Identifying With the One

Even the mountains agree—love one another.

In the summer of 2014 a German tourist went hiking with her dog leashed to her waist in the Austrian Alps. She was walking along a publicly maintained road leading through an alpine pasture when a small herd of mother cows and their calves charged the hiker’s dog from behind. Because the dog was fixed to her waist, and she did not hear the cows coming, the tourist ended up being trampled and suffered mortal injuries.

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Healing through Baptisms

59942741_10100712620455120_868906746230341632_nJennifer Roach is a mental health therapist who lives with her family in the suburbs of Seattle. She converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January 2019.

I get touched in the Temple. A lot.

I’m a new convert. Baptized 4 months ago. But I am no stranger to faith. I grew up in the mainstream Christian church.  I loved being in church. I was there every time the doors were open, which was not nearly enough for me. I loved the Bible, sermons, singing. I gave my entire life to all of it. Most of the jobs I have had as an adult were in mainstream Churches. My undergraduate degree is from a Christian college, followed by a Masters in Divinity, and then another master’s in counseling. I am a religious, church-going woman to my core.

But I was also completely gutted at church. [Read more…]

On Not Going to Girls Camp

For ten years, I was this guy: the goofball priesthood leader who volunteered for Girls Camp. I promised myself and others that I’d go as long as I had daughters going to camp; since college professors don’t work much during the summer, and since the stake was always scrambling to find a few men who were able and willing to spend a whole week playing water-carrier, blessing-giver, tent-erector, and general rented-mule for over a hundred young women, it worked out well. But times change and leadership changes, and this summer, though two of our daughters are leaving tomorrow morning (one for her fourth and final year, one for her second), I won’t be going with them to spray hornets, lead hikes, play lifeguard, or contribute to some ridiculous skit at their side. Instead, since this year’s camp is taking place rather close to our city of Wichita, each ward was asked to send multiple individuals one day at a time to get a brief Girls Camp experience, and I wasn’t one our bishop picked. I kind of miss it already. [Read more…]

“Not as I Will, but as Thou Wilt” #BCCSundaySchool2019

Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18

Son of Man, Huh? What Does That Even Mean?
The four chapters in this lesson correlate, to a remarkable degree, the events leading up to Christ’s arrest by Jewish authorities on the Thursday night of Holy week. These events include the Last Supper, the prayer in Gethsemane, Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, and Peter’s thrice-repeated denial of his Master. I will use the text in Matthew as the basis for the lesson, adding in insights from the other Gospels as appropriate.

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MHA SLC 2019

It’s that time of year again–time for some serious Mormon History Association action at the Sheraton on Fifth South in Salt Lake City. For those who are participating in the conference, please post your notes, comments and observations here. Those who are unable to be there in person will greatly appreciate whatever nuggets you are able to share. [Read more…]

#BCCSundaySchool2019: “Continue Ye in My Love”

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Photo by Tristan Billet on Unsplash

Readings: John 13–17

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, all cited scriptures are from the New Revised Standard Version translation)

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:12–14, 17)

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On Honor, Success, and Early Return Missionaries

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Jaxon Washburn is a friend of BCC who recently returned from a mission in Armenia.

My name used to be Elder Washburn.

I returned home on May 17th, after returning from my service as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Armenia. My mission was eight months long.  Less than a month ago, I had no intentions of coming home. God, I suppose, intended otherwise, and I am doing my best to sort out the pieces.

I loved my mission. To be on a mission is to ground oneself in paradox in many respects. Such was my experience, at least. My mission constituted of a series of contrasts: there were moments where I felt closer to God than I ever had before, and moments where I never felt more spiritually detached. I lived as selflessly as I could, and because of that, I have never been more critically self-aware of all my own flaws and shortcomings. This, the biggest challenge of my life, brought with it the most significant amount of growth, refinement, and development. My mission meant the world to me; it has since my teenage years, when I decided I wanted to serve. To part with it was heartbreaking at best, and I am still working to reconcile my return with the future course of my life. [Read more…]

Civic Process Specialists: Some Thoughts

A couple weeks ago, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the church told Utah stake presidents to start calling “specialists who can assist church members to better understand and participate in the civic process.” Over the weekend, I listened to Ep. 82 of the Trib‘s “Mormon Land” podcast, which discussed this calling with the Hinckley Institute’s Morgan Lyon Cotti. That discussion was an excellent and substantive discussion of why the church might be interested in doing this, and the benefits of additional civic engagement.

