Author: Dave Banack

Sunday Afternoon in a Nutshell

President Uchtdorf conducted the Sunday afternoon session, featuring talks by Elder Holland, Elder Cook, Elder Neilson, Elder Renlund, Elder Ringwood, Elder Sitati, and Elder Christofferson, followed by closing remarks from President Monson. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks given.

Saturday Afternoon in a Nutshell

President Eyring conducted the Saturday afternoon session, featuring talks by Elder Oaks, Elder Hales, Elder Zeballos, Elder Callister, Elder Watson, Elder Anderson, and President Packer. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks given.

Saturday Morning in a Nutshell

President Eyring conducted the Saturday morning session, which featured brief remarks from President Monson and talks from Elder Scott, Sister Matsumori, Elder Clayton, Brother Osguthorpe, Elder Bednar, and President Uchtdorf. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks.

Populism and the Early Church

I finally got my hands on a copy of The Democratization of American Christianity, Nathan O. Hatch’s look at how the egalitarian democratic spirit that pervaded post-Revolutionary America influenced five early American religious movements: the Christians (such as the Disciples of Christ), the Methodists, the Baptists, black churches, and Mormonism.

Two Kinds of Faith

I recently read Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, Terry Eagleton’s critique of the contributions to that debate by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens (who he conflates via the memorable moniker “Ditchkins”). It’s less than I’d hoped for, but Chapter Three, “Faith and Reason,” raises issues and questions about that most basic of First Principles, faith.

Life on the Fringe

I’ve seen several links but no discussion of the Slate piece on the hypothetical future role of Mormons, “The Catholic Church helped preserve Roman civilization. Can Mormonism do the same for America?” It’s part of an eight-part series on the theme How is America going to end? by a Slate senior editor.

New Primary Lesson Needed

Suggested lesson topic: What to do when you are seven years old and do not want to go to church. Yes, I finally watched the video of the seven-year-old kid who drove away in the family car to avoid going to church (see posts at Get Religion or the SL Trib for details and the video). The story coyly refrains from noting which church the kid was fleeing, but the video comes courtesy of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office, so I’m just guessing …

Two New Permabloggers

We are pleased to welcome two new permabloggers to our ranks: Alison Moore Smith and Rory Swensen. Both have recently guest blogged here, so I won’t repeat bio information from earlier welcome posts (see here and here for a refresher). We look forward to their continuing contributions here at T&S.

Modernism and the Mormon Intellectual

The Enlightenment and its legacy of reason applied to human affairs has been tough on religion. One would think this would apply with even more force to the LDS Church, given how recent are the founding miracles of Mormonism and how prominently they are featured in discussions of our history and practice. But most Mormons seem strangely unaffected by the modernist critique.

Anonymity as Virtue or Vice

Online anonymity is a topic that comes up regularly. Does if facilitate public discussion of controversial issues or just allow anonymous commenters to spread rumor and innuendo with no accountability? Does real-name posting or commenting improve quality via reputation effects or lead to self-censoring? These are valid questions for all online forums, not just blogs or the Bloggernacle.

AWOL: The Threefold Mission of the Church

I was cleaning up my blogroll yesterday and came across this post at Intelligent Life that prominently displays the threefold mission of the Church: preach the gospel, redeem the dead, perfect the Saints. It occurs to me I rarely hear this once-prevalent formulation in current LDS discourse. Where did it go?

God and Robots

They’re coming. Even if you don’t own a robot vacuum cleaner or lawnmower, you’ve been dealing with robots for many years now without realizing it: ATMs, kiosks that vend DVDs, the scan-it-yourself devices at the grocery store that greet you with a friendly “Welcome, valued customer!” and conclude with a brisk “Your receipt is printing. Don’t forget to pick up your change!” How long before the Church starts using robots for some functions? Please, no snarky comments. This is a serious topic.

Reflections on the Mormon Trail

On a recent corner-to-corner drive across the state of Wyoming, I parallelled the Mormon Trail for about 200 miles: from where the trail intersects I-25 (about 80 miles north of Cheyenne), through Casper (site of the first Mormon Ferry), along Wyoming 220 past Independence Rock, Devil’s Gate, and Martin’s Cove, then up US 287 past Split Rock to the Sixth Crossing of the Sweetwater River. I’ve never been much for pioneer tales, but I enjoyed taking in the landscape that was the common experience of the first twenty thousand Mormons who made the overland trek to Utah.

