I recently wrote a post detailing my experiences casting out devils as a missionary. I mentioned in the beginning of that post some other strange or harrowing experiences I had undergone as a missionary, including witnessing a murder. Reflecting further on this, I recalled hearing somewhat similar stories from other missionaries. I asked my wife, who served in Manila, Philippines, if she had ever been witness to extreme violence or murder and she affirmed that, among other things, she and her companion saw a group of men descend on another man and cut his head off with a machete. [Read more...]
My mission experience, like most mission experiences, was memorable for a number of reasons. There were the usual spiritual experiences, friends made, people served, companions fought with, tracting despised, etc. More dramatic experiences include witnessing a gang-style assassination and trying to save the victim (I ended up covered in his blood and he died on the scene); being chased for several blocks by a large, terrifyingly athletic man screaming about the horrible things he was going to do to me (luckily I reached my bike in time before I could find out what that was like); contracting back-breaking dengue fever and ending up in a hospital exactly like what you might imagine a remote third world hospital might be like (several horrible things happened there but I just walked out in my hospital gown the second time a nurse bent a needle inside my arm). You know, the things you don’t write home to mom about.
I also “performed” three exorcisms on my mission. I say “perform” because I’m not entirely sure what to make of these experiences, what standard(s) of measurement to judge them by. Before my mission I had never thought in any serious way about “spirit possession.” Accounts of encounters with evil spirits among missionaries were, however, alive and well in my mission in Guatemala, and I would continue to occasionally hear about various similar stories after I returned home. [Read more...]
Salt Press Merges with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship: An Interview with Jenny Webb
In one of the leadership training videos produced by the Church a woman talks about a particularly chaotic, frustrating day she had with her four year old. She told him she was at her wit’s end and didn’t know what do anymore. He suggested she sing “I am a Child of God,” which, of course, she then did. She said she was grateful for the opportunity to be reminded of who her child was.
There is a significant distinction between knowing (or understanding) and remembering in this little didactic story. It’s unlikely that this mother had stopped believing that her child was a child of God, and likewise it seems wrong to interpret her as becoming uncertain about her child’s eternal identity, whereas once she had been much more confident.* She said that she needed to be reminded of this. What she had known was never in doubt; it would be wrong to say that her knowledge about this thing was incomplete or had broken down. She had forgotten and needed to remember. [Read more...]
“Peace” was a consistent theme this last General Conference. Elders Cook, Eyring, Scott, Christofferson, and Uchtdorf all spoke on this topic in various ways (I’m probably missing some others who also addressed the theme of peace). Here, I specifically want to focus on Elder Cook’s talk, “Personal Peace: The Reward of Righteousness” and President Uchtdorf’s address, “The Hope of God’s Light.” I’m not going to summarize the entirety of either of these talks, which, of course, will be fully available shortly on lds.org. Instead, I want to comment on a common theme in both these talks, which is a particular response to the problem of evil and suffering. [Read more...]
Recently Discovered Letter from Nietzsche Reveals Most Devastating Argument Against Christianity of All Time
A letter written by German philosopher and anti-Christian gadfly Friedrich Nietzsche was recently discovered in a home near St. Moritz, Switzerland. The letter is one of a series of letters written to various friends and transcribed in the handwriting of his friend and occasional secretary, Heinrich Köselitz, dated March 27, 1887. Philosophers have called the letter the “most significant philosophical find of the last 500 years.” [Read more...]
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:17-19) [Read more...]
Write your entries in the comments. Authors of the top two entries will get the opportunity to fight to the death as gladiators in the BCC Death Arena near the center of the earth. Multiple entries are allowed and encouraged.
A short while ago popular LDS blogger Jane Kendrick posted on her blog about her experience of meeting with Mormon scholar and feminist Dr. Joanna Brooks. Kendrick described the beginning of the meeting in these words:
I couldn’t tell her I was a feminist at that point, I was too afraid of what it meant, so I said, “I am a womanist,” and she said to me, “That’s a great word to use if feminist scares you.” [Read more...]
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
–Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet [Read more...]
Admit it. You’ve done this, too. Likely multiple times. I know I have. Just off the top of my head I can vaguely remember posting on Facebook a couple years ago that the program for a conference I was presenting a paper at–in Krakow, Poland–was just dreadfully long, and I would be presenting at the middle or the end on the third day, and how was I going to sufficiently explore this amazing city, oh my heart. I’m so depressed I’m going to go stuff myself full of that delicious kiszka ziemniaczana. (Did you know that you can only find it here, in Poland? What’s the deal with that, right?) [Read more...]
Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions and just generally respond to Google search terms from our website traffic monitoring statistics that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. (In case you missed our previous editions: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10).
Question: “Wearing panties with LDS garments.”
