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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Some Things I Learned at the Blorgy 

by Kristine
1. The New York City Subway map makes things look close and easy enough to get to. Do not believe it.

2. Mat Parke is not, in fact, the general counsel for a grocery store chain. (yes, I'm stupider than I look!)

3. Really good cheese tastes a *lot* better than pretty good cheese (thanks, Kaimi!)

4. Steve Evans is funny. And his dad played the villain in an old church movie. Somehow that makes him seem even funnier.

5. I can get along just fine (swimmingly, actually) with at least one of the Bell brothers. (which makes me suspect that pre-millenial reconciliation, or at least detente, with the Fowles might even be possible :))

6. It is unwise for me to stay up past 1 a.m., as fatigue puts me in a confessional mood. It's a good thing we weren't drinking--heaven knows what scandalous tales I might have told :)

7. Did I mention that Steve Evans is funny? I actually fell on the floor laughing at one point (of course, almost everything is pretty funny by 2:15 in the morning)

8. JWL was the only person who was almost exactly as I'd imagined him, and just as wonderful.

9. Kaimi, whom I had always imagined as a righteous man, careful to bring up his children in truth, has been corrupting his innocents with that great evil of our time--Yankee fandom. Fortunately, his children will still have access to the spirit, which can whisper truth to them in spite of the false traditions of their father.

10. D., besides having very quickly become one of my favorite people on earth, is a FABULOUS host. His place is beautiful, the food was wonderful, and he was so warm and welcoming. He even flew back from Utah a day early to arrange everything perfectly. What a guy!

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Friday, October 29, 2004

Bloggernacle Potluck VI 

by Dave
Am I the only one who finds the Bloggernacle more interesting than television? In case you've spent too much time watching Scrubs, Lost, The O.C., and the other fare so elegantly showcased yesterday by Steve, here are a few Bloggernacle highlights since the last Potluck.

Justin gives short teasers on two new books by Terryl Givens that are in the works for next year. Yes, they are both on Mormonism. The one subtitled The Cultural History of the Mormon People looks quite promising. I wonder if blogging will make it into the last chapter? Givens, Jr. blogs (he was a regular commenter at T&S at one point) so there is a chance the Bloggernacle will at least get a footnote.

Rusty talks about the tough sell that early-morning seminary is for some Mormon teenagers. Y'all can chime in with your opinion, but I've never seen any official recognition of the fact that wake-up times for EMS students have morphed from early morning (7ish) to very early morning (6ish) to very, very early morning (5ish) as high schools have beefed up their curricula and schedules. Declining interest by some teenagers is a sign of their sanity. Failure to adjust by CES is a sign of rigid thinking, the kind of "make the people fit the program" approach that makes the Mormon Church such a wonderful place. Try holding Sacrament Meeting at 6:00 a.m. and see who shows up! My sympathy, of course, to instructors like Rusty who are caught in the middle.

John C. at new blog United Brethren is trolling for advice on what to say to a straying LDS student who is trying to deal with his initial foray into Mormon Studies via Jon Krakauer. I would tell him to tell the kid to start blogging, but the question probably deserves more serious treatment. Go drop in and share your unique BCC insights.

The best I could come up with over at the other blog was Matt's post on the how regularly he sees Mormons with left-leaning political convictions leave the Church while one rarely sees right-leaning Mormons take the long walk. Try to suppress your knee-jerk liberal reaction and read the post, which recognizes that this is a delicate subject and treats it as a question that deserves serious discussion. We form singles wards and Polynesian branches . . . how about a Democratic branch or two? I'd even settle for a few politically neutral congregations.
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Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Mormon Idiot's Guide to Television 

by NA
OK, you weak-minded fools, you love your T.V. You spend more time worshipping the boob tube than on your knees before your Maker. That's O.K. -- you are no different than the rest of America and the world. Better for you to be mesmerized by the phosphors than to be a total social outcast.

That being said, no amount of T.V.-watching will make you normal, unless you watch the right T.V. Being an fanboy of Antiques Roadshow and Charmed will get you neither into the Celestial Kingdom, nor the Great and Spacious Building. So, your friends at BCC have put together this friendly guide to the new Fall schedule, so that you may set your VCRs, program your TiVos and rearrange your Family Home Evenings as appropriate. This is a guide to prime time viewing on the major networks only -- mormons are too cheap for HBO (though we discuss the best of HBO below).

We've tried to present three options for each time slot.The first option in a timeslot is what you ought to watch, as a cool member of society; the second is what you could watch, if offended by cool content; the third is what you must never watch, for fear of contracting social leprosy. Links are provided to each show's homepage. Feel free to disagree with our picks to your hearts' content, you knobs.

Monday
8:00 p.m. SpongeBob SquarePants/F.H.E./7th Heaven. Not much to merit watching this hour of television, sadly. 7th Heaven is a dark, evil addiction which grips my family. You can justify watching it, however, by virtue of the rumor that Aaron Spelling originally planned to make it about mormons. Just have F.H.E., and get yourself right with the Lord before 9:00.
9:00 p.m. Everwood/CBS comedies/Girlfriends. Everwood is class A WB stuff. Truly enjoyable writing, fine cast, and it's filmed in Utah! The show is heartfelt, and deals with some interesting issues, at least occasionally. The other two options are horrible. Of course, come Jan. 10th, the truly awesome 24 begins in this timeslot, so 24 vs. Everwood should cause you to rush out and buy TiVo right now.
10:00 p.m. The Wire/local news/CSI Miami. Will David Caruso stop trying to seem like a Bad Dude? Come on, scrawny man! You're not fooling anyone, and your show is even worse than the original CSI, if that's possible. What a waste of Miami! At least Miami Vice involved Michael Mann and a Ferrari.
11:00 p.m., MONDAY-FRIDAY: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, on Comedy Central. Really, this is the only 'must-see T.V.' that still exists. You could also stay up after and watch South Park, you perverts.

Tuesday
8:00 p.m. Gilmore Girls/scripture study/NOVA. GG is a great show: snappy writing, a weird, funny world, and involving characters. It has the fastest pace of dialogue of any show on television, and I've grown to really enjoy it. Don't like the WB? Get over it. Watch PBS, you nerd.
9:00 p.m. Veronica Mars/Scrubs/Frontline. VM is the new, better written BtVS. What an amazing, soon-to-be-cancelled show, with a strong, smart woman and a thoughful writing style. It's about the nosy daughter of a P.I., but it's really much more interesting than its premise. Plus a really cool intro song -- this is the best show ever on UPN, including when they stole Buffy. Scrubs will do in a pinch for dumb comedy. Not in the mood for great TV or mildly interesting comedy? Watch PBS again, you nerd.
10:00 p.m. local news/whichever Law & Order show is on, and ready yourself for Wednesday.

