25 search results for "intentional communities"

About-ness and Communities That Last

My initial interest in building a green hill was just to live near my friends and family — something as simple as purchasing land, building houses, and inviting my loved ones to come on over. But, while that would be wonderful, I realized that my dream was about more than just building a “friends of Dane club”. I don’t want to be the linchpin that holds everyone together.

Space (How It Looks)

Could we make zion building into a hobby? Like scrapbooking, except that it requires a little more money. And instead of gathering memories in a binder, you would gather loved ones in a community. Anyway, here are some visual examples of intentional communities that exist here in the United States and Canada.

The Hugh of St. Victor option

I have never read Rod Dreher and have no particular insight on how American conservative Christianity should respond to secularism. If Mormons look to medieval clergy for a model of forming intentional communities, however, I think a better option than Benedictine monasticism is that of the Canons Regular.


What is it like to move to Rexburg? If you’ve ever driven across the country, you’ve probably stopped for gas or lunch in some town you’ve never heard of and observed in astonishment that people not only live there, but appear to lead lives as happy and meaningful as any other American. Those lives may include more baseball or rodeo than you would choose for yourself, but the people there seem content enough. You see parks and schools and streets with decent-looking houses and a reasonable number of stores, and you wonder what it would be like if you lived there. Moving to Rexburg is like stopping for gas in a place like that and failing to get back on the highway to wherever it was you thought you were going.

The World I Choose

My first posts at Times & Seasons were about building zion-like communities. I’ve wanted to expand on those posts in the year and a half since I originally wrote them, but whenever I try the words refuse to come. Why? In part it’s because communities are difficult and complicated. Mostly, however, it’s because the ideal community that I envision is so dear to me that it pains me to put it into words. I feel like the words do violence to the vision, and a part of me fears that, in transit from vision to writing, the vision might get lost. That said, I’ve reached a point where I realize that there’s no moving forward until I’m willing to get started. So here’s my vision of the place I hope to inhabit. … First is affordability. Life is too wonderful to spend it worrying about finances, and too short to spend unnecessary hours in the workplace. I hope to spend the time I have in the society of my loved ones, in appreciation of art and nature, in creative works, and in learning through study and observation. I think the first trick to making all of that happen is to live affordably. My target number would be to have expenditures somewhere around $1,000 per month in food and housing for my whole family. … Next is space. The $1,000 per month target isn’t really all that unrealistic on its own.…

The Dream of the Green Hill

Green Hill Communities | Next About fifteen years ago, I had a dream. In my dream I saw a green hill with several people silhouetted against a cloudy sky. These figures were engaged together in various activities, some speaking, some playing or dancing, and some resting. The clouds in the sky moved quickly by, like in a fast-motion movie, which I understood to signify the passage of time. Then I woke up. Although the dream was brief, its images — the people, the hill, and the sky — have stayed with me. The attitude shared by the figures on the hill was one of deep peace and joy. Finding no greater happiness than in the company of my family and friends, I have been working to make the community of the green hill a literal gathering in my life. I am apparently not alone in my desire to live in a rewarding, purposeful community. Eco-friendly groups and religious fundamentalists have achieved a dramatic increase in intentional communities over the past two decades. A quick look at the Northwest Intentional Communities Association directory shows over 200 communities just here in my beloved Pacific northwest. However, I am struck by the absence of an LDS presence in the intentional community movement — this really seems like the sort of thing Mormons would do very well. What influences have acted to discourage the saints from building their own communities? First, we are looking…

Mormonism and Communal Studies

Scholars of Mormonism (like scholars of most topics) need to find ways to connect their subject to larger scholarly debates and frameworks. Mormon academics have used frameworks from American religious history to western history to the history of family and gender to legal studies. Another possibility is communal studies.

“The gathering of mine Elect”

Change and continuity create an interesting tension in the Church.  I explored this in a previous post as the tension of believing in an everlasting, unchanging gospel that we have had restored to us and the belief in ongoing revelation and changes to adapt and evolve the Church to our current circumstances.  Changes can be disconcerting with the first of those two beliefs in mind because it demonstrates that the Church’s beliefs and practices are not unchanging and static.  One of the ways we minimize the perception of change, however, is to continue to use terminology that was important—words and phrases that were previously used—but to collectively change what we mean when we use that terminology.  The concept of gathering the Elect to Zion is a case study in the process of shifting use of terminology. The September 1830 revelation that we are studying this week (now Section 29) demonstrates how gathering was understood in the earliest days of the Church.  The revelation opens with an announcement that Jesus Christ “will gether his People even as a hen gethereth her Chickens under her wings even as many as will hearken to my voice & humble themselves before me & call upon me in mighty prayer.”  It discusses missionary work and prayer, then states that the elders the revelation is addressing “are called to bring to pass the gethering of mine Elect … wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the father that they shall be gethered in…

The first rule about disagreements in church is no one talks about disagreements in church. But we should.

