Marriage, part 5: Defending marriage, defending charity

This is the final post in a five-part series on marriage, in case that wasn’t obvious in the title.

Thus far I have tried to make a case for difference in marriage, arguing that without confronting the fundamental differences symbolized by the sexual unity of male and female, we are less able to understand fully what it means to be charitable. In this final post, I will argue that defending marriage – and by association, charity – requires we defend difference.

Thus far, Latter-day Saints have put a lot of money and rhetoric into defending marriage, in particular against gay marriage. Perhaps the most notable example of this was the church’s recent campaign for Prop 8 in California. Though Prop 8 passed, we have seen since its passage that this “victory” for marriage cost more than just a lot of money. For the Latter-day Saint church in particular, the victory bordered on a public relations nightmare, with a lot of hate generated against the organization and its membership. Even worse, perhaps, was the division it caused within the membership.

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Marriage, part 3: Ritual of difference

This post is a continuation of a five-part series on Marriage. Access part one here; access part two here.

In the last post, I argued that teaching our children charity was facilitated by the love parents share in the face of differences. In being one body (one flesh), as Paul taught, we must embrace our differences – otherwise, where were the hearing?

In this post, I want to address a particular difference (or set of differences) which many married couples experience on a regular basis. I’m talking in particular about “knowing” one another in the biblical sense (e.g., “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived…“). I am not trying to be coy about using the word “sex.” For my purposes, I feel that knowing is the most appropriate word.

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Mormon Creation Narratives and Creation by Evolution

I once heard it said when I was a young undergraduate that the creation accounts – particularly that of Abraham – fit very well with evolutionary accounts of creation. A casual read of Abraham seems to confirm this: earth, void; waters divided from earth; plants come up from the earth; fish and fowl; beasts of the earth; man. This sort of progression would make sense from an evolutionary perspective – creation evolves from simple to complex.

But add Moses’ account into the mix and things become a little dicier. Continue reading

Quilting and Hope

If you grew up in an LDS family, it’s quite possible that you have at least one grandma, aunt, or immediate family member who made you a quilt and was perhaps even considered a quilting “fanatic” in your family. It can be very easy to take such handmade quilts for granted. Taking some time to ponder the meaning invested in such gifts, however, may help us to appreciate them more. Continue reading

Why More of Us Should Walk to Church

I hope everyone has had a chance to read Deirdre Paulsen’s excellent (short) article in this month’s Ensign, “Faith in His Step and a Song in His Heart.” Sister Paulsen tells the story of Paulo Tvuarde, a Brazilian Latter-day Saint who, out of necessity, walked 25 miles (40 km) to church each week (usually missing once a month) for at least 14 years. This required him to begin walking at 3 a.m. The story was an inspiring one for me, when I thought of Paulo and the sacrifices that he made to worship and be with his fellow saints each week.

Reading Paulo’s story also reminded me, of course, how small a matter it is that my (pregnant) wife and I have started to leave 10 minutes earlier in order to walk about a half mile to church each week. We are happy to see several other walking couples in our ward, including several with infants and toddlers. But we walkers are a very small minority in my ward and stake. (We are in a BYU married stake with nine wards that meet in the same building; our apartment is probably the average distance from the meetinghouse.) Continue reading

Ovation Inflation: How Unique to Mormons?

Everyone is worried about the economy, including the inflation of the U.S. dollar.

But I wish to express my concerns about a different kind of inflation: ovation inflation.

Years ago I came to the term “ovation inflation” independently, but after I googled the term about a month ago, I realized, once again, that I am not as unique as I thought. “Ovation inflation” has been discussed in blogs, online magazines, and even the Wall Street Journal. In her WSJ article, Joanne Kaufman called ovation inflation “one more example of our society’s tendency to supersize every experience, emotion and commodity.” Continue reading

Nude Art and Mormonism

I’d like to quote a post from my education blog. The full post can be found here.

I was in the HFAC (at BYU) the other day admiring an exhibit on drawing. At one point, I came across one of those labels that tells you about the art work. It was describing how a knowledge of anatomy contributes to drawing the human figure, stating something to this effect: knowing what is under skin helps you to understand what you see on the skin. In other words, having a knowledge of what is underneath the surface of what you are trying to draw enables you to express that knowledge when you draw what is on the surface. Good artists, then, draw more than what’s on the surface (i.e., what they see). But how deep does “more” go? Continue reading

Billy Joel: “She’ll Promise You More Than the Garden of Eden”

This post is adapted from a presentation I gave for the Psychology of Gender course I taught last year at BYU. Though it might not be clear at first, I conclude with some uniquely LDS themes.

Billy Joel is the master lyricist of the love song.

His love songs reflect a wide spectrum of feelings and attitudes about romantic relationships. We’re all familiar with “The Longest Time,” the prototypical song from the I’m-so-excited-to-be-back-in-love-again-and-I-don’t-care-what-happens genre. For his second wife, supermodel Christie Brinkley, there’s the upbeat 80s icon, “Uptown Girl.” And, of course, there are the touching tributes, “She’s Got a Way” and “Just the Way You Are,” that have been sung by men on many occasions to swoon their wives and girlfriends. Continue reading

The Power of “R” Ratings: Video Stores and Ballot Boxes

For Latter-day Saints, the letter R can be one of your best friends.

It simplifies your decisions at the video store as well as the ballot box:

  • A movie with an R printed on it is bad. Even if you don’t know anything else about the movie, don’t watch it. A movie with any other rating — even if you don’t know anything about it — is good, as far as the appropriateness of its content.
  • A political candidate with an R printed by their name is good. Even if you don’t know anything else about the candidate, vote for him/her. A candidate with any other letter — even if you don’t know anything about her or him — is bad.

Piece of cake. Continue reading

Manifesto Against Mormon Lingo (Including the “Bloggernacle” Variety)

I have long thought that Mormon culture lingo sounds stupid and is off-putting and degrading.

Which is wonderfully exemplified by the poem “RULDS?” by Joel Hardy (which I found in a comment at this Splendid Sun post in 2006). Continue reading

Deseret Morning News: Removes Words, Not Panties

Last night, my wife Candice wrote a letter to the Deseret Morning News. I’ll repeat the text of the submitted letter here:

I would not expect Deseret Morning News, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to display sexually offensive advertising images on its online articles. I recently saw an ad for “Macy’s Free Ultimates Panty” (whatever that is) showing a seductive model wearing extremely tight, thin, and revealing undershirt and panties. The ad is in full color, large, and unavoidable, in the very center of the text. The paper must be aware that this kind of advertising is distasteful and offensive to the majority of its predominantly Latter-day Saint readership. I realize there are probably pressures for printing such ads, but perhaps the paper should follow the advice given last weekend by W. Craig Zwick in the LDS General Conference: “Live by your standards and stand up for what you believe in. Sometimes it is not easy, and you may be standing alone for awhile.” Shouldn’t Deseret News take a lead in making a stand against sexually offensive advertising? What message does this kind of advertising from a Church-owned newspaper send to the world? And what message does it send to Latter-day Saints about taking a stand against destructive yet popular worldly trends?

The newspaper printed the letter in its Reader’s Forum.

Well, sort of. Continue reading

No More Panties Please: A Letter to Deseret Morning News

I just sent this letter to the editor. We’ll wait and see if they publish it.

I would not expect Deseret Morning News, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to display sexually offensive advertising images on its online articles. I recently saw an ad for “Macy’s Free Ultimates Panty” (whatever that is) showing a seductive model wearing extremely tight, thin, and revealing undershirt and panties. The ad is in full color, large, and unavoidable, in the very center of the text. The paper must be aware that this kind of advertising is distasteful and offensive to the majority of its predominantly Latter-day Saint readership. I realize there are probably pressures for printing such ads, but perhaps the paper should follow the advice given last weekend by W. Craig Zwick in the LDS General Conference: “Live by your standards and stand up for what you believe in. Sometimes it is not easy, and you may be standing alone for awhile.” Shouldn’t Deseret News take a lead in making a stand against sexually offensive advertising? What message does this kind of advertising from a Church-owned newspaper send to the world? And what message does it send to Latter-day Saints about taking a stand against destructive yet popular worldly trends?

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Highlights from General Conference, April 2008

I thought I would take a moment and express what I consider to be some of the highlights of General Conference. I encourage others to leave a comment and do the same.

Of course, the major highlight is President Thomas S. Monson.

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Mayan Weaving, American Relations with China, and Remembering Suffering through Narratives


This post comes from a presentation I gave this semester in response to a lecture on Mayan weaving given by Allen Christensen, a talented Maya scholar at BYU.

I am also writing this in response to the discussion on relationships with China that Doug raised several days ago.

There is an interesting correlation between how Mayans and Christian Americans connect themselves with their religious narratives and how they produce clothing. This is one small way of exploring how Americans have become insensitive to human suffering in relationships with China and other poor countries. Continue reading

Do Tattoos and Piercings Remain in the Resurrection? A Case Study in a Pragmatic Approach to an LDS Theology of Possibilities

As I have mentioned before, I am giving a presentation tomorrow afternoon (Thursday, March 27) at the University of Utah, for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology conference. My presentation is entitled “Toward a Latter-day Saint Theology of Possibilities.”

The basic logic of the underlying problem I tackle in my presentation is that (a) there is a tenuous relationship between authority and freedom in the Church, (b) there is not a clear cut authoritative theology that is sufficient to guide Latter-day Saints in all matters of life, (c) Latter-day Saints cannot help but construct folk beliefs, (d) folk beliefs are not bad in themselves; the problem occurs when these beliefs are seen as closed folk beliefs (CFBs), rather than open folk beliefs (OFBs). Continue reading

Blog Highlight: Towards an LDS Cinema

One feature I would like to add to this blog is to periodically report on blogs that I think would be of interest to our readers.

The first blog I would like to highlight is Towards an LDS Cinema, which I stumbled upon a few weeks ago. I discovered, in my stumbling, that it is authored by an old friend of mine, Trevor Banks, who is a Fulbright Scholar studying (film?) in Poland. Continue reading

Mormon Folk Beliefs!

On March 27 (3-5 p.m.) at the University of Utah, I am giving a presentation at the Society of Mormon Philosophy and Theology, entitled “Toward a Latter-day Saint Theology of Possibilities.” Information about the conference can be found here.

In this presentation I will talk about how “folk beliefs” are unavoidable among Latter-day Saints. Because we do not have an exhaustive theological system or creed, we out of necessity maintain certain beliefs and possibilities that are not the Church’s official position (this is not to say, of course, that they might not be true). Continue reading