About a year ago I gave myself permission to label all the activities that I waste my time on as “hobbies.” Sudoku? One of my hobbies now. Driving randomly around on the county roads near my house, then seeing if I can get home without GPS even though all I see is cornfields? (Weird) hobby. Watching dog training videos, even though I don’t have a dog yet? Hobby. Teaching myself to cook Korean food based on internet bloggers? Delicious, delicious hobby. But when the temperature starts to dip (please start to dip soon), then all I want to do is make soup stock. [Read more…]
Last week I had a conversation with a friend whose son had recently started at BYU-I and had yet to encounter a female professor. After 25 years in higher education, mainly in “the world,” I was a bit surprised. But then I remembered my own experience at BYU back in the 1980s: in four years of undergraduate study (as an English major no less), I had exactly one female professor. To my discredit, I had never before bothered to count. [Read more…]
One morning as I drove my kids to their swim lessons I overheard Remy, who is five, tell Thea, who is three, “I know four people: Heavenly Father, the Holy Ghost, Jesus and Heavenly Mother.” I think they both must have nodded in agreement because I didn’t hear much else on the topic, but those few words Remy said so confidently have stayed with me. I didn’t speak the words Heavenly Mother aloud until I was in college, and even then it felt subversive and a little rebellious. I remember saying it in my testimony and I’m sure it didn’t sound entirely natural as I still stumbled and paused at the words.
For me, much has changed since those college years, and I have so many brave people to attribute that to. Conversations, books, poems, lessons, artwork, encouragement all set me up to explore my own personal relationship with Her in my late 20’s and forward. I love that my children have no need to feel subversive in speaking about Heavenly Parents. They are being raised up by a community that is better becoming acquainted with Her. I love many things about the new book Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families by McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spaulding with artwork by Caitlin Connolly but the invaluable space they offer to children to think about a Heavenly Mother in conjunction with a Heavenly Father, along with the books inclusivity of different types of families, makes me so happy to have it on my bookshelf. [Read more…]
One time, I had a close friend tell me that he was planning on moving to a large plot of land in Missouri with his in-laws. He liked and believed in his in-laws, whom he saw as living closely to gospel principles (embracing freedom by refusing to pay taxes to the federal government, for example). They were going to divide up the land in a manner similar to the United Order and have a three-person council to run everything: a president and two counselors. I’d like to believe that my snarky remarks that the place was going to go polygamist within six months or my constantly calling this place “the compound” convinced my friend to back out, but there was probably only one question I asked about the plan that gave him pause. Why was it, as he had explained to me, that the president of the presiding council had to be a man? [Read more…]
Worship: Adding Depth to Your Devotion
Eric D. Huntsman
Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2016.
In my observation, Mormons mostly use the word “worship” in reference to the temple, where they can practice contemplative prayer in a venue more tranquil than many sacrament meetings. Eric Huntsman’s latest book aims to expand worship into more aspects of Mormon lives, focusing on prayer, ordinances, holy places, sacred time, scripture, and music. He approaches each of these topics by combining careful attention to the breadth of LDS scriptural tradition with holy-envy-inspired examples from other religious traditions and frequent anecdotes relating personal experiences that expanded his vision of what worship can be. With this method Huntsman ably draws out a rich potential for better worship in Mormonism that reads more as the actualization of latent potential than a critique of persistent shortcoming. [Read more…]
Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought turns 50 this year. So do I, and the similarities don’t end there. Both of us were both polite and orthodox in our youth and reasonably well behaved in our adolescence, but we both started to push up against institutional boundaries in our early adulthood. We tried hard to walk the line between scholarly inquiry and faithful discourse, but it was a tough line to walk, and sometimes we ended up too much on one side or the other. A lot of our friends left the Church, but we both knew we never could. Mormonism was too much a part of our core identity for us to ever give it up. [Read more…]
Every friend you make, you’ll wonder, could just be about the money. Every conversation, that’s underneath. “Maybe he’ll give me money.” You’re not a home teacher. You’re not even Mahonri Ward anymore. You’re three hundred million dollars, and that’s all you are for the rest of your life. –Eric Samuelsen, Gadianton
There is a healthy debate in Mormon Studies—rapidly approaching a cottage industry—about whether or not Book of Mormon’s portrayal of the Gadianton Robbers has anything to do with the anti-Masonic furor that swept across the nation in the late 1820s. One dead giveaway, say the Masonizers, is that the term “secret combinations” was commonly (some even say only) used by the anti-Masonic press in their diatribes against the order of Freemasons—an order that included such American luminaries as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and the current president, Andrew Jackson. [Read more…]
Your body didn’t look like you, Dad, not anymore. It seemed like some wax figure of you, some rough approximation, but thinner, older, without the spark that made you what you are. You didn’t look anything like your driver’s license photo from years ago. Mom had called the home teachers, and we went together to the funeral home with your temple bundle. There, in a small back room, we men offered a word of prayer and began the work of dressing you for the last time. [Read more…]
This is the final response to Taylor Petrey’s Harvard Theological Review article. Caroline Kline’s response is here, and Margaret Toscano’s is here.
