Blog Archives

Literary BMGD #23: Our Missionaries

June 4, 2012 | one comment
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Literary BMGD #23: Our Missionaries

Much of the Book of Alma covers Alma’s missionary efforts in the land of the Nephites, and in this week’s chapters, Alma 8-12, he meets and preaches with his principle missionary companion, Amulek. Unlike the experiences of the sons of Mosiah, Alma and Amulek’s experiences aren’t always successful in the end. Instead, they face many tribulations, have many who refuse to believe in what they teach, very similar to what our missionaries face today. Read more »

Forbes List Update

May 31, 2012 | 8 comments
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I’m a bit behind in putting together my lists, so I won’t analyze this too much. As I’ve done with each of the major Forbes lists of the wealthy, here is a summary of the Mormons who appear on the list of the world’s billionaires that Forbes published last month. While there is certainly a bit of churn on the overall list, the Mormons on the list have remained relatively in the same place since I last looked at them in October. Read more »

Literary BMGD #22: The Christian’s Temptation and Triumph

May 28, 2012 | 2 comments
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The oft-described poverty and pride cycle in the Book of Mormon means that the peoples in Zarahemla and elsewhere repeatedly have to repent, generally in response to preaching or adversity. The first few chapters of Alma are no exception. In chapters 5-7, Alma preaches repentance, urging them to experience a “mighty change” of heart, and many Church members respond, reforming their lives. Read more »

An Un-natural ‘Natural’

May 25, 2012 | 20 comments
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An Un-natural ‘Natural’

A review of The Last Natural: Bryce Harper’s Big Gamble in Sin City and the Greatest Amateur Season Ever by Rob Miech. Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2012. 356 p. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.  The title ‘The Last Natural‘ packs a lot of meaning and connotation into a few words. While ‘natural’ clearly refers to the inherent talent that Bryce Harper seems to have, there are a few other connotations, at least in baseball. Since Harper arrives at what might be considered the end of the “steroid era,” it could be a kind of pessimistic reference to... Read more »

Literary BMGD #21: Our Kings

May 21, 2012 | 3 comments
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Literary BMGD #21: Our Kings

In the final chapter of Mosiah, King Mosiah and his people face the fundamental political question—what form of government to choose. After Mosiah demonstrates the potential problems with a monarchy, the people choose a more democratic form of government, under the rule of judges. As the first chief judge, Alma then discovers that even democracy faces difficulties. While many early Mormon poems dealt with political issues, the majority were reactions either to the persecutions in Missouri and Illinois or to the enforcement of anti-bigamy laws in Utah. The poem I found for this lesson is an exception to that... Read more »

Literary BMGD #20: No one doth know

May 14, 2012 | 2 comments
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The principal event in Mosiah 25-28, which is also beautifully and familiarly described in Alma 36, is Alma the Younger’s miraculous conversion. To capture this, I looked for a literary work in the public domain that expressed either the agony that Alma felt or the ecstasy he obtained after his acceptance of the Lord. Read more »

Who to Watch for MOTY?

May 11, 2012 | 29 comments
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Can you remember everyone who has made the news during the past year? Neither can I. As a result, when we get input each December about who should be “Mormon of the Year,” there is, I think, a bias towards recent events. If a Mormon showed up in the news during the last quarter of the year, that person is remembered. But if the person made the news only during the first quarter, no one remembers them. So what should we do? Read more »

Literary BMGD #19: Baptism

May 7, 2012 | one comment
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Literary BMGD #19: Baptism

I think the most significant event in Mosiah 18-24 is the baptism of Alma and his followers in the Waters of Mormon. There we find the great description of the Baptismal covenant, in which those baptized …are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places… This event led me to a poem by Parley P. Pratt about Baptism, a hymn that seeks to encourage non-members to partake of the ordinance. Read more »

“For I am not Embarrassed by the Writings of Mormonism …”

May 4, 2012 | 26 comments
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In an interview on A Motley Vision, Scott Hales, a Ph.D. student at the University of Cincinnati and the brains behind the recent Mormon Lit Blitz, tells two stories of introducing Mormon literature to students. The first group was dismissive of the Mormon poetry that Scott chose and read to them. But the second group enjoyed the short stories they read. What does it say that the first group was made up of Seminary students while the second group were non-Mormon university students? Read more »

