A Mormon Mecca in England

In his dissertation, Mormon Meccas, Michael Madsen discusses the creation of “sacred space” by the institutional Church through its restoration of Mormon historical sites. He sees an increasingly top-down effort to anchor and root Mormonism to its history. Ambitious projects in and around Palmyra, Kirtland, and Nauvoo are taken to be evidence for this thesis.

Madsen and others have observed that Mormonism’s past is its theology.[1] By nurturing the Saints’ historical memory and thus Mormonism’s theology and sense of identity, the Church historical sites create a sacred geography that can be shared by all members:

LDS Church leaders evidently feel that the Church needs more than just theology and history to maintain cohesion and unity, it needs a geography as well; sacred space that all Mormons–whether in Utah or Uganda–can feel a part of, thus rooting the religion in place. [2]

For Madsen the deliberate creation by the Church of Mormon Meccas has had one eye on the international Church, so that Saints in “Uganda” have inculcated within them a greater sense of where the Church came from, where they came from. The fact that such Saints will probably never visit Palmyra or Nauvoo is held as irrelevant; the creation of a sacred historical geography can be a symbol to be reverenced from afar, the Jerusalems of the diaspora Mormons.

Whilst I believe Madsen to have captured the meaning of the attempts by the Church to create sacred space through historical shrines in North America, its model of a top-down enterprise need not be taken as the only way Mormons can sacralize their history. Indeed, one important Mormon historical site–the Gadfield Elm chapel in England–is an interesting example of a local, bottom-up effort to create a Mormon Mecca. [Read more…]

Home Teaching, April 2006

Ronan: Good afternoon Brother and Sister Bloggernacle. Nice to see you again. (Courtesies and half-hearted offers to “help you with something.” Perhaps even a creased birthday card for one of the little ones.)

For our message today, we have brought three props: a mirror, a picture of a Mormon McMansion, and a rusty garden tool (a rake). Yes, it’s really weird that we came to your home wearing suits and holding a rake, but it will all make sense soon, I promise. President Monson’s First Presidency message is about “becoming our best selves.” [Read more…]

Embracing the Thrill of the Chase

Several years ago, I lived on a street with a most interesting religious configuration. Three houses in a row — a minister from a conservative church with his wife and eight children — Abel, Esther, Lydia, Hannah, David, Daniel, Rebekah and Miriam. Their neighbour was a retired pastor of 30 years from another denomination, who now served a large geographical area assisting in mediation between pastors and their congregations. He and his wife had three grown children. And finally there was us: a Mormon bishop, his wife and their three little pre-school boys. Our commonalities as much as our differences, held us together, forming a somewhat tenuous community of believers who were trying in their own ways to follow the teachings of Jesus.

During those years on Burton Road, one of my favourite things to do was to watch the school age children, who lived two doors down, arrive home from school. The bus stop was around the corner and like clockwork at quarter to four, here they would come. The oldest boy, confident and aloof, striding ahead. Esther, Lydia and Hannah came next, laughing and talking and finally David and Daniel, bringing up the rear, stopping to look at bugs on the sidewalk or pausing to pick up a dropped lunch box or books. If I was outside with my own boys, I would somehow, occasionally, be swept along to their house for an after-school snack and visit. I have pleasant memories of sitting around the kitchen table — more often then not, their home was a happy confusion of children, music and chatter. Their mother was meant to be the nurturer of a large brood — she mothered with grace and enthusiasm. I marveled at her as she took them on bicycle rides and canoe trips, helped with flute and piano practice and deftly handled their misbehaviour. She became a good friend and trusted advisor.

Which is why I was so shocked and unprepared, the day she decided to attack. [Read more…]

Little Less than God

This post was inspired by Julie’s post on the KJV at T&S. (I was going to link to it, but their server seems to be down as I write this.)

