Author: Kent Larsen

A Patriotic Chosen People?

Yesterday in the Sacrament Meeting I attended, we closed singing the Star Spangled Banner (I managed to suppress the urge to yell “Play Ball” at the end). While going through the typical sacrament meeting in the U.S. before the July 4th Independence Day holiday, I couldn’t help thinking about what role patriotism should play in my life.

Handbook 2: Chapter 1—the Plan

Last week I began a series of posts that will examine Handbook 2, the policy handbook that the Church put online last Fall. Since so many local leaders are urged to read and study the handbook as part of their callings, I hoped to provide an interesting forum to do that. Chapter 1 of the Handbook is an overview that tries (I believe) to put the Handbook’s policies in procedures in the context of the plan of salvation. I encourage you to read the chapter before commenting, since you may have more topics to discuss:

defining ‘Oh My Heck’

So, is “oh my heck” really a Mormon term? If you hear someone use it, can you assume that they are Mormon? Do Mormons use it more than others? And where did it come from anyway? [I apologize to anyone offended by the use of profanity in this post. I’ve only used it when necessary. But I have not made any attempt to disguise or shield users from it.]

Handbook 2: Introduction

After the Church posted the text of the 2nd volume of its administrative handbook (formerly known as the Church Handbook of Instructions—CHI) last fall, a few bloggers looked at the handbook, including our own Dave Banack.

Objective Measures

Yesterday’s priesthood lesson opened with what turned out to be a provocative question: How do you measure obedience? How do we know when we are being obedient?And, perhaps most difficult, how do we know that we aren’t fooling ourselves?

Mormons Drafted

Last week Major League Baseball held its most important annual draft, indicating interest in more than 1,500 possible players. As far as I can tell, just two of them are Mormon, down from 6 last year.

Immigration Where?

When I was on vacation a few years ago I picked up a local paper and found a number of articles about the problems that area was facing because of illegal immigration. Predictably there was crime committed by the illegal immigrants, and a lot of hate towards them. For an American nothing there was unusual–except that I was in South Africa.

Personal and Community Responsibility

Yesterday in priesthood we discussed President Monson’s October 2010 Conference address on the Three Rs of Choice. One of the three Rs is ‘Responsibility’ — which led, of course, to discussing personal responsibility. In the discussion it occurred to me that personal responsibility is very closely connected to community responsibility.

Who reports crimes confessed to a Bishop?

Last week the Pinal Arizona County Attorney decided not to charge two LDS Bishops with failing to report the sexual abuse of a minor in the case of LDS Church member Susan Brock, who is now serving a 13-year prison sentence for the crime. While I tend to agree with the county attorney’s position on the bishops, I have to ask the question, who should have reported the crime and when?

Who is the World’s Wealthiest Mormon? Should We Care?

A decade ago I compiled a list of the world’s wealthiest Mormons, based on the annual Forbes lists of the World’s Billionaires and of the 400 Wealthiest Americans. At that time there were 7 on the list, down from 8 the previous year. Now only 4 of these are left on the list. If there are fewer Mormons on the list of the World’s Wealthiest, I think it might be a good thing.

Elder Andersen’s Sid Going example was timely

In the first talk given during the Priesthood session of this past General Conference, Elder Neil L. Andersen told the story of New Zealand rugby player Sid Going, who, in 1962, was poised to become a major Rugby star. But Going instead chose to serve an LDS mission, and became a star anyway when he returned two years later. Now, less than six weeks after Conference, Australian LDS Church member Will Hopoate has chosen to follow Going’s example, forgoing interest from 6 teams and at least one offer worth USD $1.6 million.

Can institutions repent?

A recent news story about the beatification of John Paul II mentioned that the late Pope had led the Catholic Church to “repent” for its anti-semitism. The use of the word “repent” stuck out in my mind, and made me wonder, “Can an institution, such as a Church, repent?”

Persecution or Freedom?

Just a week after he was named chef de mission of the U.S. Olympic Team for 2012, Peter Vidmar has resigned because of objections to his beliefs—specifically his opposition to same-sex marriage. Vidmar, an LDS Church member and a member of the gold-medal winning 1984 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. He is also the highest scoring gymnast in Olympic history. But in 2008 Vidmar publicly campaigned for Proposition 8 in California.

Called to Play

This past week three Mormons were called to spend their Sundays during each fall in pursuit of goals quite different than those of most other Church members. In their battles they will face “violence, punctuated by committee meetings.” But none of these three hail from the traditional preparation centers for Mormons.

