Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Becoming Peculiar Together

When I was a teenager, one of my Sunday School teachers drew a graph on the chalkboard with two lines. One line ran horizontal across the board, and the other took a rounded nosedive. The teacher explained that the two lines represented the Church and the World. She explained that as a church, we needed to remain steady and steadfast as the world continued to decline into moral decay. It wasn’t enough to be just a little better than the world, because ultimately we’d be following their same exponential decline. We were advised to “live in the world but be not of the world.” Effectively, as a peculiar people of promise (nice alliteration, eh? Elder Maxwell would be proud), we needed to be different from those around us in uplifting ways.

Today I realize there are different ways to interpret what it means to be just a little different from the world. After all, how we view the world does so much to shape how we see current events and our behavioral norms within them. Is Armageddon right around the corner? Are we at the tail end/beginning of a Golden Age? Is the future bright with promise? The world definitely has changed from how it was ____ (insert your preferred number here) years ago, back in the Good Old Days for some, the Dark Ages for others, and I find myself wrestling with ambiguous feelings about the present relative to that past, particularly as a model for how my own behavior should change. Is the world really on that downhill slope my Sunday School teacher described? How do we define that decline? In moral terms? In material ones?

As a society, we have made great technological strides that have enabled us to experiment with ways of living that push beyond traditional norms with their safeguards and checks. For instance, we live in an age where innovations in contraception and disease control allow for a far wider range of sexual expression without the consequence of pregnancy and illness and with social safety nets that (try to) catch those whose behavior leads them into harm’s way. Yet at the same time, the traditional calls for moderation, abstinence, fidelity in marriage, and so on remind us that there was (is?) a time when a simpler, behavior-based mode of behavior would prevent the same maladies. In essence, innovation has created a world where many of us can broaden our set of choices and avoid repercussions. Is that a bad thing?

Good, bad, or indifferent, what my Sunday School teacher said does seem to hold true. If we behave just a little differently than the world, we will follow the same general path people of the world take right along with them. Assuming the world is tumbling into moral decline, we would have to stop behaving as our peers do in order to not fall into their pit. A person doesn’t start behaving differently from the group for very long before the others begin to notice. I began to wonder what the experience of someone who committed to holding firm would be like relative to the rest of us. When does it get uncomfortable to be a peculiar people, and how might that peculiarity manifest itself in modern times?

The people surrounding the tree in Lehi’s dream in the Book of Mormon stood separate and exposed relative to those in the great and spacious building. They were odd ducks. Shortly after slugging away, holding firm to the iron rod, wading through the mists of darkness, some of them felt ashamed about standing out so starkly relative to their high-rise neighbors. The rest, notably most of Lehi’s family, managed to hold firm to their decision.

I think that ultimately one of the important points that we have to realize as a Latter-day Saint (LDS) people is that we will stand out like sore thumbs as we give up worldly norms, standards, and behaviors. Is the set of cultural practices we do embrace the sort of stuff that elevates us from worldly influence and makes us more Christian? If it is, we will end up making odd decisions and have to explain or justify positions that seem more and more at odds with conventional wisdom. We will seem more and more like kooks. That’s the bottom line. This is nothing new, but it is a reality we may soon find a harder time embracing. For the moment, we still watch many of the same TV shows, laugh at many of the same jokes, aspire to many of the same honors. We still strive to keep up with the Joneses (the Smiths, the Hinckleys, the Monsons?). We do have some unique twists to the game, but the idea of social parity, of following others along a similar curving path I saw on that Sunday School chalkboard, holds true, at least when it comes to the outer trappings of the LDS “good life,” because at its essence, it isn’t too much different from the upper-middle class WASP norm we see on TV (save for a temple picture here and a Families are Forever plaque there). In a lot of our behavior, we’re looking to each other for reassurance: “We’re not too far off from Bishop and Sister Smith, and I’m certainly not as badly off as the Joneses, so hopefully we’re doing OK.” Possibly, that’s not a bad thing. Obviously some pride issues are involved, but if we can look on the Smiths and Joneses in our lives with compassion and not envy or disdain, shouldn’t we recognize both positive and negative examples that we do see around us?

