Laying on of hands and other new church history website content

imagesI don’t know if you are following all the new releases on the JSP and Church History websites, but much of it is completely fascinating. For instance, did you see this story about “A Bit of Old String: Mary Whitmer’s Unheralded Contributions” by my favorite historian ever? Add it to your files about women in church history.

And then there’s this new entry  within the topic section of the Joseph Smith Papers site: [Read more…]

Another short post sparked by too many anonymous women already in our church history

With an article titled “Remembering Mothers: Stories from the Prophets” it would be nice if they remembered that these incredible, faithful women actually had names.*


[Read more…]

General Authority Speaks on Caring for the Earth

Guest post by Nathan Waite. Nate got his MA in American studies and environmental humanities at the University of Utah.  (Editor’s note: It is well worth reading the entire piece but as a bonus find a related Dialogue article by Craig D. Galli linked at the end).

Update: Watch Elder Nash’s full remarks here.

Photo by Alan Smith

Photo by Alan Smith. Any guesses as to location?

Elder Marcus B. Nash, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and assistant executive director of the Church History Department, today represented the LDS perspective on a panel titled, “Ecological Protection, Environmental Degradation—Perspectives of Faith.”  Also represented were evangelical Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. The panel was part of the Wallace Stegner Center’s annual symposium, being held at the University of Utah today and tomorrow. The symposium’s theme is “Religion, Faith, and the Environment.”

In a way this was not a groundbreaking talk; Elder Nash hewed closely to scripture and to the words of modern prophets. But I think that’s exactly why it is groundbreaking—he showed how a strong environmental strand is right there in Mormonism’s most basic, central theology. [Read more…]

Conference talks filled with love

Wordle provided by Connor Boyack  @

Wordle provided by Connor Boyack @

For my conference talk report, instead of focusing on just one talk, I decided to focus on an overarching connection in all of the talks. The first theme I tried worked wonderfully as it was mentioned in every talk and, in some cases, captured that talk’s pure essence quite beautifully.

The theme: Love.

[Read more…]

The “The Evils of the Dole” Saturday Afternoon Session


By common consent at

Let’s get ready for the releases and sustainings…

After the annual report, Elder Richard G. Scott is on deck.

We’re By Common Consenting as we speak! [Read more…]

The hope a woman prays post so Hannah Wheelright will rejoice Saturday morning session



And we’re off on the 183rd Annual General Conference.

Up first, President Monson, followed by President Packer.

Invocation by Elder Randall K. Bennent

After Packer, then Bishop Dean M. Davies, followed by Sister Elaine S. Dalton. [Read more…]

A moment of silence for the passing of a man and an office

Eldred G. SmithYesterday, emeritus church patriarch Eldred G. Smith passed away at 106. As Peggy explains “Eldred G. Smith, who served for 32 years as Mormonism’s ‘presiding patriarch,’ died Thursday evening in Salt Lake City. At 106, Smith was the faith’s oldest living and longest-serving LDS general authority.” [Read more…]

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #13: “This Generation Shall Have My Word through You”

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.

I sure wish chalkboards were linkable. Why? Because then I would begin with this modified Attention Activity*:

List some or all of the following subjects on the chalkboard before class begins.

Physical nature of the Godhead

Our creation in God’s image

Apostles and prophets

Melchizedek Priesthood

Aaronic Priesthood

Mode of baptism

The gift of the Holy Ghost

Premortal existence

Baptism for the dead


The three kingdoms of glory

Eternal marriage

Our potential to become like Heavenly Father

Invite a class member to erase from the chalkboard anything that has not been revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Help class members see that nothing can be erased from the chalkboard—that all of these truths were restored through the Prophet Joseph. Then pick any of the above to click into and discuss more in-depth using these helpful resources from By Common Consent.

Five hours later…

[Read more…]

Groundbreaking scriptural heading changes: Section 132 and Official Declaration 1

Another important* (enough to make its own post instead of just comment in my previous posts on the announcement or OD 2) change is the addition of the OD 1 Introduction and the changes to the heading of Section 132.

Again, nothing was written in way of introduction to OD 1 before. And the introduction now reads: “The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise (see 2 Samuel 12:7-8 and Jacob 2:27, 30). Following a revelation to Joseph Smith, the practice of plural marriage was instituted among Church members in the early 1840s (see section 132). From the 1860s to the 1880s, the United States government passed laws to make this religious practice illegal. These laws were eventually upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. After receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued the following Manifesto, which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.”

In regards to Section 132 the heading used to read: [Read more…]

Groundbreaking scriptural heading changes: Official Declaration 2

2013-02-28_20-48-47_158Not since 1981 (and maybe even before, I’ll let the textual/scriptural scholars determine the amount of change versus other scriptural compilations) have this many changes been made to our modern Mormon quad.

So needless to say (but I guess I need to say it anyway) it’s incredibly exciting.

The Joseph Smith Papers lists many of the heading adjustments here. And here is the scripture comparison (warning, at least for me it was a long download.)