Literary BMGD #18: O give me back my Prophet dear

May 1, 2012 | 6 comments
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Perhaps the most striking part of the Book of Mormon covered in lesson 18 is the martyrdom of Abinadi. Like many martyrs who have suffered since his time, Abinadi testified of what he knew to be true only to find his testimony rejected and his life taken for it. He sealed his testimony with his life. Read more »

Literary BMGD #17: The Seer

April 23, 2012 | one comment
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Literary BMGD #17: The Seer

Often LDS lessons based on the scriptures cover such a broad range of topics in the scriptures given that the stated theme of the lesson doesn’t capture what is going on in the scripture passages. While this lesson is certainly one of those times, the poem I found is really about the stated theme of the lesson: prophets, seers and revelators. In early Mormon poetry and writings, this usually referred to one person: the Prophet Joseph Smith. Where today we talk more about prophets generally, for the first 30 years of Mormonism, the prophet mostly referred to Joseph Smith... Read more »

International Bibliography 2011

April 19, 2012 | 14 comments
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International Bibliography 2011

This year I’ve again managed to put together a bibliography of international works on Mormonism. While I thought the list was substantial last year, it is much larger this year, at least in part because I think I’ve gotten better at finding what has been published. With any luck this will help call attention to the international nature of Mormonism today and to the study of Mormonism outside of the U.S. The list includes any work that talks about Mormonism more than just in passing (as far as I can tell without actually having the work in hand) and... Read more »

Literary BMGD #16: Forgiveness

April 16, 2012 | 2 comments
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Literary BMGD #16: Forgiveness

The culmination of King Benjamin’s address to his people was the “mighty change” they experienced which led them to repent and covenant to keep the commandments and to seek to do good continually. While the scripture says that they “had no more disposition to do evil,” given the later history of this people, we might surmise that the disposition didn’t last. Nor did Benjamin expect that his people would remain sinless, but instead they would likely need a disposition to seek and obtain forgiveness. I suspect that one aspect of the “mighty change” described in the Book of Mormon... Read more »

MLB Mormon Update 2012

April 13, 2012 | 56 comments
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MLB Mormon Update 2012

I’m late preparing this information for 2012, but since I’m going tonight to a game for the first time this year, I thought I’d better get this information together and post it. After a good year last year that saw two Mormons in baseball’s All-Star game and at one point perhaps 13 active players who are Mormon, the prospects for this year look promising, but not at the level of 2010. Read more »

The Implied Statistical Report 2011

April 11, 2012 | 30 comments
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The Implied Statistical Report 2011

Over the past few years I’ve put together an analysis of the cumulative information in the Church’s statistical reports. Three years ago I posted The Implied Statistical Report, 2008, and last year I titled my analysis The Implied Statistical Report, 2010. Over this time I’ve tried to improve my methods and the data available, collecting data from a few different sources. This year I’ve again looked at the data and discovered something unexpected: The Church’s real growth is actually faster in the U.S. and Canada than it is in the rest of the world. Read more »

Literary BMGD #15: If I Had Time

April 9, 2012 | 4 comments
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Literary BMGD #15: If I Had Time

King Benjamin’s oft-cited dictum that service to our fellow man is service to God is well known among Mormons. And, if surveys like the recent University of Pennsylvania survey are accurate, Mormons do quite well putting the idea in practice. Still, better than others doesn’t mean that we are where we should be or ought to be. And, like all humans, we have our rationales for failure to act. So perhaps a poem that addresses our failures will work well with Book of Mormon lesson #15. Read more »

Literary BMGD #14: Awake! ye Saints of God awake!

April 2, 2012 | 3 comments
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Literary BMGD #14: Awake! ye Saints of God awake!