Moving from the social to the personal, I hear lots of good ideas for how I can do small things to either change the world or improve myself, and most of the time I think, “Wow. That’s a really good idea. I really should do X, Y, or Z. . . ,” and then the thought trails off and I go on doing the same things I’ve always done, berating myself, or worse, excusing myself for not doing what I know I could be doing. The Spirit gives us those quiet, gentle nudges, and we feel vaguely good about doing them. We may even write the ideas down and make an action plan. But somewhere along the way we lose our enthusiasm, or we remember how hard it is to actually do the thing we set out to perform and we fall right back into the same old patterns of stale behavior that make us not too different from the world around us. Perhaps the way of fixing that is having exemplars and friends who make those same commitments and act as positive reinforcers in the days and weeks that follow the epiphanies.

Perhaps supportive, positive peers as role models and reinforcers may serve as the buffer we need to slowly—but genuinely—edge away from the downward slide. Hopefully we can settle on a set of small yet potent changes we can make together that will, while setting us apart from the world around us, help buffer us from feeling so starkly set off that we fall away from the Tree of Life and rather help us feel bound to those other brave standouts who cling to the source of the Good Fruit. I’m trying to get to the tree. It means I have a lot of little things that need to change. Care to join me as I work toward getting there?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Out and About

. . . and you were afraid that without the Internet we'd never write! Mama and Baby took a couple of trips this past week up to Port Huron and to the Detroit Zoo (see "Our Recent Pictures" above for pics). Landon has been getting friendly with the other kids in the branch his age, and he is taking in this big wide world around him. He's about two steps away from walking, and he has added to his "ma ma ma" and "pa pa pa" a new "ba ba ba." He has recently really began to become a lot more self-aware, and he lets you know what he wants more and more clearly (which begs the question: Is he getting better at communicating, or are we finally listening correctly to what he's been trying to tell us all along?). He's become more expressive, and yesterday as Mike was getting ready to take him on a bike ride, he reached up and made his "I want" noises as if to say, "Take me, too!" (which Mike did do). As the boys were riding along, Hallie (who had been out on an errand), came up behind them and about crashed, she was laughing so hard! So cute! Mike sets Landon on his shoulders like a trapeze artist and Landon grabs onto his hair or helmet while Mike tries to ride fast enough to shake him loose. . . just makeing sure you were paying attention. The boy rides in one of those front-facing kangaroo pouch baby carriers while Papi pedals (frankly, it's probably not a lot safer than the first scene I described, but at least he won't go flying off when we crash). We're enjoying the sunny mild late summer/early fall weather and taking advantage of getting out and about as much as we can.

We've been to the library every day except Sunday (it helps that the library is just down the block) and are limping along w/o the technology at our beck and call. Obviously it has taken some getting used to, and if we lived any further from the library, it could get really impractical really quick, but there are some positive changes that have taken place at home. Hallie asked Mike when he thought we might be ready to reintroduce the technology, to which he replied, "I don't know. I guess when we can use it as we would any other appliance." For many people, these media act similarly to a microwave or washing machine: they're there when you need them, and they are used occasionally. We were not at that point. Not to paint the picture that we were junkies, but the TV and Internet were well-used throughout the day for work and play to the occasional (frequent?) exclusion of other worthwhile and necessary activities. Part of this comes from us having the luxury of being able to spend much of our time working from home. People who spend their days in work that has them using technology in a limited/specific way, who leave for work early and return home late after commuting, or who don't just feel drawn--by change of habit or by natural inclination--to TV and the Internet (Mike is striving to become a member of that third group, frankly) may view this voluntary fast with bemusement or possible pity. We're not sure how to view it. What we do know is that unlike many people, our family has been given the unusual gift of unstructured time, and our challenge has been to learn how to structure that time meaningfully. For the last little while we have been distracted, and maybe if we can get refocused, we can try using these technological gifts again within the convenient spaces of our home.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

We Believe Strongly and Support

This was posted on lds.org in the newsroom section this last week.

