On Getting New Garments

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So I’ve needed to buy some new garments. For, like, a long, long time. But I had been putting it off. Being a participant in the Bloggernacle had sort of freaked me out, because of all the conversations (dominated by women) about how horrible the fit is and all the money they’ve wasted on ill-fitting, uncomfortable garments. And I have to admit, all that talk worried me. But I finally screwed up my courage and decided I was gonna do it. [Read more…]

The Church Should Remain Politically Neutral

Today’s guest post is from Carolyn Homer. Carolyn Homer is an attorney and religion constitutional law enthusiast in Washington, D.C.

The silence is eerie.

Ever since Donald Trump became a serious presidential contender, Sunday meetings (at least in my wards) have been free of passing references to politics and thinly-veiled endorsements of the Republican platform. Instead there’s been a renewed focus on love, Christ, repentance, and refugees.

I love it. And I hope it stays that way. [Read more…]

Receiving Grace: Mozart’s Great Mass

51nbxoelzl-_ss500Becoming familiar with Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor (K.427) is a good way to both deepen one’s appreciation for WAM, especially his church music, but also to find a way into understanding the rich and ancient eucharistic liturgy of the western church. The Great Mass, composed in 1782/3, is unfinished* but the missing parts are often added for modern performances and recordings.

In the Great Mass we proceed in stages through music until we receive the grace of God in the Eucharist.

[Read more…]

Some Thoughts on National Security–Introduction

On, March 3, 2016, notable scholars and practitioners in the national security field (many of them republicans who had served in former administrations) released a foreign policy-based letter opposing the candidacy of Donald Trump.[1]  While it made headlines for a day or two, the move—which would have been game-changing in any previous “normal” election season—scarcely made waves in the tumultuous campaign season.  Privately, many of my friends who work in the field of foreign affairs were baffled.  Why aren’t people paying attention to this?  This was the wonkish equivalent of an 85 yard hail mary in the last seconds of the Super Bowl.  [Read more…]

Book Review: William Mackinnon’s Utah War

William P. MacKinnon, At Sword’s Point, Part II: A Documentary History of the Utah War, 1858-1859 (Arthur Clark, 2016). 

16521725_10103176001684139_1837689960_nFor such a small chronological scope, William MacKinnon’s documentary history of the Utah War covers a lot of ground. Though the armed confrontation in 1857-1858 was theoretically isolated to the Rocky Mountains, its tentacles touched far and wide. Soldiers were sent as far south as New Mexico to purchase supplies. Facing the threat of another Mormon relocation, the British government set to fortify their Pacific lands. Fearing an invasion, the Russian Tsar sought to sell the territory of Alaska. California appeared as both a boundary and a revolving door for either side of the conflict. And at the center of it all was American President James Buchanan, Mormon Prophet Brigham Young, and the very stakes of federal sovereignty in a country ready to go to war. This was no small, insignificant, nor parochial skirmish.  [Read more…]

On not correcting mistakes

I don’t think I believe in bibliomancy but when I randomly opened my Essential Dogen today, I opened to a teaching that spoke directly to a problem I have been mulling over for a while now, viz., how one should, in this new world of fake news, best respond to misinformation and its amplification via social media. I would like to know what the BCC community thinks:

Even when you are clearly correct and others are mistaken, it is harmful to argue and defeat them. On the other hand, if you admit fault when you are right, you are a coward. It is best to step back, neither trying to correct others nor conceding to mistaken views. If you don’t act competitively, and let go of the conflict, others will also let go of it without harboring ill will.

My whole soul rebels against this. If you are clearly wrong, and if the wrongness matters, I have this overwhelming urge to correct you. The thing is it generally seems to be a futile exercise and has this unwelcome outcome of tieing knots in my own wellbeing. Maybe Dogen is right . . . ? (#zen)

On Totally Destroying the Johnson Amendment

Yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast, Donald Trump (among other things) reiterated his campaign promise to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment.”

The phrase “Johnson Amendment” may well be meaningless to you. It’s kind of a stupid name for a broadly-misunderstood provision of the tax law. So, to get us all on the same page, a quick explainer: [Read more…]

More Thoughts on Mormons and Muslims

Paul Reeve is a professor of History at the University of Utah and author of Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness.

