Literary OTGD #30: Strength by Mabel Jones

July 20, 2014 | one comment
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What benefit do we get from the temple? Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #30 covers two renewals of the temple in ancient Israel; that of Hezekaih and that of his great grandson, Josiah. It also gives the example of Hezekiah’s fending off the Assyrians with the help of the angel of the Lord following his cleansing of the temple. This apparently comes because of his righteousness. Could it be the indirect result of cleansing the temple? Does the temple lend us strength? The following sonnet sees strength in the temple, comparing its outward appearance with the inward strength it... Read more »

A Baseball Team in Every Ward

July 19, 2014 | no comments
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A Baseball Team in Every Ward

In the late 16th century Henry IV of France expressed a desire that everyone in his realm would “have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” That idea showed up again in Herbert Hoover’s promise of a “chicken in every pot”—the politician’s promise of prosperity. I’m not sure whether “a baseball team in every ward” is a promise of prosperity or programming gone awry, but that is essentially what leaders of the MIA suggested in 1922—some years before Hoover made his ill-fated promise. They wrote: “Each ward should have an organized baseball club, and each stake should have an... Read more »

Literary Worship – Sacred Stones

July 18, 2014 | 8 comments
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As our one really unique Mormon holiday, Pioneer Day gives us a chance to look back and reflect on our ancestors and others who went before and made our way easier through their good lives and sacrifices. I think of it as a sort of celebration of our collective quest to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers. And because I love traveling and getting to know new places, thinking about my ancestors always involves a lot of thought about where they originally came from, and if I’m lucky, not just thought, but plane tickets and itineraries.... Read more »

Upgrading Our Lay Clergy Model

July 17, 2014 | 73 comments
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People are still trying to digest the consequences of the Kate Kelly trial. Just today FMH posted dozens of reports showing how arbitrary the LDS disciplinary process can be and Exponent posted on the feasibility of bringing some level of informed consent to the worthiness interview process. At T&S, we have recently posted and discussed in comments shortcomings of the Kelly trial and problems with apostasy trials in general. Let’s take a step back and ask a more general and hopefully less contentious question: Has the Church outgrown the lay leadership model? Are there any practical alternatives? Read more »

Faithful priesthood narratives?

July 17, 2014 | 117 comments
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Faithful priesthood narratives?

some of those who speak in opposition to women's ecclesiastical enfranchisement do so because they can't imagine what a faithful, coherent narrative of our dispensation could possibly look like if women's priesthood role were restored and developed or if they did receive the Melchizedek Priesthood Read more »

James Faulconer – Making Things Harder

July 15, 2014 | 11 comments
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James Faulconer – Making Things Harder

It seems to me that the scriptures offer two types of revelations: (1) they reveal things you didn’t already know, and (2) they reveal that you didn’t know many of the things you thought you knew. Both kinds of revelation are pivotal. And each tends to depend on the other. James Faulconer’s new series of books — The Book of Mormon Made Harder, The Doctrine and Covenants Made Harder, The Old Testament Made Harder, and The New Testament Made Harder (forthcoming) — can help on both of these fronts. Though, to be fair, they’re especially good at the latter. Read more »

Literary OTGD #29: To President Brigham Young by Eliza R. Snow

July 13, 2014 | 4 comments
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Eliza R. Snow

There are at least two potential problems when there is a leadership transition—the transition plan or procedure isn’t always known ahead of time, and those involved don’t always follow the plan or procedures. Mormonism’s initial experience with transition didn’t go well—I suspect for both reasons—and the transitions elsewhere in the scriptures often seem unexpected also. For example, the transition from Elijah to Elisha described in Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #29 is unexpected by the Israelites, who search for Elijah for three days after Elisha succeeds him. It is, of course, Mormonism’s difficult initial transition, following the death of... Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #16: My Child and Thine by Ellen Jakeman

July 9, 2014 | no comments
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Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #16: My Child and Thine by Ellen Jakeman

Parenting sometimes seems like a Mormon obsession. We believe it has a significant effect on the success of children both in this life and in the life to come, so it is often the subject of Mormon sermons and lessons, such as chapter 16 of the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. We often find inspiration for how to handle parenting issues in Mormon teachings about the nature of our Heavenly Father and our relationship to him. Mormons assume and rely on the idea that our relationship to our Heavenly Father is similar to our relationship with our earthly parents. This... Read more »

