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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Guest Post: A Mormon Yankee in King Joseph's Court

One of my favorite books as a kid was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Mark Twain was inspired to write it after a dream in which he was a knight burdened by his heavy armor, and wrote a story about a man from the 1800's (Hank, the Connecticut Yankee) who wakes up in medieval England and has to survive. While people much smarter than me categorize it as a satire poking deep fun at the romanticism of the Old South, I simply thought it was a great example of what would happen if you traveled in time back a few hundred or even a few thousand years. The main character uses his 19th century knowledge and experience to single-handedly dismantle the feudal system, unmasking magic with science and everyday (1800's) common sense.

My kids are now growing up in a largely demystified world, where they will never have to wonder what are the lyrics to a popular song, whether an urban legend really happened, or whether global warming truly exists. Okay, maybe not global warming, however, the wealth of information available to them, to me, to all of us on any subject is staggering.

For example, not only can they find the lyrics to a song in mere seconds, but they can also find the names of every person who was ever in the band, the schools each person attended, and with some small amount of searching, the names, phone numbers and addresses of their classmates, teachers and anyone associated with the band. This kind of information, literally at the tips of fingers, has never before been available, and in certain situations, much like that of our Connecticut Yankee, a game, life and history changer.

I've always realized and accepted that religion is based (almost) 100% on faith, on a belief in something that simply cannot be proven. The origins of all core religions (the Big Five – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism) can be traced back historically to a point at which one either believes or one doesn't. The problem the LDS church is now facing is that belief in the church's foundations are a little different than that of the Big Five. Specifically, while their ancient origins are clouded in murky legend documented decades and centuries after the fact, LDS church's history is recent enough (a scant 200 years) that first person accounts, journals and a wealth of other documentation abounds. Not only has a staggering amount of the information been vetted by researchers and academics with a dizzying amount of clarity, but their texts, papers and even scanned historical documents are available to anyone with an Internet connection.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Whitney Awards Shout Out

by Eliana:

The Whitney’s have been a great contest for Mormon Literature, providing opportunities to read a lot of stuff in several genres. Even for someone like me who doesn't follow YA lit or enjoy the speculative/fantasy/sci-fi world, I love seeing what others are writing and finding success with. And thanks to a recent post at Segullah, I discovered a deeper story to the World of the Whitney.

Take a look over at Indiegogo to see the interesting anthology available as a fundraiser. Needing help is a hard thing, without question. If you have ever read a book by a fellow saint, have ever noticed a name on a book cover and realized you knew the author once upon a time, or have thought about writing yourself, consider a donation. Fun perks available also, for whatever your interests may be.

Monday, April 28, 2014

7 Religious Stock Photos That Make You Go Hmmm

by Kyle:

I love photography. I love how it can tell an entire story in a single image. How it can capture a moment that happened in a split second and preserve it forever. I could go on and on about the wonders of photography, but that's not what this post is about. This is about how sometimes, that story in a single image, or that split second moment in time can be a little ... off. Maybe their message is just lost in translation. Or it's a little creepy. Or even just down right "wut?" It is in that spirit that I've searched GettyImages to bring you the best fails in religious stock photography. You're welcome.

Let's just say that a certain religious video presentation could be enhanced with this version of Adam and Eve ...

This is the thing that my nightmares are made of. When I was a young kid I remember visiting the Church Office Building. In the lobby at the time, they had a giant painting of President Benson. As we walked past this giant painting the eyes on President Benson followed me. Just to be sure, I walked backwards, and yup the eyes followed. It has haunted me to this day ...

There's nothing religious about this at all other than this caterpillar is called the Common Mormon. Its mimicking bird poop. Seriously. That's what it's doing.

Creepy Uncle Lloyd calling from prison. The other inmates made him wear the halo and wings. He doesn't want to talk about it.

Um ... okay, well this is embarrassing. The Apostle Peter tried this once and it didn't work out so well for him, but this lady seems to have the whole faith-to-walk-on-water thing down pretty good.

