Elite Religion and Common Religion

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the topic of elite religion versus popular religion. In particular, it seems that the development of FARMS and other intellectual centers of Mormon studies has resulted in a division of sorts. On the one hand, Mormon studies scholars believe in a world where the Nephites lived in a tiny section of Central America, where the Hill Cumorah is somewhere in Guatemala, where the flood was a localized event, and where Joseph Smith was polygamous and polyandrous. On the other hand, most church members believe in a world where the Lehites covered the Americas, the Hill Cumorah is in New York, the flood was worldwide, and Joseph’s polygamy is never mentioned. Common church members believe the prophet is never wrong; elites believe the prophet may have opinions that are incorrect (such as men on the moon). Common members believe that women have never held any type of priesthood; elites point out early church instances of women…

The Voice of the Bloggernacle

Think for a moment about who you are — specifically, your relationships with your co-workers, your friends, and your family. Are you kind? Are you patient? When topics are brought up in conversations in Church or elsewhere, and you disagree, do you get angry? Are you condescending or sanctimonious? My guess is that you’re probably like most mormons — respectful of differing viewpoints, kind and patient to family and friends, and gracious to strangers and guests as they pop into your life. Now think about who you are in the Bloggernacle.

Will the U. Go Mormon?

The University of Utah is currently in the midst of a search for a new president. They have narrowed it down to two potential candiates and one of them is . . . Michael Young. Young is a graduate of Harvard Law School, a former law professor at Columbia, and current dean at George Washington University Law School. He is also a BYU graduate, an active Mormon and a former stake president. Since BYU now has a former Ute as its president, will the U. return the favor by hiring a former cougar? Would both presidents be allowed to root for their alma maters at Utah’s annual football jihad . . . er . . . grudge match. What is happening to the Beehive state?!?

LDS Education Theory

Because I plan on homeschooling my children through high school, I have spent a lot of time thinking about educational theory (I also have a teaching certificate and I taught briefly in public schools in California.). Is there such a thing as an LDS-based educational theory? Could there be? What would it look like? Do we need one?

12 Questions for Armand Mauss, part two

As promised, here’s the second half our our “interview.” [For part one, click here.] Thank you, Brother Mauss, for your willingness to lend your unique voice to the bloggernacle, and thanks to all our readers who submitted questions. (Again, the questions are in bold and his responses follow in plain text.) 7. In April conference, Elder Hafen discussed the “misconception” that the Church is “moving toward an understanding of the relationship between grace and works that draws on Protestant teachings.” Any reaction? This is truly an interesting development. The “misconception” Elder Hafen is referring to might not be exactly what it seems.

Our Terrible and Tender God

Prepping a guest lecture for seminary a few weeks ago I was struck with the alignment between Adam’s and Eve’s shrinking from the presence of God after they ate the forbidden fruit, and the shrinking of the wicked from the presence of God at judgment (e.g. 2 Nephi 9). Adam and Eve feel naked, and hide. God calls them forth and rebukes them, confirming that they have something to be ashamed of. They are now to be cast out of his presence entirely. Yet then, after pronouncing curses, he makes clothing for them, as if to say, “Since you’re going out into the world, we’d better at least get you some real clothes!” (Is this Mother acting under the divine plural here?) He confirms they should be ashamed, and yet he specifically intervenes to mitigate their shame, even to bless it after a fashion. Now that he is terrible to them, he goes out of his way to be tender.

12 Questions for Armand Mauss, part one

We are pleased to present our first installment of “12 Questions,” with sociologist and Mormon Studies scholar extraordinaire Armand Mauss (here is a mini-bio). Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. As you will see, they generated a wide-ranging and thoughtful set of responses. Questions appear below in bold, and Brother Mauss’s responses follow in plain text. [Click here for part two.] 1. You have spent your academic career largely outside of church-affiliated schools. As a Mormon studies scholar, what are the advantages and disadvantages taking this route from your perspective? How does it inform and/or impede your work in Mormon studies?

Theo-democracy and the Redemption of Politics

I am finding it difficult to get very excited about politics this election year. Given that we are faced with momentus issues of war and peace this is a bit odd. This seems like a time when politics really matters. Part of the problem is that I am considerably less than enthusiastic about either candidate. However, I find that I am increasingly less interested and passionate about politics. In college I played at being a political activist. I worked on campaigns, did voter registration drives, etc. (In retrospect I admit that my political involvement was largely about meeting girls.) After college, I worked in Washington, D.C. because I wanted to be in politics. (And it happened to be where my wife was going to graduate school.) Hence, I am not an inherently apolitical guy. My current political funk leads me — of course — to theo-democracy.

Thanks, Richard and Welcome, Ben!

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…

Aaron Brown’s Catholic Experience

Apparently, longtime T & S commenter and BCC contributor Aaron Brown has been doing something most members would never imagine — he’s been officiating (along with some LDS missionaries) at a Catholic Mass! He writes about this experience in his latest BCC post. An excerpt: About a year ago, Father Hans approached me with an unusual request. Convinced that LDS missionaries are ‘angels,’ and that they obviously love and follow Christ more than anyone in his congregation could ever hope to, Hans wanted to organize a Catholic-Mormon ‘hybrid’ Mass. He proposed that my four full-time missionaries and I (the Ward Mission Leader) play an active role in his services. He would conduct as usual, waving the incense, reciting the liturgy and preaching a short sermon (complete with occasional Book of Mormon or D&C quotations – without attribution). We would stand on the stage with him as representatives of Christ, read excerpts from the Bible at key junctures and offer the…

Sister Benson

I’m reading President Benson’s biography. You probably already know that he grew up, the oldest of eleven children, on a sugar beet farm in Idaho. At one point, when his mother was expecting her eighth child, his father was called on a mission.

