Monday, March 30, 2015

To a Mission Buddy on Hearing About His Divorce



by Shawn Tucker:


I recently learned that a mission buddy got divorced last year. It came as a shock because I found out through a third party who had been sworn to secrecy. I consider this buddy pretty close; we touched base about once a year and on special occasions like when kids were born. My heart goes out to him and the people affected by this painful change. My only wonder is why he didn't allow us to support him and grieve with him during the process.

Let me start by saying that this buddy was always a private person. He would complain about people getting "too personal" in testimonies or lessons. Honestly I can only understand that like I understand Hudson Bay or subatomic particles; I'm sure that they exist but I have not the slightest direct experience with them. That is to say that I'm a very public and open person. It is in my nature to show pictures of my family on the first day of my university classes or to talk about ways I come up short as a father with strangers in the grocery store. I realize that my buddy's choice to keep his divorce private baffles me in part because we are such different people.

And I can see why someone would be very, very private about such a painful life transition. He may not want to deal with prodding, painful questions by people who might look on his situation like rubberneckers passing a car accident. He may feel like this is the best way for his children to make this transition. There could be lots of extenuating circumstances, including legal, ecclesiastical, financial, family, and career implications that make keeping this private in the best interest of everyone involved. More to the point for me is that he's a private person handling this as he sees fit, and I have no idea how I would handle something similar.

And then of course there is this paragraph—the one where I wonder aloud, publicly, if this private approach might have some drawbacks. And the main drawback is what I mentioned at the start; that I cannot grieve with him. As stated above, I found out through someone who was not supposed to tell anyone. I cannot contact my friend and tell him that my heart goes out to him in this time of what must be great pain. I can put his name in the temple and pray for him, but I cannot share in his burden. I cannot comfort one who might be in need of comfort, and I cannot mourn with one that might be mourning. Perhaps it is just that I'm such a public person or perhaps it is some interesting research about how we are meant to be socially connected, but this feels like a missed opportunity to connect, to bond, and to feel the joy of how our hearts can be knit together. Maybe that feeling of being knitted together is even more important at times like this, at times when hearts might be so weighed down.

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Shawn Tucker grew up with amazing parents and five younger, wonderful siblings. He served as a missionary in Chile during the Plebiscite and the first post-dictatorship election. After his mission, he attended BYU, where he married ... you guessed it ... his wife. They both graduated, with Shawn earning a BA in Humanities. Fearing that his BA in Humanities, which is essentially a degree in Jeopardy, would not be sufficient, Shawn completed graduate work in the same ... stuff ... at Florida State University. He currently teaches at Elon University in North Carolina. He and ... you guessed it ... his wife have four great children. Twitter: @MoTabEnquirer. Website: motabenquirer.blogspot.com.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gifImage credit: THOR (used with permission).

Friday, March 27, 2015

MMM Library: Modern Mormon Myths



by A-Dub:


My undergraduate degree was in the very lucrative field of socio-cultural anthropology, with a double major in Latin American Studies (tagline: “Oh! So…what are you gonna to do with that?”). One of the four things that I learned and still remember from my anthropology degree is that almost all cultures transfer beliefs through some type of myth. Bear in mind that the word myth doesn’t necessarily equate to untrue.

Mormons also create myths, though I must admit that some of them make me cringe. When people tell these myths, they get so adamant that they’re true: “No, seriously! My boyfriend’s dentist heard it from his cousin’s bishop, so it has to be true!” I’m sure some are based in reality, but some are so obviously made up that it makes we think many Mormons lean towards being gullible. I think that we really want them to be true because they help affirm our faith to some degree.

Here are some of the most popular myths/legends I’ve heard. I do question the veracity of many of them, but I’m not saying which. Okay … I question the veracity of any myth involving the Three Nephites.

• Yoda from Star Wars was based on Spencer W. Kimball. (see here)

• The corner towers of the Salt Lake Temple were built perfectly as elevator shafts, though no one knew why they were supposed to be built like that at the time.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rock & Roll Parables: Everybody Hurts



by Reid:


We've all encountered the person who sincerely believes that their pain, grief, melancholy or despair is far greater than anyone else's.
"I know your mom died as well, but my mother and I were SO close…"
Unable or unwilling to see themselves with accurate perspective, they suffer—and suck all the oxygen out of any room they enter within seconds.

What do you say? I don't think it's very effective to try to trump their pain with your own. The "it could always be worse" argument—though rational—is not always helpful either.

