Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mormon Crushes 2014

by Scott Heffernan:

This is my fourth year sharing my Mormon Crushes. A Mormon Crush is a passionate respect for the way one approaches Mormonism and faith—an infatuation with one's "Mormon style." I like the term crush because it captures the fleeting attraction I sometimes feel after being impressed with someone.

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

Here are the Mormons who inspired me in 2014 and to keep an eye on in 2015.

Fiona Givens
I included Fiona Givens' husband, Terryl, on my list last year. I was tempted to include Fiona on last year’s crushes as well, but I simply hadn’t quite heard/read enough of her. This year I attended a fireside with the Givens’ as well as started reading The God Who Weeps (and will read The Crucible of Doubt next). Between the firesides, books, and her appearances on the Mormon Matters podcast, my crush has definitely been solidified. Fiona is as every bit as charming in real life as she is in various media. She is eloquent, articulate, and seems to have a dash of troublemaker in her. I particularly enjoyed her thoughts on "Wrestling with Prophets and Scripture" and female ordination. Fiona and Terryl seem to compliment each other greatly.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Invasion of the Body Waxers

by Eliana:

Driving from Spanish Fork, Utah, all the way to Idaho Falls, Idaho, I start feeling like I need some sort of enhancement procedures. I don’t love how I look generally but I accept it; then on I-15 I see all my options for boob jobs, fat sucking, teeth whitening, plus some things involving lasers that I don’t quite understand.

Contradictions: Bodies are temples, gifts from God. We should keep them clean and perfect. No tattoos, minimal piercing, covered generally, with hair and makeup ‘tasteful’ and discrete.

So what about teeth whitening? Is it ok because it isn’t permanent, like hair color? Acrylic nails have no point beyond aesthetics, yet they are definitely widespread among all generations in my ward. Again, they are temporary additions to the body rather than permanent alterations.

How do we justify breast enhancement? Do we need to justify it or is it just a personal decision? How do we explain surgery for no medical purpose, to change our God given physical appearance? I don’t have an answer here—I have no problem with a woman doing something to make her feel more confident. But the message I hear, at least given to the youth, is that beyond general hygiene and social mores, our appearance shouldn’t matter.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Spending Christmas With Saint Francis

by Reid:

I recently spent some time reviewing the life of Francis of Assisi and was incredibly inspired by his example and his devotion to Jesus Christ. He was born about 1200 years after the death of Christ in the town of Assisi in central Italy. His father was a successful merchant, and this gave Francis a life of privilege and prosperity. For a time he was a soldier and then a merchant himself. In his youth he had a reputation for being the life the party. But this all changed because of a vision Francis had while still a young man. He was praying in a run-down country chapel called San Damiano when the Lord appeared to him in a vision and said: "Francis, don't you see my house is crumbling apart? Go then, and rebuild it."

Initially Francis interpreted this as an instruction to do renovations on San Damiano chapel, which was in sore need of repair. When he tried to use his father's money to pay for the renovations, they had a major falling out. Francis became homeless. Nevertheless, he still raised money to buy renovation supplies and then went to work. But having finished these repairs, he still felt God was telling him to 'rebuild'. In time, Francis came to realize that he was being instructed to rebuild the church as a whole. While others worked to spread Christianity to non-believers, Francis reached out to those that already believed. It was not so much reconstruction, but instead was reconversion. His call was to help believers whose personal faith had fallen into disrepair.

Francis rejected the trappings of his family's wealth and social stature and devoted himself to a life of simplicity, poverty and service. You would be hard pressed to find a better example of a true Christian than Francis in any era, especially considering that there was only limited light of the gospel on the earth at this time in history. By now you're probably wondering what all this has to do with a Christmas message. Well, this Christmas I was reminded of the story of Francis' commemoration of the Christmas of 1223, just three years before he died.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mormons and Beards: A Survey

If you are currently, or have ever been, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we'd like to encourage you to take this survey on LDS attitudes toward facial hair.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Questions for Jedediah S. Rogers, Author of The Council of Fifty, Published by Signature Books

by Seattle Jon:

Signature Books recently published The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History, a compelling and interesting look into the operation of the Council of Fifty, the secretive and powerful group that worked for forty years to bring about Joseph Smith's political vision. We encourage you to buy it here for the book lover on your Christmas list. Signature provides this summary:

Mormon leader Joseph Smith had an ambiguous relationship with the United States government. He was fond of the U.S. Constitution but distrusted democracy, even "republican forms of government," because people could as easily turn against you as stand by you. Instead, he voiced approval of "theocracy," the church president heading a council of Mormons and non-Mormons who would oversee secular matters. He put his idea into practice in 1844 in Illinois by creating the secret Council of Fifty, saying it would replicate the "councils of the gods" in heaven. In the Great Basin the council oversaw everything from water rights to the regulation of hunting and grazing during the first few years in the valley. Among the council's more controversial practices was how it anointed its leader their temporal king. Whether it was fealty to king or fraternity generally that drove their emotions, the members felt an inseparable bond, writing about how they spent hours together in "sweet conversation." One council member described one of the meetings as "a long session but pleasant and harmonious," while another wrote that "much precious instructions were given, and it seems like heaven began on earth and the power of God is with us."

As I did with Signature's Cowboy Apostle and Lost Apostles, I've asked the author a few questions that came to mind as I read the book.

Seattle Jon: Why fifty? Why not twenty-four or ninety-nine?

Jedediah S. Rogers: Fifty seems to have originated with the purported 1842 revelation directing the organization of the council. The problem is that revelation has gone missing, if it ever existed. So this is speculation. Perhaps Joseph Smith had a thing for numbers: twelve, fifty, seventy. A round number, fifty, rolls off the tongue, alliterative. Beyond these considerations, I suspect Smith desired a body of men large enough to assume real-world governing responsibilities, so he organized it roughly the size of a typical legislative body. I think Smith had other considerations, too. He liked to bring folks together in a common purpose and to invest them in a cause. He used original inductees to launch his campaign for president. Conversely, Brigham Young considered the council too large and unwieldy; he preferred the streamlined efficiency of two counselors and the Twelve.

The council was not the only time groups of fifty were brought together to fulfill a task. On the trek west, the pioneer companies were divided into groups of ten, fifty, etc. In the early years in the Salt Lake Valley the council called "a company of fifty mounted men, to preserve the city and vicinity from Indian depredations," and Parley P. Pratt prepared a group of fifty men to explore the "country South," what we know as southern Utah.

