The Struggle for Goodness, Truth, and Belonging in a Haunted Age



  1. Part One: Ecclesial Secularism, New Atheism, and the Supposed Impossibility of Religious Moderate

           1.1 Ecclesial Secularism

           1.2 New Atheism

           1.3 The Impossible Moderate?

      2. Part Two: Hermeneutics, Humanism, and the Theological Foundations of Secularism

           2.1 Hermeneutics and Contexts of Understanding

           2.2 The (Necessary) Invention of Humanism

           2.3 The Theological Foundations of Secularism

      3. Part Three: Mormonism, Purity, and the Conditions of Truth

           3.1 Ecclesial Secularism, Fundamentalism, and Authoritarianism

           3.2 The Enchantment and Disenchantment of Religious Modernism

           3.3 Cross-Pressure and Diversities of Truth Processes

           3.4 Tribes within Tribes

           3.5 Truth-Formation and the Correspondence Logic of Purity

           3.6 Logics of Different Worlds

           3.7 Truth and Belonging

Full article in PDF format: The Struggle for Goodness, Truth, and Belonging in a Haunted Age

Preface [Read more…]

Scrooge and Marley

The first film adaptation of A Christmas Carol was a 1901 British silent film entitled, Scrooge; or, Marley’s Ghost. The film’s director, Walter R. Booth, based the film largely on the playwright J.C. Buckstone’s stage adaption of the classic Dickens tale. Intriguingly, in this version, Scrooge is visited only by his deceased financial partner, Jacob Marley; none of the Ghosts of Christmas make an appearance. Instead, Marley does the work of all three, showing Scrooge his childhood, the present miserable conditions of the family of his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit, and, finally, Scrooge’s demise. [Read more…]

4 Poems For Mourning

“This Wounded Geometry”


What is this wounded geometry circumscribing the earth?

This scarred ecology?

This shattered geography?

This grieving anthropology?


This biology of barrenness, encircled by easy, shimmering life,

hollowed out and pitted by these hallowed, pious monuments to ghosts never-born,

who still whisper in their perfect natality, crying to be protected

from the always oncoming storm.

These ghosts remain with us for a long time. Maybe always.

[Read more…]

On the CES Letter

A handful of people have asked me over the last few months about the infamous CES Letter, which is purportedly responsible for assisting thousands of people to leave the LDS Church. What do I think about it? How would I answer every one of the issues it addresses? I haven’t left the Church so how would I refute it? Enough people have inquired privately about this, that I decided to sit down and write a response, which depending on your point of view might not be worth the two cents I paid for it, but it is what it is. [Read more…]

Behold, Your Little Ones

[Cross-posted from Letters from the Vineyard]

We set great wreaths of brightness on the graves of the passionate
who required tribute of hot July flowers—
for you, O brittle-hearted, we bring offering
remembering how your wrists were thin and your delicate bones
not yet braced for conquering. [Read more…]

I’m More Than Just Another Pretty Stone

                   A Seer Stone

[Cross Posted from Mormentum]

Even though I retired quite a long time ago, I’ve gotten a lot of attention recently. I’ve heard it all before–you’re impossibly smooth, your roundness is nearly perfect, and your chocolate-colored sworls are positively mesmerizing. I get it; I’m visually quite the catch. But I’m more than just another pretty stone. I have talents and skills, passions and interests, hopes and dreams. I can make a difference in the world. [Read more…]

On Privileged Bodies: Men, the Weight of the World, and Their Stories

Originally posted at Letters from the Vineyard.

When Hannah Rosin writes about the “end of men,” it’s not hard to use her literary assist to conclude that the writing is on the wall for how men (specifically white, educated, hetero, middle class to upper class men) have lived and spoken for a long time in Western societies (not, of course, that men will cease to exist altogether). Now more than ever, human beings that do not fit the description in the above parenthesis are forming political groups, writing and publishing about their experiences and worldviews, and making their voices heard through public and shareable platforms like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, podcasts, and other social media. Power structures that prioritize men’s voices and ventures are still largely intact, but they’re weakening, and where that isn’t happening, alternative structures are being constructed to replace them. [Read more…]

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 27: “They Must Needs Be Chastened and Tried, Even as Abraham”

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.

This lesson deals with the difficulties the Saints were having in Jackson County, Missouri in 1833 and the revelations that are related to these difficulties (D&C 101; 103; 105). In the Fall of that year the Saints were driven from Jackson County, where the revelations had designated Zion would be built, to areas surrounding Jackson County, particularly Clay County. Joseph organized Zion’s Camp in response, a mostly failed endeavor, inasmuch as the purpose of the Camp was to retake Mormon lands. Later, it would be retroactively seen as providentially preparing particularly loyal men to assume positions of responsibility and leadership among the Saints. [Read more…]

Highlights from Upcoming Papers of the 2013 Sunstone Salt Lake Symposium


SALT LAKE CITY (Mormon Newswire)

In the tradition of highlights from the Mormon History Association conference, Mormon Newswire is highlighting just a few particularly interesting and possibly groundbreaking papers, panels, and workshops to be presented at the 2013 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium.  [Read more…]

Men, Sex, and Modesty

The following are a few thoughts about discourses involving sex, modesty, and power in the LDS universe, obviously from a male perspective. That part is important. Here, I want to write as self-consciously and honestly as I can about the experience(s) of being a man regarding sex and modesty. My experience will not be every man’s experience, of course, but I hope some things will resonate with other men (and women). First, a story.

