Recently, I’ve been listening to Eric Michael Dyson’s book Tears We Cannot Stop: a Sermon to White America. As a white dude who grew up in the South and who currently lives in the south in the era of Black Lives Matter and the Drumpf Administration, I’ve been thinking a lot about what race has meant to me. Professor Dyson’s book is an excellent jeremiad against indifference to the suffering and death being inflicted on our African-American brothers and sisters and I recommend the book to anyone who really wants to understand what is at stake in our current racial discord. But I don’t really want to talk about that today. Instead, I want to talk about innocence.
Lesson 3: “I Had Seen a Vision”
(note: Lesson 2 was skipped for being so dang sincere. Picking on it felt like kicking a puppy. I’m not a monster.)
To strengthen class members’ testimonies of the First Vision and of Joseph Smith’s calling as the prophet through whom God restored the fulness [sic] of the gospel to the earth. [Read more…]
Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History
To introduce class members to this year’s study of the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history and to help them understand their place in the dispensation of the fullness of times.
Although it is often hard to see when you are in the Intermountain West, the fact that Mormonism is and always has been a minority religion is worthy of consideration in understanding the quick retreat from a moral high ground that we’ve witnessed the church undergo in the last month and a half. Though we sing that we should always “Do what is right” and “Let the consequences follow,” our history, from the Manifesto onward, demonstrates a willingness to adapt to new political situations and to compromise strongly-held beliefs when the organization’s survival is on the line. I do not say this to accuse anyone of cowardice; when you are faced with extinction, a veritable ton of moral flexibility should be offered you. Perhaps the church believes that the Trump presidency could be such an existential threat and groveling should commence now. [Read more…]
In the Sunday Morning session of October Conference, Elder Ballard gave an impassioned sermon asking those who are considering leaving the church to consider what they are leaving behind. This talk feels particularly relevant to me, as I am currently feeling a lot of pressure, internal and external, to clarify my relationship with the church. I haven’t been to church recently and, even though it is not for the typical reasons one doesn’t go to church, I still feel less Mormon for it. I may well be stopping and catching my breath, as Elder Ballard suggests, or I may be on my way down another path. I honestly can’t tell right now. [Read more…]
One time, I had a close friend tell me that he was planning on moving to a large plot of land in Missouri with his in-laws. He liked and believed in his in-laws, whom he saw as living closely to gospel principles (embracing freedom by refusing to pay taxes to the federal government, for example). They were going to divide up the land in a manner similar to the United Order and have a three-person council to run everything: a president and two counselors. I’d like to believe that my snarky remarks that the place was going to go polygamist within six months or my constantly calling this place “the compound” convinced my friend to back out, but there was probably only one question I asked about the plan that gave him pause. Why was it, as he had explained to me, that the president of the presiding council had to be a man? [Read more…]
Perhaps you’ve noticed that, from occasion to occasion, people like to offer parables on the blogs. Most of the time, these aren’t really parables; they are screeds with a bit of powder and blush. But, lately, I’ve felt a parable welling up within me. I don’t know that it actually has a particular target. Feel free to discuss that in the comments, if you must. [Read more…]
It is well known, at least among Mormons, that Mormons don’t worship their prophets. We don’t pray to Joseph Smith. We are not expected to blindly follow every dictum that comes from President Thomas S. Monson. We test the commandments (in prayer or by trial) and choose the ones whose fruits are most godly. And yet, we frequently hear the refrain that God would never allow the church to be led astray by a false prophet. Whether it is God’s word or the word of his servants, it is the same. The path of safety is to treat the Brethren like they are infallible, even though we know they aren’t, because maybe they are, even when we think they aren’t.
If polyandry is the thing you find most objectionable and unjustifiable about the Nauvoo period of Mormon Polygamy, then you are suffering from misogyny.
