The Price of a Soul

For most of my academic life, I have had a minor obsession with stories based on the Faust legend—tales of human beings who wanted something so much that they were willing to sell their soul to the devil to get it. It’s not the oldest story in the world, but it’s up there. What intrigues me so much about the various Faust stories in literature is the wide variety of things that people want most. We learn a lot about individuals, and the cultures that produced them, by studying what they rate as more important than their souls. [Read more…]

How Much Mormonism Has Changed

Mette Ivie Harrison is a former BYU “Benson Scholar” and high school seminary Scripture Chase champion. She now writes Mormon mysteries about Bishop’s Wife Linda Wallheim starting with The Bishop’s Wife. She is an All American triathlete and holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University. She is the ward historian and nursery teacher, has five children and lives in Layton, Utah.

Sometimes I hear Mormons talk about how the church never changes in essentials or ex-Mormons complain that the church moves in geologic time toward more progressivity. My view is entirely different. In my lifetime (I was born in 1970), I’ve seen the church change dramatically, and not only in the most obvious way, the 1978 change to allow full priesthood blessings to be extended to our black brothers and sisters.

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Patriarchal Innocence and the Church

Recently, I’ve been listening to Eric Michael Dyson’s book Tears We Cannot Stop: a Sermon to White America. As a white dude who grew up in the South and who currently lives in the south in the era of Black Lives Matter and the Drumpf Administration, I’ve been thinking a lot about what race has meant to me. Professor Dyson’s book is an excellent jeremiad against indifference to the suffering and death being inflicted on our African-American brothers and sisters and I recommend the book to anyone who really wants to understand what is at stake in our current racial discord. But I don’t really want to talk about that today. Instead, I want to talk about innocence.

Geek & Sundry GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
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Lesson 17: The Law of Tithing #DandC2017

Learning Outcomes

At the end of class, students will be able to

  1. Describe the roots of tithing in the Hebrew Bible and in American Protestantism.
  2. Assess how scriptural text relates to contemporary practice in Mormonism.
  3. Explain how the blessings from tithing compare to Prosperity Gospel ideas.

[Read more…]

Heavenly Mother is a Black Woman: Exploring a Mormon Womanism

Janan Graham-Russell is a writer and graduate of the Howard University School of Divinity. Her research focuses on womanist theology in Mormonism and identity formation in racial communities. Her work has been featured in two books: Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, and A Book of Mormons, as well as The Atlantic. She will begin attending Harvard University in the fall of 2017 to continue her research within the PhD program in The Study of Religion. When she’s not working, she enjoys watching movies, playing XBox with her partner, and making music videos with her one year old son.

Janan gave these remarks at the 2017 Faith and Knowledge Conference, held Feb. 24-25, 2017 at Harvard Divinity School.

Before I begin, I wanted to read an excerpt of remarks given by then-Church president Brigham Young, in 1852, to give context to my own remarks this afternoon.

What is that mark? you will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth, or ever will see . Now I tell you what I know; when the mark was put upon Cain, Abel’s children was in all probability young; the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the priesthood nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the priesthood, until the redemption of the earth. If there never was a prophet, or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are, I know that they cannot bear rule in the priesthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them, until the residue of the posterity of Michael and his wife receive the blessings , the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed ; and hold the keys of the priesthood, until the times of the restitution shall come, and the curse be wiped off from the earth, and from Michael’s seed.

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A Mormon’s Guide to Trinity Lutheran

Carolyn Homer brings us this Mormon’s guide to Trinity Lutheran, yesterday’s Supreme Court religious freedom case.  Carolyn Homer is an attorney and religion constitutional law enthusiast in Washington, D.C.

The case is deceptively simple. The State of Missouri has a program where it recycles used tires into springy playground surfaces. Trinity Lutheran, a church & school in Missouri, applied to get funding for those recycled tires. Missouri denied the application. Missouri’s sole basis for the denial was that Trinity Lutheran is a church. The Missouri Constitution says “That no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.” [Read more…]

Amici Curiae Brief by Scholars of Mormonism Opposed to Trump’s Refugee and Immigrant Ban

There has been much commentary on President Trump’s executive orders regarding immigration and refugees in the Bloggernacle; now, that commentary–or, rather, an expertly distilled legal expression of it–has made it’s way into the courts. Today, a group of 19 scholars of Mormon history have filed a brief attacking Trump’s ban on refugees and immigrants from six Muslim countries in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The primary author of this brief is Nate Oman, one of the Ancient of Days in the Mormon blogging world, and a writer whose skill and insight is known to many here. Among those scholars who put their name to the brief are Michael Austin, Claudia and Richard Bushman, Kathryn Daynes, Kathleen Flake, Terryl Givens, Ardis Parshall, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and more. Read the press release announcing the filing of the brief here; feel free to read the brief, ask questions about it, and engage in the sort of argument, debate, and grammatical nitpicking for which the Bloggernacle is famous for below. (Never Trump lives!)

What She Said

Cathy Gilmore is a friend of the blog and has posted with us previously.  She is also currently working on a documentary history of her grandmother Dorothy Smith Clark. Cathy graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in English and a Russian minor, and works as a contract consultant in marketing communications and design. She is married to Ed, an English bloke from Northeast Lincolnshire, and together they have four daughters. 

It is a belonging that we crave because it is one we have always known.
Terryl & Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps[1]

One of my favorite things to say as a child was, “It’s not fair!” As the fifth of seven children, I naturally developed a keen sense of fairness. I remember fuming in my room because my older siblings sent me to bed while they ordered pizza and watched movies. (I can smell the pizza, guys!) I was irritated that my parents didn’t let me to see Poltergeist with my older brothers. My fear of being left out reached its high point when I was accidentally left in a park in Blackfoot, Idaho during a family vacation lunch stop. To my dad’s credit, he did risk overturning the camper while flipping a U-turn on the highway after they realized their mistake. Like 45 minutes later. [Read more…]

Looking for God in All the Cool Places

You’ve probably heard that BCC has embarked on a publishing venture: the BCC Press. You may also know that our first book is Steven L. Peck’s remarkable work of scientific theology (or was that theological science) Science the Key to Theology. But if you haven’t read the book, you don’t yet know how thoroughly Peck’s work, if taken seriously, could change the way that Latter-day Saints interact with science. [Read more…]

“Hold me!”

John 20:17 begins: “Jesus saith unto her [IE Mary Magdelene], Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father….” The key expression “touch me not” reflects Greek mE mou haptou (negative, first person singular pronoun, present middle imperative). The JST rather famously changes this to “hold me not,” which arguably is a stronger translation of the Greek verb haptO (this change may have derived from some secondary source available to Joseph). English translations are pretty evenly divided among touch, hold and cling as renderings of this verb here (Nibley’s take was “do not cling to me so!”).

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2nd Missionary Month: Still Waiting for the Gift of Tongues

Image result for lucy's italian episode

Similar to how we washed our clothes.

You can find my first two installments in this series here and here.

My second companion was Hermana C who had also served in my first area. We both got transferred back to the city of Las Palmas together, to the horrible piso (apartment) I had seen during my first day in the mission. There were two bedrooms, one that was used as a dressing room and shared closet, a tiny kitchen, a living area with a telephone, and a bathroom. The bathroom didn’t have a shower head, and the shower hose didn’t connect to the wall. You just held it up and hosed off with it. There was also no curtain, and no real tub – you stood in a square basin that had tile built up around it, like a very small bathtub. We also had to wash our clothes in this, by hand, because we didn’t have access to a washing machine. Usually I would just put some shampoo in with my clothes and some water and stomp around on them like Lucy’s Italian episode where she is stomping the grapes. Then we would hang our clothes up on a line in the air shaft outside the window, on lines hung in our apartment, or draped over furniture. [Read more…]

LDS Easter Service Roll Call

Music-in-Worship-580

I’ve told the story before of how about 20 years ago in the same building I attend church in today (but in a ward that was later dissolved and no longer exists) I settled in for the Easter Sunday sacrament service only to be presented with a program devoted to the concept of tithing. D’oh! That was by far the worst LDS Easter service fail I have ever personally experienced. But even when planners happen to remember the day, there remains a spectrum as to how effective our services are in focusing appropriately on the Easter theme. So I would like to take a survey as to how your Easter services went today.

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Prayer for Easter Morning

O God of abundant life: as we rise with Jesus from the dark tomb of our failures to love, grant that we may greet our sisters and brothers with the gentleness of his call to Mary, the sweet art of the Spirit’s loving breath making up our defects until we become one in love as you are one God. Amen.

For music, Jamie Hall singing Ralph Vaughan Williams’s setting of George Herbert’s “Easter” from Five Mystical Songs:

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Prayer for Holy Saturday

O God of our darkest night, when your Son was absent from us as you were absent from him: may your Spirit nevertheless breathe gently upon us as we huddle together in the darkling fright of the tomb. Amen.

For music, Paula Matthussen’s “of an implacable subtraction,” performed by Dana Jessen on bassoon and Mantra Percussion on electronics:

Prayer for Good Friday

O God of the cross, where your Son hung in abjection, icon of the suffering that we ceaselessly inflict on others: fill our emptiness with the Holy Spirit of love, that we, seeing the crucified Jesus, might at long last learn to stop crucifying our sisters and brothers in creation, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, Kenneth Leighton’s setting of Peter Abelard’s “Solus ad victimam”:

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I take refuge in the Sangha

At 3pm today, think of the tearing of the temple’s veil. This is the apex of everything.

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Refugees in The Book of Mormon: Ancient Light for a Modern Crisis

By Alicia Alba[1] (ed. Mel Henderson)

refugee: noun. ref· u· gee \ˌre-fyu̇-ˈjē\ An individual seeking refuge or asylum; especially: an individual who flees for safety (as from war), usually to a foreign country.

The Book of Mormon begins with a refugee story: Lehi was a wealthy landowner in ancient Jerusalem at a time of social and political unrest. Among the first things we learn is that Lehi was a good man who tried to share what he knew—but enemies emerged in his own community, men who “sought his life, that they might take it away” (1 Ne. 1:20). Lehi and his family were forced to flee. [Read more…]

A poem for Holy Thursday

This is a sort of free verse poem that I have written about the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. As the day that we remember Jesus’s last supper, Holy Thursday seems like an appropriate time to share it, but the focus is not just on the last supper, but on the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as it exists now.

I

This meat, and this drink,
To remember the body and the blood.
This meat. A chunk of plain bread, broken in pieces.
This drink. A cup of plain water, standing in for wine–
the blood of grapes, crushed until their skins burst.
This meat, and this drink,
To remember the body and the blood. [Read more…]

Prayer for Maundy Thursday

O God of our Gethsemane slumbers: in our fear and confusion, strengthen us in your Spirit, that even though we do not know what tomorrow may bring, we might watch with your Son this night. Amen.

For music, Eleanor Friedberger’s “I Won’t Fall Apart on You Tonight”:

I take refuge in the Dharma

Standing orders in Jerusalem — given by Pilate and understood and supported by Caiaphas — required the immediate arrest of troublemakers at Passover. If we want to understand Jesus’ execution, then, we must pay attention to what Jesus did at the temple. His was a total and visceral rejection of the high Jewish theocratic order, whose high priest had been appointed by Rome.

You see it with the fig tree. In leaf and inviting from afar but barren and curse-worthy in fact. You are full of the bones of the dead and all manner of filth. [Read more…]

Lesson 15: “Seek Ye Earnestly the Best Gifts” #DandC2017

Purpose
To help class members identify gifts of the Spirit, seek to obtain them, and use them to serve others. [grin]

The early Restoration, anchored by the Book of Mormon, was essentially an anti-cessationist protest. Moroni is archetypal, but not anomalous. Not only does he riff on Paul’s litany of spiritual gifts, he goes on to say that if miracles have ceased and angels aren’t around, it is because people have lost faith in Christ, and it is there had been no redemption. I don’t want to spoil my book, but next time you read the Book of Mormon, take note of what it says about the Power of God. [Read more…]

Prayer for Wednesday in Holy Week

O God of Truth: grant that we, through the grace of your Son, might learn to love one another as you love us, that when we receive the Comforter of your Spirit, we may also bring comfort to the people we meet in our way, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, the Salt Lake Vocal Artists singing Bob Chilcott’s setting of “If Ye Love Me”:

Indiana Jones Is The Avatar Of Mormonism’s Intellectual Golden Age

By Megan Harris & Matt B

 

Thesis: We would like to remind you all that Indiana Jones is definitely Mormon. Probably a jack-Mormon, but definitely a Mormon.  In fact, to understand Indiana Jones is to understand post-Brigham Young, pre-David O. McKay Mormonism: the era sometimes called the golden age of Mormon intellectual life.

Postulate: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles do not exist.

Proofs:

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Prayer for Tuesday in Holy Week

O God of all our troubles: in our longing for them soon to be done, grant us your Spirit to call us home to you, that in our remaining sojourn we might yet walk with those who need your love, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, Mahalia Jackson’s “Trouble of the World”:

I take refuge in the Buddha

Which Buddha?

Down the road from where I live, an old Victorian hotel has been converted into a temple of the Amida Buddhist order. Here, the chant Namo Amida Bu (“I call out to Amida Buddha) calls upon the mercy of Amitābha/Amida, the celestial Buddha of compassion.

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Amida in the Pure Land

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Instincts

The Church has long been governed by a fundamental, basic instinct, to restrict access to sources and to control information and thought that doesn’t match its preferred self-perception as the only true and living church on the face of the earth. That instinct served the institution pretty well for much of its history when information about the faith was not so easy to come by. But we now live in the internet age. And all of that stuff the Church wanted so badly to keep under wraps is but a mouse click away. And all of a sudden that deep-seated instinct to hide the ball is not serving the institution so well anymore. To its credit, the Church has endeavored to adjust to the new reality, with the Joseph Smith Papers Project being perhaps the leading evidence and example of a new approach. But the Church still has work to do to enter fully today’s information age. [Read more…]

Prayer for Monday in Holy Week

O God of our long wilderness road: as we approach the end of our Lenten journey, let the light of your Spirit come shining from the west down to the east, in anticipation of the day when, through Christ our Lord, we shall be released. Amen.

For music, Jack Johnson singing Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”:

Paris Temple

The Paris, France temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been completed. Public tours will be held between April 22 and May 13, 2017. The temple was announced in 2011, however rumors regarding President Gordon B. Hinckley’s work on a prospective temple circulated for more than a decade. Local parties confirmed that land purchase for the temple was a very slow process, inhibited by French regulation and public concerns.

Construction photo, Aug. 2015.

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Prayer for Palm Sunday

Our triumphant God, in whose glory we rejoice this day: pour out your Spirit upon us, that we at last might come in the name of the Lord and be blessed. Amen.

For music, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Benedictus”:

BCC Secrets

Earlier this week on BCC twitter a bunch of people DM’d us with their secrets – some benign, some not so benign. I don’t really love our oversharing culture, and I don’t know if this will repeat itself again on our twitter account. But the various responses might give us a picture into how we’re all wanderers, all searching, all hurting sometimes. Reading these have given me more compassion and more desire to be kind: in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see. [Read more…]