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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Q&A with Keith Zafren, Author of How to Be a Great Dad

by Pete Codella:

I recently heard about Keith Zafren and his quest to inspire and empower fathers to become great dads. He has a book aptly titled: How to Be a Great Dad.

I don’t know a father who wouldn’t buy-in to Keith’s message:
It doesn’t matter what kind of father you had, only what kind of father you choose to be, and through developing and fostering three core fathering practices: affirmation, acceptance and affection, fathers can become great dads.
Keith’s book focuses on the present but also deals with the past to teach, as Keith puts it, how to heal a father wound.

I recommend and encourage fathers and mothers alike to read Keith’s book.

After I finished the book I reached out to thank him for his efforts with The Great Dads Project. This question and answer article is the result of my email exchange with How to Be a Great Dad author Keith Zafren.

My Question: The difference between a parent’s approval and giving affirmation seems tricky. How do you prove to your kid you still love them, while letting them know that their behavior isn’t something you approve?

Keith’s Answer: This distinction is as tricky as it is important. The problem is that when most parents, and particularly dads, think they are expressing disapproval their children often experience rejection. That is, the child takes the disapproval personally. So even though a dad may think he is telling his daughter he doesn’t approve of something she is wearing, she may experience a feeling of rejection, believing that she (not her shirt) is not acceptable. This is why this distinction is so radically important for parents to understand and then make clear when they express disapproval.

Here’s the key: it’s fully expected and acceptable for a parent to disapprove of some behavior, choice, action, belief, style choice, preference, you name it. What is not okay is rejecting the child. It’s a fine line that many parents miss, to the detriment of the relationship and often the pain of the child. We have to make it clear to our children that we disapprove of something they’ve said or done, but we still love and accept them always, no matter what.

Mormon Crushes 2013

by Scott Heffernan:

Jerry Seinfeld helped familiarize us with the concept of a non-sexual crush. And we thank him for it. The last two years I have shared my Mormon Crushes. A Mormon Crush is a passionate respect for the way one approaches Mormonism and faith. I like the term crush because it captures the fleeting attraction I sometimes feel after hearing someone speak or reading their words.

I used the same criteria as past years:
• They must be somewhat of a public figure.
• They must be living.
• No general authorities at or above the level of seventy.

Here are the people who caught my attention in 2013.

Neylan McBaine
Among other notable accomplishments, Neylan McBaine is a writer and public commentator who has made a name for herself addressing women’s issues in the church. She is the founder of the Mormon Women Project, a fantastic website featuring a growing library of interviews with strong and diverse LDS women. To get to know her, I recommend reading her 2012 talk at the FairMormon conference and her guest blog post at Feminist Mormon Housewives. You can also listen to her interview on A Thoughtful Faith. I appreciate Neylan's pragmatic approach to Mormonism. She has a calm and wise demeanor and a restrained confidence that seems very effective in getting things done.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Questions for Elizabeth O. Anderson, Author of Cowboy Apostle, The Diaries of Anthony W. Ivins

by Seattle Jon:

Signature Book recently published Cowboy Apostle, The Diaries of Anthony W. Ivins, the thirteenth documentary history in their Significant Mormon Diaries Series. As the first stake president of the Mormon Mexican colonies, Ivins' journals are a look at frontier Mormonism like no other. Ivins kept a stunning diary, offering a first-hand witness to the history many of us already know, extending from the famous Cluff expedition which set out to to find the lost Book of Mormon cities, to his attendance of the assassination of John D. Lee, his officiating post-manifesto plural marriages, or dealing with missionary suicides. Ivins was also posthumously inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame, an award that is seemingly out of character considering his position as a Mormon Apostle.

I was given an advance copy of Cowboy Apostle after running into the book's publicist, Tom Kimball, at the most recent Sunstone Northwest. The book was an interesting and compelling read, and I was thrilled when offered the opportunity to ask the editor, Elizabeth O. Anderson, a few questions. Here is what she had to say. Oh, and if the $125 limited edition price makes your heart race, you can buy the book on Kindle for $20.

Seattle Jon: Cowboy Apostle is a catchy title because the two words aren't often seen together. Tell us about the book's title and how it came about.

Elizabeth Anderson: I wanted a title that would encapsulate Ivins as a person, not just as a general authority. In many of his letters home to his wife while on his earlier mission to Mexico, he mentions just wanting to be home ranching and taking care of the family. It is my opinion that he would have been perfectly happy to just be a rancher in southern Utah his entire life. He seemed happiest on a camping or hunting trip. His diaries enumerate how many fish he caught, how many deer he saw and shot, etc., and he was always very solicitous towards his horses. A cattle rancher, he was a consummate outdoorsman. Also, his election to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1958 influenced me--as I don't think any other apostle held that claim to fame--haven't checked that out, though.

SJ: I've always thought of journals as something men write, and diaries as something women write. Here, though, you are publishing Ivins' diaries. Help me out.

EA: I don't think journals/diaries are gender-based--they are more content based. A diary usually records thoughts and events on a daily basis in the "here and now"; whereas a journal often records the same things--but more retrospectively. For example, Ivins might record his travels on his mission to Mexico on a day by day basis, writing each night what happened that day. In his journal, he might record several days events under one dated entry. In Cowboy Apostle I make use of both his diaries and journals, the latter which were probably synthesized from memory or non-extant diaries at a later time.

SJ: Journals/diaries can be difficult to read because of the monotony/repetitiveness of entries. How do you suggest your book be read?

EA: I think taking advantage of footnotes is a tremendous help in reading the diaries. Many times they add information that builds upon what might be a cursory glance at an event recorded by Ivins. When Ivins is in the Twelve and the presidency, the diaries do bog down in areas in repetitive listings of who spoke and for how long -- but one needs to remember that Ivins was trying to give an accurate report -- similar to what a clerk would give. His one word or phrase descriptions offer glimpses of content, if not elaboration. I know everyone would like more detail, especially from his quorum meetings, but it is my understanding that the brethren at the time were counseled to not reveal detail in their diaries for fear sacred and confidential information would be compromised.

