Author: Kaimi Wenger

Kaimi is a fellow who blogs every now and again, usually when he should be working.

The Angel and the Internet

A few years ago, the confluence of the Mitt Romney campaign and Proposition 8 (and to some extent Harry Reid) focused sustained national attention on the church and its members. The church’s profile has only continued to grow since then, raising a variety of questions about assimilation, retrenchment, and the future of the flock. Mormonism has long inhabited a liminal state between cultural insider and outsider. Armand Mauss’s pioneering work The Angel and the Beehive charts the church’s uneasy relationship with mainstream status, a cycle of ebb and flow driven by the specific benefits and drawbacks on each side of the spectrum. If the church is too peculiar, it will suffer in its growth prospects and place in society. At worst, disrepute can lead society to treat such a church as a threat to be eradicated (a possibility of which Mormons are quite aware). This creates strong pressure to assimilate in order to avoid social costs and reap the benefits of societal acceptance. However, this raises the question of whether the church community can gain respectability without giving up its distinctive cultural and doctrinal markers — and so, as Mauss notes, the community adopts different strategies at different times. At times the organization and its members may embrace assimilation, while at other times they feel a need to “reach ever more deeply into their bag of cultural peculiarities to find either symbolic or actual traits that will help them mark…

Your opportunity to WIN. FABULOUS. PRIZES.

You’ve always dreamed of starting a handsome Mormon studies collection — who hasn’t? This week, you have an unprecedented opportunity to start your collection in style. As we’ve mentioned here and elsewhere, Sunstone 2010 is just around the corner. It will take place from August 4th through August 8th in Salt Lake City. Online pre-registration is available up through 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 30th. And about those prizes? Here goes. — RAFFLE ANNOUNCEMENT All persons who pre-register for Sunstone 2010 between July 26th and July 30th will be automatically entered into the inaugural Fabulous Pre-Registration Prize Raffle. This year’s prizes include signed copies of: Richard Lyman Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling Carol Lynn Pearson, Mother Wove the Morning Carol Lynn Pearson, No More Goodbyes Margaret Young and Darius Gray, Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons Kathryn Lynard Soper, The Year My Son and I were Born Each one-day registration, stand-alone workshop, or stand-alone banquet registration gets you one entry into the raffle. Each full registration, student registration, or first time registration gets you three entries in the raffle. The deluxe registration with MP3 gets you five entries into the raffle. Winners will be announced on August 2st, and prizes will be distributed at the symposium. What are you waiting for? Register now online or by calling in to 801.355-5926. Good luck, everyone! And if you have any questions, please send them to mary.ellen (at) sunstonemagazine.com.

I Cannot Read a Sealed Book – Part I: The Basic Case for Making Public the Handbook

The church handbook is a foundational document for the lived experience of LDS church members. The handbook (actually two specific handbooks at present, but for convenience’s sake we’ll just refer to it as the handbook) sets out rules regarding a variety of important experiences in church member life. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism notes that the handbook contains “instruction on (1) Church administration and meetings; (2) calling members to Church positions and releasing them from such calls; (3) ordaining members to priesthood offices; (4) performing ordinances and giving blessings; (5) doing sacred temple work, and family history; (6) responding to calls for missionary service; (7) keeping records, reports, and accounting for finances; (8) applying Church discipline; and (9) implementing Church policies on such matters as buildings and property, moral issues, and medical and health issues.” The handbook is cited repeatedly in a variety of general member discussions (see, e.g., here or here). However, under current policy, the handbook is not made available to the general church membership. Instead, as the Encyclopedia of Mormonism notes, “Church leaders who receive the handbook include General Authorities, Church department heads, general auxiliary presidencies, temple presidents, and officers in stakes, wards, missions, districts, and branches.” In my observation, there are some potential negative consequences to the current policy. One negative consequence is confusion and inconsistent application. The handbook sets out a number of specific rules and church policies that aren’t available anywhere else. It’s not clear…

San Diego temple from the air

Google maps has added aerial views to a limited number of locations. I just saw (hat tip: Paula) that the San Diego temple is one of them. It’s a pretty cool feature. How do you see it? Unfortunately there’s no one-click link, because you have to enable aerial views. So it’s a slightly more elaborate process: 1. Go to the San Diego temple on Google Maps. (Click here.) 2. Click the little green “Labs” chemical-beaker icon at the top of the screen. (It’s above the Print button). Click “enable” on the tab that asks about Aerial Imagery. That’s it! You should now have a nice little view of the San Diego temple, which looks great from the air.

