Call for Applications: 2017 Mormon Theology Seminar

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The Fourth Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology
“God Himself Shall Come Down: Reading Mosiah 15”
College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia
June 5–June 17, 2017

Sponsored by the Mormon Theology Seminar
in partnership with
The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and
The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

In the summer of 2017, the Mormon Theology Seminar, in partnership with the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University, will sponsor a summer seminar for graduate students and faculty devoted to reading Mosiah 15.

The seminar will be hosted by the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, from June 5 through June 17, 2016. Travel arrangements, housing, and a $1000 stipend will be provided for admitted participants. The seminar will be led by Adam Miller and Joseph Spencer, directors of the Mormon Theology Seminar, with assistance from Brian Hauglid, director of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies. [Read more…]

Sit with Me a While

Salt Lake City temple during a winter inversion.

 

I woke up this morning, after a night of coughing and fever dreams. It’s time for my annual autumnal bout of the blech (that’s the technical term)—flu-like symptoms folded into coughing spells so violent, they’ve literally brought me to my knees. I grew up in a house of smokers, with a fireplace roaring each winter. Now I live in Salt Lake City—where altitude, desert air, and smog thick enough to choke out my view of the stunning Wasatch Mountains, conspiring to rob me of the natural and felicitous joy I find living in Zion.

I love this city… but it’s literally killing me.
[Read more…]

Uncertainty

Lynnette has a PhD. in theology and pretty much runs the show at Zelophehad’s Daughters. She’s a longtime friend of BCC and one of the best people we know.

Last fall, I happened to be visiting Utah, and I made a last-minute decision to attend the annual Affirmation conference being held in Provo. It was my first time attending, and I was really struck by the optimism I encountered there, by the hope that it was possible to be both Mormon and LGBTQ. When the policy came to light just a few months later, I kept thinking about that. I saw way too many defenses of the policy that claimed that no one was getting hurt because gay people wouldn’t want anything to do with the church anyway. I found myself wishing that the people confidently making that assertion could have seen what I’d seen at that conference. [Read more…]

Spiritual Freedom and Equality as a result of the LDS Church’s Release of the new LGBT Policy

Randall Thacker serves on the Board of Directors of Affirmation – LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends and previously served as its international President, focused on growing the organization to meet the needs of tens of thousands of LGBT Mormons internationally. He is a Strategy Consultant and Leadership Coach.

November 5, 2016 was a turning point for many LGBT Mormons, as it was for me. After responding to numerous media inquiries and working with the Board of Directors of Affirmation – LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends to respond to the policy and the pain in the LGBT Mormon community, I decided to take a break from the dialogue, in particular, from social media news feeds. I needed to remove myself from the endless discussions about the new policy and its impact on LGBT Mormons. I decided to enter what I called a “Period of Discernment” for a few months.

What did I learn from this period of discernment? [Read more…]

Imagination & Integration: Reflections on LGBTQ Mormon Trauma & Healing One Year Post Policy

Laura Skaggs Dulin is a regular contributor on the Out in Zion podcast, a co-producer on the Far Between documentary and mental health professional.

Nov 5

“It all begins with make believe
A sudden spark of inspiration
And every note of everything
Started with a dream in some imagination”
-Cy Coleman

In nature, the same gene that is linked to homosexuality in male fruit flies, is also linked to an increased number of offspring when the gene is carried by females of the same species. Observation of same sex pair bonds of male penguins has also found instances of such couples rearing otherwise orphaned members of the group. In these examples, Mother Nature’s integration of homosexuality and same sex pair bonds appears seamless, ongoing and useful; a persistent variation within species that both maintains and strengthens successive generations. [Read more…]

Policy Reactions

Kendall Wilcox is a documentary filmmaker and Mormon LGBT community organizer. He’s working on a project called Far Between – which explores what it means to be gay and Mormon – and he’s a contributor to the podcast Out in Zion, which attempts to deepen the conversation intersecting membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Wilcox is gay and an active member of the LDS Church.

The story of “The Policy” and the Mormon community’s diverse responses to it is best framed in terms of moral authority; who possesses it and how it is exercised. In this specific case, the story is about how the policy impacted that authority in the hearts of the members. It highlights a debate over categorical versus consequential morality, a debate that is alive and kicking within the Mormon faith community. The policy change seems to have been an attempt on the part of the Brethren of the church to exert both their moral authority and ecclesiastical authority to define and defend the doctrines of chastity and marriage. But just because they have the ecclesiastical authority to institute the policy does not mean it is a moral thing to do and for many, this act eroded what moral authority they had given to their church leaders on these issues.

But of course this elicited diverse reactions from the membership. [Read more…]

A Bridge to Somewhere: Wrestling With the Policy, One Year Out

Erika Munson is the co-founder of Mormons Building Bridges. She teaches at The Waterford School in Sandy Utah, and serves in the Pinehurst Ward.

November 5, 2015 was a dark mirror of June 8, 1978. The dates, (oddly, both of them were Thursdays), are touchstones for me: I remember where I was each time I heard the news: the disbelief, the need to check in with loved ones, the media coverage. But the similarities end there. To an idealistic teenager, that morning in ‘78 brought joy: the long-promised day had arrived! It was announced with the dignity and solemnity that believers in continuing revelation would expect. The tent was enlarged, the cords lengthened.

But one year ago, this middle-aged, battle-hardened progressive Mormon who thought she’d seen it all, was blindsided by the discovery of an internal plan – all the more chilling in its bureaucratic character — to shut the door. It felt like someone had died. [Read more…]

Who Leaked the Policy?

Aaron Brown is an early founder of BCC.

One year later, I have a story to tell: [Read more…]

Quick Note About Nov. 5

screen-shot-2015-11-06-at-11-00-03-amThis November 5th marks the anniversary of the Church policy regarding LGBT members.  We’ll be posting some thoughts and experiences from guests.  Thanks, and we hope you have a good weekend.

Diluted Mormon Versions of WWJD?, Ranked

I’ve always felt like the only thing we lack as a church is a really great acronym that would immediately communicate to everyone inside and outside the church how cool we are and how great it is to be a part of us. “Your abbreviations are so hip and efficient! Do you have a pamphlet I can read?” This is an area where I feel like evangelical Christians have clearly outdone us. It’s not too late, though!

As always, these rankings are authoritative. [Read more…]

Prejudice Against the Ordinary

unknownAshley Mae Hoiland, One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly (Provo, UT: Maxwell Institute, 2016).

There is a kind of prejudice against the ordinary—and myself and the present—that colors my judgments about life and religion. This prejudice tempts me to outsource responsibility for life and religion to something extraordinary that happened to someone else a long time ago.

But when I do, I end up buying into a dubious “great man theory” of religion that hinges religion itself on a handful of great men (and, here, the theory really does – in an obvious and sexist and indefensible way – mean only men) and the extraordinary things they claim.

Surely there are great men and surely there are extraordinary things that happen. And surely some of these men and events are religious.

But I don’t believe in great men and extraordinary things as a theory of religion—not anymore. I don’t believe that they are what religion is about. Though I trust emphatically that my religion stands rather than falls, I don’t believe that my religion stands or falls simply with them.

I believe in something much, much quieter. Much, much humbler. Much more ordinary and plain. [Read more…]

Some thoughts on Relief Society

Yesterday on Twitter there was a pretty interesting conversation about the Relief Society. We put together a consolidated story so that you could read these in one place (for the most part – there were numerous side conversations).

You should check it out here – I would embed but I don’t think our site allows it.

What would you have added to that conversation?

Response: “The Vision of All”

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Joseph M. Spencer, The Vision of All: Twenty-Five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record (Salt Lake City: Kofford Books, 2016).

Short version: Buy this book.

Long version: You know how some movies aren’t just made up but are based on real events? And, then, when you watch these movies, you know how right at the beginning you get a little tagline, a little disclaimer, and this disclaimer reminds you that while some of the things in this movie really did happen—more or less as they’re depicted on the screen—you’re really probably better off just thinking of the movie as “inspired” by these real life events because, clearly, some artistic liberty had to be taken in order to fashion that raw material into something shaped like a movie that you would want to pay $15 to watch?

This response to Joe’s book is kind of like that. [Read more…]

A Delicate Feminine Flower

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-4-09-22-pmI did a bad thing.

I yelled. On Sunday, I yelled in Relief Society. I was so upset by a quote and the direction of the discussion that I forgot to politely raise my hand, and I stood up, shaking with anger, and raised my voice. In my defense, my anger was at the topic and context, and not at the teacher or at my fellow sisters, but in the heat of the moment, I acknowledge it’s often very hard for both the affronted and the recipients to finesse that out. It takes work.

I left Relief Society and sat in the foyer until I stopped shaking. I am fine now, and care has been extended to me by both RS leadership and members of my bishopric. Those details are not actually relevant to what’s on my mind now…

I want to talk about anger. Specifically, I want to talk about women’s anger. How do we talk about women’s anger? We don’t.* [Read more…]

SMPT – Call for Papers

Call for Papers

Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology
Annual Meeting March 2-4, 2017
Claremont Graduate University Claremont, CA
Theme: “Poured Out Upon Us: The Holy Spirit”

The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology invites paper proposals on any aspect of Mormon belief, including its philosophical ramifications. We particularly encourage submissions on this year’s theme.

When Joseph Smith was asked by the President of the United States about the differences between Mormonism and “the other religions of the day,” he responded that “all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Mormons look to the Holy Spirit for both prophetic authority and individual faith, as a source of daily guidance and transformative power. Descriptions of the Holy Spirit in personal terms of speaking, feeling emotion, or acting are sparse in the scriptures, compared with other members of the Godhead. Yet reliance on the functions of this “personage of spirit” (D&C 130:22) is pervasive in Mormon practice. [Read more…]

Mormon Lectionary Project: All Saints’ Day

Today we celebrate the heavenly rest of the saints—all of the saints. We celebrate rest because we all pass through life pursued by beasts, although they’re usually more like Sara Teasdale’s ordinary “wolves along the road” than Daniel’s apocalyptic allegories. Rest here comes only in fleeting moments, the occasional “evening of content” that opens our eyes as it were to the innumerable company in the world to come, leading us to sing God’s praise in the congregation of the faithful. [1] But most of life does not give us that rest, and we must accept such moments as down-payments for our future rest. [Read more…]

Losing Zion: Economic Inequality and the Tragedy of 4th Nephi #BOM2016

4 Nephi

Books like 4th Nephi remind us that the Book of Mormon does not really present itself as a continuous thousand-year history. It is more like three snapshots of periods within a thousand year history: one from the beginning, one from the middle, and one from the end. And we should always keep in mind that cultures and languages change a lot in a thousand years. There is as much cultural and historical distance between Mormon and Nephi as there is between 21st Century Americans and William the Conqueror.

For me, this makes the very brief transitions between snapshots the most fascinating parts of the entire Book of Mormon. Fourth Nephi, for example, gives us 400 years of history in about four pages. Imagine trying to write a four-page history of the United States from Plymouth Rock to Donald Trump. What would you include? What would you exclude? How would you frame the entire American narrative in 49 verses? That is roughly the task that Mormon had when putting together 4th Nephi. [Read more…]

Pro Bono Publico

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Attorneys from time to time are supposed to do pro bono work (short for pro bono publico, “for the public good,” meaning (legal) work for the disadvantaged without compensation). I just now returned from such a pro bono effort, and I’d like to tell you a bit about it.

[Read more…]

Pastoral Approaches to Sexual Violence

Among the recommendations in the recent BYU Title IX Advisory Council Report appears the following:

Share with officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the findings of the advisory council regarding ecclesiastical leaders’ varied responses to sexual-assault reports.

