Unlikely Announcements I Wish The Prophet Would Make At General Conference

[Disclaimer: Let me make this clear, this is not a list of demands. I am not creating a petition to change core principles of the LDS doctrine. I do not feel oppressed or upset at the Church in any way. (And I don't want to be excommunicated.) This is simply a list of ideas that I believe would allow the LDS Church to progress in the world without being of it.]

I thought about starting this blog with some intro about how crazy it was in 2012 when President Monson changed the age limitations regarding missionaries. I was going to mention how the policy change caused a flood of new missionaries to enter into the mission field, including female missionaries that might not have gone if they had to wait until age 21. Then I probably would have given some testimony about how that example shows that revelation still exists in the world and how policies can be changed to allow the work of God to go forth. Then I probably would have started crying. And then I might have lost my train of thought and started rambling on about nonsense in a seemingly foreign tongue for the next 15 minutes before I closed with an “amen”. Luckily for you, I decided to save that for Testimony meeting this Sunday and just get straight to my list.

So, without further delay, here is my list of unlikely announcements that I wish the Prophet would make at General Conference:

Sister missionaries no longer have to arbitrarily wait until age 19 to leave on a mission.

It never bothered me before that women had to wait longer than men to leave on their missions. Growing up in the church, I always thought it was commonly (even if inaccurately) understood that there were two major reasons why sisters had to wait until age 21: First, sisters weren’t obligated to go on missions and the extra time subtly encouraged sisters to get married to returned missionaries and start families earlier, and second, the church authorities didn’t want Elders and Sisters to be the same age in the mission field which might increase the likelihood of them possibly “hooking up” before their mission ended.

However, the new age limits for Elders and Sisters (18 and 19 respectively) completely shattered that conventional thinking. So why are sisters still required to wait an extra year before they leave on their missions? It’s obviously not a matter of maturity. It’s common knowledge that women mature much earlier than men (some studies say as much as 11 years earlier).

Rather than speculate the logic behind the current age restrictions, let me give you a few reasons why I believe that sisters should leave at 18:

  • Gender equality. If there’s no reason to keep women back, then don’t.
  • Schooling. In a situation where a sister leaves at 19 (assuming a complete year after high school graduation), one result is she might get some school in before she leaves. However, that creates a year and a half gap in the middle of her studies. This happened to me and it wasn’t the worst thing, but it wasn’t exactly preferable either. (Calculus is not like riding a bike.) If the sister chooses to wait until after her mission to start school then she won’t be starting until she is almost 21 which makes it a three year gap since she last stepped into a classroom.
  • More missionaries. If you think that a lot of sisters are going on missions now, imagine if you just completely cut out the extra year of them getting snatched up by returned missionaries at the Wilk. Actually, that’s a great segue to my next point.
  • Reduced teen marriages and pregnancies. Yes, I just said earlier in my post that women mature earlier than men, but that doesn’t mean that they are ready to get married and start having babies by age 18. I already know I’m going to offend a lot of people by saying that so I will just leave it with this:

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have made it possible for scientists to watch the rate at which the PFC matures, and have discovered the male brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25. Meanwhile, women experience a maturity rate of 21 years-old.

Sisters have the option to meet with RS Presidents for their worthiness interviews

I can’t imagine how awkward it would be to disclose any of my personal worthiness issues to a member of the opposite sex, let alone all of them. I’ve been married long enough to know this: men don’t understand women. So why aren’t we allowing women to exercise the priesthood to perform the tasks that men just can’t do.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, that sounds like apostasy to me. Are you saying that women should have the Priesthood? I thought you said you didn’t want to be excommunicated?!”(See disclaimer at top of page)

Ok, before you start throwing stones at me, think back to what Elder Oaks said in the last General Conference. Women already have the Priesthood. Here is his quote from President Joseph Fielding Smith,

While the sisters have not been given the Priesthood, it has not been conferred upon them, that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority… A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the House of the Lord.

