Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year-in-Review 2013

Here's Dave Barry's Year in Review.

Here's mine:

January 21. Susan and I decide that we should, while we live here in the DC area, attend a presidential inauguration. So we do.

February 3. I get to meet Darius Gray and Margaret Young. Darius . . . is a better man than I. I don't know that I would have joined the church if I were African American before 1978. He did, and I think we are better for it.

February 22-23. Susan and I were the local planners of the 4th biennial Faith and Knowledge Conference. This time it was held at the Wesley Theological Seminary here in Washington D.C. It's a very busy weekend for us, but a great time to visit with friends, hear great papers, and have great conversations.

March 26. Stephen and Rachel come down to participate in the March for Marriage. We gladly join them, happy to have an opportunity to see them and their two boys. Rachel is very expectant with their third boy at this point.

April 13. My blog gets its 100,000th visitor. Not too shabby. I'm constantly surprised at who's interested in hearing my thoughts or rants or whatever I happen to be blogging about that day.

April 20. I get to attend my first Con ever. Awesome Con is here in DC, and I get recruited to be part of a panel discussion whether Star Wars or Star Trek is better. (I'm actually neutral on the subject. They are both great, for very different reasons.)

May 1-2. I get to teach early morning seminary for the first time ever. I don't know that I would have gone in the mornings to seminary. Oh, who am I kidding, I would have gone in high school. I was a good kid.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't know if I would go NOW. Haha.

May 8. I get to go fishing with my bishop. Bishop Baird is a wonderful man, a great bishop, and a good friend. I "won" one of three bids to go fishing with him for a service auction in our ward. It's a great time for two reasons. First, I finally caught a fish other than a rainbow trout, thereby finishing the requirements for the fishing merit badge. Second, I spend a lot of time running around in internet forums arguing with Mormons who are more my kind of people, well-read, scholarly, etc. It's nice to spend time talking with him about the ward and realize that my corner of Mormonism is very small, and very specific. He's concerned about much bigger and grander things than my personal crusade to get people to stop leaving the church over what I (mostly) consider non-issues, and it's good for me to see that, and to receive a bit of correction in my own life just by being with him. I don't think I'll give up the issue, but it's nice to be given more context and perspective on it.

May 25. For some reason someone in the stake thinks that Susan and I will be good with kids. So we get roped into being team leaders for our Stake Youth Conference, a nine-mile walk through Rock Creek Park. Our team comes in last, but you know what, I think we all had a good time. (Except for the kid we yelled at when he was swinging a big stick at another person's face.) It was 6.5 hours of walking.

May 27. This blog turns 5 years old. I still feel like Schrodinger's cat. I probably always will.

June 1. I fly to Utah for the six week long Maxwell Institute Summer Seminar on Mormon Culture. There I study under Terryl Givens, a man I greatly admire, and enjoy the benefits of riding my bike to and from BYU campus every day. I don't finish the Lazy Man Ironman I wanted to, but it's still a much healthier time for me. I also play and beat StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm while I'm there.

June 7. Julie Smith gives such a great paper at the Mormon Theology Seminar that I finally feel that I've been given permission to just say, regarding the Fall, Adam and Eve, and all the complexities of trying to sort that story out, that we're not going to find out this side of the veil. When she said that there are many theories, and that none of them account for every single data point, for some reason, that made my intellectual and spiritual parts soar. That, couple with the new temple video (which I didn't see until October despite going to the temple every month), has given me a much better relationship with the creation and fall stories from Genesis, Moses, Abraham, and the temple. I've been working on sussing that all out for a while.

June 12. On our tour of the LDS Church History Library, courtesy of Richard Turley himself, I'm almost crushed by the moving bookcases. That would have been the best epitaph ever. "Slain by the assistant church historian." Would make people 1000 years from now ask themselves: 1) "What did this guy do to get killed by a church official?" and 2) "And why was it so minimal that it had to be the Assistant Church Historian?"

July 11. We all present our papers written for the seminar. Mine seems to be well-received. Michael Haycock and I jointly come up with what is the Quote of the Year. (Later on in this post.)

June 23. The Dugans (Kirsten, the mom, is Susan's sister) are in Provo having taken a summer road trip to Utah. I get to have dinner with them at Susan's grandparent's house, and then go with Brent to the "Hastening the Work" fireside. It had been hyped up a lot, and I was looking to a great meeting.

I want my 2 hours back. Moving on . . .

July 13. I fly home. There is much rejoicing.

July 26. My brother N begins his rotation here in DC. He stays the first few weeks with a cousin of our father.

July 30-August 6. We have our Kent and Karen Mikkelsen family reunion here on the east coast. Various activities include the Luray Caverns in Virginia, swimming in a lake up by Thurmont, a science museum, a tour of Fort Washington, and a Nationals Game with the boys, as well as just great times hanging out with family in general.

August 9-11. Oma Cranney is in town! She's doing a tour of the east coast after the birth of Joshua, Stephen and Rachel's latest little boy. N comes to stay with us for the rest of his rotation, and we get to see his family again. A few days later we then drive Oma to Philly, where we get to meet baby Joshua and see Christian, Simeon, Rachel, and Steven.

August 23. Roweena Kelly, the sister I've been home teaching for the past year and a half and who has been through much trial and tribulations (her son was the one who stayed with us last year), finally receives her endowments in the Washington D.C. temple. I still haven't seen the new temple video.

August 24. We return N to his family in Duryea.

