March 2017 General Women’s Session: Charity Still Not Failing

How many of you attended the women’s session of General Conference on Saturday? There were not many bums in the pews at my stake center, and even fewer bums in the plastic chairs set up in the overflow. That may be par for the course in many areas, but women’s session in our stake tends to be pretty well attended, even though (like all the sessions) it’s available streaming live, online, in the comfort of one’s home. Most LDS women I know are more than happy to take advantage of an excuse to get out of the house, even if it is church (and even if they do feel morally obligated to drag along their 8-year-old girl children now).

I imagine the severely reduced attendance was due primarily to Spring Break starting Friday afternoon and people being out of town. But even the women who were in town seemed hardly aware of women’s session happening at all, much less interested in going. It probably means nothing, except that conference is kind of boring and now that the stake Relief Society no longer does a big shindig in connection with it (they used to do dinner/appetizers/dessert/ice cream sundae bars, plus an excruciatingly long “Laurel appreciation”), people are less inclined to bother putting on a skirt and trekking to the church building. [Read more…]

Unexercised Hearts

I just finished reading Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.  I had been avoiding reading novels about World War II for a while now, unwilling to face the similarities of the rising white nationalism that is evident in our country today.  When I concentrate on it, it causes an ache in that tender place right below my diaphragm and I can’t stand up straight.  It’s hard to explain the physical impact that I feel watching the white nationalism bubble up into public view—with adherents emboldened by the words they are hearing from the campaign trail and White House.

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Minding the Gap: What a New Study Tells Us about Mormon Women in the Workplace

 

There is much good news for BYU in the massive longitudinal study on college attendance and income that came out in January. The study looks at millions of 2014 tax records that have been matched to tuition records from the late 1990s, in effect giving us income profiles for people who were born between 1980 and 1982. [Read more…]

The Relief Society 175th Anniversary – A Sermon

Rachel Hunt Steenblik is sort of a PhD student in philosophy of religion and theology at Claremont Graduate University, but mostly a mother. She co-edited Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright. She also blogs at The Exponent, and loves books, bikes, and boggle.

This is a slightly fleshed out version of what I gave in Jersey City 2nd Ward, Jersey City, New Jersey, March 19, 2017.

In his Deseret Book published book, Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt, my friend and Mormon studies professor, Patrick Mason, noted that the first time Moroni visited Joseph Smith he “included an invocation of Malachi’s prophecy, placing at the very heart of the restoration the promise that ‘the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.’”[i] Mason explained, “Malachi, Moroni, and Joseph probably didn’t mean that each of us must become a professional historian: if so, the earth would be ‘utterly wasted’ indeed. Rather, the prophecy suggests that we—as individuals and as a community—have an integral and intimate relationship to our history.”[ii]

[Read more…]

Prayer for the Fourth Monday in Lent

Our beloved God, whose image in the people around us we wound daily: grant us your Spirit, opening our hearts and eyes to the sufferings of your Son, until at last we have the strength not to carry on. Amen.

For music, Beth Orton’s “God Song”:

 

Prayer for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Mothering Sunday)

Our mothering God, who daily feeds us out of your self with Jesus’ body and blood that we might find new birth in your Spirit: grant that we through our own gifts and labors might give life to your church, one people as you are One God. Amen.

For music: John Tavener’s “Mother of God, Here I Stand”:

 

Prayer for the Third Saturday in Lent

Our God of wayfarers, who led the children of Israel through the wilderness: grant that we, in the short sojourn before we cross over the Jordan to our heavenly home, might catch enough of your Spirit to forge the kind of love here that makes for joyous meetings there, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, the inimitable Neko Case singing “Wayfaring Stranger”:

Lesson 13: “This Generation Shall Have My Word through You” #DandC2017

Goal: “To help class members appreciate the Prophet Joseph Smith’s role in bringing forth the word of the Lord in this dispensation.” The Lesson has two main emphases: translation and the story behind the Book of Commandments. Both are interesting. Let’s start with translation.
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Poverty in the scriptures: An introduction


D.T. Bell lives in Salt Lake with his wife and three kids. He works in technology, but used to work in international aid and development. He first developed an interest in issues relating to poverty while serving a mission in Argentina. He was into the Bloggernacle before it was cool. Just kidding, it will never be cool. 

I’ve jesus-and-the-poorbeen trying to read the Book of Mormon sequentially, which is something I don’t usually do as part of my scripture study. As I’ve read sequentially, I’ve been surprised by the amount of scriptures I’ve encountered that deal with how the disciples of Christ are to treat those who are poor, as well as by the intensity of the content of these scriptures.

 

Curious to see whether my impression of the frequency and intensity of poverty-related scriptures was borne out by a more analytical approach, I cracked open my old friend, the Topical Guide.

 

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Prayer for the Third Friday in Lent

O God of our uncertainties: as Jesus in the wilderness refused the comfort of turning stones into bread, grant that we might not too readily quench our thirst for your Spirit. Amen.

For music, Mary Rocap’s “A Half a Dozen Things.” She’s a singer-songwriter from Durham, NC, who used to sell our family the best eggs. She’s not LDS, but I’ve long thought of this song as capturing the spirit of the bloggernacle.

Where Would You Go?

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Let’s say, for the sake of argument only, that you were done with Mormonism. (Really, it’s just a hypothetical, don’t freak out!) In such an event, where would you go? [Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Thursday in Lent

O God, you who brood over the dark, roiling waters of our human failure to love: as Jesus came not to walk upon these waters, but to compass their depths, grant us the courage of your Spirit to face their fierce waves, that we might clasp hands in love with our sisters and brothers of the tempest, one people as you are One God. Amen.

For music, Leonard Cohen’s  “You Want It Darker”:

Prayer for the Third Wednesday in Lent

O God of judgment, before whose bar we must all appear: open our hearts with the grace of your Spirit to hear the stories of the people around us, that in them we might come to see Jesus incarnate and learn at last to love him by loving them. Amen.

For music, R.E.M.’s “New Test Leper”:

Let’s Talk About “Counterfeit Marriage”

“as all the ordinances of the gospel Administered by the world since the Aposticy of the Church was illegal, in like manner was the marriage Cerimony illegal and all the world who had been begotton through the illegal marriage were Bastards not sons”

-Orson Pratt, quoted in Kenney, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 3:260.*

Hold that quote in your head. We’ll be coming back to it.

[Read more…]

Getting There…

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LDS Church adds a new video to Mormon & Gay—and it features a family lovingly accepting their out, gay son as he leaves the faith. It’s a welcome addition to the site—and a bold move that, no doubt, took a great deal of work on the back-end to power thru institutional resistance. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Tuesday in Lent

Our Creator God, you who breathed life into the clay from which we now make instruments of death: let the holy breath of your Spirit fall once more upon us, that in the brief space between our births and our deaths we might love one another in our beautiful fragility, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Iron and Wine’s “On Your Wings”:

Needing/Getting

I haven’t been able to shake Mike’s excellent post from Thursday. The identification of need with belief strikes me as an important one for our faith.

But I haven’t been able to shake it not just because of the insight it provides, but because I’m a step outside of the world Mike describes: frankly, I don’t need the church to be true.

That’s not to say I don’t believe, or that I don’t participate. I do both. But I don’t need the church to be true in a way that previous generations may have. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Monday in Lent

O God of our mysterious life, who through your Spirit and the scandal of your Son’s cross reveals wild and unknown landscapes within our souls: grant us the courage to open our hearts to these unexpected beauties, that we might discover new ways of love, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Björk’s “Jóga”:

 

LGBT Questions: An Essay

Bryce CookThis week, Bryce Cook published a new comprehensive essay on the church’s stance toward LGBT members. Bryce Cook is a founding member of ALL (Arizona LDS LGBT) Friends & Family and a co-director of the annual “ALL Are Alike Unto God” Conference held every April in Mesa, Arizona. He is married to Sara Spencer Cook and together they have six children, two of whom are gay. Since their oldest son came out publicly in 2012, Bryce and Sara have become public allies for LGBT people in and out of the church.

The essay is a long but fascinating read. I’ll cover a few highlights here, but I encourage you to read it in its entirety for yourself here[Read more…]

Testimony, Memory, and History

At the end of the nineteenth century, a few former residents of old Nauvoo still lived and worshiped in the West. A number of these stalwarts left statements about how their lives intersected with Joseph Smith and other legends of early Mormonism—even more of them regularly told of their early experiences in fast meetings. Some of them repeated the traditional stories used to support Utah as the successor to Nauvoo—from the “Last Charge” to the “Rocky Mountain Prophecy.” The Rocky Mountain Prophecy story’s gradual evolution may have come from Joseph Smith’s plans to defuse the tensions of Hancock County by defusing the Gathering, making Nauvoo the hit and run center place of temple activity but not the permanent singular residence for the growing Mormon population in Britain and America. The stories of Joseph predicting his own death may also be linked to his plans to control Mormon density in Hancock County, Ill., establishing Mormon centers in Texas and California among other possibilities, and perhaps exiting the Illinois hot-spot himself (but see below). Plans swirled around him and actual events singled out a post-martyrdom supporting narrative—there are interesting parallels with the production of the New Testament Gospels.[1]
[Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Sunday in Lent

O God of our Sabbath rest: as we now find ourselves deep in the wilderness of our fast, restless with wandering, fill us with hunger for your Spirit, that our hearts may not rest until they rest in you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, Greg Spero’s “No Rest for the Weary”:

 

Mormon Image in Literature: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About What Your Neighbors Think About You.

Greg Kofford Books has been gradually publishing a series of books out of a (literally) disappearing genre of literature: nineteenth-century novels with Mormon villains. The dime novel industry of mostly Western adventure had a Mormon component, largely constructed from formulae borrowed from the broader cheap imprint world of American literature. The other

Danites are Everywhere

evening I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ardis E. Parshall (researcher extraordinaire and producer of all things Keepapitchinin) and our own Michael Austin while they talked about some of their experiences in finding these now fragile and rapidly deteriorating archival treasures.
[Read more…]

Prayer for the Second Saturday in Lent

O God of our desert, where we have now long languished: in this valley of the shadow of death, may we yet commune with you in the Spirit, that, as our fast goes on and on and on, we might still be together with you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Wilco’s “On and On and On.”

175 Years of Relief Society

Lesson 12: “The Gathering of My People” #DandC2017

Did you know that I was originally supposed to do last week’s lesson (“The Field is White Already to Harvest”)? But I was traveling in India with my wife and couldn’t get around to it in time, so Stapley did it instead. So if you were not pleased with that lesson’s write-up, you should think long and hard about whether I am to blame or whether Stapley is to blame. If you also hate this week’s write-up, then maybe you should think about getting your lesson write-ups elsewhere.
Anyway, ON TO THE QUOTES!
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Prayer for the Second Friday in Lent

Our hearts sing out to you, O God, in praise of the sunlight that warms our wandering; grant us the music of your Spirit so that we, dancing in the footsteps of your Son, might come into harmony with your glorious beams, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: the eponymous concluding piece from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:
 

Eighteenth Annual UVU Mormon Studies Conference

Courtesy of Dialogue editor Boyd Petersen, here is the program for the Eighteenth Annual UVU Mormon Studies Conference, on the topic of “Multicultural Mormonism: Religious Cohesion in a New Era of Diversity.” It will be held from 29-31 March on the fifth floor the UVU Classroom Building at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT.

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Believing Fast and Slow

True. There is
a beautiful Jesus.
He is frozen to his bones like a chunk of beef.
How desperately he wanted to pull his arms in!
How desperately I touch his vertical and horizontal axes!
But I can’t. Need is not quite belief.
–Anne Sexton, “With Mercy for the Greedy

The first time I read these lines—it was in a contemporary poetry class at BYU taught by the completely awesome Susan Howe—I gasped out loud right there in the first floor of the old Harold B. Lee Library. I gasped because I thought that the line “need is not quite belief” was true, and I didn’t want it to be. At the time, I knew that I needed the Church to be true, but I wasn’t at all sure that I believed it.

Conflation of need and belief seemed catastrophic to me at the time. Belief was about aligning my opinions and values with capital “T” Truth and ensuring both my terrestrial rightness and celestial glory. Need was just a pathetic form of self-delusion making me pretend to believer what wouldn’t mess up my life too much. It took me years to resolve this conflict, but resolve it I did, not by coming down on one side or another, but by rejecting the original premise. Need, it turns out, is pretty much the same thing as belief if you look at it from a certain perspective. This post is about that perspective. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Second Thursday in Lent

O God of the silent darkness, in which we sometimes feel ourselves lost, hearing instead of your voice only the echoes of our own prayers: remember the garden in which your Son prayed, and let the wings of the Spirit bear the sweet scent of his orisons to your nostrils, that we, the substance of the savor he sent up, might find access to you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: “Love’s Echo,” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:

 

#VirtualMutual on Saturday Night!

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The first ever BCC #VirtualMutual is this Saturday night, and you’re invited! We’ll be watching and live-tweeting Saturday’s Warrior.

I have no idea if this is a good idea or if it’ll be like one of those mutual nights where only one nerd shows up, but here’s how it works:

  • At 8pm Mountain Time, go here and press Play.
  • Tweet your jokes, memories, dessert recipes, or spiritual impressions using the #VirtualMutual hashtag.
  • Follow the conversation here.
  • If you need tweet fodder, my delightful SIL Jessie made a bunch of Saturday’s Warrior GIFs. (Here and here, or on Google Image Search.)

See you online on Saturday night! If you need a reminder or want to invite your friends, RSVP here.