What’s in a name?

At the risk of making a big deal out of a small deal, I have a few thoughts to add to Carolyn’s excellent post on yesterday’s updated usage guidelines from Pres. Nelson.

The good news is we have Jesus Christ in our name. The bad news is it’s the part of our name that doesn’t get acronymized. TCoJCoLDS doesn’t exactly role off the tongue. Nor does CoJC, and anyway that acronym is already claimed.

So what do you do when the whole world leaves Jesus Christ out of your name, gets your name wrong, or calls you a Mormon?

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 8.00.57 PMIt’s been an issue for as long as the church has been called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “LDS” and “Mormon” are the most “user-friendly” terms to refer to our religion, if we assume that the easiest, most convenient moniker is the one most likely to be used in conversation. Which is usually true.

But if we’re ever going to be able to accept those names, we’re going to need to first accept a few truths about our brand. 

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Trademark Mormon

Every few years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announces that “Mormon” is a term that should not describe us.  See 19791990, 2011.  (See BCC coverage of the last attempt.)

Rather, as today’s announcement proclaims, we are members of  the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”, or “the restored gospel of Jesus Christ” for short.  The new style guide also states the “LDS” abbreviation is disfavored.

These attempts to set aside “Mormonism” as a descriptor have never stuck.  I am all in favor of talking, preaching, and prophesying of Christ more frequently.  But “Mormon” is too deeply embedded in our lexicon to write out.  It’s a pithy shorthand for our most distinguishing characteristic — belief in the Book of Mormon as another Testament of Jesus Christ. [Read more…]

Thoughts on the Evolution of Mormon Political Engagement

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University put up on their website today a forum in which different scholars were invited to opine on “The Evolution of Mormon Political Engagement.” It includes contributions from Kathleen Flake, Nate Oman, Patrick Mason, Gregory Prince, Luke Perry, and myself. I’m including below the fold my original, pre-edited piece for the Berkley Center; hopefully it will encourage readers to check out all of the contributions. As the election season comes upon us once again, while the “Mormon Moment” may be over (for now), the question of how we American Mormons think and act politically remains as interesting as ever. [Read more…]

Worthiness vs Boundary Maintenance: Thoughts on Ecclesiastical Endorsement

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

–William Bruce Cameron, “The Elements of Statistical Confusion Or: What Does the Mean Mean?”

Most educators have at least a passing familiarity with the difference between what can be counted and what actually counts. Some things that students learn–how to spell words, how to do math problems, the capital of North Dakota–can be measured easily, with machine-scored bubble sheets, and used to compare students across the country.
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Lesson 31: “Happy is the Man that Findeth Wisdom” #BCCSundaySchool2018

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“Give me Shelter” by Kate Langlois

Lesson Objective: To appreciate and comprehend the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

Scriptures: Proverbs and Ecclesiastes

What are these books and where do they come from?
Proverbs is a compilation of folk wisdom passed down for many generations, recorded and compiled by various authors, but generally attributed to King Solomon, the son of King David and Bathsheba (who may have said many of these proverbs, but whose name is attached to the book in large part to establish the text’s authority, and not necessarily because King Solomon said or wrote all of the proverbs). [Read more…]

Bearing One Another’s Burdens: Summer Vacation Edition

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A vacation doesn’t actually require the bishop’s input to turn out nicely.

Elder Holland recently observed that

For me, bearing another’s burden is a simple but powerful definition of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. When we seek to lift the burden of another, we are “saviours … on mount Zion” (Obadiah 1:21). We are symbolically aligning ourselves with the Redeemer of the world and His Atonement. We are “bind[ing] up the brokenhearted, … proclaim[ing] liberty to the captives, and … opening … the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1).