Wednesday
8:00 p.m. Lost/60 Minutes/Smallville. Lost is another JJ Abrams masterpiece, kind of an Alias meets Cast Away meets Land of the Lost. The premise? Crawl out from under your rock -- people are lost on an island somewhere weird. Interesting, suspenseful, well-executed T.V., that ranks up there with Veronica Mars for best new show. 60 Minutes is always fun to watch, but try to avoid Smallville, which takes a great superhero franchise and reduces it to creature-of-the-week T.V. Awful, made more so by its potential.
9:00 p.m. Another FHE/Spike TV/West Wing. Not much on at 9:00 p.m. Wednesdays, and don't give me West Wing, 'cause this season sucks rocks compared to years past. It'll be gone next year, I guarantee. I put in Spike TV because tonight they're showing Dog Day Afternoon, which puts them up a couple of notches in my book.
10:00 p.m. See Tuesday.

Thursday
8:00 p.m. The O.C./Joey/Journal writing. Mock if you must, but The O.C. is great, pulpy T.V. at its best. It has soap opera-y storylines, to be sure, but it's snappy & fun, great to look at, and gets you hooked pretty quickly. It has some good James Dean moments, believe it or not. And that Adam Brody is dreamy! Joey is there for you if you really miss Friends, I suppose, but it's fairly forgettable.
9:00 p.m. CSI/The Apprentice/Organizing food storage. This is a good hour to just keep the T.V. off. CSI is awful stuff, the worst ham-fisted writing in the world. But it's Bruckheimer-produced, so if you liked Bad Boys then this may keep you drooling. The Apprentice is included so that you can keep up with the water-cooler talk the next day, but Trump is a moron.
10:00 p.m. Late night temple session?

Friday
8:00 p.m. Complete Savages/Joan of Arcadia/Dateline NBC. Complete Savages is a sitcom produced by Mel Gibson, that has a real Chuck Jones-style comedy angle. It's fairly dumb, but has moments of hilarity, and is the best on-screen depiction of an all-male household I've ever seen. Joan of Arcadia is basically a smarter teen version of Touched by an Angel, but it still sucks, despite its emmy nods. Dateline NBC represents the worst of "news" journalism.
9:00 p.m. PPIs/Reba/JAG. This is the time of night you regret having a T.V. If you have an Xbox, Gamecube, or Atari, break it out. Otherwise you'll face the worst cheese of middle America. Sumer really likes Reba, because she hails from Texas and "it's not ridiculous." You be the judge. Reba is a single mom, working hard to keep her family together. *yawn* As for JAG, Catherine Bell ceased to be a sex symbol years ago, and Bellisario (the producer) hasn't made an interesting show since Airwolf's 2nd season.
10:00 p.m. Get a life! Get out of the house, potato! Go clubbing!

Saturday (are you really watching T.V. on a Saturday night? Loser!)
Not much of note comes on Saturday night. But I must divulge one of my many secret pleasures, Cops. Man alive, there's something deeply satisfying about seeing the darker side of humanity.

Sunday
Sunday has a host of funny and intersting shows. Here are the highlights, but you may as well just program your T.V. to swap automatically between ABC and FOX. Otherwise, feel free to watch American Dreams, Cold Case or British House of Commons on C-SPAN to your heart's content -- just don't expect anyone to want to hang out with you, ever.

7:00 p.m. America's Funniest Home Videos. Sure, it's a bit of a guilty pleasure. But you never get tired of someone taking a golf ball to the crotch, people! To me, AFV is a microcosm of America itself; it shows our vices, our pleasures, our failures. Well, more accurately, yours (O Canada...)
8:00 p.m. The Simpsons. The best animated series on television, and arguably the best ever, depending upon how many Futurama fanboys you talk to. Those who think The Simpsons are in poor taste obviously haven't seen a lot of South Park (must be the same people who think T&S is a liberal blog *snicker*).
8:30 p.m. Arrested Development. AD is by a mile the best comedy on T.V., and certainly the best show Jason Bateman's ever been a part of. Produced by Ron Howard, and starring some of the best comedic talent available (including Mr. Show's David Cross), AD is the ultimate tongue-in-cheek family sitcom. If you haven't watched it, you owe it to yourself to upgrade from the shlock that normally passes for comedy, such as Everybody Loves Raymond.
9:00 p.m. Desperate Housewives or Alias (starting in January)/Law & Order - Criminal Intent/Masterpiece Theatre. Desperate Housewives is listed as a shout-out to Gigi Parke, who is addicted to the show (as a mirror of her own life, perhaps?). But it's highly regarded and has an interesting ongoing series of plots. My only objection is that it's a little too racy than it needs to be, and is sometimes a little obvious with its themes. The same could be said for the other show ABC slots at this time, Alias. But somehow, Jennifer Garner kicking butt as a super-spy seems more harmless. Last season's Alias was terrible compared to its spectacular first season, but rumor has it that JJ Abrams is back on track -- if Lost is any indication. I've included L&O - CI as an option here because Vincent D'Onofrio is really good at being a creepy detective, but there's not too much else that distinguishes it. Again, you want class? Watch PBS, nerd.
10:00 p.m. Go to bed!/News/Boston Legal. Can you really consider watching Boston Legal? Just because William Shatner and James Spader star doesn't make it worthwhile -- cast isn't everything (tell that BTW to the dorks behind Dr. Vegas!).

Soon to come: cable shows, HBO and others. Please feel free to snark away should you disagree. We will cruelly mock you. For those who deeply care about T.V. (and you all should), behold an invaluable resource: Television Without Pity. This is the internet's best recapping and review site, where the reviews are often better than the shows themselves (esp. for 7th Heaven).

Go forth and watch, my children!
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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

History of My Employment--Vol. 1 

by Mathew
In yesterday's post, Steve talks about jobs in bad environments for terrible pay that his mother forced him to take. Folks, it's as if we led parallel lives. Either that or we have the same mother. That isn't as implausible as it sounds--with so many kids running around its possible that we just didn't bump into each other.

As it turns out, even before reading Steve's post, my employment history had been on my mind. Last Saturday I called Mom up to review the record. I began by letting her know that I am paid decently at my law firm and asked if I should give some of the money back. She seemed surprised at the question and asnwered "no", a position I find inconsistent with her insistance that I not take the $3 an hour Sister Slagowski offered me for yard work when I was 12 because it was "too much".