Friday, December 27, 2013

May You Be Nourished and Strengthened After Reading

by Lauren Johnson:

If they had trademarked it, just think how rich the person who coined the term "Nourish and Strengthen" would be. (I gave it caps there for respect). What if he/she had a penny for every time it was said? Millionaires, they'd be millionaires!

How in the world did we all agree that the best way to bless the food was to ask God that it  Nourish and Strengthen our bodies? Was there a sustaining vote? How did this three-word term get so solidified in the books of LDS prayer?

Do we really feel we should bless the mint fudge brownies at the linger-longer to Nourish and Strengthen us? Do the non-member visitors (I don't like the word "investigators") at the linger-longers think it's hilarious? Probably. Shouldn't we bless the brownies instead to not make us sick, or increase the circumference of our muffin top? Do any of us prayer-memorizers actually say Nourish and Strengthen in real life? (unless you're talking about shampoo, please don't say yes).

So many questions, I know. But now, here's a proposal. I think it's time for a "Say No to Nourish and Strengthen" campaign. The world must be full of other wonderful, and equally nourishing, terms we can use when we bless the food.

a quick brainstorm gives me:
"energize and stabilize"
"metabolize and digest"
"help" (Yup. One word. It's brilliant. Please bless this food that it will "help" our bodies.)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

We Didn't Start The Fire

by Kyle:

We're taught that "if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." It's one of those verses that I rarely think about, that is until its too late …

There I was just minding my own business just after midnight, engaged in a pleasant battle of Call of Duty, when my apartment building's fire alarm starts blaring. Now of course I had the same reaction as 97% of the rest of the world when they hear a fire alarm: "Honey, where's the remote, I can't hear the TV."

Luckily my wife went to open our front door to look out into the hallway, and that's when we realized we might want to take this seriously. There was smoke in the hallway. Not billowing smoke, but just enough to make it a bit hazy. And it tasted like burning.

That set off our internal fire alarms, also known as panic. My wife dashes to our daughter's bedroom to wake her and bundle her up for the inevitable standing outside in the cold. I stood there in the middle of our living room trying to think of what to do.

"I should probably put on some pants," I thought to myself. Yes, pants, good idea! What do I grab now? The Xbox? Should I pause my game, or just turn it off? No, not the Xbox, idiot. Grab the seven seasons of West Wing DVDs! No, no that's not practical. The confusion in my mind gave my wife ample time to return to the living room to find me still pantless, to which she suggested I get dressed and grab our laptops (because literally our entire lives are on them) and get the baby stroller and get out of here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Blessing From a Friendship Past - Christmas Day 2013

by Bradly Baird:

Last evening upon my return from traditional Christmas Eve family activities, I found the following post on my Facebook Timeline: "I was reading through my MTC mission journal last night. You and I talked a lot. One of the entries said something like, 'Last night Steven Covey spoke to us for too long. Veli Baird and I talked through the whole thing.'  I guess we didn't know what we were missing. I'm very thankful for that friendship. Merry Christmas!"

A most excellent Christmas present - probably one of the best ever - the note came from one of the sister missionaries that served with me in the Finland Helsinki Mission over twenty years ago; and, it started me thinking about the blessings for which I feel gratitude. I sit here in the living room, the sun sets outside the window and Christmas Day comes to a close while I compile a list, just a few things from hundreds for which I am deeply grateful. I acknowledge the Creator who gave them to me.

Family - Friendship - Spouse - Children - Sacrament - Gospel - Savior - Heaven - Earth - Salvation - Atonement - Scripture - Body - Talents - Sex - Walks - Nature - Food - Car - Computers - Airplane - House - Safety - Blankets - Colleagues - Employment - Education - Books - Art - Sport

What blessings make you truly grateful?

May this sacred season bring a stronger spirit of gratitude into all our lives.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

by Clark (emeritus):

In case you missed it last year, this is my brother and sister singing their rendition of Do You Hear What I Hear. Email MMM if you'd like a copy of the MP3.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

MMM Sermons: Honorably Hold a Name and Standing

by Saint Mark:

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 this sermon here, or read previous MMM Sermons.

With additional temples announced in Africa, Wyoming and Provo in a recent General Conference, the announcement and proliferation of temples made me ponder this sermon by David A. Bednar in April 2009.

Just the first paragraph alone teaches a sermon:
Shortly after I was called to serve as a stake president in 1987, I talked with a good friend who recently had been released as a stake president. During our conversation I asked him what he would teach me about becoming an effective stake president.
As a fellow "questioner," I love his thoughtful inquiry of a stake president. My wife tells me I have "Mark questions" that are always a little deeper than the shallow waters people like to tread in social conversations. For example, "What are five things you want to do before you die?" or "What would you rate your school day on a scale of 1 to 10?" (what I ask my 6 year-old every day) or "If you could ask God one question, what would it be?" It's comforting to know that there is at least one more person out there who seeks meatier interactions.

Check out the rest of the talk and see what the stake president said.

For you bishops, bishopric members, stake presidents, stake presidency members, temple presidents, and temple presidency members out there, past or current, what advice would you add?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Update on Luciano: Asking for an Arm and a Leg

by Sam Nelson (emeritus):

A little bit of background for those of you who aren't familiar with Luciano's story. Luciano is a convert to the church and was involved in a tragic train accident over a year ago that cost him both his right arm and right leg. Read my previous blog post for more details. Or watch a short video story about Luciano.

After the MMM blog post and a follow-up BYUtv broadcast, there was an incredible outpouring of support. raised close to $30,000 in one week! Support continued to grow and we raised not only enough money to get him prosthetics for the rest of his life, but a couple very large donors (who chose to remain anonymous) pledged to sponsor him along with his father to come HERE, to the United States, to be outfitted with top-of-the-line prosthetics and up to six months of rehabilitation at Loma Linda Children's Hospital in California.

