A word today in praise of Brother Brigham (d. August 29, 1877). Brigham Young was a man of his times, and those times were, by all measures, rough. With an iron will he and the Saints endured the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, finished the Nauvoo temple sufficiently that ordinance work could go forward there, and then worked day and night so that the Saints could be endowed and sealed there before their departure into the wilderness. In the semi-desert of the Great Basin, Brigham Young and his followers planted their crops and commanded them to grow with irrigation water channeled from the rivers and lakes, then raised up more temples, and sought for Zion.
Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact (released today) appears at a tense moment for LDS church members with regard to gender issues. Some members have advocated for ordaining women to the priesthood while others have asserted that manifesting dissatisfaction with the status quo is inappropriate. As for author Neylan McBaine, she loves being a Mormon woman. But she also believes “there is much more we can do to see, hear, and include women at church” (xiii). Situated between these two poles without disrespect to either, her book has two main goals: First, to identify and acknowledge the real pain felt by some LDS women, and second, to offer solutions to provide a more fulfilling church experience for them—solutions that fit within the Church’s current administrative framework. [Read more...]
Ever since various general authorities started drawing attention to the dating scene among Young Adults, I’ve taken an interest in the current status of dating, especially among LDS people, but also in general. I’ve polled my students about it occasionally and also my friends, single and not. As a borderline narcissistic introvert, you might be surprised to learn that I have friends, even friends from many different lands (states) and persuasions. But it’s true. Of course the rest of you won’t be surprised at all.
But to the point. Here, in no particular sequence of topics, are some observations from students, friends, and neighbors on dating culture among Mormons, and sometimes, others.
It has been about three months since the disciplinary process that eventually led to Kate Kelly’s excommunication from the Mormon church for “apostasy” began. Now that the initial furore over that act has died down, it is worth spending a moment to see where the Church now stands regarding Kelly and OW in particular, and women’s issues in general. A recent piece by BBC World Service radio offers a fascinating glimpse into the Church’s current mindset. In the report, Head of Public Affairs Michael Otterson and Deseret Book CEO Sheri Dew offer their thoughts on the affair and women in the Church generally.
Given the chronological distance from the excommunication (affording plenty of time to take stock), the setting of the interviews (a very fair BBC report), and the people involved (Otterson — who has reminded us he speaks with the Brethren’s approval; Dew — the senior female conservative voice in the Church), I believe it is fair to assume that what was said represents a good indication of current Church opinion on the issue.
Before I summarise what I believe that opinion to be, two things need stating: 1. Obviously, we don’t have the transcript of the full interviews. The Church is welcome to correct anything here that is not properly representative of what was said. 2. A sensible discussion of the conclusions I am going to draw can only really happen if you listen to the piece.
So here, in no particular order, is what the Church most likely thinks about Kelly, Ordain Women, and the current and future state of women in Mormonism:
A common complaint of recent decades, from both within and without the church, is that the church leadership culture is too corporate. Complainants say there is too much of an MBA aesthetic, as opposed to, say, some ideal of religious leadership that exudes a more Zen, ascetic, or monastic sensibility. Not me! I wish we took the MBA theme just a little bit further! Case study: a flyer for a Europe area “Sisters’ Meeting” featuring photos of three headline speakers, all of them male.
This week, somewhere in the middle of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, 50,000 people are gathering for the Burning Man festival, where they do…well, pretty much whatever they want. They trek in their RVs, buses, cars, motorcycles, and erect Black Rock City, where they live for a week in a state of “radical inclusion” and “radical self-expression.” The name “Burning Man” comes from a huge wooden effigy (‘The Man”) they erect at the beginning of the week, and which they burn at the end of the week—the Burning Man.
At the end of the week, no trace of Black Rock City remains. The whole city is built by Burning Man attendees, inhabited for a week, and then torn down and completely erased. (This is not as easy as it might seem—imagine your total water needs for a week in the desert. You’d have to bring that with you, and then carry out any waste and trash.)
Dear Leader Steve Evans has been griping INCESSANTLY to the BCC backlist this morning over how I was mean to him when he tried to explain that he has a tummy ache. In the nature of transparency and to set the record straight, I provide the details on our conversation, unedited:
Steve: I would like to tell you about my breakfast this morning.
Sent at 9:16 AM on Tuesday
Scott: i am listening
Steve: it started off as a collection of dried fruits and nuts.
