Subscribe to the BCC Weekly Intelligencer

BCCKnopeWe’re excited to announce the (beta) launch of the BCC Weekly Intelligencer newsletter, which shall distil upon your inbox as the dews of heaven. Each week, we’ll send you a fresh batch of By Common Consent posts, along with stuff we’re reading around the web. It’ll be a grab bag of our favorite comments, LDS news, tweets from #TwitterStake, upcoming events, and who knows what else.

Sounds good, right? You need this in your life. Subscribe here, and share with a friend.

Church-Hacker #18: Stick to the Manual (Margins)

After a four-year hiatus, it’s time to reboot the Church-Hacker series. For those of you who weren’t here four years ago, everyone’s input is welcome, and this series is simple: We post ideas that you can try in your ward or calling to make the meeting block more spiritual or more engaging.

Routine can become rut, and after a lifetime of sameness, even very small changes to The Way Things Are Done can make people sit up, put their phones away, and pay more attention in lessons and meetings. Church-Hacker hunts for those small ideas that can have an outsize impact.

And now for this week’s idea:

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Sunday Resolutions and Peter’s Denial

This post is a mashup of a Gospel Doctrine lesson I taught last week and a response to Steve’s excellently sentimental post earlier this week. 

Mark 14:72  And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.

“My heart goes out to Peter. So many of us are so much like him. We pledge our loyalty; we affirm our determination to be of good courage; we declare, sometimes even publicly, that come what may we will do the right thing, that we will stand for the right cause, that we will be true to ourselves and to others.

“Then the pressures begin to build. Sometimes these are social pressures. Sometimes they are personal appetites. Sometimes they are false ambitions. There is a weakening of the will. There is a softening of discipline. There is capitulation. And then there is remorse, followed by self-accusation and bitter tears of regret.”

Gordon B. Hinckley

That’s one of my favorite quotes from President Hinckley. The example of Peter in this instance really hits me, because I tend to be a victim of “Sunday resolutions,” those bold declarations that are so easy to make and so difficult to live up to.

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Nostalgic Stake Youth Dance: The Playlist

J. Stapley this morning asked the BCC bloggers for our Top 10 Stake Dance Songs. There was enough overlap in our responses that we figured it’d be worth making a playlist, so we can all be nostalgic together.

So here you go, a sweet musical journey to the cultural halls of yesteryear.

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Using Social Media to Come to Christ: José A. Teixeira at #LDSConf

Social media is one of the most transformative, most disruptive, and potentially destructive technologies facing us as modern humans (as are other technologies, like television, the internet, artificial intelligence, nuclear power, and Dippin Dots).

In his Sunday morning conference talk, José A. Teixeira of the First Quorum of the Seventy discussed the potential of social media to bring people to Christ (good), or to shut out the real world around us (bad).

Before we get to the good, let me testify of the bad. Social media has the power to include, but it is just as often a tool of exclusion, whether wittingly or unwittingly. FOMO (fear of missing out) is real–it’s that isolated feeling you get on Instagram, or Twitter , or Facebook, as you see people sharing photos of parties and playdates you weren’t invited to, or of concerts you didn’t attend, or vacations you couldn’t afford. It damages friendships, sparks jealousy, and can reinforce social cliques within our wards and stakes.

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General Conference Reflection: The True vs. The New

I know we’re a couple weeks out from General Conference, but I figured I’d get ahead of the reflection pieces this year with one of my own.

For a few years now, I’ve been trying to figure out how General Conference can play a bigger role in my life. I’ll listen to a session here and there, or liveblog one for BCC, and when I was YM president, it was a good forcing function to get me to General Priesthood Meeting with my young men.

But it’s been a long time since I really connected with a session the way I think I’m supposed to. The mind wanders, the clock slows down. I try not to take my phone out, except to take notes or check #ldsconf on Twitter. I pray for guidance and insight, and sometimes it comes, but not in that get-really-excited-about-10-hours-of-talks-this-weekend kind of way that I know some people experience.

