Prayer for the Third Friday in Lent

O God of our uncertainties: as Jesus in the wilderness refused the comfort of turning stones into bread, grant that we might not too readily quench our thirst for your Spirit. Amen.

For music, Mary Rocap’s “A Half a Dozen Things.” She’s a singer-songwriter from Durham, NC, who used to sell our family the best eggs. She’s not LDS, but I’ve long thought of this song as capturing the spirit of the bloggernacle.

Where Would You Go?

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Let’s say, for the sake of argument only, that you were done with Mormonism. (Really, it’s just a hypothetical, don’t freak out!) In such an event, where would you go? [Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Thursday in Lent

O God, you who brood over the dark, roiling waters of our human failure to love: as Jesus came not to walk upon these waters, but to compass their depths, grant us the courage of your Spirit to face their fierce waves, that we might clasp hands in love with our sisters and brothers of the tempest, one people as you are One God. Amen.

For music, Leonard Cohen’s  “You Want It Darker”:

Prayer for the Third Wednesday in Lent

O God of judgment, before whose bar we must all appear: open our hearts with the grace of your Spirit to hear the stories of the people around us, that in them we might come to see Jesus incarnate and learn at last to love him by loving them. Amen.

For music, R.E.M.’s “New Test Leper”:

Let’s Talk About “Counterfeit Marriage”

“as all the ordinances of the gospel Administered by the world since the Aposticy of the Church was illegal, in like manner was the marriage Cerimony illegal and all the world who had been begotton through the illegal marriage were Bastards not sons”

-Orson Pratt, quoted in Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 3:260.*

Hold that quote in your head. We’ll be coming back to it.

[Read more…]

Getting There…

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LDS Church adds a new video to Mormon & Gay—and it features a family lovingly accepting their out, gay son as he leaves the faith. It’s a welcome addition to the site—and a bold move that, no doubt, took a great deal of work on the back-end to power thru institutional resistance. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Tuesday in Lent

Our Creator God, you who breathed life into the clay from which we now make instruments of death: let the holy breath of your Spirit fall once more upon us, that in the brief space between our births and our deaths we might love one another in our beautiful fragility, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Iron and Wine’s “On Your Wings”:

Needing/Getting

I haven’t been able to shake Mike’s excellent post from Thursday. The identification of need with belief strikes me as an important one for our faith.

But I haven’t been able to shake it not just because of the insight it provides, but because I’m a step outside of the world Mike describes: frankly, I don’t need the church to be true.

That’s not to say I don’t believe, or that I don’t participate. I do both. But I don’t need the church to be true in a way that previous generations may have. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Monday in Lent

O God of our mysterious life, who through your Spirit and the scandal of your Son’s cross reveals wild and unknown landscapes within our souls: grant us the courage to open our hearts to these unexpected beauties, that we might discover new ways of love, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Björk’s “Jóga”:

 

LGBT Questions: An Essay

Bryce CookThis week, Bryce Cook published a new comprehensive essay on the church’s stance toward LGBT members. Bryce Cook is a founding member of ALL (Arizona LDS LGBT) Friends & Family and a co-director of the annual “ALL Are Alike Unto God” Conference held every April in Mesa, Arizona. He is married to Sara Spencer Cook and together they have six children, two of whom are gay. Since their oldest son came out publicly in 2012, Bryce and Sara have become public allies for LGBT people in and out of the church.

The essay is a long but fascinating read. I’ll cover a few highlights here, but I encourage you to read it in its entirety for yourself here[Read more…]

Testimony, Memory, and History

At the end of the nineteenth century, a few former residents of old Nauvoo still lived and worshiped in the West. A number of these stalwarts left statements about how their lives intersected with Joseph Smith and other legends of early Mormonism—even more of them regularly told of their early experiences in fast meetings. Some of them repeated the traditional stories used to support Utah as the successor to Nauvoo—from the “Last Charge” to the “Rocky Mountain Prophecy.” The Rocky Mountain Prophecy story’s gradual evolution may have come from Joseph Smith’s plans to defuse the tensions of Hancock County by defusing the Gathering, making Nauvoo the hit and run center place of temple activity but not the permanent singular residence for the growing Mormon population in Britain and America. The stories of Joseph predicting his own death may also be linked to his plans to control Mormon density in Hancock County, Ill., establishing Mormon centers in Texas and California among other possibilities, and perhaps exiting the Illinois hot-spot himself (but see below). Plans swirled around him and actual events singled out a post-martyrdom supporting narrative—there are interesting parallels with the production of the New Testament Gospels.[1]
[Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Sunday in Lent

O God of our Sabbath rest: as we now find ourselves deep in the wilderness of our fast, restless with wandering, fill us with hunger for your Spirit, that our hearts may not rest until they rest in you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, Greg Spero’s “No Rest for the Weary”:

 

Mormon Image in Literature: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About What Your Neighbors Think About You.

