Dear BBC

[Available on Youtube]

To: James Jones, Producer, The Mormon Candidate

Re: This World: The Mormon Candidate (BBC2)

Dear Mr Jones,

If we are to follow the educational philosophy of Charles Dickens’s  Thomas Gradgrind — “In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!” — then we would find little to complain about in John Sweeney’s BBC account of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Sweeney, the BBC’s go-to cult hunter, famous for his aggressive encounter with Scientology, provided a number facts about Mormonism that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints simply cannot deny.

They are, inter alia: Mormon prophet Joseph Smith married upwards of 30 women. The Egyptian of the extant fragments of the Book of Abraham is not directly related to Smith’s translation. Mormons once swore blood oaths in their temples. As a conservative religion, Mormonism can be a rather alienating place for those whose faith wanders from orthodoxy. The church maintains its own Vatican-like Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. &c.

Some of these facts, and others besides, are bound to make uncomfortable viewing for Mormons. Some are defensible, others are not. Many strike at the heart of Mormonism’s curse as a pre-modern religion that has come of age in a modern and post-modern age. The patina of history has rendered benign the strange beliefs and practices of some more ancient religions. Mormonism is not so lucky and this is why facts, polemically deployed, are not always as truthful as Gradgrind, and Sweeney, would have us believe. [Read more...]

Jon McNaughton’s Idea Journal

For centuries artists and lovers of art alike have studied the masters, hoping for a glimpse into the process of creative genius. Now, an unprecedented find. A never before seen look into the mind of one of the greatest painters our generation has seen…

[Read more...]

Reader Question Box #9: Is Sufjan Stevens Mormon?

Sufjan wings

Sufjan Stevens

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions that show up in our website traffic monitoring statistics as Google search terms that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. (In case you missed our previous editions: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8)

Questions: “sufjan stevens lds?” “is sufjan stevens mormon”
Answer: Oh, I wish it were so! However, it is easy enough to prove that he isn’t:

As you can see in the photo, Sufjan has wings. We all know that Mormon angels don’t have wings. Therefore, we can say decisively that Sufjan is not Mormon. QED.
[Read more...]

Review: Stephens and Giberson, “The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age”

Title: The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age
Author: Randall J. Stephens and Karl W. Giberson 
Publisher: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press
Genre: Evangelicalism
Year: 2011
Pages: 356
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN13: 9780674048188
Price: $29.95

If the word “Evangelical” popped up in a word association game, hair-trigger responses might include words like “Republican,” “anti-evolution,” “Jerry Falwell,” or “fundamentalist.” Word association games aren’t usually the best way to understand religion. (When it comes to Mormons, “polygamy” usually tops the list.) Numbering an estimated one hundred million people—sixteen million in the Southern Baptist Convention alone (7, 187)—the American evangelical community is actually more diverse than these labels can hope to communicate. Politically, the spectrum ranges from conservative to liberal (though perhaps heavily weighted toward the former), all bound loosely together by a common commitment to the necessity of being “born again” through Jesus Christ. Such Christians have no central authoritative body and no single all-encompassing creed. But the open marketplace of religion in the United States has provided space for an evangelical “parallel culture,” complete with its own schools, publishing houses, music industry, summer camps, school accreditation agencies, historians, scientists, and family counselors. [Read more...]

Review: Matthew Bowman, “The Mormon People”

The Mormon People (cover)Title: The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith
Author: Matthew Bowman
Publisher: Random House
Genre: History
Year: 2012
Pages: 352
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0679644903
Price: $26.00

Hallelujah! The world needed an accessible, neutral, brief, birth-to-present history of Mormonism, and it needed it right now. Matthew Bowman has written that book. Including every relevant moment from the boy Joseph’s leg operation to Twilight, and from suffragist Emmeline Wells to Broadway’s Elder Price, all in a slim 253 pages (plus several appendices), Bowman works a space-packing miracle reminiscent of Dr. Who’s TARDIS or Mary Poppins’ carpet bag. Opinion makers in the media, politics, and academia who want to join the conversation about Mormons will be well prepared by this brisk and rigorous overview, and I imagine many keeping a heavily Post-It-noted copy near at hand in the coming months and years. Bowman’s work shines most brightly in its detailed rendering of the uniquely fertile soil for religious innovation in the time and place of young Joseph Smith’s America, and its painstakingly balanced study of the early origins of the church. Interested outsiders will also find, in Chapter 8, an excellent portrait of daily life for “an active, committed Mormon family” today, including the rhythms of weekly meetings and activities, and private devotional life such as Family Home Evening.
[Read more...]

