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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Clicked Off

by Casey Peterson (bio)

As I walked into church last Sunday, I was hit by the social buzz that accompanies mission farewells. The chapel was filled to about twice the normal capacity with youth in the 16-21 year-old demographic, anxious to hear their friend speak, partake in the social gathering, feel validated in missing their regular ward meetings, and hopefully get fed a good meal afterward. They filled in the seats all around my family, and before skirts and slacks even hit the seats, cell phones were out and in full surfing/texting mode. I was mildly amused until the guy next to me dumped half the water tray in my lap as he was unsuccessful in texting with one hand and passing the tray in a level, upright position to me with the other hand. At that point I felt the spiritual disappointment for the lack of appreciation for a sacred symbol that I had looked forward to all week. I felt the disgust with his lack of courtesy in respecting my right to worship. I felt ashamed for his device addiction that didn't allow him to hear a great meeting or feel a special spirit. And I felt embarrassed to be feeling all of this while I should be focusing on the sacrifice of my Savior and the continued blessings of his gospel in my life.

As the sacrament concluded, my five year-old daughter came to sit on my lap, and gently asked if she could play with my phone. We live in an age that playing who can put your hand over your siblings hand game, drawing in a coloring book, or tracing your hand on the back of the program have been surpassed by free downloads of all kinds. Horse puzzles, interesting kids games (including bible-themed), and many others now have an amazing effect on keeping my squirming children quiet for the duration of the meeting. Step 1, make sure the phone is muted, step 2, sit back and focus on whatever un-kid related activity you want to for the meeting. It's that simple. Except for the fact that uncomfortable thoughts hit in those times, and one hit me.

"I am conditioning the exact behavior that I am condemning," I thought. "I'm taking the easy road, letting an electronic device entertain her, depriving her of learning reverence, paying attention, occasionally navigating the weird, the boring, or possibly the inspiring discourse given." I grew up without a phone in meetings, but still have to fight the urge to check a sports ticker, or venture beyond my Gospel Library app on my phone. However, allowing my kids to learn that behavior from a young age leaves little hope for them and conditions them to use sacred time for entertainment time. It reflects poorly on my stewardship as a father.

This reflection activity has led me in a careful self-analysis of my teaching, particularly during worship services. While it may be harder to go back to squirming, occasional boredom, or even apathy, I may also get back to helping my children to learn from a gospel that teaches endurance, perseverance, and work-to-learn mentality. Not easy, but I hope worth it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bloggernacle: Teacher, Mother, Secret Lover ...

by Ben Johnson (bio)

"Hi, my name is Ben and I'm a Bloggernacle-holic. It's been 30 minutes since my last look."

I have a long history with the Bloggernacle. I honestly don't remember when I first started but it's been many years. I also have a rocky history with the 'Nacle. Sometimes I love everything I read, including the comments. Other times I want to punch it in the face and lose its phone number. In the end, though, I always come back.

I think the trick is moderation, not necessarily with time but with content. There is only so much one can take of 100-comment-producing screeds. Sometimes you need to lighten things up. I'm not kissing tookus here, but that's one of the reasons I like MMM. There's a nice balance here.

Not too long ago I decided that in order to participate in the Bloggernacle and maintain my own sanity, I needed an outlet. Thus Astute Doofus was born. Astute Doofus is my lazy attempt at blowing off steam and having a good time. Admittedly, the attempt is crude and sometimes not well thought-out, but don't let that stop you from dropping in for a few minutes. I'd love to have you.

Currently my plan is to post something every day until I run out of ideas or I quit the Bloggernacle for good (yeah right). But for now, please stop by and take a look around.

As a side note, I am working on what will be the greatest post in internet history. When it goes up at Astute Doofus I'll let you know. It will be worth checking out.

MMM Sermons: Gospel Teachings About Lying

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.

You can find this talk in its entirety here.

As a former law clerk of Chief Justice Earl Warren, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, an expert on the exclusionary rule and a former judge of the Utah Supreme Court, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles knows a thing or two about liars, I mean lawyers.

In this talk, Elder Oaks strives to remind a group of lawyers-in-training how important it is to "be honest with their fellow man." Not only is this a requirement to enter the temple but it is one of the ten commandments God gave to Moses: "thou shalt not bear false witness."

Elder Oaks pulls no punches on topics he addresses and is as comprehensive a speaker as you will find.
Lying is sinful, as it has always been, and there is no exempt category for
so-called “lying for the Lord.” Lying is simply outside the range of permitted
or condoned conduct by Latter-day Saints - members or leaders.

A lie is also furthered when one remains silent in a circumstance where he or she has a duty to speak and disclose. In other words, a person lies by concealing when he
or she has a duty to reveal. Some relationships and some circumstances create
such a duty ... In contrast, when there is no duty to reveal all and when one
has not made an affirmative statement implying that all has been revealed, it is
simply incorrect to equate silence with lying.
What do you think about lying? Is silence lying to you?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Hidden Family System

by Seattle Jon (bio)

I read with interest Michael Farnworth's short article The Hidden Family System in the latest Sunstone (Issue 169). He starts out with some lines from Alanis Morissette's Perfect:
Don't forget to win first place
Don't forget to keep that smile on your face
Be a good boy
Try a little harder
You've got to measure up
And make me prouder
We'll love you just the way you are
If you're perfect
He continues with the following: "In Mormon discourse, we talk about the family being an institution more important than any other and beyond reproach. But the sad truth is, more people are hurt emotionally, physically, and spiritually in the family than in any other institution."

