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The Thermostat Wars

There’s one thing that’s driving a wedge between men and women in the church every single week, that creates discomfort and distrust for both. Is it polygamy? Gender roles in the proclamation? No. It’s the Gospel Doctrine Thermostat Wars. Every week the drama plays out again in my Arizona ward: the men want the AC cranked up, and the women are shivering under pashminas and cardigans. It’s largely because of the ridiculous dress code at church in which women (who are often colder anyway) have bare legs and feet in sandals and short sleeves while the men (who are often warmer anyway) are wearing socks, closed shoes, heavy pants, jackets, long sleeved shirts buttoned to the neck.

I would say this is a heated argument, but not from where I’m sitting. [Read more…]

Paul Bunyan and the Mormons

On Wednesday, we left the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum[fn1] in Eau Claire, WI, and drove to the Goose Island Campground[fn2] in La Crosse, where we were going to spend the night. As we followed the GPS to our campsite, it suddenly gave us this direction:

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SBC and LDS vs the Alt-Right

Maybe not everyone follows the news around religious conventions, but this year’s meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention had some fascinating turns. After having at first rejected a proposal condemning white nationalism and the alt-right, the SBC faced some major internal chaos, changed course and adopted a reworded proposal. The proposal itself is worth a close read. [Read more…]

Four queer folk

I no longer go very often to the LDS church. This post partially explains why.

One: J

When I was dating the woman who would become my wife, she struggled to tell me something. It took her a while before she eventually said, “my brother J is gay.” I wasn’t bothered at all but Rebecca was scared it would scupper our relationship. After all, if her brother was gay, the idea that I — a Returned Missionary — might contemplate marrying a woman from anything less than the perfect Mormon family was in danger. It seems silly now but that’s what she thought. I’m not sure why it didn’t bother me. I am no font of tolerance and charity . . . I just didn’t care. Plenty of other Mormons don’t either but she had this idea from somewhere, I suppose. Perhaps it was from some of the people in our branch whose virulent homophobia was on display in Sunday school? And where did that come from? At the time, I would have absolved the church. Bigots are everywhere, I thought. It’s not the church’s fault. [Read more…]

JP is an Israelite

 

I. About a week ago, Christian Parker, Jabari’s older brother, posted the above clip from youtube to his Facebook page. It shows a group of black men telling Jabari that he is an Israelite. Jabari, as is his nature, listens politely, interacts with them a bit, and then goes about his business. I can’t make out what he says, but the men seemed happy, so I’m guessing that maybe he acknowledged that yeah, he was an Israelite. When I first watched the video it made zero sense to me, the conversation just seemed a curious oddity, and I quickly put it out of my mind and went on to other things.

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James E. Talmage’s College Finals

Talmage was a student at the Provo BYU Acadamy in 1879 (he was 17). Talmage kept his blue book (actually eggshell book) and it ended up in an archive. I thought it was only fair that you all take the same test. Something tells me it will destroy you. Now, no cheating, looking on the internets or encyclopedias or whatever. Get out your paper and prepare for make or break. You can attempt answers in the comments. Possible grades James could earn (they are labeled “Marks of Criticism”):
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Religious Tourism

Last fall, I returned from a trip to the Baltics. One of the best things about traveling to other countries, in my opinion, is coming into contact with other forms of worship and considering how those “other” sacred spaces and forms of worship feel in contrast to my own experiences as a Mormon. When you enter these places, you have to realize that to their worshipers, past and present, these are the places they have gone to experience the divine, to find comfort, and to understand their place in the universe. Come with me on a tour of some of the places I visited.

20160826_103935Copenhagen’s Cathedral: Church of Our Lady

We started our trip with a day in Copenhagen, Denmark. This first church didn’t make my short list, but my husband wanted to see it, and I’m glad we went!  The original Christus status by Danish sculptor Thorvaldsen is found inside.  The chapel is currently lined with white statues of the apostles (also by Thorvaldsen). The interior is simple and light colored with graceful architectural features like the dome over the altar (see picture). The simplicity of the interior invites silence and reflection and has a feeling of peace and welcome.

There have been several churches built on the same site over the centuries (they kept burning down), with the original one dating to 1209. The current church, like most churches in Northern Europe, is Evangelical Lutheran (since the reformation came to Denmark in 1536). The church is still actively in use; in fact, a friend of mine attended a gay wedding there a week after I visited. Both Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Anderson’s funerals were held in this church. Of all the churches we visited, this one felt the most like a Mormon worship space in terms of mood and architecture. [Read more…]

A Crash Course for America on the Psychology of Harassment

You’re big. You’re strong. But why didn’t you stop and say, “Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you?’”

“It’s a great question. Maybe if I were stronger, I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just… took it in.”

“At the time, did you say anything to the president about — that is not an appropriate request?”