Doesn’t it make sense that a women should have the option to meet with the RS president for her worthiness and temple recommend interviews? Even if the RS President still had to just report back to the bishop who ultimately signed the paper, I can’t imagine that this wouldn’t be like a million times more comfortable for everyone.

The Church block is only two and a half hours long

Admittedly, this is a selfish request. But three hours with a 16 month-old is brutal. She’s still too young for nursery and she’s way too old to sit still. Instead, my wife and I take turns running around the halls for three hours. Reducing that by thirty minutes would be extremely helpful. Here’s what I could consider to be a realistic block schedule:

  • Sacrament Mtg: 55 minutes. We can reduce 5 minutes if we just forego the intermittent hymn (10 minutes the hymn happens to be all verses of If You Could Hie to Kolob). We can also shave off another five minutes by reducing each adult speaker’s talk assignment from ten minutes to seven and a half.
  • Sunday School: 45 minutes. (Which actually makes it closer to 20 minutes by the time everyone strolls in after chatting in the hall after Sacrament meeting.)
  • Priesthood/RS: 45 minutes. I don’t know about RS, but every Ward I have ever attended spends about 15 minutes in Priesthood meeting going over announcements and then another 5-10 minutes in the quorum rehashing those same announcements. We could save twenty minutes by sending out a ward email with announcements and getting straight to the lesson. Coincidentally, my ward does both meeting announcements and an email which leads me to wonder, “why are we wasting so much time with announcements?”
  • That still leaves an extra five minutes for baby blessings, confirmations, and windy high council speakers.

And finally, the obligatory wishful-thinking announcement:
Chocolate milk in the drinking fountains, Twinkies instead of bread for Sacrament, and padded seats for everyone.

What are some (preferably non-blasphemous) announcements that you wish you would hear in General Conference next week? Post them in the comments below.

Why Are We All Dumping Buckets of Ice Water On Our Heads?

ice-bucket-challenge-tw-user-coverA few days ago, my wife and I had a discussion about the ice bucket challenge. We thought it was funny that so many people were doing it, but I couldn’t really comprehend how dumping a bucket of ice water on your head was supposed to help find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease. Naturally, the cynical side of me laughed when I saw the following meme start to circulate around FaceBook.

photo 2

That being said, I could see that the challenge was obviously raising awareness of ALS. I even found myself Googling about the disease so I could try to sound slightly intelligent when the topic inevitably came up around friends.

[Let me save you the trouble: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. You can read more here]

Eventually my Googling also led me to this fun fact: As of August 20, the ALS Association has received $31.5 million in donations. According to the ALSA website, that’s almost a full $30 million more than last year during the same time period.

And then it dawned on me. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen celebrities, former presidents, CEOs, football teams, kids, and neighbors dumping buckets over their heads, but what we haven’t seen is that many (if not most) of the same people pouring ice water on themselves are also opening their wallets for the cause.

photo 1

But what is it about the ice bucket challenge that has drawn so much attention and participation? In order to make sense of the virality of the ice bucket challenge, I decided to break down the reasons why I believe it is so popular:

