Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened Tonight at Temple Square

So, we went downtown to Temple Square tonight to look at lights and fountains. Nothing surprising there, we do that every year. This year, however, we were treated to a gem of an experience.

We had walked across the street to the City Creek Mall, to look at the fountain show (really dazzling, but so short as to not make it worth the wait), and we were lining up at the pedestrian crossing to go back into Temple Square.

At that corner was a man standing on a concrete platform holding a lit-up sign that said, “Joseph Lied”. He was shouting all kinds of anti-mormon rhetoric, mostly about how the God of the Bible wasn’t the same as Joseph Smith’s God, and bla, bla, bla.

I’ve heard it all before. I grew up with my Evangelical Christian friends trying to convince me that there were no more prophets or revelation, or that we were saved by grace, not by works, and any of a number of reasons why they were right and I was wrong. I had learned to tune them out.

Suddenly I noticed that the young family standing in front of me were singing, “Silent Night”, kind of as if in protest of the protester. I picked up on it, and started singing along.  She turned around right away and smiled, confirming my suspicion. By the time we finished and started to loop it around again, a lady behind me had joined, and my father, standing next to me was singing along.

It wasn’t long before the entire crowd standing there waiting at the crosswalk was singing strong, “Silent Night, Holy Night,...”

And he and his partner went quiet.

Then, just as we were finishing the loop, someone a few behind me started singing “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful”, and he didn’t have a chance to start up again.  We were all enjoying singing along and smiling at each other, and observing how the contention had faded, when the light dinged, and it was time to cross.  We kept singing as we crossed, and didn’t stop until the song ended, and the preacher was lost in the back distance.

On the way home, my boys commented on how the spirit was there and I pointed out how gentleness can overcome shouting.  It was a very powerful message to me.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Read the #$%^&%#ing Constitution!

I just saw this picture as a meme on Facebook, and I wanted to comment, but I realized that my thoughts would be way, way too long for just a quick response. It would be bloggin’ time!

I have lots of thoughts about this.  Let me start with this one: a long time ago, while I was in my office at work, one of my co-workers came in and started ranting about something political. This was not strange. Our whole department was quite opinionated, and we were often sucked into some pretty fun discussions of many different topics: politics, religion, even cooking.

This particular rant, while I don’t remember even the topic, was sealed in my head by my friend’s last words, “I just wish everyone would read the #$%^&%#ing Constitution!”

I was taken aback, because he didn’t usually swear like that. After that washed over me, however, I realized he was right. I also wished everyone would read the constitution. I, myself, have read it many times. I don’t have it memorized, but I’ve read it. I think more people should read it and study it.

I think that would be both a blessing and a problem. It would be a blessing because if everyone knew the original words and what it means, we would be a much better governed people. It would be a problem, because many of the options out there for us to study it, many of the books and classes that we can read or take have a particular political angle to promote.

And therein lies the real challenge. The Constitution is very much like scripture in this sense: The words are there, and the words are clear, but what they mean and how to interpret them is not so obvious. I hear it a lot: someone gets on a political rant and says that this or that thing is unconstitutional and should be stopped! This guy or that party is trampling the constitution to dust and we must save it!

And, as I listen to it, I realize that what’s really being said is that something conflicts with their particular interpretation of the words, not necessarily against the words itself.

So much effort is spent trying to prove what the founding fathers really meant when they wrote it. Much more effort is spent trying to render current situational laws into the framework that they set up over 225 years ago, and still keep it relevant.

So, yes, everyone should read it. And everyone should also realize that their own interpretation of it is not the final word. The document itself provides for a mechanism for interpretation, and even that isn’t infallible. At least, if we’ve all read it, we’ll be a bit better in arguing about it.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Role Playing Games, part II


How We Fix the Problems, I Hope

So, many years ago my kids began to play games with me. They started with video games, and then began to include tabletop games, like Pokemon CCG, and Yu-Gi-Oh. That was about the same time that I was getting involved in Magic, the Gathering, too.

Soon after, they began asking if they could play Dungeons and Dragons. I was very nervous for all of the reasons that I spelled out in the last post. It really has the potential to teach impressionalble children the wrong concepts. On the other hand, it can also teach teamwork and goodness. It can enhance creative thinking and problem solving.

