Sexual Violence in Church History

We’re pleased to feature this guest post from Kristine A., who blogs regularly at Wheat and Tares.

I attended the Church History Symposium in Utah co-hosted by BYU and the Church History Department last week. I live-tweeted quite a bit of the whole weekend using #LDSwomen and #CHsymposium. The most memorable session was Andrea Radke-Moss’ presentation on her paper “Beyond Petticoats and Poultices: Finding a Women’s History of the Mormon-Missouri War of 1838.” I overheard some Mormon historians mentioning that her presentation was likely the biggest reveal/discovery in Mormon history in at least the past 50 years.

IMG_7274 [Read more…]

First 50 Years of RS – Evening with the Editors

From our friends at Benchmark Books:

We are very excited to announce that Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook and Matthew J. Grow will be here on Wednesday, March 9th, to discuss their new book, The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History (published by The Church Historian’s Press). They will be here from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.—speaking at 6:00—and will answer questions and sign books before and after that time. We hope you will be able to make that night but, if not, we can mail signed copies or hold them here at the store for pick-up. To RSVP on Facebook, click here.
[Read more…]

“Brother,” “Sister,” Thee,” and “Thou”: We’re Doing it All Wrong

I distinctly remember being a child trying to figure out Mormon and non-Mormon forms of address. For a while I thought that all adults were named “Brother” and “Sister.” That led to at least one highly embarrassing moment with my father’s boss. But, like all good Mormon kids, I soon figured it out: members of the Church are named “Brother” and “Sister.” Other adults are named “Mister” and “Missus” (or occasionally “Miss”). And never, ever call a grown up by their first name. [Read more…]

Mothering Sunday (4th Sunday of Lent)

We are over halfway through the season of Lent, and today, Mothering Sunday, is named after a 16th-century tradition of attending the church you grew up in, the place where you were baptized, or the church your mother attends. “Going a-mothering” meant traveling to your home church, the place where you came from.

[Read more…]

Isaiah in the BoM


So I’m preparing for lesson #9, which is the Isaiah lesson, and doing some of the reading. I come to 2 Nephi 12:16, which reads as follows: [Read more…]

I try to be politically correct. And I’m Mormon.


Full disclosure: I stole this image from a blog post attacking the concept. Then I saw they stole it from somewhere else and the origins are lost to space and time.

Or, how to stick up for political correctness when it gets ridiculed at church.

A few weeks ago in Sunday school I was chided for suggesting that Christopher Columbus didn’t merit our unalloyed appreciation. I did it with as much diplomacy as I could muster, making sure to emphasize everyone was entitled to their own opinion. My observation was dismissed as the product of too much “political correctness” in the world. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard “PC” being spoken of disparagingly at church—even some general authorities have spoken of it as something to be lamented if not rejected. But it was the first time my own observation directly provoked the disparagement. And it felt terrible. In the current political climate of the United States we’re seeing compelling evidence that dismissing the idea of political correctness wholesale is a huge mistake. [Read more…]

We Gather Together: Questions for Neil J. Young about the Religious Right

Neil J. Young is an historian and author of We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics (OUP, 2015). He graciously agreed to answer some questions about the history (and future) of Mormonism and the Religious right. [Read more…]

By Their Own Pens

Kate Holbrook, PhD specializes in women’s history at the Church History Department. She is coeditor of The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History (Church Historians Press, 2016) and Women and Mormonism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (University of Utah Press, 2016).

I don’t always love to read history. Sometimes it is boring. My mom reminded me (in public!) recently that when I was eleven, at the end of a road trip to Southern Utah with her and my grandma, I complained “Does EVERY trip have to be about history?”

My first day on the job at the Church History Library, September 2012, I began working on a document introduction and annotations for the book just now being released as The First Fifty Years of Relief Society. I had never worked on a documentary history before and I worried that it would be highly dull. But then I read the documents. [Read more…]

The Need for Roots

simone-weilI read Simone Weil’s The Need for Roots at a time when life around me made its thesis particularly stark. I had been contemplating how deeply rooted most of the things are that give me joy and support in life: the work place founded half a millennium ago, my Christian faith, the LDS community, my family, my experience as an economically liberated citizen of a centuries’ old constitutional democracy. Even quirky things like the custodianship of my father’s stamp collection, stamps he has collected since the 1950s. So many good things in my life are rooted: old but not stale, secure but still dynamic.