After a surprisingly long and difficult legal battle, Mauricio and Luciano were finally granted visas to travel to the United States. We immediately booked him and his father flights and they are here! We are taking care of them in Seattle until January 6th. 
Today I took them to visit downtown Seattle, which is very different than Chiguayante.

Luciano is extremely upbeat and optimistic as usual. He was involved in the Paralympics in Chile and won two gold medals and a bronze. He still goes to church by himself every Sunday and reads his scriptures everyday.

I'll be tweeting (
@realSamNelson) about Luciano's Christmas vacation if you want updates, then will hopefully get him set up with his own Twitter account soon so you can follow him for the months in California.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen. It is truly a miracle after his horrifying experience of losing an arm, leg and eye. The scariest part has to be … what happens next? Wheelchairs/crutches are useless without an arm and prosthetics cost more than your house. An army of 400+ people/families came together and completely changed his life.


by Ben Johnson:

Everyone has heard of First World Problems. I don't think anyone has ever done First World Mormon Problems. I'd humbly like to submit a few. Enjoy!
  • The foyer was full and I had to sit in the chapel.
  • Ugh, the block time is changing to _____. That is the worst time to go to church!
  • Really, you are giving us dipped chocolates for Mothers' Day??
  • The 40-inch TV in the bishop's office won't connect to WiFi so we'll have to use the iPad for the lesson.
  • Temple was closed for cleaning and I had to drive 12 minutes to the other temple (South Jordan FTW!)
  • I forgot to charge my Kindle so now I'll have to pay attention in sacrament meeting.
  • The WiFi in church is too slow to show videos for my lesson.
  • Only one copy of the picture "Moses parts the Red Sea"? Worst Materials Center ever!
  • Gospel Doctrine class was full and I had to attend Gospel Essentials.
That's all I can come up with for now. Anyone else have any Mormon problems they'd like to add?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Inspirational Thoughts for Teens

by Seattle Jon:

Every weekday morning I text my thirteen year-old daughter an inspirational thought. As a pick-me-up before she heads off to junior high. Sometimes she responds immediately with a thank you!, other times I don't hear back until after school. Occasionally I don't hear back at all, my text lost in the sea of texts on teenager's phones these days.

Sending the inspirational thoughts is sort of an odd thing, really. I don't remember why I started, maybe she'd had a particularly difficult day the day before. I don't know if the texts help. They haven't prompted any meaningful discussions about life or faith. I guess they're sort of an I know adolescence can be difficult sometimes, so I want you to know I’m thinking about you and here are some words to hold to when life seems hard kind of thing.

Maybe someday, when she's older and has a career, a relationship and maybe a few of my grandkids, we'll have a conversation and she'll tell me they made a difference in some small way. Now there's an inspirational thought.

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Seattle Jon is a family man, little league coach, urban farmer and businessman living in Seattle. He currently gets up early with the markets to trade bonds for a living. In his spare time he enjoys movies, thrifting and is an avid reader. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Japan Fukuoka mission field. He has one wife, four kids and five chickens.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gif Image credit: Real Simple on Pinterest.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Brother Jake and Religious Freedom

by Brother Jake:

Just in time for the annual conflict for Christmas, here is my latest video. Warning: this one gets political.

Growing up in rural Arizona, I had a pretty long bus home from elementary school every day. On the days when I didn't fall asleep, miss my stop, and have to wait in the "bus barn" for my Mom to pick me up, I'd pass the time chatting with my childhood buddy Joe, who lived even further along the route than I did. There was one particular week of the long commute that I've never forgotten. Joe, who was extremely sharp, was describing some picture book that he had read about the history of life on earth. When he arrived at the topic of cavemen, my mind simply rejected the thought outright. Cavemen?! How could such a thing exist? It must be blasphemy! For some reason, the idea of cavemen did not fit in the timeline of earth history I had in my mind, which was something like this:

dinosaurs --> Adam and Eve --> Moses/Egyptians/etc. --> middle ages (possibly dragons) --> America --> me

So, I decided to change his mind. And by "change his mind," I mean I repeated variations of the phrase "there's no such thing as cavemen. How could there be cavemen?" over and over. It took about 45 minutes, but just before my stop, he finally threw up his hands and said "Fine!" I smiled, grabbed my backpack, and trotted off the bus.

I never told Joe this, but I felt a sharp pang of regret as I watched the bus pull away. What was my problem? He had just been sharing something he thought was interesting, but I felt compelled to brow-beat him into submission. As I've grown older, I realized why I had been so insistent: the thought of my friend not sharing or endorsing my worldview freaked me out, so I lashed out.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Guest Post: The Theology of Trash

Some of you may know that I received my degree in Archaeology (1). Archaeology is fun because you get to mess around in the dirt and dig holes very slowly. To dig your holes, sometimes you use shovels, sometimes trowels and every so often, you use paintbrushes. I have heard some describe it as a "lazy person's way to dig a hole" and how could I argue with that assessment? We dig, we look, we think about what we see, we take pictures of what is in the hole, maybe draw a picture of it, we take notes of what we think it is that we see and we have lengthy discussions with others trying to determine what the prehistoric function of whatever it is we see in the dirt. I have personally witnessed multiple-hour long discussions about what a particular thing is in a hole, only to have someone come by and say "that is a rodent burrow" (2). We of the archaeological world fancy ourselves as big thinkers, not necessarily big dirt movers.

