LDS Dating Culture

Ever since various general authorities started drawing attention to the dating scene among Young Adults, I’ve taken an interest in the current status of dating, especially among LDS people, but also in general. I’ve polled my students about it occasionally and also my friends, single and not. As a borderline narcissistic introvert, you might be surprised to learn that I have friends, even friends from many different lands (states) and persuasions. But it’s true. Of course the rest of you won’t be surprised at all.

But to the point. Here, in no particular sequence of topics, are some observations from students, friends, and neighbors on dating culture among Mormons, and sometimes, others.
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The Science of Reminiscence: Joseph Smith Vignettes. II

This is the second in a series of posts on memories about Joseph Smith. The same cautions apply as noted in post 1.

Easton Kelsey heard him [Joseph Smith] say that he (Joseph) had been with John, the Beloved Apostle of Jesus who told him that he was busy among the ten tribes organizing and preparing them to return.[1]

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The Science of Reminiscence: Joseph Smith Vignettes. I (It’s Conference Time!)

This is the first in a series of posts on memories of Joseph Smith. One should always be cautious with memories, even for immediate events. So much of what we remember is colored by the bio-“technology” of perception and the ability of our brains to fill in the gaps of the past, while simultaneously supplying interpretive links to present worldview and belief.[1] Studies of memory, especially distant memories, suggest that those recollections rarely represent accurate reproductions of past events. Moreover, people who recalled Joseph Smith’s sayings or acts were rarely disinterested bystanders. That said, these memories are interesting for what they may tell us of Joseph but perhaps more about those who remembered him.

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“Wrestling the Angel.” Terryl Givens’ Illuminated Tour of Mormon Thought

Terryl L. Givens
Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity
Hardcover: i-xiii, 390 pages.
Publisher: Oxford University Press, forthcoming (2014).
Pre-order Amazon price in the US: $27.96.

When I heard that Professor Givens had embarked on a work of “Mormon Theology” I was more than a little skeptical. Not that it hasn’t been done before. That isn’t the problem. It’s just that theology, as James Faulconer has written, is something that just doesn’t seem to fit Mormonism. However, when I got my greedy little hands on Givens’ book, I was pleased to see that it is a work of theological heritage. In Givens’ words: “I am here tracing what I regard as the essential contours of Mormon thought as it developed from Joseph Smith to the present, not pretending to address the many tributaries in and out of Mormonism’s main currents.”(x)
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Last Minute Reminder: Mormon Women’s History Initiative Conference Saturday August 9, 2014

In case you were planning on going but saw registration was closed, it is now open.

Origins and Destinations: Forty Years of Mormon Women’s Histor(ies).

Utah Valley University
Science Building Auditorium
SB 134
9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Honoring the Life and Work of Claudia L. Bushman
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: The Dark.

As a seven year old, I had a fascination with monster/horror/space films. When my parents weren’t looking, I would leaf through the newspaper to find the page where the theaters advertised their current wares. Inevitably, there were some wonderfully creepy black and white ads leaking out of the bottom of the page: “Blood Monster from Hell” or “The Blob,” or some such. Stuff they never discussed in Primary. When my mother was out of earshot, I’d mention these to my dad, who, knowing better, shared a bit of this interest, or at least he pretended to share it. My mother was one of those practical people who never opened the door to the night.
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Protology, Eschatology, and High School

So, Joseph Smith waxed eloquent on the social aspects of the before life, and the afterlife. We get a pithy summary courtesy of Orson Pratt and William Clayton:

“that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there”

And this makes me shiver a bit. Niles Crane, fictive Seattle psychiatrist expresses my thought best:

I’ve always liked the notion [after I die] of meeting the great figures of history. But then I think, what if it’s like high school, and all the really cool dead people don’t want to hang out with me?*

*On the wall in the St. George temple is a painting. All those cool dead people? They’re hanging out with Wilford Woodruff.

Your Sunday Brunch Special: Poetry, Prose, Class, and Joseph Smith

Musings on a Sunday morning, nothing much important, but I inflict it on you anyway. You’ll forgive me for the strange usage.

