Thursday, February 28, 2008

JesusChrist.LDS.Org. Yet another new Church web sit. This one seems to be saying, in effect: "Where Christians Damn it!" However presented in a more Mormon vernacular.
William F. Buckley Jr. has Died. While not a Mormon his central role in the formation of the modern conservative identity was important to many Mormons, and he is thusly a semi-major influence on Western Mormon political culture. A significant man worth knowing something about.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Golden Compass (2007)

The Golden Compass may well be one of the most controversial family films of all time. Based on the novel “Northern Lights”, the first of author Philip Pullmans “His Dark Materials Trilogy”, it is a children’ fantasy of the Lewis/ Tolken variety, save that instead of a vaugley defined Christianity, the philosophical underpinnings of both the author and the story are atheistic. In fact author Pullman would hate the comparisons to Lewis, in an interview with Newsweek magazine some months ago he denounced the venerated Christian author and apologist, and accused his beloved Narina books of being vile and unfit for children. These accusations will surely cause a degree of recoil from Lewis’s fan, but that is not to say that Pullman isn’t worth listing to.

Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars and called it "a darker, deeper fantasy epic than the Rings trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia or the Potter films," saying that it "creates villains that are more complex and poses more intriguing questions. As a visual experience, it is superb. As an escapist fantasy, it is challenging [...] I think [it] is a wonderfully good-looking movie, with exciting passages and a captivating heroine." (Wikipedia)

Indeed Golden Compass excels as pure fantasy escapist fun. I found myself enthralled by the film, it has all the right elements for the iconic children’s parable, charismatic lead, likable ensemble cast, beautiful vista’s, fantastic special effects, epic battles and a youthful sense of wonder and possibility. When you see young Lyra bouncing about the arctic waists on a talking polar bear king, well that’s just awesome, makes one feel like a child and how can you not love that.

I suppose however that is the problem so many have with the film, and by extension the book series from which it was derived (much as with the Potter series). It’s quite compelling and geared to children and hence has great potential to have an influence on their thinking. I will side step the arguments about the books themselves however and focus on the movie itself. Regardless of how much criticism the film has gotten from conservative Christians on account of its source material, its gotten even more from the atheist and secularist community for toning down from that same source material.

To succeed as a family film in America you can’t be overtly anti-religious. Thusly if you didn’t know to look for the controversy in this movie, you might not even see it. In Pullmans book the evil organization that rules over Lyria’s parallel Earth is called the Magisterium, and it is a stand in for the Roman Catholic Church, though in more of a Fascist/medieval forum then the current institution. In the movie the term Magisterium stays but its exact nature is more amorphius. You can recognize a Pope figure, the dogmatism, and oddly named managerial bodies, but the name of God is never evoked, and in the movie the Magisterium mostly just occupies the same role ‘The Empire’ would in a Star Wars film.

If the movie teaches children anything directly its not to trust everything adults tell them. This is true, and children should learn this, I’d say the only real point of discussion on the matter should be how far you take that, and in that area Compass offers as many examples of good and honest adults as it does bad and secretive ones. Frankly if you let your young children see Happy Feet, I can’t see philosophically why you wouldn’t let slightly older ones see this movie (though that evil polar bear getting his jaw torn off is kind of shocking). I liked it, it’s as good of a liberal children fantasy film as your ever likely to see.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Big Love: Season 2 (2007)

To me the most significant episode of the second season of HBO’s Big Love is episode number 11 "Take Me As I Am". Now this may not be the most interesting of the episodes in terms of its portrail of fundamentalists Mormons, or even in the dramatic or story arc sense, but I think it says the most about mainline Mormons we’ve seen this season. In this episode Barb Henrickson attempts the delicate dance of a reconciliation with her mother, played by Ellen Burstyn in an Emmy worthy performance. Burstyn’s Nancy captures so much of a certain generation of Mormon women, I was nearly floored to see this type so fully realized on television. Mormons may say what they like about this program but the writers know us, they know who we are as a people and what we go through.