An archaeologist's job is to explain what these things are in the holes. When reports are written, explanations like "I dunno" or "Beats me" are unacceptable. What takes their place is the explanation that the unexplainable thing has some "religious significance." That label gets chosen because most aspects of human life, whether prehistoric or current, have some fairly rational explanation. They built pit houses to live and sleep in. They grew corn to eat (3). They made pottery to store their junk in. Many religious activities of the past and present do not have the same clear explanation. Why did they make this different sort of building that is different from a pithouse? Why did they make these ceramic figurines? Why did they carve this pendant out of slate and why did they have a collection of red and green ochre (4)? I dunno, it must have some religious significance. When I read "religious significance" in an archaeological report, I know what that means -- they "dunno."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Confession of an LDS Smoker

by Casey Peterson:

Sunday as the church meeting I was sitting in was drawing near a conclusion, I began to get fidgety and anxious. I had trouble focusing on the words of the closing song, and at the final "amen" of the prayer, I bolted for the door with smoking on my mind. Upon taking care of business at home, I rushed back to church and slipped into my seat just as the next meeting was starting. I immediately was aghast as I realized the upturned noses, the sidelong glances, and the accusatory expressions of those whose senses had tipped them off to evidence of smoking. That day, it was ribs over mesquite chips, though I had debated about salmon over pine chips, or even a tri-tip over apple wood. The euphoria of slowly letting the smoking flavor permeate and tenderize the meat was a tantalizing temptation I had to fight through for the duration of my meetings.

The Word of Wisdom teaches us in Doctrine and Covenants89:12 that meat is "ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly." I take that a couple of ways.  First, the better I can make my meat taste, the more thanksgiving I can have in my heart (and stomach). Second, if I am to quantify the amount "sparingly," that means eliminating marginal, tough, greasy, or tasteless varieties. I raise my own meat and enjoy knowing I am eating a healthy, organic, tender, and lean piece of meat that has been raised with thanksgiving, kindness, and appreciation. However, one of my former BYU students introduced me to smoking, a process of curing, tenderizing, and flavoring the meat in a beautiful way.  This was a startling revelation to me, as I usually detest strongly any smoke smell. I was the scout trying to avoid campfire smoke, and in a hurry to wash it off as soon as I got home. I abhor tobacco smoke; it literally will make me vomit faster than any other smell.  Smoking cigarettes was never a temptation or even a physical possibility for me ever in my life. And every year the part I dread most about working on my farm is the horrible smell of burning hair during branding. Simply put, I hate smoke of any kind.

Yet, the flavor and tenderness of smoked meat is undeniably delightful and delicious. I researched and purchased a smoker, and then found that smoking chips are available in a variety of flavors. Mesquite, hickory, apple, pine, cedar, or cherry wood all offer a different pungent flavoring. I researched which ones work best with which types of meat and love the mixing and matching that produces such wonderful results.

And so with my marinating brines to pre-soak the meat, with my racks in my smoker, and with a plethora of different types of wood chips to elevate my meat to a whole new level, I can proudly say with gratitude and thanksgiving in my heart and stomach that I am an active and honorable LDS smoker, obeying and honoring the Word of Wisdom the best way I can. I am part of a barbecue brotherhood extending from the asados of Argentina, to the barbacoa of Mexico, across the plains of Texas where my fellow MMM contributor Dustin serves as a ranger of the rotisserie.
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Casey Peterson is the Director of the BYU Center for Service and Learning where he loves working with over 22,000 BYU students learning life lessons through service and volunteerism. Casey is completing his doctoral degree at BYU in Educational Leadership, which gives him the unique current status at BYU of being a student, teacher, and administrator. Casey is married with 5 beautiful children who stay busy through church, sports, and community activities along with their work on the small family farm they operate in Salem, Utah. Twitter: @cpeter1.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gif Image credits: Dennis Skley, Kevin Dooley (used with permission).

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Restoration as an Adventure: L. T. Downing Talks about Get That Gold! and Her Adventures of the Restoration Book Series

by Scott Hales:

I first became acquainted with Lisa Torcasso Downing through her insightful posts and comments about Mormon literature and creative writing on Dawning of a Brighter Day, the blog of the Association for Mormon Letters. Later, I had a chance to teach her short story "Clothing Esther" in a class I taught on religious fiction at my university. While none of my students was Mormon, nearly all of them voiced appreciation for Lisa's story--which, in my opinion, is a great testament to her gifts as a Mormon writer.

Lisa has recently published two novels (see here and here) for children under the pen name L. T. Downing. The most recent, Get That Gold! (Zion BookWorks, 2013), is the first book in an ongoing series called The Adventures of the Restoration. Based on early Mormon histories like Lucy Mack Smith's biography of her prophet-son, the novel is about the Smith family's struggle to get the plates from the Hill Cumorah to the safety of their home--without Joseph getting waylaid by scheming men who want the gold plates for their own. It's a suspenseful children's novel that lives up to what any kid (or parent) would expect from an adventure story.

Since children's literature is not my forte, I enlisted the help of Connor, my book-addicted nine-year-old daughter, for this interview. We read the novel together--at 131 pages, it's a quick read--and then came up with questions for the author. 

Here is what Lisa--that is, L. T. Downing--had to say:

Connor Hales: How do you come up with ideas when you write your books?

L. T. Downing: The ideas for the Adventures of the Restoration series came because I love history and storytelling. I have read a lot of history books about the early days of the church, but those books were too boring to read to my own children. So I began telling them about the really amazing things that went on during the Restoration period. Next thing I knew, I was writing those stories down.

CH: When did you decide that you were going to become a writer?

LTD: I remember the moment I decided to be a writer like it was yesterday. I was four years old. When I was a baby, I never learned to crawl and a very famous baby doctor had written a book that claimed that babies who never crawl are likely to have trouble learning to read. My mother was worried I wouldn't be a good reader so she started teaching me as soon as I turned four. To her surprise, I took to it very quickly. One day I was sitting with her on the edge of my parents' bed, reading a story that had a big red can in it. My mom kept telling me there was no red can in the story. I got mad and kept pointing to the word. "C-A-N," I said. Then she pointed to the last letter and asked me to look again. Well, can you believe it? The word was spelled "C-A-R." The big red car. Not can. I was astonished that changing one little letter at the end of word could change the entire meaning. That's when my mom said, "When you grow up, you can go to college and study English. And if you want, you can become a writer." Bam! Decision made. At the age of four, I couldn't imagine anything more wonderful—and powerful—than creating meaning by arranging letters into words and words into sentences and sentences into books. I still think that.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Power of Empathy

by Scott Heffernan:

Dr. Brené Brown is a researcher and public speaker who focuses on vulnerability, connection, authenticity, empathy, and shame. (My wife previously blogged about her here.) She is brilliant, relatable, and fun to watch. Her discourse regarding the difference between empathy and sympathy is set to animation in this creative video.

