Wednesday, March 30, 2005
I'm still not sure what movie it was, but apparently it featured Brigham Young and at least some of his wives. Obviously, this was the first she had heard of polygamy and she had some questions. My senior companion was handling the "resolve concerns" phase of the commitment pattern. I was shocked to hear him tell her that there was no polygamy in the Church and that Joseph Smith only had one wife. At this time, I was mostly unaware of Joseph's sticky marital situation, but I thought that he had at least one other wife, otherwise why did Emma get so mad? Of course I wasn't certain about all this since it's not exactly in the curriculum at the MTC or in Seminary. So while I thought he was telling the sort-of truth (and I'm sure he probably thought he was too), he was certainly not being honest with her.
I opened my mouth and promptly shut it again. Could I have said something? Sure, I could have tried to explain the history of polygamy, and explain why we don't follow it any more, but I doubt I could have done it satisfactorily then or now. The heart-breaking thing is that she probably would have accepted the Church's past polygamy had we told her about it. She was golden. But instead we chose the coward's way out, and kept her in the dark so she would definitely get baptized. My companion went on to become ZL and I went on to become an eternal junior companion.
I try not to think about this and similar incidents from my mission often because they really disturb me. Like many other shameful episodes in my life, I try to put this out of my mind and pretend it never happened.
Is Juanita Fulano inactive today? Probably. Is she inactive because she found out about polygamy? Probably not. But she still deserved missionaries who lived up to the name on their tags.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
A recent post on Millennial Star (and immediately seconded on Times & Seasons) states that the author will strongly encourage his children to go to BYU, because "most modern-day universities administrators seem to be nothing more than owners of Las Vegas casinos who watch the depravity going on." Now this may not be the stupidest thing I've ever read on M-Star, but it's close.
I find it telling that the authors of both posts reference I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe to bolster their claims about modern university life. Now, I haven't read the book (nor do I plan to as it is supposed to be terrible), but most reviews I've read say that it is an embarrassing 74-year-old man's fantasy of what goes on at college. Let's remember that Tom Wolfe graduated from college in 1951. As for what reason both of these hyper-righteous super-conservative bloggernackers are reading what amouts to a dirty old man's fantasty, I'll leave you to decide. (No R-rated movies please, but bring on the smutty literature that backs my warped world view!) I graduated from one of the most liberal universities in the country in 2001, and I think it's sad that older parents allow themselves to be scared by fear-mongering demagogues about the moral state of universities.
But the larger point that I want to make is that it is impossible to shield children forever. And I submit that the harder you try to protect them, the further you will end up pushing them away. The author of the post admits that he doesn't let his kids watch TV. It seems that he never wants them to see the real world, for fear that they will follow in his (now repentant) footsteps.
How is this any different from Satan's plan in the pre-existence? He didn't want to give us any agency so that we would never have an opportunity to sin. He wanted to make the entire world like a big BYU (proof he is evil) so we could never falter.
Let's allow our children the same agency that Jesus gave us all.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
8:45 am: This is so early. Sundays aren't supposed to have 8:45s. There aren't a lot of people on the roads but the Baptist church down the street has already blocked off a lane of traffic so they can park there. Is that even legal? I guess this is what it feels like to be non-Mormon in Utah. The Baptists have a large cross out in front of their church made up of flowers and people are adding to it. I haven't seen anything like that before.
8:50: I reach the Mormon church parking lot, which is surprisingly half-empty. I thought I was going to have a hard time finding a spot. I didn't want to come too early (to avoid any pre-church socializing), but I didn't want to be circling the lot looking for a space either. It looks like I timed it just right.
8:55: I find a pew near the back. The chapel is actually quite nice. Maybe I was expecting the ratty Utah church from my childhood, but this chapel looks good. It even has a wall of windows! The tithing is going to good use here. I notice that the pews are designed to look more like traditional Episcopal pews with everything except the little doors to lock you in. I think this is a nice touch. I know the church always says it tries to have its architecture blend in with the local customs but I thought it was just lip-service. Between the red-brick exterior and this interior, I think this might well be the nicest Mormon church I've ever been to.
