Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had some before-school-starts conversations with my colleagues in the English department. One of them said that his best students had always been from Southern Idaho. “Nobody had ever told them there were things they couldn’t do,” he said. “So they’d just do them. Of course, that has changed. Television and the internet changed all of that.”
Mormons are, generally speaking, afraid of bars. This is because people drink alcohol in bars and we do not. It is because we want to avoid the appearance of evil. It is because we want to stand in holy places (really drunk old men are not holy), and it is because we don’t like to look like total dorks who don’t know how to navigate the society of the bar. This leads others to believe that we are self-righteous, uptight and boring. This is not true, as evidenced by our impressive skills at boardgames, relay races (where one might carry an egg in a spoon) and charades.
It is my mission to help us feel a little more comfortable (and a little less nerdy) when we are occasionally obligated to be in a bar with others who drink.
The world of Mormon books is a bizarre landscaped marked by all sorts of characters. There are different subsets of the market to be sure – everything from consumer schlock to handcrafted scholarly masterworks. The Joseph Smith Papers Project offering of limited leather-bound volumes in addition to their regular cloth-bound editions (which were recently raised to $50 from $40 a volume) is one manifestation of that. Get one signed by Esplin and certified to have been in the possession of Dean Jessee and you might have yourself a little nest egg. While it is true that digitization has thankfully changed things, there is still a tremendous desire to have the book in our hands (perhaps a lingering nostalgia for our golden plates). [Read more...]
This week: Brad, Amri, and Cynthia on the horrors of domestic violence, the value of reality TV, the fun of speculating about plural marriage, and the sheer, rapturous joy of Mormon blogging.
Submitted by Fake Elder Wirthlin. Fake Elder Wirthlin is most definitely not an apostle.
When Latter-day Saint home teachers go to visit Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, they usually do not take The 5 Browns to perform live in a family’s living room.
But for Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve and his home teacher, Skip Daynes, visits like these are common occurrences.
Daynes has shown up at Elder Wirthlin’s Salt Lake City home with musicians The Crimson 4, Josh Wright and The Call Sisters. [Read more...]
What is the proper standard for measuring a documentary about black Mormons? On how much it makes us think? The level of provocation inherent in the topic is so high that calling NOBODY KNOWS “thought-provoking” seems insultingly obvious. Evaluating the film based on more standard criteria such as production value seems similarly pointless; this is a documentary produced on a shoestring, and we should not expect it to be slick like a Ken Burns production. NOBODY KNOWS presents a contradiction. On some levels it is a weak film, a failed project; but at the same time it is a marvelous, sublime film that surpasses all expectations. [Read more...]
Last month, my father-in-law and I loaded up and tied down one of my last pretensions of youth: a 2000 50cc Italjet Torpedo Scooter. He hauled it off to an outbuilding on his farm, where it now rests with my sister-in-law’s half-stripped Volkswagen bug and a wooden boat that is literally generations in the making. [Read more...]
It’s one thing to talk about bicycling, but as Edgar A. Guest, BCC’s poet laureate said: I’d rather see a sermon than hear one anyday. I was inspired by mfranti and dan ellsworth to take some pictures this morning of my cycling route, and I’m posting them for your enjoyment. Remember, envy is one of the seven cardinal sins.
What follows are my thoughts for Memorial Day, generated in no small part from extended conversation and correspondence with a family member of mine this weekend. Jon (not his real name) is a veteran of the Iraq war. [Read more...]
Two ranches are featured in today’s U.S. headlines: [Read more...]
The assertion has been made in hundreds of media articles, blog posts, and comments to both that there was no core to Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate — that he seemed phony, plastic, robotic, and of course, that he seemed to have flip-flopped on issues. [Read more...]
A few observations:
- Another lawyer on another vendetta is pressing to know just how much the church is worth, as various recent articles have chronicled.
- I have dear friends skeptical about the use of tithing for BYU or political campaigns like the gay marriage movement who have elected to pay their 10% to other charitable organizations.
- Americans since the early 1830s have distrusted Mormonism, labeling it a scam to enrich a few at the expense of the many. These critics have also labeled Mormonism as secretive to a dangerous extent.
- Many LDS feel that requiring reporting of church assets demonstrates a lack of faith in church leadership.
- Americans love to talk about money and wealth. Several books have been written hoping to look inside the church’s coffers. One reporter seems to have made it his specialty.
