In the short time since the “Race and the Priesthood” section of Gospel Topics was added to lds.org, I have seen various reactions. Some people have asked if church leaders were wrong about the priesthood and temple restriction, then could they possibly be wrong about something significant today? Similarly, I have seen the syllogism rephrased for rhetorical effect: The ban was not wrong. If it were then church leaders could similarly be wrong about something today like [invoke pet topic here].
One of my most vivid memories as a boy growing up in the gospel-centered home that I did is of a Family Home Evening that we had when I was maybe four, in the basement of our little starter home in Bountiful, Utah. Mom and Dad helped my little brother and me trace our hands with blue marker on poster board. We cut those out, and then wrote on the five fingers of each hand our life’s goals, which we arrived at with Mom and Dad’s gentle persuasion:
1. Get Baptized and Receive the Holy Ghost
2. Receive the Aaronic Priesthood
3. Receive the Melchizedek Priesthood
4. Go on a Mission
5. Get Married in the Temple
That remains a pretty ideal life’s plan for young men in the Church today1—and there is a lot of good to it. Speaking personally, those were good goals for me, and they served me well. Over the years, I have also become more sensitive to the fact that sometimes ideals aren’t attainable, and that within Mormon culture the pain of unmet expectations or attainments can be really acute, even brutal. I want to speak in this post to a slightly different set of expectations that I wish we laid more cultural emphasis on—expectations that, in my view, are more attainable for a larger percentage of our willing young men and that might be more easily adapted to young women, as well.
I think this is a pretty big deal.
“Like the most precious diamond . . .The Madiba who emerged from prison in January 1990 was virtually flawless” (Desmond Tutu).
If you like artist Jon McNaughton’s special recipe of mixing religious devotion and political propaganda, then you are going to love his new Christmas card…
I’ve asked my friend Jason to do some guest posts for Advent this year. I’ll probably chime in with Germanic and (Neo-)Romantic emendations to his Anglican purist selections from time to time. Enjoy!!
Advent I – Rorate caeli
I am both honored and humbled to have been asked to do some guest posts on some of my favorite advent music this year, considering I have nowhere near the breadth of knowledge of choral music that Kristine does, and I also lack her gift for writing. [Ed. Note: he's lying.] A little background about me: I have a Ph.D. in molecular biology, and work studying the biology of aging. However, for the past 15 years, choral music has been my main non work-related artistic outlet. I think I have somewhat of an unusual choral background for a Mormon. [Read more...]
“Prayer — secret, fervent, believing prayer — lies at the root of all personal godliness” (William Carey).
Happy Advent! This is my favourite time in the Christian year. We enter a new time in the calendar, one mercifully shorn (unlike Christmas and Easter) of commercial excess. Just remember that Advent is not yet Christmas, so hold off on the New Testament for now and concentrate more on the promise of the renewal of the covenant made in the Old. If you are in Salt Lake, you could have joined with the MCSJ at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. I am sure they will plan some Christmas activities.
I have had reasonable success with last month’s discipline (meditation). I have certainly meditated more than I usually do, so I’ll take that as a win. I must admit to being worried about this month’s focus, mainly because when it comes to prayer, my faith is weak. I am with the disciples, who had prayed all their lives but still said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Foster’s chapter on prayer is a challenge because he seems to accept the power of intercessory prayer . . . and I don’t. [Read more...]
When the Ordain Women movement was planning to attend the Priesthood session, my first response was passively supportive. I felt it was overreaching, but that overreaching is sometimes necessary to expand the Overton Window:
The Overton window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to persuade or educate the public so that the window either “moves” or expands to encompass them. [Read more...]
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a body of Thanksgiving music as expansive as Christmas music? There is!! Psalm settings–there are zillions of great ones, and we Mormons mostly don’t know them at all. So many great things to discover–start here!
Two settings by Hugo Distler:
(not a great performance–youtube provides choirs with not-too-vibrato-y sopranos, reasonable rhythmic intensity, bearable German diction, and decent intonation, but not all at the same time) [Read more...]
