Sunday, July 28, 2013

Colds, Chi, Chords, and Coolness

Sam and I stayed home from church today with colds. We had a pleasant time playing together. I snuggle-tickle-pounced him. He retaliated by poking me and shouting "Chi block! Chi block!" (Think "nerve pinch causing temporary paralysis.") I collapsed dramatically into a chair, recuperated, and exacted vengeance. He collapsed even more dramatically onto the floor.

Later we read a book and he "read" lots of the words. Yes, he was using pictures, but still, it's an important pre-reading skill. He pointed out every instance of the letter S and said "S like Sammy!" We played with letter blocks. Sam made "chooch trains" of blocks, with a heavy emphasis on S and "M like Mommy" letter "cars". I spelled some family names. Sam identified most of them correctly. :)

The piece de resistance, though, was when Sam asked me, randomly, to play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on the piano. I pulled out Mozart's "Ah, vous dirai-je, maman." Then Sam asked me to switch to the ABC song, and I did, seamlessly. (I'm still not sure if he realizes it's the same tune.)

Sam and I both tried to sing along, which is difficult while handling the Mozart variations. Especially when playing them. It sounded awful, of course, and not just because my voice is froggy right now. Whatever--it was fun. :)

If you'd like to hear how the Mozart theme and variations are supposed to sound, try this link.

If you want to hear how I actually played them--tough. I bust them out occasionally as background music, every few years, at weddings or other similar events. My "interpretation" is very...liberal. (In other words, I slow it way down, change the rhythm, and fudge many of the notes. A sad consequence of not practicing.)

All in all, a pleasant day. When Jeff got home from church, he also built "trains" from blocks. He said "choo choo" and everything. I love imagination!


Eric and Daniel also got into the spirit of things and added names to our list.


Sam can't understand why he's not allowed to watch "Baby Signing Time" videos. In his mind, if he's sick and didn't go to church, he should be allowed. The explanation that it's still a Sunday and other people went to church is not making a noticeable dent. Fortunately, now that he has brothers to play with again, he's not as insistent.

This means that, despite all my efforts to be a Cool Mom, I'm not as fun as his siblings. I can live with that.

I'd rather play Minecraft with Jon, anyway. Because although watching an educational, wholesome DVD is prohibited in our house on Sunday, obviously trying to murder my husband in an interactive computer game is perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the day...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"The Zax": An Alternate Ending to a Dr. Seuss Story

[I have a deal with my students: if they work hard, they get a "treat" at the end of class. The treat is me reading aloud an original short story.

A few days ago, Eric mentioned the Dr. Seuss story "The Zax." He started brainstorming alternate solutions. Daniel chimed in. I also had a few ideas. Our discussion gave me an idea for a new ending to the classic tale.

Coming up with a plot wasn't hard, though it was the first time I've consciously tried the "try/fail" cycle. Making it rhyme was harder, and keeping a syncopated trip-uh-let rhythm throughout was downright tricksy.

I quote the original story in Courier font. My additions are in a different font. A little preachy, perhaps, but hopefully good enough for my class. It lacks Seussian illustrations, alas.

I don't think this violates a copyright because I give credit to the author, I am using this for educational purposes, and I don't make a profit from this website. (No ads.)

Thanks to all the people who made helpful suggestions on Facebook.

I just wish I could draw...]

One day, making tracks in the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax.
And it happened that both of them came to a place
Where they bumped. There they stood. Foot to foot. Face to face.
“Look here, now!” the North-Going Zax said. “I say!
You are blocking my path. You are right in my way.
I’m a North-Going Zax and I always go north.
Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!”
“Who’s in whose way?” snapped the South-Going Zax.
“I always go south, making south-going tracks.
So you’re in MY way! And I ask you to move
And let me go south in my south-going groove.”
Then the North-Going Zax puffed his chest up with pride.
“I never,” he said, “take a step to one side.
And I’ll prove to you that I won’t change my ways
If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!”
“And I’ll prove to YOU,” yelled the South-Going Zax,
“That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax
For fifty-nine years! For I live by a rule
That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School.
Never budge! That’s my rule. Never budge in the least!
Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east!
I’ll stay here, not budging! I can and I will
If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!”

