It’s not often that an angel chooses the lectionary scriptures for the day, but that’s exactly what Moroni did when he appeared to Joseph Smith three times during the night of September 21-22, 1823. In addition to instructions about where to find the plates that would become the Book of Mormon, Joseph reports that Moroni’s visit consisted largely of the angel’s reciting scriptural texts focused on the dawning of a messianic age when the wolf will lie down with the lamb (Isaiah), when God will, through prophetic calling (Acts) and the spirit of Elijah (Malachi), gather his scattered people (Isaiah) and pour out spiritual gifts on them (Joel) before judging the earth (all of them). [Read more…]
I’m usually a “shoot from the hip” kind of professor. I prepare notes and presentations, but then I just talk with the students. I ask questions. And I try to lead them to thinking through issues more thoroughly. My class is made up of 10 students from all over the world. None of them are from the U.S. They are here studying “Democratic Governance and Rule of Law” which is a fancy way of saying that we are teaching local attorneys to have the skills to reform their own justice systems. My class is focused on American history and the American legal system, but they have other classes in comparative constitutional law, international law, human rights, issues in transitional democracies, etc. We’re taking a break from the textbook this week to do a module on racial discrimination in America and the civil rights movement. So in preparing a lesson slavery and the civil war and jim crow laws, to a class that includes four students from Africa, I thought long and hard about how to introduce this topic. Contrary to my usual practice, I wrote it down. [Read more…]
[Note: there’s a link to a survey at the end. But if you don’t want to wade through the post first, you can access the survey here.]
I’d been practicing law for about a year when my first daughter was born; when she was born, my law firm offered one week of paid paternity leave. A couple years later, when my second was born, it had upped its paid paternity leave to four weeks.[fn1] (It offers 18 weeks of paid leave for primary caregivers, and up to another 18 weeks of unpaid leave.) [Read more…]
Ashley Mae Hoiland received a BFA in studio arts and an MFA in poetry, both from Brigham Young University. She served a mission in Uruguay. She now lives in Palo Alto, California with her husband, Carl, and two children, Remy and Thea. She has written and illustrated several children’s books and once headed a project that printed poetry on billboards. More of her writing can be found at www.birdsofashmae.com. We are glad to welcome Ashmae as a guest of BCC.
There I am, a little sprite of a girl, lion-haired and scrape-kneed, taking bouncy skipping steps along the dirt path. Quiet morning sun peers through the leaves like the light through stained glass at the front of a cathedral. As a thirty-year-old, I stand at the top of my childhood hill and look down. I can see my 8-year-old self stopping to bend near the ground and hold some leaves between her fingers. I hear the scuffle and scrape of dust and rocks beneath worn tennis shoes. My tiny self is alone and canopied by the canyon oaks and crooked spruces.
I almost remember perfectly the visceral magic of endless possibility I felt in this space. My parents were both new to the church and the missionaries still drove up the long canyon road and the steep driveway to our house every Monday evening—we knew so little. Our naïveté left us unencumbered and free, because the few facts we really grasped on to were handed to us by the joy we felt as we were sealed in the temple just months before, or when the ward wrapped their arms around my parents and celebrated their goodness. [Read more…]
“I think this is the best-known story in the world because it’s everybody’s story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul. I’m feeling my way now—don’t jump on me if I’m not clear. The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears.
“I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for rejection, and with the crime guilt—and there is the story of mankind.
“I think that if rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is. Maybe there would be fewer crazy people. I am sure in myself there would not be many jails.
“It is all there—the start, the beginning. One child, refused the love he craves, kicks the cat and hides his secret guilt; and another steals so that money will make him loved; and a third conquers the world—and always the guilt and revenge and more guilt. The human is the only guilty animal.
“Now wait! Therefore I think this old and terrible story is important because it is a chart of the soul—the secret, rejected, guilty soul.”
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden
I didn’t get to part II of the last post, but I’m going to work on it this week if I can. It turned out to be more complex than I thought, and my vision of what I should do about it got completely out of hand. So, here is some more New Testament stuff that I’ve been thinking about.
In the sixth chapter of Acts, Luke narrates a very old tradition about conflict and dissent in the early Christian church. When we talk of this episode, we usually ignore the meaning of the outcome, which may be the most important influence on the course of Christianity after Jesus.
Luke tells us this (Acts 6:1): “in these days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews.” “Hellenists” refers to Christian believers in Jerusalem who had a Greek background in some way, Luke doesn’t explain, but he does give some names: Phillip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolas (the proselyte), all are Greek names. They are Jews, but the text draws a distinction between them and the “Hebrews,” meaning natives of the city perhaps. That both groups are Jews and Christians, is the important point. As Luke tells us about Hellenist leaders he makes sure to say that one of them was a proselyte (convert to Judaism) meaning that the rest of them were born Jews.
Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Well done.
(Video provided by Wendy Williams Montgomery.)
We would like to make our viewers aware of a significant event at the University of Virginia next weekend. Under the auspices of the Mormon Studies chair, the University is sponsoring the first of the Joseph Smith lectures on religious liberty. The initial speaker will be Senator Harry Reid, Senate Democratic Leader. The lecture will be held on Saturday September 26 at 2:00 p.m. in the University of Virginia’s Newcomb Hall Theater. Parking is available in the Bookstore garage immediately behind Newcomb Hall.
The conversation will be comprised largely of questions from the audience. [Read more…]
On the 31 May 1964, in the upstairs of a small home he rented with my mum, my father tuned his radio to 6155 khz. Between 18.30 and 18.45 GMT he could hear the radio programming broadcasted by Österreichischer Rundfunk. He subsequently sent a transmission reception report to Austria and received this card in return: [Read more…]
Literary historians can learn many things by poking around in the pre-history of Deseret Books—the oldest official publishing arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Though Deseret has historically published doctrinal books and curricular materials, it has, in each of its incarnations, published just enough fiction to make life interesting. [Read more…]
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Last month, my mom was in Chicago, visiting us. On the last day of her visit, we took her on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Historic Treasure of Culture and Commerce tour. Over the course of about ten blocks and two hours, we learned about and saw a number of amazing buildings in downtown Chicago. I’d seen all of them at least in passing, of course, but I now know the history, the reasons, and the thought that went into them.
For me, the highlight was probably the Chicago Cultural Center’s giant Tiffany dome. But you could make a plausible argument for the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tiffany dome in the Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) store, the metalwork of the Sullivan Center, or basically anything else we saw that day. [Read more…]
I’m still waiting to see what happens now that we’re (allegedly) raising the Sabbath bar. –Rebecca J in her latest post
When I first started covering the blogs I would get questions every now and again about whether or not the church would ever come down against electronic-device usage at church. Would there be special scramblers so phones/tablets could not access the internet in church buildings. I’d pooh-pooh these questions, the church is smart enough to realize that forcing the members to not access electronics would be unneeded censorship and we believe the importance of teaching good principles but ultimately let the members govern themselves.
And the church has been on the forefront of providing amazing options/media for learning and growth to be accessed at church. Just last week, I loved showing the 5-year-olds who huddled around my phone two different versions of Jesus Christ talking about the importance of the sacrament.
Well I think that might change. Maybe. I just heard of a stake in Oregon who read a letter to their congregations that now forbids food and electronic device usage in sacrament meeting as an outgrowth of the sabbath day worship instruction coming down from the general leaders. And then I heard of another in Utah County. Ok, well this a local interpretation, you might say. Well to that I say, watch the next few minutes of the sabbath day worship instruction video here: [Read more…]
Do you like that title? It just came to me. (It’s a play on Hymn #226–GET IT?) I’ve been interested to see what comes of this new Keep the Sabbath Day (Better) campaign the church has started. The first thing I saw was this meme about how the Sabbath should look different, feel different, sound different. As much as I endorse the idea of the Sabbath being different, I’m kind of cutesy-Pinterest-memed out these days. I’m a terrible human being, but it makes me kind of nuts that all gospel teachings are instantly transformed into some attractive design you can tweet or post on Facebook. (Personally, I’d rather not read the words of God’s prophets out of context and randomly chopped into different fonts and sizes and pasted against the image of someone standing on a cliff, but different strokes, I guess.) Besides which– [Read more…]
(ok, posted in the afternoon MST, but who could resist a title like that!)
A lot of wards/branches landed on the “Keeping the Law of Chastity” lesson yesterday in RS/PH and from online reports, it went interestingly.
So what did Sex Education for Mormon Adults look like in many wards? Well via twitter….
In a memorable moment of Stephen Robinson’s Believing Christ, he relates his wife Janet’s intense burnout under the pressure of all she had to do. Famously, Robinson answers this situation with the parable of the bicycle. The result is a theory of grace according to which we do what we can (which isn’t much) and Christ makes up the rest. If we feel despair, it’s because we don’t take Jesus at his word: we believe in Christ without believing Christ. 
