“The Word of God Grew and Multiplied, Acts 10-15” #BCCSundaySchool2019

Part One: Spooky Jewish Hell Dream

I do not know, and certainly cannot prove, that the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” number in the Book of Mormon musical is based on Peter’s remarkable dream in Acts 10:10-15. But it could have been. It is exactly the sort of image that I would use to try to convey to contemporary Latter-day Saints–dancing coffee cups and other forbidden items torturing the young Mormon with their forbiddenness and demanding to be consumed. I would probably throw in some cigarettes and beer–and maybe a Playboy or two. But you get the point. It was dream designed to confront Peter with the things that made him the most religiously uncomfortable.

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The Tax Roots of OD2(?)

It’s become an article of faith in some circles that the end of the racial temple and priesthood ban was motivated, at least in part, by the specter of the church losing its tax-exempt status. And that’s not just the bloggernacle, and it’s not just ex-Mormon reddit (though you can certainly find the assertion—repeatedly—on various internet fora). The same claim is made in academically rigorous places.

For example, in The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History, Harris and Bringhurst write,

Specifically, the Mormon hierarchy became concerned about potential lawsuits over their tax exemption status, particularly in light of the student protests against BYU in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They had watched very closely the Bob Jones University case, in which the IRS revoked its tax exemption status in an important 1975 ruling.

(p. 106) [Read more…]

Monday Morning Theological Poll: Canon Conundrum Edition

Does it matter if the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is ever canonized?


Justify your answer below.

Country Work

So I cracked open the latest BYU Studies Quarterly 58/2 (2019) and read the first article, Reid L. Neilson and Carson V. Teuscher, “Pilgrimage to Palmyra: President B.H. Roberts and the Eastern States Mission’s 1923 Commemoration of Cumorah.” B.H. Roberts was the President of the Eastern States Mission, and September 1923 was going to be the 100-ywar anniversary of Moroni’s appearance to Joseph Smith on the Hill Cumorah, and Roberts wanted to hold a big event to celebrate that milestone (which would be attended by the Church President and several Apostles). As part of the spiritual preparation, Roberts instituted a season of “country work” that summer for the missionaries. “Country work” or “country tracting” is a Mormon expression for having the missionaries leave the cities and towns in which they are stationed, walk out into the countryside, and rely on the kindness of strangers for food and lodging. This is the Mormon version of preaching the Gospel “without purse or scrip.” I find this old practice really interesting and so resolved to blog a bit about it. [Read more…]

Lesson 28 #BCCSundaySchool2019: “What Wilt Thou Have Me Do”

Acts 6 Acts 7 Acts 8 Acts 9

These chapters are crucial to understanding the development of the early Christian church and there is just no way to discuss everything in them. Moreover, the lesson manual is very brief, so consider this a supplement to the material in the manual. These chapters include the conversion story of Paul (Acts 9) and since that story is so well known, I’m not going to emphasize it. Instead, I will focus mostly on how these chapters deal with cultural differences in the Jerusalem church and what that reveals about how the early church was getting on in the period shortly after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and departure. Even so, we will barely scratch the surface, yet I hope there will be something useful for the lesson this coming Sunday. One important thing to keep in mind is that Acts, like the Gospel of Luke (they likely had the same author) was written with a great deal of hindsight. I mean, much had taken place between the time of Jesus and the composing of Acts, most importantly perhaps, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 AD. Thus, the author is including events with a purpose: to explain through early origin stories (likely the subject of preaching during the apostolic and post-apostolic years) how the church of circa 90 AD got where it was and help explain the Christian position relative to the Empire since Luke more than the other writers of the Gospels is writing to people in a broader Roman world.
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Monday Morning Theological Poll: Translation Edition

When we say, in the Articles of Faith, that we believe in the Bible, “as far as it is translated correctly,” what exactly do we mean?


Justify your answer below.

