Elder continued by saying something like, "I wonder how many of us continue to think as this youth does … in that our friends, the culture we expose ourselves to and/or the information we use to inform our opinions are all filtered to match our existing beliefs." So, if you agree that conversation, lively discussion, variety and debate continue to be needed in the church, when do the filter bubbles of our youth need to start being popped? What might this youth have said instead of "… I wouldn't be friends with them."?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Modern Mormon Geek Moment #2

by Bradly Baird (bio)

I confess that I maintain a secret life as a fan of popular - and not-so-popular - culture. I know that each of you knows what I am talking about. You assiduously keep your guilty pleasures secret and never let anyone outside of your immediate family know about them. Because to reveal such things is to reveal your inner geek; that deepest most secretive (and embarrassing) part of your personality. But no matter how deep inside you've hidden your geekiness, I am here to say that you should let it out every once in a while and share it with someone. You never know, you might discover a fellow geek. And in that spirit, I present my second geek secret ... please don't beat me up, take my lunch money, or give me a wedgie. Previous geek moments here.

When someone first described the central plot and themes of Avatar: The Last Airbender to me, I laughed out loud and dismissed it as yet one more dumb children's television show. The whole concept seemed like new-age claptrap infused into a Saturday morning cartoon format.

After the program completed its second season, my son began to take an interest and started to watch, utilizing our Netflix subscription. However, the only television in our home with Netflix access is located in our downstairs living room, a space that is often occupied by my wife or myself. One Saturday afternoon, he came into the room and proposed that we watch Avatar together. I was not excited by the idea, but thought I would be a nice old man and watch the program with him since he loved it so much.

We sat down and watched an episode from the second season - Zuko Alone - and to my great surprise, I really enjoyed the program. It is intelligently and creatively assembled, demonstrates an uncommon thoughtfulness found almost nowhere else in the onslaught of modern children's television programming, and provides a compelling plotline to follow.

I like that it tells a continuous and ongoing story with twists, turns, multiple storylines, jokes (both visual and verbal), explorations of human relationships, and that it attempts to understand the extraordinary complexities of humanity by touching on war, cruelty, compassion, kindness, love (romantic and familial), friendship, the environment, responsibility, morality, education, women's rights, and diasporas, to name but a few.

I also like that there is never a simple solution to any of the problems faced by the main characters (Aang, Zuko, Katara, Toph, and Sokka); they struggle to learn, struggle to get along with one another, fail at many things, nearly lose their lives, make many mistakes, and eventually - because of all of this - build lives for themselves. While it is not a perfect program, the creators offer a great deal of honesty about life, all the while providing an entertaining epic drama/comedy.

And in case I have overstated anything or tried to make it sound like more than it is, we should remember that it is a cartoon and it is targeted towards children. The program contains its share of silliness, childish jokes, magic, events that stretch credulity, and the occasional solution that is too simplistic in nature. But, this is all part of the package that makes the program interesting and helps to make its serious(very) premise retain its charm.

The program concluded its run on Nickeloden almost four years ago, but my children and I download the episodes on Netflix about once a year and hold an Avatar marathon (we are only talking about sixty episodes, each about twenty minutes in length). I suspect that we will probably only do this once more before the inevitable interests of teenagerdom overtake their lives, and then we will probably never watch the program again. But, I will always have a place in my heart for Aang and his friends.

New Boy Band

by Pete Codella (bio)

One of my best friends - who I met while performing with the BYU Young Ambassadors from 1992 to 1994 - is Tyler Castleton. He is a renowned music producer and songwriter who has spent time in Utah and Nashville perfecting his trade. He has worked with Martina McBride, Marie Osmond, Jericho Road and Hilary Weeks.

Tyler is putting together a new boy band and has issued an open call notice for male singers, ages 13 to 17, to tryout for the band.

He is ... "seeking confident, energetic pop vocalists with a good ear and ability to blend well. Looking for serious performers interested in an amazing national and international recording and performing experience."

Open Call Auditions
September 15, 2012
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Pointe Performing Arts Academy
10981 North 5600 West, Highland, UT 84003

To schedule an audition time call Todd Schwartzman at 801-822-6798 or email him at toddschwartzman [at]

If you know of a teenage boy with performing chops and a penchant for good Christian standards, this is a wonderful opportunity.