August 25. When I read this blog post from my sister Rebecca's blog I realize suddenly that, whatever our hangups (and we've had some serious ones), I really do love my sister, and am proud of the woman she has become.

September 30. One of my students brings tres leches cake to class, a consequence of her phone having gone off in class. I don't expect that it will ever be beat as the best treat to come as a result of that class rule.

October 19. We go to the Renaissance Fair here in MD with some friends. Turns out some of their friends are some of our other friends, so we randomly have lots of reunions and good times!

October 31. I am called to be one of the Elder's Quorum Presidents of my ward. This is a marvelous opportunity for me to serve, and I'm grateful that the bishop, the stake president, and the Lord trust me with such a calling. To be honest, I feel relieved to have such a calling, because it means my being a rabble-rouser at church, to help maintain a sense of nuance, hasn't gone too far and alienated my leaders.

November 1. I get to go see Ender's Game with my wife and in-laws. Karen was in the original writing group at BYU that Orson Scott Card presented the original draft of Ender's Game to, so for her this movie has been a long time coming. I think it's a good movie, but not a great one.

November 2-3. Oma and Opa, as well as Grandma and Grandpa Holbrook, are doing another tour of the east coast, this time so Oma is around for the birth of N and R's new daughter, I, and can help out. They come and stay and hang out with us for a few days.

November 10. I am actually sustained as the EQP for the North Quorum. I very much got the sense that the brethren of my quorum were in favor of and sustained me, more than just a rote "okay, he's the new EQP." I may be reading too much, but I got the impression that this was . . . right, and that was at least a reason they sustained me. It's very humbling, to be honest, to have their trust.

November 19. In being set apart for my new calling and in the blessings given to my counselors, it's apparent to me that my choices of counselors is also inspired, as several of my thoughts on the matter were confirmed in the discussions and prayers with the Stake President. God is at work in the North Elder's Quorum of the Rockville Ward. (I'm sure he's at work elsewhere, too, obviously, but I don't have any specific data on other parts of the church or elsewhere in the world.)

November 23-6. The AAR/SBL annual superfest of scholarship is held in Baltimore. I get to make lots of new friends, and hang out with so many of them that I actually don't buy any books. I made my choice, but . . . wow, I'll have to budget my time better next time I go! How can you go to that meeting and not buy any books?!?

December 6. The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints releases its statement on Race and the Priesthood. They already have one up for the multiple accounts of the first vision. This one gets a lot of attention, and it becomes readily apparent that the church is finally responding to the accusation that it has lied to people by having such a watered-down version of the gospel and especially of church history in the manuals.  There will be more such statements in the future (and there have already been some new additions on polygamy in Utah and the translation of the Book of Mormon). This overjoys me because, seriously, for the first time, there are easily, readily accessible things I can point to when I try to be a rabble-rouser in church (even though that's been severely curtailed by my being an EQP) that are official church statements on the "difficult" issues in church history. In short, it feels like the church officially finally has my back in trying to get these issues out in front of people before they discover them on the internet and then have nowhere to turn to discuss them. Now they have somewhere to turn. Now I have something I can bring up that is officially from the church, all correlated and everything.

December 23-January 1, 2014. Christmas with the Mikkelsen family! The Cannons flew in and the Dugans drove down and we all just had a generally great time. I got to argue comma placement in the D&C with Ted, about healthcare and drone strikes with Brent, and just enjoy the company of everybody else in the family. I married me a good one, and I married into a great family.

The Quote of the Year this Year, as mentioned above in the July 11 entry, comes from a discussion Michael Haycock and myself were having about people leaving the church over the internet, and why we wish the church would do something about it!
"With the internet, every cat is out of every bag. In fact, there are cats coming out of bags that never existed. It's like Schrodinger's Cat Gone Wild. Not only is it neither alive nor dead, it's reproducing asexually!" 
If you look at my comments on the entries for May 8, October 31, and December 6, you'll see a common thread. For a long time I've felt rather alone in the fight to make sure that people know about the "difficult" issues before they discover them on their own and (often) subsequently leave the church. As 2013 comes to a close, I don't feel that anymore. I feel appreciated and acknowledged by the local leaders of my church. I feel that the institutional Church is also concerned about this. I feel the Church is giving us resources to help combat it. I hope that, as Richard Bushman said at our conference in February, that people leaving the church over these issues is a one-generation thing. So maybe, in some small way, I don't feel as much like Schrodinger's Cat, because I don't feel as alone in this fight, and until some of these developments in the last few months, I didn't realize how along I felt on this issue. Even with the needed perspective I got when I talked with the bishop while fishing, it was still something I cared about, and it was still lonely. The Quote of the Year sums up the problem perfectly-too much bad information on the internet, and even the accurate information is presented in unhelpful ways. (Mormonthink.com, I'm looking at you.)

The Insightful Quote of the Year comes from Christine Falk Dalessio, a feminist Catholic who is a friend of a fellow Catholic U student:
"If we are one body as a Catholic Church, then these are a couple of pimples ripe for zapping." 
She was writing in response to a couple of moron lay Catholics who want women to stay home and not go to college. Regardless of the original context, I'm so stealing that and applying it to Mormonism in situations that seem fit. And there are probably many.

It was hard choosing a Quote of the Year this time around. There were a lot of good ones. You can read them here, in my 2013 Quotes of the Day google doc.

Happy New Year, all! Here's to 2014!


Christine Dalessio said...

Thanks for the nod! All the best to you, and Happy New Year!

Carl said...

You're very welcome, Christine. All the best to you too!