Parents, Families, and Kin: A Father’s Day Homily

Two weeks ago a bishopric counselor asked me to prepare a talk for the upcoming Father’s Day sacrament meeting. Now, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have some problems with our current (and past) discourse on gender, sex, and gender roles. These problems are trenchant, and definitely not the mere product of self-consciously sexist attitudes on the part of current LDS leaders (indeed, sexist attitudes are much more the products how we talk about these topics and the kinds of things that our talk about them takes for granted). Still there have been some important shifts in the past generation. [Read more…]

Death of a Mormon Prophet

On Monday afternoon, 18 April 2011, Stanley E. Whiting passed away at a Hospice center just outside Independence, Missouri. Earlier this year, at age 76, Stanley learned that the pancreatic cancer he successfully pushed back 3 years ago had returned with a vengeance. [Read more…]

To Heal the Afflicted

I am silvery, scaly. Puddles of flakes form wherever I rest my flesh. Each morning, I vacuum my bed. My torture is skin deep; there is no pain, not even itching. We lepers live a long time, and are ironically healthy in other respects. Lusty, though we are loathsome to love. Keen-sighted, though we hate to look upon ourselves. The name of the disease, spiritually speaking, is ‘Humiliation.’
—John Updike, “From the Journal of a Leper”

Generally speaking, the miracles of Jesus’ ministry fall in to four categories: healings, exorcisms, nature miracles, and post-resurrection appearances. This post will focus primarily on healings, and take Jesus’ healing of lepers as paradigmatic of this important aspect of His earthly ministry. [Read more…]

God The Wife

Women are endowed with special traits and attributes that come trailing down through eternity from a divine mother. Young women have special God-given feelings about charity, love, and obedience. Coarseness and vulgarity are contrary to their natures. They have a modifying, softening influence on young men. Young women were not foreordained to do what priesthood holders do. Theirs is a sacred, God-given role, and the traits they received from heavenly mother are equally as important as those given to the young men.
—Vaughn J. Featherstone, October 1987

This past year I was asked to give a talk on the value of motherhood in our Mother’s Day sacrament meeting service. As I prepared the talk, I posed two questions to a number of women and mothers I know, including my wife.

What is the thing you most enjoy hearing in talks about motherhood?

What is the thing you most dread hearing in such talks?

The answer, it turns out, in virtually all cases, was identical. For both questions: [Read more…]

Families, Eternal and Otherwise

[Two Mormon Elders stand adjacent to a popular thoroughfare, attempting to catch the attention of passersby. On a table next to them are displayed various samples of Church-produced art, most of which depict either families or images of the Savior’s ministry. At the center of the display is a framed copy of “The Family: A Proclamation.” A man approaches, his attention visibly piqued. Elder Q reaches for a copy of the Book of Mormon, while Elder P gears up to speak with man.] [Read more…]

Elder Christofferson: Making Sacred Selves

Despite all the clamoring and buzzing about some of last weekend’s more, um, provocative and controversial moments, the most memorable sermon for me this General Conference was delivered by Elder Todd Christofferson. [Read more…]

Come Poets, Come Photoshoppers, Come All!

In recognition of a recently surfaced artistic masterpiece, I offer the BCC reading community this humble verse along with a commemorative piece by Brother Matsby:

Strange things are afoot
On a sacred document.
Barry, how could you?

[Read more…]

Thursday Afternoon Spiritual Artwork Poll

Feast your eyes upon the artwork below, and then tell us: Which one evokes the most powerful spiritual feelings.

[Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 9 — History Done Backwards)

This is the final, and longest, post of the series. Read the first eight installments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8. You can download and read Daymon’s dissertation here.

Remember, Daymon has made his dissertation available for purchase in bound form here. All of the proceeds will go to the Utah Food Bank. [Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 8 — The Rise of Correlation)

Read the first seven installments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. You can download and read Daymon’s dissertation here.

I should note that the dissertation chapters that coincide with this portion of the discussion are among the most accessible of the entire work. They’re also rich with detail in a way that this conversation can really only approximate. Remember, Daymon has made his dissertation available for purchase in bound form here. All of the proceeds will go to the Utah Food Bank. [Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 7 — Theological Excursus)

Read the first six parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6. You can download and read Daymon’s dissertation here.

