F is for the Family

Continuing to wind our way through the True to the Faith doctrinal booklet published by the Church in 2004 (earlier posts here), I settled on Family from the long list of F-words covered in the book. There’s nothing in the entry you haven’t heard before, as after a five-line introduction it simply repeats (in full) the Proclamation, described as an “inspired proclamation” that is now “the Church’s definitive statement on the family.” [Read more...]

In Harm’s Way

It has been a tough couple of months for LDS missionaries (see here and here and here). In response, Elder Ballard met with members of the media on Friday to discuss the topic of missionary safety, as reported in an online Deseret News article Safety of Missionaries is Priority, LDS Leader Says. We all sympathize, of course, with family and friends of these (or any) missionaries who die or are injured while serving in the field. Few tragedies go deeper than the death of a loved one, whatever the circumstances. But this post is about the policy side of the issue, not the personal side. How exactly does LDS policy treat the issue of missionary safety?

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Best of the Box … Plus

Okay, here are some of the best posts (selected from the MA boxes) for the last couple of weeks, plus a couple of links to new or up-and-coming blogs. Make sure you’re not missing out on the fun. [Read more...]

Best of the Box

Here’s the first WordPress Best of the Box selections, drawn from the list of posts at Mormon Archipelago. For variety, I’ll start with the lower boxes and work up to the top this time.

Even More Islands – Go view Why People Leave the LDS Church at Mormon Stories, and learn a new word: “screencast.” A screencast is basically a podcast with pictures and a soundtrack, I’m told. It might be the Next Big Thing. [Read more...]

Best of the Box

Enough dying and killing for Jesus … let’s just see what the Best of the Box posts were for the last week, as selected by me from the MA box listings. If your favorite was skipped, you can always submit it in the comments. Go leave a comment at one or two of this week’s overachievers. [Read more...]

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Joseph Smith, The Prophet of the Restoration debuts at the Legacy Theater (on the Temple Square corporate campus in Salt Lake City) on Saturday, December 17, according to this story in the Deseret News. There is also a long list of Visitors Centers that will be showing the new movie beginning on December 24.

The article notes that the film was “produced under the supervision of the First Presidency.” That’s interesting, as there is no official biography to use as a script, apart from the brief canonized account authored by Joseph Smith himself and appearing in the History of the Church and the Pearl of Great Price, two 19th-century documents. The movie, in a sense, becomes the 21st-century “official” depiction of the life of Joseph Smith. Welcome to the video age; we do movies, not texts. Movies have soundtracks, good for motivating spiritual emotions that should be associated with the Joseph Smith story. Conveniently, movies have no text that can be quoted or analyzed, just a string of images and depicted events. The dialogue is the closest thing to a text, but most of it will no doubt be fictional if plausible dialogue, words that would likely have been used by Joseph or other people during the events shown in the movie.

So come December 17 we will have a textless, official 60-minute movie version of the Joseph Smith story to complement the 561-page scholarly but unofficial textual account of the Joseph Smith story recently authored by Richard L. Bushman. It will be enlightening to compare the two accounts.

Best of the Box

So what happened in the Bloggernacle last week? Plenty of good stuff, all listed by title in the boxes of the Mormon Archipelago. This week’s highlights include posts from New Cool Thang, BCC, A Motley Vision, Ned Flanders, and Mormon Stories. Read on …
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E is for Exaltation

[Complete series] The True to the Faith (TTTF) entry “Exaltation” is just three words: “See Eternal Life.” Interesting. I think the Church still believes in and teaches what Mormons have traditionally referred to as “exaltation,” but leaders prefer to use different terms now, such as Eternal Life, which is given a two-page discussion. Are we feeling less exalted these days?
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Best of the Box

I’m importing a feature that I started over at DMI last week. I highlight one post from roughly the last week from each of the MA boxes and throw in a comment or two. If you missed these posts the first time around, there’s still time to get a comment in!
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Sunday Reading

Here’s a real problem I face every Sunday morning, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one: What do I bring to church to read during Sacrament Meeting? There are some ground rules I have developed to guide my choice of books. Perhaps you have your own suggestions.
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D is for Divorce

[Prior entries] Slim pickings in D: physical death, spiritual death, debt, and divorce. Maybe we can just generalize and just say: Avoid things that start with D. Divorce is the most interesting of the four entries, especially in light of renewed emphasis on LDS family values in this, the post-Proclamation era. The Church is against divorce, of course; the only question is whether divorce is nevertheless allowed as an acceptable or at least tolerated option for those who find themselves in troubled or failing marriages. It is the exceptions to the general policy against divorce that deserve our attention if we want to understand the current LDS policy on divorce as briefly communicated in the TTTF article.

