Every once in a while, humankind takes a giant leap forward. This is one of those moments. Peter LLC, longtime commenter and erstwhile guest, has agreed to join us as a permablogger. We’re stoked. Everyone, please welcome Peter aboard!
“Blogger’s Anonymous,” or, thoughts for when you’d rather visit the Bloggernacle than do your Visiting/Home Teaching
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest explores the problem of entertainment-fueled solipsism (getting stuck inside your own head). The massive novel was published about a decade before we began carrying around Internet chat rooms, blogs, message boards, and Facebook in our pockets, but it anticipated some of the anxieties people feel about recent technological developments. In the book, a group of wheelchair-driving Canadian separatist terrorists from Quebec (don’t ask) are trying to get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction in order to bring the United States to its knees. It’s not a nuclear bomb or a toxic virus or anything like that. The weapon is a movie. A film. A film that is so perfect, so pleasurable, so captivating, so entertaining, that the moment you begin watching you will forgo everything else in your life (food, sex, friends, sleep, everything) just to keep watching.
Pretty much until you literally die. [Read more...]
This is the second in a series of posts on memories about Joseph Smith. The same cautions apply as noted in post 1.
Easton Kelsey heard him [Joseph Smith] say that he (Joseph) had been with John, the Beloved Apostle of Jesus who told him that he was busy among the ten tribes organizing and preparing them to return.
I’ve loved the poetry of Czesław Miłosz since a friend gave me a slim collection of his poems over a decade ago. Especially searing are the poems he composed amidst and about the Warsaw Uprising as a sympathetic Catholic outsider. Even after coming to the United States, Miłosz composed his verse primarily in Polish, often collaborating on the translations. This poem comes from his final collection, Second Space.
Hear me, Lord, for I am a sinner, which means I have nothing except prayer.
Protect me from the day of dryness and impotence.
When neither a swallow’s flight nor peonies, daffodils and irises in the flower market are a sign of Your glory.
When I will be surrounded by scoffers and unable, against their arguments, to remember any miracle of Yours.
When I will seem to myself an impostor and swindler because I take part in religious rites.
When I will accuse You of establishing the universal law of death.
When I am ready at last to bow down to nothingness and call life on earth a devil’s vaudeville.
Many of us have recently participated in the “Eternal Marriage” lesson from the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. The lesson’s final section carries the heading “As a husband and wife faithfully observe all the ordinances and principles of the gospel, their joy in marriage grows sweeter.” The paragraphs in the section, however, lean toward defining this joy negatively, in terms of avoiding divorce. This tendency can have the effect of making our divorced sisters and brothers seem “less than” those whose marriages are currently working.
The good folks at LDS Living have been burning the midnight oil, scouring the Handbook for the latest in correlated rubricking. They discovered some interesting changes in the section on Internet usage. We know missionaries have already stepped up their Internet game, so it looks like members are being invited to be better member missionaries along the same proven and effective lines. The excised bits are stricken out below and the new bits added in bold:
“Members are encouraged to
be examples of their faith at all times and in all places, including on the Internetuse the Internet to flood the earth with testimonies of the Savior and His restored gospel. If they useThey should view blogs, social networks, and other Internet technologies , they are encouraged to strengthen others and help them become aware of that which is useful, good, and praiseworthyas tools that allow them to amplify their voice in promoting the messages of peace, hope, and joy that accompany faith in Christ.“
This calls for deep analysis. [Read more...]
Brian M. Hauglid, Senior Research Fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, has provided us with this guest post. We’re grateful for his participation.
I like to ask questions. It’s what got me into the Church almost forty years ago. It’s also a big part of my going into academics. I love teaching inquisitive students and I thoroughly enjoy trying, like a detective, to piece together evidence and come up with reasonable arguments and hypotheses to help explain questions in scholarship.
In April 1959, the Church published its last financial report. The last here is important, though, because, for almost half a century leading up to that report, the Church presented a relatively detailed financial report in each April General Conference.
Until a couple months ago, though, I’d never seen the financial reports that the Church issued. In the course of his reading and research, J. Stapley came across the Church’s 1947 financial report, and offered to let me blog it. I jumped at the chance, and the disclosure turns out, in many ways, to be as fascinating as I’d hoped. [Read more...]
