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DON'T MISS: What has @ldsbishop learned in his first five years? Read his latest post.
ALL-STARS: New to the blog? Check out MMM classics on vasectomies, parenting, casseroles and YSAs.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Post: Reclaiming Tragedy As Our Natural Birthright



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).

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

Image via Wonderlane.

We sat in silence. My psychologist was not writing anymore, his hands folded neatly on his lap. He stared at me, breathing slowly, unable to speak. For months I had been meeting with him to discuss my addiction to pornography, my crisis of faith in the LDS Church, and the growing divide between myself and my wife, which had recently brought us to the brink of divorce. For months we had worked together, my psychologist and I, trying to to find a middle ground, a workable solution to these divisive tensions within me. Maybe I needed a new profession in academia, a place to vent my intellectual steam in ways not related to the Church. Maybe I needed to move to a more liberal city, where I wouldn't feel so alone in my Ward. The other option, one which we were loathe to even mention, though it screamed silently from my falling tears and wringing hands, was the possibility that I needed to leave my wife and the Church, and pursue my intellectual interests without fear or compromise.

I felt like an outsider in the Church. For years I had devoted myself to the contemplation of philosophy and poetry. At first I looked in these writings for validation of my own religious teaching. When I read Socrates espouse a theory of learning as recollection, my mind went immediately to the Pre-Mortal realm and the veil of forgetfulness as taught by Joseph Smith. When a physics instructor challenged the Christian notion of creation ex nihilo on the basis of the First Law of Thermodynamics, I smiled and remembered that we Mormons understand that God only organized existent matter to form the Universe. But with time, I wondered if seeing everything through a Mormon lens might limit my understanding of these important ideas. I began to develop the ability to set aside my religious biases and encounter these thinkers on their own terms. Fidelity to dogma became replaced by permeability and open-mindedness. This led naturally to questions about the fundamental tenants of the faith of my youth: What if there isn't a God? What if Joseph Smith's claims to revelations and the origin of the Book of Mormon are better explained along naturalistic, rather than miraculous, lines?

We had stewed together for a month, my psychologist and I, over what seemed an impossible situation: I desperately love both my wife and my Church, and yet these represent an all out war on my most natural physical and philosophical inclinations.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

MMM Quotes 8: Mark Twain



by Seattle Jon (bio)

via Mark Twain's Interactive Scrapbook on PBS
In this excerpt from Mark Twain's Letters, Volume 2, Twain addresses plagiarism charges that had been made against his friend, Helen Keller, some 11 years prior, when her short story "The Frost King" was found to be strikingly similar to Margaret Canby's "Frost Fairies." Heller was acquitted after an investigation, but the incident stuck with Twain and prompted him to pen the following words about creativity and originality more than a decade later. What are your (unoriginal) thoughts about his words?

"Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that 'plagiarism' farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul – let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances – is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men – but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington's battle, in some degree, and we call it his; but there are others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone or any other important thing – and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite – that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that."

Amazing New Exercise Plan Fitness Experts Don't Want You To Know About!



by Dustin (bio)

Photo by telmo32.

I'm on this new workout plan and it is the greatest thing I've ever done. I've tried P90X and it's predecessor, Body for Life. I've lifted weights for years, completed triathlons and run half-marathons. In all my time, I've never done an easier or more effective workout than this. It's time-friendly and inexpensive. And simple to a fault. I just had to share.

To preface, I haven't truly consistently worked out in more than a year. With my calling in the seminary program and my work and family, time for working out has diminished to zero. This has resulted in all kinds of nastiness. Pecs are soft and malleable, arms are skinny like broomsticks, shoulders are bony, and I've got more love than I can handle padding my kidneys. Short story: I feel gross and look worse.

Enter the new regimen. I discovered it after reading the bio of a buddy from high school with a similar trajectory. After graduating he put on more than 30 pounds of the wrong kind of weight. He felt awful and decided he needed to do something to turn it around. So this is what he did, and what I've tried for the past week with noticeable success. After doing it, he went from running one mile with pain to running five, then eight, then a half marathon. He transitioned to triathlons and recently began full Ironmans. He now trains triathletes for a living, all in a little less than six years.

So here's the plan. Get your pen and paper ready: Do Something.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guest Post: Four Portraits of Polygamy



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).

DanH is originally from Salt Lake City but currently resides in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is working on a project to measure residents' happiness, among other things. He is an early member of Outstitute, a tight-knit association of Cantabridgians and Somervillians who meet each week to discuss interesting topics related to Mormonism. Read DanH's first guest post here.


What's the most accurate portrait of polygamy? Well, it depends on what timeframe and what version of polygamy you have in mind.

Perhaps the realest of any media is Sister Wives, an addicting reality show about a large family in suburban Utah. This is an easy choice, obviously, because it is a reality show. I would argue, however, that the most accurate portrayal of polygamy - in this case nineteenth-century, church-sanctioned polygamy - is actually an old novel called The Giant Joshua (Maurine Whipple).

Set in St. George in the era of Brigham Young, The Giant Joshua is a poignant story of a relatively young girl who marries a devout, if complexly cruel, leader in the Dixie Mission. The nouns in the novel are redolent of early Utah history, and it is clear that the author did an enormous amount of research to capture the true drama of polygamy. The book received a mixed reception, but was hailed by none other than Eugene England as "not the great mormon novel, but the greatest."

