Conspiracy Theory, Ritual Abuse, and the Rise of QAnon in Mormondom, Part II

We live at a time when conspiracy theory is spreading. This is my fourth post on its particularly Mormon manifestations. See the first here, the most recent here, and part I of this post here.

Current news is this: According to David Leavitt, Utah County attorney, Utah County sheriff Mike Smith has accused Leavitt of participation in what Smith calls “ritualistic child sexual abuse,” involving cannibalism and child sex trafficking.

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The White Protestant Assumptions In The Word “Cult”

Here’s what you’re actually saying when you call something a cult.

1. The world ‘cult’ derives from the Latin ‘cultus,’ which simply means worship.

2. In the late nineteenth century some of the earliest scholars of religion began using it to describe the worship practices of so-called ‘primitive’ societies.  These people  believed that cultures evolved like species did, and that religious systems that emphasized ritual were inherently primitive, as opposed to religious systems that emphasized theology and ethical behavior, which were advanced. They believed this because they were Protestant and placed their own way of being religious on the top of the evolutionary ladder.

Of course, this had racial implications. “Cults” were religious systems that non-Protestants (and particularly non-white) people participated in; religion was what white people did.

3. Following this, in the early twentieth century, conservative Protestant evangelicals began to use the word “cult.” They, like the academics, used the word to refer to forms of Christianity that were, to them, fake Christianity: that is to say, non-Protestant. So, Roman Catholics and Mormons were cults because they mixed “real” Christianity with things that conservative Protestants thought weren’t really religious – like, for instance, ritual, or a charismatic leader. Again, though, “cult” meant to them “non-Protestant.”

4. In the 1960s and 1970s, these Protestant assumptions had sunk deeply enough into American culture that psychologists and sociologists started using the term to refer to religious systems that they found troubling. It was no mistake that most of these were Asian. Transcendental Meditation, formulated by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India in the 1950s. The Unification Church, founded by Sun Myung Moon in Korea in the same time period. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (the Hare Krishnas) founded in the 1960s by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 

These religious movements did not seem religious at all because they weren’t Protestant. They demanded special dress from their believers (something virtually all religious traditions other than Protestantism require). They (like Roman Catholicism) had a charismatic leader. They pressed their followers to behave economically in distinctive ways. They emphasized ritual. And of course, they were led by people who were not white.

5. What people think they’re saying when they say “cult” is a religious movement that is abusive or dangerous in some way. If that is what you mean, simply say that. Use the phrase “abusive” or “dangerous” religion.  When you use the “cult” in a derogatory way, what you are doing is

a) implicitly asserting that only Protestantism is genuine religion, because the various meanings of “cult” we use today all stem from the idea that Protestantism should be normative: cults are religions that have charismatic leaders (Protestantism doesn’t); cults are religions that separate themselves from society (which Protestantism does in some countries, but not in the US, because Protestantism is dominant in society here); cults are religions that are “high-demand” (which Protestantism is not in the US, because it, again, frames what society is already like so it doesn’t have to be high-demand) and so on;

b) putting yourself in alliance with conservative evangelicals from the 1940s by assuming that these things are normal, and

b) drawing on a rhetorical legacy deeming the religious practices of non-white people as primitive.

So: don’t call religions “cults.”

Conspiracy Theory and the Idea of Freedom: The Lessons of Bo Gritz

We live at a time when conspiracy theory is spreading. This is my third post on its particularly Mormon manifestations. See the first here and the second here

In 1985, James “Bo” Gritz received a patriarchal blessing. According to him, a few years later, it promised “the gift of discernment,” and “the ability to explain in words people will understand. You will have multitudes that will follow you. They will have no allegiance to you. They will only have allegiance to what it is you stand for.”

Regardless of how accurately Gritz reported on the blessing, this was certainly how he liked to perceive himself. He possessed special insight as a result of spiritual gifts; he stood for a Cause, not personal aggrandizement; nonetheless, he was part of a movement.

When Gritz received the blessing he was well past forty, but this was because he was a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His conversion was similarly dramatic—the product, in part, of the same impulses that drove his interpretation of his blessing.

Gritz was a career soldier, a Vietnam veteran, and by all accounts a sterling officer, the recipient of multiple honors and praised all the way up the military chain of command. He retired after thirteen years of service at age forty in 1979. He remained restless, though, and drank deep of the anti-government cynicism that pervaded the 1970s: the product of American withdrawal from Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, and the growing mobilization of conservative thinktanks, funded by major corporations, that steadily blasted regulation as the death of freedom.


