Reading as Response, an Introduction Courtesy of BYU Studies

BYU Studies has posted an understanding, helpful response today to the article in the New York Times (“Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt”) that has caused some stir in Mormon circles online over the weekend.

BYU Studies’ Editor-in-Chief, John W. Welch, notes that “BYU Studies may shed some important light on those subjects. While no one has all the answers to every question, the BYU Studies website, together with many other resources and publications, are now easily available to provide many well-researched and well-written treatments of topics of current interest. We invite people to familiarize themselves with this website. It may come in very handy.”

I really like the BYU Studies response and the selection of potential starting points for reading about certain historical issues offered there. Reading about and candidly discussing our history is the perfect response to this problem. [Read more…]

Covenants — Is the Lord Bound?

This IndentureThis post began as a response to J. Stapley’s recent post about Ordinances but quickly veered off in a tangent that would have constituted a threadjack of his post, so I’ve posted it as an independent contemplation.

J. was exploring possible origins of Mormon use of the word “ordinance” (or early influence as to the use and meaning of the word) in legal usage in his post and especially in the ensuing discussion in the comments (J. notes that he is beginning to think that “JS . . . was explicitly using legal language” when using the term “ordinance”). I think “covenant” also falls into this category of a term coopted from legal usage to express a religious teaching. [Read more…]

Changes to Missionary Program? Best Guesses?

(Video clip from Habitat for Humanity, http://www.habitat.org)

For the last couple of weeks, our ward has been announcing a worldwide leadership training meeting that will be held on the afternoon of Sunday, June 23, 2013 in BYU’s Marriott Center. The meeting is being billed as a very big deal. Church leaders have requested local units to even modify their meeting times if they conflict with the 4:00 pm meeting time (which will be the case for us). If I understand correctly, the meeting is technically part of the mission presidents training but, unusually, all members of ward and stake councils and their spouses and all other members of the Church who are interested are invited to attend. My understanding is that all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles will be in attendance. The upshot is that they have an important message to deliver, presumably about missionary work. [Read more…]

Dead Serious

Round them up and ship them to a camp somewhere.

Over the last several years, a painter in Utah named Jon McNaughton has been trying to make a name for himself by using the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a prop in politically provocative pictures which attempt to communicate his apparent belief that only people who hold political views consistent with those of the current American political extreme right wing are in harmony with the Lord’s Gospel and, in fact, acceptable to God. [Read more…]

A Stranger, A Pilgrim: Liveblogging El Camino

[Update Day 1], [Update Day 2], [Update Day 3], [Update Day 4], [Update Day 5], [Update Day 6]

scallop shell symbol8 Yo te haré saber y te enseñaré el camino en que debes andar;
te aconsejaré con mis ojos puestos en ti.

9 No seas como el caballo o como el mulo, que no tienen entendimiento;
cuyos arreos incluyen brida y freno para sujetarlos,
porque si no, no se acercan a ti

10 Muchos son los dolores del impío,
pero al que confía en el SEÑOR, la misericordia lo
rodeará.

11 Alegraos en el SEÑOR y rogocijaos, justos;
dad voces de júbilo, todos los rectos de corazón.

- Salmos 32:8-11

Madrid, March 30, 2013john f.: A motley crew of Mormons walking The Way of St. James might seem strangers on the Camino indeed. This will not be the first time that Jordan and I have raised eyebrows as Mormons in a culturally non-Mormon setting. Nearly fifteen years ago we studied Yiddish together in Vilnius — many of our fellow students young and old, I recall, found it very amusing that a couple of Mormon brothers were among them. [Read more…]

Mouths of Babes — Does Can Mean Should?

O be wise, what can I say more?

- Jacob 6:12

A Mormon boy from an affluent neighborhood in Utah, barely 18 years old, will leave a few days after graduating from high school for the crushing poverty, suffering, and misery of Sierra Leone. This isn’t the plot of an off-color Broadway musical. It’s going to happen in a couple of months to a real person.[1] He’s not going to experience mere culture shock; it will be an entirely different world, a different universe. Nothing in the boy’s lived experience up until this point is going to have prepared him for even the smallest percentage of what he is going to observe landing there. I hope and pray he survives!