In that sense, role-playing games are very much like life. What you get out of it depends very much on what you put into it. I definitely didn't want them to be playing under a GM that didn't understand this, or the nature of consequences for acts and choices. But then, did I really want to be the GM for a system where I had so many fundamental problems?

Years went by, and every so often, my kids would remind me how much they wanted to try it out. Sometimes I'd flat out turn them down, other times I would put them off. I looked at the newer edition rule books, and found that, even though there had been some changes, most of my core issues with the game were still in place.

I had some stock responses, like how I didn't have time to make up an adventure, or how we didn't have enough money to buy the books, or any of a number of excuses.

Finally, this last year, I could see that they weren't going to give up, and I could see that, at age 16, I wasn't going to be able to deny my oldest for very much longer. I also had been more active in game design, having worked through some years on Seeker's Quest Scripture Card Game.

Finally, I decided that I would make an RPG system that would deal with my fears and issues, and allow us to have a great time bonding and playing. So, last July, I wrote out a few quick pages of rules and tables and got started.

The rules themselves have undergone significant revisions already, and the core keeps getting more and more balanced. The adventure we've been playing has continued to grow and develop. We've had times where we've had to stop and rework the characters to reset the game balance, and there have been times when we've suddenly thought of great new ideas of things to add. There is still much to do.

But it has been a wonderful bonding experience with me and my children, and we'll continue to work on it.

Here's how we've dealt with the four issues:

The Focus on Fighting over Story and Character

First, from the very beginning, we began creating the characters by inventing their back story. Who is this? Where is he/she from? Why is he/she adventuring? What motivates him/her? What does he/she want to be when "grown up"? Then, rather than randomly rolling numbers for attributes, the players used a point system to develop the attributes and skills that fleshed out that backstory.

Secondly, I approached the entire adventuring process from the perspective of a story line. As the Game Master, I used the backstories of the newly formed characters to create the world and the opening situation. Then, as the characters began exploring this world, they encountered adversaries and others that made sense within that world. I constantly asked myself, "Why?" Why would these monsters be there? What is this Non-Player Character trying to accomplish?

Story became a very integral part of the game from the first session, and it grew from there.

The System for Magic, Spells, and Dieties

In order to fix the fundamental difficulties I had with magic, I had to abstract the system. We came up with five different kinds of "Powers" (I didn't even want to call it "magic"), and some basic abilities within each one. Each player that had powers had a certain number of "Will Points" that he/she could use in a day. The player would then be faced with a situation, and would think of an action within that type of power that might solve it. He/she would describe the action, and I, as the GM, would tell the player how many WP it would cost to do that. The points would be subtracted, and the dice rolled.

This made it so that the source of the power was vague, even inconsequential. There was no detailed incantations or "eyes of newt" to be thrown into bubbling cauldrons. The character simply willed it to happen, and if the die roll was successful, it happened.

The Alignment System

It was my son that suggested something that would end up fixing the idea of good or evil characters. He didn't even know it at the time. As we were creating the first character sheets, he said, "You should have a 'luck' attribute." I thought about that, and decided on "Karma Points". As the players did good and helpful things for each other and the NPC's in the world, they would gain KP. If they did horrible things, not only would the NPC's get upset and possibly attack or capture the characters, but they could be docked KP. The KP's could be used to artificially alter a critical die roll that failed.

As a result, the players began to conciously do things that would gain them Karma and avoid being bad guys.

The Overall Complexity and Inflexibility

Games have a tendency, over time to become more and more complex. That's the nature of game design. It's kind of an "opposite entropy". You encounter a problematic situation in the game design, and you fix it by adding some rules. That's OK, that makes it so you can get back to playing. But then, those new rules bring up other situations that beg for more rules, and more rules, etc...

I'm working to keep this game simple with guidelines for Game Mastering. This does mean that the GM has to really take charge, but it also frees him/her up for making the story happen instead of twiddling about looking up and administering the rules. He/she simply decides what's reasonable within a framework and goes with it.

It has been challenging to find the internal balances in those guidelines. There have been a couple of times when the system has essentially broken down, and we've had to rework the characters to keep them from being too powerful. In those circumstances, we've had to struggle with being responsible game designers while we like playing powerful characters!

