About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

The Christmas Tree Rock

DC Temple Lights, image courtesy of Intellectual Reserve, Inc.In DC, one of the highlights of the holiday season is the Festival of Lights lighting ceremony, where the Church honors a featured world ambassador and invites the rest of the diplomatic community to participate as the 650,000 lights decorating the DC temple grounds are illuminated.

This year the honored ambassador was His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae, ambassador of Japan. As Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has spent many years in Asia and Japan, we were honored to have Gary and Lesa Stevenson visit with us.

The lighting ceremony was covered by Deseret News <ref>If you look carefully you can see my knee in the picture of soloist Sandra Turley. I was playing violin but also sing in the choir, so was not dressed in black.</ref> but perhaps a more delightful evening was the annual Temple Workers’ Christmas Devotional, held the previous Sunday evening in the Solemn Assembly Room of the DC temple. As Elder Stevenson was planning to be in town to honor His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae, he arranged to participate in the devotional.

That is where Elder Stevenson told us the story of the Christmas Tree Rock. Continue reading

Review: Sully (film)

Promotional poster for Sully. For discussion of fair use of the image, see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sully_xxlg.jpeg#mw-jump-to-licenseSully is Clint Eastwood’s September 2016 film about the pilot that landed an Airbus A320 passenger airplane in the Hudson River off Manhattan on the afternoon of January 15, 2009. Both engines of the plane failed after a flock of geese collided with the plane shortly after takeoff. All aboard survived. The surprising “success” of the response was primarily attributed to the calm reaction of Pilots Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Sully) and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles.

The core conflict in Sully involves the tension between the seemingly obvious success of the response to the engine failure and the second guessing that occurs during formal investigations of any event, which in this case was being performed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The film also portrays Captain Sully questioning his actions, with dream sequences showing alternate outcomes, such as the plane crashing in the heart of the business district of New York City. Had Captain Sully been found to have erred in landing the plane in the Hudson, his career as a pilot and aeronautic safety expert would have ended, resulting in personal ruination.

The movie is relatively short. As a movie-goer, I would not expect Tom Hanks to play a protagonist who was ultimately found to be a failure. Yet Clint Eastwood does heighten the conflict enough that the pain the main character experiences feels real while we watch the film.

Sully provides viewers a chance to experience the roller coaster ride of fear and despair with Captain Sully while knowing that at the end the ride will come to a safe and happy ending. Continue reading

Changing Boundaries

Today congregations throughout Northern Virginia were told their boundaries would be changing effective 11/27/2016. Each congregation was only provided information for their own ward. It isn’t yet clear to members how the overarching shifts affect the five existing stakes reportedly altered in this large change, although we are given to understand that each of the dozens of congregations will be changing boundaries.

Change is upsetting. I am surprised to see how much sorrow today’s announcement is evoking. In the case of my ward, all who were in the ward previously will still be in the same stake. The new ward that absorbs the neighborhoods that were previously to our east will even meet in the same building (starting at 1100 to our 0900). So we’ll still even see each other in the halls and at Stake activities.

This caused me to reflect on Nauvoo in 1841-1842, Continue reading

Review: The Trek East: Mormonism Meets Japan, 1901-1968

takagiIn The Trek East, Dr. Shinji Takagi has produced a masterful treatment of Mormonism’s foundation in Japan. Dr. Takagi takes an approach that informs us of Mormonism in Japan in a manner that focuses on inputs and results, environmental conditions in Japan and cultural biases of a Mormonism informed by western assumptions.

Mormonism arrived in Japan at the first possible opportunity, yet at the worst possible time. Westerners were ignorant regarding Japan and unconscious prejudice against non-whites manifested in scant resources initially devoted to the Japan Mission. Yet the Mormon presence in Japan has blossomed based in no small part on early actions and decisions that contemporary peers felt were misguided.

I am delighted by this book for several personal reasons. First, Brother Takagi was my family’s home teacher when I was a teenager in the DC area. Second, I see this history of the Church in Asia through the lens of being a daughter of the first missionary convert in Taiwan. Finally, my work in recent years has involved significant travel to Japan, so the history and geography described in this book are somewhat familiar to me.

The Trek East is nearly 600 pages long, of which the primary text comprises 440 pages organized into 12 chapters. Each chapter can be read as a stand-alone work. Yet reading the entirety of the work produces a synergistic level of understanding that is not achieved by solely considering chapters in isolation.

Below I give a broad overview of the structure, but I cannot do justice to the gems that are scattered throughout this extensive work. Dr. Takagi’s economic background produces a respectful and rational discussion of the cost individuals pay to accept Mormonism or any new belief system, which ultimately undergirds the growth of any organization of individuals. For example:

The “characteristics of early Mormon converts are consistent with what has been observed in other cultural contexts among various [ideological] traditions… The cost of conversion is expected to be lower for someone who is already a Christian and can therefore use part of the same human capital [already invested in their prior Christian system of belief.]

“[A] younger person is likely to possess a smaller stock of capital… the cost of giving up the current religion… is smaller [and] the benefit of switching to a new religion will be enjoyed over a longer period, making its expected net present value greater.” 1

This informs my understanding of my own history, where my young father and his two siblings embraced the gospel in Taiwan in the late 1950s, prepared by the Christian faith of their mother. Similarly, such “macro” level explanations can help us see our own day, when ideologies such as unbelief and gender-agnostic sexual liberalism are claiming some of our youth. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Shinji Takagi, The Trek East: Mormonism Meets Japan, 1901-1968, Greg Kofford Books, Salt Lake City, 2016, pp. 131-132.