Caldey Island, Wales

On Easter Monday, the Mormon Society of St. James will be embarking on its fifth annual major pilgrimage, this time to Rome. Pilgrimage has become something of a “hobby” for me and while one of the highlights of my year is the long yomp with the MSSJ crew, I also enjoy mini-pilgrimages whenever I have the chance.

Last summer I spend a day roaming around Caldey Island off the coast of western Wales. Caldey is home to a community of Trappist monks. Herewith a few snaps taken with my cheap phone: [Read more…]

Why I Wrote This Book

Steven Peck
This book is unusual. In more ways than one. Well, maybe in more ways than ten. It’s a book about theology written by a Biologist. More strange perhaps is that I actually believe that science matters to theology, and visa-versa. Not a watered down science, mind you, but a full-bodied science that embraces all that that word means. No punches are pulled here. Well, that’s the wrong metaphor because it sounds like Science and Theology are entering a cage match in a winner-take-all blood fest. I need something that captures the idea that Theology and Science need each other. That they are better together than apart. That both become something richer and more compelling when they are holding hands on the beach and looking at a sunset than when they are duking it out in the ring. So what metaphor captures that? I know Frodo and Sam in Mordor. There we go. Frodo and Sam carrying the ring of falsehood into hostile territory to toss the thing into the Fires of Doom.
[Read more…]

Announcing BCC Press

We started BCC in 2004. That’s a very long time for any internet project, and I’ve been really lucky to be associated with some of the best Mormon writers and thinkers around. BCC is a joyful, faithful, troublemaking crowd and every day I read and learn things here that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I have become a better Mormon because of the minds and souls of the rest of you here. We’re proud of this community, but there’s always been the feeling that we could be doing more. So we’re expanding our efforts to build the community and engage with our faith in a new way. We’ve started a non-profit publishing company: BCC Press. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Fifth Thursday in Lent

O God, whose breath brooded over the waters: we come seeking the mysterious flow of your Spirit, hoping for a wind to clear away the clouds of our sorrow and reveal the clear light of your Son, and yet here we remain, lost but believing, in prayer telling all we can. Amen.

For music, Nick Drake’s “Riverman”:

Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

In response to Ashmae’s thoughtful reflections on the dearth of women’s voices at the last General Conference, a reader shared the following comment on a popular social media website:

You are all focused on the wrong thing. Why does it matter who said it as long as it is truth? The message is far more important than the messenger.

Someone else made a similar comment here on the website, so it must be a thing:

I don’t think it matters who speaks to be quite honest. It’s what is spoken about that is important and it applies to everyone.

I admit that my first response was to heave a sigh of exasperation. After all, as members of a culture steeped in the rhetorical traditions of our fathers, we all know that the credibility of the messenger matters at least as much as logical arguments and emotional appeals as a mode of persuasion. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Fifth Wednesday in Lent

O God of all we are: halfway from coal, halfway to diamond, we come before you rejoicing in the abundant grace of this moment, knowing our faults, but not needing any more than all you have given us; send us, then, your Spirit to make our delight in simple beauty full, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, the piano demo of R. E. M.’s “Beat a Drum”:

Families vs. Dynasties

Image result for dynasty

Dynasties are all about appearances. And shoulder pads.

A disturbing trend surfaced in the last year or so in which parents wrote letters to their young adult children explaining that if they did not stay active in the church, they would be cut from the inheritance.  These letters were shared in various Mormon internet groups. At roughly the same time, LDS Philanthropies published a video featuring a father who said that if his sons continued to follow church teachings, they would keep their inheritance, but otherwise, he would simply donate his money to LDS Philanthropies.  The video was subsequently removed due to backlash.  It’s an interesting parenting trend, some might say alarming.

