Book Review: Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist by Steven Peck

The cover is intelligently designed.

I’ve previously bemoaned the difficulty in reviewing a book by Steve Peck. Thus far I’ve mostly read (and thoroughly enjoyed) his fiction, however, and so I was curious to hear that he was going to publish a collection of his non-fiction essays through the Neal A. Maxwell Institute (part of their Living Faith series). The result is Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist, a work of about 200 pages in a dozen essays. It is a shocking relief to read something of Steve’s which I can criticize. Unfortunately, these criticisms are largely ineffectual; Steve’s short book is a great addition to the already-stellar Living Faith series. Evolving Faith is a worthy whirlwind tour of the intersections of evolutionary biology, consciousness, Mormonism and environmentalism. [Read more…]

BCC Intelligencer: Put us in your inbox

IntelligencerWe’re doing this weekly newsletter thing called The Intelligencer—a mix of BCC posts, Mormon news, amazing tweets, Bieber mashup videos, spiritual insights, and everything else you could possibly want spammed to you weekly.

Subscribe here. See the archive (including this week’s edition) here. Say hi here.

My Tree of Life

The other day I watched Thea bustle down the sidewalk in front of me, pulling her soft blue blanket as if it were a delicate animal on a leash.  It was unremarkable.  I was unremarkable, she was too.  But a thought so distinctly flashed through my mind that the idea seared on my heart.  The thought was simple, obvious and forgotten.  It said, “This is it.  This is what you’ve wanted.  You are in the middle of it.” [Read more…]

New Permablogger: Emily Grover

groverprofile We’re extremely excited to welcome Emily Grover aboard as our newest permablogger. She’s a talented writer and an amazing person. It just goes to show you that good things can come out of Rexburg after all. All hail Emily!

Book Review: The Prophet and the Reformer

The Prophet and the Reformer: The Letters of Brigham Young and Thomas L. Kane is a collection of letters between the famous Mormon leader and the East coast abolitionist and reformer Thomas Kane, but (perhaps to the chagrin of hard-core historians) it’s also a helpful summary of events and personalities surrounding the exodus from Nauvoo through the end of the Utah War. It’s difficult for a casual reader of history to provide a review of a collection like this, because while I have general familiarity with the time period and I am familiar with Young, Kane and several of the other people involved, I have no expertise with the source documents and no ability to say: yes, this is good history. Will that stop Steve in his review? Surely you jest. [Read more…]

Angels Unawares

I have a dear friend I met through work (obliquely – he’s not an employee) named Bobby. We soon discovered that we’re kindred spirits, despite the fact that we have almost nothing in common: I work in an office, he’s a firefighter and EMT; I’m almost 30, he’s almost 50; I’m white, he’s black; I’m Mormon, he’s nondenominational Christian. But on those happy, rare occasions when our schedules align for lunch, we have hours-long, reflective conversations about a wide range of topics including religion, politics, current events, feminism, and racial injustice. His stories often make me cry (once I’m safely back at home – I’m not a public crier), like his retelling of the time an elderly white woman, in middle of a heart attack, screamed for her purse and clutched it tightly with both hands after Bobby stepped in to perform a life-saving maneuver on her. [Read more…]

Authenticity: Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

It’s a common claim among participants of Mormon internet groups that people feel they cannot be themselves at church or can’t say what they think for fear of being ostracized.  They feel they are discouraged from being honest or authentic, that they would be rejected if they disagreed with the party line or articulated a non-conforming viewpoint.  Certainly many examples have been given of individuals who were viewed suspiciously for sharing unpopular opinions openly.  These are complaints that they feel they must be inauthentic to be accepted. [Read more…]

Recovering My Sea Legs on the Old Ship Zion

Emily Grover teaches English literature and is finishing a doctoral dissertation about women novelists in the 18th century. She served a mission in Tokyo and married a man who served in Seoul. They have three kids and live in eastern Idaho, where they birdwatch, hike, and play a lot of Dr. Mario.

In the wake of the many maritime metaphors used during the recent General Conference—being “shipshape and Bristol fashion,” scuba-diving into scriptures, avoiding the gaping maws of sin-sharks, and so on—I find myself considering anew my own journey aboard “Old Ship Zion,” Brigham Young’s metaphor for the LDS church referenced by Elder Ballard last weekend.