Answer: We recommend that you not do this, particularly if you are a man. However, if you feel that wearing panties with garments is for some reason necessary, just keep in mind that there is a kind of order you should follow when donning both, or certain results are likely to follow. [Read more...]
The premises of this post are simple:
1. Mormons can be really weird or strange (read: royally peculiar). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all, but
2. Married Mormons can double the weird
3. Newly married student Mormons can re-define the weird completely.
This post was suggested to me by Friends of the Blog who were discussing some of the strange stories they heard from people who had lived in married student housing on LDS campuses. Like most college campus housing units, these units aren’t usually designed for, uh, privacy. All kinds of interesting/unusual/creepy goings-on can be encountered in married student housing. In one story, for example, were accounts of couples who would sing hymns together after lovemaking.
No, seriously. Look, I didn’t say there was any conceivably good reason for this. It’s not like we could interview the post-coital choir as to what could possibly possess them to sing “I Am a Child of God” after sex. What? Haha, yeah, “How Firm a Foundation” is even better.
Ok, that’s enough.
Tell us about your experiences in married or family student housing, LDS as well as non-LDS. Anything particularly memorable?
About one year ago one of our own Tracy McKay, BCC blogger, single mom, and student, lost the financial support of her ward. And you, the amazing loving fMh community rallied together to get her the support she needed. (we will hear an update from Tracy soon!)
We are proud to announce that this tradition of helping single Mormon mothers will live on in Tracy’s name, as the Tracy McKay fMh Scholarship for Single Mormon Mothers.
Please spread the word far and wide, pass this information along to any Single Student Moms in need of financial assistance. (Note handy scholarship links on the sidebar, look to your right near the top!)
Ben’s recent post about one of the more troubling aspects of a topic that is already troubling, along with Brad’s reflections on navigating the choppy waters of infallible fallible prophetic infallibility got me thinking about courses I took from Richard Bushman on Joseph Smith and Mormon history at Claremont Graduate University. By this point in my life and academic career I had already sufficiently studied church history to not have been particularly surprised by any aspect of our history. But we wrestled with the implications of much of it in these classes, trying to be as academically honest and unflinching as we could be. [Read more...]
A few years ago Aaron R. wrote one of the great everlasting gems of the Bloggernacle, “We come over, and sit.” The post discusses how difficult it is knowing what to do and say when someone is experiencing a devastating loss, or the agonizing fire of a spiritual trial. He quotes a scene from Lars and the Real Girl, when after the fatal diagnosis of Lars’ fake plastic girlfriend some of the women in the movie come over and just sit with Lars, “because that is what we do in hard times.” Aaron realized that often this is precisely what is needed, just to sit and listen, to be a silent I’m-not-going-anywhere presence when everything else seems to be falling apart. [Read more...]
This is the second in a series of posts on the philosophy of religion. For other links in the series:
The Concept of God
THE CONCEPT OF GOD
Clark Pinnock, “The Openness of God–Systematic Theology,” a chapter from The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God .
[In a nutshell: Unlike the God of Perfect Being Theology, which adheres to classical, overtly philosophical notions of the divine, the God of open theism is temporal, subject to change and passion, responsive to his creatures, and endowed with less than fully detailed foreknowledge of the future as his creation unfolds. This God is not less than perfect; open theism merely asserts that the assumptions of classical theism are not adequate to describe what it would be for God to be a perfect person.] [Read more...]
From this website:
Dear Friends of UVU Religious Studies,
Utah Valley University is pleased to host Laurie Goodstein, National Religion Correspondent for the New York Times on Wednesday, February 13th from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. in UVU’s Ragan Theater. Her lecture is entitled “Perspectives on the ‘Mormon Moment’” and she will be joined for a panel discussion at 12:30 p.m. with other journalists and Mormon Studies scholars. [Read more...]
Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions and just generally respond to Google search terms that show up in our website traffic monitoring statistics that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. (In case you missed our previous editions: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9)
Answer: We feel your pain. There’s a lot not to like about Utah. And of course, like any location, there are plenty of reasons to like living in Utah. Like….um…..outdoor recreation…..um…..nature…..uhhh….beautiful countryside……
This is the first in a series of posts on the philosophy of religion. For an introduction to the series, see here:
THE CONCEPT OF GOD
Thomas Morris, “The Concept of God,” a chapter from his book, Our Idea of God. 
From pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Xenophanes to psycho-analyst and philosopher Sigmund Freud, many have thought through the ages that we create God or the gods in our own images. Religious believers, of course, prefer to think that any knowledge of God’s nature comes from divine revelation coupled with reason. Nevertheless, for the believer there is always the danger that we present God too much in our own likeness, according to our own concerns and ways of seeing the world. [Read more...]
