Beaches and Footprints

Sam Brown is an historian, scholar, author and medical doctor. His latest work, First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith In Light of the Temple is now available, and is a publication of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. We published an excerpt from the book a couple of weeks ago and are happy to offer another now.

We often remind our adolescents and young adults that they will need to stand on their own, that they will need a testimony that can withstand separation from their parents. And it’s true that our attachment to Church and gospel must be stronger than the vagaries of young adulthood. There must be within us something more than just conformity to whatever people around us say. But we must not believe that our walk of faith is solitary. We must be able to experience commitment to true principles and to the people of Zion that can resist mocking voices or temptations of the flesh. But we should not thereby forget that God and the Holy Ghost generally speak to us in the context of our relationships with the Saints. Our lives are deeply blessed by the people who carry the Spirit to us at times of great sadness or anxiety. [Read more...]

Brigham Young’s Couplet

We’re pleased to feature this guest post from John G. Turner, associate professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University and author of Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, in addition to other writings about Mormonism.

Terryl Givens ends his lucid and immensely informative Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought with a long chapter on theosis, the idea that human beings can progress toward and achieve godhood.

Givens presents Mormon thought as a recovery of “a Christian road not taken,” paths explored by early thinkers such as Origen and Pelagius and then rejected by subsequent definers and defenders of Christian orthodoxy. Mormonism as explicated by Givens insists upon human potentiality, freedom, responsibility, and affinity with the divine. Human beings, the spirit children of heavenly parents, embrace mortality as an ascent — sometimes a very difficult and gradual ascent — toward an exalted return to a heavenly family. [Read more...]

Faith, fidelity, faithfulness

Sam Brown is an historian, scholar, author and medical doctor. His latest work, First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith In Light of the Temple is now available, and is a publication of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Sam will be at a book reading and signing at the King’s English bookstore on Nov. 5 (details here). It’s an excellent book, and while a review is forthcoming, here is an excerpt to tide you over.

Faith, Alma explained, requires an experiment upon the word of the gospel [1]. The image of experimenting is powerful, but it can easily be misunderstood. [Read more...]

Review: A Song For Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

71pTGcqw86L._SL1334_Reviewed by Rebecca, friend of the blog and FMH old-timer.

First impressions are good: the dust jacket is lovely and textured and includes praise from authors such as Nick Hornby. It’s the kind of book that feels nice to hold and is inviting. This is not some cheap-o Mormon novel.

British author Carys Bray — once a devout Mormon who “replaced religion with writing” — tells the story of the Bradleys, a Mormon family in the north of England. Dad is the local Mormon bishop, mum is starting to have questions about her faith. Disaster strikes with the death of their youngest child, Issy. The story follows each member of the family and how they deal with their grief.

A Song for Issy Bradley is Carys Bray’s first novel, written as a part of her PhD. In some ways this is obvious, as the writing takes a while to warm up. The characters, however, are well-drawn in the short time before the death of Issy, which is important and allows the reader to be able to empathise with them as the aftermath of the family tragedy unfolds.

For me, there were two main components of the novel: the handling of grief and the presentation of the family’s Mormon-ness. [Read more...]

Book Review: The Miracles of Jesus, by Eric D. Huntsman

A Book Review by Michael Austin*.

Miracles of Jesus, complete, 5-27-14.pdfThe Miracles of Jesus
Eric D. Huntsman**
Deseret Books, 2014
$25.99
Hardcover
164 pages
ISBN: 9781609079161
(Click on each spread to enlarge.)

OK, I’m just going to admit it: I was a little bit skeptical when I first got Eric D. Huntsman’s newest book, The Miracles of Jesus, and saw that it was a glossy, gorgeously illustrated book fit as much for framing as for reading. High production values in books make me nervous, as I always wonder what they are hiding. And then there is the fact that it is published by Deseret Book — the official publishing arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Official publishing arms make me even more nervous, as I usually have a pretty good idea what they are hiding. All I needed was a third strike to set it aside and move on to the next book in my pile. [Read more...]