Is there a hierarchy of service?

To start out I should say that I like parks. My wife and I are raising three children (1 down, two to go) in a New York City apartment, so instead of a back yard, we have the park. But unlike the backyard, we have to escort our children to the park. So, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in parks. And how clean they are does make a difference. But I’m not sure that cleaning the park should be our first choice for service projects.

Influence, Reflecting Badly and Mormon Culture

The news yesterday that artist Jon McNaughton had pulled his artwork from the BYU Bookstore led me to ponder once again the influence that Church-owned businesses and institutions have on Mormon Culture. While these institutions seem focused on how what they carry and produce reflects on themselves and, ultimately, the Church, I worry that the variety of books, art, music and other Mormon cultural materials aren’t as available as they should be.

Heller is Senator: Appointment makes 6 Mormons in U.S. Senate

Yesterday, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval named LDS Church member and current member of the U.S. House of Representatives Dean Heller to replace Senator John Ensign, who has resigned effective May 3 rather than face an ethics investigation. The move increases the number of Mormons serving in the Senate to 6 while decreasing the number serving in the House to 9.

Mormon Funerals

How different are Mormon funerals than those done by other religions? For some strange reason I actually enjoy funerals (at least Mormon ones), despite the sadness of losing a loved one. We’ve had a couple of memorial services in our ward in the past few months, and while sitting through the most recent I wondered how our funerals are different from those of other religions.

Inoculation for Mormons Behaving Badly

Last June Dave Banack discussed the idea that LDS Church members should be inoculated for troubling LDS doctrinal and historical issues. I don’t think that idea has been completely explored, but I do think inoculation might be useful in one area where our (i.e., Mormon) sub-culture doesn’t use it: the news.

The Implied Statistical Report, 2010

A couple of years ago my post The Implied Statistical Report, 2008, looked at what can be learned from a detailed examination of the data the Church releases each April Conference. This conferences’ data includes an additional statistic not found in earlier reports, the number of Church Service Missionaries, which led me to look again at the statistics to see if I might find something else.

Sunday Morning Session

President Henry B. Eyring conducting. Discourses by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder Paul B. Johnson, Bishop H. David Burton, Sister Silvia H. Allred, Elder David A. Bednar and President Thomas S. Monson. Perhaps even more so than previous sessions, the theme of this session was the Church Welfare program. President Eyring mentioned the 75th anniversary of Church Welfare in his opening remarks, and the remarks of both Bishop Burton and Sister Allred focused on Welfare.

Saturday Afternoon Session

Pres. Uchtdorf conducted again, and following the customary audit report and statistical report, talks were given by Elder Boyd K. Packer, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Russell J. Maynes, Elder Cecil O. Samuelsen, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder M. Russell Ballard.

A tool for Conference analysis

While we know that gospel principles are eternal, we must also admit that the language used to describe them changes over time. And now we have a tool for discovering and analyzing how Church leaders have changed their descriptions of the gospel over the past 160 years.

Balancing Political Positions with the Church and the Gospel

My earliest memory of conflict over Church decisions came because of a local stake division and boundary changes.I remember my mother venting about how one high councilor in one stake prevented the boundary change from following local political boundaries, which would have, in my mother’s view, give Church members a more unified voice in local politics.

Major League Mormons

Last year was major for Major League Mormons—or at least for one of them. This makes the third year that I have looked at what those of us who follow these Mormons want to know each April, and I’m wondering if I should look at this information more often.

Tribute to Richard Daines: Health, Sugar & Taxes

When I learned that Richard Daines, a fellow New York City Mormon, passed away last month, I knew I wanted to write something about him for several reasons. First, I like writing about Mormons outside of the Wasatch-front bias of Mormon culture. Second, I have my own bias towards New York City, and third, I admire his political achievements.

Applying the Golden Rule Collectively

Christian religions, in general, believe in what is widely known as the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In fact, as I understand it, most belief systems have some version of this idea. It seems to me that it is usually understood individually. But I have to believe that we should also apply it to groups — other countries, other peoples, other races, other sports teams… and other religions.

Misunderstanding or Malice?

I came across an interesting reaction to LDS missionaries recently. A letter to the editor of an English-language Thai paper suggested that the presence of LDS missionaries there is an insult: “Why do Mormon missionaries in particular always travel thousands of miles on the ‘mission’ when Mormonism was entirely founded in the United States over a century ago, yet the US is 98 per cent non-Mormon?”