I still haven’t had the chance to see the new Beowulf but advertisements for the film and anticipation of seeing it eventually prompted me to use my daily commute to re-read the epic poem a couple of months ago. It was very rewarding. [Read more...]
john f. is a lawyer with an interest in literature, foreign languages, history, theory, and comparative religion. He has been blogging with his brother Jordan F. at a bird’s eye view since July of 2004 and has been commenting at By Common Consent for even longer. In ancient Bloggernacle history they were once described as “the most dangerous minds on the net” although they never quite figured out what this meant except they are pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment.
The anniversary of Roe v. Wade today falls within an election season that could conceivably threaten a fissure in the coalition that the Church seems to have formed in recent decades with Evangelical Christians on certain social issues, including abortion. Specifically, the vocal opposition of many Evangelical Christians to Mormonism and the faith of its adherents has found new outlets in the mainstream media because their view of Mormonism and its adherents now has some relevance on the national political stage as a result of Mitt Romney’s candidacy for the presidency. The increased intensity of Evangelical denunciations of Mormons has also given opportunity to reflect on the political positions of Evangelical Christians (and other creedal Christians) and, more specifically, why they take those positions. [Read more...]
A song today reminded me of a troubled acquaintance. I have genuine affection for this man, although we are not intimate friends. I am also currently in a stage of life that involves vanishingly small emotional and temporal reserves. I would like to write a kind note to him, some expression of solidarity and remembrance for his recent trials. Part of me fears, though, that he would call me on it. He would ask me to be present for him at a much higher level than an occasional kind word. And I would either become enmeshed in a turmoil that distracts me from my family, or he would decry me as a hypocrite.
By Common Consent has invited David Howlett, a believer in the Restoration and a religious scholar, to be a guest blogger. We have started with a question and answer format to help our readers understand how the CofC and LDS communities are similar and how they are different. Please welcome David to BCC. [Read more...]
As a warm-up for BCC’s week-long celebration of Spencer W. Kimball’s 1978 revelation on the extension of Priesthood ordination of people of African descent, I’ve put together this basic, short bibliography [Read more...]
In RT’s recent post, he asks us to consider the relative value of truth as obtained from Church authority vs. everyone else in the world (combined). Here, I would like us to consider the threadjack that has recently sort of developed in that thread. The threadjack regards birth control and how it has been preached in the twentieth century. [Read more...]
I have recently been studying the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS) blood taboo as part of my work on the cultural history of death and the body. I have been grateful for the vistas opened for me by certain Witnesses into the intellectual and spiritual life of this remarkably complex community, however much it does not represent the religion I would choose for myself and my family. Just today it struck me to wonder whether outsiders consider them Christian. What’s the verdict from the Mormon Blogdom? Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian? Please explain your thinking rather than simply stating yes or no. If they are as Christians as Mormons, what does that say about how Christian Mormonism is? Does it matter?
I was talking to Jay yesterday about Keith Merrill’s response to this talk from Richard Dutcher, and for the millionth time, I noted how utterly incomprehensible it is to me that people could see Dutcher’s work as unsupportive of faith or religious devotion, or in any way detrimental to the church or its members. In my experience, Dutcher’s films are so very supportive of both our community and its faith that I find Merrill’s response to Dutcher’s work utterly mystifying. [Read more...]
This morning, as the Tabernacle Choir (or whoever they were) sang “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing,” I came to the same realization that I come to every Conference. I love the Church. [Read more...]
Mormons are often accused of polytheism, and the accusation is generally meant to exclude them from the respectability of Abrahamic religion (the established monotheism of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). The notion that the LDS would be excluded from Abraham’s legacy would strike many LDS as bizarre, particularly given the fact that the scripture named for Abraham is a vital text in understanding Smith’s vision of the nature of God’s relationships to humanity and to other beings.
I have often been reminded by reasonably knowledgeable and well-intentioned Latter-day Saints that in point of fact Smith was a henotheist. While I am sympathetic to the underlying impulse (shielding Smith from the opprobrium of the monotheists), that answer is misleading. [Read more...]
I live and work in the same compound, which means that I never really go home. I work, eat, socialize, and cannot avoid the same group of people. The other night I was in the gym and ran into a colleague. He looked at me and incredulously asked “What are YOU doing here?” “Um, um, um” I stammered for a bit… “I’ve been having some trouble with insomnia lately, so I’m trying to work out…umm…” He looked horrified and said “I meant, what are you doing here at this job, I thought you transferred to Washington D.C.” Oh. [Read more...]
I had a long talk with a friend and colleague about the experience of being not Mormon in the midst of Mormondom. One example this friend provided of a frustration with the institution of Mormonism is the presence of Seminary buildings adjacent to the campuses of public secondary schools and the existence of so-called “released-time” in which non-participants are ghetto-ized while participants receive their religious education without any additional time commitment on their part.
