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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Brother Jake: Meant Symbolically

by Brother Jake (bio)

For those who are a fan of Wicked’s "Defying Gravity," you're probably gonna like this (if you're into crappy rip-offs of stuff that's actually good).

Symbolism is a powerful concept. Its ability to convey a myriad of differing ideas to many people simultaneously makes it an adept teaching tool, which is why it is so darn useful in a religious context.

However, it seems that the tension between symbolism and literalism can create a bit of a logical minefield when applied within a religion as attached to literal ideas and absolute truth as Mormonism is. (As a point of clarification, when I use "symbolism" here, I mean it in the broadest "this-didn’t-mean-what-it-said" kind of way.) I have noticed that when trying to reconcile statements made by past prophets and apostles with secular knowledge, apologetic members often throw on their symbolism-colored glasses and poof! Adam and Eve become non-literal characters, horses become tapirs, the global flood becomes local, and the scientific and religious worldviews return to harmony.

But ... do they really? Because, while I do think there are often legitimate reasons for reevaluating religious doctrines through a symbolic lens, I think doing so creates a bit of a quandary, since there's little doubt that these seers and revelators intended their teachings both as literal facts and prophetic assertions. Throwing down a symbolic remix of a prophetic statement that changes the statement from its original intended interpretation brings up interesting questions.

Like, for example, does such a reinterpretation undermine the idea of a living prophet as the literal mouthpiece of God? Are there any concepts that are inherently exempt from being reinterpreted as an exclusively symbolic (the Atonement, Christ, God, etc.)? If so, why? Often, these reinterpretations come about when scientific discoveries make a religious idea untenable; are there any instances where the opposite was the case, and scientific findings were reevaluated when not in harmony with prophetic statements? Were the scientific findings refashioned as a result?

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours.


Brother Jake
Twitter: @askbrotherjake

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

MMM Sermons: As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten

by Saint Mark (bio)

This is a series of sermons that many Latter-day Saints love and believe. I hope these sermons promote and perfect your faith as they do mine. Read or watch this sermon here, or read previous MMM Sermons.

Maybe it's because I'm a convert, but I love this talk. Don't get me wrong. I am as stubborn and proud as the next guy when it comes to my wife or a boss correcting me, especially when I think I've done the best that I could ever do. But, after you change your entire lifestyle (i.e. the way you think, the way you speak, the way you act, etc.) and have amazing results, you understand that change or repentance is good. You realize that maybe I don't know everything or do everything as perfectly as I think I do.

When I left my very hedonistic life behind and decided to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, there were a lot of growing pains. I felt like everything I read and every talk I heard was directed at me and included a litany of characteristics and behaviors that I needed to change to become more like the Savior. Not that I am anywhere near where I need to be, but the distance between who I am and who I need to become has decreased. I'm not at the base of the mountain any more, I guess you could say, and it's all because of the law of chastening that Elder D. Todd Christofferson addresses in his April 2011 General Conference sermon.

Here are some choice nuggets:
Our Heavenly Father is a God of high expectations ...

In all of this, God's purpose is that we, His children, may be able to experience ultimate joy, to be with Him eternally, and to become even as He is. Some years ago Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained: "The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become."

Sadly, much of modern Christianity does not acknowledge that God makes any real demands on those who believe in Him, seeing Him rather as a butler "who meets their needs when summoned" or a therapist whose role is to help people "feel good about themselves." It is a religious outlook that "makes no pretense at changing lives." "By contrast," as one author declares, "the God portrayed in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures asks, not just for commitment, but for our very lives. The God of the Bible traffics in life and death, not niceness, and calls for sacrificial love, not benign whatever-ism." ...

Remember that if we resist correction, others may discontinue offering it altogether, despite their love for us. If we repeatedly fail to act on the chastening of a loving God, then He too will desist ...

All of us can meet God's high expectations, however great or small our capacity and talent may be.
Marriage seems to foster these chastening experiences. I'm grateful to my wife when she lets me know that I have bad breath while fasting or if I should approach a relationship problem in a different manner. She has amazing insights and sees me better than I see myself sometimes. Unfortunately, I don't know if my wife is as receptive to correction from me. Perhaps it is my approach.

How do you approach your spouse when he/she needs some words of correction? I like Elder and Sister M. Russell Ballard's approach. When one of them needs correction, the other spouse says, "Dear, I have a suggestion." If the spouse is ready to hear it then they say "okay." If not, then the correcting spouse doesn't share the correction. What do you do?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Finding Time to Read

by Seattle Jon (bio)

A few years ago I wondered if I could read a book a week, or 52 books a year. That first year I read 44 books totaling nearly 20,000 pages. I hit 52 books the next year, then 33 and 50 books the following two years. I am sitting at 50 books already this year.

