Mormon Literature Won’t Be Left Behind Again!

Once I brought up the issue of Mormon literature, asking for recommendations and opinions about fiction written by and for the LDS audience. (The thread rapidly turned into another throw-down about R-rated movies, but that’s neither here nor there.) I haven’t been able to do much fiction reading since then, but I still like to keep up on what’s available via the Deseret Book catalogue, as much as I gripe about it, if only to know what I’m missing. (Hey, Sam and Charly’s son is all grown up and serving a mission!) The latest catalogue made one thing pretty clear to me: Mormon authors have caught the Left Behind wave.

April Fools Fun

This site lists the Top 100 April Fools Hoaxes of All Time. What is #1? The Swiss spaghetti harvest (“real, home-grown spaghetti”). The site has the actual BBC footage. Cool!

Apologies

The Chicago Sun Times has a piece on the State of Illinois’s apology to the Church for the expulsion from Nauvoo. Is there a kind of analogy between such an apology and baptism for the dead, doing for another what he cannot do for himself? Does our welcome of that apology say anything to us about how we ought to think about other, similar apologies, such as to Native Americans or slaves?

Does History Matter …

In the public debate about abortion? This afternoon I attended the inaugural meeting of the American Constitution Society at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Professor Jane Larson discussed the history of abortion regulation in the United States. Professor Larson has written two amicus briefs to the United States Supreme Court on this topic. What follows are notes taken during the meeting.

Lighter Fare

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.

Of Flappy Birds & Marauding Marsupials

Those of you who spend a lot of time in the blogosphere are undoubtedly aware of the Ecosystem, sponsored by The Truth Laid Bear. The purpose of the Ecosystem is to classify blogs based on links. The most popular are names you probably know: Instapundit, Daily Kos, Eschaton, Andrew Sullivan, etc. The Top 10 are referred to as Higher Beings. The next 20 are Mortal Humans, which is followed by 70 Playful Primates, thus rounding out the Top 100. The blogs that I read most often (other than Times & Seasons) appear just below that level and are called Large Mammals. Almost 400 blogs currently make this cut.

STQ: Chosen People

My Seminary students were never more united than this morning, when they all agreed that my “thought question” for today was not very interesting. Not one to be deterred by a little opposition, I decided to float the idea here.

Chariots of Fire

This morning in Seminary, I showed my students some clips from Chariots of Fire. We have been studying Isaiah, and I love the scene where Eric Liddell is preaching to a congregation in Paris while taking Sunday off from the 1924 Olympics. (Do they understand what he is saying with his Scottish accent?). During that scene, interposed with images of athletes stuggling to compete in slow motion to the haunting music by Vangelis, Liddell quotes from Isaiah 40:29-31: He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

The David and Jonathan of the Primary

Kristine’s description of her lunch with Esther Peterson got me to thinking about other women I wish I could have met. I was somewhat surprised that Louie Felt and May Anderson popped into my mind. These two women were the first two presidents of the Primary. Between them they presided over the Primary from 1880 (at its beginning) to 1940. Louie Felt was a plural wife; May Anderson never married. (May was quite a few years Louie’s junior.) Neither had children. I take my title from the title of an article about the two that appeared in the Children’s Friend, the magazine they edited together for decades.

Intimate Enemies, The Passion, and Joseph Smith

I’ve been interested in one line of recurring discussion in all the talk about Mel Gibson’s movie. (Keep in mind I’m focusing on “talk” about the movie; I haven’t yet seen the movie.) On the one hand, the charge that the movie is anti-Jewish. On the other, the counter that it’s not; that it’s telling the gospel story of crucifixion, the atonement. My point would be that these two views may not be exactly contradictory. I recently reread The Origins of Satan (1993) by Elaine Pagels. Her argument has framed my own response to discussions about Gibson’s movie—and to my thinking recently about Joseph Smith’s “prologue” to his New Translation of the Bible (contemporary Mormons know this prologue as Moses 1).

Easter Music

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,…

A Mormon Among the Yuppies

Confession time. I am a lawyer. It is now official. Last week the Board of Bar Examiners sent me my certificate stating that I am duly liscensed and qualified to practice as an attorney and counselor at law before the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Yesterday, I recieved in the mail an offer from the D.C. office of an international law firm, which I will probably accept. What this means is that I am on the threshold of the land of the Yuppies.

Keeping the Faith

I’ve been thinking recently of people I met in my twenties. Where we are now—that memory thing. A post a few weeks back by your own Jim Faulconer sent me on this most recent tour down memory lane. Jim was a person I met in my twenties—in the honors program reading room at BYU. At BYU I also met Mike Quinn, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Janice and David Allred. . . . . We were all idealistic, faithful, bookish Mormons, beginning our adult lives. From what I know, I believe that we’ve all “kept” the faith.

