Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Songs of Zion

“Back Porch Believer” By Douglas Erekson

I need to start this one out by clarifying a conclusion I’ve reached lately. I’ve come to define when some kind of creative work crosses over some imaginary line and goes from “nice work” to “great art”.

This is a very personal definition, and I don’t mean to imply that it should also be YOUR definition. Even if you should choose to adopt this criteria, it’s so personal that you and I might not even classify the same work the same way.

Here it is:

It is “Great Art” when something creative makes me think or feel something I hadn’t before.

Having said that…

“Back Porch Believer” is a collection of hymns of the LDS church re-interpreted in an old-time bluegrass style. When I say, “old time”, I’m not talking about simply playing the songs with fiddles and acoustic guitars. There’s nothing new-age about this. It’s down-home folk. Think “O Brother Where Art Thou” about a hundred years before it got hip.

Now, there have been a myriad of CD’s put out of late where artists have redone hymns in their own arrangements, their own styles, etc. Some could say, ad nauseum. There are a few of them, however that stand out as “Great Art” by my standard. Very rarely do several of them happen on the same CD. “Back Porch”, however, is such a CD.

The one that struck me the hardest was, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”. This hymn has been solemnized and revered for centuries, it seems. Until Douglas, I’ve never heard any one sing this with the jubilation that sweet sentence truly gives. This song moves with an excitement that never loses respect, but is still truly joyful.

In fact, in spite of the fact that most of the CD is a downright fun and lighthearted romp, I found myself feeling the glow of the Spirit as I listened.

Other highlights are “The Day Dawn Is Breaking”, and “There is Sunshine in My Soul”. I also loved the bluesy instrumental of “Israel, Israel God is Calling”. There are some Mormons who just can’t bring themselves to admit that a hymn in our book would have its roots in southern blues. Me, I’m glad to find it once in a while!

While I do like all kinds of music on some level, I very rarely will listen to bluegrass, especially deeply traditional bluegrass. But this CD grabs me. I’ve spun it while I’ve been working, while I’ve been at home, and while I’m commuting. It’s got this great blend of Spirituality and fun that just keeps me coming back.

I hope you’ll at least try it out.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What Happened, Richard?

I can remember a long time ago, when there was no “Mormon Cinema”. There were movies being made by church members, it’s true, but they somehow escaped that label (except the ones the Church itself made).

Then one day I heard about “God’s Army”. At first I was nervous, even skeptical. I went to the website of the production company, “Zion Films”, and was reassured by some of the text there. The filmmaker (Richard Dutcher, though I didn’t know who that was at the time) said something to the effect that he wanted is testimony to “pour from every frame of (his) movies”. I remember that line stood out to me. It showed me that someone wanted to make movies about Mormon life and LDS experience. I was very excited, because I’d encountered many in the LDS arts community who tried to hide their church membership, couch their testimonies in innuendo and inside references, rather than proclaim the gospel as the trump of an angel.

So, Mormon Cinema was born. Soon others joined in and many movies were made.

I like to hang out on a ‘net group of people interested in following LDS film. The sad thing to me is that (contrary to the overall camaraderie I sense in the LDS music world) those in the LDS film world seem to delight in snarky backbiting and petty slander rather than support and encouragement.

Dutcher himself joined in, referring in some public speeches to the LDS film world as a pool that other filmmakers had peed in.

Then, I read this interview in Christianity Today, and I read quotes like this:

“…Because of that film, States of Grace, Dutcher has been shunned by the LDS church. He also says that many other recent "Mormon films" are so bad, he doesn't want to have anything to do with the label.”

The interviewer asked about his diverse religious background, saying: “But you ended up settling in the Mormon church?”

Dutcher: My wife and kids predominantly attend the LDS church, but I'm so busy that I'm really not active in that community any more. I travel so much, and I find myself just choosing whatever service appeals to me that week. When I'm in Burbank, I attend a Catholic church. And I've recently noticed a Greek Orthodox church across the street, so I'll probably hit that too.”

When asked about “States of Grace” being promoted as a sequel to “God’s Army”, he responded:

“Actually, it kind of backfired on us, because a strange thing has happened in the Mormon community over the past five years. When God's Army came out [in 2000], it created a little "Mormon cinema movement." Before God's Army, there hadn't been many films by and about Mormons; after that, there was a flood of really crappy movies. But I didn't realize that, because I'd away from the Mormon community for a few years while making other movies. When we came back, we didn't realize that the reputation for Mormon film had sunk to such a level that by calling a film God's Army 2, it was almost a bad thing because people thought, Oh no, another Mormon movie, because they'd been burned so many times.”

“My idea of Mormon cinema would be films that take a deep, probing look into Mormonism—its history, doctrine, contemporary life, to explore things that were pretty much untapped. But that's certainly not what Mormon cinema became. It became something so much more superficial and meaningless.”


“…I think the Mormon community just doesn't have reverence or respect for art. It certainly doesn't understand film as an art form. So there's a big educational curve that has to take place before the Mormon community will start taking film seriously.”

But I was most surprised by his answers to these questions:

“I have a hard time now even when people ask me, "Are you Mormon?" I don't know how to answer that anymore, because although the answer is technically "yes," I know what those people have in their minds and the kind of box they put me in. It's almost like you have to sit down and say, "Okay, well, let's talk about what that means to you." It's like a giant philosophical discussion.”

Do you believe the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, like the Bible?”

Dutcher: “You're not supposed to ask me that!”

“That's not on your approved list of questions?”

Dutcher: [Laughing.] “That's right. I've gone through a real evolution in my religious views and in my faith over the past four years, so I'm reluctant to get too far into that. I could give an answer which is accurate, and yet the ramifications of that would be misinterpreted. Does that make any sense? Do you know what I'm getting at?”

“Yeah, it sounds like you don't want to answer the question.”

Dutcher: “Well, uhh, I guess I don't have a problem answering it, but it needs to be a pretty long answer. Let's just say that my religious views are much more universal than one would expect from someone raised … I'm starting to sound like a politician now. But I don't believe that Mormons have any special claim to God. I don't believe that Mormonism has any special doorway to heaven.”

I guess he’s come a long way from pouring his testimony.

To me, it all comes across as artistic arrogance. I’m sorry. I’ve only met the man once. I shouldn’t judge his personal character. On the other hand, I get a bit miffed when he calls me a philistine and turns his back on me. I paid to see his movies, and I’ve loved every one of them. I also liked the movies that “ruined it for him”. I was able to look past the production and see the fun in them. I was able to accept the effort and delight in the creativity. And just because they didn’t all fall in behind him and make movies that were his kind of good (and frankly none of them, including his, have been all that well promoted – but that’s not the reason they failed, of course) he’s now rejected the community, and it seems, his beliefs.

Well, sorry, Richard, but I’m not taking the blame for you.


