Leapfrogging the Waves: A Nakedly Unacademic Response to “Rethinking Mormonism’s Heavenly Mother”

This is the final response to Taylor Petrey’s Harvard Theological Review article. Caroline Kline’s response is here, and Margaret Toscano’s is here.

This is going to be one of those annoying critiques that basically complains about it not being the paper I wanted to read or the one I would have written, rather than pointing out any flaws in the paper’s actual argument.

For me, the crux of the matter is in Taylor’s concise formulation on page 6: “Mormon analysis of Heavenly Mother, then, is not abstract theorizing, but rather it articulates a divine model of human gender relations and female subjectivity.” But the paper fairly rapidly devolves into precisely such abstract theorizing. Of course, that is what the Harvard Theological Review is for, and Taylor can hardly be faulted for working within the constraints of the academic discourse in which he is a participant. But the paper I would like to read is the one that situates this theorizing in lived religion, that decries the marginal place of even completely institutionally loyal apologetic feminism, that notes the thin-ness of the theological resources and calls out the official commitment to maintaining the lacuna. [Read more…]

“In Remembrance of Me”: the Sacrament of Root Beer Floats

I have a wonderful home teacher. He tries to visit every month, despite our frequent too-busyness; he remembers every child’s birthday, and mine; he shows up to baseball and basketball games and high school improv nights to cheer for my kids. Once I posted something on Facebook about how much I love lilacs, and he and his wife were at my door within the hour, arms full of gorgeous blooms–I think they must have cut down an entire lilac bush in their yard. When he asks if there is anything he can do for us, I know the question is sincere and heartfelt and would be followed by the relocation of at least a New England-sized mountain if I asked. He seems disappointed when I can’t think of anything to ask for. [Read more…]

On the Sweetness of Mormon (Studies) Life

We just heard the news that historian Ronald Walker has passed away after a long illness. Later this week, we’ll post a proper tribute to his life’s work and his wonderful contributions to our understanding of our shared faith. But today, I’m crying because his daughter is my friend and lives down the street from me, and his grandson was in my Primary class. And through my tears, I’m glad for all the ways Mormonism makes the world small enough for us to know each other, to have a right sense of the scale of things–we are all small, and we all matter infinitely.

More Love

It has been a hard week. It can’t be wrong to repost this.

 

More love, more love!

The heavens are blessing,
the angels are calling.
O Zion, more love, more love.

If ye love not each other in daily communion,
how can you love God whom you have not seen?

More love, more love,
O Zion, more love.

Afflicted Saint, to Christ Draw Near

from the 1927 LDS Hymnal, by John Fawcett

Afflicted Saint, to Christ draw near,
Thy Saviour’s gracious promise hear;
His faithful word declares to thee
That “as thy day, thy strength shall be.”
[Read more…]

Guest Post: Rough Stone Rolling Book Club

A guest post from J Stuart, of Juvenile Instructor (The BCC Farm Team)

Summer Book Club: Read Rough Stone Rolling with Historians of Mormonism

As a Mormon and historian of American religion, I’ve had a lot of people ask me what book they should read to begin their study of Mormon history. Unequivocally, my answer is Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. Weighing in at 561 pages, it is longer than the Book of Mormon—which is perhaps why so few have read Bushman’s tome from cover to cover. The book itself can be physically and intellectually intimidating to historians and non-historians alike. Many Mormons and non-Mormons have read and digested the book in order to see Joseph Smith’s place in the history of antebellum America, American religious history, or just to learn more about Mormonism’s founder. [Read more…]

The Great Vigil of Easter

Many Christian traditions celebrate an Easter Vigil. The version I have experienced is the Episcopal one, from the Book of Common Prayer. I’m not sure I have a lot to say about it, except that it’s beautiful, and that it seems familiar to me. It reminds me of the temple endowment in many ways–it is a retelling, recreation of salvific history from Creation to Fall to Atonement to Exaltation:

Let us hear the record of God’s saving deeds in history, how
he saved his people in ages past; and let us pray that our God
will bring each of us to the fullness of redemption.

 

One of my favorites of the sermons I’ve been able to publish in Dialogue is an Easter Vigil sermon; I think it gets at both what might seem familiar to Mormons and what might be strangely, newly lovely in it. [Read more…]

Wednesday in Holy Week (Tenebrae)

 

In the Anglican tradition, a service called Tenebrae is often celebrated on Wednesday in Holy Week. According to the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services,


Apart from the chant of the Lamentations (in which each verse is introduced by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet), the most conspicuous feature of the service is the gradual extinguishing of candles and other lights in the church until only a single candle, considered a symbol of our Lord, remains. Toward the end of the service this candle is hidden, typifying the apparent victory of the forces of evil. At the very end, a loud noise is made, symbolizing the earthquake at the time of the resurrection (Matthew 28:2), the hidden candle is restored to its place, and by its light all depart in silence.

