In Memory of Elder L. Tom Perry

iuI was saddened to learn today of Elder Perry’s passing. I remember memorizing the names and faces of the Twelve Apostles as a boy. My mother had given us a mnemonic for several of them, and Elder Perry’s has always stuck with me because it was so apt, given the big, toothy grin he always sported: He is very cheery, he is Elder Perry.

A few years later, we found ourselves living in Manila, Philippines where I was now in high school and enrolled in my first year of early morning seminary with my mom as the teacher. A small group of us expat kids met in our home every morning at 5:30 before heading to the International School together. At one point we learned that Elder Perry was visiting the Manila mission. President Iba was in our branch and his kids were in our carpool. My mom, being the intrepid soul that she is, asked the president if she could perhaps get a meeting with the Apostle for her seminary class, and Elder Perry consented. So the next day, there we were, six or so of us face to face with L. Tom Perry at 5:30 a.m.. He was wide awake, thanks to the time difference between Manila and Salt Lake City. I remember three things from that conversation. [Read more…]

Elder L. Tom Perry, 1922-2015

We are saddened to learn that Elder L. Tom Perry has passed away.

“The Kingdom of God Is Within You”: Reflections on Gospel Doctrine 18: #BCCSundaySchool

220px-Ge_Tolstoy“The only significance of life consists in helping to establish the kingdom of God; and this can be done only by means of the acknowledgment and profession of the truth by each one of us.”–Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is Within You

Jesus spends a fair bit of time in the New Testament trying to define “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of Heaven.” And he uses some of his most elaborate metaphors and conceits to try to explain what this kingdom is and why it is so important.

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My Little White Lie

So a couple of months ago one of my best friends happened to be in DeKalb, Illinois, the town where we both grew up, and eating at a local Mexican restaurant called Rosita’s. And it occurred to him that there are still a lot of people we went to high school with that are local to the area, and he wondered whether if he sent up a bat signal would people get together for an evening of food, drinks and conversation? So he picked yesterday, Friday May 29th, and shot off the flare, which is to say he posted an open invitation to our high school classmates on our class Facebook page. He even offered to pick up the drink tab. The actual event was last night, and about a dozen of us ended up having a very pleasant evening together. It kind of unwittingly turned into a fascinating social experiment, because that particular set of people probably never would have gotten together while we were actually in high school 39 years ago (our 40th anniversary reunion will be next year). But now which side of town you grew up on or which middle school you went to or which group you hung with didn’t seem to really matter all that much anymore. Just having gone to the same high school together now seemed like an ample stake on which to tether our shared life experiences. [Read more…]

The Intriguing Impossibility of Mormon-themed Near Future Science Fiction

DarkWatch-cover-forwebWilliam Morris is a longtime friend of the blog and champion of Mormon Lit. He has a new book out, Dark Watch and other Mormon-American Stories. We encourage you to read it!

One of the truisms that genre fiction writers often trot out is that science fiction is never about the future–that no matter how much of the language of futurism a work of science fiction employs and no matter how much SF writers get right or wrong about future technologies, science fiction is actually about the present. It has to be: the people who create it are always stuck in the present.

That doesn’t pose much of a problem if you’re writing the kind of science fiction that takes place in a distant future, where the extrapolations from current technologies and scientific discoveries can be stretched and metaphorized to the point that they are essentially fantasy in the garb of SF. I’m more interested, however, in near future science fiction because it requires more direct, rigorous engagement with the technologies and Mormonism of now. It intrigues me. I also find it almost impossible to write (even though I’ve written it). [Read more…]

Emerald Grass and May Skies

JFP-MDO-141For the dozen odd years since I joined the church, I’ve been sort of an outlier. All of my experiences with the organized church and with my church community have been through the lens of being an adult convert. Nothing about that is unique, of course— there are adult converts everywhere, and in probably every faith— but joining a church that revolves in a potent way around an idealized family makes those coming in poignantly aware of our shortcomings. (Yes yes yes, I know there is no such thing as a perfect Mormon family, and I know everyone wears their best faces on Sunday, and every family has problems and struggles and challenges. I get all that. But bear with me.) [Read more…]

