Choose the Right Tattoo

September 26, 2014    By: Jacob J @ 4:47 pm   Category: Life,Mormon Culture/Practices

My wife recently made waves by adding “temporary tattoos” to the plans for an upcoming youth activity. There was already a face painting booth planned and she added temporary tattoos to that booth to increase the variety. Predictably, someone objected to having temporary tattoos as part of a church sponsored event. Not the sort of thing I would get my panties in a bunch about, but nonetheless something that I understand. (more…)

Biking for Beards and BYU’s Beard Ban

   By: DavidF @ 11:45 am   Category: Life

BYU is about to be the focus of a new protest.  It’s called Bike for Beards.  Students, and perhaps some alumni, will bike from Provo City Library on over to the administration building and ask to have the beard ban removed by presenting a list of printed comments from their website to the administration.  While I am not affiliated in any way with this group, I did submit my own argument for changing the policy.  Since this is an issue that virtually every BYU alumnus/alumna could have an opinion on, I’ve reproduced my submission here.  Most of what I wrote actually came from a memo I intended to send the administration while I was a student, but alas procrastination won out.

 

The BYU honor code standard against beards deserves critical review as it has outlasted its purpose. As a recent alumni, I am still troubled by this outmoded and unchanged policy.

As others have undoubtedly noted, wearing beards was not an honor code violation in BYU’s early history. When Elder Oaks became president of the university in 1971, he discussed the reason for the no-beard policy in his commencement address (on the topic of the honor code generally):

In the minds of most people at this time, the beard and long hair are associated with protest, revolution, and rebellion against authority. They are also symbols of the hippie and drug culture. Persons who wear beards or long hair, whether they desire it or not, may identify themselves with or emulate and honor the drug culture or the extreme practices of those who have made slovenly appearance a badge of protest and dissent.

The beard wasn’t just a beard in the 60s and 70s; it was a symbol of political and cultural dissent closely associated with the hippie culture and deteriorating social norms. In light of that culture, a beard ban made perfect sense. Elder Oaks even recognized that the ban was not meant to outlast its intended purpose:

Unlike modesty, which is an eternal value in the sense of rightness or wrongness in the eyes of God, our rules against beards and long hair are contemporary and pragmatic. They are responsive to conditions and attitudes in our own society at this particular point in time. Historical precedents are worthless in this area. The rules are subject to change, and I would be surprised if they were not changed at some time in the future.

Elder Oaks explained that the ban could outlast its intended purpose, which I and many others would argue is exactly what has now happened.

The beard has lost its political symbolism. It has no lasting stigma among white-collar professionals such as doctors, lawyers, professors, and engineers. Liberals are no more likely to wear beards than are conservatives. Only in the business world are beards still stigmatized. And while that should weigh as an important consideration, one professional sector’s preferences should not dictate the dress code where other professional sectors are indifferent.

In the spirit of Elder Oaks’ remarks, tattoos, multiple piercings, and outrageous hair color should all still remain suspect violations of the honor code. These symbols remain part of America’s anti-professional counterculture. The beard has moved on.

Naturally, some beards are outrageous and certainly taboo in the professional world. Brigham Young’s beard would simply have no place among white-color professionals. The honor code should not open the door to all facial hair. Just as the honor code allows hair without permitting outrageous hairstyles, so too should it allow for beards without outrageous beard styles. A possible modification could read: “Beards should be well kempt and decorous,” with some latitude in enforcement of this standard. Such a standard would be keeping up with the times and capture the spirit of Elder Oaks’ policy reasons for the beard ban.

Finally, as a note about the need for occasional policy changes: In Elder Oaks address, he reiterated the then-current prohibition on women wearing jeans or sweatshirts as appropriate enforcements of the honor code. Those prohibitions have since been dropped. The honor code has always followed what society recognizes as reasonable dress and grooming standards. Far from prohibiting women’s sweatshirts, the campus store sells women’s sweatshirts to students! Occasional modifications to the honor code have always been appropriate. In that vein, the beard has gone from social pariah to a reasonable grooming standard among professionals. The honor code should reflect that change.

Thoughts?

Faith in Jesus Christ- A talk for Church

July 26, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 6:54 pm   Category: Life

Talk Prepared for July 27, 2014

Having moved in just two weeks ago, we have been slightly in shock at how freakishly organized this ward is. In our two weeks, we’ve already been visited by the Elder’s Quorum Presidency, the Relief Society Presidency, and the Bishopric. The icing on the cake was the multi-paragraph email we received with this assignment to speak. I think my wife’s words were “Is there such a thing as so ideal and organized that it’s weird”? That letter asked that I speak on Faith in Jesus Christ and to take some time to introduce you to our family and tell you a bit about us. (more…)

In the Church but not of the Church

July 3, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 8:59 pm   Category: Life

When Adam was told to sacrifice the first born of his flock, when Abraham was told to sacrifice his only son and when Joseph Smith was told to sacrifice his monogamous relationship with his wife, they were not given any kind of reason or justification.  Rather, their response was along the lines of “I know not [why], save that the Lord hath commanded.”  They were expected to comply even though they did not know and thus could give no reason to anybody who might ask, “Why?” – and we have every reason to believe that other people definitely did so ask. (more…)

“Strangers In Zion”?

June 24, 2014    By: Geoff J @ 7:21 pm   Category: Life

Just saw a news piece that mentioned a brand spankin’ new group calling themselves “Strangers In Zion”. The group has a fancy new web site and everything. The stated purpose of the group is this:

Strangers In Zion is a grass roots movement for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are requesting to subject themselves to church discipline in solidarity for other wrongfully excommunicated and otherwised [sic] disciplined Latter-day Saints.

Well alrightee then.

Why just fade into inactivity in the church when you can try to leave the with a bang? I guess I can see the appeal on some level.

Of course folks will probably end up surprised by how hard it really is to get excommunicated from this church.

Sigh.

One Does Not Simply Lose One’s Testimony – A Heartfelt Plea

June 20, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 12:33 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Ethics,Life,Mormon Culture/Practices,Truth

This is THE lesson that I have learned regarding my misguided departure from the church.  I had worked myself into a position where the values and standards of the gospel had become a second language to me – second to the values and standards of liberal democracy.  The latter had taken the place of the former as my default mindset, the habitual patterns in which I automatically and uncritically thought, spoke and acted.  Through years of training and practice, I had come to evaluate and measure the church and its values according to those of liberal democracy at a deeply intuitive and emotional level rather than the other way around.  I had come to feel more repugnance, offense and moral indignation at the thought of somebody violating my liberal democratic values than if they had violated those of my Mormon upbringing.

But this is not how I experienced it at the time.  Precisely because of the way in which I had internalized the values of liberal democracy I uncritically experienced these values as given and beyond question.  The values of liberal democracy were just “obviously” good and true.  Thus, when I decided to measure the truth of the church by the values of liberal democracy, I simply experienced this process as asking “is the church true?” – an honest and innocent question.  When I evaluated church policies and doctrine by the standards of liberal democracy, I very genuinely felt that I was asking “is this position right?”  Similarly, when a person violated the rules of liberal democracy they were a bad person, but when another person violated the rules of Mormonism they merely had a different perspective on what was right.  The very act of internalizing the rules of liberal democracy had also repressed them and the more strongly I endorsed them the more I placed them beyond question or constraint.  Liberal democracy, in my mind, was not simply a tradition or perspective, but universal and timeless truth – a standing which should have been reserved for God and His church.

With hindsight, I can say with absolute conviction that one does not simply lose one’s testimony, even if it genuinely feels as if that is what is happening.  Rather, one actively – albeit uncritically – beats down and erodes one’s testimony.   Through training and practice, we gradually chip away at our testimonies with the hammer of the liberal democratic values we are taught in school, on t.v. and in internet forums.  As we choose to evaluate and navigate the world around us by the tools of liberal democracy rather than those of the gospel, the latter not only atrophy from disuse, but are purposefully displaced by the former in their relentless take-over and re-programming of our minds.  I cannot say it emphatically enough: the tradition of liberal democracy is not neutral, passive or benign when it comes to our religious convictions or any other set of competing values.  It is a god which is no less jealous or hungry for the souls of men (or women) than any other.

As people in the bloggernacle critically evaluate and take inventory on their testimonies, I sincerely hope that they do not fall into the same trap I did.  Our testimonies do not lose their power, except in their struggle against some other power – typically that of liberal democracy.  If some such issue is placing your testimony of the church at risk, why not critically evaluate and take inventory on your testimony of that issue?  I know that it can be difficult and counter-intuitive to do, but instead of judging the church for it’s lack of concern for feminist issues or it’s lack of appreciation or tolerance for open debate or some other way of measuring the church by liberal democratic standards, let’s instead measure such movements, values and institutions by those of the Lord and His prophets.  To paraphrase Jacob, to be a liberal democrat is good, so long as these values and standards are constrained by the counsels of God and His prophets rather than the other way around.

