Earlier this week, photographs emerged of Pope Francis cradling a disfigured man in his arms. The powerful images of the Pope’s benevolent touch of blessing spread quickly around the Web. At first the caption accompanying the pictures indicated that the man was disfigured by boils. But many of us knew better as soon as we saw the pictures. More accurate reporting now confirms that the condition suffered by the man before Pope Francis is a form of neurofibromatosis or NF. It is a none too rare genetic disorder that afflicts up to 1 in 3,000 people in the U.S. to one degree or another. (The man pictured obviously has a pretty severe case—the scars of operations on his face are discernible in the photo.) NF is characterized by tumors (fibromas) that, though usually non-cancerous, nevertheless can have serious health impacts. The tumors tend to form along nerves, degrading vision, hearing, and cognitive abilities and causing chronic—and sometimes severe—pain; bones can be significantly weakened and deformed, and the skin blotched and sometimes disfigured. Because this is a genetic disorder, there is no cure, only procedures and protocols to help mitigate the consequences. NF can be fatal, but in the West, life expectancies approach just under seven years of the norm.
I’ve recently been tasked with coordinating and overseeing teaching for our local elders quorum. We have a great group of smart and committed teachers, and I would like to support them in their teaching. I would also like to be open to insights into pedagogy and adult learning as well as some pastoral insights that might be relevant to creating an elders quorum environment that strengthens community, stirs faith, and stretches us all a little in mind and heart.
[cross-posted to Patheos]When my friend Robinlee and I visited the Old Mission in Santa Barbara, California, we happened on two statues–one of St. Francis of Assisi and the other of St. Clare. Most Christians are familiar with St. Francis’s life and words. We sing his poem, “All Creatures of our God and King”, which celebrates nature as God’s grand cathedral. St. Francis and his chaste friend, Clare, began new orders for monks and nuns on Palm Sunday in the year 1212. A 1973 film called Brother Sun, Sister Moon depicted St. Francis’s bold choices in defying the wealthy Catholic church and beginning a life of poverty. The core of the film is depicted here.
As Robinlee and I were looking at the statues, a docent told us that there was an order of cloistered Poor Saint Clares in a nearby church. “We never see them,” she said, “but they sing during the 7:00 a.m. Mass. They sound like angels. Sometimes, we try to count the voices. We don’t know how many there are.”
We decided then to attend Mass the next morning. [Read more...]
In the play Other Desert Cities (Salt Lakers can see it now at Pioneer Memorial Theater!) Polly and Lyman Wyeth are respectively a successful writer and actor in Hollywood before turning to Republican politics later in life. Their son Trip and semi-estranged daughter Brooke come home to celebrate the holidays with their parents and an alcoholic aunt, Silda, who lives with and is dependent on the Wyeths. The drama centers around Brooke’s decision to publish a memoir about being raised by her famous parents and another brother Henry’s involvement in radical politics, a bombing and Henry’s suicide.
Brooke has poured her heart and soul into her book and believes it contains hard, difficult truths about her parents, their friends and their politics that led to Henry’s alienation and death. She is the uncompromising artist speaking truth to power who also, it turns out, wants her parents’ blessing before publishing. Not surprisingly they are unwilling to give it. Brooke’s parents have a different view of what transpired and beg her to not publish or at least delay until they are dead. Silda urges Brooke forward, sure she has captured the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the Wyeth’s coterie. Trip doesn’t try to dissuade Brooke from publishing but says he doesn’t recognize the people in the book as the people who raised him.
At its heart the play is about a family’s fight to control the meaning of events that have impacted them all. Because Brooke’s claims are grounded in her personal experience, when an alternative meaning to the events is suggested she experiences it as an attack on herself. She feels accused of being an unreliable narrator of her own history. [Read more...]
Here at BCC we have issued few edicts. Certainly we have offered sage advice. Motherly wisdom and fatherly Knowsbestticisms. We have indeed cajoled. Pled. Perhaps even subtly tried to shame others into action. But now, I, under the authority granted me by the governing board (which has no idea what I’m up to), I am issuing an edict. I was going to offer a bull, like a papal bull, but a BCC bull. But I feared the jokes that would ensue about BCC bull and refrained. So to the edict. Go now one and all. Both high and low. Both blue and green. Both sour and sweet. And ride thee forth to procure a copy of BCC friend Jana Riess’ book, The Twible.
