I must admit, before my trip to New Zealand over the holidays I had never heard of the Mormon Maori prophecies. I knew that there are many Polynesian church members. I was aware that the most popular religion in the island of Molokai (the spiritual center of Hawaii) is Mormonism, and that there are many Samoan and Tongan church members. As for the Maori, I knew that they were Pacific Islanders. I knew the men danced the haka and the women danced with poi balls. I knew that they once practiced cannibalism (practice makes perfect!) and were considered fierce by early European seafarers who visited the islands. I knew that one of their greetings (touching foreheads and sharing a breath) is similar to the Eskimos (rubbing noses).
(Cross-posted from Juvenile Instructor.)
A couple months ago, BYU and the LDS Church History Department put on a fascinating conference titled, “Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith’s Study of the Ancient World.” Thanks to the wonders of technology, most of the presentations are now available as youtube videos, which you will find below.
While there are many papers that I strongly recommend, those given by Bushman, MacKay, Heal, Wright, Holland, Bowman, and Grey were some of the highlights for me.
(Note: in the first four sessions, the last paper of each session is combined with the panel’s responder.) [Read more...]
Valiant 8 child: Can I have my shoe back?
Sister J: That depends. What are you going to do with your shoe?
Valiant 8: …
Sister J: What would Jesus want you to do with your shoe?
Valiant 8: … Wear it?
Sister J: Go and do thou likewise.
The other day I was talking to my sister on the phone and she mentioned something about teaching Relief Society. “How is that going?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s going all right,” she said. “I guess. I enjoy it, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. Does it make sense that you can enjoy something you’re not any good at?”
I said it made perfect sense to me because I love being a Primary teacher, and I’m terrible at it. [Read more...]
I started really paying attention to scholarly approaches to Mormonism after I wrapped up my graduate studies in an unrelated field almost a decade ago. Since that time there have been some fairly radical institutional, demographic, and perhaps methodological shifts. In 2005 a group of scholars—some Mormon, though not all—gathered at BYU for a seminar sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities: “Joseph Smith and the Origins of Mormonism.” This was the year Rough Stone Rolling was published and when a lot more people starting paying attention to Mormonism. The proceedings have been edited and are now published and are heralded as analyzing and contributing to some of the shifts in the field.
Givens and Grown want Parley P. Pratt to be the “apostle Paul of Mormonism.” I am intrigued by this suggestion and think it deserves some attention. [Read more...]
The discussion concerning the ordination of Mormon women is a thing these days. When seeking to think about these issues in a broader context, it has been common to compare the experience of Catholic women. But I thought it might be instructive to take a comparative look at the latest development in the modern Orthodox wing of Judaism. Rachel Finegold, a 32-year old Chicago woman, is poised to become the first ordained woman hired as clergy by an Orthodox synagogue. [Read more...]
I am happy to introduce a new monthly youth Sunday school series at BCC: adapting the youth Sunday school curriculum to train future missionaries.
In my own ward I’m fortunate to teach 17-18 year-olds. Some of them already have turned in their mission papers and are awaiting calls. Others are working on their papers. The Sunday school curriculum adapts itself easily to teaching the youth how to share the gospel both with investigators in a formal setting and with friends. [Read more...]
Note: Names have been changed to protect privacy.
When I entered the chapel on Sunday just at the start of Sacrament meeting, I noticed that all four members of the Young Women’s Presidency were seated on the stand. Seated next to them was the smiling face of a young woman who had just completed the last of her Personal Progress requirements and would therefore be receiving her Young Womanhood Recognition Medallion. After the meeting started and the rest of the ward business had been taken care of by a counselor in the bishopric, our Bishop stood up and took a few moments to explain the long and difficult process of earning the medallion. [Read more...]
Title: Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology
Author: Adam S. Miller
Publisher: Greg Kofford Books
[Note: Adam Miller is co-founder of Salt Press, an independent publishing outfit whose books were recently brought into the Maxwell Institute at BYU where I work. This book isn't a Salt title, but I thought I'd mention the connection anyway.]
