I recently finished an excellent book providing a pop-science level understanding of the experiments surrounding the bizarre fact that very small objects are neither particles nor waves, or they’re both, or, you know, something.
So the announcement that youth would rotate up in each January came as a surprise to a lot of people. Here are my first thoughts on the matter: I have heard more concern expressed recently that children in Senior Primary needed to be getting more attention than they were. This pushes the eldest part of that group into the youth organization and under the eyes of the Bishopric and mutual leaders.
We are delighted to welcome guest blogger Chad Nielsen to Times and Seasons. Chad’s three great intellectual passions in life are science, history/religious studies, and music. He has pursued a career in biotechnology, but maintains an active interest in both of his other passions on the side. Chad is a four-time winning contestant in the Arrington Writing Award competition held at Utah State University for his essays on Mormon history and has presented at the Logan Institute of Religion scholar’s forum and the annual meeting of the Society of Mormon Philosophy and Theology. He is a faithful Latter-day Saint who has served in a variety of music, teaching, and clerical callings at his church, but is also involved in the local Presbyterian church’s music ministry as a part of their English bell choir. Welcome!
One week before general conference I got up in High Priest Group and conducted the meeting for the first time. We’d moved into the ward six months ago and I’d just been called as the new group leader. Sunday the Stake Presidency called me in and officially released me. We all thought it was pretty funny. No one seemed to be bothered by the fact that a calling we’d expected to last for some time was over so soon. Certainly that calling and a couple weeks in it taught me something. Perhaps it even helped somebody else. What looks like a bizarre flight path on a two dimensional map can look very natural in three dimensions. What seems strange to us is obvious to God. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
A recent leak revealed what appears to be an old scale for evaluating potential BYU students. Basically, you take 10*GPA + ACT and then add points for stuff, like being from outside the West or taking AP classes. The most one could possibly get is 100 points, but this would require being… rather unique. There was some excitement because, although this no longer is true, at the time BYU gave 1 point for being male, presumably to try and bring the gender balance closer to equality.
We’re delighted to welcome Clark Goble back to T&S! Clark grew up in Canada in that part that appears like a strange looking foot extending south and east of Maine. There in the city of Halifax he watched the church grow from a small branch into numerous wards eventually even getting a temple. His father taught physics there which must have been addictive since both Clark and his brother studied physics as well. Clark always dreamt of going on a foreign mission and prayed that this would be so. He soon realized that God both had a sense of humor and that it was tied to overly literal interpretations of prayers when he was sent from Canada to Louisiana. Upon returning to BYU Clark decided he had a masochistic streak and studied mathematics, physics and philosophy until being informed by numerous letters that he had far too many credits to be allowed to continue at BYU. During this era Clark was part of the initial burst of discussion in mailing lists. He was on the original Eyring-L discussing science and religion, Morm-Ant discussing Mormonism and antiquities including the Book of Mormon, and Mormon-L a more social and quasi-politically oriented list. After a few years he left Mormon-L as its tone changed. He ended up running the Eyring-L and Morm-Ant mailing lists for a few years until passing the reigns. He was one of the early members of the LDS-Phil mailing…
I very much enjoyed Elder Renlund’s comments on entitlement. First, because he made clear one of the reasons why we should be very conscientious about how we give help. It affects the receiver’s spiritual progression. Second, the King Benjamin-esque tie-in to all of us who, like any Church welfare recipient, are beggars before God. Lastly, because while he laid into bad attitudes, whining, and murmuring, his central story was about someone missing the sacrament. A story whose happy ending relied upon a saint telling the Branch President, one hopes charitably, that a priesthood holder, a deacon in this case, made a mistake in performing his calling. And a Branch President who took care to see that mistake corrected. Because people do make mistakes. I think there was an implicit lesson, secondary to the main one about the Sacrament and the Savior, that we can and should give leaders information to help them correct mistakes. We just need to do it with the right attitude. “Don’t be whiners” does not mean “never speak up”. It means speak up with humility and charity and for the right reasons. Keeping all this in mind would probably help ease a lot of the friction for people who feel that leaders don’t listen to them. Or for those leaders who (incorrectly) think they should not be ever told about their potential mistakes. And nobody should feel entitled. Because that makes you act like a jerk.
Saturday Morning conference referenced how Samuel was unsure that Saul was the right man to lead Israel. With the benefits of hindsight, one indeed wonders about the choice. Saul, in the end, had some serious problems as King. Does God call people knowing that they will, to a significant degree, fail? Yes, I think he does. I think he does it all the time. Yet sometimes I think people see someone called to a calling and, if it does not work out well, they question if the calling was inspired. Now, I don’t think that all callings are perfect. But nor do I think that just because things don’t work out storybook perfect does it mean the calling was not inspired. And to layer it on, I think a calling can be inspired even if God knows the person will not accept it. I even think a calling can be inspired even if the person shouldn’t accept it. A calling, even one not accepted, can do something for a person or get them thinking about something God wants them to think about. He is playing the long game, after all.
