Apr 30

How often are men and women quoted in General Conference?

Soon after I finished my most recent post, I realized that it would be fairly easy to assess how often men and women are quoted and how often stories are told about men as opposed to women in General Conference.  I decided to analyze the most recent conference (April 2013) to get the most up-to-date data.  From the April 2013 conference, I randomly selected two talks from Priesthood Session and two talks from the General YW Meeting (and by random, I mean truly random.  I assigned each talk a number and used a random number generator to select talks for me).  I also randomly selected two talks by men from the main sessions of conference and analyzed the only two talks that were given by women. Continue reading

Apr 29

How often are men and women quoted in church?

I have heard anecdotal evidence that men are much more likely than women to be quoted during LDS church services, and that stories about men are more often shared than stories about women.  It is not surprising that this trend would exist given that the majority of scripture stories in the LDS canon are about men and that the majority of modern-day conference speakers are men.  In light of  this anecdotal evidence, I decided to collect some data to get a better idea of the percentage of times men vs. women are quoted and the percentage of stories that are told about men as opposed to women during a typical church service. Continue reading

Apr 24

Top Ten Reasons I’m Grateful for My Mission: 4

You can find the earlier posts in this series here, here, and here.

4) Class Awareness

I served with one native-speaking companion, a fiery, fascinating woman from Nicaragua. Not only was she a native speaker, but she was also an exceptionally educated person. Often when we were out talking with people in the streets they would stop her and ask her to rephrase things, telling her that her Spanish was too high-brow for them. And she spoke nary a lick of English, so living with her was a sink-or-swim course in Spanish fluency for me. (I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been for her to basically serve as a Spanish finishing school for so many Americans coming to the country with shaky MTC-Spanish. The Mission President very judiciously gave her a new companion nearly every transfer period so that as many English-speaking sisters as possible could benefit from her expertise.) Continue reading

Apr 21

Top Ten Reasons I’m Grateful for My Mission: 3

You can find the earlier posts in this series here and here.

3) The Interviews

Every six weeks on my mission, the missionaries would have a one-on-one interview with the Mission President. Interviews were one of the only times that companionships were separated. These interviews were not particularly long – they would typically last anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour. Their purpose was simple: the MP was checking in with the missionaries, and giving them an opportunity to ask questions, discuss any issues had in companionships, etc. They were not scripted, and no topic was an absolute requirement for review.

I liked my MP, and I liked him a lot. On a personal level. He was sincere, reflective, and a deeply thoughtful man. I also liked his wife, largely for the same reasons. I respected them. He would often make comments to me about how he disagreed with our culture of quasi-hero worship of the General Authorities, since they are men serving in a calling, susceptible to weakness like any other man.

Once in a Zone Conference (also a meeting that took place every six weeks) he opened up the floor to questions on doctrine or practice, encouraging the missionaries to ask anything they wished. One of the Elders from my district – a guy that I also really liked and stayed friends with after the mission – asked “What would happen if we used a cross on our church?” The MP replied, “It would still be the Lord’s Church, but with a cross on top.” Like I say, I really liked this man. Continue reading

Apr 16

What we all secretly wish we’d hear more about at church

This guest post comes to us courtesy of Mike C. You can read his previous guest post here.

The idea for this blog post came to me, as many of my best ideas do, while I was thinking about sex in church. Now please don’t get all huffy. I am aware of the impracticalities: limited privacy, no comfortable places to lie down (I should know, I’ve tried sleeping on the couches while my kids are attending seminary), etc.

Continue reading

Apr 15

Top Ten Reasons I’m Grateful for My Mission: 2

You can find the earlier post in this series here.

2) The Mother’s Day Lesson

My last companion was relatively new to her mission. The child of a recently widowed mother with several teenagers at home, one of her biggest worries as a missionary was that her mom would need her back home and she would be powerless to help.

One day, shortly before Mother’s Day, she received a letter from home filled with good news after a long interval of anxiety-inducing silence. Her mom and family were doing remarkably well. Things were as smooth and happy as they had been since her father passed away. After reading the letter she brightened visibly, and remained noticeably relieved and relaxed for some time afterward. And, since she had been asked to give the lesson at District Meeting that week, she chose to speak on mothers. It was a simple, brief lesson, consisting mostly of her expressions of gratitude for the sacrifices her mother had made for her. Neither then nor ever did she tell the other missionaries in our district that her father had died. Continue reading

Apr 13

Top Ten Reasons I’m Grateful for my Mission: 1

 This is the first post in a series on reasons I’m grateful for my mission.

