Personal Progress for Hamsters

We are beloved spirit hamsters of God.

The following are a few excerpts from the Personal Progress manual for Hamsters:

Faith. With a pup-bearer, grand-pup-bearer or female horde leader, discuss the qualities a hamster needs in order to teach whichever pups survive her maternal feeding frenzy to have faith and to base their decisions on gospel truths. How can these principles help you in your life today and help you prepare to be a faithful pet? [Read more…]

A trip diary and an uncharacteristic public outpouring of gratitude

My husband and I just got home from backpacking Havasupai Falls. The exhausting 20 mile round-trip trek into and out of the Grand Canyon was worth every step (even though I currently walk like the kid in Jurassic Park after he got electrocuted on the fence).

I ran out of superlatives before we even reached the water.

Descending into the canyon at sunrise

Descending into the canyon at sunrise

Tree of life

Tree of life

[Read more…]

Second-Best Solutions

Last week, Bruce Young, a professor of English at BYU, wrote a response to Richard Bushman’s recent AMA (or, more accurately, a response to Bushman as filtered through hawkgrrrl).

I’m not interested here in responding to Dr. Young’s comments.[fn1] Rather, one of his comments has been playing itself out in my head all week, and I thought I’d spin it out here for others’ thoughts.  [Read more…]

Building Up Zion with Blood and Jerusalem with Iniquity: The Moral Clarity of William Wilberforce’s Career Against Slavery

William Wilberforce by John Rising, 1790 (source: http://tinyurl.com/pcoulo2)

William Wilberforce by John Rising, 1790 (source: http://tinyurl.com/pcoulo2)

Nearly four months after Parliament passed its Slavery Abolition Act in August, 1833 abolishing slavery in the British Empire, thanks primarily to the decades-long political campaign of the evangelical Christian Member of Parliament William Wilberforce, Joseph Smith recorded in a revelation on December 16, 1833 in Kirtland, Ohio, that “it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another” (Doctrine & Covenants 101:79). The Lord seems to have eagerly ratified Wilberforce’s lifelong fight against what any honest, informed observer must agree constitutes one of the greatest moral blights on humanity in the modern age: the African chattel slavery perpetrated by white Europeans and their American trading partners under the ostensible blessing of religious doctrines proclaiming the inherent inferiority of the African races and God’s supposed acquiescence in their bondage, servitude, and unspeakable abuse. Nothing condemned the professed Christianity of the day and European and American society more than this insidious and evil practice, built on such false religious justifications and the most vile commercial greed in the hearts of conspiring men. [Read more…]

Patriarchal Blessing Lineages

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Sometimes here at BCC we do requests. And a reader recently asked us if we could do a post on what patriarchal blessing lineage assignments are supposed to mean. Good question–and I don’t feel confident that I have a handle on an answer. But what I can do is frame the question somewhat and then let our readers flesh things out in the comments. So here we go: [Read more…]

A Lesson in Hypocrisy

It seems to me you guys could all benefit from some HARD FACTS about hypocrisy. [Read more…]

Memo to the Newsroom: If the real leaders are away, best to keep quiet until they get back

[A few further points now added at the end of the post.]

The poor judgement exercised by some sections of Public Affairs was in evidence during the Kate Kelly affair. It has happened again, this time in the form of one of the most intemperate releases I have read coming from 15 E. South Temple Street. The Newsroom can do better than this.

Herewith some comments on the testy “Church Re-evaluating Scouting Program” statement of 27 July 2015: [Read more…]

Faith, Hope, and Clarity: Thoughts on Scholarship and Being True

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So long as I pilgrimaged through the fields of reason in search of God, I could not find Him, for I was not deluded by the idea of God, neither could I take an idea for God, and it was then, as I wandered among the wastes of rationalism, that I told myself that we ought to seek no other consolation than the truth, meaning thereby reason, and yet for all that I was not comforted. But as I sank deeper and deeper into rational skepticism on the one hand and into heart’s despair on the other, the hunger for God awoke within me, and the suffocation of spirit made me feel the want of God, and with the want of Him, His reality. — Miguel de Unamuno, “Tragic Sense of Life”

 

Conside the following two statements:

Statement #1: I do not believe that the Book of Mormon is an ancient document.

Statement #2: I do not believe that the evidence shows that the Book of Mormon is an ancient document. [Read more…]

Review: Wandering Realities by Steven Peck

Not an actual image of the author.

It’s hard to write reviews of Steven Peck’s fiction. Those who are unfamiliar with his work will probably not believe you, and those who know Peck’s writing are already fans and have little need for a review. It’s also hard to write a review because you run out of useful words: there are only so many superlatives out there. For example: Peck is the best LDS science fiction currently out there. And so it is no surprise that Wandering Realities: Mormonish Short Fiction is an immensely enjoyable and powerful collection of short fiction, one that highlights both the possibilities and inevitablities of Mormonism. I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true. [Read more…]

Your Sunday Brunch Special: Contrafactuals, Lehi, History, and a Vision

In elementary logic the first steps mark out how normal (for my purposes, English) speech is used in deduction. Propositional logic discusses the ways in which complex (or compound) statements are constructed from atomic (or simple) statements. One of the ways this happens is the “conditional.” A conditional combines two statements like “the sky is blue” and “the grass is green” by connecting them with “if” and “then” as “If the sky is blue, then the grass is green.” Statements, compound or simple, such as these are thought to have a “truth value.” That is, they may be assigned one of the values, True or False. One can argue about this (and make money doing it) but I’d like to narrow the focus a bit and assume away some of the complexity.
[Read more…]

The Real Handcart Song

Exactly ten years ago I posted one Pioneer Day plea: could we please at least sing the whole original song? It’s so much better than the shortened version the majority of us American Mormons learned in Primary. A decade on, unfortunately, the plea is as timely as ever. So come along every, let’s sing! [Read more…]

The Best Defense is a…Middle-Market Newspaper Article from 2004

Prince Carl-Philip and Princess Sofia believe in binding ties.  (source)

Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Stockholm over a long weekend, and the city was positively abuzz with marriage. Sure, there was the royal wedding featuring Prince Carl Philip, Duke of Värmland, and Sofia Hellqvist that weekend, which drew much interest and caused parts of the city to be shut down for the festivities. But the ado about weddings wasn’t limited to the hustle and bustle of rubbernecking tourists and television crews in the inner city—that same day Stockholm’s famous Skansen outdoor museum hosted a drop-in wedding. A drop-in what, you say? Well, follow me like a leopard and find out: [Read more…]

Making the Desert and the Soul Blossom as the Rose: Pioneer Day in a Global Church

The Mormon Trail (source: http://tinyurl.com/q5lkkkh)

The Mormon Trail (source: http://tinyurl.com/q5lkkkh)

The historical basis for Pioneer Day celebrations is the 1847 arrival in the Salt Lake Valley of wagon trains of Mormon pioneers fleeing religious persecution in the United States. They first left their prosperous city of Nauvoo on the banks of the Mississippi River in Illinois in the Winter of 1846 and traveled a 1,300 mile route on foot and with covered wagons through the inhospitable American outback to reach an isolated desert valley on the western edge of the Rocky Mountains. Mormon pioneers from around the world continued to make this or other similarly arduous journeys of migration from their homelands in the heart of civilizations to this far flung frontier settlement throughout much of the rest of the nineteenth century. Theirs was a pioneer spirit, as evidenced not only by how they accepted their lot as refugees forced from civilization into what was, at the time, a remote, harsh, virtually uninhabitable wilderness, but also by virtue of their conversion from among many nations to the truly radical religious movement known as Mormonism, which laid claim to a Restoration of Christ’s Gospel and of all things. [Read more…]

Whale-Belly Books

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As the author of a book on Job, I am occasionally expected to know something about suffering. Unfortunately, I don’t know very much. And I especially don’t know things like, “why do people have to suffer?” or “what does suffering mean?” In fact, the only important thing that I know about suffering is that it really, really sucks.  And when it happens to me or to people I love, I want it to stop happening as soon as possible. [Read more…]

Pioneer Day Family Hike (Local mini-Pilgrimage)

