Author: Kaimi Wenger

Forgetting Kolob

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General Conference is the central forum for official instruction in Mormon doctrine. Conference has very wide viewership among church members, and its influence is magnified by the widespread reach of Conference talks in the Ensign. The last General Conference in which Kolob was mentioned — the star where God lives — was in 1969. In 1969, President McKay briefly alluded to the idea of Kolob as an actual belief: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints always have known through revelation of the numberless creations of God. They are taught that somewhere out in that great expanse of space is the great star Kolob that we sing about in the hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob.” Abraham of old was shown in vision these kingdoms, and he said: “And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones…

A House of Order? Serious Problems of Notice in Kate Kelly Excommunication

The disciplinary council for Sister Kate Kelly met yesterday. Today, the council announced that they had decided to excommunicate her, for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.” This result is very troubling. I have serious doubts about the substantive result here. I will set them aside for this post and instead focus on an important procedural matter: Sister Kelly was never informed that she was to be tried for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church,” was never given a chance to defend herself from that charge, and was ultimately excommunicated for an offense to which she had no way of responding. This is astounding. As noted on her website and in the media, Sister Kelly was informed by e-mail, on June 8th, that the bishopric was considering church discipline “on grounds of apostasy.” In response, she submitted a letter explaining that she had not committed apostasy. This was necessary as the court…

Will No One Rid Me of This Turbulent Priest?

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“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” According to popular tradition, this is the line that King Henry II blurted out after repeated disagreements with Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. (There are several variations, such as “who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”) Four of Henry’s knights interpreted this as a royal command and set off for Canterbury, where they slew Becket while he prayed at the altar. How should we understand the knights’ actions? Should we view them as following orders, or as acting on their own initiative? There are multiple possible interpretations. For instance, if we take an approach that “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same,” we might attribute the knights’ actions to Henry, whose actions set the events in motion. However, an official press release states that all decisions were made by local knights and not directed or coordinated by King Henry. And who…

When Civil Disobedience Isn’t

(Disobedient, that is.) As you may have noticed, the recent discussions about Ordain Women and related projects such as Wear Pants to Church Day have generated a complicated set of responses, many of them very critical. We saw critics labeling these women apostates or “dumb feminist bitches.” A few outliers even threatened violence against organizers. These harsh reactions start from a baseline that women who want to wear pants to church, or attend General Priesthood Meeting, or even (gasp) be ordained to the Priesthood, are obviously disobeying a core gospel principle, by disagreeing with existing church policy and culture. They are sometimes cast as protesters taking a stand through civil disobedience, in a way that violates Mormon norms. But is disagreement really wrong? Is this really disobedience? There is of course a great tradition of Civil Disobedience in Civil Rights activism, and it has generally involved public rulebreaking. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks clearly broke laws. And these were…

The Desolation of Noah: An Unexpected Explanation

Hi, I'm Noah.

It seems like we’re being inundated with discussions about Noah lately. A major motion picture is set to discuss the tale of Noah and the Ark — but the picture will also include an unusual disclaimer stating that it shouldn’t be seen as the real Noah story. Meanwhile, the Noah story itself faces a rising tide of criticism, with Bill Nye (the Science Guy) publicly ridiculing the story on national television. In response to that wave of criticism, some writers have floated defenses of the Noah account. For instance, at Meridian Magazine, writer Ronald Millett gives an in-depth discussion of how the Noah account can be reconciled with science — and therefore, how its critics are all wet. Given the extent to which the discussion has made a splash, I thought I might dip in a toe as well. Ahem. So. Millett is, of course, on the right track. Obviously the Noah account is real; and obviously as well, there…

Gay : Marriage :: Mormon : Christian

A Play in One Act Heber: . . . and that’s why we should all recognize that Mormons are Christians. Aquinas: Whoa, whoa. I understand your enthusiasm. The label of Christian is really valuable. But it also has a set definition. And I don’t think Mormons are in that definition. Heber: Why not? We believe in Jesus, don’t we? Christianity is defined by one thing: Belief in Jesus. Aquinas: That’s where you’re wrong. In fact, there’s a lot more to Christianity than belief in Jesus. Throughout human history, the word “Christian” has included a complicated package of additional, interrelated ideas. There is the Nicene creed, the Trinity, and a variety of other beliefs. And no entity satisfies that particular combination except for mainline Christians. Heber: But those are peripheral, cultural, possibly wrong. And when you look at it, even those have changed repeatedly over the years. Aquinas: Yes, there has been some shifting over time. But the label has always…

