Heaven’s Light

We’re pleased to feature this guest post from EOR.

Like many people, my relationship with The Church is a complicated one.  I converted from Catholicism at the age of 15 and despite over 20 years of membership there is nothing that necessarily ties me to The Church.  I come from a large family, none of which are LDS nor have any intention of becoming so.  So I have walked this road largely alone.

My faith in God and in the Gospel has never been in question, even sometimes at great aggravation to myself.  However, The Church and I have had what can aptly be described as a “love-not exactly hate” relationship.  I have gone through periods of inactivity for varying reasons which I won’t address here including one currently.  I also have a similarly complicated relationship with myself.

In Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo and Frollo have what is (in my opinion) the single greatest song in Disney history.  It succinctly sums up each character as well as compares and contrasts them with rich, spiritually infused vocals.  This 2-part song also serves to sum up my interactions with The Church and with my inner self.  Heaven’s Light/Hellfire sees Quasimodo and Frollo both relaying the story of their object, Esmeralda.  Both characters are profoundly impacted by her but in two very different ways.  The Church is my Esmeralda; my object for purposes of this analogy.

[Read more…]

Three Immediate Needs to Support the LDS LGBTQ Community

Laura Skaggs Dulin is a regular contributor on the Out in Zion podcast, a co-producer on the Far Between documentary and mental health professional.

Many are wondering what they can do to support LGBTQ people within the LDS community as well as those along its borderlands right now. Here are 3 immediate needs: [Read more…]

Stop Skipping the Establishment Clause

For as much as we love religious freedom (BYU just finished its annual two-day conference on the topic), Mormons don’t pay much attention to the Establishment Clause.  Which, if you think about it, is astounding.  What else is Mormonism, if not the greatest Establishment Clause failure of the 19th Century?

Today’s guest post is from Carolyn Homer.  Carolyn Homer is an attorney and religion constitutional law enthusiast in California. She has represented the Anti-Defamation League and other religious organizations as amici before the U.S. Supreme Court, most recently in Zubik v. Burwell, which concerned religious exemptions to the Affordable Care Act. [Read more…]

The Destruction of the Family: American-Style

Carina Hoskisson Wytiaz is a history degree-holder, world-class baker, writer on the internets, hater of Olive Garden, content marketer, and your cool friend.

I have some things to say about Mormons, our heritage as a persecuted people, our “the destruction of the family” language, and people of color. Hold tight. [Read more…]

LeBron James and the Miracle of Human Consciousness

Eliza N. has been our guest before. We’re glad she came back to share these thoughts.

As I watched LeBron James weep while embracing the NBA championship trophy Sunday night, I was flooded with my own emotions. I have this thing about crying whenever I see someone else cry, but I also have this thing where I get really emotional anytime I witness a really incredible moment—something that stands out, when time slows down just a little, and I am overwhelmed by the blessing it is to be alive, to be on the earth to witness something amazing. (Also, I was still very tired from my own achievement of running the Ragnar Wasatch Back past weekend, and isn’t everyone more emotional when they’re tired?) [Read more…]

Divine Intervention in the Zion’s Camp Expedition

We’re pleased to announce this talk by Dr. Matthew C. Godfrey, General Editor and Managing Historian of the Joseph Smith Papers, in the Assembly Hall at 7pm on Thursday, 23 June. Here is Dr. Godfrey’s description of his talk:

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have had a complicated relationship with the Camp of Israel expedition, more commonly known as Zion’s Camp. On its face, the expedition appears to have failed in its goals—that of redeeming Zion, or helping the Saints regain their Jackson County, Missouri, lands. Therefore, church members have often looked for ways to depict the expedition as a success. The lands may not have been obtained, some say, but it was a proving ground for future leaders. The group may have been disbanded without ever entering Jackson County, others state, but the entire expedition gave Joseph Smith an opportunity to showcase his leadership skills to individuals who had never met him before or who had only a casual acquaintance with him.

[Read more…]

Justice and Mercy: A Rape Survivor’s Perspective

Today’s guest post is from Rachael.