And while there is a lot of new scriptural commentary to peruse, compare, and explore, I’m going to jump right to Official Declaration–2 as it still is Black History Month for a few more hours here.

The new version now begins: “Book of Mormon teaches that ‘all are alike unto God,’ including ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33). [Read more…]

BREAKING NEWS: Church Releases New Edition of English Scriptures in Digital Formats

Church Releases New Edition of English Scriptures in Digital Formats

Go forth and explore.

[Read more…]

Taking off the tag

img1263835714I was in D.C. and NYC visiting friends and family this weekend and heard the following story, which I reprint by permission.

A longtime neighbor of the missionaries in one part of northern Europe was an apartment-ridden chain-smoker. She often invited the elders over for dinners and sometimes took the lessons. And the elders would help her get her groceries, including, at least for this young missionary, her tobacco.

And while he didn’t mind helping her out this way, he did feel bad enough about it to remove his missionary tag at the store. Then once the tobacco was safely hidden in the bag, he’d put his missionary tag back on.

[Read more…]

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #5: “This Is the Spirit of Revelation”

Robin Scott Jensen is an editor with the Joseph Smith Papers, working extensively on the Revelations and Translations series. As always, his work represented here is his alone and not representative of the church nor the JSP. He has posted with BCC before on his detailed work with the revelations. And even though he is a Sunday School instructor for the 16-17 year olds, the welcomed youth program put a kink in his planned D&C lectures, so he instead shares one with us today. -EmJen

Two remarkable points stand out to me when I think of Joseph Smith and his revelations: his willingness to share his prophetic responsibilities with others and the ever-evolving way in which he introduced new revelation to the Saints. These two points complement and inform one other and can shed light on our own understanding of what it means to receive revelation.

The revelations to Oliver Cowdery regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon have become more and more fascinating to me as I step back and try to understand what Joseph Smith was actually doing. A man less than thirty years old, with no formal education, claimed visions of an angel, the discovery of ancient plates, and their subsequent “translation.” And he promptly offered his scribe, whom he had known for less than a month, to share in this critically important and spiritual task. Oliver quickly learned what subsequent members would discover. Mormonism was a participatory religion. Joining Mormonism meant joining with full commitment—both temporarily and spiritually. This commitment stretched people beyond their comfort level. In the first revelation to Cowdery, dictated in April 1829, the Lord tells him that he had a gift. This was a gift that “cometh from above” and promised “great and marvelous” mysteries.[1] But there was more. Besides the gift of knowing mysteries, the Lord promises him another gift: “behold I grant unto you a gift if you desire of me, to translate even as my servant Joseph.” What an incredible statement. I would love to have heard a bit of the pre- or post-revelation conversation between Joseph and Oliver.

But it was not to be. The story is well known: Oliver attempted to translate, failed, and received an additional revelation instructing him in the necessity of doing more than simply asking. “Behold you have not understood, you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no though, save it was to ask me.”

But hang on. [Read more…]

The Basketball Parable

Once upon a time (January 11, 2013 to be exact) a man took a basketball in his hands, walked up to the half-court line, and to the roar of the admiring crowd took the shot worth $1000.00.

As one of our resident historians (Ben P.) lamented: “Seriously, I have spent five minutes googling every morning for the past few days trying to see if an explanation has been given yet. Surely there has to be, right? I mean, A BALL ISN’T SUPPOSED TO DO THAT!!!!”

[Read more…]

What does it mean to be Mormon?

“We just want to know what it means to be a Mormon, beyond the official name that we seem to come up against whenever we ask.”

So began my interview with an Italian news crew today in Salt Lake City for a few days hoping to get a glimpse of Mormonism. And when the reporter asked, I was honestly taken aback for a moment. What does it mean to be a Mormon? As the “I’m a Mormon” campaign illustrates, being a Mormon encompasses a whole gamut of activities, hobbies, interests.

But what of the faith? Of belief? [Read more…]

General Relief Society Meeting Open Thread

Watch it here.

What are your thoughts?

Liveblogging the Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture featuring Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Historians and those interested in women’s studies are converging in this Salt Lake City Downtown Library auditorium to listen to the Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture featuring Laurel Thatcher Ulrich on “Remember Me: The Inscription of Self in Nineteenth-Century Mormonism”

Follow the live blog here:

[Read more…]

Review: Elizabeth Pinborough, editor, “Habits of Being: Mormon Women’s Material Culture”

ImageTitle: Habits of Being: Mormon Women’s Material Culture
Editor: Elizabeth Pinborough
Publisher: Exponent II
Genre: Personal Essays
Year: 2012
Pages: 113
Binding: Softcover
Price: 18.00 plus shipping (Available in a second run here!)

Reading underneath my great-grandmother Florence Shepherd Warburton’s pastel paintings in the old rock Warburton home in the tiny town of Grouse Creek, Utah, I connected with Habits of Being—this book of personal essays from women looking longingly at ancestral artifacts for links to those women, some known, some unknown, who came before.