Michael argues not that the institution of the family is bad, but rather that its members are unaware of why they act the way they do. For the first ten years of our marriage, my wife and I remained essentially unaware of the unconscious processes we'd acquired in our childhoods and brought into our marriage. Only over the past few years, as we've matured as parents and companions, we have become more aware of these processes and worked to rid ourselves of those we don't want to see continued into the next generation.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Saintspeak 15: Liberal Mormon

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.

Liberal Mormon (see also Conservative Mormon)

1. As perceived by a Conservative Mormon: a Mormon who wants to pervert the gospel to fit the doctrines of men instead of waiting for the Brethren to receive revelations. Liberals talk about being guided by the Spirit but usually find that the Spirit is telling them to espouse currently fashionable American liberal causes and ideas.

2. As perceived by another liberal Mormon: a Mormon who believes that the Lord won't give you any answers unless you ask him intelligent questions. Liberals believe that a Saint should be sensitive enough to recognize truth and humble enough to accept it whether it comes from the Brethren or Boethius, Newton or Nietzsche.

Mormon Doppelgängers 14: Bruce R. McConkie & The Proclaimers

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

See all Doppelgängers here.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Giveaway 28: Winner

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

The Lonely Polygamist, Brady Udall (read reviews or read what's been written on MMM)
Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring, Henry J. Eyring (read reviews)
Temples of the Most High, N.B. Lundwall, 1945 Edition (read reviews)
Jesus The Master Teacher, Lowell L. Bennion (read reviews or read what's been written on MMM)
The Growing Season, Carol Lynn Pearson (read reviews or read what's been written on MMM)

And the winner is: Barb (link to comment)

Please respond via email with your address by Friday, March 29th to claim the books.

"A Much Bigger Vision": Questions for Margaret Blair Young

by Scott Hales (bio)

Recently, I sent Mormon novelist, filmmaker, and blogger Margaret Blair Young a list of questions about her current projects with Darius Gray--a revision of their Standing on the Promises novel series and the feature film The Heart of Africa--as well as her own work as a creative writer and president of the Association for Mormon Letters. Kindly, Margaret took time away from her busy schedule to answer them for me. 

I've split the Q&A into two parts. Answers to the questions relating to Standing on the Promises and The Heart of Africa are featured here on Modern Mormon Men. Margaret's thoughts on her work, Mormon literature, and the Association for Mormon Letters are featured on A Motley Vision.

Scott Hales: The original Standing on the Promises trilogy was published a decade ago—which doesn’t seem that long ago to me. Why did you and Darius choose to revise and expand them now?

Margaret Blair Young: We have realized that Mormons aren't our main audience. We learned that LDS readers, those who frequent Deseret Book, are looking more for a feel-good book than for the hard (but inspiring) history we tell. So we have revised for greater accuracy, to include new information, and to go about marketing not only to the LDS audience but to a wider one.

SH: You originally published the trilogy through Bookcraft, an imprint of Deseret Book. Why did you switch to Zarahemla Books for the new editions?

MBY: We have freedom to direct our publicity with Zarahemla, and far more freedom to get our books into places where people are yearning for new information. Black LDS history is American history which few know about. We consistently find that our black audiences are very receptive to our work. They are not threatened at all by it but grateful to learn the stories.

SH: Zarahemla Books is known for publishing “unorthodox but not apostate Mormon fiction.” Did that branding affect your approach to the new editions? Did publishing through Zarahemla Books allow you, in other words, to tell your stories in a way that you were unable to do under the Bookcraft label?

MBY: Honestly, we were looking for a press which would work well with us, treat us respectfully and with full honesty, and be with us to get our stories out. We're able to direct things in a more hands-on way with Zarahemla than elsewhere. The realization that these stories matter more outside the Mormon belt than within it is a big impetus for us. Of course we'll market within Utah, but we have a much bigger vision which goes beyond the LDS bookstores on the Wasatch Front.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Gospel Fire 2: A Spark in My Soul

by Bradly Baird (bio)

As I mentioned in Gospel Fire 1, the first in a series of posts I am writing, I am currently suffering from a severe case of spiritual blues and haven't got any idea how to shake it off. Anytime I pick up the scriptures to read, kneel in prayer, teach a lesson in Sunday School, work with the missionaries at the MTC, etc., I feel overwhelmed by a total sense of exhaustion and a kind of numbness that I have never felt before.

Despite this ongoing spiritual exhaustion, I was made aware that the Lord is watching out for me; even though it may be awhile before the fires once again burn hot. This awareness came because of a multi-media presentation that I use from time to time in gospel lessons to generate a strong Spirit when I teach the atonement, the pure love of Christ, the life of the Savior, etc. I came across it one afternoon while I was searching for something to help and so I figured I would take a look at it again (even though I previously watched it many times).