Contrast this with the uprootings causing turmoil in the Middle East. To take one example: the plight of the Christians of Syria and Iraq whose once anciently-rooted communities have been torn up by war and terror. Writing as a French woman at the end of the Second World War, Simone Weil (1909-1943) has much to say about our societies’ current ailments while also offering us a glimpse of a nascent France in her own time.

[Read more…]

Endowment and Eucharist Part III

JKC continues his series

In the last two Parts (Part I & Part II), I explained my suggestion that despite the fact that the endowment liturgy that is now familiar was first administered in some form, in Nauvoo, the essential principles of the endowment were all revealed in the Kirtland-era revelations in the early to mid 1830s, and that the Kirtland endowment experience was not just a single event, but ranged from late 1830 to early 1836, culminating in the 1836 vision of Jesus in the temple, declaring that his servants had been endowed in that house.

In this part, I’ll sketch out my new perspective on the Nauvoo endowment liturgy as an ordinance that perhaps looks back toward the Kirtland endowment. [Read more…]

Review: Journals, Volume 3, 1842-1844 of the JSPP

It has been a very long time.
[Read more…]

Tell your story that you are listening and you’d like to hear what it is saying.

Nearly a decade ago I spent a summer in the Special Collections section of the BYU library.  I wasn’t particularly sure of what I would find there,  but I was hungry to know something of the women in my mormon history.  I read lots of journals, including Emmeline B. Wells, Louisa Barnes Pratt, Minerva Teichert and the first young sister missionary to ever serve on her own instead of as a married couple or family. [Read more…]

Does the thought make reason stare?

I am strictly a Star Trek dilettante, but one of the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation that I’ve seen all the way through is one called “The Outcast,” in which Riker falls in love with a member of an androgynous humanoid society called the J’naii. It is forbidden love because the J’naii have evolved beyond gender and consider male-female sexual-relating as primitive and an abomination.

Riker thinks this particular J’naii, named Soren, is really a woman because she (um, they? Xe? I don’t recall the Enterprise addressing the pronoun issue) just seems like a woman–i.e. she has fine features and a high voice and also, she’s played by a female actor–that helps a lot–but Soren is all like, “That’s not how we J’naii roll,” and Riker’s like, “Oh no, baby, I think that is how you roll,” and she/xe’s all like, “Yeah, you’re right, that’s how I roll”–and so they fall in love and maybe get it on or at least kiss the way men and women sometimes do. (I don’t really remember. How it was on the show, I mean.) Anyway, the rest of the J’naii get wind of this disgusting display of heterosexuality and they are not cool with it because–I bet you can guess why, but I’ll tell you anyway–gender dichotomy will lead to the breakdown of their society. Every J’naii knows this. Only sicko pervs like Riker would dare question it. [Read more…]

Book Review Roundup

A few brief reviews on three recent and noteworthy books:

First is the Oxford Handbook of Mormonism (Oxford University Press: Terryl Givens, Philip Barlow, eds.). [Read more…]

Millennials and Marriage

In Joseph Smith’s lifetime, America’s population was essentially 90% rural and existed more or less in the Jeffersonian ideal of subsistence farming. These farms were nuclear family enterprises, not generally places of extended family dwellings. To operate a farm required cooperative distribution of labor, men generally cleared land and engaged in cultivation and hunting for food. Women engaged in disciplines of manufacture. Government reports indicate that 2/3 of all clothing and linen was produced in households in 1810 and shopkeepers in towns contracted with housewives to produce goods beyond home use. That production often functioned as payment for credit extended for farm implements and household tools and the like.
[Read more…]

Nephi: The Anti-Isaiah #BOM2016

2 Nephi 25-33

Isaiah's visionIf you just read the words, you would think that Nephi was a huge fan of Isaiah—”great are the words of . . .” and all that.  And Nephi certainly quotes plenty of Isaiah’s words to show just how great they are. But if we look a little bit closer, we can see Nephi doing everything possible NOT to be like Isaiah in his own writing. Nephi “glories in plainness.” Isaiah, not so much.

