Cornucopia

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 »

We’ve All Been Set Up

February 21, 2014 | 22 comments
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Several years ago, I read this from Elder Nelson: Read more »

Introvert Nirvana

February 15, 2014 | 15 comments
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It dawned on me today that I have achieved Introvert Nirvana in Callings Roulette:   Read more »

‘Traditional Marriage’: what are we speaking about? An anthropological view

February 12, 2014 | 87 comments
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‘Traditional Marriage’: what are we speaking about? An anthropological view

A modern Kapsiki groom, leading his bride (first one behind him) with her friends to the dancing ground No discussion in present Mormondom tops the issue of same-sex marriage. In the debates the notion of ‘traditional marriage’ is used, especially by people who want to limit marriage to a monogamous heterosexual union. Julie Smith, in her excellent guest blog, has shown that the gender division of providing and nurturing that is usually thought to be an integral part of so-called ‘traditional marriage’, does really not hold, but the notion as such is highly problematic. First, what is marriage? Like... Read more »

The Bad Side of Jesus

February 12, 2014 | 21 comments
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Last week, as we were walking to school, my 6 year old spontaneously started telling me about his latest Primary lesson.  He does this often, and usually reports the talking points accurately. “I learned about the bad side of Jesus,” he said. “Really? Jesus has a bad side?” I responded, wandering if they had talked about casting moneychangers out of the temple. “Yes. A very bad side. You know, when we were all in heaven, and he decided that one third of the spirits shouldn’t be allowed to have bodies, and that made them really sad, and Jesus did... Read more »

UPDATED: The 1st Annual Wheatley “Faith Seeking Understanding” Summer Seminar

February 11, 2014 | one comment
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UPDATE: The deadlines and notification date have been pushed out an extra month to give additional time for people to submit. The new deadline is March 28, 2014. (Notifications will go out by April 15, 2014.) The 1st Annual Wheatley “Faith Seeking Understanding” summer seminar will run from July 14 through August 1, 2014.  It is being sponsored by the Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University and is under the direction of Professor Terryl Givens, Wheatley Fellow and Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond. From the announcement: What are the general contours of Christianity’s efforts to find a... Read more »

What Are Gender Roles Good For?

February 10, 2014 | 150 comments
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2014-02-10 Grace Hopper Quote

The argument against perpetuating normative gender roles has two prongs. First, there is the argument that gender roles do not offer anything that is not available to human beings autonomously determining their own roles. Second, there is the observation that no set of gender roles applies universally. There will always be those who, because of individual nature or life circumstance, cannot conform to the prevailing gender roles. In practice, those who conform least are most marginalized. Taken together, gender roles appear to offer little substantial benefit but carry genuine cost. So what’s the case in favor of gender roles?... Read more »

Mormon Appropriation of Fundamentalism and Its Outcomes (u)

February 9, 2014 | 53 comments
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Mormon Appropriation of Fundamentalism and Its Outcomes (u)

The last post I whipped off quickly and in frustration was surprisingly well-received. This post was similarly written, and may require editing. Update: I have good reason to believe that the Ensign article in question did not and definitely does not fully reflect its author’s position. This post is not about the author, nor even the Flood itself. (For that, please go read my Flood post first.) After 16 years, however, the article’s content is still easily and prominently accessible to members, with the authority of The Ensign and his BYU position behind it, and that remains highly problematic.... Read more »

Bo Knows Heaven

February 7, 2014 | 30 comments
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So there’s my sort of neighbor big Bo, who despite owning two rock-solid Scandinavian names including, yes, Bo, doesn’t exactly seem to have things rock-solidly together. Read more »

Guest Post: The Heavenly Mother Poems of Louisa “Lula” Greene Richards

February 5, 2014 | 12 comments
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Guest Post: The Heavenly Mother Poems of Louisa “Lula” Greene Richards

Guest poster Martin Pulido is a businessman by day, LDS scholar by night, who has extensively researched Mormon belief in a Heavenly Mother. He co-authored the BYU Studies article, “A Mother There: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven,” with David Paulsen, and has organized the A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest with Caroline Kline. The “A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest” is currently looking for 2-dimensional visual arts pieces and poems that portray Heavenly Mother. The contest will accept entries up until March 4, 2014, and over $2200 in prizes will be awarded when the... Read more »

