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Thursday, February 28, 2013

What I'm Reading

by Scott Hales (bio)

There never seems to be a time when Mormon authors aren't publishing something worth reading. Over the past couple of months, for example, I've enjoyed Steven Peck's recent novella A Short Stay in Hell, Sunstone's Stephen Carter's essay collection What of the Night?, and Theric Jepson's debut novel Byuck—all of which I'd not hesitate to recommend. This year I've also tried to tackle a few classic Mormon novels, like Susa Young Gates' John Stevens' Courtship (1909) and Nephi Anderson's Dorian (1921). Sadly, I can't say I'd recommend John Stevens' unless you're interested in its historical-cultural significance, but Dorian is definitely worth your time—despite its many weaknesses. I like to call it the first modern Mormon novel.

Right now I'm on a non-fiction reading binge. I recently received a copy of Terryl and Fiona Givens' The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life (Ensign Peak, 2012) in the mail. In this book, the Givens explore the beauty of Mormonism's understanding of a compassionate God—a God who is, despite popular belief, not particularly interested in punishing the wicked and condemning them to Hell, but rather in doing what He can to bring His children home to become as He is. After having listened to John Dehlin's excellent Mormon Stories interview with Terryl Givens (I haven't had the chance yet to listen to his interview with Fiona), and having had some limited interaction with Givens myself, I am convinced that he is one of the greatest—and most faithful—minds in the Church. The God Who Weeps is simply a fantastic book—and I'm still only halfway through it.

I’m also reading Aleesa Sutton’s self-published Diary of a Single Mormon Female, a memoir about being—you guessed it—a single Mormon female. Now, I admit that I did not begin this book thinking that I would like it. I mean, memoir is not my favorite genre, and I usually only make it about ten pages into a memoir before I have scoffed myself hoarse and tossed the book into the discard pile. So, I worried that my general distaste for the genre would tip the scales against it. But I was wrong: Diary of a Single Mormon Female is a fun book with a lot of insight into the lives of single Mormons. The book is made up of excerpts from Sutton's journals since the time she was a starry-eyed (and boy-crazy) preteen intercut with snarky bits of commentary from her older and wiser self. The combination is hilarious and heartbreaking. An added bonus—for me, at least—is that Sutton and I are the same age, which means her diaries cover a time I look back on with Uncle Rico-like nostalgia.

MMM Sermons: What Thinks Christ of Me?

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.

What thinks Christ of me? I think that is the most defining interrogatory we could ask ourselves. What thinks Jesus Christ about me, about how I live my life, about how I treat my wife, my children, my friends, my enemies? What thinks Christ of the tone and topic of my conversation, with what I write and share and "like?" What thinks Christ of the things that course through my mind minute by minute? What thinks Christ of me at this moment in my progression, in my coming unto Him?

When I am honest in my self-reflection, I recognize many holes in my becoming like Christ. I sometimes feel like a Swiss cheese Mormon, working on this weakness or that failing.

Thankfully, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shares an Apostle's insight about spiritual progression:

Jesus's call "Come, follow me" is not only for those prepared to compete in a spiritual Olympics. In fact, discipleship is not a competition at all but an invitation to all. Our journey of discipleship is not a dash around the track, nor is it fully comparable to a lengthy marathon. In truth, it is a lifelong migration toward a more celestial world.

The road to discipleship is a long and winding one but a worthwhile path to be on. As Elder Andersen notes:

Wherever you now find yourself on the road of discipleship, you are on the right road, the road toward eternal life. Together we can lift and strengthen one another in the great and important days ahead. Whatever the difficulties confronting us, the weaknesses confining us, or the impossibilities surrounding us, let us have faith in the Son of God, who declared, "All things are possible to him that believeth."

When I was first baptized, I remember striving to jump from living a very telestial-type of life to a celestial change. Unfortunately, trying to leap frog progressive steps on the road of discipleship left me frustrated and feeling weak many times as I failed to keep little and big commandments.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Fiber of Service

by Casey Peterson (bio)

Photo via UggBoy♥UggGirl.

Last week was a monumental marker in my parental progression. My oldest son went on his first date (first one he asked a girl on, I'm not counting the girls choice dance before). As planning started we were going to host him and three of his friends, along with their dates. A small group of eight would fit nicely in our front room, we could use the nice china dishes, and decorating would be simple. Gradually however, the group grew and grew. Suddenly transportation, food preparation, decorations, pictures, and a large enough venue started to become concerns. Basketball games evolved into mother planning times, hundreds of texts were sent between parents, and I had to show up three hours before the dinner just to set up and decorate. It had become a major event!

Arrival time quickly came, and my younger son was dressed in his nicest suit and stationed at the front doors to greet the young couples. My two youngest daughters were in their best dresses to serve the food, refill glasses, and clear plates. My wife was working with the other mothers to fill plates, prepare food, and keep things running. And I somehow found myself at the sink with my older daughter at my side helping me.

