Clearance vs. Cancellation

From the Women’s Bible Commentary:

Deuteronomy prohibits the husband, who sought to secure for himself a cheap divorce from his spurned bride, from ever divorcing her. To our ears, this provision sounds appalling, binding a young girl for the rest of her life to a man who “hates” her. In patriarchal ancient Judah, where women’s social status and economic survival depended on membership in a male-headed household, the provision was probably intended to guarantee her security.

The Deuteronomic law relies on some assumptions that don’t match our modern interpretation of marriage:

  • Women in marriage are entitled to protection because they are unable to protect themselves.
  • Men in marriage are obligated to protect the women they marry because those women are otherwise unable to protect themselves.

In the iron age society of Deuteronomy, marriage entitles women but obligates men. Restricting men from abandoning their obligation is the objective of restrictions on divorce, not an intention to protect women from harm within the marriage relationship (which isn’t addressed), but to require men to protect women from a patriarchal society in which they have no standing or power and are financially and physically vulnerable. [Read more…]

Chains of Persuasion: a Symposium about Religion and Democracy, Part 3

Our third review of Ben Hertzberg’s Chains of Persuasion is provided by Russell Arben Fox, BCC permablogger and professor of political science at Friends University in Wichita, KS. Read the previous reviews here and here.

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Chains of Persuasion: a Symposium about Religion and Democracy, Part 2

Our second review of Ben Hertzberg’s Chains of Persuasion is provided by Simone Chambers, professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine. Read the first review here. [Read more…]

Lesson 26: “He Is Risen.” Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20-21 #BCCSundaySchool2019

This is my first crack at one of these Gospel Doctrine lessons, and at first I didn’t have a good sense as to how to approach it. I began by reading the scriptural selections. Then I read the Come Follow Me manual, and I’m sorry, but there’s just not much there. My next thought was to focus on the differences  among the accounts, which would require the creation of a Taylor-siblings-style really big chart, which could be fun. But that seemed like it was going to develop way more material than would fit in a blog post (and it also seemed like way too much work). So finally I decided to focus on Mark 16:1-8. Part of the reason is to try to model  how there is a virtue to focusing on a single Gospel at a time in lieu of always pursuing the harmonization project. Also, this is the earliest resurrection account that we have. And finally, it seemed an opportunity to intrract with Julie’s Mark commentary. [1] So that is the plan. [Read more…]

Chains of Persuasion: a Symposium about Religion and Democracy, Part 1

Ben Hertzberg, an old friend of By Common Consent, has generously agreed to participate in a symposium about his book, published late in 2018, Chains of Persuasion: A Framework for Religion in Democracy. It provides a fascinating, dense, and serious theoretical analysis of how religious believers (he focuses on Mormons and Muslims in particular, but his arguments are applicable to all) can, and should, argue about morality in a pluralistic democracy like the United States. This symposium–which will run through the blog this week–will consist for three short reviews of the book, after which Ben will respond. The first review is provided by Michael Austin, a BCC permablogger and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Theological Poll: Also-Ran Edition

What is the difference between the lower two tiers of the celestial kingdom and the terrestrial kingdom in the eternities? We’re going to exclude differences in glory and types of bodies from this poll, because those seem too obvious (and vague) to me. Complain below, if you must.


Justify your answers in the comments.

Welcome Richelle Wilson to BCC!

By Common Consent is thrilled to welcome a new permanent blogger to the team, Richelle Wilson.  Richelle is pursuing a Ph.D in Scandanavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin.  She also works at the Madison radio station WORT FM and serves as a copy editor extraordinaire at Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought.

Richelle is well-beloved in the Mormon Studies community, but I called dibs on her blog nomination text because I’ve known her the longest.  Richelle grew up in Michigan and I grew up in Indiana; we met at an Especially for Youth on Indiana University’s campus nearly 20 years ago.  As teenage girls we bonded not over spirituality or service, but cute boys.  Richelle had an EFY crush-of-the-week on Spencer, a guyfriend from my home ward.  She calculated that if she befriended me she could triangulate her way into his social circle.