Robinson’s book has had the effect of making Mormons not as entirely allergic to the concept of grace as we had been back when we were eager to differentiate ourselves from “born again” Christians. Even so, I don’t think that grace has led us home just yet. Part of the issue, I want to suggest, is that we tend to conceive of salvation in individualistic terms, notwithstanding the strong family orientation of our theology. To get to heaven we have to read the Book of Mormon every day, by ourselves and in our families (and if we don’t have a family, we are to acquire one tout de suite); we have to hold family prayer, family scripture study, and family home evening; we have to do our home and visiting teaching with a diligence extending beyond the required monthly visit; we must actively seek opportunities to share the gospel with nonmembers, while making time to fellowship less-active members in our area; we are to worship in the temple regularly, performing ordinances for deceased ancestors whom we have diligently searched out, even if we are sixth-generation Mormons with faithful BIC ancestors whose work has nevertheless been vicariously performed at least a dozen times, just to make sure, and whose non-BIC ancestors are in much the same boat; on top of all this, we must serve in time-intensive Church callings, all without detracting from precious family time. Nobody else can do this stuff for us. Grandma’s extraordinary commitment to family history work in no way lets you off the hook, and so on ad infinitum. [Read more…]
Conference is coming up, and we do a lot of hymning, praying, and preaching there, so this seems appropriate. Sometime I want to write about early Christian prayer in general, and the connected discourse of hymns and the Second Coming, but in this post I’m just going to think out loud about the Lord’s Prayer, and especially the version in Matthew 6, and then in the second part of this post, consider that in light of what I call the New Lord’s Prayer.
Last year, a commenter stated that in his stake at a recent meeting with a Q&A session with a general authority, two of the seven questions asked were how to get youth to accept the church’s stance on homosexuality.  This is a question that I have wondered about myself as a mother of teens who likewise don’t agree that homosexuality is the dire threat the church portrays. They have been consistently taught in school that being gay is innate and acceptable, that gay kids should be treated with respect, and that bullying will not be tolerated and is morally wrong.  As a result of the world in which they live, they do not inherently feel homosexuality is shameful, and they have friends in school who openly self-identify as gay. This is a pretty big change from the era in which I was raised and an even bigger change from when older generations were raised. [Read more…]
Gospel Doctrine lesson #36, “Beloved of God, Called to be Saints” is just around the corner. It’s the only lesson in the Sunday School manual dedicated to reading Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Today is the final day that my paraphrase of the letter, Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan, will be on sale for just $.99. To round things out for this celebratory week, I’ve included below the whole of my rendition of Romans 8.
Through Jesus, God has done what the law, on its own, could never do. Because the law was given for the sake of grace, only God’s grace can fulfill the law. It’s delusional to think that keeping the law—even keeping the law perfectly—could ever fulfill the law. The whole law points to Jesus.
So, God gave his own Son. He offered him up as a sacrifice. Jesus walked among us as flesh and blood and, as flesh, exposed the truth about sin and its abuse of the law. Extending God’s grace, Jesus made it possible for the law to be fulfilled. He made it possible for Spirit to manifest in our own weak flesh. Grace isn’t God’s backup plan in case we can’t keep the law. Grace was, from the beginning, the whole point of the law and the only way to fulfill it. [Read more…]
There is a Latin verb, trare, which means “to cross over, beyond, to the other side.” The participial form of that verb would be trans, and that became a preposition in its own right, meaning “across,” a usage that has become common in English formations. One of the ways we use that preposition is in the words transgender and transexual, denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender. [Read more…]
Cory Crawford is assistant professor of Biblical Studies in the Department of Classics and World Religions at Ohio University. He completed his AM and PhD in Hebrew Bible in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, and just finished a Volkswagen/Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the University of Tübingen in Germany. His BA was in Linguistics at BYU. His recent article, “The Struggle for Female Authority in Biblical and Mormon Tradition”, is in the Summer 2015 issue of Dialogue.
Lula Greene learned the power of the word when, at the age of 22, she needed money to travel from Salt Lake City back to her home in Smithfield. To raise the funds, she stayed up all night writing poems, which she then sold to the Salt Lake Daily Herald for $7.50. By that time she’d already been writing verse for years, and she’d even served a brief stint as editor of the Smithfield Sunday School Gazette. These two activities—writing and editing—would shape the course of her life, enabling her to use words to empower women and children in the Church. [Read more…]
In Gospel Doctrine we hit on the first part of 1 Corinthians this week. In chapter 5 Paul is fairly irritated that Church hasn’t done anything about the guy who is shacking up with his stepmom. This was clearly verboten in the Torah, but it is also apparently one of those things we are going to keep. A good call, I think. Paul’s instructions are pretty clear: kick this guy out.
Michael Austin will be speaking on Job at the home of Molly Bennion on September 12 at 7:00 PM. You may know his book on Job won the Association of Mormon Letters Award for Nonfiction for 2014. He is a fine man and a fine Mormon. He’s also a man of wit and charm, an excellent speaker. He is currently working on a book about the over 100 19th century novels by or about Mormons. You can check out his posts here at BCC for a sample of his keen and humane acumen. Here is the deal: first come, first served so RSVP with Molly (firstname.lastname@example.org). No charge but donations for airfare are always appreciated.
