“What Shall I Do to Inherit Eternal Life” #BCCSundaySchool2019

Matthew 18, Luke 10

The Sapiential, Constitutive, Consequential Kingdom of God

To read the Gospels is to become obsessed with a vision. And the name of the vision is “the Kingdom of God,” or, sometimes, “the Kingdom of Heaven” or just “the Kingdom.” It is the most powerful vision in any of the standard works, where it occasionally also goes by the name of “Zion.” It is the focus of nearly all of Christ’s parables, and of the vast majority of His teaching and ministry. And it remains one of the most poorly understood concepts in the churches that use His name.

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The Point of View for My Work as an Author–On Leere

This post is a continuation from the AML Blog. Read it first to understand my path in becoming an author.

Yes. Today King Leere, Goatherd of the La Sals is released into the world. At one point I was so excited about writing it. I sat in my chair too long and suffered a deep vein thrombosis. Ah, the hazards of the writing life.

To understand my work, it must be kept in mind that I break things. [Read more…]

Your Earth Day Present from BCC Press: The Tragedy of King Leere, Goatherd of the La Sals, by Steven L. Peck

Two years and two weeks ago, on April 6, 2017, BCC Press began with a single book: Steven Peck’s Science the Key to Theology. Today, we are proud to announce the publication of our 21st book, also by Steven Peck: The Tragedy of King Leere, the Goatherd of the La Sals.

In a certain (very metaphorical) sense, BCC Press is now a Steve Peck sandwich. We have a varied and tantalizing selection of fiction, poetry, drama, and memoir, and Steve is the artisan bread that holds it all together and gives it a shape. Science the Key to Theology is a serious work of philosophical nonfiction with the potential to change the way that Latter-day Saints see the universe. King Leere, on the other hand, is a post-modern, post-climate-change, post-American novel set in Southern Utah among people who used to be Mormons.

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“O Grave, Where Is Thy Victory?” #BCCSundaySchool2019

The Come Follow Me manual’s resources for the week of Easter include no set reading from the New Testament. Instead, there is a broad range of scriptures referenced–mostly from Matthew, but also from Luke, John, and 1 Peter–all dealing with Jesus’s resurrection, and how the story of the resurrection, and the story of the week preceding it, are emblematic of Jesus’s power to help us overcome trials and weaknesses and sins, and even death itself. This is, of course, a vital message; one that is captured in the exultation of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:55: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” [Read more…]

Special Assignment

About two and a half years ago a local church leader gave me what he dubbed a “special assignment” to go and visit with a young couple who had had a faith crisis and were no longer believers. He had talked to them and they told him they would appreciate such a visit, but this leader didn’t feel competent to discuss the things they wanted to discuss. I told him I would be happy to go to their home and talk to them about their issues, but I wanted to manage expectations. That is, I didn’t want anyone to think I was somehow miraculously going to cure their faith crisis. If I did it, my goals would be much more modest. I would want them to understand that no, they’re not crazy; and yes, these kinds of issues exist. If they wanted to talk about specific issues I would be happy to do so, but more from a perspective of trying to explain how many Saints deal with such issues, and not from a perspective of trying to argue against their newfound knowledge altogether. He agreed with these constraints, so I made the visit. [Read more…]

The Prophet Project: Careful versus Casual by Sister Becky Craven

Near the end of her talk, Careful versus Casual, Sister Becky Craven says something fairly radical, so radical that it runs against the apparent grain of the rest of her talk. [Read more…]

A Poem for Holy Thursday (2019)

I posted this two years ago on Holy Thursday. I’ve tweaked it and made some revisions. [Read more…]

Thursday

If you look at our archives, today is a day when I revisit the liturgies associated with it. This is a post from some years ago, that reads different to me with the death of my father earlier this year.

There are old Eastern folk traditions that anyone who dies during Easter week is immediately ushered to paradise. The formal Orthodox funeral liturgy is in fact dramatically altered for those who die on Easter and before Thomas Sunday. “[L]ittle of the chanting which is ordinarily part of the office is retained. This is out of respect for the greatness and dignity of the resplendent feast of the Resurrection, which is a feast of joy and not lamentation. As we shall all rise in Christ, in the hope of the resurrection and eternal life, through this same resurrection of Christ the dead pass from the afflictions of this world to joy and happiness, and the church proclaims this in the hymns of the resurrection.”[n1]
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Sunday Dress

In our most recent General Conference, there has been a push for members to dress up for church. It’s long been a hobby horse of E. Oaks, and that hasn’t changed. Generally speaking, current Mormon dress standards at church are a little more dressed up than most other sects, but maybe less than Easter at a historically black church–we don’t like hats and fans.

