The Redemption of the Pharisee

(Shannon) Hope Harrison served a mission in Houston TX from 2013-2014. She is currently a senior at MIT and has been part of Adir, a group that encourages understanding and friendships across all religions. Studying Hebrew at Harvard University and coming to love Judaism has been part of her path toward understanding more about Mormonism. She spent last summer in Jerusalem.

 

Oh generation of vipers,” (Matt 12:34) “full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness.” (Matt 23:27) “How can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt 23:33)

Jesus said! Stay away from the Pharisees – they are evil! Or? Wait…

Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Luke 6:41)

It’s easy to find fault in others. And it’s good to make sure we don’t duplicate that fault in ourselves. But sometimes we must be reminded that we may have worse sins, and should learn from the good in those around us. [Read more…]

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…]

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…]

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…]

Do We Love Good Because it is Good?

Mette Ivie Harrison is a critically-acclaimed writer of numerous books,including ‘The Bishop’s Wife’. We’re grateful for her thoughts.

In “The Education of the Human Race,” the great German writer and philosopher Lessing suggested that humans as a species have gone through three stages of development. The first stage was the Old Testament phase where we had to be punished or threatened with punishment in order to do what was not wrong. The second stage was the New Testament phase where we were rewarded or promised a reward (blessings or going to heaven—or a higher heaven, or resurrection) if we did what was right. [Read more…]

When in Rome, Marry as the Catholics Do

By Carolyn Homer (with comedic assistance from Eric D. Snider). Carolyn is a Mormon attorney engaged to a Catholic attorney in Washington D.C. Eric is a film critic and humorist in Portland, Oregon.

Friends keep asking Brad and me when we’re getting married. We appreciate the support, but we believe marriage is a private decision, to be made by no one but the bride, the groom, and the Catholic Church.

Brad and I want a Catholic wedding, and the Catholic Church takes marriage very seriously — almost as seriously as it takes divorce.

Being Mormon, I respect quirky theologies. Your faith? Your rules. But now that respect has gotten me into trouble. You see, Brad and I are divorced. (Not from each other.) [Read more…]

Mormon Art in New York

Glen Nelson is a ghostwriter of twenty books, with three New York Times best sellers to his credit. He founded Mormon Artists Group in 1999 and remains its director. MAG has created 30 projects with 90 LDS artists. As a librettist, he has written three operas, five song cycles, two cantatas, and has published poetry and essays and collaborated with artists on many projects. He and his wife have published a book on their art collection, The Glen & Marcia Nelson Collection of Mormon Art. Nelson arrived in New York City 30 years ago, the year his driver’s license expired, which he has not renewed.

It started out as a dare, almost. Richard Bushman asked me what I would do if I won the lottery. Those weren’t his exact words, but he was curious to know what a seven-figure windfall might mean for Mormon Studies. He challenged me to identify the big ideas that could transform the ways Mormons think of themselves, interact with the public, and connect with each other.

For me, the solution was a single word: art. [Read more…]

How Much Mormonism Has Changed

Mette Ivie Harrison is a former BYU “Benson Scholar” and high school seminary Scripture Chase champion. She now writes Mormon mysteries about Bishop’s Wife Linda Wallheim starting with The Bishop’s Wife. She is an All American triathlete and holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University. She is the ward historian and nursery teacher, has five children and lives in Layton, Utah.

Sometimes I hear Mormons talk about how the church never changes in essentials or ex-Mormons complain that the church moves in geologic time toward more progressivity. My view is entirely different. In my lifetime (I was born in 1970), I’ve seen the church change dramatically, and not only in the most obvious way, the 1978 change to allow full priesthood blessings to be extended to our black brothers and sisters.

[Read more…]

Heavenly Mother is a Black Woman: Exploring a Mormon Womanism

Janan Graham-Russell is a writer and graduate of the Howard University School of Divinity. Her research focuses on womanist theology in Mormonism and identity formation in racial communities. Her work has been featured in two books: Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, and A Book of Mormons, as well as The Atlantic. She will begin attending Harvard University in the fall of 2017 to continue her research within the PhD program in The Study of Religion. When she’s not working, she enjoys watching movies, playing XBox with her partner, and making music videos with her one year old son.

Janan gave these remarks at the 2017 Faith and Knowledge Conference, held Feb. 24-25, 2017 at Harvard Divinity School.

Before I begin, I wanted to read an excerpt of remarks given by then-Church president Brigham Young, in 1852, to give context to my own remarks this afternoon.

