New Advertisement Marks Anniversary of Roe v Wade

VISUAL: Color video footage of fetus, 20-25 weeks gestation, in her mother’s womb sucking her thumb. NARRATOR: “Why are some babies aborted? It’s not because her mother was raped. It’s not because her mother’s life or health are in jeopardy. It’s not because her father isn’t supportive. It’s not because she was unplanned. It’s not even because her mother doesn’t want a baby. Then why are these babies aborted?” VISUAL: Screen goes black while “aborted” said. Black screen lasts for 2 seconds.

Perception of Gays

A recent Meridian Magazine article discusses gay marriage. While the article has been praised elsewhere in the blogosphere, I thought the article as a whole was unconvincing, and there was one sentence in particular that I found disturbing. Ms. Barlow states that: “There is no societal benefit to homosexual unions which are based primarily on genital stimulation and the perception of love.” Quite frankly, anyone who thinks that gay relationships are based primarily on “genital stimulation” (wow – she can’t even bring herself to say “sex”!) should actually meet a few gays. Or even crack open a newspaper once in a while and read about committed, long-term gay relationships. Many Mormons seem to have the idea that all gays are wild partiers running naked around Greenwich Village. (And if that were true, then gay marriage might be a bad idea — but it’s not the case.)

The End of Two Weeks

I was invited to be a guest blogger a couple of weeks ago and jumped right in with a piece that day. I probably filed more pieces than I should have, but I was testing the principle that if you have a place to write, you will find something to write about. I think the principle is true. Several times a day a topic occurred to me, something I would not ordinarily write about, most of which I didn’t use. So I had something to say.

Quick Note on Spam Comments

We have been hit with a batch of spam comments over the past 2 days. (I guess it’s a sign that we have hit the big time.) If you haven’t seen them, here’s an idea of what they look like: “The sky is green.” -John Jones. The text is always nonsense, and the name will be linked not to an e-mail address but directly to the spammer’s site. It may be a hosting or gambling site (those are the two that have hit us so far). The combination of nonsense text (they use what appear to be randomly generated, short phrases, hopefully in hopes of seeming like a legitimate poster) and a hyperlinked name is the indication that it’s a spam comment. When we see these, we will delete the comment and ban the IP address from further comments. Readers may notice these spam comments sometimes (there will be some inevitable lag between the time they go up, and the time we delete and ban them). Please pay them no attention. And especially, please don’t clink on the link to the spammer’s site. They will be tracking where hits are coming from, and if they see hits coming from T & S, they will continue to spam us.

158 Years Ago

Watching the ice flow up and down the Hudson in this fierce winter weather reminds me how the Nauvoo pioneers walked west across the frozen Mississippi on 4 February 1846. That’s six or seven generations ago, the combined ages of two old men. I once walked across the frozen Charles, and it was brutally cold for a long time to freeze up that smaller river. On that same February day, by coincidence, New York’s own pioneers, the more than 230 LDS passengers of The Ship Brooklyn set sail for “Upper California” which probably meant Oregon, though they ended up in Yerba Buena, later San Francisco, where they doubled the population. No Panama Canal for them. They sailed down and up South America, passing Tierra del Fuego, the ultima Thule of the world. Imagine the faith, hope and desperation necessary to sail off on those grim grey seas to an unknown future in the worst month of the year.

Competing for Members

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.

Deconstructing Babar

As a child, I remember much enjoying the story of The Story of Babar the Elephant by Jean de Brunhoff, so I gave it to my son as Christmas present. Reading it to him, I have been struck by what very strange – very French – story it is.

A Knock at Midnight

In honor of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I offer some excerpts from a sermon he delivered August 9, 1964 at Riverside Church in New York City. It is entitled “A Knock at Midnight.” ___ This morning I would like to have you think with me on the subject of a knock at midnight. Out text is taken from the very familiar parable as recorded by St. Luke: “And he said to them, ‘Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; and he will answer from within, “Do not bother me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything”? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.’”

Original sin

Kristine pointed out the other day that if we want to understand the Protestant concept of grace, we have to understand their concept of original sin. That got me to thinking. Sometimes when Latter-day Saints speak of the Fall, we deny original sin, However, we also say that, because of Adam?s transgression, we inherit a fallen nature. It is not clear what the difference is between inheriting a fallen nature or disposition and original sin. Without intending to, we may sometimes be teaching something that is difficult to distinguish from the doctrine of original sin.

