During General Conference last weekend, President Russell M. Nelson called for a worldwide fast on Good Friday (April 10) to “prayerfully plead for relief from this global pandemic.” Notably, this is the second collective fast in less than two weeks that Nelson has organized to petition God to alleviate “the physical, emotional and economic effects” of the global coronavirus pandemic. For those less familiar with the practice, Latter-day Saints periodically engage in ritual fasts, which generally involve abstaining from food and drink for 24 hours (or 2 meals), prayerfully dedicating the fasts to specific purposes, and contributing the value of the skipped meals (or more if you are able) to the needy. Now I can’t claim to understand the spiritual calculus of fasting, but I know I’ve felt real power in the practice. Some 20 years ago, I found myself struggling with some significant health issues. In the weeks that followed, my friends, who were scattered across the globe serving Mormon missions, collectively fasted on my behalf, an act from which I drew great strength and peace of mind and that also deepened these friendships. More recently, as my older sister engaged in a years long and ultimately unsuccessful battle against cancer, the periodic fasts I dedicated to her served to focus my thoughts on her well-being, generated great compassion within me for her and her family, and somehow managed to reduce the physical distance between us (as she lived…
Author: Marc Bohn
Marc is an attorney and a graduate of the George Washington University Law School, where he co-founded and chaired the GW National Religious Freedom Moot Court competition and co-chaired the national LDS Law Student Conference. He received his undergraduate degree in political science from Brigham Young University. He’s a blogger himself, and the originator and primary source of the natural phenomenon known as Bohnspam. Marc has a smart and beautiful wife — careful, she’s a blogger too — as well as adorable offspring. In his rare breaks between e-mails about politics, Marc works doing document review and other junior associate drudgery.
Welcome to Guest Blogger Michael Haycock
Times & Seasons is pleased to welcome Michael Haycock as our latest guest blogger. Michael was primarily raised in Northwest Ohio and served his mission in Argentina. After graduating with a B.A. in political science from Yale University, he received an M.A. in religion (American religious history) from Claremont Graduate University, where he wrote his thesis on 19th century Mormon masculinity. Having seen the academic job market, he spent several years working for small lobbying firms in Washington, D.C., before accepting a position earlier this year with Georgetown University’s Campus Ministry. He lives in Northern Virginia, where he continues to engage on the periphery of LDS academia.
Call for Proposals: Mormon Scholars in the Humanities Conference
Mormon Scholars in the Humanities (MSH) invites proposals for its 2020 annual conference. The conference topic this year is Aesthetics, and papers or panels organized around the theme are encouraged. The deadline for submitting a proposal abstract is this Friday, November 1. The culture that surrounds the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had mixed feelings about the body and the senses. While the “natural man” is an enemy to God, the spirit and the body are man’s soul. And while both scriptures may mean “men” as all human beings, there might be even more ambivalence about women’s bodies. While historically Mormon teachings have indicated that a body is necessary for both aesthetic experience and the achievement of the highest realms of exaltation, how do we grapple with the span of time between receiving a perfected body and “the flesh” that we contend with now? Furthermore, the arts of all varieties have long been embraced and promoted by Church leaders, including President Spencer W. Kimball in “The Gospel Vision of the Arts.” We wish to explore how Church doctrine and culture can affect artistic production, style, and consumption. This conference encourages participants to explore “aesthetics” in the widest sense of the term. Potential topics include: What is the aesthetic and the sensory? To what degree is it necessarily embodied? How might an embodied aesthetic experience relate to an individual’s “spirit” or to the Holy Spirit? What is the relationship…
Times & Seasons Re-Welcomes Bryan Hickman
Times & Seasons hopes you will join us in welcoming our latest guest blogger, Bryan Hickman, for his guest-blogging stint with us (see here for his prior posts). Bryan is a semi-reformed Utah Mormon (whatever that means) doing his best to rein in the knee-jerkedness of his worldview (whatever that means). He went to school in Utah, receiving both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Political Science from Utah State University. He then bravely trekked eastward in search of a law degree, a wife, and theaters that show independent films, eventually finding all three in Washington, DC. Earlier this year, after more than 12 years slaving away as a staffer in the U.S. Senate, Bryan recently set out on his own to become a freelance writer — like that’s his actual job. Since then, he’s been doing mostly policy writing for think tanks, trade associations, and corporations, while also spending way too much time on projects no one is paying him to write. For the T&S faithful, he hopes to express his semi-generic views about the principles of Mormonism as they relate to film and pop culture in a manner that some will find interesting.
