I do not know of a better combination of myth, art, and literature than W.H. Auden’s “Museè de Beaux Arts” (1938)—a poetic meditation on Pieter Breugel’s sixteenth century painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, which is itself a stunning reinterpretation of an ancient Greek myth. The original myth was about many things, such as daring greatly, following instructions, disobeying parents, and invading the realms of the gods. Both the painting and the poem are more focused. They are about the human failure to notice stuff. [Read more…]
Excerpts from a talk I gave yesterday in my ward in the Tree Streets of Provo, Utah. To be honest, I wrote it an hour before I gave it, so the roughness of it is on me and my profound ability to procrastinate.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today on a subject that I can stand before you with a witness and a testimony of truth that rings in the deepest parts of my soul: earth stewardship. I am also grateful for the opportunity to stand and ask for forgiveness in my confession that I am not a perfect steward of the earth that we all occupy. I am not even great steward. Most of the time I am, at best, aware. I am aware I can do better to resist convenience for consecration and resolve to be a part of the solution instead of the complication. For this I ask for your forgiveness. [Read more…]
We are very fond of using the language of certainty when we speak of the gospel, when we give our testimonies, and when we share our faith with our friends and family. We love to say “I know…” and we do so with such confidence that it becomes a linguistic tic of Mormonism. “I know the church is true…” What does that even mean? And what message does the language of unwavering certainty send to people whose faith is formed from different mettle? We sometimes imagine proclaiming knowledge is solid and comforting, and perhaps to some— or even to many— it is, but as an adult convert, I believe the framing of certainty, of “knowing” as the only expression of testimony can actually create an unintended gulf between members of the body of Christ’s church. [Read more…]
I’m increasingly convinced that the LDS book marketplace is still in its nascent form. We have fits and starts of great literature, some remarkable early works of theological or devotional expression, but the market still seems to be crucially dependent on the Church for support and marketing of its pieces. Works on the periphery, outside of official Church imprints, struggle for a portion of mainstream recognition, while those published by Deseret Book, etc. are carefully managed and promoted. So, it’s not surprising that some LDS authors publish smaller books with smaller imprints, but the quality of some recent works is really quite impressive. Is micro-publishing the future of non-institutional LDS publishing? William Morris’ Dark Watch, Sam Brown’s First Principles and Ordinances, and Adam Miller’s Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan invite us to consider the possibilities for LDS fiction and nonfiction. [Read more…]
If by chapel you mean a religious meeting place designated as a “chapel,” then the Gadfield Elm chapel in Worcestershire, England, is the oldest Mormon chapel in the world. Built in 1836 by the United Brethren, the chapel became a Mormon centre in 1840 during Wilford Woodruff’s British mission. Local Mormons — whose restoration of the building and sacred myth-making centred thereon are interesting manifestations of Mormon localism — celebrated today the 175th anniversary of the 1840 conference that established the Mormon church in their area. [Read more…]
When I was a teenager, Especially for Youth was not even a twinkle in someone’s eye yet. For me the big annual Church event was our stake’s Youth Conference. [Read more…]
Ornette Coleman died today.
I don’t have any idea how resonant his death is in American culture. I don’t know what pictures the words “Ornette Coleman” conjures up in your mind, if any. But I hope to add a little to that picture.
I’m sure you knew that LDS.org is the place to look for images of temples, missionary work, and people with hands on their heads. But did you also know that in the depths of the media library, there is a picture of a bearded man wearing suspenders strumming a guitar with a harmonica attachment? Or a picture of a young couple assembling empanadas? There’s a photo for nearly every occasion! Here is just a small sampling of the many hundreds of pictures you could, with a little creativity, incorporate into your next Sunday School lesson:
I have only seen one “no” vote in person, and it with feet not hands. I was a missionary in a small Spanish branch in Watsonville, California. The name of a new branch president was being submitted to the branch for a sustaining vote. The man had just moved in from Los Angeles, where he had been the bishop of a Spanish ward. Almost everybody dutifully raised their hands when the name was presented. But the couple who had been the backbone of the branch, who held a dozen callings between them, got up and left the building with scowls on their faces. To my knowledge they never came back. [Read more…]
Longtime BCC reader Carolyn is an attorney and religious liberty law enthusiast in California. She wrote an amicus brief in Holt v. Hobbs defending accommodations for religious prisoners.
Religious freedom advocates rejoice! The Supreme Court has issued its second major victory for religion this year. In January, it unanimously held in Holt v. Hobbs that it should be easier for religious prisoners to get religious accommodations in prison. Last week, it held 8-1 in EEOC v. Abercrombie that it should be easier for religious employees to get religious accommodations in the workplace. [Read more…]
Our stake just completed its first ever Pioneer Trek activity. In our fast & testimony meeting this weekend, most of the speakers talked about their experiences as leaders or participants. I would have thought these contrived experiences wouldn’t be as touching as they were, but some of their experiences were moving and instructive. [Read more…]
“And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. (Psalm 87:5.)