The audition notice is also saved on my Pinterest profile if you'd like to share it from there.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Porn for Women

by Saint Mark (bio)

It's a horrible title, I know. But, Porn for Women is hilarious and insightful. Sculpted (and clothed) male models making winning statements such as "Why don't I get the minivan, hon, so you can drive something fun." or "As soon as I finish the laundry, I'll do the grocery shopping and take the kids with me so you can relax." are some of the classics from this keepsake.

I also recently read an article titled "10 Signs He's a Keeper." I did a lot of reflecting to see how I measured up and where I needed to improve. Check the book and the article out to see if you can also become the man your woman dreams about.

Ave Maria

by Clark (bio)

The other day I decided to take advantage of the warm weather and go out for a walk around the city. I am still getting my bearings around this new town and want to make it a habit to just get out and walk and explore. I came across this mural while out and about. You can read up on the mural, as well as view a short video, here. If you have a chance to walk around Salt Lake City be sure to trek on over by 150 South and 200 East and you'll be sure to see it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Easy On the Slang, Sucka!

by Dustin (bio)

I use a decent amount of slang, particularly for a 32 year-old man. I didn't realize I did until we were sitting at dinner recently and my six year-old daughter casually used the phrase "drop a deuce" when telling a story about our cats stinking up the litter box. I shot a glance at my wife, who was scowling, and raised my eyebrows as if to say, "Is that what I think it was?" She told me in hushed tones that her teacher had scolded her for using the same phrase at school, apparently in this context at recess: "Mrs. Castle, I need to drop a deuce."

I know I'm supposed to be ashamed and even embarrassed, yet a small part of me found humor in seeing my daughter coin a pop-culture phrase and use it correctly. A few other examples:

◦ My son recently told me that he didn't need to brush his teeth because "I already brushed my snags, Dad."

◦ My son hit me in the head with a basketball while we were wrestling and shouted "booyah" while fist pumping.

◦ My daughter beat my son at a game they were playing and threw her hands up while saying, "Oh yeah, sucka."

This has backfired more than once, of course. One of the first phrases I taught my two year-old to say was, "Yeeeeah boyyyeeeeeee" (also written "boiiiiiiiiiii"). Now whenever he gets mad at his siblings he says, "Stop it, boyyyyeeeeeee." When he used the big boy potty last week I said, "Yeeeeah boyyeee!" while attempting to high-five him, but he crossed his arms and stomped his foot and said, "I not boooyyeeeee," thinking it was a derogatory term. My wife is now deprogramming him with conversation about what a girl is and what a boy is, and the difference between "boy" and "boyyyyeeeeeeee."

Do your kids drop slang? Is it a little gratifying or is it just me?

Endure to the End Zone 2

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Last year's Endure to the End Zone here. Have a great NFL season cheering for your real or fantasy teams.

Friday, August 24, 2012

LL Cool J and the Title of Liberty

by Apparent Parent (bio)

This is definitely the first time I have ever respected a rapper beating someone up.

The following excerpt is from the LA Times.

"LL Cool J, born James Todd Smith, told police he was upstairs in his home when he heard a noise coming from the kitchen area. When he went to investigate, a man came at him, leading to the fight, police said.

"During what several sources described as a brawl, [the perpetrator] suffered a broken nose, jaw and ribs. The actor, who was not injured, later told authorities that he acted out of the concern for his family."

I wonder if "Momma Said Knock You Out," his own song, was running through his head as he kicked the heck out of the drug-addicted would-be robber.

Oddly, the first thing I thought of when I read about this event was Moroni's title of liberty, the torn coat he inscribed with the words: "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest Post: Is Tithing the Same as Giving to Charity?

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

Kyle Jarrett lives and works in Washington DC with his wife and two kids - Xbox controller #1 and Xbox controller #2. He graduated from the University of Utah and is currently a grad student at American University. His day job is in Democratic politics, please save your groans for later. In his spare time he enjoys hanging out with his two kids, playing golf with his wife, and eating copious amounts of Cheetos.

On last Thursday’s episode of NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams, reporter Natalie Morales interviewed Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. You can see the interview here.

During the course of the interview the questions turned to the campaign, and to their refusal to release additional tax returns to the public. At the conclusion of her reasons for not releasing additional tax returns, she said that they pay their taxes, and added “beyond paying our taxes we give ten percent of our income to charity.” I know the Romney’s have given a great amount to various charitable organizations outside of the LDS community, but this sparked in my mind a debate: is paying tithing the same as donating money to charity?

To me, no, not even close.