What is that mark? you will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth, or ever will see . Now I tell you what I know; when the mark was put upon Cain, Abel’s children was in all probability young; the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the priesthood nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the priesthood, until the redemption of the earth. If there never was a prophet, or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are, I know that they cannot bear rule in the priesthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them, until the residue of the posterity of Michael and his wife receive the blessings , the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed ; and hold the keys of the priesthood, until the times of the restitution shall come, and the curse be wiped off from the earth, and from Michael’s seed.

[Read more…]

A Mormon’s Guide to Trinity Lutheran

Carolyn Homer brings us this Mormon’s guide to Trinity Lutheran, yesterday’s Supreme Court religious freedom case.  Carolyn Homer is an attorney and religion constitutional law enthusiast in Washington, D.C.

The case is deceptively simple. The State of Missouri has a program where it recycles used tires into springy playground surfaces. Trinity Lutheran, a church & school in Missouri, applied to get funding for those recycled tires. Missouri denied the application. Missouri’s sole basis for the denial was that Trinity Lutheran is a church. The Missouri Constitution says “That no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.” [Read more…]

What She Said

Cathy Gilmore is a friend of the blog and has posted with us previously.  She is also currently working on a documentary history of her grandmother Dorothy Smith Clark. Cathy graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in English and a Russian minor, and works as a contract consultant in marketing communications and design. She is married to Ed, an English bloke from Northeast Lincolnshire, and together they have four daughters. 

It is a belonging that we crave because it is one we have always known.
Terryl & Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps[1]

One of my favorite things to say as a child was, “It’s not fair!” As the fifth of seven children, I naturally developed a keen sense of fairness. I remember fuming in my room because my older siblings sent me to bed while they ordered pizza and watched movies. (I can smell the pizza, guys!) I was irritated that my parents didn’t let me to see Poltergeist with my older brothers. My fear of being left out reached its high point when I was accidentally left in a park in Blackfoot, Idaho during a family vacation lunch stop. To my dad’s credit, he did risk overturning the camper while flipping a U-turn on the highway after they realized their mistake. Like 45 minutes later. [Read more…]

Refugees in The Book of Mormon: Ancient Light for a Modern Crisis

By Alicia Alba[1] (ed. Mel Henderson)

refugee: noun. ref· u· gee \ˌre-fyu̇-ˈjē\ An individual seeking refuge or asylum; especially: an individual who flees for safety (as from war), usually to a foreign country.

The Book of Mormon begins with a refugee story: Lehi was a wealthy landowner in ancient Jerusalem at a time of social and political unrest. Among the first things we learn is that Lehi was a good man who tried to share what he knew—but enemies emerged in his own community, men who “sought his life, that they might take it away” (1 Ne. 1:20). Lehi and his family were forced to flee. [Read more…]

What Many Members of Color Seek From Conference 

Phylicia Jimenez is a convert of almost nine years. In her words: “I’m a novice writer, a grad student, a mama to a busy 21 month old, a wife and an activist. I love food, friends and diversity! I have my own blog SamePewDifferentView.com that I just started and hope to write more on. My focus is improving race relations wherever I am, in whatever I am doing. I especially love doing so in the church as to help us overcome our own racist history as an organization since there are still so many effects of it today!”

In April 2015 I had the opportunity to visit an African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME church) for a baptism. The AME church has a significant and longstanding history for and in the African American community. It was founded in 1816 after discrimination and racism in St. George’s Methodist Church. Those of African descent left St. George’s and founded their own church carrying the Methodist doctrine with them. They created a place of healing and worship for Blacks during a time when many were not allowed to worship at all. The AME Church also empowered the Black community by teaching school in their churches and raising money to keep schoolhouses open and filled with resources.

The motto of the AME church is “God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, Holy Spirit Our Comforter, Humankind Our Family.”

[Read more…]

Mormons and the Billy Graham Rule

Today’s guest post is from Carolyn Homer. Carolyn Homer is an attorney and religion constitutional law enthusiast in Washington, D.C.

I’ve been surprised by the East Coast’s collective “sexist!” horror this week over the published tidbit that Mike Pence “never eats alone with a woman other than his wife.”  Famously known as the Billy Graham Rule, the point is to avoid temptation and any appearance of sexual impropriety.  For Mike Pence specifically, it probably goes beyond that — as a public figure running on Christian values, he probably doesn’t want to create even the possibility of a he-said/she-said sex scandal.  Even if Pence trusts himself, the rule protects against blackmail. [Read more…]

What’s a Gay Like Me Supposed to Do? Some Unanswered Questions.

