Recently, I read Elder Holland’s talk from the October 2010 General Conference. Entitled “Because of Your Faith,” Elder Holland describes the sacrifices and support that has been offered to him personally and to the Church generally and says thank you. It is a heart-felt act of gratitude for the many people who serve in the church; specifically, gratitude for the many people who serve in the church in the Mormon corridor today and therein lies the rub. [Read more...]
In this episode, Scott B. listens in while Aaron Brown tells a story from his mission that probably should have stayed in his mission.
Links for your convenience:
This is the final installment in a review of Peter Vardy’s book Good and Bad Religion (London: SCM, 2010).
Vardy would have us ignore truth claims in our appraisal of religion, fraught as they are with epistemological headaches and what not. Do not judge Scientology on the credibility of Xenu but by the behaviours and ideologies which Scientology promotes. [Read more...]
One year ago today, I sent out an email to a few hundred contacts, announcing that I had posted 18 lengthy interviews with interesting Mormon women on a new website, http://www.mormonwomen.com. On the first anniversary of the launch of the Mormon Women Project, Bethany’s interview represents the best of what the MWP offers: authentic, comprehensive insights into the lives of women whose life paths deviate from our stereotyped ideal (either by choice or by circumstance) but who treasure their relationships with their Savior. Bethany was confronted with her husband’s pornography addiction four years ago, and has since gone through different stages of hurt and healing which she shares openly in this interview.
Voting is over, and the 2010 Gentile of the Year is Judge Vaughn Walker!
A few weeks ago I finally yielded to the raves of several friends and gave Fox’s hit show Glee a try. Over the past few weeks, my husband and I have raced through all of Season 1 on Netflix. It’s everything my friends said it would be: funny, charming, musical, a bit campy. What struck me immediately was that amid the knowingness and too-smart-to-be-anything-but-cynical vibe that defines everything in our generation, this show stands out as relentlessly cheerful. I searched and scrutinized for the “we’re being so happy ironically angle,” but my search was in vain. This really was earnestly chipper. Je savais what this je ne sais quoi was: it was high-octane Mormon.
That’s right, if BYU-TV thinks they have a patent on happy-go-lucky “see the good in the world,” it’s past time for their lawyers to initiate a barrage of cease and desist letters to Fox headquarters. Yet the litany of reasons why Glee re-runs won’t be syndicated on BYU-TV anytime soon is lengthy and pointed.
Women are endowed with special traits and attributes that come trailing down through eternity from a divine mother. Young women have special God-given feelings about charity, love, and obedience. Coarseness and vulgarity are contrary to their natures. They have a modifying, softening influence on young men. Young women were not foreordained to do what priesthood holders do. Theirs is a sacred, God-given role, and the traits they received from heavenly mother are equally as important as those given to the young men.
—Vaughn J. Featherstone, October 1987
This past year I was asked to give a talk on the value of motherhood in our Mother’s Day sacrament meeting service. As I prepared the talk, I posed two questions to a number of women and mothers I know, including my wife.
What is the thing you most enjoy hearing in talks about motherhood?
What is the thing you most dread hearing in such talks?
The answer, it turns out, in virtually all cases, was identical. For both questions: [Read more...]
Like many of you, I’m never entirely sure what the word “feminism” or “feminist” is supposed to mean. Sometimes it’s used as a scandalous epithet, other times it’s worn as a badge of honor, but in most conversations the precise definition intended by any given speaker remains opaque to me. Nevertheless, I’m going to tell you precisely when I first became a “Mormon feminist”. And by this, I simply mean that I’m going to describe the “moment” (and its aftermath) when I first realized not all was well in Zion with respect to our discourse about and treatment of women.
So in October we had a fifth-Sunday combined RS/PH lesson, and the bishop talked to us about pornography. Or rather, about the problem of pornography. (I don’t want to make our fifth-Sunday lessons sound more exciting than they are.) It was depressing to me. Depressing mostly because my son just turned ten, and it really hit home to me that what’s left of his innocence is destined to be taken from him very quickly, and there’s nothing I can do to stop that. We live in a pornified culture. You know, sex is everywhere, everything’s about sex, blah blah, sex sex sex, blah blah. A local frozen yogurt shop used to have this billboard featuring a very attractive set of female breasts clad in a tight sweater, and the slogan was “We’ll fill any cup size.” And, you know, that’s not hardcore or anything, but it’s just…come on. Et tu, yogurt? This is the world we live in. So, yeah, I came home and told my husband (who works in Primary and doesn’t get to attend the combined fifth-Sunday lessons) that he had to have another birds-and-bees-ish talk with the ten-year-old. Then I shook the oogies off, and my work was done. [Read more...]
