Valentine’s Day Surprise

Look, it might be the first day of Lent, but it’s also Valentine’s Day. How do you make sackcloth sexy? HAVE WE GOT THE BOOK FOR YOU. Today only as a Valentine’s Day present, Adam Miller’s excellent treatment of the Song of Solomon is HALF PRICE, and the Kindle version is only 99 cents. Tonight is the night to get Biblical.

The Joyful, and Mournful, Journey of Lent

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

This year my employer, Friends University, a non-denomination Christian liberal arts college in Wichita, KS, decided to develop, in conjunction with our regular chapel observances, a calendar of Lenten devotionals, and they asked for students, faculty, staff, and others to contribute. Some of those who contributed were Roman Catholic or from other high church Protestant traditions, and thus the language and rituals of Lent were familiar to them. For Mormons like me, obviously, that isn’t the case. Still, this is my contribution; hopefully it fits the spirit of the occasion well. [Read more…]

Prayer for Ash Wednesday

O God of abundance, Creator of all that nurtures us,
Giver of breath and Pulse of our hearts’-blood:
we come before you in a spirit of repentance
as we take the first steps of our Lenten journey,
not forsaking the things of life that you have given,
but leaving behind all that chokes your life in us.
Cleanse us, we pray, from whatever stops the flow of love
as it runs in eternal circuit from you to us and back again.
Fill, O Lord, these newly empty places in our lives
with the riches of the Holy Spirit,
that we may learn to love ourselves as you love us
and then learn to love others as you love them,
and, loving them, find that we at last love you.
May our fast so feed our souls with love for all people,
that we may be one as you also are one,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.

The Baby Blessing I Wish I’d Given my Children

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 8.51.39 PM

. . . to give you a name and a blessing. The name you will be known throughout life and on the records of the church is Tardigrade Spellbinder Peck.

I bless you that you will be lucky. That you will have an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. As you go through life, I bless you that people that can help you will be drawn to you, and feel a desire to assist you.

[Read more…]

Moral Choices Are Hard Because They Are Supposed to Be Hard

 

Witches can be right.
Giants can be good.
You decide what’s right.
You decide what’s good.
—”No One Is Alone” from Into the Woods

 

As I understand it, the main point of Stephen Sondheim’s magnificent musical, Into the Woods, is that moral decision making is hard. The scripts that our culture gives us are wrong. But they aren’t always wrong, or wrong in entirely predictable ways, so we can’t just reject them and do the opposite of what they say. We have to muddle through and make our own moral decisions, even though that means we will make mistakes.

This argument resonates with me a lot because, as a Latter-day Saint, I believe that this is also the main point of the founding myth of the Judeo-Christian world—the story of Adam and Eve—and a reasonably good description of the moral universe that we inhabit. [Read more…]

Book Review: Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved

I read Kate Bowler’s new book in one sitting while a gurgling, nocturnal eight week old breathed into my neck. I am not sure I recommend reading another mother’s account of dying while still squinting through the haze of postpartum depression. But I am not sure I don’t recommend it, either. Sometimes solitary communion is just the thing for a dimmed heart. Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved is many, many things.

[Read more…]

Liturgy, authority, and gender: Wasatch events the week of Feb 19

Next week I’ll be in Utah and in conjunction with the release of The Power of Godliness, with Oxford University Press, I’ll be participating in three public events hosted along the Wasatch Front. Come join us. Each event will cover different material in a different format, and each of the events is being sponsored by excellent groups that support Mormon scholarship.

First the publisher’s blurb:

The Power of Godliness is a key work to understand Mormon conceptions of priesthood, authority, and gender. With in-depth research and never previously used documents, Jonathan Stapley explores the rituals of ordination, temple “sealings,” baby blessings, healing, and cunning-folk traditions. In doing so, he demonstrates that Mormon liturgy includes a much larger and more complex set of ritualized acts of worship than the specific rites of initiation, instruction, and sealing that take place within the temple walls.

[Read more…]

Penance

I spent the night on an outdoor couch on the front stoop of a boy’s apt at BYU-Idaho in the summer of 2001. We had worked together at Hogi Yogi, and he was beautiful. I had only ever been kissed one other time (when I asked a friend of a friend to teach me how) but this boy was the first to hold my hand (at the Bar J Wranglers Chuckwagon in Jackson Hole). He fell asleep holding me, and I loved being in his arms so much that I decided to just fall asleep, too. The next morning, I woke up and slipped back to my own apartment, where I WAS WRACKED WITH ALL THE PANGS OF GUILT AND HELLFIRE AND SACKCLOTH. [Read more…]

Not a Tame Lion

Mette Ivie Harrison is a regular guest here at BCC and author of many books, including The Book of Laman.

