I may choose to ignore people who comment anonymously. I choose never to be anonymous online myself. I have little tolerance for this behavior.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mormons & Materialism: Part 4 What We Consume Ends Up Consuming Us

So, we end up with boatloads of stuff cluttering up our lives. Then what?


Then, we have to buy batteries for most of it. We have to learn how to use it by reading the owners' manual or looking up tutorials online. We have to take it back when it doesn't work properly. We have to replace it when it stops working. We have to insure it so we will be compensated if something happens to it. We have to find a place to put it. We have to find a place to store it. We have to find a case or protector or something for it. We have to constantly watch it when we are out so no one steals it. We have to buy a security system and locks for our home so no one takes it when we aren't there. We have to clean it. We have to clean around it. We have to walk around it or be careful we don't walk on it or sit on it. We have to wash it. We have to launder it. We have to get the stains out. We have to buy refills for it. We have to watch for sales so we can afford to buy refills for it. We have to service it in some way. We have to replace it when it gets old or it gets outdated or it gets damaged or (gasp) it goes out of fashion . . . and so on . . . and so on . . . and so on . . . But, the kicker is this, we have to USE it and that takes time.


The things we have end up consuming us.


Can you imagine how much freedom you would have if you simply got rid of some of it, or didn't acquire it in the first place?


A million years ago when I owned a 1985 Chevy Cavalier my "little" in the Big Brother/Big Sister program wanted to go to Lake Superior to swim. She wanted to bring her friend and her friend's dog, a golden retriever named, appropriately, Goldie.


I hesitated because I wasn't sure I wanted two drenched teens, myself and a drenched dog riding in my car. I told myself that if I had a really nice car I would have said, "No dog." But, since my car was anything but nice I said, "I guess so." The dog turned out to be golden in name, color and disposition. She was marvelous.


However, my point is this: We had a BLAST especially with that dog! A million times I've thought to myself how much I would have missed out on, or how much WE would have missed out on if we hadn't taken the dog. I think about what I would have missed out on if I had protected my car from just two drenched teens or even just a drenched self.


Some people have such nice cars they are afraid to park them anywhere because they are too afraid someone will ding them. Cars aren't an end in themselves. They are means to an end.


Vehicles have importance because they allow us the mobility to go somewhere and do something. How you get there, as long as you get there alive, doesn't make a lot of difference. They have utility in achieving some end.


We ought to be more concerned about the end.


Take a good look at your life. Are your things consuming you? If they are, it is time to rethink your life.


Series: Mormons & Materialism Series
Part 1 We Can't Take it With Us or Even Use it Here
Part 2 Stuff & Nonsense
Part 3 Out of Purgatory or Into Heaven
Part 4 What We Consume Ends Up Consuming Us
Part 5 Affluence or the Appearance of It
Part 6 Titles, Labels and Lemon Juice
Part 7 Power and Other Addictions
Part 8 Summer Cottages in Babylon
Part 9 Valuing Based on Utility
Part 10 Get Rid of It!
Part 11: Consecration & Conclusion

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mormons & Materialism: Part 3 Out of Purgatory or Into Heaven

Mormons have always been contemptuous of the idea that buying indulgences could help someone in Purgatory or gain them some special status. For most Mormons the offensive part is that money can somehow gain you access to church privileges that others cannot obtain.


However, this condemnation is often accompanied by our own peculiar efforts to buy our way into Heaven. I've already touched on this given the religious kitsch we tend to acquire. A great deal of money gets spent on activities that we often feel will somehow gain us spirituality.


These activities are perfectly okay and even admirable. What I'm condemning is our using them to convince ourselves and others that we are more pious as a result of them. They feed the notion that spirituality can be purchased. It cannot.


Here's a partial list:


Especially for Youth
Education Week
Tim Out for Women
Women's Conference
Vacation packages to Church History sites.
Cruise ship vacation packages
Book of Mormon lands tour packages
Nauvoo trip tours
Palmyra trip tours


Don't misunderstand me. These are wonderful activities. What I'm condemning is how they are used by people. Religiosity cannot be gaged on how many of these activities you complete.


You are not going to be spiritually deprived if you never get to do any item on this list. It is possible to build your spiritual knowledge and behavior without ever attending an Especially for Youth program for example.


Some people catering to these events and proclivities of Mormons may indeed be intently marketing spirituality. What you make of these activities is based on your own intent. For some it can be an intensely spiritual experience. For others, it could simply be a thinly disguised recreational excursion. For yet others it is simply a vehicle on which to induce jealousy.


We should never use these activities to openly or discreetly brag about ourselves -- and that goes for fast and testimony meeting. Any effort to place yourselves above others because you have experienced these activities is wrong. It is prideful. It should have no place in Mormondom.


It is materialism because the emphasis is on physical experiences and things.


The poor cannot keep up with all this. They should not feel spiritually inadequate or made to feel spiritually inadequate because others have experienced them and they haven't.


So, if you engage in these activities, do it for the right reasons. And, make sure you avoid the pride traps they can result in.


