Subversion at General Conference

It has been a month and I have yet to see the most controversial talk at General Conference discussed. I suppose it falls to me. [Read more...]

An “Important Strengthening” of Religious Freedom: Temple Recommends in the European Court of Human Rights

Freedom of contract, religious autonomy and the Mormon temple recommend prevailed recently in The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)[1] as the Court rendered its judgment in the case of Obst v. Germany (application no. 425/03). More specifically, the ECHR found that Germany had not violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life) when Germany’s highest court, the Federal Constitutional Court, had ultimately upheld Michael Obst’s 1993 dismissal without notice by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from his employment as Public Affairs Director for the Europe Area after he had confessed to committing adultery. [Read more...]

Meet The Polygamists Next Door

MikeInWeHo is an old friend of BCC, and currently serves as our Special Media Correspondent, providing commentary on TV shows we can’t watch because we’re too cheap to pay for cable. His past work can be seen here, here, here, and here.

Sunday night brought the premier of the new series Sister Wives on The Learning Channel. The affable Kody Brown and his three wives have opened their home to the world, and we get a new take on contemporary polygamy. This is billed as a reality series, but are these people for real or is this TV with an agenda? [Read more...]

James Adams. Part 2. Aspects of the Sermon.

For part 1, see here.

The late summer and early fall of 1843 was not a healthy time in Nauvoo. Philadelphia had yellow fever in the summer (and it emptied the town) and Nauvoo had malaria. If you could survive a year, the general weakness would usually subside and you had a good chance of staying alive. But the elderly and the very young had a more guarded prognosis. Often, malaria teamed up with pneumonia or cholera or some other bug to take out even the robust. In James Adams’ case, cholera got the blame for his August 11 demise:
[Read more...]

Mormons, Muslims get along by creating books, not destroying them

I have been added as the Mormon blogger to the roster at The Seeker, which is the religion blog of The Chicago Tribune, edited by its terrific religion editor, Manya Brachear. They have quite an impressive list of contributors, including Martin Marty, the foremost authority on American religious history. I was a little bit intimidated by that, but hey, I’m just a fool rushing in where angels fear to tread. Below is my first offering at that venue. When I blog there, I plan to cross-post here. Obviously, these are written with a non-LDS audience in mind. They are also edited prior to being posted (the title for instance, was not mine, but I do like it). Enjoy! [Read more...]

An Appeal to Mitt Romney for Republican Leadership on the Mosque Issue

Does the Park51 Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan (also known by the misnomer “Ground Zero Mosque”) present an opportunity for Mitt Romney to assume and evince leadership in the Republican Party, possibly even ousting populist Tea Party Anti-Federalist demagogues based on fundamental Federalist principles in the process? [Read more...]

Look Out, World!

At the recent FAIR conference in Utah, some interesting data were shared.  Guess what?  People don’t like us. No, let me rephrase that: people really don’t like us. According to the polling firm which gathered the data, LDS people have an unfavorable to favorable rating of 5 – 1. For every person who thinks well of us there are five who do not. To compare, notice that Jewish people have a favorable rating of 7 – 2 (seven likes for every two dislikes) and Catholics have a favorable rating of 2 – 1. Where are we going and how did we get in this handbasket?

[Read more...]

The Sacrament of Grief

BCC is thrilled to welcome Nicholas S., known throughout the records of the Bloggernacle as Latter-day Guy, as a new guest blogger.

Note: Among my many deficiencies as a missionary were my journal keeping habits. These habits were deficient mainly in that they did not exist. The events described are true to the best of my recollection, but there may well be some inaccuracies regarding certain details and timing. Also, names have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty.

––––––––––––––––

Merear, Domine, portare manipulum fletus et doloris… [1]

Both too early and too late, the phone rings. It is after seven o’clock in the morning when Elder Latu picks up the receiver and mumbles a groggy hello.

“Yeah, let me get him, President.” [Read more...]

A (Secular) Turkish Delight

Any general arguments against the safeguards provided to all religions by the maintenance of a secular public sphere should take into account whether it is better to live as a Christian in Saudi Arabia or Turkey. [Read more...]

Nice to See It Published, But How Does It Affect Growth?

This guest post comes from frequent BCC reader Erich S.

An article about the LDS Church and its members appeared in the Financial Times last week. I have now received it from 5 independent sources, all LDS, and I can only assume you have either already read it or will receive it soon. While it is nice to see these kinds of articles giving us largely positive press, I believe they may also be problematic.
[Read more...]

