Last night I was reading Haggai (*really* bad insomnia). I actually woke up my husband with my bed-shaking giggling after I read “I smote you with blasting and with MILDEW…” (Haggai 1:18) I just couldn’t help picturing a guy with a bad French accent, yelling from a tower, “I smite you with mildew, you silly Englishman…” Come to think of it, maybe this suggests that Haggai was actually a woman–after all, men don’t think about mildew, do they? Hmmm–I feel a dissertation coming on!
Before T&S is reduced entirely to partisan bickering and banter among Yankees fans (it’s OK, guys, I understand–not everyone is noble enough to endure the agonies of Red Sox fandom), I thought I’d write about Mormonism’s own labor hero, Esther Peterson. This is mostly adapted from an interview Cokie Roberts did in 1993, and retold in her book _We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters_ (dumb title; pretty good book). Esther Peterson’s mother was one of the first women to attend Brigham Young Academy, but she had to drop out and work when her father became ill. So from a young age, Esther was aware of the real necessity of women being able to work and earn a living. Esther left Utah to attend Columbia Teachers College, where she met Oliver Peterson. They married and moved to Boston, where Esther taught at a girls’ school. She also volunteered to teach working girls at the YWCA in the evenings. One night, she arrived…
Yesterday was our last long beach day before the start of school. As I watched my achingly beautiful children playing in the waves and building sandcastles, I couldn’t help but think about how utterly charmed their lives are (with the exception of having a neurotic and incompetent mother, whose genetic endowment to them will likely result in eyebrows, noses, and thighs that fail to meet the highest aesthetic standards). And of course, because of them, my life is also blessed beyond all reasonable hope. This unnerves me; it is so clear to me that these blessings are bestowed without my meriting them that I don’t even know how to be properly grateful. The background of my brooding, of course, was the news from Beslan, where hundreds of parents spent the day waiting, praying, hoping, and then, horrifyingly, identifying the maimed and burned bodies of their children–children who were loved like mine, whose parents surely deserved God’s favor as much or…
A: When noone knows about it? A couple of Sundays ago, in the hall during Sunday School time, I was talking about vasectomies with a woman in my ward. (What?! What do *you* talk about in the hall during Sunday School?) She was telling me quite matter-of-factly how glad she was that her husband had been willing to have one when they were sure their last child had arrived. This woman is fairly conservative, and I’m sure she would never knowingly do something contrary to Church policy. In any case, she would not discuss it openly if she had. She just had NO IDEA that the Handbook of Instructions “strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control.” Moreover, unless she or her husband had been prompted to consult with the bishop about the surgery, there’s no way they *could* have known about the policy. So I’m wondering what the usefulness of such policies is. It’s true, of…
I might as well go stick a knife in the toaster now! : )
No history lesson today, just my favorite story about one of the hymns we’re singing. The LDS poet Emma Lou Thayne relates this story about her friend, Jan Cook, who moved from Salt Lake City to a remote part of Africa: “[Her husband’s] work had taken them and their three small children there, and any meetings attended were in their own living room with only themselves as participants. By their third Christmas, Jan was very homesick. She confessed this to a good friend, a Mennonite; Jan told her how she missed her own people, their traditions, even snow. Her friend sympathized and invited her to go with her in a month to the Christmas services being held in the only Protestant church in the area, saying that there would be a reunion there of all the Mennonite missionaries on the continent.
The really terrific discussion in the comments on Jim’s “Unexamined Faith” post puts me in mind of a favorite passage from Evelyn Waugh. I was saving it for Epiphany, but it fits here. It’s from an early (bad!) novel, _Helena_, and it’s a bit overwritten and treacly, but, well, some of us like that sort of thing!
I don’t do great Sunday School lessons like Jim and Julie, but I do write short notes on the music for our ward bulletin most weeks. Mostly I shamelessly steal from Karen Lynn Davidson’s book on the hymns, but sometimes I plagiarize from other sources as well, and I occasionally have an original thought. I’m going to start posting my notes here, too, on the off chance that someone might find them interesting.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on what is so troubling to me about some of the recent discussions of abortion. Aside from the distressingly obvious lack of female participants in the discussion, I think the thing that makes me twitchiest is the discussion of whether or not rape victims should be *allowed* to hear from a compassionate bishop that abortion is an acceptable course. I’ve been thinking a lot about how a bishop could provide appropriate and helpful counsel in that situation, and I have to say that I think the odds are stacked against him, even before he opens his mouth.
I have to apologize for not thanking Melissa Proctor for her excellent guest-blogging. I was hoping to provoke her into another post or two, but she is ever-so-diligently preparing for qualifying exams and writing a dissertation prospectus, and has steadfastly refused all of my wiles. So, hearty, if somewhat belated, thanks to Melissa for some quietly thought-provoking posts. If you’re looking for a break from all the war talk, I’d suggest a re-reading of hers. (I’m still trying to figure out what to think about “Deseret.”)
