Elder Russell M. Nelson: Power #ldsconf

It is a rare thing for a church leader to describe something so personal. [Read more…]

Elder Neil L. Andersen: When Life Doesn’t Look Like the Pictures #ldsconf

“We will continue to teach the Lord’s pattern for families, but now with millions of members, and the diversity we have in the children of the Church, we need to be even more thoughtful and sensitive. Our church culture and vernacular is at times unique. The primary children are not going to stop singing, ‘Families can be together forever,’ but when they sing ‘I’m so glad when daddy comes home,’ or ‘with father and mother leading the way,’ not all children will be singing about their own family”—Elder Neil L. Andersen

imgresYou know that whole thing about the Church being a hospital for the sick and not a museum of the Saints? It’s relevant here. Very relevant. In his Saturday afternoon talk, Elder Neil L. Andersen reminds us that a big part of running a hospital is that we have to be comfortable being around sick people. [Read more…]

Elder Donald Hallstrom: All are Children of God. #ldsconf

“In real life, we face actual, no imagined hardships.” Elder Hallstrom noted that there is real pain in life, physical, mental, spiritual pain. There are heartbreaks, when circumstances are different from what we anticipate. Social and personal injustice and it can be disorienting. There can be times of questioning, when doctrine or history is beyond our understanding at present.
[Read more…]

Elder Duncan’s Empathy Ointment #ldsconf

Elder Kevin R. Duncan’s conference address was a highlight of the Saturday morning conference for me. Opening with a metaphor about a painful splinter he carried in his hand for years, he was finally rid of it when he took the time to daily apply ointment that softened the skin enough for the bit of wood to work its way out. His hand is no longer sore, and the splinter left no mark—just the lesson that there was no need to have carried that pain with him for so long. [Read more…]

How I feel about #ldsconf

Some random thoughts as I get ready for Conference. It’s not that what comes out of Conference is unimportant; it is important. From the authorities of the Church we get new policies, new doctrines. The counsel from Conference is wise and often poignant. It means a lot. But Conference often feels abstract, distant to me; it is an image of authority and uniformity. It feels sometimes like a simulacrum of my faith, not my actual one that I live day to day. As such I want to think about what General Conference actually means. [Read more…]

On Unnecessary Transitions

Eliza N. is an editor who lives and works in Salt Lake City. She grew up in the Midwest and misses the cornfields. When she’s not working, reading, or watching Netflix, she enjoys running, playing volleyball, and hanging out with her dog.

I am a 31-year-old single Mormon. Upon my 31st birthday at the end of last October, I had until the next general conference to transition to either a family ward or a mid single adult ward. (Mid singles wards, if you didn’t know, are cesspools you wouldn’t wish on anyone.) I’ve had a lot of time to consider how much this transition was going to suck, and suck it did. I attended my new (family) ward last Sunday, and as expected, there were many tears and new-kid jitters.

As someone who spent twelve and a half years attending young single adult wards, I feel qualified to make this statement: The best thing we can do for single adult members of the Church is get rid of the singles wards programs. [Read more…]

Reminder: #ldsconf

Hey, just remember that we’re not live covering Conference, because we’re watching it (or doing something awesome). But we’re providing some more in-depth coverage as we go. If you want a live thread or live tweeting, sorry. Just watch Conference instead. You might enjoy it more that way.

Saturday’s Warrior 2016, a Guest Review

Jenny Garrard is a Utah Mormon, born and raised, but she’s not a fan of Jello and doesn’t sell anything on Etsy. She suffers from RBF, which you probably shouldn’t Google, but it’s nothing a dirty soda can’t fix. Jenny is married to an Idaho farm boy, and together they have 3 sons.