Literary OTGD #28: The Still Small Voice by George H. Brimhall

July 9, 2014 | one comment
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Literary OTGD #28: The Still Small Voice by George H. Brimhall

The story of Elijah listening for the voice of the Lord (1 Kings 19:9-13) is frequently used by Mormons to describe the manner we can receive revelation. Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #28 includes that story, along with others discussing Elijah’s acts as prophet, but focusing on his listening to the Lord to accomplish those acts. While it is undeniably important for a prophet like Elijah to listen to the still small voice, in latter days Mormons emphasize that all people should receive revelation, an idea that is found in the following poem. Read more »

A More Nuanced Approach to Scripture

July 9, 2014 | 27 comments
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I am so thankful that we are gently backing away from a literal understanding of scripture. Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #15: The Marriage Vow

July 8, 2014 | 6 comments
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While the marriage practiced in the Church and taught in chapter 15 of the Joseph Fielding Smith manual is different than that taught and practiced outside of the Temple and the Church, still the underlying commitment to marriage and many of the promises made are very similar. Even after the Church under Joseph Smith introduced celestial marriage in the 1840s, the protestant views of marriage common in the U.S. still resonated for Mormons (as they do today) In fact, the following non-Mormon poem about marriage was published in the Nauvoo Mormon newspaper The Wasp on the last day of... Read more »

Literary OTGD #27: Our Kings by Henry W. Naisbitt

July 8, 2014 | no comments
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Literary OTGD #27: Our Kings by Henry W. Naisbitt

It seems likely that today we (in most western democracies) aren’t influenced by leaders the same way that the children of Israel were by their kings (at least as described in Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #27). I suspect that all else being equal, democracy reduces the influence of individual leaders. Still, the example of the influence of their rulers, for good or evil, is instructive today. And the following poem highlights the qualifications of leaders and how their influence is felt by those that they lead. Read more »

Re-reading Job by Michael Austin

July 7, 2014 | 4 comments
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Re-reading Job by Michael Austin

Michael Austin, Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem Read more »

Laughing with the Bible

July 6, 2014 | 17 comments
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Laughing with the Bible

Humor in the Scriptures? Come on! The Gospel is serious matter, isn’t it? Yet, humor is there, sometimes clear, sometimes disguised, but the ‘third voice’—the reading of the text from the viewpoint of the author—can be very funny. We saw Balaam being topped by a she-ass, very amusing, but there is a larger example, more elaborate and veiled, but definitely funny. It is the entire Book of Jonah, the prophet-in-the-fish and the most productive way to read it might well be as a satire. Why? Let us run through the story: Jonah was called by the Lord to go... Read more »

Death and How to Live It

July 2, 2014 | 14 comments
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Death and How to Live It

I recently spent time in London with the Mormon Theology Seminar. Most of our days were occupied with work, but we had a little time to play tourist. I did all of the things that a first-time visitor to London is supposed to do: Read more »

Calibrating Apostasy

July 1, 2014 | 71 comments
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The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles released a short three-paragraph statement on Saturday June 28, 2014, posted at the Office of the First Presidency page at LDS.org. It seems like a helpful and timely statement responding to issues raised in the wake of Kate Kelly’s excommunication on June 23, 2014. In particular: Read more »

Upcoming Book Events – July 2

June 30, 2014 | 2 comments
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Books

If you’re around and interested, Zion’s Books (274 W. Center Street, Provo) will be hosting a roundtable discussion with myself, David Bokovoy, and Joseph Spencer at 6pm on Wednesday, July 2. Janiece Johnson will moderate the discussion.  Our topic: “Is Scripture Relevant?” Read more »

Comfort Those That Stand in Need

June 30, 2014 | 20 comments
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2014-06-30 Waters of Mormon

Behold, here are the waters of Mormon and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort… Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord? (Mosiah 18:8-10) This passage has been on my mind a lot over the past couple... Read more »

What Are the “Blessings of the Priesthood”?

June 28, 2014 | 111 comments
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What Are the "Blessings of the Priesthood"?

