The Sacrament: a (somewhat speculative) liturgical genealogy. (Part IV)

This is the fourth post in my series on the sacrament’s origins. In the first and second posts we looked at how and why Oliver Cowdery used the sacrament prayers recorded in Moroni for the sacrament liturgy in the restored church. In the last post, I suggested that Jesus did not give set prayers to the Nephite disciples for the sacrament, but that the disciples developed what would ultimately become Moroni’s liturgy out of  Jesus’ teachings on the sacrament when he gave them bread and wine. I argued, though, that the account of the bread and wine recorded in what is now 3 Nephi chapter 18 is the ultimate source for Moroni’s liturgy, and that we can trace almost every line in Moroni’s liturgy to those teachings.

In this part, we are going to take a look at the places where Moroni’s liturgy differs from Jesus’ teachings in 3 Nephi 18. [Read more…]

The Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at the Temple: A Study in Rhetorical Contrasts #BOM2016


My scriptures still have green markings in Matthew and 3 Nephi that highlight all of the differences between the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and the Sermon at the Temple (3 Ne. 12-14). I did this on my mission because I thought it was important. “Blessed are the poor IN SPIRIT WHO COME UNTO ME,” says the Book of Mormon, lest we think that actual poverty is either necessary or sufficient. And don’t forget that the BOM doesn’t say “Thy Kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer. That’s because it already has. These comparisons got me through my mission, a BYU term paper, and the first two times I taught Gospel Doctrine.

It is only recently that I have begun to see what a gnat-straining, camel-swallowing approach to the texts this is. Read from one perspective, of course, the two texts are extremely similar and we can learn a lot by comparing the small differences. From another perspective, however, the texts don’t even have much in common. This other perspective is sometimes called “rhetorical criticism.” [Read more…]

What Mormon Books Do You Love?

Recently I read When Mormons Doubt, a new book by Jon Ogden. The book is a mix of philosophy on reverence and practical ideas for scenarios that Mormons increasingly find themselves in: What do you do when belief is no longer concrete, either for you, or for bookssomeone close to you? How do you move forward meaningfully in familial relationships that seem to be taking different paths? Jon writes optimistically about the possibility for both peace and reconciliation both for the people who step out of the church and for those who stay in. The book is a worthy read. Jon pulls the reader gently through a series of thought experiments that nudge in a direction of deeper thought, reverence and respect for the countless spiritual paths that personal Mormonism can offer if we allow it, even once a person has “left” the church.

I’ve written at least three separate pieces working through my ideas after reading When Mormons Doubt and while the book itself got me thinking, it is also the idea of the book that is interesting to me. I don’t have a comprehensive knowledge of the history of Mormon literature, but I am an avid reader of non-fiction. The literary landscape available to me as a young BYU student was not encouraging of the type of brazen exploration and questioning my evolving faith asked of me. I realize now that in part this was because I did not know where to look and that devotional literature is not a new genre by any means. To quote a BCC writer and historian, J. Stapley,

Scholars of all sorts have been dealing with historiographical and epistemological concerns over Mormonism for much longer then 10 years. Richard Bushman’s  Rough Stone Rolling is over ten years old, but his JS and the Beginnings of Mormonism was  published in 1988.  Even BH Roberts was writing for Americana magazine at the beginning of the century.

I suppose then, in part, my being exposed to what feels like new Mormon non-fiction is because I am young— accumulation takes time—in part because I haven’t invested the time I hope to in knowing the larger timeline. I don’t think my experience of not knowing which Mormon writing to turn to is uncommon. I think many people feel lost and hopeless within their Mormonism precisely because they do not know or haven’t been exposed to writing that might help them. [Read more…]

The Sacrament: a (somewhat speculative) liturgical genealogy. (Part III)

This is the third post in my short series about the “genealogy” of the LDS sacrament. In the first we looked at Oliver Cowdery’s 1829 Articles of the Church of Christ as the “birth” of the sacrament in the restored church. In the second, we looked at the sacrament prayers that Moroni records as the source for the prayers that Olive Cowdery put in the Articles. In this one, were going to look at the account in 3 Nephi of Jesus’ post-resurrection sacrament meal as the source of Moroni’s prayers.

