Reverent to Reverence

Being reverent is a phrase we grew up knowing, but mostly as the tattle-tale outcast, not as a close friend. Being reverent, for me, meant a behavior, a set of folded arms, a quiet mouth, a bum in a pew. As I’ve grown older, and now have my own kids to teach, that definition isn’t quite cutting it. Of course I believe in teaching my children respect, and of course I don’t let them run wild during meetings, there is value in learning to sit calmly, but nothing else  I am teaching them in their lives lends itself to equating their value in the eyes of God with being silent.

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To Be Perfectly Honest . . .

Honesty is cool.

In Gospel Doctrine this week, the class discussion revolved around how we can be more honest, and the subtle forms of dishonesty that creep into our lives.  According to one study [1], 10% of communication in marriage is dishonest.  Another study showed that 38% of interactions between college students were deceptive [2].  And as we all know, 83% of statistics are made up [3].  Why do people lie?  Does everyone do it?  How can we be more honest?

“It’s not a lie if you believe it!”  George Costanza [4]

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Roundtable: Temple Prep, Part II

Part I is here. Second question for Tarik, Jana, Tracy and Steve: What are we missing in our temple prep courses? If you haven’t looked at the Endowed From On High manual, I encourage you to do so – it is the current course. What’s your opinion? What more should we be doing?

Tracy: I keep circling back to “nuts and bolts”. The temple prep class is basically a re-warmed version of the discussion and new member lessons. I’ve glanced at the lessons and they don’t seem very different than they did 8 years ago, but I’ll give it a closer reading later.

I would like them to actually go over a What to Expect… type lesson. [Read more…]

Passive-aggressive presiding post

20020For consideration of the Church Magazine Committee:

“Julie, wake up! It’s time for scriptures and morning prayers!”

Julie stared blearily at the clock and sighed. Already 6 a.m.? Her mom’s voice came again from downstairs, “Now!”

Julie shrugged out of her blankets, salvaging one to wrap around her and made her way downstairs. Her siblings sat sloppily eating their cereal and her dad rushed in to grab some toast.

“Honey?” Her mother said to her dad as he slathered the homemade jam across the top. [Read more…]

Call for Applications: Summer Seminar in Mormon Theology

The Third Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology
“A Preparatory Redemption: Reading Alma 12–13”
Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California
June 1–June 15, 2016

Sponsored by the Mormon Theology Seminar
in partnership with
The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and
The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship


In the summer of 2016, the Mormon Theology Seminar, in partnership with the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University, will sponsor a seminar for graduate students and faculty devoted to reading Alma 12–13.

The seminar will be hosted by Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, from June 1 through June 15, 2016. Travel arrangements, housing, and a $1000 stipend will be provided for admitted participants. The seminar will be led by Adam Miller and Joseph Spencer, directors of the Mormon Theology Seminar, with assistance from Brian Hauglid, director of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies. [Read more…]

Would “preside” by any other name smell as…um…

Today’s post begins with a summary of roughly 1/3 of the digital ink spilled in the bloggernacle[fn1]. “Preside” doesn’t mean preside, except when it does, but it usually doesn’t. So your marriage should be egalitarian, but someone should lead and it should be the husband/priesthood bearer, but you should be equal partners in leading, except the husband/priesthood bearer should get the deciding vote (mostly regarding who should bless the food, but not only that), except that decisions should be made mutually. Marriage isn’t like the church, nor is it like a board meeting, but all the analogies that we can provide make it seem like the church or a corporate board meeting, except ones where everything is done in unity, by which we mean nothing is done until everyone agrees with the guy (always a guy) in charge, but it’s important to get everyone’s opinion, even though only one opinion is decisive, except that it shouldn’t be and usually isn’t until it is. [Read more…]

All Souls (Commemoration of the Faithful Departed)

Aside from Easter, which is (or should be) the heart of the liturgical year for all Christians, All Souls Day may be the most Mormon of the traditional Catholic feast days. After all, D&C 138 gives us a vision of the faithful dead joyfully gathered in anticipation of the day when Jesus would arrive in the spirit world announcing their liberation from the bands of death, and we make this belief central to our ongoing vicarious work for the dead in temples around the world. We believe, with the Gospel, that the dead will hear the voice of God—and that we can act as conveyors of that voice to them. Although Mormons do not accept the Wisdom of Solomon as canonical, we, believing that Jesus has called us to assist in the deliverance of the dead, can affirm its declaration that, although to earthly eyes the dead seem lost in punishment, “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them.” [Read more…]

Once I Was a Beehive in Chicago

beehiveGod’s Army came out my senior year at BYU. And it was a revelation. Fifteen years later, I can still remember the impact of seeing a movie, an actual real live movie, about my people, about my experiences. One that took those experiences seriously.