Saturday Night Fireside:
“The Book of Job and the Challenge of Scriptural Poetry”
One of the disadvantages of the King James Translation, which Latter-day Saints use as our official version of the Bible, is that it makes no distinction between poetry and prose. Every line is printed as straight prose, and every sentiment is elevated to the high linguistic register of poetry. But the Old Testament is made up of a mixture of prose and poetry, and of a blending of styles and registers, that readers are supposed to notice. Nowhere are these interpretive difficulties more evident than in the Book of Job, which alternates between prose and poetry—and between simplistic prose and elevated poetry—in ways that readers are supposed to notice. This presentation will explain the structure of Job and explore how understanding its shifts in style and register can help us make sense of one of the ancient world’s greatest works of literature.
Michael Austin received his Ph.D. in English at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1997 and taught English literature for many years. He has written or edited nine books, including Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem, which won the 2014 Association for Mormon Letters Award for Nonfiction. He currently lives in Wichita, Kansas, where he is a Provost, whatever that is.
In the current climate crisis there are two aspects—a physical, scientific dimension and a spiritual one hiding embedded in the interstitial spaces of the unfolding ecological upheaval. The first is conditioned on facts, measurements and data. It is supported by evidence so strong that to ignore it is unethical, and additionally suggests that science is not a way to learn things about the world. The second is framed by the realization that our spirituality imposes on us normative demands that come from the values that we embrace informed by what it means to live in a God-created universe. It means that our spirituality demands we attended to the needs of other humans, many perceived to be different than us, and to care for the other inhabitants of this world and their necessary ecosystems. [Read more…]
I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book during a plane ride the other day. It’s a very small book, a hundred and fifty some odd pages, but it gave me I felt some very strong impressions and reactions, which felt a lot like the Spirit but in a far more direct, physical way. If feeling the Spirit is like the burning in the bosom, then this book left me with a gut punch, the sort that knocks the wind out of you and leaves you surprised that such a small thing could leave you breathless. I feel pretty nervous sharing my thoughts about this book, a Canadian Mormon writing about a black American atheist’s work. And I know I’m not Mr. Coates’ audience. In many ways I may be the physical representation of what bothers him. [Read more…]
As spiritual preparation for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (collectively, the “Days of Awe”), the Selichot — prayers and liturgical songs of repentance — are recited and sung on four days before Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year or Day of Judgment/Day of Remembrance. When Rosh Hashanah falls on a Monday or Tuesday (as this year, on September 14, or rather September 13-15 to be technical), the first Selichot begins after midnight Saturday night nine or ten days before (so, this year, the early morning hours of September 6). In fact, Rosh Hashanah falls within the period of repentance known as the “Season of Teshuva” or “Days of Favor” lasting 40 days from the first day of the month Elul until Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. During Rosh Hashanah, we hope that our names might be written in the Book of Life; whether written in that book or elsewhere, the Judgment entered on Rosh Hashanah is sealed (though most believe not permanently!) on Yom Kippur. In anticipation of this, the “Sheima Kolenu” is often sung at first Selichot: [Read more…]
In an October 2013 talk called “Come, Join With Us” Pres. Uchtdorf welcomed everyone to be a part of the church, even if they have doubts. He famously said:
First doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.
It’s a great line. Some have taken it to mean that Pres. Uchtdorf is saying that there is no room for doubt, that only the faithless doubt, that doubting your faith should never ever happen. Given the rest of the talk, that seems like an unlikely interpretation. He speaks with empathy toward those who have doubts and invites everyone to join and participate in church regardless of their doubts. [Read more…]
Gospel Doctrine lesson #36, “Beloved of God, Called to be Saints” is coming up. It’s the only lesson in the Sunday School manual dedicated to reading Paul’s letter to the Romans.
To celebrate, my paraphrase of the letter, Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan, will be on sale for just $.99 for the next week (September 4-11) and I’m including the whole of my rendition of Romans 7 below. Enjoy!
Say you were born an insider and lived under the law. Still, the law only binds the living. Once you’re dead, you’ve left its jurisdiction.
A married woman is bound to her husband only as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, that law no longer applies. She’s free to remarry. If she cheats on him while the law’s in force, that’s adultery. But if death intervenes, she’s free to love again. It’s the same for you. You died to the law when you died with Jesus. But now, raised with Jesus, you belong to another. You’re rooted in the love that caused you to bear fruit for God.
In your old life, your passions and flesh were hijacked by sin and enflamed by the law. Abetted by the law, sin sowed death in your flesh. It blunted your mind, it dulled your senses, it hardened your heart. But now, rescued, you’re beyond the reach of the law. Before, you were a slave to sin; now, you’re bound to God. No longer enslaved to death by the law, you’re sealed to life by the Spirit. [Read more…]