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Thoughts on the first week of New Testament study

Sermon on the MountI’m looking forward to studying and teaching the New Testament this year in Gospel Doctrine. (And thanks Kevin and RJH for helping me with my lesson this week.) I’ve taught the other books a couple times, but never the New Testament, so I’m not as familiar with it as I should be. This year is my chance to figure out some stuff I’ve had on the back burner for a long time. I plan on spending this year learning and reading and talking about Christ, and letting his words sink in and challenge me to rethink things.

Because the teachings of Christ are a lot more difficult and radical than we give them credit for. There’s friction in his words, and there are calls to action. The same guy who said “My yoke is easy” also told a certain ruler to give away everything and follow him. I don’t imagine it was any easier for the fishermen to leave their nets than it would be for us to leave ours.

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It’s Just Business

One of the underlying meta-narratives in the torture report last week is the story of two Mormons who may or may not have just been doing their job. John C’s post teased at this just a bit, but the commenters took it further. (You should read his post before reading this one, BTW, as I’m leaving out almost all of the details around what happened.) 

One commenter asked “What about LDS people who work in the weapons industry making killing machines?” Are they to be judged by the same standard?

Is it fair to expect an LDS moral code to help us make decisions about how we make our living?

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Ancient Prophets

Something to think about as you lie awake in bed tonight:

Twenty years from now, David A. Bednar’s only going to be 82. Dieter F. Uchtdorf will only be 94. L. Tom Perry will be 112.

By 2034 standards, it’s possible that those men will no longer be considered that old.

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Raising Kids in the Heart of the Pride Cycle

Pride CycleThis is my third time working through the Old Testament as a teacher (Gospel Doctrine twice, seminary once, kinda), which means I’ve drawn a lot of pride cycles on chalk boards. There was no chalk this time though, so I just used my finger on the chalkboard to trace the familiar circle during class on Sunday, while we talked our way through first Joel and then Amos.

The faint circle was still on the board during Elder’s Quorum, as the class discussed how we can raise our kids to be faithful adults. The instructor asked what we’re most worried about as we think about our children’s futures.

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The Desert Blossoms as the Rose (at Burning Man)

Burning ManThis week, somewhere in the middle of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, 50,000 people are gathering for the Burning Man festival, where they do…well, pretty much whatever they want. They trek in their RVs, buses, cars, motorcycles, and erect Black Rock City, where they live for a week in a state of “radical inclusion” and “radical self-expression.” The name “Burning Man” comes from a huge wooden effigy (‘The Man”) they erect at the beginning of the week, and which they burn at the end of the week—the Burning Man.

At the end of the week, no trace of Black Rock City remains. The whole city is built by Burning Man attendees, inhabited for a week, and then torn down and completely erased. (This is not as easy as it might seem—imagine your total water needs for a week in the desert. You’d have to bring that with you, and then carry out any waste and trash.)

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You’ll Get the Type of Church Members You Write For: 8 Suggestions for The Ensign

I started writing a comment on Russell’s recent blog post, in which he explains why he’s canceling his Ensign subscription. Once the comment got past a couple hundred words, I figured a full complementary post might be more appropriate. So here goes.

I haven’t subscribed to the Ensign in over a decade. I read it a couple times a year, usually when I’m at my parents’ house, and the experience is sufficient to remind myself why I don’t subscribe, and why I don’t feel particularly guilty about it.

And yet, I spend time in the bloggernacle, where I tend to stick to faith-promoting sites with some level of orthodoxy. When I started reading and later writing for By Common Consent, it was specifically to fill the Ensign-shaped hole in my heart. A faith community needs an outlet where it can share struggles, devotional thoughts, and personal experiences with the divine, and interact with the culture beyond congregational boundaries.

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Is Church Music “Good”?

BCC guest blogger Sharon H. has a background in Humanities education and arts administration, and in her free time, she’s been organizing a pretty epic Christmas concert for the New York, NY stake.