High-five for Jesus!

Assassin's Creed or praying monk ... you decide.

Friday, April 25, 2014

MMM Library: Judgement, Jesus and Justifications

by brettmerritt:

We love to judge, don't we?

Man, I do. I enjoy looking at the thirty-something guy in his black clothes and piercings then saying something under my breath like, "How's mom's basement?" For some reason our brains need to instantly compartmentalize everything we see, feel, smell, hear and taste: good v bad, beautiful v ugly, smart v stupid, moral v immoral, funny v Whitney, independent v mom's basement. And we do this for EVERYTHING.

This complicates things for me. Just when I think I have it all figured out, I realize that, wait a second, people are doing this to me! I'm pudgy-married-creepy-aging-writer dad!

What I hate more than anything is being lumped into a group. I hate it when people think because I voted for Obama that I can't be righteous or that because I believe in God I can't also be logical. I hate it when people think that because I'm Mormon I want "the Gays" to burn or that because I'm American I'm a fat, angry, violent imbecil. I hate when people think that because I am a writer/actor that I don't have a job and cry a lot. (I do cry a lot.)

So if I hate it, why do I do it to others? I don't know. And, why, if Christ gave me some great advice on the subject, do I do it anyway?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mormon Mental Illness

by Eliana:

After Elder Holland spoke about mental illness during October 2013 conference, I heard from a lot of people from my past. I’ve been fairly open about my life-long struggle with serious depression, and the talk came during a particularly challenging period. Later someone asked me to put some thoughts together to help her teach a lesson about the talk. MMM has had some great posts about depression and I’d like to add my two cents as a believer and sufferer.

If you are not depressed, it is hard to understand what it feels like because it doesn't make sense. When you are depressed, it feels like you have always felt this way and will always feel that way. One of the biggest things is a lack of hope or perspective. It feels like nothing matters because nothing will change it. That is irrational for a working mind.

In my life, I have always known that my Heavenly Father is real and loves me. That is what has kept me from killing myself time and time again. Even when I felt like I couldn't feel the spirit, I know it was there reminding me of this basic knowledge. Reading my scriptures, even when it seemed useless, built up my knowledge of how God has helped others in the past.

I took an antidepressant for fifteen years. It changed my life because I stopped crying every day. It didn't cure my depression. I still got sad a lot, but at least for reasons instead of just all the time. I think of it as taking the edge off. That seemed good to me but I now realize that it probably wasn't enough. I couldn't imagine feeling any better though. I was lucky to have a doctor when I first sought treatment who didn't worry about a label for my problems but tried lots of different things to try to improve my life. I will always be grateful for his gentleness with me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why I’m Glad I’m Not That Good at Soccer

by Shawn Tucker:

This week I’m glad that I’m not that good at soccer. I’m good enough to get together on weekends to play with some friends, and I can hold my own. But when I was growing up, I wanted to be a very, very good soccer player. I wanted to play professionally. I played on some very good teams, but I was always just a player who could make a solid contribution, nothing more.

So when I turned 19, well, no one from Barcelona or Arsenal or even Tottenham (who I would have told “no”) was hoping that I would be playing for them. Without those prospects, and mostly because I really wanted to, I went off to Chile for two years. No need to talk about my mission experiences, as they were pretty typical—I saw the historical shift in Chile as they moved from dictatorship to democracy, witnessed miracle after miracle in the lives of amazing people, and had a knife pulled on me by someone who ended up just being a knife salesman. You know, typical stuff.

Mr. Parker is very, very good at what he does, and he has an entirely different set of circumstances. Not only am I glad that I’m not that good at soccer, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to make the decision he has made. I will add, for the sake of full disclosure, that as a Tar Heels basketball fan, I’m glad about the inspiration he received.