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The Mormon Quadrilateral: Or, the Problem With “Speaking as a Man”

In the comment section of various Utah news websites, on the Church’s social media feeds across the Internet, a phenomenon is manifest. Usually confined to agonized supporters of lefty social politics, it is now the vax-suspicious and anti-maskers who are crying out that Russell M. Nelson, sustained as a prophet by Church members, is “speaking as a man.”

That slightly awkward phrase has a long history. Ezra Taft Benson actually used it in “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” his defiantly anti-modern sermon that asserted that prophecy is the ultimate trump card over all other forms of knowledge. J. Reuben Clark explored the idea in his own 1954 BYU address. Its usage probably goes back to a line in the 1838-1856 “History of the Church.” Written by scribes in the voice of Joseph Smith, the 8 February 1843 entry reads; “This morning I read German, and visited with a brother and sister from Michigan who thought that “a Prophet is always a Prophet”, but I told them that a Prophet was a Prophet only, when he was acting as such.”

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Conspiracy Theories, Ritual Abuse and the Rise of QAnon in Mormondom

We live at a time when conspiracy theory is spreading. This is my second post on its particularly Mormon manifestations. See the first here

In 1983, Judy Johnson accused her estranged husband, Ray Buckey, of molesting their young son at the preschool where he worked. The McMartin Preschool, in Manhattan Beach, California, was a family business founded by Buckey’s grandmother Virginia McMartin, and operated by her children and grandchildren.

The police found little evidence for Buckey’s guilt, but as a precaution they sent a long form letter out to hundreds of parents whose children attended the school. The letter stated that Buckey was being investigated and asked parents to question their children if employees of the preschool had committed any of a series of detailed acts. The Children’s Institute International, a child abuse therapy clinic, was brought in to consult and by 1984 staffers had interviewed more than 400 children. They received dozens of reports. The McMartins were mutilating animals; they were dressing in robes and digging up corpses in front of children; they were holding satanic rituals in secret rooms and tunnels under the preschool accessed through a variety of methods, including down the toilets. [Read more…]

Internet Videos, The Second Coming, and Conspiracy Theory

Recently, a YouTube video called “7 Year Tribulation in the SEVENTH Seal Timeline” has become extremely popular. There’s no way to know whether most or all of its more than half million viewers are LDS or not, but it’s targeted directly at Church members. The video uses LDS scripture, cites Church leaders and publications, and makes a case for the Second Coming happening most likely in 2024 but no later than 2033.

Of course, there have been no shortage of millennial prophecies both inside and outside of the Church, but those willing to specify dates with the precision of this video producer are few and far between. There are a number of reasons why people might avoid being so bold as to offer precise dates.
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#BCCSundaySchool 2019: “Glory and Power Be Unto the Lamb Forever,” Revelation 1-11

It’s fun to talk about how incomprehensible the book of Revelation is. Famously written in pretty rough Greek, and full of lurid imagery that’s thrown at you in a rather boggling order—in general, the structure is built around multiple series of seven things (dishes, trumpets, wax seals on a very long scroll), but not always, and it’s easy to lose track because within any given one of these series there are long lists of other things—the book seems designed to be confusing and mysterious and esoteric.

(That sentence, of course, gives you something of a sense of the book.)

Perhaps that aura is why it’s proven so attractive to people interested in lurid and esoteric things, like conspiracy theories about the New World Order.  But it’s critical to observe that within its text Revelation nowhere claims to be a coded timeline of the events leading to the Second Coming and Last Judgment. Claims that it is that are understandable; they’re attempts to reduce an extremely difficult text to something easily comprehensible.

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#BCCSundaySchool2019: “Ye Are the Body of Christ”

1 Corinthians 8-13


Many of the more quirky traits of Paul’s letters are evident in 1 Corinthians 8. The chapter is, first of all, a valuable illustration of the complicated nature of scripture. Paul’s letters are often dashed-off and wandering productions, dictated to scribes frantically scrambling to stay engaged with Paul’s meandering trains of thought (see, for instance, 1 Cor. 16:21; Romans 16:22), preoccupied with issues not fully explained (in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul tells us the letter we are reading—that is, 1 Corinthians itself—is Paul’s reaction to a letter from the Corinthians in which they are complaining to and querying the apostle. We know next to nothing about that letter), and intensely engaged with apparently mundane but today obscure and confusing beliefs and practices.