Another potential candidate is Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist (also mentioned here by Scott Hales), which received an excellent review in an article called "The Great Mormon Novel: Where is It?" It's funny to me that the two candidates for the great mormon novel are both about polygamy and are both set in Southern Utah. That said, however, Udall's character, Golden Richards, is totally different from the protagonist in The Giant Joshua. Despite their differences, Udall's novel is totally infectious. Throughout the unfolding plot, you can't help but sympathize with the fringe polygamist, Golden, who haplessly stumbles through life with three wives and a brood of children. I really can't recommend this book highly enough.

Finally, there is Big Love. In some ways, Big Love seems to be the furthest from what might be called an accurate portrayal of polygamy. The characters live in large homes in a neighborhood that looks like Sandy, and they are assimilated into mainstream Utah culture in almost every way. Nevertheless, there are certainly groups of people who associate with the lives and struggles of Bill, Barb, Nicki and Margene.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Glad Tidings: An Appreciation of The Book of Mormon



by Bradly Baird (bio)

Bradly lecturing the Senior Primary
I cannot quite comprehend the fact that as soon as Singing Time began today, I lost my temper with the children of the Senior Primary. I stopped the opening song halfway through, lectured them on paying attention and being reverent, and made them sing the opening song again. I cannot quite believe that I was rude to one of our children and to a teacher who came to her defense after my unkind salvo. What I do know is that I was grumpy, tired, and had developed a massive headache throughout the course of our meetings today, and I allowed those feelings to interfere with my teaching. I didn't feel better until I settled down this afternoon and read these words from the Book of Mormon (and then repented of my misdeed).

Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up.

And he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead, whereby man must be raised to stand before his judgment–seat.

And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.

Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews, which record shall come from the Gentiles unto you.

For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe that; and if ye believe that ye will believe this also; and if ye believe this ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them. (Mormon 7:5-9)


So tonight, at the close of a rough Sabbath day, I express my sincerest gratitude to a loving Heavenly Father for his extraordinary plan of happiness and for his willingness to forgive me when I have offended one of his most precious children. It was a humbling experience and I gratefully receive the lessons of the day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The First Date to the 101st Date



by brettmerritt (bio)

I just read an article on Primer called, "4 Simple First Dates that Don't Involve Dinner" and it got me thinking a lot about dates and dating and my dating past.

My first date with Amelia was a dinner and a movie.

I am willing to bet that a high number of people reading this did the exact same thing on their first date. Now, there is nothing wrong with this. I love dinner. I love movies. So does my wife.

But it got me thinking that of the 160-175 dates we've been on in our courtship and marriage, 140 of them are probably dinner and a movie. That's not great. I mean, it's fiiiiiine but there's no magic. Ideally, we would take more chances and do a variety of activities. The point is that it's up to us to make our dates fun and ensure it's a time where we are actually reconnecting with and enjoying the company of our spouse (or significant other). The more adventurous we can make our dating, the more alive our relationship will feel. I hope, anyway. This is new territory for me.

The trouble with this plan is the planning. In fact, one of the times we decided to forgo dinner/movie, we went to a concert. We stood in line in the rain, bundled up, waiting for the delay to be over and enter the venue. After nearly two hours of this, we gave up and walked back to our car a mile away and as we got in, we heard the music start. Yay.

So, here are some simple alternatives to the dinner and movie first date or 101st date (some borrowed from the aforementioned Primer article):
  • Walk through the mall reminiscing about how much it has changed and how you have changed, eating ice cream or sipping a Julius while window shopping for running shoes or khakis. You'll find plenty to laugh about too.

MMM Sermons: "We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down"



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.

Read or watch the sermon here.

First of all, don't you just love this photo! Elder Hales and he should have a jet fighter challenge. I'd much rather see them fly onto an aircraft carrier under a banner that says "Mission Accomplished."

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf began his April 2009 General Conference sermon with a story, which is similar to how President Monson usually speaks. And, like President Monson, President Uchtdorf captures my attention.
On a dark December night 36 years ago, a Lockheed 1011 jumbo jet crashed into the Florida Everglades, killing over 100 people. This terrible accident was one of the deadliest crashes in the history of the United States.

A curious thing about this accident is that all vital parts and systems of the airplane were functioning perfectly—the plane could have easily landed safely at its destination in Miami, only 20 miles away.

During the final approach, however, the crew noticed that one green light had failed to illuminate—a light that indicates whether or not the nose landing gear has extended successfully. The pilots discontinued the approach, set the aircraft into a circling holding pattern over the pitch-black Everglades, and turned their attention toward investigating the problem.

They became so preoccupied with their search that they failed to realize the plane was gradually descending closer and closer toward the dark swamp below. By the time someone noticed what was happening, it was too late to avoid the disaster.

After the accident, investigators tried to determine the cause. The landing gear had indeed lowered properly. The plane was in perfect mechanical condition. Everything was working properly—all except one thing: a single burned-out lightbulb. That tiny bulb—worth about 20 cents—started the chain of events that ultimately led to the tragic death of over 100 people.

Of course, the malfunctioning lightbulb didn’t cause the accident; it happened because the crew placed its focus on something that seemed to matter at the moment while losing sight of what mattered most.
President Uchtdorf speaks of having pure thoughts and that the key to such is filling our minds and lives with good things. I know people like to list what is not good for us in the world, but, to you, what are some good things that are on this earth?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Guest Post: The Crystal Baptisiversary



In spite of his pretentious pseudonym, GMP is much like any other single, active, lifelong member of the Church. He enjoys reading and writing, working on his car, and finding new music to become obsessed with, in addition to jogging, camping, and snowboarding. Ladies, he's pretty much your dream guy, except in that he is a self-proclaimed homosexual. His blog, Gay Mormon Pioneer, is a window into the life of the Millennial gay Mormon, struggling to live in accordance with the Gospel and occasionally succeeding. There, he chronicles his struggles with pornography and his desire to enter the temple, serve a mission, get married, and raise a family, with bits of his boring daily life thrown in the mix. Check out GMP's first guest post here.