I was sexually abused as a child and later raped as a teenager and again as an adult. All of these horrific experiences were at the hands of LDS priesthood holders. Of course, those who did these things were sinning and were not true representatives of Christ or His priesthood. It was relatively easy for me to separate out in my mind these evil men from what I knew God wanted.  But it was much harder for me to figure out how to make sense of the good men, bishops and stake presidents, who counseled me to forgive, to bury the past, to not hold my perpetrators legally responsible.  Because I believed that these men were representatives of God, I believed them when they told me that it was God’s will that I let my rapists (and abusers) off the hook.  And so I did.  I earnestly practiced the forgiveness that I was taught to practice, burying any hint of anger the moment it tried to rise up in me, and consequently, I believe, that buried emotion took on a life of its own, to the detriment of my health. [Read more…]

My mom’s last bit of advice for me

Matt Brown is a sportswriter for SB Nation. His mother passed away last week. Matt wrote this for Mothers’ Day.

Around this time last year, I wrote about a lot of the difficult feelings I have around Father’s Day, given the very complicated relationship I had with my old man. Mother’s Day, by comparison, has always been super easy. My mom is an amazing woman, and we’ve almost always had a very strong relationship.

This year has been a bit different. My mom is dying. After battling with breast cancer for two and a half years, and shattering every prognosis along the way, she is now bedridden, unable to do virtually anything by herself, just playing out the proverbial string. She’s been in this condition for months now. [Read more…]

Refugee Relief Efforts

Erica Eastley is a friend and has been a BCC participant for many years.

The first time I visited a refugee camp was in college in 1995 in the West Bank. I’d gone with two women I’d just met to visit the family of a Palestinian BYU student and they took us to a refugee camp. They also gave us figs fresh off a tree. Since then I’ve been in more refugee camps in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip (where I ate one of the best and most memorable meals I’ve ever had before spending the night with a Palestinian family) and I’ve met refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan living in Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, and the US. I’ve seen teenagers working their way through Mexico from Central America to the US. I’ve moved overseas with my family with two suitcases each to new countries where I didn’t speak much of the language or know how to manage everyday life. Even though I can’t possibly imagine the terror that so many refugees have gone through, I have listened to their stories and experienced a few of the challenges of resettlement and I know that many need help. [Read more…]

An Aunt’s Manifesto

Amy B. is a long-time reader and friend of the blog, where she comments as HH9.

I became an aunt a month before my twelfth birthday. I clearly remember a sister and I staring through the hospital nursery’s window at our new, tiny, Yoda-looking nephew. He was followed in succession by eleven additional, slightly less Yoda-looking, nieces and nephews. So, by the time I was twenty-seven – just as most of my friends were becoming parents – I had spent more than half my life as an aunt. I played with them, watched over them, joked with them, read with them, and talked to them about sports and literature and faith. They visited me when I lived far away for graduate school and I visited them when I circulated among their parents’ households for holidays. I sent birthday cards; they sent drawings, photographs, and postcards. I attended blessings and baptisms; they greeted me when I returned from my mission with posters and hugs. For me, being an aunt was just part of what it meant to have a family. [Read more…]

Ronald W. Walker: Farewell, My Friend

Matthew Grow is director of publications for the Church History Department. In 2015, he and Ronald Walker co-edited The Prophet and the Reformer: The Letters of Brigham Young and Thomas L. Kane. We’re grateful for his thoughts.

The outlines of Ron Walker’s career are quickly sketched. A seminary teacher who joined Leonard Arrington’s group of historians at the History Division of the LDS Church in the 1970s, Ron joined the faculty at Brigham Young University in 1980 with many others from the History Division. He spent the rest of his career at BYU as a pillar in the “New Mormon History,” becoming known as a meticulous researcher, engaging writer, and deep thinker. Besides academic excellence, Ron was renowned for his kindness, openness, candor, and generosity. [Read more…]

No Man is “Trash”

Angry? You bet. Tyler Glenn’s latest song and video boil with rage. Glenn, a gay man and former missionary, was embraced by the church for his advocacy in building the inclusivity bridge. That is, until the LDS church’s November 5th policy change regarding homosexuals—a change that codified those in same-gender marriages as apostates, required their excommunication, and forbade the baptism of their children under certain conditions. The policy change hit him hard, like a gut punch, he says. Feeling himself betrayed, denigrated, and literally dismissed over his sexual orientation, Glenn took a hard look at less-visited areas of Mormonism and decided he could no longer believe. The release of “Trash” depicts a stunning reversal of attitude toward his faith heritage. [Read more…]

Rape and The Miracle of Forgiveness

Today’s Guest Post is by Chris Kimball.