Is tithing tax deductible as a charitable donation? Yes, but I would argue that, in general, tithe payers are not writing their tithing checks as a charitable gift (I pay mine online, are checks still a thing?). The Law of Tithing is a religious commandment of obedience and sacrifice. It is in place to not only show the faithfulness of the members, but also as one of the main monetary resources the church has to help build the Kingdom of God.

Former president of the church, Gordon B. Hinckley, said “Our major source of revenue is the ancient law of the tithe. Our people are expected to pay 10 percent of their income to move forward the work of the Church.” (emphasis added) (source:

It is the expectation that fully active members pay ten percent of their income to the church that excludes it from being actual charity. Members of the church are required to be full tithe payers in order to participate in temple ceremonies and to hold specific callings in the church.

On the other hand, paying a fast offering is specifically designed as a charitable contribution to help those who are in need. But tithing and fast offerings are completely separate in both the motivation in giving, and its use.

In my personal experience, the act of paying tithing is not done with the mindset that I am being charitable; rather it is done with the mindset of being obedient. But when I am paying a fast offering, I am in the mindset of knowing this money will help someone else. Thinking of tithing as a charitable contribution actually diminishes the motivation behind writing the check, and demeans the intent of the law.

On a side note, Rock Center with Brian Williams will be airing a segment tonight titled “Mormon in America” so stay tuned for that.

Giveaway 14: The Book of Mormon Girl

As mentioned in our recent interview with Joanna Brooks, we're giving a way a copy of her book, The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith, to a lucky MMM reader. Why? Because we love you.

Giveaway Guidelines:
You have THREE chances to enter. Each entry requires a separate comment.
1. Leave a comment on this post.
2. Facebook: Like the Modern Mormon Men Facebook page or share this post on Facebook. Leave a comment here letting us know you did.
3. Twitter: Follow MMM, Joanna Brooks (@AskMormonGirl), or share this post on Twitter. Leave a comment here letting us know you did.

• 7 days to enter (closes Thursday, August 30th at midnight).
• Winner announced September 3rd.
• Can't wait? Buy the book now.

If you're in Salt Lake, go see Joanna at Weller Book Works in Trolley Square tonight at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Semi-Cromulent Blog Post

by Ben Johnson (bio)

A polar bear walks into a bar and says to the bartender, “Give me a beer........................ and some peanuts.” The bartender says, “OK, but why the big pause (paws)?”

This is the joke my wife, Katti, told me the other night just before family prayer. Of course, I couldn’t pray because I was laughing too hard. Good heavens, I love that woman.

On Friday my wife and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. This has me in a reflective mood. Has it really been ten years? Where has the time gone? As I’ve thought about our decade-long (!?) marriage I’ve tried to figure out what makes it so great. Here’s what I’ve come up with: humor. You know the old saying about the family that MST3Ks together stays together? That’s us.

I can’t think of a day that has gone by in the past ten years where we haven’t laughed our faces off. The funny thing is (pun intended) we didn’t decide that humor would be a cornerstone of our marriage. It just happened that way. Over the years, life, TV, movies, jobs, church, etc. have given us vast stores of inside jokes that we have incorporated into our daily conversations. We can’t even remember where half the stuff we say comes from, but it’s still funny.

Without a doubt one of my favorite sources of humor from over the years is our tradition of writing notes/letters to one another, specifically the pictures we include in the letters. We decided that any time one of us writes a letter to the other we have to draw a picture to go with it. I can tell you that this has been, not only very funny, but very rewarding.

I hope this isn’t the blogging equivalent of a vacation slideshow but I would love to share some of the pictures with you. I’ll show the picture first and then give the background after so it won’t be too ‘inside baseball.’

Here we go, in no particular order (except the first one).

Background: This is the first picture Katti ever drew for me. Technically it was before we were married but I’m including it for sentimental reasons. Back when I was in the singles’ ward I got suckered into planning the activity for Family Home Evening. Since it was close to Valentine’s Day I decided to buy a bunch of cards and candy so the group could make Valentines for whoever they wanted.

Being the thoughtful genius that she is, and knowing that I liked (old) Simpsons, Katti made the card for me. Unlike Ralph, I ended up getting the girl.

Background: About a year ago I had to teach a lesson in Elder’s Quorum. I’m one of the worst teachers in the history of mankind and I was foolish enough to think a centerpiece would help my lesson. It didn’t. This picture Katti drew made me feel better though.

Giveaway 13: Winner

Congratulations to LAina (link to comment), winner of Real Intimacy: A Couple's Guide To Healthy, Genuine Sexuality. Respond via email with your address by Friday, August 24th to claim the book. Thanks everyone for participating and look for another giveaway really soon!

