Blog Archives

You and Your Righteous Religious Mind

May 24, 2012 | 14 comments
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You and Your Righteous Religious Mind

Psychology has come a long way the last couple of decades. Instead of seeing us coming into the world with a mind like a blank slate, psychologists and cognitive scientists are discovering through cleverly designed empirical research that we are born with a preloaded mental operating system. It predisposes us to see the world like emotional, opinionated, tribal human beings rather than like rational, logical robots. You can get the whole story, with special emphasis on how moral systems and individual moral convictions are formed, in Jonathan Haidt’s new book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by... Read more »

Go Home, Christians

May 17, 2012 | 43 comments
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I live in a small town. We get lots of visitors and they’re all welcome, even the slednecks who take over the town once a year for a weekend of drinking and driving (up the mountain on snow machines). But a group has finally found the limit of a friendly tourist town’s welcome: Christians. Read more »

Mormon Talks, Christian Sermons

May 10, 2012 | 39 comments
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Krister Stendahl, the noted Swedish theologian who was unusually considerate of the LDS Church, listed “holy envy” as one of his three rules of religious understanding. Let’s see if comparing Mormon talks with Christian sermons doesn’t create for us a bit of holy envy. I think there might be something we can learn from how other Christian denominations preach from the pulpit on Sunday. Read more »

Review: Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia

May 3, 2012 | 6 comments
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Review: Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia

It is published as a reference work, but you can read it like a book, albeit a book of essays: Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2010; publisher’s page), edited by W. Paul Reeve and Ardis E. Parshall. Listing at $85 ($68 on Kindle), it might not find its way onto your bookshelf until a trade paperback version comes out in a few years, but at the very least it puts a very accessible LDS history reference on the shelves of America’s libraries and newsrooms, featuring 140 entries covering individuals, places, events, and issues. I stumbled across a library copy... Read more »

Troubling Dreams

April 26, 2012 | 21 comments
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I keep my visions to myself.Have you any dreams you’d like to sell? Mormons tend not to keep their visions to themselves. In his recent General Conference talk “How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life,” Elder Richard G. Scott seems to be inviting Mormons to do the same with their dreams. Read more »

Polygamy 2012

April 19, 2012 | 21 comments
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Once upon a time, family law was a marginal legal topic that didn’t make many headlines the way constitutional law or criminal law so often do. But gay marriage and Prop 8 have propelled family law and marriage to the legal center stage. In an odd parallel development, “the family” has, over the last few years, moved to the center of LDS doctrine and practice as well, with “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” being the most visible evidence of that change. We are living in an intersecting perfect storm of changing family law, family doctrine, and family... Read more »

A Nation of Heretics?

April 17, 2012 | 20 comments
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Ross Douthat posted a column adapted from his new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (Free Press, 2012). Mormons are used to denigrating references — recall Mitt Romney’s response to the Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, “I’ve heard worse” — but it still has some shock value for most American Christians, who generally think they deserve a pat on the back instead of a kick in the … shin. Welcome to the club, fellow heretics. Read more »

Esoteric Mormonism: Marginal or Mainstream?

April 11, 2012 | 15 comments
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Esoteric Mormonism: Marginal or Mainstream?

I recently finished reading Samuel Brown’s In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (Oxford University Press, 2012; publisher’s page). It’s an impressive book, although I disagree with the implicit argument of the book that the esoteric branch of Joseph Smith’s eclectic and diverse theology is central to his thinking and, by extension, should be central to present-day Mormonism. It is a book anyone interested in Mormon Studies should read (twice), but probably not the first or even second book on Joseph Smith that a practicing Mormon should read. Read more »

Mormon Doctrine: Confusion or Clarity?

April 5, 2012 | 53 comments
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Mormon doctrine is showing up in unlikely places lately, including the campaign trail, where earlier this week Mitt Romney squelched a questioner’s short speech that started off quoting from the Pearl of Great Price. I suspect that will not be the last doctrinal question of this campaign. But the glare of heightened publicity and attention that comes with having an LDS candidate on the presidential ticket is making it evident that Mormon doctrine — simply what it is and what it isn’t — is just not all that clear. Read more »

Sunday Afternoon Session

April 1, 2012 | 16 comments
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President Uchtdorf conducted the closing session of General Conference. Direct quotations of a speaker’s words (based on my notes) are given in quotes; other text is my summary of the remarks given. Any text in italics represents my own editorial comment. Read more »

Saturday Priesthood Session

March 31, 2012 | 5 comments
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President Eyring conducted the Saturday evening Priesthood Session. Direct quotations (based on notes by Kent and myself) are given in quotes; all other text represents my summary of the remarks given. Text in italics is my own editorial comment. I have highlighted in bold type one particularly striking thought or comment in each talk. Read more »

Saturday Afternoon Session

March 31, 2012 | 15 comments
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Saturday Afternoon Session

President Eyring conducted the Saturday afternoon session. Direct quotations of a speaker’s words (based on my notes) are given in quotes; other text represents my summary of the remarks given. Any text in italics represents my own editorial comment. Read more »

Conference Pre-Game

March 31, 2012 | one comment
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Good morning, Conference viewers. Times and Seasons will once again post session-by-session summaries of Conference by Kent and Dave. Whether you are attending in person, listening on television, iPad, or radio, or will miss a session due to conflicts, we hope the posts add something to your Conference weekend. Read more »

Notes: Mormonism and the Internet

March 29, 2012 | 9 comments
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Below are notes from today’s live-streamed presentations at Utah Valley University’s Mormonism and the Internet conference. I will bold particular comments that stand out as I listen. Readers are welcome to make additional observations in the comments. Any reader attending in person? Read more »

Mormonism: A religion of the head or of the heart?

