An Onion article out today, like most good Onion articles, works off a premise that’s largely true. The headline reads “Rock-Bottom Loser Entertaining Offers From Several Religions” and the money quotes are:
The Church issued a press release today annoucing the creation of a “Church Historian’s Press” to handle the publication of the Joseph Smith Papers. (The press release also mentioned “works related to the church’s history and growth.”) I am not quite sure what the rationale for this is. Previous volume of the papers were published by Deseret Book, which did a nice enough job, although of late the physical publication standards at Deseret Book have been falling. Perhaps the new imprint is to insure library quality production values. Maybe it just reduces administrative hassle to have the production done in-house, particularlly in light of the way that technology has been dropping the costs of publishing. Or perhaps something bigger is afoot.
The name Thomas has a tortured history in Mormonism.
In the online Deseret News: “Today in the Bloggernacle,” with links to posts at BCC, Nine Moons, and Millennial Star. I’ve seen similar posts in recent weeks (such as here and here) under different titles but with the same format, so this appears to be a new regular feature. Just one more reason to check spelling and grammar before you hit the “post” button.
I thought that one of Richard Bushman’s most provocative arguments in Rough Stone Rolling was his interpretation of the temple endowment, and I’ve been surprised that it hasn’t generated more interest.
Angela Hallstrom’s debut novel, Bound on Earth, is worth reading.
At least, Melissa Proctor does. Today’s Boston Globe has a very nice article about her new Mormonism class at Harvard Divinity School, along with some good discussion about the trends in Mormon studies generally. Congratulations, Melissa!
Mormonism, so goes a well-worn trope, is more into orthopraxis than orthodoxy. That is, we tend to care more about right conduct — e.g. loyalty to the kingdom, keeping covenants, following commandments, etc. — than right belief — e.g. the precise nature of divine progression or the correct location of Kolob. This raises the question, however, of why Mormonism hasn’t really developed any sort of a formal jurisprudence. Looking at church courts in the nineteenth century and comparing Mormon “law” to Islamic law sharpens the issues
Today was our stake conference, and we had a visiting general authority: Elder Terrence C. Smith, one of the North American Area Seventies. His talk was one of the finest, most doctrinally insightful sermons I’ve ever heard at a stake conference. But what really caught me came in the first minute of his talk. He’s Canadian, specifically an Albertan, and he mentioned being from a little town “that’s probably 90% LDS.” That’s interesting, I thought.
For the last year or so, I have been doing research on Mormon church courts in the nineteenth century. Until about 1900, it was expected that Mormons would not sue other Mormons in secular courts, but would take their disputes to their local bishop or high council. I’ve been looking at three inter-related questions: How did the Mormon court system develop, why did Latter-day Saints take civil disputes to church courts, and why did they ultimately abandon the church courts? I have now posted a more or less final version of my paper on SSRN, where you can down load it.
(The following is an excerpt from a larger study on the concept of “gospel culture”, which I have been working on. I hope that comments will help me correct and refine this aspect on Americanness). For the past few decades, in their efforts at internationalization, church leaders have stressed that this is “not an American Church”, but an international, universal Church.
It seems to me that Mormon discourse has two mutually contradictory ways of talking about revelation during the Middle Ages, and that neither view takes much notice of actual medieval views on the matter.
A pro-Huckabee blog recently(ish) set out the (now somewhat dated) argument that (non-Mormon) Christians have a Biblical duty not to vote for Mitt Romney. In response, Bruce (husband of blog-butterfly Margaret) Young wrote a short rebuttal piece. (He’s also a BYU professor of some renown.) I thought the discussion might be of interest (to the T&S community), and so with the permission of Bruce and Margaret Young (have you asked her about her movie lately?), I’m posting it here. My response (to Pastor Haisty’s argument that, according to John the apostle, Christians should not wish someone who believes in a “false Christ” well and should not welcome such a person into their home or any “house” that in some sense belongs to them):
For the first time in American history, a Mormon had a serious shot of making it to the highest office in the land. But no more: Mitt Romney has pulled out of active competition for the Republican nomination and thus for the presidency. How should us Mormons feel about that?