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 9.59.27 PM

I remember it was over a mediocre burger within my first week of moving to Texas. My colleague was being friendly, telling me about her church in case I needed one. As we were both music educators, she went into extra detail about her church’s music. She told how their previous music minister was a good Christian man but really impossible to work with as a director. But they had just hired a new minister and purchased a completely new sound system all built directly into the sanctuary—I should hear it—and this new music minister was full of ideas and was already asking her opinion for upcoming events. Exciting, I agreed. Had I found a church yet? I had, actually. Do they have good music?

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Ideas for Easier Journal-Writing

I love our church’s emphasis on journaling, which is hypocritical because I totally suck at it. I enjoy writing, and I see the value in documenting my life, if only for myself. But when it comes to sitting down and writing a bit, I’ve always had a terrible time getting into a routine.

I totally buy into the importance of it. Cataloging my spiritual experiences helps me remember them. Remembering them keeps the foundation of my testimony top of mind, and comes in handy during those moments when I need them. If I don’t record them somewhere, specific spiritual moments leave my memory so quickly.

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Quantum Mechanics and The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Yoda

Ben F. checks in with a third installment in his BCC guest series on faith and physics. (Read his earlier posts here and here.)

YodaEveryone knows that Star Wars is nothing more than a (brilliant) allegory of the Gospel and the Restoration. Luke is Joseph Smith, Yoda is Peter, the Force is obviously the priesthood, and so on. With this understanding, I learned a lot as a child about how spiritual things work, including the important fact that you can use the priesthood to control things with just your mind.

Naturally, this is also how God does his work. Miracles, answers to prayers, revelations, and all other heavenly manifestations are instantaneously and immaterially transmitted from the mind of God directly to his children in need. God, bodily present at some physical location, wills something to occur, and millions of lightyears away, a mountain moves, or a voice is heard, or a prayer is answered. This is what I learned from Star Wars.

I should be careful not to poke too much fun at either Star Wars or God’s miracles, since both are actually quite important to me, but the tiniest bit of creativity is enough to realize that there are much richer and more impressive ways that God could choose to bring about miraculous occurrences other than just thinking something in his mind.

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Strengthening the Strong Ties

Facebook birthdayI had a birthday last week. I didn’t turn a remarkable age or anything, although I am now officially older than Jesus. A few short years ago, turning 30-something might not have been a big deal—a special dinner and a gift or two, maybe. But now, birthdays are marked by friendly emails, texts, and tweets, and a wave of Facebook posts.

Most of the well-wishers just left a short note on my wall, something to let me know we’re still friends. It’s a simple gesture, but it’s fun to hear from old friends, even if it’s only a couple words. What’s most fun for me is hearing from all of them at once—high school friends, college roommates, mission companions, more recent co-workers. It’s a post-modern “This Is Your Life” day of happy memories, or a virtual group hug where I’m the only connection between everyone.

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Cosmological Convergence: The Pavilion That Covers God’s Hiding Place

The Universe

Ben F. checks back in from the halls of science, with a second installment in his BCC guest series on faith and physics. (Read his first post here.)

I would like to ask a simple question as the basis for this post: Is God a native of our universe? Although I lack any significant polling data, I suspect the gut instinct for most Mormons would be a confident “yes.” After all, Mormon theology emphasizes the shared characteristics between God and his spirit children—we believe he has a physical body that exists somewhere in space and time; we believe that his origin is not so different from our own; and we even believe that we can, with sufficient grace, become like he is. Therefore, it seems only natural that he is from the same place we are from—that is, this universe we find ourselves in. Besides, what would the alternative be? That he is from some sort of parallel universe? That would just be crazy, right?

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Poll: Should the BSA end the ban on gays?

It could happen. Maybe it should happen. What do you think?

Whatever your opinion, the BSA is gathering feedback. Call 972-580-2330 during business hours, or email And, as always, explain yourself in the comments.

Some Results from the BCC 2013 Reader Survey

Reader SurveyA heartfelt thanks to everyone who completed our reader survey a couple of weeks ago. Some of you have asked to see the results, and while we want to keep the verbatims confidential, we’ll share what we can.