SALT LAKE CITY 13 August 2008


The California Supreme Court recently ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in California. Recognizing the importance of marriage to society, the Church accepted an invitation to participate in ProtectMarriage, a coalition of churches, organizations, and individuals sponsoring a November ballot measure, Proposition 8, that would amend the California state constitution to ensure that only a marriage between a man and a woman would be legally recognized. (Information about the coalition can be found at http://www.protectmarriage.com/).

On June 20, 2008, the First Presidency of the Church distributed a letter about “Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families,” announcing the Church’s participation with the coalition. The letter, which was read in Latter-day Saints’ church services in California, asked that Church members “do all [they] can to support the proposed constitutional amendment.”

Members of the Church in Arizona and Florida will also be voting on constitutional amendments regarding marriage in their states, where coalitions similar to California’s are now being formed.

The focus of the Church’s involvement is specifically same-sex marriage and its consequences. The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.

The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony.

The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not affect Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people.

As Church members decide their own appropriate level of involvement in protecting marriage between a man and a woman, they should approach this issue with respect for others, understanding, honesty, and civility.

Intending to reduce misunderstanding and ill will, the Church has produced the following document, “The Divine Institution of Marriage,” and provided the accompanying links to other materials, to explain its reasons for defending marriage between a man and a woman as an issue of moral imperative.

The Divine Institution of Marriage

Marriage is sacred, ordained of God from before the foundation of the world. After creating Adam and Eve, the Lord God pronounced them husband and wife, of which Adam said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” [1] Jesus Christ cited Adam’s declaration when he affirmed the divine origins of the marriage covenant: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.” [2]

In 1995, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” declared the following unchanging truths regarding marriage:

We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children . . . The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

The Proclamation also teaches, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” The account in Genesis of Adam and Eve being created and placed on earth emphasizes the creation of two distinct genders: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” [3]

Marriage between a man and a woman is central to the plan of salvation. The sacred nature of marriage is closely linked to the power of procreation. Only a man and a woman together have the natural biological capacity to conceive children. This power of procreation – to create life and bring God’s spirit children into the world – is sacred and precious. Misuse of this power undermines the institution of the family and thereby weakens the social fabric. [4] Strong families serve as the fundamental institution for transmitting to future generations the moral strengths, traditions, and values that sustain civilization. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society.” [5]

Marriage is not primarily a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations. Rather, marriage and family are vital instruments for rearing children and teaching them to become responsible adults. While governments did not invent marriage, throughout the ages governments of all types have recognized and affirmed marriage as an essential institution in preserving social stability and perpetuating life itself. Hence, regardless of whether marriages were performed as a religious rite or a civil ceremony, married couples in almost every culture have been granted special benefits aimed primarily at sustaining their relationship and promoting the environment in which children are reared. A husband and a wife do not receive these benefits to elevate them above any other two people who may share a residence or social tie, but rather in order to preserve, protect, and defend the all-important institutions of marriage and family.

It is true that some couples who marry will not have children, either by choice or because of infertility, but the special status of marriage is nonetheless closely linked to the inherent powers and responsibilities of procreation, and to the inherent differences between the genders. Co-habitation under any guise or title is not a sufficient reason for defining new forms of marriage.

High rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births have resulted in an exceptionally large number of single parents in American society. Many of these single parents have raised exemplary children; nevertheless, extensive studies have shown that in general a husband and wife united in a loving, committed marriage provide the optimal environment for children to be protected, nurtured, and raised. [6] This is not only because of the substantial personal resources that two parents can bring to bear on raising a child, but because of the differing strengths that a father and a mother, by virtue of their gender, bring to the task. As the prominent sociologist David Popenoe has said:

The burden of social science evidence supports the idea that gender differentiated parenting is important for human development and that the contribution of fathers to childrearing is unique and irreplaceable. [7]

Popenoe explained that:

. . . The complementarity of male and female parenting styles is striking and of enormous importance to a child’s overall development. It is sometimes said that fathers express more concern for the child’s longer-term development, while mothers focus on the child’s immediate well-being (which, of course, in its own way has everything to do with a child’s long-term well-being). What is clear is that children have dual needs that must be met: one for independence and the other for relatedness, one for challenge and the other for support. [8]

Social historian David Blankenhorn makes a similar argument in his book Fatherless America. [9] In an ideal society, every child would be raised by both a father and a mother.

Challenges to Marriage and Family

Our modern era has seen traditional marriage and family – defined as a husband and wife with children in an intact marriage – come increasingly under assault. Sexual morality has declined and infidelity has increased. Since 1960, the proportion of children born out of wedlock has soared from 5.3 percent to 38.5 percent (2006). [10] Divorce has become much more common and accepted, with the United States having one of the highest divorce rates in the world. Since 1973, abortion has taken the lives of over 45 million innocents. [11] At the same time, entertainment standards continue to plummet, and pornography has become a scourge afflicting and addicting many victims. Gender differences increasingly are dismissed as trivial, irrelevant, or transient, thus undermining God’s purpose in creating both men and women.

In recent years in the United States and other countries, a movement has emerged to promote same-sex marriage as an inherent or constitutional right. This is not a small step, but a radical change: instead of society tolerating or accepting private, consensual sexual behavior between adults, advocates of same-sex marriage seek its official endorsement and recognition.

Court decisions in Massachusetts (2004) and California (2008) have allowed same-sex marriages. This trend constitutes a serious threat to marriage and family. The institution of marriage will be weakened, resulting in negative consequences for both adults and children.

In November 2008, California voters will decide whether to amend their state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has joined in a broad coalition of other denominations, organizations, and individuals to encourage voter approval of this amendment.

The people of the United States – acting either directly or through their elected representatives – have recognized the crucial role that traditional marriage has played and must continue to play in American society if children and families are to be protected and moral values propagated.

Forty-four states have passed legislation making clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. More than half of those states, twenty-seven in all, have done so by constitutional amendments like the ones pending in California, Arizona, and Florida. [12]

In contrast, those who would impose same-sex marriage on American society have chosen a different course. Advocates have taken their case to the state courts, asking judges to remake the institution of marriage that society has accepted and depended upon for millennia. Yet, even in this context, a broad majority of courts – six out of eight state supreme courts – have upheld traditional marriage laws. Only two, Massachusetts and now California, have gone in the other direction, and then, only by the slimmest of margins – 4 to 3 in both cases.

In sum, there is very strong agreement across America on what marriage is. As the people of California themselves recognized when they voted on this issue just eight years ago, traditional marriage is essential to society as a whole, and especially to its children. Because this question strikes at the very heart of the family, because it is one of the great moral issues of our time, and because it has the potential for great impact upon the family, the Church is speaking out on this issue, and asking members to get involved.

Tolerance, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom

Those who favor homosexual marriage contend that “tolerance” demands that they be given the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. But this appeal for “tolerance” advocates a very different meaning and outcome than that word has meant throughout most of American history and a different meaning than is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Savior taught a much higher concept, that of love. “Love thy neighbor,” He admonished. [13] Jesus loved the sinner even while decrying the sin, as evidenced in the case of the woman taken in adultery: treating her kindly, but exhorting her to “sin no more.” [14] Tolerance as a gospel principle means love and forgiveness of one another, not “tolerating” transgression.