I watched Groundhog Day the other night. I’ve owned the DVD for years but never tore the plastic wrapping until Adam Miller put a bug in my ear via one of his theological essays. (It was just as good as I remembered it!) Miller, the theological film critic. I laughed when Phil, Bill Murray’s character, punched Ned Ryerson in the face at a busy intersection and I teared up as he fruitlessly pummeled the chest of a dying homeless man in a freezing alleyway. “Come on, pops, come on pops, don’t die on me.” Watching Phil struggle through incomprehension, laugh at absurdity, and find joy in relationships, reminded me a lot of reading Miller’s book. I’d already read great reviews of it, I couldn’t wait to get a copy. But I hit many more brick walls than I anticipated. This deceptively thin volume will take much more of your time than you might think. It felt at times like the alarm clock kept hitting 6:00 AM, February 2, and I was in for another round of difficulty. Not that all the essays were the same, but that they were each difficult in their own way. It’s way above my level to feel confident in doing this, but my review is an attempt to help readers like me have a better chance at making it through the book. [Read more...]
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about faith, specifically about what a trial of faith might consist of. I don’t know that I’ve ever really had a trial of faith. I’ve experienced no great tragedy (knock on wood) and, while I’m excellent at self-sabotage and self-pity, I’ve had no real obstacles to overcome. My father has always been kind to me, so I’ve never had any trouble imagining a loving Heavenly Father who wants the best for us. I’ve never really had cause or need to question my faith in any significant sense. I worry that this has made me lazy. [Read more...]
Over the last several years, the Church History Library (CHL) has worked diligently to first make their catalog publically available on the internet, and then to make selections from its holdings similarly available. Last year I reviewed digitization efforts across the various institutions contributing to the field. One small and recent change in the CHL catalogue has made me aware of the significant progress that has been made by the Church History Department in this area.
There is a new Star Trek movie. And, this is current (Gospel) events, people.
I realize many BCC readers don’t follow Star Trek. Consider this a drive by catchup on things. One of the devices Trek watchers are familiar with is the Transporter.
As you can see from the clip, the Transporter does something like shuffling molecules over a distance. But not just that. It essentially murders people, and reanimates them. (If you don’t want to think about Star Trek, consider the classic film, The Fly.) Recently, there have been rumblings about such a piece of technology. Whether or not it exists now, is irrelevant to my question however. Suppose there was a Transporter. What does a spirit do during transport? We advertise that spirits are material. Do they get disorganized and then reorganized in the Transporter?* I hope you understand the serious nature of these questions. And you’re welcome.**
* Joseph vs. Brigham here, right?
** Brain and brain! What is brain?!?
My mission experience, like most mission experiences, was memorable for a number of reasons. There were the usual spiritual experiences, friends made, people served, companions fought with, tracting despised, etc. More dramatic experiences include witnessing a gang-style assassination and trying to save the victim (I ended up covered in his blood and he died on the scene); being chased for several blocks by a large, terrifyingly athletic man screaming about the horrible things he was going to do to me (luckily I reached my bike in time before I could find out what that was like); contracting back-breaking dengue fever and ending up in a hospital exactly like what you might imagine a remote third world hospital might be like (several horrible things happened there but I just walked out in my hospital gown the second time a nurse bent a needle inside my arm). You know, the things you don’t write home to mom about.
I also “performed” three exorcisms on my mission. I say “perform” because I’m not entirely sure what to make of these experiences, what standard(s) of measurement to judge them by. Before my mission I had never thought in any serious way about “spirit possession.” Accounts of encounters with evil spirits among missionaries were, however, alive and well in my mission in Guatemala, and I would continue to occasionally hear about various similar stories after I returned home. [Read more...]