Several years ago, we had a French boy staying with us on an exchange program. I asked if he wanted to come along with us to church or if he preferred to stay home. He said he would like to come along, for curiosity sake. I had mentioned that people in our church tended to dress up for church. He was Catholic, an occasional church-goer, but not from a super devout family. When he came down in nice jeans, sneakers, and a tee shirt with a slogan on it, I was worried he’d feel awkward when he saw all the other kids in dress pants and button down shirts. He borrowed a button down shirt from my son and off we went. He was further surprised to see our son administering the sacrament, a rite he was used to seeing a priest in vestments conduct. [Read more…]

Come Follow Me as a Quasi-, or Proto-Lectionary

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t have a traditional Christian liturgical calendar, and the Come Follow Me New Testament manual is not a traditional lectionary. But Come Follow Me is also not entirely like a traditional Latter-day Saint Sunday School manual, and the ways that it departs from that form nudge it closer to functioning almost like a lectionary in some interesting ways. [Read more…]

#taxday 2019: Henry P. Richards and Hawaiian Personal Taxes

 

Henry P. Richards, public domain.

Today is April 15, which means it’s Tax Day! And, as always, on Tax Day, I wanted to bring you a story of Mormonism and taxes.[fn1]

I didn’t have anything particular in mind, though.[fn2] So I ran a quick Westlaw search,[fn3] and, before I had a chance to rearrange the results chronologically, the first result caught my eye: Kupua v. Richards, an 1879 decision from the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

The Richards in that case was Henry P. Richards, brother of apostle Franklin D. Richards. But, while today we remember Franklin D. better than Henry P., it turns out that Henry P. Richards played a critical (and heralded!) role in missionary work in Hawaii. [Read more…]

LATTER-DAY SAINTS AND MEDIA SYMPOSIUM

CALL FOR PAPERS

From Embrace to Erase
Friday and Saturday, October 25-26, 2019
Hunter Conference Center
Southern Utah University
Cedar City, Utah

The “Mormon” moniker has become a symbol of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ changing organizational norms, shifting identity, technological innovations, and these factors’ reflection in media studies. To wit, the church has entered into a period of renewed international media coverage and attention by scholars, especially since the beginning of church prophet Russell M. Nelson’s presidency in January 2018. [Read more…]

Palm Sunday: Being on the Right Side When it Is Easy

Today is Palm Sunday, when we remember Jesus entering Jerusalem triumphantly on the back of a donkey. All four gospels tell the story, as well they should. It is the moment that Christ is recognized as the king that he is. As Mark relates it,

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A Tale of Two Restorations

Expanatory Note: In 1999, the fledgling organization FAIR (more recently FairMormon) held its first ever conference, in Ben Lomond, California. I had nothing to do with the group at the time, but someone invited me to present at the conference, and I agreed to give it a shot. (That first conference was held in a Relief Society room, and the number of speakers almost exceeded the audience. This was a very humble beginning compared to the conference centers and large crowds of today.) My effort was a comparison and contrast of the restorations of Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith. I have copied the main text below, as I’m confident the vast majority of our readers has never seen this piece. For space considerations I have omitted the Introduction, a Chronology, a Bibliography and Notes; that apparatus can be found where the presentation is archived at the FairMormon website. The piece is 20 years old, so I cannot claim to stand by everything I wrote at the time, but I hope some of you may find it interesting nonetheless [Read more…]

The Prophet Project: How Can I Understand? by Elder Soares

Perhaps you are familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect? It is the psychological tic that so many of us have that allows us to think we are competent when we are not and incompetent when we are. The less we know, the more likely we are to think we get things right. The more we know, the more likely we are to see our faults and shortcomings. As I read through Elder Ulisses Soares’s recent conference talk, “How can I understand?”, I couldn’t help but think about the Dunning-Kruger effect and how it influences us. [Read more…]

The No-Longer Policy: Where Do We Go From Here?

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Today’s guest post comes from Christian Kimball, a longtime friend of By Common Consent.

First, let’s celebrate getting things right. Whether it takes 4 years or 30 years or 100 years, correcting past mistakes is a good.  Let’s recognize and even celebrate the virtue of continuing revelation—the Church’s ability to change, which we tout as a distinctive feature.

