Elliott Smith


I heard Elliott Smith for the first time when I was a senior in high school. If I’m completely honest with myself, I latched on to his stuff because he was from Oregon and he was interesting. My appreciation for his music came later.

One of my favorite songs of his, Waltz #2, was written about extensively today in Slate, so I thought I’d shine some light on what I think is another one of his best songs, Waltz #1.

Ten years ago today Elliott Smith died. I’m usually not a fan of the cult of personality that surrounds deceased musicians, but I am a big fan of Elliott Smith. So I figure it was at least worth a blog post.

If you’ve never heard any of his stuff, it’s never too late to give him a try.

Also, here is a great Ben Folds tribute to Smith from his album Songs for Silverman.

May God bless the Rose Park second ward

PicMonkey Collage

Last Sunday I picked up a free book from our ward’s library. It’s a shared library, of course, between ours and the 10th, 5th, 8th and I believe 1st ward. The book was a fancy gold leaf edition of The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter. The kind that makes you cringe a little because a book with such humble teachings seems misplaced in such gaudy packaging. Nevertheless, it will look great on our bookshelf, which is clearly what the book was actually designed for in the first place.
I took the book for two reasons: I am curious what the teachings of Howard W. Hunter actually are (since I’ve almost never heard anything said by him quoted in church. Probably because he was only President of the church for less than a year) and I wanted a keepsake from the Rose Park Second Ward.

You see, Brittany and I have just moved to a new place in Sugar House. It’s quite the contrast to our experience in Rose Park, for many reasons, but mainly because we aren’t afraid to go for a walk at night.

But this blog post isn’t about what I didn’t like about Rose Park. It’s about what I know I will miss. Our ward there was so good to us. Everything that a ward should be, and more. Our congregation was diverse, in lifestyle as well as ethnicity. We were welcomed in with open arms, given callings that made us feel like we were an integral part of the ward family, and most of all, we felt that on Sunday people were glad to see us.

When I told my Sunday School class (youth, age 14-18) that Brittany and I had found a new place outside the ward boundaries, they actually seemed upset, which was a surprise to me. I’ve only held the calling for a few months, and they never seemed to be paying attention most of the time anyways.

On our last Sunday, I walked into the room where Brittany taught gospel doctrine and saw her hugging the sweet old ladies that took care of me before Brittany got here from Virginia. Every Sunday they asked me when my wife was going to get into town. They sat by me, whispered comments to me during the lesson, and even hugged me now and again.

There were two Joe’s in our ward. One dressed like a Hell’s Angel and struggled to read during Elder’s quorum. I remember during one lesson on the Word of Wisdom the teacher asked “what would you say to someone who told you they didn’t see any harm in drugs like marijuana, and they used them responsibly, so what’s the harm?” He mumbled under his breath. “I’d say, good for you.” I sat by this Joe during Priesthood opening exercises almost every Sunday. From what I recall, he never missed a Sunday.

The second Joe is a plump and jolly chef from southern California. He has a goatee sans mustache, and I heard him say “damn” in Elder’s quorum once when he got a question wrong during a game of “Get to know the quorum Jeopardy.” He helped us move a love seat in his truck one evening. And by helped us, I really mean he did it all by himself. I bothered him during dinner hour to see if he could help us get the thing from a sister in our ward who was giving it away for free. He showed up at our apartment complex 15 minutes later with the seat in already in the back of his truck. “She lives right around the corner from my house,” he said.
Joe also co-taught Sunday school with Brittany. I got to sit in on one of his lessons, the one about the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. He briefly mentioned Joseph Smith’s relationship to Freemasonry, which lead to a pretty hearty discussion by some of the senior citizens in the class about Joseph using Freemasonry as tool to give structure and order to his revelations. One such sister, who must be in her late 70’s to early 80’s, also commented two weeks prior in her testimony that we all have such a great opportunity to study the gospel in an academic sense, deepening our faith and our intellect at the same time. There are so many great conferences, such as Fair and Sunstone, she said, that allow us to explore our faith as well as our doubts, that it would be unfortunate for us not to take advantage of them.