Ensign Peak, Salt Lake City, Utah (source: http://tinyurl.com/pkja58a)

Ensign Peak, Salt Lake City, Utah (source: http://tinyurl.com/pkja58a)

Last year the Mormon Society of St. James hosted a local “mini-pilgrimage” in Utah, hiking the last section of the Dominguez-Escalante trail, ending at the commemorative cross in Spanish Fork canyon, the farthest point north that the Spanish company ventured in 1776. [Read more…]

Pilgrimage to St. David’s Cathedral, Wales

St. Non's chapel

St. Non’s chapel

The latest pilgrimage organised by the Mormon Society of St. James was to St. Davids* in Wales. Joining the pilgrimage were BCC bloggers Ronan and Jason, Bloggernacle regular Christian, and two micro-Ronans. Herewith a report:

[Read more…]

Encountering the Visible Church on the Pilgrim Ways of Europe

From a talk given at the Education Weekend 2015 in Oxford and adapted from a book currently being wrestled into life: Between Canterbury and Salt Lake: A Christian Journey.

Sarria, Spain

Sarria, Spain

Tonight I want to tell the story of a walk, or rather a series of walks. The story begins right here in the Oxford chapel, but more on that later. [Read more…]

Coming to Ourselves

TW: Steve continues to wallow in sentimentality.

Lately I’ve been feeling some nostalgia for the Steve of yesteryear, an irritatingly earnest missionary who was was unquestionably vested in spiritual matters. What happens to us as we grow older, more distant from those innocent testimonies we used to feel? There’s an interesting passage in the Book of Mormon where the prophet Alma (Junior) is performing a reform throughout the church, a sort of revival where he calls each congregation to repentance. Speaking to the congregation in Zarahemla, he asks:

And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

Many times I have found myself asking myself these same questions. Can I feel that same song of redemption inside of me that I used to feel? Where is the spiritual strength I used to have? [Read more…]

Jesus and Temptation

I’m no expert with the Bible, on the other hand there are experts that live here at BCC. I invoke them to defend me, or at least cover my errors here. I’m going to talk a little about Jesus’ temptations as they are presented in the New Testament. Once again, this just comes from me reading the Gospels and thinking a bit about them, and reading a bit from things like the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Finally, some of you may know I’m very interested in preaching. The Bible is fertile ground for thinking about that, and that’s one thing I do know a bit about.

Mark doesn’t say much about the temptations, he just says, Jesus was tempted by the devil. Luke and Matthew repeat a tradition about three temptations, and Jesus answers them by quoting from Deuteronomy(!). Luke, who seems driven by logic in his presentation, rather than some sort of strictly historic narrative, puts this story at the beginning, perhaps because he is more interested in the Church, writing as he does from a later perspective.
[Read more…]

Survey on Marital Quality and Belief Changes

A topic often under discussion in the bloggernacle is how to navigate marriages when one spouse experiences a change in belief.  If this describes your marriage, please follow the link to participate.  Eligibility requirements are below.

https://iu.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6tYdXEwogQ9PKK1

[Read more…]

A New Song: John Coltrane

Sometimes we ourselves are the greatest obstacle to the realization of our gifts. Such was the case with John Coltrane in 1957. He was at the peak of the jazz world, playing in Miles Davis’s first great quintet in addition to some historic gigs with Thelonious Monk, but his alcohol and heroin addictions were hindering his ability to participate, and he had to leave Davis’s group for a time. Enter God’s power of redemption: Coltrane later wrote, in the liner notes to A Love Supreme (1964), that in 1957 “I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.” Like Alma the Younger, Coltrane went from being “racked with eternal torment” to singing the song of redeeming love. He spent the next ten years of his life trying to make good on God’s gift to him. [Read more…]

Not making fun of other religions

The newsroom just released (or re-released as I’ve seen parts of it before) a video “Explaining How Members Can Defend Their Religious Freedom.” As I was watching it, specifically the quote below, I became a bit uncomfortable:

Why? Well just a few months ago, in May 2015, Elder Robbins of the Seventy gave the CES Devotional. In it, he says this: [Read more…]

Who Can Say Something New?

Who can say something new?