Scott: Read: Granola Bar
Steve: no — prunes, apricots, cherries and almonds
Then I noticed that I brought a bag of cookies with me to work.
For technical reasons (WiFi connections few and far between, tethering slow as molasses in January) the Olav’s Way Liveblog did not feature very many photos despite the fact that many that were taken. This post will help fill that gap in our coverage by giving you, the gentle reader, a better idea of what it was like to walk through the Norwegian countryside. [Read more...]
For the last year or so, the last page of The Atlantic has been a column called “The Big Question,” where various notable people answer a question posed by the magazine. In September, it asked: “What is the most significant fashion innovation in history?” In Jennifer Barnett’s mind, the runner-up was buttons down the front of men’s pants in the 1830s. Which is how this question ties into Mormonism: Barnett says that this innovation “prompted Brigham Young to denounce them as ‘fornication pantaloons.’”
I had two reactions when I read this. The first was that those two words, put together, may be the greatest phrase in the history of clothing. The second, though, was skepticism. That sounds like too good a story to actually verify. [Read more...]
Every once in a while, humankind takes a giant leap forward. This is one of those moments. Peter LLC, longtime commenter and erstwhile guest, has agreed to join us as a permablogger. We’re stoked. Everyone, please welcome Peter aboard!
“Blogger’s Anonymous,” or, thoughts for when you’d rather visit the Bloggernacle than do your Visiting/Home Teaching
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest explores the problem of entertainment-fueled solipsism (getting stuck inside your own head). The massive novel was published about a decade before we began carrying around Internet chat rooms, blogs, message boards, and Facebook in our pockets, but it anticipated some of the anxieties people feel about recent technological developments. In the book, a group of wheelchair-driving Canadian separatist terrorists from Quebec (don’t ask) are trying to get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction in order to bring the United States to its knees. It’s not a nuclear bomb or a toxic virus or anything like that. The weapon is a movie. A film. A film that is so perfect, so pleasurable, so captivating, so entertaining, that the moment you begin watching you will forgo everything else in your life (food, sex, friends, sleep, everything) just to keep watching.
Pretty much until you literally die. [Read more...]
This is the second in a series of posts on memories about Joseph Smith. The same cautions apply as noted in post 1.
Easton Kelsey heard him [Joseph Smith] say that he (Joseph) had been with John, the Beloved Apostle of Jesus who told him that he was busy among the ten tribes organizing and preparing them to return.
I’ve loved the poetry of Czesław Miłosz since a friend gave me a slim collection of his poems over a decade ago. Especially searing are the poems he composed amidst and about the Warsaw Uprising as a sympathetic Catholic outsider. Even after coming to the United States, Miłosz composed his verse primarily in Polish, often collaborating on the translations. This poem comes from his final collection, Second Space.
Hear me, Lord, for I am a sinner, which means I have nothing except prayer.
Protect me from the day of dryness and impotence.
When neither a swallow’s flight nor peonies, daffodils and irises in the flower market are a sign of Your glory.
When I will be surrounded by scoffers and unable, against their arguments, to remember any miracle of Yours.
When I will seem to myself an impostor and swindler because I take part in religious rites.
When I will accuse You of establishing the universal law of death.
When I am ready at last to bow down to nothingness and call life on earth a devil’s vaudeville.
Many of us have recently participated in the “Eternal Marriage” lesson from the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. The lesson’s final section carries the heading “As a husband and wife faithfully observe all the ordinances and principles of the gospel, their joy in marriage grows sweeter.” The paragraphs in the section, however, lean toward defining this joy negatively, in terms of avoiding divorce. This tendency can have the effect of making our divorced sisters and brothers seem “less than” those whose marriages are currently working.
The good folks at LDS Living have been burning the midnight oil, scouring the Handbook for the latest in correlated rubricking. They discovered some interesting changes in the section on Internet usage. We know missionaries have already stepped up their Internet game, so it looks like members are being invited to be better member missionaries along the same proven and effective lines. The excised bits are stricken out below and the new bits added in bold:
“Members are encouraged to
be examples of their faith at all times and in all places, including on the Internetuse the Internet to flood the earth with testimonies of the Savior and His restored gospel. If they useThey should view blogs, social networks, and other Internet technologies , they are encouraged to strengthen others and help them become aware of that which is useful, good, and praiseworthyas tools that allow them to amplify their voice in promoting the messages of peace, hope, and joy that accompany faith in Christ.“
This calls for deep analysis. [Read more...]