*****Also, a bit of news: Daymon has made his dissertation available for purchase in bound form here. All of the proceeds will go to the Utah Food Bank. [Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 6 — Church and Priesthood)

Finally, our little series begins to move into something that is vaguely recognizable as modern Correlation. Parts 1-5 of the series are available here, here, here, here, and here. Daymon’s dissertation can be found and read here. [Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 5 — The Rise of Fundamentalism)

For those of you who have kept up with and continue to follow this series, we thank you for your diligence and patience. In part 1 we tracked the polygamist Underground and the discursive splitting it generated within Mormonism. From there, part 2 cast the issuance of Manifestos in light of the possibilities for reading capacitated by that discursive rupture and semiotic fragmenting. This led, eventually, to strategies for curtailing what was emerging as a kind of neo-Underground by Church leaders, and the Church courts wherein these things were (not particularly) sorted out were canvassed in part 3. The formal division between holdout polygamists and the newly monogamous Church only began to really take hold with the excommunication of recalcitrant apostles, most prominent among them John W. Taylor. Discussion of his excommunication comprised the bulk of part 4 in the series. Again, I heartily recommend that you read Daymon’s dissertation, available here. Now, to business… [Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 4 — John W. Taylor, Excommunicated)

Catch up on the series with parts one, two, and three. Daymon’s dissertation can be downloaded and read here.

Brad: So to this point we’ve basically laid some important historical groundwork. We began in the 1880s on the Underground and ended last time roughly three decades later with the implementation of disciplinary hearings. These historical developments entailed some really difficult, complicated, entangled issues involving authority, priesthood, the relationship between polygamous and monogamous Mormons in the wake of the 1904 Manifesto, etc. The whole idea is that by the time we actually get around to the emergence of what we can today recognize as Correlation—that process doesn’t really make a lot of sense in a vacuum. It doesn’t just come out of nowhere, and the more we understand the issues that LDS leaders faced at the time in their efforts to transform Mormonism into a “modern” religion and church, and especially a post-polygamous church, the more the rise of Correlation will make a kind of historical and logical sense, as a particular response to a particular set of concerns and difficulties. [Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 3 — Courts of Love)

Read installments 1 and 2 in the series here and here. Seriously. Read them. Before you read this. Also, read Daymon’s dissertation here.
[Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 2 — Manifestos)

A continuation of our conversation on the origins and historical developments of Correlation. Part 1 can be read here. To reiterate, these conversations are meant to serve as an introduction or prolegomenon to Daymon Smith’s pathbreaking existing work on the topic, available here. Last time we talked about the Underground. It would be useful to read there before moving into this section of the conversation. Again, thanks to Daymon for his willingness to participate in these chats. [Read more…]

Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 1 — The Mormon Underground)

Oh, Matsby -- how could you?

This post marks the beginning of a series on the origins and historical development of what Mormons typically denote with the term “Correlation.” It’s a long and complicated story, one that will require a number of installments to adequately canvas. It’s also an incredibly interesting story, involving, among other things, polygamy, the Underground, manifestoes, post-manifesto polygamy, senators, aspiring senators, “courts of love,” monogamy, Fundamentalism, Church welfare, apostolic infighting, charts and graphs, minds and bodies, lying, truth-telling, bureaucracies, Navajos, and a plethora of John Taylors. [Read more…]

Death, Mortality, and the Fall

The association of the fallen state of humanity with the biblical story of expulsion from Eden has deep and varied Christian roots. While Original Sin might be a notion primarily associated with the theological traditions of Catholicism (and perhaps Eastern Orthodoxy as well), Protestants too view the redemptive work of Christ as the antidote to the problems of human sinfulness as embodied in Adam’s fall from grace. I have no idea the extent to which the problem of physical death figures into these Christian anthropologies (though I assume that the at least some connection between Adam and Eve’s transgression and our collective mortal nature is implicit in most if not all Christian traditions). But my sense is that the link between physical death and the Fall enjoys a unique theological focus and valency in Mormon thought. [Read more…]

A Holiday Visit to Sodom and Gomorrah

Nothing like an all-destructive act of divine carpet bombing to kindle the holiday spirit. I actually debated putting off the conversation to a less celebratory time, but time, it seems, is the one luxury which we currently lack. You see, it turns out (so I’m told, by people who really seem to know what they’re talking about) that God destroys societies that embrace and normalize homosexual relationships. Since we appear to be on the brink, as a civilization, of making precisely that mistake, I figured better safe than Sodom. So, let’s get to brass tacks: why did God destroy the cities on the plains, and what might it all portend for a society (ours) where the gay agenda is spreading and taking root like a crop of rainbow dandelions? [Read more…]

Toward a General Theory of Apostasy

Seventeen centuries ago, on 28 October 312, the emperor Constantine, convinced that Christ had delivered to him recent military victories, officially converted to the by then rapidly spreading and increasingly powerful religion of Christianity. He would soon attempt to extend his personal conversion onto whole of his imperial dominion, if only symbolically. And, since Christianity was, among other things, a strategic tool for consolidating his power, the newly anointed Religion of Empire would itself be subjected to unification and centralization. [Read more…]

Captain Moroni is NOT a Man of God

If a sure sign of a healthy organism is that its feces stink, then perhaps the steady onslaught over recent years of effeminate “progressives” (along with their cohorts in the Liberal Media) whining about the price of freedom is evidence that the bloggernaccle, as a deliberative body, is finally at fighting weight. [Read more…]

Brothers: A Speculative Drama in One Act

Mike stared incredulously at his brother. “I can’t believe I’m hearing what I’m hearing.”