Mormonism: outsiders, if they observe carefully, see two interwoven sides to the Joseph Smith narrative. There is poetry. His production of the Book of Mormon, for instance. The work itself is one of poetic-mythic dimensions, and its interpretations are part and parcel of the poetry that is early Mormonism. The Book of Mormon was originally seen as a universal American tale, offering predictions about the fate of the United States and the origins of its primitive inhabitants, the evils of Catholicism and the virtues of gentile Protestants who had somehow labored under oppressions of popery, even before a reformation. Joseph himself is poetic in our unhindered vision of him. His own hand reeks of biblical verse, prayers to heaven, pleas and gratitude for divine help. But, mid-career, Joseph seems to step behind a curtain, and becomes the object of narrative, rather than its producer. His journals are no longer dictated, they are mostly observed. We hear his voice as less personal, more formal, prosaic, if you will, as his revelations become hidden by secret orders, sermons couched in double meaning, and ghostwritten works.
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Sherlock Holmes in Utah

We seem to be in the midst of a Sherlock Holmes revival, what with the BBC’s Sherlock series, CBS’s Elementary (both are set in the present) and the Warner Brothers movies staring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. This little side-light on good old Holmes has a Mormon connection.

In 1923, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, British author and advocate for the Spiritualism movement, visited Salt Lake City, Utah and delivered a lecture in the Mormon Tabernacle.[1] Doyle was and is most famous for his fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Doyle in his mature years.

Doyle in his mature years.

Holmes’s first adventure involved a crime that was linked to the Mormons of Utah, specifically, the Danite Vigilante Corps so popular in the nineteenth-century press. A Study in Scarlet was sold for 25 pounds sterling and appeared in December 1886.
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Lava Bombs and Malls

Last night I had a series of terrible dreams. One involved lava bombs. The neighbor’s home (who happens to be my bishop) was blasted to smoldering flames, my old pickup caught one squarely in its rusted bed, then my house was battered, dead center in the master bedroom. Naturally, I was standing in the driveway, barefoot, crouching down as hell rained upon the neighborhood. I ran into the house to get my wife, but suddenly realized she was still in bed (it must have been early). Crying, I tried to get up the stairs but lava was splashed about, seriously impeding my progress and then barring my way finally. Knowing her fate, as dreams are often omniscient, I went to the little cabinet where somehow there were spare car keys, grabbed one for the new car and rushed outside, hoping to get up north to check on . . . I don’t know what. The dream went on, predictably getting worse until I woke.
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Preaching, Tradition, History

General Conference season is behind us once again. Preaching is one of the main features of conference and there is a wide variety of it there. I’ve mostly been interested in antebellum sermons, partly because of their richness in terms of redaction criticism, a characteristic shared by ancient documents. Historically, scripture became scripture by repetition. People repeating what they heard, adding explanation, interleaving bits, expansion, contraction, often assigning sources as seemed appropriate. Below is a very short example from a sermon report (a Joseph Smith sermon delivered in June, 1844 less than two weeks prior to his death) that displays some of this process. Keep in mind, redactors often have a point to make.
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Contention is of the Devil!

Conference is on the way, people. It’s been, give or take, a hundred and fifty years since the conference pulpit has seen a little disagreement. But you never know!

The balance between the rational and the intuitive (in Mormonism we might say, reason vs. revelation, or the “mantle” vs. the “intellect”) — it’s not a new discussion. Roughly 300 years ago New England pulpits rang with polemics, preacher against preacher, over things like itinerancy, extemporaneous sermons, lay testimony and emotional conversion experiences. Each might be seen as either the work of the Devil or the work of God. Clerical conferences, used to a few quiet conversations over theological points, were torn asunder by bitter conflicts between extremes. The enlightened vs. the pious.
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An Eclectic View of D&C 77: Part 3. Some Textual Variants.

This series constitutes a leisurely stroll through the halls of Doctrine and Covenants section 77. I don’t have any particular schedule in mind, future posts will appear as seemeth me good. Parts 1 and 2 of the series are here and here.

Text Evolution
One of the interesting textual mysteries about D&C 77 concerns the interpretation of the book of Revelation timeline. Some relevant passages:
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: Theology of Place

We talk of sacred space. Spaces become sacred to us for various reasons, like dedicatory prayer, or usage over time. Home is often writ large as sacred in Mormon narrative, but in our transient modern existence, we have no stable places of residence. The narrative is often morphed by sayings like “home is where the heart is,” an especially popular one with the advent of the restless wandering of the twentieth-century.
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Gospel Doctrine Lesson 25: Priesthood: “The Power of Godliness”

[Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the lesson in the comments.]

“Priesthood” in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a primary boundary marker, perhaps the central boundary marker if one includes its origin stories, between Mormonism and antebellum American Protestantism. If there is one primary heresy qua Protestantism in Mormonism, it is the dispensing of grace via authoritatively performed sacraments. Most Latter-day Saints see this as the “Power of Godliness” and via Joseph Smith have an extensive protological sacramental soteriology. Their Protestant brothers and sisters were—and perhaps are yet in some cases—filled with the fear of prelate tyranny by such claims (shucks, being a BYU professor, I know some Mormons who feel the same–academic freedom anyone?!?). These claims also entailed communal living enterprises, breach of the sacrosanct canonical wall, a little bit (that a hundred years later had turned into a lot) of Methodist salvific pessimism and eventually the mysterious secret rites of temple Mormonism. Burrrrr, they said.
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An Eclectic View of D&C 77: Part 2.