We still have several weeks until the October General Conference, and given what’s happened in the meantime, many Mormons like me are concerned it could be gloat-mageddon. If I were putting together a General Conference, here are the things I would include and what I would cut. Of course this is already unrealistic because there are over a dozen speakers, each of whom has his or her own areas of focus and points of view. But this is my list; YMMV. I’ll start with the Fears and end with the Hopes. [Read more...]
This is the first in a series of posts on memories of Joseph Smith. One should always be cautious with memories, even for immediate events. So much of what we remember is colored by the bio-“technology” of perception and the ability of our brains to fill in the gaps of the past, while simultaneously supplying interpretive links to present worldview and belief. Studies of memory, especially distant memories, suggest that those recollections rarely represent accurate reproductions of past events. Moreover, people who recalled Joseph Smith’s sayings or acts were rarely disinterested bystanders. That said, these memories are interesting for what they may tell us of Joseph but perhaps more about those who remembered him.
So, it had been a long time since I had been to the temple. I’m talking years. I don’t have a good sense of how many; certainly more than two. Maybe five or something like that. This was strictly a function of my fundamental laziness. I used to go maybe four to six times a year, but working in the City and commuting by train it’s hard for me to do it on a week night. So often I would go on Saturdays, but then they started encouraging locals not to do that so that they could accommodate all the people coming in from out of town. These days, now that the temple district has been repeatedly cannibalized from various temples being constructed in what used to be a huge district, that concern probably doesn’t exist anymore, but I still have that directive rattling around in my brain. And when my TR expired, getting a new one was a hassle. I’m psychologically not down with having to return to church after the three-hour block, and having to do two interviews is a pain. And the Stake one can be a difficult get. But, to make a long story short, my blogmates recently inspired me to get back in the saddle, I managed to orchestrate the two interviews I needed in a fairly painless bit of logistics, and with a hot new TR burning a hole in my pocket I attended our ward’s temple night this evening. I just got back a little while ago. [Read more...]
A while back–weeks or months ago, or maybe a year, who knows–I read an article about a dispute between a lesbian and a Muslim barber. This is not a joke. This was in Toronto. (Also not a joke.) The lesbian wanted a “businessman’s haircut” (not sure what that is, not being a businessperson, but I assume it’s a thing businesspersons and their barbers know about). The Muslim refused because his religion forbids him from touching a woman who isn’t his relative. I don’t know what the relevance of her being a lesbian was, but it was part of the story, which is why I include that tidbit here. I guess her being a lesbian somehow explained why she would be visiting a barbershop that catered exclusively to men, although I should think that would be offensive on some level, I don’t know. Who am I to judge? It still doesn’t explain why she’d want especially to visit a Muslim barbershop. But I digress. The woman was offended by the Muslim’s refusal and filed a complaint with the human rights commission. The case went to moderation. [Read more...]
A list of the top ten hymns made more awesome by adding “In The Bathtub” to the title:
10. Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee [Read more...]
Terryl L. Givens
Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity
Hardcover: i-xiii, 390 pages.
Publisher: Oxford University Press, forthcoming (2014).
Pre-order Amazon price in the US: $27.96.
When I heard that Professor Givens had embarked on a work of “Mormon Theology” I was more than a little skeptical. Not that it hasn’t been done before. That isn’t the problem. It’s just that theology, as James Faulconer has written, is something that just doesn’t seem to fit Mormonism. However, when I got my greedy little hands on Givens’ book, I was pleased to see that it is a work of theological heritage. In Givens’ words: “I am here tracing what I regard as the essential contours of Mormon thought as it developed from Joseph Smith to the present, not pretending to address the many tributaries in and out of Mormonism’s main currents.”(x)
It’s a commonplace to note that in the Church nobody chooses her calling. Rather, God, through the mediation of priesthood leaders, calls us to serve, typically only for a limited time, in any of a wide variety of capacities. There is much to be said for this approach: sometimes, by doing things we never would have chosen for ourselves, we, like Moses, learn things “we never had supposed.” Having this potential for divine surprises built into the system is a good thing.