In this post I discuss a particular form of sexual violence, ‘non-volitional sex’. It is a difficult topic and I have tried to discuss it with care and sensitivity. My hope is that we can have a robust and thoughtful conversation about these issues, especially regarding how we can both care for and limit the number of victims. Because those who have experienced sexual violence may find such a post and the such subsequent conversation distressing, I hope any comments can be made with the understanding that you are potentially talking to someone who has experienced non-volitional sex.
The United Nations General Assembly has designated November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Today (the day after), The Lancet – one of the world’s pre-eminent medical journals – reports that 1 in 10 UK women have reported ‘completed non-volitional sex’ during their lifetime. ‘Non-volitional sex is sexual behavior that violates a person’s right to choose when and with whom to have sex and what sexual behaviors to engage in.’ Further, 1 in 5 women report attempted non-volitional sex. Perhaps what is most astounding is that 6.9% of 16-24 year olds and 9.7% of 25-34 year olds report completed non-volitional sex. The prevalence among men was much lower but still distressing (1 in 100: median age = 16). If ever we thought this was a problem of some bygone era, this evidence proves such an assumption to be sadly mistaken. The evidence overwhelming suggests that intimate partners are the perpetrators of such acts. So, what does this have to do with Mormonism? [Read more...]
Julianne is a DPhil candidate at the University of Oxford where she studies childbirth and maternity in Africa. She has worked for a variety of non-profits, including UNICEF, and spent her 2012/13 academic year in Ethiopia. This is a sermon delivered in the Oxford 1st ward in England on the 27th October 2013. We are delighted to have Julianne as our guest.
When a member of the Bishopric asked if I’d be willing to speak on one of the general Relief Society Presidents of the church as part of this month’s Sacrament theme of Prophets, I nearly became a little emotional. While this should not be exceptional, I was still so happy to see such a welcome inclusion of women in the history of the church. I chose Eliza R. Snow as the subject of my talk, a woman who is incredibly interesting and inspiring to me, and was also an intrinsic part of the early church’s development. I hope that in my talk I am able to do justice to this woman, and the powerful work of the early Relief Society. For me and my own testimony of the Gospel, it’s very important to reclaim some of the more radical and diverse elements of our history. In my professional life as a consultant on women’s rights and global health, I have seen how across the world, impoverished communities and women in particular have been crushed under customs which demand their silence. [Read more...]
I read an article many years ago that explained how people, especially women, tend to show empathy, compassion, and build friendships by sharing similar experiences in storytelling. For instance, a woman may share the story of her difficult childbirth. A listening woman may share her own similar story to build on common ground and display empathy, showing that she understands because she had a similar experience. However, personal experience has proven that this method of relationship building can backfire. A person may assume instead that the second storyteller is telling their own story to draw attention to themselves and away from the first storyteller, or to illustrate that their experience was worse—implying that the first storyteller should not complain. Or, accuse the other person of being a “one upper” of the worst possible kind.
(Cross-posted at Juvenile Instructor. Also, the first three paragraphs should be read in the voice of Billy Mays, and taken in the spirit of the “Tribute to Doin’ It Wrong” video. The pdf of the inaugural Mormon Studies Review‘s Table of Contents can be downloaded here.)
Struggling to keep up with developments in the seemingly always-nascent (sub)field of Mormon studies? Do you ever walk through the book aisle and think, “holy fetch, when did that book come out?” Have you ever found yourself wondering, “what the heck is Mormon studies, anyway?” Or, does a sleepless night rarely go buy without you asking, “well, how does the study of Mormonism illuminate the translocative elements of religious studies?” Well, you are not alone! [Read more...]
So, as usual (since the manual hasn’t been revised), the GD lesson on revelation talks about the lifting of the priesthood restriction. I teach Sunday school (youth), so I didn’t hear how it went in our ward. I did hear this from someone in another ward: “[We learned that] the blacks getting the priesthood couldn’t happen [until 1978] because of Jim Crow because the church could not afford separate temples for blacks and whites and separate chapels, etc.”
What did you learn about the timing of OD2?
Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 14. Polygamy: Epilogue–Polygamy Today
This is the final post in the series on Doctrine and Covenants section 132. NB. Robert J. Woodford’s 1974 Ph.D. dissertation, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants” has been very helpful in several aspects of this series, especially in confirming my readings of earlier editions. For earlier installments in this series, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12,, and Part 13. For a trivial index with links see the end of this post.