This series constitutes a leisurely stroll through the halls of Doctrine and Covenants section 77. I don’t have any particular schedule in mind, future posts will appear as seemeth me good. Part 1 of the series is here.

A wonderful thing about the Joseph Smith Papers (JSP) is its permitted exploration of the First Presidency historical document collection. Recently rediscovered within that collection was a manuscript book of revelations, designated Revelation Book 1 in the JSP. This is a foundational text for several reasons.
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An Eclectic View of D&C 77: Part 1.

This series constitutes a leisurely stroll through the halls of Doctrine and Covenants section 77. I don’t have any particular schedule in mind, future posts will appear as seemeth me good.

One of my favorite sections of the Doctrine and Covenants is 77. It is a favorite because it is a fruitful field for the discussion of the meaning, methods, and interpretation of Joseph Smith’s revelations in particular and to some degree, revelation in general.
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: Star Trek

There is a new Star Trek movie. And, this is current (Gospel) events, people.

I realize many BCC readers don’t follow Star Trek. Consider this a drive by catchup on things. One of the devices Trek watchers are familiar with is the Transporter.

As you can see from the clip, the Transporter does something like shuffling molecules over a distance. But not just that. It essentially murders people, and reanimates them. (If you don’t want to think about Star Trek, consider the classic film, The Fly.) Recently, there have been rumblings about such a piece of technology. Whether or not it exists now, is irrelevant to my question however. Suppose there was a Transporter. What does a spirit do during transport? We advertise that spirits are material. Do they get disorganized and then reorganized in the Transporter?* I hope you understand the serious nature of these questions. And you’re welcome.**

* Joseph vs. Brigham here, right?
** Brain and brain! What is brain?!?

King Follett and Clouds of Meaning

We’ve just experienced the Mormon preaching festival. That is, general conference! In addition to inspired teaching, it gives the outside world a chance to experience some of the variety of Mormon address. And besides, I’ve been toiling over chapter 7 of the book, rewriting, rethinking some, and redoing other. This represents mental suds rising to the top of my brain-glass.

Texts are always encased by interpretation. Generations come and go, and interpretation floods over texts, at least those that rise to surface (paradoxically), via unearthing by graduate students or rediscovery by the public, or just constant devotion, etc. Scripture is no exception, and everyone, not just Nephi, deploys a kind of rationalization with circumstance and inspiration to come up with a correlated understanding, whether that be official, communal, familial, or even “backlistial.” Among Mormons, Joseph Smith’s sermons are quite often seen as doctrinal in some sense, a sense I won’t attempt to make precise.
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Night, Death, Grave

It’s late. Everyone is asleep. I realize my life is in transition. Unable to sleep myself, I quietly get out of bed and cautiously leave the bedroom, hoping my wife will not be disturbed.
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: Doctrine and Covenants Section 137A.

You may be interested to know that D&C 137A has been on the books for some time. However, to see it requires that you hold up D&C 137 of your officially printed scriptures so that the light of the full moon shines behind the page. On September 22. Viking Runes will appear. Sorry, the digital version is missing this feature. I came across it by accident as you may imagine, while lying in my hammock on such an evening, enjoying one of those last mild evenings. Imagine too, my shock.

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Sunday Evenings With The Doctrine and Covenants. Section 130. Epilogue. Some Visuals.

[Part 6 is here.]

It has long been the case that text scholars tend to believe everyone keeps up with their nerdiness. Getting an overview of a text study is helpful and while it leaves out many of the details that lure the textually addicted, graphical summaries of the relationships between texts can be helpful in understanding how things work in the temporal and logical senses. So here are two such graphical summaries.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130. Part 6. An Interview with Elder Orson Pratt And A Critical Text of D&C 130.

[The preceding part is here.]

This is the penultimate post in the series on Doctrine and Covenants section 130. Last time I gave you a genetic text for D&C 130. This time its a critical edition.

We’re nearly at the end of the line, people. The BCC survey results show that this sort of thing is the least popular item in our repertoire. But I really don’t care if you don’t like reading this stuff. It’s good for you. It broadens your religious horizons and it makes you wonder about your assumptions. Well, that’s what I’m selling at least.
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The Infinite. Part 11. Mormon Troubles with the Infinite.

