Lesson 3: The Creation #BCCSundaySchool2018

Learning Outcomes

Have class members learn and discuss how our doctrine uniquely celebrates the beauty of God’s creation of both the Earth and of all humankind, particularly the gift of our physical bodies.  Note:  There is likely more material here than can be covered in a single period, use your best judgment to encourage faithful discussion on the topics most relevant to your class.

Readings

Introduction

Back in college, I took several semester-long courses on early Christianity, including one dedicated exclusively to early Christian heresies.  Of these, there was one belief, popular among early Gnostics, that truly shocked me.  Namely: Creation was a great mistake.  All physical matter is imbued with evil.  Our goal as Christians is to transcend the evil corruption of earthly mortality and enter a pure spiritual state.  That seemed fundamentally contrary to everything I had learned about the Creation and Plan of Salvation as a Mormon youth. [Read more…]

Myths and Heroes and Lawless Women

Vashti, one of the characters in the book

Heather Harris Bergevin is the author of Lawless Women, the latest book from BCC Press. We asked her to share some thoughts about where her book of poems comes from, and where she hopes it will take us.

I love mythology. My favorite stories as a child were always fairy tales, like the Oz Books or the Hobbit, and Greek or Egyptian legends. The more I read, the more mythology seemed to be just bit of history told in a way that people might actually want to learn it. Non-boring history plus telling stories over campfires, equals absolute magic. Heroics are tricky and fraught with misinterpretation. Often, a hero might get mistaken for a villain, or vice versa. The dragon, after all, is not telling the same stories to its children as the knight.

The trick is, we don’t expect our heroes to be perfect, because they’re far more identifiable if they are almost as flawed as we are. Trickster gods, such as Loki and Ananzi, are sneaky and hurtful and mischievous…and we adore them, laugh over their exploits, and dress up as them for conventions. We love our villains almost as much as our superheroes.

We love them, because we are them. [Read more…]

The Reluctant Samaritan

No doubt that by now you have heard the reports about the stunning case of child neglect and abuse that came to light when one of thirteen children held captive in her own home was able to escape and notify authorities. The site of this indescribable ordeal was, perhaps contrary to expectations, a nondescript residence in a middle-class Southern California neighborhood. The perpetrators were no strangers but the children’s own parents who, according to a neighbor, seemed “just very normal“:

“‘They seemed like very nice people,’ [the neighbor] said. ‘They spoke often and fondly of their children.'”

With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that those appearances were deceiving—the parents have been charged with 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse and 12 counts of false imprisonment. The district attorney on the case appealed for witnesses to come forward: “Someone must have seen something, someone must have noticed something.”  [Read more…]

Mystery, If We’ll Have It

This material supplements my post on the calling of President Nelson to the First Presidency.

President Nelson tells audience there is 'no mystery' in the succession, at worldwide video conference, announcing new First Presidency.

President Nelson tells audience there is ‘no mystery’ in the succession, at worldwide video conference, announcing new First Presidency.

During yesterday’s press event—and in materials furnished by various Church entities, now and in the past—the narrative advances the idea that there was never any doubt that President Nelson would be President Nelson, that this is just as the Lord wished it, and that this is as it always has been—they even used the phrase “no mystery”. But Church history tells us this claim is incomplete.

Mystery is not a four-letter word. [Read more…]

The Longest, Hardest, Calling…

Feedback I received in the hours after I posted this essay made it clear to me that the structure and word choice of the original obscured my intent—namely, to ask how one balances serious reservations about President Nelson and disappointment in the Quorum of the Twelve with a deep and abiding desire to sustain them and the work of God’s Kingdom, which they are called to administer. Ironically, the original post highlighted just how hard it is to strike such a balance… Thankfully, online, PUBLISH isn’t the end of the story.

Also: check out my supplemental post Mystery, If We’ll Have It.

Note to self: spend less time writing at 2am.

