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Kyle Sampson – Mormon In The News

Mormons are on the news today. Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales, is in the firestorm regarding the firing of US Attorneys.

Part of the story is below:

He arrived in Washington in 1999, around his 30th birthday, with impeccable credentials — at least for a man his age — among religious conservatives. A native of Utah and a Mormon, he had completed his undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University. Mr. Sampson then followed the lead of Dallin H. Oaks, the former president of Brigham Young, by attending the University of Chicago for law school, another bastion of conservatism.

In addition Brett Tolman, the current US Attorney for Utah, who beat out Sampson for that spot is also mentioned in the news. Here is an earlier link to the competition for the Utah US Attorney position that ensued.  Brett is also LDS as I went to high school with him and his father was my Seminary Teacher. I also took his wife to Prom (before she was his wife), but that is another story…

This is certainly interesting and, if nothing else, lets the US public know that Mormons are in high ranking positions in the conservative Neocon administration making Romney more palatable.

Brigham Young’s Excellent University T-Shirt

This is just a post about a t-shirt and what it may or may not say about LDS culture. I am fully aware that the current U.S. vice president has been asked to speak at BYU and that many LDS bloggers and commenters have very strong feelings on the subject. There are a number of bloggernacle posts (1, 2, 3, 4) and threads dealing specifically with that issue. If you want to discuss that controversy, please take it to one of those threads.

Many years ago you could purchase a Brigham Young’s Excellent University t-shirt at the school’s bookstore. I think this was selling the first semester I attended there. That would be back in 1989 – so yes, it was a long time ago.

Brigham Young’s Excellent University t-shirt

Occasionally since that time, especially when reading blog posts about the mixing of Church and commercial interests (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), I’ve wondered whether or not it was appropriate. I have mixed feelings about it. Part of me thinks: “It’s just a fun t-shirt. Relax.” Another part of me says “This is a prophet of God and his picture shouldn’t be altered and used to sell t-shirts.”

I feel fairly confident that this could not be done with an image of Joseph Smith or of Gordon B. Hinckley. That is, I think church members would be offended by that sort of thing. But that leaves me wondering why it was okay to do it with an image of Brigham Young. Is it because of Brigham Young’s unique personality? Is it because of the role that he has played in U.S. and Church history? Is it because his name is associated with a university? Is it because his name is associated so much with polygamy?

Do we consciously or unconsciously perceive Brigham Young as different or unique from other LDS prophets in some way? Is his image less sacred or more pragmatic to a degree that makes it easier for it to be used in popular culture in this fashion?

No doubt I’m overthinking the whole thing. Maybe it’s just because in this particular picture, Brigham Young does look pretty cool wearing his Ray-Bans.

[Thanks to Ann Porter for providing me with this picture.]

If you can’t stand up for your faith, why are you trying to tear down mine?

This was originally a comment on a post over at Mormon Stories.

By now you’ve probably heard of a new Anti-Mormon DVD about to be released.  Just in time (as apparently is usual) for General Conference.  It’s called “The Search For Truth” and is packaged to resemble Church videos.  You can find the Foundation for Apologetics and Research’s response to it here.

The purpose of this video, the disingenuous nature of the distribution (the “fake” LDS packaging, the leaving of it on cars parked on private property and the leaving of it on doors like junk mail) deeply offend and anger me.  If I find one (doubtful because, thankfully, Canada seems to have a smaller, less vociferous population of antis) I think I shall take great pleasure in smashing it.

You are welcome to discuss your religion with me.  You are welcome to discuss my religion with me.  You are not welcome to sneak around like a thief and leave your ugly thoughts of what you think I believe lying around, disguised as something coming from a source I would trust.

If you’re not Mormon or you’ve left the church that’s your choice and your path.  Please allow me the same freedom you seek for yourself, to believe as I feel directed by God.

And at least have the strength of character to do what you feel you have to do up front.  I have more respect for the guy who dressed up like a devil (red face paint, pitchfork and all) and stood outside the Hill Cumorah Pageant than I do those who seek to tear down the faith of others but evidently cannot stand up for their own.

Conservapedia vs Wikipedia – Clash of Politics?

NPR recently highlighted a new online encyclopedia called “Conservapedia.” The linked page compares article differences between Wikipedia and Conservapedia, as well as lays out the rationale for creating Convervapedia –

“Polls show that about twice as many Americans identify themselves as “conservative” compared with “liberal”, and that ratio has been increasing for two decades. But on Wikipedia, about three times as many editors identify themselves as “liberal” compared with “conservative”. That suggests Wikipedia is six times more liberal than the American public.”