Brian M. Hauglid, Senior Research Fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, has provided us with this guest post. We’re grateful for his participation.
I like to ask questions. It’s what got me into the Church almost forty years ago. It’s also a big part of my going into academics. I love teaching inquisitive students and I thoroughly enjoy trying, like a detective, to piece together evidence and come up with reasonable arguments and hypotheses to help explain questions in scholarship.
In April 1959, the Church published its last financial report. The last here is important, though, because, for almost half a century leading up to that report, the Church presented a relatively detailed financial report in each April General Conference.
Until a couple months ago, though, I’d never seen the financial reports that the Church issued. In the course of his reading and research, J. Stapley came across the Church’s 1947 financial report, and offered to let me blog it. I jumped at the chance, and the disclosure turns out, in many ways, to be as fascinating as I’d hoped. [Read more...]
We still have several weeks until the October General Conference, and given what’s happened in the meantime, many Mormons like me are concerned it could be gloat-mageddon. If I were putting together a General Conference, here are the things I would include and what I would cut. Of course this is already unrealistic because there are over a dozen speakers, each of whom has his or her own areas of focus and points of view. But this is my list; YMMV. I’ll start with the Fears and end with the Hopes. [Read more...]
This is the first in a series of posts on memories of Joseph Smith. One should always be cautious with memories, even for immediate events. So much of what we remember is colored by the bio-”technology” of perception and the ability of our brains to fill in the gaps of the past, while simultaneously supplying interpretive links to present worldview and belief. Studies of memory, especially distant memories, suggest that those recollections rarely represent accurate reproductions of past events. Moreover, people who recalled Joseph Smith’s sayings or acts were rarely disinterested bystanders. That said, these memories are interesting for what they may tell us of Joseph but perhaps more about those who remembered him.
So, it had been a long time since I had been to the temple. I’m talking years. I don’t have a good sense of how many; certainly more than two. Maybe five or something like that. This was strictly a function of my fundamental laziness. I used to go maybe four to six times a year, but working in the City and commuting by train it’s hard for me to do it on a week night. So often I would go on Saturdays, but then they started encouraging locals not to do that so that they could accommodate all the people coming in from out of town. These days, now that the temple district has been repeatedly cannibalized from various temples being constructed in what used to be a huge district, that concern probably doesn’t exist anymore, but I still have that directive rattling around in my brain. And when my TR expired, getting a new one was a hassle. I’m psychologically not down with having to return to church after the three-hour block, and having to do two interviews is a pain. And the Stake one can be a difficult get. But, to make a long story short, my blogmates recently inspired me to get back in the saddle, I managed to orchestrate the two interviews I needed in a fairly painless bit of logistics, and with a hot new TR burning a hole in my pocket I attended our ward’s temple night this evening. I just got back a little while ago. [Read more...]
A while back–weeks or months ago, or maybe a year, who knows–I read an article about a dispute between a lesbian and a Muslim barber. This is not a joke. This was in Toronto. (Also not a joke.) The lesbian wanted a “businessman’s haircut” (not sure what that is, not being a businessperson, but I assume it’s a thing businesspersons and their barbers know about). The Muslim refused because his religion forbids him from touching a woman who isn’t his relative. I don’t know what the relevance of her being a lesbian was, but it was part of the story, which is why I include that tidbit here. I guess her being a lesbian somehow explained why she would be visiting a barbershop that catered exclusively to men, although I should think that would be offensive on some level, I don’t know. Who am I to judge? It still doesn’t explain why she’d want especially to visit a Muslim barbershop. But I digress. The woman was offended by the Muslim’s refusal and filed a complaint with the human rights commission. The case went to moderation. [Read more...]
A list of the top ten hymns made more awesome by adding “In The Bathtub” to the title:
10. Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee [Read more...]
Terryl L. Givens
Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity
Hardcover: i-xiii, 390 pages.
Publisher: Oxford University Press, forthcoming (2014).
Pre-order Amazon price in the US: $27.96.
