Courage, revelation and unrighteous dominion

Unrighteous dominion is a topic frequently invoked when Priesthood leaders are accused of doing things that we might not like [1]. However, because of the severity of that judgment (i.e. ‘Amen to the Priesthood of that man’) I wonder whether it is used too liberally; yet the text itself calls for that broad interpretation. In a recent conversation someone pointed out that this potential loss of Priesthood authority, which could result from accepting a position of authority/responsibility, is surely something which should concern those so called; for ‘almost all men’ will begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. The attempt here is to provide some fresh thoughts on an already (potentially) saturated issue as it relates to the lived experience of these principles. [Read more…]

Religious Art: Judas’ Kiss

Paul Lisak (1967-present), ‘Judas’ Kiss’, Oil on Linen.

[Read more…]

Female Leadership in LDS Missions

Recently a friend expressed some anxiety over the possibility that his daughters might serve missions for the LDS Church.  He was concerned that such an experience might lead them to internalize too much of the intensely sexist rhetoric and behaviour that is observable among some LDS missionaries.  The following day, while meandering on Temple Square, two sister missionaries intercepted me and began trying to obtain a referral.  In that conversation I learned something so obvious that I am ashamed it had never occurred to me before, but which I think could influence the ‘missionary culture’ if it was universally adopted: Sister missionaries, in that mission, hold leadership positions. [Read more…]

Ritual, Imitation and Sacral Connectivity: The example of making a Malanggan

I have recently been reading an early French sociologist named Gabriel Tarde.  There has been a revival of Tarde’s work in recent sociological debates and his ideas have begun to be reconsidered in a number of different areas.  One of those areas concerns ritual.  In this post I intend to consider ritual through a Tardean lens in the hope that some insight can be offered regarding how we can engage with Mormon liturgy. [Read more…]

Christ-like Cowardice

In a letter written from Carthage Jail to Emma, Joseph Smith wrote, ‘There is one principle which is Eternal, it is the duty of all men to protect their lives and the lives of their households whenever necessity requires; and no power has a right to forbid it’ [1]. In addition JS is reported to have said ‘any man who will not fight for his wife and children is a coward and a b*!&%$d’ [2]. Last Friday night, my Grandfather was beaten by the son of his next door neighbour (a man 50 years his junior), and I have struggled to know how to respond. [Read more…]

Religious Art: ‘Have Pity!’

Ernst Barlach (1870-1938), ‘Have Pity!’, 1919; private collection.

Ernst Barlach’s small wood-carving struck me deeply when I first saw a photo-print of the statue in Gombrich’s ‘The Story of Art’.  The old, bony hands of this woman extended beneath a seemingly coarse and debasing covering intensely expresses the suffering and pain of the lives of too many people on this earth.  [Read more…]

‘We come over, and sit’

I have a been a Bishop now for 18 months and though I don’t like to talk about it online I think that it is important to know if I am to express what I want to say in this post.

Last week the wife of one of my counsellors died.  [Read more…]

Baptism Rituals

Just over a year ago I went to a Church of England baptismal service for some of my wife’s relatives.  Though they were baptised in a glorified paddling pool (which made me very grateful we have formal fonts) there were two things about that experience which impressed me to the extent that I would like to see these practices adopted by the LDS Church in the UK.  In order to do this there would need to be a policy change in the CHI in order to provide the flexibility to implement these suggestions, so I admit that it is probably unlikely.  Nevertheless here are my thoughts. [Read more…]

Religious Art: ‘The Ascent’

David Linn, ‘The Ascent’, 1993, oil on canvas; Museum of Church History and Art.

Another installment in the series, in which David Linn’s award-winning painting ‘The Ascent’ is considered. [Read more…]

When did Atonement become At-onement?

