God of the Deluge

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Mette Ivie Harrison is a well-known mystery and young-adult novelist and frequent guest here. She is the author of The Book of Laman, published by BCC Press.

Eight weeks before the Boston marathon, my treadmill broke. I know, big deal, right? Most runners love the outdoors and it was starting to be spring. But I am not most runners. I love indoor training and the security it provides, from pitstops to water to Netflix and no dogs. I wasn’t happy to have to run outside, and this feeling was compounded when I found I had Achilles tendinitis. But I just kept training because I had to do Boston this one year I qualified. [Read more…]

Three sub-degrees in the Celestial Kingdom?

Shannon Flynn is a life long student of Mormon History and a member of the Mormon History Association. 

About four weeks ago a discussion was started on the Mormon Historians Facebook page that asked about the common belief that there are three distinct sub-degrees or separate places within the celestial kingdom.  The reference that is usually pointed to is D&C section 131 verses 1-4 especially verse 1. “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees.”

In the discussion that followed it was my contention that there are not, in fact, three sub-degrees or divisions. Moreover, this idea and all of the variations and speculations on the nature of the sub-degrees has become one of the most significant pieces of false doctrine that pervades the LDS church today. Part of the discussion came from Kevin Barney who linked a post he had done back in 2006 on BCC, that the three sub-degrees was not the original interpretation of the verses in section 131.  I had an experience similar to what Kevin describes in his post when he said he heard it from a friend who heard it from California temple president. [Read more…]

The Little Things of General Conference

Amy Harris lives in the western US.  She enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with family. Some might classify her approach to gardening as “mildly unhinged.” Like nature, Amy abhors vacuums (and irons).

There has been a lot of talk about all the major changes and exciting announcements from General Conference. I just want to add a few of the “little things” I noticed that made this the most energizing/enjoyable/uplifting conference experience I’ve had in years.   [Read more…]

You knew what I was

JD grew up in the church in an area he affectionately terms “Zion Lite.”  He served a mission in a country with police with semi-automatic weaponry and weird fatty foods, went to BYU, did more than enough graduate school, and still goes to church.  Look around this Sunday, he may be sitting down the bench from you, possibly wearing fantastic socks. He could really use a friend there.

I am a gay man in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I battle despair daily, even though “to despair is to turn your back on God.” [1] I can understand the feelings that lead someone to consider suicide — the feeling that the Lord in this church has no plan of mortal happiness for me.  

But I desperately hope the Lord does have a plan of mortal happiness for me. We still need to be actively seeking further light and knowledge, and the testimonies of God’s LGBT children are key.   [Read more…]

Mi Religión

R-20100610-0014.jpgJoshua Tanner is a full-time husband and father.  He is also a full-time high school Spanish teacher in Arizona.

Spanish philosopher and author Miguel de Unamuno, in response to the question of his religion, responded, “… my religion is to look for truth in life and life in truth, even knowing that I may never find them while I yet live. My religion is to struggle constantly and tirelessly with mystery; my religion is to wrestle with God from the break of day until the close of night, like they say that Jacob struggled with Him” (“Mi religión”, translation mine; image from National Gallery of Art). Unamuno’s perspective has given me a way to express in words my approach to Mormonism – The religion I was raised in and have been a part of, though never feeling that I belonged. [Read more…]

The Pain of Being in Pain at Church

Mandi Eatough is a senior at Brigham Young University studying Political Science.  She is originally from Redmond, Washington.  She writes this guest post as an Open Letter to Latter-Day Saints About Growing Up Sick in A Church That Emphasizes Healing as The Result of Faith.

I was born sick.

For a long time nobody knew how sick I was. When I was three it was just asthma. When I was ten it was just growing pains. When I was thirteen it was just in my head. When I was a junior in high school it was just pneumonia. When I was a freshman in college I just wasn’t eating right.

When I was a sophomore in college it was a clearly late diagnosis of autoimmune disease and a nervous system disorder that had been destroying my body for more than twenty years without treatment.

I was so angry. I was angry at my doctors for dismissing the pain of a child that had no way to defend themselves. I was angry at my parents for believing the doctors when they said there was nothing else they could try. But most of all, I was Angry at God for not healing me. [Read more…]

Believe Women

Shelby Hintze is a news producer in Salt Lake City. In the singles ward, but not of the singles ward.

Note: I attend a fairly young YSA ward. One speaker before me said she was not a feminist which prompted the beginning here.