[Read more…]

On the Crucial Necessity of a Faith Crisis

We’ve recently learned that Richard Bushman and Fiona and Terryl Givens will be presenting a series of seminars or lectures on managing doubt and crises of faith. In a way, we can see nearly all of their scholarly work on Mormonism devoted in some sense to this topic. I’ve read most of their work and have been privileged at various times to work under them and with them as a graduate student. Consequently, I think I might have some sense of what they might discuss, though I’m anxious to hear and weigh the details. I don’t always agree with them, but I think it’s certain that they are among the best exemplars of faithful people trying to sincerely negotiate, reconcile, and do justice to the various worlds they live and move in (academic, religious, familial, etc).
[Read more…]

Review: The Doctrine and Covenants Made Harder

The Doctrine and Covenants Made Harder: Scripture Study Questions

Author: James E. Faulconer

Paperback: 285 pages

Publisher: Salt Press LLC (February 1, 2013)

From the back cover: This is a book of questions. Just questions, no answers, though occasionally I will throw in some answer-like material to help make the question easier to understand. It is a book of questions because in my experience-in both personal scripture study and in teaching Sunday School and other lessons-questions are of more help for reflective, deep study. We learn new things when we respond to new questions, and the person who says “I no longer get anything out of my scripture study” no longer runs up against questions to think about as he or she reads. This book is intended to make reading harder-and therefore fresher-by giving such readers questions for study. [Read more…]

Highlights from Upcoming Papers of the 2013 Mormon History Association Conference


Lose Yourself (Missionary Remix)

Conference: Opposition in All Things: Perspectives on the Fall

The Mormon Theology Seminar will host a two-day conference, ”Opposition in All Things: Mormon Perspectives on the Fall,” at Utah Valley University on June 7-8, 2013. [Read more…]

The Word of Internet Wisdom

Revelation given at Provo, Utah, May 20, 2013. As a consequence of the early brethren incessantly using mobile devices for Facebooking and Bejeweling in their meetings, the Prophet was led to ponder on the matter; consequently, he inquired of the Lord concerning it. This revelation, known as the Word of Internet Wisdom, was the result.  [Read more…]

Missionaries and Murder

I recently wrote a post detailing my experiences casting out devils as a missionary. I mentioned in the beginning of that post some other strange or harrowing experiences I had undergone as a missionary, including witnessing a murder. Reflecting further on this, I recalled hearing somewhat similar stories from other missionaries. I asked my wife, who served in Manila, Philippines, if she had ever been witness to extreme violence or murder and she affirmed that, among other things, she and her companion saw a group of men descend on another man and cut his head off with a machete. [Read more…]

Missionaries and Exorcisms

Missionaries and exorcismsMy mission experience, like most mission experiences, was memorable for a number of reasons. There were the usual spiritual experiences, friends made, people served, companions fought with, tracting despised, etc. More dramatic experiences include witnessing a gang-style assassination and trying to save the victim (I ended up covered in his blood and he died on the scene); being chased for several blocks by a large, terrifyingly athletic man screaming about the horrible things he was going to do to me (luckily I reached my bike in time before I could find out what that was like); contracting back-breaking dengue fever and ending up in a hospital exactly like what you might imagine a remote third world hospital might be like (several horrible things happened there but I just walked out in my hospital gown the second time a nurse bent a needle inside my arm). You know, the things you don’t write home to mom about.

I also “performed” three exorcisms on my mission. I say “perform” because I’m not entirely sure what to make of these experiences, what standard(s) of measurement to judge them by. Before my mission I had never thought in any serious way about “spirit possession.” Accounts of encounters with evil spirits among missionaries were, however, alive and well in my mission in Guatemala, and I would continue to occasionally hear about various similar stories after I returned home.  [Read more…]

Salt Press Merges with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship: An Interview with Jenny Webb

On April 9, 2013 the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship announced that it had reached an agreement with the managing editors of independent academic Mormon publisher Salt Press to republish Salt’s current titles under the Maxwell Institute or Brigham Young University Press imprints. Additionally, the Institute would publish and distribute all forthcoming titles and include Salt’s editors in a new editorial advisory board for titles in Mormon studies. [Read more…]

Sacramental Memory

In one of the leadership training videos produced by the Church a woman talks about a particularly chaotic, frustrating day she had with her four year old. She told him she was at her wit’s end and didn’t know what do anymore. He suggested she sing “I am a Child of God,” which, of course, she then did. She said she was grateful for the opportunity to be reminded of who her child was.