I opened the file and allowed the images and music to crowd out any other thoughts in my mind. When scenes of the Good Samaritan, and the Prodigal Son appeared on the screen, I felt a gentle spark in my soul, and something inside me began to shift (as though the horrible grip were loosened just a little bit). And then, as the music and pictures finished telling their beautiful story, I felt a gentle assurance that my pain would eventually end, and that I simply needed more patience, more time, and considerably more spiritual contemplation to get there.

I include the presentation here for your own edification, and in the hopes that it may gently spark your soul. And giving credit where credit is due: the music, O Light of Life, is written by Mack Wilberg to words by David Warner and is performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I Sense a Disturbance in the Nuclear Family Force

by MAB (bio)

Behold the nuclear family.

I was thinking about this metaphor recently: the family as an atom. I guess my incomplete thoughts began to crystallize when I discovered the interesting "atomic structure" of my son's friend's family. But more on that later.

First, let's consider the metaphor a bit. I know this is a silly thing to do, since most metaphors break down under even the slightest scrutiny, but in this case at least it helped me dust off a few neural connections made 20 years ago in high school chemistry. Apologies in advance to those who know more about this than me (and there are many of you), I will likely make some wild leaps through my flawed logic and incomplete knowledge, but hope to have some fun along the way.

So, if the family is an atom then I guess the parents are the nucleus, mom is a proton and dad is a neutron. Or vice versa, I'm confused about this. I made the dad the neutron since (1) it weighs a bit more and (2) from the pulpit on Mother's Day I seem to hear that mothers are the biggest force for positive good in the world. On that sentiment I'm neutral (ha!). That leaves the kids as electrons orbiting the parents. In our house, at least, they still weigh less than us, which fits the model, and when they aren't playing video games they orbit us in antics and laughter. To take the metaphor further, we often know their position but not their momentum (what will he "be" when he grows up?), and when we try to inquire into their lives we inevitably change their trajectory. So that's the uncertainty principle and the observer effects in action. I think this metaphor could go further with quantum mechanics invoking fields of influence, etc., but I'll leave that up to the theoretical physicists. Same goes for the Higgs Boson as the God particle, that's just too easy-hard.

That makes the traditional family a Helium atom, which depending on the number of your children, leaves you in a variety of states:

Electron children           Family charge and notes
0 Your charge is -1 and you are eagerly seeking a child
1 Your charge is 0, you're noble but your kid is spoiled - everyone knows that
2 Your charge is +1 
3 Your charge is +2, beyond this point there is a good chance your kids will fly out of orbit
... ...

Note that if you are single you are a Hydrogen atom and your electron is a dog or a cat. Or, if you are divorced, I guess it could be a child.

Okay, that was all probably ridiculously over-thought and even callous at times. So I think I should stop with the metaphor and just use normal words to describe "exotic" elements I've seen over the years, elements that defy the standard model of nuclear families.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Once Had a Bishop Who ...

by Eliana (bio)

Weird bishops via the New York, New York South Mission blog.

Up front, I'd like to be clear: I have had great bishops. This post isn't about them. This is about the weird ones I've had. I hope these men were more helpful to others than they were to me.

I was 16 when we moved to a new ward. The first time the bishop called me in for a chat, he asked me the last time I kissed someone. As a very shy, non- dating teenage stranger, I felt ridiculous. So I lied. Told him it had been a year. Not that I'd never kissed anyone. Not that he was creeping me out. It was a long year before I left home and his ward.

Or my college bishop who told me I was the weirdest person he'd ever met. How does one respond to that? He also wrote cowboy poetry (not a sin) and recited it in sacrament meeting (perhaps a sin).

How about the bishop obsessed with shorts? The day I moved to his congregation it was 120 degrees. He spent hours, year round, devoted to railing against shorts, of any length, at any time, on any person. I can admit it now, years later, that I started wearing shorts to ward functions just to annoy him.

I have a fraught relationship with my father which I know leads to some of my problems with church authority figures. A lot of bishops and stake presidents are like my pop—a certain managerial style that is off-putting to me. I feel bad to come into relationships with such a bias, but I'm hoping that my awareness of the issue is half the battle.

What am I hoping for from a bishop? Someone who follows the spirit and invites it into meetings. Someone who takes the time to get to know individuals. I'm not sure precisely. I just know what doesn't work: bishops of the 'my way or the highway' variety.

I'm grateful for those willing to serve in our church. It is hard, so hard, and I try to remember that when I'm frustrated. I appreciate those who recognize that they need God's help to do this job, as well as the benevolence and faith of their congregation.

Aside from good mission and testimony meeting stories, I think crazy bishop stories might be one of the next big categories of shared suffering. Am I alone here or do you have tales of your own to share?

Giveaway 28: Church Books 3

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

The Lonely Polygamist, Brady Udall (read reviews or read what's been written on MMM)
Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring, Henry J. Eyring (read reviews)
Temples of the Most High, N.B. Lundwall, 1945 Edition (read reviews)
Jesus The Master Teacher, Lowell L. Bennion (read reviews or read what's been written on MMM)
The Growing Season, Carol Lynn Pearson (read reviews or read what's been written on MMM)

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 Sunday, March 24th at midnight).
• Winner announced week of Monday, March 25th.
• Winner must respond via email with their address by Friday, March 29th to claim the books.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Guest Post: Tales from Cuyahoga 2 - Barbara's Arms

Reed Soper was born and raised in southern California. He considered attending the Lord's University but opted for BYU instead where he met Kathryn Lynard doing his home teaching. They married in 1992 and have seven children. Friends and loved ones often describe Reed as "difficult" or "a slow learner." In his spare time, he likes (virgin) pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. Don't miss Reed's previous guest posts.