At this point, it’s not clear precisely what being a civic process specialist will entail, though, among other things, they might help people figure out how to register to vote, figure out how, when, and where to vote, and, apparently, given them some guidance with Utah’s caucus system. The church has been clear that it will continue to be neutral with respect to candidates and parties. Still, there are people who worry that the specialists will be less nonpartisan than the church. Which brings up the question: can the church do this, or is it going to lose its tax exemption?

Spoiler alert: it’s not going to lose its exemption. [Read more…]

#BCCSundaySchool2019: “The Son of Man Shall Come”

Readings

Joseph Smith-Matthew 1; Matthew 25; Mark 12-13; Luke 21.

A Preliminary Note

I’ve tried to provide some context and some analysis of a couple aspects of the reading for this week. I haven’t even feinted toward most of it, but I think it would be virtually inexcusable to teach this lesson without addressing the widow’s donation of her two coins. I’ll confess that the parable of the ten virgins still confounds me. And it would be absolutely crazy to teach this lesson without referring to Cake.

It’s a Trap!

In Mark 12, two (or three) (but probably two) groups of people try to trap Jesus. How does he avoid these traps? [Read more…]

Michael Austin’s Enemies, and What He Says About Them

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Michael Austin (who, for the record, is an old and close friend) does not fit most people’s stereotype of a “patriot,” the sort of person would would proudly fly an American flag and attend parades on Memorial Day. After all, he’s an academic, a cosmopolitan, a liberal Democrat, a scholar of 17th-century English rhetoric, Mormon environmentalism, world literature, and the book of Job; when he wrote an earlier book about the Founding Fathers, it was entirely about how right-wing patriots completely misunderstand them. So it would be easy to assume that Michael’s attachment to the idea of “America” would be distant, contextual, and intellectual at best.

That assumption would be wrong–or mostly wrong, anyway. You’d very likely be correct about the flag and the parades. But Michael’s latest book, We Must Not Be Enemies: Restoring America’s Civic Tradition, makes it clear that his attachment to–indeed, his “belief” in–the civic idea of America is both serious and strong. As long as I’ve known the man, it surprised me to see in these pages so much genuine passion and concern over the direction of the United States at the present moment. When he takes a line from the famous closing paragraph of Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address–“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies”–as his title, he really means it: he really believes that America’s liberal democracy both provides a vital opportunity for, and levies upon us all a specific demand for, friendship. That friendship is, in his view, essential to America’s “civic tradition”; democratic legitimacy in the American state–to say nothing of good government–is impossible without it. [Read more…]

An Altar Under Crossed Stars

Thanks to Calvin Burke for sharing this very personal story.

** All identifying details have been changed to protect privacy. I loved this boy too much to tell you or anyone else who he is. You will never find him; don’t even try.

The problem is, when he smiles, he knocks stars out of the sky. [Read more…]

Review of Blumell, NT History, Culture and Society

Blumell

This post is a review of Lincoln H. Blumell, editor, New Testament History, Culture, and Society: A Background to the Texts of the New Testament (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, in cooperation with Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2019). 836 pages.

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Review of Barbara Brown Taylor’s Holy Envy

Barbara Brown Taylor is perhaps the best thinker and writer that I ever blew the chance to hear live. Several years ago, I attended a conference at which she and Miroslov Volf were the featured speakers. Volf was the opening plenary speaker, and Taylor was the closing plenary speaker. I was not familiar with Taylor at the time, and I had a fairly small menu of flights to choose from when I booked the flight. So I chose an evening flight back home that required me to miss the closing session. To make up for it, I bought An Altar in the World and read it in the flight. By the time I landed, I realized what a mistake I had made.