Series: Mormons & Materialism Series
Part 1 We Can't Take it With Us or Even Use it Here
Part 2 Stuff & Nonsense
Part 3 Out of Purgatory or Into Heaven
Part 4 What We Consume Ends Up Consuming Us
Part 5 Affluence or the Appearance of It
Part 6 Titles, Labels and Lemon Juice
Part 7 Power and Other Addictions
Part 8 Summer Cottages in Babylon
Part 9 Valuing Based on Utility
Part 10 Get Rid of It!
Part 11: Consecration & Conclusion

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mormons & Materialism: Part 2 Stuff & Nonsense

Besides looking at the amount of material things you acquire and keep, you also need to look at the type of things you have and value.


Mormons are notorious for acquiring religious kitsch. If the word kitsch is unfamiliar to you, here is a definition from Dictionary.com:
something of tawdry design, appearance, or content created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating taste.
Don't get me wrong, having religious art and objects in your home can help you remember Christ, His gospel and our purpose here on this Earth. However, too much of this stuff simply adds to clutter. It can serve as a distraction rather than help you focus. Besides, how much of this stuff do you need?

In later postings I'll talk about valuing something for its utility. Right now, I'm condemning the purely decorative. We spend far too much of our time, money and resources making this stuff, collecting it and giving it as gifts.

It is hard to throw this stuff out, or reject it in some way, because you feel it is disrespectful of the gospel. If you throw away a picture of Christ or some emblem with religious meaning you feel like you are rejecting your religion.

It is best to avoid this dilemma by not acquiring it in the first place. Relief Society is the biggest culprit by far. So much of the sisters' time is spent creating and acquiring this stuff.

Events that promote this stuff are usually just filler. No one wants to go to the trouble of fashioning an activity that is truly useful to the sisters so we just fill up time, and our homes, with stuff that we don't need and can't use.

Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. (See 2 Nephi 9: 51)
How much of the space currently in your home is dominated by religious kitsch? How much do you have in storage? How long does it take you to dust and clean around it? If the answer is far too much and way too long, consider disposing of some of it.

If it isn't somehow doing its job of helping you aspire to greater things then it isn't really an asset.

Ditto for all your non-religious kitsch. You may not have the same religious sensitivities attached to it but much of it may be overvalued on the basis of sentiment. It is still just a plate.

Home decor has its place but it in a cluttered home it can be distracting. Besides, who lives in your home, your stuff or you? Would you have a lot more space to live if you pared things down?

As a child I remember arranging all of my stuffed animals on my bed one night when I was supposed to be going to sleep. I tucked them all in under the covers and they really looked cute. There was just one problem. There wasn't any room for me in the bed. I decided that sleeping on the floor was a viable solution. When my Dad came in to check on me he got angry, which at the time I thought was something of an overreaction. He threw all my stuffed animals on the floor and threw me in bed and told me never to pull that stunt again.

Take a good look at your home. Is there room for you?

Series: Mormons & Materialism Series
Part 1 We Can't Take it With Us or Even Use it Here
Part 2 Stuff & Nonsense
Part 3 Out of Purgatory or Into Heaven
Part 4 What We Consume Ends Up Consuming Us
Part 5 Affluence or the Appearance of It
Part 6 Titles, Labels and Lemon Juice
Part 7 Power and Other Addictions
Part 8 Summer Cottages in Babylon
Part 9 Valuing Based on Utility
Part 10 Get Rid of It!
Part 11: Consecration & Conclusion

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mormons & Materialism: Part 1 We Can't Take it With Us or Even Use it Here

(This is a series on Mormons and Materialism. There are eleven parts.)

Go out in your garages and look over the unused bicycles, toy cars, athletic equipment, skis, roller blades, et cetera, and calculate what the return would have been had the cost of these items been invested in future needs. Remember, I emphasized unused articles. How many of you have seen garages so full of things that there is no longer room for the car? From: L. Tom Perry, "“If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear”", Ensign, Nov. 1995, 35:
Whenever we Mormons start talking about materialism we generally end up condemning the largely faceless, rich, minority we all know exist. However, we need to look at ourselves.

Every item we have required a conscious decision to acquire it and to keep it. So whether your property is filled with luxuries, or junk, it is still materialism.

Programs and news items on hoarding can be horrifying but many people have more stuff than these hoarders they just have more property on which to put it so it doesn't seem as cluttered.

No matter who you are or where you are you can only wear one suit of clothes, sleep in one bed, read one book, watch one television, eat on one plate, etc. There are limits as to how much a human being can actually make use of.

How far over the limit are you?

It isn't rational to keep acquiring additional property or organizational helps to store all of this stuff. How much can you actually USE.

Our society emphasizes continual consumption. But, with everyone out to acquire as much as they possibly can there are bound to be shortages. This is a recipe for economic disaster.

Stop contributing to the disaster and start assessing what you can actually use. Confine yourself to those limits you set up.

Maybe it is time to downsize instead of up-size. I'm not going to tell everyone to go out and get a tiny vehicle if they have a large one. People with large families and/or large needs can put a large vehicle to use. I can't. Some people need and use a large home. I don't and I can't.

What I do know is that I have more than I need and more than I can realistically use.

Most of my excess things were acquired at a time I fully intended to use them but never did. For example, there are books I want to read but haven't, projects I want to do but haven't. Well, maybe the time is past. It was a worthy project at some point in my life but now it needs to be discarded in favor of something else that is more important.