These last few years have been both exciting and frustrating for me as the church has gone through (dare I say it?) sea changes in doctrine, policy, presentation, ideology, and culture and as I have become more aware of what I consider to be honest, urgent questions about the church’s past, present, and future. While some of these shifts have brought comfort and light, others have struck me like storms and have threatened, if not to throw me overboard, then at least to occasionally send me green-faced and stomach-achey to the sides of the ship. I feel like I’ve lost my sea legs. [Read more…]

I Have A Question: What The Heck Is Canadian Thanksgiving, Anyways?

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.

Hi Guys,

So, I’ve heard a lot lately, too much, really, about how I must, we must, one must Defend the Family. From you all too. But when I press for particulars I get either, you know, make my gay friends sad, hurt, and angry or else mumbled non-answers, and sideways glances. If I’m very lucky, I might get a tip o’ the hat to good ol’ fashion gender roles, but though everybody with a podium from the Tabernacle to the Bloggernacle seems to feel that the necessity of a good familial defense is a truth universally acknowledged, people are so, so cagey about the details. Moats? Zone? Alekhine’s? Groucho glasses?

Heed the counsel given in the war chapters of the Book of Mormon. [Read more…]

It’s a Process

Naomi Watkins is the cofounder of Aspiring Mormon Women, a non-profit organization that supports and encourages Latter-Day Saint women’s professional and educational pursuits. Currently, she works as an instructional coach in a Title I high school in the Salt Lake City area, charged with improving teachers’ literacy instruction and students’ literacy skills. She earned her B.A. in English Education from Brigham Young University, a M.Ed. in Language and Literacy from Arizona State University, and a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning with a literacy emphasis from the University of Utah.

Since my teens, I had wanted to serve a mission, and knowing that a mission was a worthy path, I submitted my mission papers a few months before my 21st birthday. I didn’t bother asking the Lord if a mission was for me. Serving a mission was a righteous desire, so why would He say no?

One week after submitting my mission papers, and with some prodding from my parents, I decided to finally ask the Lord if a mission was indeed my next step, and I received a pretty strong “No” as an answer. I felt that this answer had to be wrong, and so I asked Him again, and I received the same no answer. How could the Lord tell me no? I knew that I would be a stellar missionary, and I was more than willing and able to serve. I had sincere intentions; I wanted to serve a mission—and not because I had nothing better to do or wasn’t yet married. I was confused and hurt and angry. How could the Lord not want my service and sacrifice? How could He refuse me? [Read more…]

Polygamy and Baptism Policy


So I’m watching Sister Wives as I type this. One of the daughters is named Madison; she has only intermittently appeared on the show recently because she’s away attending school at Utah State. She has been very clear that she is not going to live polygamy. A recent tangential story arc in the show was that she had decided to be baptized LDS. That was the plan. (Good for her, I thought.) She just reported to her moms that she got two phone calls, including from the mission president, that they’re not going to let her get baptized. Apparently they had wanted her to publicly denounce her family, and of course she wouldn’t do that. She can keep attending church if she wants to but she can’t get baptized. They told her they hope she’ll “reconsider” the Church “when her family isn’t so much in the public eye.” They hope she’s not “bitter” about it. [Read more…]

Was the Sin of Sodom Multi-Level Marketing?


It has only happened to me once, but it was devastating. I was invited to the home of someone I liked and respected. It was going to be a small gathering—just a few close friends—and I was honored to have made the cut. Against all of my better judgment, I even bought new clothes.

And it was lovely for a while. Good food. Good people. Interesting conversation. And then came the sales pitch. It began with the standard opening moves: What if you didn’t have to work full time to earn a living? What could you do for your family with gobs of extra money? Wouldn’t it be great to work for yourself? It was all on a video with through-the-roof production values. [Read more…]

Police Beat Roundtable XXVII

To protect or whatever

The 27th installation of our ongoing look at that most charming column of the Daily Universe. Previous installments can be read here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Steve Evans: We’re back! And I need to warn you guys that I’m going to be interspersing some lyrics from #Hamiltunes

GST: I don’t know what that is.

Steve: KEN DOES! All right. Let’s get this Spruce Goose off the ground. I call Police Beat my Spruce Goose because I collect my urine in empty milk bottles, just like Howard Hughes. Just FYI.

Ken Jennings: show me all the blueprints
show me ALL the blueprints
show me all the BLUEprints

[Read more…]

New Permablogger: Ashmae

We’re very pleased to welcome Ashmae Hoiland aboard as the newest member of the BCC family. She’s a creative, thoughtful person, abuzz with exciting ideas—see her recently completed Kickstarter, We Brave Women, and the website collecting her art. On the basis of her two excellent guest posts (here and here), we expect many good things to come.

