Today is a good day to point out that the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons will be playing in the next few weeks at film festivals in Dallas and San Diego. And possibly more places, depending in its success at those festivals. This very worthwhile project is the product of lots of effort by Darius Gray and bloggernacle regular Margaret Young. Keep us all posted on the progress of your film, Margaret.
One thing that church leaders said in their recent meetings with state lawmakers: Let’s take a humane approach to immigration. The Deseret News reports that:
Wilfried noted this article, which says, Before each general [Utah legislative] session, GOP and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate sit down separately with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints special affairs committee, a group made up of church general authorities, church public relations officials and their lobbyists, to discuss any items on the minds of both legislators and church leaders. Does anyone know what other groups legislators of both parties meet with, to discuss issues of concern? Do the GOP and Democratics leaders in South Carolina have combined meetings with the Southern Baptist Convention?
For a concrete idea of what Mormon temple services are like, comparing them with a Catholic Mass actually goes pretty far.
A reader asks me to expand on a recent comment regarding historians and histories of Mormonism. I do so realizing that it may wrongly be interpreted as personal; my purpose is to illustrate the causes for my earlier evaluation and to demonstrate the value of questioning claims that don’t quite “feel” right.
A few months ago, Kaimi asked you a few questions about your experience as a Mormon author. You not only responded, but your answers were interesting and thoughtful. In fact, your answers suggested that you might just be the kind of author whose books I would enjoy. So I bought Mistborn.
“One hundred and fifty years ago a federal army of nearly two thousand soldiers under the command of Col. Albert Sidney Johnston huddled in their makeshift quarters at Camp Scott near the ruins of Fort Bridger in southwestern Wyoming to wait out the bitter winter and prepare to march into the Salt Lake Valley later in the spring of 1858.”
Mormon theology and practice centers ultimately on the temple, and yet the temple is a subject on which Mormons are especially secretive and reticent. Therein lies one of the central ironies and challenges facing any Mormon trying to really explain how Mormonism works to an outsider.
I first ran across Noah Feldmanâ€™s writing last year when I read his personal essay â€œOrthodox Paradoxâ€ in the New York Times Magazine.
I was delighted when Noah Feldman accepted my invitation to give the keynote address at Princetonâ€™s Mormonism and American Politics conference because I knew heâ€™d offer a thoughtful and sophisticated outsiderâ€™s perspective on these issues. His latest NYT piece, a polished and updated version of his conference remarks, is even more that that, however. In challenging what Feldman calls the â€œsoft bigotryâ€ against Mormonism, still surprisingly so widespread, while at the same time effectively raising legitimate issues for Latter-day Saints to wrestle with themselves, Feldmanâ€™s piece does what few other articles on Mormonism have been able to do and is rightly getting a lot of attention.
That’s faint enough praise for January 8th — but Noah Feldman’s recent New York Times article is strong enough that it would be a contender for that title, even in December. I already described the piece as “remarkable” in my sidebar link. I was surprised, though, to note the negative reaction the article has garnered in some Mormon circles.
I recently read The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male and Female Brain (Basic Books, 2003) by Simon Baron-Cohen, professor of psychiatry at Cambridge University. Anyone interested in the source and nature of gender differences (i.e., everyone) will find this an interesting book, and people with an interest in understanding autism are particularly encouraged to find a copy and read it.
All of this to-do about Jesus and Satan being brothers is unfortunate, really. As far as I can tell, it’s all a misunderstanding based on a simple typo. Mormons don’t really think that Jesus and Satan are brothers. We think that Jesus and Santa are brothers! And what could make more sense than that, really? Look at all of the similarities:
Here is my argument: Let us suppose that Mitt Romney does not become the next president. What will this mean for the Mormons? There about 5.7 million Latter-day Saints in America, which in a nation of more than 300 million makes us demographic chicken feed, but the question is important for what it reveals about the presidency and its relationship to American citizenship. You can read the rest of the argument here. What do you think? Too grim? UPDATE: The Salt Lake Tribune ran a shorter version of the article in today’s (1/6/2008) edition. FYI.