[Read more…]

Endowment and Eucharist Part II

This is the second part in JKC’s guest series discussing his perspective on the Endowment. Part I is here.

In the last Part, I explained that there was an endowment in Kirtland, but that to find it, we may need to be prepared to look for something that does not necessarily resemble the ceremony that we know today as the endowment. This Part is my attempt to find the principles of the endowment in the Kirtland revelations. [Read more…]

God Is Good, and that Makes All the Difference: Some Parting Thoughts on the Isaiah Chapters in the Book of Mormon #BOM2016

It has been quite a ride through the three major sets of Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon, from the application of Isaiah’s remnant theology (48-49) to the American continent in 1 Nephi 20-21, to the great prophet’s words of comfort to the exiled Jews (50-51) in 2 Nephi 7-8, to the long block of chapters (2-14) in 2 Nephi 12-24, which tie together Isaiah’s Messianic passages and his prophecies of a fallen Israel redeemed as the City of Zion.

[Read more…]

Talking with Children about Death and Resurrection

It was just the two of us at the dinner table. We were eating my daughter’s favorite meal and talking about the kinds of things that concern preschoolers.

After a lull in the conversation–part of which took place in a make-believe language–about her stuffed animals, drawing, playing in the gym and funny things other kids said at preschool, she turned to me and said: “I don’t want to die.” I was taken aback–her closest brush with death was when her grandmother died nearly two years ago when she was, I thought, too young to remember. [Read more…]

Seeing eye to eye in Sunday school

The following activity verse could be used to teach children to be thankful for God’s creations. It is taken from the Primary song “The World Is So Big”:

The world is so big and, oh, so round,
[form a large circle with arms]
And in it God’s creations are found;
Stars shining brightly through all the night,
[straighten and wiggle fingers]
Sun in the day so warm and so bright.
[form a large circle with arms]
The world is so big and, oh, so round.
God loves us all; our blessings abound.
[grasp arms and hug self]

(From Teaching, No Greater CallPart F: Methods of Teaching.)

I’ll get around to why I opened this post with an excerpt from the church’s teaching handbook, but first I should explain that I was going to open with a simple declaration:

Teaching Adult Sunday school is a very difficult church calling. [Read more…]

The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: An Interview with the Editors

You may have heard about the new history by the Church Historian’s Press of the first 50 years of the Relief Society. Excerpts of key documents are found online as well at the Church Historian’s Press. A review will be forthcoming, but to call it a landmark history underplays the importance of the text. Kate Holbrook (a specialist in women’s history with the Church History Department) and Matt Grow (director of publications for the Church History Department), who each were major editors of the volume, were gracious enough to answer some of our questions.

What was the genesis for the volume? Was it a grassroots (or historian-roots) effort, or did the suggestion/direction come from other elements in church leadership?

The book had its genesis around the year 2000 when Jill Mulvay Derr and Carol Cornwall Madsen were professors at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History at BYU. [Read more…]

Free conference, March 3-4 in Provo and SLC: Women and Mormon history

Next week, BYU and the History Department of the Church are hosting a free conference on women and Mormon History. Thursday will be at BYU in Provo, and Friday will bat the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Both events are open to the public–just show up. The program is available here.
[Read more…]

Endowment and Eucharist

Jared Cook, who occasionally comments in the bloggernacle under his initials JKC (the K is for Kimball), was born in Oregon, raised in Rochester, New York, served a mission in Phoenix, studied English at BYU, went to law school in Minneapolis, and then returned to Rochester where he lives now and works as an employment lawyer. He’s a lifelong member of the church and a lifelong democrat. He’s a father of three, husband of one, and a lover of the outdoors, Tolkien, and history (especially obscure church history, medieval history, and Mormon history). He cannot flatter himself that he is a writer, but he does occasionally scratch out the odd poem or essay.