Recently someone pointed out to me that reading atonement as at-onement is merely one reading of this concept.  They also noted that it might be a fairly recent reading of this term in Mormon theology. Though partially aware of the broader history of the etymology of ‘Atonement’ I am curious about when and how this particular set of meanings became a primary metaphor for understanding the Atonement among Latter-day Saints. [Read more…]

Those in Favour, Manifest it? Part 2

Part 1 can be found here.  This second post is concerned with the process of sustaining and asks whether we sustain the person or the office? [Read more…]

Those in favour, Manifest it? Part 1

This just a short, two part series on sustaining.  This first post tries to ask some questions regarding the purpose of sustaining (both others and ourselves) and the second post will look at the process of sustaining by examining the question of whether we sustain the person or the office. [Read more…]

The Silence of the Sinner

According to the current CHI, when someone is disfellowshipped or excommunicated, one of the stipulations associated with this status requires that the person should refrain from speaking in Sacrament meeting or giving public prayers. If the person was a Priesthood holder they are also asked to not use their Priesthood.  Despite not being explicitly stated, this counsel is often interpreted to be a restriction of public speaking during our Church classes or lessons.   I wonder how this prohibition functions within the context of the Church, why it is required and how this added expectation aids or inhibits the process of repentance?

[Read more…]

Religious Art: ‘Saint Francis Standing in Ecstasy’

Francisco Zurburan (1598-1664), ‘Saint Francis Standing in Ecstasy’, c. 1640, oil on canvas; Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.

A few years ago another blogger started (but never continued) a series of posts on Religious Art.  As someone with an uninformed, amateur interest in Art I thought that it might be interesting to give it another go.  The first painting I have selected, though feel free to make suggestions for future posts, is a painting by Zurbaran entitled ‘Saint Francis Standing in Ecstasy’. [Read more…]

Doctor-Patient Relationships and the Process of Repentance

If anyone has ever studied the Sociology of Health and Illness you will have certainly come across Talcott Parsons’ ideas on the ‘Sick Role’.  This ‘paternalistic’ model of the Doctor-Patient relationship and other models like it (i.e. the co-operative and the consumerist) can be applied to the process of seeking help from a Bishop in the process of repentance.  This analogy is based on an assumed similarity between the roles of Bishop/Doctor & ‘Sinner’/Patient.  I think this is a useful, though not flawless, comparison but it is one that might help us think through how a Bishop could respond to someone who is seeking to confess and repent.  Further I think it could also facilitate discussion upon the issue of how ‘Sinners’ can navigating this difficult relationship. [Read more…]

Turning Tables into Altars

The principle metaphor for this post is taken from Kathleen Flake from her brilliant essay (and Sunstone presentation) entitled ‘Rendering to the Corporation’.  Flake recounts how in the Catholic tradition, resulting from the sacralisation of matter the shape and meaning of the sacraments of Holy Communion shifted.  Flake argues ‘what had been a plain table at the center of the Church became an ornate stone altar at the front of it’.  Flake uses this metaphor to consider how we can turn tables into altars through the ways that we engage with the Church.  I want to move Flake’s illustration from the unintended effects of ecclesiastical discourse into the realm of service and sacrifice. [Read more…]

Mormon Studies “auf Mish”!

My title is borrowed from Ronan, I hope he does not mind me plagiarising.  Following a brilliant post at JI on Nibley, I was talking to some Missionaries the other day about their Mission reading habits and rules (they apparently have quite strict guidelines in this Mission) and it reminded me of the time and money (photocopies are not cheap) I spent trying to gather everything I could find about the Church.  Yet, apart from Ensigns and the odd mimeographed essay from yester-year, pretty much everything I read was from either Truman Madsen and/or FARMS. [Read more…]

Creativity, Generosity and Humility: Grand Fundamentals of Mormonism

At a recent FAIR conference, Terryl Givens, while introducing his work on the history of the Pre-Mortal life in Western thought, made this statement: ‘What I have come to appreciate is this cardinal insight: If the restoration is not yet complete, then other traditions have much to teach us. Not by way of confirming, corroborating, or verifying the truths we already have. But by way of actually adding to the body of revealed doctrine we call precious and true. The Restoration is neither full nor complete… What if, instead of scrambling frantically to find explanations when Joseph appears to have borrowed from the masons, or Ethan Smith, or Tom Dick, we instead see another marvellous possibility of his actually practicing what he preached.’ [Read more…]

Levinas, Ostler and the Face of the Other

Aaron R. returns to ponder the meaning of suffering.

