Today I had a wonderful experience. I got to teach Relief Society (Women’s organization at church) for the first time in a long time. I had the choice of any talk from General Conference and I decided on one called Try Try Try by President Eyring. Here is the talk if you would like to read it (I think it would be encouraging to those of any faith).
The main thrust of the talk is about overcoming hard times and never giving up hope. Naturally it being Christmas time I decided to relate the talk to this time of year. I created a powerpoint to walk through the lesson, which I don’t always do but it just felt like the right approach this time.
Then I created slides of important quotes from the talk and questions to ask the class:
Then just for fun I added in some famous quotes from Christmas movies.
I was a little nervous going into it because technology can go very wrong and I am a bit rusty teaching (I was a Sunday school teacher for over 5 years in my late 20s so I was basically a pro!). The RS presidency went above and beyond to help me and were amazing and several of my friends came to listen to my lesson, which was very sweet.
To my relief it all went very well. Everyone made great comments and we had an uplifting discussion. I feel very inspired!
Here is the full powerpoint as a video. Feel free to use it as a family home evening lesson or anything else that might be helpful for you and let me know how it goes.
This year marked my 10 year anniversary with this blog Smilingldsgirl. If you are new to the blog you might not understand this name but it is Smiling and girl combined with an acronym LDS which stands for Latter-day Saints or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of which I am a member. This name came about when I set up an email after my mission- a happy and religious time of my life and I felt fortunate it was available.
Recently the prophet of our church Russel M Nelson put out a statement regarding the name of the church and abbreviations like LDS and the nickname Mormon. He said:
“The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months”
It will be interesting to see how far they go with this new direction (and slightly ironic as it was released on http://www.mormonnewsroom.org). If they change the name of the choir that will be very shocking but other than that it isn’t entirely new. The church has been encouraging clergy and reporters to use the correct name for years. All the while using the shortened varieties in missionary efforts and more casual outreach. It now seems like there is going to be a push to be accurate in even those areas and it will be interesting to see how far they take it.
So some have asked me whether I am going to change the name of my blog/twitter handle? I’ve given the matter some thought and for the moment I am not going to. However, I am going to try to use Latter-day Saints or the full title The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in my prose and whenever I speak of the Church in videos. I feel this is living the spirit of the law rather than making my name an unwieldy length.
If the Church gets rid of similar handles like Mormon.org, Mormonnewsroom.org, the Mormon youtube channel, LDS Philanthropies ect and especially if they change the name of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir than I may reassess this decision. But for now I feel this is the right decision for my blog.
Let me know what you think of this emphasis on the full name by the Church and what you would do if faced with a similar situation?
Currently in US cinemas there is a new film called The Greatest Showman very loosely telling the tale of PT Barnum in an extravagant musical. I have seen the film twice now and after my recent visit I tweeted out:
I have to admit GreatestShowman‘s flaws are more obvious on rewatch but in many ways I think it is the Ultimate Mormon Movie
I then promised to explain this tweet and so here I am to elaborate!
First, I should state that I enjoyed the film. It’s an old school, classic family musical. It is written by the same people who made La La Land, and I honestly prefer it. I like the songs better. I like the message better, and I just think it is more of a fun time. Take your family and go enjoy yourselves at the movies!
Obviously The Greatest Showman has no Mormon characters and is not a faith-based film, so how can I say it is the ultimate Mormon movie? Well, it comes down to themes, style and messaging that will ring true for many Mormon people (obviously speaking in broad generalizations here but I have yet to find a Mormon who dislikes the film…).
So let me explain why I think The Greatest Showman particularly resonates with a Mormon audience:
Mormons are Misfits
The first reason is that Mormons see themselves as ‘peculiar people’. Several times in scriptures we learn that the “Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself” (Deut 14:2). This is something Mormons take very seriously and wear with a kind of pride. For example, each year BYU is voted “the most stone cold sober school in the US.” Most of us are are very proud of this designation and boast of it when promoting the church. Look at this video BYU put out heralding the accomplishment.
But this idea of the Mormon Misfit goes back to the church founding where such practices as polygamy and communal living certainly made the people peculiar.We were literally expelled from several states and an extermination order written against us by a state governor (another source of pride).
