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

Alma 5

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.

God for Grown Ups

hqdefaultWhat is the meaning of the suffering of innocents? Does it not prove a world without God, an earth on which man is the only measure of good and evil? The simplest and most common reaction would be to decide for atheism. This would also be the reasonable reaction of all those whose idea of God until that point was of some kindergarten deity who distributed prizes, applied penalties, or forgave faults and in His goodness treated men as eternal children. —Emmanuel Levinas, on “Yosl Rakover Talks to God”

[Read more…]

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

e6b50358faa97c5f2c9a889a5d3ea8f5On the second of June, 1953, around 20.4 million people in the United Kingdom crowded around only 2.7 million television sets to watch the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey. This was a watershed moment in the modern era, a day on which the ancient rituals of an ancient kingdom were open to the public in an unprecedented way. [Read more…]

Adam Miller’s Nothing New Under the Sun

I just finished reading Adam Miller’s latest modernization of ancient scripture: Nothing New Under the Sun.  This is a very quick read, a modern version of Ecclesiastes:

Because the modern language made the parallels to modern wisdom literature so clear, I was curious about the links to Buddhism. According to Wikipedia, Ecclesiastes was written between 450 and 350 BCE.

The presence of Persian loan-words and Aramaisms points to a date no earlier than about 450 BCE, while the latest possible date for its composition is 180 BCE, when another Jewish writer, Ben Sira, quotes from it. The dispute as to whether Ecclesiastes belongs to the Persian or the Hellenistic periods (i.e., the earlier or later part of this period) revolves around the degree of Hellenization (influence of Greek culture and thought) present in the book. Scholars arguing for a Persian date (c. 450–330 BCE) hold that there is a complete lack of Greek influence; those who argue for a Hellenistic date (c. 330–180 BCE) argue that it shows internal evidence of Greek thought and social setting.

Is Ecclesiastes Buddhism in the Bible?  Or is it simply the case that all wisdom is roughly the same and there is nothing new under the sun.  Buddha dates to 600 BC. Adam Miller’s book doesn’t dwell on these parallels, but merely hints at them.  Wisdom is wisdom, no matter the source. It’s an interesting question, though. His modernized take on Ecclesiastes also demonstrates that there really is nothing new under the sun, including Christian wisdom.

[Read more…]

Feeling the weight of the calling

Tomorrow I’m teaching a small group of 12-13 year olds about women and the priesthood. I’m still working out what I want to say, but I think I know what I want them to learn: that men and women are true equals in the sight of God. Getting to that conclusion is weighing on my mind. The narratives of the manual are fairly limiting and frankly these students are still grappling with basic gospel principles; the complexity of Nauvoo cosmology and distinctions between ordinations for health and ordinations to offices are probably beyond them. [Read more…]

Justice and Mercy: A Rape Survivor’s Perspective

Today’s guest post is from Rachael.

I was sexually abused as a child and later raped as a teenager and again as an adult. All of these horrific experiences were at the hands of LDS priesthood holders. Of course, those who did these things were sinning and were not true representatives of Christ or His priesthood. It was relatively easy for me to separate out in my mind these evil men from what I knew God wanted.  But it was much harder for me to figure out how to make sense of the good men, bishops and stake presidents, who counseled me to forgive, to bury the past, to not hold my perpetrators legally responsible.  Because I believed that these men were representatives of God, I believed them when they told me that it was God’s will that I let my rapists (and abusers) off the hook.  And so I did.  I earnestly practiced the forgiveness that I was taught to practice, burying any hint of anger the moment it tried to rise up in me, and consequently, I believe, that buried emotion took on a life of its own, to the detriment of my health. [Read more…]

The Amlicite Revolution and the Problem of Religious Majoritarianism #BOM2016

Note: This is the second part of a discussion of Alma 1-4–and the Nehor/Amlicite War–that began here.

The story of the Great Amlicite War in Alma 2-3 is a good example of how winners write history. Mormon’s account of the event could not make the Amlicites look worse: they tried to overthrow the new system of judges but were defeated at the polls; they rebelled against the state; they joined the Lamanites and marked their own foreheads; they caused the needless death of thousands of people; and they were ultimately defeated because God was on the side of the Nephites.

Underneath Mormon’s narrative—which has few elements of legitimate history and pretty much all of the marks of historical propaganda—there is a different and more disturbing story that explains the actions of the Amlicites and casts some light on the failure of the United States in one of its most recent military ventures. It is the story of religious majoritarianism. [Read more…]

MHA Snowbird 2016

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OK, I’m opening up a thread for discussion of all things MHA during its 2016 conference at the Cliff Lodge, Snowbird Ski resort, in the mountains just east of Salt Lake City. [Read more…]

Religious Liberty and Persecution in the Era of Nephite Privilege #BOM2016

Alma 1

And it came to pass that Alma was appointed to be the first chief judge, he being also the high priest, his father having conferred the office upon him, and having given him the charge concerning all the affairs of the church.” Mosiah 29:42

There is a big difference between “religious freedom” and “religious tolerance.” Religious freedom derives from a society’s belief that human beings have a natural right to their own belief systems and that, as James Madison puts it, “in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.”

Religious tolerance, on the other hand, derives from the will and pleasure of the state. A society with religious tolerance endorses one set of religious beliefs over all others, but it allows other beliefs to exist on terms that it sets itself (and can revoke at any time). Religious dissent in such a society is seen, not as a natural right of all human beings, but as a civil right protected by the indulgence of the state–which officially disagrees but has a big enough heart to let you be wrong and go to hell in your own way. [Read more…]

Greg Prince – evening with the author TONIGHT

From our friends at Benchmark Books:

Capture[1]We are very excited to announce that Gregory A. Prince, author of Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History (published by the University of Utah Press), will be here on Wednesday, June 8 to speak about and sign copies of his book. He will be here from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and will speak at 6:00 and will answer questions and sign books before and after that time. We hope you will be able to make it that night but, if not, we can mail a signed copy or hold one here at the store for pick-up. To RSVP on Facebook, click here. [Read more…]

“A Preparatory Redemption,” June 15, Berkeley CA

MTS Logo

“A Preparatory Redemption: Reading Alma 13”

The Third Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology

Conference is free and open to the public Wednesday, June 15, 9am-5pm

The Chapel of the Great Commission
The Graduate Theological Union
1798 Scenic Avenue

Berkeley, CA 94709

Sponsored by the Mormon Theology Seminar 

in partnership with 
The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies
The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
and the Wheatley Institution

Hosted by the Graduate Theological Union

Speakers include:
Kristeen Black
Matthew Bowman
Rosemary Demos
David Gore
Bridget Jeffries
Adam Miller
Bob Rees
Joseph Spencer
Sheila Taylor

Dear Mormon Voters of the American West: Maybe You’re the White Horse We’ve Been Waiting For

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Just forget about the White Horse Prophecy. It’s a fun bit of Mormon folklore, but like most folklore it’s fictitious nonsense. More important is the fact that–again, like most folklore–this fictitious nonsense is revealing of, and gives us American Mormons reason to remember, what was at one time a widely shared assumption among Mormon leaders: specifically that, as Brigham Young (and John Taylor, and Harold B. Lee, and multiple others) reportedly said, “if the Constitution of the United States is to be saved at all it must be done by this people” (see, for example, Journal of Discourses 12:204, April 8, 1868).

That’s not a reference to an LDS President of the United States–not a Romney, not a Huntsman, not a Hatch, despite the weird interpretations inspired by the aforementioned ersatz prophecy. It’s not a reference to any particular person at all. Rather, that’s a reference of the Mormon people. Many of whom will be eligible to vote this November. And maybe that is where this old teaching will unexpectedly come into its own as truth. [Read more…]

My mom’s last bit of advice for me

Matt Brown is a sportswriter for SB Nation. His mother passed away last week. Matt wrote this for Mothers’ Day.

Around this time last year, I wrote about a lot of the difficult feelings I have around Father’s Day, given the very complicated relationship I had with my old man. Mother’s Day, by comparison, has always been super easy. My mom is an amazing woman, and we’ve almost always had a very strong relationship.

This year has been a bit different. My mom is dying. After battling with breast cancer for two and a half years, and shattering every prognosis along the way, she is now bedridden, unable to do virtually anything by herself, just playing out the proverbial string. She’s been in this condition for months now. [Read more…]

Nephites at War (Mainly with Themselves) #BOM2016

So here’s a thing I did: in order to lighten things up during all of the war chapters in the middle books of the Book of Mormon, I started trying to keep track of the wars. I figured that it would be fun to separate out all of the battle scenes into coherent sustained conflicts, like “New World War I,” “New World War II,” “the Zarahemla Police Action,” and so forth. I hoped, in the end, to have something like a grand map of the Nephite-Lamanite conflicts in the Book of Mormon. [Read more…]

LDS Inc.

mormons incSo the first thing to do is admit that I don’t always get internet-speak. That said, is there any way that “LDS Inc.,” written in implicit (or explicit) disparagement of the church isn’t stupid?[fn]

I mean, I see it occasionally. And I kind of assume that its provenance is the Aug. 4, 1997, Time magazine cover.

