Blog Archives

Summertime Notes of a Liturgical Junkie

August 5, 2014 | 8 comments
Summertime Notes of a Liturgical Junkie

Four Services Worth Writing Home About. Mormon Service: An “International Ward” in Western Europe. (No, this picture to the left is not of a Mormon chapel, alas. It’s just an action shot to suggest what being a LJ might involve.) Up on the podium, the bishop is a Wasatch-Front-origined temporary-resident white Anglonavian Mormon, as is one of the councilors, while the other is a recently-immigrated black African Mormon. The main congregational constituents not represented in the bishopric are the old-time local converts, who now occupy a mere quarter of the pews they used to dominate, and whose once unchallenged... Read more »

Bo Knows Heaven

February 7, 2014 | 30 comments

So there’s my sort of neighbor big Bo, who despite owning two rock-solid Scandinavian names including, yes, Bo, doesn’t exactly seem to have things rock-solidly together. Read more »

Two Nuns Walk Into A Church

July 16, 2013 | 9 comments
Two Nuns Walk Into A Church

Almost 7, in the village church of Kernascléden, in the heart of Brittany, which is the heart of Catholicism in France. The sign on the door says Vespers are at 7, just like they are every night, even tonight, July 14, when most people in France are singing the Marseillaise instead of the Gloria. I always like Vespers, but I wonder what in the name of the Abbé Sieyès they could possibly sound like in a remote place like this? A harried five-parish pastor coaxing along a few reedy voices? Not exactly. Two youngish nuns in tan habits enter... Read more »

How Things That Were Never Going to Change Have Sometimes Changed Anyway

May 9, 2013 | 40 comments

In March at BYU I gave a talk, or more accurately for a guy who can barely use Power-Point, a multi-media extravaganza, involving at least 10 non-fancy slides with absolutely nothing moving around on them. The topic was the title above. For those who want to skip the movie and just read the book, I thought I’d post here a (believe it or not) condensed version of that talk, focusing on the main points, without all the low-tech effects. Of course, the post won’t be nearly as exciting, but some of the clips used at the live talk didn’t make it to the youtube... Read more »

A Mission Epiphany For Epiphany Eve

January 5, 2013 | 6 comments

Snow White. If on Christmas Day of 1975 you were for some harebrained reason outside on the frozen Belgian tundra and you squinted up your eyes against the shiny white landscape to look east from the edge of the little town called Zichem, then you would’ve almost certainly noticed in the houseless distance the improbable sight of four overcoated and possibly harebrained missionaries-dressed-as-local-businessmen trudging along a slippery, messy path next to a big field. Read more »

A Mission Dream For the Last Day of Autumn

December 20, 2012 | 17 comments

Five-Sense Gray.  9:15 in the morning in the very late autumn in Belgium.              It’s barely and unenthusiastically light because the sun has just come grudgingly up (if you call ten feet above the horizon up), and because the heavens are so blanketed with clouds that whatever slivers of rays manage to get through are absorbed right away into the gray. Belgian towns aren’t colorful in any sort of autumn or winter light, but in this particular flannel-gray sort they might as well just go ahead and say it: we are thoroughgoingly monochrome. Read more »

Times and Seasons Welcomes Steve Smith

July 29, 2010 | 8 comments

Times and Seasons is happy to welcome as a guest blogger Steve Smith, who teaches and writes mainly about religious freedom, constitutional law, and jurisprudence.  His most recent book is The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse (Harvard University Press, 2010).  Steve graduated from BYU in 1976 before studying law at Yale, and he has taught at various law schools including Notre Dame, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan (as a visiting professor), Virginia (as a visitor), and the University of San Diego, where he is currently employed.  Steve’s wife Merina also attended BYU, and they have five children. An accomplished musician by most... Read more »

Putting the Sunday in the Super Bowl

February 3, 2010 | 57 comments

Some time ago on T&S, I survived a discussion on the history of Sunday (got no t-shirt though). That knock-down drag-out event included some talk of sports, but overall was pretty general. In light of the upcoming Super Bowl I thought it might be fun(?) to look at the rise of Sunday sport more specifically. So get out the nachos and dip. Or lace up the gloves, or whatever. Read more »

Creativity as a Religious Virtue

May 15, 2009 | 12 comments

I usually place empathy at the top of my ladder of desirable religious virtues because I see its presence as the cause of most good and its absence as the cause of most bad. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more it seems that even empathy depends on yet another important quality: creativity. Read more »

Hey, Are Those Real Miracles?