I hear a bit of talk of late regarding the line: the event that would be sufficient to push someone out of the church. As in, what would cross the line for you? Where do we draw the lines? Sometimes also referred to as a camel-back-breaking straw, the line is supposed to be some objective standard. Once the line has been invoked in real life, then it will mean [the church is false; Joseph Smith was a very, very bad man; my tithing was wasted; or some other such]. I think the existence of the line should be taken for granted; it is relatively easy to imagine circumstances where your faith in the church would be sufficiently shaken to question its nature or to go further and decide that you were mistaken about it. The harder question is what does the existence of the line mean? [Read more…]
Today’s post begins with a summary of roughly 1/3 of the digital ink spilled in the bloggernacle[fn1]. “Preside” doesn’t mean preside, except when it does, but it usually doesn’t. So your marriage should be egalitarian, but someone should lead and it should be the husband/priesthood bearer, but you should be equal partners in leading, except the husband/priesthood bearer should get the deciding vote (mostly regarding who should bless the food, but not only that), except that decisions should be made mutually. Marriage isn’t like the church, nor is it like a board meeting, but all the analogies that we can provide make it seem like the church or a corporate board meeting, except ones where everything is done in unity, by which we mean nothing is done until everyone agrees with the guy (always a guy) in charge, but it’s important to get everyone’s opinion, even though only one opinion is decisive, except that it shouldn’t be and usually isn’t until it is. [Read more…]
In his talk in the Saturday Morning Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard asked a question that strikes me as particularly important. Elder Ballard noted, “Every time I hold a newborn child, I find myself wondering: ‘Who are you, little one? What will you become through the Atonement of Christ?’” The thought was reflected in both Elder Uchtdorf’s and Elder Mayne’s talks as well. The Atonement is supposed to change us; shouldn’t we wonder how well that is working out? [Read more…]
When I first got married, my wife had ideas about teaching me to play tennis. Actually, that isn’t true. I had ideas about my wife teaching me to play tennis. It was a sport she enjoyed and something that we could do together. She was a little skeptical but willing. It was, of course, a disaster. The first problem was that I’d never been all that serious about the game. As I told her before we started, I played tennis like I didn’t play baseball; everything went over the fence. Initially, this wasn’t a problem as I was willing to run after all the errant balls and she was willing to stand around and watch me. But this eventually grew boring and she decided it would be useful to help me with my swing. So she stood by me, modeled the swing, and bounced the ball to me so I could hit it. I was very fast on the trigger, hoping to impress her, I suppose. I swung around quick and caught her hand with my racket. She cried out, I went to her and apologized, she shook it off after a moment and decided to try again. She started to bounce the ball and, sure I knew what I was doing, I swung again and immediately wacked her hand again. Afterwards, she wasn’t angry with me, but she has never stepped onto a tennis court with me again. [Read more…]
Recently, at the General Women’s Session of April Conference, several talks where given on the theme of “defending the family.” There have been a number of responses to this session already (including two very good ones here at BCC), so we can safely say that this is a topic that has been covered. So, why bother talking about it some more? Because I think that I have found, hiding inside President Bonnie Oscarson’s talk, a message regarding marriage and family that is practically progressive in its outlook. [Read more…]
There has been much internet controversy in the bloggernacle and on facebook of late regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Julie Smith recently wrote an excellent summary of why it is (or, at least, probably should be) beside the point. But I’m going to go one further. I’m going to state that the debate is, in its heart, inherently silly and self-contradictory. Allow me to explain. [Read more…]
There is something I want everyone to understand (assuming I’m right (if I’m not right, hopefully people will forget that this blogpost ever happened). Life is a frame job. You are bound to fail. [Read more…]
*I just learned that I am being misinterpreted in a news article at the International Business Times. The reporter misquotes the title of this blog post (saying I find the report to condemn the Church, rather than to condemn the moral reasoning of some members) and then takes quotes out of context to make it seem like I am basically anti-Mormon (she says I conclude by saying we are morally bankrupt if we consider Bybee and Jessen to represent the best LDS moral thinking; I do say that, but I keep talking. In fact the next sentence is “I believe that the Church, the Gospel, and the Doctrine are great.”). I am not anti-Mormon and neither is this post. If you come here from that article, please know that this is not the post you are looking for.*
Since the release of the Senate torture report yesterday, one thought has refused to leave me: we contributed to this. Not just in the sense that Mormons overwhelming supported the Bush administration that implemented this approach nor in the sense that Mormons reportedly are very overrepresented in the intelligence community. No, two Mormons were very prominent in the drafting and the implementation of these policies and they are, by all accounts, considered to be good Mormons. Our brothers did this; so are we their keepers or no? [Read more…]
Dissolution seems to be our most recent zeitgeist. With the recent referendums in Spain and the UK, the strife in Ukraine, and the increasingly schismatic politics in the US, it seems that long-held social ties and traditions hold less value than in the past. We seem more and more capable of drifting away from one another.