SJ: Was the Council of Fifty a secret combination organization or a sacred organization? Or both?

JSR: Like temple rites, council rites seem to be cut from Masonic cloth. Upon initiation, new members received keywords (charge, name, and penalty), not unlike inductees to Masonic lodges. Many of the council's members also belonged to the anointed quorum. But it would be a stretch to refer to the council as a "sacred" organization, though meetings replicated some trappings of temple rites and were sometimes devotional. Benjamin Johnson, a council member, referred to it as Smith's "private council." Others often mentioned that the council discussed matters in confidence. Some of these were sensitive, not least the possibility of relocating—or, perhaps more likely, partially relocating—in the Republic of Texas or Mexico's "Upper California." Perhaps especially, Smith recognized that the theocratic nature of the council and its designs would raise eyebrows, even in nineteenth-century America.

Young became super sensitive to leaking council information, no doubt partly because the teaser in the Nauvoo Expositor about Smith being a "self-constituted monarch" was partly responsible for his death. In one 1849 meeting Young nearly comes unglued, and threatens violent retribution, when he finds "a member of the council had been guilty of divulging the secrets of this council." In the string of meetings held early that year, we see the first mentions of "blood atonement." I can see the impulse to keep those conversations secret. But at that time the council was the governing body in the Salt Lake Valley, passing laws and making public decisions, all in secret. It's a most curious chapter in Utah's political history.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MMM Search Term Roundup 14: October 2013 - December 2013

by Scott Heffernan:

See all Search Term Roundups here.

When someone finds Modern Mormon Men via search engine, we get to see what they typed to get here, giving us a small glimpse into the thought processes of those who happen upon our site. I think our readers need to see these, so I'll be sharing them monthly. Some are funny, some are sad, some are disturbing. Maybe we can work together to give some context or help answer some of those curious questions. WARNING: Although some of the more explicit entries have been excluded, saucier phrases that are included have not been edited.

is it okay to cut up lds hymn book
If it touches the ground, you're actually required to do this.

mormon dating too expensive
Mormon dating is pretty much the cheapest dating you're going to get.

heavy petting
I actually prefer light.

book of mormon musical parental guide
Yeah, I think I’d have the kiddos skip that one.

nephi, have some peanuts

why mormon men are awesome
Because we blog about our feelings.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Interview with Jared Garrett, Author of Beyond the Cabin

by Eliana:

Jared Garrett has recently published a YA novel titled Beyond the Cabin based on his own experiences growing up in a cult offshoot of Scientology. I've followed him over the years as he's gone through draft after draft, editorial hope and crushed dreams. I read the book, even though I don't read much YA, and found it interesting—especially when coming from an LDS author even though the church has no part of the book.

Eliana: Beyond the Cabin ends much earlier than I would have hoped. Why do you choose to end it then instead of after a successful escape?

Jared Garrett: Long answer to this, but it's at the heart of everything in this story. Please bear with me! Beyond the Cabin was a tough story to write. For one, it's sort of my story - particularly how I would have preferred to have handled my experience in the cult. Another reason it was challenging is because the story takes place over around 4-5 months, but it includes events that happened over a ten-year period, in a very different order too. So I had to find the right story to tell—the right arc for Joshua to travel as he comes to terms with his life and circumstances. But I also needed to make sure that the story was true to who he was and who I am.

The truth is I never escaped, per se. I did a lot to gain control of my personal, inner life and eventually by extension my destiny. From age 10 to age 13, I subsisted on fury and bitterness. I realized my temper was a mess, so I started studying the Dao and meditating. Through that, and honestly through some of the stuff the cult had us do, I found control over my emotions, eventually finding a way to switch them off. After gaining this control is when I started truly seeing the cult around me with open, clear eyes. At that point, I had for all intents and purposes escaped from their control. I didn't do punishments. I ignored tyrannical edicts. I let adults scream at me while I smiled at them.

Monday, December 15, 2014

MoTab Muppets Christmas Concert

by Quinn Rollins:

I haven't ever been to a Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert. In between my dislike of crowds and the feeling that I get about ten hours of choiring every April and October (I know the choir doesn't sing at every General Conference session, but some kind of choir does), I feel like get my fill. I've heard good things about them, but choir music just isn't my thing, man. I've heard good things about their Christmas concerts, but I figure I'll let someone else take those tickets who really wants to go.

This fall when they announced the guest performers for the 2014 Christmas concert, I knew that would change. Because it was my people. Friends I had grown up with, who I looked up to, personal heroes and co-conspirators and teachers. The Sesame Street Muppets. A guy named Santino Fontana was on the bill too, but you throw in nine of the most famous characters in television history, and they're going to take over the show. So I started plotting.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gender Incongruence and the LDS Church: Frontier of Understanding (Parts 1-4)

by Russ Peterson:

Note: This is the full installment of this week's multi-part post. Parts 1, 2, 3 & 4 hereherehere and here.

In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have taught that "gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." Although we are accustomed to thinking of this doctrine as unique to the LDS tradition, it is in fact among the first truths recorded in scripture:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:27).
The image of God, which includes male and female, is the image and pattern after which God created Adam and Eve, whereupon which He commanded them to multiply and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28). Latter-day Saints believe the family is "ordained of God." In other words, we hold the family—consisting of man, woman, and children—to be divinely organized by God for the accomplishment of His work, which is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).

The fact that man and woman act together in the creation of life is in accordance with divine design. Latter-day Saints believe that sexual relations within the bonds of matrimony constitute a sacrament of marriage, binding two souls together according to the covenant they have made. This pattern, instituted of God for the happiness of His children, neither originated in nor concludes with the mortal sphere. According to the plan of happiness, the family is the fundamental social unit both in time and eternity.

For the vast majority of His children, the nuclear family—consisting of man, woman and children—is congruent with individual development in terms of biology, identity, and attraction. For example, most individuals that appear to be male have functional male sexual anatomy, experience an internal sense of being male, as well as feelings of attraction toward women. Conversely, most individuals that appear to be female have functional female sexual anatomy, experience an internal sense of being female, as well as feelings of attraction toward men. For the purposes of this article, I will refer to this agreement of biology, identity, and attraction as gender congruence.