Much of the negative reactions to my Mormons and Muslims op-ed seem to come from Mormons who, if I understand them correctly, make this point: Mormons were peaceful settlers in the 19th century and Muslims are suicide bombing terrorists in the 21st century ergo Mormons did not deserve the labels of “murderers, traitors, fanatics, and whores” in the 19th century, but Muslims do deserve to be banned from the United States in the 21st century. The problem with that reasoning is a common misconception among 21st century Latter-day Saints–that their pioneer ancestors never did anything to raise even the slightest whiff of violence or threat to the surrounding host society. [Read more…]

Things We’re Doing to Avoid Thinking About Donald Trump, Ranked

Are you tired of Donald Trump? Tired of hearing about him? Tired of reading about him? Tired of arguing about him with your weird Uncle Rick? Yeah, same goes for me. And Steve, too. But also tired of coming to the realization that being tired of it isn’t an option, because it’s important? Yeah, us too.

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

Left the Church? 25 Things Not to Say to a Believing Loved One (& what to say instead)

We’re grateful that Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks has shared this followup with us, cross-posted to drjuliehanks.com.

canstockphoto9791318A week and a half ago I published a guest post here titled 25 things NOT to say to a loved one leaving the faith (and what to say instead). The post sparked some great discussion among commenters on the blog and on social media. [Read more…]

Lesson 6: “I Will Tell You in Your Mind and in Your Heart” #DandC2017

This week’s lesson is a continuation of the aborted Oliver Cowdery translation attempt. Bummer for you teachers who rotate weeks with another teacher; there’s a BIG overlap in chapters here with both this week and last week’s lesson focusing on the same three sections of the Doctrine & Covenants: 6, 8, and 9. This one throws section 11 in the cart, but really, the majority of the lesson is still focused on the same material as last week. You’re the loser who drew the short straw because your rotating cohort got first dibs on the good stuff.

The first “attention activity” is the suggestion to bring a radio to class. Apparently, a radio is an old-timey electronic device that was used to receive transmitted sound waves from the air. People used to use these devices to listen to talk show programs as well as music, all interspersed with housewives gushing about the newest dish washing soap and doctors recommending their favorite brand of cigarette “for your health.” Radios were also used in the Netflix series Stranger Things to communicate with the Upside Down. Since it’s probably impractical to drive your car into the classroom, perhaps there are some functional portable radios at the Desert Industries or in your grandfather’s attic you could pick up for your object lesson. [1] [Read more…]

What Does Ownership Mean This Week?

This is a guest post by RMR. She is a clinical instructor and primary care physician for Stanford University. She recently participated with her husband and two children in the Women’s March in San Jose. 

Yesterday in the office I saw the gentlest of women– a 70-something burqa-clad Iraqi immigrant who came in worried about a bruise on her upper thigh. She always comes in with the simplest requests– a hearing aid that won’t hurt her ears, a new brace for her arthritic thumb. As she lifted up her long skirts I saw for the first time her underclothes– crisp white cotton bloomers and gray wool stockings of the softest kind. As I thought of the rain outside, I had a brief moment of envy imagining being cloaked in the warmth of her wrappings.

Over half of the people that I see in my clinic every day are immigrants. Half of them are from India (software engineers mainly, not surprising given that I work in Silicon Valley). In 2017 alone, in addition to India and Iraq, I’ve seen people from China, Afghanistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Jordan, Turkey, Romania, Finland, England, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela and Mexico. While the diversity of my patient panel is exciting, I’ll admit that on some days the cocktail of languages and cultures can be a little dizzying.
Certainly my head had to take a sharp turn this afternoon– I walked in to see a young boy and noticed his beautiful older sister in the corner. I couldn’t remember meeting his sister before although I knew the family– his brother is also my patient. I walked up to her and introduced myself. “Oh,” said her mother, “My daughter is transgender. I guess we haven’t seen you since she made the change.” I quickly realized this girl was also my patient– the brother, now sister. “Welcome,” I smiled and said, “It’s so good to see you again.”

[Read more…]

Significant Anniversaries

The First Presidency circulated a letter dated January 24, 2017 that reads as follows: [Read more…]

Keeping our covenants after this week

Ross is a bishop serving in the UK. He’s been our guest before and we’re pleased he’d share his thoughts on how to aid those in need.

Today I taught a combined Relief Society and Priesthood lesson in our ward. For the past three years the Europe Area Presidency has asked us to focus on three areas as part of their area plan: bringing a friend to church, becoming spiritually and temporally self reliant and finding an ancestor for temple ordinances. Basically the three-fold mission of the church with friendlier language.

I chose to focus on how we as individuals can become more spiritually self-reliant by taking care of the poor and needy. There are a few ways we can do this. We can pay a generous fast offering which is used to look after our own ward members, we can link up with local charities to look after poor and vulnerable members in our local areas and we can work with international charities that help with the poor and needy throu
ghout the world. [Read more…]

Share your stories: refugee talks in my stake conference, how about your wards?

