Mormon Life

Mormon Life – Family – Personal Reflections

The Way We Teach Our Children Modesty

July 26, 2012 | 94 comments
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At the age of two, my daughter Axa could point out an immodest outfit in a shop window. At five, she added sleeves to the dress on the princess picture her babysitter had drawn for her. Although I don’t recall making any special effort to teach her about modesty, I was surprised and gratified that she understood the concept at such a young age. However, lately I’ve been having disquieted feelings when she brings up modesty, as I realize that something in the nuance of what I’ve taught has gone awry. And then just a few weeks ago, something... Read more »

On Stephen Covey and Self-help Books

July 19, 2012 | 41 comments
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On Stephen Covey and Self-help Books

  As most readers here no doubt know, Mormon academic and author Stephen R. Covey died earlier this week. Covey was best known for his highly popular self-help book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which earned him fame and fortune, as well as some detractors. His death, together with the fact that my bookclub is currently reading Viktor Frankl’s influential book Man’s Search for Meaning and that I came across an old conference talk drawn from a self-help book, led me to ponder a bit about Covey’s influence and self-help books in general and the influence that... Read more »

Imagining Mormonism

July 12, 2012 | 10 comments
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So after several recommendations, I finally got around to reading Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. The book examines a simple question: how do institutions or nations (the book’s focus is on nationalism) create a sense of identity in their membership or citizenry? It’s one thing to feel a sense of identity with a group whose membership one knows personally: an extended family, a village, a small company. But what about churches or corporations or countries whose members, workers, or citizens number in the millions? The more you ponder that question, the more interesting it becomes. In that light, let’s talk... Read more »

Globetrotting, Mormon-Style

July 8, 2012 | 14 comments
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Globetrotting, Mormon-Style

One of the things almost sure to be heard in testimony meeting after someone has traveled (whether it’s across the ocean or just to the next town over) is an expression of gratitude that “the Church is the same no matter where you go.” To a certain extent, it’s true. We all sing the same hymns, although every ward congregation seems to have its particular favorites. We all read the same scriptures. Sunday meetings follow the same general format, even if the meetings are in a different order. Thanks to Correlation, Sunday School and other lesson manuals are standardized... Read more »

The Boundaries of Independence

July 4, 2012 | 6 comments
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The Boundaries of Independence

As my children have grown and started to leave home, I find myself conflicted by the idea of Independence. Of course I want them to be independent, to go off on their own, make their own choices and even, to be frank, to require less or none of my support and effort. Its not that I’m not willing to give them support and effort, but more that just as they need to be independent, my wife and I would like fewer requirements. We, too, would like a bit more independence. Read more »

Practical Apologetics: Help, I want to go back to church

June 28, 2012 | 50 comments
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Seismic changes at the Maxwell Institute have prompted reflective blog posts on the fate of FARMS and Mormon apologetics in general (The Rise and Fall of FARMS | The Legacy of FARMS | Explosive Tensions within MSR). My view: the FARMS approach has become outdated. Mormon apologetics will become more decentralized and more social as people (both LDS and non-LDS) turn to Google and Facebook rather than the bookstore, the library, or journals to get answers to their Mormon questions. Apologetics will therefore become more personal and more practical. People still want answers. Mormon.org, blogs, and Mormon Stories are... Read more »

Gendered Unity

June 27, 2012 | 27 comments
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Every ward or branch I’ve lived as an adult has struggled with the dilemma of how to increase a sense of unity among the Relief Society sisters. In some places, demographics have dictated a natural split between the transient (a few months to a few years) young college and graduate age students, wives, and mothers and those who live in the ward on a more permanent basis: more established families, families with grown children, and retirees. We’ve also lived in a branch split by language differences in which about half of the members spoke English as a native language,... Read more »

Taxing Churches: A Response

June 21, 2012 | 27 comments
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Oh no—somebody on the Internet is wrong while I’m on vacation! But duty calls. Recently, Ryan Cragun, a sociology professor, along with students Stephanie Yeager and Desmond Vega, argued that the government subsidizes religion by about $71 billion a year. He thinks this is wrong, and that religions should pay their fair share. I have no problem with his making this argument—tax exemption costs the government significant revenue (though his $71 billion is based on really, really poor assumptions—more on that later), and should be examined carefully and critically. But Prof. Cragun’s analysis is not the careful and critical... Read more »

Church Centers: Multi-use Buildings?

