Burning Bosom

Theology, History, Culture, Politics & Life from a LDS (Mormon) Perspective

Archive for the ‘Mormon Culture’ Category

How To Get Ahead In Hollywood (aka Maybe Those Roadshows Did Have Some Practical Value After All)

Posted by Shawn L on March 31, 2008

heigl2.jpgSurely this is one of the strangest aftershocks of the so-called “Mitt Moment.”   

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Posted in Humor, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Can a Mormon be a Christian?

Posted by Kerry on March 27, 2008

It’s that age-old question: are Mormons Christians? It seems like every time I read an LDS news website or happen across a Christian blog, one of the topics that always boils to the top is whether the Christian world considers Mormons as sitting inside or outside the revival tent.

This question usually comes down to how each individual party defines the word Christian. Some say it is defined as a disciple of the biblical Christ, others as a member of a protestant church, others define it as a person who has “accepted Christ as their personal Savior” (which I, as a Mormon, have done), while others say that unless you have a cross on your church you cannot be considered a Christian.

What do I say? I don’t care if they think we are Christians.

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Posted in Church News, Faith, Inter-Faith Relations, Mormon Culture, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Why Are Utahns So Depressed?

Posted by Andrew on March 26, 2008

DepressedA recent news article cites a study that portrays Utah as the most depressed state in the U.S. The article suggests Mormon culture is at least partly to blame for Utahns’ depression, and features photos of a pill bottle and a depressed-looking woman superimposed over the Salt Lake temple.

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Posted in Depression, Mormon Culture, Utah | Tagged: , , | 15 Comments »

Making Peace With The Easter Bunny

Posted by Shawn L on March 21, 2008

eb.jpgAfter a year off, the Easter Bunny is scheduled to make a return visit to our home this weekend.  My wife and I, parents of three young daughters, have been mulling over this decision for the past few weeks and, quite honestly, it may change in the next 48 hours.   Last year, we decided we were giving up the Easter Bunny altogether on the notion that it unnecessarily drew attention away from the more sacred aspects of the holiday.  Not a bad idea in principle, right?  Well . . .

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Posted in Humor, Mormon Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Honest Disagreement with Church Policy and Doctrine

Posted by Kerry on March 18, 2008

Last month, the Church released a statement regarding Peter Danzig’s (a member of the Church’s Orchestra at Temple Square in SLC) public disagreement surrounding same-gender marriage.[1] It appears that Peter and his wife were very active members of the Church, serving and attending in their local ward. But they disagreed with a 1st Presidency letter sent to local leaders back in 2006 “urging members to ‘express themselves’ on a forthcoming vote in the United States Senate relating to the definition of marriage.”[2]

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Posted in Apologetics, Church News, Faith, Mormon Culture, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 20 Comments »

Reflections On My First Sunstone Symposium

Posted by Shawn L on March 17, 2008

sunstone1.jpgThis weekend, I (along with my co-blogger, Andrew) attended my first Sunstone Symposium this past weekend in Claremont, California.  You’ll note from its title that this post does not aspire to be a comprehensive report of the weekend’s events.   But, in hopes of disabusing people of the same sorts of prejudices I held for so long (as explained below), let me share with you a few thoughts about my experience.   

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Posted in Mormon Culture, Mormon History, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 46 Comments »

The iConfessional: Offering Peace To The Internet-Savvy Sinner

Posted by Shawn L on March 14, 2008

ages.jpgSites where readers can share all of their dirty little secrets in sweet, sweet anonymity have long been a staple of the Internet. While blogs like Postsecret have turned such catharsis into an art form, these sites, more commonly, are places for folks simply to swap stories, brag a bit, and spill their guts. Common admissions range from the serious (“I cheated on my girlfriend” or “I did meth today for the first time in month”) to the scatological (“I was the guy who stunk up the bathroom at work today”).

Recently, these sites have given birth to a new, and odd, phenomenon: the iConfessional. Think of it as Deus ex blog . . . Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Mormon Culture | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

A Night At The Ward Auction (aka Bargain Shopping For A Firedancer)

Posted by Shawn L on March 9, 2008

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One of things I loved about Church as a kid was going to ward fundraisers.  My motives, of course, were far from altruistic.  We had a guy in our ward who owned a 7-Eleven franchise, so he always brought boxes of candy and Slurpee coupons for auction.  After 2 hours of relentless nagging from their pack of wild kids, my folks inevitably would give in and we would go home with weeks worth of Butterfingers, along with all sorts of other trinkets we didn’t really need.  These events were always great fun and served to rally us together around a specific goal, be it the youth program, a new chapel or the construction of a local temple. 

