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...]

Our Week in the Media: Small Stuff and Big Stuff

Talk about overexposure: Newsweek and BusinessWeek in the same week! Prevailing wisdom in media circles is that once the newsweeklies have picked up a trend, it has reached it apex—so I guess the church’s slide back into obscurity starts now. (Don’t worry, Russell!)

What’s striking to me has been the reaction to the different stories. From what I’ve seen in my own social circles on Facebook and elsewhere, we’re supposed to be mad at Newsweek and thrilled about the BusinessWeek article.

But that’s exactly backwards.

The reasons for the ire against Newsweek seem to revolve around the cover and a few snippets of text within the article. Let me briefly debunk two of the phrases I’ve noticed Mormons getting hung up on:

[Read more...]

Scriptural Band Names

A member of my Elders Quorum started a band, and a few weeks ago he used our EQ email list to request the help in voting on a name for the band. We were given a handful of options, and voted according to our preferences. However, during the email conversation, the idea of Scriptural Band names was tossed around, with several excellent examples being suggested by one participant (e.g., “The Reformed Egyptians,” or “King Men Revisited”). [Read more...]

BCC Zeitcast 71: Two Brothers, One MPAA Rating System

Scott B. hosts the second of a two-part debate between BCC perma John C. and his older brother Robert. In Part 1, John and Rob debated the role of the U.S. Constitution in Mormon thought. In part 2, the brothers turn their attention to the steps of repentance for viewing a movie that has been rated R by the MPAA. John takes the position that statements regarding R-ratings are obsolete, and that the Church has intentionally moved away from such statements, emphasizing the need to use wisdom and discernment in media consumption, but that movie ratings are not good indicators of appropriateness. Rob takes the position that past statements from Church leaders regarding R-ratings are still valid, and that choices in movie selection should be based on a commitment to follow the prophet, rather than a quota for cuss words or visible body parts.


Links for your convenience: [Read more...]

Rosalynde Defines Mormon Art

Rosalynde Welch, with her characteristic intelligence, has laid down a concise, cogent, and challenging explanation of why American Mormon authors tend to congregate in “genre” categories, like science-fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, or some combination thereof, rather than pursue “serious literary fiction”: [Read more...]

Your Sunday Brunch (Before-After Church) Special (#4). Utah Artist James T. Harwood, 3: Painting, Marriage and Marriage.

So far (see parts 1, and 2) I’ve told some of the story of James T. Harwood’s parents and in particular his father, who played a rather large role in the way James T. saw the world, and particularly Mormonism both as institution and proximate realization.
[Read more...]

BCC Zeitcast 69: Steve Evans

In this episode, Scott B. is joined in the virtual studio by Steve Evans and fMhLisa, two of one of the Bloggernacle’s most seasoned blog administrators, for a discussion of what it’s like to be a big bad blog boss. Other topics include recent legal developments in Florida, the origins and evolution of BCC and Feminist Mormon Housewives, and some favorite bannination stories.


Useful Links:
[Read more...]

Couple Things

Last night, my wife and I crossed a devastating threshold–a veritable point of no return. Around 10:25pm, she said she was tired and wanted to go to bed, and I objected and suggested we watch the next episode of the TV show we’ve been watching lately. An argument ensued, and I did something that I’m ashamed of–because I promised myself I would never do this–but which nevertheless cannot be undone.

If you’re thinking, “He went to bed without resolving the argument,” then you’re correct–but what we’re talking about here is much, much worse. In fact, it’s so terrible that I hesitate to post this publicly, and understand if you don’t want to read further. [Read more...]

Faith and Inspiration

I have taught some unimaginably good writers—though I’ll probably have to revise that modifier (“unimaginably”) at the end of this essay. I have taught poets who had far greater gifts than I, essayists who invited me into new paradigms or experiences, and fiction writers who took me on unanticipated journeys.

This past semester, I taught a young man who I also knew as a missionary. He was in the MTC branch my husband and I served in two years ago. He went to Africa, and I wrote to him (and to several others) while he served.

Though my letters to the other missionaries were primarily faith-building, my letters to him were often pure fiction. He knew that every fictional claim I made required him to match or beat it—and it made p-day extra fun for him. (That was my intent, of course). We had an ongoing story about his chimpanzee companion, Mr. Stompsalot, and I reported on the missionary project which was abandoned in 1973. [Read more...]

Religious Art: The Hand of God

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), ‘The Hand of God’, marble, 1898. [Read more...]

The One and Only Myth

In the early 1840s Joseph Smith proposed to Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner. Elizabeth recorded “Joseph said I was his before I came here and he said all the Devils in hell should never get me from him.”  Joseph further told her, “I was created for him
before the foundation of the Earth was laid.”
(Todd Compton. In Sacred Loneliness pg 212 italics added) This may have been the
early beginnings of a pre-existence forming in Joseph Smith cosmology. His words were similar to some of his other wives. For instance in 1841 Joseph made it known to Zina Diantha Jacobs (Huntington Young) that the Lord, “had made it known to him that Zina was to be his wife.” (Ibid. pg 80 italics added)

Perhaps these and other 19th century marriages helped plant the idea in the Mormon psyche that people met and fell
in love in heaven, promising to marry once on earth, foreordained if you will.

[Read more...]

O that I were an angel!

OR IS IT ANGELUS??

OR IS IT ANGELUS??

Indeed.

I was thinking today about Alma’s little wish:

O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
Alma 29:1

We all know that Alma self-smacked himself down soon after writing this, but let’s say, for argument’s sake, that he (or, you) got this wish. Then what? [Read more...]

Duck Beach: A Contradiction?

This guest post comes from Stephen Frandsen, who is a co-founder and executive producer of Big Iron Productions. In addition to working on film sets in New York City, he produces photo shots, commercials, documentaries, and the like. While he is currently a “29 Year-Old Single Mormon,” he is engaged to be married this fall.

I saw a headline on Gawker the other day that made me look twice: “Mormons Conquer New York.” I’ve been in New York for six years, and this was maybe the first time I saw Mormons and New York linked together positively in the media. Of course, the headline was referring to yesterday’s news that The Book of Mormon Musical received 14 Tony nominations.
[Read more...]

The Seeker: KJ Bible finds new life in Mormon Church

Beginning in 1604, 54 scholars labored for seven years under the sponsorship of King James I to produce a new translation of the Bible. While the influence of that text over the past 400 years is unquestioned, what is the place of that venerable old version in the actual life of the church today? [Read more...]

Faux Books (what books do you imagine you are reading?)

Ok, it’s been rainy and snowy when I can’t go outside and play I turn to the world of my imaginary friends. Since some of my best friends are books, I turn to imaginary books. [Read more...]

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