Our gentle readers may be interested to know that Jim’s post on discussing politics grew partly out of some extended e-mail discussion that has gone on today among the T&S regulars about a perception among readers of a conservative tilt in the comments and discussions here (there were a few e-mail complaints from readers; a few of the regular bloggers–cough, khh, cough–were feeling a little oppressed). After reading and responding to this flurry of e-mail, I checked in just in time to read the exchange on the Elder Packer and Beards thread about how the conservatives are oppressed around here. Perhaps if everyone feels opressed, we’re doing something right? If there’s anyone who doesn’t feel that his or her (or their, Kingsley:)) ox is being well and truly gored, please let us know immediately, and we will do our best to offend you! :)
Ahem. We’d like to release grasshopper with a vote of thanks for his excellent contributions as guest-blogger. All in favor, please go back and reread his posts, which were hefty enough to merit a second reading! And, of course, visit him at Let Us Reason for continuing lessons in careful and articulate thinking about all things Mormon. Also, at this time, we are pleased to welcome Melissa Proctor as our newest guest blogger. Melissa holds an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Yale Divinity School and is currently a doctoral student in Religion at Brown University. She teaches Gospel Doctrine in her ward. And, besides being staggeringly brilliant and well-read, and speaking several languages you may or may not have heard of, she makes exceedingly yummy bread and strawberry jam. (I’m stopping now, because she made me promise not to go on too long about her many accomplishments and talents, *not* because I couldn’t go on at great length!!)
We’ve had a few teasingly warm days in the last few weeks, and so my children are starting to want to be as scantily clad as possible. I’ve been horrified as I’ve shopped for summer clothes for my 5-year-old daughter–everything is spandex and mini and halter-topped and sex-kitten sandals *in size 5!* It’s awful. On the other hand, I scandalized my visiting teacher last year, when she was kind enough to visit teach me at the beach (because it’s the only place my children can play by themselves for 15 or 20 minutes and not end up bleeding), by letting the above-mentioned daughter change her clothes on the beach without any elaborate towel-draping subterfuge. So I’ve been thinking about the relationship between modesty and shame, and how to teach one with as little of the other as appropriate.
Ha! I can beat Nate Oman at pompous blog titles any day (even when I’m just recycling one aspect of his question in less philosophically sophisticated terms!). And I apologize for the gendered language, but “The Siblinghood of Humankind” just ain’t got that swing. Astute readers (or literate nine-year-olds, really) will have noticed by now that I have a teensy tiny little problem with authority, especially when other people have more of it than I do. It has occurred to me that I have long since passed the age when such authority issues are appropriate, and even the age when they’re appealing in a Rebel-Without-a-Cause sort of way, and that my life might be easier if I would just get over it already. So I’ve been trying hard to figure out just why it is that I can’t cheerfully acknowledge other people’s stewardship over me and get on with the obedience training. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
Here’s your RDA of George Herbert: IESU Iesu is in my heart, his sacred name Is deeply carved there: but th’other week A great affliction broke the little frame, Ev’n all to pieces: which I went to seek: And first I found the corner, where was ‘I’, After, where ‘ES,’ and next where ‘U’ was graved. When I had got these parcels, instantly I sat me down to spell them, and perceived That to my broken heart he was ‘I ease you,’ And to my whole is IESU.
if there are any heavens my mother will (all by herself) have one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor a fragile heaen of lilies-of-the-valley but it will be a heaven of blackred roses my father will be (deep like a rose tall like a rose) standing near my (swaying over her silent) with eyes which are really petals and see nothing with the face of a poet really which is a flower and not a face with hands which whisper This is my beloved my (suddenly in sunlight he will bow, & the whole garden will bow) –e.e. cummings (as if you couldn’t tell ;>))
Alas, today we bid farewell to guest blogger Richard Bushman, whose first entry broke records for the rate of immediate commenting (I’m guessing–not even Kaimi is nerdy enough to keep those statistics!), and whose last flurry of posts should keep us in interesting topics for a month or two! Thank you very much, Richard, for asking such good questions and helping us think about interesting things in new ways. Fortunately, we will not lack for good new discussions–Steve Evans continues his stint for another week, and today we welcome another guest, Ben Huff. Ben’s animal magnetism has been discussed here, but he’s not just another pretty face! He’s currently finishing up a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Notre Dame, writing his dissertation in Ethics, focusing on the relationship between virtue and happiness. He earned his undergraduate degree from BYU, in philosophy and math, after serving a mission in the Japan Tokyo South mission. Prior to his mission, he spent a year…
This morning as we were leaving for church, I ran over my daughter’s scooter, which she had left behind the mini-van. It was firmly wedged under the rear axle, with the handle bars turned to make removing it impossible. While we were puzzling over what to do, and trying to remember how to work the jack, Louisa (age 5) piped up, “I know what to do!” We immediately thought it was going to be one of those testimony meeting moments, where a child in sweet innocence asks for the immediate and practical help of angels. Our sappiness was quickly dispelled when she said excitedly, “Let’s call the Car Talk guys!” (This one’s for you, Nate; I know how you love NPR!)
