A Response to Neylan McBaine

Neylan McBaine’s excellent presentation at the recent FAIR Conference inspired this response from guest Ben McGuire.

This presentation caught my attention because it covers issues we are dealing with in my home. My son was ordained a Deacon just this past Sunday. And my daughter has been questioning why he gets the priesthood and she doesn’t (and further why the boys do things in church that the girls don’t). How do I answer these questions? [Read more…]

Mormons in Congress 2012: Part II

Another guest post from Kay Atkinson King. Long, detailed, and fascinating! (Part I is here.)

 Arizona U.S. Senate Race: Mormon vs. Mormon in the Republican Primary

On August 27-30 Republicans from all over the United States will be focused on the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.  The convention is where the Republican Party will formally select its presidential and vice presidential candidates.  (There is little suspense about the presidential candidate, since Mitt Romney has it, though the formal designation takes place at the convention.  If past practice is a guide, Romney will not announce his vice presidential running mate until about the beginning of the convention, in order to create a bit of suspense and create greater press interest in the convention.)  [Read more…]

Finally the LDS Church receives full recognition in Italy, but is there a price to pay for full equality?

Laura Asioli joined the church at 8 years old in Pescara, Italy when naively seeking English lessons from American missionaries. She studied Law and Italian law LLB followed by a Competition laws LLM. She qualified as a financial services solicitor in 2010 and has since worked in house for a commercial bank in London. She is a mother of a 16 month old boy with another one on the way. She is counting down the days to her maternity leave in January! We are delighted to have her as our guest.

Less than 4 years from President Monson’s announcement that a Temple would be built in Rome, Italy’s President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano signed the ‘Intesa con lo Stato’, a document granting the LDS Church the same status as the Catholic Church in Italy. [Read more…]

“I am now informed that over five thousand desire to move from this Territory. . . .”

Polly Aird and William MacKinnon are both award winning authors in Mormon History. This post was pulled together between them to highlight an interesting never before published document.

William P. MacKinnon, in a recent review of Polly Aird’s book, Mormon Convert, Mormon Defector: A Scottish Immigrant in the American West, 1848-1861 (Arthur H. Clark Company, an imprint of the University of Oklahoma Press, 2009), brings to light a previously unknown 1858 letter from an army quartermaster to U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas about the number of Mormons wishing to leave Utah Territory but not having the means. [n1] Quoting from Bill’s review: [Read more…]

Mormons in Congress 2012

It turns out that Mitt Romney is not the only Mormon looking for real estate in Washington, DC. We’re delighted to have Kay Atkinson King at BCC, with a series of guest posts on Mormons holding and/or running for office this year.

Kay King worked on Capitol Hill for 26 years – first as a legislative aide to Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), as chief of staff to Congressman Richard N. Swett (D-NH), as Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and as Director of Interparliamentary Affairs for the House of Representatives, appointed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).  Kay received her B.A. from the University of Utah and her PhD from UCLA.  She is the coauthor of “Mormons in Congress, 1851-2000,” Journal of Mormon History, 26:2 (2000), pp. 1-50.

Mormons in Congress 2012:

(1)  Introduction

What are the Prospects for LDS Members in Congress?

Now that Mitt Romney has become the presumptive Republican candidate for President of the United States – the buzz word du jour is “Mormon Moment.”  Everyone is using the term.  [Read more…]

Eve Waits

I. Eve

Eve waits by the river, knowing her son will be there when the sun is high. She will call out to him. He will shake his head, or simply turn away. She wants him to look at her, eye to eye. If she had been there two minutes earlier, she could have stopped it. She had not imagined how deep the mischief could go. If she had been where she was supposed to be…

II. The Son

I called the police when I found the pot. Most of the paraphernalia was strange to me. A vase was not a vase, the police told me. It was a bong. The incense had been a cover for the scent I wouldn’t have recognized anyway. The little box was for measuring marijuana. Dealers used it. [Read more…]

