Practical Ways the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Might Better Support Parents

Natalie Brown is a writer, scholar, lawyer, mother, and Latter-day Saint based in Boulder, Colorado. She is writing in her personal capacity. Her views do not reflect those of the church or her employer.

Apostle Dallin H. Oaks recently advised young single adults of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to not delay having children. Such rhetoric, of course, is nothing new to members, especially women who grew up hearing that motherhood was the most important role to which they could aspire. However, Oaks also acknowledged that younger adults face challenging economic circumstances, such as rising housing prices and student debt, that can make family formation daunting even while advising members to move forward with faith.

Parenting is an act of faith. As a parent of young children and a Latter-day Saint, I have witnessed the ways in which pathways have opened for me to raise my children in difficult times. Nevertheless, I have also watched as the rapid deterioration of parenting communities and exploding prices in housing, childcare, and higher education have turned parenting into an isolating and extremely expensive endeavor. After President Oaks’s address, I turned to friends in the trenches to ask if there are steps the church might consider to make parenting easier even as members move forward with faith.

[Read more…]

A Different Wentworth and a Different Letter. B. H. Roberts on Faith Crisis, Part III of IV: Roberts on the Engine of Religion and Freedom.

B. H. Roberts replies to Philip Wentworth’s Atlantic piece.

Roberts, senior president of the Seventy, will die in a few months. It’s 1933 and James Talmage will be dead four months after Roberts’s Improvement Era article appears. Roberts will die exactly two months after Talmage. It’s close to the end of an era. In answering Wentworth’s claims, Roberts will repeat a common Mormon trope. But that is for the final part of this meander. First, Roberts will go into a theme that guided his own life, and in an ideal world for him, would have guided his religion. But first, Roberts sees Wentworth’s predicament as a result of the failure of Christianity (Historic Christianity as evangelical apologists love to term it).

Read more: A Different Wentworth and a Different Letter. B. H. Roberts on Faith Crisis, Part III of IV: Roberts on the Engine of Religion and Freedom.

Roberts sees the modern Christian world as “transgressing the laws, changing the ordinances and breaking the everlasting covenant of which the blood of Christ is spoken of a being the covenant to be broken (cf. Isa. xxiv:1-7; Heb. xii:20)” and “one of the most disastrous steps Christendom took in this direction was when it fixed limitations upon itself by denying continuous revelation to the Church.” Here, Roberts employs the long time argument of Latter-day Saint missionaries of the previous century: cessationism was the great departure from the true gospel. This denial of revelation means that the Church, as it stood for centuries and up to Wentworth’s own parish experience, fought against all forms of new knowledge. Including scientific progress. And this lays a trap for the young. For Roberts all truth, in one way or another, is a revelation from God. Roberts sees hermeneutics as the problem. Truth trumps hermeneutics for him. Here Roberts repeats Wentworth’s indictment of the Church in his claim the it deploys Government to enforce what it can’t get the folken to believe by sitting in the pews. Roberts even looks at Scopes as a straight-ahead dumb thing by a Tennessee system under the thumb of evangelical dictation. Here is where Roberts gets to the first of his arguments, and it’s pretty clear that he has more than one target in mind.

There are two ways human conduct may be controlled, Roberts says. 1 is “Moral Government,” 2 is “Effective Government.” He defines Moral Government as God’s true government, where an innate Truth is taught and the very force of such truth creates convictions in the populace “which leads to adherence to truth, and hence to right conduct as set forth by truth.” This government rests on “persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness and meekness, by love unfeigned, by kindness, and pure knowledge . . . (and so forth).” No influence ought to be used except by those principles. Those are the forces operating in “Moral Government.” Effective Government is man’s government and it ultimately rests on force, compulsion, fines, imprisonment, and even death. “This government is . . . wholly human, and represents power by which human decrees ostensibly work for the good of society;” but it proceeds by penalty and force. “it should never be invoked for enforcing beliefs or Church discipline.” Roberts sees Wentworth’s complaints as instances of the Christian Church co-opting Effective Government to serve where it should be able, were it truly in possession of real ongoing truth, to persuade, etc., etc. “The Churches . . . seeking state enforcement of prohibition, . . . stricter legislation regarding dissemination of birth-control information . . . and call[ing] upon laws against teaching evolution in [the] schools” have gone off the rails by using Effective Government to enforce religious dogma. [Oh boy.]

