Author: Dane Laverty

Power Imbalances and Dane’s Hierarchy of Christmas Presents

Christmas is awesome as a kid because you get cool stuff that you can’t get any other time. (Yeah, yeah, you can tell me that Christmas is awesome because we celebrate the Savior’s birth or because we get to serve people, but if you were a kid like I was a kid, it really just came down to presents and time off school.) Now here’s my “kinds of presents” list: Stuff the recipient doesn’t want (like Christmas ornaments — who ever thinks, “I’d love a Christmas ornament”?) Stuff the recipient likes and would probably get for themselves anyway (like clothes) Stuff the recipient likes and could afford but probably wouldn’t get for themselves (like a spa gift certificate) Stuff the recipient doesn’t know she or he wants yet, but will think is awesome when they get it (???) Stuff the recipient wants but can’t afford (???) Christmas is awesome for kids because parents are usually able to fulfill the #5…

The Irreconcilable Triangle of Mormon Political Values

Untitleddrawing (2)

FOX News was on while I stood in line at McDonald’s last night. I noticed that the guy being interviewed looked distinctly Mormon (apparently we have a distinctive look), so I walked over to see what was up. The guest was Connor Boyack, and he was talking about how, of all the political ideologies, Mormonism is most compatible with Libertarianism. The Mormon-Libertarian connection is nothing new, but it fits in with something that’s been on my mind lately — competing “goods”. Or, in Elder Oaks’ words, “good, better, and best”. As I see it, there are three cardinal points of political virtue that we wrangle over in the church: (I think the role of authoritative church statements in this triangle is fascinating. Boyack reaches out to Pres. Benson for support, and others have done the same in support of Libertarianism with words from church leaders extending back to Brigham Young. But not Joseph Smith, I don’t think. Joseph’s statements are, perhaps, generally…

Everybody Hurts

Depression played a major role in my self-identity for a decade of my life, from about 7th grade through the end of my mission. Life is good. In fact, life is great now. I’ve worked through my demons. No, that makes it sound like I knew what I was doing. Even now I can’t say why things have turned out as well as they have. Just lucky, I guess. I remember the day I decided to be lucky. I was walking to school with a friend on one of those frigid mornings when you can see your breath. Things hadn’t been going well for me, and I felt like Murphy’s Law incarnate. But that morning I decided I was done with it. I decided to be lucky, and I’ve been lucky ever since. (How does that work? Kind of like this: For the orientation session of my MBA program, all of us students took a personality test. I like personality…

Mormonism: The Everything Religion

I’m impressed at how frequently I hear parallels drawn between our church and the many other religions out there. Apparently, we are similar to… the Catholics, due to our shared focus on a formally ordained lineage-based priesthood, strong church hierarchical organization, conservative moral politics, family focus with traditional gender roles, the need for works in addition to faith, and the role of priesthood ordinances in obtaining salvation. the Evangelicals, with our conservative moral politics, family focus with traditional gender roles, claim to spiritual gifts, 19th-century scriptural interpretations, and renewed focus on salvation only being available through faith in Jesus Christ. Islam, since we both have post-biblical prophetic foundings, accept additional scripture that adds to the Bible, prohibit alcohol consumption, and share conservative moral politics, family focus with traditional gender roles,and marginalized American social status. Biblical Judaism, due to our establishment of ritual temple worship, engaging in covenants with God, formally ordained lineage-based priesthood, and our self-identification with the tribes of…

The Manner In Which I’m Mormon: Dealing With Difficult Doctrines

Each church member responds to problematic issues in church history, doctrine, and culture in their own way. Some people ignore them, some engage in apologetics, and some leave the church entirely.

As for me, I’m a categorizer. I categorize them away.

I separate human knowledge and experience into two overarching spheres — science and religion. For this to make sense, let me start with my definitions of those two spheres.

Why Do You Read Times & Seasons?