I’m the last speaker but they told me to go as long I want, so buckle up. And my name is Shelby Hintze and I am a feminist. [Read more…]

Certain Women: Zion Art Society exhibition in Salt Lake City and Provo, March 2 – May 5.

Today’s guest post comes from Eric Biggart of the Zion Art Society.
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Two years ago, the Zion Art Society launched as a way to bridge the gap between the thousands of inspiring LDS artists and potentially millions of LDS art collectors. We have all been consoled to beautify Zion, and we hoped to bring original art into the homes of members across the world. In the years since, we have held two art exhibitions, and international competition, and started a arts-focused podcast, Mormon Visual Culture.

[Read more…]

On Media and “The World”

Today’s guest post comes from Rebbie Brassfield, a copywriter in Babyl — err, Los Angeles.  

So I accidentally binge-watched all seven seasons of Game of Thrones last summer, and have spent the last few months wondering how ashamed I should be. Okay but seriously, it’s made me think about media consumption, specifically the way it might affect how we see “the world.”

As a girl, I was very into the Sweet Valley High series. These are not Deseret Book fare, and they’re certainly not high brow literature, but they taught little life lessons that stuck with me in adolescence. Some of them dealt with troubling issues – I remember clearly one story in which Lila was sexually assaulted, and another where a character was involved with drugs and had to deal with the consequences. These were scary things that in my Provo community I had never been exposed to, let alone would dream of talking about with my parents. It will sound silly, but looking back I sincerely think it was a good way to be exposed to the “sins of the world.” It showed me behaviors outside my norm, and allowed me to form opinions on them. [Read more…]

Domestic Abuse Resources for Bishops

Laura Brignone Bhagwat is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley where she studies technology and domestic violence.  Her dissertation tracks a public health intervention in hospital emergency rooms meant to prevent intimate partner homicide.

On a hot summer morning last year, I sat in a small room with fifteen pastors and ministers. Coffee and pastries were tucked into a corner, and the men and women of my county’s Interfaith Coalition to End Domestic Violence were introducing themselves. At the end of introductions, the pastor facilitating the meeting asked: “What are the biggest challenges facing your congregation when it comes to domestic violence?”

The answers started flying. “The abuser is a member of our church board!” “She just keeps going back to him and I don’t know what to do.” “Women in our church are taught to be meek and submissive, so when the abuser tells them something, they think they have no options.” “Victims are often looked down on when they speak out.” “Abusers misuse scripture to justify their actions.” “Even after [theological] seminary, I just don’t feel I have the training I need to respond to this issue.” [Read more…]

Not a Tame Lion

Mette Ivie Harrison is a regular guest here at BCC and author of many books, including The Book of Laman.

I remember years ago a religious friend of mine talked to me about her view of God. She told me that she didn’t see why God couldn’t be a woman, or a bird, or a tree. She felt God in all of those different things, because to her, God had many different aspects. For her, feeling God in every part of the world was part of her practice of worship. It enabled her to widen her spirituality. It let her find the divine in herself, as well.

At the time, I thought that was kind of hippy-dippy and just plain wrong. I actually made that judgment in my head because I felt that as a Mormon, I was very clear on who God was and wasn’t. God was a white man with a beard who looked like he did in the temple film or in other paintings I’d seen of God. God was a physical being, not a bird or a tree. He was a man, and that was all there was to it. To have the wrong idea of God was to not understand anything about the “true gospel” and meant that basically anything else you told me about your religion or your worship practice was built on a false foundation.

How times have changed. [Read more…]

Supporting Single Adults

Rose E. Hadden is a Minnesota native, transplanted to Utah in high school and transplanted back to Minnesota as soon as she could swing it.  She has a B.A. and an M.A. in British Literature from BYU, and served in the Korea Pusan mission.  She now works as a teacher and grantwriter, and happily serves as the assistant librarian in the Fargo, North Dakota 1st Ward.  She is single and considers herself officially over the hill at age 32.

What shall we do with the single members?

When I ask this, I mean it quite literally.  I do not, as many often do, mean “How shall we get the single members married?”  I understand that on a church-wide level, getting singles married is the most desirable outcome, both from a doctrinal and a demographic perspective. Mormons who marry young, to other Mormons, tend to stay Mormon over the long term at much higher rates than those who don’t. Plus there’s that whole “exaltation” thing.

I hate to be the bearer of brutal reality, but . . . no matter what, irrespective of lessons, talks, activities, YSA congregations, church schools, conferences, social pressure, prayers, fasting, shouting or tears . . . some single Mormons will stay single for their entire lives. [Read more…]

Choose the Right

Christina Taber-Kewene is a permablogger from the early days of BCC. Christina is an attorney living in New Jersey. We’re glad she sent this to us.

