An Apology

Last summer, Faith and Brian Kershisnik visited our Miller Eccles Study Group in Texas. For me, the most striking part of their presentation turned on Faith’s discussion of “moral creativity,” drawing on examples from the life of Jesus and the work of Walter Wink.

A few months ago I gave a talk at BYU drawing on these themes and misattributed those ideas to Brian rather than Faith. My mistake is especially ironic given that a significant portion of my talk called for Mormons to defend the family by defending women from misogyny in its many forms, both obvious and subtle.

My mistake is a decent example of the kind of implicit, systemic bias—the kind of bias that overlooks and undervalues the contributions of women—that I meant to speak out against. I was in a hurry and, without it giving it much thought, I just automatically attributed the presentation as a whole to Brian.

We have to do better.

I have to do better.

I’ve asked for a correction to be added to the text accompanying the video. And I hope that, beyond my personal apology to Faith, this post and that official correction will help make things right.

Joseph Smith’s Statement on “The Fundamental Principles of our Religion.” Part I: Authorship, Attribution, Revision, and Publication.

President Nelson will soon give his first general conference address as the President of the Church. When he gave his first address as an apostle, then-Elder Nelson quoted Joseph Smith as saying that “[t]he fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” He quoted the same statement in his April 2017 conference address. It’s a familiar statement. Church leaders and members quote it regularly. But where does it come from? What’s the story behind it?

A few years ago I quoted this statement when I gave an Easter talk. As I was preparing that talk, I was curious about its original context and I decided to track down the original primary source. I’m no historian, but that curiosity later led me down a rabbit hole of authorship, attribution, publication, revision, edition, and republication.

I’ve gathered those notes now into a two-part series. This part deals with the authorship, the revision, the publication, and contemporary use of the statement. The next one explores the potential significance of the revisions that later editors made to the statement. [Read more…]

He Rejoiced


So in GD today we did lesson 9, which includes the story of the miraculous birth of Isaac in Abraham’s and Sarah’s old age. The teacher mentioned that where the KJV said Abraham laughed at the news he was about to become an aged father, the JST corrects that to “he rejoiced.” At first I didn’t give it a second thought, because I vaguely recalled that change. But then a woman sitting behind me said that the name Isaac actually means “he laughed,” and she asked me if I could confirm her understanding, which I did, pointing out that Isaac is an anglicized version of the Hebrew name  Yitzhak (or Itzhak), which comes from the verb “to laugh” (the Y represents an imperfect verb form). (The Lord directed Abraham to name his son Isaac in Genesis 17:19.) And then the teacher said something like “And now we know it also means ‘he rejoiced.'” And the lesson proceeded from there. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Mothering Sunday)

O God our blessed Mother, who gathers us under your wings
as a hen gathers her chicks with tender care:
as we return this day to our Mother Church,
grant that we may love her full kindly,
the chicks tending now to the hen
with a gentle loving care,
binding up the breaches in her body
and making the covert of her wings
once again safe for her wandering chicks
that we may welcome them in love and kinship
and become one people as you are one God. Amen.

Lesson 10: Marriage in the Covenant #BCCSundaySchool2018

ReadingsGenesis 24 – 29.

Introduction:   I volunteered to give this lesson for BCC precisely because I’m a temple-divorced, now-engaged-to-a-Catholic Mormon woman.  The Old Testament manual instructs teachers “As you discuss the importance of eternal marriage, be sensitive to the feelings of class members who have not been married in the temple or whose parents have not been married in the temple.”  But other than that note, it doesn’t provide any practical tips about what that “sensitivity” might look like.  I hope here to provide a model for how we can use this episode in Genesis to spark discussion on how everyone can achieve more Christlike relationships, without assuming that all temple marriages are happy, nor that all non-temple marriages are miserable.

[Read more…]

When the General Relief Society President blessed a lonely pregnant woman

I have recently spoken at several events related to the release of my book, The Power of Godliness. I have opened with several different anecdotes that highlight tensions that I hope I resolve in my work. One of my favorite stories is that of a pregnant woman who received a blessing from a prominent Relief Society leader; a story that also opens my chapter on healing and authority (ch 4). I’d like to describe the processes of reconstructing that story.

[Read more…]

What does it mean to be worthy?

