What will you become through the Atonement of Christ? (Elder Ballard (mostly)) #ldsconf

In his talk in the Saturday Morning Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard asked a question that strikes me as particularly important. Elder Ballard noted, “Every time I hold a newborn child, I find myself wondering: ‘Who are you, little one? What will you become through the Atonement of Christ?’” The thought was reflected in both Elder Uchtdorf’s and Elder Mayne’s talks as well. The Atonement is supposed to change us; shouldn’t we wonder how well that is working out? [Read more…]

Unforced Errors

When I first got married, my wife had ideas about teaching me to play tennis. Actually, that isn’t true. I had ideas about my wife teaching me to play tennis. It was a sport she enjoyed and something that we could do together. She was a little skeptical but willing. It was, of course, a disaster. The first problem was that I’d never been all that serious about the game. As I told her before we started, I played tennis like I didn’t play baseball; everything went over the fence. Initially, this wasn’t a problem as I was willing to run after all the errant balls and she was willing to stand around and watch me. But this eventually grew boring and she decided it would be useful to help me with my swing. So she stood by me, modeled the swing, and bounced the ball to me so I could hit it. I was very fast on the trigger, hoping to impress her, I suppose. I swung around quick and caught her hand with my racket. She cried out, I went to her and apologized, she shook it off after a moment and decided to try again. She started to bounce the ball and, sure I knew what I was doing, I swung again and immediately wacked her hand again. Afterwards, she wasn’t angry with me, but she has never stepped onto a tennis court with me again. [Read more…]

Defending the family by exploring changing gender roles

Recently, at the General Women’s Session of April Conference, several talks where given on the theme of “defending the family.” There have been a number of responses to this session already (including two very good ones here at BCC), so we can safely say that this is a topic that has been covered. So, why bother talking about it some more? Because I think that I have found, hiding inside President Bonnie Oscarson’s talk, a message regarding marriage and family that is practically progressive in its outlook. [Read more…]

Historicity, Schmistoricity

There has been much internet controversy in the bloggernacle and on facebook of late regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Julie Smith recently wrote an excellent summary of why it is (or, at least, probably should be) beside the point. But I’m going to go one further. I’m going to state that the debate is, in its heart, inherently silly and self-contradictory. Allow me to explain. [Read more…]

How to be Good Enough

There is something I want everyone to understand (assuming I’m right (if I’m not right, hopefully people will forget that this blogpost ever happened). Life is a frame job. You are bound to fail. [Read more…]

The Senate torture report is a condemnation of Mormon moral reasoning

*I just learned that I am being misinterpreted in a news article at the International Business Times. The reporter misquotes the title of this blog post (saying I find the report to condemn the Church, rather than to condemn the moral reasoning of some members) and then takes quotes out of context to make it seem like I am basically anti-Mormon (she says I conclude by saying we are morally bankrupt if we consider Bybee and Jessen to represent the best LDS moral thinking; I do say that, but I keep talking. In fact the next sentence is “I believe that the Church, the Gospel, and the Doctrine are great.”). I am not anti-Mormon and neither is this post. If you come here from that article, please know that this is not the post you are looking for.*

Since the release of the Senate torture report yesterday, one thought has refused to leave me: we contributed to this. Not just in the sense that Mormons overwhelming supported the Bush administration that implemented this approach nor in the sense that Mormons reportedly are very overrepresented in the intelligence community. No, two Mormons were very prominent in the drafting and the implementation of these policies and they are, by all accounts, considered to be good Mormons. Our brothers did this; so are we their keepers or no? [Read more…]

The love of many shall wax cold – Libertarianism and apocalypse

Dissolution seems to be our most recent zeitgeist. With the recent referendums in Spain and the UK, the strife in Ukraine, and the increasingly schismatic politics in the US, it seems that long-held social ties and traditions hold less value than in the past. We seem more and more capable of drifting away from one another.

I have a tendency to see the rise of modern conservative libertarianism as concurrent with this trend. [Read more…]

Lord, it is I

I am a sinner. [Read more…]

What do you know about the Mormon Job? Would you like to know more?

Over on the blog Peculiar People, Joe Spencer has taken Michael Austin’s recent book Re-Reading Job to task for promising, and then not providing, a “Mormon Job.” Instead, as he notes, Michael Austin draws from the reception history and secular investigation of Job to provide a helpful overview of this very difficult work, with some devotional content. Austin does spend quite a bit of time critiquing the Sunday School manual’s approach (read the first two chapters and the last, with a couple of other verses thrown in), deconstructing the most common Mormon approach, but he doesn’t offer a Mormon approach to replace it. Or does he?
[Read more…]

Sloughs: of Despond or otherwise

This is a relatively good path in the swamp

This is a relatively good path in the swamp

A slough is a bog or mire, a great, sucking, sticky, consuming pool of mud, muck, or worse. As such, it is a handy metaphor. It can stand in for addiction, sin, bad habits, anything that we feel sucks us in and that we find hard to move beyond. Every step in a slough is a drudgery. Every motion requires far too much energy. It’s all just such a drag, man. A drag.
[Read more…]