Didn't win? Buy the book!

Don't forget to checkout these links:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Skinny Kid

Humiliation is a part of life when you’re the skinny kid. Take swim time at scout camp. When all the other guys are showing off their adolescent six packs and newly acquired biceps, you’re counting ribs and trying you’re best not to look like Gandhi. Which is tough when you actually look like Gandhi—only pastier and without the moustache.

I know this from experience. Twenty years ago, I was a twelve-year-old kid with greasy hair, crooked teeth, and barely enough muscle to keep me moving. If I had crashed somewhere in the Andes with a Uruguayan rugby team, they’d have been screwed. They would’ve taken one hungry look at my sorry corpse and said, “Hombres, who invited Gollum?”

Like a lot of kids, I learned to deal with my skinniness and the ridicule that came with it. For a while I wore big clothes and made friends with fat kids as a way to compensate. I also learned to mouth off. At night, with my clock radio turned down low, I would lie awake thinking up putdowns I could use against any school bus lunkhead bent on my destruction. Sadly, most of what I came up with was either a knuckle-sandwich-to-the-face in embryo or too R-rated to use and still feel OK about being a deacon.  Some may think Mormon injunctions against naughty words are too puritanical. I think they saved me from premature dentures.

The worst humiliations I experienced involved girls. Like the time I was on a campout and one of my fellow Tenderfeet told me a Beehive in our ward said I’d be cute if I only had “a body.” At thirteen, I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but it was enough to get me doing push-ups, sits-ups, and jumping jacks one afternoon. I’m not sure what I hoped to accomplish with the jumping jacks, but they seemed to do the trick when I checked my muscle growth in the mirror ten minutes later. Too bad the Beehive failed to notice on mutual night. And it didn’t help that one of the thugs in the teachers quorum got a laugh when he slugged me in the sternum right in front of her.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mormon Soup Interview: Joanna Brooks

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

In part 1 we discuss Joanna's appearance on The Daily Show, her new book—The Book of Mormon Girl, and what it means to be an unorthodox Mormon.

In part 2 watch Joanna struggle to answer who she finds more attractive—Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman. We also learn her favorite hymns and TV shows.

• Buy The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith
• Joanna Brooks interview on The Daily Show - Part 1Part 2
Book of Mormon Girl goes to the Daily Show! Inside Edition
• If you're in Salt Lake, go see Joanna at Sam Weller's Books in Trolley Square on Thursday, Aug 23rd at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, August 17, 2012

MMM Sermons: "School Thy Feelings, O My Brother"

by Saint Mark (bio)

image via Brendan Clary
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. Read previous MMM Sermons here or watch this specific sermon here.

I come from a family of anger. In fact, anger is a dominant characteristic on both sides of my family. My fifty year-old uncle on one side of the family frequently tells me of experiences where he is drawn into fisticuffs with another driver or a neighbor. His father would huck a shoe at him if he or his siblings crossed in front of the television while it was on, so it's understandable where my uncle gets his rage. On the other side, my father was a wife beater. On various occassions, he broke my mom's jaw and other bones when my mom would do something irritating like give a girlfriend a ride home from work and be home fifteen minutes late. Yes, I have experienced and know the waves of fiery anger that can consume natural men and women, their marriages, their children, their families, even their entire lives.

It hasn't been a cake walk, but I have disciplined myself over many years to fight this natural tendency (thanks to the Lord and His gospel) and now I am training my sons to discipline themselves and prevent the angry fire from consuming them.

I hadn't really heard an honest, frank discussion about anger until President Thomas S. Monson addressed it in the October 2009 General Conference. The shocking accounts and redemptive power of the Savior to help you and I overcome any and all faults contained in this sermon are awesome in the denotative sense of the word. Here are just a few:
Recently as I watched the news on television, I realized that many of the lead stories were similar in nature in that the tragedies reported all basically traced back to one emotion: anger. The father of an infant had been arrested for physical abuse of the baby. It was alleged that the baby’s crying had so infuriated him that he had broken one of the child’s limbs and several ribs. Alarming was the report of growing gang violence, with the number of gang-related killings having risen sharply. Another story that night involved the shooting of a woman by her estranged husband, who was reportedly in a jealous rage after finding her with another man. Then, of course, there was the usual coverage of wars and conflicts throughout the world.

