The Claremont Mormon Studies Student Association is holding its Spring 2010 Conference on April 23 and 24 on the theme What Is Mormon Studies? Transdisciplinary Inquiries into an Emerging Field. The Conference line-up is as follows: Keynote Address Jan Shipps – Indiana University-Purdue University Critical Approaches to Mormon Studies Loyd Ericson – “Where is the Mormon in Mormon Studies? Subject, Method, Object” Cheryl L. Bruno – “Mormon History from the Kitchen Window: White is the Field in Essentialist Feminism” Blair Van Dyke – “How Wide the Divide? The Absence of Conversation between Mormon Studies and Mormon Mainstream” Christopher C. Smith – “What Hath Oxford to do with Salt Lake?” Challenges Facing Mormon Studies Adam S. Miller – “A Manifesto for Mormon theology” Jacob Rennaker – “Through a Glass, Darkly? Biblical Studies, Mormon Studies, Parallels, and Problems” Greg Kofford – “Publishing Mormon Studies: Inside Looking Out” Scholar Panel Brian Birch – Utah Valley University J. Spencer Fluhman – Brigham Young University Armand L. Mauss – Claremont Graduate University Concluding Remarks Richard Bushman – Claremont Graduate University For more information see the Claremont Mormon Studies website.
Last week a friend invited me to attend a lecture sponsored by the SLU Theology Club and featuring James Alison, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian. Alison grew up in Britain, was raised in a low-church Protestant tradition, converted to Catholicism, and now resides in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, living as an openly gay Catholic and working with AIDS patients. That collision of proper nouns seemed provocative. The talk was to be titled “The Gift of the Spirit and the Shape of Belonging: Meditations on the Church as Ecclesial Sign.” Even more promising: Catholic ecclesiology shares something in common with its LDS counterpart, inasmuch as both traditions revere an ecclesiastical hierarchy and value orthodoxy, and I hoped that Alison’s remarks might offer a wavy mirror on the shape of my own belonging. I was not disappointed. Alison opened by observing that ecclesiology, or contemplation of the church as an institution, is always a “broken-hearted” discourse, informed by communal contrition and enlivened by love infused with great pain. He connected a broken-hearted ecclesiology with the sacrament of baptism: we enter the church by way of a symbolic death, and that humble entrance should inflect the way we inhabit the institution—that is, with humility, not triumphalism. This struck me as a profound reading of the sacrament of baptism. Alison’s subtext, it seemed to me though it was never mentioned explicitly, was both his experience as a gay men in the church as well as…
Some time ago on T&S, I survived a discussion on the history of Sunday (got no t-shirt though). That knock-down drag-out event included some talk of sports, but overall was pretty general. In light of the upcoming Super Bowl I thought it might be fun(?) to look at the rise of Sunday sport more specifically. So get out the nachos and dip. Or lace up the gloves, or whatever.
The several parallels between the Book of Mormon and the Qur’an have been noted before: the Qur’an serves as proof of Muhammad’s prophethood, an additional (although superseding) witness of the Bible’s God and salvation history, the source of devotional reading and instruction for believers. It is central to the piety of Muslims and commands their highest esteem. For non-believers to glibly dismiss it offends Muslims the same way we take umbrage when the Book of Mormon is described as something any nineteenth-century, Bible-literate yokel could have tossed off between lunch and dinner. In other ways, though, the Qur’an is simply sui generis, and to understand it only by comparing it with other sacred texts is to sell it short. For one thing, the Qur’an has long been considered the model of literary excellence in Arabic; the inimitability of its style is an article of faith. For all its other merits, the Book of Mormon hasn’t exactly been widely followed as a paragon of style, even by believers. And nothing in the LDS view of scripture quite parallels the Islamic view of the Qur’an as uncreated, co-eternal with the Creator (God “inlibriate” as one scholar has put it). But those are topics for another time. My hope today is to promote appreciation for three facets of the Qur’an. (1) The Qur’an is a complex text. It was compiled over a period of more than 20 years, and the diverse content of…
I finally got my hands on a copy of The Democratization of American Christianity, Nathan O. Hatch’s look at how the egalitarian democratic spirit that pervaded post-Revolutionary America influenced five early American religious movements: the Christians (such as the Disciples of Christ), the Methodists, the Baptists, black churches, and Mormonism.
“She won’t join the church because we won’t let her practice polyandry.” That’s what my husband told the Stake President at his last interview.
(See my disclaimer in Part 1 concerning the title) So, let’s discuss some of the less-acknowledged ways Mormons and evangelicals are alike. First we’ll start with things in evangelical thought which bear an unexpected resemblance to LDS thought.