This week, it turns out, I’m especially glad that I’m not that good at soccer. On Wednesday I saw a picture and then a video on Facebook of a young Chilean man opening his mission call. He and his parents are clearly filled with joy. And his parents were two people who were baptized in Chile when I was there. I had the privilege of teaching them, loving them, and yearning for them to receive blessings that I felt God had for them. When I commented on their son’s picture, Mauricio, the father, wrote “mira tus frutos—gracias” which means “look at your fruits, thank you. I wrote back, “this makes me shout for joy and weep with gratitude.”

And that is why I’m glad that I’m not that good at soccer.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Saintspeak 21: The Letters Q & R

by Seattle Jon:

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

Quorum A group of men or boys who compete to see who can go the longest without volunteering to do anything.

Radical Before the presidency of Heber J. Grant, what all Mormons were perceived by nonmembers to be. After all, they practiced polygamy, despised capitalism, insisted on equal rights for women under the law, and believed that the government had no right to interfere with people's private sexual practices.

Reactivate To make life so miserable for an inactive Mormon that to escape your constant visits and unbearable cheerfulness, he begins to come to church again.

Rebellious Spirit What tempts some Mormons to think before doing what they're told.

Reliefsocietese The dialect of sweetness. The language is spoken in its most refined form by persons who are, have been, or want to be in a Relief Society presidency, but it is also spoken by parents of children who are misbehaving in church, any speaker who is talking to Mormon teenagers, and anyone who doesn't like you but has to work with you anyway. It can only be spoken while smiling, and only positive things can be said. Thus the English sentence, "You really botched the assignment," would be translated into Reliefsocietese as, "You're just such a choice individual, and I'm so very prOUd of you for doing the best you could. And I just know that next time you'll do even better," and the English sentence, "Will you please be quiet so we can get back to the lesson?" is rendered in Reliefsocietese as, "We're all so very grateful for your special ideas, and we'll just for sure plan a special day really soon when we'll have a chance to hear all about them." While it takes years of practice to become fluent in this dialect you can fake it right from the start by imitating the expression of rapture found in Renaissance madonna paintings and saying special, choice, just, or so very at least once in every sentence.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Guest Post: Personal Responsibility

Personal Responsibility: fill our own lamps with oil

In the Church at present, we assert that obedience to certain mortal officers is the same thing as obedience to God, and thus, that our salvation will be assured if we obey those mortal officers. Meanwhile, there are teachings in our history which adamantly reject that worldview. Here are a few of them:
“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves.”(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pages 237-38).

“If we have presidents or apostles or anybody that we do not like, let us vote them out, and be free men, and cultivate and cherish in our bosoms the principles of liberty.” (John Taylor, 7 October 1872; “Discourse,” The Deseret News Weekly, volume 21, number 48.)

“We have hitherto acted too much as machines, as to following the President. I will confess to my own shame that I have acted contrary to my own judgment many times. I mean hereafter not to demean myself, to not run contrary to my own judgment. When President Young says that the Spirit of the Lord says thus and so, I don’t consider that all we should do is to say let it be so.” (Elder Orson Pratt, 1847; see Conflict in the Quorum, Gary James Bergera 2002)

“We can tell when the speakers are moved upon by the Holy Ghost only when we, ourselves, are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak”. (President J. Rueben Clark, CN-7/31/54)

“Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (2 Nephi 28:3; also see 2 Nephi 28:21, 24-25, which warns us about “carnal security”, and warns us against being complacent in Zion. Might these warnings be referring to excessive trust in mortal officers?)
The basic predicament that exists is as follows: if a member feels that the Holy Ghost is impressing him with the knowledge that a particular policy/doctrine within the Church is not inspired and shouldn’t be obeyed, should he stand his ground, or should he abandon what he feels, and yield to the Prophet?

In August of last year, I presented this question to several thousand of my fellow members via email, and received 401 replies. Of those respondents, 12% answered that they would stand their ground, 26% answered that they would yield to the Prophet, and 62% chose a third answer: that neither option was satisfactory to them, thereby manifesting their unhappiness with of the wording of the question, or simply their unwillingness to answer it.