Nancy was of course deviated when she learned that her daughter Barbra was leaving the mainline LDS faithful to follow her husband Bill into polygamy. As if the prospect of her daughters apostasy for an ill-esteemed martial arrangement was not enough of a blow, it was brought about by Bill, the one time lost boy of polygamous parentage, whom Nancy and her late first husband had taken into there home as a teenager. Nancy simply could not coupe, a common enough reaction among any Mormon mother whose child leaves the fold, whether for polygamy, atheism, or some other religious affiliation. She cut of contact with her daughter because it just reminded her of her pain.

When Nancy got engaged to an old family friend Barb read about it in the newspaper and started a renewed effort to re-establish contact. She missed her mom and loved her, she felt betrayed that she would have to learn about as important an event as remarriage from the news. Barb also had other reasons for this reconciliation, she wanted her children to be exposed to more mainstream Mormon influences as she had always been torn, and never fully accepted, the change that fundamentalist Mormonism had brought to her family, and the effects it was having on her children, particularly her son who was becoming quite enamored of “The Principle”. Eventually arrangements are made for Barb to bring her children to the wedding reception and for Ben (the son) to accompany the older couple on a honeymoon trip to Sun Valley. But Barb stays and tries to be a part of the gathering, which becomes all the more complicated with Bills later arrival at the reception.

It is during the reception scenes that we view this beautiful dance of two pained souls longing for reunion. Nancy is so hurt, and the quality of her voice just speaks volumes. We learn about her personal, potentially quiatoic quest to both obey and change the church to which she belongs. How here tolerance, though perhaps limited from outside perspectives, allowed her to invite an ill favored lesbian aunt to Thanksgiving dinners. How she turgid through more then forty years worth of a bad marriage because she believed in marriage, believed in family and believed in the Church. We see in Nancy the mainstream embodiment of what we see in the Hendrickson’s, that a demanding faith that can cost so much, can still be so central and so beloved, that a Mormon can not leave it. It is the cause of so many of there problems, yet also there balm of Gilded. This is an encapsulation of what I love about Big Love, it captures the beautiful and painful paradoxes of Mormonism, and is oddly the best and most honest depiction of the faith I have ever seen on television.

Reviewing Romney's Run

Well Mitt Romney has been out of the Presidential race for a couple of weeks now but I’d like to briefly list some of my thoughts on his campaign. Now I have written some things on the blog before about Mr. Romney and the prospect of a Mormon serving as President of the United States. Now of course I am a Mormon and to be honest I would like to see a fellow member of my faith attain the presidency. It would be a milestone, not on the level of having a women, a black man, or even a Catholic in the office, but considering that Mormons were once driven out of the country, it would symbolize that we’ve come a long way. However the Mormon I’d like to see in the White House would have to be pretty special, he’d have to be worth all the crap the religion would go through for his (or less likely her) being in the oval office. Mitt Romney is simply not worth that, though his father George might have been.

Romney got off to a wrong start, he tried to reinvent himself in a way that didn’t seem fully sincere. He would be what ever he felt he needed to be in any given state in order to win, and ultimately that meant a lot of second and third place finishes. He was never authentic in this race, though the Mitt of the 1990’s running against Ted Kennedy certainly was, and the Mitt who ran the 2002 Olympics was defiantly in his element, proving himself to be one of the great administrators of our time. However Mr. Romney chose not to run as a moderate, but as a conservative. He chose to cow-tow to the religious right, a group that could never fully accept him, and to de-emphasis some of the things that could have truly made him an attractive candidate, such as his ability to win in uber-liberal Massachusetts and the health care plan he had instituted there. Of course universal health care is an evil phrase among most conservatives so he dropped it.

The way Romney handled his Mormonism was in some ways good. He indicated that while the faith of course influenced his personal conceptions of morality, he would not take marching orders from Salt Lake City. I never understood the fears of those who thought he would be an autonimuton for the Church hierarchy, I mean what evil orders where they expecting him to receive, use the military to force the baptism of the American citizenry, I mean come on. Mitt Romney did pander to religious interests thought there was nothing distinctly Mormon about the way he did it, he knew he had the Mormon vote (winning 89% of the Republican primary vote in Utah), so he spent his time groveling for the approval of the Evangelical constituency, something Mike Huckabee screwed him over on.

Anyway Romney’s gone now from the political scene, and considering the bridges he burned in his often negative campaign its unfeasible that he’ll ever be back. Now I suppose the question is, which one of those five son’s of his will become governor of Missouri and run unsuccessfully in 2048.

Some Old Mormon Related Internet Conversations I Wanted to Archive

Blonde Sagacity

Confessions of a Human Being

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ruth Wright Faust Passes Away
Rexburg Temple Dedicated
President Monson's first Press Confrence

Sunstone 2002: Mormonism and It's Two Ultimates

This is the third time I’ve listened to this thing and I still don’t really understand it. The ultimates are the personal and impresonal God, and one is real and one the reflection of the other? One’s eastern and one’s western? The Baptist students in James McLachlan’s class want him to embrace which one again? Both 'Wurthering Height’s' and Groundhog Day are referenced here-in, so I guess maybe I’m not suppose to understand it but just be entertained. I would like to hear an entire session on that Professor Chamberlain however.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Thomas S. Monson New President of LDS Church

As expected and in accordance to precident, Thomas S. Monson has been named the new President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Monson seemend destined for the role from the time he was named to the Apostleship at the age of 36, making him one of the youngest men to be ordianed to that office in the 20th Century (Eighty years of age at the time of his ordination as President, he is also relatively young for that office, in comparssion to some of his recent predeccesors). A Time Magaizne reporter once called Monson a "slightly less capable Hinckleyite. Having the public relations instincts of Hinckley, but not the high level skills." As President Hinckley's way with the media was so groundbreaking for a Mormon leader, President Monson has almost impossible shoes to fill in that regard, but I think he will handel himself capably, he was after all generial manager of a major newspaper (the Deseret News).

The term Hinckleyite works though as the new President has long been very much in line with the late presidents polices and world views. He is a moderate by Mormon standards, and I think it reveling of where he wants to go with his administration in his 'stay the course' calling of two men Gordon B. Hinckley ordanided to the Apostleship (Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf) as his councilars in the First Presidency (I hope to comment more on the new First Presidency in the future). Anyway after nearly 13 years of President Hinckley's rule, the only Church president whose administration I clearly remember as such, it's going to take a little getting use to of Monson (the consement second in command) as President of the Church. I think should be a mostly smooth however.

Thomas S. Monson Video 1

Thomas S. Monson Video 2
In Memory of President Gordon B. Hinckley

Major Media Summations on President Hinckley's Passing

New York Times (New York, USA):“With his buoyant personality and affinity for public relations, Mr. Hinckley made Mormonism more familiar to the public and more accepted in the Christian fold. He gave news conferences and was the first church president to sit for interviews on ‘60 Minutes’ and ‘Larry King Live.’ When the Winter Olympics went to Salt Lake City in 2002, the church’s home base, he guided the church outreach campaign.”

Los Angeles Times (California, USA):“Though he became the Mormons' 15th president and prophet at age 84, Hinckley's energy, style and longevity, which drew comparisons to Pope John Paul II, allowed him to engage millions throughout the world and provided the church a media-friendly face.”,0,1888134.story

Houston Chronicle (Texas, USA):“As a leader of the fastest-growing faith founded in the United States, Hinckley guided the church as it more than doubled its number of temples and expanded membership well beyond the boundaries of its center in Salt Lake City.”

The Estado of Sao Paulo (Brazil):“During his 13 years as the head of the Mormon Church, he made countless trips to meet with members of the Mormon Church which now has 13 million members in 171 countries.”,0.htm

National Public Radio (Washington, D.C., USA):“Most Americans know it as ‘The Mormon Church.’ Hinckley launched an effort to stamp out that phrase. He asked news media to use the formal name, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’ And, in case anyone missed the point, he changed the official Mormon logo so that the name ‘Jesus Christ’ appeared in oversized letters.”

Reuters (Great Britain):“In the year 2000, in spite of his advanced age, Mr. Hinckley completed an 11-day tour of the Pacific Rim where he traveled more than 35,400km and spoke to more than 26,000 people.”