My first real job was working for my father. I grew up on a farm and Dad, in an attempt to teach me about money, paid me a summer salary from which I was expected to buy my own school clothes. When I started I was 10 and we agreed to $120. I wasn't being paid to do my chores of course. Daily milking the cow, feeding the chickens, pigs, and cows, mowing the golf course we conservatively called a lawn or weeding the garden that produced enough to can hundreds of quarts a year was all gratis (or as my mother put it--"earning my keep". Chores were expected--I, along with my older brother, was paid to run the farm. We threw siphons, pulled head-gates and dug cross-dikes day and night when it was our water turn and eventually grew two crops of alfalfa and a few thousand bushels of wheat from the stubborn Idaho soil. At the end of the summer Dad called me into his study to reckon the books and cut me a check for $60. He was bishop at the time and scrupulously honest, but in money matters his memory was notoriously bad, so I ended up wearing Toughskin pants for another year instead of the more expensive Levi's I had fantacized about.

The next year, having no better offers, I again worked for my father. The controversy from the year before had been put to rest by his promising to pay me $120 this year. After we had cut and baled the hay and harvested the grain, I met again with Dad in his study where he sold me my first investment. He would cut me an $80 check and I would use the other $40 to buy a pair of piglets in the spring which I could raise and then sell on the open market when they were adults. Making money never seemed so easy and I readily agreed to his proposal. Sitting in my law office and thinking back on this, it occurs to me that I should have read the fine print--but who thinks about that when they are 11.

The next spring Dad drove me to a farm a few miles from ours and we purchased two piglets. I grained and watered them every day, carried the pig slop (scraps from our kitchen) out to their pen whenever it was full and after about a year we had two large pigs ready for auction. My father proposed simplifying the transaction, foregoing the auction and buying the pigs directly. He offered me the magic number, $120. This was below market price, but on the other hand, I hadn't paid anything for the grain and an $80 profit (tax free!) looked pretty good. So we slaughtered the pigs. Dad then explained that things hadn't gone well with the farm that year (my entire family engaged in group-delusion by insisting that one year things would go well with the farm), but that he would pay me when he had the money. I guess he never got the money because I never got paid.

I advertised the injustice of the situation often and loudly enough that the Pig Money has now entered family lore. Now when we get together for family occasions, I sometimes ask Dad when I'm going to get paid. Trying to be philosophical about it, I comfort myself by thinking that if at age 30 the worst thing you can say about your father is that he welched on the Pig Money, you can't complain.

It's harder to forget the injustices I suffered at the hands of my mom--more on that later.

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Pedro for President! 

by NA
No, not that Pedro.

I live in a smallish building on the Upper West Side -- five families, 6 floors and a basement. Each of us lives on a separate floor, but we all share some common areas in the building, like any other condo. We have a small garden out front. We take turns taking the trash to the curb; we take turns shoveling the walk. We all pitch in to tend the garden and clean up common areas. 'Tis a harmony of the highest order, 4th Nephi-style.

Or so it should be. Some of us are more lazy than others, which means every once in a while, the snow doesn't get shovelled or the trash builds up. When there are only a few families, and we all take turns, a particular family's failure to contribute becomes extremely obvious. We all come from very different backgrounds, so some of us have never performed this type of manual labor before, while others had several crappy jobs through high school that their mother got for them that made them do all kinds of junk like this for the worst pay imaginable and you had to work with total coke fiends.

Anyhoo... enter Pedro. One of the families knows a super from down the street, named Pedro. For $150 a month, Pedro has offered to shovel our walks, take out the trash and periodically clean up our sidewalks. Pedro does a very fine job at his other building, and has enough spare time to work on ours, too. $150/month, $30 per family, seems a reasonable amount. But I have a weird aversion to hiring Pedro to do these tasks for me. I'm worried that it will fragment the culture of our building, making us rely on others to do work which is rightly our own, while causing each of us to participate a little less towards the common good. This all seems to cut against the grain of my pioneer blood and the spirit of the mormon work ethic. Isn't it good for me, in some way, to get out there and shovel my own walk? What are the effects of hiring people to do our work?

Pedro would be a good President. We have a contract with Pedro to perform services, and he fulfills these tasks gladly as promised. We have him work for the collective good, and in exchange we each work a little less. Pedro is the central government executive branch, performing our work in exchange for our money. We all participate a little less, and pay a little more, but the tasks get done more efficiently and we live worry-free. Pedro is Big Government. Vote for Pedro!
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Monday, October 25, 2004

Parenting 

by Christina
The cover article in the New York Times magazine this weekend was about a family in New York in which the two parents are gay women who have raised to now young adulthood two daughters (each conceived through male sperm donors and borne by the mothers, one each). I was particularly interested in the article because I worked for one of the mothers, Sandy Russo, when I was at Legal Services one summer. The thrust of the article was as follows: there is political cachet on each side of the debate over gay marriage and gay couples raising children as to the sexual orientation of those children as youths/adults. The body of social science research performed on families like this is small, as the possible sample size is still very small. However, there have been studies, as one might expect given the cultural issues at stake, coming down on both sides of the debate over the welfare of children raised in gay unions. Some evidence exists that the children of these unions are as or better socially well-adjusted as children of other unions on all the typical indicators for these things. Let's take it as a given that gay unions turn out happy, productive members of society. What I am interested is the question, as articulated by the subjects of the article and exemplified by these two daughers: do openly gay parents who raise their children affect their children's sexual development in such a way that those children are more likely to question their sexual orientation, act on homosexual impulses and/or identify as homosexual? In the Russo-Young family, one daughter is gay; the other is straight.

After reading the article, my conclusion was that these kids are influenced in their sexual development by their parents' homosexuality. First of all, kids are influenced by everything their parents do; whether we adopt our parents' attitudes, activities, or politics is something every one of us struggles with in the process of defining self and growing to adulthood. It is only sensible to me that sexual orientation is just like any of these other things. I also believe that our sexuality has both innate and cultural aspects, and, controversial as this is, I think women's sexuality is probably more malleable than men's. Given these assumptions together, gay parents' sexual orientation will surely affect their children's orientation, most likely insofar as those children struggle more consciously with sexuality as a choice between homosexuality as the norm and heterosexuality as the alternative. This was certainly expressed by the children profiled in the article.

So, my question is, what does it matter? As members of this church, we are taught that our sexuality should only be expressed in heterosexual marriage. But this standard doesn't jibe with the reality of many people's experience, particularly for those who don't identify as heterosexual. I've heard more progressive members of the church say that given the assumption that our sexuality has both innate and acquired attributes, we should be accepting of homosexuality but not encourage it. Would that then mean that we love and support our homosexual friends but don't encourage them to raise children.? I don't think this is a tenable approach. At bottom it still marginalizes gays, lesbians and transgendered people because it still assumes that these modes of sexuality are wrong (and denies them basic human freedoms).
What is the church's stance? Is it correct?
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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Come out of the Closet! 

by Aaron B
I am intrigued by the phenomenon of the closeted blog-reader. You all know who you are. You read By Common Consent religiously (and maybe occasionally stoop to visit BCC-lite), you stay home with your computers on Saturday nights just in case something profound pops up on this site, but you never actually dare to make a comment yourself. Why is that? I mean, it’s not that difficult to chime in, folks. All you have to do is push the “comments” button, provide your name and email address (which can even be anonymous, don’t you know), and say hello! It’s not like your every utterance need be profound or thought-provoking (though that would be nice). I really do occasionally run into people who say they visit the Bloggernacle, but haven’t ever left a comment. And we all recall the occasional commenter who says: “I’ve been reading this blog for a long time, but I haven’t commented until today …”

What is going on here? Why are there so many passive readers who haven’t yet morphed into active participants? Some theories:

(1) The intellectual sophistication of those participating here is so impressive that most readers are intimidated into awestruck silence.