June 20, 2012 | 95 comments
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Church Centers: Multi-use Buildings?

When we lived in La Jolla, the kids and I were members of the La Jolla YMCA. There was a child care center that would watch my little preschoolers for a couple of hours while I exercised and showered. I worked with a trainer and learned to use machines and free weights. I took aerobics, tai chi, yoga and pilates classes. My kids took swim, dance and gymnastics lessons. They went to preschool. I volunteered at the preschool, got trained and taught kids and adult yoga classes, and helped in the annual fundraising efforts that provided reduced membership and... Read more »

O My Father

June 17, 2012 | 3 comments
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“My father, thou art the guide of my youth” (Jeremiah 3:4). We turn to him for guidance, for help and counsel as we age and learn our own fallibilities. It is Father’s Day. Today, we recognize the important role that men play in loving and caring for children. Too often, I get caught up on a few words in the Proclamation on the Family and the idea that “fathers are to preside over their families.” It sounds distancing to me; that the father is somehow uninvolved in the day to day work of family and home life; he is,... Read more »

Urban Mormonism

June 17, 2012 | 12 comments
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As the sacrament was passed in the rural ward we attended today, my younger daughter looked at the deacons passing the sacrament and asked, “Why are those kids doing that?” (My wife tells me that my older daughter noticed the same thing.) — Just in case it’s not clear what my daughters are talking about, there is one teenage boy in our ward (but another turns 12 in a month or so!). And that’s not a significant outlier in my perhaps limited experience. So my daughters have rarely seen a bunch of 12- and 13-year-olds get up after... Read more »

A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation: Idaho Falls Edition

June 14, 2012 | 20 comments
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I took the two-hour drive to Idaho Falls last night to hear Greg Johnson and Robert Millet present their friendly conversation on Mormons and Evangelicals to an audience of six or seven hundred. Johnson is an Evangelical pastor who runs the Standing Together ministry in Utah; Millet is a Professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU. Together they coauthored Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical back in 2007. Their live presentation covers some of the same ground as the book, but also takes questions from the audience. Read more »

Single Moms and Adoption — Another Perspective

June 12, 2012 | 45 comments
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Single Moms and Adoption — Another Perspective

I have been fascinated by the idea of adoption for a long time. Growing up, I knew a few people who were adopted, and the idea of bringing home your baby from Korea or the Ukraine always seemed exotic to me. But my obsession really took off when I got my Patriarchal Blessing. After gushing about the children that would be born to me, a totally out-of-the-blue paragraph began with the words, “I bless the love of your family to extend to other children . . . ” Suddenly, adoption was part of my envisioned Mormon “happily-ever-after,” and I... Read more »

Not Ready for Naptime

June 8, 2012 | 10 comments
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Tomorrow, the Chicago Tribune is hosting the Printers Row Lit Fest. If you like books, there are all sorts of cool things to do. What am I going to do at the festival? Two words: Justin Roberts. In my opinion, he’s the best kids’ musician out there. This will be the third Justin Roberts and the Not Ready For Naptime Players concert that my family has seen. Plus, we’ve been to WBEZ’s So Many Ways to Tell a Story twice, and he wrote songs with the kids at both of them. But wait, you say, this is a Mormon... Read more »

Forbes List Update

May 31, 2012 | 8 comments
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I’m a bit behind in putting together my lists, so I won’t analyze this too much. As I’ve done with each of the major Forbes lists of the wealthy, here is a summary of the Mormons who appear on the list of the world’s billionaires that Forbes published last month. While there is certainly a bit of churn on the overall list, the Mormons on the list have remained relatively in the same place since I last looked at them in October. Read more »

More Than Christian?

