No One Knows Your History Either: Some Thoughts On What It Means to Be Human

Ben’s recent post about one of the more troubling aspects of a topic that is already troubling, along with Brad’s reflections on navigating the choppy waters of infallible fallible prophetic infallibility got me thinking about  courses I took from Richard Bushman on Joseph Smith and Mormon history at Claremont Graduate University. By this point in my life and academic career I had already sufficiently studied church history to not have been particularly surprised by any aspect of our history. But we wrestled with the implications of much of it in these classes, trying to be as academically honest and unflinching as we could be.  [Read more…]

Being Someone to Sit With

A few years ago Aaron R. wrote one of the great everlasting gems of the Bloggernacle, “We come over, and sit.” The post discusses how difficult it is knowing what to do and say when someone is experiencing a devastating loss, or the agonizing  fire of a spiritual trial. He quotes a scene from Lars and the Real Girl, when after the fatal diagnosis of Lars’ fake plastic girlfriend some of the women in the movie come over and just sit with Lars, “because that is what we do in hard times.” Aaron realized that often this is precisely what is needed, just to sit and listen, to be a silent I’m-not-going-anywhere presence when everything else seems to be falling apart. [Read more…]

Philosophy of Religion: Open Theism

This is the second in a series of posts on the philosophy of religion. For other links in the series:


The Concept of God

Perfect Being Theology


Open Theism

Clark Pinnock, “The Openness of God–Systematic Theology,” a chapter from The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God [1].

[In a nutshell: Unlike the God of Perfect Being Theology, which adheres to classical, overtly philosophical notions of the divine, the God of open theism is temporal, subject to change and passion, responsive to his creatures, and endowed with less than fully detailed foreknowledge of the future as his creation unfolds. This God is not less than perfect; open theism merely asserts that the assumptions of classical theism are not adequate to describe what it would be for God to be a perfect person.] [Read more…]

New York Times Lecture and Panel at UVU–Perspectives on the ‘Mormon Moment’ February 13, 2013

From this website:

Dear Friends of UVU Religious Studies,

Utah Valley University is pleased to host Laurie Goodstein, National Religion Correspondent for the New York Times on Wednesday, February 13th from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. in UVU’s Ragan Theater. Her lecture is entitled “Perspectives on the ‘Mormon Moment’” and she will be joined for a panel discussion at 12:30 p.m. with other journalists and Mormon Studies scholars. [Read more…]

Reader Question Box #10: Punk Music Hates George Lucas (And Probably Utah, Too)

Reader Question Box is a series where we answer questions and just generally respond to Google search terms that show up in 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)

25693_104091412960941_1147212_nQuestion: “i hate utah”

Answer:  We feel your pain. There’s a lot not to like about Utah. And of course, like any location, there are plenty of reasons to like living in Utah. Like….um…..outdoor recreation……..nature…..uhhh….beautiful countryside……

Maybe we should just let Aaron B. give us his reasons, here. 




[Read more…]

Philosophy of Religion: Perfect Being Theology

This is the first in a series of posts on the philosophy of religion. For an introduction to the series, see here: 



Thomas Morris, “The Concept of God,” a chapter from his book, Our Idea of God[1]

From pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Xenophanes to psycho-analyst and philosopher Sigmund Freud, many have thought through the ages that we create God or the gods in our own images. Religious believers, of course, prefer to think that any knowledge of God’s nature comes from divine revelation coupled with reason. Nevertheless, for the believer there is always the danger that we present God too much in our own likeness, according to our own concerns and ways of seeing the world. [Read more…]

Introducing Philosophy of Religion

I teach a course on an Introduction to Philosophy of Religion. For that course, our main text is Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, edited by Louis Pojman and Michael Rea. As a primer, it’s an excellent introduction to the subject, with over 70 foundational and contemporary articles on various aspects of philosophy of religion. I’ve decided to post about the various articles in this volume, as well as provide some thoughts on how these themes might interact with Mormon theology (usually one post per article; we’ll see how far I get). [Read more…]

Wandering In His Traces

“The god appears, then is gone; and the abandoned soul must spend years wandering in his traces.”

–Stephen Mitchell, Foreword to Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies


This is what it is like to be unable to disbelieve, to be unable to hide from God even (especially) in the midst of the suffering fire or the endless depths. No different, really, than being unable to escape the traces of the lover or the eternal friend who has departed but left behind remnants and fragments that never fully disappear, but continue to mark out the contours of your world. We are left to reckon with and breathe in the traces of an absent presence. Lovers, friends, God–they have begun the song or the poem, but we are left to finish it. In the traces we begin to understand how we can come to see the faces of the lover, the friend, the very face of God in the faces of others. But also–only in this sense can howling and mourning become a terrible poetry.