Masthead-2018

Yesterday morning, the Church hosted a press event to announce a new First Presidency and President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

I won’t keep you in suspense…

President Eyring remains in the First Presidency, though as Second Counselor (he served as President Monson’s First Counselor). President Uchtdorf has returned to the Quorum of the Twelve (while not unheard of, the last time a counselor was not retained for reasons unrelated to their health, was in 1970, when President Joseph Fielding Smith Jr replaced President Hugh B. Brown with Elder N. Eldon Tanner).

President Oaks retains his title as President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, with Elder M. Russell Ballard called as Acting President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. There are currently two vacancies in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles—one left by the passing of Elder Robert D Hales and the other by the departure of President Nelson to the First Presidency.

These changes are hardly surprising.

Yet, for some in our midst—myself included—they are still disappointing.  [Read more…]

A Commentary on the JST of 1 Corinthians

I have written a paper with the captioned title and posted it on SSRN. You can read it here. I’d like to tell you a little bit about the genesis of this project. [Read more…]

A Note On BCC Editorial Practices 

By Common Consent has long thrived as a community where our bloggers may post on any topic they choose, at any time.

On occasion, our bloggers either seek out or offer feedback on each other’s posts. Yesterday, both bloggers and readers expressed concerns about one post, “The Longest, Hardest Calling.”  We decided to take the post offline temporarily and work through concerns and suggested edits.  We hope to bring the post back up soon.  [UPDATE 6pm EST: It’s back up.]

We are committed to providing a forum for the broad Mormon community to engage in faithful, respectful and thoughtful dialogue about all aspects of the Church.

The President of the Church and the Prophet to the Church.

In July of 1843, in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith said something that observers interpreted as a proposal to call his brother Hyrum as Prophet in his place. He was reportedly confronted by church members who protested on the basis that he, not Hyrum, enjoyed the gift of prophecy. A week later, Joseph explained that he had said it “ironically,” or “to try the church members’ faith.” He explained that “the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus,” quoting the Book of Revelation, and referred to the promises of the melchizedek priesthood. [1]

These statements are open to some interpretation, but I believe Joseph Smith was getting at two things: First, his reference to the priesthood suggests that the gift of prophecy he enjoyed was something that the Lord promised not to him alone, but to all those ordained to the melchizedek priesthood. [2] But second, even more radically democratic, his reference to the “testimony of Jesus” as the spirit of prophecy suggests that prophecy was a gift promised not just to melchizedek priesthood holders, and not even just to baptized members of the church, but to any person with a testimony of Jesus.  [Read more…]

Announcing “Lawless Women” by Heather Harris Bergevin

At BCC Press, we are all about breaking rules. And maybe the biggest rule in contemporary publishing  is “nobody reads serious poetry.” We say pshaw! As we found out with our blockbuster international bestseller Mother’s Milk, just about everybody reads serious poetry if it is also REALLY FREAKING GOOD. And just to prove it, we are doing it again.

Lawless Women, Heather Harris Bergevin’s new book, is probably not like any book of poetry you have ever read. It’s better—deeper, funnier, wiser, and, well, cooler. It does things. Lots of things. And you need to read it. [Read more…]

MLK Jr. Day

To commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, below is the text of the speech he gave when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. I hope we will all be engaged in the work of further justice, equality and peace.

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen: [Read more…]

Update: 2018 MSSJ Pilgrimage – California Mission Trail

 

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A view of Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Carmelo as one approaches from the north

As announced last September, the Mormon Society of St. James (MSSJ) is gearing up for its annual pilgrimage that will take place over Presidents Day weekend, February 16–19, 2018, along the Central Californian Coast. All those who would like to share their appreciation of God’s beautiful earth with good company are invited to join.

Over the Christmas holidays, our man on point—friend of the blog and fellow Canterbury pilgrim, DCL—was hard at work scouting the trail and putting together an excellent trip booklet with an itinerary as well as a wealth of details about the trail, history, transportation, accommodations, and so on. A map outlining our planned route can be found here. The events page is likewise a useful resource, especially for coordinating with other participants as the walk draws nearer.