Generally speaking, when anyone wants an easy quote on the past racist theologies of Mormonism, they quote Bruce R. McConkie. I am one of those people who would like a clearer statement repudiating past theological justifications for the priesthood ban. On the other hand, I think that at times folks understate the extent to which they have already been repudiated explicitly. In August of 1978, two months after the publication of the revelation to President Kimball, Elder McConkie told an audience at BYU: Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular…
On the sweetness of Mormon life. Some child behind me started yelling during a really good talk about charity. Because of the talk, perhaps, I remembered not to turn around and gawk. Later I peeked behind me and saw a young mother with three small children who had slipped in late. Her husband is a good man but he doesn’t believe and won’t come and he works on Sundays anyway, so she and her children are usually late. Sometimes they’re so late they don’t come until the very end of sacrament meeting. But they almost always come.
America, as they say, is browning. Latino/as recently surpassed African Americans as the largest minority group in the United States, and the Church is experiencing that browning along with the rest of the nation. “According to Church statisticians, the future of the Church does not lie in Europe, Canada, or the United States but rather in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and among the ethnic groups in this country.”
Yesterday was Joseph Smith’s birthday. I wonder sometimes how important it is to us in the 21st century that he was born in Vermont, given that the narratives we use to discuss Joseph usually skip his birthplace altogether and fast forward to New York.
Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”  In various writings, he expanded that claim, contrasting a natural law approach to justifying legal and ethical rules of conduct with his own more modest approach rooted in history and experience and falling under the broad perspective labeled pragmatism. Since religion in general and Mormonism in particular have many rules of conduct for which a variety of justifications grounded in natural law, experience, and history are held out, Holmes’ approach may shed some light on how we do this.
In his recent (and excellent) book, Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes, Paul Reeve examines the contact and interactions between the three groups mentioned in his title in southern Utah/eastern Nevada during the last four decades of the 19th century. Although Reeve uses the word “frontier” in his title, he is not using it in the same way as Frederick Jackson Turner, who saw the frontier as succeeding waves of Anglo-American civilization moving relentlessly across the continent.
‘Parascripture’ was the term Hugh Nibley used to refer to popular statements of religious sentiment that weren’t actually found in scripture, and that can sometimes be the vehicle for foreign ideas to find a home in a Mormon setting. An example in recent circulation is, “If you want to talk to God, pray; if you want God to talk to you, read the scriptures.”
(and always has been).
The way we see and define who we are is usually closely related to how we understand the past. Most of us have overlapping identities that require us to negotiate compromises between them and these compromises shape our narratives of history. African American members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have two dominant identities, black and Mormon, and as such, they have the burden of negotiating a compromise between these identities in relation to their understandings of the priesthood ban.
There have been some interesting discussions of Mormonism in the media lately. Commenters like Lawrence O’Donnell, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and others have made statements about the church in highly public places. What are we (or others) to make of these? In this post, I’ll try to address some of the questions that I’ve seen in various media contexts lately.
In April 2005, I spent two weeks on assignment for the Joseph Smith Papers Project in Missouri and Illinois, visiting court houses and archives searching for documents pertaining to early Mormon history. On the second evening of my stay in northwestern Missouri, I drove down a lonely dirt road to a desolate place that had significant meaning for me as a Latter-day Saint. When I arrived, I found only a small creek surrounded by trees, grass, mud, and a small plaque that identified the site of the Haunâ€™s Mill Massacre…
That stands for “Historian In, Historian Out”–Times and Seasons bids farewell to one historian, Paul Reeve, and welcomes another, David Grua.
The mission president called. Would I, as his counselor, conduct a baptismal interview? A case he wouldn’t have the zone leaders handle, a woman with a troubled past. Most likely involving a chastity issue.
If Mormons had a liturgical year, the distinctively Mormon part of December would be tithing settlement, not a limp dutifulness like Joseph Smith’s birthday.
According to Eugene England, this is the best Mormon poem ever written:
In fall 2001 (vol. 27, pp. 125-149) the Journal of Mormon History published an article I wrote entitled â€œâ€˜As Ugly as Evilâ€™ and â€˜As Wicked as Hellâ€™: Gadianton Robbers and the Legend Process among the Mormons.â€ Let me share a few excerpts from it and then pose a question.