What’s in a name?

At the risk of making a big deal out of a small deal, I have a few thoughts to add to Carolyn’s excellent post on yesterday’s updated usage guidelines from Pres. Nelson.

The good news is we have Jesus Christ in our name. The bad news is it’s the part of our name that doesn’t get acronymized. TCoJCoLDS doesn’t exactly role off the tongue. Nor does CoJC, and anyway that acronym is already claimed.

So what do you do when the whole world leaves Jesus Christ out of your name, gets your name wrong, or calls you a Mormon?

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 8.00.57 PMIt’s been an issue for as long as the church has been called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “LDS” and “Mormon” are the most “user-friendly” terms to refer to our religion, if we assume that the easiest, most convenient moniker is the one most likely to be used in conversation. Which is usually true.

But if we’re ever going to be able to accept those names, we’re going to need to first accept a few truths about our brand. 

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Harm vs. Purity

Recently, the SL Tribune broke the story about a BYU-I student who came forward about being sexually assaulted and was suspended from school for two semesters for drinking. She states that she did not confess drinking to her bishop, but that her attacker outed her for drinking, leading to her suspension.

“I knew I was in the wrong, I knew she was in the wrong,” he said. “I only went to the bishop so I could work on what I needed to work on. I didn’t go with any intentions to report her and retaliate. I was hoping she could work on her stuff, too … so she can be helped with drinking and following the Honor Code.” – Sexual assault guy

You didn’t intend to retaliate. Riiiight. You are just so helpful and concerned for the relative stranger you groped when she was incapacitated that you wanted to be sure her bishop could assist her in the repentance process. Thank you, Mr. Helpful. It’s a time-tested practice of sexual assaulters to minimize their offense by creating a false equivalence in questioning the behavior of their victim. We should certainly quit falling for it when it happens.

This points to the loophole that exists in the BYU-I school’s Title IX provision, but on a broader level, it points to an ethical question as it relates to understanding sin. [Read more…]

Complementarity and the Gospel

Tom Hardman is a patent attorney in Salt Lake City, and occasional blogger on science and religion

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A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design, by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek, is a fascinating meditation on the nature of reality. I found Wilczek’s discussion about complementarity to be particularly thought provoking. Complementarity is a principle of quantum theory, but Wilczek argues that “its importance, as an insight into the nature of things, goes beyond physics.”

Wilczek summarizes complementarity as follows: “No one perspective exhausts reality, and different perspectives may be valuable, yet mutually exclusive.” [Read more…]

Testing Bishops for Skills, Aptitude, and Narcissism

Chris Kimball is a seven-times grandfather, a father, and a husband.  He was a fast-track Mormon church leader, with the right genealogy and checking all the boxes, until about age 40. On a very different path since then.  He is a good friend of BCC.

I was a Mormon bishop in the mid-1990s.  The experience led to my turning in my temple recommend and leaving full activity.  From an orthodox Mormon point of view, it was a destructive experience, even disaster.  I spent the next 10 years in therapy (on-the-couch deep investigation therapy) sorting myself out.  I probably should not have been a bishop in the first place.  [Read more…]

Prayer for the Day of Pentecost

O God of the nations,
you who speak to all in their own language,
you unto whom all are alike,
black and white, female and male, bond and free:
pour down your spirit upon us;
let its thunder ring in our hearts
as it calls us into your love,
which became flesh in the person of Jesus;
let it teach our tongues to name the wounds
that have long festered in our body,
until we know at last how to pray for their healing;
let it teach us to hear the sighs too deep for words,
the groanings in the hearts of our fellow saints;
let it teach us to speak the long-awaited word of comfort;
let it teach us to pray your kingdom into our midst
until, Great God Almighty, we are free at last.

The Unfinished Endowment

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Cory B. Jensen is a longtime temple worker and author of Completing Your Endowment, which traces the history of the endowment.

In May of 1842, Joseph Smith first introduced the temple endowment to nine men in the room above his Red Brick Store. Over the next eighteen months, Joseph continued to add to this basic endowment. He introduced separate prayer circle meetings, sealing for time and eternity of a husband and wife, and a capstone two-part ritual sometimes referred to as the second endowment or second anointing. By the time of his death in 1844, Joseph had endowed about thirty-seven men and thirty-two women.

Unfortunately, Joseph never had the completed Nauvoo temple to work with and he left Brigham Young a charge to complete the work. Brigham Young recalled: “Bro. Joseph turned to me and said: ‘Brother Brigham this is not arranged right but we have done the best we could under the circumstances in which we are placed, and I wish you to take this matter in hand and organize and systematize all these ceremonies with the signs, tokens, penalties and key words.’ I did so, and each time I got something more, so that when we went through the temple at Nauvoo I understood and knew how to place them there. We had our ceremonies pretty correct.” [1] [Read more…]

Garments are Symbols of the Atonement

P. Anderson blogged at the Exponent as Starfoxy once upon a time, but entered retirement in order to build a reputation as a bloggernacle cryptid. She lives with her family in the Phoenix metro area, and just got a new solar oven.