For a longer discussion about personal responsibility within the Church, see here.

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Raised mostly in Utah, Joe Murff is a transplant to Massachusetts. A technical writer by trade, his avocations include gardening, carpentry, and trying to keep up with his wife and two daughters. After serving a mission in Milwaukee Wisconsin, he attended the University of Utah and completed an English degree.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Handbook of Instructions (1940): Removal of Women's Hats

by Seattle Jon:

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

Removal of Women's Hats in Meetings

No specific instruction has been given that women should remove their hats during Church services. Common courtesy would, of course, require that any large hats that obstruct the view of those in the rear should be removed in Church as well as in other gatherings, but where the hats do not obstruct the view, the matter of their removal should be left to the individuals. Ushers should refrain from asking any woman to remove her hat.

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MMM Library: Welcome Casserole

by Bishop Higgins:

Brother Royal Samuelson, executive secretary, calls members of the ward for various reasons. This time, to bring over a welcome casserole.

This post was originally published on May 16, 2011.

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Bishop Gerald Higgins is the bishop of the 3rd Ward and the first thing you should know is that Bishop Higgins loves Jesus. Also apple juice, marching bands and things that are soothing, like sunsets, the holy spirit, and hand lotion. Now, hasn't he met you before? Perhaps 2.5 million years ago in the pre-existence. It seems you've changed some since you've taken on this mortal coil. Remember how we could never wear hats in the pre-existence? Too windy. Twitter: @bishophiggins. Blog:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Are Kids Sports a Hidden Scourge in Society?

by Seattle Jon:

I'm coaching my son’s little league team again this year, which meant 2+ hour practices three days a week in March and 2.5+ hour games three days a week through the end of June. That's a lot of baseball. And when you spend that amount of time around baseball you meet other parents who also spend a lot of time around baseball. So what do we talk about?

Mostly about how to balance being the supportive parent who spends three hours a day driving all over town to allow our child to pursue his or her dreams without becoming the supportive parent that drives all over town to allow our child to pursue OUR dreams.

I've witnessed a few situations with kids over the last few years that I can only describe as exhausting. Little league baseball wasn't enough, as parents spent thousands of dollars on "select" baseball to get formal training and weekly tournaments, hired local celebrities for private hitting lessons and bought top-of-the-line equipment and gear. Not to mention these kids were also still playing select soccer, basketball or lacrosse. Just imagining the time and money required to make this work makes me want to take a nap then start looking for a second job.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Primer on Craigslist Housing Scams

by LJ:

Between late January and mid-February, our landlord passed away unexpectedly and my husband was let go from his job. One heaven-sent job offer and a month later, we found ourselves back in Arizona with a working car and a (mostly) happy family, but nowhere permanent to live.

We jumped headfirst into the gaping maw of Craigslist and this is where I started to see some patterns in its sad, scammy world, especially the rental listings. I share this hard-earned knowledge with you in the hopes it saves you a few hours of empty searches. Let's start with my favorite rental scam, the Sloppy Listing. 

The Sloppy Listing has three trademarks: (1) a single, grainy photo of the house exterior, (2) wobbly English, and (3) the zip code awkwardly written anywhere in the description.


Home Sweet Home For You !

Description: You don't want to get pass by this beautiful home in the charming 85254 zip code area neighborhood of Phoenix. This house is fine 3/4 acre parcel with 4 bedroom 2 and half bath with granite counters in the bathroom and kitchen area's. It is beautiful home and come by and see today before its going to someone else!

A bonus giveaway to a Sloppy Listing is that the monthly rent is way too low, or any additional photos are obviously pieced together from two different houses. My favorite was a home in "central Phoenix" with all deciduous trees in the front yard and a snow-capped mountain range in the background.

