A General Theory of Grace #ldsconf

Adam S. Miller is a professor of philosophy at Collin College in McKinney, Texas and the author of several books. He earned a BA in Comparative Literature from Brigham Young University and a MA and PhD in Philosophy from Villanova University. His most recent book, Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan, is just awesome.

I am, by profession, a theoretician of grace. I’ve proposed both a general phenomenology of grace and a metaphysical pluralism that reads grace as a fundamental feature of the real.

In short, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about grace and, for my part, President Uchtdorf’s Sunday morning talk, “The Gift of Grace,” couldn’t have been more welcome. [Read more…]

The Genesis Fall Stories #ldsconf

In his conference talk, Elder Holland set out to preach Jesus as one who can save us from the Fall. I was very grateful to hear such a sermon on Easter Sunday. To make his point about Jesus, Elder Holland insisted on the need to believe in a literal Adam and Eve who fell in the Garden of Eden so that Jesus could become, as Paul would have him, a second Adam who brings life after the first brought death. I’m not going to argue about whether we need to take the story of Adam and Eve literally or not (even though I don’t think we do); rather, I aim to show how Genesis offers a second perspective on the Fall, one in addition to the familiar story of Adam and Eve. [Read more…]

Waiting for the Prodigal: Nielson #LDSconf

prodigal

We heard two talks on Sunday morning that spoke in beneficial and direct ways about issues confronting many church members: faith and doubt. As I’ve pondered both talks, by Sister Wixom and by Elder Nielson, I keep circling back around to the tender place where my love for my brothers and sisters lives, and where my own journey has taken me, repeatedly…

Faith and doubt are not a binary system. [Read more…]

How We See the Preaching of Past Eras – Joseph Smith’s Sermons. A Thought.

I gave fair warning that I would dump semi-discarded bits from my attempts to write an introduction to the Sermon Book. Since we’ve just been through a lot of preaching over the past weekend, now seems a good time to continue the torture. I think this may be applicable to the individual sermons we heard over the weekend in several senses. You may judge.

The cultural gulf that separates current Mormonism from an understanding and appreciation of its past is deep, and just as in any faith tradition, fully bridging that chasm is impossible. In the end, we can only see the past through the lens of the present. However, this does not require us to be satisfied with unexamined expression, terminology and epistemology. To understand early Mormonism is a much wider problem than understanding Joseph Smith or his momentary expressions on a Sunday morning. It is to understand the larger picture of idea, reason, belief, and the cloud of concerns that attended a life nearly two centuries ago in America. On the other hand, few people understand themselves in such broad terms even at their most introspective (something that usually means dwelling on regrets, incomplete tasks, missed opportunities or other “what ifs”). The events and perceptions of a life are packed with the immediate pressures of the day and the intrusion of memories triggered by those events.
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Eight Hideously Bad Mormon Novels You Should Read Because Perfect Awfulness Is Its Own Kind of Good

SecretService-BradysAmongMormons-issue239-1903Aug21-cover-shows-hooded-mormons

2 Nephi 2:11 makes it clear. There must needs be a list of awful Mormon novels to balance the earlier list of great ones. God has spoken, and middling awfulness just won’t do. So I went in search of the worst novels in the English language ever to deal with Mormonism—paying special care to include all different kinds of awfulness because one just won’t do. [Read more…]

A Short Response to President Wixom: My Return to Faith

I know I’m not the only one for whom President Wixom’s talk resonated strongly, but let me add my testimony to the chorus. [Read more…]

Easter Evening: Changed Hearts, Spiritually Begotten

Felix Mendelssohn, Psalm 114 Op. 51, “Da Israel aus Ägypten Zog” (1839)[1]

* * *

The Resurrected Christ brought this universal message to the people described in The Book of Mormon:

9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.

10 Behold, I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me.

[Read more…]

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations: E. Cook #ldsconf

The Vulcan IDIC symbol in Star Trek lore symbolizes the basic Vulcan philosophy:  infinite diversity in infinite combinations, referring to the vast array of variables in the universe.

Much ado has been made of E. Cook’s statement that the church has never been stronger and that there are not more resignations now than at other times, although he may only be referring to formal resignations.  Setting that point aside, the majority of his talk is about the importance of diversity in our congregations while recognizing the need for unity.  He talks about the inherent diversity in our wards and the value of that diversity. [Read more…]

Using Social Media to Come to Christ: José A. Teixeira at #LDSConf

Social media is one of the most transformative, most disruptive, and potentially destructive technologies facing us as modern humans (as are other technologies, like television, the internet, artificial intelligence, nuclear power, and Dippin Dots).

In his Sunday morning conference talk, José A. Teixeira of the First Quorum of the Seventy discussed the potential of social media to bring people to Christ (good), or to shut out the real world around us (bad).

Before we get to the good, let me testify of the bad. Social media has the power to include, but it is just as often a tool of exclusion, whether wittingly or unwittingly. FOMO (fear of missing out) is real–it’s that isolated feeling you get on Instagram, or Twitter , or Facebook, as you see people sharing photos of parties and playdates you weren’t invited to, or of concerts you didn’t attend, or vacations you couldn’t afford. It damages friendships, sparks jealousy, and can reinforce social cliques within our wards and stakes.

[Read more…]

Elder Holland, Free Soloing, and the Fall #ldsconf

300px-Snow_Canyon_4My childhood memories of General Conference are replete with stories about farming; my memory may exaggerate, but in it, virtually every talk derived its moral lesson from some combination of scripture and farming.[fn1]

The omnipresence of farming stories sticks in my mind in large part because I couldn’t relate to them. At all. I grew up in a Southern California suburb, entirely removed from agriculture, or even agricultural heritage. (My great-grandparents, at least on one side, had been farmers, but had given it up in favor of dentistry, a field both my grandfather and my father subsequently pursued.

I wondered, as I sat hearing about chickening the cows, or milking the turkeys, or whatever it is one does on a farm, what stories General Authorities would be telling in the future, when they were no longer all the children of farmers, when agriculture had lost its primacy in our culture.  [Read more…]

Elder Nielson and the dawn of the prodigal #ldsconf

Elder Brent H. Nielson spoke about something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: interacting with people who no longer associate with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Mormonism burrows deep. Its roots spread throughout our soul’s soil. Disaffiliation can lead to heartache, anger, confusion, or shock for those who remain in communion with the Church as well as for those who don’t. Pulling up roots is disruptive and messy. [Read more…]

Bishop Caussé’s Invitation to Attention and the Question of Grace #LDSConf

Bishop Caussé opens his talk with a stunning acknowledgement about failing to pay attention: his family lived in Paris for 22 years without ever making time to visit the Eiffel Tower! Similarly, he suggests, we can all too easily miss occasions for spiritual wonder all around us. In a monitory tone, he says:

Our ability to marvel is fragile. Over the long term, such things as casual commandment-keeping, apathy, or even weariness may set in and make us insensitive to the most remarkable signs and miracles of the gospel.

Later, he quotes Marcel Proust by way of inviting us to undertake a wondrous spiritual journey made possible by the simple mechanism of paying attention: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” This quote marvelously captures both the “renewing of [the] mind” that Paul makes a consequence of grace and the spiritual riches that await those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
[Read more…]