It’s been nearly two decades now since I attended such an event.  Indeed, it was my understanding that the Church prohibited ward-sponsored fundraisers when it lifted the rule requiring congregations to raise their own budgets.   Apparently, I was wrong because, last night, our ward held its first annual Ward Auction to raise money for this year’s iterations of Scout Camp and Girls’ Camp.  I am happy to report it was rousing success.

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Posted in Mormon Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Rewriting My “Testimony Rules”

Posted by Shawn L on March 5, 2008

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If you have spent any time at all as a member of the Church, you undoubtedly have a few horror stories of fast and testimony meetings gone awry.  From false doctrine to racially-insensitive remarks to right-wing political “calls to arms” to just plain weirdness, I’ve have heard my fair share of, ahem, “colorful” testimonies.  [My favorite is the departing missionary who ended his testimony by saying, “In the words of the Lord, ‘it is finished,'” and then promptly sat down.]   As a result, many jaded members — and virtually every full-time missionary — can be heard, at one time or another, to say that they look upon this monthly ritual with dread, a feeling that is only exacerbated by the presence of persons unfamiliar with the practice, such as investigators.  Who knows what crazy old Sister Jones will say this month?  What if Brother Jones spends another 30 minutes bemoaning his long-haired son-in-law and the evils of cable television?

I’ll admit, I’m no different.  Over the years,  as a direct response to these instances, I developed my own set of criteria for how I thought a testimony — an honest to goodness Testimony — should sound.  Each week, of course, members broke every single one of my little rules, which drove me crazy.  Didn’t they get it?  Bearing testimony is a serious business, for goodness sake.  But through a couple of recent experiences, I have come to rethink — and now take the opportunity to rewrite — my “testimony rules.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Book of Mormon, Faith, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

In Relief Society, “No means No!”

Posted by Kerry on February 29, 2008

Like many other Burning Bosom Bloggers, my wife and I have both recently served in ward leadership positions. It was Elder’s Quorum Prez (EQP) for me and RS Prez (RSP) for my wife (still serving). I have to admit that we have both been absolutely flabbergasted, completely bewildered, and utterly SHOCKED at the behavior of some of our fellow active members of the church, regarding the acceptance of service from others.

It seems that when a person is first called to a ward leadership position, said person tries to fulfill every single service request at whatever cost, believing that “magnifying your calling” requires that. One common example would be spending an exorbitant (i.e a dozen hours) amount of time helping an unprepared family to move. Over time, however, even the sweetest of hearts becomes somewhat “hardened” and begins to understand that it is okay to say “no” to some inappropriate service requests.

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Posted in Faith, Humor, Marriage & Family, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , , , , , | 34 Comments »

On Bearded Bishops & Avoiding The “Appearance Of Evil”

Posted by Shawn L on February 26, 2008

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The shaving habits of post-McKay Mormon males is well trod ground, so forgive me if this horse has been sufficiently kicked. But it struck me recently that in my 35 years as an active member of the Church, I have never, ever attended a Ward (in the US) where any of the Bishopric wore facial hair. An important note: I lived in Utah only while attending BYU. Mine may be a unique experience, but I suspect not.

The only coherent argument I’ve ever heard justifying the dearth of beards in our ranks is the old saw about “avoiding the appearance of evil.” The argument goes as follows: of course there’s nothing wrong with beards per se, but people might see your bearded face and assume that you are someone you are not. As a bearded dude, I have heard this line of thinking dozens of times over the years. And after all these years, I’m still not buying it.

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Posted in Mormon Culture | Tagged: , , | 74 Comments »

“I Pray for Dead People”

Posted by Kerry on February 25, 2008

The other night my 6-year old daughter was chosen by the patriarch of our home to offer a blessing on the food that was sitting at our dinner table. After what started out as Food Prayer Transcript #26, she said something that at first made my wife and I giggle, but has made me think a bit. Obviously this daughter was aware of the recent passing of our Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley.

In her prayer, she sincerely mentioned:

“Please bless President Hinckley that he will have a fun time in heaven.”

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Posted in Faith, Humor, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Why I Am Not a Disaffected Mormon

Posted by Andrew on February 25, 2008

DisaffectedThere seem to be a number of disaffected Mormons lurking the Bloggernacle these days.

I am not one of them.

Here is why.

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Posted in Apologetics, Faith, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

A Tale Of Two Missions

Posted by Shawn L on February 22, 2008

muppmission.jpgMy wife and I were out to dinner the other night with some good friends of ours who are also LDS.  As I am wont to do, I shared with them an anecdote from my long-ago mission in Guatemala.  Admittedly, the story, which detailed the unpleasant experience of being tested for intestinal parasites in a third world country, was probably inappropriate for a post-meal discussion (hint: it’s not a blood sample they want).  It got a few laughs nevertheless.   Once she recovered from yet another rash of embarrassment at my hand, my wife asked a simple question that has stuck with me:   “Was it worth it?”