If I'm not using something that still has value, I have a moral responsibility to get it into the hands of someone who can use it.

You know you can't take it with you. If you can't use it here then you shouldn't have it anymore.

DO something about it.



Series: Mormons & Materialism Series
Part 1 We Can't Take it With Us or Even Use it Here
Part 2 Stuff & Nonsense
Part 3 Out of Purgatory or Into Heaven
Part 4 What We Consume Ends Up Consuming Us
Part 5 Affluence or the Appearance of It
Part 6 Titles, Labels and Lemon Juice
Part 7 Power and Other Addictions
Part 8 Summer Cottages in Babylon
Part 9 Valuing Based on Utility
Part 10 Get Rid of It!
Part 11: Consecration & Conclusion

Thursday, January 27, 2011

But I Want to Pay My Tithing Online!


The Church has automated practically everything these days, except tithing. Why not? Other Churches seem to think it is the future. There are even companies catering to them.

A Reuters article byy Susan Schept entitled, "Electronic giving increasing for church collections" says:
Church staff are often the toughest sell, said Vijay Jeste, product manager for electronic giving for Our Sunday Visitor, a Huntington, Indiana-based maker of donation envelopes for Catholic churches, which started offering electronic payment processing in 2009.
Reluctance to pay a fee to process collections melts away as parishes "realize that this is the way to go," Jeste said.
"This is not an option they can put off for too long," he said.
Just because the Jones' are doing it is not a reason for Mormons to do it. It's also not a valid reason to not do it.

LDS Philanthropies has automated donations. They even take credit cards. Something tells me that credit cards will never be allowed for paying tithing. But, there shouldn't be any problem with debit cards.

Paying tithing has always been a confidential hand-off between members and leaders. We try to remove it from open view, unlike the collection plates in other religions. Automating it would make record keeping a lot easier for everyone and eliminate the *float in the current system.

I'm also confident the Church could handle the technicalities itself. We don't need the services of an outside company.

Well, just remember you heard it here first. I have no doubt this idea will cause me to be labeled a heretic -- until the Church actually implements my suggestion of course. I can wait until then.

*Banking . uncollected checks and commercial paper in process of transfer from bank to bank.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mormons, Romney and Marriott

Marriott Hotels are phasing out in-room adult movies. Whoopee. Some Mormon haters have concluded that Marriott is attempting to assist Romney in an upcoming presidential bid. There is little logic or reasoning to back this up. Nevertheless, some will persist in this view.


Why didn't they phase it out when Romney was running before? Why didn't Romney phase it out when he was ON the board? That probably would have done more to assist him in his political objectives. Why did he even recuse himself from the decisions?


A more logical conclusion is that they simply aren't making money at it anymore. The Washington Post article bears this out:
On Monday, it said the recent decision was based on economics and technology. More guests can access adult content cheaply on their portable devices rather than pay for premium adult channels.

Scholes and John Arabia, managing director of Green Street Advisors, said the loss of revenue to Marriott would be minimal.

"I wouldn't expect it to be a material hit to the profits of most hotels," Arabia said. "I don't have hard data, but I would speculate that the use of in-room adult video has declined with the proliferation of new technology."
So much for ethical decision making.


Out in the Light notes that some groups have praise for Marriott's decision. I don't. The reason they did it doesn't pass muster. They should phase it out or not acquire for the right reasons in order to get any praise from me.


I had the impression that the Marriotts weren't particularly in the Church's good graces these days anyway. A few years ago, I remember President Hinckley condemning those who create pornography and those who provide it. It startled me because it sounded like a swipe at the Marriotts.


For the last several years, I've felt the Marriotts were being marginalized and minimized somewhat in the Church. Their image has been pretty low for some time given their business practices.


That is as it should be. They'll get no praise from me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Indianapolis Indiana Temple: As close to Heaven as you can be on Earth


To those of us who live in the Indianapolis, Indiana, area the Church's announcement that the temple will be in Carmel is welcome news, but not a surprise. Every member around here predicted it would be in that area.


My husband, a Hoosier by birth and a Boilermaker by choice, closely examined the map and cannot imagine a better location for a temple. Access is superb and the Carmel area is wonderful. 


When we moved back to Indiana late last year we were loathe to leave the Kansas City, Missouri Temple area. It was so exciting to see a temple in that location going up. But, they've announced the Indianapolis Temple location so close to the first announcement of its being built, that it's finishing date can't be too far off.


Naturally, it has spawned a number of articles in the local press. In fact, I'm enormously impressed with two articles in the Indianapolis Star entitled, "Plans to build temple in Carmel reflect Mormon growth" and "About the Mormon Church" by Robert King. King did his homework. in fact, he does a marvelous job of explaning us to the uninformed.