9:00: The meeting shows no sign of starting. The organist is playing interminable prelude music while the bishop makes the rounds. Of course, I eavesdrop on the people sitting behind me.
Younger woman: "Why don't you and your wife sit here? I am going to sit over there."
Older man: "I bet you're going to find some good-looking guy and sit next to him."
Younger woman [uncomfortably]: "Uh, actually my friend just came in, and I'm going to go sit with her."
Who thinks this kind of banter is appropriate? She should go straight to heaven for not slugging this guy.
I watch as the chapel slowly fills up. I am literally the only man over twenty not wearing a white shirt. I think I may also be the only adult man not wearing a suit coat (I am wearing a blue shirt and tie). At least one of the reverence reminders is also wearing a blue button-down shirt. I totally forgot about reverence reminders! The concept is rather odd if you think about it. Anyway, the blue-shirted reverence reminder has his arms folded but his whole body is jerking back and forth with barely restrained adolescent energy. It makes him look like he's in a straight jacket.
A man comes by and shakes everyone's hand. I find out later that this is the bishop. I look down on my program and realize this is the wrong ward. I had looked up the time on Mormon.org but I guess they changed with the new year. I could have slept till 1! Oh well. At this point I start to get the tell-tale warning signs of an oncoming migraine. I don't have any Tylenol with me. I guess my Sunday is going to be cut a little short.
9:05: The bishop is standing at the podium and looks like he wants to start the meeting, but the prelude music just won't stop. I'll bet the organist has issues with cutting off the song in the middle of the verse.
9:07: Prelude music finally ends and the Bishop starts the meeting. The bishop recognizes a High Councilman seated with him on the stand and tells us that the High Councilman and his wife will be providing the talks today. My headache just got a lot worse.
A couple sits next to me on the pew, effectively hedging me in. This is going to make my getaway a lot harder. The pew is a very awkward length. There isn't quite enough room for all three of us to sit comfortably. By now, the chapel is packed and filled with the sounds of screaming children. For Catholics, the smell of incense reminds them of church. For Mormons, it's the scream of a child.
During the opening hymn, I open the hymnal and read along but I don't like singing. The woman behind me is trying to get all Beyonce on the hymn. Yeah, we get it: you're in the choir, stop showing off.
The bishop releases and calls a new Primary presidency. I feel a little weird not raising my hand to give thanks but I am not a part of the ward. I wonder how my wife would react to the sustaining process. She'd probably find it a little weird but it somehow appeals to my democratic nature.
Time for the sacrament. We sing (well, they sing) "There Is a Green Hill Far Away." I never liked this sacrament song as a priest because it is too short and there is never enough time to break all the bread during it. Sure enough, the priests need extra time to finish and so the music continues. Fortunately, the song is only two stanzas long so the organist won't have to quit in the middle of a verse. Otherwise, we could be here all day.
The passers of the sacrament are a weird mix of young men and a couple of middle-aged guys thrown in. I guess there aren't a lot of youth in this ward (not surprising considering the housing prices). At least there are some minorities represented by the sacrament passers. This is encouraging.
I noticed earlier that a woman sitting a few rows in front of me was definitely not wearing her garments. I see that she doesn't take the sacrament and I feel bad for noting her non-conformance to the unwritten dress code. I've become everything I hate and in just fifteen minutes! The sacrament is a weird thing. It kind of broadcasts more information about you than you really feel comfortable sharing. And even if people aren't actively watching they still notice. Fortunately, the couple in my pew are a buffer between me and the deacon. Somehow it is less embarrassing to refuse the sacrament at the end of a row than directly from the deacon.
All this time, my headache is getting worse and worse. I know that if I have to sit through a High Council talk, I might not be able to drive home (migraines can do that to me). The sacrament is over and I make a break for it. The married couple has to stand up to let me out but there are like thirty people streaming into the chapel looking for seats so it's not a big deal. On my way out, I hear the bishop inviting the late-comers to sit in the Choir seats on the stand. That is always the most embarrassing place to sit.
