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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Far-Right Appeals to Islamophobia Fall Flat in Vienna

The poster shows a smiling man still on the uphill slope of middle age with his arm around a child, gesturing to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and prominent symbol of the city. Above him in the clear blue sky is the declaration “Our home!”

Below the happy pair is a room full of women wearing burqas looking at a framed photo of a masked figure in battledress with an AK-47 within reach and the words “Home Sweet Home” scrawled on the wall behind. Next to the photo is an open window with a view of the tower of St. Stephen’s, but this time it is overlaid with a red crescent moon. At the bottom of the poster is the assertion that the party’s political opponents—social democrats, Christian democrats and Green party—support radical Islam.

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It is a sin to vote for Donald Trump.

I thought about writing something longer, pointing people to Mosiah 29, enumerating his numerous vices, but there’s not much point in doing so. Casting your vote for an evil person is a sin.

When I said something similar in 2016, folks debated whether voting is a moral choice, whether Trump was really that much worse than Hillary, etc., etc., but I believe I have been vindicated in every respect. He is evil and has led our country closer to the brink of infamy and internal collapse. Voting for him is unjustifiable and morally wrong. Therefore it is a sin.

Wash or Bathe?

What the JST does in the first part of John 13:10 caught my attention. So at the beginning of the chapter after supper Jesus goes around and starts to wash the feet of his disciples. He comes to Peter who basically says “what the…you’re gonna wash my feet?” To which Jesus replies “Yeah, you won’t understand now but it will make sense later.” Peter replies “You shall never wash my feet!”, because Jesus is his master and the master doesn’t serve the servant in this way. It’s a humble task, possibly even demeaning. Jesus says “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”

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The Giant Joshua – Chapter 17: The Great Smile and the Sequel

From the Maurine Whipple Collection, Brigham Young University
Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections

Thank you for sticking with us this last two months! We end with a discussion of the final, 17th chapter, followed by the story of Maurine’s efforts at producing a sequel, and a synopsis of the sequel. We are excited to say that five excellent completed chapters, along with other lost works of Maurine’s, will soon be published.

A public Zoom event will be held on Sunday, October 11, 8:00 pm Mountain Time (7:00 pm Pacific), where all can come and share their questions and comments on The Giant Joshua and Maurine Whipple. The event will feature several people who knew Maurine personally sharing their memories of her, including the poet Carol Lynn Pearson, Maurine’s biographer Veda Hale, the author Marilyn Brown, and the publisher Curtis Taylor. It will last 90 minutes. Anyone interested in Mormon literature or Mormon history is invited to attend and participate.

Zoom link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85698612887
Meeting ID: 856 9861 2887

[Read more…]

The Giant Joshua, Chapters 15 and 16: Polygamy raids, life on the underground, and the real-life stories behind the novel

Portrait of Mormon polygamists in prison, at the Utah Penitentiary, circa 1889. Photo by Charles Roscoe Savage/Harold B. Lee Library/Creative Commons

By Andrew Hall

We are nearing the end of this monumental novel, with only the final, 17th chapter to cover next week. As we previously announced, we will hold a Zoom event on Sunday, October 11, 8:00 pm Mountain Time (7:00 pm Pacific), where all can come and share their questions and comments on The Giant Joshua. The event will feature several people who knew Maurine personally sharing their memories of her, including the poet Carol Lynn Pearson, Maurine’s biographer Veda Hale, the author Marilyn Brown, and the publisher Curtis Taylor. Lynne Larson and I, who have been writing these weekly posts, will also attend. All who have read or are reading the novel are invited to attend and participate.