The talk so many have been waiting for: thank you President Wixom! #ldsconf

It has been a difficult few years for me, trying to sit and listen and just be with several friends in my ward and larger circles going through acute crises of faith. The causes are varied: feelings of having been hurt by the church’s policies or actions, social alienation for having the wrong kind of family, troubling historical facts, or just feeling like they needed a break from church activity. At times I felt overwhelmed by selfish personal sense of loss of not having these friends with me at church, overwhelmed by the emotional exertion they sometimes called on me to help them bear for a time, overwhelmed by my own complex feelings and faith in a time of tension between different parts of the flock. So often talks from our leaders seemed to ignore or belittle these struggles I saw all around me and within me. Even when it was addressed in conference, it often felt oblique or keeping the doubts (and by extension the doubters) at a safe arm’s length. Speakers usually seemed to misunderstand or mischaracterize the concerns, and there was a lack of feeling like voices of this struggle were even heard, much less having an impact. Then came today’s talk by President Wixom. Wixom, tenderly quoting a woman in her ward who faced doubts and left activity for a time:

“I did not separate myself from the Church because of bad behavior, spiritual apathy, looking for an excuse not to live the commandments, or searching for an easy out. I felt I needed the answer to the question ‘What do I really believe?’”

“My testimony had become like a pile of ashes. It had all burned down. All that remained was Jesus Christ.”

[Read more…]

Easter Day

At last the day of rejoicing has come!  Our Lenten afflictions now past, we echo the Psalm: “The LORD has punished me sorely, / but he did not hand me over to death.” Indeed, through Jesus we have been handed over to life! Whatever satisfaction we found in anticipation during the dark days of Lent has now become reality with the risen Jesus. “[We] shall not die, but live, / and declare the works of the LORD.” [Read more…]

Blessed Easter, Blessed Spring, Blessed Day

It’s morning. Which means, as always, by God’s grace, it’s time to begin again.

20 Years of Statistical Reports, Visualized #ldsconf

Did you know that, as of December 31, 2014, the church had 3,114 stakes with 29,621 wards and branches? Of course you do: every April during Conference, somebody reads the church’s annual Statistical Report from the prior year.

The thing is, though, that, standing alone, the Statistical Report is so much cocktail party fodder: it’s interesting (because numbers!), but ultimately doesn’t tell us much at all. Put it into some kind of context, though, and suddenly the numbers start to tell a story.

So here’s some context:  [Read more…]

The Sower – Elder Dallin Oaks #ldsconf

HERE COMES THE HAMMER

A couple of weeks ago, Elder Oaks hinted at his upcoming General Conference address: the importance of the parables of Jesus for current issues. Today, we saw the complete perspective, namely what sort of reception are we going to provide for the Savior’s message? [Read more…]

Potemkin Villages #ldsconf

Uchtdorf

President Uchtdorf (aka the Silver Fox) began his remarks during the Priesthood Session with the following:

[Read more…]

Sis. Burton’s Boy Crazy Talk #ldsconf

Finally!  A talk about something I love:  men.  As a person who has sometimes struggled with opposite sex attraction, I can relate.  In The Sound of Music, the Baroness von Whatsername wisely said there was nothing more attractive to a man than a woman who was in love with him, so right now, Sis. Burton is looking pretty good. [Read more…]

The Great Vigil of Easter

Many Christian traditions celebrate an Easter Vigil. The version I have experienced is the Episcopal one, from the Book of Common Prayer. I’m not sure I have a lot to say about it, except that it’s beautiful, and that it seems familiar to me. It reminds me of the temple endowment in many ways–it is a retelling, recreation of salvific history from Creation to Fall to Atonement to Exaltation:

Let us hear the record of God’s saving deeds in history, how
he saved his people in ages past; and let us pray that our God
will bring each of us to the fullness of redemption.