Thoughts From A Mid-Single Mormon

Not long ago I suffered from a back injury and decided to arrive at church early to assure myself a seat in the more comfortable pews. I attended a family ward and always sat by myself. After sitting down, a woman with her family in tow asked me to move because this was their spot. I moved. The same thing happened with a different family and I moved again. After being displaced a third time, I looked around and found the chapel already filled up. The only seats available were the stiff chairs in the back for the latecomers.

Instead of sitting down, I left and drove down the street to another denomination’s church. [Read more...]

Mormon Man Causes Controversy

My boyfriend is 47 and lives in the 1850s. Nerdy writers understand those late nights, at least I’m hoping. Explaining my book to people living in the twenty first century, though, takes a bit of finesse. Researching a Mormon man, deceased as he is, shouldn’t stir any controversy. Not until he’s published, at least.
[Read more...]

Reimagining Apologia with an Uncertain Faith

Brian M. Hauglid, Senior Research Fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, has provided us with this guest post. We’re grateful for his participation.

I like to ask questions. It’s what got me into the Church almost forty years ago. It’s also a big part of my going into academics. I love teaching inquisitive students and I thoroughly enjoy trying, like a detective, to piece together evidence and come up with reasonable arguments and hypotheses to help explain questions in scholarship.

[Read more...]

Primary effects

Guest post by Michael Hicks.

I’m not always consistent. But I’ve been consistent about two things for many years.

First, in discussions of Mormon music I always say that the masterworks of indigenous Mormon hymnody are mostly in the Primary Song Book. Second, whenever I hear Janice Kapp Perry spoken of in a disparaging or even mocking way–not uncommon among BYU music majors–I always speak up in her behalf.  [Read more...]

Standing Apart

Miranda Wilcox is an associate professor of English at Brigham Young University where she teaches medieval literature and researches the religious culture of Anglo-Saxon England. She is co-editor, along with John D. Young, of the recent compilation Standing Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy.

This interdisciplinary collection brings together fourteen essays that explore the relationship between the development of Mormon historical consciousness and one of the central tenets of Mormonism—the concept of a universal Christian apostasy from its apostolic origins. [Read more...]

We’re #1! We’re #1!

Kristine A returns to share with us her thoughts about why Rexburg is home to the best ward in the world.

Last week I was strolling around my neighborhood near dusk and ran into a friendly neighbor, let’s call him “Bro. Smith”. As we visited I shared that my husband and I were building a home 5 blocks away (.5 mile and 2 wards away, in Rexburg measurements) and we’d be moving in a few months. Bro. Smith mentioned how sad it was we had to leave our ward, but at least we were staying in the best stake.

He went on to share that when “Bro. Young” from our ward was Stake President, Elder Packer came up to Rexburg and in confidence with Pres. Young, told him the our Rexburg Stake was THE literal best stake in the Church. [Read more...]

Knocking at the Gate

Michael Austin is Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Professor of English at Newman University in Wichita, Kansas, a member of the Dialogue Board of Directors, and a friend of the blog.

“CHRISTIANA began to knock . . . she knocked and knocked again. But instead of any that answered, they all thought that they heard as if a dog came barking upon them. A dog, and a great one too; and this made the women and children afraid. Nor durst they for awhile to knock any more, for fear the mastiff should fly upon them. . . . . Knock they durst not, for fear of the dog; go back they durst not, for fear that the keeper of that gate should espy them as they so went, and should be offended with them. At last they thought of knocking again, and knocked more vehemently than they did at the first. Then said the keeper of the gate, “Who is there?

—John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Part II

Even by the standards of 1678, the first volume of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is hostile to women. When the hero, Christian, discovers that he is among the elect, he turns his back on his wife and sets out to find salvation on his own. Though The Pilgrim’s Progress book went on to become the bestselling book of the century (and of the next two centuries after that), readers expressed great dismay over the fate of Christian’s wife. [Read more...]

Dear Bishop

Kristine A. grew up in Idaho with a life goal to be barefoot and pregnant. Heavenly Father had a different plan for her. She now lives in Rexburg with one daughter via IVF and is a relatively vocal moderate mormon feminist. She is most proud of the fact she has suffered a reading injury.