1 Corinthians 8 gathers all these points together. But it also illustrates Paul’s gift for taking seeming trivialities and drawing powerful themes from them. [Read more…]

Lesson 25: It is Finished. Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19 #BCCSundaySchool2019

The Seven Words of Jesus.

These chapters deal with the consummation of the ministry of Jesus: his suffering, crucifixion, and atoning death on the cross.

It’s first worth reflecting on the bizarre enormity of this event, and the extent to which the centuries have normalized it. It’s cliché among Christians to say that the faithful Jews of Jesus’s day did not expect a Messiah like him, but it’s worth pointing out exactly how logical this was, and how consistent with human nature.

It is easy in retrospect to valorize persecution and condemn persecutors: many religious groups (the Saints included) do this cultural work. Witness how the Church today remembers the arrest and imprisonment of Joseph Smith in Missouri, absolving him from any wrongdoing and attributing to him only righteous anger and noble sentiments. But how might we react today should the president of the church, say, storm into the Capitol Building in Washington DC, vandalize and destroy it, and be arrested and tried for treason?

How comfortable are we with a truly countercultural faith; one which would undermine those embedded assumptions that nearly all Americans take for granted: the comforts of our wealth and leisure, our fixation on our consumer-driven lifestyles, our shared devotion to meritocracy?  How many of us would, like Peter, James, and John do in the Gospel of Mark, willingly give up our incomes and jobs and homes and begin to live as roaming, wandering preachers, if Jesus asked us to? To what extent do we see Jesus in the homeless, the poor, the oppressed, and are we really ready to do what it takes to be with them and stand with them? Or would we uncomfortably call following in Peter’s footsteps cultish and wait for the Netflix documentary?  Are we too satisfied with the easy prejudices that come with assuming that our own lifestyles and traditions and tastes are (luckily) the same as God’s?

Indeed, the Jews were expecting the Messiah to offer political liberation from the Romans, because their scripture and tradition and expectations had taught them to. The analogue to Jesus in the Hebrew Bible was King David, God’s “messiah”—which means, simply, God’s anointed one. The Hebrew prophets repeatedly affirm that God’s kingdom would come again, and, of course, David had created that kingdom before. They were comfortable with a faith which conformed to their cultural expectations, and so, very often, are we.

So when Jesus begins preaching, as Matthew puts it, the “gospel of the kingdom of God,” how are we to understand that?  How does Jesus challenge the ways in which we are blind to the kingdom of justice, mercy, and redemption that he calls us to? How does the crucifixion shatter the ways that we are blind to the injustices and sins which must be eradicated before that kingdom might come forth?

Across the four gospels, Jesus speaks seven times while on the cross. These utterances are called the “seven words” of Jesus, and given the traditional order, they mark a progression to the kingdom of God; Jesus enacting and creating what he has so often promised and taught.
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#BCCSundaySchool2019: “Behold, Thy King Cometh”


Matthew 21–23; Mark 11; Luke 19–20; John 12

These passages cover Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the Temple. John puts the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Christ’s ministry; the three synoptics (Matthew, Mark, Luke) put it toward the end. It is the inciting incident which leads the Jerusalem elite to seek Jesus’s death for Matthew, Mark, and Luke; as Mark has it, in 11:18 (KJV):

And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.

How should we understand what was happening here?  The first thing to note is that the people doing business at the temple were not necessarily doing wrong, so we cannot read this story as a critique of a self-evident crime; it’s not as though these were people hanging around selling souvenirs in a sacred place.
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Mormons and Israel

Amber Taylor recently received her PhD from Brandeis University. She was a Schusterman Fellow, and her dissertation dealt with American Christian relations with the State of Israel, particularly relating to Christian pilgrimage in the Jewish State. We’re grateful to her for this post!

The recent controversy over Ilhan Omar’s comments on American support of Israel brings up an interesting question for Latter-day Saints. What is the Latter-day Saint stance on Israel and the conflict over the Holy Land? The answer is, of course, it’s complicated.