 

Contraception, Healthcare, and the Legal Limits of Religious Expression on Businesses

March 26, 2014    By: DavidF @ 11:43 am   Category: Life

The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday on whether for-profit businesses have religious freedom.  More specifically, whether two corporations run by Christian families could be exempt of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that businesses that insure their employees provide free contraceptive to female workers.  Importantly, religious groups already have the exemption, but what about businesses directed and influenced by their religiously minded bosses or shareholders?  Should they be forced to run their businesses in ways that go against their religious values?

The two companies are Hobby Lobby, and Conestoga Wood Specialties (ran by a family of Mennonite Christians).  The family that runs Hobby Lobby opposes the obligation to give their female employees any contraceptives that prematurely end a possible life, such as the morning after pill.  The family that runs Conestoga oppose any medical procedures that prevent a possible life, and thus all contraceptives.

So who will win, the government or the businesses?  Importantly, the Supreme Court doesn’t just weigh both sides equally and decides which deserves a win more.  The Court relies on longstanding judicial procedure to determine outcomes.  Most know that in criminal cases, an accused can only be convicted if the are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  In civil cases generally, the the plaintiff wins if they have a preponderance of the evidence on their side; that is, there’s better reason to believe they should win than reason for them to lose.  However, when a person sues the federal government claiming that the government has infringed upon his or her rights, the Court goes through a more complicated procedure.

Leading up to the 1930s, the Supreme Court regularly struck down laws that regulated how business owners can run their businesses.  These decisions allowed employers to set harmfully long work weeks with extremely low wages.  In one case, the court passively allowed the continuation of child labor.  In 1938, after the Court had struck down several New Deal laws, the court flipped.  Decades of judicial activism ended.  The new standard that developed out of 1938 was this: if the government wants to achieve a legitimate government interest–that is, seeks to protect public health, safety, welfare or morals/criminal laws–then its action/regulation need only be rationally related to achieving that goal.  So if a business owner wants to set his employees’ 40 hour workweek wages below minimum wage claiming that the government law against that hurts his business (more specifically, claiming that the government infringes upon his rights of due process or just compensation), the government need only show that the hour/wage laws rationally protect the employees health or safety, which they can of course do.  In other words, as long as Congress acts within its constitutional limitations, any law that protects the government objectives I mentioned above will get upheld. (more…)

Visual Aid to The Gospel of Jesus Christ: Updated

March 9, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 9:01 am   Category: Life

Today I am teaching the Elders about Faith and Repentance, and made this visual aid. Have a look and tell me if there is anything you disagree with. My only thought is that I would love to replace “Sin” with “Acts of Independence” as Elder Hafen did. Maybe I will put “Sin or other acts of Independence”…

Gospel of Jesus Christ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

update: I tried to incorporate some of the suggestions from the comments. Better? Too Busy?

Gospel of Jesus Christ 2

Teacher Improvement Lesson 5- Effective Methods

February 16, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 9:35 am   Category: Life

This week I decided to keep things simple.

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Teacher Improvement 4: Ages and Stages in Gospel Learning

February 1, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 8:00 pm   Category: Life

This Lesson is a little more unfocused than prior lessons as my main goal here is the transfer of information. The basic design of the lesson is going to be to go over some general information then to allow the class to determine which age groups they would like to focus on.

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Teacher Improvement Lesson 3 preparing a lesson

January 26, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 10:18 am   Category: Life

I spent most of my preparation time this week debating whether I should teach this lesson next or teach lessons on pedagogy and age specific needs next. I went with this lesson, but could totally imagine the other order being better. This is a combination of lessons 5 and 10 from teaching-no greater calling.

Today my guiding principles for the lesson are a contrast to one another:

First- “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” D&C 38:30

Second “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”  Helmuth von Moltke (more…)

Teacher Improvement Lesson 2: Christ-Centered Teaching

January 19, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 9:50 am   Category: Life

My Lesson has a few guiding principles. The first comes from this quote from Jeffrey R. Holland from the April 1998 General Conference:

We must revitalize and reenthrone superior teaching in the Church—at home, from the pulpit, in our administrative meetings, and surely in the classroom. Inspired teaching must never become a lost art in the Church, and we must make certain our quest for it does not become a lost tradition.

I use this quote as a reminder of the prior lesson that our objective is to be the best we can be and that great teachers want to be great teachers, are passionate about what they are learning and love those they teach.

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Teacher Improvement Lesson 1: What Makes a Great Teacher?

January 12, 2014    By: Matt W. @ 10:24 am   Category: Life

So I have been asked to teach a church teacher improvement course over the next six weeks at church. Since I was surprised to not find one laid out online at Feast Upon the Word or T&S, I thought I would post my lessons plans here and invite your input and help over the next 6 weeks. Think of every question as an invitation to discuss.

I start simply, with the following statement I nabbed from greatschools.com (more…)

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

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