I never do love doing dishes, I don't like seeing wasted food, I don't like how it makes my hands feel, and I don't like how my back aches from bending over the sink. As the endless stream of different sized plates, the plethora of forks, and the lipstick smeared goblets began to bury me, I paused to stop and look around. I realized my son was more worried about conversation topics, using the right manners, and avoiding embarrassing moments. He probably didn't realize the army of people in the kitchen helping the dinner to go off smoothly. But when I saw my entire family busy and engaged in helping him behind the scenes, I was profoundly moved. Gone were the questions of "whose turn is it, didn't I just do this, or how do I get out of this?" For a brief moment, each member of my family was working their hardest in a completely happy and selfless way as part of a unified effort of service.

Marion G. Romney said that "Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made." Though we were enduring mundane tasks, serving together created a beautiful tapestry of love and laughter. I reflected back on shoveling snow for a neighbor, weeding a widow's garden, or other seemingly random acts placed in the path of our family to enjoy together a glimpse of eternity. Certainly this glimpse was also given to remind me to serve more as a family and enjoy more of these glimpses of greatness.

How to Teach Kids Values

by Pete Codella (bio)

Photo by matt2rubin.

I'm stretched way too thin. Life is hectic, frenetic and chaotic.

My wife and I are lucky to have a date night once a month. Our family eats together about half of the time. The rest of the time we're too busy and doing separate things at dinner time. We have breakfast together, hurriedly get ready for our day, have family prayer, and then we're off and running. Each day feels like a race - all part of a never-ending marathon that makes even the most simple things, like what happened two days ago, a complete blur.

And I feel like we're raising technology-aided, lackadaisical kids who take no thought - or at least very little thought - about the value of people, situations and things. They're entitled. And I guess we enable the entitlement.

For a while now I've advocated that we forgo all Christmas gifts and instead travel to a different country where things are simple and less complicated. Where shelter, food and water are the focus of the day. I long for the opportunity to have my family experience a different reality. But perhaps in my desire I expose the hypocrisy of such a charity trip while we comfortably settle in the abundance of our new home in a modern, convenient city.

I wish my kids valued hard work. I wish they were grateful for all that their progenitors have made possible for them to receive and benefit from. I wish they were kind to one another, to their parents and grandparents.

Is this too much to ask?

Is this perspective only gained with experience and age?

Perhaps no 11 and 7 year-olds can have such a perspective. Perhaps no American child in 2013 can have such a perspective. Maybe I'm being completely unrealistic. And with all the hustle and bustle I feel like the time to teach them, through example and experience - not just words - is running out.

So here's my question: How do you raise kids with good Christian values like respect, integrity and morality? What things do you do to help them understand we're all in this experience together to work and develop characteristics that bring us closer to God, and not closer to any other thing, place, person or accomplishment?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Our Ward Primary is Thinking of Banning the Scriptures

by Ben Johnson (bio)

That was a shameless attempt to get you to read the rest of the post. In reality, the primary in our ward is thinking of banning electronic versions of the scriptures.

My wife is the stake primary president and one of her duties is to train and support the ward primary presidents. During one such training one of the ward PP's mentioned that she was having trouble keeping the kids engaged during sharing time and during class because of, you guessed it, electronic devices.

I won't go into the details as to why electronic devices are such a problem in primary because you surely already know the reason: the kids are just like the adults! How many of you, like me, have checked sports scores during a lesson, or sent an email during sacrament? How many of you, like me, have decided that 'Kindle-ing' WVS's disquisitions on priesthood are more interesting than the testimonies on fast Sunday? While our electronic devices are very handy, they can be very distracting.

I'd like to put a question to the group: what would the consequences be if our ward primary banned electronic devices? Would the kids be somehow deprived? If so, how? Now let's take it a step further. Imagine that this Sunday your bishop reads a letter from the First Presidency, the gist of which is you are discouraged from bringing your electronic devices to church. Basically, stick with the old leather and paper. What are the repercussions, if any? Is the net effect good or bad?

While I love my phone and Kindle and would probably cease to function without them, I can't help but wonder if leaving them home on Sunday wouldn't be better for me. Granted, this is more a problem with me than the electronics, but I'd love to hear some different perspectives on this.

Electronics on Sunday: blessing or curse? I would appreciate any thoughts the MMM community has.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Harlem Shake: Family Home Evening Edition

The following variation of the currently popular Harlem Shake Internet meme was submitted by MMM reader Danniey. According to Danniey, her family was watching Harlem Shake videos and cracking up. So they decided to invite friends over and make their own for FHE. Her three year-old (who starts it off) had a blast, but their 18 month-old was a little disturbed. You can see him in the front wondering what on earth is happening. The whole thing was shot, edited, and posted within 90 minutes from deciding we would make one. Nicely done Danniey!