In the early years of the Church, Latter-day Saints shared, and even expanded upon, early American excitement over the idea of an imminent Jewish restoration to their ancient homeland. The idea occupied much of Joseph Smith’s writing, and in 1841 the apostle Orson Hyde made a now almost mythical journey to Palestine to dedicate the land for Jewish return. This historical and theological foundation has long loomed large in Latter-day Saint memory. [Read more…]

Lesson 3: We Have Come to Worship Him: Luke 2, Matthew 2 #BCCSundaySchool2019

The texts for this lesson are Luke 2 and Matthew 2. I welcome the opportunity to put these two chapters in juxtaposition both for what the comparison might tell us about the content (that is, the infancy of Jesus) but also the medium (that is, the two Gospels themselves). Examining them in tandem, far more than reading them individually, teaches us something about how to read scripture generally, and the Gospels in particular. [Read more…]

Lesson 40: Enlarge the Place of Thy Tent – Isaiah 54-56, 63-65 #BCCSundaySchool2018

As mentioned in previous #BCCSundaySchool posts, there is much scholarly discussion about the origins of the Book of Isaiah, and various scholars have identified two or three distinct sections in the book. Where precisely one might draw the boundaries between these sections, and whether or not one believes them to have been produced by different authors, the structure within Isaiah they identify is useful for extracting meaning from the text. Our selections today (Isaiah 53-56; 63-65) come from what are usually identified as the latter two sections of the book. It should be noted there is some debate about where the second section ends and the third begins, and also whether there is a third section at all. But regardless—what we hear in the words of the last dozen or so chapters of Isaiah is the prophet’s fervor ascending to a crescendo, and what we see in his imagery is a vision of Zion ascending in a glory heretofore undescribed in the Bible. [Read more…]

Lesson 35: God Reveals His Secrets to His Prophets #BCCSundaySchool2018

This lesson, covering (among other passages) the Book of Amos, is representative of the ways the Sunday school manual treats a topic: it offers us a few verse snippets and asks us to apply them to contemporary Mormon practice through discussion; in this case, Amos 3:7 – “Surely the LORD God will do nothing but he revealeth his secrets to his servants the prophets.”

This of course means something in terms of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today, wherein the word ‘prophet’ implies leader of the church, one who makes policy that Mormons abide by. This meaning is not necessarily antithetical to the meaning of the word in the Hebrew Bible, but taking Amos to be necessarily and completely referring to the Utah inheritors of Joseph Smith forecloses the interesting things that the Book of Amos is doing with the concept of prophecy—and understanding that cannot but enrich what Mormons mean when they say they have a prophet today. [Read more…]

Lesson 18: Be Strong and of a Good Courage #BCCSundaySchool2018

Lesson 18: “Be Strong and of a Good Courage”

The essential question of the Book of Joshua is what it means to be a member of the House of Israel. At the end of Deuteronomy Moses challenges the Israelites, offering them a stark dichotomy:
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Roundtable on The Power of Godliness, Part III

Jonathan Stapley’s new book is only 129 pages of text, but it feels much longer. This is not, thankfully, because the prose slogs. Rather it is one of those books that makes every word count. There is no fluff here, only finely sanded insight after insight, with all coarse surface and redundancy polished away. Stapley’s strengths are twofold. First, his archival work is unparalleled. For every assertion he has an anecdote. He meticulously marks fine nuances in opinion among his subjects, and those subjects are as frequently obscure figures like Steven Markham, John Steele, or Margaret Anderton as they are more familiar Mormons like Joseph F. Smith or Zina D.H. Young. His attention to such figures is essential to his second strength: the deep pattern of his argument. The process of producing the Mormon liturgy in all its parts and rituals, he argues, was and often remains the collision between the planned and the inadvertent.

Mormon leaders—be they Joseph Smith or Joseph F. Smith or Eliza Snow—conceived or introduced new rites, like a ceremony to seal a couple together. Mormons balked, or reinterpreted them. Mormons began dedicating their graves or their homes; Mormon leaders scrambled to catch up and codify a ceremony already happening. Through this messiness, Stapley argues, not only have Mormons generated a liturgy, but—because, as he rightly notes, liturgy is a powerful route by which worshipers conceive of the cosmos—they have gradually altered the ways they conceive of what it means to be a Mormon in the universe. [Read more…]

Lesson 14: “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me” #BCCSundaySchool2018

Learning Outcomes:
To encourage class members to partake of the Lord’s spiritual water and bread, sustain his chosen leaders, and obey his commandments so he can make of them a “holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).

Exodus 15-20, 32-4
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Porter, Bishop and the Weakness of God

And here too are quotations I have come across recently . . .  Guardini, “The Church is the Cross on which Christ is crucified, and Christ cannot be separated from his Cross.”

Dorothy Day

More than anyone else, those who want to follow God must understand that. We are his cross. He will not leave us, but we are his cross, regardless.


