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…]

Lesson 12: Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction #BCCSundaySchool2018

Bourgeois_Joseph_recognized_by_his_brothersObjective
To help class members understand that if we are faithful and obedient, God will consecrate our afflictions for our good.

Readings
Genesis 40-45

Genesis 40-41 takes place in prison, with a butler, a baker, and a candlestick mak— er, I mean, Joseph. The butler and the baker have troubled dreams in their prison cell and wake up sad. Joseph tells the butler that his dream about a three-branched vine that makes grapes for the Pharaoh’s cup means that the Pharaoh will forgive the butler in three days and give him his job back. Unfortunately for the baker, Joseph’s interpretation of his dream about three baskets full of bakemeats that get eaten by birds instead of by the Pharaoh means that the Pharaoh is going to hang the baker in three days. The dreams come true—the butler is forgiven and the baker is hanged. [Read more…]

Some thoughts about Joseph L. Bishop

This is a sensitive topic. I’m speaking for myself here and not for anyone else at BCC.

God does not call us to defend the morally indefensible, or to call wrong things right. Whether we’re talking about people or institutions, the mandate for Mormons is to be honest and to seek to do right. [Read more…]

Relief Society Birthday

We celebrated Relief Society’s Birthday in our ward yesterday. It isn’t exactly obvious to a lot of people why we would do that. Same with the Restoration of the Aaronic priesthood commemoration, I guess. In an effort to help new members and others contextualize exactly why we were celebrating, I offer the short description below:
[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.

Teach the Doctrine

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This morning I attended a regional auxiliary training originating in Chicago and reaching as far as Minneapolis, I believe. The featured speaker was the second councilor in the General Sunday School Presidency. The focus of the presentation was principles derived from the Church’s Teaching in the Savior’s Way initiative, and part of the presentation entailed modeling what is supposed to happen in Teaching Council meetings. [Read more…]

The Myth of Invisible Fatherhood

By Brother So-and-So

We were at church. I was sitting on the stand. My wife was wrestling with our kids, when the three-year-old escaped to the aisle. I knew the second my wife stood up, our daughter would try to outrace her mom.

Men were gathering to bless a newborn baby. My wife rushed to the front of the chapel, picked up our three-year-old just in time, and headed to the foyer.

After the blessing, she trekked back in, only to find that the rest of the bench was now full. So, in addition to carrying our three-year-old, she was climbing over five people. I watched as she lost her footing and fell into their laps! Then the three-year-old took off the one-year-old’s shoes and threw them over my wife’s head! [Read more…]

Lesson 11: Because the Lord Was With Him #BCCSundaySchool2018

Readings

Genesis 34, 37-39[fn1]

Learning Outcomes

By the end of class, students will be able to:

  1. Discuss how and why the scriptures subvert our expectations as readers.
  2. Identify different models of divine aid illustrated in the scriptures.

Introduction

In many ways, the story of Joseph in Egypt is the superhero origin story of the Israelite people. I mean, yeah, we’ve had some feints at origin already, everything from Adam and Eve to Noah to Abraham. And Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all received a covenant wherein God promised them land, descendants, and blessings.

But it’s Moses and the exodus from Egypt that really kicks things off. And without Joseph? The Israelites wouldn’t have been in Egypt to miraculously escape, and Moses wouldn’t have led them in the desert for forty years (and created the typology embraced by everybody from Jesus to the Nephites to African-Americans to Mormon pioneers). [Read more…]

Joseph Smith’s Statement on “The Fundamental Principles of Our Religion.” Part II: The Significance of Willard Richards’ 1853 Revisions.

This is part two of my look at the textual history of Joseph Smith’s oft-quoted statement on “the fundamental principles of our religion.” In the first part, I tried to find the original source of the statement in the Elders’ Journal in 1838, and then traced it through three revisions as it was collected in Willard Richards’ Manuscript History of the Church in late 1843, published in the Deseret News in 1853, and then published again in B.H. Roberts’ History of the Church in 1905. As I noted, the statement was later published again in Joseph Fielding Smith’s 1938 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the church’s 2007 Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, but these later publications did not further revise Roberts’ revised text. Roberts’ revision became the standard text quoted by church leaders and members in the 20th century and that tradition continues to this day, with the exception of Elder Ballard, who quoted the original Elder’s Journal text in his October 2014 Conference address.

