Health baptisms, pond hockey, & Asherah– A New Year’s toast

It’s a blustery 3 degrees F (-17 C) outside right now on the first Sunday of the New Year. In a moment I need to head into the wind for an meeting. But first, two New Year examples of BCC bloggers popping up in daily life in Utah County.

A few days ago we were playing a family game of hockey on a nearby pond. While one of us chased down a puck after an errant pass, the rest of the family paused to rest, and someone commented, “Can you imagine breaking through this ice to get baptized, and doing that for 7 days in a row!” That statement stems from a family home evening lesson we had based around J. Stapley’s and Kris Wright’s Journal of Mormon History article, “A History of Baptism for Health.” If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. Stapley provides an abstract in a previous BCC post. But, as it is necessarily short it can’t give a feel for the many fascinating details their research has discovered–including an example of a person breaking ice to get baptized seven times.

Then, on New Year’s day we were visiting with a group of families in the neighborhood. While chatting about snow-removal strategies, I overheard snatches of another conversation involving Kevin Barney’s recent Dialogue article, “How to Worship our Mother in Heaven (Without Getting Excommunicated)
With Kevin’s analysis of references to Asherah in the O.T. and his measured exercise in “religion-making,”this article also reads high on the “Honey, read this paragraph!” meter (and may show up in a future FHE).

So, Kevin, J. Stapley, and Kris Wright. Thanks for helping bring in the New Year.



  1. Stirling,

    This post made me smile. As the Canadian part of the Stapley-Wright collaboration, I can’t think of a much better combination than shinny and baptisms for health. :)

    I’ll also echo you on Kevin’s great article — it has inspired many thoughtful conversations at our house.

  2. Ditto. While we were serving the missionaries lunch at a zone meeting in December, a sister other than I started a conversation about Kevin’s article. We were the only 2 in the kitchen who had read the piece but all seemed captivated by the subject and discussion. Both articles you cite will likely show up in my classes this year.

  3. Rameumptom says:

    Personally, I think I’ll place “health baptisms” right up there with blood-letting, and the sort….

    Kevin’s article was a good one, and thoughtful. It is reasonable for us to ponder what and who Heavenly Mother is. Ever since reading Daniel Peterson’s “Nephi and his Asherah”, I’ve quietly considered my Christmas tree to be representative of her, with Jesus’ atonement as the fruit represented by the decorations.

  4. Thanks for the post, Stirling. It is gratifying to know that people actually read what you write (btw, you guys have cool FHEs). I have made similar comments about frozen water; but, Rameumpton’s comments comparing it to bloodletting betray his/her lack of contextualization.

    I have brought Kevin’s article up on many occasions. As something of a iconoclast against pagan intrusions into Religious observance as a kid (I’ve gotten better), his translation of the the Christmas tree is fabulous.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for passing this along. I’ve received some really generous feedback about that article, which has been very gratifying. (Also, lots of jokes about when I am expecting the summons from my SP…). And I too loved the baptism for health piece in JMH.

    (BTW, it’s Asherah with an r.)

  6. Kevin, thanks for the correction.

  7. I really liked Kevin’s article.

    Although, isn’t it too early to say definitely that his recommendations won’t get anyone excommunicated? :)

  8. definitively, even

  9. I just read Kevin Barney’s Dialogue article about Asherah, and I find it fascinating.

    An idea popped into my mind that perhaps the tree of good and evil from which Adam and Eve ate is associated with El, and the tree of life, which they were banished so that they would not also eat, is associated with Asherah. Maybe when we eat that latter fruit (i.e. scientifically gain access to immortality) we’ll be given revelations from Mother in Heaven. Perhaps this is just not her era yet.

    Since she is an equal partner in the Godhead, when we finally hear from her I expect marvels.

    I’m not sure, though, whether her revelations can come through the Melchizedek priesthood hierarchy. Would they come through the Relief Society? Or where? If Heavenly Mother were to speak to us today, through what authorized channel could her revelations come? Is there room for her in our church?

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Tatiana, I had a similar thought, that maybe we don’t have direct access to Her because we were banished from the Tree of Life (IE Mother in Heaven) as a part of the Fall. So not having an intimate relationship with her could be a part of the cross we have to bear in this mortality.

  11. Technically speaking, the head of our Church is Jesus Christ, so how do we know He isn’t already acting as a conduit to our prophet from our heavenly parents?

  12. er, *both of* our heavenly parents, I meant to say

  13. Kevin, did you ever respond to BiV’s criticism over your article? She hits you on a lot of good points.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Matt W., thanks for pointing me to BiV’s comments. I’m embarrassed to acknowledge that I hadn’t seen them, and they were posted way back in November. I just left her a note suggesting that she publish her point of view as a letter or otherwise in Dialogue. (I do disagree with her point of view, BTW. To name just one example, I disagree with the idea of trying to remove paganism from our worship. We wouldn’t celebrate Christmas at all if we took that idea seriously. I like Mormon pragmatism on this point.)

  15. Rameumptom says:

    Tatiana #9, IMO Heavenly Mother would work via the Melchizedek Priesthood, as the Patriarchal Priesthood is shared between husband and wife (the sealing power).
    President Packer once explained it as a man having two keys. One opens a vault. Within the vault is a chest that requires two keys. He has one, the wife has the other. Only together can they work the blessings and powers of the Patriarchal Priesthood.

  16. Don’t miss this informative Christmas Asherah spoof from UCSD scholar William Propp (author of the Anchor Bible Commentaries on Exodus.)

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