Nov 5

screen-shot-2015-11-06-at-11-00-03-amLast November, the Church abruptly changed the Handbook of Instructions. It added being in a same-sex marriage to the definition of apostasy. It also stated that children of married (or cohabitating) same-sex parents cannot receive a name and a blessing, be baptized, ordained, or serve a mission without First Presidency approval, and even then on conditions that the child (1) is committed to living the doctrines of the church, disavowing the practice of same-sex cohabitation and marriage; and (2) is of legal age and not living “with a parent who has lived or currently lives” in a same-sex marriage or cohabitation. [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #3: Abigail Sprague (the 2nd wife)

Part 3 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

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Abigail Sprague Bradford Gardner (1813–1879)

Abigail was a tough, stout, and gregarious pioneer woman. She had a sense of humor even in the wake of great tragedies. She wasn’t known as the most beautiful of Archie’s wives, but she also doesn’t seem to have been the type of woman who would have cared about looks. At one point she was heavy enough that she would handily keep her thimble and spool of thread in her fat rolls, where they would stay put until she needed them (I find this detail amazing and delightful). She found great pleasure in smoking her corncob pipe as well as in telling delicious and terrible stories to children about witches and fairies. She had tremendous respect for Native Americans and learned their languages. She made friends with Indians and served them, eventually adopting a young Indian girl who had been stolen from her home by a warring tribe and sold to Abigail’s brother for a pony. Abigail treated Fanny like her own daughter, and Archibald seems to have welcomed her into his fold without complaint.[1] Abigail could frequently be found smoking peace pipes in Native American circles, doing her part to build bridges between the two cultures and counteract much of the fear and suspicion harbored on both sides. [Read more…]

New perma: Christian Harrison

We’re very excited to welcome aboard our friend Christian Harrison as a permanent addition to our group. Christian has posted with us in the past here, here and here, and his presence at BCC will class up the joint. His is a powerful voice of spirituality and awareness. Read Christian’s bio here. Welcome, Christian!

Encountering Mormonism on Route 66

IMG_3884(This post isn’t really a Fourth of July thing, except that there’s something distinctly American about Route 66. So we’ll go with it.)

We talked about taking a Route 66 vacation this summer. After all, we live in Chicago (and Route 66 starts across the street from the Art Institute!), and it ends in L.A., just north of my parents’ home. But with this year’s Every Kid in a Park (which, btw, if you have a kid who just finished fourth grade and you haven’t enrolled yet, I don’t think it’s too late), we switched to a visit-National-Parks trip.

Still, our National Parks roadtrip ended up overlapping briefly with Route 66—we were going to Petrified Forest National Park, which is on historic Route 66, and we decided to stay in nearby Holbrook, in Wigwam Village #6.[fn1] [Read more…]

Standing where the Savior stood: Eight Questions

I’ve been thinking lately about the admonition to “stand in holy places,” partly because of Elder Rasband’s tweet a couple weeks ago:

[Read more…]

Sister Wives of the Traveling Pants #2: Margaret Livingston (the 1st wife)

Part 2 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

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Margaret Livingston Gardner (1818–1893)

My great-great-great grandmother Margaret was born October 12, 1818, in Lochgilphead, Argyllshire, a small maritime village on the western coast of the Scottish highlands near the Forest of Achnabreck, nestled between the Firth of Clyde and Loch Craignish, with the Atlantic Ocean just beyond that. Margaret’s family immigrated to Canada when she was only two, so I’m not sure she ever remembered much of the dark waters and wild heathered moors that had been her birthplace. [Read more…]

Yo, Dre, I got something to say!

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Two related points about the Book of Mormon: [Read more…]

Is Disagreement Always Rebellion? The Book of Mormon Anti-Christs and the Possibility of Sincere Religious Dissent #BOM2016

The three major Book of Mormon anti-Christs—Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor—are all instances of a single type-scene, which means that they follow a similar narrative arc, which is more important to the text than any one of their individual stories.

The type scene goes like this: A charismatic teacher appears on the scene preaching that Christ will not come. He develops a large following and comes to attention of the head of the Church, who refutes his arguments with clear and compelling logic. The anti-Christ ignores the overwhelming evidence and persists in his false beliefs, which lead to an untimely and ignominious death. But before he dies, he confesses that always knew that his teachings were false; it was just something that the devil made him do.