He makes good use of Dr. Jan Shipps, the most informed scholar about Mormons and an Indiana resident as well. I've heard Dr. Shipps referred to in Mormondom as "our beloved agnostic" but I can't find a reference for the quote. Even so, it is true. She helps others understand us when we can't make ourselves understandable to them. But, in all fairness, if she criticizes us or praises us then we probably deserve it. The lady knows her stuff.
Jan Shipps, professor emeritus of religious studies and history at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has studied the Mormon faith for 50 years and says it is definitely a Christian religion.
"If you look at a group and the group says that the name of their institution is The Church of Jesus Christ and they accept the atonement of Christ, they are very much Christian," Shipps said. "You can't say they are not Christian. It just doesn't make sense. But they are not Christian in the same way that Catholics and Protestants are Christian. They have a different theological understanding of God and Jesus."

I think that is a fair and accurate assessment of our Christianity. Further in King's article:
Still far from being a Mormon stronghold, Indiana ranks 26th among states in Mormon population. But the Mormon Church here has grown to nearly 42,000, a 50 percent increase since 1990. It is growth local church leaders say reflects the Indianapolis area's attractiveness to a church membership that's well-educated and drawn to high-end job opportunities, as well as a place with a reputation for being family-friendly.
 King goes on to describe aspects of temples:
Inside, temples feature a large baptismal pool that rests on the backs of stone oxen. An ornately decorated "celestial" room, usually on the second floor, is used for meditation and is a place some Mormons believe is as close as they can be to heaven on Earth.
As close to Heaven as you can be on Earth.


I like that.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Disciplining Mormon Children

A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled, "Abuse Case Sparks a Clash Over Limits of Tough Parenting," by Miriam Jordan caught my attention. It details the story of a religious Ukrainian immigrant couple in Salem, Oregon who were convicted of abusing their children. Their defense was simply Biblical discipline. The case galvanized the small community of Ukrainian immigrants as well as the larger community.
Many of these supporters, Russian-born Christians like the Kozlovs themselves, believed the parents were disciplining their children according to Biblical law. In their view, the government was out to "destroy the family because of their faith," says Tatyana I. Bondarchuk, a counselor who helped brief authorities about the group.
Among the questions from the floor: "How can I keep my child from smoking if I can't beat him or her?" "What are parents supposed to do when a child, particularly a teenager, is disobedient?"
Contrary to what most people believe, the "spare the rod and spoil the child" is not in the Bible or in anything else Mormons consider scripture. It seems to be inferred from the following Proverbs:
22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
Given the visual imagery in the Bible, the simple interpretation is that you should reproof your children when they do wrong but it hardly condones beating them.

I can find nothing in Mormon teachings that condones physically striking children, quite the opposite in fact in either early teachings or more modern ones. Consider these examples.
Brigham Young lived in an era when parents, especially fathers, were often severe and punished their children frequently. His advice is remarkably modern, but it does not advocate the permissive philosophy by which so many parents today rear their offspring: “Instead of using the rod, I will teach my children by example and by precept. I will teach them every opportunity I have to cherish faith, to exercise patience, to be full of long-suffering and kindness. It is not by the whip or the rod that we can make obedient children; but it is by faith and by prayer, and by setting a good example before them.” (In Journal of Discourses,11:117.) See this link
We are very well aware that it is but little use to whip “Mormon” children. You undertake to thrash anything into them, and you will most surely thrash it out of them. It was never any use to undertake to drive or coerce Latter-day Saints, they never could be coerced in their religious faith or practice. It is not their nature, and the mountain air our children breathe inspires them with the idea that they are not to be whipped like dogs to make them learn. The manner in which it must be done is by moral suasion, superior intellect, wisdom, prudence and good straightforward management in forming the judgment of the pupil by cultivating his manly qualities. (In Journal of Discourses, 14: 374).
President Gordon B. Hinckley reiterated that “discipline with severity, discipline with cruelty inevitably leads not to correction but to resentment and bitterness”10 (see also D&C 121:41–44). “Children don’t need beating,” he emphasized. “They need love and encouragement.”11 See this link
I grew up in an era where spanking children was the norm. I don't know of anyone who didn't do it. My mother got a lesson once when she told one of my brothers when he was just a little tyke, "I'm spanking you to teach you a lesson." He replied, "Talking to me teaches me, spanking me just makes me mad!"

Teachers in school had paddles and I saw them used. In fact, one teacher spanked a boy so hard he probably had permanent nerve damage. That teacher is now retired and currently serves in a state legislature.

When I think of beating children, I think of a scene out of a David Copperfield dramatization (Charles Dickens). Miss Murdstone tells Davey's mother that Mr. Murdstone was beaten when he was young and "it didn't do him any harm." Davey's mother responds with, "Yes, but do you think it did him any good?"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mormon Movies - Movies About Mormons - Movies Made By Mormons

Outsiders don't really need to understand all the controversies we Mormons discuss amongst ourselves concerning the movies that get made by us, about us and for us. These are all distinct categories by the way.


However, in honor of the upcoming LDS Film Festival, I feel like I ought to make a few remarks complete with a few links.


I've never heard Mormon cinema referred to as "Mollywood" but according to Wikipedia, this does occur. There is a reasonably nice list of Mormon movies on it. I think it is worth checking out. Just a caution, you won't find the Twilight  movies on any of these lists.


The go-to place for all information about Mormons in movies is LDSFilm.com. I think it is especially useful for the biographies you can find there. Non-Mormons may be surprised at how long the list is.


The LDS Film Festival is now well established and will take place January 25-29, 2011 in Orem, Utah. The featured film is Midway to Heaven.