Dear Bishop,

I’m a moderate Mormon feminist with a variety of questions and issues about the Church organization. After repeatedly being told the only approved avenue to have these concerns addressed is via a bishop’s meeting, I’ve prepared this short summary to reference in our meeting.

[Read more...]

Easter Sunday

Eric Huntsman concludes his series on Holy Week.

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

Christ is risen. Hallelujah! Christ is risen indeed. That is how Christians all over the world have been greeting each other all over the world this morning, and it is how I wish to greet you as I bring my brief stint guest-posting here at BCC to an end. [Read more...]

Good Friday

And he, bearing his cross went forth into a place 
called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha: 
where they crucified him . . . 

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, 
that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst . . . 
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, 
It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. 

- John 19:17–18, 28–30 


J. Kirk Richards, Grey Day at Golgotha

J. Kirk Richards, Grey Day at Golgotha

Eric Huntsman continues his series on Holy Week.

Good Friday is observed with great solemnity in some Christian traditions. While not marked as a holiday as such in the LDS community, Good Friday can be a tender and reflective time for individuals and families to pause and consider how Jesus, as our great high priest, offered himself as a sacrifice for us: “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). Understanding how and why he died makes the miracle of his resurrection on Easter morning all the more glorious and joyous. [Read more...]

A Poem for Holy Week

0413-blood-moon-eclipse_full_600Melody Newey is a frequent guest of the blog. We’re happy that she chose to share some of her poetry with us.

[Read more...]

Eric Huntsman on Maundy Thursday

Heinrich Hofmann, Christ in Gethsemane

Heinrich Hofmann, Christ in Gethsemane

Eric Huntsman continues his series on Holy Week.

The Thursday before Easter is a day rich in deep, often poignant events. These include Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, at which he instituted the sacrament and washed his disciples’ feet; his prayer and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; his betrayal by Judas and abandonment by the other disciples; and his arrest, cynical examination, and abuse by the Jewish authorities of the time.

Known as Holy Thursday in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communities, in many English-speaking countries this Thursday is sometimes called “Maundy Thursday.” The word “maundy” is an early English form of the Latin mandatum for “commandment” and recalls Jesus’ teaching “A new commandment I give you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye love one another” (John 13:34). [Read more...]

Spy Wednesday

Tissot, The Meal in the House of the Pharisee

Tissot, The Meal in the House of the Pharisee

Eric Huntsman continues his series on Holy Week.

The texts for today are Mark 14:1–11; Matthew 26:1–16; Luke 22:1–6 and cover the plot to kill Jesus, the Marcan and Matthean anointing of Jesus prior to his Passion, and Judas’ decision to betray Jesus. The fact that the lovely story of the anointing is in an intercalation (or “sandwiched”) between two dark, deceitful scenes has given the day its traditional name “Spy Wednesday.”

One note on chronology: many LDS harmonies list “no events recorded” for Wednesday, and as far as I can tell this arose from J. Reuben Clark, and others, adopting the harmonization of some nineteenth century Victorian divines, who read “two days before Passover” inclusively. For my reasons for counting it exclusively, see the discussion in my working chronology. I think this also fits the pattern of relative time markers in Mark, and even if it did not, remembering these events on “Spy Wednesday” puts us in harmony with the majority of other Christians who are following traditional observances during Holy Week. [Read more...]

Tuesday of Holy Week

Gary Smith, Christ Laments over Jerusalem

Gary Smith, Christ Laments over Jerusalem

Eric Huntsman continues his series on Holy Week.

The texts for Tuesday are Mark 11:20–13:37; Matt 21:23–25:46; Luke 20:1–21:38; John 12:37–50.

Mark begins by addressing the lessons learned from the withered fig tree, preparing readers to continue seeing the temple and Jerusalem authorities as unfruitful and ripe for destruction. But rather than obsessing about the failing of the biblical chief priests and Pharisees, it is probably best, as always, to see how they most frequently represent our own failings. As the prophet had declared, and as a chorus of Handel’s Messiah so vividly portrays, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord had laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). [Read more...]

Monday of Holy Week

I Have A Question

I Have A Question


Eric Huntsman discusses the neglected outcast of Holy Week.