"Sympathy is, 'I'm feeling for you.' Empathy is, 'I'm feeling with you.'"

I find her words revealing and inspiring. They make me want to nurture my ability to feel and express empathy. I think it's healthy to check in with ourselves about our capacity to connect with people.

I wonder if there is anything specific to LDS culture or teachings that make us better or worse at empathy.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Guest Post: Fresh Asparagus and Sweet Oblivion

I recently travelled to a meeting in Boston and on the last leg of the trip sat next to the original Chatty Cathy. I would never classify myself as being good about steering a conversation towards a gospel discussion—I'm usually the guy with his nose in a book. But on this occasion Cathy opened the door so wide that even I couldn't avoid taking the plunge.

We discussed many things, but spent a fair bit of time talking about was how different individuals can experience the very same events, and one will come away moved and inspired while the other will be completely un-phased by the experience. She was also Christian and I pointed out the challenges all Christians have in recognizing the hand of God in the mundane details of life. It was a really enjoyable flight. I think we were both enriched by the experience, having each resolved to pay more attention to these things.

As I've thought about that conversation, I am reminded of a couple of endocrine analogies to missing the clues that are all around us. The first is the drug propylthiouracil. PTU is a drug that is used to treat hyperthyroidism. One of the properties of this drug is its incredibly bitter taste. For most people, no matter how fast you swallow or how much water you chug with the pill, it tastes horrible. Yet a genetic polymorphism causes a subset of the population to taste nothing—even if they chew it. Another good example of this phenomenon is a genetic polymorphism that prevents some people (myself included) from smelling ketone bodies on the breath of a patient with diabetic ketoacidosis. This fruity smell is a dead giveaway and allows some endocrinologists to diagnose a patient without even checking the blood glucose.

I think the best example of all is the smell of urine within minutes of eating asparagus (here for a good article). Asparagus contains large amounts of asparagusic acid, which generates a volatile sulfuric metabolite that creates the unforgettable smell of asparagus urine. Strangely enough 50-75% of asparagus eaters smell nothing unusual after even the largest helping. Once again, these folks lack the genetic coding that allows them to detect that pungent aroma of asparagus pee.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Consecrating Our Time

by Eliana:

My son's preschool had a service project this year: donating pajamas for kids at the community Safe House. I liked the idea of doing something for kids, with my kids, so we jumped at the opportunity. Read more about it here.

During my early teen years, my ward had an ongoing relationship with a women's shelter called Clare House. Eagle projects building and beautifying the physical space of the facility, and there were various drives for clothing and needed supplies. But what I remember most is the service that my sisters and I were able to do. We watched children while their mothers took classes. We spent time with the parents so that they'd be comfortable with us around their children. We didn't make coffee since none of us knew how, but we tried to do anything else that was needed.

Time is the key thing here. We didn't show up at Clare House once a year for a feel good night of leaf raking. We were there at least monthly, though I think it was weekly for a while. I was at the shelter often enough that I wasn't scared or uncomfortable, even in the face of people very different from myself.

I also felt useful. I hated, even as a kid, service projects that were make work sort of things. You know what I'm talking about, right? Projects creating a need instead of fulfilling one? I felt that by showing up, I was actually lifting a burden and making positive things possible for these women. As a 12, 13, 14 year old, feeling valuable is a remarkable thing.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SPAM: The Angel Moroni.

by Seattle Jon:

With very minor wording changes, a recent spam email in my inbox became a message from the Angel Moroni to the Prophet Joseph.

Subject: Please do take this communication in earnest

Hello joseph

Please do condone me for invading your privacy through this medium.

Nevertheless, I desire to convey a very important message which in the long run will be conjointly beneficial to us.

This entails a spiritual dealing which I will make known to you the full details in my next visit upon your response and readiness to work with me.

Please do take this communication in earnest.

View attached revelation for proper understanding.

Respectfully Yours,

The Angel Moroni.
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Seattle Jon is a family man, little league coach, urban farmer and businessman living in Seattle. He currently gets up early with the markets to trade bonds for a living. In his spare time he enjoys movies, thrifting and is an avid reader. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Japan Fukuoka mission field. He has one wife, four kids and five chickens.
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Monday, December 9, 2013

Guest Post: BASEcamp - A Youth Program Reinvented

When Greg Tanner walked away as Director of the BYU youth program—EFY—after 12 years, it was a leap of faith; but one he felt he had to take. He knew it was time to bring forward a vision for a youth program that had been building in his mind, and in his heart.

The powers-to-be at EFY didn't seem to want more "change." Greg, on the other hand, couldn't stop thinking about change. He saw how the times had changed, he saw how the responsibility of the youth had grown and changed, he saw the mission-age change, and he took to heart the words of the brethren who expressed a need for our homes and our communities to be an MTC.

Today, Greg's vision has become a reality, and BASEcamp is helping LDS youth learn how to Believe, Act, Serve, and Endure.

When asked the major differences between EFY and BASEcamp, Greg explains that BASEcamp is about active learning, opposed to passive learning. Greg carries with him a passion for teaching the youth, and understanding their great responsibility. He feels their lives are full of incredible challenges, but also opportunity. He hopes to help them rise to the occasion. With that in mind, Greg believes there is a need beyond simply having the speakers and classes. Rather, BASEcamp is filled with workshops where youth actively participate. The core curriculum focuses on learning, and learning to teach. Greg explains that you have to learn something in order to teach it. The youth role-play with missionary discussions, and the participants are asked to teach what they know. A big question posed to the youth is: "How do we now help people, knowing what we now know?" The youth are encouraged to think about service, and how their knowledge can benefit others.