There isn’t much difference between an 18 year old boy and a 19 year old boy — both are teenagers still, both usually as green as can be. On paper it’s a wash. [Read more…]

Latent Racism, Orientalism and “Magic Underwear” in American Society and Mitt Romney’s Presidential Campaign

African Muslim Men in Religious Attire, source http://www.thingsoftheday.com/?p=3285

As I made my way through the crowded local Costco recently, I stepped back a moment and appreciated the diversity surrounding me. Although approximately 92% of the population in the UK is white, about 45% of the remaining 8% of the UK population that are ethnic minorities live in London. And we’ve enjoyed having a high concentration of this 45% in and around the area of London where I currently reside. We have become accustomed to seeing people in their religiously significant daily dress in all circumstances, from the morning school run, to regular visits to the supermarket, to going to movies in the cinema and just about everywhere else. (In fact, it is not unusual for us to see such dress in our LDS ward on Sunday as investigators from all of these ethnic and religious backgrounds politely keep their commitment to the missionaries working in the area to visit us and see what the Church is all about.)
[Read more…]

Becoming a Mormon: Thinking about a Brand with Elder Ballard

I am a recent convert to “Mormonism” myself. Not too many years ago you could find me vigorously arguing on Mormon-themed blogs about the importance of avoiding the word “Mormon” as a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[1] At the time, it felt like a concession to detractors of our faith to self-identify by the nickname they derisively gave to us in the nineteenth century. Ironically, however, it was precisely our nineteenth-century ancestors in the faith who had made peace with the descriptor and good-naturedly co-opted it to describe themselves, leaving us with the lasting nickname. [Read more…]

Like a Trampled Flag on a City Street

I enjoyed and was humbled by Aaron R.’s great post today about the London riots. We live in neighboring wards in London’s eastern outer boroughs so we have both experienced the riots first hand, though thankfully my particular neighborhood was not touched, though others in my ward were more affected. His post reminds me once more that he is a better man than I — and he’s a sociologist, so I understand the charitable and analytical place that his post is coming from. I am grateful for his good example! He reflects well on Latter-day Saints with this perspective. [Read more…]

Pluralism and Persecution in the UK

Despite the Telegraph’s deliberately provocative title (“Christians are more militant than Muslims, says Government’s equalities boss”), which doesn’t accurately reflect the content of the article, the Chairman of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission recently raised some interesting points and makes some insightful observations about integration, pluralism and claims of religious persecution in modern society (ht:M*). [Read more…]

Where Does It End? The Real Danger in Warren Smith’s Perspective

Dave noted yesterday at Times and Seasons the inherent incivility of journalist Warren Cole Smith’s recent dismissal in Patheos of Mormons’ eligibility for the office of President of the United States precisely because of their religion. I found Dave’s analysis cogent and important. My concern with WCS’s viewpoint runs deeper than whether he and those who share his views have simply departed from the bounds of civil discourse. [Read more…]

A Mormon Sermon for Reformation Sunday

Delivered in church on October 31, 2010*

By 1528 at the latest Martin Luther had written the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, number 68 in our hymn book, as a homily on Psalm 46. The words to this hymn always turn my thoughts to Luther’s experience in taking refuge in the mighty Wartburg fortress at Eisenach in the German principality of Thuringia in 1521. We can imagine Luther reflecting on his isolation while sequestered in that fortress, in disguise as a knight for his own protection, as he later penned the words. [Read more…]

An “Important Strengthening” of Religious Freedom: Temple Recommends in the European Court of Human Rights

Freedom of contract, religious autonomy and the Mormon temple recommend prevailed recently in The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)[1] as the Court rendered its judgment in the case of Obst v. Germany (application no. 425/03). More specifically, the ECHR found that Germany had not violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life) when Germany’s highest court, the Federal Constitutional Court, had ultimately upheld Michael Obst’s 1993 dismissal without notice by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from his employment as Public Affairs Director for the Europe Area after he had confessed to committing adultery. [Read more…]

An Appeal to Mitt Romney for Republican Leadership on the Mosque Issue

Does the Park51 Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan (also known by the misnomer “Ground Zero Mosque”) present an opportunity for Mitt Romney to assume and evince leadership in the Republican Party, possibly even ousting populist Tea Party Anti-Federalist demagogues based on fundamental Federalist principles in the process? [Read more…]

A (Secular) Turkish Delight

Any general arguments against the safeguards provided to all religions by the maintenance of a secular public sphere should take into account whether it is better to live as a Christian in Saudi Arabia or Turkey. [Read more…]

Houston, We Have a Problem

Yesterday, in fulfillment of an assignment to teach the younger Young Men (a combined class of deacons and teachers), I incorporated 4 minutes and 5 seconds of precious material from The Empire Strikes Back into my lesson on “Self-Discipline”. Drawing from my own childhood/adolescence, I figured that nothing could drive home a point about the importance of developing self-discipline better than watching Luke’s Jedi Training on Dagobah and his Failure at the Cave. [Read more…]

Overheard Sunday At Church

Context: Britain is in the middle of an election in which the Prime Minister position is up for grabs. It’s a big deal — heady times. I overheard the following conversation between two active, faithful Church members immediately after Elders Quorum last Sunday while visiting a friend’s ward. [Read more…]