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

Lorain, Ohio was a steel town. I say was, because in the fall of 1985, the steel plant was operating at less than 10%. For missionaries, this meant that people were home during the day – prime time for tracting. I quickly learned that it was fruitless to tract during the "hour of power" (when the Price is Right was on). We could knock on a door, hear Bob Barker's voice, and see the tv on through the window but no one would answer. We could cover a tremendous amount of ground during that hour, and if we were careful, could keep track of who would win the showcase showdown.

Because it was a steel town, there was a large draw bridge that spanned the mouth of the Black River as it met with Lake Erie. Our apartment building, called Barbara's Arms (1), was located immediately adjacent to the bridge. On my first morning in Lorain, I learned that even though the steel plant was slowing production to a near halt, there was a regular ship that would approach the drawbridge each morning. At 6 a.m. (2), the ship would blast its horn, alerting the drawbridge operator of their proximity. The drawbridge operator would blast his horn back, letting the ship's captain know that the bridge would soon be opening (drawing?). The horn blasts were sufficiently loud enough to knock me out of my bed the first few mornings I lived there. It was a great way to start the day.

After a few days, we met some of our neighbors in the apartment complex. One was an older lady named Marcela Smooziak. Missionaries had lived there for years and Marcela was familiar with them. Marcela was a life-long catholic and never got comfortable calling us Elder this or Elder that. She preferred to call us "Father." It was always a generic "Father" with no other names attached.

Nearly every day when we'd return to our apartment for lunch, we'd hear Marcela coming up the stairs and calling out "Father." She would invite herself into our apartment and tell us various elements of her life story. We learned that she had her son on "half an ovary." (3) She would also instruct us to purchase jello so she could add fruit cocktail to it and present it to us. She was a sweet lady but often took up a lot of our day. We learned that if we suggested having a religious discussion, she would typically scurry off for a few hours.

One of my favorite Marcela moments involved our Zone Leaders. They had driven us home from church one Sunday and Marcela intercepted us all and insisted we come into her apartment and smell what she was cooking for dinner (4). She led my companion and one of the ZLs to another room, leaving me in the living room with the other ZL. He asked me why she called us "father " With my best straight face, I responded that she was a shut in and catholic so we performed mass for her each week. The ZL was not amused.

(1) This naming convention led to high comedy such as telling our Zone Leaders that we planned to return and spend the night in Barbara’s arms.
(2) This was a disappointment because our mission rules called for us to get up by 6:30 a.m. I will never get those additional 30 minutes per day back.
(3) This was a favorite story of hers so we learned about it at least 20 times.
(4) This was another fun thing; she'd invite us in to smell what she was cooking but not to eat what she was cooking. I don't think we were ever disappointed.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Brother Jake Explains the "Simple" Gospel

by LJ (bio)

This video is brought to you by my extremely clever little brother, Jake Frost. It's a tongue-in-cheek--yet surprisingly astute--overview of our "simple" gospel.

Carter & Atwood's iPlates Are iGreat

by Seattle Jon (bio)

So, I've been a single dad to my eight and six year-old boys for the last nine days while my wife and two oldest travel throughout Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea on a service vacation. That first Sunday I was already exhausted and used the excuse that, "Boys, ward conference is kind of like stake break conference. Let's just take a family day." I felt no different yesterday morning, but decided to get them up, bathed, fed and dressed before our nine a.m. sacrament meeting.

I was already regretting my decision 15 minutes into sacrament meeting. The boys had somehow squirreled hot wheels into the building and were on their knees racing them on top of, around, and over every available surface. I tried to distract them by drawing what I thought were pretty decent renditions of a cave troll, Treebeard and Gandalf, but didn't get much more than two minutes respite. Desperate, I thought, "There has to be something in the "church bag" that will keep their attention for more than five minutes."

I passed over two iSpy books before noticing Stephen Carter's iPlates, a comic series based on the Book of Mormon. My first reaction was one of guilt ... Stephen had sent me a complimentary review copy months ago, but after failing to get my oldest to write a review of the comic book for MMM, I'd forgotten about it. Now, volume one of iPlates had my attention, and as I flipped a few pages into Ammon: Warrior Missionary and saw this, I thought, "This should do the trick."

As a seasoned member of the church who still finds the Book of Mormon incredibly dull, I enjoyed that iPlates wasn't a strict retelling of the narrative. At the end of the comic book, Stephen describes the collection as "historical fiction - with an emphasis on the fiction ... featuring 100% of the Book of Mormon's violence, tons of bonus character development, and a dollop of preaching big enough to keep your mom happy."

Well, Stephen, this time you kept the dad happy. And you also kept my two boys happy for much longer than five minutes.