Greg Kofford Books has been gradually publishing a series of books out of a (literally) disappearing genre of literature: nineteenth-century novels with Mormon villains. The dime novel industry of mostly Western adventure had a Mormon component, largely constructed from formulae borrowed from the broader cheap imprint world of American literature. The other

Danites are Everywhere

evening I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ardis E. Parshall (researcher extraordinaire and producer of all things Keepapitchinin) and our own Michael Austin while they talked about some of their experiences in finding these now fragile and rapidly deteriorating archival treasures.
[Read more…]

Prayer for the Second Saturday in Lent

O God of our desert, where we have now long languished: in this valley of the shadow of death, may we yet commune with you in the Spirit, that, as our fast goes on and on and on, we might still be together with you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Wilco’s “On and On and On.”

175 Years of Relief Society

Lesson 12: “The Gathering of My People” #DandC2017

Did you know that I was originally supposed to do last week’s lesson (“The Field is White Already to Harvest”)? But I was traveling in India with my wife and couldn’t get around to it in time, so Stapley did it instead. So if you were not pleased with that lesson’s write-up, you should think long and hard about whether I am to blame or whether Stapley is to blame. If you also hate this week’s write-up, then maybe you should think about getting your lesson write-ups elsewhere.
Anyway, ON TO THE QUOTES!
[Read more…]

Prayer for the Second Friday in Lent

Our hearts sing out to you, O God, in praise of the sunlight that warms our wandering; grant us the music of your Spirit so that we, dancing in the footsteps of your Son, might come into harmony with your glorious beams, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: the eponymous concluding piece from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:
 

Eighteenth Annual UVU Mormon Studies Conference

Courtesy of Dialogue editor Boyd Petersen, here is the program for the Eighteenth Annual UVU Mormon Studies Conference, on the topic of “Multicultural Mormonism: Religious Cohesion in a New Era of Diversity.” It will be held from 29-31 March on the fifth floor the UVU Classroom Building at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT.

[Read more…]

Believing Fast and Slow

True. There is
a beautiful Jesus.
He is frozen to his bones like a chunk of beef.
How desperately he wanted to pull his arms in!
How desperately I touch his vertical and horizontal axes!
But I can’t. Need is not quite belief.
–Anne Sexton, “With Mercy for the Greedy

The first time I read these lines—it was in a contemporary poetry class at BYU taught by the completely awesome Susan Howe—I gasped out loud right there in the first floor of the old Harold B. Lee Library. I gasped because I thought that the line “need is not quite belief” was true, and I didn’t want it to be. At the time, I knew that I needed the Church to be true, but I wasn’t at all sure that I believed it.

Conflation of need and belief seemed catastrophic to me at the time. Belief was about aligning my opinions and values with capital “T” Truth and ensuring both my terrestrial rightness and celestial glory. Need was just a pathetic form of self-delusion making me pretend to believer what wouldn’t mess up my life too much. It took me years to resolve this conflict, but resolve it I did, not by coming down on one side or another, but by rejecting the original premise. Need, it turns out, is pretty much the same thing as belief if you look at it from a certain perspective. This post is about that perspective. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Second Thursday in Lent

O God of the silent darkness, in which we sometimes feel ourselves lost, hearing instead of your voice only the echoes of our own prayers: remember the garden in which your Son prayed, and let the wings of the Spirit bear the sweet scent of his orisons to your nostrils, that we, the substance of the savor he sent up, might find access to you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: “Love’s Echo,” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:

 

#VirtualMutual on Saturday Night!

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The first ever BCC #VirtualMutual is this Saturday night, and you’re invited! We’ll be watching and live-tweeting Saturday’s Warrior.

I have no idea if this is a good idea or if it’ll be like one of those mutual nights where only one nerd shows up, but here’s how it works:

  • At 8pm Mountain Time, go here and press Play.
  • Tweet your jokes, memories, dessert recipes, or spiritual impressions using the #VirtualMutual hashtag.
  • Follow the conversation here.
  • If you need tweet fodder, my delightful SIL Jessie made a bunch of Saturday’s Warrior GIFs. (Here and here, or on Google Image Search.)

