Announcement: Church History Symposium 2018

This semester, I’m teaching a course on not-for-profit corporations. Today’s class deals with the duties of charitable trustees and board members to invest the organization’s money responsibly.

The class is at least tangentially related to this year’s Church History Symposium, to be held on March 1 at the Conference Center at BYU and March 2 at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake. This year’s symposium is entitled “Business, Wealth, Enterprise, and Debt: The Economic Side of Mormon History, 1830–1930.” [Read more…]

A New Era

Today marks the beginning of a new era of sorts — as of today, the Berlin Wall has now been down longer than it was up. This is truly astounding for me as a GenXer. [Read more…]

Thoughts on Friendship

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’; [it is designed] to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers….Friendship is like Brother [Theodore] Turley in his blacksmith shop welding iron to iron; it unites the human family with its happy influence.

Or so Joseph Smith was recorded as saying on July 23, 1843. To my mind, it’s heavy doctrine–and the fact that I take his claims about friendship so seriously has been on my mind lately, for a variety of reasons. [Read more…]

Supporting Single Adults

Rose E. Hadden is a Minnesota native, transplanted to Utah in high school and transplanted back to Minnesota as soon as she could swing it.  She has a B.A. and an M.A. in British Literature from BYU, and served in the Korea Pusan mission.  She now works as a teacher and grantwriter, and happily serves as the assistant librarian in the Fargo, North Dakota 1st Ward.  She is single and considers herself officially over the hill at age 32.

What shall we do with the single members?

When I ask this, I mean it quite literally.  I do not, as many often do, mean “How shall we get the single members married?”  I understand that on a church-wide level, getting singles married is the most desirable outcome, both from a doctrinal and a demographic perspective. Mormons who marry young, to other Mormons, tend to stay Mormon over the long term at much higher rates than those who don’t. Plus there’s that whole “exaltation” thing.

I hate to be the bearer of brutal reality, but . . . no matter what, irrespective of lessons, talks, activities, YSA congregations, church schools, conferences, social pressure, prayers, fasting, shouting or tears . . . some single Mormons will stay single for their entire lives. [Read more…]

Seven Theses on Eternal Perspective

  1. Eternal perspective isn’t seeing the world through some transcendental eye, unfettered by human limitations; rather, our limited perspectives have eternal value because they ground our our struggles to see the transcendental in each other, and those are what teach us to see as God sees.
  2. We often talk as though an eternal perspective will clear everything up, but what if an eternal perspective means perceiving people in their full messiness and finding beauty and glory in that?
  3. The idea of eternal perspective as clearing everything up depends on the wrong concept of justice, as one in which everything that seemed wrong in this life has now been brought in line with the ideal, but maybe justice means instead that everything painful has finally been met with overabundant kindness.
  4. This kind of justice is not at odds with mercy; rather, it suggests that injustice is a deficit of mercy.
  5. An eternal perspective means learning to see how badly the world thirsts for kindness and mercy.
  6. An eternal perspective means trying to sate that thirst, however and whenever you can—including when your failures to have parched your own mouth. Be kind to everyone, especially yourself.
  7. An eternal perspective is quiet, because kindness and mercy are manifest in silent presence at least as often as they are in speech.

Trek the Movie

So a new Mormon film is coming out in April titled “Trek the Movie.” You can watch the trailer here [Read more…]

On Flatterers and Friends

 

I have no need of a friend who changes places when I do and nods in agreement when I do; my shadow is better at that. I need a friend who helps me by telling the truth and having discrimination. —Plutarch, Moralia

I agree with Steve Evans’ most recent post on arguing with people you love. But even if I didn’t, I would still consider Steve to be a good friend. And that, I think, is the point of the post. Friendship doesn’t preclude disagreement, but it does structure how we choose to disagree. I would go even further and say that, in some very tangible ways, friendship requires disagreement. I’m going to quote some Greeks here, so hear me out. [Read more…]

On Translation

Rachel Hunt Steenblik is a scholar and author, most recently of Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother. The French translation of Mother’s Milk, “Lait maternel : poèmes à la recherche de la Mère Céleste” is now available. It is the first non-English language version of a BCC Press book, and joins the very rare group of LDS fiction available in a language other than English. Thank you to Amanda Rafidiarimanda for her exquisite, stunningly beautiful translation. She has carried over the powerful spirit of Rachel’s work. We’re very, very proud of the result.

