The other night, over dinner with friends, we got to talking about dating in the LDS world. The demographics at the table: two married (not to each other), and three never-married or divorced. Since my divorce over three years ago, I’ve written here and there on my adventures in the dating scene, or what I like to think of as the Pool of Perpetual Enforced Adolescence, which some LDS websites non-ironically and with a straight face, call “Celestial Dating”. [Read more...]
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We’re happy to have Morgan Davis as a guest author once again. Morgan will be posting approximately once a month on several of the themes in the new youth manual, Come Follow Me. The second in his series is below. The introduction to the series is here.
This is the second of a series of posts on the themes presented in “Come, Follow Me,” the new youth curriculum for Sunday instruction. I hope it will be clear that my thoughts are not intended to become material for class discussions; rather I am just interested in exploring some ideas that might be in the background of such discussions. [Read more...]
It’s no secret Mormons are great when it comes to rolling up our sleeves and helping. Our yellow vests and humanitarian aid trucks are known worldwide. In our wards many of us know the tender care of being loved through hard times. There are things we might miss the boat on, things that are hard reconcile sometimes, but there is little doubt when it comes to lifting where you stand, we rock.
The thing is, as the world gets smaller, the notion of where we actually ‘stand’ to do our lifting is also broadening. The community of Saints ready to lift with us was once our own neighborhood, our ward— and while a great deal of the love still comes via that conduit, I think the idea of a community of Saints is shifting, opening, walls are thinning and vistas are opening up. [Read more...]
Having briefly considered Tolkien’s defense of fantasy fiction and asked whether the Book of Mormon partially treads the borderlands of Faërie, I want to finish this look at Tolkien’s thought by saying something about three works that further illuminate Faërie: the poem Mythopoeia, and the short stories Leaf by Niggle and Smith of Wootton Major. We thereby cover the canon of Tolkien’s literary philosophy. [Read more...]
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.
The Book of Mormon is as important closed as it is open. Its power and meaningfulness derive as much from its origin story as it does from the content of the book itself. As a result, it behooves us to look at this origin story as closely as we can.
The complexity of the historical context of the period can lead is in many directions, but a 1988 Ensign article (‘A New Prophet and a New Scripture: The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon‘ by Kenneth W. Godfrey) provides detail and comes from a source with which class members will be comfortable. (If you want to get into details about the process of translating, ‘“By the Gift and Power of God”‘ by Richard Lloyd Anderson (1977) goes into hats and seer stones and all of that.)
There’s a lot to talk about, so I’ll hit the bits I found most interesting: [Read more...]
After her return from the Soviet Union, Gilda seems to have fallen into depression. Her friend Babs Lake took her on an Atlantic Cruise that sailed from Boston to Rome to try and break her from its chains. During that time her spirits lifted significantly. She was reading Moby Dick at the time and this was found folded in her hardback copy of the book. It is a fascinating peep into the things she was thinking at the time and would later inform her fiction. It is believed by most Trilliam scholars that this was written about two days into the voyage. The adventures of Trillim can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and a recent book can be found here.
After reading Jacob’s post Creation Out of Givenness I remembered something that Gilda Trillim had written (whose life on an alternative time line has been detailed on these pages). After scouring her archives I found this. I include it here, again not to be read (it’s nearly 6000 words, far too long for a blog post, so please, please, remember that this was not put up to be read, I think my fellow bloggers would be quite put out if I left the impression that these long excursions into nonsense were to be thought of as one of BCC’s high quality offerings. Even their patience has its limits.), but rather this is placed here to archive her adventures because in our universe she has not existed but should have. The adventures of Trillim can be found here, here, here, here, here, and a recent book can be found here.
Notes for Gilda’s Novel Muskrat Trap
“We were just walking, and he looked back and flipped us off,” [Elder] Brezenski said, adding the driver was carrying a cigarette in the hand he used to make the gesture. “Then the car flipped 10 to 12 feet in the air.”
