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.

Making Peace with Mother

Being identified as the mother of Nate for the past two weeks has set me thinking about mothers—having one, being one. My own mother died several years ago. I still work at making my peace with her. It’s not been easy to admit my likeness to her. Her circle for life seemed so tiny as I was growing up in a very small village in southeastern Idaho. Nate knew my Mom. She probably had better luck teaching him to do needle work than she did me. Recently I’ve been typing my Mom’s autobiography and her journals onto the computer, so I can make them available to her extended family. And I can honestly say at this point: I do hope I’m my mother’s daughter. (And my aunt’s niece.) How unique is my experience?

Choose Your Own Adventure

Recently I was waiting in line at a store, and noticed that the two couples behind me apparently knew each other from church. I was tempted to turn around and ask “Are you by chance Mormons?” (Because they were all blond, and between the two couples had a strangely large number of children….) I’m glad I didn’t, though, because it soon became clear that they weren’t LDS, and not having asked, I could eavesdrop. They were discussing some social upheaval at their church, leading to certain people joining their congregation, and others leaving. Apparently there is, to some extent, a “marketplace” kind of atmosphere among protestant churches in our area. I initially had that reaction that we all know a little too well, that “well, we don’t do it that way in our church” smugness. Then I woke up a bit, and realized sometimes we do it exactly that way. Let me introduce you all to a concept you “traditional…

Bloggernacking again . . .

The bloggernacle is humming lately. Some highlights: Newcomer Celibate in the city is an entertaining blog dealing with “The Misadventures of Urban Dating for a Mormon Woman Outside of Utah” (It looks like she’s writing from New York). She’s funny and she kisses — single LDS fellows in New York might want to consider e-mailing her. At BCC, Aaron Brown has thoughts on an area of concern — the apparently widespread perception that any members’ intellectual concerns “aren’t really intellectual issues at all, but rather indications of sexual sin.” Aaron also has a funny and insightful post about how to identify prophecy, while our own Kristine discusses the church perception that non-members don’t do service. Jeremy over at Orson’s Telescope rightfully takes Meridian Magazine to task for its shameful endorsement of Holocaust denial. The Sons of Mosiah have found a Himni to add to their Aaron and Omner (no one is Ammon, as their motto sometimes asserts). They are also…

The “War on Porn”

A recent article about the Justice Department committing new resources to prosecute a “war on porn” has started lots of discussion in the blogosphere. (See here, here, here). Many people think that setting up an office with 32 prosecutors, plus assorted investigators and FBI agents, is a misguided use of resources, given current budget deficits and the ongiong war in Iraq. And this isn’t child porn we’re talking about — some of the targets of the new investigation include soft-core cable programs on HBO, and adult movies offered at hotels on pay-per-view. What should we think of this effort, as church members? I’m a bit conflicted. Porn is clearly a problem; it is clearly a bad thing; and I hate to go on the record as being in favor of porn. On the other hand, I’m skeptical of laws telling people that they can’t voluntarily watch adult movies. (Child porn is a completely different issue — those laws should definitely…

The Quandry of the Sugar Beets

I think that I have finally isolated the great symbol of a recent set of intellectual and spiritual quandaries that I have found myself working through of late. I am not talking about polygamy, Adam-God, or blood atonement. I have in mind an even more challenging remnant of our past: sugar beets.

Post of the Month Winner for March

The secret panel has convened, the judges have decided, the votes are in, and the Post of the Month for March 2004 is Nate Oman, How Mormons Became White, which narrowly beat out Julie Smith’s Why We Doze in Sunday School for the most points. Overall, I think that the event was a great success. There were a number of excellent posts nominated, and the whole process got me (and hopefully many others) to read back over and examine some of the very interesting posts of the last month. I had a lot of fun. Congratulations again Nate (I’ll be in touch about your prize), and I hope to hear from everyone again at the end of April.

