Things have been pretty quiet here today, so I thought some news items might jar us from our post-Thankgiving Day stupor:
* “Mormon Awareness Conference” in Tennessee. I lived in Tennessee for a year, and this is one thing I didn’t like about it. I am accustomed to being a religious minority, having lived in Utah only for my BYU years, but regular interaction with Christians of this temperment was draining. This story has a bit of a twist, however, as the sponsor — H.I.S. (He Is Savior) Ministries International, “an organization dedicated to helping Mormons who have questions about their faith” — was founded by two returned missionaries. One of the speakers at the Conference is quoted as saying:
“The important thing about Mormon salvation,” Roberts said, “is that Mormons are not out to save you from hell because they don’t believe you are going there. In fact they believe very few people are going to go to hell, or in their nomenclature perdition or outer darkness.”
And your problem is … ?
* The Russian Orthodox Church is upset about the collection of genealogical information. According to this story, the Church “paid ten US cents for each page of thousands of names of dead people dating mainly from the late eighteenth century to be put on a microfilm.” The payment scheme was initiated by the “cash-strapped archive” to fund preservation work, but local Russians were upset at the thought of their ancestors being baptized vicariously. A Soft Answer expresses the reaction of many Mormons: “how harmful can it be if they don’t believe in it it anyway?” Having participated in these ordinances, I am tempted to embrace this view, but I have met too many people who get emotional over this. Indeed, during the last year, a law professor and colleague asked me if I could ensure that her ancestors were not subjected to these ordinances. Sorry, Professor, it’s out of my hands.
* Funny story about NFL coach Brian Billick, who played football for BYU in the 1970s and later worked for the PR department of the 49ers:
“Fortunately, I was a whole lot better as a coach than I was a PR guy,” Billick said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters this week. “My only claim to fame was on draft day.”
Back then, the draft began at 6 a.m. Pacific time. The coaches and scouts began to assemble around 4. “The first duty I was ever given was to provide breakfast for this four o’clock draft-day meeting. … I had a spread you wouldn’t believe,” Billick recalled.
But being from BYU, a school mainly populated by Mormons, who abstain from alcohol and caffeine, Billick failed to provide the most essential of ingredients for any 4 a.m. meeting.
“It never occurred to me that anybody would want coffee,” Billick said. “So, (for) two years after that it was, ‘hey, coffee boy, come over here.’ It was the first real task I was given in that organization and I failed miserably.”
I am the only Mormon in my family, and, as mentioned above, I have lived in Utah only for my college years, but I still feel queasy about providing coffee and alcohol at social gatherings. I absolutely refuse to have the stuff in my home, so when my parents visit, they usually head to the local McDonald’s for breakfast.
* For all of you people of pioneer stock, it looks like the Church will be allowed to lease Martin’s Cove. None of my ancestors crossed the plains — most of them stopped in Wisconsin — but I am pleased to see the Church’s efforts to preserve its historical sites.
* Funny take on Paris Hilton by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen:
My joke about Paris Hilton is that none of this would have happened if she had been named Washington Marriott. Then she would have been the child of Mormons and raised quite differently with, one would hope, better results. We would now be watching an Internet tape of her doing missionary work in the Third World instead of assuming that position for much of the First World to see.
OK, that’s cute, but what’s with Marriott hotels and porn? It is an old issue, but it hasn’t gone away. OneMillionMoms.com and OneMillionDads.com reserve special ire for the chain. This past September, these groups caused all kinds of problems at BYU, when their anti-porn crusade inadvertantly targeted faculty and staff at the Marriott School of Management.