Here it is: What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. (Doctrine & Covenants 1:38)
O my chief good, How shall I measure out thy blood? How shall I count what thee befell, And each grief tell? Shall I thy woes Number according to thy foes? Or, since one star showed thy first breath, Shall all thy death?
In the comments thread of the post about Nate’s little problem, Ryan articulately described a related problem with Mormon liberals: “The reason I bring that up is that I believe the character and motivation transfer closely to the snark, which is simply the better-educated cousin of the simpler debunker. I have no problem with the beliefs of my less “orthodox” friends, who prefer to think more critically about church hierarchy, history, doctrine, etc. than I do. My problem is that they wish so often to be the cool, informed person that is able to show why the simple believers are foolish.” While I don’t think I’m (usually) boring or insulting, I did feel brought up short by Ryan’s critique, and I’ve been thinking about why.
In the long tradition of Mormon women trying to ease discomfort of all kinds with food, I thought I’d try to distract us from contentious topics with casserole talk. My children have recently discovered Jello. This is a development I have worked hard to avoid for 7 years, and I am chagrined. Naturally they love it–after all, what’s not to like about a tasty combination of sugar, animal hooves, petroleum byproducts, and scary chemical dyes? But my resistance to this peculiarly Mormon food has been a point of honor for me for a long time, and I’m having a small identity crisis.
Everyone listens to Handel’s Messiah at Christmastime, but it was originally performed at Eastertime, and the Easter portion of the piece has some gorgeous and infrequently performed gems, like the tenor aria “Behold and see if there be any sorrow” and the soprano aria that follows “But thou didst not leave his soul in hell.” So if you haven’t listened lately, dust off your CDs and listen to the WHOLE THING, not just the MoTab recording of the “highlights.” There are lots of good recordings out there, but I like Christopher Hogwood’s with the Academy of Ancient Music, because I like the chorus with boys instead of women. (yeah, it’s hard to be a feminist and early music critic at the same time!) I also like the clean sound of the smallish chorus, but if you want a big loud sloppy Hallelujah Chorus, you might not like this. I also LOVE Boston Baroque’s recording, which is even lighter and quicker,…
Last week’s Sunday School lesson, like many in our ward, was a string of scripture verses taken out of context, interspersed with quotations from random General Authorities on the keywords in each verse. Many talks assume a similar format these days. It occurred to me that these lessons and talks would not have been possible even five years ago, and that perhaps we ought to spend a little time paying attention to the changes wrought by lds.org.
Lest anyone miss it, here is a gem from Grasshopper that was hiding in the comments: Jonah was a prophet, swallowed by a whale. When he was on board, the ship just couldn’t sail. So they tossed him over, next thing that he knew, Nineveh repented, Jonah had to, too. Swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet, won’t get away; Swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet; he’ll find the way. I hereby nominate this song and Kaimi’s “Put Potatoes with the Veal” (which I can’t find; what thread was it in, Kaimi??) as the inaugural entries in the Times and Seasons Satirical Song contest. Entries must fit with a hymn tune or Primary song from the LDS canon. Prizes will be awarded on the entirely rational and objective criterion of how much Diet Coke I splurt through my nose while reading the entries. Entries which cause lightning to strike my computer will be disqualified.
See here for the AP story, here for Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s witty riff.
In the long comments thread on Karen’s post on women’s issues, Brent has done the inevitable: accused those who criticize the “revealed structure” of the church of faithlessness. Brent gets kudos for stating his opinion forthrightly and eloquently. His is a criticism that gets to the heart of many divisive discussions between Mormons of different temperaments and ideological persuasions, so I am hijacking the comments thread to address the issue separately.
For reasons that remain opaque to me, my two oldest children (ages 7 and 5) have lately become enamored of the story of the ten cleansed lepers, and regularly ask to have it told to them. Last night, during family home evening, they asked to hear it again. We obliged, and when we got to the part where the one returns to give thanks, Steve asked, “And what did Jesus say?” Sam (3) said “You’re welcome!” After I picked myself up from the floor, it seemed to me that, in fact, this might have been the expected response from a gracious lord. “Where are those other nine ingrates?” seems, well, human.
Hey, all you legal eagles! Somebody please explain what in the world the Utah D.A. who’s charging Melissa Rowland with murder for refusing a cesaearean section could be thinking.
I tried to ask this question earlier, in the context of The Passion, but it pretty quickly got lost in another round of beating the moribund R-rated movies horse. So I’ll ask again, without the attempt at pop-culture referentiality. How has Mormon Christology changed in the last half-century or so? And why?