Although nobody accuses me, every time the (now out-of-print) The Miracle of Forgiveness comes up, I cringe and feel guilty. It’s really not my work and I know that. But the author is my grandfather Spencer Kimball and somehow I feel responsible in a vague but troubling way.

Rape is a difficult and touchy subject, yet I want to contribute to the discussion. I offer this as my personal opinion (I certainly cannot and would never claim to channel Spencer Kimball.) [Read more…]

Q&A With Sam Brown: Death, Dying, and Living

Dominic Moore is a pediatric palliative care physician, singer songwriter, and member of the mega-super group “the Lower Lights”. He graciously agreed to ask some questions of Sam Brown, who is an ICU physician, medical researcher, and historian (most notably, of In Heaven as It Is on Earth and First Principles and Ordinances). Sam’s new book, while not about LDS beliefs, talks to some of our deepest feelings about death and caring for the dying.

Sam is throwing a book launch party at King’s English in Salt Lake on Thursday, April 14, at 7pm and for those in Utah Valley, Writ & Vision in Provo is holding a panel featuring Sam, Sierra Debenham, and George Handley on Tuesday, April 19, at 7pm.”

It was my pleasure to have a conversation with Sam Brown about his latest book, “Through the Valley of Shadows: Living Wills, Intensive Care, and Making Medicine Human”. In examining death and our relationship to being seriously ill, along with legal and medical tools that have developed over time, Sam lays out some of the most difficult challenges of our day. I recommend “Through the Valley of Shadows” highly and consider it crucial to the discussions we need to have as a society.

Sam’s criticism of living wills is well founded but also pretty revolutionary (some might even say heretical). [Read more…]

What is the most important thing we can do in our lives?

Like many of you, we’ve been moved by the Church’s efforts, launched by President Burton, to aid refugees. We plan on continuing to highlight these efforts. Please visit I Was A Stranger and prayerfully consider how you can help.

Maryan Myres Shumway is currently an expat, living in the Middle East. She plays cello in the Doha Community Orchestra, and chronicles her travels and thoughts at trekingonward.blogspot.com.

With the recent announcements from the First Presidency and Sister Linda K. Burton, General Relief Society president, to launch an effort to serve refugees, my heart leapt with joy. In the 1980’s I worked in three different refugee camps–in Thailand, the Philippines, and for a short time in Palestine/Israel. Their faces, sometimes bewildered, but often times surprisingly happy, still reverberate within me. Many of their examples and stories continue to tutor me when my heart needs to be mentored or turned. Sister Linda K. Burton voiced her plea to help those who are displaced in the world when she asked us to reflect, “What if their story was my story?” [Read more…]

A Must-Have Missionary Book

Roger Terry is editorial director at BYU Studies and is the author of books (both fiction and nonfiction), articles, essays, short stories, book reviews, and newspaper editorials. He blogs at mormonomics & mormonethics.

A few weeks ago, BYU Studies held an annual meeting for some our supporters. This year we invited a rather unusual speaker. His name is Robert Lively, dean emeritus and former professor of religion at the University of Maine at Farmington. Rob is not LDS. So why would we invite a nonmember to speak at our annual meeting? Because of the book he self-published in late 2015. It is titled The Mormon Missionary: Who Is That Knocking at My Door? [Read more…]

Evening with an Author—John G. Turner, Mormon Jesus: A Biography

From our friends at Benchmark Books, 3269 S. Main St., Ste. 250 in Salt Lake City.

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We are excited to announce that John G. Turner, author of The Mormon Jesus: A Biography (published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), will be here on Wednesday, April 6 to speak about and sign copies of his book. He will be here from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and will speak at 6:00 and will answer questions and sign books before and after that time. We hope you will be able to make it that night but, if not, we can mail a signed copy or hold one here at the store for pick-up. To RSVP on Facebook, click here. [Read more…]

On Unnecessary Transitions

Eliza N. is an editor who lives and works in Salt Lake City. She grew up in the Midwest and misses the cornfields. When she’s not working, reading, or watching Netflix, she enjoys running, playing volleyball, and hanging out with her dog.