See you online on Saturday night! If you need a reminder or want to invite your friends, RSVP here.

Prayer for the Second Wednesday in Lent

O God of my prayers, to whom I call hour by hour, longing for the touch of your Spirit: grant that my heart might never cease to be faint with love for your Son, my beloved, who teaches me the dance of the One God. Amen.

For music, “Faint with Love,” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:

 

Conference: New Perspective on Joseph Smith and Translation

If you’re at Utah State this Thursday night, there’s an exceptional opportunity to hear from some of the best in Mormon Studies: Richard Bushman, Terryl Givens, Jana Riess, Rosalynde Welch, Sam Brown and others will be speaking. The concept of “translation” in Mormonism is incredible rich and one where our framing can take a number of different approaches: linguistic, philosophical, theological. These framings matter tremendously.

Anyways, the poster is linked to below, and if you have time Thursday I would strongly recommend attending.

New Perspectives on Joseph Smith and Translation

Enoch and the Silmarillion Part VI: Conclusions.

 

It turns out, the lesson of pity that Nienna teaches in The Silmarillion applies remarkably well to God’s tears in Joseph Smith’s Enoch revelations. I’m not suggesting that Tolkien was secretly a devotee of Joseph Smith, or that he was intentionally hiding encrypted keys to understanding the visions of Enoch as Easter eggs in The Silmarillion. Rather, I am suggesting that seeing what lessons The Silmarillion draws out of the image of a weeping goddess can open us up to seeing the image of the weeping God in Enoch’s visions in new ways that might not be obvious given the history of how we have read those revelations. [Read more…]

Mormons name their kids the darnedest things: Born in 2016 edition

It’s that special time of year when I push my spell-checker to its absolute limit! That’s right; baby names are here, and a couple of weeks ahead of schedule, too! This is a big day for me, because it marks TEN YEARS of blogging awful baby names from southeast Idaho. (For more background, and the complete anthology, click here.)

Okay, let’s rip off this band-aid! [Read more…]

Prayer for the Second Tuesday in Lent

O God of our wilderness, in whose vastness we wander these forty days: as our fast fills us again and again with the baptism of your Spirit, let not those abundant waters quench our love for your Son, through whom our errant feet ever find you, our joy and our being. Amen.

For music, “Many Waters” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite.

 

My First Month as a Missionary: Dazed & Confused

Me, on the balcony of our piso overlooking Arrecife 28 years ago.

I recently blogged about my first day as a missionary and how it felt to return to that place after 27 years. Because we were on a cruise last month, stopping at 5 of the Canary Islands, I had a chance to revisit the island of Lanzarote where I started my mission, a place I hadn’t been in the 28 years since then. I surprised myself by being able to pick out my apartment by sight even though the city of Arrecife has changed quite a bit, and the apartment has been renovated. The exterior balconies have now been enclosed, probably to keep out the sands from Calima, an annual dust storm that happens in the Canary Islands, bringing sand from the Sahara, across the ocean, obscuring the sun. Calima can last for several days when it comes. While I was there, our balcony would sometimes fill with sand overnight. Lanzarote is a very windy island, the most eastward of the archipelago, the closest to the coast of Morocco.

The biggest obstacle to memory was that I only served there for 5 weeks, and then never returned to that island, and most of the time I was there I felt like I didn’t know what the heck was going on. I was the only missionary being sent to Lanzarote, and I had just arrived in the islands after a long flight. When I arrived in Arrecife, I was alarmed by the 18 year old men in military garb casually holding machine guns, standing around the airport looking bored. I remembered thinking “I could easily take away that gun, and I’m not that big or strong,” envisioning the possibilities for violence and mayhem if any random person were so inclined. That’s a sight I saw in all the airports in Spain, one that I never quite got comfortable with. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Second Monday in Lent

Our God of delicious anticipation: as the first buds stoke our hunger for the spring, so may your Spirit teach us to thirst for your Son, in whose name we rejoice. Amen.

For music, “Rhapsody” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite.
 

Crafting Your Own Mission

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This afternoon I did some home teaching. One of the people we visited was a retired single (divorced) sister who lives alone. She is fairly new in our ward, having moved in maybe half a year ago or so. I’ll call her Sister Jones. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Second Sunday in Lent

O God of abundant life, of feasts of fat things and wine upon the lees: unstop the richness of your Spirit as we approach the Lord’s Table this day, there to feast on the love you offer us through the great gift of your Son, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music this week, I’ll be using Patrick Hawes’s cycle “Song of Songs.” Here’s the first piece, “Love’s Promise”: