As our Fearless Leader once said,
It is January, and with it the season of review and reminiscence is upon us. How to combine BCC’s two great loves: lording our elitism over others, and blogging? Why, by gratuitously congratulating ourselves for a year of outstanding blogging. Read on, weaklings.
In that spirit, beloved readers, esteemed friends, civic and educational leaders, and officials from the Church Office Building, we salute ourselves this day. We now instruct you to pull up a chair, pour yourself a mug of Postum, and print out copies of this post for your personal Book of Remembrance as we pat ourselves on the back for the remainder of the day.
You are welcome and encouraged to join in the praise.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
SamMB (via Scott B.)
In his tribute to his grandfather, who approached death with a profound fear of having failed to meet others’ expectations, Sam captures the very core of what I personally desire deep in my heart, more than anything else: to have my friends, my family, and especially my Savior, on that great last day, say to me, “Thou Good and Faithful Servant.” We are so easily blinded by the pain of our very real weaknesses, and are so unforgiving of ourselves that we may fail to ever see that–despite our weaknesses–we have rendered service, kindness and love to our fellowman which will affect generations to come for the better.
J. Nelson-Seawright (via Steve Evans)
All of JNS’ posts show particular skill in synthesizing complex ideas and in helping us approach gospel concepts. But this post struck at the heart of Truth, and how our failed, weak existence can nonetheless realize and recognize truth in meaningful ways, even if that Platonic, autonomous Truth remains elusive. It was a hopeful yet utterly realistic post. As such the post’s articulation of truth mimics the community of saints here below: a pale imitation, perhaps, of that ideal in the sky, but one sufficiently marvelous nonetheless.
Kevin Barney (via Kristine Haglund)
When I saw the title, “Why I Love the OT,” I expected to read something about the form of Hebrew poetry or the narrative complexity of Old Testament stories, or the gradual triumph of monotheism as the children of Israel interacted with Jehovah. I love this reminder that most of us, most of the time, are not all that complicated–that small acts of kindness to children can be requited in unexpectedly profound ways.
Karen H (via Kathryn L. Soper)
This one is a no-brainer. Karen Hall’s incomparable post, “Come, Ye Poets of the Bloggernacle!” will be a shining star in ‘nacle history forever, worlds without end. Yes, the thread is also worthy of glory, laud, and honor. But none of our haiku could hold a flame-thrower to KH’s memorialization of Ben Franklin. She is genius. Period. McNaughton himself said so: “One of the things I said to myself from the beginning was the knee jerk reaction some people would have to the painting would be very revealing as to which side they personally stood in the picture.” If you need more proof, check out her insights on the benefits of ingratitude, or her tribute to Jorge (her non-pet mouse), or the one question she asked her dead great-grandmother. Told you so.
Kristine Haglund (via Kevin Barney)
In “On Sending a Son to the Priesthood Session,” Kristine begins by expressing some natural ambivalence, but then concludes with a strongly affirming sentiment: “Tonight I’m glad my son has that world to belong to, that there are great and good men who care for him in ways I cannot, who, along with his father, will teach by example what I can only teach by precept. I still weep with Hannah bringing Samuel to Eli, still feel the tearing of that separation, but I am beginning to know how she could bear it.“
Mark Brown (via Norbert)
‘On Re-Reading Scripture‘ is a great example of Mark’s common-sense attitude toward Mormonism. His encouragement to read The Book of Mormon for what it is rather than what our culture sometimes wants it to be strikes me as a most sensible and in an odd sense revolutionary idea. Here’s a money quote: ‘The book can be understood in many ways, yes, but the more time we spend looking for modern day parallels to the Kingmen, for instance, the more we will miss the message of Christ’s grace and the hope and redemption that he offers.‘
SteveP (via Tracy M)
In reviewing SteveP’s body of work for 2009, there were two clear gems vying for my attention- the man is a creative genius, and the tales he spins are quirky and fascinating. In Cheap Creation and Magic Tomatoes, Steve weaves science, evolution and his faith perspective in a wry but ultimately thought-provoking post. But for a glimpse into the depth and fineness of this man’s spirit and character, you must sit down for Grace Vis-a-Vis Violence. It is one of the most jarring and sublimely beautiful pieces of writing we’ve ever published. Have a hankie nearby.
Steve Evans (via J. Nelson-Seawright)
Steve Evans is a builder of community as much as anything else, so this sober reflection on the limitations of the Mormon internet as a community takes on additional meaning. Online discussions can, I think enrich lives — but this post compellingly reminds us that they can also take time away from other, more important obligations and needs.
J. Stapley (via divine revelation)
J. constantly turns out amazing historical posts, so it’s noteworthy that one of the most moving and beautiful posts of the year was his personal essay about fathers and sons. The man can truly work in more than one genre.
