Category: News and Politics

Politics – Current Events – Media

Reading Nephi – 1:7-17

Joseph Smith remarked on visions that they are something that overcomes the visionary—that is, they’re physically exhausting. After the famous vision he shared with Sidney Rigdon (D&C 76), Sidney was apparently quite overcome, and Joseph quipped, “He’s not as used to this as I am” (or something to that effect, a la Truman Madsen). Thus it appears to have been the case with Lehi—overcome after his experience in the presence of God (a pillar of fire being a typological Old Testament symbol for the presence of God), he casts himself upon his bed. But God wasn’t yet done with him. Hardy points out that this appears to be something of a cover-up, that Nephi appears to be intentionally blurring the lines between visions (note that Nephi’s narrative begins with what is clearly denoted as a conscious, daytime vision) and dreams, which Nephi often parenthesizes as a “vision.” Hardy sees Nephi as responding to the criticism lodged by Jeremiah that dreams…

My Life as a Mama Dragon

Today I am pleased to share a guest post by my mother, Christie Frandsen. Christie is a gifted teacher, leader and speaker, and has taught early morning seminary, Institute, and adult scripture classes for many years in Southern California. She has also been involved in Girl Scouting for decades in many significant leadership capacities. She is the mother of eleven children and grandmother of eighteen.   Last weekend in Provo, Utah, I attended the Annual International Conference of Affirmation, a support organization for LGBT Mormons, family and friends. This was my second conference, so I already knew it would be a weekend filled with an abundance of informative workshops, deeply inspirational stories, great music (you haven’t lived until you have sung Come, Come, Ye Saints with an auditorium filled with gay Mormons), too much delicious food, and not enough sleep. I knew I would be creating and renewing friendships with good people from all over the country who find ourselves in…

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 goodly fathers and not goodly mothers (Disney loves this scenario), but as written, I see a reflection of my own life in the first line of the Book of Mormon—of all of our lives. We have goodly Parents — Heavenly Parents. And, accordingly as Nephi notes, we have been taught somewhat in all of their learning, and are continuing to be so taught, which is the purpose of our sojourn. Indistinguishable from this learning is Nephi’s frank admission of affliction being integral to the whole process. And too often this can come to dominate our view of life. Nevertheless, there is goodness. And how these things are able to comingle in a divine setting is itself the substance of the…

The KJV and the Thereofs Thereof

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The KJV is archaic and foreign today, but did you know it was already archaic and outdated when it was published in 1611? The translation team was instructed to follow earlier translations like The Bishop’s Bible (1568) and only change where they thought necessary. But the Bishop’s Bible was itself a revision of yet earlier translations, all the way back to Tyndale (1525)! This means the translators were not starting from scratch, but essentially critiquing and updating earlier work. The English used was not the current vernacular language of the people when it was published. The abundance of “barbed wire” for readers today is not all a result of linguistic change since 1611; KJV readers in 1611 found plenty of “barbed wire” too.

Thoughts on a Modern English Translation of the Scriptures

The Church recently announced that is going to be publishing an LDS “translation” of the Bible in Portuguese. I put “translation” in scare quotes because this is not a new Portuguese version of the Bible translated from the original Greek and Hebrew. Rather, it takes a previous Portuguese translation now in the public domain and updates its archaic language for modern Portuguese readers, adding LDS study aids. This is not the first time that the Church has issued new versions of the scriptures to make their language more digestible for members. For example, the original translation of the Book of Mormon into Korean used a very elevated and archaic form of the language that was difficult for modern Korean speakers to understand. My understanding is that the Church produced a new translation that was easier to read, and that it has done similar things in other languages. These efforts on behalf of non-English-speaking Latter-day Saints raise the question, why not…

Quotes of Note- Elders Ballard and Packer on Meetings

(I was trying to find President Packer’s statement about meetings for second post on 1 Corinthians, and realized it had disappeared from LDS.org. I’ve relocated it on the Wayback Machine, and the link below is correct. The source is no longer a “recent address” so it had disappeared from lds.org) Elder Ballard- “Are you using the ward and stake councils effectively as they were intended? Don’t let them become meaningless exercises in organizational bureaucracy. The way some leaders conduct council meetings, you would think they really believe in a fourteenth article of faith: ‘We believe in meetings—all that have been held, all that are now scheduled—and we believe there will yet be held many great and important meetings. We have endured many meetings and hope to be able to endure all meetings. If there is a meeting, we seek after it.’ We hope you do not have a fourteenth article of faith operating in your wards.”– Source at lds.org President Packer (quoted…

Do Mormons Have a Duty to Vote?

We'll get back to Trump towards the end.

You might think that this is a strange question, and that of course everyone has a duty to vote. That’s part of being a good citizen, isn’t it? Well, there’s a growing body of opinion that says this isn’t so. It all starts widespread agreement that voting doesn’t make a lot of sense from the perspective of an individual voter. Your chance of swaying a national election—of being the decisive vote—is for all practical purposes zero. So there’s no benefit to voting. But there are costs. There’s the gas you pay for the drive to the polling place and the value of the time you spend waiting in line, for instance. This makes voting sort of like buying a lottery ticket when the jackpot is $0.00. It doesn’t matter how cheap the ticket is, no one would buy it at any price. Of course, there are some folks that think voting might be worthwhile because it’s not just who wins…

Covenant and Speech

Membership in the Church is a covenant relationship. We repeat this to ourselves a great deal but generally aren’t clear exactly what we mean by it. Often, we imagine a covenant as a contract, a set of reciprocal promises. Given what the scriptures say about covenants, this isn’t a false way of thinking about it, but it is seriously incomplete. The most powerful image of covenant in the scriptures for me is the image of marriage. Israel, we are told, is like the (often faithless) spouse of God. A marriage is a relationship that is defined by reciprocal promises, but it isn’t just defined by reciprocal promises. It is also defined by love, passion, and what I think of as habits of affection. We often think of love as a kind of Dionysian force that assaults us, but married love is more than simply Dionysian. It is also agricultural, something that one treasures, cultivates, and seeks to protect. I think…

Reminder: SMPT deadline Tuesday Sept. 1

Paper proposals for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s 2015 Annual Meeting are due soon—Tuesday, September 1. There have been a number of strong submissions already, and we are looking forward to more. For full details on the conference and the call for papers, see the original announcement.

Church Sticks With BSA

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At least for the moment, as announced in this statement posted at the Mormon Newsroom: “Church to Go Forward with Scouting Program.” So despite the sharply worded LDS statement released a month ago at the Newsroom expressing frustration with BSA for the timing and content of the decision to allow gay scout leaders to serve and despite Internet rumors that an LDS-BSA divorce was imminent, this troubled marriage will continue, at least for now. How long will this last given declining support for BSA among the LDS rank and file? And what does this mean for LDS youth and youth programs?

The Most Important Question about the Future of Mormonism

A couple of weeks ago, Patheos had a fun series of blog posts on the future of the Mormonism. (I’m too lazy to provide a link; Google it.) Most of the contributions were insightful and interesting, but I was struck that none of them put front and center what I think is the more important question facing the Church today. Mormonism is driven, ultimately, by missionary work. If you look at the development of our theology, for example, it has largely been formulated in the context of polemics driven by the needs of proselytizing. We articulate our theology through the process of trying to convert people, rather than trying to covert people to our previously articulate theology. More dramatically, whatever seems to be the most successful missionary message tends to come to dominate Church discourse and transform Church practices. We don’t necessarily invent new doctrines or the like for missionary purposes, but the way in which we present those doctrines…

“Another Important Step Forward in the Restoration of the Gospel”

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Yesterday, President Oscarson announced on her Facebook page that she was now assigned to be a member of the Missionary Executive Council. President Burton is now a member of the Priesthood Executive Council (which has been renamed the Priesthood and Family Executive Council) and President Wixom is now on the Temple and Family History Executive Council. In an article in the Deseret News, former General RS Presidency member Sheri Dew said that “This is yet another important step forward in the restoration of the gospel.”

Teaching Old Testament for Seminary

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

You recently got called as a Early Morning Seminary teacher, and feel surprisingly sanguine about it. Then you found out that you’re starting with Old Testament this September, and all of a sudden, your confidence in the face of world-weary, eye-rolling teenagers plummeted. Why is this so tough? The audience is hostile and sleepy. You teach every day, without the luxury of a whole week to think through your 45 minute lesson. You’ve got to get in there every morning to teach about the longest book we know the least, with the hardest material that is also the most foreign, culturally speaking. Not to stack the deck, but you’ve got my respect, Sister Volunteer Seminary Teacher.

