Reverence, Not Faith, Is the Key to an Expansive Mormonism

Jon Ogden is the author of When Mormons Doubt: A Way to Save Relationships and Seek a Quality Life. We’re glad to have him as our guest.

“If you desire peace in the world, do not pray that everyone share your beliefs. Pray instead that all may be reverent.” — Paul Woodruff

One morning in southern California, my missionary companion and I were biking to an appointment when we saw a man sitting on his front porch. Like any good missionaries, we stopped to talk to him.

The moment we stopped, the man called out that he didn’t want anything to do with us.

At the time, comments like that only emboldened me.

I told him that we wanted to share the most important message in the world — that God had once again called a prophet to speak to everyone on Earth.

He just stared at me. “You believe that?”

“I don’t believe it,” I said. “I know it.”

“You know it?” he asked. “How do you know it?” [Read more…]

In Which I Speak Out About Sexual Violence

Cross-posted from here. Tinesha is a 22 yr old BYU student studying sociology and French. She directs a nonprofit.

It happened so fast I wasn’t even certain it was really happening. I knew it had happened and yet somehow I couldn’t fully grasp if it was actually real. I kept asking myself did that just happen to me? I drove around. I listened to Taylor Swift’s Innocent. I cried and I cried and I cried and I pounded my palms against the steering wheel so hard I thought I was going to lose control and crash into the median on I-5.

[Read more…]

The Stakes of Heavenly Mother

This is Taylor Petrey’s response to the responses to his Harvard Theological Review article. Caroline Kline’s response is here,  Margaret Toscano’s is here, and Kristine Haglund’s is here.
I am extremely grateful to those who read this essay and who provided such amazing feedback. It is an honor to have these impressive minds take the time to respond to my article, and I thank them for their feedback and critiques. I am also thankful for the rich discussion in the comments on these posts.
There is an interesting convergence in these responses. While Toscano suggests regressiveness in my work, Haglund suggests that I have “leapfrogged” too far ahead. These concerns both point to a lack of attentiveness to the present that Mormon feminists inhabit. Basically, the concerns Mormon feminists have raised over these past decades have not been addressed. These arguments, in all their conditioning from a certain era of feminist theory, still remain “radical” in contemporary Mormonism. Bypassing these vital questions to move to critique and reformulation may seem premature, or mark me as ungrateful for the work of those who have sacrificed for this cause.
Among the contested aspects of my article is my argument that a significant strain of much of earlier Mormon feminist work is aimed at addressing the (heterosexual) female absence from LDS theology and ecclesiology. While others may read this work differently, I have based my arguments on citations from these texts that I see as working from within a particular feminist paradigm, one that shares a great deal with Irigaray, among others. The applicability of this project to alternative sexualities and genders is, perhaps symbolically, found in fleeting observations or footnotes. The theoretical models of “partnership,” “complementarity,” and a binary notion of parity are the primary drivers of this project of heterosexual female inclusion. I applaud the work of Toscano, Allred, and others who have attempted to create space for others, and for their acceptance of non-heterosexuality, at least. I see my work as gesturing toward a theoretical and theological basis for that inclusiveness and more.

[Read more…]

Letting Missionaries Sleep In

Carole Turley Voulgaris is a doctoral candidate in urban planning at UCLA and usually only blogs about transportation planning. She served a full-time mission in the Germany Frankfurt mission from 2003 to 2004. Carole currently lives in Seattle with her husband, who is a late-riser and has convinced her of the virtues of sleeping in.

A few weeks before the end of my mission, I was chatting with a couple other missionaries about what we most looked forward to about life after the mission [fn1]. One elder said, “When I get home, I’m going to head to my room and go to sleep. And when I wake up, it won’t be because my alarm went off. It won’t be because my companion woke me up. It won’t be because I feel guilty. It will be because I’m not tired.”

Wow. The idea of waking up and feeling well rested just sounded so amazing. We missionaries were tired a lot. [Read more…]

A Multiplicity of Theological Groupings and Identities — Without Giving Up on Heavenly Mother

This is the second response in our series on Taylor Petrey’s recent article on Heavenly Mother in the Harvard Theological Review. The first response, from Margaret Toscano, is here.

Caroline Kline is completing a Ph.D. in religion with a focus on women’s studies in religion.  Her areas of interest revolve around the intersections of Mormon and feminist theology and the study of contemporary Mormon feminist communities. She is the co-founder of the Mormon feminist blog, The Exponent, and is a committed believer in the importance of online feminist forums and communities. She is also one of the four women who co-founded Feminism and Religion

Taylor Petrey’s “Rethinking Mormonism’s Heavenly Mother” is an important piece of scholarship, as it stretches the bounds of Mormon theological discourse on gender. Reading this article for me was both enlightening and unsettling, as it helped articulate some potential problems with Mormon feminist theologizing of Heavenly Mother, theologizing that has informed my own stances. When I first read Janice Allred and Margaret Toscano’s work on God the Mother fifteen years ago, I was blown away by their courage to catapult this shadowy and all but forgotten divine female into the heart of the Mormon godhead. Their insistence on her equality with God the Father resonated deeply. Reading their work gave me, a young Mormon feminist, hope for an eternity where I as a woman would not be subordinated and pushed aside. It helped me to not despair over my eternal future. Their work on Heavenly Mother helped give me heart to cling to my Mormon identity and practice, even in the face of the horrors of Prop 8, last year’s exclusion policy of LGBTQ people and their children, and excommunications of prominent feminists and intellectuals. [Read more…]

How Bodies Matter: A Response to “Rethinking Mormonism’s Heavenly Mother”

This is the first in a series of responses to Taylor Petrey’s “Rethinking Mormonism’s Heavenly Mother,” recently published in the Harvard Theological Review.

Margaret Toscano is an Associate Professor of Classics and Comparative Cultural and Literary Studies at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Her research focuses on religion, myth, and gender. She has published extensively on Mormon feminism. 
Taylor Petrey states his complaint against certain Mormon feminists (i.e., me–Margaret Toscano, Janice Allred, and Valerie Hudson Cassler) on page 16 of “Rethinking Mormonism’s Heavenly Mother”: “Mormon feminists writing about Heavenly Mother have been complicit in heteronormative narratives that universalize a subset of women as the hypostasis of ‘woman.’” Taylor’s argument ignores the complexity of the god narratives I have explored over the years, as well as the multiplicity of images I have put forth to represent women and the Female Divine.

Taylor says I put forth “a singular mother who represents the plurality of her daughters” (9). It is only possible to assert this if you pick out statements where I focus on the Heavenly Mother and ignore those where I explore other goddess figures from Mormon sacred texts. [Read more…]

Heavenly Mother in the Harvard Theological Review

We’re pleased to host a series of guest posts on Taylor Petrey’s recently published article on the Mormon theology Heavenly Mother. Taylor will introduce the series, and later in the week, we’ll have commentary from Margaret Toscano, Caroline Kline, and Kristine Haglund. This is intended to be a discussion of Taylor’s article, not a grab-bag of ideas about Heavenly Mother, so please read the entire linked article before commenting.
–BCC Admin.

Taylor G. Petrey is Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Assistant Professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College, where he teaches biblical studies. In 2016-17, he is Visiting Associate Professor at Harvard Divinity School and a research associate at the Women’s Studies in Religion Program where he is pursuing a project on Mormonism and gender.

This post is for the discussion of my new article, “Rethinking Mormonism’s Heavenly Mother” in Harvard Theological Review 109.3 (2016).

In this article, I compare Mormon feminist analysis of Heavenly Mother to broader feminist theologies of a Divine Woman. The revival and rearticulation of Heavenly Mother in Mormon feminist thought roughly parallels the rise of feminist theology. [Read more…]

Guest Post: Mormon Research Funding Database

Logo-Funding-1This post comes to us from Jessica Young, who is working on a database of funding sources for Mormon Studies research.

Today, I have a very important announcement. Hopefully it is about something you never knew you needed, but soon won’t be able to live without.

Right now the very first (and only, to my knowledge) database for fellowships, grants, scholarships, and awards for Mormon studies research is underway. We anticipate launching the site on 1 September 2016, provided all goes to plan.

In the meantime, we need your help! [Read more…]

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…]