I. On the first day of August, I tweeted an Amazon review for my Mother’s Milk book that said: “I have steeped myself in these tiny poems for several days. I am ready to buy my second copy, because I’m giving away my first. I’ll probably give away my second too.” I shared that the book I do this with is The Little Prince, and that I was humbled, and honored, and grateful that someone was doing it with mine. Someone else responded that, “When the first non-English Mother’s Milk is released, then we can have the full-on Le Petit Prince gifting experience.” [Read more…]

Leonard Arrington’s Nine Points

Image resultI recently ordered a copy of Gregory Prince’s biography of Church historian and founder of the Church History Library, Leonard Arrington. If you aren’t familiar with Arrington, here’s a brief blurb from Wikipedia:
Leonard James Arrington (July 2, 1917 – February 11, 1999) was an American author, academic and the founder of the Mormon History Association. He is known as the “Dean of Mormon History”[1] and “the Father of Mormon History”[2] because of his many influential contributions to the field. He was the first Church Historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1972 to 1982, and was director of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History from 1982 until 1986.

From a diary entry dated August 17, 1992, Arrington expressed his frustration with several organizational aspects of the church. He titled this entry “Things I don’t like about the church.” This was his list: [Read more…]

Disagreeing to Agree

At BCC we pride ourselves upon the quality of our unanimity and general agreement on topics. While the authors on other sites may bicker and argue with each other, here we… [Read more…]

Choose the Right

Christina Taber-Kewene is a permablogger from the early days of BCC. Christina is an attorney living in New Jersey. We’re glad she sent this to us.

I was released last week from two years of serving in a calling I never thought I would come to cherish: First Counselor in the Primary presidency. I have plenty of my own kids, so for years I have said, “Give me any calling, but not one in the Primary!” Hahahaha. God laughs. [Read more…]

Lesson 5: “If Thou Doest Well, Thou Shalt Be Accepted” #BCCSundaySchool2018

Learning Outcomes

Have class members learn about and discuss the ways that the scriptural teachings about Zion invite a critical and ongoing encounter with practices like racism that lead us to hate our own blood, as well as the way that the story of Cain teaches the importance of seeing others’ offerings.

Readings

The manual only mentions Moses 5-7; I’m going to supplement that with Genesis 4:1-16 (KJV; NRSV) and the Gospel Topics essay on Race and the Priesthood (which itself needs to be supplemented with Paul Reeve’s Religion of a Different Color). See also my compilation of English versions of Genesis 4, which brings together English translations of the Cain and Abel story from Wycliffe to the present. [Read more…]

Movies Are Not Poop Cookies

Emma Croft grew up near Seattle and is currently studying English and creative writing at Brigham Young University. She enjoys traveling, cooking delicious things, hosting book club meetings, and brainstorming ways to make the LDS community more welcoming to those who struggle to find their place in the church. She spends much of her time writing personal essays, conducting research on early Book of Mormon usage, and helping students improve their writing.

I watched my first rated-R movie as a sophomore in high school. It all started when my World History teacher offered extra credit to any student who stayed after school to watch Defiance, a 2008 film about a group of Russian rebels who banded together to kill Nazis in the forest. It sounded great, but I figured out pretty quickly that choosing to watch it would mean ignoring what I had learned in church for as long as I could remember: no rated-R movies, at all, under any circumstances.bcc

I was torn. I needed the extra credit. I also made sure to carefully pore over the “parental advisory” section on IMDb and ultimately decided that the “5 uses of f—k” and several scenes of graphic wartime violence couldn’t mar my spirituality any more than an average day existing in a high school. After talking with my parents, I believed that watching the movie would provide an overall positive experience with valuable payoff, even if it felt immoral. Learning that any “ungodly” content would destroy a film’s value and cause the viewer irreparable harm left me with the impression that—on some level—I was sinning. [Read more…]

Marrying Outside Of Mormonism

Interfaith marriages are often underrepresented in LDS discourse on dating, marriage, and eternal life.  Although I’ve often heard marriages like mine described as “backup” options, for me it has been a joy formed through much prayer, study, and lived experience.