I just finished reading Brian Donovan’s book Not a Match: My True Tales of Online Dating Disasters. My oldest son starts college in the fall, so I have been feeling nostalgic about my own dating days as a Cougar. What makes a bad Mormon date bad? The same thing that makes any date bad: awkwardness. This is my story.
I take it as a sign of progress that much of the recent discussion on gendered priesthood and female ordination has concerned itself with considering the potential consequences of extending the priesthood to all worthy Church members. You can’t really think through the practical implications of something unless you think about it, and think about it rather seriously, in the first place. People who instinctively support and oppose female ordination are having serious and occasionally productive discussions about the origins, meanings, rationalizations, social consequences, and the future of gendered priesthood. Of course there are unserious and unproductive conversations as well. The specter of “women can experience labor and breastfeed so they don’t need priesthood” has reared its head again, and opponents of female ordination have reminded us that trying to imagine the origins and development of an all-male priesthood in sexism-free terms can be every bit as tendentious, speculative, anachronistic, unscriptural, and doctrinally foundationless as efforts to read explicit support for a unisex priesthood into the current LDS canon. [Read more...]
Recently, I attended a conference on the Civil War, hosted by the Massachusetts Historical Society. Among the many great presentations was a panel on abolitionism, and the common thread was an exploration of how opponents to slavery positioned their action with regard to the Constitution: was the Constitution a pro-slavery document that must be decried? (Prominent abolitionist William Loyd Garrison argued it was a “covenant with death.”) [Read more...]
Salt Press Merges with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship: An Interview with Jenny Webb
In one of the leadership training videos produced by the Church a woman talks about a particularly chaotic, frustrating day she had with her four year old. She told him she was at her wit’s end and didn’t know what do anymore. He suggested she sing “I am a Child of God,” which, of course, she then did. She said she was grateful for the opportunity to be reminded of who her child was.
There is a significant distinction between knowing (or understanding) and remembering in this little didactic story. It’s unlikely that this mother had stopped believing that her child was a child of God, and likewise it seems wrong to interpret her as becoming uncertain about her child’s eternal identity, whereas once she had been much more confident.* She said that she needed to be reminded of this. What she had known was never in doubt; it would be wrong to say that her knowledge about this thing was incomplete or had broken down. She had forgotten and needed to remember. [Read more...]
Lola is a barrister in training, working in the prosecutor’s office in London. She’s a huge football fan (check out the victory dance at 3:24) whose own career in the game was cut short by a major surgery to treat severe scoliosis just as she was set to accept a soccer scholarship at an American university. Meet Lola:
Guest post by Nathan Waite. Nate got his MA in American studies and environmental humanities at the University of Utah. (Editor’s note: It is well worth reading the entire piece but as a bonus find a related Dialogue article by Craig D. Galli linked at the end).
Update: Watch Elder Nash’s full remarks here.
Elder Marcus B. Nash, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and assistant executive director of the Church History Department, today represented the LDS perspective on a panel titled, “Ecological Protection, Environmental Degradation—Perspectives of Faith.” Also represented were evangelical Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. The panel was part of the Wallace Stegner Center’s annual symposium, being held at the University of Utah today and tomorrow. The symposium’s theme is “Religion, Faith, and the Environment.”
In a way this was not a groundbreaking talk; Elder Nash hewed closely to scripture and to the words of modern prophets. But I think that’s exactly why it is groundbreaking—he showed how a strong environmental strand is right there in Mormonism’s most basic, central theology. [Read more...]
We’ve just experienced the Mormon preaching festival. That is, general conference! In addition to inspired teaching, it gives the outside world a chance to experience some of the variety of Mormon address. And besides, I’ve been toiling over chapter 7 of the book, rewriting, rethinking some, and redoing other. This represents mental suds rising to the top of my brain-glass.