Is Mormon theology, as an academic project, possible for Mormons committed to the primacy of revelation and prophetic leadership?

It depends on what you mean by new.

Who can say something new for Mormonism?

Only those called by God and sustained by the common consent of the church. No Mormon theologian, as a scholar, should ever attempt to speak for Mormonism.

But this is not the question at stake in scholarship. The question at stake in scholarship is this:

Who can say something new about Mormonism?

The answer to this question is very different. Anyone willing to pay enough attention to make an observation can say something new about Mormonism. [Read more…]

Mormons in a Post-Obergefell World

A few thoughts I’ve had about living in a post-Obergefell world:

The first thing: the decision, on a practical level, doesn’t change anything for most of us. It certainly doesn’t for me. And I don’t say that because I’m straight. I live in Illinois, where same-sex marriage was instituted legislatively over a year ago. The only substantive difference Obergefell makes in Illinois is that couples who marry here don’t stop being married when they move to Indiana. And, as Cynthia pointed out, the vast majority of Mormons are in a similar boat: most of us (in the U.S., anyway) live in places where same-sex marriage was just as legal on June 25 as it was on June 26[Read more…]

Sing Praises to God: William Byrd

Ammon’s rapturous speech at the end of his mission famously climaxes with the phrase “I cannot say the smallest part which I feel,” but it also includes two references to singing: an opening call to “sing [God’s] praise” and a statement that the Lamanite converts have been “brought to sing redeeming love.” When joy breaks upon the shoals of language, music still remains to express it, and indeed there may be no other way to give full voice to the power of redeeming love. William Byrd, perhaps the greatest of Tudor composers, understood the capacity for music to express joy, as in today’s psalm, which invites us to “shout to God with loud songs of joy, but also in this setting of words from the 81st psalm:

[Read more…]

Youth Sunday School lesson help for July: Ordinances and Covenants

2009 Inauguration of Barack ObamaI thought it could be helpful to others to post a few resources for how I approached this month’s topic, Ordinances and Covenants. I want to both normalize Mormon high church liturgy, and also highlight what is unique and special about our approach. (If you aren’t sure what those words mean, feel no shame because we don’t use them in our day-to-day, though they do nicely describe us. Click the words for simple definitions.) To do this, I showed a series of videos of formal oaths taken in secular contexts.
[Read more…]

Overlooked “Gospel Topics” topic: “Gospel Learning”

While I was looking at the Gospel Topics Essays a while back I noticed a link that says “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith, which led me to a short Gospel Topic called “Gospel Learning.” This Topic seems geared to help contextualize the Gospel Topics Essays for people who are unsettled by them. (See here for the difference between Gospel Topics Essays and Gospel Topics.) As usual, this Topic is unsigned, but at least part of it (the airplane analogy) borrows from Elder Marcus B. Nash’s 2012 General Conference address.

gospeltopicoldeducation

The 2012 Gospel Topic piece on “Education” from lds.org

[Read more…]

A Feminine Insight to Gethsemane

gethseman

Today was NT lesson 25 on Gethsemane. There wasn’t much in the way of scriptural text assigned; the whole focus of the lesson was on the prayer in the garden (the parallel texts in Matthew, Mark and Luke were all assigned readings). [Read more…]

Welcome, Welcome Sabbath Morning

image

To poach from a friend, this is a vignette of the sweetness of Mormon life.

[Read more…]

How to (currently) find the Gospel Topics Essays (and Topics!)

A lot of digital ink gets spilled on recent Gospel Topics essays about race, polygamy, the First Vision, Mormon scripture, etc. The Gospel Topics page itself is occasionally updated without public announcement. News of the more sensational pieces spreads via back-channel whispers followed by blog post and Facebook discussions and perhaps a Peggy Fletcher-Stack article or two. Some people have been frustrated that many church members are likely unaware of the Gospel Topics because they haven’t been highlighted in General Conference or in letters to local leadership. Newer church curriculum materials call direct attention to the essays, though. At the same time, they aren’t featured obviously on the home page of lds.org, but you can find them currently in the menu options under “Scriptures and Study>Learn More”:

gospeltopicmenu [Read more…]

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