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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Out with the Old.... 

by NA
And now the big news (or part of it)....

We've moved!

Please update your links accordingly. The new site URL is http://www.bycommonconsent.com. You can also get there by clicking the banner at the top of the page.

Do not bookmark this page. This site will no longer be updated, but it will remain open for browsing through our archives or for leaving snarky comments that no one will ever read.



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Monday, November 22, 2004

MASSIVE changes 

by NA
The recent bait-and-switch at some other blog has caused us to consider the thirst of the average Bloggernacler for something new, something unique, something mildly blasphemous. We feel your pain, O ye unwashed masses. And so, on Wednesday, we will unveil some changes ourselves, BCC-style. Not the piddling, ho-hum changes you see elsewhere -- oh no! Ours will rattle your teeth like a ride on the Cyclone, shift your paradigm without a clutch and cause you to question the very meaning of life. Prepare yourselves.

And those of you who know what's going on, SHUT UP or I will e-break your kneecaps. The rest of you, feel free to speculate -- the best rumor-mongerer will win a shiny new Bronze Hornsman.
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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Oh Glorious Bronzed Hornsman--How long we have awaited thy arrival! 

by Karen
Yes, ladies and gentlemen...the folks at WalMart are recognizing the buying power of Mormons, and are filling that with a glorious bronzed hornsman...complete with a tennis visor.

Behold!

So how do you all feel about marketing efforts towards church members? Off shoot of church's marketing plan as suggested by Deseret News? Tacky? Priestcraft? Necessary and welcome? Will you be buying a bronzed hornsman for your relatives this Christmas?

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Thursday, November 18, 2004

What was that, anyway? 

by Kristine
This is going to take a minute to explain, and non-musicians may have a little trouble imagining what I'm trying to describe, but hang in there with me for a minute...

I sing in a little choir--a pretty decent little chamber choir, about 10 people to a part, not quite enough tenors (of course), but not a bad group. The director, Gary, is new this year, and very, very good.

This last Tuesday night, Gary was late to rehearsal. He'd had to go out of town for the weekend--some crisis with one of his parents to attend to--and his plane was late getting back. So he was frazzled, and we were poorly warmed up, and the rehearsal was a bit haphazard and sluggish. Until the last half-hour, when Gary, inspired by the music (Gerald Finzi's Magnificat, if anyone's wondering) and some degree of panic about our impending concert, cranked things up a notch. He managed to find some little extra bit of energy, and implored us to give a little more, to go ahead and make mistakes, to just *sing.* And he managed to make himself a little vulnerable--a goofy look here, an awkward big conducting motion there, trying to make a point. All of a sudden, everybody was really, really singing. There was music! It's hard to describe exactly, but if you've ever been in a musical group, or a theater production, or (probably, I wouldn't know) a sports team that just got it all together all at the same time, you know that magic.

The point is this: for me, the feeling in that rehearsal on Tuesday, when all 37 of us in that room were reaching, straining, for something ineffable and lovely, was indistinguishable from the few times I've been really sure I was feeling the Spirit in a church meeting. It makes sense to me that God would bless a bunch of his (their) children who are working together for something good and true and beautiful with his Spirit--why ever not? And yet, it feels a little strange to say "I felt the Spirit very strongly at choir rehearsal last night."

So, two questions for you:

1) Was it the Spirit filling the choir room?
2) Why does it feel funny to say that?
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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Thankful to be an Authentic Mormon 

by Karen
I'm planning Thanksgiving this week which got me thinking about previous Thanksgivings. They fall into pretty much two categories. Category One: Long plane rides home for a too short weekend with my family, consisting of doing lots of dishes while hoping that no one in my extended family is fighting. One memorable Thanksgiving red eye plane ride in law school found me sitting next to a very smelly little man who tended to cuddle after he fell asleep. Category Two: being a stray taken in by charitable people whose sense of duty probably outstripped their affection for me. Another memorable Thanksgiving found me in an apartment in Boston with a hostess with strep throat, who felt well enough only to bake a turkey. There was another Mormon girl there with me, who was so overwhelmed to be surrounded by Harvard Law Students that she had a "drunk Mormon episode" fueled by adrenaline rather than wine. She karaoked the entire Rent soundtrack at the top of her lungs while the authentically drunk law students sat around staring at her with mouths gaping open. On the way home some guy with a southie accent called me and my friend lesbians. A day forever emblazened on my memory.

