The Book of Mormon: My Testimony

So in Priesthood today, I offhandedly remarked that I believe that Nephi made a mistake in killing Laban. And boy-oh did that ignite some pushback.[fn1] And I realized that I ought to explain how that belief fits in with my testimony of the Book of Mormon.

As a starting point, I believe that the Book of Mormon is true.  [Read more...]

Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Almost Gone

Our Sisters are Leaving

There is a painful conversation swirling in our culture; whispered sorrow, frustration, anger, fatigue, and a tentative raising of voices asking for more representation in the governance and care of this institution that we call our spiritual home.  Millions of women are members of this institution charged with doing God’s work on earth, an institution that theoretically demands the very best that each member has to offer.  What can be said to those women who feel that their best is not wanted, valued, or needed?    [Read more...]

The Spirit of Elijah

Angus Mackay, Piper to Queen Victoria

Angus Mackay, Piper to Queen Victoria

When my twelve year-old son Jeffrey wanted to learn to play the bagpipes, I thought it was cool. I honestly did— I have always loved highland bagpipes, and find them haunting and beautiful. While our surname is an obviously Scottish clan name, I never really gave it much thought beyond knowing we were one of thousands of families whose “Mac—” became “Mc—” during the emigration to the United States. I knew my ancestors came down through Canada via Nova Scotia, but I somehow missed picking up Nova Scotia is NEW SCOTLAND.

So when Jeff picked up the pipes, I started poking around. (He is also a tuba player, and his younger brother plays the bugle. Take a moment to grieve for our neighbors) Jeffrey also wanted a kilt. My uncle is a judge who wears full Highland Dress for formal occasions, and I discovered our family has a tartan. A specific tartan, tied to very specific ancestral lands in the northern highlands of Scotland. Cool, right? We don’t just have a modern tartan- we’ve got an ancient tartan, a hunting tartan, a formal tartan… [Read more...]

Agreeable, Vol. IV

Welcome to Agreeable, a bimonthly advice column in which I will tell you, dear Reader, as to whether your planned course of action is “agreeable” or “hmph”. Direct your questions (max 200 words, please!) to the admin address (see ‘About’, above) with the subject line “Agreeable”.   

My wife and I recently had a baby girl. She is going to be blessed in sacrament meeting and we plan to host a luncheon at our house afterwards. We expect seven couples made up of family and close friends along with their many children for a total of about 45 people. We originally planned to prepare a main dish and have our guests bring side dishes but after looking at the cost and prep time decided it would be easier to hire a local food truck to serve tacos.  [Read more...]

Your Friday Afternoon Chat Transcript

Deep Fried Fair Food

One time, many months ago, Steve and I tried to start a recurring feature in which we post the unrehearsed, unplanned, and (basically) unedited transcripts of our IM conversations that deal with the weightiest of matters. It didn’t go over so well, and everyone got super mad and that was a darn shame, because it was an amazing post and I’m not remotely bitter about it nope not at all.[1] Anyway, we are going to give it another whirl today with a topic no less divisive than last time: Deep Fried Foods. If you’re interested in seeing what spurred this conversation into existence, go here.

Scott: Gotta say, the whole deep-fried fair food thing just puzzles me. I think it’s all gross. Like even when people are showing “the greatest” fried stuff at fairs, none of it is appealing to me.

Steve: I like fried foods. Those little donuts.

Scott: Me too–but not fried for the sake of frying. Like, I think a decent corndog is great.

Steve: yes.

Scott: But they go so over the top that the result isn’t a corndog anymore–it’s 6 lbs of batter with a gargantuan sausage in the middle, and leaves you sick. [Read more...]

Pure for God

Only $85!

Only $85!

I subscribe to Meridian Magazine. This past week I kept noticing that the same article was appearing in every issue, by Maurine Proctor, titled “Stumbling upon a Treasure in Jerusalem.” I finally opened the page and read it, and then learned why it kept being repeated; it was actually a sort of essay-advertisement for a necklace based on a reproduction of a bulla (the impression made from a seal) that had been discovered as part of an archaeological dig in the Temple Mount area of Jerusalem in 2011. The inscription on the bulla had the letters DKA LYH, which was interpreted as Aramaic deka leyah, “Pure for God.” The presumption of the archaelogical team was that the seal had been used to stamp items declared as ritually pure and therefore acceptable for use in the temple. Meridian is selling these reproductions for $85 each; the gold-plated ones have sold out, but silver-plated ones are still available in limited quantity. [Read more...]

Protology, Eschatology, and High School

So, Joseph Smith waxed eloquent on the social aspects of the before life, and the afterlife. We get a pithy summary courtesy of Orson Pratt and William Clayton:

“that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there”

And this makes me shiver a bit. Niles Crane, fictive Seattle psychiatrist expresses my thought best:

I’ve always liked the notion [after I die] of meeting the great figures of history. But then I think, what if it’s like high school, and all the really cool dead people don’t want to hang out with me?*

—————–
*On the wall in the St. George temple is a painting. All those cool dead people? They’re hanging out with Wilford Woodruff.

