This Sunday at 7pm, I’ll be doing a fireside at the LDS Church on 1501 Walnut Street in Berkeley, CA.
I’ll be speaking on “Seals and Communal Salvation in Early Mormonism,” a variant of the talk I gave at Columbia last month. Open to the public. This one will be devotional in intent with some academic infrastructure.
This Sunday at 7pm, I’ll be doing a fireside at the LDS Church on 1501 Walnut Street in Berkeley, CA.
To: James Jones, Producer, The Mormon Candidate
Re: This World: The Mormon Candidate (BBC2)
Dear Mr Jones,
If we are to follow the educational philosophy of Charles Dickens’s Thomas Gradgrind — “In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!” — then we would find little to complain about in John Sweeney’s BBC account of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Sweeney, the BBC’s go-to cult hunter, famous for his aggressive encounter with Scientology, provided a number facts about Mormonism that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints simply cannot deny.
They are, inter alia: Mormon prophet Joseph Smith married upwards of 30 women. The Egyptian of the extant fragments of the Book of Abraham is not directly related to Smith’s translation. Mormons once swore blood oaths in their temples. As a conservative religion, Mormonism can be a rather alienating place for those whose faith wanders from orthodoxy. The church maintains its own Vatican-like Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. &c.
Some of these facts, and others besides, are bound to make uncomfortable viewing for Mormons. Some are defensible, others are not. Many strike at the heart of Mormonism’s curse as a pre-modern religion that has come of age in a modern and post-modern age. The patina of history has rendered benign the strange beliefs and practices of some more ancient religions. Mormonism is not so lucky and this is why facts, polemically deployed, are not always as truthful as Gradgrind, and Sweeney, would have us believe. [Read more...]
Hawkgrrl returns to grace us with her words.
This has been a crappy few years to be rich. There have been a few jerks who’ve really given wealth a bad name: Wall Streeters who traded in junk bonds, pyramid schemer Bernie Madoff, and “hot rabbit” and accused maid molester DSK. Many rich people are under water on their mortgage(s). Add to that a Democrat government that is unapologetically tone-deaf to rich people and their needs. As Jesus said, “The poor ye have always with you.” Meaning, it’s always going to suck to be poor, but being rich is supposed to be awesome, right? Yet, thanks to a few bad apples and a little global economic peril, rich people are vilified and reviled, mocked openly for their very riches. There’s something wrong when 99% of people can threaten the well-being of the overwhelming minority, the 1%. It’s a good thing the rich can afford personal security and to serve in government.
And the hits keep coming. A recent study shows that (I am not making this up) rich people are more likely to take candy from babies.
First of all, depending on how old the babies are and the type of candy, babies should not be eating candy. It’s unsafe. Babies’ teeth may not be well developed enough for a nougat or a crunchy Heath bar. Another problem with babies eating candy is that they are often very messy with it. I have known a baby to take a caramel out of his drooling mouth multiple times before ultimately leaving it in the carpet, resulting in property damage. Should we really reward that kind of behavior? Also, with the childhood obesity problem in the US, the rich people may be providing a valuable service in preventing babies from becoming addicted to low-nutrition foods. Of course, the article did not make any of these valid points, instead implying that rich people are selfish bastards. [Read more...]
Title: The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age
Author: Randall J. Stephens and Karl W. Giberson
Publisher: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press
If the word “Evangelical” popped up in a word association game, hair-trigger responses might include words like “Republican,” “anti-evolution,” “Jerry Falwell,” or “fundamentalist.” Word association games aren’t usually the best way to understand religion. (When it comes to Mormons, “polygamy” usually tops the list.) Numbering an estimated one hundred million people—sixteen million in the Southern Baptist Convention alone (7, 187)—the American evangelical community is actually more diverse than these labels can hope to communicate. Politically, the spectrum ranges from conservative to liberal (though perhaps heavily weighted toward the former), all bound loosely together by a common commitment to the necessity of being “born again” through Jesus Christ. Such Christians have no central authoritative body and no single all-encompassing creed. But the open marketplace of religion in the United States has provided space for an evangelical “parallel culture,” complete with its own schools, publishing houses, music industry, summer camps, school accreditation agencies, historians, scientists, and family counselors. [Read more...]
What a wild year it’s been. Never has Mormonism been so culturally relevant, and never has the undulating curve of popular opinion shifted so wildly, so quickly. As the year draws to a close, I think we’re safe in naming 2011 “The Year of the Mormon.” The BCC permas have picked out a few reasons why:
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past two years, you know the basic factoids about Tim Tebow. Unless you’ve been consciously avoiding all conversations about sports or religion for the past several months, you are also probably at least somewhat aware of the non-stop insanity/hilarity/horror/miracle/thingy that is the Denver Broncos’ football season, and Tim Tebow’s role in it.
Vote on what this all means, below the fold! [Read more...]
[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]
(I’ve no deep interest in the whole current morass of Republican party politics and anti-Mormonism, partly because I’ve gone through the whole thing before, and partly because many others have weighed in with thoughts much better than my own. Still, last Friday I sent this editorial off to my local newspaper, responding to a piece by Robert “Mormonism is a cult” Jeffress which had appeared that morning, and today they actually ran it, though I had to cut down my essay to under 600 words, which was simply criminal. Anyway, here’s the original, longer version of the piece. Read and enjoy.) [Read more...]
In Part 1, I confessed that I’m not very charitable. In Part 2, I talked about how I don’t get along with would-be/should-be political allies–other LDS libertarians. The impetus for today’s Depressing Discovery came when an overseas-coblogger recently asked for my thoughts on some of the Presidential candidates’ views, and I had to admit that I didn’t know a single thing about any of their views.
