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Monday, January 19, 2004

This is the End 

Well, she's been a good little blog. Now that everything has been transferred to our new site, Sons of Mosiah, we will be officially retiring this one. No more updates. Please update any links you may have.
Friday, January 16, 2004

Drumroll Please. . . 

We at BNL are pleased to announce that we will be moving to our own domain, powered by Movable Type. We have also come up with what we hope will be a catchier name. We'll call our new blog "Sons of Mosiah," to signify that we consider ourselves very faithful, kingdom-building members of the church (who also know a thing or two about rabble-rousing!).

It's still somewhat of a beta-version as of this point, but you're welcome to check it out. We're still working out the kinks (we seem to be having issues with our archives, for example), and our template, links, etc. will be a work in progress for some time. We'll try to cross-post any interesting posts for now, but we hope that soon this site will become obsolete.

We are grateful to all who visit us and make comments here. This blog is incredibly fun for us, and although we may talk about some *radical* things, we hope that everyone who participates feels respected, even when (especially when) we may disagree with them. We love disagreement, and we want to foster the kind of respectful discussion that helps us learn and grow. Besides, if everyone went around disrespecting opinions with which they didn't agree all the time, we're quite certain that we'd be significantly outnumbered, so we have no room to give anyone a hard time.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Can We Question and Respect? 

Quite the hullabaloo over at Times and Seasons over whether there is too much "inappropriate intellectualism." I guess a couple of former regulars to the site feel that there is too much of the foolishness of men. I feel strongly that the doctrinal exploration and analysis typical at T&S is something that benefits me in my own search for knowledge and testimony. I also recognize that many do not feel the same way, and I have nothing but respect for people who follow their hearts and try to listen to what the Spirit tells them.

Growing up, I felt like my parents fostered an atmosphere where we were able to recognize and discuss instances in which we felt differently about certain policies and doctrines than did our leaders. At the same time, it was always clear that our leaders had a specific stewardship and responsibility, and that they deserved nothing less than our support and sustaining. An issue that came to represent these notions living side by side was that of appropriate sacrament meeting music:

My dad was ward music chairman at the time. Concerning sacrament meeting music, the manual said something along the lines of ". . . while the hymn book and children's song book should be the primary sources of music for sacrament meeting, there are many other sources of appropriate music . . . " (I don't actually have a copy, but my dad has quoted it dozens of times to me, and this is close). Our Stake Presidency decided that to "more fully" live this policy, the hymn book and children's song book would be the only acceptable sources in our Stake. My dad discovered this after leading a choir in Stake Conference (they sang a selection from the Messiah or something like that) and being greeted by the Stake Prez with a "Sounded great, but make sure next time it's from the hymn book." After many lengthy discussions, this policy was made clear.

It drove my dad nuts. Whenever the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would sing "In the Bleak Midwinter" or another appropriate hymn, he'd go crazy inside. He wrote letters to the Stake Presidency highlighting what the handbook said. He discussed it over Sunday dinner. He fasted and prayed. All to no avail -- He and the Stake President continued to feel differently about it.

But he always lived by the policy, and made it clear that he respected the authority of these leaders. Even when other wards in the Stake would sneak other hymns by (the Stake Presidency weren't musicians -- they didn't necessarily know what was in the hymn book anyway), he deferred to those under whose stewardship he served.

This is just one of many examples. Questioning and seeking personal confirmation of counsel received from leaders was a very real part of the teaching that my parents offered as I grew up. So was a respect for the priesthood and the organization of the church. Combining those two things is very near to the foundation of my testimony, and I think it is very possible to mix questioning and respect in a meaningful way. I realize that the testimonies of others may be based on different views, and I wish them nothing but the best as they make their own way toward exaltation. I just want to be on record as saying that I view Times and Seasons as something that I find incredibly relevant to me as I search for truth (absolute or not).
Monday, January 12, 2004

BADH (Beating a Dead Horse): Sabbath Day 

Jack Sparrow's comment about his desire to keep the Sabbath Day holy has helped me remember that not understanding a commandment isn't an excuse to disregard it (something of which I could be accused). But I do feel, like Captain Sparrow, that it's a "have to" instead of a "want to" situation. I think this comes from not understanding the principles involved in Sabbath Day observance.