  • First, the ice bucket challenge is funny. We all want to see videos of our friends getting cold water dumped over their heads. This is why the challenge had already been circulating across social media prior to its adoption by the ALSA.
  • Second, the ice bucket challenge is easy. You don’t have to have an amazing camera or a lot of props à la Bill Gates. All you need is a phone and a bucket of ice water. There’s literally no excuse not to do it if you’ve been challenged. It’s not like we’re challenging each other to run a marathon. (Now there’s an idea…)
  • Third, the ice bucket challenge applies the right amount of peer pressure. We all succumb to it, celebrities included. It’s the same reason why most of us stuck our tongue to a frozen pole when we were younger. It’s the reason why some of us still stick our tongue to the flag pole every winter. (And just in case you think you’re too cool for the ice bucket challenge, I triple dog dare you to do it.)
  • Fourth, the ALS ice bucket challenge has an amazing origin story. Sure people were already dumping water on their heads long before ALS adopted it, but how could you not want to participate after watching SportsCenter’s segment on Pete Frates. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it here and then go dump another bucket over your head.
  • Fifth, the ice bucket challenge is a call to action. We can’t all be scientists, but we can all fill up buckets with ice and water and dump them over our heads. (Granted, some do it more gracefully than others…) The challenge is your way of showing your support. It’s how you contribute more than just money (although there’s plenty of money being contributed too). By playing along, you are giving up your comfort, a little of your time, and a lot of your compassion.
  • Sixth, the ice bucket challenge satisfies our need to share what we’re doing with friends on social media while still allowing us to be personal in our charitable giving. We want our friends in on the action. That’s why we post everything to FaceBook. But, charitable offerings is kind of a personal thing. Now we can have both. “Hey guys, I’m supporting ALS!” Hey self, I’m supporting ALS. It’s the best of both worlds.

[Side note: To the millions of unoriginal, snarky comments "concerned about the environment", I’m pretty sure the earth is going to be ok. If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t turn on my sprinklers this summer. My grass is dying, but all of the water I saved should make up for the thousands of people who have yet to participate and donate. You’re welcome.]

So, in closing, who cares if it’s gimmicky? This is your chance to participate in something great. A thread in a tapestry. Embrace it.

As proof of my participation, here’s my video (also be sure to check out my sweet farmer’s tan, Missouri style):

IceBucketChallenge

UPDATE: If you’re still wondering why we dump buckets of ice water on our head, then you should watch this (skip to the 2 minute mark):

ALS ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE – UNCENSORED & SEXY?

‘Don’t Kick Puppies’ and Other Noncontroversial Stuff

DSC_0008If you’re looking for a fight then you may as well pack up and go home. No controversy in this post. Sorry to disappoint.

[Side note: Ok, if you really need someone to detest then I'll throw you a bone. When I did my taxes, my accountant was surprised that I still pay on my student loans. He jokingly said, "I thought everyone was just defaulting on those things." His words, not mine. Can you believe the generalization and condescension?! If you need someone to hate then hate him. But he's really a good guy once you get to know him.]

When I started my blog, I wanted to make it a social experiment to see if someone with no blogging experience (me) could get really popular really fast. Answer: Yes. Well kind of. This last week I accidentally published a viral blog post that circulated around the LDS Church. (I purposely published it. It accidentally went viral.) The post had over 147K hits on Saturday alone despite almost an hour and a half of downtime due to server overload.

There were people who literally never left my site from Friday afternoon until I finally closed the comments late Saturday night. You know what I did on Saturday? I ate a hamburger at Red Robin and rented a red box with my wife and friends.

One lady who called herself “mom” really sticks out. I think she commented on almost every other person’s comment to promote her OW agenda and call me bad names. You know what she didn’t do? Thank me for giving her a platform to reach out to hundreds of thousands of people without censoring or removing any of her comments. (Similar to how I respectfully reserved the opinions and comments of everyone else.) I bet she would get more signatures if she passed around the manifesto clipboard in RS now. You’re welcome.

I really couldn’t win on either end of the pew. The Mormon blogosphere also labeled me a bully on timesandseasons.org. I’m not calling it self-serving, but it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for the lady who posted it (and who quoted me out of context) to promote her daughter’s anti-bullying video. (Which I saw and it was amazing. Here’s the link.)

We live in an interesting time. It sometimes almost feels like it is no longer “politically correct” to share your thoughts (even jokingly) unless your opinion represents and even promotes a minority group. (Perhaps it’s because we all grew up on Rocky movies. Small guy, good. Big guy, bad.) We have to be careful not to offend anyone.

For example, when someone says that saying the pledge of allegiance in schools infringes on his kid’s religious (or non-religious) rights, he gets unlimited news coverage. Meanwhile people who try to voice an opposing argument are labeled by the media and others as bigots and bullies. We see it happen all the time.