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Who Wears a Bow Tie? A Completely Unscientific Internet Poll.

Hey! Its me! In a bow tie!

For Father’s Day about two years ago, my wife and kids gave me a couple bow ties.

I proceeded to not wear them for several months, largely because I never remembered during the week to learn to tie a bow tie and, in the rush of getting my family getting itself ready to go to church, I never had time Sunday mornings. Eventually, though, I learned to tie a bow tie (thanks internet!). From there, well, it’s not like I’ve never gone back—I have a great collection of neckties, and I enjoy wearing them occasionally—but more often than not, I choose one of my bow ties.[fn1]

Growing up, I’m almost entirely sure I never saw anybody at church wearing a bow tie.[fn2] Similarly, I never saw it at BYU or for the several years I lived in New York. [Read more…]

Designing the Scriptures.

Today it’s in the news that President Nelson went and met with Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister. This was a little bit more interesting than just any meeting with a world leader for two reasons: (1) Ardern has been widely praised recently for her leadership, including her response to violence in her country, and (2) Ardern herself was raised in the church, but says she left the church in 2005 and currently identifies herself as agnostic.

But this post isn’t about that meeting, it’s about how we print and bind the scriptures. President Nelson made a gift to Ardern of what appears to be a very nice Deseret Book “Legacy Edition” of the Book of Mormon. It’s a nicely done hardcover edition that would look beautiful on a shelf, but it’s pretty pricey retailing around $100. Anyway, that got me thinking about what my ideal edition of the scriptures for my personal use would look like if I could design it myself.

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#BCCSundaySchool2019: “Behold, Thy King Cometh”

 

Matthew 21–23; Mark 11; Luke 19–20; John 12

These passages cover Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the Temple. John puts the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Christ’s ministry; the three synoptics (Matthew, Mark, Luke) put it toward the end. It is the inciting incident which leads the Jerusalem elite to seek Jesus’s death for Matthew, Mark, and Luke; as Mark has it, in 11:18 (KJV):

And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.

How should we understand what was happening here?  The first thing to note is that the people doing business at the temple were not necessarily doing wrong, so we cannot read this story as a critique of a self-evident crime; it’s not as though these were people hanging around selling souvenirs in a sacred place.
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Dialogue Editor Search Announcement

Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought has long served as the journal of record for the intellectual and cultural life of the Mormon people. Thanks to five decades of work by editors, authors, and the Board, Dialogue  continues to provide space for some of the faith’s most vibrant thinking on cultural, historical, theological, and social issues. To further this mission, we have recently completed a transition that has made all content freely available on our new website at the moment of publication and given us a more substantial internet presence with web-only content. Beginning in 2020, we will transition our production operations to the University of Illinois Press. With these actions, Dialogue will retain its status as a crucial voice in modern Mormonism. To continue this tradition, and in accordance with the journal’s transition to a new production model, Dialogue’s Board of Directors announces a search for a new editor to take control starting with the Summer 2020 issue.

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The Unborn

The appointment of conservative justice Bret Kavanaugh has emboldened some states to take a run at challenging Roe v. Wade by putting forward legislation to outlaw abortion that is a deliberate overreach to force the issue in front of the Supreme Court.[1] From my own conversations with fellow ward members, one reason many LDS voters chose to elect Trump in 2016 is that they, like many social conservatives, vehemently oppose abortion and would like to see the overturn of Roe v. Wade.[2] However, LDS theology is not nearly as anti-abortion as many other conservative religions. Like many other platforms, this is one where both parties’ views are potentially consistent with the church’s stance. [Read more…]

Fear Factor

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This guest post is by Heidi Naylor, who teaches English at Boise State University and writes amazing books for BCC Press on the side.

My brother Karl Beus and his wife Lisa have worked hard to help build an interfaith alliance in their Cleveland community. As good people, and as Latter-day Saints, they’ve forged relationships with the local Islamic congregation, with benefits of community and friendship for all involved. [Read more…]

Love: A Proclamation to the World

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Today’s Proclamation is courtesy of best-selling author Mette Ivie Harrison.

I proclaim to my family of Latter-day Saints today that love is the organizing principle of the universe and that it is the most important value of all previous generations, all future generations, and of this generation. The pure love of Christ is the foundation of all that we do as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is what teaches us to find the divine in ourselves. It is what allows us to see ourselves and others more clearly. It is the only thing that enables us to become better people: kinder, more compassionate, more understanding, more expansive in our views, wiser, more learned, and more capable of serving others truly—without judgment or superiority. [Read more…]

“What Lack I Yet?”: #BCCSundaySchool2019

The readings for this lesson deal with a few different substantive topics: Marriage and divorce, the role of material wealth in a disciple’s life, prayer, soteriology (the theology of what it means to be saved and how we are saved), church leadership, children, and miraculous healing.

But if there is a unifying theme to these readings it is how Jesus’s teaching often disrupt what are often our natural or cultural beliefs about what is righteous and call us to believe and practice something that is much harder to believe, and much more demanding to practice. We naturally and culturally want to believe that we can be righteous by following the rules, and that therefore, if we just find out the right rules, we can make ourselves righteous and earn salvation or exaltation or blessings by following them.

But Jesus’s message over and over in these readings is that following the rules won’t make you righteous. Instead, if you want to become righteous you have to become a fundamentally different kind of person. The kind of person that humbles himself as a child, sells all that he has and gives it to the poor, serves others, and rather than glorying in his obedience to the commandments, begs only to be forgiven for all the ways he has failed to keep them, and follows Jesus all the way to the cross. [Read more…]

The Image Returns: a review of George Handley, AMERICAN FORK

American Fork

Thanks to friend of BCC James Egan for this thoughtful review.

Novels present unreal worlds that, despite their fictions, offer implicit visions of the reality we inhabit as readers. We sit in judgment of these visions. We expect novelists, to borrow a phrase from the literary theorist Northrop Frye, to tell us “not what happened, but happens: not what did take place, but the kind of thing that always does take place.” Consequently, as the critic James Wood writes, “Fiction moves in the shadow of doubt, knows itself to be a true lie, knows that any moment it might fail to make its case.” We know this as readers, and we get puzzled, curious, or even angry if a novel violates our sense of “what happens.” [Read more…]

The Equality Act and Religious Freedom Exemptions

This afternoon the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement opposing the proposed federal “Equality Act.”

BACKGROUND ON THE EQUALITY ACT

I read the entire Equality Act this afternoon.  The Equality Act’s principal purpose is to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other federal civil rights provisions, to clarify that sex discrimination includes sexual orientation/gender identity discrimination.  This effort is timely.  Whether “discrimination on the basis of failure to conform with gender stereotypes” constitutes “sex discrimination”  is a question courts have wrestled with for decades.  The U.S. Supreme Court last month agreed to decide it.  Like legislatures often do, Congress is trying to solve any ambiguity surrounding the interpretation with explicit clarification. [Read more…]

Things that Aren’t Religious Freedom

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Linguistic Curiosity and Mormon Culture

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A few years ago, I found myself enmeshed in a long afternoon conversation with a linguistics professor.  His area of expertise includes analyzing changes to English wrought by internet communications.  As he opined on the etymological drift of a verb’s transitive and intransitive forms during the last twenty years, I was fascinated by his approach to grammar and language.

“It must drive you crazy to be so precise with your usage,” I remarked, “and yet be surrounded by people who use words incorrectly all the time. Do you ever feel like Henry Higgins?”

Instead of agreeing, he challenged me.  “There is no such thing as incorrect word usage,” he responded. “Rather, when I hear others use a word in a non-standard way, I ask myself: what is the cultural context and experience in which they were raised that led them to that usage?  I’ve found asking that question leads to a wealth of productive research.” [Read more…]

A Voice From the Dust: Preserving Your Kids’ Humble Offerings

Last month, the The New York Times set its sights on children’s artwork, publishing two articles on sorting out the stuff your kids bring home—”I Love Throwing My Kids’ Artwork in the Garbage While They’re Sleeping” and “How to Keep Kids’ Art From Cluttering Up Your Home“—on the same day. I’m not sure what was in the air that April day that prompted the news powerhouse to devote two parenting features to the same topic, but I’m sure that most adults who care for children can relate to the problem of dealing with the things they bring home or make. My daughter’s artistic output hasn’t been nearly as prodigious since learning how to read, but for a while the preschool was asking us to bring in more paper since it was our kid who was using most of it.

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Explainer: Tax-Exempt Salt Lake Tribune

Yesterday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Salt Lake Tribune has been in serious discussions about becoming a tax-exempt newspaper.[fn1]

This is kind of a big deal. I mean, it wouldn’t be the first tax-exempt newsroom, of course. NPR, for example, has been delivering news as a tax-exempt organization since 1971. And it’s not even the first newspaper (-like organization): ProPublica, a tax-exempt investigative newsroom, has been tax-exempt for more than a decade, and Voice of San Diego, which does the same type of investigative journalism in the San Diego region, has been exempt since 2005.[fn2] WNYC’s On the Media was talking about the potential of newspapers become tax-exempt around that same time, too.[fn3]

But if this happens, the Trib would become the first legacy newspaper to switch from a for-profit model to a tax-exempt, not-for-profit model. Which raises at least two significant questions: why and how. So let’s do an Explainer! [Read more…]

Terrorism and Hospitality

In 2012, I stayed at the Taj Mumbai Hotel. I was there on business, my third stop visiting our India offices that fell under my jurisdiction. My manager assistant who was traveling with me was raised in Mumbai (which he insisted on calling Bombay, the name the city was called until 1995 when political parties changed). The hotel is a luxurious Colonialist structure (built in 1903) with 120 rooms and several high end restaurants. The reception staff proudly mentioned (for my benefit, as an American) that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had stayed there in 2009 and pointed to the place just outside the security-walled entrance where President Obama made a statement to the press. These events were noteworthy because the hotel was among locations that were attacked in 2008 by Pakistani terrorists who landed a boat a few yards from the entrance, then went on to massacre nearly 200 citizens, wounding 300 more, at 12 locations around the city. Because I had stayed in the hotel, I was intrigued about the limited release movie Hotel Mumbai that just came out, so we went a week ago last Friday. It was a haunting experience. [Read more…]

Notes on the history of the one-year wait

Today the First Presidency announced that “[w]here a licensed marriage is not permitted in the temple, or when a temple marriage would cause parents or immediate family members to feel excluded, a civil ceremony followed by a temple sealing is authorized.” [editorial note: see Jared Cooks comment (#2) below] I thought I would share a few notes about the history of the policy that this announcement changed.
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Under What Circumstances Does the New Marriage Policy Apply?

As Peter’s post points out, the First Presidency today announced that it has ended the policy that couples who live in countries that allow the church to perform legally binding marriages in the temple, but who are married outside the temple in a civil ceremony, must wait at least a year after their civil wedding to be married in the temple.

The First Presidency letter includes this line in the third paragraph: “Where a licensed marriage is not permitted in the temple, or when a temple marriage would cause parents or immediate family members to feel excluded, a civil ceremony followed by a temple sealing is authorized.” Some who have read the letter are questioning whether this implies that in places where a licensed marriage is permitted in the temple, and in situations where “parents or immediate family members” would not be excluded, a civil ceremony followed by a temple sealing is not authorized.

I think that would be a bad misreading of the First Presidency’s letter. The idea is that by saying one thing is true, the First Presidency is implicitly also that the converse is not true–what lawyers would call the canon of expressio unius exclusion alterius. And that may be a useful guide for interpretation in some cases, but in this case, I think it would be inconsistent with the rest of the letter to read it this way.

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