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The text-speak Bible

We’ve talked about problems with the KJV Bible lately. Here’s a potential solution for the next LDS edition: the text-speak Bible. Here’s a sample verse from Genesis 1:1 — “In da Bginnin God cre8d da heavens & da earth.” A quote from the linked RNB article notes that “the SMS Bible ha[s] proved particularly popular among young people.” Really? I would never have guessed. I think it could become a big hit in LDS youth Sunday School classes.

It gets even better at the official site for the SMS Bible. Another sample verse: “4 God so luvd da world …” And the site’s promise to the religious reader: “100% faithful to original text.” Well, I for one am relieved they’re not just making stuff up as they go along. In fact, the Bible Society president’s son spent six whole weeks translating the SMS Bible! Download your copy today.

Studying or Muddying?

I got an interesting email from the proprietor of Study It Out, inviting me to check out his site, which is an assortment of links on LDS topics, grouped by category. After trading a couple of emails, the proprietor finally divulged some biographical details, claiming to be an ordinary member of the Church and occasional reader of Sunstone and Dialogue rather than (as I suspected from the selection of links at the site) a Christian with an agenda. [And you know what I think of Christian do-gooders who fling their misguided zeal my way.] You can make your own judgment about the site; here is the site’s “About” page. If you visit, you might submit a few links; a variety of axe-grinders seem overrepresented in the present mix of links, although there are a number of good links (on both sides of the issues) to helpful LDS material and to articles by dissenting scholars.

C is for the Cross

Heavy competition in the C’s, including Chastity, Church Administration, and Coffee, but I chose the Cross because I have rarely seen more than a cursory one-sentence discussion of why the LDS Church declines to use the image of the cross in its churches and its literature. The standard explanation is that the cross is a sign of Christ’s death, whereas in the LDS Church we celebrate His Life. In this post I’ll review the seven sentences of the TTTF entry, then discuss the pros and cons of the LDS position.

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B is for Body Piercing

This is the second installment looking at selected articles from True to the Faith (TTTF), a doctrinal booklet published by the Church last year (here’s the first post). The article on Body Piercing is three short paragraphs. “Latter-day prophets strongly discourage the piercing of the body except for medical purposes,” begins the first paragraph, and “[t]hose who choose to disregard this counsel show a lack of respect for themselves and for God.” Seems clear enough, except that “[i]f girls or women desire to have their ears pierced, they are encouraged to wear only one pair of modest earrings.” So four earrings are bad, two earrings are good. Body piercing is wrong, except when it’s not. I don’t dispute the practical necessity of “grandmothering in” the practice of women wearing a pair of earrings. It just seems to undercut the notion that body piercing per se is wrong.

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A is for Agency

One of the more intriguing ideas at this year’s Sunstone Symposium was Lavina Fielding Anderson’s suggestion that True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, the short but authoritative doctrinal handbook issued last year by the First Presidency, is “the new Mormon Doctrine.” To make us all a little more familiar with this gem (and to determine if there’s really any “new doctrine” in it), I’m going to start a feature summarizing and discussing topics selected from the roughly 160 articles in the TTTF booklet. You’re a bright bunch — I’m sure you can guess the format of the next 25 posts in this series. “A” was a toughie: I picked Agency, but other entries worth mentioning include Abortion, Abuse, Addiction, and Apostasy. The topics selected for inclusion in TTTF include liberal coverage of contemporary moral choice issues as well as the standard doctrinal summaries, which makes TTTF especially interesting reading. The booklet seems to be directed primarily at LDS youth, which explains the simplified exposition of some doctrines and (at some points) a rather paternal tone.
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Symposium Links

Since M* has started posting summaries of this week’s FAIR Conference, I think we should restore balance to the Force by posting links to some of the articles on last week’s Sunstone Symposium. At DMI, I posted links to B’nacle posts discussing the symposium; here, I’ll list the SL Trib articles that discuss some of the more interesting sessions (but I don’t know how long the links will stay active.)

