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Hallelujah, Amen!

The Church has posted an update to its statement on the white supremacist mob in Charlottesville. It is unequivocal in its condemnation of members who support this movement:

UPDATE: Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Church has released the following statement:

It has been called to our attention that there are some among the various pro-white and white supremacy communities who assert that the Church is neutral toward or in support of their views. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39). The Book of Mormon teaches “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).

White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a “white culture” or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church. [Read more…]

Free Trade and the Social Safety Net

On Monday, the church-owned Deseret News published an editorial condemning—in no uncertain terms—the racism of “the KKK and other so-called white nationalist groups.” The editorial leaves no wiggle room, and brooks no disagreement.

And then it turns in what—to me—was an unexpected direction: protectionism.

So I’m a modern liberal, meaning I buy into the economic consensus that free and open trade is a good thing. It increases the net wealth in the world, and provides both Americans collectively, and our foreign brothers and sisters, better access to the goods we need.

But. [Read more…]

White genocide or how I first encountered the alt-right in a suburban Mormon Fifth-Sunday meeting

Several years ago, I was visiting my mother’s home ward in my hometown in the South. My wife and I went to church with my mom and, as it was a fifth Sunday, all the adults in the ward (without a calling elsewhere) gathered together to watch a video. Normally, this just means that the bishopric hasn’t really had the time to put together a lesson (or call someone to do so). After all, we’ve all looked forward to Church videos when we haven’t gotten our Sunday School lesson together. However, this video wasn’t obviously by the church. I don’t recall the production company, but the content was disturbing.

The main point of video was that women don’t have enough babies. [Read more…]

My statement.

The church’s PR arm released a statement yesterday condemning the racism and hatred on display in Charlottesville.

I’m not going to lie. I wish the statement were stronger and more specific. I wish that we didn’t have to go back more than ten years to find a statement by a prominent church leader condemning racism as the evil that it is.

But I’m not going to find fault. This is a statement that expressly condemns racism as the evil that it is. And that is a good thing. [Read more…]

The problem of God’s whiteness

Here’s a form of white supremacy: the belief that God is white. Holding that belief does not necessarily make you a supporter of neo-Nazism and white terrorism but you should know that it does make you a white supremacist. Sorry if that offends. [Read more…]

“Racial strife still lifts its ugly head”—Gathering resources against racism

Suppose you wanted to teach a Sunday school lesson on the Word of Wisdom. If you perform a search at LDS.org you’ll find a long list of ready-to-go full lesson outlines. Suppose you wanted to give a talk warning about pornography. A search there will yield a long list of conference addresses from which you could draw. But suppose you wanted to teach a lesson on racism. It gets a lot more difficult.

Why? And what can be done? [Read more…]

Lord, Is It I?

This morning, as I read my Twitter feed, I came to Jack Jenkins, a religion reporter for Think Progress, asking for examples of sermons addressing racism.  As of when I’m writing this, he tweeted out eight examples of sermons representing an array of Christian denominations.

Meanwhile, Guthrie Graves-Fitzgerald tweeted a photo of Charlottesville clergy marching, united, against the racism that invaded—and tried to infect—their city. [Read more…]

Peace and Love to Charlottesville

I love Charlottesville.  For nearly a decade, Charlottesville has been my favorite retreat from the chaos of big cities.  I have family who live, just barely outside of cell-signal range, in the breathtaking rolling hills west of town.  My fiancé, Brad, attended – and I seriously considered attending – the University of Virginia Law School.  I love visiting.  I’ve explored its romantic colonial streets; hiked its peaceful mountains; day-dreamed about living there forever.

But this year Charlottesville has become a flashpoint for racial tension.  After years of studied discussion, the City Council voted in February to remove confederate statutes and rename two confederate-honoring parks.  (One of those parks, Stonewall Jackson park, was built after the city in 1914 seized land from private citizens in order to destroy a burgeoning black community.)  The parks have since been renamed, but plans to remove the statute stalled when the City was sued under a state law protecting historic monuments.  A month ago a small KKK rally at Justice Park (formerly Stonewall Jackson park) was overwhelmed by a thousand counter-protestors.  When a “Unite the Right” group applied for a permit to hold a further rally, they had to obtain a federal court order protecting their right to free speech.  Counter-protestors again rallied to flood the streets.

[Read more…]

Call Nothing a “Blessing” Until You Are Dead

“Call no man happy until he is dead.”–Herodotus

 

This oft-quoted line from Herodotus requires some unpacking before it makes sense to modern ears. In the first place, Herodotus is not speaking for himself. He is quoting a conversation between Solon, the great Athenian lawmaker, and Croesus, the fabulously wealthy and magnificently powerful King of Lydia.

This is the point at which (unless you are a Classics student or ancient historian) you say, “wait a minute, I’ve never heard of Croesus. And where the heck was Lydia?” This, it turns out, is precisely the point. [Read more…]

Things you can’t capture

Here is a sort of poem I have written. [Read more…]

A Guide to Doing Hard Things in the Land of Not Yet

Elizabeth Pinborough is a writer, photographer, and artist. She is also a TBI survivor and has a site at The Art of Striving. Her words are really powerful, so we asked her to share them here with you.

One of my posts from last week was actually part of a draft for a talk I gave in church today. The topic was “We can do hard things!” Here are my more complete thoughts on that and on how Christ is essential to our ability to overcome.

Today I want to talk about the Land of Not Yet—a beautiful and dangerous place, a place with innumerable opportunities. Not Yet is full of every imaginable landscape, plant, animal and person.

Sometimes Not Yet appears to be a land of black and white. People there can choose to be kind or to be cruel, good or evil, humble or proud, and on and on. Sometimes it seems that people without scruples prosper the most.

In Not Yet, if someone asks her neighbor how she is doing, her neighbor may feel compelled to respond, OK, with a polite smile, hiding her private burdens. Not Yet isn’t so black and white after all. Everyone there understands that good and bad befalls each in his or her turn, and some receive more than their fair share of either.

The Land of Not Yet is the land of Hard Things, capital H, capital T. [Read more…]

The Widening Mormon Generation Gap

In her Flunking Sainthood posts, Jana Reiss has summarized some fascinating findings about Mormon attitudes toward the LGBT community. These statistics represent wide-scale shifts in attitudes in a very short period of time as well as double digit differences in attitudes between generations. I’ll review the findings from her posts below, but I recommend you read them yourself here and here.

Let’s start with the older data, from October 2016. This data was about the attitudes toward the Nov. 5 Exclusion Policy, nearly a year after its release. This was, for me, the most discouraging data set. [Read more…]

Does Prayer Work?

So today, two sorts of explosive news: first, that a prominent general authority has been excommunicated, and second, that Donald Trump is going to rain "fire and fury" upon North Korea if they should threaten the United States again.

These two events make me ask: does prayer work? [Read more…]

If she asks for tacos, give a salad?

“Ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.  Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent…For behold, are we not all beggars?”  (Mosiah 4 16:19)

Lived Christianity is … difficult.  In a multitude of everyday encounters, I either genuinely don’t know, or my natural instinct is not to follow, how Christ would act.

I’ve dubbed these my moral “dilemmas of the day.”

Take yesterday.  The poor often congregate near where I work.  My office is in a gentrifying area — upscale cafes serving business professionals are popping up next to downtrodden public housing and shelters.  Nearly every day, someone asks me for help.

[Read more…]

When Satan Was a Trickster

About a week before he went into the MTC, my son, who had been studying the scriptures earnestly like a good missionary should, came down stairs with a look of amazement on his face and said, “dad, guess what I just figured out: the Book of Genesis never actually says that the serpent was Satan. It just says it was a snake.”

That meant, of course, that it was time for “the talk.” It went something like this.

Satan, my son, was a fairly late addition to the Hebrew scriptures. When the Book of Genesis was first set down, there was no concept of a being of utter darkness and evil. The God of these people, Yahweh, was plenty scary. But as Yahweh came to be seen ever more as a good and loving father figure, they needed a place to put all of the evil scary things that were once a part of God. And it didn’t hurt that the Jews at this time were deeply influenced by the Persians, who were theological dualists, meaning that they had a figure of of ultimate evil (Ahriman) to oppose their otherwise monotheistic God (Ahura Mazda).

Even in the Book of Job, which was written around 500 years after the earliest Genesis texts, Satan is not yet the Prince of Darkness. He is not even Satan. He is “the satan,” a member of God’s court who functions something like a prosecuting attorney combined with a store detective—he goes throughout the kingdom looking for people who are disloyal to the King (God in this case) and then prosecutes them before God for their disloyalty. [Read more…]

Twenty Years

In preparing for day’s Primary lesson on missionary work, I did a quick search to see if I could find anything out Seymour Brunson’s mission.