These numbers surprise some people. They ask me what my secret is. Well, there is no secret, but I do have some suggestions on how you can read more books.
  1. Read 4-5 books at the same time – I used to read one book at a time, thinking the constant switching back and forth would make it difficult to absorb what was going on in each book. Wrong. This is probably the best way to increase the number of books you read because of suggestion #2.
  2. Your current reading list should be varied – reading only one book, or only books of one genre (i.e. LDS non-fiction) is limiting, because if you're not in the mood for what you're reading, you won't read. Try keeping a variety of books on your nightstand, such as these I've recently read:
  3. Read in places you normally might not – I try to keep 3-4 mormon books in my church bag for down-time during the three-hour block or for the occasional sacrament meeting talk or sunday school lesson I just can't listen to. I also like to carry a small book that fits in my back pocket for when I'm out running errands or at the kids' sporting events.
  4. Have plenty of books on hand to choose from – Well, books are expensive you might say. Not if you buy them at Goodwill or Deseret Industries. I could shop at those two places alone and have 50 books to read every year until I die. Once you start your stockpile, store them someplace visible but off your bookshelf … seeing the books in your reading queue will motivate you to get through the ones you're currently reading.
  5. Cut down on media – Nothing competes for my reading time more than media. I'm a cinephile, but I don't watch a lot of live tv or sports. My iPhone gives me the opportunity to read e-books (I'm not a huge fan), but can be a huge distraction as well.
It's pretty simple: You either read or you don't. If you read you probably want to do it more. And reading more isn't a secret. It comes down to choices, and I choose books.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Linger Longer 29

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

Bloggernacle (religious sites)
A Moderate Mormon's Manifesto (Feminist Mormon Housewives)
If Modest is Hottest, It's Not Modest (By Common Consent)
Peter Wiggins as Lucifer (Times and Seasons)
Elder Christofferson's Suggest Some GA Doesn't Dislike All Feminists (Zelophehad's Daughters)
A Way to Think About "Faithful Realism" (Dawning of a Brighter Day)
Rules and Relationships (Wheat & Tares)
Fraud! (Keepapitchinin)
LDS Men, Please Consider This (Doves and Serpents)
On Housework (Peculiar People)
Mormon-Related Podcasts
Episode 439: Greg Prince On Faith and Doubt as Partners in Mormon History (Mormon Stories)
Episodes 443-444: Alternative Feminist Approaches to Ordain Women (Mormon Stories)
Episode 199: Untangling Faith, Belief and the Expectation to "Know" (Mormon Matters)
Episode 50: The Defeat of the ERA and the LDS Church (Mormon Expositor)
Episode 80: Working Moms vs Stay-At-Home Moms (FMH Podcast)

Off-Bloggernacle (non-religious sites)
Falling With HeliumGoogle's Data Centers on PunchcardsRising Steadily and Twitter Timeline Height (What If?)
The Science of Snobbery (Priceonomics)
Learning From Sherlock Holmes (Seeking Wisdom)
Just How Long Can People Live? (Slate)
The Many Mysteries of Air Travel (The New York Times)
Have Sports Teams Brought Down America's Schools? (The New Yorker)
This Man Moved to at Desert Island to Disappear. Here's What Happened. (New Republic)
8 Creativity Lessons From A Pixar Animator (ZenHabits)
Louis C.K.'s Beautiful Rant Against Texting While Driving (Huffington Post)
Taxonomy: The Spy Who Loved Frogs (Nature)
On Muppets and Merchandise: How Jim Henson Turned His Art Into a Business (The Atlantic)
21 Ways Supermarkets Control Your Minds (BuzzFeed)
How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers (The Atlantic)
40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World (Twister Sifter)
Intricate Sculptures Carved From a Single Pencil (Twister Sifter)
The Bullshit Police: Inside TAM (Newsweek)
A Move is Afoot to Keep Climate Science Out of Classrooms (Scientific American)
Is the Brain the Key to Understanding Religion? (Standpoint)
What Clayton Christensen Got Wrong (Stratechery)
New York in Black and White (Wired New York)
Six Words to Say to Your Child (A Cup of Jo)
How Do Religions Die? (The Guardian)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dear Seattle Fog

by Seattle Jon (bio)

You make my commute a slog.
You cause people to lose their dogs. (or chickens in my case)
You'd make it easy pickings for Smaug.
You'd look better over a bog.
You make some not want to jog.
I might enjoy you more if I were sipping eggnog.
Oh, and now you made my blog.

(pictures below from our current foggy streak of seven days)

Apocalyptic Modern Nostalgic Mysterious Jurassic Landscape Paintings from Sweden

by MAB (bio)

So, I was wasting time again on the internet when I stumbled upon some paintings that I find unusually intriguing. I didn't find them myself though, they were discovered for me by an organization I follow called The Fox Is Black. It could be that the paintings are especially interesting to me because I just came back from a short business trip to Stockholm and because I recently read the post-apocalyptic book Wool. My hunch is these two events put me in a mood to admire the paintings by the Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag more than any painting I've seen in a long while. And that's actually saying a lot because I've not seen the paintings in-person and yet I just came back from a trip to the beautiful Kröller-Müller Museum where I saw many masterpieces including the second largest Van Gogh collection in the world. It's hard for me to describe what I like about these paintings though. They seem complex and simple, joyous and somber, retro and modern, urban and rural as well as a host of other dichotomous descriptors that I will spare you because I did not attend art critic school. I'm curious though, fellow readers; what do you see in Stålenhag's paintings and how do they make you feel?

