Category: Mormon Life

Mormon Life – Family – Personal Reflections

Mormon filmmaker explores sex and singleness at Duck Beach

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The topic of sex and the Mormon single is a perennial favorite in the bloggernacle, and recently it has drawn national attention as well. No treatment of the topic would be complete without a look at the Duck Beach phenomenon, an informal annual gathering of east coast LDS singles in North Carolina that is equal parts Jersey Shore and Temple Square. LDS filmmaker Stephen Frandsen (my cousin) and his production company Big Iron Productions have trained a thoughtful lens on this singular affair, and are currently in the process of financing and producing a documentary exploring its relevance. We’re pleased to share an interview with Stephen Frandsen here, and we invite readers to add their own experiences with or impressions of Duck Beach in the comments. The filmmakers are actively seeking further participants who are willing to share their stories, and they will be pleased to respond to questions in the comments here.  Finally, please do consider donating to the…

Is there a hierarchy of service?

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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

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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.

Mormon Funerals

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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.

Blogging on the Road to Damascus

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Transcripts of the recent General Conference have been posted at LDS.org, including President Uchtdorf’s talk “Waiting on the Road to Damascus.” The talk was mostly a word of encouragement to those members of the Church who, for various reasons including self-doubt, are not full participants in their local wards. The focus of the talk was on the invitation to get past or around whatever the issue is, not on the details of the difficulties or doubts some people face. Of course, his comments on blogging and social media were the most interesting part of the talk. He made these comments in the context of how members of the Church ought to be more open about sharing the gospel. With so many social media resources and a multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before. In fact, I am almost afraid that…

Major League Mormons

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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.

Misunderstanding or Malice?

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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?”

Peace

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Sometimes unintentional mistakes lead to interesting lines of thought. A few weeks ago I misheard a speaker in an LDS meeting. The speaker was quoting John 14:27, and either because of the speaker’s mispronunciation or my imperfect hearing, I heard the word “live” instead of the word “leave.” This lead me to think about what it means to live in peace.

Helpless as a Baby

This is the time of year for Christmas devotions. This year my thoughts have been on the impulse to serve the needy that we have at Christmas. We don’t have it at Easter. My thoughts have also been on the Christ child. The religious significance of the grown Christ, on the cross and in the garden, is obvious. But what did Christ do for us as a bare baby?

Unauthorized Practices and Other Selected Highlights From the Leadership Training Meeting

Things happen fast around here these days. Last night when I retired for the evening, nothing about yesterday’s Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting had yet been posted online. Now that I am home from church today and are sitting here at my computer, the video is publicly posted for all to read and discuss; Handbook 2 (or “H2”) is likewise publicly posted; and several Bloggernacle posts are up (here, here, here, here, here, and here). But I still think my notes have a few things to add to the discussion. In his short pre-recorded introductory remarks, President Monson stated that reading, understanding, and following the Handbook would further the goal of avoiding what he termed unauthorized practices. As an example, he recounted a personal experience where a high councilor thought it proper to turn the chair of a young man receiving the priesthood toward the local LDS temple. I’m aware of a visiting general authority who recently advised local leaders that…

What we talk about when we talk about God

photo courtesy of wikimedia commons

Bruce Feiler’s daughter was just five when she pitched him a question right to the gut of religious experience:  “Daddy, if I speak to God, will he listen?” Feiler writes books on the Bible and God for a living, so he’d presumably given the question some thought. Nevertheless he had no good answer ready for his daughter. So he did what any loving parent would do:  answered the question with an inartful dodge, and then wrote about it in the New York Times style section. How do we answer our children’s questions about God, he asked, when we are ourselves doubtful, confused, or otherwise conflicted? Feiler solicited comments on the matter from a formerly-Catholic agnostic playwright, a formerly-Episcopalian agnostic New Testament scholar, and a popular Conservative rabbi in Los Angeles.  It’s not hard to guess the direction their responses took.  Among the educated elite readership of the NYT, a kind of ritualistic doubt partners with a set of tolerant gestures…

Who Else is Passionate for Moderation?