Times & Seasons Welcomes Levi Jones
Times and Seasons hopes you will join us in welcoming our latest guest blogger, Levi Jones. Levi is an attorney with the U.S. Department of Commerce, where he handles general litigation matters. Prior to joining Commerce, Levi worked for several years as a corporate lawyer for a D.C. area firm. Levi earned his law degree from George Washington University Law School in 2009, where he was a production editor on the school’s Law Review. Before this, Levi earned Bachelor’s degrees in Economics and International Studies from the University of Utah. Levi lives in Manassas, Virginia, with his wife and two kids. Levi grew up in Utah, and served a mission in Cambodia from 2001 to 2003.
10 Questions with Spencer Fluhman
Continuing our work with the 10 Questions team, we are pleased to present Kurt Manwaring’s interview with Spencer Fluhman, Director of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU and an editor of “To Be Learned is Good: Essays on Faith and Scholarship in Honor of Richard Lyman Bushman.” Manwaring and Fluhman cover a wide range of topics during their discussion, which is well worth reading in full. A couple of highlights that stood out to me include Fluhman describing the mission of the Maxwell Institute: The Institute is a research unit dedicated to religious topics but defined in particular by that intersection between the practice of faith and the rigorous study of it. We ask our scholars to conscientiously serve two audiences: those academic fields interested in the study of religion and the Latter-day Saints themselves, whose religious commitments compel many to care deeply about the broader world of religious ideas and scholarship. We can’t typically write for both audiences at once, so we take care to be clear about who we’re talking to. The two audiences demand different skills and tools. Academic audiences expect specialized language, deep immersion in scholarly literature, and an academic tone. LDS audiences, on the other hand, expect sensitivity to their covenantal commitments, to their regard for some texts and voices having spiritual authority over others, and for writing that is accessible rather than specialized…. Our work with the academy seeks understanding and empathy, for…
10 Questions with Jonathan Stapley
As part of our work with the 10 Questions team, we will be posting later this week on Kurt Manwaring’s upcoming interview with the Maxwell Institute’s Spencer Fluhman. In the meantime, however, we thought we would highlight a great interview 10 Questions recently posted with Jonathan Stapley, bloggernacle regular and author of “The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology” (Oxford University Press). In his interview, Stapley notes of his new book: “[I]n The Power of Godliness, I look at the history and development of core ideas essential to current Mormon identity such as priesthood, authority, and ordinances. I also analyze how women have variously been included and excluded from these concepts, especially in relation to the liturgy of the church. For example, in Nauvoo, men and women who participated in the Temple liturgy while Joseph Smith was alive, referred to themselves as “the priesthood.” Both believers and scholars have struggled to understand what that meant. Moreover many have used historical practice or theology to make arguments about the current ecclesiastical or liturgical structures of the church. My volume is an academic history of Mormonism, and as such it’s intent is simply to understand and analyze the past and contextualize and historicize the present.” When you have a moment, check out the 10 Questions interview and Stapley’s new book, which are both well worth your time.
Guest Post: Seminary Assessments and Americacentrism
James Holt lives in Manchester, UK and is Senior Lecturer in Religious Education* at the University of Chester. This involves training teachers to teach Religious Education in schools, as well as aspects of education for teachers training to teach in a secondary (11-18) school. James is also Chair of Examiners for GCSE Religious Studies for a major awarding organisation in the UK. He is the author of Religious Education in the Secondary School. An introduction to teaching, learning and the World Religions (Routledge, 2015). He is a trustee of the RE Council of England and Wales, his PhD (Liverpool, 2011) constructed a Mormon theology of religions and explored the resultant implications for inter-faith dialogue. James currently serves as Bishop and early morning seminary teacher in his home ward. His current research interests focus around a Christ-centered pedagogy of teaching, assessment, and all aspects of inter-faith engagement. *Religious Education means something different in the UK than in the USA. All school children in England should have an RE class weekly that explores the beliefs and teachings of the different world religions. In state schools this is not confessional and is to help children understand the lived reality of those who have religious and non-religious beliefs. This will hopefully lead to more informed and respectful members of communities and society. Seminary Assessments and Americacentrism James Holt A couple of things coalesced this week to make me return to some thoughts I had a…
A Mormon Image: From on High
The title of and inspiration for this photograph of the Moroni statue atop Hill Cumorah in Palmyra comes from the text of Parley P. Pratt’s hymn “An angel from on High” (Hymns 13).
T&S Welcomes Guest Blogger Michelle Lee
Times and Seasons hopes you will join us in welcoming our latest guest blogger, Michelle Lee. Michelle is a licensed therapist practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently works full-time for her local school district, providing mental health counseling and crisis management services to adolescents and their families, and also has a private practice on the side (specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders). She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development at BYU, and her M.A. in Marriage & Family Therapy from the University of San Diego, and has spent several years working with teens and adults on both the east and west coasts (DC and California, mainly). Michelle grew up in Calgary, Canada, and still feels more at home in the Canadian Rockies than anywhere else in the world.
