May 26

Abdicating Authority to the Algorithms

Supporters of chicken patriarchy like to cite calling on family members to say prayers as an example of a duty that the father in a family, as the presider and priesthood holder, must perform. I suspect this is a preferred example because it carves out a required role for the man, but it avoids the offensiveness of men’s supposed duties that fans of paleo-patriarchy might cite, such as the duty to be the final decider in matters of schooling, employment, or spending.

Because this is such a oft-cited example (in blog discussions at least), it is with some glee that I report that as the husband and father in my family, I have abdicated this duty to an algorithm. And not even one of my own making! One of my kids came up with it. And to be fair, calling it an algorithm is making it sound way more complicated than it is. It’s a very simple system. In case you’re curious, here’s how it works. Family members are ordered by age, and each family member is assigned a number from zero to number of family members minus one. The day of the month is then divided by the number of family members, and the remainder is matched up to one of the assigned numbers to find who gets to say family prayer. For blessings at mealtime, the meal number (1, 2, or 3; no allowance is made for things like second breakfast) is added to the date. For example, today is May 26th. There are five people in my family. To decide who says the blessing on lunch, we take 26 (day) + 2 (meal number), divide by 5 (number of family members), yielding a remainder of 3, so this means it’s my second oldest child’s turn (since the family is numbered 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 in age order). Continue reading

May 17

The Pope Gives Ordain Women a Shot in the Arm

Pope Francis said a few days ago that he will organize a commission to look into having women serve as deacons in the Catholic Church. Now of course he wasn’t guaranteeing that he would end up taking any action, and deacons aren’t priests, and Catholics aren’t Mormons. But I still wonder if even this signal of people considering a possible change in another church might not bode well for the cause of Ordain Women.

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May 04

Who Will Canonize the Family Proclamation?

I admit I breathed a small sigh of relief when this last General Conference ended without the Proclamation on the Family being presented to be added to the D&C. It seemed like it might have been an opportune time: the first annual (April) Conference following all the twentieth anniversary celebrations last year. So I was glad that it didn’t happen, but it occurs to me now that the question of the Family Proclamation getting canonized might be less about when it happens and more about who makes it happen.

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Apr 14

Why do Church leaders dislike the internet?

In Elder Ballard’s recent address to CES teachers, he warned his audience several times of the dangers of the internet to their students. For example, he admonished teachers to

Teach [students] about the challenges they face when relying upon the Internet to answer questions of eternal significance. Remind them that James did not say, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him Google!”

Wise people do not rely on the Internet to diagnose and treat emotional, mental, and physical health challenges, especially life-threatening challenges. Instead, they seek out health experts, those trained and licensed by recognized medical and state boards.

james did not say ask of googleWhy do Church leaders not want young people looking for for answers on the internet? One often-cited answer to this question is that they don’t like the information students might find–information that will likely contradict the carefully curated view of the Church and its history that is typically taught at Church and in seminary and institute classes. For example, students may learn that perhaps Joseph and Emma’s marriage wasn’t quite so idyllic as it is often portrayed, what with him marrying many other wives, typically behind Emma’s back.

Elder Ballard specifically mentions this problem of negative information in his address. He says that CES teachers should introduce students to faith-promoting approaches to controversial topics so that students will measure any more negative interpretations that they encounter later against what they heard first from their teachers.

I think Church leaders are concerned with more than just information when it comes to the internet, though. There are two other things that people also find there that I suspect they also dislike: validation and voice. Continue reading

Mar 31

Predictions for General Conference

General Conference already got underway last week, but I’m a bit slow, so I’m just now getting to making some predictions for the remainder of the sessions. You can help me out by telling me which in each pair of possible events is most likely to occur in the remainder of Conference.

Which in each pair is more likely?

  • President Monson talks about widows.
  • President Uchtdorf talks about airplanes.
  • President Monson talks about widowers.
  • President Uchtdorf talks about spaceplanes.
  • President Monson talks about Windows.
  • President Uchtdorf talks about Linux.