Mark Hansen

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A few more thoughts on war and conflict

A long time ago, after studying history, I came to a conclusion: Battles and campaigns may be won or lost on strategy and tactics, but wars are won or lost economically. Each side fights until either it no longer has the capacity to fight, or winning is no longer profitable.

In the American Civil war, for example, the south simply didn’t have the economic capability to field an army for the long, long term. The same thing happened to Germany in WWII. They ran out of stuff to wage war with. No more supplies, no more weapons, no more soldiers.

In Vietnam, it became politically unprofitable for us to continue the war, so we stopped fighting. The cost of lives and investment was no longer worth the outcome, so we quit.

Which leads me up to another conclusion. No-one really wins a war. The winner is the side that loses the least.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why Fight It?

A long time ago, I was at a Covey 7 habits training, and I saw a demonstration that had a big impact on me. Paradigm-shifting, if you will.

Covey first got a couple of guys up and told them to arm wrestle. He set up the rules. Everytime a hand hit the table, within 2 minutes or so, whoever pushed it got a dollar. He said “Go” and they struggled. Pretty soon, one of them won. Right away, they started again. By the time the few minutes were done, they’d each won a couple of dollars.

Then Covey said, “Let me show you how it’s done.”

He took the place of one of the guys, grabbed the other man’s hand, and set up for the wrestling. When he said “Go”, however, Covey just let his hand drop, and right away his opponent won. Instantly, Covey set them both up again, and right away, Covey lost a second time. After a third time, the other guy stopped trying, and Covey slipped by his guard and threw his hand to the table.

The opponent immediately threw back, and Covey let him win. But then he suddenly exerted and won. They then fell into this pattern of one hitting the table right after the other. Then, in an instant, you saw the other guy get it. When they stopped fighting and started helping each other swing back and forth, suddenly the number of table hits skyrocketed, and they both won many, many times over. Much more than the previous two guys had made.

The other night I was reading in Helaman, in Chapter 6, and I saw that same paradigm in action. I mean, here’s the Nephites and Lamanites fighting and fighting for many many generations, and all of a sudden, they suddenly realize that they don’t need to fight any more. Suddenly, without all that waste of resources and humanity in senseless killing for territory and oppression, or defending against the same, people realized that they could get a lot done, and trade flourished, and they all prospered and got very very rich.

I think that on a personal level and on a world level, we spend way too much time in conflict, and not enough time just cooperating.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


As I’ve mentioned before, our family is in the process of building a house, and while we’re living with my in-laws, we’ve been kind of in a state of limbo, church-wise.

For a while, we continued to attend our old ward. That worked for a while, but we began to feel less and less connected there.

So, we started to attend our new ward, thinking to make new friends.

This particular week was very interesting. I woke up, not feeling too well. It was one of those borderline “not too wells” that could go either way. You could get up and go to church, or you could stay in bed all day, and still feel perfectly justified.

Still, as I’ve been feeling so in-between and only a little bit lost lately, I decided that I needed to get my sorry butt out of bed and go to church anyway. I mean, I can see just how easy it would be to go inactive. Miss a few weeks in between, then when your moving, in the chaos, you miss a few more, and before you know it, you’ve stopped attending.

Well, my kids gave me more than their usual amount of grief when we were getting ready, but still we soldiered on and got in the car. It’s about a 40 minute drive to the new ward house. Pretty significant when you consider most people in Utah walk to church. Or, rather they COULD walk to church, but still somehow end up driving…

But I also thought of my pioneer ancestors who walked a couple of thousand miles to get to church, so I didn’t feel too bad about it.

Now, this new ward has a very interesting dynamic going on. It’s in a new city, where houses are going up like weeds on the prairie. The wards are stuffed. Our ward, for example, has an average attendance of over 400 at Sacrament Meeting. There are two Elder’s Quorums. There are two or three adult Sunday school classes.

And yet, they can’t field more than three or four deacons to pass the sacrament. The rest are Melchizedek Priesthood holders.

Sacrament meetings there are, by far, the noisiest I have ever experienced. Babies and young children outnumber the adults by possibly three to one.

After Sacrament, the halls are a gridlock of people passing back and forth trying to get their kids to Primary and then back to Sunday school. I can see just how easy it could be to get swallowed up in the mass of humanity and end up not noticed and “feel like no-one cares”.

But in spite of all those things that could give someone reason to complain (and I’m usually pretty good at jumping on those things), I found myself just feeling relaxed. The spirit cut through the noise during the speakers at Sacrament meeting, and the people I sat with in Sunday School and Priesthood were friendly.

And almost all of them had one big thing in common with me. Within the last few months or so, they’d each been “the new family”.

So, I’m excited to be in the new ward. No matter how many times it splits in the next few months! I’ll jump in and meet people, get my home teaching families, and I’ll probably even join the choir.

Welcome home!

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Podcast Interview!

Just a little shameless plug: About a week ago, I got to do a really fun interview with Candace of the Imagine Podcast. It just got released this morning and you can hear it at

Mark Hansen
Raising a Star

Last night, I got to see a “Star Raising”. This is an interesting little ceremony that celebrates the completion of a child’s wish by the “Make a Wish” Foundation here in Utah. The building they use has this suspended sculpture in the ceiling of their great hall, and it’s filled with these dangling stars, one for each child’s wish they’ve granted. The child being celebrated (Jacob’s CE friend Adam, in this case), gets to tug on a string to raise his star up, then we all have ice cream.

So, before the ceremony, I started wandering around the building and I noticed that there were these framed pictures all around. They were photos of a lot of the kids that have had their wishes fulfilled, and then a paragraph about their story. It would tell about the illness the child has (or had), and then about the wish.

I was drawn to these stories like a moth to the flame. It was a very intense moment for me. Jacob, because of his Cystic Fibrosis, qualifies as a wish kid. As I read each story, I would be excited to see what they wished for and what they got, then I would start to cry as I realized why each child gets a wish in the first place. And it would hit me hard when the story would mention that this child or that child had since passed away.

Now, Cystic Fibrosis is interesting. If you maintain the treatments, you can live a long time. The current life expectancy of a CF patient is well into the 40’s, if I remember right. It used to be a bit childhood killer. Now, someone can live a full life. But, it can still kill.

And with each story I read, I was reminded of that.

So, I’d tear up in my eyes, and I’d walk away. I shouldn’t be reading these, I’d tell myself. But I kept being drawn back. I turned into quite the recluse, wanting to hide in my own thoughts while everyone else was celebrating Adam’s wish.

Some of the wishes the kids chose touched me more than others. One kid asked for a harp, another for a drum set. One child asked for golf lessons from Tiger Woods. And, of course, about every third one was for the trip to Disneyland.

A lot of them wished to visit or to do something with a celebrity, but one really touched me. He asked to visit the prophet, Gordon B Hinkley. The story said that they met, and Pres Hinkley gave him a special blessing.

