Tag: Church Living

In the Cultural Hall

The danger in telling people you write a little bit is that they then assume you can. Last week a friend from my ward called and asked me to write the libretto for a musical show she has been called to coordinate for the stake; a few of the creative decisions had already been made, she told me, but she needed me to write lyrics and a narrative frame for the story. The show is meant to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of our stake, headquartered at the Butler Hill meetinghouse; the stake presidency had designated a “Sound of Music” theme, and the show had been titled, naturally, “Butler Hill Is Alive with the Sound of Music.”

Called to Criticism

A couple of weeks ago, the mail man braught me my long awaited copy of the first volume of B.H. Roberts’s Seventies’ Course in Theology. As you can imagine, it has been a heady time around the Oman household. In reading it, I came across what I am sure would be Aaron Brown’s dream calling:


We often speak of being worthy. We pray that we may be worthy. We urge each other to be worthy. Sometimes we recognize that we are not worthy. But what do we mean by “worthy”?

Sinning Alone

At a recent conference, I was klatsching with law professors, mostly from my school, when a young law professor in the group related how she was being pursued by another conference attendee. “I always attract married men,” she lamented. “Of course, they all say that they have a bad marriage, but this one is Mormon!”

Primitive Church

The missionaries found me when I was 17. That was back in 1964 in Antwerp, Belgium. I read Joseph Smith’s history and Moroni’s promise. I knew it was true. Immediately, fully. The Gospel unfolded like the rising sun.

Teen Apathy

Now that I no longer teach Seminary, one of my biggest challenges is getting my daughter to Seminary on time. She has a driver’s license and would be happy to go on her own, but we can’t spare the car. So I am up at 5:30 (or so) every morning, just like last year. This morning she was stressed because we were running a little late. Not late for class, mind you, but late for her. She likes to arrive a early to write messages (jokes) on the Seminary chalkboard. These jokes often become a topic of conversation with the other youth when they arrive, and I appreciated having them when I was teaching last year. Her teacher this year also has nice things to say about them, but now I am getting off track. As we drove to the chapel, where the Seminary class is held, I was marveling at my daughter’s concern over the time. How did I…

From Mormon to LDS in international perspective

I first had the title “We love the Mormonettes!”, but that would have covered only a tiny piece of my long text. But if you want to get to the Mormonettes, read on! Are you Mormon or LDS? In Utah, but also elsewhere in the U.S., the shift towards the use of LDS is inescapable. Language use has its own laws, stronger than official guidelines. Indeed, those guidelines are clear, as stated in the Church Style Guide for the Media, directly related to a statement from the First Presidency: “Please avoid the use of “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church” or “the Church of the Latter-day Saints.” … When referring to Church members, the term “Latter-day Saints” is preferred, though “Mormons” is acceptable. “Mormon” is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon, Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Mormon Trail, or when used as an adjective in such expressions as “Mormon pioneers.” The term “Mormonism” is acceptable in describing the…

International Church issues

Thank you, I feel honored to be a guest here! As a “foreigner”, I have been asked to add a Mormon international perspective. That means… non-American. Strange already that in our World Church the perspective continues to be U.S.-centered, with the rest of the world sensed as a large peripheral circle, referred to as the International Church. Of course, there is no American Church nor any (inter)nationally identified Church. There only is the Church of Jesus Christ. But we need to be realistic. Let’s turn the perspective around for starters. How do members abroad look at Utah?


One of my more prized possessions is a small chunk of limestone. It is about 8 inches long, roughly the size of two fists. Its value lies in the fact that is is a piece of one of the shattered sunstones of the original Nauvoo temple.

Prayer Rolls

Did you know that you can add a name to the Salt Lake Temple prayer roll by calling an 800 number? Our priesthood instructor mentioned this today, and it started me thinking again about the nature of prayer. And I admit, I am stumped by the prayer roll.

(When) are bloggers permitted to criticize church leaders?

This topic has come up in recent posts around the bloggernacle. For example, Rusty at Nine Moons discusses an instance where a bishop committed all of the men in the ward to “1) To never watch an R-rated movie ever again. Also, to never watch a PG-13 rated movie without his wife’s permission. 2) To use the internet (at home presumably) only with his wife’s permission (by assigning a password on the computer that only the wife knows).” The comments to Rusty’s post include a number of attacks on him for posting criticism of the Bishop. (e.g., “did you pray [before posting this critique] . . . I can say with absolute certainty that you could not have“). Meanwhile, Steve at BCC wonders whether he is allowed to criticize conference talks for style. (The BCC commenters, perhaps inured to Steve’s views, haven’t yet asked him if he prayed before posting them, but I suppose it’s just a matter of time).…

Sister Manners

Someone needs to write an etiquette book for members of the Church. I’m not up to writing it, but I’m willing to make some of the first contributions.

What is a KGB Sympathizer to Say?

Several years ago I found myself at a restuarant in Berkeley, California with some of my elders. They were bright, friendly, and very kind to me. I enjoyed the evening, and I am glad that I was invited. During the course of the conversation one of the interlocutors, a disillusioned returned-missionary from someplace in the former Soviet Union, began talking about the Church. She had decided that she wanted to write a story about a Russian convert to Mormonism. The convert would be a former KGB agent, who upon joining the Church would feel immediately at home in the culture of control, monitoring, and intimidation. Everyone at the table thought that this was a great joke, and I have to admit that it was a very clever way of making a point. I didn’t say anything. I smiled politely, ate my meal, and enjoyed the rest of the flow of the conversation.