A Mormon Image: The Kids Table Easter
I spent a lot of years at the kids table when I was young. Family dinners were a big deal. My grandmother lived for them. She was an excellent cook and a hostess extraordinaire. She would recite poetry and lead her guests in singing a few songs. She would also use her seating chart to try and make marriage matches. I have so many great memories of dinners and holidays and cousins and delicious food. I’m glad that the tradition is still alive with my own kids and their cousins.
Reviving Our “A Mormon Image” Photo Series
We’ve decided to revive our long dormant photo series “A Mormon Image,” which features photos and other images that carry meaning for us because they resonate with our “Mormonness.” As part of this, we’d like to issue a renewed call for photographs to be considered for inclusion in the series. What qualifies as a Mormon image? It should be a photograph or other image which relates to your own Mormon experience. It can be an image explicitly tied to religious ritual, such as a picture from before a baptism. It can be a family photo outside the temple, or a picture of the temple at sunset. It can be a picture from your mission. It can be a picture of nature — sunrise, flowers, birds — but if so, these should have some expressed link to a theme within Mormon life, broadly construed. Your image should have a title as well, and should have accompanying caption. The text can be simple description — “my son before his baptism.” It can tie the image to a Mormon theme — “this sunset reminds me of the glory of creation.” It can be a line from a hymn, or a scripture text. It should be related in some way to the image, but again we’re willing to read that requirement broadly. We hope that this series will allow us to showcase images that illustrate beauty in Mormon life, from the variety of perspectives of…
Welcome to Guest Blogger Carole Turley Voulgaris
Times and Seasons is pleased to welcome Carole Turley Voulgaris as our latest guest blogger. Carole recently completed her PhD in transportation planning at UCLA and will be joining the transportation engineering faculty at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this winter following her upcoming maternity leave. For the time being, she lives in the Seattle area with her husband, her cat, and (starting any day now) her baby daughter. Carole served a full-time mission in Germany from 2003 to 2004, and (in addition to her newly acquired PhD), she holds a master’s degree in transportation engineering from BYU and an MBA from Notre Dame.
Guest Post: What Can LGBT Mormons Hope For?
A year and a half ago, I invited John Gustav-Wrathall, president of the support group Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends, to share his thoughts on the Church’s new policy affecting LGBT members and their children (see All Flesh from December 2015). Diverging responses to this post gave rise to the idea of hosting a conversation on the blog about what it is reasonable for LGBT members of the Church to hope for and why. To facilitate such a back-and-forth, Gustav-Wrathall offered to share his thoughts on his experience as a gay man raised in the Church, his “abundance” of hope, and the sources of his religious optimism. These reflections constitute the first part of a conversation exploring the question: “What can LGBT members of the Church hope for?” Jonathan Green’s response to Gustav-Wrathall, which includes Gustav-Wrathall’s subsequent reply, represents the second part of the conversation. Readers are invited to comment below or contribute to the conversation in the comments to Jonathan Green’s forthcoming post, but should ensure that any comments posted mirror the graciousness and respect shown by each author and are in line with our comment policy. What Can LGBT Mormons Hope For? John Gustav-Wrathall I have frequently been accused of optimism, both by people who think that’s a bad thing, and by people who think it’s a good thing. Some, both in and out of the Church, say my optimism amounts to false hope, that it’s wrong, maybe even a sin to encourage false hope. Others, also both in and out of the…
Terryl Givens on What It Means to Sustain
Below is a letter Terryl Givens recently wrote on what it means to sustain Church leadership. It is an outgrowth of an actual correspondence between Brother Givens and a friend, and is posted with Givens’ permission. The friend holds strong feelings about recent changes made to the Church Handbook of Instruction and had asked Givens how someone could sustain a leadership that he or she believed had acted in error or unrighteously. Dear [Friend], I am glad you followed through with your question. [How can I sustain a leadership that I think has acted in error or unrighteously]. It is one that is on a lot of minds these days. The word sustain only appears in the scriptures once, so I think it is a pretty important moment to infer its exact meaning. D&C 134.5, admonishes us to “sustain and uphold” the respective governments in which we reside. Now notice that we don’t have to like or agree with a great deal that our governments do. But I take “sustain” in that case to mean we support the general framework, share its common purposes, and work for its betterment. To sustain the elected leaders of a government would similarly mean to recognize their legitimately derived authority, and not work to undermine that authority, even if we voted for the other guy (or woman). So adapting this scriptural usage to the sustaining of our own leaders, I take the same cues. We recognize their legitimately derived authority. (This is made…
Guest Post: All Flesh
John Gustav-Wrathall is the newly-elected president of Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends, an international organization founded in 1977 to support LGBTQ/SSA Mormons and their families, friends and Church leaders. Following his election, I invited Gustav-Wrathall, a personal friend, to draft a post on his thoughts about the new policy, his interactions with Church leaders, and what he thought important that members know. The post below is the product of that invitation. For those who don’t know him, Gustav-Wrathall is an adjunct professor of American Religious History at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, where he teaches future Protestant ministers about Mormonism (and other religions). He is the author of Take the Young Stranger by the Hand: Same-Sex Relations and the YMCA (University of Chicago Press, 1998), has published articles in Sunstone and Dialogue on being gay and Mormon, and is the author of the Young Stranger blog, which he has maintained since 2007. Though excommunicated from the Church, John has a testimony, and has been active in his south Minneapolis ward since 2005 (he discusses his journey back to the Church in several of his Young Stranger blog posts, including the fantastic “On Being a Gay Mormon Missionary“). He currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his husband of over twenty years, to whom he was legally married in Riverside, California in July 2008, and with whom he has foster parented three sons. All Flesh John Gustav-Wrathall And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my…
Welcome to Guest Blogger Dave Evans
Times and Seasons is pleased to welcome David K. Evans as our latest guest blogger. Dave is a Senior Economist in the Chief Economist’s Office for the Africa Region of the World Bank and holds a Ph.D in economics from Harvard University. In the wake of last year’s Ebola outbreak, Dave has also become talk radio and cable news’s go to source on the economic effects of the epidemic in West Africa, with appearances on BBC, Bloomberg, CNN International, and Diane Rehm, among other outlets. Dave is engaging, thoughtful and one of the most well-read individuals I’ve ever met. He and his wife Diana have three brilliant children and are staples of the Rolling Valley Ward in Springfield, Virginia.
DC Institute Class
Thomas B. Griffith (D.C. Circuit Court judge and former BYU General Counsel, Senate Legal Counsel, Bishop and Stake President) is teaching an institute class at the Chevy Chase building this fall on early Church history, with a focus on “Joseph Smith as Everyman.” The class starts Tuesday, September 2nd at 7pm and will run every Tuesday night throughout the fall. You can register either upon arrival or in advance at the Church’s Institute site. Please spread the word. Brother Griffith is a fantastic teacher and having a class from him on this topic is a rare opportunity — it is sure to be stellar.
Sounding the Secularist Alarm at BYU
Ralph Hancock has a provocative article in the March edition of First Things in which he raises concerns about the specialization/secularization he sees occurring at Brigham Young University: “For some decades, BYU had managed a compromise between the academic mainstream and its own aspiration to a distinctive mission. [While encouraging excellence in the scholarly communities in which we participate, leaders have also] urged the faculty to resist hyper-specialization, by which we seek merely to ‘imitate others or win their approval,’ and instead to assume the responsibility of ‘those educated and spiritual and wise [to] sort, sift, prioritize, integrate, and give some sense of wholeness… to great eternal truths.’ But the machinery of specialization was already in place, and it has only accelerated. “While the mainstream academic suppression of all questions of transcendent purpose and of associated moral limits was taken as a given across the disciplines, and while most researchers and teachers deferred intellectually, in their specialized professional capacities, to the authority of a rationalist and reductionist framework of understanding, they were not for the most part concerned to draw the moral, political, and religious implications. The authority of a reductionist scientism and an ethic of limitless personal freedom grew steadily in the human sciences and humanities, but most BYU professors were happy to consider their scientific or scholarly work as ‘value-neutral’ and to compartmentalize their religious and moral beliefs in a ‘private’ domain supposedly exempt from the ordering paradigm of their discipline. Even the relatively few professors knowingly committed to the moral and political implications of the secular–progressive paradigm often felt no urgent need to convert less enlightened students.” This trend…
Do exemptions from the ACA’s ‘contraception mandate’ threaten religious liberty?
In March, the Supreme Court will hear a pair of cases on whether for-profit employers can claim a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer health plans cover contraceptives without any out-of-pocket expense because the use of contraceptives violates their owners’ religious beliefs. In a Washington Post op ed this week, Fred Gedicks, the Guy Anderson Chair at BYU Law School (and a prior T&S guest blogger), flips the case on its head, claiming that it is actually exemptions from the “contraception mandate” that pose a threat to religious liberty. The op ed briefly summarizes a journal article that Gedicks has co-authored in the forthcoming Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. As Gedicks closes the op ed with an explicit appeal to his “minority faith,” I’m curious to what extent Gedicks’ line of reasoning resonates with other Mormons. In brief, Gedicks argues that “[e]xempting ordinary, nonreligious, profit-seeking businesses from a general law because of the religious beliefs of their owners would be extraordinary, especially when doing so would shift the costs of observing those beliefs to those of other faiths or no faith. The threat to religious liberty, then, comes from the prospect that the court might permit a for-profit business to impose the costs of its owners’ anti-contraception beliefs on employees who do not share them by forcing employees to pay hundreds of dollars or more out-of-pocket each year for contraception and related services that should be covered…