In today’s secular world, the idea of tolerance has come to mean something entirely different. Instead of love, it has come to mean condone – acceptance of wrongful behavior as the price of friendship. Jesus taught that we love and care for one another without condoning transgression. But today’s politically palatable definition insists that unless one accepts the sin he does not tolerate the sinner.

As Elder Dallin H. Oaks has explained,

Tolerance obviously requires a non-contentious manner of relating toward one another’s differences. But tolerance does not require abandoning one’s standards or one’s opinions on political or public policy choices. Tolerance is a way of reacting to diversity, not a command to insulate it from examination. [15]

The Church does not condone abusive treatment of others and encourages its members to treat all people with respect. However, speaking out against practices with which the Church disagrees on moral grounds – including same-sex marriage – does not constitute abuse or the frequently misused term “hate speech.” We can express genuine love and friendship for the homosexual family member or friend without accepting the practice of homosexuality or any re-definition of marriage.

Legalizing same-sex marriage will affect a wide spectrum of government activities and policies. Once a state government declares that same-sex unions are a civil right, those governments almost certainly will enforce a wide variety of other policies intended to ensure that there is no discrimination against same-sex couples. This may well place “church and state on a collision course.” [16]

The prospect of same-sex marriage has already spawned legal collisions with the rights of free speech and of action based on religious beliefs. For example, advocates and government officials in certain states already are challenging the long-held right of religious adoption agencies to follow their religious beliefs and only place children in homes with both a mother and a father. As a result, Catholic Charities in Boston has stopped offering adoption services.

Other advocates of same-sex marriage are suggesting that tax exemptions and benefits be withdrawn from any religious organization that does not embrace same-sex unions. [17] Public accommodation laws are already being used as leverage in an attempt to force religious organizations to allow marriage celebrations or receptions in religious facilities that are otherwise open to the public. Accrediting organizations in some instances are asserting pressure on religious schools and universities to provide married housing for same-sex couples. Student religious organizations are being told by some universities that they may lose their campus recognition and benefits if they exclude same-sex couples from club membership. [18]

Many of these examples have already become the legal reality in several nations of the European Union, and the European Parliament has recommended that laws guaranteeing and protecting the rights of same-sex couples be made uniform across the EU. [19] Thus, if same-sex marriage becomes a recognized civil right, there will be substantial conflicts with religious freedom. And in some important areas, religious freedom may be diminished.

How Would Same-Sex Marriage Affect Society?

Possible restrictions on religious freedom are not the only societal implications of legalizing same-sex marriage. Perhaps the most common argument that proponents of same-sex marriage make is that it is essentially harmless and will not affect the institution of traditional heterosexual marriage in any way. “It won’t affect you, so why should you care?’ is the common refrain. While it may be true that allowing single-sex unions will not immediately and directly affect all existing marriages, the real question is how it will affect society as a whole over time, including the rising generation and future generations. The experience of the few European countries that already have legalized same-sex marriage suggests that any dilution of the traditional definition of marriage will further erode the already weakened stability of marriages and family generally. Adopting same-sex marriage compromises the traditional concept of marriage, with harmful consequences for society.

Aside from the very serious consequence of undermining and diluting the sacred nature of marriage between a man and a woman, there are many practical implications in the sphere of public policy that will be of deep concern to parents and society as a whole. These are critical to understanding the seriousness of the overall issue of same-sex marriage.

When a man and a woman marry with the intention of forming a new family, their success in that endeavor depends on their willingness to renounce the single-minded pursuit of self-fulfillment and to sacrifice their time and means to the nurturing and rearing of their children. Marriage is fundamentally an unselfish act: legally protected because only a male and female together can create new life, and because the rearing of children requires a life-long commitment, which marriage is intended to provide. Societal recognition of same-sex marriage cannot be justified simply on the grounds that it provides self-fulfillment to its partners, for it is not the purpose of government to provide legal protection to every possible way in which individuals may pursue fulfillment. By definition, all same-sex unions are infertile, and two individuals of the same gender, whatever their affections, can never form a marriage devoted to raising their own mutual offspring.