First Chapter: S.P. Bailey’s Millstone City

Millstone City by S.P. Bailey is the latest title from Zarahemla Books. It’s a thriller about some Mormon missionaries in Brazil caught up in a murder investigation. It’s a great summer read, and it’s packed with Mormon lit goodness. Read Theric Jepson’s A Motley Vision review. Or read the first chapter:

[Read more…]

“Four Centuries of Mormon Stories” Writing and Art Contest

From now through September 17, Everyday Mormon Writer is soliciting submissions (and financial contributions to pump up the prize purse) for its “Four Centuries of Mormon Stories” Writing and Art Contest. Today, By Comment Consent presents you an exclusive interview with James Goldberg (and conducted by James Goldberg) about the historic (and futuristic!) new contest. [Read more…]

Learn to Like (IV)

More George Handley on Lowell Bennion:

Lessons from Doc: #4 Learn to like fields, trees, brooks, hiking, rowing, climbing hills.

This might have the appearance as one of the easiest, dare I say natural, aphorisms of Doc’s, since appreciation of this sort would appear easy to come by. I have never met a person who did not have at least a modicum of respect for natural beauty of some kind. So it is curious, then, that much rarer are those individuals whose attachment to beauty is deep enough to forge a lasting commitment to the health and wellbeing of their surroundings. I have said it before, but fierce affection for nature without due attention to its health and flourishing is akin to pornographic desire because it is more interested in gratification than service and sanctification. [Read more…]

Reason, Authority, and Ralph Hancock

TT is a blogger at www.faithpromotingrumor.com.  He recently posted “Five Questions for Ralph Hancock,” and the comment thread included a lengthy comment that we have asked his permission to re-post. Reading the thread at Faith Promoting Rumor will help provide the context for some of this, but readers who have been following the Brooks-Hancock chatter of late should be able to follow. (Related BCC posts can be found here.)

This post represents a response, of sorts, to the set of exchanges between Ralph Hancock and other LDS thinkers, most recently his apologia.   My post is not a defense of Joanna Brooks (though it uses her arguments as an example, in part, of some of the issues at stake), nor a treatise on any particular idea, but rather a discussion about how reasoning about LDS teachings might occur. 

Hancock appeals to both “authority” and “reason” in his attempt to depict certain ideas held by LDS intellectuals as incompatible with Mormonism, especially the equality of women and the acceptance of certain kinds of same-sex relationships.  I think that both claims to authority and reason need to be investigated, and suggest that both routes to establish a univocal Mormon framework to address to these questions face serious difficulties. [Read more…]

When Mama Breaks the Rules

This guest post comes to us from Chrysula Winegar. Chrysula is a mother, blogger and agitator for work life policy reform at WORK. LIFE. BALANCE. and maternal and child activism at When You Wake up a Mother. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and MomsRising.org. Chrysula is passionate about mothers using their outside voices. She currently serves as a Primary teacher and Activity Day Leader in her ward.

I come from a culture where motherhood is revered, and where the narrative of sacrifice, patience and perfection in one’s mothering is both inspirational and overwhelming. On days like Mother’s Day, the weight of all that mothers are supposed to be can feel like a blessing and a burden. The talks and sermons at church are beautiful. The children’s singing has us all in tears. The flowers and chocolates are a delightful acknowledgement. The beautiful tributes and video clips everyone posts on Facebook, my own included, bring more tears and smiles.

And yet. [Read more…]

BCC, Meet R&P

A guest post from Max Mueller–JI blogger, Eccles Fellow, and a very, very smart Mormon watcher.

This past Sunday (April 29, 2012), Mitt Romney’s eldest son—and his doppelgangertweeted to his some 7,500 followers a snapshot of his father. An Anthony Weiner moment, it was not. But for the buttoned-up and famously reserved GOP’s presidential nominee, Tagg’s picture—“busting” the former Governor for surreptitiously checking his twitter feed during Sunday school at the Belmont, Massachusetts meetinghouse—was as an intimate snapshot of Mitt Romney as we might hoped to get. [Read more…]

Reaching the Isolated

Today’s Guest post currently hails  from Central Asia. Amira likes to plan impracticable road trips between Turpan and Isfahan, in addition to her real jobs of researching minority recipes and homeschooling.  She writes at The Golden Road to Samarqand.

