Death and the genesis of belief

Reading one of J Stuart’s recent posts over at the JI stirred a memory of a diary entry written several decades earlier by James Talmage. The limen of death is perhaps the greatest locus of ritual and theological innovation.

[Read more…]

How to be Good Enough

There is something I want everyone to understand (assuming I’m right (if I’m not right, hopefully people will forget that this blogpost ever happened). Life is a frame job. You are bound to fail. [Read more…]

Loving “The World”—Even When It’s Oppressive

Life is hard. At a stake conference a few years back, I heard Pres. Eyring speak words to the effect that if you feel like you’re swimming upstream, you’re on the right path. Those words have encouraged me many times since, prompting me when life gets difficult in ways large or small to tack into the wind and keep on sailing. This idea has a potential problem, though, in that it can quickly spill over into militaristic metaphor. Sailing into the wind risks being transmuted into swashbuckling. What’s the difference, and why does it matter? Why care what metaphor we use if enduring to the end is the outcome? [Read more…]

Love and Priesthood

We’re super grateful that Melody Newey would share this guest post with us.

I.
“Will you please include me in your prayers tonight?”

It is a simple and sincere question. I am preparing for an exceptional challenge the next day and I mention to my friend, Mark,* that I could use extra spiritual support. He replies that he’s glad to offer up all his faith on my behalf and he thanks me for asking.

The following morning he sends an email to check in and to tell me what he’s praying for. The words and phrases he uses are indeed prayer-like and as I read, something interesting happens: I feel as though I am being “blessed” in a literal sense. The words on the screen carry a message of peace and comfort not unlike words I’ve heard before. The feeling is not unlike feelings I’ve had before when good men have placed hands on my head to offer priesthood blessings. The feeling includes what I interpret as a spiritual witness –something about priesthood power–not just as a memory of past blessings, but also as a concrete experience in this moment. Mark is a Melchizedek Priesthood bearer. [Read more…]

On rights, draw the veil of ignorance

Some thoughts about religious freedom vs. LGBTQ rights. [Read more…]

All Apologies

During an interview following yesterday’s press conference about the need to balance the protection of religious freedoms and gay rights, Elder Dallin H. Oaks addressed the issue of apologies. When asked specifically about whether church leaders saw a need to apologize for past language on homosexuality he broadened the discussion somewhat. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

But Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, wasn’t sure apologizing for past language on homosexuality would be advisable.

“I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them,” Oaks said in an interview. “We sometimes look back on issues and say, ‘Maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve,’ but we look forward and not backward.”

The church doesn’t “seek apologies,” he said, “and we don’t give them.”

[Read more…]

Gordon B. Hinckley

“For some unknown reason there is constantly appearing the false rationalization
that at one time in the long-ago, virtue was easy and that now it is difficult.”

Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, October 1964, pp. 116-119

Gordon B. Hinckley, June 23, 1910 - January 27, 2008 (http://tinyurl.com/mj7g9r2)

Gordon B. Hinckley, June 23, 1910 – January 27, 2008 (http://tinyurl.com/mj7g9r2)

Gordon B. Hinckley was called as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1958, as an Apostle in September 1961, and then served as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from March 12, 1995 until his death on January 27, 2008. He is often remembered for his efforts in expanding the building of temples throughout the world so that members of the Church had better access to the spiritual uplift and fortification that they offer. During his tenure as President of the Church, the number of temples worldwide increased from 47 to 124 with 14 others announced or under construction — a very rapid surge in temple building during his 13 years as President.

The Church also built the Conference Center in Salt Lake City under his direction, and he presided over the renovation and rededication of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. He was an astute, media-savvy leader, adept at public relations, and tireless in his care and interest for the well-being and progress of the Church as a whole and its individual members. The Psalmist wrote “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4), a description aptly applied to President Hinckley’s stewardship, despite being the oldest man to have ever served as President of the Church (as of November 2, 2006 when he surpassed David O. McKay on this count). It could be accurately observed that the affairs of the Church have never been better managed than under the care of President Hinckley. [Read more…]

Religious Freedom in Houston

In today’s news conference, Elder Oaks continued his outspoken advocacy of religious liberty, a right that he has passionately defended in the past. He provided three recent examples that, he explained, demonstrate trends away from religious liberty. One of the examples Elder Oaks cited was this:

Yet today we see new examples of attacks on religious freedom with increasing frequency. Among them are these: . . . Recently, in one of America’s largest cities, government leaders subpoenaed the sermons and notes of pastors who opposed parts of a new law on religious grounds. These pastors faced not only intimidation, but also criminal prosecution for insisting that a new gay rights ordinance should be put to a voice of the people.