I am a 31-year-old single Mormon. Upon my 31st birthday at the end of last October, I had until the next general conference to transition to either a family ward or a mid single adult ward. (Mid singles wards, if you didn’t know, are cesspools you wouldn’t wish on anyone.) I’ve had a lot of time to consider how much this transition was going to suck, and suck it did. I attended my new (family) ward last Sunday, and as expected, there were many tears and new-kid jitters.

As someone who spent twelve and a half years attending young single adult wards, I feel qualified to make this statement: The best thing we can do for single adult members of the Church is get rid of the singles wards programs. [Read more…]

Saturday’s Warrior 2016, a Guest Review

Jenny Garrard is a Utah Mormon, born and raised, but she’s not a fan of Jello and doesn’t sell anything on Etsy. She suffers from RBF, which you probably shouldn’t Google, but it’s nothing a dirty soda can’t fix. Jenny is married to an Idaho farm boy, and together they have 3 sons.

This is a review of the new Saturday’s Warrior film, directed by Michael Buster, produced by Lex de Azevedo, which opens April 1, 2016. [Read more…]

Acknowledging the Judas Reality

Rebecca Moore has been our guest before. She regularly blogs here and is a tall NASA enthusiast.

As I sat watching Interstellar last Sunday with my roommate, as I often do, I turned to her toward and said, “Isn’t this such a great analogy for Heavenly Father? Whatever screw ups well intentioned men may have committed, he’ll come back. He will still come find us. He’ll fix it.” She nodded and smiled politely, but I’m not sure if she was in the mood for me to go off about the failings of General Authorities, so I left it at that. But the analogy none the less stuck with me. [Read more…]

Mormon Art and Cultural Change

Guest post by Christian Frandsen, BYU student and Assistant Curator at Writ & Vision.

Exciting—even radical—things are happening in the world of Mormon art and aesthetics. Certainly this reflects the recent widening of cultural horizons in the way mainstream Mormonism considers social topics like feminism and race, but the work of Mormon artists even in Mormon-est of all Mormon havens—Utah valley—is digging out a foundation of progressive aesthetics that extends well beyond the plot of cultural square footage that we Mormons have staked out. This is important, especially considering that one of these artists is J Kirk Richards—perhaps the most respected creator of Mormon religious art. [Read more…]

Honoring Stephen Webb

We are sorry for the occasion of this post, but grateful to Hal Boyd of Eastern Kentucky University for this tribute to someone whose work many of us at BCC have learned from and deeply appreciated.

The man who so often contemplated eternity has now stepped beyond its threshold. Dr. Stephen H. Webb passed on this weekend.

A protestant convert to Catholicism, Dr. Webb increasingly dedicated his immense intellect to Mormon theology.

For him, the Latter-day Saint doctrine of an embodied God held the potential to rejuvenate what he saw as moribund mainline theology. The Mormon notion of the material essence of “spirit” was a novel breakthrough. [Read more…]

Sexual Violence in Church History

We’re pleased to feature this guest post from Kristine A., who blogs regularly at Wheat and Tares.

I attended the Church History Symposium in Utah co-hosted by BYU and the Church History Department last week. I live-tweeted quite a bit of the whole weekend using #LDSwomen and #CHsymposium. The most memorable session was Andrea Radke-Moss’ presentation on her paper “Beyond Petticoats and Poultices: Finding a Women’s History of the Mormon-Missouri War of 1838.” I overheard some Mormon historians mentioning that her presentation was likely the biggest reveal/discovery in Mormon history in at least the past 50 years.

IMG_7274 [Read more…]

By Their Own Pens

Kate Holbrook, PhD specializes in women’s history at the Church History Department. She is coeditor of The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History (Church Historians Press, 2016) and Women and Mormonism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (University of Utah Press, 2016).

I don’t always love to read history. Sometimes it is boring. My mom reminded me (in public!) recently that when I was eleven, at the end of a road trip to Southern Utah with her and my grandma, I complained “Does EVERY trip have to be about history?”