[Side note: the pledge of allegiance thing was just an example. No controversy in this post.]

Here’s the thing, I may come across as extremely opinionated in my posts, but it was always in good fun. I never even saw the movie Frozen. (Of course, that still doesn’t change my opinion that wellbehavedmormonwoman was a little “cray-cray” in her post.)

[Random full disclosure: I am Republican but I pray all the time for Obama. I want him to be happy and healthy and receive inspiration as he leads the country. Why would any American not want his/her leader to be successful? I would find no joy if he ruined our country. And I don't think he will. (Again, no controversy.)]

Given my laid back stance on it all (and the fact that I don’t get paid to do this which makes my thoughts worth even less than two cents), I think it’s best to leave the controversial stuff to the Glen Becks and Matt Walsh-i of the world. I think anyone who is actually reading this post should go ignite change by arguing amongst yourselves on their blogs.

It’s obviously too late, but it was never my intent to offend anyone. I  am sorry. My average blog post takes me about 35 minutes to write and I don’t always think about every angle while I type. I will be more careful about the things I joke about in the future. (And I will never write a blog about how to be a mom again.) I have even hired my social worker wife to proofread future posts and I have given her both editing and veto-ing power. I recognize that my blog may be really boring from now on. I am happy to go back to the 10 views per post life I once knew if that is the consequence.

As my first act in the glamorous, unpaid, noncontroversial world of personal blogging, I want to leave you with the least controversial piece of advice I can think of:

Don’t kick puppies.

[Whispered: I know I didn't say anything about cats but you probably shouldn't kick them either.]

Some LDS Women Want The Priesthood? Well LDS Men Have Some Requests Too

photoI would like to thank the New York Times for breaking a story yesterday that highlights one of the biggest problems in the LDS Church; i.e., gender inequality. The article talks about a group of about 1,300 women who signed a manifesto for female ordination. 1,300 signatures. That sounds like a lot. In fact, if I write the number out with all caps and bold it, then it sounds like even more signatures: THIRTEEN HUNDRED. Wow.

[Side note: Truthfully, it's probably about 1,249 more than the number of people will read this blog post. But my blog has less than 70 followers on FB and only 50 followers on BlogLovin. So getting 51 people to read this post would actually be really good.

Full disclosure: my number of blog readers was a little higher until I wrote my last post about moms not playing the victim. After a post like that, I was just happy to see that my house wasn't set on fire. It probably would have been if any of the 1,300 women who signed the manifesto would have read my blog.]

But what does 1,300 signatures really represent? For ease of math, let’s round the number up to 1,500. According to mormonnewsroom.org, there are 15,000,000 LDS members in the world. Some simple math (on a simple calculator) tells me that the 1500 signatures represent 0.01 percent of the Church. But, you might say, men shouldn’t be included in that calculation because they aren’t the ones who are being oppressed (at least not in terms of receiving the Priesthood). So, for arguments sake, let’s cut the number of members in half to represent the split between men and women. Crunch the numbers and we see that the number now becomes 0.02 percent.

In the spirit of fairness, I decided to look and see how a comparable petition would fair with the US Government. And it’s not terrible. There are 313.9 million people in the United States. According to petitions.whitehouse.gov, in order to cross the threshold and be reviewed, a petition must receive 100,000 signatures in the span of 30 days. Unfortunately 0.02 percent of the United States population only equates to 62,780 signatures. In other words, it was a valiant effort but this petition gets rejected. I’m not saying the petition system is perfect, but it doesn’t seem to miss the important ones; e.g., the petition to deport Justin Bieber that reached the threshold in January of this year.

Other than the fact that Obama wouldn’t care (see what I did there?), we now know that these women only represent a small (dare I say teeny) portion of Latter-Day Saints. Loud? Yes. But small just the same. Doesn’t this make you wonder why the New York Times cares about a petition that doesn’t have enough signatures to make it to paper in the US Government? Let’s save that topic for another day. (Believe me, I have lots to say about the media targeting Latter Day Saints. Like, why is every other episode of DateLine about a Mormon who murdered his spouse or defrauded his entire congregation? Does that really only happen in Utah?)