This year will be different. This year, I'm cooking dinner with my urban Singleton family. (huzzah for Bridget Jones!) As I found out last year, Singleton dinners are wonderful. No family fights, no green bean casserole, and no football. And once I figured out I could cook a turkey without burning down the house, my enjoyment only increased. This year, riding on last years' success, we're doing it again. And possibly taking in some strays--only we will not play the Rent soundtrack.

So, here's the thing I've realized while planning Thanksgiving for my urban Singleton family. They really are family. We take care of each other. Together we've gone through major surgery, job loss, illness, grief over (traditional) family tragedies, hookups, and breakups. Armed by our cell phones, we all know that help is one chain of kindly gossip away. Our families know it too. My friend's sister called one of us the day of that friend's emergency surgery. A quick phone conference to decide who could take work off, and we had someone at the hospital in 30 minutes. My roommates' moms call, and talk to me about my job woes before they talk to their own daughters. My parents praise my friends more than they praise me. (Or at least my insecure self thinks they do.) We have some important things in common. We're all committed to living gospel-oriented lives, and we check up on each other. There is safety in confessing both doubts and triumphs to an unconditionally caring ear.

I think I've always subconsciously bought into the idea that my gratitude was for the opportunity to simulate an authentic Mormon life in an unconventional environment while I waited for my chance to have a family of my own. But as I've been planning Thanksgiving for my favorite Singletons, I realized we're all living authentic Mormon lives. We are taking the admonitions of prophets and scriptures and structuring our lives to fit them. We are committed "gospel livers" and not "gospel waiters." We live in a world so centered around family that we forget that the perfect family doesn't exist. All committed members living gospel lives inside or outside a traditional family are authentic Mormons, because we are all taking gospel principles and trying to apply it to whatever craziness life is throwing at us. And let's face it. Life tends to throw the crazy right about this time of year. May all your holidays be filled with minimal craziness assuaged by your authentic Mormon convictions. And may you avoid both smelly traveling companions and the Rent soundtrack.

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Monday, November 15, 2004

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Fireside 

by Dave
On Saturday night, a car pulled up behind me just after I found a convenient parking spot on a narrow Pasadena street. A tall, confident-looking fellow emerged from the car, stuck out his hand, and said, "Hi, I'm Aaron Brown." Not one to miss a line, I replied, "Do you mean the Aaron Brown?" Suitably flattered, he confessed, and I introduced myself as his co-blogging partner in crime. And thus we convened an impromptu meeting of the California wing of Bcc, Inc. We're no vast left-wing conspiracy, but we get around.

The event was actually the monthly meeting of the Miller-Eccles group, whose mission (for those who choose to accept it) is "to encourage LDS gospel scholarship, enlightenment and understanding." The invited speaker this month was Ron Walker, a BYU history prof who is one of three authors of what promises to be the definitive book on the unfortunate occurrence at Mountain Meadows (forthcoming from Oxford Univ. Press in 2005). Prof. Walker's remarks made it clear there was simply an awful lot going on in Utah in 1857, and most of it is relevant to understanding how something like Mountain Meadows could have happened. Having visited the actual site earlier this year, I found the presentation to be especially interesting.