Photo by Asako Narahashi.

May 3rd was the anniversary of my baptism. Fifteen years ago, I unknowingly made the most complicated and confusing commitment I've ever made, one that will have implications on every other commitment I make in this life and the life to come.

Today, I was reflecting on that decision I made as an eight year-old tot. I tried to remember the feelings I had before and after the baptism, but aside from embarrassment at having my toe float to the surface and needing to be dunked again, I don't remember much. I remember snippets from my interview with the bishop, his unusually grave attitude giving me some pause about the choice I was about to make. But, as with most  eight year-old kids, I was ultimately excited to be baptized, and anyway, I didn't feel like I had much choice in the matter. I looked forward to being a member and receiving the gift of Holy Ghost, but it felt like I wouldn't be allowed to choose otherwise even if I wanted to.

Did my young, bespectacled self realize the deputation he was accepting? Could he have possibly foreseen the life he would lead? If he did fully understand what he was taking on himself, what was his motivation? And if he couldn't see what the future was to bring, would he have changed his mind granted that knowledge?

I was thinking about that when a scripture I heard this week came to mind. Found in Romans 8:16-18, it reads:

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

This scripture made me realize that today is a day of celebration. Little GMP made the choice to be baptized, and whether that choice was motivated by lemming-like imitation, a burden to please my parents and the primary president, or a genuine desire to serve the Lord and commit myself to His gospel, I'm grateful he was baptized.

Ultimately speaking, that decision could be blamed for all the internal conflict I feel, the pressure to do what others would have me do, and the anonymous rejection I sometimes experience from my friends and neighbors. But those unfortunate circumstances are more than offset by the peace and solace I find every day through the grace of the Atonement and via the comforting guidance of the Holy Ghost. The storms in my life are aptly calmed because of the good choices one kid made 15 years ago. He might not have had the ability to see the future, but if I had the ability to change the past, I wouldn't try to change his mind. Might warn him about his buoyant toes, though.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Is Your Ear On The Track?



by Seattle Jon (bio)

image by Seattle Jon, taken at Teddy Bear Cove
A few weeks ago, we welcomed a seven year-old boy into our home. After nearly five years of trying to adopt, Jonny is a long-awaited addition and a blessing we were beginning to doubt would ever happen. Needless to say, his presence had an immediate impact on us.

My wife and I had driven alone to pick up Jonny in Portland while a good friend watched our other three children. After arriving home and giving him a quiet tour of our house, we took Jonny to have dinner at our friends’ house. They live on the ocean, so the kids (our four, their two) asked me to take them across the railroad tracks and up the beach to a shelter someone had built. The first thing I did once we exited their yard was to show Jonny how to listen for trains by putting his ear on the track.

After an hour of playing, we started back. The two oldest boys were already up the beach, past the stairs leading up to the tracks. They yelled that they’d climb the rocks and wait for us. Looking south, the tracks are visible for miles and miles and I didn’t see any trains. Turning north, the tracks bend out of sight a few hundred yards up the beach. Not seeing or hearing anything there either, I gave them a thumbs up and marched the remaining four kids up the stairs and onto the tracks for the short walk back to the house.

The first thing Jonny did was put his ear on the track, then to my surprise he said, “I hear a train.”

Mouse Killer



by MAB (bio)

Since we moved to an apartment in Amsterdam nearly a year ago, we've had a little mouse problem. Apparently it's nearly impossible to not harbor a few of the pests when living in this old city with its old buildings. One of the many perks, I guess, of living the exciting international life.

One of the first things I did was go out and buy a couple of those old-fashioned mouse traps. The kind that are difficult to set and apparently don't work very well. At least not with our mice. I would wake up in the morning to find they had cleaned off whatever I put out as bait but nothing was ever caught. 

After a few weeks of inadvertently feeding them off the traps, I stopped my attempts and decided to just let them be. I figured they were just cleaning the crumbs off our floor anyway. But over time I got this nagging feeling that these mice were direct descendants of the mice (or was it just the rats?) that helped spread the Plague. No, there are no fleas so my fears are irrational, but still mice are supposed to be dirty right?

Anyway, two days ago I entered our shower room (showers and bathrooms are separate here, long story) which is all tile and leaves little egress for adventurous rodents. While flossing I caught a glimpse of a wee mouse from the corner of my eye. It was trapped in a tiled corner with no where to go.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Saintspeak 9: The Letter G



by Seattle Jon (bio)

Another installment from Saintspeak, the mormon humor dictionary from Orson Scott Card. Previous installments can be found here. Reproduced with permission from Signature Books.

G.A. 1. Abbreviation for General Authority: "Do we have a G.A. at stake conference?" 2. Nickname used by missionaries for the Catholic Church: "The reason we don't baptize much here is because everybody belong to the G.A." (great and abominable church)

Gathering The practice of separating the Saints from the world by bringing them to live together at one place where they can build a perfect society that will be an example of godliness to everyone, as was done in Jackson County, Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois; and Provo, Utah. Nowadays the Saints are told not to gather anymore, except at BYU during football season.

Genealogy The study of your ancestry in order to link up with someone famous in the Church, or, failing that, to link up with an active family that already has your genealogy done for you.

Glory of God Is Intelligence In their humility, Mormons generally avoid seeking after glory.

Golden Question "What do you know about the Mormon Church? Would you like to know more?" A question Mormons regularly ask non-members, but rarely think to ask themselves.