Another View of the Seer Stone

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Yesterday by invitation, I attended  the first known joint press conference between the LDS Church and its cousin, the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or RLDS.) The occasion was the release of the 2-part 3rd volume in the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith Papers, the Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of the Mormon. As with the others, these books are hefty, high-quality, and thought-provoking. While available at Amazon (part 1, part 2), they will also be available in their entirety online soon. 

Society for Mormon Philosophy & Theology 2015 Call for Papers

The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology will be meeting at Brigham Young University, October 8-10, 2015. This year’s conference theme is “Doers of the Word: Belief and Practice.” From the Call for Papers: The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology invites paper proposals on any aspect of Mormon belief, including its philosophical ramifications. We particularly encourage submissions on this year’s theme. Religious faith is not merely a matter of belief but of action. Indeed, several passages in scripture suggest that true belief cannot be separated from action. In John 7:17, for instance, Jesus indicates that the practice of faith is a means of acquiring knowledge: “If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” Yet other scriptures seem to emphasize the intrinsic, perhaps independent importance of both belief and practice, as in D&C 131:6, “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” This year’s theme examines the…

My Theory of the Church’s Statement on the Change in BSA Policy

Yesterday my Facebook feed erupted with posts by LDS friends expressing dismay over the Church’s announcement that it would reconsider its relationship with the BSA in light of the BSA’s announcement that it would now allow gay scoutmasters. After all, the BSA policy allows local troops to set their own guidelines regarding gay scoutmasters, and in any case the Church has no objection to gay scoutmasters, so long as they are living the law of chastity. Why the sharp response from the Church? I have a theory about, this, but it is only a theory. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case called Boy Scouts v. Dale. Dale sued the BSA under a New Jersey anti-discrimination law, arguing that the BSA’s policy excluding him from being a scout leader because he was gay violated the law. The BSA argued that the application of the New Jersey law violated its rights of expressive association under the First Amendment. The…

Mormons and Scouting: A Messy Divorce?

Mormons are talking about Scouting this week as the first significant aftershock of Obergefell v. Hodges rips through the LDS Church. It started with the July 27 announcement by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) that its “National Executive Board ratified a resolution that removes the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees.” The BSA statement announcing the decision included this paragraph explaining that local units can still set their own guidelines for selecting adult leaders: Chartered organizations will continue to select their adult leaders and religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality. This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families. This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.

 Small Group Dynamics

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Far and away, when I am in a small group and decisions need to be made, most people would prefer that someone else make them.  There are notable, and loud, exceptions.  Four year olds, for example, very much want to make decisions.  But for most  adults, I’ve found that the majority typically  prefer that someone else ponied up and decided where we go to eat or in what order things will occur.[1]  This is because, one presumes, they are not so concerned about the exact decision making them happy.  They are generally willing to go along with most reasonable things. Let me stop and remind you that this is my general experience.  Perhaps you live in a world of sharp elbows and loud demands.  Perhaps you teach fourth graders or lawyers or interact regularly in some other highly vocal and demanding group.  Or maybe you make lots of high stakes decisions on a regular basis where people care deeply about the…

Selecting New Apostles

From the Salt Lake Tribune, a variety of reflections on the upcoming selection of two new apostles for the LDS Quorum of the Twelve. Many of those quoted in the article favor a pick that would advance ethnic or international or gender diversity. No one made the obvious prediction: a married white male from Utah with a law degree.

Another Proclamation?

For the second week, LDS wards and branches in the USA and Canada were presented with the Letter over the signature of the First Presidency, the Statement over the title of the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the unsigned background material in Q&A form accompanying the Letter. These have all been officially published at the Mormon Newsroom. Social media continues to report a variety of reactions at the local level: some bishops simply read the Statement with no discussion, others conducted a Q&A comment period with considerable discussion. Reported comments (when permitted) following the reading of the Statement range from expressions of love and support for gays to jokes and laughter to complete silence. In a post last week, I examined the text of the Letter and Statement in detail. This week, let’s talk a little more broadly about how it has been…