Richelle’s crushing attempts failed, but our friendship survived! [Read more…]

The Stranger and His Friend

A couple of months ago the sister in charge of our sacrament meeting music wanted to arrange for someone to sing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” today, June 23, because it would be the Sunday before June 27. She asked one guy to do this, and he agreed at first, but it turned out he wasn’t really excited to do it, so I said I’d do it if I could turn it into a talk first and give an introduction to the song, which turned out to be fine. So I did it in sacrament meeting this morning, and it turned out pretty  well. I didn’t write down the text of my remarks, so while they’re still fresh in my mind I’m going to write them down here for future reference: [Read more…]

Jane

I’m fairly involved in the broad field of Mormon Studies. My own particular niche in Mormon Studies is as a scripturist; more common is for folks to focus on Mormon history. I follow history studies as best I can (such as by reading the journals and attending the conferences), but I don’t consider myself an actual historian the way so many of my friends are. I’m more a consumer of history than a producer of it, and I admire and envy my many friends who are full fledged history nerds. [Read more…]

Epistemic Humility and the Crisis in the Church

Human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolours the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.
                                    —Francis Bacon, Novum Organon

You are wrong. You are profoundly and disturbingly wrong about a spectacularly large number of things. You accept facts that are not facts, values that are incompatible with each other, and a fair number of truly dumb ideas about how to change the world. If you ever really understood the extent of your wrongness, you would never trust another word you said.

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King Brigham! (Also, Dogs)

A couple taxable nuisances. Photo by ipet photo on Unsplash

Last week, for various reasons that involve research and things, I fell down the rabbit hole of nineteenth-century dog taxes in the U.S. I looked through tons of archival newspapers to see why U.S. cities and states imposed taxes on the ownership of dogs. (Short answer: nineteenth-century Americans often—though not always—considered dogs nuisances. In a lot of cases, the justification was that dogs attacked farmers’ sheep; sometimes it was the risk of rabies (“hydrophobia”). In any event, people believed that a tax on dogs, by raising the price, would reduce the number of dogs in the town.)

In my initial Googling, I learned that the Bloomington, IL, Pantagraph was particularly anti-dog. So I decided to take a look at its dog-related articles. Imagine my surprise when, in the April 1, 1857, edition, I saw an article on Utah. It read: [Read more…]

Book Review—Jana Riess, The Next Mormons

41VNW2NVATLRichelle Wilson is a PhD student in Scandinavian studies and comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is a talk producer at community radio station WORT 89.9 FM and a member of Dialogue’s editorial staff.

When I first heard Jana Riess was undertaking research about Millennial Mormons, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait for this book to be released. Given the heightened sense of generational divide in America right now, thanks in no small part to deepening political polarization and an ongoing series of culture wars run amok, research like this is vital for the health of our communities. 

The Next Mormons doesn’t disappoint. Riess writes in a clear, engaging style that is approachable to non-specialists and folks who don’t know much about Mormonism. In spite of its seemingly niche topic, I hope this book receives a wider audience since Riess’s findings are important and have broader implications for religion in 21st-century America. [Read more…]

I Am Worried about Jessica.

Lona Gynt is a friend of BCC.  She is a Latter-day Saint and works as a physician in the Eastern United States and also shares poetry and other comment in her blog “Scattered thoughts made a little more random” at lonagynt.wordpress.com.  She is a transgender woman who writes under  a pseudonym for the time being.

I am worried about Jessica.

Jessica is not her real name, but this can get confusing since she does not consider her legal birth name to be her real name either.

I met Jessica through my friend Sophia.  Like me, Sophia is a transgender woman, but we do have some key differences. I am a lifelong Latter-day Saint.  I have not openly transitioned socially to a female role, even though I have been treated with female hormones for many years to medically transition my body to match my internal identity and to combat overpowering gender dysphoria.  Sophia lives in Europe, she is not Latter-day Saint, she has transitioned medically and socially to the female gender.  She is a compassionate and empathetic person, so I paid attention when she wrote me the following:

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Lesson 25: It is Finished. Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19 #BCCSundaySchool2019

The Seven Words of Jesus.

These chapters deal with the consummation of the ministry of Jesus: his suffering, crucifixion, and atoning death on the cross.

