“The Ministry of Reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 1–7) #BCCSundaySchool2019

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation
–2 Corinthians 5:18

Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians presents us with a context that is difficult to understand. There is a good reason for this: it is not Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. It is at least his Third Letter to the Corinthians, and it may be an amalgamation of parts of his Third and Fourth Letters to the Corinthians. But we know that Paul refers to at least four letters to the Church at Corinth, and we know that only two of them appear in our scriptures. So we have to infer a lot.

Scholars today call the missing letter to the Corinthians “the Severe Letter” or “the Letter of Tears” after Paul’s description of it in 2 Cor. 2:4, “For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears.” The Severe Letter, most surmise, involved Paul chastising the Church for something that he perceived on a previous visit. The two most common contenders are the toleration of sexual immorality and the encouragement of rival Christian missionaries. Both explanations have plenty of partisans.

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Female Priests Among Christians (and Mormons), part 1.

This is a series of posts about female ordination. In it I will briefly consider some aspects of history, tradition, and scripture, various ecclesiologies, and other stuff. There are 10 parts, unless I get enthusiastic for some reason. You can find the whole series here.

First, I want to be clear that I’m not talking about a ministry of females or even female ministers. That exists already for most of the confessions out there. What I’m going to address is, for lack of a better general term, female clergy. And even this should really be parsed further among churches whose clergy go by the title of “ministers” and those whose clergy go by the title of “priest” or “bishop” and a few variations on that (say, “patriarch”).

This series relates most to churches who use the title “priest” (or some cognate) for their clergy and who are ordained to such offices. This might seem like semantics, but it is historical fact that it’s among these churches (like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Roman Catholic, or Orthodox, or some branches of the Lutheran faith, Anglicans, and some others, indeed, Mormonism had developed, by 1835, a whole mythos about church bishops and Old Testament Aaron, the first Mosaic priest Cf. final version of D&C 68) where there has been heated dispute over the issue of female leaders. After decades of discussion, Anglicans may undergo schisms over this. What is the problem about female priests over against female ministers?
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Designated Drinkers: Power, Privilege, and the Word of Wisdom

I recently had my first experience with designated drinkers–the opposite of designated drivers–who are assigned to drink heavily on behalf of someone who cannot or will not use alcohol. 

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CORRECTION: Turning our hearts

[Note: This post was written in collaboration with, and is posted by permission of Amy Tanner Thiriot.]

Earlier this month I wrote a post reflecting on Century of Black Mormons and introduced it with a short vignette about Caroline Skeen and John Butler. According to family histories, when they got married in 1831 the Skeens gave the couple two enslaved people as a wedding present. In these histories, the Butlers then freed these two individuals and converted to Mormonism. I used this rupture between generations to highlight how we choose to remember and forget. I was also wrong.
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The Great Tragedy

I gave this talk in Sacrament meeting this past Sunday. A few people in attendance asked for a copy, and suggested posting it somewhere where others could find it.

When my wife and I were in college, we became close friends with another couple from our stake—Rich and Angie [Note: Names changed for privacy reasons]. I had met Rich through work, but we became fast friends and ended up in the same stake as them, and our friendship grew closer and closer over time. Eventually they moved away after graduation, but we kept up a tradition of spending Thanksgiving with them for many years afterwards. One year, as Rich and I were watching a movie late at night, he told me that he had been struggling with his relationship with the church for some time, asked me if I would be willing to talk about it with him. I was happy to, of course, and he explained how he no longer believed many things he previously believed, and that he didn’t really know what to do about it. He asked me why I believed some of the things I believed. [Read more…]

The Pearl of Great Price in Brief

I wrote this little summary twenty years ago and a friend suggested that it might still be useful with a little updating, so I present it to you here. So much has been published on various aspects of the Pearl of Great Price (PGP) in the intervening years that I can only just gesture at it here. In particular, the Joseph Smith Papers contain still untapped riches on the subject, particularly in its Revelations and Translations series, and further work appears in recent volumes like Foundational Texts of Mormonism (Oxford, 2018), and the forthcoming, Producing Ancient Scripture (University of Utah Press, February 2020).

——–

The Pearl of Great Price is the smallest volume of LDS scripture, comprising about sixty pages in the current 2013 edition (this includes footnotes and illustrations). The book was the last among those constituting the Utah church canon to be officially recognized (1880). Other groups claiming a common heritage with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, such as the Community of Christ, Restoration Branches, etc., reject it as canon either wholly or in part.