MCS is your typical single Mormon in his late 20’s. He faithfully attends his YSA ward, and is one of the Same Ten People who rotate through all the hard callings. You’d never guess he was gay, but he is, surprise! He graduated from BYU with a degree in history a few years ago and, seeing as history factories across America shut their doors during the 2009 financial crisis, will start a professional program this fall.

 

The Church has done an inadequate job of meeting the needs of gay, young single adults. I don’t mean to speak for others who are older than me, or who have entered mixed-orientation marriages, or who have left the Church for a same-sex relationship, or who have re-committed to celibacy after a time out of the Church. I’m speaking as a 28-year old, gay, single Mormon, committed to the Gospel but uncertain of my future in the Church. I am grateful for recent efforts to reach out to people like me.

However, I have some questions, and the answers have been non-existent.

[Read more…]

The Relief Society 175th Anniversary – A Sermon

Rachel Hunt Steenblik is sort of a PhD student in philosophy of religion and theology at Claremont Graduate University, but mostly a mother. She co-edited Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright. She also blogs at The Exponent, and loves books, bikes, and boggle.

This is a slightly fleshed out version of what I gave in Jersey City 2nd Ward, Jersey City, New Jersey, March 19, 2017.

In his Deseret Book published book, Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt, my friend and Mormon studies professor, Patrick Mason, noted that the first time Moroni visited Joseph Smith he “included an invocation of Malachi’s prophecy, placing at the very heart of the restoration the promise that ‘the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.’”[i] Mason explained, “Malachi, Moroni, and Joseph probably didn’t mean that each of us must become a professional historian: if so, the earth would be ‘utterly wasted’ indeed. Rather, the prophecy suggests that we—as individuals and as a community—have an integral and intimate relationship to our history.”[ii]

[Read more…]

Poverty in the scriptures: An introduction


D.T. Bell lives in Salt Lake with his wife and three kids. He works in technology, but used to work in international aid and development. He first developed an interest in issues relating to poverty while serving a mission in Argentina. He was into the Bloggernacle before it was cool. Just kidding, it will never be cool. 

I’ve jesus-and-the-poorbeen trying to read the Book of Mormon sequentially, which is something I don’t usually do as part of my scripture study. As I’ve read sequentially, I’ve been surprised by the amount of scriptures I’ve encountered that deal with how the disciples of Christ are to treat those who are poor, as well as by the intensity of the content of these scriptures.

 

Curious to see whether my impression of the frequency and intensity of poverty-related scriptures was borne out by a more analytical approach, I cracked open my old friend, the Topical Guide.

 

[Read more…]

Eighteenth Annual UVU Mormon Studies Conference

Courtesy of Dialogue editor Boyd Petersen, here is the program for the Eighteenth Annual UVU Mormon Studies Conference, on the topic of “Multicultural Mormonism: Religious Cohesion in a New Era of Diversity.” It will be held from 29-31 March on the fifth floor the UVU Classroom Building at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT.

[Read more…]

Let Language Garnish Thy Virtue: The Subversive Language of Mormon Public Discourse in the Age of Trump

Jacob is a former perma at BCC, and shares his smart thoughts with us from time to time. 

 

Any time a Mormon luminary speaks is a good time to think about what’s going on with public Mormon discourse. Elaine Dalton’s recent remarks concerning virtue reveal how modern Mormon discourse attempts to resist and subvert the wider culture in which it lives. The way ‘virtue’ is used in that discourse has been combed over in online Mormonism for years, of course, but I’m thinking about it here with regard to the larger weave of how modern Mormonism has sought to re-define certain concepts and interpretations of traditional themes and values, not as a means of preserving them so much as a means of re-imagining them in order to deploy them toward specific ends. This always happens with new generations of practitioners, but I think it’s important to note here that this kind of orthodox religion-making is actually perceived by its makers and adopters as radical, not conservative or orthodox.

[Read more…]

Facts and Metaphors: Reflections after Reading Joseph Campbell

Shawn Tucker teaches Humanities at Elon University, and might contribute completely true, non-fake news stories to the Mormon Tabernacle Enquirer. He and his wife live in North Carolina and have four children.

There seems to be only two kinds of people: Those who think that metaphors are facts, and those who know that they are not facts. Those who know that they are not facts are what we call “atheists,” and those who think they are facts are called “religious.” ― Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor, p. 48

I have succeeded in not cheating on my wife. I have never had sex with anyone outside of my marriage. In fact, I didn’t have sex with anyone before I got married. Those are facts. They may not seem like important facts, unless you are my wife. Or maybe if you are my children. Or maybe if you are me. For me, these facts mean that I can make promises with others and keep them. They mean I can have principles and stick to them. All of the good old virtues—temperance, justice, fortitude, courage, faith, hope, love—could be connected to these facts. Oh, and one last thing. These facts show dangers and pain I have avoided, like STDs as well as potential despair, loneliness, and post-coital feelings of emptiness.