China View (China):“His grandfather knew church founder Joseph Smith and followed Brigham Young west to the Great Salt Lake Basin.”

Herald Sun (Australia):“He was the first church president to travel to Spain, where in 1996 he broke ground for a temple in Madrid, and to Africa, where he met thousands of Mormons in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.”,21985,23123145-663,00.html

Argus Observer (Ontario, Canada):“In 2004 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil award, by President George W. Bush. He also received the Silver Buffalo Award of the Boy Scouts of America and has been honored by the National Conference (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews) for his contributions to tolerance and understanding in the world.”,21985,23123145-663,00.html

BBC (Great Britain):“The post is held for life, and Hinckley lived to become the oldest ever president, seeing church membership expand to 13 million people.”

Diario Buenos Aires(Argentina):“President Gordon B. Hinckley was known as a tireless leader, even at the age of 97, who always dedicated his life to a full-day’s work at the office and traveled the world extensively.”

Turkish Press (Turkey):“As a member of the First Presidency, the highest governing body of the church, he has had a major role in administering both the ecclesiastical and temporal affairs of the Church, whose members are spread over some 171 nations and territories.”

Austria National Radio (Austria):

The passing of President Hinckley was discussed extensively on the “blogosphere.” The day following his death, a new blog post was published about him every couple of minutes. According to Blogpulse, a service that tracks trends in blogs, President Gordon B. Hinckley was the third most mentioned person in the blogosphere on Monday, 28 January.

Some Quotations regarding President Hinckley's Passing

President George W. Bush:

Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of our friend, Gordon B. Hinckley. While serving for over seven decades in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon demonstrated the heart of a servant and the wisdom of a leader. He was a tireless worker and a talented communicator who was respected in his community and beloved by his congregation. As President of his church, he traveled to more than 60 countries to spread a message of love and optimism to the millions of people around the world who shared his faith.

A Mayflower descendent and the grandson of Mormon pioneers, Gordon was a deeply patriotic man. His leadership and service strengthened the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University, the Boy Scouts of America, and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. In 2004, I was honored to present him with the Medal of Freedom, our Nation's highest civil award, in recognition of his lifelong public service.

Laura and I will miss Gordon's friendship and wisdom. Our thoughts and prayers are with his five children and the rest of the Hinckley family.

Governor Jon Huntsman:

“Mary Kaye and I are truly mourning tonight’s death of President Gordon B. Hinckley. The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has served as a transformational religious leader and tremendous ambassador for Utah with his unprecedented outreach to all corners of the world.We join with thousands of others, who have been touched by his words and deeds, in remembering all he has done for so many in our community and in the world. His leadership in humanitarian efforts around the world was matched only by his efforts in his own beloved state and community as a committed citizen. He has stood as a remarkable example of selflessness, charity and humility and he will be greatly missed byall.We extend our deepest of sympathies to the family and the community who loved President Hinckley. May we all be comforted in the knowledge of his beloved positive outlook on life.”

Senator Joseph Lieberman:

America and the world mourn the passing of the President Gordon Hinckley of the Church of Latter-day Saints. President Hinckley was known and beloved throughout the world for his spiritual guidance and good works. His life story was quintessentially an American one - and he tirelessly dedicated his life to building his Church and promoting our nation's ideals of understanding and tolerance. My prayers are with President Hinckley's family and the members of the Church of Latter-day Saints.

Governor Mitt Romney:

I was saddened to learn of the death of Gordon B. Hinckley. Ann and I respect him as a man of great faith and character. Like all people who knew him, we were deeply touched by his humility, his sense of humor and by the way he inspired so many people around the world. We will miss his leadership.

Mayor Peter Corroon, Salt Lake County:

President Hinckley was a good man, a holy man, a man of the people. His keen sense of humor and intellect were true hallmarks of his character. His lifetime of devoted service showed us all that we can act with compassion, integrity and vision. He was not only a religious leader – he was also a community leader. He will be greatly missed. We express condolences to his family and all those who join in remembering President Hinckley’s remarkable life.