Hobbies

Last week I had an interesting conversation with a young father in my ward about hobbies. He was lamenting the fact that he has none. He used to have hobbies, but the press of family, work, and Church has squeezed all self-indulgence from his schedule. I was interested to hear this because I had said almost exactly the same thing to my wife about five years ago. I had completely given up my youthful passion for golf. I rarely watched television, and certainly didn’t have any regular shows. Reading? Forget about it, unless it was related to a paper that I was writing. No video games, no movies, no pez dispenser collections. Even BYU sports was out. When a student asked about my hobbies, I responded simply, “none.” Fortunately, I enjoy my family, my work, and my Church service because they still account for virtually all of my waking hours. More recently, however, as my children have gotten older, I…

Are you embarrassed?

Many of you have heard about the latest sex scandal associated with BYU’s football program. For those who haven’t, four members of the football team are being investigated in connection with the following events: The 17 year old told detectives she met the men at the mall on Sunday August 8th, and willingly went to their off campus apartment. Inside she claims she was accepted their offer to drink vodka, a pornographic DVD was playing on a TV, and that she later passed out and awoke to find herself undressed. She says she was raped by three or four men over a period of 20 to 30 minutes. If the story is true, I feel very sad for the young woman. Unfortunately, many such events go unreported and unpunished because of ambiguities of proof and ambivalence about blame. And, of course, even those cases that are reported do not attract the same amount of media attention as this case, though…

Careers for Bloggers

I’m struck by the similarities in careers of so many bloggernackers (and probably bloggers in general). In fact, outside of four major groups, it’s fairly hard to think of others. The major categories are: The lawyers: Myself, Nate, Adam, Greg, Matt(?), Steve Evans, Aaron Brown, Dave Underhill, etc. The professors or students: Russell, Jim, Gordon, Adam when this blog started, Logan, Bob(?), Ben Huff, Ben Spackman, Melissa Proctor, Taylor Petrey, etc. The stay at home mothers: Kristine, Julie The techies: Clark Goble, Grasshopper, Eric Stone, Kim Siever That seems to largely cover it. Where are the doctors? The accountants? The bankers? The architects? They don’t seem to write Mormon blogs (or perhaps I just haven’t noticed them). A rare exception to the trend is our current guest blogger Jeff Lindsay. There have been a few other exceptions, such as frequent commenter Gary Cooper.

How the Other Half Lives

The only place online (besides T & S, of course) where I hang out is a message board for homeschoolers. The place is fascinating to me because it overcomes one of the biggest (in my opinion) disadvantages of Internet life: people with widely varying viewpoints are talking to each other over there. We all school the same way, but in addition to your evangelical Christians, we have every other flavor of Christians, non-religious types, Jews, Muslims, pagans, etc.

“Our Mothers (and Grandmothers) Knew It”: The Testimony of Talitha Cumi Garlick

A controversial event in Church history occurred when Brigham Young and Sidney Rigdon both presented their arguments to the Church regarding who should lead after the death of Joseph Smith. Many members of the Church have heard that when Brigham Young rose to speak, he seemed to sound like and even look like Joseph Smith, indicating to many witnesses that the mantle of the Prophet had fallen on Brother Brigham. I had long wondered if this story was simply wishful thinking. But when I later found the brief autobiography of my ancestor, Talitha Cumi Garlick (after two marriages, it was Talitha Cumi Garlick Avery Cheney – I’m from the Cheney line) and read her testimony of that event, the story became more credible, closer to home.

That Darn Political Neutrality Statement: Now What Am I Supposed to Do?

Last Sunday morning, I was just starting to feel comfortable with the presidential election, having carefully completed my “lesser of two evils” analysis to make my decision about which of the two leading Skull and Bones members I wanted for President. And then during sacrament meeting, the bishop got up and read the Church’s political neutrality statement. It said something about not endorsing any party or candidate – sure, I was OK with that – and THEN came the catch: it said we were under a “special obligation” to seek out and uphold “leaders who will act with integrity and are ‘wise,’ ‘good,’ and ‘honest.’” NOOOOO! How can they call that “political neutrality”? And where on earth am I going to find politicians who meet such standards?? I’m back to drawing board, folks. Is there a check box on the ballot for “none of the above”? Or is there some third party candidate that the Church has endorsed — uh,…

Advice from Church Leaders

Don over at Nine Moons tackles the question of how we should treat “advice” from a church leader (Bishop, Stake President). In Don’s case, the advice was to get out of the movie business. Don asks: My question is: Is “advice” in an interview like this “counsel” that should be taken and obeyed? Or is it just an opinion that should be taken like anyone else’s opinion? That’s a tough question. It’s easy to say that we should take advice to read our scriptures, write in our journal, and do our home teaching. But I’m less certain of the proper course if your Bishop says, “I know you want to go to law school, Kaimi, but I think you need to go be a bus driver instead.”