Incidentally, the host told us he was pleased to see some "younger" attendees (which he generously defined as "under 35") at the meeting, which seemed like the kind of discussion the average Bcc'er would find interesting. There is a $10 per person suggested donation to defray travel expenses of the presenters, but the discussion seemed well worth the investment. Check the MESG website for details on future meetings and speakers.
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Saturday, November 13, 2004

Interview: Michael Allred -- UPDATED 

by NA
It's not often that we at BCC have brushes with greatness, but over the past week I've had some emails with an artist involved in the most original and interesting news the LDS arts community has seen in years. Michael Allred is one of the biggest names in modern comics and graphic novels, with titles under his belt like X-Statix and Red Rocket 7, and his most famous work, Madman, is being made into a film by the fantastic Robert Rodriguez. His style has been compared to such greats as Jack Kirby and others, and his wife, Laura, has been his amazing colorist for years. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard of Mike's latest project, The Golden Plates, a series of Book of Mormon narratives that takes LDS doctrine in a bold new direction. I asked him a few obsequious questions, and he's generously responded. And maybe, just maybe, he'll answer a question or two of yours if he's so inclined.

Question/Fawning Admiration #1: Tell us about your visual inspirations.

Well, Arnold Friberg (who originally did 12 paintings of the Book Of Mormon, most which appear in several editions) is the first artist I remember seeing. So, his depictions of BOM people are the definitive ones in my mind, and so I'm going from his interpretations.


Question/Fawning Admiration #2: How did you go about picking and choosing which narrative aspects to follow?

It's been surprisingly easy. I simply read the scriptures and break the events into separate moments that can be illustrated.

Question/Fawning Admiration #3: What were the challenges of putting doctrine into the graphic novel format?

I do approach it as sacred. And while there is certainly a large bias of the comic book/ sequential art /graphic novel format, I'm
approaching it in the most thoroughly definitive way I'm capable of. In other words, using Friberg as an example again, what if he'd done THOUSANDS of illustrations instead of just the original 12? Well, I'm attempting to draw every moment with the doctrine placed in sequential order where ever possible.

Question/Fawning Admiration #4: Do you think the Book of Mormon is a history to be taken literally?

I absolutely DO regard the Book Of Mormon as a literal historical record, inspired by God, and the key to the truth of ALL things. It supports the truthfulness of ALL scripture.

Question/Fawning Admiration #5: Do you view this graphic novel as a missionary tool?

It is my testimony. Drawing is what I do best and having committed to this I will never again be at a loss to share my testimony and what I know to be true. Already many people who've never even heard of The Book Of Mormon have now been exposed to the first 14 chapters of the book. My hope is a seed will be planted, they'll find the beauty of the record, seek out the actual scriptures and find their way to the gospel. And for someone like myself, a life-long member who originally struggled with the scriptures, this might help provide a visual doorway to understanding the events, context, and flow of the history, and embrace the scriptures. AND for those who already have a love and testimony of the book might simply enjoy seeing it fully illustrated.

Question/Fawning Admiration #5: I must say, incidentally, that I admire the artistic guts it takes to do a project like Golden Plates; you're really going in some new territory here, and I think it's fantastic.

Thank you very much!
At this point, I just hope enough people get behind it so that I can finish it. We're off to a great start. The word of mouth on the project, and the positive response is well beyond what I had hoped for. It's thrilling.


Thanks again Mike! We want to officially order all BCC readers to go out and order copies immediately, and spread the word about a great book by an amazing author. His official website is at www.aaapop.com, and you can order his books through www.onipress.com.