“Ye Shall be Witnesses Unto Me.” #BCCSundaySchool2019

Readings: Acts 1-5

This week we have finished the gospels and are moving into Acts. The transition here is from the story of Jesus to the story of the church and the apostles. Sometimes we talk of Jesus having organized his church during his ministry, but that’s not really accurate, at least not according to the gospels. He makes a reference to having “ordained” his apostles, but he doesn’t do (m)any of the other things we associate with ecclesiology in the modern church.

He doesn’t organize wards or stakes. Unless you count the last supper as an instance of the sacrament, he doesn’t really perform ordinances (other than maybe the equivocal reference to having ordained the apostles, and, maybe when he “breathes on” them and tells them “receive ye the holy ghost”). And if you do count the last supper, he doesn’t do it until the very end of his ministry. He doesn’t seem to organize regular weekly meetings with hymns and preaching. He doesn’t seem to create any kind of organization at all. His mortal ministry is almost entirely as an itinerant preacher of repentance and a sometimes cryptic prophet. The work of organizing the movement of people he left behind when he ascended to heaven was something he left to the apostles. And it’s not something they did all at once, it’s something that developed over time, partly from revelations, partly from policy decisions, or even just chance, and partly from traditions that developed. The beginning of that development is the story that Acts tells.

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Book Review Round-up

My goal here is to provide brief reviews to give readers a sense of what the books are about, what they’re like, their general quality and a recommendation of whether or not the book belongs in the collection of the average reader. This time, some heavy hitters in Mormon Studies. [Read more…]

Becoming the Beloved Disciple

Eric Huntsman is working on the Gospel of John volume of the BYU New Testament Commentary. When it appears, it no doubt will be three inches thick, weigh several pounds, and be substantial enough to serve as a door stop if need be. But as an appetizer to that forthcoming tome, Eric has recently published a slighter, less intimidating volume at 155 pages, which is more of a devotional overview of the Gospel, titled Becoming the Beloved Disciple: Coming unto Christ through the Gospel of John, published by Cedar Fort, of which this blog post is a review. [Read more…]

Why Stand Ye Gazing Up into Heaven?

This is not your BCC Gospel Doctrine Post for the week. But it is a post inspired by the first chapter of the Book of Acts, which is part of this week’s reading. It’s one of those passages that I’ve read before but never really noticed. It’s the time that the angels told the apostles to quit looking for God in the sky.

[Read more…]

Monday Morning Theological Poll: Historicity Edition

Is it theologically necessary for the Book of Mormon to describe actual, objective history for it to be divine in origin? This one was hard to write. I think I’m just scratching the surface.


Justify your choice below.

LGB Saints at Church: Some Suggestions

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Michael is from a multigenerational Latter-day Saint family but has spent the majority of his life outside of the Mormon corridor. He’s not employed by academia but looks for opportunities to scratch his academic itch.

This is a follow-up post to his description of cultural challenges facing the LGB community within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  As explained in the first post, the “T” is omitted intentionally out of respect for differences in transgender experience.

How can local Latter-day Saints and their leaders help to make our wards and stakes places of refuge, love, and sanctification for LGB Saints?

Based on my observations, I offer a few suggestions.  I acknowledge, with deepest gratitude, my indebtedness to Eve Tushnet’s Gay and Catholic for her unique perspective and thoughts on LGB people in Catholicism.  In addition, please note that I think many of the issues Latter-day Saints have with LGB Saints can be addressed by rethinking the place of single people in the Church, regardless of their sexual orientation.  [Read more…]

LGB Saints at Church: Some Challenges

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Michael is from a multigenerational Latter-day Saint family but has spent the majority of his life outside of the Mormon corridor. He’s not employed by academia but looks for opportunities to scratch his academic itch.

PREFACE

When the Church retracted the November 2015 set of LGB-related Church policies I felt relief, like taking a breath of air after too much time underwater.  As the news sunk in, one common reaction I saw was would-be allies asking what everyday Latter-day Saints could do to make their LGBT brothers and sisters feel more welcome.

Most of the proffered answers to that question focused on changing doctrine, policy, and teachings.  That is not my answer — or at least, not my starting point.  I intend to adapt the question Neylan McBaine poses in Women at Church: “accepting the doctrines and policies we have in place in the Church today, how can we help improve [LGB]-cooperative practices on the local level so as to relieve unnecessary tensions caused by cultural or historically normative practices?” [Read more…]

Where Does “Restoration Christian” Authority End, and “Mormon Christian” Authority Begin?

[I recently was invited to speak about Mormonism and authority at local ecumenical Christian conference here in Wichita, sponsored by the Eighth Day Institute during their annual “Florovsky-Newman Week.” I’ve done stuff with Eighth Day a few times before, but this was a real challenge, talking about Joseph Smith and the Mormon doctrine of apostasy in front of a mostly Catholic and Orthodox audience. The following is an expansion of my comments.]

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

The question of “secularism” in the (formerly?) Christian world today is often expressed as one of authority. It is one thing to place one’s faith in the existence, teachings, and salvific promises of Jesus Christ, but another thing entirely to trust that one is in an “authorized” relationship with Him. The guiding assumption of this conference, grounded as it is in the legacies of John Henry Newman and Georges Florovsky, is that such confidence is to be found by orienting oneself–whatever that may mean–to the Church Fathers. As the conference’s own announcement describes it, “by returning to the common Tradition, by learning to read the Fathers as living masters, rather than as historical documents…[we] deepen [our] understanding of the authority by which the Church grounds her faith and morals.” [Read more…]

Chains of Persuasion: a Symposium about Religion and Democracy, Conclusion

Ben Hertzberg concludes our symposium by responding to the previous three reviews. Benjamin Hertzberg is a fellow at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion. He lives and works in Northern Virginia.

Read the reviews by Michael Austin, Simone Chambers, and Russell Arben Fox

[Read more…]

Just Read This Right Now

A Honduran asylum seeker, recently released from federal detention with fellow immigrants, holds the hand of her 6-year-old daughter at a bus depot in McAllen, Texas, on June 11, 2019.Christ in the Camps,” by Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic:

“I humbly reach out to the only faction of Americans I know of who have both the ear of the administration and who care about children: my brothers and sisters in Christ who attend Evangelical churches….I ask the pastors to request of the administration that all of us–the volunteers and charitable givers of all faiths and of no faith, the army of us who are so eager to help these children–can have access to the sites. Allow us to bring cots and toothbrushes and blankets and food. Allow us to arrange for carefully screened volunteers to work shifts at the sites, to help with diapers and bedtimes and combing for lice and checking for fevers. Allow us to be there when one of these children wakes up from a nightmare or breaks down from sorrow.”

As they used to say back when blogging actually worked, read the whole thing.

Jesus Wants Me for a Shade Tree

We’re in the middle of yet another heatwave—it’s been the hottest June ever, apparently—so this morning I got up at 5:30 a.m. to avoid the worst of the heat and go for a bike ride. But the sun had been up since 4:53 a.m. and by the time I got to the long, uphill part of my route on the east-facing flank of the local hill, I was gasping like a forgotten fish on the sun-baked deck of a Greek fishing boat. In the midst of my travails, I encountered a group of three elderly men. They too are regulars of the early morning fitness scene, and we run across each other every few weeks or so. We always greet in passing, but today one of them had a little more on tap. Looking somewhat bemused at the red-faced spectacle before them (they were walking downhill while I was spinning uphill), he called out: “Was haben Sie verbrochen, dass Sie heute nicht hitzefrei bekommen?” (What crime have you committed to not get a break from the heat today?)

[Read more…]

Clearance vs. Cancellation

From the Women’s Bible Commentary:

Deuteronomy prohibits the husband, who sought to secure for himself a cheap divorce from his spurned bride, from ever divorcing her. To our ears, this provision sounds appalling, binding a young girl for the rest of her life to a man who “hates” her. In patriarchal ancient Judah, where women’s social status and economic survival depended on membership in a male-headed household, the provision was probably intended to guarantee her security.