The “official” English language Bible in the Church today is the 1979 LDS King James Version. This project was initiated by Harold B. Lee, who was a protege of J. Reuben Clark, Jr. In 1956 President Clark published his book, Why the King James Version, which, although not widely read, was very influential in the modern development of the KJV as the Church’s de facto official English translation. This book was a collection of notes assembled by President Clark essentially as a lawyer’s brief against the Revised Standard Version (and, by implication, other modern translations). Although President Clark’s son was a classics professor at BYU and knew Greek (I have in my library a collection of Cicero’s orations that once belonged to J. Reuben Clark III), President Clark did not take advantage of his son’s knowledge, relying instead on secondary Protestant sources. [Read more…]

It Wasn’t Really So, But It Seemed To Be.

I’m pleased to announce a the launch of a new online mormon literary magazine, Popcorn Popping.
[Read more…]

One that slipped through Correlation…

What’s wrong with this story? (From the Family Home Evening Resource Book.)
[Read more…]

Moses Most Mormon

Paul Y. Hoskisson, ed. Sperry Symposium Classics: The Old Testament. Salt Lake: Religious Studies Center, BYU, and Deseret Book, 2005.

Andrew C. Skinner. Prophets, Priests, and Kings: Old Testament Figures Who Symbolize Christ. Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 2005.

Mainstream Mormon publications on scripture studies follow a four-year calendar; after all, how large would the market be among rank-and-file Mormons for a book on the Old Testament in a year when the Sunday School reading is the Doctrine and Covenants or the Book of Mormon? Don’t most Mormons like to basically pretend that the Old Testament doesn’t even exist during the off years in the Sunday School calendar? [Read more…]

Agent Hormone

I’m a sucker for hormones. They get me every time. Cut back my estrogen levels and pound me with the progesterone and I’m gone. The world is suddenly ending, I’m the worst person in it, I’m hugely fat, I can’t sleep enough and my bowels, well, they go skeewampus. I have tracked my feelings and behavior for a solid 6 years and I am still powerless against them. Fully aware that I am in the midst of a temporary hormone shift, I still sigh, cry, want to die, and eat an extraordinary amount of carbohydrates. [Read more…]

Confronting Pornography: A Book Review

April_2006_book. Edited by Mark D. Chamberlain, PhD., Daniel D. Gray, LCS., and Rory C. Reid, MSW.

In recent years, we’ve heard a great deal from our church leaders about pornography. The book, Confronting Pornography (published by Deseret Book), is a compilation of advice from therapists and others who counsel LDS members struggling with pornography and sex addiction. The twenty-seven short articles in the book provide practical information from a gospel perspective on how to (1) understand the issues and prevent pornography addiction, (2) support those who struggle with pornography use, including both the individual and the family members affected, and (3) take steps to overcome pornography and sex addiction. [Read more…]

Are Mormon Men and Boys “Musically Disenfranchised?”

“Maybe, we can get the missionaries to sing.”

This seems to be the perennial solution to the shortage of men who participate in the ward choir. [Read more…]

The most important revelations

A friend recently asked me what I thought the most important revelations in the church have been. This is an interesting question considering that the last published revelation was in 1918. I categorized a quaternary response: [Read more…]

The Scripture Channel

I recently fell asleep one night while reading the scriptures. It wasn’t because they were boring me, I was just dog-tired. A suggestion–someone needs to print a version that has special drool resistant pages. Anyway, here I was asleep the other night, face down on the bible and I have this dream. Whether it was inspired or not, I leave to you. In the dream, there was a big screen TV, and the following commercial advertisement came on. [Read more…]

Fair Mother Earth

James Lovelock’s Gaia theory may be a bit Aquarian for some Mormons, but it is worth remembering that Mormon scripture also offers a “personified” earth (Moses 7:48-49):

And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face? And when Enoch heard the earth mourn, he wept, and cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, wilt thou not have compassion upon the earth? Wilt thou not bless the children of Noah?

In honour of Earth Day, I think a little Jim Morrison is also in order:

What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister? Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her…

Be green. Mother Earth grieves.

