How to Draw Closer to God

[The below is an approximation of a talk I gave in sacrament meeting today. It is only an approximation because I never wrote the text out but spoke from an outline. I was supposed to be the last speaker last week, but the second speaker took the whole time, so the bishop asked me to hold my talk for today, and he strategically scheduled me as the second speaker to assure I'd be able to get my 20 minutes in. I had some modules in reserve in case I needed to stretch, such as a section where I would have talked about LDS humanism and some insights on fasting and keeping the Sabbath holy I gleaned from Jana's Flunking Sainthood, but I didn't need those modules so they are not included below.] [Read more...]

Mormonism in a Nutshell (Notes for Mitt)

Everyone wants Mitt Romney to talk about Mormonism, and so far he has more or less refused. That is perhaps the wiser political course. But if it were me, I’m not so sure that I would be able to stay silent on the subject. The vacuum has left reporters with the idea that Mormonism is far removed from traditional Christianity and thoroughgoingly weird. It’s true that Mormonism is rife with theological heresy (from the perspective of most Christians), but virtually every idea percolating within it can be found somewhere within historic, traditional Christianity. So if it were me, I would have a little talk with those asking about my Mormonism, to try to help them place the faith in some context that they might understand, something like this: [Read more...]

The House of Il

I returned from my mission to Colorado in October of 1979. After working a couple of months to save some money, I returned to Provo in January 1980 to resume my education. That first semester I roomed with a friend from my freshman year. It was just a room in the basement of a tree streets house. There was no kitchen, just a minifridge and a hot plate. I basically lived on cereal, PBJs and hot dogs that semester. Near the end of the semester, I got engaged. [Read more...]

On Children Bearing Testimony

When I was on my mission, I had a companion who really hated it when young children bore testimony in the general fast and testimony meeting. I had never encountered that perspective before, but once he had articulated it I began to notice casual comments from a few general authorities here and there who shared his view. As I understand it, the idea is that testimony should reflect a genuine witness of the spirit, not rote memorized phrases such as the ubiquitous “I know my family loves me.” Testimony meeting is not the venue for children to go up and be cute and hear their voices project over the microphone. (I’m sure I’m not articulating the point of view well, so I invite others to express it more fully in the comments.) [Read more...]

Thinking Strategically about a Ban Disavowal

I’m a director in a couple of Mormon world-related not for profits. It’s a hard role; much harder than I expected it to be when I signed on for this service. You have to deal with different personalities, different perspectives, different agendas, all the while sublimating what might be your own preferences to the long term future good of the organization itself. The Quorum of the Twelve is in some sense analogous to a corporate board of directors, and the problems they face in governing a worldwide Church of over 14 million members must be absolutely staggering. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes and try to think through whether a disavowal of the ban is something we should advocate for the institution. I’ll start with some of my thoughts, but then I want you to put on your apostle’s cap and add to the discussion, trying to think from their perspective. [Read more...]

On Solo HTing a Single Woman

A post by Speckles over at FMH contained this paragraph that got me to reminiscing a bit: [Read more...]

About that Ensign Message You Give When HTing

The gold standard of home teaching of course includes giving the most recent 1P message from the Ensign to each family. If you don’t do that as a HTer, then, as the kids like to text, “ur doing it wrong.” But has it always been that way? [Read more...]

“Goodly Parents” Revisited

Next Sunday we start our study of the BoM in earnest with a lesson on 1 Nephi 1-7. As you know, the text begins with these words: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father….” Clearly there is a causal relationship between Nephi’s parents being “goodly” and the education he received. The late Marc Schindler had a theory to the effect that “goodly” here does not mean simply “good” (perhaps with the connotation “righteous”), as it is usually taken, but rather something like “possessed of goods,” and therefore “affluent,” suggesting that Nephi received an education because his parents were materially well off and could afford to educate him. [Read more...]

Seventh East Press

Several denizens of the Bloggernacle were heavily involved in The Student Review, an independent student newspaper that once existed, and has been reborn, at BYU. Those of us who are a little older fondly recall the Review’s antecedent, the Seventh East Press. [Read more...]

“Because there was no room for them in the inn”

Luke 2:7 famously reads: “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” [Read more...]

Global Warming and the Mobs, Part 2

A follow-up guest post from Barry Bickmore.