[Read more…]

Sukkot and Settling Into Fall

[Cross-posted to In Media Res]

This year I planted a spring garden for the first time. Probably because of the pandemic, but because of other plans that I’ve been thinking about for a while, I decided early this year to up my gardening game–putting in raised beds at last, planting in mid-March, expanding the range of vegetables I aimed to grow: lettuce, broccoli, eggplant, green beans, and more. Most didn’t work out, but it was a good struggle along the way. But with August and September, and the need to convert my classes online, the pressures on my time increased, and the garden (along with some of those other aforementioned plans) got pushed to the side. Perhaps not coincidentally, my once rewarding garden took a serious dive, in terms of both productivity and the enjoyment I took from my increasingly limited engagements with it. So it was with some satisfaction that yesterday I ripped out all the wilting tomatoes and long-since-exhausted peppers, as I usually do around this time of year. But this year, I also started prepping for a fall and winter garden. It’s Sukkot, after all; time to build my settlement anew.

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Babies, Prayer, and Just Why

I prayed for Chrissy Teigen last night. And then I felt silly.

If you aren’t aware, she and her husband John Legend recently lost their third baby due to pregnancy complications. Chrissy has been vocal about infertility in the past, and I count myself as one of many women who appreciate the way she’s normalized conversations around babies and how hard they can be.

My prayer was the addendum type,  where I’d already gotten up off my knees and climbed into bed when I remembered her Instagram post and I felt newly heartsick.

I added, “oh – and please bless Chrissy and John.” And then I felt silly because a little voice said, You don’t even know these famous people! You don’t even follow them on Twitter! Surely they have plenty of others thinking of them anyway – they are CELEBRITIES.

(Maybe I felt silly because, you try saying the words, “please bless John Legend.”)

I think the real reason I feel so deeply for Chrissy is because babies are in most of my prayers these days. Five of the women I cherish most in the world are currently pregnant or have new babies. Some of them have had heartbreaking issues with pregnancy in the past, and some are facing them now.

Over the last few months, our interactions have essentially turned into long, drawn out prayers with and for each other. Sometimes it’s more formal, where we send around a group text asking for prayers for so-and-so who needs us. Other times it’s asking what can I DoorDash you tonight or are you still throwing up — each a type of prayer in its own way. 

I have seen the power of communal prayer. My sister told me about a tradition in her ward, where, when a woman goes into labor she tells one friend, who tells all the others. Each woman lights a candle and keeps it burning until the baby is born.

I have seen the answered prayer. The miracle recovery. The friend who heard about my friend in the NICU and drops off dinner since she lives nearby (the two women have never met). 

But what about when prayer doesn’t “work?”

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How to Forgive?

Today’s guest post is by Eric Hachenberger.

When the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement took off last May, the US started to tear itself apart over one of its most fundamental conflicts again. At about the same time, church filmmaker Brian Faye gave us a sublime and personal message of reconnecting and forgiveness. In his vulnerable story, he tells us how after years of estrangement he was finally able to forgive and reconnect to his mother when she broke down in tears before him. 

The stark contrast between these two messages got me thinking. Why is it often so hard for us to forgive? 

In conflict, our first reactions to others are often violent retaliation or simply ending the relationship. Reconciliation is most often forgotten.

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The Giant Joshua – Chapters 13 and 14: Temple Celebrations and Private Despair

By Lynne Larson

[See below for the announcement of a Zoom event on October 11 where we will discuss Maurine Whipple and The Giant Joshua, featuring several people who knew Maurine, including Carol Lynn Pearson.]

 “The building arose from the barren ground like a great white wedding cake. It was eighty-four feet high to the top of the parapet, battlemented like an old castle, and there was a hundred-and-thirty-five-foot tower on top of that . . . Long before the ceremonies were to start, a vast throng of people wandered around the block, squinted upward from the roadway, felt of the solid rock walls with their hands as if to bolster the evidence of their eyes. A temple that would cost a million dollars. The world would have said it couldn’t be done, and so they did it.”

Chapter Thirteen of The Giant Joshua contains one of the novel’s most stirring scenes, a portrait of the aging Brigham Young as he dedicates the temple which the Dixie Saints have worked so hard to build. It is April 1877, and the pioneer leader, with but four more months to live, has traveled to St. George to perform the ordinance. It is the first temple completed in Utah, which Brigham has yearned to see before his death. Maurine Whipple’s description of the cheering multitudes, of their breathless anticipation, of their tears at the prophet’s words, and of the man himself – “His eyes glinted beneath his brows, his white beard trembled . . . the skin of his cheeks stretched tightly over his bones”—is a remarkable gift to Mormon letters, to Mormon heritage, and to southern Utah.

