Mormon Thought

Doctrine – Theology – Philosophy

Making Mormons in the 21st Century

May 5, 2011 | 24 comments
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Jan Shipps always has something interesting to say about Mormonism. An essay you might not have run across is “Making Saints: In the Early Days and the Latter Days,” in Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science Perspectives (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1994). It turns out that becoming a Latter-day Saint (or acquiring the characteristics of Mormon ethnicity) involves more than just conversion or joining the Church. Read more »

Debating Mormonism

April 21, 2011 | 36 comments
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A few weeks ago I judged several rounds of a debating tournament held at the local high school. Teams from all over the state participated. Imagine walking by a high school cafeteria and seeing a couple of hundred students dressed in suits and skirts, chattering like all kids do but also pouring over notes and outlines for the upcoming matches. It was an impressive sight. Read more »

Reading Scripture in the 21st Century

April 16, 2011 | 18 comments
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Reading Scripture in the 21st Century

I recently read Thinking Through Our Faith: Theology for Twenty-first-Century Christians (Abingdon Press, 1998) by C. David Grant, a professor of religion at TCU. The book might be described as a short prologue to a 21st-century approach to theology, one that takes full account of science, historical criticism, and pluralism — in short, the sort of book you probably would not encounter in a BYU undergraduate religion class. Read more »

Regime Change in the LDS Church

April 6, 2011 | 19 comments
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I recently finished America’s Three Regimes: A New Political History (OUP, 2007) by Morton Keller, a retired history prof at Brandeis. The author suggests there have been three enduring American political regimes: a deferential-republican regime that lasted from the Revolution until the emergence of true party politics (Whigs and Democrats) during the 1830s; a party-democratic regime marked by strong party identification and increasing voter mobilization that lasted until roughly the Great Depression; and a populist-bureaucratic regime that saw the rise of big government, the rise of the independent media, and the decline of party identification and effectiveness. Can LDS... Read more »

The Implied Statistical Report, 2010

April 5, 2011 | 16 comments
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The Implied Statistical Report, 2010

A couple of years ago my post The Implied Statistical Report, 2008, looked at what can be learned from a detailed examination of the data the Church releases each April Conference. This conferences’ data includes an additional statistic not found in earlier reports, the number of Church Service Missionaries, which led me to look again at the statistics to see if I might find something else. Read more »

Sunday Morning Session

April 3, 2011 | 2 comments
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Sunday Morning Session

President Henry B. Eyring conducting. Discourses by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder Paul B. Johnson, Bishop H. David Burton, Sister Silvia H. Allred, Elder David A. Bednar and President Thomas S. Monson. Perhaps even more so than previous sessions, the theme of this session was the Church Welfare program. President Eyring mentioned the 75th anniversary of Church Welfare in his opening remarks, and the remarks of both Bishop Burton and Sister Allred focused on Welfare. Read more »

Saturday Afternoon Session

April 2, 2011 | 5 comments
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Saturday Afternoon Session

Pres. Uchtdorf conducted again, and following the customary audit report and statistical report, talks were given by Elder Boyd K. Packer, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Russell J. Maynes, Elder Cecil O. Samuelsen, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder M. Russell Ballard. Read more »

A tool for Conference analysis

March 30, 2011 | 17 comments
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A tool for Conference analysis

While we know that gospel principles are eternal, we must also admit that the language used to describe them changes over time. And now we have a tool for discovering and analyzing how Church leaders have changed their descriptions of the gospel over the past 160 years. Read more »

Balancing Political Positions with the Church and the Gospel

March 29, 2011 | 106 comments
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Balancing Political Positions with the Church and the Gospel

My earliest memory of conflict over Church decisions came because of a local stake division and boundary changes.I remember my mother venting about how one high councilor in one stake prevented the boundary change from following local political boundaries, which would have, in my mother’s view, give Church members a more unified voice in local politics. Read more »

Applying the Golden Rule Collectively

March 15, 2011 | 39 comments
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Applying the Golden Rule Collectively

Christian religions, in general, believe in what is widely known as the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In fact, as I understand it, most belief systems have some version of this idea. It seems to me that it is usually understood individually. But I have to believe that we should also apply it to groups — other countries, other peoples, other races, other sports teams… and other religions. Read more »

Tsunami

March 14, 2011 | 26 comments
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Tsunami

I am sure that many of you have been following the stunning events in Japan: earthquake, tsunami, meltdown. Our first personal reaction to such events is always concern and sympathy for those swept up in the ongoing human tragedy. The first LDS institutional response, when resources are available, is to forward relief supplies and helping hands to those in need of assistance. But at some later point comes personal and institutional reflection. Is this just the sort of natural tragedy that happens from time to time, or is it a divine sign of the end times? Or both? Read more »

International Bibliography 2010

February 28, 2011 | 16 comments
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International Bibliography 2010