I remember years ago a religious friend of mine talked to me about her view of God. She told me that she didn’t see why God couldn’t be a woman, or a bird, or a tree. She felt God in all of those different things, because to her, God had many different aspects. For her, feeling God in every part of the world was part of her practice of worship. It enabled her to widen her spirituality. It let her find the divine in herself, as well.

At the time, I thought that was kind of hippy-dippy and just plain wrong. I actually made that judgment in my head because I felt that as a Mormon, I was very clear on who God was and wasn’t. God was a white man with a beard who looked like he did in the temple film or in other paintings I’d seen of God. God was a physical being, not a bird or a tree. He was a man, and that was all there was to it. To have the wrong idea of God was to not understand anything about the “true gospel” and meant that basically anything else you told me about your religion or your worship practice was built on a false foundation.

How times have changed. [Read more…]

Lesson 6: Noah Prepared an Ark to the Saving of His House #BCCSundaySchool2018

Readings

Moses 8

Genesis 6-9, 11

Learning Outcomes

To understand the importance of the story of Noah and the flood.

To come away with an appreciation for the complexities of Godhood, prophethood, regularpersonhood.

Introduction

I know there are many spiritual lessons to be learned from the story of Noah and the flood, but what I really want to focus on is exactly how large the ark was, how many cubits deep the water would have been, and how the animals managed to not eat each other. [Read more…]

We Must Do Better On Violence Against Women

I am sick of Mormon women not being believed about abuse.

I can’t even count the number of first-hand accounts I’ve heard at this point, and I only started paying attention a few years ago.  Easily dozens.  Probably hundreds.

But they all go the same way.  A Mormon woman is a chaste, obedient, temple-worthy, nurturing woman.  She gets married in the temple, moves in with her brand-new husband, and desires to start her eternal family. Within mere weeks or months, it becomes obvious her husband is angry, controlling, and abusive.  He usually quotes Church authority about men presiding and women hearkening to justify the behavior.

She doesn’t like it, but she tries to accept it.  She has been taught that she must protect her temple marriage above all else.  She has been taught that her husband is the leader of the home, and she needs to respect his authority.  She has been taught that if she just prays harder, submits harder, follows traditional gender roles harder, the problems will go away.  

They don’t go away.  They get worse. [Read more…]

Two Great Events for Black History Month

Next week are two extremely promising events, both of which I really wish I could attend. [Read more…]

The Sabbath as a Celebration of Freedom

The Old Testament contains two versions of the ten commandments: the version in Exodus when Moses receives the commandments, and the version in Deuteronomy at the end of Israel’s wandering, just as the people are about to enter the promised land. But from Exodus to Deuteronomy, the reason for the Sabbath day shifts. The Sabbath goes from being a celebration of creation in Exodus to a celebration of freedom in Deuteronomy. Two weeks ago our teacher in a priesthood lesson pointed out this difference between the Exodus version and the Deuteronomy version. I had never noticed it before. It’s been on my mind since then. [Read more…]

Men, what will you do when my daughter asks about her place in this church?

Two years ago, when I was writing a book about my own life as a Mormon, of which I am an authority, I was filled with anxieties about not being good enough, not smart enough, and on and on.  My wise editor, Blair Hodges, was patient and listened for many weeks and then one day he said a line that has changed everything for me.  He said, “Listen, no one else is going to take you seriously until you take yourself seriously.” The doors swung wide open. Thea with Net

I have looked back on that experience so often and wondered why it was that I felt so much insecurity about asserting my voice.  Not my voice as part of a chorus of other voices, or one that had offered ideas to someone else, not my voice as an influence, but my voice, as a stand alone entity.  In the two years since, I’ve realized that my panic was much in part because my voice had never been taken seriously up to that point in my life.  In church spaces I had never been in charge.  I had never had a platform that was solely and authoritatively mine in which to speak. Particularly one in which both genders recognized that a female was in charge.  Even though in theory I had been given freedom and power to use my voice within the church, in practice, I had not. [Read more…]

Announcement: Church History Symposium 2018

This semester, I’m teaching a course on not-for-profit corporations. Today’s class deals with the duties of charitable trustees and board members to invest the organization’s money responsibly.

The class is at least tangentially related to this year’s Church History Symposium, to be held on March 1 at the Conference Center at BYU and March 2 at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake. This year’s symposium is entitled “Business, Wealth, Enterprise, and Debt: The Economic Side of Mormon History, 1830–1930.” [Read more…]

A New Era

Today marks the beginning of a new era of sorts — as of today, the Berlin Wall has now been down longer than it was up. This is truly astounding for me as a GenXer. [Read more…]

Thoughts on Friendship

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’; [it is designed] to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers….Friendship is like Brother [Theodore] Turley in his blacksmith shop welding iron to iron; it unites the human family with its happy influence.

Or so Joseph Smith was recorded as saying on July 23, 1843. To my mind, it’s heavy doctrine–and the fact that I take his claims about friendship so seriously has been on my mind lately, for a variety of reasons. [Read more…]

Supporting Single Adults

Rose E. Hadden is a Minnesota native, transplanted to Utah in high school and transplanted back to Minnesota as soon as she could swing it.  She has a B.A. and an M.A. in British Literature from BYU, and served in the Korea Pusan mission.  She now works as a teacher and grantwriter, and happily serves as the assistant librarian in the Fargo, North Dakota 1st Ward.  She is single and considers herself officially over the hill at age 32.

What shall we do with the single members?

When I ask this, I mean it quite literally.  I do not, as many often do, mean “How shall we get the single members married?”  I understand that on a church-wide level, getting singles married is the most desirable outcome, both from a doctrinal and a demographic perspective. Mormons who marry young, to other Mormons, tend to stay Mormon over the long term at much higher rates than those who don’t. Plus there’s that whole “exaltation” thing.

I hate to be the bearer of brutal reality, but . . . no matter what, irrespective of lessons, talks, activities, YSA congregations, church schools, conferences, social pressure, prayers, fasting, shouting or tears . . . some single Mormons will stay single for their entire lives. [Read more…]

Trek the Movie

So a new Mormon film is coming out in April titled “Trek the Movie.” You can watch the trailer here [Read more…]

On Flatterers and Friends

 

I have no need of a friend who changes places when I do and nods in agreement when I do; my shadow is better at that. I need a friend who helps me by telling the truth and having discrimination. —Plutarch, Moralia

I agree with Steve Evans’ most recent post on arguing with people you love. But even if I didn’t, I would still consider Steve to be a good friend. And that, I think, is the point of the post. Friendship doesn’t preclude disagreement, but it does structure how we choose to disagree. I would go even further and say that, in some very tangible ways, friendship requires disagreement. I’m going to quote some Greeks here, so hear me out. [Read more…]

On Translation

Rachel Hunt Steenblik is a scholar and author, most recently of Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother. The French translation of Mother’s Milk, “Lait maternel : poèmes à la recherche de la Mère Céleste” is now available. It is the first non-English language version of a BCC Press book, and joins the very rare group of LDS fiction available in a language other than English. Thank you to Amanda Rafidiarimanda for her exquisite, stunningly beautiful translation. She has carried over the powerful spirit of Rachel’s work. We’re very, very proud of the result.

I. On the first day of August, I tweeted an Amazon review for my Mother’s Milk book that said: “I have steeped myself in these tiny poems for several days. I am ready to buy my second copy, because I’m giving away my first. I’ll probably give away my second too.” I shared that the book I do this with is The Little Prince, and that I was humbled, and honored, and grateful that someone was doing it with mine. Someone else responded that, “When the first non-English Mother’s Milk is released, then we can have the full-on Le Petit Prince gifting experience.” [Read more…]

Leonard Arrington’s Nine Points

Image resultI recently ordered a copy of Gregory Prince’s biography of Church historian and founder of the Church History Library, Leonard Arrington. If you aren’t familiar with Arrington, here’s a brief blurb from Wikipedia:
Leonard James Arrington (July 2, 1917 – February 11, 1999) was an American author, academic and the founder of the Mormon History Association. He is known as the “Dean of Mormon History”[1] and “the Father of Mormon History”[2] because of his many influential contributions to the field. He was the first Church Historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1972 to 1982, and was director of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History from 1982 until 1986.

From a diary entry dated August 17, 1992, Arrington expressed his frustration with several organizational aspects of the church. He titled this entry “Things I don’t like about the church.” This was his list: [Read more…]

Disagreeing to Agree

At BCC we pride ourselves upon the quality of our unanimity and general agreement on topics. While the authors on other sites may bicker and argue with each other, here we… [Read more…]

Choose the Right

Christina Taber-Kewene is a permablogger from the early days of BCC. Christina is an attorney living in New Jersey. We’re glad she sent this to us.

I was released last week from two years of serving in a calling I never thought I would come to cherish: First Counselor in the Primary presidency. I have plenty of my own kids, so for years I have said, “Give me any calling, but not one in the Primary!” Hahahaha. God laughs. [Read more…]

Lesson 5: “If Thou Doest Well, Thou Shalt Be Accepted” #BCCSundaySchool2018

Learning Outcomes

Have class members learn about and discuss the ways that the scriptural teachings about Zion invite a critical and ongoing encounter with practices like racism that lead us to hate our own blood, as well as the way that the story of Cain teaches the importance of seeing others’ offerings.