What an experience that would be. And to think that this kid could have almost anything he could ask for, and that he asked for that.

I find it interesting that most charities deal in necessities. Research, direct services, paying for treatments, schools, books, etc. I think that’s good and that’s valid. I was amazed to think that this organization provides none of that. These kids are very sick, most are dying, so they give them something to live for. They go straight to the soul.

It reminds me of the song lyric, “I just wanna live while I’m alive!”

Mark Hansen

A post script: Things are progressing nicely on Chapter and Verse. I've been able to play a number of playtest games myself, and more and more other playtesters are joining up! Come check out

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My Dad's Story

My father is a very fascinating man.

I guess everyone has a story, and when you dive deep enough, you find that they're all very intriguing. But I think my dad's story is particularly exciting.

So, I've been very excited to see that he's starting to blog about it, remembering his days in Germany during and after WWII.

He's also introducing me to a host of other characters in the play of his life, people I've never met, and most of whom I've only seen on pedigree charts and family group sheets.

Anyway, you can check it out for yourself and get caught up in it all.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

OK, folks, just like I promised….

I’ve set up a temporary site where folks can join up as beta playtersters of “Chapter and Verse”. The site includes free downloadable pdf’s of the rules and the first cardset (100 cards, based on the Seminary Scripture Mastery list).

I’d like to invite anyone who would like to, to go and help us test the game. This includes people who like collectible card games like Yugioh, Pokemon, Magic, etc… as well as people who’ve never even heard of them. People who love to play all kinds of games and those who don’t. I’d really like to get a wide variety of opinion.

I’m already working on additional cardsets, so it will be a constantly expanding game. I think the core rules are solid, but there are a few things that I’m not sure of yet. That’s where the playtesting comes in.

Have at it!

And thank you!

Mark Hansen

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Chapter & Verse

Many of you might remember a rant I posted about Mormon games a few months back. Some of you even posted some really cool thoughts in the comments area. At the time, I said that there were some real challenges that face someone designing a game in the spiritual arena.

The quote at the end of the blog entry was: “So, out of all this comes: A good Mormon game would be something fun, that’s quick to play, and relatively easy to learn. It would relate directly to the Gospel in its play, and not have a ‘good guy’ player and a ‘bad guy’ player.”

As I also mentioned in that blog entry, I’ve been working on a card game which I hope will meet those criteria. I’ve tentatively called it “Chapter and Verse”, because it’s based on the scriptures. I’m open to suggestions for a better name, BTW…

Well, I finally got a prototype card set made and cut out, and my son and I have tested it a few times already. I’m very excited by it. The possibilities are there, and our first few games have gone really well. We’ve found a few flaws, and we’ve fixed them. I’m sure that the more we play, the more flaws we’ll find and fix. That’s the whole point of playtesting, isn’t it?

One of the first things I did was to make it totally abstract and non-representational. Let me clarify what I mean by that.

In Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh, each player represents a wizard summoning monsters and sending them to fight each other. In Pokemon, each player represents a trainer working and guiding his team through a battle. In a typical wargame (be it a board game or a miniatures game), the player represents the general of the army in the game.

In C&V, the player doesn’t represent anyone or anything. The game and the cards are all abstract concepts. Each card is a verse of scripture, and the numbers on the card show how they relate to one of five overall principles. The players try to assemble verses into books. The first one to three books wins!

Of course, most cards have some sort of effect that changes the game somewhat, which opens it up for multi card combinations and strategies.

My hope is that by making it abstract, it removes the whole concept of “Good player” verses “Evil player”. We’re just two or three players all trying to make books out of our scriptures.

Making the game directly relate to the gospel is trickier. I’ve tried to do that by basing the numbers and the effects of the cards directly on the verse that is on the card. So, for example, “Gather the Sheep” (John 10:16) allows me to find three cards from my deck and add them to my hand. “The City of Enoch” (Moses 7:18) allows me to gain points by giving cards to other players. How well that all works remains to be seen.

So, now that I have a rough of the rules that I’m (for the moment) pretty happy with, the next step is to get some other people playtesting it. What I’ll do is set up a site where people can download the prototype cardset as a pdf or something, and the rules as well. Then, I’ll announce that and ask people to give it a try, and give me feedback.

I’ve started with the Seminary Scripture Mastery verses as my first testing deck. I’ve got a lot of cool ideas for future sets as well.

So, stay tuned and see!

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Three Stories


My grandfather, Heinrich Hansen, was drafted into the German army in World War II. At the time, he recognized that the Nazi party was fundamentally evil, and he applied to the medical corps so that he could fulfill his duty and not be out killing others. Such a transfer was rare, but with prayer it came through, and he spent the war taking care of the wounded, mostly stationed in Norway.

As the war ended, he traveled back to find his family in Germany, and as soon as he entered American-occupied territory, he was seized and put in a detention camp as a POW. He was there six months before he was released.

Finally reunited with his wife and sons (my dad and uncle), they eventually immigrated to America, settled in Utah, and then my mom and dad met, and that’s another story.


For a long time, I’m pretty sure it was before I was born, my mom played the bass violin in the Utah Symphony. Soon after I got here, my dad’s work took us all (Dad, Mom, my sister, and myself) to Washington DC, and then to Terre Haute, Indiana. We moved there when I was six, and they still live there, now. I moved back to Utah at 24 years old.

While they were raising us in Indiana, mom kept at the bass, playing in the Terre Haute Symphony. TH was a small town, but, being a college town (Indiana State University), there were a lot of good players in the music school, both in faculty and students. The local paper’s arts critic always hated them, but I always liked going to the concerts as I was growing up. All that time, I also was playing the ‘cello, and mom made arrangements for a good friend of hers, the Symphony’s principal cellist, to give me private lessons.

Throughout my years in high school orchestras, and the youth symphony, I played the cello primarily, but I did dabble a little in the bass. When I started playing rock instruments, it was the bass that I picked up first.

Years later, when I was working as a teaching assistant in Downtown Salt Lake, a colleague and I started an acoustic blues duo with me playing one of the school’s uprights, and he playing slide guitar. We’d practice at lunch and played at a few of the school assemblies.


Yesterday, my parents came out to visit us here in Utah. They’d recently moved into a smaller home, with a smaller yard, since mom’s getting too weak to care for the big huge yard any more. As a result, they spent a lot of time digging through some almost 40 years of stuff that had accumulated in the house on 34th street. And they brought some of it out for us (my sister and I).

One thing they brought for was Mom’s bass. What a thrill! As I opened it up and picked a few notes, it was very hard to keep from tearing up. Ever since I had done the duo, I’d wanted a bass, and now I have one with a powerful personal legacy.

My dad also brought me a small box, the kind that personal checks come from your bank in. He opened it up and showed me a set of wooden chess pieces. Angular, and hacked and mangled over many, many years, they really showed wear. He told me that these chess pieces had been hand-carved by my grandfather while he was in the POW camp. The amazing thing is that they are all still there.