Mormon lay clergy, in other words, come to their pastoral obligations with wildly varying preparation to give the kinds of care that members of the Church might seek from them. Cases of sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence can prove especially difficult to handle well, and the Advisory Council has documented some of the resulting “varied responses.” The pastoral care that survivors receive from their ecclesiastical leaders thus appears to be a noted area of needed improvement.

My research has recently led me to a book that I believe might be a helpful resource for people in caregiving relationships with survivors of sexual assault. I recognize that recommending this book (or indeed any book on the subject) might run into concerns about professionalizing our clergy too much in ways that decrease reliance on the Spirit. In my view this dichotomy is false: professionalization can provide a toolkit, and the Spirit can provide guidance about which tools to use and when (and when not to use any of them). We should approach this subject, like any other, with a combination of study and faith. [Read more…]

Poll: Authoritarianism at Home

Way back in February, a piece by David Brooks referenced the work of Matthew MacWilliams, who[se editor] claimed that he had discovered “The One Weird Trait That Predicts Whether You’re a Trump Supporter”:

If I asked you what most defines Donald Trump supporters, what would you say? They’re white? They’re poor? They’re uneducated?

You’d be wrong.

In fact, I’ve found a single statistically significant variable predicts whether a voter supports Trump—and it’s not race, income or education levels: It’s authoritarianism.

[Read more…]

How (not) to plan a missionary activity

I know that a lot of people have strong feelings about Trunk or Treat activities. (For those of you who don’t know what Trunk or Treat is, it’s when a bunch of adults park their cars in one place on Halloween and lure children to their trunks with candy. It’s actually pretty messed up, when you think about it.) I do not have strong feelings about Trunk or Treat, or rather, I don’t really understand my own feelings about Trunk or Treat because I can’t separate them from my feelings about Halloween in general. As a child, I loved Halloween, as all children do. As a teenager I completely lost interest in it, and as an adult I can hardly stand it. I recognize that this is a personal failing. I have never attempted to deprive my children of the joy that Halloween can bring, because I know how important Halloween is to kids. Just because I hate it and think it’s a pain in the neck doesn’t mean I want to spoil it for everyone else. But mention Trunk or Treat to me, and the only reaction I can dredge up is “gah, more Halloween.” So I don’t know if Trunk or Treats are inherently good or bad, or if they’re potentially good or bad depending on certain variables. I just know that they’re part of Halloween and so I don’t care.

I say all this by way of disclaimer because my post today is not about Trunk or Treat per se, but it involves Trunk or Treat, and I just don’t want people to lose focus. Put your feelings about Trunk or Treat on the back burner and listen to (read) my tale. [Read more…]

Mothers Who Know: Julie B. Beck and Political Prayer

You may have heard that Julie B. Beck, former Relief Society General President, offered the opening prayer at the Trump/Pence rally held in Utah last night.

This is problematic, but not for the reason you might first think: [Read more…]

A Mormon Mafia? Heck Yeah. And It’s Yuge!

Lou Dobbs is on to us. Yesterday, one of the few human beings left in the world awful enough to qualify as a surrogate for Donald Trump tweeted the following about Mormon candidate Evan McMullin: “Look Deeper, He’s nothing but a Globalist, Romney and Mormon Mafia Tool.” As soon as I saw this, I knew that the jig was up. You see, for the last few months, I have been researching precisely this thing: the deadly, highly secretive bands of Mormon enforcers who sparked terror into the hearts of the Old West. They usually went by the names “Danites” or “Destroying Angels.” And they were a bad lot. [Read more…]

Neither brutish, nor a fool

I don’t talk to people on planes. I think it is terribly rude. In the past couple of years and hundreds of hours in flight, I have spoken to only a couple of people who don’t work for the airlines. I rarely even make eye-contact. However, recently I ended out sitting next to someone and somehow a conversation emerged that I found not only interesting, but illuminating. I later learned that the person sitting next to me was something of a rising star, but I didn’t know that at the time.
[Read more…]