Second, let’s recognize that real people have been hurt over a clear mistake.  The harms are wide-ranging, from agonizing over doctrine and institutional loyalty, to seeing loved ones leave the Church, to unrelenting pain in the LGBTQ community, to suicide.  I can witness from personal knowledge that the Policy of Exclusion caused some to feel there were no good options and no viable future for them in this life.  Others internalized the Policy as “you are irredeemably broken.” None of that is good, for anybody.  Reparations, restoration, apologies, corrections, and ongoing improvements are all in order (even if they seem impossible). [Read more…]

Reforming the Honor Code Office

BYU Students are hoping to reform the Honor Code Office with a social media campaign, and students have been sharing stories online of their own run-ins with the HCO. The stories have a few recurring themes:

  • Gay students being targeted disproportionately, often for non-violations
  • Vindictive behavior between students that the HCO enables and promotes
  • Hints at breaches of confidentiality in the ecclesiastical confession process, putting repentant students’ educations on the line when they seek counsel
  • Policing of doubts and testimony by other students
  • Local police officers sharing information about BYU students that occurs off campus
  • The emotionally and psychologically unhealthy impacts of the HCO on students: paranoia, anxiety, depression, and the fact that some reported sins/violations are associated with psychological issues
  • That the HCO encourages lying and discourages repentance by inserting academic (and downstream financial) consequences to what should be personal spiritual matters
  • That there is an HCO file on each student, including fishing expeditions in their social media accounts. (FYI, they are legally obligated to show you your file if you request, and I would request the heck out of that thing.)

[Read more…]

When the Miracle Doesn’t Come

 

Mette Ivie Harrison is the nationally known author of The Bishop’s Wife mystery series with Soho Press, and has also published three books with BCC Press (The Book of Laman, Vampires in the Temple, and The Book of Abish ). She is currently at work on a memoir about “Old Mette” and “New Mette” that chronicles the two deaths (her daughter’s and her own spiritual death) that led to the new life she lives and the new relationship she has with God. This essay was written in the midst of the change from one to the other.

While in graduate school, I knew two very devout women who had two very similar and yet very different experience with miracles. One was Primary President. The other was in the Relief Society Presidency. Their husbands were active. But the youngest son of one of the women, in the year before we moved into the ward, had been hit by a car right in front of his house. She performed CPR on him and he survived, but was never fully healed, despite the fasting and prayers of the ward.

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Easter and the Final Days of Jesus

A few years back, I wrote a series of posts on the last days of Jesus’ mortal life. I have edited a few of them for this year but mostly my thoughts expressed in the series remain unchanged. Since we are once again approaching my favorite holiday, I offer them again for your perusal. You can find all of them here (scroll to the bottom to read the first entry). God bless, and happy Easter 2019!

The Middle

We’re told that the world is black and white

Good or evil

Right or wrong

And sitting in between is always gray

because it has to be a mix between the two

some right, some wrong

some good, some bad

But to me the middle is full of color

red

blue

green

yellow

purple

It’s something entirely different than the black or white

It’s not all the possible shades of gray

Because it is not gray at all

It is me

And I am so many colors

What Does the Budapest Temple Mean for the Church in Europe?

King Saint Stephen helped transform Hungary into a Christian state using methods that today would no doubt cause a stir.

A couple of weeks ago I started drafting a post entitled “What Does the Rome Temple Mean for the Church in Europe?” but didn’t get around to finishing it for a variety of reasons. Now I’m glad I didn’t because with the recently concluded General Conference some of those thoughts have been overtaken by events.

From my worm’s-eye view, the announcement of the Budapest temple is an encouraging sign of the church’s engagement in Europe, for it builds on a growing trend—e.g., the dedications of the Paris temple in 2017 and the Rome temple in March of this year and the planned dedication of the Lisbon temple this September and the re-dedication of the Frankfurt temple in October—of investing in an area of the church where membership density is low.

[Read more…]

The Prophet Project: An Introduction

I’ve never been a “modern prophets” guy. [Read more…]

Come Listen to a Blogger’s Voice (About Taxes and Religion and Stuff)

On Friday, I sat down in a law school conference room with two of my students. They’d set up a pretty impressive array of microphones and mixers and a laptop, and pushed aside the Redweld folders that, for some reason, took up half of the table. These students started Dialogue, De Novo, a podcast that centers around the Loyola University Chicago School of Law community. [Read more…]

The Splintering

I believe we are near the end of cohesive online community within our Church. [Read more…]

God the Father vs The Godfather: When Forever Families become Eternal Hostages

In “The Problem of Pain,” CS Lewis famously says that many people mistake the Father in Heaven for the Grandfather in Heaven—”a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all.”

The Grandfather in Heaven is a perversion of the Christian doctrine of God because he does not ask anything of his followers. He doesn’t care if they eat ice cream for breakfast, or if they do their homework, or if they progress in any way into adulthood. He doesn’t have to deal with them when they are the spiritual equivalent of 30 years old and failing to launch. He just wants to make sure that everybody has a good time on his watch.