Upbeat Reflections on BYU

I recently spent a day on the BYU campus as part of an informal reunion with several old dorm-floor roommates and family members. It was a nice visit, and made me recognize something that often gets forgotten in online discussions about BYU: It is a great place for LDS kids to go to college.

Mormonism, Fundamentalism, and Absolute Truth

I recently read Terry Eagleton’s After Theory (Basic Books, 2003), in which Eagleton manages (in a very entertaining way) to be critical of just about everything, including fundamentalism and “Utah” (a term he seems to be using as a proxy for Mormonism). He makes an interesting argument about fundamentalism, suggesting that it is rooted in how certain people (“fundamentalists”) read texts. His references to Utah suggest he sees Mormonism as practicing a fundamentalist approach to truth. I think I disagree with both points. Some fundamentalist movements might be based on how certain texts are read, but not all, and Mormons don’t really employ the fundamentalist approach that Eagleton seems to attribute to us.

A New Mormon Gateway

A website with answers. That’s what Time Magazine calls the new religion website Patheos.com in “What Do Religions Believe? A Website with Answers.” The Time article describes the new site as one “that sets out to explain the differences among religions as well as illuminate the areas of common ground.” Just today the site unveiled its Mormon Gateway section, a menu of resources designed to complement the more detailed information presented in the Library section of the site.

Theology in the Wake of Evolution

It’s not easy being a theologian in the 21st century. One of the main reasons is that science provides credible, non-theistic explanations for many of those “where did we come from?” questions that religion once had all to itself. Evolution seems to pose a particular challenge. John Haught, a professor of theology at Georgetown, tries to tackle the problem head-on in his book God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution (Westview, 2000).

History and Identity

I recently read a short essay by Eric Hobsbawm, “Identity History Is Not Enough.” I came across it in his book On History, a collection of essays, but fortunately for you it is available online at the above link (except for the last page, for some reason). Mormonism is not mentioned, but the discussion seems to bear directly on the writing and reading of Mormon history.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it was one of those truly dumb ideas that couldn’t possibly catch on. Now it is an infotsunami, sweeping over the world in a growing horde of 140-character snippets [see “People Are Flocking to Twitter” at LDS Media Talk for a quick update]. So do you join the wave or run for high ground?

The Future of Religious Liberty

Does it have a future? Some people view religious liberty as a civil and constitutional right; increasingly, others see it as a problem to be dealt with. The Mirror of Justice post “Securing Religious Liberty in an Age of Growing Intolerance” is a short reflection on what this means for the future of religious liberty.

I’ve Seen All Good People

We know there are good times and bad times, but are there good people and bad people? Common sense says yes, as does virtue ethics, a branch of philosophical ethics that attempts to identify virtues worth having and tell good people how to get them. Alas, the story is not quite so simple.

The Mormon Sort

After seeing a reference or two, I noticed a copy of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart at the library and gave it a quick read. The thesis is simple: increased income and mobility over the last five decades has enabled Americans to self-sort geographically into communities surrounded by people they are most comfortable with, namely people like themselves.

One Last Book Before I Go

So your mission call finally arrived (see here, here, or here) and you suddenly realize that it starts in 44 days but you don’t know that much about Mormonism or what it is you are supposed to teach for two long years. You are suddenly serious about “missionary prep.” What book should you read?

Confronting Modernity

I recently finished up Hans Kung’s Great Christian Thinkers, which reviews the work of seven theologians (Paul, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Schleiermacher, and Barth). From an LDS perspective, the most interesting of the bunch is Friedrich Schleiermacher, who Kung terms “the paradigmatic theologian of modernity.” The question he presents to LDS readers is how our approach to religion and doctrine deals with modernity. Is our approach premodern, modern, or postmodern (which in theology generally means some version of neo-orthodoxy)?

Forgetting, and History

From Ernest Renan, a French 19th-century philosopher: Forgetting, and I would say even historical error, is an essential element in the creation of a nation, and that is why the progress of historical studies is often a danger for the nation itself.

Being Orthodox in the Modern World

A couple of years ago, Noah Feldman published “Orthodox Paradox,” an essay in which he recounted some of the tensions of being an Orthodox Jew in the modern world (I ran across it reading The Best American Spiritual Writing 2008). Increasingly, being an orthodox anything in the modern world raises some of the same tensions.