We Are All on the Island of Misfit Toys

I come from a generation of kids who had to plan their television binging far in advance. I’m sure you have heard of these days: we had three channels (plus PBS for Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers), we used rabbit-ear antennas to improve reception, and we got the TV schedule every Sunday in the newspaper and read through it carefully to see what was coming on TV that week so we could plan our schedules.

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It’s that time of year again!

If you want to follow the advent/Christmas story you can find it here. Have joy!

The Trouble with Manifestos

Or “Manifest Manifestos manifesting meh”

We seem to be in an era of bold conservative statements in the church and its environs. There is the recent manifesto on Radical Orthodoxy, put out by the Givens family and their programming friends. A couple of months ago there was the Utah-based, cowboy-conservative, actually-fascist Ride to Reclaim America manifesto. I’m sure there have been others. Who knew what Marx would reap all these years later?

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Navajo corn people Yei rug. 78″x54″ Believed to be a first half of the 20th century weaving, made for personal use within a family, to be gifted or inherited and not for sale. Courtesy of the Kimball family. 

Cynthia W. Connell holds a BA in English from Brigham Young University. She served a full-time mission to the Navajo and Hopi Indians and upon her return was asked to serve as Native American, Polynesian and Hispanic Cultural Specialist and Trainer for Temple Square, LDS Church, Salt Lake City.  Her writings have appeared in newspapers, the Ensign magazine and in the Amazon International Best Selling Spectrum Parent’s Survival Guide:  Tips, Tricks and Strategies for Navigating Through Autism by Karen Pellet. This post appears on BCC in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

My Grandfather Weldon was a weaver. A weaving loom wasn’t what you might expect to find in a Brownstone apartment in The Bronx, but then neither was a Native American. The neighborhood that accepted his family was filled predominantly with Jewish and Italian immigrants.

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The Twelve Days of Awesome Christmas Sale from BCC Press

The number twelve has special significance for Christmas. And for Mormons. We have Twelve Apostles, Twelve Tribes, Twelve Days of Christmas. Good things, it seems, always come in units of twelve.

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7 Days of Gratitude – Friendship

I have always been lucky in friends. I’ve almost never had a friendship go sour through betrayal or abuse. So I’m speaking from a place of privilege. But isn’t it nice to have people around?

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7 Days of Gratitude – Being Alive

Without life, gratitude is meaningless. Nobody polls the dead regarding what they are grateful for.

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Messages of Gratitude from the Desert (and for it, Sort Of)

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

For years, our family has had a “Thanksgiving Tree” tradition. We write on cut-out leaves something we are thankful for, then hang them on a “tree” of dead branches, and on Thanksgiving Day, we share them all. Since we’ve saved these leaves over the years, I can look back at mine, and there are several constants. Among other things, it seems that at this time of year I regularly feel gratitude for changing seasons, for frost on the grass, for fall foliage, for the smell of the earth after a November rain. It wouldn’t be wrong to sum up one of the main themes of these leaves simply as: I am thankful I don’t live in a desert.

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7 Days of Gratitude – Songs

I like music, but I love songs. The thing about music is I don’t know enough about it. Unless someone is hitting a lot of out-of-tune notes, I can’t tell the difference between music played well and music played poorly. But songs have lyrics and that means I can participate in them in a way that I can’t with music (short of learning an instrument).

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Leaf Raking and Window Washing

This post is from BCC Blogger Emerita Christina Taber-Kewene

I am running through my Vinyasa moves, stretching out my muscles before I hit the pavement for the one run I allow myself each week. My husband is sprawled on the couch, sleepily scrolling through messages on his phone. “The boys have a service project this morning: leaf raking.”

“Did you just find out or did you know about this all week and forget to tell me?” Both are entirely possible scenarios. 

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7 Days of Gratitude – Games

It is hard for me to express how much I enjoy playing games. Hard because I really enjoy it, yes, but also because it means that I have to admit it. Thanks to the Protestant work ethic that dominates our society, the notion of playing a game, at any time, seems the same as being idle, indolent, or wasteful. There is almost always something more meaningful that I could be doing than playing a game, something more exemplary of Christian duty. And yet, I play games.

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7 Days of Gratitude – The Earth

I’m extremely lucky in where I live. It is my second time here and it continues to take my breath away when I walk out the door. It is hard to imagine sometimes that this is on Earth, and not from some fantastic tale (fun fact: The author of the Never-Ending Story is from this town). I’m also lucky that this isn’t the only place I’ve been where I’ve been amazed by its beauty.