UPDATE: Some reviews of The Golden Plates are starting to come in, and it's interesting to see.
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Friday, November 12, 2004

A New Day? 

by Mathew
Renewed hope for a lasting peace in the Middle East comes in the wake of Arafat's death. After so much violence and misery, it seemed to me that hate had become a permanent part of the desert landscape. Now that the man the world recognized to represent the Palestinian people is gone, a new beginning feels possible. I do not mean to say that Arafat was all that stood between the current state of affairs and a lasting peace. There is blame enough to spread around in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pointing fingers may strengthen ideological positions, but does little to solve the harder problem of preparing populations to tolerate one another. With new blood in the Palestinian leadership, however, personal animus can be put aside and the world may find someone who, like Thatcher and Reagan found in Gorbachev, they can deal with. I don't know much about Mahmoud Abbas, but I do know that he is considered more moderate than Arafat and is an experienced negotiator. Maybe the time for peace has come. Hope, naively or not, springs eternal.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Our Most Important Poll, Ever --- UPDATED 

by NA
The fate of the bloggernacle is WAS in YOUR hands!

Poll's over, folks, and here are the results:

www.bycommonconsent.com 45.6% with 62 votes

www.rameumptom.com 30.9% with 42 votes

www.korihor.com 11% with 15 votes (due to T&S tampering)

www.zelph.org 10.3% with 14 votes

www.zeezrom.com 2.2% with 3 votes

total votes: 136

What will we do now? We shall gather in secret chambers to decide.

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Monday, November 08, 2004

On Reading Tough Books 

by NA
Over the last year or so, I decided to read some of the great 'masterworks' of literature in their entirety, instead of just the snippets from the Norton anthologies. Sumer also joined along, reading books alongside. As a result, we've now read Moby-Dick, the complete Sherlock Holmes, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, A Passage to India, A Tale of Two Cities, Bleak House, The Three Musketeers, Portrait of a Lady, Leaves of Grass, Treasure Island, Don Quixote, The Corrections, and a couple of others.

I initially took this on as a kind of personal Mount Everest, to read them because they're there and they're big, honking books that nobody really ever reads, and yet are classed amongst the most wonderful books ever written. Let's face it, there's a great deal of unrighteous pride involved here, to be able to flaunt your current reading -- telling people you're reading Don Quixote is a heckova lot more satisfying than responding with Men are From Mars or The Da Vinci Code. But I've gathered a couple of impressions from reading these big, tough books, and thought I'd get your ideas as well:

First, they're not so tough. The big books take some patience, but they're not so challenging or unengaging so as make them unreadable. War and Peace, for example, is challenging for the most part because of its variety of locales and characters; keep track of those, and the book isn't half as daunting. Getting your mind around some of the ideas, such as in The Brothers Karamazov, is a different matter; I'm still trying to work them out in my mind. But then again, so is everyone else!

Second, they're pretty good. Anna Karenina is now Sumer's favorite book (though its recent Oprah nod shook its reign). Don Quixote is now mine. They are considered the greatest books ever for good reason, but their size and reputations put them out of reach for most of us. I never would have appreciated them without reading them whole -- the fact of having read the entire book makes each aspect of the book seem more satisfying. Now the commandment in D&C 88:118 to seek wisdom in the best books makes a little more sense.

Do you get this same pleasure of working your way through a tough book?
What books are you reading now?
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Potluck 7: The Blogging of the President, 2004 

by Dave
The Bloggernacle did its part--just about every weblog posted at least once on the election. I link to some of the more interesting pre- and post-election posts below. Television made its first big impact on presidential politics in 1960 with the Nixon-Kennedy debate. Blogging made its first big impact in 2004 by shooting down Dan Rather's memo story. What role will blogging (or the next Web innovation) play in 2008? Ask me in four years!

POST-ELECTION: Clark, rarely a political blogger, posts a nifty color map showing vote by county, shaded from blue to red by percentage vote--Utah is as red as it gets. John Fowles notes negative European press on Bush's re-election, which he summarizes as "predictably negative, even arrogantly condescending." Chris at LYMA promotes "Jon Stewart in 2008" and thinks the incumbent's supporters need to come up with a better chant than "Four More Years." And Mormanity likens this election's left-wing diatribes to anti-Mormon rhetoric, which he illustrates with a lengthy excerpt that starts, "Ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states . . . ."

