Blog Archives

For Zion – Part 3

February 17, 2015 | 5 comments
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For Zion  – Part 3

I’m honored to participate in this roundtable on Joe Spencer’s book For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope.  I’ll be tackling chapters 2 and 3 today; Adam treated chapter 1 here. Like many T&S readers, I presume, I come at this book as an amateur: I was trained in literature, not philosophy, and the densely analytical style of philosophy can be challenging — though always rewarding — for me to work through. These chapters are full of interesting ideas and new readings. Rather than react or respond to Joe’s theology here, I’m just going to do my best to summarize the... Read more »

Is excommunication a medieval solution to a modern problem?

February 13, 2015 | 53 comments
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Is excommunication a medieval solution to a modern problem?

I believe it was Joanna Brooks who first formulated the idea that “excommunication is a 19th-century solution to a 21st-century problem.” It bears the marks of her elegant, intelligent phrase-making. Since it was first uttered, this idea has fed a swelling criticism of the practice of excommunication, following from the high-profile disciplinary action against Kate Kelly and now John Dehlin. This particular criticism is separate from — though often prompted by — the specifics of the Dehlin and Kelly cases: it’s a denunciation of the practice in general, either for apostasy or for any transgression. To expel a dissident... Read more »

A Brother in Zion: One man’s unlikely journey into Mormonism

January 12, 2015 | 13 comments
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A Brother in Zion: One man’s unlikely journey into Mormonism

It was the jumpsuit that brought it all into focus, a jumpsuit much like one he had worn years before. But this jumpsuit was white. That one had been orange. Dressed in the white polyester garment, David was prepared for baptism into a new church. A fleeting glimpse of himself dressed in white seemed to capture the great changes in his life and outlook over the past months. White was his new orange. God’s voice began speaking in his heart. “You’ve been getting away with some things you’re not supposed to be doing, and it’s only by the grace... Read more »

From Benjamin Park: A Statement Regarding a Recent Review Essay

December 15, 2014 | one comment
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Today we’re pleased to share a guest post from Benjamin Park. The post refers to his review essay “The Book of Mormon and Early America’s Political and  Intellectual Traditions,” which is available to read at the Maxwell Institute site here, or as a Google document here. We have also published a follow-up comment from David Holland, whose book is one of the subjects of Park’s essay.  We have closed the post to additional comments. We will now turn the time over to Brother Park. [This is a response to the number of posts and comments dealing with a review essay of mine, “The Book... Read more »

A supplementary lesson plan for October 2014 Sharing Time, week 2

October 9, 2014 | 48 comments
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I love Primary. It’s my favorite place to serve in the Church, and if I had my way I’d serve there for the rest of my life. This month’s Sharing Time theme is “‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ Came from God to Help My Family.” Looking through the October lesson plans in the 2014 outline, week 2 caught my eye: “Marriage between a man and a woman is essential to God’s plan.”  The topic — the importance of marriage — is one that matters a lot to me. I thought that the suggested lesson plan could do... Read more »

Compassion-and-service

February 23, 2014 | 13 comments
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I recently accepted a new calling in my ward. I’m now the compassionate service leader in the Relief Society. It’s been a good change from my previous calling as gospel doctrine teacher; I’m still relatively new in the ward, and this calling allows me to meet and know the people I worship with more intimately. There is a self-interested angle to this: every so often I cause a little trouble in my wards, or contemplate doing so, and I’ve found that when I know and love individual people I can get away with saying more. Plus, you know, once... Read more »

Thinkable priesthoods, usable pasts

September 30, 2013 | 66 comments
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What can we gather from last week’s decision from Salt Lake? The content of the Priesthood session will be made accessible in real time to anybody who wants to view it online, but the live venue will be available to men only — even, presumably, non-Priesthood-holding or -worthy men. Priesthood session, in its primary form, will remain a male-only social space. It appears that the purpose of the formerly-restricted Priesthood session was not chiefly to withhold information from women, although that was the effect, but rather to preserve a single-sex social and spiritual space. Does this suggest anything about... Read more »

It’s time to change early morning seminary

September 12, 2013 | 123 comments
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School’s back in session. Several weeks of early mornings have burned through the summer sleep reservoir. Inevitably, the debate over school start times sputters to life, ignited this year by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who tweeted “Common sense to improve student achievement that too few have implemented: let teens sleep more, start school later.” Duncan’s statement references both the sleep science suggesting that teenagers’ circadian rhythms shift toward later wake and sleep times, and the small but growing initiative to delay high school bell schedules to better accommodate the students’ biological reality and, potentially, improve their academic performance.... Read more »