To see a more complete collection go here:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

#MormonHalloweenMovies: The Twitter Hashtag that Blew Up

by brettmerritt (bio)

It started at close to 1 a.m. on October 23. A friend of mine on Twitter posted the following:

Now, I love a good hashtag. So, after reading a few more of his, I jumped in with:

Drew and I went back and forth for a bit and, instead of sleeping, I was scouring IMDB lists for more inspiration. Then I finally went to bed. I woke up, went to work. By 11 am, the hashtag had exploded. Later, two local Utah papers and a blog dedicated to Twitter trends had picked up the story:

Here's a nifty real-time chart to show some of the data, if you're into that.

What's cool is the variety. For as many tweets as there are, there is just a little redundancy. Some took the route of changing up words in already existing titles, whether they became scary or not, some tried to keep the horror theme intact, some flipped it and used variations on hymns to make them scary. But whatever the approach, 99% if them are really clever and/or funny. There were some great Utah culture ones too, but I tried to keep most of the highlights below constrained to universal Mormon culture.

So, to celebrate Halloween in a manner befitting this blog, here are a bunch of the most retweeted, favorited, shared, and a few of my own #MormonHalloweenMovies up through about Noon yesterday. Get on Twitter and search the hashtag to see more.

@drewchamps — started the hashtag
24 Months Later
The Tithing
Dr. Jekyll and Orson Hyde
Rosemary's Baby Blessing

Let the Righteous Ones In
The Blair Witch Re-Activation Project
An American Missionary in London
Monson and Eyring vs Evil

The Hill Cumorah Has Eyes
Paranormal Combined Activity
The (CTR) Ring
The Priesthood Blessing of Emily Rose

Drag Me to the Terrestrial Kingdom
Last Ward House on the Left

PPI with the Vampire
Brother of Jacob's Ladder
Paranormal Inactivity

Phantom of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Brigham Young: Vampire Hunter
Dial M for Mormon
Elder Scissorhands

I Know With Every Fiber of My Being What You Did Last Summer
Helaman's Army of Darkness
Donnie Osmond Darko
The Brides of Frankenstein

It's the Great and Spacious Building, Charlie Brown
Attack of the Cannery Tomatoes
The Watcher in the Wards
The Bishop's Gorehouse

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Guest Post: “Thy Nursing Fathers,” Some Thoughts on Priesthood and Motherhood

According to full-time contributor, Dustin, writing guest posts on MMM gives you more personal energy. See if he's right by writing something now. Submit via email with a short personal introduction.

Robbie Taggart is the father of four wild, holy children. His marriage to his radiant wife, Julie, has taught him more about joy than an other mortal experience. He is a teacher and a lover of good music, good poetry, good books, God's good earth, and good folks everywhere. He keeps a blog celebrating the holiness of the everyday.

Image via ChrisK4u

What does it mean to be a nursing father? This question has swirled around my head these days, eddying in and out of my consciousness. Nephi and his little brother loved the phrase. How many times does one of the prophet-brothers mention Isaiah's brief prophecy about Israel being brought home in the warm arms or on the sturdy shoulders of the Gentiles? "And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers." It's a tender image, and it's no wonder to me that Lehi's boys loved it so much. But what does it mean?

My mother-in-law tells that when she was a young mother, she used to say to her husband when she was pregnant or nursing: I wish you could feel this, experience this. The shiver of joy when you sense the first fluttering movements of another life bound within the walls of your rib cage. The iambic movement of another heart thrumming beneath your own. The true first communion, the connectedness, the at-one-ment of breastfeeding. I wish you could know. Perhaps some men would cough uncomfortably and look away, but I perceive the holiness of it all, the striking beauty of these miraculous gestures of love. And I sometimes wish I could know it experientially.

Last Sunday I stood shoulder-to-shoulder-shoulder in what became a wide ring of men in a sacrament meeting. Our left arms each rested lightly on the shoulder of the man to our left. With our right arms we each reached toward the center of the circle, our limbs becoming the small branches of a human nest, our fingertips gently brushing the white dress of my cousin’s baby girl—this small white bird who recently came flapping into this broken, holy world from some other reality, who nestled and cooed, eternity-eyed in the center of our whorl. An unspoken signal set us raising and lowering our arms rhythmically and in unison, as if to convince the child that a slight breeze was brushing the tree in which her safe nest lay, a calming, gentle ruach. This virile tenderness mixed with the slow pour of emotion pleading forth from the father's lips—prayer, petition, blessing—taught me of God. What God is like. How I can be like God.

I wish my wife could experience that, could know it experientially. Just as I wish I could know firsthand what it is to mother. So I think I understand why some women in the Church think that the priesthood should be offered, at least, to women. I understand that they have their reasons, all of which I don't pretend to fully comprehend, but I can imagine. There is a beauty and a strength and a grace to the priesthood. It is a surpassing gift. It is a wonder. It is, I feel, my tutorial in holiness. It teaches me to minister. I am grateful to be a part of it, to be held by it as much as I hold it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Guest Post: The Princess Bride, An Allegory

According to full-time contributor, Dustin, writing guest posts on MMM gives you more personal energy. See if he's right, and write something now. Submit via email with a short personal introduction.

Reid is an endocrinologist from Henderson, Nevada. Reid is blessed with a wonderful wife and three great kids. He counts it miraculous that his eclectic interests (family, travel, museums, history, Imperial Roman coinage of the Flavian Dynasty, fly fishing and cycling) are actually shared by at least one member of his family. Reid enjoys blogging on every-day occurrences as seen through his Mormon sunglasses.

I used to be a movie guy, but somewhere along the way I lost some of my passion for them. It's something I'm working on, because the rest of the family loves them. The other day, the girls brought home one of my favorite movies of all time: The Princess Bride. They bought the 25th Anniversary disc (here for MMM's 25th Anniversary post) and I not only watched all of it, but all the the Special Features as well.

How can you not love a movie about a beautiful kidnapped princess, the evil Prince that is trying to marry her against her will, and the farmboy/pirate/rescuer that is her one true love? It's inconceivable!

The story is about true love. Westley's love for Buttercup takes him to the ends of the earth to save her as he amazes us with his bravery, composure and wit in the process. I think part of what makes me love the movie is Westley's unquenchable determination against obstacles which include:
  • the Cliffs of Insanity (surrounded by waters infested with shrieking eels)
  • the sword of Inigo Montoya the Spaniard
  • the brute strength of Fezzik the giant
  • the evil genius of Vizzini the Sicilian
  • a cup laced with iocane (a deadly Australian poison that is odorless, colorless, tasteless and dissolves instantly in liquid)
  • the ruthless six-fingered Count Rugen and his brute squad
  • the Fire Swamp with it's Lightning Sand and ROUS (rodents of unusual size)
  • the Pit of Despair with it's thick chains, secret entrance and Count Rugen's torture machine--the source of ultimate suffering (which literally sucks the life out of you)
  • the locked castle gate of Prince Humperdinck and it's sixty guards
As with all fairy tales, this story can be viewed as allegorical.* It teaches us about such immortal themes as patience, perseverance, loyalty and most importantly true love. Such lessons may come in handy as we intermittently wrestle with giants or ROUS, cross swords with Spaniards, cling tenuously from the Cliffs of Insanity. Unfortunately most of use are destined to spend at least some time alone in the Pit of Despair.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Members, Missionaries, and, Of Course, Cellular Respiration

by Shawn Tucker (bio)

Note: please read this first paragraph as if it were written by a non-specialist and non-scientist, because that is exactly the case.

Cellular respiration is how cells break down food molecules like carbohydrates and fats in order to get energy. Cells use this energy (in the form of ATP) to power processes like cell growth, the contraction of the muscle cells, the transmission of nerve impulses, and the maintenance of body temperature in warm-blooded animals. When oxygen is used, the process is called aerobic respiration; when oxygen is not present it is anaerobic respiration. But there are remarkable differences in what aerobic and anaerobic respiration yield. Aerobic respiration produces between 36 and 38 ATP, while anaerobic only produces 2 ATP. In addition, anaerobic respiration produces lactic acid. So, when you do a lot of aerobic exercises, your cells have plenty of oxygen and produce a lot of energy. If you have not been exercising, cells resort to anaerobic respiration, you have much less energy, and the lactic acid is what causes your muscle cramps.

While I'm sure that the comparison is clear to everyone, humor me as I state the obvious. Cellular respiration is an excellent analogy for member missionary work. Members are oxygen. Missionaries can do missionary work without members (although in my opinion that is not exactly the Lord's plan). When missionaries do missionary work alone, it is like anaerobic respiration—it produces very little results and lots of side-effects. The lactic acid or painful side-effects of this anaerobic work could include low new member retention, low enthusiasm for missionary work among members, increased conflicts between missionaries and members, and missed blessings for everyone.

Think about the alternative: aerobic missionary work with the oxygen of members. Members get to see missionaries in action, renewing their appreciation for how difficult it is, how much faith it requires, and how remarkable those servants are. Members also often get a chance to share a testimony or insights. Members get to meet new people, people who may feel drawn to the gospel, and they also get to extend the hand of fellowship. Often, very often, members have particular experiences and insights that can be crucial for an investigator or new member. When members work closely with the missionaries, the members and the missionaries become energized about the work.

When I recently went out with the missionaries, we met with a man who had spent many years as a preacher. After about an hour, it was clear that he was not really interested in a dialogue, but, in response to one of his few questions for us, I was able to share part of my testimony. It was remarkable how that experience, which may seem unsuccessful from a certain point of view, renewed my testimony and re-energized me to work with the missionaries.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Guest Post: Thoughts on the Government Shutdown

Born in Cheyenne and blown from his crib westward to California, David has lived on both coasts, in the middle and in Uruguay/Paraguay on his mission. He currently works in international development in Washington D.C. focusing on agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean. He is twice married with 7 children and ten grandchildren located on both coasts and three continents. His youngest recently returned from a mission in the Philippines dodging mostly successfully (big) spiders in the shower. He and his wife, Mary-Anne, have traveled to 46 countries (Italy ranks #1). An ardent Giants fan, he loves watching the Dodgers lose. Yes, Willie Mays and Babe Ruth were the best who ever played the game. If he had just kept all his baseball cards.