There are certain things that you grow up with that you don’t realize are weird until you start really noticing the world around you and see that other families don’t do those things your family does. Take one of my friends, for instance, who didn’t realize until well into his twenties that most kids don’t necessarily grow up playing poker and drinking Baileys with their grandparents and their grandparents friends, or another who didn’t realize until adulthood that it wasn’t normal for children to get stiches every few months because of frequent climbing accidents around her house, yard, and neighborhood. In my family we were raised to argue. (I don’t mean fight, my parents didn’t have any patience for that even though heaven knows we still did it plenty.) I mean we love delving. We can sit and argue for hours. We were raised to have lots of opinions and all of them strong. (My brother-in-law would be happy to tell you about the time he came over and listened in horrified fascination as my brothers argued passionately for three hours about the definition of soil. None of them are soil experts.) I always thought this was normal until one day my sister had some friends over for dinner. After dinner it was commonplace for everyone to sit around the table and talk, discuss, and argue, sometimes for hours. One day as we were doing this one of my sister’s…

At Home with Nothing to do? Try a Zion Project

I am currently serving as the RS president in our ward. Basically I have spent the last almost year pining and waiting for things to get back to normal, but lately I have been thinking that maybe that is not at all what I want. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait until we can leave the house without masks and can be with people without it, you know, ending in death. But I’m also realizing, what better time to shake things up a bit? Firmly believing that if you’re going to do something you might as well do it big, and in honor of this year’s study of the Doctrine and Covenants, our Relief Society is going to put forth a concerted effort this year to create a Zion community, and we want to think outside of the box to do it. For example, many people think Zion is a place where everyone can be accepted, but it’s also a place where people are not free to hurt each other. There have to be some firm boundaries of accepted behavior. How do you see boundaries being implemented while at the same time appreciating diversity? What problematic behaviors do you think are deserving of patience and what ones cannot be tolerated under any circumstances? I have a million questions and I would love to get some ideas from you all. I would truly love to know what you picture when…

The Book of Mormon, Modern America, and, of course, Nazis

In her provocative work Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt proposes a fascinating insight. “Evil in the Third Reich had lost the quality by which most people recognize it—the quality of temptation,” she writes. “Many Germans and many Nazis, probably an overwhelming majority of them, must have been tempted not to murder, not to rob, not to let their neighbors go off to their doom…and not to become accomplices in all these crimes by benefiting from them. But, God knows, they had learned how to resist temptation.” As Arendt explains, defining evil as temptation—as something that we are not allowed to do, that must be withstood at all costs, can create significant repercussions. We feel honorable when we overcome temptation because it takes courage and strength of character to do so, and it’s something that we owe, not only to ourselves, but to our communities. What happens, then, to a society where Christian acts of compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, welfare, and understanding become seen by its members as temptation—and therefore the evil—against which we are expected to fight? One of the things that the Third Reich did spectacularly well was to convince its adherents that they were truly fighting for the greater good for all of humanity, and that the terrible things that they had to do to towards accomplishing that good, while unfortunate, were nonetheless necessary. To be kind they first had to be cruel. To be generous they first had…

What we must not do

Although none of these assumptions can be taken for granted, let’s assume that Trump’s presidency will feature more or less what his campaign promised, that his term in office will be limited to 1260 1460 days, and that it will come to be widely derided as a disaster for the country. If we look back at the Church’s dealings with governments around the world during the last hundred years, we can see things in retrospect that the Church and its members should have avoided in the past that suggest things that we should avoid now.

The Open and Closed Texts of Theology

One of my all time favor books is Foucalt’s Pendulum by the great Italian author Umberto Eco. It’s a fantastic book about the problems of interpretation all wrapped up in a conspiracy theory. Despite having several famous books Eco’s greatest works are actually as a philosopher and semiotician. A constant theme of both his fiction and scholarly works are the limits of interpretation. He often explains this in terms of the “open text” and “closed text.” The closed text is a text (or any collection of signs like paintings or clothing) that has a very limited number of valid interpretations. The open text by contrast seems to have unlimited interpretations. Within his books his characters often face ambiguous texts out of which they attempt to gain understanding and meaning. The question always remains though: are all interpretations equally valid? Back in 1990 he gave the O. C. Tanner Lectures on this very topic.[1] It was reprinted in the book Interpretation and Overinterpretation.  His goal was a way of explaining these issues in a fashion more accessible by the general public. His basic concern is the idea that while there may be an unlimited number of ways of reading at text, not all readings are equally defensible. He tries to walk a tightrope between the view that the meaning of a text is entailed by the intentions of the author and the view that all that matters are the responses to a text people form.…

