Ann Madsen and Spencer W. Kimball

While Ann Madsen isn’t as well-known as her husband, Truman Madsen, she is a notable woman who has been described as “every bit the disciple-scholar” that her husband was.  In a recent interview over at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Ann discussed some of the events in her life, focusing particularly on a few interactions with Truman Madsen and Spencer W. Kimball.  What follows here is a co-post (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). Ann Madsen notes in the interview that Spencer W. Kimball “was like a father” to her and her brother.  She explained that: “I grew up two houses away from President Spencer W. Kimball. Even though he was an apostle, I grew up calling him ‘Brother Kimball.’ My father and I would often come out of the house each morning just before President Kimball. He’d come out of his house and call down the street to my father, ‘Barnard, hold the bus!’”  She went on to share a story from her childhood: When I was about 10 years old, I was watching my 7-year-old brother when my parents went out. The last thing my mother said was: “Do not walk up to 21st East to get ice cream at Duffin’s. Do not do that.” As soon as they left, my brother said, “I think we can go up there. We’d be alright. We only need a nickel for ice cream cones and…

Clarifications on Uto-Aztecan

This post by Brian Stubbs, a well-respected linguist with numerous publications on the history of Uto-Aztecan languages, is a response to an earlier post by Jonathan Green from 2019.   In Times and Seasons, January 6, 2019, Jonathan Green published a post “Uto-Aztecan and Semitic: Too Much of a Good Thing.” A commenter, Steve J, asked: “I hope Stubbs will at some point address the concerns expressed in the post.”  Steve’s hope is justified and a response is rightfully due.  I did not learn of the post until long after it was written, thus the delay. Green is kind and fair in his opening paragraphs on my background and credentials. Later in the comments, he is again more than decent in my defense. So this is nothing against Green, only a clarification that he and many readers may appreciate. The research involves Uto-Aztecan (UA), one language family of some 30 related languages from the Utes in the north to the Aztecs in the south. UA contains a substantial amount of Semitic and Egyptian. Because some answers to the concerns are addressed in former publications, we refer to those past works with these abbreviations: Uto-Aztecan: A Comparative Vocabulary (2011) as UACV, which was favorably reviewed (Hill 2012) and praised by all UA specialists; Exploring the Explanatory Power of Semitic and Egyptian in Uto-Aztecan (2015) as Exploring; the 2nd edition of Changes in Languages from Nephi to Now (2020) as Changes in…

Dios, bendícenos: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 6

That complicated bond between my faith is what keeps me wondering, searching, discovering, and debating with myself, and through this I find a little of me each day, repeatedly learning that life has a purpose and that it has much to do with others and my relationship to the divine.  It humbles me when I begin to think that I’m very important and lifts me up when I convince myself that I’m not worth much.[1] ~Ignacio M. García   Note: This is a part of an ongoing series.  To start at the introduction, follow the link here. Hymn Text: “Dios, bendícenos”, by Edmund Richardson, is an interesting example of a hymn where it’s not clear if it’s meant to be an original text, a translation of an existing hymn, or something in between.  It was published initially in 1907 and was included in every Spanish hymnal up through the 1942 hymnal.  In the 1992 Himnos, however, the translation of “Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessings” was published using the same title while the Richardson text was dropped from the hymn book, indicating that it might have been a translation or paraphrase of “Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessings” in the past hymnals.  There is a significant amount of overlap in ideas between the two hymns, similar meter, and the same number of verses.  On the other hand, the text was always attributed to Edmund Richardson as author rather than translator,…

Nepotism in High Church Offices

Nepotism is the most natural of vices and needs to constantly be proactively guarded against, or else it will almost certainly creep into any large institution. In the early Church there just weren’t a lot of options to choose from because it was so small, but as the Church becomes larger and more diverse it becomes increasingly unlikely that the best suited person for a high status calling happens to be the close relative of somebody else in a high status calling. (As an aside, one silver lining to having apostles with children who are very publicly not in the Church is that it helps ameliorate the otherization of people who aren’t in blue blood families). In today’s Church, I suspect that family connections, when they do happen, are less a matter of somebody trying to build a dynasty and more a matter of people appointing people that they know, but in these cases stronger efforts to expand the circle of seriously considered candidates might be helpful.  Michael Quinn goes through the history of Church within-family promotions in the early Church in fine-grained detail (and some of the negative consequences), so we won’t rehash that here, but there is some residue of this today.  President Monson’s daughter was in the Young Women’s General Presidency. President Nelson’s son-in-law is a General Authority 70 (I have heard this second hand and haven’t confirmed, feel free to correct).  Elder Holland’s son was appointed…

