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2015 Christmas gift book guide

Another year, another Christmas gift book guide.
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Once upon a time, Judaism and Christianity were one. That is, Christians were seen as a Jewish sect. You can see this in Luke’s account of what Paul says at Rome, Acts 28. The Jewish community there (it was pretty important, some Jewish high priests ended up there) speak about the believers in Jesus as a sect, a division of Jews.[1] While Paul does a lot among Gentiles, it’s mainly because he can’t get Jews in the diaspora to listen to him. And of course then he grows angry over Jerusalem Jews coming into to his Gentile branches and breaking the rules agreed to about preaching to Gentiles—a long story I won’t engage here.
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Advent Day 2

The Second Day of Advent / The Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle

Are we, like Andrew–who was often in his brother’s shadow–to become alive in the death of the ego?

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Weakness and strengths

I gave a talk similar to this today.

Twenty years ago today, I woke up early in the morning. After showering and getting dressed I fixed myself the same breakfast that made every morning for the next eighteen months. Baguette with Nutella and hot chocolate. I read the Book of Mormon for half an hour, studied my French Gospel lessons and then sat down with my fellow-traveler to study a handbook of Missionary practice designed to hone our proselytizing efficacy. There in the cold apartment near the French-German boarder we were the apex of a century-long process that transformed every facet of Mormonism.
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First Advent (Mormon Lectionary Project Year 3)



Today, the First Sunday of Advent begins a new liturgical year, the third for the Mormon Lectionary Project. I promise that some devotional content will follow, but in true Mormon fashion, there’s business to attend to first. [Read more…]

Escape of Pleasant Grove’s Turkey-Shoot Flock

Thanksgiving in Pleasant Grove has always been a time of family gatherings, joyous feastings lubricated with good gravy, and parades and football games on TV. Except the year that Maple Shepherd stopped the annual turkey shoot with her crazy notion that turkeys deserved to die with dignity—by which she meant a hatchet. That year, all 4’10” of her skinny meanness stood on the old stump out under the trees in the little park on the corner of Main and 200 South and shouted to all who would listen that shooting turkeys wasn’t right. No sir. Her grandmother taught her that a turkey had to die on a cottonwood chopping block on the very week of Thanksgiving, because that’s the way the Pilgrims did it. To do otherwise was an offense to their memory and to yea, even God Himself. Harken even unto Him who hath ordained it such, she would cry. We paid no heed. We all knew Maple. She was always as angry as a badger with the clothespin on its tail, and we took a don’t-get-too-close-or-you’ll-get-bitten approach. [Read more…]

Were I Ever to Leave the Church…

The recent explosion of commentary on the new Handbook policies at some point put me in a reflective mood, in which I pondered, in a fairly abstract way, what it would be like to actually leave the Church. Let me hasten to clarify that such pondering did not crystallize into an actual resolution to that end; rather, it led to some personal musings on the subject. Although I’m not actually leaving any time soon, even to engage in abstract pondering about such a matter was a completely unprecedented  experience for me. [Read more…]

On The Courage Needed For the Present Moment

I’ve been talking about virtue ethics in my bioethics class. This is, in part, the view that what matters in developing an ethical framework is to focus on developing good character, rather than constructing either rules of conduct honored by a sense of duty to God or reason, or in attempting to achieve good outcomes for the majority of the people. Virtue ethics was first articulated by Aristotle as part of his view that to live a flourishing human life is to achieve an excellence of virtues. [Read more…]

The line

I hear a bit of talk of late regarding the line: the event that would be sufficient to push someone out of the church. As in, what would cross the line for you? Where do we draw the lines? Sometimes also referred to as a camel-back-breaking straw, the line is supposed to be some objective standard. Once the line has been invoked in real life, then it will mean [the church is false; Joseph Smith was a very, very bad man; my tithing was wasted; or some other such]. I think the existence of the line should be taken for granted; it is relatively easy to imagine circumstances where your faith in the church would be sufficiently shaken to question its nature or to go further and decide that you were mistaken about it. The harder question is what does the existence of the line mean? [Read more…]

A Chance to Atone


He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.–John 21:17

Peter did not understand why his resurrected Lord asked him three times to affirm his love. He thought that the Saviour was chastising him. Christ knew, though, that the man who had denied Him three times on the night of His crucifixion needed to affirm Him three times to atone for his actions. [Read more…]

One Ordinary Guy’s FAQ On Polygamy

I get a lot of questions about polygamy.  Here is my personal bent.