In view of the government shutdown perhaps it would be useful to reflect once again on the view of the Founding Fathers for some context. Last year MMM posted my thoughts on the then upcoming national election discussing the independent voter. In it, I referenced George Washington's quote from his Farewell Address in which he said of political parties, "They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force — to put in the place of the delegated will of the Nation, the will of a party; often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community..." Sadly, we see once again how party politics is tearing at the very fabric of our government and our society. Both parties say they are driven by principal however as one evaluates the behavior (not just the statements) we see that it is far too often that power and politics are defining positions and strategies. The media does not help when it constantly seeks to find a winner or a loser. Or one who "blinks" first implying weakness rather than a resolve to find a solution to the impasse.

We also see the reality of what one Hill staffer told me last year just before the election. I asked him who would win the presidential election. He said, "It really doesn't matter because whether it is Obama or Romney the losing party will do everything it can to destroy the other party's purposes." We have now in the U.S. a polarization of political views in which "Obamacare" or gun control are lightning rods to focus each party's anger and agenda.

The country is torn apart on many issues and its citizens are becoming more polarized in their thinking. Some may argue that this is not new. We saw this during the civil rights battles and even regarding the U.S. entry in World War II as isolationists weighed heavily upon President Roosevelt's responses to Churchill's entreaties and pleas. We can go back to the issue of slavery which impacted our politics since the beginning of our country as yet another example.

At least for the moment and for the foreseeable future we are faced with chasms of massive proportions in forming policy. Gone at present is the practice of negotiation and compromise. Instead, we see blame and brinksmanship at its height with the U.S. economy and the world's economy hanging in the balance. As the budget debate continued the clock was relentlessly ticking to then force an even more important debate on the debt ceiling. October 17th has now come and gone but the political landscape shows many scars that will not easily be healed.

YouTube: Elders will be Sisters

Kinda funny.

(this video was made as a family home evening project in the Los Angeles Young Single Adult 1st Ward)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Things We Say

by Kyle (bio)

A couple weeks ago in our ward, my wife was attending the Gospel Principles class where the topic of that week's lesson was on the the law of chastity and the atonement. I was not in the class; I was pacing the halls with my nine-month-old daughter trying to get her to sleep. But when the class was over my wife told me about the lesson.

The brother teaching the class said something during his discussion of the atonement that caused her to raise an eyebrow. What he said is something I've heard other people say before too, which to me means it's a saying that has been around for a while.

The teacher said: "I'd rather have my son come home in a coffin, than for him to lose his virtue on his mission."

Think about that for a second. This person, and those who've repeated it, if given the choice between death or sin for their child, would choose death.

I'm not saying the law of chastity isn't serious, but death? Really? Your own child, dead?

Here's why this one matters.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Guest Post: When is a Weed a Weed?

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.

Our family bought our first home in a modest neighborhood. By modest, I mean, old, small and run-down. Lots of poor people, both because it was their first home and they stretched to buy it or the owners were senior citizens on fixed incomes without the means to maintain the property. There were homes, interspersed throughout the neighborhood that had well-attended yards, but they were the exception, not the rule. That being said, we bought what we thought we could afford. As I fumble to describe the yard of this first house, um, let's say it was apparent that the previous owners and the yard were not on speaking terms.

We bought the home in April, which I learned was the beginning of weed season. I spent a lot of time pulling weeds, watering what was left of the lawn in an attempt to conjure it back to life, cleaning debris, and generally trying to make it look decent. It took regular effort, like effort nearly every day, to eventually bring the yard to a level that I was okay with. One of my neighbors with a well-maintained yard approached me after we'd lived there for a year or so and complimented me on my efforts. My heart swelled. I was one of them! By them, I mean, those whose yards collectively raised the profile of the neighborhood rather than lowered it. I wanted to stay in that club.

As with nearly all things, our ownership of this home came to an end. It was time to move to a larger home, nearer to my work and maybe in a nicer neighborhood. We had the good fortune of finding all three. One of the things that impressed me about this house is that, with the exception of one (1), all of the yards on this street were carefully manicured. This was where I wanted to be, or so I thought.

Not only were the homes larger, the yards were as well. On paper, a larger yard made a bunch of sense – more room for the kids to play, plus bigger is always better, right? Wrong. We had made the offer on the home in April, not only the beginning of the weed season, but the wettest part of the year. At that time, the lawn was green and lush. We took occupancy the beginning of July, which in the desert that is Utah, is the dry season. I guess the sellers thought that since we bought it, they had no reason to irrigate the yard. So we took over and I had another project.

The one thing, though, is the yard was twice as big. And, as the kids got older, they seemed to need to be shuttled to more places. And my work seemed to demand more of my attention. And I learned that I like to do other things besides yard work. Let's just say, my standards have slipped.

My current neighbors would easily win an award for the best people ever. I mean that totally sincerely. They are friendly, patient, willing to help, interesting, talented, and with the exception of the Green's house, great landscape maintainers. I don't think that they think ill of me because I have more dandelions in my lawn than they do. But I have a theory about the concept of "passive-aggressive" speech. I will describe it in the footnotes so you don't have to read it if you don't want to. (2) I don't think their statements like "Wow, the dandelions really seemed to like your yard this year" were intended to say anything other than the surface meaning. That doesn't mean I haven't had the following conversation in my head:

Them: Wow, the dandelions really seemed to like your yard this year.