It’s that time again — reader participation day, so come join in and let yourself be heard! Back in January, I asked what brings you to the bloggernacle. Today, I want to narrow the question down to Times & Seasons in particular. Several of you are new here in the past six months, and there are a few old friends that I haven’t seen in a while (Bill of Wasilla, where’d you go?) I want to know what keeps you guys coming back here, week after week, month after month. Feel free to take the discussion in any direction you’d like, but I’m particularly interested in: When did you start reading Times & Seasons? How often do you check Times & Seasons? What do you enjoy about the site that keeps you coming here? What would you like to see more (or less) of on the site? So, with those general guidelines, take it away.

The Manner In Which I’m Mormon: My Articles of Faith

Over the past ten years, my approach to the doctrines of the church has shifted dramatically. I’m Mormon now in a very different way than I was then. With the various discussions attempting to define what it means to be Mormon, I thought I’d share what it means to me (well, what it means to me at this time — check back in ten more years and we’ll see where things are at). I believe that the religion that does nothing for people in this life isn’t likely to do much for them in the next. The church is true to the extent that it is useful. (Yes, that makes me a philosophical utilitarian.) I believe that exposure to a variety of information and experiences (including those that are disagreeable, challenging, or foreign) is the foundation of discovering truth. It is our responsibility to seek out and understand positions that conflict with our own so that we can obtain perspective. However, I…

Designed to Meet Needs

(This is the third part in a series about my vision for a community. Here’s Part One and Part Two.) Time to look at distribution of labor, education and job skills, and self-determination. … Like I said previously, I’m targeting a $1,000-per-month lifestyle that covers food and housing for a family. In practice, the way I imagine implementing it is with a three-tier system: Tier 1: $2,000/month Tier 2: $1,000/month + part-time community maintenance Tier 3: $0/month + full-time community employment Each tier is designed to meet a different individual need. Tier 1 is for people who have money and/or good employment, and who just want to escape from the mundane responsibilities of life. They’d have their meals, laundry, grounds maintenance, etc. taken care of. Kind of a sustainably affordable vacation resort, albeit in a shed-cabin. Tier 2 is for people who want to make enough money to support a family while doing work that they love. In Alison’s words,…

Building the Dream City

095317182105xl

In my previous post about the principles that would govern my ideal community (affordability, space, distribution of labor, technology, education and job skills, and self-determination),  several of you made comments and asked questions about how those principles might work in practice. Here are my thoughts. … Affordability Across the street from my workplace is a Lowe’s (Lowe’s is a hardware/supplies store, for those of you that aren’t familiar with it). The Lowe’s parking lot has a bunch of sheds. Being the odd kind of guy I am, I took a tour of the sheds during lunch one day, and discovered that sheds are a lot cooler than I thought. One looks like this: It’s about 100 sq ft (9.2 sq m) with a workbench at one end. It’s got enough space to lay out a couple of futons, and the workbench could make a decent dining bar. But my favorite is this one: It’s a little bigger, at 120 sq ft…

The World I Choose

My first posts at Times & Seasons were about building zion-like communities. I’ve wanted to expand on those posts in the year and a half since I originally wrote them, but whenever I try the words refuse to come. Why? In part it’s because communities are difficult and complicated. Mostly, however, it’s because the ideal community that I envision is so dear to me that it pains me to put it into words. I feel like the words do violence to the vision, and a part of me fears that, in transit from vision to writing, the vision might get lost. That said, I’ve reached a point where I realize that there’s no moving forward until I’m willing to get started. So here’s my vision of the place I hope to inhabit. … First is affordability. Life is too wonderful to spend it worrying about finances, and too short to spend unnecessary hours in the workplace. I hope to spend…