Understanding each other

I’ve spent a decade researching and writing Mormon history, focusing primarily on church liturgy—our rituals and ritualized patterns of worship. And with every additional project, I am more convinced that the voices, records and stories of women are not only important, but necessary to comprehend our past (and present). Even with topics we often associate with men, like “ordinances,” we fail when we don’t account for the experiences of women. One cannot understand Mormon healing without understanding the integral participation of women in the liturgy. And even where male priesthood office holders are the sole administrators, often women are the majority of recipients.
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Things Eagles Do In Patriotic Art, Ranked

Yesterday was Memorial Day, but just because Steve and I weren’t ranking things on the blog doesn’t mean we weren’t ranking things in our hearts. Indeed, our text messages show that we both bleed red, white, and blue. Mostly just red and white, though, since Steve is a Canadian, and hates freedom. So I am really the only one with blood the color of a mountain sky over Kansas. But I have enough for the both of us.

MURICA!

As always, these rankings are authoritative.
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MHA Preview: Notes toward Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s Presidential Address

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has kindly shared with us a preview of her Presidential Address, “Runaway Wives 1840-60,” to be delivered next weekend at the Mormon History Association conference in Provo. In 1995, Ulrich joined the history department at Harvard University, where she is now 300th Anniversary University Professor. Register here for the conference if you haven’t already.

Abstract: In the nineteenth century, stories about wives fleeing the wrath of drunken or abusive husbands filled the pages of novels, divorce petitions, and temperance, health reform, and women’s rights literature. Similarly harrowing tales became a staple in anti-Mormon campaigns. One oft-repeated story claimed that in 1855 a hundred women, single and married, fled Utah with departing federal troops in order to escape the horrors of polygamy.   Situating Mormon and anti-Mormon stories within the large genre of runaway wife tales allows us to understand broader changes in nineteenth-century concepts of marriage, women’s rights, and the law.

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Week 4 of #BikeToChurch Month

Jason and Hannah

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We’re celebrating the 4th Sunday of Bike to Church Month at ByCommoConsent. Today we have Hannah and her dad Jason of Eugene, Oregon. They ride a Co-Motion tandem bike to church. Thanks for checking in, Hannah and Jason!

There’s just one more Sunday in our month-long celebration, so hop on your bikes and send us pics! Share with us by commenting, emailing sisterblah2@gmail.com, or tweeting @bycommonconsent #biketochurch.  [Read more…]

Nostalgic Stake Youth Dance: The Playlist

J. Stapley this morning asked the BCC bloggers for our Top 10 Stake Dance Songs. There was enough overlap in our responses that we figured it’d be worth making a playlist, so we can all be nostalgic together.

So here you go, a sweet musical journey to the cultural halls of yesteryear.

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Mormon History Association Conference weeks away

In a couple of weeks, the Mormon History Association will be hosting its annual conference in Provo. It is $170 for the multi-day conference per person if you register by Tuesday. MHA also got special rates on the hotel ($99 a night plus ability to share rooms). I’ll be there to attend and present and I am involved with organization more broadly, but I don’t hesitate to say that MHA is the best source for information on Mormon History.

UV
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A new YW lesson on shaming/bullying

How do I stand up to shaming/bullying?

lindsShame is one of the most powerful emotions we learn as children. We pretty much all can remember times when we were embarrassed by something we did or said and another or others made fun of us. That hot feeling of shame can stay with us a lot longer than other emotions and can fester into feelings of low to no self-worth. When we see people being shamed publicly, that is a form of judging others, or bullying and we can, as President Ucthtorf has implored us, do what we can to “Stop It.” [Read more…]

The Church and Same Sex Marriage: The Pastoral Question

“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.”—John Henry Newman

aGen2114Dore_TheExpulsionOfIshmaelAndHisMotherUnless everybody I know has misread the tea leaves, same-sex marriage will soon be legal in all 50 states. On the off chance that this doesn’t happen in June, it will happen some time. We have passed the tipping point, and a clear majority of people in the United States now favor such unions. Even in a democracy as dysfunctional as ours, clear majorities usually end up getting their way.