REM's Everybody Hurts1 is brilliant. Released in 1992, the band said that this song was written for struggling teenagers. It is a simple reality check that offers some perspective. Everyone hurts. You're not alone. Don't give up.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

MMM Search Term Roundup 15: January 2014 - March 2014



by Scott Heffernan:

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.

See all Search Term Roundups here.

spencer w. kimball if you are bored in sacrament meeting, it is because you are boring
I must be really, really, really boring then.

my baby screamed through blessing
Then it didn't count. Sorry. God can't hear what you're saying over the crying.

pictures of ammon cutting off arms
You need some art to hang in your kitchen?

what to expect on a mormon first date
Light petting at most.

rowan atkinson mormon
Oh this would be a dream come true.

wear yellow for a return missionary
Please don’t do that.

Monday, March 23, 2015

You Don't Know Shiz About Book of Mormon Warfare



by David J. West:

No one ever put the spade to earth and dug up a testimony of The Book of Mormon. That said, I am a firm believer in stepping forward in faith and having more knowledge and light revealed. Do the work and you will reap the benefits and wisdom. Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents is just such a work that will carry you forward in understanding gospel principles, politics, and strategy.

Now let me introduce Morgan Deane. He is a professor and veteran with a passion for military history and The Book of Mormon. I've been following his blog for years. The rest of you had no idea that you could be enlightened through side by side examinations of Mao and the Gadiantons but LO there it is.

And it came to pass that Deane's book, Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents is a brilliant tutorial for the rest of us who aren't quite to that "Hugh Nibley understudy" level just yet. Beginning with comparisons to Asian origins and world outlook, Deane shows (as Nibley did) similarities between Jaredite and ancient Chinese culture as well as known Mesoamerican practices. Continuing onward we see the examples and comparisons of the Gadianton Robber/Nephite conflicts (using Hebrew distinctions) and the resemblance to the circumstances of the Roman city states after the empire fell.

My favorite chapter may be The Inward Fire: Judging the Leadership of Captain Moroni. Herein Deane brings in the big guns, Nibley and Clausewitz, to back his case for Moroni's military genius and Patton-like righteousness. Ever the staunch veteran, Deane is in support of both Moroni and Bush’s policies and gives an outstanding argument for military preparedness.

Everything is footnoted, Deane isn't prone to spouting opinion or leaving any statement to dogmatic chance. He knows exactly why he thinks this way and I respect that – even if I don't necessarily agree on everything. Still he is a friend of mine and I did give him a back cover blurb as follows:
Morgan Deane's new book, Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents, is an absolute must for anyone studying The Book of Mormon. His words are clear and give a new dynamic approach to the field with so much yet to offer and hidden from cursory glances. It needs to be studied and Deane brings a well-rounded approach to that purpose. Wide ranging examples from history tie the parallels from the ancient world in remarkable efficiency. Deane's personal experience also gives a strong eye to the military aspect so often neglected in other collections. This is a book that will be talked about for years to come by any serious student of The Book of Mormon.
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David J. West has been writing as long as he can remember, winning a number of secretive awards too prestigious for you to have heard of. He lives in Utah with his wife and three children. Among his published works are Heroes of the Fallen (a Book of Mormon sword & sorcery adventure) and Bless the Child, the great American Mulekite/Spartan novel you never heard of.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

LDS Essays Now Available in Multiple Languages



by Seattle Jon:


In September 2014 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a letter to all Priesthood leaders directing them to send doubting or inquisitive members to a series of essays published in the Gospel Topics section of LDS.org. This replaced a church directive for priesthood leaders to send questioning members to Modern Mormon Men (the letter containing what is now known as the "MMM directive" has been lost or might be in The Vault within Granite Mountain).

Anyway, many of the essays discuss controversial events or topics that haven't previously been clearly addressed by the governing body of the church and most of us would probably agree that the essays are a positive step toward transparency. What the essays haven't done (until recently) is been available in a language other than English.

Maybe the church caught wind that MMM was, in fact, putting together a team of translators to publish some of the essays into Spanish (really, we were). In any case, if you missed the announcement - and you probably did since the church doesn't publicize these essays - you can now view the essays in Español, Português, Deutsch, Italiano, Français and 中国. The best place to view the newly translated essays - in my opinion - can be found at MormonEssays.com.

Note: Foreign readers of MMM (we know you're out there, as MMM is regularly read in over 90 countries), send in any experiences - good or bad - related to reading these essays for the first time. We will publish.

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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, a cat and four chickens.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gifImage credit: MormonEssays.com

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

iPlates Volume 2: More Pure Book of Mormon Awesomeness



by Seattle Jon:

A tyrant to depose.
A city to defend.
A family to save.

This post is a bit late to the party, but I wanted to write a quick blurb about Carter and Atwood's iPlates Volume 2 after the volume saved my family on Sunday. More specifically, the volume saved my four kids from having to hear their dad ask them to be more reverent in sacrament meeting as one-by-one they took in pure Book of Mormon awesomeness.

I wrote about how great (iGreat) iPlates Volume 1 was two years ago tomorrow. Stephen Carter, editor of Sunstone Magazine, and artist Jett Atwood have again combined their talents to continue the iPlates series, this time with Volume 2, Prophets, Priests, Rebels, and Kings, which is a collection of three comic books based on the Book of Mormon's Mosiah 12-13: "Alma in the Wilderness," "Gideon's Revolt," and "Zerin's Sacrifice."

For a good summary of the volume, as well as some nice quotes from Atwood and an interview with Carter, check out Doug Gibson's article at the Standard Examiner.

Below are some captures from the first 12 pages. I've selected panels with female characters for a reason - the inclusion of female role models is one of my favorite things about the iPlates volumes.

If you aren't familiar with iPlates, or want to see Volume III like I do, buy iPlates Volume 2 now!




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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 three chickens.

Friday, March 13, 2015

MMM Library: Let's Talk About …



by Shawn Tucker:


The other night at Institute we had a very interesting discussion. My students asked the age-old chastity question about what physical intimacy is appropriate before marriage. They happened to ask the simultaneous question of what is appropriate inside of marriage. I find the second question to be easier to address than the first one, but in answering the second a new thought occurred to me about the first.

I told the students that it is my opinion that the church does not have very many specific or hard-and-fast rules about what intimacy is appropriate in marriage. It seems to me that for obvious reasons that intimacy should not involve other people either directly or indirectly. It also seems obvious that the expression of intimacy should never be demeaning, manipulative, or coercive. Beyond that, it seems to me that every married couple must communicate openly about sexual expression, about what each person wants or needs or finds satisfying. I also told my students that these discussions are probably ongoing throughout a marriage.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Never Compound Shame



by Eliana:


The Gospel Doctrine lesson this past week was about burdens, or at least that is what I took away from my preparations to teach it. We have very few verses to read and I focused on those near the end of Luke 7.

A woman, sinful, is serving Jesus. Since most sins aren’t known to others, she’s got to be well known for her sins, yet she doesn’t hide away in shame. Like most of us do, right? If I know I’ve blown it, praying is difficult for a while. But this woman, she just wants to be close to Jesus and show him her love and respect. I love that.

In the Book of Mormon my favorite part has always been when the Lamanites are captive and receive a rather unusual blessing—not freedom, like I would want, or the bad guys to fall over dead. Instead they are blessed to not feel the burdens on their backs. Combined with great Nephi paintings of my childhood, imagine the muscle mass on these guys!

Friday, March 6, 2015

MMM Library: Patriarchy Posts




Back in 2011, when we were just a baby blog at four months old, we took on the issue of patriarchy. Let's revisit both posts.

Patriarchy Post 1: A Modern Patriarch

As my brother-in-law and I went on a walk around the park with our children and wives, I couldn't help but ask him his view on patriarchy. He seems to me to epitomize a good patriarch: he is humble, understanding, spiritual and leads his family as the Holy Ghost dictates. Because he is a seminary teacher, I tend to bend his ear on a variety of gospel topics since I feel he spends much more time ruminating about the things of eternity than I.

Coming from a home where only poor examples of patriarchs abounded, I have been cautious in my approach as my own family's patriarch. I know it's important not to be full of anger or abusive or chauvenistic; those were the obvious characteristics I viewed and knew to avoid. But, in a world that reverse-subjugates masculinity and patriarchy in the name of retribution for the past centuries of women being subjugated, I find it difficult to navigate my patriarchy. In other words, how does a man be a patriarch when most women and the world recoil at such a "mysoginstic" concept?

continue reading here ...

Patriarchy Post 2: On Reluctant Patriarchy

As you can see by my name, I am a patriarch. Of the reluctant variety. (Abraham is, inconveniently, not my real name). I'll contrast reluctant patriarchs to Eager Patriarchs. Eager Patriarchs like being patriarchs. Being a patriarch makes their lives meaningful. Patriarchy is a crucial component of their identity as men; patriarchy removes the anxiety of trying to decide what it means to be a man or even having to live up to what it means to be a man. In an important way patriarchy removes the struggle for maleness. Instead, it hands it to them--as a "gift," if you will, an unearned grace, but because unearned entirely misunderstood and misapplied. Now they are men. Real men. Now they can go on with their lives and do manly things without the worry that such things might not be manly. Gone is the necessity to create what it means to be a man; gone is the necessity, really, to create anything at all.