In the process, however, we've really bonded as a family, and I haven't had the problems come up like I had feared. It really has been great fun.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Mark's Other Blog Posts: name post, name post,

Role Playing Games, Part I

Please forgive my self-indulgence.  These next two blog entries are about as geeky and nerdy as can be. It's all about my history as both a gamer and as a member of the Church. It's also a setup for some things to come.

Way back in the day, when I was a teenager, a friend of mine introduced me to this cool new game he had just bought called "Dungeons and Dragons".  We were thrilled, and both started playing regularly. As a game, it was a totally new paradigm. It was based in your imagination. You pretended to be characters in a party of mideaval fantasy adventurers, and you fought and wizarded your way through dungeons, killing monsters and collecting loot.

It was also the first game I'd ever played where you didn't "win", because you just survived and grew. You could "lose" if you died, but you never really "won". Some of my friends would look at it and say, "how do you win?" because that's usually what people want to know about playing a game.  But in reality, in role-playing games, you win by having a great time making a cool story.

This was at a point very early on in the history of the game. As I grew up playing more and more, later editions of the game became more elaborate and thorough and brought with them more and more extensive rule books.

It was a large part of the reason why my high school and early college grades were so bad. I was more into gaming than I was studying. I was a total geek. The problem was that, unlike today, "geek" was not even close to "cool".

Not only did D&D get in the way of my schooling, but it clashed with my religion as well. As it became more popular, and more well-known, many people handled it badly (iincluding many of the players), and it often got a reputation as something evil, or satanic.

In spite of all this, I often look back at my gaming life and friends and say that it is what helped keep me off drugs. I was with a group where I was accepted, and my need for creativity, weirdness, and exploration was encouraged and valued. Who needs drugs?

Then I went on my mission, and served The Lord for a time. Not long after that, I moved myself out to Utah, and soon after that married life and adulthood (jobs, etc) filled my life with practical reality. There wasn't time to devote to finding a good adventure group and developing stories, dungeons, and adventures.

As I became more and more fully devoted to the Church and the gospel, looked back at my gaming life, and though I had many wonderful memories, there were certain things that nagged at me. These were things that also made me uncomfortable about D&D in particular, and even about role-playing in general.

The Focus on Fighting over Story and Character

All too often, our adventures degenerated into die-rolling slug fests, and the victors would be determined more by the dice than any really creative problem solving. The winner was the biggest, the baddest, and with the most plusses on his/her magic sword.

I had already been playing the game for many years before I had an adventure campaign that was truly based on storytelling. I wish I could say that I was the Game Master for that one, but I have to give props to Rick, who did a fabulous job of setting scenes and encouraging interaction and real character development, not just adding up experience points. That was, sadly, a rare experience.

It's true that this aspect of the game is more related to those playing it, but I also feel that the intracacies and detailed nature of the rules of D&D created a situation where storytelling was de-emphasized. The system also had greater rewards for fighting and conquest.

The System for Magic, Spells, and Dieties

I had three problems with the way Magic was handled in D&D. One was that each type of spellcaster had a list of detailed and unique spells that he/she could choose from. They each did very specific things, and nothing else. It was very clear to everyone playing, from the GM to the newest beginner, what each spell did. This didn't allow for much creativity on the part of the player to create clever solutions to problems and situations.

Another problem I had was the details of the spells as set out in the rules. Each spell could have a verbal, somantic, and/or a physical component, many of which were written out and listed in the rules. This kinda gave me a strange feeling as a member of the Church because it began to look like a magic instruction book to me. In my mind, I could dismiss it as "just a game", but that level of detail bothered me.

A third problem dealt primarily with the Clerical spells. These were the healing and other abilities that were granted to the characters by dieties. This was the internal religion of the game. In order to "charge up" their spell lists, the cleric character had to spend so much time each day meditating or praying to his/her chosen mythological diety. These were derived from all kinds of sources, and in many cases were even evil. Clearly, as a member of the church, having any of the players around me praying to a demon in order to get their spells was a bit disconcerting, even if it was "just in the game".