With the growth of the LDS Church worldwide, I think few academics of Mormonism disagree that the Church’s international progress deserve more attention. Even so, I was surprised when I compiled a list of international publications from last year. The list is substantial. Read more »

Peace

February 20, 2011 | 20 comments
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Peace

Sometimes unintentional mistakes lead to interesting lines of thought. A few weeks ago I misheard a speaker in an LDS meeting. The speaker was quoting John 14:27, and either because of the speaker’s mispronunciation or my imperfect hearing, I heard the word “live” instead of the word “leave.” This lead me to think about what it means to live in peace. Read more »

Challenges of Church History

February 18, 2011 | 12 comments
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Just finished A Brief History of History: Great Historians and the Epic Quest to Explain the Past (The Lyons Press, 2008) by Colin Wells. It is a quick review of all those names you have heard a time or two (Thucydides, Tacitus, Guicciardini, Ranke, Burckhardt, Turner, Braudel, etc.) woven together into a narrative. Favorite quote: “History is everywhere; we live in it.” The comments in the book that are worth discussing at an LDS blog concern the challenges of writing Church History. Read more »

Notable Race-Related Changes to Footnotes and Chapter Headings in the Standard Works

February 2, 2011 | 145 comments
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Marvin Perkins is a Latter-day Saint music producer who is currently the Public Affairs Co-chair for the Genesis Group and who has worked to nurture understanding between African Americans and Latter-day Saints and attack misconceptions (see our 12 Questions series with Brother Perkins from 2009).  This morning, Brother Perkins circulated the following email to his “Blacks in the Scriptures” listserve (which is re-posted here with his permission): ______________________________ Friends, Many of you have recognized the new LDS.org website.  Some of you have recognized that with the new site also came changes to chapter headings and footnotes in the scriptures. ... Read more »

New Mormon Studies Journal starts in April

February 2, 2011 | 32 comments
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New Mormon Studies Journal starts in April

The Claremont Graduate School’s Mormon Studies program has produced another contribution to the study of Mormonism: a student-run on-line journal. Which makes me wonder, how many Mormon Studies journals can be supported? Read more »

Apportionment tomorrow likely means more Mormons in U. S. Congress

December 20, 2010 | 13 comments
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Apportionment tomorrow likely means more Mormons in U. S. Congress

On December 21st the U.S. Census Bureau will release the initial results of the 2010 census and indicate which states will gain members of Congress and which states will lose members of Congress. From the estimates made by third parties, it seems likely that the number of Mormons in Congress will increase as a result. Read more »

Church and Family

December 1, 2010 | 26 comments
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After a flurry of posts related to the new edition of the CHI (now titled Handbook 1 and Handbook 2), the Bloggernacle has fallen silent. (The Salt Lake Tribune has followed up with a helpful article.) One of the new features of Handbook 2 (“H2″) highlighted in the worldwide training broadcast is the three introductory chapters that provide a foundational and doctrinal context for the guidance given in the balance of the book. I am going to note a few statements given in the four pages of Chapter 1, “Families and the Church in God’s Plan,” with short comments... Read more »

Downgrading Doctrine

November 22, 2010 | 20 comments
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Here is a second post (see No. 1) drawn from Stephen Prothero’s God Is Not One (HarperOne, 2010). In Chapter 7, titled Judaism: The Way of Exile and Return, Prothero comments on how ritual and ethics receive greater emphasis in Judaism and doctrine receives less emphasis than in, for example, Christianity. I wonder to what extent this is also true of Mormonism. Noting how narrative Exodus is followed immediately by the detailed legal and ethical recitations in Leviticus, Prothero notes that Judaism is “about both story and law,” and that Judaism stresses “doing over believing, orthopraxy over orthodoxy.” The... Read more »

Mormonism in God Is Not One

November 12, 2010 | 26 comments
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I’ve been reading Stephen Prothero’s new book, God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World — and Why Their Differences Matter (HarperOne, 2010). I’m rather enjoying it, which is a bit of a surprise given that I’m not generally a religions of the world kind of guy. Anyway, Prothero devoted a generous two pages in his 34-page chapter on Christianity to Mormonism and said some refreshingly pleasant things about us. 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 »

Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?

October 7, 2010 | 145 comments
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It’s a vexing question, asked frequently and nearly always plaintively. President Boyd K. Packer asked it rhetorically this week, supporting and strongly affirming the church’s stance on sexuality and marriage. He stated: We teach the standard of moral conduct that will protect us from Satan’s many substitutes and counterfeits for marriage. We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. From The Book of Mormon we learn that wickedness never was happiness. Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they... Read more »

In Praise of Heavenly Mother

October 6, 2010 | 141 comments
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In Praise of Heavenly Mother

I had a rather formative and utterly unique experience in Elders Quorum a few years ago. I taught the Mother’s Day lesson and at the end, after bearing my testimony, not one soul said “Amen.” Read more »