BCC Zeitcast 65: What the Tribune Didn’t Tell You

In this episode, Scott B. and Matt Page continue the ominous & ghostly themes at BCC this week with a discussion of Bigfoot and UFOs in Mormon Folklore, evil music, a suspicious Culligan man, and all of the details of Matt’s life which–for various reasons–were missing from an article about Matt and his artwork in the Salt Lake Tribune a couple of weeks ago. Actually, they really just make fun of Brad Kramer for half an hour or so.

Links For Your Convenience:
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Musicals and the Church’s Work in Africa

I find it interesting that the new Broadway show THE BOOK OF MORMON throws a freshfaced missionary into Uganda, where the setting is supposed to show the ludicrousness of mormon faith and idealism when confronted with the hellish realities of man’s cruelties to man.

The reality is that Mormons are already in Uganda, and we’re doing just fine, thanks. [Read more…]

Technology, Humanity, and Jeopardy

The inevitable future, as depicted by Matsby

All the hubbub around IBM’s new Jeopardy champ has stirred up talk in pop-futurist circles of the coming Singularity—the idea that one day humankind will create a machine that is intelligent enough to build an improved version of itself, which will then replicate and improve itself in the next generation, and so on until eventually humans are rendered obsolete.

Another vision of the Singularity is that human consciousness will somehow be “loaded” onto machines, freeing us from the bonds of biology and anatomy.

Both are fun theories to think about, and form the basis of lots and lots of bad sci-fi stories and a few good ones.

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Joseph and the Book of the Dead

The Egyptian Book of the Dead is a large body of writings, used from the New Kingdom to the Ptolemaic Period, that is meant to help one obtain a place in the afterlife among the gods. In July of 1835, Joseph and several others purchased a collection of Egyptian antiquities, including four mummies and a number of papyri. Joseph soon announced that among this papyri was a Book of Abraham, which he eventually would translate, publish in the Times and Seasons, which would be printed as part of the British Mission pamphlet A Pearl of Great Price, which would be canonized as scripture in 1880. Interest in the JS Papyri has focused on the papyri thought to relate in some way to the Abraham text, namely the Hor Book of Breathings and the Sheshonq Hypocephalus. But this little collection also included three Ptolemaic era copies of the Book of the Dead. The most extensive fragments are from a Book of the Dead belonging to someone named Tshemmin; one fragment belonged to a woman named Neferirnub. (The third Book of the Dead belonged to someone named Amenhotep, but has not survived.) [Read more…]

How Redefining Beauty Campaigns Reinforce Our Notions of Women and Beauty (Part II)

In Part I  I highlighted the fact that Salt Lake City has more plastic surgeons per capita than any other US city. I noted that this could be an indicator that either:

  1.  Utah/Mormon culture makes girls and women more susceptible to media messages, or
  2.  Mormon girls and women are receiving messages about what it means to be beautiful from influences besides media, or
  3.  A combination of media influence and Mormon religious culture compound to make a bigger impact on girls and women about how to be beautiful and desirable.
  4. Or, as has been noted, it could mean nothing more than SLC has lots of plastic surgeons.

First, media influences play on the natural desires of women to want to be beautiful and attract male attention. Contrary to the idea put forth that advertisers are trying to get women to want to look a certain way, marketing techniques simply take advantage of women’s own existing vanity. [Read more…]

The Animated Matsby

Another Image of Faith and Devotion…

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Ken Jennings vs. Watson: Mormon to save humanity? (cue allusions to White Horse Prophecy)

Last night, I gleefully skipped celebration of Valentine’s Day, in favor of sitting rapt in front of the television to watch Jeopardy! mega-winner (and longtime friend of BCC’s Police Beat Roundtable) Ken Jennings go up against IBM’s latest massively parallel Artificial Intelligence engine, Watson.

The Atlantic has dubbed their coverage of the matchup “Liveblogging the robot takeover or humanity’s finest hour,” and it is hard not to read this confrontation in such sweeping, maybe-apocalyptic terms. Especially when there’s a Mormon in the mix!
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Why Redefining Beauty Campaigns Won’t Work (part I)

In the past several years there has been a growing backlash against Western media portrayals of women. Media outlets, and even actresses themselves, have not been remiss in pointing out digital nips and tucks. To counteract this barrage of picture perfect female forms, there is a trendy movement to redefine what beauty looks like.  These movements vary from going without makeup,  to daily self-affirmations of just how beautiful you are,  to athleticism as beauty, to the well-known marketing campaign by Dove.  Amazon and other book dealers carry many titles on the topic like Redefining Beautiful, Beauty Redefined, and Girls and Self-Esteem. Within the Mormon community this trend also promises to help women and girls feel more beautiful as they accept their bodies.  [Read more…]

Elaine Bradley: RM, Rock Star

Neylan McBaine is a recurring guest at By Common Consent.

By now, it’s old news that rock star Brandon Flowers of The Killers is Mormon. And perhaps you’ve heard of our other coolest Mormon performer, internationally renown DJ Kaskade. But what if I told you we could also claim a female rock star? A drummer, at that? A drummer whose band’s single reached #1 on the Alternative Rock Chart? Meet Elaine Bradley of the Neon Trees at the Mormon Women Project. [Read more…]

Female healing article now available

The last six years have been a lot of fun, and I count myself very fortunate to have been able to work on this project and to work on it with Kristine. Honestly, there were moments in the Church History Library when I thought to myself, “If I never have the opportunity to see anything else or work on another project, I will still be full.” We owe many friends and institutions much for their support. Thank you.
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Unity and the KJV, part 3

Part one, part two.

Unity with Mormon Christology

Despite the complaints of some Christians, Mormon beliefs regarding Christ are in many ways very traditional, so it was no surprise that Clark (and others) were worried about the RSV’s use of “young woman” rather than “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14. [Read more…]

Unity and the KJV, part 2.

For part one, see here.

Unity with the Brethren

For Latter-day Saints, the route to truth is through revelation, available to the individual through the Holy Spirit but at all times to be guided by those authorised to reveal doctrine to the church (= the Brethren and their institutions, e.g. Correlation). [Read more…]

Murder, Mayhem, Sin, and Voyeurism

Like many Americans, I consider murder to be a form of entertainment, and I’m a bit ashamed by that.  I can’t really survive international flights without a good gripping murder mystery in my hand.  The more creative and depraved, the more I can count on it to keep me occupied, make the flight seem short, and stave off air sickness.  I spent the new years holiday watching a marathon of “Castle” on cable.  More murder.  Somehow it doesn’t seem like such a horrible sin and terrible tragedy when it is presented as a “whodunit” or when it’s presented by characters who quip chirpily as their flirtation weaves its way through crime scenes, witness interrogation, and visits to the medical examiners and their corpses.  [Read more…]

Unity and the KJV, part one.

People might rightly ask why Anglophone Latter-day Saints still use the King James (Authorized) Version of the Bible when there are new translations available which better represent the ancient sources and their languages.

The purpose of this series of posts is not to offer a defence of the KJV nor to criticise its use. Rather, I wish to try to explain, particularly for a non-Mormon audience, why Mormons use the KJV, or to state it differently, what the use of the KJV says about the modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In short, I believe that the use of the KJV underlines the importance of unity to the LDS Church: unity with Joseph Smith and the Restoration, unity with the Brethren, and unity with traditional Mormon Christology. [Read more…]

Pre-Review Survey: Is Parenting Easy and Fun?

Bryan Caplan, an economist, blogger, and owner of the world’s ugliest website, has written a new parenting book (Parenting ideas! From an economist!) called Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon.com here, and will be released in mid-April.

I plan on getting a copy and doing a full review later, but before doing so, I am curious to see what the gut reaction of BCC’s readers is to the simple statements found in the title: Parenting is a) less work and b) more fun than conventional wisdom indicates. As a father of two children, I struggled all weekend in trying to decide if I agree or disagree with either statement, and am still not sure of myself. If forced to make an unqualified, un-nitpicky decision, I would probably say that a) is false and b) is true in my experience.

If you have children, are these statements true for your experience? What were your expectations of the hardships and enjoyment of parenting before children? Has your perception of these things changed with time? Do you think that your religiosity affects your perception of how easy/enjoyable parenting is? [Read more…]

Where Are the Great Mormon Artists?

I participated in a BYU-Idaho student documentary about Mormon art (probably because I wrote a blog post agreeing with a Slate blog post about the lack of great Mormon artists). It’s well done and it’s embedded below the fold…give it a view and a good rating.

The documentary starts with a famous quote from Orson F. Whitney, a leader in the church about a hundred years ago: “We shall yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.”

The question the Slate article addresses and that I address during my comments in the video is simply “Where are they? Why hasn’t our culture produced them yet?” [Read more…]

Big Love Report

So I’m watching the end of the Jets v. Steelers game last night, and it’s about 8:50 p.m., when I realize I’ve missed the second episode in Big Love’s new and final season. But then it dawns on me that HBO repeats the new episodes immediately at 9:00 p.m., so I was able to watch it. (The first episode last week was mainly about all the blowback the family experienced after Bill publicly admitted to being a polygamist.) There were four aspects to this episode that I found particularly interesting, which I wanted to highlight here. (Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen the episode yet and is still planning on it.) Also, please note that my characterization is based on my hazy memory, I don’t have a transcript to consult or anything like that. [Read more…]

Movie(s) Review: Veggie Tales! Veggie Tales!