Taken together, these three stories construct a version of religious dissent that leaves very little room for sincere disbelief. Their disagreements with the established Church have nothing to do with their actually believing stuff—which could certainly not have withstood the rhetorical assaults of Jacob and Alma. Rather, the sin of all three anti-Christs is rebellion against what they know perfectly well to be true. [Read more…]

Sister Wives of the Traveling Pants: Confronting My Polygamous Ancestry

Part 1 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

“Genealogy, I am doing it, my genealogy! And I don’t know why I am doing it—it’s terrifying me!” So sang my young adult self, as a joke, to some college roommates during a Sunday School Family History course after realizing that my great-great-grandparents were also first cousins (double-first-cousins, actually, since their fathers were brothers and their mothers were sisters). It turns out that genealogy work doesn’t always give one warm fuzzies. And, literal kissing cousins aside, the real deep-seated anxiety I have always had with my family history concerns my great-great-great grandfather and his eleven plural wives. [Read more…]

Burial

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Grandpa George as a young man

My mother’s father recently died. [Read more…]

The Dismissive Shepherd: Leaving the One for the Ninety and Nine

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The Good Shepherd [credit]

One of the most memorable office Christmas parties I attended featured our boss sharing his management philosophy. While conceding that management problems are possible, at least in principle, he emphasized that “If you’re the only one with a problem, it’s your problem,” punctuating the air with his index finger as he spoke.

I’m not sure what prompted this burst of holiday cheer—probably the stress of a high pressure job—but it left us looking like sheep with a secret sorrow that evening, and in the months to come we came to learn he meant it—concerns were routinely dismissed on the grounds that the employee was alone in his or her concerns.

Well, in a world where the ground is cursed and we are doomed to eat bread by the sweat of our faces until we return unto the ground, it goes without saying that time is short and resources are scarce. And when you consider that problems are like a gas—at least they have a way of filling the available volume regardless of how significant they are in the overall scheme of things—I can understand the pragmatic inclination to tamp down on individual complaints in order to focus on the big picture, even if I think the approach reveals less than heroic leadership qualities. [Read more…]

Onward, Christian Soldiers

I decided a few years ago that I could no longer sing this hymn in good conscience, even though I always liked the music. Then, earlier this year, D Fletcher suggested that I rewrite it. Slowly, and with his able editorial assistance, I’ve done so. I decided that the hymn gets its theology of the cross all wrong, choosing the cross of Constantine and the Crusaders over Paul’s “scandalous” one. Thus, my rewrite owes quite a bit to 1 Corinthians, where Paul’s theology of the cross receives its best articulation.

Onward, Christian soldiers,
March in Jesus’ peace,
Bearing acts of mercy
‘Til oppression cease.
Christ our gentle Master
Leads us in the way;
With His grace upon us,
We’ll be kind today.

[Read more…]

None of us with perfect knowledge, or all of us with love

calvin-susieFrom the Church’s new Doctrinal Mastery materials on “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge“:

Invite a student to read aloud the following account shared by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for how a young woman acted in faith when faced with a challenging situation:

“Recently, I spoke with a Laurel from the United States. I quote from her email:

“‘This past year some of my friends on Facebook began posting their position on marriage. Many favored same-sex marriage, and several LDS youth indicated they “liked” the postings. I made no comment.

“‘I decided to declare my belief in traditional marriage in a thoughtful way.

“‘With my profile picture, I added the caption “I believe in marriage between a man and a woman.” Almost instantly I started receiving messages. “You are selfish.” “You are judgmental.” One compared me to a slave owner. And I received this post from a great friend who is a strong member of the Church: “You need to catch up with the times. Things are changing and so should you.”

“‘I did not fight back,’ she said, ‘but I did not take my statement down.’

“She concludes: ‘Sometimes, as President Monson said, “You have to stand alone.”

*   *   *

A different version of her experience might read something like this: [Read more…]

The Cross on the Tombstone

 

To reach B.H. Roberts’s grave in the Centerville City Cemetery you have to pass through those areas of southern Davis County where Utah still feels very much like the small town it was when Roberts settled here as a youth. Grass runs up to the asphalt of the road, the homes are as frequently generations-old brick cubes as they are modern miniature mansions, and every few lots even those give way to the rows of a garden or orchard, tended still by hand. There are few buildings higher than two floors, and the mountains loom only a stone’s throw behind. At night the deer edge warily into the flower beds.

The graveyard likewise draws you back to the near borders of frontier Mormonism. There are rows upon rows of McKays and Bensons and Pratts, and other families formed through plural marriage whose children still bring their dead here, and rarely must come far. Roberts’s grave is at the top of the cemetery, on a gentle rise, next to that of his first wife Sarah Louisa Smith and near his second, Celia Dibble. There is a budded cross graven on his tombstone. [1]

[Read more…]

In a glass

Perhaps you’ve noticed that, from occasion to occasion, people like to offer parables on the blogs. Most of the time, these aren’t really parables; they are screeds with a bit of powder and blush. But, lately, I’ve felt a parable welling up within me. I don’t know that it actually has a particular target. Feel free to discuss that in the comments, if you must. [Read more…]

One Hundred Seventy-Two Years Ago.