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The Clergy Privilege in Mormon Cases: The Strange Case of Richard W. Miller

Jeff Breinholt is a member of the State Bar of California, and serves as an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University Law School. The views in this article are the authors own and do not reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Is there equality among religions when it comes to the recognition of the clergy-penitent privilege? This question is relevant because of the apparent patchwork of incidents in which the LDS Church’s commitment to the privilege – if not judicial recognition of the privilege in Mormon cases – seems to vary.

To understand my interest in this story, we need to go back to July 1986. I was a 22-year old intern, working in downtown in Los Angeles for federal judge William Gray. I had just finished my first year of law school at UCLA. Because Judge Gray was a senior judge, he took advantage of the benefits to avoid criminal cases.  I was somewhat bored. I had planned to go into criminal law, and was looking for little enrichment. One Friday after lunch, I saw a crowd gather outside of Judge David Kenyon’s courtroom. I decided to see what the fuss was about and curiously entered the courtroom with the throng.

It turned out to be the first of many federal criminal sentencings I witnessed over the course of my career, and it was a big one, involving the first FBI agent in history convicted of Soviet espionage.  The defendant was a short obese Mormon guy named Miller. 

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Fall is the time for a Bountiful Harvest from BCC Press

Christian Harrison and Jon Forsyth brought art and design together for the cover.

We’re just days away from stepping into fall, and here at BCC Press we promise you books that are ripe for the picking — get ready to gather them all. 

The first of our autumnal offerings is Charity Shumway’s latest book, Bountiful. It’s a warm, funny, and perceptive family novel about the complex relationships between parents and their adult children, and the ongoing negotiations required to maintain a place in a beloved community. 

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The Giant Joshua, Chapters 11-12: Polygamy and Postmemory

by Sarah C. Reed

Inside the St. George Tabernacle

“Hell ain’t got no terrors for me after Dixie!” (The Giant Joshua, 406)

Summary
These two chapters see tribulations continue to come to our main characters, but with opportunities for happiness and reconciliation. With the plague of the black canker passed, taking many children, including Clory’s three, Erastus Snow calls a meeting to reassure the saints. He asks them to remember their trials with sickness in Nauvoo and Winter Quarters. Some would like to leave, but Erastus shames them as cowards lacking faith and promises things will improve.

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Whiteness and Jesus

Over the last couple weeks I’ve been reading The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race In America. Without going into too much detail, the book traces the development of Jesus as white in the United States and the contested place of His whiteness. Broadly speaking, when the Puritans came here, they eschewed images, including pictures of Jesus. And in the early days, when Jesus appeared to people, He appeared as light, not as racialized.[fn1]

Little by little, Jesus began to be more embodied in the American imagination; His embodiment emerged roughly (though not entirely) with technology that allow the mass production of pictures and pamphlets. And embodied Jesus began to be depicted as racially white.

Especially after the Civil War and into the first half of the 20th century, His whiteness was often (not always, but often) pressed into the service of white supremacy. Jesus was white because white was better, white was purer, white was worthier.

Again, this outline is very surface-level; the book provides a lot more detail and nuance. But overall, it represents the book’s outline (at least through the Civil Rights movement and the creation of Black Liberation Theology, which is where I currently am in the book). [Read more…]

The Giant Joshua — Chapters Nine and Ten

By Lynne Larson

“That was it, she thought, that which would sustain her . . . the Light was still hers, growing brighter as one gained wisdom . . . The wave of joy broke, and the dazzling spray flooded her with love, faith, divine goodness.”

It is soul-piercing grief that haunts these hundred pages – Chapters Nine and Ten – and unfathomable loss of her beloved Freeborn and her three children that points Clory toward the maturity of spirit required to recognize the “Light” of the above quotation and survive her circumstances. The ultimate victory will be hard-won.