The July 12 revelation is not often referenced today. Public quotation of the revelation in general church settings came largely in the nineteenth century (despite the fact that the July 12 revelation is an underlayment for many modern Mormon values). The verses most often quoted or mentioned in general level meetings appear to be 7, 8, 19, 22 and 48. Given that, one might suppose that while sealing is alive and well, it’s twin, polygamy, given the current reference to Official Declaration 1 in the heading to the 2013 edition of Doctrine and Covenants section 132 (see part 3), is dead.
But not so.
Ten years ago today, I entered the Bloggernacle. A decade on, I’m still here (despite evidence–or rather the lack of it–which might suggest the contrary). For whatever they’re worth, here are some thoughts: [Read more...]
In the family in which I’m a son, my mother, my oldest sister and I are all active in church. I have two sisters and two brothers who are out of the church. And so far as I can tell in our family dynamics, that particular status plays no role whatsoever. My family has a culture whereby one’s participation in the Church or not is essentially irrelevant to that person’s place in the family. If you’re an active, engaged member, great. If you’re an inactive (urgh, less active) member, fine. If you’ve left the reservation entirely, peachy. You’re still part of the family and we still love you without distinction. [Read more...]
Recently, some close friends wrote to me regarding faith in the church. My friends are members and have been for their entire life. These friends have recently come across some anti-Mormon material on the internet and, for all that they understood it as anti in origin, it caused them to start to question their belief. There was nothing particularly new in the information, but it was new to them. They know I’ve been writing blog posts for a while and assumed I had answers that might help. My response, such as it is, is below. I think they found it helpful, hopefully it might be of help to someone else.
First thing to understand: There is nothing I or anybody else can say that is going to make most of this make sense, seem less than crazy, or “make it better.” [Read more...]
Welcome to Agreeable, a bimonthly advice column in which I will tell you, dear Reader, as to whether your planned course of action is “agreeable” or “hmph”. Direct your questions (max 200 words, please!) to the admin address (see ‘About’, above) with the subject line “Agreeable”.
I work in an office where there are many LDS people, but also many (possibly a majority) who are not LDS. For the most part the non-Mormons are pretty cool and don’t take the LDS culture too seriously (for example, one guy has a big poster of Captain Moroni on his office door and people either ignore it or make fun of it). The guy in the office next door to mine, though, is pretty hard core about proselytizing. He frequently quotes scriptures in business meetings and will tell people that they should repent. It bugs me, not because I disagree with him but because there’s an office policy against evangelizing in the workplace and it’s also possibly against the law. I have mixed feelings, but I’d like to report him to the folks in H.R. — what do you think? [Read more...]
I recently was alerted to the existence of a brand new Facebook group at BYU for students to anonymously post notes about their crushes. The student submits their comment to the FB group admins who then re-post it from the site. The comments run the gamut from cutesy to goofy to stalkeresque. [Read more...]
With Advent, and thus the beginning of the Christian year fast approaching, now is a good time for our annual liturgical year post. In years past I have attempted to create a Mormon calendar, but given the hassles inherent in the moveable feasts, I will simply suggest here some resources for fashioning your own:
1. The LDS Sunday curriculum readings make an excellent lectionary. As a supplement suited to the rhythm of the Christian year, I recommend the readings found in both CommonPrayer.net and Oremus (both of which can be downloaded to your electronic device). The aesthetic is Anglo-Catholic.
2. You can also follow the Christian calendar via the above resources. Both offer prayers and thoughts appropriate to the day.
3. A Mormon holiday supplement would be good, and might include General Conference, April 6, the restoration of the priesthood, the birth and death of the Prophet, Pioneer Day, and the visit of Moroni. The marking of national holidays can also be appropriate, provided they are not excuses for jingoism — in our family, the liturgy there is to make such days Flag Days. When I remember, I try to mark the holidays of other major religions, not as a religious tourist, but as a way to educate my children. Family Home Evening is perfect for this kind of thing.