One of the most common arguments I hear regarding why women don’t need the priesthood is that the priesthood cannot be used to benefit a priesthood holder since it is only used to bless others.  In my experience, this isn’t entirely true.  As I’ve lived overseas in very isolated areas of the Church, I have seen too many examples where women are unable to receive ordinances, do not have access to any leaders, and are excluded from Church administration.  When I write about isolated women or men, I’m talking about people who are not assigned to a ward/branch/group/twig/ whatever, or who are living very far away from their assigned unit.

A priesthood holder can take the sacrament no matter where he is on the planet.  I know a vulcanologist who blesses bread and water for himself when he does research on remote volcanoes.  Church leaders have talked about carrying supplies to administer the sacrament while they were in the military. [Read more…]

Not necessary for our salvation

Carl C. is a PhD student in systematic theology at the Catholic University of America, where he gets into arguments with Catholics a lot. This is more fun than his MA at Yale, where nobody wanted to argue very much because they were mostly liberal protestants and generally didn’t care enough about differences of doctrine. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but Carl does enjoy a good disagreement now and again. He hopes to have several of those while guest blogging at BCC.

One of the most frustrating things for me about the church culture in Sunday school is the phrase that I’ve heard cropping up more and more recently, and in multiple wards: “that’s not necessary for our salvation.” [Read more…]

Of life and death

Liz Johnson has returned and we thank her for another guest contribution.

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately (I’m a really fun person to be around) and what it means to allow somebody to die versus prolonging a person’s life. My grandmother passed away a few years ago from complications of diabetes, hypertension, heart failure, and Alzheimer’s. Her battle with Alzheimer’s (and as a result, her process of dying) lasted several years, with her health taking a marked turn for the worse over the last six months of her life.

[Read more…]

Mitt Romney and the Politics of … Mitt Romney

A response to Stuart Parker’s Mitt Romney and the Politics of Passing from Armand Mauss.


I found Stuart Parker’s take on Romney’s problems a combination of interesting insights and dubious observations. I tend to agree with some of what he had to say, but I had a problem, first of all, with his tendency to conflate the individual and the collective levels of analysis. I have always considered the “passing” phenomenon as occurring primarily at the individual level, rather than at the collective or institutional level, where I prefer the term “assimilation.” Within any collective category, some individuals will have the necessary traits (physical or otherwise), the resources, the opportunity, and the motivation to “pass,” but others in the same category will not. Ultimately it is an individual decision to try “passing,” well before it is ratified by the majority into which the passing is attempted. Perhaps assimilation could be considered simply a collective accumulation of individual “passes,” but in the Mormon case, as in many others, assimilation was an institutional decision; it was made and carried out by the leadership of the Church during the first half of the 20th century. The leadership has always shown some ambivalence about this process and has taken the Church back and forth, toward and then away from, assimilation since mid-century. [Read more…]

Mitt Romney and the Politics of Passing

Stuart Parker is a postdoctoral fellow with the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Toronto where he wrote a dissertation entitled, “History As Seen Through Seerstones: Mormon Understandings of the Past, 1890-2000″ to be published by Greg Kofford Books. Active in Canadian politics (and a former Green Party leader, the youngest in its history) Stuart is also a former Bushman Fellow at BYU for the Joseph Smith Summer Seminar of 2007.

A recent Gawker.com article, only slightly hyperbolically, characterized Mitt Romney as follows: “Mitt Romney, though, is an insult even to the process of being insulted—a giant, grainy Xerox of a forgery of a human being. The problem voters have with him isn’t that he’s fake; it’s that he’s inauthentically fake…The fakeness is Romney’s all the way down, layers of opaque lacquered bullshit poured onto plexiglass or Lucite or another unnatural transparency.”

I want to suggest, perhaps uncomfortably for some, that Romney’s palpable fakeness arises from his Mormon identity. [Read more…]

Reaching for Her

We are pleased to have Liz Johnson join us as a guest contributor.

On an otherwise ordinary night in the middle of November, I woke up to the sound of a small pop and a gush of fluid. Startled and groggy, I heaved my pregnant self out of my bed and into the bathroom. When I sat down, I felt my body push, and I promptly delivered a tiny baby girl into my own hands. She was absolutely perfect in every way, except for being completely still. And except for the fact that I was only 16 weeks pregnant.

[Read more…]

From Armand Mauss

We’re delighted to have a brief response to the Washington Post article from Dr. Armand Mauss, whose work on race in the Mormon church must be considered definitive. His book on the subject, All Abraham’s Children, is the most thorough treatment of the topic we have, and, “an important work on Mormon race relations and a significant statement of Mormon intellectual and cultural history.” (Ron Walker)

Professor Bott seems to be a little behind in his reading on the history and doctrine regarding black members of the Church. He seems unaware of any of the scholarship on this topic during the past 45 years or more. Otherwise he would know that (1) the references that he cites from the Pearl of Great Price and other scriptures have the meaning he attributes to them ONLY if the reader already believes the folklore that Bott is proposing and elaborating – that is, only if one reads them through the lens of that folklore; (2) numerous spokesmen from LDS Public Affairs, plus many other official statements in recent decades, have denied that such folklore was ever official doctrine: (3) despite such folklore (in versions common to American history more generally), Joseph Smith ordained at least a few African Americans to the priesthood; (4) there is no record of any revelation to any prophet denying the priesthood to people of black African ancestry; and last, but not least (5) this kind of armchair theologizing done by well-meaning, but ill-informed LDS religion teachers like Bott, does enormous damage to the public image of the Church in a time when the Church is trying hard to overcome its historic association with that very kind of folklore. That Brother Bott has a reputation as a skillful and inspiring teacher is not very reassuring if his teaching includes the kind of racist nonsense he was purveying in the Washington Post on Tuesday.

See also Mauss’ excellent article from blacklds.org.

Hope & Anxiety in Stories of Personal Revelation

Tom Mould is a folklorist and author of the most underrated Mormon book of 2011. He is a professor at Elon University.

In talking with people about their experiences with personal revelation, a number of current and former missionaries regularly shared stories of being guided in their work, often by receiving revelation to knock on a particular door, behind which inevitably waited a person eager for the young man or woman’s message. In other cases, that divine guidance protected a missionary from the angry, disillusioned people who pose mortal as well as psychological threats. In fact, the danger of the mission field was a theme that emerged again and again in stories of personal revelation.

Take the story of a recent missionary in North Carolina. He was nearing the end of his mission, having been in the field for almost two years when he shared the following story, with a bit of help from his current companion. [Read more…]

A Memory for Valentine’s Day

Morris Thurston is a member of the Dialogue Board of Directors, a friend of BCC and host of the Orange County Miller-Eccles Study Group. We thank him for his thoughts.

I sat on the stand, trying to appear calm. It wasn’t my impending talk that made me nervous; all I had to do was reminisce about my mission and I was full of humorous stories and faith-promoting experiences. But this was my parents’ ward in Ventura, California—the one they had moved into while I was Norway—and my strong-willed mother had set the sacrament meeting agenda. Not only was her son going to be the main speaker, he was also going to play a piano solo. That’s why I was nervous. [Read more…]

Mormon Architecture

Jonathan Kland has a BS in Construction Management from BYU and an MA in Architecture from the University of Florida. From 2008 to 2010, he was an architect for the LDS Church, where he developed a new series of Standard Plan meetinghouses for the US/Canada. Called the Independence, this plan includes eight versions, each of which is constructed in linked components, allowing for easy expansion to a larger phase as needed. The first of these was recently dedicated adjacent to the Kansas City Temple. His blog documenting and celebrating outstanding Mormon architecture is ldsarchitecture.wordpress.com.