Far and away, when I am in a small group and decisions need to be made, most people would prefer that someone else make them. There are notable, and loud, exceptions. Four year olds, for example, very much want to make decisions. But for most adults, I’ve found that the majority typically prefer that someone else ponied up and decided where we go to eat or in what order things will occur. This is because, one presumes, they are not so concerned about the exact decision making them happy. They are generally willing to go along with most reasonable things. Let me stop and remind you that this is my general experience. Perhaps you live in a world of sharp elbows and loud demands. Perhaps you teach fourth graders or lawyers or interact regularly in some other highly vocal and demanding group. Or maybe you make lots of high stakes decisions on a regular basis where people care deeply about the outcome. But let’s set those aside for a minute and talk about the endless low stakes decisions of day to day living. In such relaxed groups, it can be very handy to declare that some specific person will make the decision. It is not quite as important who that is, and they should, of course, consider the feelings of others, but they are the one who makes sure something gets decided; usually by agreeing with a consensus view or deciding between…
In statistics, a popular approach is to think of the statistician as having a set of views (“priors” or “prior distributions”) that are based on past evidence and when new evidence comes in, one integrates that information in and forms a new set of beliefs (“update your priors”). So, for example, if I think I am brilliant in math, a series of poor math test grades even after studying might convince me to reassess that belief. Alternately, I could stick with my priors and treat the new evidence as flawed or not informative because I am mad or upset. This is especially applicable on days when new, perhaps startling or emotional, information comes out and everyone, or at least a bunch of bloggers, jump in to say what they think is really going on. In many cases I think they are largely working off their priors, rather than off the new information. In light of that, it is often best to avoid making strong claims about who did what and why when so little is known. One should not presume motives are fully understood when there may have simply been a miscommunication or just standard human error. One should be charitable when filling in the blanks. Especially when most things are blanks.
We’ve all been set up for failure. Consider the plan: go to Earth and obey the commandments. How likely is that to turn out well? Add in that part with Adam, Eve, and the fruit and I think it is pretty clear that this was a set up to force us to… turn to God. Failure makes us humble. Repentance changes our hearts. Which is the goal: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. So when someone complains about a standard being too high or that we are setting people up for failure by expecting things like chastity, honesty, modesty, tithing or whatever else. Well, they may be right. Failure, after all, was part of the plan. (this post owes debts to, but no has no claims on, Nathaniel’s post here and the fireside speaker in my ward last week).
Last week, as the PC market faced DOOM!, Dell had a potential buyer, Blackstone, back out. While that was not particularly interesting to me, what happened next was. Another investor, Oakmark Funds, sold their 24.5 million Dell shares. To quote: A “potential acquirer with access to non-public information decided to end its quest to acquire Dell at a higher price. Since they had information we didn’t, we believed it was prudent to assume they might be right. So we sold our stock and will put the proceeds into other stocks that we are more confident are undervalued,” said Bill Nygren, co-portfolio manager of the Oakmark Fund… Blackstone, in their private dealings with Dell, likely saw things that Oakmark could not. And what Blackstone saw freaked Blackstone out. Oakmark took that as a signal that now was a good time to not own 1.4% of Dell. This is a great example of a person recognizing his own ignorance and then leveraging the fact that, even though he doesn’t know all he’d like, he knows a person who does know more. So he follows that person. Given that we want to do what God wants us to, but we don’t actually know how to do that very well, a pretty good chunk of the Church is tied up in giving us information on how to do that. Hence, prophets, prayer, scriptures, parents, etc. A few comments: (1) Is that “blind obedience”? Not…
… should not get ordained to the priesthood. I know that reasonable chairs can disagree, but as Frank’s easy chair, I know what to expect once women are ordained. Frank is going to spend a lot more time sitting on me. Probably asleep. Sure, it will start with a little story time to the kids, but the end is both obvious and predictable. Naptime. Admittedly, I have a steel reinforced frame and ample cushioning, but Frank is not a light guy. Nor, to put it frankly, is he getting any lighter as the years pass. So if you care about more than just people and consider all the world’s marvels, please don’t forget us — the oppressed easy chairs of the world. The downtrodden. Keep Frank off of me. And that will be a fantastic step forward for the community, and a cause to rejoice. Hi, I’m Frank’s easy chair and I have no idea what the Church should do about priesthood ordination, but I’m pretty sure that ordaining women is going to make my life worse.
We are delighted to welcome Maren Mecham as a guest for the next couple weeks. Maren Mecham is a native Northern Virginian, earned her BFA from BYU and was a photographer for the church before moving to Palo Alto, CA, where she produced portraits and computer graphics. She has lived in the East, Northeast, Midwest, Intermountain West, California, Norway, Egypt and Turkey. She is married to a Middle East political scientist who is a professor in Vermont, but they temporarily live in Virginia while he is on sabbatical and is working in DC. She is raising 2 girls and 2 boys. Her personal blog is at http://thirtymarens.blogspot.com and her photography can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/by_maren/. Welcome!
As we all know, the gospel is overrun with economic doctrine. On that note, I noticed a quote about free riding from President Monson (which I just saw at Mormon Times): “I am confident it is the intention of each member of the church to serve and to help those in need,” he said. “At baptism we covenanted to ‘bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.’ How many times has your heart been touched as you have witnessed the need of another? How often have you intended to be the one to help? And yet how often has day-to-day living interfered and you’ve left it for others to help, feeling that ‘Oh, surely someone will take care of that need.’” Under reasonable assumptions it is not hard to show that if people only give out of an altruistic desire to see others better off, and they have no personal gain (emotional or otherwise) from being the giver, than most people will free ride and leave the giving to the very rich (who have nothing better to do with their money). Since this doesn’t happen as much as that theory suggests, a likely cause is that givers are those who perceive some individual gain from giving — either because it makes them feel good or, as King Benjamin pointed out, it was essential to their salvation. Thus “pure altruists”, as defined by those who have no personal gain from…
Utah is not part of the Midwest. Idaho is also out. That is all.
Kaimi put up a sidebar link to a NYT piece on parenting. It had an interesting quote: “Fathers tend to do things differently, Dr. Kyle Pruett said, but not in ways that are worse for the children. Fathers do not mother, they father.”
So Slate keeps track of who it considers the most powerful octogenarians and President Monson tops the list. If ever there was a list where Mormons could shine that did not have to do with singing and dancing I guess it makes sense that it would be “powerful old men”. To loosely paraphrase President Hinckley, isn’t it wonderful to have somebody in there with decades of experience who is not moved about by every wind of doctrine?