My husband was part of an interfaith discussion in which someone asked the LDS participants, “What’s the point of making someone quit smoking for a week before they can get baptized? Does God really care if you smoke or not?” I think the standard, or at least predictable, answer to this question is that it demonstrates a person’s commitment to what will (or should) be a new way of life, their acceptance of the church’s moral authority; it makes sense as a test of how serious someone is about baptism and how well they understand what will be expected of them as members of the church. Someone else defended the practice along those lines. Brother J, being Brother J, said, “No, actually, God probably doesn’t care if you smoke or not.”

At least, He probably doesn’t care if you stop smoking for seven days.

[Read more…]

Stephen King Should Not Have Been My Sex Education Teacher


The Losers Club, a group of friends I strongly identified with in Jr High

“You would have [a girl] be tenderly and delicately nurtured, like a hot-house plant—taught to cling to others for direction and support, and guarded, as much as possible, from the very knowledge of evil.” —from Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

[Read more…]

You’ve Got to Admit It’s Getting Better: Steven Pinker and “The World”

If you had to choose one moment in history in which you could be born, and you didn’t know ahead of time who you were going to be–what nationality, what gender, what race, whether you’d be rich or poor, gay or straight, what faith you’d be born into–you wouldn’t choose 100 years ago. You wouldn’t choose the fifties, or the sixties, or the seventies. You’d choose right now.
                          —Barack Obama, 2016 graduation speech at Howard University


51sBWhI4e9L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Christianity is based on a narrative of decline that goes something like this: The world began as a perfect place where people walked and talked with God and lived in harmony with the natural world. But human beings sinned and were cast of paradise, where they became wickeder and wickeder until God had to destroy all but eight of them. Those eight started a new society that also became wicked, and God had to periodically destroy cities and send Assyrians and Babylonians to punish His chosen people. Then he sent his only son into the world, and we killed him. Since then, we have been getting wickeder and wickeder and, sometime in the near future, everything will be destroyed again and Jesus will come back and be king. [Read more…]

Half Off BCC Press Award Nominees

Award season is now upon us, and BCC Press could not be prouder that, before we even reach our first birthday, four of our titles have been nominated for major awards in Mormon literarydom. And to show how proud we are–and also how awesome these books are–we will be offering our four nominees for half price all week. That’s right: four great books at four great prices. Because we love you.

Here are the nominees with all the links you need to take advantage of this awesome deal:

[Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, who by your powerful hand delivered Israel from Egypt and reigns forever over all creation:
grant that we, when our hearts entertain the temptations of power,
might remember the tender power that your Son exercised by coming to live as one of us.
Turn our hands, therefore, to the works of love, the works of kindness,
that we may nurture the life of the Spirit among ourselves
and gently welcome all we can into that life,
until we become one people as you are one God. Amen.

Surely, This Cannot Be

March 3, 2018

Dear God,

I don’t believe in bargaining—theologically, that is.  I don’t believe that you would be so unjust as to favor a few children with a whim of a miracle based on their pious pleading, while allowing others to suffer in a mercurial world.  I don’t believe it, but I want it.  I want to beg, “please God, don’t let this cancer take him.   Of all those who have humbly served you, surely his kind and generous heart has called out and caught your notice.  You have to have seen his pure soul.  I know it shines.  Please, let him stay a while longer…..he’s my dad.”

[Read more…]

Questions for Book Groups Reading ‘Gilda Trillim’

Gilda TrillimDid you know my novel Gilda Trillim had its start here at BCC? I posted a number of the opening chapters and she came into my life through the blog itself. She was birthed into existence in a post that I filled with hints that it was FICTION, but I didn’t say it explicitly, and unfortunately/delightfully some took Gilda to be a genuine lost Mormon writer that everyone had forgotten about. Great fun that. A few literary types called for studies to bring her out of obscurity and move her works forward. When I pointed out all the hints I’d inserted that it was fiction, some were not happy with me. One in particular, said that when he came to the internet he expected the truth. He must now be living a very disappointed life.

Gilda Trillim is now out and it’s a finalist for the Whitney Award for best adult novel and the Association of Mormon Letters Best Novel Award. Several reading groups have asked for a list of questions to guide discussions about the book, so I thought I’d post them here as there might be other groups I don’t know about. Note there are some light spoilers, so if you want your Gilda unsullied by any information stop now, but there is nothing too earth-shattering. See the last paragraph for an Easter Egg Hunt. [Read more…]

CFP: Book of Mormon Studies Conference

The Book of Mormon Studies Association is happy to announce a conference to be held October 12–13, 2018, at Utah State University.

