Toeing the Line

It is a matter of undisputed fact that breaking a toe is the most painful thing a mortal can experience in this life. [1] [Read more…]

Ideas for Easier Journal-Writing

I love our church’s emphasis on journaling, which is hypocritical because I totally suck at it. I enjoy writing, and I see the value in documenting my life, if only for myself. But when it comes to sitting down and writing a bit, I’ve always had a terrible time getting into a routine.

I totally buy into the importance of it. Cataloging my spiritual experiences helps me remember them. Remembering them keeps the foundation of my testimony top of mind, and comes in handy during those moments when I need them. If I don’t record them somewhere, specific spiritual moments leave my memory so quickly.

[Read more…]

#5000

We didn’t see it coming. I went to publish something half-remembered that I had polished up into a post, and discovered it would be the 5,000th post.

So let us pause, and think about what is gathered here: research and rants, conversations and confessions, history and hysterics, polls and provocations. [Read more…]

Strengthening the Strong Ties

Facebook birthdayI had a birthday last week. I didn’t turn a remarkable age or anything, although I am now officially older than Jesus. A few short years ago, turning 30-something might not have been a big deal—a special dinner and a gift or two, maybe. But now, birthdays are marked by friendly emails, texts, and tweets, and a wave of Facebook posts.

Most of the well-wishers just left a short note on my wall, something to let me know we’re still friends. It’s a simple gesture, but it’s fun to hear from old friends, even if it’s only a couple words. What’s most fun for me is hearing from all of them at once—high school friends, college roommates, mission companions, more recent co-workers. It’s a post-modern “This Is Your Life” day of happy memories, or a virtual group hug where I’m the only connection between everyone.

[Read more…]

Pride: How the motivation for most sins has (thusfar) kept me from apostasy

I was recently listening to the Mormon Stories podcast with Ralph Hancock.  I haven’t really been enjoying it, because I don’t really enjoy listening to either Brother Hancock or Brother Dehlin (for varied reasons) and my irritation with both frequently spikes into fantasies about throwing my mp3 player across the room.  I’m sure that if I sat down with either in a room alone I would get along with them just fine (in fact, I did meet Dehlin in a social setting once and he was nice and soft-spoken).  But their public personas frequently get under my skin and, whenever I do listen, I frequently wonder why I’m listening, when I could obviously do it all much better.

This is, of course, it’s own sort of fantasy. [Read more…]

Suffering with those who suffer

Last night my husband and I met with our bishop and the Young Women president to discuss some problems that our fourteen-year-old daughter is having at church, specifically in Young Women. Our daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome as well as some mental health issues that the AS exacerbates. We’ve lived in this ward since our daughter was five years old, and the patience that people have had with her, as well as the genuine care and concern, has been remarkable to me. If people have had unkind feelings or uncharitable opinions about any of my children, they’ve been considerate and careful enough to keep them to themselves, or at least away from me. I am grateful for people’s tireless efforts to make my daughter who hates church feel welcome at church, even when it hasn’t worked. This goes for the youth as well as the adults (which is double, maybe triply, remarkable).

When I was a more anonymous blogger, I felt free to write more candidly about her problems–or rather, the problems that I had with her. Now that I’m not as anonymous as I’d prefer, I’m trying harder to respect her privacy. I suppose if I were trying super-hard, I wouldn’t be writing this post at all, but in my defense, my daughter is a pretty open book. She has a hard time keeping secrets herself; I will just have to keep some on her behalf. So I will break the first rule of good writing and won’t be specific, but suffice it to say that in our meeting last night we concluded that our daughter won’t attend her third-hour class on Sunday, at least not for a while. This was not the “solution” the bishop or YW president wanted or suggested; it was offered by us and reluctantly accepted by them, with the understanding that it is intended to be temporary–but who knows how long it will last. What are we going to do with her in the meantime? Well, a couple different ideas were floated, but in the near future probably either her father or I will just sit with her that third hour. Or possibly walk around. (Or both.) We’ll see. [Read more…]

Some Thoughts On the War For the Heart and Soul of Mormonism

In recent years there has been a significant amount of academic literature that argues, in essence, that political orientation is largely determined by social, cultural, and psychological factors, rather than the initial or continued imposition of the will upon political belief. [1] In other words, we are largely predisposed one way or another toward political belief and that any talk of free creative production with regard to political orientation, or positive or negative political assent only makes sense within that context. In still other words, I cannot simply choose to authentically train myself to think conservatively if I am more prone to liberal political thinking and vice versa. [Read more…]

The Smugger-Murmur-H8er-Snigger-nacle and Me

People sometimes wonder why I bother. By which I mean bother writing blog posts or thinking about the church obsessively or trying to interact with people with whom I hold strong disagreements. In some cases, I’ve had to stop because folks were just driving me crazy (Hi, M*). So why bother? Does being involved in this community give me joy or not?
[Read more…]

The Atonement and Human Reconciliation

This guest post comes to us from PCB, an attorney, legal academic, and brother of BCC’s own Sam MB.