The Progenitor of the Line: Jesus’ Words in 3 Nephi 18

Oliver Cowdery got the sacrament prayers from Moroni, but where did Moroni get them? I think it is apparent, from a close reading of Jesus’ words in what is now 3 Nephi chapter 18 that the prayers that Moroni recorded almost four centuries later were a liturgy that developed out of those words, similar to the way that the Eucharistic liturgy celebrated by Christian churches in the middle east and in Europe around that same time developed out of the accounts of the last supper in the gospels.[1]


Third Nephi, Chapter 18 by A.B. Wright.

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Days for Girls International: Will you join me to keep girls in school?

By Ruth Anne Shepherd

One of Ruth Anne Shepherd’s passions is making a difference: helping individuals recognize their worth, supporting their educational pursuits, and encouraging them to live their dreams to reach their potential.   Before graduating from San Jose State University with a BS degree, she served a full-time LDS mission in Colombia. Her career includes being a programmer analyst at Silicon Graphics, and a small business owner for over 25 years.  Many organizations have benefited from her expertise and knowledge as she volunteers her time. She has been on the board of Silicon Valley Women since 2014.  She loves her family and when possible includes them in her leisure activities: relaxing on the beach, horseback riding, and watching movies with strong female characters.

One year ago, I was once again in the presence of a remarkable LDS woman who radiates our Savior’s love and who has the determination, faith, and vision to change the world. She was discussing fundraising strategies with me, other Silicon Valley Women board members, and two advisors. This blog post was written at the personal request of Celeste Mergens, CEO/ Founder of Days for Girls International (DFGI).

Meeting Celeste in June 2015 at a Relief Society Humanitarian event was an experience that would change my global perspective on women’s basic health needs. I was deeply touched by the harsh realities that she so lovingly communicated and it was a message I could not forget. The content of Celeste’s presentation was heart-breaking and appalling. And yet her innovation offers unprecedented hope for the [Read more…]

Career Night Advice

Angie P is a longtime reader of the blog. We’re really glad she sent us this guest post.

I was recently asked to speak at my ward’s Young Women’s mutual activity for a Career Night. I thought this was a great idea and wanted to share so that it might inspire some other YW programs.

The career night was for the entire YW, and there were about 15 girls in attendance. They invited three women from the ward: an elementary teacher who teaches in Oakland, a hairdresser, and myself, a paralegal. They asked each of us to talk to the YW about how we chose our careers, the education/training it took to get where we are, and the best and worst parts of our jobs. Below are the thoughts I shared. I also asked two of my closest friends for their thoughts and what they would say, and appreciated their comments so much that I handed out these thoughts to the YW as well. Those thoughts are found at the very end.

I am excited to be here tonight and to speak with you.  I love the idea of a career night for the Young Woman, and I wish that I had had one growing up, because whenever someone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would rattle off some important sounding career like psychologist or lawyer, but I would always follow up with “But what I really want to be is a mom.”  Almost all of the women I knew were stay-at-home moms, and I thought that choosing to be anything more than that would be selfish and against God’s plan.  Now, I love being a mother and feel very grateful to have two wonderful children.  But for multiple reasons, both of choice and circumstances, I have a career outside the home.  And I love my career! [Read more…]

The Sacrament: a (somewhat speculative) liturgical genealogy. (Part II)

In the last post, we took a look at the “birth” of the LDS sacrament in Oliver Cowdery’s 1829 Articles of the Church of Christ. That document was the predecessor of the 1830 Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ, which eventually became what is today section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at why Oliver Cowdery chose to use Moroni’s liturgy as the liturgy for the sacrament for the new church. [Read more…]

When Church Is Boring

The church posted a message on Facebook on Sunday to help members focus their attention in church, quoting a talk by Bishop Dean Davies. This post has gotten a few people in online communities asking questions.

Some of the questions I’ve heard in response to this post are:

  • Who’s responsible for boring talks and lessons?
  • Does this mean the church is acknowledging that our meetings are boring?
  • Is the onus entirely on the listener or is this blaming the victim for their bad attitude?
  • Is “shaming” people an appropriate tactic? [1]

Pres. Uchtdorf’s opening talk at the Saturday morning session of General Conference addressed this question also. He spoke of the spiritual experiences we’ve had that brought us to church in the first place and asked, quoting Alma 5:26: “Can ye feel so now?”