It is true that some same-sex couples will obtain guardianship over children –through prior heterosexual relationships, through adoption in the states where this is permitted, or by artificial insemination. Despite that, the all-important question of public policy must be: what environment is best for the child and for the rising generation? Traditional marriage provides a solid and well-established social identity to children. It increases the likelihood that they will be able to form a clear gender identity, with sexuality closely linked to both love and procreation. By contrast, the legalization of same-sex marriage likely will erode the social identity, gender development, and moral character of children. Is it really wise for society to pursue such a radical experiment without taking into account its long-term consequences for children?

As just one example of how children will be adversely affected, the establishment of same-sex marriage as a civil right will inevitably require mandatory changes in school curricula. When the state says that same-sex unions are equivalent to heterosexual marriages, the curriculum of public schools will have to support this claim. Beginning with elementary school, children will be taught that marriage can be defined as a relation between any two adults and that consensual sexual relations are morally neutral. Classroom instruction on sex education in secondary schools can be expected to equate homosexual intimacy with heterosexual relations. These developments will create serious clashes between the agenda of the secular school system and the right of parents to teach their children traditional standards of morality.

Finally, throughout history the family has served as an essential bulwark of individual liberty. The walls of a home provide a defense against detrimental social influences and the sometimes overreaching powers of government. In the absence of abuse or neglect, government does not have the right to intervene in the rearing and moral education of children in the home. Strong families are thus vital for political freedom. But when governments presume to redefine the nature of marriage, issuing regulations to ensure public acceptance of non-traditional unions, they have moved a step closer to intervening in the sacred sphere of domestic life. The consequences of crossing this line are many and unpredictable, but likely would include an increase in the power and reach of the state toward whatever ends it seeks to pursue.

The Sanctity of Marriage

Strong, stable families, headed by a father and mother, are the anchor of civilized society. When marriage is undermined by gender confusion and by distortions of its God-given meaning, the rising generation of children and youth will find it increasingly difficult to develop their natural identity as a man or a woman. Some will find it more difficult to engage in wholesome courtships, form stable marriages, and raise yet another generation imbued with moral strength and purpose.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has chosen to become involved, along with many other churches, organizations, and individuals, in defending the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman because it is a compelling moral issue of profound importance to our religion and to the future of our society.

The final line in the Proclamation on the Family is an admonition to the world from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve: “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” This is the course charted by Church leaders, and it is the only course of safety for the Church and for the nation.
[1] Genesis 2:24.
[2] Matthew 19:4-6.
[3] Genesis 1:27.
[4] M. Russell Ballard, “What Matters Most is What Lasts Longest,” Ensign, November 2005, p. 41.
[5] United Nations, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III), 10 December 1948.
[6] David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem (New York: Basic Books, 1995); Barbara Schneider, Allison Atteberry, and Ann Owens, Family Matters: Family Structure and Child Outcomes (Birmingham AL: Alabama Policy Institute: June 2005); David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: Martin Kessler Books, 1996); David Popenoe and Barbara Defoe Whitehead, The State of Our Unions 2007: The Social Health of Marriage in America (Piscataway, NJ (Rutgers University): The National Marriage Project, July 2007 ) pp. 21-25; and Maggie Gallagher and Joshua K. Baker, “Do Moms and Dads Matter? Evidence from the Social Sciences on Family Structure and the Best Interests of the Child,” Margins Law Journal 4:161 (2004).
[7] David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: The Free Press, 1996) p. 146.
[8] Ibid., p. 145. See also Spencer W. Kimball, “The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, November 1979, pp. 102-104.
[9] David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America, pp. 219-220.
[10] Stephanie J. Ventura and Christine A. Bachrach, “Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States, 1940-99,” National Vital Statistics Reports 48:16 (18 October 2000); and Brady E. Hamilton, Joyce A. Martin, and Stephanie J. Ventura, “Births: Preliminary Data for 2006,” National Vital Statistics Reports 56:7 (5 December 2007).
[11] Alan Guttmacher Institute, “Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States,” In Brief, July 2008.
[12] Christine Vestal, “California Gay Marriage Ruling Sparks New Debate,” stateline.org, 16 May 2008, updated 12 June 2008. Stateline.org is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
[13] Matt. 19:19.
[14] John 8:11.
[15] Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Weightier Matters,” BYU Devotional speech, 9 February 1999.
[16] Maggie Gallagher, “Banned in Boston: The Coming Conflict Between Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty,” The Weekly Standard, 15 May 2006.
[17] Jonathan Turley, “An Unholy Union: Same-Sex Marriage and the Use of Governmental Programs to Penalize Religious Groups with Unpopular Practices,” in Douglas Laycock, Jr., et al., eds., Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008, forthcoming).
[18] Marc D. Stern, “Gay Marriage and the Churches, paper delivered at the Scholar’s Conference on Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty, sponsored by the The Beckett Fund, 4 May 2006.
[19] “European Parliament Resolution on homophobia in Europe,” adopted 18 January 2006.