It’s first worth reflecting on the bizarre enormity of this event, and the extent to which the centuries have normalized it. It’s cliché among Christians to say that the faithful Jews of Jesus’s day did not expect a Messiah like him, but it’s worth pointing out exactly how logical this was, and how consistent with human nature.

It is easy in retrospect to valorize persecution and condemn persecutors: many religious groups (the Saints included) do this cultural work. Witness how the Church today remembers the arrest and imprisonment of Joseph Smith in Missouri, absolving him from any wrongdoing and attributing to him only righteous anger and noble sentiments. But how might we react today should the president of the church, say, storm into the Capitol Building in Washington DC, vandalize and destroy it, and be arrested and tried for treason?

How comfortable are we with a truly countercultural faith; one which would undermine those embedded assumptions that nearly all Americans take for granted: the comforts of our wealth and leisure, our fixation on our consumer-driven lifestyles, our shared devotion to meritocracy?  How many of us would, like Peter, James, and John do in the Gospel of Mark, willingly give up our incomes and jobs and homes and begin to live as roaming, wandering preachers, if Jesus asked us to? To what extent do we see Jesus in the homeless, the poor, the oppressed, and are we really ready to do what it takes to be with them and stand with them? Or would we uncomfortably call following in Peter’s footsteps cultish and wait for the Netflix documentary?  Are we too satisfied with the easy prejudices that come with assuming that our own lifestyles and traditions and tastes are (luckily) the same as God’s?

Indeed, the Jews were expecting the Messiah to offer political liberation from the Romans, because their scripture and tradition and expectations had taught them to. The analogue to Jesus in the Hebrew Bible was King David, God’s “messiah”—which means, simply, God’s anointed one. The Hebrew prophets repeatedly affirm that God’s kingdom would come again, and, of course, David had created that kingdom before. They were comfortable with a faith which conformed to their cultural expectations, and so, very often, are we.

So when Jesus begins preaching, as Matthew puts it, the “gospel of the kingdom of God,” how are we to understand that?  How does Jesus challenge the ways in which we are blind to the kingdom of justice, mercy, and redemption that he calls us to? How does the crucifixion shatter the ways that we are blind to the injustices and sins which must be eradicated before that kingdom might come forth?

Across the four gospels, Jesus speaks seven times while on the cross. These utterances are called the “seven words” of Jesus, and given the traditional order, they mark a progression to the kingdom of God; Jesus enacting and creating what he has so often promised and taught.
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Monday Morning Theological Poll: LGBTQ in abstract edition

How does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints view Homosexuality as a whole (the concept and its implications, rather than the acts of any particular individual or group).


Justify your answers below.

Identifying With the One

Even the mountains agree—love one another.

In the summer of 2014 a German tourist went hiking with her dog leashed to her waist in the Austrian Alps. She was walking along a publicly maintained road leading through an alpine pasture when a small herd of mother cows and their calves charged the hiker’s dog from behind. Because the dog was fixed to her waist, and she did not hear the cows coming, the tourist ended up being trampled and suffered mortal injuries.

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Healing through Baptisms

59942741_10100712620455120_868906746230341632_nJennifer Roach is a mental health therapist who lives with her family in the suburbs of Seattle. She converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January 2019.

I get touched in the Temple. A lot.

I’m a new convert. Baptized 4 months ago. But I am no stranger to faith. I grew up in the mainstream Christian church.  I loved being in church. I was there every time the doors were open, which was not nearly enough for me. I loved the Bible, sermons, singing. I gave my entire life to all of it. Most of the jobs I have had as an adult were in mainstream Churches. My undergraduate degree is from a Christian college, followed by a Masters in Divinity, and then another master’s in counseling. I am a religious, church-going woman to my core.

