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...]

The Fall

“What I want to do, I can’t do. I do what I hate.”

I recently relocated to the bucolic midwestern countryside.  Now autumn, and red-and-gold leaves, and harvests, and frost, are descending on us now faster than I expected.  Fall is my favorite time of year, because it is so gorgeous but also so brief; it really is a last gasp of concentrated beauty before the end.  I crunch through the leaves and I find myself reminded everywhere of the passing nature of beauty — and, internally, of the fall of man.  What causes our souls to seek separation from God, to grow along paths of development then suddenly depart away from them?  What causes us to fall from grace, again and again? What is wrong with us? [Read more...]

Reader Question Box #5: “what’s tmi for a sacrament meeting talk”

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, and #4)

Question: “what’s tmi for a sacrament meeting talk”
Answer: Sometimes it is best to learn by example, rather than explanation. I could describe to you what TMI for a sacrament meeting talk would be, but it would be so much more instructive to just get many examples, and I’m sure our readers have them!
[Read more...]

BCC Zeitcast 73: Ken Jennings vs. GST

BCC’s beloved podcast returns! It’s been months since the last podcast, but we hope the new episodes are worth the wait.

In this episode, Scott B. listens in as John C. outlines his hopes for the upcoming General Conference (Hint: 2-hour block!), BHodges talks with long-time BCC friend Ken Jennings about Ken’s new book “Maphead,” and Mormon blogging legend GST makes an appearance to tell the world what it feels like to be humiliated on national TV. And if that lineup isn’t sufficient, we also have the sound of our very own Kristine Haglund listening to songs by Michael McLean.

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

Review: Ken Jennings, “Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks”

Title: Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks
Author: Ken Jennings
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Geography
Year: 2011
Pages: 276
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN13: 978-1-4391-6717-5
Price: $25

I think that the constant study of maps is apt to disturb men’s reasoning powers,” Lord Salisbury, p. 207.

You have to wonder if Ken Jennings’s parents realized their son was a different sort of fellow when he chose to sleep with a World Atlas next to his pillow, rather than your average child’s teddy bear. As far back as he can remember he’s loved maps. While researching for his new book, Maphead, Jennings discovered he wasn’t alone. “Cartophilia” is alive and well, and Jennings hopes to spread the love: “If you never open a map until you’re lost,” he insists, “you’re missing out on all the fun” (120). [Read more...]

Through a Social Network, Darkly

A friend of mine from college passed away this week, after a long struggle with cancer. Hers was a sad passing (she was way too young) and a happy one (she’s free from pain now). I have many fun memories of her, and though I hadn’t seen her in 8 years, we kept in touch somewhat over Facebook.

She’s one of my first acquaintances to pass away in The Facebook Era, and she embraced the technology. She shared her struggles with her 700 Facebook friends, and she posted pictures of herself as the treatments took her hair and the cancer took her vitality. Her Wall was full of her cheerfulness in the face of adversity. Her Wall has also been covered with prayers and well-wishes for months, giving us all insight into just how many lives this woman has touched.

I have witnessed closer friends suffer from similar diseases, but never from the same vantage point as Facebook offered.

Let me step back for a moment to say that this is not a pity post.

[Read more...]

Reader Question Box #4: “what are the disadvantages of being a mormon”

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, and #3.)

Question: “is it harder to be an lawyer or architect”
Answer: I’m going to throw this one to the audience. Please note that our audience consists almost entirely of lawyers (see posts here and here), and interpret the result accordingly.


[Read more...]

“The scribe’s collaboration was necessary to Allah”

Italo Calvino’s If on a winter night a traveler is a novel of starts with no stops. Calvino explores language and the relationship between texts and readers. I happened to be reading it at the same time I was going through Brant A. Gardner’s new book The Gift and the Power: Translating the Book of Mormon. I’ll post my full review of Gardner tomorrow, but here’s an excerpt from Calvino to ponder in the meantime. [Read more...]

Thex makes me thad

Theric rides again!

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You know how sex makes me sad? I tell you how sex makes me sad. Sex makes me sad when people are talking about it and don’t think to invite me. What is that all about? Man alive. I’m an artist! Of course I want to talk about sex!

The problem is, no one wants to talk with me. In a 2009 issue of Irreantum, Bruce Jorgensen wrote a tired retread titled “Reading About Sex in Mormon Fiction — If We Can Read” which basically was the for-idiots version of his much better 1987 Dialogdue article on the topic. On Thutopia, I wrote a response to that article as part of my LDS Eros series (I’ve also written about the 1987 article) in which I pretended that Jorgensen should be reading my blog and know all about the interesting and scintillating and crazy-sexy things I’d been saying. In fact, as far as I know, I’ve had exactly one BYU professor read my blog exactly once. And if memory serves, he wasn’t interested in fictional-sex advice. So even if I am opening new doors and not just revisiting tired antiroach arguments, it doesn’t matter because I’m not part of the conversation. [Read more...]

