Midjourney’s interpretation of “Married Mormon couple.” It’s uncanny how well it visually taps into stereotype. Deseret News published another piece of mine, this time about evidence that shows that, contrary to conventional wisdom, religious people report more satisfying sex lives. So now for my post-game, more casual, more speculative blogosphere analysis. First off. Yes, I did check, and no, it doesn’t look like Latter-day Saints have better or worse sex lives on average, but this isn’t surprising since there were so few of them in the sample I was using that the effect would have to have been huge for me to pick it up. I suspect some of the finding that religious people have better sex lives is because religious people have rose-colored glasses about things in general. I’m open to the possibility that highly sex-negative, religious upbringings could affect sexual functioning, especially in women, and I would not be surprised if some future research found that certain types of early-life religiosity are associated with aorgasmia, for example (but would also not be surprised if there was no such effect; a lot of people have sexual hang-ups, not just religious people). However, I still suspect that a conservative Church upbringing is a net positive. For every person who can’t switch into marital sexy mode after a teenagerhood of chastity lessons, there’s another one whose religious upbringing helped them avoid highly negative early life sexual experiences, where the structure and…
Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye’s new book, Sacred Struggle: Seeking Christ on the Path of Most Resistance, confirms her status as reigning queen of great subtitles. It also confirms her status as one of our tradition’s most insightful pastoral-ecclesiological thinkers, worthy heir to the great Chieko Okazaki. Melissa has the professional training, the personal background and experience, and most of all the unwavering faith in Zion to raise the most important questions about this precarious moment in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Inouye sees that the global expansion of the Church urgently requires a re-formation of North American Saints’ sense of ingroup identity to take in the full sweep of our tiny-but-worldwide membership. At the same time, the solidarity of the North American Church is being tested as never before by the fracturing effects of politics expanding its salience in all forms of association, including churches. She cogently asks, given global inequality, cultural acrimony, and the aggressive incursion of ideologies, “With such different understandings of how the gospel of Jesus Christ should unfold in everyday life, in a local political and cultural context, what holds us together?” (163). The opportunities and challenges of global Mormonism have taken center stage in Mormon Studies of late. What makes Inouye’s treatment different is its framing in Latter-day Saint theology. Melissa places the struggle for Zion in the context of the plan of salvation–our Heavenly Parents’ ongoing intention to teach…
The Country Music history podcast Cocaine and Rhinestones called this book “everything a Country Artist’s autobiography should be.” Even if you aren’t into this particular genre (I was not and have no plans to read any anytime soon), this is a worthwhile read. And despite the (content warning) constant cussing (including many “f-bombs”), I even felt the Spirit at one point. Let me explain:
One of the recurring irritations of reading apologetic, polemic, or scholarly work in Mormon Studies addressing Joseph Smith’s translations of ancient scripture is that the authors nearly always ignore the perspective of practicing translators and the field of translation studies, instead basing their analyses in simple notions of linguistic equivalence that may still prevail in graduate language exams, but that the field of translation studies abandoned as unworkable several decades ago.
The Princess Bride’s relationship to the scriptures. Bear with me here. This is not one of those “William Goldman [the author of the book and screenwriter for the movie] was LDS” things (like “Yoda is President Kimball” or whatever from other franchises). When I first read the book (which came before the movie), it shocked me. I did not expect what I found. Almost everything from the movie was in there (although often in different ways – the famous “life is pain” quote comes from Fezzik’s parents in passing during a flashback, for example), but there was so much more. There was a lot on “his” [scare quotes on purpose] dysfunctional family life, his career, his childhood, and a lot more plot in the actual tale of Buttercup.
After the death of Jesus Christ, early Christians spent centuries grappling with understanding who he was. The early creeds developed largely as an effort to reach an official consensus on understanding Jesus’s divine and human natures. While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of the primitive church, early Christianity and the debates they had are still part of our heritage and history. At a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history and theology blog, From the Desk, Jason Combs discussed some of these early debates and the resulting Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with some excerpts and discussion).