Good news for Gene Schaerr

As reported by outlets including Above the Law, well-known LDS attorney Gene Schaerr is leaving his law firm for a new post at the State of Utah. His departure e-mail describes his new role as “defending the constitutionality of traditional marriage.” This certainly seems like a worthwhile endeavor. It would be terrible if male-female marriage (which is often described as “traditional marriage”) were found unconstitutional, barring straight folks from marrying. I have good news, though. A careful perusal of the Kitchen v. Herbert opinion reveals that male-female marriage remains completely constitutional in Utah. In fact, based on anecdotal reports, male-female marriages are still taking place in Utah, even after Judge Shelby’s court ruling, and apparently without triggering any constitutional crisis. It looks like traditional marriage is still constitutional in Utah. And since that’s the case, I guess we can all go home now. (Image: Wikicommons.)

The Heavenly Family: A Proclamation

ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of Heavenly Parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. Heavenly Father and Mother have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. Heavenly Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Heavenly Father and Mother will be held accountable for the discharge of these obligations. Children of God are entitled to be reared by Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Heavenly Father is to preside over their families in love and righteousness and provide the necessities of life and protection. Heavenly Mother is…

Gay Polygamy in Utah!

By now you’ve heard the news. A federal judge in Utah just ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. This follow on last week’s ruling, from a different judge, that portions of Utah’s polygamy statute were also unconstitutional. What does it mean? Obviously, it means the advent of gay polygamy!! It won’t stop until everyone is married to everyone else, in one giant gay-polygamous-mega-wedding. Let the festivities begin! Okay, maybe not. Let’s go through the rulings, piece by piece, to see what they say, and what their effects may be.

The Glory of God is (Not-Too-Much) Intelligence

In a recent facebook thread (sparked by this post at Patheos), commenters have been talking about intellect and Mormonism. That conversation helped crystallize some thoughts that have been percolating in my mind for a while, about how the LDS community has a complicated and sometimes conflicted discourse about the importance of intelligence, intellect, and education — and some of the interesting ways in which that tension plays out. On the one hand, there is a significant strand of LDS thought that puts extremely high value on intelligence. The paradigmatic statement here, of course, is that “the glory of God is intelligence.” There’s a whole lot more like it. D&C 93 is a paean to intelligence; D&C 130 arguably even more so; and there’s a lot of additional support in places like D&C 88. These are more than just the traditional Christian view on education (which has sometimes been supportive), they are uniquely LDS angles. (I’d argue that the LDS retelling…

Quick Reminder about Google Reader

Tonight at midnight, Google Reader will officially turn into a pumpkin. If you’ve been reading Times and Seasons (or any other blogs) with Google Reader, you should set up your transition before the end of the day today (if you haven’t already done so). There are a variety of popular alternatives available, and many of them have import-export features to help facilitate switching. And whatever your preferred method of information consumption, thanks for reading Times and Seasons!

The Gold Coin; or, how we should teach our youth about their worth

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Object Lesson: The Gold Coin Supplies: Either a $1 coin (such as the recently issued gold coin) or a half-dollar coin. A small bag of dirt. A few miscellaneous objects, such as a pen or paper clip. Lesson: The teacher holds up the coin and asks the class, “What is this?” (Wait for the class to answer: It’s a coin.) “What is its value?” (Either a dollar or 50 cents, depending on the coin type.) Teacher drops the coin on the ground. Kicks it. Steps on it. Lifts up the coin again. “How much is it worth now?” It’s still worth a dollar, isn’t it? Teacher takes a pen or paper clip, and scratches the side of the coin. Covers it in dirt. Lifts it up. Asks again, “How much is it worth now?” It’s still worth a dollar. You are children of God with infinite value. You are worth an infinity of these coins. Please don’t forget this. Some…

Can we can?