I recognize that some will be disinclined to follow edicts for edicts sake. To you stubborn souls I offer a modicum of reasons. The best reasons will be found by perusing the book itself. If you have followed Jana on twitter or Facebook than you know the hilarity of these bytes of wisdom as she offers up a tweet capturing the gist of each chapter of the bible. These are both funny and wise. Some forced me think more deeply about the text and made me see things in new ways. Others made me blow diet coke out of my nose.
So follow the edict or your good sense and go buy the book. I know what everyone on my list of good boys and girls is getting for Christmas. This. Go thou and do likewise.
Paul Reeve is an all around great fellow. He is the author of the award winning Making Space on the Western Frontier and the forthcoming must-read, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, which is to date the finest treatment of race and Mormonism.
“Purpose: To show class members that the Lord continues to guide the Church through revelation to latter-day prophets, seers, and revelators.”
It is ironic that in a lesson on continuing revelation, of the examples that the manual uses, only one was canonized and became binding upon the body of the Church, the 1978 revelation on the priesthood. [Read more...]
a tomblike monument to someone buried elsewhere, esp. one commemorating people who died in a war.
Today is Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom, Veterans Day in the United States. Yesterday, the Sunday before Remembrance Day, or Remembrance Sunday, my thoughts turned to the religious and public traditions and rituals observed in the United Kingdom to commemorate the importance of this day as a day of national . . . contrition? penance? gratitude? All of them, I think — “celebrate” is the wrong word for what occurs in the public ceremonies that occur on Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance Day. It is a solemn “remembering,” a holy Remembrance, because we remember the lives of those who served particularly in the Great War (1914-1918) but also in all conflicts in the protection of national or territorial integrity and political freedoms and heritage; more specifically, we contemplate the sacrifice that it is to put one’s life on the line for these values and ideals. Very few, if any, “celebrate” that these sacrifices were made or that such devastating wars occurred; virtually all unite across racial, ethnic, and religious divides to remember them and commemorate their sacrifices. [Read more...]
I spent some time this summer interviewing prostitutes, almost all of whom had been victims of human trafficking at some point, usually sold into the sex trade in their early teens. In the process, I sat in a room with a mother who sold her own daughters when they were eleven. [Read more...]
This is part 12 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, the follow-on post, part 13, is here.
Historically, Protestants struggled with language that styled ministers as “prophets” or that preaching was “the word of God” in some sense, instead segueing to phrases like “nearly prophetic” or “approaching the heavenly word itself,” etc. Biblical text, often described as inerrant, a kind of guarantee against God’s Providence, had a certain purity attached to it. This purity made its trustworthiness durable. For all this to work, the Bible must not be susceptible to interpretation—or for many, even historicization—it must be possible to “read” the Bible in a kind of “obvious to all of good will” way, and see its shining truths, beyond dispute. And as a result, commentary on Scripture, preaching from Scripture, and so on, walked the boundary of that awful gulf between the Word of God and His Inscrutable Will.
Childhood allergies like hay fever are linked to an absence of contact with fecal matter in their early years.  In other words, their houses were too clean for them to develop immunity.  When antibodies have no real threats to fight off, they’ll pick the next best thing – dust, pet dander, and pollen.  I’m pretty sure it would make my mother proud that my hay fever is a byproduct of her obsessive cleanliness. Perhaps this phenomenon also explains why Mormons are prone to creating extra rules on top of our already high standards. Let me explain. [Read more...]
This Sunday marks my 10th anniversary of entering the MTC. This was back before they made you say goodbye to your family at the curbside, so I have vivid memories of sitting in the large room, watching the short video of missionaries singing “Called To Serve,” parents walking out one door while missionaries walked out another, and absolutely everyone weeping uncontrollably. (It’s probably for the best that saying goodbye is now like ripping off a bandaid.) While my opinion of my mission in particular and LDS missions in general have changed over the years—for instance, whoever thinks those were truly “the best two years” must have had a lousy post-mission life—I am still very grateful for my time spent in the Washington DC North Mission, for the people I worked with, and especially the people I served.
As I’m sure is the case with everyone, I have mixed memories. So without further ado, below are 10 of my favorite Mission moments, followed by 10 of my most painful regrets. [Read more...]
Thursday, October 19, 1989, San Felipe, Guatemala
I feel confused by my own expectations. What I fear more than anything else is that I am going back to the way I was, and that when I get home I will be more or less the same [as I was before]—a weak addict to technology, and a sensationalist. I despise those attitudes now, but I fear that they are still part of me, and will come naturally when I get back. After all, I’m going to be immersed in it all again. That is the way life is there.