Well, this was a problem, the Zax could both see,
‘Cause after an hour, they both had to pee.
The North-Going Zax dug a hole in the ground
And said “I need privacy. Please turn around.”
The South-Going Zax answered, “I’ll never budge!
To turn around, I’d need to step. That would fudge
My most solemn oath about south-going tracks:
No east steps, no west steps, and no turning backs!”
“Your grammar is bad,” snarled the North-Zax. “Now please--
At least close your eyes while I go. And don’t sneeze.”
“Your rules are ridiculous!” South snapped. “But fine.
I’ll follow them now if you’ll then follow mine.
When my turn to pee comes, I ask that you sit
And cover your ears while you wait. And don’t spit.”
“I can’t spit!” cried North. “For I must now conserve
What water I have. You have some kind of nerve!
But as to the sitting—I guess it’s okay.
Unusual, true, but not out of my way.”

More hours went by and they both tried to think.
Their backpacks were empty. No food. And no drink.
Their thirst grew and grew, and their hunger did, too.
And fin’ly the North-Going Zax said, “Hey, you—
Perhaps there are options that we could still try.
For instance, I don’t suppose that you can fly?”
“Alas, no,” sighed South.  “If I could, would I walk
Across the whole world while the humans just gawk
At me as I pass? No sirree, I would not!
And speaking of humans, I think that I spot
Some small ones approaching. Some shortish young kids.”
Then North cried out “Children! Help! Do you take bids?”

The youngsters approached and the North Zax leaned in.
“I’ll pay you,” he whispered, face lit with a grin,
“To run home and fetch me a magnet that’s strong
And point it at South here so that he turns wrong.
You see, in Zax noses are iron deposits—“
The kids interrupted. “We’ll look in our closets!”
And off they all scrambled. Except for one boy
Who held up a small business ledger-like toy.
“Excuse me, sir,” queried the youngling, “But how
Will payment take place? Cash or check? Magic cow?”
“Well, I’m heading north,” said the North-Going Zax
“And figure that I could just fit, in my packs
A letter to Santa, plus some kind of treat.
Delivered by hand, it would be quite a feat!
I’m sure Santa’d look on the sender with favor
And spoil you rotten with gifts you could savor—“
The kid took off running, and shouted, “Hey, folks!
The business deal’s off! It’s all just a big hoax!”
The South-Going Zax smiled. “It wouldn’t have worked.
You can’t hack my head.  I’m immune.” And he smirked.

But one little girl came back, not with a magnet
(Instead she had with her some kind of a cragnit). *
“I think,” whispered she, “That you might want to try
To dig yourselves out.” But South started to cry
“I won’t crawl through there!” he exclaimed. “Why…there’s pee
Directly beneath us. That’s ick! Gross! Ewww! Eeeee!”

But then he just froze. And that South-Going Zax,
Though he hadn’t been moving, stopped dead in his tracks.
“Now THAT’S an idea!” he shouted. “My head!
It’s brilliant! I’ll simply go OVER instead!
Crouch down, sir!”  he ordered the North-Going Zax.
“And I’ll save us both from this Prairie of Prax.
“Crouch down, sir, and I’ll simply step over you.
And then we can be on our ways. Please, sir, do.”

The North-Going Zax paused. He felt quite suspicious.
But hunger and thirst gnawed, with vigor most vicious.
“All right, then,” he sighed. “I suppose it’s okay.
Neither sitting nor crouching are out of my way.
But after we each reach our poles, sir, we may
Just possibly switch our directions one day.
‘Cause if I don’t stay at the north pole, well, then
I’ll have to head south. And we might meet again.
So if we should bump, foot to foot, face to face
Somewhere in Australia, swear that you’ll place
Yourself on the bottom next time.” “It’s a deal!”
The South-Going Zax shouted out with great zeal.

The world didn’t stand still. The world grew, as it should,
And a highway came through in the spot where they’d stood.
But every five years, on the Prairie of Prax
You might see a pair of good-natured old Zax
Who meet, stop, and chat. They say “How was your trip?”
And “How was the pole?” And “I need a new hip
From all of this walking.” And then one kneels down
While number two asks, “It’s my turn?” with a frown.
“I thought it was your turn, but let us not start
To argue anew. It’s not good for your heart.”
And “Next time, let’s pivot. We’ll try something new
And sideways-step past one another.” “Let’s do!”

Now, what is the moral? When problems arise,
Stop, think, use your brain. Problem-solve. Compromise.
And that is a lesson that we could all learn:
It’s just more efficient when each takes a turn.

*[I made up the word "cragnit" which is very true to the Spirit of Seuss. Imagine a post-hole digger/shovel/tunneling machine, drawn in yet further Seussian style. --Gail]

[Original ending]
Of course the world didn't stand still. The world grew.
In a couple of years, the new highway came through
And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax
And left them there, standing un-budged in their tracks.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Grass is Never Greener than the Cash You Spend on It.