Why do I bring up these facts? I bring then up because these facts are the results of metaphors. These facts are facts because of a series of metaphors that I use to conduct my life, to make decisions, to establish priorities and values, and to make meaning. Furthermore, these metaphors bring with them a very satisfying sense of right and wrong, of justice, love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. These metaphors give life to my relationships, to my church service, to my job, and to my day-to-day living. But here’s a persistent question: do these metaphors point toward transcendent, real things? [Read more…]

Repaired with Gold: On Perfection & the Atonement

Tinesha Zandamela is a BYU student double majoring in Sociology and French, with plans to go to law school. She has worked as a director of a nonprofit in Utah. Tinesha published a book about her experiences as a biracial Mormon woman that is available on Amazon Kindle.

In a recent BYU devotional by Sister Cassy Budd, she discusses kintsugi and how it relates to the Atonement and our mistakes.

Kintsugi is a Japanese art. Its purpose: repair broken pottery with laquer mixed with beautiful metals, such as silver or gold. The breakage is seen as a part of the history of an object, an event during the object’s existence. It embraces the flawed nature of the object. The process of kintsugi was used in Sister Budd’s talk to describe us as humans—our mistakes and flaws can be fixed to create something even more beautiful and that is what the Atonement was all about. [Read more…]

The Elephant in the Bed: A Canadian Mormon Looks at Trump

Jennifer Quist is an award-winning novelist as well as an essayist and a youth Sunday school teacher (which is its own reward). She has five sons but studies comparative literature at the University of Alberta anyway, and her Chinese is terrible.

I was worried about my boy. He left our home and our country as the youngest missionary in my family’s sixty-years history with the Church to go to a foreign nation. It’s a place with an unstable government led by an authoritarian madman elected by a mob that sees themselves as beset by outsiders and their leader as justified in violating international treaties, denying residents’ rights, taunting foreign governments, and doing nothing as the sick poor suffer and die. My missionary wrote home about culture shock, glossing over it in his mass emails, telling me “no, but really” in our private letters. What could I do but remind him to thank God for his Canadian passport? Then six weeks into his mission, his time at the Provo Missionary Training Center was over and he could move on, leave the surreality of Donald Trump’s post-truth America, to serve his mission in countries we’re more comfortable with right now: Romania and Moldova.

[Read more…]

The Church Should Remain Politically Neutral

Today’s guest post is from Carolyn Homer. Carolyn Homer is an attorney and religion constitutional law enthusiast in Washington, D.C.

The silence is eerie.

Ever since Donald Trump became a serious presidential contender, Sunday meetings (at least in my wards) have been free of passing references to politics and thinly-veiled endorsements of the Republican platform. Instead there’s been a renewed focus on love, Christ, repentance, and refugees.

I love it. And I hope it stays that way. [Read more…]

More Thoughts on Mormons and Muslims

Paul Reeve is a professor of History at the University of Utah and author of Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness.

Much of the negative reactions to my Mormons and Muslims op-ed seem to come from Mormons who, if I understand them correctly, make this point: Mormons were peaceful settlers in the 19th century and Muslims are suicide bombing terrorists in the 21st century ergo Mormons did not deserve the labels of “murderers, traitors, fanatics, and whores” in the 19th century, but Muslims do deserve to be banned from the United States in the 21st century. The problem with that reasoning is a common misconception among 21st century Latter-day Saints–that their pioneer ancestors never did anything to raise even the slightest whiff of violence or threat to the surrounding host society. [Read more…]

Left the Church? 25 Things Not to Say to a Believing Loved One (& what to say instead)

We’re grateful that Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks has shared this followup with us, cross-posted to drjuliehanks.com.

canstockphoto9791318A week and a half ago I published a guest post here titled 25 things NOT to say to a loved one leaving the faith (and what to say instead). The post sparked some great discussion among commenters on the blog and on social media. [Read more…]

What Does Ownership Mean This Week?

This is a guest post by RMR. She is a clinical instructor and primary care physician for Stanford University. She recently participated with her husband and two children in the Women’s March in San Jose. 