Roundtable: Mormons & the Zombie Apocalypse

BCC has never shied away from difficult topics. Indeed, throughout its history, bloggers and friends of BCC have often convened into roundtable discussions to address some of the sticky issues that face us as a religion and as human beings. Past discussions have dealt with depression, correlation, historicity, and the status of women in the church. Today, BCC Labs continues this fine tradition by talking about zombies.

Steve Evans, Scott B., Sir Ronan, Matt Page, and guest Matt Bowman have graciously taken the time to contribute their thoughts to this timely discussion. [Read more...]

Review: Joanna Brooks’ The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith

Our own Matsby illuminates Joanna’s life with this swe-eet (like as in uniquely AWESOME mixed with “aw, the sweetness of Mormon life”) cover art.

The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith
Joanna Brooks
Queenbee Industries, 2012
Amazon Kindle Edition, 243 KB (page count as yet unknown, print release slated for February, preorder info here)

Discomfited.

But mostly in a good way. That’s how I felt finishing Joanna Brooks’ memoir The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith. I found many of her descriptions eerily parallel to my own growing up as a Mormon girl with the differences being that I grew up on a farm in Utah instead of in the orange groves of California and I came around ten years later. I think it was both by design and due to her talent as a writer that I so easily felt pulled by the threads of similarity that my own Mormon girl story started interweaving with Joanna’s.

[Read more...]

Nominations: Boggs-Doniphan Gentile of the Year Award 2011

Trophy

Disclaimer: not the actual B-D trophy.

2011 may be the Year of the Mormon, but in keeping with tradition we will still condescend to acknowledge one lucky person outside the faith this year. Yes, it is time for nominations for the fourth annual Boggs-Doniphan Gentile of the Year Award!
[Read more...]

What I want from a Nativity film

I find most Bible films to be unsatisfying. Here’s what I would like to see in a Nativity film:

1. Authentic-looking actors. I realise that a film is by its very nature make believe, but any attempt to reproduce the biblical world has to look and sound right. [Read more...]

2011: The Year of the Mormon

What a wild year it’s been. Never has Mormonism been so culturally relevant, and never has the undulating curve of popular opinion shifted so wildly, so quickly. As the year draws to a close, I think we’re safe in naming 2011 “The Year of the Mormon.” The BCC permas have picked out a few reasons why:

[Read more...]

The Other Place — A Momo’s Ode To Rod

This guest post comes from frequent BCC reader Erich (comments under “Observer fka Eric S.”). Other submissions from him can be found here and here.

Rod Serling was one of my heroes growing up. Still is. His genius is what bromances are made of. Best known for his psychodrama series, The Twilight Zone, Serling pioneered the television drama into what it is today.*

Season 1, episode 28 of the The Twilight Zone is entitled, “A Nice Place To Visit” after the saying, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I would not want to live here.” The episode begins with law enforcement officers shooting a career thief in an alleyway. In the afterlife the thief is informed that he is dead and is given a guardian angel–who happens to be a middle-aged handsome gentleman. The guardian angel then escorts the thief to a mansion, where he is served a delicious dinner, given a hot shower, and told that the mansion is his. [Read more...]

(POLITICAL) SCIENCE!

The usual suspects return for another entry in the BCC Labs series. See prior entries herehere, and here.

BCC Labs is always working on innovative ways of maximizing the upsides of your online Latter-day Saint information consumption, interaction, and generation experience . Studies have shown that the marginalization of insufficiently critical approaches to the theological exploration of appropriate ethical behavioral actualizations by means of negative sporting and humorous contumely are market desirable. Therefore it is with great excitement that BCC Labs presents to you its latest innovation: The Student Review’s Political Analysis, examined through the window of (Political) Science!

Before we present the material being studied, let’s have a quick refresher of BCC Lab’s methods of examination. [Read more...]