[Read more…]

Belonging to Isaiah the Prophet


I’ve subscribed to Biblical Archaeology Review for a long time. I recently got the latest issue, which includes an article by Eilat[1] Mazar, “Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?” The article is about the bulla pictured above. (A bulla is a piece of clay bearing a seal impression.) It would certainly be exciting to have a physical artifact relating so closely to the great prophet! [Read more…]

Reminder: Church History Symposium tomorrow and Friday

Just a quick reminder: the 2018 LDS Church History Symposium is happening tomorrow at BYU and Friday at the Conference Center in Salt Lake. The topic—“Financing Faith: The Intersection of Business and Religion”—looks fascinating, and there are a host of great people presenting.

Also, I’m presenting Thursday at 1:00 in room 2265 of the BYU Conference Center (“Brigham Young vs. the Bureau of Internal Revenue“). I’ve got some pretty cool slides to accompany the presentation. If you’re in town and available, I’d love to see you then!

Certain Women: Zion Art Society exhibition in Salt Lake City and Provo, March 2 – May 5.

Today’s guest post comes from Eric Biggart of the Zion Art Society.

Two years ago, the Zion Art Society launched as a way to bridge the gap between the thousands of inspiring LDS artists and potentially millions of LDS art collectors. We have all been consoled to beautify Zion, and we hoped to bring original art into the homes of members across the world. In the years since, we have held two art exhibitions, and international competition, and started a arts-focused podcast, Mormon Visual Culture.

[Read more…]

We All Worship a Different God

cloudsSomeone who studies religion knows that there are many Gods and ideas of divinity throughout theology. They understand the differences between these beliefs and the intricacies of what God means to many people. However, I am not that person, so my knowledge is much more limited. But recently I have started to notice the subtle differences between the God that I worship and the God that people around me seem to worship.

Of course, the God that I have known and learned about throughout my life is different from the one(s) that my Hindu, Muslim, and even various Christian friends know. But the more I question my own beliefs and the more I learn about the beliefs of others, the more I am sure that none of us believe the same things, even when we claim the same religion.

[Read more…]

Lesson 9: “God Will Provide Himself a Lamb” #BCCSundaySchool2018

Silently he arranged the firewood, bound Isaac; silently he drew the knife. Then he saw the ram that God had appointed. He sacrificed that and returned home . . . From that day on, Abraham became old, he could not forget that God had demanded this of him. Isaac throve as before; but Abraham’s eye was darkened, he saw joy no more.  —Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Abraham 1:1, 5–20
Genesis 15–17; 21
Genesis 22

I once wrote a thing about Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. It was a chapter in Julie Smith’s award-winning collection As Iron Sharpens Iron. Mine was the free sample, so you can read it here (but you should definitely buy the book anyway). Following the design of the volume, I wrote a dialogue between Abraham and Job, with Job asking Abraham, “why did you agree to sacrifice your son?”

The original intent of the piece was to have Job, who had lost ten of his children when God took them without asking, attack Abraham viciously for agreeing to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham would wither under this questioning and admit his error. And thus we would see that Job was right to resist God while Abraham was wrong to give in to divine bullying. That is pretty much how I saw things before Julie asked me to write the chapter. [Read more…]

A Short Thought on a Dream: Or, Women and the Priesthood

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 6.55.58 AMIf gender is eternal—and we are told by our prophets and revelators in no uncertain terms that it is—if women are to preside at the side of our brothers in the eternal act of creation, and if neither can be exalted or progress without the other, then it stands to reason that there must be an equally powerful mechanism through which women will exercise that promised and divine power.

As a people, we are told we cannot live on borrowed light, and our current narrative and doctrine has women doing exactly that for eternity—living on the borrowed light of the priesthood of men. As a means of apologetics for this discrepancy we intuitively see but do not quite understand, women are told we “have access” to the priesthood of Aaron and Melchizedek, but it’s not ours. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Second Sunday in Lent

O God, our constant support,
whose constancy often feels like absence:
in our long wilderness walk,
some days find you nearer
than our accustomed busyness allows,
but many days, instead of presence,
we carry heavy doubt,
apparently alone,
tempted to put you, our God,
to the test;
grant us, then, the patience
to walk in our darkness
and learn our own strength,
as Jesus learned his,
that when the darkness is past,
we might walk with you
and with Jesus
in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Which City?