PRE-ELECTION: Greg at T&S points out that from 1932 to 1948, Utah voted solidly Democratic. And God didn't send down fire and brimstone! Although a rabid Republican might argue He did nuke St. George. Justin does a flashback to the election of 1912--Utah went for William Taft, but Woodrow Wilson Kerry won and kept the United States out of The Great War for the first three years. Larry the guest blogger at Our Thoughts talks about the lack of an opposition party in the province of Alberta, arguing that "[i]f we are to survive as a vibrant society in this province we need to allow for dissent and counter ideas." Look at Clark's map--not much dissent in the heartland of America either. Finally, Gordon's post on LDS Senator Harry Reid, possibly destined to be the Senate Minority Leader, features 74 comments giving many interesting details on this suddenly visible LDS politician.

NEXT WEEK: The theme for Potluck 8 will be LDS Sunday School, highlighting the Bloggernackers who have done regular lesson posts or commentary and running a few Google ranking contests. Anyone who does a "Three Things I Love/Hate About Sunday School" post is also at risk to be covered next week.
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Friday, November 05, 2004

Madame Lydia Mary Olive Mamreov von Finkelstein Mountford and Interpreting the Past 

by John H
Thanks to the wonders of genealogy (and the marvelous Family History Library in Salt Lake), more than a few Latter-day Saints scratched their heads when they researched ancestors and learned they had been married in a polygamous union after 1890 when the Manifesto was issued. Post-manifesto polygamy has since become a fascinating topic for researchers, and was well-explored by Ken Cannon, D. Michael Quinn, and B. Carmon Hardy.

Hardy and Quinn argue that one post-1890 marriage took place on ship off the coast of San Francisco. The couple? Wilford Woodruff and Madame Lydia Mountford, a colorful, if largely forgotten character from Mormonism’s past. Madame Mountford waltzed into Salt Lake City in early 1897 as part of her speaking tour on the Holy Land. She was Russian, had lived in Jerusalem, and her background lent credence to her showmanship; her lectures on the New Testament and Christ’s life included actors and larger-than-life costumes. She met with members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Some of the Brethren were skeptical - Anthon Lund noted that she had no foreign accent (Lund would know, speaking five languages himself). But Woodruff was enchanted by the woman. He attended most (if not all) of her lectures in the Tabernacle, and after she left Salt Lake, he continued to correspond with her.

It turns out that after their initial meeting 5 February 1897, in the next eighteen months before Woodruff's death, no other person was mentioned as many times in his diary as Madame Mountford. In fact, only his health received more attention in his daily journal. Woodruff started referring to her only as “M” and in one entry mentioned that he benefited from her “massage treatment.” In September 1897 Wilford Woodruff departed for a vacation to the west coast. He refused to let his wife and daughter join him (although they wanted to) and he and personal secretary L. John Nutall traveled under assumed names. They arrived in Portland, Oregon first. Then they traveled to San Francisco, stayed only two days, and took a ship back to Oregon. Who happened to be staying in San Francisco at the time of their journey? Madame Mountford.

Woodruff and Nutall returned back to Salt Lake a few days later. Hardy and Quinn theorize that Woodruff married Mountford (with Nutall officiating) on the ship - a common practice of post-manifesto marriages so as to create plausible deniability. After all, they weren’t married in the U.S. but on the ocean.

It’s a fascinating tale to be sure, and one that I’ve been doing a lot of reading on. Mountford was friends with Susa Young Gates, so I’m combing her papers for any kind of a hint in the correspondence between the two that suggests Woodruff and Mountford married. When one reads Quinn or Hardy, it’s next-to-impossible to not believe the marriage took place. But this raises the grand dilemma for all historians and our quest to understand the past.

We tend to view individuals as if their lives were a series of blips on the linear radar screen. In this case, a reference to Mountford pops up, then another, then more. The dots are easy to connect, giving us the evidence that we’re looking for. But then, we forget that the people in our story aren’t blips or just colorful characters. They’re humans, living day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.