Antidisestablishmentarianism; or, Being Religious for Non-Religions Reasons

Like me, you probably learned the word “Antidisestablishmentarianism” because of its properties as a word. It is one of the longest non-scientific words in the English language, and it showcases the way that shift meaning by multiplying prefixes (dis-, anti-) and suffixes (-ment, -tarian, -ism). And it sounds a lot like George Orewell’s newspeak, which creates complicated constructions like “doubleplusungood” to replace simpler words like “horrible.”

[Read more…]

The New Political Neutrality Policy…

… is mostly pretty similar to the old political neutrality policy.

Maybe you heard that on Thursday, the church dropped a revised political neutrality statement. You can find its new statement here.

I was curious how it had changed from the prior version and, as luck would have it, I had created a permalink to the church’s statement on February 25, 2023. (Why? Well, when I wrote my first book, I cited some website and, between citing it and going through to check my citations, it had changed. So now I permalink everything I cite in my books and articles.) You’re welcome to compare the two but, in the interest of making the comparison easier, I also blacklined the two.

[Read more…]

Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra: A Study in the Impossibility of a Closed Canon

Several years ago, I read a collection of “new” Sherlock Holmes stories. There are many, many of these in the wild, and I don’t even remember the title of the volume. I remember one story from the book by name, though, because it was such an odd name for a story: “The Giant Rat of Sumatra.” I remember the story too: Professor Moriarity has cornered the market on a new plague serum, and he tries to import a huge rat from Indonesia to act as a vector for a plague that will kill everybody in England who doesn’t buy his serum. Oh, and the ship that the rat is on is called the Matilda Briggs.

[Read more…]

Discovering Atonement Theory

I was well into adulthood before I discovered that there was such a thing as “atonement theory” and I only stumbled across it by chance. I was preparing to lead a discussion in Elders Quorum on the Atonement of Jesus, and (like most people, I think) decided to do a quick internet search for “atonement” to see what came up. I ended up on a Wikipedia entry that outlined multiple ways to understand Jesus’s atoning work. I was flabbergasted. Like, jaw-on-the-floor stunned.

Up until then, Jesus’s atonement seemed like a pretty simple concept: I was mortal; that meant I was going to die. Because of Jesus’s atonement I would be resurrected. Being mortal also meant I was going to sin, and punishment was required for my sins. But because Jesus took upon himself my punishment for my specific sins I could (if I went through the proper steps) be forgiven and eventually exalted.[1] That was how the atonement worked.[2] Full stop. That was how it was taught to me, and how I taught it on a mission.[3] Until I landed on that Wikipedia page, I had no idea that thinking about it differently was even an option.

[Read more…]

Transactional Amity

Photo of Georgetown, Washington, D.C. by Ana Lanza on Unsplash

Years ago I attended a meeting encouraging junior employees to increase “business development” — i.e. sales.

“Your clients are all around you!” exclaimed one up-and-coming manager. “Start with your friends and family. Make sure they know what services you offer. Last Thanksgiving I was surprised to discover my brother-in-law, who is a soccer coach, needed my expertise!”

“Or start with your hobbies,” interjected a senior rainmaker. “Like you!,” he targeted someone at random. “What are your hobbies?”

“Uh…walking my dog?” answered the startled employee.

“Great. And where do you walk your dog?”

“Near my apartment? — up by American University.”

“Wrong answer. You now walk your dog in Georgetown at 6:30 am.”

*stunned silence*

“Dogs are great icebreakers,” the rainmaker continued. “If you want to build a book of business, you need to meet D.C.‘s wealthy powerbrokers where they are.”

[Read more…]

The Parable of the Ten Virgins: It’s About the Wait

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten young women took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those young women got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. Later the other young women came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)

If necessary, I am pretty sure that I could prove that every generation of Christians from the very beginning has seen itself as the last generation before the end of the world. Sometimes this involves detailed calculations derived from the apocalyptic books of the Bible (Daniel and Revelation). Sometimes it involves sophisticated readings of the “signs of the times” such as wars, rumors or wars, and earthquakes.

[Read more…]

Reflections on Unity and Righteousness

Unity. Righteousness. As much as these words are an invitation to Godly action, they can also be, in my view at least, fraught with difficulty. Let me explain.