The Internet is (was?) our Playground

We have to admit it: we're addicted to the Internet and all those wonderful channels on TV. Sadly, this means that we have a hard time using both in moderation. So, we're going to cut them out of our home cold turkey as of Monday, saving $80 a month (not to mention regaining all that lost time) in the process. For those of you normal people out there who can control yourselves, good for you! As Mormons, we're looking at it as we would alcohol or tobacco: sure, most people around the world could (and do) use these substances successfully in moderation, but in giving the Word of Wisdom, the Lord noted that the revelation was “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints.” Honestly, there are probably many members of the church who could drink and smoke without being significantly harmed. However, the weak among us could and do get trapped by the “evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.”

Without getting too serious about it, the same principle applies with us (especially by his own admission poor Mike) and the modern media. So much to see and distract from what we could be doing! Even with a DVR, hours can go by on a weeknight where instead of completing a home repair project or making a visit or reading a good book, something fun (or educational—yes, there are good things on TV. TV itself is not evil) on the tube or the ‘Net drew our attention. Most people (we imagine) probably surf no more than a few minutes a day or watch no more than an hour or two a night. We did the math on our own habits, and it wasn’t pretty. We attempted to cut down, without success. We needed our fix. So, what do you do with something you can’t control? Following the principle of the Word of Wisdom, maybe it would just be better to cut it out (or at least reduce it substantially).

Obviously we live in a wired, media-connected world. We have responsibilities that require us to use email and other Internet media. But we can go to the library, and Mike has Internet at work, so we will survive, just like we survive without a beer at a baseball game or a morning cup of joe. It will take a lot of getting used to. As a last hurrah, Mike found a funny site that converts photos into old yearbook shots. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Juanita Cash and Great Big Sea in Ann Arbor

Before I start off with the fun I have to add another sad note. Yesterday, my dear great auntJaunita Cash passed away. She is the last of my Grandpa Ace Landon's siblings. She supported me and my family at many of our special events. Her wisdom and love will be missed, and I know that she has been greeted with open arms by all of her siblings, her husband, and most importantly our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. All my love and sympathy go to her family.

Da b'ys ("the boys," AKA Great Big Sea) made a stop in Ann Arbor just for us and a few hundred of their close friends for a grand old kitchen party at the Michigan Theater.