Mustard sandwiches and melted ice cream

April 25, 2013 | 9 comments
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This is a talk I delivered in Sacrament Meeting this past Sunday, on the topic “Using General Conference addresses in our personal study.”   At the center of Mormon self-understanding is the idea that God reveals himself in the present day, to prophets and to individuals.What, then, is the character of that continued revelation?  We’ve been studying the D&C in Sunday school this year, so we have examples close at hand. I want to look at two passages, chosen for their differences. Listen for the contrast in tone; how would you describe the flavor? Here’s the first, from section... Read more »

Twelve hundred words on pants

December 13, 2012 | 55 comments
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A few disjointed thoughts, first on the pants event itself and then on the response. I have a lot of sympathy for the goals of the pants-protest group, as I understand them. I too would like to see a broadening of Mormon femininity; I would be very pleased to see symbolic changes in practice that would underscore the spiritual equality of the genders; I think the church will benefit from a more open and more compassionate acknowledgment of Mormon feminists’ concerns. To that extent, I say Brava, sisters! I think there were some errors in the conception and planning... Read more »

Missionary Service and Mormon Femininities

October 6, 2012 | 29 comments
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I was surprised and really happy to hear about the big missionary shake-up today. I learned about it first on Facebook, since I wasn’t able to watch Saturday morning’s session, and it was fun to monitor reactions there and around the bloggernacle throughout the day. I pretty much concur with most of the assessments reported in Peggy Fletcher Stack’s great piece in the Tribune: Joanna Brooks and Neylan McBaine both had important comments about the implications of the change for increased gender equality in church governance. I would add one more thought on potential structural implications: a drastically increased... Read more »

Grant Hardy’s Subject Problem

August 16, 2011 | 27 comments
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Grant Hardy’s Subject Problem

Criticisms of the Book of Mormon generally fall into one of two categories: objections to its historical claims on the one hand, and on the other critiques of its literary style. The two prongs are often combined in a single attack, for instance in the suggestion that the awkward style of the book reflects the naïve voice of an unlettered youngster. For their part, the book’s defenders also tend to elide the two categories, arguing that passages of inelegant prose are better understood as latent Hebraisms laboring under English syntax. Most of the time, of course, devout readers of... Read more »

Mormon filmmaker explores sex and singleness at Duck Beach

May 4, 2011 | 8 comments
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Mormon filmmaker explores sex and singleness at Duck Beach

The topic of sex and the Mormon single is a perennial favorite in the bloggernacle, and recently it has drawn national attention as well. No treatment of the topic would be complete without a look at the Duck Beach phenomenon, an informal annual gathering of east coast LDS singles in North Carolina that is equal parts Jersey Shore and Temple Square. LDS filmmaker Stephen Frandsen (my cousin) and his production company Big Iron Productions have trained a thoughtful lens on this singular affair, and are currently in the process of financing and producing a documentary exploring its relevance. We’re... Read more »

Do we still teach homemaking?

April 8, 2011 | 14 comments
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A guest post from our friend and colleague emeritus, Russell Arben Fox. The title of this post isn’t a snark; it’s an open question, about which I am genuinely curious. (I’m also giving a presentation on this topic next week at the Midwest Sunstone/Restoration Studies conference, so my ulterior motive is a fishing expedition for anecdotes from the Collected Saints of the Bloggernacle.) Read more »

Introducing Adam Miller, guest blogger

December 6, 2010 | 8 comments
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Introducing Adam Miller, guest blogger

It’s my pleasure to announce that Adam Miller will join T&S as a guest blogger. Adam S. Miller is a professor of philosophy at Collin College in McKinney, Texas. He is the author of Badiou, Marion, and St Paul: Immanent Grace (Continuum, 2008), the director of the Mormon Theology Seminar (www.mormontheologyseminar.org), and a managing editor at Salt Press (www.saltpress.org). The Mormon Review recently featured his essay on the film Groundhog Day, which was highlighted here on T&S. Adam has planned a series of posts on George Handley’s recently-released book Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River.... Read more »

Faith frames the pie, and other reasons to be grateful

November 24, 2010 | 2 comments
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Faith frames the pie, and other reasons to be grateful

Today I, with millions of other home cooks around the country, will be getting frisky in the kitchen with all manner of saturated fats and simple carbohydrates as I beget a table full of gorgeous harvest pies. I make pie once a year, the day before Thanksgiving; the rest of the year I prefer my saturated fats and simple carbohydrates in other forms. But at about 4:00 on Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by a riot of dirty dishes and family, there’s nothing in this world or out of it that tastes better. Social scientists would call my Thanksgiving palate a... Read more »

What we talk about when we talk about God

October 25, 2010 | 25 comments
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What we talk about when we talk about God