Perhaps the most dramatic incident in gospel doctrine lesson #14 is Enos’ prayer; an example that has no doubt led many LDS Church members to wonder about their persistence and perseverance in prayer. Indeed, Enos’ story of his prayer is generally taken as a lesson in how to pray and what prayer means. It might also be said that Mormonism began with a prayer, and an answer to that prayer that came by way of a vision. That fact, as well as many other examples of prayer, is common in Mormon literature. However, few poems actually discuss the role... Read more »

Sunday Morning Session

April 1, 2012 | 11 comments
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Sunday Morning Session

President Eyring conducted the Sunday morning session, featuring talks by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Sister Julie B. Beck, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and President Thomas S. Monson. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; all other text represents my summary of the remarks given. Parenthetical comments and discussion notes at the end of the post in italics are my own editorial comments. Mormon Tabernacle Choir: Teach me to Walk in the Light of His Love President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, on broken relationships... Read more »

Saturday Morning Session

March 31, 2012 | 8 comments
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President Uchtdorf conducted the Saturday morning session, featuring talks by President Boyd K Packer, Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, Elder Paul E. Colliger, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and President Eyring, with brief introductory remarks by President Monson. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; all other text represents my summary of the remarks given. Parenthetical comments and discussion notes at the end of the post in italics are my own editorial comments. Read more »

A Mormon Mirage Disrupted

March 27, 2012 | 6 comments
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A Mormon Mirage Disrupted

We’re all familiar with unintended consequences. Recent news reports claim that the unintended consequence of last year’s Libyan civil war, which resulted in the death of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi. According to these reports, many of Gaddafi’s trained warriors were ethnic Tuaregs from northern Mali. When they returned after the Libyan war, these fighters joined the long-simmering Tuareg rebellion, which heated up suddenly in January. The result? Last week a group of Malian soldiers staged a coup, ousted the Malian government, and cancelled the forthcoming elections. Yes, the same elections that featured an LDS candidate, Yeah Samake. Read more »

All History is Local: A Review of Tiki and Temple by Marjorie Newton [minor update]

March 23, 2012 | 16 comments
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All History is Local: A Review of Tiki and Temple by Marjorie Newton [minor update]

Newton, Marjorie. Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854–1958. Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2012. Paperback. 343 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58958-1210. $ 29.95. Former Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives, “Tip” O’Neill, is well known for saying All politics is local. By that he meant that voters choose who they support based on how it effects them locally, instead of on major national ideological issues. While how true this is may be debatable (don’t here, its off topic), I think it extends to history also. All history is local. Read more »

Call for Papers: IV Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference

March 19, 2012 | 4 comments
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IV Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference Annual Conference of the ABEM (Associação Brasileira de Estudos Mórmons) Theme “The Relationship between Headquarters and Periphery in the LDS Church” January 19, 2013 São Paulo, Brazil   Call for Papers In 1830, Joseph Smith organized the Church of Christ in Manchester, New York State, when the movement had only three distinct congregations: one in Manchester / Palmyra, another in South Bainbridge (NY) and third in Harmony (PA). In just over a year, Smith consolidated the three congregations in the area of a fourth and new congregation, directing all his followers to move to... Read more »

Literary BMGD #13: Pratt’s Historical Sketch

March 19, 2012 | no comments
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While eclipsed by the Iron Rod imagery in Nephi, the Olive Tree imagery in Jacob is still well-known and referred to frequently. Like so much of Mormon theology, it attempts to give an explanation for the whole swath of human history and show that we are in the last days. Since both images are unique to the Book of Mormon, they are only found in Mormon sources. The earliest use of the Olive Tree imagery in literature is from Parley P. Pratt, who included it in his poem, Historical Sketch from the Creation to the Present Day. This poem... Read more »

Don’t forget the theological issue in posthumous baptisms

March 14, 2012 | 30 comments
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It occurred to me the other day when I read Givens’ beautiful description of why we perform ordinances for the dead that our response to some critics of the practice of posthumous baptism may be too defensive. In response to those who believe that baptism or some other ordinance or event is required to enter God’s Kingdom, shouldn’t we go on the offensive and ask them what they are doing about those who were never baptized? Near as I can tell, hundreds of millions, if not billions, of humans have died without even having heard the gospel of any... Read more »

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