I was released last week from two years of serving in a calling I never thought I would come to cherish: First Counselor in the Primary presidency. I have plenty of my own kids, so for years I have said, “Give me any calling, but not one in the Primary!” Hahahaha. God laughs. [Read more…]

Movies Are Not Poop Cookies

Emma Croft grew up near Seattle and is currently studying English and creative writing at Brigham Young University. She enjoys traveling, cooking delicious things, hosting book club meetings, and brainstorming ways to make the LDS community more welcoming to those who struggle to find their place in the church. She spends much of her time writing personal essays, conducting research on early Book of Mormon usage, and helping students improve their writing.

I watched my first rated-R movie as a sophomore in high school. It all started when my World History teacher offered extra credit to any student who stayed after school to watch Defiance, a 2008 film about a group of Russian rebels who banded together to kill Nazis in the forest. It sounded great, but I figured out pretty quickly that choosing to watch it would mean ignoring what I had learned in church for as long as I could remember: no rated-R movies, at all, under any circumstances.bcc

I was torn. I needed the extra credit. I also made sure to carefully pore over the “parental advisory” section on IMDb and ultimately decided that the “5 uses of f—k” and several scenes of graphic wartime violence couldn’t mar my spirituality any more than an average day existing in a high school. After talking with my parents, I believed that watching the movie would provide an overall positive experience with valuable payoff, even if it felt immoral. Learning that any “ungodly” content would destroy a film’s value and cause the viewer irreparable harm left me with the impression that—on some level—I was sinning. [Read more…]

Marrying Outside Of Mormonism

Interfaith marriages are often underrepresented in LDS discourse on dating, marriage, and eternal life.  Although I’ve often heard marriages like mine described as “backup” options, for me it has been a joy formed through much prayer, study, and lived experience.

I see the essential barrier to interfaith dating and marriage is a reticence in the Mormon faith to actively befriend and genuinely associate with people not in our religion.  We call them “non-Mormon,” but that term is so strange and so alienating;  both my husband and I deeply  dislike it.  “Non-Mormons” are not non-persons, or non-entities – they are good, faithful, and beloved children of God.  I think this labeling is born out of fear of “the world,” and continued emphasis on Mormons as a “peculiar people.”  While I can see some of the historic roots of this mindset, to me, it is bizarre. [Read more…]

Axes of Church Government

Today’s guest post comes from Christian Kimball.

There is a certain amount of speculation about President Nelson. What will he do? What will he be like? How will things change with Russell M. Nelson as President of the Church?

I suggest that nobody knows, and anybody who thinks they know doesn’t. There’s a good argument that “nobody” extends to President Nelson himself. My personal experience is that being a president—being the person in charge—is different than any previous experience and changes people in unexpected ways. The record is clear that being president of the Church, even after decades of full-time Church leadership and responsibility, changes people in unexpected ways.[1] In addition, I firmly believe and have witnessed that the issues that come to the table are often more important than the attitudes and beliefs that come to the job.  [Read more…]

Unrest, Storytelling, and Understanding

Today’s guest post comes from Jessica Preece, an Associate Professor of Political Science at BYU.

I had the chance to watch the wonderful film Unrest the other day, which documents life with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  At least 1 million Americans experience ME/CFS, many of whom are undiagnosed.  It is a spectrum disorder and leaves about 75% of those affected unable to work.  A significant portion of are bedridden.  It is more common than Multiple Sclerosis, but much less well-known, in part because homebound sufferers are often invisible to society. Research on it is deeply underfunded. [Read more…]

From Buffalo to Bread

Darren Parry is a member of the Northwestern Shoshone Nation and currently serves as the Chairman. Darren also serves on the Board of Directors for the American West Heritage Center, in Wellsville, Utah. He attended the University of Utah and Weber State University and received his Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education, with an emphasis on History. Darren wants to make sure that those who have gone before him are not forgotten. We’re honored that he agreed to share this with us during Native American Heritage Month.

I loved to sit at the feet of my loving Grandmother, Mae Timbimboo Parry. She would sit for hours and tell me Shoshone stories about how the Coyote Stole Fire, or how the Sun got its name. As I attended school I developed a great love for history, and then one day I suddenly realized something. None of the stories my grandmother told me were in our history books. From our history books one can conclude that historical events are an absolute and have only one conclusion. But over the years I have come to realize that history is about perspective. Whose perspective? [Read more…]

When God Failed Me

Mette Ivie Harrison is a well-known mystery and young-adult novelist and frequent guest here. She is also the author of The Book of Laman, published by BCC Press.