To understand why this is the case, it is important to understand that my particular flavor of libertarianism flows not just from a belief in the importance of individual liberty relative to other objectives, but also from a profound cynicism towards government, politicians, and political processes. Put simply, I don’t have a shred of faith in politicians, individually or collectively, to a) properly identify a problem, b) properly identify a solution, or c) properly apply the solution to the problem. The logical outcome of this lack of faith, therefore, is a lack of interest in what politicians are saying. Since I have no confidence that anyone is going to “get it right,” I can’t be bothered to educate myself on what actually would be right, or devote any energy to supporting it. [Read more...]
Except . . . this video showing a love-in between atheist provocateur Bill Maher and anti-Mormon zealot Robert Jeffress makes me feel miserable as all hell. [Read more...]
I don’t know if it’s because of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, or because my part of the country just went through a freak earthquake and hurricane scare in the same week, or because I’ve been watching the market a bit too closely, but the idea of American decline has been on my mind recently.
An article in this week’s New Yorker says I’m not alone. “Decline, Fall, Rinse, Repeat,” by Adam Gopnik, is a jaunt through the long history of American “declinism” (new word?) and the popular literature of the declinist movement.
I haven’t yet read the books Gopnik examines except Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, but the article grabbed my attention by speaking to some current cultural memes:
- Is America going down?
- Is the Western World as a whole in decline?
- Is such a decline inevitable or can we slow/stop it?
- Why are we so obsessed with envisioning our own downfall?
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 . 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...]
Despite the Telegraph’s deliberately provocative title (“Christians are more militant than Muslims, says Government’s equalities boss”), which doesn’t accurately reflect the content of the article, the Chairman of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission recently raised some interesting points and makes some insightful observations about integration, pluralism and claims of religious persecution in modern society (ht:M*). [Read more...]
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:
The LDS Church issued a new statement today regarding immigration policy in the United States. This is not a new topic, of course. However, the statement from the Newsroom this morning is a little bit different from past missives, I think. The full text of the statement can be found here, but here are a few of the main passages, along with my thoughts on them.
Luke 10:31-32: And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
The recent devastation by tornadoes in Joplin, MO has reminded me of one of the finest men I have ever known. He once taught a lesson in a 5th Sunday combined Priesthood/Relief Society meeting. He taught us that the bishop’s storehouse is not just the warehouse on the other side of town where people go to fill food orders. He emphasized that the concept of the bishop’s storehouse extends to the food storage in the homes of each individual member. In a time of disaster or emergency, the bishop can call upon members of the ward to share their food, warm clothing, blankets, and everything else they have with others. I left that meeting with a strong conviction, confirmed by the spirit, that the wheat, canned goods, bottled fruit, frozen vegetables, powdered milk, dry beans, camp stove with propane, and everything else in our basement was a resource of the church to be used for the building of Zion, and to be shared as necessary with my neighbors, LDS or not. A bishop’s storehouse exists wherever a latter-day saint practices provident living. [Read more...]
You should all want to know what kind of moisturizer I use, because a couple of weeks ago, I was invited to participate in the White House Roundtable with “Young” Mormons. You can read about it here. Paul Monteiro, who invited us and chaired the meeting, along with Kalpen Modi (yes, you’ve seen him somewhere before), will be guest-blogging here in the next little while about his work with religious communities. You can also read Chelsea Shields Strayer’s more detailed account at Exponent II. Also, if you’re curious about the background of this meeting and the other work the organizers do , you can subscribe to the Office of Public Engagement’s listserv–write to them at email@example.com with “LDS” in the subject line. [Read more...]
The angst being expressed over whether it is proper for a Christian to celebrate the death of an enemy reminded me of a story from the Book of Mormon. [Read more...]
Imagine, if you would, the phrase ‘neener neener neener,’ sung to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus…
In response to the devastating events of the past several days in Japan which have resulted from an initial earthquake, followed by a tsunami and several large-magnitude aftershocks, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles gave a press conference moments ago.
With all the respect from the depth of our hearts we ask that the gods hear us, such as the spirit that hears our intent together with the spirits of the Sky and the Land. Take the evil, disasters and sins and purify all.
Chiyo ni yachiyo ni
Iwao to narite
Koke no musu made.
The people at Claremont Graduate University continue to outdo themselves. On March 18-19, 2011, the Howard W. Hunter chair for Mormon Studies is sponsoring this conference.
The recent events in Egypt have kept me thinking about our history of non-violent protest in the United States. Between the observance of Martin Luther King day in January and Black History month, I’ve tried to make a formal study of the speech that King delivered in Washington, D.C. in August, 1963. You can read the text of the speech or watch it online. I found that my appreciation grew the more I studied the speech and the events leading up to it. In particular, I’ve come to appreciate how important it was for King to emphasize “the fierce urgency of now”, because at that time we still lived under a regime of racial segregation. We see August, 1963 as a watershed moment for civil rights in America. It is hard for us to now imagine how deeply our country was divided by racial hatred and ignorance. King and the others in the SCLC displayed enormous personal courage by their actions — it could not have been an easy thing to stand in the street as mounted policemen rode towards you, swinging lengths of rubber hose wrapped with barbed wire — but it is also important to remember that others before them also exemplified moral courage, sometime at great personal cost. This post is about one of those men. [Read more...]
Voting is over, and the 2010 Gentile of the Year is Judge Vaughn Walker!
Another Image of Faith and Devotion
One of our All-Time Favorite politicians and made news this week.
“Former Idaho gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell has been charged with poaching an elk in eastern Idaho.
“Idaho Fish and Game said Rammell was in illegal possession of an elk on Dec. 8. When an officer asked Rammell for his hunting permit, he produced one for a different zone that expired in October.”
Republican Senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell appeared on Politically Incorrect many years ago, and opined on honesty and the moral imperative to avoid telling lies: