Dear BBC

[Available on Youtube]

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...]

Jon McNaughton’s Idea Journal

For centuries artists and lovers of art alike have studied the masters, hoping for a glimpse into the process of creative genius. Now, an unprecedented find. A never before seen look into the mind of one of the greatest painters our generation has seen…

[Read more...]

Poor Rich People

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...]

Review: Stephens and Giberson, “The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age”

Title: The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age
Author: Randall J. Stephens and Karl W. Giberson 
Publisher: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press
Genre: Evangelicalism
Year: 2011
Pages: 356
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN13: 9780674048188
Price: $29.95

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...]

President-elect Romney

When Mitt Romney is selected as the Republican nominee and is eventually elected President of the United States, what should his first words be? [Read more...]

Roundtable: Mormons & the Zombie Apocalypse

BCC has never shied away from difficult topics. Indeed, throughout its history, bloggers and friends of BCC have often convened into roundtable discussions to address some of the sticky issues that face us as a religion and as human beings. Past discussions have dealt with depression, correlation, historicity, and the status of women in the church. Today, BCC Labs continues this fine tradition by talking about zombies.

Steve Evans, Scott B., Sir Ronan, Matt Page, and guest Matt Bowman have graciously taken the time to contribute their thoughts to this timely discussion. [Read more...]

Latent Racism, Orientalism and “Magic Underwear” in American Society and Mitt Romney’s Presidential Campaign

African Muslim Men in Religious Attire, source http://www.thingsoftheday.com/?p=3285

As I made my way through the crowded local Costco recently, I stepped back a moment and appreciated the diversity surrounding me. Although approximately 92% of the population in the UK is white, about 45% of the remaining 8% of the UK population that are ethnic minorities live in London. And we’ve enjoyed having a high concentration of this 45% in and around the area of London where I currently reside. We have become accustomed to seeing people in their religiously significant daily dress in all circumstances, from the morning school run, to regular visits to the supermarket, to going to movies in the cinema and just about everywhere else. (In fact, it is not unusual for us to see such dress in our LDS ward on Sunday as investigators from all of these ethnic and religious backgrounds politely keep their commitment to the missionaries working in the area to visit us and see what the Church is all about.)
[Read more...]

The Daily Universe: An Obituary

I was seriously (seriously) bummed to read today that The Daily Universe is discontinuing its daily print edition, moving to a weekly print format (“The Weekly Universe”?) and increasing the emphasis on its digital component.

I’m sure this makes total sense, given the current media landscape that BYU’s journalism students are graduating into. Traditional print skills like copyfitting and page design/layout aren’t as crucial as they once were—certainly not as crucial as search-optimization and multimedia-reporting skills. A friend of mine in the Comms department at BYU told me the change was necessary because of the resources involved in “feeding the beast” and keeping a daily print edition on schedule. I get it.

Here at BCC, we like to poke fun at The Daily Universe with features like Police Beat Roundtable. But all jokes aside, several of the BCC permas got their first taste of ink-stained wretchedness while working for The Universe, and I’ve seen a couple of good backlist discussions today about the value of our experiences there.

[Read more...]

Iowa Caucus Results Open Thread: Not Ashamed to Admit I’m a Corn Farmer Edition

This is an open thread for chatting about Mitt Romney’s fate in today’s Iowa caucuses.

And if you’re feeling jealous of all the fun these Iowa voters/caucusers are having, be sure to stop by our Boggs-Doniphan (Gentile of the Year) Award voting thread, and Aaron B’s Food, Intimacy or Cars? polls. At least the Boggs-Doniphan voting actually results in an official prize, unlike the non-binding-convention-delegate determinations coming out of Iowa!

Update: See the comments thread for the liveblog action. Here’s my final update of the night (off to watch Colbert sans distraction):

Nominations: Boggs-Doniphan Gentile of the Year Award 2011

Trophy

Disclaimer: not the actual B-D trophy.

2011 may be the Year of the Mormon, but in keeping with tradition we will still condescend to acknowledge one lucky person outside the faith this year. Yes, it is time for nominations for the fourth annual Boggs-Doniphan Gentile of the Year Award!
[Read more...]