Choosing Faith and Into the Headwinds

Belief in religion is something that can be hard in Western culture.  Yet, it is something worth working towards.  This idea is something that Terryl and Nathaniel Givens discussed in a recent interview on the Latter-day Saint history and theology blog From the Desk.  The context of their discussion has to do with a book they recently published called Into the Headwinds: Why Belief Has Always Been Hard–and Still Is (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2022).  What follows here is a co-post to that interview (a shorter post with some excerpts and discussion). The publisher of Into the Headwinds describes their book as follows: Acclaimed author Terryl Givens and his son, Nathaniel Givens, combine their respective areas of expertise to offer a fresh take on religious belief through the lens of contemporary research on psychology, cognition, and human nature. They also address two of faith’s foremost modern-day antagonists: rationalism, the myth that humans can or should make the majority of their choices based on logical thought, and scientism, the myth that science is the only reliable means of discovering truth. After reckoning with the surprising fact that people often don’t even understand their own beliefs and are influenced in ways they seldom perceive, the authors go on to describe genuine faith as an act of will—an effortful response to the deepest yearnings of the mind and heart—that engenders moral responsibility, the ability to embrace uncertainty, the motivation and means to relate to others, and…

Latter-day Saints and Extraterrestrials

I was asked to present a bit on the Latter-day Saint perspective on extraterrestrials for an “exotheology” reading group I’m a part of that’s mostly composed of British academics. The following are my thoughts I put together for the lecture.   I was asked to present because the Latter-day Saint (AKA Mormon) tradition has had a long history of believing in multiple planets and non-earth life.  I’m talking to an educated audience I assume most people know the basics but just in case I’ll go over them briefly. Mormonism, or more properly the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, is a restorationist movement that believes that the authority for the primitive Christian Church was lost sometime after the Apostles died out in what it terms “the Great Apostasy” and was restored through divine and angelic messengers through Joseph Smith, a day laborer in Northern New York in the early 19th century. From the earliest congregation, which was basically Joseph Smith’s and a few other families in New York, it kept growing while getting driven West with the expanding frontier, and now it is headquartered in Utah with about 17 million members.  There’s obviously a lot more but that’s sort of the elevator synopsis.  To first set the stage a bit at a meta level: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is similar to Catholicism in that there is a scriptural canon, but there’s also an authoritative priesthood…

¿Por qué somos?: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 5

Our Father knows and loves His children all over the world, from Boston to Okinawa, from San Antonio to Spain, from Italy to Costa Rica. In Ghana, President Gordon B. Hinckley recently thanked the Lord “for the brotherhood that exists among us, that neither color of skin nor land of birth can separate us as Thy sons and daughters.” … We come to this world in many colors, shapes, sizes, and circumstances. We don’t have to be rich, tall, thin, brilliant, or beautiful to be saved in the kingdom of God—only pure. We need to be obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ and keep His commandments. And we can all choose to do that regardless of where we live or what we look like.[1] ~Clate W. Mask Jr.   Note: This is a part of an ongoing series.  To start at the introduction, follow the link here. Hymn Text: The hymn ¿Por qué somos? by Edmund W. Richardson was initially published in the 1912 edition of Himnos de Sion (see Figure 1).  It is one of the three hymns that were written originally in Spanish that are included in the 1992 Spanish hymnal.  The hymn has also been included in the Portuguese hymnal as “De que rumo vêm os homens”, though it is not included in the current hymnbook in that language.  The original publication indicated that it should be sung to the tune of hymn 50 in Songs of…

You’re Probably Not as Edgy as You Think

  “Subculture deviance” is a theoretical perspective in the sociology of deviance that, in response to the question of why people deviate from societal norms, posits that people simply adhere to the norms of a subculture that is at variance with the broader culture. In other words, people who think they’re being radical, edgy freethinkers are often actually just following another crowd that has its own set of norms and values.  As somebody who grew up in the 1990s Utah sacred canopy I’ve seen this play out many times in the Latter-day Saint context. Person is a super strict Latter-day Saint, goes to graduate school or otherwise immerses themselves in some other environment whose norms and values are at tension with those in the Mormon belt, they convert and are still vehement warriors for the truth, but in a different direction.  For the purpose of this post I’m not questioning their conversion: they may be right, but what they aren’t is edgy, unique, or independent thinking, and in certain subcultures within Mormondom the iconoclast label comes part and parcel with its identity. However, true iconoclasm, where you think everybody but you is going crazy, is incredibly uncomfortable; it’s not an experience people usually revel in. Years ago I read the letters of Thomas More as he was traveling down the pathway that eventually led to his execution, and I was struck at how non-martyrish it felt. If there was a way…

