Mormon Lectionary Project: Peace

Sometimes your Christmas season is a joyful and spiritual season of peace.  Sometimes it is a jolly pastiche of fun, family, and friends.  And sometimes it is a Dickensian/O’Henry mashup that you just hope to survive.  I was hoping for joyful and spiritual season of peace.  I would have settled for the jolly pastiche.  Apparently, this is the year for literary irony and urgent care visits.

[Read more…]

The Miracle of Belief (Poems for Christmas #4)

716mY1qbPcLThe Christmas season is, among other wonderful things, one of the times that I try to inflict my taste in poetry on the unsuspecting readers of BCC. In past years, this has involved T.S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, Christina Rosetti  and W.H. Auden. This year, I turn to the Russian-American poet Joseph Brodsky, who made it a habit to write a nativity poem (almost) every Christmas from 1962 through 1995. The poems have been translated by some of the greatest poets in the English language–folks like Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Richard Wilbur–and published as a single volume. It is one of the most frustrating, beautiful, contradictory, profane, and sacred things that I have ever read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. [Read more…]

Lead us not into temptation

temptation

Pope Francis has been in the news recently for suggesting a change to the Lord’s Prayer. (Indeed, there was a story about this on the Today Show just moments ago.) As succinctly summarized by the Washington Post,

The words in the Lord’s Prayer that ask, “Lead us not into temptation,” can cause confusion, Francis said. To make it clear that God would not lead anybody toward sin, the pope suggested a better translation of the Greek prayer from the New Testament would be something along the lines of, “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

Predictably, he has been receiving significant push back, the sentiment being “Leave the Lord’s Prayer alone!” [Read more…]

Book Review: The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power

D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2017).

When I heard that the third volume of Quinn’s Mormon Hierarchy trilogy would deal with the Mormon church and money, I was totally excited. I love exploring how religions deal with money (and, for that matter, how money deals with religions). And I figured that Quinn would have encyclopedic knowledge of Mormonism and money; he has, after all, written about it in the past. And when I saw that the Kindle version was selling for just $9, what could I do? So I downloaded it and read it.

First the good: Quinn has assembled an impressive amount of information related to the LDS church and money. Nearly 200 years’ worth. Some of his history I was familiar with; a good portion (especially dealing with early-20th-century Utah) I wasn’t. For instance, he has a fascinating snippet of discussion about the church and property tax exemption (both in Utah and throughout the world).[fn1] It’s too brief, and seems at some points to conflate property and income tax exemptions, but I’m entirely sure I’ll return to this part of the book in future projects that I look at. [Read more…]

Being a gracious host to Trump doesn’t require throwing Muslims under the bus

There are a bunch of scolds out there on Twitter and on Russell’s post trying to say that nobody can criticize what happened in the church leadership’s meetings with Trump because it was part of a longstanding tradition of being gracious hosts to sitting presidents, regardless of deep disagreements that might exist between them on policy and other matters. When it comes to Eyring and Nelson “express[ing] their appreciation to the president for the efforts by his administration to protect religious freedom,” the scolds are completely wrong.

[Read more…]

Rape by Deception: A Discussion

A recent article in the excellent new site the Sisters Quorum talks about a situation in which a woman’s daughter, a victim of rape by fraud, is further traumatized in a series of interviews with her local leaders who are trying to gather additional information on the perpetrator and who don’t have much training or experience with the concept of rape by fraud.[1] It is a topic that isn’t well understood, and there are some reasons for that. The laws surrounding this crime differ by state, it overlaps with other sex crimes, and if defined too broadly, it can be difficult to prosecute. So let’s take a closer look. [Read more…]

One Cake To Rule Them All   

 24882859_10110373489206339_49640615_oWalking out of the Masterpiece Cakeshop argument at the Supreme Court this morning, I encountered a wall of sound.  The sidewalk teemed with supporters and protestors, waving placards and flags, as media cameras swarmed.  Bakery advocates chanted “Justice for Jack,” while competing chants of “Love Conquers All” erupted on behalf of Charlie Craig and David Mullins.

I love America.  What else is free speech, if not the ability to peacefully hold competing rallies on the Supreme Court steps? [Read more…]

Fraud Among the Faithful

This past week in Relief Society we talked about conversion. Specifically, we addressed that new converts need to feel not only converted to the gospel itself, but also the church culture. There is a new language, new rules, and new etiquette to learn. And often when converts do not feel like they understand or belong, they fall away.