So, today, I’m still kinda reeling from the overwhelming sense of history and of my own generations. I’m so incredibly grateful for the lives of those that have gone before me, and all that they’ve taught me. That’s the REAL legacy. But it’s also nice to have some tangible artifacts as well.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hooray for Honduras!

A while ago, I got on Google Earth and thought it would be a lot of fun to go back to some of my mission areas. I went to Tegucigalpa/Comayaguela, Honduras first. Tegus is a “twin city” with Comayaguela, much like Dallas/Ft Worth, or Minneapolis/St Paul. The two are separated by a river. While Tegus is slightly bigger and more metro, they’re really pretty similar in size.

I was six months in a “Colonia” called Torocagua. A colonia is sort of bigger than a subdivision, but not as big as a suburb. I recall it being on the west side of the city, by a highway that went northward out of town. Unfortunately, because it’s been over 20 years since I’ve seen it, I had a hard time recognizing any real landmarks, and I wasn’t sure if I was able to really locate Torocagua.

I looked over the ‘net for a map of Tegus that might outline the Colonias, and I found some but none were specific to Torocagua. I did find a very general map that the church had made outlining the stakes and wards. When I was walking those streets, there were two (maybe three) stakes in the whole metro area. I seem to remember there was one in Tegus, and one in Comayaguela. There might have been two in Tegus.

I was surprised to find that on this map, there were stakes all over the twin cities. There was actually a Torocagua stake!

Then, just today (and I’m not sure how I missed this before), I was spinning through some press releases at the church website and I found this announcement of a temple to be built in Tegucigalpa. I was so excited!

A long time ago, I wrote this song about working in that area. It's one of only two songs I've ever written in spanish. I'm actually very close to finishing the recording, too. The english translation is more literal, in that I'm not even attempting to make it fit into rhyme or meter. It is to be sung in spanish, and the english is merely there to make sense of it.

Torocagua (Amiga Mia)

Te conocí (I met you)
En las calles lodosas (in the muddy streets)
Convertidos en rios (turned into rivers)
Por la lluvia ruidosa (by the noisy rain)

Te conocí (I met you)
En las noches estrelladas (in the starry nights)
Afuera obscuro (dark outside)
Con solo luces de ventanas (with only lights from windows)

Antecóro: (prechorus)
Pensaba que yo (I thought that I)
Fuera tu maestro (was your teacher)
Solo para ensenarte (only hear to instruct you)

Pero tu bondad (but your kindness)
Me dió mi libertad (set me free)
Para rescatarme (to rescue me)

Amiga mia (my friend)
Descubriste quien yo soy (you uncovered who I am)
Amiga mia (my friend)
Te llevo donde voy (I carry you whereever I go)
Amiga mia (my friend)
Allá estás, aquí estoy (you are there, and I am here)
Amiga mia (my friend)
Me olvidas, pero te recuerdo hoy (you forget me, but I remember you today)

Me mostraste (you showed me)
La amistad de la pobreza (the friendliness of poverty)
A venir y compartir (who come and share)
Con muy poco en la mesa (with very little on the table)

Me ayudaste (you helped me)
Andar con ojos abiertos (to go with open eyes)
Viendo, entendiendo (seeing, understanding)
Mis mundos invertidos (my world turned upside down)



La flor de hoy (the flower of today)
Se sembró allá (was planted there)
En la polvo de mi ciudad (in the dust of my city)

Y todo que soy (and everything I am)
Empezó allá (started there)
Caminando en humildad (walking in humility)


The "Amiga" the song is talking about is "la ciudad" (the city) itself. I have some very fond, as well as very hard memories about the area. It was definitely a growing place for me. And it's exciting to me to see the growth of the church there, too.

Mark Hansen

Monday, June 26, 2006

My Stuff

One of the reasons for my sorry blogging slowdown has been the task of selling and moving out of my home.

It started when we decided to look into having a new home built in a new development called Eagle Mountain (west of Lehi, UT). The prices were good, and we can get a home that’s bigger, more wheelchair accessible, and not very much more expensive than the one we’ve lived in for 18+ years.

But the transition has been very difficult. First, we had to do a lot of work on the house to get it ready to sell, including a new roof. Then, we had to list it. Then, we had to start moving our things out of it and into a storage unit. A few things we moved over to my in-law’s house (that’s where we’re living now, until the new one is done this fall), but most of our worldly possessions are packed into a 20x30 storage shed.

And that’s where I’m going with this one today. Because it has been a real eye-opener for me. My own materialism has been really staring me in the face. And it all boils down to this: For about two months, now, I have been living quite comfortably without the thousands of little trinkets, bits, and items that (when I bought them) I could not live without.

And when you think of that, it is quite humbling and more than a little embarrassing.

I did my mission in Honduras. I taught families where their entire home was as big as my living room, and everything they owned (all five or six of them) was in it. And yet, they always bought me a soda or offered me something to eat every time I visited. I taught a family that literally lived in a tent, and another living in a structure they’d built out of cardboard boxes and wood.

I’ve been quite surprised just how easily my kids have lived without all the millions of toys they’ve accumulated over the years. A few Pokemon, a game cube, and some Yu-Gi-Oh cards, and they’re happy. There’s so many things we’ve bought them that got packed away without even a second thought.

It sure makes me think. I hope it changes me for the long run.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Sons, My Songs

I had a very special moment this morning with my two sons.

My oldest woke me up and immediately got on Mom’s laptop. Usually he plays games, but this time he said he wanted me to go to my music site. I was intrigued, but I wasn’t sure what he was thinking. So, I loaded it up for him.

While I was getting Jacob changed and dressed, he started playing my songs. They both smiled and laughed and sang along with each one they played. One by one, they proclaimed each one to be “their favorite!”

Brendon picked up my little backpacker guitar, put it on and started banging his head along with “Dance With the Devil”, and that sent Jacob into hysterical laughter.

Maybe you’ve seen the tone of my posts about music lately haven’t been all that excited. I’ve been struggling with the place music has in my life lately. In retrospect, I kinda went through this the last time I was about to finish a CD. I’ve been working on these songs for so long, that it sometimes feels like they’ll never get done, and I’m spinning my wheels, etc, etc…

But it sure felt great to have my boys jump in and be so into the tunes.

BTW, I just posted a new one, too. I’ve been working on this one for a couple of years, and it’s finally done! “The Things I Do” is a bluesy rocker (or a rocked up blues tune, if you prefer) about bad habits.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Live and let live

It’s a very interesting phrase. Its implication is that I should live my life in the way that I choose, and allow others the right to do the same. I live, and I let them live, and in theory, we should all be happy and get along.

But more and more I’m seeing that people are applying this rule more unilaterally than it seems to be designed. It sounds great as it stands, and it has a wonderful egalitarian air about it, but when it comes to practical reality, it ends up being more like, “You should live and let me live, but I don’t have to let you live.”

Some minority religions want to be allowed to celebrate their holidays in peace. I’m happy to allow it. Heck, I’ll even join them, in many cases. So, why don’t they want to allow me to celebrate Christmas?

In an effort to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, one of the largest adoption agencies in Boston was forced to choose between violating their Catholic beliefs or closing their doors.

They opted to close. It didn’t matter that they were a private charitable organization, who didn’t receive government money. They still had to close. Now who will place all of the kids they were serving?

Here’s what I’m feeling: If you want my support, it would be a lot easier to get it from me if you’d stop attacking me.

Mark Hansen

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Crazy Good!

I am so blessed.

I am so stressed.

It seems that, in my life, when the Lord gives me blessings, it usually comes in the form of an opportunity. At that point, it’s up to me to follow through on it.

It’s a beautiful system. Not only do I get the blessing, but I learn from it as well.

Now, taking advantage of those opportunities, that the Lord has given me, is not always easy. In many cases, it involves more work. In many cases, it involves a LOT more work.

One of the opportunities, for example, is a new home. We’ve been feeling for a long time that where we’ve been living for the past 18 or so years is just not a good home for a kid in a wheelchair. But I never thought we’d ever be able to afford another home. Along came the first opportunity: A place where we can have a home built, a rambler, with the possibility of an elevator/lift to the basement, very wheelchair accessible. It’s got half again as much square footage as our current house, and a comparable payment, maybe only a hundred or so dollars a month more.

Wow! What an opportunity!

But that means we have to sell the house we’re in, and that means we have to do a lot of work to get it ready. That means that almost all of my spare time has been spent up on the roof, nailing on new shingles, or finally finishing the tile in the hallway, or packing up half our stuff to move it to a storage shed (why on earth did I think I needed that stuff in the first place?)

And a couple of friends of mine and I at work put together a proposal for a new line of services to offer our clients. Our boss was very excited, as was his boss (one of the company’s partners). Our company’s policy is that when such innovation happens, those that set up and run the program (us) get a percentage of the sales.

Wow! What an opportunity!

And that means that we’ve spent a lot of time and effort (in addition to keeping up on our regular jobs) in preparing more proposals and counter proposals, and meetings and negotiations. It’s been a hectic month.

But it has the potential, over the course of the next few months, to double my income.

What’s my point in all this?

Maybe it’s only to excuse myself for not blogging. Maybe it’s to tell everyone how thankful I am to the Lord for the incredibly wonderful stresses in my life right now. Maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking of how the Book of Mormon reminds us to pray over our flocks and our fields.

Or maybe it’s just to share my exciting news with my friends.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thoughts on Marriage

Last night, I was watching a news chat/debate show, and they were discussing an interesting topic, which continues some thoughts that I’ve been having lately about marriage.

They were discussing a man who put an ad for a roommate in the paper. He said he had a luxury apartment in a very prestigious building he was willing to share. The rent would be only $1 a month. Here’s the catch. He wanted to rent it to a female, who, as part of the rental agreement, would do light cleaning, cooking, and have sex with him twice a week.

One of the guys in the debate was saying that this was borderline prostitution. He’s paying for her sexual services with reduced rent.

The point was brought out that this shouldn’t be prostitution, shouldn’t be illegal, because any living arrangement that two consenting adults enter into should be legal. Isn’t marriage, he said, essentially a contract between two parties that includes both a financial and a sexual element?

I’ve been reading what a lot of the bloggosphere and the message boards have to say about the new HBO series “Big Love”. This is a series that depicts a modern set of polygamist families.

This brings to light much of the arguments that have been made over the last few years over the issue of same-sex marriages. At first, many who were opposed to them feared that allowing it would open up the options of many other variations of “marriage”. Things like polygamy, polyandry, incest, underage marriages, and even marriages to animals or inanimate objects have been suggested as steps down the logic path from the same-sex marriage gateway.

Supporters of gay marriage have said that these things are preposterous. These possibilities are the crazy imaginings of the radical right. They’d never happen.

And yet, here we are. The question of same sex marriages hasn’t even been resolved yet, and people are already considering marriage as a legal contract of convenience between any consenting adults.

So, how does all this affect MY marriage? Not much, really. I mean, if someone else wants to be “different”, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m happy in my “traditional” marriage. But the redefining of marriage may well affect my children’s marriages. If they grow up in a world where anyone can marry anything for any length of time, what do they have as models to live by? It does make it harder for me to show them the value of a lasting eternal commitment.

Ultimately, teaching right and wrong is my responsibility, I know. It’s just easier when it’s not so isolated.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Problem With Mormon Games

I’m an adventure gamer.

Yes, I can admit that. I have long ago embraced my “inner geek”.

In my youth, and even into my advanced age, I’ve played all kinds of “brainiac” games. Whatever you want to call them. I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons, Traveller, and a whole bunch of other RPG’s, I’ve done Warhammer Fantasy and 40k, and whole bunch of other miniatures games. Yes, I play with “toy soldiers”. That’s what the song is about. I’ve done Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Magic-The Gathering collectible card games. I was never too deep into video or computer gaming, though. I always kinda liked the interaction with other people.

At various times in my life different kinds of games came and went in phases. As a teen and twenty-something, I was way into RPG’s, with a little bit of strategy on the side. In my thirties, I was more of a miniatures strategy gamer, mostly sci-fi. I loved painting the figures, making the terrain and the buildings, and playing the games. Lately, as the discretionary time in my life dwindles to almost nothing, I appreciate a quick MTG card game with my friends at lunch, or a YGO duel with my 8-year old.

One thing I miss, though, is being able to play games that express or reflect my faith.

That’s a fancy way of saying, “There are no good Mormon games.” Or at least, very few.

Basically, as I’ve been in stores and out on the web searching, I’ve discovered that there are three types of Mormon games:

1. Trivia. The “Celestial Pursuit” stuff. Either card-based, or board-based or whatever, you answer questions about the gospel to win. These are cool because they’re truly gospel-based. To win, you have to know your stuff. If you play it enough, you can learn a lot. My problem? I’ve never really been a big fan of trivia games. I’ll play them, but there’s no strategy involved, ya know? You just answer the questions.

2. Knockoffs. I also call these the “Face” games, because what someone does is find a game that lots of people like, and then they slap a Mormon “face” on it. This is like the “The Settlers of Zarahemla” (The Settlers of Catan), or “Book of Mormon Battles” (a War variant). There was also a Mormon version of “Uno” once, but I can’t remember the name of it. I thought that was funny, because Uno itself is just a knockoff of the traditional “Crazy 8’s” card game.

3. Then there are a number of general family games, made by Mormons and Mormon-marketing companies, but which don’t have any gospel-specific themes.