At the time, I was studying English, with a focus on creative writing. And I was thinking seriously—or, at least, as seriously as I could—about Mormon art. I mean, there was plenty of kitsch, plenty of inspiring-but-not-artistic stuff out there. But Richard Dutcher created a Mormon movie without the kitsch, something quality.[fn1]

After I graduated, though, and moved away from Utah, Mormon filmmaking had almost zero impact on me. Some Mormon cinema was great—I have New York Doll sitting in my DVD collection. Some of it wasn’t. Most of it I never saw, because it never came to New York or Chicago, where I lived. So I was excited to hear that Once I Was a Beehive was going to make its Chicago debut on Friday, October 30.  [Read more…]

Poll: Female Healing

I’m curious as to what women feel they are currently ok doing in the Church with respect to providing blessings to others. Below is a brief poll for our female readers. I’m sure there are other permutations. [Read more…]

Not Even Close to 95 Mormon Theses for Reformation Day

martin-luther3It’s Reformation Day yet again, number 498 with 500 coming soon, and to commemorate it yet again Craig H. (a professor of Reformation history) delivered the DeLamar Jensen lecture at BYU on Thursday, on the twin themes of 1) how a Mormon farm-boy like DeLamar Jensen (or for that matter a Mormon suburb-boy like himself) ever in the world got interested in the Reformation, and 2) what the youngish sixteenth-century monk Martin Luther might possibly have to say to other Mormons too. Jason K. was in attendance, squished among the Axe-sprayed hordes (as certain BYU colleagues affectionately call them), and asked Craig whether he might publish excerpts at BCC, especially Craig’s assorted Luther-style theses on what an infusion of Luther-style grace into Mormonism might possibly look like. Though Craig is a (very occasional) blogger at T&S, he, in good ecumenical spirit, agreed. And though he has written mostly about the Reformation, Craig is also the author of a missionary memoir, Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled but Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionarywhich is exactly as amazing as that title makes it sound (see Russell Arben Fox’s review here). We’re glad to welcome Craig as a guest at BCC.

The body of the talk went something like this: most Mormons (like most people) don’t know much about Luther, but plenty still tend to think of him as a sort of forerunner of their own religion. Maybe. But his big main point, that justification comes by grace, through faith, isn’t exactly the dominant Mormon way of thinking about salvation.

In fact, despite some recent flashes of something close to Luther-style grace in Mormonism (coming from Stephen Robinson, Elder Uchtdorf, or Adam Miller), Mormons are still more likely to believe the version of salvation Luther was protesting against: justification by grace, through doing every dang thing you can possibly do to earn that grace. Or more formally, doing all that lies within you.

[Read more…]

Roundtable: Temple Prep, Part I

A few friends of mine — Tracy McKay, Tarik LaCour, Jana Riess, and myself — had an informal email roundtable discussion about the preparation we offer our members before they go to the temple. Jana is an author and editor, posting at the Religion News Service and tweeting the Bible. Tarik is a student of philosophy, history and religion, with a personal blog here. We talked about three questions. This is the first one: What would you say to your younger self as you were about to go through the temple for the first time?

Tracy: I was 34 when I went through for the first time. I had been through the church’s Temple Prep class probably 3 times, and people had been trying to get me to go through for several years- I joined when I was 29. I just wasn’t ready for such a massive unknown commitment- and that was a huge stumbling block to me. Having people give vague testimonies about how special it was or how spiritual really didn’t tell me anything. I didn’t want to look at or read any of the websites that detailed the temple, so I relied on my friends. [Read more…]

I Have A Question: Can You Break Commandments in the Holodeck?

Our semi-regular feature at BCC, in which we answer questions from our readers and then Rank stuff. Have a question you want us to answer? Send us an email!

Your questions have been burning a hole in our inbox. We must answer.

If I’m walking across the BYU campus in the morning when the national anthem plays over the speakers, do I really have to stop walking and put my hand over my heart?

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Homosexual, Not Homogenous

Rebecca Moore is a writer and NASA enthusiast. She has a personal website here. She is also quite tall. We’re grateful that she sent us this guest post.

Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.

Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world.

This weekend, as I sat at my ward retreat listening to a few people make homophobic remarks, I thought to myself, “Do I want to get into this right now?” [Read more…]

Book Review: How the Other Half Banks

How the other half banks coverBy Common Consent may seem like an odd place to review Mehrsa Baradaran‘s excellent How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2015) [Amazon]. Although Professor Baradaran is Mormon, the book has little explicitly Mormon content (I mean, it does mention a couple of Sen. Wallace Bennett’s interactions with the regulation of banks, but that’s as close as I remember it getting).

That said, as Mormons, we’ve been encouraged to become informed and involved in our communities. And understanding banking, especially as it relates to the poor, is, if not absolutely essential to that charge, at least tremendously important.  [Read more…]

Tips for Teachers—New Testament lesson 39: “For the Perfecting of the Saints”

ntmanualLesson 39 covers Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians—although it may not have been written by Paul, might not have been an epistle, and likely wasn’t originally for the Ephesians! One of this book’s overall themes, however, reflects something that comes up in many of Paul’s writings: the desire to unite a diverse group of people into a body of Christians. Truths don’t seem to hinge on authorship here. It also has a rousing section on grace which segued nicely with one of President Uchtdorf’s recent conference addresses.

Much of my lesson focused on that perennial Pauline problem of promoting unity in diversity (you can see my entire lesson outline here). This post focuses on lesson 39 but really serves to provide three tips to help teachers hone their craft for youth and adult Sunday school classes. (More of my tips for teachers are linked here.) [Read more…]

Taking Care: A Post-Conference Chronicle

For Cathy Gilmore, what started as family history hobby soon developed into a passion of uncovering stories and writing about them over at She is also currently working on a documentary history of her grandmother Dorothy Smith Clark. Cathy graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in English and a Russian minor, and works as a contract consultant in marketing communications and design. She is married to Ed, an English bloke from Northeast Lincolnshire, and together they have four daughters. She’s also in the market for a new minivan.

The first Monday after conference is a always hopeful one for me— a spiritual New Years Day of sorts, where all the conference rubber hits the road. But which road to take? My path leading up to conference was an increasingly awkward hopscotch through life’s competing needs and opportunities. Still in the weeds of parenting, every direction led to an unsorted pile, an incomplete project, a waiting repair, or a collection of dusty Cheerios. My own long-held desires to nurture professional paths in more fulfilling directions have been marked with both disappointment and fresh opportunity. Spread thin as a dime, I was overwhelmed both with what I had and what I wanted. It was hard to know just where to begin. [Read more…]

Politics, Polygamy, and King Follett

In 1903, a tectonic shift was taking place in the way Latter-day Saints saw themselves and in the way non-Mormons saw Utah and the Mormons. Since the end of public Mormon polygamy in 1890, the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, Wilford Woodruff’s revelation of 1894, and Utah statehood in 1896, Mormons were gradually, scratchingly, slowly, drifting into the mainstream of American culture, a change largely driven by technological forces. Politically, Mormonism had weathered a terrible storm and paid a large price in terms of self-definition, self-understanding, and theological position.
[Read more…]

The Rock of Faith, the Water of Faith

Moses_strikes_the_rock_001I’ve been thinking about the kind of testimony and faith I want to nurture in myself and others, and I’ve got a couple of way over-extended metaphors to throw out.* I have experienced at least two different kinds of faith, and I’ve seen these differences in others, too: Faith like a rock, and faith like water.

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Looking for My Mother’s Shadow

MI+mother+daughter+love+gettyA common argument about why we don’t speak more about Heavenly Mother or actively seek a relationship with Her is because we just don’t have a lot of documentation about Her. She doesn’t show up in LDS canonized scripture, and we only have secondhand accounts of Joseph Smith teaching of Her existence.

However, the “Mother in Heaven” essay published by the church last week seems to suggest that in spite of our ignorance, Heavenly Mother plays an important role in the mortal lives of both men and women. The essay cites President Harold B. Lee when he argued, “we have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother who are even more concerned, probably, than our earthly father and mother, and that influences from beyond are constantly working to try to help us.” Furthermore, the essay quotes Elder Rudger Clawson saying, “We honor woman when we acknowledge Godhood in her eternal Prototype,” suggesting that we know at least enough about Heavenly Mother to acknowledge Her. [Read more…]

Did Paul’s Companions Hear the Voice?