This is a review of the new Saturday’s Warrior film, directed by Michael Buster, produced by Lex de Azevedo, which opens April 1, 2016. [Read more…]

Reading Complexity: The Problems and Possibilities of Mosiah 9-22 #BOM 2016

Mosiah 9-22

Let’s start with the great Arabic text, One Thousand and One Nights, compiled throughout the Golden Age of Islamic culture. I have always found this to be one of the best places to start any discussion of narrative complexity. The entire collection is set in the compelling frame tale of Scheherazade, the daughter of the Grand Vizier who must save her life one night at a time by telling stories to  the love-wounded Sultan who  has vowed to take a new wife every day and execute her the next morning. But Scheherazade does not tell stories in the traditional fashion, for to do so would risk ending too soon. Rather, she embeds stories within stories, adding the layers complexity that have made the collection so famous. Just keeping the layers straight exercises cognitive muscles that we rarely get to use. [Read more…]

Groundwork: An Other Testament

AOTThe new edition of Joseph Spencer’s An Other Testament: On Typology is the second book to be published in our Maxwell Institute series Groundwork: Studies in Theory and Scripture.

In addition to paperback and Kindle editions, An Other Testament is available for free on the Maxwell Institute Website for digital subscribers. Digital subscriptions are just $10 and also give subscribers access to all three of the Institute’s periodicals (Mormon Studies Review, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, and Studies in the Bible and Antiquity) and access to current and future volumes in the Proceedings of the Mormon Theology Seminar series.

I’ll address in more detail some of An Other Testament‘s content in future posts but to set the stage I’ve been given permission to reproduce here my own foreword to the book.


This book is a plow—it breaks ground and its furrow is wide and deep. The future of Mormon studies will be shaped by what is planted in its wake.

Spencer’s field is the Book of Mormon and in order to get his plow to bite, he invents, de novo, his own genre of scholarship—a humbling, meticulous, polymathic blend of history, philosophy, literary analysis, biblical studies, and, above all, theological speculation. In this book, Spencer invents Mormon theology as a speculative, scriptural discipline. [Read more…]

Reading The Book of Mormon in the Anthropocene

The Book of Mormon was written for our time. The Anthropocene. Human influence dominates Earth’s biosphere. The name ‘Antropocene’ was proposed as a scientific geological era recently in Science Magazine because in the mid-20th Century striking differences appear in the lithosphere and ice core data that suggests that we have entered a different geological era from the Holocene, the previous era. [Read more…]

Temple annulments and temple divorces

Current policies around temple divorce can add more hurt to an already difficult situation; but it does so, I believe, because the church wants to recognise the persistence, the continuing redemptive force, of commitments made during the sealing ceremony. [Read more…]

Acknowledging the Judas Reality

Rebecca Moore has been our guest before. She regularly blogs here and is a tall NASA enthusiast.

As I sat watching Interstellar last Sunday with my roommate, as I often do, I turned to her toward and said, “Isn’t this such a great analogy for Heavenly Father? Whatever screw ups well intentioned men may have committed, he’ll come back. He will still come find us. He’ll fix it.” She nodded and smiled politely, but I’m not sure if she was in the mood for me to go off about the failings of General Authorities, so I left it at that. But the analogy none the less stuck with me. [Read more…]

ICYMI: General Women’s Meeting, March 2016

refugee-choirYou may not have realized it, what with all the spring break and Easter and whatnot going on, but General Conference did begin on Saturday with the General Women’s Session. I came very close to not attending this session myself since a) it had been a long time since I’d actually enjoyed one, and b) I didn’t feel like getting dressed and going to church. (Yes, I know it’s on the interwebs now, but I don’t have the self-discipline to spend my Saturday night in front of a computer watching church, of all things. Watching cat videos, maybe. Maybe.)

But tradition is a hard thing to resist. [Read more…]

Groundwork: Postponing Heaven III

PostponingHeaven-Front-200x300In Postponing Heaven, Jad Hatem argues that a new relation to time is one key feature of human messianicity. A second feature is anonymity.

The Three Nephites once walked among the Nephites, known and recognizable. But “in the centuries that followed Christ’s appearance to the Lehite remnant, wars multiplied, the revolt against God grew, and faith diminished such that ‘the Lord did take away his beloved disciples,’ the three Nephite disciples whose lives he had prolonged (Mormon 1:13; cf. Mormon 1:16)” (31).