Santos, Dad Loor á Dios: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 4

What greater power can you acquire on earth than the priesthood of God? What power could possibly be greater than the capacity to assist our Heavenly Father in changing the lives of your fellowmen, to help them along the pathway of eternal happiness by being cleansed of sin and wrongdoing?[1] ~Adrián Ochoa Note: This is a part of an ongoing series.  To start at the introduction, follow the link here. Hymn Text: “Santos, Dad Loor á Dios” by Edmund W. Richardson was initially included in the 1907 Himnario Mormón (see Figure 1).  It was published in the 1912 edition of the Himnos de Sion, but was not included in subsequent editions of the hymnal.  Both of the hymnals that it was published in did not indicate a tune to which it was intended to be sung, though the John-Charles Duffy and Hugo Olaiz article indicates that it was sung to the tune of “O Jesus! the giver of all we enjoy” from the Latter-day Saints’ Psalmody (GOSHEN, by Ralph Bradshaw), which can be made to fit.[2]  There are a few textual variations between the 1907 and 1912 editions (see Table 1).   Table 1. Comparison of texts from the two editions in which “Santos, Dad Loor á Dios” was published. 1907  “Santos, Dad Loór á Dios” 1912 “Santos, Dad Loor á Dios” Santos, dad loór á Dios, Himnos elevad; Alaban al Señor Por Su gran bondád. Antes en la cruz…

Mexican Pioneers

Back in 1997, M. Russell Ballard spoke about how we should take the “opportunity to honor … the remarkable efforts of our pioneers in every land who have blazed spiritual trails with faith in every one of their footsteps.” (M. Russell Ballard, “You Have Nothing to Fear from the Journey,” Conference Report, April 1997.)  In a recent interview over at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, F. LaMond Tullis discussed some of the stories of Latter-day Saint pioneers in Mexico. What follows here is a co-post to the interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). F. LaMond Tullis recently published a book covering the stories of 19 pioneering members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In the interview, he discussed some of the reasons that led him to write Grass Roots in Mexico: First, I had a long and abiding interest in Latin America triggered by college friends who taught me Spanish. I also had an academic focus on the area at Harvard University, where I wrote several articles about the Church in Latin America, and published my book Mormons in Mexico (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1987). I’ve also struggled over the years to say to an insular Latter-day Saint population that becoming a world-wide church entails attention to cultural matters at home as well as sending out missionaries abroad. He added that he hopes that people who read the book gain “a realization that…

Humildad: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 3

Oh, beloved brethren! Let us always remember the teachings of the prophets, let us always remember the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ which he brought us in the meridian of time.   Let us remember also his exhortations to our people here in the Americas, which are recorded in the Book of Mormon; let us keep watch so that these great treasures which have been left to us will not be buried as they were during the time of the great apostasy.  Strive to preserve them, to cultivate them, to convert our families into strong units in Zion.[1] ~Guillermo Torres   Note: This is a part of an ongoing series.  To start at the introduction, follow the link here. Hymn Text: Humildad by W. Ernest Young was originally published in the 1912 editions of Himnos de Sion, and was included in the 1927 and 1933 editions of that book before being cut in subsequent editions. According to the 1912 edition, it was intended to be sung to the tune of hymn 223 in Songs of Zion, which was “Beautiful Isle” by J. S. Fearis.  It is notable as the only one of the 23 original hymns in the Mexican mission hymnals to have a verse-chorus structure. Figure 1. “Humildad,” in the second 1912 edition of Himnos de Sion.  Note: The author’s name is switched around slightly in the published text (Ernest W. instead of W. Ernest). The author, Walter Ernest…

General Conference as a “Peaceable Thing of the Kingdom”

The Listener, by James Christensen I’ve been as guilty as anyone of, subconsciously and in the back of my mind, looking forward to General Conference more for the big announcements or controversy than the spiritual nourishment. Reading about the controversy and ensuing outrage (and counter-outrage) in particular are kind of an emotional crack cocaine for people like me. There’s a very momentary feeling of exhilaration, but it gives you a gross feeling inside that you don’t need a lot of discernment to know is not of God. If you are listening to General Conference in the spirit in which it was intended, and do plan to make social media commentary part of your experience, some people have put together Twitter lists of less polemical commentators. And if listening to General Conference isn’t your thing, I wish you a spiritually capacious weekend hiking, listening to music, meditating, or whatever else you do to commune with deity.    