Before thinking this through again in light of the Oregon case, I think I probably could have been persuaded either way. Since pondering the issue, I find that I have one major reservation about disclosing the financial statements of the church.
A citizen may have many good reasons to avoid voting for Mitt Romney, but his adherence to a religion some look upon as a cult is not one of them. [Read more...]
You might be tired of the topics of childbearing and childraising, and think there is nothing more to be said, but stay with me here. I want to offer yet another perspective. [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...]
There are many new things to learn when moving into the Mormon Culture Region. I have now encountered methamphetamine abuse (in the Northeast, there’s plenty of drug abuse, just no meth per se that I ever encountered), and I have now encountered a set of conspiracy theories that blame Mormonism and/or its culture for a variety of social woes. I have learned (incorrectly, though repeated on national television) that Mormon women use a disproportionate amount of anti-depressant drugs (one of the more confusing claims, given the medical consensus for ensuring that depression is adequately treated), Mormons are to blame for the extremely high rates of prescription narcotic abuse (though these data are never compared with total narcotic abuse statistics), and most recently for me, Mormons are to blame for Utah having the “third-highest rate” of meth abuse in the nation (despite actual federal statistics–http://drugabusestatistics.samhsa.gov/2k5/meth/meth.htm–indicating that in the afflicted West, Utah is lower than average). [Read more...]
I have a confession to make. I am the chief mind behind the weblog, The Ironic Priesthood. It was a relatively short-lived anonymous humor site that made fun of the BYU Daily Universe and occasional mega-threads in the bloggernacle. I started it for the reason that I believe most people start such things: I was tired of seeing the same old arguments and I figured that I would lampoon the elements of those arguments that I found most ridiculous. Or sometimes I would see something that I thought was silly or incredibly wrong-headed and I would want to try and show why with humor. In any case, it was a project that consumed most of my last summer and then I got too busy to work on it anymore.
Some of the signs hoisted by the participants were:
“One Nation under…..Surveillance.”
“That’s Ok, I didn’t need my civil rights anyway.”
“Cheney should go to…..BYU.”
“You Lied [under large photo of Cheney] — They Died [with large photo of Bush made up of 1" photos of what may have been servicemen and women].”
“Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Torture.” [Read more...]
Recently a friend of mine sent me an email containing the following. It had been given to his wife at a church function. Somehow she managed to not immediately crumple it up and burn it, instead she passed it on to her husband so he could read it incredulously, too. [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.
When we think about morality in our personal lives, we often focus on the simple, mundane choices that we face. Should we pay our tithing or not? How hard should we work at our jobs? How should we react when others criticize us? These are indeed moral choices, yet all of us face larger, more defining decisions every day. Let me sketch one such decision that we all currently face, as well as my belief about what the moral decision is — and some of the reasons that I’m not making that moral choice.
The longstanding genocidal conflict in the Darfur region of the Sudan has spread into the eastern regions of neighboring Chad. As in Darfur, Arab militias from Chad and from across the border in the Sudan (called the janjaweed) are now slaughtering black African residents of the region wholesale. There are political aspects of the struggle, but much of the killing seems purely racial, purely genocidal. [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...]
The following notice was published in the Nauvoo Neighbor in Jan 1844.
This announcement, probably meant to benefit German immigrants living in the sixth ward, warmed my heart and made me think of a church functioning as a Christian community. I wanted to imagine myself stumbling out across the ice of the Mississippi to gather wood for my destitute coreligionists.
But then I read on, placing the notice in immediate context. [Read more...]
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...]
George W. Bush is not a man of God…at least not my God. There is a possibility that he is devoted to some other God. I may even speculate about that as we move along. [Read more...]
The hot church-related news of the week involves this year’s variant on the traditional statement on political parties. In addition to the standard instructions about not using church buildings for political purposes and participating in the democratic process, this year’s statement contains something new. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the statement says:
Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of all major political parties.
In President Bush’s press conference of November 4, 2004, our fearless leader stated that, “We must reform our complicated and outdated tax code.” And reform it the government has certainly done. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests a wide range of possible definitions of the word “reform.” The two most relevant to this year’s changes in the tax code are: (a) “To make a change for the better in (an arrangement, state of things, practice or proceeding, institution, etc.); to amend or improve by removal of faults or abuses,” and (b) “ironically: to alter to a worse state.” Which kind of “reform,” then, has been made to the tax code? [Read more...]