Sunday School Lesson 15

I apologize that I’m posting these materials so late. One problem is that it is the end of the semester, but the real problem is that I started making notes as I read and ended up with seven pages of questions. That seemed like a few too many to be useful, so I’ve been editing. I hope they are not too late to be useful.

Belief and Practice

I said, “I don’t think that belief is central to LDS religion: it is important only as part of the practice of religion, not in itself,” and Susan asked, “Are you saying that LDS religion helps you to practice religion better and live better than you would otherwise?” Good question.

Mormons Leading the Way to a “New Dark Age”?

Darren Roulstone was kind enough to pass along a pointer to an article in the most recent issue of Fortune, which lies unread on my nightstand. The article — entitled “Which Nations Will Go Forth and Multiply?” — is adapted from Phillip Longman’s book The Empty Cradle. The main thrust of the article is that declining fertility rates bring lots of benefits, along with some risks for the future. Longman describes the worst-case scenario as follows: Even more sobering are the implications for modern civilization’s values. As urbanization and globalization continue to create a human environment in which children become costly impediments to material success, people who are well adapted to this environment will tend not to reproduce…So where will the children of the future come from? Increasingly they will come from people who are at odds with the modern world–who either ‘don’t get’ the new rules of the game…or who believe they are (or who in fact are) commanded…

More Prooftexts

I was inspired by Kristine’s post to think about prooftexts. My nomination is 2 Timothy 3:16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Spiraling Downward

Having ventured into the realm of high generalization about cultural systems, in my second entry I wish to raise my game to a still higher level. We have heard many warnings recently from Church leaders about American and world culture spiraling downwards. While this diagnosis can be debated (it is always the best of times and the worst of times), a pessimistic mood has prevailed at Church headquarters. Some relief was granted in this last conference when a few talks struck the theme of “Don’t Despair.” I believe there are grounds for adopting the pessimistic stand because morally and religiously our culture has been hollowed out. Neither our theological beliefs nor our moral standards are supported in the cultural systems that dominate our society: capitalism, democracy, and science.

The Passion at week seven

The Passion of the Christ was released seven weeks ago today. In that time it has become: # 8 highest grossing movie of all time # 1 highest grossing February release of all time # 1 highest grossing non-English movie of all time # 1 highest grossing February weekend # 1 highest grossing R-rated movie of all time # 2 highest grossing 7th weekend By next week it will have overtaken Jurassic Park for the seventh spot on the all-time list.

The Real Issue

What follows is a post on homosexuality. I am deeply sorry about this, because by and large I think that this is a very stale topic. Accordingly, I hope that any discussion that follows this post will focus on the particular questions that I pose, rather than spinning off into another SSM free for all.

100 Celebrities Can’t Be Wrong

Apparently the huge DC rally for abortion isn’t materializing as planned. The major pro-abortion and feminist groups, plus the ACLU, have been preparing a huge demonstration in Washington to protest the Bush administration’s policies protecting fetal life. I signed up on their mailing list early on and have received impassioned letters pleading for money. One letter said they were organizing the largest march on Washington — ever. Apparently they thought the original title, “March for Choice,” wasn’t getting the emotional response they sought, so it’s now called the “March for Women’s Lives.” (No, not the lives of the 1800 women who are dismembered by abortion every day.) According to LifeNews.com, the planners fear the march won’t meet expectations, and have recruited Hollywood celebs to increase turnout. This got me thinking. Does anyone trust the opinions of egomaniacal multi-millionaires like Sheryl Crow, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Christina Aguilera, and Alec Baldwin (who still refuses to keep his promise to leave America),…

My letter to Meridian Magazine

I’ve been silently stewing for the past few days about Meridian Magazine’s endorsement of Holocaust denial. (I know, there are ways to read it that make it look marginally less ugly — it’s still problematic, I think). And then, today, a family member forwarded me a Meridian article (“look at this cool article!” — not the same one, I should add) and I finally flipped, and decided to act. I get a _lot_ of forwarded e-mail protest letters from friends and family. Protest this, protest that, write a senator, write CNN. I usually ignore them. But I’ve become quite familiar with the form. And I put that familiarity to use.

Who is Julie?

Unlike some of our other bloggers, Julie has been remarkably prompt in providing the administrators of this site (also known from time to time as “The Quataverate” or sometimes simply as “The Big Four”) with biographical information and a picture. Hence, I am pleased to announce the the “Julie Smith” link on the side bar is fully operational. Have you ever longed for an answer to that all consuming question, “Who is Julie Smith?” Your long wait is over. Just click here.

Sinners, all

I have some strange childhood memories. One of the most vivid is my baptism day. October 31, 1981. Unfortunately, the memories of the baptism itself are somewhat hazy, but what I remember clearly is this feeling of being completely cheated by happenstance. I had an October birthday, and our stake did primary baptisms on the last Saturday of the month. In 1981 that meant I was getting baptized on Halloween, and there lay the problem. In my eight year old wisdom, I knew that I’d be pure and sin free upon getting baptized, but I thought that the chances of getting through an entire Halloween without sinning were slim to none. I was mad that the other kids weren’t baptized on so tempting a day, and therefore their “cleanliness” would last much longer than mine. That just was not fair, in fact, it was so not fair that I distinctly remember the feeling 23 years later.

Now We are Ten

We’re very happy to add another name to the list on the right of the page. Julie Smith, whose stint as a guest-blogger included terrific posts like The Talk I’ve Never Given and Why We Doze in Sunday School, has agreed to continue casting her pearls before, well, us. We hope that with two women speaking, Times and Seasons will seem more like General Conference. [ ;>)] Welcome, Julie!!

Purse and Scrip

The early apostles were commanded to go preach the gospel, carrying neither purse nor scrip. Early missionaries in the restored church were similarly commanded: And thou shalt take no purse nor scrip, neither staves, neither two coats, for the church shall give unto thee in the very hour what thou needest for food and for raiment, and for shoes and for money, and for scrip. Somewhere along the line, missionaries began taking purse and scrip. We now pay almost $400 a month to serve a mission. The missionaries in the field receive their stipend each month, and pay their rent, food costs, clothing costs, and such. I recognize that this change is probably a bureaucratic necessity. (It also dovetails better with today’s emphasis on financial responsibility — how responsible is it to eschew purse and scrip?). And yet I wonder sometimes if something has been lost. Today’s missionaries may have greater certainty about where their next meal is coming from,…

More Capitalism

Rather than post a comment deep in Richard’s wonderful thread about capitalism, I thought I’d bring my thought to the front of the queue. The question of whether capitalism is compatible with the gospel was answered the moment Richard listed the fruits of capitalism: immense salaries, notoriety, perks, honor, authority, power, and influence. In other words, pride and the vain things of the world.

My Least Favorite Prooftext

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)

Capitalism and the Gospel

Claudia enjoyed her two weeks of fame on the T&S blog, and I am looking forward to my time in the blogger’s chair. We have few enough venues for informal exploring and reflecting, and this seems to be one of the best. My initial question is: Are capitalism and the gospel at odds with one another? I am not thinking about greed and cruelty, the usual line of criticism against capitalism, and I am not suggesting socialism as a better course. My thoughts were spurred by the General Conference talk on “the heart of a mother.” As I listened to the talk, the speaker (whose name I missed on my web-originating broadcast) was promoting motherhood over against career, and that is where I think capitalism undermines the church and the gospel.

Integration

On Kristine’s “testimony” thread, Nate’s post and Steve’s reply raised a question about the relation of one’s religion to one’s intellectual life. My question is related to Kristine’s question about how to bear testimony, but I think it is slightly different. I’d like to pursue it in a meandering way.

Thanks and Welcome

We want to thank Susan Staker, aka “Nate’s mom,” for her stint as a guest blogger. I’m not sure which took more courage, Nate asking his mother to blog or Susan agreeing to do so, but from my vantage point, I think the answer is “Susan agreeing.” Susan’s thoughtful and reflective posts have made the site itself more thoughtful and reflective. Without being confrontational, she’s asked questions that make us think. We also want to welcome a new guest blogger, Richard Bushman. If you don’t already know who Richard is, you should. Husband of Claudia Bushman (a former guest blogger), professor of history at Columbia University, author of books on New England history, the history of American ideas and practices of gentility, and LDS history, with a particular interest in Joseph Smith. But perhaps Richard’s most notable quality is his humanity. He is not only a brilliant scholar, he is a gentle and kind person.