It has been my experience that the word ‘unity,’ is too often used to sow divisiveness. Throughout history, the call for ‘unity’ has sometimes been used to push out those who do not agree with a prevailing sentiment.  Too often, the language of ‘unity’ is not a challenge to reach out to others, but rather an excuse to sink inward. It is sometimes synonymous with ‘see things like me,’ ‘believe like me,’ or ‘act like me,’ leaving those who see, believe, and act differently branded as unfaithful and pushed to the edges.  I have occasionally seen the call for unity as the very thing which breeds division.

And it has been my experience that the word ‘righteousness’ is too often used to reinforce the status quo. ‘Righteousness’—maybe especially when used by those who benefit most from a contemporaneous cultural arrangement—has sometimes been transformed to become a description of social power, not a statement about spiritual power. Those who support and outwardly align with cultural expectations are labeled as ‘righteous’ and those who do not are dismissed as wicked, impure, unworthy.  Too often I have witnessed the word ‘righteousness’ used to justify the unfair treatment of others and as a basis to relish in the downfall of those we dislike or who are not like us.

[Read more…]

A Different Wentworth and a Different Letter. B. H. Roberts on Faith Crisis, Part II of IV(?): Wentworth Tells of His Loss of Faith.

Part I came out a few weeks ago. Sorry for the big delay. Philip Wentworth told of his upbringing in a faithful Presbyterian household, his admiration for his minister, and his desire to pursue the ministry by going to HARVARD of all places. His preacher warned him of the slick temptations of academia, but the local church board voted to finance his education. That was the last post in a nutshell. Wentworth will tell us, “What happens to this nicely rationalized system of religious beliefs when scientific notions are superimposed upon them?”

From his Harvard experience at least, Wentworth observes that college does something to nine out of ten students’ faith. Education, he claims, is poison to faith. It’s all about reasoning (thinking critically). It’s like a virus. Sometimes it’s just mild skepticism, but for many, it’s acid that eats all the way through credulity.

[Read more…]

A Focus on Zacchaeus

The story of Zacchaeus, found only in Luke 19:1-10, is a pericope that does not get much discussion in LDS circles (in my experience at least).  In fact, this story has only been referenced in seven General Conference talks…ever.[1] More personally, I do not believe I have ever had a lesson about this story in Church, even though it has been highlighted in past lesson manuals (and is again in this week’s Come, Follow Me materials). So, consistent with what Jesus does in the Gospel of Luke’s narrative, I thought it was important to stop for a moment and pay attention to Zacchaeus.

In this story, Jesus is passing through Jericho when the narrative pauses to introduce Zacchaeus by name. On the surface, Zacchaeus may seem an unlikely individual to merit such focused attention. First, Zacchaeus is a tax collector, a group which scholars note is “portrayed negatively in almost all Greco-Roman literature” including the New Testament.[2] What’s more, Zacchaeus is the “chief tax collector” (19:2), a title which does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament (quite a distinction!). Though Luke sometimes complicates the stereotypical image of tax collectors—e.g. Luke notes that Levi, a tax collector, left his post to follow Jesus (5:28), and just one chapter earlier Jesus relays a parable contrasting a tax collector and a Pharisee in which the tax collector’s humility is held up as superior to the Pharisee’s self-righteousness (18:9-14)—it is still the case that, generally, in the Gospel of Luke tax collectors are regularly lumped in with the “sinners.”

[Read more…]

What to Do About Ensign Peak Advisors

In my last post, I wrote about the 60 Minutes segment on Ensign Peak Advisors. As part of that segment, the interviewer asks Bishop Waddell, “But don’t you agree this would be a nonissue if there were more transparency?”

He responds, “No. Because then everyone would be telling us what they want us to do with the money.”

Frankly, I think he’s wrong. But for now let’s respect that. For purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that the church will maintain a significant investment portfolio. And whatever I think about it,[fn1] I’m going to be indifferent to whether and how it should spend down that portfolio. Because I think EPA’s current status, as an external tax-exempt investment advisor, is ultimately untenable, notwithstanding the fact that it’s legal.

What do I mean? Well, as a general rule, investment managers are for-profit, taxable endeavors. EPA is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. (Critically, “nonprofit” doesn’t mean it can’t earn a profit. Some nonprofits—including, notably, hospital chains—are tremendously profitable. The “non” in nonprofit means that the profit earned can’t benefit any individual. While this is a little over-simplified, it basically means a nonprofit can’t distribute its profits as dividends.)