Listening and Revelation (#ldsconf ?)

Yesterday, after Elder Lawrence’s talk, I took his advice and said a prayer. I asked, “what is stopping me from progressing?”

The answer came quite clearly: “you should stop being such a horse’s ass.” [Read more…]

Adam, Eve and the Order of Creation


One of my blog mates recently called my attention to this quote from President Nelson in the Sunday morning session of General Conference:

We know that the culminating act of all Creation was the creation of woman!11

11 “All the purposes of the world and all that was in the world would be brought to naught without woman—a keystone in the priesthood arch of creation.” (Russell M. Nelson, “Lessons from Eve,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 87.) “Eve became God’s final creation, the grand summation of all the marvelous work that had gone before.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Women in our lives,” Ensign, Oct. 2004, 83.)

I found this statement quite fascinating. Let me try to explain why. [Read more…]

Footnote 2 #ldsconf

By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. – Alma 37:6

There was a small, tiny really, and simple footnote in the October 2015 conference talks that were just released in print form that succeeded in taking my breath away. It was in Elder Maynes talk: “The Joy of Living a Christ-Centered Life” footnote 2.

2. Matthew 13:44 (Revised Standard Version).

[Read more…]

How Offended Should I Be? Humanitarian Edition


The Church just released its UK financial statements.[fn1] And with the release has come a fair amount of internet hand-wringing about some of the details.[fn2] Two details, in particular, seem to be bothering people: salary information and the lack of spending from the British Church’s humanitarian fund.

So should these things bother you?

Honestly, I can’t say. But I can say that, before you decide to be bothered (or, for that matter, before you decide not to be bothered), there are a couple questions you should ask.[fn3]  [Read more…]

On the CES Letter

A handful of people have asked me over the last few months about the infamous CES Letter, which is purportedly responsible for assisting thousands of people to leave the LDS Church. What do I think about it? How would I answer every one of the issues it addresses? I haven’t left the Church so how would I refute it? Enough people have inquired privately about this, that I decided to sit down and write a response, which depending on your point of view might not be worth the two cents I paid for it, but it is what it is. [Read more…]

Achieving Needful Things: Help USA for UNHCR Help Others

Yesterday, in an uncharacteristic–yea, wholly unprecedented–fit of introspection, the powers of BCC asked what we could be doing better. One follower responded that he would like “to see the intersection of the blog community and helping the poor and needy.”

And so, in the spirit of Elder Christofferson’s talk about the role of the Body of Christ in achieving needful things that individual members cannot, allow me to suggest as an initial response to this request that we head over to Kickstarter and multiply our efforts to help USA for UNHCR help the poor and needy affected by the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Middle East and Europe. You have until 13 October 2015 to donate as often as you like, and most fees usually associated with Kickstarter campaigns will be waived or donated.

Do any of our valued readers have additional suggestions about how to help?


As noted by a valued reader, donations to the Humanitarian Aid Fund administered by LDS Charities–which is partnering with, inter alia, UNHCR to address the European refugee crisis–can be made here for those preferring that modality.

Truly Consecrated: A Real Man for all Seasons

Plaque outside an eponymous pub in North Norwich on the site of a Lollard’s Pit, “where men are customablie burnt” (source:

By the time William Tyndale translated the New Testament into English for the first time in 1526 — on the run and in hiding, probably in Germany — translating the Bible into English or possessing an English translation of scripture had already been strictly prohibited for more than 100 years. Many people had burned in “Lollard’s pits”[1] since John Wycliffe had translated the New Testament into English in 1382 (and his “Lollard” followers had translated most of the Old Testament by 1384, the year of Wycliffe’s death). [Read more…]

Mormon Philosophy and Theology Conference

The annual meeting of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology will take place this weekend (October 8-10) at Brigham Young University in Provo. The conference is free and open to the public. I’ve included the program below. See here for more info.

[Read more…]

Towards a Traveling Conference #ldsconf

Shelly B. is a mother of two who works with university math departments to improve K-12 math instruction. We’re glad she shared these thoughts with us.

Could a traveling October General Conference help members around the world feel more included and valued?

