Vote in the LDS Best Books CHAMPIONSHIP

We come to it at last: the great battle of our age. Jesus the Christ vs. Approaching Zion. Which is the greatest Mormon book ever written?

Vote here!

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An Open Letter to the Nevada State Senate About Senate Bill 225

To the Nevada State Senate:

Though Senate Bill 225 may have been introduced with the best of intentions, I must urge the Senate not to pass it, for three significant reasons.

  1. It could lead to an unsafe environment where predators may operate.

The mother of a transgender student (and a major proponent of this bill) was recently interviewed by the Las Vegas Sun about the “bullying” her child had been subjected to at school. It boiled down to not being allowed in the opposite gender’s locker room (https://lasvegassun.com/news/2017/mar/22/parents-lawmakers-want-anti-bullying-law-at-privat/). It appears, then, that this is the kind of situation SB 225 is meant to rectify (Section 6.3 of the bill, for example, can be read this way).

In March 2017, Kristen Quintrall, who describes herself as “pretty progressive and tolerant,” was at Disneyland with her young son and reported seeing an aggressive man in the women’s restroom, ogling them. This was not a transgender person—it was a man taking advantage of the current policies there about transgender people to create a hostile and dangerous situation for women. (http://www.thegetrealmom.com/blog/womensrestroom)

There have been many recent incidents of women being assaulted in public restrooms, particularly at Target, which has promoted itself as a bastion of “non-discrimination” regarding gender and its bathrooms (http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF16F27.pdf).

Surely, Nevada does not want to create unsafe spaces for women and girls, much less open itself to the legal liability which will ensue from policies that set up the circumstances under which such tragedies could occur in the first place.

Please note that this objection has nothing to do with transgender people themselves. In the interest of serving their wants, we would also be creating a serious problem for many others. If this bill passes and leads to universally open locker rooms and bathrooms, heterosexual predators will abuse this policy and innocent women will suffer. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and ignore that.

  1. It could restrict freedoms of speech and conscience.

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Women in Science Fiction Movies

Movies where a woman’s adventures in space and/or with aliens is prompted by the death of a loved one: Contact, Interstellar, Arrival, Aliens, Gravity.

In the latter three, the death of a child is involved. In Contact, it’s her father; in Interstellar, it’s her lover.

I have to wonder why Hollywood has such a specific template. Girls can have science fiction adventures, too, but it has to be because someone they love died?

BONUS! Movies where Scarlett Johansson plays a woman whose abilities were enhanced without her consent, for nefarious purposes: Lucy, Ghost in the Shell, The Avengers series. (Summer Glau in Firefly fits the same mold.) Interesting contrast: In the film Her, Johansson plays a disembodied voice which consciously evolves itself. 

Notice that in all of these movies, Johansson’s character is overtly sexualized (with the possible exception of Lucy). Hollywood says that women can have superpowers, as long as it makes them more attractive?

So what’s the overall message here? The ultimate female sci-fi character would be a brainwashed, sexy ninja who kicks butt in memory of her dead family?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vote in the LDS “Best Books” Tournament, Round Three!

And then there were eight. Which books will survive this round? Only one Nibley title gets to move on. Only one non-Nibley FARMS-era book remains in the running. And we have to choose between Jesus the Christ and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Why? Because in the end, there can be only one.

LDS “Best Books” Tournament, round 3

[This page will remain open for two weeks.]

 

The Beautiful Book of Mormon

I have a video on YouTube about evidences for the Book of Mormon, and it attracts comments from a lot of people who want to launch the same few, stale criticisms. But one recent critic called out the quality of the book’s content, saying it’s bland and shallow.

Just as with the evidences, this kind of thing will always be debatable, with the determined critic denying any value to the book even if it were somehow shown to be equal to Shakespeare. Still, there are a number of things that come to mind about the spiritual and literary power of the book.

My family and I recently read 3 Nephi 5. It’s mostly a loving, careful exposition on the nature of keeping and editing records. Sounds dull, huh? But it’s written with such an obvious affection for the topic that it’s hard not to find it infectious. The affection is infectious.

Question for the critics, though: why is this chapter here? If it’s a fraud that’s meant to elevate the author or automatically reflect the environment of its creation, then where is there anything in 3 Nephi 5 that promotes devotion to Joseph Smith? Where is there an obsession with record keeping in his life or town before 1830?

Or how about Helaman 7? When we came across that for family scripture study a while ago, and after reading it, I told the fam that the next day would just be reviewing that chapter in even more detail, because it was so deep. I’d read it innumerable times before myself–we all had–but this time I noticed just how powerful its lament and jeremiad are.

I’m moved by how passionate the address is: it begins with a note that “he did exclaim in the agony of his soul.” Isn’t that a wonderful phrase? That’s verse 6; in verse 14 he announces that he has climbed a  tower to “pour out my soul unto my God, because of the exceeding sorrow of my heart.” He castigates his curious audience because they are about to “hurl away your souls” (v. 16). He goes on to deliver some of the most incisive character analysis this side of Tolstoy.

