Gaudete Sunday

December 15, 2013    By: Matt W. @ 9:41 am   Category: Life

In the Catholic Advent cycle, today is the “pink candle” Sunday, where in preparation for Christ’s coming we rejoice rather than repent. In fact, Gaudete is Latin for Rejoice and comes from Phillipians 4:4-5:

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

In the Catholic tradition, Gaudete Sunday follows the typical parameters of service, with two readings (Isaiah and James, both focusing on the nearness of the messiah who comes with healing in the wings) and a Gospel reading. The Gospel reading is Matthew 11:2-11, which features Christ’s praise of John the Baptist as more than a prophet, but also something else.

In these verses, John is in prison, and is very aware that he is about to be killed. He calls out to Jesus “Art thou the Christ or do we wait for another?” Or in other words, John, in his moment of darkness and need, calls out to Christ in doubt and uncertainty. We can not be certain if this is because John’s expectation of the Messiah was that he would be a conqueror sent by God who came to overthrow those people who now held John captive or if John merely were asking for assurance that all his suffering was not in vain. In either case, here is John, who was “more than a prophet” but who is in many ways “the prophet”, having weakness and doubt. Christ sends assurance to John and asks him to “take no offense in me”, but does not release him from his allotted punishment, as we all know. John dies, his head put on a platter, and Christ marches forward toward Calvary and beyond.

I find it very interesting that in this service of rejoicing at the nearness of Christ, the central story is one of the greatest of all people doubting and Christ pleading that he not take offense in him. In many ways, on the Christian path, our expectations of God and the way things should be are set, either by our reasoning or traditions, and can become stumbling blocks to us. In my life as a member of the Church I have seen many struggle. Most recently, a newly baptized couple read headlines about women being denied access to the priesthood session and haven’t been back to church since. Before that, I saw a couple struggle with how the church spends money on temples instead of caring for the poor and needy. I have known many who struggle with God’s allowance of Polygamy and the long period when Blacks were denied the priesthood. I have also struggled with all these things.

To these issues, I think Gaudete Sunday is a response. Christ, in the moment asks our forgiveness telling us we are blessed if we take no offense. If the greatest prophet of all could struggle, and later on the Cross, Christ could struggle (eloi lama sabacthanai), so must we struggle. Life paints an unexpected and confusing picture of God, which is ever changing and breaking the rules we try to contain it in. It is faith and faith only which allows us to have hope for the end to be good from where we stand, though all of our expectations of the end and our understandings of the now are tested. Even though we see through a glass darkly, We can still stand together as one, and thank God for the nearness of the Lord and his goodness. We can rejoice.

Letter From the First Presidency, November 1st 2013

November 4, 2013    By: Matt W. @ 7:09 pm   Category: Life

first presidency letter

Questions on the Centrality of the Atonement in Mormon Theology.

June 30, 2013    By: Matt W. @ 8:41 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology

Is it too much of a stretch to say that any Mormon discussion of the atonement must answer the big three questions: Where are we going? Why are we here? Where did we come from?

this conference changes everything

April 7, 2013    By: Matt W. @ 2:41 pm   Category: Life


The impact of progressive change on Mormonism

March 24, 2013    By: Matt W. @ 8:53 am   Category: Life

Change within the church, as within any other organization, can be challenging. This is not to say change should not and cannot occur. But it does mean that those who agitate for change need to be sensitive to the issues surrounding it and should be sensitive to the needs and feelings of those who will be impacted by that change.

One challenge many face in the wake of change is uncertainty and confusion about what is correct and valuable. Some will look back on their lives and see a gap in them that could have been filled had the policy been different in their day, and will cry out “How could God let this happen to me?”. Others will see this change as an indicator that other changes are possible and will lose certainty of the paradigms upon which they have made their life decisions. They will either have set up a series of reasoning which had supported the rules before the change and need help deconstructing that list, or they will have reservations making faith claims on any certain position of the church, wondering if it will just change later. They will turn to their own reasoning over the teachings of the church and begin trying to predict rightness or wrongness on their own. This is not bad in its own right, but people will feel further from God as a result of this.

Another result causing a feeling of sadness in people will be their seeing human action trumping divine aid. They have seen you lobby for this change, and they wonder to themselves “All my life I have been told that God runs this church, and that I can pour out my heart to him in prayer and he will answer. But now, these people run the church via activism. Should God have not just heard their prayers and responded?” Some will see this as another indicator that the church is a human run organization with no divine spark pushing it along.

This leads us straight into prophetic fallibility. It can be very challenging for members to see major change from leadership in the church. One of the central ideas of Mormonism, like it or not, is that the Lord uses his prophet to lead the people. It is assumed that this should mean the prophet has some higher level of consciousness and should know God’s will directly. He should not need to be poked and prodded by other men or women. He should take his orders directly from God. When one statement from a general authority is questioned, it creates the Paul H. Dunn effect, where every other statement by that same authority is damaged collaterally.