Betting with Blaise

Clark mentioned Pascal’s wager in a comment, and that reminded me of a thought I’ve had for some time: Pascal’s wager seems like a bad deal for Mormons. In case anyone is unfamiliar with Pascal’s wager, the basic idea is that God can either exist or not. If he does exist, then believers go to heaven. If he doesn’t, then it really doesn’t matter whether one believes. The smart money says to believe in God and take the x% chance of infinite happiness. How does this apply to Mormonism? Well, we have the added wrinkle of some pretty good second-best destinations. Thus, if one’s options are to either be a believing Mormon or a believing Catholic, and the two possibilities are that either Mormonism or Catholicism is true, the resulting chart of possibilities would look like this: —- Mormonism Correct Catholicism Correct Believing Mormon Celestial Kingdom Hell Believing Catholic Terrestrial Kingdom Heaven

Religious Implications of the Placebo Effect

Abstract: Physicians frequently consider the placebo effect in evaluating the efficacy of medical treatments on the human body. It may also be wise to consider the placebo effect and its organizational and psychological analog, the Hawthorne effect, in religious treatments of humans. In suggesting that the placebo effect be considered as a factor in treatments such as LDS Priesthood blessings or declarations of forgiveness or salvation in a variety of faiths, the divine power behind such treatments is not necessarily challenged. The placebo effect, in religious terms, is not a sign of weakness in the patient or a tool for trickery by the therapist, but may be a real expression of the importance of our mental state: when we feel loved and cared for, we are strengthened. There may be a relationship between the placebo effect and both faith and charity that may be helpful to explore and understand. Analysis of changes in performance of a group of people must…

The Lord’s Baseball Team

I’ve always thought that one of the more fun and personal conference talks in recent years is Elder Wirthlin’s story about playing football against Whizzer White. Inspired by that story (and by the misery that acompanies focusing on baseball reality at present, given the current status of my Diamondbacks), I pondered this question: If the Lord fielded a baseball all-star team, composed of past and present great church leaders, who might be on it? (We’ll focus this on church leaders, so real athletes like Dale Murphy and Todd Heap are off the list). Here are some thoughts: First base: Mormon. We read about him, “And notwithstanding I being young, was large in stature.” Maybe I’m projecting too much into this, but Mormon strikes me as Mark McGwire without the andro questions, or possibly a Rafeal Palmeiro type. I can see him averaging 50 home runs and batting around .280, with 120 to 140 RBI, and he’s undoubtedly tough. Yeah, definitely…

Scouting v. Personal Progress

My son — with significant prodding from his mother — has been an inspired Boy Scout, and he just completed his Eagle Project. Actually, this is not unusual in our neck of the woods, as almost all of the young men in our ward attain the rank of Eagle. Having missed the scouting experience myself, I have been amazed at how much he has learned through the scouting program. Indeed, I was so impressed with the program that I recently offered my 16-year-old daughter a deal: fulfill all of the requirements for Eagle Scout (slightly amended to meet her interests — i.e., no camping), and receive a scholarship for college.

And yet another new bloggernacker

New additions to the bloggernacle continue to proliferate. I imagine at some point we’ll have to find some new taskmasters and start forcing new bloggernackers to make bricks without straw. But for the moment, we’re happy to welcome them to the bloggernacle. On that note: Rusty Clifton, over at his new blog, Nine Moons, has written several quality posts of late. He has an interesting discussion of symbolism in Mormon art. He also wonders if God has a sense of humor. Rusty’s blog looks like a great addition to the bloggernacle!

Three Against Hitler: Questions for Our Day

When does one stand up against a tyrannical government, when speaking out may cost you your life? What role should organized religion play when a once-free country becomes subject to tyrants who do not hesitate to crush all opposition? How should the Church at least at a local level deal with tyrannical governments: get along and survive, confront and perish, or some other path? These are issues implicitly raised in the fascinating book, Three Against Hitler by Rudi Wobbe and Jerry Borrowman (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2002). This well-written account gives Ruddi Wobbe’s experience as a young Mormon teenager in Nazi Germany who had the courage to speak out against the Hitler regime.

Fellowship of the (Blog) Ring

I just noticed that a “BYU blogs” blog ring has been established by Nate Cardon. It’s currently a rather small blog ring, with three member blogs, but likely to grow (it’s only a few days old) and it sounds like a potentially interesting development in the bloggernacle.

Face Cards

Over on the unwritten rules thread, rabble-rousing Randy made a short comment about face cards: A couple of years back, a couple of kids brought some face cards to youth conference. (The audacity!) One of the stake youth leaders objected and asked a member of the stake presidency to confiscate them. This counselor in the stake presidency (a convert to the church not familiar with the so-called evil of face cards) consulted his GHI and quickly determined that there was nothing addressing the issue. He then told the youth leader that he had no intention of taking away the cards in the absence of some directive in the handbook. I must admit lack of knowledge in this area. I’ve heard from numerous church members that face cards are banned, or are evil. Randy’s comment seems to indicate that there is no official policy. What is the rule (if any) on cards? (No, not just suicidal kings). And does anyone have…

Politics Redux

Davis Bell has posted a political breakdown of frequent bloggernackers. (Along with a few remarks about how T & S used to gross him out, but we’ll let those pass). Davis’s assessment is in, and it may (or may not) surprise anyone: I’m a liberal; Matt is a conservative; Nate is a cipher. The list includes quite a few well-known bloggernackers. Check out Davis’s list and (of course) register a complaint (with him, not me!) if you were left off or mischaracterized (he promises, err, prompt responses). A useful comparison tool may be found in this old T & S post, where many people posted their scores from a political quiz.

Q: When is a policy not a policy?

A: When noone knows about it? A couple of Sundays ago, in the hall during Sunday School time, I was talking about vasectomies with a woman in my ward. (What?! What do *you* talk about in the hall during Sunday School?) She was telling me quite matter-of-factly how glad she was that her husband had been willing to have one when they were sure their last child had arrived. This woman is fairly conservative, and I’m sure she would never knowingly do something contrary to Church policy. In any case, she would not discuss it openly if she had. She just had NO IDEA that the Handbook of Instructions “strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control.” Moreover, unless she or her husband had been prompted to consult with the bishop about the surgery, there’s no way they *could* have known about the policy. So I’m wondering what the usefulness of such policies is. It’s true, of…

Movies About the Afterlife

There have been some particularly heavy discussions here lately, so I thought I’d offer up something ultralight. Now I like books as much as the next person, but I’m not one of you bring-a-book-on-a-date-so-I-have-something-to-read-while-she’s-powdering-her-nose guys. I will, however, admit to viewing some 37 movies in the last six months (according to my Netflix records). Anyway, I was ruminating this morning about the best movies about the afterlife.

Temptation

In the thread on suicide below, several comments have raised this idea from 1 Cor. 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” What does this mean? When BRM states, “Persons subject to great stresses may lose control of themselves and become mentally clouded to the point that they are no longer accountable for their acts,” isn’t that an example of being tempted beyond one’s ability? Is Paul’s statement just “rah! rah!” talk?

Remembering the Lord’s Love for the Suicidal

Yesterday’s post on suicide by Gordon Smith stirs several memories of experiences I have had with friends and ward members who struggled with suicidal tendencies. I appreciate the quote he provided from Bruce R. McConkie about the Lord’s mercy for those struggling with suicidal tendencies. I have seen a variety of small and sometimes very large miracles in the Lord’s dealings with those who have suffered greatly and are considering suicide.

Link to a Sunstone Report

Over in a galaxy far, far away, rumor has it that a strange woman* has posted a brief report of her activities at the Sunstone symposium, along with sundry thoughts about Sunday School and correlation. Just in case anyone was wondering. *Not necessarily in the scriptural sense, but more in the sense of (to use her own term) “exceedingly weird.”

The Oddity of Comfort

Comfort is a concept that holds pride of place in the gospel. We learn that an important part of our baptismal covenants is the promise to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” Elsewhere, we learn that one of the reasons for Christ’s suffering and atonement was so that he could “know how to succor his people.” This leads to the question: Why is comfort important?

We’re Number One!

. . . but don’t throw a party to celebrate, please. CNN reports that on the newly-released annual list of top “party school” colleges in the nation (compiled by the college-ranking company Princeton Review): “Brigham Young University kept its title as top ‘stone-cold sober’ school.” And BYU students don’t do the funky chicken, either. Or get tattoos. Such are the sacrifices required to be number one.

Welcome to Guest Blogger Jeff Lindsay

Our new guest blogger is probably a familiar name to people who hang around the bloggernacle. Jeff Lindsay, based out of Wisconsin, operates the LDS apologetics blog Mormanity. He also maintains a web site on LDS topics, including a Book of Mormon Evidences page and LDS FAQ. There is additional biographical information at Jeff’s website. Jeff’s discussions and comments are always interesting. We’re looking forward to reading his posts here.

Suicide

Not long ago, I sat in an emergency room with a friend who had been musing about suicide. My experiences with such matters are limited, but I wasn’t taking any chances. This man had lost his job and was being evicted from his apartment. He was at risk of losing custody of his children to his former wife. And he has a history of depression and bi-polar disorder. He claimed not to be suicidal, but I was worried for him.

12 Answers! for Ken Jennings, part two

Here’s the second half of our 12 Questions with Ken Jennings. (Click here for part one.) We thank Ken for participating in our 12 Questions feature, especially for his smart (but delicate) responses to the obnoxious, smart-aleck questions that seem to come with the territory. .