Mormon Women at the Crossroads

Caroline Kline’s Mormon Women at the Crossroads: Global Narratives and the Power of Connectedness (University of Illinois Press, 2022) is an important contribution to studies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 21st century. The book is based on a series of oral interviews that Kline did with women of color in Mexico, Botswana, and the United States, both presenting excerpts from those interviews as well as analysis.  The introduction begins by discussing how her initial lens of gender equality proved insufficient in understanding the stories, perspectives, and priorities of the women she interviewed.  Recognizing that overlapping identities of race, social class, sexual identity, etc. shape people in different ways, Kline strives to capture and represent the voices of these women through focusing on the stories they wanted to tell.  In her efforts to analyze the interviews through their lenses and priorities rather than strictly through her own lenses and priorities, Kline came to focus on the perspective of non-oppressive connectedness, a worldview that blends elements of female empowerment and liberation with a broader focus on fostering positive and productive relationships.  The first three chapters focus on the women interviewed in each of the three different regions (Mexico, Botswana, and the United States) while the fourth is an effort at bringing together and synthesizing theological reflections from the women who were interviewed, focused on a theology of abundance.  All told, the book is very rich with insight…

General Conference and Our Shrinking Attention Spans

As the father of a lot of small, messy children, I easily listen to two hours of podcasts a day while cleaning (how my parents’ generation cleaned before podcasts I have no idea). The other day a movie producer on a podcast made a comment about how, in the days before streaming, television producers would look at what other shows were running during their same spot to know who they were competing against, whereas now movie and television producers are faced with the fact that whatever they make is competing against everything that was ever made.   For the most part, I think this development is good. I think it has democratized our attention spans; no longer are we beholden to the views of a few middle aged guys on the large news networks, and the intense competition has forced the entertainment industry to sharpen their craft (I won’t launch into the whole argument about whether things were better back in the day, suffice it to say that for me personally a surprising number of the classic films of yesteryear seem like B-grade Netflix releases now; their appeal is more from nostalgia than objectively high production quality).  While it is common to bemoan what Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have done to our attention spans (the irony of writing this on the now aged medium of a blog is not lost on me), the narrowing of our attention spans has forced content…

Padre Nuestro en el Cielo: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 2

“Doing good often means getting one’s hands dirty, engaging in unpleasant things, and coming out of the battle worn and scarred.  The battle for the public good is neither about holding onto or giving up everything, it is about knowing when to do much, when to hold back, a little, and when to do nothing at all.”[1] ~Ignacio M. García   Note: This is a part of an ongoing series.  To start at the introduction, follow the link here. Hymn Text: Padre Nuestro en el Cielo by Manrique González was one of the earliest-published Spanish hymns in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It was published in the 1907 Mexican Mission Himnario Mormón (p. 57, see Figure 1) and in the 1912 editions of the Himnos de Sion (p.44).  It was cut from subsequent editions of the hymnbook (1927 onwards).  Textual changes between the two editions it was included in are minor, consisting solely of punctuation alterations (see Table 1).  According to the 1912 edition, the hymn was to be sung to the tune of hymn 37 in the English-language Songs of Zion, which was “We are Sowing” by H. A. Tucket (8.7.8.7 D).  Oddly, the hymn tune fits two verses of the hymn at a time, but there are 5 verses of the hymn, which doesn’t work out math-wise.  In addition, the syllables do not completely align with the music as written.  As a result, I wonder…

Looking at the Prophet Anew (Brigham Young edition)