Emily Dickinson

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Emily Dickinson

Isaiah 6:5-8 (NRSV)Psalm 111:7-10 (Common Worship psalter); John 3:16 (KJV)1 Cor. 13:9 (NRSV); 2 Nephi 2:103 Nephi 8D&C 93:23-27

The Collect: Beloved God, who revealedst thy love for Emily Dickinson in the midst of her wrestlings with thee, and who hast now made that love known to us through her verse: grant that we also, in our strivings, may find thy love for us revealed in thy Son through the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[Read more...]

A Jungian Interpretation of the First Vision

You may say I’m a dreamer.

The traditional LDS perspective of the First Vision is that it was a literal visit from two Heavenly beings to an awake and alert Joseph Smith.  Joseph consistently refers to it as a vision, not a visit, and his earlier accounts sound (at least to me) more dreamlike than the 1838 version we have recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.  Often, visions in scripture are vivid dreams with a meaning that is applied to a broader group than the individual who has the vision.

What if we take the First Vision in the opposite direction, and consider it as a dream with significance to the dreamer rather than a conscious and world-altering event?  If a dream, then it is likewise a foray into the subconscious mind of Joseph Smith. This approach is not to dismiss a divine source for the First Vision; just to explore a Jungian perspective on the elements of the vision without regard to its source, as Jung might have done had Joseph been on his couch. [Read more...]

Idle gaming in a very long night

lettermanfireLetter to a Man in the Fire* is a brief meditation on the question of God’s existence and God’s goodness in the face of inexplicable suffering in the world. (Really brief. I read it in about two hours.) Reynolds Price’s letter, written in response to a young man dying of cancer, is suffused with an unusual mix of uncertainty and devotion. Price spends a lot of time agonizing over whether it’s appropriate to even write a letter recommending the existence and—in some sense—the goodness of a Creator to someone whose present suffering directly calls those views into question. Price’s reluctance is appropriate especially because so many people who write answers to theodicy questions forge ahead with affirmations of God’s goodness without dwelling long with the sufferer in their very real pain. He wants neither to “diminish for an instant my sense of the grinding wheel you’re presently under” by offering weak platitudes, nor “burden you further with darker thoughts than you’re otherwise bearing”—a frighteningly acute description of the strange negotiations comforters must make as they go along trying to “mourn with those that mourn” as well as “comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (80; Mosiah 18:9). [Read more...]

Mother’s Day Debrief

I want to know what your ward did for the big day. [Read more...]

All about Our Mothers

I thought I would open up a thread here for you to tell us about your mums. I’ll go first. [Read more...]

Dame Julian of Norwich

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Dame Julian of Norwich

Hebrews 10:19-24 (NRSV); John 4:23-26 (NRSV); Psalm 27:5-11 (1662 BCP); 1 Nephi 11:12-23; Alma 30:44; Moses 7:48-49

The Collect: Almighty God, who through thy servant Julian of Norwich showed us the Ground of our being, sustain us we pray with the sweet milk of thy Spirit through the everlasting nurture of thy Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

[Read more...]

A Day of Fasting and Prayer

Nicolas Kristof has done us a great service in bringing to the nation’s (and world’s) attention the depraved and cowardly kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian girls by the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram. Boko Haram means “Western education is a sin” in the Hausa language. All that “secular” learning. Boko Haram would rather conflate religion and the state, ensuring that women have no voice in society, confined to whatever influence their husbands allow them in their homes in the forced marriages into which they are sold in their early or mid-teens. [Read more...]

John Taylor, Eyewitness to the Assassination of Joseph Smith

John Taylor as President of the Church, source: http://tinyurl.com/m8agylk

John Taylor as President of the Church, source: http://tinyurl.com/m8agylk

The “Editor’s Pick” at BYU Studies Quarterly today is a new article featuring John Taylor’s eyewitness account of the assassination of Joseph Smith, which Taylor delivered in a sermon on June 27, 1854, the tenth anniversary of the martyrdom. Editor-in-chief John W. Welch writes that Taylor’s “words were taken down in Pitman shorthand and until very recently that dictation had never been transcribed. Deciphered by LaJean Carruth, and edited and introduced by Mark Staker, this impressive document and the materials connected with it in this article should be read in full and featured prominently in any future discussions of that treacherous assassination. It includes many new, interesting contemporaneous assertions and historical details”. [Read more...]