I need time to think. But there is no time.
It is morning here. The sun is coming through the white curtains and the room is filled with soft, yellow light…. I just want to learn always to keep life uncluttered.
I’m still haunted by those lines, written just days before I was to return home from my service in the Guatemala, Quetzaltenango mission. I had come to Guatemala the way most Gringos do, from a life of relative suburban ease. I had had my own room, TV, stereo, and piles of recordings and videos. I had ambitions one day of going into film production. But what I found, unexpectedly, in Guatemala was a summons to a more elemental existence: to water and soil, rain and sun; to the natural rhythms of day and night; to the oscillating sounds of corn ground on stone, of hands clapping out tortillas above a little fire, of clothes swashed back and forth on riverside stones; and to a confrontation with my fear of death.
Earlier this week the church announced that instead of holding separate Young Women and Relief Society conferences (in the spring and fall, respectively), they will now hold a combined “General Women’s Meeting” twice a year. This complements the twice-a-year Priesthood Session of General Conference and therefore is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction as far as women’s status in the church is concerned. A baby step, to be sure. I mean, on the one hand, we’ve been invited to attend another meeting. Yee-freaking-haw. On the other hand, some official people are officially saying that it’s just as important for womenfolk to meet twice a year as it is for menfolk to meet twice a year. It supports the idea that women and men have equal, complementary roles in the church–in the sense that this itty-bitty change is consistent with a viewpoint that might argue such a thing. Okay, when I actually spell out why it’s a good thing, it sounds pretty lame. But that doesn’t take away from my (sincere) conviction that this is an overall-positive lame baby-step for the church and for Mormon women. It may not be big, but it’s significant. Not pulling-over-to-the-side-of-the-road-so-you-can-weep significant, but it is a likely prelude to designating the female meeting an official part of General Conference. And that’s a thing, right? At least a prelude to a thing. That’s my optimistic take on it (and I don’t often have optimistic takes).
Stay tuned for the next exciting change in Mormondom: coming in just 30-80 years! [Read more...]
We are delighted to have this guest post from Michael Austin, Dialogue Board member, friend of BCC, and Provost of Newman University in Wichita, KS.
A Review of Common Ground/Different Opinions: Latter-day Saints and
Contemporary Issues, eds. Justin F. White and James E. Faulconer
As citizens, we must argue with each other about important things. Participating in an inherently adversarial political system means proposing arguments and defending positions. Both our nation and the Constitution that governs it are built on a process designed to turn vigorous discussion and debate into manageable lumps of compromise that permit us to move ahead.
As Latter-day Saints, however, we must be of one heart and one mind. Becoming a Zion people means that we covenant to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God in all times and in all things (Mosiah 18:8-9). [Read more...]
Marco Petrollini believes in God, family, and country–Italy. He’s an architect and project manager and father of four young children. He keeps bees in his backyard vegetable garden, and finds much to admire in their selfless work ethic. So often in the church we think of the God-family-country trifecta in narrow terms of American exceptionalism, so I loved seeing how Marco proudly and naturally owned those themes as a Mormon and an Italian man. Meet Marco:
This is part 11 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10. The followup post is here.
Verse 64 below again speaks to the dynamic between Joseph and Emma. The “destroyed” meme recurs. That Joseph is the male object here is clear, since he “holds the keys of this power” and only one at a time exists according to previous text in the revelation. Get on board Emma. That’s the major message.
After teaching my GD class last week, I looked ahead in the lesson manual, and was dismayed that the next two lessons are grounded in genealogy stuff. I figure I can do one lesson on that, but two in successive weeks is a little much for me. Now that the Church has been planted in Utah territory and we’re not really doing straight history any more but more topical things, the lessons seem to be getting very repetitive (such as lots of missionary work and prophets/continuing revelation). Last week, in the lesson on preparation and self reliance, we talked about food storage and 72-hour kits. We had a great discussion humming when we ran out of time, so I made an executive decision to continue with the next topic I had in mind for last week’s lesson, which was personal finance and dealing with money. So this post outlines some of the things I expect we’ll talk about in tomorrow’s class. [Read more...]