Change

Three days ago, I returned from a faculty development program in Delhi, India. While I attempted to adjust to Central Standard Time immediately upon arrival, I wasn’t successful. On Saturday afternoon, I fell exhausted on my bed and took a much-needed nap. Unfortunately, I awoke just in time to send the rest of my family to bed, and I have been awake since, reading and pondering. Something I encountered on Times & Seasons inspired me to write this entry. I hope that you will not begrudge me the opportunity to share a testimony in this sea of intellectualism.

Sunday School Lesson 4

Lesson 4: 1 Nephi 12-14 (25 January 2004) In chapter 12 Nephi sees the future of Lehi’s descendants: apostasy and destruction, though a remnant will remain. In chapter 13 he sees the future of the Gentiles: apostasy and restoration, though not all will come to the restoration. In chapter 14 he sees the last days: the Gentiles who accept the Gospel will be numbered with the children of Lehi and the abominable church will be destroyed.

East Coast Bias

College sports fans debate endlessly about a supposed East Coast bias among sports writers and polls. Most recently, this issue was raised in connection with the omission of the University of Southern California from the so-called “national championship” football game. As a Midwesterner, I feel obliged to expose the East Coast bias of Times & Seasons.

Does God Need Us?

In some circles, just asking this question requires some serious chutzpah. The “man is nothing” crowd would find the mere suggestion that God needs us offensive. Nevertheless, we have several indications in Mormon doctrine that God needs His children. Perhaps most important is Moses 1:39: “this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” The notion of mutual interdependence is pervasive in the Gospel. For example, we believe that individuals (families) are bound together in the eternities, and that “[t]he dead are not perfect without us, neither are we without them.” (Joseph F. Smith) All of this suggests to me that God is not a solitary being. To press the point even further, He cannot be a solitary being; that is, the very definition of God implies community. I am not sure that all of this matters very much, but it seems to cast my relationships with family and friends in a slightly different light.

Confused About Grace and Works

I recently had a conversation with a self-described Christian, who was eager to teach me about the doctrine of grace. When I quoted 2 Nephi 25:23 (“We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”), my companion scoffed. He said this was similar to saying, “We fly from India to the United States on an airplane, after all we can do.” In other words, Jesus does so much and we do so little that our part is not worth mentioning.

The Ascendancy of the Book of Mormon

I just finished Terryl Givens’s _By the Hand of Mormon_. Its a fun read, though a bit more polemical than I assumed it would be. I think it does make a solid contribution to Book of Mormon studies in its final chapters. Most interesting to me, though, was the summary it provided of Church’s attitude toward and utilization of the Book of Mormon over the past 175 years or so. Givens gives statistics for how often the BofM was cited in church talks, church magazines, etc., before Pres. Benson’s landmark addresses on the topic, and they are astonishing to someone who grew up in a post-Benson Church. What I am interested in, however, is not how the BofM was treated publicly, but how it was treated by the membership, and what contributed to the success of President Benson’s efforts to change that.

Amateur Music in the Church

I was recently thinking about music in the church. To be specific, I was wondering about the church policy of not hiring professional musicians, but simply plugging the best available members into any slot where they can conceivably fit. I have been ward organist myself, despite my complete lack of training on the organ. Our current ward organist is Logan’s lovely and talented wife, who has also (I believe) had no formal organ training. This is not to critique her efforts (or my own); we have both done pretty well, I think, especially with liberal use of the Bass Coupler button. I have also, while living in New York, attended the Manhattan First Ward. The organist there is no mere pianist-pressed-into-service, but a bona fide, trained specialist in the instrument. The result — as anyone who has attended that ward can attest — is awesome. It is also, in my observation, the exception rather than the rule. The “Kaimi or Amy pressed into service” model seems to be predominant.

And Also Works

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.

T&S: Cheesy and Faith Promoting

Here is a brief follow-up to the discussion below about the rampant “intellecualism” at T&S. A poster on one message board for self-identified “fringe Mormons” opined that “I found [Times & Seasons] sort of cheesy (as far as I read anyway). I get those little faith promoting stories daily through spam.” You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people…

The Conservative Case for Group and Sibling Marriage

In his column last November, David Brooks’ argued for gay marriage on the premise that it would channel gays into monogamous relationships, and that monogamous relationships are healthy and fulfilling. If gay couples want to be faithful and monogamous, Brooks opines, conservatives should be doing all they can to encourage and support them. He’s partly right. But he’s mostly wrong because he doesn’t go far enough.

What’s wrong with this picture

Last night Cirila and I got a babysitter and went out to celebrate our anniversary. After dinner and dessert we ended up in our local Barnes and Noble, enjoying the chance to browse without our two year old demanding that we purchase those Matchbox car “books”. Anyway, I was somewhat surprised to see what books made up B&N’s LDS section.