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Mar 14

“A single standard”

US civil rights law prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of characteristics such as race and gender. Prohibited discrimination can take the form of disparate treatment or disparate impact. Disparate treatment is easy to spot: it is simply treating members of different groups differently. For example, an employer who refuses to hire women would be liable under disparate treatment. Disparate impact is typically more difficult to see. It arises when a test or procedure the employer uses has the effect of discriminating against members of one group versus another. An employer who gives applicants a speech test that is scored by software that picks up lower pitches better than higher pitches might be liable under disparate impact, as women would likely perform worse on the test. (Employers are allowed to discriminate, though, if they can show that the characteristic they are using to select employees is a requirement to do the job.)

I think the concepts of disparate treatment and disparate impact are useful for talking about how the Church discriminates. In using these terms, I’m not suggesting that members are like employees; I’m just borrowing the terms to have an easy way to refer to different types of discrimination.

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Feb 29

Church Opposes So-called “February 29th”

This notice was intended to be published on the Mormon Newsroom today, but because of a technical error on the website, it was not released.

April 15–Although most in the secular world and even in other so-called “Christian” churches have succumbed to the use of the godless Gregorian calendar, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today announces the Christ-Centered Calendar Initiative. As part of this initiative, the Church no longer recognizes the unholy day of “February 29th.”

The Church withdraws recognition of this date going back to the founding of the Church in 1830, meaning that 46 authorized days are restored in place of the unauthorized days, which makes the current date on the Christ-Centered Calendar April 15th. In connection with this withdrawal of recognition, several new policies are also announced, all effective immediately. Church members claiming to have been born or married on “February 29th” are considered to be in apostasy, and face mandatory Church discipline. Children of such couples may not be baptized until they reach age 18, and even then only on condition of their formally renouncing their parents’ calendar choices. This policy will prevent children from becoming confused when they hear discussion of one calendar at home and a different calendar at church. Finally, Church members whose records claim that they died on “February 29th” have their ordinance work declared null and void. They are not eligible to have proxy temple work done in their behalf.

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Feb 08

No, there have not been 30 talks about child abuse in General Conference since 1976

The Mormon Newsroom article on child abuse from 2010 that was recently published with a 2016 date (because of a “technical error”) includes the following claim, as evidence of how seriously the Church takes child abuse:

Since 1976, more than 50 articles have appeared in Church publications condemning child abuse or educating members about it. As wrenching as the topic is, Church leaders have given sermons about it more than 30 times at the Church’s worldwide conferences.

I spend a fair amount of time poking through old General Conference talks, and this latter number—30 sermons about child abuse—seemed high to me. So I thought I would check it.

I used the lds.org search tool to search for “child abuse” (without the quotation marks), and limited the results to General Conference talks. The search doesn’t require the words to appear together, so I was casting a pretty wide net, not just looking for talks that had the exact phrase “child abuse.” In fact, I ended up having to discard a bunch of talks in the results because they never discussed child abuse even though they included both words (frequently they talked about drug abuse and mentioned a child in another context).

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Jan 05

Your Favorite ZD Posts

We launched Zelophehad’s Daughters in January of 2006, so it’s ten years old this month. A decade! There are a lot of older blogs on the Bloggernacle, but I’m still kind of amazed by this. I don’t think I would have guessed when we started that we would continue for this long.

To celebrate our tenth birthday, I looked back at our posts that generated the most traffic. Here is a list of the highest-traffic1 post by each person who has blogged here regularly.

Apame: It wasn’t about pants…but then it became about pants. And that’s why I’m wearing pants.
Beatrice: Another Conversation Stopper
The Bouncer: LDS Church Leadership Agrees to Meet with Kate Kelly
Elbereth: The Five Universal Truths of Road Trips
Eve: Don’t Be My Ally*
Galdralag: For Kate
Katya: How EFY Promotes Immodesty
Kiskilili: If A Woman Strips Naked in a Forest and No One Sees Her, Is She Still Pornography?
Lynnette: Church Discourse on Homosexuality
Melyngoch: Seven Modest Outfits from the Golden Globes
Mike C: The More Things Change…
Pandora: Dona Nobis Aequalitatem
Petra: I Loved to See the Temple
Seraphine: Being a 30-something Single in the Church: Part V, the Law of Chastity
Vada: I Hate Breastfeeding
Ziff: Church President Probability Changes with President Packer’s Death

Of course traffic is far from a perfect measure of what posts are most enjoyed. If you like, please feel free to share your favorite ZD posts in the comments.