I thought of the words of the Psalmist: “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath.”
How has anger affected your life and/or the lives of those around you?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Caleb Miracle

by LJ (bio)

Miracles always make me think about this section in the novel Peace like a River by Leif Enger:

For too long [the word "miracle"] has been used to characterize things or events that, though pleasant, are entirely normal. Peeping chicks at Easter time, spring generally, a clear sunrise after an overcast week -- a miracle, people say, as if they've been educated from greeting cards. I'm sorry, but nope. Such things are worth our notice every day of the week, but to call them miracles evaporates the strength of the word.

Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It's true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave -- now there's a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of earth.

There's a middle class of miracles, somewhere between greeting cards and Lazarus that is spelled out beautifully in this post by LDS author Louise Plummer, where she tells the story of teaching a class of Primary kids about how sometimes miracles just happen when we ask. One kid named Caleb said his miracle of choice would be a DS, and Louise made plans to send him one anonymously a few months later, reasoning his family couldn't afford one. 

By the next Sunday, Caleb had already gotten a DS from his grandmother, who brought it home from the school lost-and-found. ("The universe works without my manipulation?" Louise asks, aghast.)  

Let's call these middle-class miracles "the Caleb miracles." Caleb receiving a DS wasn't dramatic like a manna-shakedown, nor was it a normal and expected gift, like socks. 

I believe in Caleb miracles. I believe that when you speak your righteous goals and desires out loud, write them down, and work toward them every day, you can have them. Too many opportunities for greatness or even small successes are squandered by our own fear and self-loathing. Many of us don't even start one foot down the path because we think we can see so clearly the end from the beginning.

Words to Live By 2: On Questions

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Words to Live By is a series featuring short selections by eminent men and women from the mid-twentieth century. Originally published in This Week magazine, the selections represent a mosaic of what people were thinking and feeling in challenging times. Read previous entries here.

On Questions
by Bergen Evans (teacher and TV quiz expert)

"He that nothing questionith, nothing learneth" - Thomas Fuller

I think one of the most fruitful moments in my life came when my old zoology professor, Dr. Stephen Williams of Miami University, in Ohio, whom I greatly respected, told me that he would give any student an A in his course who asked one intelligent question.

Up to that time I had assumed that intelligence consisted of giving answers. Now I began to see that the question is as much a part of knowledge as the answer - often the more important part. Because it's the question that shows us what we don't know.

Men had assumed from the beginning of time that a heavier object fell faster than a lighter one - until Galileo said, "Does it?" Men had marveled at the giraffe's neck for thousands of years before Darwin asked, "Why?"

But it isn't just scientists who should ask questions. No one knows all the answers and if he thinks he does he has stopped thinking and growing. Part of being alive and in touch with the world around and within you lies in searching for your own answers, in asking your own questions.

It has been thirty-six years since my old teaching startled me with his pronouncement. For thirty of those years I have myself been a teacher. Most of the facts he taught me - most of the answers he gave me - have long been forgotten. But I have not forgotten that a questioning student is more important than an answering teacher.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mormon Soup - Episode 1

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

Introducing the very first episode of Mormon Soup! A new web series reviewing Mormon news, pop culture, and current events.

• What Makes Mormons Tick - Michael Otterson (The Washington Post)
• My Official Stance on Masturbation - Natasha Helfer Parker (The Mormon Therapist)
• Joanna Brooks interview on The Daily Show - Part 1 & Part 2
Book of Mormon Girl goes to the Daily Show! Inside Edition - Joanna Brooks (Ask Mormon Girl)
• The Top Five Regrets of the Dying - Seattle Jon (Modern Mormon Men)
• Bible Bashing - Kyle M (By Common Consent)
• Magnet Wall DIY - Jordan Ferney (Oh Happy Day)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Giveaway 13: Real Intimacy Book Launch

by Aimee (bio)

I have super good news! 
I have been teaching the marriage and family relations class in my ward. It has been a really fun calling and I am surprised that, with my job as a marriage therapist, this is the first time I have taught the class.

This isn't the good news yet.
The third lesson includes a section header reading "Proper intimacy in marriage is an expression of love." Since I have a speciality of working with issues of sexuality in my practice, I took the liberty of dedicating a whole class on the subject of intimacy and sex. I was a little nervous going into the class because it's not everyday you throw down words about sex during the Sunday School hour. I am happy to say that my class was super open and responded really well to the discussion. (Yeah Bothell 1st Ward couples!)

