A Kingdom of Priests

March 19, 2014 | 21 comments

On 30 March 1842, Joseph Smith spoke to the Relief Society. He said that he “was going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day— as in Pauls day” (Citation). Read more »

Some Ironies of Continuing Revelation

March 17, 2014 | 21 comments

I was recently having a conversation with an orthodox Jewish law professor about the challenges faced by Mormons and orthodox Jews as they seek to adapt their religion to life in liberal societies. He was struck by the parallels between Jewish and Mormon discussions, and then said, “Of course, I assume that the idea of continuing revelation makes things much different for Mormons.” His comment got me thinking, and here’s what I wrote in response: Chaim, You’d think that ideas of continuing revelation would make discussions of change — including basic theological and liturgical change — easier for Mormons,... Read more »

Human Evolution: Problems and Possibilities

March 17, 2014 | 35 comments
2014-03-17 Sun Over Earth

I agree with Jonathan Green’s description of how most Mormons tend to think about evolution vs. creation. To recap, we tend to: Affirm an active role for God in the creation of human beings Accept basic science as it relates to genetics, natural selection, geology, etc. Reject attempts to force an either/or choice between points 1 and 2. As a general rule, Mormons are happy to embrace science and religion, and do not see a necessary conflict between the two. When it comes to the usual hullaballoo over religion vs. science, this is certainly correct. There just isn’t any... Read more »

The Desolation of Noah: An Unexpected Explanation

March 13, 2014 | 38 comments
Hi, I'm Noah.

It seems like we’re being inundated with discussions about Noah lately. A major motion picture is set to discuss the tale of Noah and the Ark — but the picture will also include an unusual disclaimer stating that it shouldn’t be seen as the real Noah story. Meanwhile, the Noah story itself faces a rising tide of criticism, with Bill Nye (the Science Guy) publicly ridiculing the story on national television. In response to that wave of criticism, some writers have floated defenses of the Noah account. For instance, at Meridian Magazine, writer Ronald Millett gives an in-depth discussion... Read more »

Fallibility, Trust, and Commercial Development

March 10, 2014 | 108 comments
2014-03-10 Philly Dev Site

I’ve written about the fallibility of our leaders before (here, here, and here) because I think it’s important for us as members to develop greater spiritual independence and because the unrealistic expectations held for the leaders (as often by the critics as by the devout) set people up for unnecessary disappointment. But the concept of fallibility, like the even trendier concept of doubt, can be overplayed. Leaders are fallible, yes, but that doesn’t preclude room for trust. The proximate cause of my ruminations was the announcement of the Church’s addition of a chapel and a commercial apartment tower next... Read more »

What are the best Ensign articles?

March 9, 2014 | 25 comments

We have four missionaries in our ward, with ipads. They have complete access to the library, but (per their mission president’s wishes) little else in terms of reading/enrichment material. I keep mentioning different books, as is my wont (see here, here, and here), and telling them “all you need to do is read,” so they’ve been frustrated at the apparent lack of access to “the good stuff.”  Read more »

Ordain Women – the Joke Is On You

March 8, 2014 | 63 comments
Ordain Women – the Joke Is On You

I just read the “hilarious” post on Andy Kano’s blog titled: Some LDS Women Want The Priesthood? Well LDS Men Have Some Requests Too. If you don’t want to read it, in a nutshell it’s a “comical” slapdown of Ordain Women in which he demands equality by, you know, providing a room where men can nurse their babies (I mean who wants to see all that exposed chest hair!), adding padded priesthood room chairs, and equalizing other disparities that he, apparently, thinks (in that über gut-busting way) are equivalent to not being able to share in the power of... Read more »

Why Equality is a Feeling

March 7, 2014 | 102 comments

This is a little long. Bear with me. “Equality is not a feeling” has emerged as something of a slogan among some Mormon feminists. It’s offered as a reply to those who insist that many (most?) Mormon women feel loved and valued within the Church, aren’t pushing for radical reforms, or the like. These women don’t feel unequal. But, equality is not a feeling. What might it mean to say that equality isn’t a feeling? It seems to me that there are two possible ways of understanding this claim. The first is that equality is an objective, empirical judgment... Read more »

Supernatural Selection

March 7, 2014 | 77 comments
Supernatural Selection

If I had to estimate what the median Mormon adult currently thinks about the origin of life, or the model that the church as an institution is most comfortable with, I would describe it as non-exclusive evolution through supernatural selection. Read more »

The Ninety and Nine

March 5, 2014 | 7 comments
The Ninety and Nine

Christ can only go out after the lone lamb if he has some confidence that the other ninety-nine are in safe pastures, a protected flock. Read more »

“I want to do it.” Priesthood, Care, and a Little Girl.