While the subpoenas certainly represented an attack on religious liberty, I don’t think that’s the story here. Rather, what happened in Houston strikes me as evidence of the power of religious liberty in U.S. culture and law. Some context on the kerfuffle in Houston:  [Read more…]

Some background on D&C 134 and Religious Freedoms

Today’s press conference regarding religious liberty and LGBT rights made frequent reference to Section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which describes the policies and duties of the Latter-day Saints towards government. It is worth remembering some of the history and quirks of this Section. First quirk: it’s not a revelation. [Read more…]

Taking on the princess problem

princessproblemLOADED TOPIC DISCLAIMER: Let me apologize in advance if you or your loved ones are fans of the Disney princesses or the “princess phenomenon” in general. I don’t mean to unduly demonize princess culture or depict it as though you must either be for or against princesses. Please bear with me because you might find something useful here after all.

I’m a relatively new dad. My daughter is just over two years old. Her mom and I love her with the heat of a thousand suns and we want the best for her. We want her to become faithful, independent minded, strong-willed, kind, and courageous. We want her to be herself. I used to always call her my “little baby” or “the tiniest baby in the whole wide world” and other diminutive and cute phrases parents attach to their little (there I go again) sweethearts. Over the past few months as she’s become more aware of the media and merchandise all around her my anxiety has increased. The Church’s For the Strength of Youth pamphlet understates the problem this way:

“Choose wisely when using media because whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you.”[1]

[Read more…]

In the Space Where Sister Rodgers Was

On a cold and sunny morning last month I met with my fellow sisters in the cultural hall to start preparing for Sister Rodgers funeral. The night before a storm of service volunteers had rolled out and set up more than a dozen round tables and stuffed them with chairs. Our job was to dress the tables, set them and top them with fresh flowers. [Read more…]

Young Women Values: Not Princesses & Not for the Faint of Heart Personal Progress Cards

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 2.51.33 PM

I never went to Young Women; by the time I was baptized, I was already married and had a baby on my hip. I kind of missed the boat for memorizing the themes, though I do recall attending a few youth dances as a teen with my neighbors. The first time we had a combined Relief Society & Young Women meeting after I was baptized, I was completely weirded out by the standing and the reciting. Twelve years later, it’s totally norma…nope. Sorry. Still totally weird. [Read more…]

A second written of Christs visit to America. Part I.

Every once in a while we receive letters to the editor that demand the public eye. As an apologist, I think it is important that each of you read and memorize this email in its entirety. This is about 1/3 of it. Get cracking! There is much knowledge here to be gleaned and this will be an important resource for your Book of Mormon classes.

From: “David McKane”
Date: Jan 23, 2015 7:54 PM
Subject: A second written of Christ visit to America.
To: “admin”

To whom it may concern:

Could somebody please find out way FAIR and the Neal A Maxwell institute will not do any research about the overwhelming evidence for the Book of Mormon found in North America. [Read more…]

Why did the angel make Zacharias ‘dumb’?

In Sunday school a few weeks ago we discussed the birth of John the Baptist. According to Luke, when Zacharias is in the temple he is greeted by an angel who promises him that he and Elisabeth will have a child. Zacharias replies:

Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

The angel responds by making Zacharias dumb ‘until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words’.

There are a few interesting things about this exchange: [Read more…]

“For I was in prison, and ye came to me……”

We’re really proud that Kristine A shared this guest post with us.

