Adventures in Strangism

The last three months of my mission were spent in Pueblo, Colorado, just prior to my return home in mid-October 1979.  While I was in that area I read Russell R. Rich, “Nineteenth-Century Break-offs,” Ensign (September 1979), which includes several paragraphs on James Jessee Strang and the Strangites.  This was my very first exposure to Strangism; I had never heard of it before reading that article.  The last sentence of the Strang portion of the article reads as follows: “Since 1922 there have been two factions in the group with a total of about 250 members centered in Voree, Wisconsin; Boyne City, Michigan; Kansas City; Pueblo, Colorado; and Artesia, New Mexico.”  The accompanying footnote lists several books and a number of personal interviews conducted by the author, including ones with Joseph Flanders and Mrs. Milo Flanders in Pueblo, Colorado, on July 6, 1960. [Read more…]

The Book of Abraham

I just returned from a couple of weeks in Europe where I presented at FAIR conferences in Darmstadt, Germany and Milan and Rome, Italy, on the Book of Abraham.  (Other presentations included topics like the Book of Mormon, race issues, polygamy, and Joseph Smith’s visions.)  This was my first trip to Europe and I had a great time.  Now that I’m back, I thought I would post my remarks on the BoA here for your interest and so that I can conveniently refer people to them in the future.  [Read more…]

GD Lesson 23: “Seek Learning, Even by Study and Also by Faith”

Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the lesson in the comments.

This lesson is all about the value of education, both secular and spiritual, a duality suggested by the key phrase “by study and also by faith” (which also happens to be the title for the two-volume Nibley Festschrift).  Certainly translating that duality of approach into practical terms would be one possible approach to take in this lesson. [Read more…]

To Date within or without the Church?

The last time I saw my daughter, she told me that she had decided to be more proactive about meeting people.  She had signed up for a (free) online dating service, and had recently gone out with four different guys.  None of them was a hit, but the evenings were pleasant enough and she felt good about actually trying and putting herself out there.  I was proud of her and told her so. [Read more…]

GD Lesson No. 17, The Law of Tithing

We didn’t have anyone signed up to do this lesson, but since I just taught it today I thought I’d give a report on what transpired here in case it is useful to those of you who have not had it yet. [Read more…]

More Polygamy on TV

So I’m flipping channels this evening and happen upon a new show on the National Geographic Channel, called “Polygamy, USA.”  It premiered a week ago; the second episode, “Winter’s Ball,” will run later tonight.  Unlike Sister Wives, which focuses on a single family, or the Dargers, also a single family, this show gives a broader picture of the Centennial Park group in Arizona.  (Centennial Park split from the FLDS back in the 80s, and don’t practice the abuses encouraged and required by Warren Jeffs.) [Read more…]

Maharat Rachel Finegold

rachelfinegold.phpThe discussion concerning the ordination of Mormon women is a thing these days.  When seeking to think about these issues in a broader context, it has been common to compare the experience of Catholic women.  But I thought it might be instructive to take a comparative look at the latest development in the modern Orthodox wing of Judaism.  Rachel Finegold, a 32-year old Chicago woman, is poised to become the first ordained woman hired as clergy by an Orthodox synagogue. [Read more…]

Help Thou Mine Unbelief

In the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference, Elder Holland (hereafter “EH”) gave an address with the title “Lord, I Believe.”  He sets the stage by recounting the story of the father of an afflicted child, desperate for whatever help might be afforded.  The disciples were not able to provide the needed blessing.  The father then appealed to Jesus with last-resort desperation: [Read more…]

Measuring Home (and Visiting) Teaching

When I first moved to this area, the EQP extended a call to me to be the Executive Secretary over HTing.  And I was all prepared to turn him down flat; no way did I want to get sucked into that morass.  But he had anticipated my reaction, and told me he had just come from Stake leadership training, in which they had authorized contact by any method necessary.  While in-home visits by two HTers still constituted the gold standard, casual visits in other locations, phone calls, letters (this was a little bit pre-email, I think) would all count.  So with that qualification I accepted the call.  And of course we had 100% home teaching every month.  Whoever hadn’t been visited (very broadly defined) by the last week, I’d just send letters to them to make sure everyone was covered. [Read more…]