Trying to think through the problem of suffering has been something which has occupied me for around a year now and I don’t have a lot to show for it. However, the work of Emmanuel Levinas will continue to be a source of renewal for me in the future when I inevitably confront this issue. In this post I want to draw out Levinas’ major insight into suffering which is that it is meaningless when we suffer but that suffering of another should bring a change in how we respond them and their needs. [Read more…]

Confession as a Spiritual Practice

Aaron R. returns again with some ideas on confession, atonement, and community.

Amy Tan wrote in The Kitchen God’s Wife ‘this was how you [come] to love someone… One person [lets] out their fears, the other drawing close to soothe the pain. And then more would pour out, everything that has been hidden, more and more – sorrow, shame, loneliness, all the old aches, so much released until you overflowed with the joy to be rid of it, until it was too late to stop this new joy from taking over your heart.’ In addition Mircea Eliade has noted that confession has a long history pertaining to the alleviation of suffering. To my mind both these mechanisms play an important role in the process of atonement, not just with God, but in our religious communities. [Read more…]

A Shameless Promotion of British-Mormon Culture!

From Aaron R.

I had an institute teacher named Peter Vousden, his name might be familiar to some of you as he has written a few articles for BYU Studies.  Aside from him being a thoughtful teacher and kind man, he also had a strong conception of the importance of his writing outside of the traditional academic arena.  He once wrote me a letter which stated that, ‘I feel as a lifelong English member of the Church that I want to say something about our history… One aim I have is to perhaps encourage younger British LDS Scholars to express themselves… I think it is tremendously important for British LDS to speak up for themselves.’  Those words have had an important impact upon my life. [Read more…]

Another Prophet Puzzle: Lehi’s Prophetic Call as both Restoration and Apostasy?

Aaron R. (AKA Rico) returns again with some thoughts on Lehi.

In Terryl Givens’ ‘very short introduction’ to the Book of Mormon he describes Lehi’s (first) vision in the following terms: ‘No details of the vision, no particulars of any message, are available to distract from the fact of the visitation itself, given to a man who shares neither the public prestige, nor, so far as we can tell, the national stewardship of his contemporary Jeremiah[1]. Jerusalem then, for a time, has some, perhaps ‘many’ prophets, who do not neatly fit into a clear Church structure. Lehi then takes his family out away from the city, which is their literal and spiritual home, and effectively starts a new religious movement that appears to be far more Christ-centered. Moreover, it has a de-centralised view of revelation and the spiritual gifts and also has a far more multi-faceted view of the nature and locale of Zion. The puzzle then is, if Lehi was a contemporary of Joseph Smith (instead of Jeremiah) could his ‘new’ revelation and direct call be tolerated or incorporated as part of a broader Restoration movement? Or would he be branded an apostate, like Hiram Page [2]. [Read more…]

Empty Words: Struggling with the Gift of Healing

Aaron R. (also known as Rico) is a life-long British member of the church. He supports QPR F.C., listens to Mumford and Sons and is currently completing a Ph.D in Sociology. He has two daughters (Amelie and Jude) and lives just outside London in a tiny flat with a wife who wishes he would get a proper job, earn some real money and stop blogging at Mormon Matters. We’re delighted to have Aaron as our guest.

When my first daughter, Amelie, was 7 months old she fell off the table onto the floor.

A mixture of neglect and thoughtlessness caused the accident. We tried to comfort her as best we could and she seemed to settle down fairly quickly. We thought everything was fine, although we acknowledged how lucky we were.

Later that day, we took Amelie to the park but noticed that she was not responding to sound in the way we grown accustomed in those first few months. We tried different tests but nothing seemed to elicit the expected response. We began to suspect the fall had caused some damage to her hearing. [Read more…]