Lastly, when we are dealing with change of any kind within the church, we have to be sensitive to the human emotion involved. People have invested their time, talent, and energies into defending the thing you are now seeking to change. They have done this because they believed it was God’s will. Some have made it a central part of their identity to defend it. They will need to be assured their energies have not been wasted and still matter, or you will have people become emotionally disengaged.

So when you bring snacks to primary, please be considerate of those who remember the days when snacks in primary were not allowed. Tread lightly, my friends.

Playing the game at a different level

November 6, 2012    By: Matt W. @ 11:43 pm   Category: Life

In marketing, we often drive for major events which through their magnitude will create an ongoing halo effect, a self-generating gravity which continues to attract thinkers to them for some time to come. In our modern media age, for such an event to be effective, it needs to be really massive to garner any form of lasting halo, and needs to be well supported with a ready network to handle the load it creates. Also, it needs be somewhat controversial while having the ability to deflect some of the controversy away from itself. It’s kind of like a perfect storm, to use N. T. Wright’s favorite analogy. (more…)

Fourteen Years a Mormon, Five Years a Blogger

October 11, 2012    By: Matt W. @ 3:26 am   Category: Life

Fourteen years ago today I was baptized. It still is the single most important decision I have ever made in my life. For the past five years, I have posted about it each year. I post less frequently than I did five years ago. It seems that one of three things have happened, either the blogging genre has begun to cool as a popular medium, or I have begun to have less interesting things to say, or my kids have kicked me off the computer. Probably the third bit is an excuse for the reality of the second bit. In any case, thanks to everyone who has read here at New Cool Thang, who has taken time to comment, who has been patient with me as I thought through things, misspelled things, or generally butchered the standardized grammatical forms. I apologize if I have offended any, whether in comments, postings, or the lack of the same. Life is, if anything, busy. (more…)

Missionary age change back of the envelope Math.

October 7, 2012    By: Matt W. @ 8:58 am   Category: Uncategorized

Let’s say we have 52,000 missionaries right now. A little googling shows about 10,000 (18-20%) of those are sisters currently. A little missionary shows we average about 5 baptisms per missionary per year. With the new age limit drop on young women, there is an expected boost in the number of sisters serving. If the number of sisters jumps from 20% to 30% of the total, that,s an increase of 10,000 sisters, doubling the number of sisters in the field now. (Getting us back to the number of missionaries we had in the late 90s). That takes our convert numbers from 250,000 to 300,000 per year, at current rates. If sisters begin to go at the same rate as men, the missionary force jumps from 50,000 to 80,000 with baptisms jumping from 250,000 to 400,000. Of course this doesn’t include any sort of diminishing returns on the additive value of more missionaries, but it also doesn’t include any sort of boost for moving the men’s age to 18, and the men’s boost you get from all the girls doing it.

Who knows where it will land, but it is an exciting moment of potential, for this and so many other reasons. It will be fun to watch the next 10 years.

Mitt Romney on Evolution

August 31, 2012    By: Matt W. @ 8:16 pm   Category: Life

One popular website running around on Favebook is It’s a website which asks you a few questions, then tells you how the candidates answered the same questions. One question is whether you believe in evolution. After you take the survey, you get to see how you align with the candidates. Just to make R. Gary’s head explode, here is Mitt’s response.


Question #1- What does that even mean?
Question #2- Should I be offended that it tells me I should vote Green Party?

This Mormon Life 2012- iPhone edition

July 29, 2012    By: Matt W. @ 12:09 pm   Category: Life

I don’t know if it is because I am the father of three little girls or what, but I was just looking at my phone and thinking about all the church apps I have for being at church on Sunday.

Feel free to judge me by my apps:



I wonder if this is just because church is 3 hours long and it is easier to pocket a phone than haul scriptures, coloring books, crayons, quiet books, friends, toys, etc.

Most used are:

Most used by me: LDS tools- always using it to visit other members, call other members, etc. Close second, Gospel Library.

Most used by the family- read the scriptures. Helps keep us on track to read as a family, BUT the app breaks a lot, save your money and just use the website.

Most used by the 2 year old- Primary sing along. She is hooked on “I Am A Child Of God”

Most used by the 5 year old- Coloring games are a big hit here.

Most used by the 8 year old- Where’s the water trumps church games generally, but she’ll play Lamanite or Jonah.

What church apps do you have/use?

If you asked me what I thought about the FARMS debacle.

June 27, 2012    By: Matt W. @ 8:48 pm   Category: Life

I’d respond “That’s a Clown Question, Bro.”

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