Gender congruence is so common to the human experience that it is difficult for many to imagine a state of incongruence between biology, gender, and attraction. Furthermore, gender congruence—the most common outcome of human development—is so innate to personal experience that few individuals outside the social sciences even become aware that biology, gender, and attraction are separate constructs that can and do develop independently of each other.

When we consider the central role of procreation in the Plan of Happiness along with the declaration that "gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose," it should not surprise us to realize that these teachings undergird a set of cultural beliefs within the Church about those whose experiences are different from the gender congruent majority. These beliefs might be summarized as follows:
  1. Since gender "is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity," matters of gender and sex are always clearly defined in the mortal state.
  2. A loving Father in Heaven wouldn’t create circumstances that give rise to gender uncertainty, gender incongruence, or same-sex attraction.
  3. Uncertainty (or confusion) about sex or gender is a Sign of the Times and/or evidence of the deterioration of society.
  4. Gender incongruence proceeds from an individual’s decision to deviate from the Plan of Happiness.
My purpose is to give members of the Church the understanding necessary to "bear one another's burdens" in terms of gender incongruence, just as we are under covenant to do so with regard to every other problem incidental to the mortal sphere. Although I will not be writing in technical terms, some basic biological concepts bear explanation and discussion; my goal is to do so in a manner accessible to the general membership of the Church.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gender Incongruence and the LDS Church: Frontier of Understanding (Part 4)

by Russ Peterson:

Note: This is the final installment of a multi-part post. Continued from Parts 1, 2 & 3 herehere and here.


With the recent revolution in thinking about gender incongruence, the world will be increasingly unable to discern our Christianity if it continues to witness the perceived rejection of those who struggle. Thus the Church stands at a cultural crossroads: If it changes its policies toward same-sex marriage or other gender-incongruent situations, the Church risks diluting its focus on the eternal family as it is currently defined. However, if the Church is not perceived as welcoming of gender-incongruent individuals, it will increasingly fail to be seen as a light to the world.

Observing the ever-changing attitudes and values of society—and hopeful for the Second Coming of the Savior—some members of the Church have adopted a defeatist attitude toward the world and the issues set forth herein. Some expect that the Lord will come and save the Saints from having to wrestle with gender incongruence and related challenges.

Church members study the signs of the times and prepare for the return of the Messiah, but ultimately the Lord will come when He chooses. Until then, He has set forth his expectation that, as Saints, we are to study the issues and work out our own salvation. With a perfect knowledge of human development and sexuality, the Lord is neither limited in His capacity to understand nor inclined to judge according to the contracted notions of men. Rather, He loves all of His children and seeks to save each of them. We are not fit for His kingdom until our attitudes fully reflect His. There is much room for growth among Latter-day Saints in the care, love, and welcoming of those with gender incongruence.

When we consider the doctrine that "It is not good that … man should be alone" along with the understanding that gender incongruence (including same-sex attraction) is not purposely chosen, it is clear that for most in the world, the issue of same-sex marriage is viewed not through the lens of righteousness versus wickedness, but rather from the perspective that mutual commitment is worth honoring. Imagine for a moment that the men of the Church were given a commandment to remain single throughout mortality. Would we offer support to them, or would we leave them to carry this burden alone? In either case, what kind of success might we expect? Certainly there is more room for compassion and understanding regarding this issue than is common in our discourse.

Regarding the cultural crossroads at which the Church now stands, we may remember that the Church faced a similar juncture regarding polygamy. When the Church faced a threat to its mission and its very existence over plural marriage, the prophet changed the policy—but not the doctrine—of marriage. The Manifesto clearly outlines the thought process behind the change. Members of the Church were asked to consider whether the entire work of the Church should cease because of the persecution that surrounded the issue of plural marriage. The answer was that the Church would observe the law of the land in order to realize its mission. Are echoes of the past applicable today?

Finally, we return to The Family: A Proclamation to the World, which teaches that "Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation." Earlier we considered one circumstance that called for individual adaptation. Are there others? Is there space for us to acknowledge that certain individual and family situations are beyond doctrinal reconciliation here in mortality? Can we grow such that as Church members we support our brothers and sisters with gender incongruence, offering encouragement and love while withholding judgment? Can we do less and still call ourselves Latter-day Saints?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gender Incongruence and the LDS Church: Frontier of Understanding (Part 3)

by Russ Peterson:

Note: This is Part 3 of a multi-part post. Continued from Parts 1 & 2 here and here.

Cultural Beliefs Revisited

Earlier we summarized a set of cultural beliefs within the Church about those whose experiences are different from the gender congruent majority. In light of what we have just considered, let us revisit each of them in turn:

1) Since gender "is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity," matters of gender and sex are always clearly defined in the mortal state.

LDS doctrine asserts that gender is immutable and eternal. This gospel principle suggests an ideal that frequently is not met in mortality. We have considered a few of the many disorders of sex development, along with some of the genetic and hormonal conditions that may seriously complicate matters of sex and gender identity and development. While biological sex, gender, and attraction usually develop according to a pattern that naturally perpetuates life, each is separate. Whether in matters of biological sex, gender identity, or attraction, gender incongruence usually unfolds outside of an individual’s awareness and/or control.

2) A loving Father in Heaven wouldn't create circumstances that give rise to gender uncertainty, gender incongruence, or same-sex attraction.

This is one of the most infatuating and divisive beliefs regarding matters of sex and gender in LDS culture—and certainly one of the most persistent. The belief originates from a misapplication of logic: If the eternal pattern of life and procreation includes perfect agreement between sex, gender, and attraction, how could the children of God—being His creations—experience anything different? Or, in other words, "Why would a loving Father do that to His children?"

The answer is that he wouldn't. And doesn't—any more than He creates war, famine, disease, or natural disasters. Each of these is common to a fallen, mortal state. But the fact that God doesn't create gender incongruence is not to say that many of His children don't experience the same, because they do. Matters of sex, gender, and individual development are not immune from the effects of the Fall.

As a church, we collectively invite nonbelievers to take the proverbial "leap of faith"—to choose to believe in something they have not yet experienced. Many refuse to do so, saying they cannot believe in something without experiencing physical proof. When we say, in effect, that gender incongruence does not exist because we personally haven't experienced it (or because we don't want to believe it exists or because it makes us uncomfortable), are we not essentially making the same mistake? At the very least, we are allowing personal ignorance and biases to interfere with the support and compassion we might otherwise render to our brothers and sisters who struggle with some of the more difficult challenges of mortality.

