I’ve been thinking a lot lately about faith, specifically about what a trial of faith might consist of. I don’t know that I’ve ever really had a trial of faith. I’ve experienced no great tragedy (knock on wood) and, while I’m excellent at self-sabotage and self-pity, I’ve had no real obstacles to overcome. My father has always been kind to me, so I’ve never had any trouble imagining a loving Heavenly Father who wants the best for us. I’ve never really had cause or need to question my faith in any significant sense. I worry that this has made me lazy. [Read more...]
Over the last several years, the Church History Library (CHL) has worked diligently to first make their catalog publically available on the internet, and then to make selections from its holdings similarly available. Last year I reviewed digitization efforts across the various institutions contributing to the field. One small and recent change in the CHL catalogue has made me aware of the significant progress that has been made by the Church History Department in this area.
My mission experience, like most mission experiences, was memorable for a number of reasons. There were the usual spiritual experiences, friends made, people served, companions fought with, tracting despised, etc. More dramatic experiences include witnessing a gang-style assassination and trying to save the victim (I ended up covered in his blood and he died on the scene); being chased for several blocks by a large, terrifyingly athletic man screaming about the horrible things he was going to do to me (luckily I reached my bike in time before I could find out what that was like); contracting back-breaking dengue fever and ending up in a hospital exactly like what you might imagine a remote third world hospital might be like (several horrible things happened there but I just walked out in my hospital gown the second time a nurse bent a needle inside my arm). You know, the things you don’t write home to mom about.
I also “performed” three exorcisms on my mission. I say “perform” because I’m not entirely sure what to make of these experiences, what standard(s) of measurement to judge them by. Before my mission I had never thought in any serious way about “spirit possession.” Accounts of encounters with evil spirits among missionaries were, however, alive and well in my mission in Guatemala, and I would continue to occasionally hear about various similar stories after I returned home. [Read more...]
I take it as a sign of progress that much of the recent discussion on gendered priesthood and female ordination has concerned itself with considering the potential consequences of extending the priesthood to all worthy Church members. You can’t really think through the practical implications of something unless you think about it, and think about it rather seriously, in the first place. People who instinctively support and oppose female ordination are having serious and occasionally productive discussions about the origins, meanings, rationalizations, social consequences, and the future of gendered priesthood. Of course there are unserious and unproductive conversations as well. The specter of “women can experience labor and breastfeed so they don’t need priesthood” has reared its head again, and opponents of female ordination have reminded us that trying to imagine the origins and development of an all-male priesthood in sexism-free terms can be every bit as tendentious, speculative, anachronistic, unscriptural, and doctrinally foundationless as efforts to read explicit support for a unisex priesthood into the current LDS canon. [Read more...]
Recently, I attended a conference on the Civil War, hosted by the Massachusetts Historical Society. Among the many great presentations was a panel on abolitionism, and the common thread was an exploration of how opponents to slavery positioned their action with regard to the Constitution: was the Constitution a pro-slavery document that must be decried? (Prominent abolitionist William Loyd Garrison argued it was a “covenant with death.”) [Read more...]
Salt Press Merges with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship: An Interview with Jenny Webb
In one of the leadership training videos produced by the Church a woman talks about a particularly chaotic, frustrating day she had with her four year old. She told him she was at her wit’s end and didn’t know what do anymore. He suggested she sing “I am a Child of God,” which, of course, she then did. She said she was grateful for the opportunity to be reminded of who her child was.
There is a significant distinction between knowing (or understanding) and remembering in this little didactic story. It’s unlikely that this mother had stopped believing that her child was a child of God, and likewise it seems wrong to interpret her as becoming uncertain about her child’s eternal identity, whereas once she had been much more confident.* She said that she needed to be reminded of this. What she had known was never in doubt; it would be wrong to say that her knowledge about this thing was incomplete or had broken down. She had forgotten and needed to remember. [Read more...]
Lola is a barrister in training, working in the prosecutor’s office in London. She’s a huge football fan (check out the victory dance at 3:24) whose own career in the game was cut short by a major surgery to treat severe scoliosis just as she was set to accept a soccer scholarship at an American university. Meet Lola:
We’ve just experienced the Mormon preaching festival. That is, general conference! In addition to inspired teaching, it gives the outside world a chance to experience some of the variety of Mormon address. And besides, I’ve been toiling over chapter 7 of the book, rewriting, rethinking some, and redoing other. This represents mental suds rising to the top of my brain-glass.
Texts are always encased by interpretation. Generations come and go, and interpretation floods over texts, at least those that rise to surface (paradoxically), via unearthing by graduate students or rediscovery by the public, or just constant devotion, etc. Scripture is no exception, and everyone, not just Nephi, deploys a kind of rationalization with circumstance and inspiration to come up with a correlated understanding, whether that be official, communal, familial, or even “backlistial.” Among Mormons, Joseph Smith’s sermons are quite often seen as doctrinal in some sense, a sense I won’t attempt to make precise.
Gina teaches cultural studies, media represetation, and critical pedagogies at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. She blogs at KiwiMormon and we are pleased to have her as our guest.
Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the lesson in the comments.
Professionally I research, teach, and think a lot about teacher positionality and cultural locatedness. Teachers inevitably bring their whole cultural selves into the profession but are often unaware that they are culturally constituted, socially constructed beings. It’s the most challenging of tasks to have them interrogate their own assumptions, and to see themselves as other than ‘the norm’. I’ve spent some time thinking about this issue in LDS teaching contexts, where, in an increasingly international church, Sunday school teachers from all variety of political persuasions are delivering the LDS curriculum. This becomes reasonably important when we consider a divine political economy such as the Law of Consecration. I would argue that ones culture, whether North American, French, or Samoan, will have a significant influence upon the approach of the teacher as she or he delivers this lesson. [Read more...]
I look forward to General Conference. Since I joined the church almost eleven (!) years ago, I haven’t missed one. Like so many of us, I turn Conference weekend into a fun family thing. We cook all our favorite foods, have a picnic on the living room floor, the kids get to bring their blocks and toys downstairs and we all basically live in our pajamas and loll around listening to church. For eight hours. Yeah, I’d say my conversion is pretty complete. [Read more...]
For my conference talk report, instead of focusing on just one talk, I decided to focus on an overarching connection in all of the talks. The first theme I tried worked wonderfully as it was mentioned in every talk and, in some cases, captured that talk’s pure essence quite beautifully.
The theme: Love.
Just kidding. Sister Dalton’s talk was actually titled “We Are Daughters of Our Heavenly Father.” Let’s leap in. Sis. Dalton starts off by talking about the Young Women theme.
It is not only an affirmation of our identity–who we are–but also an acknowledgement of whose we are. We are daughters of an exalted Being!
“Peace” was a consistent theme this last General Conference. Elders Cook, Eyring, Scott, Christofferson, and Uchtdorf all spoke on this topic in various ways (I’m probably missing some others who also addressed the theme of peace). Here, I specifically want to focus on Elder Cook’s talk, “Personal Peace: The Reward of Righteousness” and President Uchtdorf’s address, “The Hope of God’s Light.” I’m not going to summarize the entirety of either of these talks, which, of course, will be fully available shortly on lds.org. Instead, I want to comment on a common theme in both these talks, which is a particular response to the problem of evil and suffering. [Read more...]
April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., and I’d like to share a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a Lutheran theologian of extraordinary courage and insight. Author of the classic The Cost of Discipleship, and a vocal anti-Nazi, he languished in a concentration camp for two years before being executed in the early morning on this date in 1945, just weeks prior to the collapse of the Third Reich. He wrote numerous letters and some poetry while in prison, of which the following is an example. It is not, perhaps, the most artful of his verse, but I have chosen it for its autobiographical—and yet universal—poignancy.
In his Sunday Afternoon Conference Talk, Elder D. Todd Christofferson focused on the Redemptive power of the Atonement in our lives. While it is historically accurate and theologically legitimate to discuss a redemptive power and an understanding of Atonement tied to a redemption of humanity from some great debt, I feel like it can interfere with our understanding of the Atonement’s purpose.
In the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference, Elder Holland (hereafter “EH”) gave an address with the title “Lord, I Believe.” He sets the stage by recounting the story of the father of an afflicted child, desperate for whatever help might be afforded. The disciples were not able to provide the needed blessing. The father then appealed to Jesus with last-resort desperation: [Read more...]
Let me confess that I’ve become a little suspicious of the deep affection which seems to characterize so many discussions about President Dieter F. Uchtdorf amongst the Intellectual Mormons (use whatever definition your prefer) that I frequently associate with. I have a hard time buying the idea that this man is some kind of Great Liberal Hope for the church; there’s no way any person (even a non-American!) can get to the highest levels of church leadership and not be fundamentally at peace with–and have real faith in the divinity behind–the corporate Mormon institution which we all know and love. He’s a general authority, a man we give the title “apostle” to, and that ought to be more than good enough. There’s no need to look at him as one who has great and unique and needed insights which his fellow general authorities lack.
Except that, well, he keeps giving beautiful, thoughtful, wise talks after which I have to tell myself: “Honestly, I’m not sure there’s anyone else in the Church Office Building who would have said that.” His sermon in Priesthood session this past Saturday is a case in point.
I will say here that we should give our wives and children the opportunity to pray in the family circle. There are men who think that unless they pray the Lord does not hear the prayer, and they are in the habit of doing all the praying in their families…We should ask our wives and our daughters to pray. Let them do some of the praying in the family…Brethren, do not get the idea that the Lord will not hear your wives and daughters. [n1]
Elder Bednar’s Saturday morning talk was about chastity. Let me start by saying I’m a believer in chastity. I believe that premarital sex creates a lot of hassle, at minimum, and generally speaking I’m against hassle. It can result in much worse than hassle in its worst cases – eroded self esteem, teen pregnancy (that I oppose even in married form), STDs, and bad patterns for future relationships. I believe that extramarital sex (infidelity) destroys families, irreparably harms children, and is very human and very selfish. [Read more...]
(Hey, it’s better than the original.)
Choir in pink (!), Andrew Unsworth at the organ, Wilberg conducting.
First Presidency is sitting down. President Eyring conducting.
Whoa–it’s not just women praying this time, they’re even letting Democrats pray!!!
Let’s get ready for the releases and sustainings…
After the annual report, Elder Richard G. Scott is on deck.
We’re By Common Consenting as we speak! [Read more...]
So you say you want to watch General Conference? So do we. Here’s the deal for BCC’s coverage, and all the information you need to know. [Read more...]
Yesterday, emeritus church patriarch Eldred G. Smith passed away at 106. As Peggy explains “Eldred G. Smith, who served for 32 years as Mormonism’s ‘presiding patriarch,’ died Thursday evening in Salt Lake City. At 106, Smith was the faith’s oldest living and longest-serving LDS general authority.” [Read more...]
Recently Discovered Letter from Nietzsche Reveals Most Devastating Argument Against Christianity of All Time
A letter written by German philosopher and anti-Christian gadfly Friedrich Nietzsche was recently discovered in a home near St. Moritz, Switzerland. The letter is one of a series of letters written to various friends and transcribed in the handwriting of his friend and occasional secretary, Heinrich Köselitz, dated March 27, 1887. Philosophers have called the letter the “most significant philosophical find of the last 500 years.” [Read more...]