BCC readers are an incredibly diverse bunch. We received well over 200 responses to our survey, from 14 countries and 36 states (and maybe more), and each response was different. For instance, some of you think we’re too lax with our comment moderation, some of you think we exercise unrighteous dominion. Lots of readers love Blair’s book reviews, but one guy can’t stand them. But the most common response was that BCC is great. (Thank you, and we agree.)

When we saw several similar responses to a question, we noted it, and here are some of the most common responses:

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Mormonism in 2012: A (Fashionably Late) Recap

2012I called 2011 “The Year of the Mormon,” and I’m standing by that designation, but what a year we’ve had since then! As the Mormon Moment gets on its bike and rides into the sunset, it’s worth looking back at some of the high points and low points of 2012. Here are my own selections, in no particular order:



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Mourning with Those that Mourn – A How-To

As a Young Mens leader in my ward, I’m seldom called upon to offer guidance during times of grief. So I was at a complete loss recently when a desperate father reached out for help with his son, who had witnessed the tragic death of his best friend.

The young man hadn’t been to church in years, and in fact I’d never met him. So I was expecting an awkward housecall—I figured the last thing a grieving teenager wants is a stranger from church to talk to.  What should I say? How should I act?

I sent a distress call to the wise BCC permabloggers, who pointed me to a wealth of resources here on the blog. I wanted to aggregate and share their guidance, as we’ve had much to mourn over the past couple weeks. I hope it’s as helpful for you as it has been for me. Please feel free to share any additional resources and reactions in the comment.

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“Look for the Yellow Vests”: Mormons and Sandy

My friend Joshua Brown shot this footage of the Sandy relief effort yesterday in the Rockaways here in NYC. In case you weren’t aware, Mormons have played a very active role in the relief effort; for instance, the local missionaries have worked tireless every day since Sandy hit. Their contribution has been noticed. A co-worker of mine organized a non-Mormon volunteer team last week, and here’s what she had to say:  [Read more…]

A Re-Release for New York Doll

We just got word from Greg Whitely, the director of the excellent documentary New York Doll, that the film is being re-released with some mormon-y bonus footage, and it’s watchable online.

If you haven’t seen the film, get on it–it’s the perfect combination of modern mormonism and early NYC punk. The movie follows Arthur “Killer” Kane, bass player of seminal punk band New York Dolls, as he navigates life as a 55-year-old Mormon obsessed with family history and temple work, and the possibility of a return to rock glory. The best part of the film is the wealth of great commentary from icons like Morrissey, Iggy Pop, Chrissie Hynde, Mick Jones…the list goes on. If that doesn’t get you going, you don’t love mormonism, or you don’t love rock and roll. Watch the movie! Share with friends!

As part of the re-release, Whitely is offering free MP3s of New York Dolls lead singer David Johansen singing “Come, Come, Ye Saints” and “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” And if you’re in New York City this weekend, IFC Center will have a special midnight screening at midnight Friday/Saturday. (Technically Saturday, but you know…midnight ambiguity).

If you’ve already seen the film, leave your review in the comments.

Tonight: BCC Electioncast

Is today’s presidential election the end of The Mormon Moment, or just the beginning? I’ll be video chatting live with a few By Common Consenters right here at 10:30 Eastern tonight, discussing our favorite moments from the recent flood of mormon culture as we watch the map get painted red and blue.

Come back to this page at 10:30 and push play!

A few questions about the missionary surge

We’ve all heard the anecdotal tales about BYU bishops being flooded with interview requests from newly prospective missionaries. And now we have quantitative confirmation of the coming surge, as church spokesperson Michael Purdy released some startling numbers tonight:

“Typically approximately 700 new applications are started each week. The last two weeks that number has increased to approximately 4,000 per week. Slightly more than half of the applicants are women.”

That’s an increase of almost 6X! DesNews reminds us that these are “not submitted applications, rather online applications that have been opened and started.” Nevertheless, the ginormous spike will surely translate to a ginormous spike in submitted applications. Which raises lots of fun questions. For instance:

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Bible Bashing

I’m reading a loved one’s latest missionary letter, and it’s a blow-by-blow account of some righteous argument he reportedly “won” while tracting. It’s a hilarious/sad/scary story, as the argument focused mainly on theodicy (and are there ever winners in theodicy debates?). His letter drips with hubris, righteous fire, and above all, familiarity–that used to be me (and perhaps you as well).

