Saturday, March 20, 2004

Provo finally hits the big time 

This article in the New York Times at last draws the nation's readers to the best-kept secret in global tourism: Provo. I haven't had much of a chance to read it yet, but it seems this article doesn't mention Orem at all (to quote Kit Carson in Chubby Rain, "Gotcha, Suckas!").

For many years I've been trying to sell people on the merits of Seven Peaks, Movies 8, and Branbury Park.

Good to see some recognition, is all.

Zeezrom & the Kori-Whores 

I know I’ll probably be disinvited to blog here shortly, given my propensity for beating this dead horse, but I want to advocate a change of blog name. More specifically, I want to cast my vote for “Zeezrom & Friends,” “Zeezrom & Co.,” or, best of all, the delicious little title that heads this post.

My sense is that Steve and Kaimi believe that any “Zeezrom” derivative would be “too limiting.” In other words, “Zeezrom” suggests a narrow legal focus for the blog that will prove inaccurate, given that “liberal Mormonness,” whatever that may prove to mean, will encompass a much broader range of issues and concerns.

I think this concern is misplaced. If anything, “Zeezrom” could signal to a potential reader nothing more than that the bloggers who dwell here are lawyers. (And with the exception of Kristine, I believe we ARE all lawyers). Further, it signals that the bloggers in question are Mormon, and that writings controversial or “against the grain” are likely to be found here (and from the perspective of your typical conservative LDS member, that’s probably true). In short, I think the blog name would succinctly and cleverly capture several aspects of this blog’s personality and focus simultaneously.

But there are other reasons for my suggestion… Imagine the following scenario:

Molly Mormon has somehow discovered T&S.; She likes what she sees, and scrolls down the right side of the screen one day to see the “Mormon Blogosphere” links.

“Golly, this looks fun!” she exclaims. “I think I’ll go exploring. But look how many there are! I couldn’t possibly visit all these sites! I only have time to visit a couple. Which ones should I choose?”

10 bucks says Molly doesn’t choose “By Common Consent.” It’s just not catchy enough. But just imagine if “Zeezrom & the Kori-Whors” is among her options. There’s no way she’s going to miss that one! (The fact that it starts with a “Z” and so appears dead last in the list is also helpful).

“Oh my heck!” she says to herself. “Zeezrom? Isn’t he an apostate character in the Book of Mormon? Is T&S; linking to anti-Mormon websites? Could it be true? The suspense is killing me! I MUST find out for myself!”

And right then and there, my dear fellow bloggers, you’ve enticed another visitor to the site! Good marketing. Fame and fortune will rain down upon us all that much more quickly!

Finally, I must note that “Zeezrom & the Kori-Whors” has a very nifty 80’s rockband sound to it. Think “Josie & the Pussycats” or “Joan Jett & the Blackhearts” or “Katrina & the Waves.” Wouldn’t that just be rad? If this blogging stint doesn’t work out, we could start a band and tour the Stake Dance circuit. Cool!

But in all seriousness, the only potential negatives I see are these:

(1) Although I like it, “Zeezrom & the Kori-Whors” may be too campy/obnoxious to fit some bloggers’ personalities. It may also be inordinately silly for a blog that will probably be dedicated to many non-silly discussions. However, any other “Zeezrom” title I mentioned would tone this down sufficiently, I think.

(2) Many LDS people don’t have sophisticated senses of humor… i.e. they may not get the joke. Obviously, we don’t see ourselves as real, modern day Zeezroms, but others might take it too literally. Those inclined to dismiss Mormon liberals as apostate, heathen or backsliding may see the blog name as proof of the charges. (To HECK with them, I say).

In any event, these are my thoughts. I invite yours. (But I will tolerate neither dissent nor stupidity.) :)

Aaron B


Friday, March 19, 2004

Thanks to Viewers Like You! 

A generous benefactor, who wishes to remain nameless, has contributed funds to our little community. As a result, our comment limit has TRIPLED to a whopping 3,000 characters. That may still not be enough space for some (cough*Aaron*cough), but it's an unexpected surprise. The change should take place shortly.