Here is the previous part. All parts may be found here. Apologies to the huge cadre of readers who have been waiting on the edges of their collective seats for this for over a year. I just forgot to post it at the time–and then went off on other adventures. You’re welcome. To catch up with what’s here, I recommend subjecting yourself to the pain of following the link above (and similar links in it and its predecessors until you reach the “beginning”).For you, Brad.

One of the axioms of Mormonism is the existence of an infinite supply of matter. This follows from various statements like “this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) This process, which many Mormon thinkers have seen as not only the life of God but the life of every exalted person, implies that spirits will never run out. That is, there is either an infinite supply so that the process may continue, or there is an infinite supply of material from which spirits and their corresponding bodies may be “organized.” (Sorry, ex nihilo not allowed.)
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130 Part 5. Genesis, Exodus. . .

[Note: the text below has been modified from its original version. My thanks go to Mike Parker for a nice careful reading which exposed several errors in my original edition. Particularly in verses 16 and 17, where I failed to see that the material appeared in the Clayton report. Mike also noted a few more errors (a number are html coding errors on my part) which I have taken the liberty of correcting. I noticed a couple of other puzzling things about this material that I may expand on at some other time. Some of the changes here affect succeeding parts of the post too. Hence, part 6 is slightly modified.]

The headings for D&C sections were written anew in the recent 2013 edition of the LDS scriptures. The new scriptures are an encoded banner of trust for the Joseph Smith Papers. Go JSPP.
[Part 4 is here.]

Ok, here is D&C 130, coded to reveal where it came from, a genetic text if you will. Note: some passages are clearly quotations of modified biblical pericopae. That is not what I’m about here. I’m just displaying the modern manuscript sourcing for our current text of D&C 130.
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: “Conferring the Priesthood.” When Architecture Becomes Liturgy.

Priesthood is a complex subject in Mormonism. The very meaning of the word has ebbed and flowed. Below, I focus on ecclesiastical office in a narrow sense. I only consider church structures involving the practice of ordination, not “setting apart” in the modern vernacular. For a larger treatment, see my article in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.
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Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130. Part 4. Comparing Sources for the MS History.

You can see from parts one, two and three that the text of D&C 130 is founded on the Manuscript History of the Church via its instantiation in the Millennial Star. The Manuscript History is a work of epic proportions, almost entirely due to the planning and effort of Willard Richards, apostle, private secretary to Joseph Smith and church historian and recorder. Richards procured large ledger books in which to copy edited source documents for the history. Richards did not live to see his project completed, but the History more or less followed his source plan, a plan written out in Nauvoo before the apostles journeyed west to Utah. The various scribes for the history include some well known names in Mormon lore, like Thomas Bullock, Jonathan Grimshaw, Leo Hawkins, Robert Campbell and more.[1]
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Your Sunday Brunch Special: Bishop B And the Devil.

“So what happened next?”

“He came through the doorway and stared at me.”

“Then what?”

“He started to beat me with his fists. Then he grabbed at me. But it wasn’t like being grabbed by a man, I could see him grabbing my spirit. He had one hand around my neck and was pulling on it. It stretched out, I could see him pulling it out. Then it snapped back. That hurt my head and my feet.”

“Where was Sister B?”

“She was beside me in the bed at first. She could not see him, but she could see me struggling and later she told me she knew what it was. She got out of bed and knelt down and started praying.”

“Wow. How long did this go on?”

“It was about 30 minutes.”

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Youth Conference: 1963-ish.

Imagine you are 16 years old. You are LDS and the church is relatively small. Youth Conference is scheduled to happen at Colby College in Maine. It’s November. There are fun things in store, and you’ll meet other Mormons. The busses gather up the attendees from all over New England. After the get-to-know-you activities, etc. the key-note speaker stands.

He begins to speak and you start hearing names like Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Bonhoeffer, Bultmann, and in this mix somewhere, Joseph Smith.

Truman Madsen delivers the goods: “God: Personal or Impersonal.”

It was forthwith printed as a missionary pamphlet!

Sunday Evenings with the Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrine and Covenants Section 130. Part 3. Spiritual Mechanics.

In honor of the Doctrine and Covenants study this year, this is the third post a series on one of the sections that doesn’t get too much play in the Gospel Doctrine course this year.

Now, in the previous part of this post, I showed you where Brother Orson got the text for D&C 130. Why did he go there you ask?[1]

In this part of the post I’m going to explore the text in a slightly different way. The Millennial Star text (Pratt’s source for D&C 130) was derived from the Salt Lake City church newspaper, The Deseret News. The News text was derived from the Manuscript History of the Church, an 1855 era construction (see part 1). The logical thing to do now is ask, where did the Manuscript History text come from? I mean this particular part. The thing as a whole is a maze of compiled texts from a whole lot of sources.
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