Ordain Women isn't asking to have "access to the the ordinances all need to return to God" — something both women and men clearly already have. Rather, they are asking to be ordained to the priesthood and to be allowed to administer those ordinances as men do. Read more »

David F. Holland on Women in the Church

June 27, 2014 | 78 comments
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There is no shortage of interviews, essays, rants, and diatribes that you can read on the topic of women in the LDS Church generally or on Kate Kelly’s excommunication specifically. Read more »

The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies

June 26, 2014 | 8 comments
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The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies

What I tend to lack in quality, I hope to make up for with quantity. And what I lack in training and credentials, I hope to gather and borrow. In many ways, these maxims have guided the time I’ve invested in a project called the Mormon Theology Seminar. Read more »

Literary Worship – Miracle

June 25, 2014 | 5 comments
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Miracle

I find the story of the woman with the issue of blood, found in all three Synoptic Gospels, both odd and beautiful. Like most of the recipients of Christ’s miracles, she excites sympathy within me. Twelve years is a long time to be sick, especially with an illness that renders you and anyone who touches you perpetually unclean. She must have been lonely. It makes me wonder how many times she did get touched during those years–how many people braved the social and religious taboo to offer her a bit of human care or comfort. Did she have a... Read more »

For the Beauty of the Earth

June 25, 2014 | 14 comments
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The latest move by the Church on the environmental front is the production of a beautiful, 94 second spot on the Mormon Channel. Read more »

Discussion, Advocacy, and Some Thoughts on Practical Reasoning

June 24, 2014 | 63 comments
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I am saddened by Kate Kelly’s excommunication. I wish that events had played out differently. Excommunication in this case strikes me as the worst outcome for all concerned, although obviously my opinion on this matter does not – and should not – matter. I believe her when she says that the decision is extremely painful for her and her family. They have my sympathy and my prayers. I do worry that part of the public meaning that she and her supporters are assigning to her excommunication is both inaccurate and potentially destructive. In her letter to her bishop, she... Read more »

Nephi’s Strategy

June 24, 2014 | 6 comments
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Consider the structure of 1 Nephi 1: Read more »

It always starts with a book

June 24, 2014 | 5 comments
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It always starts with a book

When the Lord wants to ‘refresh’ the gospel, He brings forth a book, it seems. The Restoration was triggered with the Book of Mormon, for the Reformation the first printing of the bible in German was indispensable and Christianity became something else than a Jewish sect the moment Paul’s letters and the early gospels came together as the core of what later would become the New Testament. We as LDS are a Religion of the Books, and that plural irks our fellow Christians to no end: it should be one Book. However, if they would read their own Book... Read more »

A House of Order? Serious Problems of Notice in Kate Kelly Excommunication

June 23, 2014 | 90 comments
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The disciplinary council for Sister Kate Kelly met yesterday. Today, the council announced that they had decided to excommunicate her, for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.” This result is very troubling. I have serious doubts about the substantive result here. I will set them aside for this post and instead focus on an important procedural matter: Sister Kelly was never informed that she was to be tried for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church,” was never given a chance to defend herself from that charge, and was ultimately excommunicated for... Read more »

Why is the Church Handbook of Instructions not Public?

June 23, 2014 | 28 comments
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I don’t know the answer to this question. Let me suggest some possibilities: Perhaps the Brethren are worried that publishing the Handbook will encourage people to treat it as a legal text. There are two possible problems with this. It might then encourage people to use deviation from the Handbook to attack priesthood leaders, when the Handbook is merely intended to orient them in particular ways not necessarily limit their ability to deviate. Alternatively, treating the Handbook as a legal text might discourage members from approaching issues prayerfully and flexibly rather than legalistically. By keeping it private, the thinking... Read more »

Knocking With My Sisters

June 22, 2014 | 41 comments
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One of my most recent posts was an attempt to honestly explore (or at least ask) the question: “How do faithful members collectively petition our prophets to petition the heavens?” The scriptures and the early days of our church are replete with faith-inspiring examples. How do we do it now that we’re millions strong? The answer – as the events of the last two weeks have thrown in dramatic relief – is that we don’t have one. Many others have noted the fact of Kate Kelly’s disciplinary council arising from (as many think) her aggressive tactics courting media and engaging non-Mormons... Read more »

Some Thoughts on Church Courts

June 21, 2014 | 21 comments
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Karen Hall has an interesting post on church courts that’s worth reading. Her basic point is that church courts fail to comply with some rule of law norms. I would quibble with some of her points. For example I think she slips from the idea of rule of law to the narrower idea of an adversarial judicial process involving juries. Most of the world, however, uses the civil law system which has no juries and uses an inquisitorial rather than adversarial structure. (I do not mean inquisitorial to be pejorative. It simply means a system where the judge actively... Read more »