Similarly to EFY, they have counselors for the children, but these leaders are instead referred to as "Guides." Greg uses the description of someone who guides people up the mountain, but those climbing still have to climb, and do the work.

Greg strives to make BASEcamp more affordable, and feels strongly about families attending together, because there is more strength and knowledge in numbers. If siblings attend together, the first participant is full price, and the other children--only half the cost.

Thirteen-year-olds get to attend BASEcamp, rather than EFY's strict 14-years-old and older policy. Greg sees no reason to wait. "Sure, we have a dance," he says, and many wonder if a 13-year-old can dance, but Greg says: "How many 18-year-olds can dance?" He says the dance is a social activity, where line dances, and switching partners during slow songs happens. In this day and age, and with the changing times, he repeats: "There is no reason we shouldn't want our 13-year-olds to participate."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Linger Longer 30

Linger Longer is a series where we highlight religious and non-religious articles, as well as mormon-related podcasts. Click here for previous lists.

Bloggernacle (religious sites)
Finding My Power in the Church (Feminist Mormon Housewives)
Eliza. R. Snow and the Inclusivity of the Gospel (By Common Consent)
The Fourth Point: Caring For the Poor and Needy (Times and Seasons)
Four Troubling Theological Assertions in the Book of Mormon (Zelophehad's Daughters)
May I Have Your Autograph? (Keepapitchinin)
Finding My Path to Motherhood (Doves and Serpents)
Justice and Fairness (Peculiar People)
The BIG LDS Picture (Millenial Star)
Mormon Literature: A Sunny Outlook (Low-Tech World)
Looking for Mormon Eggcorns (A Motley Vision)
The New Mormon Fiction* (Dawning of a Brighter Day)
Ghosts in the Hall (Dandelion Mama)
Rescued from Exploitation (Mormon Women Project)
Mormon-Related Podcasts
Episode 449: The Three Interfaith Amigos (Mormon Stories)
Episodes 446-448: Imam Jamal, Rabbi Ted and Pastor Don (Mormon Stories)
Episode 1201: Good Shephards (Mormon Matters)
Episode 89: Narratives of Grace (FMH Podcast)
Episode 87: LDS Adoptions (FMH Podcast)

Off-Bloggernacle (non-religious sites)
Google's Data Centers on PunchcardsRising Steadily and Twitter Timeline Height (What If?)
Every First Edition James Bond Book Cover from 1953-1966 (GFS)
11 Simple Rules for Getting Along with Others (Farnam Street)
How Do We Gain Insights? (Seeking Wisdom)
Important New Theory Explains Where Old Memories Go (Scientific American)
Here's What a Constantly Plugged-In Life is Doing to Kids' Bodies (Huffington Post)
Jay Z Has the Room (Vanity Fair)
Why Have Young People in Japan Stopped Having Sex? (The Guardian)
27 Actors Who Got Their Starts on Miami Vice (Mental Floss)
Six Degrees of Kevin Garnett (Slate)
39 Ways to Live, and Not Merely Exist (Dumb Little Man)
The Myth of the War of the Worlds Panic (Slate)
The Decline of Wikipedia (Technology Review)
Why I Quit Major League Baseball (The New Yorker)
Why is America Turning to Shit? (The Awl) *POTTY LANGUAGE*
Can't Get Away From It All? The Problem Isn't Technology - It's You (Wired)
Exploring the World's Greatest Libraries (Huffington Post)
How the Owners of All 30 NBA Teams Made Their Money (Mental Floss)
Ender's Game, It's Controversial Author, and a Very Personal History (Grantland)
101 Objects That Made America (Smithsonian)
An Ex-Cop's Guide to Not Getting Arrested (The Atlantic)
The Secrets of the World's Happiest Cities (The Guardian)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Handbook of Instructions (1940): What Constitutes a Visit

by Seattle Jon:

My youngest brother gifted me a Handbook of Instructions from 1940 signed by first presidency members Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr. and David O. McKay. At 170 pages, the handbook is much shorter then our current versions (Handbook 1 alone is 186 pages) yet contains some interesting rules and regulations - and language - which I'll share over time.

What Constitutes a Visit

To accomplish the objective contemplated by ward teaching, actual visits in the home are essential. No substitute for such visits is permissible and the actual personal visit in the home is the basis upon which credit for ward teaching will be given, except when a family is quarantined on account of contagious disease. Any personal contact with a family member of the family under these conditions, during which the teacher fulfills his responsibility as fully as possible, may be counted as a visit. Telephone conversations, meetings on the street, conversations in Church or at socials are not to be counted as ward teaching, nor will any number of calls at a home when people are absent receive credit as a visit. Families inaccessible for any reason are not to be counted as visited, unless a visit has actually been made. The only way to actually do ward teaching is to enter the homes of the people and get close to them with a pleasant attitude and interesting message.

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Seattle Jon is a family man, little league coach, urban farmer and businessman living in Seattle. He currently gets up early with the markets to trade bonds for a living. In his spare time he enjoys movies, thrifting and is an avid reader. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Japan Fukuoka mission field. He has one wife, four kids and five chickens.
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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Is Boredom a Sin?

by Shawn Tucker:

Now, before you give the seemingly easy answer, “No!,” think about this for a minute. If you happened to serve a mission, were there times when you felt bored and felt guilty because you were bored? As a parent, have you ever felt bored around your children, like say listening to a long, tangential, and pointless story? And have you ever felt bad that this darling little child and her world and experiences are so excruciatingly dull for you? Or how about another experience—have you ever had a child complain that he was bored? And what did you do? Did you give him that “righteous indignation” look and then send him to do chores? After all, isn’t boredom just a fruit of one of the seven “deadly sins,” namely sloth? Isn’t boredom just the result of our failure to be properly and anxiously engaged in a good cause? And of course there is Spencer W. Kimball’s quote about having never been to a boring sacrament meeting. There is even a New Era article about “How to Never Have a Boring Church Class Ever Again.” 

