Some of life’s best examples of grace come through friendship, in little moments of surprise that remind us of the whole world that exists beyond ourselves. Sure, there are the graces that happen when strangers are unexpectedly kind, but what makes grace in friendship interesting is that we expect goodness from the other person. What is grace when kindness and generosity are the rule (even if moments of prickliness do intrude, as they will)? [Read more…]
O Jesus, on the cross, alone,
you are the only God I know;
my pleading heart a barren stone
no heaven finds but here below.
I met you hanging on a tree
in woods obscure, half spent the day,
forsaken by your God, like me,
without a friend to share the way.
Companionship then let us keep—
though mortal fear each footstep bars—
as we descend through dark and deep,
together searching for the stars.
I used to think I had it pretty tough as a missionary and then as a member of the church in Austria. It’s easy to feel isolated and maybe even a little under siege (see below!) with Mormons few and far between on the outskirts of the vineyard. [Read more…]
Sometimes with full heart I fall on my face before God and weep my soul to the heavens. I rage and sob and struggle to pour forth my full measure. Plying the words that mingle with my tears I falter, trying plainness or eloquence or cursing—anything that might break through. On the edge of despair I am reduced to muttering the Name over and over in its many lesser names—“Oh God!” “Dear, gentle Jesus!”—and in the repetition the distinction between prayer and blasphemy begins to blur. I pray on, or I go to sleep. [Read more…]
I live in Vienna while the rest of my side of the family remains scattered across the western United States. Thanks to a confluence of favorable factors, we are able to make an annual visit to the old homestead each year for several weeks, which has led to a tradition of a trip within a trip–we fly home, spend about a week moving from couch to couch paying our respects, then take a week to be tourists and travel somewhere I never got around to visiting while growing up , and wrap things up by cooling our heels at the parental roost for a few days.
The Most Controversial Bloggernacle Post in the 6,000-Year History of the World. This Week, at Least.
Bringing a little baroque sensibility to our series, I present this poem by Richard Crashaw (1613-1649):
A broken boy
broke the bread
with breaking voice
broke the prayer.
His broken prayer
found broken me,
much more than
when he got it right.
A book sits on our shelf in our home: Helen Andelin’s infamous tome on marital manipulation, Fascinating Womanhood. The book details for women how to get a man (if they don’t have one) and how to control the one that they do have. It includes helpful tips such as dressing and acting in a childish manner, nonsensically flattering your husband’s superiority [intellect, strength, driving skills, etc.], and deliberately playing dumb, even sabotaging household items for your husband to fix, so that your husband can feel proud of his manliness. It also condones marital rape and domestic violence. [Read more…]
Disappointment happens—and it hurts. What’s worse is that there are opportunities for disappointment everywhere.While there’s nothing particularly modern about disappointment, modern communications technologies can amplify our awareness of disappointing events and also provide fora in which we can express the disappointments we feel. These technologies, in other words, have expanded our capacity for disappointment. Just as it’s now completely normal to encounter a Facebook post articulating disappointment with an occurrence on the other side of the world, it’s also long since become commonplace to posit “the internet” as a factor in leading people to become disappointed with the Church. If disappointment is a basic part of human experience, I believe that it’s worth thinking about what part disappointment plays in our efforts to build Zion and how, then, we can engage in that work in our current technological environment. [Read more…]
In a recent post I expressed my belief that the world is an entropic chaos tending toward death, and that in rebelling against this we can make beauty, which the all-devouring nature of the void requires that we make again and again. I mentioned this idea in conversation with a new friend the other day, and she suggested that it would be better to think about how to cultivate beauty, to find ways of sustaining it over time. This seemed to me a good and wise correction, and although seeds of the idea do appear in my post, especially in the idea that human connection is the highest form of beauty, I wish to develop them further here. Zion, after all, is at once a place and a form of human community where the people are, as the scripture reminds us, of one heart and one mind, dwelling in righteousness, and having no poor among them. [Read more…]
Something to think about as you lie awake in bed tonight:
Twenty years from now, David A. Bednar’s only going to be 82. Dieter F. Uchtdorf will only be 94. L. Tom Perry will be 112.
By 2034 standards, it’s possible that those men will no longer be considered that old.
I’ve been at work on this one for a while, and I’ll probably keep tinkering, but here it is anyway. [Read more…]
In September, I blogged about The Myth of Traditional Marriage, reviewing studies from Stephenie Coontz’ book Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage. As a follow up, I wanted to explore how we as Mormons can build stronger marriages.
The world is changing, and if we want to strengthen marriages, we need to deal with the reality that exists. A few things have drastically changed in the last fifty years. [Read more…]
A poem by Sara Teasdale has gotten me thinking about heaven lately.
How can our minds and bodies be
Grateful enough that we have spent
Here in this generous room, we three,
This evening of content?
Each one of us has walked through storm
And fled the wolves along the road;
But here the hearth is wide and warm,
And for this shelter and this light
Accept, O Lord, our thanks to-night. 
This late work appears as the final poem in Donald Justice’s Collected Poems (Knopf, 2006). It has been a favorite ever since I learned of it a few years ago. The third stanza strikes me as an especially clear expression of religious hope as tempered by thoroughgoing realism about the difficulty of life, represented by the almost Beckettian song at the end of the second stanza.
