I may choose to ignore anonymous comments. I consider this type of anonymity dishonest. Also, I don't post regularly. I post when I have something worth writing and something worth reading. I explain all this in: Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mormon Shorthand

I always claimed that English wasn't my native language, Mormonese was. Mormons have their own way of speaking. We use words no one else has heard of. We also use words everyone has heard of and give them different meanings.

So, if you want to be a Mormon you have to learn the language. Orson Scott Card did his best to make all this explicit in Saintspeak: The Mormon Dictionary.

My beef this week is what I call Mormon shorthand.

Too often, people abbreviate words in order to get everything down in a small space, especially a Sacrament meeting program. What results is an illegible, puzzling mess that is sure to confuse new members, non-Mormons, the less active and even people like me -- a lifer. Lifer is my term for someone who was born in the Church.

If I'm confused then the problem is serious.

Here are some examples:

"YM/YW Joint" -- This means the Young Men and Young Women program are having a joint activity, probably on a weekday evening.

"PEC" -- Priesthood Executive Council. This is a meeting for local church leaders.

"Stk Youth Con." -- Stake Youth Conference. This means that all the youth, ages 14 up to 18 years old are going to have a three day event somewhere with a variety of spiritual and social events planned. Twelve year olds are generally not allowed to go to Youth Conferences.

"PPI" -- Personal Priesthood Interview. This means a private meeting with your priesthood leader to review how you are doing in your life and in your callings (church jobs).

"EFY" -- Especially For Youth. This means an expensive conference type experience for young people sponsored by BYU -- Brigham Young University.

"GA" -- General Authority. This means the leaders of the world wide church.

"FHE" -- Family Home Evening. This means quality time spent with family on Monday nights.

Being a single woman at the time PEC and PPI came into existence these terms got by me even though I was active at the time. It wasn't something we covered in Relief Society.

Most of the Mormons shorthand I can figure out if I puzzle over it long enough. But, why should anyone have to puzzle? Why are we making things difficult for anyone to understand?

Studying usability and graphic design in school, all my sources counseled us never to abbreviate anything if we could possibly avoid it.

Besides all the typical abbreviations you see at the church wide level, you end up with local abbreviations that make no sense to anyone but natives.

Abbreviated local parlance can be deadly. For example, in Kansas it took me a while to discover that OP meant Overland Park and LX meant Lenexa. No one ever included an address to these chapels. You just had to know where they were. 

"Pot Luck" meals are sometimes referred to as "Pitch In's" or "Covered Dish Dinners."

The worst local parlance probably occurs where Mormons are the most abundant -- Utah. For example, in one of my stakes, people referred to meetinghouses as the "Red Chapel" or the "White Chapel" or the "River Bottoms Chapel," etc. After having been in the "Red Chapel" I fully understood why it had that name. All the accents were in red.

Can you imagine how someone new would feel when encountering this Mormon shorthand for the first time? Why throw up barriers in front of people? It is pointless and self-defeating.

Couple this with throwing names and titles around like everyone knows everyone and the barriers just accumulate.

I'll give you another recent example from my own experience. A branch social event was being held at Calloway Park. I guess we were all supposed to know that park was in Elwood, Indiana without being told. I didn't know that. Did I go? No I didn't. With all the barriers people threw at me, I really doubted they wanted me there.

I'll close with a "two word sermon"
Stop it!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"A Blog Could Do That": Our Agenda Should be the Lord's Agenda

"Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.” Spencer W. Kimball as quoted in Daughters in My Kingdom.

Blogging comes with a responsibility and an accountability. I've always known this, but I never expected former Relief Society President, Julie B. Beck, to state the position so eloquently.

When I started this blog I intended it to be a place for me to rant. I wanted to rant about things because I was frustrated. I'm still frustrated, but I no longer rant. So, if you find my early posts a bit different than my later posts you know why.