Let me also just say how truly impressed I've been with the warmth and genuine insight from our bloggers and commenters. Kudos to all!

And now for all, a moment of zen: the 30-second version of The Exorcist, as performed by bunnies.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The Revolution will be cross-stitched 

Mat's suggestion of hanging the Manifesto on his wall instead of the Proclamation on the family reminded me of a favorite discussion topic of mine: obnoxious feminist sayings I would like to put in a counted cross-stitch sampler. Examples: "A clean house is a sign of a wasted life," "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people," or my favorite, from Franklin S. Richards on woman suffrage in Utah: "If the price of statehood is the disfranchisement of one half of the people...I am content to share with them the disabilities of territorial vassalage till the time shall come, as it will come in the providence of God, when all can stand side by side on the broad platform of human equality, of equal rights, and equal capacity." The reason for cross-stitching them, of course, would be to see how many months it would take one's visiting teacher to notice the horrific sentiments thus displayed.

There's a serious point beneath the humor (there always is with me; can't help it--I'm descended from a long line of depressive Swedish preachers), that we often form judgments of what is appropriately Mormon based on issues of style. One of the things I loved most about the summer seminar on women's history at BYU last year was how Claudia Bushman would come to gatherings with her needlepoint in hand. From time to time she would look up, smile, say something jaw-droppingly radical like, "maybe someday they'll have special wards just for single sisters," or "Mormon feminism is dead," and then go back to stitching. Half the time people, even quite conservative people, would just nod and go on with the discussion. When Aileen Clyde visited, we all noticed how she, every inch the picture of East Bench gentility could say things in her perfectly modulated church lady voice that NOBODY could possibly get away with saying. I could say things about why it's good for women to work outside the home that nobody else could say, because I am (for now, and for as long as I can stand it) a dumpy stay-at-home mom with three cute blond children.

So here are my questions for you self-proclaimed liberals: how much do you self-censor or adapt yourself to the prevailing styles of expression in order to fit in with your congregations? (especially those outside of Cambridge or Manhattan) Is this bad, or is it a useful way to check your prejudices and knock the sharp edges off of your opinions? What happens if you don't do it, or if you're not good at it?

LDS Temple Collector's Items 

A word of advice to you with white scriptures: hang on to them! Mormon Ebayers may someday pay a fortune for them now that the Church doesn't make them anymore. Now, when I was a young'un, I recall that with the temple, everything had to be white. I remember thinking that the food would be white, if they could've made it that way.

Is this a change in attitude towards the temple? A recent discussion over at The Other Board has made me think that the decision to not have white scriptures anymore is the result of temple culture being more widely disseminated, while temple blessings are more wide-spread. My theory is that people are realizing that white scriptures aren't inherently more sacred than standard brown. I don't mean to say that mormons are treating the temple less seriously -- it's still the most sacred place on earth. But we don't have the same overall respect of sacred places we had a hundred years ago. We're not approaching temple-related cultural trappings like when Manti was the latest thing. Attitudes towards, say, garments (not to mention their stylings), towards discussing temple blessings, and towards temple symbolism are all changing. No more white scriptures -- is the temple so common now that its raw uniqueness is fading? How do we preserve the sacredness of the temple even while we discard some of the vestigial cultural elements?

Update: Some other random blog has noted that the issue of baptizing the Jewish dead has again resurfaced. I would add waning agressiveness towards baptism for the dead as another indicator of cultural temple shifts. We still baptize for the dead, of course, but we're not nearly as concerned as we used to be, it seems, with baptizing celebrities, politicians, etc.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Women and the church: Reactionary, or simply reflective? 

Karen's post addresses the de facto gender discrimination that occurs in the church. Let me ask a question about Karen's underlying assumptions: What is she expecting? Karen provides anecdotal evidence of women's viewpoints being marginalized in church settings. Many or all of us have seen the same thing happen.

But, the fact is that we live in a society where women's viewpoints are routinely marginalized. We have had no female presidents of the United States. Female representation in Congress is minimal. Women earn a quarter less than men do for equal work. Women have yet to become equal with men in business, politics, science, literature, and most other areas. And yes, they are typically not on equal footing in religion, either.

