Year: 2009

When spam gets weird

Blog spam is depressingly common (though our filter is top notch); one common spam tactic is a comment which says “hi” or “great post” but then links to some sketchy porn site or gambling or the like. We just got a series of comments which were a variant of those, from some spammer in Italy. I’m not sure if it’s a language issue, if they’re trying to evade filters, or both, but the language was decidedly quirky, enough that it caught my eye. For instance: What’s up everybody under the sun, I’m chic to the forum and justified wanted to roughly hey. hi leaning touch to comprehend unexplored pepole and slice tackle with them contain a happy year I couldn’t have said it any better myself. What’s up everybody under the sun. Contain a happy year!

A Mormon Image: Life, Mundane and Sacred

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This image shows my great-grandmother Sarah Day Hall standing at her front gate in Manti, Utah, in the 1930s. In her workaday clothes, behind her sagging fence, the life of this Mormon matriarch would seem not to have changed much from her earlier sharecropper’s life in Alabama. The second image, though taken in her inelegant back pasture, shows how far she has really come from those earlier times: She can wear her best dress on Sundays to meet with the Saints, in the shadow of the House of the Lord.

Whatever happened to Jesus?

Are we as church members downplaying Jesus? I don’t mean this in a theological sense; rather, it seems to me that church members (and leaders) tend to de-emphasize the use of the single-name description Jesus. We regularly use the name Jesus when it is associated with the title Christ. However, when we use a single-word name, LDS speakers — unlike speakers I’ve heard from other denominations — tend to use the name Christ, not Jesus.

Bizarro World Meets Utah County

Reed E. Vetterli

A Utah County today’s residents would hardly recognize: A onetime famed FBIman, Reed Ernest Vetterli, whose career could yield a dozen detective yarns, is in the middle of his hardest case: trying to get elected to Congress as a Republican in Utah’s heavily New Deal Second District. His platform: support the President in the war; get new blood into Congress…. Republican Vetterli, with State G.O.P. backing, practically has the nomination in his pocket; so has the Democratic incumbent, stocky, stodgy J. Will Robinson of Provo. But G.O.P. chances in the election are—according to the recent past—slim: many a former WPA worker has moved to the Second District for war work to strengthen the strong Democratic forces. “Utah’s Vetterli,” Time Magazine, August 10, 1942 Vetterli later ran for Governor of Utah on the Republican ticket where Utah County again proved problematic. “In Utah County we are much concerned about the nominee for Governor.” (Deseret News, June 21, 1944). (Hat Tip: Sheldon)

December: Preparing for the Annual Sunday School Curriculum Reboot

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In the Church, December means different things to different people. If you’re three, you will soon be exiled from that zone of energetic irreverence known as Nursery to your first real class, Sunbeams. If you’re a bishop, holiday cheer is tempered by the month-long grind of tithing settlement. But one change we all look forward to every year is the annual Sunday School curriculum reboot. The anticipation is palpable. Yes, even this year, with the Old Testament waiting in the wings. Any course of study gets old after twelve months. Universities run on quick 10-week quarters or endless 16-week semesters. Gospel Doctrine is like a 52-week BYU religion class. We’re ready for a change. December is your month to prepare. And prepare you must. The LDS Bible offers an archaic English translation based on scholarship and original manuscripts five centuries behind the times. Moreover, the narrative is cut up into little snippets (enumerated verses), poetry and prose are made indistinguishable, and chapter headings and footnotes often do their best to Mormonize the text rather than bring the reader into the world of the Old Testament. To get what you deserve from your personal study and Sunday School attendance, you need…

I’m Sick and Tired of December

I’m not Scrooge and I’m not the Grinch, either—but December is enough to make me feel like one of those guys. It’s only December 6, and I’m feeling sick and tired of this month. Could we schedule anything else? Seriously. I cut back on parties and try to simplify, just like nice mommy articles suggest. I do. I make or buy four carefully chosen presents per child in pre-set categories, so I don’t overspend. I refuse every invitation I can. But what else are we going to cut? The first grade Gingerbread Man play, the Christmas piano recital, or the December Dance Showcase? The Christmas Cruise or the Living Nativity? The ward Christmas party that we’re helping with or the employees’ Christmas party (not that—I got to meet Ben Huff’s parents!)? I admit that I set myself up for failure years ago by starting traditions like decorating the Monday after Thanksgiving without fail and cooking a specific Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas day morning breakfast, and Christmas day luncheon. What am I going to do—disappoint everyone by serving cold cereal and leftovers? Refusing to put up decorations this year like I threatened to do? Every year my dreams of sitting cozily…

Confessions of a Shopping Mall Santa

Illustration: Jeanette Atwood

Christmas Season, 1989. I was a freshman at the University of Utah, my first year away from home. As a poor student I was looking for extra holiday cash, and the Help Wanted ad for a shopping mall Santa seemed like just the thing. Despite my 18-year-oldness, the manager was desperate to fill the big chair, so I walked out of my short interview with a prosthetic belly, a red suit, a wig, and some bells. [quote] Christmas had lost its luster a decade before, the day I had gone searching for my swimming mask and snorkel in our travel trailer. It turned out that my parents had thought the travel trailer an ideal hiding place for Santa’s loot. It had been, actually, until their young son decided that he needed a mask and snorkel in the dead of winter. I spent several years playing along, afraid to reveal that I knew the big secret, afraid that the loot would vanish. Life as an 18-year-old Santa wasn’t very glamorous. I would lug a large suitcase to the mall and make my way upstairs, beyond the food court, into an access hallway, and finally to my “dressing room.” A janitor’s closet.…

A weak defense of the consumer’s Christmas

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My co-blogger Sharon put up a most enjoyable post a few weeks ago. I liked it so much that I’m going to pay it the compliment of differing with one or two of its points. (In blog etiquette, after all, quibbling is the highest form of flattery.) Sharon points us toward a Christian anti-consumerist movement called Advent Conspiracy, which takes as is raison d’etre an apparent cultural contradiction. “What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists,” the site’s copy reads. “What if Christmas became a world-changing event again? Welcome to Advent Conspiracy.”

Of QBs and Double Standards

“[University of Utah Quarterback Alex] Smith is a native of San Diego and knew little of the Utah-BYU rivalry. He knows now. “I’m much more into it this year,” Smith says. “I really hate them. Playing in the game helped me understand. They are the most arrogant people. It’s the whole church and state thing. They’re the ‘good kids’. We’re the ‘bad kids.’ I didn’t feel it in my gut last year like I do now.” November 19, 2004, Smith pays the price for knowledge, ESPN.com Discuss.

Your View of Mormons in the Media

I recently had a short discussion with a journalism student about how Mormons and Mormonism get covered in the mainstream media and whether new online media, including blogs, do any better. I’ll summarize my responses below, but I invite readers to offer their own responses in the comments. 1. How do Mormons feel about increased coverage of Mormonism in the mainstream media that accompanied Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy? I don’t know any Mormon who resents the increased coverage or wishes the media would stop talking about Mormonism. Of course, it is nice when journalists who include references to Mormonism in their stories get the details right. I think the LDS Newsroom has had some success helping journalists get some of the details right, such as distinguishing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from other churches or splinter groups that still come under the larger umbrella of “Mormonism,” some of which continue to practice polygamy. 2. Do you feel there is any consistent bias against Mormonism in mainstream media coverage of Mormonism or the LDS Church? Not in the narrow sense of particular animus against Mormons or Mormonism. I think bias does play a role in media stories on…

First Presidency Christmas Devotional Ticket Giveaway

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In the spirit of the season, Times and Seasons is giving away three sets of tickets to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. The event is on Sunday, December 6th, at the Conference Center, and will feature the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square. These tickets are in high demand and only offered by the Church in a random distribution. Fortunately for our readers, scheduling conflicts prevent us from using these. We are offering them in a random drawing to be held on Monday, November 30th at 10:00 PM. To Enter Simply leave a comment on this post with a valid email address in the email field (you do not need to include the email in the comment itself). Be clever, be witty, or be brief, just enter! Typical contest rules apply: one entry per person contestant must enter by leaving a comment on this post with a valid email address in the email field. deadline for entry is 10:00 PM Mountain Time on Monday, November 30, 2009. drawing will be held on 11/30/09 after 10:00 PM Mountain time by generating three random numbers. odds of winning are based on the number of entrants. two tickets will be…

Thanksgiving Scriptures

That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you. -Alma 34:38

Writings in the Stone

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Some years ago I sat in a Gospel Doctrine class taught by a physician. I mention his profession because I think it matters, as he took the opportunity to deviate from the lesson and condemn in the strongest terms the theory of evolution. He labeled it a satanic concept, one that we must avoid, one that destroys faith. I took a deep breath and then spoke up. I pointed out the numerous statements and scriptures supporting learning from the best books, and pointed to Brigham Young’s statement that Mormonism embraces all truth. It wasn’t the most uplifting class. I might have handled it better. It created a tension between us that never really dissipated. And I made a mental note to seek medical care from someone that actually puts stock in the foundational theory of modern biology. (This wasn’t anything personal, it couldn’t have been. He is an OB/GYN, and I am decidedly male, so it really didn’t matter in this case.) I’ll state this bluntly: I believe that a rigid, literalistic stance is dangerous. It is dangerous to our children as it forces them to face a false dilemma. If we teach that a literal reading of scripture is…

MR: “Of Prophets and Jugglers”

A new issue of The Mormon Review is available, with Rosalynde Welch’s review of The Book of Dave by Will Self. The article is available at: Rosalynde Welch, “Of Prophets and Jugglers: Will Self’s The Book of Dave,” The Mormon Review, vol.1 no. 9 [HTML] [PDF] For more information about MR, please take a look at the prospectus by our editor-in-chief Richard Bushman (“Out of the Best Books: Introducing The Mormon Review,” The Mormon Review, vol.1 no.1 [HTML][PDF]). In addition to our website, you can have The Mormon Review delivered to your inbox. Finally, please consider submitting an article to MR.

Our New Look

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So, Times and Seasons is sporting a new look. But rest assured, while the packaging has changed we are not tinkering with the secret formula that creates the sweet, slightly acidic, but oh-so-refreshing content inside. This new design is –  a bit lighter –  a bit wider –  aimed at featuring more – and more frequent – content By moving to a magazine-style layout, we still show the most recent post in a full and prominent position. But by breaking from a traditional listing format, we are able to show more headlines on the screen and include more posts on our home page. Our Notes from All Over section is still prominent on the right, while the most active discussions are still shown with Recent Comments on the left. Our left sidebar features two new sections to highlight the most recent entries in A Mormon Image and the Mormon Review. Each post now features icons at the bottom to make it easy to share our content. And we’ve added a couple little links to the top menu, so you can get your Times and Seasons fix on Facebook and Twitter. Finally, the new design is optimized and delivers the content…

Parents are people

It’s been a stressful time for us. My father in law had been battling leukemia for over a year, when he suddenly took a turn for the worse. FIL’s illness lasted a few more weeks, and he finally passed away. This has affected the family in a number of ways; most importantly for this post, it resulted in a complicated set of travel plans.

What Happened in Nauvoo, Part 3: Polygamy

[See Part 1: Founding and Part 2: Flourishing] Any history of Nauvoo needs to give an account of the secret practice of polygamy between 1841 and 1846. In Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise, Glen Leonard does this in about twenty pages as part of Chapter 13, “Foes Within: The Church of the Seceders.”

What do we mean by “families are forever”?

Over at my other blog, a reader posted the following question: On a related LDS family matter, many of us have been confronted by Mormon missionaries with a message, or even a free DVD, of “Families are Forever.” A sincere, respectful question: isn’t this motto a solution in search of a problem? That is, what Christian believes there is separation or division among the blessed in heaven? Of course, Jesus himself teaches in extremely plain and simple terms, and Christian history has always held, that there is no marriage in heaven as we know marriage. But, shared Christian belief realizes that the communion among believers in heaven results in a bond significantly greater in love than what we perceive in our knowledge of marriage. That bond is a consequence of the everlasting worship and praising of God. Why wouldn’t God be the focus of any discussion involving the word “forever”? Here’s what I answered:

Happy Birthday to Us

Thanks to reader Clair for pointing this out in comments: The first issue of the Times and Seasons was published at Nauvoo. — 170 years ago today [err, yesterday] – Nov 15, 1839 . Happy birthday to us!

Hope and Children

Faith and charity get plenty of attention, but hope not so much. Pessimism, it seems, has become one of the guiding principles of modernity, reflected in the media, popular culture, and even academia. So I was surprised to find a philospher making the suggestion that children anchor our hope for progress and our conviction that life will be better for the next generation.

Charter for Compassion

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In February, 2008, noted religious author Karen Armstrong was awarded the TED Prize, and her wish for the world was to gather a council of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and other spiritual leaders to draw up a “Charter for Compassion.”

A Mormon Image: Memorial

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from Bill of Wasilla, who writes:

Dad is the man who lies in this flag-draped coffin. I will not say too much about him for now, except that he was a good father and that, thanks to him, and many more like him, most of them gone now, the evil dream of a man named Hitler died in flames and blood.

We buried Dad on June 2, 2007. He died on Memorial Day.

MR: “Getting Your Hands Dirty”

Mormon Review

A new issue of The Mormon Review is available, with Russell Arben Fox’s review of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford. The article is available at: Russell Arben Fox, “Getting Your Hands Dirty: Notes on How Mormons (and Everyone) Should Work,” The Mormon Review, vol.1 no. 8 [HTML] [PDF] For more information about MR, please take a look at the prospectus by our editor-in-chief Richard Bushman (“Out of the Best Books: Introducing The Mormon Review,” The Mormon Review, vol.1 no.1 [HTML][PDF]). In addition to our website, you can have The Mormon Review delivered to your inbox. Finally, please consider submitting an article to MR.