Greenie A missionary so new in the mission field that he still believes his district leader is always inspired, people are eager to hear the gospel, and his girlfriend will wait for him.

Guest Post: An Opportunity For Honesty



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).

Ben Prime is a BYU graduate in Audiology and Speech-language Pathology from 2009. He is also a Graduate student in Communication Sciences and Disorders (Speech-language Pathology for those not up on their terms). He is single, modern, Mormon and incidentally, male. Read Ben's first guest post here.

One of the best things about being a Speech-Language Pathology student is that regularly we get to talk to very inspiring people. Very rarely is it anyone famous. Generally they are very ordinary people who have some connection to our field. Often they are people with disabilities, or caretakers of people with disabilities.

Today was one such treat. I won't go into the woman, or her disability, that’s not what matters. What matters is that you know that she has a visible disability acquired as an adult, with all the mourning and struggles that such a disability entails (which are similar to, but different from, the mourning and struggles of a disability from birth).

She shared with us how her therapist had dared her to go out in public and reintegrate into her life, and how hard it was at first. She then shared with us how when she'd finally gotten to the point where she was comfortable with reemerging, a child asked her parents at the grocery store, "What's wrong with that lady?"  This is where the woman becomes extraordinary. She asks the parents' permission to talk to their child and explains, "I was sick, and because of that now I have to talk differently." A very simple and honest answer.

To which the child responded, "Cool! Can I try?"

She went on to explain how we, as speech therapists, should encourage people in her position to speak up for themselves. She said, "In that moment when someone first asks a question is an opportunity for honesty." After the presentation, I went up to thank her and asked if I could pass on this pearl of wisdom. She said, "Please do."

I feel like I've stumbled on a major theoretical refiguring of my life. Instead of seeing it as frustrating to explain the gospel, a disorder, my work, my life or anything else to someone, I can now try my best to see that first moment of questioning as an opportunity for honesty.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Uchtdorf Meme



by Scott Hales (bio)

If you've been on the internet lately you've no doubt come across internet memes, those pesky works of viral pop art that occasionally show up on your Facebook News Feed. You know, like the lolcats, the Y U No Guy, and my personal favorite, the Condescending Willy Wonka.

Not surprisingly, Mormons have been quick to jump on the internet meme bandwagon. For example, on Facebook, you can join the group BYU Memes and have all sorts of fun looking at the Mormon- and BYU-themed memes that Mormon Facebookers from around the world have come up with. You'll also notice, as I have, that a subgenre of the Mormon meme is developing: The Uctdorf Meme!

Here are just a few examples:




For a while, this image got a lot of sky mileage...


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Who Are You, the King of the World?



by LJ (bio)

As soon as my son learned to stand a few months ago, he stood up at the front of the Target shopping cart, gripped the red plastic mesh with one fist, and crowed.

He stood there the rest of the time we shopped, teetering dangerously akimbo on his skinny little legs as if at the prow of a ship, holding his free fist aloft and chortling in glee at his own power.

"Who are you, the king of the world or something?" I asked, taking one of his little curls between my fingers. Not being the talkative type, he just gave me one of his famous gap-toothed grins and we went along.

I've been thinking about this moment as a sort of metaphor for my parenting style. Even though he's just squeaked over the one year mark, I want so much to give The Boy the chance at some of these victories. The problem is, they usually only come around when I stop worrying about him.

Choosing not to worry is hard. It's the hardest thing I do every day, especially when there are other moms looking on. (In Young Momdom, the amount you worry over your kid is directly proportional to how much you love them.) I was recently at a backyard birthday party when a young mom flew across the grass, stooped down and pulled two pebbles out of my son's mouth.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Seeking Your MTC Experience



by Bradly Baird (bio)

At present, I am developing a manuscript that I hope will someday become a book. I started writing the manuscript because of my recent experiences as a service missionary at the Provo Missionary Training Center, and because of wonderful associations with full-time missionaries, volunteers, teachers, supervisors and other service missionaries. Much of the manuscript concerns not only the spiritual opportunities available to those who live and serve there, but also the first-hand experiences from missionaries who have been through the center's refining fires. I am not seeking to know about deeply personal experiences, the ones that should not be shared with the world. Rather, I am interested in the day-to-day life of a missionary-in-training, and in MTC culture that arises within companionships and districts.

With this in mind, I am throwing open the doors and inviting anyone who wishes to share their MTC experiences with me. To help out, I have provided nine questions that I would like answered. Responses may be long (as long as one likes) or short and need not necessarily follow the questions below. When complete, please send any response to bradlybaird@gmail.com. I will keep all of the responses completely confidential and will not share them. If anything is sent and it winds up in the manuscript - and hopefully published - I will get permission before I make use of it and will give full credit (unless someone wishes to be quoted anonymously), so please send an email address (or some other means of contact) along with the response, in case I need to follow up.

1) Did you feel prepared to enter the MTC and how did you prepare?

2) What was your experience in a companionship?

On Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Floods, Fires, Volcanos, Mudslides, Tsunamis, and Worse



by Saint Mark (bio)

I'm sorry. I can't believe that [fill in the blank] destroyed your [town/city/state/country/area of the world]. I pray you and your loved ones are all right. Because of the experience you have gone through, I felt the need to write this post. I hope it gives some hope to you in your time of need.

From my own personal experience of 36+ years on this planet, I can't help but feel that the volume of natural disasters that occur each year has increased over time. As I have studied the scriptures, these calamities seem to be in line with what was foretold. For example:

"Behold I speak for mine elect’s sake; for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places." (Matthew 24:7; see also JSM 1:29)

"And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great." (Revelations 16:18)

"And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven." (Luke 21:11)

"And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places." (Mormon 8:30)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Guest Post: Inoculation



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).