Last week, I responded to an opinion piece in Meridian Magazine, in which the author, Gary Lawrence, used out-of-context snippets of some stolen e-mails to suggest that global warming is a big hoax, perpetrated by dishonest and greedy climate scientists to gain fame and line their pockets with grant money. My take was that Brother Lawrence hadn’t done his homework. Since he wanted to believe global warming is a hoax, he willingly accepted and passed on such charges without so much as checking the context of the quotations he used for evidence. I showed that one of his quotations was actually altered to supply a context that was contrary to the true context of the passage. My main complaint was that Latter-day Saints, of all people, ought to know better than to throw out conspiracy theories based on out-of-context quotations, because that’s exactly what anti-Mormon writers have always done to stir up people against us. [Read more...]

The JST to the Rescue!

Tomorrow I’m going to be teaching the letters of John in Gospel Doctrine class. So I start reading 1 John 1, and run headlong into one of the longest, most convoluted sentences in the New Testament, spanning the first four verses (even though the KJV puts a period after verse 3 in English). Here’s what it looks like in our 1979 LDS edition of the KJV: [Read more...]

Global Warming and the Mobs

The below is a guest post from Barry Bickmore, a professor of geology at BYU. He blogs at Anti-Climate Change Extremism in Utah.

The other day, Meridian Magazine (an LDS-themed publication) published an opinion piece by Gary Lawrence, who wrote that climate scientists who warn about the dangers of human-caused global warming are on par with “those who love and make a lie,” and “sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers” the scriptures warn against. He apparently believes that climate scientists have been fraudulently adjusting their data and conclusions to promote global warming hysteria and line their pockets with research money. His evidence? A few out-of-context quotations from some e-mails stolen from a University of East Anglia computer. [Read more...]

The Marriage Prospects of Women Already Sealed

There is a kind of meme in the Church to the effect that women who have already been sealed to a husband in the temple, but then are widowed or divorced, have seriously diminished marriage prospects due to the fact that they are not available to be sealed to another man in the here and now. [Read more...]

Cynical Use of the Word “Cult”

The below is a slightly edited version of a post I submitted to The Seeker. The post hasn’t been picked up (they prefer to only publish posts on topics where multiple different posts are submitted by the Seeker bloggers, and while the Amish beard cutting cult was a possible topic suggested, I was the only one to write on it.) But yesterday I saw the movie Martha Marcy May Marlene, a very intense portrayal of a young woman who got caught up with a group that is what in popular parlance would be called a “cult.” It wasn’t a religious group; they were located in the Catskills and were more like a 1960s free love commune on steroids. The leader of the group is portrayed by the actor John Hawkes, and he is terrific in the role. Anyway, watching this movie kind of pissed me off, because here is a group that clearly would be a cult in the popular conception of the word (the c-word is not used once in the movie, an excellent artistic choice), and yet conservative Protestant countercultists have so misused the word “cult” that, in a way, they have given such dangerous groups aid and comfort by lumping them in with established and safe Christian faiths with which such countercultists simply disagree theologically. So here are my thoughts: [Read more...]

Going to the Show

“Going to the Show” is baseball slang for being brought up to the big leagues. Here I’m using it more literally–on Tuesday night I was part of a panel that was interviewed on the subject of Mormonism for Chicago Tonight, the flagship program of WTTW, Chicago’s PBS affiliate. The program aired this evening; I just watched it. [Read more...]

Meet the Dargers

About a month ago a publicist wrote in to the BCC Admin address trying to get me a copy of a new book, Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage, by Joe, Alina, Vicki and Valerie Darger, with Brooke Adams (New York: HarperOne, 2011). I have to admit, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it at first. I had never heard of the Dargers or their book, and I assumed it was sort of a self-published thing that would be poorly written. But what the heck, I thought, I’ll take a flyer on it. I wrote back and told the woman she could send me a copy. [Read more...]

Matthew B. Brown: In Memoriam

Matt Brown died earlier today. He was, I believe, 46 years old. [Read more...]

Givens and Grow Book Signing Event

Spend an Evening with the Authors

We are excited to announce the arrival of Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism by Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow, published by Oxford University Press. We will have both authors at our store to speak about and sign their book on Friday, October 14. They will be here from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., speaking at 6:00, and will answer questions and sign books before and after that time. [Read more...]

JWHA Nauvoo 2011 Open Thread

I left the house about 9:00 a.m. for my five-hour road trip to Nauvoo. It was a beautiful day and the drive was very pleasant, except for several work calls I had to take. (I won’t be able to totally relax until tomorrow night when I can forget about work for the rest of the weekend. But still, it wasn’t that bad.) [Read more...]

Matthew 22:30

About five years ago the Church flirted with a pilot program to put answers to about 50 challenging questions about the Church on its website. The issues were identified, and a couple of dozen respondents were assigned to write responses to two issues each. I was one such respondent, and I prepared a draft of my answers. [Read more...]

This Is My Doctrine

There are two circumstances that inform my (positive) opinion on Charles R. Harrell, “This is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology (n.p.: Kofford Books, 2011). First, in 2001, James Patrick Holding (a pseudonym) published a slim volume, The Mormon Defenders: How Latter-day Saint Apologists Misinterpret the Bible (self-published, 2001). Kevin Graham organized a set of responses to Holding’s book, and I agreed to respond to Chapter 3, “Persons and Pre-Mortality: The Mormon Doctrine of Preexistence,” at 53-61, with related endnotes at 144-45. The result was my paper, “On Preexistence in the Bible.” I needed to understand the development of preexistence in Mormon thought in order to be able to effectively write my paper, and so I turned to two sources. One I was already familiar with: Blake Ostler, “The Idea of Pre-Existence in the Development of Mormon Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15/1 (Spring 1982): 59-78, which was actually a student essay published in a volume devoted to such student work. The second was one I had not been familiar with before and was new to me: Charles R. Harrell, “The Development of the Doctrine of Preexistence, 1830-1844,” BYU Studies 28/2 (Spring 1988): 75-96. [Read more...]

The Seeker: Fasts lead Mormons to admire Ramadan tradition

As a practicing Mormon, I have a tremendous admiration for the fast undertaken by Muslims the world over during the holy month of Ramadan. [Read more...]

Saint Jana

My daughter, Emily, was the one who lured me into the Buffyverse. I was late to the party, but I made a deal with her. I would buy the DVDs of the various seasons as they came out, I would watch them, and then give them to her to keep. So that is how I ended up watching all seven seasons, and how she got a complete DVD collection of them. [Read more...]

It Gets Better

Last night I saw Captain America. I quite enjoyed it; I especially liked the semi-1940s period setting. One aspect of the film I could sort of relate to was the skinny kid who was transformed. [Read more...]

The Agency of Man

I taught the captioned lesson at Institute Wednesday night, to about a dozen or so young single adults. I was a guest instructor for that one evening in the Doctrines of the Church class, and my assigned topic was The Agency of Man. [I made a little joke telling the sisters that this lesson obviously didn't apply to them, then made sure everyone knew "Man" here was used in the generic, not gendered sense.] I thought I’d try to convey the gist of my lesson here for anyone interested. [Read more...]

The Seeker: Governors’ experience better measure than religion

According to a recent Gallup poll, 25% of Americans would be less likely to support a candidate for President of the United States who is Mormon. When I see that statistic, I have to ask myself, “Why?” [Read more...]

Sweet Nothings

I’ve been watching HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” One of the tribes that we follow is the Khaleesi, who are very primitive and earthy. Their Khal (leader) is Drogo, a huge, well-muscled man (the actor who plays him will be starring in the new Conan the Barbarian film later this year), and his wife is a petite blond from another tribe. One thing that struck me about their relationship is that they refer to each other with pet names. She calls him “My Sun and Stars,” and he calls her “Moon of My Life.” It’s very sweet, but totally unexpected in that setting. [Read more...]

The Seeker: Circumcision ban would be unconscionable

A San Francisco ballot initiative later this year proposes to criminalize the performance of circumcisions on male minors, with fines up to $1,000 and jail terms of up to one year. Even Russell Crowe has weighed in on the proposal via Twitter: “I love my Jewish friends, I love the apples and the honey and the funny little hats but stop cutting yr babies.” Such a proposal smacks of religious ignorance at best, if not outright anti-religious animus. [Read more...]

Harmonizing the Text with History

Tomorrow is stake conference, and then a week from tomorrow I’ll be teaching GD lesson 21, which is JS-M. I haven’t actually prepared the lesson yet, but in pulling some stuff together I noticed something that was new to me and which I thought was interesting. [Read more...]

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