Thinking over my own church experience of nearly 50 years, my honest answer to that question is “Depends.” Sometimes I can “feel so,” but sometimes I simply don’t have it in me. Life is long. They wouldn’t call it “enduring” to the end if it was non-stop enjoyment. So yes, when a lesson or talk is boring, partly that’s because I’m just not feeling it right then.  [Read more…]

Spare the Rod

Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.
–Psalm 74:2 (KJV)

At 7am on a Monday morning, I talked with Death on a mountain. [Read more…]

Seven Ways of Looking at a Lamanite #BOM2016

3 Nephi 2

For Modern readers, one of the most awkward and difficult passages in the Book of Mormon occurs in the second chapter of 3 Nephi, amid the resurgence of the Gadianton Robbers and the big to-do over the signs for Christ’s birth. It’s the passage where the righteous Lamanites have the curse removed from their skin, turning them into a lovely shade of white:

And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites; And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites. And thus ended the thirteenth year. (3 Ne 2: 14-16)

[Read more…]

The Sacrament: a (somewhat speculative) liturgical genealogy.

I’m going to write a series of posts that trace the Book of Mormon origins of the ritual we call the sacrament.

I’m calling this a “genealogy” in  sense similar to the sense that Princeton describes its “lives of great religious books” series as “biographies” of the “lives” of religious texts.

A “biography” of the sacrament would be a liturgical history of how the church has performed and adapted the ritual since its “birth” in the 1829 Articles of the Church of Christ. It would include things like the August 1830 revelation permitting the use of water in place of wine, the history of church-owned vineyards for producing sacramental wine, the use of wine up to the early 20th century, the history of the relief society taking charge to bake sacramental bread, the practice of praying the sacrament prayers with uplifted hands, the shift from adult men administering the prayers to teenage priests, the development of a tradition of teachers and deacons preparing and passing the sacrament, the strange practice that arose in some place in the mid-20th century of only using white bread, and of cutting off crusts, and countless other facets of how we observe the sacrament. [Read more…]

Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants: The Plural Marriage Revelation

I’ve got a book in the editing process at Greg Kofford Books [it’s about D&C 132]. With luck, it may appear this December or possibly February 2017. Here’s a bit of the preface (excuse typos, it’s in progress):

[Read more…]

Are You Listening to the Maxwell Institute Podcast?

There’s no delicate way to put this: if you’re not listening, you should be. Blair Hodges is an excellent, thoughtful interviewer who invites really smart, thoughtful people on the show. He talks with his smart, thoughtful guests about really interesting religious topics, which sometimes touch on Mormonism, but more often, introduce listeners to religious thought that isn’t Mormon-specific.  [Read more…]

Why I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton

A brief post to explain my political position here. I don’t speak for the other permas at BCC and won’t pretend to make this a generalized editorial.  I also won’t waste time on the countless reasons Donald Trump is not qualified to be president, as the Deseret News and other papers of record have already articulated those points. [edit: I’ll just focus on one]  [Read more…]

“A man among the gentiles”: Questioning our assumptions.

In the early chapters of the Book of Mormon, Nephi sees a vision of, among other things, events that readers have interpreted as the then future history of the colonization of the Americas. At one point in his telling of the vision, Nephi says this:

“And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.” (1 Nephi 13:12)

Traditionally, readers have interpreted this verse as a prediction of the voyages of Christopher Columbus. And some latter-day saints have felt the need to defend Columbus from “political correctness” when Columbus’ serious sins (slavery, brutal oppression, etc.) are discussed.
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Columbus and Accountability

“And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles,
who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters;
and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man;
and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren,
who were in the promised land.”