Giveaway 27: Zarahemla Books 4

Christopher Bigelow, owner and operator of Zarahemla Books, is back with his final giveaway. In operation since 2006, Zarahemla Books publishes Mormon-oriented fiction, humor, and memoir, with an emphasis on adventurous Mormon stories that are unorthodox but not apostate. Theric Jepson, of A Motley Vision blog and Byuck fame, calls Zarahemla "the most valuable brand in Mormon letters today" and "the Pixar of Mormon literature."

As you already know, Christopher is generously giving away one copy of each of Zarahemla's 19 titles to Modern Mormon Men readers. For this, the final of four giveaways, Zarahemla is giving away the following provocative, unconventional, yet ultimately faith-affirming books.

Giveaway guidelines are for the following five titles (click for previews): Brother BrighamLong After DarkNo Going BackLight of the New Day and Standing on the Promises, Book 1: One More River to Cross. Can't wait? Buy Zarahemla books now.

Giveaway Guidelines:
You have THREE chances to enter. Each entry requires a separate comment.
1. Leave a comment on this post.
2. Like MMM on Facebook or share this post on Facebook. Leave a comment letting us know you did.
3. Follow MMM on Twitter or share this post on Twitter. Leave a comment letting us know you did.

• 5 days to enter (closes Friday, March 1st at midnight).
• Winner announced Monday, March 4th.
• Winner must respond via email with their address by Wednesday, March 6th to claim the books.

Friday, February 22, 2013

MMM Library: I Had A Bad Feeling About Serving A Mission

by Sam Nelson (bio)

This post was originally published August 4, 2011.

I remember when I was first filling out my papers to go and serve my LDS mission. I had always wanted to go and always planned on going, but for some reason, I just had the sickest feeling about it. Was it because I wasn't ready? No … I was ready. Was I unworthy? No … I was fine with everything. Was this the spirit telling me that it wasn't time for me to go? Was it the spirit telling me I was supposed to wait to put my papers later? was I meant to go to another mission? I didn't know.

When push came to shove, my bishop told me I should go at that time and I did. I received a call to Concepcion, Chile and right away I was sent to my Aunt White's old sector (where she'd served ten years earlier) where I helped her converts and also worked with them to bring many other people to the restored gospel. I was exactly where I was supposed to be, exactly when I needed to be there.

Just a few months ago - while on my mission - I had a similar experience, I decided to take a risk, and take it upon myself to go open a new area called "Puente Ñuble." Everything about the idea made perfect sense and - initially - I felt good about it. It was not in any way against any mission rule, but it was different. Leaving a designated sector was never done before, but it seemed like the right thing to do in the given situation.

That night I had the sickest, worst feeling about it. Thoughts came … "How stupid would you look if this didn't work!? Why are you taking it upon yourself to do something that has never been done before? Who do you think you are? Why don’t you just do what you are supposed to do?" The next morning I woke up and told my companion that I wasn't doing it. I told him that it was a silly idea, and totally irrational … "I just had the worst feeling about it." I said. But after some time, and a lot of talking, the other elders that lived with me convinced me to do it, and I did. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, those last three months were the most successful and fulfilling of my entire mission. In fact, if the 21 months before that were nothing more that a preparation for my time in "Puente Ñuble." I would still consider my mission the most productive two years of my life.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Abiding Belief & Reasonable Doubt

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Photo by Wally Gobetz

I recently spent four days in the local courthouse doing my first tour of jury duty. For two of the four days I served as presiding juror on a domestic assault case. A lot about the experience struck me as interesting, meaningful and memorable, but what I continue to reflect upon most was the jury's struggle with the following legal terms: abiding belief and reasonable doubt.

So I asked Max Power, emeritus MMM contributor and the smartest lawyer I know, to shed some light on these terms in both legal and religious contexts.

Max Power

The "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard is at the same time one of the most important principles of criminal law and one of the least clearly understood. There is no statute or clear case law defining the standard, and in fact courts disagree whether it is even appropriate to instruct a jury about its meaning, beyond merely stating the standard. In academia, the standard is typically described as requiring the prosecutor to prove each element of the alleged crime to the extent that there could be no doubt in the mind of a reasonable person that would affect that reasonable person's belief that the proved fact is true.

Clarity of the standard is not the biggest problem with the standard, though. For one, a typical juror is probably unable to access the mind of a "reasonable" person. The concept is not aimed merely at the "average" person, but rather at a legal fiction designed to approximate the collective judgment of society as a whole, incorporating all common normative and prudential judgments and acting perfectly consistent in accordance with those principles. Of course, no such person has ever existed, and no juror could ever effectively channel one. It would be even more difficult to do so than to adopt the "what would Jesus do?" credo. Jesus was perfectly principle-oriented and ultimately predictable; the reasonable person is the epitome of pragmatism, balancing virtue with expediency.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Can Boys Be Doctors?

by Eliana (bio)

When my oldest son was 4 or 5, he asked me a serious question.

“Can boys be doctors?”

It was a tender moment for this feminist mama. Eye doctor, principal, pediatrician, Primary teachers, dentist, Lego club director, librarian, classroom teacher. All women.