We just spent a bunch of money we didn't have to buy a luxury we didn't need. We now have a lot of grass I didn't want, consuming valuable resources during a drought. Our utility bill will be off the charts this month. Joy.

It's nice to have a sprinkler system installed. I just wish we didn't actually need to use it twice a day.

Personally, I'd rather have a rock garden. But who am I to argue with the HOA's infinite wisdom in sending me politely nasty letters about "the responsibilities of home ownership"?

If I'd realized how much I'd be homeschooling, I would probably have purchased a home out in the country, away from any kind of restrictive covenant.

Eco Irrigation did a good job. The result is beautiful.

Green, grassy, gorgeous...and gratuitous.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

When I was Robespierre...

Happy Bastille Day! Bonne Fête Nationale!

I have been practicing my French a bit lately on Accordingly, I've been feeling particularly Francophilic lately.

Sadly, Jon wouldn't let me throw a "storming the castle" Bastille Day party this year. Something about not trampling the week-old sod and ruining an expensive investment. Grumph.

I haven't had time today to make a Guillotine Cake. Much of that is because I've been busy reading Les Miserables. After slogging through thirty unnecessary pages about the Battle of Waterloo, I'm wishing I could go back a generation and enjoy the original, pre-Napoleon revolution.

As a nod to the day, though, I have been playing "The Great Dalmuti" and "Guillotine" with my family in an effort to celebrate. I had a great idea for guillotine cookies which I want to try tomorrow. That would count as a homeschool lesson, right? Or maybe if I assigned the kids to build a working model of a guillotine and test it on the stuffed animals...or their own fingers...?

I caught Daniel humming and Jon whistling the tune of "La Marseillaise" today, so obviously I'm doing something right.

When I was in ninth grade, I was at Pine View School for the Gifted and Talented in Sarasota, FL. We did world history that year, and our teacher, Mrs. Johnston, was fabulous. She put us through a three-week simulation of the French Revolution--and I got to be Robespierre. (This helps to explain the name of our new van.) I dove into my part, checking out extra books from the library, reading up on French history, and preparing assiduously for my job as chief prosecutor at the king's trial. (He was convicted and beheaded, by the way. That was a foregone conclusion. But I did a good job "proving" his guilt and orating passionately.)

Mrs. Johnston had a guillotine replica in her classroom, the "blade" covered in aluminum foil. I have fond memories of watching as Louis XVI and subsequent victims were dragged to it and forced into the stock. Ah, good times...

When Marat was abruptly assassinated by a peasant, most of my classmates were surprised, but I reacted quickly, ordering the immediate arrest of the assailant and identifying her as Charlotte Corday. I had been doing extra-curricular research, and I knew what was coming.

I had fun slowly going crazy and becoming a fanatic. Of course, eventually the mob turned on me and chopped of my head. I didn't go quietly, but in the end, I Madame la Guillotine claimed my head, too. After it was all over, I went into withdrawal for several days.

The whole thing was glorious.

Maybe I'm still trying to recapture my ill-spent youth, but I still love Bastille Day.

I refer you to a post I wrote five years ago about running La Marseillaise back and forth through an online translator program several times. It's a classic from the vault. Here's the link.

I still haven't made another guillotine cake with actual blood on the blade. Hopefully next year I'll manage it--along with another "Stormin' the Castle" party.

In the meantime--Vive la révolution!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Wonders in the Heavens

"And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come..." (Acts 2:19-20)

"And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come." (Joel 2:30-31)

Earlier this week, for scripture study, we were talking about keys to understanding prophecy. One of the keys is to live in the time prophesied.

As an example, we considered the prophecy about "wonders in the heavens." I gave my kids the gist of this idea, but it was so interesting, it turned into several science lessons. Those sparked my interest so much, I'm adding in several points now. (Using this timeline of astronomy from wikipedia as my main source.)

In the 1400s, the rare priest reading Joel 2:30 or Acts 2:19 might have thought "Well...I saw a particularly impressive bunch of shooting stars last night. Does that count?"

In the 1600s, an occasional educated person might have said "Well, I hear that there's a big debate going on about whether the Sun revolves around the Earth or vice versa. And I hear that with those new-fangled telescopes, scientists can see moons around Jupiter. I'm not sure if I believe it, but it's interesting."

In 1664, a great comet was seen in the sky of London and was assumed to portend evil. That belief was reinforced when the Great Plague broke out a few months later, and the Great Fire the year after. Was that a fulfillment of prophecy? Probably some people thought so. But they'd seen comets before.

In the 1700s, more Europeans had access to the Bible, and more people would have been aware that there were efforts to catalog stars, and that a new planet named Uranus had been discovered. The really impressive thing, though, is that Halley had used Newtonian physics to predict (accurately!) the return of a comet. Amazing! Scientists could now predict the future! Did that count as "wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath"?

Halley's Comet

In the 1800s, you got spectroscopy. Yawn. (Scientifically very useful, but not exciting to a layman.) But you also got the first photographs of telescopic images of the Sun and moon, plus the discovery of Neptune. Victorian colonists spread across the globe would have read articles about these things in the London Times.

First photograph of the Sun, 1845.

In the 1900s, we got airplanes, WWII bombing raids, Sputnik, and humans in orbit. By then, the Bible was ubiquitous, available to people all over the world in their native languages.

Then, in 1969, people all over the world watched on live television as men walked on the moon. Lots of other cool things happened that century, astonomically speaking, but to me, that's the seminal moment. The point when any person familiar with Joel 2:30 or Acts 2:19 could say "Okay, that TOTALLY counts!" Mankind had not only observed the heavens, and had not only predicted the future, but had effected actual change outside our own planet. Mission control and TV reception were still on Earth. So, "wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath."
Man on the Moon, 1969

In that century, we also got robotic spacecraft sending back amazing telemetry from our solar system. As an elementary school kid in the 1980s, I got a feast of fantastic images from the other planets.
A Voyager 2 image of Neptune, 1989.

In the 1990s, The Hubble telescope gave us breathtaking pictures of spectacular nebulae, supernovae, and other phenomena. The Internet made it possible to find thousands of those pictures in a second. (Go do a google image search right now for "colliding galaxy". I'll wait.) Or you could just enjoy a small sampling below:

"A Rose Made of Galaxies"

Butterfly emerges from stellar demise in planetary nebula NGC 6302
The "Butterfly" Planetary Nebula

In this century, the Mars Rover Opportunity has performed the truly miraculous: it has exceeded official NASA estimates, by almost a factor of forty, in a good way.

The wonder has even become routine:

*The Voyager probes are leaving the solar system--again. The boundary keeps changing as we learn more about what's out there on the fringes.

*These days, discovery of extra-solar planets is a regular occurrence, and no longer confined to gas giants. We just discovered three Earth-sized planets in "Goldilocks" zones.

*We have so many dead satellites in orbit, they're turning into dangerous space junk. We keep launching more, though, because of consumer demand for better, faster radio/cell/wifi/tv/etc. service.

Orbital debris graphic that was computer generated from a distant oblique vantage point to provide a good view of the object population in the geosynchronous region (around 35,785 km altitude). (Photo: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office)
Space junk: a computerized image.

Speaking of communications technology, let's hear it for my new 4G smartphone. The integration of phone, internet, video, GPS, mapping software, and live telemetry means that I almost never get lost, and I know when to expect delays. I can find a hotel en route while I'm on the road, and if I'm too busy driving, I can call Jon and ask him to do the research for me.

So, wonderful satellites in heaven above, and "signs" (or location, directions and up-to-date traffic information) on earth below.

Does anyone want to argue about that portion of the prophecy having been fulfilled? (Anyone who believes in at least the Torah/Old Testament, that is. I'm not trying to start a debate with atheists right now.)

I don't want to be depressing, so I'll touch on the rest of those verses only briefly. LDS Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley referenced "blood and fire and pillars of smoke" when he discussed 9/11. I thought of the innocent people killed, people queuing up to donate blood, smoldering fires in the rubble of the twin towers, and the "pillar of smoke" visible from space. It made sense to me.

Above: the plume of smoke from Manhattan on 9/11, visible from space.

What about the sun darkened and the moon turned to blood? Are we talking about massive volcanic eruptions? A nuclear winter? Severe clouds from burning oil wells? All of my ideas involve some form of pollution darkening our atmosphere, refracting sunlight, and making the moon appear different. I can, however, only speculate; I don't know. That's because I am not living in the time when that prophecy is fulfilled.

Could a 15th century priest ever have imagined the communication network we have today? Could he have understood the idea of black holes or a quasars or novae or nebulae? Could he have believed that we would add to our treasure trove of such images on a daily basis, with people all over the world enjoying free access to such a wealth of information? Is this the kind of thing he would ever have predicted? Probably not.

The best we can do is to study the prophecies, and be prepared to recognize them at the right time. The fulfillment may come with breathtaking speed, or may creep in slowly, subtly. But whatever happens, it will be even more staggering than our strangest speculations.

While I'm waiting, I'll go enjoy a meteor shower. They may be "simple," but they're still amazing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mormons: Martyring and Bartering

[For readers who are not Mormon, a few definitions.

In the LDS sociolect, a “ward” is a congregation of approximately 300 people, assigned by geography. It is roughly equivalent to a Catholic parish.

A “stake” is composed of around 8-12 wards, again grouped by geography. It is roughly equivalent to a Catholic diocese. Frequently 3 wards will share a single building, rotating their use of the main chapel and the other classrooms. This means that some wards meet from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. Yes, that’s very hard on nap times, but it saves a lot of money. Things get complicated when wards from two different stakes share the same building.

“Priestcraft” is a term from the Book of Mormon. It refers to ecclesiastical leaders treating their positions as a corrupt profession. If ministers abuse their offices for personal glory or gain, if they care more about their own interests than the welfare of their congregants, and if they demand payment for administering ordinances, they are guilty of “priestcraft.”]

When too-warm June, in Texas, with rare rain
To hot July and awful August yields,
And tender crops seek moisture, all in vain,
From drought-dried earth in blistered, blighted fields;

As Nature stirs, each person loses courage
And, to avoid the fate of "burnѐd martyr,"
Then long we all to flee on "pilgrimage"--
But first we must our church assignments barter.

Apologies to Chaucer. For the original opening to The Canterbury Tales, printed and pronounced in Middle English and also translated into Modern English, click here.

I know a woman who flees Texas for eight solid weeks, every summer. (O that I were an angel and could have that wish of my heart....)

Lots of other families go on two- or three-week vacations, frequently to Utah or Idaho to visit relatives. These trips legitimately take on an air of “pilgrimage” as we visit the ancestral lands of our pioneer ancestors, and camp out in summer cabins with extended clan.

Many of us do this because we are Mormon. There's just one problem: we're Mormon.

Imagine asking a co-worker to take your calls for ten days. Imagine asking a neighbor to watch your dog for two weeks. Now imagine calling a friend and asking, “Would you mind spending six hours over the next three weeks attempting (unsuccessfully) to teach and (even more unsuccessfully) to quell the riots of a dozen hyperactive four-year-old kids?”

You see, Mormons don't have a paid clergy; instead, we subscribe to an ethos I call "pioneer-era barn raisin'." Everyone has a job, and everyone contributes. Church assignments are about helping the entire community, and should not be about ego. "Let no one shirk; put your shoulder to the wheel" says one of our signature hymns.

As Howard Tayler said, it evokes a spirit of men working together to push a wagon out of the mud. (He also said that a modern update "Put your stylus to the screen" lacks the same spirit.)

[Note: I can't find the original blog post where Howard Tayler said that. I dug around in his archives without success. I believe my paraphrase was reasonable, but if I find his original quote, I'll fix it here and link it. --Gail]

As Howard Tayler said, "the hymn evokes the image of burly, happy men unsticking a stage coach from the mud....Interestingly, 'Put Your Stylus to the Screen, There's a Deadline' failed completely to catch on with the religious folk." [The original quote came from a footnote to this online comic strip: I quote from a printed edition of the webcomic, Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management, page 55. --ed]

The women's organization, called the Relief Society, does a marvelous job of meeting needs quietly and unobtrusively. We volunteer to help each other, out of genuine love. Failing that, out of guilty duty. Whatever--things generally get done, and with minimal fanfare.

People are responsible to find their own substitutes when they are sick or out of town. In general, this system works well.

…Except when we're all simultaneously on vacation.

For the few weeks, an unofficial Facebook page for my congregation has been besieged with people begging for and swapping favors.
It is particularly difficult to find replacements for 1) nasty assignments, like babysitting twenty two-year-olds in nursery or 2) tricky assignments requiring unique skill sets, which, being translated, meaneth “the rare person who can play the piano.” (We are in great demand. Drat my mother’s foresight.)

The good news is that Facebook has made the swapping process much easier, creating a more centralized star-cluster rather than an amorphous network. This is far superior to how things were a generation ago, when people made and received dozens of redundant phone calls.

It could be better, though. A few days ago, I suggested a SignUpGenius page to track everything. Then I realized it could be even more efficient. While listening to Planet Money and considering the world from the perspective of economics, I had an epiphany: “We should set up a market!”