I have a tendency to see the rise of modern conservative libertarianism as concurrent with this trend. [Read more…]
Over on the blog Peculiar People, Joe Spencer has taken Michael Austin’s recent book Re-Reading Job to task for promising, and then not providing, a “Mormon Job.” Instead, as he notes, Michael Austin draws from the reception history and secular investigation of Job to provide a helpful overview of this very difficult work, with some devotional content. Austin does spend quite a bit of time critiquing the Sunday School manual’s approach (read the first two chapters and the last, with a couple of other verses thrown in), deconstructing the most common Mormon approach, but he doesn’t offer a Mormon approach to replace it. Or does he?
We do not live the life we think we do. We think that we are the star of our own show or, sometimes, the villain. We think that what we do matters, because we are doing it; our acts are windows into the soul or the building blocks of our character. We assume, though we claim to be disciples, though we claim to be saints, that we are the most important actors in our salvation play. I’m not certain that we are entirely wrong, but we are definitely not entirely right. [Read more…]
Recently, some close friends wrote to me regarding faith in the church. My friends are members and have been for their entire life. These friends have recently come across some anti-Mormon material on the internet and, for all that they understood it as anti in origin, it caused them to start to question their belief. There was nothing particularly new in the information, but it was new to them. They know I’ve been writing blog posts for a while and assumed I had answers that might help. My response, such as it is, is below. I think they found it helpful, hopefully it might be of help to someone else.
First thing to understand: There is nothing I or anybody else can say that is going to make most of this make sense, seem less than crazy, or “make it better.” [Read more…]
I was reminded recently that there is a folk belief amongst us Saints that I find particularly pernicious. It isn’t something that comes up all that frequently in Sunday School, but I’ve encountered it in more than one Mormon forum, usually whispered to emphasize the sacred and deep-doctrine status of said belief. I’m also hesitant to bring it up here, because it relies on temple language for its authority. But it occurred to me that people might want to use it to comfort or counsel people who are upset with the gender imbalance in the church. I’m convinced that it will only make things worse if used for this purpose.
The belief is this: Women are automatically saved to the celestial kingdom by divine decree. [Read more…]
Eons ago in internet time, I wrote a post about the inevitability (and possible positives) of human discrimination. Whatever you may think of our origins, humans dominate the planet because of our superior pattern-recognition skills. Often these skills lead us to conclude things like “garbage spontaneously generates maggots”, but occasionally we come up with Newtonian laws and so forth. Discrimination is a necessary step in any rational inquiry. We have to determine which solutions to pursue, which beliefs to leave unquestioned, and the rationale behind both. It has made us pretty powerful, but, like all powers, it is frequently misused.
There is nothing interesting or new in the above, except this: we so easily identify others’ misuse of discrimination and justify our own use of it, that it calls into question the idea of righteous judgement entirely. But it must exist. Even if humans are incapable of righteous judgement, God will separate us at the judgement bar, which is the ultimate discrimination. His ways are not our ways, but is there any way that we can better emulate him in judgement? I don’t know, but I think it is worthwhile to make the attempt. What we find will be determined by what we are looking for, so first we must set a goal. In this case, I’ve chosen definition as the initial goal. What, exactly, is righteous judgement? [Read more…]
There has been some discussion lately about closely reading the Book of Mormon in relation to the YW PP manual controversy. I am always one to encourage a close reading. What I am doing below is not a close reading, but rather a quick note about the perils of casual reading and eisegesis. But please, read closely. It’s a rewarding book.
Frequently, we misread the purpose of Nephi’s slaying of Laban. [Read more…]
My wife has been reading the book, Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. Unless you are either growing/slaughtering all your food yourself or, at minimum, a locavore vegan, reading it will cause you to examine your eating habits and find yourself wanting. By which I don’t mean that you will feel like you need to eat better, or more healthily at the end of the book; I mean that you will question your ability to consider yourself a good person if you continue to eat the way you do. [Read more…]
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about faith, specifically about what a trial of faith might consist of. I don’t know that I’ve ever really had a trial of faith. I’ve experienced no great tragedy (knock on wood) and, while I’m excellent at self-sabotage and self-pity, I’ve had no real obstacles to overcome. My father has always been kind to me, so I’ve never had any trouble imagining a loving Heavenly Father who wants the best for us. I’ve never really had cause or need to question my faith in any significant sense. I worry that this has made me lazy. [Read more…]
In his Sunday Afternoon Conference Talk, Elder D. Todd Christofferson focused on the Redemptive power of the Atonement in our lives. While it is historically accurate and theologically legitimate to discuss a redemptive power and an understanding of Atonement tied to a redemption of humanity from some great debt, I feel like it can interfere with our understanding of the Atonement’s purpose.