1 There is a gold light in certain old paintings That represents a diffusion of sunlight. It is like happiness, when we are happy. It comes from everywhere and from nowhere at once, this light, And the poor soldiers sprawled at the foot of the cross Share in its charity equally with the cross.
2 Orpheus hesitated beside the black river. With so much to look forward to he looked back. We think he sang then, but the song is lost. At least he had seen once more the beloved back. I say the song went this way: O prolong the suffering if that is all there is to prolong.
3 The world is very dusty, uncle. Let us work. One day the sickness shall pass from the earth for good. The orchard will bloom; someone will play the guitar. Our work will be seen as strong and clean and good. And all that we suffered through having existed Shall be forgotten as though it had never existed.
Note: regular BCC commenter melodynew contributes to a Poetry Sunday series over at The Exponent. Read her entry for today here. The more poetry, the better!
Depending on who you ask you’ll get a different answer. I offer a qualified “yes,” which may be against the grain depending on who you ask and how the discussion goes. BYU professor James E. Faulconer has called Mormonism “atheological,” stressing that Mormons emphasize history, practice, and lived experience above rational, propositional content.1 In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Louis C. Midgley characteristically skewers theology along similar lines, saying that in spite of a few caveats, theology is “not entirely at home in the LDS community.”2 Philosopher Adam Miller has paradoxically or puzzlingly depicted theology as excess, likening his own work to the construction of a Rube Goldberg machine (it depends on how you read Miller whether this is a good or bad thing).3 Blake Ostler’s three volume series is heavily theological, but he uses a different “T” word in the title: Exploring Mormon Thought.4
One of my most popular posts ever was a Mormon version of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, a satirical version of definitions of words according to Mormon culture.  I thought it was time to expand that first effort. I’ve included original definitions, a few reader suggestions, and added to the list with some more of my own. With this preamble, I bring you Mormon Jargon the Sequel: 2 Mormon 2 Jargon.
“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” Shakespeare wrote that in All’s Well That Ends Well. Is being trusting a virtue or evidence of lack of discernment? Are Mormons more gullible (as is often asserted or at least implied) than the average person? [Read more…]
This excerpt from Book V of Paradise Lost frequently appeared under the title “Adam and Eve’s Morning Hymn” or “Milton’s Morning Hymn” in 18th-century anthologies. It was such a familiar set piece that Edmund Burke’s only son, Richard, came into the room where his parents were sitting and recited it just before he died.
These are thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Almightie, thine this universal Frame,
Thus wondrous fair; thy self how wondrous then!
Unspeakable, who sitst above these Heavens
To us invisible or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works, yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and Power Divine:
Speak yee who best can tell, ye Sons of light,
Angels, for yee behold him, and with songs
And choral symphonies, Day without Night,
Circle his Throne rejoycing, yee in Heav’n
On Earth joyn all ye Creatures to extoll
Him first, him last, him midst, and without end. [Read more…]
This series could not continue long without featuring George Herbert…
Philosophers have measur’d mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staffe to heav’n, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love.
Who would know Sinne, let him repair
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skinne, his garments bloudie be.
Sinne is that presse and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruell food through ev’ry vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquour sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.
Hey guys, you remember blogs? Man, those were great. I miss them.
Because earlier this morning in the process of cleaning out a bunch of old folders in the dusty and cobwebbed corners of my hard drive, I came across a folder containing my user archive for a long-forgotten web browser. Based on the contents, I think it was created two computers ago–probably when I got the computer that my current computer (which is itself several years old, and about to be replaced) replaced, and just copied all of my user data and files over from the old box so as to make sure I didn’t lose any of the obviously vital information that I apparently didn’t look at again until today. Anyway, I started clicking through the folder, and found a sub-folder containing a great big long list of bookmarks–sites that, 5-7 years ago I visited regularly. Most of it was blogs–holy smokes the blogs. Blogs from the days when Blogger was just exploding, and every family in the ward, every old high school friend, and every bored office dweller with too little to do was creating a blog, posting some pictures, and feeling like the king of the internet because that one post got like, I swear, 9 comments, and none were from your mom. [Read more…]
I find that poetry occupies a place very near the heart of my worship. Nobody in my High Priest’s Group is at all surprised anymore when I bring a poem into the discussion, and I’ve even been known to read them over the pulpit in testimony meeting. In that spirit, I’d like to inaugurate an occasional series in which I post a poem on Sunday morning, leaving the verse to speak for itself. (Discussion in the comments is, of course, both welcome and encouraged.) I’ll start things off by sharing an effort of my own, now six years old.
Fault—an interesting word:
culpability as chasm—
the building pressures
of an inner tectonics
resulting in rupture,
the riven self reveals
the illusion of identity.
The first tremors throw
off the balance,
and the aftershocks
reiterate the wound,
the trembling gap between
the self I framed
and the charted graphs
of my seismic soul.
Sarah arose early in the morning. She looked out and saw Abraham saddling the donkey as though for a journey. Later he came in and said, “God has commanded me to bring Isaac up to a mountain that he will show me, there to offer a sacrifice.” Sarah watched them ride off together. [Read more…]