There’s a flurry of facebook posts flying today, based on discussions at right wing survival websites about an alleged decision by the LDS church to stop canning in the Eastern part of the United States, due to excessive government regulation. Has anyone heard about this? Can we still can?

An Overview of LDS Involvement in the Proposition 8 Campaign

I’ve just posted my article, ‘The Divine Institution of Marriage’: An Overview of LDS Involvement in the Proposition 8 Campaign, to SSRN. The article is largely descriptive, setting out in some detail the church’s actions and statements relating to Proposition 8. It chronicles a significant amount of factual material that has not been discussed at all in the existing legal literature. It may be especially relevant to people who have an interest in Proposition 8, same-sex marriage issues, gay rights issues generally, or LDS church issues generally. The full abstract is as follows: “The Divine Institution of Marriage”: An Overview of LDS Involvement in the Proposition 8 Campaign The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon church) was heavily involved in the passage of Proposition 8 in California in November 2008, which restricted marriages recognized under state law to those between a man and a woman (as construed by the California Supreme Court, it prospectively denied legal…

Established by Jesus Christ himself

In a recent news article discussing the Ordain Women community and its upcoming inaugural meeting, LDS church spokeswoman Jessica Moody stated that the male-only priesthood “was established by Jesus Christ himself and is not a decision to be made by those on Earth.” Of course, there may be a few questions about whether this statement is descriptively accurate, given those pesky Phoebe and Priscilla and Junia verses and whatnot. But let’s set those issues aside for a moment. Because theologically, it does make sense that we might want to follow Jesus’s example here. And factually, a few quirky anomalies aside, the Priesthood ordination pattern during Jesus Christ’s ministry is very, very clear: Jesus only ever ordained men. Jewish men. It’s very clear, folks. No women. And no Gentiles. Zero. And so if we want to follow the pattern set out during Christ’s ministry — well, I guess we ought to do the same. Of course this might be difficult news…

A Very Short History of Gender and Participation at Times and Seasons

Times and Seasons began life, in November 2003, as an institution where men held all leadership and speaking positions. Really! There were four of us: Adam, Matt, Nate, and me; the first post was by Adam. And we men all felt very important in our roles as T&S bloggers. In fact, we felt so important that we added four more men to the group in quick succession: Greg, Gordon, Jim and Russell. You will note the distinct lack of women’s voices. It was a male-only Permabloggerhood, so to speak. Men and women are different, you know: Men blog, and women pinterest! It’s like two complementary shrubs with slightly different roles. Alas, our well-tended shrubbery came crashing to a halt when Kristine joined the group in February of 2004. And while Kristine eventually embarked for parts unknown, Julie and other women continued to brazenly seek — and receive! — ordination to the previously-all-male Permabloggerhood. Against all historical precedent, too. And as…

I’m a Mormon, and I believe that women

. . . should be eligible for Priesthood ordination. So do these other lovely people. Please check out some of the profiles, if it’s a topic that interests you, or visit our facebook page for more discussion. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I know that reasonable people can disagree here. But I do think that one can very much believe in female ordination within the Mormon framework. It fits well into the narrative of ever-expanding Priesthood eligibility in LDS theology, I think (ever-expanding circles from Levites to Israelites to Gentiles, and finally to all men in 1978). It also fits well into many LDS ideas on gender — if men and women are fundamentally different as church leaders suggest, then men may not be able to adequately represent women’s interests. It meshes well with statements from LDS history, such as Joseph Smith’s prophecy that the Relief Society would be a “kingdom of priests.” It engages President…

Jerks for Jesus?

Is it possible to be a jerk for Jesus? If someone believes that God’s laws prohibit women from wearing pants to church, should they physically threaten those women? Is that an act of righteous reprimand and belief, or as a very serious overstep? If an internet writer vigorously responds to harsh attacks from critics of the church, but these responses are often laced with incredibly foul misogyny, should other church members support or distance themselves from those remarks? What makes Mormons — normally among the nicest people on the planet — suddenly feel compelled to lash out with as much meanness and vitriol as they can muster towards women who are perceived as violating cultural norms? Can an excessive focus on boundary-policing result in less Christlike behavior? When somebody is convinced that God is speaking through their mouth, are they quicker to act like an ass? There’s more than one answer to these questions, pointing in crooked line. Love one…

Quirky Questions in Mormon Theology: Can there be an odd number of people in Heaven?