When word spreads that a new bishop is going to be called, Mormon wards in the United States awaken with excitement and speculation. So it is not surprising that the excitement in the Mormon world over the calling of three new apostles in conference sent speculation soaring through the roof. With all the anticipation, there was bound to be disappointment among some members when their favorite seventy wasn’t called. [Read more…]

Ponderize if You Must, but Don’t Forget to Read #ldsconf

By my reckoning, the rise and fall of the Ponderize Corporate Empire took about six hours, from the time of Devin Durrant’s talk on the subject in General Conference to the removal of a website that appeared to have been designed to profit from the concept by selling t-shirts and wristbands. I fear, though, that this six-hour debate about marketing strategy was a red herring—one that causes us to discuss the merits of t-shirts and mobile apps when we should be discussing the merits of the “ponderize” concept itself. [Read more…]

The Gift of Faith (Elder Andersen, Priesthood Session) #ldsconf

Elder Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (source:

Elder Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (source:

Faith, or lack of it, is a rather divisive issue and always has been. An Oxford-educated, well spoken LDS friend of mine, for example, frequently directly engages Richard Dawkins and a number of his new atheist “groupies” in massive twitter brawls. These forays into the twitter badlands are, however, defensive, as he responds to the criticisms of religion and faith that constantly emanate from those quarters. These dust-ups are not merely a product of our “secular” age in which secular society derides religious people and their faith. The twitter angle is. And there’s no mass murder associated with it in this situation, which makes it very different from previous ages of time. Things are much better now; virtually every aspect of human existence is exponentially better than at any other time in all of recorded history. For example, in this situation, the new atheists can deride, criticize, and mock without burning at the stake, and religious people can believe without being rounded up into concentration camps or murdered in killing fields. [Read more…]

The Body of Christ as a Force Multiplier (Elder Christofferson) #ldsconf

The European refugee crisis is hardly a bolt from the blue–it’s long been in the making–but when streams of refugees started pouring over the border from Hungary into Austria in early September it caught me flat-footed. [Read more…]

“The Holy Ghost as Your Companion” (Pres. Eyring) #ldsconf

I recently made a brief visit to Utah. I’ve never lived in Utah, not even briefly for school or a stint in the MTC. But there is a sense of being among my people that has always imbued my visits with a deep soul sense of returning home. Tracy M described it well. On this trip, I was so focused on business and rushing in and out that I didn’t have much time to soak in that feeling. Just about 24 hours after arriving, I was dashing back to the airport to leave again. As I handed the keys to the rental car return attendant, he saw the BYU logo throw blanket I carried, and the BYU institutional charge for my rental, and asked me cheerily if I was a member of the LDS church. He was older and a little stooped, but very spry in doing his job. I said yes. Suddenly his mad rush of handling the many arriving customers stopped, and he gazed directly into my eyes with an intense earnestness. He told me about his wife. He told me about how he lost her. And he told me how every minute of every day he makes decisions conscious of a striving for total righteousness, to return and join her one day. “I know she’s going to the Celestial Kingdom!” I can’t imagine anyone having more intense focus and determination than he had to join her.

[Read more…]

Elder Costa’s Ignatian Spirituality #ldsconf

According to Wikipedia, Elder Claudio R. M. Costa grew up in a Catholic family in Brazil. [1] Although his family met LDS missionaries when he was 12, another 15 years passed before he joined the Church. His talk in the Sunday Morning session shows how Elder Costa was able to bring spiritual riches from the faith of his earlier life and use them to enrich Mormon spirituality. Specifically, his talk borrows two practices from St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises and brings them together in a powerful synthesis of Mormon sacramentalism. [Read more…]

Defining the “Great and Spacious Building” (Elder Schwitzer) #ldsconf

gregory-a-schwitzer-largeI remember the first time that I used the term “Great and Spacious Building” as a metaphor. It was my freshman year at BYU, when I took my first exam in the George H. Brimhall Building’s testing center. The top floor of that building was the largest single classroom I had ever seen, in which hundreds of students at a time took their machine-scored tests from courses throughout the university. [Read more…]

Expanding on President Nelson’s plea to sisters #ldsconf

sallyridePresident Russell M. Nelson’s talk began with some personal reflections on the loss of his dear friends and fellow quorum members over the past year but soon turned to focus on the wives of two of them: Donna Smith Packer and Barbara Dayton Perry. This made me realize again how little I know about these women and how much more I’d like to know. President Nelson held them forth as exemplars of the powerful influence that strong and courageous women can have “not only on families, but on the Lord’s Church, as wives, mothers, and grandmothers; as sisters and aunts; as teachers and leaders; and especially as exemplars and devout defenders of the faith.” While much could be said about this engaging talk, I’d like to focus on the last point about women as “exemplars and devout defenders of the faith.”  [Read more…]


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