(This is quite flattering. I hope this is it. Alas, though some of Nate’s philosophical ramblings might qualify, I doubt that my latest screed would pass muster. (Although Steve E. tells me my recent observation on "Turner & Hooch" was quite brilliant, thank you very much)).

(2) People read BCC as a guilty pleasure, but most don’t dare participate in such an edgy forum for fear that the ecclesiastical repercussions might be severe. A corollary of this view -- BCC is really, really important, and those of us who participate here are unusually brave and stalwart souls, ready to defend truth and righteousness, no matter what the consequences!

(I really like this one. But it’s probably false.)

(3) We are collectively perceived as vicious enemies of orthodoxy, ready to pounce on any dissent that doesn’t conform with our enlightened "liberal" views. Hence, people are afraid we will make fun of them and make them cry.

(Not true, folks. We’re all about peace and love around here. Really. Besides, the only blogger I feel compelled to pick fights with is Lile).

(4) Our pretentiousness and self-importance is so mindboggling, that it’s all that most readers can do to just sit dumbfounded in front of their screens, fingers paralyzed.

(Impossible. This can’t be it.)

(5) Everyone who reads this blog does comment here! We’re flattering ourselves to think we even have any other readers! We don’t! Most of our blog traffic is simply a function of Steve E. not having enough to do at work and visiting the site like 40,000 times a day.

(I fear this may be it.)

In all seriousness, though, I wonder what it is that prods a reader into taking that first step towards full participation. How long does it take the average reader to make the leap? Why does it take as long as it does? Why don’t those of you who typically visit here in silence finally break the mold and say something? Tell us about yourselves! Now’s your chance.

Aaron B

P.S. Yes, this means you Peter Dittmer. :)

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The Perils of Setting Baptismal Goals 

by Aaron B
I am a lousy journal writer. Always have been. Yes, I kept a journal as a young child at my parents’ insistence and it is fun to go back and visit those juvenile entries once in a blue moon. But ever since I was seven, I have only made diary entries on rare occasion. Even as a missionary, I couldn’t bring myself to write regularly. I always felt like there was no obvious method for selecting what I should include and exclude from my daily drama, so rather than having to make judgment calls as to what would be important to put on paper, it was easier just to bag the whole project.

This evening, while I was perusing through some old files, I happened upon a mini-essay I penned as a missionary, written on a piece of paper stuck between two pages of my (nearly empty) missionary journal. The essay is undated, though I believe I wrote it about half way through the mission. I have fixed some of the punctuation and translated the occasional Spanish word into English, but otherwise, I resisted the temptation to give it an edit (which it desperately needs). Here it is:

Why I do not have and will not have a mission baptismal goal

When I first arrived in the mission field, I arrived at my first area at the same time as my trainer, and we basically opened the area. There had been 2 missionaries working there immediately before us, but they had not been working like they should, so they were removed, leaving us with basically nothing to start with. Within the first 7 weeks I was there, my comp Elder Zacarias and I had 13 baptisms. Needless to say, that was the highest number of baptisms performed by a companionship in the mission that month, and was the highest the mission had seen in quite some time. We became rather famous in the mission for a short time, and of course reveled in the praises and respect given us by our mission president, as well as fellow missionaries.

Let it be stated that I was just a greenie at the time, who often felt he was just being taken along for the ride, but Elder Zacarias was an experienced elder who had had somewhat similar experiences throughout his mission. Elder Zacarias had set a baptismal goal of 100 baptisms in his mission, and I do believe, if I’m not mistaken, that he reached it. Needless to say, he left the Mission Trelew with one of the highest number of baptisms for a missionary ever achieved in the mission. I’m sure he returned home at the end of his 2-year stay quite content with his work, and felt that his mission had been a complete success. . . . but from my point of view, in many ways, Zacarias’ mission was a complete DISASTER.

What the rest of the mission didn’t see (and what I believe the president chose not to see) was the real, behind-the-scenes story behind the numbers Zacarias was pulling in, a story I fully lived as his companion for two months. The truth was, although Zacarias admittedly had many excellent qualities as a missionary (his ability to animate members and investigators, build social trust, leave spiritual impressions, and work unceasingly were among the best I’ve ever seen in the mission field), he was driven by a burning lust for high numbers and personal recognition, and nothing was more important to him than this. Because of this, Zacarias left behind him a legacy of baptized drunks, and instant inactives … inactives not because of the many unforeseeable motives that might drive people inactive (indeed, we as missionaries cannot always blame ourselves for the choices of our investigators, saying it was wrong to baptize them. But in these cases, the responsibilities of the missionary to ensure preparedness and appropriate baptismal motives were not fulfilled, and that is definitely deserving of blame), but because of the simple fact they were unprepared (many never had any church attendance) or had never gained testimonies (some had never read almost any of the Book of Mormon).

So what’s my point? What this all boils down to, I think, is a dilemma that not only I have had to face during my mission, but one that I think all missionaries have to face at one time or another. . . The eternal struggle between QUALITY and QUANTITY. Theoretically, it goes without saying that everybody wants the maximum quality and maximum quantity out of their baptisms. But the simple, mathematical reality is that less quality inevitably leads to more quantity and vs. versa. Every missionary learns that the line between the two has to be drawn somewhere, and each missionary has to make the decision for himself/herself as to where he/she chooses to do it. And working within a system (such as the mission) that is so numbers-oriented (or appears to be becoming so), it is very easy to take the Zacarias option and make a “run for the glory.” Needless to say, many do. And then we foolishly ask ourselves why we have a 70% inactivity rate in South America.

I will repeat. . . missionaries cannot blame themselves every time a baptism goes inactive. Inactivity is the free agency of every individual. But if we have not done all that we can to prepare our baptisms. . . if we have not ensured that our investigators have gained adequate testimonies of the gospel, then we are at least partially at fault for their failures.