Well, if they’re Mormons, there will definitely be a number of odd people in Heaven! ::rimshot:: So, let’s see. There’s a popular LDS belief that only married couples get to Heaven. But is that really church doctrine? And could there be an odd number of people in Heaven? Sort of. Maybe. Ish. D&C 131 reads: 1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; 2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; 3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. 4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase. Does this mean, only paired, married couples in Heaven? Maybe. But it’s complicated. Let’s run through some ways in which an odd number of people could get to Heaven: 1. The possibility of a gender-specific rule. The D&C…

Business Week’s erroneous claim about LDS charitable giving

Caroline Winter’s new article is a must-read. She examines many facets of the church’s estimated income, its property ownership, and its use of funds. I thought many portions of it were very, very good. Readers seem especially focused on a few key portions of the article. However, one of her key fact claims is based on a factual error. Here is why. Winter writes that: According to an official church Welfare Services fact sheet, the church gave $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid in over 178 countries and territories during the 25 years between 1985 and 2010. A fact sheet from the previous year indicates that less than one-third of the sum was monetary assistance, while the rest was in the form of “material assistance.” All in all, if one were to evenly distribute that $1.3 billion over a quarter-century, it would mean that the church gave $52 million annually. A recently published article co-written by Cragun estimates that the Mormon…

Wheat for Man

It’s pretty obvious that wheat is spiritually required. Let’s list some reasons why: 1. The Doctrine and Covenants says directly, “wheat for man.” 2. Jesus ate wheat, and specifically gave wheat to his followers and commanded them to eat it. Multiple times. 3. Jesus specifically said that wheat is righteousness. 4. There are about a zillion other scriptural references to wheat. 5. Modern prophets have said a whole bunch of things about the awesomeness of wheat. 6. It is objective fact that wheat is yummy. Now I realize, there are some people who may struggle with living this principle. Celiac folk, gluten-allergy people, or others who may be tempted by non-wheat attraction. But it’s pretty clear that most people do just fine eating wheat. I personally eat wheat all the time. So do several of my friends! And I knew someone who used to not like wheat, but then he repented and now he loves wheat. Finally, we should remember…

Tomorrow’s folklore (Updated)

Recent and highly public events have focused attention on the prevalence of “folklore” — church members, sometimes in positions of authority, “freelancing” beyond church doctrine. Of course, there are a variety of complicated issues in trying to sort out doctrine from folklore, which l’affaire Bott cast into sharp relief. There have been recriminations and hurt feelings, and the community will likely be dealing with the fallout for some time to come. But we do have a few silver linings. For instance, the church newsroom’s prompt and unequivocal condemnation of Bott’s statements likely means that highly-visible BYU professors will think twice before making inflammatory, sweeping, extra-doctrinal claims to the national media. Oh, wait. Maybe not.

Korihor fought for religious freedom

A three-part quiz: 1. Please review the account of Korihor in Alma 30. 2. True or false: Korihor was a religious freedom advocate battling an oppressive central government. 3. What does your answer in #2 say about these areas? Pick a few, and elaborate: -The role of religion in public life -The place of religious freedom claims -Free speech and its potential limitations -Popular conceptions about the proper role of government in 1830 (or in 2011) -Democracy, theocracy, and Zion -Any related topics of interest

Rachel Whipple joins Times and Seasons

We’re big fans of Rachel’s posts and comments, and so we’re awfully happy to announce that she is joining Times and Seasons as our newest permablogger. For anyone unfamiliar with her blogging, Rachel’s introduction can be found here, and her posts are here. Welcome to the group, Rachel!