But this is still not the good news I referred to in the first sentence of this post. (Stick with me!)
It saddens me to see that the manual has only one paragraph about intimacy and sex. ONE! I have to confess, I see too much sexual dysfunction with members of the church (this could be a whole other post) and I feel passionate that we need more information on the subject of intimacy, sexuality, and experiencing more healthy interactions with our spouses. Most members do not feel comfortable reading books outside of LDS authors so our options are slim pickins' when it comes to recommendations. There are only a few LDS books written on the subject. 

And now for the great news. (Thanks for your patience, friends.) 
I was able to get my hands on an advance reader's copy of the book being launched today called Real Intimacy: A Couple's Guide to Healthy, Genuine Sexuality. As I was reading, I believe I heard angels singing in the background. With chapters regarding understanding your sexual history, creating conversations, and guilt, shame, and secrecy with sexuality, the therapist inside me sung for joy. These are the topics that need to be written about! These are the honest conversations we need to be having about intimacy! We need frank, direct, open education on how we can be showing up better in our Mormon marriages, and the book does just that. No more divorces over this issue. No. More. Divorces. This book is a blessing to our people, people. A blessing I tell you. Get reading today. I promise it will be a great addition to your book collection. And it is really fun to read. Your wife or husband will like it too. I promise. 

You knew it was coming...
Guess who said we get to giveaway a book?! That's right. The authors got some book giveaway love and we want you to win.

Giveaway Guidelines:
• You have THREE chances to enter. Each option requires a SEPARATE comment.
   - Leave a general comment.
   - Like the MMM Facebook page or share the giveaway on Facebook. Leave a comment saying you did.
   - Share the giveaway via Twitter or follow MMM on Twitter. Leave a comment saying you did.

• You have 7 days to enter (closes Tuesday, August 21st at midnight).
• Winner chosen via and announced Wednesday, August 22nd.
• Winner must respond via email with their address by Friday, August 24th to claim the book.

And in the meantime check out their links:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Linger Longer 12

Linger Longer is a series where we highlight articles that recently caught our attention. Suggest religious blogs to add or recommend your own articles in the comments. Click here for previous entries.

Bloggernacle (religious)
Sharing My Husband (Segullah)
Mormons in Congress 2012 (By Common Consent)
Finding My Heavenly Mother, Part 1 (Times and Seasons)
I've Ruined Everything For Myself (Feminist Mormon Housewives)
The Mormon Adolescent: Roles and Responsibilities (Zelophehad's Daughters)
Curiosity (Dandelion Mama)
Bishop Bill Reel On Being A Mormon Bishop (Mormon Stories)
A Call(ing) for Cooperative Leadership, Part I (The Exponent)
Empowering Women God's Way (Wheat & Tares)
Dressing the Dead (Reprise) (Keepapitchinin)
Three New Singles From Hot Mormon Bands (A Motley Vision)
An Open Letter (Doves and Serpents)
Climbing Up the Child’s Ladder: Catechism for Little Saints (The Juvenile Instructor)
Apologetics in the Academy (Faith-Promoting Rumor)
Book of Mormon Girl Goes to the Daily Show: Inside Edition (Ask Mormon Girl)
Does Mormonism Encourage LDS People to Lie? (Religion Dispatches)
My Official Stance on Masturbation (The Mormon Therapist)
Thou Knowest That I Believe (Mormon Interpreter)

Off-Bloggernacle (non-religious)
Card Swipes in Church Make Giving Easier (The New York Times) *Seattle Jon quoted*
Pay Too Much (Allen Tucker)
Yoda (What If?) and Mole of Moles (What If?)
An American Nun Responds To Vatican Criticism (NPR)
Once Upon A Time: The Lure of the Fairy Tale (The New Yorker)
Old Polymaths Never Die (More Intelligent Life)
USA Quick Facts (U.S. Census Bureau)
Study: Awe-Inspiring Experiences Change Our Perception of Time (The Atlantic)
A World Without Coral Reefs (The New York Times)
Does Quantum Physics Make It Easier to Believe in God? (Big Questions Online)
Beyond 7 Billion (Los Angeles Times)
Did Your Brain Make You Do It? (The New York Times)
Where to Find Inspiration: 50 Quotes for Writers (Write to Done)
Has the Meaning of Nothing Changed? (Slate)

Giveaway 12: Winner

Congratulations to ROC (link to comment), winner of the following church books. Respond via email with your address by Friday, August 17th to claim the books.Thanks everyone for participating and look for another church book giveaway before too long!