Review: Davis Bitton, “Knowing Brother Joseph Again: Perceptions and Perspectives”

Title: Knowing Brother Joseph Again: Perceptions and Perspectives 
Author: Davis Bitton
Publisher: Greg Kofford Books
Genre: Biography
Year: 2011
Pages: 197
Binding: Paperback
ISBN13: 978-1-58958-123-4
Price: $19.95 (Kindle, $9.95)

The fluidity of personality; the fallibility of perception; ambiguous memory construction; the happenstance instances of recording; the ravages of time. Just a few minor things to consider when trying to recall important events in my own life. And if I face such challenges regarding the things I’ve personally witnessed, how much more cautious should I be when dealing with history? With a particular historical figure? Named Joseph Smith. Who was he? So many different Josephs to choose from.

This is the general lesson LDS historian Davis Bitton hoped to convey in his book, Knowing Brother Joseph Again: Perceptions and Perspectives (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011). [Read more...]

Review: Steven Pinker, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”

Title: The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
Author: Steven Pinker
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Science/Philosophy
Year: 2011
Pages: 832
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN13: 9780670022953
Price: $40

Steven Pinker strongly disagrees with the Beatles. Love, he argues, is certainly not “all you need.” At least, not if you’re interested in decreasing human violence (592). But judging by Pinker’s latest book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, he’s also not a cynical pessimist. He’d more likely sing along with another Beatles classic:

It’s getting better all the time…
Better, Better, Better.
It’s getting better all the time…
Better Better Better.
Getting so much better all the time!

Better Angels is physically and intellectually thick, but it’s actually tackling a few very basic things like anger, love, empathy, and reason. Are humans inherently good or evil? Rather than presenting a history of human thought on that question, Pinker makes his own case that human violence has decreased alongside an increase in human intelligence. [Read more...]

BCC Zeitcast 74: Matt Bowman, Bigfoot, Monsters, & Mormons

In this special Halloween episode, Scott B. and Steve Evans play host to BCC’s long-time friend and Juvenile Instructor blogger Matt Bowman, who thrills the children with tales of Cain, Bigfoot, and secret UFO societies. Later, recent BCC guest blogger Theric (Eric Jepson) gives us an update on the soon-to-be-released anthology “Monsters and Mormons.”

And if that lineup isn’t sufficient, our very own Kristine Haglund checks in to help the ladies design Halloween costumes depicting famous Mormon women.


Episode Content Guide (below the fold) [Read more...]

New Flunking Sainthood Contest

In conjunction with Jana Reiss’ new book, Flunking Sainthood, we’re pleased to offer a new contest: storytelling. We want to hear your stories of when you’ve been honest about who you really are at Church. Says Jana, “I would like our contest to be for people to tell stories of times they allowed themselves to be really vulnerable and candid in a church setting — both positive and negative stories.” [Read more...]

Awkward Mormon Family Photos, Part II

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the original Awkward Mormon Family Photos post, so it is time for a sequel. For each photo in the list, I make my case that the people in the photo are Mormon. In the comments, please provide your own ratings, evidences and rebuttals of the Latter-day Sainthood of the people in following images:
[Read more...]

Finally Weighing in on the Jeffress-Romney Thing….

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

(I’ve no deep interest in the whole current morass of Republican party politics and anti-Mormonism, partly because I’ve gone through the whole thing before, and partly because many others have weighed in with thoughts much better than my own. Still, last Friday I sent this editorial off to my local newspaper, responding to a piece by Robert “Mormonism is a cult” Jeffress which had appeared that morning, and today they actually ran it, though I had to cut down my essay to under 600 words, which was simply criminal. Anyway, here’s the original, longer version of the piece. Read and enjoy.) [Read more...]

Review: Craig Harline, “Conversions”

Title: Conversions: Two Family Stories From the Reformation and Modern America
Author: Craig Harline
Publisher: Yale University Press
Genre: History/Narrative
Year: 2011
Pages: xi, 320
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN13: 9780300167016
Price: $27.50

“The human intellect demands accuracy
while the soul craves meaning.
History ministers to both with stories.”1

Conversions, a new book by Craig Harline, presents exactly what the subtitle suggests: Two Family Stories From the Reformation and Modern America. In one story, Jacob Rolandus cuts himself off from his Reformed family by converting to Catholicism in 1654. In the other, the pseudonymous Michael Sunbloom converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the late 1970s, devastating his Evangelical Christian parents.