As I note in my seasonal blog, the Monday of Holy Week is what I sometimes refer to as one of the “overlooked days” of Holy Week. Even churches, such as the Roman Catholic or Anglican, that are heavily liturgical do not tend to have specific services for Monday and Tuesday (or even Wednesday, as far as I know), though sometimes they have general Passion Week collects (or communal prayer) on the mornings of those days. [Read more...]

Palm Sunday

Eric and Rachel Palm SundayEric Huntsman continues his series on Holy Week.

Growing up in heavily Catholic Pittsburgh, I always had Palm Sunday in the back of my mind somewhere, but it was not really brought to the forefront until a bishop on our family ward in Philadelphia tried to plan a Palm Sunday procession one year. He actually flew in, at his own expense, palm fronds, and the primary children were making banners that said, among other things, “Welcome Jesus.” Needless to say, when the stake presidency got wind of it, all the plans were cancelled. I did not think about it again until Elaine and I were in Hawai’i one spring that it really impacted me. Visiting the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew in Honolulu on a Saturday, I was struck by the volunteers who were there weaving little crosses out of palm fronds. When I inquired, they explained that they were going to be used for the Palm Sunday service the next day.
[Read more...]

Lazarus Saturday

Eric Huntsman continues his series with us for Holy Week. Today: something a little more ‘orthodox’.

Church of Lazarus - Bethany
In the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Saturday before Holy Week begins is known as “Lazarus Saturday,” and that is the day in which our friends of that tradition commemorate the raising of Lazarus as commemorated in John 11. The reason for putting it before Palm Sunday is because in the Fourth Gospel the raising of Lazarus is the proximate cause of the crowds’ rapturous reception of Jesus at the triumphal entry and the plot against Jesus, which the chief priests begin to organize because they see that “the whole world is going after him.” (In the Synoptics it is the cleansing of the temple that leads to their hardening opposition to Jesus, but of course the Gospel according to John placed that event, or an earlier occurrence of it, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry). [Read more...]

Introduction to Holy Week

Eric Huntsman received his BA from BYU in Classical Greek and Latin in 1990 and then went on to receive an MA and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in Ancient History in 1992 and 1997.  In 1994 he began teaching full-time at BYU in Classics.  In 2003 he transferred to Ancient Scripture, where he is currently an associate professor specializing in New Testament.  After a year teaching at the BYU-Jerusalem Center from 2011-2012, he returned to BYU and began serving as the coordinator for the Ancient Near Eastern Studies (ANES) program in the Kennedy Center for International Relations.  The ANES major has two tracks, one in Hebrew Bible and one in Greek New Testament.  A co-author of Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament with Richard Holzapfel and Thomas Wayment, Huntsman is the author of God So Loved the World, a study of and devotional reflection on the Passion Narratives, and Good Tidings of Great Joy, a similar treatment of the Infancy Narratives.  This August his new book, The Miracles of Jesus, will be released by Deseret Book.


 

I was excited when John Fowles approached me about guest blogging for By Common Consent. I have checked on blogs here from time to time and been particularly interested in the Mormon Lectionary Project. As a self-confessed “high church Mormon” (when I am not veering towards a more evangelical style when speaking and teaching!), I love using holidays and elements of the traditional liturgical calendar to structure my personal study and our family worship.  Scriptures that reflect pivotal moments of Jesus’ life and ministry, together with music that conveys the feelings of these events, have always spoken powerfully to me. [Read more...]

A Warning About Alonzo Gaskill’s New Book

Taylor G. Petrey is the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Assistant Professor of Religion, and Director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Program at Kalamazoo College. He holds a ThD and MTS from Harvard Divinity School in New Testament and Early Christianity.

As a scholar who writes about gender in early Christianity, I was initially happy to discover that Alonzo Gaskill, an associate professor in BYU Religious Education’s Church History and Doctrine department has recently published a book on supposedly ancient apocryphal teachings of Jesus related to women, titled The Lost Teachings of Jesus on the Sacred Place of Women (Ceder Fort, 2014). I was quite disappointed to discover that the text Gaskill’s commentary is based on is a well-known forgery. Readers deserve to be warned against this problematic book in the strongest terms. [Read more...]