Are Mormons exclusivists or universalists?
(See my disclaimer about the title) There are many similarities between Mormonism and evangelical Christianity which are generally uncontested by both parties. I thought I would cover these prior to doing a post on the similarities which I suspect will be more controversial.
People are always making assertions about what heaven must contain in order for it to qualify as heaven for them, some of these assertions being more jokes than anything else. “It’s not heaven without sex.” “It wouldn’t be heaven if [insert name of favorite pet dog] isn’t there.” “If heaven doesn’t have Egg McMuffins, I don’t want to go there.”
An old adage among outsiders who study Mormonism states that determining what is and is not Mormon doctrine is a lot like trying to nail jello to a wall—except that the latter feat is entirely possible while the former remains a struggle to this day. Evangelicals who interact with Mormons often express frustration to that end. It seems that as soon as we think we’ve figured out what Mormons believe and how to respond to it, the next Mormon we meet will tell us “we don’t believe that,” “that’s not doctrine,” or “that’s just his opinion.” It would probably help if evangelicals spent more time genuinely trying to understand Mormonism and less time sizing it up for the best spot to throw a punch,1 but to some of us, the desire to understand is earnest and the frustration is genuine.
A website with answers. That’s what Time Magazine calls the new religion website Patheos.com in “What Do Religions Believe? A Website with Answers.” The Time article describes the new site as one “that sets out to explain the differences among religions as well as illuminate the areas of common ground.” Just today the site unveiled its Mormon Gateway section, a menu of resources designed to complement the more detailed information presented in the Library section of the site.
It happens every year. I’m walking past the library, or some other building loaded with windows, and one of my students bursts out the door and runs toward me with eyes dilating, hair frazzling, nerves fraying, arms waving, and body quaking to ask, out of breath, did these things really happen? “Things” referring to the miracles and visions we have been reading about in the sixteenth-century autobiography assigned that week. What the student means is this: did the miracles or visions happen in an objective sense, so that if I or other witnesses would have been there we would have seen them too? Or was the author just Nuts? For how else to explain that she saw Jesus everywhere she went, including at the breakfast table?
The Obama administration announced yesterday that it is easing a handful of restrictions imposed by the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Among other things, Cuban-Americans will now be allowed to travel to Cuba as much as they like and will be free to send money and gifts to friends and relatives without securing travel or export licenses from the Treasury or the Commerce Department.
For those who are interested in Mormon legal history, my article “Preaching to the Court House and Judging in the Temple” was just published in the most recent issue of the BYU Law Review. (You can download a copy of the article here.) This article provides my own take on the rise and fall of civil cases in church courts in the nineteenth-century. Of course the story of how nineteenth-century Mormons took lawsuits over broken contracts, wandering cows, disputed property lines, and the like to their local bishops has been told before, most elaborately in Ed Firmage and Collin Mangrum’s book Zion in the Courts, which was published about twenty-years ago. Here is where my take differs from previous interpretations.
Every year on T&S there appears around Easter time a certain amount of Holy-Week envy. I haven’t seen any yet this year, and so I thought I’d take my turn to express a little. Or better, maybe this would be a good opportunity to get a sense of what is going on in Mormon Easter services nowadays. What happened in your ward this year?
The news yesterday was that President Obama will hold a Passover Seder in the White House tonight, the first time a Seder has been held in the White House. So, who is going to ask him to hold Family Home Evening some Monday night?
A while ago I was reading some sermons from the 1880s in the Journal of Discourses. The 1880s, of course, is the decade when the anti-polygamy crusades were at their most intense. Thousands of Mormons were incarcerated, the Brethren were in hiding from the law much of the time, and every time you turned around there was a new law confiscating Mormon property or disenfranchising Mormon voters. Hence, I was surprised to come across a sermon in which George Q. Cannon spoke unironically of his admiration for George Edmunds. Edmunds was a Republican Senator from Vermont, and the chief proponent of harsher anti-Mormon legislation in Congress. Cannon noted that he disagreed with Edmunds and thought him mistaken. Nevertheless, he said in effect that he thought Edmunds an admirable man of principle. Cannon’s remarks reveal a deep double-mindedness in nineteenth-century Mormonism, a double-mindedness whose preservation surely counts as one of the triumphs of the modern Church.
Richard E. Turley will be speaking at the Wesley Theological Seminary this coming Sunday. Last year I posted a couple of notices about a great series of events that Greg Prince, co-author of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, hosts every few months at his house in Potomac, Maryland.
Do these concepts have anything to do with each other? Apparently some Mormons think they do, hence Davis Bitton’s corrective essay “How Dark Were the Dark Ages?” (conveniently reposted at Meridian Magazine).