About the authors: Stephen Carter is the current editor of Sunstone and the drawings are by Sunstone cartoonist, Jett Atwood. Support them (and volume two) by purchasing iPlates.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Of Good Report: A Ward Update

by Bishop Higgins (bio)

Photo by Adrian Clark.
Dear Brother Elgin,

I'm writing to give you an update on the ward. I know it's been so long since you've stepped foot in a Mormon church, but you're no doubt still interested in your previous friends and neighbors. You may not believe the same things they do anymore, but that's no reason why you shouldn't want to hear about who's paying the most tithing and how many times I've asked Sister McGonical to shave her beard. (Four times).

Let's see, what did I tell you last time I wrote? Are you aware that the quadruplets (Faith, Hope, Charity, Brenda) are now in primary? Sister Capstain, our nursery leader, was nearly driven to drink with them in her class (which would have made it easy for her since her husband keeps a "secret" stash in his garden shed). But now that they are in primary, I think she'll be less agitated. She's yelled at some of the children. I blame the quadruplets.

Gary Snarp changed his name again. As you may recall, he was previously named Gary Corby, and before that, Gary Glengary, and before that, simply "the Gare Gare." I hated that one. I don't mind Gary Snarp, but now he's changed it to Fred Snarp, which is weird because he has a cousin in Cincinnati that's also named Fred Snarp, but before that he was named Snarp Tuckington and before that, Rachel Snarp. We've got a lot of weirdos in the ward, but I should give Gary, er, I mean, Fred, a plaque for being the weirdest. I would, but honestly, I don't know what name to put on it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Near-Death Drowning Experience

by Pete Codella (bio)

I'm pictured here (on the left) with our Rabat, Morocco
host family's son, Otman, and fellow Young Ambassador, Brad.
It was May 4, 1994. Me and a group of college buddies traveling with the BYU Young Ambassadors left our seaside hotel in Asilah, Morocco, and headed to the ocean to take advantage of some of the largest breaking waves any of us had ever seen. We were so excited to get into the water and do some body surfing.

Here's what I wrote in my journal about my experience that evening:
Once we got there I headed out to the ocean with the usual group. The beach was beautiful as the sun was setting. I went out and was body surfing but I got out too far. The waves were very strong and the undercurrent even stronger, and I ended up in lots of trouble. For a couple minutes, it seemed like, I was being pushed or pulled under water.

I was so tired from lack of sleep that I was starting to lose strength. Luckily, Dave was out about two waves from me — neither of us could touch bottom — and he had a floaty board from the hotel. He had lost it in a wave and it came towards me.

I had been hollering at Chris to help me, but he was too far away. I turned around to find David just as a wave brought the board by me and I was able to grab it and hold on to it. I wrapped the string around my wrist and got on it. I was still knocked off the board and under water twice. But I made it back, totally exhausted and scared.
Looking back on that experience, I know it was no accident the boogie board was there and that it was directed to me so I could catch my breath and eventually make my way back to shore. I was swallowing so much water and having trouble staying on top of the waves that I thought I was going to drown.

I remember thinking, "Heavenly Father, I'm really in trouble. If you don't want me to drown, I could really use some help here." The very next wave brought me the blue boogie board, which basically hit me in the head.

Then the thought came to me, "You might lose hold of the board with the next wave. Better wrap that string around your wrist so you can stay connected."

Some may say this experience was happenstance or luck. I believe it was an answer to prayer, followed by revelation. There was no doubt in my mind that I needed help to make it back to shore alive. I prayed for help and it arrived in the form of a borrowed blue foam kickboard. Then, like a light bulb turned on in my mind, I had the wise thought to secure the board to my body by wrapping the rope attached to it several times around my wrist.

This small flotation device made it possible for me to stay on top of the water long enough to catch my breath and eventually rejoin my group.

My life is peppered with noteworthy experiences like this — experiences where my knowledge of a loving, caring, responsive Heavenly Father has been reinforced bit by bit until my awareness, belief and knowledge of Heavenly Father has become sure, firm and unshakable.

This doesn't mean life is easy, that there aren't challenges along the way. But it does mean I know from experience that I can always call upon support from an all-knowing, all-seeing Supreme Being who takes the time and makes the effort to be involved in my little life.

I know my Heavenly Father lives and loves me perfectly. I love him too, albeit imperfectly, and look forward with faith and hope to a future reunion with Him and all my loved ones.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

8 Reasons Why I Want My Kids to Attend the BYU

by Eliana (bio)

I swore I wouldn't go there. For 16 years I only knew one thing about post-secondary education—that I would not be attending BYU. Then it came time to actually pay for college, and suddenly the cloud parted and I did some math. And spent the next four years in Provo, Utah.

8. You can be slightly rebellious and feel like you are wild. Case in point: my collection of letters to the editor from The Daily Universe from concerned students about my shaved head.

7. Serious scripture study. I attended four years of early morning seminary. It was good but not rigorous. Rather, two years were good. Two were ridiculous. I've never had an experience with institute, so I only speak of what I know. One of the best parts of BYU for me was having to focus on thinking about the scriptures as homework.

6. Price. It just can't be beat. Really.

5. My parents met in a family home evening group. They both went off on missions and eventually came back and got hitched in the Provo Temple. My husband and I met at BYU also. There's some family history involved. I'm not super into history, but as I grow older I'm getting more nostalgic. I'd like to drop my kids off at college and force them to relive moments with me.

4. Sleeping with your date isn't expected. I'm not saying it doesn't happen or that all college students aren't thinking about sex anyway. It is just slightly easier to make good choices on the big stuff if those around you are making the same efforts.