Our stake conference meeting today was on the topic of caring for refugees. It included a talk by an ethnically Korean member of our stake who was raised in Iran, where his family investigated and joined the church. During the upheaval of the Ayatollah’s regime, his family came to the United States as refugees. They were taken in by an American family, who cleared their own children out of one of their home’s bedrooms to make room. Other speakers drew on the scriptures and the church’s recent strong statements in General Conference and its media channels on the topic of our responsibility to care for refugees. During his remarks, the Stake President clarified that they had decided on the theme and began finding speakers 5 months ago.  That’s before Election Day, let alone the Executive Order. The Stake President testified that before any of this happened and before any of them could have known how relevant it would be, they felt a spiritual witness that this should be the theme of the conference.  [Read more…]

A Time for Prophecy

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Amos 3:7 reads, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” I know this because it was a Seminary scripture, a Missionary scripture, and perhaps the most important Latter-day Saint proof text in the entire Old Testament. At different points in my life, I have used it to “prove” that the Church is true because it has prophets, that revelation is and has always been important, and that God is a woman and her name is Shirley. It is really a remarkable proof text. [Read more…]

This is Not Us

“The president’s order, enacted with the stroke of a pen at 4:42 p.m. Friday, suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“The Department of Homeland Security said that the order also barred green card holders from those countries from re-entering the United States. In a briefing for reporters, White House officials said that green card holders from the seven affected countries who are outside the United States would need a case-by-case waiver to return.” — New York Times

[Read more…]

Ye Heralds, Sound the Golden Trump: A Postmortem of MoTab’s Inauguration Performance

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Silver lining: unisex outfits! (Source)

Remember way back last week when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang at the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States? I was one of those hand-wringing liberals (see here) who thought it was a bad idea before it even happened. Viewed through the lens of that president’s shameful yet totally predictable executive overreach, I am now convinced that it was a bad idea. But judging past events in light of present knowledge is a fraught endeavour, so in assessing the Choir’s participation at the inauguration let’s start with what spokespersons for the Church and the Choir itself had to say before the event took place.  [Read more…]

On Moral Issues and Trump – Updated

iwasastranger_siteToday, the church is hesitant to enter into the political sphere. For the most part, I think that’s the right decision: church leaders don’t have any expertise in public policy or governance.

The church has, however, reserved the right to speak to “issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences.” Over the last couple years, it has invoked its right—duty, even—to speak to issues ranging from the legalization of recreational marijuana and physician-assisted suicide to alcohol laws in Utah to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

It has been outspoken in its support of religious liberty. As far back as 1992, Elder Oaks testified in support of of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and he has continued to emphasize the importance of religious liberty. [Read more…]

My Wall

The news is full of stories about some wall that’s going to be built and how a 20% tariff on Mexican goods will pay for it. I’ve been thinking about another wall lately.

This election has shown us is that we all live in a bubble, and given what I’ve been seeing and hearing for the last 5 days, I feel like my bubble needs a little heavier fortification. It’s not that I don’t want personal connections; I just want to be sure that the people who are in my bubble are valuable contributors. I don’t want people to be in my bubble who are unfairly or disproportionately draining my time or energy which are limited resources, when I could have people in my bubble who are boosting me. From now on, it’s Angela First. [Read more…]

Newly discovered First Presidency Letter Clarifies Mormon Position on Civil Government

October 28, 1838,

Dear fellow Saints,

As many of you know, Governor Boggs issued an executive order yesterday relating to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Missouri Executive Order 44 reads, in part, “The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace–their outrages are beyond all description.” As a result, the armed forces of our Great State have been ordered to murder all of our men, women, and children or drive us from the state. [Read more…]

Why Science Transparency Matters

Getting science right matters. We live in a wondrous age in which a breathtaking understanding of our universe is possible. We understand the nature of life though DNA and how structures arise through protein construction during embryonic development. We are discovering possibly inhabitable worlds at distances measured in light years. We are discovering what makes forest ecosystems tick. We have mapped the interior of our own planet and explored its oceans from deep under its waters and scanned them from above with orbiting satellites.

[Read more…]

Lesson 5: “This Is the Spirit of Revelation” #DandC2017

This is a really interesting set of revelations we have to discuss. They are primarily the responses to Oliver Cowdery’s efforts to help translate the Book of Mormon (D&C 6, 8, and 9). The lesson manual includes a link to a helpful write-up on “Oliver Cowdery’s Gift” from Revelations in Context. There are a lot of things to talk about here, but I’d like to focus on one particular narrative.
[Read more…]

Daughters of God

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Photograph by D’Arcy Benincosa, Washington D.C

Just so we’re clear: Marching is not a sin. Protesting is not a sin.