First of all, my own view on inheritances is that nobody should count on it.  If you are living so close to the edge that the inheritance will make or break you, maybe you should be focusing on more sustainable sources of income.  Furthermore, it is the right of any individual to donate their earthly goods as they see fit.  And yet, it is unsavory to imagine parents using their inheritance as a bribe to control their children.  It also seems like a recipe for hypocrisy, if one’s children are encouraged to pretend to be living one way for the benefit of the parents, but in reality feel differently.  Do some parents really only love their children if those children do as the parents wish?  That doesn’t feel like love.  That’s something more like a dynasty than a family. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Fifth Tuesday in Lent

O God, whose voice in our hearts goes beyond words: grant us your Spirit, that we may be ever more enveloped by the mystery of the Word made flesh in your Son, until our rejoicing breaks forth into our own songs without words, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, the marvelous Jacqueline Du Pré playing Mendelssohn’s “Song without Words in D major, Op. 109”:

One Thing Missing: Beautiful Conference, but Where Were the Women?

Painting029

Conference this past weekend was peaceful and calming in the way I remember it being as a kid. The lilts and accents of certain voices felt familiar and a lot like home. Elder Holland’s talk was a sermon to anchor my mormonism in, as so many others have also noted. Many of the talks reminded me of what it is to step away from all other things and find a place where the spirit dictates my thoughts and actions. It made me want to be better. It was a good conference.

Still, I couldn’t help but notice that only one talk out of twenty-seven in the course of eight hours this weekend was given by a woman. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Fifth Monday in Lent

O God of our abandonment, whose night seems to know no dawn: grant that we, in the darkness of your Spirit, might hear the beating of your heart and find peace as we remain in the twilight of its shadow, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, this stunning live version of Florence and the Machine’s “Cosmic Love”:

Why is April “the Cruellest Month”? The Downside of Hope

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain
–T.S. Eliot, “The Wasteland”

Here are two things that everybody should know about April. First, it is National Poetry Month, which means that anything I write for public consumption is going to be about poetry. Second, April is famously, according to actual poet T.S. Eliot, the “cruellest month.” [Read more…]

Ownership of the Kirtland Temple

kirtland temple 13

In a Facebook Group recently the topic of the ownership of the Kirtland Temple came up. I thought I would take a shot at a (very) brief sketch of the first part of the subject.[1]

[Read more…]

Prayer for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

O God of our weary hands, which rest today from their labors: may your Spirit fill us with strength to take others’ hands in our own, that, feeling the tactile witness of their work, we might at last understand one another in love, through the grace of Him whose hands were pierced for us, Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, “Rest These Hands,” by British-born composer Anna Clyne (b. 1980):

[Read more…]

What Many Members of Color Seek From Conference 

Phylicia Jimenez is a convert of almost nine years. In her words: “I’m a novice writer, a grad student, a mama to a busy 21 month old, a wife and an activist. I love food, friends and diversity! I have my own blog SamePewDifferentView.com that I just started and hope to write more on. My focus is improving race relations wherever I am, in whatever I am doing. I especially love doing so in the church as to help us overcome our own racist history as an organization since there are still so many effects of it today!”

In April 2015 I had the opportunity to visit an African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME church) for a baptism. The AME church has a significant and longstanding history for and in the African American community. It was founded in 1816 after discrimination and racism in St. George’s Methodist Church. Those of African descent left St. George’s and founded their own church carrying the Methodist doctrine with them. They created a place of healing and worship for Blacks during a time when many were not allowed to worship at all. The AME Church also empowered the Black community by teaching school in their churches and raising money to keep schoolhouses open and filled with resources.

The motto of the AME church is “God Our Father, Christ Our Redeemer, Holy Spirit Our Comforter, Humankind Our Family.”

[Read more…]

Prayer for the Fourth Saturday in Lent

O God, you who haunt all our disappointments: grant the slightest taste of your Spirit to let us know that our pleas are heard, that even though we may not get what we want, we may yet discern your faithfulness and love, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths:

 

Mormons and the Billy Graham Rule

Today’s guest post is from Carolyn Homer. Carolyn Homer is an attorney and religion constitutional law enthusiast in Washington, D.C.