Yesterday in the office I saw the gentlest of women– a 70-something burqa-clad Iraqi immigrant who came in worried about a bruise on her upper thigh. She always comes in with the simplest requests– a hearing aid that won’t hurt her ears, a new brace for her arthritic thumb. As she lifted up her long skirts I saw for the first time her underclothes– crisp white cotton bloomers and gray wool stockings of the softest kind. As I thought of the rain outside, I had a brief moment of envy imagining being cloaked in the warmth of her wrappings.

Over half of the people that I see in my clinic every day are immigrants. Half of them are from India (software engineers mainly, not surprising given that I work in Silicon Valley). In 2017 alone, in addition to India and Iraq, I’ve seen people from China, Afghanistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Jordan, Turkey, Romania, Finland, England, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela and Mexico. While the diversity of my patient panel is exciting, I’ll admit that on some days the cocktail of languages and cultures can be a little dizzying.
Certainly my head had to take a sharp turn this afternoon– I walked in to see a young boy and noticed his beautiful older sister in the corner. I couldn’t remember meeting his sister before although I knew the family– his brother is also my patient. I walked up to her and introduced myself. “Oh,” said her mother, “My daughter is transgender. I guess we haven’t seen you since she made the change.” I quickly realized this girl was also my patient– the brother, now sister. “Welcome,” I smiled and said, “It’s so good to see you again.”

[Read more…]

Keeping our covenants after this week

Ross is a bishop serving in the UK. He’s been our guest before and we’re pleased he’d share his thoughts on how to aid those in need.

Today I taught a combined Relief Society and Priesthood lesson in our ward. For the past three years the Europe Area Presidency has asked us to focus on three areas as part of their area plan: bringing a friend to church, becoming spiritually and temporally self reliant and finding an ancestor for temple ordinances. Basically the three-fold mission of the church with friendlier language.

I chose to focus on how we as individuals can become more spiritually self-reliant by taking care of the poor and needy. There are a few ways we can do this. We can pay a generous fast offering which is used to look after our own ward members, we can link up with local charities to look after poor and vulnerable members in our local areas and we can work with international charities that help with the poor and needy throu
ghout the world. [Read more…]

25 Things NOT to Say to a Loved One Leaving the Church (& what to say instead)

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhD, LCSW is the owner/director of Wasatch Family Therapy, a popular blogger, an online mental health influencer, a local and national media contributor. Dr. Hanks’ new book The Assertiveness Guide For Women (download a free chapter) helps women find and use their authentic voices to improve their lives and relationships. Julie and her husband are the parents of four children. Visit DrJulieHanks.com for more tips on facing life’s challenges and to schedule coaching sessions. For therapy services in Utah visit WasatchFamilyTherapy.com. Connect on social media with @DrJulieHanks.

Finding out that a loved one has stepped away from Church activity or no longer believes in the Gospel can bring up a broad spectrum of emotions. Intense and often painful emotions can make it difficult to know what to say to your loved one about their choice to leave the Church.

These conversations are particularly painful because our family and community identities, religious rituals, cultural traditions, and vision of eternity are tied to having shared spiritual beliefs and practices.

When Mormons don’t know what to say, we may default to what we’ve been trained to do. We start teaching, preaching, and bearing testimony. This is an important and urgent missionary opportunity, right? Wrong. [Read more…]

Thoughts on Two Baptisms, 1989 and 2016

PCB is a professor and prior guest of the blog. We’re really glad he chose to share these sacred thoughts here.

Recently I baptized my eight-year-old son. It was an emotional and profoundly spiritual experience for me, perhaps one of the most important in my life. I know a lot of parents feel this way, but this surprised me. I love my son, love the Church, and was very happy to welcome him into the official fellowship of the Saints. Our practice of baptizing eight-year-old children hasn’t always resonated with me, though; despite Mormon’s fierce protestations to the contrary, I don’t seen a big difference between child baptisms and a baby blessings. Perhaps more to the point (and maybe not unrelated), I’ve felt some ambivalence these last few years toward many other institutional features of Mormonism as I’ve wandered through a thicket of complexity in my spiritual and religious life. All to say: I knew this gathering of family and friends to celebrate my young son would be special. I just didn’t expect it to prompt so profound a spiritual reaction. I was wrong. [Read more…]

A Resource for Seminary Teachers (and Others)

Grant Hardy is a friend of the blog and Professor of History and Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. He is the author of Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide, among others.

I am teaching the New Testament in seminary this year and we’re almost through the first semester, which focuses on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It’s a rare opportunity for my students because it is the only time they will have a chance to read the four gospels in a church setting sequentially, one at a time. For the rest of their lives, in institute and Sunday school, the approach will always be one that combines and harmonizes the different accounts of Jesus’ life. [Read more…]