The short answer is, not a lot of detail on an iPhone during sacrament meeting. I mean, access to the D&C tells me he was called on a mission in 1832. And, thanks to the Joseph Smith Papers Project, I know that his mission was in Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia. And, per Ferron Olson’s Seymour Brunson: Defender of the Faith, he went through those states, baptizing hundreds (as missionaries did in the 1830s) and organizing branches along the way. [Read more…]

Resurrection

As a Mormon raised on the 2nd Article of Faith, I believed that the principle of individual responsibility made the concept of an inherited “original sin” incoherent. We each, I thought, came into the world as blank slates, given eight years to develop the capacity for accountability—at which point baptism gave us a clean start, just in case. From then on, we bore the responsibility of acting well, with repentance and weekly sacrament participation to take care of our inevitable mistakes. With Christ’s help, we would be capable of living in the world as good people.

It’s not that I disbelieve any of this now, exactly. Still, I’ve recently found myself telling people that I believe in original sin. I always hasten to clarify that it’s not the Augustinian seminally-transmitted version of original sin that has won my assent. I don’t believe that my veins flow with depravity born from Adam’s fall, and I don’t believe that newborn babies carry its taint. I do believe, though, that our common humanity has a dark side that none of us escapes. [Read more…]

Silent Notes Taking

Stephen Smoot is a BYU alumnus and current graduate student in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. He is also a Mormon blogger who writes at Ploni Almoni: Mr. So-and-So’s Mormon Blog. His writings on Mormon topics have also appeared, among other places, with the Interpreter Foundation and Book of Mormon Central. You can catch him on Twitter at @stephen_smoot. We’re pleased he agreed to share this post.

A few days ago I received a message from a friend of mine that I had known since I was a Freshman at BYU. It started out nonchalantly enough with him asking about how much longer I was going to be in Provo before returning to Canada for school. Eventually he got around to dropping some hints that things weren’t quite right. He mentioned feelings of loneliness and being directionless in life, and added that he felt awkward in his YSA ward and struggled with church attendance. He asked if I would be able to chat about some things he had on his mind, since he knew me, had followed me on social media, and felt like I was “a chill guy” he could be safe and somewhat vulnerable with. I happily agreed to be a listening ear. [Read more…]

Good and Bad Apologetics

So last night I’m sitting on the couch with a fairly new iPad in my lap. (I recently upgraded my phone, and they threw the pad in for a nominal amount. I’ve never used one before, so I’m still getting used to it.) All of a sudden this video popped up on the screen. I recognized the space as being Writ and Vision in Provo.  It was a roundtable discussion of that new Kofford book on apologetics, featuring Blair Van Dyke, Stephen Smoot, Joe Spencer, Amanda Brown and Loyd Erickson.[1]

[Read more…]

Summer Seminar on Mormon Culture: 2017 Symposium

Mormonism Engages the World

This year the Maxwell Institute’s Summer Seminar is being held in the basement of the Joseph F. Smith Building on BYU Campus. The morning session just wrapped, and I thought I’d give a very brief summary of the papers mixed (inexorably) with my own mental stirrings. Warning: these are in no way verbatim reports—they are very brief summaries. Caveat Emptor. Presenters who encounter this should feel free to disabuse the public of my errors.
[Read more…]

Announcing “Mother’s Milk” for Kindle―and So Much More

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074GNL73S

You asked for it, and we heard you. At BCC Press, it’s just what what we do. As of today, Mother’s Milk, the remarkable book of poems about Heavenly Mother written by Rachel Hunt Steenblik and illustrated by Ashley Mae Hoiland, is available for the Kindle. And for the next four days, you can get it for $3.95, which, let’s face it, is the new free.

If you haven’t seen what people are already saying about Mother’s Milk, check out the buzz: [Read more…]

Peace Like a River/Peace Like a Desert

“Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.” (They make a desert and call it peace)—Tacitus

 “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream.” (Isaiah 66:12 NIV)

For years I have been haunted by two different symbols of peace. [Read more…]

Happy Birthday, James Baldwin

jamesbaldwinToday is the anniversary of the birth of James Baldwin, one of my favorite writers.
His technique is masterful, and it matches the depth of his insight—a rare combination in an author, I think. I’ll be forever indebted to Baldwin for helping me better understand what it means to be a white person like me in America. He did this by writing and speaking about how he felt and experienced life as a black man in America. Here’s one way he described why he became a writer:
I wanted to prevent myself from becoming merely a Negro writer. I wanted to find out in what way the specialness of my experience could be made to connect me with other people instead of dividing me from them.

[Read more…]

Confessions of an Elder

A friend of mine sent me this video yesterday. Please go watch, then let’s discuss…

[Read more…]

Hypotheticals and Our Christian Duty

A quick hypothetical. (For those of you who didn’t attend law school, a law school hypothetical is a carefully constructed situation meant to tease out the implications of a rule or a law. The hypothetical itself isn’t meant to convey any truth value. What I mean is, please don’t argue for or against my hypothetical: it’s the consequences I’m interest in.)

