Global Toilets I Have Known: A Memoir

This toilet no longer scares me.  I would use this in a heartbeat.

There are few things we take for granted more than personal waste elimination.  The assumptions many Americans share about bathroom habits may include things like: public toilets are a right, privacy (being in “the privy”) is an expectation, we flush pretty much all things – even when cautioned not to do so, we require at least a square or a ply – probably more, and so forth.  As an American who has traveled throughout Europe and lived in Asia for 2 1/2 years, my toilet assumptions have been examined, re-examined, and in some cases flushed away.  I have become multi-toilet-lingual, able to find comfort, nay relief, in a variety of toilet situations. [Read more...]

Pilgrimage 2014

The Mormon Confraternity of St. James is busy organising its annual pilgrimage, this year to Trondheim in Norway on St. Olav’s Way. Join our Facebook group for more details and for news of smaller (less ambitious!) pilgrimages and gatherings. All are invited!

2013: El Camino de Santiago de Compostela: [Read more...]

Review of “Global Mom: A Memoir”

Global Mom: A Memoir, by Melissa Dalton-Bradford

Global Mom: A Memoir, by Melissa Dalton-Bradford

Years ago J. Stapley sat in my office at my Salt Lake City law firm and we discussed Mormon history. We agreed that our richest and most faith-affirming history is often — virtually always — found in memoirs or journals, in the lives and experiences of our own ancestors or other Mormons who have gone before.

My favorite “Mormon” book of 2013 (the Joseph Smith Papers Project releases notwithstanding) was Melissa Dalton-Bradford’s Global Mom: A Memoir. The book wasn’t written as a specifically Mormon memoir or as a piece of historical writing about Mormonism — it is skilfully written for a general audience. The narrative contains a few isolated specific references to her Mormon faith, culture, and religious life. Otherwise, Dalton-Bradford’s Mormonism is in the background as a constant anchor steadying her life through good and (very) bad times — it is simply the religious framework of her life discussed in general terms that make it meaningful to a general audience who will be able to relate to the peace available in their own lives through their own religious faith. [Read more...]

Blue Collar / White Collar

lego-workersHave you ever had a blue-collar bishop or stake president? Do any General Authorities from North America or Europe have blue-collar backgrounds before they were called as representatives of Christ? What about Mission Presidents?

What’s your experience been? Do lines fall differently in urban/suburban areas? I’ve heard the argument that it’s more about spare time and ability to serve, though I’m not sure that holds up under actual scrutiny. What does your ward leadership look like? [Read more...]

Confession: Good for the Soul, Bad For Just About Everything Else

OBLIGATORY PREFACE: These are just some idle reflections on possible structural weaknesses in our current system of administration and on ways we can improve. This post is not meant to reflect on any particular person, living or dead, myself included. Except Bosworth. Part I of II.

Suppose you are a Bishop. A man (let’s say he’s an Elder) comes to see you and confesses to you that lately he has had a problem with watching pornography. What tools, then, are at your disposal?
[Read more...]

A Kiva Family Home Evening

. . . do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again;
and your reward shall be great,
and ye shall be the children of the Highest . . .

- Luke 6:35

Several years ago our family received one of the most interesting and long-lasting Christmas presents we have ever received from another family in the extended family’s Christmas exchange. The thoughtful family who had drawn our family’s name contributed a modest sum of money on our behalf to the microlending organization Kiva. The idea was that they supplied the money as a gift to us and it was up to us to choose recipients for microloans using that money. This has been a gift that keeps on giving as the loans get paid back and we then have the opportunity to lend that money again to other recipients of our choice. [Read more...]

Some Notes on Moses 5:16 et seq.

This past Sunday I taught GD lesson 5.  At the beginning of class I talked a little bit about going to see The Saratov Approach.  I was kind of surprised it made it all the way out here to Chicago.  When I went to see it, I was sort of assuming I would be the only one in the theater, but I was pleasantly surprised that a pretty good sized crowd was present.  Although I only recognized one guy, my Mo-dar was burning and I’m pretty sure the audience was at least 80% Mormon; maybe even 90%. Then I had two class members read the recent SL Tribune article about the new pilot program where missionaries do service for a couple of hours a day.  I thought this was not only way interesting but also important enough to read the whole thing (and I passed around to the class the great accompanying picture of those young missionaries wearing jeans and work clothes). Then it was on to the lesson itself. [Read more...]

