You won’t learn much about Mormonism from watching Duck Beach to Eternity, but you will learn a lot about how Mormonism intersects with current-era, white, upper-middle-class privilege. [Read more...]
[Yeah, I know, this Mormon Moment crap is getting old, but the election is just around the corner and our fifteen minutes are almost up. I have to cram in all the Mitt Romney posts I can over the next few weeks.]
The other day I was in a restaurant and a boisterous group walked in and immediately started talking politics. Two things: 1) Why do people feel the need to do this in public? and 2) Can’t they do it some time when I’m not trying to eat? But back to my anecdote. Somebody said they’d seen a bumper sticker that said something to the effect of “I’d rather vote for the MORMON than the MORON”–which under ordinary circumstances would, of course, be hilarious. Unfortunately, under these particular circumstances, “Mormon” was spelled incorrectly. Which kind of makes you wonder how they even thought of that joke in the first place. It is a puzzlement. [Read more...]
Q&A with Kevin B. Jones, author of
What Doctors Cannot Tell You: Clarity, Confidence and Uncertainty in Medicine (Book website)
[I have known Kevin since college and have always admired his kindness, wisdom, poetry, and intelligence. He has written a thoughtful book about uncertainty and confidence in medicine, and I'm honored to have him participate in a Q&A for BCC.]
Q: Why did you write What Doctors Cannot Tell You?
There’s a paradox inherent in the idea of “true religion”: as certitude increases, empathy tends to decrease.
That’s probably a platitude, but I think it’s one worth bringing up as we go into an election season full of high-decibel cultural clashes between political parties, geographies, religions, and within the LDS community itself. Even now, I browse Facebook and see friends who are so firm in their faith in Jesus Christ that they are completely incapable of civil conversation. Paradox!
Title: The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories From an American Faith
Author: Joanna Brooks
Publisher: Self published (but not for long…)
Rumor has it Joanna Brooks’s self-published memoir, The Book of Mormon Girl has been picked up by Free Press/Simon & Schuster for national publication this August with an expanded chapter-and-a-half. We’ve seen a lot of chatter about her book online recently, so I thought I’d venture a review. I hope you’ll excuse my decision to kick things off with an observation based on personal experience. (The Book of Mormon Girl is, after all, a personal memoir!) My own undergraduate years were spent writing and editing articles for a variety of small Utah newspapers. I remember how daunting it felt to be assigned an article on a subject I knew next-to-nothing about, like computer animation, mechanical engineering, or say, feminism. Oh, how comforting to a journalist is that friendly, articulate insider willing to endure the inane questions of—and likely later misrepresentation by—the stammering cub reporter! [Read more...]
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.
The average cost of a litre of petrol in the UK right now is £1.39. That is $2.23 per litre, which is $8.42 per gallon.
Yes, ouch. This post is about the cost in fuel of being an active Mormon in the United Kingdom. [Read more...]
In recent years there has been a significant amount of academic literature that argues, in essence, that political orientation is largely determined by social, cultural, and psychological factors, rather than the initial or continued imposition of the will upon political belief.  In other words, we are largely predisposed one way or another toward political belief and that any talk of free creative production with regard to political orientation, or positive or negative political assent only makes sense within that context. In still other words, I cannot simply choose to authentically train myself to think conservatively if I am more prone to liberal political thinking and vice versa. [Read more...]
Just now on The Daily Show, Mr. Stewart presented a lovely segment that ruthlessly mocked the media’s coverage of Romney’s faith. The high point for me was watching Robert Jeffress rationalize his endorsement of a non-Christian cultist over a mainstream Christian.
Which would be awkward, as Mr. Stewart is in no way a gentile. But it would be his due, as Stephen Colbert won the BDGotYA in 2009.
I’ll post a clip as soon as it’s available online. In the meantime, those on the West Coast can watch the episode at its regularly appointed time.
UPDATE: Here is the clip. (wordpress.com doesn’t embed ComedyCentral videos)
So that’s it: The Republican nomination process is finally over. (Gingrich might still be kicking around, but once Nate Silver calls it, the thinking has been done.)
Ever since Romney first announced his candidacy in the last election, I’ve been very conflicted about Romney, and about the idea of a Mormon candidate, and about Romney as that Mormon candidate. To be blunt, he has uncanny valley issues of seeming almost-but-not-quite-human—I’m not even sure he would pass the Turing Test. The NY Times hilariously describes him as “the first quantum politician.”
And it’s way too early to say whether a Mormon candidate/president is going to make things easier or harder for the church. But we at least know that there will be an increasing level of scrutiny and curiosity about Mormonism, and there’s a chance that it will lead to increased bigotry. (To know the church isn’t necessarily to like the church.)
But despite the obvious flaws with the first Mormon presidential candidate, and despite the potential for it to blow up in our faces, my heart leapt when I first read the rumors on Twitter this morning: “Breaking: Washington Post says Rick Santorum will suspend presidential campaign.”
Whoa. The Republican candidate for president is a Mormon. A former stake president. That’s so effing cool!
Now that we’ve all had a few hours to reflect, share your thoughts below. My contribution is this: I was way too hasty when I named 2011 “The Year of the Mormon”…I assumed the buzz about Mormonism wouldn’t get any louder. Just wait.
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...]
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...]
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
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.)
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.
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):
Clinton Co official on CNN said that precinct voted 51 Mitt & 33 Santorum. That would shift 4 vote Mitt deficit to 14 vote lead/win
— Greg Giroux (@greggiroux) January 4, 2012
[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...]
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...]
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...]
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...]
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...]
“The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age…” 
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...]
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...]
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...]