When I read this a couple of months ago I nodded my head in firm agreement—what a great Christian message—and redoubled my resolve to be the kind of person that willingly bears another’s burden. And then summer vacation happened. [Read more…]

A prayer for the dead and the living

Nine years ago as we prepared for the baptism of my oldest child, we found my father unresponsive and spent the next two months watching over his chemically induced coma, amnesticly-embraced awakening, and tempered recovery. A decade earlier and he would have likely died, but ICU physicians have skillfully battled sepsis and respiratory failure to a dwindling fraction of mortality. It was so uncertain at the time, though, even with the regular calls from a dear friend and expert clinician. And because I can work remotely I spent those weeks watching at his side, waiting.
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In Praise of the JSPP

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The Joseph Smith Papers Project announced just a couple of days ago that the Council of Fifty Minutes, which have been in print for awhile, are now available online. And I thought this would be a good opportunity to praise the Church for the creation and its support of this magnificent scholarly endeavor. [Read more…]

Can the Ecclesiastical Endorsement Process Be Fixed?

Over the weekend, a Salt Lake Tribune article highlighted an enormous problem at the BYUs: the annual ecclesiastical endorsement process means that bishops can circumvent the amnesty clause that BYU added to its sexual misconduct policy.[fn1]

And why is that bad? Richelle Wilson gave us an excellent explanation of the problems with weaponizing the ecclesiastical endorsement process, and Angela C. explained clearly some of the dangers of a view of sin that leads to disregarding others’ welfare. So is it bad that a bishop can get a student expelled for something the Honor Code Office explicitly wouldn’t? Absolutely; Richelle and Angela have made an airtight moral and ethical case for it. And I would add, as a policy matter, that it is bad, too. BYU has made the explicit decision that encouraging students to report sexual assault is more important than disciplining them for breaking the Honor Code. This “loophole” will chill the reporting that BYU wants (rightly) to encourage.

So what can BYU do about it? The short answer is, I have no idea. But the longer answer is, I have several ideas. [Read more…]

I’m a pilgrim, I’m a stranger.

My wife and I just took our kids on a fairly ambitious road trip: Leaving our home in upstate New York, we traveled along interstate 90 and then 80 across the Midwest and the high plains, through the Great Basin, over the Sierra Nevada and down to the Pacific Ocean at San Francisco. We spent several days in the Bay Area, then climbed the Sierra again and we spent a day and a night in Sequoia National Park. We then crossed the Mojave Desert and went west and north on interstate 15 through Nevada and nearly the whole length of Utah and then spent several days in the Logan area. After that, we traveled east through the Bear River mountains and through Wyoming on two-lane roads that approximate the old pioneer trails, joining back up with interstate 80 in Cheyenne, and making our way back home on interstate 80 and then 90 again. [Read more…]

Lesson 30: Come to the House of the Lord #BCCSundaySchool2018

2 Chronicles 29-30; 32:1-23; 34

 

This week’s lesson is about two righteous kings–Hezekiah and Josiah–who had a positive effect on the people of Judah. In some ways, it is a parallel lesson to Lesson #28, which was about wicked kings. But there is an interesting twist. So far, most of the lessons about Israel’s history have come from the sequence that we call the “Deuteronomic History,” which includes Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings. The readings for this lesson, however, are drawn from 2 Chronicles.

Both Hezekiah and Josiah are treated in some detail in 2 Kings, and I am tempted to import those stories into this lesson and mix the stories all together. But I will resist, as the use of Chronicles seems quite intentional, and it gives us an opportunity to spend some time talking about the differences between the two books. [Read more…]

Harm vs. Purity

Recently, the SL Tribune broke the story about a BYU-I student who came forward about being sexually assaulted and was suspended from school for two semesters for drinking. She states that she did not confess drinking to her bishop, but that her attacker outed her for drinking, leading to her suspension.

“I knew I was in the wrong, I knew she was in the wrong,” he said. “I only went to the bishop so I could work on what I needed to work on. I didn’t go with any intentions to report her and retaliate. I was hoping she could work on her stuff, too … so she can be helped with drinking and following the Honor Code.” – Sexual assault guy

You didn’t intend to retaliate. Riiiight. You are just so helpful and concerned for the relative stranger you groped when she was incapacitated that you wanted to be sure her bishop could assist her in the repentance process. Thank you, Mr. Helpful. It’s a time-tested practice of sexual assaulters to minimize their offense by creating a false equivalence in questioning the behavior of their victim. We should certainly quit falling for it when it happens.

This points to the loophole that exists in the BYU-I school’s Title IX provision, but on a broader level, it points to an ethical question as it relates to understanding sin. [Read more…]

When Worthiness is Weaponized: The Problem with Ecclesiastical Endorsements

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Richelle Wilson is a PhD student in Scandinavian studies and comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she works as a Swedish language instructor. She is also a talk producer at the community radio station WORT 89.9 FM and a member of Dialogue’s editorial staff.

The universities owned and operated by the LDS Church have recently come under scrutiny for the ways in which the schools’ honor code can compromise Title IX investigations into allegations of sexual assault on campus. In 2016, the Salt Lake Tribune broke the story wide open with a Pulitzer Prize–winning series of articles revealing the punitive measures taken against sexual assault victims at Brigham Young University in Provo. The issue was that students—most of them women—coming forward to report sexual assaults were often probed and then disciplined for additional information pertaining to their assault that could be deemed honor code violations. This might include dress and grooming standards, alcohol or drug use, curfew violations, etc. It was a Church-school version of “What was she wearing?”   [Read more…]

Lesson 29: “He Took Up…the Mantle of Elijah” #BCCSundaySchool2018

Readings: 2 Kings 2, 5, 8

Manual Goals:

  1. To help class members understand how the authority (mantle) passes from one prophet to another.
  2. To encourage them to obey the words of the prophets, and
  3. To assure them that the power of God is greater than any other power.

Introduction

Ahh, Elisha. The prophet of God who made bears eat children because they mocked his baldness. A reminder that even the prophets have human failings? A biblical example of male fragility? An object lesson about evil-speaking of the Lord’s anointed? We’ll talk more about the bears in a bit. [Read more…]

Fox News and False Prophets

Hananiah was the son of a prophet. He was well-known in the circles of court and temple. He prophesied of peace, of optimism, of a God who would bless his people materially and spiritually. He was a false prophet.
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Complementarity and the Gospel

Tom Hardman is a patent attorney in Salt Lake City, and occasional blogger on science and religion

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A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design, by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek, is a fascinating meditation on the nature of reality. I found Wilczek’s discussion about complementarity to be particularly thought provoking. Complementarity is a principle of quantum theory, but Wilczek argues that “its importance, as an insight into the nature of things, goes beyond physics.”

Wilczek summarizes complementarity as follows: “No one perspective exhausts reality, and different perspectives may be valuable, yet mutually exclusive.” [Read more…]

Calling Nightmares

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Consequences of War by by Peter Paul Rubens (source)

Early this morning I got into fight with a visitor at church who took umbrage at my reply to his mother’s assessment of my overall fitness to fulfill my calling. She was like, “What kind of executive secretary are you who can’t even respond to simple requests?!” Feeling pretty put out, I replied that, hey, we’re all volunteers around here, just trying to muddle along. Then her son got into my face and told me to back off. Epithets started to fly and fists weren’t far behind when I woke up in a sweat (well, that part was probably just the temperature—we’re in the middle of an epic heatwave at the moment).  [Read more…]

Indiana Interfaith Vigil Against Hate

Indiana is my home.  I grew up north of Indianapolis, in the suburbs of Hamilton County.  This is what my part of Indiana looks like — abundant greenery, small country hills, midwestern sunsets, cornfields.

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Hamilton County is one of the reddest counties in a red state.  It’s filled with upper-middle class suburbs, booming megachurches, top-tier public school districts, and well-funded infrastructure and government.  It’s an amazing place to raise a family.  I learned love and community and hard work there.
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Cultural Expectations as Adversity

This is a guest post by Camilla AM. Camilla was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil and moved to the United States for her undergraduate studies at BYU. After graduating, she taught English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese in Brazil before returning to the United States to pursue a career as a graphic designer, initially in the private sector and later in the higher education field, most recently at The University of Texas at Brownsville. After completing a Masters in Organizational Leadership, she transitioned to a faculty position at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville), where she teaches upper-division courses in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Cross-cultural Psychology, Research Methods, and Gender Studies.