Part of the problem is that we try to trade only intra-ward, with acquaintances. If we expanded to an inter-ward system, things could improve drastically.

Here’s an example: my church building is shared by three wards: Leander, Vista Ridge, and Carriage Hills. Let’s say that Leander Ward has two people who can play the organ, while Vista Ridge has three and Carriage Hills has one. The poor Carriage Hills organist is not allowed to go on vacation—or even to get sick. Ever. It’s impossible for him to find a substitute within his ward. If we broadened the exchange, though, he could swap favors with people in other wards. The Leander ward organist could put in a double shift one Sunday and call in his repayment later.

(Speaking of emergency substitute musicians, did you know that I can play the organ in Spanish? I wouldn’t have believed it myself until “the very hour of my need,” but that’s another story.)

The poor Carriage Hills organist doesn’t know people in other wards, though. He’s actually in a different stake. This leaves him calling people he doesn’t know. And the poor guy has social anxiety issues.

Time to try CraigsLDS!

I will set up a centralized website where Mormons can go to “exchange” assignments. You type in your zip code and ward name, and post requests. You also read through other requests and respond to things you’re willing to do. Maybe you’ll discover a kindred spirit in another building (Georgetown, or Round Rock). The possibilities are endless!

Some exchanges are more complicated, though. What if you’re willing to teach a lesson but you don’t want to be repaid in kind? (“But what I really need is someone to take the eleven-year-old scouts on a five mile hike....”) Once you’re looking at multiple trades, across stake and city boundaries, you need a model more like the New York Stock Exchange--and a common currency to make a string of trades more fungible.

We could try some kind of  “social credit” system, but let’s be honest. Who wants to track a second currency? It would be ever so much more efficient to use the system we already have.

Yes, that means money. Cash. Greenbacks. Filthy lucre.

I first thought of this several months ago when my family was handed an assignment to help clean the church building on a highly inconvenient weekend. I was willing to swap, but we were going to be out of town a lot, which limited our availability for a trade. The thought occurred to me that it would really be worth it to me just to pay someone $10 to mop the bathroom and kitchen floors for me. Welfare at its best, right? I get a guilt-free weekend, somebody else earns some pocket money, and everybody benefits from the clean floors. After all, the bishop will sometimes hand out similar chores (“Could you repair the curtains in the chapel?”) so that the needy can “earn” church assistance (“…and here’s your food order”). While not always an explicit quid pro quo, it is an exchange of sorts.

The whole idea of money is to make bartering more efficient. That’s what I propose to do.

Okay, fine. I admit this is a terrible idea. A few slips down that slope, and we’ll be looking at people who say “I’m too busy to serve, but I’ll just pay 20% tithing.” A few more skids and we’ll have a paid clergy. Then the inevitable freefall into corruption and “priestcrafts.” It’s just so tempting in the short term…

I love Geoffrey Chaucer. I once wrote a twelve page paper about “The Pardoner’s Tale.” In that story, the Pardoner is a corrupt man who wanders the countryside, selling indulgences. He drums up business by preaching “sermons” about venal vices, deadly sins, and the Plague. “Death comes unexpectedly!” he announces. “You, sir—you look like a particularly sinful man, and a bit fat. Heaven knows that you might fall off your horse at any moment and die. Can I interest you in purchasing an absolution from your guilt…?”

As priestcraft goes, any form of “selling” salvation is wrong. It sounds horrible to say “I’m going to let your croupy child burn in hell, because you can’t afford to pay for his baptism during his final moments.” It somehow sounds even worse to say “And this is a real bargain! Pre-emptive forgiveness for pre-meditated sin! Two indulgences for the price of one—you can now commit adultery and then lie to your spouse about it, without any spiritual consequences!” (You’d think the former would appall me more than the latter, but it doesn’t. I’m not sure why.)

I guess we’re stuck with the old fashioned favor exchange on a non-monetized basis. In other words, bartering. The system has worked reasonably well for 150 years and ought to withstand several more.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be playing “Come, Come Ye Saints” on the organ pedals with my feet. While doing that, I will simultaneously sub as emergency Primary chorister, teaching the kids the signs for a song about how “Pioneer children sang as they walked and walked and walked…until they all collapsed from heat stroke.” With my third hand, I’ll hold my wiggly baby, and with a fourth ear, I’ll listen for any breath of heresy or simony.

Ha! You think I’m exaggerating?

My frantic juggling will make me perspire, but three hours of this is still better than five minutes outdoors. Better to "sweat for the stake" than to "burn at the stake."

It’s all just part of being a modern Mormon Martyr.