How to Silence a(n LDS) Woman: You’re Doing It Wrong

Wear Pants to Church Day has come and gone. Many women did wear pants to church (most significantly, this includes women who would not have done so if not for the Pants movement) and many women did not, including otherwise supportive women. Many men wore purple ties in solidarity. By all accounts, Sunday appears to have come and gone without word of  trousered women disrupting the taking of the sacrament or calling undue attention to themselves. Their quiet and dignified comportment was no surprise, not even, I think, to detractors. In fact, looking back to Sunday, many might now dismiss it as much ado about nothing after all. But there is a significance, I think, underlying this whole phenomenon, which I know has already been discussed and debated and gnashed on ad nauseum, but a significance  that has been more or less overlooked. It’s not my intent here to provide an overview or some kind of a philosophical sum-up of the import of what occurred. You can find much more eloquent and incisive essays of that type than I could ever write all over the Bloggernacle. Here, if you have room for one more, I just want to analyze what I see as some curious parallels between the massively vitriolic response to the Pants movement (particularly on Facebook) and the experiences of the woman in the above video, Anita Sarkeesian.

[Read more…]

All Eternity Shakes: Mormonism’s Weeping God

Originally, I had set out to do a series of posts on Terryl and Fiona Givens’ The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, one post for every chapter of the book. Equal parts narcissism and unfounded optimism informed me that this was a good idea, but in the end the extremities of my work and other issues prevented me from doing this.

Instead, I had intended to do one more post addressing the depiction of God in the book. I may one day write that post. But today, there was a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. An elementary school. Children died, almost 20 of them, from what I can gather from conflicting reports. Several adults as well, likely their teachers. By the time you read this, we’ll probably know the number. We’ll eventually know the names of the victims, and the identity of the shooter. [Read more…]

Women Wearing Pants At Church BINGO

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Recently there’s been quite a hullabaloo over women wearing pants to church, sparked initially by a Mormon feminist movement pegging this upcoming Sunday as “Wear Your Pants to Church Day.” This has in turned prompted a (cough) counter-protest movement on Facebook, Mormons Against Women Wearing Pants to Church, a well-organized grassroots campaign mobilized to stop the madness. In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions we offer this informative yet entertaining game to play with your crazy pants-wearing feminist, as well as your down-to-earth, covenant-keeping friends.

I should note that nearly all of the squares were culled from actual conversations we’ve observed in response to these events.

Have fun!

Shunning Your Fellow Saints: You’re Doing it Wrong.

So a new family has just moved into the ward. They’re a little different. Okay, really, they’re quite a bit different, don’t you think? She seems more than a bit socially awkward, and his comments in Sunday School that first Sunday were way off-script. And their kids–talk about unruly, and you should know because your own have been pretty out of control at times. But nothing compared to this. It was like a realistic re-enactment of the Arab Spring in sacrament meeting last Sunday. “Look, in this ward, we kind of want to keep the Spirit here. Take your kid out for Pete’s sake.” [Read more…]

Creation Out of Givenness

So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness, a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial. The older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don’t really matter or determine our happiness. We do matter. We determine our happiness. You and I are ultimately in charge of our own happiness.

–President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Of Regrets and Resolutions,” General Conference, 2012. [Read more…]

Mormon Thought and Hindu Thought

I teach philosophy and philosophy of religion at BYU. Since I often use anthologies of philosophy of religion in my classes, I occasionally send away for forthcoming or very recent anthologies by various publishers. The latest of these is The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion, 2nd Edition. Unlike other philosophy of religion anthologies, this one has a section on the philosophical thought of various world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, African religions, Chinese religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These aren’t just overviews of these religions but comparative engagements with these religions and philosophical (western) thought.  [Read more…]

Acts of Mourning

Following the devastating destruction of his livelihood and the deaths of his children, Job tears his robe and shaves his head. Falling on the ground, he worshipfully insists that what was the Lord’s always to give must by that same token be the Lord’s to take away. Soon, he is afflicted with painful sores all over his body. Now, he collapses in a pile of ashes, heavy with lamentation and grief. [Read more…]

Living in the Shadow of the Apocalypse

In James Faulconer’s “Re-thinking Theology: The Shadow of the Apocalypse,”[1] the Apocalypse is already here. Or rather, the revelation of God’s kingdom, which constitutes the Apocalypse scripturally (rather, than, say, physically or cosmologically) is alive and present. [Read more…]

Whatever Happened to Steve Evans?