March 4, 2014 | 61 comments
Geneva (8) at Huntington Beach

It was the day before the first day of school. That meant is was time for the annual “back-to-school” father’s blessings. This has been a tradition in our house, as it is with many families. However, that year felt a little different. Todd, my oldest , was starting middle school. Geneva, my youngest, was starting full-day Kindergarten. It is a year of transition. Shem, the new 4th grader, went first. I will not go into the details of the blessings themselves, but I love the intimacy of such blessings. I love the feel of their hair as I place... Read more »

Awkward Discourse, Awkward Practice

March 3, 2014 | 23 comments
Awkward Discourse, Awkward Practice

Let me say up front that I’m a big fan of the Church’s new Gospel Topics section. And the most recent entry “Becoming Like God” is perhaps my favorite. I thought the author contextualized the topic well, and I especially liked the section entitled “How do Latter-day Saints envision exaltation?” In part because of the nature of the topic, and in part because the author courageously included two full paragraphs on our Heavenly Parents, however, this article manifests our incongruent, sometimes incoherent, and at the least wholly awkward way of discussing all things women in the Church. There’s nothing... Read more »

“I am glad we pay our tithing.”

February 28, 2014 | 42 comments

My wife Lyndee got an email at work a few weeks ago. It turns out that they have been paying her the wrong amount. They have been paying her significantly less than they should have been paid They had placed her incorrectly on the pay scale. Lyndee has two bachelors degrees and they were only paying her for one. We knew this was the case but she had been told that this was how the district paid new teachers. This development will move her over two columns on the school districts pay scale. Somebody had told her that the... Read more »

An Answer for Daniel Peterson

February 28, 2014 | no comments

Brother Peterson, You asked a question on your blog that I will answer here. Read more »

An Offhand Apologia of Sorts, and some Reflections

February 26, 2014 | 51 comments

I exchange emails with a good number of LDS people. Some of them are simply looking for information, a pointer to the right article or scripture or background. Some of them are finding their spiritual footing to not be as firm as it used to be, which is highly disconcerting. No one enjoys just trying to stay afloat while the waves keep breaking over you. One such exchange recently ended with a personal question, given X, Y, and Z, why do *you* stay? It was a busy day, and I only had five minutes (dangerous to write something serious... Read more »

Thanking God’s Advocates, the Promoters of the Cause

February 24, 2014 | 27 comments
2014-02-23 John_Martin_-_Sodom_and_Gomorrah

Today in Gospel Doctrine I played the role of Devil’s advocate. I spent the last 10 or 15 minutes leading a discussion about the children who died when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, when God sent the Flood, when Christ died on the cross and Nephite cities were burned, buried, and sunk, and when Alma and Amulek watched as women and children were burned to death before their eyes. Several of the commenters sought to defend God’s justice using familiar arguments (like the idea that there are some things worse than death) or evasions (like the idea that maybe... Read more »


February 23, 2014 | 13 comments

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 »

We’ve All Been Set Up

February 21, 2014 | 22 comments
You have to turn and look.

We’ve all been set up for failure. Consider the plan: go to Earth and obey the commandments.  How likely is that to turn out well?  Add in that part with Adam, Eve, and the fruit and I think it is pretty clear that this was a set up to force us to… turn to God.  Failure makes us humble.  Repentance changes our hearts.  Which is the goal: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. So when someone complains about a standard being too high or that we are setting people up for failure by expecting things like chastity, honesty, modesty, tithing... Read more »

Success in Life

February 19, 2014 | 25 comments

My daughter just turned 12, and her new Young Women’s advisor and the  one other Beehive in the ward came over to introduce her to the program, give her a slew of pamphlets, and welcome her to Young Women. After they left, I read through the Guidebook for Parents and Leaders of Youth that they had left for me. It is a nice little booklet. In the section “Role of Parents” it states: “Your sons and daughters are children of God who have great potential. Although the Church has many leaders and resources to help them, you as their... Read more »

Raising an Ensign: Challenges of Scholarship on Mormonism at BYU

February 18, 2014 | 29 comments

In his recent First Things article, Ralph Hancock argues that it is vital to the mission of BYU that it produce scholarship articulating a distinctively Mormon worldview, as a major part of its regular work. What would it take for BYU to respond seriously to Hancock’s call? Hancock notes that there is much more one would need to consider on the way to concrete action than what he is able to say in a five page article. As things stand, for such a large, well-funded, highly religious university, BYU is doing surprisingly little on this front. For the vast... Read more »

Sounding the Secularist Alarm at BYU

February 17, 2014 | 94 comments

Ralph Hancock has a provocative article in the March edition of First Things in which he raises concerns about the specialization/secularization he sees occurring at Brigham Young University: “For some decades, BYU had managed a compromise between the academic mainstream and its own aspiration to a distinctive mission.  urged the faculty to resist hyper-specialization, by which we seek merely to ‘imitate others or win their approval,’ and instead to assume the responsibility of ‘those educated and spiritual and wise sort, sift, prioritize, integrate, and give some sense of wholeness… to great eternal truths.’ But the... Read more »

Men, Women, and Modesty

February 17, 2014 | 96 comments

Imagine that every single talk you ever heard about missionary work was given by someone who had not served a mission or every single talk about fasting was from someone who (let’s say for health reasons) had never fasted. It is reasonable to suspect that our rhetoric about missionary work or fasting would, in these circumstances, sound very, very different. Currently, we define modesty as being (almost) solely applicable to females, and yet the discourse is (almost) entirely shaped by people who are not female. I think this has led us to several problems. Read more »

Unconditional Love

February 16, 2014 | 64 comments

Several years ago, I read this from Elder Nelson: Read more »

Introvert Nirvana

February 15, 2014 | 15 comments

It dawned on me today that I have achieved Introvert Nirvana in Callings Roulette:   Read more »