Kris Wright is a former BCC blogger.
Every important new discovery about the past changes how we think about the present, and what we expect from the future; on the other hand every change in the conditions of the present and in the expectations for the future revises our perceptions of the past. In this complex context, history is born ostensibly as a reflection on the past: a reflection which is never isolated from the present or the future. History deals with human life as it “flows” through time. 
Recently I listened to a podcast interview here at BCC in which Scott B. interviewed Jonathan Stapley about women and Mormon healing rituals. During the discussion, Jonathan was able to share his broad knowledge of Mormon history and spoke about the history of women and healing in his trademark erudite manner. Because I was already familiar with the historical sources used in the forthcoming paper and the conclusions drawn from them, the most interesting part of the podcast for me occurred in the final eleven minutes, where the theme of the uses of history and the question of objectivity emerged. Scott asked Jonathan what his hopes were for the paper and what it meant for the modern LDS Church. [Read more...]
The BCC Zeitcast returns with a brand new season!
In this two-part episode, Scott B. and J. Stapley discuss the long-promised and oft-cited paper on Female Ritual Healing which Stapley and BCC Emeritus Kris Wright co-authored, and which will be published in the Winter 2011 Journal of Mormon History, due out this January. [Read more...]
Yesterday morning I attended the worldwide training broadcast announcing and distributing the new edition of the General Handbook of Instructions. Below are some notes and thoughts I had from the meeting. For those also in attendance, please add your own highlights in the comments. Everyone can watch an archive of the broadcast (I expect that will be a routine instruction to newly called presidencies for some time).
I am an economist, both by educational background and by profession. However, when people ask about my work or education, I have found that referring to myself simply as “an economist” results in almost universal confusion. This confusion manifests itself in the typical responses, most of which are variations on “So, you look at the economy and stuff?” At this juncture, I generally explain that I am not “that kind of economist”—I am not a macroeconomist. Rather, I am a microeconomist. A common misconception is that most economists care about GDP, unemployment rates, and monetary inflation–topics studied by macroeconomists. The truth is, most of us economists not only don’t care about those sorts of things, we actually dislike them and actively seek to forget everything we learned about them in grad school. [Read more...]
“The assault on moral principles and religious freedom has never been stronger…. there are also people who are determined to both destroy faith and reject any religious influence in society….” Quentin L. Cook, Let There Be Light, October 2010 General Conference.
It is hard to understand what Cook, as well as other Mormon speakers in recent years making similar arguments, means when he refers to “religious freedom.” I am, as always, tempted to ask what is happening today which limits our ability to worship more than the conflict between the church and the US government over plural marriage, when the church was disincorporated and lost most of its property. But restraint on ability to worship seems not to be central to what Cook has in mind in referring to religious freedom. Instead, the operative issue here involves a perceived rejection of “religious influence in society.” Let me allow Cook to elaborate: [Read more...]
The Church has just issued an official response to the petition offered by the Human Rights Campaign. Article from the HRC here; full article available from the LDS Newsroom here. Text of the official response below:
My name is Michael Otterson. I am here representing the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to address the matter of the petition presented today by the Human Rights Campaign.
While we disagree with the Human Rights Campaign on many fundamentals, we also share some common ground. This past week we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men. We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty, or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation, or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society. [Read more...]
Welcome back to By Common Consent’s live coverage of the 180th Semiannual General Conference. We appreciate your willingness to reject your neighbors’ brunchly advances this Sabbath day in favor of staring at a computer screen. Don’t forget to check out our minute-by-minute coverage on Twitter in addition to coverage on the blog. We also encourage you to (if you’re not already doing so) watch Conference live, streaming from LDS.org.
(On site today are Kristine Haglund, M Miles, and the Crawdaddy himself, John C.)
The only thing better than 3 hours of Church on Sunday is 4 hours of Church on Sunday! Who’s with me?!?
Welcome back to By Common Consent’s live coverage of the 180th Semiannual General Conference, as the Saturday afternoon session is about to get started. Don’t forget to check out our minute-by-minute coverage on Twitter in addition to coverage on the blog. We also encourage you to (if you’re not already doing so) watch Conference live, streaming from LDS.org.
