In addition to our blogging, BCC permas do occasionally write other, non-internet type things. If you’re interested in witnessing this strange phenomenon, I will be giving a talk, “Milton and the Anonymous Authority of De doctrina Christiana,“ next Tuesday, March 11, at BYU. It will take place at 3pm in B042 JFSB. Here is an abstract: [Read more...]
I sometimes look at the used markets for research materials and I recently found a copy of the 1983 Mercer Island Ward Cookbook for sale on ebay. I remembered that my current ward was organized in the mid-1980s and that previously it was part of the Mercer Island Ward. A quick email to the ward list and responses confirmed my suspicion. Within a few weeks a friend lent me a copy from their own shelf.
Inspiration is a tricky thing, and, at least for me, the muse is always elusive. Recently, quite unbidden and utterly unexpectedly, the sky split open and gave me a downpour of light and inspiration. I hadn’t realized the fog had gradually gotten so cottony and thick around my spirit; but there it was, suddenly blown away by the shocking and beautiful flood of light. This appears to be my pattern with the divine. There are people who seem to carry quiet, constant inspiration with them, on a slow drip like irrigation pipes under straw on a hot summer day. I used to wonder what was wrong that I didn’t always feel the small but companionable whispering. It would make me question my faith. [Read more...]
When I returned home from work a few weeks ago, I broke into a wide grin at the happy sight of a familiar Mazda Protégé in the parking lot. She’s a scientific wonder affectionately known as The Maz; 24 years old, baby blue (in places), boasting all of her 406,000 kilometers with every inch of her peeling, rusting, dented and pockmarked body. She’d just spent nearly a month at the shop before coming home to us, her engine once again purring like a kitten. “It’s not worth it,” the auto shop had told my husband, Jon. “Why don’t you just go buy a used Corolla instead?” O ye of little faith. [Read more...]
According to yesterday’s news, the Church lost an appeal in the European Court of Human Rights and, as a result, will have to pay property taxes on the Preston, England temple.
Of course, the decision raises a number of questions, not the least of which is how a property tax dispute gets to the European Court of Human Rights in the first place. Other fair questions include whether this evinces European prejudice against the Mormon church and what ramifications this decision will have for the Church. [Read more...]
Mormon Lectionary Project: Ash Wednesday, Year A
The Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Like Advent, Lent signals new life on the horizon. Shorn of all the secular trappings of Easter, the beginning of Lent is thus, along with First Advent, perhaps holier than the holiday it precedes. It is a day worth paying attention to, but in doing so, we admit our Anglo-Catholic tendencies. We Protestants (and Mormonism, whatever its doctrinal divergences, is culturally Protestant) have had an uneasy relationship with Lent, the 40 days (not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Henry VIII, for example, allowed the eating of dairy products, hitherto forbidden during Lent, in his new English church. The Puritans abolished Lent altogether before it was reinstated by Charles II in 1664. By Victorian times, it had almost disappeared from English custom as one Yorkshireman ruefully noted in 1865: [Read more...]
It was 10PM on a Sunday in August, a decade ago. The next day was the first of three day-long sessions that comprised my comprehensive PhD exams. I was just thinking about how I probably should call it a day pretty soon when the phone rang. It was the police. [Read more...]
With the recent decision from BSA to allow openly gay scouts, a number of long-time scouting supporters were, and continue to be, upset. So upset, in fact, that a new program has been established: “Trail Life USA – the new Christian-based alternative that excludes openly gay boys.”
Naturally, the question on everyone’s mind, of course, is whether our super-allies will let us Mormons join. Will “Trail Life USA” become the new official Activity Wing of the Aaronic Priesthood? Let’s consult Trail Life USA’s FAQ page for answers!
While everyone’s journey into faith is unique, there are often archetypal threads and motifs that wind through our stories, drawing us together into a unified chord- stronger and richer for our unique contributions to the whole. I came into the church backwards. When I asked to become a member of the church, I wasn’t even sure I believed in Jesus as the Christ, but I suspected God was real and I had felt both the burning and the whispering of the Spirit- in fact, I had felt it all my life, in different moments and times, but hadn’t the language to give it a name. [Read more...]