So why don’t I set a number as a baptismal goal? I choose not to because I don’t want to risk becoming another Zacarias. Not even a little bit. Instead, my goal in the mission is to work as hard as I can, to the best of my ability to bring about as many baptisms as I can, be that 10 or 1000. My baptismal success depends upon many things (the personal choices of my investigators, my teaching ability, the openness of the people, their reception to the Spirit, God’s will, my faith, etc.), but in the end, at least I will know that I’ve done my best, and I’ve done it for the right reasons. I see no reason to cloud my judgment by tempting myself with inappropriate motives.


It is fun to read the thoughts of a much younger me. I get to relive some of the frustrations and other emotions that I felt all those years ago. But what I want to know from you all is … did the 20-year old Aaron Brown have a point, or was he just blowing smoke?

I assume my observation as to the inevitable tradeoff between “quality” converts and high numbers of baptisms is a true, and perhaps obvious, one. (But feel free to disagree if you’re so inclined). More interesting to me is the question of setting goals, per se. Does the very act of setting a numerical baptismal goal increase the chances of one’s cutting corners in preparing investigators, obsessing inappropriately about numbers, overfocusing on outward, meaningless benchmarks of success and viewing potential converts as mere means to a selfish end? Wouldn’t missionaries be better off making sure their hearts are in the right place, their motives are pure, and that they are working hard, leaving the Lord to take care of the numbers? Or was I wrong to identify the act of goal-setting, per se, as the source of Elder Zacarias’ problems? Are there virtues to the goal-setting process that more than offset any of the negatives I mentioned? Or is goal-setting itself not the source of the problem at all, contrary to my essay, and I was engaging in a serious misdiagnosis? A penny for your thoughts …

Aaron B

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Bloggernacle Potluck V  

by Dave
I'm continuing a feature started on my other blog, highlighting interesting posts around the Bloggernacle since the last Potluck, ones that deserve another go-round and additional comment from the BCC community. This should be especially useful for group bloggers who frequent BCC and T&S but don't get out much (to other Bloggernacle sites). For previous installments, go here.

Justin at Mormon Wasp talked about Wallace Stegner and gave a link to an interview he did with Sunstone in 1980. Stegner wrote about Salt Lake City as a unique Western city rather than as a Mormon city, and was the first person to make me actually like the place a little bit. He deserves more attention.

Bret at Nine Moons posted The Manipulation Pattern: A Mormon's Favorite Tool (ouch!). He wonders out loud about the difference between the manipulation pattern and the commitment pattern, and how we can "avoid falling into the trap of using manipulation." He has a nice discussion, but I really hope the practice is not as easy to fall into as Bret makes it sound. Perhaps we should be teaching missionaries the Golden Rule instead of the commitment pattern?

Ryan at Intellecxhibitionist contrasts living ordinances with apostate sacraments, also giving a link to a nice talk on The Great Apostasy ("TGA") delivered recently by Noel Reynolds at BYU Idaho (the new training ground for LDS apostles) from which he borrowed the idea. You don't hear much about TGA these days, which is a good thing because most of what we used to hear about it was wrong. That seems to be what Reynolds is getting at, although he doesn't come right out and say it. He lists three myths about TGA, which amount to three ways Mormons have misunderstood it in the past.

Finally, if you have a soft spot in your heart for caffeine but feel a little guilty about it, go read this and you'll feel better. Thanks to Nate the good humor man for a new vision of hot drinks.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Go Sox 

by Kristine
This has absolutely no Mormon content. It's just that I know lots of you are in NYC, and I am in Boston, and I do not want to miss this RARE opportunity to say:

Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!!

And I'm starting a write-in campaign for some candidates I can really get excited about

ORTIZ--WAKEFIELD '04

(And yes, tomorrow you can all laugh at me)
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Lock Your Hearts 

by NA
The title for this post comes from an old mission field chestnut; a talk given by Spencer W. Kimball, warning missionaries against falling in love in the mission field. You can read the text of it here -- apparently its validity is in dispute. I had little trouble keeping my heart locked during my mission in France; no one really ever tried to bust in, frankly. I can't say that my companions were so lucky however, with sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic results (mostly hilarious).

A recent comment at the unmentionable blog relating a Dear John incident has inspired me to blog about my own Dear John experiences, and to solicit yours, Dear Reader. First, a couple of gems from the Book of Steve: I'd dated Tracy a few times before going into the MTC, she was a fine, strapping lass from Calgary. As things are wont to do, my image of Tracy became more lustrous the longer I was in the MTC, and by the time I was in France, Tracy was quite the catch. I wrote to lovely Tracy, asking for a small picture of her, perhaps to adorn my dumpy apartment in Sartrouville. Tracy was all too happy to comply, and in a few weeks I had my picture -- her engagement photo. Thanks, Tracy *rrrrrip*.

Another from the many, many disappointments: I'd dated Aisha during freshman year in Deseret Towers, and I thought we had a bright and make-out rich future ahead of us. We wrote each other frequently, sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences. *sigh*. About 8 months into the mission, the letters stopped -- no explanation, no notes. I was crushed. Was she all right? Had the lamanites taken over her city, Pahoran-style? A few months later, the letters started again. However, amongst the thoughts and feelings being shared were thoughts and feelings about some other guy. Trevor? Mark? Who cares. Thanks for sharing, Aisha *burns letters furiously*.

These are tame experiences, compared to some of the absolute heart-crushers I've witnessed with my companions. I've seen elders get completely immobilized for days, sobbing uncontrollably. Remember this, O ye who are about to embark on missions -- lock your hearts, dear friends. Lock your hearts.
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Monday, October 18, 2004

What's going on and how do we deal with it?  

by Christina
I am a skeptic, I have a difficult time with faith, and there aren't many things I believe wholeheartedly that I can't judge based on my own experience, whether spiritual or temporal. There are some truths I hold to, nonetheless, and one of them is the mutability of human nature. I believe we have the ability, perhaps particularly so in this mortal life, to change who we are fundamentally, for better and for worse - and often both at the same time. I also believe that we can help each other change, in fact, those two things together sum up a good portion of what we are here on earth to do, and what we are most fulfilled by doing, as I see it: 1) work to grow ourselves and, 2) help each other grow.

Here is my problem:
What happens when we are dealing with people who are so mired in their circumstances that our experiences together don't seem to help? I'll give a few examples of what I am thinking about. I've worked with children and youth in high risk situations on and off for several years. One thing that is very difficult to break through is the depression in children and teenagers who know that their chances of making much of themselves in life are slim to none. Granted, some people can come through even exceptionally bad circumstances and make a life that is happy and fulfilling. Many, however, do not. Teenagers in low socioeconomic areas, particularly in high-gang activity areas, know this. I remember working with one kid who had been doing pretty well through his junior high school years. But in his second year of high school he just lost it. He stopped playing sports, his grades plummeted, he pretty much dropped out of life. After many attempts to get through to him, I once had an open, honest talk with him in which he told me that he just didn't see the point in making much effort any more, because everyone else in his life had dropped out too. His brothers and cousins and friends were in gangs, some of them had been killed, many were in jail or clearly headed in that direction. He couldn't see, despite some serious adult intervention on his behalf, how he could be different. This wasn't laziness, it was an acknowledgement of reality.