A series of stories published recently by the Salt Lake Tribune revealed Joseph Bishop, who served as president of the Missionary Training Center in the 1980s, appears to have confessed to inappropriate sexual contact with at least one female missionary who served under him. When one victim went to a local bishop, he dismissed her out of hand. When asked to recount the conversation, which took place during the 1980s, that bishop explained he doubted her because an MTC president would have been thoroughly “vetted.” [Read more…]

Notes Toward an Understanding of the Fourth Question in the Temple Recommend Interview

Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?

1. Note, first, the “and” in the first sentence. This is where we should begin. “Priesthood” and “prophethood” are not the same thing, and if we are to fully grasp the function of each we need to understand the distinction. Scripturally speaking, “prophet” is not an ecclesiastical office. No one is ordained to be a prophet, and nor does the role necessarily confer ecclesiastical authority (that is, governing responsibility in a religious hierarchy). On the other hand, in the LDS tradition men are ordained to priesthood, and the role bears with it ecclesiastical responsibility and authority. Insofar as Mormons use the term “prophet” to mean “the man in charge of the church” (a colloquial usage that developed in the mid-twentieth century), they are conflating a distinction that exists in the Bible, in Latter-day Saint scripture, and in this question. [Read more…]

Ted Chiang, “Arrival,” Mormons, Science Fiction, Angels, Time Travel, Sex, Free Will, The Tower of Babel, and the Secular: A Roundtable

You probably heard of, and might have seen, last year’s Best Picture nominee Arrival. I did, and liked it, and so eventually picked up Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others, the collection that features “Story of Your Life,” the short tale of alien contact and the ways in which it upends how humans think about language and time that the movie is based on. The collection’s other stories roam far beyond the hard sci-fi of Arrival: one, set in what appears to be roughly the same world as Disney’s Aladdin, explores the traditional problems of time travel (What if, like Marty McFly, you stop your parents from falling in love? That sort of thing, more or less) by insisting upon a sort of humanist determinism. We cannot change anything but ourselves, but over our own lives we have the powers of atonement and forgiveness. Another, “Tower of Babylon,” posits that the cosmology of the compositors of the Book of Genesis – a flat world encompassed by a firmament holding back great waters – is in fact correct, and examines how, given that world, the Tower of Babel might have worked. A third imagines a Victorian England in which Jewish gemetria, the mystical power embedded in the numerical value of letters, is a real force that might be industrialized. In short, Chiang’s work is simultaneously powerfully imaginative, in that he thinks through the logical ramifications of worldviews that we moderns have dismissed – and in some ways powerfully secular. There is little room for the mystical or the transcendent in his vision: in the story “Hell is the Absence of God,” which many of the below readers think through, God is simultaneously an empirical, demonstrable reality – angels regularly appear to humanity; souls ascending to Heaven are visible as they fly through the air; Hell can be perceived within the great cracks of the earth – and completely inscrutable, because his intentions, purposes, and the reasons he sends angels to proclaim his glory while simultaneously calling massive traffic accidents and the like are quite opaque.

In an odd way, Chiang’s world bears some resemblance and some divergence to that of Mormonism: his cosmos is rational, which many defenders of Mormonism assert is a great virtue of their own theology, but also a-modern, defiant against the colonizing power of the ways we think we know the world works. Mormons believe that God is discoverable; Mormons would recoil, though, at this God’s resistance to interpretation.

Given these provocations, I asked some smart people to read the book and think through some of these ideas out loud. Below are their reactions.

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Indiana Jones Is The Avatar Of Mormonism’s Intellectual Golden Age

By Megan Harris & Matt B


Thesis: We would like to remind you all that Indiana Jones is definitely Mormon. Probably a jack-Mormon, but definitely a Mormon.  In fact, to understand Indiana Jones is to understand post-Brigham Young, pre-David O. McKay Mormonism: the era sometimes called the golden age of Mormon intellectual life.

Postulate: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles do not exist.


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Mary, Thomas, and the body, broken

John 20:11-29

11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. [Read more…]

The Cross on the Tombstone


To reach B.H. Roberts’s grave in the Centerville City Cemetery you have to pass through those areas of southern Davis County where Utah still feels very much like the small town it was when Roberts settled here as a youth. Grass runs up to the asphalt of the road, the homes are as frequently generations-old brick cubes as they are modern miniature mansions, and every few lots even those give way to the rows of a garden or orchard, tended still by hand. There are few buildings higher than two floors, and the mountains loom only a stone’s throw behind. At night the deer edge warily into the flower beds.