The Marty Center at the University of Chicago has posted this interesting article by Kathleen Flake on President Hinckley’s funeral. Here is the money passage from the piece:
Some conversations I’ve had in the past months have touched on the idea of individuality. The concept can play surprisingly different roles in people’s narratives about Mormonism. For instance, some good friends who I’ve known for many years are in the process of leaving the church. Conversations with them sometimes discuss the idea of individuality. I would paraphrase some of their assertions along these lines: “Aspects of church doctrine and culture — important among them, the multiplicity of rules on everything from earrings or tattoos to alcohol, tithing, church attendance, and so on — force a type of conformity that prevents me from fully expressing my individual personality. Only outside the confines of Mormonism can I really be an individual.”
I recently read an article on Joseph Smith’s legal battles in a well-respected Mormon history journal. It was interesting and well-researched. Its main thesis, however, was that certain previous authors about Joseph Smith’s legal troubles had been “lying” (the author’s word not mine) about his trials, and Joseph Smith could have avoided martyrdom by behaving with more integrity. I read a fair amount of legal history, and suffice it to say that these are not the sorts of arguments that one sees in say Law & History Review.
Last Saturday was the world premiere of Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons, at the San Diego Black Film Festival.
In Religious Literacy, Stephen Prothero considers the decline of religious knowledge in America, much of which relates to the failure of institutions (family, school, church, university) to maintain a “chain of memory” that transmits religious knowledge from one generation to the next. President Hinckley helped Mormonism avoid this failure. Mormon memory is alive and well.
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.
90% of Provo rapes are not reported to the police. This is just one of many disturbing facts in a Deseret Morning News article about rape in Provo. (The article is a few years old according to its byline, but it showed up this morning as #3 on the “Most Popular Articles” list on the Deseret website — I’m not quite sure why.) According to the BYU police officer cited in the article, “most Provo residents are religious and have a tendency to stigmatize discussion of sexual assault and sometimes to demonize the survivor.”
Consider two theological claims. First, a severely mentally retarded child has her retardation because in the premortal world she was an exceptionally valiant spirit and her current disability means that all that was necessary was for her to receive a body and then go straight on to eternal exaltation, worlds without number. Second, in this life blacks were denied the priesthood prior to 1978 because they were not valiant in the premortal conflict with Satan.
The wonderful folk at the Westboro Baptist Church have announced plans to picket President Hinckley’s funeral. These nutters — who are not affiliated with mainstream Baptists — are known for marching at U.S. soldier funerals with placards that read, “God Hates F***s.” Yesterday’s muddled press release (warning: the URL is itself offensive, and the press release is pretty bad) states that President Hinckley and Mormons generally are “[gay] enablers” and announces that therefore, “Gordon Hinckley is in Hell.”
For some years, when I was a teenager and then a young man, I was convinced President Hinckley would die as a counselor in the First Presidency; that he would never become president of the church.
A nadir of correlated Old Testament study arrives in Week 25, when the Sunday School manual directs all of one week’s attention to the book of Psalms. Even this attention is focused largely on a handful of bright pearls — the comforting lines of The Lord is My Shepherd, for instance; and an array of creative, not always convincing Messianic parallels in Psalm 22. The rest of the book remains criminally unexplored.
Are church members required to be pro-life? (That is, opposed to legal availability of abortion). Or may they be pro-choice — (in favor of allowing abortion under the law)?
Iâ€™ve been thinking of late about immortality and Mormonism. My question is whether or not you can be a Good Mormon and a Good Homeric Hero. I am unclear on the answer, but Moroni and John Taylor seem to suggest that for at least one Good Mormon being a Homeric Hero was just fine.