1.  Do Mormons believe in polygamy?

Depends on what you mean. 
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Financial Planning for Children With Disabilities

Hoffer family pictureWe’re honored to have a guest post from Stephanie Hoffer. Stephanie is a professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. She is an educator, a scholar, and an advocate, and arguably the preeminent authority on the ABLE Act. We’re excited that she’s agreed to introduce us to this important new law.

My son George is a bright shining star. He is almost five, and he loves to read out loud, play the harmonica, and paint. He also happens to have Down Syndrome. He is smart, funny, and loving, and I can’t imagine life without him. I am grateful every day for the privilege of being his mom. And like any other mom of any other child, I worry every day about his future.

Our life with George hasn’t always been easy. On the day that he was born, a social worker came to our hospital room and told me that we should do two things right away: apply for Medicaid and write George out of our will. I was stunned. I choked back the inevitable tears and asked why. “Because,” she replied, “they are really expensive.” Stung by the label “they,” and hurt by the thought of not being able to save for my precious baby’s future, I asked her to please leave.  [Read more…]

Don’t reap me bro!

Some notes on the parable of the wheat and the tares: [Read more…]

Continuing Revelation

Gregory A. Prince is the author of several articles and books, including Power from On High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood, and co-author of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. He is president and CEO of Virion Systems, Inc. and he is a board member of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and The Journal of Mormon History.

In the late 1970s, while serving as an Elders Quorum president, I witnessed what may have been the only same-sex wedding (same-sex in the sense that both partners had Y-chromosomes) ever to be performed in a Latter-day Saint temple. A year earlier, a woman who had undergone transsexual surgery was baptized in our ward. Leaders in the mission and the ward were fully aware of her status—indeed, the baptism recommend (which the bishop later showed me, since the subsequent wedding involved a member of my quorum) bore the words, “She is a transsexual.” Several months later an elder moved into the ward, the two of them fell in love, and they announced their engagement. They expressed to the bishop a desire to be married in the temple, and after he and the stake president interviewed the couple, the stake president wrote a detailed letter to the General Authority who supervised that area of the country, explicitly stating that the bride-to-be had undergone transsexual surgery. [Read more…]

Be Still My Soul: the Tallis Fantasia

When I am anguished of mind and soul I consistently turn to a piece of music that speaks to my heart.  I have started to joke that it is my personal ctrl+alt+delete.  It provides a reset button that lets me regroup and move forward.   [Read more…]

Speaking of the well-being of children…

By now I’m sure many of you have read the heartrending account by a mother whose 3-month-old son died just hours after she had left him in a day-care center so that she could return to work. [Read more…]

Endureth or Resisteth?


This coming Sunday I’ll be teaching Lesson 42 on James. As I reviewed the lesson manual, I was intrigued by this additional teaching idea:

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Who We Cast Away


The word “ostracize” comes from a practice of the world’s first democracy. Each year, the citizens of Athens could vote to conduct an ostracism—a writing on shards of pottery, or ostraka. Citizens would write the name of a man considered a potential threat to the state, usually somebody with enough power to become a tyrant. A person named by a sufficient number of citizens would be banished for ten years, not punitively, but preemptively. Such was the fate of the great military hero Themistocles, who defeated the Persians and saved all of Greece. In Athens, they did not take chances.

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 There is something truer than truth and it is love.

-George Handley (Mormon scholar and friend)

What being an ally this week has taught me:

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As a Little Child

Elijah (age 4) is one of the blog’s younger friends. He likes Star Wars, superheroes, and Thelonious Monk. He gave this talk in Primary today. We share it with his (and his parents’) permission.

When we serve others, we serve God. Serving other people means being nice to them. When people are sad or lonely, I can be their friend. I can be silly to help them be happy. When they fall down and are bleeding, I can get them a band-aid. I can give people hugs when they need them, or I can share my stufties* to help them feel better. If someone is being left out, I can ask them to play with me. We should love others. That is part of God. Jesus would help people who are left out or alone. That is important! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

*stuffed animals

Where Can I Turn for Peace?

Christian Harrison is a longtime friend of the blog (see his recent post here) and an active gay Mormon. He gave this talk in his ward this morning.


Good morning, brothers and sisters.

Before I dive into the meat of my comments, I’d like to ask you to do something with me. I’d like for you to close your eyes for just a moment and to keep them closed until I ask you to open them…

Please close them now.