Today I taught lesson 38 on Acts 21-28. We basically did a close reading of chapters 21 and 22, tracing the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, his return to Jerusalem, his report of his mission to James (the Lord’s brother) and the elders, their concern that Paul is perceived as not requiring that Jewish Christians live the Law of Moses (Gentile Christians already being excused from such observance by the Jerusalem Decree), and their proposal that Paul accompany four men who were completing a nazirite vow to the temple and participate in the purification rites with them so the Jews could see with their own eyes that Paul was observant. I can see what the leadership was thinking, and it may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn’t work (and I mean, not at all). Paul was recognized in the temple, which led to an immediate riot, and Paul would have been killed on the spot had the Roman authorities not intervened. He requests an opportunity to speak to the assembled Jews, which he is given, and thus makes the first of four defense speeches in this reading (the others being before Festus, the Sanhedrin, and Herod Agrippa II). [Read more…]

It’s time

Courtesy Julie de Azevedo Hanks

Courtesy Julie de Azevedo Hanks

Young Women Theme pink flower

WE ARE DAUGHTERS of our Heavenly Parents, who love us, and we love Them. WE WILL “STAND as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:

Faith • Divine Nature • Individual Worth • Knowledge • Choice and Accountability • Good Works • Integrity • and Virtue

WE BELIEVE as we come to accept and act upon these values, WE WILL BE PREPARED to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

God-talk and Mother in Heaven

The release of the recent Gospel Topics essay on Heavenly Mother has unleashed a flood of conversation. The questions that have come up are fascinating: what does it mean to assign gender to God? What’s at stake in believing God is embodied? If we do affirm the existence of a Heavenly Mother, why don’t we talk about Her more? Why don’t we see Her in the temple? Does the language of “Mother” and “Father” even seem adequate to a divine force that can somehow encompass and exceed the full range of human experience?

I’m going to admit that I have no idea what the answers to these questions are or ought to be. But I’m also going to admit that I don’t think I can find the answers on my own. [Read more…]

The Women’s Essay

Neylan McBaine is founder and editor of the Mormon Women Project and author of Women At Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact, as well as a contributor to the recent volume, Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings.

The essay released yesterday entitled “Joseph Smith’s Teachings about Priesthood, Temple and Women,” known among the people now as “the women essay,” has been a long time in coming. I don’t just mean in the sense that we’ve had a societal expectation that official words on this subject of women were needed and hoped for. That is definitely true. But I also mean that the authors at the Church History Library have been working on this essay for a long time. And it’s easy to understand why: we are in medias res on the subject of women in the Church, deep in the heart of a lively discussion that may signify “better days,” as Joseph described them, for women, but which still leave a very long way to go. [Read more…]

We need a Mother.

This piece is in response to this essay that the church put out today.

I need a mother.  I don’t need the notion of a mother, or even the appreciation for a mother.  I need a mother that comes with me in the middle of the night to take care of a child.  I need a mother who nurtures my intellect and challenges me to do more. I need a mother who believes in social justice and rages with me when I don’t know where else to go.   I need a mother who validates my wildness and urges my ideas to take root.  I need a mother in heaven, not merely an appreciation at the idea of one. [Read more…]

If You Like Trunk-or-Treats You Probably Don’t Have a Testimony

Because it is Halloween time again, I’ve decided to re-post this important message. The comments to this post are among the most beloved treasures in BCC history, and worthy of your consideration.

Holy crap Trunk-or-Treats are the worst thing in the world and if you believe Trunk-or-Treats are consistent with the Gospel, you are wrong.

E.T. Trick or Treating

What is the point of a Trunk-or-Treat, anyway? When I was a kid and this societal cancer first reached my awareness, I understood that it was born of concern about poisoned candies and apples with razor blades and other dangerous crap that Big Mom was worried about. It probably got its start from the movie E.T., when that punk Elliot didn’t come home on time and Gertie was going on and on to the police officer about her dad being in Mexico with his lover. Halloween + Adultery + Space Aliens = NO MORE TRICK OR TREATING. So, instead of sending the kids out on the streets at night like rational human beings, we line everyone up in a parking lot and distribute candy like it’s freaking Hamsterdam. [Read more…]

Meeting Elder and Sister Renlund #ldsconf

Screenshot 2015-10-21 at 3.53.09 PMThe 2015 November Ensign is shooting towards homes across Mormondom and inside there are the normal makings of a conference issue, which is mostly made up of the talks. What deviates, of course, is the inclusion of the leadership changes and with that one finds handy biographies starting on page 135 of the three new apostles as well as six additional biographies (including the presidency of the seventy changes, presiding bishopric changes and the new counselor in the Sunday School).

