Church or Corporation?

Why do churches sometimes act like corporations? Isn’t there something fundamentally at odds between the ostensibly otherworldly business of saving souls and the dollars-and-cents mindset of 21st-century global capitalism? Questions of this kind these seem to undergird discussions of church finance, covering such matters as the property dealings of American Catholic dioceses, the uses of monies donated to Islamic charities, or the investment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a shopping mall across the street from historic Temple Square in Salt Lake City, or, now, a 32-story mixed-use structure in downtown Philadelphia.

[Read more...]

Divine Underwriting

Six months ago I had the honor of delivering the Alumni address at the Convocation ceremonies at BYU’s Kennedy Center for International Studies. A number of people have asked about it so I decided to make it available here. [Read more...]

Leaving a Changed Magazine Behind

churchmagazinesMy wife and I have subscribed to the church magazines–The Ensign, for our tweens and teen-agers The New Era, and for our younger children The Friend–for all of our married life, more than 20 years. But this year, after some discussion, we simply decided that we were giving up on them entirely. No more subscribing. We’ve saved ourselves $26. [Read more...]

Your Friday Firestorm, #59


Men and women can look sharp and be fashionable, yet they can also be modest. Women particularly can dress modestly and in the process contribute to their own self­ respect and to the moral purity of men. In the end, most women get the type of man they dress for.

-Elder Tad Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy, “The Lord’s Standard of Morality,” March 2014 Ensign, p. 45-49.

Discuss. [Read more...]

Providential tentacles, sacerdotal perseverance, and punishment for sin

Elder Bednar in the most recent Ensign (PDF) takes up a sensitive topic—the eternal fate of our children who turn away. This isn’t something that is uniquely Mormon. Faithful people the world over struggle with this, and it is at the root of some of the most interesting accommodations in religious history. Think the halfway covenant that bugged Jonathan Edwards so much.
[Read more...]

A Few Items of Interest in Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, Part II

Part I can be found here. Gerrit Dirkmaat is a historian working as an editor of The Joseph Smith Papers volumes. He joined the Joseph Smith Papers project in 2010 and has since served as a historian/editor on Journals Vol. 2, Documents Vol. 1, and as the lead volume editor of Documents Vol. 3, which will be published in 2014. He is currently serving as an editor for the first volume in the Administrative series.

“Caractors” and Money-Digging

The hefty appendix of Documents, Volume 1 contains some fascinating documents connected to Joseph Smith. First, the document containing “caractors” drawn off of the gold plates is examined.  While it has been assumed for years that this document was the actual manuscript Martin Harris took to Professor Charles Anthon in 1828, research conducted in conjunction with Robin Jensen not only demonstrated that the document was of later origin but also allowed us to publish the document with the inclusion of a bottom portion that had long since been torn away. The various Joseph Smith–era documents containing characters from the gold plates are examined and shown to the reader (pp. 353–367). [Read more...]

Gatekeepers and Keymasters

This is the 2nd part of a discussion regarding confession in the Church. Part I can be found here.

Prepare for the coming of BYU! All the prisoners will be released!

Put yourself in the shoes of a Church administrator that wants to hire some folks. You want to make sure that the people you hire are good Church people, that they won’t bring embarrassment upon the Church. You also don’t want to have to waste time interviewing people with these intrusive sorts of questions all the time. Why not use the shortcut of the temple recommend?

[Read more...]

And The Oscar Goes To . . . Jesus!

Melody is one of our favorite commenters here at BCC. She earns a living as a Registered Nurse. She currently teaches Sunday School for twelve-year-olds and sings in the ward choir when guilt gets the best of her. She grows a respectable garden and hikes the trails of the Rocky Mountains year ’round. She writes when she’s not building sheet-forts with her grand children. Her poetry has appeared in Irreantum, Segullah, Utah Sings Volume VIII: An anthology of contemporary verse by Utah poets, and in Utah Voices 2012, and in on-line journals and forums.

I missed the Grammys this year, but I’ve watched a few video clips. I had the same response this time as every other time I see a celebrity awards show: “Seriously? It’s not enough that they make millions of dollars, that they live like Royals, that they have a gazillion admirers who praise them, serve them, and seek their counsel and company? (Also: Oprah) Then they gather together as a group of worshipped beings to worship each other and themselves?!” [Read more...]