The Special Screenings look quite interesting. I like films by T. C. Christensen, especially Treasure in Heaven: The John Tanner Story and Only a Stonecutter. Also, I've been dying for someone to do a movie about Porter Rockwell so that would be an enticement for me. See this lengthy article in a local Utah paper for more information.


One of the most interesting efforts largely led by Mormons is Audience Alliance Pictures. It would take more than one posting to explain it so I'll just refer you to its web site.


I'll do a post about all the movies the Church itself makes. For now, I'll just refer you to where you can purchase them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Helping in the Vineyard"

The Church has a lot of well-kept secrets but they aren't the ones most people think of. One of them is "Helping in the Vineyard."

This is a web site that collects volunteer opportunities in the Church and provides a convenient place to find out about opportunities, sign up for them and start working.


You will need to establish an LDS Account if you do not already have one. This is the sign-in for all the Church password protected secure sites like the Local Unit Web Sites (LUWS) FamilySearch and the rest. The web site will instruct you on it.

The kicker is that all of the volunteer opportunities are online.
This Web site establishes a worldwide community as a resource for completing large amounts of work in a short period of time. Much of this work is completed online with potentially thousands of people working on a single project together at the same time. 
The LDS Church has Church-related projects that would take many years to complete without the help of a large group of people. Some of this work includes the preparation of Church content for worldwide distribution. For example, a very large portion of the Church library--its images, videos, and articles--needs to be updated and enhanced before we can share them with the world. See FAQs
I'm glad to see them collecting all of these opportunities in one convenient web site. I already knew about some of them. In fact, I already volunteer with some of them.


It has been my little secret, until now.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mockery and Mormonism: "it's far preferable for the church to be attacked than to be ignored"

So long as the claims of the gospel are being discussed, even negatively, there are openings for teaching. When people are apathetic, there are no openings at all.
So says Dan Peterson in "Anti-Mormon mockery can actually lead to teaching moments" in Mormon Times. He gives two examples:
In the mid-1850s, a young German schoolteacher read a new book about an industrious and even heroic people with absurdly stupid beliefs. Unable, however, to believe that such good fruits could come from so bad a tree, he determined to investigate the Mormons for himself. In October 1855, Dr. Karl G. Maeser was baptized in the Elbe River, near Dresden. He later became a pivotal early leader of the church's educational system in Utah and, effectively, the founder of Brigham Young University.
An elderly missionary at Temple Square one remarked to Peterson concerning the protesters: 
". . . truthfully, our visitors tend to be much more receptive when the protesters are outside. Normally, people on our tours are a bit on their guard. But these protests are so offensive to them that they're on our side. The difference is very noticeable."
I hadn't viewed things in this manner, but Peterson may be right. He sees all of this as teaching possibilities. Peterson's perspective is well worth considering and he suggests we prepare ourselves to make use of these opportunities.


I still can't force myself to comment on the issue that seems to have prompted Peterson's article though. I've been following it in the news but decided to ignore it in this column -- not wanting to dignify something thoroughly undignified with commentary. So, if you want to know what it is, you will have to read Peterson's comments. Better yet, why not just visit the links below:


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
The Book of Mormon
Mormons

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Digital Tools: Moral Decision Making in Mormondom #5

(This is an occasional series that discusses normative questions. Too often we do not consider the inferences and implications of what we do. In short, we fail to realize when a moral decision is necessary. This occasional series will do so. Readers are encouraged to pose their own questions and views in the comment forum.)


I cover a lot of digital Church issues. I admit, it is a particular soap box of mine. Why shouldn't it be? The Church has designed some phenomenal digital tools that members are not using.


Consider the following points:


- Church members who would never refuse implementing new hard-copy procedures seem to feel that digital tools are optional and can be safely ignored. How is this? If the Church develops a tool and instructs us to make the best use of it we can does it matter what media it is contained on?


- Digital tools are not the future, they are the present AND the future. The Internet has been around since 1991. Local unit web sites have been around since at least 2004. We have generations coming of age that have never known life without the digital component. Stop living in the past.


- A common argument is that not everyone has access to computers or the Internet. This argument is so flawed I can hardly believe people still proffer it. Some people don't have telephones, should we not use telephones just because everyone doesn't have them? Should we wait until everyone in the world has computers before we make use of digital tools? This is nonsense. Digital tools can be an added component to the existing system. Frankly, they would take less time and make the present paper system work better. Isn't that reason enough for using them?


- The paper system augmented with snail mail and telephones has always been inadequate but it was all we had. Haven't we all longed for a system that had the potential for being all-inclusive, accurate and timely? We have one now. Why isn't it being better used?


- Should you hamper the Church's operations just because you are stubbornly non-digital? I think we have a moral duty to make use of every tool the Church develops whether we personally like it or not. If the Church has spent this much money and this many work hours developing it we must consider it important.


- We've all assumed that taking the gospel to the world involved physical missionaries traipsing over physical land. I don't think Heavenly Father has ever stipulated that. What if he intends world wide gospel sharing to be digital? If you haven't considered this then Satan certainly has you duped.


