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.

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…

Sunday School Questions

We recently had a teacher training workshop in our ward. There was a good turn out with lots of very positive contributions and an overall great discussion. For my own part I talked about the use of questions as a…

My testimony

I’m no stranger to doubt and scepticism – I’m as much a child of conflicted modernity as anyone and it has been years since the majority of those close to me have professed an unwavering belief – and context is…

Why Bloom, et al are wrong

Harold Bloom’s recent NY Times article on Mormonism & politics was tremendously disappointing. The sheer volume of poorly (or dishonestly) researched writing on Mormonism this season is exhausting; and to get this sort of long worn-out, conspiracy minded expression of…

Statements on Heavenly Mother

I thought a good companion to Jonathan’s recent post would be a list of quotations by church authorities on Heavenly Mother found in Paulsen’s & Pulido’s recent BYU studies article, “A Mother There.” I do not list them in the…

Response to Alison – part II

Here’s a second post, responding to issues raised in Alison’s Serving on the Sidelines. Moses 6:59-60: That by reasons of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and…