Official Declaration 3

“We have noticed an unfortunate trend in church attendance. Despite thirty-plus years of formal equality, African-American members are still severely underrepresented in church attendance in the United States. In contrast, white church members are highly overrepresented. This may be because of differences in innate spirituality between the demographic groups. Or, it may be due to social forces. Regardless, it is a problem which must be addressed. Starting immediately and until further notice, all Priesthood leadership in the United States at the ward, stake, and general level will be drawn solely from African-American church members. This will provide additional incentive for members of this group to attend church. It is not a disproportionate advantage for African-Americans (nor a disadvantage for white church members) because of course all church leadership callings are simply opportunities for service. We are happy to provide our African-American members with this opportunity for service, and are confident that they will serve well in leadership callings. Other church…

Times and Seasons welcomes Rachel Whipple

We’re happy to introduce Rachel Whipple as our latest guest blogger. Rachel got her bachelor’s in geology (and a husband) at BYU. She lived in San Diego and on the North Shore of Long Island before returning to Provo. Now that her husband teaches at BYU, she gets to take all the classes that she wanted to take as an undergrad, but couldn’t fit into her schedule. (So far, that’s been mostly philosophy and anthropology courses, because what could be more fun than spending a semester reading David Hume?) She has been a stay at home mom for a decade, and she notes that “I’ve found time to explore a variety of crafts that I would never had time to consider had I continued working full time. I’ve learned to sew, weave, knit, design clothes and costumes, and reupholster furniture. I’ve learned to cook real food from scratch, bake bread, and garden. I’ve been a yoga teacher, preschool assistant, and…

Evolving LDS views on homosexuality

As I mention in my companion post, recent news stories have disagreed about the idea that LDS views on homosexuality are evolving. The history of LDS views on homosexuality is complicated, and I can’t fully do it justice in a relatively short post, but I’ll at least try to hit the highlights. Here’s a sketch of some of the ways in which LDS views on homosexuality have changed over the past 50 years — in very positive ways, I believe.[1] Church views have changed substantially regarding causes of homosexuality. In 1969, then-apostle and future prophet Spencer W. Kimball published The Miracle of Forgiveness, in which he stated that homosexuality was caused by masturbation.[2] This book, which echoed his 1964 talk “Love versus Lust,” received widespread circulation among the LDS population.[3] The idea of masturbation as a cause of homosexuality was mentioned again in the 1992 church pamphlet Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems: Suggestions for Ecclesiastical Leaders, which…

An Unfortunate Attack

Media sources including the LDS Newsroom have recently engaged in or supported an unfortunate attack on LDS writer Joanna Brooks. Brooks, a professor at San Diego State University, wrote at Religion Dispatches last month about Mitch Mayne: In LDS communities, where lay congregational leaders have positions analogous to those of priests, pastors, and rabbis, news of Mayne’s calling is having an impact, revealing continuing divisions among Mormons and questions about evolving Mormon views on homosexuality. There is, in fact, no consensus Mormon view on homosexuality. While most Mormons view homosexual sexual activity as a sin, Church leaders have expressed divergent perspectives on LGBT issues, ranging from condemnatory and derisive to ameliorative and compassionate. In response, non-LDS blogger Terry Mattingly at Get Religion wrote a snarky and condescending post accusing Brooks of bad journalism: You know that whole asking-questions thing that journalists are supposed to do as part of their work? You know, that thing where the journalist tries to ask…

An openly gay man in the [edit: NOT QUITE] bishopric

Blogger Mitch Mayne writes: “I am Mitch Mayne, and I am an openly gay Latter-Day Saint. On August 14, 2011, I was sustained as a member of the Bishopric in the Bay Ward of the San Francisco Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons).” Take a look at the post, it’s fascinating. (I’ve confirmed this with multiple sources, too. It is not an urban legend. Brother Mayne just spoke about his calling in Sacrament.) This seems like a big step, and a potentially positive development. It also seems somewhat precarious, and raises some questions. Is this move fully sanctioned by the institutional church? Is this calling the product of an exact combination of specific events and people, or is it a sign of broader potential institutional change? And for that matter, will conservative members refuse to sustain Brother Mayne? I’ll be very interested to see how it all works out. In the mean while,…