I am not a convert, but in this discussion, I felt like I better understood myself and how I view myself in relation to the church community. I know the language, the rules, and the etiquette, but sometimes I still feel like I don’t really belong.  [Read more…]

Tolkien on Scripture Study

The single most important piece of writing about scripture study that I’ve read is Tolkien’s essay, Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics. Or, more precisely, the most important piece of writing about scripture study that I’ve ever read is Tolkien’s allegory of the man and the tower, contained in his essay, “Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics.” I’ve written before about how I see the most pervasive themes in Tolkien’s writings as among the most pervasive themes of the Book of Mormon (see these posts). But this post is not about how Tolkien’s work relates to the content of the scriptures; it’s about how it relates to how we approach them. This allegory is probably the piece of writing that has most improved my scripture study. [Read more…]

“President Eyring and President Nelson expressed their appreciation to the president for the efforts by his administration to protect the religious freedom of non-Muslims.”

I may have edited the Church News blurb slightly. Feel free to correct as warranted.

Book Review Roundup

Once again, I offer some bite-sized reviews of books that deserve far longer and more detailed treatment. Some excellent books here, some a little more rough. [Read more…]

December 25, 1914: The Christmas Truce

 

It did not change the course of the war, or even effect the outcome of a single battle, but the truce that broke out among French, German, and English troops on the first Christmas of World War I is one of those few grace-filled moments in history that tells us that human beings may not be as bad as we thought. [Read more…]

Advent Sunday: Finding Hope at the End of 2017

advent-week-1.jpgToday is the First Sunday of Advent, and the candle lit today represents Hope—specifically, the hope we have in Christ, that He was born, that He lived, that He suffered, that He died and lived again, and that He prepared a way for us to follow Him. These musings are part of the Mormon Lectionary Project.

“A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man, did he become, from the night of that fearful dream. On the Sabbath-day, when the congregation were singing a holy psalm, he could not listen, because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon his ear, and drowned all the blessed strain. [Read more…]

“The Sun Has Burned My Skin” Is Now on Kindle–and Cheap

TSHBMS Front Cover FINAL

BCC Press is proud to announce that our most recent phenomenal book, Adam Miller’s The Sun Has Burned My Skin: A Modest Paraphrase of the Song of Solomon is now a phenomenal Kindle book. And TODAY ONLY, we are selling it for the ridiculous price of 99 cents–which, as we all know, is the new “free.” And if you have already purchased a hard copy of the book, you can now get it for the actual price of the old free. Download it now, and nobody will know what you are reading in church tomorrow.

Harmony and Unison in the Church

IMG-9323

Thanks to my interfaith romance, most weeks I attend both Mormon and Catholic services.  Lately, I’ve been musing on each faith’s church music.

Mormon Sacrament Meetings are simple: someone plays the piano or organ, while the congregation sings three or four hymns from a 30-year old hymnbook.  All parts — Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass — tend to be well-represented.  Occasionally there’s a special musical number by the choir or an amateur musician.  On the margins, music leaders and priesthood leaders bicker about brass instruments, non-Hymn performances, and overly “fancy” arrangements.

Catholic Masses are similar.  The congregation sings four or five hymns together throughout the service; the accompaniment is usually piano or organ.  A large segment of the service is dedicated to call-and-response chants and singing – reciting the Lord’s Prayer, begging Christ for mercy.   The music is often performed by volunteers and amateur choirs, but its common for bigger and wealthier parishes to have professional musical staff.    [Read more…]

Imperfect Gifts

This morning was a good morning.  My toddler slept in.  By the time I went to wake him up, his sleepy baby eyes bleary and blinking, I had already showered, prepared his breakfast, and packed my own lunch.  As I changed his diaper and dressed him, I cooed and patted, laughed, and kissed.   He smiled and cuddled me.   While I fed him breakfast, I made up silly oatmeal songs:  “Yummy yummy oatmeal, slides in your tummy tummy.  Nummies, nummies, nummies….”  His wide mouth grinned, he showed me his eight perfect little teeth, and he giggled and giggled while he gummed his breakfast.

[Read more…]

Business networking at church: a guide for Mormon women

In a recent conversation in the Aspiring Mormon Women Facebook group (which, by the way, is a great employment support resource for Mormon women), the topic of networking came up. Networking is especially important–and especially difficult–for women looking for an on-ramp into the labor force after a period of being a SAHM, but it’s difficult to know where to start. Meetup-type activities billed as “networking events” are often far inferior to more organic forms of networking around genuine shared interests. But how many Mormons (especially Mormon women and moms) have time to join local hobby clubs or hang out at the golf clubhouse?