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Friendship in the Time of Corona

Like many other self-pitying Americans reaching for comfort in a time of uncertainty, I recently started rewatching Schitt’s Creek. There’s a lot to love about the show, but what stands out to me this go-around are the gatherings: impromptu parties in Mutt’s barn, Roland and Jocelyn’s backyard Hawaiian-themed hog roast, Jazzagals choir rehearsals, game nights with friends, friends in general… you can probably see where I’m going with this. I miss people, and it feels equal parts heartbreaking and scandalous to watch characters on-screen congregating with reckless abandon while I’m on my (checks watch) ninth month of social distancing. To be fair, I have a handful of friends I’ve seen a handful of times—outside, masked, distanced—but it’s hard without the hugs. It’s hard not to invite anyone into my home, which I work so hard to make the kind of place other people want to be.

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7 days of Gratitude: Day 1 – Family

Hello good people of the bloggernacle. I just got done watching President Nelson’s video on the “healing power of gratitude” and, what the heck, I’m going to take up his challenge. If you want to join me, name something that you are grateful for in the comments below. It can be anything, seriously.

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2020 Christmas book list

Another year, another book list. Though unlike previous years, some of us have had a little extra reading time. Before diving in, we aught to recognize that the Maxwell Institute’s Brief Theological Introductions of the Books of Mormon were largely published after the curriculum had moved on, but remain highly valuable resources. Be sure not to miss them. Additionally, I have a separate post if you are looking for resources to aid in the study of the Doctrine and Covenants in 2021. As always, be sure to check out all of these volumes at local book sellers. If you are in Utah, Benchmark always does a great job, and their shipping policy is reasonable.

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The Heritage Quilt

I called my mom. It isn’t uncommon for me to take a break from reading and call her with an observation or connection. I have just started the Salt Lake City Nineteenth Ward Relief Society Minutes. A number of years ago I stumbled on the women’s prayer meeting minutes from the ward, and I’ve wanted to dig into community that produced them. Their record starts like they commonly do: the appointment of officers, the calling of teachers and deacons, and then regular meetings.

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Political Neutrality

This US Presidential election year has seen unprecedented voter turnout. President-elect Joe Biden won the popular vote by 5 million. While his wins in so-called battleground states are more narrow, they are still not that narrow. [Read more…]

Doctrine and Covenants: The 2021 course of study

A lot has changed in how we can approach the Doctrine and Covenants over the last decade and a half—a revolution really. And now as we think about the 2021 course of study for Sunday School, it is worth thinking about our study regimen. There are various possibilities of engagement, some more accessible than others.

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Announcing Two New Series from BCC Press

If you haven’t heard from BCC Press in a while, it is probably because we are up to something big. And, indeed we are. And today we proudly unveil something big. Really big.

For much of the 2020, we have been developing plans for two new book series that we hope will become important contributions to Mormon Studies. The series are highly interrelated, but also distinct in important ways.

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Costly Signaling, Cheap Grace, and Loving Our Enemies after an Election

(Post adapted from a lesson in the Newburgh Ward priesthood meeting on Sunday, November 8, 2020)

In the aftermath of last week’s election, I have had two books on my mind. Two very different books from two very different parts of my life, but their central messages have come together for me in the aftermath of a national election that has stirred more emotions in me than I thought could be stirred. In such moments, I usually turn to books. It’s how I roll.

The first book is the classic, if highly specialized monograph The Evolution of Animal Communication: Reliability and Deception in Signaling Systems by William A. Searcy and Stephen Nowicki. This is the book that introduced me to the concept of “costly signaling” in evolutionary biology (something that proved very important to my own book on a related topic about ten years ago).

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Grace Like Water, Poems by Merrijane Rice

Two of my favorite poems in the English language are Thomas Hardy’s “The Oxen” and GK Chesterton’s “The Donkey.” Both are poems about the New Testament, and both are about domesticated animals, but they are still very different poems. “The Oxen” is a poem by an agnostic who yearns for the story of the Nativity and yearns for it to be true. “The Donkey” is by a deeply religious poet who writes from the perspective of the Donkey that Christ rode triumphantly through Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But they are both acts of deep private devotion.

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Sacred Stories, Political Debate, and the Problem of Disagreement in Zion

In 1680, England had a problem. For a century and a half–since Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy in 1534–the nation’s politics had been driven by religious disputes, with the three major factions–Catholics, Anglican Protestant, and Calvinist Dissenters–taking turn running the country and killing thousands of people in the process.

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Thoughts on the Difficulty of Friendship at the Present Time

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

[A slightly altered version of a presentation on civility I gave at Friends University on October 26.]

I have seen a lot of anger among my family and friends during this election season; I presume I am not alone in that. After I was asked to give this presentation I thought about that anger, and talked with my wife about it at length. To her, Jesus’s cleansing of the temple is the emblematic scripture story of our moment, and I think she may be right. But what kind of guidance does it provide, if any, when we’re thinking about a Savior who called all who aspire to be servants of Him to love one another, without reservation?  A Savior whose most loving words, to those who served Him best, was to call them friends? [Read more…]

Dream Homemaker: A Review of Netflix’s Dream Home Makeover

Natalie Brown is a former blogger at By Common Consent and a PhD candidate in English and comparative literature. Her dissertation focuses on nineteenth-century writers who obsessively sought places to call home. Follow her on Twitter at @nataliebrownist.