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 8.58.16 AMI had a conversation years ago where I expressed a desire for the women’s garment pattern to change to a camisole type top. The woman I was talking to stared at me blankly and asked, “Then how would we stop women from wearing sleeveless shirts?”

I wanted to shriek.

Thankfully I did not shriek. (Though after the rant I went on, perhaps my friend would have preferred the shriek.)

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Fearful Tales of Interlagos, Brazil

XDxRvANaHeather Collins is a convert and in-progress author of a book on patriarchal blessings she never shuts up about, but will probably never finish.  Follow her on Twitter.

The only time I ever trained a new missionary was in the most dangerous area I was ever assigned to in Brazil. She was Argentinian, and we dealt with a triple language barrier. I’d come without suitcases to take her back to our area, deep in the interior of São Paulo state. Tatuí was rural, relatively safe, and hours away from the city by public transit. We had a small branch to work with and had just baptized a child with no support at home.

I wasn’t happy about that baptism. I was tired of baptizing young kids whose parents wanted nothing to do with the Church. That was how I was baptized, and I knew the years of heartache that would be ahead of every child we did this to. The price of staying without parental support is higher than most people know.

I was frustrated with my area. I wanted to go anywhere else where I felt like baptism would be more likely. In my mind, that meant going back to the city. 

Then our phone rang. It was my mission president. There had been a change of plans. [Read more…]

Book Announcement: God and the IRS

I’m thrilled to announce that my book God and the IRS: Accommodating Religious Practice in United States Tax Law (New York: Cambridge UP, 2018) has just been published and is available for your reading pleasure.

As background to the book, the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment (as well as the jurisprudence courts have used to interpret and apply the Religion Clauses) have a sometimes-complicated interplay. Because the law sometimes imposes on individuals’ ability to practice their religion, the government can sometimes accommodate their religious practice, exempting religious individuals from generally-applicable laws. At the same time, though, in general, the law can’t favor religion over non-religion; as a result, sometimes religious people can’t get an exemption from the generally-applicable law. A lot of religious litigation turns on where, in a given situation, the line between permissible and impermissible accommodation falls. [Read more…]

Stoic Maxims to Enhance Your Mormonism

Glen Fewkes is a health policy attorney in DC.  He listens to podcasts at double-speed and lives life at half-speed.

For a 2,000 year-old philosophy, Stoicism is currently having a bit of a moment.  For some reason, it’s particularly resonant amongst the “bro” set, and if they don’t find a way to wreck it then we’ll know it’s really built to last.  At its core, Stoicism offers a useful way of engaging with the world and has a rich history of interactions with the Apostle Paul and the peoples of the New Testament.

Stoics, ancient and modern, love to repeat maxims – condensed phrases of wisdom – in the hopes that certain virtues will sink into people’s psyches through repetition, much like repeated bicep curls build muscle (OK, maybe I’m starting to see the “bro” connection). These maxims are meant to be applicable to people of all walks of life.  Indeed, example sources span the spectrum from a Roman Emperor (Marcus Aurelius), to a freed slave (Epictetus), to a playwright (Seneca), a fact that is not at all irrelevant to the Stoic philosophy. [Read more…]

Invisible and Overqualified

“Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies” is a statement often used in Mormondom to give us hope that our volunteer workforce will be able to fulfill callings if they rely on the Lord. It’s a fine sentiment, one that should be humbling and aspirational all at once. But what about when a calling requires specific qualifications, such as a certification or degree, to be able to perform that role? Well, in those cases we are a bit more specific in whom we call. I noticed decades ago that our stake had called someone to the role of financial auditor who had no financial acumen, despite the fact that there were women in the stake who were CPAs and had the right qualifications; however, it was deemed a “priesthood” calling for some mysterious reason, so these women were not considered, essentially invisible to those extending the callings. That was decades ago, though, and we’ve entered a new era of gender inclusiveness, right?

Perhaps not. [Read more…]

Three sub-degrees in the Celestial Kingdom?

Shannon Flynn is a life long student of Mormon History and a member of the Mormon History Association. 

About four weeks ago a discussion was started on the Mormon Historians Facebook page that asked about the common belief that there are three distinct sub-degrees or separate places within the celestial kingdom.  The reference that is usually pointed to is D&C section 131 verses 1-4 especially verse 1. “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees.”

