In the many narratives of faith crisis that one hears these days, a common theme is resistance to the idea that the Sunday School answer of “read the scriptures” will do much good. “Don’t you understand that the scriptures got me into this mess in the first place?” people ask incredulously, especially as they’re troubled about questions of Book of Mormon historicity, the character of the Old Testament God, or a number of other concerns. [Read more...]
An actual conversation between myself and RJH this morning:
Scott: Are you optimistic for England?
RJH: Don’t be silly!
THIS IS A THREAD FOR BLOGGERNACLE SOCCER FANS TO DISCUSS THE WORLD CUP. HATERS GET LOST.
Ignore the ceremony that surrounded it and you may find that the recent canonisation of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII had more in common with Mormon religious impulses than you may at first have thought. Ignore also what Rahner and Vorgrimler call the “unbridled sentimentality and religious trash”* to which we all succumb and instead judge the veneration of saints in Catholicism as generously as you can. Herewith a quick comparison of veneration, intercession, and canonisation in the Catholic and Mormon traditions.
Sarah arose early in the morning. She looked out and saw Abraham saddling the donkey as though for a journey. Later he came in and said, “God has commanded me to bring Isaac up to a mountain that he will show me, there to offer a sacrifice.” Sarah watched them ride off together. [Read more...]
Readers of BCC will have noticed a persistent interest here in things Anglican. If it isn’t Kristine reminding us once again that on the eighth day God made British choirboys, there are all the posts in the Mormon Lectionary Project, Ronan’s Christian Disciplines series, or John F.’s posts about occasions when Mormons get liturgical (including this Rosh Hashanah post). Occasionally, people wonder about the implications of all this crypto-Anglicanism. I mean, isn’t it good that Mormons left some of this stuff behind, the light of the Restoration dispelling the shadows of apostasy?
A number of months ago, I read an interesting entry in Frederick Kesler’s diary. He was a bishop in Salt Lake City, and on October 19, 1876 he attended a bishops’ meeting and had summarized Brigham Young’s instructions. Bill Hartley briefly mentions this meeting as an antecedent to Young’s more comprehensive ecclesiastical reforms in 1877. [n1] Kesler’s reaction is quite imformative:
Mormon Lectionary Project: The Presentation, Year A
The Collect: O Lord: as we turn to thy Temple in our hearts and with our actions, wilt thou, we pray, send thy Presence into our midst and make us, the body of thy Church, into a living Temple, that by thy grace we might become a refuge of holiness for the distressed of the earth.
Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it (John Wesley).
At the risk of breaking Jesus’ injunction to keep schtum about one’s fasting habits, I am pretty good at fasting. I generally fast twice a week, meaning 2×24 hours without food, and began this year with a two-day fasting (non-)binge. I do this for health reasons, because I simply cannot do moderation — I cannot eat moderately, it is either all or nothing. For five days a week it is all, for two it is nothing. This way I am able to keep my weight down. It works.
So when Foster talks about epic multi-week fasts I think I could do it. I am a faster. Hooray! [Read more...]
Holy Innocents, Year A
The Collect: We remember today, Heavenly Father, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. [Read more...]
Earlier this week, photographs emerged of Pope Francis cradling a disfigured man in his arms. The powerful images of the Pope’s benevolent touch of blessing spread quickly around the Web. At first the caption accompanying the pictures indicated that the man was disfigured by boils. But many of us knew better as soon as we saw the pictures. More accurate reporting now confirms that the condition suffered by the man before Pope Francis is a form of neurofibromatosis or NF. It is a none too rare genetic disorder that afflicts up to 1 in 3,000 people in the U.S. to one degree or another. (The man pictured obviously has a pretty severe case—the scars of operations on his face are discernible in the photo.) NF is characterized by tumors (fibromas) that, though usually non-cancerous, nevertheless can have serious health impacts. The tumors tend to form along nerves, degrading vision, hearing, and cognitive abilities and causing chronic—and sometimes severe—pain; bones can be significantly weakened and deformed, and the skin blotched and sometimes disfigured. Because this is a genetic disorder, there is no cure, only procedures and protocols to help mitigate the consequences. NF can be fatal, but in the West, life expectancies approach just under seven years of the norm.
They released me from Primary, and people keep congratulating me on “graduating” and “coming back to adult church.” I don’t feel like being congratulated. I’m sad.