However, this ‘rebelliousness’ obviously takes a very PG rated form and this is what makes The Greatest Showman so perfect for Mormons. The peculiar people of Barnum’s circus are different from the world but in a sweet, very clean cut way. This is a PG rated movie but it has a ‘freak show’ the whole family can enjoy
If you watch this video on ‘This is Me’ you will see what I mean about the clean cut misfits of The Greatest Showman
Mormons Love Marriage
Mormons have unique views on marriage that helps them bond with The Greatest Showman. We believe that marriage in the temple can be for time and all eternity and that the bond between a couple lasts forever. Children are an important and sacred calling for a couple but it is a marriage between 2 people that the highest ordinance of the church is based. There is nothing more important than a faithful marriage to most Mormons.
In The Greatest Showman PT Barnum is shown as a young child who is the son of a poor tailor. He meets a young girl named Charity who he bonds with immediately and the two are obviously destined to be together. These children grow up to be Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams and they leave her parents, get married and have two beautiful daughters. This is literally the dream of nearly every Mormon person.
In the movie Barnum’s marriage is tested by a woman named Jenny Lynde played by Rebecca Fergusson. In most Hollywood movies he would give into the temptation and betray his marriage. Not in The Greatest Showman. He stays true, even after she publicly shames him and implies scandal. He is true to his wife and the two make up and stay committed to each other. This is very appealing to a Mormon audience. It’s certainly more appealing than say the characters in La La Land who have premarital relationships and give up on their relationship fairly quickly. No such luck in a Mormon musical fantasy! LOL
Barnum is also very sweet with his daughters creating a world that shelters them from the troubles of his work and other stresses. This is encouraged in Mormon households as we have Family Home Evening and other family time to teach, fortify and bond as a family. The scene where Barnum gives the girls a special lamp might as well have come out of a church movie.
Mormons Are Theatrical
People that did not grow up in Utah or Idaho may not be aware of the theatrical traditions of the Mormon people. In fact, when the Saints arrived in Utah one of the first buildings they erected was a theater. Along the pioneer trek the Saints were known for having dances, reciting poetry and singing in choirs.
Today there are few places that support regional theater the way Utah does. Literally every town has their own little theater. We also have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Symphony, Utah Opera, Ballet West and the Utah Shakespeare Festival- all institutions that have received national recognition (to name a few).
Utah is very dance focused and whether it is team dance or ballroom dance students are taught young and are encouraged to display their talents. These performances are usually clean cut, boisterous shows that are very similar to what you get in The Greatest Showman.
Look at this video of the BYU Young Ambassadors and tell me it does not seem right out of The Greatest Showman playbook:
Before every temple dedication there are cultural celebrations with grand theatricals and BYU is famous for its acapella, dance and show choirs. People eat that stuff up and it’s just part of the culture.
This is totally the style of The Greatest Showman. Big boisterous and cheerful:
You could argue that Zac Efron became a star based off of the Mormon template of entertainment. All the High School Musical movies were filmed here and are very emblematic of the type of musical that is popular.
Mormons have a Pioneer Spirit
I am well aware that the version of PT Barnum we get in The Greatest Showman is mostly fictitious, but I think that is largely irrelevant for the effectiveness of the musical. Nobody cares that The Sound of Music is wildly inaccurate to what happened with the von Trapps. Certainly no one should be looking at a fluffy musical for historical accuracy.
So, if we just take the character presented in the movie it is a very appealing for a Mormon audience. He is literally the man who invented the phrase ‘show business’. He gathers his group despite everyone laughing in his face and Mormons relate to that spirit. I mean most Mormons are either returned missionaries or related/married to one. The idea of being a bold thinker and being rejected is very attractive.
He is also kind of a prophet type character that leads with great charisma and enthusiasm. This type of evangelism is encouraged as we have no paid clergy and must all be responsible for public speaking and motivating our fellow church members. Barnum might as well be a bishop in this movie! LOL
The Greatest Showman is not a perfect movie. The script could be better, but it does a good job selling itself to a Mormon audience and evidently the producers thought so as well because they did a very early screening of it in September here. Whether that will turn out to be a good approach to take across the country will be interesting to see. It certainly selling out here! Pretty much all my local friends on facebook and twitter who have seen it, loved it. Just it being a PG live action film alone is enough to excite people here but you add in grand musical spectacle and you have a winner!