Still, this approach comes at a price: we lose the concept of vocation—the idea that God calls us individually to walk a particular path of divine service. (Angela C recently wrote an excellent post about this.) To be sure, patriarchal blessings can provide something like an individual call, but in most cases there are not formal institutional venues for performing the things that we in the depths of our souls feel that God has called us to do. If a person in another denomination feels called to the ministry, in many cases there are formal processes of discernment and training to guide that person in working out whether this is really what God wants him or her to do. In Mormonism a person who feels so called must either wait for a formal calling or figure out some less formal way of acting as a minister. This latter option can mean “doing much good of [one's] own accord,” but it can also lead to tensions with the institutional Church. [Read more...]
I have not been to the Mount of Transfiguration, but I have seen it. The view from the ruins of the ancient church at Umm Qais in Jordan (ancient Gedara) is of Tabor some twenty miles away in Israel. At Umm Qais, the connection with the miracle of the Gedarane swine is most prominent, but as I visited I found that my attention kept turning to Tabor and that strange event we call the Transfiguration. [Read more...]
This late work appears as the final poem in Donald Justice’s Collected Poems (Knopf, 2006). It has been a favorite ever since I learned of it a few years ago. The third stanza strikes me as an especially clear expression of religious hope as tempered by thoroughgoing realism about the difficulty of life, represented by the almost Beckettian song at the end of the second stanza.
1 There is a gold light in certain old paintings That represents a diffusion of sunlight. It is like happiness, when we are happy. It comes from everywhere and from nowhere at once, this light, And the poor soldiers sprawled at the foot of the cross Share in its charity equally with the cross.
2 Orpheus hesitated beside the black river. With so much to look forward to he looked back. We think he sang then, but the song is lost. At least he had seen once more the beloved back. I say the song went this way: O prolong the suffering if that is all there is to prolong.
3 The world is very dusty, uncle. Let us work. One day the sickness shall pass from the earth for good. The orchard will bloom; someone will play the guitar. Our work will be seen as strong and clean and good. And all that we suffered through having existed Shall be forgotten as though it had never existed.
Note: regular BCC commenter melodynew contributes to a Poetry Sunday series over at The Exponent. Read her entry for today here. The more poetry, the better!
Within days of finishing the Camino de Santiago, or perhaps while we were still on the way, we plotted our next pilgrimage (for those wanting to join the Mormon Society of St. James’s pilgrimage next year, it is already decided: Canterbury).
St. Olav’s Way in Norway is the obvious second pilgrimage in Europe, not necessarily because of Olav’s importance (at least outside of Scandinavia), but because of the popularity of the path and the way it is organised: like the Camino, Olav’s Way is signposted and has pilgrims’ lodgings along the path. (Not to the extent of the Camino, mind you, which is in a league of its own in this regard.)
Walking for 100km over five days towards a pilgrimage spot will need no justification to those who understand the joy inherent in such things. In that sense, walking again was a given. We have an added poignancy this year in that our friend and Camino brother Jordan Fowles is no longer with us. We will think of him all the way.
Olav Haraldsson was the first king to Christianise Norway and was martyred at the battle of Stiklestad in 1030 for his troubles. The church raised near to his burial became Nidaros cathedral in Trondheim, and it is to there where we set our feet.
We are: Ronan (England), Peter and Beate (Austria), John C, Tana, and Gabe (Germany), Martha (USA), and John F. (USA). We are believers and non-believers. We are Christians, Mormons, Mormon-Christians, Anglo-Mormons, and “other”. We are pilgrims.
UPDATE: Day Five: Sundet Gård to Nidaros (Trondheim)
In case you were planning on going but saw registration was closed, it is now open.
Origins and Destinations: Forty Years of Mormon Women’s Histor(ies).
Utah Valley University
Science Building Auditorium
9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Honoring the Life and Work of Claudia L. Bushman
The Temple and Observatory Group is offering a seminar for those in the midst of a faith transition or crisis in the Minnesota area on
Saturday, Sept. 27 at 6125 Shingle Creek Pkwy, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430. Featured speakers include Terryl and Fiona Givens and Spencer Fluhman.
The event begins at 10:30 and goes until 3:30.
Academic approaches to scripture sometimes arouse suspicion in LDS circles, especially when they include the Higher Criticism (“Moses didn’t write the five books of Moses?”) or reading the Bible as literature (“So you think this is a work of fiction?”). People using or advocating these approaches often draw charges of privileging the intellectual ways of the world over the pure spiritual truth of God, of trusting in the arm of flesh, or of kowtowing to secular disbelief in the interest of seeming more acceptable.