There is a significant distinction between knowing (or understanding) and remembering in this little didactic story. It’s unlikely that this mother had stopped believing that her child was a child of God, and likewise it seems wrong to interpret her as becoming uncertain about her child’s eternal identity, whereas once she had been much more confident.* She said that she needed to be reminded of this. What she had known was never in doubt; it would be wrong to say that her knowledge about this thing was incomplete or had broken down. She had forgotten and needed to remember. [Read more…]

Peace and the Transformation of the Self and the World in Elder Cook and Pres. Uchtdorf

“Peace” was a consistent theme this last General Conference. Elders Cook, Eyring, Scott, Christofferson, and Uchtdorf all spoke on this topic in various ways (I’m probably missing some others who also addressed the theme of peace). Here, I specifically want to focus on Elder Cook’s talk, “Personal Peace: The Reward of Righteousness” and President Uchtdorf’s address, “The Hope of God’s Light.” I’m not going to summarize the entirety of either of these talks, which, of course, will be fully available shortly on Instead, I want to comment on a common theme in both these talks, which is a particular response to the problem of evil and suffering. [Read more…]

Recently Discovered Letter from Nietzsche Reveals Most Devastating Argument Against Christianity of All Time

A letter written by German philosopher and anti-Christian gadfly Friedrich Nietzsche was recently discovered in a home near St. Moritz, Switzerland. The letter is one of a series of letters written to various friends and transcribed in the handwriting of his friend and occasional secretary, Heinrich Köselitz, dated March 27, 1887. Philosophers have called the letter the “most significant philosophical find of the last 500 years.” [Read more…]

We Must Make Him Live Again

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:17-19) [Read more…]

Caption Contest


Write your entries in the comments. Authors of the top two entries will get the opportunity to fight to the death as gladiators in the BCC Death Arena near the center of the earth. Multiple entries are allowed and encouraged.

Womanist Theology: Black Women’s Voices

A short while ago popular LDS blogger Jane Kendrick posted on her blog about her experience of meeting with Mormon scholar and feminist Dr. Joanna Brooks. Kendrick described the beginning of the meeting in these words:

I couldn’t tell her I was a feminist at that point, I was too afraid of what it meant, so I said, “I am a womanist,” and she said to me, “That’s a great word to use if feminist scares you.” [Read more…]

On Marriage, Oneness, and Solitude

“On Marriage”

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

–Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet [Read more…]

Every Time Someone Tells Me They Like My Posts I Think of the Poor Homeless Children Who Can’t Read

Admit it. You’ve done this, too. Likely multiple times. I know I have. Just off the top of my head I can vaguely remember posting on Facebook a couple years ago that the program for a conference I was presenting a paper at–in Krakow, Poland–was just dreadfully long, and I would be presenting at the middle or the end on the third day, and how was I going to sufficiently explore this amazing city, oh my heart. I’m so depressed I’m going to go stuff myself full of that delicious kiszka ziemniaczana. (Did you know that you can only find it here, in Poland? What’s the deal with that, right?) [Read more…]

Reader Question Box #11: Panties with Garments and What To Do on a Missionary Split

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions and just generally respond to Google search terms from our website traffic monitoring statistics that led people to us. Copious oddities are to be found in the search term logs, and some worthwhile questions. (In case you missed our previous editions: #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9, #10).

Question: “Wearing panties with LDS garments.” 

Answer: We recommend that you not do this, particularly if you are a man. However, if you feel that wearing panties with garments is for some reason necessary, just keep in mind that there is a kind of order you should follow when donning both, or certain results are likely to follow. [Read more…]

Overheard in Married Student Housing

The premises of this post are simple:

1. Mormons can be really weird or strange (read: royally peculiar). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all, but

2. Married Mormons can double the weird

3. Newly married student Mormons can re-define the weird completely.

This post was suggested to me by Friends of the Blog who were discussing some of the strange stories they heard from people who had lived in married student housing on LDS campuses. Like most college campus housing units, these units aren’t usually designed for, uh, privacy. All kinds of interesting/unusual/creepy goings-on can be encountered in married student housing. In one story, for example, were accounts of couples who would sing hymns together after lovemaking.

No, seriously. Look, I didn’t say there was any conceivably good reason for this. It’s not like we could interview the post-coital choir as to what could possibly possess them to sing “I Am a Child of God” after sex. What? Haha, yeah, “How Firm a Foundation”  is even better.

Ok, that’s enough.

Tell us about your experiences in married or family student housing, LDS as well as non-LDS. Anything particularly memorable?

Applications For the Tracy McKay fMh Scholarship


From fMh: (Apply at this link): 

About one year ago one of our own Tracy McKay, BCC blogger, single mom, and student, lost the financial support of her ward. And you, the amazing loving fMh community rallied together to get her the support she needed. (we will hear an update from Tracy soon!)

We are proud to announce that this tradition of helping single Mormon mothers will live on in Tracy’s name, as the Tracy McKay fMh Scholarship for Single Mormon Mothers.

Please spread the word far and wide, pass this information along to any Single Student Moms in need of financial assistance. (Note handy scholarship links on the sidebar, look to your right near the top!)

Tracy McKay fMh Scholarship for Single Mormon Mothers
Application Requirements

A $3000 scholarship awarded once yearly. To be used for tuition, books, and supplies.

Application Requirements:
Send the following essays by April 1, 2013 to: [Read more…]