They’re a little “loud” for my taste (I prefer a more Mr. Rogersesque vibe in my children’s media), but I have to admit, they’re pretty entertaining and they do a good job of teaching scripture stories.

I haven’t found any material or lessons I find objectionable, and many have surprised me with how much I appreciate the lessons taught. For example, An Easter Carol confronts the evils of consumerism and commercialization of sacred holidays, without going so far into zealotry the other direction that it makes me uncomfortable. Madame Blueberry is a full frontal assault on the idea that material things make us happy, even not-so-subtly sending up Wal-Mart. And Sweetpea Beauty is a perhaps cliche, but still much needed, reminder for girls that beauty on the inside is what matters. [Read more…]

The Illuminated Matsby, Vol. 11

Another Image of Faith and Devotion

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Music for Advent

Same text, new music-

Gabrieli

Palestrina

Byrd

What I Wish I Had Said (II)

So, yeah, I’m lousy at the extemporaneous thing.  In this Zeitcast, I only forgot to say the most important thing–WHY it matters whether our congregational and choral singing is good.  Here’s why:

1) Singing is the closest we get to understanding what an exalted body might be like and what it might be for.

2) Singing together, especially as a choir that works hard, but also as a congregation that sings enthusiastically, is the best approximation of Zion we have. [Read more…]

BCC Zeitcast 61: MoTab Has Its Moments

In this episode, Scott B. listens in while Kristine Haglund and Nicholas S, aka Latter-day Guy, get their musical geek on. First, Nicholas and Kristine share some highlights and lowlights of their LDS music experiences. Later, the group discusses ways to improve music in LDS settings and opine on their favorite and most hated LDS songs.

Links for your convenience:
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Music for Advent

Old (Cristobal de Morales) * and new (Pierre Villette) again. See here for text.

*Here’s another recording, problematic in different ways. (I’ll turn you all into choral music critics yet!)

Music for Advent

(I’ve stopped counting :))

For this week, a single text:

O magnum mysterium, [Read more…]

Home Waters A review of George Handley’s new book

The Provo River has been entangled in my life from the beginning. I was born a few hundred yards from its shady cottonwood-lined flow. I met my wife during a student ward party at the Canyon Glen Park on the banks of the Provo. I know it better than any river. [Read more…]

Music for Advent XI

You already know I love Mendelssohn’s motets.  His Sechs Sprüche for various occasions in the liturgical calendar are short pieces for 8-part choir.  I love them for lots of reasons, not least the recurrent use of my second-favorite German word “frohlocken.”  (My very favorite is “Wonne”.  I know you were wondering.)  This video has good notes, with translations and links to the other five (of which my very favorite is Am Neujahrstage, in case you were wondering).

Review: Joseph Smith, Jesus & Satanic Opposition

Douglas J. Davies, Joseph Smith, Jesus and Satanic Opposition: Atonement, Evil and the Mormon Vision (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010).  292pp., inc. index, bibliography, textual references. Paperback: £16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4094-0670-9.

Davies argues that Mormonism’s force as a religion is intelligible through a relational trinity (Jesus, Satan and Joseph Smith) evoked in three paradigmatic scenes: the Grand Council, Gethsemane and the Sacred Grove.  This intelligibility makes Mormonism Plan of Salvation both accessible and appealing.  Davies’ attempts to speak to and through a form of Mormonism which is now fading, or at least shifting, gives this text a liminal quality.  He attributes some of the major shifts in LDS ecclesiology and theology to the reconfiguration of this trinity.  And yet, despite being focussed upon Mormonism’s past, his book sensitises members of the Church, and interested observers, to those changes currently occurring. [Read more…]

Connection Through Disconnection

In my ongoing effort to suck all the fun out of find greater satisfaction and connection from lived Mormonism (Step 1 was axing all pointless debates about immovable rocks), I began an experiment 4 weeks ago designed to force myself into higher levels of sociability and participation during Sunday meetings.

I left my iPhone home.
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Meet The Polygamists Next Door

MikeInWeHo is an old friend of BCC, and currently serves as our Special Media Correspondent, providing commentary on TV shows we can’t watch because we’re too cheap to pay for cable. His past work can be seen here, here, here, and here.

Sunday night brought the premier of the new series Sister Wives on The Learning Channel. The affable Kody Brown and his three wives have opened their home to the world, and we get a new take on contemporary polygamy. This is billed as a reality series, but are these people for real or is this TV with an agenda? [Read more…]

New Church Newsroom Beta Site

Today, the LDS Church launched a new beta Newsroom Website. As can be seen by clicking on the screen shots below, the difference between the two sites is quite remarkable, with considerable changes in content, format, functionality, and color scheme.

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