Faith, Works & Presidential Politics

Yesterday, John Kerry spoke in a chuch and invoked biblical support for an attack on “our present national leadership.” Kerry alluded to the following passage from James 2:14-17: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Kerry asked rhetorically, “When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?”

Why do we have choristers?

Rather than hijack the discussion of Russell’s post, I’ll post my question separately: I wonder why we insist on a chorister every time we sing. In most cases no one is really following the chorister anyway; we follow the pianist. Having grown up a Protestant, I know that a congregation can have very good singing with no chorister.

My Big Fat Bad Analogy

Scene: A discussion on family roles in Relief Society. A sister (sitting next to me, nonetheless), pipes up with, “I heard something that really made an impression on me. You see, the man is the head of the household. But the woman is like the neck. She guides and controls the head.” The sister went on. I was lost in the realization that the warning I had read on the Exponent II list about the proliferation of this analogy in Church classes in the wake of My Big Fat Greek Wedding was not, in fact, an urban legend.

Greying. . . .

So why do I always resist the rather obvious point. The Sunstone crowd is greying, the Mormon history crowd is greying. . . . There is an easy answer, I suppose. I’m from the old Sunstone crowd. I’m greying. Maybe I don’t like facing the obvious. But I really don’t think that’s it exactly.

The Strangeness of Winner’s History

I spent a fair amount of time Sunday evening reading David Bigler’s book Forgotten Kingdom: The Mormon Theocracy in the American West, 1847-1896nk that Bigler’s book is written in the best tradition of local antiquarianism rather than professional history per se. There is very little attempt (even by history writing standards) of synthesis or analysis. Rather he puts a high premium on lively narrative and close attention to local detail ? e.g. he tells you the current street addresses of the locations of skirmishes or events from the days of Deseret and in the footnotes bemoans the vandalism of historic markers. To the extent that the book has a thesis or any analysis it is very simple: The Good Guys Won.

A Guest Blogger: Susan Staker

From now on, we are going to try to have two guest bloggers simultaneously and stagger their appearances so that we have a new person coming on board each week. Thus, while Julie will continue to blog for another week, we have a new guest blogger coming on board today: Susan Staker. Susan is a graduate of BYU (B.A.) and the University of Utah (M.A.). She is also ABD in literary theory from the University of Utah. She is the co-author with Carol Cornwall Madsen of Sisters and Little Saints, a history of the founding of the Primary. (Amazon.com erroneously lists Madsen as the only author.) Susan was one of the managing editors of Sunstone1980s. In addition, she is the editor of Mormon Mavericksection of biographical sketches on Mormon “rebels,” and Waiting For World’s End, which is an abridged version of Wilford Woodruff’s journal. She is also the compiler of the index to Wilford Woodruff’s journals, which means that she…

STQ: Isaiah

We are all familiar with the words of the Savior to the Nephites after quoting Isaiah 54: “ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.” (3 Nephi 23:1). In preparation for another week of Isaiah study (this is my third time teaching the book of Isaiah, the two prior attempts being in Gospel Doctrine), I decided to give in to my inner skeptic and ask this Seminary Thought Question: What is so great about the words of Isaiah?

Wanted: More People in Hell

This morning my wife went with the sister missionaries to teach a discussion. The investigator was an intelligent, well-educated woman who was quite religious and very biblically knowledgeable. (We live in the South.) She had an interesting concern when the sisters taught her the plan of salvation: Not enough people were going to hell.

Marketing Sunstone

A while back I commented on the greying of Mormon studies. I just ran across something that further confirmed my initial intuition. According to a survey collected at the 2003 Sunstone Symposium, the age break down of Sunstoners looks like this: 6% — Under age 25 7% — age 25-34 8% — age 35-44 14% — age 45-54 35% — age 55-64 30% — age 65 or older Wow! Think of what that means. Well over half of the participants are over the age of 55. A whopping 79% of Sunstoners are over the age of 45, and under the most generous reading of the data less than 15% of Sunstoners are in their twenties. Unless Sunstone can do something to reach younger folks, they probably ought to think about marketing promotional deals with modern maturity. Here is one bit of unsolicited advice. One thing Sunstone might want to think about is its rather awful on-line presence. Their website is…

At long last, Mia!

Cirila and I are pleased to announce the arrival of our daughter, Mia Elizabeth Call. She was born early yesterday morning in Berkeley, weighing in at 7 lbs, 1 oz. Mom and baby are doing great. Here’s an early photo:

Why We Doze in Sunday School

Here are a few recent comments about teaching in the Church: Jim F.: “As you can see, I’m skeptical about Church teaching in general. I hope to see things otherwise, and it seems to me that the Church is interested in making them otherwise, but we’ve got a ways to go.” Gordon Smith: “I am very frustrated by the teaching that goes on in the Church. . . . I remember Dallin Oaks talking about the poor teaching in the Church, but I do not remember a very coherent vision of where we need to go. In any event, if my experience is generalizable, the lesson didn’t take.”