The Alignment System

Which also leads me to the next issue that troubled me which was the Alignment system. This allowed players to decide if they were going to be, essentially, good guys or bad guys. I can still remember a long, extended campaign adventure that I GM'ed of all evil characters. Eventually, role playing turned to mistrust and infighting, and several real-life friendships (of many years) were almost destroyed in the proces. At that point, I swore to myself that I would never play an evil character, nor to GM for evil characters again.

Part of the problem with the playing of evil or even neutral characters is that the GM is not always prepared to nor interested in implementing consequences for evil behavior. Even though killing people brings the wrath of other people, that can often distract from an existing story line, bog it down, or simply require additional tracking and effort. It's often easier to just let it go. As a result, players can have a great time being dominant and powerful, spreading mayhem and taking whatever they want with very little negative results. With the wrong GM, the game can actually teach that it's exciting and fun to be evil.

The Overall Complexity and Inflexibility

My final problem was the intricate detail of the rules. At first, it was fun reading through all of the spells and the monster listings (that was a completely bound book, in and of itself - the Monster Manual), in the end it was frustrating because the players could access it as well. If I threw a scene at them with a two Hobgoblins and twelve Orcs, they knew immediately the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents. And, if I did something wrong, or made a judgement call, they were quick to point out that I had done it wrong, and that according to page 212 of the Dungeon Master's Guide, THIS was how it SHOULD have worked.

Ultimately, it was still a great game that I loved playing. But all of these things nagged at me over the years, and I finally decided that it was good that I stopped playing. Besides, I spent some time enjoying miniatures gaming, and then I discovered Magic: the Gathering, so I still was quite the gamer.

I was, however, not prepared for how to answer to the next challenge: My kids!


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Mark's Other Blog Posts: name post, name post,

Monday, September 08, 2014

How to Have Safe Sex

OK, this is going to be a hard one to write, for several reasons. One is that I’m still sorting out a lot of my thoughts on the topic, particularly as it relates to many of my friends who don’t share my faith. Another reason is that I know I’m going to make some people mad, and there will be many both in and out of my faith that will disagree with me.

I’m OK with that.

I’m going to tell several stories and experiences which have shaped my life and opinions on sex and relationships. It’s kinda funny, because I don’t feel like I’m particularly qualified to be giving advice on this topic. I’ve never been all that great at relationships. I get really focused on my own baggage and sometimes forget that other people need me for things. So, I’m not sure why I get to write this, except for the fact that I’ve been married, now, for 27 years, to the same woman, and she hasn’t kicked me out, yet. I guess that means something, right?

I started thinking about the nature of sex and relationships more in the last few weeks because of this video clip (please watch it before reading on):

This guy nails a lot of the frustration men and women have been feeling in recent years as we struggle to deal with issues like sex, modesty, rape culture, respect, blame, and a whole lot of other things that circle around the way we live together.

As I watched it, I saw how important it is to respect one another, and to treat others, men and women, with that kindness.

I also thought of an editorial cartoon I saw many years ago, and I tried to google it, that I think spoke to the issue. There was a young kid, talking to a pharmacist, and the pharmacist says that he has something that, when used as intended, would guarantee him 100% safe sex. He was intrigued. What was this miracle drug?

A wedding ring.

I grew up and came of age in the late 70’s and early 80’s. In spite of all of the sexualization that was rampant even in those decades, I was a virgin when I married my wife. She was, too. Since that time, we’ve had our struggles, but we’ve remained faithful. She is the only woman I’ve ever been with, sexually. We’ve had to adapt to each other personally, physically, and emotionally, it’s true. That’s what marriage is. A few weeks ago, we celebrated our 27th anniversary. She makes me, and our family, complete.

And I thought about that video, with all it’s confusion and chaos and the need for “The Rules”, and I wondered (here’s the controversial part) how many of those nagging confusions would simply go away if people, men and women, would commit to each other, and make sex exclusive to that commitment.

Imagine if men were taught, and believed, that women were sacred and to be respected. That sex was something she gave him, and he gave her as a part of their promise to make a lasting life together. Imagine if women were taught that men were to be respected and not to be manipulated, teased, or used and discarded as toys. What if she were taught early in life that sex isn’t currency used to buy status or security, but a beautiful part of connected lives.