Me: Oh, no, I wanted them there. I planted them.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

BUSY - Are you?

by Casey Peterson (bio)

On a cool, clear, and quiet fall evening, I walked off the football field with my 7th grade son for the final time this season. Last game emotions are always enigmatic. There is a feeling of relief of not having five or six days each week committed to practices and games. There is allayment in escaping parental perceptions that their son didn't play enough, sometimes despite a disappointing attendance record at games and practices. And there is always great happiness in escaping a season without serious physical injury to any of the boys.

However, I also was filled with a great pride in how much each individual boy had improved in skills, abilities, and confidence. I was humbled and grateful for the feeling of teamwork and camaraderie that had encompassed the team throughout the year. I admired the great men who I was able to coach with, knowing their dedication and sacrifice to be with these boys. I was appreciative of each boy who left his comfort zone and overcame challenges to play a physical and a tough game. Some challenges were in stature, some in skill, some in ability to focus, and some in being assertive at a time in life where everything seems awkward. And the mere act of putting in the effort built respect and confidence individually and collectively.

With these juxtaposed emotions running through my mind and heart, I looked down at my son. A serious accident last year prohibited him from playing. This year I watched his effort go from cautious, to measured, to all out fun. He was able to feed off the energy of others, grow from confidence of coaches, and overcome his critical father on the sidelines. When he thanked me for coaching him as we got in the car, I wouldn't have traded the moment for anything. At that moment, I realized I couldn't afford to miss these opportunities. At the first of the season I had a pretty good list of justifications not to coach. I am a full-time university administrator, I teach evening university classes, and also am completing my doctoral degree. I have five uber-involved kids, a family farm to run, and a time-intensive church calling. I feel stretched, but can't remember the last time I said I was too busy. I heard other parents use the four letter word (busy) to escape the duty, at times even emphasizing the four letter word (busy) with other four letter words.

One of my heroes has always said that busy stands for "Being Under Satan's Yoke." I think that can be taken several ways, but inevitably everyone thinks they are busy. It is not a condition predicated by number of kids, number of jobs, number of positions or titles. I am slowly learning it is a condition we choose to use as a cop-out, one that costs us meaningful and worthwhile experiences where we can be serving others instead of doggedly guarding our lists of excuses of "busy-ness." I'm convinced that it is in the times when time logistics don't add up for us, yet we persist in dedicated efforts to serve others, that God steps in and gives us the most sweet and precious glimpses into pure happiness. Last night, in the dusk of a fall evening surrounded by smelly and emotional boys, I was afforded one of those glimpses.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Three Keys to Resolving Your Energy Crisis

by Dustin (bio)

If you pictured Al Gore when you read the title of this post, I apologize. This isn't about THAT kind of energy crisis. This is more about the kind of crisis that has a deep impact on your productivity, peace, and the contribution you make to the lives of those around you. Your personal energy crisis. Most of us have experienced an energy crisis and according to research (1) many of us experience one every day. Let me illustrate with one of my own.

There was a time early in my career when I would come home from my job in public relations and be a shell of myself. I would walk in the door, drop my stuff, and fall face down on the couch or bed. My wife and I were newly married and I undoubtedly freaked her out. Once I recovered enough energy from planking on the couch, I'd physically "clock in" to the relationships at home but feel mentally checked out. I couldn't pinpoint why I felt disconnected with reality but I didn't feel like I had much to give. I was running on fumes and everyone around me could tell. My wife used to tease me for going into "Dustin World" which consisted of pulling on a hoodie and cinching the hood around my face so tight that I looked like I was living in a Q*bert costume.

Alternately, I would wake up in the morning and pull the sheet over my head like Bubble Boy, resisting the desire to get out of bed and on to my soul-sucking job. After a year in PR I quit and tried many, many other jobs before landing in an immensely fulfilling career. Although the jobs improved, there were still times when energy crises would loom. Some days I had more energy than others and I just figured it was the ebb and flow of being a human. This energy roller coaster finally made sense to me when I came across a concept early in my study of leadership development that released the tension on my hood strings and pulled back the sheet, so to speak.

The Energy Account

All day every day we are doing one of two things: either making a deposit in our personal energy account or making a withdrawal. There is no gray area. No one is ever simply status quo in their energy account. You're either filling it or draining it. Some things give energy and other things take it away, and it's different person-to-person. Right now, writing this post, I can literally feel myself getting more energy, which to me feels like lightness, excitement, flow, creativity, and so on. That's because I get energy from taking concepts or ideas and breaking them down into practical solutions to help people improve their lives. (2)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Guest Post: Dating Dilemma

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.

John P. is an older YSA born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. He served a mission in Sydney Australia and graduated from BYU with a Bachelors in Accounting. He later earned a law degree from the University of Cincinnati. His post started as an angry rant about how dating sucks and nothing seems to work that turned into a self-reflective voir dire about personal dilemmas and how they affect him.