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I read Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy over the weekend for the first time since high school. I was glad to see that it’s a book that ages well. As a teenager I enjoyed it as a fun, imaginative science fiction romp. Now I appreciate it as a commentary on the absurdity of life and the immanence of death. (Speaking of which, this book fits in quite nicely with my previous post on Halloweeen. Hitchhiker’s Guide is definitely a Halloween classic, at least in the way I look at Halloween.) The story is essentially a series of unrelated and random events, all designed to illustrate that life is senseless and bizarre, and that trying to find any sort of meaning in it is an exercise in futility. The vignette that best sums up what I believe to be Adams’ thesis is the bit about the nuclear missile that turns into a sperm whale, which I’ll quote in full…

Halloween and the Extended Christmas Season

For me, Christmastime starts around the end of September, with the first hints of autumn coolness. It extends through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, and ends sometime around mid-February. My calendar looks something like this: Christmastime (September through February) The Wet & Cold Season (March through May) The Hot & Dry Season (June through August) Being yet the beginning of October, we’re still right around my new year. When the relentless Sacramento summer heat starts to withdraw and I need to roll my windows up for my morning commutes, I feel the stirrings of new life in me. I get nostalgic for the past, and excited for the possibilities in the future. I think of the holidays during this season as extensions of Christmas. Even the Christmas holiday itself is an extension of the Christmastime season. Thanksgiving and Halloween and New Year’s. And sometimes Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter, depending on how long my Christmastime season lasts. Each…

The Manner in Which I’m Mormon: My First Principles and Ordinances

The first principles and ordinances in my life, borne of my experiences and observations, are these: Exposure, which leads to awareness, or, in other words, the knowledge of good and evil Awareness, which leads to gratitude and wonder Wonder, which leads to vision and discipline Discipline, which leads to understanding and becoming Understanding, which leads to humility and perspective Becoming and perspective, which lead to joy, which is sustainable happiness Sustainable happiness, which is the purpose of life They aren’t as concise as the 4th Article of Faith, but they work for me. Also, they are a work in progress. There are missing pieces. For example, you see that there’s nothing in there about our relationships with others — nothing about love, kindness, family, or friendship. Those are deeply important to me, but I’m not sure how they fit into the structure I have here. As I make more sense of the life, things, and the world, my first principles…

Elder Perry and the Church’s Image

Untitleddrawing

Elder Perry’s Saturday conference address focused on how we present ourselves and how we are perceived by others. Religious affiliation affects how we perceive others. For example, when I lived in Oregon it wasn’t uncommon to see the little “Christian fish” on business storefronts. (I see this occasionally in California, but not nearly so frequently.) At first, this was a value-neutral statement in my mind. I was just as happy to frequent a business as a non- business. However, my experiences with the businesses were subpar, and I came to associate the as indicating, “We’re not as good as the other guys, so we’ll try and get your business by playing on your religious sympathies.” In other words, the created an unlevel playing field, and the non- businesses had to work harder to compensate for the natural advantage that the businesses received. So what effect would a have on a business storefront? I’m reminded of the 2006 religious attitudes survey…

“What the Hell Is Happening in Somalia?” – Part 3

mogadishuToAfgooye

Once upon a time there was a boy named Ghedi. Ghedi has a little brother named Korfa. Ghedi and Korfa are best friends. They live in Mogadishu, in apartment #214, between the Suuqa Bakaaraha and the high school, just across from the Catholic school. Korfa likes to watch Sesame Street with Ghedi. Their mom and dad teach them that it’s important to learn English. Ghedi is 13, and Sesame Street is easy for him. Korfa is 5. Ghedi helps him with the hard words. After Sesame Street, Ghedi usually goes down to the quad to hang out with his friends, but today is different. When mom gets home from the store she looks worried. She tells Ghedi and Korfa that there is no food at the store. Ghedi asks if they can go get food at a different store, but mom says no. All the food is gone. Dad comes home too. Mom and dad say that it’s time to…