Another example from yesterday, which is what got me thinking about this issue again: my husband and I know a family that has difficulties with their younger son, who has been in and out of high school for several years, and now he is nearly 21 and still has not finished. In the last 2 years, in particular, he has become severely depressed and nonresponsive to life. He wanders the streets and doesn't go to the few classes he needs to get his GED. We have known this family a few years, we have seen the son go in and out of the hospital, talked with him, given him blessings, given his mother blessings. His mother is at a point where she doesn't feel like she can take it any more - she can't get her son to take care of his basic human needs, and she is tired of doing these things for him, but she doesn't want to put him out on the street.

What do we do? My question is not, whom should we help? Nor is it, how can we judge who needs our time and energy? We are fallible, we can't judge where someone is in life, and we probably all have experiences in which we know people who didn't appear to be getting their lives in order who later on will change and testify to the love and support that sustained them in their difficult times. We all need help, we all deserve it, because life is struggle. My question is, what do we do for those who seem to have given up, especially young people? How do we get them engaged in life? Is it just a problem of brain chemistry - are some people depressed and therefore the best help is medicine? (full disclosure: I have siblings and other relatives with chronic depression, and in no way do I mean to diminish the force of it, and I acknowledge that brain chemistry matters a great deal in who we are and become).
What do we do when it seems we can't help each other grow/change/deal with problems?
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Thursday, October 14, 2004

Mormon Celebrity-Watch 

by Aaron B
Now that you’re all sick to death of watching Ken Jennings rake in millions while you slave away at your day job, it’s time to direct your attention to the next up-and-coming Mormon celebrity: Ryan Benson. Ryan is a contestant on the new NBC reality show “The Biggest Loser,” which is billed as a “compelling new weight-loss drama in which two celebrity fitness trainers join with top health experts to help 12 overweight contestants transform their bodies, health and ultimately their lives.” Ryan is a former member of my ward, and is also a good friend of mine.

Now, let me assure you that I typically LOATHE reality shows. I pride myself on never having seen a single episode of “Survivor.” (I have seen a little bit of “The Bachelor,” but only because my wife stole the remote while I was watching C-Span). But given Ryan’s presence on the show, I feel compelled to watch, and so should all of you!

Incidently, Ryan describes himself as a “Mormon on the Edge” here. Since we few and proud Bloggernaclites are oh-so-hip and edgy ourselves, we should feel even more inclined to tune in than we otherwise would. Maybe Ryan will even wax on about how “Cool Mormons watch R-rated movies” and make Bob Caswell proud!

Finally, you should know that Ryan has visited the Bloggernacle on occasion, though he’s only commented once. (Despite my best efforts, I was never able to get him to develop a full-blown addiction).

The series starts this Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. I imagine that Ryan will be returning home shortly (he has been hidden away at a Beverly Hills hotel for weeks and weeks now). You can trust that I will do my best to coax out of him how the series ends, and if I’m successful, I’ll be sure to post some spoilers. :)

Aaron B

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Final Showdown 

by NA
One last time, folks...


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Shout-out for a great topic 

by NA
Dave, BCC'er and mastermind of Dave's Mormon Inquiry, has a tremendous post up about fiscal transparency in the Church. Some very strong arguments all over this issue, and raises some fun questions about Church fiscal policy and our relative wealth. I wonder if the Church engages in derivatives, swaps and hedges in complicated structures, Enron-style, or whether it is all about straight-up asset valuation in the Warren Buffett tradition. Clearly, the consecrated funds view is a solid argument for conservative transactions -- but at the same time, the parable of the talents rewarded the highest gains! If Warren Buffett used his middle initial more prominently (it's "E", for Edward) he could almost be a G.A. -- his annual letters could be slapped into the Ensign, they're that fun to read.

P.S. hot presidential debate tonight, supposibly focusing on the economy. Stay tuned for a poll!
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Monday, October 11, 2004

Degrees of Difficulty 

by Kristine
Astute readers (and even, perhaps, some who are not particularly astute) will have noticed that I frequently (er, pretty much always) disagree with John Fowles. Online, at least, we seem to inhabit the opposite poles of possible intellectual orientation to Mormonism. In real life, of course, we'd probably be chatting about obscure German verbs and the best restaurants in Ann Arbor and our kids and be great friends in no time. But online we seem to be cast as arch enemies, which is very intellectually productive for me, at least (John probably only gets high blood pressure out of our discussions).

Anyway, I mention this because lately (when I'm not busy thinking of new ways to provoke John), I've been thinking about a little exchange we had a few posts ago, about the relative degrees of difficulty of living in a black and white world versus living in a grayish one. I said that I was envious of people with John's apparent confidence; he said he thought it would be easier to live in a world of grey. (Maybe it would be, with the British spelling :)) I'm curious as to why we each might think the other's way of being in the world easier. Perhaps it's a simple case of "the grass is always greener..."

But perhaps not. It seems to me that many disagreements between conservatives and liberals (for want of better terms) come down to this suspicion of each other: I think John is choosing the easy way by abdicating a great deal of his own critical faculty and agency in favor of a stance of more or less unquestioning obedience; he thinks I'm trying to find an easier way than just keeping the commandments, with my constant questions. It is certainly true that some "liberality" is an excuse or a rationalization for less-than-valiant behavior. But there must be deeper issues at stake here. If I behave exactly as John does (and I think I probably do, in very many ways), is my way of thinking about things still wrong? Is it possible for conservatives to grant that there might be a principled, moral reason for taking a liberal stance? And, conversely, is it possible for liberals to believe that a conservative stance can be similarly principled, and not a mere abdication of one's reason and thoughtful effort? Can we see and acknowledge the difficulty of both stances?