1 Nephi 13:12

Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519 (source:

Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519 (source:

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an opinion piece by David Tucker, a senior fellow at the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio, in which Dr. Tucker is willing to go part of the distance in reducing cultural adoration of Christopher Columbus. After acknowledging many of the negative consequences for native peoples of Columbus’s actions — and rehabilitating Columbus by arguing that we only condemn him now because of the European values that he brought to the New World, primarily the notion of Equality (?!) enshrined in the Declaration of Independence — Dr. Tucker states “[t]his Columbus Day we need no triumphalism. Let it be a day instead to ponder the human capability for good and evil and wonder how we might encourage more of the good.”[1]

I don’t think this goes far enough in dealing with Columbus’s legacy — especially for me as a Mormon who has so deeply internalized the Church’s teachings about the importance of the principle of accountability in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But for the past few years, I’ve posted my thoughts about Columbus and Columbus Day on social media and I’ve received substantial push back on my criticism of Columbus, specifically from Mormon friends and family. Again, today, I’m aware that many are claiming that denouncing Columbus is just an example of political correctness run amok. [Read more…]

Reframing the Question:  Moving Beyond Working v. Stay-at-Home Mothers

Natalie Brown is a former BCC blogger. 

It’s common in conversations among Mormons to hear people ask whether a woman works or is a stay-at-home mother (SAHM).  This question may come from a desire to simply understand a person, including their interests and how they spend their time.  But Mormons may also ask this question as a proxy to gauge other values, such as liberal or conservative political beliefs, faithfulness, conformity, educational attainment or economic status.  The problem with this question, aside from the discomfort it may give the women being judged and labeled, is that the distinction between working and stay-at-home mothers is often a false dichotomy, and these terms are a poor proxy for any values we may see behind them. [Read more…]

MHA 2017 Call for Papers Deadline Extended

Dear friends of the Mormon History Association:

Due to recent requests, we have extended the deadline for proposals for the 2017 MHA conference to be held in the St. Louis, Missouri metro area, to 1 November 2016. Please see the Call for Papers HERE for additional information. We will still send notification of acceptance or rejection by 15 December 2016.
[Read more…]

Sunday Poem: “Graces from My Life”

Mornings late abed, melancholy rain,
  feathered-hope graffiti, love’s youthful churn,
Boston flanerie, torque of longing’s strain,
  son in darkness, autumn, a sermon’s turn;
lungs’ gulp, bereaved embrace, vanilla pine,
  brokenness reknit, hands-uplifted prayer,
midnight thoughts, intimations of design,
  a chancel choir, friends’ laughs, the weight of care;
fire-purpled evening, remade love, a verse,
  motets’ weave and rise, raveled-open soul,
released Anfechtung, church-tears, mem’ry’s nurse,
  morning quiet, mountains, the hoped-for whole;
pilgrim’s aching, first Herbert poem’s heart’s-ease,
stubborn bones, a kindly thought, sacred peace.

Jackson County and the Specter of Slave Rebellion


So this morning I went to see The Birth of a Nation, which is about the Nat Turner-led slave rebellion in Virginia in August of 1831. He and a group of other slaves rebelled against their masters, killing about 60 men, women and children over the course of two days, when the rebellion was put down. Nat evaded capture for a couple of months, but eventually was taken and hanged. White mobs killed about 200 blacks in retribution, many of whom had had nothing to do with the rebellion. [Read more…]

Making Your Calling and Election Sure, II. Mormonism and Intelligent Design: A Historical Meander.

A recent article in the New Era made me think about the Latter-day Saint version of the science-religion interface in the Joseph Smith period. And how that may have influenced the LDS thought tradition in the twentieth century.

The intellectual world of Joseph Smith’s

Joseph Smith repeated the traditions and to some degree the  science of his day. Just ask him why people got sick in Nauvoo. It was the smell man!

Joseph Smith repeated the traditions and to some degree the science of his day. Just ask him why people got sick in Nauvoo. It was the smell man!

era was marked by a near uniform belief in intelligent design. The Enlightenment of Locke, Newton and the so-called Founding Fathers of America was marked by a deep belief in the rational design of the Universe, Christian or not. Critics of Christianity, or American non-believers in general usually still passed muster as Deists. If the latter didn’t go for the Genesis account, they still saw the universe as the creation of a God, however impersonal and remote, lacing together a syste that ran of its own accord, no intervention required.[1]
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His Own


So I’m reading the assignment for GD lesson 37 this Sunday, and at 3 Nephi 9:16a I read this:

I came unto my own, and my own received me not.

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What We Didn’t Hear at #LDSConf

On Saturday and Sunday, we heard messages on a myriad of topics. Some resonated deeply with me; others, not so much. But (nearly) as interesting to me as what we heard was what we didn’t: nobody told us to vote for (or against) Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or even Evan McMullin.[fn1]

So what? you rightfully ask. Does the church ever endorse candidates?