This is going to be one of those annoying critiques that basically complains about it not being the paper I wanted to read or the one I would have written, rather than pointing out any flaws in the paper’s actual argument.
For me, the crux of the matter is in Taylor’s concise formulation on page 6: “Mormon analysis of Heavenly Mother, then, is not abstract theorizing, but rather it articulates a divine model of human gender relations and female subjectivity.” But the paper fairly rapidly devolves into precisely such abstract theorizing. Of course, that is what the Harvard Theological Review is for, and Taylor can hardly be faulted for working within the constraints of the academic discourse in which he is a participant. But the paper I would like to read is the one that situates this theorizing in lived religion, that decries the marginal place of even completely institutionally loyal apologetic feminism, that notes the thin-ness of the theological resources and calls out the official commitment to maintaining the lacuna. [Read more…]
Not quite three years ago, and again not quite two years ago, I wrote about a Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuit against the IRS. In the suit, the FFRF argued that section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code was unconstitutional.
Quick refresher: in general, when your employer gives you something, that thing you receive is income to you. And it doesn’t matter if what you receive is cash, is property, or even is services. To the extent your employer gives you something of value, that’s income to you.
Congress has carved out a handful of exceptions to the general rule, though. Maybe most importantly, employer-provided health insurance is not treated as income. So those of us lucky enough to have health insurance provided by our employers don’t have to pay taxes on its value. Similarly, all kinds of fringe benefits are excluded. [Read more…]
Carole Turley Voulgaris is a doctoral candidate in urban planning at UCLA and usually only blogs about transportation planning. She served a full-time mission in the Germany Frankfurt mission from 2003 to 2004. Carole currently lives in Seattle with her husband, who is a late-riser and has convinced her of the virtues of sleeping in.
A few weeks before the end of my mission, I was chatting with a couple other missionaries about what we most looked forward to about life after the mission [fn1]. One elder said, “When I get home, I’m going to head to my room and go to sleep. And when I wake up, it won’t be because my alarm went off. It won’t be because my companion woke me up. It won’t be because I feel guilty. It will be because I’m not tired.”
Wow. The idea of waking up and feeling well rested just sounded so amazing. We missionaries were tired a lot. [Read more…]
TIME recently published a beautifully told story by Jessi Hempel, about the highs and lows of her brother’s successful pregnancy. It’s both moving and straightforward—a husband and wife want a child. The husband gets pregnant and a baby is born. The husband becomes a father, the wife a mother.
Give it a read, and then come back because I’d love to hear your thoughts.
A few from me to start the discussion:
Caroline Kline is completing a Ph.D. in religion with a focus on women’s studies in religion. Her areas of interest revolve around the intersections of Mormon and feminist theology and the study of contemporary Mormon feminist communities. She is the co-founder of the Mormon feminist blog, The Exponent, and is a committed believer in the importance of online feminist forums and communities. She is also one of the four women who co-founded Feminism and Religion.
