The Body

Your body didn’t look like you, Dad, not anymore. It seemed like some wax figure of you, some rough approximation, but thinner, older, without the spark that made you what you are. You didn’t look anything like your driver’s license photo from years ago. Mom had called the home teachers, and we went together to the funeral home with your temple bundle. There, in a small back room, we men offered a word of prayer and began the work of dressing you for the last time. [Read more…]

The Laundry List

People sometimes talk about what changes they’d like to see at Church.  I’ve decided to compile a little list of things that I would change, provided that (a) my voice mattered and (b) God ever ratifies my list.  These items are in no particular order.  Some may respond that the Church already offers some of these things.  If so, you’re welcome to explain in the comments.  My response, generally, will be that there are pockets within Mormonism where such things are offered/taught, but not as a general matter. [Read more…]

So about that Op-Ed

I provided a brief op-ed to the Salt Lake Tribune about the BYU situation. They tell you never to read the comments, but I’ve seen some floating around the internet and wanted to address a couple of points.

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Campus Rape: What’s Left Unsaid

A few weeks ago, I participated in a town hall about rapes on college campuses. Madi Barney, Erin Alberty and Jodi Peterson were fantastic participants; I was glad to be there and listen to Madi’s experience, Jodi’s excellent advice and Erin’s solid reporting. BYU’s Julie Valentine provided a prerecorded message and it, too, was very powerful. I didn’t have much to say for my part, other than I think BYU should apologize and that an honor code that shields rapists is a false sort of purity. It’s been a couple of weeks, and I don’t know what impact that town hall actually has had — or what’s next. It was clear that this was only the very beginning of a longer and more difficult process. Here are a few things that might be worth talking about some more.

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Nov 5

screen-shot-2015-11-06-at-11-00-03-amLast November, the Church abruptly changed the Handbook of Instructions. It added being in a same-sex marriage to the definition of apostasy. It also stated that children of married (or cohabitating) same-sex parents cannot receive a name and a blessing, be baptized, ordained, or serve a mission without First Presidency approval, and even then on conditions that the child (1) is committed to living the doctrines of the church, disavowing the practice of same-sex cohabitation and marriage; and (2) is of legal age and not living “with a parent who has lived or currently lives” in a same-sex marriage or cohabitation. [Read more…]

New perma: Christian Harrison

We’re very excited to welcome aboard our friend Christian Harrison as a permanent addition to our group. Christian has posted with us in the past here, here and here, and his presence at BCC will class up the joint. His is a powerful voice of spirituality and awareness. Read Christian’s bio here. Welcome, Christian!

Book reviews: Brown, Holbrook/Bowman, Mason

Book reviews never do the books justice, not fully – the complexity of argument, the fine examples, these are always lost. So, try not to be too disappointed in micro-reviews of these three fine books, each of which are extremely valuable resources. [Read more…]

Feeling the weight of the calling

Tomorrow I’m teaching a small group of 12-13 year olds about women and the priesthood. I’m still working out what I want to say, but I think I know what I want them to learn: that men and women are true equals in the sight of God. Getting to that conclusion is weighing on my mind. The narratives of the manual are fairly limiting and frankly these students are still grappling with basic gospel principles; the complexity of Nauvoo cosmology and distinctions between ordinations for health and ordinations to offices are probably beyond them. [Read more…]

Greg Prince – evening with the author TONIGHT

From our friends at Benchmark Books:

Capture[1]We are very excited to announce that Gregory A. Prince, author of Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History (published by the University of Utah Press), will be here on Wednesday, June 8 to speak about and sign copies of his book. He will be here from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and will speak at 6:00 and will answer questions and sign books before and after that time. We hope you will be able to make it that night but, if not, we can mail a signed copy or hold one here at the store for pick-up. To RSVP on Facebook, click here. [Read more…]

A Note on Comments

I’ve used the analogy a bit — which I ripped off of Nate Oman — that corners of the Bloggernacle are sort of like cocktail parties being hosted by various sites. You’re in someone else’s house, enjoying various conversations as you mill around, Diet Coke in hand. You may not know everyone there, maybe you don’t know anyone there. But you’re among friends regardless and you all have a lot in common. Now, it’s pretty common to get into some lively discussions at some of these parties. You may not agree with what everyone says — in fact, some of the best conversations come from a sharing of ideas and challenging each other to improve. This much is clear, though: you’re a guest. [Read more…]

#HerDay

Like many of you I’ve been really impressed with the Church’s renewed emphasis during this last year on Sabbath observance. It feels sometimes like we go in cycles in this Church of being really focused on Sundays and then not really mentioning it at all. I bet someome smart (maybe Ziff) could do an analysis of Sabbath/Sunday emphasis in General Conference talks and Church News articles, to see whether these cycles are real or imagined. Maybe we find ourselves in the middle of such a cycle now, though I somehow doubt that the Brethren have ever really been the sort for Sunday Brunch. The Church’s current campaign uses a hashtag, #HisDay, and invites members to share their experiences and thoughts on the Sabbath from around the world. The site is very well-done and has some excellent ideas on how to keep Sundays special and holy. I’d like to share some ideas of my own. [Read more…]