How to get our youth passionate about the BoM

I don’t know how I didn’t think of this before. The answer is simple. [Read more…]

A Small Glimpse of What Could Be

In my GD class today on AoF 4, I asked if the name John Wentworth meant anything to anyone. A couple of people mentioned the Wentworth letter. I then talked about the letter, some of the other numbered lists of beliefs from the time, and the canonization of the AoF as part of the PoGP. By the time I got to that point, there were three comments from three different guys: [Read more…]

D&C Lesson 8: The Restoration of the Priesthood

As Joseph and Oliver worked on the translation of the Book of Mormon, they came to this passage in 3 Nephi 11: [Read more…]


(In case you’ve been living in a cave and don’t know who Manti Te’o is, read my prior post from before the revelation that his dead girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never even existed.) When Deadspin first broke this story, my first thought was that this was a closeted gay strategy to explain why he wasn’t dating girls. But that was before reporters started digging in earnest and information about what happened started trickling out. I had assumed that Manti had not dated during his 3 1/2 years at Notre Dame, but a couple of ND sources with knowledge informed me that was not the case. Also, if this were set up to shield Manti from questions about his sexuality, the mastermind would have been a friend of his and setting all this up for his benefit. But we now know he created the fake Kekua persona previously and tried to play other people with it as well. So I gave up on the gay angle. [Read more…]

From the archives: Not Letting Women Open Sacrament Meeting Redux

This post from 2012 has become topical again due to All Enlisted’s new campaign on the issue. Reading the original comments thread here is a must, as several key data points are clarified or corrected in the discussion (see especially J. Stapley’s comments). This is the third in a series of archive posts on the topic [#1, #2].

I realize this is an old subject; see for instance this prior discussion. For those who have been living in a cave, starting I believe in 1967, women were not allowed to give the opening prayer in sacrament meetings, apparently on the theory that such meetings were “priesthood” meetings and had to be opened by priesthood authority. I think there may have been a letter rescinding this position within about six months or so, but it was definitely done away with by 1978: [Read more…]

Ecclesiastical Abuse

The demographic of the Bloggernacle and the Facebook groups that feed off it skews to the young. For most of the participants, if something happened before Al Gore invented the Internet, it may as well not have happened at all. But for those of us a little bit older, we actually remember those pre-Internet days. We used to read, you know, dead trees and stuff, not just pixels. [Read more…]

Marriage by Proxy

You know, the Mormon practice of performing religious sacraments for the dead by living proxies is irredeemably weird to a lot of people. This morning I saw a story on the Today Show that might help some folks to better understand this unusual religious practice. [Read more…]

Visiting Other Churches

In high school I had a speech class where we had to match up with another class member and learn about him or her. I was paired with a girl who lived down the street from me, and for some reason I went into missionary mode and in the course of our discussion I invited her to church. She (rather brilliantly in retrospect), said she would be happy to go to church with me, if I would in turn go to church with her. And I froze. I had never set foot in a non-LDS church in my young life, and the prospect of doing so freaked me out, so I declined and backed out of the whole thing. (Adult me wishes teenage me just went ahead and did it.) [Read more…]

20 Years

The Relief Society lesson was on service opportunities in the community. They brought in a guest speaker, from a local nonprofit called the Kenneth Young Center, who talked to the sisters about various ways to make a difference. When the lesson was over, they thanked their guest, and the sisters went about their merry ways. Surely they were too burdened with keeping the home fires burning, with their church responsibilities, and for many their jobs, to give the lesson a second thought. [Read more…]

Brother Manti

I am a sports fan (particularly football, basketball and MMA). And I’m a Mormon. So naturally I also like to follow LDS athletes. I know it’s totally irrational, but when an LDS athlete does well, I perceive the Church as being just a little bit more true. Weird, I know, but I can’t help myself. [Read more…]