The Distance: A Review of Letters to a Young Mormon by Adam Miller

We do not live the life we think we do. We think that we are the star of our own show or, sometimes, the villain. We think that what we do matters, because we are doing it; our acts are windows into the soul or the building blocks of our character. We assume, though we claim to be disciples, though we claim to be saints, that we are the most important actors in our salvation play. I’m not certain that we are entirely wrong, but we are definitely not entirely right. [Read more…]

Killing Narfi: Skyrim and the problem of evil

As Mormons, we have a pervasive, if not terribly well-attributed, belief that, in the next life, if we turned out to be good enough, we’ll get to make our own planets. Folks, why wait? There are a wealth of world-building strategy and role-playing games available right now. One has me in its web right now and it is causing me to consider the creation of a moral universe. [Read more…]

An email to a friend, struggling with disbelief

Recently, some close friends wrote to me regarding faith in the church. My friends are members and have been for their entire life. These friends have recently come across some anti-Mormon material on the internet and, for all that they understood it as anti in origin, it caused them to start to question their belief. There was nothing particularly new in the information, but it was new to them. They know I’ve been writing blog posts for a while and assumed I had answers that might help. My response, such as it is, is below. I think they found it helpful, hopefully it might be of help to someone else.

First thing to understand: There is nothing I or anybody else can say that is going to make most of this make sense, seem less than crazy, or “make it better.” [Read more…]

Real People sin

I was reminded recently that there is a folk belief amongst us Saints that I find particularly pernicious. It isn’t something that comes up all that frequently in Sunday School, but I’ve encountered it in more than one Mormon forum, usually whispered to emphasize the sacred and deep-doctrine status of said belief. I’m also hesitant to bring it up here, because it relies on temple language for its authority. But it occurred to me that people might want to use it to comfort or counsel people who are upset with the gender imbalance in the church. I’m convinced that it will only make things worse if used for this purpose.

The belief is this: Women are automatically saved to the celestial kingdom by divine decree. [Read more…]

Judging Righteous Judgement: Part 1, “Lord, whom can I safely hate?”

Eons ago in internet time, I wrote a post about the inevitability (and possible positives) of human discrimination. Whatever you may think of our origins, humans dominate the planet because of our superior pattern-recognition skills. Often these skills lead us to conclude things like “garbage spontaneously generates maggots”, but occasionally we come up with Newtonian laws and so forth. Discrimination is a necessary step in any rational inquiry. We have to determine which solutions to pursue, which beliefs to leave unquestioned, and the rationale behind both. It has made us pretty powerful, but, like all powers, it is frequently misused.

There is nothing interesting or new in the above, except this: we so easily identify others’ misuse of discrimination and justify our own use of it, that it calls into question the idea of righteous judgement entirely. But it must exist. Even if humans are incapable of righteous judgement, God will separate us at the judgement bar, which is the ultimate discrimination. His ways are not our ways, but is there any way that we can better emulate him in judgement? I don’t know, but I think it is worthwhile to make the attempt. What we find will be determined by what we are looking for, so first we must set a goal. In this case, I’ve chosen definition as the initial goal. What, exactly, is righteous judgement? [Read more…]

Actually reading Nephi

There has been some discussion lately about closely reading the Book of Mormon in relation to the YW PP manual controversy. I am always one to encourage a close reading. What I am doing below is not a close reading, but rather a quick note about the perils of casual reading and eisegesis. But please, read closely. It’s a rewarding book.

Frequently, we misread the purpose of Nephi’s slaying of Laban. [Read more…]

The Quest for a Clear Conscience as a Potential Sin

My wife has been reading the book, Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. Unless you are either growing/slaughtering all your food yourself or, at minimum, a locavore vegan, reading it will cause you to examine your eating habits and find yourself wanting. By which I don’t mean that you will feel like you need to eat better, or more healthily at the end of the book; I mean that you will question your ability to consider yourself a good person if you continue to eat the way you do. [Read more…]

Do you have to lose your faith to find it?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about faith, specifically about what a trial of faith might consist of. I don’t know that I’ve ever really had a trial of faith. I’ve experienced no great tragedy (knock on wood) and, while I’m excellent at self-sabotage and self-pity, I’ve had no real obstacles to overcome. My father has always been kind to me, so I’ve never had any trouble imagining a loving Heavenly Father who wants the best for us. I’ve never really had cause or need to question my faith in any significant sense. I worry that this has made me lazy. [Read more…]

“This is my favorite thing.”