Compared to previous pilgrimages, this one will be short in terms of both distance and time—just 31 miles of walking over three days—but I expect it will be no less sweet than our past undertakings. In fact, I suspect that for many, a less strenuous and time-intensive trek may be a selling point. At any rate, there’s still plenty of time to fill your lamps and get ready to join us on the Monterey Peninsula. Buen Camino!

 

The Burning Point Playlist

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of reading a thorough critique of my memoir, The Burning Point, published in 2017 by By Common Consent Press, in Issue 50:4 of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Reviewer Mel Henderson had a great idea: [Read more…]

Sitting in Council: First Sundays

If you’re like me, last Sunday was your first experience with the new third hour curriculum. Rather than a lesson, or even a General Conference talk, the first week of the month is “presidency’s choice” of topic. The second and third weeks are discussions on General Conference talks assigned by the presidency, and the fourth Sunday is on a topic assigned by the church (“Sabbath” for six consecutive months–kill me now). To me, switching from the Teachings manual to selected talks from the last General Conference is an upgrade for a few reasons. First, we spent more time on Howard Hunter than he actually spent in the role of church president. Some of these manuals were a little thin (his was pretty good, though). Second, we have a little more control on what talks we choose. Lastly, while I don’t love every General Conference talk, I figure those talks are more relevant to someone else, and there’s always something there for everyone.

Basically this gives us license to talk about what we want to talk about, which is steering into the skid since that’s what’s going to happen anyway. It feels more open. [Read more…]

Axes of Church Government

Today’s guest post comes from Christian Kimball.

There is a certain amount of speculation about President Nelson. What will he do? What will he be like? How will things change with Russell M. Nelson as President of the Church?

I suggest that nobody knows, and anybody who thinks they know doesn’t. There’s a good argument that “nobody” extends to President Nelson himself. My personal experience is that being a president—being the person in charge—is different than any previous experience and changes people in unexpected ways. The record is clear that being president of the Church, even after decades of full-time Church leadership and responsibility, changes people in unexpected ways.[1] In addition, I firmly believe and have witnessed that the issues that come to the table are often more important than the attitudes and beliefs that come to the job.  [Read more…]

Lesson 2: God Knew Abraham #BCCSundaySchool2018

Readings

Abraham 3, Moses 4:1-4

Learning Outcomes

By the end of class, class members will be able to

  1. Describe strategies for profitably reading Abraham.
  2. Evaluate what it means that God knew us before we were born.

Introduction

Eight years ago, I was sitting in a Sunday School class in Chicago with my daughter in my lap. I was probably half paying attention to the lesson, when suddenly the discussion started getting heated. People were arguing that we definitely, most certainly don’t believe in predestination. We’re foreordination people! Then others would pipe in that they didn’t see any substantive difference between predestination and foreordination. [Read more…]

Q&A with Foundational Texts of Mormonism editors

In the next couple of months Oxford University Press is publishing Foundational Texts of Mormonism. An important edited volume for any scholarship on Mormon history, the volume has chapters from folks like Richard Bushman, and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and BCC regular Bill Smith. The editors have kindly answered a few questions about the project for us. Also, OUP’s annual holiday sale extends into mid-January. They are offering 50% off many books, including Foundational Texts of Mormonism. Enter the code HOLIDAY17 to preorder this book for half price ($74.00 >> $37.00). This offer ends January 12, so if you want this book in your library now is the time to order.

[Read more…]

Doubt vs Faith: A False Opposition

It has been four and a half years since Elder Uchtdorf’s “Come, Join with Us” talk, one of the best talks in recent memory. His talk is inclusive, it is hopeful, it is practical and it is wise. Everyone should watch it and read it, in my opinion. There is one part in particular which has generated a fair amount of discussion, the line “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” Here is the more full quote, for context: [Read more…]

The Psychology of the Good Samaritan

O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8).