It’s not often we get an old fashioned family friendly musical so go see it! Have fun and enjoy it whether Mormon or not. My Dad hasn’t seen a movie in the theater since Les Miserables but I know he will love this. 🙂
Merry Christmas friends! Today is the first day of December and that means the beginning of the holiday season. I must admit to having a weird relationship with this time of year. As a child of course it is magical but as an adult it has often been a stressful time for me. There always seems to be a fair share of family drama and I almost always get sick, which makes it harder to enjoy myself. However, I do try and be as festive as possible. I should be setting up my Memory Tree for Christmas this weekend and I always go to Christmas Carol at Hale Theater, as well as a number of other activities.
This year my church is doing something that will hopefully help me get even more into the Christmas spirit. It is called the Light the World campaign. Each day they have a video and scriptural passages meant to get us thinking about Jesus and all He did for us. I am not going to share every day on this blog but I thought I would let you know about the campaign and share about it from time to time. Today’s message is about service and having an eye out for those in need.
I lead a weird life because it is oddly small and big at the same time. In a week I can have a podcast with people from Australia and Great Britain and yet not see more than a handful of actual people, outside of church. I work alone. I live alone and so that’s the way it often works out. This means I have to work a little bit harder to find those opportunities to serve than maybe some do. I know I could do better and this video is a nice reminder for me to up my service game. 🙂
What are some ways you serve your community? How does Jesus put opportunities in your path to help others? I would love to hear any suggestions you have. I hope you enjoy the Light the World campaign and Merry Christmas!
During the time of Christ there was a group of leaders called the Sadducees and Pharisees. These were Jewish leaders that believed in following the letter of the law. Repeatedly these leaders would accuse Jesus of blaspheme for breaking laws such as healing on the Sabbath. In Mark 3:1-6 they even use it as motivation to plot the death of Jesus:
3 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.
And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.
And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.
And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.
And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.
I think it is sometimes easy to look at these people in the scriptures and think we are so much better but are we really? I recently had an experience where I was judged harshly for my interpretation of my faith. It’s a long story but just trust me it was extremely hurtful. I was told I was unworthy, sullied with filthy content, and a bad example to youth. I felt upset, angry, devastated, frustrated and confused.
But I never for a second doubted my choices and how I live my faith. I know I am temple worthy and that God is happy with my life. If I didn’t feel that way I would change because nothing is more important to me than that. However, this person was making me feel ashamed for my choices and reducing my carefully nuanced positions into the harshest of extremes.
Then I thought about the Sadducees and Pharisees. They not only lived by the letter of the law but they created their own rules and then enforced them as if they are God’s law. Sometimes that happens in our modern church and it definitely happened in my situation. Jesus taught certain covenants needed following with exactness such as baptism, but he also taught the spirit of the law.
In Mathew 7:21 he said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
What is the will of the Father? That’s a tough question we each must answer for ourselves, but at the very least shouldn’t we be open to other people’s reasonable interpretations? Sure we have those core doctrines and principles but many life choices are up to the individual to lay out in the best way they know how. I learn from how other people interpret the faith and find truths I can often embrace. I think that’s what the spirit of the law is all about.
In 2 Cor 3:6 we are told to become ministers “not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but THE SPIRIT GIVETH LIFE”
What was Jesus’ response to the Sadducees and Pharisees? He kept on doing what He was doing and “they held their peace”. He did feel anger maybe a tiny bit like I did, but He also felt grieved, and continued doing His work of healing.
As is always my desire in life, I seek to follow Christ, and I know that my life choices while not perfect, are acceptable before the Lord. And I am going to shut out the Sadducees and Pharisees and continue to do the work of watching and reviewing movies, blogging, swimming and everything else I attempt in my life. This is what gives me life and it is my spot that the Lord needs me to work in.
And that may involve a carefully selected R rated movie on occasion, and you know what God is ok with that!
Hey guys! After being sick for a few weeks and feeling a little discouraged, I am feeling great at the moment!
The biggest thing that has me feeling on top of the world is on Sunday we had our first meeting of the new Mid-singles ward. This is something I have been dreaming of an praying for these past 4 years I’ve been in the family ward. The first fireside was better than I could have imagined. I felt the spirit more than I have in literally years and there were quite a few people I recognized from former YSA wards, activities and committees. I think it is going to be an excellent fit for me and great thing for my life!!
