Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ghosts of Ensigns past: January 1971 Edition

A few weeks back I decided that if I didn't feel like paying particular attention to a talk or lesson at church, I might as well try to make my backup activity - playing on my phone - some kind of spiritually uplifting experience. Luckily, through the LDS Gospel Library app the Church has been considerate enough to provide me with enough material to last a lifetime of three-hour blocks. So I turned to the Ensign. But the modern, professional, shiny ones delivered to most LDS homes each month? The one that guys desperately skim when they realize they've scheduled home teaching in twenty minutes? Well, it's okay, but.... meh. I mean, it's doing the best it can, what with the uplifting stories and happy multiracial stock photos and (zzzzz *snore* zzzzzzz........)

Pictured: Uplifting

So anyway, to the past I turned, to the early years of the Ensign. The Embryonic Ensign, flagship publication of a newly correlated church. Similar doctrines, familiar themes, and enough curveballs to be interesting. And with that I resolved to begin a blogging journey of self-discovery and sarcasm, in what could become a recurring series if I feel it's worthwhile. So put on your Time Goggles, trim those sideburns, and if you see your parents avoid eye contact as we travel back to January, 1971.

The very first Ensign. Rather than bore you with all my thoughts, let's hit some highlights.
  • First Presidency Message. The Whos, Whys, and Hows of the new magazine. I like Pres. Tanner's message, addressed to children. Pres. Smith and Lee are a little more hardcore. JFS warns against an intensifying "attack on the basic integrity of the family as the foundation of what is good and noble in life." At least we've been holding off the family's utter disintegration for about 40 years, I guess.
  • Harold B Lee on God's Kingdom being one of order. Do things the right way, do it the Church's way, etc... don't dispute church leaders... pretty standard stuff... an approving quote of an unnamed educator that "A liberal in the Church is simply one who doesn't have a testimony." Well that's something you don't hear nowadays. Umm, moving right along as I picture HBL glowering at me in disapproval...
  • Ooh, this looks interesting: "The Women's Movement: Liberation or Deception?" by...Thomas S. Monson? Hokay, this is getting intense pretty quickly. I'll let you guess where he stands on the issue. Suffice to say it's hard to picture some of these words coming out of the wry, gentle Pres. Monson we know today. It's nothing that any Mormon hasn't heard before, but sometimes phrased in such as way as to offend my delicate liberal faithless modern sensibilities. Whatever works for you, I guess.
  • A lengthy treatise on the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Balanced, historical, avoids tying current events to prophesy... Wow, this is pretty good. If we accompany it with sufficiently happy-looking pictures, can we have articles like this in the Ensign again?
  • Leonard Arrington on "The Human Qualities of Joseph Smith". More devotional than historical, but interesting and well-written. Minimum of fluff and doesn't just repeat the rote stories we all know. And hey, bibliography!
  • An article on the ban of cigarette ads on television. Calls tobacco companies the "conspiring men" with the evil designs mentioned in DC 89. That's super cool, the kind of church-sponsored advocacy I can get behind.
  • Public schools! Again, not fluff, but an actual commentary on judging their effectiveness. Written by actual educators! After a semi-alienating start, this issues is growing on me. Later, another article by a professor on far-flung branches of Judaism. Good stuff.
That's all for day. I skipped around a bit and didn't comment on most of the articles, but initial reactions are that I'm probably going to bristle at the direct, uncompromisingly conservative style of Pres. HBL and JFS, but I'm digging the eclectic content of the entire magazine. Either way it's engaging and not as bland as it now tends to be. Unfortunately I cannot judge the saccharinity of the pictures, as, sadly, the app omits them. Until next time, if and whenever I feel like continuing this series.