Killing Narfi: Skyrim and the problem of evil

As Mormons, we have a pervasive, if not terribly well-attributed, belief that, in the next life, if we turned out to be good enough, we’ll get to make our own planets. Folks, why wait? There are a wealth of world-building strategy and role-playing games available right now. One has me in its web right now and it is causing me to consider the creation of a moral universe. [Read more...]

On the loss and recovery of faith

21bFor some of us of a certain age, it is difficult to overstate the effect the Star Wars legendarium had on us. Years later, these events and experiences are still vivid to me:

1981 (aged 5): My first outing to the cinema with my big sister. We watched a re-run of Empire. Images I remember: Luke’s sandy Bespin outfit, an ice planet, Vader’s big head against the stars (which I thought was disembodied).

1982 (aged 6): Playtime at Matthew’s house. I brought my two figures: 2-1B and Bespin Luke. He had more, including an AT-AT. Having a Star Wars figure in my hand and playing with it on Matthew’s living room carpet brings me a new experience of happiness.

1982, Christmas (aged 6): AT-AT. My joy is full. [Read more...]

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

_mormon_lectionary-100x100px-RGBaMormon Lectionary Project: The Presentation, Year A

Malachi 3:1-4, Hebrews 2:14-18, Luke 2:22-40, Psalm 84, Mosiah 2:1-6

The Collect: O Lord: as we turn to thy Temple in our hearts and with our actions, wilt thou, we pray, send thy Presence into our midst and make us, the body of thy Church, into a living Temple, that by thy grace we might become a refuge of holiness for the distressed of the earth.

[Read more...]

Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of Pretty Much Everything

Most social movements, most bureaucratic structures, most utopias, and most dreams are doomed. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t dream and try to build things. There is beauty in the ashes, especially if we figure out how polyphony works and how moments of passing discord contribute to the ultimate harmony.

We could do worse than trying to learn from William Byrd. He lived in a moment of great religious discord–Protestants and Catholics were killing each other everywhere, and the choice of whether to set music in English or in Latin was open to potentially dangerous political interpretation. He set this piece both in Latin and in English–a reminder, perhaps, that Zion is always under siege from all sides, often from those who believe they are her most ardent defenders.

Agreeable, Vol. II

11Welcome 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”.

I stopped attending church more than five years ago because of concerns over some doctrines and policy. [Read more...]

New JSPP content now online

So, the Joseph Smith Papers crew has released another batch of content on their website. Included in the release are holograph images and transcriptions of the four contemporaneous accounts of the King Follett Sermon (plus the T&S version as a bonus). [n1] The chunk of early 1842 documents includes the minutes of the organization of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge. Also some Nauvoo Legion minutes, and skads of letters and deeds. One page that has been out for a while but is announced today is the Calendar of Documents which lists all the known JS documents to 1833 along with forgeries, so you can easily check.

Solid work guys.
____________________

  1. I hereby proscribe (again) any reference to the TPJS in historical writing, when discussing anything before the time it was written.

Mormon Lectionary Project: Mohandas K. Gandhi

With this post, we’re taking the Mormon Lectionary Project into new territory, using the genre to write about figures without days in the Common Lectionary. Most of these will be LDS, but Gandhi comes first because of his death date, 30 Jan. 1948. Just as we’ve been adding LDS scripture to previous posts, it seemed appropriate to include the Qur’an and the Bhagavad Gita in this one.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

Dan. 6:10-11, Matt. 5:38-42, 1 Cor. 13, Qur’an 4:256-57, Bhagavad Gita 2:55-57, Alma 24:20-27 [Read more...]

Transgressors in Eden

This Sunday in Sunday School, we’re going to study the Fall.[fn1] The lesson quotes Elder Oaks distinguishing sin from transgression[Read more...]

Am I exempt from paying tithing? It depends.