Hypersensitivity and Trolls: A Codependent Dysfunction

Introduction My first posts at Times and Seasons were about epistemic humility, which is the awareness of the limits of knowledge. One of the common responses I got at the time was to ask how conviction was compatible with such an emphasis on uncertainty. The quote I led with (“The wise man doubts often, and changes his mind.”) seemed like a perfect setup for the ominous lines from Yeats’ The Second Coming: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” The answer is that even if one accepts the adage that “all models are wrong,” one ought to go all in and accept the entire adage: “essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful” [emphasis added]. Copernicus’ model of the solar system was wrong because he believed the orbits are circular. They are not; they are elliptical. But he still got heliocentrism right, and later on Kepler[1] added in the elliptical orbits. Newton’s theory of gravity was wrong in many respects that were later corrected by Einstein’s general relativity, but Newton’s model was still a great improvement over Aristotle’s. These models are obviously more useful in a simplistic sense: if you want to get to the moon it helps to have an accurate representation of astronomy and physics. But there’s more to it than that: this sequence of imperfect and flawed models can point the direction towards still greater truths. And so, rather than erode…

Stirring Up the Saints: The Mormon Reformation

So I read Bigler and Bagley’s The Mormon Rebellion: America’s First Civil War, 1857-58 (U. of Oklahoma Press, 2011) last week. It will certainly convince you that the Utah Territory of the 1850s was the Wild Wild West as much as it was Zion. Checking the footnotes, it seems like the narrative is built primarily on reports from dissenters, which I suppose is where you turn for facts if you think Mormons were all liars, thieves, and murderers. There wasn’t much historical context provided, say about levels of violence in other western settlements or maybe something about that Second Civil War that was just around the corner. It seems misleading to paint General Johnston, commander of Johnson’s Army that marched on Utah, as a paragon of patriotism in contrast to Brigham Young’s alleged treason without noting that, shortly thereafter, Johnston was in open rebellion against the United States as a Confederate General and died from a Union bullet at Shiloh in 1862. Patriotism was a rather malleable term in the 19th century. Still, the book is a helpful corrective to the usual narrative about righteous Mormon settlers just trying to mind their own business but being harrassed by wicked Gentiles and federal officials.


It’s approaching a year since I started writing here at Times & Seasons, back on January 20th. That, combined with Christmas, house hunting, and the inexorable New Year, has me reflective. Where am I going, and how am I doing in getting thither? I started my stint here writing about building Zion — specifically, how we can intentionally build communities that bring people together in ways that are rewarding for each member of the community. I wrote about communities and Zion through April, and thought that would be my ongoing theme. That hasn’t turned out to be the case. Since April, my writing has been approximately equally divided between posts on gender roles, complaints on specific church-related issues, and discussing my little theo-philosophical models. Not bad, but not remarkable. In a sense, I suppose those topics are the bloggernacle in a nutshell. My life has paralleled that pattern. I’m a passionate dreamer. I love being involved in the arts and creative projects. I had always planned to live a simple life, one of thought, reflection, friendship, and few personal possessions. I’m inspired by sunrises, foggy evening, windswept hills, and starry nights; by Thoreau, Whitman (not Meg), John Dowland, and George Winston. I’m a good choreographer and composer, a passable dancer and musician. And somehow, in spite of that, I’ve come to a place where I’ve got an MBA and lots of student debt. I’m looking at purchasing a suburban home…

Building Your Own Green Hill

If you’re feeling moved upon to bring together a community of your own, here are some approaches you might consider. I’ve divided them into two sections: organic and venture.

Organic approaches to community building grow fairly naturally out of everyday living. They may sound mundane — you’re probably already doing some of them — but that doesn’t mean the resulting relationships are any less rewarding. In contrast, venture approaches to community building take significant planning, time, and money.


Programs and lifestyle are the main repositories of culture in a community. Programs are optional. Lifestyles are not. The person who declines to participate in a program still gets to sit in the audience at the awards ceremony. The person who declines to participate in a lifestyle is excluded from the flow of community life.

Margaret Young’s Daughter Is Right

The fine thread which Margaret Young’s post kicked off yesterday reminded me of some equally fine ones from the past. I’ve posted on the topic before a couple of times as well, and so–given that there was a lot to say–I was having a hard time keeping my comment to managable size. So I decided I ought to just put up in a post of my own–especially since I’m going to take the contrary position, and suggest that, while I think Jim (in comment #1) is right that “judging the wealthy to be wicked” is potentially a sin against one’s neighbor, Margaret actually shouldn’t be “appalled” that her daughter views very wealthy people as wicked. Concerned maybe, but not appalled.


Not long ago, I sat in an emergency room with a friend who had been musing about suicide. My experiences with such matters are limited, but I wasn’t taking any chances. This man had lost his job and was being evicted from his apartment. He was at risk of losing custody of his children to his former wife. And he has a history of depression and bi-polar disorder. He claimed not to be suicidal, but I was worried for him.

More on Elder Packer and Beards

The thread following Dan’s post on the church’s apparent (and inconsistent) “tonsorial jihad” has come to focus on the matter of “unwritten policies” and the existence of an “oral law”–something Jim doubts that any culture can exist without. I agree with him–there is and must be a place for mores, for unwritten guides to belief and behavior, in any healthy society. But it’s worth thinking a little more deeply about what this dynamic should and shouldn’t involve, in the church and elsewhere.