I Don’t Wear White Dress Shirts

whiteshirt… that often. They just don’t appeal to or look good on me. How far back this aesthetic concern goes in my life I am not sure. Perhaps its only as recently in my life timeline as returning from my mission. Every day from dusk until dawn a missionary wears white shirts and ties, if not suits, as a servant of the Lord. Like any uniform, after the official reason for its use ends it feels good to change into something else. No reason to wear a drab color when there are so many other choices. The reason I don’t like to wear white shirts might sound shallow, and there is truth to that consideration, but tastes are not always complicated.

Part of my personality is less than white shirt and tie compatible. From an early age I have been an artistic minded person. My most distinct youthful memories include drawing or coloring on whatever piece of paper crossed my path. As an example, on Saturdays after cartoons there was a classic monster show that came on one of the channels. Giant monsters were my favorite. One of those was a giant tarantula that terrorized the American foothills of some unnamed geography. Having at the time fallen in love with the show the first viewing, I put that fandom down in art. Not just any old picture would do for my enthusiasm. No, I drew and colored (for a black and white film) the basic storyboard of the movie’s events. In the mind of that young boy sitting half the Saturday doing his creation, he was writer and director of a remake. White means fill the space up with shapes and colors. Continue reading

Our Young Men Are Leaving the Church

A prevalent argument has formed that women and girls are leaving the Church in droves. The implication is that more women are leaving than men and in historic numbers. All of this is based on anecdotal observation without much actual evidence. Regardless of the actual situation, other equally valid anecdotal based observations can argue that men are still far more likely to leave or not ever join the Church than women. This is not unique to Mormonism according to studies of religious organizations.

Why are men most likely to drop or reject religion? The studies do not really answer that question any more than why women might. In fact, more women remain a part of religious institutions then men. The doesn’t sound correct if feminists are right in the assumptions that traditional religions are oppressive patriarchies. Islam is one of the only major religions where men are more likely to join and participate, but it is an exception and not the rule.

The suggestions of possible reasons are mine alone. They are also theoretical from lifelong participation. Because of the general nature of the subject, stereotypes are present for a wider discussion. Although I never left the Church or intend to anytime soon to give personal examples, there remains a lifetime of experience as a male member. My friends were male, my religious associates were male, and I was raised with brothers and sisters. Some of the acquaintances I have known continue in the faith. Others drifted away like so many. Continue reading

The Quest for Polygamy in Sunday School

The title might sound strange, but that is what some members of the LDS Church are asking to find. Stories are told about lifelong members not hearing until adult age that Joseph Smith, or even Brigham Young, had practiced polygamy. These are not converts that can be expected to not know the basics of Mormon history. How can this happen? Its really hard to imagine, considering how intertwined Mormonism is with polygamy in popular secular thought. Eventually, sooner than later, a Mormon gets asked how many wives they or their husbands or father has. It becomes an exasperating eye roll question rather than shock. Most of the time. Apparently not all the time and for everyone.

My own experience, I believe, is a typical example of the slow learning about polygamy. Like so many Mormons, the subject just wasn’t brought up in church. Primary was too early where even discussions about reproduction would be inappropriate. The two subjects kind of go together. Most of the time the first inkling of both comes from school peers. At the age of around 10, that was the context of my exposure to the idea within Mormon teachings and history. My non-Mormon friend asked an offhand question if Mormons practice polygamy. I was taken by surprise, and assured him that there were all kinds of rumors floating around about Mormonism. I assume even by that remembered point of my life that I must have heard something before then to say it was one of many falsehoods.

A few years later I find out that Mormonism did indeed teach and practice polygamy, but not from a hostile source. By my mid-teen years I had developed a fascination with Joseph Smith and so grabbed the closest biography I could find. No, it wasn’t Fawn Brody’s famous scholar approved expose. The book Joseph Smith: An American Prophet by John Henry Evans was a rough sketch of his life and contained a small notice of Joseph Smith’s polygamy. The 1933 book stated, “ Polygamy or, as the Mormons prefer to call it, ‘plural marriage,’ was first introduced among the Saints in Nauvoo, in 1841 — although the Prophet had had the idea in mind ever since 1831.” (1966 ed., pg. 271). Again, the confirmation of this didn’t come from a source outside Mormon faith, but A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by B.H. Roberts who was himself a practitioner. He devoted an entire chapter in the second volume of his multi-volume history.

Both books might have talked about polygamy, the latter more than the former, but for completely different reasons. B.H. Roberts treatment aimed to argue that Joseph Smith introduced the practice for the intended audience of the now Community of Christ deniers. John Henry Evans reasoning sought to show that polygamy came from religious convictions. Regardless of why the two talked about it, the point is that Deseret Book published these books openly. Arguably it might be considered white washed treatments, but by no means was it hidden. Continue reading

A Review of “The Saratov Approach”

the-saratov-approach-20Arguably the most successful Mormon made and oriented movie, The Saratov Approach is like no other missionary themed movie made to date. There are the usual tropes and scenes found in other movies, Like God’s Army and The Best Two Years, but the mold is often broken. Audiences and critics alike have come away having positive reviews. It can now be bought and watched at home.

It goes almost without saying that the movie is based on a true story about two missionaries kidnapped in Russia. The abductors had hoped a large and wealthy American church would pay a $300,000 ransom for their safe return. Things ended up very differently than expected for everyone involved. That is all the story synopsis that needs told. It might be part of history what happened, but that outcome will be passed over to avoid unnecessary spoilers.

One of the obvious questions that Mormons almost always ask is if the movie is safe to watch with the family. Despite the PG-13 rating for subject matter and bouts of violence, there is probably not much to be concerned with viewing. The rating system, that has been argued over since its start, dropped the ball yet again. It seems more like a “hard” PG rating that two decades ago would have been slapped on to any similar film. Why anyone bothers paying attention to what the rating board decides (for someone who thinks such a system is still important) is questionable, but that can be a discussion for another day. With individual discretion there is no reason the whole family can’t sit down and enjoy this cinematic production. Continue reading

Jesus, The Miracle Worker

JesusWalksOnWaterWhen contemplating the life and teachings of Jesus, there is no way to ignore the many miracles he performed – even if his death and resurrection are put aside. Each Sunday the Communion/Sacrament commemorates the glorious miracle of the Atonement in our faith. Perhaps because Jesus is already seen as the Savior not as much attention is paid to the miracles during his ministry. Yet, the gospel writers all included several illustrations of his power over Satan, Nature, and even Death long before his glorious act of salvation for the human race. They were included because the miracles demonstrated more than simple awe inspiring spiritual strength. Each of them pointed to his identity and mission.

His Reputation

Before the meaning of the miracles can be discussed, it is important to note that Jesus was perhaps best known as a miracle worker almost as much as a teacher. In fact, his first notable introduction as something special came during a family wedding party where he turned water into wine. His critics pointedly questioned when and to whom he did his miracles, without denying he did them. John, independent of the other Gospels, even implied that it was the miracle of raising Lazarus that angered the Jewish leadership enough to plot against his life. A contested reference to Jesus by Josephus includes the fact of his miracles even in a stripped down “non-Christianized” version:

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