Author: Jonathan Green

Suggestions for expatriate Mormons

I don’t know of any Americans planning to move into my ward soon. If there were any, I wish they would understand a few things from the outset. (If you’re contemplating a foreign assignment in an industrial nation, some of this might apply to your situation as well.)

Brigham Young and the history of reading in the West

Brigham Young’s condemnation of novel reading during the last two decades of his life is a perfect example of a much-studied moment in the history of reading, the hypothesized “reading revolution” of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But the peculiar trajectory of Brigham Young’s attitude, from wary tolerance of novel reading to blanket combination of it,[1] is unusual.

Before the cradle

There are songs that make me feel that God is all and I am nothing, and that God has given me everything and I deserve none of it, although that is far too precise and theological a description for an experience that is almost entirely pre-rational.

A German mirror on Mormons in American religion and politics

Gerhard Spörl, reporter for Der Spiegel, surely did not have an easy task. After his editors at the finest German-language news weekly on the planet took notice of a German Mormon apostle and a Mormon candidate for the U.S. presidency, they gave Spörl the responsibility for interviewing Dieter Uchtdorf, visiting the church offices in Frankfurt, and trying to explain Mormons and their religion to a million German readers (article in English translation here).

Living in the limelight

Sometime on or before November 4, 2008, the Romney campaign is going to tank. (Dwelling too long on the possibility that he won’t tank is not good for the cardiac health of both his supporters and his opponents, so we’ll ignore that possibility for now.) After the Romney candidacy is no more, how are we Mormons going to make people notice us?

The wisdom of one-room schools

I think Kaimi’s metaphor is apt, maybe in more ways than he intended. Every few weeks, or every few days, there’s another discussion of polygamy, and some country hick who’s new to the big city suggests in breathless wide-eyed wonder that plural marriage was a way to care for widows and other women without families. Thereupon much merriment ensues among those who are wise to the ways of the world. Who could be so naive? But then I read what Richard Bushman told the Pew Forum a few weeks ago:

The reader in Mormon literature

What I dislike most about discussing Mormon literature is the all but inevitable moment when someone disparages the low artistic taste and congenital stinginess of Mormon readers. So let me set out the foundation for any discussion of Mormon literature and its readers: Readers owe authors nothing. Not a single copper-plated cent. Not a second of their time. Nothing.

The recycled image

Does source study make us better readers? I, Hercules, Duke of Ferrara, [attest that] we now have in our city of Ferrara several nuns miraculously redolent of holiness, and above all the worthy sister Lucy of Narnia

Golden plates, prophesying of Christ

Part of medieval Christianity’s reworking of its inheritance from Classical Antiquity included turning the Greek Sibyls from local oracles into foretellers of Christ’s birth. After the christianized Sibyls’ prophecies had spent a thousand years or so on the medieval equivalent of the bestseller list, meddling philologists started asking just how the pre-Christian Sibyls came to know Jerome’s Vulgate so well.

The Church of Latter-day Global Nomads

“Global nomads” is apparently how marketing demographers refer to people who make a practice of living outside their native country. I imagine it’s supposed to make the expatriate experience sound adventurous, upscale, and fashion-forward, but mostly the phrase strikes me as a bit silly and pretentious. That being said, it’s remarkable how perfectly suited Mormonism is as a church for global nomads.

Kurt Vonnegut

There was a time, during my senior year in high school, when I listened to the Doors and Pink Floyd for the sake of their lyrics, and memorized modern poetry, and read Kurt Vonnegut.

Mitt Romney, commencement speaker

Misinformation about Mormonism is nothing new, so the bloopers in Kenneth Woodward’s editorial about Mitt Romney’s upcoming speech at Regents University in today’s New York Times don’t disturb me much. What annoys me is Woodward’s argument about how Mormons should talk about themselves.

Humility in the academic job market (or, why you shouldn’t forget about BYU)

In a job interview, the rhetorical approach you are looking for is “I can solve all your problems for you”: increase enrollments, raise the department’s research profile, advise the student club, pull in outside funding, the whole enchilada. (Can you really do all this? Of course you can! You now have a Ph.D., right?) Now is not the time for false modesty. Humility, however, is an essential part of your job search.

Fireside notes

What does an apostle, who himself had spent a long time away from his young family for military service, who has himself experienced grief and loss, say to a congregation of American servicemen and -women and their families in a distant country, many of whom have been to Iraq or have lost friends there or will soon be in Iraq for an unknowable duration, and who have traveled in many cases for hours to hear an apostle speak? What Elder Ballard said last night was:

Does coffee make you unclean?

In the Pentateuch, we find two ways of doing wrong. There is the more familiar sequence where a person sins by violating divine law and must atone for the guilt, but also the sequence where a person becomes unclean through contact with a tabooed person or object and must be ritually cleansed.

The King and Us

Today my wife visited a ward conference in Grafenwöhr, representing the stake YW presidency. As of today, Grafenwöhr is a US servicemen’s ward; until now it’s been a branch. For a meetinghouse, the ward rents a local hall. Before it was used as a church, the building was a bar, and then a strip club. Also, Elvis once performed there, approximately where the young women now have their classroom. Some LDS meetinghouses have longer and nobler histories, but I would guess few have had such close brushes with fame.