The (Not So) Radical(ly Conseravtive) Mormon Priesthood

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

That Mormonism was at one time a radical movement which challenged dominant American liberal norms–most famously regarding marriage and sexuality, but also (and I think more importantly) regarding economics and government–is pretty well understood by most who have even a passing familiarity with Mormon history. (If that’s not you, see here and here.) That Mormonism today–at least American Mormonism, at least if the dominant voting patterns and preferred modes of discourse amongst the majority of American Mormon wards are taken as evidence–is no longer much committed to radical communitarianism and egalitarianism, to radical re-organizations of social life, to radical distinctions in how one talks about sovereignty and loyalty, is also pretty well understood. (Again, if you’re lost, begin here and here.) America is a different place than it was in the late 19th-century, to be sure, when the U.S. government invested considerable effort to imprison church members and break apart church operations…but then, we are also a significantly different church than we were then, far more at peace with, and far more aligned to, dominant American ways of socializing, making money, electing our leaders and living our lives. Sure, we could point to all sorts of contrasting evidence–but we’re much more sexually traditional than most Americans! we challenge all sorts of trends regarding divorce and family! we’re considered weird by people in Hollywood!–but all that is, I would assert, fairly circumstantial: fundamentally, for better or worse (or both), the “Mormon moment” has come, in all its multicolored variety, and its conclusion is: even allowing for our mostly traditional mores and mostly conservative politics, here in America we are, I think, undeniably a pretty modern mix of mostly independent individuals, just like nearly everybody else (or, more honestly, just like nearly every other mostly white, mostly suburban church in America). [Read more...]

2011: The Year of the Mormon

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:

[Read more...]

Wednesday Morning Applied Religion Poll – Tim Tebow edition

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...]

(POLITICAL) SCIENCE!

The usual suspects return for another entry in the BCC Labs series. See prior entries herehere, and here.

BCC Labs is always working on innovative ways of maximizing the upsides of your online Latter-day Saint information consumption, interaction, and generation experience . Studies have shown that the marginalization of insufficiently critical approaches to the theological exploration of appropriate ethical behavioral actualizations by means of negative sporting and humorous contumely are market desirable. Therefore it is with great excitement that BCC Labs presents to you its latest innovation: The Student Review’s Political Analysis, examined through the window of (Political) Science!

Before we present the material being studied, let’s have a quick refresher of BCC Lab’s methods of examination. [Read more...]

Providing In The Lord’s Way, Part 2

Part 1 is here.
In this part, I want to explore some of the reasons we like the LDS welfare system and examine our assumptions, first to see if they are accurate and, second, to see if they could be applied more generally.

[Read more...]

BCC Zeitcast 75: Mixing Religion & Politics

With only one year left before the big 2012 Presidential Election, Newsweek and Daily Beast reporter McKay Coppins checks in with Scott B. on the goings-on for Mormon candidates Mitt Romney and John Huntsman, Jr. Later, Scott and Joanna Brooks discuss Harold Bloom’s recent travesty article in the New York Times, and Joanna’s response at Religion Dispatches.

And if that lineup isn’t sufficient, our very own Kristine Haglund stops by to help Scott understand big words.

Episode Content Guide (below the fold) [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...]

Providing In The Lord’s Way, Part 1

“The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age…” [1]

This post and the one which will follow are an attempt to think along with Dieter F. Uchtdorf and his sermon in the priesthood meeting at the recent general conference.

He begins by expressing his profound gratitude for the Deseret brand canned peaches and clothing which were donated by latter-day saints in the United States and which blessed his boyhood home in Germany in the aftermath of World War II.  He then goes to our canon of scripture and grounds his sermon in three texts:

“If thou lovest me … thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support” (D&C 52:40)

“Remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple” (D&C 104:18)

“If any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.” (Matthew 22:36-40) [Read more...]

Depressing Discoveries About My Libertarianism, Part 4

This is the final entry in a 4-part series. Previous entries are found here, here, and here.

I can make an argument that I’m a libertarian because I’m a Mormon. I can also make a separate argument that I’m a libertarian because of my background in economics. Lastly, I can make the argument that I am a libertarian because I believe that individual liberty is vital to economic and social prosperity. But none of these arguments feel very honest to me.

Total honesty, then? [Read more...]

Does Mitt have a Mormon problem, or do Mormons have a Mitt problem?

Historically, I have not been a Mitt Romney supporter.  I’m not anti-Romney.  He just doesn’t float my boat.  (Or should I say he doesn’t punch my ballot?  Or pull my lever?  Or hang my chad?  Or maybe I should give up on the voting metaphors before someone accuses me of unduly influencing the search term stats.)  My opinion of Mitt Romney is that he’s…fine.  You know, he’ll do.  In a pinch.  I’m a pretty conservative voter (as opposed to a pretty, conservative voter) and I’d rather have a principled conservative who gets “the vision thing” than a competent technocrat.  Not that there’s anything wrong with competent technocrats (except, of course, when there is), and not that Mitt Romney doesn’t have conservative principles (I’m just not sure what they are).  Also, it’s always nice when your leader has some charisma (even just a little.)  But hey, no one’s perfect. [Read more...]

Monday Morning Theological Poll: Monster Mash Edition

In honor of the holiday, we present the following poll. (multiple answers accepted)

Answers are only considered legitimate if recited three times in the dark in front of a mirror during a sleepover.