I was doing some reading recently and came across a surprising moment where early Latter-day Saint John D. Lee casually included a reference to Heavenly Mother. On September 27, 1857, Lee visited a ward in Provo and was invited to speak. He did so, and at the conclusion of his remarks, he said that: “He was trying to live near unto the Lord”, and encouraged the congregation “that we all might have an interest in the Kingdom that we might be permitted too return too our father & mother in peace.” (Provo Utah Central Stake general minutes, 1849-1977; Volume 10, 1855-1860; Church History Library, https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/da814a81-fed5-4040-a87a-2cfc46a96f52/0/960?lang=eng [accessed: February 9, 2023].) It was striking to me how casual and normal it seemed for him to include returning to both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother in his remarks, given the reluctance to openly talk about Her in Latter-day Saint congregations today. (Of course, being John D. Lee, the circumstances and individual delivering the message are less than ideal – Lee had just been one of the main instigators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre about two weeks beforehand and was on his way to Salt Lake City to pawn off blame for the whole ordeal on Paiutes while reporting to President Brigham Young. This makes his statement that he was trying to live close to the Lord ring hollow.) That context notwithstanding, I appreciate the encouragement he gave to “have an interest in the…
My husband frequently says of our team dynamic that he is the historian and I am the theologian, and that before I talk about anything I lay a theological framework for it. This is clearly interesting and endearing of me. The last couple of posts have been me laying the theological framework for this series, and now we get to get into actual examples of spiritual divergence. Just one last thing, though. A few comments in a previous post pointed out that I have not clarified what exactly I mean by spirit. This is a really good point because, frankly, the concept of spirit isn’t always clear. There is the Holy Ghost (which is talked about as a power by which our mind is connected with God but is also described as a person). There is the Light of Christ which sometimes is the conscience with which everyone is born and is secondary to the holy spirit which is the source of greater truth, but other times is the source of all light and truth and makes the role of the Holy Ghost a little more ambiguous. There is the spirit that is inside our bodies and the spiritual creation inside everything and the spirit of different powers and principles. So what does “the spirit” mean? Firstly, I think this is a really important question and I am grateful for the comments that brought it to my attention. Secondly, I…
Two attitudes about translation are on my mind. One is about Joseph Smith: “Seeing words appear in a seer stone is magic, not translation. Translation is when you have the equivalent text in a foreign language, like Google Translate.” The other attitude is not uncommon among translators and translation clients: “Google Translate isn’t translation. It’s just inputting one text and getting the mechanical equivalent in another language.”
Imagining the Book of Mormon as a complex work reflecting numerous steps of compilation and abridgment helps explain some curious features of the encounter with Sherem in Jacob 7.
Thinking of the Book of Mormon as the result of a series of textual accretions and combinations might help make sense of how curiously overdetermined the account of Nephite origins is.
Is philological deliberation useful for studying the Book of Mormon? Is it even permitted?
Why is 3 Nephi, which records the central event in the history of Nephite salvation and destruction, located between Helaman and 4 Nephi?
If you trace the history of a text from earlier manuscripts to later ones, it’s not unusual for the text to be extended in various ways.
I remember talking to an atheist on the riverfront walk in Dubuque, Iowa one day while serving my mission. He told my companion and me that he couldn’t believe in God after some of the things he had seen, and went on to describe (in a fair amount of gruesome detail) visiting a Catholic church in South America in the aftermath of an attack by a militant group of some sort and seeing the mutilated bodies of the Christians laying scattered about. If God existed, he reasoned, God would have not allowed such horrific act to take place. I was taken aback and was uncertain how to respond to his expression of disbelief rooted in such deep trauma. We talked with the man for a little while longer and moved on in with the day. His comments got at one of the most difficult and complex philosophical issues of Christian religion—the theodicy, the question of why evil exists if God exists, is good, and is all-powerful. That evening, I remember talking about the incident with my companion and thinking (somewhat naïvely): “I should have just opened up the Book of Mormon to Alma 14, where Alma and Amulek watch their converts burn and discuss why they can’t do anything about it. That would have shown him how we have all the answers.” Looking back, however, I’m grateful we didn’t turn to that section of the Book of Mormon during our…
Unless someone gets lucky with a spade or a metal detector, the full extent of Mormon’s sources will remain unknown. To keep even tentative answers on the side of plausibility rather than fantasy, how we think about Mormon’s sources should be informed by any information we have about Nephite literacy and textual culture.
The logical place for a philological approach to the Book of Mormon to begin is with Mormon, its eponymous editor, and his sources. How much did Mormon know about the Nephites, and what kind of records did he have to work with?
When I look at recent studies of the Book of Mormon, the biggest deficit I see is the lack of instinct for philology.