Depending on who you ask you’ll get a different answer. I offer a qualified “yes,” which may be against the grain depending on who you ask and how the discussion goes. BYU professor James E. Faulconer has called Mormonism “atheological,” stressing that Mormons emphasize history, practice, and lived experience above rational, propositional content.1 In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Louis C. Midgley characteristically skewers theology along similar lines, saying that in spite of a few caveats, theology is “not entirely at home in the LDS community.”2 Philosopher Adam Miller has paradoxically or puzzlingly depicted theology as excess, likening his own work to the construction of a Rube Goldberg machine (it depends on how you read Miller whether this is a good or bad thing).3 Blake Ostler’s three volume series is heavily theological, but he uses a different “T” word in the title: Exploring Mormon Thought.4
I suppose my patron saint should be St. Ronan, an Irish Saint whose journey to Brittany and subsequent miracles make him a figure of minor celebrity in Celtic Christianity. With a middle name of James, I can also turn to James the Just, brother of Jesus, or James the Great, son of Zebedee (he of the Camino de Santiago), or the “other James” (son of Alphaeus). Regular readers of the blog will know of our experience on the road to Santiago, and so James the Great it shall be. [Read more...]
In Which I Unpack a Finance-Based Atonement Parable (or Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Work on Wall Street)
Understanding the Atonement is tough.[fn1] To try to understand it, theologians have come up with theories to describe the whys and hows of the Atonement, and stories to illustrate how the Atonement works.
We’ve got a handful of favorite illustrative stories in Mormonism, including bicycles and lickings. I was recently reading chapter 12 of the Gospel Principles manual, and I came across an Atonement story that I haven’t seen in a while: a parable of a debtor and a creditor. What follows are my thoughts as I reread it:[fn2] [Read more...]
The Feast of William Wilberforce, 1833
Leviticus 26:12-13 (KJV), Psalm 146:5-10 (NRSV), Jeremiah 22:13 (KJV), Micah 3:5-12 (KJV), Matthew 25:31-40 (KJV), Galatians 3:23-29 (KJV), James 5:4, 1 Nephi 17:24-26, Mosiah 29:40, Doctrine & Covenants 101:79
The Collect: O Father, Thou who hast raised up Moses to lead Thy Children out of bondage, let us take inspiration from Thy servant, William Wilberforce, a latter-day Moses, to devote our lives in Thy Church to Thy righteousness in accordance with the universal moral law, becoming instruments in Thy hands to advocate the cause of those who are in bondage and learning that we must never become an obstacle to others’ inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; for the sake of Him who gave His life for us, Thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. [Read more...]
The title of this post is a lie: I’m not going to defend God’s sovereignty, not really anyway. I’m not not going to do it for two reasons. First, because I have no theological belief about God’s nature or power or personality or sovereignty firm enough to qualify as something that I am genuinely capable of “defending.” Frankly, God is a mystery to me, and I tend to believe that He wants it to be that way, for His own mostly unknowable reasons. Second, because to engage in a defense means to present an argument–in this case, one against the position that Jason has sketched out, which presents some questions and possibilities in connection with the idea that the Mormon notion of God presents Him as vulnerable, not sovereign–and while I’d like to think I’m at least minimally well-read in the theological literature, my disagreement with him, and my belief that the God which Christians like ourselves worship is not essentially vulnerable, but rather is essentially sovereign, is rooted in other perceptions that lack the rigor of theological argument. The best I can do, then, is talk about where those perceptions came from, and what they’ve meant to me. [Read more...]
Did the law of consecration become effectively suspended or temporarily replaced by the law of tithing when the early Latter-day Saints couldn’t make it work out? Joseph M. Spencer answers with a definitive “no” in For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope. Spencer’s latest book offers an analysis of the law of consecration through a close and detailed reading of selections from Paul’s letter to the Romans and Joseph Smith’s revelation now canonized as section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants. [Read more...]
Collect: Generous God, whose Son Jesus Christ honored the service and discipleship of Martha and Mary of Bethany: Guide our hands likewise to serve thee in serving others, and open our hearts likewise to know thee and Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. [Read more...]