Two Prayers

I’m a believer in the power of prayer. It’s not only a way to meditate and focus our internal energies, but I have faith that it is also a means of communing with God and of learning His will.

Two moments come to mind when I think of how prayer has worked in my life. Both prayers were uttered in moments of true desperation: during law exams. [Read more…]

Round Table: Correlation — vol. 1

As our regular readers know, By Common Consent occasionally gathers experts in certain fields to discuss topics in a round table format. In continuing this grand tradition, we are pleased to release volume 1 in a series on Correlation. [Read more…]

Honoring Parents in a Post-Therapeutic Age

Two old posts from the Feminacle, unrelated except in my mind, and a recent visit from my parents have got me thinking.

Over at FMH, Emily S. posted one of my favorite poems, about the austere and lonely “offices of love” which even the least skilled or emotionally savvy parents often perform for their children. Meanwhile, in the trenches of the mommy wars, a a guest poster and several commenters seem very certain of their superiority to their parents in terms of commitment to marriage and the ability to make it work. Naturally, I hope they are right. Divorce stinks, especially for kids, and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t aspire to atone for the sins of the last generation and make a better world for our children. Still, perhaps because of my advancing age (:)), and my pained awareness of the thousand ways I fail my children despite my best efforts, I feel a great deal of sympathy for the parents whose children describe their failures so starkly.

It seems to me that we have lost something in our sophisticated understanding of our parents and our “dysfunctional families of origin.” [Read more…]

My Children’s Children’s Children

There was a moment when I thought I might be gay. I think most people ask themselves at some time or another. Quietly, of course. In a closet, maybe. Most ask it in attempts to understand or define their sexuality but I was already certain I liked men, a lot, which makes it seem illogical and even a bit stupid for a Mormon girl to ask, but I did. [Read more…]

A Prayer for Passover

Wilt thou paint
the Blood of the Lamb
upon the lintel
of my soul.

Introducing: Amri Brown

BCC is pleased to introduce our newest guest blogger: Anamarie Brown! [Read more…]

Trial and Error at Easter

In 1985 I was asked to speak on Easter Sunday about the death and resurrection of Jesus. As an earnest first year law student, I felt qualified to focus at length on what I knew to be the numerous violations of “due process” under Jewish law during the trial of Jesus. I had exhaustively studied the accounts written by Talmage and McConkie and was moved by the stinging irony of Jesus, Israel’s lawgiver as the premortal God of the Old Testament, being tried as a transgressor of that very law by judges who violated that very law in conducting this trial. I spoke with more emotion than was my habit, my outrage clearly audible in my voice. Several members came to me afterwards, visibly moved by my remarks. Little did I know that 12 months later I would no longer believe the particulars I had declared that Easter Sunday about the Jewish trial of Jesus. [Read more…]

Having Our “Doctrinal” Cake, and Eating it Too

A recent thread at T&S — ostensibly devoted to discussing today’s gay rights demonstration at BYU and the anticipated behavior of BYU students — has devolved into another spat over the meaning of the term “doctrine,” how “doctrines” differ from “opinions,” and how to tell the difference between the two. (Thank heavens nobody mentioned “policy” or “principles” or “culture,” or things would have gotten really ugly!). They say “all roads lead to Rome,” and “all Mormon roads lead to Provo,” and I can’t help but notice that all Bloggernacle discussions seem to inevitably lead to this topic, or some variant of it. Fortunately, I seem to be addicted to this sort of discussion, so today’s exchange has brought me out of my cave, at long last. [Read more…]

Big Love Hits and Misses

I started out watching Big Love out of sheer morbid curiousity, coupled with the fact that I was watching The Sopranos anyway. I didn’t think it was very entertaining at first, and I figured I’d check it out for two or three weeks and then move back to Gray’s Anatomy.