Let’s imagine that it has been established that homosexual behavior (however you want to define that) is sinful. What do we, as members of the church and the ward, do when an LGBTQ individual comes to church? And what if it’s clear that that individual is participating in homosexual behavior (again, whatever we want to define that as)? [Read more…]

Mother’s Milk

cover-mothers_milk-5,25x8x0,43in-frontI’ve been thinking about Walter Wink’s book Jesus and Nonviolence and our need for moral creativity.

Moral creativity doesn’t mean making up new morals.

Rather, it has to do with the kind of creativity needed to break bad habits. Or the kind of creativity needed to breathe life back into broken relationships. Or the kind of creativity needed to unbalance cycles of anger and violence. Or the kind of creativity needed to see past prejudice. Or the kind of creativity needed to be something more—more kind, more attentive, more humble, more aware, more responsible—than I generally am.

Think about the last time you were angry with your wife or yelled at your son. How predictable was this anger? How automatic? How thoughtless? How uncreative?

Think about that moment, that gap, between what the other person did and how you, like a damn robot, responded. Think about how, in that moment, you might have done something just a little bit different, something that might have short-circuited your anger and changed the whole thing: how you might have used a different tone of voice, or met their eyes, or made the bed, or held your head at a different angle, or surrendered the point, or noticed the light coming through the window, or smiled, or laughed, or wept. [Read more…]

Lesson 28: “O God, Where Art Thou?” #DandC2017

Doctrine & Covenants 121, 122

In preparation for this lesson I enjoyed reading Justin Bray’s Revelations in Context essay, “Within the Walls of Liberty Jail.” Especially useful are the links to images of the letter the sections are drawn from, thanks to the Joseph Smith Papers Project folks. People love seeing the documents.

I began this lesson with B.H. Roberts’s eloquent description of Liberty Jail as the temple-prison. [Read more…]

My Journey Back to God

Mette Ivie Harrison, a well-known mystery and young-adult novelist, is the author of The Book of Laman, which was published this week by BCC Press. Below, reproduced in its entirety, is the author’s afterword to this exciting new book. The Book of Laman can be purchased here in paperback form and here as a Kindle e-book.

 

BoLI lost faith in God completely in 2007 after the stillbirth of my sixth child and spent the next five years as an atheist. In 2012, I decided that I wanted to try to believe again. I’d felt very alone, in a spiritual way, despite the fact that I’d continued to attend the Mormon ward in my neighborhood.

And so began a full year of me trying to pray to God and ending up saying the only thing I found I could say with real conviction, which was, “I don’t believe in you.” I said it over and over again, night after night, because I was determined not to fall back on the old platitudes that I’d once used and that had ended up failing me. And then, one night, I prayed more than that. And a little more. And the journey had truly begun.

[Read more…]

Succession in the Presidency: A Feature, a Bug, or Both?

Most of you I’m sure are familiar with the 1844 succession crisis. When Joseph was killed in the Carthage jail, who would then lead the Church? If his brother Hyrum had survived, as Assistant President it surely would have been him. There is a good chance it would have been Joseph’s son Joseph III if he had been older, but at the time he was but a young boy. There were various claimants by special or secret appointment, such as James Strang, or by virtue of the Council of Fifty. At the time the main decision was between Sidney Rigdon (by virtue of being a counselor in the First Presidency), or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, represented by Brigham Young. Had this happened a decade earlier it likely would have been Sidney, but he had long been out of the loop and so the majority of the Saints in Nauvoo chose to follow the Apostles.

[Read more…]

“What’s a nice Mormon girl like you doing writing plays like this?”

Melissa Leilani Larson is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter whose work has been seen on four continents. Her first book, Third Wheel: Peculiar Stories of Mormon Women in Love was released this week by By Common Consent Press. BCC Readers can purchase the book here for a 20% discount using the code QNTEGAHB. The Kindle version can also be purchased here.

 

cover-third_wheel-5,25x8in-coverFaith is a funny thing. It really shouldn’t work. Yet we’re always putting it to the test—even without thinking about it. We don’t doubt that a friend will pay back the money she owes; that a babysitter will show up when he said he will; that a new episode of our favorite show will air when expected. We assume that engines will start, that planes will land safely, that refrigerators will stay cold and that mangoes will be sweet.

Faith cannot exist without doubt. The two are sides of the same coin. One can outweigh the other and that balance can teeter back and forth, but the two are connected. They keep each other in check. [Read more…]