No. But last Sunday was a special day:  [Read more…]

Samuel the Lamanite and Who We Call a Prophet #BOM2016

We and the prophet have no language in common. To us the moral state of society, for all its stains and spots, seems fair and trim; to the prophet it is dreadful. So many deeds of charity are done, so much decency radiates day and night; yet to the prophet satiety of the conscience is prudery and flight from responsibility. Our standards are modest; our sense of injustice tolerable, timid; our moral indignation impermanent; yet human violence is interminable, unbearable, permanent…. The prophet’s ear perceives the silent sigh.—Abraham Heschel, The Prophets

I was well into my 30s before I realized that Latter-day Saints use the word “prophet” in places that most religious people don’t. For us, it is a specific office within a well-organized hierarchy. We rightly apply the term to the President of the Church and to the other fourteen members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Someone is a “prophet” by virtue of their standing within an institution. [Read more…]

Elder Meurs: The Sacrament Can Help us Become Holy. #ldsconf


Elder Meurs.

In the Sunday Morning conference session, Elder Peter Meurs [1] spoke about worshiping God through the sacrament. (Watch his talk here.) This is a theme that church leaders have been hitting pretty hard for over the past year.
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Forms of Being Broke, Ranked

Apparently there are some super-boring videos on the YoobTube these days in which some LDS Church leaders are overhead using the term “Church Broke.” This has inevitably led to much speculation about the true meaning of the term, and Steve and I decided the time was right to seek revelation on the matter. Unfortunately, the inspiration didn’t clarify the phrase in question, but instead just highlighted many other forms of being Broke that we humans are likely to encounter during our mortal sojourn.

As always, these rankings are authoritative. [Read more…]


2016ak11_221Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the new National Museum of African American Arts and Culture, the latest and long-anticipated Smithsonian museum on the National Mall in Washington DC.

Like all the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall, entrance is free. However, due to demand and crowds, and the design of the museum, you do need to request a timed and dated pass for entry to the NMAAHC. Currently, they anticipate this to be the case through spring 2017. If you’re going to be in DC, request your pass here. They’re still free, and there is a standby line, if you don’t have a pass and want to try your luck. [Read more…]

E. Ballard: Where should I go? #ldsconf

In the Sunday Morning session of October Conference, Elder Ballard gave an impassioned sermon asking those who are considering leaving the church to consider what they are leaving behind. This talk feels particularly relevant to me, as I am currently feeling a lot of pressure, internal and external, to clarify my relationship with the church. I haven’t been to church recently and, even though it is not for the typical reasons one doesn’t go to church, I still feel less Mormon for it. I may well be stopping and catching my breath, as Elder Ballard suggests, or I may be on my way down another path. I honestly can’t tell right now. [Read more…]

Nelson: “I Have Learned to Suffer With Joy” #LDSConf

During the winter of 1838, Mormons were forced to flee from Missouri’s infamous extermination order. On one freezing cold night, Eliza Snow and her family stayed in an overcrowded, underinsulated log cabin. In recalling that night, Pres. Snow wrote:

Not a complaint was heard—all were cheerful, and judging from appearances, strangers would have taken us to be pleasure excursionists rather than a band of gubernatorial exiles. That was a very merry night. None but saints can be happy under every circumstance.

We have a long history of our ancestors and/or church predecessors being happy in what were frankly horrendous circumstances; if they could be happy freezing in a log cabin in the Missouri winter, I should be happy in my modern comfortable situation, right? In fact, I may feel like I have a religious obligation to be happy.  [Read more…]

E. Cook: Get It In Gear, and Just Serve #ldsconf

Image result for just serveThis little gem of a talk was by E. Carl Cook, not the apostle E. Quentin Cook. He starts by talking about some obscure method of driving old-timey vehicles called “putting it in compound” that I admit was a bit confusing to me since all I have to do to give my car torque is hit the “torque” button in the mid-dash console (it’s a Juke), but the gist of his analogy was, as Paul said, that we are the body of Christ, and we all work together to do God’s will. When you have things (or people) working together, they are stronger than one working alone. Or at least that’s what I think he was saying.

He very humanely pointed out that serving in the church can be daunting for various reasons: [Read more…]