Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An Old Man and New Media

It’s probably to be expected. We do, after all, live in technological times. And Pres Hinkley understood the nature of media better than any of our leaders up to this time.

Still, it makes me chuckle to think of how the news of his death and people’s reactions to it has spread.

I, for example, didn’t hear about it for the first time from the newspaper, nor the TV news. It wasn’t even a phone call. How did I hear? I was on my computer, and an IM window popped up and told me the news. Instantly, I leapt to other websites to confirm. Once I was assured that it was, in fact, true, I jumped back on my Instant Messenger and told everyone that was on my list. By then, most of them already knew. By that time, blogs had already begun to bear the news and the reactions.

My good friend John (of “From the Basement”) found out the news because someone sent it out via a posting!

I’d be willing to bet that if you think back at how you got the news, 9 out of 10 of you didn’t hear it through the “Traditional Media”.

Then, I read this article in the Deseret News about how students in Northern Utah highschools, as well as BYU, dressed in Sunday best for classes last Monday, as a tribute to Pres Hinkley. How did this get organized and spread? Via text messaging on cell phones!

This comes at a time when Elder Ballard (? I believe) speaks to the saints encouraging them to represent the Church and the Gospel well as we blog and participate in forums. To spread the gospel using the new media.

It is a new age.

As a funny aside, when I was in my mission in Honduras, I can remember once talking with a new member who was looking at a flip-chart picture spread of all the general authorities. My companion was saying, “…And this one is now an apostle, and this one is dead, and this one is dead…” We used to joke that the only way we’d hear about any of this is when they’d send out new flip charts!

We’ve come a long way, baby…

Mark Hansen

Will the Next Prophet Please Stand Up...

I just read this article on how the succession proceeds in the event of the death of the prophet. It stirred up some thoughts:

First, on a practical level, I didn’t realize that the Quorum of the Twelve could decide NOT to call a prophet at that time. I also didn’t realize that even though they have traditionally chosen the senior apostle, that’s not a requirement. So, while it’s very likely that Thomas Monson will be the next prophet and president of the church, it’s not a done deal. Well, it pretty much is.

Second, I find it exciting and comforting to know that there is an order, a method to this. I like that there is no campaigning nor elections for title. There’s no wondering, no manipulations, nothing.

I feel the same way about America, oddly enough. Even though there is much debate and campaigning, when we pick a new president, he’s in. Since we have the right to speak out against his policies, we don’t find a need to invoke violence if someone we don’t like is elected. How many other nations in the world can say that? Every 4 or 8 years, power transfers peacefully, and America moves on. In the church, when a prophet dies, authority transfers, and we all move on.

Third, once the decision is made who is to be my prophet, it is MY responsibility to decide whether or not to follow him. Do I really believe that God called him? Do I trust him to lead me where I need to go? Ultimately, I need to pray and receive my own testimony of the divine calling of the new prophet.

In my case, that’s going to be particularly easy. I’ve heard Pres Monson speak (both in telecast and in person), and I’ve felt the strong witness of the Holy Spirit as I’ve listened to his words. I trust the man to lead me.

Fourth, even though I trust him, I can’t help but speculate where he’ll take the church in the next 20 years or so of his life. It will be fascinating to see, especially with the current media attention. As the Chinese have said, “May you live in interesting times…”

Mark Hansen

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Here's to You, Pres. Hinkley

The news isn't even an hour old, and already the 'net and the bloggernacle are abuzz. Not at all surprising.

President Gordon B Hinkley has died. (Just in case you hadn't heard yet)

There will be those, I'm sure, who are saddened by the news. I'm not one of them. In fact, when I first heard the news, I wanted to jump up and cheer. To me, this was great news to celebrate.

The last few conferences, you could see how much he missed Marjorie, his dear wife. You could see how much that was weighing on him. He kept pressing on in the vast work of running the church, and he kept his usual good humor with him, but you could see it wearing on the poor man.

Now, he can finally go and be with her.

There are a few readers of my blog that are not members of my faith, and for their benefit, let me explain: We believe that those that are married (we call it being "sealed") in our temples are not just married for temporal life, but for all eternity. If both spouses are faithful to the gospel and to each other, they are exalted together, and are still married in the life to come.

Well, I don't know that I can think of a man and wife who have been more faithful than Pres and Sister Hinkley. Of all of us, I'd think that they'd be the most certain of all of us to have the kind of marriage that could last for eternity.

This man has accomplished so much for the good of the church, and for the good of the world in his lifetime. And so, I say it's time to celebrate! He has returned to his Father, and can face Him with his wife in joy.

I hope that when I go, I can say the same!

Mark Hansen

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dangerous Things to Say in a Red State

I was reading over at the BBC about a survey conducted to see just how much westerners and muslims liked each other.

The news isn’t pretty. But it’s not entirely gloomy, either.

I had a few thoughts as I looked at the article, mostly derived from a few hotspots:

“Describing the position now, majorities on both sides said they did not believe the two sides were getting along.”

Hmmm… Who called the obvious squad to the scene, here? This is the kind of original, fresh, and insightful observations we’ve come to expect from modern journalism.