An Index to My GD-Related Posts

So I was released as my ward Gospel Doctrine teacher last week. I had been doing it for six years, so it was definitely time for a change. A couple of my blogmates opined that it was too bad we didn’t have some sort of an index to my GD-related posts, since preparing GD lessons was a significant engine for my blogging. And that thought inspired me to assemble just such an index. Below, in inverse chronological order, I give a list of posts that were either inspired by GD preparation or classes or would arguably be relevant to a GD class. I give the title of each post and its date and, if not clear from the title, a scripture citation or other indication of the topic. The titles are not linked to the posts; to find a post just copy and paste the title into the Search function on the BCC home page (or use my name and the title in a Google search):

[Read more…]

BYU’s Title IX Report

President Worthen announced today that the Advisory Council on campus sexual assault has provided its report, and that BYU is going to adopt all of the council’s recommendations.

BYU’s Title IX Site is here

The report is here

This is such good news, and such a good step forward. [Read more…]

Welcome to #MutualNight: Delfeayo Marsalis

young-women-mutual-improvement-association-jewelry-1931_2I can’t, for the life of me, remember when I first heard it, but I do remember hearing (or reading) that, once upon a time, a significant part of Mutual was introducing Mormon youth to the best of literature, music, art, and other learning. After doing some quick Googling that suggested, but didn’t prove, that my memory was right, I did what any right-thinking person would do: I messaged Ardis. And she was kind enough to respond that yes, the M.I.A. had once been a repository of learning about art and culture.

Satisfied, I decided to follow through on my main reason for searching and asking: the introduction of a virtual M.I.A. Periodically (and undoubtedly irregularly), I plan on introducing and writing about some type of art, music, or literature that I’m enjoying, and what makes it worth sampling. While I doubt that most of my picks will have any significant Mormon connection, I consider this as Mormon a blogging topic as any that I’ve blogged. After all, we have not only roots in the M.I.A. program, but we have scriptural injunctions to seek after anything praiseworthy or of good report, and to learn out of the best books[Read more…]

Mormon & Gay — the New LDS.org Resource

 

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Again, with feeling

If there’s one thing that Mormons get, it’s that perfection is iterative. Line upon line, and all that. [Read more…]

When Forgiveness Changes the World

 

“No, Rensei is not my enemy. Pray for me again, oh pray for me again.”–“Atsumori”

sadanobu_3_hasegawa-no_series-kumagai_and_atsumori-00042484-100830-f06Japanese Nō drama is a hard taste to acquire. A play with a ten-page script can go on for hours, as actors invest their barely perceptible gestures with monumental significance. It is an art form whose pleasures lie more in the journey than the destination.

Except for one. This is the story of Atsumori.

The roots of the Nō play Atsumori go back to a particularly poignant passage in the Japanese Epic, Tale of the Heike. In this episode, the warrior Kumagai, whose side has been victorious in a great battle, stumbles across a youthful, retreating soldier from the other side and debates whether or not to kill him. I will quote here at some length because it is important:
[Read more…]

The Sacrament: a (somewhat speculative) liturgical genealogy (Part V).

This is my fifth and final post in my series on where the sacrament derives from. In the first and second posts, we looked at how and why Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith took the sacrament prayers of the restored church from Moroni. The third and fourth posts argued that the account of Jesus’ visit in 3 Nephi 18 was the ultimate source of Moroni’s liturgy, but speculated that Moroni’s liturgy was the result of a tradition that began as extemporaneous prayers based on Jesus’ teachings in 3 Nephi 18, but that then settled at some point into a liturgy of set prayers based on those teachings (and on some things that were not explicitly part of those teachings).

In this post, I’m going to look at how the last supper relates to all this, and what it means for me personally, to (tentatively) think of the sacrament in this speculative way.

The Sacrament and the Eucharist: Children of Two Long Lost Brothers.

In tracing the “genealogy” of the sacrament, I haven’t mentioned the last supper. And that’s weird, isn’t it? [Read more…]