The Dialogue Diet

Faith crisis–often leading to faith transition–is a “thing” these days. Someone innocently does a google search, travels down some online rabbit hole, and soon discovers weird–sometimes really weird–stuff about the Mormon past. These substantive issues are troubling enough on their own, but pretty soon they cease to be the primary issue. Rather, the fact that the person was never taught about these things at Church becomes the dominant issue. The person feels as though she has been lied to all of her life. The image she has constructed in her mind of a church that never changes, where everything is perfect, where the prophet has afternoon tea with Jesus Christ himself every Thursday afternoon in the temple, comes crashing down around her shoulders, as she considers for the first time the very human institution that is the LDS Church. [Read more…]

Authoring the Old Testament

This post is a review of David Bokovoy, Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis-Deuteronomy (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2014); 237 pp.  This book is the first of three projected volumes, which are meant in some measure to parallel the three parts of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh: Law, Prophets, Writings). The review is written in three parts: first, some personal reflections on my interactions with the Documentary Hypothesis (hereafter “DH”: the theory that the Pentateuch was not authored as a whole by the prophet Moses, but rather was created later by one or more redactors weaving together multiple documentary sources); second, a consideration of the first half of the book, chapters 1-5, specifically on the DH; and third, a consideration of the second half of the book, chapters 6-9, on the interaction of the DH with Mormon scripture. [Read more…]

Some Notes on Moses 5:16 et seq.

This past Sunday I taught GD lesson 5.  At the beginning of class I talked a little bit about going to see The Saratov Approach.  I was kind of surprised it made it all the way out here to Chicago.  When I went to see it, I was sort of assuming I would be the only one in the theater, but I was pleasantly surprised that a pretty good sized crowd was present.  Although I only recognized one guy, my Mo-dar was burning and I’m pretty sure the audience was at least 80% Mormon; maybe even 90%. Then I had two class members read the recent SL Tribune article about the new pilot program where missionaries do service for a couple of hours a day.  I thought this was not only way interesting but also important enough to read the whole thing (and I passed around to the class the great accompanying picture of those young missionaries wearing jeans and work clothes). Then it was on to the lesson itself. [Read more…]

Breaking the Faith

As the unofficial Bloggernacle chronicler of TV shows about polygamy, it’s about time that I put up a post about the latest entry in the genre, TLC’s “Breaking the Faith,” which is about eight or so young refugees from the FLDS living in a safe house in the Salt Lake area and trying to acclimate to gentile life.  I have not seen all the episodes, but I just watched several on On Demand. [Read more…]

When Do You Take Down the Xmas Tree?

This morning on the Today show they were talking about the different times when people take down their Christmas trees and other decorations.  Some people take everything down promptly on December 26; others opt for the weekend after New Year’s; others on January 6 or 7 (to observe the full 12 days of Christmas); others more or less don’t take them down at all.  I took our tree down today (New Year’s Day), which is my normal practice.  I like to keep them up for the full holiday (the 26th is too quick a hook for my taste), but I sort of like the idea of beginning the New Year fresh.  So, as I sit here in a major snowstorm with the last hours of New Year’s Day ebbing away, I got curious.  When do you take your Christmas stuff down?

Introduction to the Old Testament

I’m doing an Intro to the OT lesson tomorrow. Below is some of the gist of what I hope to manage to get across. [Read more…]

Non-Christmas Programs in Sacrament Meeting Today

I’m a big fan of Christmas, so I was looking forward to the Christmas program at Church this morning.  While the choir sang two Christmas numbers and two of our congregational hymns were also from the Christmas section of the hymnal, the talks had nothing to do with Christmas.  We have five missionaries serving in our ward (three sisters and two elders), and each of them spoke.  I’m not sure what the theme was supposed to be, or if there even was one; I guess it was on missionary work.  I couldn’t believe it; we had visitors in the congregation who doubtless had come expecting a Christmas service, but no such service was presented; I imagine them scratching their heads as they left the building. [Read more…]

Hannah Grover Hegsted

Now that the Church has released its treatment of Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah, many of our people are going to be learning of the phenomenon of post-Manifesto polygamy for the first time.  To get up to speed one can read, for example, Quinn, Hardy and Hales, but I would like to point folks to a more intimate account, from a woman’s perspective, as to why one might have entered into such a post-Manifesto marriage.  The article I would like to suggest that you read is Julie Hemming Savage, “Hannah Grover Hegsted and Post-Manifesto Plural Marriage,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26/3 (Fall 1993): 100-117.  I recommend this article not only because it is terrific, but the subject of the piece happens to be a relative of mine.  My most famous Mormon ancestor was Thomas Grover through his wife Hannah Tupper.  Their son, Thomas Grover III married Elizabeth Heiner.  My great-grandmother was their first daughter and second child, Evelyn Maria Grover, born September 3, 1868.  Hannah was her younger sister, born November 26, 1870.  So Hannah was my Grandpa’s aunt. [Read more…]

No Longer Stooopid

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, a federal district court has ruled that the Utah anti-polygamy statute is in part unconstitutional, in effect decriminalizing polygamy.  Here is the decision if you would like to read it, although I’ll warn you it is 91 pages of dense legalese.  The court basically follows the dissent of Chief Justice Christine Durham in the 2006 Holm case, which I’ve considered to be the right approach, so I applaud this decision. [Read more…]

The Dynamics of Family Culture and the Church

In the family in which I’m a son, my mother, my oldest sister and I are all active in church.  I have two sisters and two brothers who are out of the church.  And so far as I can tell in our family dynamics, that particular status plays no role whatsoever. My family has a culture whereby one’s participation in the Church or not is essentially irrelevant to that person’s place in the family.  If you’re an active, engaged member, great.  If you’re an inactive (urgh, less active) member, fine.  If you’ve left the reservation entirely, peachy.  You’re still part of the family and we still love you without distinction. [Read more…]

Money Management

After teaching my GD class last week, I looked ahead in the lesson manual, and was dismayed that the next two lessons are grounded in genealogy stuff.  I figure I can do one lesson on that, but two in successive weeks is a little much for me.  Now that the Church has been planted in Utah territory and we’re not really doing straight history any more but more topical things, the lessons seem to be getting very repetitive (such as lots of missionary work and prophets/continuing revelation).   Last week, in the lesson on preparation and self reliance, we talked about food storage and 72-hour kits.  We had a great discussion humming when we ran out of time, so I made an executive decision to continue with the next topic I had in mind for last week’s lesson, which was personal finance and dealing with money.  So this post outlines some of the things I expect we’ll talk about in tomorrow’s class. [Read more…]

Latter-day Virgin

Earlier this month I had a birthday.  My in-laws gave me a lovely card, which included a gift certificate to Barnes & Noble.  With the closing of Borders it had been quite a while since I had had occasion to find myself in a bookstore, so I went to the local B&N with the gift card burning a hole in my pocket.  The first thing I decided to pick up was Arabic for Dummies and an Arabic dictionary.  I kind of enjoy going through the basics of a language, even if my knowledge of that language remains superficial.  I’ve done it with German, and Russian, and most recently French, and at some point I’d like to take a run at Arabic, as daunting as that alphabet looks to be. [Read more…]

Cove Fort

For many years our annual family vacation each August was to drive to Utah and visit relatives (a fairly common pattern for Mormons living in the Midwest with family back West).  As our kids got older, they started to rebel against doing that every single year.  So we came up with a compromise: we would do Utah every other year, and in the alternate years do something else.  Our first non-Utah effort would be Tennessee; two years later, we would do Washington, D.C. and Virginia.  We enjoyed the change of pace, and they were fun vacations. [Read more…]

The Facts of Life

Scene: North Junior High School, DeKalb, Illinois, circa 1969.  I’m 11 years old and attending sixth grade. Several of us are milling about in an otherwise empty classroom, waiting for the teacher to come, when a kid in my class screams out the f-word for some reason.  Being the Mormon goody-two-shoes that I was, I quickly admonish him not to use such language, adding as a toss-away after thought, “Besides, that word doesn’t even mean anything!”  He looked at me kind of funny for a moment, and then he broke out laughing.  He proceeded to tell me not only does the word have a meaning, he explained to me exactly what it was.  Shocked, I assured him my parents would never do such a thing!  But it didn’t take very much playground research to discover that, crass as he was about it, my acquaintance had been right, and I had now been enlightened as to this basic fact of life. [Read more…]

Mormon Leftover Women?