For bold new ideas in ecclesiastical architecture, the world might well look to the Mormon Church where there are no narrowly prescribed conceptions nor pre-determined structural plans, where the only limitations placed upon the architect are the canons of beauty, good taste, usefulness and the boundaries of his own mind as guided and directed by revelations to fulfill the job to which he is assigned by proper authority. [1]

So stated Joseph H Weston, in a 1949 publication sponsored by the Presiding Bishopric titled ‘Mormon Architecture.’ While it is most interesting to hear this statement in light of where we are today, I would venture to say that the greatest architectural legacy of the LDS Church lies in our meetinghouses. With the majority of buildings now using standard designs, even the recent past held a breadth of style, material usage and detailing as broad as the American architectural landscape. As such, the history of LDS meetinghouse architecture is in large part also the history of American architecture. [Read more…]

Review: Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Volume One, 1775–1820

Elizabeth Pinborough is a Latter-day Saint scholar and historian, with a special focus in religion and literature as well as women’s history. She is also editor of the forthcoming Habits of Being: Mormon Women’s Material Culture. Elizabeth currently blogs at Scholaristas. We’re excited that Elizabeth has agreed to contribute this review.

Title: Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Volume One, 1775–1820
Editors: Richard E. Turley Jr. and Brittany A. Chapman
Publisher: Deseret Book
Genre: History
Year: 2011
Pages: 501
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN13: 978-1-60641-033-2
Price: $34.99

The first volume in the Women of Faith series features biographical essays by a number of Mormon history professionals, including Jill Mulvay Derr, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and Mark L. Staker, in addition to fledgling historians, amateur historians, and other experienced authors. It treats a wonderful collection of early Latter-day Saint women born between 1775 and 1820, some well known and some less so. This is not a strictly academic book. Yes, it has footnotes, which are in some cases quite extensive. But this compilation of faith stories is necessarily something more. It serves as a devotional textbook the influence of which will reach beyond scholarly utility. Its stories of faith are not only an important piece of the Mormon historical record and a window into the historical construction of faith among Mormon women. These stories are also essential to the contemporary vitality of Mormons’ life of faith. [Read more…]

The Atonement and Human Reconciliation

This guest post comes to us from PCB, an attorney, legal academic, and brother of BCC’s own Sam MB.

The usual discussion on the Atonement relates to the miraculous way that Christ’s sacrifice makes us, imperfect sinners, able to overcome our weaknesses to live with our perfect Father again in celestial glory. I believe in that vision of the Atonement. A recent experience, though, has led me to see the Atonement as more than that. I also believe that the Atonement can help us overcome the sins of others and not simply forgive, but become reconciled with them. The At-One-Ment of the Savior’s sacrifice can build bridges between our broken hearts and the ones who have done the breaking in ways that can allow us to heal. [Read more…]

Better To Do Right Than To Be Right

A talk given by Daniel Theobald of the Cambridge 1st Ward. Daniel is a roboticist and entrepreneur.

The purpose of existence is joy. We exist, “that we might have joy,” We are taught this in 2 Ne 2:25 which reads “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” According to Elder Oaks in his talk on Joy and Misery this is one of the greatest of all of God’s revelations ever given to his children here on earth. Notice that this scripture didn’t say, Men are that they might be right. Joy is the purpose, not rightness. (October 1991 General Conference)

When might we have joy? We are that we might have it, but when? Some may believe that real joy is something to be granted to us in the after life as a reward from our benevolent maker. An externally bestowed trophy for learning truth, and then suffering through the consequences of living by it. That we are to sacrifice our lives as martyrs in a negative “do what is right let the consequence follow” sort of way. We have to realize that the battle spoken of in this song is with ourselves, our vanity and our pride, not with others, and that when we do right, the consequences, or fruits of doing right will be good. [Read more…]

Guest Post from Dialogue

We’re pleased that Taylor Petrey has written a short discussion of his recent Dialogue article, Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology to start a conversation here at BCC. We encourage you strongly (yea, with schoolmarmish scoldings and professorial pleadings) to read the full article before commenting. Taylor G. Petrey (ThD, MTS Harvard Divinity School) is Assistant Professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College, specializing in New Testament and Early Christianity. He also teaches in the Jewish Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality programs. [Read more…]

The Other Place — A Momo’s Ode To Rod

This guest post comes from frequent BCC reader Erich (comments under “Observer fka Eric S.”). Other submissions from him can be found here and here.