Brother Blake — the first counselor in the bishopric — and I once bonded over our love for the teachings of Hugh B. Brown. He once taught a lesson in priesthood about unconditional love and the duties of the quorum to look out for one another. It was one of the best lessons I’ve ever had in a priesthood meeting. He loves literature and he loves the gospel. A solid combination for great lessons.

Our experience in the Rose Park Second Ward came at just the right time, too. It seems like more and more, members of the church are having a hard time getting along. I can hardly get on facebook (or twitter for that matter) without seeing someone posting something that I would consider to be unnecessarily judgmental. As Mormons, we certainly love to call those who disagree with us to repentance, which is rather unfortunate.
Being in the Rose Park ward helped me feel less of a need to judge others. Probably because I never felt judged there. People were just happy that I was trying, that I was there. I couldn’t help but feel the same way.

Our home teacher, Brother Otterstrom, was another great example to me. Not only did he go out of his way to help me move our couch out of our apartment (there were some pretty killer stairs) but he was always willing to share his true thoughts and feelings during Elder’s Quorum. I remember during one lesson when the teacher said, “i’m sure all of us have doubts now and again,” brother Otterstrom corrected him. “I have doubts all the time,” he said.

He said it so matter-of-factly that it didn’t come across as contentious. The comment cut through the prideful air that sometimes accompanies priesthood lessons. Everyone was too busy nodding their heads in agreement to consider casting stones at him. Right before we left, he was called to be the second counselor in the Elder’s Quorum.

This past week, as we’ve been moving, for some reason I’ve been seeing a lot more talk on the internet of “good” and “bad” Mormons. You see, we get very offended when people suggest we are all alike, but also tend to get all hot and bothered when one of us is different, which is of course, not only a waste of time but of spiritual energy.
Every time I see a pithy blog post aimed at cutting down those with questions, or a facebook thread that not only dismisses the opinions of others, but chastises them for even having them, I think of Rose Park. I think of how much more effective, and spiritually gratifying it was, to be around people who accept you on your own terms. A concept that for me defines The Savior’s earthly ministry.

May God bless the Rose Park Second Ward. If for nothing else, because they let us in and cared for us the best they could for the short time we were there.



Arcade Fire’s worst music videos


So Arcade Fire released their new single, Reflektor, last week. It’s pretty awesome, and the interactive music video that goes along with it is pretty sweet as well. Unfortunately, the standard music video that came out with the song’s release is not so awesome. In fact, it’s kind of lame.

It’s a trend, you see. AF will release an amazing album, followed by well selected singles that are accompanied by terrible music videos. Like, really terrible.

The non-interactive video, the one directed by Anton Corbijn, is certainly not their worst, but it’s still pretty lame. The big bobble-head thing seems pretty neat, but the driving around in the truck with Win Butler’s painted on burglar’s mask is not. The song is explosive and brooding, the video is not. It doesn’t reflect, if you will, the feeling of the song very well.

So, in the spirit of celebrating their upcoming album, and the subsequent terrible music videos that will likely accompany it, here are my five least favorite Arcade Fire music videos.


Possibly my favorite AF song. The video starts out as a pretty cliche indie video from the 2004-2006 period with all the 2D marionette stuff  (see Franz Ferdinand and Modest Mouse) but this one has particularly shoddy animation and stops making sense part way through. Mostly, it just irks me that such a great song got such a mediocre music video. It also makes me miss their  violinist, Sarah Neufeld, who is noticeably absent from Reflektor.


There’s an interactive version that’s better, but this is also quite lame.


“Let’s just play the song and walk around a neighborhood.”


I don’t even understand this. Like at all. High school CAD project, maybe.


But this, this is truly embarrassing. All the others were made when they had the excuse of not having money. This came after a sold-out Madison Square Garden concert and a grammy. It embarrasses me.

