I am currently suffering from extreme sleep deprivation, which puts me in a caustic and curmudgeonly mood. This means, of course, that I shouldn’t blog. I am likely to say mean and indefensible things, like what follows.
Adam has raised an interesting point about preparation for prayer, which reminded me of a question I’ve wondered about for a while: why do we bless our food?
In the long tradition of Mormon women trying to ease discomfort of all kinds with food, I thought I’d try to distract us from contentious topics with casserole talk. My children have recently discovered Jello. This is a development I have worked hard to avoid for 7 years, and I am chagrined. Naturally they love it–after all, what’s not to like about a tasty combination of sugar, animal hooves, petroleum byproducts, and scary chemical dyes? But my resistance to this peculiarly Mormon food has been a point of honor for me for a long time, and I’m having a small identity crisis.
Confession time. I am a lawyer. It is now official. Last week the Board of Bar Examiners sent me my certificate stating that I am duly liscensed and qualified to practice as an attorney and counselor at law before the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Yesterday, I recieved in the mail an offer from the D.C. office of an international law firm, which I will probably accept. What this means is that I am on the threshold of the land of the Yuppies.
About fifteen years ago, Harold Bloom — a freakishly brilliant and productive literary critic at Yale — turned his attention to American religion and fell in love with Joseph Smith. Among other things, Bloom identified Joseph’s “religious genius” with what he called the basic insight of Jewish history: truely successful new religions transform themselves into a new people. In essence, he argued that one of the things that sets Mormonism off from other “American” religions (or as Bloom would say, manifestations of “The American Religion”) is that Mormons, unlike say Southern Baptists, became a people. There is a sense in which we are as much nation and ethic group as church. So, I am curious about the nature of Mormon nationalism.
We’ve never been on the receiving end of the Relief Society’s meal brigade until now. (We recently came home with the new baby.) It’s certainly been a great help; we’re really grateful for peoples’ efforts on our behalf, but it also means some adjustments (mental and logistical) on our part. The funny thing is, in NYC, we hardly ever cooked, ate home-cooked food, or even ate at home before. Because of work, etc., we usually went out to eat, or else we ordered in. Interestingly, the RS here has adapted accordingly; sometimes, someone’ll call us from their office to let us know to expect Thai food. A couple of times, the elaborate meals that arrive have far exceeded the expectations and habits of people accustomed to grazing or grabbing a slice of pizza on the way home. And in the mean time, our doormen keep wondering how such a feeding network is even possible in the city. How does this…
A recent story suggests that Israel’s Kibbutzim — a widespread form of communal settlement — may be moving towards a more capitalist model. (Link via David Bernstein). As Mormons, this is an interesting development. Scholars have pointed out that there are some similarities between Israeli communal groups and early LDS consecration. The decline of the kibbutz may be similar to the decline of consecration. Of course, members who want to live more of the law of consecration today may still decide that they want to do less kibitzing and more kibbutzing.
Kristine raised the issue of whether and how “critical belief,” in other words belief that is both believing and independently thoughtful about various issues in the Church, is possible. (I hope she’ll agree that I’ve more or less captured her question.) For me that raises another (broader?) question: what bounds do my relations with others put on my behaviors, including criticism? Since I doubt that the connection between the two is obvious to anyone but me, let me explain:
So my wife took my daughters to Enrichment Night tonight, and I was trying to remember why. Is it the Relief Society’s birthday? Some sort of mother-daughter bonding event? Or perhaps the women of the Church have finally had enough and they are simply taking over. Then I had a bright idea: check the ward’s website! Sure enough, it lists Enrichment Night for tonight. When I click for more details, I am prompted to give a username and password, which I navigate successfully. My reward: Wednesday, 17 March 2004 Enrichment Night 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM Hmm. That was almost pretty cool.
Jedd asked whether some of our blogging couldn’t focus on more day-to-day challenges. I’m sympathetic to his request. It made me think of my own experience, a time when I could have used advice.
Over the course of the past four months, several people on this blog have mentioned that they appreciate the opportunity provided by T&S to discuss the Gospel in depth. Does this strike anyone else as odd?
I just returned from a conference in Oregon, and found an email from a T&S regular, who related a story about her husband using one of our discussions to teach a Seminary class. I have done the same thing (several times), and I was wondering whether anyone else has had a similar experience. Do you ever use the insights gained here in teaching?
Driving my daughter to Seminary and then to high school this morning, I learned an amazing amount about the social structure of Middleton High School. According to my daughter, the most despised group is the “Populars.” This is ironic because, as you may know if you have teenagers, the Populars aren’t … they just act like they are. The “Semi-Populars” (at this point, I am already beginning to think that she is making this up as we go) are really the most popular. These are kids who don’t act popular, but are really decent people, usually with a good sense of humor. The Freaks are fun. Well, at least those who are into drama and art. Some people are freaky in a creepy sort of way, and they are definitely not fun. The Druggies come in at least two varieties: Mild and Hard Core. The former are just dumb, but the latter might be dangerous. The Jocks are what they…
Apropos of our recent political discussions, the Church released a statement today proclaiming neutrality on a Utah immigration bill and saying “The Church repeats its oft-stated caution to members that they should never infer that the church endorses their personal political positions.”