A good friend of mine recently returned to Church activity. His story is a complicated one. Tyler (I’m going to call him Tyler) is a returned missionary and prior to his period of inactivity had served as an EQP, Executive Secretary, and temple ordinance worker in his ward. About a year ago, Tyler came out of the closet. First to himself, then to immediate family members and a few close friends. He did not tell his bishop or any of his fellow ward members. Instead, he moved out of his ward and eventually stopped attending Church altogether. He also began to date in an effort to get into a serious relationship with another man. So while he had spent most of his life as a model Mormon, coming out and embracing his sexual identity led him into a period of general non-engagement with the Church. He occasionally drank (though did not abuse) alcohol, and generally his lifestyle reflected a shifting (and distinctively less LDS) perspective on morality and right and wrong. He also began attending the Episcopal Church, which he enjoyed in part because it was new and different but still Christ-centric, but also very much because he fell in love with the richness of the liturgy. He spent a total of 6 months basically totally inactive in the LDS Church, and not conforming to certain key LDS behavioral standards.
Then he received an email from a close friend (actually a mutual friend of both of ours, I’ll call him Jake). [Read more...]
When I was in high school or college, I bought The Shape of Jazz to Come, Ornette Coleman’s seminal 1959 free jazz album. I listened to jazz at the time, especially Miles’s electric stuff, but even more I listened to James Brown and Prince and P-Funk and various alternative rock bands. In fact, I’d probably never heard Ornette Coleman before I bought the album.[fn1] I bought it because I knew it was important, and I wanted to like it. [Read more...]
The Feast of George Herbert, Priest, 1633.
The Collect: O God, who broughtest thy servant George Herbert through the disappointment of his worldly aspirations to become a priest to thy Temple, a poet of thy praise, and an instrument of thy undivided love in a contentious time: guide us also by thy inner light so that we might worship thee together in the beauty of holiness.
Twenty years ago today, I was endowed in the Idaho Falls Temple. This temple was where my parents and grandparents had been endowed and sealed. [Read more...]
There’s something to that, I admit. Look at the last 10 days of posts here: Firestorm on modesty, leaving the Ensign behind, how to revamp Church magazines, the Church as corporation, missionary policies re: opposite sex, wearing pants and then Mark’s post contrasting dinners. If the occasional complaint is steadying the ark then BCC must be like a full suspension system like none other.
I’d like to offer up a little explanation of what’s going on here. If you’re predisposed to dislike this site then I suppose these will make little difference. [Read more...]
I volunteer at a shelter for homeless people two nights per week, helping with the evening meal. I do pretty much the same things there I do with my Mormon priesthood on such occasions, i.e. set up tables and chairs and take them down again. The events I describe in this post took place last week on consecutive evenings.
Wednesday: I notice on the schedule that an LDS ward from the suburbs is scheduled to furnish the dinner tonight. Right on time, three women from the Relief Society arrive, and they are like the two or three dozen women in any ward who make things happen: efficient, capable, and hard-working. They have done this before, and they each know what to do to get the meal ready on time. They are serving chili dogs, so one sister sets a big pan of water on to boil to heat the hot dogs, another starts heating the chili, and I help the third woman fill disposable cups with water. The guests at the shelter start lining up for chow, and after a blessing, the production line starts. Two hot dogs in buns are arranged on each plate, then a ladle full of chili is poured over it all. The guest then moves down the line and helps himself to a baggie of chips, and individual size can of fruit cocktail, and a baggie of sandwich creme style cookies for dessert. They told me that they budget less than a dollar per meal, and I believe them. There are extra hot dogs left over, so they will go home to the freezer until next month, when it’s their turn again. They also told me that they turn in their receipts to the bishop and he reimburses them out of the fast offering fund, which seems like a good arrangement. The only complaint I hear from the guests is that there are no second helpings, and that seems quite petty to me, at first. But upon reflection, many of those people probably had not had lunch, and when you don’t have a refrigerator or pantry, the feeling of having one’s belly full probably takes on more importance.
We in the Church—along with many other Christians—read the “Fourth Servant Song” in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as transparently about Jesus. It’s kind of hard not to: phrases like “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” fit the Christological narrative almost too perfectly. And yet the presence of this passage in the Hebrew Scriptures suggests the possibility of a reading that has nothing at all to do with Jesus, because Jews obviously do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. So what is this other reading? More pointedly, why should we as Christians bother to look beyond the seemingly straightforward identification of the “servant” in this passage with Jesus?