If you pass the Sloppy Listing, you might get lured in by the Sorta Legit Listing. It has (mostly) correct English and pertinent property information, but the photographer has carefully cropped out the cat skeletons in the rafters or the bombed-out meth shack next door. This is where I turn to Google Maps to show me street views of the neighborhood and then SHABAMMO. I can see for myself the scrap lumber pile off the carport that houses a giant scorpion colony.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Speed Reading the Book of Mormon

by Bradly Baird:

At least once a year, our ward or stake establishes an initiative within the membership that encourages everyone to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover. Typically, the timeframe for such engagement is spread across the course of a year or over the summer, and offers everyone the opportunity to dive deep into the book and receive the attendant benefits of in-depth study.

Three weeks ago, our ward leadership asked everyone to read the entire book in just 31 days. To complete the task means that each person should be reading at least seventeen pages a day. It is an easily achievable goal, but it does take some time (and sacrifice).

When I first jumped into the exercise, I worried that I wouldn't receive a lot of spiritual value; because I wouldn't have the time to dive deep into the language, notes, and meaning of each chapter. I also wondered what purpose such rapid reading would serve.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Saintspeak 20: The Letter P

by Seattle Jon:

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

Paradisical A word that Mormons pronounce a hundred different ways, none of them correct. Just remember the phrase "part of a bicycle" and at least you'll have the rhythm right.

Patriarchal Blessing 1. A private scripture given to young members of the Church so that when they're old they can see whether they were righteous enough for the promises to be fulfilled. 2. The source of the best rumors and folk doctrines in the Church. Rumor had it that Harold B. Lee's patriarchal blessing promised that he would be president of the Church at the Second Coming; it is also rumored that the two prophets who will rise from the dead in jerusalem have already been told who they are in their patriarchal blessings. Everyone in the Church knows someone who knows someone who was told in a patriarchal blessing that they chose their parents in the preexistence.

Patriarchal Order 1. The principle of plural marriage. 2. The only true family pattern, in which the husband and father commands, and his wife and children rnust obey without question, even if the "patriarch" hasn't the foggiest notion of what he's doing. This is necessary because the process of arriving at consensus depends on the heretical notion that two opposing ideas can both have merit at the same time.

Polygamy The family system in which a lustful man surrounds himself with ever younger wives so that none of the older wives ever dares to get too uppity.

Personal Prayer An almost sure home remedy for insomnia.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

An Open Letter to Author Anna Quindlen

by Eliana:

Dear Ms. Q,

My mother did not go to Catholic school like you did, though she wanted to be a nun for a time. This seems odd to me since she’s Mormon and we don’t have nuns.

You are liberal, my mama is quite conservative. You’ve worked as a journalist and novelist for decades while my mother’s newspaper career ended before I was born. She lives in Alaska, you’re in the east.

And yet, with all these differences, your writing is the main way in which I’ve ever come to know my mother. She never tells stories about growing up. In your essays, the first thing I read in every issue of Newsweek, I saw a glimpse of my mother’s childhood. Wearing a dress to school every day, worrying about the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. The games you played, the Chatty Cathy pull string doll.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Okay, I’ll Ask It: What about Reincarnation and Mormonism?

by Shawn Tucker:

Of course we don’t believe in that, right? Well, let’s imagine a couple of things. Let’s imagine that you get to the Spirit world, and there you have a chance to serve others. You communicate with them about your mortal experience and how you embraced the light/love God offered you.  You learned from others there as well, seeing how you can embrace more light based upon their experience and insight. Lovely! What a great place!

And, while there, you enjoy a different proximity to God.  I’m guessing that there is still some veil there (?), but I would guess something else: you see that you are still not like your Heavenly Parents.  First, you lack a body, and you know that the Resurrection will take care of that.  But are you ready for a final, permanent, eternal body? Do you yet have the spirit for that?  One trip to earth and some great conversations in the Spirit world just might not be enough to prepare you for a final, perfected body like God’s and to live a life like God’s.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Brother Jake Defends Modesty

by Brother Jake:

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Brother Jake is the caboose of a big Mormon family. He enjoys playing video games and making silly videos. After serving a mission in Peru, he married a violinist, transferred schools, and finished his undergrad at Indiana University. He is currently pursuing a Master's degree in analytics (a dumb word for "statistics") at NC State. He has extremely stretchy elbow skin.