We Should Be Mormons

It is discouraging to see many Mormons in our day and age following some fundamentalist creedal Christians in taking an anti-science stance relating to organic evolution or other matters in which fundamentalist creedal Christians, based on their own unnecessary inferences from the Bible, have chosen to see faith at war with science. [Read more…]

A Mormon Liturgy for Fourth Advent

I recently left a note here about the “liturgy” that our ward routinely does in honor of Remembrance Sunday and which I look forward to every year. We also enjoy a uniquely Mormon liturgy on Fourth Advent to celebrate Christmas properly as one — as a “ward family”. Hopefully the word “liturgy” isn’t misleading here: make no mistake, the meetings still had the rough and tumble of low church Mormon practices (i.e. this wasn’t a ritualized sung Eucharist or anything, just a slightly different readings-based format to Sacrament Meeting channeling the inspiration received by the Bishop in contemplating the Christmas message for the ward). [Read more…]

A Mormon Liturgy for Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday is the second Sunday in November, the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day, which falls on November 11 every year. Each year my ward celebrates Remembrance Sunday with a peculiarly Mormon liturgy that is wonderful to experience. [Read more…]

Recession, Repression, Secession

Word is floating around the internet that, following a statement by Texas Governor Rick Perry after the Tax Day tea party held in Dallas, nearly half of Texas Republicans are in favor of Texas seceding from the United States of America. Is that patriotic? [Read more…]

Male Recession

In a couple of short articles that combine two major themes of recent BCC posts, employment for women and unemployment due to the current economic climate, the Financial Times is reporting that our economies are experiencing a “very male recession”. [Read more…]

Canonization of Kitsch

[Updated March 11, 2009*]

Look closely at what is visible in the background of the picture below. [Read more…]

When Your Religion is Considered Dangerous

Germany’s approach to minority religions makes me very uncomfortable. Word that Tom Cruise would star as Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg in Valkyrie caused a small scandal in Germany some time ago because of Cruise’s adherence to the religion of Scientology. The German government has taken particularly harsh steps against this minority religious group and initially made noise about not allowing filming at certain sites if Cruise depicted von Stauffenberg in the film. [Read more…]

“Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Or, Trinity Worshippers Claim Glenn Beck’s Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Those who are familiar with the Bible will recognize the first part of the title of this post as a quote from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, as recorded in Matthew 5:44. Evangelical creedalists of most denominations would have people believe, however, that Mormons do not read and are not familiar with the Bible and thus are not acquainted with this teaching.

Mormons are praying for Evangelical creedalists. [Read more…]

Bushman on Spaulding

Have you heard of the Spaulding Theory? Historian Richard Bushman summarizes its life as follows: [Read more…]

A Thought from Ivanov

The money quote (for me) from Chekhov’s Ivanov* was “To you it’s all psychological and intellectual, to me it’s just bad behavior.” After suffering through Ivanov’s melancholy and mood swings the entire play (he laconically refers to himself as a “hand-me-down Hamlet”), this accusation of Ivanov by his friend Lebedev seemed to provide the audience an outlet for pent-up frustration resulting from witnessing Ivanov’s inner conflict. Any sense of righteous indignation elicited by Lebedev’s rebuke, however, is itself frustrated by Ivanov’s suicide only minutes later as his solution to his inner crisis. [Read more…]

DEM DEUTSCHEN VOLKE

The Federal Republic of Germany turns eighteen today — at least in its reunified form. On October 3, 1990 the official Reunification of a country divided for 45 years by what seemed an insurmountable geopolitical estrangement took place in Berlin, the besieged city at the very heart of the Cold War. The scene played out on the steps of the famous Reichstag building upon which the words in the title of this post are inscribed just below the pediment: DEM DEUTSCHEN VOLKE — “To the German people”. [Read more…]

Racist, Imperialist Christianity?

Randomly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught the word “Mormon” on the page of a book a commuter was reading in the subway train on my way to work. (It must be some kind of Mormon radar — I’ve this kind of experience many times before.) Although I don’t make a habit of reading over other people’s shoulders while commuting, I glanced up from my own book to take a closer look and caught the following sentence, which, likely due to its direct relevance to me and its shocking content, I was able to memorize immediately before he turned the page: [Read more…]

Historical Footnote: The Church’s Contemporaneous Explanation for its Opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment

The Church’s opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment (the ERA) in the 1970s and early 1980s periodically comes up in discussions of the Church’s involvement in political or social issues. For those of us who were in pre-school in 1980, the substantial paper insert contained in the March 1980 issue of the Ensign (posted below) is instructive about this episode in the history of the Church. I stumbled upon it while browsing through old Ensigns I came across at my ward building a couple of weeks ago and figure that many members have never seen it even though they might occasionally be confronted with questions about the Church’s involvement in opposing the ERA. [Read more…]

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