The graveyard likewise draws you back to the near borders of frontier Mormonism. There are rows upon rows of McKays and Bensons and Pratts, and other families formed through plural marriage whose children still bring their dead here, and rarely must come far. Roberts’s grave is at the top of the cemetery, on a gentle rise, next to that of his first wife Sarah Louisa Smith and near his second, Celia Dibble. There is a budded cross graven on his tombstone. [1]

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Zane Grey, Arthur Conan Doyle, the Associated Press, and the Resuscitation of the Avenging Angels


If there’s anything that, in comparison, might normalize polygamy to that vast majority of Americans for whom Mormons are but cultural curiosities, it’s probably blood atonement.  I’ve earlier written in this space about the ways in which representations of Mormonism in HBO’s Big Love reflect a certain religious ethos on the part of the producers; the show is in a lot of ways a leap forward in the cultural normalization of Mormonism precisely because it is capable of imagining its Mormon (and by ‘Mormon’ I mean followers of Joseph Smith; this strikes me as a more useful definition of the term than any other) characters as basically normal people, who take their SUVs to the hardware store and have kids with part time jobs. And indeed, this normalization of people in previously exotic marriage relationships is in all likelihood the producers’ agenda. If their ratings are any indication, they may be succeeding; indeed, it appears that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can come into the very heart of their adversary, to the shadows of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, and garner sympathy.[1] Religious freedom and all that. [Read more…]

Big Love: Res Publica


Last week, for probably the first time in history, TV Guide broke controversial news. And this week, it came to pass; Big Love showed a portion of the LDS temple ceremony; specifically, a fraction of a prayer circle and a portion – probably the most sensitive portion – of the veil ceremony. The consequent and rather predictable Mormon uproar has taken the form of a rally to protect the temple; tiresome email petitions and facebook groups and YouTube videos abound. But what, beneath the surface, is this debate really about? Big Love is a complicated show, and deserves an interpretation that scratches below the surface. [Read more…]

On relics


Two stories:

First –
I moved to the DC area about two years ago. Early on, I attended services with an uncle and aunt in their Northern Virginia ward. When I walked down the hallway, I did a double take. There’s a piece of wood from the Joseph Smith Palmyra cabin hanging from the wall. It’s framed. I noticed a group of Primary kids filing down the wall. As they passed, each reached up and touched it. [Read more…]

If ye are not one . . .

Matt Bowman continues as a guest blogger at BCC.

Over at the Thang, Geoff is interested in your experience with “prospering.” In response, Eric raised what I think is an interesting point — that he had always understood scriptural promises of prosperity as collective, rather than individual. [Read more…]

Our heritage


My first (and so far, only) sacrament meeting talk came when I was about eleven.  I was allotted five minutes on a hot Sunday afternoon in late July to talk about my ancestors.  I was baffled.  I was eleven; I didn’t know anything about my ancestors.  How was I to make such a seemingly esoteric topic relevant to a group of people who, in my eleven-year-old mind, couldn’t have cared less that (as my confused inquiries with relatives taught me) one of my maternal great grandfathers was once Davis County Commissioner of Education?  After grappling for weeks to find terms that would make these people fit into what I dimly perceived to be the parameters of Mormon discourse, I stepped to the podium and said, “I’d like to tell a story about modern-day pioneers.”

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Thoughts on Mormon art and the impending production of The Book of Mormon Movie Volume II: Zarahemla.

Matt Bowman continues as a guest blogger at BCC.

Or, as I like to call it, TBOMM-VII:Z. The first movie -The Book of Mormon Movie — Volume I: The Journey (or TBOMM-VI:TJ) -was, as Rod Kimball would say, “all heart.” (Then he said something else which I won’t repeat here.) I saw the thing twice in theatres and bought it on DVD, partly because I fell in love with the absolute earnestness and sincerity that dripped off of every frame. It had the sort of passion and holy-crow-we’re-making-a-movie energy that only first time projects really do. I could easily picture the sort of pep circle that you see in the locker room tunnel before NBA playoff games happening on the set every morning. It was also a good example of a tendency I’ve noticed in much of Mormon art. [Read more…]

Rock and Roll and the Holy Spirit


In Cameron Crowe’s brilliant movie Almost Famous, a sage rock guru (played with boozy slyness by Philip Seymour Hoffman) offers the young William Miller, high school student cum aspiring rock journalist, a fifteen-year-old about to embark upon a decidedly atypical coming of age journey, a profound piece of advice.

“You cannot make friends with the rock stars.”

Would that we all needed this advice. [Read more…]