Their work, however, didn’t simply come to an end. Rather, their ministry continues. But now they work in anonymity. As Hatem puts its:

the clandestineness of these Nephite pilgrims on the earth does not keep them from their ministry, nor does it prevent some of the faithful from meeting them. Both Mormon and Moroni report seeing them and receiving instructions from them (see 3 Nephi 28:26; Mormon 8:11). Nevertheless, they remain hidden because they remain anonymous. (31-32)

This anonymity is a critical dimension of life in Christ. Giving up our own names and, instead, taking upon us the name of Christ, Christian discipleship unfolds as the practice of anonymity. All Christians, as Christians, are anonymous. [Read more…]

Conference on Religious Experience

On 14 April, at Christ Church, Oxford, there will be a one-day conference devoted to exploring the character of religious existence, with particular emphasis on the experience of the sacred and the temporality of religious practices. The program:
9:15 – 9:30, Welcoming Remarks, James Faulconer (Brigham Young University)
9:30 – 10:45, Daniel Watts (University of Essex), ‘Kierkegaard, Repetition and Ethical Constancy’
11:00 – 12:15, Christina Gschwandtner (Fordham University), ‘From Fast to Feast: Temporality in the Liturgy’
12:30 – 2:00, Lunch Break
2:00 – 3:15, Mark Wrathall (University of California, Riverside): ‘Rescuing the Future from the Ordinary: Ruptured Time and the Experience of the Sacred’
3:30 – 4:45, Ward Blanton (University of Kent), ‘Paul’s kairos and Ours: Fragility, Faith, Solidarity’
5:00 – 6:15, Laurence Hemming (Lancaster University), ‘Should God Speak? – The Phenomenon of the Religious Voice’

Meetings will be at Christ Church, Oxford, on 14 April. They are open to all and free of charge, but registration is required. To register, please write to Britni Exton: Britni_Exton@byu.edu

Dona Nobis Pack Meeting: On the Sanctity of Ordinariness in LDS Worship


Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for “Grant us peace”) is a phrase in the Agnus Dei section of the Roman Catholic mass. The phrase has also been used as the name for a number of important choral works (examples here, here, and here).


I am coming to the end of an eight-year stint as a senior administrator at a Catholic university. One of the genuine pleasures of this position has been my frequent attendance at Catholic mass. I attend regularly in our university chapel, but have also attended mass in magnificent cathedrals, 500-year-old churches, and, on one occasion, a spectacular outdoor venue in Birmingham, England, celebrated by the Pope. The much more modest Easter service in our ward yesterday prompted me to reflect more deeply on the two forms of weekly worship that have been an important part of my life for nearly a decade.

[Read more…]

Mormons name their kids the darnedest things: Born in 2015 edition

On Monday my mom mailed me a Much Anticipated Envelope. It contained the “Born in 2015” insert from her local newspaper, the Post Register. This annual publication announces the births of babies born the previous year in Rexburg and Idaho Falls, and is a veritable treasure trove of delightfully bad baby names. (Mormons, as you may know, love made-up and/or misspelled baby names. “Why use vowels when ‘Y’ exists?” is actually the Idaho state motto.) [Read more…]

Grateful about a Mystery I do not Understand

mary_resurected_lordWhat began as a Mormon Lectionary installment for Easter Sunday turned into an Easter sacrament meeting talk after I was invited to speak in church today. I hope readers will forgive the format of this lectionary post—this is a transcript of the talk I gave in church this morning.

Brian Doyle, a favorite essayist and poet of mine whose Catholic testimony has strengthened my Mormon one countless times over, recorded in an essay this thought about Christ’s atonement:

“The truest words I ever heard about divine love were uttered once by a friend as a grace before a meal. He bowed his head in the guttering candlelight, steam rising from the food before him, the fingers of the cedar outside brushing the window, and said, ‘We are part of a Mystery we do not understand, and we are grateful’” (Brian Doyle, “Joey’s Doll’s Other Arm,” Leaping, 2003, p. 20)

This is how I, too, feel today: grateful about a mystery I do not understand. [Read more…]

My School of the Prophets


A long time ago I was called to be my stake’s “institute teacher.”[1] I had taught lots of Gospel Doctrine classes in the stake, and I have always endeavored to make my classes interesting and on the level of a good BYU Religious Education course, and apparently someone had noticed that effort and decided to let me teach on a stake-wide basis. I took the call as quite an honor and of course accepted. [Read more…]

The Intelligencer: Filling Inboxes with Faith Since Like October 2015 or Something

giphyIf you still aren’t subscribed to The Intelligencer, BCC’s weekly email newsletter, we can only assume you don’t like Mormon news, By Common Consent posts, funny GIFs, the scriptures, or chocolate Easter eggs. Either that or you’re holding out for the BCC Snapchat channel to launch.