Friday, April 4, 2014

MMM Sermons: Two Lines of Communication

by Saint Mark:

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

Is this a GQ shot or what? I don't know if they knew they would be Apostles of Jesus Christ one day but it makes me feel better about some of the photos you and I took in Japan, Seattle Jon.

At any rate, having discussed the issue of priesthood and patriarchy before, I thought Elder Dallin H. Oaks' October 2010 General Conference address would shed more light on the issue:
Our Heavenly Father has given His children two lines of communication with Him—what we may call the personal line and the priesthood line. All should understand and be guided by both of these essential lines of communication.
But how do these two lines of communication co-exist? One principle that emerges from this sermon is that the two lines never contradict each other. Under the Banner of Heaven is a perfect example of how one person goes outside this principle and obviously acts contrary to the priesthood line of communication with deity. Jim Jones and the Kool-aid suicides is another.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Miley Cyrus & Mormons: 10 Surprising Things They Have in Common

by Scott Heffernan:

My boss at work recently showed me a tool to help with blogging—Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator. If you’re stuck for things to blog about, it thinks of ideas for you. Just type a few words into the space provided, and it will churn out headline after headline. So far, we have mostly avoided egregious clickbait. However, some of these topics could be pretty interesting.
  • How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Mormonism
  • The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Mormon Men
  • What Will Mormonism Be Like in 100 Years?
  • 20 Myths About Mormons
  • 14 Common Misconceptions About Mormons
  • Think You’re Cut Out for Being a Modern Mormon Man? Take This Quiz
  • Why We Love Mormons (and You Should Too!)

Now if we can list some things that Mormons actually have in common with Miley Cyrus, I'll be really impressed.

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Scott Heffernan is an artist, designer, and photographer living in Seattle. He works on the creative team at Archie McPhee, doing all manner of strange things. He grew up a child of the 80s in Salt Lake City and loves skateboarding, toys, and thrifting. He served a mission in England/Wales and has a degree in American Sign Language from the University of Utah. He has one wife and two kids. Twitter: @ScottHeffernan. Tumblr:
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl

Despite the author having a strong connection to MMM (see today's comic for an MMM mention), we're only just now drawing attention to the adventures of weird mormon girl, Enid Gardner, the star of the webcomic The Garden of Enid. Shame on us.

Enid comics are posted on the comic homepage regularly on Wednesdays and Sundays and sometimes on days in between. You can also follow the adventures of Enid on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Trust us, this is worth reading and supporting. Some of our recent favorites are below (posted with author's permission).

Linger Longer 32

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)
What Kind of Mormon Are You Going to Be? (Feminist Mormon Housewives)
The Dialogue Diet (By Common Consent)
Equal Means Something (Times and Seasons)
Is There a Way to Find Common Ground? (Zelophehad's Daughters)
The Paperless Stake (Wheat & Tares)
Church Games (The Exponent)
Sacred Activism and the Spirit of Harmony (Young Mormon Feminists)
Choosing Modesty (Juvenile Instructor)
Friendly Fire on Mormon Scholars (Faith-Promoting Rumor)
Mormon Women Stand (Millenial Star)
Back in the Doll's House (A Motley Vision)
An Illustrated Definition of Mormon Literature (Dawning of a Brighter Day)
Sex in Genesis: Part 3 (Worlds Without End) (parts one and two)
People Like Us Do Things Like That (Mormon Women Project)
Addiction Through an LDS Lens (The Mormon Therapist)
Identity or Attraction? (No More Strangers)
#doublestandard (Rational Faiths)