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Uyghurs, the Church, and Religious Freedom

Uyghur girls. Xinjiang. Photo by kpi. CC BY 2.0

About a week ago, Disney released its live-action Mulan for rent on Disney+. As people watched it, they noticed something: in the closing credits, Disney gives “special thanks” to eight government entities in Xinjiang, where parts of the movie were filmed.

This has led to calls to boycott the movie in the U.S.[fn1]

Why? It’s a long(ish) story, told better by others, but the short version: Xinjiang (in western China) is home to about 12 million indigenous Muslims. The largest of these groups are the Uyghurs.[fn2] Since at least 2017, the Chinese government has been aggressively detaining its Uyghur population in concentration camps (which it calls “re-education camps”). Today, an estimated 1 million Uyghurs (which represents more than 8% of the Muslim population in the region) are detained in these concentration camps. Moreover, Buzzfeed has determined that China has recently built 268 new compounds in which to detain its Uyghur population. [Read more…]

Never Forget: A 9/11 Reflection Demanding we Remember Consequences

In September 2001 I had just started my first job out of law school—working right next to the FBI building in downtown DC. I evacuated out of the city, mostly on foot, resting for a while in the apartment of someone I didn’t know—a friend of a friend. It was disorienting, terrifying, and I kept thinking “when will things get back to normal?”

For me, they never did.

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Accusers and the Myth of a Meritocracy

Photo by Brijesh Nirmal on Unsplash

Samuel Alonzo Dodge is a PhD candidate studying American Religious History at Lehigh University. He teaches a variety of history courses at DeSales University and has published with the Journal of Mormon History, Methodist History, and the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University. He lives in Allentown Pennsylvania with his wife and three children.

It is a challenging time for many reasons not the least of which is the social distancing that though necessary, keeps us from meeting together in person and can stress our sense of community. This sense of the importance of community is what shaped my thinking as I read the Come, Follow Me lesson earlier this summer, Alma 30-31. Though perhaps not immediately apparent, The account of Korihor and his contention with Alma has important lessons for us regarding our conduct, vulnerability, and responsibilities as members of religious and civic communities.

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Maurine Whipple and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: A complicated relationship (Chapters 7 and 8)

by Andrew Hall

Maurine Whipple and Hyrum Lee, 1927. The two dated while Maurine worked as a teacher in Monroe, Utah. 

I’ll start today’s post with brief review of the themes in Chapters Seven and Eight, and then spend the majority of the post on a discussion of Maurine Whipple’s lifetime relationship with the Church.

Themes of Chapters Seven and Eight

These chapters are long and full of interesting stories, incidents, and conversations. There is little of the descriptions of the natural environment or introspective passages found in the previous chapters.

The chapters feature Willie and Clory’s pregnancies and births. Willie’s baby is stillborn. Clory is shocked that not only does Abijah refuse to call a doctor (to show faith) but Bathsheba, a trained midwife, refuses to help because she thinks it is too early. She is wrong, and only Clory is there to help her with the birth. Clory, in her anger, foolishly gives Bathsheba the right to raise her unborn child. After she successfully gives birth to her daughter, Kissy, she scares the superstitious Bathsheba off by claiming she had placed a hex on the baby. Clory is enraptured with her baby, and feels the increased power it gives her in the family.

[Read more…]

My New JST Article

Kevin L. Barney, “A Commentary on Joseph Smith’s Revision of First Corinthians,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 53, no. 2 (Summer 2020): 57-105 here.

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The Giant Joshua – Chapters Five and Six: Community unity and Native Americans

By Lynne Larson      

“You couldn’t whip the desert without togetherness. The Group Faith — the ability to live outside oneself, to sacrifice oneself for the Common Good. Some day they would be strong enough to afford dissenters — now salvation lay only in complete and disciplined togetherness. Except ye are one, ye are not mine . . . You had to be ruthless to colonize.”