Bloggers at Sunstone

The preliminary program for the Sunstone symposium is available, and includes many familiar names. Some of the bloggernacle folks who are listed include: Wednesday: 9:30 – John Dehlin (Mormon Stories) 2:00 – John Dehlin Thursday: 11:15 – Mormon feminism panel including Alisa (ExII) and Tresa (FMH) 2:15 – Tresa (respondent to Laura Compton) 4:45 – Janet, Kathy, Tresa, and Tracy – Joanna Brooks (Mormon Matters) Friday: 3:30 – Bridget Jack Meyers Jeffries 4:45 – Sheila and Sara panel -Mormon women on tour panel (Joanna Brooks, Holly Welker) 8:00 – Tracy (BCC) Saturday: 11:15 – DKL talking about Glenn Beck. Bring popcorn. 2:15 – FMH’s panel with Lisa, Tresa, Shelah, and Melanie. 4:45 – Panel with me, Kristine, John Dehlin, and Ms. Jack -Bored in Vernal 7:30 – Mormon women panel including Exponent II’s Caroline I think that’s all of the bloggernacle folks — at least, all the ones that I noticed in a quick skim through the program. (If I missed anyone, please let me know.) And obviously there are many other excellent speakers as well. (Jan Shipps! Margaret Toscano! Todd Compton! Claudia Bushman!) Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

The hidden apologetics of Banner of Heaven

Scott at Bloggernacle Times has been putting on a very impressive Behind the Music retrospective about the old Banner of Heaven blog.  The hair, the women, the trashed hotel rooms — it’s all there, complete with interviews with band members (Brian G. comes clean about the infamous “no brown M&M’s” contract), groupies band aids, and even the occasional critic. In fact, about the only point that Scott seems to have missed so far is the group’s hidden apologetic purpose. What apologetic purpose, you ask?  Only that a widely read book — also widely perceived as hostile towards the church — was google-bombed halfway into oblivion.  Now, curious souls who google “Banner of Heaven” are as likely to read about X-boxes or the speculation train as they are to learn about Mountain Meadows.  Apologetics, meet Web 2.0. And the apologetic stone cut without hands will roll forth virally, until it has overcome the entire Googleverse.  Amen.

Stop! Hamer time

Next Friday and Saturday, May 21st and 22nd, John Hamer will be at Miller Eccles in southern California to discuss the history of the Community of Christ.  John’s work is fascinating, and if you’re in the area, I’d encourage you to attend one of the two events, either on Friday the 21st in Orange County, or Saturday the 22nd in Los Angeles. The event announcement (with lots of information about why you should attend) is this: Dear Friends: We are pleased to announce the next meeting of the Miller Eccles Group will be on Friday, May 21, 2010 (Villa Park) and Saturday may 22 (La Canada).  Both sessions will be at 7:30 p.m.  The speaker will be John Hamer, an independent historian and author (more about John below).  We anticipate a fascinating discussion of “The History of the Community of Christ.” The Speaker: John Hamer is president of the John Whitmer Association (the Community of Christ counterpart to the Mormon History Association) and the editor of John Whitmer Books.  He is also a mapmaker extraordinaire and has done a number of the special maps for the Joseph Smith Papers project. John is currently going to press with a beautiful book about the history of the Community of Christ. You can see a preview of what it will look like at this link. Check it out to see what an artist John is when it comes to map making and book design. The…

Dialogue 2.0

Searchable archives.  Free access to the entire vault of past articles.  Helpful starting points in a Classics section.  No more one-page-at-a-time clicking through the wacky — lovable in a quirky way, but definitely *not* user-friendly — old pdf-image page-by-page e-archives at the U library website.  Did I mention, we’re talking about searchable archives and free access to the vault? What are you still doing here?  Go check out Dialogue’s new website — or discuss in comments what you like about it best.  Take advantage of the free access.  (Starting in summer, the most recent two years will be subscription-only, but the rest of the vault remains free.) And a big kudos to the Dialogue crew.  Mormon studies has officially entered the new millennium.

What is the doctrinal status of the car-wreck story?