Why does this matter? It’s interesting to meet these new leaders, see what they’ve been up to in their lives, and for the most part, eight of those biographies follow the formula of most one-page biographies we’ve read in the magazines for years: a short testimony or a testimony-building anecdote about their lives to catch interest, followed by basic biographical information of where they were born and raised and educated, then marriage and sometimes an extra sentence about their wives, and church service throughout the world that prepared them for their calling today.

renludg1fThere is one amazing exception. One that made me say “whoa, I didn’t know I was craving this type of biography.” And that is Elder Dale G. Renlund’s biography. Because you not only get a biographical glimpse into his life, but his wife Ruth is in the very first paragraph and pretty much by his side, metaphorically (and from what I read, in actuality) throughout the biography. It’s a wonderful rhetorical use of bringing these women into spotlight along with their husbands. It matches what needs to happen as these women are just as invested as their husbands into these callings if not as visible. Sister Ruth Renlund is portrayed as a real and active partner by his side. I just love it. [Read more…]

Sins of immorality and misshapen creatures

Part 9 of my series, “Intellectual disability in Mormon thought…”
See also parts 1, 23, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

2015-01-00-teachings-of-presidents-of-the-church-ezra-taft-benson-eng-1Next week is Disability Awareness Week at BYU, so I thought it would be nice to write a post on the subject. A few weeks ago I was asked to substitute teach for elder’s quorum (I usually teach Sunday school). The lesson happened to be chapter 17 of the President Benson manual, “Keeping the Law of Chastity.” While reading over the lesson I found a few good quotes to build the discussion around.1 While preparing the lesson I came across a certain manual balrog.

“Manual balrogs” are excerpts that seem troubling, confusing, or otherwise inappropriate for your particular class. The manuals instruct teachers to “prayerfully select…teachings that you feel will be most helpful to those you teach,” and this particular quote was not selected for inclusion in my lesson:

“Purity is life-giving; impurity is deadly. God’s holy laws cannot be broken with impunity. Great nations have fallen when they became morally corrupt, because the sins of immorality left their people scarred and misshapen creatures who were unable to face the challenge of their times.”

[Read more…]

Empty seats: Black, White, and Mormon Conference

bwmormon“Make sure to get there early and save me a seat.” I texted my husband.

See, I figured that a free conference on the important and sometimes controversial topic of Black Saints in the Mormon fold would have filled the Utah Museum of Fine Art auditorium.

Turns out I needn’t have worried so much. And in a conference full of heartbreaking stories, the fact that there were so many empty seats ranked up there as the saddest thing I witnessed.

But we can change that. We must change that. We can virtually fill those empty seats and sit back and listen and learn from our Black Brothers and Sisters because the Tanner Humanities Center just released the videos to the conference.

Why is this important? Because these men and women are, as they explain “speaking truth” and opening their mouths and hearts in the most vulnerable ways and giving us a glimpse at shared and individual past pain so that we can work together to do what we can to avoid future pain.

And we must do it quickly. Because amidst the spiritual power, the eloquence, the laughter, the anger, the intellect, the creativity, I witnessed something else:

Fatigue. [Read more…]

The Sealing

brigham-city-dipper-temple-la-rae-robertsThe thick, creamy envelope lay heavy in the open mouth of the mailbox. “Office of the First Presidency” was etched in the upper left corner. My heart raced and my hand shook as I handed it to my husband Jon, still standing in the driveway, his coat and satchel dropped on his shoes, not all the way home from work. We had been waiting for weeks—months, years, eons, eternity—for this letter to arrive. Our entire hopeful future rested on what was in that envelope.

I had not been sealed to my first husband. My children were not born in the covenant, nor were they sealed at any time after. There is no easy way to convey the magnitude of this to someone not of our faith; one’s eternal relationship with family and with God can feel like they are on the line. When I got divorced, I assumed this was a door that had been closed to us, and I tucked those hopes away, pretty sure God would love us anyway. I never expected to be holding one of those thick, creamy envelopes with my future in it. [Read more…]

RIP Trevor Southey

Trevor Southey passed away yesterday. Joseph-Smith-three-views-e1374478814675Southey was an artist, sculptor, Mormon, gay man, husband, ex-husband, father and a host of other adjectives. [Read more…]


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