My boys are lucky to have a very involved father who loves spending time with them and loves them more than anything on earth. But we live far from extended family so uncles and grandpas are once a year phenomenon, if that.

I know that once my boys turn 12 they'll have some male leaders at church. We're not into sports—adults or kids—so no manly coaches can help me out. I'm not sure how else to get more male role models onto the scene.

I read a lot too much about raising boys: Boys Adrift, Raising Cain, Wild Things, among others (all of which I'd recommend whole-heartedly). Raising Modern Mormon Men, or men of any kind, is a job I take seriously. I know my sons (I don't have daughters) need more than dad and the quirky pop from Phineas and Ferb to set them on the path.

Any advice dear readers?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Underlined 1: History & Faith, Richard D. Poll

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Underlined is a new series where contributors share what they underlined while reading a book. Today's book is Richard D. Poll's History and Faith: Reflections of a Mormon Historian.

"I believe that the gateway to heaven is strait and narrow; I also believe that it is high enough for me to take my head in with me."

"No one deserves to believe unless he has served an apprenticeship of doubt." - Will Durant

"The impression among most of the laity that the General Authorities agree on all matters of doctrine and policy gives disproportionate influence to idiosyncratic views which are publicly and dogmatically expressed by individuals in the church hierarchy."

"Apart from the veneration of certain idealized episodes from the past—the first visions, the martyrdom of the prophet, the crossing of the plains—we have forgotten our past. And as far as such features of that past as plural marriage are concerned, some of us would appreciate not being reminded of them. Not merely the events of the past, but the concept of the past as a process influences current LDS thought very little. The significant legacy of the past is popularly seen as a body of revelations, of encapsulated and uncontested truths which are of equal validity and relevance in every generation. The rest of the historic record is nonfunctional in terms of the quest for exaltation and so, the counsel of Doctrine and Covenants 88 notwithstanding, the body of historical knowledge and experience is not brought to bear on the decisions and value judgments of the here and now."

"With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forward to lead the land we love, asking his blessing and his help but knowing that, here on earth, God's work must truly be our own." - John F. Kennedy

"I believe that many people place too much responsibility for the human predicament upon the evil designs of cunning and crafty men and women. I suggest that they are abetted in their designs by good people who do not know how to express the goodness they feel within themselves. So they do nothing."

"If everything we read agrees with us, we should enlarge the scope of our reading."

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Wedding Anniversary

by Bradly Baird (bio)

After nearly twenty years of marriage, celebrating the anniversary of that event can become a challenge; mainly because so many expectations and emotions are tied up in whether the celebration truly honors the level of feeling that one has for a spouse after so much time. As our anniversary loomed large this year, my wife and I had no clue how we would celebrate. We only knew that the traditional romantic evening or weekend getaway wasn't going to cut it.

So, we rented a canyon.

Specifically, we rented Pah Tempe Hot Springs in the little town of Hurricane (right there by Zion National Park). For less than one hundred dollars, we had a private canyon, seven hot spring pools, two caves, a waterfall, and a great big chunk of the Virgin River all to ourselves for an entire morning. We swam, relaxed, talked, meditated, floated in bubbles, stared at the sky, took pictures, and "celebrated."

It was magical and I would rank this anniversary morning as one of the top one hundred moments of our marriage. Check it out!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Linger Longer 19

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

Bloggernacle (religious sites)
The Magic Time Machine (Segullah)
Steve Evans Reacts to the FMH/BCC War (By Common Consent)
Crowdfunded Mormon Art (Times and Seasons)
She Says / He Says: The Give and Take in Temple Marriage (Feminist Mormon Housewives)
Wait ... What Does That Mean? (Zelophehad's Daughters)
Damned, Either Way (Dandelion Mama)
A Review of Theric Jepson's Byuck (The Low-Tech World)
Poll: The Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts of America (The Exponent)
Heavenly Mother: Are You Really There? (Wheat & Tares)
A Response to the Salt Lake Tribune on Utah’s Dixie and Slave Culture (Keepapitchinin)
The Lost Elders (Rational Faiths)
The Gospel of Jesus is Not a Plan (Into the Hills)
Five Questions for Terryl Givens (A Motley Vision)
Morally "Straight" (Doves and Serpents)
The Cosmology of the "Priesthood" Restriction (The Juvenile Instructor)
Truth, Lies, and Personal Narratives of Faith (Faith-Promoting Rumor)
Picketing Zion (Peculiar People)
I'm A High School Senior ... Should I go to BYU? (Ask Mormon Girl)
Area Elders Quorum Presidency Has Fantasy Home Teacher League (Mormon Tabernacle Enquirer)
Nibley and The Fear of Joy (Ships of Hagoth)
BSA Gay Okay? - Delay (Religion Dispatches)