“I didn’t, no.” [Read more…]

Welcome!

welcome

We are the most missionary-oriented, proselyting church this side of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. So you would think we would love to have visitors come to our services. And in theory, we absolutely would love that! Come one, come all, you are certainly most welcome!

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Patriarchal Blessings, Race, and Lineage: History and a Survey

Joseph Stuart is a graduate student in the History department of the University of Utah. We’re grateful for his thoughts.

Today marks the thirty-ninth anniversary of the release of Official Declaration 2, the statement most recently canonized by the LDS Church. The 1978 Declaration made it possible for all people of African descent, male and female, to participate in LDS temple liturgy, including the endowment and the sealing ordinance. The statement, now as accepted as revelation in the LDS Church, also made it possible for men of African descent to hold ecclesiastical priesthood office. I applaud the LDS Church’s scripture and am grateful that it has been included in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants. Teaching its historical context from the point of view of President Kimball and from African-descended members is one of my favorite Sunday School lessons of the year.

However, discrimination against peoples of African descent has not disappeared from modern Mormonism.  In a previous post at Juvenile Instructor, I explored the ways in which race has been espoused by LDS leaders and average Latter-day Saints alike, and how the vestiges of those teachings remain in modern Latter-day Saint teachings. In today’s post, I’d like to explore the ways in which patriarchal blessings continue to identify Latter-day Saints by race, and, in some instances, place people of African descent as separate than “white” Mormons. Zandra of Sistas in Zion has stated that her patriarchal blessing does not declare an Israelite lineage. I do not claim that this is a widespread practice, but I think it is important to find out if African-descended folks are having their lineage declared in modern Mormonism, or if the practice has slowly disappeared.  A link to an anonymous survey can be found at the bottom of this post. [Read more…]

Prayer on the Anniversary of the June 8 Revelation

O God of freedom, who led the Children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt: as we recall how Pharaoh’s heart hardened to the cries of your people, so do we pray that you will soften our hearts through the Holy Spirit, that we, like your Son, might proclaim liberty to the captive and let the oppressed go free. We give thanks for Spencer W. Kimball, who had the courage to pray through his own prejudice to hear your voice, and we pray for the same courage. We give thanks for Jane Manning James, whose faithful petitions for sealing went too long unheard; tune our ears and hearts, we pray, to the petitions now arising from our African-American sisters and brothers, that we might hear and act. Bring us together, Lord, we pray, into the body of Christ, where, in love, the gifts that we once despised might now at last take their due place, for without them we cannot be the Zion you called us to become. We acknowledge that we have not loved your image in these your children with our whole hearts; for this, for all that we have done that we ought not, and for all that we have left undone, though we ought, we ask you to fill us with new love and courage to bring about your work of redemption, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Changing the Sacrament Prayers: an example of the role of human agency in revelation.

This LDSLiving article popped up in my twitter feed yesterday. The church has revised the French version of the sacrament prayer. I don’t know enough French to really have an informed opinion, but based on my knowledge of Spanish, and my spotty knowledge of Latin, it seems to me like the change is from a word meaning willing, in the sense of willing, or wanting to do something to one that means willing in the sense of available, or disposed to do something. The idea is to more closely match the English version. (And, incidentally, this also aligns more closely with the official Spanish version, which uses “son dispuestos.”)

I would be curious to know the process that led to this change. The change was announced over the First Presidency’s signatures, which suggests either that the First Presidency made the decision, or at least that somebody in the translation department brought to the First Presidency for approval. Who brought the issue to the attention of the decision maker? What were the discussions like? What kind of information did they rely on in making the decision?  [Read more…]

Useless Bloggernacle Topics, Ranked

Angel As is so often the case, Steve and I were recently pondering the truly important questions of life, like whether it would be better to be a vampire or pirate. Anyway, with that issue settled, we moved on to deciding where all of you people waste the most time on the Mormon internets.

As always, these rankings are authoritative.
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Distilled, Pure Knowledge

We try to give you not just milk around here, but MEAT. Scott and I had a conversation which, following prayerful reflection, we decided was fit to be shared with you. Do not make us regret sharing these pearls.

Steve: Scott, are you there, I need to have an important conversation with you.

Scott: lo, i am with you always [Read more…]

Death, Taxidermy, and Home Teaching: an Oblique Profile of Artist Jeff Decker

English Brooks lives in central Utah with his wife, Kelly, and their three children. When he’s not teaching, writing, or scavenging, he enjoys staring into maps, squinting at birds, and inventing poorly attended high-altitude marathons. Lately, he’s become involved with a community-building initiative and participatory performance project called “A Billion Hairs for the Billionaires.” (https://www.billionhairs.org If you’re looking for a reason to shave your head this summer, consider this an invitation!)