IMG_3388It might surprise you to know that after sitting over three decades of church meetings and general conference sermons, the place that I’ve learned most about the importance and sanctity of family was in prison. I’ve been visiting my sister in several county jails and state prisons for the last few years. Without sharing too much of our personal background without her permission, I’ll just share that late last year she was released on probation and after many unfortunate incidents, relapsed and was re-incarcerated. [Read more…]

Sunday sermon: On Spiritual Responsibility and Self-Sufficiency

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

This is a slightly revised and expanded version of a sermon I gave in sacrament meeting, on January 11, 2015, in Wichita, KS.

Recently, a thought got stuck in my head: do I really take responsibility for my own beliefs? That is, do I attend to what I believe, to determine what it is and what it means for me, and to decide whether I still believe whatever I used to say I believed or not? If beliefs lead to actions–and they don’t always, but surely they do often enough–then the gospel of Jesus Christ, which calls us to action of behalf of our fellow human beings (and particularly the gospel as it is interpreted through Mormonism, which additionally calls upon us to build Zion), demands that we take the time to really think over, and get clear on, and be forthright about, both what we do and what we do not believe. And I really mean we there. I’m not talking about what our church teaches us to believe, or even about what we tend to say we believe in response to questions asked by others, but rather what we, looking inside ourselves, can honestly say we–not anyone else–truly hope and affirm. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning Poem: Richard Crashaw, “On the Wounds of Our Crucified Lord”

Bringing a little baroque sensibility to our series, I present this poem by Richard Crashaw (1613-1649):

O these wakeful wounds of thine!
Are they mouths? or are they eyes?
Be they mouths, or be they eyne,
Each bleeding part some one supplies.
Lo! a mouth, whose full-bloomed lips
At too dear a rate are roses.
Lo! a bloodshot eye! that weeps
And many a cruel tear discloses.
O thou that on this foot hast laid
Many a kiss and many a tear,
Now thou shalt have all repaid,
Whatsoe’er thy charges were.
This foot hath got a mouth and lips
To pay the sweet sum of thy kisses;
To pay thy tears, an eye that weeps
Instead of tears such gems as this is.
The difference only this appears
(Nor can the change offend),
The debt is paid in ruby-tears
Which thou in pearls didst lend.

On Oxfam and Your Taxes

OUS_Logo_h_greenAs Ronan mentioned a couple weeks ago, in 2015, BCC is going to encourage our readers to donate to Oxfam America to aid in its efforts to relieve poverty. Lest our altruism be imperfect, though, I wanted to mention that donating to charitable institutions doesn’t require pure altruism; that is, the warm glow of giving may not be the only benefit you receive from your donation. You may (at least, assuming you’re a U.S. taxpayer) also be able to reduce your taxes. [Read more…]

Seed from stone

slidingstonesThere’s a crazy man out by a river on the edge of the wilderness. He’s dressed in old rags. He’s eating insects. He’s putting people in the water and pulling them out again and telling them that they’re reborn naked newborn babies. He’s foretelling someone greater. The appearance of the expected Messiah.

What he says surprises the living daylights out of the covenant people. [Read more…]

Youth fireside on the Paris attacks

I was asked to give a fireside for the youth on Sunday. Believing that the gospel provides a way for us to understand the world around us and help deal with its ills, I decided to discuss the Paris attacks. They had no doubt been discussed at home and at school that week and so I felt it important to have them discussed at church too, for “church” should not be detached from the world.

I had an agenda but did not want to force it. I mostly wanted the youth to think about and discuss various issues. I showed them the following pictures and asked them questions in order to prompt the discussion.

[Read more…]

I Know the Church is True

Try this experiment. Type the expression in quotes “I know the church is true” into a Google search, and see what you get. Page after page after page of material set in a Mormon context. That kind of affirmation is a specifically Mormon thing; it is not something other Christians are in the habit of saying about their churches. If you can go through an entire Fast and Testimony Meeting and not get at least a dozen recitations of that statement, it has been a slow Sunday. [Read more…]

Boggs-Doniphan Non-Mormon of the Year 2014: Pope Francis

Pope Francis greets President Eyring at the Vatican.

Pope Francis greets President Eyring at the Vatican in November of 2014.

Since his ascendance as Pope, Francis has provided a bold new vision of engaged, bridge-building religious leadership in the 21st century. From brokering a detente between the United States and Cuba, to perhaps suggesting animals can also attain heaven, to taking a strong religious stance on preserving creation by stemming global warming, Pope Francis has successfully caught and held the attention of a world that had seemed to be slipping inexorably to secularism.