Maybe it is our Protestant work ethic or the idea that we have precious little time here in mortality that must be used properly or the problem of sloth, but whatever the cause there seems to be an association between boredom and sin. This seems to be the underlying question: “how could a righteous, faithful, hard-working, and enthusiastic member of the church ever be bored?”

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guest Post: Lessons from The Tree of Life for a Gay Mormon

BKH is a gay Mormon. This has been cause of much anxiety, depression and frustration. It has made his dating, family life and education at BYU somewhat difficult. He is trying to figure out how to reconcile what he believes with how he feels, but doesn't know what he's doing most of the time. These thoughts came as a result of a series of days where he had a major freak out about all this.

In the Book of Mormon, a man named Lehi had a dream about the Tree of Life -- a tree whose fruit brings life and happiness.

I have recently fallen in love with this story again because of its simple power in portraying what we want in life, regardless of our spiritual persuasions, or lack thereof.

In the dream, Lehi see a tree with beautiful fruit, fruit he says is "desirable to make one happy." It makes sense he'd want that fruit, right? If I found a tree with fruit that could make me happy, I'd be all over that. Lehi sees a lot of other things -- a rod that leads to the tree, an intense fog, a big floating building, and hoards of people going towards the tree. His son Nephi wants to understand the symbolism in this dream, and so he prays about it. Pretty soon, an angel appears to explain the dream of Nephi's father.

The angel shows Nephi the tree and asks, "What do you see?"
"A tree … (awkward pause) ... with fruit that … (awkward pause) ... makes people happy."
"Perfect," the angel says.
"Do you want to know what it means?"
"That's why you're here, right?"

This is not exactly a scriptural account, but pretty much how it would go if I were Nephi.

So, the angel tells Nephi that the tree of life represents the love of God. People were trying to get to the fruit to taste of the love of God. They wanted to feel loved.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Windows, A Small Analogy

by Shawn Tucker:

Imagine for a moment a medium-sized room. On one of the walls there is an average-sized window. There aren't any other windows in the room, so this window makes up a relatively small part of the total wall surface of the room. Said differently, of all the room's wall space, maybe only 5% to 10% of is occupied by this window. But here's the thing—in the daytime this one window is large enough so that the whole room can be filled with light.

Many things in the gospel seem to me to be just like this one window. If I take a few minutes every day to say my prayers or read my scriptures, those activities only take a few minutes away from the 24 hours per day that I have. But the time I spend doing those activities can fill my whole day with light, peace and joy. This also applies to other gospel principles. If I sacrifice a small percent of the money I make to pay tithing, the Lord promises to bless the rest of my money, my finances and my whole life. If I sacrifice one day out of seven and give it to the Lord, then God promises to pour light, joy, peace and productivity into my entire week.

Windows are excellent symbols of how small sacrifices the Lord asks of us can become a way for Him to pour light and joy into our lives.
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Shawn Tucker grew up with amazing parents and five younger, wonderful siblings. He served as a missionary in Chile during the Plebiscite and the first post-dictatorship election. After his mission, he attended BYU, where he married ... you guessed it ... his wife. They both graduated, with Shawn earning a BA in Humanities. Fearing that his BA in Humanities, which is essentially a degree in Jeopardy, would not be sufficient, Shawn completed graduate work in the same ... stuff ... at Florida State University. He currently teaches at Elon University in North Carolina. He and ... you guessed it ... his wife have four great children. Twitter: @MoTabEnquirer. Website:
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Friday, November 29, 2013

Guest Post: I Was Blind, But Now I See

A friend died, unexpectedly, while I was in North Carolina on my Spring Break.

He was only fifty-one. He was a professional bass player from Dallas. I knew him because he played with the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater, a group I have been playing with in the beautiful summers of Logan for the past four years.

After learning about his passing, I immediately pictured his turkey from two years previous.

His turkey? you might ask.
Yes, his turkey, I'd respond.

Scott cooked a mean turkey, and by that I mean he cooked an incredibly juicy and delectable bird that, though normally only eaten in November, was so entirely om-nom-nom, Scott could totally pull off cooking and feeding it to us in July.

It was an amazingly tasty turkey. I could rant and rave about it for years. I can taste it like it was yesterday. Mmm.

In fact, I remember quite clearly that I was flooding Scott with all sorts of compliments one afternoon about it, so much so that he revealed to me the secret ingredient of his incomparable fowl:


Which is funny because I'm Mormon, meaning I don't drink alcohol, which makes me laugh almost to the point of tears, because it only confirms that if I weren't Mormon, I'd be a raging alcoholic. If beer can make turkey taste that good, I know I would be adding it to everything. Beer ice cream? Beer quesadillas? Bring. It. On.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

How to Use Your Turkey Leftovers

by Seattle Jon:

F. Scott Fitzgerald — author of The Great Gatsby — was also an unsuspected gourmand. Here come 13 irreverent ideas for how to use your turkey leftovers, found in Fitzgerald's 1945 collection of essays, notebook excerpts and letters, The Crack-Up:

At this post holiday season, the refrigerators of the nation are overstuffed with large masses of turkey, the sight of which is calculated to give an adult an attack of dizziness. It seems, therefore, an appropriate time to give the owners the benefit of my experience as an old gourmet, in using this surplus material. Some of the recipes have been in my family for generations. They were collected over years, from old cook books, yellowed diaries of the Pilgrim Fathers, mail order catalogues, golf-bags and trash cans. Not one but has been tried and proven — there are headstones all over America to testify to the fact.

Turkey Cocktail: To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of angostura bitters. Shake.

Turkey à la Francais: Take a large ripe turkey, prepare as for basting and stuff with old watches and chains and monkey meat. Proceed as with cottage pudding.

Turkey and Water: Take one turkey and one pan of water. Heat the latter to the boiling point and then put in the refrigerator. When it has jelled, drown the turkey in it. Eat. In preparing this recipe it is best to have a few ham sandwiches around in case things go wrong.

Turkey Mongole: Take three butts of salami and a large turkey skeleton, from which the feathers and natural stuffing have been removed. Lay them out on the table and call up some Mongole in the neighborhood to tell you how to proceed from there.