The book was originally compiled by European church head and apostle Franklin D. Richards in England in 1851. Hence it is fundamentally a text of the Brigham Young led Utah church though its contents originate with Joseph Smith.
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The God Who Ranges: A Poem

I don’t write poems often, but sometimes I do. Here’s one. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Theological Poll: Latter Labor Day Edition

Theologically speaking, what approach should Latter-day Saints take to unions?


Justify your answer below, you pinko!

Praying to Jesus at Yoga (A Very Tardy Tribute To Jana Reiss)

Rebbie Brassfield, the author of this guest post, is a frequent guest-blogger at BCC and a copywriter living in Southern California. In 2012 she created the now-emeritus website Normons.com to try to prove how normal Mormons are (lol). Currently you’ll find her blogging here.     

Jana Reiss’s 2011 memoir Flunking Sainthood spawned a thousand imitation experiments on religion. Mine took me recently to yoga.  

I would never have gotten into yoga were it not for a friend from church. At first I thought she was nuts — she’d make comments in our Singles Ward Relief Society about how faith was like Aparigraha (roughly translated as the yogic principle of ‘letting go’) and I would cringe just a bit. Her comments were interesting, but it felt like the handbook might frown upon such pagan ideas being shared at church.

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#BCCSundaySchool2019: “Ye Are the Body of Christ”

1 Corinthians 8-13

 

Many of the more quirky traits of Paul’s letters are evident in 1 Corinthians 8. The chapter is, first of all, a valuable illustration of the complicated nature of scripture. Paul’s letters are often dashed-off and wandering productions, dictated to scribes frantically scrambling to stay engaged with Paul’s meandering trains of thought (see, for instance, 1 Cor. 16:21; Romans 16:22), preoccupied with issues not fully explained (in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul tells us the letter we are reading—that is, 1 Corinthians itself—is Paul’s reaction to a letter from the Corinthians in which they are complaining to and querying the apostle. We know next to nothing about that letter), and intensely engaged with apparently mundane but today obscure and confusing beliefs and practices.

1 Corinthians 8 gathers all these points together. But it also illustrates Paul’s gift for taking seeming trivialities and drawing powerful themes from them. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Theological Poll: Planetary Paragon Edition

Note: This week’s poll comes to you by way of suggestion from another BCC perma (her name rhymes with Schmarylon).
What is the status of salvation for God’s worlds without number?


Justify your answers below. And, if you like, offer suggestions for future polls. Maybe I’ll like it or something.

Turning our hearts: Century of Black Mormons

Some of the first of my relatives to join the church were a couple who lived on the Tennessee-Kentucky border. When they got married in 1831, relatives gave them two enslaved people as a present. Almost immediately and well before they had listened to the missionaries’ message, they released these people. I have taken pride in that. I could imagine that these were the type of people that found resonance with the gospel and moved to Missouri to help establish an egalitarian society, only to be crushed by the political and social reality of the time. I generally have ignored their parents, the enslavers; I’ve excluded them from my story.
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Lorem Ipsum Dolor

Anyone who spends much time writing things is probably familiar with the universal “dummy text” that begins Lorem ipsum dolor. Supposedly, typesetters in the 16th century used this scrambled Latin text to mock up books and show off designs. Lorem ipsum dolor now means something like, “don’t read the text; that will change when we have something better to say. Just look at the beautiful design. Oh, and also, something about pain.”

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Faith without workouts

I don’t know how many people actually subscribe to church magazines anymore, now that they’re all available on the internet for free, and if people don’t have actual physical copies of the church magazines coming to their homes anymore, I wonder how many people actually read anything in the church magazines. The only people I know who actually read church magazines are the people who post about how horrible this month’s Ensign (or Friend or New Era) is, and I kind of wonder if most of them aren’t just hate-reading the church magazines.

I found out through the evil of social media that August’s New Era is “The Body Issue” and it talks about stuff like the Word of Wisdom and other body-related issues. I haven’t had time to peruse the whole thing, but I did read this article that was being hate-promoted on Twitter last week: “What I Learned from Having to Lose Weight for My Mission.”  [Read more…]

Words of Wisdom, or is it Word of Wisdoms?