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16 [NRSV])

All we wanderers, all we watchers, have been called: called to live in a city God has prepared for us. And moreover, at least according to some interpretations of scripture, we have been called to do more than that: we have been called to help build that city. But which city is it? [Read more…]

A list of actionables you can tell my daughter you took when she will soon ask about her place in this church.

remy with net

This is a follow up post from the piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago titled, “Men, what will you do when my daughter asks about her place in this church?”  First, I want to say thank you for the dozens and dozens of well-thought out, empathetic and kind comments that so many of you left.  It was heartening to know that in many ways, I can tell my daughter, and in effect, myself, that although things can look pretty dire for women having an efficacious voice in this church, there are at least circles of men and women working quietly and effectively in a myriad of ways for greater equality.  I will try and include some of your suggestions from the comments here in this post, but the thread (at least part of it) is worth going back and reading through for more ideas.

[Read more…]

Domestic Abuse Resources for Bishops

Laura Brignone Bhagwat is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley where she studies technology and domestic violence.  Her dissertation tracks a public health intervention in hospital emergency rooms meant to prevent intimate partner homicide.

On a hot summer morning last year, I sat in a small room with fifteen pastors and ministers. Coffee and pastries were tucked into a corner, and the men and women of my county’s Interfaith Coalition to End Domestic Violence were introducing themselves. At the end of introductions, the pastor facilitating the meeting asked: “What are the biggest challenges facing your congregation when it comes to domestic violence?”

The answers started flying. “The abuser is a member of our church board!” “She just keeps going back to him and I don’t know what to do.” “Women in our church are taught to be meek and submissive, so when the abuser tells them something, they think they have no options.” “Victims are often looked down on when they speak out.” “Abusers misuse scripture to justify their actions.” “Even after [theological] seminary, I just don’t feel I have the training I need to respond to this issue.” [Read more…]

Lesson 8: Living Righteously in a Wicked World #BCCSundaySchool2018



Guido Reni’s “Lot and His Daughters” (1615)


Genesis 13–19 (but mostly chapters 18 & 19)
Ezekiel 16:49–50

Learning Outcomes

Students will more capably and confidently live their lives with integrity, peace, and hope, even when their world around them is harsh, upsetting, and seemingly without love. [Read more…]

Masonic Influence on LDS Temple Worship


I recently read an account of a person’s loss of faith in the Church. Among several challenging issues this person mentioned was learning of the Masonic influence on Mormon temple worship. I had a different experience with learning about that issue, and I’d like to describe it on the off chance the PTB might learn something useful about how best to expose our young people to this sort of thing. [Read more…]

On Stumbling Blocks and Being Strong (Sometimes)

On Sunday, was reading Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and these verses jumped out at me:

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died….

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble….

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. (Romans 14:13-15, 19-21; 15:1-2 [NRSV]) [Read more…]

Prayer for the First Sunday in Lent

Blessed God, the bread of life,
who feeds us with the spiritual food of your Son:
grant that this our wilderness journey,
undertaken to remind us that our lives
draw nurture from more than bread alone,
may send our roots deep into the loam of your love,
that we, blossoming into abundant life
through the nourishment of the Holy Spirit,
might share the feast of love together,
one people as you are One God. Amen.

Cover-up: Third Wheel

This is the first of an occasional series of posts exploring my process for creating many of the covers for BCCPress’s amazing books. #CoverUp

I’ve been a lover of book covers since I was in diapers—my mom, may she rest in peace, knew the value of books and I was surrounded by them from a very young age. And it was always their covers, first and foremost, that grabbed my attention. To this day, I’m drawn to books whose publishers take the time to dress them properly.

That’s why I was so tickled when I was asked to head-up cover design for our publishing group. I already had big shoes to fill… the cover to Tracy McKay’s The Burning Point (review) is a truly exceptional example of the craft. So with my first cover, I really wanted to put my best foot forward.

[Read more…]

How do women spiritually override bad Priesthood leadership?

Wrestling with “Women Submit” Language in Personal Scripture Study

One night a decade ago, I sat in a college dorm conducting a Sunday-night Bible study with my boyfriend.  We’d been working our way through the letters of Paul, and now were on Ephesians 5.  In that passage Paul calls for unity among the saints, and reproves various “unfruitful works of darkness” before reaching a famous passage:

Giv[e] thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;  Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. … Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

The passage didn’t strike me as odd; it seemed to exactly track everything I’d been taught in Young Women:  follow the Priesthood.  By divine design, men are the heads of households.  A husband should love and consult with his wife, but he ultimately presides as the Priesthood Holder in the home.  I had learned that even if the husband was falling short in some way, the wife should not undermine his authority, but instead “submit” and “reverence” him even more, in order to inspire him to step up and fulfill the mantle of his Priesthood responsibility. [Read more…]