Repentance, Insurance, and What I think is wrong with President Obama’s approach to the BP Oil Spill

I tend to think that, as a church, we don’t understand repentance very well. We have the 5 Rs down, but we still have the wrong attitude regarding it. It is viewed too often as distasteful or as unfortunate, instead of taking on the role that I think it has in the scriptures and in the Gospel. That role being the engine of the Atonement in our lives; the primary means for our becoming like the Father. I think that the reasons that we see repentance primarily in a negative light are, first, that we are ashamed of our sins (and we should be) and, second, we just don’t think repentance is powerful enough. My purpose today is to argue that the second of these reasons is based on unrealistic and unscriptural ideas about what repentance can do.

The comparison between insurance and repentance is a problematic one, but I’m going to make it anyway. [Read more...]

Studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses

A local Jehova’s Witness has put me in his “finding pool.” Oh, I know he probably wouldn’t call it that. But the truth of the matter is unmistakable. Sporadic morning visits have evolved into regularized bi-monthly drop-bys, and I’m handed a bright new copy of the Watchtower and other assorted literature each time. This Witness is paired with a different “companion” on each visit. Sometimes he’s the “senior companion,” clearly showing his greenie the ropes. Occasionally, he’s the “junior companion”, accompanied by an obviously senior leader, who I imagine gives him pointers after our brief conversation ends and the door closes.

I suspect in this Witness’s mind I am a “golden contact”. I answer his questions semi-thoughtfully, and in a way I know is helpful to the flow of his sales pitch. The truth is, I can’t help but be nice to these guys. They remind me so much of a 19-year-old me. Yes, many of our theological assumptions and conclusions couldn’t be more different. But our door-knocking approaches are oddly similar, both in the leading questions asked, and in the slight awkwardness of bearing and conversation that inevitably characterizes our forced chatter. I find myself wondering, “Do they hate this as much as I did back in the day?” “Do they really think the questions they’re asking me are as religiously pivotal as their script would have me believe?” The whole experience is like a trip down memory lane, yet I must confess I’m kind of glad when it ends.
[Read more...]

Mormon Engagement With the World Religions–Conference at USC

If you’re in or near SoCal next weekend, you should check out this conference at USC. For one thing, it’s probably the only time Daniel Peterson and I will ever be on a program together–talk about ecumenism! Seriously, it’s an astonishing lineup of folks, and I’m really looking forward to listening and observing. [Read more...]

Can a Good Mormon Make Over $100,000 a Year?

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

This post is, in a sense, a sequel to two older posts: “Can a Good Mormon be a Meritocrat?” and “Can a Good Mormon be a Socialist?” In case you can’t be bothered to read until the end, the answers to the three questions are: “Probably not,” “Yes,” and “Sometimes, maybe, but seriously, why would you want to take that risk anyway?” [Read more...]

Those in favour, Manifest it? Part 1

This just a short, two part series on sustaining.  This first post tries to ask some questions regarding the purpose of sustaining (both others and ourselves) and the second post will look at the process of sustaining by examining the question of whether we sustain the person or the office. [Read more...]

The Silence of the Sinner

According to the current CHI, when someone is disfellowshipped or excommunicated, one of the stipulations associated with this status requires that the person should refrain from speaking in Sacrament meeting or giving public prayers. If the person was a Priesthood holder they are also asked to not use their Priesthood.  Despite not being explicitly stated, this counsel is often interpreted to be a restriction of public speaking during our Church classes or lessons.   I wonder how this prohibition functions within the context of the Church, why it is required and how this added expectation aids or inhibits the process of repentance?

[Read more...]

Doctor-Patient Relationships and the Process of Repentance

If anyone has ever studied the Sociology of Health and Illness you will have certainly come across Talcott Parsons’ ideas on the ‘Sick Role’.  This ‘paternalistic’ model of the Doctor-Patient relationship and other models like it (i.e. the co-operative and the consumerist) can be applied to the process of seeking help from a Bishop in the process of repentance.  This analogy is based on an assumed similarity between the roles of Bishop/Doctor & ‘Sinner’/Patient.  I think this is a useful, though not flawless, comparison but it is one that might help us think through how a Bishop could respond to someone who is seeking to confess and repent.  Further I think it could also facilitate discussion upon the issue of how ‘Sinners’ can navigating this difficult relationship. [Read more...]

Creativity, Generosity and Humility: Grand Fundamentals of Mormonism

At a recent FAIR conference, Terryl Givens, while introducing his work on the history of the Pre-Mortal life in Western thought, made this statement: ‘What I have come to appreciate is this cardinal insight: If the restoration is not yet complete, then other traditions have much to teach us. Not by way of confirming, corroborating, or verifying the truths we already have. But by way of actually adding to the body of revealed doctrine we call precious and true. The Restoration is neither full nor complete… What if, instead of scrambling frantically to find explanations when Joseph appears to have borrowed from the masons, or Ethan Smith, or Tom Dick, we instead see another marvellous possibility of his actually practicing what he preached.’ [Read more...]