“According to WEF poll, neither the West nor the Muslim world believed the other side respected it. But while Muslims said they believed their world did respect the West, Western respondents agreed that the West did not respect the Muslim world.”

Here, in my opinion is the whole crux of the matter. We don’t respect them, and they don’t respect us (as much as they say might think they do). Neither side understands the other, and neither side is really making much of a serious attempt to. And the reason we’re in the mess we’re in right now is because it’s always been that way.

“Most respondents said they did not believe violent conflict was inevitable.”

That’s good, considering it’s already happening. I guess once the bullets are flying, the question of inevitability is kinda moot, innit?

“Most respondents said the quality of the relationship between the West and the Muslim world was important to them personally.”

Again, once bullets are flying and sons are dying on both sides, it would make a lot of sense for people to find the situation to be important to them personally. I would hope so. And I would hope that would inspire people to think of ways to bridge the gap and resolve the issues instead of throwing more bullets at each other.

But I guess that’s just a pipe dream, as long as we don’t respect each other.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Peer Pressure vs Missionary Outreach

In Sacrament meeting the other week, one of the speakers talked about how important it was to choose our friends wisely. Apparently our friends can have a strong influence on the choices we make.

Now, I’ve been hearing this line ever since I was a kid growing up in Indiana (where there aren’t a lot of mormons, anyway). I admit I’ve got some seriously mixed feelings about it.

First, it seems to be a dichotomy that I’ve not been able to fully sort out. “Jesus says to love everyone, but don’t hang out with a person that smokes”. What? How am I supposed to fellowship and/or share the Gospel with someone that I refuse to associate with?

On the other hand, I’ve seen how bad choices can come from those around me and how easy it can be to buy into that behavior.

I dunno. For once I don’t have a lot of words to say? What about you folks. Can ya help me out, here?

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"Righteous" and "Warriors of the Promised Land"

As I’ve posted before, I’m very much interested in the world of LDS games. Today, I’m going to review two of them. One is “Righteous” a DVD trivia game, and another is “Warriors of the Promised Land”, a card game.

We got to play the “Righteous” game at a family gathering over Christmas. It’s a pretty fun game, especially for family or casual group play. You roll some dice, selecting the category of play. On the DVD, there are certain types of activities, like “find the difference between two pictures” or “ unscrambling phrases”, or answering a Book of Mormon related question.

It’s a fun game, and the activities are simple enough for kids as well. As trivia games go, I enjoyed it. There’s not a lot of strategy involved, here, but then, there never really are in trivia games.

A funny note: In between the activities, the DVD shows a random sequence of scenes of an animated Nephi character doing various things while a jazzy instrumental version of “Book of Mormon Stories” plays. One of the sequences has Nephi grooving while playing the bass line on his bow string. When I saw that, my first reaction was, “Oh! So THAT’s how he broke his bow! No WONDER his brothers were so mad at him!”

James Fullmer, who has helped me immensely in the testing of “Chapter & Verse”, sent me a copy of his latest game, “Warriors of the Promised Land”. This one is very different.

Even though the idea and the design of the game arose out of “Book of Mormon Battles”, Warriors is a completely different game, and the two card sets are incompatible. Warriors is a much better game. By sevenfold! It’s simple to learn, and has some deeper strategies that Battles.

One of the biggest strengths of Warriors is that this is one of the few LDS games that is truly original. This is NOT another popular game that someone layered an LDS face on top of. It is a new game. It is also very fun to play, and has killer graphics. Not surprising, considering it’s designer is primarily an artist.

One of the big challenges Warriors faces, is that it flirts with concepts that are the core of collectible card games (CCG), but it also tries very hard not to be one. It tries to set up card combinations and multi-card strategies like Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh, but the way the rules spell out the dealing of the decks, these combos rarely come into play. In one of our games at home, for instance, we played the entire game and only one of the warrior card combos actually engaged. In CCG’s, players can choose combos and pre-create their decks, so those strategies are more likely to become a part of the game.

It also tries to avoid the complexity in the written rules that the CCG’s have. I guess the idea is that if the rules are too complex, people won’t want to play the game. However, that left a lot of ambiguity and several situations arose in each of our games where we simply couldn’t find answers in the rules. In those cases, we simply had to make up our own rules. The website has an FAQ which answers some of those rules, but not all. I recommend a second edition of the rules.

My point here is that I think it should either be a CCG, or not a CCG. It’s kinda tough to use CCG concepts and game mechanics within the structure of a non-collectible game.

But Warriors is a great game and I’d like to see it succeed. I’d love for James to be able to create expansion packs and even some rules for more CCG-style play. It is a breakthrough in LDS games, since it’s not a derivative of another game.

Check them both out!

Mark Hansen

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Two Houses

It's been a long time comin'!

I just finished a preliminary mix of a new song, a big ballad called, "Two Houses". This is a sad tune about a mother and a daughter that don't speak to each other, even though they live less than a mile apart. It's based on a true situation that a friend of mine went through a number of years ago.

Actually, it was about five years ago that I completed writing the song, and it's taken me this long to record it. That's me, "Lightning Hansen"...

Anyway, here's the page where you can download it for free...

Mark Hansen


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