I see the essential barrier to interfaith dating and marriage is a reticence in the Mormon faith to actively befriend and genuinely associate with people not in our religion.  We call them “non-Mormon,” but that term is so strange and so alienating;  both my husband and I deeply  dislike it.  “Non-Mormons” are not non-persons, or non-entities – they are good, faithful, and beloved children of God.  I think this labeling is born out of fear of “the world,” and continued emphasis on Mormons as a “peculiar people.”  While I can see some of the historic roots of this mindset, to me, it is bizarre. [Read more…]

On the State of Mormon Book Reviewing–a guest post from Professor Warren G. Harding, Mervin Peake Online University of the Arts and Science

BCC received the following guest post, delivered via the US Postal Service and re-typed by several former BCC permabloggers, from Professor Warren G. Harding last week. Dr. Harding is the R. L. Stine Chair of Esoteric Literature at Mervin Peake Online University of the Arts and Science.

Your correspondent was pleased to receive recently a clipping from the latest issue of Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought: a review of Kattrim G. Mender’s master’s thesis, “Gilda Trillim: Shepherdess of Rats.” Your Mormon people might like to know that Mender’s thesis caused much controversy within the university on the eve of our latest accreditation review. (Results pending.) Mender’s very acceptance as a student at MPOUAS raised red flags throughout the faculty, considering his having previously flunked out of a small university none of us had heard of in Rexburg, Idaho. [Read more…]

Mormons Support Immigrant Dreams

This afternoon, the LDS Newsroom issued a statement in support of Dreamers.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is established in 188 nations around the globe. Issues of immigration and legal status are of concern for many of our members. Most of our early Church members emigrated from foreign lands to live, work and worship, blessed by the freedoms and opportunities offered in this great nation….

[W]e call upon our national leaders to create policies that provide hope and opportunities for those, sometimes referred to as “Dreamers,” who grew up here from a young age and for whom this country is their home. They have built lives, pursued educational opportunities and been employed for years based on the policies that were in place. These individuals have demonstrated a capacity to serve and contribute positively in our society, and we believe they should be granted the opportunity to continue to do so.

Mormons are so good on immigration.  And not just for Dreamers (which more than 80% of Americans support) — we’re good across the board.  I love our Christlike commitment to welcoming strangers.  [Read more…]

Anarchy: a love story

Me (tacking up a picture of Lorenzo Snow on the board): Do any of you know who this is?

Primary child: You, when you were younger?

Me: Tough, but fair.

Last September, after a four-year hiatus, I made a triumphant return to teaching Primary. Well, it was triumphant for about five minutes, until I actually tried to teach a lesson. Then everything was exactly the same as it had been four years ago: a circus in search of a ringmaster. A circus that is such a fun-filled romp for everyone that random adults wandering the halls tend to poke their noses in and say, “Everything okay in here?”

“It’s okay,” I reassure them. “We’re cool here.”

We’re not cool, of course. We’re completely off the rails, and in the time I took to answer that question, one of the kids just climbed out the window. But NBD.

[Read more…]

How (not) to pass an Abrahamic test.

In the Old Testament God decides to “tempt” Abraham (Genesis 22:1) by asking that he sacrifice his miracle son, Isaac, in whom he rested all his hopes for God’s promises to him.

But what sort of a test was Abraham’s test? Was it a test with only one right answer?

There are different kinds of tests. A well-written true/false question has only one right answer, but an essay question might have many possible right answers. Some tests are meant to test our knowledge. Others, like a driver’s test, are meant to test our knowledge and ability. Others are meant to test the depth of our reasoning. In a law school exam, for example, a student could reach the wrong ultimate conclusion and still earn a good score based on her ability to identify the issues and reason through the problem. A psychological test doesn’t measure our knowledge or ability, but is supposed to evaluate our mental characteristics and wellness.