9:30: I'm back in the parking lot, which is now completely full. Not a single open spot. Ah, Mormons. Maybe that is where I get my habitual tardiness from. I notice an inordinate number of Utah and Idaho plates. This would have helped me out the other day when my wife and I were playing the license plate game.
On the way home, I see a car with the following bumper-sticker: "1 cross + 3 nails = 4given." Just another day in Virginia.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
This week, it's a series of posts at Times & Seasons regarding dating and courtship. Reading these apparently serious posts and the affirmatory comments following, makes me wonder if I have anything in common with these people.
I don't know if the rest of the bloggernacle is significantly older than me (28), but I have a hard time believing people from my generation can read about "courting" without laughing or shuddering. These rules would be great if we lived in an early-19th-century agrarian society, but we don't. People actually live apart from their families, have apartments, and interact with people of the opposite sex unchaperoned! Shocking!
These "courting rules" point up a more disturbing problem: they seem symptomatic of people getting married too young. Obviously, if you're 18 or 19 when you get married, your family will play a huge role in your marriage. You're not really your own person yet, which may be why many of these marriages fail.
In short, I find it disturbing that so many of my co-religionists embrace such reactionary leanings.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Aren't these people embarrassed to have such lame license plates?
This weekend a former police officer was car-jacked in the DC Metro area. (I don't know how it turned out because the Washington Post is sub-Deseret News bad.) Anyway, on the nightly news they told viewers to be on the look out for a car with the following license plate:
A plate with certainly more than one possible interpretation.
Thank you for upholding D.C.'s committment to incompetence.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
I have attended several times when the services have been led by female priests. It didn't seem very weird to me, perhaps because the services are so different from the Mormon ones.
This leads me to my question: what should we think about female priests in other denominations? Should we support it since they don't have the real (in our opinion of course) priesthood and it doesn't make sense to discriminate? Or should we oppose it so that it doesn't add societal pressure on the Mormon church to open up the priesthood to women?
Obviously, it is none of our business but I still think it is a valid question.
Monday, March 21, 2005
The Church's doctrine on infant baptism has always made a lot of sense to me and I don't like the idea of my kids being baptized into another faith. But if other churches' baptism doesn't have any real significance, should I care if the kids are baptized as infants? I know that Moroni has some strong words about it, but I would only be doing it to preserve family harmony (I'm thinking mother-in-law here).
Unfortunately, I can't tell my wife that the Mormon way is much better. Sure, the kids have a better idea of what is going on but that's about it. Why do we even pretend that this is a choice that an eight-year-old can make? Has any eight-year-old in the history of the church ever refused baptism? It seems to me that we should really bump the baptismal age up to eighteen or so. That is when kids can start legally to make their own decisions. Shouldn't baptism be one of these decisions?
During my mission, our first spiel was to ask people if they were baptized like Jesus was: of age, by immersion, and by someone in authority. The implication was that if you didn't do it like Jesus, it wasn't valid. Well, Jesus didn't get baptized until he was thirty. He didn't have his parents pushing him down one path or another.
I don't even remember my baptism and that really bothers me. How can we pretend that we have such a superior system when it is just slightly delayed infant baptism? I think that if I had been baptized as an adult, it would have meant a lot more to me.
I would like to let my (at this point theoretical) children decide for themselves which religion they want to follow. Unfortunately, this may not be practical as every church will want to baptize them first, before they really figure out what's going on.
Am I just engaging in wishful thinking, pretending that parents can let their kids decide on their own?
Friday, March 18, 2005
To be clear, I don't think Jonathan Max Wilson is advocating a crack-down on apostate blogs. (And when I say crack-down, I mean only the fairly benign discouragement of visitors.) Mr. Wilson has even been nice enough to comment on my site, but I do think his argument is a slippery slope.
As further commentators have shown, it's a short jump from asking whether the bloggernacle edifies (Mr. Wilson's original question) to asserting that an unspecified LDS blog "is blocking the Light of Christ just like an umbrella blocks the sun" (from one of the more outrageous comments).