People love to churn out that hackneyed phrase, ‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.’ I always thought dancing about architecture sounded like a good idea. This is what all objects are doing with each other. After all, no object truly contacts another one. Architecture ‘columns’ (or whatever it does) about human relationships. And dogs sniff about trees. And pencils pencil about pencil sharpeners. The photon photons about the electron. The birds bird about the BP oil slick, telling us about it in bird metaphors. And weather weathers about global warming. And writing writes about music. To this extent writing about music really is like dancing about architecture—and a good thing too. Everything is like that.

Timothy Morton, from Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World (2013)

Any time spent googling Jeff Decker, artist, will immediately and overwhelmingly acquaint you with his fantastic work restoring and sculpting exquisite, badass vintage motorcycles. He’s often—and very fittingly, I’d say—referred to as a Frederick Remington of bronze motorcycle sculpture. (You may also recall the handsome goatee and rockabilly soundtrack from his “I’m a Mormon” video a few years ago.) Last month, as I got out of my truck and came up the walk of his studio, I’m certain he could already tell I knew nothing about motorcycles before I even reached the porch for a handshake. [Read more…]

What License to Shun Those who Choose a Different Path?

A collaborative online effort of like-minded female members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently took a public stand on what it characterized as a “protected class” of sin: gay marriage [Edit: please search the site yourself to find the post in question if so inclined]. See, “some members of the Church have […] been ‘drawn away after the persuasions’ of the world and support same-sex marriage” without realizing “that their support for it inadvertently supports serious sexual sin.” In case you didn’t pick up on it, the author goes on to hammer home the message that gay marriage = “sexual sin” several more times: [Read more…]

Missionary Safety: That No Harm or Accident May Befall Us

Image result for missionaries helmetsPeggy Fletcher Stack reports in the Salt Lake Tribune that the church is going to survey missionaries about safety. This survey is likely related to rising global terrorism as well as several outbreaks of disease that have been problems in recent years and required adaptation in terms of missionary dress codes and where missionaries serve. It’s important to note that existing mission rules help prevent a lot of injuries, rules like being with a companion 24×7, no swimming, and wearing helmets and seat belts. Compared to same age cohorts, missionaries suffer fewer injuries–this, despite being in areas of the globe that may be more perilous than their native communities. We’re obviously doing some things right to protect our missionaries. [Read more…]

(A Version of) The Eagle Charge for LDS Eagle Scout Courts of Honor

Our ward’s scout troop recently held a court of honor for a boy in the ward to receive his Eagle Scout award. Though I have been released from my calling with the young men, I continue to serve on the Scout Committee, and I had worked with this young man while I was with the youth, and I was asked to give “the Eagle Charge” at the Court of Honor. [Read more…]

Lesson help for June: Come, Follow Me Youth Sunday School (“Priesthood and Priesthood Keys”)

Post-It Notes on ChalkboardThe first two weeks of June’s Sunday School topics are “How can I participate effectively in councils in the Church?” and “How do women and priesthood holders work together to build the kingdom of God?” I’ve been teaching 14 year olds for several years now, and these lessons often lead to questions about their (YM and YW) real budding concerns around gender in the church. I wanted to address this rather than avoid it, but in a way that would be me surfacing their priorities and feelings and not me projecting my concerns on them and speaking to that. I decided to use a trendy “Design Thinking” teaching technique and have them do an activity with post-it notes.
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Reflections on the MSSJ Pilgrimage to Rome

Pope small

The Pope delivers his Urbi et Orbi address and blessing in April 2017

On Easter Monday 2017, the Mormon Society of St. James commenced its fifth major pilgrimage, this time to Rome. It was actually our third stage on the Via Francigena which we started in 2015 by walking from Canterbury to Dover and then through Switzerland to Great Saint Bernard Pass.  [Read more…]

Ponder on the Beauty of an Earth Made Clean Again

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Michigan Republican Representative Tim Walberg said in a town hall meeting last Friday, “I believe there’s climate change . . . I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time. I believe there are cycles. Do I think man has some impact? Yeah, of course. Can man change the entire universe? No. . . . Why do I believe that? Well, as a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.” This is a sentiment I have heard countless times from members of my wards throughout my life. As a newly returned missionary, even I told my non-religious sister who expressed anxiety about climate change that, “I have faith that God is in charge and that during Christ’s Second Coming, He will heal the earth and make things right.” She frankly and rightly responded: “That is the most despicable thing I have ever heard you say.” [Read more…]

Imposter: Mormonism as “Third Culture”

Image result for third culture kidsFor those unfamiliar with the term, TCK refers to “Third Culture Kids” or those of us who were raised between two cultures. Because of living overseas during their childhoods, my kids are–at least partly–Third Culture Kids. [I previously blogged about two famous Mormon TCKs, Mitt Romney and John Huntsman here.] Although I didn’t live outside the US during my formative years, we did move a lot, and because those moves were known to be temporary (we kept our house in PA), my own childhood experience also qualifies as a Third Culture upbringing. But I would posit that many Mormons growing up outside of the Mormon Corridor will find the “Third Culture” label relevant to what it feels like to be in such a minority, forever existing outside of the surrounding milieu, deeply aware of a personal cultural rift that isn’t always apparent to others.