A Cultural, Political, and Religious Being.
A Few Scattered Random and Unschooled Thoughts.

Joseph Smith Jr (hereafter, JS) was in many ways a product of the Age of Jackson. Honor bound, captured by the flame of military pomp, the high ground of moral individualism over against the bureaucratic state, and a revolutionary and constitutional mythos. JS saw Old Hickory as a reminder of the power of individualism that (in legend) animated Washington, Jefferson, and the then current national feeling that America was divinely established and a portent of Millennial events to come. Jackson’s experience with the South Carolina Nullifiers helped prompt a revelation on future wars. JS was removed from many Democratic positions, however. He never supported the abolitionist movement, but he did offer that slavery was an economic issue, one that should be resolved by compensation and deportation. Neither Northern nor Southern Democrats could be in sympathy. Jackson had polarized the public, prophetically, JS did the same.
[Read more…]

Gems from #MHA2016 – C50 minutes

The Mormon History Association held its annual conference at Snowbird at the beginning of June. It was a fine affair, and I thought I would post a few items highlighting some of the fun things that went down. First a quick primer:
[Read more…]

Alma in Ammonihah: The Church-State Conflict that Won’t Go Away: #BOM2016

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Imagine that tomorrow, during the twilight of his second term, Barack Obama resigned from office in order to travel through the Red States preaching the virtue of medicare expansion. Imagine further that he decided to start in Utah, the most Republican state in the union, which voted 3-1 for his opponent in 2012. Given Utah’s religious population, Obama might feel that he could convince people that caring for the poor is a Christian duty. He could quote Jesus, and, if he did some advance reading, King Benjamin. How do you think this would go down? [Read more…]

How Loving My Body has Changed Me Spiritually

This afternoon my son, Remy, got to missing his dad who is in Japan doing field work.  I found him in the backyard sitting on a rock crying tears that were so sincere and alone that I immediately cried right along with him–both out of sadness for him, and also a sense of joy that he, after a mere five years on this earth, was able to feel so deeply for someone else.

We Brave Women Button 3Because I was crying, I was short on words, and really didn’t have anything that great to say anyway, but I sat on an overstuffed chair and let his little heaving body fill in every space on my stomach and chest.  We stayed there for a long time without words while he calmed and seemed to want to melt right into me until any hurt he felt was gone.

I’ve been thinking a lot about bodies and the spirit lately and have come to a few abstract ideas and conclusions, but that moment for me was made of clarity.  My body is home to my children.  I lay between them each night while they fall asleep and they reach out in the dark and stroke my face or reach for my hand. It’s like the reaffirmation of both their place in the world, and their place in a larger plan, as they run their tiny hands across the familiar and tangible landscape of my body.  My body for them is a manifestation of home, and home is what the spirit has always felt like for me. [Read more…]

Missionary Fights

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While reading Rosalynde’s excellent review at Dialogue of Craig Harline’s (also) excellent Way Below the Angels, for some reason my mind turned to an experience from my own mission when I got into a fight with my companion. [Read more…]

Joseph Smith’s First [re]Vision and how historians think about the stories people tell

msr3-cover“That quilt shows all the different versions of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.”

I was caught flat-footed, a fifteen year old kid alone in a homely bookstore at the edge of Nauvoo, Illinois. She was a sweet grandmotherly type dripping with pity. If I doubted it before, it was now clear I wasn’t in an LDS bookstore despite the temples and angel Moronis gracing book covers all around. I stood in front of a nine-squared quilt hanging on the wall, each square depicting familiar but odd scenes. I understood the shopkeeper’s message loud and clear: Surprise! Joseph Smith made it all up.

I was surprised. My heartbeat quickened—it was my first encounter with an “anti-Mormon” in the flesh. I was a lifelong member of the LDS Church—a teacher’s quorum president for Pete’s sake! I’d read Joseph’s account of the First Vision countless times. I’d seen the film showing barefoot glowing Father and Son floating above the boy from Where the Red Fern GrowsMultiple versions? I knew what she was saying couldn’t be true. [Read more…]

LeBron James and the Miracle of Human Consciousness

Eliza N. has been our guest before. We’re glad she came back to share these thoughts.