- This brings up something that should be obvious but apparently isn't. If you are hindering the gospel message then you are part of Satan's minions. If you are preventing the gospel or full gospel fellowship from being extended to everyone you need to reassess your actions.


- No one would seriously argue that people should continue using the hard-copy paper system to do family history/genealogy work since FamilySearch.org exists.  Similarly, we should not continue relying on the hard-copy paper system when the Local Unit Web Sites (LUWS) exist.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Phoenix Arizona Mormon Temple Parking

I've written about the Phoenix Arizona Temple before but I specifically want to address traffic and parking controversies which seem to be escalating in the debate.

See former posts:

The Church has done extensive parking and traffic studies and the Temple must comply with city ordinances concerning the parking it provides. Calmly and logically, I want to point out a few things about numbers.

How much traffic the Temple will produce and how many parking spaces are needed is something only the Church can determine with any accuracy. Certain facts, known only to the Church and controlled by the Church are crucial.

For example:

1. The Church carefully controls numbers. Mormons are assigned to a congregation based on geography. Each congregation is assigned to a larger unit called a stake and a certain number of stakes make up a temple district. If Church growth increases these boundary lines for each of these groupings change. The Church can and will control temple traffic and parking so that it won't exceed what the area is capable of handling.

2. The Temple will Have Limited, Knowable Attendance. Only Mormons that meet certain restrictions are allowed to enter Temples. The Church knows exactly who they are and how many of them there are. Mormons have to show their special passes, so to speak, in order to enter. Based on other temple traffic and meticulous statistics the Church can accurately say how "busy" the temple will be.

3. The Church Must Comply With Parking Ordinance Requirements but they probably exceed the parking needs of the actual Temple needs. As the special Phoenix Temple web site points out:

The temple’s purpose is to accommodate small groups throughout the day rather than large congregations at one time, and so traffic flow is well within the capacity of local roads to handle. Ample parking is available on site.
Local ordinances are based on typical religious worship -- worshipers attending a particular event at the same time for example. Temples don't operate this way. So, really, local ordinances are ill suited to apply to them.


Obviously, localities cannot write separate ordinances for Mormon temples just because they are different. But, because of the very different nature of temple traffic and parking the local ordinances probably require much more parking than is actually needed. The web site suggests this:

The amount of parking proposed is in excess of the parking required by the City code. An option, which we hope to avoid, would be an above-ground parking structure. By experience we know that temple neighbors have preferred to see meticulously cared-for landscaping rather than extra parking which would stand vacant.
Surely Phoenix citizens would prefer fewer parking spaces if they aren't needed.

4. Counting rooms in the Temple design and extrapolating traffic and parking numbers isn't accurate. In a Arizona news article:
Neighborhood organizer Scott Anderson said the numbers don't add up. Anderson said he counted 133 rooms in the temple rendering and the city calculated parking using only 25 rooms.
Citizen concern over these issues is understandable but 133 rooms means basically nothing.

In the article the Church emphasized that much of the lower floor would be used for storage. If temples were busy with people they wouldn't be the quiet, contemplative places they are intended to be. Most of those rooms will rarely be in use at the same time but they are needed when they are needed.

For example, sealing rooms where weddings take place need to accommodate the size of the wedding party. Temple weddings are always small. Small rooms accommodate about a half dozen. A large sealing room would accommodate maybe 50 people. (I'm guessing based on what I have seen throughout the nation at temples I've visited.) Most of those 50 people would be family and arrive together in a handful of vehicles. Mormon weddings generally occur in the mornings.

Ordinance rooms that hold 70 people may be full on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m. but most of the time they are nearly empty. Maximum rooms and maximum occupancy is a poor criteria to evaluate temple traffic and parking needs. On its web site the Church shows a graph estimating temple traffic and what the neighborhood can handle. If the Church didn't estimate these things correctly then its ability to build future temples would be hampered.

When I go to the temple I generally stay there three hours. Yes, it takes that long, whether the temple is large like Washington D. C. or small like Phoenix will be.

The news article says:
The church's attorney, Paul Gilbert, emphasized that the site plans show 394 is more than ample parking for the temple. . . " 
Franky, I'm aghast. I cannot imagine a small temple needing that many parking spaces, even an urban one.

I don't want to minimize citizen concerns. But, only the Church is in a position to accurately measure or extrapolate numbers. And these citizen concerns are not new. They seem to accompany every temple build, but none of the concerns ever proves to be justified. In fact, it is generally the opposite.

On its web site for frequently asked questions, the Church answers all the concerns and provides video of Non-Mormons who live by other temples answering these concerns.

So, do your research. The information is freely available. Or, don't the temple opponents want actual facts?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Intellectual Hoarding: Moral Decision Making in Mormondom #4

(This is an occasional series that discusses normative questions. Too often we do not consider the inferences and implications of what we do. In short, we fail to realize when a moral decision is necessary. This occasional series will do so. Readers are encouraged to pose their own questions and views in the comment forum.)


I've always been entranced with the idea that Benjamin Franklin refused to seek a patent for his stove invention. He wanted everyone to benefit from it and he didn't want its availability to be limited.


People hoard physical items obviously, but I think the same is true of intellectual possessions. I call it intellectual hoarding. I have no objection to people having intellectual property, copyright laws, patents and trademarks etc. I am not suggesting that we violate the law.


I am suggesting that we should be willing to share whatever we have for the benefit of everyone. Christ shared everything he had be it tangible or otherwise.
. . . freely ye have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8)
For example, I jealously guarded my Fudge Muffins recipe for years, despite the fact that I received the recipe from a friend. I liked the exclusivity and notoriety I got for it. I got a lot of mileage out of that recipe. I loved the fact that it put others' brownies to shame at Church events especially. EVERYBODY loved MY fudge muffins. MY fudge muffins. Oh dear . . .


Finally, I decided that my action was not Christlike. I give the recipe to anybody now. I put it online. (Click on the link above.) I've tried to adopt the mindset where I will be willing to share anything I have or anything I know as freely as possible.


Another example, In a Ph.D. seminar I was in a fellow student, a Washington D.C. lobbyist, commented that most people don't understand the way the government really works. Our professor prompted her to explain how it really worked. She refused. She said, "If I do that then my employers won't need me anymore."


She's right. But, this fact applies to a lot. Many of us are employed because others don't have our knowledge and skills. Often this is protected by adopting profession specific jargon and standards that we can exclusively control. We try and keep others from attaining this knowledge and skill through barriers we erect.


Some of this is just maintaining levels and standards of quality. But, that goal often gets merged with keeping certain people out and maintaining exclusiveness. If I freely shared my research skills and knowledge, would people need me anymore? Would all my education and training be rendered moot? Why should I give people freebies? I paid good money to know what I know and to do what I do. Yikes, I could go on and on.


Obviously, we need to make a living but I don't think we need to hoard out intellectual abilities as much as we do especially in our Church service. I'm trying to make mine as freely available as I can. This blog is part of that.


With that in mind. I'm going to give you all a few tips that I make good use of:


http://scriptures.byu.edu/


This is a citation index. What that means is that you look up a reference, in this case a scripture citation, in order to find out what has been said about it in General Conference.


For example, let's assume you have been assigned a scripture to give a talk on in Sacrament Meeting. Looking up Matthew 10:8, the quote I use above, I receive the following:
Matt. 10:8 (01−A,27,RDH) (80−A,79,HWP) (68−O,11,LR) (53−A,130,SR) (49−O,24,ETB) (48−O,166,GAS) (47−O,14,LEY) (45−O,152,SWK) (26:301a,FDR) (26:209a,MT) (24:250a,JFS) (16:306b,JT) (16:132b,DHW) (15:170a,JT) (11:179a,GaS) (9:198a,GaS) (8:219b,ES) (3:180b,PPP) (191,JS) (120,JS) (105,JS)
I received the results above by expanding the + sign next to "New Testament [39031]" in the column on the left. Just keep expanding things until you get the scripture you want.


The first reference (the one I've bolded above) is to an address by Robert D. Hales in the April, 2001 Conference on page 27. Just click on the bolded portion above on the web site and the address will come up in another frame. You can click through all the ones in the list. Like I said -- a gold mine.


Here's another trick. Instead of using the Church's search function, do a domain search in Google. For example, bring up http://www.google.com/ and select "Advanced search." Don't worry, it isn't that advanced. Put your search terms in under "all these words" or "this exact wording or phrase" if you have a quote and then go to the bottom at "Search within a site or domain:" and put in "lds.org." I get much better results this way and I find things the Church's search function doesn't give me.


Whew, I just de-hoarded. That felt good.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mormon Mommy Blog Fascination

A recent article in Salon entitled, "Why I can't stop reading Mormon housewife blogs" by Emily Matchar chronicles the secret life of a Non-Mormon career woman addicted to reading about the lives of young Mormon mothers. She seems genuinely perplexed by hers and others' fascination.
So why, exactly, are these blogs so fascinating to women like us -- secular, childless women who may have never so much as baked a cupcake, let alone reupholstered our own ottomans with thrifted fabric and vintage grosgrain ribbon? It's not as though we're sniffing around the dark side of the faith, à la "Big Love." And it's not about religion. As someone married to a former Saint (my husband left the church as a teenager), I certainly have no illusions about what life as a Mormon would be like, and I'm sure it's not for me, which makes my obsession with these blogs all the more startling.
Well, to use a word that makes me cringe, these blogs are weirdly "uplifting." To read Mormon lifestyle blogs is to peer into a strange and fascinating world where the most fraught issues of modern living -- marriage and child rearing -- appear completely unproblematic.
Matchar asks, "Of course, the larger question is, are these women's lives really as sweet and simple as they appear?" Yes in many ways. No in other ways. Though not a mother myself, I've been in plenty of homes that are exactly what these bloggers represent. Taking care of children is a full-time job fraught with all sorts of peril, but each day brings something sweet and joyful. It must be this the women blog about. As a stepmother I often wish I had some of these experiences to get me over the rough times. I have little emotional resiliency to sustain me if the kiddies are, in my humble opinion, misbehaving. . .
In the 2000s, church elders began officially promoting new media technologies like blogs as a way of spreading the gospel, and the Mormon blogging community soon became so large it earned itself a punny nickname: the Bloggernacle.
Matchar is correct and this is the major reason I, and others, blog. Although I largely fit Matchar's demographics I do share a great deal with these Mormon mommy bloggers.


