I just finished Terryl Givens’s _By the Hand of Mormon_. Its a fun read, though a bit more polemical than I assumed it would be. I think it does make a solid contribution to Book of Mormon studies in its final chapters. Most interesting to me, though, was the summary it provided of Church’s attitude toward and utilization of the Book of Mormon over the past 175 years or so. Givens gives statistics for how often the BofM was cited in church talks, church magazines, etc., before Pres. Benson’s landmark addresses on the topic, and they are astonishing to someone who grew up in a post-Benson Church. What I am interested in, however, is not how the BofM was treated publicly, but how it was treated by the membership, and what contributed to the success of President Benson’s efforts to change that.
Last night Cirila and I got a babysitter and went out to celebrate our anniversary. After dinner and dessert we ended up in our local Barnes and Noble, enjoying the chance to browse without our two year old demanding that we purchase those Matchbox car “books”. Anyway, I was somewhat surprised to see what books made up B&N’s LDS section.
No, this post is not about a Richard Dutcher movie (though Brigham City was interesting and well-acted). I am referring to Tasha Oldham’s remarkable documentary, “The Smith Family.”
Less than two weeks after the attacks of September 11, Sister Chieko Okasaki spoke at the Manhattan Stake Priesthood Leadership meeting. She delivered what I thought was a thoughtful, courageous, and provocative sermon. The reaction afterward was striking: some men lined up at the podium to thank her; others lined up to object to stake leaders. Today I just happened to come across my notes from that meeting, and I thought it would be worthwhile to post them here, for posterity if nothing else. So here they are, without editorializing (and with apologies for their limitations):
Sunstone magazine is different things to different people: a gadfly; a breath of fresh air; a gripefest; scholarship for nonscholars; a needed Mormon arts outlet; an enabler of apostate rantings. For me, it was a first introduction to a broader range of Mormon thought than I was raised with. Unlike Nate’s youth, mine was devoid of discussions of hermeticism and hermeneutics over the dinner table.
In the spirit of Kaimi’s Christmas themed post, I offer another musing on the season. My wife Cirila and I have a two-year old. He is just becoming aware of Christmas-time and all the stuff that goes with it. As a result, Cirila and I have been trying to forge a unified front on the all-important issue of Santa Claus. As I see it, there are three approaches:
The confluence of Kaimi’s post and a well-written article by Jeffrey Toobin in the latest New Yorker, as well as a recent discussion with a local church member, have led me to wonder: What principles should the Church apply when gerrymandering ward boundaries?
Perhaps second only to regular features as a reliable blog standby are lists. I know, I know, such posts usually generate endless quibbling about meaningless personal preferences. But I want to propose what I think will be a worthwhile exercise. I want to know, what are the five essential texts in Mormon studies?
A couple of weeks ago I was perusing that paragon of journalistic integrity, the New York Post (today’s cover: “JACKO: Now Get Out of This One!), and saw a phrase that I’d previously only heard sung (much too slowly) in church. The lead of George Will’s column was “Of capital punishment, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says: ‘It makes reason stare.’ Indeed it does.” First of all, what does this phrase from the early Mormon hymn “O My Father” mean? I guess I understand what its meant to convey, but it certainly is a curious turn of phrase. Has any thought *made* you stare before? If some thought is unreasonable, would personified reason just stare at it? Or perhaps reason is just blankly staring into space, totally flummoxed. Second, why have we as Mormons been so slow to introduce the unique lexicon of our hymns into a wider sphere? I would love to see the headline “Bush Hies to London;” or “UN Security Council Puts Shoulder to Wheel.” Lastly, I found it mildly refreshing that a prominent Mormon would so quotably criticize the death penalty. (The context, of course, was that Romney was appointing a commission to look into bringing the death penalty back to Massachusetts.) I don’t think I’ve ever heard such criticism from any other prominent Mormon, nor from much of the rank and file. Perhaps it’s an indication that recent publicity on the topic (Governor Ryan, Scott Turow,…