Getting Acquainted With Our More Dubious Doctrines

Reading back through the recent posts at Keepapitchin (sorry Ardis, I haven’t been keeping up :)  ), I found a great piece on those long-lived, die-hard “doctrines” that aren’t really doctrines at all. Things like how Jesus was married…with children…to multiple wives(?!?!). Or how blacks couldn’t receive the priesthood because they were [insert made-up reason here] in the pre-mortal life. Or any number of other eclectic tidbits (I had mission companion who had been taught that Cain survived the Flood in a specially built one-man submarine). She closes with this question: Why the heck do we do that? Why do we perpetuate these wild speculations from the past, when we know, or ought to know, that they aren’t true? Here’s my theory on it: it’s like relationships with old friends. I have a few friends I’ve kept in touch with since middle school. Our relationships have developed and matured, and it’s been wonderful and rewarding. In contrast, Facebook has allowed me to re-establish contact…

“What the Hell Is Happening in Somalia?” – Part 2

800px-FEWS_Eastern_Africa_July-September_projection

Somalia is the kind of country where a New York City Department of Transportation worker can be invited over to become prime minister. Following a year of primely ministration, he quit yesterday…and now he’s back to working at his old job in New York City. But back to Ghedi. Ghedi, 13 years old, was born five years after the events that inspired Black Hawk Down. To get a quick sense of his growing up years, take a look at Wikipedia’s Modern History entry for Mogadishu. You’ll note that the subheading provides these links: Main articles: Somali Civil War, Battle of Mogadishu (1993), Battle of Mogadishu (2006), Fall of Mogadishu, Battle of Mogadishu (March–April 2007), Battle of Mogadishu (November 2007), Battle of Mogadishu (2008), Battle of South Mogadishu, Battle of Mogadishu (2009), and Battle of Mogadishu (2010) Particularly depressing is that a distinction is needed between the Battle of Mogadishu in spring of 2007 and the one in fall of 2007. And then another distinction so that we don’t confuse the 2009…

“What the Hell Is Happening in Somalia?” – Part 1

mogadishuToDadaab

Ghedi, 13 years old, is trying to escape Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia. Now, before I start Ghedi’s story, let’s get ourselves situated. Here’s Mogadishu relative to the rest of Africa: You can see that it’s a coastal city, on the southern end of the Horn of Africa (that’s the pokey piece of Africa jutting out right below the Saudi Arabia.) Let’s zoom in on that a little bit closer: Note that Kenya is just southwest of Somalia. That’s important because Ghedi, the hero of our story, is trying to get out of Somalia and into Kenya. Specifically, he’s trying to reach Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya, 445 miles away. The journey looks like this: To put that in perspective, here’s the trip from Independence to Nauvoo, shown at the same scale: That’s 257 miles, according to Google — just over half the distance that Ghedi will need to travel in order to reach Dadaab in Kenya. Or,…

The Conference Showdown: Ward, Stake, or General?

It’s ward conference for us today. Ward conference is kind of a let-down for me. It doesn’t offer the short church session that we get from stake conference, and I can’t watch it on my laptop while eating not-Cap’n-Crunch in my pajamas. It’s pretty much just business-as-usual. But it’s not like the two-hour session of stake conference is really such a break when you’ve got to keep small kids quiet for the duration. Really, I’d rather have three hours of church with someone else watching my kids than to try and keep them quiet and attentive for two hours of sermons. However, stake conference does offer the Saturday adult session. I enjoy getting to go to spend an hour and a half in church on a Saturday evening. The talks don’t usually stick with me, but the experience is nice and relaxing. A pre-Sabbath Sabbath. And general conference is general conference. (My only question there is, am I supposed to…

Call Me Uzzah

I just saw Stephen M (Ethesis)’s post on complaints about EFY and I liked his list of reasons people complain (particularly about church stuff). For those of you who aren’t clicking the link to his article, here’s the quick summary of his list: Legitimate — Complaining about a demonstrable problem with a demonstrable solution. Compulsive mental illness — What it sounds like. Compulsive snarkers — “People who are just constant nitpickers…” Thematic — “People who have adopted a cause, and thereafter have a stream of advice and complaints that circle around that as a theme…” People in pain — “Some people complain out of their pain, which is often rubbed wrong by many things.” People looking for an excuse to analyze and talk about something — What it sounds like. Bullies, who are using a complaint as an excuse to try and push people around. I’m fine with complaining as long as it serves a purpose (see #1 above). When…

