On Brain Theft and Consent

Empty Your Inner TrashIn our hyper-media world, we (and our children) are bombarded constantly with in-your-face digital messages and images. Remember that catchphrase “garbage in, garbage out” from the earliest days of computer programming? Well, it seems that a large percentage of our media outlets are determined to put as much garbage in as possible. And we, the consumers, have almost lost control of what we get to consume. An article over at WIRED, (which is ironically surrounded by many of the flashy advertisements it denounces) makes a case for attention theft– when our brains are assaulted and literally used without our consent by content we don’t want and in time we don’t choose to give away.  Check out this bold claim:

As suggested, the key word here is “consent.”  There’s a big difference between leafing through a magazine, reading articles and advertising by choice, and being blasted at by a screen when you have no place to go. Indeed, consent is the usual way access to the body is conditioned. The brain is a pretty intimate part of your body, from which it follows that your permission ought be asked before having your synapses groped by a stranger.

I just want to go on record that I AGREE, and this trend is so annoying. If my son wants to look up a vocabulary definition on my phone at a doctor’s office, he shouldn’t be assaulted with an auto-played Carl’s Jr. ad that’s both raunchy and unwanted. Equally as annoying is the fact that we too often just let it happen without complaining or fighting back. Of course, in the name of free speech and free press and freedom of expression, others can say and create what they (legally) want to say and create, but we, in the name of free to do and be and see and hear whatever the heck we (legally) want, should not have to consume it all. Sure, we can put filters in place (already a grueling and exhausting process that all mothers of tech-savvy children loathe), but many cyber spaces don’t give the option of consumer-controlled filters or settings.

For example, my friend Amy recently posted on Amazon’s Facebook page about a problem she has with her Amazon TV viewing. Despite tight parental controls in the settings, there was still a lot of content showing up on the browsing pages, or suggested viewing, or sidebar ads. She asked them, “…When my parental controls clearly show I have no interest, why will you not allow me to completely block that content from view? I don’t need my 7 year old scrolling past ‘American Playboy’ each time he wants to watch a cartoon. Please seriously consider allowing those of us who don’t want Mature content in our homes the ability to completely block it out.” Can you see that this is an example of them forcing consumption of an image or idea without consent–in fact, violating the customer’s established consent? If you want to go like or comment on Amy’s post and offer support for consumer-controlled content filtering at Amazon, go here.

As for myself, I’m going to try to be more aware of this brain theft concept and speak up when companies and websites and media services keep feeding my family garbage without my consent. I say garbage out.

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Thoughts on the election

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I think part of the reason we all feel so weary at election season is because our eyes are opened to the vast landscape of human frailty– we see people lie, cheat, hate, belittle, seek self over others, and refuse to listen or apologize or change when they might be wrong. It’s safe to say we see these behaviors in candidates and in friends and strangers who uphold their candidate of choice. It’s discouraging and leaves us all shaking our heads about what the world is coming to. Other than prayer that everything turns out OK, here are 3 quotes that have helped me find some peace and clarity through this whole process:

1) Jeffrey R. Holland, on why we can’t let anger about other jerks turn us into jerks too: “In my righteous indignation (at least we always say it is righteous) I have to make sure that I don’t end up doing exactly what I was accusing [others] of doing—getting mad, acting stupid, losing my cool, ranting about it, wanting to get my hands on him—preferably around his throat—until, before I know it, I have checked my religion at the door! No, someone in life, someone in the 21st century, someone in all of these situations has to live his or her religion because otherwise all we get is a whole bunch of idiots acting like moral pygmies.”

2) Neal A Maxwell, all the way back in 1978, warning about a society that lets itself dictate morality instead of accepting God’s standards: “We may, by legislation and regulation, vainly try to create a zone of private morality. But there is, ultimately, no such thing as private morality; there is not an indoor and an outdoor set of Ten Commandments. Neither is it useful to cite human shortfalls as an excuse to abandon all absolutes, because striving and falling short of accepted standards is very different from having no standards at all.
“There is an ecology that pertains to human nature just as there is an interrelatedness pertaining to nature. This spiritual ecology embodies certain laws which, if violated, will produce certain consequences. These laws, though less acknowledged, are as irrevocable and active as the laws of nature. They do not cease to operate simply because we do not recognize them, any more than one is protected from the consequences of eating a poisonous toadstool just because he believes it to be a mushroom.
“We had better want the consequences of what we believe or disbelieve, because the consequences will come!”

I just hope that as a society, we can be careful enough to not pick and eat poisonous mushrooms.

3) Finally, this quote from Barbara Bush reminds me that politics are not everything, and I still have some power to create the kind of world I hope for: “Your success as a family, our success as a society depends not what happens at the White House, but what happens inside your house.”

So let’s be wise this week– in the way we vote, in the way we react to outcomes, no matter how unpleasant, and in the way we conduct ourselves with others who agree or disagree. And speaking for myself, I’m glad that God is still in charge, whether people choose Him or not. May “God speed the right.”

[I stay out of the political fray for the most part because I really don’t like fighting. Please note that this post is not an invitation to defend or attack any candidate; it’s just a reminder of our responsibility to be civil, to be mindful of the consequences of our choices, and to be the best people we can be in our sphere of influence.]

