Mar 31

On Laughter

More than ten years ago, now, I went through the most brutal emotional experience of my life—one that still haunts me on an almost daily basis. Under the circumstances, I was temporarily numb to almost any emotion.

The next Sunday, before Sacrament Meeting, a friend of mine in the ward came over to say hi and cheer me up a bit (although he knew nothing about my situation). In the course of our conversation, he made a joke and, for the first time in days, I laughed.


My roommate immediately shushed me and rebuked me for not being reverent.


If whispers and soft music and seriousness float your boat, I don’t mind and I really will do my best not to disturb you. But I come from a family that’s been through all kinds of hell, and we’ve learned to laugh, because it sure beats crying.

Jul 26

A Post-Pioneer Day Manifesto

Sunday was Pioneer Day, which got me to thinking about our cult of pioneer worship and how, even though we give lip service to the idea that any convert is a “pioneer,” of sorts, I get the impression that many people who don’t have pioneer ancestors (in the traditional sense of the word) don’t feel much of a connection to the holiday.

I propose, therefore, that January 24th (six months after Pioneer Day) be celebrated as Converts’ Day. Continue reading

May 10

The Damage of Mormon Mother’s Day Myths

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day, which means that many (most?) American LDS women who attended Sacrament Meeting were told that they have a lot of innate qualities, such as being righteous, spiritual, pure, or nurturing.

Let us take as self-evident that, in reality, not all women are naturally pure or spiritual. Let us also posit that, even if the average woman is more nurturing or righteous than the average man (a hypothesis which remains to be proved), actual women surely exhibit a range of qualities such that some women are more nurturing and others are less so.

Are there any downsides, then, to telling women that they are naturally nurturing or spiritual or righteous? At best, what we’re saying is probably true of some women. At worst, we’re just encouraging other women to develop those qualities, right? Continue reading

Jul 25

Mormon Gays in Mormon Plays, Part III


Of the nine plays I (originally) found that met my criteria, I think it’s no accident that almost half of them have premiered since 2008. Whatever the tensions were between the LDS Church and the gay and lesbian community before that year, the heated battle over California’s Proposition 8 has increased them exponentially. Whether or not any of these plays was written specifically because of or in response to those events, the environment of anger and resentment must have been on the minds of anyone with ties to either community, let alone to both. Continue reading

Jul 15

Mormon Gays in Mormon Plays, Part II


Banging the Bishop: Latter Day Prophecy, by Dustin B. Goltz

Goltz was raised as a Reformed Jew, but became Mormon as a young man when missionaries came to his door. As a Mormon, he felt that he could be a good person who had a mission in life and divine potential. Also, he was told that his homosexuality was a result of excessive masturbation, and he would be welcomed into heaven if he’d stop. He couldn’t. And he didn’t stop being attracted to men, so he eventually decided he didn’t belong in the Mormon heaven, and he left. Continue reading

Jul 12

Mormon Gays in Mormon Plays: How Mormon Playwrights Portray Gay and Lesbian Mormons, Part I

Note: I originally intended to make this all one post, then realized that it was over 3,000 words long, so I’m splitting the topic into multiple posts.

A few weeks ago, I learned that a friend of mine is raising money to stage a production of Melissa Leilani Larson’s Little Happy Secrets next year. The play is about a lesbian Mormon who is trying to reconcile her sexuality with her faith. (It’s really unfair of me to condense such a thoughtful and nuanced play into a one-sentence summary. I promise I’ll say more about it later, or you can read about it and their fundraising efforts here.) It was staged last year in Provo, but Dave Mortensen (my friend) and Melissa would like to put on a larger production in Salt Lake City.

I decided that I wanted to write a blog post about plays by Mormons with gay and lesbian Mormon characters, both as a way of helping to draw attention to Little Happy Secrets and because of the topicality of how the Mormon community and the GLBT community interact. Continue reading

Dec 03

Books, Mormons, and Statistics, part II

Ziff, Ray, and Kent Larsen had it right — the Book of Mormon has the largest standard deviation in ratings of any book on the site. The stat is called “25 Books People Can’t Agree On” and you can see it at the bottom of this page.

The Book of Mormon may be at the top of the list, but it’s in good company, since books by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Isaac Newton are also on the list. (Of course, the urban vampire fantasy and regency romance do drag down the neighborhood a bit.)

It’s also the most widely-owned of any book on that list, by far. There are around 1,600 LibraryThing members who own a total of around 1,800 copies of the Book of Mormon. The next most widely held book is Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun, at around 400 copies. There have been some other popular books on the list, but they tend to drop off when they get very popular, because enough people give them an intermediate rating (2.5-3.5 stars) that it lowers the standard deviation of all the ratings. The Secret, a book made popular by Oprah Winfrey, used to be on the list, but now the standard deviation of the ratings is down to 1.34, well below the current top-25 cutoff of 1.42. Continue reading

Nov 30

Books, Mormons, and Statistics

If you like books and statistics, you’ll love LibraryThing. They have 554,277 members who have cataloged 33,647,263 books of which 3,850,295 are unique works not shared by anyone else on the site.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s [Philosopher’s] Stone is owned by more people than anyone else (37,254 copies, 3 of which are mine), although more people have posted reviews of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (704 reviews, with an average rating of 4.43 stars out of 5).

As you might expect, J.K. Rowling is the top author in terms of number of copies of her books owned, but Stephen King is second, even though his top individual book isn’t even in the top 200.

Oh, and one more thing (which is actually the whole point of this post): The Book of Mormon is at the top of a list based on another site-wide statistic. Care to guess what that statistic is?

Jun 11

A Physics Parable

In physics, one speaks of two kinds of balance, or equilibrium. Unstable equilibrium describes a system that is in balance, but that will become unbalanced at the slightest outside influence. Think of trying to balance a pencil on its point: it’s possible to do in theory, but in practice it will fall over every time you try. Stable equilibrium describes a system that is in balance and that will seek the same equilibrium, even if outside influences temporarily unbalance it. Think of a marble resting in the bottom of a bowl: you can nudge it, flick it or bump it to make it leave that position, but it will eventually roll back to the bottom of the bowl. Continue reading