Easter. The Passion of Jesus I. Preliminaries.

Latter-day Saints don’t often use the term “Passion” in referring to the last hours of Jesus’ life. I like the term however, so I will use it in this series of Easter thoughts. One can think of its historical meaning as “suffering.”

I’ll begin this with a word about the nature of the Gospels. If you’ve managed to get through some of my posts lately, then you have probably already encountered this. There are various levels of meaning in scripture, and the longer scripture has been around the more this is true. I’m going to assume a centrist position, one that can accommodate faith, and scholarship. What I mean is this: you can, I think, err on a “fundamentalist” side, or a “liberal” one. It’s somewhat complex to illustrate this in general, but since we will be discussing the New Testament Gospels, the two positions might go like this. The fundamentalist notion is that everything we find in the Gospels is precisely what Jesus said and did. The liberal position is that virtually nothing is historical in the Gospel accounts (in both cases I’m stating the most extreme view). Each has been argued for but each has drawbacks. The first is really not tenable because when you compare the Gospels (and we will see this as we go along) you find deep divergences. It’s obvious that something has happened between the time of Jesus’ words and acts and the time the Gospels were written down. The liberal argument uses such divergence to conclude that nothing can pass the test of being historical. I think that position (one that exists in the literature) goes too far in the other direction.[1]
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Endowment and Eucharist IV

JKC continues his series

In the last three parts (Part I, Part II, Part III), I have suggested that although we as latter day saints are accustomed to thinking of the Kirtland endowment, if at all, as an incomplete chapter of our history that was later superseded by the endowment ceremony administered in the Nauvoo temple, another way of looking at the endowment liturgy could be to see it as a way to organize and systematize the principles that were revealed first in Kirtland, and provide an ritual through which saints that were not present at the Kirtland endowment could symbolically participate in the same spiritual gifts, blessings, and powers by symbolically becoming sanctified, symbolically receiving the divine law, and symbolically receiving God’s presence.

In this part I finally get into the discussion of how all this relates to the Eucharist. Sorry it took so long to lay the groundwork! [Read more…]

Pride and Polygamy in Jacob’s Temple Discourse #BOM2016

Jacob 1-4

The Book of Jacob is weird. I say this lovingly, but it’s true. It’s not that the book says weird things. It’s just that the things it does say don’t seem to have anything to do with each other. It’s more like a mix tape than a coherent narrative or a sustained argument about anything.

But the wonderful thing about Jacob as a narrator is that he knows he’s weird. And he tells us exactly why his book does not have the kind of coherence that Nephi has trained us to expect. Writing on plates, he tells us, is really hard: [Read more…]

Honoring Stephen Webb

We are sorry for the occasion of this post, but grateful to Hal Boyd of Eastern Kentucky University for this tribute to someone whose work many of us at BCC have learned from and deeply appreciated.

The man who so often contemplated eternity has now stepped beyond its threshold. Dr. Stephen H. Webb passed on this weekend.

A protestant convert to Catholicism, Dr. Webb increasingly dedicated his immense intellect to Mormon theology.

For him, the Latter-day Saint doctrine of an embodied God held the potential to rejuvenate what he saw as moribund mainline theology. The Mormon notion of the material essence of “spirit” was a novel breakthrough. [Read more…]

Grind upon the Face of the Poor


So as usual I’m beginning to read the assignment for next Sunday’s GD lesson. I’m in 2 Nephi 26 when I come to verse 20 (the verse is quite dense, so I’ve broken it into lines to make it easier to parse): [Read more…]

Top 15 Hamiltunes

There’s a little musical on Broadway; perhaps you’ve heard of it?


This was a hard list to write, and even harder to sort. But here goes:


15. The Schuyler Sisters – I’m always awed by the harmonized vocal runs in this song. Also, there’s always a Peggy. WORK!

14. You’ll be Back – King George, ostensibly channeling British pop star Mika, singing to the colonies as though they’re his estranged lover?? Say no more. (Well, just one thing more: “Da da da da daaaaaaaaaa da, da da da di-ya da, da da da da di-ya da…”) [Read more…]

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.
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“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.

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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…]

Presidential Elections, Churches, and the IRS

This month, I’m guest-blogging over at PrawfsBlawg, a law professor blog. Most of what I blog there will be tax law-oriented, without any connection to religion, but occasionally there will be a religious angle. Like today, where I talk a little about the prohibition on churches’ (and other tax-exempt organizations’) endorsing or opposing candidates for office. If you’re interested, pop on over and tell me what you think.

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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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Is My Religion Going to Get Me Audited by the IRS?

irs-audit-red-flags-the-dirty-dozenShort answer: no.

Longer answer: actually, still no.

Context:  [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.

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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.
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