I’ve been surprised by the East Coast’s collective “sexist!” horror this week over the published tidbit that Mike Pence “never eats alone with a woman other than his wife.”  Famously known as the Billy Graham Rule, the point is to avoid temptation and any appearance of sexual impropriety.  For Mike Pence specifically, it probably goes beyond that — as a public figure running on Christian values, he probably doesn’t want to create even the possibility of a he-said/she-said sex scandal.  Even if Pence trusts himself, the rule protects against blackmail. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Fourth Friday in Lent

O Lord of song, whom we praise with our broken music: accept the songs of our childlike joy and hear your Spirit in our breaths as we, in gratitude for your glorious gifts, reach out to fill your cup as you have filled ours, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple”:

A Tale of Two Cities: The State of Utah Welfare

DraperUtahTemple

Fruits of the Mormon way of life. Draper Temple (Photo credited to “LDS church” by this source)

Something remarkable happened in Draper last night–yes, that Draper, the well-heeled Salt Lake City suburb where you can buy a $10 million faux chateau overlooking the Draper temple:

After a pummeling from nearly 1,000 residents, Draper Mayor Troy Walker pulled two of his city’s proposed homeless-shelter locations off the table. (Source)

I know what you’re thinking: “Local politics? Remarkable? Please, BCC, you’re better than this.” (“Ha!” replies the chorus from the peanut gallery.) But follow me like a hungry toddler—there’s more: [Read more…]

Prayer for the Fourth Thursday in Lent

O God of all our griefs, you whose name we cry out to the darkness, in whom we strain to believe: send a flicker of your Spirit to show us the face of your Son in all of the broken people around us, that when we learn to see his face in our own we might at last become one people as you are One God. Amen.

For music, “Jesus Alone” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds:

What’s a Gay Like Me Supposed to Do? Some Unanswered Questions.

MCS is your typical single Mormon in his late 20’s. He faithfully attends his YSA ward, and is one of the Same Ten People who rotate through all the hard callings. You’d never guess he was gay, but he is, surprise! He graduated from BYU with a degree in history a few years ago and, seeing as history factories across America shut their doors during the 2009 financial crisis, will start a professional program this fall.

 

The Church has done an inadequate job of meeting the needs of gay, young single adults. I don’t mean to speak for others who are older than me, or who have entered mixed-orientation marriages, or who have left the Church for a same-sex relationship, or who have re-committed to celibacy after a time out of the Church. I’m speaking as a 28-year old, gay, single Mormon, committed to the Gospel but uncertain of my future in the Church. I am grateful for recent efforts to reach out to people like me.

However, I have some questions, and the answers have been non-existent.

[Read more…]

Post for the Fourth Wednesday in Lent

Our God of the sanctuary, before whose doors our prayers blow like a great desert storm, all sand and wind: as we walk in Jesus’ wilderness way, may your Spirit tune our impatient hearts and voices to the seasons of your day, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, Mazzy Star’s “Seasons of Your Day”:

Step by Arduous Step…

English, Bahasa Indonesia, Česky, Dansk, Deutsch, Eesti, English, Español, Faka-tonga, Français, Gagana Samoa, Hrvatski, Italiano, and , Latviešu, Lietuvių, Magyar, Malagasy, Nederlands, Norsk, Polski, Português, Reo Tahiti, Română, Shqip, Suomi, Svenska, Tiếng Việt, Vosa vakaviti, Ελληνικά, Български, Монгол, Русский, Українська, Հայերեն, ภาษาไทย, ភាសាខ្មែរ, 한국어, 中文, 日本語.’

The Church has now posted a set of localized materials to their Mormon & Gay resource site. The materials translate the notice which was originally sent to local Church leadership in English-speaking areas of the Church; the Frequently Asked Questions section of the site; the Church Teachings section of the site; and the Same-sex Attraction gospel topics essay.

[Read more…]

Lesson 14: The Law of Consecration #DandC2017

Learning Outcomes

At the end of class, students will be able to:

  1. Identify commonalities between the Law of Consecration and other communitarian religious movements.
  2. Explain the roots of consecration in the Mormon church.
  3. Assess how consecration fits in the modern church.