People say I was in there a long time, and I say, “Not so long. Only three years.” And they’re like, “Only three years?” Well, considering I was content to stay there the rest of my life, yes, three years doesn’t seem like a very long time at all. [Read more...]
We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. We believe that these ordinances are 1st, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 2d, Repentance; 3d, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; 4th, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- Joseph Smith, the Wentworth Letter, 1842
It is the privilege of all Sisters living as they should to administer the ordinances to their Sisters in sickness & the little ones in faith & humility even being careful to give God the Glory.
- Zina D. H. Young, discourse at the first Annual General Relief Society Conference, 1889
There’s a lot of buzz about our missionary work lately. The most obvious change, of course, is the age-requirement, and more specifically in allowing women to serve at 19. More has been written on the possible benefits of this change than I can touch on here, and it’s not my gist anyway. I want to talk about something else: I want to talk about the subtle shift in emphasizing not our unique Mormon-ness, but rather our basic similarities with broader Christendom. [Read more...]
So last night my fifteen-year-old daughter had a very inconveniently timed existential crisis, prompted by the fact that in June the Sunday School and Young Women lessons are all going to be about the priesthood. That’s two hours straight of priesthood priesthood priesthood for four Sundays in a row. My daughter is a rather volatile young lady who is fixated on gender issues in the church. As she said to me last night, “I don’t necessarily want the priesthood, but I just want to understand why [it's only given to men].” I don’t think it’s an unreasonable question, why. I just don’t expect her to get any satisfaction on that count. At least not any more than I’ve gotten in my forty-two years of being Mormon.
It is one thing to be 42 and decide that you can live without knowing why (not only when it comes to the priesthood, but when it comes to anything). But that sort of reconciliation comes only after years of disappointment. To get to this point, I had to endure many years of confusion and frustration. At some point I decided, “Well, I’m a Mormon, for better or worse, so [shrug].” It worked for me. In case you were wondering, this strategy has not translated well to explaining things to my fifteen-year-old, who is still in the process of figuring out what she believes. She expects some answers, dammit! (Only she doesn’t say “dammit,” because that would be rude.) [Read more...]
Trigger Warning: the following post contains frank discussion of childhood trauma induced by another and the aftermath. This is a trigger warning as well as general warning to those who may feel uncomfortable with the subject matter.
I was raped and sexually abused by a next door neighbor as a very young child. He threatened to kill me and my family if I told. I say this only to put this post into the context of my lived experience.
The problem with chewed gum, worn shoes, licked cupcakes, crushed roses and sticky candy (none of these lessons I’ve ever actually been taught) have been discussed enough here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, lots of times here, here and a million other places. These lessons are terrible in their own right and hurt women and girls in real ways. However I reject the notion that without these lessons rape victims would feel a sense of self and worth and cry out, fight back, and be whole.
Little girls in Bangladesh feel worthless and unwanted after rape without lessons of chewed gum, licked cupcakes and Jesus. In a matter of moments rape sucks every drop of self-will out of you. In that moment of compulsion, God granted self-determination no longer exists. Your body is beholden to the violence and lust of another. There is nothing you can do and it changes you forever. You wonder if you have any choices at all. You wonder if you will ever be able to act—or will only be acted upon, dependant on the mercy of merciless.
You replay it over and over and try to stop it, to fix it. You can’t, but you keep trying. You wonder why God let it happen, and you are told it’s because of agency-and you pretend you still have yours. The truth is religion can be very harmful. My own religion can be very harmful. [Read more...]
Valiant 8 child: Can I have my shoe back?
Sister J: That depends. What are you going to do with your shoe?
Valiant 8: …
Sister J: What would Jesus want you to do with your shoe?
Valiant 8: … Wear it?
Sister J: Go and do thou likewise.
The other day I was talking to my sister on the phone and she mentioned something about teaching Relief Society. “How is that going?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s going all right,” she said. “I guess. I enjoy it, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. Does it make sense that you can enjoy something you’re not any good at?”
I said it made perfect sense to me because I love being a Primary teacher, and I’m terrible at it. [Read more...]
Over the last several years, the Church History Library (CHL) has worked diligently to first make their catalog publically available on the internet, and then to make selections from its holdings similarly available. Last year I reviewed digitization efforts across the various institutions contributing to the field. One small and recent change in the CHL catalogue has made me aware of the significant progress that has been made by the Church History Department in this area.
