War, Famine and Economics #BOM2016

Helaman 11 is a pretty darned fascinating piece of scripture. It raises all sorts of questions about the nature of God, the ability of humans to affect the will of God, and the nature of humans to choose evil over good — and that’s just the first 20 verses. The latter half of the chapter speaks to our penchant for recidivism, our inability to root evil out from among us, and how the only way to vanquish evil is to fight it relentlessly and tirelessly.

But for this post I want to talk about the narrative in the first 20 verses, when the Lord begins to make good on Nephi’s promise from Helaman 10: repent or be destroyed. [Read more…]

Saints At Devil’s Gate: A New Exhibition Opens at the CHM

An example of some of the art of displayA little over a year ago, the Church History Museum unveiled “The Heavens Are Opened,” a new interactive art and artifact exhibit that walked viewers through the early days of the Church through the martrydom. While that period is of course vital to our history, it is far from the complete story of the Latter-day Saints.

A new exhibition, “Saints At Devil’s Gate”, continues the Mormon story as the Saints traveled to the Salt Lake Valley. [Read more…]

Book Review Roundup

Some really exceptional books out there, but not a lot of time to review. Below are some quick roundup thoughts on some of the major Mormon Studies books that have crossed my path in the last several months. Each deserves a far lengthier treatment than I’m able to provide, so view these brief reviews as more of a condensed thumbs up-thumbs down approach. [Read more…]

Eschatology

The Book of Mormon warns us of what happens when more people choose evil over good: the judgment of God is upon them. Helaman 5:1-

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.

I’ve never been much of a believer in the end times. But I’m starting to believe. We (white Americans) have sent a strong message to minorities, to LGBTQ people, to women, to Muslims. I’m sorry that all this privileged liberal talk did absolutely nothing to make your lives better. I’m sorry for the arrogant belief that of course a man like that could never be president. But now those rights and freedoms you had are at risk. The economy, that arm of flesh, is at risk. Climate change is a foregone conclusion. And now white nationalism reigns.

If we are getting closer to the end of things, followers of Christ need to stand together now more tightly than ever. We need to reassure and help and reach out more than ever. As the mountains tremble, our institutions tumble and the rocks melt with fervent heat, I want you to know that I love you and I won’t abandon you. God help us.

Some thoughts on Relief Society

Yesterday on Twitter there was a pretty interesting conversation about the Relief Society. We put together a consolidated story so that you could read these in one place (for the most part – there were numerous side conversations).

You should check it out here – I would embed but I don’t think our site allows it.

What would you have added to that conversation?

BYU’s Title IX Report

President Worthen announced today that the Advisory Council on campus sexual assault has provided its report, and that BYU is going to adopt all of the council’s recommendations.

BYU’s Title IX Site is here

The report is here

This is such good news, and such a good step forward. [Read more…]

Why I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton

A brief post to explain my political position here. I don’t speak for the other permas at BCC and won’t pretend to make this a generalized editorial.  I also won’t waste time on the countless reasons Donald Trump is not qualified to be president, as the Deseret News and other papers of record have already articulated those points. [edit: I’ll just focus on one]  [Read more…]

Christofferson: God’s Love Is Unconditional #ldsconf

*Breathe in*
God’s love is unconditional.
*Breathe out*
*Breathe in*
God’s love is unconditional.
*Breathe out*

Say it with me. [Read more…]

Movie Review: THE NEXT DOOR

I saw GOD’S ARMY in a theater in New York City after it came out. Richard Dutcher brought a level of realism to missionary work that I’d never seen before in a movie by an LDS filmmaker, let alone in one about missionary work. And there have been many good LDS movies since that time, including by Dutcher but also others: Hess, Little, Batty, Nelson and more. I believe it is very wrong to say that the best days of Mormon cinema are behind us. My belief is reconfirmed by THE NEXT DOOR, a short film by Barrett Burgin, a young filmmaker at BYU. You can view the trailer here. [Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.
[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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…]