Archive for September, 2007

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My Favorite Mormons

September 29, 2007

My Favorite Mormons

By

Chris Rusch

Bishop Bill Brown convinced me to give Mormonism a second chance when I was sixteen. I was disillusioned with the Church and was well on my way to leaving. Thankfully he had taken a special interest in the youth and attempted to provide them with activities they would enjoy and hopefully keep them coming, associating with other members of the Church our age in really fun settings.

While few kids came back from inactivity, I cannot think of any kids who regularly attended that went inactive in their teen years.

While he was far from perfect, and sometimes made his leaders fume, Brown did a lot for the youth of our stake, and helped me realize that there was a lot of fun you could have without smoking, drinking, drugs, swearing, R-rated movies, or engaging in immoral or illegal behavior.

Brown was at a crossroads and persuaded me to try a path that led to Church activity and eventually conversion and testimony.

Mike Hansen was a counselor in our ward’s Young Men presidency and was my boss up until I served my mission in 1997. Mike was like one of us. He was someone that never grew up.

Mike was dynamic storyteller. When we should have been working, Mike and I would sit in his office and he would tell stories about basketball teams he had played on and how he worked hard and played hard while serving his mission in England.

Among other things, Mike helped me realize that you can do your own thing, have your own opinions, and even interpret doctrine differently from your leaders and still remain an active, faithful, Latter-day Saint.

My parents are perhaps my favorite Mormons of them all. As I have grown according to what I have learned and experienced, so have my parents grown according to what hey have learned and experienced. As I have changed in my doctrinal outlook and feelings towards things, so have they.

The thing that impresses me most is that while my parents are very faithful, active, true believing members, they are not dogmatists. One thing that has impressed me is that they are not afraid to express that not everything said by leaders is doctrine, and that sometimes their prejudices and opinions slip through. This has helped me understand deal with dogmatists who insist on past statements and interpretations of doctrine even when those teachings and statements contradict the current teachings of the Church.

The thing that I like the most about my parents is that when their more forceful advances at getting me to live the gospel were rebuffed, they gave me the space to figure it out for myself. It was the best thing that they ever could have done. Instead of attempting to take away my agency, they let me think for myself and define my own testimony and faith.

I think that this is why I am still active today while a number of my friends in high school have slipped into inactivity or have left the Church altogether.

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My Favorite Mormon

September 28, 2007

Steve Martin

 That’s right. Steve Martin.

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Who is my favorite Mormon?

September 27, 2007

The short answer? It depends.

I’m reminded of my roommates from college who used to laugh at me because I would say, “Oh, this is one of my favorite songs!” or “This is one of my favorite scriptures!” Of course, the laughter came because it was never just one song or one scripture that was my favorite. So, here are some of my favorite Mormons, since picking one favorite is still outside of my reach….

My knee-jerk response is usually Elder Holland. I suppose we shouldn’t have a favorite apostle, but if I did, he’d be it. Ever since he was president of BYU, it just always seemed like he knew what to say, to me. His wife is the same way. I quip that my guardian angel works directly with them so that I can get the messages I need. I love his command of the English language, his sensitive spirit, and the power of his testimony.

On some days, my favorite Mormon is one of my kids. I love seeing the gospel through their eyes. I call them my spiritual sponges. They ask amazing questions, and sometimes will say things that knock my socks off. Other times, their childlike processing of things makes me laugh. (For example, my son used to sing the last line of “I Love to See the Temple” like this: “For the temple is a house of God, a place of love and beauty. I’ll repair myself while I am young…. [It’s almost as good as ‘prepare myself’!])

This week, I’m feeling quite in awe of Elder Eyring. He came to our Stake Conference, and it was incredible to have him get up and teach on the spot by the Spirit. The Spirit was so strong it almost took my breath away. After the meeting, I didn’t want to move. I certainly didn’t want to leave. It was one of those times that I wished the meeting didn’t have to end. (I don’t always feel this way about stake conference meetings!)

Sometimes my favorite Mormon is the friend who called or came by when I needed a boost, or who listened when I needed to cry and sort through the tough stuff of life. There are few things that bring more joy and gratitude to my heart than someone who is in tune with the Spirit and has helped lighten my load. Such people stay on my favorite list because I feel their love and know I can count on them. And they encapsulate so much of what gospel living is really about.

I think more often than not, my favorite Mormon is represented by a white-haired temple worker, in whose countenance I see light and in whose presence I feel comfortable. I likely don’t know her personally, but I don’t need to have that personal connection to feel of her dedicated, quiet, consistent, humble spirit. The way she serves me tells me how she feels about the Lord and His work. I leave wanting to be more like her because I can see that she is striving to be more like the Savior, and is striving to give her heart to Him.