BCC Zeitcast 74: Matt Bowman, Bigfoot, Monsters, & Mormons

In this special Halloween episode, Scott B. and Steve Evans play host to BCC’s long-time friend and Juvenile Instructor blogger Matt Bowman, who thrills the children with tales of Cain, Bigfoot, and secret UFO societies. Later, recent BCC guest blogger Theric (Eric Jepson) gives us an update on the soon-to-be-released anthology “Monsters and Mormons.”

And if that lineup isn’t sufficient, our very own Kristine Haglund checks in to help the ladies design Halloween costumes depicting famous Mormon women.

Episode Content Guide (below the fold) [Read more...]

Awkward Mormon Family Photos, Part II

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the original Awkward Mormon Family Photos post, so it is time for a sequel. For each photo in the list, I make my case that the people in the photo are Mormon. In the comments, please provide your own ratings, evidences and rebuttals of the Latter-day Sainthood of the people in following images:
[Read more...]

Finally Weighing in on the Jeffress-Romney Thing….

[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...]

Depressing Discoveries About My Libertarianism, Part 3

Welcome back to this depressing series of posts.

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.[1] 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...]

Review: Howard C. Stutz, “Let the Earth Bring Forth: Evolution and Scripture”

Title: Let the Earth Bring Forth: Evolution and Scripture
Author: Howard C. Stutz
Publisher: Greg Kofford Books
Genre: Evolution/Religion
Year: 2011
Pages: xvi, 87
Binding: Softcover
ISBN13: 978-1-58958-126-5
Price: $15.95 ($9.95, Kindle)

“One of the greatest tragedies in recent times has been the extensive promulgation of creeds that have created chasms between science and religion. At no time in the history of humankind has science provided a more comprehensible panorama of the universe in which we live. Nor has there ever been a time when God has more clearly revealed Himself and His purposes to His children. Why then should there be so much apparent conflict between science and religion?” (xix).

Let the Earth Bring Forth is the culminating testimony of a man who spent his life successfully exploring the realms of faith and science. In addition to earning a Ph.D in genetics at UC Berkeley and teaching at Brigham Young University, Howard C. Stutz (b. 1918) served in various church callings from bishop, to high councilor, to stake patriarch. In university and church settings he interacted with students who were unsure of how to make sense of evolution from a faithful perspective. Shortly before passing away in 2010, Stutz completed his manuscript to “point out the harmony which exists between the theory of speciation by organic evolution and revealed truths contained in hold scriptures” (xv).

Stutz repeatedly emphasizes a few guiding principles throughout the book: [Read more...]

Disdain

I generally don’t have much truck with Mormon notions of persecution. When you have sucked from the marrow of western capitalism as well as Mormons have, there isn’t a lot to complain about.

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...]

Becoming a Mormon: Thinking about a Brand with Elder Ballard

I am a recent convert to “Mormonism” myself. Not too many years ago you could find me vigorously arguing on Mormon-themed blogs about the importance of avoiding the word “Mormon” as a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[1] At the time, it felt like a concession to detractors of our faith to self-identify by the nickname they derisively gave to us in the nineteenth century. Ironically, however, it was precisely our nineteenth-century ancestors in the faith who had made peace with the descriptor and good-naturedly co-opted it to describe themselves, leaving us with the lasting nickname. [Read more...]

Mom Activism: Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the World

Whenever a child in Utah is born with PKU, an inherited (genetic) metabolic disorder where the body cannot process the amino acid phenylalanine, the health department (with the permission of the parents), notifies my friend Amy Oliver so she can step in to help.  Phenylalanine or “phe” is found in every type of food, and the higher the protein content, the higher the phe content.  If phe is allowed to build up in the body of a person with PKU, it causes irreversible brain damage and results in severe mental retardation.  People with untreated PKU are unable to function on their own and end up living in institutions.  PKU occurs in about 1 in every 15,000 births.    [Read more...]

Depressing Discoveries About My Libertarianism, Part 2

In my previous post, I confessed that I am probably not as charitable as I try to say I am, and then insinuated that you probably aren’t, either.[1] The second Depressing Discovery about my libertarianism is that I feel, politically speaking, very lonely at church. Whenever I meet other libertarians, I tend to sense that they aren’t my political kin, and I am not theirs, because the truth is, I find much of the LDS Liberty rhetoric to be kinda crazy and borderline dangerous.[2]

Although I know the text of the Book of Mormon certainly omits scads of details that would give much needed context, given his “join me or die” approach to peace, I don’t understand how a libertarian can see Captain Moroni as a political hero.

Sure, I prefer private education…but I don’t think that support for public education causes a man to lose his priesthood or grieve the heavens.[3]

(I strongly encourage you to follow that link–read the post and comments and just bask in the Cocoa Puffs. You can’t make this stuff up.) [Read more...]

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