I enjoy homemaking and I take it seriously. Not only do I make cupcakes, I cook and bake extensively from scratch. Grinding whole wheat and making 100 percent whole wheat homemade bread is so natural I consider it somewhat pass√©. I even enjoy decorating cakes. See my creation below. I made it for an evening we had a lady over to watch March of the Penguins. I couldn't force myself to cut into the cake though. My husband spared me this agony.


These homemaking tasks are enjoyable and bring me a great deal of satisfaction.


But the basic messages expressed in these blogs -- family is wonderful, life is meant to be enjoyed, celebrate the small things -- are still lovely. And if they help women like me envision a life in which marriage and motherhood could potentially be something other than a miserable, soul-destroying trap, I say, "Right on."
Thanks, Emily. I say, "Right on" too. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Talent Shows: Moral Decision Making in Mormondom #3

(This is an occasional series that discusses normative questions. Too often we do not consider the inferences and implications of what we do. In short, we fail to realize when a moral decision is necessary. This occasional series will do so. Readers are encouraged to pose their own questions and views in the comment forum.)


Hot dogs, ice-cream, motherhood and apple pie, what could be more American? What could be more Mormon than a ward/branch talent show? Why would I object to this event? What is there to object to? These are all good questions.

First off, consider this quote from Nibley's Zeal Without Knowledge:
In Israel today, there are great contests in which young people and old from all parts of the world display their knowledge of scripture and skill at music, science, or mathematics, in grueling competitions. This sort of thing tends to breed a race of insufferably arrogant, conceited little show-offs—and magnificent performers.
In a talent show, the participants are doing nothing more than demonstrating talents or skills for acclaim or entertainment. 

Heavenly Father does give us talents and helps us develop them and our skills. But the purpose is to bless others and build His kingdom -- not show off. Nibley points out that Joseph Smith said:
. . . The greatest, the best, and the most useful gifts, would be known nothing about by an observer. . . . There are only two gifts that could be made visible—the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy."25
I think we can all agree that it would never be appropriate to display those gifts for acclaim or entertainment. So, wouldn't it be inappropriate for other gifts as well?


I'm more comfortable if we demonstrate talents and skills with the intent to teach -- a much more worthy motive. But ward/talent shows don't do that. Often, music dominates the agenda and too often, in the Church, music crosses the line from gospel praise to simply performance. Besides, so few talents/skills can be demonstrated in this environment, it will always be limited.


Are we likely to spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially or intellectually benefit from a ward/branch talent show? Isn't it more likely to generate pride, jealousy and judging? We are not very good at being happy for other people. I don't think this event will help make us so.


Talents and the skills we develop in this life are meant to be used. Let's make sure we demonstrate them in proper, and Christlike, ways.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

What is Marriage? A Credible Legal Analysis that Supports Tradition and the Mormon Position

Girgis, Sherif, George, Robert and Anderson, Ryan T., What is Marriage?. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 245-287, Winter 2010. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1722155

The cite is above. See the abstract below:
In the article, we argue that as a moral reality, marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together, and renewed by acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction. We further argue that there are decisive principled as well as prudential reasons for the state to enshrine this understanding of marriage in its positive law, and to resist the call to recognize as marriages the sexual unions of same-sex partners.
Besides making this positive argument for our position and raising several objections to the view that same-sex unions should be recognized, we address what we consider the strongest philosophical objections to our view of the nature of marriage, as well as more pragmatic concerns about the point or consequences of implementing it as a policy.
The article isn't listed yet on the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy web site but soon will be. For now, you can find the article on SSRN and download the PDF. Released December 11, it doesn't seem to have made much of a stir yet in the mainstream press. At least one writer, Matthew J. Frank in Now We're Talking (About the Marriage Issue) in the National Review says it has had a profound impact in academic circles. He also states:
And here’s the really good news: Girgis, George, and Anderson appear to have started an actual debate on this question, just when many on the other side of the gay marriage controversy want to shut down debate with accusations of “hate speech,” as I noted in a recent Washington Post article. Yoshino and, especially, Koppelman, are to be commended for their civility, and for engaging in a shared attempt to come to grips, rationally, with one of the most momentous moral and legal questions facing our country today. Both sides cannot be right–but neither side needs to be tarred with the epithet “bigots!” while the debate continues.
For Mormons, the legal support is welcome but not crucial. The Family: A Proclamation to the World settles the matter. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

The 5 Browns and My 4 Causes


The video above is of The 5 Browns playing "Flight of the Bumblebee". They were recently profiled on Mormon Radio's Everything Creative.


If you haven't discovered Mormon Radio yet, you need to. See links below.


If you haven't discovered The 5 Browns yet, you need to. See links below. (Update: See Saints & Scoundrels)


Why not discover them together by accessing their interview on Mormon Radio?


In a prior post I talk about Desirae Brown's vision loss in her left eye. The topic is even more pertinent now because more recent research is supporting the need for the Shingles vaccine. Also, recent research suggests that two Varicella (Chicken Pox) vaccine doses are better than one.


Four causes and one blog posting. That's efficiency!


Links for The 5 Browns -- Web Site
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