Priesthood ecclesiology, 1876 edition

A number of months ago, I read an interesting entry in Frederick Kesler’s diary. He was a bishop in Salt Lake City, and on October 19, 1876 he attended a bishops’ meeting and had summarized Brigham Young’s instructions. Bill Hartley briefly mentions this meeting as an antecedent to Young’s more comprehensive ecclesiastical reforms in 1877. [n1] Kesler’s reaction is quite imformative:
[Read more...]

A Few Items of Interest in Documents, Volume 1: July 1828-June 1831, Part I

Gerrit Dirkmaat is a historian working as an editor of The Joseph Smith Papers volumes. He joined the Joseph Smith Papers project in 2010 and has since served as a historian/editor on Journals Vol. 2, Documents Vol. 1, and as the lead volume editor of Documents Vol. 3, which will be published in 2014. He is currently serving as an editor for the first volume in the Administrative series. We are super-stoked to have him as our guest.

Deciding what is of most interest in a volume you have researched, written, and edited is probably similar to attempting to determine which of your children you love most.  It all seems very important from my perspective, but clearly there are things in Documents, Volume 1 that will be of particular interest to both scholars and non-scholars alike. [Read more...]

Your Sunday Brunch Special: Poetry, Prose, Class, and Joseph Smith

Musings on a Sunday morning, nothing much important, but I inflict it on you anyway. You’ll forgive me for the strange usage.

Mormonism: outsiders, if they observe carefully, see two interwoven sides to the Joseph Smith narrative. There is poetry. His production of the Book of Mormon, for instance. The work itself is one of poetic-mythic dimensions, and its interpretations are part and parcel of the poetry that is early Mormonism. The Book of Mormon was originally seen as a universal American tale, offering predictions about the fate of the United States and the origins of its primitive inhabitants, the evils of Catholicism and the virtues of gentile Protestants who had somehow labored under oppressions of popery, even before a reformation. Joseph himself is poetic in our unhindered vision of him. His own hand reeks of biblical verse, prayers to heaven, pleas and gratitude for divine help. But, mid-career, Joseph seems to step behind a curtain, and becomes the object of narrative, rather than its producer. His journals are no longer dictated, they are mostly observed. We hear his voice as less personal, more formal, prosaic, if you will, as his revelations become hidden by secret orders, sermons couched in double meaning, and ghostwritten works.
[Read more...]

Plan of Salvation: Shark Edition

As I was reading chapter 3 the Joseph Fielding Smith manual for tomorrow, I came across the awesomest sentence fragment I have ever read in a Teachings of the Prophet manual. It also happens to be the awesomest example ever used to explain resurrection. As he describes the universality of the resurrection, Pres. Smith writes:

Every fundamental part of every body will be restored to its proper place again in the resurrection, no matter what may become of the body in death. If it be burned by fire, eaten by sharks, no matter what. Every fundamental part of it will be restored to its own proper place. [Emphasis added.] [Read more...]

Global Toilets I Have Known: A Memoir

This toilet no longer scares me.  I would use this in a heartbeat.

There are few things we take for granted more than personal waste elimination.  The assumptions many Americans share about bathroom habits may include things like: public toilets are a right, privacy (being in “the privy”) is an expectation, we flush pretty much all things – even when cautioned not to do so, we require at least a square or a ply – probably more, and so forth.  As an American who has traveled throughout Europe and lived in Asia for 2 1/2 years, my toilet assumptions have been examined, re-examined, and in some cases flushed away.  I have become multi-toilet-lingual, able to find comfort, nay relief, in a variety of toilet situations. [Read more...]

Pilgrimage 2014

The Mormon Confraternity of St. James is busy organising its annual pilgrimage, this year to Trondheim in Norway on St. Olav’s Way. Join our Facebook group for more details and for news of smaller (less ambitious!) pilgrimages and gatherings. All are invited!

2013: El Camino de Santiago de Compostela: [Read more...]

Review of “Global Mom: A Memoir”

Global Mom: A Memoir, by Melissa Dalton-Bradford

Global Mom: A Memoir, by Melissa Dalton-Bradford

Years ago J. Stapley sat in my office at my Salt Lake City law firm and we discussed Mormon history. We agreed that our richest and most faith-affirming history is often — virtually always — found in memoirs or journals, in the lives and experiences of our own ancestors or other Mormons who have gone before.

