Book Review: A Summer with Great-Aunt Rose

Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk from the latest Women’s Conference is now a book.  I reviewed the talk here, and my opinion was that it was a great success given the audience. His story about a young girl reluctantly visiting her spinster great-aunt was particularly on point given the inclusion of 8-year-olds in the “Women’s” conference. His talk was inclusive of all sorts of women: singles, married, with children, without, cat people, women with messy houses, career women, depressed (but not clinically) women, eccentric dressers, women whose lives are different than they had planned, etc. Just like Relief Society should be an amalgam of sisters of different life experiences. [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #5: Elizabeth Elinor Lewis (the 4th wife)


Elizabeth Elinor “Big Liz” Lewis Raglin Gardner (1832–1879?)

Part 5 in a series; see the rest of the series here.

Some men have got a dozen wives and others have a score
And the man that’s got but one wife is a-lookin’ out for more,
And sing Tittery Irie-Aye, sing Tittery Irie-Oh—

Now young men don’t get discouraged, get married if you can
But take care don’t get a woman that belongs to another man,
And sing Tittery Irie-Aye, sing Tittery Irie-Oh—

Songs of Mormon Pioneers, p. 4

Family narratives have unfortunately not been very kind to Archibald Gardner’s 4th wife, the mysterious singer known for her striking good looks that everybody called “Big Liz.” [Read more…]

Abinadi on the Godhead and the Atonement: A Response to Book of Mormon Central (Part IV)

This post will attempt to take a closer look at “what this passage is about”: the heart of Abinadi’s message on the Father and the Son. This is the last post in my series critiquing Book of Mormon Central’s piece on Mosiah 15. In previous parts I addressed what I thought was some loose use of the word “Trinity,” the way the piece uses the 1916 First Presidency statement on the Father and the Son, and the way the piece draws a parallel between Abinadi and one aspect of Mayan religion. [Read more…]

Prayer: “Something understood”

Part 28 in a series; see other parts here. This concludes the series.

Being seen as we are is a basic human need that all too often goes unmet. We understand each other only imperfectly, try though we may. Although such limitations do allow for people to surprise us, they also mean that we inadvertently hurt each other. We live our lives caught in this web of understanding and misunderstanding, and the more we wrestle with it, the more entangled we can become.

[Read more…]

Review: We Brave Women


My ten year-old daughter is lying on the floor of my office, colorful cards stacked in neat piles- sorted into categories she finds interesting and wants to learn more about, and a stack to the side which she says “these women did good things, but their work doesn’t fit with my personality.” This is in sharp contrast to the scattered mess of colorful cards on the floor earlier, when my 12 year-old son was perusing them. He’s not a big reader, and the fact he sat and pored over the stories is a testament to the compelling nature of the work. (He’s currently quite upset that Indira Gandhi’s bodyguards plotted in her assassination.) [Read more…]

Changing Hearts and Minds: Why Alma’s Mission Failed while Ammon’s Succeeded #BOM2016

Alma 8-16; 17-20

Literature makes meaning through structure. One of the most important ways that it does this is by constructing parallel narratives and inviting us to read them together. Anyone who has stayed awake all the way through Hamlet knows that Hamlet and Fortinbras are parallel stories—young princes who must find ways to avenge their fathers without sacrificing their states.  Much of what Hamlet means lies in the comparisons and contrasts between these two parallel narratives. [Read more…]

Why (Really) Did You Go on a Mission?



A guest post by Mette Harrison on Jana’s Flunking Sainthood blog caused me to ask the question in the title of myself. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what the answer was. [Read more…]

A few more white guys talking about Black Lives Matter

The Deseret News just published a column by Ralph Hancock, a Harvard-trained BYU professor of political science. Hancock suggests black people in America would be better off if they could learn to see the world through his white male eyes. “Black stories matter,” the headline says, and the substance of the piece is that the biggest problems facing black people are ultimately their own fault, or at least the solution to their problems are chiefly in their hands.  [Read more…]

Prayer: “The land of spices”

Part 27 in a series; see other parts here.

Life is not really as dull as it sometimes seems. A richness runs through our everyday, but its flavor can become so familiar that we forget to taste it. Prayer exists to draw out that taste, to let it rest on our tongues so that we can exult in its savor. Our lives are great gifts, but it’s easy to let the time pass without tasting them fully. We need to spice them frequently with prayer.

[Read more…]

Three Immediate Needs to Support the LDS LGBTQ Community

Laura Skaggs Dulin is a regular contributor on the Out in Zion podcast, a co-producer on the Far Between documentary and mental health professional.

Many are wondering what they can do to support LGBTQ people within the LDS community as well as those along its borderlands right now. Here are 3 immediate needs: [Read more…]

Abinadi on the Godhead and the Atonement: A Response to Book of Mormon Central (Part III)

Citing Brant Gardner and Mark Wright, The Book of Mormon Central piece also compares the doctrine taught in the 1916 statement (that despite being distinct from the Father, Jesus is himself both the Father and the Son) to the idea of a “Maya deity complex”–the idea that one Mayan deity might have several different identities. The parallel is kind of mildly interesting, I guess, but I don’t think it supports the argument that Abinadi was teaching the doctrine set forth in the 1916 statement rather than some form of Trinitarianism or modalism. In fact, I think it actually works against it. [Read more…]

Pokemon Go Family Home Evening (FHE)–a whole month of theme lessons!