Rod Serling was one of my heroes growing up. Still is. His genius is what bromances are made of. Best known for his psychodrama series, The Twilight Zone, Serling pioneered the television drama into what it is today.*

Season 1, episode 28 of the The Twilight Zone is entitled, “A Nice Place To Visit” after the saying, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I would not want to live here.” The episode begins with law enforcement officers shooting a career thief in an alleyway. In the afterlife the thief is informed that he is dead and is given a guardian angel–who happens to be a middle-aged handsome gentleman. The guardian angel then escorts the thief to a mansion, where he is served a delicious dinner, given a hot shower, and told that the mansion is his. [Read more…]

MWP Salon: Final Impressions

Neylan McBaine returns to give us this wrap-up of the MWP Salon last weekend.

“And what exactly is this going to be?”

I’d asked a friend to help me with some of the last minute set-up for our Mormon Women Project Salon last Saturday night, and she was unclear about what she was getting herself into. I responded: “It’s going to be Relief Society like you always dreamed it could be.” [Read more…]


This guest submission is from Morris Thurston, a friend of BCC and the Mormon Studies community.

Last Sunday my wife, Dawn, and I were the Sacrament Meeting speakers in our ward, assigned to speak on “Testimony.” For inspiration, we were directed to the sermon given by Cecil O. Samuelson, Jr. in the April 2011 conference on the same subject.

This was a challenging topic for me. It isn’t that I don’t have a testimony; it’s just that my testimony is a bit different than those we typically hear during fast and testimony meeting. After reviewing Elder Samuelson’s excellent talk, and after much thought and prayer, I decided to try to be honest in discussing the underpinnings of my testimony. While the thoughts I expressed would not have been groundbreaking had they been expressed in the nearly-anything-goes sphere of the bloggernacle, they were unusual in the context of a sacrament meeting in a conservative Orange County, California ward.

It is likely there were some in the congregation who disagreed with aspects of my talk; if so, they were kind enough not to mention it. What gratified me were those members who talked to me afterward and seemed genuinely touched and thankful that I had been able to express what so seldom is expressed in Church. The members of my ward do not read the bloggernacle (I took a poll in my High Priests Quorum and not a single brother was familiar with By Common Consent, or any other blog). For some of them, apparently, these thoughts provided great comfort. If only a few were spiritually touched, I had accomplished my objective.


Morris A. Thurston
Anaheim, California, Sixth Ward Sacrament Meeting, October 30, 2011 [Read more…]

The Psychology of Foreordination

This guest post comes from frequent BCC reader Erich (comments under “Observer fka Eric S.”).

We took up Ephesians 1 and “predestination” last Sunday in Gospel Doctrine. After performing the requisite semantic dance with various terms, we got to discussing the concept of being “chosen” and “foreordained” for this or that. What struck me most was the way LDS culture perceives these concepts. The lesson dialogue focuses on prophets, leaders, and esteemed historical figures in the gospel and restoration period (e.g., Jeremiah, Abraham, Paul, Joseph Smith, etc.). It is reiterated that these individuals were foreordained and then chose their stations. Invariably, the discussion resorts to how grateful so-and-so is to be born in America, post-restoration, into a Mormon family, and on and on . . . . This seems to be the consensus of thinking around the topic.

Then, whether by express statement, omission, or by implication, the idea is presented that those who are not so privileged to live in Post-Restoration Mormon America were not valiant in a pre-mortal existence. Again, this is the consensus of thinking around the topic. [Read more…]


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