Mormon Images: Office Decor and the Place of Mormonism in American History

A few weels ago I finished my stint at the public trough and left the service of the federal courts. I know work for the law firm of Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood in Washington, DC. The identity of the firm is significant only because this is the firm (and office) where Rex E. Lee practiced law for many years. There is actually a three-foot tall bronze statute of Lee outside the office’s moot court room (named in Lee’s honor). As you might expect, the firm’s DC office hosts a sizable continent of LDS attorneys and their office decor reflects the the trajectory of Mormonism within American society.

Too Serious About the Word of Wisdom?

When I was six years old, my best friend’s mother got out some ice cream for me. When I put a spoon in my mouth, I noticed a strange flavor. I looked at the box to see what the flavor was: COFFEE! Panicking, I put my hand over my mouth and immediately ran home to spit it out in a toilet. The poor woman called my mom to see what was wrong. I’m not sure what she said, but thinking about that experience reminds me of just how overboard good Latter-day Saints sometimes go when it comes to the recommendation-turned-commandment known as the Word of Wisdom. One of the few correct things that most people know about Mormons is that they generally don’t smoke, drink, etc. And that’s one of the few things that some of our members seem to really understand as well. The Word of Wisdom is an inspired and marvelous thing, certainly, but I worry about how…

Mental Health in the Church: Suggestions for Leaders

Before my time as guest blogger expires (thanks, Kaimi, for the opportunity!), there’s a serious issue that I’d like to raise, especially for you who are or who will be leaders in the Church. The issue is mental illness. Very few of us have had any training in recognizing and dealing with mental illness, but there is a great need. I would especially urge bishoprics, Relief Society presidents, and other leaders to learn about mental illness and look for its symptoms. Stake leaders, it may be helpful to provide more training abvout mental from competent sources for your leaders so they can better deal with the many forms of mental illness that afflict some of our members. I think my biggest surprises when I was a bishop came from experiences with those who suffered from various forms of mental illness. Some had kept their suffering hidden for years without ever getting help, but how much help was needed all that…


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…

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.

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.”

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…

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.

Will the Real Mormonism Please Step Forward

Mormons are efficient. We are a large, hierarchical faith that runs like a corporation. The Brethren are powerful leaders with the ability to dictate the minutiae of members lives and call forth vast resources at the drop of a hat. Mormon congregations are well oiled machines. They even have so-called “home teachers” that visit members each month just to check up on them and insure that they are serving their proper roles in the Mormon juggernaut. Something like this image frequently appears in media accounts about the Church, and we as often as not like to repeat some version of it to ourselves. How many times have you gleefully heard members discuss the swift efficiency with which Mormons have sped relief supplies to disaster ridden areas. I have to confess, however, that I don’t really buy this image. The reason is that I actually go to church every week.

The Mormon Mafia

I don’t know how it works in other cities, but Washington, DC is definitely a town with a well established Mormon Mafia. What this refers to is a network of Mormon professionals — lawyers, lobbyists, Hill staffers, and the like — who are acquainted with one another and tend to help out with professional advancement. I have to admit that I am a beneficiary of this “system.” I have now secured two jobs at least in part because of networks Mormons. I am of two minds about this phenomena.

Best Colleges for Young Single Mormons

All of our permanent bloggers are married, so we do not talk much about the life of single members, except by way of remembrance. This morning, however, I had one of those milestone events that marks the aging of a father as I spoke with my daughter about her college plans. We had explored this topic before, but only in fairly general terms, and over the past six months she has been receiving college brochures at a pace that would rival a top high school quarterback. Today she listed some of the colleges she was considering, and I was surprised by some of her choices, mainly because they are in locations that do not seem to hold much promise for finding LDS peers. (Given that she has spent most of her life in such locations, I suspect that this factor did not even enter her calculation.) That started me thinking: what are the best undergraduate colleges in the US for…

Elder Holland v. Professor Ackerman

Last week I got to do the “Teachings of Our Times” lesson in Elders’ Quorum. These are the lessons that take a recent set of conference talks as the text. This months lesson included Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s recent sermon “A Prayer for the Children.” We used the talk and the lesson as a springboard for a good discussion on the Gospel and theories of education.

Who is the Church Exactly?

So Mormons have a lay ministry. Hence, there is a real sense in which we are “the Church.” This raises some interesting questions about what counts as official Church action and what doesn’t. Consider the case of Martin v. Johnson, 151 Cal. Rep. 816 (Cal.App. 1979).

Chess, Shar’ia & Church Callings

According to legend, the game of chess arose out of a family squabble. Two brothers were warring for the throne of an Indian kingdom. After one brother killed the other in battle, he invented chess to show his mother how he had brought about his sibling’s demise. Another story has an Indian philosopher inventing the game as a way of instructing young princes in the art of war. Regardless, authorities agree that chess was first played in India in the fifth century A.D. From there it migrated to Persia, where it was eventually picked up by the Arabs. The game emerged as an issue in medieval Islamic jurisprudence, which leads naturally to the discussion of church callings.

Name Calling

I am a pretty informal guy. With few exceptions, I address everyone I know by first name. Two of the exceptions are in the Church: “Bishop” for the bishop, and “President” for the stake president … unless I know them really well, in which case I tend to use their titles only at Church functions.