But I was also completely gutted at church. [Read more…]

On Not Going to Girls Camp

For ten years, I was this guy: the goofball priesthood leader who volunteered for Girls Camp. I promised myself and others that I’d go as long as I had daughters going to camp; since college professors don’t work much during the summer, and since the stake was always scrambling to find a few men who were able and willing to spend a whole week playing water-carrier, blessing-giver, tent-erector, and general rented-mule for over a hundred young women, it worked out well. But times change and leadership changes, and this summer, though two of our daughters are leaving tomorrow morning (one for her fourth and final year, one for her second), I won’t be going with them to spray hornets, lead hikes, play lifeguard, or contribute to some ridiculous skit at their side. Instead, since this year’s camp is taking place rather close to our city of Wichita, each ward was asked to send multiple individuals one day at a time to get a brief Girls Camp experience, and I wasn’t one our bishop picked. I kind of miss it already. [Read more…]

“Not as I Will, but as Thou Wilt” #BCCSundaySchool2019

Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18

Son of Man, Huh? What Does That Even Mean?
The four chapters in this lesson correlate, to a remarkable degree, the events leading up to Christ’s arrest by Jewish authorities on the Thursday night of Holy week. These events include the Last Supper, the prayer in Gethsemane, Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, and Peter’s thrice-repeated denial of his Master. I will use the text in Matthew as the basis for the lesson, adding in insights from the other Gospels as appropriate.

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MHA SLC 2019

It’s that time of year again–time for some serious Mormon History Association action at the Sheraton on Fifth South in Salt Lake City. For those who are participating in the conference, please post your notes, comments and observations here. Those who are unable to be there in person will greatly appreciate whatever nuggets you are able to share. [Read more…]

#BCCSundaySchool2019: “Continue Ye in My Love”

tristan-billet-731063-unsplash

Photo by Tristan Billet on Unsplash

Readings: John 13–17

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, all cited scriptures are from the New Revised Standard Version translation)

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:12–14, 17)

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On Honor, Success, and Early Return Missionaries

61639833_674949159627927_5665938891450875904_n

Jaxon Washburn is a friend of BCC who recently returned from a mission in Armenia.

My name used to be Elder Washburn.

I returned home on May 17th, after returning from my service as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Armenia. My mission was eight months long.  Less than a month ago, I had no intentions of coming home. God, I suppose, intended otherwise, and I am doing my best to sort out the pieces.

I loved my mission. To be on a mission is to ground oneself in paradox in many respects. Such was my experience, at least. My mission constituted of a series of contrasts: there were moments where I felt closer to God than I ever had before, and moments where I never felt more spiritually detached. I lived as selflessly as I could, and because of that, I have never been more critically self-aware of all my own flaws and shortcomings. This, the biggest challenge of my life, brought with it the most significant amount of growth, refinement, and development. My mission meant the world to me; it has since my teenage years, when I decided I wanted to serve. To part with it was heartbreaking at best, and I am still working to reconcile my return with the future course of my life. [Read more…]

Civic Process Specialists: Some Thoughts

A couple weeks ago, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the church told Utah stake presidents to start calling “specialists who can assist church members to better understand and participate in the civic process.” Over the weekend, I listened to Ep. 82 of the Trib‘s “Mormon Land” podcast, which discussed this calling with the Hinckley Institute’s Morgan Lyon Cotti. That discussion was an excellent and substantive discussion of why the church might be interested in doing this, and the benefits of additional civic engagement.

At this point, it’s not clear precisely what being a civic process specialist will entail, though, among other things, they might help people figure out how to register to vote, figure out how, when, and where to vote, and, apparently, given them some guidance with Utah’s caucus system. The church has been clear that it will continue to be neutral with respect to candidates and parties. Still, there are people who worry that the specialists will be less nonpartisan than the church. Which brings up the question: can the church do this, or is it going to lose its tax exemption?

Spoiler alert: it’s not going to lose its exemption. [Read more…]

Michael Austin’s Enemies, and What He Says About Them

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Michael Austin (who, for the record, is an old and close friend) does not fit most people’s stereotype of a “patriot,” the sort of person would would proudly fly an American flag and attend parades on Memorial Day. After all, he’s an academic, a cosmopolitan, a liberal Democrat, a scholar of 17th-century English rhetoric, Mormon environmentalism, world literature, and the book of Job; when he wrote an earlier book about the Founding Fathers, it was entirely about how right-wing patriots completely misunderstand them. So it would be easy to assume that Michael’s attachment to the idea of “America” would be distant, contextual, and intellectual at best.