As Chapter Five of The Giant Joshua begins, the relentless rain has eased, but the storm, and with it the swelling of the Virgin River, has struck at the hearts of the people and reminded them that they must stand together to survive, united in their faith and in their willingness to follow strict injunctions. Food supplies have been reduced to a “grim measure.” Sickness has run riot through the camp, and ‘Sheba fears that the burial clothes will mold before she can get a lifeless body ready for the grave.

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Republicans render unto Trump that which is God’s

Photo by Brad Dodson on Unsplash

Scripture is replete with warnings about placing faith in political leaders above God.

God repeatedly calls the faithful to reject kings and idols, to disperse power away from any singular charismatic personality.  “Ye shall have no king nor ruler, for I [God] will be your king and watch over you.”  (D&C 38:21). 

Why?  Because we know from sad experience that as soon as men “get a little authority, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”  (D&C 121:39).  Kings, with their greater authority, wreak greater unrighteousness.  

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Digital prayer roll

Today the church newsroom announced that members are now able to submit names online to be included on the temple prayer rolls. Next week functionality will be added to the Member Tools app to allow members to submit names from it. I remember coming across examples of nineteenth century Saints submitting names to temple prayer rolls by letter and telegram, and it appears that this was in place from the first temple of the Utah era.

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What have the Joseph Smith Papers taught me?

It seems incredible, but it looks like they’re almost through with the Joseph Smith Papers Project*. The JSPP plans on printing 27 volumes across five series, and 20 are done: 3 of 3 Journals volumes are complete, 10 of 15 Documents volumes have been published, with the next one landing this fall; 2 of 2 Histories volumes are complete; the Administrative Records (C50) volume is complete; and 4 of 5 Revelations and Translations volumes are done, including the Manuscript Revelations book**. Not sure when we will receive the 2 online-only series, Financial Records and Legal Records. It is too early to assess the series as a whole, especially since the next several Documents volumes will contain some of the most interesting content. But it’s not too early for me, as an amateur and dilettante, to give you my observations and impressions, particularly about how reading these volumes has changed my perspective on Joseph Smith. [Read more…]

The Giant Joshua, Chapters Three and Four

By Andrew Hall

These chapters present a microcosm of several themes and conflicts found in the novel, including stirring depictions of the faith that led the pioneer Saints to make such enormous sacrifices in their mission of building a Zion society. Here too, we see some of the less appealing aspects of the colonizing generation—its fear and cruelty towards Native Americans, its child marriages, and the heartbreak that could result from plural marriage.

St. George pioneers and the tragic price of faith
Chapter Three opens with the Saints having just arrived in what would become St. George in 1861. Whipple provides a geographic description by having Apostle Erastus Snow, the real-life leader of the Cotton Mission, observe the valley from the Sugar Loaf, a high steep rock in the red cliffs to the north. At this point, he sees his people still living in their tents and wagons, but he will return often to that spot as the settlement grows, and the Sugar Loaf becomes a landmark for the town.

[Read more…]

Saving Faith and Expertise

This guest post is by Kevin Shafer, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Brigham Young University and an adjunct associate professor of Health & Society at McMaster University (Canada). He holds a PhD in Sociology from The Ohio State University. His scholarship focuses on mental health and father involvement in a cross-national perspective.

In October 2018, President Dallin H. Oaks cautioned that “expertise in one field should not be taken as expertise on truth in other subjects.” In his new book, Saving Faith, Egyptologist John Gee makes assertions about child abuse victimization, LGBTQ+ identity, and the potential for child abuse victims to become perpetrators of abuse in adulthood. These are questions that are central to social science and strong claims are being made by someone without training in psychology, sociology, social work, economics, or related disciplines. Professor Gee’s lack of expertise in these areas is may have led him to make errors that lead to problematic claims that are not born out by research. In contrast to Professor Gee, I am a sociologist that researches gender, mental health (including childhood adversity), and family life. Here, I discuss two claims made in the book and why they are not based in science or current church statements on sexuality.

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