The Kobayashi Maru from the Star Trek universe is an example of a test with no right answer. The Kobayashi Maru is a simulation where the captain receives a distress call from a ship called the Kobayashi Maru. The simulation is programmed so that if the captain does not attempt the rescue, the Kobayashi Maru is destroyed but if the captain attempts to rescue the Kobayashi Maru, the attempt provokes a battle with Klingon ships that ends in the captain’s own ship’s destruction. All choices lead to failure. It’s designed to test how the officer will wrestle with competing principles. It’s designed more to test character than to test knowledge or ability. [Read more…]

Material Culture & Daughters

IMG_0308

You will die. You will not live forever. Nor will any man nor any thing. Nothing is immortal. But only to us is it given to know that we must die. And that is a great gift: the gift of selfhood. For we have only what we know we must lose, what we are willing to lose… That selfhood which is our torment, and our treasure, and our humanity, does not endure. It changes it is gone, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease, to save one wave, to save yourself?
—Ursula K. LeGuin

Disheveled and disgruntled as only an 11 year-old after a tedious school day can be, Abigail flopped into the raveling thrift-store chair opposite my desk. It’s everyone’s favorite chair; threadbare on the arms, an earthy green brocade with sea-blue weft threads, thick and heavy cushions worn to the shape of humanity with time. She stared over my shoulder out the window, opened to the unseasonably warm January afternoon. [Read more…]

Lesson 4: “Because of My Transgression, My Eyes are Opened” #BCCSundaySchool2018

Learning Outcomes

To help each class member understand that the Fall was a necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us.

Readings

Introduction

I have always had something of a conflicted relationship with the Adam and Eve narrative. I take it more metaphorically than how it is typically taught in LDS chapels and conferences, and I am not comfortable in how we use scriptures from this section of Genesis and Moses to justify husbands holding “presiding” power over their wives. I know my readers might disagree with me here, and that’s okay—I just want to be up front about the perspective I’m coming from as I study this lesson.

[Read more…]

On LDS Singlehood

I feel like there are a lot of directions I could take this post. I have many thoughts because it’s directly pertinent to my current experiences in the church. I am a young, unmarried BYU graduate. I have faced and am currently facing the woes of dating within the LDS culture. I’ve seen roommates and friends get married, all while remaining very single. I’ve gotten really upset about how my dating life is playing out. I could write a novel about this topic and still not discuss everything worth discussing.

I do want to preface that my experience is my own. I have, of course, discussed dating with other single LDS members, but my perspectives really are personal. They may not apply to everyone, especially since I am not what I would describe as a typical young Mormon (whatever that may even be). And especially because my experience is limited due to my age. I cannot speak for individuals who have been in the dating game longer than me, especially those of whom have “aged out” of the YSA program. I also don’t have the perspective of divorced members. In case you were wondering about the nuances of this topic, there are many.  [Read more…]

Why is it so hard for LDS to find marriage partners?

Somebody apparently added me to a Facebook group called “LDS Doctrines, Questions, and Insights.” This is not a Bloggernacle type of group, but a very mainstream one (it has 14,000 members). I haven’t paid much attention to it, but I noticed a long thread discussing this question: “Why we the single members of the Church find it difficult to get a partner to marry?” [Read more…]

The Omni-Political Kingdom of God

Why do the members of Christ tear one another? Why do we rise up against our own body in such madness? Have we forgotten that we are all members of one another?—Pope St. Clement of Rome

 

One of the first people I baptized on my mission was a communist. Guillermo was from Nicaragua and had supported the Sandinista government. When the United States started to fund the Contras, he fled here to avoid reprisals there.

The Ward Mission Leader, in whose home we taught Guillermo most of the discussions, was from Chile. He had been a supporter of Augusto Pinochet, the right-wing dictator who seized power and killed the country’s leftist president in 1973. I’m not sure why he came to the United States, but I always got the impression that it had something to do with politics. [Read more…]

Saints

An accessible history, written for a general audience yet informed by the best critical scholarship. Stories of the Saints simultaneously translated into dozens of languages, and incorporating the voices of women and men. Not shying away from difficult issues, “root beer” notwithstanding, Saints will be published serially in the Ensign/Liahona and in four contiguous volumes.
[Read more…]

Lesson 3: The Creation #BCCSundaySchool2018

Learning Outcomes

Have class members learn and discuss how our doctrine uniquely celebrates the beauty of God’s creation of both the Earth and of all humankind, particularly the gift of our physical bodies.  Note:  There is likely more material here than can be covered in a single period, use your best judgment to encourage faithful discussion on the topics most relevant to your class.