If you didn’t feel compelled to march in any of the more than 600 peaceful Women’s Marches around the world, that’s great for you. My conscience dictated that I do otherwise, and I don’t need anyone else to quote The Family: A Proclamation to the World in some misguided attempt to correct me.

Women asking to be heard and considered as fully people by their government is not against the family. Women asking for health care and for the education of their children to be protected is not against God. Women asking to have their elected representatives hear them is not against the Gospel of Jesus Christ- not in word nor in action. [Read more…]

My Unexpected and Exceptionally Fuzzy Answer to Prayer

Sometimes these moments come in the darkest hours–and this one certainly did.  I was coming off of a year of heartbreak, trying to deal empathetically and lovingly with some challenges that people I care for very much were undergoing.  But I was finished.  I was empty.  There was nothing left in my heart, and secretly I feared that my ability to love had been extinguished, or maybe wasn’t even there in the first place.  I was on the way home from a dreadful whirlwind business trip to Jamaica–yeah I know, but trust me, it was awful–and I was sick, jetlagged from a previous trip, and underdressed for a cold dark plane ride.  I was huddled into an inadequate cardigan and trying not to cry.  It was just one of those “this is too much” times.  And I heard a distinct and strong voice in my head:  “You need to get a dog.”

What the what???

[Read more…]

Thought experiment about baby blessings

madonna_con_il_bambino

Sassoferrato (1609-1685)

I heard over the weekend from a friend who wanted to hold her baby while her husband blessed him. She would not be, or even appear to be, participating in the ordinance itself in any way. She simply wanted to cradle the child while it was blessed, like any mother would do during a sick baby blessing and anointing by priesthood holders. She and her husband told the bishop of their plans to bless the baby at home at an extended family gathering, and for her to hold him. Up the chain the news went, to stake president and area authority. The message came back down the chain that she was not to be allowed to do this.  [Read more…]

It Can Happen Here; Let’s Make Sure It Doesn’t

“Nonsense! Nonsense!” snorted Tasbrough. “That couldn’t happen here in America, not possibly! We’re a country of freemen.”—Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (1935)

 

lewisEvery time that Doremus Jessup—the protagonist of Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 satirical novel It Can’t Happen Here—tries to raise the specter of fascism in the United States, his concerns are dismissed by the phrase that becomes the novel’s title: “it can’t happen here.” There is too much democracy, too much freedom, and too much respect for individual rights for our country to ever go down the road that the Germans and the Italians were travelling when the novel was written.

It does, of course, happen here, and in fairly predictable ways. A populist demagogue named Buzz Windrup becomes president with a combination of ultra-nationalism and an attack on journalists, scientists, historians, and other people in a position to argue that one set of facts is superior to another. As president, Windrip begins by restricting the rights of women and minorities and ends by turning the United States into a security state, imprisoning dissidents, and arming for wars of conquest. [Read more…]

Respect the Office

Hooray for another political post!

When I tell people that I think Trump is an evil man, that I think he is an unintelligent boor who brags about sexual assault, that his election has been irrevocably tainted by the specter of Russian involvement, that his cabinet picks are a mixture between a horror show and pure comedy, that I cannot bring myself to view him with any level of respect, I frequently get this answer: “I respect the office. I respect the peaceful transition of power.”

No, I don’t think so. [Read more…]

Soundtrack to the Inauguration

Today, Donald Trump transitions from president-elect to president.

I’m struggling here to figure out what to write. I want to write that we elected a valueless misogynistic, race-baiting, xenophobic know-nothing as president, but I confess I’m not sure where to go from there.

I want to decry Mormons’ participation in the Inauguration, only I’m not sure what I can add to what Peter has already said. (Also, what Peter has already said.)

I do know, though, where I’m going to turn musically. Noah Preminger has just released Meditations on Freedom, a protest album, just in time for the new presidency.  [Read more…]

The Best Judgments are Made in Trump Tower Grill

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Wicked vs. righteous judgment—is there such a thing? (Source)

When did Mormons get so allergic to judging? As of September 2016 everything seemed fine. But sometime in the late fall/early winter an allergen spread like wildfire throughout the ancestral home of Mormonism and by January 2017 its immune system was generating antibodies like a The Piano Guys video racking up likes on Youtube–lines had been crossed and it was time to retire judgment for good! This is what Jesus would do, after all, when faced with the prospect of a religious-freedom hating casino magnate becoming the president-elect, and how could we do other?  [Read more…]