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Last General Conference Elder Quentin L. Cook suggested that we need to improve the quality of discourse in our country, following the Church’s own statement of almost a year ago. And the suggestion may have drawn some action, since in July the Church-owned Bonneville Media’s radio stations started letting the most egregious of its talk show hosts go, including Sean Hannity. More recently, the Deseret News stopped allowing comments on news story pages and KSL dropped comments altogether on its website, all because of the lack of civil discourse. The overall message seems clear: “Take it down a notch.”

Give us this day our Daily, One-of-a-Kind, World-Famous, Awesome Magic Brand Bread

By Adrienne Cardon [Adrienne sent me the following submission.] I was just a Beehive when those rosy, soft around the edges Homefront commercials rolled out on late-night television. These iconic spots featured families in motion, well-coifed moms and busy pops who metamorphosed from 90’s corporate dads to storyteller/ballplayer dads in 30 seconds. Family, isn’t it about time? asked the ads. They were a bit schmaltzy, they were a bit dewy, they were a bit, well backlit. But here’s much forgotten takeaway – they were effective. This little tagline, this bookend to each commercial was extremely successful. Little by little, public perceptions started to change. People started to pair the word “Mormon” with the word “Family.” Congratulations, branding team. Mission(ary) accomplished. So, seeing the newest efforts is a bit puzzling to me, because the takeaway word I’m hearing this time around is “same.” “I’m an artist.” “I’m a surfer.” “I’m a fashion designer.” “I’m a public relations manager.” “ . .…

Perceptions of Mormonism

The Deseret News posted an article (“Mormons need to work to increase favor“) summarizing remarks by Gary Lawrence at the recent FAIR Conference held last week in Sandy. He addressed perceptions of Mormonism, based on data gathered by his polling firm. We’ve got some problems, it seems.

Happy Pioneer Day!

This little reflection was originally posted on the blog Law, Religion, and Ethics — most of whose readers, if any, are presumably not LDS or residents of Utah. Pioneer Day, in case you didn’t know, is today, July 24; it commemorates the day in 1847 (give or take a day or two) when Brigham Young declared “This is the place,” and the Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. I imagine Pioneer Day is still celebrated in Utah, and it was a festive occasion in Idaho Falls, Idaho, when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s. My mother, though she lacked training or college experience, had an artistic bent, and she used to spend untold hours preparing the ward float for the annual Pioneer Day parade, to march along with floats sponsored by other wards (a ward is the Mormon equivalent of a parish) and other churches, as well as countless horse posses, 4-H groups, Shriners, and nicely…

Please, Please, Sing Out!

Congregation Singing

I’m currently visiting my in-laws for a few weeks. I attended their ward on Sunday and once again was shocked at the difference in the singing there compared to my home ward. Why don’t members sing the hymns in Sacrament Meeting here?

Unique Outreach by the Rochester Stake

This week, the Rochester Stake in New York is sponsoring a special performance of Carol Lynn Pearson’s Facing East, to be followed by a fireside featuring a discussion led by the Rochester Stake President. Notably, the performance is being directed by Jerry Argetsinger, who was the long-time director of the Hill Cumorah Pageant throughout the 90s, and costume design is being handled by Gail Argetsinger, a Tony award-winning costume designer who designed and supervised the construction of thousands of pageant costumes during the 90s. For those unfamiliar with Facing East, it is the story of a Mormon couple who is grappling with the suicide of their gay son. It was written by Carol Lynn Pearson, a Mormon playwright and whose husband (and the father of her four children) left her to confront and explore his own homosexuality.  He returned to live with her 6 years later after being diagnosed with AIDS, with Sister Pearson caring for him in the months…

