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

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...]

Be Ye Perfect . . .? Let’s Start with Being Perfectly Honest

Jana Riess is a writer on various faiths, with a particular gift for writing about Mormonism. She is also the author of the Twible. Jana agreed to write this post to set the stage for our contest with Jana’s new book, Flunking Sainthood.

I recently came across a 1995 General Conference talk by Russell M. Nelson about perfection. I was heartened to read the opening lines about how the commandment in Matthew 5:48 (“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”) is the most difficult of all to keep, since so many of us are far from perfection. Amen to that, I thought.

However, I found the talk disappointing from there. The opening examples Elder Nelson gave of people falling short were of individuals losing their car keys, not remembering where their cars were parked, or walking into a room and forgetting why they were there. Those aren’t examples of sin; that’s ordinary human memory loss. [Read more...]

The Archer of Paradise

Neal W. Kramer is a regular guest contributor to By Common Consent. He is an adjunct faculty member in the department of English at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He is also a member of the Arts and Sciences editorial board at BYU Studies. We thank him for his thoughtful review.

In the early morning hours of 13 May 1857, a tired, solitary, and unarmed released prisoner rode his horse secretly away from Van Buren, Arkansas. The burdens of the past few weeks rested heavily on his shoulders. He had failed in his mission to reunite two children with their mother. Criminal charges had been brought against him and then dropped, but “the South’s extralegal tradition of violence” (374) left him feeling less than safe. [Read more...]

Review: Hamlet’s Father

Thanks to Moriah Jovan for this review. Moriah is the author of some very interesting (and occasionally, very steamy) books. She’s pretty much the coolest person ever to guest post at BCC.

When reading Hamlet, the biggest—only—question is why did Hamlet do what he did? This, I think, is what keeps this play thriving century after century. People in real life do things all the time and you wonder, “Why did they do that?” and there is no seemingly good answer.

Or rather, there is no satisfactory answer. [Read more...]

Peculiar Pages

BCC is pleased (sad?) to present the last guest submission from Theric.  All hail our wonderful guest!


Although I remain convinced that my primary artistic goals in life should be to enter the larger public arena, you may have noticed that I also feel strongly about recognizing the vitality and worth of Mormon arts for Mormon consumption. (Although I’ll rush to add that none of the books I’m about to talk about need be limited to Mormon consumption. Don’t think that.)

It’s to that end that Peculiar Pages was born. Our first book, The Fob Bible, has no terribly overt Mormon background. If you skip the introduction, you won’t know it’s there at all. I would guess sales of the book are about evenly split between Mormon readers and not-Mormon readers, but who knows. I do know that it’s become one of (the many) books of which your savvy Mormon reader will say, “Oh yeah. Heard about that. Supposed to be really good. I should really get a copy . . . someday.” [Read more...]

Thex makes me thad

Theric rides again!


You know how sex makes me sad? I tell you how sex makes me sad. Sex makes me sad when people are talking about it and don’t think to invite me. What is that all about? Man alive. I’m an artist! Of course I want to talk about sex!

The problem is, no one wants to talk with me. In a 2009 issue of Irreantum, Bruce Jorgensen wrote a tired retread titled “Reading About Sex in Mormon Fiction — If We Can Read” which basically was the for-idiots version of his much better 1987 Dialogdue article on the topic. On Thutopia, I wrote a response to that article as part of my LDS Eros series (I’ve also written about the 1987 article) in which I pretended that Jorgensen should be reading my blog and know all about the interesting and scintillating and crazy-sexy things I’d been saying. In fact, as far as I know, I’ve had exactly one BYU professor read my blog exactly once. And if memory serves, he wasn’t interested in fictional-sex advice. So even if I am opening new doors and not just revisiting tired antiroach arguments, it doesn’t matter because I’m not part of the conversation. [Read more...]

Theric wants to know: Who will be our Richard Cracroft, now that our Richard Cracroft is gone?

Theric continues his reign of terror as BCC’s guest-post extravaganza continues unabated. 

First, let me recognize that not all Mormons who know how to read went to Brigham Young University*, but we certainly have enough alumni to agree that readers of BYU Magazine are not an insignificant number of reading Saints (~215,000). [Read more...]

Thanonymity and Thelf-promotion

BCC has officially decided that permas will no longer post. Instead, you’ll be subjected to a constant stream of guest posts, such as this one from Theric.


I was on the AML blog last November declaring that

One of the reasons we want people’s real names for the bylines in Mormons & Monsters is because it’s time for us as artists to own up to our culture, our art, our heritage, our faith, our contradictions, our words, our selves.

Time to stop hiding.

The next comment accused me of hypocrisy, to which I could only think “What? What? What? DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM???”

I am Theric. I thought you knew that. [Read more...]

The [Missed] Opportunity

Continuing with our unofficial guest-palooza this week, BCC is pleased to have this guest post from frequent commenter Chris Gordon.

A few years back, Kristine related George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” to some of the linguistic traps we can fall into within the church. Along the same vein, I’d like to suggest that some of those very trappings can, if we’re not careful, cause us to miss an opportunity for better communion with the Spirit and greater shared experience in prayer and testimony.  Consider the following phrases, oft heard in prayer and testimony:

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to be here today; and we’re grateful for the opportunity to hear the speakers and for the opportunity to take the sacrament. Please bless those who didn’t have the opportunity to be here today.”