That assumption would be wrong–or mostly wrong, anyway. You’d very likely be correct about the flag and the parades. But Michael’s latest book, We Must Not Be Enemies: Restoring America’s Civic Tradition, makes it clear that his attachment to–indeed, his “belief” in–the civic idea of America is both serious and strong. As long as I’ve known the man, it surprised me to see in these pages so much genuine passion and concern over the direction of the United States at the present moment. When he takes a line from the famous closing paragraph of Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address–“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies”–as his title, he really means it: he really believes that America’s liberal democracy both provides a vital opportunity for, and levies upon us all a specific demand for, friendship. That friendship is, in his view, essential to America’s “civic tradition”; democratic legitimacy in the American state–to say nothing of good government–is impossible without it. [Read more…]

An Altar Under Crossed Stars

Thanks to Calvin Burke for sharing this very personal story.

** All identifying details have been changed to protect privacy. I loved this boy too much to tell you or anyone else who he is. You will never find him; don’t even try.

The problem is, when he smiles, he knocks stars out of the sky. [Read more…]

Review of Blumell, NT History, Culture and Society

Blumell

This post is a review of Lincoln H. Blumell, editor, New Testament History, Culture, and Society: A Background to the Texts of the New Testament (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, in cooperation with Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2019). 836 pages.

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Review of Barbara Brown Taylor’s Holy Envy

Barbara Brown Taylor is perhaps the best thinker and writer that I ever blew the chance to hear live. Several years ago, I attended a conference at which she and Miroslov Volf were the featured speakers. Volf was the opening plenary speaker, and Taylor was the closing plenary speaker. I was not familiar with Taylor at the time, and I had a fairly small menu of flights to choose from when I booked the flight. So I chose an evening flight back home that required me to miss the closing session. To make up for it, I bought An Altar in the World and read it in the flight. By the time I landed, I realized what a mistake I had made.

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Who Wears a Bow Tie? A Completely Unscientific Internet Poll.

Hey! Its me! In a bow tie!

For Father’s Day about two years ago, my wife and kids gave me a couple bow ties.

I proceeded to not wear them for several months, largely because I never remembered during the week to learn to tie a bow tie and, in the rush of getting my family getting itself ready to go to church, I never had time Sunday mornings. Eventually, though, I learned to tie a bow tie (thanks internet!). From there, well, it’s not like I’ve never gone back—I have a great collection of neckties, and I enjoy wearing them occasionally—but more often than not, I choose one of my bow ties.[fn1]

Growing up, I’m almost entirely sure I never saw anybody at church wearing a bow tie.[fn2] Similarly, I never saw it at BYU or for the several years I lived in New York. [Read more…]

Designing the Scriptures.

Today it’s in the news that President Nelson went and met with Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister. This was a little bit more interesting than just any meeting with a world leader for two reasons: (1) Ardern has been widely praised recently for her leadership, including her response to violence in her country, and (2) Ardern herself was raised in the church, but says she left the church in 2005 and currently identifies herself as agnostic.

But this post isn’t about that meeting, it’s about how we print and bind the scriptures. President Nelson made a gift to Ardern of what appears to be a very nice Deseret Book “Legacy Edition” of the Book of Mormon. It’s a nicely done hardcover edition that would look beautiful on a shelf, but it’s pretty pricey retailing around $100. Anyway, that got me thinking about what my ideal edition of the scriptures for my personal use would look like if I could design it myself.

1841_Book_of_Mormon_open_to_title_page [Read more…]

#BCCSundaySchool2019: “Behold, Thy King Cometh”

 

Matthew 21–23; Mark 11; Luke 19–20; John 12

These passages cover Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the Temple. John puts the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Christ’s ministry; the three synoptics (Matthew, Mark, Luke) put it toward the end. It is the inciting incident which leads the Jerusalem elite to seek Jesus’s death for Matthew, Mark, and Luke; as Mark has it, in 11:18 (KJV):

And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.

How should we understand what was happening here?  The first thing to note is that the people doing business at the temple were not necessarily doing wrong, so we cannot read this story as a critique of a self-evident crime; it’s not as though these were people hanging around selling souvenirs in a sacred place.
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