Blog Archives

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 »

James Alison and the reconciled discourse of dissent

March 24, 2010 | 11 comments
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James Alison and the reconciled discourse of dissent

Last week a friend invited me to attend a lecture sponsored by the  SLU Theology Club and featuring James Alison, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian.  Alison grew up in Britain, was raised in a low-church Protestant tradition, converted to Catholicism, and now resides in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, living as an openly gay Catholic and working with AIDS patients. That collision of proper nouns seemed provocative. The talk was to be titled “The Gift of the Spirit and the Shape of Belonging: Meditations on the Church as Ecclesial Sign.”  Even more promising: Catholic ecclesiology shares something in common with its... Read more »

Cardinal George on religious freedom at BYU

March 18, 2010 | 14 comments
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Cardinal George on religious freedom at BYU

A loyal reader requested that I blog about His Eminence Francis Cardinal George’s speech at Brigham Young University last month, available to download here.  Ever the faithful servant of my reading public, all three of you, I respond with alacrity! BYU often invites prominent figures to address the university community on topics of mutual interest, and Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, graciously contributed to the long-running series with his February 23 remarks entitled “Catholics and Latter-day Saints: Partners in the defense of religious freedom.” Cardinal George framed his remarks within the cooperative efforts... Read more »

Reading lessons: interfaith, intertext, intersect

February 2, 2010 | 14 comments
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Reading lessons: interfaith, intertext, intersect

Last Saturday morning I attended an interfaith Torah study session, warmly hosted at the Shaare Emeth congregation and jointly led by LDS and Jewish presenters. The discussion focused on the week’s Torah portion, parashat bo, which recounts the story in Exodus 10 of the plagues visited on Pharaoh at his refusal to free the Israelites. It’s a challenging tale, both narratively and ethically, and Rabbi John Borak and Mark Paredes each shed some light on the special difficulties and rewards of those verses. As I listened to the speakers’ presentations, I was impressed, beyond any particular interpretive insight into... Read more »

A New World Christmas

January 6, 2010 | 7 comments
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A New World Christmas

As I’ve mentioned before, Mormons don’t follow the traditional liturgical calendar, but that won’t stop me from using this January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas and the feast of Epiphany or Three Kings Day, as a happy occasion to put up the one last Christmas post that escaped December. (It’s also a great reason to enjoy my Christmas decorations—and avoid the chore of taking them down—for just one… more… night.) Several days before Christmas I attended a concert by the St Louis Chamber Chorus at the Cathedral Basilica. I’ve attended this concert most years that I’ve lived in... Read more »

The globe and the gourd: Christianity in a global world

December 14, 2009 | 9 comments
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The globe and the gourd: Christianity in a global world

It’s a small object, not a simple one: a Peruvian nativity carving, fashioned inside a gourd from intricate wood figures painted in bright colors. It was on display at the creche festival last weekend; I lingered over it for a moment, pointed out the tiny llama to my children, and moved on long before its meaning had bloomed. The object is a simple commemoration of Jesus’ birth, that much we read on its surface. But it’s also a tale of the complex intersection of Christianity and globalization in the modern world. Any powerful set of ideas will make several... Read more »

A weak defense of the consumer’s Christmas

December 3, 2009 | 27 comments
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A weak defense of the consumer’s Christmas

My co-blogger Sharon put up a most enjoyable post a few weeks ago. I liked it so much that I’m going to pay it the compliment of differing with one or two of its points. (In blog etiquette, after all, quibbling is the highest form of flattery.) Sharon points us toward a Christian anti-consumerist movement called Advent Conspiracy, which takes as is raison d’etre an apparent cultural contradiction. “What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists,” the site’s copy reads. “What if... Read more »

What do we mean by “families are forever”?

November 16, 2009 | 45 comments
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Over at my other blog, a reader posted the following question: On a related LDS family matter, many of us have been confronted by Mormon missionaries with a message, or even a free DVD, of “Families are Forever.” A sincere, respectful question: isn’t this motto a solution in search of a problem? That is, what Christian believes there is separation or division among the blessed in heaven? Of course, Jesus himself teaches in extremely plain and simple terms, and Christian history has always held, that there is no marriage in heaven as we know marriage. But, shared Christian belief... Read more »

The very thought is sweet

November 2, 2009 | 6 comments
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Leftover Halloween candy languishes in its plastic pumpkin on top of the refrigerator; for the moment, the kids are satiated and I’m being good. All the sugar brings to mind a favorite hymn, “Jesus, the very thought of thee,” a few stanzas of which are here: Jesus, the very thought of Thee With sweetness fills the breast; But sweeter far Thy face to see, And in Thy presence rest. Read more »

Day of the Dead, Lord of Life

October 30, 2009 | 3 comments
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cross posted at Civil Religion “Death be not proud,” taunted John Donne. “One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, / And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.” Death interrupts our view of eternity, a fearsome jalousie obscuring a future we must approach. Like Donne, we console and distract ourselves by turns with bravado, with pleasure, with laughter and—finally, always—with God. Read more »

St Louis Mormon Historical Society meets Friday

October 29, 2009 | 3 comments
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Trivia fact for the day: the Mormon church operated a newspaper, the St. Louis Luminary, from November 1854 to December 1855. The periodical served the large community of transient Latter-day Saints, many of whom stopped in St Louis to replenish their strength (and funds) after the first leg of their journey to the Salt Lake Valley. In 1855, the paper commented, “There is probably no city in the world where Latter-day Saints are more respected, and where they may sooner obtain an outfit for Utah. … The hand of the Lord is in these things.” If you’re intrigued, and... Read more »

Human life, religious voices and the public square

October 21, 2009 | 38 comments
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Cross-posted at Civil Religion. Last week the New York Times published a two-part series on artificial reproductive technologies. The series makes a riveting read, as writer Stephanie Saul narrates the joys and terrors of premature birth, high order multiples, NICU stays, and—finally, sometimes—the precious goal, a baby at home with a family. Read more »

Holland and the gap, again

October 8, 2009 | 56 comments
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Leaving aside disagreements about Elder Holland’s tone and speculations about the talk’s effect on believers and skeptics—not that those are unimportant, but that they’re being vigorously played out elsewhere—I want to make a narrow point about the philosophical underpinnings* of his talk. Read more »

Conscience in the Obama Era

April 15, 2009 | 50 comments
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I linked yesterday on the sidebar to Stanley Fish’s latest editorial in the New York Times, which takes as its occasion the possibility that President Obama will revoke the “conscience clause” allowing health care providers the right to refuse to provide certain services. I thought I’d add a few thoughts here.* Read more »

Two Texts on a Summer Flood

September 15, 2008 | one comment
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Apropos of the season and storm. Read more »

Institutional obsolescence, and other tales of romance and intrigue from the history book

June 2, 2008 | 17 comments
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Last week Adam cited a widely-shared “conservative case for gay marriage.” Read more »

Book Review: The Pictograph Murders, by P.G. Karamesines

May 23, 2008 | 7 comments
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Murder most foul, in the strange natural world of southern Utah. Read more »

What is it about Mormons? Maybe history can teach us.

January 8, 2008 | 18 comments
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I first ran across Noah Feldman’s writing last year when I read his personal essay “Orthodox Paradox” in the New York Times Magazine. Read more »

Givens’ Winter Wheat

November 26, 2007 | 17 comments
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His fruitful new study provides lots to chew on this winter. Read more »

Did Laurel Thatcher Ulrich sell out?

November 15, 2007 | 70 comments
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How an obscure academic article yielded marketing gold. Read more »