Mormon-Related Podcasts
Episodes 019-021: The Journey of John Dehlin (A Thoughtful Faith Podcast)
Episode 146: Mormon Parents Face Their Child's Faith Transition (Mormon Matters Podcast)
Episode 73: Comedian Stephen Jones (The Cultural Hall Podcast)

Off-Bloggernacle (non-religious sites)
Model RocketsThree Wise MenLeap Seconds, Death Rates and Steak Drop (What If?)
Name These Star Wars Silhouettes (io9)
How to Read 31 Books in 4 Minutes (New York Magazine)
The Beatles of Comedy (The Atlantic)
The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science (Mother Jones)
Not In My House: How Vegas Casinos Wage a War on Cheating (The Verge)
The Beautiful and Efficient Anatomy of Pregnancy (TEDWeekends)
The 150 Things the World's Smartest People Are Afraid Of (Motherboard)
58% of Republicans Are Young Earth Creationists (Little Green Footballs)
How to Think About Our Steroid Supermen (The New Atlantis)
The Zero Dark Thirty File (The National Security Archive)
The Delights of Disgust (The Chronicle)
The Placebo Phenomenon (Harvard Magazine)
How to Solve Problems Like Sherlock Holmes (Fast Company)
Chicago's Freezing Fire (The Atlantic)
192 Thinkers on the Most Elegant Theory of How the World Works (Brain Pickings)

MMM Library: Great Moments in Sacrament Meeting

by A-Dub (bio)

This post was originally published on June 2, 2011.

Dr. Steve Brule plate by James Allenspach.

One thing that is at least fairly unique to the mormon church is the fact that once a month, we are willing to let anyone in the congregation get up and “bear their testimony.” I’ve always felt that this says a lot about the church. We’re willing to have open mike night where folks can plant themselves in front of the audience and say pretty much anything they want, totally off the cuff. Bishopric members, being ultimately responsible for the content of the meeting and the doctrine preached, are oftentimes sweating bullets during the first Sunday of the month. Even the regular 2nd-5th Sunday meetings are for the most part sermons given by members of the congregation. So anyone who says there’s no free speech in the mormon church I think is kidding themselves. But I digress.

So, given the freedom to speak our minds during the meeting, I’m sure we all have a favorite sacrament meeting/fast and testimony meeting story. I wanted to share one of my favorites with you.

(Note: I love all people and am not trying to mock anyone in the story below, because I know we are all different and God loves us. I am simply pointing out how interesting church can be, even without a full band playing the hymns.)

In a fast and testimony meeting several months ago, a woman we didn't recognize stood up from the second row (in the benches, not at the pulpit) and began to bear (what we thought would be) her testimony. It started off a little oddly but mentioned the Joseph Smith story, so we thought it was going somewhere. It was not. She started to drift off into talking about computers and binary code, as well as some plates that had been revealed to her. Uh-oh. As a visual aid she held up some of the plates, which turned out to be 8-inch paper plates, with some handmade designs on them. We later found out (I am not making this up) that the designs were made in vanilla yogurt.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Guest Post: One Reader's Memorable Valentine's Day

It doesn’t matter if you’re man or woman, gay or straight, dark- or light-skinned. All can equally submit guest posts to Modern Mormon Men. Write something now and submit via email.

A second-generation Mormon, Sally Ashmore grew up in the mission field of Wisconsin and earned a B.A. in English from a small Catholic school in Iowa you've probably never heard of. She currently resides among other YSA's near historic Winter Quarters (Omaha), where she forces life to be interesting. Don't miss Sally's first guest post about Gladys Knight and her SUV Choir.

Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday in 2010, and it was, by far, the most memorable of the twenty-seven I've been around for.

The week before, on February 7th, I had been approached by a bishopric member and asked to give a talk the next week in Sacrament meeting. He had meant to ask me the week before, but I had been out of town. I accepted, knowing that I needed all the blessings I could collect to make up for the engine in my car going to that deluxe garage up in the sky. Unfortunately, he had left the paper with the topic and references in the bishop's office and would have to get it after the meeting.

After the meeting, he handed me the paper, and I don't recall seeing him again when I looked up from it. The assignment was a 15-20 minute talk on Preparing for Temple Marriage. Did he forget this was a Single's Ward? Did he forget next Sunday was Valentine's Day? Did I really just agree to give a 15-20 minute talk on Preparing for Temple Marriage to a Single's Ward on Valentine's Day?!

"Well, too late to back down, now," I thought as I located my sister and our ride home. I spent the entire ride kicking myself for not having taken better notes the week before, when I visited a ward in which a bachelor in his mid-30's had been assigned to speak on Celestial Marriage. I spent as much time as I could preparing during the week, since I knew my entire Saturday was devoted to playing Vanna to the magical Pat Sajak putting a rebuilt engine into my car. I even sacrificed a day's pay so I could work on my talk that Friday.