Ben Johnson grew up in the heart of Mormon country, just outside of Salt Lake City. Given the unsophisticated nature of his palette ("what's a filet?") he was sent to Denver on his mission, where he grew to love even more types of cereal. Post-mission Ben broke his mother’s heart by attending and, *gasp*, graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in Finance. Whether he does anything with that degree is another matter. Determined to prove that the system works, Ben met his future wife Katti in a single’s ward. It was nothing like the movie. Ben currently lives just outside Salt Lake City with his beautiful wife and two cereal-eating kids, Elizabeth "Chuck" (8) and Jacob (6). If you missed them, make sure you read Ben's previous guest posts about Halloween and Ward Librarians.

…wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear. (D&C 38:30)

The subject of ‘inoculation’ has been on my mind recently. As I sat down to write this post I remembered that back in January my brother and I had an email conversation somewhat related to this topic. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve reproduced the email stream below in its entirety. I think it represents an honest, off-the-cuff discussion between two brothers who have encountered and dealt with what could be considered troubling aspects of church doctrine and history.

Just in case, here is a quick definition of inoculation (hat tip Times & Seasons): Inoculation refers to any proposal to systematically provide helpful and accurate information about troubling LDS doctrinal and historical issues to members of the Church so they aren’t taken by surprise when presented with such information from unfriendly sources.

Frankly, I debated whether to even write this post. In theory I am all for inoculation, but in practice I want nothing to do with it. I don’t want to be the guy who kills someone’s testimony because I can’t talk about polygamy in the right way.

In any event, the email string is below (I used brackets any time I felt like some clarification was needed). What do you think about inoculation? Should it be practiced? If so, what is the best way? I honestly don’t know and I would appreciate any thoughts people have.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kids Do "Sabotage"



by Scott Heffernan (bio)

As a companion to Seattle Jon's wonderful tribute to MCA, please enjoy this video of kids reenacting the Beastie Boys' famous "Sabotage" music video.



The AMAZING original video, directed by Spike Jonze, here.

R.I.P: Adam Yauch aka MCA



by Seattle Jon (bio)

Adam Yauch aka MCA, one of the three Beastie Boys, died recently after a three-year bout with throat cancer. His death, and the ensuing media attention, caused me to reflect on why I still listen to the group’s music, including exposing my own kids to certain songs.


I was in the sixth grade when someone handed me the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill cassette tape. I remember looking at the cover – of the airplane crashing into the cliff – and feeling something … a connection.

Maybe I felt what I did because my own adolescent life felt a bit out of control, like I was piloting something too big to control for the first time. Or maybe it was because I, too, felt like crashing into life’s cliffs in defiance of my parents and church leaders. At that age and time, things like girls, alcohol and vandalism were starting to be discussed and experimented with, and as a young Mormon boy I didn’t want to feel left behind.

I wasn’t actually exposed to the music until later that year, when a friend did a lip sync of You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party for the sixth-grade talent show. The song became an anthem for me, even if I didn’t yet realize what partying really meant. Later, I listened to Paul Revere and remember being amazed that a story could be rapped. At the time, the Three Brothers and the Sheriff were relatable to me in ways the characters in the scriptures never were.

Subsequent albums, including Paul's Boutique and Check Your Head, influenced me in different ways yet still moved me to action, both positively and negatively. To this day, I continue to keep the Beastie Boys Anthology close at hand for a quick listen, most recently on the way up to our region’s church basketball tournament. (I needed something to get me angry, because that’s how church basketball is played, right?)

Over the years I’ve learned to miss more cliffs than I crash into, I’ve learned to party (you should see me after six Diet Cokes … I’m a mess) and I’ve learned to appreciate the characters in the scriptures in meaningful ways, but I’ll never stop being a Beastie Boy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Tips & Thoughts



Mother's Day Tip #1: Don't hide the affection you feel towards the mothers in your life.

Mother's Day Tip #2: Also, don't literally hide the mothers in your life. (no, those kids aren't sitting on a badly-upholstered chair)

Mother's Day Thoughts from MMM Contributors

Thanks, mother, for instilling in me a love of the following: yarn, nature, Matlock, singing German operas in a fake falsetto, bottle caps, hats with feathers in them, stories about owl rescues, Hee-Haw, fake cheese, real cheese, Lehi, Nephi, Nehi grape soda, the town of Lehi, hankies, Fibber McGee and Molly, saying the word "gal," ribbon cutting ceremonies and responsibility. (Bishop Higgins)

To Mother-dear: Thank you for teaching me how to make pie crust, sink my teeth into impossible opportunities and still believe I'm invincible, somehow. I love you. (LJ)

I'm grateful to my mom for showing me that, no matter what is happening in your life: sickness, doubt, adversity, financial ruin, self-righteous ward members, sheer laziness, you get up on Sunday and you get yourself to church. Also, in regards to ward choir, use it or lose it! (My husband wishes I didn't follow that one so faithfully ...) Thanks, Mom! Love you! (May Jones)

The following quote by Robert Brault has been very true of my mother, whether it is my singing, my temperment, or my potential: "A mom reads you like a book, and wherever she goes, people read you like a glowing book review." (Saint Mark)

Moms: Doing what men are incapable of since the beginning of time. Thank you Mom and Wifey! - (Apparent Parent)

Mom, thanks for showing me that creativity, resilience, music, unconditional love, and the gospel can help make me better and happier. (brettmerritt)