Only 8 more hours to go, folks. [Read more...]
Discussion abounds of late on Institutional apologies. Using Derrida’s work on forgiveness I think it is possible to argue that the Church should not ask for forgiveness. Most often such calls are contextualised around the Priesthood ban or Homosexuality. From the outset I want to be clear that I am not taking any position regarding the inspiration of the ban or Prop 8 nor that the discourse to support these positions is correct. In fact I am assuming the opposite simply because most ‘calls for an apology’ come from people who accept that these actions/decisions were mis-guided. [Read more...]
[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]
My friend Damon’s new book, The Religious Test: Why We Must Question the Beliefs of Our Leaders, will be published later this month. It’s already attracting attention (partly due to a well-placed précis of the book which Damon wrote for the Washington Post), and it should: it’s an excellent book. It isn’t so much a scholarly work that will fundamentally affect how people think about the history, nature, and role of religious belief in a liberal society like our own, but a thoughtful and scholarly work of argument, one that has the potential to orient much of our thinking about religious candidates for office and religious claims in public life generally. The thesis of the book, in a nutshell? Damon is a liberal, through and through, and he worries about what he sees as all the illiberal ways (some of which are easily recognized, but some of which are not) in which the American electorate, voters and parties and interest groups alike, often fail to ask the hard–even “religious”–questions of those who come before us, asking for a vote with one hand, while keeping their Bible (or Koran, or Book of Mormon) close by with the other. [Read more...]
On Tuesday, BYU’s student newspaper, the Daily Universe, published a letter to the editor from pre-med student Cary Crall about Prop. 8 and the ensuing Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial. Crall noted that many of the arguments that were used during the campaign were never even presented at trial, and those that were presented did not stand up to Judge Walker’s scrutiny. Crall’s letter concludes that, “The real reason [for supporting Prop. 8] is that a man who most of us believe is a prophet of God told us to support the amendment.” His letter has since been removed from the Daily Universe website (the above link is to google cache), with this explanation:
Todd Compton is an independent historian, having published many articles and books. He is perhaps best known for writing In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. He has two forthcoming volumes; the first, co-authored with Leland Gentry is due out soon: Fire and the Sword: A History of the Latter-Day Saints in Northern Missouri from 1836 to 1839 (Kofford Books). The second volume is a biography of Jacob Hamblin. This review was originally given by him at Sunstone West, March 27, 2010.
Recently a friend expressed some anxiety over the possibility that his daughters might serve missions for the LDS Church. He was concerned that such an experience might lead them to internalize too much of the intensely sexist rhetoric and behaviour that is observable among some LDS missionaries. The following day, while meandering on Temple Square, two sister missionaries intercepted me and began trying to obtain a referral. In that conversation I learned something so obvious that I am ashamed it had never occurred to me before, but which I think could influence the ‘missionary culture’ if it was universally adopted: Sister missionaries, in that mission, hold leadership positions. [Read more...]
Sometime married people get themselves into a situation that is hard to get out of. An issue between them — how to raise the kids, how to spend the money, what to do about the future — becomes so contentious and difficult for them to talk about that they both get tired of arguing, throw up their hands, and give up. It’s easier in the short run — no more fighting! — but in the meantime the checkbook doesn’t get balanced, the kids don’t get any clear direction, and the future approaches anyway, whether they are prepared or not.
Over the weekend I wrote a post responding to the court decision to overturn Prop. 8. It was very cathartic for me. I took everything that I’d ever thought or tried to write about same-sex marriage and distilled it to its essence, which was 1,841 words–long for a blog post, but most of my blog posts are (too) long, and when you consider the tens of thousands of words I had to work with, I’d call it a pretty awesome distillation. Of course, you will just have to take my word for it because once I had finished writing, I knew that I wouldn’t publish it. [Read more...]
Over the past few weeks, I have been discussing with friends the merits of a case where the DOJ is prosecuting a pornographer for distributing obscene material—regular old pornography without children, violence, or anything else to make it especially objectionable. In the minds of most people I’ve spoken with, this case is easy: It should not even have been brought to court. [Read more...]
Thoughts of fasting last month have turned me to other forms of physical deprivation that have been used in religious communities to great effect. During the Kirtland holy season (1835-36), the Saints occasionally held portentous meetings, familiar from broader evangelical culture, in which they stayed up all night praying and singing and worshiping, waiting for the endowment of power that would attend their earnest pleas for the divine presence. [Read more...]