The Meadow on the Roof

I just returned from a quick trip to Salt Lake. My father was sealed to his wife in the Salt Lake Temple early Saturday morning and it was a beautiful occasion. I had an hour to spare after the celebratory breakfast, and Sister Hinckley’s funeral was nearly over, so I headed north to the Conference Center for a tour. The tour included the impressive 21,000 seat arena, Arnold Friberg’s original Book of Mormon paintings series, and several interesting examples of Mormon folk art. It was the roof, however, that I found most interesting.

Happy Easter!

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia! Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia! Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia! Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia! Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia! Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia! Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia! Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Ground Rules for Comments

Over the past few weeks, the comments in certain posts have started to follow a trend that I really dislike: One commenter or poster makes an argument, and then someone who disagrees with that position attacks the writer personally, rather than critiquing their argument. This has led to some argumentative threads full of name-calling and insults. That’s not what I’m trying to cultivate here — and frankly, it’s my blog (shared), so I can cultivate what I want to. I have put a lot of time and energy into this blog, and my co-bloggers have as well. None of us want to see threads turn into name-calling contests. It’s time to end this trend. So, here’s MY ultimatum — as one of the owners and operators of this blog. Read it well, since you will all be held to it.

Getting to know them

Though Good Friday isn’t a BYU holiday, I’ve tried for a long time to avoid scheduling anything on Good Friday. This year, however, when making up the calendar, I didn’t pay enough attention. To encourage my students to work on their papers early and to talk to each other about them, I required my philosophy of religion seminar to take part in a mini-conference, and I scheduled it for today and tomorrow.

The Baptismal Service

My twins turned eight years old on Tuesday, and we baptized and confirmed them today. Good Friday seemed like an appropriate day for such a service. Having baptized each of my five children, I have baptized more people since my return from missionary service than I did in Austria. Way more. The water was chilly, and my sons didn’t bend their knees — even though we had practiced that in the living room — so their feet almost went out of the water. My sister, who is not a member of the Church, drove three hours to attend. She cried when we sang, “I’m Trying To Be Like Jesus.” My youngest daughter invited a friend from her fourth-grade class, and her friend thought it was “cool.” The talks were basic, but heartfelt. I appreciated the woman who explained the sacrament prayer as a personal covenant, and I was moved by another woman who testified about the influence of the Holy…

Reminder: 12 Questions for Armand Mauss

As I posted earlier in the week, Mormon sociologist extraordinaire Armand Mauss has graciously agreed to be interviewed by the T&S readership. For those that may not know his work, Mauss has studied and written extensively on issues such as the priesthood ban, the international growth of the Church and the challenges it poses, and Mormon assimilation and retrenchment in the 20th century. You can get the flavor of some of his interests and views here, here, and here. [The questions and answers are now up here and here.] Please send any questions for Brother Mauss to [email protected] The last day for submissions is Monday, April 12. We will select our favorite 12 questions and send them along.

Waiting for the End

I heard Dallin Oaks’s conference talk last Saturday while waiting to take my husband’s parents to breakfast. I was interested in the way he talked about the second coming—what would you do if you knew Christ was returning tomorrow? I’ve been wondering since then how people in the church typically talk about the End now that we have lived beyond the end of the twentieth century. I still have a very vivid memory of a talk I heard in church when I was probably about ten (I grew up in a very small farming village in southeastern Idaho in the fifties). I remember the talk because it frightened me. This person was talking about the second coming and making it very clear that the End would come by the year 2000. And the events before the End wouldn’t be pleasant. Certainly it is because this apocalyptic talk was atypical that it stands out against the blur of countless mundane hours…

Good Friday–Bitter Journey

Many of you have seen this before; Beliefnet first made it available on their website back in 1999. But if you haven’t, take the time (even if you only have a dial-up connection) to load and watch this powerful multimedia feature, “Bitter Journey: The Way of the Cross”. Not only is it haunting, but it carefully distills Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant liturgies and referents to the Passion into a powerful, unified message: one of pain, and gratitude, and humility, and awe, at Christ’s death for our sake.