And certainly, none of this is necessary if the Book of Mormon is a hoax. Nothing there forwards any hidden agenda. All it does–all the entire Book of Mormon does–is convince people to faithfully follow Christ.

[So much more could be added here–this post could become its own book! I’m a fan of this summary of the value of the Book of Mormon’s contents, and this podcast is a worthwhile introduction to the literary nature of the text.]

April 2017 General Conference–Annotated

This post will be updated frequently throughout the weekend with my notes on General Conference.

SATURDAY MORNING

President Eyring–The Gathering of God’s Family

  • “~The love that comes closest to the love we felt in the pre-existence: parental love~”
  • Testifies of the reality of Elijah’s visit
  • Encouraged to learn the lives and personalities of ancestors
  • Prioritize time for family history work–“wear tennis shoes” and run faster to get more done! :)
  • Technology like computers exists to facilitate this work
  • But technology is no substitute for revelation!

M. Joseph Brough (YM 2nd)–Heavenly Father’s “Care Package” For Us

  • I like the idea of our whole way of life as a “care package” full of blessings.
  • commandments,”I found peace in seeking Heavenly Father’s will,” priesthood leaders, ultimate gift is in John 3:16
  • Repentance is a gift!
  • Be with the youth, connect youth with Heaven, “The time must come when each must stand alone,” let the youth lead

Elder Clayton (70)–The Plan of Salvation, Happiness, and Love

  • Pillars of eternity reference–thanks BRM!
  • Summary of Savior’s ministry–“went about doing good”
  • D&C 19 as an example of love–yes!!!
  • “We all must graduate from this mortal body to achieve our eternal rewards”
  • Quotes from the Living Christ
  • Invitation: each day, come unto Christ…Moroni 10:32

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My Dad Taught Me How To Saturday

Do you know how to Saturday? I do. Not long ago I realized that I have a routine and that I learned it by watching my dad when I was a kid.

On an average Saturday morning, my dad would do some home improvement project, or work on a car, or do some activity with the family, or some other active work.

On Saturday afternoon, he would watch John Wayne movies or sports (golf or bowling or whatever was on), and then take a nap on the floor with this giant pillow he had.

I must have internalized the same pattern; I always try to make my own Saturdays fit the same basic mold. Saturday morning is for hard work. Saturday afternoon is for resting.

Of course there are plenty of exceptions, and a great day often looks nothing like that. But when it does happen, I always feel like I’m living “correctly.”

Once again, thanks, Dad.

This must be that famous liberal tolerance I’ve heard so much about!

A month ago, I posted this simple announcement to a public Facebook group for teachers in my county: “There is a new private Facebook group for CCSD teachers on the right of the political spectrum. Message me if you’re interested.”

Among the comments I got were these:

  • “I’m just curious…what do teachers on the right of the political spectrum support? Unequal access to quality education? Removing free breakfast and lunch from schools, so that students can worry about being hungry instead of learning?”
  • “Maybe a different profession????”
  • “Is this where you guys rally to vote yourselves out of a job or figure out ways to turn in your students or their parents?”
  • “The request…is a slap in the face.”
  • “There are teachers there? Really?”
  • “You guys need your own page!!! I agree!”

In addition, one woman tracked down my salary information as listed elsewhere online, screenshot it, and posted it, with a threat that I was being watched.

I never replied to any of those comments, but I wonder if any of these people realize how ironic their complaints are–their hostility illustrates exactly why I wanted to make a place where conservative teachers could talk without being insulted.

Or maybe I should have just said, “Do you want more Trump? Because this is how you get more Trump.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twin Lakes Memories: Dr. Greggs

This is the second in an occasional series of memories about my elementary school in the 1980’s. The first post is here.

My first post in this series was about a beloved principal. This second one is about a terrifying teacher.

Dr. Greggs taught third grade, and she is without a doubt the person whom I’ve been more scared of than any other in my life.

First of all, she insisted, always sternly, that we address her as “Doctor.” I’ve wondered since then just what drives a woman to demand such recognition from eight-year-olds. It’s like in the Austin Powers movies, when Dr. Evil corrects people who call him Mister: “I didn’t go to an evil university for ten years to be called Mr. Evil.”