Perhaps if Wilford Woodruff were here (and being totally candid, of course) I could ask him, and he might smile and say he did marry Mountford, and that she fascinated him. He might congratulate Quinn and Hardy on their detective work, putting two and two together. But what if he was stunned at the insinuation. What if, when questioned, he just said he doesn’t know why Mountford appeared in his diary so much. It certainly wasn’t intentional, he might insist. After, he probably wasn't counting the number of times he referred to something, the way later historians would. And what if he said he isn’t sure why he decided to only stay two days in San Francisco, or why he doesn’t record anything about Mountford when he’s there (Quinn calls this, accurately, I suspect, a “deafening silence.”) Haven’t we all done things that, in retrospect, might not make sense to someone who views our behavior from the outside? We might have a perfectly logical explanation, or we might not even be sure ourselves. It’s human nature.

Thomas Alexander offers a nice alternate view to the Mountford-Woodruff connection. Were the two married? I don’t know. (Actually, even if they were, I’m not sure why it’s as important as others make it out to be; the two clearly never intended to share a life together or even reside in the same state, let alone act as husband and wife.) It can’t help but make me wonder, what if our visions of the past are off-base. Actually, it wouldn’t be all that bad. I’d love to sit down with Joseph Smith someday, see him smile, and tell me, “Here’s what really happened.”

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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Some Laws to Strengthen Our Marriages--The Case for Consistency 

by Mathew
One of our friends at T&S mentions that the the "official Church advocates using political means to encourage the traditional family" and that lately that has meant supporting the effort to codify the time-honored definition of marriage. Like other good LDS, I'm trying to think of other things we could codify to preserve the sanctity of marriage.

1. Divorce--what is it good for? This is a problem in our church. Our leaders speak often about the soaring divorce rates and the negative impact on society. If you aren't committed enough to marriage to stay in it, you probably shouldn't be in it in the first place. With around 50% of all marriage in the U.S. ending in divorce, this presents a bigger threat to the institution of marriage than SSM. A ban on divorce with a few well-crafted exceptions for physical abuse would discourage the Britney Spears of the world from denigrating our time-honored institution. Of course it will be difficult to get popular support for this measure because so many of our family members, friends and neighbors are involved in this practice that the Bible condemns, but friends, we must be firm and stand for truth. We must not give the impression that we are going after homosexuals only because they are easy targets--we are people of principle and we must be equally firm against those who would lessen the significance of our marriages on every front.

2. Sex--for married people only. I don't think sex outside of marriage is as big a problem in the church, but society seems to have accepted it. We've been told that no other sin tops this one except murder. In the old days it wasn't socially acceptable to have sex outside of wedlock. There were strong societal taboos and there were even time-honored laws against it. The union of a man and a wife was one of the most beautiful parts of marriage. It still is. But it's being cheapened by people who are having unions without being married. Folks, don't be fooled, this is part of the radical agenda of people-eschewing-respect-for-virtue (PERV). If sex can be had without marriage, some people will still get married because it is important to them to make a public commitment to the person they love, but lots of people will be getting all that sexual healing without making the co-pay we call marriage. To many people that will make marriage seem less desirable and the institution will be lessened. We should therefore make a law against people have sex unless they are married. Again, this is going to be unpopular, but we must stand on principal--otherwise it will look like our principals are selectively applied to gays.

Any other ideas how we can use the law to strengthen marriage?

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Politics and “Moral Values” 

by John H
The election is over, my man didn’t win. I liked John Kerry and I was ready to give him a shot for four years to see what he’d offer us. But, unlike some liberals, I’m not announcing my plans to move to Canada or predicting the end of the universe as we know it. George Bush strikes me as a likeable, nice fellow, even if I strenuously disagree with many of his policies.

But I am depressed after the election. It’s not over the leader we chose, but over why, apparently, he was chosen. In exit polls, more people said they were concerned about “moral values” than were concerned about the economy or terrorism. Lest anyone think I am opposed to moral values, let me reassure you. I like values just fine and I think they compose the backbone of a strong society.

What I despair over is conservative control over what is defined as values. One of the big surprises of the election was the Republican ability to match the Democrats in new registered voters. People were anxious to support George W. Bush for the first time. The question is, why? I’m sure there are a lot of reasons, but if the exit polls are right, moral values is a big one. I doubt people who voted for Bush were thinking, “I’m thrilled with how Iraq is going, or I love where unemployment is at.” They connected with him on the “value” issue.

So what does that mean? It means stem cell research, abortion, same sex marriage, and of course, religion. Perhaps this is why Utah Mormons overwhelmingly supported Bush again this year. What doesn’t it mean? Apparently morality has little to do with tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, 2,200 dead American soldiers, and tax cuts for the wealthy. (Within a few months, the number of dead soldiers will exceed the number of people killed on 9/11.) I’m not sure how or when it happened (and I don’t really care, frankly) but I’m utterly at a loss as to why conservatives get to decide what values are in America. Values don’t encompass helping the poor among conservatives, or fighting AIDS in Africa in a meaningful way. Yes, I know we gave some money, but to steal Bill Maher’s analogy, we’re like the millionaire who flips a quarter, or when we’re feeling really generous, a dollar, to the homeless guy and then thinks we made a real difference. We have the ability in this country to alleviate much of the suffering around the world, but we don’t. We’d rather drive tanks to work, shop with forklifts at Costco, watch TV on screens the size of movie theatres, and do whatever we want, whenever we want, the cost be damned. Apparently that’s what freedom means these days. We bitch and moan at paying $2 a gallon in gas to drive to the restaurant, but $5 for the valet is ok, and hey, who doesn’t pay $13 for a pear and gorgonzola salad?

What I’m suggesting is that our values are seriously screwed up in this country. Our outrage is reserved for Janet Jackson’s boob during the Super Bowl (where innocent children could’ve been watching!!!), for Bill Clinton’s marital infidelity, and for John Kerry’s “questionable” war record. We care about things that don’t matter and ignore the things that do. I hope we can stand up and let people know that we’re moral people, and that we stand for values, but that those values count. Sure, abortion’s an important moral issue, but if you’ve got such a myopic view that it’s what determines your vote, you’ve got no business calling yourself a person with values. What would Jesus do has to mean more than walking out of a movie where someone has the nerve to take their clothes off. We’ve got to stop letting conservatives control the discourse and tell us what counts and what doesn’t on the value-o-meter. Dying children in Africa matters. Genocide in Sudan matters. Iraqi civilians aren’t just collateral damage. What can we do to let our fellow Latter-day Saints know how we feel? What can we do to help combat this conservative control?

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Autumn 

by Kristine
It's the end of autumn in New England. It's hard to describe how gorgeous it is. I walk around most days with a tight aching in my throat, as though I might cry any minute--the loveliness so intense it's painful. As I type this, I am looking out the window over our backyard, covered in gold and russet leaves, out over a half-mile of rooftops and red and orange treetops to the ocean, the leaves more brilliant against the slate gray of the water than the blue sky.

I am a pagan at heart; the veneer of my Mormonism shows its bare spots when I'm overwhelmed by this-worldly beauty. I believe that I will never understand birth, death, resurrection, the Plan of Salvation carefully mapped out on the Sunday School chalkboard. All I know in my bones is what I've lived over and over again--the first pale green thrust of spring, the slow ripening and heaviness of summer, and the dying glory of the autumn leaves.

This autumn, death has seemed closer than usual. The mother of one of the fifth-graders at our school died slowly and painfully of cancer, the husband of a friend disappeared and was presumed drowned when the boat he had been sailing washed up on the shore of a Wisconsin lake. And a boy from our school, just 14, brave in the stupid way of adolescent boys, dared a train with his bicycle and lost. His mother had been riding a little ways behind him, and came around a corner to find her golden boy lying in the October leaves.