3. Devotionals and forums. This happens at other universities, obviously, but I got to listen to amazing people speak while I was at BYU. Prophet and apostles yes, but also fascinating movers and shakers like Margaret Thatcher, Myrlie Evers Williams, Muhammad Yunus, for example. I love that the BYU campus shuts down for an hour a week for these happenings.

2. Did I mention the cost? I'm a professor at a community college these days and I have constant stress about higher education costs even though I have no desire to foot the bill for my kids.

1. Ridiculous rules. Overly zealous everything. Difficult access to Diet Coke. BYU was challenging for me. It is hard to know what to attribute to college generally and BYU specifically, but I am confident saying that going there was my right choice. It has taken me years to be able to admit that, but there you have it.

MMM readers, what do you think? Would you recommend your kids head to Happy Valley?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gospel Fire 1

by Bradly Baird (bio)

If when on a winter's night you sit feasting with your earldormen and brumali --- and a simple sparrow should fly into the hall, and coming in at one door, instantly fly out through another. In that time in which it is indoors it is indeed not touched by the fury of the winter; but yet, this smallest space of calmness being passed almost in a flash, from winter going into winter again, it is lost to our eyes. Somewhat like this appears the life of man --- but of what follows or what went before, we are utterly ignorant. -- The Venerable Bede

I reached a plateau a few weeks ago and am feeling very flat, spiritually speaking. The fire for service in the gospel that has pushed me to run at top speed for the last two and a half years has dimmed considerably and I feel a little muddled at the present time. It might be that I am tired and somewhat burned out from all of the work that has been required of me, or it might be that I have taken too much on and need to pull back and recharge my batteries. Who knows why I am feeling this way, but I do know that my inner gospel fire seems to be low on fuel.

This does not mean any lessening of my testimony or the knowledge that I have about the gospel. It does not mean that I am going to start skipping sacrament meetings or slack off in my commitments to building the Kingdom of God. This is absolutely the Lord's work and I know my place in that work and the direction that I am going. But, I repeat what I said previously; I am feeling flat and the gospel fire is not burning brightly right now.

Neal A. Maxwell suggests that this flatness is a natural part of life and that we all go through it from time to time. He repeatedly speaks of times throughout our lives where we will feel "flat" in terms of our spirituality and our spiritual growth; not because we are committing aggregious sin or are lacking in our duties, but simply because that is the nature of life. He suggests that often these periods of "flatness" come along because we need time to pause and check in on our growth, be sure we are on track, chart a new direction, and re-commit to another period of increasing our faithfulness:

"It was brought forcibly to me that the seeming flat periods of life give us chance to reflect upon what is past as well as to be readied for some rather stirring climbs ahead. Instead of grumbling and murmuring, we should be consolidating and reflecting, which would not be possible if life were an uninterrupted sequence of fantastic scenery, confrontive events, and exhilarating conversation." (devotional address given at Brigham Young University on 27 November 1979)

That's a really nice truth, and should be reassuring. But, it isn't. This particular period of flatness is proving very difficult to move away from. I can't seem to stoke up the fire and move on. I feel so very tired and exhausted whenever it comes to anything spiritually-related. Even when I am teaching all my wonderful teenagers in Sunday School or am working with missionaries at the Missionary Training Center on Saturday mornings, I simply feel exhausted and bereft of the usual energy.

So, I open up the floor to all of you and ask for suggestions. Please offer up ideas about how to climb out of these massive spiritual doldrums into which I have fallen. I can't see my way out of this one and I would very much like to recharge and enter into another period of growth.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Words to Live By 6: On Honor

by Seattle Jon (bio)

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

On Honor
by General Mark W. Clark (President of the Citadel, Military College of South Carolina)

"A Cadet does not lie, or cheat, or steal." - The Citadel Honor Code

I have always believed that everyone needs to impose upon himself some rigid code of personal ethics. The Ten Commandments are probably the most perfect example of such a code.

But it seems to me that young people, who perhaps need rules of conduct the most, tend to shy away from long or complex lists of "do's" and "don'ts." That is why we at The Citadel have established our Honor Code which consists of just one rule expressed in nine words: "A Cadet does not lie, or cheat, or steal."

Just nine words. But what important words they are, for without them none can hope to build a decent or a happy life.

Of course, The Citadel's Honor Code is only a beginning. Of course, our 2,000 Cadets know that there is more to character than merely not lying, cheating or stealing. But these negatives are important as a starting point. A man can then go on from these "don'ts" to more positive rules of life. If, as a boy, he learns what not to do, then as he matures, the positive values will slowly move into place. "Do unto others ..." "Love they neighbor ..." - these "do's" are the true capstones of a moral code. But the "don'ts," learned in childhood, are its foundation.

Guest Post: Satan Hates Him

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.

Shawn Tucker lives in North Carolina, where he teaches Institute (because they'll let anyone do it there!) and works as a Humanities professor at Elon University. He contributes to the Mormon Tabernacle Enquirer, Zion's Finest News Source, and none of his four children find anything he writes funny.

Friday, March 8, 2013

MMM Library: Mormon Alliteration

by Seattle Jon (bio)

This post was originally published on October 17, 2011.