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While attending a legal ethics seminar last Saturday, I surprisingly had the most spiritual moment of my year.  A speaker there relayed the story of From Jerusalem to Jericho, an (apparently famous, but I had never heard of it) psychology study from 1973.  (A more readable journalistic summary is here.)  The authors specialized in research regarding what conditions prompt bystanders to help ailing strangers, rather than to ignore them.

The set-up was simple. At Princeton Theological Seminary, 40 theology students were assigned to prepare lectures as part of a final exam.  The exam occurred in a tight time frame: in 15-minute increments, instructors told individual students they needed to either leisurely wend their way across campus, or rush across campus, in order to make it to the building where their graded lecture would be recorded.  Half of the students were specifically assigned to speak on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

But the lecture wasn’t the real test.  The real test was that as they darted across campus, each student would encounter a sick and distressed man, lying in their path. [Read more…]

When Your Calling and Election is [in Doubt]. III. Fundamentalism (part 1).

So far this intermittent series has wandered from the Jerusalem Bishopric to Intelligent Design, and now to 20th-century Physics™ and Conservative Christianity. Also, it’s Old Testament-ish.

A Kid Gets Lost

In my eighth grade of public school, I had a physical education class, a science class, an English class, some kind of arithmetic class, something called “social studies,” a technical education class (“shop class”), and I don’t recall what else now. In trying to think through that period in my life, I realize there wasn’t much in the way of encouragement to think about hard problems of the day. That applied to social problems and civil rights, scientific issues, or even academic kinds of things. I vaguely remember my English teacher asking us to compose “themes,” the term for short essays in the day. I had no facility with that. I remember trying to puzzle through a paragraph or two on some topic for the class and coming up dead empty. I’m sure she modeled what she wanted us to do, but I was probably more concerned with the social dynamics of the classroom than whatever she said. Being concerned with those dynamics occupied a good portion of my day. Usually by formulating strategies for being invisible, except maybe to Susan Wilcox [not her real last name because I just don’t remember it now] and her very tall, haughty, Greek Orthodox friend, Olive. Olive [also not her real name for the same reason] showed up in a high school science class where she snubbed me as a science fair partner—rightly perceiving me as just wanting to hang on to whatever she was doing so I wouldn’t have to do anything myself.
[Read more…]

Unrest, Storytelling, and Understanding

Today’s guest post comes from Jessica Preece, an Associate Professor of Political Science at BYU.

I had the chance to watch the wonderful film Unrest the other day, which documents life with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  At least 1 million Americans experience ME/CFS, many of whom are undiagnosed.  It is a spectrum disorder and leaves about 75% of those affected unable to work.  A significant portion of are bedridden.  It is more common than Multiple Sclerosis, but much less well-known, in part because homebound sufferers are often invisible to society. Research on it is deeply underfunded. [Read more…]

Toward a Paradigm of JST Revisions

As our GD curriculum turns to the OT, we are going to start getting many comments in our GD classes based on the JST. In my experience these comments will invariably be based on an assumption that all such emendations reflect (in English) the original text of the passage, the KJV having been corrupted somehow. And that widespread assumption in most instances at least will be wrong. [Read more…]

Richard Bushman at Benchmark Books

In conjunction with the new Festschrift, To Be Learned is Good: Essays on Faith and Scholarship in Honor of Richard Lyman Bushman, edited by Spencer Fluhman, Kathleen Flake, and Jed Woodworth, Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City will be hosting an evening with Bushman and several of the editors and contributors to the volume. This event will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 17. Find more information at Benchmark’s website, or at the Facebook event page.

On Constructive Deconstruction

I love demolition videos. The punctuation of explosions; the half-second silence before buildings crumble. They’re more fascinating than fireworks on the Fourth of July. Seriously. Just watch a greatest hits reel. Tell me these aren’t amazing.

