It’s almost Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost went wild, which brings to fiery minds the thought of not only that particular world-turned-upside-down event but assorted others a whole lot like unto it, which other events alas never got their own red-letter day on the calendar, even though they probably deserved to, and so it occurred to me, why not just piggyback them all onto Pentecost, given their decidedly Pentecost-like qualities, and commemorate them all together, and not just as something dead and done and so last year, but as something with very possibly bone-shaking and world-rocking consequences right here and now? Especially my two very favorite Pentecost-like events: Peter’s dream, and Paul’s vision.
Four Services Worth Writing Home About. Mormon Service: An “International Ward” in Western Europe. (No, this picture to the left is not of a Mormon chapel, alas. It’s just an action shot to suggest what being a LJ might involve.) Up on the podium, the bishop is a Wasatch-Front-origined temporary-resident white Anglonavian Mormon, as is one of the councilors, while the other is a recently-immigrated black African Mormon. The main congregational constituents not represented in the bishopric are the old-time local converts, who now occupy a mere quarter of the pews they used to dominate, and whose once unchallenged language is now only sometimes heard and then always translated into English.
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.
Almost 7, in the village church of Kernascléden, in the heart of Brittany, which is the heart of Catholicism in France. The sign on the door says Vespers are at 7, just like they are every night, even tonight, July 14, when most people in France are singing the Marseillaise instead of the Gloria. I always like Vespers, but I wonder what in the name of the Abbé Sieyès they could possibly sound like in a remote place like this? A harried five-parish pastor coaxing along a few reedy voices? Not exactly. Two youngish nuns in tan habits enter the church from a side door up front, set three small candles on the altar, and light them. Maybe they’re helping. Setting things up for the priest. Then one opens the door of the small tabernacle where the consecrated wafers of the Eucharist are kept, removes one, and sets it in a sunburst-styled monstrance that she places on the altar as well, right behind the candles. Maybe the nuns are in charge. They each take a seat on the aisle of the front row, facing the altar, not the audience, which consists of five other women, one old guy who can’t stand up, and one old guy (me) who can. Just what I thought, especially on a holiday: just a few. But I’m wrong about the priest: the nuns aren’t waiting for any such fellow. They’re in charge all right. They stand…
In March at BYU I gave a talk, or more accurately for a guy who can barely use Power-Point, a multi-media extravaganza, involving at least 10 non-fancy slides with absolutely nothing moving around on them. The topic was the title above. For those who want to skip the movie and just read the book, I thought I’d post here a (believe it or not) condensed version of that talk, focusing on the main points, without all the low-tech effects. Of course, the post won’t be nearly as exciting, but some of the clips used at the live talk didn’t make it to the youtube version anyway because of copyright issues (you’ll still see some phenomenal pictures of phenomenal 1970s bellbottoms, however, which certainly I thought would never change; the talk is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-o23SurnGA. I start talking at about 9 minutes.) POINT 1. When you study Really Old history in Really Distant Places, like I do, you have to explain a little more than usual what in the world your study is good for. Contrary to popular opinion among friends and family members, studying Really Old History is not just good for becoming a whiz at Jeopardy or other parlor games that make you the life of any party. It’s not even just good for coming up with a lot of solemn platitudes you can then utter about History (like never repeating mistakes of the past—not true, by the way). No, what studying Really Old History is most good for is the insight it…
Snow White. If on Christmas Day of 1975 you were for some harebrained reason outside on the frozen Belgian tundra and you squinted up your eyes against the shiny white landscape to look east from the edge of the little town called Zichem, then you would’ve almost certainly noticed in the houseless distance the improbable sight of four overcoated and possibly harebrained missionaries-dressed-as-local-businessmen trudging along a slippery, messy path next to a big field.
Five-Sense Gray. 9:15 in the morning in the very late autumn in Belgium. It’s barely and unenthusiastically light because the sun has just come grudgingly up (if you call ten feet above the horizon up), and because the heavens are so blanketed with clouds that whatever slivers of rays manage to get through are absorbed right away into the gray. Belgian towns aren’t colorful in any sort of autumn or winter light, but in this particular flannel-gray sort they might as well just go ahead and say it: we are thoroughgoingly monochrome.
Times and Seasons is happy to welcome as a guest blogger Steve Smith, who teaches and writes mainly about religious freedom, constitutional law, and jurisprudence. His most recent book is The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse (Harvard University Press, 2010). Steve graduated from BYU in 1976 before studying law at Yale, and he has taught at various law schools including Notre Dame, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan (as a visiting professor), Virginia (as a visitor), and the University of San Diego, where he is currently employed. Steve’s wife Merina also attended BYU, and they have five children. An accomplished musician by most standards (not his), Steve’s biggest ambition, I happen to know, is to quit the rat race and rather than cultivate his garden become a bluegrass banjo player.