This post is a review of David Bokovoy, Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis-Deuteronomy (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014); 237 pp. This book is the first of three projected volumes, which are meant in some measure to parallel the three parts of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh: Law, Prophets, Writings). The review is written in three parts: first, some personal reflections on my interactions with the Documentary Hypothesis (hereafter “DH”: the theory that the Pentateuch was not authored as a whole by the prophet Moses, but rather was created later by one or more redactors weaving together multiple documentary sources); second, a consideration of the first half of the book, chapters 1-5, specifically on the DH; and third, a consideration of the second half of the book, chapters 6-9, on the interaction of the DH with Mormon scripture. [Read more...]
I started writing a comment on Russell’s recent blog post, in which he explains why he’s canceling his Ensign subscription. Once the comment got past a couple hundred words, I figured a full complementary post might be more appropriate. So here goes.
I haven’t subscribed to the Ensign in over a decade. I read it a couple times a year, usually when I’m at my parents’ house, and the experience is sufficient to remind myself why I don’t subscribe, and why I don’t feel particularly guilty about it.
And yet, I spend time in the bloggernacle, where I tend to stick to faith-promoting sites with some level of orthodoxy. When I started reading and later writing for By Common Consent, it was specifically to fill the Ensign-shaped hole in my heart. A faith community needs an outlet where it can share struggles, devotional thoughts, and personal experiences with the divine, and interact with the culture beyond congregational boundaries.
Mark Ashurst-McGee and Matthew C. Godfrey are the Batman and Superman of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. According to Mark’s wikipedia page, he is a “specialist in documentary editing conventions and transcription methodology.” Professor Steven Harper, stated Ashurst-McGee “probably knows the field of documentary editing better than anybody that I know.” Matthew Godfrey is the managing editor of the JSPP and probably knows the field of 19th century sugar production better than anybody that I know. He holds a PhD in American and public history from Washington State University. Before joining the project, he worked for eight years at Historical Research Associates, a historical and archaeological consulting firm headquartered in Missoula, Montana, serving as president of the company from 2008 to 2010.
We are pleased to take this opportunity to talk about Documents, Volume 2, the latest release in The Joseph Smith Papers. Several editors worked on this volume, including the two of us, Grant Underwood, Bob Woodford, and Bill Hartley. We believe that the volume does much to advance our knowledge of early church history and of Joseph Smith. [Read more...]
If you’re thinking that one of the coolest people you know is named Jessica Jensen, you’d be right. She originally blogged with us last year, resulting in the epic Jonny Lingo .gif post. She lives in Phoenix and has been married 9 years to a perpetual student. She supports him by doing office support for an engineering firm but she plans on those student/provider roles reversing in the future. She also blogs when she feels like it at her Bloggity Blog.
I wore pants to church last Sunday for the first time. My main reason for doing it was very simple: I just plain wish women felt comfortable wearing pants to church. They’re more practical than skirts (especially for mothers of young children), they’re often dressier than, well, dresses, they warm your legs in the arctic temperatures of the Young Women’s room, and what year is this again? And while I do hope for greater visibility for female members of the church, I specifically chose not to participate in the designated Wear Pants to Church Day because I didn’t want to heighten the controversy. So I waited it out a few weeks instead. [Read more...]
One recent afternoon, two new elders were visiting our neighborhood. There is another Mormon family up the street, and after stopping in to see them, they came by our house. For all I know, missionaries have been doing these drop ins for years. I’ve never been home during the day before, but since my husband and I are starting up a small business, we are now both home during the day until our new office is open. This was a new experience for me. [Read more...]
In priesthood opening exercises on Sunday, our attention was directed to the fact that one of the approximately 19 pairs of full-time missionaries in our ward didn’t have any dinner appointments this week, and that this situation needed to be remedied.
A calendar was presented. Hands were raised. Appointments were made.
But this procession prompted my friend James to shoot me a text message, and the following conversation ensued:
The average adult Sunday School class is far too superficial and devotional to help us study the Bible (Richard Foster).
Funny how last month’s discipline was fasting, something I’m usually pretty good at, and yet I had a real shocker. I started the year with a 40 hour fast but have been pretty rubbish ever since. Foster warned about letting the disciplines become vainglories. I think I fell into the trap.
And so to the discipline of study, something else I’m pretty good at. It’s kind of what I do, as a teacher and a scholar, and it’s one of the Mormon “Big Two” along with prayer. Good Mormons read the scriptures . . . a lot.