Prayer: “A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear.”

Part 13 in a series; see other parts here.

The notion of prayer as a kind of melody sung in unison with God can give great comfort—until we realize that we’re trying to match pitch with a thunderbolt. It’s not that God is out to get us, but that the music running through all of creation is so immense and powerful that it inspires awe, and, if we’re paying attention, not a little terror. Prayer connects us to the music of vast overhanging cliffs, of entire oceans being lifted by the moon’s gravity, of nebulae swirling with newborn stars. Our lives and deaths seem like insignificant pinpricks on such a scale.

[Read more…]

Prayer: “The six-days’ world transposing in an hour”

Part 12 in a series; see other parts here.

The music of our lives often seems to demand the skills of a Franz Liszt to play, as though only the capacity to fly through a torrent of impossible notes with an obscenely graceful sprezzatura will do. Amidst our busyness a voice (the ghost of piano teachers past) whispers, “Keep time! Keep time!” and we promise we will, once we can exchange this molto allegro for andante. Too often, though, such promises end up obliterated by thirty-second-note runs tangled in a barbed wire of accidentals, and when we emerge on the other side, dripping sweat, the voice continues: “Keep time!”

[Read more…]

Dear Mormon Voters of the American West: Maybe You’re the White Horse We’ve Been Waiting For

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Just forget about the White Horse Prophecy. It’s a fun bit of Mormon folklore, but like most folklore it’s fictitious nonsense. More important is the fact that–again, like most folklore–this fictitious nonsense is revealing of, and gives us American Mormons reason to remember, what was at one time a widely shared assumption among Mormon leaders: specifically that, as Brigham Young (and John Taylor, and Harold B. Lee, and multiple others) reportedly said, “if the Constitution of the United States is to be saved at all it must be done by this people” (see, for example, Journal of Discourses 12:204, April 8, 1868).

That’s not a reference to an LDS President of the United States–not a Romney, not a Huntsman, not a Hatch, despite the weird interpretations inspired by the aforementioned ersatz prophecy. It’s not a reference to any particular person at all. Rather, that’s a reference of the Mormon people. Many of whom will be eligible to vote this November. And maybe that is where this old teaching will unexpectedly come into its own as truth. [Read more…]

Prayer: “Christ-side-piercing spear”

Part 11 in a series; see other parts here.

Codex Vindobonensis 2554, fol. 2v (France, 1225) Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

Codex Vindobonensis 2554, fol. 2v (France, 1225)
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

There’s a long history of seeing Jesus’ side wound as a special route to his heart: I especially love this 13th-century depiction of the Church being born from his side. Herbert also has a deliciously strange poem called “The Bag” that puts the image to good effect in relation to prayer:

If ye have any thing to send or write,
I have no bag, but here is room:
Unto my Fathers hands and sight,
Beleeve me, it shall safely come.
That I shall minde, what you impart;
Look, you may put it very neare my heart.

And, lest this all begin to seem too odd, too non-Mormon, it’s in our hymnal, too:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me:
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy riven side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

[Read more…]

My mom’s last bit of advice for me

Matt Brown is a sportswriter for SB Nation. His mother passed away last week. Matt wrote this for Mothers’ Day.

Around this time last year, I wrote about a lot of the difficult feelings I have around Father’s Day, given the very complicated relationship I had with my old man. Mother’s Day, by comparison, has always been super easy. My mom is an amazing woman, and we’ve almost always had a very strong relationship.

This year has been a bit different. My mom is dying. After battling with breast cancer for two and a half years, and shattering every prognosis along the way, she is now bedridden, unable to do virtually anything by herself, just playing out the proverbial string. She’s been in this condition for months now. [Read more…]

Nephites at War (Mainly with Themselves) #BOM2016

So here’s a thing I did: in order to lighten things up during all of the war chapters in the middle books of the Book of Mormon, I started trying to keep track of the wars. I figured that it would be fun to separate out all of the battle scenes into coherent sustained conflicts, like “New World War I,” “New World War II,” “the Zarahemla Police Action,” and so forth. I hoped, in the end, to have something like a grand map of the Nephite-Lamanite conflicts in the Book of Mormon. [Read more…]

LDS Inc.

mormons incSo the first thing to do is admit that I don’t always get internet-speak. That said, is there any way that “LDS Inc.,” written in implicit (or explicit) disparagement of the church isn’t stupid?[fn]

I mean, I see it occasionally. And I kind of assume that its provenance is the Aug. 4, 1997, Time magazine cover.