Pokemon Go has taken over my Facebook feed, the local parks and downtown streets, and hearts of kids and adults alike. Our family did Pokemon Go as our FHE last night, and I’d say conservatively that 75% of the people out on the streets were playing Pokemon Go. Here is a quick guide to letting it take over your Monday nights for the rest of summer, by hosting an entire month of Pokemon Go-theme FHE!

  • Week 1: Gifts of the Spirit (Gotta Catch ‘Em All!…sort of)
  • Week 2: “All these things shall give thee experience [points] and be for thy good”
  • Week 3: Noah’s Ark and collecting each kind (just like Pokemon!)
  • Week 4: Family History (Ancestors: Gotta Catch ‘Em All!)

[Read more…]

Mattering is not a zero-sum game.

Please, from one Mormon to another, please don’t use the hashtag #alllivesmatter. Here’s why:

[Read more…]

Stop Skipping the Establishment Clause

For as much as we love religious freedom (BYU just finished its annual two-day conference on the topic), Mormons don’t pay much attention to the Establishment Clause.  Which, if you think about it, is astounding.  What else is Mormonism, if not the greatest Establishment Clause failure of the 19th Century?

Today’s guest post is from Carolyn Homer.  Carolyn Homer is an attorney and religion constitutional law enthusiast in California. She has represented the Anti-Defamation League and other religious organizations as amici before the U.S. Supreme Court, most recently in Zubik v. Burwell, which concerned religious exemptions to the Affordable Care Act. [Read more…]

Prayer: “The soul’s blood”

Part 26 in a series; see other parts here.

Without prayer there can be no spiritual life. Fortunately prayer takes many forms, and we grow spiritually by discovering and developing different forms and learning how to use them, which is why Sarah Coakley likes to describe a theologian as the one who truly prays. Prayer is quite literally the medium in which we work out our God-talk. That said, prayer is not something we master, but something we practice. Prayer ought to be a discipline, a form of spiritual exercise or ascetic practice. The need for form, even in extempore prayer, makes prayer an art: the pas de deux we dance with God.

[Read more…]

Body Matters

The morning a doctor cut into the soft white flesh of my belly while I slept, the world was awake with hurt. Surgeons moving past my uterus–cocoon where my babies once grew their wings. The small ovaries like little glittering potatoes hidden beneath the surface. Fallopian tubes so small but a mountain ridge my brave babies once traveled.   And a cyst, large and lolling. An unwelcome guest.  The doctors cut it away, and like that, the part of my body that hurt me was no longer there.

I woke up sobbing for no reason in the recovery room and begged the doctor to hold my hand at the side of the bed with his gloved hand.

Later, sitting with the pain, I thought of dusk when my children held their fishing poles out into the lake, garlic cheese on a hook in the green, mossy water. Visible trout darting into the deep dark then rising  on the glinting surface with with surprising ripples. How badly they wanted a fish, but maybe not the fish so much as the moment when the fish pulls with all its fish bones and fish muscles to get away, jolting us into remembrance of how much we love these bodies we’re given, how we’d struggle against everything to keep them.

The news flashed in a corner of my hospital room. I touched the cuts on my stomach and mourned bodies who died too soon and without reason, their families crying out on the screen.




Abinadi on the Godhead and the Atonement: A Response to Book of Mormon Central (Part II)

This is the second part of my response to Book of Mormon Central’s Mosiah 15 piece. In the first part, I addressed what I thought was some loose use of the term “Trinity.” In this one, I’ll take a look at how the piece uses the 1916 First Presidency Statement on the Father and the Son.

[Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #4: Mary Ann Bradford (the 3rd wife)

Part 4 in a series; see the rest of the series here.


Mary Ann Bradford Gardner (1831–1864)

Mary Ann was 17 years old when she and her 35-year-old mother both married 34-year-old Archibald Gardner as his second and third wives.

She was 32 years old when she died after giving birth to her 9th child. She is buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery and shares a headstone with her infant daughter, who also died that day, Abigail Jane.[1]

[Read more…]

For the church in Russia, sustaining doesn’t mean agreeing


His wife, Kristen


Her husband, Blair

My wife served in the Russia, St. Petersburg mission. Her body left Russia but her heart stayed there. We had the chance to visit a few years ago and it was an amazing trip. Without her connection to Russia through the church I’m sure I never would have visited, and I never would have experienced the heft of that incredible country.

Now our missionaries in Russia are facing new restrictions due to a new anti-terrorism law Vladimir Putin recently signed. From the Deseret News:

The law creates a broad definition for missionary work, and will restrict any such activity if it is not undertaken by individuals who are affiliated with registered organizations. Additionally, the locations where such work can unfold would be restricted to houses of worship and other related religious sites, critics claim.