Between December and January, Bishops frantically try to meet with members to conduct tithing settlement. During these interviews the Bishop asks members whether they are paying a full tithe and the response is usually quite simple: Yes, no, or part. However, there are also some circumstances in which members may be exempt from paying tithing. Young missionaries, for example, are not required to pay tithing. In addition, the CHI also states that “Members who are entirely dependent on Church welfare assistance” are also exempt.

Most members, I suspect, would feel comfortable with this exemption and yet those who receive state benefits are not similarly exempt. How can we reconcile these two? [Read more...]

Sherlock Holmes in Utah

We seem to be in the midst of a Sherlock Holmes revival, what with the BBC’s Sherlock series, CBS’s Elementary (both are set in the present) and the Warner Brothers movies staring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. This little side-light on good old Holmes has a Mormon connection.

In 1923, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, British author and advocate for the Spiritualism movement, visited Salt Lake City, Utah and delivered a lecture in the Mormon Tabernacle.[1] Doyle was and is most famous for his fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Doyle in his mature years.

Doyle in his mature years.

Holmes’s first adventure involved a crime that was linked to the Mormons of Utah, specifically, the Danite Vigilante Corps so popular in the nineteenth-century press. A Study in Scarlet was sold for 25 pounds sterling and appeared in December 1886.
[Read more...]

Suspicion, Intuition and Religiosity

Incorrect answer: “To commend me on my good driving.”

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” the officer asked me last Thursday.  I knew from watching my husband’s reactions when he’s been pulled over (the man never gets tickets, I swear) that the best thing to do is to play dead.  Not literally, but you have to avoid certain pitfalls:  being too confident, not being confident enough, being too animated, responding emotionally (regardless of the emotion – but anger and sadness are definitely out), flirting [1], being friendly, and most of all you cannot under any circumstances answer that loaded-for-bear question.  Which can be difficult because officers must be trained in waiting out uncomfortable silences. [2]  Almost anything you say or do can be misinterpreted to your detriment. [Read more...]

The Book of Mormon and the King James Version

Many people find problematic the extent to which the Book of Mormon quotes the King James Version of the Bible, because this practice can make the Book of Mormon look more like a cobbled-together 19th-century text than a translation of an ancient artifact (bearing in mind Joseph Smith’s idiosyncratic usage of “translation”). Without claiming to offer a solution to this conundrum, I’d like to put forward an 1820s analogue, in which the translator of a recently recovered text relied uncritically on the King James Version, in the process masking some interesting details of the scriptural text presented.

[Read more...]

Dear Church, We Need Our Sabbath Day Back

Like many Mormons, I am made for the Sabbath. Like many of you, I’m exhausted and yearn for a weekly day of rest. Sadly, I rarely get one and that’s a problem. [Read more...]

Polygamy, Society, and the Mormons

When I returned to my office after winter break, I found two large brown boxes (with “Joe Christensen” written on the sides) waiting for me in the mailroom. I was pretty sure I knew what they held and, sure enough, upon opening them, I saw copies of Taxing Polygamy, my (finally published!) article dealing with the difficulties that a regime of legally-recognized polygamy would present to the U.S. tax system.

And, in celebration of its finally being published, I thought I’d do a little polygamy-blogging, starting with this broad introductory post.  [Read more...]

Lava Bombs and Malls

Last night I had a series of terrible dreams. One involved lava bombs. The neighbor’s home (who happens to be my bishop) was blasted to smoldering flames, my old pickup caught one squarely in its rusted bed, then my house was battered, dead center in the master bedroom. Naturally, I was standing in the driveway, barefoot, crouching down as hell rained upon the neighborhood. I ran into the house to get my wife, but suddenly realized she was still in bed (it must have been early). Crying, I tried to get up the stairs but lava was splashed about, seriously impeding my progress and then barring my way finally. Knowing her fate, as dreams are often omniscient, I went to the little cabinet where somehow there were spare car keys, grabbed one for the new car and rushed outside, hoping to get up north to check on . . . I don’t know what. The dream went on, predictably getting worse until I woke.
[Read more...]