In the discussion that followed it was my contention that there are not, in fact, three sub-degrees or divisions. Moreover, this idea and all of the variations and speculations on the nature of the sub-degrees has become one of the most significant pieces of false doctrine that pervades the LDS church today. Part of the discussion came from Kevin Barney who linked a post he had done back in 2006 on BCC, that the three sub-degrees was not the original interpretation of the verses in section 131.  I had an experience similar to what Kevin describes in his post when he said he heard it from a friend who heard it from California temple president. [Read more…]

#TaxDay 2018: For Ye Were Strangers

The foreigner who resides with you must be to you like a native citizen among you; so you must love him as yourself, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.   —Leviticus 19:34

My liturgical calendar tells me today is Tax Day,[fn1] and so it’s time for another installment of my annual Mormons and Taxes post.

This year’s has nothing to do with the income tax, and, in fact, very little to do with the United States. Instead, we’re going to look south of the border to the Mormon colonies in Mexico. [Read more…]

Prayer for Easter Morning

Praise be to the God of the dawn,
our God of the morning light,
whose Son this morning lives again,
dead in the tomb though he was!
Grant that we, too, might come forth
from the dark places of our own hearts
and find together the fullness of life,
in the rich vigor of the Holy Spirit
and the renewing presence of the Son;
in your strength may we rise together
as the living body of Christ,
proclaiming the message of peace
in all the world, until we become
one people as you are one God. Amen.

Gerrit Gong and Susan Gong, my marriage, and why #RepresentationMatters

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Susan and Gerrit Gong (Church News photograph)

There are any number of reasons I couldn’t be happier about the newly-called Elder Gong and Elder Soares. Elder Soares, a Brazillian, brings long-overdue representation from the southern hemisphere. I know several members of Elder Gong’s extended family, and they couldn’t be a more dynamic, talented, kind family. But if you would indulge me for a moment, I want to focus on one area of very specific, personal appreciation: the marriage of Elder Gerrit Gong, as an Asian-American man, to his wife Susan Gong, a white woman.

[Read more…]

Prayer for Holy Saturday

Our God of the darkness,
who meets us this day in Jesus’ tomb:
grant us your Spirit
to show us the darkness
in our own hearts,
from which we long to rise. Amen.

Prayer for Good Friday

O God of our godforsakenness,
appearing this day to us
only as a broken man on a cross:
grant that we, in his cross,
might see ourselves,
might see the myriad ways
we find to crucify one another,
until the Spirit, rending our hearts
like its fierce wind
rent the temple veil,
reveals the face of God
in all the people we have forsaken,
that we may renounce forever
our daily crucifixions
and proclaim at last the Prince of Peace,
becoming one people as you are one God. Amen.

Prayer for Maundy Thursday

O God of our garden prayers,
to whom our souls cry out of the depths:
grant that we in our dark hours
might sense Jesus kneeling before us,
gently washing our feet,
and then find him feeding us
with the bread and wine,
his own body and blood,
and promising us another Comforter,
found when we love one another;
guide us, Father, in the works of love,
that through your Son and in the Spirit
we might become one people as you are One God.
Amen.

Prayer for Palm Sunday

O God of our ecstatic praises
and tumultuously shouted joys:
grant us the courage of rejoicing,
for although our hearts will soon
slip back into their stony selves,
wishing to cry out, but not,
and although everything we now celebrate
will soon go heartbreakingly wrong,
in this hour of Jesus’ triumph
let our hearts open wide with joy
and overflow with the Spirit’s power,
making us for this hour one people in the delight
that forever flows within you, the One God. Amen.

The Burden of Choosing to Believe

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Image Credit: Delphine Devos

“I envy you your faith, somedays,” an agnostic friend in college once remarked as we ate lunch in the spring sunshine.  “I wish I could have faith.”

“You can, you know.   Faith is a choice,” I urged with perhaps a touch too much missionary zeal.  “In the Book of Mormon there’s a famous sermon about how faith is like a science experiment.  If you even have just a ‘desire to believe,” and choose to act on that desire, you’ll feel God’s love, and see results.”

 

“But logic is too deeply engrained in me for that to work,” he responded.  “I’d just dismiss any positive feeling as a weird firing of brain chemicals, a manufactured emotional manipulation.  It’s not tangible or real.” [Read more…]

Holding An Abuser Accountable

With the latest news story about Joseph L. Bishop, the former MTC president accused of sexually assaulting women serving missions, there have been a lot of discussions in online forums, including many women who’ve shared personal experiences of going to leaders for help when they were victims of assault, only to be told that the leader could not or would not pursue any disciplinary action against their attacker. In some cases, the individuals they accused went on to assault others. Given that the church is firmly on record as being against any abuse, in very strongly worded terms, even considering it as an impediment to entrance to the temple, how do these things happen as often as I’ve heard about them? [Read more…]

Prayer for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Our God, whose heart has become a wilderness
wide enough to receive our cries
and spacious enough to hold our suffering:
grant that our own wilderness journey
might teach our hearts to be more like yours,
so that as we prepare to remember your Son’s Passion,
we might open our hearts to the truth of his life
and the agonizing sorrow of his death,
until, thus stretched by the Holy Spirit,
we might turn in Jesus’ name to each other,
greeting one another in the Lord’s peace,
able at last to see and be seen in our truth
and to share together in the promised healing
that will make us one people as you are One God. Amen.

Prayer for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Mothering Sunday)

O God our blessed Mother, who gathers us under your wings
as a hen gathers her chicks with tender care:
as we return this day to our Mother Church,
grant that we may love her full kindly,
the chicks tending now to the hen
with a gentle loving care,
binding up the breaches in her body
and making the covert of her wings
once again safe for her wandering chicks
that we may welcome them in love and kinship
and become one people as you are one God. Amen.

Lesson 10: Marriage in the Covenant #BCCSundaySchool2018

ReadingsGenesis 24 – 29.

Introduction:   I volunteered to give this lesson for BCC precisely because I’m a temple-divorced, now-engaged-to-a-Catholic Mormon woman.  The Old Testament manual instructs teachers “As you discuss the importance of eternal marriage, be sensitive to the feelings of class members who have not been married in the temple or whose parents have not been married in the temple.”  But other than that note, it doesn’t provide any practical tips about what that “sensitivity” might look like.  I hope here to provide a model for how we can use this episode in Genesis to spark discussion on how everyone can achieve more Christlike relationships, without assuming that all temple marriages are happy, nor that all non-temple marriages are miserable.

[Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, who by your powerful hand delivered Israel from Egypt and reigns forever over all creation:
grant that we, when our hearts entertain the temptations of power,
might remember the tender power that your Son exercised by coming to live as one of us.
Turn our hands, therefore, to the works of love, the works of kindness,
that we may nurture the life of the Spirit among ourselves
and gently welcome all we can into that life,
until we become one people as you are one God. Amen.

We All Worship a Different God

cloudsSomeone who studies religion knows that there are many Gods and ideas of divinity throughout theology. They understand the differences between these beliefs and the intricacies of what God means to many people. However, I am not that person, so my knowledge is much more limited. But recently I have started to notice the subtle differences between the God that I worship and the God that people around me seem to worship.

Of course, the God that I have known and learned about throughout my life is different from the one(s) that my Hindu, Muslim, and even various Christian friends know. But the more I question my own beliefs and the more I learn about the beliefs of others, the more I am sure that none of us believe the same things, even when we claim the same religion.

[Read more…]

Prayer for the Second Sunday in Lent

O God, our constant support,
whose constancy often feels like absence:
in our long wilderness walk,
some days find you nearer
than our accustomed busyness allows,
but many days, instead of presence,
we carry heavy doubt,
apparently alone,
tempted to put you, our God,
to the test;
grant us, then, the patience
to walk in our darkness
and learn our own strength,
as Jesus learned his,
that when the darkness is past,
we might walk with you
and with Jesus
in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Domestic Abuse Resources for Bishops

Laura Brignone Bhagwat is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley where she studies technology and domestic violence.  Her dissertation tracks a public health intervention in hospital emergency rooms meant to prevent intimate partner homicide.

On a hot summer morning last year, I sat in a small room with fifteen pastors and ministers. Coffee and pastries were tucked into a corner, and the men and women of my county’s Interfaith Coalition to End Domestic Violence were introducing themselves. At the end of introductions, the pastor facilitating the meeting asked: “What are the biggest challenges facing your congregation when it comes to domestic violence?”

The answers started flying. “The abuser is a member of our church board!” “She just keeps going back to him and I don’t know what to do.” “Women in our church are taught to be meek and submissive, so when the abuser tells them something, they think they have no options.” “Victims are often looked down on when they speak out.” “Abusers misuse scripture to justify their actions.” “Even after [theological] seminary, I just don’t feel I have the training I need to respond to this issue.” [Read more…]

Prayer for the First Sunday in Lent

Blessed God, the bread of life,
who feeds us with the spiritual food of your Son:
grant that this our wilderness journey,
undertaken to remind us that our lives
draw nurture from more than bread alone,
may send our roots deep into the loam of your love,
that we, blossoming into abundant life
through the nourishment of the Holy Spirit,
might share the feast of love together,
one people as you are One God. Amen.

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.