“Don’t Let’s Ask for the Moon; We Have the Stars”

“No priesthood session for you.”

When the Ordain Women movement was planning to attend the Priesthood session, my first response was passively supportive.  I felt it was overreaching, but that overreaching is sometimes necessary to expand the Overton Window:

The Overton window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to persuade or educate the public so that the window either “moves” or expands to encompass them. [Read more...]

A few questions about the missionary surge

We’ve all heard the anecdotal tales about BYU bishops being flooded with interview requests from newly prospective missionaries. And now we have quantitative confirmation of the coming surge, as church spokesperson Michael Purdy released some startling numbers tonight:

“Typically approximately 700 new applications are started each week. The last two weeks that number has increased to approximately 4,000 per week. Slightly more than half of the applicants are women.”

That’s an increase of almost 6X! DesNews reminds us that these are “not submitted applications, rather online applications that have been opened and started.” Nevertheless, the ginormous spike will surely translate to a ginormous spike in submitted applications. Which raises lots of fun questions. For instance:

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Mormons are Taking Over the Internet!

The Washington Post has an interesting article about the church’s success with search-engine optimization, PR, and “controlling its image” online. There’s plenty of hyperbole in the article (have we really “infused SEO into [our] culture?” C’mon), some sloppy sourcing (of course a Protestant digital strategist says Mormons are taking over the web), and a misuse of the word “bloggernacle.”

But there were also some nuggets we can learn from, and plenty we should be discussing.

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Church-Hacker #7: The End Time

This week’s Church-Hacker was submitted by BCC reader Raymond, and should immediately be instituted in every ward throughout the church.

Why is it acceptable to go over the allotted time in meetings, but taboo to end early? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

It kills me whenever I see a teacher nervously look at the clock wondering how to “fill” more time. Just stop. No one will complain if we finish early. Another recurring problem is teachers who can’t stop until they get through their material. We appreciate the effort you put into preparing your lesson, but we’d appreciate it even more if you stopped on time. I tune out the teacher as soon as it’s time to leave anyway.

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Our Week in the Media: Small Stuff and Big Stuff

Talk about overexposure: Newsweek and BusinessWeek in the same week! Prevailing wisdom in media circles is that once the newsweeklies have picked up a trend, it has reached it apex—so I guess the church’s slide back into obscurity starts now. (Don’t worry, Russell!)

What’s striking to me has been the reaction to the different stories. From what I’ve seen in my own social circles on Facebook and elsewhere, we’re supposed to be mad at Newsweek and thrilled about the BusinessWeek article.

But that’s exactly backwards.

The reasons for the ire against Newsweek seem to revolve around the cover and a few snippets of text within the article. Let me briefly debunk two of the phrases I’ve noticed Mormons getting hung up on:

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Reflections of a Single Mormon Mama

This last Saturday, I was invited to take part in a panel on Alternative Latter-day Saint Families. After struggling to figure out how exactly a single mother was alternative, I prepared the following remarks. Most of this was not used in the panel discussion, and we instead talked about my son and his preference for wearing tutus. Go figure.

It’s Saturday morning in November. It’s unclear if the sound of rain gurgling down the gutters wakes me, or if it’s the cold little feet of my daughter under my side as she flops sleepily, arms akimbo, in the pre-dawn light. When I fell asleep to the muted monologue of Letterman, I was alone in my bed, but as happens so often now, I wake with one or several little people pushing on my warmth and needing their mama. [Read more...]

Notes from the Worldwide Training Broadcast

Yesterday morning I attended the worldwide training broadcast announcing and distributing the new edition of the General Handbook of Instructions. Below are some notes and thoughts I had from the meeting. For those also in attendance, please add your own highlights in the comments. Everyone can watch an archive of the broadcast (I expect that will be a routine instruction to newly called presidencies for some time).
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Interview with BYU student Cary Crall

On Tuesday, BYU’s student newspaper, the Daily Universe, published a letter to the editor from pre-med student Cary Crall about Prop. 8 and the ensuing Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial. Crall noted that many of the arguments that were used during the campaign were never even presented at trial, and those that were presented did not stand up to Judge Walker’s scrutiny. Crall’s letter concludes that, “The real reason [for supporting Prop. 8] is that a man who most of us believe is a prophet of God told us to support the amendment.” His letter has since been removed from the Daily Universe website (the above link is to google cache), with this explanation:
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Religious Art: ‘Saint Francis Standing in Ecstasy’

Francisco Zurburan (1598-1664), ‘Saint Francis Standing in Ecstasy’, c. 1640, oil on canvas; Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.

A few years ago another blogger started (but never continued) a series of posts on Religious Art.  As someone with an uninformed, amateur interest in Art I thought that it might be interesting to give it another go.  The first painting I have selected, though feel free to make suggestions for future posts, is a painting by Zurbaran entitled ‘Saint Francis Standing in Ecstasy’. [Read more...]

Doctor-Patient Relationships and the Process of Repentance

If anyone has ever studied the Sociology of Health and Illness you will have certainly come across Talcott Parsons’ ideas on the ‘Sick Role’.  This ‘paternalistic’ model of the Doctor-Patient relationship and other models like it (i.e. the co-operative and the consumerist) can be applied to the process of seeking help from a Bishop in the process of repentance.  This analogy is based on an assumed similarity between the roles of Bishop/Doctor & ‘Sinner’/Patient.  I think this is a useful, though not flawless, comparison but it is one that might help us think through how a Bishop could respond to someone who is seeking to confess and repent.  Further I think it could also facilitate discussion upon the issue of how ‘Sinners’ can navigating this difficult relationship. [Read more...]

Turning Tables into Altars

The principle metaphor for this post is taken from Kathleen Flake from her brilliant essay (and Sunstone presentation) entitled ‘Rendering to the Corporation’.  Flake recounts how in the Catholic tradition, resulting from the sacralisation of matter the shape and meaning of the sacraments of Holy Communion shifted.  Flake argues ‘what had been a plain table at the center of the Church became an ornate stone altar at the front of it’.  Flake uses this metaphor to consider how we can turn tables into altars through the ways that we engage with the Church.  I want to move Flake’s illustration from the unintended effects of ecclesiastical discourse into the realm of service and sacrifice. [Read more...]

Creativity, Generosity and Humility: Grand Fundamentals of Mormonism

At a recent FAIR conference, Terryl Givens, while introducing his work on the history of the Pre-Mortal life in Western thought, made this statement: ‘What I have come to appreciate is this cardinal insight: If the restoration is not yet complete, then other traditions have much to teach us. Not by way of confirming, corroborating, or verifying the truths we already have. But by way of actually adding to the body of revealed doctrine we call precious and true. The Restoration is neither full nor complete… What if, instead of scrambling frantically to find explanations when Joseph appears to have borrowed from the masons, or Ethan Smith, or Tom Dick, we instead see another marvellous possibility of his actually practicing what he preached.’ [Read more...]

Note on History’s Margins

Front and center today in Bolivia’s electoral decision on whether to accept a new constitution stands a Latter-day Saint, José Luís Exeni.

President of the National Electoral Court, Exeni was raised in the Church. His mother was a long time member and one of the central figures in what was called Rama Cuatro, or Fourth Branch, in La Paz, Bolivia. I vividly remember Exeni when he was a little boy and I served as a missionary in his Branch. I am told he is a returned missionary, although it has been decades since I spoke with him.

Nevertheless, for me, the importance of Exeni’s position in this question of a new constitution, Indian rights in a multinational state, and a new vision of the left is both his legal rulings and the fact that he represents how much Latter-day Saints have been woven into the fabric of Latin American society. In the US we can look to Harry Reid and a host of Latter-day Saints in Washington, but there are also Latter-day Saints in high positions of government in Bolivia, and probably in other Latin American Countries. The LDS Church has gone native.

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