I’ve been a member of the BCC community for only about a year, but unfortunately for me, unlike the majority of my fellow bloggers here, most of that time has not included the heretofore ubiquitous, all-encompassing presence of Steve Evans.

[Read more…]

Review of “The God Who Weeps,” Part 1: The Longing Soul

The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, Introduction, pp. 1-7. 


However much we study and investigate and explore and sing and paint and write the world, the world always transcends us, escapes us, overwhelms us. No one person, group, or institution can tell the whole story or encapsulate the entire human landscape. This is, in part, because of the infinitely complex creatures we are as human beings; where we seek clarity about the world and feel comfort in the ordinariness we experience, borne out of long familiarity with the microcosmic slivers of it that we call home, this eventually gives way to awe in the face of its vast mystery and wonder. But this, in turn, is short-lived and we are hungry again for clarity and the intimacy of the familiar. Never fully content with what we have received, our souls are in a constant state of longing. [Read more…]

A Roundabout Response to Rosalynde Welch’s “Shame, Stigma, and Social Engineering”

It would seem that in most religious communities governed by Christian social and religious norms there is a tension between what might be called “natural law” or “eternal principles” and the Judeo-Christian injunction to love God and neighbor. In other words, there is a general understanding that there are certain laws or principles that universally govern these communities (chastity, health codes, rules of conduct, etc). [Read more…]

A Review of the “The God Who Weeps”: Introduction

On February 16, 2012 Terryl Givens, University of Richmond professor of literature and well-known expositor of Mormon thought, published a short piece in Sightings, the blog of the Martin Marty Center For the Advanced Study of Religion, entitled, “Romney, Mormonism, and the American Compromise.” Ostensibly a response to the the furor surrounding the practice of baptism for the dead at the beginning of the year, the piece was perhaps more importantly the first portent of Givens’ new project (with his wife Fiona Givens) of overt engagement in constructive (Mormon) theology. This passage from that article in particular is significant in this regard: [Read more…]

Fiona and Terryl Givens at Deseret Book

This Friday, October 19th, from 11:30 to 1:30, Fiona and Terryl Givens will be at Deseret Book’s flagship store in downtown Salt Lake City to discuss their recently released book The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life

See this link for more details.

Consider the Theologian: A Periphrastic Response to Adam Miller’s “Rube Goldberg Machines”


adjective /ˌperəˈfrastik/

  1. (of speech or writing) Indirect and circumlocutory
    • – the periphrastic nature of legal syntax
  2. (of a case or tense) Formed by a combination of words rather than by inflection (such as did go and of the people rather than went and the people’s)

The following is a paper I wrote for the 9th Annual Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology conference, held over the weekend in Logan, Utah. I was ultimately unable to attend and our own Blair Hodges graciously agreed to lend his sonorous voice to present it for me.

The paper was part of a panel dedicated to Adam Miller’s recent Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon TheologyRosalynde Welch, George Handley and Joseph Spencer also presented papers addressing various aspects of Adam’s groundbreaking book (unfortunately, since I wasn’t in attendance I can’t comment on these, though I understand they were superb; hopefully they make their papers available as well).  [Read more…]

Beauty and Unbearableness in Charlotte’s Web

I recently purchased Charlotte’s Web for one of my daughters. Her school teacher has been recounting various episodes from the book and she wants to read the book for herself now (God bless enthusiastic and inspiring teachers). I read it myself when I was a child, though like many of us of a slightly younger generation (I suspect) I have more vivid memories of the 1973 film version. 

The particular book I purchased is the 60th anniversary edition, and it contains a foreword written by Kate DiCamillo [1]. It’s a brief, beautiful, and poignant meditation not only on the text itself, but also  on the complex unbearableness and joy of the world we live in. I wanted to share this excerpt in particular: [Read more…]

A Historical Note on “Unorthodox Mormonism”

In a shamelessly obvious attempt to become a perma blogger at BCC, juvenile instructor Ben Park has written the following guest post. Have a heart and give him a read. 