Tracy M. (via SteveP)
Choosing Tracy’s best is both too easy and too hard. Too easy because you could just flip a coin and grab any one of them and hit a beautifully written work of depth and wisdom. Too hard because it’s like being asked to pick your favorite Ingmar Bergman film, how do you pick from among such gems? Tracy has had a horrible year, yet through it all shines her faith and courage–which she has shared with unflinching honesty and insight. I like all her work but being forced to choose I picked my favorite: Pillars of My Faith.
John C. (via John Hamer)
Which of John C.’s 2009 Theological Polls was the most popular? Two polls tied for the largest single number of votes (270 each). The first was the ultimate cage-match smack-down between Grace and Works. Much to my surprise, Grace won with a landslide 231 votes versus just 39 for Works. Growing up Mormon in the 70s, I didn’t even know what “Grace” was, so I thought this poll highlighted a relatively recent (and interesting) shift in Mormon beliefs. Sex sells and the question “Is there sex after the judgement” (5/4/09) drew lots of responses. The consensus was Yes. “No” received only 39 votes (could it be the same 39 people who believe in Works?) But only a plurality (132 votes) believed that everyone would be getting some in the afterlife. 99 voters believed that eternal nooky would be reserved for those in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.
Beyond the polls that get us bickering, John has a talent for heartfelt essays that get us thinking. A personal favorite for me was John’s treatment of the problem of evil “When an eternal perspective fails you.”
John Hamer (via John C.)
John is a careful historian, with a gift for creating narratives that fit the the historical records while remaining accessible. This article, which was a source of some controversy, focuses on the narratives that the LDS church draws from the story of Thomas Marsh’s apostasy and reconciliation to the church. It, quite appropriately, points out that other narratives are possible (some may even be faith uplifting) and that we shouldn’t think the worst of a very complicated man. John, as ever, has a soft spot for the outsider and a perspective that puts our narrative and religious excesses in focus. Also, the story presented here is a darn good one. While I don’t advocate interrupting your Sunday School teacher to share it, my life and faith are better off for having encountered it. Also, I can’t choose just one post, so also look at John’s version of the Spaulding theory, his alternative comparative charts for Noah’s ark, and his Veteran’s day photo post of national cemeteries.
Natalie B. (via Rebecca J.)
What I appreciate about Natalie is that she asks interesting questions. Rather than just kvetching about an issue (which is my specialty), she tries to look at it from novel angles and solicits other people’s thoughts as well as offering her own unique insights. I found her post “Does God need us to experiment more with his word?” particularly thought-provoking.
Aaron B. (via Amri Brown)
While very tempted to choose his re-published enema story (I love Aaron’s stories, every quirky Mormon story I have I compare to his), I decided to go with his post about Teaching OD-2. To be honest, my favorite part of Sunday church is a really really good gospel doctrine lesson. They don’t happen all the time but when they do, I’m always glad I came to church. In his post, he does a great job of a) describing what it’s like to teach a lesson that is difficult/doesn’t get taught very often and b) outlining the way we talk about the ban, why we talked that way and ways things are changing (hopefully). I found it very hopeful.
M. Norbert Kilmer (via Mark Brown)
There are many things I like about Norbert’s blogging style, but the thing which makes me green with envy is his consummate coolness. This post about attending a stake dance as a teenager reflects all the adolescent fun, angst, and optimism that can be packed into a van full of LDS teenagers on a Saturday night. Let’s see a show of hands from anybody who was ever smoov enough to have an exchange like this with his parents:
So I eat, shower and get dressed, and dad gives me the old one-two. ‘Remember who you are and what you stand for,’ mom calls from the living room.
‘I’m Superman, and I stand for truth, justice and the American way,’ I call back.
Amri (via Aaron B.)
In her review of The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, Amri compliments author Elna Baker for her honesty, candor and authenticity, which is ironic given that these qualities are the very ones Amri displays in her own writing, and what always make me look forward to hearing from her. Amri embodies the openness and frankness that I have come to treasure in the Bloggernacle, and that I view as absolutely necessary in an essay if I am to devote my time to it. It is a sin that she isn’t writing for the Ensign, but not her sin. :)
Rebecca J. (via Natalie B.)
Rebecca J. writes posts that are always a pleasure to read: They are witty, down to earth, generous in their outlook, loyal, and always insightful. Rebecca’s series of posts about the new Young Women’s value, virtue, were my favorites of this year. In a characteristic way, Rebecca manages to write posts that are at once feisty, humorous, and bound to say something new and interesting about the experiences we share as Mormon women (and men).
Kathryn Lynard Soper (via Karen H.)
I’m drawn to writing that gets beyond cliches and just revels in the glorious broken-ness of humanity. Why? Because our flaws, foibles, quirks, and pains make us uniquely lovable. Readers, I’m just going to say it: I love Kathy. She doesn’t fuss around with trying to present a fine sheen of respectability. She lets it all hang out like a love handle above jordache jeans (metaphorically!). And she makes me cry, regularly, usually at work. While most of her posts fit my glorious humanity criteria, ultimately, I had to choose this post about trying to wean her son from the bottle. What other mother do you know who admits to insisting that the pediatric nurse put a note in her file, just in case evidence of mitigating circumstances is needed later? Keep on lovin’ those babies Kathy, and keep on writing about it. Sincerely, your (somewhat twisted) fan.
Brad Kramer (via Cynthia L.)
“Brothers: A Speculative Drama in One Act,” like much of Brad’s work, carefully tugs and pokes familiar scripture stories out of their two-dimensional world and reveals detail, texture, contemporary analogy and character motivations. But what makes this iteration unique is that there is no direct exposition at all, just a scene between two brothers. We know Brad the scholar, but here we are introduced to Brad the artist and nuanced observer of human nature.
Cynthia L. (via Brad Kramer)
Of course it would be a crime to discuss Cynthia’s 2009 BCC posts without mentioning Awkward Mormon (?) Family Photos, but my pick for her most stellar and enduring contribution is “My Mother’s Day Talk About Not Being A Mom.” A moving, vulnerable, and candid bit of self-revelation, this piece is a short but profound meditation on the relationship between parenthood and godhood articulated from a completely unexpected perspective.
Ronan (via Russell Arben Fox)
Ronan, despite having lived among us, despite serving with and laughing alongside us, is not one of us. The meaning of this description can be applied broadly: to the United States, of course, but also to Mormonism’s public culture, which–despite the ongoing and valiant efforts of many in the Church Office Building in downtown Salt Lake City–remains thoroughly American, and is likely to remain such for a good many years to come. Consequently he is, like Wilfried at T&S, often–not always, but often–bemused, entertained, scandalized, or made curious by the random oddities which surface in Mormon popular belief and practice, particularly beliefs and practices as revealed and examined (frequently to navel-gazing levels of exhaustion) in the Bloggernacle. It is that curiosity which is most important, because it leads him to describe and reflect upon what he sees being discussed from his own perspective, which is not ours: not sundered into continually sniping-at-each-other and self-identifying positions which so many of us have so thoroughly dug ourselves into that we can’t imagine that someone could wade in to a conversation and not know where everyone already stands. This makes him valuable. The fact that he is a smart, dedicated yet always struggling, honest writer and member is merely the icing on the cake.
Ronan’s thoughts on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shruggled are emblematic of all this. His incisive, yet in many ways generous, critical-yet-casual, thoroughly Mormon reading of this most beloved-or-mocked of 20th century political fiction is Ronan at his best: thoughtfully tossing a grenade into a well-worn field of ideological battle (or posturing) from an unexpected direction, summing up quickly, then moving on. The ensuring firestorm of a comment thread merely proves Ronan’s worth.
Russell Arben Fox (via Ronan)
Poaching RAF from T&S approaches Babe Ruth’s defection in the agony that it has caused our bitterest rival. Every post is a stab in the heart of Big Brown and a cause for epic rejoicing in the BCC back room.
I will admit that the bearded one intimidates me no end. His command of political philosophy hangs heavily over every political thought that enters my head such that I constantly ask, “Would RAF approve of this?” And yet it is his fine eye for the liturgical year that often goes unnoticed, his meditations at Christmas and Whitsunday being examples of a gentle insight into the rhythms of the Christian life. But it is politics to which me must inevitably return. His choice of Harry Reid as this generation’s Mormon Hero was typically articulate, reasoned, and brave. It remains to be seen whether RAF is a Prophet too, but RAF’s post was as much a manifesto as it was a prediction. There is not enough of that in the bitesize world of blogging.
Scott B. (via Karen H. & John C.)
Scott is our ‘nacle newborn, adorable, his bald head flailing about, his eyes wide in wonder. We’ve enjoyed seeing the blog through Scott’s eye’s this year. We’ve really enjoyed the time Scott has put into cleaning up our archives. Because basically we’re all lazy, and what is a newbie for except hazing? Here’s the thing about our newbie, he’s smart, he’s funny, he’s a darn good writer, and he’s ambitious. (We’d like to express a vote of gratitude to Brother B for re-instituting the Zeitcast. All in favor, manifest it by the usual sign. Any opposed? Please just keep your mouths shut and don’t rock the boat.) Scott’s best post? There was a lot to choose from this year, but I think that Scott’s heroic volunteerism is best shown in his conference coverage. Scott and his wife took the weekend off, traveled to Salt Lake, did an exceptional job covering conference, and made us all look good. Like I said, we’re into hazing here. And really, how can you beat starting off conference coverage with LOLcats?
One last thing about Scott, he is just a darn fine Mormon. While some people might be tempted to complain, Scott looks inward and focuses on bringing the necessary changes about in himself. For all the work he does at the blog, he is remarkably humble and easy to get along with. I just wanted to add another post that highlights this.
Did we miss anything?