At the risk of stating the obvious, I would just add that for Mormons, church is often the best place to do networking, simply because we spend a lot of time there. Of course, women often have a disadvantage in this sphere, because men often have career-related conversations at church and church activities while women tend not to, and women and men don’t often cross over in conversations. This post is a guide for women on how to engage in friendly, natural career networking at Mormon in Mormon social circles, and in particular how to seek networking conversations with men.

[Read more…]

How do you reconcile your love for those who behave badly?

Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer’s cohost on Today, asked, “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?” This effectively captures how I feel about the multiple men in my professional life who have sexually harassed me as my teachers, mentors, and colleagues. [Read more…]

From Buffalo to Bread

Darren Parry is a member of the Northwestern Shoshone Nation and currently serves as the Chairman. Darren also serves on the Board of Directors for the American West Heritage Center, in Wellsville, Utah. He attended the University of Utah and Weber State University and received his Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education, with an emphasis on History. Darren wants to make sure that those who have gone before him are not forgotten. We’re honored that he agreed to share this with us during Native American Heritage Month.

I loved to sit at the feet of my loving Grandmother, Mae Timbimboo Parry. She would sit for hours and tell me Shoshone stories about how the Coyote Stole Fire, or how the Sun got its name. As I attended school I developed a great love for history, and then one day I suddenly realized something. None of the stories my grandmother told me were in our history books. From our history books one can conclude that historical events are an absolute and have only one conclusion. But over the years I have come to realize that history is about perspective. Whose perspective? [Read more…]

Holiday Gift Giving PSA #1 – Nerf Guns

Is it Christmas season yet?

[checks calendar; sees it’s not December yet; proceeds anyway]

We at BCC care about you and your loved ones, and we love Christmas. Gifts are an important part of the season, and should be selected with care and consideration to ensure that the gifts are top-notch and fulfill their purpose. Lifting spirits and spreading love are noble goals, of course. But focusing on these ideals ignores the TRUE meaning of Christmas, which is about getting your kids to leave you alone for a few hours, for crying out loud. [Read more…]

What if Beehives Passed the Sacrament Too?

I can still remember turning 12. At least the church parts of it. After I turned 12, my dad ordained me to the Aaronic priesthood, and then I got to pass the sacrament.

And I continued to pass it for the next two years.[fn1]

Passing the sacrament was an important part of my development as a Mormon. It provided me with a tangible connection to the church. My participation in the church stopped being passive, the receipt of knowledge and culture, and started being, well, participatory. I felt a certain amount of pride, a certain amount of responsibility, and even a certain amount of ownership over my church experience. I remember intricately figuring out who would go where, negotiating the pews to make sure that everybody got the sacrament, watching the priests, waiting for them to stand up so I could return my tray.

And lately I’ve been thinking, what if Beehives passed the sacrament, too? [Read more…]

2017 Christmas Gift Book Guide

Well, despite Relief Society and Priesthood moving to GenCon talks for three out of four weeks, we can collectively appreciate that they have resisted the impulse towards entirely topic-based lessons for Sunday School. 2018 is time for the Hebrew Bible, or at least topical lessons at least tangentially related to the Hebrew Bible. Fortunately, there is a lot more to read than the Sunday School lesson manual. [Read more…]

Adam Miller’s The Sun Has Burned My Skin

Boom-chic-a-wah-wah. This is Adam Miller’s hot take on a sexy Biblical classic, so put on some Barry White and slip into something a little more comfortable, because it’s business time.

I remember as a young Mormon being made aware of this titillating book of pseudo-scripture. It was also a welcome loophole to the missionary injunction against reading novels (scriptures only!). Reading it secretly every now and again made me feel like a normal human being for five minutes, a feeling that never seemed to last as a missionary. Partly this was because it was clearly erotically themed, but also because some GAs had angrily suggested that it not be read, or even, in Dead Poets’ Society fashion, that it be ripped out of the Bible! Doing something forbidden was the easiest path to feeling normal. [Read more…]

BCC Press Announces a New Book by Adam Miller–And So Much More

Happy Thanksgiving. And, more specifically, happy day-after-Thanksgiving. Now that you have given thanks for all the stuff you have, it is time to start wanting a whole bunch of new stuff that you can give thanks for next year. And if you happen to love some people, it is time to buy some stuff to give them for the Holidays.

