Recap of “Of One Body: The State of Mormon Singledom”

Audio recordings of talks from the symposium are available here, with video of Clayton Christensen’s plenary here. Symposium organizers Matt Bowman and Sharon Harris share their thoughts below in a mock interview. We are glad to welcome them once again as guests at BCC.

On May 16, we held a symposium in New York City. Called “Of One Body: The State of Mormon Singledom,” it was designed not as a typical Mormon singles conference (planned to encourage flirting and courtship), but as a serious discussion about the growing numbers of single Mormons and the falling rates of marriage within Mormonism. Both of these trends reflect broad patterns in American culture, but we wanted to discuss what they mean for Mormons in particular. We invited a number of speakers: In the introduction Matt Bowman outlined these demographic trends and talked about the meaning of the title (drawn from the apostle Paul). Sharon Harris discussed the history of singles wards. Clayton Christensen offered thoughts on how we think about the place of single people in the Church. A panel of those in leadership callings gave their perspectives on working with single people in their flock. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife talked about the law of chastity and how singles of a wide variety of ages grapple with it, and Kristine Haglund delivered a closing homily on the place of single people in the body of Christ. We are grateful to the Manhattan stake for its sponsorship.
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“Christ & Antichrist,” June 20, New York City

Seminar-Sunstone

“Christ & Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7″

The Second Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology

Conference is free and open to the public Saturday, June 20, 9am-5pm

The Refectory
Union Theological Seminary
3041 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Splotchitiness

Among my many eccentricities, the weirdest one is that I actually think that poetry matters. I believe that it is important. And I think that most people need to read a lot more of it instead of doing whatever it is they are doing. I know that this makes me a crank—and a largely unemployable crank at that–but it’s too late for me. I’ve been to therapy several times for this. I’m not going to change. [Read more…]

Corpus Christi

One of the traps into which religion can fall is that it often makes the thing into the thing signified. There is “God” — theological debates, Del Parson paintings, doctrinal pronouncements, even the scriptures — and there is “God above God,” the noumenal thing that is never quite the phenomenal thing.  [Read more…]

Vestigial Polygamy

The church officially—and in fact—ended its experiment with polygamy more than a century ago.

Yet polygamy and its effects remain with us today. And no, I’m not talking about D&C 132; we’ve officially read polygamy out of the the section, replacing it with our modern concept of eternal (monogomous) marriage.

What I’m talking about is the fact that a man (and, in certain limited circumstances, a woman) can be sealed to more than one person, and that those additional sealings can and do happen without the consent of the first sealed spouse.  [Read more…]

Pioneer Day Tips for Mormon Muggles & Mudbloods

Attention muggles:

We recognize that you don’t have amazing magical families like so many of us do, but we are still glad you are here at Hogwarts [1].  Some of you have demonstrated real promise on your Newts and Owls despite your lack of inherited magical blood! [Read more…]

The Permutation Machine versus the Ice Cream Truck

Shawn Tucker has sent us a follow-up to a recent post. Some great ideas — thanks, Shawn! I will note that I like the optimism of his metaphor.

Steve Evans’ recently presented a sort of thought experiment about a permutation machine. The machine would allow one to see all of the other alternative outcomes for one’s life choices. In order for such a machine to make sense, you have to imagine that time moves in one direction, and that while there are many alternatives for each choice, only one can be selected. In addition, you have to imagine that each choice is completely unique and can never be revisited. You only had one chance to send or not send that note in 5th grade, to say hello or not say hello to that person in your Biology class, or to let or not let that hand linger there a little longer.

Thinking about time, choice, the path of one’s life, and even eternal consequences in that manner can be interesting. [Read more…]

Trinity Sunday

This post is a slightly revised version of last year’s Trinity Sunday post. For more recent BCC discussion of the Trinity, start with J. Stapley’s “Mormon Jesus?”, which links to other posts by BCC authors.

Early in the Book of Mormon, Nephi receives some information that seems to have been all at once exciting, shocking, and confusing. After Nephi affirms his belief in Lehi’s vision of the tree, the Spirit who had carried him away responds with praise: “Hosanna to the Lord, the Most High God; for he is God over all the earth, even above all.” Then comes the intriguing part: “And blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God.”