There was a self-assured quality to the look in his brother’s eyes right now, a strange blend of confidence-inspiring beauty and what Mike viewed as arrogant self-righteousness. Then again, his brother had every reason to feel supremely confidant in matters such as these, as their father seemed to trust him implicitly. Yet precisely for that reason, Mike was uncomfortable, knowing what his brother’s words implied about their father’s authority, even sanity.

“He is wrong – at least about this. I know it’s hard to hear, but the logic is as inescapable as it is self-evident.” [Read more…]

From a Concerned Reader

A regular (though mostly quiet) BCC reader recently emailed me the following:

My Church Service Troubles

Recently, my service in a church calling has started to bother me. It’s not the time investment, although there’s a lot of that. I am a member of a Stake Presidency, after all. What’s bothering me is that my service in the calling might be involving me in unfairness toward gay people in the Church.

Let me tell you about two recent disciplinary councils we had to hold. [Read more…]

Truman Madsen, 1926 – 2009


UPDATE–a note from Barney Madsen: We look forward to sharing in a wonderful service honoring our dad on Tuesday. It should be viewable live on the Web at beginning at noon (Provo time). It should be available later at the same website as a podcast. Please pass the word for those who would like to attend but can’t make the trip.
Mormonism lost a spiritual and intellectual giant this morning.

Truman Madsen was a respected and influential philosopher, professor, and writer. His wildly popular lectures on the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith have achieved near canonical status for millions of Church members over the decades. He served as a full time missionary in the New England Mission, and later as a mission president over the same mission. He later served as director of the BYU Jerusalem Center, and at the time of his passing was serving as patriarch in his stake. He earned a PhD from Harvard University and, at BYU, held the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding. The power of his ideas and writings — including his famous Four Essays on Love — were only surpassed by the appeal of his personality. His influence on the faith and understanding of Latter-day Saints was profoundly positive and far-reaching. [Read more…]

Early Mormonism and Masonry: Lesser-Known Connections

There is no shortage of interest in the connections between the Masonic Craft and Joseph Smith-era Mormonism. Nearly four decades ago Dr. Reed Durham, then director of the LDS Institute at the University of Utah and president of the Mormon History Association, delivered a now (in)famous address to the MHA on Joseph Smith and Freemasonry. His presentation emphasized the connection between masonic ritual and temple ordinances, though in what Durham viewed as a faith-promoting way. Despite the subsequent public apology Durham issued (at the behest of his CES superiors), and his refusal to submit the paper for publication or even to publicly discuss it, the fascination over the connections between the Craft and the innovations of Nauvoo Mormonism — most importantly the inception of Mormon temple ritual — has remained vibrant. [Read more…]

Mormon Worship — Part 1

What follows is the first of a series of three collaborative posts that address some of the most fundamental questions of our religious experience as Mormons. We’ll begin with two very basic, and closely related maxims of our faith and work from there:

1) We worship God the Father

2) We worship (in perhaps a slightly different sense?) Jesus Christ

Parts 2 and 3 of this series will deal with some problematic issues associated with the identity and character of these two Divine Beings we profess to worship. For this first installment, I’d like to tackle the issue of worship itself. My collaborators for the series are former T&S blogger Adam Greenwood (currently blogging here) and Neal Kramer, whose guest contributions have occasionally elevated the standards of discourse here at BCC. [Read more…]

Elder Christofferson: The Power of Covenants

Divine covenants make strong Christians.

–Elder D. Todd Christofferson, 4 April 2009 [Read more…]

Mommies and Daddies: Primary Lessons

For just over a year now, I have been my ward’s primary pianist. It’s nice in that I get to spend time with my sons (all primary age). It’s also nice being able to avoid some of the tension headaches that tend to result from prolonged exposure to GD lessons and discussions. Retreat from the frequently agonizing realm of anachronism, cheap proof-textery, and the curious combination of wild speculation with monotonous, pre-packaged answers into the realm of the simple, pure, undiluted basics of the Gospel, formatted for children. Or so I imagined… [Read more…]

There is an End to Race

Race and racism have been hot topics of late. I began thinking in earnest about it last week, not Thursday when Kaimi posted his thread, nor Tuesday when President Obama was sworn in, nor Monday when we celebrated Dr. King, but Sunday in the well stocked library of my ward here in Ann Arbor. When I walked it, I found an open copy of Mormon Doctrine, face down on the counter. I picked it up and the entry on the open page was “Race.” [Read more…]

Follow-Up Thoughts on Nauvoo Polygamy

This began as a lengthy response to some very important questions raised on JNS’s thread earlier this week. [Read more…]