Readings

The manual only mentions Moses 5-7; I’m going to supplement that with Genesis 4:1-16 (KJV; NRSV) and the Gospel Topics essay on Race and the Priesthood (which itself needs to be supplemented with Paul Reeve’s Religion of a Different Color). See also my compilation of English versions of Genesis 4, which brings together English translations of the Cain and Abel story from Wycliffe to the present. [Read more…]

Movies Are Not Poop Cookies

Emma Croft grew up near Seattle and is currently studying English and creative writing at Brigham Young University. She enjoys traveling, cooking delicious things, hosting book club meetings, and brainstorming ways to make the LDS community more welcoming to those who struggle to find their place in the church. She spends much of her time writing personal essays, conducting research on early Book of Mormon usage, and helping students improve their writing.

I watched my first rated-R movie as a sophomore in high school. It all started when my World History teacher offered extra credit to any student who stayed after school to watch Defiance, a 2008 film about a group of Russian rebels who banded together to kill Nazis in the forest. It sounded great, but I figured out pretty quickly that choosing to watch it would mean ignoring what I had learned in church for as long as I could remember: no rated-R movies, at all, under any circumstances.bcc

I was torn. I needed the extra credit. I also made sure to carefully pore over the “parental advisory” section on IMDb and ultimately decided that the “5 uses of f—k” and several scenes of graphic wartime violence couldn’t mar my spirituality any more than an average day existing in a high school. After talking with my parents, I believed that watching the movie would provide an overall positive experience with valuable payoff, even if it felt immoral. Learning that any “ungodly” content would destroy a film’s value and cause the viewer irreparable harm left me with the impression that—on some level—I was sinning. [Read more…]

Marrying Outside Of Mormonism

Interfaith marriages are often underrepresented in LDS discourse on dating, marriage, and eternal life.  Although I’ve often heard marriages like mine described as “backup” options, for me it has been a joy formed through much prayer, study, and lived experience.

I see the essential barrier to interfaith dating and marriage is a reticence in the Mormon faith to actively befriend and genuinely associate with people not in our religion.  We call them “non-Mormon,” but that term is so strange and so alienating;  both my husband and I deeply  dislike it.  “Non-Mormons” are not non-persons, or non-entities – they are good, faithful, and beloved children of God.  I think this labeling is born out of fear of “the world,” and continued emphasis on Mormons as a “peculiar people.”  While I can see some of the historic roots of this mindset, to me, it is bizarre. [Read more…]

On the State of Mormon Book Reviewing–a guest post from Professor Warren G. Harding, Mervin Peake Online University of the Arts and Science

BCC received the following guest post, delivered via the US Postal Service and re-typed by several former BCC permabloggers, from Professor Warren G. Harding last week. Dr. Harding is the R. L. Stine Chair of Esoteric Literature at Mervin Peake Online University of the Arts and Science.

Your correspondent was pleased to receive recently a clipping from the latest issue of Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought: a review of Kattrim G. Mender’s master’s thesis, “Gilda Trillim: Shepherdess of Rats.” Your Mormon people might like to know that Mender’s thesis caused much controversy within the university on the eve of our latest accreditation review. (Results pending.) Mender’s very acceptance as a student at MPOUAS raised red flags throughout the faculty, considering his having previously flunked out of a small university none of us had heard of in Rexburg, Idaho. [Read more…]

Mormons Support Immigrant Dreams

This afternoon, the LDS Newsroom issued a statement in support of Dreamers.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is established in 188 nations around the globe. Issues of immigration and legal status are of concern for many of our members. Most of our early Church members emigrated from foreign lands to live, work and worship, blessed by the freedoms and opportunities offered in this great nation….

[W]e call upon our national leaders to create policies that provide hope and opportunities for those, sometimes referred to as “Dreamers,” who grew up here from a young age and for whom this country is their home. They have built lives, pursued educational opportunities and been employed for years based on the policies that were in place. These individuals have demonstrated a capacity to serve and contribute positively in our society, and we believe they should be granted the opportunity to continue to do so.

Mormons are so good on immigration.  And not just for Dreamers (which more than 80% of Americans support) — we’re good across the board.  I love our Christlike commitment to welcoming strangers.  [Read more…]

Anarchy: a love story

Me (tacking up a picture of Lorenzo Snow on the board): Do any of you know who this is?

Primary child: You, when you were younger?

Me: Tough, but fair.

Last September, after a four-year hiatus, I made a triumphant return to teaching Primary. Well, it was triumphant for about five minutes, until I actually tried to teach a lesson. Then everything was exactly the same as it had been four years ago: a circus in search of a ringmaster. A circus that is such a fun-filled romp for everyone that random adults wandering the halls tend to poke their noses in and say, “Everything okay in here?”

“It’s okay,” I reassure them. “We’re cool here.”

We’re not cool, of course. We’re completely off the rails, and in the time I took to answer that question, one of the kids just climbed out the window. But NBD.

[Read more…]