I’ve heard a lot of stories about “faith crisis” within Mormonism at this point. Most of them fall into two categories: those whose faith is shaken by historical information that contradicts the dominant church narrative, and those whose faith is shaken by the actions of church leaders or fellow members that seems unchristian, from sexual abuse to the new policy against same-sex couples to failures to help in a difficult situation. My experience seems to be the outlier, in that I felt less like the church failed me and more like God Himself had let me fall without any attempt to reach out a hand to catch me. How do I reconcile this experience with a choice to return to God and faith now? I’ll get to that eventually. [Read more…]

On the Nature of Christian Service

Today’s guest post comes to us from PCB, a professor in the Philadelphia area.

I have recently had the chance to get a deeper exposure to my fellow Mormons’ sometimes heroic efforts to serve each other. It is quite stunning to me how much we do for each other, in quiet and unheralded ways, from serving in the Bishop’s Storehouse to hosting a gala celebration for the young women.

These recent experiences reminded me of an important, transformational experience I had a few years ago that taught me a more complete picture of what it means to engage in Christian service. In our usual characterization of Christian discipleship, we talk about giving up our time, talents, and resources to serve God by serving others. Selflessness is the hallmark; unidirectional service is the framework. The imagery and scriptural basis for that service is clear. We are instruments in the Master’s hands. God reaches out to others, through us. We are blessed by our proximity to God in the process, and the work of His kingdom is accomplished. [Read more…]

God Scrunching God’s Self Down

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. Read his recent guest post on Joseph Campbell here.

A few months ago I did a little activity that I called “40 Days with God.” The goal of the activity was to know God better. You know, no big deal. My approach was this: since metaphors are a big part of the way we understand the world and our experiences, I would develop and examine at least 40 different metaphors for God. Of course God is our Heavenly Parents, but I also explored other metaphors. One example is God is the sun, providing all of the energy and warmth that all of us need, and sharing that abundance with everyone. I thought about God as a new pair of socks that are right there when you need them, a pleasant surprise in your everyday life. I even thought that God, like socks, doesn’t mind that we don’t think about God all of the time. I thought about God as a perfect soccer pass, something perfectly timed, perfectly weighted, perfectly placed, and so well suited that it is breathtakingly beautiful in how it unlocks a defense. These were just 3 of the metaphors I came up with, and even though it was called 40 days, I only ended up with about 35 metaphors for God. [Read more…]

Is There Really No Room at the Mormon Inn for “Nonconformist” Believers?

Laura Harris Hales is the executive producer of LDS Perspectives Podcast. After raising five brilliant children, she took her brain out of cold storage and has since worked as a paralegal, adjunct English professor, academic editor, and freelance copy editor. She is also the co-author and editor of books published by Greg Kofford and RSC/Deseret Book respectively.

The noted Swedish theologian and Harvard Divinity School professor Krister Stendahl is famous for urging followers of all faiths to leave room in their hearts for “holy envy.” He meant it as a departure for understanding other religions, but I have always taken it as a fitting label for the unfulfilled yearnings of my religious soul. [Read more…]

What It Means to Sustain a Mormon Prophet

Mette Ivie Harrison is a regular guest here at BCC and author of many books, including The Book of Laman.

I’ve struggled a lot lately with what it means to sustain a prophet within Mormonism, and if that is possible when I disagree strongly with policies which are given the status of “revelation” within Mormonism, including, for instance, The Proclamation on the Family, or the new policy demanding excommunication of same-sex married couples who are Mormon and the exclusion of their children from saving ordinances including baptism. [Read more…]

Thoughts on Perfect Love

Richard “Papa” Ostler lives in the Salt Lake City area. He spoke recently at a gathering of LGBTQ allies including Affirmation, Mormons Building Bridges, and others, in Salt Lake City. He agreed to let us share his remarks here, and we encourage the reader to learn more about some of these wonderful support groups.

My name is Richard Ostler. My dear wife Sheila and I are the parents of six children and two grandchildren and live near Cottonwood High.
In the fall of 2015, while serving as a YSA Bishop, I felt a deep impression to – using a computer term – ‘wipe my hard drive clean’ of everything I had concluded about my LGBTQ friends and start from scratch and rebuild my hard drive by meeting with LGBTQ people. I realized straight voices had defined my LGBTQ beliefs and my few interactions were not enough to fully understand and I risked making broad conclusions. Unlike a cholesterol test where I can get a specific number, I have no way to measure the degree of bias – or homophobia – innocently present in my beliefs. Over the past two years, I’ve met with hundreds of my LGBTQ friends – listening to them in one-one-one interviews – given many priesthood blessings and have felt God’s programming me the way He sees His LGBTQ children.