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Finally, A Buffet Rule on Which We Can All Agree

Ever since holding our wedding breakfast at the Golden Corral Buffet several years ago, my wife and I have endured criticism and outright mockery. And perhaps rightfully so. I can fairly be accused of having poor taste, of being a cheapskate, and even of being gluttonous. But I cannot be accused of lacking buffet expertise. I may have poor taste, but I know buffets. It’s under the authority of that expertise that I established the First Rule of Buffets.

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The Religious Fan-girl.

“The Nativity Story,” which my ward watched on Friday, made me squeal with glee. Not so much for the story, though I was moved at the end. There were some things I would have done differently but it was worth seeing at least once.

No, what made me squeal was a name which leapt off of the screen and fixed my eye on the credits with new zeal. Read more »

Keep the commandments, In this there is safety, In this there is peace.

Did anybody click on the link Daniel posted to that talk Orrin Hatch gave in DC, where he quotes J. Golden Kimball as saying to a congregation “This is God’s Shit List and you’re all on it.” I’m taking it to my visiting teaching lady who hates the church, but the others I’m taking what I ran off on the link Kaimi posted to FMH “WHM Mothering Sunday” which is a wonderful gentle post about “this is the church” by Kristine.

Here’s a link to the article.

I think we all have at least one “this is the church” experience. Kristine relates “This is the church where my Sunday School teacher let me climb out the window and hid under the lilac bushes for most of Sunday School time once a month or so, because he saw I was sad little girl who needed time and quiet…” Read more »

The Angel Moroni on CNN


Now, more important than the content of this story is that it exists at all. I went to college in Salt Lake City, and I’m pretty sure I saw this T-shirt on campus back in the waning days of the Clinton administration. Tweaking the dominant religion is not a new thing among Utah’s purveyors of hot drinks – the Polygamy Porter furor back around the Salt Lake Olympics being another case in point.

The interesting thing about these stories is not that they are newsworthy. Read more »

March 23 – Happy Bloggernacle Day!

On 23 March 2004, Grasshopper suggested the name “Bloggernacle Choir” for the LDS blogging community. Many seemed to like that suggestion and Bloggernacle seems to have stuck, for better or worse, one way or another. So it’s been three years since the community gave itself a name. A lot has happened since then.

This post’s comments can be an open-thread if you like. Commenters are especially invited to provide links to their favorite posts, favorite post series, favorite comments, things that made you laugh out loud, things that particularly touched your heart, good memories of meeting up with fellow LDS bloggers, something specific you learned that you hadn’t heard or read anywhere else, etc.

If there are other pertinent thoughts or comments people want to make relating to the nature of the LDS blogging community, go ahead. There are a lot of things that can be said. However, I would be grateful if commenters would actively avoid allowing the comments to descend into any kind of acrimony or major arguments.

Happy Bloggernacle Day!

Vegetarianism and Me: A Call for Acceptance

I recently had lunch with a friend at Arby’s. As we sat eating our roast beef sandwiches, I mentioned that I was a vegetarian. My friend inquired, “So how’s that going?” I had to admit it was tough—I mean, after all, here I was eating a roast beef sandwich. And it wasn’t an isolated incident. I had meat the previous night for dinner, bacon for breakfast, and chicken on at least two occasions over the past week. Indeed, some would argue I am not a vegetarian at all. How could I be if I eat meat?

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What if…

What if it really is the VERY last days and the war in Iraq is simply a fulfillment of prophecy. What if George W. Bush is truly an instrument of God? Because surely, if nothing else has been accomplished, the gospel has gone into Iraq. The 222nd from Utah, many from my community, set a wonderful example of goodness as they served their year + in that country. They spoke of the gospel to those who asked. What if they were supposed to be there?

What if Mitt Romney will be the guy spoken of in prophecy who holds the country by a thread? Or is that the constitution?

What if this is the beginning of the great Apocalypse which will usher in the return of the Savior? What if it’s almost over?

Coming Out of the Closet – I Love Evolution

I have had a lot of discussions with Mormons over the years about evolution.   One reason for this is that during my Masters and Ph.D. studies, a considerable amount of my research was focused on Evolution.  In fact, the title of my PhD dissertation was “Evolution and the Vertebrate Gut” (sounds terribly interesting, huh?).  One of the consistent and surprising responses in my discussions with Mormons is the number of intelligent, educated Mormons (including my parents) who doggedly hold onto the Joseph F. Smith/Bruce R. McKonkie view that evolution is evil and of the devil and that there is no place for it in the faith/doctrine of Mormonism.   The summary of the argument is the well used phrase “I am not descended from an ape.”  This trivializes the entire concept of evolution since the descent/origin of man is a very small, albeit, important piece of the evolution pie (disclosure – I really don’t care if I am descended from an ape – they are beautiful, noble creatures).  Read more »

Our Style

Who among the Latter-day Saints has not at one point realized that adherence to this faith severely cramps one’s style in numerous and significant ways?