What if, as single men and women socialized with each other (especially as teens), then dated, they didn’t have to worry about the complications of a sexual relationship? What if there were no need to guess if your date was going to pressure you or not? What if men didn’t want to drop drugs into girl’s drinks? What if the immediate need to sleep with someone tonight was replaced with the deeper desire to wake up next to a partner for years to come, knowing that this partner had promised the same thing to you.

It seems so often that people want the convenience of casual sex and the meaning and mutual respect that comes from commitment. I'm not sure that you can have it both ways.

To me, when sex is reduced to a party game, it’s no wonder that we have so much confusion over “The Rules”.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

In Which I Bake Bread for the Sacrament

Hey, folks, I don't usually cross-post from my other blogs, but in this case, it's really appropriate.  I had the opportunity to hand make some bread to be used in our ward's sacrament meeting.  It's not really a big deal in the big picture, but it was a wonderful experience for me.  I wrote it up over at Mark's Black Pot.  Check it out, and if you want to, leave a comment over there:


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Mark's Other Blog Posts: name post, name post,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Poetic Thing Happened on My Way to Work

“Maya Angelou died today.”  The cashier said.

I’d heard that already, actually.  I had been listening to NPR on my way to work, and they’d been talking about it.  I had stopped and pulled into a convenience store to get my Diet Dr Pepper for the morning.

“Yeah, I heard.”  I agreed.

“That’s sad.”

“She left quite a legacy, though.”

It wasn’t until I’d left the store that the full impact of Maya’s life and work hit me. I had just bought a soda from a convenience store, and the cashier and I had conversed about a poet.  Not about the weather, or complaining about a country song on the radio or politics, but about a poet.

Maya Angelou died today.

Or, maybe, I should say, “Maya Angelou lives today”


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Two Singers I admire: Bono and David Archuleta

In the last week, I’ve had the chance to hear about two singers and to think about what I admire in both of them.  It’s a similar list.  One of them is young, some would argue, at the beginning of his career.  The other has had a long and celebrated career.  The two are David Archuleta and Bono.

As I start this blog post, I have to set up the disclaimer.  I usually don’t like admiring other humans. Too often, we set people up as heroes, and then we’re upset when they let us down. On the other hand, I think we should celebrate goodness and righteousness whenever we see it. So, let me say that I don’t know either of these people personally. I have no idea what they’re really like. I don’t know what their struggles have been, other than what I’ve read. I don’t even like every song they’ve sung.

But they have both made some choices in their lives that I find admirable, and I want to point those out.

The first event I heard about was David Archuleta’s return from his mission. I was impressed by this. Here, he’s got a growing recording and performing career, and he sets it aside to serve his fellow humans in relative obscurity in a far-away country. If his mission was anything like mine, or anything like anyone else’s, he probably had a lot of struggles, disappointments, joys, and personal triumphs. I don’t know how well he got along with his companions, or how well they got along with him, but I’m sure they all grew in the process.

Here’s what I most admire him for: he went, he served, and he came home honorably. There have been many others who have had the opportunity and have not done those three things. Others have felt that their fame would interfere with missionary work. I just admire that he made the choice to set it all aside.

The other thing was an interview Bono did with Jim Daly of Focus on the Family. In the course of the interview, Bono, who is by all accounts now, a worldwide superstar, bore his personal witness of Jesus as the Son of God, and talked knowledgeably about the scriptures. In addition to being in the band, he’s worked tirelessly in support of AIDS-ravaged and poverty-stricken Africa. He’s worked with politicians on the right and the left all across the world looking for ways to facilitate funding and treatments.

Again, I don’t know him. I’ve never met him. I don’t know his flaws or his strengths.

I don’t know the hearts or minds of either of these two great voices. So, I will admire and try to emulate some of their great choices, and I will use those choices as examples to teach my family.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Grass and The Willow

A Fable For Our Times

So, the story goes that there was a big, tall, full willow tree atop a small rise, surrounded by a grassy meadow.  It had been there for years.  Many who traveled the roads by the meadow would stop and rest in its shade before moving on.  They used the great tree as a landmark to know where to travel and how far they had come.  It seemed like it had always been there and always would.  It was fixed in place, immovable.  The idea that it had once been a weak little sapling was long forgotten.

Below it the grass also grew tall, but not so much as the tree, obviously.  As the breezes and winds blew the grass would sway and swing, bending to the slightest shift and motion in the air.