Things I’m Banning

Quoting from Monty Python. Sorry, it’s just not funny when I hear you do it. This applies double to anything about being turned into a newt and getting better. Same goes for Princess Bride. Yes, it’s quite possibly the greatest movie ever made, but I don’t care that you can recite the whole thing word for word. And I’m especially banning the use of British accents by non-British peoples who defy bans #1 and #2. I shouldn’t even have to include #2, because Wesley wasn’t British. Also, the word “bloody”. The grammar rule that says periods and commas go inside quotations marks, even when they don’t apply directly to the quoted material. Use sensible placement rules, like questions marks and exclamation points! No? The use of “No?” as an emphatic. The observation that, if I were British, I wouldn’t have to include #3 or #5 in my list. Cap’n Crunch. It’s like razor blades in apples. What sadist designed a kids’…

Loosely Coupled – An n-tier Religion

One goal in computer programming is to build “loosely coupled” systems. A loosely coupled system isn’t tied down to a specific platform. It makes it easy to take a program written for Macintosh and turn it into a program that can run on Windows or Linux or whatever other system you want. When a new platform appears (like the iPhone), a loosely coupled system makes it so that you can just swap a few parts around and make your program work on that new platform. Loose coupling is achieved by separating a system into “layers”. Take this blog, for example — timesandseasons.org (or most any website you visit) consists of three layers: the presentation layer, the data layer, and the business logic layer. Here’s a quick overview: The presentation layer is what you see on your screen right now. It determines what the site looks like, things like “put that picture montage at the top of the page” or “put…

Borrowing and Betraying Culture

NPR did a piece yesterday evening on a speech school for Brooklyners (Brooklynites? Brookies?) who want to get rid of their accent. These are people who feel that speaking with a Brooklyn accent makes people perceive them poorly, and that it’s holding them back socially or professionally. Predictably, this leads to a kickback from the non-Brooklyners who feel that regional dialects are part of the richness and charm of our nation, as well as from other Brooklyners who feel that these ones are “betraying their culture”. Is culture something that can be betrayed? And do we have a responsibility to retain the distinctive identities of our birth? — My personal feeling is that it’s wrong for us to try and trap others within their cultures. When I hear my first-world compatriots lament the loss of obscure native cultures and languages, I can’t help but feel like these cultures are being treated as if they are sitting in a museum or…

Valid Targets and the Muse

SevenFormsofAgency-Muse

In 2001, when I lived in Tracy, California, I attended the tri-stake institute in Stockton, or maybe it was Manteca. The teacher was Pres. Anderson, an amazing CES instructor. (He was transferred out to Utah shortly after I left Tracy… Do any of you know what happened to him, or what he’s up to now?) Pres. Anderson started  his lesson on the celestial kingdom with these words written on the chalkboard: Two pedigreed Siamese kittens — Cost: $100 Is that a great deal? I don’t know how much Siamese kittens normally cost, but apparently it’s more than $100 a pair. He asked the class who would buy the kittens (with the caveat that you couldn’t purchase them just to re-sell them). The cat lovers raised their hands, and the rest of us abstained. His point was that the value of any deal is dependent on our tastes. $50 for a pedigreed kitten is only a great deal if you’re the…

Who’s Going to Hell for That One?