I wasn't so sure I really wanted to go to the concert anymore. I had spent the last week in California with family and it was a wonderful time, but I was so happy to be home and I did notwant to leave Landon again. I spent so much on the tickets that I couldn't not go so away we went. Mike and I dropped Landon off at our friends' house in Novi, MI. He did not eve look twice when we set him down he crawled away and had a BLAST! Their kids loved him and I am so grateful. After dropping him off we headed to Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger in Ann Arbor. We saw a bit about it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. We made it through the line without getting yelled at and really enjoyed our food. The theater that Great Big Sea played at was about a mile away. Seeing how full the theater was started to get me pumped up for what could be a great night. The bottom line really is that the music was AWESOME, my (Hallie's) knees were not so hip on all the jumping and dancing, we met some nice folks, and I am very glad we went. Next time they come (if there is one), Landon is coming with. It was so much fun singing at the top of my lungs, dancing, and just letting all of the stresses of life go with the music.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

On Playing at "Single" Dad

Hallie’s grandma passed away last week, and as we could not afford to go out to California as a family to pay our respects and attend the funeral, Hallie went out on Thursday, leaving Landon and me here in town until she returns again on Tuesday. We have limped along pretty well (in fact, we've even had a couple of fun adventures, like going to the Old Car Festival), and several branch members have offered welcome assistance and yummy food that have enabled us to supplement the preparations Hallie and I had made for her departure. Truth is that 1) I have a great job that lets me work from home, so I have been able to look after Landon while he’s awake and work while he’s asleep; and (perhaps more importantly) 2) Landon is an easy baby to look after, so I haven’t struggled too much as far as babysitting goes.

However, Landon and I both feel keenly Hallie’s absence, and we can’t wait to have her back. I miss Hallie being Landon’s mommy. I miss hearing him squeal when she tells him she’s coming to get him when he wakes up from a nap. I miss watching her (try to) feed him as he makes his piggy noises that send her into her own giggle fit. I miss her “shake-a shake-a” dance as she prepares him a bottle and the look on his face as he watches his silly mama all animated and full of fun. Landon knows that his mom is not here, and he responds by looking at the phone when it’s on speaker and Hallie and I are chatting. When he has cried a time or two, I can tell he’s crying his “mama” cry, so I know he’ll be thrilled to see her again.

For those moms and dads who slug through single parenthood all the time, I admire your guts and hope you have solid support networks of family and friends. Thanks to family and friends of the single parents I do know for showing your love and support. I can see why the Lord’s model for the family is one of multiple adults looking after the kidlets—it’s much easier as a team than as a solo act.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


When I posted the death of my grandma it was 2:00 am. I had fallen asleep at 7:00 pm and when Mike came to bed I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. I trotted downstairs to watch some TV and at 12:45 am my dad called to say my grandma had passed. Within 30 min my brother had called to talk, he was the last of my siblings to see her. My grandma was very close to all of her family and they loved her as well. The memories we have are priceless and I am grateful for them. Each and every Christmas when Mike and I continue to make her Rocky Road and Hershey Almond Balls (later found out it came from someone else, so sad) we will think of her and it will be a wonderful tradition that we will pass on to Landon.
Several years ago I bought each of my grandmas a book to have them fill out with their memories. So, I could get to know them better. There were times when Mike and I were able to sit down with Dixie and ask her the questions in the book and listen to her tell of her memories that the book helped her recall. On another occasion I took some time to do a very brief oral history with her. How wonderful it was to be able to see in to my grandma's life.
Those were special times for me.
I am not sad that she has passed as she has not been well for a while. I am joyful because of what I know of the gospel. My testimony is that I have a loving Heavenly Father and a Savior who will welcome her with open arms and she will be greeted by those that have gone before her. I know that I will have the opportunity to be with her again and at that time I will be ready to throw my arms around her and tell her "I LOVE YOU".
This will be an interesting time for me as I am leaving to go to California to her funeral but we have chosen to leave Landon home with Mike for the days I am gone. The idea of having to leave both of them behind hurts my heart. It will be best for Landon to stay in Michigan as the time change can be so hard on a child. I know Mike will take wonderful care of him and he will remember to take all of the pictures that I normally take while I am gone.