So I propose that instead of focusing on such a bitty group of loud individuals, we should really start to consider the needs of the quiet majority. I’m talking about men. I believe that there is some gender inequality in the Church. But I don’t think it’s a one-way street. So I’m starting a list of requests that we, men, have all noticed, but until now, have been quiet about. (If you have any to add, then put them in the comment section)

  • How come there’s a mother’s lounge but not a father’s lounge? Women get to nurse and feed their baby in a dark, quiet room while fathers have to walk around the Church looking for an empty classroom or use the “stand-and-sway” method to put babies to sleep. Even if we find an unused classroom, we don’t have the rocking chair.
  • We want padded seats in our meeting room too. Do you know what men have? We have cold, hard, metal chairs. Are not all bottoms created equal?!
  • Male enrichment night. After we graduate from scouting, we get one, maybe two, activities a year for men. (Typically a shooting guns activity with BBQ.) But we want monthly activities like the women. Let’s even up those budgets a little huh.
  • Nursery for Elder’s quorum events. Women get the youth to babysit when they have an activity, but it’s expected that men should go to an activity without help. Do you just assume that our wives are always available to watch the kids when we have an activity? On the flipside, are you saying that men are incapable of watching the kids when the women are away to their activities? Either way, it sounds oppressive.
  • We want a nice table and podium in our room. Sure, we’re not known for our table decor when it comes to Sunday lessons, but we couldn’t even if we wanted to. We only have a small table with skinny legs. How am I supposed to display my tackle box and Singing Bass wall mount in style when I give my “fishers of men” lesson?
  • Finally, I want to propose an every-other-move ordinance where the Elders Quorum and the RS split all of the new move-ins and move-outs in the Ward. Your argument: men are stronger and can lift more. My counter-argument: women are more likely to show up and “many hands make light work.”

Again, I would like to thank the New York Times for pointing out the gender inequality in our Church. We have a long way to go, but I believe we can get there. One padded seat at a time.

[Update: There is no way to respond to all of the comments that have been made on my blog. But I would if I could. If I had the time, I would respond to all of you, including the person that said that this is the dumbest post that he has read in months. (To which I would reply, "You must have read a really, really dumb post a few months ago.")

I just wanted to say one thing. I realize that my post is dismissive to the topic of female ordination without showing any empathy. Sometimes feelings get hurt when a person tries to be funny about a topic that is dear to the hearts of others. The ironic part is that I was purposely avoiding discussing my opinions about the Ordain Women movement because I didn't want to say anything that would offend anyone. I do not promote blind obedience. Those women have every right to ask for the priesthood or whatever else they want. And we all have to accept the answer that is given. Whether it be yes or no. Let it be known that I would never encourage you to leave the Church because you feel oppressed. Let's be constructive and figure out what we can do if priesthood isn't an option. (Aside: I was a ward executive secretary once. I had to be at Church from 6AM to late evening on some Sundays. It was awful. I would have gladly given that to anyone who wanted it.)

One thing that I have definitely learned from all of your feedback is that there isn't really a forum where we feel like we can civilly express our differences of opinions concerning this or anything else. Hence all of the comments on my blog. (Anonymity probably helps.) So, by all means, continue to comment. I won't close my comment section even though some of you have called me a moron, an obnoxious a**hole, and other names. In the spirit of Stephen R. Covey's 8th Habit, I encourage you to express your voice. Continue to be respectful to each other even if not to me.** As for myself, I probably won't say much more about it because it kind of feels like beating a dead horse. (Crap, now everyone thinks I promote the beating of dead horses.)

PS: You can always move your debates to twitter. #datelinesucks

** Sorry Brother Covey. (RIP) There's just too much hate for this conversation to ever be productive.

Are you still reading this?  You should really read this.]