I’ll also acknowledge that there are a few games that don’t fit into any of these categories, but the majority do.

There really aren’t any good original “adventure” games with gospel themes. I remember a game, a long time ago, when I was in Seminary. We were studying the Book of Mormon that year, and as a part of the materials packets, there was a strategy wargame based on the Nephite-Lamanite wars. Our teacher, knowing that I was into those kind of games, gave me the game and the rules, and let me and a friend teach it to the class. It was pretty fun, a very basic game, and it had a lot of the common mechanics and principles that most wargames of the day had. It had paper map playing boards, marked off in hexagons, cardboard counters representing the armies. Pretty cool. Still, in the end, I’d include it with the “knockoff” category, because it was so similar to most of the board-based wargames we were playing at the time. The only real difference was that the counters said “Lamanite” and “Nephite” on them, and there was a “Zarehemla” on the map.

In the years that I’ve been longing for a good gospel-based adventure game, I’ve tried to make a few. Along the way, I’ve started to discover why there isn’t many of them. There are some problems with many of the Mormon games out there, and there are some inherent difficulties with designing one.

1. Making the game relate to the Gospel. One big problem that a lot of the knockoff games have is that they begin as non-gospel games. As a result, the game plays just as well without the gospel elements. In B of M Battles, for example, it didn’t take long for my son to realize that the important part of the cards was the numbers. The Book of Mormon names on the cards had no effect on the way the game was played, so they got ignored.

2. Poor playtesting. Many of the games I’ve played are made up and marketed, but I suspect aren’t playtested enough. There are some pretty clumsy elements that I’ve encountered. I guess the assumption is that if the original game works, the version with the Mormon face on it should work as well, but if variant rules are introduced, or a different cardset is used, it can change the outcome of the game.

3. Some games actually teach the wrong principle. The Mormon version of Uno, for example, rewards those who actively “dig a pit for their neighbor”.

4. Someone has to win. And defining the winner can get really tricky, because if someone wins, then someone else loses. That’s not always a bad thing, but in the long run, God really wants everyone in the Celestial Kingdom, doesn’t he? The Gospel isn’t a competition. But games, pretty much by definition, have to be. So it can be a real challenge to set up a fun, challenging, and exciting situation, without defining “winners” and “losers”. In the seminary wargame, for example, it was a battle, so it was pretty easy to define a winner. If you destroyed your enemy, you won! But, that set up another challenge…

5. Someone has to play the bad guy. In the seminary game, one player was the Nephites, and another was the Lamanites. Games are basically about conflict. You play against an opponent. That’s pretty easy to set up in a Gospel game, because the Gospel is all about good vs evil. But that also means that if you’re good, your opponent has to be evil. And if he’s the evil player, what if he discovers just how much fun it is being evil. And what is he learning if he’s actively looking for ways for evil to win the game?

6. It’s tough to quantify “spirituality” and “the power of God”. In most adventure games, there are elements of the game that need to be represented by numbers. Hit points, attack and defense strengths. Intelligence, Dexterity, all of the ability scores of the RPG’s. How do you assign a number that represents spirituality? Or faith? On the battlefield, the 2000 stripling warriors had lots of faith. The power of God protected them. So, how many attack and defense points should they have?

7. A minuscule market. The Mormon market is, simply put, small. And the market for Mormon adventure games is even smaller. That’s a fact. Accept it!

So, out of all this comes: A good Mormon game would be something fun, that’s quick to play, and relatively easy to learn. It would relate directly to the Gospel in it’s play, and not have a “good guy” player and a “bad guy” player.

That’s not easy to do. I know, because I’ve tried a few times. I tried a B of M-based RPG, and CCG, too. Lately I’ve been working on a new CCG that’s more abstract, with cards drawn directly from the scriptures. When I get a prototype of that done, I’d love to have some playtesters…

In the meantime, thanks for letting me put down some thoughts and comments on an interesting part of Mormon pop culture.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

When is Cheating Not Cheating?

OK, this is a little over the top.

Apparently, according to this report, Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko's wife has spelled it out. She’s heard of the sexual escapades of NBA players on the road and she’s standing firm. She’s drawn a line in the sand. And that line is drawn at once a year.


Yep. Apparently she’ll allow Mr AK one dalliance with another woman each year, but no more than that!


You can say all you want about how that cheapens marriage, Just like Britney Spear’s 2-day whoops, and President Cinton’s “inappropriate relationship”. I’d even agree with you.

But the columnist goes on to point out some real dangers. I mean, what if your wife were to offer you the same thing? Some guys might think that it would be the ultimate birthday present. But let’s be real here. This is really the ultimate minefield. Step carefully. Back up slowly retracing your steps, and noone will get hurt. Too much.

I mean, this is worse than, “Does this dress make me look fat?”, or “Who do you think is sexier, Tyra Banks or Jennifer Lopez?”. Guys, let me warn you, this one is even more loaded than “If I died, would you ever remarry?”, which is then, of course, followed up by, “No, seriously, who would you choose?”

Guys, we all know the right answers to these questions.

That’s right.

Run, screaming, while you still can!

Mark Hansen

Monday, February 27, 2006

My Two Boys

I had a very exciting father and sons moment this weekend which both surprised me and showed me just how wonderfully my two boys are growing up.

Jacob’s been doing Conductive Education again, and this time around has had some good accomplishments. The most notable is his ability to sit up on the floor, supporting himself with only his hands on the floor. He’s been able to do that for a much longer time than ever before, sometimes as much as ten, fifteen or even more minutes.

So, we were over at a friend’s house last night for dinner, and as everyone divided up into conversations, I found myself as the lone grownup, on the floor with my two boys. Brendon wanted to play me a game of chess. So, he pulled out the board and started setting up the pieces. I didn’t really know if he even new how to play. He’d said that our friend, Mitchell, had shown him how all the pieces moved. OK, well, let’s give it a shot, right?

I scooted Jacob up to be near us, and sat him up, cross-legged by the board, then I, on my tummy, and my head near Jake, started setting up the pieces with Brendon.

Brendon and I started the game, and he played pretty well. I was really surprised. I would stop and talk about the moves a lot, and I offered to let him change his moves from time to time, but I was shocked at how well he understood the game!

And all this while, Jacob was playing with me. For a while, he was leaning his head down and bonking it into mine, then giggling and saying, “Bonk!” The cool thing about that was that he was doing it and maintaining his balance at the same time. At one point he lifted his arms up and said, “Look! No hands!” Then he put his hands back into their position for holding himself up.

The first part of this year has been very difficult for us, and it was a real struggle to bring Conductive Ed in this time. But when I see Jacob doing things like that, it’s all worth it. And It’s a joy to see Brendon tackling things that I think should be too hard for him, and doing well at them. I’m very lucky to be their dad!