My favorite “Mormon” book of 2013 (the Joseph Smith Papers Project releases notwithstanding) was Melissa Dalton-Bradford’s Global Mom: A Memoir. The book wasn’t written as a specifically Mormon memoir or as a piece of historical writing about Mormonism — it is skilfully written for a general audience. The narrative contains a few isolated specific references to her Mormon faith, culture, and religious life. Otherwise, Dalton-Bradford’s Mormonism is in the background as a constant anchor steadying her life through good and (very) bad times — it is simply the religious framework of her life discussed in general terms that make it meaningful to a general audience who will be able to relate to the peace available in their own lives through their own religious faith. [Read more...]

Blue Collar / White Collar

lego-workersHave you ever had a blue-collar bishop or stake president? Do any General Authorities from North America or Europe have blue-collar backgrounds before they were called as representatives of Christ? What about Mission Presidents?

What’s your experience been? Do lines fall differently in urban/suburban areas? I’ve heard the argument that it’s more about spare time and ability to serve, though I’m not sure that holds up under actual scrutiny. What does your ward leadership look like? [Read more...]

Confession: Good for the Soul, Bad For Just About Everything Else

OBLIGATORY PREFACE: These are just some idle reflections on possible structural weaknesses in our current system of administration and on ways we can improve. This post is not meant to reflect on any particular person, living or dead, myself included. Except Bosworth. Part I of II.

Suppose you are a Bishop. A man (let’s say he’s an Elder) comes to see you and confesses to you that lately he has had a problem with watching pornography. What tools, then, are at your disposal?
[Read more...]

A Kiva Family Home Evening

. . . do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again;
and your reward shall be great,
and ye shall be the children of the Highest . . .

- Luke 6:35

Several years ago our family received one of the most interesting and long-lasting Christmas presents we have ever received from another family in the extended family’s Christmas exchange. The thoughtful family who had drawn our family’s name contributed a modest sum of money on our behalf to the microlending organization Kiva. The idea was that they supplied the money as a gift to us and it was up to us to choose recipients for microloans using that money. This has been a gift that keeps on giving as the loans get paid back and we then have the opportunity to lend that money again to other recipients of our choice. [Read more...]

Some Notes on Moses 5:16 et seq.

This past Sunday I taught GD lesson 5.  At the beginning of class I talked a little bit about going to see The Saratov Approach.  I was kind of surprised it made it all the way out here to Chicago.  When I went to see it, I was sort of assuming I would be the only one in the theater, but I was pleasantly surprised that a pretty good sized crowd was present.  Although I only recognized one guy, my Mo-dar was burning and I’m pretty sure the audience was at least 80% Mormon; maybe even 90%. Then I had two class members read the recent SL Tribune article about the new pilot program where missionaries do service for a couple of hours a day.  I thought this was not only way interesting but also important enough to read the whole thing (and I passed around to the class the great accompanying picture of those young missionaries wearing jeans and work clothes). Then it was on to the lesson itself. [Read more...]

Killing Narfi: Skyrim and the problem of evil

As Mormons, we have a pervasive, if not terribly well-attributed, belief that, in the next life, if we turned out to be good enough, we’ll get to make our own planets. Folks, why wait? There are a wealth of world-building strategy and role-playing games available right now. One has me in its web right now and it is causing me to consider the creation of a moral universe. [Read more...]

On the loss and recovery of faith

21bFor some of us of a certain age, it is difficult to overstate the effect the Star Wars legendarium had on us. Years later, these events and experiences are still vivid to me:

1981 (aged 5): My first outing to the cinema with my big sister. We watched a re-run of Empire. Images I remember: Luke’s sandy Bespin outfit, an ice planet, Vader’s big head against the stars (which I thought was disembodied).

1982 (aged 6): Playtime at Matthew’s house. I brought my two figures: 2-1B and Bespin Luke. He had more, including an AT-AT. Having a Star Wars figure in my hand and playing with it on Matthew’s living room carpet brings me a new experience of happiness.

1982, Christmas (aged 6): AT-AT. My joy is full. [Read more...]

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

_mormon_lectionary-100x100px-RGBaMormon Lectionary Project: The Presentation, Year A

Malachi 3:1-4, Hebrews 2:14-18, Luke 2:22-40, Psalm 84, Mosiah 2:1-6

The Collect: O Lord: as we turn to thy Temple in our hearts and with our actions, wilt thou, we pray, send thy Presence into our midst and make us, the body of thy Church, into a living Temple, that by thy grace we might become a refuge of holiness for the distressed of the earth.

[Read more...]

Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of Pretty Much Everything

Most social movements, most bureaucratic structures, most utopias, and most dreams are doomed. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t dream and try to build things. There is beauty in the ashes, especially if we figure out how polyphony works and how moments of passing discord contribute to the ultimate harmony.

We could do worse than trying to learn from William Byrd. He lived in a moment of great religious discord–Protestants and Catholics were killing each other everywhere, and the choice of whether to set music in English or in Latin was open to potentially dangerous political interpretation. He set this piece both in Latin and in English–a reminder, perhaps, that Zion is always under siege from all sides, often from those who believe they are her most ardent defenders.

Agreeable, Vol. II

11Welcome to Agreeable, a bimonthly advice column in which I will tell you, dear Reader, as to whether your planned course of action is “agreeable” or “hmph”. Direct your questions (max 200 words, please!) to the admin address (see ‘About’, above) with the subject line “Agreeable”.

I stopped attending church more than five years ago because of concerns over some doctrines and policy. [Read more...]

New JSPP content now online

So, the Joseph Smith Papers crew has released another batch of content on their website. Included in the release are holograph images and transcriptions of the four contemporaneous accounts of the King Follett Sermon (plus the T&S version as a bonus). [n1] The chunk of early 1842 documents includes the minutes of the organization of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge. Also some Nauvoo Legion minutes, and skads of letters and deeds. One page that has been out for a while but is announced today is the Calendar of Documents which lists all the known JS documents to 1833 along with forgeries, so you can easily check.

Solid work guys.
____________________

  1. I hereby proscribe (again) any reference to the TPJS in historical writing, when discussing anything before the time it was written.

Mormon Lectionary Project: Mohandas K. Gandhi

With this post, we’re taking the Mormon Lectionary Project into new territory, using the genre to write about figures without days in the Common Lectionary. Most of these will be LDS, but Gandhi comes first because of his death date, 30 Jan. 1948. Just as we’ve been adding LDS scripture to previous posts, it seemed appropriate to include the Qur’an and the Bhagavad Gita in this one.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

Dan. 6:10-11, Matt. 5:38-42, 1 Cor. 13, Qur’an 4:256-57, Bhagavad Gita 2:55-57, Alma 24:20-27 [Read more...]

Transgressors in Eden

This Sunday in Sunday School, we’re going to study the Fall.[fn1] The lesson quotes Elder Oaks distinguishing sin from transgression[Read more...]

Am I exempt from paying tithing? It depends.

Between December and January, Bishops frantically try to meet with members to conduct tithing settlement. During these interviews the Bishop asks members whether they are paying a full tithe and the response is usually quite simple: Yes, no, or part. However, there are also some circumstances in which members may be exempt from paying tithing. Young missionaries, for example, are not required to pay tithing. In addition, the CHI also states that “Members who are entirely dependent on Church welfare assistance” are also exempt.

Most members, I suspect, would feel comfortable with this exemption and yet those who receive state benefits are not similarly exempt. How can we reconcile these two? [Read more...]

Sherlock Holmes in Utah

We seem to be in the midst of a Sherlock Holmes revival, what with the BBC’s Sherlock series, CBS’s Elementary (both are set in the present) and the Warner Brothers movies staring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. This little side-light on good old Holmes has a Mormon connection.

In 1923, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, British author and advocate for the Spiritualism movement, visited Salt Lake City, Utah and delivered a lecture in the Mormon Tabernacle.[1] Doyle was and is most famous for his fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Doyle in his mature years.

Doyle in his mature years.

Holmes’s first adventure involved a crime that was linked to the Mormons of Utah, specifically, the Danite Vigilante Corps so popular in the nineteenth-century press. A Study in Scarlet was sold for 25 pounds sterling and appeared in December 1886.
[Read more...]

Suspicion, Intuition and Religiosity

Incorrect answer: “To commend me on my good driving.”

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” the officer asked me last Thursday.  I knew from watching my husband’s reactions when he’s been pulled over (the man never gets tickets, I swear) that the best thing to do is to play dead.  Not literally, but you have to avoid certain pitfalls:  being too confident, not being confident enough, being too animated, responding emotionally (regardless of the emotion – but anger and sadness are definitely out), flirting [1], being friendly, and most of all you cannot under any circumstances answer that loaded-for-bear question.  Which can be difficult because officers must be trained in waiting out uncomfortable silences. [2]  Almost anything you say or do can be misinterpreted to your detriment. [Read more...]

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