Giving missionaries the bird + smoking + driving drunk = Invoke the wrath of God.
A combination of blunders and a marvelous slap from above.
This is the stuff of missionary folklore.
The car accident happened this week in Indiana, and the Elders were restrained in their description to local media, making no mention of whether feet had been dusted prior to the collision.
Rewind to 1935. Legrand Richards, then-President of the infamous Southern States mission, shared a similar story of missionary-vindicating justice in General Conference. I came across the legend while researching the history of LDS views on disabilities, and this may be one of the most unfortunate examples I’ve found so far: [Read more...]
In 1957 Hugh Nibley’s An Approach to the Book of Mormon appeared on the scene, the Melchizedek Priesthood manual for that year (cue the sighs of bittersweet longing for the manuals of yesteryear). In retrospect the book was an earthquake, shattering the intellectual and religious landscapes on which the Book of Mormon had been erected and creating new vistas and pinnacles from which to see and receive the book anew. It inarguably helped to shape the entire Mormon academic enterprise, a catalyst in spawning an industry of textual Mormon comparative/historical scholarship. The book signaled the beginning of a new era of academic inquiry and interest in Mormon scripture–one that is still largely with us–and scholarly investigations of Mormon texts will always be indebted to it. [Read more...]
[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]
The only time I have had the opportunity to actually vote on–as opposed to pontificate about–same-sex marriage was in 2004 when I lived in Arkansas, when an amendment to the state constitution forbidding the legal recognition of anything besides a union of one man and one woman as a marriage was on the ballot. I voted in favor of it. In 2008, though I wasn’t living in California, Proposition 8–the ballot initiative to re-establish what was, at the time, the exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage in that state–was obviously something just about every informed American Mormon, due to our church’s heavy involvement in its passage, had an opinion on. My opinion, which was published as part of a roundtable in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, was that I would have, if I’d lived in California, reluctantly voted in support of the referendum. I now think both my vote on same-sex marriage in Arkansas, and the arguments I laid out regarding Proposition 8, were wrong. [Read more...]
This Saturday the Association for Mormon Letters will have its annual meeting. In support of their work, I would like explore one of Mormon literature’s most important pioneers, although you are unlikely to have heard of her since, sadly, her reputation within the LDS community has largely fallen off. Also unfortunate is that interest in her among American literary critics as also waned since its peak in the late 70s. Still, there continues a steady stream of dissertations, theses, and papers discussing her work. Despite her star setting somewhat in the West, she yet has a large following in China, where a major retranslation of some of her best work was just released this week in Beijing. However, her largest influence continues to be found in Ethiopia where certain aspects of her work seem to speak to the Ethiopian Orthodox mind with more affinity than anywhere else in the world. It was in fact in Addis Ababa working on tsetse fly research that I first came upon the work of Gilda Trillim. [Read more...]
To: James Jones, Producer, The Mormon Candidate
Re: This World: The Mormon Candidate (BBC2)
Dear Mr Jones,
If we are to follow the educational philosophy of Charles Dickens’s Thomas Gradgrind — “In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!” — then we would find little to complain about in John Sweeney’s BBC account of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Sweeney, the BBC’s go-to cult hunter, famous for his aggressive encounter with Scientology, provided a number facts about Mormonism that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints simply cannot deny.
They are, inter alia: Mormon prophet Joseph Smith married upwards of 30 women. The Egyptian of the extant fragments of the Book of Abraham is not directly related to Smith’s translation. Mormons once swore blood oaths in their temples. As a conservative religion, Mormonism can be a rather alienating place for those whose faith wanders from orthodoxy. The church maintains its own Vatican-like Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. &c.
Some of these facts, and others besides, are bound to make uncomfortable viewing for Mormons. Some are defensible, others are not. Many strike at the heart of Mormonism’s curse as a pre-modern religion that has come of age in a modern and post-modern age. The patina of history has rendered benign the strange beliefs and practices of some more ancient religions. Mormonism is not so lucky and this is why facts, polemically deployed, are not always as truthful as Gradgrind, and Sweeney, would have us believe. [Read more...]