I was taken aback and, I’ll admit, a bit hurt by the question.  How could my wife even think to ask such a thing?  Surely she knows how important my mission is/was to me, right?  That it means much more than a few funny stories?  But as I have mulled over her question in the past few weeks, I have come to realize that it stemmed from the fact that I tell two very different versions of my mission experience.   And for each version, my answer is a bit different.

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Posted in Missonaries, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

The Ammon Approach: Redefining Missionary Work

Posted by Andrew on February 20, 2008

MissionariesWhen it comes to Church growth, the Church sets high expectations for itself. Likening the Church to that scriptural stone that rolls forth to fill the whole earth, Church members may expect to see exponential Church growth, with significant year-over-year gains in the number of convert baptisms. However, over the past several years, the number of annual convert baptisms has actually dipped and plateaued somewhat, corresponding in part with a decrease in the number of full-time missionaries. Moreover, retention of new converts remains a challenge, as we are often reminded by Church leaders. In this situation, it is natural for Mormons to consider possible ways to improve the Church’s missionary program to increase the number of genuine converts to the Church.

The mission in which my stake is located is currently testing a pilot program that hearkens back to a familiar Book of Mormon story about a man named Ammon who wanted to build a bridge between two long estranged peoples, one of which was completely unfamiliar with the Gospel. Setting aside the direct proselytizing approach to missionary work, Ammon embarked on a mission of simple Christian service that inspired thousands who were previously considered the most unlikely potential converts to join the Church. If every stake and ward in the Church were to adopt Ammon’s approach to missionary work by conducting a wide-spread campaign of consistent, meaningful, no-strings-attached community service, could the Church experience the same miraculous growth that occurred in Ammon’s day?

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Posted in Church News, Inter-Faith Relations, Missonaries, Mormon Culture | 16 Comments »

The Promise of the Rings: Answering the Call for New Mormon Folklore

Posted by Andrew on February 15, 2008

RingsIn a recent Mormon Matters post, my compadre Super Nerd lamented the endangered status of stories about Big Foot, the Three Nephites, and the Lost Tribes of Israel that used to abound in Mormon culture. Whether he intended it or not, I interpreted his lamentation about the disappearance of those magical stories as a call for New Mormon Folklore. So ladies and gentlemen, I now humbly come before you, with slight trepidation yet firm resolve, to answer that noble call!

As with any enduring folklore, it all begins with a kernel of truth. So I am going to tell you two brief, bona fide, 100% true stories, which I will then use to reach a completely fantastical conclusion. With your help in spreading these stories around, as well as your creative embellishments that I encourage you to add, we can together create a new generation of Mormon folklore that will sustain the fruit of our loins for generations to come!

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Posted in Humor, Mormon Culture | 9 Comments »

The Zen Of Moving Chairs

Posted by Shawn L on February 11, 2008

ZenAs a young missionary in the MTC, I expended a lot of energy worrying about the relative strength of my testimony. I was raised in the Church, my whole family (at that time, at least) was fully active, and I was excited finally to be heading out to Guatemala to serve. But I was troubled because I felt as though something was missing. For me, the issue was not whether I had a testimony, but whether it was sufficiently buttressed with spiritual experiences. Hoping to see tangible fruit borne of Moroni’s promise, I nightly prayed fervently for a sign — something physical, something remarkable — to cement my testimony, to give me the ability to state, without hesitation, that “I know the Book of Mormon is true.” I honestly believed that, if I prayed hard enough, it was simply a matter of time. I knelt in the dark for long periods after I had finished, just waiting.

And after nine weeks of this . . . nothing happened. Well, not “nothing” — my testimony did grow and I felt closer to the Lord than I ever had. But I still felt let down — why didn’t I merit a life-altering, veil-thinning sort of experience? Isn’t that my entitlement as a faithful seeker? In the many years since I left the MTC, I have often pondered the question, what do we do when we don’t receive the spiritual confirmation for which we are earnestly searching? For me, the answer has come from an unexpected, and positively mundane, source.