9 No seas como el caballo o como el mulo, que no tienen entendimiento;
cuyos arreos incluyen brida y freno para sujetarlos,
porque si no, no se acercan a ti
10 Muchos son los dolores del impío,
pero al que confía en el SEÑOR, la misericordia lo
11 Alegraos en el SEÑOR y rogocijaos, justos;
dad voces de júbilo, todos los rectos de corazón.
Madrid, March 30, 2013 — john f.: A motley crew of Mormons walking The Way of St. James might seem strangers on the Camino indeed. This will not be the first time that Jordan and I have raised eyebrows as Mormons in a culturally non-Mormon setting. Nearly fifteen years ago we studied Yiddish together in Vilnius — many of our fellow students young and old, I recall, found it very amusing that a couple of Mormon brothers were among them. [Read more...]
J. Kirk Richards is my favorite LDS artist. His newest book is a limited edition anthology of fine art prints, hand bound in leather and hand finished with wood panels. Each of the forty works contained in the book is a different image of Christ. I’ve been a huge fan of Kirk’s work for years, and I am honored that he recently asked me to write a short forward to the book. For me, this is devotional art at its absolute best, and I explain why in my introduction to these striking images, which follows below:
It is not uncommon for Mormons to speculate about which LDS Apostles have seen Jesus Christ in person. [Read more...]
I have recently become more interested in the historical Jesus. For me, the starting point of my Christian faith must be an understanding of who the mortal Jesus was and what he was trying to do for his contemporaries. There are other Jesuses, of course — the premortal Word and the Christ of the Church — but given the absolute theological centrality of the historical Incarnation, I want to know how Jesus of Nazareth was meant to be understood in the context of 1st century Palestinian Judaism. I believe in Jesus’ divinity but it is his divinity as uniquely embedded in a historical moment that most compels me. I am also more and more convinced that Jesus was attempting to change men’s hearts in the here and now. That is not to ignore the promise of “treasure in heaven” but I think the real value of that promise is to guarantee a happy ending — and thus provide a relief – to our mortal travails. It is in this context that I would like to offer the following reading of the Last Supper. [Read more...]
If you have ever been to Nauvoo, the chances are very good that you have visited the Scovil Bakery. The original owners were Lucius and Lucy Scovil (sometimes written as Scoville), and it is located on the west side of Main Street, south of the LDS visitor’s center. If you were lucky, the missionaries at the bakery gave you a gingerbread cookie. [Read more...]
Mat’s suggestion of hanging the Manifesto on his wall instead of the Proclamation on the family reminded me of a favorite discussion topic of mine: obnoxious feminist sayings I would like to put in a counted cross-stitch sampler. Examples: “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life,” “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people,” or my favorite, from Franklin S. Richards on woman suffrage in Utah: “If the price of statehood is the disfranchisement of one half of the people…I am content to share with them the disabilities of territorial vassalage till the time shall come, as it will come in the providence of God, when all can stand side by side on the broad platform of human equality, of equal rights, and equal capacity.” The reason for cross-stitching them, of course, would be to see how many months it would take one’s visiting teacher to notice the horrific sentiments thus displayed.
There’s a serious point beneath the humor (there always is with me; can’t help it–I’m descended from a long line of depressive Swedish preachers), that we often form judgments of what is appropriately Mormon based on issues of style. One of the things I loved most about the summer seminar on women’s history at BYU last year was how Claudia Bushman would come to gatherings with her needlepoint in hand. From time to time she would look up, smile, say something jaw-droppingly radical like, “maybe someday they’ll have special wards just for single sisters,” or “Mormon feminism is dead,” and then go back to stitching. Half the time people, even quite conservative people, would just nod and go on with the discussion. When Aileen Clyde visited, we all noticed how she, every inch the picture of East Bench gentility could say things in her perfectly modulated church lady voice that NOBODY could possibly get away with saying. I could say things about why it’s good for women to work outside the home that nobody else could say, because I am (for now, and for as long as I can stand it) a dumpy stay-at-home mom with three cute blond children.
So here are my questions for you self-proclaimed liberals: how much do you self-censor or adapt yourself to the prevailing styles of expression in order to fit in with your congregations? (especially those outside of Cambridge or Manhattan) Is this bad, or is it a useful way to check your prejudices and knock the sharp edges off of your opinions? What happens if you don’t do it, or if you’re not good at it?