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Best of the Internet: January-March 2017

Highlights of my online reading and viewing so far this year:

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

All-Female Orchestra From Afghanistan Is A Force For Change

I love the clip of them practicing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in that story above; more of it can be heard in this video below:

 

 

 

In the above concert, watch the blistering 2-minute solo from 1:07:05 to 1:09:05

EDUCATION

On the epidemic of unprepared college students:

“Our schools create a fog when it comes to academic preparation for college success. Concerned more with inclusiveness, validation, and graduation than with college preparedness, administrators encourage teachers to, for instance, consider pupil effort in their grading, and push students to take advanced courses for which they have the ambition but not the readiness. Those in charge have their reasons, which mostly turn out to safeguard the interests of adults and their institutions, even as they wreak havoc with the next generation. None of this is acknowledged, however, save by a handful of would-be illuminators, for the education system has generally persuaded itself that this fog is better for kids than clarity would be.

“And the colleges themselves are complicit in this fraud, often for similar reasons. They admit students who they know are not adequately prepared to take on credit-bearing courses, and then require them to complete remedial classes to catch up. Most students who are required to take these ‘developmental’ courses never make it to classes that earn credit, and in time they leave school with nothing but debt and disillusion.

The always amazing Anthony Esolen on how politics is ruining literature, education, and culture itself in schools:

If a young person comes to believe that education is to be valued as preparation for political action—if his English teachers choose novels not for their beauty and their insight into the human condition, but for their usefulness in advancing a political cause; if his history teachers encourage not that forbearance that tends to forgive the faults of those who have come before us or who lived under conditions whereof we have no experience, but rather an easy and self-confident judgment of their moral darkness because they were not like us in all things; if his art teachers foster contempt for the patient and heart-breaking quest for precision, and substitute for it indulgence in what is supposedly “edgy” but is merely tiresome and politically tendentious—then I fear that he will be, strictly speaking, ineducable, a monolith of manufactured stolidity….

You are discussing with another student Augustine’s tribute to his mother, Monica. It may be the first literary tribute to an ordinary woman—not a queen, not an object of erotic desire—in the history of the world. The student is upset. She has been taught that the lot of women from time immemorial was simply and unrelievedly oppressive, and she is disappointed to find something that does not fit the political template….

A student tells you that he is weary of learning about American culture in school. You say that you do not actually believe that his teachers have imparted much of that culture to him, or of what used to be a culture. You are thinking of the seaside observations of Winslow Homer and the plaintive love songs of Stephen Foster and the startling progressions of John Coltrane. You are thinking of Pickett and his men making their desperate charge at Gettysburg. You hear the plain and honest blank verse rhythms of Robert Frost: “I can’t think Si ever hurt anyone,” says the farmer of the hired man who has come back like a stray dog and who has, unbeknownst to him, just breathed his last. You are thinking of Protestants singing “Nearer, My God, to Thee” in four-part harmony; of John Greenleaf Whittier whistling along a country walk, and George Washington Carver patiently grinding peanut skins in a pestle. Henry Adams, John Ford, Herman Melville, Billy Sunday, Billie Holliday—how much of what is quintessentially American has he really encountered? But before you can ask a question probing more deeply into culture, he rolls his eyes and shuts the conversation down. Such is the certainty that the correct political position confers.

[I’ve had similar Kafka-esque experiences. It’s all too sad. Read the whole thing!]

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New Video: All 38 of Shakespeare’s Plays Ranked

Since putting it up here over two years ago, my post grading and ranking the plays of Shakespeare has become by far the most popular thing I’ve ever written. It’s been the #1 post here almost every day since then.

Last week, I got an email from a guy who said that he’d recently turned 60 and set a goal of reading all of Shakespeare’s plays. He looked online for guidance, found my post, and wanted to tell me that following it was genuinely helpful.

So, making a video version is overdue.

A lot of people have told me that I’m too fast and hyper when I narrate videos, so I purposely made this one slow and mellow. I’m not super happy with the result, but let’s see what the world thinks.

Enjoy!

Student Notes, part 2

My junior classes are finishing Huckleberry Finn soon, and last week one student showed me something she found in the copy of the book that I’d checked out to her.

There were a series of notes sprinkled throughout–little motivational conversations left by a former student, intended to cheer up whatever random readers might come across it in the future.

It took me a bit, but I now remember the girl who put those notes in there a few years ago. Her plan to spread some joy worked–at least one student has appreciated her efforts.

Here is the note she left at the end of the book. It says, “It’s been an incredible journey and I’m glad I was able to share it with you! I hope my little notes of encouragement helped you finish the book by making the task a little more fun! All I ask in return is that you keep this note and all of the others in place so future readers can have the same experience you did! Have a wonderful rest of your high school career and remember to follow your dreams and make an adventure, like our friend Huck, here did. [heart] Alexis, 2014”

Further proof that I work at the coolest school in the world!

alexis

Vote in ROUND 2 of the LDS “Best Books” Tournament

Congratulations to all the survivors of round 1. Special distinction goes to the James E. Talmage classic Jesus the Christ, which was the only book to win in a unanimous decision.

Round 2–the Sweet Sixteen–is now open for this week’s voting. Let the spiritual combat continue.

LDS “Best Books” Tournament: Round 2