My question is whether the church's subtle discrimination is merely part and parcel of women's inferior status in society today. Perhaps we can argue that the church should be being progressive, and breaking down barriers. But if it is not being progressive, an important query is whether it is being reactionary, or simply passively reflecting societal discrimination. Based on the evidence Karen has shown, the answer may be that it is simply reflecting societal discrimination. And if that is the case, then perhaps the response should be to try to change society, not to try to change the church. (Do we want a church that tries to be progressive? Or do we want a church that reflects societal attitudes, warts and all?)

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Responses to de facto Gender Discrimination 

Let me start this post by acknowledging that my assertions are anecdotal, but also note that I know a lot of women in the church. I talk to a lot of women. I've lived in several wards of differing personality, and one commonality I've found is that most women do not consider themselves discriminated against by the church. They're at peace with the Priesthood issues, and are too busy worrying about their own spiritual progress to get caught up in gender angst. Like most of my friends, I'm bemused by outsiders who bemoan the role of women in the church. We choose to be members, and understand our decision. So, I'm not making an argument of any official gender discrimination, I personally don't think that is the relevant inquiry.

What I am concerned about are the numerous instances of de facto gender discrimination that I see in private relationships between members. This becomes more disturbing when one party presumes to insinuate that their position and opinions are "official." Let me illustrate with a third hand story.

We have a very large Spanish speaking ward in our stake. It is tradition that every stake conference begins or ends with a prayer in Spanish. (This, in addition to the translation services provided.) I personally love this tradition, and find it admirably inclusive. However, at a recent stake conference, some younger men in my ward became really upset at this, finding it totally inappropriate. (For what I assume were conservative "English only in America" reasons....another topic for another day....) A woman, also in my ward, who was sitting near-by challenged them and a heated discussion ensued. One of the men ended it by basically telling her that he was going to the bishop to complain, and that he had the authority to do so. (Insinuating that as a priesthood holder he could, and she couldn't.)

Okay, laugh at this story if you must. You wouldn't be the first. My concern is the insinuation that women are powerless to affect change in the church. I simply don't think that is true, and that we have every obligation to use our time, talents, and means to improve and build the church. Think these situations are isolated? How much attention is payed to the scouts vs. the young women in your ward? Think about the jokes about the frivolousness of Relief Society. I think the relevant question is how do we respond to the numerous cuts, insinuations, and "bone-headed" remarks that we are sooner or later exposed to.

I think we have four options. 1) Over time we start to believe the message that women's experiences in the church are less valuable than men's. (Sadly, a common reaction.) 2) We "turn the other cheek" recognizing the ridiculousness of the situation, but not reacting. (My usual M.O.--often accompanied by a dramatic eye roll...) 3) We confront the speaker and point out the problem. (Maybe the most healthy response, but come one....I think our strongest cultural trait is being passive aggressive, so how often does this happen?) or 4) We attribute the motives of the individual actor to the church as a whole and slowly become embittered. (Leading, eventually, to some level of apostasy.)

My questions. What is the appropriate response by women? What responsibilities do men (and women...)have to evaluate their own behavior? What responsibilities do ward leaders (of both genders) have to evaluate the gender discrimination issues in their wards and address them?


Monday, March 15, 2004

Wonder Twin Powers 

I just noticed that Orson's Telescope is basically the same as our blog, except even more snarky and random, but less politically-minded. I have never seen anyone as like-minded as Jeremy, who runs the show over there. Congrats! Once we have trained them sufficiently we shall make our blogs do battle! Jeremy-- Howard Jones is mormon, right? I mean, he wrote Everlasting Love.

A side note: why can't anyone cool ever turn out to be mormon (Neil LaBute excepted)? I mean, we're overdue for a Gordon Jump replacement about now, aren't we? Even more interesting in my mind is how oft-recurring this topic is in the mormon blogosphere. Why the effort to point out mormon celebrities? Are we trying to have Shakespeares of our own, or is this an apologist's tool, showing that our church can't be all bad if we have all these celebrities. Heaven knows it's worked for the Scientologists.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Becoming Socialized 

My sister and I had a long conversation yesterday about becoming socialized as a result of my answer to one of the questions on the political compass test Steve linked to. The question asked how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Making peace with the establishment is an important aspect of maturity”. I clicked “agree”.