What Is Consecration?

In October of 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, Parley Pratt, and Ziba Peterson went west on a mission to the “Lamanites.” As they travelled, they came to the Morely farm near Kirtland, Ohio. Morely, along with fifty or sixty others, were part of “the Family” or “the Big Family.” Eleven core families moved onto the Morely farm and established a communitarian society, where they held goods and property in common. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Fourth Tuesday in Lent

O God of light, in whom there is no darkness at all: in gratitude that Jesus came to meet us in our darkness, we pray for your Spirit to guide us through your mysterious love, the darkness that is no darkness. Amen.

For music, Voces8 singing Judith Bingham’s “The Darkness is No Darkness”:

 

March 2017 General Women’s Session: Charity Still Not Failing

How many of you attended the women’s session of General Conference on Saturday? There were not many bums in the pews at my stake center, and even fewer bums in the plastic chairs set up in the overflow. That may be par for the course in many areas, but women’s session in our stake tends to be pretty well attended, even though (like all the sessions) it’s available streaming live, online, in the comfort of one’s home. Most LDS women I know are more than happy to take advantage of an excuse to get out of the house, even if it is church (and even if they do feel morally obligated to drag along their 8-year-old girl children now).

I imagine the severely reduced attendance was due primarily to Spring Break starting Friday afternoon and people being out of town. But even the women who were in town seemed hardly aware of women’s session happening at all, much less interested in going. It probably means nothing, except that conference is kind of boring and now that the stake Relief Society no longer does a big shindig in connection with it (they used to do dinner/appetizers/dessert/ice cream sundae bars, plus an excruciatingly long “Laurel appreciation”), people are less inclined to bother putting on a skirt and trekking to the church building. [Read more…]

Unexercised Hearts

I just finished reading Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.  I had been avoiding reading novels about World War II for a while now, unwilling to face the similarities of the rising white nationalism that is evident in our country today.  When I concentrate on it, it causes an ache in that tender place right below my diaphragm and I can’t stand up straight.  It’s hard to explain the physical impact that I feel watching the white nationalism bubble up into public view—with adherents emboldened by the words they are hearing from the campaign trail and White House.

[Read more…]

Minding the Gap: What a New Study Tells Us about Mormon Women in the Workplace

 

There is much good news for BYU in the massive longitudinal study on college attendance and income that came out in January. The study looks at millions of 2014 tax records that have been matched to tuition records from the late 1990s, in effect giving us income profiles for people who were born between 1980 and 1982. [Read more…]

The Relief Society 175th Anniversary – A Sermon

Rachel Hunt Steenblik is sort of a PhD student in philosophy of religion and theology at Claremont Graduate University, but mostly a mother. She co-edited Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright. She also blogs at The Exponent, and loves books, bikes, and boggle.

This is a slightly fleshed out version of what I gave in Jersey City 2nd Ward, Jersey City, New Jersey, March 19, 2017.

In his Deseret Book published book, Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt, my friend and Mormon studies professor, Patrick Mason, noted that the first time Moroni visited Joseph Smith he “included an invocation of Malachi’s prophecy, placing at the very heart of the restoration the promise that ‘the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.’”[i] Mason explained, “Malachi, Moroni, and Joseph probably didn’t mean that each of us must become a professional historian: if so, the earth would be ‘utterly wasted’ indeed. Rather, the prophecy suggests that we—as individuals and as a community—have an integral and intimate relationship to our history.”[ii]

[Read more…]

Prayer for the Fourth Monday in Lent

Our beloved God, whose image in the people around us we wound daily: grant us your Spirit, opening our hearts and eyes to the sufferings of your Son, until at last we have the strength not to carry on. Amen.

For music, Beth Orton’s “God Song”:

 

Prayer for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Mothering Sunday)

Our mothering God, who daily feeds us out of your self with Jesus’ body and blood that we might find new birth in your Spirit: grant that we through our own gifts and labors might give life to your church, one people as you are One God. Amen.

For music: John Tavener’s “Mother of God, Here I Stand”: