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The Mormon Nerd

My name is Derek and I am an unapologetic nerd. While “nerd” is often used pejoratively, I embrace being a nerd in all its geeky nerdness.

First, let me establish my nerd bonafides—I can tell you how many parsecs it took the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars to make the Kessel run, I know the Star Trek villain Khan’s middle name, I know exactly how many hit points a battleship unit has in the Axis and Allies strategy game, I could tell you the MVPs of all the Super Bowls, I can explain what race Aragorn belonged to in Lord of the Rings, I could say who critiqued quantum mechanics with a zombie cat (simultaneously living and dead!) and I could bore you discussing the only statistically provable reason for home field advantage in team sports, plus I could show you my brand of wrist watch (the answers being, in order: 12, Noonian, 2, of the first 3 SB MVPs there were two Barts and a Joe, Numenorean, Schrödinger, referee bias, and the uber-nerdy Pebble watch).

If most of that was simply garbled nonsense, then I am sad to say you have no nerdness in you…but keep reading anyway! If you understood most of the words then you may have some latent nerd potential. If you wanted to debate the fact that parsecs are a unit of distance and not time and thus Han Solo’s boast about the Millennium Falcon’s speed was nonsensical then—welcome to the nerd clubhouse, my friend!

I do have many interests that aren’t as nerdy. I am passionate about traveling, food, music, watching sports, and practicing dentistry (OK, that one’s pretty nerdy).

But most of all, I love being Mormon…no, I mean really a lot! Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints defines everything I believe, do, and am…not because it has to, but because I want it to. If I could be only one really good “something”, I would want to be a really good Mormon/Latter-day Saint. I am trying my best to do just that.

What does it mean to be a Mormon? For me, being a Mormon/Latter-day Saint is being a disciple of Jesus Christ (and anytime I call myself “Mormon” feel free to think “disciple of Jesus Christ”). It means believing in my Heavenly Father’s plan for me and all His children. It means emphasizing the things that really matter in life—faith, family, and friends. It means trying to be a better man, husband, and father through the grace and power of God. It means loving and serving those around me.

There are so many amazing, compelling things about Mormonism—the focus on Jesus, the celebration of family, the scriptures, the history, the doctrine, the temples, the leaders, the unique culture, the crazy kitsch, and my fellow Mormons. I also love being able to respectfully write about all those things I just mentioned.

To explain this all a little more eloquently, I like the following: “Mormonism has indeed been marrow to my bones, joy to my heart, light to my eyes, music to my ears, and life to my whole being. Thus lit up, I woke to find Jesus leaning over me, smiling wide, with the Book of Mormon snapped like smelling salts beneath my nose” (Adam S. Miller, “Rube Goldberg Machines”).

I am a Mormon nerd.

They say you should write (and blog) what you know…and I know Mormonism!*

*Of course, all thoughts and opinions on this blog are completely my own and in no way officially represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You should definitely go enjoy www.lds.org or www.mormon.org to get lots of officially great stuff about Mormonism.

In my blog I will explore, discuss, celebrate, and ask questions about all things relating to Mormonism. It should be obvious that not everything Latter-day Saints have done or are doing is perfect. Mormonism is not perfect. I do not believe in airbrushed, superhero Mormons either today or in the past. It actually inspires me more to see and read about imperfect people trying their best to understand and do what God requires of them—because I am one of those people. I embrace and will discuss Mormonism in all its complexity—warts and all.

A passing acquaintance with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will come in handy when reading my posts. While not intended for just a Mormon audience, I will often use vocabulary, concepts, and scripture citations which are unique to Latter-day Saints. But whether you are a Church member or not, I hope you will stop by, read, and comment. I would love to hear from you.

Rather than just a series of random posts, I am planning on having some different Departments/Columns on my blog to keep things organized. They will include:

Sunshine in My Soul

The Grace and Love of God Changing My Life

A verse from a favorite hymn Sunshine in the Soul states “There is springtime in my soul today, and when the Lord is near, the dove of peace sings in my heart, the flowers of grace appear.” I love this metaphor for how God’s power manifests in my life. If my faith isn’t allowing the Lord to change my heart, my mind and my life then I’m doing it wrong. Thankfully, the Lord has been “merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13) and has blessed me with His sunshine throughout my life. I will share some of my experiences including:

When the Lord is Near, the Flowers of Grace Appear—I have been blessed to feel God’s goodness, love, and grace. God’s grace could be defined in a few different ways—an enabling power, a gift given to those undeserving, a divinely assisted change of heart and mind. I have been so blessed to have experienced the grace of God in my life and I will share how I have encountered such grace; often in an unexpected place.

The Dove of Peace Sings in My Heart—I believe music can communicate directly to our souls and teach the Gospel more effectively than almost anything else. I will share my favorite hymns, stories of music blessing my life, and some really cool versions of some really cool music.

 

The Virtue of the Word
Talkin’ the Good Word of God With a Mormon Nerd

The holy scriptures. The word of God. Divine writ. I love their depth and breadth. I love nerding-out over Hebrew and Greek translations. I love asking questions about the scriptures and having them give surprising answers. I love seeing the scriptures in all their wonder—simple and complex, easy to understand but sometimes easily misunderstood, motivating but also challenging, inspired and divine but given to (and through) imperfect mortals. I will explore the “virtue of the word” (Alma 31:5) in a few ways:

“Inconceivable” Scriptures—In the movie “The Princess Bride,” the lisping Vizziny keeps misusing the word “inconceivable.” When it comes to Mormons understanding and applying certain scriptures, I would paraphrase Inigo Montoya…“You keep using that scripture…I do not think it means what you think it means.” I believe there are scriptures (and topics) that Mormons may sometimes be misunderstanding and misusing.

Every Instance of __________ in the Scriptures—What if you looked at every single use of the word “grace” in holy writ? What could you learn about what that word means by how it is used in different (and perhaps surprising) ways? What about every use of words like—meekness, blood, patience, fear, judge, etc.? By looking at every instance and use of certain words I hope to find greater insights to increase my faith in Christ.

Studying the Word with the Nerd—I imagine my way ain’t any better than your way, but I will share my approach for studying the word of God as I apply it to specific verses.

 

The Preaching Pulpit
My Own Little Soapbox to Share My Spiritual Sermons

I feel very blessed through the years to have had the opportunity to prepare many Gospel sermons, talks, and lessons. I will sometimes rise to the “preaching pulpit” and share some of my thoughts on the spiritual truths I hold dear, including:

Sixty-second Sermons—I tend to be a bit wordy; I guess I just like being thorough. However, sometimes brevity is best. So I will be sharing Gospel nuggets that you can read in under 60 seconds. Guaranteed!

“All Things Bear Witness”—everyday things that teach Gospel lessons…like toasters, football, live chickens, swimming pools, and German cheeses. No, really.

The Question Shelf
Many Questions, Seeking Faithful Answers

Challenging topics and questions about my faith I sometimes “put on the shelf.” That means I choose not to let difficult topics weaken my faith, instead choosing to wait for further information or revelation to help me better understand. I will sometimes pull these topics down from my “question shelf” and explore them as I apply new thoughts and insights. I also have lots of other interesting questions—and for a few I have even found some answers!

Mormon Mythbusters–are there myths about certain challenging or compelling topics that sometimes arise? I definitely think so, and so I will put these tough topics to the “Mythbusters” test.

Question of the Week–every week (OK, at least most weeks) I will ask a question and try to give an answer…and the answer will be in the form of a question. Just kidding. I’m not that much of “Jeopardy” nerd.

 

GOOBBRs
Guaranteed “Out Of the Best Books” Reviews

Just as I need to breathe, I need to read. I read in the bathroom, in the shower, in the morning, at night, with a fox, in box, in the rain, on a train with great speed, Sam-I-am, I have to read (including probably one too many Dr. Seuss books). I love the guidance given to Joseph Smith that we should seek “out of the best books words of wisdom” (D&C 88:118). I love books (especially nerdy ones) that illuminate, inspire, and even challenge my Mormon faith. I will be sharing my reviews of these books in GOOBBRs.

 

From R2D-2-CTR
Where the Gospel Meets Popular/Nerd Culture

Can Star Wars show men how to better exercise the priesthood? Can Lord of the Rings inspire us to live the Gospel? Can Orson Scott Card’s science fiction give insights on the plan of salvation? Can superheroes teach meaningful Gospel lessons? Can the TV show Lost teach us about sin and redemption? Yep, they sure can. Since I view pretty much everything through the lens of the Gospel, I will share my perspectives on popular and nerd culture as filtered through Mormonism.

 

The Talking Donkey
You’re a Mormon and a…what?

There is an old expression (that the Shrek movies used quite literally) that really exotic, unlikely things are about “as rare as a talking donkey.” Demographic surveys show Mormons are the most conservative, Republican-leaning members of any religion in the United States. Being a white, male, upper-middle class dentist and an orthodox Mormon—who happens to be a registered Democrat—makes me, on many levels, “the talking donkey.” I promise this is not going to turn into a blog full of political rants. No, I will not try to demonstrate why I’m right (umm, I mean…left) and you’re wrong—there seem to be very few “rights” and “wrongs” in politics anyway. However, I will sometimes put on my helmet and tread into what more and more seems like a political battlefield (and you thought religious discussions could get heated!) to share some of my political beliefs and how my faith informs and intertwines with my political ideas. I will also share interesting experiences as other Mormons have found out about me being a talking donkey.

 

Green Jello
The Lighter and Silly Side of Mormonism

Need something to smile about or a quick laugh? Mormons can be quirky and eccentric, including their perceived obsession with the jiggly gelatin treat. In “Green Jello,” I will share my experiences with the fun and silliness of Mormon culture, including:

Poetry Tributes to Jello31 forms of poetry, 31 different poems about jello.

Is it the Old Testament…or is it Rock n’ Roll?have you ever noticed that some rock lyrics sound like they could almost be from somewhere in the Old Testament…and some scriptures that sound almost like a rock song? I have some of both and I’ll let you decide which is which.

The Best of Mormon Kitschkitsch is something campy, ironic, ridiculous, or tacky…but also funny and amazing! Be warned…you may be making your Christmas/birthday gift lists from these items of kitschy awesomeness!

Talentless talents–how do you perform at talent shows without any real talents? Watch and learn.

Monday Morning Mormon Joke of the Weekbringin’ the Mormon funny just in time to give you a Monday morning boost–whether you need it or not!

So, please read, comment, share (if you feel so inspired) and enjoy. You know you need a little more nerdiness in your life…Mormon style!

3 comments

  1. Jim   •  

    Really excited about where this site is headed, can’t wait to see more!

  2. Rus   •  

    This is going to be Good…

  3. Brian Simms   •  

    I haven’t finished reading your introduction but I had to comment and point something out. The problem with your answer to the parsecs question isn’t that parsec is a unit of distance, it is another galaxy long ago, parsec can be a unit of time there or something completely different. Maybe it is Corellian pilot slang, who knows?

    The issue is that Han didn’t make the Kessel run IN 12 parsecs, he made it in UNDER 12 parsecs. My assumption would be that means 11 or 11 point something. I just thought I should point that out for you. You definitely had me on the battleship hit points and the Superbowl MVPs though. I’m an NFL geek but I didn’t know that one.

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