“How the Endowment is to the Kirtland Temple as the Eucharist is to the Last Supper (Part I).”

This is series of posts that will attempt to gather and put down some of my thoughts about the LDS temple endowment. [Read more…]

JST 1 Cor. 7:1-2

I thought I would share here a snippet from my BYU NT Commentary Conference presentation this past summer. My paper was on the JST of 1 Corinthians. We have a tendency to want to see the JST as almost entirely involving textual restorations, but I frankly didn’t see any of that in 1 Corinthians. The largest category of changes I saw were what I called “Alternate Translations (without Positing any Change in Underlying Text.” I present below the first change I discussed under that category. [Note that by “alternate translations” I intended to take an agnostic stance as to whether these translations were interlingual (presumably by inspiration, since Joseph didn’t actually know Greek) or intralingual (i.e., a paraphrase or English rewording of Joseph’s exemplar, the KJV).

[Read more…]

Our Faithful God

Even though Lent can be a time for drawing closer to God, sometimes our wanderings in the wilderness leave us feeling abandoned—even when God has promised to stay with us! We can share Abraham’s incredulity: when God promised him a great reward, he replied, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” And yet, as with Abraham, God can take the occasion of our realism or even skepticism to create bonds of covenant faithfulness, making the promise of progeny that prompted this response: “[Abraham] believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Abraham’s example isn’t about willing belief against the absence of evidence (“I think I believe, I think I believe, I think I believe”), but rather about affirming loyalty to God when God affirms loyalty to us. [Read more…]

Mormon Deepities

What is a deepity?

Something that sounds profound but intellectually hollow.
Usually has the following characteristics. 1. True but trivial 2. False but logically ill informed. 3. Usually a use-mention error or (UME)  To the extent that it’s true, it doesn’t matter. To the extent that it matters, it isn’t true.

What is a UME?  Confusing the word used to describe a thing, with the thing itself.

Daniel Dennett, the prominent atheist author who coined the term “deepity” in 2009, argues that theology is full of deepities.  To which I say, I know you are, but what am I? [Read more…]

Pluralizing The Book of Mormon


There is a long standing debate as to how to pluralize The Book of Mormon. I’ll give you my take; please share yours in the comments. [Read more…]

Bankruptcy and a Book of Mormon

Note that this isn't the Book of Mormon the debtor got to keep

Note that this isn’t the Book of Mormon the debtor got to keep

I was walking through the mailroom at work today and, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the word “Mormon” in newspaper headline. Mormonism doesn’t come up much in the news around here, so I took a second look. On the front page—in fact, above the fold—of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, a legal newspaper here, was the headline “Debtor can keep rare Book of Mormon.”[fn1]

Now, I’m not a bankruptcy person,[fn2] but the story is too good to pass up, so here goes: [Read more…]

Gospel Discussion Group

From time to time I’ve made oblique references on the blog to a Gospel Discussion Group my wife and I were a part of in the mid-90s here in the Chicago area. I remember that as an idyllic time, and I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you more about it. [Read more…]

Nephi’s Desert Island Book: Isaiah 2-14 in a New World Context #BOM2016

2 Nephi 12-24

The mature Nephi is something of a tragic figure, cut off from his culture, despairing of his descendants, and alienated from his own society. . . . Imagine, for a moment, his situation. He was educated in Jerusalem and literate at a time when such training was rare. He seems to have been fascinated by books and records. And then in his teenage years he was suddenly taken from the culturally rich and intellectually stimulating of Judah’s capital to live in a distant land, in the company of only his relatives, with a single text (the Brass Plates) to read for the rest of his life. (Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 59-60)

Our university library sponsors a monthly “Desert Island Book” lecture. The premise is pretty simple: chose the one book you would want to take with you if you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life. I gave the lecture about a year ago and chose Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. (Here’s the PowerPoint if you really want to know why). I thought a lot about that lecture when I was reading the long stretch of Isaiah in 2 Nephi 12-24, since the Brass Plates of Laban are basically Nephi’s Desert Island Book—the only reading material he has had for more than 40 years.  [Read more…]


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,588 other followers