Mormon-Related Podcasts
Episode 105: The History of LDS Views on Pornography (FMH Podcast)
Episode 103: Faithful and Feminist (FMH Podcast)
Episode 216: Preserving and Strengthening Relationships During Faith Transitions (Mormon Matters)
Episode 215: Mormonism's Modesty and Sexuality Discourse (Mormon Matters)
Episodes 456-457: The LDS Indian Placement Program (Mormon Stories)

Off-Bloggernacle (non-religious sites)
The Constant GroundskeeperStirring TeaLoneliest Human and Lethal Neutrinos (What If?)
Missions Signal a Growing Role for Mormon Women (The New York Times) + follow-up article
Dave Barry's Review of 2013: The Year of the Zombies (The Washington Post)
What If the Germans Had Won the First World War (The Guardian)
This Is Your Brain on Religion (Salon)
Seven Movies That Changed People's Political Views (Slate)
Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories (Scientific American)
40 More Maps That Explain the World (The Washington Post)
Dr. V's Magical Putter (Grantland)
The Five Worst U.S. Presidents of All Time (The National Interest)
16 Basic Principles for Avoiding Stupidity (LinkedIn)
Why Do So Many Romcoms Use Songs By The Cure? (The Awl)
Everything from 1991 Radio Shack Ad I Now Do With My Phone (Trending Buffalo)
How to Read a Book (Farnam Street)
That's What She Said: The Rise and Fall of the 2000's Best Bad Joke (The Atlantic)
The 2014 Sony World Photography Awards (The Atlantic)
32 Famous People Rejected by Saturday Night Live (Mental Floss)
Where Soccer Gets Made (Roads & Kingdoms)
America's Weird, Enduring Love Affair With Cars and Houses (The Atlantic)
Jerky Boys: The Calls That Changed Comedy (Rolling Stone)
The Biggest Losers in Oscar History and Other Things You Didn't Know (Digg)
1 World Trade Center: The Top of America (Time)
The First Lesson of Marriage 101: There Are No Soul Mates (The Atlantic)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Close Encounters

by Reid:

Sometimes you run into the darndest people in this town. I don't think it would be hard for anyone to believe that Darth Vader has moved to Vegas now that he's retired from his full-time position with the Dark Side. I captured proof the other day on the way home from the dentist. I could tell from the wear on the decals on the back of his Suburban that he's been here in the desert a while. It was a cool encounter.

What is truly unbelievable was my son seeing the plates of Darth's archenemy in the parking lot of Fry's Electronics. I was pleased to see He was in a domestic minivan rather than something more exotic. It is also noteworthy that he has Nevada plates (Booyah Utah!). I guess He's putting a little time into this part of the vineyard--I just wish I knew which neighborhood He's living in.

Undoubtedly this chance parking lot encounter would be less blogworthy if it were at the Las Vegas Temple or a Stake Center (or even Deseret Book). But this was Fry's Electronics! He's mingling with regular people--not General Authorities or Temple Presidents. It is sobering to think you could just as easily encounter Him at Target or Costco while loading your trunk with three or four cases of Diet Coke. It definitely throws a wet blanket on the whole what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas mantra.

The revelations about the NSA's widespread surveillance of even our most mundane activities is certainly disconcerting. But if we really believe the things we claim to believe, we should expect that our lives are being scrutinized in much greater detail than just cell phone and internet communications (Hebrews 4:12Alma 18:32Alma 12:12-14). Encounters with Darth Vader and Elohim's license plates* on otherwise ordinary days certainly make you stop and think about who really is watching. The fact that the angels above us taking notes do so silently makes it easy to forget they are there. Brennan Manning reminds us that they are not the only ones watching:
"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."
Hopefully we are the same person in private as we are in public, in church as we are out of church; nobody should be shocked when they find out we are believers. But for most of us, this is still work in progress. I am confident that as we persevere and "let virtue garnish [our] thoughts unceasingly," we will feel our confidence wax strong in the presence of God's minivan as we walk by it to the car.
* I'm a little hesitant to call them vanity plates in the case of the latter.

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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:

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