I know this because I was at one time an Eager Patriarch, secure in my manhood, certain in my answers (and Eager Patriarchs are certain. Oh, they are all too certain of everything). My story begins as a newly married young man, in college studying for a future career in the healthcare industry. Life was good: it was Patriarchal (though I didn't know it at the time).

continue reading here ...

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness



by Quinn Rollins:


For a different audience, I would start this review with the disclaimer that I’m a Mormon. Here, that’s probably assumed, so I’ll say that I’m also a history teacher, and I think that the history of “my people” as a religion, as a culture, and as builders of a secular “kingdom” in the Western United States in the 19th Century is one of the most interesting and compelling stories in American history. Even then, I’ve never considered the story of the Mormons to be that of an entirely different race.

In Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, W. Paul Reeve, Associate Professor of History at the University of Utah, makes the claim that Mormons were indeed seen as a different race by 19th Century Americans, and that this idea shaped interactions between Mormons and “Gentiles” for the better part of a century. This racialization contributed to the Mormons being forced from homes in Missouri and Illinois, and was part of the impetus for their settling of the Great Basin—pretty much as far away as they could get from other (protestant, white) Americans.


This racializing of the Mormons is particularly odd considering the current notion that all Mormons are as white (or fake-tan) as Mitt Romney, or as bland and white bread as my own family ancestry, mostly English, Danish and Scottish. I’m super super white. Pasty, even. But by 19th Century standards, I’d be considered a separate race…which at the time would also mean that I had limited rights. Reeve points to an arc in Mormondom that starts with Mormons being considered as white (as “normal”) as other Americans, but then becoming more and more conflated with various races and traditions, and being forced to prove their whiteness. The principles of plural marriage were seen as coming from the orient, the scriptural references to Lamanites and the future redemption of Native Americans clearly anti-American, and the early ordination of (admittedly only few) blacks to the priesthood an admission that they were equal (or nearly so) to whites. All of these became problems for members of the church, and their “whiteness” got called into question.

This racialization goes beyond skin color and into outright deformity, including claims that Mormons had tails and horns. As Mormons were forced to prove their whiteness—their equality--with other Americans, they seemed to overshoot the mark, denying rights to African Americans, moving away from perceived alliances with Native Americans, and other races. By the 1950s, they were finally considered as white as other Americans…but by that point, the cultural tides of mainstream Americans were turning. The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, and within a few decades, the Mormons’ denial of priesthood rites to blacks was seen as racist as their own treatment had been a century before.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cynicism the Destroyer



by Shawn Tucker:


In one of my first semesters at BYU after my mission, I took an American Literature course, and one of our first readings was Jonathan Edwards' Personal Narrative. Oh, and I hated it. I remember getting very upset at the Calvinist Edwards and at his faulty ideas about God, salvation, predestination, and agency. I'm sure I probably went on quite a rant about it in class and to anyone who'd listen. My passionate dislike for Edwards' writing may have been connected with my idea that he was at least a stumbler in the darkness of the Apostasy if not one who, as the Lord told Joseph, drew near to God with his lips but whose heart was in reality far away.

As I had a habit from mission life of praying about just about everything, one day I found myself ranting to the Lord about Edwards. And when I did I felt God quietly yet sternly rebuke me. As I listened I felt the Lord make it clear that I had been unfair to Edwards, that I had approached his writing with a very negative predisposition, and that I had magnified all of the worst I could find and discounted or dismissed anything good in his Personal Narrative. Being thus rebuked caused me to re-read Edwards. The second reading, as you can imagine, brought to light a wonderful text written by a man using all of his powers to understand his relationship with God. I still treasure Edwards' writings, but what I treasure even more is what this experience taught me about cynicism.

What I mean by cynicism here is an unfair examination of anything, unfair because of an overarching, negative predisposition and a willingness to magnify the worst and disregard anything that might be good. When I cynically approached Edwards' account, it was as if I set out a series of landmines. Each mine is triggered by a belief or a view, and when Edwards' text went against my beliefs or views, the mine would explode. With my views or beliefs duly laid out, and with Edwards unaware of those views, it was inevitable that he would roll over them.

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