There’s a folk doctrine I’ve heard expressed by members of the church, and it goes something like this: “As long as you are obedient to your priesthood leaders, any sins you commit are on their heads.” The idea is that if your priesthood leaders counsel you poorly and you obey that counsel, you aren’t morally responsible for the outcome of those actions; you fulfilled your duty as a saint. You get to go to heaven, and they get to go…well, wherever it is that people who give bad counsel go. Where do we get this from? St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, allegedly taught, “That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which appears to our eyes to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black.” I believe this sort of doctrine has no place in the restored…

The “Doctrinal Sheen”

Gospel Doctrine on Sunday featured the parable of the ten virgins, accompanied by this picture: Apparently it’s a well-known picture, but I’d never seen it before. The instructor read the picture’s accompanying interpretation. It’s too long for me to share in its fullness (which can be found here), but here are some of the bits that I found a little bit jarring in the context of a Sunday school lesson: “The third virgin represents the ordinances necessary on this earth to enter the kingdom… She is dressed in blue, trimmed with gold – blue and gold are the colors of the priesthood.” “The fifth virgin represents charity… There are few, perhaps one in ten, who will reach her level of charity and service.” “The seventh virgin represents the sins and pleasures of the world. This virgin is very appealing to people. She is fun-loving and fun to be around.” “The eighth virgin represents addiction and excess…such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs,…

The Current State of Worship Options

I decided a couple weeks ago that I’m going to start attending the worship services of the various churches in my area, partially for self-education and partially for fun. Motivated by the vision of being inspired by new and unfamiliar practices, I hopped on Google and searched for “roseville churches”, then clicked on the map view. Roseville isn’t a huge cosmopolitan metropolis (it’s a suburb of Sacramento, with a population of about 120,000 people), but it’s large enough that I hoped to find a variety of religious groups. Of the first 10 search results, 8 are non-denominational Christian churches and 2 are familiar Protestant denominations (Presbyterian and Methodist). In the next 10 results there’s a bit more variety: Church of the Nazarene (is that Protestant? Non-denominational? Evangelical? I guess I need to figure just what those words mean…), Christian Scientist (same questions), a Russian-language church, Catholic, Presbyterian, Seventh-Day Adventist, and 4 more non-denominational (at least, I assume a church is…

The Only Scripture That Ever Made a Difference

As a missionary, I took pride in my familiarity with the scriptures. No matter the question, I could usually present an investigator with a scripturally backed answer. Being somewhat slow on the uptake, it probably took me a year or more to become conscious of the fact that most investigators didn’t ascribe the same level of authority to the scriptures that I did. I just took for granted that “proving a concept by the standard works” = “concern resolved!” But that’s a topic for a different post. This post is about the one scripture that did make a difference. I was teaching a woman whose marriage was shaky (though I didn’t know that at the time). She had a cat that she loved. I suppose that her cat was the one source of stable affection in her life. As we were reaching the end of our lessons (the fifth discussion, I think. This was when there were six missionary discussions,…

Institutional Repentance

Kent’s post on community responsibility brings to mind the question of whether and how a community can repent. Do the first principles and ordinance of the gospel apply to the church as a whole? The church exemplifies faith through its teachings, and I can see the entire church organization as reflective of the ordinances of baptism and confirmation. But what about repentance? I’m not aware of any instances where the church as an institution has worked through a repentance-like process (acknowledging an institutional error, accepting responsibility for it, apologizing, and then working toward restitution), but that doesn’t mean such examples don’t exist. The church’s approach to change is more one of institutional change-of-focus. We tend toward letting disfavored teachings fade away into the forgotten tomes of history. Does repentance work the same for an organization as it does for an individual? In some ways it doesn’t make sense to even talk about institutional repentance, since we view repentance as part…

The New United Order

Is church Correlation the new United Order? I remember a conference talk from years ago (by Pres. Packer, if I recall correctly, though I haven’t been able to find the actual talk to confirm it.) The speaker talked about how his local church unit had a wonderful and unique youth program — something about performance or public speaking, I think. It was managed by great leaders and the results with the students were remarkable. They were engaged, enjoying themselves, and learning new skills. However, the call came down from higher authorities to shut down the local program and replace it with a correlated curriculum that was being used church-wide. The speaker told how he was disappointed at first. The new program wasn’t as effective. However, over time he came to realize that the church leaders were concerned with the welfare of all the church units, and that it was better for the church as a whole to have a B-level…