Universal same-sex marriage laws will have consequences for the Church. I’m not talking about the dire parade of horribles at the end of Glenn Beck’s slippery slopes. [Read more…]

Seasons of my imprecise, ambiguous, unfinished faith (a prayer)

cityrainThe last few months of my mission changed my relationship to God in a very unexpected way. That’s when it seemed to me God decided to go home early while I finished my full two years. I noticed God’s absence most during personal prayer. What formerly seemed like a welcome opportunity to express gratitude and ask for assistance, or like an intimate confession or reunion, became to me like speaking alone to a bare ceiling.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…

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In favour of substitutionary atonement, sort of (a postscript)

Q: Do you believe that Jesus died as a vicarious sacrifice for sin?

A: Yes.

Q: That’s a pretty standard belief. What’s the big deal? [Read more…]

Unforced Errors

When I first got married, my wife had ideas about teaching me to play tennis. Actually, that isn’t true. I had ideas about my wife teaching me to play tennis. It was a sport she enjoyed and something that we could do together. She was a little skeptical but willing. It was, of course, a disaster. The first problem was that I’d never been all that serious about the game. As I told her before we started, I played tennis like I didn’t play baseball; everything went over the fence. Initially, this wasn’t a problem as I was willing to run after all the errant balls and she was willing to stand around and watch me. But this eventually grew boring and she decided it would be useful to help me with my swing. So she stood by me, modeled the swing, and bounced the ball to me so I could hit it. I was very fast on the trigger, hoping to impress her, I suppose. I swung around quick and caught her hand with my racket. She cried out, I went to her and apologized, she shook it off after a moment and decided to try again. She started to bounce the ball and, sure I knew what I was doing, I swung again and immediately wacked her hand again. Afterwards, she wasn’t angry with me, but she has never stepped onto a tennis court with me again. [Read more…]

Writing and Revelation

My wife and I recently watched “The Words,” a movie with nested stories about writers. It featured a trope that occurs fairly regularly in movies about writing: the all-night burst of inspiration that produces Deeply Moving Prose, usually after the person doing the writing has gone through a prolonged period of emotional difficulty. The desired effect of this trope is to imbue the writing with a kind of mystical power—an effect that these movies usually augment by keeping said Deeply Moving Prose more or less sealed off from the viewers, Hitchcock-style, because it’s easier to imagine Deeply Moving Prose than it is to produce it (which may explain the irony that most movies about writing, including this one, are badly written). [Read more…]

In favour of substitutionary atonement, sort of (2/2)

lamb_thumb

The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (but only for first century Jews).

If someone were to volunteer to die in place of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, we would not think that justice, nor even mercy, had been served. Show justice — if the death penalty is your thing — by killing him. Show mercy by not killing him. But kill someone else to satisfy the demands of justice? Ridiculous.
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Obergefell and BYU’s Tax Exemption

On April 28, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, which challenged both the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage and of states’ nonrecognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

By the end of June, the Justices will have decided and we’ll know the constitutional status of same-sex marriage bans in the United States. But that doesn’t mean all questions will be resolved; in fact, an exchange between Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, and Solicitor General Verrilli piqued the interest of a lot of people, especially those invested in religious educational institutions.  [Read more…]

Writ & Vision: Roundtable on Grace

Writ and VisionAt 7pm on Thursday, May 21, Writ & Vision will host a roundtable discussion on grace. Participants include Adam Miller, Joseph Spencer, and Jenny Webb.

The discussion will focus on President Uchtdorf’s April 2015 General Conference address, “The Gift of Grace,” Adam Miller’s Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan: An Urgent Paraphrase of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and a close reading of 2 Nephi 25:23 (“for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do”).

The event is open to the public. Writ & Vision is located at 274 West Center Street in Provo, Utah.

Adam Miller will also be signing books at Benchmark Books from 12-1pm on Friday, May 22. Benchmark Books is located at 3269 South Main Street, Suite 250 in Salt Lake City.

Ascension Day

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Ascension Day

Acts 1:1-11Psalm 47; D&C 88:6

The Collect: Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Saviour Jesus Christ descended below all things and ascended above all things that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to see that he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Filmed versions of the Ascension tend to be badly done. The New Testament tells us that “as [the disciples] were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1: 10-11). The literal image of Jesus ascending into the sky may well reflect what happened, but expressing this in art runs the danger of overly reifying what was essentially a mystical experience. One also runs the danger of farce: on his way to heaven, how did Jesus escape the atmosphere? Where is heaven? Is a resurrected body capable of flying? In space? How did he generate lift? Silly.