There has been a lot of discussion about the label “Unorthodox Mormon” recently—what it means, how long this idea has been around, and what their role (if any) a “Cultural Mormon” would/should have within the LDS tradition. Most discussions seem to assume a few points concerning the concept: it entails a member of the Mormon Church who does not believe in all “mainstream” beliefs or follows every dictate from the Brethren, it is a recent phenomenon attached to Mormonism’s transition into modernity, and that individuals who fall within its parameters are forced to the margins of Mormon culture. This is an especially salient topic in online discussion, as discussion groups, podcast communities, and even several books in recent years have coalesced around supposedly “unorthodox” Mormonism. [Read more…]

From the Unfamiliar to the Impossible: Some Thoughts about Children and Grace

As a child grows up, she leaves the world of the familiar and unfamiliar and enters the world of the possible and the impossible.

I remember watching a children’s program on television when I was a child. I vividly recall a scene with a door inside a doorframe, standing alone as if supported on each side by an invisible wall, in the middle of a mountain pass. A man opened the door and you could see inside to a large carpeted room populated with furniture, a fireplace, and several other items (think something like the Wardrobe in the Chronicles of Narnia). The man pulled back from the doorframe to look on the other side of the door–nothing, just the door. He shook his head in amazement and entered the room. [Read more…]

Liveblogging Joanna Brooks on the Daily Show

[Read more…]

A New Nibley: An(Other) Approach to the Book of Mormon

In 1957 Hugh Nibley’s An Approach to the Book of Mormon appeared on the scene, the Melchizedek Priesthood manual for that year (cue the sighs of bittersweet longing for the manuals of yesteryear). In retrospect the book was an earthquake, shattering the intellectual and religious landscapes on which the Book of Mormon had been erected and creating new vistas and pinnacles from which to see and receive the book anew. It inarguably helped to shape the entire Mormon academic enterprise, a catalyst in spawning an industry of textual Mormon comparative/historical scholarship. The book signaled the beginning of a new era of academic inquiry and interest in Mormon scripture–one that is still largely with us–and scholarly investigations of Mormon texts will always be indebted to it. [Read more…]

Mormonism at the Crossroads of Philosophy and Theology: Essays in Honor of David L. Paulsen

Claremont’s Sacred Grove

[See here for detailed information about this volume as well as some early reviews]

In early 2007 I was in my second semester of a Master’s program in Religion at Claremont School of Theology (now part of a multi-religious consortium, Claremont Lincoln University). By now I had become acquainted with several other LDS graduate students who had made the unusual decision to professionally study and teach religion. We had varying interests: New Testament, Hebrew Bible, Ethics, American religious history, Philosophy of Religion, Theology. Some of us attended the School of Theology and others attended the School of Religion at Claremont Graduate University down the street (where I would eventually pursue a doctorate degree myself). Naturally, however, our shared faith brought us together as friends and colleagues, and we began meeting socially every week in what would come to be known among us as the “Sacred Grove”, in the shadow of the Kresge Chapel on campus. Some of the best and most honest discussions about faith, religion, doubt, family, scholarship, politics, and ethics I have ever had or, frankly, ever hope to have again, were held in Claremont’s Sacred Grove (sacred, indeed). [Read more…]

Apologetics. Part III.

Part II here.

What can Mormons take away from Kierkegaard and Marion? I have been suggesting that Marion (a Catholic theologian) and Kierkegaard (a Protestant philosopher) are two distinct though not totally opposed poles within which to imaginatively consider the situation in which Mormon thought and apologetics operates. These are not one-to-one correspondences of course, and I hope the differences between Mormonism and Marion and Kierkegaard are obvious. In fact, Mormonism itself could charitably criticize both thinkers on various points. I want to suggest however, that there are some interesting readings of Mormonism that Marion and Kierkegaard might productively contribute to. [Read more…]

They Lay Down Beside Her and Wept

A handful of years ago her 17 month old baby boy died. She had several other children, the oldest of whom was only nine. Her Relief Society sisters did not deliberate long. Three of them simply showed up with faces full of concern and began to clean. Sitting on the stairs, she watched them, not really comprehending why they were there. She hadn’t processed it yet, what she had just been through, what had just occurred. All of a sudden it hit her like a wave, all of it at once, and she fled upstairs to her room, collapsing on her bed in uncontrollable sobs of despair. It wasn’t long before all the cleaning tools were found abandoned. The women had made their way upstairs and all lay down on the bed beside her, silently weeping with her and holding her close.

A woman in my ward related this story today. Her story of personal salvation. The body of Christ, in all its beauty, majesty, and glory.