The vitriol in debates between conservatively oriented and liberally oriented Mormons reminds me sometimes of the nastiness between mothers who leave paid employment to care for their children and mothers who outsource some childcare while they pursue another occupation (sheesh--no wonder people resort to inaccurate and loaded terms like "working mother" and "stay-at-home-mother"). Both ways are sooooo hard, and somehow we get invested in thinking our way is the hardest, and therefore we're heroes and people who take the opposite course are wimps. What a strange kind of competition! Is choosing what seems the hardest way really the most virtuous course?
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Friday, October 08, 2004

Debate Two: Electric Boogaloo 

by NA


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Because this is the ONLY issue you all really care about … 

by Aaron B
Put aside for a moment the alleged LDS prohibition on viewing R-rated movies (I know that’s asking a lot from this group). Imagine a world in which no reference to movie “ratings” has ever been voiced by any of the Brethren, but a general admonition to follow the “Admonition of Paul” is in force. What I want to know is … “What kind of movies should good LDS members watch, and what kind shouldn’t they watch?” Most critical commentary on the “No R-rated movies standard” tends to condemn the MPAA’s rating system as “arbitrary,” “flawed,” and a poor guide to determining what is worth viewing and what isn’t. But if there were a perfect standard, or at least a hypothetical rating system that incorporated all the sophisticated concerns and nuanced criteria you think should count toward determining whether a film is acceptable, what would that standard look like? This may seem like a simple question, but I don’t think it is. Most LDS discussions of R-rated movie-watching confront it in passing, but not directly. Some specific questions:

(1) Surely there are fantastic, moving, amazing films very much worth watching, notwithstanding the fact they contain some offensive material. Surely there are other films that have lots of redeeming qualities but that are not worth watching, as their offensive content definitively outweighs the good they contain. Are there rules of thumb for determining how to distinguish between these two types of films? Where do we draw the line? Is there some sort of objective standard we can devise, or does it “just depend” on each person and his/her particular sensitivities? Whatever the answer, I don’t think the mere act of pointing out that Violent Film X or Sexual Film Y “contains some inspirational moments so we should see them anyway” is a sufficient answer.

(2) Where does everyone come down on the classic “sex vs. violence” question? One line of argument holds that gratuitous violence in film is worse than gratuitous sex. After all, isn’t murder worse than a little fornication? Would you rather that Little Johnny imitate the axe murderer or the horny teenager on screen? On the other hand, another line of argument has it that gratuitous sex is worse than gratuitous violence. Little Johnny is quite likely to experience a genuine sexual response to Kim Basinger fooling around with Mickey Rourke (and we don’t want that). He is less likely to genuinely get the urge to go on a killing spree just because he saw Charles Bronson do it. Is there a unique LDS perspective on this question?

(3) Assuming that “violence” and “foul language” are generally to be avoided, what exactly are we avoiding and when? Suppose I’m deciding between Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest splatterfest, or a serious film about gang violence like “Boyz in the Hood.” Is the murder and mayhem of “Boyz in the Hood” more important to avoid, as it is more realistic and therefore more intense, or is Arnold’s film to be more fervently avoided, as its violence is “gratuitous,” rather than a realistic portrayal? Are the frequent cuss words in “Boyz in the Hood” more offensive than those in Arnold’s film because they portray gang life “as it really is”, or are they less offensive for that reason?

(4) Many decry the “desensitization” that accompanies frequent exposure to violence or bad language in cinema. I agree that desensitization is a real phenomenon and that I, personally, have been thoroughly desensitized. (I know this because I was sickened by certain scenes in “Robocop” when I first saw it, and now they seem like no big deal). Is my desensitization only a problem to the extent that I imitate the foul language I hear in my speech, or act out violently in imitation of what I see? Or is there something about the very act of desensitization, per se, that is a problem, regardless of any observable consequences?

(5) The only way to really know the content of a film, and thus know whether it meets your content standard or not, is to view the film. But if you have to view a film to truly know whether or not you should view a film, you’re really not in a position to ever avoid the films you should avoid, are you? So isn’t some sort of ratings system, MPAA or otherwise, ultimately necessary, regardless of its flaws?

(6) Can we all at least agree that the most offensive film of all time is “Turner & Hooch”? I think I’d rather sit through “Faces of Death” and a truckload of gay porn than have to watch that drooling dog again. Disgusting.

Aaron B

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Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? 

by Karen
Not content to wait until actual mid-life to have a mid-life crisis, I've decided to over-achieve in this area and have them every 10 years. If it's good enough for the U.S. census, it's good enough for me.

Let me sum up me in a few stark words: went to law school, worked in a law firm, worked at an international organization, went back to law firm, hated said work with a fiery passion--usually reserved for sin and injustice, am now unemployed, am now looking for jobs for which I am apparently not qualified, self-doubt and crazy schemes are hatching simultaneously. (Well, that first part was more descriptive, and the last part more mid-life crisis-ish.)

Here's the thing. I think I'm going back to school. I, already over-educated and debt-laden, am seriously considering returning to get a Master's degree in International Affairs/Security Studies, with the goal of an eventual Ph.d. nascently forming. Now, I'm not so crazy that I'm going to go to school full time. This will be strictly a night thing that will hopefully correspond to and complement the fascinating day job that I plan to have in the very near future--please God, the very near future...

So here are the existential questions: Who am I? Am I the gal who will not be happy with my career until I'm doing exactly the kind of work that fascinates me, and moreover will not be happy unless I can link my job directly to being socially beneficial? (Not in a "I'm helping the economy kind of way" but in a "I want to actually be writing the foreign policy" kind of way.) In law school I didn't think that those things mattered to me, now I know they are essential. Is that selfish? Millions of people simply exist by doing jobs that they don't necessarily like, but that pay the bills. Why should I be different? Because I have the luxury to do so? I'm not married, I'm not supporting children, therefore my happiness is paramount? Or should I be looking at this more in a law of consecration kind of way? I should develop whatever meager talents I've been given to the highest degree possible as a way of benefitting others.

Where did I come from? Well, educationally, and most recently, law school. My inspiration to "go for it" and get an ivy league education was much stronger than my inspiration to serve a mission. I knew that I should go to law school, mostly for that "law of consecration" reason mentioned above...yet, it turns out that was more of a stepping stone rather than an end. Am I turning my back on that inspiration? Rejecting it? Or is this new career plan, complete with the resulting financial and time cost, a refining of my original trajectory--a honing, rather than a correction? Further, I love being in school. Again, am I being selfish because I'm having a difficult time right now, and want the same kind of happiness that I remember from undergrad and law school? Partly, yes. I miss that kind of structured learning. I miss the atmosphere.

Where am I going? (Besides to the temple...for some serious introspection...) Apparently, back to school. Apparently to a place where I'm over-educated and under-financed. (Incidentally, very attractive traits to the single Mormon male population...) But also, apparently to a place where I'm happier, apparently to a place where I'm more qualified for jobs that I actually want (government and eventually teaching), and apparently a place where I'm finally satisfied with my career choices--in a great big existential sleep-at-night-and-look-at-myself-in-the-mirror-in-the-morning kind of way.