The usual discussion on the Atonement relates to the miraculous way that Christ’s sacrifice makes us, imperfect sinners, able to overcome our weaknesses to live with our perfect Father again in celestial glory. I believe in that vision of the Atonement. A recent experience, though, has led me to see the Atonement as more than that. I also believe that the Atonement can help us overcome the sins of others and not simply forgive, but become reconciled with them. The At-One-Ment of the Savior’s sacrifice can build bridges between our broken hearts and the ones who have done the breaking in ways that can allow us to heal. [Read more…]

Nativities

A Christmas memory: At some point in my teenage years my mother purchased a new nativity set, a Fontanini. I didn’t eagerly await the unwrapping of the nativity scene in the same way I did the Dickens Village; it was a tradition each year for my parents to purchase one new piece for the village. Possibly my favorite Christmas memories consisted of watching the village grow year after year. When I finally left home the Village had become quite substantial. But the preparations for the traditions into which we spoke and enacted every Christmas were not complete until the Nativity had been unwrapped and carefully and lovingly arranged on the table. The placement of the Nativity allowed the celebration to officially commence.

[Read more…]

Twas the Morning of Finals

Twas the morning of finals, when all through the dorms
Freshmen were dressing, disguising their forms.
Sarah’s head scarf was tied round her with care,
In hopes that the boys wouldn’t notice her there.

Students filled desks, not snuggled in  beds,
While visions of straight As danced in their heads.
And Sarah in head scarf, and I in my jeggings,
Had just cleansed our brains from the sight of men’s meggings. [Read more…]

OccuPie

Because let’s face it, 99% of Thanksgiving is dessert!

                         [Read more…]

Seeking Pastoral Care at BYU

Note: This is the second of a two-part post resulting from a lengthy conversation among the permabloggers at BCC regarding repentance, and should be considered a group effort more than my own personal post. Part 1 was posted previously and can be found here.

To this point, I’ve focused solely on the concept of “worthiness” as a social status and the perverse incentive to avoid repentance that may follow as a result. As noted in at least one of the comments on the previous post, the conflict of interest in repenting need not be limited to social circles. It is (sadly) easy to imagine a man or woman putting off repentance because of the fear–which may well be justified–that their significant other will pull the plug on the relationship. In this post, I’d like to focus on circumstances where the conflict of interest is most explicit: students and faculty at a Church-owned educational institution, such as Brigham Young University. [Read more…]

Repentance and Conflicts of Interest

Note: This is the first of a two-part post resulting from a lengthy conversation among the permabloggers at BCC regarding repentance. Part 2 will be posted later this week.

Several weeks ago during a casual conversation, my Elders Quorum president asked me a thoughtful question: “How much real atonement do we see in the Church?” By “real atonement” he meant true repentance and change–people beginning to sing the song of redeeming love, putting off the natural man, desiring no more to do evil, and desiring only to do good. That sort of thing.

After a few minutes of discussing it, we both seemed to conclude that the answer is somewhere between “I don’t know” and “Not very much.” Is this weird, given that we are (theoretically) in agreement that church is a hospital for sinners? Shouldn’t repentance–something we all need, constantly (seriously–we all need it constantly)–be something to celebrate as a frequent event? Shouldn’t we react a bit more like the Robinson family when we, or our fellow Saints Sinners “fail” in our pursuit of Christ-like living?
[Read more…]

Testimony

This guest submission is from Morris Thurston, a friend of BCC and the Mormon Studies community.

Last Sunday my wife, Dawn, and I were the Sacrament Meeting speakers in our ward, assigned to speak on “Testimony.” For inspiration, we were directed to the sermon given by Cecil O. Samuelson, Jr. in the April 2011 conference on the same subject.

This was a challenging topic for me. It isn’t that I don’t have a testimony; it’s just that my testimony is a bit different than those we typically hear during fast and testimony meeting. After reviewing Elder Samuelson’s excellent talk, and after much thought and prayer, I decided to try to be honest in discussing the underpinnings of my testimony. While the thoughts I expressed would not have been groundbreaking had they been expressed in the nearly-anything-goes sphere of the bloggernacle, they were unusual in the context of a sacrament meeting in a conservative Orange County, California ward.

It is likely there were some in the congregation who disagreed with aspects of my talk; if so, they were kind enough not to mention it. What gratified me were those members who talked to me afterward and seemed genuinely touched and thankful that I had been able to express what so seldom is expressed in Church. The members of my ward do not read the bloggernacle (I took a poll in my High Priests Quorum and not a single brother was familiar with By Common Consent, or any other blog). For some of them, apparently, these thoughts provided great comfort. If only a few were spiritually touched, I had accomplished my objective.