[Read more…]

Apocalypse Whenever: The Interpretive Challenge of the Olivet Discourse


For most of this year, I have been advancing a position that biblical scholars call the “post-millennial” understanding of the New Testament. This view holds that, when Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he is not talking about something inherited in an afterlife by those who obey his commandments, but created in this life by those who follow his instructions. For postmillennialists (as the name implies) the Millennium is something that happens before the Second Coming—something that humans create through their actions to prepare the world for Christ’s rule.

[Read more…]

The name of the Church is not negotiable

David Aubril is a regular guest author at BCC. He is a French teacher who is fond of didactics, literature, UNIX systems and free diving (with no order of preference). He follows with great interest the contemporary debates on Gospel and Church matters, but from afar, from “the other side of the water”, as Pascal says.

Hergé, The Shooting Star, 1941-1942

“The name of the Church is not negotiable. When the Savior clearly states what the name of His Church should be and even precedes His declaration with, “Thus shall my church be called,” He is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.”

(Russell M. Nelson, The Correct Name of the Church, October 2018). 

While, in his talk, President Nelson focused on the former part of the name, I’d like to talk about the latter part. In English, if I understand well, “latter” refers to the second and last item in a series of two. It is opposed to “former”. “Latter-Day Saints” is indeed a very interesting phrasing : it establishes a connection between early Christian disciples and today’s members. It opposes two eras, the first Christian era and today, suggesting a restoration of that heritage. 

[Read more…]

60 Minutes, David Nielson, and Ensign Peak Advisors

Sunday night, 60 Minutes aired a 13-minute segment on Ensign Peak Advisors. And honestly, if you’ve been following the story closely (I have!), there’s not a lot of new information here.

But not a lot isn’t no new information. And, in any event, the piece featured David Nielson, the whistleblower from 2019, speaking publicly for the first time, as well as Bishop Waddell, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric representing the church’s point of view. (It also featured an interview with Phil Hackney, a law professor at Pitt and, full disclosure, a friend, colleague, and coauthor of mine.)

I’m not going to give a full rundown of the piece. I’ve written about the tax and securities issues previously. And anyway, at 13 minutes (half that if you watch it at 2x speed!), watching it isn’t a heavy lift. Instead, I’m going to highlight a couple things that I found interesting and important.

[Read more…]

Gospel Tools

Once a traveler happened upon a great field filled with people toiling away in the soil. Approaching the those in the field, the traveler asked aloud, to no one in particular, “What are you all doing?”

A voice replied with obvious enthusiasm. “We are building foundations!”

Upon turning to face the person who replied, the traveler saw someone covered in sweat and dirt from days and days of hard labor. The individual was surrounded by holes of various shapes, sizes, and depths. “I don’t understand?” the traveler questioned.

“Look here,” said the laborer pointing to a set of tools neatly arrayed, carefully placed on the ground nearby. The traveler’s eyes fell upon a vast array of tools: pickaxes, trowels, shovels, hoes, rakes, spades, and many more such implements. The tools were well used and well cared for. The various blades, tangs, and edges were sharp and clean; the handles were oiled and polished. The tools glisten in the hot sun.

[Read more…]

Doctor Jesus Freak

I just finished Michael Hicks’ new memoir Wineskin: Freakin’ Jesus in the 60s and 70s (published by Signature). It was a terrific read. The only person who might be able to write as interesting a BYU prof memoir is Steve Peck, and he wrote the foreward to this volume. There were bits and pieces I already knew about: growing up in California, his (stunningly gorgeous) artist mother and the string of men in her life, his Jesus freak phase and the Wineskin coffee house, bailing on his mission to Germany three months in (tying his garments together to fashion a rope for the escape!) I knew about his youthful excommunication, but I didn’t have a good handle on the Anne cult.Trust me, you want to read this book.

[Read more…]

Missions and Universities

David Aubril is a regular guest author at BCC. He is a French teacher who is fond of didactics, literature, UNIX systems and free diving (with no order of preference). He follows with great interest the contemporary debates on Gospel and Church matters, but from afar, from “the other side of the water”, as Pascal says.

There was recently a study about the benefits young women can get from their mission : “Lifelong benefits may await those Latter-day Saint women who opt to serve a religious mission during their college years, a new study from Utah State University’s Utah Women & Leadership Project suggests” (The Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 9, 2023). I was pretty sure that it would come up as an argument in support of missions in the April General Conference. 