By “Holidays,” of course, we mean whatever end-of-the-year religious or secular celebration fills you with glee. And by “stuff,” we mean books.

And the first book that you should buy for everybody on your  list is the newest installment in Adam S. Miller’s scriptural paraphrase series: The Sun Has Burned My Skin: A Modest Paraphrase of Solomon’s Song of Songs[Read more…]

When God Failed Me

Mette Ivie Harrison is a well-known mystery and young-adult novelist and frequent guest here. She is also the author of The Book of Laman, published by BCC Press.

I’ve heard a lot of stories about “faith crisis” within Mormonism at this point. Most of them fall into two categories: those whose faith is shaken by historical information that contradicts the dominant church narrative, and those whose faith is shaken by the actions of church leaders or fellow members that seems unchristian, from sexual abuse to the new policy against same-sex couples to failures to help in a difficult situation. My experience seems to be the outlier, in that I felt less like the church failed me and more like God Himself had let me fall without any attempt to reach out a hand to catch me. How do I reconcile this experience with a choice to return to God and faith now? I’ll get to that eventually. [Read more…]

Sure He’s Heavy, But Still: He’s My Brother


Hey everyone! No, no, calm down, it’s just me, your Uncle Russell. Don’t freak out; here, let me close the window behind me. Is everyone here? Great!

Now, I know your mom and dad are out, and you’re planning a special surprise party for Daniel’s 50th birthday when they return–what do you mean, how do I know? Well, I’m the author here so, duh: I’m omniscient. No, that does not mean I’ve been spying on you. Please, put down your phones. Look, I just figured this would be a good time to let you in on some secrets about your dad. [Read more…]

My Mother’s Eclipse

This talk was given in sacrament meeting in the Battlecreek 9th Ward in Pleasant Grove on the subject of Gratitude.

Solar Eclipse Aug, 21, 2017My Mother died on July, 13th of this year.

One late afternoon about a month later, on August 20th, 2017 to be exact, my friend Steve and his wife Jill, pick me up along with my adult son Jaron to chase the total eclipse tacking across the United States the next day. We all know it may be a once in a lifetime event, but none of us are that excited. We’ve been to several partial eclipses, and while amazing, this more-of-the-same-except-even-more seems like a lot of work at a busy time. School is starting. I’ve got loads of projects and deadlines screaming at me. I keep asking myself why are we doing this? Time with one of my sons and good conversations with friends is really the only thing that doesn’t keep me from canceling.
[Read more…]

Dear Food Human

Note:  Almost four months ago, I became a single foster mother to siblings: a ten year old girl and a one year old boy.  My world has turned upside down.  In addition to the chaos of adding a couple of kids to the house—one of them a really busy and curious toddler—there is so much for all of us to process from such a huge life change.  There are also endless giggles and hugs.  But it’s a lot to handle.  Honestly, I’m barely keeping it together on any given day.  It’s entirely too overwhelming to coolly evaluate and blog about.  But then, my dog, Dia, slipped a note under my door this morning, so I thought I’d just publish it instead. 

[Read more…]

Links Between Theology, Behavior, and Reform

Hal Boyd wrote a piece for the Atlantic this morning that gently (i.e. in a most Mormon-like way) probed the hypocrisy and limitations of praising Mormon behavior while mocking Mormon belief.  He suggested that the relationship between a rigorous theology complete with behavioral expectations is closely linked to the admirable behaviors being praised by outside voices (most recently, the prominent condemnation of Roy Moore by Senator Flake, Evan McMullin, and Mitt Romney).  The piece can be read here.

The piece troubles me–in all the best ways.

[Read more…]

Talking with Teens about Sex & P*rn

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.28.58 AMRecently some friends and I were discussing finding ways to talk with our teens about the ubiquity of pornography, and the basic reality that they would, at some point, come across it. In my own family (and probably in yours too) we have tackled this question. One of our children Googled a harmless Pokemon thing, and accidentally found a porn site. (NB: beware, there is a whole anime/Pokemon porn sub cult—I literally had no idea. You’ve been warned.)

Our teen told us what happened with the Google search, and we verified this by looking at the browser history. They were already feeling terrible, and we didn’t have any desire to add additional shame on an already sensitive situation, but we also knew we had to have (another) frank talk.

[Read more…]