How we understand and view President Brigham Young as the second prophet of the Restoration is often in a much more negative light than how the Prophet Joseph Smith is viewed.  In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Chad Orton discusses some of why that is and offers additional thoughts on how to view the man who led the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they colonized the Great Basin region.  What follows here is a co-post to the interview – a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion. Much of the interview centers on the book that Chad Orton co-authored entitled 40 Ways to Look at Brigham Young: A New Approach to a Remarkable Man (Deseret Book, 2008).  Early on in the interview, Orton explained the non-traditional approach that was taken in writing that biography: 40 Ways to Look at Brigham Young is subtitled, “A New Approach to a Remarkable Man.” Unlike traditional biographies that largely look at their subject chronologically, i.e. from birth to death, 40 Ways is a topical biography. Each chapter—and there are 40 of them—focuses upon a major theme or event from his life. For example, one of the chapters talks about how faith was one of Brigham’s predominate characteristics. Stories from the 1830s to the 1870s have been brought together into one chapter. In a traditional biography they would have been interspersed throughout multiple chapters and would have only been…

Scams in Zion, Part II: MLMs and Utah Socio-Religious Elites

It’s sort of an open secret that Utah has a pyramid scheme multilevel marketing problem. MLMs prey on financially vulnerable people and get them to weaken their personal connections–the most important thing in life and during a time when such precious connections are in increasingly short supply–for very little money, and some MLMs layer dubious, snake-oil type medical claims on top of their immoral distribution approach. It’s nauseating on so many levels.  While I have no reason to doubt the conventional wisdom of Utah having a lot of MLMs, I decided to back-of-the-envelope quantify it. We don’t have access to the internal “independent distributor” numbers, but we can look at how many of the large MLMs are based out of Utah. I looked at the 75 MLMs listed in Wikipedia (I know, I know, but for stuff like this Wikipedia is usually pretty good, and I figured that being listed in Wikipedia was a basic threshold for size and importance). Of the 75 listed, 12 of them are from Utah or are clearly LDS connected (e.g. LuLaRoe), or 16%. Given that Utah and Latter-day Saints are both about 1% of the US population each (with a lot of overlap, obviously), we are very overrepresented.   So yes, we have a problem. Also, I’m aware, as I’ve said many times, that Utah does not equal the Church, but it’s harder to argue against some underlying connection with Utah-Church culture when a lot…

La Proclamación: Mexican Mission Hymns, Part 1

“I know for myself that Joseph Smith was a prophet because I have applied the simple promise in the Book of Mormon: ‘Ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ’ (Moroni 10:4). In simple words, look up.”[1] ~Adrián Ochoa   Note: This is a part of an ongoing series.  To start at the introduction, follow the link here. The Text La Proclamación, by José V. Estrada G., is one of the few hymns original to Mexico that have survived up to the present (1992) Spanish-language hymnbook in the Church.  Also called “La voz, ya, del Eterno”, it was was initially included as hymn 51 in the 1912 Himnos de Sion (Mexican Mission) (see Figure 1), and was included in all subsequent editions of that collection, the 1942 Himnos de Sion that was published by the Church (Hymn 252), and the 1992 Himnos (Hymn 145).  In the original hymnal, it was intended to be sung to hymn 53 in Songs of Zion, which was “Improve the Shining Moments” by Robert B. Baird (the tune still used today).  The text itself has had a few edits over the years, particularly for the 1992 Himnos (see Table 1).   Figure 1. “La Proclamación” in the 1912 Himnos de Sion.   Table 1. Variations in text of La Proclamación over the course of Church Publications.  Changes from the 1912 edition are bolded. 1912 1942 1992 1. La voz, ya, del Eterno, Nos llama…

Scams in Zion, Part I: Do Latter-day Saints Tend to Be Gullible Fraud Victims?

I just finished reading the Bernard Madoff biography Wizard of Lies that, in part, details how Madoff ingratiated himself with and defrauded a significant chunk of the East Coast Jewish community. Of course that sparked my thinking about parallels in our own religious community, as it has become sort of a truism that Latter-day Saints are particularly susceptible to fraud. Consequently, I decided to dive into the numbers. I couldn’t find anything empirically testing whether high Latter-day Saint areas tend to be more fraudulent, so I did my own analysis. The 2010 American Religious Census has an indicator for number of Latter-day Saints for thousand in a county, and the Uniform Crime Reporting System shows the number of frauds committed in each county in the year 2010.  I merged the two datasets by their fips code, generated a “fraud per thousand” measure using the county population numbers in the UCRS, looked at whether Latter-day Saints per thousand is associated with frauds committed per thousand, and found that more Latter-day Saints= fewer frauds. (As always, my code is on my github).  The graph is below (sorry I didn’t take time to make it pretty; I’ve already spent too much family time on this).  For the wonks, the correlation was -.07, so it’s not much, but it was statistically significant (I’d log the values in the graph, but for our purposes here I’m trying to keep things simple). From a regression approach,…