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

As a man who’s wife is an avid scrapbooker, and as one who (I admit) has dabbled a little myself (digitally), I find it interesting when I hear ladies say they wish their men were more involved in it with them. Frankly, what comes to mind first is the phrase, “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it…”

But nonetheless, there’s been some talk lately about men and scrapbooking. Some I’ve talked with have wanted to make more “masculine” layouts for your husbands’ and sons’ pictures, others wonder how to involve their men more in their hobby. I feel like I’m in a very unique position to offer some real insights. So, I was asked to comment. So, with that in mind, I offer...

Some Thoughts on Men and Scrapbooking

How to Involve Your Men

...Don’t! Or at least beware...

First of all, you have to realize that scrapbooking is terrifying to most men. It’s YOUR world, not his. Look around your scrapping space in your house, especially if you’re into traditional, not just digital scrapbooking. If you’re anything like my wife, it will be filled with ribbons, bows, flowers, vivid colors, and all things “cute”, “darling”, and “special”. Look at your binders of finished pages. Are they covered in padded fabric, lined with lace, and closed with ribbon ties? You might have patterns and punches of teddy bears and hearts.

Trust me, you couldn’t scare him away more if you hung up crosses and wore garlic around your neck.

Now I’m not saying you should change that. That’s YOUR space, after all. He has his space, cluttered and murky as it might be, and you have yours. That’s fine. Just realize why he keeps his distance.

If you want him to be more interested, to involve him, here’s some ways to make it “safer” for him to approach.

One: Scrap his life

We men are very egotistical. We try to be selfless, but down inside, we are driven to feel important. I know I’m generalizing, but most layouts I’ve seen women do seem to focus on their children. That’s not surprising, and it’s certainly not wrong, but if you want to catch your husband’s interest, get some pictures of him doing what he loves to do and scrap that. Focus on him, and he’ll be interested.

And when you do that, scrap with care. Think, “Dignified”, not “darling”; “Cool”, not “cute”. Do simple layouts that focus on the pictures and the story. Few embellishments, if any. NO BOWS, BUTTONS, OR TAGS! NONE! Resist the urge. Flowers are also forbidden!

Let me tell you an embarrassing story, if you promise not to laugh too loud. Last year, my wife’s friends did us some real favors for our disabled child. They helped raise some big money for a special physical therapy program. They put in a lot of work. Wonderful people. In return, my wife wanted to do something very nice for them. She decided she wanted to give them all pedicures (my wife is also a cosmetologist). Since I have some artistic skill with a brush, she asked me to paint things on their toenails. After much begging and pleading, I finally agreed (wives can do that to their husbands).

Well, we did it, and they loved it and all was good and right in the world until months later, I saw one of the lady’s scrapbooks. She had enjoyed it so much that she had scrapped her pictures of the event. And there I was, permanently enshrined in her memory book, painting toenails, my manly image surrounded by dozens of pink and orange flowers and stripes!


I couldn’t have felt more emasculated than if she’d come at me with a rusty knife! I’m gonna be in therapy for years! Let that be a warning to you!

So, scrap him doing his things, in ways that he might even appreciate, and he will naturally be more interested.

Two: Get him to help with the journaling.

He might not have any clue as to what papers to choose, or how to arrange things on the page, but he can tell you the stories that will get you good journaling.

Sometimes, however, with us guys, it can be difficult to get it out of us. Imagine: A dad and his son come back from a fishing trip with some buddies. You ask: “How was the trip.” Father and son smile at each other, grunt out a chuckle, and say, “Great”, and “Yeah, it was fun.” Then they go and start cleaning up or gutting the fish.

Not much to go on, right?

So, when you get the pictures out of the cameras, and you’re looking at them together, ask better questions. “How did you catch that one?”, looking at your son holding up a huge trout. He might say, “That was a tough one to bring in! We had to…” bla bla bla… And suddenly, you have a story. “That was the one where Joe capsized his boat! Man he was soaked!” You get the idea. Ask him questions that can’t be answered by “yes”, “no”, or “grunt”.

If you’re really adventurous, and he’s been warmed up to it over the months, you could even show him an almost finished layout and ask him to help you write the journaling.

Three: Some things NOT to do

Don’t show him two color schemes and ask him which is better. Most men can’t even pick a tie that matches. I’m doing well if my socks come from the same side of the color wheel.

If, by some miracle, he does get involved, be careful how you show it off. Telling your friends is one thing. Showing the layouts to his friends while they’re watching a football game is another.

Don’t pressure him to sit down and do it with you. You might never get that far. And realize that if you do, you might have to go fishing or actually be interested in the football game with him. Turnabout is fair play, after all…

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


So, is Georgie still Republican? I caught the last half of the State of the Union pep talk – er… I mean… Address, and was really surprised.

I missed all the stuff about the war and Iran, and Hamas, and all. So I can’t really comment on that.

But I found it very interesting that he’s suddenly drifting so centrist as to propose bold new initiatives that sound remarkably like things the Democrats have been pushing for years. Affordable healthcare, programs for the needy, good education budgets, and even the old oil-man himself said that America needs to develop alternative fuels and be free of our dependence on middle-eastern oil.

Well, talk is talk, and we’ll see what he actually does. Feel-good speeches without specific plans can be little more than empty air.

But it also comes at a time when our Republican-ruled state legislature, with about a one billion dollar SURPLUS is considering a budget that would actually CUT funding to programs serving the disabled, like DSPD and Early Intervention. Let me say that again: With a budget SURPLUS, they’re CUTTING funding.

Maybe the Reps should take a clue from their supreme leader…

Mark Hansen

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Little Repentance Never Hurt Anybody...

OK, last week I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, and a song (possibly a pretty cool one, if I can realize what’s in my head) came out of it. It summarized a lot of the feelings I’ve been having over the past six to ten months or so.

But then, the Lord kinda called me to task. He did it in a very nice way. I got this email, and I hope the authors don’t mind me sharing an excerpt of it with you.

“I just feel like I have to say something- my brothers and I are in a band and love to rock out, but we couldn't really find the direction we wanted to take our music until my brother heard about you and we got a cd. Your music has changed my life, and now I can't stop listening to it!”

It really struck me as a cool thing to read, but the real message that I think God wanted me to get wasn’t just this one. I started thinking back over some of the emails that I’ve been getting over that same time that I’ve been moping that I was a tree falling in the forest, and I’ve been realizing that there have been people listening. And they’ve been responding back to me. But I was in this dark kinda place and I wasn’t letting myself see them. It’s like I was being blessed, but not noticing, or being grateful.


Anyway, so I’m feeling much better today!

Mark Hansen

Monday, January 23, 2006

A New Song

So Jake is back up in the hospital, and you can read a bit about that at one of my other blogs. I’ve been facing some other struggles and feeling kinda sorry for myself in other areas. As I look at it, I’m not altogether sure that all the moping is really merited, but the other night as I was on my way up to the hospital, this song came to me.