Turkey Mousse: Seed a large prone turkey, being careful to remove the bones, flesh, fins, gravy, etc. Blow up with a bicycle pump. Mount in becoming style and hang in the front hall.

Stolen Turkey: Walk quickly from the market, and, if accosted, remark with a laugh that it had just flown into your arms and you hadn't noticed it. Then drop the turkey with the white of one egg—well, anyhow, beat it.

Turkey à la Crême: Prepare the crême a day in advance. Deluge the turkey with it and cook for six days over a blast furnace. Wrap in fly paper and serve.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

MMM Search Term Roundup 11: October & November 2012

by Scott Heffernan:

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 all Search Term Roundups here.

why is there no mormon skaters
I’ve heard a couple of these guys are Mormon.

a mormon man has been approaching me
That's weird. Usually there's two of them.

mormon men lingerie
It’s being naked except for black socks.

bad teaching in elders quorum
Never heard of this happening.

did tim mcgraw grow up in the norman religion
Nobody cares.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Strange Intersection of Anniversaries

by Bradly Baird:

Last week contained a strange intersection of personal anniversaries (arrivals, departures and memorials) and a strange intermixing of the sacred and the secular. Each event marked a unique circumstance from my life, with the earliest reaching back to the formations of my world-views. Consequently, the week was one of varying emotions and thoughts, sometimes reaching to extremes. Fortunately, this imbalanced week was capped off by a weekend filled with wonderful spiritual moments, the opportunity to be taught by the Lord's representatives and a wonderful walk around the Oquirrh Mountain Temple.

Monday - November 18, 2013
My former boss and her fiancé joined me for breakfast at the Bambara in downtown Salt Lake City, where we celebrated her last day in the city. She lived in Salt Lake for two years to help improve the operations of our business office here and returned this past weekend to move her belongings back to California now that her work here is complete. I owe her quite a bit because she pulled me out of a period of unemployment and launched a new career for me in human capital management.

Tuesday - November 19, 2013
A good man whom I have known for about six years passed away this week. He was not a close friend, nor was he a relative. In fact, I only knew him because I was his family's home teacher more than four years ago. But, his passing marks a special spiritual experience for me, and while I won't give specific details, I will say that Christ's atonement is real and it plays a tremendous role in the lives of those who access its power.

Friday - November 22, 2013
Of course, everyone is aware that this past Friday was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. I was not alive when the assassination took place, but this President holds a special place in the consciousness of my youth. My mother loved this man and was particularly devastated when his life ended. I remember that each year on this date, she would retrieve all of the newspaper clippings that she saved from the coverage and we would sit together and read them. I also remember our family pilgrimage to the eternal flame at JFK's grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pie Personality Test 2.0 (Updated)

by Casey Peterson:

Every year as I approach Thanksgiving, I am struck by the correlation of personality types to pie selections. Last year I published on MMM my Pie Personality Test 1.0. I received generally positive feedback, but also received several requests for other types of pie not represented. So with Thanksgiving approaching, I submit Pie Personality Test 2.0 for your reading pleasure.

You Are Apple Pie

You're the perfect combo of comforting and traditional.
You prefer things the way you've always known them.
You'll admit that you're old fashioned, and you don't see anything wrong with that.
Your tastes and preferences are classic. And classic never goes out of style.

Those who like you crave security.
People can rely on you to be true to yourself - and true to them.
You're loyal, trustworthy, and comfortable in your own skin.
And because of these qualities, you've definitely earned a lot of respect.

You Are Pumpkin Pie

You're the perfect combo of uniqueness and quality.
You're able to relate to many types of people with many different tastes.
But you're by no means generic or ordinary.
In fact, you're one of the most original people around.

Those who like you are looking for something (or someone) special.
You tend confuse people when they first meet you. But you're not as complicated as you seem.
Even though you have a lot of spice and flavor to you, you're never overpowering.
You are a calm and comforting force in people's lives.

You Are Cream Pie

You're the perfect combo of simplicity and divinity.
You are a secret hedonist. No one knows how indulgent you can be.
You don't indulge often, but when you do, you go for the best.
You have expensive taste - even if you aren't rich.

Those who like you live for understated pleasures. You're not flashy or trendy, but you have a depth that most people lack.
Interacting with you makes most people feel incredibly satisfied.
You are gentle, super sweet, and in harmony with those around you.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mormon World Records 8: Names

by Seattle Jon:

Paul Skousen might not be the best known of the Skousens, but he did pen The Skousen Book of Mormon World Records. This is my tribute series to his good work. Previous Mormon World Records here.

Q: What are the most common LDS names?
A: The most common first names used in predominantly LDS Utah (as of 2000) are (most common first) BOYS: Jacob, Joshua, Tyler and Zachary; GIRLS: Madison, Emily, Hannah, Abigail and Samantha.

Q: Who is more recognizable? Joseph Smith or Brigham Young?
A: In a 1980 national survey, more people in the United States recognized the number two man's name, Brigham Young, than the name of the founder, Joseph Smith.

Q: Who was the first Jack Mormann?
A: In 1971, Jackson F. Mormann, known as Jack to his friends, was baptized with his wife after six months of lessons from the missionaries. They became members of the Philadelphia Stake.

Q: Who was the first Mormon Moorman?
A: For years, Esther Moorman was kidded about being a Mormon. Though the kidding didn't exactly encourage her to investigate the Church, it didn't stop her either. She (a widow) inquired about Mormons from a co-worker, and later, took her two sons to visit the Washington, D.C. temple. They invited the missionaries for more discussion, and were baptized in 1984. The family resided in the Akron, Ohio Stake.
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Seattle Jon is a family man, little league coach, urban farmer and businessman living in Seattle. He currently gets up early with the markets to trade bonds for a living. In his spare time he enjoys movies, thrifting and is an avid reader. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Japan Fukuoka mission field. He has one wife, four kids and five chickens.
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