The Deuteronomic law relies on some assumptions that don’t match our modern interpretation of marriage:

  • Women in marriage are entitled to protection because they are unable to protect themselves.
  • Men in marriage are obligated to protect the women they marry because those women are otherwise unable to protect themselves.

In the iron age society of Deuteronomy, marriage entitles women but obligates men. Restricting men from abandoning their obligation is the objective of restrictions on divorce, not an intention to protect women from harm within the marriage relationship (which isn’t addressed), but to require men to protect women from a patriarchal society in which they have no standing or power and are financially and physically vulnerable. [Read more…]

Chains of Persuasion: a Symposium about Religion and Democracy, Part 3

Our third review of Ben Hertzberg’s Chains of Persuasion is provided by Russell Arben Fox, BCC permablogger and professor of political science at Friends University in Wichita, KS. Read the previous reviews here and here.

[Read more…]

Chains of Persuasion: a Symposium about Religion and Democracy, Part 2

Our second review of Ben Hertzberg’s Chains of Persuasion is provided by Simone Chambers, professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine. Read the first review here. [Read more…]

Lesson 26: “He Is Risen.” Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20-21 #BCCSundaySchool2019

This is my first crack at one of these Gospel Doctrine lessons, and at first I didn’t have a good sense as to how to approach it. I began by reading the scriptural selections. Then I read the Come Follow Me manual, and I’m sorry, but there’s just not much there. My next thought was to focus on the differences  among the accounts, which would require the creation of a Taylor-siblings-style really big chart, which could be fun. But that seemed like it was going to develop way more material than would fit in a blog post (and it also seemed like way too much work). So finally I decided to focus on Mark 16:1-8. Part of the reason is to try to model  how there is a virtue to focusing on a single Gospel at a time in lieu of always pursuing the harmonization project. Also, this is the earliest resurrection account that we have. And finally, it seemed an opportunity to intrract with Julie’s Mark commentary. [1] So that is the plan. [Read more…]

Chains of Persuasion: a Symposium about Religion and Democracy, Part 1

Ben Hertzberg, an old friend of By Common Consent, has generously agreed to participate in a symposium about his book, published late in 2018, Chains of Persuasion: A Framework for Religion in Democracy. It provides a fascinating, dense, and serious theoretical analysis of how religious believers (he focuses on Mormons and Muslims in particular, but his arguments are applicable to all) can, and should, argue about morality in a pluralistic democracy like the United States. This symposium–which will run through the blog this week–will consist for three short reviews of the book, after which Ben will respond. The first review is provided by Michael Austin, a BCC permablogger and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Theological Poll: Also-Ran Edition

What is the difference between the lower two tiers of the celestial kingdom and the terrestrial kingdom in the eternities? We’re going to exclude differences in glory and types of bodies from this poll, because those seem too obvious (and vague) to me. Complain below, if you must.


Justify your answers in the comments.

Welcome Richelle Wilson to BCC!

By Common Consent is thrilled to welcome a new permanent blogger to the team, Richelle Wilson.  Richelle is pursuing a Ph.D in Scandanavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin.  She also works at the Madison radio station WORT FM and serves as a copy editor extraordinaire at Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought.

Richelle is well-beloved in the Mormon Studies community, but I called dibs on her blog nomination text because I’ve known her the longest.  Richelle grew up in Michigan and I grew up in Indiana; we met at an Especially for Youth on Indiana University’s campus nearly 20 years ago.  As teenage girls we bonded not over spirituality or service, but cute boys.  Richelle had an EFY crush-of-the-week on Spencer, a guyfriend from my home ward.  She calculated that if she befriended me she could triangulate her way into his social circle.