I teach a course on an Introduction to Philosophy of Religion. For that course, our main text is Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, edited by Louis Pojman and Michael Rea. As a primer, it’s an excellent introduction to the subject, with over 70 foundational and contemporary articles on various aspects of philosophy of religion. I’ve decided to post about the various articles in this volume, as well as provide some thoughts on how these themes might interact with Mormon theology (usually one post per article; we’ll see how far I get). [Read more...]
“The god appears, then is gone; and the abandoned soul must spend years wandering in his traces.”
–Stephen Mitchell, Foreword to Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies
This is what it is like to be unable to disbelieve, to be unable to hide from God even (especially) in the midst of the suffering fire or the endless depths. No different, really, than being unable to escape the traces of the lover or the eternal friend who has departed but left behind remnants and fragments that never fully disappear, but continue to mark out the contours of your world. We are left to reckon with and breathe in the traces of an absent presence. Lovers, friends, God–they have begun the song or the poem, but we are left to finish it. In the traces we begin to understand how we can come to see the faces of the lover, the friend, the very face of God in the faces of others. But also–only in this sense can howling and mourning become a terrible poetry.
Wear Pants to Church Day has come and gone. Many women did wear pants to church (most significantly, this includes women who would not have done so if not for the Pants movement) and many women did not, including otherwise supportive women. Many men wore purple ties in solidarity. By all accounts, Sunday appears to have come and gone without word of trousered women disrupting the taking of the sacrament or calling undue attention to themselves. Their quiet and dignified comportment was no surprise, not even, I think, to detractors. In fact, looking back to Sunday, many might now dismiss it as much ado about nothing after all. But there is a significance, I think, underlying this whole phenomenon, which I know has already been discussed and debated and gnashed on ad nauseum, but a significance that has been more or less overlooked. It’s not my intent here to provide an overview or some kind of a philosophical sum-up of the import of what occurred. You can find much more eloquent and incisive essays of that type than I could ever write all over the Bloggernacle. Here, if you have room for one more, I just want to analyze what I see as some curious parallels between the massively vitriolic response to the Pants movement (particularly on Facebook) and the experiences of the woman in the above video, Anita Sarkeesian.
Originally, I had set out to do a series of posts on Terryl and Fiona Givens’ The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, one post for every chapter of the book. Equal parts narcissism and unfounded optimism informed me that this was a good idea, but in the end the extremities of my work and other issues prevented me from doing this.
Instead, I had intended to do one more post addressing the depiction of God in the book. I may one day write that post. But today, there was a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. An elementary school. Children died, almost 20 of them, from what I can gather from conflicting reports. Several adults as well, likely their teachers. By the time you read this, we’ll probably know the number. We’ll eventually know the names of the victims, and the identity of the shooter. [Read more...]
Recently there’s been quite a hullabaloo over women wearing pants to church, sparked initially by a Mormon feminist movement pegging this upcoming Sunday as “Wear Your Pants to Church Day.” This has in turned prompted a (cough) counter-protest movement on Facebook, Mormons Against Women Wearing Pants to Church, a well-organized grassroots campaign mobilized to stop the madness. In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions we offer this informative yet entertaining game to play with your crazy pants-wearing feminist, as well as your down-to-earth, covenant-keeping friends.
I should note that nearly all of the squares were culled from actual conversations we’ve observed in response to these events.
So a new family has just moved into the ward. They’re a little different. Okay, really, they’re quite a bit different, don’t you think? She seems more than a bit socially awkward, and his comments in Sunday School that first Sunday were way off-script. And their kids–talk about unruly, and you should know because your own have been pretty out of control at times. But nothing compared to this. It was like a realistic re-enactment of the Arab Spring in sacrament meeting last Sunday. “Look, in this ward, we kind of want to keep the Spirit here. Take your kid out for Pete’s sake.” [Read more...]
So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness, a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial. The older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don’t really matter or determine our happiness. We do matter. We determine our happiness. You and I are ultimately in charge of our own happiness.
I teach philosophy and philosophy of religion at BYU. Since I often use anthologies of philosophy of religion in my classes, I occasionally send away for forthcoming or very recent anthologies by various publishers. The latest of these is The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion, 2nd Edition. Unlike other philosophy of religion anthologies, this one has a section on the philosophical thought of various world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, African religions, Chinese religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These aren’t just overviews of these religions but comparative engagements with these religions and philosophical (western) thought. [Read more...]
Following the devastating destruction of his livelihood and the deaths of his children, Job tears his robe and shaves his head. Falling on the ground, he worshipfully insists that what was the Lord’s always to give must by that same token be the Lord’s to take away. Soon, he is afflicted with painful sores all over his body. Now, he collapses in a pile of ashes, heavy with lamentation and grief. [Read more...]
In James Faulconer’s “Re-thinking Theology: The Shadow of the Apocalypse,” the Apocalypse is already here. Or rather, the revelation of God’s kingdom, which constitutes the Apocalypse scripturally (rather, than, say, physically or cosmologically) is alive and present. [Read more...]