And yet some people seem to feel themselves special for ultimately choosing their style over the religious commitments they have made. But I like to think that we would all wear a red hat if God told us to do so. . . .

To stand (alone) in holy places

When I was perhaps twelve, I found my way into a stake center as the sun was setting late on a Saturday. Read more »

Best friends and Great Great Grandparents and the Martin Handcart Company

Frank McIntyre over at Times and Seasons did an interesting post on his great, great-great, and great-great-great grandparents. I read the posts carefully in case I should be related to anyone. I wasn’t. Oh, darn.

But it reminded me of this really cool thing that happened to me. Well, it happened to my great-great grandma and I only recently became aware of it.

Read more »

Random Thoughts as I read the Drudge Report

I used to read Drudge every day, I’m so busy now it’s sporadic. But it’s basically where I turn to for the news.

There are some interesting things in the “paper” this morning. I have opinons.

“Police arrest 7 year old on dirt bike” My first thought was, “I bet they didn’t arrest him, they probably just picked him up and yelled at his parents.” Well, they did handcuff him and take him to the station where (in his words) ‘they scared me.’ It’s probably high time somebody scared him. The little snot shouldn’t have been riding his dirt bike on the sidewalk in the first place. I bet his neighbors were thrilled to see him hauled off.

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Why I Hate Winnie the Pooh… And So Should You

Winnie the Pooh is bad for children. There are many reasons why this is the case; let’s examine a few.

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Cultural Impact of Gender Roles

Last month my little sister got married.  She married a great guy, and they seem to have had a happy first few weeks. However, I’ve noticed what seems to me to be a strange change in my sister.  She’s always been very academic and right before she started dating her husband she was telling me about her plans to live in Russia for a while to improve her grasp of the language, maybe getting an MBA or going on a mission, and all the other exciting things she wanted to do.  Well, she got married, and we talked again about her plans.  Now, she’s excited to stay home and cook and clean.  She maybe hopes to be a secretary.

Maybe I have a warped sense of gender roles because I have a wife who’s smarter than I am, who has a better advanced degree than I do, and who I followed to California for her career, but it kind of makes me sad that my sister has seemed to abandon her educational and career goals.
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Morality And The Presidency

Last week, CNN had a story about Newt Gingrich. here are the highlights:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was having an extramarital affair even as he led the charge against President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, he acknowledged in an interview with a conservative Christian group.

“The honest answer is yes,” Gingrich, a potential 2008 Republican presidential candidate, said in an interview with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson to be aired Friday, according to a transcript provided to The Associated Press. “There are times that I have fallen short of my own standards. There’s certainly times when I’ve fallen short of God’s standards.” Gingrich argued in the interview, however, that he should not be viewed as a hypocrite for pursuing Clinton’s infidelity.

Reports of extramarital affairs have dogged him for years as a result of two messy divorces, but he has refused to discuss them publicly. Gingrich, who frequently campaigned on family values issues, divorced his second wife, Marianne, in 2000 after his attorneys acknowledged Gingrich’s relationship with his current wife, Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide more than 20 years younger than he is. His first marriage, to his former high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley, ended in divorce in 1981. Although Gingrich has said he doesn’t remember it, Battley has said Gingrich discussed divorce terms with her while she was recuperating in the hospital from cancer surgery. Gingrich married Marianne months after the divorce.

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Sign Language Baptism

Today I had the privilege of attending a baptismal service where a deaf man performed the baptismal ordinance.

Signing the baptismal prayer required using both hands. So the manner in which things were done was adapted slightly to perform the ordinance. The baptizer and baptizee were simply standing in the water next to each other while he signed the prayer. Only after he was done signing did he take her wrist in one hand while using the other hand to support her as she was immersed in the water.

While the baptismal prayer was being signed, an elder (who happened to be wearing a hearing aid himself) verbally interpreted the baptismal prayer for the observers.

I was really grateful to be able to observe this happening. I had never seen a deaf person perform the baptismal ordinance previously (though I’m certain it’s happened many times in the history of the Church).

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