May 31, 2012 | 34 comments
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Two recent essays provide a new perspective on the never-ending discussion centered around the question, “Are Mormons Christian?” Mormons claim to be Christian, while at the same time denying divine authority and full legitimacy to all other Christian denominations. Consider the specific topic of rebaptism. Previously baptized Christians who join the LDS Church are required to be rebaptized by an LDS priesthood holder, which seems quite natural to Mormons. Baptized Mormons who later choose to join another Christian denomination are generally required to be rebaptized by that denomination because, in their eyes, Mormon baptism doesn’t count, which rather incongruously... Read more »

Internet Radio and the Church

May 24, 2012 | 15 comments
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Internet Radio and the Church

I recently bought a couple wireless speakers so that I could listen to my music collection away from my computer, without earphones. It turns out that these speakers not only play music off my computer, though: they'll also allow me to listen to, among other things, podcasts, Pandora, and any number of radio stations, as long as the radio station broadcasts online. Read more »

Mother’s Day, 1996

May 13, 2012 | 12 comments
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I sit, waiting for the phone to ring. I haven’t spoken to my parents since December and, though I love what I’m doing, I love them, too. But I’ve been sitting here for almost an hour. I’m not 100% sure of the time zone difference between eastern Brazil and the western United States, but I’m pretty sure they’re late. In this area, none of our members have phones. One of our member’s father has a phone, but, in order to call, I’ve promised that it won’t cost him anything. It’s a party line, something I’d heard about in the... Read more »

Adventures in Family History, part 2

May 8, 2012 | 13 comments
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One Sunday evening, several months ago, I was playing around on FamilySearch, clicking back through my father, his father, his mother (or something like that), etc. After twists and turns—twists and turns I recorded so that I could get back there again—I discovered that I have ancestors from Jersey. No, not that Jersey, the one famous for Bruce and the MTV show. Its namesake, the one in the English Channel. Through my clicking, I learned that my great-great-great-grandmother was born in Jersey in 1838 and died in West Bountiful in 1912. For most, this probably wouldn’t be remarkably meaningful. I... Read more »

Mahana, You Ugly!

May 6, 2012 | 61 comments
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Let me tell you a little story. Not long ago, we moved to a new ward. After a few weeks, my husband and I were invited to come early to church to meet with a member of the bishopric. We figured, of course, that he wanted to extend a calling to one or both of us. When we arrived, he asked my husband to come in and speak with him first. So I assumed that my husband was getting the calling. To my surprise, after I was ushered into the room, the bishop’s counselor extended a calling to me.... Read more »

The Same 10 Families

May 4, 2012 | 90 comments
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With the exception of student wards, every ward or branch I’ve attended seems to rely on a few families to fill all of the major callings. We’ll call them “the same ten families.” In our Long Island branch, there were about six families that carried the load. The branch president was married to the young women’s president. The young men’s president was married to the Relief Society president. The Elder’s quorum president was married to the primary president. We weren’t president level material there: my husband was a counselor in the young men’s presidency and the gospel doctrine teacher... Read more »

The Implied Statistical Report 2011

April 11, 2012 | 30 comments
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The Implied Statistical Report 2011

Over the past few years I’ve put together an analysis of the cumulative information in the Church’s statistical reports. Three years ago I posted The Implied Statistical Report, 2008, and last year I titled my analysis The Implied Statistical Report, 2010. Over this time I’ve tried to improve my methods and the data available, collecting data from a few different sources. This year I’ve again looked at the data and discovered something unexpected: The Church’s real growth is actually faster in the U.S. and Canada than it is in the rest of the world. Read more »

Taxing(?) City Creek Reserve, Inc.

April 4, 2012 | 24 comments
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Taxing(?) City Creek Reserve, Inc.

The other day, Nate responded to many of Jana Riess's criticisms of the City Creek mall in Salt Lake. As I read her piece, one sentence jumped out at me. Read more »

Just Say No?

March 28, 2012 | 19 comments
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Just Say No?

We have had horrible luck while traveling with finding church services through Mormon.org. On one trip, the address it gave didn’t exist. (How do I know? After nearly an hour of looking, asking people in the shops nearby, meeting up with friends who were also looking, well, we never found it.) On another, church started an hour after Mormon.org claimed it did. So I’m gun-shy about trusting Mormon.org when I’m looking for church services. Which is why, last summer, on vacation, when my wife saw an older couple wearing missionary name-tags, we decided to confirm when and where the... Read more »