Scriptures that come to mind concerning the Sabbath Day are Genesis 2:2-3, where the Lord rested from his work and "sanctified" the day, and Exodus 20:8-11, which talks about our households not doing work and such on the Sabbath. From there, the conventional wisdom seems to be that anything on which we spend money on Sunday is "bad." One reason often given for this is that we shouldn't support other people having to work on Sunday. Now that I live in the Bronx (but this is even becoming the case in good ol' Utah), this particular argument is very unconvincing. Even if no Christians spent money on Sunday, many businesses would be open because they're operated and patronized by Muslims and Jews (who have different days of rest).

I don't necessarily mean to say that there's no validity in refraining from spending money on Sunday. I do think that this "rule" and others for Sabbath observance are instances of the principle applied to specific situations that may or may not apply to me and my circumstances. The classic BNL example of how this can work is a passage from the October 1999 General Conference talk by President Monson (see if this link takes you to the talk), which describes a son who forgets to put gas in the car on Saturday night (after he had specifically been reminded), so the father walks to his early Sunday church meetings instead of buying gas. This is a lesson taught in a powerful way. But is the lesson perhaps about keeping your word and having foresight? I don't know. I do know that if I found on Sunday morning that my wife hadn't put gas in the car, I wouldn't feel bad buying some on my way to church.

These are the questions I have concerning keeping the Sabbath Day holy. I think Bob's previous post is really asking the same questions. Clark pointed out in a comment to the previous post that the idea is to make the Sabbath somehow different from other days. That could be the right line of thinking, but I still ask, different how? It feels like something more than just a token nod at being "different" fully embodies the principle. Maybe I'll just go to Arby's instead of McDonald's -- different is good, right (I don't mean to make light of the discussion, I'm just saying I need more)? I feel that having a better understanding of Sabbath-keeping principles would help the Cap'n (and the rest of us) feel a greater desire to keep the Sabbath Day holy, but I'm just not there yet.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

What Meetings Can Sisters Conduct? 

I serve as ward mission leader here in the Bronx. Before I left for Utah, it was known that we would have a baptism on Christmas day. Since I wouldn't be there to conduct and be in charge of planning, I delegated those to a ward missionary. This very capable ward missionary happens to be a woman, and I often delegate things to her. We talked it over in correlation meeting with all the full-time missionaries, and they thought it would be fine.

I guess not. Today, I heard the story: everything was set up fine. Very few people were coming, being Christmas and all, but they were ready to roll. The Assistants to the President heard about it and they decided to come. When those two missionaries looked at the program, they went into action. They said that "customarily," women should only conduct meetings if only women are present in the meeting. Oh, and while we're at it, change the opening prayer from being given by a woman to being given by a man. Apparently it is also "customary" for Priesthood holders to open meetings with prayers.

As capable as she is, my ward missionary is one who would rather back down and not make a scene, so she let it happen. All the missionaries deferred to the AP's, too (which is understandable). I don't think the Bishop was there.

I checked in my handbook, and it just says that "The ward mission leader usually plans and conducts baptismal services for converts." It does say that "If ward or stake mission leaders are not available, full-time missionary district or zone leaders may plan and conduct the service." With the "usually," and the "may," that doesn't seem very definitive to me. From my reading of this it seems reasonable that I could invite a ward missionary to conduct. So I guess it just comes down to whether or not sisters can ever conduct meetings with Priesthood holders present, which seems normal to me. Does anyone know the official policy here? It seems like Times and Seasons had a post on something similar a few weeks back, but I can't quite recall the particulars. I'd like something a little more helpful than what is "customary" (as for the opening prayer thing, that seems like hogwash to me, but someone please let me know).

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Back in Black (or in Grey and Blue, at least) 

I tell you, there's nothing that makes you feel like you need a vacation more than going on vacation. I made my periodic pilgrimage to the Mormon Holy Land (aka Utah) to visit family, friends, and such. You'd think that getting Bob and me in the same city would facilitate some good blog postings (we did, anyway), but, obviously not.

I still haven't read any newspapers, made the rounds in the blogosphere, or even listened to talk radio. So along with my brain still being turned off, I don't have much about which to blog. I'm working on some good stuff though, so stay tuned.

This post is mainly to let people know that we're still in business here at BNL. It was nice to receive a few e-mails from visitors while we were gone to let us know that we are noticed.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Reciprocity 

We here at BNL are always thrilled when Clark comes and adds his incredibly intelligent thoughts to our ramblings. I have to admit, however, that when I visit his Mormon Metaphysics, his own posts are usually way above my head.

I was excited to visit this morning and find a very interesting post I could actually get my mind around. It's about how mythology and historicity can get mixed up as stories get retold. He points out that it happens in our own Church history, just as it does in the Bible. I encourage you to check it out (I'm not sure how to link to an individual post of his, but this will take you to his site).

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