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Posted in Missonaries, Mormon Culture, Scripture, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

Celestial Navigation: Why Our Imperfect Guidance System is Perfect for God’s Purposes

Posted by Andrew on February 11, 2008

Imagine being an ancient mariner on an empty sea in the black of night with nothing more to guide you than a few distant lights in the heavens. Celestial navigation is an ancient skill that enables its practitioner to use the stars to determine where he is, where he wants to be, and which direction he needs to go. As a guidance system, it was woefully imperfect and had a high rate of error. Sometimes the heavens were obscured by clouds, and even when the skies were clear, the constellations were continually drifting. A sailor could easily misread the stars and end up hundreds of miles from his intended destination. Nowadays, modern mariners have GPS devices that make all the necessary calculations for them with virtually flawless precision at the push of a button. They always arrive at their intended destinations, but I wonder what would happen if one day the satellites and computers stopped telling them what to do and where to go. Would modern mariners have adequately learned in their previous voyages to guide themselves by the light of the stars?

I’ve been wrestling with the question of why God allows so much ambiguity and uncertainty to exist about him and his ways, and why he’s left us with such an imperfect guidance system to discover the answers to life’s most important questions. There are so many things that God could just come out and clearly say, so many questions he could easily answer, but he chooses not to. And I’m coming to the conclusion that the reason why has a lot to do with the above comparison of ancient and modern mariners. It has a lot to do with clouds, stars, moons, suns, and which of those heavenly bodies God wants us to become. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Apologetics, Faith, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Is There a Deeper Reason Why Mormons Don’t Use a Cross?

Posted by Kerry on February 7, 2008

Most modern Christian churches use the cross as the symbol of their worship. More specifically, it represents and memorializes Christ’s death for them. They place the cross on the walls of their churches, hang it around their neck, even tattoo it on their arms. To most Christians, it serves as a reminder that Christ suffered and died for them. But still, I have to admit that in today’s world, seeing a cross around a person’s neck is a gratifying sight to me, because I know that in that person’s mind the cross is one way to demonstrate their love and devotion for the Savior.

Now, for some reason I grew up thinking that the cross was bad…that people who wore it were mocking Christ…that it was a ghastly symbol that should be shunned…that we as Mormons didn’t use the cross because it represented and reminded us of His horrific death. And focusing on His suffering and death on the cross was bad. It was like I was taught to avoid all of those appalling Catholic illustrations and statues of the Savior with a crown of thorns on his head and blood running down his cheeks, to get those images out of my mind because the cross is a reminder of his suffering and death, which is something we shouldn’t focus on.

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Posted in Bible, Book of Mormon, Faith, Inter-Faith Relations, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , | 20 Comments »

Selection 2008: Is One of These Latin Americans the Next Apostle?

Posted by Andrew on February 5, 2008

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[Pictured above: Elders Claudio R.M. Costa of Brazil and Walter F. González of Uruguay, now serving in the Presidency of the Seventy.]

With Elder Uchtdorf’s calling into the First Presidency yesterday, a vacancy has been created in the Quorum of the Twelve. Will this opportunity bring us the first Latin American Apostle?

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Posted in Church News, Mormon Culture | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

On Being A Mormon Democrat

Posted by Shawn L on February 1, 2008

Over Christmas break, I attended my in-laws’ ward in Logan, UT.  The Gospel Doctrine class was filled to capacity with approximately 50-60 people of all ages.  The lesson was on the Book of Revelations, which admittedly is not an easy subject.   The teacher, a young guy no older than 25, handled it in a fairly rote fashion, leading a class discussion about the “signs of the end times” seen in the U.S.’s rapidly-devolving-into-pure-evil popular culture.   He hit all of the usual suspects:  abortion, gay marriage, naughty television shows, etc.   Then, he held up a picture from the front page of the local paper showing a picture of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Photo in hand, he said something to the effect of, the fact that either one of these folks could lead this nation is surely sign of the latter days.  The teacher said that while he wasn’t necessarily taking a partisan stand, the scriptures make clear that, in the final days, wolves in sheeps’ clothing would rise to power and we should be on guard.  All heads nodded in knowing agreement.

This, unfortunately, was not an isolated incident.  Over the years, I have witnessed numerous other instances of Democrat/liberal bashing in Church.  You likely have seen a few yourself.   I say, enough is enough!  It is high time that those of us on the left of the politial spectrum make our voices heard.

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Posted in Mormon Culture, Politics | Tagged: , | 57 Comments »

The Absolute Worst Job In The Church

Posted by Shawn L on January 29, 2008

At 35 years old and a lifelong member, I’ve been around the proverbial block a few times when it comes to Church assignments.  Callings — I’ve had them all, from Primary teacher to Elders’ Quorum President and everything in between.  I’ve moved chairs, swept floors, drained baptismal fonts via shop-vacs, picked apples on a welfare farm, hung crepe papers, put up hundreds of Christmas lights, manned the DI trailer, taken down hundreds of Christmas lights, and delivered dozens of meals to all manner of incapacitated individuals.  If you can think of an assignment, I’ve signed the sheet as it passes through Quorum meeting. 