Announcing a Mexico Mission Hymns Series

I’m excited to announce a new project that I’ll be sharing on Times and Seasons over the next few months – my Mexico Mission Hymnody project. A few years ago, a future new edition for the Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was announced. While working on what would become my first post on Times and Seasons, I talked a lot with friends about what the next hymnal might look like. Virtually all of my friends who had served in Spanish-speaking missions mentioned loving a song that didn’t have any English equivalent – “Placentero nos es trabajar”. I mentioned it in passing as something that might be added in an update to the hymn book in my 2018 post on the subject. I followed up in early 2019 with a post specifically about Spanish-language hymns that might find their way into the next hymn book. While researching for the latter post, I came across an article by John-Charles Duffy and Hugo Olaiz that detailed the history of the Spanish-language hymnals in the Church. One thing that stood out to me in the Duffy and Olaiz article was that there were 23 hymns written originally in Spanish and published in the hymnbooks that were prepared for use by the Church in Mexico, either in the original 1907 edition or the subsequent 1912 edition. As described in the article: Hymn texts were produced by American missionaries, Anglo saints…

To Ezra or not to Ezra…

Ezra is an important figure in the Hebrew Bible, but there are some concerns that have been raised over the historical record around him and some interesting places where he is missing in that record.  In an interview over at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, the Biblical scholar Charlotte Hempel discusses some of the theories and thoughts around Ezra, with a particular focus on the Dead Sea Scrolls.  What follows here is a co-post to the interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). One of the central questions in the debate is whether or not Ezra was an actual historical figure.  Charlotte Hempel explained that: This is a great question and has been debated by scholars for centuries. Ezra appears in 6 chapters of the Hebrew Bible in Ezra 7–10 and Nehemiah 8 and 12. He is described as a priest, a skilled scribe who has his heart set on the study of the law and its promulgation among the people, as well as a social reformer. On the more radical end of the spectrum there are those, including C. C. Torrey, who suggest Ezra was a fictitious creation. For most scholars today Ezra is a historical figure whose literary record was amplified by subsequent authors and editors. There is a spectrum of thought on how accurate the records we have are in relation to Ezra’s life. Ezra and Nehemiah are portrayed as contemporary individuals,…

Shaking the Dust from Your Feet

Have you ever performed a ritual shaking of the dust from your feet?  I never have (in fact, I’m pretty sure I was specifically instructed to not do that as a missionary), though as a 20-year old, I was somewhat tempted while serving a full-time mission on a few occasions.  In an interview over at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Samuel Weber discussed some of the intentions behind the ritual in the first place and also why it is no longer performed in the Church today.  What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion). In the interview, Samuel Weber explained the ritual of shaking dust from feet.  As he put it: Shaking the dust off one’s feet was a ritual practice common in the early Latter-day Saint movement. The basic idea of the ritual was to invoke a curse on individuals who rejected the message or messengers of the restored gospel. Similar to other Latter-day Saint rituals and ordinances, it was a practice intended to call down God’s power on behalf of His servants. Although no longer practiced today, ritual cursing is found in scripture and church history, making it a topic of continued interest for Latter-day Saints. So, the ritual was one of cursing against those who rejected the Gospel or missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As mentioned by Weber above,…

Grass Roots in Mexico

Grass Roots in Mexico: Stories of Pioneering Latter-day Saints by F. LaMond Tullis (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2021) was one of the books I was most excited to see on the lists of books coming out in 2022.  Released in early July, Grass Roots in Mexico offers an important glimpse into the Church’s history in Mexico.  The first two chapters give a brief overview of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico.  These are followed by 19 chapters of short biographies or vignettes of Latter-day Saints in Mexico.  The selection includes a range of different people—from indigenous converts to Euro-American colonists from Utah, both men and women, relatively well-known stories (i.e., Rafael Monroy and Vicente Morales), and some about people who are largely unknown.  The book is not, by any means, comprehensive, but it does provide snapshots of various experiences of Latter-day Saints in Mexico. One thing to know going in is that the book does have a devotional dimension to it.   It is a history of the Church written by and primarily for faithful members.  Within the vignettes (the 19 short biographies), the majority of them follow a pattern of focusing on conversion stories followed by brief overview of some way in which they contributed to the Church and then a note on how many descendants they have in the Church and what high-profile Church callings those descendants have held.  A few chapters…