Alliteration: the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables.

Mormonism is full of alliteration.

The tendency to alliterate started with apostle Parley P. Pratt (okay, just trying to start a mormon myth) and continues today with general authorities Claudio Costa, Gerrit Gong and Paul Pieper, among others.

Today's young men - Peter Priesthood's - are all actively engaged in priesthood preparation for their own missionary moments, while the young women - Molly Mormon's - are advancing from Merrie Misses to Mia Maids, when they will begin work on their Personal Progress programs.

On missions, these youth partner with member missionaries to share tender testimonies. When they return, they too become member missionaries. If twenty-something mormons remain unmarried, they become part of the singles scene, a never-ending stream of Linger Longers and Munch 'n' Mingles.

Once mormon men and women enter their 30's, and as long as they have interesting careers or hobbies, they can star in their own Mormon Message.

If you leave or are kicked out of the church, there is still hope. Alliteration was used to name the "September Six."

I hope this post has been plain and precious, as well as a marvelous work to wonder at. Keep reading Modern Mormon Men - also alliteration - for more inspirational insights.

Or, give us your mormon alliteration ah-hah's in the comments ...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What to Do When Bored in Church

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

President Spencer W. Kimball was once asked, "What do you do if you find yourself caught in a boring sacrament meeting?" His reply: "I don't know; I've never been in one."

I've been to hundreds. Which makes me qualified to answer the question. While working on one of my Search Term Roundups, I found someone had reached our site by Googling, "I dislike Mormon sacrament meetings." Unfortunately this person is not alone. I jotted down some ideas for things I could do to help liven things up a bit. Some of them cross the line, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

16 Things to Do When Bored in Church
1. Oppose someone's calling (always wanted to do this)
2. Tell kids to pipe down or they'll go to Hell (say it awkwardly loud)
3. Look around during prayers – make eye contact with others – give thumb's up
4. Slip random notes into hymnbooks  ‘Dinosaurs are a lie Satan invented to trick us.’ Etc.
5. Play Testimony Bingo
6. Look around room – guess which kingdom each ward member is going to (DO NOT write down guesses)
7. Pull aside every deacon that's walking by – whisper, ‘You're doing a really great job!’
8. Give some audible ‘Mmm-hmms’ during prayers
9. Casually slip in alternate lyrics while singing hymns
10. Mess with the kid sitting in front of me (if he tells his parents – just keep a straight face and deny it – who are they gonna believe? – I’m like 30)
11. Act out Book of Mormon stories with G.I. Joe action figures
12. Look up dirty scriptures—show them to wife (*Genesis 38:9 is a good place to start)
13. Embarrass wife by staring at her for 5 minutes straight
14. Learn the sacrament prayer in Sign Language – perform it with eyes closed
15. Look through hymnbook & add " the toilet" after each title (Note: some are blasphemous; some are wonderful)
16. Wrap scripture cover around Johnny Cash's autobiography Cash by Johnny Cash – read during high council talk

Mormon World Records 5

by Seattle Jon (bio)

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.

Note: This version of MWR is Hollywood-themed to celebrate the ending of the awards season.

QWho was the first Mormon movie star?
A: John Gilbert was born July 10, 1897, in Logan, Utah, into an LDS home and environment but didn't practice the religion as an adult. One of the first movie stars in Hollywood history, he became known as the "Great Lover of the Silver Screen." One movie critic called him the "Tom Cruise of the silent era." One list of the 100 most influential people in cinema ranked him number 28. He appeared in more than 100 films and is best known for his role in The Big Parade (1925), one of the last great silent films. It was the top box office earner until Gone With The Wind. He drank himself to death in 1936.

QWhat is the longest Book of Mormon quote used in a Hollywood film?
A: Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot features the longest quote from the Book of Mormon in a major motion picture. During a funeral scene, a priest is heard reading verbatim eight verses (20-27) from 2 Nephi 9. Some of the producers and writers who collaborated with Hitchcock were LDS, and their influence can be spotted in several of his masterpieces.

QWhat was the strangest casting choice for a Mormon?
A: When an actor was needed in 1940 to portray the Prophet Joseph Smith in a feature-length movie, Brigham Young - Frontiersman, Hollywood producers chose somebody to help draw crowds: king of horror films, Mr. Vincent Price.

QWhat was the most money won by a Mormon on a TV game show?
A: In June 2004, Ken Jennings, 30, shattered records for the quiz show Jeopardy. Brother Jennings, a returned missionary from Madrid, defended his championship for 74 consecutive games, winning a total of $3,172,700. At BYU he was once ranked seventh in the nation among college quiz bowl teams.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Institutional Unrighteous Dominion

by ldsbishop (bio)

Madonna Litta by Leonardo da Vinci
I assume Mary is in the Mother's lounge here
as there isn't an awkward high priest nearby
Picture the scene: I've been a member of the church for less than a year, and my wife and I had just moved to the UK to settle down as a young married couple. After a few weeks of attending our new ward, I'm ushered into an office to meet with a member of the Stake High Council who had been assigned to extend my first proper calling. After dispensing with the niceties, he said that before extending the calling he needed to assess my worthiness for it. I'd already sat through a few of these interviews before baptism and receiving priesthood offices, but this one turned out differently. This is how a portion of the interview went to the best of my recollection (parts of the conversation are redacted to get around Internet filters):

"Do you keep the law of chastity?" he asked.