“This study guide is designed as a companion to your study of the Book of Mormon. It is divided into numbered sections that correspond with the lessons in the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine course. Each section provides the week’s reading assignment and questions to enhance your study. You may use these questions to improve personal application of the scriptures and to prepare to make meaningful contributions to class discussions.
“You share with your Gospel Doctrine teacher the responsibility to help the class be successful. The Lord has said that teachers need to “preach … by the Spirit of truth” and that those who receive “the word of truth” should “receive it by the Spirit of truth” (D&C 50:17, 19). Come to class prepared to contribute insights, ask questions, share appropriate experiences, bear testimony, and listen attentively to the teacher and the other class members. When you have studied the reading assignments and pondered the questions in this study guide, you will be better prepared to experience the fulfillment of the Lord’s words when He said, “He that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:22).”
I only half listened to the Gospel Doctrine teacher as she read this from the Book of Mormon Class Member Study Guide on Sunday, so engrossed was I in preparing my notes (via mobile phone and tablet, both which sat on my lap) gathered from the Bloggernacle and lds.org.
This series examines, from a somewhat naive point of view, the meaning of “infinite” in a number of contexts. Joseph Smith delves deeply into the infinite, and in particular in funeral sermons, even though he does not engage it with rigor. (Parts of this series appeared elsewhere.)
Updated to now include video of the lecture.
Sponsored by Sunstone and Friends of the Marriott Library at the University of Utah
Relief Society sisters now have a new resource—a compact history of the Relief Society called Daughters of My Kingdom. The new manual, which is to be used from time to time for lessons given the first Sunday of each month, is not only unusual for its focus on women but for its chronological organization. Most Church manuals are organized thematically, offering little scope for discussing change over time. Despite its uplifting narrative, this manual may require a new set of skills. As teachers of women’s history know, you can’t just “add women and stir.”
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich taught her first Relief Society lesson more than fifty years ago, when she was an undergraduate attending a student ward at the University of Utah. She began teaching women’s history at the college level in 1975 when she was a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire. She is the author of many books and articles on early American history and women’s history and is now completing her first book-length work in Mormon history, “A House Full of Females: Family and Faith in Nineteenth-century Mormon Diaries.” She is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University.
Which brings us back to Joseph Smith. [Read more...]
The below is a slightly edited version of a post I submitted to The Seeker. The post hasn’t been picked up (they prefer to only publish posts on topics where multiple different posts are submitted by the Seeker bloggers, and while the Amish beard cutting cult was a possible topic suggested, I was the only one to write on it.) But yesterday I saw the movie Martha Marcy May Marlene, a very intense portrayal of a young woman who got caught up with a group that is what in popular parlance would be called a “cult.” It wasn’t a religious group; they were located in the Catskills and were more like a 1960s free love commune on steroids. The leader of the group is portrayed by the actor John Hawkes, and he is terrific in the role. Anyway, watching this movie kind of pissed me off, because here is a group that clearly would be a cult in the popular conception of the word (the c-word is not used once in the movie, an excellent artistic choice), and yet conservative Protestant countercultists have so misused the word “cult” that, in a way, they have given such dangerous groups aid and comfort by lumping them in with established and safe Christian faiths with which such countercultists simply disagree theologically. So here are my thoughts: [Read more...]
On this Veterans Day it seems appropriate to reflect on a battle we’re all currently enlisted in, because we just lost a whole regiment today, so to speak. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared Africa’s western black rhino extinct today. Dialogue‘s recent issue focusing on the environment and Latter-day Saint thought (guest-edited by the beloved Steven Peck) got me thinking. Given our scriptures which declare that an important relationship exists between God, the earth, and humans, the loss of the black rhino should catch our attention.