Those who join God’s people in Zion leave the world and all its distinctions behind. Though a man be born in Rahab or Babylon; Philistia, Tyre, or Ethiopia — that is, heathen, black, white, or of a tribe traditionally hostile to God’s chosen people — it shall be said of him once he has joined himself with the cause of Zion, “this man was born there” (Psalm 87:4). We are assured that “[t]he Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob” (Psalm 87:2). For this very reason, “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” (Psalm 87:3). All who join with Zion are of Zion: “this man was born there.” Joseph Smith seems to have understood this intuitively, authorizing the ordination of several black converts, including most famously Elijah Abel, to the priesthood. [Read more…]
Born in the year of Joseph Smith’s death, and gone himself only forty-four years later, Gerard Manley Hopkins lived a rich and difficult life. As a young man, he had the gift of seeing the Creator’s hand in nature. This sacramental view of nature drew him to Roman Catholicism and eventually to a vocation as a Jesuit priest. Not just the heavens, but everything in the world declares the glory of God, and Hopkins could see even a leaf as a “tabernacle for the sun”—or, perhaps, a tabernacle for the Son.
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; As tumbled over rim in roundy wells Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name; Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; Selves—goes its self; myself it speaks and spells, Crying What I do is me: for that I came. I say more: the just man justices; Keeps grace; that keeps in all his goings graces; Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is— Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places, Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his To the Father through the features of men's faces.
Our (nominally Spanish speaking) sister missionaries just came by. (They’ve never been to our house, and although I of course have seen them at Church I’ve never really talked to them before.) I opened the door and welcomed them in, and they got this deer in the headlights look and asked if my wife was home. When I was a missionary that was not a thing, but fortunately for all concerned she was indeed home, just in the other room. [Read more…]
Ronan’s post on transubstantiation (which fittingly identified a “bridge” that Mormonism, as the Restoration, can build between the Catholic and reformed perspectives on the meaning of John 6:51-58) got me thinking about one of Heinrich Heine‘s “historical” poems in his Romanzero, a collection of poems divided into three books, published in 1851. [Read more…]
Audio recordings of talks from the symposium are available here, with video of Clayton Christensen’s plenary here. Symposium organizers Matt Bowman and Sharon Harris share their thoughts below in a mock interview. We are glad to welcome them once again as guests at BCC.
On May 16, we held a symposium in New York City. Called “Of One Body: The State of Mormon Singledom,” it was designed not as a typical Mormon singles conference (planned to encourage flirting and courtship), but as a serious discussion about the growing numbers of single Mormons and the falling rates of marriage within Mormonism. Both of these trends reflect broad patterns in American culture, but we wanted to discuss what they mean for Mormons in particular. We invited a number of speakers: In the introduction Matt Bowman outlined these demographic trends and talked about the meaning of the title (drawn from the apostle Paul). Sharon Harris discussed the history of singles wards. Clayton Christensen offered thoughts on how we think about the place of single people in the Church. A panel of those in leadership callings gave their perspectives on working with single people in their flock. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife talked about the law of chastity and how singles of a wide variety of ages grapple with it, and Kristine Haglund delivered a closing homily on the place of single people in the body of Christ. We are grateful to the Manhattan stake for its sponsorship.
Conference is free and open to the public Saturday, June 20, 9am-5pm
Among my many eccentricities, the weirdest one is that I actually think that poetry matters. I believe that it is important. And I think that most people need to read a lot more of it instead of doing whatever it is they are doing. I know that this makes me a crank—and a largely unemployable crank at that–but it’s too late for me. I’ve been to therapy several times for this. I’m not going to change. [Read more…]
One of the traps into which religion can fall is that it often makes the thing into the thing signified. There is “God” — theological debates, Del Parson paintings, doctrinal pronouncements, even the scriptures — and there is “God above God,” the noumenal thing that is never quite the phenomenal thing. [Read more…]
The church officially—and in fact—ended its experiment with polygamy more than a century ago.
Yet polygamy and its effects remain with us today. And no, I’m not talking about D&C 132; we’ve officially read polygamy out of the the section, replacing it with our modern concept of eternal (monogomous) marriage.
What I’m talking about is the fact that a man (and, in certain limited circumstances, a woman) can be sealed to more than one person, and that those additional sealings can and do happen without the consent of the first sealed spouse. [Read more…]
Shawn Tucker has sent us a follow-up to a recent post. Some great ideas — thanks, Shawn! I will note that I like the optimism of his metaphor.
Steve Evans’ recently presented a sort of thought experiment about a permutation machine. The machine would allow one to see all of the other alternative outcomes for one’s life choices. In order for such a machine to make sense, you have to imagine that time moves in one direction, and that while there are many alternatives for each choice, only one can be selected. In addition, you have to imagine that each choice is completely unique and can never be revisited. You only had one chance to send or not send that note in 5th grade, to say hello or not say hello to that person in your Biology class, or to let or not let that hand linger there a little longer.
Thinking about time, choice, the path of one’s life, and even eternal consequences in that manner can be interesting. [Read more…]
This post is a slightly revised version of last year’s Trinity Sunday post. For more recent BCC discussion of the Trinity, start with J. Stapley’s “Mormon Jesus?”, which links to other posts by BCC authors.