[Read more...]

Paradox and Peculiarity: Exploring Mormon Identity through Patristic Scholarship (conclusion)

This is the conclusion to a 3-part series from guest author Adam J. Powell, a PhD student at Durham University. His multidisciplinary work analyses the role of opposition in the development of identity and soteriological beliefs among second-century Christians and early Mormons. The first and second parts of this series can be found here and here, respectively.


Having recounted the shortcomings of Hugh Nibley’s use of Irenaeus in the previous post, three additional LDS figures will now be discussed.  The 1970’s and 80’s witnessed two Mormon thinkers who significantly propelled the move away from an emphasis on the Great Apostasy to a focus on Patristic theology.  Keith Norman and Philip Barlow both took on the task of drawing comparisons between the early Christian concept of theosis and the Mormon doctrines of eternal progression and exaltation.  In doing so, each espoused the notion that the earliest forms of deification gradually morphed in order to become more compatible with the orthodox Christian belief in creation ex nihilo.  In an article for Sunstone, Norman said, ‘…the principal reason the doctrine of Divinization could not survive in the church’s theology proper was that it conflicted with the doctrine of creation ex nihilo to which most “orthodox” Christians adhered by the middle of the third century.’ This followed his claim that Irenaeus was the ‘first explicit advocate of divinization’.  In fairness, Norman published an article (‘Ex Nihilo: The Development of the Doctrines of God and Creation in Early Christianity,’ BYU Studies 17 (Spring 1977)) a bit later in which he explicitly claims Irenaeus as the first Christian to formulate a creatio ex nihilo doctrine.  The confusion, however, still remains.  How can Irenaeus be an early proponent of both creatio ex nihilo and theosis if the two doctrines are fundamentally incompatible? [Read more...]

Paradox and Peculiarity: Exploring Mormon Identity through Patristic Scholarship (cont.)

This is the second post in a 3-part series from guest author Adam J. Powell, a PhD student at Durham University. His multidisciplinary work analyses the role of opposition in the development of identity and soteriological beliefs among second-century Christians and early Mormons. The first part of this series can be found here.


For the sake of brevity, only a small number of specific LDS thinkers will appear in the following critique.  As noted previously, the paradoxical nature of Mormon faith is exhibited by the Saints’ self-definition as a ‘peculiar people’.  The confusion arises when various religious representatives, whether church-sanctioned or informally acknowledged, attempt to draw significant parallels between the beliefs and behaviours of Latter-day Saints and those of mainstream Christians.  These ‘touch points’ are most often emphasized by church apologists and academics with an apologetic agenda.
[Read more...]

Paradox and Peculiarity: Exploring Mormon Identity through Patristic Scholarship

BCC is pleased to present a 3-part series from guest author Adam J. Powell, a PhD student at Durham University.  His multidisciplinary work analyses the role of opposition in the development of identity and soteriological beliefs among second-century Christians and early Mormons.  


Appealing to biblical passages such as Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 14:2, Psalm 135:4, and 1 Peter 2:9; Latter-day Saints have often referred to themselves as ‘a peculiar people’. This self-defining label, though clearly tied to the Mormon understanding of Hebrew connections with the Western Continent, goes beyond establishing a spiritual heritage. It serves as a focus of identity. In fact, the very same phrase from the King James Bible has been adopted by more than one religious group both as an internal motivator and an external identifier. For those on the outside, the term ‘peculiar’ rapidly alienates and distinguishes the adherents from the greater society. Viewed from within, the label reinforces this same in-group/out-group dichotomy, but it also mobilises the collective by fabricating a unique identity as a special and extraordinary group. In spite of its rather circular logic (we are special because we say we are), this act of self-definition greatly impacts solidarity and, subsequently, religious loyalty. [Read more...]

The Mormon Conservative Anti-War Movement

[Note from Admin: Recently, while under the influence of some (allegedly) fermented root beer, a rogue BCC perma suggested that permas from M* and BCC switch places in the name of building bridges or increasing dialogue between two groups who often don't seem to play nicely with each other.  Although no one was sure if anything would come of this proposal, Geoff B. has made good on his end of the agreement.]

Geoff B is a convert to the Church who writes for Millennial Star.

For a relatively recent convert like myself, President Hinckley’s April 2003 talk right before the U.S. entered the Iraq war was very confusing.  On the one hand, it was clear to me after reading the Book of Mormon two or three times by then that the Church’s message is one of peace, non-aggression and avoiding offensive wars.  On the other, President Hinckley seemed to be justifying the Iraq invasion.

[Read more...]

The Only True and Living Review of the Book of Mormon Musical

MikeInWeHo reads conflicting reviews of the Book of Mormon Musical and is intrigued and troubled by the soundtrack. He determines to seek the truth by embarking on a journey from West Hollywood to New York City.

Some time in the year 2011 there was an unusual excitement in the Bloggernacle on the subject of musical theater. During this time of great excitement his mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness. At length he came to the conclusion that he must either remain in darkness and confusion, or he must fly to New York City and see the Book of Mormon musical for himself.