I’m sure that years ago I would have thought giving the establishment the bird was a good thing. When common sense fails, however, experience often steps in and teaches the same lesson differently. My siblings and I have always had a strong bent towards individualistic behavior which has been a blessing and a curse. Among ourselves we are famously fractious despite dozens of family home evenings about unity. Not having much regard for what other people think about you, and not thinking too much about other people causes problems in other spheres as well–some of us are over-educated and underemployed at least in part because academia tolerates a higher standard of deviation from social niceties more than the professions.

Most people never wage war against the establishment anyway, but are rather simply intransigent in the face of it. I suppose it is a form of disobedience that most youths pass through–although my own youth lasted well into my twenties. Of course the so-called establishment is not some monolithic thing that seeks to crush youthful ideals–in my life it came in various distinct forms familiar to most people–schools, church, the work place. The common thread seems to be a discomfort with authority. My wife informs me that I haven’t exorcized this demon yet–but my more rational self tells me that great governments, churches and corporations work because people find ways to voluntarily repress at least some of their individual wants and engage in a communitarian enterprises. Having a stake in the system, as writers on Middle-East politics constantly remind us, also helps. Where you find your stake is still individual. I went to law school because the job I had before that didn’t give me the kind of stake I wanted–more prestige and money. I liked the job itself well enough–I taught high school.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

A Name and a blessing 

OK, this post is to solicit votes on a permanent blog name. Suggestions thus far include:
The Rameumptom (or some related variations)
Zeezrom, Esq. (though that limits our followers to lawyers)
Cureloms & Cumoms (who knows what those are)
Navajo Taco
Wagonloads of Plates
By the Regular Sign

any other culturally pregnant and semi-irreverent suggestions? Winner receives a gift certificate to Chuck-A-Rama*.

I guess if I had to throw in a Church topic, it's also to discuss the most uneasy and uncomfortable blessing in the Church, that of baby blessings. How are you supposed to do it, anyways -- are you talking to God or to the baby? How are you supposed to segue from the naming to the blessing part? It's such an awkward scene, too, because I think it's the only blessing in the Church that's public, except for confirmations. Does anyone know where the tradition came from for blessing infants? Is it something from the early days of the church, or more recent?

*winner may not actually receive anything.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Those Who Are About To Blog Salute You 

What can we expect from this little blog? It will likely not bring us money, fame or praise--it may make us objects of the world's derision and alienate our family and friends. We may be denied all of the good things that this abundant earth has to offer us because we set out our convictions in an attempt to sharpen the blade of truth. We test our ideas against others, selling our thoughts in that grandest of marketplaces, in an attempt to persuade--while remaining open to persuasion. If you will not accept our ideas, accept our blog. Our mission is to harvest the wheat and separate the chaff--because we are men and because men must blog.

So what's a liberal Mormon, anyways? 

I guess if we're going to be elitist and pride ourselves on being liberals, it might be helpful to set some parameters or definitions of some kind. Note that I won't impose any definitions, of course, because I'm not some kind of dictator.

I found The Political Compass to be a reasonably reliable indicator of political/social leanings; I have a feeling that Mormons are going to be a tighter grouping on the grid of politics than Times & Seasons would indicate. In other words, we're all pretty conservative - some of us just a little more so than others. Or perhaps the liberal/conservative distinction applies in terms of social politics but not in terms of economics? Anyways, I found the test to be interesting (I'll post my own results later), and thought it might be interesting to y'all.



Hi, everyone. Is this thing on?
(Taps microphone)
(Tap . . tap . . Loud feedback)

Welcome all! 

So this is an auspicious beginning: a liberal mormon blog that harshly rejects conservative viewpoints. Are we hypocrites for making such a blog? Probably. So be it.

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