 

One of my favorites of the sermons I’ve been able to publish in Dialogue is an Easter Vigil sermon; I think it gets at both what might seem familiar to Mormons and what might be strangely, newly lovely in it. [Read more…]

Elder Christofferson: The ascendance of the tripartite model #LDSConf

In the spirit world where the dead await the glorious Resurrection of the just, B. H. Roberts is currently giggling to himself, trying not to smile too conspicuously. Bruce R. McConkie wants to go over and wipe the smile off his face with his spirit fist.
[Read more…]

Elder Perry: World Religion vs. Religion of “The World”

Elder Perry’s talk reflects on his visit to the Colloquium on Marriage and Family held at the Vatican last November. This event gathered representatives of 14 different faiths—and as such, the participation of Church leaders raises once again the question of whether Mormonism is a world religion. Elder Perry does not address this question directly, but his use of the word “world” in ways that both harmonize with and run counter to usual LDS usage suggests that answer might be “yes,” albeit not for reasons we might usually suppose. [Read more…]

A Mormon Easter Sermon, Again

Very nearly exactly 30 years ago, on the Saturday morning before Easter, April 6, 1985, a sermon, just like those which will begin a half-hour from now, was given during the first session of general conference. Except that it wasn’t “just like” any other sermon given that day–and, I strongly suspect, won’t be like any of those who read this are likely to hear this morning, or through all conference. The sermon I’m talking about is Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s final general conference address, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane”, given on that Holy Saturday. He’d come from the hospital, where was dying of cancer, to the old Tabernacle to give this sermon; he passed away 13 days later. Whoever may or may not speak this morning, trust me: they will almost certainly not have anything as important, or as appropriate, to say this Eastertide as Elder McConkie did, thirty years ago. I remember watching it, long ago, and it moved me. Though I struggle with McConkie’s influence on the church and his Christian theology and interpretation of scripture, I cannot deny: it moves me still.
[Read more…]

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday represents the time in between, the time when Jesus had died, but before he had risen again. We read in the Gospel that two of his disciples, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, brought “a mixture of myrrh and aloes” and then “wrapped [the body of Jesus] with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.” Having thus laid him in the tomb, how might they reasonably expect to see him alive again? [Read more…]

Poem for Good Friday

O Jesus, on the cross, alone,
you are the only God I know;
my pleading heart a barren stone
no heaven finds but here below.

I met you hanging on a tree
in woods obscure, half spent the day,
forsaken by your God, like me,
without a friend to share the way.

Companionship then let us keep—
though mortal fear each footstep bars—
as we descend through dark and deep,
together searching for the stars.

Good Friday: Holding Fast the Profession of Our Faith Without Wavering

Jesus’ Trial Before the Sanhedrin (John 18:19-27, Mark 14:53-65, Matt. 26:57-67, Luke 22:63-71), The Passion of the Christ (2004)[1]

* * *

The story of Christ’s passion recorded in John 18 and 19 makes for riveting though heart-wrenching reading, especially on Good Friday. In the Garden, Jesus’ Apostles both betray (John 18:4-5) and loyally defend him (John 18:10). [Read more…]

Survey says…!

Have you seen this? It’s a survey from the BYUSA Student Advisory Council regarding the dress and grooming portion of the Honor Code. You’ll notice that this survey never actually asks for student attitudes toward the Honor Code; it seems to be more about figuring out where the dress standards could be enforced more strictly and nudging students (“If you feel that it is appropriate”) to provide specific violations. I do not encourage you to click that link and troll the completely anonymous survey; it was no fun at all. Not one bit. [Read more…]

19 Times General Conference Was THE BEST, Ranked

Some people love General Conference! Some other people don’t love General Conference! Some people, like Steve and I, have experienced both highs and lows during General Conference. Earlier this week, we talked about the lows. Today, we’re going to talk about the highs.

President Monson

As always, these rankings are authoritative.
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#ldsconf – Something different this time.

So, this would normally be the post where we tell you about our open threads, live coverage and other reporting on General Conference. BCC’s Conference reporting and coverage has been a bloggernacle staple for years. But this time, we’re doing things a little differently, and we hope you’ll understand.
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Proficiscere

It is Maundy Thursday. Today is the day that for millennia Christians have gathered to consecrate oil for anointing. For my part I have made a point to revisit the related venerable rites. The oil. The garden. Life. Death.
[Read more…]

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