The Gospel According to David Foster Wallace: A Glossary

If you’re reading Adam Miller’s The Gospel According to David Foster Wallace: Boredom and Addiction in an Age of Distraction (review forthcoming!), you’ll see terms repeat themselves in the book. Remember that you’re reading Adam Miller on DFW, which is like reading Adam Miller on Paul: you’re looking at the original author through a lens, not necessarily an unfaithful lens but one that will magnify and bring things to your mind in new ways. That’s my way of saying that Miller’s DFW Gospel is better in some ways than reading DFW. It’s both much shorter (curse you, Infinite Jest!) and more direct. Miller uses some words — words that DFW uses — and he uses them ostensibly the same way DFW uses, but it’s worth looking at these words closely. [Read more…]

Reviews in Brief: The Mormoness and Mormonism and American Politics

Just because these reviews are brief and the books are small, don’t take that to mean that they aren’t weighty or worth your time. There is a lot packed into these two microtomes. [Read more…]

The Least Degree of Allowance

BYU held its first ever Rape Awareness conference this week. At the conference, representatives of BYU’s administration spoke regarding the role of the Honor Code Office with respect to both sexual offenders and victims. In the event of a report of sexual assault, the BYU police department reviews the report and then may provide that report to the Honor Code Office, depending in part upon the activities of the survivor in the event. BYU representatives reportedly made it clear that the Honor Code remains a primary rule of conduct at the university, and “we do not apologize for that.”

If this recounting is accurate, when victims of sexual violence at BYU report their attack, they potentially put their academic future at risk. If you’ve been raped while in your boyfriend’s bedroom, you’re in trouble. If you were drinking at a party and were raped, you’re in trouble. If you were fondling a partner who then raped you, you’re in trouble. There are many more Honor Code rules which may apply. The trouble is both ecclesiastical and academic. The Honor Code Office will report to and coordinate with the bishop of the student. A woman who has been sexually assaulted may find herself penalized, suspended, even expelled for the circumstances of her attack.
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Belgian Theodicy

God rarely infringes on the agency of any of His children by intervening against some for the relief of others. But He does ease the burdens of our afflictions and strengthen us to bear them, as He did for Alma’s people in the land of Helam (see Mosiah 24:13–15). He does not prevent all disasters, but He does answer our prayers to turn them aside, as He did with the uniquely powerful cyclone that threatened to prevent the dedication of the temple in Fiji; or He does blunt their effects, as He did with the terrorist bombing that took so many lives in the Brussels airport but only injured our four missionaries.

-Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Opposition In All Things, April 2016 General Conference [Read more…]

Oscarson: Do I Believe? #ldsconf

President Oscarson has been the Young Women’s president since 2013, and is the first female member of the Church’s Missionary Executive Council. While she was born in Utah, she has lived outside of the state for many years (notably in Sweden, Missouri, and Texas). She returned to school 35 years after her initial studies to finish her degree. President Oscarson brings a good deal of experience to the table. As YW president, she has been immensely concerned with the activity level of our youth and the statistically increasing drop off of teens as they transition to adulthood within the Church. Her view is that the influence of the “great and spacious building” is the greatest challenge our youth face today. President Oscarson is intensely focused on retaining those youth despite that influence; she rightfully notes that “To believe, we need to get the gospel from our heads into our hearts!” How, then, do we go from that state of complacent ‘knowledge’ of what is right towards an active, believing heart? [Read more…]

How I feel about #ldsconf

Some random thoughts as I get ready for Conference. It’s not that what comes out of Conference is unimportant; it is important. From the authorities of the Church we get new policies, new doctrines. The counsel from Conference is wise and often poignant. It means a lot. But Conference often feels abstract, distant to me; it is an image of authority and uniformity. It feels sometimes like a simulacrum of my faith, not my actual one that I live day to day. As such I want to think about what General Conference actually means. [Read more…]

Reminder: #ldsconf

Hey, just remember that we’re not live covering Conference, because we’re watching it (or doing something awesome). But we’re providing some more in-depth coverage as we go. If you want a live thread or live tweeting, sorry. Just watch Conference instead. You might enjoy it more that way.

Whither Big Tent Mormonism?

A quick post to start a discussion and get your thoughts.

In talking with friends about Mother In Heaven, it seemed clear that her presence in LDS doctrine is now permanent but that our liturgy and current practice just don’t know what to do with her. We don’t pray to Her, we talk of Her but we have nothing to say; we know nothing of Her except by association. But She is a compelling figure for many and the desire to work Her into a pattern of worship is there.