I remain skeptical, though, about these conclusions. As the study indicates : “With time away from school, there is an increased risk that students will simply not return to college after completing a gap experience. However, our research on female students at BYU suggests this may be a minimal concern in Utah” (Utah Women & Leadership Project, Research & Policy Brief, February 2023). But the relation between mission and university can be far more complex in other parts of the world. Here, in France, for example, public universities are very inexpensive and offer often high-quality superior education. But there are few places, and therefore the selection is severe. If your file isn’t good enough, if you’re not in good timing, if you get off track, it’s over. 

[Read more…]

The Significant Moral Consequences of Trump

Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the so-called Johnson Amendment, the provision in section 501(c)(3) that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates for office. We really don’t know much about the purpose or motivation of the provision: it was introduced by the-Senator Johnson and approved, without debate, by voice vote, so there’s no legislative history explaining its purpose.

The substance of the prohibition is pretty clear, though: to qualify for tax exemption, an organization must do a handful of things and refrain from doing a handful of others. Under the Johnson Amendment, a tax-exempt organization cannot “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

And that’s it: a blanket prohibition on endorsing or opposing candidates. And what are the consequences for an organization that violates the prohibition?

[Read more…]

Check Out A World of Faith on Mormonland

29.95 24.95

If you have not yet bought A World of Faith, BCC Press’s new edition of the classic children’s (and adult’s) illustrated tour of world religions by Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kathleen Peterson, then it is now officially your lucky day. In celebration of Peggy’s Mormonland interview, we are offering it at the ridiculously low price of $24.95. If you aren’t sold yet, you can listen to the whole interview here:

[Read more…]

Rendering unto Caesar

Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere and show deference to no one, for you do not regard people with partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this and whose title?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him. (Matt 12:15-22)

Few passages of scripture have been as interpretively elastic as Jesus’s clever answer to a disingenuous question about taxation. The story appears, with only minor variations, in all three synoptic gospels (Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26), and it has been exported as a proof text in arguments about the separation of church and state, the morality of paying taxes to support war, the right of tax resistance, and the permissibility of civil disobedience. I strongly doubt the ability of the text, in its original context, to support this much interpretive weight. But it does mean something, so let’s dive in and take a look.

[Read more…]

Ainda Não Havia Para Mim, Rita Lee

It’s been long enough that I don’t remember their names. I don’t remember who I was with. I don’t remember which area it was (I think it was my second, in São José dos Campos, but I’m not sure anymore).

But I remember what happened. We were at a young family’s home. She was an inactive member of the church. He wasn’t a member. Both were friendly and welcoming. And on this visit, he pulled out his guitar. He started to play and sing. And I was introduced to “Sampa,” Caetano Veloso’s plaintive ode to São Paulo, his adopted city and my Mormon mission.

It wasn’t common, but occasionally on P-day, the district or zone I was in would get permission to go to the center of São Paulo; it was outside of our mission boundaries, but it was also, to a kid who grew up in the suburbs of San Diego, my first experience in a truly urban area, with all that brings with it. And a necessary stop on those trips to the city center were the informal markets that popped up on bridges and side streets. There were always a couple tables filled with (undoubtedly pirated) CDs.

[Read more…]

Relationality and Reconciliation

In the LDS Church’s Gospel Essays section it notes, “Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, everyone will be redeemed from the effects of the Fall. We will be resurrected…In addition to redeeming us from the universal effects of the Fall, the Savior can redeem us from our own sins. In our fallen state, we sin and distance ourselves from the Lord, bringing spiritual death upon ourselves.”[1] Language like this, which feels emblematic of the majority of the Church’s language about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, centers (nearly exclusively, it seems to me) on how the Atonement helps individuals, you and me, overcome spiritual and physical death: that is to say, it focuses on how to reconcile schisms in humankind’s relationship with God.[2]

[Read more…]

I Am the Rich Young Ruler

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. You shall not defraud. Honor your father and mother.’ ” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)

Mark presents him only as a man with many possessions. Matthew calls him a “young man,” and Luke describes him as a “ruler” who was “very rich.” The version that has come down to us through history is “the rich young ruler,” a composite taken from all three versions of the story. This amalgamation has not served it us well, as it gives us too many ways to resist identifying the man as ourselves. I am not young, and I am not a ruler. I can even stretch the definition of “very rich” so far out of context that it might not necessarily always include me. Not my needle; not my camel.

[Read more…]

An Alternative Reading of Luke 15: Counting in the Gospel of Luke and The Parable of the Lost Sons

Luke 15 contains three parables, stacked one on top of the other: one about a lost sheep, one about a lost coin, and one about a man and his two sons. I think, given their proximity in the text, it is reasonable to believe that the Gospel’s author intended them to be read together and to inform each’s interpretation of the other. I will admit to having never done this previously; and when I did I was surprised to discover how the parables work together to reinforce the importance of making individualized accounting for each sheep/coin/individual over whom we have charge.

[Read more…]

A Different Wentworth and a Different Letter. B. H. Roberts on Faith Crisis, Part I of IV(?): Wentworth’s Christian Vision.

Brigham Henry Roberts (1857-1933) was an LDS general authority (1888-1933). A well known church writer, historian, missionary, and political firebrand, Roberts wrote frequently for church publications, though his output on certain subjects had diminished over the last few decades of his life. He often published in the church’s Improvement Era magazine, alternately devoted to the young men of the church, the priesthood quorums, and then the combined young men and young women of the church, though it was read by older cohorts as well.

In June 1932, a recent Harvard graduate, Philip Wentworth, published an essay in The Atlantic, detailing his faith crisis and transition away from Christianity and his midwestern Presbyterian roots. The article was a fine piece of work, and its points were rather sharp. In this part, I’ll summarize Wentworth’s history and in the second part of the post (to be published sometime next week I think) I’ll look at Wentworth’s account of his descent into a rationalist mire. In part 3 (and possibly a 4th part), I’ll look at Roberts’s response in the Era after reading Wentworth’s piece.

[Read more…]

What If Jesus Meant What He Said About Rich People? A Non-Nuanced Reading of Lazarus and the Rich Man

It seems that the richer Christians get, the more interpretive energy they put into proving that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said about rich people. The camel through the eye of the needle? That was just the back gate to Jerusalem. Sell all you have and give it to the poor? He was using hyperbole to prove a point. Mary’s Magnificat? Never heard of it. If I had a dollar for every time I have had these discussions in a church context, I would be rich enough to have to worry about it.

[Read more…]

Avoiding Antisemitism in Our Discussion of the New Testament

In my experience there is a deep respect for our Jewish brothers and sisters that permeates LDS culture. But it is also my experience that occasionally LDS members unknowingly fall into antisemitic patterns of language and perspective which have, unfortunately, been connected with Christianity since its earliest times. This year, the LDS church’s course of study has moved out of the Hebrew Bible and is approaching the halfway mark in its study of the New Testament. As we continue to engage the New Testament, it is exceptionally important that we are attentive to, studiously avoid, and actively resist any perpetuation of antisemitic scripts in our worship communities and during our Sunday School discussions.

[Read more…]

BCC Press Is the Place for Poetry: And How

April is National Poetry Month, and BCC Press has always been the place to go for great Mormon poetry. Since the founding of the press in 2017, we have led the way in publishing the freshest, most thought-provoking, and just all around best volumes of poetry to be found anywhere in the Mormon world. Or, really, anywhere else too.

Even by the high standards we have set, however, April 2023 is our high-water mark. Our only competition is ourselves, and we have blown ourselves out of the water as we today release three volumes of poetry by three of Mormondom’s most amazing poets. We still can’t believe how awesome we are.

This is what we’ve got for you:

[Read more…]

“Out of Galilee Ariseth No Prophet”

Let’s begin, not in Galilee, but in River City, Iowa, the setting of Meredith Wilson’s classic musical, The Music Man, where Professor Harold Hill is trying to convince the Widow Paroo to buy a cornet and a fancy uniform for a band that, he knows, will never play a note. (see clip here)

HAROLD: Mrs. Paroo do you realize you have the facial characteristics of a cornet virtuoso?

MRS. PAROO: I don’t know if I understand you entirely, Professor.

HAROLD: If your boy has that same firm chin, and those splendid cheek muscles – By George! Not that he could ever be really great, you understand, but –

MRS. PAROO: Oh, is that so. And in the name of St. Bridget, why not?

HAROLD: Well – you see all the really great Cornet players were Irish – O’Clark, O’Mendez, O’Klein –

MRS. PAROO: But Professor, we are Irish!

HAROLD” No! No! Really! That clinches it! Sign here, Mrs. Paroo. Your boy was born to play the Cornet!

[Read more…]