Biology, Destiny, and the Soul; or, What am I, Really?

Note: this is the first installment of a planned three-part series on the interaction between the body and the spirit. Today’s essay deals with the effects of external biological factors on moral agency and personality; future installments will deal with our bodies’ effects on the same, and the effects of both on our relationships with God.

How much of what we often consider essential parts of our characters – personality, intellectual capacity, or moral inclinations, for example – is truly, essentially us? How much is neurochemistry, or hormone function, or even interaction between brain structure and the environment? In other words, where does the body leave off, and the spirit begin?

About four years ago, a doctor put me on an antidepressant to treat my lifelong chronic insomnia and depression. The medicine worked like gangbusters; suddenly, I could sleep, and the nearly constant despair and dissatisfaction with which I had always struggled disappeared. According to my physician, my body has some sort of major dopamine shortfall; the medicine provides that dopamine, or something close enough for government work. [Read more…]


My body is not what I thought it was. It isn’t less than I believed it to be; it isn’t weaker. If anything, it’s stronger – more durable, quicker to heal, more inured to pain – than I ever knew. I spent thirty years making assumptions about my body’s capabilities which, based though they were on the experiences of many other people, were quite seriously mistaken. As a result, I have spent the last month disoriented, living in a body I feel I do not know. [Read more…]

Dieter Uchtdorf, A Bibliography

So, my first thought upon hearing the news that Elder Uchtdorf had been called to the First Presidency was, “Wow, he isn’t a U.S. national! Cool! Oh, and I once read a story about how he and his wife like to bicycle. Double cool!” [Read more…]

Mormons, Romney, and the New York Times

So I read the New York Times article on Romney’s candidacy today. I have to say, it was one of the more balanced things I’ve read about Mormons in the national press since this campaign season began. The author took a novel step: she asked actual Mormons about church doctrine and culture. Wow! [Read more…]

June 8, 1978: Selected Reading

As a warm-up for BCC’s week-long celebration of Spencer W. Kimball’s 1978 revelation on the extension of Priesthood ordination of people of African descent, I’ve put together this basic, short bibliography [Read more…]

Richard Dutcher, Vehicle of God’s Grace

I was talking to Jay yesterday about Keith Merrill’s response to this talk from Richard Dutcher, and for the millionth time, I noted how utterly incomprehensible it is to me that people could see Dutcher’s work as unsupportive of faith or religious devotion, or in any way detrimental to the church or its members. In my experience, Dutcher’s films are so very supportive of both our community and its faith that I find Merrill’s response to Dutcher’s work utterly mystifying. [Read more…]

Anyone want a research project?

A few months ago, I began an authorship and abbreviated content analysis of the Ensign over the last 30 years. It was a follow-up to a similar but much smaller project I did of Dialogue and BYU Studies early last Autumn. [Read more…]

Help me construct a Book of Mormon scholarly bibliography!

As the proud old-time LDSLF readers among our audience may be aware, about two years ago I began a project to create a modern-language adaptation, for study purposes, of the Book of Mormon. Modest individual that I am, I named it after myself. [Read more…]

Review: No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones

No More Goodbyes coverby Carol Lynn Pearson
Pivot Point Books, $14.95

For the purpose of full disclosure: long before I opened Carol Lynn Pearson’s new book, No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones, I was familiar with the story she told in Goodbye, I Love You. It was an account of Pearson’s marriage to and amicable divorce from a gay Mormon man, as well as her ex-husband’s later AIDS-related illness and death in Pearson’s home. I’ve never read Goodbye, but after my first engagement ended with the discovery that my fiance was gay, several people told me about it. They mentioned the book not as a source of solace but of affirmation. [Read more…]

Mormon Art and Greatness

Except for two or three older writers, all modern literature seems to me not literature but some sort of handicraft, which exists only so as to be encouraged, though one is reluctant to use its products. Even the best products of handicraft cannot be called remarkable and cannot be praised without a ‘but.’” [Read more…]

Cherishing My Sins

Early in my adult life, after a difficult Mormon childhood spent in a part-member home in Salt Lake City, I converted to Anglican Christianity. My religious understanding and my relationship with God were damaged by my social experience as an involuntarily apostate adolescent, and God’s chosen vehicle to start me healing seems to have been an administrator at All Souls, an Episcopal church on Foothill Boulevard. And so, when I finished college and left Utah, I left the Mormon church as well. [Read more…]

Come On, Sisters, What’s the Take-Home Message?

I’m spending the weekend on a content and authorship analysis of the Ensign, trying to look at trends by comparing every fifth (maybe seventh) year of the magazine’s publication. I’m still in the first part of the coding, going through the issues from this past year. While it wasn’t originally part of the data set I’m collecting and I haven’t yet looked at any patterns in the numbers I’m getting, I’ve developed the subjective impression that women’s articles of any substantial length are almost certain to include with inset sub-articles which consists of a GA statement about the article’s topic. These are separate insets, mind you; they aren’t quotes contained in the articles. [Read more…]

La Navidad Del Diablo Helado

This afternoon, when my husband asked me to get my behind in gear and write a post, I decided to write about the implications for Mormon religious thought of the fact that behavior-determining mental illnesses have a biological basis. Then RT and I went out to purchase a Christmas tree, and I got cold. I got really, really cold. It was 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside. My lips went numb. [Read more…]

The Moral Dilemma of Relief Society

I’m going to interrupt my plans for follow-ups to my last few posts here at BCC to talk about something more immediately relevant to my own life right now, the Relief Society. More specifically, I’m going to talk about whether it’s a good thing or not. [Read more…]

Gender Imbalance In Mormon Studies

Recently, I met a member of the Mormon Studies publishing establishment. He spoke to me about the gender differences in Mormon Studies publishing. He noted specifically that his organization receives almost no submissions from women; while the group wishes to redress the gender imbalance among their authors, they are unable to do so.

[Read more…]

That’s not left! This is left!

I am constantly irritated by the appropriation of the terms “liberal” and “leftist” in Mormon culture. Outside our religious community, such terms describe political and economic orientations. In Mormon discourse they apparently denote religious orientation. This is confusing and frustrating to individuals such as myself (you know, actual leftists). [Read more…]

The New Mormon Theology: Toward A Shared Religion

About the author: Taryn Nelson-Seawright, better known as Serenity Valley, is the stunningly beautiful wife of J. Nelson-Seawright/Roasted Tomatoes. For the past year or so, she has displayed her literary genius at Latter-day Saint Liberation Front. Those who have met her say that her awe-inspiring intelligence, incredible charm, and humble, touching modesty are only a few of her best traits. Oh, and she definitely did not write this introduction. [Read more…]