Author: James Olsen

James is the husband of Erin Fairlight Olsen. Together they have conspired to doom their four children to a lifetime of mispronounced names: Gaebriel Joseph, Magdeleine Ysabelle, Myriam Reevkahleh, and Ewa Nuhr. Raised where the buffalo still roam in northeastern Wyoming, James learned how to Anglicize French while serving in the Missouri, St. Louis Mission. Afterward he thought so long and indecisively and with such passionately committed existential anguish about what to do with his life that finally BYU simply granted him a degree in philosophy. He then received a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs from George Washington University. Unable to subsequently handle the pressures of looming heteronormativity, however, he once again took up philosophy, this time at Georgetown. Currently he is in Doha, Qatar, hiding out from Georgetown, which, much like his wife, would really appreciate it if he just graduated.

Reading Nephi – 1:1-6

‘I, Nephi’ begins his record in a remarkable manner, and I’m tempted to write long-windedly exploring the labyrinth of the first verse. I’m grateful that he acknowledges goodly parents and not just a goodly father. Some have certainly had only…

My morning with McBaine and Wiman

As happens every now and then, I had a furious, fortuitous conjoining that so filled the boughs with fruit that they now creak and threaten to break. And language—especially quick language—isn’t likely to succeed in conveying the experience. What follows…

Faithful priesthood narratives?

some of those who speak in opposition to women’s ecclesiastical enfranchisement do so because they can’t imagine what a faithful, coherent narrative of our dispensation could possibly look like if women’s priesthood role were restored and developed or if they did receive the Melchizedek Priesthood

Knocking With My Sisters

One of my most recent posts was an attempt to honestly explore (or at least ask) the question: “How do faithful members collectively petition our prophets to petition the heavens?” The scriptures and the early days of our church are replete…

Mourning with those that mourn

Job 1: 20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of…

Everyday Redemption

Strutting down the driveway, whistling with a snow shovel over my shoulder I had a moment where I was struck by the absurdity of the scene. I smiled. Then I wondered at it and how it came to be. Late…

Reasoning Together – Zion

We talk about Zion in a lot of different senses, but I think most of these share the general idea of communally gathering, developing, sharing, and partaking in everything that is lovely, virtuous, or praiseworthy or of good report. How…

Responding as Mandela

Driving [1] to work Friday morning the news reports were of course all about Nelson Mandela who had passed away the night before. Mandela was unquestionably a savior on Mt. Zion in the Mormon sense

Mortality

I have family members who have died recently, others who are dying, and some who tell me confidently every time we talk, “You know, I won’t be around much longer…”

Damnable Terminology

I now genuinely regret my use of the term ‘violence’ in my recent post. My intention was to be completely candid and point out a phenomenon of our collective experience. As I often tell my students, however, the thoughts, intentions…

Damnable Defaults

A great deal of the discussion on women in the priesthood that I see happening right now[1] concerns our efforts to control and propagate various narratives. Personally, I find our current default narratives even more upsetting than our current practices.

Joseph Smith’s Study of the Ancient World – Online!

The 2013 Church History Symposium now has most of the videos from the conference online (you can see the lineup for the conference here). I think the conference, it’s organization and execution, was a significant step forward for church-sponsored scholarship (or more…

Church History Conference

There is a Church History Conference at BYU March 7-8 entitled “Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World” (see details below). I find two things interesting about this conference: 1. The structure of the conference itself. The Church History Department…

The Temple and The Tempest

Shakespeare’s been critical for me at critical junctures in my life. In Mormonism where The Bard is revered, I think this is common. In Junior High Hamlet was the gift of language that bootstrapped the monkey into a meaningful world.…

Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a bit like Christmas time in terms of the mass solicitations sent out from various NGOs. To be honest, these are perhaps the only mass emails that I don’t mind. And I frankly agree with their general…