As regulars here know, I teach early morning Seminary. I love the students in the class, which includes my 15-year-old daughter. My Seminary teaching style is relaxed. Today, for example, we covered the first couple of chapters in Job, intermittantly reading and talking. (“Could Satan really talk to God like that?” “Was Job a real person?”) Tangents — mostly generated by the random firing of dendrites inside the brains of the most outspoken young men — are a regular feature of the class. We laugh a lot. Once or twice a week, we eat breakfast. We learn something new on most days. And occasionally, we have a genuine spiritual experience.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season for many Christians. At Christmastime, there was some conversation about the virtues of non-Mormon worship, including the observance of the Christian calendar.
Jesus loved teaching with metaphors from the mundane. You remember the stories in Matthew: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed….like unto leaven….like unto treasure hid in a field. He holds up a comparison and invites his listeners (sometimes with His help) to extract meaning and insight. Imagine my surprise in a recent epiphany that the kingdom of heaven in my day is also like unto a Starbucks!
As a kid growing up on the Wasatch Front, I figured that the Second Coming was just around the corner. I remember being Primary age and thinking that I would not have to worry about post-mission plans — the world would be over by then anyway.
When you hear it over the pulpit, it makes you cringe. You know that it isn’t true, but you also know that this will not be the last time you hear it. Somehow, these stories, sayings, or beliefs have infiltrated the Church consciousness (my theory is that many of them are borrowed from “mainstream Christianity”), and we have the most difficult time getting rid of them. Here is my favorite: “As Jesus said, ‘I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.’” Aarrgh! Here at Times & Seasons, we want to provide a non-violent means of relieving yourself of your frustration. Share your favorite canard. If you don’t have a canard, exactly, perhaps you have a favorite trite story or poem (“Footsteps in the Sand” anyone?). Or the musical number from hell. (No, not that. I’m talking about the song that you just cannot abide.) Share away. We’re here for you.
As someone not that far removed from a “redneck” heritage, I think that Gordon has hit on something very important: often our discussions of R-rated movies and such is, for both sides, really a discussion of class. One side sees itself as sophisticated and informed. The other side sees itself as obedient and faithful. The first sides accuses the second of being anti-intellectual. The second side accuses the first of being proud and unwilling to take counsel.
Russell mentioned that he is “a doubting, debating, Socratic philosopher.” I’m at least sympathetic. Neither of us would be doing what we do?teaching philosophy of some kind?were that not true. I’m happy to say that the longer I live, the less often I have difficult religious doubts, the more I feel that my intellectual life and my religious life are of a piece. But that has not always been true.
Perhaps it is just me but it seems that there is a certain greying that has been happening in the “establishment” voices of the unestablished sector of the Mormon intellectual economy.
Tonight the Church Education System sponsored a satellite broadcast from Temple Square, featuring Elder Boyd K. Packer. As an early morning seminary teacher, I was invited to attend. Elder Packer and Elder Eyring, who introduced him, both made comments to the following effect (paraphrasing): “the world has never been more wicked, and it will not get any better.” I have no reason to dispute this, but why are General Authorities (and, by way of imitation, members) so fond of saying such things?
It suddenly occured to me last night that our group’s marital homogeneity is rather striking. Consider: We have eight bloggers; we live in different locations; we come from different professions; we have different political beliefs; we find a lot to differ on. We are all married and all have children. (See documentation for Nate, Russell, Kaimi, Adam, Jim,Gordon; Matt’s status is documented on a family webpage that I’ve seen, but don’t know if he wants linked on the public site; I don’t believe Greg has any online documentation, but I can attest to his marital-parental status, having been in his ward for years).
I have frequently heard people make the claim that there are no Mormon monks. This may be true, but as I was reading a book on medieval legal history this weekend, I was struck by the fact that Mormon monasticism is quite common.
Yesterday, my bishop announced that our excellent Primary chorister was being released from that calling so that she could serve as the Ward Communications Specialist. Her new job is to provide content for the ward website. After putting the kibosh on local websites a few years ago, the Church has recently begun to encourage their use. What I found most interesting about my bishop’s remarks was the marketing motivation for this move: in a ward that is leanly staffed, we are putting one of our most competent members in charge of the website because we want to attract move-ins.
And Also by Works I’m impressed by how much energy goes into this site. All this erudition. All this argument. All this heat and light, even as the entries trail away into some “sub-thread.” I keep waiting for one of these discussions to cohere, for the statements to galvanize the group to action. It’s a matter of style, I guess. I like projects. What shall we do about this? is my basic question.
We meet in a city structure six stories high which has been home to eight units, manageable when we had two chapels. When a temple using all of the fifth and sixth floors and parts of the first and second floors began to take shape in the building, chaos ensued. The three single wards met together (stake conf. every Sunday) and a family ward, a Spanish branch, and a deaf unit began to meet together, every space used at all hours. A new and different church with many things going on that never used to. For me, the transformation is that my jobs are now off the books.
On Saturday I went to an LDS stake leadership meeting via satellite. I soon realized that I wasn’t too interested in the two major messages, the importance of trying to preserve the family and the subordination of all Church auxiliaries to the priesthood. I’ve heard those a few times. I remain unconvinced that Jehovah and Joseph Smith were advocating marriage and the family as we know them, and being an old auxiliary leader, I know that it is unwise to expect much help from the priesthood.
We had some wonderful discussion about Zion in the lengthy comments on Material Prosperity, and I would like to revisit the topic here. My visit to India will end this week, and I have been confronted again and again with thoughts about helping the poor. Today, we visited a government heritage park; as we walked along a path, we came upon a family — two parents and a small child — sitting atop a pile of used bricks. Our guide explained that they were employed by the park to turn the bricks into dust for use in the restoration materials. They lived on site. The mother was using a small hammer, like we would use to hang a picture in our living room. The sight of mother and child moved many of us nearly to tears.