It's still as true as when I said it when I was four: I'm glad Heavenly Father sent me to you. Love you Mom. (A-Dub)

Dear Mom: Thank you for The Outermost House, 84 Charing Cross Road, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, and the courage of my convictions. (Bradly Baird)

Mom: Thank you for being around and interested in every aspect of my life. Love you. (Seattle Jon)

With the perspective of a middle-aged father I can better appreciate your wisdom, patience and self sacrifice which has never wavered and which continually encourages me to be a better person. (MAB)

Many are so lucky as to have a hero in their life, but fortune has given me two, my mother and my wife. (Casey Peterson)

As a parent now I've learned to appreciate even more the activities you did with me and the time we spent together working on various projects. I'll always be grateful for all you've done and continue to do for me. (Pete Codella)

Thank you, Mom, for changing my diapers, educating me, teaching me discipline, providing a comfortable home, cooking great meals, sacrificing your time, surviving my teenage years, cheering me on my mission, loving my wife and kids, and, most importantly, showing me a Christlike example to live up to. I love you! (Dustin)

Thanks for always communicating your love to me as unconditional and for teaching me to value kindness. (ScottHeff)

Even though your legs don't work anymore you have managed to come at life with an amazing sense of humor and ability to make the world and everyone in it your friend. Thanks for always loving me for who I am and helping me gain a strong sense of self. You are loved today and everyday. (Aimee)

Friday, May 11, 2012

On Obituaries



by Saint Mark (bio)


What would you like people to say about you after you die? What do you think people will actually say?

That's the secret, right? It's been said that the biggest awakening we shall have is when the person we thought we were is compared to the person we actually were. Hopefully, we can live to make them one and the same.

But, alas, as we let other people and things shape our lives for us, this doesn't seem to occur. Watching TV about good fathers won't make us one. Spending time doing our own interests won't make up for missed time with our spouse or children. Listening to other people's inspiring stories won't give us those experiences for ourselves. Reading about other people's great lives won't make our lives any better.

Now is our chance! Our moment! This day is the day to change what people will read in our obits.

Getting the Names Right



by Bradly Baird (bio)

Cemeteries gently affect the spirit. As sentinels of our oh-so-human past, they also generously offer a sense that the veil is thin and the eternities very near. One can find a providential comfort - almost a solidarity with the past - as names, dates, and inscriptions are recited aloud, given thought, and sculptures are contemplated. I like to visit cemeteries wherever I go and it is always a great experience; even the oldest and most unkempt give me pause.

Every time I visit, I am reminded of a line from a favored television miniseries, Oliver's Travels. One of the main characters visits a monumental mason, named Mr. Delaney, who is carving the headstone of a recently murdered man. He inquires what Mr. Delaney knows of the man's death and Mr. Delaney replies, "Cause of death doesn't concern me. My job is to get the names right and comfort the bereaved with a little bit of beauty."

The part of the phrase that has stuck with me for years is "getting the names right," and it has - over the years - taken on a new meaning. It is a consideration of the way we commemorate the dead and whether we do it honorably. To "get the names right" means that if we honor the dead in a manner befitting the way they lived their lives, we have honored the dead well. And over the years I have encountered many people in memorial cults around the world who succeed in attempts at commemoration.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Guest Post: Hugh Nibley, Mormon Conservationist



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).

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


“If God were to despise all things beneath him, as we do, where would that leave us?” ~ Hugh W. Nibley

Hugh Nibley, most widely known for his scholarly work in the field of ancient scripture, was an outspoken voice of reason on all manner of things concerning Mormon social habit and culture. He famously opened (in prayer) a Commencement at BYU with the words “[w]e have met here today clothed in the black robes of a false priesthood.” Some years later he explained himself:
Many have asked me since whether I really said such a shocking thing, but nobody has ever asked what I meant by it. Why not? Well, some knew the answer already, and as for the rest, we do not question things at the BYU. But for my own relief, I welcome this opportunity to explain: a ‘false priesthood?’ Why a priesthood? Because these robes originally denoted those who had taken clerical orders, and a college was a ‘mystery’ with all the rites, secrets, oaths, degrees, tests, feasts, and solemnities that go with initiation into higher knowledge. But why false? Because it is borrowed finery, coming down to us through a long line of unauthorized imitators.
Such was the tone of Nibley. Critical, but honest. Misunderstood, eccentric, and yet unmatched by any of his pupils, colleagues, and rivals. He died in 2005, leaving a gaping hole in Mormon scholarship, filled admirably if differently, by his close friend Truman Madsen*, who followed Nibley in death in 2009. Many others now carry onward the work that Dr. Nibley pioneered.

*I had the privilege of working closely with Truman Madsen for the better part of a year on a documentary film series shortly before his death. That experience remains a highlight. In many ways, his voice was unique and irreplaceable. While the church is long on scholars, it is short on philosophers. Truman represented the very best of both.

As in most things, Nibley was well-versed in his defense of the environment, or rather, our stewardship over it, and highly critical of what had become—and remains—the default views of many Mormons regarding its preservation, treatment, and sacred nature. He wrote, “The connection between the sacred and profane is entirely a proper one, and I welcome the excuse for a philosophical discourse. For as we learn even from the Word of Wisdom, body and mind—the temporal and the spiritual—are inseparable, and to corrupt the one is to corrupt the other. Inevitably our surroundings become a faithful reflection of our mentality and vice versa.”

How To Inspire Creativity Within Ourselves



by Seattle Jon (bio)

John Cleese, hero to many mormons of my generation because of his role as Sir Lancelot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, gives us this 1991 lecture on how to inspire creativity within ourselves.