Early in the Book of Mormon, Nephi receives some information that seems to have been all at once exciting, shocking, and confusing. After Nephi affirms his belief in Lehi’s vision of the tree, the Spirit who had carried him away responds with praise: “Hosanna to the Lord, the Most High God; for he is God over all the earth, even above all.” Then comes the intriguing part: “And blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God.”
This is intriguing not only because Nephi has not affirmed any such belief, but more profoundly because the text has not hitherto mentioned any such Son (except when the narrator Nephi, writing 40 years after the fact, attributes his father’s vision to “faith on the Son of God” [1 Ne. 10:17]). The book opens with Lehi, likewise carried away by the Spirit, seeing God enthroned (1 Ne. 1:8), after which he sees “One descending out of the midst of heaven” and “twelve others following him” (1 Ne. 1:9-10). While we are justified in understanding this “One” as Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon does not at this point identify him as God’s Son; nor does it clarify the relationship between this One and God at all. [Read more…]
May is Bike to Church Month here at By Common Consent. See our previous weeks of celebration here, here, here, and here. Today we have pictures from readers Lori, Jon, Lisa, and Mark, biking to church in Valencia, Spain. Thanks for sharing your fun family commute with us! Keep reading below the fold to see BCC writer EmJen and her kids enjoying a bike ride to church in Farmington, Utah, USA. I hope this inspires you to #biketochurch. Snap a pic and share it on Twitter and/or add a link to Instagram here in the comments. Happy biking!
I was saddened to learn today of Elder Perry’s passing. I remember memorizing the names and faces of the Twelve Apostles as a boy. My mother had given us a mnemonic for several of them, and Elder Perry’s has always stuck with me because it was so apt, given the big, toothy grin he always sported: He is very cheery, he is Elder Perry.
A few years later, we found ourselves living in Manila, Philippines where I was now in high school and enrolled in my first year of early morning seminary with my mom as the teacher. A small group of us expat kids met in our home every morning at 5:30 before heading to the International School together. At one point we learned that Elder Perry was visiting the Manila mission. President Iba was in our branch and his kids were in our carpool. My mom, being the intrepid soul that she is, asked the president if she could perhaps get a meeting with the Apostle for her seminary class, and Elder Perry consented. So the next day, there we were, six or so of us face to face with L. Tom Perry at 5:30 a.m.. He was wide awake, thanks to the time difference between Manila and Salt Lake City. I remember three things from that conversation. [Read more…]
We are saddened to learn that Elder L. Tom Perry has passed away.
“The only significance of life consists in helping to establish the kingdom of God; and this can be done only by means of the acknowledgment and profession of the truth by each one of us.”–Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is Within You
Jesus spends a fair bit of time in the New Testament trying to define “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of Heaven.” And he uses some of his most elaborate metaphors and conceits to try to explain what this kingdom is and why it is so important.
So a couple of months ago one of my best friends happened to be in DeKalb, Illinois, the town where we both grew up, and eating at a local Mexican restaurant called Rosita’s. And it occurred to him that there are still a lot of people we went to high school with that are local to the area, and he wondered whether if he sent up a bat signal would people get together for an evening of food, drinks and conversation? So he picked yesterday, Friday May 29th, and shot off the flare, which is to say he posted an open invitation to our high school classmates on our class Facebook page. He even offered to pick up the drink tab. The actual event was last night, and about a dozen of us ended up having a very pleasant evening together. It kind of unwittingly turned into a fascinating social experiment, because that particular set of people probably never would have gotten together while we were actually in high school 39 years ago (our 40th anniversary reunion will be next year). But now which side of town you grew up on or which middle school you went to or which group you hung with didn’t seem to really matter all that much anymore. Just having gone to the same high school together now seemed like an ample stake on which to tether our shared life experiences. [Read more…]
William Morris is a longtime friend of the blog and champion of Mormon Lit. He has a new book out, Dark Watch and other Mormon-American Stories. We encourage you to read it!
One of the truisms that genre fiction writers often trot out is that science fiction is never about the future–that no matter how much of the language of futurism a work of science fiction employs and no matter how much SF writers get right or wrong about future technologies, science fiction is actually about the present. It has to be: the people who create it are always stuck in the present.
That doesn’t pose much of a problem if you’re writing the kind of science fiction that takes place in a distant future, where the extrapolations from current technologies and scientific discoveries can be stretched and metaphorized to the point that they are essentially fantasy in the garb of SF. I’m more interested, however, in near future science fiction because it requires more direct, rigorous engagement with the technologies and Mormonism of now. It intrigues me. I also find it almost impossible to write (even though I’ve written it). [Read more…]
For the dozen odd years since I joined the church, I’ve been sort of an outlier. All of my experiences with the organized church and with my church community have been through the lens of being an adult convert. Nothing about that is unique, of course— there are adult converts everywhere, and in probably every faith— but joining a church that revolves in a potent way around an idealized family makes those coming in poignantly aware of our shortcomings. (Yes yes yes, I know there is no such thing as a perfect Mormon family, and I know everyone wears their best faces on Sunday, and every family has problems and struggles and challenges. I get all that. But bear with me.) [Read more…]