As I read it, I don’t like to think that I’m really this whiny and emo, but it did feel good to get it out on “paper” and the sound in my head is cool. So, we’ll see…

My Dreams
By Mark Hansen 1/22/2006 12:20 PM

Last night I dreamed two dreams…

I could hear the music playing
And I stepped onto the stage
I was blinded by the spotlight
I couldn’t see beyond the cage

And the words that I was singing
Sounded through the air
Echoed off the ceiling
And fell down on the chairs

And when the song was over
And I listened for the applause
I saw the house lights flicker
Lighting up the empty hall

Is there anybody out there
That is hearing what I say
Is there anybody listening
Listening anyway

I dreamed I saw a distant forest
In its depths there was a tree
Its limbs were growing, stretching, reaching
But there was no one there to see

It could feel the seasons changing
And the trunk and roots grew old
Its leaves flew in the new wind
The limbs too tired to hold

And in the end it tired of fighting
And fell broken to the ground
Since there was no one there to listen
It died without a sound


So why isn’t it enough
To sing it just for me
Why can’t I just sing it out
And let the music set me free


Mark Hansen

Friday, January 20, 2006

Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? -Mark 8:18

I’ve just spent a little time checking out a site called Latter Day Soul, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve been interacting electronically with Shawn, it’s owner and chief proponent, on various internet groups for quite a while. I really admire his commitment to the gospel and his passion for both delivering the good message, and for soul and hip-hop music as his delivery method.

In fact, he recently called me and some others to task for our own more passive response to what’s happening to morality in the media. It really made me think.

But as I was checking out his site, my mind was reflecting on an interesting phenomenon that I’ve experienced as I’ve been working on my music.

In the LDS popular arts, there’s a very strong dichotomy that makes it very difficult to get your work in the eyes and ears of people who might enjoy it. On the one hand, members of the church preach to avoid the evil media of the world, and on the other hand, they reject the media produced by the church members.

The reasons are many. Some say that church art is bad. Syrupy, unreal, preachy. I agree. Some of it is. Much of it is. Even most of it. But just because I have to search a little more to find the stuff I like is, in my opinion, no reason to reject the whole lot.

Some say it is blasphemous. That it’s people making money off the gospel, or that gospel topics shouldn’t be carried in popular art forms. This reasoning frustrates me, because I hear this from people who frequent the worldly popular arts. Is a bad song by an immoral artist somehow less blasphemous? Is a PG-13 movie by Hollywood better than a Mormon PG-13 movie.

But there you have it. In many cases we’re too righteous for the world, and too worldly for the righteous. Will that stop us? I hope not! I’ll keep making music, anyway…

Mark Hansen

Monday, January 09, 2006

Thoughts From the Moral High Ground

Here’s an interesting quote:

"A good artist should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable"

I’m not too sure just how I fit on that. I’ve thought about it for many years, even though I’d just recently heard it. But I’ve spent a long time contemplating the concept.

When I first thought I wanted to do LDS rock music, it was back in the early ‘80s. It was right around the time of my mission. For the next many years, I wanted to shake my fist at the Mormons and really rock their world. They were living wrong, and I was gonna show them just how!

In retrospect, it was a pretty typical response to life from a 20-something-er.

Over the years, I’ve decided that there’s some good to be said for making music that comforts the afflicted. Especially if I’m the one that’s afflicted. As I look at my best tunes, time and again, they’re written to teach ME something, to help ME get through a tough time.

Still, I do have a few “afflict the comfortable” tunes in my arsenal. “Millstones”, “Out of the Chapel”, “Dance With the Devil”, and a few others are all about shaking up the calm.

One of my personal all-time favorites, “Long-Haired Weirdo” is a classic example of Mark Afflicting the Comfortable.

But then, again, there’s a few I’ve written that comfort the afflicted as well. My newest one, “How Beautiful” is one of these. Both “Here in Me”, and “He’s Out There” are written that same way. With different approaches, lyrical and musical, you could also consider “The Taker”, and “One United Generation” to comfort the afflicted.

One of the problems I have with so much LDS art, though, is that there’s a strong tendency to avoid both sides of this particular issue and to simply “Comfort the Comfortable”. And while that’s nice and pleasant, it doesn’t make for great art.

Another problem I have with the original quote is that the REAL original quote goes like this: “In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.” It’s attributed to economist John Kenneth Galbraith, Guardian (London, 28 July 1989)

The problem that I have with that is that often in my life I’ve set myself up to crusade against something I perceived as wrong only to find out that I was the one wrong. Perspectives can change, points of view shift. What I thought was true turned out to be a shadow of a real truth.

So, I have to be more cautious now, when I choose my crusades. But, frankly, there are still some things that will get me up on my high horse.

Mark Hansen
What's Your Major?

I'm not usually much into quizzes, but this one struck me:

You scored as Journalism. You are an aspiring journalist, and you should major in journalism! Like me, you are passionate about writing and expressing yourself, and you want the world to understand your beliefs through writing.





























What is your Perfect Major? (PLEASE RATE ME!!<3)
created with

Mark Hansen

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Mo' Movie Update II

Since I posted my “ranking” of the current LDS movies back in August, I’ve seen quite a few more. So, I thought I’d update my list. Again, let me make my fond disclaimer that these rankings are based entirely and subjectively on my own reactions to the movies, not on any technical merits or polish, but whether or not I enjoyed it, laughed at it, learned from it, or grew personally as a result of watching it. The comments are only for the ones I’ve added to the list. To read the comments on the other shows, click back to the original post.

1. Brigham City
2. Sons of Provo
3. The Best Two Years
4. Saints and Soldiers
5. New York Doll – a very uplifting movie about a great man’s final exam
6. God’s Army 2 – States of Grace – A great film, very real, but also very very intense.
7. God’s Army
8. The Work and The Glory – American Zion – Much better story and performance than the first one!
9. Mobsters and Mormons – Not much to say about it, but that I liked it!
10. The RM
11. The Singles Ward
12. Charly
13. The Other Side of Heaven
14. Out of Step
15. Baptists At Our Barbecue
16. Pride and Prejudice
17. The Home Teachers
18. Napoleon Dynamite – Meh. Some bits were good, but pretty loosely strung together. Overall… meh…
19. The Work and the Glory
20. The Book of Mormon Movie

As an added bonus, I got the DVD of Johnny Biscuit’s stand-up routine. Man! What a show. I busted my gut lots of times, and I’ve got a lot of gut to bust! It’s where “Latter Day Night Live” wanted to go but never quite got there. Absolutely hilarious!

Agree or disagree with me, it’s all good!

...And I just have to add that I really enjoy following the scene. I honestly wish that there were less backbiting and sniping going on among those that both make these movies and those that wanna be making these movies. I like the shows. I wish the sideshow weren’t so harsh...

Mark Hansen


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