Not the tree, of course.  Oh, the leaves might swish a little, but the tree was strong against even harsher winds.  It stayed, sturdy and tall.

Until one night a storm arose like no other before it. The winds and the rains hammered the hilltop, whipping the grass and the tree in its frenzy.  Wave after wave of harsh force smashed against them.  The tree strained to hold together as branches snapped and tumbled.  The tree held on with all its might, but finally, its shallow roots were unable to stand against the force of the wind, and with a loud crackling, it toppled over, smashing to the ground.

In the morning, the winds were again calm and the sun rose, drying the raindrops off the dying tree and the grassy meadow.  The grasses rose up and again danced and swayed in the breeze.  Their roots were deep and intertwined, and their blades flexible to move with the winds but still remain in place, still growing, still alive.


So, I was reading yesterday an old response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s many anti-Mormon and anti-Joseph Smith books, and I started to see a trend. The more I read, the more I realized that the reason many good, faithful church members fall to anti-mormon propaganda is, in fact, our own fault, culturally.  We cling so rigidly, dogmatically to details that we think are facts, when those “facts” are, in fact, not certain.  Then, when those “facts” are challenged, our roots don’t go deep enough and so, aren’t strong enough to adapt and flow with those winds, and we fall.  Maybe our roots aren’t intertwined enough with others, strengthening each other, and so, we fall.

For example:  Detail Dogma might say that the Book of Abraham was the literal translation of the exact writing on the scrolls that Joseph Smith acquired. Some experts, cited by the Tanners, claim that the writings translate differently, and are not at all what Joseph wrote as the Book of Abraham.  But do we REALLY know what happened?  Do we REALLY know how it happened?  Is it not possible that Joseph Smith saw the texts and had a visionary experience that brought about the revelation of the Book of Abraham?  Is it possible that Joseph, with God’s eyes and inspiration, saw more in the drawings and text than others have?  What is the difference between “translation” and “revelation”.  There is so much that we don’t know.  So, should we rigidly cling to the superficial dogma, or should we sink our roots deeper to the underlying belief that the Book of Abraham is sacred scripture, however it arrived?

Another example: For years and years, we were told that the native american tribes were descendants of the Lamanites.  Some scientists did some studying and claimed that DNA testing disproved that theory, saying that the DNA of native americans was more asian.  We took a look at our beliefs and we said, essentially, that maybe there were other groups here, too, and they mixed.  Then, further DNA studies showed that it's not so cut and dried, scientifically, anyway.

We often want our histories and our stories to be clear, to be black and white, but life isn’t that way.  It’s often messy and our heroes aren’t always so heroic.  That doesn’t mean we stop believing in them, though.  We just have to be flexible.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When Worlds Collide

A big topic in the news of late is the Arizona bill (passed by the legislature, and currently awaiting signing or veto by the governor) which would effectively allow anyone to refuse service to anyone for religious reasons.  There is a lot of legalese in the text of the law, but the basic upshot of it (and the source of the controversy) is that if there’s a same-sex wedding, and they want to hire someone to, say, bake the cake or take pictures, or perform the service, a person or company whose religous beliefs prohibit same-sex marriage would be allowed to turn down the opportunity.  It essentially says that if your church doesn’t like it, you’re not required to go along with it at your business.

On one side of this argument is the observation that this essentially sanctions discrimination, and undoes decades of civil rights legislation. On the other side of the argument, people are upset that businesses and business people are getting sued for “standing for their beliefs”.  They are frustrated that the government, and the laws it enforces, are requiring them to do things they believe are against their beliefs and principles.

It doesn’t even have to be against gays.  If someone’s Church doesn’t accept the possibility of life on other planets, according to this law, they shouldn’t be required to let aliens in their store.

Add to that this suit being brought against a Church in the UK, and the plot gets even a bit thicker.  The gay couple is suing because the Church won’t marry them.  Even though it’s happening “over there”, many in America are watching with interest because it could indicate a trend or precedent.

I’m a bit befuddled by it all.  I don’t want to legalize discrimination and prejudice, either, but I also support someone’s right to believe what they want and to act on that belief.