3) Uncertainty (or confusion) about sex or gender is a Sign of the Times and/or evidence of the deterioration of society.

This has been a common interpretation of the increasing visibility given to matters of gender incongruence, particularly as those outside the gender-congruent majority have been more vocal in asserting their points of view. However, other factors are at play here, and in the interest of our discussion I will observe a few of them.

First, from the scientific community has come the understanding that gender incongruence is neither consciously chosen nor likely to change over time. This understanding has been at odds with the cultural/religious belief (still to be revisited) that gender incongruence proceeds from an individual's decision to deviate from the Plan of Happiness. However, this understanding has prompted a seismic shift in thought about those who struggle with gender incongruence. The effects of that revolution are still being realized.

Second, in our day modern technology increasingly facilitates communication between those with common interests who had previously been unable to connect. This happens not only with regard to gender congruence/incongruence, but also with many other issues, concerns, and interests. Communication networks have provided a voice to many groups who have not previously been accorded an audience in the public square.

Third, when we finally do hear these voices, is it surprising that the gender congruent majority would be uncomfortable with their messages—particularly when they focus on what has been termed "radical self-acceptance"? Or to use the words of one observer: "That's fine if [gay and lesbian individuals] want to live their lives however they want, but do they have to demand that the rest of us accept it and call it normal?"

This question strikes at the heart of the acceptance that gender incongruent individuals seek for themselves. For a frame of reference, recall that several decades ago, left-handed individuals were encouraged (and often forced) to adopt right-handedness because it was viewed as "correct" in the minds of many educators. We might suppose that left-handed individuals disliked this coercion and welcomed the day when they could choose to exercise their preferences without it.

From that frame of reference, we might understand the greater aversion that gender-incongruent individuals have to the messages that they are defective and that they therefore must live their lives according to someone else's determination of what is right for them. For many of these individuals, the process of "coming out" involves an acceptance of self that is likewise a final and deliberate rejection of self-hatred and self-loathing. We might not agree with the message, but from this example hopefully we can understand its context, and how it doesn't stem from a person's desire to be "wicked."

4) Gender incongruence proceeds from an individual's decision to deviate from the Plan of Happiness.

As understanding replaces ignorance, this belief persists primarily among those who cling to tradition over truth, and who prefer to render judgment instead of compassion. Can we pass judgment on that which we haven't experienced? Or can we continue to deny the reality of gender incongruence because we haven't personally experienced it? Does personal discomfort prevent us from rendering Christlike compassion?

Not always but often, discomfort with a particular issue can be an indication of inner conflict. Being at peace with our own individual sexuality can help us think clearly and render support without judgment to those whose struggles might be very different from our own.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gender Incongruence and the LDS Church: Frontier of Understanding (Part 2)

by Russ Peterson:

Note: This is Part 2 of a multi-part post. Continued from Part 1 here.

Gender and Individual Identity

Consider for a moment the experience of an individual with androgen insensitivity syndrome—one of the disorders of sex development described in the previous section. These individuals that are genetically male (with X and Y chromosomes) nevertheless develop as females, along with outwardly female sexual anatomy. Most do not become aware of their condition until they are medically examined to find the cause of infertility when they are trying to conceive children.

Imagine what it might be like to grow up normally as a female, only to learn during adulthood that you are genetically male, and that your female gender presentation is due to a genetic error. In the context of the current discussion, imagine further what we might say should such an individual express feelings of gender confusion (e.g., that the externally manifested gender did not match the individual's internal experience).3

This illustration helps us separate the concept of biological sex from that of gender identity. Whereas biological sex refers primarily to sexual anatomy and physical characteristics, gender identity refers to an individual's internal experience of gender. Most often gender identity is consistent with biological sex, but sometimes it is not. For reasons not clearly understood, there are cases where the inner sense of gender identity does not match the outward manifestation of biological sex. Interestingly, most often this incongruence cannot be explained by a recognized disorder of sex development spoken of in the previous section.

What we do know is that gender formation and identity are highly influenced by culture. That is, parents typically convey to children expectations about gender in accordance with a child's biological sex; thus children learn to identify with a particular gender based on these experiences and expectations. Furthermore, gender identification happens early in a child's development—well before the age of 8, and this gender identity is most often stable over time. Typically, when an individual announces as an adult that outwardly perceived gender is opposite that of inner experience, that individual is most often acknowledging later in life a gender identity that formed earlier during childhood.

For the gender congruent majority, the separation of biological sex and gender identity is difficult both to imagine and to understand. Few outside the social sciences are able to clearly separate gender identity from biological sex. This is because: 1) gender is so innate to personal experience that most lack a frame of reference for understanding how gender can differ from biological sex; 2) gender incongruence is seldom disclosed; and 3) exposure to these topics is limited outside college courses that specifically address them.

We also know that identification with a particular gender is a developmental process; gender identity is not something an individual consciously chooses. This is true both for gender-congruent and gender-incongruent individuals. For a frame of reference, ask yourself if you can remember choosing to see yourself as male or female. Alternatively, you might ask why an individual would bring upon him or herself shame and ridicule by choosing to identify with a gender that is opposite his or her biological sex. Sometimes gender-incongruent individuals seek surgical intervention for their condition. In doing so, they are generally not trying to change gender; rather, they are seeking to make their external appearance and biology congruent with their internal sense of gender identity.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gender Incongruence and the LDS Church: Frontier of Understanding (Part 1)

by Russ Peterson:

Note: This is Part 1 of a multi-part post to run the rest of this week.

In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have taught that "gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." Although we are accustomed to thinking of this doctrine as unique to the LDS tradition, it is in fact among the first truths recorded in scripture:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:27).
The image of God, which includes male and female, is the image and pattern after which God created Adam and Eve, whereupon which He commanded them to multiply and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28). Latter-day Saints believe the family is "ordained of God." In other words, we hold the family—consisting of man, woman, and children—to be divinely organized by God for the accomplishment of His work, which is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).