We believe God created the heavens and the earth, and that male and female were created in God’s image. It’s in our scriptures and our rituals. I’ve been told there’s been a bit of debate on how all that creation stuff really shook out, but here I want to focus on the idea of God’s creation in terms of the fall of Eve and Adam, and all of their posterity, and our responsibilities to creation. [Read more...]
“Predestination” seems to be fundamentally an argument about power in the relationship between humans and God. To what degree is God directly involved in our everyday stuff? To oversimplify: a strict view of predestination might hold that God wills every single thing that occurs, from the flapping of the butterfly wing to the hurricane it [didn't] cause because God caused it. A loose view barely allows room for God to intervene in the world at all. God set things in motion, deist-like, and either can’t or won’t infringe on us lest he damages agency. Either of these positions (and the vast array of possibilities lying along the spectrum) entails a few unpleasant things.
Strict: I can rest with certainty if I’m chosen. But being chosen means others won’t be, which seems rather arbitrary and cruel.
Have you ever met a strict Calvinist who doesn’t feel they are elect? I haven’t
Loose: I have a degree of autonomy, I’m free to respond to God’s invitation. But what exactly do I have to do in order to measure up?
Have you ever met an exhausted Mormon? I have.
These aren’t the only points to be made, but this isn’t the place for a full discussion of Calvinism and Mormonism. Instead, I want to show how a recent book distinguishes the latter from the former. [Read more...]
While we believe we come “trailing clouds of glory” from a pre-mortal past, our scripture reading comes trailing clouds of interpretation from pre-Mormon centuries of hermeneutics. Our spirits weren’t created ex nihilo, nor are our assumptions while reading. This might raise a few eyebrows, but it seems to me that we members of the Church mingle the philosophies of men with scripture on a fairly regular basis. Not so much by incorporating particular ideas into our canon (though we do that too),1 but in the very way we approach scripture to begin with. The ways we read scripture mingle the words on the page with our implicit assumptions.
I realize this sounds like an indictment. But keep in mind that, according to Mormons, not everything the serpent says (“ye shall be as gods…“) is necessarily 100% false. A revelation to Joseph Smith states that God speaks to his servants “in their weakness, after the manner of their language.” A certain amount of mingling seems inevitable, so in my view the question isn’t really about whether it happens, but what we do about it.
One thing we can do is become more aware of our assumptions. Like any good Mormon might, we can start by learning our hermeneutical genealogy. That’s an exercise far outside the scope of a blog post and explorations are already underway elsewhere.2 I want to call attention here to one particular way the Enlightenment still affects our scripture reading today: in our view of biblical scholarship. [Read more...]
Spend an Evening with the Authors
We are excited to announce the arrival of Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism by Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow, published by Oxford University Press. We will have both authors at our store to speak about and sign their book on Friday, October 14. They will be here from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., speaking at 6:00, and will answer questions and sign books before and after that time. [Read more...]
The U.S. Armed Forces have a problem. Particularly since the advent of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the incidence of sexual assault within the armed forces is high. Perhaps more disturbing, the majority of these assaults are perpetrated by fellow soldiers. As this link indicates, in the middle 00s 6 of 10 women in the military were victims of sexual assault or harassment. [Read more...]
[Note from Admin: Recently, while under the influence of some (allegedly) fermented root beer, a rogue BCC perma suggested that permas from M* and BCC switch places in the name of building bridges or increasing dialogue between two groups who often don't seem to play nicely with each other. Although no one was sure if anything would come of this proposal, Geoff B. has made good on his end of the agreement.]
Geoff B is a convert to the Church who writes for Millennial Star. http://www.millennialstar.org
For a relatively recent convert like myself, President Hinckley’s April 2003 talk right before the U.S. entered the Iraq war was very confusing. On the one hand, it was clear to me after reading the Book of Mormon two or three times by then that the Church’s message is one of peace, non-aggression and avoiding offensive wars. On the other, President Hinckley seemed to be justifying the Iraq invasion.