In Mormon culture you could say I've failed miserably. Here I am 29 years old, RM, BYU graduate and recent Law School graduate, but one thing still eludes me: that special someone to share forever with. With each new weekend, month and year, I feel no closer to the gateway of marital bliss. Why? Why am I still single? Why is dating hard? Why do all my dates end the same way? If I had the answers, I probably would not complain. Looking back I see four issues (there are many more I'm sure):

1) I'm an introvert

I learned through years of trying that I am not social. Being around people makes me feel left out. The larger the group the more left out I feel. The first thing I look for at any party or gathering is an exit, usually multiple routes. (If you really want to freak out an introvert, block the exits) Unless I manufacture a reason to feel included, I leave. You might notice someone like me, who always tries to jump into conversations and knows a little bit about everything, but disappears quickly. Once I can no longer add to the group, I subtract myself from the equation.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Halloween Costume Conundrum

by Eliana (bio)

My friend Henson, age 12, and his father, have one of my favorite traditions: they dress up together for Halloween. Last year they were the Men in Black (water guns spray painted silver look very authentic); the year previous they went as Phineas and Ferb, with attorney dad sporting the high waist purple pants look. In a house filled with girls, this once a year solidarity for such an important issue as costumes makes me happy.

I have two boys so I like thematic costuming if possible. The year Cole went as a secret agent, though most viewers thought he was supposed to be Michael Jackson, was an exception that strengthens my resolve. Let it be known, I’m not much for holidays. The fact that Halloween has no emotional tug on my heart makes it easy to be fun—no gifts, no family expectations, just a chance for kids to be silly.

Last year the little chaps went as Batman and Robin (gratuitous, poorly lighted video of my children being cute can be viewed here). Even better, the best friend was Bat Girl so she fit right in.

For this year, we’re still without ideas.  I’m not ruling out the Star Wars universe, but we’ve been down that road a lot and I’d love to diversify. If my children had any strong opinions on the subject, I’d go with it, but my insistence on not talking about Halloween until October seems to have crushed everyone’s creativity.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

MoTab MuMus

by Andrew Beck (bio)

Words to Live By 9: What is Love?

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.

What is Love?
by Erich Fromm (Author of "The Art of Loving")

"There is only one kind of love, but it has a thousand guises." - La Rochefoucauld

The deepest need of man is the need to overcome his separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness. The full answer to the problem of existence lies in true and mature love.

What is mature love? It is union under the condition of preserving one's integrity, one's individuality. Love is an active power, a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from his fellow man. Love overcomes the sense of isolation and separateness, yet it permits you to be yourself. In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Saratov Approach

In 1998, two Mormon missionaries were kidnapped and held for ransom in Saratov, Russia. The Saratov Approach opens in Utah theaters October 9th. Watch the trailer and visit the Facebook page.

Recently the MMM team was given the opportunity to view an advanced screening of The Saratov Approach. Here are our reviews.

Scott Hales
Mormon cinema, like Mormon literature, doesn't have a great reputation. Sometimes it surprises us with a really fantastic film, like Napoleon Dynamite or Brigham City or Saints and Soldiers, but most of the time that's not the case. Most of the time we get a comedy or a pioneer movie that seems like a roadshow with a budget. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but to be honest, I've been a little underwhelmed by a lot of recent Mormon films.

When I got the chance to preview The Saratov Approach, a recent film about the real-life 1998 kidnappings of two missionaries in Russia, I worried that it would leave me underwhelmed as well--despite its compelling premise and fantastic trailer. I'm happy to report, though, that The Saratov Approach gives me hope in the future of Mormon cinema. Like the best Mormon films, it strikes a nice balance between the gritty and the uplifting. It testifies of gospel principles without detracting from the realities that make life challenging for peoples and communities. It also reminds us that life is the outcome of an ongoing chain of choices that asks us what kind of person we want to be. In this film, we get characters--kidnappers--who make terrible choices even though they are initially motivated by righteous desires. We also get Missionaries who struggle to be Christ-like to their captors when every instinct seems to compel them to do otherwise.

Mormon films like The Saratov Approach are not made very often. However, when they are, they remind us of the great things that can happen when we take ourselves, our stories, and our faith seriously.

Whenever I hear about a "Mormon movie" I groan and roll my eyes, and with good reason. The catalog of Mormon-themed movies isn't exactly spectacular/award-winning and leaves much to be desired in both script and production quality. So, when I sat down to watch this movie, I braced myself for another eye-rolling experience. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ye Have Done It Unto Me

by Scott Heffernan (bio)

Photo by Adrien Leguay

Matthew Chapter 25:

35—For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36—Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me:

36½—I was gay, and ye "tolerated" me: I lost my faith, and ye stopped being my friend: I was a woman feeling the heartache of inequality, and ye made fun of me on the internet.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Asking Questions in Zion

by Shawn Tucker (bio)

I recently read a blog post titled I am Mormon, and I Have Questions on the blog Middle-Aged Mormon Man, and I would like to respond. I believe the post was written with wisdom and love. I hope to add to that post, to perhaps make it more complete, hopefully with wisdom and love as well.