Oh, what’s that you say? What’s my favorite Arcade Fire music video? Well this doesn’t really count because it’s not an official music video, but it’s still my favorite.



Because it’s Sunday: My favorite quotes on Mormonism


I had a particularly good day at church today. Good lessons all around. When Brittany and I came home from dinner at my aunt’s house, I cracked open B.H. Roberts’ The Truth, The Way, The Life (my sunday reading of choice right now) and started reading.

Then I got the urge to blog. But because it’s Sunday I thought it might be best to blog about my faith in some form or another. I’ve purposefully avoided doing that in the past, but I decided today I might want to dabble a bit in expressing my religious thoughts on the internet. So, I began to write about a bunch of stuff I’ve had on my mind this week pertaining to God and faith, etc. But I ultimately decided to take the lazy way out.

So here, in no particular order, are three of my favorite quotes, or teachings, or whatever you want to call them, that have helped me shape how I view my relationship with God and my Mormon faith:

The first one actually comes from Roberts’ The Truth, The Way, The Life, and if you are interested in finding it in the book itself it’s on page 15 (that is, in the edition released by the Smith Research Associates, not BYU Studies).

It comes while he is discussing the nature of “truth”, and might just be one of my favorite explanations of the expansive possibilities within Mormon theology.  He explains that truth, as Mormons see it (or at least as we should see it, according to our theological foundations) must include the “knowledge of things as they are to come.”

“This presents a view of truth seldom, if ever, made. With it is given the idea of movement. Truth is not a standing pool but a living fountain; not a Dead Sea, without tides or currents. On the contrary, it is an ocean, immeasurably great, vast, co-extensive with the universe itself. It is the universe, bright-heaving, boundless, endless, and sublime. Moving in majestic currents, uplifted by cosmic tides in ceaseless ebb and flow, variant but orderly; taking on new forms from ever changing combinations, new adjustments, new relations — multiplying itself ten thousand ways, ever reflecting the Intelligence of the Infinite, and declaring alike in its whispers and its thunders the hived wisdom of the ages.”


Next is a Hugh Nibley one. One of my favorites, though there are many. It’s from an interview that ran in the collection Eloquent Witness: The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple. The very first Nibley book I ever bought. It’s basically just Nibley telling it like it is.

“We’re just sort of dabbling around, playing around, being tested for our moral qualities, and above all the two things we can be good at, and no two other things can we do: We can forgive and we can repent. It’s the gospel of repentance. We’re told that the angels envy men their ability both to forgive and to repent, because they can’t do either, you see. But nobody’s very clever, nobody’s very brave, nobody’s very strong, nobody’s very wise. We’re all pretty stupid, you see. Nobody’s very anything.” 


And here’s the last one. This one’s a quote from John Taylor, but I didn’t find it from digging through his journals, or even reading a book about him. I read it in an essay in Dialogue titled “Seers, Savants and Evolution: The Uncomfortable Interface.”

“Our religion … embraces every principle of truth and intelligence pertaining to us as moral, intellectual, mortal and immortal beings, pertaining to this world and the world that is to come. We are open to truth of every kind, no matter whence it comes, where it originates, or who believes in it … 

A man in search of truth has no peculiar system to sustain, no peculiar dogma to defend or theory to uphold; he embraces all truth, and that truth, like the sun in the firmament, shines forth and spreads its effulgent rays over all creation, and if men will divest themselves of bias and prejudice, and prayerfully and conscientiously search after truth, they will find it wherever they turn their attention.” 

In the essay, this quote comes just after another great quote by J. Taylor. I wouldn’t rate it as one of my favorites, but it’s still really good so I might as well mention it here.

“I do not want to be frightened about hell-fire, pitchforks, and serpents, nor to be scared to death with hobgoblins and ghosts, nor anything of the kind that is got up to scare the ignorant; but I want truth, intelligence, and something that will bear investigation. I want to probe things to the bottom and to find out the truth if there is any way to find it out.” 

So there you have it. Three (four-ish) quotes that charge my spiritual battery.