Lessons in Representation

Today I was talking with an editor in my group about why she wouldn’t be in the office this afternoon. She was taking her two children to see the Wiggles. Now I admit that even though I’ve watched a bit of television in the past couple of years with my grandchildren, I’ve missed the Wiggles. Robin had been telling her daughter (I think her daughter is about four) that they were going to see the Wiggles. The little girl was excited and wanted to know whether the Wiggles would be on a big screen. Robin had to explain that they would see the Wiggles in person—and perhaps the little girl would actually get to touch a real Wiggle. At this point in the conversation, I told Robin a story about my daughter Bevin and books. It’s surprising how often I find myself telling stories about Bevin to explain the meaning of life. Bevin, now in her twenties, is developmentally disabled.…

Best Conference Blogging

With all due respect to others who tried their hands at Conference blogging, I think that the best commentary award goes to a string of posts over at Dave’s Mormon Inquiry Blog (See posts here, here, and here).

On the bearing of complicated and complicating testimony

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.

On Privileges, Growth, and Gossip

In the legal world, the concept of confidential communication is expressed in certain privileges. The idea being that the communication in certain relationships needs to be protected by law, even if that communication would be relevant to a court proceeding. An example is the attorney-client privilege. Barring some dramatic exceptions (like a confession that the client plans to murder someone) anything that a client says to his/her attorney is protected by the privilege and will not be revealed in court proceedings. Another privilege, that we don’t hear much about in the church, is the clergy-penitent privilege. A confession to a spiritual leader is protected and confidential.

Hello and Goodbye to Guest Bloggers: Julie Smith & Karen Hall

We would like to thank Julie Smith for a wonderful two weeks of guest blogging and we hope that she will continue to participate here in the comments. We also want to introduce our newest guest blogger, Karen Hall. Karen graduated from BYU where she studied Russian. She then went on to Harvard Law School. While there, she clawed her way to the top of the Latter-day Saint Student Association hierarchy, and ended her law school days as President of that illustrious organization. Needless to say, she ruled with an iron fist, and the LDSSA descended into chaos and apostacy upon her move to Washington, DC, where she practices law and wastes time on the internet. Welcome Karen!

12 Questions for . . . Armand Mauss

We are pleased to announce that Armand Mauss has agreed to be the first participant in the newest regular feature at T&S, “12 Questions.” In this feature, we will be “interviewing” some of the bright stars in the Mormon firmament. And you, dear reader, may participate by submitting the questions. [See here and here for the questions and answers]

Mission Reunion

I enjoy conference because I always feel the Spirit during some talk or another, and usually during several. This time, in the Saturday morning session, Elder Todd Christopherson struck a note that I heard several more times in other sessions when he spoke of grace and of our lives as a gift to give the Savior in response to his grace. And I was touched by President Hinckley’s very personal talk, as well as by what seemed a farewell from Elder Maxwell. But for me the most important part of conference this time was something outside of conference: my missionary reunion.

Moses as a Key to Theology

We tend to think of theology in discursive terms—as a collection of ideas or propositions. When we talk about the development of theology we are apt to trace the history of abstractions such as faith, hope, love, priesthood. With Joseph Smith, I’ve come to believe it is much more enlightening to attend first to characters and to the plots, language, discussions that collect around them. Again and again these characters inhabit stories that preview and explore situations very like those facing Joseph and the community of faith gathering around him. Following key characters thus becomes a tool for tracing developments in early Mormon history. Viewed within this context. Moses becomes a key to Mormon theology (or at least a prime exemplar of what I’m talking about).

General Conference: Sunday Afternoon Session

Last session. Do any of you look for themes in Conference? Sometimes I think that the talks are part of an integrated whole, and other times I think that Conference is like a smorgasbord, with talks on various topics so that everyone can find something. If Conferences have a theme, what would it be this year? How about this: the role of families in the last days.

General Conference: Sunday Morning Session

Do people attend the chapel to watch this session of Conference, even when they get it in their home? That has been the custom in some places where I have lived, but I stayed at home, not wanting to discover any such custom here. Not to diminish any of the talks, but I thought the highlight of this session was Liriel Domiciano. Wow!