1) The Stories

As a missionary, I often felt like I was playing the part of an extra in the movies of other people’s lives. I felt I was mostly there to watch and listen; to hear their stories.

Yet, as I lived through the months and met new people day after day, I found meaning in my role. There is inherent value in being observer and confidante, in acknowledging the realities of the worlds of others – worth in serving as witness to their pain.

I left filled to the brim with human stories. Here is one: Continue reading

Apr 05

Which is it? Did Jesus say so, or are you going to use your Jedi mind tricks?

In Peggy Fletcher Stack’s recent article on the Ordain Women movement, she quotes Church spokesperson Jessica Moody on the question of whether women could receive the priesthood:

But a male-only priesthood “was established by Jesus Christ himself,” Moody said, “and is not a decision to be made by those on Earth.”

This argument stands in contrast to Relief Society General President Burton’s comment on the same issue in the Church’s new video:

I don’t think women are after the authority; I think they’re after the blessings and are happy that they can access the blessings and power of the priesthood. There are a few that would like both. But most of the women, I think, in the Church are happy to have all the blessings. That’s what matters most to them, and it doesn’t matter who holds that umbrella. They’re happy to let someone else hold the umbrella because we have different complementary roles and are happy with that.

So which is it? Did Jesus command the priesthood ban be put in place? Or is going to be that Church leaders will send their female spokespeople to wave their hands and try to convince us with a Jedi mind trick that real Mormon women don’t actually want the priesthood? (President Dalton’s “[you] will see no need to lobby for rights” comment fits perfectly here.)

Continue reading

Apr 04

They always say the same thing in Conference (Part 1)

A few months ago, I was working on a project that required me to look through a lot of search results at the Corpus of LDS General Conference Talks. I was surprised to find that some speakers not only told the same stories and made the same points in multiple talks, they frequently used exactly the same phrasing in doing so. In other words, they were clearly copying and pasting parts from one talk to another. Not that I blame them. I know GAs are busy people, so in retrospect I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.

This got me to wondering, though, whether some Conference speakers use this copy-and-paste strategy more than others. I hit on an easy way to measure how often they do this while reading Brian Christian’s fascinating book The Most Human Human. The book is about the author’s preparation for participating in a Turing test, where his role is to serve as a chat partner for judges who are trying to distinguish between computer programs and people, and his goal is to win the award that is the book’s title, by convincing the most judges that he is a human and not a computer. One issue Christian discusses is redundancy in language. For example, when we’re reading, we can predict with accuracy far better than chance what word will come next in a sentence, and our accuracy goes up as the sentence goes on. More importantly for my purposes, compression software also works by spotting redundancies in language.

Continue reading

Apr 01

Hi! I’m super righteous, and I’m against women’s ordination.

Women’s ordination is in the air. A handful of contentious probably-anti-Mormon trouble-makers who should just pray about the Proclamation on the Family and all their concerns will be resolved 🙂 have “started” a “movement” to try to make the Church ordain women.

I’m not at all closed-minded, so I’ve tried to really work out what I think about this issue—I mean, I think women are just as important as men, and I feel really sorry for all the women who don’t really think God loves them and so they turn into feminists, LOL! Seriously, though, is women’s ordination possible? Is it a good idea? Would it drive men out of the church, or just make them lazy? Would the differences between the sexes just evaporate if women were ordained?

Would I even want the Priesthood? Would I be strong enough to be a bishop, or a stake president? Do I crave power and authority and attention that much? Can I be humble enough to fulfill the role God has given me without demanding more?

I’ve thought through the issue from every single side, and this is my conclusion: Continue reading

Apr 01

The Bouncer in Wonderland

Recently our Bouncer had a chance to interview a representative of the Church of Heathenism of the Wicked Witches of Wonderland, an organization that claims to be a strong proponent of equality, for ideas on how better to treat both sexes with dignity and provide everyone with equal opportunities to grow and flourish. He returned with these nuggets of wisdom.

Continue reading