This is a situation where we may actually see the colliding of words, the immovable object being hit by the irresistible force. These two viewpoints are completely at odds with each other.  The gays want to get married, and there are many who don’t want to serve them.  Should they be forced to serve? Or should the gays be forced to look elsewhere for services?  What if the services aren’t available elsewhere, or if there are other factors in the situation?

This is why I think the LDS Church fought so strongly against same-sex marriage in California, Hawaii, and other states: the fear that, at some point, the Church would sued and forced to solemnize same-sex marriages in the temple.  I think that without that spectre looming over their heads, the Brethren of the Church would have been much more accepting of the concept.

Honestly, I’m not sure what the answer is.  But, it’s something that I’ll be watching very closely.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On Dress Codes and Modesty

OK, I’m so confused.

 I recently got on the short end of the wrath of the internets on a discussion among church members of “Modesty”.  

 I thought this was always kind of clear, but apparently not.  From the discussion, I guess girls are supposed to be allowed to “express themselves” and to not be “ashamed” of their bodies, but they’re still not supposed to dress sexy and show too much skin, unless, of course, they want to, and dress codes are the new machines of male oppression and men should be expected to control themselves, but they’re not allowed to respond to any visual stimuli regardless of how the girl parades it but the prophet still says you should wear clothing that covers the body areas covered by the garments, unless if your swimsuit is revealing then, that’s OK, because it’s all about comfort, not exposure, and...  And...

 And I’m trying to sort through it, but I’m getting a bit lost, here.

 I do get the bits about dress codes.  I hate them, too.  I think that dress codes and social dress expectations are more about control than they are about modesty or practicality.  Why on earth anyone thinks that a white shirt and a tie are sensible is beyond me.  I used to work in a call center.  Everyone we interacted with was on the phone.  But, arbitrarily, we were required to dress up one day a week.  Why?  So the management could exercise that bit of control.

 I also get the self-expression bit.  For many years, in my rocker days, I dressed very rebelliously.  Sort of.  By that I mean that I had the shredded jeans and grungy jacket and long hair, but all of my garment areas were covered.  There was a kid in my old ward that would come to church as a punker, but still in a white shirt.  The dichotomy always made me smile.

 I also get that a lot of the scars from the ways we were taught about sexual purity in our sunday school and seminary classes are now turning up in therapy.  When it comes to sex, we are definitely a peculiar people.

 So, I guess I’d like some help here.  Are our youth, both boys and girls, still being taught to dress modestly?  Is that still valued?  Are they being taught why it’s important?  Is it still important?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Misfit Mormons

When I read this blog entry, I had a lot of emotions well up.  I, too, feel like a misfit.  I have my whole life. Sometimes, I enjoy it, other times, it frustrates me.  As I read this, I knew I'd have to share my feelings.

First, I must insist that this feeling is cultural. I've not felt spiritually out of place.  For the most part, I've always felt like I had a connection with my Heavenly Father, and when I've felt that the connection wasn't as strong, I've always known that it's been me that was disconnecting.

When I was younger, I grew my hair out long.  At one point, it was down to the middle of my shoulder blades. I used to wear shredded jeans, bandanas and untied high-tops.  I looked like I'd walked out of a guitar magazine.  Yet, I always carried a current temple recommend. I wore my hair like a flag, challenging all to get to know the real me.

My taste in music has never been mainstream LDS.  I recognize that Janice Kapp Perry and Michael McLean are great talents and wonderful people.  I've met them both.  But I have no tunes by either one on my cell phone tracklist. What is there?  Lots of hard rock, much of it Christian.  Lots of old school prog rock, too.  Some classical.

Early on, I yearned for hard rock music with Mormon themes.  Finding none, I made my own.  I still carry much of that in my phone lists, too.  Did you know there are LDS rappers?

All of these things are superficial, I know.  But I really have felt very alone through much of my church experience. I still go.  It's still true. Much of LDS church culture is built on the concepts of obedience and of following your leaders.  And they wear white shirts, dark suits, and simple ties. That's how you're supposed to be spiritual, right?

In the end, I grew tired.  I felt like I was fighting a losing battle, all the while nobody else around me knew that we were even at war.  My hair is short, my shirts are mostly white.  But my ties have guitars and looney toons on them, and I still love loud, obnoxious guitars.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.


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