Taylor Petrey’s “Rethinking Mormonism’s Heavenly Mother” is an important piece of scholarship, as it stretches the bounds of Mormon theological discourse on gender. Reading this article for me was both enlightening and unsettling, as it helped articulate some potential problems with Mormon feminist theologizing of Heavenly Mother, theologizing that has informed my own stances. When I first read Janice Allred and Margaret Toscano’s work on God the Mother fifteen years ago, I was blown away by their courage to catapult this shadowy and all but forgotten divine female into the heart of the Mormon godhead. Their insistence on her equality with God the Father resonated deeply. Reading their work gave me, a young Mormon feminist, hope for an eternity where I as a woman would not be subordinated and pushed aside. It helped me to not despair over my eternal future. Their work on Heavenly Mother helped give me heart to cling to my Mormon identity and practice, even in the face of the horrors of Prop 8, last year’s exclusion policy of LGBTQ people and their children, and excommunications of prominent feminists and intellectuals. [Read more…]
Part 10 in a series; see the rest of the series here.
This was a tricky narrative to scrap together (and consequently has taken a bit longer to write than others in this series). There isn’t much I could find on Harriet herself, and even this picture is only maybe a picture of her (some have argued that this is a picture of her first/third husband’s second wife, Phoebe—I’ll explain in a minute). In researching and writing this, it felt a bit like I was dancing and skipping all around but not quite exactly on Harriet’s own story. She is like a skip on an old record; I can almost hear her, but every time I get close the needle jumps and I’m hearing someone else’s story near her.
In the same week of June 1857 (and, according to some records, even the same day) that Archibald married his 15-year-old 8th wife, Sarah Jane, he also married his 9th wife, 27-year-old Harriet Armitage [Read more…]
Today is my birthday (I just turned 58, which I realize is ancient by blogging standards). This morning on the train ride in for some reason I reflected on how, for a few short years, I was destined to become some stripe of scientist, and how through various poor decisions I made along the way I managed to foreclose that particular path in my life. [Read more…]
Well, of course we can. We are free to apply any standards we choose to any text that we read. That’s how judging stuff works.
But should we judge Book of Mormon characters by contemporary standards on things like religious freedom, separation of church and state, the treatment of prisoners of war, and, well, genocide? After all, this was a different culture and a different time. Should we judge them by the same standards we would apply to someone today?
Again, the answer is, “of course we should”—if we want to take the Book of Mormon seriously on its own terms. [Read more…]
You ever just get a hankering to rank stuff? Yeah, Steve and I got that hankering last night. And we surrendered to it. Big Time.
As always, these rankings are authoritative. [Read more…]
Just before our gospel doctrine class concluded its consideration of Lesson 31 “Firm in the Faith of Christ,” the teacher distributed a two-sided handout. On the one side were quotations used in the lesson outlining a kind of Mormon just war doctrine. On the other was a statement by the teacher–a missionary who was probably inspired by the lesson’s suggestion “to create your own title of liberty“–on the state of the world. [Read more…]
I’ve lived in the same ward for about 10 years, and made some amazing friends along the way. Not only have these guys been great friends for me personally, they have almost all been married to women who are close friends with my wife AND have children that have formed years-long friendships with my kids. Mind you, these haven’t been just casual, at-church friends, either: I’m talking about people with whom we’ve taken vacations, watched Star Wars, shared more meals than I can count, and generally reached the level of friendship where we can talk about the boobs, the butts, the farts, and the poops without hesitation. It’s been a couple-dating utopia! Then, over the past 4 weeks, suddenly and without (much) warning, my ward (and life) went through the Scottpocalypse, as each and every one of these people moved away. [Read more…]
This is the first in a series of responses to Taylor Petrey’s “Rethinking Mormonism’s Heavenly Mother,” recently published in the Harvard Theological Review.
Margaret Toscano is an Associate Professor of Classics and Comparative Cultural and Literary Studies at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Her research focuses on religion, myth, and gender. She has published extensively on Mormon feminism.
Taylor Petrey states his complaint against certain Mormon feminists (i.e., me–Margaret Toscano, Janice Allred, and Valerie Hudson Cassler) on page 16 of “Rethinking Mormonism’s Heavenly Mother”: “Mormon feminists writing about Heavenly Mother have been complicit in heteronormative narratives that universalize a subset of women as the hypostasis of ‘woman.’” Taylor’s argument ignores the complexity of the god narratives I have explored over the years, as well as the multiplicity of images I have put forth to represent women and the Female Divine.
Taylor says I put forth “a singular mother who represents the plurality of her daughters” (9). It is only possible to assert this if you pick out statements where I focus on the Heavenly Mother and ignore those where I explore other goddess figures from Mormon sacred texts. [Read more…]
By proving contrarieties truth is made manifest. –Joseph Smith, Jr., 1844 
Without Contraries is no progression. –William Blake, ca. 1790 
[I]t must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. –Lehi, ca. 588-570, B.C. 
As iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. –Attributed to Solomon, recorded ca. 8th Century, B.C., by the scribes of Hezekiah 
As Iron Sharpens Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture, is a collection of 17 fictional dialogues between men and women in the scriptures addressing topics on which the interlocutors seem to have different viewpoints. The title is taken from the proverb that as one piece of metal can be used to sharpen another, debate with a friend sharpens a person’s wit, insight, and perception (Proverbs 27:17). [Read more…]
Recently, my ward decided to perform reenactments of the Restoration in Primary. It’s a sweet idea—certainly well intentioned—when you don’t think about it for long: Joseph as a boy praying in the Sacred Grove, the angel Moroni appearing to the boy Joseph, the translation of the Book of Mormon with Joseph and his scribe, the baptism and gift of the Holy Ghost by the Susquehana River.
My first reaction, however, was not sweet. I was piercingly sad. All I could picture were the faces of the little girls in Primary. Not a single active role in the reenactments could be given to a girl child. I understand the complexities here- what can the Primary President do? Things happened as they happened, and imposing 21st century parity on historical religiosity shouldn’t be done. Right? [Read more…]
Five years ago, in a new ward, our tiny son took immediately to a man on the front row of the gospel principles class–a wide-armed, rugby player of a man who shook our hand and nearly lifted us off the ground. He was big and bright and new. Baptized just a few months before, though schooled in Mormonism for many years. There was something about Jack’s sincerity and insistence in speaking often about social justice that endeared us to him without reservation.
A couple of years ago Jack started to bring his friend, Vince, to church. Every Sunday Vince wears a black shirt and pants nearly as dark as his skin. The grandchildren that hold his hands as he walks into sacrament meeting run to hug Jack. Another family has saved them a spot on the bench with them. Vince doesn’t often speak out, but it is clear that he is both gentle and wise with experience as he accepts these offerings with grace.
At Vince’s baptism he spoke about his time in prison and how at a low point he knew he wanted to find God, his sweet family peppering the baptismal room chairs calling out “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!” [Read more…]
We’re pleased to host a series of guest posts on Taylor Petrey’s recently published article on the Mormon theology Heavenly Mother. Taylor will introduce the series, and later in the week, we’ll have commentary from Margaret Toscano, Caroline Kline, and Kristine Haglund. This is intended to be a discussion of Taylor’s article, not a grab-bag of ideas about Heavenly Mother, so please read the entire linked article before commenting.
Taylor G. Petrey is Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Assistant Professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College, where he teaches biblical studies. In 2016-17, he is Visiting Associate Professor at Harvard Divinity School and a research associate at the Women’s Studies in Religion Program where he is pursuing a project on Mormonism and gender.
This post is for the discussion of my new article, “Rethinking Mormonism’s Heavenly Mother” in Harvard Theological Review 109.3 (2016).
