Author: Rory Swensen

Rory grew up in a small town in Utah east of Salt Lake City. He has been a lifelong member of the church and served a foreign-speaking mission to Georgia (the state, not the country), so he is fluent in both American English and Southern Drawl. He’s served in various callings, but his activity levels seem to fluctuate throughout the year with a surprisingly direct correlation to football season. He earns a living in the technology sector, but his interests range from history to philosophy to science – an eclectic mix that enables him to be wrong most of the time, but wrong with style. He and his wife Krista, both impenitent Parrotheads, have four children.

Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?

It’s a vexing question, asked frequently and nearly always plaintively. President Boyd K. Packer asked it rhetorically this week, supporting and strongly affirming the church’s stance on sexuality and marriage. He stated: We teach the standard of moral conduct that will protect us from Satan’s many substitutes and counterfeits for marriage. We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. From The Book of Mormon we learn that wickedness never was happiness. Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! And then the question: Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our father.1 But what if we all stepped back for a bit and genuinely asked that question? What if, instead of using it as a rhetorical device to support our position (and make no mistake, we all do it, no matter which side of the gay marriage debate we stand), we sincerely pondered and sought guidance? Perhaps we should consider the most vexing questions to be gifts. Perhaps they are opportunities for us to come together and really wrestle, to deepen our grasps on what we hold dear and not retreat into comfortable, shallow rhetorical positions. Consider that this question can be just as easily asked about us. Why, in His creation, is sexuality manifested…

Credible Criticism

This weekend the interweb exploded with a post at Mormon Matters entitled Elder Marlin Jensen Apologizes for Proposition 8. In the ensuing discussion there, and in numerous discussions on Facebook, a debate erupted over whether the headline and the conclusions were warranted, or whether it was being spun into something that could be used by advocates for change. (For a good reflection of what actually happened in the meeting, refer to Carol Lynn Pearson’s comment at Mormon Matters, and her published notes of the account here.) Particularly relevant is that the debate about the tactics used was largely confined to those who share the same values, those who hope to see our Church grow and reconcile some very difficult issues. This was not a debate about whether to talk about Elder Jensen’s words – the account of this meeting is touching and meaningful and should be shared. Rather, it was a debate about tactics. A debate about the use of inflated rhetoric to leverage Elder Jensen’s words to effect change.

Confessions of a Shopping Mall Santa

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. Yes, literally. Complete with mops, buckets, vacuums, and the acrid smell of cleaning agents. In this little room I would transform into a fat, jolly elf. I’d put on my belly, don my red velvet suit, deftly apply the makeup…

First Presidency Christmas Devotional Ticket Giveaway

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 awarded to each of three winners selected. winners will be notified by email and must respond to notification of their status by Noon on December 1, 2009. tickets will be mailed on December 1, or winners may choose to pick…

Writings in the Stone

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 the only proper reading, what happens when our children reach high school and college and they see the vast weight of evidence – and the consistency of that evidence – as it points to an old earth and natural selection?…

Our New Look

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 faster, even as we are pulling images to the front page. We may find a few strange items in the coming days, so if you notice anything quirky or wonky (outside of our writing), please report it here. We’d also…

Charter for Compassion

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.”

The Road

The persistence of love between a father and a son. Our most cherished relationships, our strongest commitments, laid bare in a book and a movie.

My Teen Swears in the Name of Art

They immersed themselves in the characters and, by so doing, opened the door to deeply significant conversations between the cast, their parents, and the community. Artistic explorations have the power to touch us deeply, in ways that detached discussion about concepts cannot.

Spiritual Pickpockets

Does God want you to be rich? Certainly! If you believe Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, preaching their form of Prosperity Theology. They are the focus of an August 15 article at the New York Times. (H/T BCC)

Liveblogging Symposium – Stay-at-home Moms: On the Record

EDIT: Emily Jensen has a great article on this at Mormon Times, and offers a much better (and more readable) synopsis. See it at Approximately 30 people in attendance, an engaging and personable panel: Moderator/ CAMILLE AAGARD, former account executive at a public relations agency; cleaned out her desk two days before giving birth to her first child in 1998 and began a new career at home rearing five children, ages one to 11

8 Seconds

I entered a rodeo once (and if you know me, you know how absurd that is). I rode a bull in the very arena that we watched the bull riders this weekend. It was my only rodeo, and I dominated that bull for the full 8 seconds.

Brotherhood. Friendship.

Key to this is our ability to strip ourselves of pretense; to lay bare our faults, our doubts, and our struggles. It is a refreshing – and frightening – experience to be completely candid, to trust the others within the group to listen and respect our experiences, even as they candidly respond and criticize. It can be brutal at times, but behind that brutality is always a sense of love and friendship.

Musings on Drifting Faith

The question becomes not if our policies and teachings will adapt, but rather how. And further, what statements are we making today – strident and bombastic – for which we will be judged tomorrow? Statements and positions that our future generations will be pressed to reconcile, to explain, or to disavow?

Speaking of Faith

Religion can be divisive. We read of historical confrontations and we witness the divisiveness in the world around us – between major world religions and among the sectarian branches they foster. But while religion and faith claims can be divisive, it needn’t be this way. There are ways to approach faith and differences of faith in constructive, expanding ways. One example is carried on over 200 public radio stations each week, a program called Speaking of Faith. The host, Krista Tippett, explores faith in a narrative approach that draws out the complexities of, the power in, and the wisdom gained from a life of faith.

The Ninety-Nine and the One

It isn’t easy to be inconvenienced, especially when we are asked to tolerate the views or the actions of the other, and love them too! It would be easier to ignore them, cast them out, keep things easy and pure. But that isn’t the plan.