April 22, 2009 | 22 comments

It happens every year. I’m walking past the library, or some other building loaded with windows, and one of my students bursts out the door and runs toward me with eyes dilating, hair frazzling, nerves fraying, arms waving, and body quaking to ask, out of breath, did these things really happen? “Things” referring to the miracles and visions we have been reading about in the sixteenth-century autobiography assigned that week. What the student means is this: did the miracles or visions happen in an objective sense, so that if I or other witnesses would have been there we would... Read more »

Your Easter Sermon: Food Storage

April 12, 2009 | 45 comments

Every year on T&S there appears around Easter time a certain amount of Holy-Week envy. I haven’t seen any yet this year, and so I thought I’d take my turn to express a little. Or better, maybe this would be a good opportunity to get a sense of what is going on in Mormon Easter services nowadays. What happened in your ward this year? Read more »

Hugs and Kisses

December 15, 2008 | 5 comments

It’s holiday season, which means more friends and family and greetings, in person or otherwise, than usual. Add to that a few weddings receptions and you can get downright sore from all the hugging and hand-wrenching. Not to mention confused by the vast array of possibilities for saying hello or goodbye or Merry Christmas or Happy New Year to someone. It’s enough to make even the most seasoned anthropologist dizzy. Read more »

Teaching the Reformation

October 19, 2008 | 34 comments

Just as I went to publish this post, I saw Ben’s post about the conference on Mormons and Evangelicals. It’s a nice coincidence. As are the recent posts by Kent and Marc on labeling and categorizing. I was already scheduled to attend another conference this week, an annual conference for historians of the Reformation (surely you knew about it), where I’ll be part of an ongoing panel devoted to issues in teaching. This year’s issue is “Defining Protestantism,” as everyone is rightly concerned about labels we impose on people. Five or six scholars make up the panel, and we... Read more »

When Being Right is Wrong

September 23, 2008 | 18 comments

If you’re a teacher of any sort, you know how disruptive a couple of talkative or rude students can be, especially when you’re trying to get a discussion going. In an effort to regain control, you flash a forced smile in the direction of the goof-offs. You pause and wait until they’re finished before you continue. You have a chat with them after class and ask them to be a little more attentive next time. And then after another day or two of rudeness, and despairing that your more subtle techniques have failed, you lose patience and let them... Read more »

Carl and Mathilda

July 23, 2008 | 22 comments

Let us praise pioneers. Of all sorts, but today especially the traditional sort. I myself am thinking of Carl and Mathilda, whom I came to know through one of those wholly unexpected spine-tingling unbelievable fantastic experiences. Read more »

What’s Your Master Status?

July 21, 2008 | 57 comments

No, it’s not the same as Master Race, so banish that association from your head. Instead it’s a useful sociological concept (who knew?) which not only has come in handy for writing my current book, but goes a long way toward explaining why we get along, or not, with liberals, reactionaries, gays, homophobes, gun-nuts, gun-controllers, tree-huggers, earth-exploiters, blacks, browns, whites, males, females, snobs, slobs, pro-choicers, pro-lifers, Mormons, jack Mormons, inactive Mormons, less-active Mormons, active Mormons, hyperactive Mormons, blogging Mormons, non-Mormons, and just about any other category you can dream up for someone else, or yourself. Read more »

Quorum Fun

July 17, 2008 | 108 comments

A few months ago this was the calendar, word for word, sent out to a nearby quorum in a sleepy suburban ward (hint: it’s in the US). March 15th: Concealed Weapons Class, 1pm at the home. Joint activity with the High Priests. Punch and cookies served. (Okay I added the punch and cookies bit.) Read more »

Girls’ Rules

July 16, 2008 | 59 comments

My older sister was a great athlete in the old days (before Title IX), and just retired as the athletic director at a high school. Talking with her the other day gave me the idea for this post, so blame her if you don’t like it (isn’t that just like a little brother?). I thought I had a vague memory of watching her, when I was 8 or 9 (mid-1960s), play some odd form of basketball. Was I just imagining it? She laughed and proceeded to explain the mysteries of girls’ rules. This meant first that there were six... Read more »

How Sacred is Conscience?

July 14, 2008 | 40 comments

Any guest or new blogger obviously runs the risk of repeating topics that have been worn into the ground. Apologies in advance if that is the case here, but it seemed to me that possibly missing in the current debate, er, discussion, over a certain issue in California and how church members ought to respond to it, is more explicit treatment of the question of conscience. Read more »