When I heard that Professor Givens had embarked on a work of “Mormon Theology” I was more than a little skeptical. Not that it hasn’t been done before. That isn’t the problem. It’s just that theology, as James Faulconer has written, is something that just doesn’t seem to fit Mormonism. However, when I got my greedy little hands on Givens’ book, I was pleased to see that it is a work of theological heritage. In Givens’ words: “I am here tracing what I regard as the essential contours of Mormon thought as it developed from Joseph Smith to the present, not pretending to address the many tributaries in and out of Mormonism’s main currents.”(x)
It’s a commonplace to note that in the Church nobody chooses her calling. Rather, God, through the mediation of priesthood leaders, calls us to serve, typically only for a limited time, in any of a wide variety of capacities. There is much to be said for this approach: sometimes, by doing things we never would have chosen for ourselves, we, like Moses, learn things “we never had supposed.” Having this potential for divine surprises built into the system is a good thing.
Still, this approach comes at a price: we lose the concept of vocation—the idea that God calls us individually to walk a particular path of divine service. (Angela C recently wrote an excellent post about this.) To be sure, patriarchal blessings can provide something like an individual call, but in most cases there are not formal institutional venues for performing the things that we in the depths of our souls feel that God has called us to do. If a person in another denomination feels called to the ministry, in many cases there are formal processes of discernment and training to guide that person in working out whether this is really what God wants him or her to do. In Mormonism a person who feels so called must either wait for a formal calling or figure out some less formal way of acting as a minister. This latter option can mean “doing much good of [one's] own accord,” but it can also lead to tensions with the institutional Church. [Read more...]
I have not been to the Mount of Transfiguration, but I have seen it. The view from the ruins of the ancient church at Umm Qais in Jordan (ancient Gedara) is of Tabor some twenty miles away in Israel. At Umm Qais, the connection with the miracle of the Gedarane swine is most prominent, but as I visited I found that my attention kept turning to Tabor and that strange event we call the Transfiguration. [Read more...]
This late work appears as the final poem in Donald Justice’s Collected Poems (Knopf, 2006). It has been a favorite ever since I learned of it a few years ago. The third stanza strikes me as an especially clear expression of religious hope as tempered by thoroughgoing realism about the difficulty of life, represented by the almost Beckettian song at the end of the second stanza.
1 There is a gold light in certain old paintings That represents a diffusion of sunlight. It is like happiness, when we are happy. It comes from everywhere and from nowhere at once, this light, And the poor soldiers sprawled at the foot of the cross Share in its charity equally with the cross.
2 Orpheus hesitated beside the black river. With so much to look forward to he looked back. We think he sang then, but the song is lost. At least he had seen once more the beloved back. I say the song went this way: O prolong the suffering if that is all there is to prolong.
3 The world is very dusty, uncle. Let us work. One day the sickness shall pass from the earth for good. The orchard will bloom; someone will play the guitar. Our work will be seen as strong and clean and good. And all that we suffered through having existed Shall be forgotten as though it had never existed.
Note: regular BCC commenter melodynew contributes to a Poetry Sunday series over at The Exponent. Read her entry for today here. The more poetry, the better!
Within days of finishing the Camino de Santiago, or perhaps while we were still on the way, we plotted our next pilgrimage (for those wanting to join the Mormon Society of St. James’s pilgrimage next year, it is already decided: Canterbury).
St. Olav’s Way in Norway is the obvious second pilgrimage in Europe, not necessarily because of Olav’s importance (at least outside of Scandinavia), but because of the popularity of the path and the way it is organised: like the Camino, Olav’s Way is signposted and has pilgrims’ lodgings along the path. (Not to the extent of the Camino, mind you, which is in a league of its own in this regard.)
Walking for 100km over five days towards a pilgrimage spot will need no justification to those who understand the joy inherent in such things. In that sense, walking again was a given. We have an added poignancy this year in that our friend and Camino brother Jordan Fowles is no longer with us. We will think of him all the way.
Olav Haraldsson was the first king to Christianise Norway and was martyred at the battle of Stiklestad in 1030 for his troubles. The church raised near to his burial became Nidaros cathedral in Trondheim, and it is to there where we set our feet.
We are: Ronan (England), Peter and Beate (Austria), John C, Tana, and Gabe (Germany), Martha (USA), and John F. (USA). We are believers and non-believers. We are Christians, Mormons, Mormon-Christians, Anglo-Mormons, and “other”. We are pilgrims.
UPDATE: Day Five: Sundet Gård to Nidaros (Trondheim)
In case you were planning on going but saw registration was closed, it is now open.
Origins and Destinations: Forty Years of Mormon Women’s Histor(ies).
Utah Valley University
Science Building Auditorium
9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Honoring the Life and Work of Claudia L. Bushman