Our scriptures reference the ‘mysteries of God’. I believe one of the ‘mysteries of God’ is His LGBTQ children and as I ‘diligently seeketh’ my eyes have been further opened. [Read more…]

Shame and the Gospel

Amber Haslam is a friend of the blog and wrote this recently. We asked if she would mind sharing it here at BCC.

Recently, I have had lots of questions regarding the gospel. They vary in topic and most I keep to myself. But about a month and a half ago, I got the nerve to throw some of these questions into the strange void that is twitter.com. Here is a screengrab of part of that thread: [Read more…]

In Search of Vocation

Richelle Wilson is a PhD student in the Scandinavian Studies program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison with an emphasis in comparative literature. In addition to her abiding interest in contemporary novels, she has recently undertaken research and other projects focused on labor studies and public humanities. She is a Swedish instructor and a member of Dialogue’s editorial staff. Most revealingly, she loves moody jazz, watches a lot of films, and is intensely committed to the Oxford comma.

While Labor Day offers many of us a brief reprieve from our daily grind, it’s also an opportunity to consider the labor we and others perform. When you ask Americans about the work they do, you’ll almost always hear about what they are paid to do. But as I’ve researched labor studies over this past year, I’ve become increasingly interested in the work we do for free, or with minimal recognition: unwaged labor, be it emotional, intellectual, or manual.

In the Church, this uncompensated labor often takes the form of an ecclesiastical calling. And, it turns out, if you ask Mormons about their personal history with callings, they have a lot to say. [Read more…]

On Standing against White Supremacy

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 KindleThis is an excerpt of a speech she gave at “Stand Against White Supremacy and Racism Candlelight Vigil” in Provo, Utah on August 20th. The speech was not given verbatim, but it was almost identical to the written version below.

Over the last few days, people have asked how they can take action to stop racial injustice. And of course, with any large issue, there’s not one simple thing that anyone can do to end racial intolerance and bigotry in your communities.

It may be easy to look at other communities and easily identify the issues they have. It is much harder to do that in our own community. When I speak of community, I mean more than this city. Your community includes your friends, your family, and your co-workers and anyone else you spend time around and share your life with. Community encompasses a lot.   [Read more…]

In the Middle Space

Mette Ivie Harrison is a well-known mystery and young-adult novelist and frequent guest here. She is, most recently, the author of The Book of Laman, published by BCC Press.

Speaking to a group of women at the YWCA this week, I was surprised at how many of them were non-Mormons who nonetheless were having some of the same struggles with their church doctrine, hierarchy, and culture that I was having. One of them said that she was “in the middle space” of her church and I thought it was an apt phrase. Being in the middle isn’t the same as being on the fringes. Being in the middle is being in the midst of everything. It means digging in with your whole heart and mind, engaging with others, being open to being taught as well as to teaching, and remembering you are not above hard work and getting your hands dirty. [Read more…]

An Outbreak of Nazis

Rich Davis has a PhD in Immunology and a phone that is full of pictures of parasites, bacteria and his kids. These sometimes appear on his twitter feed, @RichDavisPhD.

Saturday night, following the aftermath of a white supremacist rally and counter protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, I got a request from a friend asking for some reassurance on a much less worrisome topic than white supremacy.

That topic was the plague. Like, the actual, literal plague.

I’m a medical microbiologist, recently graduated with my Ph.D. where I studied a tropical human parasite. I currently work in the microbiology division of a clinical testing lab, the place that tests your blood, wounds or poop to diagnose what’s making you sick and how to treat it.
My friend’s concern came from news reports out of Arizona where health departments have reported finding in fleas the bacteria (Yersinia pestis) that causes plague. Fleas spread the disease among rodents and, much more rarely, to humans. Plague has a lot of social cachet—a professor of mine once called this, “disease sex appeal.” People know enough about it to know that it’s scary and sometimes deadly. In this case though, scary headlines notwithstanding, it’s evidence that the system for treating potentially deadly diseases was working: someone was monitoring rodents and fleas in the wild, someone informed the authorities of a finding and they in turn made a public announcement so that people can be more cautious if they come across something that looks like the disease. [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…]