There is that perennial argument about the Book of Mormon, which is usually settled by someone eventually stating emphatically that it is “copies of the Book of Mormon.” But the Word of Wisdom is somewhat different, because it is more like variant editions. I think much of the anxious hand-wringing over our dietary constraints would be sidestepped if we acknowledge that there are many Words of Wisdom.
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Monday Morning Theological Poll: Sinful Stratification Edition

Which of these sins is closest to being the sin next to the sin next to murder?


Justify your answer below.

“Be Perfectly Joined Together” (1 Corinthians 1-7) #BCCSundaySchool2019

Sometime ago–I won’t say where or when–I was in a ward that got swept up in parties where people were expected to buy stuff. The two brands I remember most were “Creative Memories” and “Pampered Chef”–and something about Chinese magnets that were supposed to realign your feng shui or some such thing. Lots of people were into these businesses, and, for a few months, it seemed that there was a “party” every week or so that doubled as a ward activity

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Parsing the Word of Wisdom

In light of the recent Church announcement regarding the Word of Wisdom, I’m seeing a lot of chatter on Facebook where people are trying to figure out how the text of the revelation actually relates to our current interpretation and practice. So I thought it might be worthwhile to set out the text of the revelation (omitting the beginning and ending that do not contain specific prohibitions) and give you my take on them, and give you an opportunity to add your own commentary. [Read more…]

A Conversation with my Catholic Husband on the Word of Wisdom

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“Did you see your Church just officially banned green tea?”

“And vaping. That’s days-old news.”

“Mormon news isn’t real to me until the Washington Post covers it.”

“Fair enough. The best take I’ve seen so far is Jana Riess’s.”

“The Washington Post agrees:  they quote her. The Word of Wisdom is ‘not necessarily a slam-dunk in terms of clarity.’ That seems accurate.”

“The problem is our cultural norms surrounding the Word of Wisdom have strayed so far from its literal text that we’re all left wading through layers of shame and confusion.”

“You know what Jana or you or some other sassy Mormon feminist should do? Write a Rachel Held Evans style book: ‘A Year of Word of Wisdomhood.’ It would be hilarious.[Read more…]

The JST and the Adam Clarke Commentary

Two and a half years ago on March 16, 2017, Haley Wilson and her mentor for this research, Thomas Wayment, published “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” in BYU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research, available here. This is not the research itself, but rather a precis; the actual research paper is still forthcoming. This is an exciting development, and I for one am looking forward to it eagerly. [Read more…]

Book Review: Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question

David B. Ostler
Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question
Greg Kofford Books, Salt Lake City, Utah
July 2019, xiv+183 pages, Appendix, endnotes, index.
$32.95 hardcover, $18.86 paper (Amazon), $17.99 Kindle.

Bridges is a short volume that addresses one of the issues facing most religions in many parts of the world: people dropping out. Surveys suggest that there are many reasons for what has been called “the rise of the nones” an especially pertinent phenomenon among young adults. The relevancy of that Old Time Religion seems to be in question.
[Read more…]

“Overcome Evil with Good” Romans 7–16 #BCCSundaySchool2019

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Reading: Romans 7–16.

Main topics: Overcoming Evil with Good, Predestination and Adoption, Women in the Early Church

There is a scene from Toni Morrison’s Beloved that takes my breath away every time I read it, that makes me gasp and ache and weep with grief and hope. Baby Suggs, the matriarch of the community, the grandmother-prophet that leads the congregation in worship, takes her people into a clearing and prays over them. She tells the children to laugh, the men to dance, and the women to cry.

“It started that way: laughing children, dancing men, crying women and then it got mixed up. Women stopped crying and danced; men sat down and cried; children danced, women laughed, children cried until, exhausted and riven, all and each lay about the Clearing damp and gasping for breath. In the silence that followed, Baby Suggs, holy, offered up to them her great big heart.

“She did not tell them to clean up their lives or to go and sin no more. She did not tell them they were the blessed of the earth, its inheriting meek or its glorybound pure.

“She told them that the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they would not have it.”

[Read more…]

Monday Mid-Afternoon Theological Poll: Active Afterlife Edition

What do you expect to spend the majority of your time on in the celestial kingdom? Or, if you don’t think you’ll qualify, what do you think people will be doing there?