The thing is that while contextually, the use of “LDS Inc.” is clearly meant as a criticism, I can’t figure out what is being critiqued. Saying “LDS Inc.” may make a (vaguely) factual assertion, but it makes no substantive moral or ethical assertion.  [Read more…]

Both On the Roof and In the Crowd

I want to go right to the well known story in the beginning of the book of Mark where a paralytic man is lowered into a home by four of his friends who had broken a hole into the roof above the crowd.  They know Jesus is teaching there and the crowd was too pressing to enter in by the door, so in hopes that Jesus will heal this friend, they climb up above and do something that I imagine was most unexpected and unconventional. I have read or heard that story so many times in my life, but it wasn’t until recently when I stopped to really consider the scene that I was a bit taken back.

Think again of the image: think of these people climbing on top of the roof while carrying their friend on his sick bed, about to dig a hole and interrupt a large crowd, and not least, the most important and sought after man in the city.  I wonder if they hesitated, I wonder if they thought they should turn back, that it was just a silly idea.  But then, I marvel at their bravery as they do the thing they must have felt they should.  They broke a hole in that roof and sent their friend right in to land at the feet of Jesus.  The reaction of Christ to this act is stunning to me.  He does not question, he does not tell the men they should have just waited outside the door for later, he does not lecture, He simply accepts their offering of faith without question.  He heals the man, first from his sins, then in his body and the man rises, picks up his bed and stands.  [Read more…]

Prayer: “Reversed Thunder”

Part 10 in a series; see other parts here.

Feeling a divine thunderbolt tear through one’s spine en route to its ground cannot be called a pleasant experience. Typically in its aftermath, as smoke rises from our hair and electrical remnants spark from our fingertips, we can do little but sit still in a state of, well, shock. At times, though, our eyebrows tingle with premonition, and we manage to send the bolt back upwards with a forehand sharp enough to engender hubristic self-comparisons to Rafael Nadal in his prime.

[Read more…]

People in the Book of Mormon, Ranked

You know what is a pretty good book of scripture? The Book of Mormon. It has some great gospel teachings in it. You know what else it has in it? People–lots of them! Some people in the Book of Mormon are really important, and some people are sort of forgettable. You’ve probably wondered who is the most important, and Steve and I sought revelation on this very matter.

As always, these rankings are authoritative. [Read more…]

Prayer: “Sinner’s tow’r”

Part 9 in a series; see other parts here.

We all know the terrible feeling that follows the realization of a mistake: it’s a human experience whose commonality ranks somewhere between waking up and breathing. Sometimes this experience provokes defensive anger, as we try with all the violence we can muster to make the mistake stick to somebody else. Even when we manage the necessary legerdemain, though, the gnawing at our hearts remains. Even if most mistakes aren’t exactly the Furies pursuing Orestes after he killed his mother, they can still be nastily persistent ghosts.

[Read more…]

Thoughts I Had During X-Men: Apocalypse

Before I get into it, this is how my day began:

My husband: Let’s see X-Men tonight.
Me: Noooooo I don’t want to pay to see that in the thea– Is Fassbender in it?
My husband: Yep.
Me: …Fine.


(No spoilers) [Read more…]

Others in the Land?

235A-Image Zedekiah.jpg

Tomorrow’s GD lesson begins with these verses from Mosiah 25:

 And now king Mosiah caused that all the people should be gathered together.

 Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness.

 And there were not so many of the people of Nephi and of the people of Zarahemla as there were of the Lamanites; yea, they were not half so numerous.

[Read more…]

Alma and the Poetics of Conversion #BOM2016

CoverOne of the twentieth century’s greatest works of Dante criticism is John Freccero’s remarkable Dante and the Poetics of Conversion. Freccero makes two crucial points in this book: 1) that the primary objective of the Divine Comedy is to cause readers to experience conversion; and 2) that everything about the text—its subject matter, narrative style, linguistic manner, rhyme scheme, etc.—serves this greater objective. The purpose of Dante’s work is to help readers both see and feel the experience of conversion. [Read more…]

Prayer: “Engine against th’Almighty”

Part 8 in a series; see other parts here.

In prayer, God values our candor, meaning that God honors even words like these of Job’s:

If I summoned him and he answered me,
I do not believe that he would listen to my voice.
For he crushes me with a tempest,
and multiplies my wounds without cause;
he will not let me get my breath,
but fills me with bitterness. (Job 9:16-18, NRSV)

Sometimes our relationship with God is such that no prayer short of battering rams and catapults loaded with shrapnel and explosives will do. Herbert wrote a poem that figures tears and prayers as artillery, but I’m thinking more of the rage he expresses toward God in “The Collar” (where “choler” is one of the many puns in the title): “Have I no harvest but a thorn / to let me blood?”

So, it’s okay if our prayers beat and kick at God’s door—which really can seem closed to us at times—and it’s okay if we scream and swear in the process. Anger has a way of focusing our sights on the precise target we mean to hit, which paradoxically means that we rarely think of God so intensely as when we rage at the heavens. In quiet meditation we long to approach the throne, but in anger we can feel near enough to close our fingers around the divine throat, and when we attain such proximity God can the more easily reply: “My child.”