But the show is getting more entertaining as the characters develop. It is still no Six Feet Under, but it has potential. So I’ll probably keep watching for now. [Read more…]

The architects of Cardston

April_2006_cardstonThe Cardston temple stands strong and resolute. Its design betrays the time in which it was built; the turn of the century gave us few such structures. It is an edifice to how things were while yet remaining a gateway to contemporary communion. The records left by the early saints in Cardston build a similar monument to our past. The way things used to be. [Read more…]

A Christian by Yearning

Levi speaks on his upcoming book Rascal by Nature, A Christian by Yearning, A Mormon Autobiography at the University of Utah tomorrow, April 11. You Utahns still have time to make plans to see him. [Read more…]

Famine for the Words of the Lord

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. (Amos 8:11)

In Mormon contexts, this Old Testament text is often taken as a prophecy of the Great Apostasy, and sometimes as a description of people outside the LDS church today. Sadly, there is a sense in which this statement is true, as well, of many active, faithful Latter-day Saints. [Read more…]

Living With Hypocrisy

I don’t know much Latin or Greek, but I do know the origins of the word “hypocrisy”: hypocrisis or hupokrisis, each meaning fakery or pretending. The concept of hypocrisy is at the heart of Christianity; Jesus condems few people more severely than the hypocrites (note to hypocrites – steer clear of Matthew and Luke. John is the gospel for you). Dante placed hypocrites in the 8th Circle of Hell, forced to wear coats that are golden and beautiful on the outside, but lined inside with heavy lead.

Hypocrisy can mean several different concepts, from the basic idea of “not practising what you preach” to “consciously or subconsciously putting forward a better image of ourselves than really exists” to “Hypocrisy is the act of pretending to have morals or virtues that one does not truly possess or practice” (wiki).

Here is the problem: most of us are hypocrites. [Read more…]

A Camel through the Eye of a Needle

All three synoptics recount an episode during the Perean ministry of the Saviour where a rich young man (called a “ruler” in Luke) approaches Jesus and asks what he can do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, and in response to a request for clarification refers to the Ten Commandments. The young man replies that he has kept these from his youth, and then asks what yet he lacks. The reply is to sell all he has, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Jesus. The young man then walks away sadly, because he had great possessions.

Following this story is a section where Jesus utters the now famous proverb, which I will quote below as it is given in each gospel: [Read more…]

The Gifts of Church

Last night, I attended a lecture given by the Reverend Deborah Little, an Episcopal priest who created a street ministry in Boston to minister to the homeless. Rev. Little came to this work after a long career as a professional business woman, where she actively participated in many volunteer organizations. Along the way, however, she realized she needed to make significant changes in her life and establish a street ministry to work with the poor:

Although I’d never been what I thought of as a “churchy” person, I thought the real work of healing and liberation had to do with God and community and sacrament. I wanted to bring the sacraments of the church to people who may never be able to come into our buildings.

[Read more…]

End Racism

Darron Smith teaches “Introduction to Sociology” at Westminster College in Salt Lake City and is working towards the completion of his PhD in the Education, Culture and Society department at the University of Utah. His has recently co-edited the book “Black and Mormon.” Catch his interview with Mormon Stories here.

The announcement made by President Hinckley at Saturday night’s priesthood session was very welcome. I was encouraged by his denouncement of the LDS racism that continues unabated in many parts of North America, Utah in particular. The extent of the racist practices by well-meaning and not so well-meaning members of the church is widespread. Many of my white brothers and sisters do not see this reality in their personal lives in the church, and therefore exclaim that Black folks are being too sensitive or that racism does not exist simply because such behavior does not happen to them. White people are not in the best position to understand the many manifestations of racism, despite the disgruntled white folks who cry reverse discrimination. The data does not reveal that whites are experiencing systematic discrimination to the extent that their financial well-being, health status and other markers are deleteriously harmed. [Read more…]

Have a Barney!*

Owing to his guest blogging excellence (you will never read “feet” in the OT the same way), Kevin Barney now joins the permanent staff at BCC. We are, in all ways, not worthy. Welcome Kevin! [Read more…]