"Well, since you are new to the church and recently married, I think we better review that a bit more."

Uh oh.

"A lot of young people think its OK to [redacted] with [redacted]. Sometimes you might want to wear [redacted] while whipping your wife's [redacted]. My wife has never liked performing [redacted] on my [redacted] and I agree that it isn't pleasant. You might be tempted to stick your [redacted] into [redacted] but it isn't how God intended it to happen. Sometimes [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] [redacted] with a goat. So, do you still keep the law of chastity?"

If it wasn't a Fast Sunday, I'd have brought up my breakfast all over his loafers.

I quickly replied in the affirmative (even though my wife and I have [redacted] on a number of occasions) and the rest of the interview passed without incident. I left called as the new assistant ward clerk.

Afterwards I recounted the interview to my wife. She'd grown up in the church and alas had heard far too many stories of (mostly) priesthood leaders asking inappropriate questions regarding member's chastity and offering their opinions in that as well as other private matters.

As I moved throughout priesthood leadership within the stake I found out that this particular high councillor had a reputation for asking inappropriate questions. Of the many examples I'd heard, one included the time he asked an inactive 18 year-old daughter of one of our members how often she masturbated. He offered the excuse that he wanted to know if masturbation was leading to this individual's lack of activity. Yeah, right!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mormon Mashup 3: Politics and Government

by A-Dub (bio)

If you combined politics and Mormons, what would you get?

Too Easy
  ·   Elders Quorum President of the United States
  ·   Executive Secretary of State
  ·   Political Action Activities Committee
  ·   White House of Order
  ·   I’d like to bear my testimony before Congress
  ·   White House of Israel

  ·   Calling and Presidential Election made sure
  ·   Praise to the Congress Man
  ·   Air Force 1 Nephi
  ·   Monroe Doctrine & Covenants
  ·   CNN Our Lovely Deseret
  ·   Born of Watergate

  ·   Oval Office of a Deacon
  ·   Filibustered with the Holy Ghost
  ·   Articles of Confederation of Faith
  ·   Surgeon General Conference
  ·   Choose the Bill of Rights, when a choice is placed before you
  ·   Mitt Romney

Linger Longer 20

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

Bloggernacle (religious sites)
Activism and FHM: Can We Change the Church? (Feminist Mormon Housewives)
The Right Time to Marry? (By Common Consent)
Knowledge or Faith? (Times and Seasons)
A Quick Observation on a Topical Topic [Breasts] (Zelophehad's Daughters)
Orson Scott Card and Homosexuality (Dawning of a Brighter Day)
Grondahl 54 (Doves and Serpents)
Ugly Eyes (The Exponent)
Male Mormon Feminists Are Awesome (Young Mormon Feminists)
Food and Faith (The Juvenile Instructor)
Apologists at War: Religious Studies is Not the Enemy (Faith-Promoting Rumor)
Nibley and The Fear of Joy (Ships of Hagoth)
Any Morning, Anywhere (Dandelion Mama)
What Helps and What Hurts (No More Strangers)
Lean In Feminism ... Religion Style (Joanna Brooks' Religion Dispatches)
Letters to a Missionary: On Questions and Faith (Into the Hills)

Mormon-Related Podcasts
Episodes 027-028: Brian C. Hales on Joseph Smith's Polygamy (A Thoughtful Faith Podcast)
Episode 029: Cognitive Faith and Faith Transition (A Thoughtful Faith Podcast)
Episode 146: Mormon Parents Face Their Child's Faith Transition (Mormon Matters Podcast)
Episode 401: A Short Stay in Hell with Stephen L. Peck (Mormon Stories Podcast)
Richard Bushman Describes Faith Crisis (Mormon Discussion Podcast)

Off-Bloggernacle (non-religious sites)
Spent Fuel PoolInterplanetary CessnaFedEx Bandwidth, and Hubble (What If?)
The 2013 Sony World Photography Awards (The Atlantic)
Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart? (The New York Times)
Family Inc.: Run Your Family Like a Business (The Wall Street Journal)
To Know Is Human, To Comprehend Divine (Huffington Post)
Inside the Battle of Hoth (Wired)
Happiness Means Being Just Rushed Enough (Scientific American)
The Psychology of the To-Do List (BBC)
The Recline and Fall of Western Civilization (Slate)
Curating the Cosmos (Slate)
Misguided Nostalgia for Our Paleo Past (The Chronicle)
Does Jordan Need to Be No. 1? (The Wall Street Journal)
The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food (The New York Times)
Beats by Dre: The Exclusive Inside Story of How Monster Lost the World (Gizmodo)
The World Factbook (CIA)
Ben Affleck's Oscar Speech Revealed a Truth About Marriage (Huffington Post)
When Diet Meets Delicious (The New York Times)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Giveaway 27: Winner

As you already know, Christopher Bigelow, owner and operator of Zarahemla Books, has been generously giving away one copy of each of Zarahemla's 19 titles over a series of four giveaways on MMM. This giveaway's winner will receive 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.

And the winner is: Kristine Anderson (link to comment)

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." If you didn't win, buy these or other Zarahemla titles now.

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