A new crop of women is coming of age, matriculating into the universe of higher education, and entering the workforce. They grew up in an age of intense marketing towards children, and an age of specialty marketing towards girls. The Disney film franchise was entering a Renaissance period with the release of “The Little Mermaid” in 1988–with a wide-eyed plucky mermaid dreaming about growing up and becoming part of the world, and then “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991 with a wide-eyed plucky village girl dreaming that there must be more than her provincial life. In fact, Disney made a fortune on remaking the image of girls in movies. The old Disney films were filled with beautiful but vapid, lifeless girls who needed to be saved by even more vapid, lifeless princes. This new crop of heroines were defined in a different way: pretty, plucky, adventurous–they were corporate packaged junior feminists. They got into scrapes, they got out of them, they learned to love, and everything came up roses. Ever wondered how Ariel would fare in corporate America….
As a young child I knew I had several male relatives, but outside the immediate family, my paternal grandfather and my Uncle Louis, I really didn’t have much to do with them. My mother’s brothers were basically all out of the picture for one reason or another, while my father’s family was whittled down by death to my Uncle Louis and my aunt who shall remain incognito.
My mind and heart are full today on this latest instance of Adventist disappointment. Most of my friends have enjoyed reasonably good-natured if sometimes hostile humor at the expense of the current iteration of muddled arithmetical exegesis, this time by a Protestant entrepreneur named Harold Camping. I’m sympathetic to their responses–the way Protestant millenarianism often presents itself is both arrogant and xenophobic. But one of my closest friends lost his mother this week, and today we bid her farewell in the LDS chapel that sheltered me for a crucial decade of my life. My heart is not in the Rapture parties staged by my friends and coworkers because my heart is with my friend and his family. As I reflected on the juxtaposition of C*’s funeral and the mostly good-natured mockery of Camping and his followers, I felt to attend more closely to the meanings that lurk behind Rapture rhetoric. In our shared grief, I want to draw out some of the important meanings hiding behind the half-silly, half-spiteful rhetoric that circulates around Rapture predictions. [Read more...]
One of my favorite bible translations is Da Jesus Book. This is a translation from Greek to Hawaiian Pidgin. This pidgin (properly a Creole if you are a stickler for linguistic accuracy), like many of the world’s pidgins, arose in the context of diverse people needing to speak together. [Read more...]
In 1907, in an effort to put in place a picture of Mormonism for a 20th century audience, the Church, by common consent, approved a list of beliefs as well as explanation and confirmation of a transitioning Mormonism. That effort may have had some impact within the Church, but its lasting effect as a new public direction in doctrine was minor in terms of its traction outside the Church and especially in the collective memory of the media, such as it was. [Read more...]
Disclaimer: Ok. This is over long. Nothing as exciting as the title intimates happens. It’s just rumination on aging. I wouldn’t bother with it.
Every year an old friend and I undertake an adventure. H. and I are middle aged now. Past our prime and youth when our adventures were bolder and more carefree. I can remember when we then, full of laughter, took his new pickup and rubbed its shiny sides against aspens for luck while searching out some secreted beaver dam in which to toss a fly. Now we fuss and fret. We worry endlessly about our kids and their kids and temper our exuberance with caution having faced too many sorrows and misfortunes since. We are stressed and plagued with the press of the day to day, and we both in demeanor have that worn edge that cheese graters achieve when used on granite. [Read more...]
My daughter has been on a major family history jag recently, and she’s turning into quite a little genealogist (better than her old man, anyway). She just sent me a wonderful treasure: a 21-page single-space typescript manuscript containing the first person memoir of Elizabeth Lee, which she wrote in January 1931 in Columbia. She was the older sister of my great grandmother Alice Lee. (This Lee family is related in some fashion to Harold B. Lee, but I haven’t tried to figure out exactly how.) I thought it was a wonderful window into what it was like to grow up as a girl in Utah in the 19th century, so I’m going to share a few excerpts with you here. (If she were alive today I suspect she’d be a perma at FMH.) Enjoy! [Read more...]