Tag: Welch

Boston’s Mormon women’s organization, 1844

Nauvoo had its Relief Society, but the “society of sisters” in Boston was instead the “Sewing and Penny Society,” or so the Church’s New York City newspaper reported. Despite all that the Relief Society has become in the nearly 170 years since it was founded, it apparently only existed in Nauvoo. In other areas, women were left to their own devices.

Faith frames the pie, and other reasons to be grateful

Today I, with millions of other home cooks around the country, will be getting frisky in the kitchen with all manner of saturated fats and simple carbohydrates as I beget a table full of gorgeous harvest pies. I make pie once a year, the day before Thanksgiving; the rest of the year I prefer my saturated fats and simple carbohydrates in other forms. But at about 4:00 on Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by a riot of dirty dishes and family, there’s nothing in this world or out of it that tastes better. Social scientists would call my Thanksgiving palate a “framing effect”.  The framing effect is an important concept in economics and psychology, describing the way in which the presentation of an object or idea in different contexts will change people’s decision-making.  By swapping out one emotional frame for another—Thanksgiving Day for Easter, say—we change our perception of the object or opportunity at hand, even though it remains objectively constant. Pie…

Once upon a time on earth: the Church in a changing world


In debates over controversial religious issues, one often encounters a certain kind of argument from history, a sort of “once upon a time” argument. Once upon a time, it’s argued, the Church considered a given practice or belief, from witchcraft to usury to the heliocentric cosmos, to be immoral, unbiblical or otherwise forbidden.  The particular practice or belief in question varies, but the structure of the argument and its implication are nearly always the same: the Church once considered such-and-such to be evil, but now it doesn’t; thus by means of a progressive trope of enlightenment, the argument proceeds, the Church should also de-stigmatize and embrace the controversial topic at hand. (Often, it should be noted, these arguments are made with a great deal of care and nuance and insight.) In one sense, I’m sympathetic to this argument. I share the view that knowledge of and from God is a profoundly historical and historicized knowledge—and it that sense, it is…

Halloween plays a trick on Sabbath observance

photo credit Rasmus Thomsen

In October a young kid’s fancy swiftly turns to thoughts of treats. With four young kids in our home, you can guess what’s on our minds lately. At our house we celebrate a thoroughly domesticated Halloween, with no concerns about satanism or sugar, just plenty of candy corn and friendly ghosts and homely, homemade costumes. And trick-or-treating. But this year the calendar plays a trick on us: Halloween falls on a Sunday. We observe the Sabbath in a fairly rigorous but, I hope, joyful and worshipful way: we commune at Church, and we rest, read, play, walk, bike, share food and music, and make occasional family expeditions during the rest of the day. We don’t shop, swim, sport, party, or work (beyond the necessities) on Sundays. This is a fairly arbitrary regimen, and other Christians surely draw their lines in different places, but that’s how the Sabbath visits our home. We want Sunday to be a day of joy for…