By way of confession and disclaimer, I have a memory of a ninth grade seminary teacher invoking the anti-Christ clause to eject me from class (I was preaching evolution in a rather insulting tone), and playing a tenth-grade teacher’s pious hopes of my eventual submission by using “released time” to get something to eat at the local diner until I was fully and finally ejected from the seminary program for truancy. (I went on to teach Institute classes part time toward the end of college in partial penance.) As far as my view as a parent, if we live in a setting where our children are offered “released time” at the relevant time in their lives, I think we would allow them to participate, though we would not push them to do so.
I’ve seen New York Doll probably 5 or 6 times with different groups, and discussed it after viewing with probably 30 people, all of them more or less active LDS. We all tended to notice the same things and the comments after viewing the movie with a group of friends could have been recycled from the conversation following a previous viewing. [Read more...]
Blame it on babies- nursing, pregnant, in utero, babies. At first, I couldn’t figure out how in the world we made it four years and never fasted; then I remembered the babies… For the last four years I have
pretty much totally been either nursing or pregnant- and thus not a prime candidate to fast.
Yesterday, not nursing, and not (please!) pregnant, I finally jumped in the water. [Read more...]
The folk’s overall favourable opinion of us is 42%; while unfavorable is 46%. There is nothing particularly surprising about that.
More surprising, Republicans dislike us at a rate of 52% (the highest among political parties (Dems dislike us at a rate of 47%)). This is particularly interesting because Liberals dislike us 61% compared to Conservatives 45%. These numbers do not make very much sense to me, so I turn to you to explain it to me.
Feel free to comment on other aspects of the poll, which also shows that Catholics like us more than Protestants and frequent church-goers dislike us more than infrequent church-goers.
Our final winners from the Sweet Sixteen were:
1. Angel Moroni, 3. CTR Rings, 5. Large Families, and 11. Scripture Marking. Dan, NOW YOU KNOW MY PAIN!
Stiff upper lip, people! We must persevere:
Recently, I was asked to prepare a brief presentation on the topic “How to use non-KJV translations of the Bible in Sunday School without seeming snooty.” I have to tell you that this is a fascinating topic for me. It seems to me that if the mere use of alternate translations is enough to brand one “snooty,” there are other things at work than a love of Jacobean English.
What is the danger in being branded snooty? [Read more...]
Bill Maher’s HBO show stirred-up some nice Mormon bashing this week. Maher’s position is that all religions are crazy and the notion that only a “person of faith” should inhabit the White House is something to be raged against. But for Maher (whom I generally like, btw), Mormonism is especially “crazy.” [Read more...]
Jana Riess comes to us as one of the regular Dialogue participants.
I just returned from a very encouraging conference for young Mormon scholars–the first-ever gathering of LDS graduate students who are getting advanced degrees in theology and religious studies. About 40 such students, plus a few spouses, convened at Yale Divinity School on Friday and Saturday. We had folks from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, UNC, Claremont, Iliff, the University of Durham, and the GTU, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few schools. (All of our sessions were held in the RSV translation room, which felt very auspicious and cool.)
Sixteen students presented papers on everything from the Deutero-Isaiah theory and the Book of Mormon to the question of whether an LDS scholar is ipso facto a defender of the faith. All these papers were sandwiched between some great opening remarks by Richard Bushman, who helped conceive and organize the conference, and a closing session by Terryl Givens, who gave us a fascinating sneak preview of his cultural history of Mormonism, due out in August from Oxford University Press. [Read more...]
In future historical treatments of Spencer W. Kimball’s ministry, race will almost certainly be seen as a central theme. Indeed, perhaps the single most influential act in his religious life was the elimination of Mormonism’s ban on priesthood ordination and temple ordinances for people racially conceptualized as being of African descent. The most recent addition to the Mormon canon is the official statement, by Kimball and his subordinates in the First Presidency, granting priesthood to black men, and access to temple ceremonies to black men and women. Beyond this major change in church racial policy, Kimball’s life also incorporated other important racial themes, including his racially-defined special ministry to the Lamanites (i.e., Native Americans and Polynesians), and his famous teachings on avoiding interracial and inter-cultural marriages. In light of the centrality of racial themes to Kimball’s life and ministry, we might expect race to play some role in this year’s priesthood/Relief Society lesson manual on his teachings. Are we to be disappointed in that expectation? [Read more...]
Salt Lake City Aug 2006
As Latter-day Saints many of us feel confident in our belief in God and our understanding of his attributes. We are often quite adamant, truthfully so, that we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, the Eternal Son of God. These two figures justly receive the majority of our devotions. The Godhead, though, contains another entity, what other Christians call the Holy Spirit and we prefer in its older English translation–the “Holy Ghost.” [Read more...]