4. What I don’t have, and would like, is some kind of musical resource tailored to the calendar. Kristine Haglund is excellent at suggesting music. What I need is some kind of Kristine-app to automate the selection!
Last year’s discussion of the Christian calendar and its Mormon iteration follows:
This is the penultimate post in a series on Doctrine and Covenants section 132. NB. Robert J. Woodford’s 1974 Ph.D. dissertation, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants” has been very helpful in several aspects of this series, especially in confirming my readings of earlier editions. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11. and Part 12. The follow-on and final post in the series is here.
Warning: if your sense of humor does not extend to communing with the dead, or rewriting Holy Writ, leave off reading now.
I’ve mentioned several times before that I think section 132 was never meant for public consumption. It is, depending on one’s perspective, embarrassing for Joseph Smith, for Emma Smith and perhaps for both. It deploys language that in appropriating an Old Testament voice and figures, applies a moral authority where it may not belong, in general. I doubt Joseph ever wanted to invite the public to critique Emma’s behavior over these intimate matters, or for that matter, his own. For example, the talk of “ten virgins,” an obvious echo if not allusion to Matthew 25, a chapter Joseph had already used in the service of polygamy at least once (see part 9), may carry a kind of ugliness for the modern audience. This raises the question of what such a revelation might have looked like if it were meant from the beginning as public, out-in-the-open, Divine Counsel.
Were I a Roman Catholic and prone to pondering the power of the magisterium and/or the worthiness of the doctrine of papal infalliblity, and were I of a liberal mind, I would lend every hermeneutic muscle I had to promoting this formulation in the Cathechism:
“Christ . . . fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy . . . but also by the laity” (904).
This would confirm my belief that Christ is revealed in the entirety of his Body, not just in the Head, and that with the Body united, the will of God is secure . . . infallible, perhaps.
I would therefore welcome any attempt to discern the will of God as revealed to the laity, not in order to accept it without question, but to listen to that billion-strong voice with humility and wonder.
Earlier this week, photographs emerged of Pope Francis cradling a disfigured man in his arms. The powerful images of the Pope’s benevolent touch of blessing spread quickly around the Web. At first the caption accompanying the pictures indicated that the man was disfigured by boils. But many of us knew better as soon as we saw the pictures. More accurate reporting now confirms that the condition suffered by the man before Pope Francis is a form of neurofibromatosis or NF. It is a none too rare genetic disorder that afflicts up to 1 in 3,000 people in the U.S. to one degree or another. (The man pictured obviously has a pretty severe case—the scars of operations on his face are discernible in the photo.) NF is characterized by tumors (fibromas) that, though usually non-cancerous, nevertheless can have serious health impacts. The tumors tend to form along nerves, degrading vision, hearing, and cognitive abilities and causing chronic—and sometimes severe—pain; bones can be significantly weakened and deformed, and the skin blotched and sometimes disfigured. Because this is a genetic disorder, there is no cure, only procedures and protocols to help mitigate the consequences. NF can be fatal, but in the West, life expectancies approach just under seven years of the norm.
I’ve recently been tasked with coordinating and overseeing teaching for our local elders quorum. We have a great group of smart and committed teachers, and I would like to support them in their teaching. I would also like to be open to insights into pedagogy and adult learning as well as some pastoral insights that might be relevant to creating an elders quorum environment that strengthens community, stirs faith, and stretches us all a little in mind and heart.
[cross-posted to Patheos]When my friend Robinlee and I visited the Old Mission in Santa Barbara, California, we happened on two statues–one of St. Francis of Assisi and the other of St. Clare. Most Christians are familiar with St. Francis’s life and words. We sing his poem, “All Creatures of our God and King”, which celebrates nature as God’s grand cathedral. St. Francis and his chaste friend, Clare, began new orders for monks and nuns on Palm Sunday in the year 1212. A 1973 film called Brother Sun, Sister Moon depicted St. Francis’s bold choices in defying the wealthy Catholic church and beginning a life of poverty. The core of the film is depicted here.
As Robinlee and I were looking at the statues, a docent told us that there was an order of cloistered Poor Saint Clares in a nearby church. “We never see them,” she said, “but they sing during the 7:00 a.m. Mass. They sound like angels. Sometimes, we try to count the voices. We don’t know how many there are.”