In this part, we’re going to look at the significance of the revisions. [Read more…]

Rising Generation

Today is the one month anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. At schools across the United States today, many students will walk out of class at 10:00 am to protest Republican politicians’ refusal to enact common-sense gun regulations that would substantially reduce or eliminate school shootings. [Read more…]

Report: 2018 MSSJ Pilgrimage – California Mission Trail

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Mission San Juan Bautista

Well, we broke the polar vortex [fn 1], though the 2018 pilgrimage from Mission San Juan Bautista to the Carmel Mission began auspiciously enough. [Read more…]

An Apology

Last summer, Faith and Brian Kershisnik visited our Miller Eccles Study Group in Texas. For me, the most striking part of their presentation turned on Faith’s discussion of “moral creativity,” drawing on examples from the life of Jesus and the work of Walter Wink.

A few months ago I gave a talk at BYU drawing on these themes and misattributed those ideas to Brian rather than Faith. My mistake is especially ironic given that a significant portion of my talk called for Mormons to defend the family by defending women from misogyny in its many forms, both obvious and subtle.

My mistake is a decent example of the kind of implicit, systemic bias—the kind of bias that overlooks and undervalues the contributions of women—that I meant to speak out against. I was in a hurry and, without it giving it much thought, I just automatically attributed the presentation as a whole to Brian.

We have to do better.

I have to do better.

I’ve asked for a correction to be added to the text accompanying the video. And I hope that, beyond my personal apology to Faith, this post and that official correction will help make things right.

Joseph Smith’s Statement on “The Fundamental Principles of our Religion.” Part I: Authorship, Attribution, Revision, and Publication.

President Nelson will soon give his first general conference address as the President of the Church. When he gave his first address as an apostle, then-Elder Nelson quoted Joseph Smith as saying that “[t]he fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” He quoted the same statement in his April 2017 conference address. It’s a familiar statement. Church leaders and members quote it regularly. But where does it come from? What’s the story behind it?

A few years ago I quoted this statement when I gave an Easter talk. As I was preparing that talk, I was curious about its original context and I decided to track down the original primary source. I’m no historian, but that curiosity later led me down a rabbit hole of authorship, attribution, publication, revision, edition, and republication.

I’ve gathered those notes now into a two-part series. This part deals with the authorship, the revision, the publication, and contemporary use of the statement. The next one explores the potential significance of the revisions that later editors made to the statement. [Read more…]

Protests, Parkland, and BYU

In the nearly-immediate wake of the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the superintendent of a Texas school district announced that students who participated in protests (or “awarenesses,” whatever those are) would face a three-day suspension.[fn1]

There was immediate blowback; the Parkland shooting have led to a remarkable level of engagement among high school students on issues of gun violence and regulation. But the threat of suspension could have a significant chilling effect on student activism: colleges can revoke acceptances for, among other things, disciplinary actions. So in theory, a student in the Needville Independent School District, who has already been accepted to college, could have her acceptance revoked if she participated in a protest (or awareness!) and was suspended. [Read more…]

He Rejoiced

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So in GD today we did lesson 9, which includes the story of the miraculous birth of Isaac in Abraham’s and Sarah’s old age. The teacher mentioned that where the KJV said Abraham laughed at the news he was about to become an aged father, the JST corrects that to “he rejoiced.” At first I didn’t give it a second thought, because I vaguely recalled that change. But then a woman sitting behind me said that the name Isaac actually means “he laughed,” and she asked me if I could confirm her understanding, which I did, pointing out that Isaac is an anglicized version of the Hebrew name  Yitzhak (or Itzhak), which comes from the verb “to laugh” (the Y represents an imperfect verb form). (The Lord directed Abraham to name his son Isaac in Genesis 17:19.) And then the teacher said something like “And now we know it also means ‘he rejoiced.'” And the lesson proceeded from there. [Read more…]

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…]

When the General Relief Society President blessed a lonely pregnant woman

I have recently spoken at several events related to the release of my book, The Power of Godliness. I have opened with several different anecdotes that highlight tensions that I hope I resolve in my work. One of my favorite stories is that of a pregnant woman who received a blessing from a prominent Relief Society leader; a story that also opens my chapter on healing and authority (ch 4). I’d like to describe the processes of reconstructing that story.

[Read more…]

What does it mean to be worthy?

My husband was part of an interfaith discussion in which someone asked the LDS participants, “What’s the point of making someone quit smoking for a week before they can get baptized? Does God really care if you smoke or not?” I think the standard, or at least predictable, answer to this question is that it demonstrates a person’s commitment to what will (or should) be a new way of life, their acceptance of the church’s moral authority; it makes sense as a test of how serious someone is about baptism and how well they understand what will be expected of them as members of the church. Someone else defended the practice along those lines. Brother J, being Brother J, said, “No, actually, God probably doesn’t care if you smoke or not.”

At least, He probably doesn’t care if you stop smoking for seven days.