Why the Church is as True as the Gospel (Eugene England)
111 Days to Zion (Hal Knight & Stanley Kimball)
• Mothers of the Prophets (Leonard Arrington and Susan Arrington Madsen)
Women's Voices: An Untold History of the Latter-Day-Saints 1830-1900 (Kenneth Godfrey)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Guest Post: What Do Modern Mormon Men Want?

Kickstarter site: here
Film blog: here
Director's website: here

Since 2010 Handkerchief Films has been working on a documentary about Fascinating Womanhood, the 1960s marriage manual published by Helen Andelin, a Mormon and Arizona native.

In her book she argues that women really just want to be loved, cherished and adored. And men want to be respected. This is the main thrust of all five of her books, her classes (taught all over the world by volunteers) and her website (still maintained by her son). Her husband, Aubrey, also wrote a book aimed at male readers with the same message, entitled Man of Steel and Velvet.

We don’t even have to make a joke about that title, do we?

Her media empire, as it were, instructs women how to get their men to adore them by teaching them how to respect their men. And what does respect look like?

Andelin argues, as does her husband, that respect for men means making them feel manly and needed. And that one way to do this is to emphasize the gender differences between you and your spouse. For women this means cultivating dependence, submissiveness, and childlikeness. As she says near the end of the 2007 edition of Fascinating Womanhood, "… men never want women to grow up completely. Truly fascinating women always remain somewhat little girls, regardless of age” (377).

In the documentary we work to balance the perspective of many women who feel that using the manuals saved their marriages against the perspective of many others who argue that Fascinating Womanhood is destructive to men and women, that it encourages a state of marital affairs that was only popular for about 50 years in America, which we've gladly left behind.

So, Modern Mormon Men, what do you want? Are love and respect so different that one is appropriate only for women and the other for men? Have women lost the ability to show their men how important they are? Do men want girlish wives? What makes a woman fascinating?

Tell us what you think, and spread the news about our documentary.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Walking the Labyrinth at Grace

by Bradly Baird (bio)

On a recent visit to San Francisco, I visited the Nob Hill neighborhood and participated in morning prayer at one of my favorite American churches, Grace Cathedral. Grace is widely known throughout the world as the home of a most progressive and innovative Episcopal congregation that is deeply committed to the community in San Francisco. The cathedral sanctuary also contains remarkable art, including an AIDS memorial altar - a distinctive piece of iconography - designed by the late artist, Keith Haring

I entered the sanctuary quietly, moved toward the central altar, turned right, and found my way to the Chapel of the Nativity. I sat just outside the chapel entrance with three members of the congregation and listened attentively as a Deacon of the cathedral performed readings from the Old and New Testament, including a most interesting reading from the Book of Joshua.

At the conclusion of this short spiritual service, I moved toward the center of the sanctuary, just behind the pews for the congregation and stood in front of a large labyrinth cut into the stone floor. This impressive work stands about fifty feet in diameter and its configuration models the classical seven circuit labyrinth (meaning that you walk seven complete circles before reaching its center).

As I walked towards its entrance, I noticed a small sign that contained instructions. In addition to explaining possible modes of prayer, the sign informed me that I might wish to remove my shoes at the entrance and walk barefoot, thereby enhancing the experience. I thought this a terrific idea and sat on a stone stair just in front of the labyrinth, placing my shoes at the path's origin.

I stood up, calmed myself for a moment, and carefully followed the pathway. The effect of walking the circuits centered my thoughts and while walking, I took the opportunity to converse with my Heavenly Father. I felt the Spirit flow through me as I repented of my mistakes, expressed gratitude, and discussed my life. The whole experience lasted about twenty minutes or so and when finished, I restored my shoes to their proper place and left the cathedral to enjoy the rest of my day in the city.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Back in February I read an article about Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative nurse (a nurse who provides treatment and counsel to patients who are dying of incurable illnesses) who recorded the dying epiphanies of her patients in a book titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

In the book, Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware. I hope they help to put things into perspective for you, as they did for me.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hometown Cooking

by Casey Peterson (bio)

In Utah, parade season is in full bloom. Pioneer Day, Strawberry Days, Onion Days, Pony Express Days, Lamb Days, and [insert small town name] Days bring together locals, those with local ties who no longer reside in the area, and out of town visitors. These are times that bring everyone together, reestablish old ties, and remind me of everything I love about American communities.

My hometown of Kanosh still boasts a robust parade with the floats either sponsored by an LDS ward subgroup (primary, scouts, young women, etc.) or being comprised of livestock (horses of various sizes, mules, goats, etc.). Other livestock is available for adoption (pending your ability to capture it among many other running people in an enclosed area of the park). Lubricants of all kinds are important as greased money poles, greased pigs, hair grease for the few men still clinging to the 50’s, and something that emits large black clouds of smoke from the old time tractors either in the parade or at the kid rides. Games, music, dances, and other social events fill in the gaps between the most important events … eating.

There is competitive eating, creative eating, and lots of over-eating. The best ticket into these events is your name. Standard pioneer stock town names guarantee lifetime membership in the town. If you're a "move in," the title doesn't ever expire, even if you've lived in the town your whole life. Some ecclesiastical callings (i.e. Bishop or scoutmaster) may expedite class distinction changes from import to native, as will any Scandinavian suffix on your last name or obviously accepted names like Smith, Young, or Hinckley that are like a social acceptance fast pass in Mormondom.

MMM Search Term Roundup 7: December 2011 & January 2012

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.

i hate my church calling mormon
You must be in scouts or the nursery... Wait a second... You're the bishop!

christmas dos and don'ts for lds
Do deck the halls, don’t neck in the halls.
Do spread holiday cheer, don’t drink holiday beer.
Do stand under the mistletoe, don't stand under the mistletoe until you're sixteen.

can mormon men and woman eat toghether
It’s discouraged, but not forbidden. My wife and I ate together a few months ago. It was spectacular. TMI?

lds friendships with gay people not allowed
It's okay as long as they don’t eat together.

what happens at modern mormon weddings
...stays at modern Mormon weddings.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Giveaway 12: Used Church Books 2

Seattle Jon lives a few blocks from what has to be one of the few Deseret Industries outside of Utah. With fewer members around to pick over the church books, he is constantly hoarding buying. For this giveaway, he is again dipping into his collection to offer the following church books to one lucky winner.

Why the Church is as True as the Gospel (Eugene England)
111 Days to Zion (Hal Knight & Stanley Kimball)
• Mothers of the Prophets (Leonard Arrington and Susan Arrington Madsen)
Women's Voices: An Untold History of the Latter-Day-Saints 1830-1900 (Kenneth Godfrey)

Giveaway Guidelines:
• You have THREE chances to enter. Each option requires a SEPARATE comment.
   - Leave a general comment (anonymous comments ignored).
   - Like the MMM facebook page. Leave a comment saying you did.
   - Share the giveaway via Twitter or follow MMM on Twitter. Leave a comment saying you did.

• You have 5 days to enter (closes Friday, August 10th at midnight).
• Winner chosen via and announced Monday, August 13th.
• Winner must respond via email with their address by Friday, August 17th to claim the books.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gays, Chick-Fil-A, and “The Golden Rule”

by Saint Mark (bio)

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I went to Chick-Fil-A as part of Chick-Fil-A’s partnership with Care & Share, a local food bank organization. If you brought in some cans of food you received free food from Chick-Fil-A. Not a bad deal.

Being my first time to ever eat at Chick-Fil-A, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of the food and the organization that served it. Not only are all Chick-Fil-As throughout the country closed on Sunday, but they give Berenstain Bears books as prizes in their kids’ meals. As a Christian, I appreciate and strive to support businesses that close their doors on Sundays to allow their workers to keep the Sabbath holy. I know this isn't possible with all "businesses"—I'm thinking of hospitals, fire stations, police stations, etc.—but I appreciate that if it is possible for a business to do it, they do it.

Moreover, my wife grew up on the Berenstain Bear books and loves them like a childhood blanket because of the ethical and moral values the books teach, whether it's about working out a disagreement, treating our minds and bodies as temples, or serving others. Now that we have kids, we've raised them on the same values that the Berenstain Bear books espouse and support with the assistance of the books themselves. The book given away at Chick-Fil-A was even more special to me because it was titled The Golden Rule and taught the importance of treating others as you would have them treat you—Christ's most famous teaching. This book is difficult to find in Barnes & Noble or any other secular book peddler. I walked away that day feeling very positive about the experience I had at Chick-Fil-A and decided to support it as a future frequent customer.

In an expression of my support, I intended to write a positive post on Facebook about my experience. Then, the very next day, I read about the CEO of the Jim Henson Company severing the Muppets affiliation with Chick-Fil-A because of the comment made by the President of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy, regarding marriage and his inferred opposition to same-sex marriage.

Then, all heck broke loose over Dan Cathy’s comment with protests from the LGBT community and its supporters in this way and this way.

Other MMM Posts

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