It was a glorious experience, made even more poignant by the fact that it was Memorial Day, one that made me want to write my own essays about my own ancestors, about the women and men who furnished, occupied, and beautified the very surroundings in which I sat. And if there is anything I wish to impart in this review, it’s the need for women and men to search out connections to their past and write them up, then archive them safely. In fact I’ll bold that part, just in case that’s the only sentence you read.

[Read more…]

President Monson’s Blessing Gesture

…was my favorite conference moment. What was yours? [Read more…]

“The Rescue”

Two quick questions:

What is “The Rescue”?

And perhaps more importantly,

Why the emphasis on it now?

Unofficial Market Research on LDS Tools App

I’ve been thinking about this for a few months, but McKay Coppins’ article today on “Mitt’s Mormon Army: How It Works” brought it the forefront.

So I’m wondering a few things, on-top-of-technology BCC readers:

Do you know that your information (name, names of your children, address, phone, email address) is likely available to anyone in your stake with the LDS Tools App? I understand that you can go into your LDS Account and make changes so that your phone and email are not listed, but would you appreciate a confidentiality agreement. Can you think of any other ideas to help negate any abuses to this system?

I should note, that I am generally in favor of openness and am excited to see the church digitize information, but wonder if caution is warranted.

Thoughts on seminary on the occasion of its 100th anniversary

In honor of the seminary 100th anniversary commemoration going on right now (find a recording here) we at BCC started reminiscing about how seminary/institute influenced and inspired us or, sometimes, frustrated and flummoxed us. Here are some of our anonymous musings:

“I learned that my seminary teacher was a rightwing dweeb that was completely unprepared for any political pushback in class.”

“I was excommunicated from 9th grade seminary for teaching evolution (and being a smug little jerk, but hey, I’m telling the story) and from 10th grade seminary for never attending (I figured it was a free period for me to hang out with friends or go hiking or play pinochle). I loved Institute, however”.

“I had one good seminary teacher and three fantastic ones. I loved seminary.”

[Read more…]

Review: Joanna Brooks’ The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith

Our own Matsby illuminates Joanna’s life with this swe-eet (like as in uniquely AWESOME mixed with “aw, the sweetness of Mormon life”) cover art.

The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith
Joanna Brooks
Queenbee Industries, 2012
Amazon Kindle Edition, 243 KB (page count as yet unknown, print release slated for February, preorder info here)


But mostly in a good way. That’s how I felt finishing Joanna Brooks’ memoir The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith. I found many of her descriptions eerily parallel to my own growing up as a Mormon girl with the differences being that I grew up on a farm in Utah instead of in the orange groves of California and I came around ten years later. I think it was both by design and due to her talent as a writer that I so easily felt pulled by the threads of similarity that my own Mormon girl story started interweaving with Joanna’s.

[Read more…]

Technologizing Sunday School Study

“This study guide is designed as a companion to your study of the Book of Mormon. It is divided into numbered sections that correspond with the lessons in the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine course. Each section provides the week’s reading assignment and questions to enhance your study. You may use these questions to improve personal application of the scriptures and to prepare to make meaningful contributions to class discussions.

“You share with your Gospel Doctrine teacher the responsibility to help the class be successful. The Lord has said that teachers need to “preach … by the Spirit of truth” and that those who receive “the word of truth” should “receive it by the Spirit of truth” (D&C 50:17, 19). Come to class prepared to contribute insights, ask questions, share appropriate experiences, bear testimony, and listen attentively to the teacher and the other class members. When you have studied the reading assignments and pondered the questions in this study guide, you will be better prepared to experience the fulfillment of the Lord’s words when He said, “He that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:22).”

I only half listened to the Gospel Doctrine teacher as she read this from the Book of Mormon Class Member Study Guide on Sunday, so engrossed was I in preparing my notes (via mobile phone and tablet, both which sat on my lap)  gathered from the Bloggernacle and

[Read more…]

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich lecture: “Stirring up LDS History” Live Blog

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Updated to now include video of the lecture.

Sponsored by Sunstone and Friends of the Marriott Library at the University of Utah

Relief Society sisters now have a new resource—a compact history of the Relief Society called Daughters of My Kingdom. The new manual, which is to be used from time to time for lessons given the first Sunday of each month, is not only unusual for its focus on women but for its chronological organization. Most Church manuals are organized thematically, offering little scope for discussing change over time. Despite its uplifting narrative, this manual may require a new set of skills. As teachers of women’s history know, you can’t just “add women and stir.”

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich taught her first Relief Society lesson more than fifty years ago, when she was an undergraduate attending a student ward at the University of Utah. She began teaching women’s history at the college level in 1975 when she was a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire. She is the author of many books and articles on early American history and women’s history and is now completing her first book-length work in Mormon history, “A House Full of Females: Family and Faith in Nineteenth-century Mormon Diaries.” She is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University.

[Read more…]