The hidden apologetics of Banner of Heaven

Scott at Bloggernacle Times has been putting on a very impressive Behind the Music retrospective about the old Banner of Heaven blog.  The hair, the women, the trashed hotel rooms — it’s all there, complete with interviews with band members (Brian G. comes clean about the infamous “no brown M&M’s” contract), groupies band aids, and even the occasional critic. In fact, about the only point that Scott seems to have missed so far is the group’s hidden apologetic purpose. What apologetic purpose, you ask?  Only that a widely read book — also widely perceived as hostile towards the church — was google-bombed halfway into oblivion.  Now, curious souls who google “Banner of Heaven” are as likely to read about X-boxes or the speculation train as they are to learn about Mountain Meadows.  Apologetics, meet Web 2.0. And the apologetic stone cut without hands will roll forth virally, until it has overcome the entire Googleverse.  Amen.

New Mormon Blog at Beliefnet

Jana Reiss, former T&S guest blogger and author of Mormonism for Dummies, is running a new Mormon blog at Beliefnet: Flunking Sainthood. Put a link in your blogroll (do people still do blogrolls?) and visit often. Having myself previously hosted a Mormon blog at Beliefnet, I have some idea of the challenge the new blog is facing. The problem can be put very simply: (1) few people who aren’t Mormon have much to say about Mormonism, and (2) there aren’t too many Mormons hanging around the Beliefnet site. But it just seems wrong that one of the most popular Internet religion sites doesn’t host a Mormon blog (they host just about everything else), so I’m happy Jana is taking on this project. I hope she is the surprise hit of the year at Beliefnet. As the author of What Would Buffy Do: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide, I’m sure she has a few tricks up her sleeve. You can…

An Unexpected Gift

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At 3:28 this morning we welcomed a new son into the world. As one would expect, congratulations and well-wishes have come flooding in from friends and family all day. And for all of these we have been moved and grateful. First thing this morning, however, we received a congratulatory gift we hadn’t anticipated. Women housed in the Alexandria Detention Center had sent us a hand-crocheted blanket, cap and set of booties. (In Packer yellow-and-green for my Cheese-head wife no less). Both modern and ancient scripture admonish us to serve the “least” of those among us, noting that doing so is akin to serving Christ himself. My wife and I found ourselves touched that, at such a sacred and spiritual time for our family as the birth of our new son, we had been remembered by some gracious women who, by some standard, might consider to be the “least” of those in our society today. Humbled by the act, we resolved…

Four Dead in Ohio

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What if you knew her and  / Found her dead on the ground?  / How can you run when you know? Today is the 40th anniversary of the Kent State Massacre. Have we learned what we should have from the tragedy?

Requesting Priesthood Lines of Authority

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In the course of an interesting email exchange today, I learned that a good friend and I had had similar experiences in trying to track down our priesthood lines of authority. After being ordained Elders, we both asked our fathers if they had copies of their lines of authority, both said they thought they did somewhere, but both ultimately could never come up with them. My friend then approached his uncle, figuring that he might have the same line as my friend’s father, but without success. Fast forward ten years. His uncle randomly found his line of authority and remembered my friend asking for it. They were both surprised to learn though that the uncle had been ordained an Elder by his Bishop, not by his father as is the current custom. Unfortunately this Bishop was not Bishop when my friend’s father would have been ordained, so my friend was still no closer to tracking down his own line of…

This Mormon Life

This American Life

Several weeks ago the NPR program This American Life aired a stunning segment on Gordon Gee, the Latter-day Saint President of Ohio State University, and his daughter Rebecca. The segment revolved around a series of letters Gordon’s late wife Elizabeth wrote to their daughter as she was dying of cancer.  Rebecca was 16 at the time of her mother’s death, and the letters were to be given to her each year on her birthday for thirteen years. Rebecca, however, gradually drifted from the Church, while the letters from her devout mother focused heavily on the deep yearnings she had for her daughter to remain close to the Mormon faith and marry in the temple. Gordon, meanwhile, began to find himself caught in between these letters from his late wife and his daughter, with whom he remained close. The segment, as is typical of This American Life, is handled deftly with balance, in a way that leads you to understand and…