MikeInWeHo sees the Book of Mormon Musical, returns to West Hollywood, and writes the following review for his LDS friends: [Read more...]

Editing Gentry: a Memoir

Todd Compton is a prolific author and historian, with published interests spanning classical literature and Mormon History. We are pleased to welcome him, and his reflections on editing Fire and Sword: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri, 1836-39, published by Kofford Books.

A few years ago, I agreed to edit and update Leland Gentry’s pathbreaking 1958 Ph.D. thesis on the 1838 Mormon war in Missouri, little knowing the long path I was starting on. Gentry had contracted with Greg Kofford to publish his thesis, but health problems prevented him from updating it, as he had originally hoped. So he agreed that Greg could get someone to work on it, and for various reasons, I ended up being that person. To my regret, I never met Gentry. He died on August 6, 2007.
[Read more...]

I’m a Mormon and I Am Here

Neylan McBaine is Editor of the Mormon Women Project and a regular contributor to BCC.

I had just exited the baggage claim at the airport when I saw World Trade Center survivor Victor smiling from the top of a New York City taxi. “I’m a Mormon,” his picture said. And, “” My seven-year-old daughter was actually the first to spot the ad. “Look, Mommy!” she cried. “Your work!” In the bustle of making our family’s annual reverse-pilgrimage from Utah to my hometown of New York City, it had slipped my mind that my work – as a participant on the team responsible for the campaign – would be following me home. [Read more...]

Review: The Mormon Rebellion

Guest reviewer Polly Aird is an independent historian, and winner of the Ella Turner-Ella Bergera Best Biography Award for her Mormon Convert, Mormon Defector. She is currently serving on the editorial board of the Journal of Mormon History. We welcome her review of this recently released volume.

David L. Bigler and Will Bagley. The Mormon Rebellion: America’s First Civil War, 1857-1858 Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011. 384 pp., illustrations, map, notes, bibliography, index. Hardcover: $34.95; ISBN: 9780806141350
[Read more...]

Duck Beach: A Contradiction?

This guest post comes from Stephen Frandsen, who is a co-founder and executive producer of Big Iron Productions. In addition to working on film sets in New York City, he produces photo shots, commercials, documentaries, and the like. While he is currently a “29 Year-Old Single Mormon,” he is engaged to be married this fall.

I saw a headline on Gawker the other day that made me look twice: “Mormons Conquer New York.” I’ve been in New York for six years, and this was maybe the first time I saw Mormons and New York linked together positively in the media. Of course, the headline was referring to yesterday’s news that The Book of Mormon Musical received 14 Tony nominations.
[Read more...]

Tuesday Afternoon Poetry

Harbor Hills Ward: Newport Beach

You emerge from your car, laughing.
“I forgot to tie my dress,” you say,
turning your back to me, and I do it for you.
And I think I understand how Cinderella felt
once, that early afternoon,
when the ball was still imaginary:

Standing there,
in her wrinkled black polyester,
grasping Drusilla’s sash,
her callused fingertips
not fathoming the silk,
it’s that fine, bluer than
Gatsby’s shirts, softer,
wealth slipping through her fingers,
fluttering, catching on a hangnail–
Cinderella hopes she doesn’t smell of onions
as she ties a lopsided bow
on her sister.

[Read more...]

Mormon Women Project: Liz Shropshire

Neylan McBaine shares with us some background on a new interviewee at the MWP.

“I can never forget how much I want to get married,” a 30-something friend told me recently after returning from an exotic trip half way around the world those of us with spouses and dependents can only dream of. “I was standing on top of a mountain looking at the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen and all I could think about was how I’d rather be home with a husband and kids! I’m sick of being reminded that I should be pursuing marriage when it’s the one thing I can never forget.” [Read more...]

You Make the Call: Bubble Boy edition

This post was submitted by a BCC reader who wishes to remain anonymous.

You are an area authority seventy. A stake president calls you seeking direction on behalf of a bishop who has in his ward Barry Bubble Boy. Barry has an autoimmune deficiency that requires that he live inside of a protective bubble specially built inside of his home as his bedroom. He was transfered unto the room from the hospital when he was four, and has never left it. He is now 12.

Barry was born in the church, has a testimony of the Gospel, and desires to be baptised. Given his environment, it is impossible for him to be totally immersed in water. Even if a tank could be constructed in his bubble, his doctors would advise against subjecting him to total immersion in water. You should take as given that he cannot be immersed in water without grave risk of death.
[Read more...]

R.I.P., Bill Henrickson

MikeInWeHo is a longtime friend of BCC. He returns to bring us the latest from Gomorrah Hollywood.

The HBO series Big Love come to a shocking end last Sunday evening after five seasons of polygamy, Utah culture, ridiculous drama, and plenty of ersatz Mormonism to boot. Bloggernacle-types snapped to attention when the series premiered in 2006, but by and large Mormons ignored the whole spectacle. Controversy peaked in Season 3, when the “Outer Darkness” episode recreated some of the most sacred moments of the temple ceremony.
[Read more...]


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