Richelle’s crushing attempts failed, but our friendship survived! [Read more…]

The Stranger and His Friend

A couple of months ago the sister in charge of our sacrament meeting music wanted to arrange for someone to sing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” today, June 23, because it would be the Sunday before June 27. She asked one guy to do this, and he agreed at first, but it turned out he wasn’t really excited to do it, so I said I’d do it if I could turn it into a talk first and give an introduction to the song, which turned out to be fine. So I did it in sacrament meeting this morning, and it turned out pretty  well. I didn’t write down the text of my remarks, so while they’re still fresh in my mind I’m going to write them down here for future reference: [Read more…]

Jane

I’m fairly involved in the broad field of Mormon Studies. My own particular niche in Mormon Studies is as a scripturist; more common is for folks to focus on Mormon history. I follow history studies as best I can (such as by reading the journals and attending the conferences), but I don’t consider myself an actual historian the way so many of my friends are. I’m more a consumer of history than a producer of it, and I admire and envy my many friends who are full fledged history nerds. [Read more…]

Epistemic Humility and the Crisis in the Church

Human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolours the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.
                                    —Francis Bacon, Novum Organon

You are wrong. You are profoundly and disturbingly wrong about a spectacularly large number of things. You accept facts that are not facts, values that are incompatible with each other, and a fair number of truly dumb ideas about how to change the world. If you ever really understood the extent of your wrongness, you would never trust another word you said.

[Read more…]

King Brigham! (Also, Dogs)

A couple taxable nuisances. Photo by ipet photo on Unsplash

Last week, for various reasons that involve research and things, I fell down the rabbit hole of nineteenth-century dog taxes in the U.S. I looked through tons of archival newspapers to see why U.S. cities and states imposed taxes on the ownership of dogs. (Short answer: nineteenth-century Americans often—though not always—considered dogs nuisances. In a lot of cases, the justification was that dogs attacked farmers’ sheep; sometimes it was the risk of rabies (“hydrophobia”). In any event, people believed that a tax on dogs, by raising the price, would reduce the number of dogs in the town.)

In my initial Googling, I learned that the Bloomington, IL, Pantagraph was particularly anti-dog. So I decided to take a look at its dog-related articles. Imagine my surprise when, in the April 1, 1857, edition, I saw an article on Utah. It read: [Read more…]

Book Review—Jana Riess, The Next Mormons

41VNW2NVATLRichelle Wilson is a PhD student in Scandinavian studies and comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is a talk producer at community radio station WORT 89.9 FM and a member of Dialogue’s editorial staff.

When I first heard Jana Riess was undertaking research about Millennial Mormons, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait for this book to be released. Given the heightened sense of generational divide in America right now, thanks in no small part to deepening political polarization and an ongoing series of culture wars run amok, research like this is vital for the health of our communities. 

The Next Mormons doesn’t disappoint. Riess writes in a clear, engaging style that is approachable to non-specialists and folks who don’t know much about Mormonism. In spite of its seemingly niche topic, I hope this book receives a wider audience since Riess’s findings are important and have broader implications for religion in 21st-century America. [Read more…]

I Am Worried about Jessica.

Lona Gynt is a friend of BCC.  She is a Latter-day Saint and works as a physician in the Eastern United States and also shares poetry and other comment in her blog “Scattered thoughts made a little more random” at lonagynt.wordpress.com.  She is a transgender woman who writes under  a pseudonym for the time being.

I am worried about Jessica.

Jessica is not her real name, but this can get confusing since she does not consider her legal birth name to be her real name either.

I met Jessica through my friend Sophia.  Like me, Sophia is a transgender woman, but we do have some key differences. I am a lifelong Latter-day Saint.  I have not openly transitioned socially to a female role, even though I have been treated with female hormones for many years to medically transition my body to match my internal identity and to combat overpowering gender dysphoria.  Sophia lives in Europe, she is not Latter-day Saint, she has transitioned medically and socially to the female gender.  She is a compassionate and empathetic person, so I paid attention when she wrote me the following:

[Read more…]