On the train coming home from work this evening I read an article in my Chicago Tribune about the phenomenon of shengnu, or “leftover women,” in China.  (Here is a copy that is not behind a pay wall.)  You really should read the article, but for the lazy among you I’ll try to hit the high points:

The Old Salt Lake Mission Home

Most of you who have served a mission spent a considerable amount of time in the Missionary Training Center in Provo (or elsewhere).  Robert Kirby’s recent article about surviving the old Salt Lake Mission Home made me realize that my five-day sojourn there for a domestic mission is an experience that probably few here ever had.  So I thought I would pull out the old journal and share my contemporary perceptions.  I was in the Mission Home for five days, from October 15th to 20th, 1977.  (Note: When I read the Kirby piece, my initial thought was that I found the Home to be fine, but I only spent five days there and not two months.  But rereading my journal, I several times called it “a drag,” so I guess I had forgotten that impression of my [limited] time there.) [Read more…]

FAIR Conference 2013

I was invited to speak at the very first FAIR Conference, which took place at Ben Lomond, California in 1999.  (If anyone is interested, my presentation from that year, “A Tale of Two Restorations,” comparing the restorations of Joseph Smith and Alexander Campbell, is available here.)  At that first gathering, the number of speakers almost exceeded the number in the audience, but still it was a lot of fun, and somehow I’ve managed to get back every year since.  The second year it was held at Alta, and then at the Provo Women’s Center (who knew Provo had a Women’s Center?), then at UVU, and for the last number of years at the Southtowne Exposition Center in Sandy.  This year’s edition will be August 1-2 (it’s always the first Thursday and Friday in August) at the new Utah Valley Convention Center near the Marriott in Provo.  Below is the schedule of presentations.  If anyone is interested in coming, here is the registration info.  Once again I’ll be there, keeping my attendance streak intact for another year.  Here are the scheduled presentations: [Read more…]

Adventures in Strangism

The last three months of my mission were spent in Pueblo, Colorado, just prior to my return home in mid-October 1979.  While I was in that area I read Russell R. Rich, “Nineteenth-Century Break-offs,” Ensign (September 1979), which includes several paragraphs on James Jessee Strang and the Strangites.  This was my very first exposure to Strangism; I had never heard of it before reading that article.  The last sentence of the Strang portion of the article reads as follows: “Since 1922 there have been two factions in the group with a total of about 250 members centered in Voree, Wisconsin; Boyne City, Michigan; Kansas City; Pueblo, Colorado; and Artesia, New Mexico.”  The accompanying footnote lists several books and a number of personal interviews conducted by the author, including ones with Joseph Flanders and Mrs. Milo Flanders in Pueblo, Colorado, on July 6, 1960. [Read more…]

The Book of Abraham

I just returned from a couple of weeks in Europe where I presented at FAIR conferences in Darmstadt, Germany and Milan and Rome, Italy, on the Book of Abraham.  (Other presentations included topics like the Book of Mormon, race issues, polygamy, and Joseph Smith’s visions.)  This was my first trip to Europe and I had a great time.  Now that I’m back, I thought I would post my remarks on the BoA here for your interest and so that I can conveniently refer people to them in the future.  [Read more…]

GD Lesson 23: “Seek Learning, Even by Study and Also by Faith”

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 is all about the value of education, both secular and spiritual, a duality suggested by the key phrase “by study and also by faith” (which also happens to be the title for the two-volume Nibley Festschrift).  Certainly translating that duality of approach into practical terms would be one possible approach to take in this lesson. [Read more…]

To Date within or without the Church?