With your eyes now closed, I’d like for you to imagine that you’re at the ballet… you have the best seats in the house… the lights dim… and a small troupe of dancers come on stage. They’re strong and graceful. They take their places as the orchestra cues up, and they begin to dance…

[ Hum one verse of “Where Can I Turn for Peace” ]

The music ends, and the dancers exit the stage. [Read more…]


Amanda is a longtime reader and lurker on BCC. She received a BA in French from Yale University and now lives in a Paris suburb with her husband Didier and son James. She is currently working on a law degree while working in a law firm in Paris. We have been shocked by this and other recent attacks by religious extremists around the world, and mourn with Paris, the West Bank, Egypt, Nairobi, Nigeria, Bangkok… and the list continues.

For the second time this year, my country is reeling under the shock and grief of a terrorist attack. [Read more…]

Music for Sunday

I just came back from my ward’s Primary Presentation sacrament meeting based on the 2015 Sharing Time theme, “I know my Savior Lives.” The children opened their presentation by singing I Know That My Savior Loves Me: [Read more…]

The Third Scout

Image by Jerilyn Hassell Pool

Image by Jerilyn Hassell Pool

Alan B. is a long-time friend of the blog. His experience resonated with many of us.

In the wake of the recent changes to LDS Church policy regarding LGBT people and their children, I made a donation to the Utah Pride Center as a way of showing love and support. A childhood friend, who is gay (as I learned a few years ago), expressed appreciation. To explain why I donated, I recounted an experience I’d had with him.

Once there were three Boy Scouts. One day at Scout Camp, two of the Scouts played a trick on the other, as Scouts do. While one of the Scouts was in his tent, the other two detached the tent poles from the tent. The tent collapsed and the two pranksters laughed as the other Scout flailed about, struggling to find a way out. It was harmless fun. [Read more…]

The Worth of Sparrows


“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?”

“But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

—Luke 12:6–7

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Despise Not the Revelations

This guest post comes from Jon, who is a friend of the blog. He’s a student of statistics and son of parents who follow the admonition of Paul.

I saw this phrase first on the door of a Catholic parish in Santa Fe, Argentina: “Every child that is born is proof that God has not yet given up on human beings.” The idea appealed to me at the time, both because babies are adorable and because as a missionary I had a daily habit of giving up on humanity. An element of that phrase has been working on me in the nearly 10 years since: the idea that people enter the world bearing divine information—that we are each a revelation. [Read more…]

The Elements of Testimony

Eric D. Snider is a film critic, author, humorist, and gay Mormon. We’re glad to have his voice here.

(A talk I gave in sacrament meeting in Portland, Ore., on Oct. 18, 2015.)

To talk about “the elements of testimony,” I decided I had to talk about the elements of MY testimony. Elements are building blocks. They’re the parts of a thing that, without them, the thing isn’t the thing. [Read more…]

It May Take a While

Over the summer I read Charlotte’s Web to my four-year old son, Remy. After we finished, we rented the movie and watched together. Near the end I got a call and had to leave the room for a moment. I didn’t know it was the part where Charlotte would die, even though I knew it would happen, it still seem sudden, surprising. From the back room I heard my son sobbing and I quickly hung up the call and ran down the hallway. For the rest of my life, I imagine I will regret that I wasn’t sitting right beside him when the wave of sadness came. I am indebted to his strong spirit for allowing me to be privy to one of the most real displays of human emotion I have ever witnessed. His sadness was not attached to anything at all except human empathy, from one creature to another. [Read more…]



The Stakes of Zion

Let me start with three points of cultural context:
  1. I’m a believer, I’m not going anywhere, and this isn’t intended to be a radical post.
  2. I live in a big city, and work in the ad industry in close proximity to gay people. They’re my friends, neighbors, employees, coworkers, and ward members.
  3. I was born the year after the priesthood ban was lifted. Mine is the first generation to have grown up in a Mormon church without false doctrinal cover for racism.

Let’s just call things what they are, at least for the moment. Because we need a moment of honesty right now, to clearly consider what’s at stake.

If this policy and our anti-gay views (again, calling things what they are) are somehow cemented as doctrine, in time we will be labeled a hate group, and no amount of Mormon bloggers and commenters and online missionaries and ad campaigns will sway that opinion. It will be our brand identity. Within 10 years we’ll be seen as a fringe group. In 20 years we’ll be a bigoted, extremist anachronism.

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