“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7, NRSV)
We are all familiar with the famous good shepherd, who leaves the ninety-nine to find the lost one, who is the keeper of the gate, who lays down his life for the sheep. This brief essay is about the good shepherd’s younger brother, the bad shepherd. We all know him well, although he usually goes by another name. [Read more...]
Starfoxy continues her turn as a guest at BCC.
One of the joys of being a part of a marriage, or family is ease with which I am able to take joy in the happiness of my loved ones. It is a pleasure for me to work for something that makes my family comfortable. Frequently the work and sacrifices family members make for each other are seen as tokens of affection. The classic O. Henry story of the young couple exchanging gifts obtained through personal sacrifice is an excellent example of this sacrifice-equals-love mentality.
We welcome as a guest P. Anderson, more commonly known throughout the bloggernacle as Starfoxy.
In the grand tradition of Safeway, Vons, and and grocery stores the world over, I’ve been hired here at BCC as temporary holiday help. I’ll be providing two weeks worth of the blog equivalent to a inexperienced cashier at the the register with the slowest line waiting for the manager to come void the transaction, or something like that.
Some of the most awkward uncomfortable lessons that I’ve ever sat through- the ones where the teacher can never find the right words, and the class has little or nothing to contribute, and everyone talks in cirlces- are the ones about [insert dramatic pause] humility. [Read more...]
The winners from last Friday are:
1. Funeral Potatoes, 15. Wedding Receptions with Basketball Hoops, 14. Delivering meals to the sick and recently delivered, 4. Temple Square, 12. Euphemisms for swear words (Heck, Flip, etc.), 6. Food Storage, 7. Cheerios in Sacrament Meeting, and 8. I am a Child of God. Poor J. Golden.
Today’s contestants are: [Read more...]
Sam MB will be guest blogging at BCC for a time. He is an aspiring cultural critic with an addiction to alpine environments.
My childhood in Helena, Montana seems to me now like a water-damaged album of sepia photographs. There is a large-boned boy, his face blotted out below bright red bangs, demonstrating the finer points of cigarette smoking. There I am driving our swollen Ford station wagon into the neighbor’s Corvette, my eyes level with the steering column. Later I see his toddler son in diapers raising a Budweiser can in a salute that fascinated and horrified me. Here my brothers and I are delivering an advertising circular named The Adit in the icy quiet of Helena before dawn.
Most of all, though, I remember living in the shadow of mighty Mount Helena. [Read more...]
Here are your voting options. Remember the question you are seeking to answer is “Who Wins?”
It seems to me that we expect too much of non-members. I once attended a meeting in which a non-member scholar was criticized for reading the footnotes in the scriptures as if they were canonized. It is an easy mistake to make; one which I would imagine an awful lot of church members make. How was a minimally informed interested observer to know that the footnotes, while nice, are not considered authoritative? Nonetheless, this commentator was dressed down for his ignorance.
Obviously, in writing about this, I am writing about Andrew Sullivan, whose motivations, in spite of the accusations bandied about, remain unclear. Furthermore, I am writing it about that pastor from a couple of weeks ago who stumbled upon an anti-site and used it, and her own collected cult knowledge, to offer a depiction of the church that relied too heavily on long unmentioned and unused doctrines of the 19th century. Let’s assume, just for the moment, that these people are making honest mistakes and set aside the vast secret-combination theories.
Is it any wonder? [Read more...]
What is an anti-Mormon? Latter-day Saints tend to have quite strong, and quite negative, feelings about anti-Mormons. My guess is that they might be our least-liked group — the one that Mormons would feel most reservations about allowing to speak at a library or teach at a high school (standard indicators used to measure social tolerance in survey research). But defining the boundaries of this highly-disliked group is a bit difficult to do. Some of us define anti-Mormonism in such broad terms that virtually all non-Mormons, and some faithful Mormons, fit in the category. Others choose a more narrow definition.
Terminological debates like these are typically painful and difficult to resolve. If a major moral taint didn’t attach to the word, it probably wouldn’t be worth thinking about what it actually means. But moral stigma does attach, with anti-Mormons thought of by some Latter-day Saints in the same ways that anti-Semites are thought of by World War II-era Jewish folks. So it may be worth tracing through definitions and thinking about who would be included. [Read more...]
Our canonical texts are stridently negative about the practice of “wresting the scriptures.” Wresting the scriptures is said to lead to our own destruction (2 Peter 3:16, Alma 13:20), to lead us far astray (Alma 41:1), and to produce contention (D&C 10:63). What, exactly, is this dangerous thing, this sower of chaos, this “wresting” of the scriptures? [Read more...]