[Read more…]

A Churchgoer’s New Year Resolutions

I am committed to going to church and being active in my LDS faith. I hold callings, take my children to Primary, and do my visiting teaching. I hold a current temple recommend. However, lately, I haven’t always felt inspired or filled or strengthened by my church attendance. In fact, I admit that sometimes church has felt draining and exhausting instead of replenishing (and this is in spite of having a fantastic and kind bishop, the ideal visiting teaching partner, and a chapel right across the street from my house). So here are some resolutions for the coming year that I think will make my church experiences something to look forward to, because I believe I have more agency in my church experience than I’ve recently been admitting to myself.  [Read more…]

Killing Humbaba

The story of David and Goliath is one of the Bible’s really great tales. It is exciting, easy to put on a flannel board, and it has a great spiritual message: you can always overcome your obstacles, no matter how big they are, if you just have faith in God (and a reasonably good sling shot). Goliath has become a good metaphor for problems in our lives that seem to big to tackle. This, in fact, is the theme of one of President Monson’s most well-known talks and the book in which it was collected. We must all confront our Goliaths.

But I want to talk about another great hero who killed a huge opponent–one whose story was ancient even to the people who wrote the Old Testament: the Mesopotamian proto-hero Gilgamesh. Like David (and nearly every other hero in the Ancient or Modern world), Gilgamesh makes a name for himself by killing a big thing–the semi-divine Humbaba, whose name even means “hugeness.” [Read more…]

From the Archive: Epiphany

We celebrated “Little Christmas” in my house growing up (mostly as the day to take down the Christmas tree), but it was only vaguely connected with the arrival of the magi in my understanding until much later. In college, I sang for the morning prayer service, a wonderfully awkward mashup of Harvard pomp and attempts at Christian humility. It was there that I first heard this memorable passage from Evelyn Waugh’s forgettable and forgotten novel Helena. In a passage near the end of the book, the titular Helena, sainted (literally!) mother of the emperor Constantine, has made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem in search of the vera crux. At the Feast of Epiphany, she muses on the Wise Men’s belated arrival to worship the infant Christ. This prayer has become the beloved ending of my personal observance of Christmas. [Read more…]

The blue jacket

There’s a blue jacket hanging in our entryway closet. I’ve owned it for twenty-one years. I’ve worn it maybe twice. It’s neither attractive or ugly and it would fit me well enough. But I don’t wear it, and I’m not sure when (or if) I ever will again.

I’m not going to get rid of it. Not yet, anyway, even though it’s a source of emotional pain. If I spend more than a second thinking about that jacket I start to feel a pointed grief begin to collect right down in my actual guts, pressure rising, until I slam the lid shut.  [Read more…]

Church Governance: Guidance and Gaps in the Monson Era

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M.C. Escher’s meditation on presence, absence, and negative space.

It is difficult to know how to write a remembrance of a leader whose tenure was marked much more by absence than by any clearly identifiable action or agenda. In their eulogy, NPR called Monson “The Private Prophet.” The Salt Lake Tribune writes that “[t]he Mormon president remained silent [as] the…battles raged on.” [Read more…]

A look back at the Monson decade

thomas-s-monson-mormonHow do you take the measure of a prophet? Is it by the prophecies he delivers? By his leadership in building the kingdom? The way he exemplifies Christ and treats those around him? Is such an exercise even appropriate, or does faith require us to assume that every prophet is a successful prophet?

Thomas S. Monson gave his life to church service and to the Lord in a way that very few have been asked to. In his public addresses, he was more a poet than a theologian, but I also think of him as the world’s foremost hometeacher—the funny old guy who can wiggle his ears, tell a good yarn, share a brief message that leaves the family feeling good, and help out during times of trouble. And he was more than that, of course—he could be audacious, organized, charismatic, private.

Above all, I think he’ll be remembered for caring about people, and he implemented that compassion and Christ-like charity as the fourth mission of the church: Care for the poor and needy.

[Read more…]

President Monson Funeral Arrangements

The Church has announced that President Monson’s funeral will be held Friday January 12, at noon (12 p.m.) Mountain Standard Time in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

The funeral will be broadcast on BYUTV and streamed on LDS.org (among other locations).

The Church is inviting us to share memories on President Monson’s Facebook page, as well as make remembrance donations to the Humanitarian and Missionary funds.