I see her now, every day when she brings her daughter to school, and it is hard not to turn away, to run. She is the spectre that haunts all parents' nightmares, the embodiment of that fear we never can quite banish. My faith seems too flimsy a defense. I do not want assurance that my children's spirits will live forever; I only want their bodies to outlive mine. My universe weighs just over 100 pounds, as tall and wide as three adored bundles of skin and bones, viscera and hair, blood and muscles.

I will the leaves to stay on the trees, to hang on against wind and rain, not to leave us with the cold beauty of the trees' forms and the stark peace of the snow-covered garden. And yet the useless beauty of the leaves' dying makes room for hope--surely this autumn glory *means* something. Surely a world so beautiful is evidence of sense and purpose, such loveliness the assurance of a great Love over and around us all.
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President Bush Wins!!! 

by Aaron B
That's my prediction. Just because nobody else in the media will definitively call this election, doesn't mean I can't. You heard it here first folks.

(Does this qualify me as a prophet?)

Liberals, vent! Conservatives, rejoice! Libertarians, shrug your shoulders?

Aaron B

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Monday, November 01, 2004

Thank You, 31 Years Later 

by Karen
This past month I celebrated my thirty-first birthday, and in addition to very much enjoying my friend-sponsored surprise party (where my lovely friends contributed to my much needed mental tidy by burning things that upset me in a big big bonfire), I enjoyed some free introspection time. This year, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about my birth mother. Usually, a few days after my birthday, I remember that she is out there somewhere, and surmise that she was probably trying to deal with a very difficult day. This year, however, I thought about her quite a bit on my birthday and thought that although I have no strong desire to actually try to find her (as I'm a fiercely devoted member of the quirky but loving Hall family) I did want to say thank you. So here is my thank you note:

Dear Birth Mother,

I don't remember meeting you, although I'm sure that I made quite an impression on you 31 years ago. I know it must have been hard to make the decision to put me up for adoption. But I wanted you to know that I consider it to be the most admirable selfless act that I can imagine. My parents are amazing, supportive, loving people, and they raised me in a stable, spiritual home, along with my older brother. They aren't rich, but they had the financial stability to support me and encourage my education. They also are happy, well-adjusted people, who raised me to be practical and strong--but still call me princess. I am so grateful that I was raised in that home, and I know that you made it possible. I imagine that you were pretty young when I was born, and I also imagine you realized you couldn't give me everything you wanted to yourself, so you shared me with people who could. I like to think that you passed on to me the ability to make mature selfless decisions, because that is something that I admire about you, and am striving to develop myself.

I also want to thank you for not having an abortion. I always thought it was ironic that I was born exactly nine months after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. I know that you legally had the choice to terminate your pregnancy, but you chose not to. I hope you don't regret that decision. I feel so fortunate to be alive. I love my life. I love what I've done with it, and I cherish the fact that I've been so blessed.

Please don't worry about me. I know that there are still people who are wary of adoption. I remember reading billboards for mental hospitals in Utah that specialized in "drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, and adopted children." I always thought that was pretty ridiculous, and being the spunky girl I am, make fun of those signs and attitudes regularly. Please don't spend time anguishing over whether or not you did the right thing. I know you were inspired to allow my parents to adopt me, and I'm so grateful that you followed that inspiration. I really hope that you have found peace with your decision, and I want you to know that I wish you all the best in life. You certainly deserve to experience the same kind of happiness you've given me.

With much respect,

Karen

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Who I Am 

by NA
Many have written to me, to complain of how they weren't able to be at the Bloggernacle party last week. I'm sorry you couldn't make it, you non-NYC inferior nerds. For those of you who couldn't make it, I've made a little video of myself for the curious public. It's a bit long, but will fill in a lot of blanks for you all. Enjoy!
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