Texts are always encased by interpretation. Generations come and go, and interpretation floods over texts, at least those that rise to surface (paradoxically), via unearthing by graduate students or rediscovery by the public, or just constant devotion, etc. Scripture is no exception, and everyone, not just Nephi, deploys a kind of rationalization with circumstance and inspiration to come up with a correlated understanding, whether that be official, communal, familial, or even “backlistial.” Among Mormons, Joseph Smith’s sermons are quite often seen as doctrinal in some sense, a sense I won’t attempt to make precise.
Gina teaches cultural studies, media represetation, and critical pedagogies at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. She blogs at KiwiMormon and we are pleased to have her as our guest.
Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the lesson in the comments.
Professionally I research, teach, and think a lot about teacher positionality and cultural locatedness. Teachers inevitably bring their whole cultural selves into the profession but are often unaware that they are culturally constituted, socially constructed beings. It’s the most challenging of tasks to have them interrogate their own assumptions, and to see themselves as other than ‘the norm’. I’ve spent some time thinking about this issue in LDS teaching contexts, where, in an increasingly international church, Sunday school teachers from all variety of political persuasions are delivering the LDS curriculum. This becomes reasonably important when we consider a divine political economy such as the Law of Consecration. I would argue that ones culture, whether North American, French, or Samoan, will have a significant influence upon the approach of the teacher as she or he delivers this lesson. [Read more...]
CTR: Crap That’s Real is a column devoted to discussions of whatever I deem worthy of discussion. It might be Mormon-related; it might not be. This week, we are going to talk about new TV shows, bad parenting, fictional characters who should be Mormons, and other stuff. Leave a comment or shoot me an email if you want to talk about something.
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Hooooo boy! Who’s sick of reading and slash or talking about conference? You too? Great, because I am pretty much done. Actually, I was pretty much done by the middle of the Sunday afternoon session when the candy bowl we were using for that game (where you eat crap whenever people say crap) had nothing but jelly beans left. Bottom of the barrel at the bottom of the barrel, right? So let’s all promise not to talk about GC ever again until this Sunday when we talk about it all day at church again. [Read more...]
I look forward to General Conference. Since I joined the church almost eleven (!) years ago, I haven’t missed one. Like so many of us, I turn Conference weekend into a fun family thing. We cook all our favorite foods, have a picnic on the living room floor, the kids get to bring their blocks and toys downstairs and we all basically live in our pajamas and loll around listening to church. For eight hours. Yeah, I’d say my conversion is pretty complete. [Read more...]
For my conference talk report, instead of focusing on just one talk, I decided to focus on an overarching connection in all of the talks. The first theme I tried worked wonderfully as it was mentioned in every talk and, in some cases, captured that talk’s pure essence quite beautifully.
The theme: Love.
Just kidding. Sister Dalton’s talk was actually titled “We Are Daughters of Our Heavenly Father.” Let’s leap in. Sis. Dalton starts off by talking about the Young Women theme.
It is not only an affirmation of our identity–who we are–but also an acknowledgement of whose we are. We are daughters of an exalted Being!
“Peace” was a consistent theme this last General Conference. Elders Cook, Eyring, Scott, Christofferson, and Uchtdorf all spoke on this topic in various ways (I’m probably missing some others who also addressed the theme of peace). Here, I specifically want to focus on Elder Cook’s talk, “Personal Peace: The Reward of Righteousness” and President Uchtdorf’s address, “The Hope of God’s Light.” I’m not going to summarize the entirety of either of these talks, which, of course, will be fully available shortly on lds.org. Instead, I want to comment on a common theme in both these talks, which is a particular response to the problem of evil and suffering. [Read more...]
April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., and I’d like to share a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a Lutheran theologian of extraordinary courage and insight. Author of the classic The Cost of Discipleship, and a vocal anti-Nazi, he languished in a concentration camp for two years before being executed in the early morning on this date in 1945, just weeks prior to the collapse of the Third Reich. He wrote numerous letters and some poetry while in prison, of which the following is an example. It is not, perhaps, the most artful of his verse, but I have chosen it for its autobiographical—and yet universal—poignancy.