It is my opinion (and it is only an opinion) that some of the more Orthodox Mormon bloggers are experiencing a great deal of tension from the fact that the bloggernacle allows such a free-wheeling discussion of beliefs they find non-negotiable. It is probably only a matter of time before they close ranks and turn their backs on some of the fringes of the bloggernacle.
However, I have another problem. I'm inactive. I haven't gone to church in six years. This may not come up in a conversation, but what if it does? I'm not going to lie to people I respect and love, but it probably wouldn't help their testimonies if they found out the missionary who taught them doesn't even go to church.
I guess it might seem weird that I want them to be more active than I am. But at least I won't be crushed like some missionaries if I find out they have disappeared from the church. Just because you don't go doesn't mean you don't care. I should know.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
In contrast, I remain separated from the Church while still retaining a fluctuating level of belief. Maybe I should start my own group: Inactives with Complicated Issues Regarding Certain Beliefs But Not Others. ICIRCBBNO just isn't a catchy acronym though.
4. Samson. Poor, dumb Samson. He visits prostitutes, apparently not a big deal in the old testament (see also: Judah). He kills thousands and thousands of people. He tells Delilah his secret after being betrayed twice in a row. He commits suicide. This guy's a joke; I don't care how good his luggage is.
3. Peter. Let's review Peter's qualifications: He fails to walk on water, he denies Jesus THREE times, and then half-heartedly cuts off a guy's ear. Exactly what part of this am I not qualified to do?
2. David. A lot of people have been down on David lately so he gets demoted to number 2. But he has got to be one of the worst guys in the Bible. I mean, Jerry Seinfeld just stole someone's bride and look at the grief it caused him. David actually arranges to get Uriah killed, just for Bathsheba. No offense David, but tell me thirty years later that this was a good idea. D&C 132 tells us he fell from his exaltation, but the guy still has a star named after him.
1. Aaron. Okay. He built a freaking golden calf and worshipped it. Just months after walking through a parted Red Sea. I mean, God's got to be playing favorites right? One guy gets killed just for touching the ark, but Aaron builds an idol and nothing happens. Not only does he get a free pass for this, he gets a whole Priesthood named after him? Sure, it's the lesser priesthood, but still. You don't see the Flanderic priesthood, and I've never even worshipped Baal.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
First of all, shouldn't the fact that there are professional seminary teachers raise a red flag? I'm not saying it's priestcraft, but it's probably the closest thing we've got to it. I guess the Church justifies it by paying these teachers as little as possible. It can't be priestcraft if the teachers are mending their pants with duct tape and shopping at the Bishop's Warehouse.
Anyway, this professional seminary teacher, let's call him Brother Duncan, was a very nice guy. He had just returned from his mission and was still in that super-excited mode. Unfortunately, he also was super-credulous and taught us every Mormon Legend story ever photocopied by an Elder as God's revealed word.
Seriously. I just found out last month that Red Robe Jesus is NOT a spitting image of the Savior, Japanese fighter pilots did NOT try to bomb the Hawaiian temple, and God did NOT destroy a laundry for displaying garments. Ok, I knew that last one had to be fake, but still. The disturbing part of this is that we were 14- and 15-year-old kids and these outlandish tales were presented to us not as stories, but as facts and in the same breath as our Old Testament reading.
These are just some of the better-known legends. He told us dozens more that haven't yet been debunked on a website. I have to admit that I felt a little betrayed when I discovered how full of it he had been.
I don't blame Brother Duncan (well, maybe a little); he just let his enthusiasm get the better of what little judgment he had. But why put someone so green in charge of hundreds of kids, and then even pay him for it? It just doesn't make any sense.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
If no one had any teaching responsibilities, we could get much better speakers for the sacrament meeting. No more interminable youth talks, reading straight from the Ensign, and no more High Councilmen stretching to fill the extra time with extemporaneous blather. If we really want new people to join, we should work on making the sacrament meeting a bit more professional.
Since right now we have three hours to fill every week, no one is in a hurry, and no one cares much about punctuality. If we make it a snappy hour-long meeting, people should be more prompt.
I would be much more likely to attend this theoretical meeting. Let's trim the fat and move Primary back to the weekdays where it belongs.
As it stands now, Church reminds me too much of this episode of the Simpsons:
Marge: Hey, calm down. You're wrinkling your church clothes.
Homer: Who cares? This is the best part of the week.
Lisa: It's the longest possible time before more church!
Marge: Church shouldn't be a chore; it should help you in your daily life.
Homer: It should but it doesn't. Now, who's going with Daddy to the dump?
They probably think we are all a bunch of humorless puritans with zero self-awareness, just like you.
Don't you see how hysterical it is when you complain on TV that "none of these people here have any kind of morals"? Is urinating on someone's bed moral? It is sad you are not smart enough to see that people can be moral even when they are drinking.
Please get eliminated soon from The Inferno II, as I am tempted to kick in my television screen when you are on it.
Monday, March 14, 2005
I don't know why, but hearing about how little TV they let their children watch or how they don't watch TV on Sunday (I am referring to the comments on this one, not the original post) repulses me. Why do I care how they raise their kids? I don't, really, but I guess I resent the implication that they are clasping tighter to the rod than I am.
Please note: I have edited this post to protect the not so innocent. No one probably saw the original one anyway so I am not pulling a Kaimi.
Also, comments have been wonky the last couple of days, so if you can't get through, I swear it's not my fault.
I guess you get what you pay for.
Friday, March 11, 2005
What's the point of living on earth if everything will just have to be rectified later? Just to get a body? It seems wasteful.
It is odd to me that for thousands of years God confined his dealings to a small ethnic minority (the Jews) and seems to be doing the same today. If He could get his message out there more, He'd be saving a lot of work later.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
This sucks. To be saved and yet stuck as a servant for eternity really doesn't sound like heaven to me. It sounds insufferably boring.
Also, notice that it specifically states that all unsealed couples will "remain separately and singly... forever and ever." That seems to me to be the real reason we put such emphasis on eternal families, not because non-members think they'll be split up (they don't), but because we do! This is depressing.
We can all agree that God is supremely merciful, so why does he plan on splitting us all up? He says in verse 22 that "few there be that find it [exaltation]." So most of us are going on up to the singles' branch in the sky. What gives?
Thinking about my previous post about reading everything I can before dying, I got to wondering whether we will be able to read in the spirit world. Will there be spiritual books (since physical pages will be pesky to turn) or will these be confined to the standard works? Can people read the scriptures in Spirit Prison or do they have to rely on an verbal recitation?
If we are still hanging around this world, can we read over living people's shoulders? I guess that would be my version of hell, trying to keep up with a fast reader turning the pages before I could finish them. Even worse would be to almost finish a really good book, and then have the reader give up on it. It could be millennia before you could find someone reading that same book again.
Moral of the story: never give up on a book right before the end; you never know who else is trying to read.
I think that after almost 2000 years, God is sick of everyone giving up chocolate or candy for Lent. Wouldn't it be much more of a sacrifice to, say, give up pants for Lent? Think outside the box. I suggested that she not use her left hand for 40 days. Talk about a sacrifice; try taking a shower with only one hand.
For Lent, I am going to give up the letter z. That way it will be a sacrifice, but won't affect my work too much. I will purchase a round cheese pie to celebrate.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
It was up for all of a half hour when it suddenly disappeared into the ether after a comment from Melissa. Now, I thought it was an uncomfortable piece, but shouldn't he have at least left a stump in place instead of deep-sixing the whole thing? Perhaps in a couple days, Google cache will have something.
So my new method for picking books to read is: if I died right now, what book what I most regret not having read?
I am ashamed to say that right now I am reading Moby-Dick, because I never finished it in college. I am fairly certain I was the worst English major ever; I took a class devoted completely to Melville and never finished a single novel. College is wasted on the young.