There is another common perversion of God the Father that rears its head from time to time in both Christian and Latter-day Saint circles. Let’s call him “The Godfather.” Unlike God the Father, the Godfather works through fear and intimidation. He gives us presents and helps us find our car keys, of course. And we may, from time, discreetly ask him to whack an enemy or two and make it looks like an accident. and he may discretely whack an enemy or two and make it look like an accident. But, in exchange he demands our absolute loyalty. And if we fail him, we may end up sleeping with the fishes.

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The Presiding Authority of President Eubank

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Photo from Church News profile of President Eubank.

President Sharon Eubank gave a masterful sermon this morning on being Christlike. She effortlessly spoke with power and authority, quoting scripture (while adding gender parity), admonishing us to lift and light together, and reminding us that Jesus Christ reached out to all.

President Eubank is a force for good, both as a member of the General Relief Society Presidency and as the Director of LDS Charities (the first woman to hold that position). When she proclaims: “You are making progress. Keep going. He sees all your hidden sacrifices and counts them to your good and the good of those you love. Your work is not in vain. You are not alone. His very name, Emmanuel, means God With Us. He is surely with you,” she knows of what she speaks.

A few weeks ago, President Eubank also spoke as the featured guest at a stake women’s conference. Her message was a similarly powerful one on the themes of love and service.

And yet who presided at this stake meeting?  As listed in the program, it was the stake president. [Read more…]

Personal Revelation and Sustaining Prophets

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Rachel Allred lives in California and loves her husband, her toddler, and ice cream (not necessarily in that order).  She generally tries to make the world a more empathetic place.

I literally started crying in the cab Thursday. It was a Lyft. The driver asked if I was okay; I told him I was.

I knew The Policy was wrong. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. I felt like death when it was announced. My heart sank. My lungs filled with lead. My mind started screaming. My soul recoiled. I don’t know how else to say it. I was just completely numb.  I walked around in a vaguely ragey, disbelieving fog for days.

That weekend in November 2015, my beloved husband and I (this was back when he went to church; I’ve wondered since if the policy was the beginning of the end) went to a thrift store to buy clothes with rainbow patterns.  We specifically chose a thrift store whose proceeds are donated to LGBTQ support organizations. We wore our rainbows to church that Sunday. We went with subtle patterns. Too subtle, maybe, because we had to tell people that’s what we were doing, but I was playing the organ so at least some people noticed.   [Read more…]

Today is (probably) not Jesus’s Birthday

thIt’s a fun calendrical coincidence this year that the first general session of General Conference falls on today, April 6. This is a big date for the church. It’s the date we recognize as the date that the church started as a church. (See this guest post yesterday for a discussion of what that actually means). But there’s a tradition in the church that says Jesus was born on April 6, 1 BC, exactly 1830 years to the day before the church was organized on April 6, 1830. This tradition is almost certainly wrong. [Read more…]

Heresy and Prophesy

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Humans are really bad at accurately identifying heretics and prophets.  Christ preached as much (“no prophet is accepted in his own country”) — and was executed for it (“by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God”).  Christ himself is both the world’s most renowned heretic and its greatest prophet.

It’s easy to confuse the two concepts because the definitions of heresy and prophesy mirror each other.  They both hinge on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Bible teaches that those who testify of Christ have the gift of prophesy.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces this testifying definition of prophets.

St. Thomas Aquinas defines heresy as professing faith in Christ, while corrupting His Gospel.  William Tyndale similarly explains that heresy springs “out of the blind hearts of hypocrites” who “cannot comprehend the light of scripture.” [Read more…]

“I Gave Her a Name”

Rachel Hunt Steeblik is the author of I Gave Her a Name, her second collection of poems about Heavenly Mother. Her first collection, Mother’s Milk, won the Association for Mormon Letters Award for Poetry in 2018. Both books are published by BCC Press. Rachel will be reading selections from I Gave Her a Name tonight at Anthony’s Fine Art and Antiques in Salt Lake City and tomorrow night at Writ & Vision in Provo. Both readings start at 7:00 PM.

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I very purposefully set Mother’s Milk inside two prayers, an invocation and a benediction, and as a prayer. I did it because I love Joanna Brooks’ poem called “Invocation/Benediction,” that addresses “Father, Mother”, and because before Jeffrey R. Holland’s 2015 conference talk, “Behold Thy Mother,” that explicitly thanked “a Mother in heaven” (along with Mother Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Mary of Nazareth) for Her “crucial role in fulfilling the purposes of eternity,” the last non “heavenly parents” reference to Heavenly Mother in General Conference was Gordon B. Hinckley’s 1991 talk, “Daughters of God,” that suggested that those who pray to Heavenly Mother are “well-meaning, but…misguided.” I wanted to offer my own language of how we might pray about Heavenly Mother or simply to feel closer to Her.

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