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Finding Inspiration in "Unwholesome" Places 

by John H
The R rated movie debate emerged recently at another blog, so I can thank them for inspiring this post. It goes without saying that what is offensive is highly subjective. Hopefully we as Latter-day Saints would have at least some consensus about some films. Try as you might, justifying a XXX movie is pretty tough to do (and that goes for either the porno kind or the abysmal Vin Diesel kind). But other things are tough to pin down. I had a friend (one who’d been to several R rated movies with me) strenuously object to showing Gone with the Wind at a ward movie night. He was appalled at the scene where Rhett Butler snatches up Scarlett in the middle of an argument, carries her upstairs amid her protests, and insists she needs to be loved. In the next scene, we see Bonnie, the product of the night’s passion. “He basically rapes her and it’s portrayed as romantic,” my friend argued. Those 10 seconds ruined the 4 hour movie for him.

I’ll confess right now, I’m tough to offend at films. Those who are easily offended are quick to label folks like me, “desensitized” (we don’t feel the same way they do, you see). I used to return the favor with labels like “sheltered” and “prude.” Now I just try and appreciate that we’re different.

With that in mind, I’d love to hear everyone’s most inspirational R rated films. The rules are: 1) Unless you are absolutely convinced you’ve got a brilliant, original new point to add to the “no R rated movie” debate, let’s just avoid that line of discussion altogether. Yes I’ve heard President Benson’s talk; yes, I know how crappy the rating system is; yes, I know about . . . yada yada yada. 2) Feel free to disagree with a film selection and tell us why, but please do so respectfully. In other words, don’t just say that you were offended at this film and you just can’t imagine why the rest of us haven’t seen the light like you. 3) Tell us your reasons. Don’t list Zombie Mutant Cannibals 4: Death Rides a Zombie without a little explanation as to why this inspired you. 4) Try and stick to movies that truly moved you - especially movies that changed the way you view life or enhanced your spirituality somehow. I love Stripes just as much as the next guy, but it didn’t exactly change my life. Finally, 5) You don’t have to list only R rated movies, but I am especially curious about movies that might not traditionally be considered inspirational.

I’ll kick it off with a very cliched one, but one that changed my view of war forever: Saving Private Ryan. I can’t explain why or how, but in the first 20 minutes of the film I was overcome with grief. I’d read about World War II, I’d studied it and watched veterans on TV. But that film made the sacrifice so real, so tangible. For the first time I was struck with the knowledge of what war means. I knew as I watched the camera pan across Omaha Beach after the battle, that if I were to go to war, I most likely wouldn’t be a rugged Tom Hanks-like hero. No, I’d be the guy lying face down in the sand in the corner of the screen, next to other nameless, faceless people. Hopefully I’d be lucky enough to still have my dog tags so my family could be notified properly.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Speaking Evil of the Lord's Anointed (and their trite, poorly-written talks) 

by NA
A friend of mine asked me why I hadn't blogged about General Conference, in particular wondering if I had any spectacular thoughts on Pres. Hinckley's words regarding women. My initial, glib response to him was that I hadn't posted because I was underwhelmed, but upon reflection, I remain underwhelmed. With a couple of (major) exceptions, GC just didn't do it for me, and I was a little disappointed. The choir was wonderful as ever, the themes were similar to those of Conferences past -- so what's wrong with me?

Boo Hoo, you say. Don't you know it's the responsibility of the listener to glean from Conference, and you must not have had the Spirit, and we have a lay clergy, and I thought it was fantastic? Well, yes. I know all that -- in fact, the last Priesthood lesson I had was all about how only evil/stupid people get nothing from boring Sacrament talks. The lesson established two lines of thinking that I've seen a lot in the Church, even though I'm not certain that either is necessarily correct:

1. Not only should our leaders not be criticized, no one should be criticized for what they say in the course of lessons or talks.

2. The onus is (pretty much) always on the listener to get something out of talks, even bad ones, and as a baseline, no General Conference talk is a bad one.

I can see how we might want to avoid criticism as a way of solidifying our bonds of love to each other in the Church. But I don't think that the spirit of Christ excludes all criticism. You'd better show those outpourings of love afterwards, but our scripture clearly identifies ways for us to correct each other, at least in doctrinal matters. Can we also consider this to be a basis for social correction as well?

Here is what I really want to say, but I'm just not getting around to it very well: can we legitimately criticize Conference talks for being garbagey rhetoric, without such criticisms constituting "speaking evil"? I like folksy stories as much as the next person, for example, but can I say that I am sick of Pres. Monson's tripartite phrasings and passive voice(without going to hell)? Talks were written; speeches were delivered; congregations were bored.

It's not like I have some boatload of critiques that I've been aching to unload on the Brethren. I am mostly interested in the proper realm of criticism and correction in the Church, generally speaking. In light of the restrictions on evil speaking, what then are the boundaries on criticism and correction? Is Church a proper forum to give (or receive) correction and advice on social issues? I think that there is clearly some minimal level that we could all accept -- the Gospel doesn't seem to exclude all critiquing. So where are the margins?

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Saturday, October 02, 2004

Etiquette of Conference Viewing 

by Karen
So, apparently my friend thought it was rude when I tested the length of the scarf I was crocheting during the closing prayer in conference today. Which made me wonder, really, what proper t.v. prayer behavior is, which started me questioning all of my little conference rituals. So, in the style of the Mormon Miss Manners, I present to you: Conference Etiquette.

1. T.V. prayers are real prayers, but require less rigid behavior. Do keep your eyes open and move, but only while sitting down. Do not get up to get a snack. Do not talk. Do not mute the prayer and fight with your family. Do not make other people laugh by pulling faces. Do check your scarf length.

2. Do not sing along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Do make fun of the one poor black man that they keep focusing on, and do give the camera men suggestions on whom to focus. Preferrably the man who is yawning, or the woman who forgot the words.

3. Do sing loudly during the rest hymn. Do ignore the looks of people around you--because your enthusiasm outstrips your talent. Do laugh at the primary children when they sing "gird up your loins" during Come Come Ye Saints.

4. Do enthusiastically raise your hand to sustain the general authorities. Do make wildly speculative comments about why certain people were released.

5. Do not say rude things about the general authorities. But do make affectionate comments like "oh he's so cute" and "he looks better a little chunky."

6. Do not fall asleep during morning conference. It is permissible to fall asleep during afternoon conference, but only accidentally. Do not snore.

7. Do work on handiwork during conference. Do vocally admire your friends' handiwork. Do secretly think that yours is better. Do ignore talks about pride.

8. Do not ignore the other talks. Do feel guilty. Do start REGULAR scripture study for at least a week, and do go buy a journal with every intention of writing in it. Do dust it occasionally.



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Hermeneutics for the Lego set 

by Kristine
Heh-heh. Can't wait to show this to my 7-year-old. (Well, most of it--some of it's PG-10, I think ;))

UPDATE: Eep!! I hadn't looked at all of it. Some of it is actually PG-28 or so!
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