Justify your answer below

The Problem of the Default Male and All-Male Church Leadership

This past weekend I was traveling to another state for my younger brother’s wedding. We had about a 6-hour drive to and from our destination, so during part of the drive we were catching up on some back episodes of one of our favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible. One of those episodes was this one, titled Invisible Women. It was an interview with Caroline Criado Perez, the author of a book also titled Invisible Women, about the problem she calls the Default Male. [Read more…]

The Foot Shelf

About ten years ago, we were renovating our master bathroom, making the shower larger with a stone surround, and adding a big sunken garden tub (that literally has been used TWICE since we put it in, grrrr). As we discussed the options with the builder, he quoted a set amount to add a “bench” to the shower.

My husband, looking to save money perhaps, quickly said, “We don’t really need that. When do I ever sit in the shower?”

I interrupted to explain. “That’s not for sitting. I need a place to rest my foot when I shave my legs. It’s a foot shelf!” [Read more…]

On Satan’s Plan, Tax Edition

A couple days ago, I got a message from a friend, asking how I respond to people who claim that taxes are Satan’s plan. Honestly, my instinct would be to respond, “That’s stupid,” block the person on Twitter, and get on with my life.

But that doesn’t work in every circumstance. I mean, if your interlocutor is standing in the checkout line next to you, blocking isn’t really an issue. And if your interlocutor is, I don’t know, your father-in-law, calling him stupid may not be the optimal approach. (And honestly, if the person is speaking in good faith, dismissing them like that is rude and unfair.[fn1])

So how would I address a good faith assertion that taxation is Satan’s plan? Depending on the person, I’d probably take one of a couple routes: [Read more…]

Dialogue Names New Editor


The Dialogue Foundation’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Taylor Petrey, Associate Professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College, has been appointed the next Editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.

Petrey holds a BA in philosophy and religion from Pace University, and both an MTS  and a Th.D. degree from Harvard Divinity School in New Testament and Early Christianity. He joined the faculty of Kalamazoo College in 2010 and served as the Director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality program from 2012 through 2016. He is currently chair of the Religion Department.

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The Power of God Unto Salvation #BCCSundaySchool2019

Reading: Romans 1-6.

This week has us finishing Acts and going into the epistles. This means we’re no longer going chronologically. Instead, we’re going more or less by author and more or less by topic (though each epistle jumps around a bit). It also means that we’re not really reading a story anymore, we’re reading artifacts. For the most part, we’re no longer concerned with the story, but with the teachings contained in the letters of the apostles. We’re moving from events to doctrines, and Romans is arguably the most doctrinal of all the books of the New Testament. [Read more…]

“You have been scheduled . . .”

Emily Jensen is a former BCC permablogger and friend of the blog.

“You have been scheduled to meet with XXXXX XXX for a meeting Tuesday June 18th at 7 p.m. for your ministering interview.”

“Your family has been scheduled to clean the church on Saturday, June 22nd at 8 a.m. Please meet with the XXXX family up at the church.”

Ok, hopefully this is only happening in my ward, but in case it’s not, let’s talk about the new, and dare I say, rude habit of scheduling people to do things in the church without first asking if they are even available. [Read more…]

Whence the Early Baptismal Challenges

Yes, I was this cool.

A recent talk by Elder Ballard has created a bit of a stir among returned missionaries in the Church. The talk is reported in the Church News here. He decries the practice of early baptismal challenges, claiming that Church leaders don’t know where this practice originated. The gist of his talk from the article:

“These missionaries have felt that inviting people to be baptized the very first time they meet them demonstrated the missionaries’ faith and supports their thinking that inviting people to be baptized early is what is expected,” he said. “Other missionaries have felt that an invitation to be baptized early allowed them to promptly separate the wheat from the tares. In this case, some see the baptismal invitation as a sifting tool.”

Church leaders don’t know where these practices began, but “it was never our intention to invite people to be baptized before they had learned something about the gospel, felt the Holy Ghost, and had been properly prepared to accept a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus Christ,” said President Ballard. “Our retention rates will dramatically increase when people desire to be baptized because of the spiritual experiences they are having rather than feeling pressured into being baptized by our missionaries.” – Church News article quoting E. Ballard

It’s possible someone high up in the Church has read my book (which I doubt), The Legend of Hermana Plunge, but given how common these practices have been–whether attributed to Dyer’s Challenging & Testifying Missionary or not–you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an RM whose mission culture included these practices, whether taken to extremes like baseball baptisms or just taught to increase missionary courage (as in my mission). [Read more…]