[Read more…]

We Must Love One Another or Die

 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” John 13:34

There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
W.H. Auden, “September 1, 1939

[Read more…]

Abinadi on the Godhead and the Atonement: A Response to Book of Mormon Central (Part I)

About two months ago, back when we were reading Abinadi for Sunday School, I read Book of Mormon Central’s piece on Mosiah 15. It seemed problematic to me for a couple of reasons. This series is my attempt to articulate those reasons and explain what I think Abinadi’s message is. [Read more…]

Prayer: “Church-bells beyond the stars heard”

Part 25 in a series; see other parts here.

Sometimes life closes in, and we feel very small, like isolated atoms bouncing through an indifferent universe. We sense time passing on toward the moment when it will cease to matter for us. We begin to doubt that anyone or anything will truly hear us, however far our cries may carry.

[Read more…]

The Destruction of the Family: American-Style

Carina Hoskisson Wytiaz is a history degree-holder, world-class baker, writer on the internets, hater of Olive Garden, content marketer, and your cool friend.

I have some things to say about Mormons, our heritage as a persecuted people, our “the destruction of the family” language, and people of color. Hold tight. [Read more…]

Impaled on history like a butterfly

James Baldwin, Distinguished Visiting Professor

James Baldwin

Another black man in America was shot and killed by police yesterday. I involuntarily witnessed the slaying just before turning off the bedside lamp last night because it showed up in my Twitter feed, a video already playing, and I knew how it would end but couldn’t stop watching and couldn’t sleep and felt sick and felt angry. I personally know too few people of color intimately enough to reach out to them directly for solace. And really, it would be pretty unfair of me to do that anyway. So I go to James Baldwin, an African American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic who was an incredible and thoughtful writer, and who died in the eighties.

So I chose his 1965 piece, “The White Man’s Guilt.” [Read more…]

Prayer: “the bird of Paradise”

Part 24 in a series; see other parts here.

Prayer can feel like a kind of death. So many of our waking hours, and especially the restless hours of night, we spend shouldering our burdens and trying to take one more step forward, when that is the price of life against the stasis of death. In prayer, though, we let the weight press us down to our knees, and even onto our faces, as we try to lay the burden down before God.

[Read more…]

Nov 5

screen-shot-2015-11-06-at-11-00-03-amLast November, the Church abruptly changed the Handbook of Instructions. It added being in a same-sex marriage to the definition of apostasy. It also stated that children of married (or cohabitating) same-sex parents cannot receive a name and a blessing, be baptized, ordained, or serve a mission without First Presidency approval, and even then on conditions that the child (1) is committed to living the doctrines of the church, disavowing the practice of same-sex cohabitation and marriage; and (2) is of legal age and not living “with a parent who has lived or currently lives” in a same-sex marriage or cohabitation. [Read more…]

Sister Wives Series #3: Abigail Sprague (the 2nd wife)

Part 3 in a series; see the rest of the series here.


Abigail Sprague Bradford Gardner (1813–1879)

Abigail was a tough, stout, and gregarious pioneer woman. She had a sense of humor even in the wake of great tragedies. She wasn’t known as the most beautiful of Archie’s wives, but she also doesn’t seem to have been the type of woman who would have cared about looks. At one point she was heavy enough that she would handily keep her thimble and spool of thread in her fat rolls, where they would stay put until she needed them (I find this detail amazing and delightful). She found great pleasure in smoking her corncob pipe as well as in telling delicious and terrible stories to children about witches and fairies. She had tremendous respect for Native Americans and learned their languages. She made friends with Indians and served them, eventually adopting a young Indian girl who had been stolen from her home by a warring tribe and sold to Abigail’s brother for a pony. Abigail treated Fanny like her own daughter, and Archibald seems to have welcomed her into his fold without complaint.[1] Abigail could frequently be found smoking peace pipes in Native American circles, doing her part to build bridges between the two cultures and counteract much of the fear and suspicion harbored on both sides. [Read more…]

New perma: Christian Harrison

We’re very excited to welcome aboard our friend Christian Harrison as a permanent addition to our group. Christian has posted with us in the past here, here and here, and his presence at BCC will class up the joint. His is a powerful voice of spirituality and awareness. Read Christian’s bio here. Welcome, Christian!

Encountering Mormonism on Route 66

IMG_3884(This post isn’t really a Fourth of July thing, except that there’s something distinctly American about Route 66. So we’ll go with it.)

We talked about taking a Route 66 vacation this summer. After all, we live in Chicago (and Route 66 starts across the street from the Art Institute!), and it ends in L.A., just north of my parents’ home. But with this year’s Every Kid in a Park (which, btw, if you have a kid who just finished fourth grade and you haven’t enrolled yet, I don’t think it’s too late), we switched to a visit-National-Parks trip.

Still, our National Parks roadtrip ended up overlapping briefly with Route 66—we were going to Petrified Forest National Park, which is on historic Route 66, and we decided to stay in nearby Holbrook, in Wigwam Village #6.[fn1] [Read more…]

Standing where the Savior stood: Eight Questions

I’ve been thinking lately about the admonition to “stand in holy places,” partly because of Elder Rasband’s tweet a couple weeks ago:

[Read more…]