This has even left some Mormons, especially more liberal-minded Mormons, thinking aloud about a growing Holy Envy (or maybe just envy) of the Holy See. What could LDS leadership or LDS people learn from the Pope?  [Read more…]

David O. McKay

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 12.27.43 PMDavid O. McKay (d. 18 January 1970), the ninth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Day Saints, is remembered for a number of things:

  • His length of service: Ordained an apostle at the age of 32, he served in that capacity longer than anyone else.
  • His emphasis on education: As an educator himself, President McKay promoted the value of education among the saints and emphasized the importance of women’s education
  • The development of the correlation program
  • His teachings about the importance of the nuclear family: He popularized the dictum of James Edward McCulloch that no other success in life can compensate for failure in the home, and formalized the Family Home Evening program in the Church by publishing a manual for it and by asking that local leaders protect one night of each week from all other meetings and activities.

But by his own account, his most significant accomplishment was to orient the Church towards its future as a global institution.1 [Read more…]

A Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Home Evening

I truly hope that Mormons around the United States (and elsewhere!) will make use of the fortuitous confluence of the (U.S.) national holiday commemorating the work and memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Monday evening Family Home Evening program that we enjoy in the Church. [Read more…]

Lift Every Voice and Sing

In honor of Martin Luther King, jr., whose birthday we celebrate today, here is the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”:

[Read more…]

Guest Post: New Testament Lesson 1

This guest post is by Brad Masters. He is a judicial law clerk, an Angels baseball aficionado, and a contributor at Normons.com.

It’s been sad to watch friends and family struggle with their testimonies. Lately, we’ve been inundated constantly with tough stuff, from priesthood bans to polygamy to any other number of topics du jour. Far too many have lost faith in Mormonism. (One is too many.)

Interestingly enough, many whose faith is extinguished not only leave the Church, but leave Christianity altogether. Rarely do the exmormon.org boards (which look increasingly like the kinds of caves trolls retreat to after long hours spent pestering unexpecting bridge-crossers) or other “recovering Mormon” blogs showcase testimonies of no-longer-Mormon Christians.  Instead, the posts are mostly from newly-minted atheists. [Read more…]

Hope and the Evolving Church. And Whales (or Crocodiles).

Early in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Series, the King of Dreams descends into Hell to retrieve his crown stolen by a demon. The demon admits he has it, but demands a battle of wits in order for Sandman to win it back. [Read more…]

Sunday sermon: Understanding atonement

A talk delivered in my ward on Jan. 11, 2015.

reconciliation-coventry-statue

Reconciliation by Josefina de Vasconcellos.

Sometimes when I think about the atonement I think about an elephant. Most of you have heard the little story about the blind people who encounter, for the first time, an elephant. Each person feels a different part of the elephant’s body and offers a unique description of the strange beast. For two thousand years followers of Jesus have struggled to come to describe the most mysterious, puzzling aspect of the “good news” they’ve proclaimed. As I’ve spent some time reviewing various ways people have described the atonement through the years, and as I’ve thought about some of the ways I’ve personally experienced the atonement in my life, I have to confess that I feel like I’m blindly reaching out. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning Poem: “Eucharist”

A broken boy
broke the bread
and then
with breaking voice
broke the prayer.

His broken prayer
found broken me,
Jesus there
much more than
when he got it right.

Religious violence in Paris, 1988 edition

On October 22, 1988, Christian fundamentalists associated with the French National Front launched a Molotov cocktail attack inside the Saint Michel theatre in Paris. In the subsequent fire, thirteen people were injured, four with serious burns.

The attack was the result of the theatre’s screening of the film The Last Temptation of Christ. The Archbishop of Paris condemned the attack but also condemned the film saying, “One doesn’t have the right to shock the sensibilities of millions of people for whom Jesus is more important than their father or mother.”

The Minister of Culture at the time said, “Freedom of speech is threatened, and we must not be intimidated by such acts.”

Similar attacks in France in protest of the film included graffiti, the use of tear-gas and stink bombs, and assault.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,115 other followers