[Read more…]

Stephen King Should Not Have Been My Sex Education Teacher

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The Losers Club, a group of friends I strongly identified with in Jr High

“You would have [a girl] be tenderly and delicately nurtured, like a hot-house plant—taught to cling to others for direction and support, and guarded, as much as possible, from the very knowledge of evil.” —from Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

[Read more…]

You’ve Got to Admit It’s Getting Better: Steven Pinker and “The World”

If you had to choose one moment in history in which you could be born, and you didn’t know ahead of time who you were going to be–what nationality, what gender, what race, whether you’d be rich or poor, gay or straight, what faith you’d be born into–you wouldn’t choose 100 years ago. You wouldn’t choose the fifties, or the sixties, or the seventies. You’d choose right now.
                          —Barack Obama, 2016 graduation speech at Howard University

 

51sBWhI4e9L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Christianity is based on a narrative of decline that goes something like this: The world began as a perfect place where people walked and talked with God and lived in harmony with the natural world. But human beings sinned and were cast of paradise, where they became wickeder and wickeder until God had to destroy all but eight of them. Those eight started a new society that also became wicked, and God had to periodically destroy cities and send Assyrians and Babylonians to punish His chosen people. Then he sent his only son into the world, and we killed him. Since then, we have been getting wickeder and wickeder and, sometime in the near future, everything will be destroyed again and Jesus will come back and be king. [Read more…]

Half Off BCC Press Award Nominees

Award season is now upon us, and BCC Press could not be prouder that, before we even reach our first birthday, four of our titles have been nominated for major awards in Mormon literarydom. And to show how proud we are–and also how awesome these books are–we will be offering our four nominees for half price all week. That’s right: four great books at four great prices. Because we love you.

Here are the nominees with all the links you need to take advantage of this awesome deal:

[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.

Surely, This Cannot Be

March 3, 2018

Dear God,

I don’t believe in bargaining—theologically, that is.  I don’t believe that you would be so unjust as to favor a few children with a whim of a miracle based on their pious pleading, while allowing others to suffer in a mercurial world.  I don’t believe it, but I want it.  I want to beg, “please God, don’t let this cancer take him.   Of all those who have humbly served you, surely his kind and generous heart has called out and caught your notice.  You have to have seen his pure soul.  I know it shines.  Please, let him stay a while longer…..he’s my dad.”

[Read more…]

Questions for Book Groups Reading ‘Gilda Trillim’

Gilda TrillimDid you know my novel Gilda Trillim had its start here at BCC? I posted a number of the opening chapters and she came into my life through the blog itself. She was birthed into existence in a post that I filled with hints that it was FICTION, but I didn’t say it explicitly, and unfortunately/delightfully some took Gilda to be a genuine lost Mormon writer that everyone had forgotten about. Great fun that. A few literary types called for studies to bring her out of obscurity and move her works forward. When I pointed out all the hints I’d inserted that it was fiction, some were not happy with me. One in particular, said that when he came to the internet he expected the truth. He must now be living a very disappointed life.

Gilda Trillim is now out and it’s a finalist for the Whitney Award for best adult novel and the Association of Mormon Letters Best Novel Award. Several reading groups have asked for a list of questions to guide discussions about the book, so I thought I’d post them here as there might be other groups I don’t know about. Note there are some light spoilers, so if you want your Gilda unsullied by any information stop now, but there is nothing too earth-shattering. See the last paragraph for an Easter Egg Hunt. [Read more…]

CFP: Book of Mormon Studies Conference

The Book of Mormon Studies Association is happy to announce a conference to be held October 12–13, 2018, at Utah State University.

[Read more…]

Belonging to Isaiah the Prophet

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I’ve subscribed to Biblical Archaeology Review for a long time. I recently got the latest issue, which includes an article by Eilat[1] Mazar, “Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?” The article is about the bulla pictured above. (A bulla is a piece of clay bearing a seal impression.) It would certainly be exciting to have a physical artifact relating so closely to the great prophet! [Read more…]

Believe Women

Shelby Hintze is a news producer in Salt Lake City. In the singles ward, but not of the singles ward.

Note: I attend a fairly young YSA ward. One speaker before me said she was not a feminist which prompted the beginning here.

I’m the last speaker but they told me to go as long I want, so buckle up. And my name is Shelby Hintze and I am a feminist. [Read more…]

Reminder: Church History Symposium tomorrow and Friday

Just a quick reminder: the 2018 LDS Church History Symposium is happening tomorrow at BYU and Friday at the Conference Center in Salt Lake. The topic—“Financing Faith: The Intersection of Business and Religion”—looks fascinating, and there are a host of great people presenting.

Also, I’m presenting Thursday at 1:00 in room 2265 of the BYU Conference Center (“Brigham Young vs. the Bureau of Internal Revenue“). I’ve got some pretty cool slides to accompany the presentation. If you’re in town and available, I’d love to see you then!