Religion Without Culture: Self-Identifying as a Mormon

Since the results for the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Study (RLS) were released, there has been fairly little attention paid in the Bloggernacle to the outcomes as they pertain to LDS belief and policy–a few posts here and there, mostly reporting a particular outcome: As a Church, we are more effective at retaining life-long members than any other of the major religions included in the study. However, an eye single to this stat robs us of a more curious one: the LDS Church is the only major religion in the United States in which lifelong members exhibit higher degrees of religiosity than converts. Julie Smith at Times & Seasons provided a link to a summary article on this topic last October, and I recommend reading the comments in her thread, as they touch on the key purposes of this post.[1] The full paper can be found here and contains considerably more detail.[2] [Read more...]

We Should Be Mormons

It is discouraging to see many Mormons in our day and age following some fundamentalist creedal Christians in taking an anti-science stance relating to organic evolution or other matters in which fundamentalist creedal Christians, based on their own unnecessary inferences from the Bible, have chosen to see faith at war with science. [Read more...]

A Mormon Liturgy for Fourth Advent

I recently left a note here about the “liturgy” that our ward routinely does in honor of Remembrance Sunday and which I look forward to every year. We also enjoy a uniquely Mormon liturgy on Fourth Advent to celebrate Christmas properly as one — as a “ward family”. Hopefully the word “liturgy” isn’t misleading here: make no mistake, the meetings still had the rough and tumble of low church Mormon practices (i.e. this wasn’t a ritualized sung Eucharist or anything, just a slightly different readings-based format to Sacrament Meeting channeling the inspiration received by the Bishop in contemplating the Christmas message for the ward). [Read more...]

Building a Home

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Lately, themes of home–as a project, a problem, a possibility–have been echoing around my head. But considering my own pre-occupations, perhaps that’s not surprising. [Read more...]

Reflections on the Articles of Faith, Then and Now

John's Blazer BannerThe written text of my talk, given February 14, 1982, (when I was age 11 years, 10 months), reads as follows:

This is my Blazer Banner. These emblems show the different lessons we work on to prepare to receive and honor the priesthood. That is our motto, which is written here at the bottom of my banner.

I received these emblems for memorizing the 13 Articles of Faith. The Fifth Article of Faith talks about the authority of the Priesthood. The Sixth Article of Faith names a few of the priesthood offices in the church, such as prophets and apostles.

This emblem shows three Aaronic Priesthood holders at the Sacrament table. The lesson we had helped me understand the Sacrament better so that when I pass it, I will feel greater reverence.

This emblem shows John the Baptist giving Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Priesthood. I’m thankful for the Blazer program which is helping me to prepare to receive the Priesthood and for the great teachers who have worked with me.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[Read more...]

Grace Vis-à-vis Violence

Violence permeates existence. I offer six studies from my life to disclose and unpack what I mean. I came to this project because of the amount of internet chatter (and I mean this in the most warm and Heideggerian sense) about grace and mercy and other such positive attributes of the Divine. Three things helped crystallize my need to say something about the place of violence in LDS thought. [Read more...]

Don’t believe the (happiness) hype

Will Wilkinson, commenting on Catherine Rampell’s “The Happiest States of America” article on the NYTimes’ Economix blog, suspects “a skoche of culture-driven upward inflation” is at play in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which puts Utah at the top of states reporting a general sense of happiness (HT: Greg). More specifically, he states:

I’ll vouch for the fact that Utahns are exceptionally chipper. Though perhaps it should be noted that some Mormons are almost ideological about the idea that they ought to be happy.

Just some Mormons, Will? Happiness is inherent in our ideology. [Read more...]

Truth Claims

This post originally began as a comment on Natalie’s excellent thread, but I decided that a statement from the First Presidency deserves more than a blog comment.

[Read more...]

Tuesday Afternoon Theological Poll: Christian Paradox Edition

Could Christ have sinned prior to the age of accountability?
Answer after the fold.
[Read more...]

So is that the Church I want to join?

I took two of my children to a Black Baptist church last year, bribing them with the possibility of some great music. It worked. They both accompanied me, and they loved it. My son could never remember the name of this other church, but he’d later ask me, “What’s the name of that church where they play the drums and guitar?” And sometimes, “What’s the name of that other church I want to join?” [Read more...]

Astrid grills a phone-missionary about evolution

The following is a dialogue my friend Astrid sent me between herself and a Missionary (both names changed) manning the church’s live chat at Mormon.org:

    Astrid: Do you believe in Evolution?

    Charles: hi, how are you

    Astrid: do you believe in Evolution?

    Astrid: is anyone there? [Read more...]

Some things too sacred to share

Too sacred to share. I’ve been thinking about that for a few days as I readied a post on my faith-science blog that for a long time fell into the category for me. I changed my mind. There was some discomfort with it because we run across the words ‘too sacred to share”, but I’m not sure what they mean. Here are a couple of uses I pulled up on a search on the Church’s web site: [Read more...]

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