#TexturesofMormonism

I am truly pleased to present to you one of the best kept secrets of the Mormon Instagram world.  Jon Bryner and Tallia Feltis are the mastermind couple behind the account @texturesofmormonism.   While very funny, they are equally thoughtful and deliberate.  They speak of both the humor and strange tenderness in this idea of shared nostalgia that Mormons literally all over the world can relate to.  My husband and I have spent more than one evening chuckling before bed as we scroll through the account.  Ah Mormons.  Something so strange and so funny about our collective aesthetic that somehow hasn’t changed in decades.

This is just a sampling of some of my favorites from the account.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.09.51 PM

It’s Wednesday night! Hit like if you need a ride home from mutual. #foyerphone #texturesofmormonism

[Read more…]

Standing, or Something

Rumor has it that BYU-Idaho students are having a hard time with the unwritten order of things—particular the unwritten rules about when to stand and when to stay seated.  At last week’s devotional  the entire student body stood up when Sheri L. Dew—CEO of Deseret Book and a former second counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency—entered the room. This week Clark Gilbert, BYU-I President and recognized expert in Unwritten Orderology, gave the students a friendly reminder that only members of the First Presidency should be greeted by standing.  The students, fortunately, learned their lesson and remained seated. [Read more…]

Prayer: “The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth”

Part 7 in a series; see other parts here.

Being an adult means spending quite a bit of time metaphorically at sea, not quite sure whether we’re in or out of our depth. Certainly we only rarely see to the bottoms of things. Herbert’s claim that prayer can find the bottom and measure its depth thus seems like a stretch. After all, the mere fact of praying doesn’t exempt anybody from occasional or even systematic cluelessness. What’s the use, then?

[Read more…]

Refugee Relief Efforts

Erica Eastley is a friend and has been a BCC participant for many years.

The first time I visited a refugee camp was in college in 1995 in the West Bank. I’d gone with two women I’d just met to visit the family of a Palestinian BYU student and they took us to a refugee camp. They also gave us figs fresh off a tree. Since then I’ve been in more refugee camps in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip (where I ate one of the best and most memorable meals I’ve ever had before spending the night with a Palestinian family) and I’ve met refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan living in Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, and the US. I’ve seen teenagers working their way through Mexico from Central America to the US. I’ve moved overseas with my family with two suitcases each to new countries where I didn’t speak much of the language or know how to manage everyday life. Even though I can’t possibly imagine the terror that so many refugees have gone through, I have listened to their stories and experienced a few of the challenges of resettlement and I know that many need help. [Read more…]

A Note on Comments

I’ve used the analogy a bit — which I ripped off of Nate Oman — that corners of the Bloggernacle are sort of like cocktail parties being hosted by various sites. You’re in someone else’s house, enjoying various conversations as you mill around, Diet Coke in hand. You may not know everyone there, maybe you don’t know anyone there. But you’re among friends regardless and you all have a lot in common. Now, it’s pretty common to get into some lively discussions at some of these parties. You may not agree with what everyone says — in fact, some of the best conversations come from a sharing of ideas and challenging each other to improve. This much is clear, though: you’re a guest. [Read more…]

If Jane Austen Wrote the Book of Mormon

Where are our marriage prospects in this godforsaken wilderness?

I was considering a post on the Book of Mormon & the Bechdel test when it occurred to me that Gospel Doctrine class is kind of like a book club.[1]  Which got me thinking how much better, and perhaps with more vocal women in it (as well as a few more humorously identified human foibles), the Book of Mormon would be if Jane Austen had written it. [Read more…]

An Aunt’s Manifesto

Amy B. is a long-time reader and friend of the blog, where she comments as HH9.

I became an aunt a month before my twelfth birthday. I clearly remember a sister and I staring through the hospital nursery’s window at our new, tiny, Yoda-looking nephew. He was followed in succession by eleven additional, slightly less Yoda-looking, nieces and nephews. So, by the time I was twenty-seven – just as most of my friends were becoming parents – I had spent more than half my life as an aunt. I played with them, watched over them, joked with them, read with them, and talked to them about sports and literature and faith. They visited me when I lived far away for graduate school and I visited them when I circulated among their parents’ households for holidays. I sent birthday cards; they sent drawings, photographs, and postcards. I attended blessings and baptisms; they greeted me when I returned from my mission with posters and hugs. For me, being an aunt was just part of what it meant to have a family. [Read more…]

Prayer: “Heart in pilgrimage”

Part 6 in a series; see other parts here.

Augustine famously wrote that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. (Herbert has a poem about that, too.) Our lives consist of so many cordial peregrinations as we seek to love and be loved, and while saying that all our loves are best founded in God’s love is easy, the practicalities tend to be messier. Devout Jews pray twice daily to love God with all their heart, soul, and might; so serious and difficult is the task of love that only that much prayer will do. In prayer we are pilgrims for love—a destination we never quite seem to understand.