The BBC/HBO Passion sensibly avoids all this by simply having the ascending Jesus disappear into a crowd in Jerusalem. He is gone but he is also all of us.  [Read more…]

#BikeToChurch Week 3: PeterLLC in Vienna, Austria!

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Bike to Church Month continues at ByCommonConsent. Join the invigorating, meditative practice of biking to church, doing yourself and the environment a favor! Send us your pics at sisterblah2@gmail.com, or tweet @bycommonconsent #biketochurch. This week we visit BCC’s own Peter LLC in Vienna, Austria. Looking great after a 7km ride with daughter aboard. Bonus points awarded for getting the church’s standard welcome sign in the shot. Thanks, Peter!  [Read more…]

You Can Only Want One Thing the Most: Thoughts on Gospel Doctrine 17 #BCCSundaySchool

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.  And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. (Mark 10: 21-22)

Mark 10 has got to be the most explained-away chapter in the LDS Standard Works. In it, Jesus goes negative on two things that Latter-day Saints like a lot. The first of these is wealth. Jesus tells his disciples that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (:25). The second is families, as “no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake . . .  but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time” (:29-30). [Read more…]

Contrasting Truth With Its Opposite

In his worldwide devotional address last week, Elder Lynn G. Robbins said something about achieving enlightenment (his talk is entitled “Tasting the Light”) that has been on my mind ever since:

Opposition is indispensable to our education and happiness. Without opposition, the truth remains hidden in plain view, like taking air for granted until the moment you are gasping for it. Because the Light of Christ is everpresent, many people don’t notice the Spirit in their life, like those Lamanites in 3 Nephi 9:20 who “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”

The perfect knowledge comes fruit by fruit, through opposition in all things. Obedience to God’s commandments promises ultimate happiness, growth, and progress through opposition, not bypassing it. “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

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Emily Dickinson

This post will be less biographical than is usual for the Mormon Lectionary Project. After all, Emily Dickinson pretty much affords the quintessential case for the idea that biography doesn’t tell the whole story, for out of her superficially quiet life burst a vast and lively treasury of verse. Accordingly, this post eschews narrative in favor of putting Dickinson’s poems tactically into conversation with scripture both ancient and modern. It will be terse and epigrammatic, leaving readers to develop connections further in the comments (and to suggest other of her poems that resonate with Mormonism). [Read more…]

The Future of Mormon Cinema–A Decade Ago

I’m in the middle of a move right now, and as part of my organizing, I came across some notes from 2003 where I had written my jokes from MC’ing a singles ward talent show.  One of my bits was to take current t.v. and movie titles and mormonize them.

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The Unavoidable Reality of Generational Change

sunday-school It’s become rather common here on the Bloggernacle to talk about Mormonism in terms of a “two church” theory–namely, that there are those who are internet-savvy, who have a fair amount of education, who are somewhat critical in the way the make use of science, philosophy, and history in how they think about the truth claims of the church, and then there are those who mostly are and do none of those things. Some people have made a big deal about this divide, whereas others have pushed back against it just as strongly. I don’t think it’s necessary to commit to strong sociological arguments about who belongs to which group or whether they even exist to acknowledge the very simple fact that, as times change, and especially as technologies change, the ways people think about and teach about their own religious experiences change also. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t see the church’s effort to embrace better scholarship, nor the discussions those efforts give rise to. That these changes are both motivated by and received by populations of the faithful of different ages in different ways is probably an unavoidable reality. [Read more…]

Thoughts on a New Youth Curriculum: How about the Old Youth Curriculum?

db1

I am an indoor enthusiast. True story. I believe that nature (to paraphrase Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen) is what we are put in this world to rise above. I don’t like walking up mountains. I hate touching live fish. And I believe with all my heart that, if God had intended for me to sleep on the ground, he would have given me a box-spring back. [Read more…]

The Church and the Wall Street Rule

wall streetEven though the federal income tax is my main professional interest, I don’t teach exclusively tax classes; every year, I also teach a Business Organizations class.[fn1]

In many business entities (especially publicly-traded corporations, on which I’ll focus here), management of the firm is separated from ownership. The shareholders are the equity owners of a corporation, but the board of directors manages it and makes the day-to-day decisions. And the goals of the board members may differ from the goals of the shareholders.  [Read more…]

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