That’s not going to happen. We’re all-in on this email thing. You might as well subscribe.

Easter. The Passion of Jesus XXII. Crucifixion part 3. Luke and John. Finale.

Part 21, here.

Crucifixion 3. Luke and John. Last post!

After the story of the repentant robber, we read that it’s the 6th hour and the darkness comes until the 9th hour. Like Matthew, Luke only speaks of the 6th and 9th hours and doesn’t mention the third hour. Luke talks of the sun being eclipsed and it’s not clear whether he means some kind of solar eclipse or simply that the sunlight is obscured in some way. The word he uses is the one that would be used in the case of the moon passing in front of the sun, but that is impossible for that time of year. Now Luke speaks of the “curtain of the temple” being torn. He moves this event to a point where Jesus is still alive. This revokes the point of Mark’s narrative. No judgement is implied this way, and Luke has a soothing vision of what happens after Jesus’ death.
[Read more…]

Easter. The Passion of Jesus XXI. Crucifixion part 2.

Part 22, here.
Part 20, here.

Crucifixion 2.

Matthew follows Mark for the most part, but he makes some changes. “they came to a place called Golgatha which means the place of a skull and they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall.” Mark had myrrh in the wine, a flavoring, but gall is bitter, unpleasant. There is another Psalm here, Psalm 69:21. (KJV)

They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

This is a parallelism and it’s two sides of the same coin as usual, saying the same thing twice. Once again, the writer at the time did not treat it as parallelism he saw it as two different acts. Mark is perhaps thinking of the Psalm in his narrative where at the beginning he has the wine with myrrh, and at the end, the vinegar or sour wine. Matthew is more pedagogical: at the beginning it’s gall, at the end it’s vinegar. He’s more precise in his adherence to the Psalm. The parallelism becomes two separate acts and we’ve seen this kind of misapprehension of parallelism before.
[Read more…]

Good Friday

The scandal and offense of Jesus’ crucifixion lies mostly buried under 2000 years of familiarity. Isaiah writes of the shock that the nations experience when Israel, that no-account postage stamp of land they were used to running over en route to fighting more important peoples, turns out not only to be exalted and lifted up on high, but also the means of their salvation, in accordance with the Abrahamic covenant. Similarly, that a minor Jewish political threat hanging like a ragged corpse on a cross outside Jerusalem—just like so many others, before and especially after—should turn out to be the Savior of the World ought to surprise us, or at least inspire a little incredulity. We often say that the Jews were expecting the wrong kind of messiah, but really, who can blame them? According to the Gospel accounts, even Jesus’ closest associates did not expect him to die, and certainly not like this. Their shock still resonates through the stories recorded many decades later. [Read more…]

Easter. The Passion of Jesus XIX. Pilate and John’s Gospel. Some Genuine Chiasmus.

Part 20, here.
Part 18, here.

Pilate. John’s Gospel.

John’s Gospel gives more detail about Pilate and the trial and it is almosst 3 times longer than Mark’s. Pilate is in the praetorium (probably the Herodian Palace), Jesus is inside, the chief priests etc. are outside. John is the Gospel of Eternal Life, and John’s Jesus is Divine before his life (John 1) and his actions throughout consist of encounters with people who are tested as to whether they choose light or darkness. For John, the Jews have chosen darkness. John has a rule regarding those who dither, who can’t decide when presented with the choice between light and dark. They have already chosen darkness, and this is where he places Pilate. In John’s version of the trial, Pilate is constantly moving in and out of the praetorium, he can’t make up his mind.
[Read more…]

Groundwork: Postponing Heaven II

PostponingHeaven-Front-200x300Postponing Heaven: The Three Nephites, the Bodhisattva, and the Mahdi is a study in what Jad Hatem calls “human messianicity.” Though it pays careful attention to the details of its source materials, Hatem isn’t interested, for instance, in the Book of Mormon for its own sake. He’s interested, instead, in what the Book of Mormon (and Mormonism itself) is about.