Valentine's Day finally arrived. After racking my nerves for a good amount of time (I planned an approximately one minute intro, seven minutes on preparing for the temple, a one minute transition, seven minutes on preparing for marriage, and a one minute conclusion), I sat down and let relief flood over me during the musical number. Having accomplished that task, I sat as tall as my five-foot frame allowed me to and thought, "If I can give a 15-20 minute talk on Preparing for Temple Marriage … to the Single's Ward … on Valentine's Day, I can do anything."

Then the anchor speaker went to the pulpit and announced his assigned topic: Chastity.

That may have been the first (although it certainly hasn't been the last) time I was grateful for my assignment. As bad as it was, it could have been that. In fact, I almost felt guilty for having felt relieved earlier. However, I don't know that our ward has ever been more unified than it was at that moment as we all gave a sympathetic cringe for our brother at the pulpit. In that one moment, every one of us felt the same truth in our heart: we did not want to be him.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mormon TV Listings

by ldsbishop (bio)

Stuck for something to watch instead of having to play with the kids or talk to your spouse? Here are some of the forthcoming episodes of the hottest TV shows for the discerning Mormon viewer:

Tense drama where a young Relief Society President with depression has suspicions that a member of the Stake High Council might be plotting the release of her ward's bishopric.

General Conference - Behind the Pulpit
Documentary featuring never before seen footage of the rehearsals for General Conference. See President Monson get caught in an alliterative tongue-twister. Also a chance to see the un-broadcast version of the "Little Factory" talk by Boyd K. Packer that includes the phrase "your spewing chimney releasing its noxious substance." Viewer discretion advised due to language.

Breaking [the word of wisdom] Bad
A Young Men's President (the dad from Malcolm in the Middle) earns extra cash by making his own highly-caffeinated energy drinks that are sold around the back of seminary buildings.

Sesame Ward
The High Priest Group Leader (Oscar the Grouch) bemoans poor Home Teaching statistics. The missionaries (Bert and Ernie) bring an investigator (Grover) to church with hilarious consequences. Brought to you by the number 3 [hour block] and the letters Zzzzzzzzz.

Mormon Cribs
See how your Church leaders and other rich and famous Mormons live. In the latest episode Elder Dallin H. Oaks invites the viewer into his home and shows off his food storage room. Mitt and Ann Romney give us a tour of one of their homes, take us on a ride on their car elevator and show us where all those binders full of women are stored.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mother in Heaven

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Leonardo da Vinci
Our youngest, Noah, who is six, recently gave a talk in primary. The topic was "I Am A Child of God." I used the opportunity to introduce him to his Heavenly Mother.

The mormon doctrine of Heavenly Mother was referenced frequently by both male and female church leaders during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, before an "agglomeration of folk tradition and anti-feminist retrenchment made talking about Mother in Heaven virtually taboo." (Brooks, Is Heavenly Mother Making a Comeback in Mormonism?) Ms. Brooks also suggests the taboo might finally be easing, citing research published in the journal BYU Studies (purchase the article) showing that the oft-cited belief that discourse about Heavenly Mother is forbidden or inappropriate has no basis in Mormon history or doctrine.

Personally, I find the speculative theology of a Heavenly Mother to be both beautiful and satisfying ... and I'd like my children to know about Her. Below is the before and after of Noah's Primary talk I found on MormonShare.

Even though we cannot remember living with Heavenly Father, He remembers. He knows and loves each of us because we are His children. One day we'll remember how well we know Him, too. President Ezra Taft Benson (1899 - 1994) once said, "Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us" (quoted in Ensign, May 1991, 66). I think it will be _______________ to return home to Him someday because _______________.

Even though we cannot remember living with our Heavenly Parents, They remember. They know and love each of us because we are Their children. One day we'll remember how well we know Them, too. President Ezra Taft Benson (1899 - 1994) once said, "Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us" (quoted in Ensign, May 1991, 66). I think it will be nice to return home to my Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother someday because I believe in Them.

Noah won't remember the talk, but maybe a primary leader or older primary child who was listening will find something in the theology they too find beautiful and satisfying. And they will know about Her too.

Friday, February 8, 2013

How to Be A Better Dad

by Dustin (bio)

Gediminas Pranckevieius, My Little Friend, 2010
I teach early morning seminary, specifically the juniors and seniors. The other day was I talking with the other teacher who has the freshman/sophomore class about his lesson that morning. His lesson was on gifts, and he was showing me a book he had received for Christmas from his seven year-old daughter. It was a hardcover board book that she had designed from start to finish and it was called "Why I Love My Dad." He held up the book and went on to describe how he had set up a great class and what he did next. I tuned him out. I wanted to know what was in the book. I have a seven year-old daughter and so was curious what his daughter said she loved about him. Casually, I took the book from him and began reading it while he was talking. It rocked me.

As I skimmed through the book, each page had an elaborate, colorful drawing with colored pencils depicting this little girl and her daddy with some narrative. One page said, "I love my Dad because he cleans my room with me and shows me how to do a good job." The night before, I was standing in the game room upstairs, exasperated, griping at my kids, and telling my daughter that if I had to ask her again to please go clean her room I was going to drag her by her ankle to her room like a caveman after a hunt. Another page said, "I love my Dad because he comes to my school to eat lunch with me." I'm often too distracted by work or too unorganized to even consider this as an option. Plus it's a long twenty minute drive (said in my most whiny voice). "I love my Dad because he plays with me," "... because he takes me to his work," "... because he takes me to get a hamburger and talk." Wow. I gave him his book back and said "Man, I couldn't see my daughter saying any of that. She would probably say, 'I love my Dad because he gripes at me and tells me to clean up.'" Or because he chases me up the stairs and buries me in pillows when I'm at my most ticked. This was a sign to me that I had some work to do.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Get To Know Your Ward Members: A German!

by Bishop Higgins (bio)

Photograph by Heather Cowper

Niklas Gert just moved into our ward all the way from Altötting, Germany. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. That's a funny name for a town. You know what name I like for a town? Paris, which is a town in Idaho. And the reason I like it is because it reminds me of that town in France called Paris.

Niklas will be a great addition to our ward. He's a full tithe payer and has a funny accent.

Brother Gert has a number of successful restaurants in Germany and is planning on opening a couple restaurants here in Provo. He told me these will be a new idea, and something he feels would only work in this part of the world. His first restaurant will be called "Ox in the Mire" and it's only going to be open on Sunday. His second restaurant will be a men-only restaurant, and instead of sitting at tables to eat, once you get your food, you'll just stand over a sink and eat your food there.

We wish him all the best.

Saintspeak 14: The Letter L

by Seattle Jon (bio)

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

Lady Missionary Until recent years, disobedient women who weren't married by age twenty-one were permitted to go on missions as a sort of penance. Now, however, many parents encourage their daughters to go on missions before they marry, out of the strange belief that if a period of total dedication to the service of the Lord is good for boys, it will also be good for girls. Elders usually hate to have lady missionaries in their districts because they are distracting, they need special treatment, and they work so hard it makes the boys look bad by contrast.

Last Days The terrible time when Mormons will actually have to eat all that wheat and honey and powdered milk they've been storing all these years.

Laurels What no one in the Church is permitted to rest on.

Laying on of Hands What missionaries are not allowed to do with members of the opposite sex.

Lineage of Cain What black people USED to have that kept them from being able to hold the priesthood or get married in the temple.

 Loud Laughter Something to be avoided except when a General Authority makes a joke during a talk.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Guest Post: Tales from Cuyahoga 1 - Alternative Medicine

There are two types of mission stories – inspirational and funny. I like to save the inspirational ones for church talks.
- Reed Soper (previous guest posts)

(The following story is true. The names have been changed to protect all involved)

April 1, 1986

Four mormon missionaries are headed to the Parmatown Mall near Cleveland, Ohio.

Elder A and I had been companions for several weeks and were working together well. Prior to this companion-ship, I had served with Elder B. Somewhat coincidently, Elders A and B had served together prior to my companionship with Elder (1).  Elder B was now training a new missionary, Elder XX was a challenge, more so than your typical new missionary. Beyond resisting the training B was assigned to give, X was prone to obnoxious behavior. Because of this, B was frustrated and this led to our preparation day trip to the Parmatown mall. The original intent was to provide B with some pleasant distraction and run a bit of interference between he and X.

On the drive to the mall, X demonstrated some of his less endearing traits to A and me. Since this was our first meeting, A and I made several inquiries to X about his background and interests. His answers were sarcastic (and not in a good way). This behavior gave us insight into B's frustrations (2). He also made several references to his belief that B had a fundamental misunderstanding of how to go about missionary work. While I firmly believe that no one is above reproach, hearing a new missionary diss his trainer seemed inappropriate. There was a sense throughout the mission-issued Chevrolet Cavalier (3) that something ought to be done. A scheme was concocted that drew upon all the skills and maturity that our 20-year old minds could muster.

As we neared the mall, B asked how X was feeling. X had recently been diagnosed with an ear infection and had been prescribed Tylenol 3 (4) for the pain. X replied that it was about the same and he had doubts that his medication was benefiting him. B, one of the most clever people I know, stated that he had read a study that taking pain pills internally diluted (5) their pain-relieving effects and there were better ways to administer these medicines. A, not one step behind B in cleverness, mentioned that he had read the same article and that the best way to relieve pain was to fasten the pill directly to the skin. A gave me a knowing look and this April Fool's day (6) joke was off and running. X was skeptical but A,  B and I all chimed in that advances were always being made in modern medicine and what did he have to lose.

We got to the mall and went to the member-owned Orange Julius store and asked to borrow their scotch tape. A took about a 2 inch piece of tape and carefully fastened the Tylenol 3 to it (7). A stated that it was important to have the imprinted letters of the word “Tylenol” on the tablet touch the skin, as this was how the medicine traveled from the pill through the skin and to the affected area (8). A maintained that the pill must be attached to X's left temple for maximum effectiveness. For the balance of our trip to the mall, X had a pill taped to his head. For the rest of the day, X had a pill taped to his head. For the next three days, X had a pill taped to his head. This included multiple visits to member's homes (9) as well as several hours of tracting (10).