As I watched LeBron James weep while embracing the NBA championship trophy Sunday night, I was flooded with my own emotions. I have this thing about crying whenever I see someone else cry, but I also have this thing where I get really emotional anytime I witness a really incredible moment—something that stands out, when time slows down just a little, and I am overwhelmed by the blessing it is to be alive, to be on the earth to witness something amazing. (Also, I was still very tired from my own achievement of running the Ragnar Wasatch Back past weekend, and isn’t everyone more emotional when they’re tired?) [Read more…]

Abandoned

Abandoned...: I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, outside the small village of Bainbridge on a country lane called Locust Grove. We lived atop a hill surrounded by corn fields. The Conoy Indians used to live there [1] nestled between the banks of the Susquehanna and the Conoy Creek. We sometimes found arrow heads in the corn fields or shards of pottery by the banks of the creek, the only remnants of a population that vanished a couple hundred years before we lived there. [Read more…]

“In Remembrance of Me”: the Sacrament of Root Beer Floats

I have a wonderful home teacher. He tries to visit every month, despite our frequent too-busyness; he remembers every child’s birthday, and mine; he shows up to baseball and basketball games and high school improv nights to cheer for my kids. Once I posted something on Facebook about how much I love lilacs, and he and his wife were at my door within the hour, arms full of gorgeous blooms–I think they must have cut down an entire lilac bush in their yard. When he asks if there is anything he can do for us, I know the question is sincere and heartfelt and would be followed by the relocation of at least a New England-sized mountain if I asked. He seems disappointed when I can’t think of anything to ask for. [Read more…]

Book reviews: Brown, Holbrook/Bowman, Mason

Book reviews never do the books justice, not fully – the complexity of argument, the fine examples, these are always lost. So, try not to be too disappointed in micro-reviews of these three fine books, each of which are extremely valuable resources. [Read more…]

A Mighty Change of Heart #BOM2016

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Both rhetorically and typologically, Alma the Younger occupies the same space in the Book of Mormon that Paul occupies in the New Testament. The typological similarity begins with their conversion stories, which share so many structural elements that they can plausibly be considered variations of the same basic narrative.

After their conversions, the two men continue along similar trajectories. Alma gives up the Chief Judgship and travels throughout the land, visiting the Churches that his father had set up. Paul goes on multiple journeys to set up and visit the Churches of Asia Minor. They both encounter congregations that have become divided and fractious—thereby implicitly rejecting the baptismal covenant to be united in faith. Both Alma and Paul make it clear that followers of Christ must do better. [Read more…]

The New Arrington Bio

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At the recent MHA Conference at Snowbird, Utah, I spent some time between sessions browsing the books in the sponsor rooms. I had flown to Utah for the conference and so had precious little space for books. One I knew I was going to purchase so I could start reading it there at the conference and on the flight home was Gregory A. Prince, Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History. I just finished the book moments ago. [Read more…]

Mormon Theology Seminar: Conference Program

This summer’s Mormon Theology Seminar—in cooperation with the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Students, the Maxwell Institute, and BYU’s Wheatley Institution—will hold its concluding conference on Wednesday, June 15, at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

Join us in the Chapel of the Great Commission, The Graduate Theological Union, 1798 Scenic Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709.

For those interested in attending, the conference is free and open to the public. This year’s text is Alma 12:19-13:20. I’ve included the conference program below: [Read more…]

Rough Draft Commandments, Ranked

Ranking stuff in sets of 10 seems normal and natural for us now, but that’s because we have thousands of years of conditioning that all started with the very first list of Stuff, Ranked–the 10 Commandments. Since Moses went up the mountain, mankind has continually ranked things in sets of 10 (though most of these rankings are non-authoritative and therefore wrong). But you probably didn’t even know that the 10 Commandments were actually the result of a negotiation between God and Moses; God wanted to give more commandments; Moses didn’t want to carve too much stuff in rocks. That’s right, folks–the 10 Commandments are just a compromise of divine counsel and human laziness. Had Moses not been so adamant, we would have had a much longer list of commandments, and the history of ranking stuff would have been fundamentally different. Steve and I aren’t sure exactly how many commandments were in the original draft, but we know it was at least 21. We also don’t know whether revealing these missing commandments causes them to be binding on all mankind for the rest of eternity.

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

Writ & Vision: Evening with Adam Miller

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I’ll be at Writ & Vision (274 W. Center Street, Provo) this week. Here’s the official event description:

Join us Thursday, June 16th, at 7 pm for a panel discussion of two new works by Mormon philosopher and theologian Adam Miller. Adam’s books—including Rube Goldberg Machines, Letters To A Young Mormon, and Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan—have broken fresh ground and had an enormous impact on LDS intellectual conversations and debates.

This week he will be discussing and signing copies of two new books:

Future Mormon: Essays in Mormon Theology 
Nothing New Under the Sun: A Blunt Paraphrase of Ecclesiastes

Come Thursday evening for what promises to be a lively and thoroughly interesting discussion, and to meet Adam. The event is free and open to the public, and will likely be robustly attended, so show up early. Light refreshments will be served.

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