This is intriguing not only because Nephi has not affirmed any such belief, but more profoundly because the text has not hitherto mentioned any such Son (except when the narrator Nephi, writing 40 years after the fact, attributes his father’s vision to “faith on the Son of God” [1 Ne. 10:17]). The book opens with Lehi, likewise carried away by the Spirit, seeing God enthroned (1 Ne. 1:8), after which he sees “One descending out of the midst of heaven” and “twelve others following him” (1 Ne. 1:9-10). While we are justified in understanding this “One” as Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon does not at this point identify him as God’s Son; nor does it clarify the relationship between this One and God at all. [Read more…]

Join us: 5th Sunday of #biketochurch month

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May is Bike to Church Month here at By Common Consent. See our previous weeks of celebration here, here, here, and here. Today we have pictures from readers Lori, Jon, Lisa, and Mark, biking to church in Valencia, Spain. Thanks for sharing your fun family commute with us! Keep reading below the fold to see BCC writer EmJen and her kids enjoying a bike ride to church in Farmington, Utah, USA. I hope this inspires you to #biketochurch. Snap a pic and share it on Twitter and/or add a link to Instagram here in the comments. Happy biking!

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In Memory of Elder L. Tom Perry

iuI was saddened to learn today of Elder Perry’s passing. I remember memorizing the names and faces of the Twelve Apostles as a boy. My mother had given us a mnemonic for several of them, and Elder Perry’s has always stuck with me because it was so apt, given the big, toothy grin he always sported: He is very cheery, he is Elder Perry.

A few years later, we found ourselves living in Manila, Philippines where I was now in high school and enrolled in my first year of early morning seminary with my mom as the teacher. A small group of us expat kids met in our home every morning at 5:30 before heading to the International School together. At one point we learned that Elder Perry was visiting the Manila mission. President Iba was in our branch and his kids were in our carpool. My mom, being the intrepid soul that she is, asked the president if she could perhaps get a meeting with the Apostle for her seminary class, and Elder Perry consented. So the next day, there we were, six or so of us face to face with L. Tom Perry at 5:30 a.m.. He was wide awake, thanks to the time difference between Manila and Salt Lake City. I remember three things from that conversation. [Read more…]

“The Kingdom of God Is Within You”: Reflections on Gospel Doctrine 18: #BCCSundaySchool

220px-Ge_Tolstoy“The only significance of life consists in helping to establish the kingdom of God; and this can be done only by means of the acknowledgment and profession of the truth by each one of us.”–Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is Within You

Jesus spends a fair bit of time in the New Testament trying to define “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of Heaven.” And he uses some of his most elaborate metaphors and conceits to try to explain what this kingdom is and why it is so important.

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My Little White Lie

So a couple of months ago one of my best friends happened to be in DeKalb, Illinois, the town where we both grew up, and eating at a local Mexican restaurant called Rosita’s. And it occurred to him that there are still a lot of people we went to high school with that are local to the area, and he wondered whether if he sent up a bat signal would people get together for an evening of food, drinks and conversation? So he picked yesterday, Friday May 29th, and shot off the flare, which is to say he posted an open invitation to our high school classmates on our class Facebook page. He even offered to pick up the drink tab. The actual event was last night, and about a dozen of us ended up having a very pleasant evening together. It kind of unwittingly turned into a fascinating social experiment, because that particular set of people probably never would have gotten together while we were actually in high school 39 years ago (our 40th anniversary reunion will be next year). But now which side of town you grew up on or which middle school you went to or which group you hung with didn’t seem to really matter all that much anymore. Just having gone to the same high school together now seemed like an ample stake on which to tether our shared life experiences. [Read more…]

Emerald Grass and May Skies

JFP-MDO-141For the dozen odd years since I joined the church, I’ve been sort of an outlier. All of my experiences with the organized church and with my church community have been through the lens of being an adult convert. Nothing about that is unique, of course— there are adult converts everywhere, and in probably every faith— but joining a church that revolves in a potent way around an idealized family makes those coming in poignantly aware of our shortcomings. (Yes yes yes, I know there is no such thing as a perfect Mormon family, and I know everyone wears their best faces on Sunday, and every family has problems and struggles and challenges. I get all that. But bear with me.) [Read more…]

Understanding each other

I’ve spent a decade researching and writing Mormon history, focusing primarily on church liturgy—our rituals and ritualized patterns of worship. And with every additional project, I am more convinced that the voices, records and stories of women are not only important, but necessary to comprehend our past (and present). Even with topics we often associate with men, like “ordinances,” we fail when we don’t account for the experiences of women. One cannot understand Mormon healing without understanding the integral participation of women in the liturgy. And even where male priesthood office holders are the sole administrators, often women are the majority of recipients.
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MHA Preview: Notes toward Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s Presidential Address

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has kindly shared with us a preview of her Presidential Address, “Runaway Wives 1840-60,” to be delivered next weekend at the Mormon History Association conference in Provo. In 1995, Ulrich joined the history department at Harvard University, where she is now 300th Anniversary University Professor. Register here for the conference if you haven’t already.

Abstract: In the nineteenth century, stories about wives fleeing the wrath of drunken or abusive husbands filled the pages of novels, divorce petitions, and temperance, health reform, and women’s rights literature. Similarly harrowing tales became a staple in anti-Mormon campaigns. One oft-repeated story claimed that in 1855 a hundred women, single and married, fled Utah with departing federal troops in order to escape the horrors of polygamy.   Situating Mormon and anti-Mormon stories within the large genre of runaway wife tales allows us to understand broader changes in nineteenth-century concepts of marriage, women’s rights, and the law.

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Week 4 of #BikeToChurch Month

Jason and Hannah

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We’re celebrating the 4th Sunday of Bike to Church Month at ByCommoConsent. Today we have Hannah and her dad Jason of Eugene, Oregon. They ride a Co-Motion tandem bike to church. Thanks for checking in, Hannah and Jason!

There’s just one more Sunday in our month-long celebration, so hop on your bikes and send us pics! Share with us by commenting, emailing sisterblah2@gmail.com, or tweeting @bycommonconsent #biketochurch.  [Read more…]

Nostalgic Stake Youth Dance: The Playlist

J. Stapley this morning asked the BCC bloggers for our Top 10 Stake Dance Songs. There was enough overlap in our responses that we figured it’d be worth making a playlist, so we can all be nostalgic together.

So here you go, a sweet musical journey to the cultural halls of yesteryear.

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Mormon History Association Conference weeks away

In a couple of weeks, the Mormon History Association will be hosting its annual conference in Provo. It is $170 for the multi-day conference per person if you register by Tuesday. MHA also got special rates on the hotel ($99 a night plus ability to share rooms). I’ll be there to attend and present and I am involved with organization more broadly, but I don’t hesitate to say that MHA is the best source for information on Mormon History.

UV
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The Church and Same Sex Marriage: The Pastoral Question

“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.”—John Henry Newman

aGen2114Dore_TheExpulsionOfIshmaelAndHisMotherUnless everybody I know has misread the tea leaves, same-sex marriage will soon be legal in all 50 states. On the off chance that this doesn’t happen in June, it will happen some time. We have passed the tipping point, and a clear majority of people in the United States now favor such unions. Even in a democracy as dysfunctional as ours, clear majorities usually end up getting their way.

Universal same-sex marriage laws will have consequences for the Church. I’m not talking about the dire parade of horribles at the end of Glenn Beck’s slippery slopes. [Read more…]

Seasons of my imprecise, ambiguous, unfinished faith (a prayer)

cityrainThe last few months of my mission changed my relationship to God in a very unexpected way. That’s when it seemed to me God decided to go home early while I finished my full two years. I noticed God’s absence most during personal prayer. What formerly seemed like a welcome opportunity to express gratitude and ask for assistance, or like an intimate confession or reunion, became to me like speaking alone to a bare ceiling.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…

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In favour of substitutionary atonement, sort of (a postscript)

Q: Do you believe that Jesus died as a vicarious sacrifice for sin?

A: Yes.

Q: That’s a pretty standard belief. What’s the big deal? [Read more…]

Unforced Errors

When I first got married, my wife had ideas about teaching me to play tennis. Actually, that isn’t true. I had ideas about my wife teaching me to play tennis. It was a sport she enjoyed and something that we could do together. She was a little skeptical but willing. It was, of course, a disaster. The first problem was that I’d never been all that serious about the game. As I told her before we started, I played tennis like I didn’t play baseball; everything went over the fence. Initially, this wasn’t a problem as I was willing to run after all the errant balls and she was willing to stand around and watch me. But this eventually grew boring and she decided it would be useful to help me with my swing. So she stood by me, modeled the swing, and bounced the ball to me so I could hit it. I was very fast on the trigger, hoping to impress her, I suppose. I swung around quick and caught her hand with my racket. She cried out, I went to her and apologized, she shook it off after a moment and decided to try again. She started to bounce the ball and, sure I knew what I was doing, I swung again and immediately wacked her hand again. Afterwards, she wasn’t angry with me, but she has never stepped onto a tennis court with me again. [Read more…]

Writing and Revelation

My wife and I recently watched “The Words,” a movie with nested stories about writers. It featured a trope that occurs fairly regularly in movies about writing: the all-night burst of inspiration that produces Deeply Moving Prose, usually after the person doing the writing has gone through a prolonged period of emotional difficulty. The desired effect of this trope is to imbue the writing with a kind of mystical power—an effect that these movies usually augment by keeping said Deeply Moving Prose more or less sealed off from the viewers, Hitchcock-style, because it’s easier to imagine Deeply Moving Prose than it is to produce it (which may explain the irony that most movies about writing, including this one, are badly written). [Read more…]

In favour of substitutionary atonement, sort of (2/2)

lamb_thumb

The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (but only for first century Jews).

If someone were to volunteer to die in place of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, we would not think that justice, nor even mercy, had been served. Show justice — if the death penalty is your thing — by killing him. Show mercy by not killing him. But kill someone else to satisfy the demands of justice? Ridiculous.
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Obergefell and BYU’s Tax Exemption

On April 28, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, which challenged both the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage and of states’ nonrecognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

By the end of June, the Justices will have decided and we’ll know the constitutional status of same-sex marriage bans in the United States. But that doesn’t mean all questions will be resolved; in fact, an exchange between Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, and Solicitor General Verrilli piqued the interest of a lot of people, especially those invested in religious educational institutions.  [Read more…]

Writ & Vision: Roundtable on Grace

Writ and VisionAt 7pm on Thursday, May 21, Writ & Vision will host a roundtable discussion on grace. Participants include Adam Miller, Joseph Spencer, and Jenny Webb.

The discussion will focus on President Uchtdorf’s April 2015 General Conference address, “The Gift of Grace,” Adam Miller’s Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan: An Urgent Paraphrase of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and a close reading of 2 Nephi 25:23 (“for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do”).

The event is open to the public. Writ & Vision is located at 274 West Center Street in Provo, Utah.

Adam Miller will also be signing books at Benchmark Books from 12-1pm on Friday, May 22. Benchmark Books is located at 3269 South Main Street, Suite 250 in Salt Lake City.

Ascension Day

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Ascension Day

Acts 1:1-11Psalm 47; D&C 88:6

The Collect: Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Saviour Jesus Christ descended below all things and ascended above all things that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to see that he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Filmed versions of the Ascension tend to be badly done. The New Testament tells us that “as [the disciples] were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1: 10-11). The literal image of Jesus ascending into the sky may well reflect what happened, but expressing this in art runs the danger of overly reifying what was essentially a mystical experience. One also runs the danger of farce: on his way to heaven, how did Jesus escape the atmosphere? Where is heaven? Is a resurrected body capable of flying? In space? How did he generate lift? Silly.

The BBC/HBO Passion sensibly avoids all this by simply having the ascending Jesus disappear into a crowd in Jerusalem. He is gone but he is also all of us.  [Read more…]

#BikeToChurch Week 3: PeterLLC in Vienna, Austria!

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Bike to Church Month continues at ByCommonConsent. Join the invigorating, meditative practice of biking to church, doing yourself and the environment a favor! Send us your pics at sisterblah2@gmail.com, or tweet @bycommonconsent #biketochurch. This week we visit BCC’s own Peter LLC in Vienna, Austria. Looking great after a 7km ride with daughter aboard. Bonus points awarded for getting the church’s standard welcome sign in the shot. Thanks, Peter!  [Read more…]

You Can Only Want One Thing the Most: Thoughts on Gospel Doctrine 17 #BCCSundaySchool

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.  And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. (Mark 10: 21-22)

Mark 10 has got to be the most explained-away chapter in the LDS Standard Works. In it, Jesus goes negative on two things that Latter-day Saints like a lot. The first of these is wealth. Jesus tells his disciples that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (:25). The second is families, as “no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake . . .  but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time” (:29-30). [Read more…]

Contrasting Truth With Its Opposite

In his worldwide devotional address last week, Elder Lynn G. Robbins said something about achieving enlightenment (his talk is entitled “Tasting the Light”) that has been on my mind ever since:

Opposition is indispensable to our education and happiness. Without opposition, the truth remains hidden in plain view, like taking air for granted until the moment you are gasping for it. Because the Light of Christ is everpresent, many people don’t notice the Spirit in their life, like those Lamanites in 3 Nephi 9:20 who “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”

The perfect knowledge comes fruit by fruit, through opposition in all things. Obedience to God’s commandments promises ultimate happiness, growth, and progress through opposition, not bypassing it. “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

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