The fact that man and woman act together in the creation of life is in accordance with divine design. Latter-day Saints believe that sexual relations within the bonds of matrimony constitute a sacrament of marriage, binding two souls together according to the covenant they have made. This pattern, instituted of God for the happiness of His children, neither originated in nor concludes with the mortal sphere. According to the plan of happiness, the family is the fundamental social unit both in time and eternity.

For the vast majority of His children, the nuclear family—consisting of man, woman and children—is congruent with individual development in terms of biology, identity, and attraction. For example, most individuals that appear to be male have functional male sexual anatomy, experience an internal sense of being male, as well as feelings of attraction toward women. Conversely, most individuals that appear to be female have functional female sexual anatomy, experience an internal sense of being female, as well as feelings of attraction toward men. For the purposes of this article, I will refer to this agreement of biology, identity, and attraction as gender congruence.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Feminist Club

by Eliana:

My entire extended family on the maternal side got together for a reunion over Thanksgiving. It was fun, I chatted a lot, yada yada yada. My mom has four sisters, no brothers. They are loud women with lots of opinions. My mom is probably the most mellow which I can't believe I am even saying. I've grown up with strong, interesting women for my whole life—and all of that generation are active in the church.

My little cousins (by which I mean Grown Women Younger than Me) cornered me and asked if we could have dinner together one night. A girl table! How fun! Not having to eat with children! This is how Nichole and Abby presented their offer:

"Eliana, can we have dinner with you tonight so you can teach us about Mormon feminism?"

How can a girl say no to such a request? I let go my laughter at the idea of having anything to share or having any special knowledge on the subject and agreed to go for it.

Best. Conversation. Ever.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Response to Reid's Religious But Not Spiritual Post

by Anonymous:

Dear Reid,

I am, by your definition, religious but not spiritual (RBNS). I'm writing because your post on November 25th cast too wide a net in calling out those of us who "draw near unto [God] with their lips, but whose hearts are far from [him]."

Like many church members who gained their testimonies gradually over time, I lost mine bit by bit over a period of years. What began with a series of small doubts as a teenager culminated two decades later with a personal admission uttered quietly to my reflection in the mirror: "I no longer believe the church is true."

When people lose their testimonies, we often attribute it to bad information or bad choices; or we just say that they never really had a testimony in the first place. In my case, and in the case of many others, none of these describes what actually happened. I did have a real testimony, I only read literature that was historically accurate, and I maintained the high standard of personal worthiness that the church requires. I lost my testimony because, after long periods of study and reflection, I was unable to reconcile church teachings with history, science, and the state of the world.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Of Course She Knew

by Melissa Condie:

I recently watched a video on the Tubes of Pentatonix singing "Mary, Did You Know?"

I thoroughly enjoyed the harmonious performance, but was taken aback by the lyrics of the song, which are inherently flawed (at no fault of Pentatonix).

Why are we questioning if Mary knew if Jesus was the Son of God? Why are we questioning if Mary knew her son would perform miracles and save us all?


Doi. Does anyone on our planet read the Bible anymore? Remember when the angel Gabriel pronounces to Mary: "… behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Church's "Master Brand"

by Seattle Jon:

I recently received an email from the Publishing Services Department of the Church. My stake had been selected to participate in a research study examining the visual styles used by the church and they asked if I'd be willing to participate. As if the focus group wasn't enough of a draw, a meal and compensation for my time and travel were included. "I'll be there," I replied.

A few days later they emailed me the following short preparation exercise along with the date, time and location of the focus group.

Two participants had already arrived by the time I showed up. Three more showed up over the next ten minutes. I recognized several of them, two were from my ward. We were handed a packet of four "brands" in random order with instructions to rate our interest by selecting our first and second choices based on the basis of those we found most relevant, persuasive and motivating, and to provide rationale for our choices. We could also circle words we liked and/or cross out words we didn't.

The six of us were then moved into a large room with not only spectacular views of downtown Seattle but of ourselves as well - one side of the room consisted of a giant bank of mirrors. Thoughtfully, the table around which we sat was loaded with snacks and leftover Halloween candy. Water was provided. The woman moderating the discussion told us representatives from the Church were behind the mirrors - in my notes I wrote "creepy."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Linger Longer 37

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)
The Perfect Primary Program (Feminist Mormon Housewives)
BYU, Religious Freedom (or it's Lack), and Beards (By Common Consent)
"A New Affirmation on Marriage": A Sneer At the Mormon Church? (Times and Seasons)
Most Liked Conference Talks (Zelophehad's Daughters)
Mixed Messages (The Exponent)
Some Common Stages of Mofem (gifs) (Young Mormon Feminists)
A Research Time Capsule (Juvenile Instructor)
Contextualizing Crises of Faith (Faith-Promoting Rumor)
Helvetica (Peculiar People)
The Man in the Mask (Rational Faiths)

Mormon-Related Podcasts
Episode 123: Perfectionism and False Realities in the Perfect Mormon Family (FMH Podcast)
Episode 507: Free BYU - Religious Freedom and Faith Transition at Church Schools (Mormon Stories)
Episode 256: The Church's New Articles on Plural Marriage (Mormon Matters)

Off-Bloggernacle (non-religious sites)
One-Second DayWindshield RaindropsBillion-Story Building and Pyramid Energy (What If?)
Our 'Mommy' Problem (The New York Times)
Why I Hope to Die at 75 (The Atlantic)
The Twisted World of Sexual Organs (BBC)
Paul Shaffer's Life with Letterman (The Daily Beast)
What If Counterfactuals Never Existed? (New Republic)
Forget Ebola. This is the Viral Epidemic That Should Really Terrify Americans (Quartz)
It's Silly to Be Frightened of Being Dead (The Guardian)
Buy Experiences, Not Things (The Atlantic)
Can You Teach an Old Parent New Math? (And Why Would You?) (Sports on Earth)
Time's Up for Astrology (Slate)
What If You Just Hate Making Dinner? (The New York Times)
How the Internet, Dopamine and Your Brain Are Working Together to Screw You (Medium)
If You're Bad at Math, Blame Your Parents (Quartz)
Stepping Off the Golden Gate Bridge (Priceonomics)
How Shawshank Redemption Became One of the Most Beloved Films of All Time (Vanity Fair)
Catholics Are More Progressive Than the Vatican, and Almost Everyone Else (FiveThirtyEight)
Eating at Restaurants is Why You're Fat (FastCompany)
You Can Look it Up: The Wikipedia Story (The Daily Beast)
How Rebounds Work (Grantland)
What If Age is Nothing But a Mind-Set (The New York Times)

Friday, November 28, 2014

All Hands On Deck: A Poem About Addiction, Sin & Hope

by Jonathan Decker:

Author's note: I wrote this poem years ago when my own struggles with sin had distanced me from God's presence through the Holy Ghost. This poem came to me as I prayed for redemption, and I wrote it down. It gave me hope and comfort then. I hope it does so for you now.