Higher Powers

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!)

Book of Mormon

What do you think is the most gorgeous and inspiring thing about the Book of Mormon? Be specific; don’t just say it testifies of Christ. I am searching for ways of putting across the power of the book to non-Mormon readers.

Chicken Marsala

I hear conflicting statements about the propriety of using alcohol in cooking. For example, chicken marsala, which is one of our family’s favorite dishes. Some members say that alcohol evaporates during the cooking. I am sure that at least some of the alcohol evaporates during cooking. At the same time, I am doubtful that it all evaporates. I also hear that some de minimus amount is probably allowable, since homemade bread contains trace amounts of alcohol (from the yeast fermentation) and that’s a Mormon staple. Again, I’m not sure of the veracity of this tale. Does anyone know of an official statement about this? Alternatively, does anyone have information to support or discredit the Mormon myths about cooking with alcohol? What think ye?

Joseph

How would you map Joseph’s thought. If you had to reduce his thought to four or five major areas, what would they be. The ones I am using are: a. The simple gospel of faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and endurance. b. Zion, gathering, the millennium. c. Priesthood, ordinances, endowment of power, temple, rituals. d. Family bonds: baptism for the dead, priesthood marriage, sealings. e. Stories of eternity: the accounts of God’s history and nature, the nature of individual free intelligences, the purpose of life, the hereafter and human destiny.

Contradiction

Are we prepared to accept contradiction, plurality, and even ambiguity as an integral part of our theology? Is the aim absolute precision and consistency, or is built-in ambiguity a requirement of a theology that comprehends reality?

The Grand Alliance

Do you think it is proper to say that God is recruiting us for the great cause–joining Him in the work of eternal life? Rather than simply being saved from our sins, we are being mobilized? Does this mean, in turn, that God benefits from our worshiping Him, that bringing to pass eternal life for His children adds to His glory? Is priesthood (including women) another name for the grand alliance of those who have joined God in His great work?

Cosmology

I have a line in my book about Joseph Smith being the Copernican theologian par excellence. Does that stimulate any thought? Does Joseph Smith’s theology exploit the possibilities opened up by an infinitely expanding universe?

Compendium

Since my time as a blogger is drawing to a close, I am going to riddle you with all the ideas I jotted down for possible entries. To permit people to respond to them individually, each one will occupy an entry but with no development. You can develop them as you wish. The first on my list: How does this group come down on the classic questions of God’s power? Is he an absolute God who created everything, knows everything, and has all power? Or is he a contingent God who a) learned to be God, b) is eternal but so are we, c) organized the earth out of pre-existent matter, d) is teaching us to be gods like himself.

More Bloggernacking

Over the past few days, I’ve noticed (inter alia): Steve Evans (Thurston-Evans?) musing about hyphenation of last names in the LDS world; Mat Parke discussing having Elder Eyring in the class he taught; David Sundwall noting news items about the new Manhattan Temple; Jeremy Grimshaw discussing (unreasonable?) abortion regulation in Utah; and finally, not in the Bloggernacle but over in neighboring St. Blog’s Parish, an incredibly interesting series of posts (1, 2, 3, 4) over at the Mirror of Justice, dealing with laws against religious conversion in India, and of issues that proselytizing creates more generally.

Thank you!

Yesterday — exactly five months after the counter started — we received our 50,000th visit. I guess we must be doing something right, because folks keep on coming back. We’re getting between 800 and 900 visits per day. I want to say thank you, to all of our readers. Reader participation has made this site what it is today. Oh, many or all of us — Nate, Gordon, Matt, and certainly myself — are quite capable of chatting on for hours, with or without an audience. But this blog has become more than Kaimi or Nate chatting on about issues we find interesting. It has become a community of sorts. And it has done that because of our readers. So thank you, thank you all, because I really enjoy participating in the community that T & S has become.

Polyamory

As is often the case, Matt Evans was way ahead of the curve when he discussed polyamory back in January with the post, “The Conservative Case for Group and Sibling Marriage.” But here is a new angle (at least to me): some Unitarians are now actively promoting polyamory. The money quotation: It’s the new polygamy, and according to the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, their relationships are at least as ethical as other marriages — gay or straight. At least as ethical? The implication, of course, is that they may be even more ethical. How so? Consider this from Jasmine Walston, president of the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness: “Polyamory is not an alternative to monogamy. It’s an alternative to cheating. For some of us, monogamy doesn’t work, and cheating was just abhorrent to me.” As Meg Ryan said (often) in Joe Versus the Volcano: “I have no response to that.” But I am sure someone else here does.

The Bloggernacle – It’s Official

David Winer, whose full-time job as a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School is to track the blogging phenomenom, and is therefore as authoritative as anyone on blogosphere nomenclature, has referred to the LDS corner of the blogosphere as “the Bloggernacle.” Times & Seasons delivers! Our own Kaimi Wenger raised the issue, Grasshopper coined the moniker 26 minutes later, and the rest is one month of history.