Monday, March 07, 2005
One thread was about one couple's heroic decision to get released from their callings. Meh. I mean, if you don't like church, just stop going. One person even made this brilliant comment: "Of course the first counselor was stunned, his mind is programmed to obeying and here you are actually telling (not asking) him to release you of you callings!" You're, like, totally blowing his mind by not drinking the Kool-Aid! People over there act like they are getting out of a cult.
Maybe I am just uncomfortable with people who believe less than I do and take comfort in those who believe the same or more. Maybe that's why I hang out at Times and Seasons and Millennial Star all day; maybe I draw comfort from their belief even if I don't totally share it. But I enjoy sites like By Common Consent and trap, no trap better. Maybe because they are closer to my own belief system? Who knows?
However, when I am the only Mormon in a group, I feel like I need to defend the church from people who don't know anything about it, or worse, people who think they know all about it because they read a newspaper article or Under the Banner of Heaven.
My wife (a non-member) and I have attended the local Episcopal church a couple of times, but the whole time I'm there, I find myself constantly noting the differences from Mormon practices. I don't feel comfortable crossing myself or taking communion because I still like the Mormon way better, even though I haven't been to church in six years.
Am I cursed to always feel the opposite of those around me?
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Because the Bible is one of the founding documents of our civilization, we often forget just how much weird stuff it contains. One of the more perplexing things is the raw deal many characters get from the Almighty. Here are my Top Wronged Four:
4. Esau - The poor guy was just hungry. Frankly he was uncharitably defrauded of his inheritance by a scheming, jealous younger brother. The hirsute have often faced discrimination; Esau was just the first. The fact that Isaac was fooled by the goat-skin just adds insult to injury.
3. Uzzah - Let's review: the Ark of the Covenant contains the tablets received by Moses from God and was placed in the Holy of Holies in the temple. It was also the location of the mercy seat and had the power to melt faces, if Raiders of the Lost Ark is to be believed. You might think that trying to protect this most holy of holy objects would be rewarded by something other than instant death. Welcome to the Old Testament! Uzzah tries to keep the Ark from falling and is immediately struck dead for his efforts. Can't we get a warning shot or something?
2. Moses - I mean come on. He leads the Israelites from bondage, receives the Ten Commandments from God, wanders around the desert for forty years, and he doesn't get to enter the promised land because of a rock tap? One little extra rock tap? What if he was tired? What if he slipped? No promised land for one rock tap seems excessively punitive in my view.
1. Onan - First of all, let's not forget that a lot was asked of Onan. He was forced into a relationship with his brother's wife, of whom we know nothing, including looks and temperment. What if his brother had terrible taste in nomadic women? Onan seems to have had a change of mind, but who wouldn't get skeeved out in such a bizarre situation? All he gets for his crisis of conscience is being struck dead by God and a name that lives on forever as a dirty joke.
Let's give these guys the respect the deserve. Next week I will post the most over-rated characters of the Bible.
- Julia Roberts - America's sweetheart? I think not. A brittle smile, giant chompers, and a muppet-like maw.
- Sarah Jessica Parker - High-ho Silver! You have brush her coat twice a day.
- Geena Davis - Again with the giant teeth. But nowhere near as offensive as Julia.
- Orlando Bloom - Yeah, I know, all the ladies love him but this guy is seriously ugly. A troll-face with stringy black hair. Just ask yourself, can you imagine him in a non-period piece? Me neither.
- Hilary Swank - Entertainment reporters always say how it's amazing how she can play a mannish parts. Not really; that's a man baby! See also: Jennifer Garner.
Friday, March 04, 2005
Have a suggestion about how your ward can run better? STOP TRYING TO STEADY THE ARK!
Think a church policy should be changed? GET THEE HENCE UZZAH!
Can't we have a discussion about church policy without someone comparing it to steadying the ark?
Anyway, the show was terrible. Focusing on the jurors couldn't be less interesting; this gimmick is destined to fail. The only success that Dick Wolf has had from Law & Order spin-offs is Special Victims Unit, which works only because it is an almost exact copy of the original.
Speaking of exact copies of the original, the theme song for Trial by Jury was the original theme song re-recorded through a filter on a construction site with an extra guitar. Pathetic.