While everyone’s journey into faith is unique, there are often archetypal threads and motifs that wind through our stories, drawing us together into a unified chord- stronger and richer for our unique contributions to the whole. I came into the church backwards. When I asked to become a member of the church, I wasn’t even sure I believed in Jesus as the Christ, but I suspected God was real and I had felt both the burning and the whispering of the Spirit- in fact, I had felt it all my life, in different moments and times, but hadn’t the language to give it a name. [Read more...]
A good friend of mine recently returned to Church activity. His story is a complicated one. Tyler (I’m going to call him Tyler) is a returned missionary and prior to his period of inactivity had served as an EQP, Executive Secretary, and temple ordinance worker in his ward. About a year ago, Tyler came out of the closet. First to himself, then to immediate family members and a few close friends. He did not tell his bishop or any of his fellow ward members. Instead, he moved out of his ward and eventually stopped attending Church altogether. He also began to date in an effort to get into a serious relationship with another man. So while he had spent most of his life as a model Mormon, coming out and embracing his sexual identity led him into a period of general non-engagement with the Church. He occasionally drank (though did not abuse) alcohol, and generally his lifestyle reflected a shifting (and distinctively less LDS) perspective on morality and right and wrong. He also began attending the Episcopal Church, which he enjoyed in part because it was new and different but still Christ-centric, but also very much because he fell in love with the richness of the liturgy. He spent a total of 6 months basically totally inactive in the LDS Church, and not conforming to certain key LDS behavioral standards.
Then he received an email from a close friend (actually a mutual friend of both of ours, I’ll call him Jake). [Read more...]
When I was in high school or college, I bought The Shape of Jazz to Come, Ornette Coleman’s seminal 1959 free jazz album. I listened to jazz at the time, especially Miles’s electric stuff, but even more I listened to James Brown and Prince and P-Funk and various alternative rock bands. In fact, I’d probably never heard Ornette Coleman before I bought the album.[fn1] I bought it because I knew it was important, and I wanted to like it. [Read more...]
The Feast of George Herbert, Priest, 1633.
The Collect: O God, who broughtest thy servant George Herbert through the disappointment of his worldly aspirations to become a priest to thy Temple, a poet of thy praise, and an instrument of thy undivided love in a contentious time: guide us also by thy inner light so that we might worship thee together in the beauty of holiness.
Twenty years ago today, I was endowed in the Idaho Falls Temple. This temple was where my parents and grandparents had been endowed and sealed. [Read more...]
There’s something to that, I admit. Look at the last 10 days of posts here: Firestorm on modesty, leaving the Ensign behind, how to revamp Church magazines, the Church as corporation, missionary policies re: opposite sex, wearing pants and then Mark’s post contrasting dinners. If the occasional complaint is steadying the ark then BCC must be like a full suspension system like none other.
I’d like to offer up a little explanation of what’s going on here. If you’re predisposed to dislike this site then I suppose these will make little difference. [Read more...]
I volunteer at a shelter for homeless people two nights per week, helping with the evening meal. I do pretty much the same things there I do with my Mormon priesthood on such occasions, i.e. set up tables and chairs and take them down again. The events I describe in this post took place last week on consecutive evenings.
Wednesday: I notice on the schedule that an LDS ward from the suburbs is scheduled to furnish the dinner tonight. Right on time, three women from the Relief Society arrive, and they are like the two or three dozen women in any ward who make things happen: efficient, capable, and hard-working. They have done this before, and they each know what to do to get the meal ready on time. They are serving chili dogs, so one sister sets a big pan of water on to boil to heat the hot dogs, another starts heating the chili, and I help the third woman fill disposable cups with water. The guests at the shelter start lining up for chow, and after a blessing, the production line starts. Two hot dogs in buns are arranged on each plate, then a ladle full of chili is poured over it all. The guest then moves down the line and helps himself to a baggie of chips, and individual size can of fruit cocktail, and a baggie of sandwich creme style cookies for dessert. They told me that they budget less than a dollar per meal, and I believe them. There are extra hot dogs left over, so they will go home to the freezer until next month, when it’s their turn again. They also told me that they turn in their receipts to the bishop and he reimburses them out of the fast offering fund, which seems like a good arrangement. The only complaint I hear from the guests is that there are no second helpings, and that seems quite petty to me, at first. But upon reflection, many of those people probably had not had lunch, and when you don’t have a refrigerator or pantry, the feeling of having one’s belly full probably takes on more importance.
We in the Church—along with many other Christians—read the “Fourth Servant Song” in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as transparently about Jesus. It’s kind of hard not to: phrases like “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” fit the Christological narrative almost too perfectly. And yet the presence of this passage in the Hebrew Scriptures suggests the possibility of a reading that has nothing at all to do with Jesus, because Jews obviously do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. So what is this other reading? More pointedly, why should we as Christians bother to look beyond the seemingly straightforward identification of the “servant” in this passage with Jesus?
This post is a review of David Bokovoy, Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis-Deuteronomy (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014); 237 pp. This book is the first of three projected volumes, which are meant in some measure to parallel the three parts of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh: Law, Prophets, Writings). The review is written in three parts: first, some personal reflections on my interactions with the Documentary Hypothesis (hereafter “DH”: the theory that the Pentateuch was not authored as a whole by the prophet Moses, but rather was created later by one or more redactors weaving together multiple documentary sources); second, a consideration of the first half of the book, chapters 1-5, specifically on the DH; and third, a consideration of the second half of the book, chapters 6-9, on the interaction of the DH with Mormon scripture. [Read more...]
I started writing a comment on Russell’s recent blog post, in which he explains why he’s canceling his Ensign subscription. Once the comment got past a couple hundred words, I figured a full complementary post might be more appropriate. So here goes.
I haven’t subscribed to the Ensign in over a decade. I read it a couple times a year, usually when I’m at my parents’ house, and the experience is sufficient to remind myself why I don’t subscribe, and why I don’t feel particularly guilty about it.
And yet, I spend time in the bloggernacle, where I tend to stick to faith-promoting sites with some level of orthodoxy. When I started reading and later writing for By Common Consent, it was specifically to fill the Ensign-shaped hole in my heart. A faith community needs an outlet where it can share struggles, devotional thoughts, and personal experiences with the divine, and interact with the culture beyond congregational boundaries.
Mark Ashurst-McGee and Matthew C. Godfrey are the Batman and Superman of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. According to Mark’s wikipedia page, he is a “specialist in documentary editing conventions and transcription methodology.” Professor Steven Harper, stated Ashurst-McGee “probably knows the field of documentary editing better than anybody that I know.” Matthew Godfrey is the managing editor of the JSPP and probably knows the field of 19th century sugar production better than anybody that I know. He holds a PhD in American and public history from Washington State University. Before joining the project, he worked for eight years at Historical Research Associates, a historical and archaeological consulting firm headquartered in Missoula, Montana, serving as president of the company from 2008 to 2010.
We are pleased to take this opportunity to talk about Documents, Volume 2, the latest release in The Joseph Smith Papers. Several editors worked on this volume, including the two of us, Grant Underwood, Bob Woodford, and Bill Hartley. We believe that the volume does much to advance our knowledge of early church history and of Joseph Smith. [Read more...]
If you’re thinking that one of the coolest people you know is named Jessica Jensen, you’d be right. She originally blogged with us last year, resulting in the epic Jonny Lingo .gif post. She lives in Phoenix and has been married 9 years to a perpetual student. She supports him by doing office support for an engineering firm but she plans on those student/provider roles reversing in the future. She also blogs when she feels like it at her Bloggity Blog.
I wore pants to church last Sunday for the first time. My main reason for doing it was very simple: I just plain wish women felt comfortable wearing pants to church. They’re more practical than skirts (especially for mothers of young children), they’re often dressier than, well, dresses, they warm your legs in the arctic temperatures of the Young Women’s room, and what year is this again? And while I do hope for greater visibility for female members of the church, I specifically chose not to participate in the designated Wear Pants to Church Day because I didn’t want to heighten the controversy. So I waited it out a few weeks instead. [Read more...]
One recent afternoon, two new elders were visiting our neighborhood. There is another Mormon family up the street, and after stopping in to see them, they came by our house. For all I know, missionaries have been doing these drop ins for years. I’ve never been home during the day before, but since my husband and I are starting up a small business, we are now both home during the day until our new office is open. This was a new experience for me. [Read more...]
In priesthood opening exercises on Sunday, our attention was directed to the fact that one of the approximately 19 pairs of full-time missionaries in our ward didn’t have any dinner appointments this week, and that this situation needed to be remedied.
A calendar was presented. Hands were raised. Appointments were made.
But this procession prompted my friend James to shoot me a text message, and the following conversation ensued:
The average adult Sunday School class is far too superficial and devotional to help us study the Bible (Richard Foster).
Funny how last month’s discipline was fasting, something I’m usually pretty good at, and yet I had a real shocker. I started the year with a 40 hour fast but have been pretty rubbish ever since. Foster warned about letting the disciplines become vainglories. I think I fell into the trap.
And so to the discipline of study, something else I’m pretty good at. It’s kind of what I do, as a teacher and a scholar, and it’s one of the Mormon “Big Two” along with prayer. Good Mormons read the scriptures . . . a lot.
Why do churches sometimes act like corporations? Isn’t there something fundamentally at odds between the ostensibly otherworldly business of saving souls and the dollars-and-cents mindset of 21st-century global capitalism? Questions of this kind these seem to undergird discussions of church finance, covering such matters as the property dealings of American Catholic dioceses, the uses of monies donated to Islamic charities, or the investment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a shopping mall across the street from historic Temple Square in Salt Lake City, or, now, a 32-story mixed-use structure in downtown Philadelphia.
Six months ago I had the honor of delivering the Alumni address at the Convocation ceremonies at BYU’s Kennedy Center for International Studies. A number of people have asked about it so I decided to make it available here. [Read more...]
My wife and I have subscribed to the church magazines–The Ensign, for our tweens and teen-agers The New Era, and for our younger children The Friend–for all of our married life, more than 20 years. But this year, after some discussion, we simply decided that we were giving up on them entirely. No more subscribing. We’ve saved ourselves $26. [Read more...]
Men and women can look sharp and be fashionable, yet they can also be modest. Women particularly can dress modestly and in the process contribute to their own self respect and to the moral purity of men. In the end, most women get the type of man they dress for.
-Elder Tad Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy, “The Lord’s Standard of Morality,” March 2014 Ensign, p. 45-49.
Discuss. [Read more...]
Elder Bednar in the most recent Ensign (PDF) takes up a sensitive topic—the eternal fate of our children who turn away. This isn’t something that is uniquely Mormon. Faithful people the world over struggle with this, and it is at the root of some of the most interesting accommodations in religious history. Think the halfway covenant that bugged Jonathan Edwards so much.
Part I can be found here. Gerrit Dirkmaat is a historian working as an editor of The Joseph Smith Papers volumes. He joined the Joseph Smith Papers project in 2010 and has since served as a historian/editor on Journals Vol. 2, Documents Vol. 1, and as the lead volume editor of Documents Vol. 3, which will be published in 2014. He is currently serving as an editor for the first volume in the Administrative series.
“Caractors” and Money-Digging
The hefty appendix of Documents, Volume 1 contains some fascinating documents connected to Joseph Smith. First, the document containing “caractors” drawn off of the gold plates is examined. While it has been assumed for years that this document was the actual manuscript Martin Harris took to Professor Charles Anthon in 1828, research conducted in conjunction with Robin Jensen not only demonstrated that the document was of later origin but also allowed us to publish the document with the inclusion of a bottom portion that had long since been torn away. The various Joseph Smith–era documents containing characters from the gold plates are examined and shown to the reader (pp. 353–367). [Read more...]
This is the 2nd part of a discussion regarding confession in the Church. Part I can be found here.Put yourself in the shoes of a Church administrator that wants to hire some folks. You want to make sure that the people you hire are good Church people, that they won’t bring embarrassment upon the Church. You also don’t want to have to waste time interviewing people with these intrusive sorts of questions all the time. Why not use the shortcut of the temple recommend?
Melody is one of our favorite commenters here at BCC. She earns a living as a Registered Nurse. She currently teaches Sunday School for twelve-year-olds and sings in the ward choir when guilt gets the best of her. She grows a respectable garden and hikes the trails of the Rocky Mountains year ’round. She writes when she’s not building sheet-forts with her grand children. Her poetry has appeared in Irreantum, Segullah, Utah Sings Volume VIII: An anthology of contemporary verse by Utah poets, and in Utah Voices 2012, and in on-line journals and forums.
I missed the Grammys this year, but I’ve watched a few video clips. I had the same response this time as every other time I see a celebrity awards show: “Seriously? It’s not enough that they make millions of dollars, that they live like Royals, that they have a gazillion admirers who praise them, serve them, and seek their counsel and company? (Also: Oprah) Then they gather together as a group of worshipped beings to worship each other and themselves?!” [Read more...]
A number of months ago, I read an interesting entry in Frederick Kesler’s diary. He was a bishop in Salt Lake City, and on October 19, 1876 he attended a bishops’ meeting and had summarized Brigham Young’s instructions. Bill Hartley briefly mentions this meeting as an antecedent to Young’s more comprehensive ecclesiastical reforms in 1877. [n1] Kesler’s reaction is quite imformative: