A Blog I Should Have Posted on Valentine’s Day

There’s a short story on Dialogue Paperless titled “The Widower,” written by Eric Jepson. It is about a thirty-three year old Mormon widower who prepares to remarry. Although it is brief, it evokes a good deal of the perplexity and guilt that a surviving spouse feels over the prospect of remarriage. I can easily believe that the surviving spouse from any marriage that has been even moderately happy will suffer from perplexity and guilt when approaching remarriage. But it seems likely—as this story “The Widower” shows—that the internal distress of remarriage is magnified for Latter-day Saints who have been married in the temple. They aren’t really free to remarry. For them, there’s a touch of adultery about idea. Or a touch of polygamy, which for modern Mormons is almost as confounding as adultery because a man who takes second eternal wife inevitably feels disloyal to the first. (If you’d like to read “The Widower,” go to the Dialogue website and click on the e-Papers icon.) [Read more…]

Tribal justice at Mountain Meadows

I probably should be ashamed of the fact that I paid my own airfare to Salt Lake City for an interview with Helen Whitney during her preparation of the PBS documentary on the Mormons. That’s just another evidence of my vanity. However, the airfare cost me less than $200 and I had almost no other expense. I stayed with Lavina Fielding Anderson, and Whitney’s associate Jane Barnes picked me up at the airport and drove me around. The guestroom in the Anderson house is an immersion in Mormonism—hundreds of books by and about Mormons from early to late line the shelves. And Jane Barnes consented to write an essay for Dialogue about her impressions of Joseph Smith, which will be published in our spring 2008 issue. You don’t want to miss that one. [Read more…]

Don’t Come to My House in a White Shirt and Tie

The other day a friend from Utah sent me a clipping of a Robert Kirby column from the Salt Lake Tribune about a stake president’s directive that all home and visiting teaching is to be done in Sunday uniform, regardless of the day of the week or hour of the day, that is, white shirts and ties for men (no Dockers, please) and proper skirts for women (no denim, please). [Read more…]

Deciding to stay married

I would like to invite you to read a short story recently posted as an e-paper on Dialogue Paperless. Titled “The Newlyweds,” it has been written by joshua foster (who prefers not to capitalize his name). It is our first venture with fiction on Dialogue Paperless. You can access this story at the Dialogue website by clicking on the e-papers icon.

It is a story about two high school students who have to get married. The young woman has a miscarriage while they are on a brief honeymoon, and they settle down to a marriage that the young man isn’t sure he wants. They move into a shabby apartment and get poorly paid jobs without much of a future. Almost immediately the husband becomes fascinated by a tawdry woman in the apartment just across the hall, going so far as to attempt–quite disastrously, as it turns out–to steam open some of her mail, which she has asked the young couple to pick up while she is out of town for a week. [Read more…]

Who is a direct descendant of whom?

Like any other subscriber, I have my first glimpse of each new, freshly printed issue of Dialogue only when it arrives in my mailbox. As editor, I have of course read everything in it perhaps a dozen times already. So I give it a final quick check for errors and, hopefully finding none, set it aside. But when a copy of Sunstone arrives in my mailbox, I soon find time to settle down for a pleasant session of seeing what Dan Wortherspoon and his crew have come up with this time. It’s always a stimulating experience.

For example, in the latest issue of Sunstone, March 2007, I find a brief notice of a new book by Vern G. Swanson, titled Dynasty of the Holy Grail: Mormonism’s Sacred Bloodline, which asserts “that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that Joseph Smith is a direct descendant of that couple” (77). That is a doctrine that continues to startle me even though I can’t even remember how long ago it was when I first encountered it. I don’t think I am bothered by the Jesus/Mary Magdalene marriage business so much as by the direct descendant idea. It seems we Mormons have a need to magnify the Prophet by anointing him with a genetic relationship to Jesus that the rest of us don’t have. [Read more…]

Making your life’s story credible

A friend recently told me that her autobiography lies irretrievably scattered throughout the world in the multitude of personal letters she has written to loved ones and friends. Personal letters are, of course, a kind of autobiography, and they are invaluable when it comes to writing a formal account of a person’s life. For reasons I do not entirely understand, I began to save a carbon copy of all my letters, invariably written on a typewriter, immediately upon returning from my mission in 1957. It used to amaze me that mother-in-law would promptly answer any personal letter she received and thereupon drop it into the waste basket. Somehow it seemed unnatural to me to destroy the record of her friends and loved one’s lives so callously. [Read more…]

A call for stories and poems

I hope it isn’t inappropriate to ask visitors to By Common Consent to recommend to their friends who write fiction and poetry to consider submitting their work to Dialogue. An interdisciplinary journal, Dialogue has always been open to fiction and poetry. However, it has done so with some irregularity, owing, perhaps, to a dearth of submissions. During my editorship, we have published stories and poems with considerable consistency. Unfortunately, we have not had as large an inventory of them as I could wish for. [Read more…]

A Letter to the Editor from the One Mighty and Strong

It is to be noted that Dialogue receives fewer letters to the editor than it formerly did. Is that because we have gone totally stuffy, as some notable frequenters of Mormon weblogs have claimed? Or is it that blogging drains off the kind of energy that used to go into writing letters to the editor? I could hold to the latter explanation more easily if the blogging opportunities on Dialogue’s own website had an abundant clientele. Ironically, the Dialogue website now offers a letters section where you can post responses to the most recent issues of the journal in a blog format. Unfortunately, user statistics are light. Exactly three persons have posted letters for the spring 2006 issue, two for the summer issue; and two for the fall issue. However, numbers alone don’t tell the entire story. [Read more…]

Doing some good in the world

I made the following remarks at a dinner celebrating Dialogue’s fortieth anniversary, held in Salt Lake City on September 22, 2006.

I consider it one of the signal honors of my life to serve as editor of this distinguished journal. I undertook the task knowing it would be a great challenge. I had no notion of doing more that leaving its tradition intact when I am through with my designated five years of service. That remains my ambition. I hope I have met the challenge so far. I recognize how completely dependent I am on others. I am deeply grateful for the indispensable contribution of my fellow workers on the editorial and production teams and for the support and encouragement of the members of Dialogue’s board of directors. Clearly, I am a part of a cooperative effort. My purpose is to be guided by collective rather than my private values. For one thing, I am appointed by Dialogue’s board of directors. Once a year, they exclude me from a half hour session of a board meeting to discuss my performance. For another thing, not only do I depend enormously on my subordinate editors and production workers but also on the expert reviewers who voluntarily referee submissions. Finally, all of us, the board of directors, the editorial team, our expert reviewers, and I myself try hard to judge what our readers value. Dialogue has a constituency. I judge that Dialogue’s subscribers share many of my personal biases–but by no means all of them. The goal is to appeal to a variety of interests, both liberal and conservative, without offending deeply felt taboos. In an attempt to achieve this balance, I have assumed a caution and conservatism as editor quite unlike what I will call the brash, friendly irreverence I often display in my essays and speeches. [Read more…]

Keeping up with fashion in editorial matters

Scholarly controversies, like sartorial fashions, have a way of becoming quickly passe, as I am reminded by a group of articles which Dialogue has posted on the e-Papers section of Dialogue Paperless. I am thinking particularly of the three articles posted there on chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, which you can view if you like by going to http://www.dialoguejournal.com/ and following the icons. We have had zero comments on these three articles, indicative of a general indifference to the topic. I would be interested to know how readers of this blog would vote if they were on an editorial board making a decision whether to publish a piece on chiasmus. [Read more…]

Michael Quinn on the First Vision

I would like to let visitors to By Common Consent know that a major article by Michael Quinn has been posted on the E-Papers section of Dialogue Paperless. Quinn brings a fresh perspective to the discussion of the “First Vision,” providing evidence that there is good reason to believe that the vision occurred at the time and in the circumstances that Joseph Smith claimed. This article, writes Quinn, “provides new ways of understanding Joseph’s narrative, analyzes previously neglected issues/data, and establishes a basis for perceiving in detail what the teenage boy experienced in the religious revivalism that led to his first theophany.” (D. Michael Quinn, “Joseph Smith’s Experience of a Methodist ‘Camp-Meeting’ in 1820.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Dialogue Paperless. E-Paper # 3 (July 12, 2006) http://www.dialoguejournal.com/.) The article is accompanied by a blog where readers who wish to engage in a detailed or technical discussion of the article may enter comments.

I would also be interested in comments on By Common Consent. Some scholars feel that the First Vision is a worn-out topic, a debate brought to a condition of stalemate between unbelieving scholars on the one hand and by believing scholars on the other. After reading Quinn’s article, I can’t agree. It seems to me that at a minimum, Quinn has re-invigorated the topic. It also strikes me that the piece is very much a faith-promoting article.