The most amazing part of it all was that X believed that it worked (11).

(1) If this genealogy of companionships is confusing, please contact me directly and I will draw a diagram.
(2) Forgive me for not going into great detail about his responses, dear reader. It has been a long time and some of the specifics are a bit hazy.
(3) If you had a car, it was either a Chevy Cavalier or a Ford Tempo with absolutely no optional equipment.
(4) Tylenol 3 "Return of the Pain Reliever."
(5) The pill would break down and travel through the bloodstream all over the body. There is at least a scrap of logic to this, right?
(6) Full disclosure – we realized it was April 1st midway through this practical joke but we took full calendrical advantage.
(7) As B and I watched A, with a surgeon's precision, stick the pill to the tape, it was almost more than we could take. We bit a hasty retreat and cracked up for a minute before regaining composure and rejoining the group.
(8) A coming up with the need for the imprinted letters on the pill to touch the skin to allow for transfer of the medication from the pill to the patient was on the fly and sheer genius. He also told X that in 24 hours, the pill would be merely an empty shell, devoid of any pain relieving ingredients and should be carefully replaced.
(9) The members were briefed beforehand. Everyone wants in on a good April Fool's Day joke.
(10) Word is that a discussion was also taught with taped pill in place. I cannot confirm this.
(11) We did fully disclose the nature of the joke to X after three days. He was a pretty good sport about it. No animals, humans or testimonies were harmed in the perpetration of this joke.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Twisted Toys

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Scott Heffernan, co-founder of this blog, has a really cool full-time job. What does he do, you ask? He designs and makes toys. Scott recently stated for The Seattle Times that working for Archie McPhee's is his dream job. (read Twisted Toys from Twisted Minds + Behind the Scenes at Accoutrements). Here are some of the products Scott has created or had a hand in creating. (Merry Krampus Sweater, Magical Unicorn Mask, Abraham Lincoln Bandages, Top Hat Espresso Cup & Saucer)

He and his son, Cash, have also been featured on a number of products and in some photo shoots. (Emergency Inflatable Toast, Giant Glow-in-the-Dark Googly Eyes, Inflatable Beard of Bees, Inflatable Tentacle Arm)

If you have a toy idea that's been kicking around in your head since you were a kid, it's probably already been done by Archie McPhee's. So, if you live in or near Seattle, or are visiting, and haven't been to Archie's, stop in. It's a magical place.

Friday, February 1, 2013

MMM Library: 3,000 Thoughts a Day and Counting

by Dustin (bio)

This post was originally published on June 2, 2011.

Image by Steve Dunleavy.

I was watching the NBA Playoffs several weeks ago when a car commercial caught my attention. It opened by saying that humans have more than 3,000 thoughts a day. I imagine it went on to talk about their car and its features, but I wouldn't know because this statement jarred my thoughts away from the commercial (read: marketing failure) as one thought in particular popped out of nowhere. How do I weed through the endless flood of meaningless thoughts I have each day to hone in on the truly important ones? What can I do to identify the life-altering thoughts that are placed in my mind by God and that are generally sandwiched somewhere between "what should I have for an after-dinner snack" and "my foot itches"?

The first thing we need to know is that the most profound thoughts -- the ones that will be truly meaningful to our life in the moment -- will come from the Holy Ghost. These thoughts include those little strokes of genius that come to our minds seemingly out of nowhere that, when followed, lead to joy. These might relate to career path, Church calling, solutions to problems in work, church, or family, or simple things that keep us from danger or that inspire us.

Once we recognize that the meaningful thoughts will come from the Spirit, we need to figure out how to isolate them and focus on them long enough to make a real difference. I followed up on this thought (this is key to making a real difference) and came across a great read by Gerald Lund from the July 2004 New Era entitled "Is it Revelation?" He said the key to identifying the thoughts that come from the Spirit (in other words, the meaningful thoughts) is to quiet the "inner noise." Inner noise may be obvious such as sin, anger, tiredness, hunger, or apathy. It may also be more conspicuous, such as wanting something so badly that our judgment is clouded by emotion (i.e. that car would make for a much better commute...what's the point of a savings account anyway!?). Take a moment to identify your inner noise. What is distracting you right now?

So here are five ways to quiet the noise:

1. Take a moment of silence: I typically use my commute to alternate between listening to Clive Cussler and letting radio DJs determine my fate. But yesterday I felt inspired to do nothing. I decided to sit in the car in silence and reflect. Through this process, I discovered two things: 1) the things I needed to focus on rose to the top and 2) doing this for more than ten minutes not only hurts your brain but gets a bit awkward. I have a short attention span.

Other MMM Posts

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