“When we think of the word culture, obvious representations such as how to dress, eat, speak, and act like those around us come to mind. But learning culture is more than learning conformity to external patterns of behavior. Culture is also a system of shared concepts, beliefs, and values. It is the framework from which we interpret and make sense of life and the world around us.”
David C. Pollock, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds

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MHA 2017 St. Louis

Embassy

I’m putting up this open thread for discussion of all things MHA over the next few days as we participate in the 2017 conference in the St. Joseph Convention Center next to the Embassy Suites hotel in St. Joseph, Missouri. Please share your experiences and thoughts here so that others who cannot be here physically can get some of the gist of the proceedings. Have a great conference, everybody!

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Memorial Day Thoughts on Cynicism and the Republic

Jessica Preece has a PhD in political science from UCLA.  Her research is on political party candidate selection procedures, with an emphasis on why there are so few women in politics.  She is a professor of political science at BYU, though these thoughts are her own and don’t necessarily represent the institution.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

—Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (1863)

Lately a lot of people have asked me if America is going to be okay.  Honestly, I don’t know whether the Republic will fully weather the storms we have faced in recent months and years. I am a political scientist—I study patterns in politics.  The patterns I see are, as they say, deeply concerning.

But I choose to have faith that it will.  I choose faith, not because I am ignorant of the problems, but because I see them clearly. [Read more…]

Memorial Day 2017

I thought of the three Portland men as we sang America the Beautiful today:

O Beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!

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Judge not, but still judge sometimes (just not too much)

You may have heard or read about the story of the student at a Christian high school who has been barred from walking at her graduation because she is pregnant (out of wedlock, as most pregnant high schoolers are). The school’s argument is that she violated the pledge she signed not to engage in “immoral behavior” (something not unlike BYU’s Honor Code). The student and her parents argue that she has already been punished (by being removed from a leadership position on the student council), and forbidding her to walk at graduation is just too much punishment. Her cause has been picked up by some pro-life advocates because, after all, if she’d had an abortion, no one would have discovered her “immoral behavior” and there would have been no issue. They’re afraid that shutting a pregnant student out of her own graduation sends the message that it’s more important not to get caught than to “choose life” for their unborn babies. [Read more…]

Clinging

iron rod 1

So a friend today mentioned that last weekend at church someone gave a talk, in the course of which the speaker said that those who were “clinging” to the iron rod lost their way because they were only “clinging” instead of “holding fast.” My friend said “To me, this makes no sense. Cling, as I’ve always understood it, means to hold on tight, not to hold on loosely. The speaker was using cling to mean the opposite of what I’ve always understood it to mean.”

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Interlude: Welfare

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As politicians in the United States debate the future of the social safety net, By Common Consent Press is proud to present the following excerpt from Tracy McKay’s forthcoming memoir, The Burning Point: A Memoir of Addiction, Destruction, Love, Parenting, Survival, and Hope. This remarkable memoir will be available on July 1 in both paperback and ebook formats. The Kindle version can now be pre-ordered here. [Read more…]

Fourth Circuit Strikes Down President Trump’s Muslim Ban 2.0

This afternoon, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits in Richmond, VA, just held that President Trump’s second travel ban Executive Order (which superseded his first one) is unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause.

Key quote:

The Government has repeatedly asked this Court to ignore evidence, circumscribe our own review, and blindly defer to executive action, all in the name of the Constitution’s separation of powers. We decline to do so, not only because it is the particular province of the judicial branch to say what the law is, but also because we would do a disservice to our constitutional structure were we to let its mere invocation silence the call for meaningful judicial review.

The deference we give the coordinate branches is surely powerful, but even it must yield in certain circumstances, lest we abdicate our own duties to uphold the Constitution. EO-2 cannot be divorced from the cohesive narrative linking it to the animus that inspired it. In light of this, we find that the reasonable observer would likely conclude that EO-2’s primary purpose is to exclude persons from the United States on the basis of their religious beliefs.

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Scripture as Genre: What It Means When We Call Something “True”

Let’s start with an observation that I hope will be uncontroversial: there is a big difference between how people solve crimes in the actual world and how readers try to solve crimes in mystery novels. Here is a crystal-clear example of the difference: in the real world, the person that all of the evidence points to is almost always the person who committed the crime. In a mystery novel, the person that all of the evidence points is the one person you can be sure did not commit the crime. [Read more…]