Bruce Feiler’s daughter was just five when she pitched him a question right to the gut of religious experience:  “Daddy, if I speak to God, will he listen?” Feiler writes books on the Bible and God for a living, so he’d presumably given the question some thought. Nevertheless he had no good answer ready for his daughter. So he did what any loving parent would do:  answered the question with an inartful dodge, and then wrote about it in the New York Times style section. How do we answer our children’s questions about God, he asked, when we are... Read more »

Once upon a time on earth: the Church in a changing world

October 19, 2010 | 35 comments
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Once upon a time on earth: the Church in a changing world

In debates over controversial religious issues, one often encounters a certain kind of argument from history, a sort of “once upon a time” argument. Once upon a time, it’s argued, the Church considered a given practice or belief, from witchcraft to usury to the heliocentric cosmos, to be immoral, unbiblical or otherwise forbidden.  The particular practice or belief in question varies, but the structure of the argument and its implication are nearly always the same: the Church once considered such-and-such to be evil, but now it doesn’t; thus by means of a progressive trope of enlightenment, the argument proceeds,... Read more »

I thought he asked a really good question, actually.

October 8, 2010 | 54 comments
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Most of the commentary that I have read on Elder Packer’s talk (and I have not read widely) treats the decamped rhetorical question as an emotional and political flashpoint.  But I think it’s more productively understood as a confounding question of theology, even theodicy.  The removal of those nine words from the published version does nothing to resolve the underlying doctrinal problem. First let me say that I understood Elder Packer’s talk to take up implicitly but very clearly the question of the origins of homosexual desire. Others interpret it differently, but that was how I heard it at... Read more »

Halloween plays a trick on Sabbath observance

October 5, 2010 | 29 comments
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Halloween plays a trick on Sabbath observance

In October a young kid’s fancy swiftly turns to thoughts of treats. With four young kids in our home, you can guess what’s on our minds lately. At our house we celebrate a thoroughly domesticated Halloween, with no concerns about satanism or sugar, just plenty of candy corn and friendly ghosts and homely, homemade costumes. And trick-or-treating. But this year the calendar plays a trick on us: Halloween falls on a Sunday. We observe the Sabbath in a fairly rigorous but, I hope, joyful and worshipful way: we commune at Church, and we rest, read, play, walk, bike, share... Read more »

LDS Church unveils green meetinghouse prototype

April 30, 2010 | 44 comments
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LDS Church unveils green meetinghouse prototype

This week the presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unveiled the first solar-powered LDS meetinghouse in Farmington, Utah. The building is one of five green prototypes being developed for LDS chapels in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada—and the building program will eventually expand across the US and around the world. The official press release cites other environmentally-friendly building innovations in the Farmington facility, including high efficiency heating and cooling system that can interface with the solar power equipment, xeriscaped grounds,  plumbing fixtures that cut water use by more than 50 percent, and Low-E Solarban 70... Read more »

At home on Earth, in any corner of the garden

April 23, 2010 | 7 comments
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At home on Earth, in any corner of the garden

I posted this on Civil Religion as an introduction to Earth and environmentalism in Mormon teaching and experience. Thought it might be of interest here, as well. Earth played a prominent role in Joseph Smith’s vision of the cosmos, beginning with the importance of Creation in what we call “the plan of salvation”.  The Genesis creation account is central to LDS temple liturgy, and our latter-day scriptures reiterate and elaborate that account in several key theological passages.  In Joseph’s understanding, the creation of the earth was collaborative and artisanal: Earth was not created ex nihilo, but organized from existing... Read more »

The eighth circle of Paradise: Saint Damien of Molokai and Jonathan Napela in Kalaupapa

April 21, 2010 | 12 comments
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The eighth circle of Paradise: Saint Damien of Molokai and Jonathan Napela in Kalaupapa

Sunday evening I attended a screening of a preliminary cut of the documentary “The Soul of Kalaupapa.”  The film examines the ecumenical legacy of the leper’s colony  on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.  Kalaupapa was brought to recent prominence by last year’s canonization of Saint Damien of Molokai, the key figure in the community’s history.  Fred Woods, a producer of the film and an historian whose research focuses on Kalaupapa, presented the film and followed it with a lecture on the topic. The history of the place is compelling, and heartbreaking.  Founded in 1865 on an isolated peninsula of... Read more »

Mastering the art of Mormon cooking

March 26, 2010 | 69 comments
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Mastering the art of Mormon cooking

The Atlantic’s food channel recently posted an article entitled Jello Love: A Guide to Mormon Cuisine (my co-blogger kindly linked to it in the sidebar).  The author lived in Utah for a time as child, and she knows whereof she speaks.  The piece is charming, nostalgic and mostly reality-based.  But I blog, therefore I quibble. Classic Mormon fare seems to have crystallized as a cuisine in the 70s or 80s, though I couldn’t tell you why that’s so.  In a lot of ways, its provenance is a bit of a mystery:  I doubt that any of the dishes originated... Read more »