  • Mark Hoffman retrospective – An intense session featuring relatives of some of the bombing victims.
  • A world religion? – Jan Shipps calls Mormonism “a religious tradition,” which she explains is “in a category somewhere between a world religion and a great world religion.”
  • Another angle on the JS story – A non-LDS historian depicts Joseph “as merely an actor in a continually unfolding ecclesiastical drama,” suggesting more attention should be paid to “how rank-and-file believers related to Smith’s teachings to form their own religious understanding.” She referenced an old Arrington and Bitton book, Saints Without Halos, which I happened to have read over Christmas and found very enjoyable for just that reason.
  • LDS reincarnation doctrine – This is a must-read just to use as a “wake ‘em up on the back row” Sunday School comment. The keyword is: “soul rebirth.”
  • A new look at 19th-century polygamy – This session, featuring Lowell Bennion, received a lot of media coverage around Utah. He argued that prior research has underestimated the proportion of LDS households that participated in plural marriage. His research (conducted along with Kathryn Daynes of BYU) shows that “in 1870 about 20 percent of men and 40 percent of women in Manti and Brigham City lived in plural households.”

A Place of Our Own

“Bloggernacle, USA — pop. 300.” That’s what the town sign would read if there were such a place. I’ve been reflecting a bit lately whether the Bloggernacle, as a small and loosely organized network of weblogs and individuals, is, on the whole, a good thing, a bad thing, or a neutral vessel that is neither good nor bad per se. The reasonable comparison, I think, is to an average LDS congregation, another network of individuals that most of us participate in. How do they match up?
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Wanted: A Few Good Nihilists

Earlier today I was browsing at one of my favorite group blogs when I ran across a post that made the following claim: “Without transcendence of some kind, however, it is difficult to see how to avoid nihilism: there is no source of meaning if there is no transcendence.” The claim is that materialism lacks “a coherent notion of transcendence” and thus any adequate ground for meaning. The problem with this claim is that there are plenty of materialists around but not many that are card-carrying nihilists. People seem quite capable of attributing meaning to life and adopting values to live by with complete disregard for the lack of transcendence they ascribe to the Universe. How can they do this?
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Our Man Paul

An offhand comment of mine on the recent Word of Wisdom thread prompted a request from a BCC reader for more on Paul H. Dunn. No problem—I can whip up a good Paul Dunn story on the spot! But seriously, does anyone else miss him? Can you think of a Conference session you’ve seen in the last ten years that wouldn’t have been given a badly needed shot in the arm by a talk from a storyteller-entertainer like Elder Dunn?
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Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

Some successful writers turn into reclusive hermits, holing up in their bungalows or country estates like monks in a cave, disappearing from public life. Not Orson Scott Card, who recently accepted a long-term faculty position at SVU, a four-year LDS college in Virginia. He writes about his decision at length in an essay posted at Meridian.

A couple of reasons he is willing to commit to teaching: (1) writing is lonely work, whereas OSC likes people and enjoys interacting with students and new writers; (2) his writing workshops don’t allow him to devote the time he wants to spend with promising student writers he encounters.. A couple of reasons he likes SVU as an LDS college: (1) it isn’t in Utah; (2) it is small and rural yet close enough to nearby cities to not be isolated; (3) it is independent. Sounds like a win-win deal to me. Good luck to both OSC and SVU.

Missionary Moments

I was out on the streets of San Francisco at lunchtime, when who should appear in the motley crowd of crosswalk pedestrians but two young LDS missionaries, with their signature short-sleeve white shirts, backpacks, nametags, and aura. I didn’t quite stop dead in my tracks, but I did furtively watch them cross Mission on the opposite side of the street and saunter on into the main bus terminal. Granted, there are more than a few folks in that neighborhood who could use the gospel—after they finally make it through detox, get back on their medication, and set things right with their probation officer. It was an odd, unexpected place to find LDS missionaries, but certainly not the only time I’ve had that reaction. What is your most memorable missionary moment?