We decided then to attend Mass the next morning. [Read more...]
In the play Other Desert Cities (Salt Lakers can see it now at Pioneer Memorial Theater!) Polly and Lyman Wyeth are respectively a successful writer and actor in Hollywood before turning to Republican politics later in life. Their son Trip and semi-estranged daughter Brooke come home to celebrate the holidays with their parents and an alcoholic aunt, Silda, who lives with and is dependent on the Wyeths. The drama centers around Brooke’s decision to publish a memoir about being raised by her famous parents and another brother Henry’s involvement in radical politics, a bombing and Henry’s suicide.
Brooke has poured her heart and soul into her book and believes it contains hard, difficult truths about her parents, their friends and their politics that led to Henry’s alienation and death. She is the uncompromising artist speaking truth to power who also, it turns out, wants her parents’ blessing before publishing. Not surprisingly they are unwilling to give it. Brooke’s parents have a different view of what transpired and beg her to not publish or at least delay until they are dead. Silda urges Brooke forward, sure she has captured the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the Wyeth’s coterie. Trip doesn’t try to dissuade Brooke from publishing but says he doesn’t recognize the people in the book as the people who raised him.
At its heart the play is about a family’s fight to control the meaning of events that have impacted them all. Because Brooke’s claims are grounded in her personal experience, when an alternative meaning to the events is suggested she experiences it as an attack on herself. She feels accused of being an unreliable narrator of her own history. [Read more...]
Here at BCC we have issued few edicts. Certainly we have offered sage advice. Motherly wisdom and fatherly Knowsbestticisms. We have indeed cajoled. Pled. Perhaps even subtly tried to shame others into action. But now, I, under the authority granted me by the governing board (which has no idea what I’m up to), I am issuing an edict. I was going to offer a bull, like a papal bull, but a BCC bull. But I feared the jokes that would ensue about BCC bull and refrained. So to the edict. Go now one and all. Both high and low. Both blue and green. Both sour and sweet. And ride thee forth to procure a copy of BCC friend Jana Riess’ book, The Twible.
I recognize that some will be disinclined to follow edicts for edicts sake. To you stubborn souls I offer a modicum of reasons. The best reasons will be found by perusing the book itself. If you have followed Jana on twitter or Facebook than you know the hilarity of these bytes of wisdom as she offers up a tweet capturing the gist of each chapter of the bible. These are both funny and wise. Some forced me think more deeply about the text and made me see things in new ways. Others made me blow diet coke out of my nose.
So follow the edict or your good sense and go buy the book. I know what everyone on my list of good boys and girls is getting for Christmas. This. Go thou and do likewise.
Paul Reeve is an all around great fellow. He is the author of the award winning Making Space on the Western Frontier and the forthcoming must-read, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, which is to date the finest treatment of race and Mormonism.
“Purpose: To show class members that the Lord continues to guide the Church through revelation to latter-day prophets, seers, and revelators.”
It is ironic that in a lesson on continuing revelation, of the examples that the manual uses, only one was canonized and became binding upon the body of the Church, the 1978 revelation on the priesthood. [Read more...]
a tomblike monument to someone buried elsewhere, esp. one commemorating people who died in a war.
Today is Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom, Veterans Day in the United States. Yesterday, the Sunday before Remembrance Day, or Remembrance Sunday, my thoughts turned to the religious and public traditions and rituals observed in the United Kingdom to commemorate the importance of this day as a day of national . . . contrition? penance? gratitude? All of them, I think — “celebrate” is the wrong word for what occurs in the public ceremonies that occur on Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance Day. It is a solemn “remembering,” a holy Remembrance, because we remember the lives of those who served particularly in the Great War (1914-1918) but also in all conflicts in the protection of national or territorial integrity and political freedoms and heritage; more specifically, we contemplate the sacrifice that it is to put one’s life on the line for these values and ideals. Very few, if any, “celebrate” that these sacrifices were made or that such devastating wars occurred; virtually all unite across racial, ethnic, and religious divides to remember them and commemorate their sacrifices. [Read more...]