Century Marks

Century Marks

Mormons on Mormons

Though Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Harry Reid all belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, their coreligionists view them very differently. According to Pew research, 86 percent of Mormons see Romney in a favorable light, 50 percent view Huntsman positively and only 22 percent give Reid a thumbs-up. About three-fourths of Mormons are Republican or lean in that direction, which may explain the low ranking given to Democratic Reid. Romney is an active lay leader in his Mormon congregation and refuses to distance himself from the LDS Church (Christian Science Monitor, January 12).

Strike a chord

Choral singing is the most popular and durable arts-related participatory activity in the United States. Nationally 28.5 million people sing in one or more of about 250,000 chorus groups. There may be mental and physiological reasons for this: singing, particularly in groups, makes people happy. While singing releases endorphins, the feel-good chemical of the brain, choral singing has the greatest effect on people's happiness. In an Australian study in 2008 choral singers on average expressed greater happiness than the general public, even when those singers were carrying greater burdens than the average person not singing in choirs. The benefits of choral singing in particular come from the fact that it is a social activity, which gives people a sense of belonging and combats loneliness (TLC.com).

Slippery slope

According to Cul­len Murphy (God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World), the church did no worse in using torture than modern states, and there is some evidence to show that the church behaved better. The church put limits on the use of torture: how severe and how often, when it could be used and by whom. But the limits could be stretched. If a second session of torture was prohibited, its use was sometimes construed as the continuance of a previous session (American Scholar, Winter).

Teacher, teacher

A longitudinal study that followed students from fourth grade into adulthood gives empirical proof that good (or bad) teachers do make a difference. Having a good teacher in the fourth grade alone increases by 1.25 percent the likelihood that a student will go to college and decreases the chance by the same amount that a female student as a teenager will get pregnant. Having a very poor teacher is tantamount to a student's missing 40 percent of the school year, an intolerable truancy rate. Nicholas D. Kristof notes that the quality of public school education is hardly getting any notice in the primary campaigns. Improving the quality of education may be the most essential strategy for the nation's economic development and job creation in the future (New York Times, January 11).

Dead ringer

In a video shown by the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Burbank, California, congregants are reminded to turn off all cell phones and all electronic and messaging devices. The video warns that a fee of $25 will be assessed for a cell phone that goes off during announcements, $50 if it goes off during prayer concerns. Anyone whose phone goes off during the sermon . . . is going to hell (YouTube.com).