Mormon Shorts

mormon shorts

So, there was this twitter account called @MormonShorts, that basically told funny stories about Mormon culture in one just tweet. You know, things like “Jerry told Sally that he’d had a vision they should be married, but Sally had her doubts.” Mormons poking fun at Mormons.

My husband and I thought it was pretty funny, and we started contributing our own. It took us a few months to realize that it was actually our brother-in-law’s account. No wonder he kept retweeting us.

Anyways. Mormon Shorts (the book this time) is a collection of Scott Hales’s comics – both visual and text. All of them are short (hence the title), and most of them are funny. (A few are more just cultural commentary.) If you’ve ever seen Garden of Enid comics, it’s the same artist. If you haven’t, I guess you’ll just have to take a sample:

enid

Anyways. Most of his work is hilarious. Some of it goes way over my head. (Sorry, Scott – I just don’t know my Mormon history like you do.) At any rate, I would not recommend this to anyone who doesn’t know Mormon culture fairly well. But if you’re Mormon, you were Mormon once, or you’ve been investigating the church or have a close Mormon friend, you’ll probably enjoy this comic collection. ♦

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What Does Google Have Against Mormons?

The word “funny” can have two meanings in American English. There’s “funny: humorous,” that you might use to describe your favorite uncle, your neurotic cat, or a Groucho Marx movie. And then there’s “funny: odd or out of place,” that you might use to describe the suspiciously rank smell that’s developing in your unwashed kitchen sink. Google has done something that matches that second definition of “funny.”

So, here’s a funny thing: when you look up “Mormonism” on Google, you get a definition – much like you usually do when you look something up. Here’s a screenshot:

mormonism

Here’s the problem: I’m Mormon. And this is false. Like, blatantly false. Last time I checked, I’m pretty Christian. And let me check – nope. No change. Still Christian. But before I blame Google for this, let’s take a reality check here. Google does not personally rule the internet (yet). Google didn’t write this. Raptureready.com wrote this. (And they have some doozy opinions on Mormonism.) And, you know, if they’ve got a good enough SEO crew to get to the top of the Google results, good on them.

So I got curious. Who else has made their way to the top of the charts? I did a quick Google search for “what is Catholicism?”

Dictionary definition.

“What is Christianity?”

Dictionary definition.

Hinduism? dictionary.
Judaism? dictionary.
Protestantism? dictionary.
Paganism? dictionary.
Baptist? Wikipedia.
Agnostic? dictionary.
Atheism? dictionary.
Democrat? dictionary.
Jehovah’s Witness? dictionary.
Christian Science? dictionary.

Apparently, there’s enough bad publicity to change the dictionary definition of Mormons… but no one website says enough about Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Democrats to oust Google’s default definition. Isn’t that funny? ♦

What Is “Real Intent”?

One of my favorite scriptures is found in the Book of Mormon, in the book called Moroni:

“But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.” – Moroni 6:8

I love this verse. It points out that as many times as we do stupid things (some of us more than others…), God will forgive us. All we have to do to “earn” forgiveness is to repent, seeking forgiveness with real intent. If we ask to be forgiven, and we have “real intent,” we’re forgiven. The question I asked myself today was, “What is ‘real intent’?”

The obvious answer to me is that I intend to do better. Real intent means I’m sorry, I ask forgiveness, and I intend to earn it as best I can. But, because I’m a visual kind of person, that wasn’t quite enough for me to wrap my head around it.

Naturally, my thoughts went next to water sports. (For those of you who thought my blog lacked decent segues, I assure you, it’s the same way inside my head.) Anyway, I thought back to my youth group going wake-boarding every summer. I biffed it a lot. I got a lot of water up my nose. But I kept trying until I could get out of the water. And every time I got in the water, my intent was to stand on the board and stay there as long as possible. It didn’t always happen that way – but that didn’t change my intent.

wake-board-80226406

Once I got pretty good at standing, I started branching out: holding the rope with one hand instead of clutching it with two, or crossing the wake, or switching the direction of my feet. I usually fell. But I always meant to stay up.