Reader Question Box #3: “lds bishop ‘no more than two nights per week’”

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. #1 here, #2 here.

Question: “lds bishop ‘no more than two nights per week’”
Answer: Dear reader, No, being an LDS Bishop definitely takes more time than two nights per week. Typically, bishops will attend the weekly youth activity (Wednesday nights), then there are youth “firesides” (a kind of evening devotional, sometimes held at the church building and sometimes held in someone’s home) on many Sunday nights. Then there are the endless pastoral duties of meeting with individuals, couples and families in his office (couple nights a week) or visiting their homes. Just about the only night a Bishop is likely to have for his family (barring emergencies) is Monday night, which, by LDS tradition, everybody in the church reserves as “Family Home Evening” (brief scripture study/devotional, then board games and the like, then dessert). The church has perennial concern about the amount of time bishops, who are lay ministers with regular day jobs, spend in their service. Bishop’s wives, especially if they have young children, carry an enormous burden due to the frequent absence of their husbands (and of course children miss their dad). See BCC posts here and here.

Question: “is dry humping against law of chastity”
Answer: I’ll let our readers handle this one. [Read more...]

Theric wants to know: Who will be our Richard Cracroft, now that our Richard Cracroft is gone?

Theric continues his reign of terror as BCC’s guest-post extravaganza continues unabated. 
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First, let me recognize that not all Mormons who know how to read went to Brigham Young University*, but we certainly have enough alumni to agree that readers of BYU Magazine are not an insignificant number of reading Saints (~215,000). [Read more...]

Thanonymity and Thelf-promotion

BCC has officially decided that permas will no longer post. Instead, you’ll be subjected to a constant stream of guest posts, such as this one from Theric.

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I was on the AML blog last November declaring that

One of the reasons we want people’s real names for the bylines in Mormons & Monsters is because it’s time for us as artists to own up to our culture, our art, our heritage, our faith, our contradictions, our words, our selves.

Time to stop hiding.

The next comment accused me of hypocrisy, to which I could only think “What? What? What? DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM???”

I am Theric. I thought you knew that. [Read more...]

Reader Question Box #1: “is arby’s jamocha shake against word of wisdom”

Welcome to a new series! The WordPress.com software that runs BCC tabulates detailed statistics on traffic to this site. One thing it shows is what search queries led readers to BCC each day. Aside from the usual top traffic terms (“bycommonconsent” “by common consent” etc), there are always miscellaneous surprises. Sometimes, these search queries can spark ideas for a post, because they afford a window onto the topics our readers are wondering about and what questions they have. For example, here is an issue that one of our readers needs guidance on:

is arby’s jamocha shake against word of wisdom

[Read more...]

Quantifying My Own Mormon “Small World” on Facebook

This press release from BYU caught my geeky eye:

The group of computer science students developed a Facebook app called “Relative Finder.”

Most other genealogical Facebook applications are based only on your living family and at best can connect you with third or fourth cousins. The Relative Finder app goes back an average of nine or ten generations because it connects to the genealogical information [in new FamilySearch].

It can even show you your relationship to famous historical figures like the signers of the Declaration of the Independence, apostles and prophets from the early days of the restored church, American presidents and many more.

[Read more...]

Mormons are Taking Over the Internet!

The Washington Post has an interesting article about the church’s success with search-engine optimization, PR, and “controlling its image” online. There’s plenty of hyperbole in the article (have we really “infused SEO into [our] culture?” C’mon), some sloppy sourcing (of course a Protestant digital strategist says Mormons are taking over the web), and a misuse of the word “bloggernacle.”

But there were also some nuggets we can learn from, and plenty we should be discussing.

[Read more...]

Like a Trampled Flag on a City Street

I enjoyed and was humbled by Aaron R.’s great post today about the London riots. We live in neighboring wards in London’s eastern outer boroughs so we have both experienced the riots first hand, though thankfully my particular neighborhood was not touched, though others in my ward were more affected. His post reminds me once more that he is a better man than I — and he’s a sociologist, so I understand the charitable and analytical place that his post is coming from. I am grateful for his good example! He reflects well on Latter-day Saints with this perspective. [Read more...]

Call to the Brain Trust: New ‘Mormon Moment’ as Jimmer enshrined in Lil Wayne lyric

Forget running for president or having a show on Broadway–Mormonism’s next big moment is here: BYU athlete Jimmer Fredette has been featured in Lil Wayne’s newest song in the following lyric:

“I got a chopper in the trimmer, shootin’ like Jimmer.”

This website helpfully translates:

Lil Wayne is describing his “chopper” — which is a gun for those that aren’t fluent in hip-hop — by saying it shoots like Jimmer

I think we should do our part to foster more positive press and public awareness of Mormons by encouraging more Mormon-theme lyrics to be included in popular songs. Jimmer has the advantage of being easy to rhyme, but I think we could come up with many other helpful 1- or 2-line suggestions for vocal artists to adopt.
[Read more...]

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