Like the post's author, I also believe all of the fundamental principles put forward in the post. I have a firm testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the Restoration, and that the Church is led by the Savior through His servants. I have faith in those servants, I believe in stewardship and line of authority, and I am grateful.

Stumbling Blocks or Inspiration?

The author mentions a box of questions, questions that the he did not want to open to others. And I like this reason: "We are here to lift and strengthen each other, not to drag each other down. There is enough intentional toxicity out there already." I agree with that sentiment completely. I would add that we covenanted to bear one another's burdens that they may be light (see Mosiah 18:8-10). I would hate to feel that I had made someone else's burden heavier instead of making it lighter.

That being said, I don't think the author of the post wants all of us to keep all of our questions stored away in personal boxes. While some questions can be safely put in a box and set aside as an act of patient faith, what if some questions persist? And what if those questions are actually inspired? And what if sharing those questions was actually helpful, inspired and constructive?

Of course none of us would have told Joseph Smith to just put his questions in a box, to just read the Bible, and to trust that eventually everything would be fine. Could it be that some of us are inspired in our questions? We are told to be anxiously engaged in a good cause (D&C 58:21) and to seek the Lord's face (D&C 101:38 and Luke 21:19). Could some of those difficult questions be inspired, causes that we are inspired to be engaged in, and ways for us to seek and see the Lord's face?

What If?

So let's jump right to a difficult question. Imagine if you were a woman and it just did not seem right to you that you could not put your hands on your child's head, with your husband, to give your sick infant a blessing. Imagine if you felt that the men of your ward were truly inspired, wonderful men, but you also felt that they would make better decisions and get more inspiration if women played a larger part in the decision-making process. Imagine if you were such a woman and you read the new introduction to the Official Declaration 2. The declaration is about how the priesthood is extended to all worthy men, and the scripture cited in the new introduction says "The Book of Mormon teaches that 'all are alike unto God,' including 'black and white, bond and free, male and female'." All of this may raise for you very difficult questions about women and the priesthood.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

MMM Quotes 14: On Growing Older

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older, and will some day be old.

Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject on every occasion. Release me from trying to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends left at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details, and give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains - they are increasing and love of hearing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I do not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others of their pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I do not ask for improved memory, but for growing humility and a lessening cocksuredness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. And teach me, O Lord, the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint, some of them are too hard to live with, but a sour old person is the crowning achievement of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people, and give me the grace to tell them so. - Hugh B. Brown

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mormonism's To Do List

by A-Dub (bio)

In the first chapter of James we're told "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only." I whole-heartedly agree. So, what is it we should be doing?

Once, for a sacrament meeting talk, I compiled a list of things we were "supposed to do" as members of the church. I then attached an amount of time to each thing, trying to estimate for those things done monthly or annually how much time it would take per week. The totals, which were in no way manipulated before-hand:

Total hours in one week: 168.0
Total hours per week of things we're asked to do as members of the church: 167.6

My apologies if I've unintentionally excluded your favorite church activity from the list below. Let me know what I've missed so we can round out the final 24 minutes each week.

If after reading the list you're feeling like you aren't doing all you should be, don't worry, you aren't. But that's okay. Just do your best and the Lord will make up the difference. Anyway, you're smart ... I don't need to belabor the point. Just remember, as Mr. Miagi told Daniel-San: "Must learn balance."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Guest Post: My 2 Years of Inactivity

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.

LDS EQ President grew up in the church but far away from the bubble land of Utah. He has lived in both big wards and small branches. He likes to do things by the book, in this case Handbook 2, but takes great joy in playing loose with some of those definitions. While perfectly polite and cordial in outward appearances, his inner thoughts are judging you left and right. His biggest life accomplishment outside of his wife and two kids: avoiding Utah except for the two months spent in the MTC. LDSEQP tweets via @ldseqpres.

Photo by Bobby McKay

I want to share a personal experience with you: I was practically inactive for the span of two years at one point in my life. Strange, I know. Elders Quorum Presidents are never inactive, let alone for two years. Here's the real kicker though: I was on my mission at the time.

Let me explain. I first want to point out that I was not a lazy missionary who did not obey the rules and this is why I was inactive. It was the exact opposite in fact. I worked hard on my mission and obeyed every rule the best I could. I always woke up at 6:30 a.m. on the dot and always did my study time with gusto (I cannot say the same for a companion or two of mine, though). I was inactive, though, because of my diligence in complying with mission rules.

Now, my mission had a lot of rules ... a lot. We couldn't be in a member's home (apart from lunch) for more than 15 minutes unless an investigator was present. There was no dinner time, just lunch (more the culture rather than the mission). We had to have 50 contacts per day and 50 lessons per week. During weeks of sacrifice (which were every 6 months or so) you got up at 5:30 a.m., left the house by 6:00 a.m., contacted 50 people in an hour, returned home to study for an hour, then went right back to work the rest of the day without stop.

Let me say that last part again: without stop. We did not eat breakfast for 30 minutes at home. We did not stop and eat lunch for an hour. We were instructed to do these things while walking and still working. By the end of the week your average number of hours worked went from ~75 to ~105. And I loved every minute of it. In retrospect of course. At the time I was too tired to even know what the Book of Mormon was.

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