It is no secret that I love Halloween. From when I was young the holiday has been a fun celebration to start the holiday season. Few other times can freaks and the imaginative come out in the open while embraced by the mainstream. Children get permission to eat candy and talk with strangers. It becomes one huge community get together no matter what religious or cultural difference exist. It is the community aspect that has recently become in danger of disappearing.
Halloween has a long and storied history. Some historians believe it started with the Romans while the most recognized origins come from the Celtic Pagans. Wherever it came from, the holiday was a symbol for the coming winter months after harvest. Today that reason has been overshadowed by ghosts, goblins, and witches brew. Perhaps pumpkins and corn mazes are among the last reminders this is a fall festival.
To be clear, trick or treating is a relatively recent invention developed in the 1940s to protect against vandals. Before then, and especially after WWI, “trick or treat” was a serious threat. Bands of roving children and adolescence would break windows, ruin property, and start fires. You were more likely to be tricked than hand out treats. The Julie Garland musical Meet Me in St. Louis has a scene that represents the more chaotic celebration with bonfires of burning furniture. The characters hurry home before getting caught in the escalations.
After WWII parties were given for children to enjoy. Adults generally stood back and participated as families. Despite the more benign celebrations, vandalism continued to be the main feature of the holiday for the next couple decades. The state of Minnesota decided to once and for all take care of the roving problem and hold a Halloween parade. Children dressed in costumes walk in the streets in an organized cavalcade along with supervising adults. Soon after, the house to house treat gathering takes over throughout the United States. Vandalism continued, such as the Detroit arsons that took place for years, but as more isolated incidents. A new era was born from the ashes of misbehavior. Continue reading
Almost every critic who read the wildly popular Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer seemed to pick up on Mormon themes, even when they weren’t there. Wild speculations about Mormon views on domesticity, feminism, romance, conversion, deification and even the Mountain Meadows massacre were delved into as curiosity or mockery. No matter what she did or said there seemed to be Mormon roots found by someone no matter how obscure or tedious. Even Orson Scott Card’s works were never scrutinized to the degree her works have been. What is amazing is that one of arguably the most prolific and popular Mormon writers has not been given the same treatment. This despite the fact his works are filled with nods and allusions to Mormon theology and culture.
Brandon Sanderson is best known for completing Robert Jordan’s massive fantasy series The Wheel of Time when that author died. He was given the task by Jordan’s wife after she read Sanderson’s own Mistborn fantasy trilogy of books. It was a good pick considering the final books became number one best sellers and how quickly he churns out whole series of thick tomes. He also teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University when not putting down words to pages.
Perhaps there are a few reasons Sanderson and Card don’t have scores of readers trying to pin down every Mormon reference real or imagined. For one thing, Meyer is a female writer who is Hollywood friendly. That means a capacity to reach out beyond the limited fan base of literate individuals to those who might not even open up a book. Someone once pointed out that television and movies are the modern popular literature, while books have nearly returned to the domain of a select (and self selecting) few. Perhaps that might explain why only the original Battlestar Galactica has come closest to the same nit-picking. Will the release of Ender’s Game open up Mr. Card, like it already has for a small group, to the same search for details and diatribes? Perhaps because Meyer is female, much like what occurred with J.K. Rowling to a lesser extent, she is considered an acceptable target.
Clearing the above musing out of the way, what Brandon Sanderson writes has Mormonism in it with some of it blatant. There are a few motifs shared by other Mormon writers, including Meyer’s vampire series. Examples here will include the Mistborn Trilogy and the currently stand alone Rithmatist novel. A routine warning is added that below might contain spoilers. Continue reading
Let me get some of my bias out the way first. Similar to many Mormons, I earned my Eagle Scout award. One summer I worked at a BSA camp and taught my near age contemporaries. This might indicate that I love Scouting, but the truth is that I didn’t and am still ambivalent. My time in Scouts was out of devotion to Mormon tradition where going to camp and working on merit badges came naturally. The Scouting experience also passed the time in a small town where doing something was better than nothing (although books helped fill the gaps). I don’t really like the outdoors, the boys were no better as Scouts than at school, and the merit badges seemed easy and forgettable. Taking the job had more to do with not having any better choices than trying for the usual farm and grocery store positions most likely filled up anyway. I did do some farm related work and the camp was much more fun. I have not been involved with Scouts for over twenty years and don’t wish to re-engage.
My feelings about the decision for the BSA to accept homosexual boys touches on one of my major criticism of LDS Church involvement. It might, as suggested, mirror the Church stance. Considering that I find that stance to be too lenient toward a condition and behavior that I believe is more than a mere temptation, that doesn’t impress me. Be that as it may, the fact that BSA is considered an extension of the Priesthood bothers me greatly. It has for many years. There is no doubt that Joseph Smith would have loved the organization and become involved. I can also speculate he would have gone in long enough to discover its function and then developed a separate church inspired program.
Despite the 100 years of close association with the LDS Church and emphasis on faith, BSA is a secular organization. No single religion has control. Franchises develop by interested parties in local areas that can at times arbitrarily decide membership requirements. This can cause a confusing set of restrictions. For instance, a Mormon family tried to join an evangelical group and was quickly rejected. The reasoning and background story is besides the point. Is the national or the local authorities in charge? At first I felt for the Mormon family, but the truth is they had no business trying to get in that troop. On the other hand, as a secular organization the BSA could have stepped in and forced the issue much like with the homosexual decision. The evangelical troop would then be given two choices; allow the Mormons or drop support.
So far the decisions of the BSA have been nearly aligned with the LDS Church, such as homosexual leaders unaccepted and homosexual boys allowed. Some day and perhaps in the near future that might not be the case. What then? Continue reading
When looking for a picture to show in Sunday School, the ward library is sure to have an image. Plenty of Scriptures are available if not all the students have them. There is also a collection of Presidents of the Church manuals for Relief Society and Priesthood meetings. A well used copy machine exists for handouts and the latest Conference Report lesson. Occasionally there might be a video produced by the LDS Church to pass the time or make a short point during class. It also has pencils, paper, and even crayons if the occasion requires. These are the most common uses on any given Sunday for the small room often taken for granted staffed by familiar faces.
Maybe “library” is the wrong name at times. It is a place of resources more than reference or reading material. The collection of books is small and often of old vintage. Almost none of them are ever checked out. Books of any consequence can easily be found in the local public library. There are some places owned by the LDS Church that do have good collections. It isn’t surprising the Brigham Young University in all of its franchises probably has the best and most number of Mormon reading and resources for average members. That includes writings that its critics would not believe would be carried. Scattered all over the United States are college seminary libraries of varied quality. Good as these places might be, they are few and far between. The problem with public libraries can be a lack of control over what might be available, even for Mormon majority populations. The needs of ward members are not always the same as the community they belong. Continue reading
When many, both in and outside of the Church, think of Mormons, the last thing that comes to mind is a sense of humor. Jokes are more likely to be aimed at them. There might be stereotypes of happy couples with smiling children or cheerful young men and women, but this image won’t include laughter. To some extent piousness has infiltrated the subconscious of the Latter-day Saints a little too much. A good joke might be hard to find among serious calls to repentance.
As questionable as speculation, I wonder if the Prophet Joseph Smith would approve of the member’s seeming lack of joviality. He certainly didn’t like the lack of that quality when he was alive. Brigham Young learned from him that music, theater, and dancing were not of themselves sinful like he was taught growing up. Life is to be enjoyed within reasonable limits and not pined away in perpetual sorrow. Continue reading