———————

UNDERPINNINGS OF MY TESTIMONY
Morris A. Thurston
Anaheim, California, Sixth Ward Sacrament Meeting, October 30, 2011 [Read more…]

Throwing Stones

"Faith" by David Linn

Nine years ago today, I waded down into warm blue tiled font while my wiggly baby watched from his dad’s arms, and my husband’s uncle recited the simple yet beautiful prayer and submersed me in the waters of baptism. I have little recollection of right before other than warmth, and I cannot for the life of me tell you what we did as a family afterwards- I assume food was involved. But what I do recall vividly is the feeling of rising up out of that water. It was fleeting, like a hummingbird on a flower, but it was a moment of singular perfection. The perfection lay not in me, but around me- bathing me, for the briefest moment, in what I can only call the light of heaven. I knew there would be no perfection for me in this moral veil of flesh- not ever- but I was given the barest glimpse of the potential.

In the nearly decade since then, the seasons have passed over my fields, sowing and harvesting, adding babies, death, loss and taking what I thought was going to be one life and instead giving me a whole new one. The husband is gone, children are growing, and I haven’t yet figured out what kind of blossoms that new life will bear, but it’s sprouting and finding out will be fun. My faith has matured, and I understand full-well how fragile and human our hands are as we endeavor to do good in the world, to show mercy and tenderness to our sisters and brothers. [Read more…]

Stop Saying That!!

In the last few days, in response to the dustup over Mormonism’s “cult” status, lots of Mormons have been insisting that of course we are Christian, that it’s unkind of Evangelical Christians to say that we’re not. The argument that we are Christians generally includes reference to 1) the name of our church (“Jesus Christ” is even in a big font!), 2) a citation of 2 Nephi 25:26 (“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins”) 3) personal belief in Christ as Savior, and 4) our efforts to follow Jesus, to “be like Him.” [Read more…]

Come, Join the Conversation

       In language intonation refers to the rise and fall of a speaker’s voice in the course  of a sentence or group of thoughts. In English, there are at least four identified tones. For instance, I can say “Nice to meet you,” and depending on the intonation of my voice it can come across as flirtatious, questioning, matter of fact, nonchalant or sarcastic.

Humans are used to their own speech patterns within the culture they live.  This is good because it helps us interpret the thoughts and ideas people are trying to convey. However it poses a problem cross-culturally. [Read more…]

Boyd K. Packer and Prophetic Despair

I’m just going to say it. Please don’t throw things.

I loved President Packer’s talk. [Read more…]

Through a Social Network, Darkly

A friend of mine from college passed away this week, after a long struggle with cancer. Hers was a sad passing (she was way too young) and a happy one (she’s free from pain now). I have many fun memories of her, and though I hadn’t seen her in 8 years, we kept in touch somewhat over Facebook.

She’s one of my first acquaintances to pass away in The Facebook Era, and she embraced the technology. She shared her struggles with her 700 Facebook friends, and she posted pictures of herself as the treatments took her hair and the cancer took her vitality. Her Wall was full of her cheerfulness in the face of adversity. Her Wall has also been covered with prayers and well-wishes for months, giving us all insight into just how many lives this woman has touched.

I have witnessed closer friends suffer from similar diseases, but never from the same vantage point as Facebook offered.

Let me step back for a moment to say that this is not a pity post.

[Read more…]

Building the perfect resurrected body

“…but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.” (Alma 40:23)

Years ago I was talking with a friend after church about the resurrection. Not in any deep, meaningful way, of course. She just mentioned the scripture that says “even a hair of the head shall not be lost,” and she said that she hoped it only applied to the hair on top of one’s head and not to any other random hair that one might not want to have restored. She didn’t expound further and neither shall I; suffice it to say that I share her hope. But that’s not primarily what this post is about. [Read more…]

The [Missed] Opportunity

Continuing with our unofficial guest-palooza this week, BCC is pleased to have this guest post from frequent commenter Chris Gordon.

A few years back, Kristine related George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” to some of the linguistic traps we can fall into within the church. Along the same vein, I’d like to suggest that some of those very trappings can, if we’re not careful, cause us to miss an opportunity for better communion with the Spirit and greater shared experience in prayer and testimony.  Consider the following phrases, oft heard in prayer and testimony:

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to be here today; and we’re grateful for the opportunity to hear the speakers and for the opportunity to take the sacrament. Please bless those who didn’t have the opportunity to be here today.”

[Read more…]

What if They’d Had Facebook in Kirtland?