Everyone told me as a missionary that we shouldn’t “bible bash” and argue because “the Spirit can’t work where there’s contention.” Nobody told us not to bible bash because we were stupid 19-year-olds who didn’t know anything.

There’s probably a lesson in here for adults, too…

A Platitude of Attitude

[This is not a screed against my Facebook friends, whom I love. It’s just a gentle reminder, and a crude sequel of sorts to Sam MB’s and Karen H’s wonderful posts earlier this week.]

There’s a paradox inherent in the idea of “true religion”: as certitude increases, empathy tends to decrease.

That’s probably a platitude, but I think it’s one worth bringing up as we go into an election season full of high-decibel cultural clashes between political parties, geographies, religions, and within the LDS community itself. Even now, I browse Facebook and see friends who are so firm in their faith in Jesus Christ that they are completely incapable of civil conversation. Paradox!

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Thanks, Jon Stewart

Just now on The Daily Show, Mr. Stewart presented a lovely segment that ruthlessly mocked the media’s coverage of Romney’s faith. The high point for me was watching Robert Jeffress rationalize his endorsement of a non-Christian cultist over a mainstream Christian.

If Mr. Stewart keeps up this level of coverage, he might just end up with a Boggs-Doniphan Gentile of the Year Award to add to his pile of Emmys.

Which would be awkward, as Mr. Stewart is in no way a gentile. But it would be his due, as Stephen Colbert won the BDGotYA in 2009.

I’ll post a clip as soon as it’s available online. In the meantime, those on the West Coast can watch the episode at its regularly appointed time.

UPDATE: Here is the clip. ( doesn’t embed ComedyCentral videos)

Liahonaroo: A Mormon Music Festival in Music City

Next weekend is the first-ever Liahonaroo Festival, a family-themed art and music show just outside of Nashville. Cool idea, right? It’s like Bonnaroo, but without the drugs, public drunkenness, and traffic jams. Which is to say, it’s not at all like Bonnaroo.

The two-day event kicks off Friday at 7pm at the Wilson County Fairgrounds, and the lineup includes more than 30 artists and musicians from around the country (I believe the majority are not LDS, though the show organizers are). My own band, Shakedown at the Majestic, will be playing Saturday night, so be sure to say hi if you’re around.

Tix and info are available at And if you think this kind of event would work in your community, leave a comment and say so. Maybe the organizers could be persuaded to take this thing on the road next year.

Excited About Romney, Despite Myself

So that’s it: The Republican nomination process is finally over. (Gingrich might still be kicking around, but once Nate Silver calls it, the thinking has been done.)

Ever since Romney first announced his candidacy in the last election, I’ve been very conflicted about Romney, and about the idea of a Mormon candidate, and about Romney as that Mormon candidate. To be blunt, he has uncanny valley issues of seeming almost-but-not-quite-human—I’m not even sure he would pass the Turing Test. The NY Times hilariously describes him as “the first quantum politician.”

And it’s way too early to say whether a Mormon candidate/president is going to make things easier or harder for the church. But we at least know that there will be an increasing level of scrutiny and curiosity about Mormonism, and there’s a chance that it will lead to increased bigotry. (To know the church isn’t necessarily to like the church.)

But despite the obvious flaws with the first Mormon presidential candidate, and despite the potential for it to blow up in our faces, my heart leapt when I first read the rumors on Twitter this morning: “Breaking: Washington Post says Rick Santorum will suspend presidential campaign.”

Whoa. The Republican candidate for president is a Mormon. A former stake president. That’s so effing cool! 

Now that we’ve all had a few hours to reflect, share your thoughts below. My contribution is this: I was way too hasty when I named 2011 “The Year of the Mormon”…I assumed the buzz about Mormonism wouldn’t get any louder. Just wait.


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