The last time I saw my daughter, she told me that she had decided to be more proactive about meeting people.  She had signed up for a (free) online dating service, and had recently gone out with four different guys.  None of them was a hit, but the evenings were pleasant enough and she felt good about actually trying and putting herself out there.  I was proud of her and told her so. [Read more…]

GD Lesson No. 17, The Law of Tithing

We didn’t have anyone signed up to do this lesson, but since I just taught it today I thought I’d give a report on what transpired here in case it is useful to those of you who have not had it yet. [Read more…]

More Polygamy on TV

So I’m flipping channels this evening and happen upon a new show on the National Geographic Channel, called “Polygamy, USA.”  It premiered a week ago; the second episode, “Winter’s Ball,” will run later tonight.  Unlike Sister Wives, which focuses on a single family, or the Dargers, also a single family, this show gives a broader picture of the Centennial Park group in Arizona.  (Centennial Park split from the FLDS back in the 80s, and don’t practice the abuses encouraged and required by Warren Jeffs.) [Read more…]

Maharat Rachel Finegold

rachelfinegold.phpThe discussion concerning the ordination of Mormon women is a thing these days.  When seeking to think about these issues in a broader context, it has been common to compare the experience of Catholic women.  But I thought it might be instructive to take a comparative look at the latest development in the modern Orthodox wing of Judaism.  Rachel Finegold, a 32-year old Chicago woman, is poised to become the first ordained woman hired as clergy by an Orthodox synagogue. [Read more…]

Help Thou Mine Unbelief

In the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference, Elder Holland (hereafter “EH”) gave an address with the title “Lord, I Believe.”  He sets the stage by recounting the story of the father of an afflicted child, desperate for whatever help might be afforded.  The disciples were not able to provide the needed blessing.  The father then appealed to Jesus with last-resort desperation: [Read more…]

Measuring Home (and Visiting) Teaching

When I first moved to this area, the EQP extended a call to me to be the Executive Secretary over HTing.  And I was all prepared to turn him down flat; no way did I want to get sucked into that morass.  But he had anticipated my reaction, and told me he had just come from Stake leadership training, in which they had authorized contact by any method necessary.  While in-home visits by two HTers still constituted the gold standard, casual visits in other locations, phone calls, letters (this was a little bit pre-email, I think) would all count.  So with that qualification I accepted the call.  And of course we had 100% home teaching every month.  Whoever hadn’t been visited (very broadly defined) by the last week, I’d just send letters to them to make sure everyone was covered. [Read more…]

How to get our youth passionate about the BoM

I don’t know how I didn’t think of this before. The answer is simple. [Read more…]

A Small Glimpse of What Could Be

In my GD class today on AoF 4, I asked if the name John Wentworth meant anything to anyone. A couple of people mentioned the Wentworth letter. I then talked about the letter, some of the other numbered lists of beliefs from the time, and the canonization of the AoF as part of the PoGP. By the time I got to that point, there were three comments from three different guys: [Read more…]

D&C Lesson 8: The Restoration of the Priesthood

As Joseph and Oliver worked on the translation of the Book of Mormon, they came to this passage in 3 Nephi 11: [Read more…]


(In case you’ve been living in a cave and don’t know who Manti Te’o is, read my prior post from before the revelation that his dead girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never even existed.) When Deadspin first broke this story, my first thought was that this was a closeted gay strategy to explain why he wasn’t dating girls. But that was before reporters started digging in earnest and information about what happened started trickling out. I had assumed that Manti had not dated during his 3 1/2 years at Notre Dame, but a couple of ND sources with knowledge informed me that was not the case. Also, if this were set up to shield Manti from questions about his sexuality, the mastermind would have been a friend of his and setting all this up for his benefit. But we now know he created the fake Kekua persona previously and tried to play other people with it as well. So I gave up on the gay angle. [Read more…]