Zane Grey, Arthur Conan Doyle, the Associated Press, and the Resuscitation of the Avenging Angels

This is another post from the Dialogue editorial board. Many of you know Matthew Bowman from Juvenile Instructor. He is a graduate student in History at Georgetown, and is the Associate Editor of Dialogue.

Related article at Dialogue

If there’s anything that, in comparison, might normalize polygamy to that vast majority of Americans for whom Mormons are but cultural curiosities, it’s probably blood atonement.  I’ve earlier written in this space about the ways in which representations of Mormonism in HBO’s Big Love reflect a certain religious ethos on the part of the producers; the show is in a lot of ways a leap forward in the cultural normalization of Mormonism precisely because it is capable of imagining its Mormon (and by ‘Mormon’ I mean followers of Joseph Smith; this strikes me as a more useful definition of the term than any other) characters as basically normal people, who take their SUVs to the hardware store and have kids with part time jobs. And indeed, this normalization of people in previously exotic marriage relationships is in all likelihood the producers’ agenda. If their ratings are any indication, they may be succeeding; indeed, it appears that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can come into the very heart of their adversary, to the shadows of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, and garner sympathy.[1] Religious freedom and all that. [Read more...]

Big Love: Res Publica

Here’s another post from the Dialogue editorial board. Many of you know Matthew Bowman from Juvenile Instructor. He is a graduate student in History at Georgetown, and is a member-at-large of the editorial board because he knows about everything. Also, he’s a very good sport about playing Monkey in the Middle with small, unruly children, even in freezing weather. This is his thoughtful take on the Big Love debacle.

Big Love: Res Publica

Last week, for probably the first time in history, TV Guide broke controversial news. And this week, it came to pass; Big Love showed a portion of the LDS temple ceremony; specifically, a fraction of a prayer circle and a portion – probably the most sensitive portion – of the veil ceremony. The consequent and rather predictable Mormon uproar has taken the form of a rally to protect the temple; tiresome email petitions and facebook groups and YouTube videos abound. But what, beneath the surface, is this debate really about? Big Love is a complicated show, and deserves an interpretation that scratches below the surface. [Read more...]

On relics

Matt Bowman continues as a guest blogger at BCC.

Two stories:

First -
I moved to the DC area about two years ago. Early on, I attended services with an uncle and aunt in their Northern Virginia ward. When I walked down the hallway, I did a double take. There’s a piece of wood from the Joseph Smith Palmyra cabin hanging from the wall. It’s framed. I noticed a group of Primary kids filing down the wall. As they passed, each reached up and touched it. [Read more...]

If ye are not one . . .

Matt Bowman continues as a guest blogger at BCC.

Over at the Thang, Geoff is interested in your experience with “prospering.” In response, Eric raised what I think is an interesting point — that he had always understood scriptural promises of prosperity as collective, rather than individual. [Read more...]

Our heritage

Matt Bowman continues as a guest blogger at BCC.

My first (and so far, only) sacrament meeting talk came when I was about eleven.  I was allotted five minutes on a hot Sunday afternoon in late July to talk about my ancestors.  I was baffled.  I was eleven; I didn’t know anything about my ancestors.  How was I to make such a seemingly esoteric topic relevant to a group of people who, in my eleven-year-old mind, couldn’t have cared less that (as my confused inquiries with relatives taught me) one of my maternal great grandfathers was once Davis County Commissioner of Education?  After grappling for weeks to find terms that would make these people fit into what I dimly perceived to be the parameters of Mormon discourse, I stepped to the podium and said, “I’d like to tell a story about modern-day pioneers.”

[Read more...]

Thoughts on Mormon art and the impending production of The Book of Mormon Movie Volume II: Zarahemla.

Matt Bowman continues as a guest blogger at BCC.

Or, as I like to call it, TBOMM-VII:Z. The first movie -The Book of Mormon Movie — Volume I: The Journey (or TBOMM-VI:TJ) -was, as Rod Kimball would say, “all heart.” (Then he said something else which I won’t repeat here.) I saw the thing twice in theatres and bought it on DVD, partly because I fell in love with the absolute earnestness and sincerity that dripped off of every frame. It had the sort of passion and holy-crow-we’re-making-a-movie energy that only first time projects really do. I could easily picture the sort of pep circle that you see in the locker room tunnel before NBA playoff games happening on the set every morning. It was also a good example of a tendency I’ve noticed in much of Mormon art. [Read more...]

Rock and Roll and the Holy Spirit

Matt Bowman continues as a guest blogger at BCC.

In Cameron Crowe’s brilliant movie Almost Famous, a sage rock guru (played with boozy slyness by Philip Seymour Hoffman) offers the young William Miller, high school student cum aspiring rock journalist, a fifteen-year-old about to embark upon a decidedly atypical coming of age journey, a profound piece of advice.

“You cannot make friends with the rock stars.”

Would that we all needed this advice. [Read more...]

Southern Virginia University: Mormonism and the liberal arts experience

Matt Bowman appears to be the new guest blogger at BCC. He has a masters’ in history from the University of Utah and is currently preparing to take PhD exams in American history at Georgetown. He occasionally presents papers on things like Bigfoot at MHA. Thanks to Ronan for the invitation to appear in this space.

This school is bound into the web of my family. My sister attended and two cousins graduated. I have relatives both on the board and active in the alumni association. Additionally, a couple of friends from graduate school have held positions on the faculty.

The reports I have received are mixed. [Read more...]

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