My blog changed because my perspective changed. When I discovered that people were actually reading me, I decided to orient my blog to them instead of myself.

Writing has always been an outlet for me. If something is really disturbing me, I write it down. I argue myself through it and I feel better. Issues often plague me until I do this. Once it is written, I can let it go.

In academia, I always felt like a Cassandra. Perhaps that was inevitable given my two best subjects are religion and politics. Nobody ever listens to political science professors. People let them talk, but they don't really listen to them.

People always seem to follow their own judgment on politics.  I hope against hope that at least some of my students remember back to my impassioned lectures on entitlements though.

Sometimes I feel like a Cassandra on this blog. Discovering that people actually read my blog and think about what I say reformed me. Occasionally, I hear a General Authority backing me up in some address or other. When this ceases to happen, I'll know something is wrong. Hopefully I know before I get to that point though.

Back to accountability and responsibility.

Blogging can help the Lord's efforts.
Blogging can distract from the Lord's efforts.
Blogging can hurt the Lord's efforts.

Those of us who blog have a responsibility to help the Lord's efforts. Accountability may come much further down the road, but it will come.

Keep that in mind when you blog.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Children are NOT Second Class Citizens in Mormondom!

In a recent address, initially aimed at Africa, Elder Dallin H. Oaks tells us:
To help its members all over the world, the Church teaches us to give up any personal or family traditions or practices that are contrary to the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ and to this gospel culture. In this we heed the warning of the Apostle Paul, who said that we should not let anyone “spoil [us] through philosophy … after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
This got me thinking about what sort of traditions and cultural influences we have here in America that may not be consistent with gospel culture. I'm still thinking about it but I did identify one a long time ago and it has been a personal pet peeve for some time. I don't like the way we treat children.

It seems to stem from the age old tradition of "Respect your Elders" that is deeply ingrained in us. It suggests that people that are old deserve respect, more respect than those younger. It also suggests that the young don't deserve respect because they are young. I don't buy it. Everyone deserves respect because they are people, regardless of their age.

So, how do we mistreat the young? I suggest the following:

- We refer to them by their first names but insist we be called by "Sister" or "Brother" with our last names. I'm always, "Sister Cook" to the young.

- We ignore them and address other adults. We walk down the halls in Church and acknowledge the adults and ignore the young as if they don't exist.

- We communicate with them through their parents instead of interacting with them as individuals.

- We don't allow them to receive communication in their own right.

The best example of this latest is we never email them. This is absurd in my opinion. We don't stop their ears when things are announced over the podium. We don't prevent them from reading the bulletin on Sundays. We don't forbid them to look at bulletin boards. Why can't they receive emails? It makes no sense.

In fact, given how woefully inept, and digitally resistant, many adults are it makes MORE sense to communicate digitally with the young than it does the old.

The Church's digital tools do not grant the young second class status. They can receive the same digital communication as anyone else and access the same tools as older members.

Christ didn't ignore the young, quite the opposite. He often went to great lengths to single them out and hold them up as a model for the rest of us. Why do we minimize them then?

I've held this opinion since I was young but no one would listen to me then.

Will anyone listen to me now?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I'm Being Quoted?!?!

It's flattering when people think your ideas are worth repeating or passing on. I'd like to think that somewhere, sometime, I've said something worthwhile.

Today, I was reading on the Internet, just minding my own business, and I read myself quoted in the Belfast Telegraph.

Check it out. Here's the link: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/eamon-mccann/obama-mormons-and-the-battle-for-americas-soul-16140627.html

I picked up the article in one of my RSS feeds. I was excited to read another article by Eammon McCann because I remember a classic article he wrote in 2008 that I sent to everybody and their brother. In fact, I emailed it to the Church's Newsroom web site to make sure they knew about it. They never responded to me. But, I later saw a link to the article on the Church's Ireland site. I also referenced the article in a 2010 blog post.

So, this was the incentive I needed to get back into the blogging business.

Thanks Eammon!