March 22, 2012 | 13 comments
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Mormonism: A religion of the head or of the heart?

That question is not as straightforward as you might think. Garry Wills’ Head and Heart: American Christianities (Penguin Press, 2007) reviews these two different approaches and uses them to structure his history of Christianity in America. It is an effective format that helps the reader follow developments, in contrast to most histories of religion in America which are often overloaded with doctrinal and denominational details that have little interest for most contemporary readers. Read more »

Your help needed: naming Mormon ice cream

March 18, 2012 | 33 comments
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Your help needed: naming Mormon ice cream

Not too long ago, Ben and Jerry’s opened a new front in the culture wars by temporarily renaming its “Chubby Hubby” flavor as “Hubby Hubby” and highlighting this chilling act on their website. And now they’re at it again. I’m guessing that at some point the Church will respond with its own renamed flavor, which is where your collective wisdom is required. Here is a list of Ben and Jerry’s flavors. The best I could come up with is renaming Triple Caramel Chunk as Triple Temple Dunk. But I’m sure you can do better. Read more »

Review: The Book of Mormon Girl

March 15, 2012 | 79 comments
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Review: The Book of Mormon Girl

Joanna Brooks is the Chair of the Department of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University. She is the author of several books, most recently The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories From an American Faith (2012). The book is available at Amazon and at the author’s website. A short couple of hundred pages, the book is at various turns both enjoyable and troubling, as the author recounts growing up LDS in Southern California, informally leaving the LDS Church then returning to activity, then rather suddenly emerging as a leading voice of what might be termed the progressive... Read more »

The Bott Affair: Winners and Losers

March 6, 2012 | 93 comments
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It has been only one week since the initial Washington Post article quoting BYU Professor Randy Bott’s controversial statements was published. But a week is a lifetime online. While official and unofficial reactions will continue to play out over coming weeks and months, we can already see who the winners and losers are among the main players. Briefly, the winners are the LDS Church, LDS Public Affairs, LDS bloggers and columnists, the mainstream media, and the rank and file members of the Church. The losers are BYU and... Read more »

The Not-So-Great Apostasy

February 8, 2012 | 50 comments
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The Not-So-Great Apostasy

I have seen several notices publicizing an upcoming conference at BYU, Exploring Mormon Conceptions of the Apostasy. Sounds interesting, particularly in light of the one-paragraph blurb stating goals for the conference, which challenges rank and file members of the Church as well as scholars to reconsider LDS views of “the Great Apostasy”: Examining claims of historical apostasy is a pertinent task for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For the last hundred years, the Great Apostasy narrative has shaped Latter-day Saint historical assumptions, contributed to the construction of Latter-day Saint social and theological identity, and... Read more »

The Real World of the Book of Mormon

February 2, 2012 | 7 comments
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The Real World of the Book of Mormon

This is the fourth in a series of posts taking a broad look at the Book of Mormon. This post continues the discussion of the prior post, The Book of Mormon as Narrative, by considering verisimilitude. This term refers to how faithfully a text represents the real world or, to various degrees, depicts events that do not conform to the readers’ view of the real world. First, a tighter definition of verisimilitude : The semblance of truth or reality in literary works; or the literary principle that requires a consistent illusion of truth to life. The term covers... Read more »

The Book of Mormon as Narrative

January 27, 2012 | 12 comments
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The Book of Mormon as Narrative

This is the third post in a series taking a broad view of the Book of Mormon (first, second). In this post I will discuss aspects of narrative encountered in the text. Not all scripture is narrative: consider the lengthy legal codes in the Torah and the moral exhortation found in James. Not all historical accounts are in the form of a narrative, although most history books written for the popular market are narrative histories. Most novels are in the form of a narrative, including historical fiction, which adds authorial speculation to large chunks of authentic history, often mixing... Read more »

The Book of Mormon: What has it done for you lately?

January 12, 2012 | 29 comments
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Julie is posting detailed commentary and Kent is providing literary reflection; I’m afraid all I have to offer on the Book of Mormon is general observations. This week let’s talk about situating the book as a whole, not so much in terms of content and form (which I’ll address in later posts) but in terms of function and use. How does the Church use the Book of Mormon? How do you use the Book of Mormon? Read more »

Which Book of Mormon?

January 5, 2012 | 18 comments
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The flurry of posts at T&S and elsewhere around the Bloggernacle is a reminder that 2012 is Book of Mormon year in Gospel Doctrine class. Which Book of Mormon are you going to read? Read more »

Under the tree: LDS Beliefs

December 22, 2011 | 12 comments
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Under the tree: LDS Beliefs

The latest book to digest Mormon doctrine for the popular LDS audience is LDS Beliefs: A Doctrinal Reference (Deseret, 2011), by four BYU religion professors: Robert L. Millet, Camille Fronk Olson, Andrew C. Skinner, and Brent L. Top. Entries are alphabetical, with authorship and cited sources listed following each and every entry. It’s out just in time for Christmas and will no doubt find its way under the tree in many LDS homes, as well it should. The best way to summarize the strengths of this one-volume reference work is to compare and contrast it with other modern attempts... Read more »