Years ago, following a job promotion, I received an email from a newly inherited male subordinate that I will never forget. In his message, he explicitly stated that he had no intentions of following orders from a woman who had fewer years of professional experience than he did, let alone someone who was so much younger than he was. He closed his email by saying that if I had any thoughts otherwise, that I was very wrong. I was shocked! [Read more…]

Review: Believer Documentary & LoveLoud

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 12.19.37 PMAfter spending a fair amount of time pondering the sense of unease I felt after watching the HBO documentary “Believer,” I keep circling around to something Imagine Dragons front-man and newly-minted activist Dan Reynolds said in the film, “I don’t know much, but I’m all heart.”

Reynolds grew up in a devoutly Mormon family, the seventh of nine kids. He served his mission in Nebraska, where he talks of his willingness to knock on hundreds of doors to reach one person. Tireless knocking will resonate not only as a gospel principle, and with any Mormon who served a proselyting mission, but also will resurface thematically in the film. [Read more…]

The Loveloud Foundation

According to my Facebook feed, Saturday was the Loveloud Festival in Salt Lake. Now in its second year, Loveloud is meant to provide love and acceptance for LGBTQ+ kids. If you’ve followed my #MutualNight posts, you can probably guess that, even if I lived in Utah, I wouldn’t have gone. I’m 100% behind the festival’s message and its goals, but I’m not a big fan of its music.

I am, however, a big fan of charitable organizations. And guess what? The sponsoring organization of the festival is the Loveloud Foundation, a tax-exempt public charity.[fn1]

Now I don’t know a lot of details about the Loveloud Foundation; it received its tax exemption last year, and hasn’t filed a Form 990 yet. (Next year it will file the form, which is a public document.) But there are a couple broad things that we know about it just by virtue of its being tax-exempt. So let’s have a Q&A explainer! [Read more…]

Fragmented Thoughts from a Former Breastfeeder

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“The Flower Girl,” by Sir James Jebusa Shannon, 1900.

Breastfeeding did not come easily for me. Growing up, I was never close to any woman who breastfed, nor had I ever seen a woman breastfeed without a cover. I read several books about childbirth and breastfeeding and postpartum motherhood as my body swelled and my garments no longer met over the middle of my body. I remember being surprised to see so many photographs of naked women in labor, and I wondered if I should be embarrassed at seeing pictures of breasts and nipples as I read about different latching positions and breastfeeding troubleshooting tips. It had not occurred to me so plainly until then that I had no need to feel shame or shyness about these body parts that are designed for growing and feeding new little lives. Although I had always prided myself for being able to appreciate nude art in museums, the realization that my own private body parts were not just sexual objects was still something of a revelation to me. [Read more…]

Women of Valour – and Economic Worth

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For as much as Mormons appropriate from evangelicals, I’m surprised we’ve never stolen the Proverbs 31 woman.

In A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Rachel Held Evans dedicates a chapter to the evangelical emphasis on Proverbs 31 as a guide to all things righteous feminine. “Visit a Christian bookstore, and you will find entire women’s sections devoted to books that extol her virtues and make them applicable to modern wives. At my Christian college, guys described their ideal date as a ‘P31 girl,” and young women looking to please them held a ‘P31 Bible Study.’”  The Proverbs 31 woman “looms so large over the biblical womanhood ethos” that many Christian view the passage “as a task list” to which they must comply in order to become perfect housewives and win the favor of men. [Read more…]

The Kingdom of God is Like Money

51Sn8PEXwcLAlmost everything that makes us human occurs at the nexus of fiction and faith. This is the most important thing I learned from Yuval Noah Harari’s much-lauded book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. It isn’t the author’s main point, and he probably wouldn’t even agree with the way that I phrased it. But these two attributes–the ability to make up stories and the ability to believe them–strike me as the defining characteristics of humanity. [Read more…]

Is Pioneer Day too Utah Mormon?

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Steve Petersen is a lifelong Mormon of pioneer stock.  Having lived in a few different places throughout the US, he’s a big tent Mormon who wishes to make all people feel welcome and comfortable attending church.

Since moving back to Utah several years ago, I’ve come to realize that many people — including Mormons — aren’t that excited about Pioneer Day.  Pioneer Day is an official state holiday in Utah that celebrates the Mormon pioneers’ crucial role in the state’s history.  The lack of enthusiasm has made me wonder if Pioneer Day is too Mormon — particularly, too Utah Mormon?

As a young kid in Utah, Pioneer Day was one of my favorite holidays.  I come from pioneer stock and grew up hearing inspiring stories about my ancestors.  We still sing hymns about pioneers and their experiences are fodder for talks and lessons.  We reenact portions of their travails and cosplay through Trek.  Even as a teenager in Texas, I watched Mormons proudly attend an unrelated patriotic celebration by dressing up as pioneers.  (They were welcomed.)

However, I’ve come to realize how off-putting the way Pioneer Day is celebrated is to non-members, those who have left the Church, indigenous individuals,  and those who are not of “pioneer stock.”  I wish more people — Mormon or not — didn’t treat Pioneer Day as an exclusively Mormon holiday. [Read more…]

Immigrants and Refugees are Modern-Day Pioneers

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The White House commemorated Pioneer Day yesterday.

Its issued statement is thick with irony, however, as it omits any indication that the White House actually understands the lessons learned from our blessed, honored Pioneers.

Mormon Pioneers are best honored by putting our shoulder to the wheel and crafting policies that enable modern-day Pioneers to thrive.  Today’s Pioneers are immigrants and refugees.

So here you go, White House, I rewrote your statement for you: [Read more…]

Lesson 28: “After the Fire a Still Small Voice” #BCCSundaySchool2018

This lesson takes up the stories of Elijah from 1 Kings 17-19: the drought, God feeding him in the wilderness, his meeting with the Widow of Zarephath and her son, his encounter with the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel, and his encounter with Yahweh at Mount Horeb. Elijah is something of a paradigmatic prophet, so I’ll focus the discussion (somewhat in the spirit of Abraham Joshua Heschel) on questions of what these texts can teach us about a prophet’s relationship to God—and, crucially, what kind of relationship these prophetic stories call us to have with God. [Read more…]

Prostitutes, Vampires, and Mormons—Oh My

   

Since 1847, July 24 has meant one thing to Mormons across the globe: Pioneer Day, the anniversary of the arrival of Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers to their future home in the Salt Lake Valley, where they would eventually set up an International Church, a great university, fry sauce, and a universal WiFi password.

All of this is important, of course. But, since 2017, July 24 has been a REALLY important holiday: the day that BCC Press releases its newest crop of amazing books. This year, we are proud to bring you two remarkable books by two modern-day pioneers in every sense of the word that does not involve pushing handcarts and eating roots. Or sleeping on the ground. Or malaria.

But in lots of senses of the word, the two women whose works we unveil today are pioneers. And when you read their stories, you will know why. [Read more…]

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

misterrogers_700xOn Friday my husband and I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Fred Rogers. (Make that Fred “Mister” Rogers.) On Saturday I went and saw it again, and I was glad because it was probably the most profound religious experience I’ve had in a long time.

I know what you’re thinking. “This lady really likes Mister Rogers.” Well, I do, yes. I’m a huge fan of Mister Rogers, as are most people of my generation. So as soon as I learned of this movie, I knew I would have to watch it, but I didn’t expect it to affect me the way it did. [Read more…]

Testing Bishops for Skills, Aptitude, and Narcissism

Chris Kimball is a seven-times grandfather, a father, and a husband.  He was a fast-track Mormon church leader, with the right genealogy and checking all the boxes, until about age 40. On a very different path since then.  He is a good friend of BCC.

I was a Mormon bishop in the mid-1990s.  The experience led to my turning in my temple recommend and leaving full activity.  From an orthodox Mormon point of view, it was a destructive experience, even disaster.  I spent the next 10 years in therapy (on-the-couch deep investigation therapy) sorting myself out.  I probably should not have been a bishop in the first place.  [Read more…]