Honoring Our Mothers, Warts & All: A History of Mother’s Day

I had assumed that Mother’s Day was a greeting card holiday invented by Hallmark to turn filial guilt into revenue.  I was surprised to discover that Mother’s Day has a history longer than Christianity!  Ancients celebrated Isis (Mother of the Pharaohs), Rhea (Greek Mother of the Gods), and Cybele (The Great Mother).  The worship of these ancient goddesses is similar to the reverence we show to Mary, Jesus’s mother as these Mother Goddesses are often depicted with a baby in arms.  They also represent the reverence we should feel toward our own Heavenly Mother, symbolizing the care the earth provides to us all physically and the divine protection we receive. [Read more...]

When prophets of God enslave women

Numbers 31: In which Moses provides inspiration for Boko Haram. @bycommonconsent

[Read more...]

The Distance: A Review of Letters to a Young Mormon by Adam Miller

We do not live the life we think we do. We think that we are the star of our own show or, sometimes, the villain. We think that what we do matters, because we are doing it; our acts are windows into the soul or the building blocks of our character. We assume, though we claim to be disciples, though we claim to be saints, that we are the most important actors in our salvation play. I’m not certain that we are entirely wrong, but we are definitely not entirely right. [Read more...]

Mormon Lectionary Project: Emma Hale Smith

MLP

MLP

Emma Hale Smith
Proverbs 31, Psalm 51John 11:16, John 14:1-5, Ephesians 2:13-22Jacob 2, Moroni 7:40-48, Doctrine and Covenants 25

 

Miserere (Psalm 51)– Josquin, Brahms, Hurd

“In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions” (McDermid 1908)

Know This, That Every Soul is Free (First hymn in Emma’s original hymnal)

Amazing Grace (included in Emma’s Nauvoo collection of hymns)

Today we remember Emma Hale Smith, the Elect Lady of the Restoration and wife of Joseph Smith. The readings are about love and doubt, and the ways that they live together in every broken human heart. Emma, like the Apostle Thomas, like most of us, was hopelessly twinned–she loved and she doubted. And perhaps this is as it should be. Joseph, like all human beings, was not perfect, not entirely worthy of the perfect love and trust we owe only to God, who never compels our love or condemns our questioning. Emma’s great gift to the Saints, perhaps, is her example of letting her heart be broken again and again, without ever giving up the integrity of her soul. And while we Brighamites  have sometimes let our knowledge of Emma’s doubt obscure our memory of her devotion and love, it is hopeful that we are learning, as the body of Christ, to honor Emma again, to recognize that the Father’s house has many mansions, and that Christ has “broken down the middle wall  of partition,” both between our own doubting and loving selves, and between us as Saints of an ongoing restoration, to make us “fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”

The Collect: O God, who sent thy Son, “for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace,” make us also new persons. Break down the partitions in our hearts and minds; let us find reconciliation in the midst of doubt, that we may love Thee and each other with whole hearts. Let grace and charity abound in our remembrance of our foremothers and forefathers. Help us to sing with the saints, that the prayers of the righteous may be answered with a blessing on our heads. Amen.

Holding out for a (recognizable) hero

[soundtrack]

Bonnie_Tyler_Holding_a_Hero

Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the gods?

The need for heroes seems to be a human thing, but the type of hero desired seems more generational. See the hand-wringing over the new Captain America films, for instance. Maybe this hero phenomenon gives us another way to think about current discussions about “faith-promoting” versus “warts and all” history. Perhaps the sort of heroes people prefer today differs from the sort of heroes older members of the Church felt a need for. I struck on this probably-obvious idea while reading a book about gone-too-soon author David Foster Wallace.

Wallace half-joked that his deep love for the film Braveheart was due to familial connection. But he also explained that he couldn’t really connect on a gut-level with his famous forefather:

wept as he cried “Freedom.” Which I’m sure from the outside looks so cheesy. [...] He was perfect though: he was never weak, he was never cowardly, he was never . . . There was no, there was nothing in there—I couldn’t recognize myself in him at all, you know?1

[Read more...]

On the veneration of saints

Ignore the ceremony that surrounded it and you may find that the recent canonisation of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII had more in common with Mormon religious impulses than you may at first have thought. Ignore also what Rahner and Vorgrimler call the “unbridled sentimentality and religious trash”* to which we all succumb and instead judge the veneration of saints in Catholicism as generously as you can. Herewith a quick comparison of veneration, intercession, and canonisation in the Catholic and Mormon traditions.
[Read more...]

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day

Two minutes can seem a very long time. I know because I was given the responsibility for keeping time during the two-minute standing silence that our UK ward observed every Remembrance Sunday. I was strict about it and timed exactly two minutes, but everyone, including my fellow bishopric members, began glancing around anxiously, the other counselor looking at me out of the corner of his eye. Perhaps in past years, people had been casual about the two minutes, just estimating it. Based on my experience of a two-minute silence, a two-minute long siren wail would seem an eternity. [Read more...]

Noah and Alma

Sorry, no, not that Alma; his son.

As Grant Hardy has pointed out, Mormon likes to tell stories that parallel each other. Often, those parallels seem meant to starkly contrast good and evil; the parallels between King Benjamin and King Noah immediately spring to mind. Other times, they seem to illustrate the consequences of different behaviors. Compare, for example, the escape of Limhi’s people from the Lamanites with the escape of Alma Sr.’s people.  [Read more...]

Emmeline B. Wells

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

With this post, the MLP inaugurates something we’ve been meaning to do for a while: use the lectionary format to celebrate specific LDS figures. In the spirit of the 1978 First Presidency statement noting the contributions made by non-LDS religious leaders and philosophers to the spread of light and truth, we’ll also be expanding the series to honor a broad spectrum of people who have contributed to the advancement of the human family from a smaller capacity to a greater one. We’re also increasing the amount of LDS scripture in each post, to include selections from the Small Plates, the abridgments of Mormon and Moroni, and the Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price.

Emmeline B. Wells

Ruth 1:8-18, 2:4-17 (NRSV); Psalm 119:41-48 (1662 BCP); Luke 18:1-8 (NRSV); 2 Cor. 8:1-9 (NRSV); 2 Ne. 25:21-23; Ether 12:23-28; D&C 88:117-26

The Collect: O God, thou who givest us both daily bread and holy light to feed our minds and spirits, grant that we, like thy servant Emmeline B. Wells, may, through the grace of thy Son, Jesus Christ, write, teach, serve, and lead, that our sisters and brothers might forever be established in the strength of thy Holy Spirit. Amen.

[Read more...]

Exponent II is almost as old as I am!

And they’re having a party!

Exponent II is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a speaker series featuring founding mothers and current staff members.  On April 26 in Potomac, Maryland, former EdiCoin Optor Claudia Bushman will speak with current Editor-in-Chief Aimee Hickman about Mormon feminist history and what they see for Mormon women in the near future.  Discussion and Q&A will follow and light refreshments will be served.  Tickets can be purchased at exponentii.org.

The Proper Domain of Revelation

Masters of their domain

Masters of their domain

One of the challenges of scripture [1] is dealing with things that are empirically incorrect.  For example, how does the reader of scripture address the six-day creation?  What of Methuselah and the other early patriarchs living 900+ years?  What of the sun revolving around the earth?  The reader’s reaction to such things speaks volumes about the reader’s religion, social demographics and education [2].  By this point, it is generally recognized that Mormons are not literalists when it comes to scripture – or rather, we are literalists when it suits us.  Six days become six “creative periods”;  Joseph Smith and other early Church leaders spoke specifically to the age of the patriarchs; the JST speaks to the rotation of the earth around the sun.  More importantly, Joseph Smith introduces the concept of prophets speaking as prophets, which introduces a new tool to readers of scripture: prophets speaking when they thought the mic was off [3].

So I’d like to bat a topic around: what is the proper domain of revelation?  That is, what is the proper range of subject matter on which prophets can speak with divine authority?  Are there subjects where prophets are on more shaky ground to invoke divine inspiration?  How are we to tell?

[Read more...]

Is the new Sunday School curriculum a step forward?

A while back I gave a sacrament talk about how the Restoration is an ongoing thing. It was tough to gather enough recent rhetorically requisite quotes from authority to uphold my main thesis, so I was particularly happy when President Uchtdorf delivered this one:
Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.”
It’s wonderful (and for me, paradoxically egotistically self-affirming) to hear from the pulpit that we still have important things to learn as a Church, not just as new converts. But isolated statements like this one are up against some institutional inertia sustaining the view that we have pretty much everything figured out, especially Truth-wise. If we want to know how the “ongoing process” perspective play out in our actual church lives we might take a look at the Church’s recently announced plans for a new Sunday School curriculum for adults. The new curriculum has the potential to paradoxically affirm the idea of an ongoing process of Restoration while also denying or obscuring it.

[Read more...]

Mormon Lectionary Project: Easter Evening

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Easter Evening

Isaiah 25:6-9 (KJV), Psalm 114 (KJV), 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NRSV), Luke 24:13-49 (NRSV), Mosiah 5:7-9, 3 Nephi 15:9-10

The Collect: Heavenly Father, who gavest power to Thy Son, Jesus Christ, to rise in resurrected glory on this holy day: let our hearts be changed through faith in His name so that we of Thy latter-day Church may live as spiritually begotten sons and daughters of Christ, adopted through Baptism in His name, that we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, may live and serve Everyman as though he were Christ, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. [Read more...]

Easter Sunday

Eric Huntsman concludes his series on Holy Week.

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

Christ is risen. Hallelujah! Christ is risen indeed. That is how Christians all over the world have been greeting each other all over the world this morning, and it is how I wish to greet you as I bring my brief stint guest-posting here at BCC to an end. [Read more...]

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