Sheila Taylor talk on Mormonism and Theology @ Berkeley

On Sunday, January 26 at 7 PM at the Berkeley Institute, theologian Sheila Taylor will be giving a presentation on “The Role of Theology in Mormonism.”  [Read more...]

By Common Consent: Reflections on Mormon Political Theology

Jason K. is an English professor specializing in Milton and currently at work on a book project studying political theologies during the English Civil War period. The organizer of the Mormon Lectionary Project series here, this is his first post as a regular guest blogger at BCC.

For my first non-lectionary post, I thought I’d adapt some earlier ruminations on this blog’s eponymous scripture.

In a recent Sunday School discussion, D&C 20:63—”The elders are to receive their licenses from other elders, by vote of the church to which they belong, or from the conferences”—was referenced as an example of church government by common consent. The notion of voting, however, seems more democratic than LDS church government typically is. In this case the general membership is not voting to select elders, but to grant them licenses, authorizing them to function elsewhere. My question is: why go through the formality? Why can’t the person in authority to ordain elders simply issue the license and have done? In addressing this question, I suggest that Richard Baxter’s work of political theology, A Holy Commonwealth (1659), offers a helpful analogue to LDS practice.

[Read more...]

Book Review: Richard J. Mouw’s Talking With Mormons

cover mouwLast week, popular Christian evangelist Ravi Zacharias returned to Salt Lake City to address Mormons and other Christians from the Tabernacle pulpit. Back in 2004, Zacharias’s historic Tabernacle address was overshadowed in the news by Richard Mouw’s controversial introductory remarks. Mouw, president of the Fuller Theological Seminary, issued an apology to Mormons on behalf of evangelicals who he said had sinned against Mormonism by misrepresenting their beliefs and practices. Over the past decade, the evangelical (Calvinist) Christian has continued to dialog with various Mormons in order to promote better interfaith relationships. During the last two presidential elections he became one of the many go-to sources for news outlets seeking soundbites on evangelical views of Mormonism. He’s taken a lot of heat for this within his religious community–early on being told that he didn’t know Mormons well enough and so would easily be deceived by them, later being told he had become too close to Mormons to have a clear view of their dangerous heresies.

His new book Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals is an effort to educate the evangelical community about his ongoing work with Mormonism.  [Read more...]

Emails From My Daughter

It’s only a matter of time

A few months ago, we got new phones. We configured the old phones to be wifi-only and let our kids use them to play games, watch movies, etc. as a treat. For my eldest daughter, the primary purpose of the phone is email. Though she is only seven years old, the autocomplete features help her compose emails with relative ease. She loves to get email from her grandparents and her parents, and has taken to carrying the phone around with her in a little purse so that she can check her email on the go. [Read more...]

Our liturgy of lives and deaths

WP_20130714_016I served a mission in France and Belgium. Though I have seen blessing gowns in the Church History Museum, my family has not made a tradition of the infant’s clothing. At the end of my time, I walked with my parents not far from the Grande Place of Brussels, and they found a white lace dress. It was not meant for me, but death and life sometimes intercede without expectation.

[Read more...]

The Mormon Lectionary Project: Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

The Feast of Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader, 1968

Exodus 3:7-12, Isaiah 40:3-8, Psalm 77:11-20, Psalm 98:1-4, Luke 6:27-36, Helaman 13:25-29 [Read more...]

Toward a More Productive, Fulfilling, and Successful Missionary Program

A little over six months have passed since the Church held its mission president training meeting that was double-billed as a worldwide leadership training meeting relating to missionary work to which all members were invited (either in person at the BYU Marriott Center or virtually, by way of the internet) and which was preceded by unprecedented fanfare. [Read more...]

Twitter at Church

Next week, classes start again. The first day of class, as I provide an overview of the class, I’ll tell my students that, thanks to the magic of the internet, they have easy access to plenty of things that are more interesting and engaging than what I can provide. Seriously, even if I were the most engaging professor in the world—and I’m not bad, frankly—I can’t compete with cat videos, instant messages, and the rest of human knowledge and entertainment available online. Still, I have no interest in banning laptops in my classroom. Instead, I suggest that, entertaining or not, my lecture and other classroom interactions will generally be more valuable than said cat videos.  [Read more...]

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