[Read more…]

Rape Culture Is Real—-Let’s Lose the Scare Quotes

As a university administrator, I deal regularly with two serious problems. At first glance, they seem similar, but they are actually quite different. The first of these problems is rape culture. The second is “rape culture.” The scare quotes make all the difference. [Read more…]

Sometimes We Need–and Get–Help Getting It Right

One of the basic insights of pragmatics, a subfield of linguistics, is that “in attempting to express themselves, people do not only produce utterances containing grammatical structures and words, they perform actions via those utterance.”[1] That those speech acts can wield great power is hardly a new concept; consider the declaration recorded in Genesis: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

Closer to our own experience, declarations of an ecclesiastical authority–perhaps a temple sealer, mission president or bishop–likewise have great influence over the course of our lives: We might be joyfully united for time and eternity with a dear loved one, assigned to a challenging companion in the mission field or, perhaps, suspended from a Church-affiliated school as a result of declarations made in a particular context by a speaker with an authorized institutional role.

In contrast to declarations made under the auspices of a divine being or an institution, individuals are at a relative disadvantage, which may be magnified or minimized according to the ways and means society has developed for stifling or amplifying individual voices.  [Read more…]

I Sang She

Tonight with my two tiny children before bed, one clutching my hand, the other flying wordlessly into sleep, I sang them the same primary songs I have sung them every night for the past five years.  My son sang some of the words with me and I had the
distinct feeling that these songs will be theirs forever, the melodies and words will be make up the threads of their spiritual lives long after I am singing them to sleep.maxwell bird

As I sang, I did something that I hadn’t done before, not because the idea hadn’t occurred to me, but more because my religious experience has been as much one of rules as it has been of freedom to move beyond those rules.  Even as a grown woman very comfortable with speaking, thinking, figuring out and experimenting with spirituality for myself, I had never out loud sang the words to those familiar primary songs with a female pronoun.  As I sang, I am a child of God, and She has sent me here, my children did not balk at the change.  If they noticed, they did not say, but it felt right to give it to them.  It felt warm, it felt calm singing those words out into the dark.  I sang the repertoire replacing the singular pronoun for the word “Parents” in some cases, and going back and forth between “She” and “He” in other cases. [Read more…]

Prayer: “The soul in paraphrase”

Part 5 in a series; see other parts here.

In Romans 8 Paul writes that we do not know how to pray as we ought. Our hearts teem with tangles and fullnesses that resist expression in words or even thoughts. Sometimes the only prayer we can manage is lifting the knot of feelings toward God and saying, “See!” I believe that God does see such prayers, and yet our minds, even below the realm of speech, operate through forms and concepts that give shape and meaning to our experience—an orderliness made possible only by leaving many, many things out. We inhabit the world in paraphrase, so how can we pray otherwise?

[Read more…]

Prayer: “God’s breath in man returning to his birth”

Part 4 in a series: see other parts here.

The second creation story in Genesis features the vivid image of God creating a human (ha’adam) from the dust and breathing into its nostrils the breath of life. Breath becomes one of scripture’s most potent images, as the Hebrew ruach shifts into the Greek pneuma and the Latin spiritus—words that all indicate a complex of meanings including breath, wind, and spirit. Only in that moment of inspiration (“breathing in”) did the first human become a living soul. Our life, lest we forget, consists in this breath, not in bread alone. Prayer, then, is the stuff of very life.

[Read more…]

Alma at the Waters of Mormon: What it Meant to Belong to the World’s First Church #BOM2016

As the chronicle of a failed colony, the Record of Zeniff takes up way too much space in the Book of Mosiah. Readers of Mosiah must be forgiven, therefore, if they fail to recognize the magnitude of what happens in Chapter 18. To put it simply, Alma’s founding of a Church at the Waters of Mormon is the most significant thing that happens in the entire Book of Mormon, with the single exception of the appearance of Jesus Christ in 3 Nephi. If we accept this passage as historical, then we must see Alma’s actions in Mosiah 18 as creating thing in the world’s first “church” in any modern sense of the word. [Read more…]

Mother’s Day 2014 -2016

This post was written by long-time BCC friend and bloggernacle participant Theric.

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Mother’s Day is fraught. Just make a search right here at BCC and see. And it’s been rough for a long, long time. As part of my current calling, I’ve been in charge of planning sacrament meeting on Mother’s Day since 2014. I relished the opportunity. To me, Mother’s Day is an obvious opportunity to celebrate one of the most unique (for now) Mormon doctrines: our Mother in heaven. My thought was we start with women in the scriptures and, by year three, we straight-out do Heavenly Mother. It hasn’t quite worked that way. [Read more…]

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