The thing is that while contextually, the use of “LDS Inc.” is clearly meant as a criticism, I can’t figure out what is being critiqued. Saying “LDS Inc.” may make a (vaguely) factual assertion, but it makes no substantive moral or ethical assertion.  [Read more…]

Both On the Roof and In the Crowd

I want to go right to the well known story in the beginning of the book of Mark where a paralytic man is lowered into a home by four of his friends who had broken a hole into the roof above the crowd.  They know Jesus is teaching there and the crowd was too pressing to enter in by the door, so in hopes that Jesus will heal this friend, they climb up above and do something that I imagine was most unexpected and unconventional. I have read or heard that story so many times in my life, but it wasn’t until recently when I stopped to really consider the scene that I was a bit taken back.

Think again of the image: think of these people climbing on top of the roof while carrying their friend on his sick bed, about to dig a hole and interrupt a large crowd, and not least, the most important and sought after man in the city.  I wonder if they hesitated, I wonder if they thought they should turn back, that it was just a silly idea.  But then, I marvel at their bravery as they do the thing they must have felt they should.  They broke a hole in that roof and sent their friend right in to land at the feet of Jesus.  The reaction of Christ to this act is stunning to me.  He does not question, he does not tell the men they should have just waited outside the door for later, he does not lecture, He simply accepts their offering of faith without question.  He heals the man, first from his sins, then in his body and the man rises, picks up his bed and stands.  [Read more…]

People in the Book of Mormon, Ranked

You know what is a pretty good book of scripture? The Book of Mormon. It has some great gospel teachings in it. You know what else it has in it? People–lots of them! Some people in the Book of Mormon are really important, and some people are sort of forgettable. You’ve probably wondered who is the most important, and Steve and I sought revelation on this very matter.

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

Thoughts I Had During X-Men: Apocalypse

Before I get into it, this is how my day began:

My husband: Let’s see X-Men tonight.
Me: Noooooo I don’t want to pay to see that in the thea– Is Fassbender in it?
My husband: Yep.
Me: …Fine.


(No spoilers) [Read more…]

Others in the Land?

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Tomorrow’s GD lesson begins with these verses from Mosiah 25:

 And now king Mosiah caused that all the people should be gathered together.

 Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness.

 And there were not so many of the people of Nephi and of the people of Zarahemla as there were of the Lamanites; yea, they were not half so numerous.

[Read more…]

Alma and the Poetics of Conversion #BOM2016

CoverOne of the twentieth century’s greatest works of Dante criticism is John Freccero’s remarkable Dante and the Poetics of Conversion. Freccero makes two crucial points in this book: 1) that the primary objective of the Divine Comedy is to cause readers to experience conversion; and 2) that everything about the text—its subject matter, narrative style, linguistic manner, rhyme scheme, etc.—serves this greater objective. The purpose of Dante’s work is to help readers both see and feel the experience of conversion. [Read more…]

#TexturesofMormonism

I am truly pleased to present to you one of the best kept secrets of the Mormon Instagram world.  Jon Bryner and Tallia Feltis are the mastermind couple behind the account @texturesofmormonism.   While very funny, they are equally thoughtful and deliberate.  They speak of both the humor and strange tenderness in this idea of shared nostalgia that Mormons literally all over the world can relate to.  My husband and I have spent more than one evening chuckling before bed as we scroll through the account.  Ah Mormons.  Something so strange and so funny about our collective aesthetic that somehow hasn’t changed in decades.

This is just a sampling of some of my favorites from the account.

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It’s Wednesday night! Hit like if you need a ride home from mutual. #foyerphone #texturesofmormonism

[Read more…]

Standing, or Something

Rumor has it that BYU-Idaho students are having a hard time with the unwritten order of things—particular the unwritten rules about when to stand and when to stay seated.  At last week’s devotional  the entire student body stood up when Sheri L. Dew—CEO of Deseret Book and a former second counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency—entered the room. This week Clark Gilbert, BYU-I President and recognized expert in Unwritten Orderology, gave the students a friendly reminder that only members of the First Presidency should be greeted by standing.  The students, fortunately, learned their lesson and remained seated. [Read more…]

Refugee Relief Efforts

Erica Eastley is a friend and has been a BCC participant for many years.

The first time I visited a refugee camp was in college in 1995 in the West Bank. I’d gone with two women I’d just met to visit the family of a Palestinian BYU student and they took us to a refugee camp. They also gave us figs fresh off a tree. Since then I’ve been in more refugee camps in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip (where I ate one of the best and most memorable meals I’ve ever had before spending the night with a Palestinian family) and I’ve met refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan living in Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, and the US. I’ve seen teenagers working their way through Mexico from Central America to the US. I’ve moved overseas with my family with two suitcases each to new countries where I didn’t speak much of the language or know how to manage everyday life. Even though I can’t possibly imagine the terror that so many refugees have gone through, I have listened to their stories and experienced a few of the challenges of resettlement and I know that many need help. [Read more…]