Church history would be so much easier to understand if we had a social media record to look back on…

[Read more…]

Riot van

This is a difficult post to write, not least because people are still trying to come to terms with the damage, and so I hope not to offend; but if I have I apologise beforehand and ask that if you disagree please do so with respect.

Britain is currently reeling from a series of riots that have hit many of the major cities.  My local town centre was vandalised and robbed but my family have not witnessed the worst of the damage [1].  Shops have been looted, historic buildings have been burned and innocent people have been attacked.

During my honeymoon violence flared in Paris.  Two young men had been shot by police and the youth of the Banlieue’s took to the streets in protest of police oppression.  The riots rippled through France but eventually order was restored.  London was again fairly quiet last night but riots recurred in various city centres around the country. [Read more…]

Hanging with my daughter in the Sacred Grove

Last Thursday I got back from a month-long-yet-whirlwind family vacation in which we visited many parts of the United States that we’d never visited before and from which I am still recuperating. (But since this week is cub scout day camp, the recovery promises to be slow.) Among our many destinations were some incidental-yet-convenient trips to church historical sites–because as long as you’re in the neighborhood, why not?

Well, if you’re my thirteen-year-old, the reason not is that church historical sites are boring and why would you want to visit someplace boring unless you were some kind of religious fanatic, which she is not. My oldest child has a lot of angst about being Mormon in the first place, and every time you remind her that she is one–by making her go to church on Sunday or read scriptures or have family prayer–you risk bringing on another existential crisis. Which wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t so much whining and yelling involved. I mean, I’m all for whining and yelling when there’s a need…unless you’re someone else who’s whining and yelling at me. That’s just irritating. But such is the sweetness of Mormon life as performed by the J family. [Read more…]

Top Ten Gospel Mysteries Solved via Time Travel

(As determined by the BCC permas)

  1. Who changed the first baby’s first diaper–Adam or Eve?
  2. What did Jesus write in the sand that one time?
  3. Did McClellen steal the blankets?
  4. Crickets and Seagulls….fact or fiction?
  5. Was Eliza pushed, or did she jump?
  6. Was Balaam’s ass really the talkinest darn thing you ever saw?
  7. Um, dinosaurs?
  8. Is NDBF Gary’s name correct?
  9. How bald was Elisha, exactly?
  10. Robot crow?

[Read more…]

Our Week in the Media: Small Stuff and Big Stuff

Talk about overexposure: Newsweek and BusinessWeek in the same week! Prevailing wisdom in media circles is that once the newsweeklies have picked up a trend, it has reached it apex—so I guess the church’s slide back into obscurity starts now. (Don’t worry, Russell!)

What’s striking to me has been the reaction to the different stories. From what I’ve seen in my own social circles on Facebook and elsewhere, we’re supposed to be mad at Newsweek and thrilled about the BusinessWeek article.

But that’s exactly backwards.

The reasons for the ire against Newsweek seem to revolve around the cover and a few snippets of text within the article. Let me briefly debunk two of the phrases I’ve noticed Mormons getting hung up on:

[Read more…]

Do We Want Our Religion To Be Mainstream?

[Cross posted to In Medias Res]

This cover story in Newsweek is pretty much the only thing Mormons in my crowd have been talking about this morning. (They’ve also been talking about the other features in the package, as well as a wonderful sidebar article on Elizabeth Smart, but not as much as the main piece.) The main article, “Mormons Rock!”, written by Walter Kirn–who is a long-lapsed member of the faith himself–apparently started out as a piece on the new “The Book of Mormon” musical on Broadway, but grew from there. The editor primarily responsible for putting the package together and guiding it was Damon Linker, my old friend and frequent intellectual sparring-partner, not least when it comes to things Mormon. Here, thanks to the work of some fine other journalists, he’s developed something that might well be read as a basically innocuous puff-piece (running through some of the basics of the church’s history and current institutional culture, quoting several prominent members of the faith about how they deal with the misunderstanding and marginalization that comes along with being a minority faith), but which, to me anyway, presents a fairly challenging question, a question that might be legitimately asked to believers of any non-dominant religion: should you, as a adherent of a faith, actually want to have your “moment”? [Read more…]

The Simple, Sweet Things

In a recent sacrament meeting talk in our ward, someone quoted David O. McKay saying, “What you think about when you don’t have to think, shows what you really are.” Over the preceding week, I’d found myself not so much in my thoughts, but in what I’d chosen to do with my time, now that something that was taking all my time had abruptly ended.
[Read more…]

Redefining Inner Beauty

Brother J: So, how was your special Mother’s Day Relief Society?

Sister J: It was good.

Brother J: What did you talk about?

Sister J: Loving ourselves.

Brother J: Is that allowed now?

Sister J: Yes. But only for the sisters. [Read more…]

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