I found the lecture to be incredibly smart, funny and ... inspired. The five factors he cites to make our lives more creative sound, in fact, like a recipe on how to receive inspiration and personal revelation at home, work and while serving at church.

Leave a comment with what you felt or thought while watching the lecture.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Black or White



by Casey Peterson (bio)

Image via Tsutomu Takasu.

Last week I attended a junior high track meet that my daughter was competing in. The weather was perfect, the events were moving along quickly, and I was soaking up the fun atmosphere that surrounds track meets as multiple track and field events are simultaneously going. As the one-mile race started, I took interest in a young man in our ward that was running. I remember watching his shy apprehension when he was adopted from Ethiopia by some of our friends, and my respect for him as he learned a new language and new culture. I detected a slight limp as he started the race, a result of a broken leg last year that required a lot of stabilizing hardware to be inserted. However, he confidently sprinted to the front of the pack, and confidently set the pace for the entire race until the last lap when he battled hard against a challenger. The finish was close, he was exhausted, and I was filled with the admiration that comes from watching an athlete give 100%. I sat soaking in the sunshine, sweet memories of track, and appreciation for the growth in the lives of these young athletes.

As the kids filed back up into the stands, my euphoria was shattered as I heard a kid from another school comment to one of the runners, “Good job, you beat the black kid.” Black kid? The term struck me with a repulsive force that my humble and quiet young friend could be objectified by his race. Week after week I see him in church, with his family, and in the community, and I recoiled at a comment that I’m sure wasn’t meant to be offensive or degrading, but nevertheless was divisive.

Linger Longer 8




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)
Consequences (Segullah)
If We're Gonna Do This ... (By Common Consent) *NO HAT TIP TO MMM? C'MON*
Exploring Mormon Thought: Sex (Times and Seasons)
Misogyny in Mourning (Feminist Mormon Housewives)
Anonymity and Comment Wars: Facebook vs. Blogging (Zelophehad's Daughters)
The Perfect Mother's Day Gift (The Exponent)
The Childists vs. the Helicopter Parents (Wheat & Tares)
Youth Media: Things As They Really Are (Beginnings New)
It Is Not True That The Beard Makes A Man Look Like A Bear Or A Monkey (Keepapitchinin)
Scott Hales on Teaching Mormon Literature (A Motley Vision)
Vigil Planned in Wake of Suicide by 17 Year-Old Gay Mormon (Religion Dispatches)
Mormon History Odds and Ends: Spring 2012 (The Juvenile Instructor)
B.H. Roberts and the Mormon Political Left (Faith-Promoting Rumor)

Off-Bloggernacle (non-religious)
The Mormon Way of Business (The Economist)
Can't Help Myself: The Power of Habit (The New York Times)
We're Underestimating the Risk of Human Extinction (The Atlantic)
Your Brain, Your Food, and Obesity (Boing Boing) also The Word of Wisdom, Reimagined (MMM)
The Split Brain: A Tale of Two Halves (Nature)
The War Against Youth (Esquire)
This Is What Your Universe Looks Like! (Starts With A Bang!)
Self-Sculpting Sand (MIT News)
Biases That Cripple Smart Decision-Making (The Emotion Machine)
What Does It Mean to be Human? (Brain Pickings)
New Wisdom From Steve Jobs (Fast Company)
The 25 Best Songs of 2012 (So Far) (Paste Magazine)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Get To Know Your Ward Members: Charlene Parmenter



by Bishop Higgins (bio)


The name's Charlene. Charlene Parmenter. Just moved into the ward about four months ago into the old Forsgren home. Funny, when I walked through with the realtor, I didn't remember it having this smell. So when I come to church smelling like gerbils, you'll know the reason why.

I'm not married, now, but I used to be. Married twice, actually. My first husband and I opened a store in Santa Barbara back in the 70's called "Classy Gal." We sold women's dresses and custom fitted braziers. My husband left me for my sister and they opened up a shop just down the street called "Sassy Gal," which is good they changed the name, because there wasn't anything classy about the two of them, although my husband did have a mustache. His name was Gordon and I know I shouldn't say anything bad about him, but he had large bumps on the back of his head and I felt like, shallow as it may be, those bumps kept me from truly loving him.

My next husband was a wonderful man. Much shorter than me, but I felt like finding a man to marry that was 5 feet one inch tall was like finding a four leaf clover or a good parking spot at a busy sporting event. He treated me like a lady. Unfortunately, he treated himself like a lady, too, and we parted ways.

Modern Mormon Motivational Posters 4



by A-Dub (bio)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Giveaway 10: Winner




Congratulations to the following reader, winner of the church books above. Email us your address by Friday, May 11th to claim the books.

BJ Nelson, May 3rd at 7:53 p.m.

Tone Deaf To The Music Of Faith



by Pete Codella (bio)

I was particularly struck by remarks shared by Apostle Quentin Cook during last month’s General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Quoting a rabbi, who was speaking to Catholic leaders, he pointed out how secular parts of the world have become.

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks of England, speaking to Roman Catholic leaders last December at the Pontifical Gregorian University, noted how secular some parts of the world have become. He stated that one culprit is “an aggressive scientific atheism tone deaf to the music of faith.”

To thoughtfully consider what Rabbi Lord Sacks was saying, I recommend reading his text in its entirety (source: Office of the Chief Rabbi). And a side note: I sure think it’s cool that an LDS apostle shared remarks made by a rabbi to Catholic Church leaders. I think people of faith have more in common than they sometimes realize.

Which brings me to the idea of being in tune with the sacred music of faith ...

Friday, May 4, 2012

21 Days to More Happiness



by Dustin (bio)

I recently watched a TED talk by Shawn Achor (also included at the bottom of this post), one of the highest-rated professors at Harvard University for more than a decade, and it rocked my brains. The focus of the talk was on happiness, of which I'm a fan. In the talk, Achor suggests that our idea of the link between success and happiness is distorted. In fact, it's backwards.

I often tell myself, "as soon as I achieve ________ then I'll be happy," as if happiness is just on the horizon and all I have to do is close the distance between it and me. The problem, according to scientific research on happiness, is that each time we experience success our brain changes the bar for success. In other words, once I achieve a goal, happiness is short-lived as my mind automatically begins to explore what else could be possible. I raise the bar and begin anew, searching for more happiness by being more successful. I read my scriptures five nights a week and the goal becomes to read them seven times a week. I find a job that aligns with my strengths 80% of the time and now I need to find one that aligns 90% or 100%. Run a mile? Now run two. Score high on the GMAT? Could've been higher. If, in my mind, happiness lies just beyond success then I will never get there!

Achor says that if we can raise someone's level of positivity in the present then we increase the likelihood of success. We've got to reverse it. Your brain at positive performs significantly better than your brain at negative, neutral, or stressed. In fact your brain is 31% more productive (this is called the "happiness advantage")! In other words, we've got to flip this equation -- success = happiness -- to this: happiness = success.

So how do you increase your happiness to then yield more success? You've got to rewire your brain. In the talk, Achor suggests several things you can do, all of which are unsurprisingly principles of the Gospel. The one he teaches to businesses he consults with is to do this one simple thing:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Guest Post: The Working Mother



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).

Carrie Stroud is practically perfect in every way. But on the rare occasion that she is not, you will still find her reaching into that suitcase, hoping an ornate potted plant will come out. You can find more of her at her blog  All That Is Sweet In Life ... where a little bit of salty is mixed in there, too. You can read Carrie's first guest post here.

For the past three years I have been the sole financial provider for my family. We made the decision for my husband to go back to school for his Master's Degree and now that he has finished he is starting his own business, so I still remain the provider for now. Basically, I support him and our family ... support in every definition of the word.

You see, my husband and I feel that it is OKAY for the Mother to work outside the home. But sometimes, within our Church, it is still viewed as the wrong way to do things.

I cannot lie and say that I am happy about my role all the time and that I don't desire to be home with my children, but I also cannot help but feel grateful that we are able to be in our current situation. The idea that I can take away the stress of him having to go to school and work at the same time is an awesome blessing. And in our case now, my working is giving him the opportunity to begin a business that he might not have otherwise been able to do.

By no means do I want to belittle homes that function with the husband as the sole income provider even in difficult circumstances. In fact, when we married and started our family that we did just that. He worked full-time and went to school full-time so I could be home with our new baby ... but it was extremely stressful and hard on him. So why, if we have the choice, would we want to do that again? Why wouldn't it be okay for me to step up as the wife and handle things financially so that in the end he can provide for us in a better way? Why must we be told the "man of the house" should let his wife stay home regardless of the possible financial strain and stress he would have? Must a man be made to feel that kind of pressure?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Guest Post: Stay-At-Home Dad



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).

Josh Weed writes a humor blog, The Weed, where he talks about things like colonoscopies and the cannibalistic tendencies of his four-year-old daughter. He is a marriage and family therapist and an aspiring novelist. You can also follow him on twitter, or read his first guest post here.

I don't care what anybody tells you: being a stay at home parent is the easiest job in the world.

I will heal you
I know this because on Thursdays, Wife plays "grown-up" and goes to our therapy office to do billing and paperwork and taxes and filing and a bunch of other stuff I don't understand because, hey, I'm a therapist who listens to people talk not a business guru, okay? I'm a healer.

Here's the thing. I have learned on Thursdays when I am the stay at home dad that being a stay at home parent isn't the life-sucking chore people claim it is. I know you've heard many people (mostly women, let's just face it) say that it's "hard" or that it "exhausts" or that at times some people "want to pull their hair out" or "get on the next train to South America" because it's so demanding or whatever, but the truth is, my experience has been nothing like that. And I refuse to stand idly by while so many people try to claim this job is "the hardest job on the planet."

It's not.

It's freaking easy.

Let me break down a typical "Stay-at-Home Dad Thursday" for you.

Mom vs. Mom



by May Jones (bio)

Ever since the whole Hilary Rosen/Ann Romney media firestorm (I've always wanted to use that expression), I've noticed a lot more videos and articles featuring moms being posted on Facebook. Now, it could be that they were always there and I'm starting to pay attention more, given recent events, but a few of them have caught my eye. This article in particular left me speechless. The author states that motherhood as a form of feminism is "dangerous." She compares women who choose to breastfeed their infants more than a few months to animals. She claims that women who spend more time with their children are less happy. They should focus less on those children and focus more on figuring out how to be sexy for their husbands. I wish I was kidding about this, but I'm not. Pretty ridiculous.

As for me, I think it's fabulous that today, women can choose to work away from home, paid at home, unpaid at home, part-time, full-time, or freelance ... the options are there! And that's not even taking into account all the profession choices. My eleven year-old daughter changes her mind about her future line of work on a weekly basis. A few days ago, she came home from a field trip to a water conservancy plant/nature walk declaring that she would be a botanist. I love that she is unaware of any limits or constraints.

The days are long past when a woman has had to say, "Hmm, factory worker, farmer's wife, nun, or woman of the night, what's it going to be?" And even then, not really having much choice in the matter. We're doing much better today.

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