Stories of Jesus: Study the life of Christ in 55 days

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Just before Christmas, I had a strong desire to focus more on the life of Jesus Christ, so we started reading the New Testament during family scripture study time. I specifically wanted to read both the happenings and the teachings of His life, with the goal that my children will know Him better, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it in a comprehensive way. I searched long and hard for study guides that had a complete chronology, but I didn’t find anything satisfactory–everything was thematic or out of order or excluded key stories. So, I printed out several of them, laid them out side-by-side, looked at notes in my own Bible, relied heavily on this Harmony of the Gospels tool, and created my own. It took a looooong time, so I want to share it in hopes that it can be an easy, ready resource for families to study the gospels in the New Testament. Continue reading

“When saw we thee a stranger?”

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If you browse through the archives of my blog, including the past seven years on my older blog, you will not find any political posts. Not one. You would, however, find a bucket-load of posts about my testimony of following the counsel of living prophets. So with that in mind, I’d like to attempt a commentary upon recent prophetic direction, with the cautious understanding that the issue at hand is very political to some.

Since the scriptures lay out very clear, dismal prophecies about the state of our world in the years leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the current events involving war and terror and the failing hearts of men should not be a great surprise to us. The news is sad and shocking, to be sure, but not unexpected. One of the somber results of these events is the ongoing crisis of refugees–individuals who are fleeing war-ravaged and dangerous homelands in search of safety and some measure of peace. Their stories and suffering are heartbreaking.

In fact, a recent letter from the First Presidency states,

“It is with great concern and compassion that we observe the plight of the millions of people around the world who have fled their homes seeking relief from civil conflict and other hardships.”

That same letter encourages members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make donations to the Church Humanitarian Fund, which will be used to aid refugees throughout the world, and also asks members to “participate in local relief projects, where practical”(emphasis added). I cannot find anything in their statement that makes any distinction about the religion of said refugees. Continue reading

Roles, Revelation, and Grace

Twenty years ago this month, President Gordon B. Hinckley presented “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” for the first time. To celebrate, a handful bloggers are hosting two weeks of posts about the doctrine of the family. [More info here.]

I was invited to contribute as a guest blogger, so I slipped out of my writing sabbatical and hit the keyboard with my testimony of personal revelation and grace in helping me find my own place in God’s plan. I addressed how sometimes our own reality is at odds with prophetic counsel regarding family, but peace and confidence can come as we understand the doctrine and seek Heavenly Father’s will for us personally. You can find the post here: http://www.cranialhiccups.com/2015/09/roles-revelation-and-grace.html

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A tribute: the life and testimony of President Boyd K. Packer

When an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ passes away, it feels like the loss of a friend. These are men who have uplifted us and brought light into our lives through testimony and example. President Boyd K. Packer passed away on July 3, 2015 after serving as an an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than 45 years. I have studied his life and a large body of his teachings and I want to share some of my favorite things about him; this is his legacy that will live on in me as I continue on my own journey of discipleship.

President Packer came into his testimony of the gospel while he served as a fighter pilot in World War II. He studied the Book of Mormon purposefully for the first time and began to truly believe its divine message. I appreciate what he taught about answers and testimony sometimes coming slowly. He has taught me to trust in good feelings and be patient for clarity and answers to come.

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I also love his testimony of the scriptures. Elder Nelson once commented on how much Elder Packer’s knowledge of the scriptures has influenced the direction of the church. When the Quorum of the Twelve has weighed out problems and issues in their councils, he has searched his mind for relevant teachings from the Book of Mormon and shared them with the Brethren.  “Without the Book of Mormon,” Elder Nelson said, “Elder Packer couldn’t be the prophet he is. Continue reading

The best of Elder L. Tom Perry

Tom11Like many others, I was sad to hear of the passing of Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. My children were sad, too, but recognized that a 92-year-old man—especially a man as good as him—was probably well prepared to make his way to heaven. I don’t dare to pretend that I have any connection with Elder Perry that is more special than anyone else’s, but I’ve studied carefully the lives of the apostles as I’ve taught Living Prophets for the last few years and I have grown to love each one. They feel like family because I learn so much from them and admire their lives and their teachings;  they hold a place in my heart because the things I’ve learned from them are a part of who I am becoming and what I know to be true.

Hundreds of people have posted their own experiences of meeting Elder Perry or shaking his hand, and they all witness of his kindness and encouragement. Elder Perry happens to be the only apostle I have spent some time with in person, and I had a couple experiences that are pretty unique. Namely, 1) we made chili together Continue reading

The learning curve

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One thing about parenting is that you just never really get it. Each season of childhood presents new struggles and new puzzles to be solved. As soon as you feel like you have a handle on the challenges at hand, they change. New ages, new stages, new problems—new realizations about your own inadequacy as a parent. Perhaps that is the whole point of parenting… to be constantly humbled over and over again as we acknowledge before God that we have no idea what we are doing and desperately need His help.

Let me just cut to the chase. I have an anger problem. It’s something I’ve struggled with ever since my little boys were toddlers and unwittingly did things that exasperated me. Once, as a flustered young mother, I marched myself up to the Barnes & Noble Help Desk and asked the unsuspecting clerk Continue reading

Third time’s the charm?

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I blogged for about a year in 2008 and then my blog disappeared. Truly. Trust me, it was tragic.

Then I blogged for about 5 more years at Diapers and Divinity and, man, that was good times.

But then my kids weren’t in diapers anymore, and I had begun writing books and teaching college classes part-time, so the blog fizzled and it was time to do something else for a while.

Now, I’m taking a break from teaching and I feel like I need a place for my words again. I’m dabbling in new book ideas, and sometimes I have more to say (or process) than there’s room for Continue reading