Readings

Introduction

Back in college, I took several semester-long courses on early Christianity, including one dedicated exclusively to early Christian heresies.  Of these, there was one belief, popular among early Gnostics, that truly shocked me.  Namely: Creation was a great mistake.  All physical matter is imbued with evil.  Our goal as Christians is to transcend the evil corruption of earthly mortality and enter a pure spiritual state.  That seemed fundamentally contrary to everything I had learned about the Creation and Plan of Salvation as a Mormon youth. [Read more…]

Myths and Heroes and Lawless Women

Vashti, one of the characters in the book

Heather Harris Bergevin is the author of Lawless Women, the latest book from BCC Press. We asked her to share some thoughts about where her book of poems comes from, and where she hopes it will take us.

I love mythology. My favorite stories as a child were always fairy tales, like the Oz Books or the Hobbit, and Greek or Egyptian legends. The more I read, the more mythology seemed to be just bit of history told in a way that people might actually want to learn it. Non-boring history plus telling stories over campfires, equals absolute magic. Heroics are tricky and fraught with misinterpretation. Often, a hero might get mistaken for a villain, or vice versa. The dragon, after all, is not telling the same stories to its children as the knight.

The trick is, we don’t expect our heroes to be perfect, because they’re far more identifiable if they are almost as flawed as we are. Trickster gods, such as Loki and Ananzi, are sneaky and hurtful and mischievous…and we adore them, laugh over their exploits, and dress up as them for conventions. We love our villains almost as much as our superheroes.

We love them, because we are them. [Read more…]

The Reluctant Samaritan

No doubt that by now you have heard the reports about the stunning case of child neglect and abuse that came to light when one of thirteen children held captive in her own home was able to escape and notify authorities. The site of this indescribable ordeal was, perhaps contrary to expectations, a nondescript residence in a middle-class Southern California neighborhood. The perpetrators were no strangers but the children’s own parents who, according to a neighbor, seemed “just very normal“:

“‘They seemed like very nice people,’ [the neighbor] said. ‘They spoke often and fondly of their children.'”

With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that those appearances were deceiving—the parents have been charged with 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse and 12 counts of false imprisonment. The district attorney on the case appealed for witnesses to come forward: “Someone must have seen something, someone must have noticed something.”  [Read more…]

Mystery, If We’ll Have It

This material supplements my post on the calling of President Nelson to the First Presidency.

President Nelson tells audience there is 'no mystery' in the succession, at worldwide video conference, announcing new First Presidency.

President Nelson tells audience there is ‘no mystery’ in the succession, at worldwide video conference, announcing new First Presidency.

During yesterday’s press event—and in materials furnished by various Church entities, now and in the past—the narrative advances the idea that there was never any doubt that President Nelson would be President Nelson, that this is just as the Lord wished it, and that this is as it always has been—they even used the phrase “no mystery”. But Church history tells us this claim is incomplete.

Mystery is not a four-letter word. [Read more…]

The Longest, Hardest, Calling…

Feedback I received in the hours after I posted this essay made it clear to me that the structure and word choice of the original obscured my intent—namely, to ask how one balances serious reservations about President Nelson and disappointment in the Quorum of the Twelve with a deep and abiding desire to sustain them and the work of God’s Kingdom, which they are called to administer. Ironically, the original post highlighted just how hard it is to strike such a balance… Thankfully, online, PUBLISH isn’t the end of the story.

Also: check out my supplemental post Mystery, If We’ll Have It.

Note to self: spend less time writing at 2am.

Masthead-2018

Yesterday morning, the Church hosted a press event to announce a new First Presidency and President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

I won’t keep you in suspense…

President Eyring remains in the First Presidency, though as Second Counselor (he served as President Monson’s First Counselor). President Uchtdorf has returned to the Quorum of the Twelve (while not unheard of, the last time a counselor was not retained for reasons unrelated to their health, was in 1970, when President Joseph Fielding Smith Jr replaced President Hugh B. Brown with Elder N. Eldon Tanner).

President Oaks retains his title as President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, with Elder M. Russell Ballard called as Acting President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. There are currently two vacancies in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles—one left by the passing of Elder Robert D Hales and the other by the departure of President Nelson to the First Presidency.

These changes are hardly surprising.

Yet, for some in our midst—myself included—they are still disappointing.  [Read more…]

A Commentary on the JST of 1 Corinthians

I have written a paper with the captioned title and posted it on SSRN. You can read it here. I’d like to tell you a little bit about the genesis of this project. [Read more…]