Candid Comments from the Editor of Dialogue

When I was asked several months ago to prepare an abstract of a speech I had been invited to deliver, I wrote that editing Dialogue had mellowed my liberal Mormon bias and made me more tolerant of the bias of others regarding topics about Mormonism. “I find myself equally at peace,” I wrote in the abstract –with the liberal Mormon who believes you can reconcile human knowledge and Mormon doctrine, the Mormon apologist who defends the faith by citing only the positive evidence, the anti-Mormon who regards Mormonism as a dangerous perversion of authentic Christianity, and the secular humanist who approaches Mormon studies with the objective eye of a naturalist. I admire and respect them all.” [Read more…]

Do Mormons Prefer To Be Underachievers?

From a long time back I have observed that Mormons are so competitive that they want to have a superlative Mormon version of almost any kind of achievement that secular civilization manifests. Thus we have repeated calls for a Mormon Michelangelo, a Mormon Tolstoy, a Mormon Nobel laureate, and so on. Underlying these calls is the faith that, along with having native intelligence and extensive training, Mormon scientists, scholars, artists, and writers can expect to be inspired by the Holy Ghost. However, it is apparent that the call for superlative achievement among the Mormons has gone unanswered. [Read more…]

Improving the religious life of persons with disabilities

Two years ago Dialogue issued a call for papers which asked interested persons to respond to the following question: “What relationship(s) do persons with disabilities negotiate with both the institutional Church and the Mormon folk?” Our decision to run a series of articles on this topic derived from the suggestion of a member of our board of directors who has an autistic son. As you can see from the following list of subsidiary questions which our call proposed, we hoped the consequent submissions would be wide ranging in their consideration: [Read more…]

Are Citizens of the Bloggernacle Liahona Saints?

May I assure our colleagues at BCC that the team of bloggers that Dialogue is fielding is not designed to overwhelm this site with our posts but, given the multitude of other duties that distract us, simply to assure that we make at least one appearance a week. It goes without saying that it is my turn this week.

For my purposes today I will clarify that what I assert about the Bloggernacle also applies to all kinds of computer-based Internet communication, including not only blogs, wikis, and podcasts but also email groups, chat rooms, and instant messaging. My recent introduction to blogging has led me back to a hypothesis that I formulated about a decade ago when I first began to participate in email groups. People who inveterately communicate via the Internet on topics devoted to a treatment of Mormonism that is affirmative or at least respectfully objective tend to be, or eventually turn into, liberal Mormons. Or, to put it more softly, since the term “liberal” has acquired a pejorative connotation among the vast majority of Latter-day Saints, they are or tend to become Liahona Saints.

[Read more…]

Bill Russell on an RLDS Schismatic Group

I am pleased to introduce Bill Russell, whose article, "The Remnant Church: An RLDS Schismatic Group Finds a Prophet in the Seed of Joseph," appears in the fall 2005 issue of Dialogue (38, no 3:75-106). It has also been posted here on BCC. You will find the article an informative summary of the events preceding the RLDS church’s change of name to Community of Christ and of the subsequent confusion afflicting RLDS members who do not wish to associate with the new, liberal-leaning church. As the title indicates, the focus of the article is upon a group of disaffected saints who have reorganized The Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints under the leadership of a descendent of Joseph Smith through a female line.

I have asked Bill to respond to a few passages from his article. He will be happy to respond to your questions and comments.

[Read more…]

Stephen Carter Answers Some Questions

Stephen has agreed to comment on his essay “Weight of the Priesthood.” By way of a beginning, he responds here to questions Levi posed.  Stephen will be reading the comments and will respond to readers as much as he can.

LEVI: Your essay strikes me as a beautiful mix of gentle irreverence and an ultimate respect for the priesthood. Were you aware of these qualities as you wrote the essay?

STEPHEN: I’m going to take the long way around to answer your question. I started writing this essay just after reading two Mormon-themed personal essays by Eric Goold, a friend of mine here in Fairbanks. His writing was so vibrant, honest and funny that it pretty much knocked me out of my chair.

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My Undelivered Mother’s Day Talk

My bishop asked me to give a Mother’s Day talk in sacrament meeting in May. I spent five or six hours writing it out so that I could deliver it within the fifteen minutes suggested by the bishop. However, I didn’t get to give it because the speakers before me on the program used up all the time.

Before the meeting began, I told the bishop that it was likely a mistake on his part to ask me to give a talk. He said no, it wasn’t a mistake. When the meeting was over, I told him, “There, you see it was a mistake. The Almighty countermanded you.”

[Read more…]