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1. I took data from our StatCounter plugin and subtracted out the traffic numbers for days close in time that had zero posts, so that kind of adjusts for the general traffic level at the time. We just have a free StatCounter account, so I didn’t have traffic by post page, so I just used total traffic on the day a post was written and also attributed to it some fraction of traffic for the next few days, but less if there was also a new post up in the next few days. Really, this is just for fun, so you probably don’t much care too much about my method. 🙂

Jan 03

Nacle Notebook 2015: Funny comments

This post is my annual compilation of the funniest comments I read on the Bloggernacle last year. In case you missed them, here are my compilations from previous years: 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008.

Most of the comments I’m quoting here are excerpted from longer comments (or posts). I’ve made the name of each person being quoted a link so you can always click through and read the entire comment or post. The comments are in roughly chronological order.

Jacob Baker, in his post “Some Choice Mormon Top Ten Lists for 2014” at Rational Faiths:

Top Ten American Mormon Baby Names of 2014:

1. Shaylayleigh
2. Chassisty
3. Sarahemla
4. Zaxtaidentavindyllen
5. Seelestyal Keengduhm
6. Nephisam
7. Lynnlynn
8. Einrand
9. Romneigh
10. Obeedyentt

Honorable Mentions: Wellbeehayved, Moremann, P’rleigh, Traceigh, Leighleigh, RULDS2

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Dec 04

Types of Smoothies Quiz

 

Match each smoothie type with its definition.

Smoothie Type Definition
TK Smoothie What you call it when someone gives you a coupon for a free blended fruit drink, but the coupon has already expired
OK Smoothie A blended fruit drink given to attendees of a particular comedy show
JK Smoothie A blended fruit drink passed out by NRA lobbyists to the congresspeople they own rent lobby, both as a reminder of the usefulness of their products, and as a threat
JFK Smoothie The blended fruit drink Lehi might make using only the fruit of the tree of life, rejecting any nonwhite fruit
KKK Smoothie A blended fruit drink business that has ceased striving for excellence and has embraced its mediocrity
AK(-47) Smoothie A blended fruit drink business run by two families with long Mormon histories: the Tanners and the Kimballs
CK Smoothie What you get when you pay for your blended fruit drink with pounds rather than dollars,  euros, or yen
UK Smoothie A blended fruit drink you get at the airport in New York when your flight was diverted from LaGuardia
Nov 17

Church Leaders Can Choose Their Actions, Not the Consequences

The For the Strength of Youth booklet makes a good point about agency:

While you are free to choose your course of action, you are not free to choose the consequences. Whether for good or bad, consequences follow as a natural result of the choices you make.

There have been a couple of notable instances recently of Church leaders appearing to not believe in this connection between their own choices and consequences of those choices.

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Nov 11

Top 12 Handbook Policies You Must Have a Testimony Of!

  1. Church members should not seek the autographs of General Authorities or Area Seventies, including signing in their scriptures, hymnals, or programs. (link)
  2. The Church’s official logotype . . . . may not be used as a decorative element or a computer screen saver. (link)
  3. Using the piano and organ at the same time is not standard for Church meetings. (link)
  4. Church parking lots should not be used for commuter parking without permission from the director for temporal affairs. (link)
  5. Members should not participate in hypnosis for purposes of demonstration or entertainment. (link)
  6. The priesthood music director recommends and conducts the hymns for the opening exercises of priesthood meetings. (link)
  7. Artwork in meetinghouses should be properly framed. (link)
  8. Members may not direct the antenna [of a church satellite dish] from one satellite or transponder to another without authorization from Church headquarters. (link)
  9. The Church strongly discourages the donation of sperm. (link)
  10. In the United States and some other countries, it is a violation of postal regulations to place any material without postage in or on mailboxes. This restriction applies to ward or stake newsletters, announcements, flyers, and other Church-related materials. Church leaders should instruct members and missionaries not to place such items in or on mailboxes. (link)
  11. If needed, the stake presidency may call a brother to serve as stake Sunday School secretary. (link)
  12. In extreme situations, local leaders may cancel Sunday meetings. (link)
Nov 06

“Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled”

On the Mormons and Gays website, Elder Cook is quoted as saying this:

“As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.”

That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, talk is cheap. Especially when you make policies like excommunicating gay members for getting married, and barring their children from being blessed or baptized. Then that kind of stamps baloney on all the nice and conciliatory things you might have said.

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Nov 05

Follow the Members

Where do ordinary Church members’ beliefs diverge from General Authorities’ beliefs? I think this is an interesting question that the latest Pew report on American religious belief and behavior can at least hint at some answers to. Of course the report only tells us about American Mormons, and it’s not a terribly big Mormon sample, but still, it’s fun to speculate using its results. I looked through the report and pulled out questions where I thought the responses for Mormons would be most out of line with the results you would get if you put the same questions to GAs. In this table, I also offer my guess as to whether the percentage for GAs would be higher or lower.

Item American Mormons GA
Absolutely certain about belief in God 87% Higher
Scriptures should be taken literally. 32% Higher
There are clear and absolute standards for what is right and wrong. 58% Higher
Abortion should be legal in all or most cases. 26% Lower
Homosexuality should be accepted by society. 36% Lower
Favor or strongly favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry 25% Lower
Having more women in the workforce has been a change for the better. 49% Lower
Humans evolved over time. 42% Lower
Republican/lean Republican 71% Higher
Describe political views as conservative 61% Higher

Note: Percentages are taken from the “Latter-day Saints” lines in the tables in Appendix C, except for the question about women in the workforce, which is taken from the “Mormon” line in a table in Chapter 4 (where there is no separate “Latter-day Saints” line).

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Nov 02

“Latter-day Saints . . . do not pray to Heavenly Mother.”

The Church’s new gospel topics essay on Mother in Heaven says the following:

Latter-day Saints direct their worship to Heavenly Father, in the name of Christ, and do not pray to Heavenly Mother.

I think it’s interesting that this is a descriptive statement and not a prescriptive one. It doesn’t say that we should not pray or must not pray to Heavenly Mother. It doesn’t say that if we pray to Heavenly Mother, we’ll face Church discipline. It just says that we do not pray to her.

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Oct 20

I’m a Mormon Apostle

The Church PR department’s “I’m a Mormon” campaign, which highlighted the diversity of Church membership, generated a lot of buzz. Inside information has it that the PR department is now working on a similar campaign that turns the spotlight on members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Here are their profiles.

monsonMy name is Thomas. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was raised in Utah. I got a business degree at the University of Utah and an MBA at BYU. I served in the US Naval Reserve. In my career, I was a business professor and a newspaper executive. I am a widower. My deceased wife and I are the parents of three children. And I’m a Mormon apostle.

 

 

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Oct 11

Predicting Who Will Be Church President (Updated with new Q15 members!)

Knowing that three new members of the Q15 were going to be called at the same time this Conference, I was interested not only in who would be called, but also in how old the new members would be. The Quorum is old: its youngest member going into Conference was Elder Bednar at 63. If a whippersnapper the age of Elder Bednar at the time of his calling (52) or Elder Oaks at the time of his (51) had been called, such a person would have entered the Quorum with a very high probability from day one of eventually becoming Church President.

But, as we’ve seen, no whippersnappers were called. Elder Rasband is 64; Elder Stevenson is 60; Elder Renlund is 62. Elder Bednar did finally lose his position as youngest man in the Q15 to Elder Stevenson, though. He had held this title since he was called over a decade ago.

Here’s an updated look at probabilities of becoming Church President for each Q15 member.

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