Lineage and the Book of Mormon’s Universal Audience

February 4, 2014 | 63 comments
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An excellent entry on “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies” has just appeared in the Gospel Topics section at LDS.org. It explains why studies of New World genetics can neither prove nor disprove the historical claims represented in the Book of Mormon. In the process, it provides a delightfully clear and thorough explanation of some key principles of population genetics, and of how these would apply with regard to the Book of Mormon peoples and the genetic evidence they would (or would not) leave today. Along the way it also offers some helpful observations about what the Book of... Read more »

Benjamin the Scribe: My Old Testament Gospel Doctrine column

February 4, 2014 | 6 comments
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Benjamin the Scribe: My Old Testament Gospel Doctrine column

Perhaps redundantly, I’m announcing my  Old Testament column at Patheos, called Benjamin the Scribe. I post a lesson each week, with thoughts, analysis, background, handouts, links, and articles. I also have some other things, such as a link to my other writings (in which I demask my two past internet personalities), and a screencast about the Rediscovery of  the World of the Old Testament. Given my schedule (classwork and MCAT study), most of my posts will be there instead of here for at least a few months. You can subscribe to get an update whenever a new post goes... Read more »

Orihah’s Uncle, Moriancumer

February 1, 2014 | 14 comments
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Why is the brother of Jared called the brother of Jared? He is far more important in the narrative of the Book of Ether than Jared, so why isn’t Jared called the brother of Moriancumer instead? Here’s my swipe at this much-pondered issue. One might think that Jared is more of a political leader, even though his brother is clearly the more spiritual one, and it is Jared’s political importance that makes him the one with the name recognition. At times, it looks like Jared is telling his brother what to do. Jared asks him to pray for them... Read more »

Guest Post: The Anthropology of Providing and Nurturing

January 31, 2014 | 57 comments
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This is a guest post from Julie Hartley-Moore, who has a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University.  She taught at BYU for 9 years, was a Dean at Elgin Community College in Illinois, and is now director of the Utah State University Campus in Tooele.  She is a wife and mother of two. Read more »

I am a Beggar

January 30, 2014 | 29 comments
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I am a Beggar

I am a beggar. I view King Benjamin’s discussion of the beggar as the ultimate Mormon discourse on desert and wealth. Hugh Nibley spoke much on the topic as well. By his own admission, Nibley was drawing upon King Benjamin. Mosiah Chapter 4: 16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need ; and ye will not suffer that the “beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.   17 Perhaps thou shalt say:... Read more »

Utah same-sex marriage and the international church

January 29, 2014 | 42 comments
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Utah same-sex marriage and the international church

Media around the world have been reporting the developments in Utah in relation to same-sex marriage. Nearly always the articles and broadcasts also mention the Mormon Church as the conservative force that tries to prevent same-sex marriage. What could be the effect of such reporting on the image of the Mormon Church worldwide? As far as can be known, what do church members around the world think about same-sex marriage? How will the Church deal with same-sex couples who are legally married in a growing number of countries? This (long) post tries to suggest answers to these three questions. But first,... Read more »

A Seven-Participle Pile Up in Mark 5

January 28, 2014 | 14 comments
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Mark’s writing style is characterized by parataxis, which means that he writes really short, simple sentences and then joins them together with the word “and.” (It’s the kind of thing your elementary school teachers were always trying to get you to stop doing.) Read more »

Defending Faith

January 27, 2014 | 33 comments
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Hugh Nibley

One of my heroes is Hugh Nibley. I know. I know. How cliche for a Mormon Studies guy. Though it seems almost equally cliche to dismiss Nibley. In my second semester of graduate school at the University of Utah, I took a graduate seminar in ethics and public affairs. It was a small group. I was the only active Mormon. However, most of the regular participants in the seminar were very familiar with Mormonism. Jason was a returned missionary who had served in Japan. He worked at Sam Wellers Bookstore in downtown Salt Lake City. He was gay and... Read more »

Are Prophets Superheroes?

January 27, 2014 | 19 comments
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Are Prophets Superheroes?

Superheroes are a different breed. For a lot of them, this is literal. Most of the well-known superheroes in the Marvel Universe (Fantastic Four, X-Men, Avengers, etc.) are mutants. One of the central themes is the tension between ordinary humans and those genetically gifted with extraordinary mutant powers.  Other superheroes start out as perfectly normal human beings before something happens to set them apart. Peter Parker is consecrated by the bite of a radioactive spider. The Green Lanterns are called and chosen by an ancient alien race at the center of the Universe and endowed with power rings that... Read more »