In this article, I compare Mormon feminist analysis of Heavenly Mother to broader feminist theologies of a Divine Woman. The revival and rearticulation of Heavenly Mother in Mormon feminist thought roughly parallels the rise of feminist theology. [Read more…]
I must admit that I’ve rarely been very taken with the sacrament ordinance. Perhaps it’s because the mundane nature of deacons with untucked shirts and overly-long ties doesn’t mesh well with my high-church sensibilities, or perhaps it’s because sacrament meetings for the last seven years have mostly consisted of trying to keep my children reasonably quiet, but I’ve tended to side with Ralph Waldo Emerson who believed the ritual a bit too “dead” for his living faith. My family’s penchant for a lack of punctuality typically means we stay out in the foyer Sunday mornings, anyway. Which is usually fine with me. [Read more…]
I have a sure-fire proposal to improve church welfare.
Church welfare admittedly has a long and storied history. In 1936, the Church officially inaugurated the Church Security Plan. President Grant explained that the purpose of the plan was to provide
sufficient food, fuel, clothing, and bedding to supply through the coming winter, every needy and worthy Church family unable to furnish these for itself, in order that no member of the Church should suffer in these times of stress and emergency.[fn1]
In 1936, the Great Depression, which hit Utah hard, was still a recent memory, and its effects were still being felt in Utah. So it makes plenty of sense that church leaders were trying to establish a procedure that could help members weather the financial storm. [Read more…]
Let’s start with one of the most devastating satirical moments in Don Quixote. This scene begins in Chapter VIII of the first book. Quixote has already had his adventures with the windmills and the prostitute at the roadside inn, and now he encounters a group of travelers accompanying a lady on her way to meet her husband. Assuming (as he is wont to do) that the woman is being held against her will, Quixote rushes to her defense, starting a fight with a Biscayan gentleman attending her.
Quixote and the Biscayan fight for a while, and the latter gains the advantage. He raises his sword for a killing blow, and just as he does, the narrative stops abruptly–and the narrator tells us that the record doesn’t go any further and that this is everything we now can say about Don Quixote de la Mancha. But the narrator refuses to give up, and, one day he finds an Arabic manuscript in a marketplace that references Dulcinea del Toboso. This turns out to be the work of the famous Arab historian, Cid Hamete Benengeli and, conveniently, it begins at exactly same point in the story that the previous manuscript left off. The narrative problem is solved. [Read more…]
There are lots of good reasons for Mormons to vote against Donald Trump in November. For one thing, he doesn’t seem to value the Mormon vote much. His recent Op-Ed in the Deseret News was just a cut-and-paste job from his standard stump speech with no attempt to consider how Mormons, or Utah voters, might see the world in unique ways. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he could not be bothered even to pay a staffer to get the Mormon stuff right.
Or there is the fact that Trump has built his campaign by stoking resentment towards both minority religion, as Mormons once were, and immigrants from Hispanic countries, who are quickly becoming the most important constituency in the International Church.
And let’s not forget that a Trump surrogate recently ridiculed Mormons by referring to the moderate pro-immigration stance that LDS leaders have taken as an instance of “moral incoherence.”
But I am not going to talk about any of that (well, except for the fact that I just talked about all of it, but I’m done now). Instead, I want to talk about another reason that Mormon voters should reject Donald Trump and his brand of conservatism decisively. This is a purely self-interested, cynical, Machiavellian reason to vote for Hillary Clinton (or even a third-party candidate). If Trump is defeated in Utah, Mormons will actually start to matter in the world of politics. [Read more…]
Note: This post was submitted by Christy, a participant in this year’s pilgrimage along the Via Francigena who was instrumental in the creation and execution of the recipe described herein on the third day on the trail in a rustic cabin on the shores of Lac de Champex.
Take stock of everything in the available kitchen. Ask yourself key questions such as “Do I have salt? Pepper? Oil? Random utensils for reducing vegetables from their whole selves into smaller units? A very large pot?” If the answer to all of those questions is yes, proceed as follows:
Walk to the nearest grocery store. Take care to not trip on the steps down the hill. Once you have arrived, after traversing crowds of similarly hungry hikers, determine what ingredients interest you most, and purchase accordingly: [Read more…]