I don’t think repenting with “real intent” means that you’re only forgiven if you succeed the first time. Some sins, like bad habits or addictions, keep coming back. If I have a weakness for anger, I don’t think God will hold it over your head every time you repent. It’s not like He’s going to say, “What, so you didn’t really mean it last time, then?” He knows whether you’re still trying – and as long as you’re trying, He knows you’re still learning. ♦

Related Articles:

Celebrating Repentance

Repentance Is Real

Repentance Made Easier 

Expecting Adam

expecting adam

So, I’m writing a book about growing up with my brother. And, having never written a memoir-style book before, I thought it would be good to do a little research. I picked up a copy of Expecting Adam from the Provo City Library, remembering my mom telling me about it years ago. She said it was about a woman who used to be Mormon (which I am), talking about giving birth to a boy with Down syndrome (which my brother has). Great! This will fit perfectly!

Or not. In fact, within the first fifty pages or so, I found myself just kind of staring at the book thinking, “Who is this woman?” Don’t get me wrong – it’s incredibly well written. And I was expecting this pregnancy and diagnosis to be a real change of perception for Martha, the author. I just don’t think I was prepared for a perception change of this magnitude.

The problem was, she started off so confoundedly ignorant. And not in the “I don’t know much about Downs” kind of way. More in the “I didn’t know Downs people were capable of intelligent thought” way. And I sat there, completely stupefied by it all, and it slowly dawned on me just how abnormal my childhood was.

My brother has Downs. (He also has Autism, but we didn’t realize that until much later.) He was born when I was three years old. I grew up thinking Down syndrome was about as “different” as red hair. Uncommon, yes. An actual problem, of course not! So when I picked up this book, I was looking for ideas about the organization and style of my own book. By the time I was halfway through, however, I realized the gaping hole I would have otherwise left in my writing: I assume everyone is familiar with special needs.

And if Expecting Adam showed me anything, it is just how uncomfortable some people can be with the idea that a child is imperfect. I’ve always assumed that every child is imperfect; I was born perfectly healthy, with a reasonably high IQ, and I still managed to shut myself into my own locker in junior high school. I take for granted that everyone understands that we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and some of those – like Down syndrome – are more visible to others, while others – like a short temper or an anxiety disorder – can be hidden a little longer. But Martha Beck has pointed out to me that many people go their whole lives suppressing this, putting on a good face, and pretending to be perfect. And for some inane reason, they think they’re succeeding.

This book frequently made me want to throw things across the room. (See “short temper,” discussed above.) And then it made me just want to sit down with people and talk, and tell them about my own experiences. It made me want to tear down the walls people put around themselves and just talk to the real person inside us all, the one that’s so terrified of getting eaten alive that it never comes out to see the sunlight. And as angry as I was at all the people in Martha’s life telling her to get an abortion, or ignoring her new baby, or at Martha’s own doubts – which made zero sense to me, because I never went through this paradigm shift – I mostly just wanted to find all those people and give them a copy of this book.

I’ve frequently read the phrase, “If you’re offended by this, I’m offended by you.” And even though I wanted to throw eggs at the homes of some of the doctors and nurses and Harvard professors in this book who thought that Martha’s son Adam would never amount to much, this book has taught me that that phrase is ridiculous. I propose replacing it with, “If you’re offended by this, please tell me why. I’d like to share my own experience.” If you’re uncomfortable around people with special needs, that’s where you’re at. You don’t have to pretend otherwise. But please read this book. It will help answer questions, break down fears, and resolve confusions. And at the same time, you’ll end up with questions you never even thought of.

Well, there’s my soap box. Expecting Adam is a beautiful book, a sacred journey through the author’s soul, and a life-changing read. ♥

A Study in Scarlet

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Oh, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!

What great adventures you write! What superb mystery! What excellent dialogue! What gripping narrative!