It’s a story we’ve all heard, and it’s still in wide circulation. For instance, from the current YW manual: President Spencer W. Kimball told the following true story: “A few years ago a young couple who lived in northern Utah came to Salt Lake City for their marriage. They did not want to bother with a temple marriage, or perhaps they did not feel worthy. At any rate, they had a civil marriage. After the marriage they got into their automobile and drove north to their home for a wedding reception. On their way home they had an accident, and when the wreckage was cleared, there was a dead man and a dead young woman. They had been married only an hour or two. Their marriage was ended. They thought they loved each other. They wanted to live together forever, but they did not live the commandments that would make that possible. So death came in and closed that career. They may have been good young people; I don’t know. But they will be angels in heaven if they are. They will not be gods and goddesses and priests and priestesses because they did not fulfill the commandments and do the things that were required at their hands. “Sometimes we have people who say, ‘Oh, someday I will go to the temple. But I am not quite ready yet. And if I die, somebody can do the work for me…

April 4th

I’ve loved the Holy Week series that Eric has posted. I hope I’m not interrupting with this post. But I think it’s fitting this Easter to also remember other pioneers and prophets who have given their lives to help make men free — and especially so, when one such man died 42 years ago today. And so I hope you’ll permit a link to a hymn of a different sort, a poem which openly connects the lives of two people who lived and died . . . in the name of love.

Missionary work, common ground, ethics, and deception

A fascinating New York Times article and follow up blog post discuss negative reactions to a build-on-common-ground Christian missionary initiative among Muslims. The blog post details: An outreach technique that some Baptist missionaries use with Muslims. It involves stressing commonalities between the Koran and the Bible and affirming that the Allah of the Koran and the God of the Bible are one and the same. . . . The “overture” — the missionary’s initial bonding with Muslims via discussion of the Koran — is precision-engineered to undermine their allegiance to Islam. This approach is quite similar to what I learned in the Missionary Training Center: Find common ground. Build relationships of trust. A great way to reach out to people. Or is it? What are the ethics of this approach? Is this two step approach a legitimate way to reach out to other faith communities? Is there something problematic about finding common ground as an opening step in undermining the rest of a person’s belief system? (On the other hand, as the NYT blog also mentions, it seems at least as bad to take the opposite tack that there is no common ground between religions. ) If the open-with-common-ground approach is acceptable, then is it equally legitimate if outsiders approach one’s own community in the same way? The NYT article wonders what Evangelical missionaries would think if Muslims put the shoe on the other foot. My own observation suggests that…

If Glenn Beck followed his own instructions, he’d be an ex-Mormon

Well known LDS political pundit Glenn Beck recently told his radio listeners that they should leave churches with the words “social justice” or “economic justice” on their websites: I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!” This overheated rhetoric has already drawn fire from Catholics and Protestants. But it’s not just Protestants and Catholics who are in trouble. In fact, if Glenn followed his own instructions, he’d be an ex-Mormon. Let’s try it out, shall we? Step one: Look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. This is easily enough accomplished with the handy search function at LDS.org. Among the results is this 1986 Ensign article by Elder James E. Faust of the Quorum of the Twelve. It very clearly contains the words economic justice — and they are described in a good way, by an apostle — and it is indeed on the church’s website: It is unfortunate that it is taking so long to bring full economic justice to women. The feminization of poverty is both real and tragic. That is why you should work very hard to prepare for your future by gaining some marketable skills. Step two, of course, is If you…

Heresy and Adding Upon

Many Mormons find that many Christian discussions are compatible with Mormon belief. We cheerfully borrow from C.S. Lewis, for instance, simply adding a Mormon gloss to Lewis’s statements; we happily listen to Switchfoot or Joy Williams. The idea of adding upon a Christian foundation has become popular in missionary discussion, as well. President Hinckley said, “To people everywhere we simply say, You bring with you all the good that you have and let us add to it.” This approach is a popular one, and is often viewed as a friendly gesture, a recognition that Christian belief is foundational in Mormonism. The idea has been criticized by some non-Mormon interlocutors. Recently, Evangelical Sarah pointed out some concerns at her blog, writing: Being on the receiving end of the comment “You wouldn’t lose anything…” is frustrating, as it takes but a moment of real reflection to realize that I would lose some beliefs that are very precious to me if I were to join the LDS Church. That’s not necessarily a valid reason not to join; it just makes the statement untrue. I cannot be Mormon and believe that God is a Trinity, I cannot be Mormon and believe that the one true church is the invisible body of all the redeemed regardless of official church affiliation or lack thereof, I cannot be Mormon and believe that God has faithfully sustained all the truth his Church needed throughout the centuries, and I…

How Christian were the Founders?