[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]
The website Patheos has revived their excellent feature “The Public Square” with one of the more interesting topics that can be asked in conjunction with religion and public life: namely, that of civil religion. I was asked to contribute something–in no more than 800 words, which anyone who knows me knows is difficult. I’m attaching below the unedited version of what they ran; I strongly encourage you to read all the contributions, as there is some good thinking on display there: [Read more...]
True contemplation is not a psychological trick but a theological grace (Thomas Merton).
I’ll admit to a disappointment. Foster states that Christian meditation “involves no hidden mysteries, no secret mantras, no mental gymnastics, no esoteric flights into the cosmic consciousness.” Alas. It is as I said before — discipline as vainglory is a major temptation for me. Personally, I would love to fly into the cosmic consciousness, but such is not the purpose of Christian meditation.
Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 132. Part 10: Ten Virgins. The Mechanics of Plurality (and Sex on Earth, and in Heaven). And Another Addendum: Excommunication.
This is part 10 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9. The part following this entry is here.
Much of the July 12 revelation is simplistically divisible into two kinds of speech: 1) Joseph is in the right. 2) Emma is in the wrong. The last section of the revelation falls into both categories. Along with this, we also get some talk of “virgins.” Earlier text in the revelation treats issues of sexual transgression (see part 8 for example).
(Cross-posted at Juvenile Instructor.)
Did you hear? Mormon studies is so hot right now. This semester witnessed the start of the Richard Lyman Bushman Chair in Mormon Studies at the University of Virginia (held by Kathleen Flake), next month will see the innaugural issue of the newly re-launched Mormon Studies Review (be very, very excited), and several new and exciting books are about to hit the shelves. And all this on top of the other Mormon studies programs that have been launched and the flood of excellent books that have been published in the last few years.
This is an all-day conference which includes lunch. It begins at 10:00 a.m. and goes until 3:30.
There is a Facebook event page under the Temple and Observatory Group.
Choose carefully the music you listen to. Pay attention to how you feel when you are listening. Some music can carry evil and destructive messages. Do not listen to music that encourages immorality or glorifies violence through its lyrics, beat, or intensity. Do not listen to music that uses vulgar or offensive language or promotes evil practices. Such music can dull your spiritual sensitivity. [For the Strength of Youth]
I didn’t like every story in Jack Harrell’s collection of short stories, A Sense of Order and Other Stories. But a few of them have stuck with me over the past few months, occasionally surfacing at the shoreline as the cognitive tide recedes just before sleep. [Read more...]
In a conversation with a friend from my ward, I made some comments regarding the current Missionary Program, based on my limited observations of the general and regional ecclesiastical bureaucracy and things on the ground. I’ll be honest in that I think that the church is struggling existentially with regards to missionary work. Church leaders clearly have the mandate to spread the gospel, but the standard methods are rooted in a culture that doesn’t exist (and hasn’t existed for over a century), at least in the US and many other countries. I think church leaders don’t know what to do (I should add that I certainly don’t, either). So it will be interesting to see how things play out.
I know what you are thinking. Another article on modesty? Well, stuff your preconceptions in a sack and read on, because I’m about to blow your mind.  About 18 months ago I read an article in the New York Times about a scientific formula to predict celebrity breakups.  Here are the factors that correlated in their prediction model: [Read more...]
This is part 9 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. The next part in the series is here (part 10).
The next portion of the revelation is explicitly directed to Emma Smith. It commands Emma to join in and receive the doctrine of polygamy, a terrible test for her. Verse 51 has been a puzzling statement since 1843 and there is no definitive information about its meaning.
One cannot step twice into the same river . . .#91
(which actually I’ve done several times, so I’m not sure what he’s going on about). He had a few more that were not so famous, but equally memorable and aphoristic,
The way up and down is one in the same. #60
Very Zen. How about this one that left me fairly discouraged, but I’m nothing if not willing to recognize that, ‘If the shoe fits I need to face the music (wait, is that an aphorism too?)–Heraclitus writes,
Eyes and ears are bad witnesses for people who have barbarian souls. #107
Yawp! That hurt. [Read more...]
Layne is an opinionated firecracker, slatternly hausfrau, failed hippie, and amateur student of the Second Estate. She blogs at www.babacapra.com.
There is a scene in the movie Napoleon Dynamite in which Napoleon’s emotionally stunted Uncle Rico is showing Napoleon and his brother Kip a video of himself throwing a football, demanding validation from them. When Napoleon complains that the video is “pretty much the worst video ever made,” Uncle Rico snaps, “You know what, Napoleon? You can leave!” [Read more...]