[Read more…]

Epiphany II

We celebrated “Little Christmas” in my house growing up (mostly as the day to take down the Christmas tree), but it was only vaguely connected with the arrival of the magi in my understanding until much later. In college, I sang for the morning prayer service, a wonderfully awkward mashup of Harvard pomp and attempts at Christian humility. It was there that I first heard this memorable passage from Evelyn Waugh’s forgettable and forgotten novel Helena. In a passage near the end of the book, the titular Helena, sainted (literally!) mother of the emperor Constantine, has made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem in search of the vera crux. At the Feast of Epiphany, she muses on the Wise Men’s belated arrival to worship the infant Christ. This prayer has become the beloved ending of my personal observance of Christmas. [Read more…]

…And Bitter Weeping

Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in [Peshawar], lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.

Music, when Soft Voices Die


Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.
–Percy Bysse Shelley

[Read more…]

A Confession and an Apology

Please forgive a self-indulgent post.

I have been one of the people who has thought and said that it’s unreasonable for members of the Church to feel betrayed when they discover facts about Church history that they hadn’t encountered in the official curriculum. I’ve thought that such ignorance reflected intellectual laziness for not having done a little bit of homework to learn about our history, and/or emotional immaturity for “flying off the handle” in the face of the belated discovery.

I was wrong and I am sorry.

[Read more…]

Yes! Women Count!

Happy news: the people responsible for the llama credits have been sacked, and the General Women’s meeting will henceforth be called “General Women’s Session of general conference.” It’s a gesture that matters, despite its bureaucratic nature and relatively small impact. I hope it will be received graciously, with a recognition that “out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”

Tanner Lecture TOMORROW in SLC

If you’re in the SLC area, don’t miss David Campbell tomorrow night at the SLC Library. David is an engaging, fun speaker (besides being wicked smaht!) Details below: [Read more…]

Temple and Observatory Group Meeting

The Temple and Observatory Group is offering a seminar for those in the midst of a faith transition or crisis in the Minnesota area on
Saturday, Sept. 27 at 6125 Shingle Creek Pkwy, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430. Featured speakers include Terryl and Fiona Givens and Spencer Fluhman.

The event begins at 10:30 and goes until 3:30.

Dear Membership Software People

Please make sure that the membership software prompts a ward clerk to ask recently-married women about their preference for their surname. It’s 2014. [Read more…]

Some Thoughts on the Role of Men in the Church

…wrote no one, ever.

QED

Balm in Gilead

[Read more…]

Music for Sunday

[Read more…]

Things My Father Taught Me (by accident)

My dad taught me a lot of things on purpose–of all the roles fathers play, I think the role of teacher was the one he was most comfortable in. But he also taught me a lot of lessons that I’m pretty sure he didn’t realize he was giving at the time. Here is a partial list: [Read more…]

Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Almost Gone

Mormon Lectionary Project: Emma Hale Smith

MLP

MLP

Emma Hale Smith
Proverbs 31, Psalm 51John 11:16, John 14:1-5, Ephesians 2:13-22Jacob 2, Moroni 7:40-48, Doctrine and Covenants 25

 

Miserere (Psalm 51)– Josquin, Brahms, Hurd

“In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions” (McDermid 1908)

Know This, That Every Soul is Free (First hymn in Emma’s original hymnal)

Amazing Grace (included in Emma’s Nauvoo collection of hymns)

Today we remember Emma Hale Smith, the Elect Lady of the Restoration and wife of Joseph Smith. The readings are about love and doubt, and the ways that they live together in every broken human heart. Emma, like the Apostle Thomas, like most of us, was hopelessly twinned–she loved and she doubted. And perhaps this is as it should be. Joseph, like all human beings, was not perfect, not entirely worthy of the perfect love and trust we owe only to God, who never compels our love or condemns our questioning. Emma’s great gift to the Saints, perhaps, is her example of letting her heart be broken again and again, without ever giving up the integrity of her soul. And while we Brighamites  have sometimes let our knowledge of Emma’s doubt obscure our memory of her devotion and love, it is hopeful that we are learning, as the body of Christ, to honor Emma again, to recognize that the Father’s house has many mansions, and that Christ has “broken down the middle wall  of partition,” both between our own doubting and loving selves, and between us as Saints of an ongoing restoration, to make us “fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”

The Collect: O God, who sent thy Son, “for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace,” make us also new persons. Break down the partitions in our hearts and minds; let us find reconciliation in the midst of doubt, that we may love Thee and each other with whole hearts. Let grace and charity abound in our remembrance of our foremothers and forefathers. Help us to sing with the saints, that the prayers of the righteous may be answered with a blessing on our heads. Amen.