That’s the topic of this fascinating NYT article. The article probably spends a little too much time poking fun at the backward Texans (though it’s so easy); but also does a good job of laying out the complicated question of deciphering just how Christian the founders were. My favorite quote: Or, as Brookhiser rather succinctly summarizes the point: “The founders were not as Christian as [conservative activists] would like them to be, though they weren’t as secularist as Christopher Hitchens would like them to be.” (Also, the scary Texans do get really scary for parts of the piece.) What do you think of the article, and of the underlying issues?

5 things to do while waiting for Feminist Mormon Housewives to return

Feminist Mormon Housewives is one of our favorite bloggernacle blogs, with a strong core of bloggers, a variety of smart and lively posts, and a great community. Unfortunately, FMH has been down for the past two days, a victim of the patriarchy — err, of a server crash. Lisa is optimistic that the blog will be up and running again soon. (Crosses fingers.) Meanwhile, what’s an FMH reader supposed to do in the interim? Here is one list of ideas: 1. Go check out the FMH Facebook group, where a variety of fun and interesting FMH-related discussions are taking place, with FMH bloggers like mfranti and Derek. 2. Read some other LDS women’s blogs. The Exponent is a great place to start, with more topic and tone overlap with FMH than just about anyone else. Zelophehad’s Daughters offers a wicked-smart take on Mormon and feminist issues. And you can also check out the Feminist section of MormonBlogs. 3. Brush up on other sources. For instance, did you know that the entire text of Mormon feminist classic Women and Authority is available online? (What other books are you reading lately?) 4. Check out the individual blogs of community members, like mfranti’s blog, Shelah’s, Reese’s, Derek’s, Lessie’s, John Remy’s, Chandelle’s, G’s, CWC’s, and others. (Suggestions welcome) 5. Make comments at this open thread. We want to do what we can to support our blog-sisters; and we can’t personally fix a server; but…

Church widget for Haiti

Some earlier comments have asked what steps the church has taken to publicize Haiti relief. One promising sign is a new widget, suitable for blogs or other media like Facebook, giving readers a link to the LDS humanitarian services online portal. According to the widget, almost 25,000 people have donated so far. If your means allow, I’d encourage you to add to that number, or to donate through other channels.

Shape-Shifting Lizards — Could They Be in Your Ward?

It’s been six years since we last warned our readers about the danger. Six years of danger, of vulnerability, of widespread ignorance. Six years for more innocent people to die — and to be replaced by the lizards. Yes, we have been remiss in our duties. But no longer. To quote noted herpetologist* Dan Peterson: For those who’ve wondered — and (let’s be truthful) who hasn’t? — whether the Church is actually controlled by demonic entities in the form of reptilian humanoids, or lizard men, you’ll find the evidence you’ve been seeking on this explosive Web site. Well, don’t just sit there — what more do you need? We encourage you to take action, read up on this threat, and to prepare for the lizard holocaust. Only then will your ward, your community, your family, be safe from the danger. Well, unless the lizards replace you, too. In which case they won’t. Cheers! — *Yes, herpetologist is a real word; no, it doesn’t mean that. (Really. It’s one of those words which is useful if you want to cast aspersions on someone’s character and then claim innocence.)

Plausible deniability (updated)

Initial reports from hearings in the Prop 8 case today paraphrase an internal campaign document (see below for update) with the following language: With respect to Prop. 8 campaign, key talking points will come from campaign, but cautious, strategic, not to take the lead so as to provide plausible deniability or respectable distance so as not to show that church is directly involved. The proceedings are not being televised (over plaintiffs objections), and the case remains in early stages. Today’s arguments only examined the admissibility of documents; and this is not a direct quote from the document as far as I can tell, rather it’s a summary of the document by one trial attendee who writes for an anti-Prop-8 website. We’ll see whether the underlying document ends up becoming public, and if so exactly what language it contains. (The document was apparently in the possession of Mark Jannson, a ProtectMarriage.com executive committee member.) In the mean time, however, the early summary is not favorable for the church. “Plausible deniability” – ouch. UPDATE: The transcript has been posted, and it is clear that this language does not come from a church or campaign document. Rather, plaintiffs’ expert witness characterizes one internal campaign letter’s purpose as “there was this cautious strategic not-to-take-the-lead notion so as to provide a — I don’t know, plausible deniability or respectable distance between the church organization per se and the actual campaign.” The full transcript is available…

Martin Luther King on Religion and Social Justice

From the Letter from Birmingham Jail: There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of…