The Dotted Line Unmasked

While reading through the comments on Kris’ post detailing her encounter with The Member Missionary Promise, I ran accross one comment which noted: “Ward Mission Plans aren’t simply in the Zeitgeist–they’re part of the Preach My Gospel program that has been introduced to all the missions in the past few months.” Now this caught my attention. This is not something I really want to have to deal with in church next Sunday (or any Sunday). So I cracked open my new copy of Preach My Gospel to do a little threat assessment. I have some good news to report!
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New Number for the Beast

That’s right, 666 was all just a big mistake, according to a recent story reposted at RNB. This is a real story, not a Sugar Beet spoof. According to the story, an ancient fragment unearthed (along with thousands of other fragments) at Oxyrhynchus, in Egypt, reveals that the magic number of evil was almost certainly 616. This is going to leave a lot of fundamentalist Christians temporarily disorientated, struggling to adjust to this radically different number that controls the fate of their apocalyptic future.
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Un-FAIR Competition

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen any B’nacle commentary on the suit filed against FAIR and one of its officers for “cybersquatting.” Here’s the first line of the SL Trib story: “A Salt Lake City organization that is critical of the LDS Church filed suit Monday accusing a pro-Mormon foundation of trademark infringement and unfair competition.” The plaintiff is the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, a favorite target of LDS apologetics organizations. This little episode seems like a nice illustration of how apologetic zeal tends to displace a normal sense of right and wrong. (Aren’t we fortunate that never happens to us?)

Now I know what all you web voyeurs really want to see: the disputed sites whose addresses appear in the SL Trib article which, it turns out, are no longer active. But nothing on the Web ever really goes away! Below are links to cached copies of the disputed sites. Note how the title bar for these pages (the blue bar on the very top of the screen) displays “Utah Lighthouse Ministry.”

Internet time machines can be so much fun!

Conference Comment Bingo

A three-blog winner-take-all one-day tournament. The results, as of Saturday midnight PST: In third place, M Star with 9 comments split between two posts. In second place, T&S with 37 comments on one post. And the winner of Saturday’s Conference Comment Bingo match, BCC with 48 all-over-the-map comments on this post. Winning comment bingo cards can be cashed in for canned goods at the nearest bishop’s storehouse. But don’t make this a habit!

Anglican Angst

At Get Religion, the best religion journalism blog on the Net, two stories on the the latest spasms in the Anglican Communion. First, Broken Communion notes how some Anglican clergy now “refuse to share Holy Communion” with their diocesan bishop. The equivalent in Mormonism, I suppose, would be a Bishop refusing to shake hands with the Stake President. You know, serious disagreement. Second, Everyone Loves Justice notes that the Episcopalians (the American branch of the Anglican Communion) have voted a one-year moratorium on the election of new bishops, the best way they could think of, it seems, to honor the Anglican request to avoid approving any “noncelibate homosexual bishops” until the Anglicans of the world can figure out where they stand on this troubling issue. Why should Mormons care?
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CNN Covers Mormons

CNN — the Cult News Network — brings you all the latest cult news, complete with hokey icons identifying each hot topic. Their categories include all the notorious cults of our day: Satanism, Al Qaeda, Scientology, Madonna (with Kabbalah), Neo-Nazis, Waco Davidians, Jews for Jesus, and (of course) Mormons. I imagine Tom Cruise and Madonna might be interested to know they could jump from their current cults to the Mormons and still be on the CNN cult list! I’m sure Gladys Knight would make a spot on the choir for Madonna. Tom too, I suppose. Can Tom sing? Let’s see, I recall an impressive lip-synch in Risky Business and a hummed tune in Rain Man, but no real singing. Fine, he can lip-synch.
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Blogs, Magazines, and Journals

The Bloggernacle is composed of a few dozen people who run weblogs that talk about “Mormon Studies” topics, plus a few hundred people who read the weblog content and sometimes leave comments. The two best-known publications that cater to that sector of the LDS audience that is interested in “Mormon Studies” topics, Dialogue and Sunstone, are likewise staffed and run by a few dozen people plus a few dozen authors, and read by a few thousand subscribers. You would think there would be a lot of overlap between these two communities, bloggers and subscribers, wouldn’t you? In fact, there is no one from the publisher/author side of the subscriber community (with the exception of BCC’s own John Hatch) who has taken an active role in the LDS weblog community, and precious few Bloggernacle regulars who appear to be subscribers or regular readers of Sunstone or Dialogue, much less authors (with the exception of BCC’s own Kristine Haglund Harris). Why is this so?
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BYU and the Sixties

BYU NewsNet has a look back at BYU in the sixties, entitled BYU Calm Amid Turbulent Times. The article relates the experience of a BYU prof who, during that era, came to the campus (as a student) from New York, noting that this was “a time when most college campuses had protests, riots and violence. While many New York students marched along the streets protesting, most BYU students remained calm during this storm of unrest.” BYU, the best of all possible campuses!
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