Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just one day too late...

Arrgh! Of course this would happen. On the day after my birthday, Cake Wrecks posts the picture of the most perfect cake ever! Oh well... I'm totally getting this next year:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bad touch! Bad touch!

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, turkeys are finalizing their wills, and pancreata across the country are training hard for the extended insulin production necessary to keep Uncle Bob and Aunt Jane from collapsing into their green-bean casserole in a diabetic coma.

However, packing a suitcase and making sure not to forget your photo id are not adequate preparation anymore. Travelers need to get geared up mentally, because this year, courtesy of Uncle Sam, we all get to play a psychologically-scarring round of Violation or No Vacation!

In honor of this newest Thanksgiving tradition, a friend sent me a list of suggested slogans for the TSA to adopt. I'm posting them here in order to provide something to distract you from that most terrible of realizations: "Hey, there's a fist in my cornucopia!" So break out the Vaseline and latex gloves, kids, because it's time for a full cavity search!

We've handled more balls than Barney Frank.

Can't see London, can't see France, unless we see your underpants.

Grope discounts available.

If we did our job any better, we'd have to buy you dinner first.

Only we know if Lady Gaga is really a lady.

Don't worry, my hands are still warm from the last guy.

Throw a few back at the airport Chili's and you won't even notice.

Wanna fly? Drop your fly.

We are now free to move about your pants.

We rub you the wrong way, so you can be on your way.

It's not a grope. It's a freedom pat.

When in doubt, we make you whip it out.

TSA: Touchin', Squeezin', Arrestin'.

You were a virgin.

We handle more packages than the USPS.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Something Wonderful

From Northumbrian Sequence, by Kathleen Raine––


Let in the wind
Let in the rain
Let in the moors tonight.

The storm beats on my window-pane,
Night stands at my bed-foot,
Let in the fear,
Let in the pain,
Let in the trees that toss and groan,
Let in the north tonight.

Let in the nameless formless power
That beats upon my door,
Let in the ice, let in the snow,
The banshee howling on the moor,
The bracken-bush on the bleak hillside,
Let in the dead tonight.

The whistling ghost behind the dyke,
The dead that rot in mire,
Let in the thronging ancestors
The unfulfilled desire,
Let in the wraith of the dead earl,
Let in the unborn tonight.

Let in the cold,
Let in the wet,
Let in the loneliness,
Let in the quick,
Let in the dead,
Let in the unpeopled skies.

Oh how can virgin fingers weave
A covering for the void,
How can my fearful heart conceive
Gigantic solitude?
How can a house so small contain
A company so great?
Let in the dark,
Let in the dead,
Let in your love tonight.

Let in the snow that numbs the grave,
Let in the acorn-tree,
The mountain stream and mountain stone,
Let in the bitter sea.

Fearful is my virgin heart
And frail my virgin form,
And must I then take pity on
The raging of the storm
That rose up from the great abyss
Before the earth was made,
That pours the stars in cataracts
And shakes this violent world?

Let in the fire,
Let in the power,
Let in the invading might.

Gentle must my fingers be
And pitiful my heart
Since I must bind in human form
A living power so great,
A living impulse great and wild
That cries about my house
With all the violence of desire
Desiring this my peace.

Pitiful my heart must hold
The lonely stars at rest,
Have pity on the raven's cry
The torrent and the eagle's wing,
The icy water of the tarn
And on the biting blast.

Let in the wound,
Let in the pain,
Let in your child tonight.


A (very) few thoughts: Raine is clearly showing the influence of Yeats here. The temptation to read this as some stream-of-consciousness rambling must be resisted, as there are significant signs of careful construction: the progression of thought, the subtle rhyming, etc. (Note, for instance, the rhymes of the first three lines and the last.) I think "pours the stars in cataracts" is particularly fine. It bears multiple readings, but in this section––considered alone––it is impossible not to hear the voice of the post-annunciation Mary.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Shifting sands...

There has been a lot of buzz recently surrounding the new soon-to-be-released-(but-already-leaked) CHI. Having had an opportunity to peruse some of its contents already, I can confirm that––just like every other edition of the CHI––the book is mostly boring. Of course it is. For those who are interested, there are already several posts in the bloggernacle detailing differences between the forthcoming edition and the previous one (promulgated in 2006) on subjects such as priesthood blessings, homosexuality, and the new prohibition on playing Uno. (The post from that last link is so many kinds of awesome.)

The post from Wheat and Tares (linked above under "priesthood blessings") was something of a catalyst for me, mentally, spurring a crystallization of a few previously unconnected thoughts. In short, I think we may be watching a subtle, but significant shift occurring in LDS theology.

Let's begin by first reviewing the pertinent changes to the CHI:

Brethren who perform ordinances and blessings should prepare themselves by living worthily and striving to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
A priesthood leader who oversees an ordinance or blessing ensures that the person who performs it has the necessary priesthood authority, is worthy, and knows and follows the proper procedures.
Only brethren who hold the necessary priesthood and are worthy may perform an ordinance or blessing or stand in the circle.
Leaders encourage worthy fathers who hold the necessary priesthood to perform or participate in ordinances and blessings for their own children [29, 2006 CHI].
Only a Melchizedek Priesthood holder who is worthy to hold a temple recommend may act as voice in confirming a person a member of the church, conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood, ordaining a person to an office in that priesthood, or setting apart a person to serve in a church calling.

As guided by the Spirit and the instructions of the next paragraph, bishops and stake presidents have the discretion to allow priesthood holders who are not fully temple worthy to perform or participate in some ordinances and blessings. However, presiding officers should not allow such participation if a priesthood holder has unresolved serious sins.

A bishop may allow a father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood to name and bless his children even if the father is not fully temple worthy. Likewise, a bishop may allow a father who is a priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder to baptize his children or to ordain his sons to offices in the Aaronic Priesthood. A Melchizedek Priesthood holder in similar circumstances may be allowed to stand in the circle for the confirmation of his children, for the conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood on his sons, or for the setting apart of his wife or children. However, he may not act as voice [140, 2010 CHI; italics added].
In the Wheat and Tares post the 2010 guidelines are viewed as being stricter than those from 2006. I would disagree. Part of the argument derives from the words "worthy to hold a temple recommend." Contrary to the W&T post, I do not read this as identical to "must have a temple recommend." Rather, the priesthood holder must meet the requirements, but need not have the actual document. Perhaps this is nit-picking.

However the 2006 text does not presuppose any distinctions regarding degrees or gradations of worthiness; the 2010 text clearly does. I would suggest that the meaning of "worthy", as used in the 2006 CHI, was generally applied in the sense of "temple worthy." That is not to say that there were never exceptions, and I would presume (and hope) that local leaders who feel so inspired would also be willing to make such exceptions, even though the 2010 CHI makes clearer distinctions and more specific recommendations: if inspiration cannot trump policy, we have moved above (or, more likely, below) the need for revelation.

In any case, this policy shift seemed to be related to some thoughts expressed by Dallin H. Oaks in a recent address in General Conference:

Another part of a priesthood blessing is the words of blessing spoken by the elder after he seals the anointing. These words can be very important, but their content is not essential and they are not recorded on the records of the Church....

Ideally, the elder who officiates will be so in tune with the Spirit of the Lord that he will know and declare the will of the Lord in the words of the blessing. Brigham Young taught priesthood holders, “It is your privilege and duty to live so that you know when the word of the Lord is spoken to you and when the mind of the Lord is revealed to you.” When that happens, the spoken blessing is fulfilled literally and miraculously. On some choice occasions I have experienced that certainty of inspiration in a healing blessing and have known that what I was saying was the will of the Lord. However, like most who officiate in healing blessings, I have often struggled with uncertainty on the words I should say. For a variety of causes, every elder experiences increases and decreases in his level of sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit. Every elder who gives a blessing is subject to influence by what he desires for the person afflicted. Each of these and other mortal imperfections can influence the words we speak.

Fortunately, the words spoken in a healing blessing are not essential to its healing effect. If faith is sufficient and if the Lord wills it, the afflicted person will be healed or blessed whether the officiator speaks those words or not. Conversely, if the officiator yields to personal desire or inexperience and gives commands or words of blessing in excess of what the Lord chooses to bestow according to the faith of the individual, those words will not be fulfilled. Consequently, brethren, no elder should ever hesitate to participate in a healing blessing because of fear that he will not know what to say. The words spoken in a healing blessing can edify and energize the faith of those who hear them, but the effect of the blessing is dependent upon faith and the Lord’s will, not upon the words spoken by the elder who officiated [Priesthood Session, April 2010; italics added].
How often do we hear people speak in tongues? (Yes, yes, I know. Missionaries do it all the time. I am here referring to the variety of speaking in tongues that was more common in the early days of this dispensation, including immediate revelatory interpretation. I am not using "the gift of tongues" in the "what happens when you read books, use flashcards, memorize vocabulary, buy Rosetta Stone™, and study abroad" sense.) Very, very rarely. Most Mormons (like any other sane person*) would feel a little creeped out by attending some the more exuberant varieties of Pentecostal services. In general, LDS attention to and focus on the cultivation of charismatic gifts has waned. That is, we all seek personal revelation, but we already know what the only acceptable answers are.

I wonder if Elder Oaks's GC comments and these revisions to the CHI may indicate further baby steps in that direction. I guess I needn't have brushed up on my snake-dancing skills.

*Yes, my bias is showing––but, luckily, I. DON'T. CARE.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Guess who just procured a digital copy (see here and here) of the brand-spankin'-new Church Handbook of Instructions! It's like opening your mailbox to find that Amazon has sent your copy of the newest Harry Potter novel a week early!

(However, that I could write the foregoing––and mean it––is a sad, saaaaad testament to the bottomless depths of my nerdiness. Sigh.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

[UPDATED!] Interrupting this regularly scheduled update...


This weekend, an AOL article reported that Haitians displaced by flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas were not allowed shelter in a Church meetinghouse in Leogane, Haiti. The fact is that other Church buildings in Haiti were used as public shelters, and arrangements had been made for this particular building to be used by a government agency to respond to the disaster. Because of this arrangement, it was unclear to some whether the building could also be used as a public shelter.... The report of this event obviously describes an isolated aberration (emphasis mine).

Original post follows:

Note: I'm really, really hoping that there is more to this story, perhaps some explanation that will cast the situation in a new light. I will be sure to update as soon as I find/read/hear anything, and I'll be keeping an eye on the Church's Newsroom site.

I had a post planned about a possible (and subtle) shift concerning LDS priesthood doctrine, but then I read an article that left me stunned. It's not often that a news item induces that breathless, punched-in-the-gut sensation, but this one did. And how.

LEOGANE, Haiti (Nov. 8) -- The water in Haiti's seaside town of Leogane rose to the doorsteps of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But if you're local, and homeless, you needn't have bothered coming here for help. Help is for Mormons only.


The LDS church is one of the biggest and most modern buildings in Leogane, with the capacity to safely hold and protect 200. The church's hurricane policy? Only church members can seek shelter there. On Friday, 36 congregants and family members slept at the church.


"It's not shelter, it's a Mormon church," a church employee said.

Read it and weep.


Never say never.