The bishop and other leaders spoke and I felt a connection with them right away and that is something I have missed with my recent wards. Family ward bishops are so busy with marriage counseling and welfare concerns (and the youth) that it is tough to even meet with them, let alone get the kind of attention a YSA bishop can give. I just have a good feeling about this new bishopric.
And honestly I can’t wait! I can’t wait for the activities and FHE and just to have renewed spirituality and focus in my life. I know I will have to do my part but I feel excited and enthusiastic- and I haven’t felt that way for a long time about church. The gospel and my faith of course are always huge in my life but the church has taken a back seat the last few years. I hope that will change with this new ward. I’m going to do my best to make sure it changes.
Anyway, I am feeling very optimistic and encouraged. I am also feeling good because this week has been a great week over on my youtube channel. Through various situations I ended up doing 3 podcasts this week. Yesterday I talked about Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan with my friend Tom and then tonight I talked with my friend Mark about the Best Indie Films of 2016.
These discussions were so much fun. And then on Saturday I am talking Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with my friends Abby, Jeremy and Richard, which I am greatly looking forward too. I’m almost at 1000 subscribers so if you aren’t subscribed help me out! I think you will really enjoy the content. Thanks so much!
Tomorrow I am going to see the Broadway touring company of Newsies which I can’t wait to see as I loved the musical movie growing up. And then on Saturday I have book club where we are discussing 2 obscure Jane Austen novels- Love and Friendship and Lady Susan. I LOVED the new movie based on Lady Susan but called Love and Friendship. If you can find it see it!
So things are looking good for me. Oh and I am going swimming with Etsuko on Friday. We decided we needed to get in the water to assuage our guilt at not swimming the GSL this year. It will be so much fun!
Hey guys! I just wanted to give you a quick update as Memorial Day is coming to a close. I hope you had a great day! I am happy to inform you I am pretty much healed from my illness of the last 2 weeks. It was brutal but I’m so grateful for all the support I had. If there’s one thing a tough experience can teach you it is it shows you all the love you have in your life. Thank you for all your love, support and prayers.
I have some fun news to share with you! The first exciting news has to do with the church congregation I go to. I have done my fair share of complaining on this blog about my family wards and how out of place I feel. Unfortunately it was my only option because I was too old for the YSA singles ward and the midsingles ward was 30 minute drive and that wasn’t going to happen. Well, I am so excited to announce that we are getting a midsingles ward in Draper!!!! They announced it last week and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It is going to start up right away with a fireside to be held on Sunday and the first meeting on June 12th!
This does have its downside because the ward will be massive- containing singles 31-45 from 28 stakes in the Sandy and Draper area. I am sure I will feel somewhat lost but as I already feel that way in the family ward at least there is some potential to make friends/date. Currently my life has little opportunities to meet new people so I am most excited for activities/Family Home Evening and other gathering times in the new ward. It should help my social circle at least a little bit (hey even if I meet one additional person that is a plus!)
The other drawback is I will lose my home teachers, The Porters, who I love very much. Hopefully we can still stay in touch because they are only 2 houses down from me but I will miss their visits. They are the coolest people I know and so warm and accepting of me with all my flaws. I could talk to them for hours and have on a more than a few occasions.
Other than that I am excited to at least try something new. Hooray!
The other exciting news is I had to get my passport because I am going to Spain for the beginning of July! I will be visiting my sister Anna in Valencia, Spain. I was determined to go to the beach this summer and she was there so I figured why not take advantage of it? I don’t know much about the area but am doing research. It looks like a neat place with beautiful water, which is most important to me.
I have been to Europe since I was in high school and haven’t been anywhere aside from a Mexican cruise since 2005! I am very excited.
I also don’t think I will be swimming the GSL race this year. It was a very hard decision for me but this recent illness finally sealed the deal. I just don’t think I will be strong enough Saturday to take that on. It’s so hard on my body with the salty water that it just doesn’t make sense. (It pains me to write that and a side of me still wants to do it. Darn it all!).
Anyway, that’s my news. I hope you are all doing well. Let me know what you think!