By juxtaposing these two narratives, Harline foregrounds a perennial question about the importance of historical scholarship: “So what?” This is the “relevance” question. Congratulations, Mr. Harline; while you’ve been digging around in dusty old archives or kicking back in your ivory tower, we’ve been out here creating jobs and doing other Important Things.

This is an attitude many historians are familiar with, as Harline himself candidly acknowledges: [Read more...]

Review: Howard C. Stutz, “Let the Earth Bring Forth: Evolution and Scripture”

Title: Let the Earth Bring Forth: Evolution and Scripture
Author: Howard C. Stutz
Publisher: Greg Kofford Books
Genre: Evolution/Religion
Year: 2011
Pages: xvi, 87
Binding: Softcover
ISBN13: 978-1-58958-126-5
Price: $15.95 ($9.95, Kindle)

“One of the greatest tragedies in recent times has been the extensive promulgation of creeds that have created chasms between science and religion. At no time in the history of humankind has science provided a more comprehensible panorama of the universe in which we live. Nor has there ever been a time when God has more clearly revealed Himself and His purposes to His children. Why then should there be so much apparent conflict between science and religion?” (xix).

Let the Earth Bring Forth is the culminating testimony of a man who spent his life successfully exploring the realms of faith and science. In addition to earning a Ph.D in genetics at UC Berkeley and teaching at Brigham Young University, Howard C. Stutz (b. 1918) served in various church callings from bishop, to high councilor, to stake patriarch. In university and church settings he interacted with students who were unsure of how to make sense of evolution from a faithful perspective. Shortly before passing away in 2010, Stutz completed his manuscript to “point out the harmony which exists between the theory of speciation by organic evolution and revealed truths contained in hold scriptures” (xv).

Stutz repeatedly emphasizes a few guiding principles throughout the book: [Read more...]

Becoming a Mormon: Thinking about a Brand with Elder Ballard

I am a recent convert to “Mormonism” myself. Not too many years ago you could find me vigorously arguing on Mormon-themed blogs about the importance of avoiding the word “Mormon” as a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[1] At the time, it felt like a concession to detractors of our faith to self-identify by the nickname they derisively gave to us in the nineteenth century. Ironically, however, it was precisely our nineteenth-century ancestors in the faith who had made peace with the descriptor and good-naturedly co-opted it to describe themselves, leaving us with the lasting nickname. [Read more...]

Review: N.T. Wright, “Scripture and the Authority of God”

Title: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today
Author: N. T. Wright
Publisher: HarperOne
Genre: Bible
Year: 2011
Pages: 224
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN13: 9780062011954
Price: $25.99

N.T. Wright has been called “the C.S. Lewis for our time.” Like Lewis, Wright is Anglican. Like Lewis, Wright’s overriding purpose is to demonstrate Christianity’s relevance for our times (Lewis with modernism, Wright with postmodernism). Lewis wrote Surprised by Joy, Wright wrote Surprised by Hope. Like Lewis, Wright’s style is cleverly engaging. This particular similarity is evident from the first line of Wright’s latest publication:

“Writing a book about the Bible is like building a sandcastle in front of the Matterhorn. The best you can hope to do is to catch the eye of those who are looking down instead of up, or those who are so familiar with the skyline that they have stopped noticing its peculiar beauty” (ix).

Odds are, if you’ve enjoyed Lewis’s theological or devotional writings, you’ll enjoy Wright’s. Some differences between the two deserve attention. Unlike Lewis, who was content to remain a lay Anglican, Wright once served as Bishop of Durham, and sat in the UK’s House of Lords. Unlike Lewis, who was an armchair theologian and literary critic whose fiction largely outranks his non-fiction, Wright is a distinguished Bible scholar who takes higher criticism much more seriously than Lewis could have. Lewis still serves as a safe source for many Mormons who are pleased to find similar theological ground in the works of a non-LDS author. Wright can easily serve a similar purpose for Mormons in regards to contemporary biblical scholarship.1 He has a knack for making complex academic discussions comprehensible to regular folk like me. It is with this in mind that I recommend his latest book, Scripture and the Authority of God.2 It’s a lot thicker than its 224 pages appear at first glance as evinced by this over-long, chapter-by-chapter review, but at least the prose is almost always accessible and the analogies creative! [Read more...]