Exponent II is almost as old as I am!

And they’re having a party!

Exponent II is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a speaker series featuring founding mothers and current staff members.  On April 26 in Potomac, Maryland, former EdiCoin Optor Claudia Bushman will speak with current Editor-in-Chief Aimee Hickman about Mormon feminist history and what they see for Mormon women in the near future.  Discussion and Q&A will follow and light refreshments will be served.  Tickets can be purchased at exponentii.org.

Mormon Lectionary Project: The Great Vigil of Easter

Many Christian traditions celebrate an Easter Vigil. The version I have experienced is the Episcopal one, from the Book of Common Prayer. I’m not sure I have a lot to say about it, except that it’s beautiful, and that it seems familiar to me. It reminds me of the temple endowment in many ways–it is a retelling, recreation of salvific history from Creation to Fall to Atonement to Exaltation:

Let us hear the record of God’s saving deeds in history, how
he saved his people in ages past; and let us pray that our God
will bring each of us to the fullness of redemption.

 

One of my favorites of the sermons I’ve been able to publish in Dialogue is an Easter Vigil sermon; I think it gets at both what might seem familiar to Mormons and what might be strangely, newly lovely in it. [Read more…]

Mormon Lectionary Project: Tenebrae

 

In the Anglican tradition, a service called Tenebrae is often celebrated on Wednesday in Holy Week. According to the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services,


Apart from the chant of the Lamentations (in which each verse is introduced by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet), the most conspicuous feature of the service is the gradual extinguishing of candles and other lights in the church until only a single candle, considered a symbol of our Lord, remains. Toward the end of the service this candle is hidden, typifying the apparent victory of the forces of evil. At the very end, a loud noise is made, symbolizing the earthquake at the time of the resurrection (Matthew 28:2), the hidden candle is restored to its place, and by its light all depart in silence.

[Read more…]

Halfway

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, often called Mothering Sunday. It marks the half-way point between Ash Wednesday and Easter…It’s the day when, though still observing the Lenten fast, one might apply its rule more generously. The rules are softer, there is room to breathe, your mother says you may have “just a little bit more.”
It’s a little bit like this…

A terse encounter at the rental car counter. Having paid to rent a navigation device that didn’t work properly, I had girded up my loins to ask for that portion of the rental fee to be refunded. The man behind the counter was annoyed. [Read more…]

From the Archives: The Liturgy of Jello

It’s the tri-ante-dodransbicentennial (or something like that) of the Relief Society. Hurrah! Go read the minutes.

Here’s my talk from the celebration in my ward a few years ago (with apologies for not having come up with anything better in the last 4 years!):

I have mixed feelings about our yearly celebration of the birthday of the Relief Society, starting with the nitpicky wish that we called it “founding” or “establishment” or even “anniversary” and not something as redolent of frosting and froufiness as “birthday.” The rest of the country has Women’s History Month (which still isn’t enough) but we only have Relief Society History day. Any excuse for a party will do, and I love our gatherings, but it pains me that it’s not enough time to discover a thousandth part of our heritage of faith as Mormon women. And sometimes even this single evening can feel like too much: I have finally come to accept the fact that some people, even smart, wonderful people whom I love, just don’t want to hear more stories about “pioneer women.” And, although this sentiment is profoundly alien to me, I can imagine how it might arise. [Read more…]

Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of Pretty Much Everything

Most social movements, most bureaucratic structures, most utopias, and most dreams are doomed. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t dream and try to build things. There is beauty in the ashes, especially if we figure out how polyphony works and how moments of passing discord contribute to the ultimate harmony.

We could do worse than trying to learn from William Byrd. He lived in a moment of great religious discord–Protestants and Catholics were killing each other everywhere, and the choice of whether to set music in English or in Latin was open to potentially dangerous political interpretation. He set this piece both in Latin and in English–a reminder, perhaps, that Zion is always under siege from all sides, often from those who believe they are her most ardent defenders.

Holy Innocents II

A response, of sorts, to RJH’s post. This is the text of the end of my ward’s Christmas program from last year. The program was scheduled just two days after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and we were all sick and stunned. I still think it’s too glib a response–it’s too easy to love the idea of vulnerability from a safe distance. And yet, and yet… [Read more…]

Christmas Eve

If I could only have one recording of Christmas music, this performance of Vaughan Williams’ Hodie would be it. Christmas for me is Milton in the voice of Janet Baker, and Hardy and Herbert in John Shirley-Quirk’s lugubrious baritone.

[Read more…]