In a year when many of us are confined to our homes, Netflix offers up its latest distraction in the form of Utah-based design show Dream Home Makeover—or, as I keep slipping and calling it for reasons my LDS friends will understand, “Dream Homemaker.” In many ways, it’s the latest installment of the cultural fantasy that remodeling a home can remodel a life—a fantasy of intervention through design that has feminist predecessors in the likes of Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. To Utah or LDS audiences, the career of the show’s star, Shea McGee, an influencer who converted the skills she learned improving her California home into a design studio business located in Utah, potentially offers an additional fantasy: a path toward monetizing skills learned at home in order to achieve recognition and financial success within a religious-cultural environment in which the imperative to stay home with children is also increasingly expensive and in which employment conditions are often unfriendly to families—a reality that has only become more apparent during the pandemic.

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Andi Pitcher Davis, is an artist and musician who lives in Orem, Utah. She is the Art Editor for Dialogue and a member of the Dialogue Foundation Board.

The truth is, this is my place, no matter how dark. I love hearing the familiar tick of the baseboard heaters and feeling crisp frost on my bare toes in a mid-August dawn.

I love all 9,000 feet of my childhood, blurred with time and soaked in hazy winds from my own fires. The mist off the lake that I am too frightened to dive headlong into as a grown woman, made sweet with wild strawberries. And sometimes, alright always, I worship the smell of butterscotch coming off the largest pine tree in the lower meadow — nose pressed to bleeding sap, pine gum pitch in mouth.

You should try it.

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The Other Side: A Defense of the Pro-Choice Position

In a recent and much-discussed post, Terryl Givens articulates a powerful argument against abortion. His position is well-thought-out, deeply moral, and will no doubt be persuasive to members of a faith that cherishes human life and human dignity. I share many of his concerns about the casualness with which many people–saints and sinners alike–approach the profoundly serious issues that he raises.

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BYU Studies is looking for a new senior editor!

BYU Studies is looking for someone with both academic editing and professional marketing or business experience. The job is posted at http://yjobs.byu.edu/ under staff and administrative jobs, and the job number is 93452:

The senior editor at BYU Studies is committed to publishing impeccable scholarship that is informed by the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. She or he has a creative vision for making the scholarship published in BYU Studies both more relevant to and more accessible to well educated but non-specialist readers. The successful applicant will assist the editor in chief and the editorial director in publishing. They will also possess the ability to manage growth initiatives designed to exponentially increase awareness of BYU Studies content. The senior editor is capable and comfortable discussing scholarship in a variety of disciplines, managing student editors, editing journals, working with digital humanities, and implementing marketing principles. This position requires the candidate to work with students, staff, editorial board members, scholars, contractors, printers, and the media.

On Terryl Givens and Abortion

Yesterday Terryl Givens published what he characterized as “A Latter-day Saint Defense of the Unborn” at Public Square Magazine. He ultimately concludes that Latter-day Saints are obligated to oppose abortion and that there is basically no room for personally opposing abortion but supporting its legality and availability.

Givens seems completely sincere in his revulsion for abortion. But that sincerity has led him to pen (type?) a deeply misleading and unchristian jeremiad against his fellow citizens and fellow-Saints who take the opposite tack.

I’m not going to detail all of the factual and legal problems with his piece, though I will highlight a couple of what I consider to be the big problems. I’m also want to point out that the way he’s framed his argument undercuts any assertion that he makes it in good faith and that it demonstrates a huge lack of moral imagination.

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Baptized for the Dead

Several years ago I was invited to contribute to a Festschrift in honor of Jack Welch. I have long admired Jack and so was happy to do so. My contribution was titled “Baptized for the Dead.” It was part of an academic collection titled “To Seek the Law of the Lord,” and I assumed it would have only a niche academic readership. But I recently sort of stumbled on the fact that the publisher had put my contribution on line, which you may now read here: https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/baptized-for-the-dead/

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What Gets You Through?

Note: there’s nothing particularly Mormon-y about this post, except that it deals with what one Mormon has done to stay sane during the pandemic.

Back in May, two months or so into the pandemic, I finally did it. Lying in bed at probably one in the morning, I posted on Craigslist:

Need to play in a jazz combo? Me too!

I hadn’t played with other musicians since my freshman year of college (which, I’ll note, was a long time ago). But since stay-at-home started, I’d been practicing my saxophones. More, probably, than I had since my freshman year. And once the pandemic was over (because even in May I though maybe it would end sometime soon), I wanted a chance to play.

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