Meet the Dargers

About a month ago a publicist wrote in to the BCC Admin address trying to get me a copy of a new book, Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage, by Joe, Alina, Vicki and Valerie Darger, with Brooke Adams (New York: HarperOne, 2011). I have to admit, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it at first. I had never heard of the Dargers or their book, and I assumed it was sort of a self-published thing that would be poorly written. But what the heck, I thought, I’ll take a flyer on it. I wrote back and told the woman she could send me a copy. [Read more...]

Should Mormons feel obligated to support Vocal Point in the Sing-Off?

This can apply to all sorts of reality-ish contests, but I want to focus on Vocal Point for two reasons. [Read more...]

Reader Question Box #6: “how do you pronounce paradisiacal”

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions that show up in our website traffic monitoring statistics as Google search terms that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. (In case you missed our previous editions: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5)

Question: “how do you pronounce paradisiacal” [Read more...]

Review: Eric W Jepson, et.al., “The Fob Bible”

Title: The Fob Bible
Editors: Eric W Jepson, B.G. Christensen, Sarah E. Jenkins, Danny Nelson
Publisher: Peculiar Pages
Genre: Bible
Year: 2009
Pages: 263
Binding: Various ebook, Paperback, Hardcover
ISBN13: 978-0-9817696-8-4
Price: $3.99-$27.99

During the Sunday morning session of General Conference, Elder Tad R. Callister used an illustration I remember from my mission. It was a dot, representing the Bible, with a bunch of lines running through it in all directions. The lines represented a slew of biblical interpretations. In the face of so many perspectives, a stabilizing way to approach the text might seem welcome.

A second dot is added, representing the Book of Mormon. Callister pointed out, by connecting the two dots, the Book of Mormon is understood as a clarifying tool for the Bible. His illustration is a simple way of saying that, for Mormons, the Book of Mormon is a useful hermeneutical device, not a replacement for, the Bible.

Without disagreeing with that general principle, dissecting the illustration uncovers interesting assumptions and possibilities. [Read more...]

A Little More Conversation

I was having dinner at Cynthia L’s house tonight, and she pointed out something that I’ve noticed as well: our Mormonism makes us more interesting to other people. People like inviting us to social events and chatting with us because we have that one weird thing that makes us distinct—a built-in conversation starter. “This is my friend Kyle…he’s a mormon!”

Of course, the chatting is easier lately, what with the “Mormon Moment” we’re enjoying. The stranger who just found out I’m mormon has a million ways to break the ice—BYU’s newly improved football visibility, the Broadway musical, the presidential candidate(s), the crazy polygamists, The Jimmer. The conversations can start in any number of ways, but they always seem to follow the same well-worn path:

  1. “Why aren’t you drinking?”
  2. “My best friend in high school was a mormon.”
  3. “What’s it like?”
  4. “I went to church as a kid but…”

[Read more...]

Givens and Grow Book Signing Event

Spend an Evening with the Authors

We are excited to announce the arrival of Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism by Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow, published by Oxford University Press. We will have both authors at our store to speak about and sign their book on Friday, October 14. They will be here from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., speaking at 6:00, and will answer questions and sign books before and after that time. [Read more...]

Review: Ethics and the Old Testament

Ethics and the Old TestamentEthics and the Old Testament by John Barton

Having had a go myself, I am always keen on efforts to talk sensibly about Old Testament ethics. Oxford professor John Barton’s slim volume offers a collection of his own lectures on biblical morality and does a very good job moving the conversation beyond simple caricatures of the text. [Read more...]

What to do after General Conference is Over

If you’re reading this, you’ve presumably already decided to imbibe 4 hours of boob-tube today, in addition to spending huge swathes of time cuddling with your computer, desperately hoping some esteemed BCC perma will acknowledge your witty comments. Those of you with a Y-chromosome may also make a trip to the Stake Center later and plop down in front of a make-shift movie theatre. Given your media overload, may I make a simple suggestion for how you might spend the rest of your day?

Watch. More. Television.
[Read more...]

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