Hushpuppy and the girls (photo from collider.com)

In his Sunday Afternoon Conference Talk, Elder D. Todd Christofferson focused on the Redemptive power of the Atonement in our lives. While it is historically accurate and theologically legitimate to discuss a redemptive power and an understanding of Atonement tied to a redemption of humanity from some great debt, I feel like it can interfere with our understanding of the Atonement’s purpose.
[Read more…]

Unequal equalities

It strikes me that a lot of our disagreement over feminist issues in the church comes from one variation or another of straw-man argumentation. It is much easier to disagree with a caricature of our intellectual opponent’s argument than with the real thing.  I’m going to talk about a particular type of caricature here today; Alison Moore Smith provided several last week. It is useful to note these things, because, hopefully, they will help us move past superfluous and irrelevant grandstanding and focus on the important arguments in any debate. Also, world peace might spring up. [Read more…]

The last place you should look for advice

I don’t know about you, but I was an idiot as a teen. [Read more…]

A darn shame

I cannot, in good conscience, recommend that my gay friends investigate the church. [Read more…]

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #6: “I Will Tell You in Your Mind and in Your Heart, by the Holy Ghost”

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 covers much the same material as the last lesson, historically and thematically.  The emphasis continues to be on Oliver Cowdery’s experiences translating the Book of Mormon and, specifically, his attempts to recognize the spirit of revelation in his own life.  While the emphasis of last week’s lesson was more on preparing yourself to receive revelation, this week’s lesson has more to do with recognizing what on earth is going on when it happens.

First of all, go to the new Revelations in Context resource at lds.org and read the article by Jeffrey Cannon on Oliver Cowdery’s Gift.  While you are hopping around, go to Robin Jensen’s post on last week’s lesson and read that as well.  Now return to this post and feel bad; I’m neither as knowledgeable, nor as good a writer as those guys. Oh well.

If there is one message to take from all of the sections being covered this week (and last week) it is this: revelation is not easy work. [Read more…]

The Priesthood is not a superpower

I ordained my son a deacon a couple of weeks ago.  The first thing he did when we got home was to facetiously wave his hands toward a chair and attempt to move it with the power of his mind and/or Priesthood.  I immediately told him, “The Priesthood is not a superpower.”  It is something that, I suppose, bears repeating. [Read more…]

Pride: How the motivation for most sins has (thusfar) kept me from apostasy

I was recently listening to the Mormon Stories podcast with Ralph Hancock.  I haven’t really been enjoying it, because I don’t really enjoy listening to either Brother Hancock or Brother Dehlin (for varied reasons) and my irritation with both frequently spikes into fantasies about throwing my mp3 player across the room.  I’m sure that if I sat down with either in a room alone I would get along with them just fine (in fact, I did meet Dehlin in a social setting once and he was nice and soft-spoken).  But their public personas frequently get under my skin and, whenever I do listen, I frequently wonder why I’m listening, when I could obviously do it all much better.

This is, of course, it’s own sort of fantasy. [Read more…]

Duck Beach to Eternity

You won’t learn much about Mormonism from watching Duck Beach to Eternity, but you will learn a lot about how Mormonism intersects with current-era, white, upper-middle-class privilege. [Read more…]

Thursday/Friday Theological Poll: Family Futures Edition

What do you think is the most likely fate of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”?

Vote above; comment below.

A request for philosophical insight

I am not really a philosopher.  I once taught in a philosophy department, but it was always a sort of ad hoc arrangement.  I’ve never taken a philosophy course and my initial graduate program was not particularly interested in critical theory. So, whatever I’ve picked up, I’ve picked up along the way.  I note this initially, because I’m going to say some things with a bit of authority below that I haven’t actually earned.  Skepticism on your part may be necessary.  If nothing else, my title is sincere.

As I understand it, Divine Command Theory is a form of Moral Relativism. [Read more…]

The black hole, part two

I’m a big fan of cracked.com, particularly the writings of David Wong there.  I recently read a post by him that strikes me as the beginning of a more effective path to teaching our young men and women about sex (Warning: in the article, there is graphic language and some discussion of arousal and sex).  In the interest of sparing our more sensitive readers, I’m going to summarize the keys points of the article and then explain why I think they relate to us.

The title of the article is “5 Ways Modern Men are Trained to Hate Women[Read more…]

Thursday Theological Poll: Death-bed repentance, maybe, sorta?

We don’t know much about Omni.  In fact, the following is what we know:

1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Omni, being commanded by my father, Jarom, that I should write somewhat upon these plates, to preserve our genealogy—
2 Wherefore, in my days, I would that ye should know that I fought much with the sword to preserve my people, the Nephites, from falling into the hands of their enemies, the Lamanites. But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statutes and the commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done.
3 And it came to pass that two hundred and seventy and six years had passed away, and we had many seasons of peace; and we had many seasons of serious war and bloodshed. Yea, and in fine, two hundred and eighty and two years had passed away, and I had kept these plates according to the commandments of my fathers; and I conferred them upon my son Amaron. And I make an end. (Omni 1:1-3)

So the question is, do you think he is repentant as he writes this?  If so, what do you think is the effect of that? [Read more…]


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