But today — and especially today — I just have to say my favorite Mormon is my husband. He’s at the top of my favorites list today in particular because it’s our tenth anniversary! (Cheesy, I know, but hey, how often do you get to write a guest post on your tenth anniversary where it sort of fits to say something to honor your spouse?) Seriously, though, it was his dedication to the gospel that first attracted me to him, and it is that dedication that has kept our marriage and family strong. He is one of my favorite Mormons because he loves my love of the gospel, he listens to all my mulling and musing about it, and it’s as important to him as it is to me.

So there you have it — a partial list of my favorite Mormons. Be glad I kept the list as short as I did; I’m sure I could come up with more….

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My 2nd Favorite Mormon

September 25, 2007

My favorite Mormon is my husband. But I’ve written about him before, here and elsewhere, so instead of writing about my favorite Mormon, I’m going to write about my 2nd favorite: Donny Osmond.

Yup, nothing spiritual about my choice. I liked Donny when I was twelve and he was fourteen. I had his picture on my wall. He had the most amazing teeth.

Donny Singles album cover

I outgrew Donny quickly (probably too quickly – I grew up too fast.) I occasionally heard rumblings about his career over the next 30 years. I liked the song Soldier of Love. I never saw him in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but I think I would have liked to see him in his loincloth 🙂

I’m impressed by how much fun he seems to have playing off his squeaky-clean image in some of his gigs. I enjoyed him and Marie in the Pepsi Twist commercial with the Osbournes. I loved his guest episode on the BBC show The Kumars at No. 42. His cameo in White and Nerdy is awesome. The short with Jimmy Kimmel “Donny’s Dreams Come True” was really, really funny until the last 30 seconds (though everybody I’ve talked to seems to think that was the best part. Ouch.)

Two months shy of his 50th birthday, Donny Osmond is my 2nd favorite Mormon because he’s really, really hot.

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If I Were a Mormon Celebrity…

September 24, 2007

This week’s topic: My Favorite Mormon

by carrie ann 

This is what my day would be like if I were a Mormon celebrity:

5.oo am Wake up – pray for 30 min., being famous requires a lot of “favors”

5.3o am Read scriptures for 30 min. making notations for Book of Mormon commentary I will be publishing later in the year. Drink a cup of Mockaccino, my own brand of Mormon “coffee” sold in fine food emporiums in Utah, Idaho, and Arizona.

6.oo – 7.3o am Work out with Utah-equivalent of Radu, trainer to the stars. LaVell will do, I suppose, although he tends to over work my glutes and neck muscles.

7.3o – 10.oo am Early temple session (all clothing rentals and breakfast in the cafeteria are on the house, of course…must also enter and exit through special “celebrity” entrance, no recommend necessary…)

Personal Assistant: Pick up white custom Escalade with gold-leafed chrome and custom Moroni antenna topper from car shop.

1o.oo – 11.oo am Appointment at Beehive Clothing for custom fitting

11.oo – 12.oo pm Sit for interview with Doug Fabrizio on KUER’s “Radio West” show…promote new book and CD. Harmlessly flirt…like we always do. Set up lunch date for next week to get my ideas for interesting topics.

Personal Assistant: Take documents to accountant. Make sure he sees the celebrity tithing voucher (only 8% this year!)

1.oo – 2.oo pm Book signing at Deseret Book in University Mall…overwhelmed by crowds…need police escort.

2.oo – 3.oo pm Photo shoot for modest swimwear . It’s the next big thing!

Personal Assistant: Field any calls from Sherry Dew concerning October’s General Conference suit. Tell her to go with blue.

3.oo – 4.oo pm Meet with acting coach about cameo role in Richard Dutch’s new “God’s Army II: In the Hood”

5.oo – 6.oo pm Dinner at Café Rio – order and pick up at celebrity drive thru

Personal Assistant: Remind Café Rio employees that on the celebrity stamp card it only takes 5 stamps to get a free meal, and if the meal is comped I still get a stamp

6.oo – 8.oo pm Secret Weekly Mormon Celebrity Seminar – Tonight’s guest host Michael Ballam on “Typecasting”
Tonight’s topics:
“How to Get Recognized in the Mall”
“Diet Coke with Lime: OK in a Paper Bag?”
“How to Act Normal in Church or in Public”
“Botox and the Word of Wisdom”
“The Face of Humility”
“Damage Control Series Part VI: When the Person You Are Dating Brings Your Ratings Down”
“Wedding Rings: I Do or I Don’t in Public”

9.oo – 10.oo pm spend quality time with family

Personal Assistant Reminder: Have nanny up bedtimes to 9.05 to squeeze out a few extra minutes for stress relieving yoga. Add to schedule.

10.oo – 12.ooam Answer fan email. Write daily blog for fan website. Lurk on other Mormon blogs to see if I’m mentioned, Google myself.

Personal Assistant: Continue to say nightly prayers for me according to list of things needed doing.

Phew! Go to sleep.

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Magic?

September 21, 2007

By Steve M.

I’ve got to admit that I’ve always been very skeptical of “real” magic, by which I mean magic that purports to be authentic (not the stuff done by entertainers in Las Vegas). Sometimes I hear or read about experiences and stories that are downright bizarre and seemingly inexplicable, but I normally don’t give them much credit. In my mind, I relegate these accounts to the same bin as UFO sightings and horoscopes. And besides, the world has always been full of mysteries. To so readily attribute strange phenomena to supernatural forces is unreasonable, in my opinion. I mean, 200 years ago, cell phones would have seemed magical, but they’re quite ordinary and unremarkable in today’s world. What we don’t understand today may be common knowledge tomorrow. At best, I view magic as an attempt to explain the complex world in which we live and influence it by means of some unseen, supernatural power. But on most days, I suspect that it’s totally fake.

As smug as I am in my skepticism, the problem I run into is that many of the same criticisms can be leveled at religion. What makes Christianity or Mormonism or Islam any more credible than magic? Don’t we also try to interpret the world around us in supernatural terms? The Bible is full of explanations of so-called “mysteries” on which modern science has cast much light (such as how the earth was created and where people came from). Even today, the plethora of faith-promoting rumors in our own church suggests just how much we want to see the supernatural in the world around us.

And don’t we try to influence the world around us by supernatural means as well? How much more legitimate is a priesthood blessing or prayer than some magic ritual? Or even a palm-reading, for that matter? I suppose we may not be so different from (or superior to) those who believe in or practice magic.

So what justifies believing in religion while rejecting magic as illegitimate or wrong? It would be difficult to prove that prayer or garment-wearing or any of our peculiar practices actually draw upon unseen powers more effectively than magic. And to simply attribute magicians’ power (if they do have any) to Satan while claiming our own miracles as coming from God is, in my opinion, a cop-out. It’s an arbitrary and circular assertion. It also assumes that magic and religion are always distinct from one another. Joseph Smith’s early years suggest that such a clear distinction hasn’t always existed.

All this seems to suggest that 1) perhaps the religious aren’t justified in their skepticism of or disdain for magic; and 2) as long as we’re going to subject magic to such strict scrutiny and skepticism, we should probably be willing to give our own beliefs the same treatment. At the very least, we should refrain from immediately judging others beliefs concerning the supernatural, even if they seem strange to us. And maybe we should use more discretion in deciding what we attribute to God, the Spirit, faith, or some other religious force. This isn’t to discourage the counting of blessings or the thanking of God for them, or to suggest that God isn’t intimately involved in our lives. I’m only saying that, in light of the similarities between our religion and less-traditional systems (such as magic), and the skepticism or disdain with which we tend to treat those systems, maybe we ought to keep in mind our own susceptibility to naiveté and irrationality when considering our religious experiences, practices, and beliefs.

[Edited to add (for the sake of clarity): At the beginning of the last paragraph, this is what I was getting at–

Inasmuch as the religious do not apply the same standard of scrutiny to their own belief systems as they do to magic, they are not justified in their disdain for and skepticism of it. It is not fair to apply one standard of skepticism to one religion or belief system while refusing to apply the same standard to one’s own faith. Additionally, a recognition of the similarities between our religion and less traditional systems, particularly ones that we may view as strange (like magic), should encourage us to both refrain from unfair judgment of others and admit that many of the same criticisms can be made of our own faith.]

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But for you I will

September 18, 2007

by Ann

Whenever I hear the word “magic” I think of lyrics to a Bruce Springsteen song, “Counting on a Miracle”:

It’s a fairytale so tragic
There’s no prince to break the spell
I don’t believe in magic
But for you I will

Fifteen years after I joined the church I heard a new version of the story of the translation of the Book of Mormon. I only knew one story until then: Joseph translating from the golden plates by the gift and power of God with the help of the Urim and Thummim. Thanks to Primary visual aids, I even knew what it looked like: Joseph sitting at a table reading from the plates while Oliver wrote what Joseph read aloud. I did not understand the verb “translate” to mean “Joseph with his face in a hat reading the words that appeared in his seer stone.” Version #2 was magic. And while I was able to believe in miracles, I didn’t believe in magic. In time, I stopped believing in miracles, too.

But for you I will. I only kept going to church at all because of my husband. I don’t know that he wanted me to be there for him, but I think he wanted me to be there. So I kept going. It wasn’t so great for me, and I don’t think it was so great for my husband, either. I stayed plugged in to Mormonish web sites, some more angry than others. The Bloggernacle appeared on my desktop around three years ago. I met John Dehlin (sorta). I listened to Richard Bushman. I reframed what the word “miracle” meant.

There ain’t no storybook story
There’s no never-ending song
Our happily ever after Darlin’
Forever come and gone

No ending yet. I’m pretty happy. I have a calling or three again. I went back to the temple once and maybe I’ll go again. I don’t believe in fairy tale endings any more. I still don’t believe in magic. But I’m hoping for the miracle that kept me going back then; the miracle that still keeps me going sometimes. Eternal marriage. If it’s real, it’s a miracle. If it’s real, and I get to keep mine, that’ll REALLY be a miracle. I’m counting on it.