Each of these jobs has its benefits, and we certainly can talk about them in another post.  But this week, after pondering my years of experience, I finally decided which one of all of the many responsibilities I have fulfilled is the one I dread the very most . . . .

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Posted in Mormon Culture | Tagged: | 9 Comments »

Extra! Extra! Sister Smith’s Geneaology Disproves Science!

Posted by Shawn L on January 24, 2008

I have been witness to an event that, if verified, has the potential to change mankind’s understanding of its origins. Let me set the stage for you, gentle readers . . .

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Posted in Marriage & Family, Mormon Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

“Our False Traditions and Foolish Notions”

Posted by Andrew on January 24, 2008

When it comes to the question of why we need “continual revelation,” one explanation I have heard (and given) most often is that our world circumstances are constantly changing, and therefore God needs to give us up-to-date revelation to help us adapt and adjust to our present-day situation. Good examples of these types of revelations are our “mini-temples” and additional quorums of the Seventy, which were designed to cope with new demands created by unprecedented Church growth.

Another common explanation for continual revelation is that we cannot understand greater truths until we first understand simple truths. “Milk before meat.” “Line upon line, precept upon precept.” It’s the same concept as why students start with simple addition and subtraction, then multiplication and division, etc. In other words, what’s keeping us from further light and knowledge is that we haven’t yet mastered the spiritual truths we’ve already received.

However, Brigham Young provided another interesting explanation for why we grow “line upon line,” and it might surprise you: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Apologetics, Faith, Mormon Culture, Mormon History | Tagged: , | 16 Comments »

Mormon Priestcraft… Is There Such a Thing?

Posted by Jon on January 21, 2008

I’ve had this burning question for a long time (truth be told, I just re-read the P.D.P. post by Shawn L, and it inspired me to revisit this question): Does “priestcraft” exist in Mormon culture? If so, what qualifies as priestcraft? Is it the books or cds by Mormon authors that are being solicited to Mormons? Is it the endless trinkets with CTR or “Hold to the Rod” emblazoned across them? How about the jazzed up or even rocked out versions of primary classics such as “Give Said the Little Stream,” or “I Belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” The “Forgotten Carols?” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Mormon Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 23 Comments »

The State of LDS Film

Posted by Chris H. on January 19, 2008

I am, at the moment, attending the 7th annual LDS Film Festival taking place in Orem, Utah. I participated remotely last year, serving as a judge for the screenwriting competition, but this is my first year as an attendee. I will confess that I came to the festival with mixed expectations, having seen a long train of LDS-themed movies that were less than exemplary. If, however, what I have seen thus far represents the future of Mormon filmmaking, I think there is great cause for hope. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Mormon Culture | 7 Comments »

Mourning With Those That Mourn

Posted by Shawn L on January 9, 2008

Our ward is passing through a time of tragedy: our Bishop lost his 4 1/2 year old son on New Year’s Day in a sledding accident.  This loss was especially difficult news for our family because the son and my daughter were playmates — same co-op preschool, same Primary class, etc.  But, to my surprise, this experience has helped to shed new light on a very familiar scripture and has helped remind me of the blessings I enjoy as part of a ward family.

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Posted in Mormon Culture, Scripture | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Reason #10,045 Why I Love Living In California

Posted by Shawn L on January 9, 2008

 The flyer says it all (click on the red link below to see it):

Stake Conference Invite

Feast upon a Double Double, then feast upon the word!

(FYI:  I’m not nearly savvy enough to figure out how to put the flyer image in the post.)

Posted in Mormon Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

So You Think Romney Gives Mormons A Bad Name . . .

Posted by Shawn L on January 4, 2008

Ol’ Brother Romney has nothing on Glenn Beck, CNN’s conservative windbag.*  Don’t believe me?  Then check out this video, released today, in which Beck rambles on (and on and on) about his recent medical scare.  If he was not on some serious medication at the time of taping, he should starting taking something immediately.  My issue with Beck (and his ilk), however, runs deeper. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Mormon Culture, Politics | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

“We disagree with what our leaders said in General Conference.”

Posted by Kerry on December 30, 2007

In the October 2007 General Conference, Sister Julie Beck gave what I initially thought was a harmless talk. I personally believe it was a great talk that was inspiring as well as supportive of the Proclamation on the Family from 1995.

Her talk was entitled “Mothers Who Know”. Here are a few selected passages to remind you of her talk: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Church News, Marriage & Family, Mormon Culture | 2 Comments »