What historical inaccuracies!

Okay, okay. I’m just sore because the author of the great Sherlock Holmes spent thirty-some-odd pages describing my Mormon ancestors as shadowy, thieving, murderous, Illuminati whore-mongers. And for describing my home state as an uninhabitable wasteland, where even the hardy Indians couldn’t live before Brigham Young and his terrifying band. (My Native friends would probably find this funny, too.) But, I mean, come on! A little research, Mr. Doyle?

And then I sat and thought, “If I wrote a mystery novel set in London, how accurate would it be?” … Not. At all.

Alright, Sir Arthur. You’re highly inaccurate, but I’ll still give you two stars for effort. You just keep writing, and leave Utah alone from here on out, okay? Okay. ♦

You’ve Seen the Play, Now Read the… Lawsuit?

Thomas S Monson

Tom Phillips, an ex-Mormon from Britain who became disillusioned with the church a decade ago, is now filing a lawsuit against Church President Thomas S. Monson for fraud, claiming that Mormon church leaders have been deliberately teaching false doctrine in order to swindle people out of their money. Here’s the story on USA Today:

Mormon president ordered to appear in British court

I’m not here to  convince anybody to go out and become a Mormon today, but as an active member (who still voluntarily gives 10% of my income as tithes), and having served as a missionary and in local church leadership positions, I’d like to make a few observations:

  • Any contribution given to the Church is voluntary. Phillips stated that paying tithing is “mandatory” in order to remain in good standing – which is true. But let’s talk about that phrase, “good standing.” Falling out of “good standing” does not mean your local bishop is going to take you out back of the shed and box your ears. Being in “good standing” means you are considered worthy to serve in church positions of high responsibility, it means you can be trusted to help serve other members of your congregation, and it is one of the qualifiers for entrance to the temple.Nearly every church position is voluntary. This means that Phillips, who was formerly a bishop, a stake president, and an area executive secretary, was not paid for his service in these positions.The temple is the highest form of worship in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Temples are different from regular churches, which have “Visitors Welcome” printed on the front of the building, and probably won’t turn away anybody unless they walk into the foyer in a Speedo, holding a blow-torch and screaming obscenities at small children.

    Refusal to pay tithes will not result in a church member’s expulsion from either the church building or from membership. In fact, being baptized and entered into church membership only requires a pledge to pay tithing in the future, not an actual history of financial contribution.

    In other words, by ceasing to pay tithes and losing his “good standing” in the church, Phillips lost his unpaid responsibilities in community service, and the opportunity the worship in one specific location, reserved for those living a high spiritual lifestyle.

  • The law cannot prosecute you for believing something you can’t prove – which means that in order to prove the Mormon church was defrauding its members, Phillips would have to prove that church leaders were deliberately distorting the truth in order to secure money. He would have to prove that the church leaders themselves did not believe the message for which they’ve been teaching, living, and working tirelessly for most of their lives.
  • Let’s talk a little bit about church in general. The Mormon church asks tithes of its members. As far as I’m aware, so does the Anglican church. And the Catholic church. Most Protestant churches. Islam. Judaism. Church of Scientology. So why is Phillips so hung up about this church specifically? Let’s be fair here, and sue every religion equally.While we’re at it, let’s take a look at how Mormon tithes are used. Most church positions aren’t paid, so where does all the money go to? Building churches. Building temples.  Funding youth programs, addiction recovery programs, employment programs, education funds, and other charitable causes. Other contributions are often used to help provide food for needy families, and to finance humanitarian efforts. I lived in New Jersey as a missionary when Hurricane Irene hit my neighborhood. Within days, there were truckloads of cleaning supplies and thousands of unpaid volunteers helping people gut their rotten basements and assess the damage for their insurance companies. All paid for by the church.
  • So it looks like Phillips’s main issue here is that he’s concerned about people being convinced to spend their money somewhere they ultimately don’t want to spend it.Now let’s talk about the Superbowl. It costs $4 million to advertise during the Superbowl. And why are companies willing to spend that much? Because they’ll make well more than $4 million dollars from that advertisement. And what kind of things are usually advertised during the Superbowl? Community service? Humanitarian aid? Oh, stop. You’re making me laugh. Everybody knows the Superbowl is about beer, Coca-Cola, beer, Dorito’s, beer, scantily clad cheerleaders, beer, heart-clogging fast food, lager, and more beer.So if Phillips is really concerned about people being convinced to spend their money foolishly, why is he attacking a charitable association instead of an unhealthy tidal wave of adverts sacrificing hapless victims to the rising obesity epidemic?

But I digress. This post isn’t about the Superbowl, or about fast food. It’s about faith. Either Phillips is suing a charitable organization for accepting his donation, or else he feels the Mormon church has lied about doctrine in order to extort him out of his money on the premise of providing salvation.

Which leads me to faith. Faith is the assumption that God knows more about the universe than you do. Which means that a belief based on faith is one that you can neither prove nor disprove on scientific ground: God is better at science than we are. So, as an American, I’m not sure what the British court system is like – but I wouldn’t be surprised if this case is thrown out entirely. Unless there are documents that prove the leaders of the church deliberately misled church members, Phillips won’t have a leg to stand on. Worst case scenario: the church is required to provide documentation of all its humanitarian spending, the news gets a good story, and the public learns a little more about what Mormons believe. I’m alright with that. ♦

An Example of Faith

Happy New Year! I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon this morning (and by morning, I mean noon. Please. It’s a holiday, people.) Anyways, now that I’ve got you here, I’d like to talk a little bit about Enos.

Enos only wrote one chapter in the BOM, so we’ve only got about 27 verses on his life story. And he really only tells one story – the whole chapter could be summed up by saying, “Here’s a really great experience I had with prayer this one time.” (Remind me to write in my journal more often. I want more than 27 verses for my posterity.) But I digress. What impresses me is that, with only 27 verses of content, he spends a whole lot of them talking about his personal  relationship with God, and unquestioningly believes what God tells him.

At the start of the chapter, Enos introduces the chapter as a story about the “wrestle which I had before God, before  I received a remission of my sins.” He talks about the words of his father – who was a prophet – and how he (Enos) just started thinking about God one day while he was out hunting. He starts praying for his soul, implying that he’s probably not already the most spiritual guy. This is before he received a remission (or cancellation) of his sins. His personal relationship with God is probably just based on whatever his father taught him.

A few verses later, he receives an answer from God: “there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.” God sends him an answer, and forgives his sins. He (God) later explains that this is because of Enos’s faith in Christ, “whom [he has] never before heard nor seen.”

The part I think is most impressive is Enos’s reaction: He says that he “knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.” God gave him an answer, so he believes it. That’s that. He asks “how is it done?” because he’s in awe that God could take his guilt away like that, but he doesn’t just stand there and argue with God, as I tend to do. He doesn’t say, “Well, isn’t there something I’m supposed to do about this? Is that really it? Are you sure?” God says he’s clean, so he’s clean. He later says that he knows God will honor His covenants, “wherefore my soul did rest.” He takes God at His word.

I need to work on this. Faith is a belief in something or someone you can’t see – but it’s also trusting that person or thing. I believe in God, but that’s not enough if I don’t believe what He tells me. I also believe Satan’s there, even though I can’t see him, but that doesn’t mean I have any faith in him. The point of Christianity isn’t to believe in Jesus Christ, but to believe Jesus Christ, and follow His word.

I don’t have a specific goal for this yet (suggestions welcome), but I want to set a resolution this year to hold more faith in God as a Mentor, a Guide, and a Father. My prayers tend to be either complacent (a wish list) or impatient (an argument). I want my prayers to be more of a conversation. I want the Lord to call me “friend,” and I want to trust in Him like a good friend would. ♥