New BoM Resources Tool

This is just a short note to make sure you are aware of a new BoM Study Aid assembled by Hales Swift and Neal Rappleye. I noticed that Julie gave it a thumb’s up in her GD lesson notes, so I took a look at it myself. [Read more…]


Recently a friend on Facebook told a story about a CPR class he attended. The instructor showed in detail how to do it, and a Mormon guy in the class sheepishly asked, “Uh, what if it’s a lady?” The instructor incredulously paused, and then said “I really don’t think she’ll mind, since you’re saving her life.” The Mormon dude seemed unconvinced. [Read more…]

The Need for Better Temple Prep

I have long been an advocate of the need for better temple preparation classes and materials. This is grounded in my experience actually teaching the temple prep course (the entire course in one instance; individual lessons by assignment in a couple of others.) [Read more…]

Notes on Apologetics

Over the last couple of days I’ve seen a number of comments around the Bloggernacle and on Facebook that reflect some fundamental misunderstandings of Mormon apologetics in general and FAIR in particular. (Such as a confusion of material on the Mormon Dialogue Board with FAIR, and such as attributing material from the FARMS Review to FAIR.) I thought it might be worthwhile in light of this kind of persistent misunderstanding to share my comments on apologetics from this past summer’s Sunstone Symposium. Kaimi organized a session on the topic, featuring him, me, Bridget Jack Jeffries and John Charles-Duffy. Below I have attempted to produce a rough transcript of my comments. At the end I have reproduced the questions, followed only by my own comments (not those of the other panelists). (To hear the entire session, you may order a download from Sunstone for under $3.00.) [Read more…]

GD Pedagogy

I’m about two years into my current stint as a Gospel Doctrine (GD) teacher. This is my fourth time around that particular merry-go-round. It’s a great calling, even if in the past I have tended to burn out at about the two-year and a half mark (largely from my practice of overprepping). But this time around I’m still feeling good about it, and I’m looking forward to the change in currculum year come January. Anyway, I thought it might be useful to start a discussion here about the practice of teaching GD class. [Read more…]

Elder Holland’s Opus: Do You Love Me?

Elder Holland has carved out a niche for himself as arguably giving the most powerful conference talks in recent years, a tradition into which his most recent address falls as well. This post is a summary of Elder Holland’s conference address from the Sunday morning session and is intended to spur a discussion of the talk. [Read more…]

JWHA Independence 2012

Yesterday I drove from Chicago down to Independence (about eight hours driving, ten with stops). The drive was lovely, except for when I almost killed myself because all the traffic in front of me for some unknown reason had all inexplicably stopped on the interstate, and I just barely managed to avoid creating a multi car pile up with my squealing brakes and two rapid lane changes. But I’m still alive to tell the tale. [Read more…]

Ben Witherington on Whether Mormons Are Christians

So, over at Patheos Ben Witherington has a blog post titled “Why Mormonism Is Not Christianity–The Issue of Christology,” which you may read here. I’m familiar with Witherington from his articles in Biblical Archaeology Review (I’m a subscriber), which I generally enjoy. But I suppose it should come as no surprise that I thought this blog post was weak sauce. [Read more…]

Liveblogging Rock Center

So Rock Center at 9:00 p.m. Central Time on NBC (check your local listings) is going to devote its program to the Mormons. As reported in the SLT, the program will cover the following: [Read more…]

Reflections of a Blogger

On WordPress, when you post on a blog, there is a screen that tells you how many blog posts you have published. I recently hit 400 posts here at BCC (I think this is 402). That didn’t really mean much to me until I did a little math. My first blog post here was published on January 24, 2006 (as you can see, the Bloggernacle was already pretty mature by the time I got in the game), which was approximately 6.5 years ago. That means I’ve averaged over 61 posts per year, or over 5 per month. Now, that’s nothing like what Ardis does at Keepa, but still I was kind of surprised at how prolific my blogging has been; I had had no idea I had posted quite that much. [Read more…]

BYU Campus Education Week Courses

As a public service, we here at BCC provide below a listing of some of the more popular courses at BYU Campus Education Week, which is going on right now. If we have missed any, please include them in the comments: [Read more…]


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