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First 50 Years of RS – Evening with the Editors

From our friends at Benchmark Books:

We are very excited to announce that Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook and Matthew J. Grow will be here on Wednesday, March 9th, to discuss their new book, The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History (published by The Church Historian’s Press). They will be here from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.—speaking at 6:00—and will answer questions and sign books before and after that time. We hope you will be able to make that night but, if not, we can mail signed copies or hold them here at the store for pick-up. To RSVP on Facebook, click here.
[Read more…]

We Gather Together: Questions for Neil J. Young about the Religious Right

Neil J. Young is an historian and author of We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics (OUP, 2015). He graciously agreed to answer some questions about the history (and future) of Mormonism and the Religious right. [Read more…]

Book Review Roundup

A few brief reviews on three recent and noteworthy books:

First is the Oxford Handbook of Mormonism (Oxford University Press: Terryl Givens, Philip Barlow, eds.). [Read more…]

The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: An Interview with the Editors

You may have heard about the new history by the Church Historian’s Press of the first 50 years of the Relief Society. Excerpts of key documents are found online as well at the Church Historian’s Press. A review will be forthcoming, but to call it a landmark history underplays the importance of the text. Kate Holbrook (a specialist in women’s history with the Church History Department) and Matt Grow (director of publications for the Church History Department), who each were major editors of the volume, were gracious enough to answer some of our questions.

What was the genesis for the volume? Was it a grassroots (or historian-roots) effort, or did the suggestion/direction come from other elements in church leadership?

The book had its genesis around the year 2000 when Jill Mulvay Derr and Carol Cornwall Madsen were professors at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History at BYU. [Read more…]

Barabbas

Pilate told the people that they could choose to spare the life of either a murderer named Barabbas or Jesus of Nazareth, and they chose Barabbas. Given the same choice, Jesus, of course, would have chosen to spare Barabbas too.

To understand the reason in each case would be to understand much of what the New Testament means by saying that Jesus is the Savior, and much of what it means too by saying that, by and large, people are in bad need of being saved.

-Frederick Buechner, Peculiar Treasures [Read more…]

The duty of those who disagree

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you disagree with a given policy of the Church. I’m picking a policy, but this hypothetical isn’t necessarily about THAT policy, it could be lots of different policies. I’m also deliberately sidestepping the policy vs doctrine vs revelation tempest, though of course in this Church you can never fully avoid that tack. Anyways: you disagree with an articulated policy of the Church. What is your duty? What should you do? Let’s run through the permutations. [Read more…]

Planted: An Interview with Patrick Mason

Patrick Mason is Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and Associate Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University, and has been a scholar of religion (and Mormonism in particular) for decades. His latest book, Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt, is published jointly by Deseret Book and the Maxwell Institute.

This interview will be interspersed with my own observations and review of the book, which is the sort where you buy multiple copies to share with friends and family. It’s another in the Living Faith series, which has been stellar across the board. The general approach of the series seems to be a bit of a pragmatic focus on living the gospel and cultivating a growing, thriving testimony in a modern world. Planted continues in the same format as previous books in the series: it is brief, it is fairly narrowly focused and its purpose is to reaffirm testimony. [Read more…]

Gun control

Why don’t Church leaders speak out about gun violence?

I’m asking the question. I don’t know. But I’m not aware of pronouncements from Salt Lake on the topic. Anyone know why?

Give the Gift of MoFem

We’ve reviewed Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, we’ve interviewed two of the editors, and now we’d like to give a copy away. Thanks to the generosity of the editors and Oxford University Press, we’ll be shipping a copy of Mormon Feminism to a lucky commenter. To enter, tell us who you’d give your copy to, and why. For example, I’d love to give a copy to my mother, to tell her that it has helped me begin to understand what she has been experiencing as a devout Mormon woman her entire life. And to tell her that I’m really thankful for her.

So, your turn — who would you give this book to, and why? The editors — Hanna Wheelwright, Rachel Hunt Steenblik and Joanna Brooks — will judge the entries.

Joseph Smith Papers – Journals Vol 3

The original goods

The original goods

The final volume in the Journals series of the Joseph Smith Papers project came out today. You can read more of the volume here (with better pictures and information than I can provide), but I thought a few highlights might be of worth. This is definitely the juiciest of the Journals volumes, encompassing the period from May 1843 to June 1844. Thus we have church proceedings, minutes, sermon highlights from the last year of the Prophet’s life. Ever wonder what’s in Joseph Smith’s journals about the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor? Wondered what was noted from his famous funeral sermon on April 7? Here you go. [Read more…]

One Ordinary Guy’s FAQ On Polygamy

I get a lot of questions about polygamy.  Here is my personal bent.

1.  Do Mormons believe in polygamy?

Depends on what you mean. 
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