Some time ago on T&S, I survived a discussion on the history of Sunday (got no t-shirt though). That knock-down drag-out event included some talk of sports, but overall was pretty general. In light of the upcoming Super Bowl I thought it might be fun(?) to look at the rise of Sunday sport more specifically. So get out the nachos and dip. Or lace up the gloves, or whatever.
I usually place empathy at the top of my ladder of desirable religious virtues because I see its presence as the cause of most good and its absence as the cause of most bad. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more it seems that even empathy depends on yet another important quality: creativity.
It happens every year. I’m walking past the library, or some other building loaded with windows, and one of my students bursts out the door and runs toward me with eyes dilating, hair frazzling, nerves fraying, arms waving, and body quaking to ask, out of breath, did these things really happen? “Things” referring to the miracles and visions we have been reading about in the sixteenth-century autobiography assigned that week. What the student means is this: did the miracles or visions happen in an objective sense, so that if I or other witnesses would have been there we would have seen them too? Or was the author just Nuts? For how else to explain that she saw Jesus everywhere she went, including at the breakfast table?
Every year on T&S there appears around Easter time a certain amount of Holy-Week envy. I haven’t seen any yet this year, and so I thought I’d take my turn to express a little. Or better, maybe this would be a good opportunity to get a sense of what is going on in Mormon Easter services nowadays. What happened in your ward this year?
It’s holiday season, which means more friends and family and greetings, in person or otherwise, than usual. Add to that a few weddings receptions and you can get downright sore from all the hugging and hand-wrenching. Not to mention confused by the vast array of possibilities for saying hello or goodbye or Merry Christmas or Happy New Year to someone. It’s enough to make even the most seasoned anthropologist dizzy.
Just as I went to publish this post, I saw Ben’s post about the conference on Mormons and Evangelicals. It’s a nice coincidence. As are the recent posts by Kent and Marc on labeling and categorizing. I was already scheduled to attend another conference this week, an annual conference for historians of the Reformation (surely you knew about it), where I’ll be part of an ongoing panel devoted to issues in teaching. This year’s issue is “Defining Protestantism,” as everyone is rightly concerned about labels we impose on people. Five or six scholars make up the panel, and we all get about 10 minutes to reflect on our particular experience with that issue. I’m supposed to talk about teaching the Reformation to Mormon students, both in general and in regard to defining Protestantism, as some of the panelists are wondering how Mormons fit or not. I’m planning to touch on some of the following, but would be happy to hear what T&S readers have to add.
If you’re a teacher of any sort, you know how disruptive a couple of talkative or rude students can be, especially when you’re trying to get a discussion going. In an effort to regain control, you flash a forced smile in the direction of the goof-offs. You pause and wait until they’re finished before you continue. You have a chat with them after class and ask them to be a little more attentive next time. And then after another day or two of rudeness, and despairing that your more subtle techniques have failed, you lose patience and let them have it, right in the middle of class.
Let us praise pioneers. Of all sorts, but today especially the traditional sort. I myself am thinking of Carl and Mathilda, whom I came to know through one of those wholly unexpected spine-tingling unbelievable fantastic experiences.
No, it’s not the same as Master Race, so banish that association from your head. Instead it’s a useful sociological concept (who knew?) which not only has come in handy for writing my current book, but goes a long way toward explaining why we get along, or not, with liberals, reactionaries, gays, homophobes, gun-nuts, gun-controllers, tree-huggers, earth-exploiters, blacks, browns, whites, males, females, snobs, slobs, pro-choicers, pro-lifers, Mormons, jack Mormons, inactive Mormons, less-active Mormons, active Mormons, hyperactive Mormons, blogging Mormons, non-Mormons, and just about any other category you can dream up for someone else, or yourself.
A few months ago this was the calendar, word for word, sent out to a nearby quorum in a sleepy suburban ward (hint: it’s in the US). March 15th: Concealed Weapons Class, 1pm at the [deleted] home. Joint activity with the High Priests. Punch and cookies served. (Okay I added the punch and cookies bit.)
My older sister was a great athlete in the old days (before Title IX), and just retired as the athletic director at a high school. Talking with her the other day gave me the idea for this post, so blame her if you don’t like it (isn’t that just like a little brother?). I thought I had a vague memory of watching her, when I was 8 or 9 (mid-1960s), play some odd form of basketball. Was I just imagining it? She laughed and proceeded to explain the mysteries of girls’ rules. This meant first that there were six players instead of five, and that two players were on offense full-time, two were on defense full-time, and two were rovers. The offensive and defensive players had to stay on their respective side of half court, while the rovers, you know the two girls in every group who were a little more athletic than the others, were free to run the whole court. When you had the ball, you could dribble only three times, and you had to pass three times before shooting. And I’m sure there were other details. Anyway, we thought about the assumptions behind these rules. One: most girls shouldn’t run that much, couldn’t run that much, and it was immodest and unfeminine to sweat too much (my mom was told that often in her day). Two: girls weren’t skilled enough to have all five (six) players in…