My first day on the job at the Church History Library, September 2012, I began working on a document introduction and annotations for the book just now being released as The First Fifty Years of Relief Society. I had never worked on a documentary history before and I worried that it would be highly dull. But then I read the documents. [Read more…]

Sunday Sermon: Young Voices

This talk was given by a 14 year-old young man who lives just outside Washington DC. It was his first talk, and was written entirely on his own. 

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Seeing as this is my first talk ever, I made the mistake of waiting until Saturday afternoon to write the whole thing. How many people have made that mistake? Can I get a show of hands? Alright, the topic I have been assigned is love in the family. Now, five weeks ago, when the bishop called my house, my step-dad answered the phone and hollered for me and I immediately thought “Uh-oh” because usually when someone yells my name, especially at home, it’s because I did something stupid. But anyway, I come over to him, and while I’m trying to figure out what stupid thing I did, he says “The Bishop’s on the phone for you.” I was confused because nobody ever calls me, I call people but nobody ever calls me. I get on the phone and the bishop gives me the details of the talk. The topic is love in the family, which, now that I think about it, is very fitting because today is Valentine’s Day, and I have a family… and we love each other. [Read more…]

The Sex Abuse Essay: A Plea to the Brethren

This is a guest post from a currently serving Stake Relief Society President. She has asked to remain anonymous mainly to protect the victims mentioned in the post.

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While the seemingly recent statement on sexual abuse in the church has turned out to be several years old, let me share a current experience where I live. I have been serving as a Stake Relief Society president for a few years in North America outside of the Book of Mormon belt. Elder Nelson has admonished women to “defend morality and families in a sin-sick world” and requested we share our “impressions, [our] insights, and [our] inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out” so here goes.

(Potential triggers ahead.) [Read more…]

Book Review: Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings

Amanda is a longtime reader and lurker on BCC (and has been our guest in the past). She received a BA in French from Yale University and now lives in a Paris suburb with her husband Didier and son James. She is currently working on a law degree while working in a law firm in Paris. We’re grateful for her perspective on this important book.

“Great news! Sister Burton and Sister Oscarson are coming to our Stake to give a training meeting, followed by a fireside. … Amanda, will you translate for Sister Burton and accompany her after the meeting to translate for the sisters wishing to speak with her?”

Would I! [Read more…]

Continuing Revelation

Gregory A. Prince is the author of several articles and books, including Power from On High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood, and co-author of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. He is president and CEO of Virion Systems, Inc. and he is a board member of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and The Journal of Mormon History.

In the late 1970s, while serving as an Elders Quorum president, I witnessed what may have been the only same-sex wedding (same-sex in the sense that both partners had Y-chromosomes) ever to be performed in a Latter-day Saint temple. A year earlier, a woman who had undergone transsexual surgery was baptized in our ward. Leaders in the mission and the ward were fully aware of her status—indeed, the baptism recommend (which the bishop later showed me, since the subsequent wedding involved a member of my quorum) bore the words, “She is a transsexual.” Several months later an elder moved into the ward, the two of them fell in love, and they announced their engagement. They expressed to the bishop a desire to be married in the temple, and after he and the stake president interviewed the couple, the stake president wrote a detailed letter to the General Authority who supervised that area of the country, explicitly stating that the bride-to-be had undergone transsexual surgery. [Read more…]

As a Little Child

Elijah (age 4) is one of the blog’s younger friends. He likes Star Wars, superheroes, and Thelonious Monk. He gave this talk in Primary today. We share it with his (and his parents’) permission.

When we serve others, we serve God. Serving other people means being nice to them. When people are sad or lonely, I can be their friend. I can be silly to help them be happy. When they fall down and are bleeding, I can get them a band-aid. I can give people hugs when they need them, or I can share my stufties* to help them feel better. If someone is being left out, I can ask them to play with me. We should love others. That is part of God. Jesus would help people who are left out or alone. That is important! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

*stuffed animals

#prayforParis

Amanda is a longtime reader and lurker on BCC. She received a BA in French from Yale University and now lives in a Paris suburb with her husband Didier and son James. She is currently working on a law degree while working in a law firm in Paris. We have been shocked by this and other recent attacks by religious extremists around the world, and mourn with Paris, the West Bank, Egypt, Nairobi, Nigeria, Bangkok… and the list continues.

For the second time this year, my country is reeling under the shock and grief of a terrorist attack. [Read more…]

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