The world's a storming, tumultuous sea
With multitudes drowning, struggling, lost
So the Captain's crew fights valiantly
To bring all aboard no matter what the cost

His ship provides a place to rest
Clean warm clothes, a nice hot meal
A place one can becomes one's best
A place where one's wounds fully heal

"All hands on deck!" echoes the command
Tired sailors comply without a groan
For one of the Captain's few demands
Is that none be left to drown alone

One of their own has lost his grip
And fallen into the murky deep
He desperately cries out for the ship
And the Captain begins to weep

He stops the ship, but does not turn it round ...

"Captain, shall we not turn back?
Our friend is out there in the black!
Instead of commanding, now you weep
While a sailor sinks in the deep!"

Looking in the Captain's eyes
This crewman sees his own mistake
For he should never have surmised
His leader could leave any in the wake

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving in 32 GIFs!

by Scott Heffernan:

It's Thanksgiving! Yay!

It's important to spend quality time with family…

And stay connected to your siblings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Orson Scott Card’s Songmaster: The Power of Songs and Negative Emotions in Mormon Music

by Peter Shirts:

I recently read Orson Scott Card's early novel Songmaster (1980). I wanted to read the book not only because I like much of Card's writing, but because I'm a musician and was curious how Card would use music in his book. The story follows Ansset, a gifted orphan who has been brought up in a singing school, one that is known throughout the galaxy for producing young singers whose talent is so powerful that people will spend fortunes to host these singers, called "Songbirds," for just a few years. Ansset ends up singing for a ruthless emperor, perhaps inspired by the biblical story of David and Saul. The book could probably be categorized as science fiction, as the story takes places in a future where Earth has become the capitol of a huge galactic empire, but Card's use of music is more like a magic system in a fantasy novel. This "magic" is based on touching people emotionally, sometimes reflecting or amplifying their own emotions, at other times changing them completely. And in the book, music changed the course of history.

Can Music Really Change People's Emotions?

In this book, music bought large swaths of lands, inspired riots and suicides, brought communities together, and changed the way people thought. But often fantasy magic is used to amplify traits that already exist in reality. Can music really do all those things? Music can certainly galvanize people, change people's moods and even hearts, and help people to accumulate wealth. I think it is possible that prolonged listening of certain music could bring someone suicidal thoughts, but only if those feelings are already present to a degree (which is what happens in Songmaster). I think that Card is right that powerful, well-performed music can amplify what someone is already feeling, letting a person swim in those heightened emotions.

What is the source of the music's power over emotions? Is it the words that accompany the music or the music itself? Music's power is often not in the words, though words can bring associations that change the interpretation of the music. It is interesting that in Card's story, words are often not the most important part of a Songbird's power. Card chooses as his highest form of music a human voice that can communicate words, so words are somewhat important, but instead of composing words for songs and presenting those as a text, as is more common in a literature (which is built on words), Card often gives a summary of the lyrics and then tries to explain how the music conveys the feeling of the words. To accomplish this musical description, he delves into more music-specific vocabulary than is usually done by novelists (music, it turns out, is hard to describe with words, and so some writers just skip this). I think Card's choice to describe rather than simply provide words was a good one—it assigns the music power, which I think it more indicative of the mostly inexplicable way music actually works. Music is a language that is often left to the interpretation of the hearer, though it gives some symbols and markers that can point the interpretation in certain ways.

Mormon Music: Something's Missing?

While Card doesn't speak specifically about Mormon music in Songmaster, I feel that the book illuminates one critique of Mormon music. The book ends with the conclusion that songs are greater and more powerful when singers can express what might be called the negative emotions: pain, heartbreak, and tough experience. While I think there are arguments against this (certainly there is plenty of room for happy, optimistic, positive music in the world), in my study of music, I feel that the greatest music is often an exploration of negative emotions. Yet, these "negative" feelings that are mostly absent in Mormon music. Another thread throughout Songmaster is the idea of a singer expressing their own voice and songs instead of just copying others, another trait that is not necessarily condoned by Mormon culture, which places a great amount of emphasis on a fixed body of hymns, and (even outside of hymns) certain musical styles. Should we as Mormons encourage more unique voices in music? Should we also encourage art that expresses negative emotions?

I had an experience recently that illustrates how music can 1) express negative emotions, 2) amplify emotions, and 3) reflect back emotions. I was conducting the congregational closing hymn after a fast and testimony meeting. The hymn was Come, Come Ye Saints. Someone in the congregation had just given a testimony in which she talked about a friend who had died unexpectedly that week. When we got to the 4th verse ("and should we die ...") she started crying, which in turn made me start to cry, too. Clearly, the negative emotion expressed in the words was amplified by the music, causing her to re-experience her negative emotions. Then, that emotion (again carried by the music) was amplified back to me. While I can't say it was a pleasant experience, it was a powerful and testimony-building experience. And isn't this a type of experience that we should encourage in our worship services, services whose main topic is the atonement-enabled healing of negative emotions?

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 Peter Shirts has directed ward and stake choirs and has mastered the art of suggestion when he's not directing the church choir he's currently in. While at BYU, he co-founded an ensemble that played Klezmer (Eastern European Jewish music) and enjoyed teaching Mormons how to dance at Jewish weddings. After receiving 2.5 degrees in music and one degree in library science, he is currently gainfully employed as a music and audiovisual librarian in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he lives with his wife. He blogs weekly about musical things at
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gifImage credit: Scott Heffernan (used with permission).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Religious But Not Spiritual

by Reid:

This is part two of a two-part series. Part one - Spiritual But Not Religious - was posted yesterday.

My favorite photo from Thailand; a RBNS macaque in Lop Buri.

If spiritual but not religious (SBNR) is the movement that lulls the secular masses into a false sense of spiritual security, then religious but not spiritual (RBNS) is the equivalent amongst regular church goers. Whether it is the temple-going-returned-missionary whose apostasy you never saw coming, or your Christian friend whose lifestyle betrays no evidence of their born-again-and-go-to-church-every-Sunday faith, it is far too common for comfort. These are ever-present reminders that outward religiosity does not equate to actual spirituality.

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom spoke to the risking trend of RBNS in the church in the April 2012 General Conference:
Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal. Therein lies a danger. It is possible to be active in the Church and less active in the gospel. Let me stress: activity in the Church is a highly desirable goal; however, it is insufficient.
In Mormon circles, there is a great tendency to equate regular church attendance with having it all together spiritually. Most of us are guilty of going to lengths to cover our blemishes prior to showing up at sacrament meeting. Like a good actor, we're 'in character' for at least three hours every Sunday. Often, we become so good at it that our audience starts to believe it. In all honesty, I wouldn't have it any other way. We need as much practice as possible in being the person we would really like to be. But there is a fine line between putting on our Sunday best (literally and figuratively) and trying to appear to be someone we're not.

I love the assessment of Fr. James Martin who speaks out against the perils of both RBNS and SBNR:
"Religion without spirituality becomes a dry list of dogmatic statements divorced from the life of the spirit. This is what Jesus warned against. Spirituality without religion can become a self-centered complacency divorced from the wisdom of a community."
RBNS is every bit as unproductive for the pious as SBNR is for the secular. In truth, outward religious behavior that is not mirrored by internal spirituality is an "abomination" in God's eyes. The Lord said "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (Joseph Smith History 1:19)." For the purposes of this post, the Good News Translation of Isaiah 29:13 is very instructive (here for KJV):
The Lord said, "These people claim to worship me, but their words are meaningless, and their hearts are somewhere else. Their religion is nothing but human rules and traditions, which they have simply memorized." (GNT Isaiah 29:13)
The Lord is not interested in lip service, but "requireth the heart and a willing mind" (D&C; 64:34). It is far easier to memorize the rules and customs of a religious tradition and intermittently perform it's associated rites than it is to actually be spiritual—at least as defined by God (Romans 8:5-8). To do so is the essence of being RBNS. The RBNS have "a form of godliness, but [deny] the power thereof" and spend their efforts "ever learning [but] never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:5, 7). In some cases it is a deliberate attempt to appear to be something we are not. In most cases, it is unintentional. Either way, it amounts to Christianity-Lite. Though it may taste great, it is definitely less filling.

Elder Hallstrom went on to say: "We need the gospel and the Church. In fact, the purpose of the Church is to help us live the gospel." You can't have one without the other.

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Reid is an endocrinologist from Henderson, Nevada. He's blessed with wonderful wife and three great kids. His interests are charitably characterized as eclectic: cycling, fly-fishing, history, travel and the coinage of the Flavian dynasty of Imperial Rome. With a deep-seated belief that people habitually do dumb things, he's trying really hard to keep things positive. People are not making it any easier these days. The gospel has helped a lot. Blog:
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gifImage credit: Reid Litchfield (used with permission).

Monday, November 24, 2014

Spiritual But Not Religious

by Reid:

This is part one of a two-part series. Part two - Religious But Not Spiritual - will go up tomorrow.

I've never met Reverend Lillian Daniel, but hearing her call out the spiritual but not religious (SBNR) crowd on this podcast made me an instant fan (listen to her 3 minute audio clip here, transcript here).
"Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself."
I particularly enjoyed her jab about sunsets and beaches. So true! Fortunately, Reverend Daniel is not the only one that is standing up to the SBNR. Alan Miller sums things up nicely as well:
"... the spiritual but not religious reflect the 'me' generation of self-obsessed, truth-is-whatever-you-feel-it-to-be thinking, where big, historic, demanding institutions that have expectations about behavior, attitudes and observance and rules are jettisoned yet nothing positive is put in replacement."
OUCH! It turns out that SBNRism is pretty prevalent. A 1999 Gallup poll on American religious life found that 38% of respondents identified themselves as SBNR. A USA Today poll in 2010 found that 72% of millennials describe themselves using terms like SBNR. Furthermore, two-thirds of the respondents that identified themselves as "Christian" did not pray, read the Bible, and rarely or never attend worship services. Not good.

SBNRism is a very convenient philosophy for those trying to find the perfect Laodicean temperature on the 'commitment to God' scale (i.e. – lukewarm; see Revelation 3:14-16). It enables the adherent to rationalize the dissonance between the moral absolutes that have been the hallmark of organized religion for 6000 years, and the desire to live without boundaries. The formula is fairly simple: reject organized religion and embrace a spirituality that is so abstract that it can't be judged by anyone but yourself. In one fell swoop you are free of all the structure, demands and effort of religious devotion, while still proclaiming that you are every bit as spiritual as devoted churchgoers.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Memories Getting Dim: I Guess Some Things Never Leave You

by Jared Le Fevre:

I'm 40 years old and am starting to lose it in the memory department. Not in an early Alzheimer-y kind of way. More in the way of: I'm 40, work a lot, have five kids who never stop talking, and there is always someone who needs my time and my brain is too full to absorb/remember it all. Under those circumstances, who can remember everything that happened years ago?

Apparently some folks get disturbed that there are multiple accounts of the first vision, wherein Joseph Smith mentions some details and not others. The Church must have sensed the concern and felt the need to write an essay explaining it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Joseph Smith, Sausages, and My Testimony

by ldsbishop:

The West Wing episode "Five Votes Down" finds the senior White House staff in a race against time to find the extra votes they need to pass a gun control bill. Leo McGarry, the White House Chief of Staff remarks, "There are two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make 'em: laws and sausages."

I would add one more thing: religions.

I began to investigate The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2002, in my early twenties. I would receive the discussions from the missionaries, and with my appetite sufficiently whetted, in between the scripture reading and prayer they asked me to do, I would turn to the internet to find extra information.

In some ways, I count myself very lucky that I was able to integrate the awkward issues surrounding Church history into my testimony. By the time I entered the waters of baptism, I was well aware of the issues surrounding polygamy, race and the priesthood, the Book of Abraham, DNA evidence for the Book of Mormon and various other topics, none of which the missionaries, I suppose correctly, discussed with me. I was able to discuss these issues with my future father-in-law who would honestly answer my questions based on his cavernous knowledge of Church history.

A rather crude analogy would be that I was able to apply the above sausage rule in developing my testimony of the restored gospel. OK, so some strange ingredients were around but the end results still tasted good to me and I wanted some of it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Maturing Mormonism

by Pete Busche:

"From small beginnings…"

Every missionary for the past ten years knows the opening phrase from the 19-minute Joseph Smith "film." With over 15 million members (in the official Church statistics, the actual number of active members open to wide speculation), the growth of the Church is undeniable. Also undeniable are the identity/paradigm shifts that have taken place and MUST continue to take place to respond to changes in the world. It began with the influx of thousands of European converts combining with the tiny band crossing the West.

With the changes to family structure (polygamy/no polygamy?), demographic makeup (still very white, but soon will likely become majority non-), "hastening the work" (from "proselytizing unto the Lamanites," to now covering the world in zealous adolescents), etc. we ask ourselves, "Who are we? What does it mean to be a Mormon?"

Mormonism: A Comparison to Judaism and Catholicism

To anyone who reads blogs such as these (I'm a long-time MMM reader, first-time writer), it is clear Mormons are in the middle of a major identity reconfiguration. Will big tent Mormonism survive the recent excommunication purges? Can a conservative, slowly-progressing Church respond to a generation of Millennials that largely supports Marriage Equality, real diversity, openness, and transparency?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Visualizing Apostolic Succession

by Andrew Heiss:

Sam's recent post on church succession, showing which apostle has inherited which of the 15 proverbial apostolic chairs, gives a fascinating look into a version of church genealogy. Some of the seats have seen incredibly high turnover, like Seat 11 and its 11 occupants, or Seat 2 and its 10 occupants. Others haven't held that many people at all - President Monson has dominated Seat 10 for 51 years!

For fun and enjoyment (and because I do this stuff for a living), I took Sam's original seat classification and compiled a dataset of each apostle's seat number, date of apostolic calling, date of release, and reason for release, based on each apostle's Wikipedia entry. I followed Sam's seat classification even when it differs from Wikipedia's timeline - for example, Wikipedia states that George Q. Morris was ordained following the death of Matthew Cowley, while Sam puts the two in different seats.

Visualizing the seat turnover reveals some more interesting insights into the histories of each of the positions. Three of the seats (1, 6, and 11) saw three excommunications, while all ten of the apostles in Seat 2 somehow escaped any church discipline. It's kind of surprising to see how relatively recent the last excommunication was, with Richard R. Lyman in 1943.

Longevity is also readily visible. Not only has President Monson been in Seat 10 for half a century, he's in the same seat previously held by two other marathon apostles: Orson Pratt (46 years), and Heber J. Grant (63(!) years). Elder Oaks occupies a similarly long-tenured seat, and if he follows Ziff's actuarial tables, he'll hold onto that seat for years to come. None of the younger apostles (Elders Anderson, Bednar, Christofferson and Cook) are in long-tenured seats, but given their projected longevity, they each can build their own long legacies.

You can see a high resolution image of my graph below, or you can download the PDF version. You can also play with the data and the code used to generate the graph.

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Andrew Heiss is a doctoral student in public policy and political science at Duke University, where he researches international nongovernmental organizations in working in dictatorships. He also makes pretty books for the Maxwell Institute. He lives in Durham with his wife and three fantastic kids.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Nine Months With a Dumb Phone

by LJ:

So there was this one time I went from an iPhone 4 to a Nokia brick phone for nine months.

I downgraded because I was too tight-fisted to pay retail prices for a smart phone and because my inner hipster was reveling in the return to simplicity. (Or maybe it's my inner Luddite. Hard to tell.) I would eschew the time-suck of constant Internet access. I would curb the narcissist that lurks behind every Instagrammer. I would be better than all of you.

Let me spoil the ending for you: I am back in a smart phone. I took this photo with my Droid, which has a far better camera than the fancy point-and-shoot I bought in 2007. I texted it to several people, put it on Instagram, and then reveled in the validation that came rolling in.

So much for a return to simplicity.

However, this has been a return to convenience. This phone obeys some simple voice commands and frankly that makes me a little giddy. I can tell the robot inside to call my husband and it dials him for me. It makes a friendly pinging sound whenever someone validates me on social media or--even better!--tells me where the nearest QT is so I can get a giant cup of crushed ice. (Yes, I don't get out very much.)

All that being said, I don't regret the regression to Dumb Phone. It acted as a kind of reset for me, a chance to clear my head and realize I was becoming a total screen monkey. With my little umbilical charger cord severed, I spent 300% less time on the Internet. I called people instead of texting. I rediscovered how much I hated texting with T9. I paid more attention to my kids. I read more books.

Now that I find myself back among Smart Phone users, I have to find a balance. I can appreciate voice commands, the fancy camera, picture texting, mobile Skype and Voxer. (Seriously guys, it's an app that turns your phone into a walkie-talkie, which should appeal to the 5th grader in all of us.) I can also turn it off, put it down, and remember that my time is too precious to spend constantly losing on Candy Crush.

How do you find a balance?

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Laurie Jayne (LJ) Stradling began her writing career with horrible grade-school poetry (the kind with illustrations in the margins). She has since moved onto blogging and the occasional piece of fiction, which has improved slightly since she gave up the illustrations. LJ is a quiet feminist, a loud mom, a well-kept wife and a fervent believer in prayer. She also believes that most dogs came to the earth after the Fall of Adam. Twitter: @lauriestradling.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It’s a Small (Mormon) World

by Eliana:

I have a recurring dream, maybe two or three times a year. I walk into sacrament meeting and see a new family. New to the ward that is: an ex-boyfriend, his wife and a pile of kids. In the nightmare it is just awkward all the time, not dramatic, but I don’t really want a calling with this woman and don’t want to share a pew with a man who broke my heart.

We all know the do you know? game in Mormondom, based on mission or where you once lived. The weirdest part, the reason we keep doing it despite the long odds, is that often we meet someone we are connected to. I’d like to share three stories of my own about the small, small world of church members. Some are great moments, others an unwelcome blast from left field.
  • Freshman year in college at BYU I had five roommates. One of them mentioned my name to her father on the phone. Yada yada yada, he and my dad were mission companions. Interestingly, both had first daughters whom they gave weird names to. More interesting were the stories from both parties.

Other MMM Posts

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