That is, Hatem is interested in Christ.

This, in a nutshell, is what makes his work a model for the future of much of Mormon Studies. In Hatem’s hands, the study of Mormonism isn’t about Mormonism; rather, the study of Mormonism is about Christ.

What does it mean to be Christ? What does it mean to be a Messiah? How might different messianic conceptions lead people to be situated differently—redemptively—in relation to their worlds?

More, what differences are made in the flesh? Not just in history or doctrine or philosophy, but in the bloody, existential meat of a present tense, fully embodied life?
[Read more…]

Friendship (Maundy Thursday)

Joseph Smith called friendship “the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism,” so it’s fitting that friendship should resonate so deeply with one of the most sacred days of Jesus’ mortal life: the day when, according to the synoptic gospels, he instituted the sacrament, bathed his disciples’ feet, and went on to pray in Gethsemane while his closest friends slept nearby, and when, according to the Gospel of John, he gave those whom he addressed as friends the vital commandment to love one another. [Read more…]

Easter. The Passion of Jesus XVIII. Pilate in Matthew and Luke. Herod Again.

Part 19, here.
Part 17, here.

Pilate. Matthew and Luke.

In Matthew, Pilate’s questions are essentially the same as in Mark. Matthew adds, “so the governor wonders greatly.” It’s a little more drama. But in the Barabbas narrative, Matthew has “while Pilate was seated on the judgement seat.” Only John and Matthew reference the judgement seat. And this is genuine Roman practice. The Tribunali, the Bema, judgement seat, it was a show of formal meaningful procedure. “While he was there his wife sent word to him saying have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much over him today in a dream.” This is early in the morning, recall the cock crow. This is Matthew all over, the Gospel of dreams. Joseph the dream master who echoes the original Joseph the dream master. The Gentiles worship baby Jesus (Magi) while the Jews try to kill him, and Matthew has king of the Jews there too, and now there is this Gentile woman who wants to protect Jesus, has a dream, etc. There is this excellent parallel between beginning and end.
[Read more…]

Easter. The Passion of Jesus XVII. Pilate and the date of Jesus’ death. The Roman Trial.

Part 18, here.
Part 16, here.

Pilate and the date of Jesus’ death.

When did Jesus die? The problem here is the differences in the Gospels over the relation of his death to the feast, Passover. They all agree that it happens on a Friday, but for Mark, Matthew, and Luke, that coincides with Passover.

The Jewish day starts in the evening and runs until the following evening. This means that the Last Supper, the Trials of the Sanhedrin and Pilate, crucifixion, and death, all take place on the Passover holiday. Thus, for Mark, Matthew, and Luke, the dinner on Thursday night is a Passover meal. For John, it’s different. When the chief priests come to Pilate, they don’t want to go in, because they want to celebrate the feast that begins on Friday (evening). So for John, Passover runs from Friday evening until Saturday evening. In that case, all the actions take place the day before Passover. And the issue is one of timing Jesus ministry. It’s possible to compute which years Passover occurred on Thursday and which on Friday.
[Read more…]

Easter. The Passion of Jesus XVI. Pontius Pilate and the Genesis of Roman Rule in Judea. Why did people dislike Jesus?

Part 17, here.
Part 15, here.

Pontius Pilate. Genesis of Roman Rule in Judea. Why did people dislike Jesus?

Pilate lived at Caesarea, the Roman capital on the coast, and there are inscriptions with his name there. When he came to Jerusalem, he probably stayed at the Palace of the Herods built about 23BC, it’s a strategic spot, the highest in the city. In the second century BC, the Maccabees were fighting Antiochus Epiphanes. Desperate for help, they wrote letters to Rome. The Romans wrote back with encouragement, they would rather deal with the Jews than the Syrians at that point, but sent no army. Much later, Pompeii invaded Palestine, to fix conflict there. The competing Jewish priest/kings were fighting and killing each other, and Pompeii came in and set things in order, in fact this begins the uncomfortable interplay of international politics and religion in Jerusalem: the Romans start picking the High Priest, and they change them now and then to show who’s in charge.
[Read more…]


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