Re-Introducing the Mormon Texts Project

This is guest post from our Magnifying Your Calling: Mormon Book Geek dept., by way of Tom Nysetvold, the Director of the MTP. Tom is a Texan mechanical engineer involved in the refining industry who likes to hike and read old books in his spare time. He served in the Brazil São Paulo South Mission, speaks increasingly rusty Portuguese, and is studying Italian. He’s married to the beautiful and extremely supportive Elissa Nysetvold.

The Mormon Texts Project aims to make every out-of-copyright Church book available for free in Kindle, epub, HTML, and plaintext formats, forever. After a year or so of slow progress, we’re back in business, with eight books released on Project Gutenberg so far this year and many more in the works. In this guest post I’ll discuss our philosophy, the process we use to make books available, what we’re working on, and how people can help, in that order. [Read more...]

A Closer Look at Documents, Volume 2, of The Joseph Smith Papers

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...]

A Few Items of Interest in Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, Part II

Part I can be found here. Gerrit Dirkmaat is a historian working as an editor of The Joseph Smith Papers volumes. He joined the Joseph Smith Papers project in 2010 and has since served as a historian/editor on Journals Vol. 2, Documents Vol. 1, and as the lead volume editor of Documents Vol. 3, which will be published in 2014. He is currently serving as an editor for the first volume in the Administrative series.

“Caractors” and Money-Digging

The hefty appendix of Documents, Volume 1 contains some fascinating documents connected to Joseph Smith. First, the document containing “caractors” drawn off of the gold plates is examined.  While it has been assumed for years that this document was the actual manuscript Martin Harris took to Professor Charles Anthon in 1828, research conducted in conjunction with Robin Jensen not only demonstrated that the document was of later origin but also allowed us to publish the document with the inclusion of a bottom portion that had long since been torn away. The various Joseph Smith–era documents containing characters from the gold plates are examined and shown to the reader (pp. 353–367). [Read more...]

And The Oscar Goes To . . . Jesus!

Melody is one of our favorite commenters here at BCC. She earns a living as a Registered Nurse. She currently teaches Sunday School for twelve-year-olds and sings in the ward choir when guilt gets the best of her. She grows a respectable garden and hikes the trails of the Rocky Mountains year ’round. She writes when she’s not building sheet-forts with her grand children. Her poetry has appeared in Irreantum, Segullah, Utah Sings Volume VIII: An anthology of contemporary verse by Utah poets, and in Utah Voices 2012, and in on-line journals and forums.

I missed the Grammys this year, but I’ve watched a few video clips. I had the same response this time as every other time I see a celebrity awards show: “Seriously? It’s not enough that they make millions of dollars, that they live like Royals, that they have a gazillion admirers who praise them, serve them, and seek their counsel and company? (Also: Oprah) Then they gather together as a group of worshipped beings to worship each other and themselves?!” [Read more...]

A Few Items of Interest in Documents, Volume 1: July 1828-June 1831, Part I

Gerrit Dirkmaat is a historian working as an editor of The Joseph Smith Papers volumes. He joined the Joseph Smith Papers project in 2010 and has since served as a historian/editor on Journals Vol. 2, Documents Vol. 1, and as the lead volume editor of Documents Vol. 3, which will be published in 2014. He is currently serving as an editor for the first volume in the Administrative series. We are super-stoked to have him as our guest.

Deciding what is of most interest in a volume you have researched, written, and edited is probably similar to attempting to determine which of your children you love most.  It all seems very important from my perspective, but clearly there are things in Documents, Volume 1 that will be of particular interest to both scholars and non-scholars alike. [Read more...]

So just what do Mormons think about evolution?

The following is a guest post by Benjamin Knoll, a political science professor at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. He teaches classes on public opinion, voting behavior, political statistics, and other topics in American politics. He currently serves as the Elders Quorum President in his ward.

A recent popular headline suggested that acceptance of biological evolution has dropped nearly 10% over the last four years among Republicans. This has prompted renewed interest in many circles on the topic of American opinions toward evolution and, particularly for the Bloggernacle audience, how American Mormons view the topic.

[Read more...]

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