Loving the Book of Mormon Prophets without Accepting Their Prejudices: A Review of “The Book of Mormon for the Least of These, Volume 1”

A while back, a friend sent me an uncomfortable text. She is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but someone had given her daughter the old illustrated Book of Mormon Stories book, and her daughter came across the passage in Second Nephi when Nephi narrates that Laman and Lemuel’s descendants are cursed because of their wickedness and become a dark-skinned people. My friend texted, “We were wondering if there is some context missing that would make it seem less racist?” It’s a troubling passage for me and many other readers, but I finally had words to formulate a response, and for that, I can thank Fatimah Salleh and Margaret Olsen Hemming’s wonderful commentary The Book of Mormon for the Least of These: 1 Nephi – Words of Mormon, which the authors dedicated to “those who seek God and work for justice.” In this volume, Salleh and Hemming show a deep love and respect for the individuals in the Book of Mormon while also examining the challenges they experienced and how those may have colored some of their own perspectives, as in the passage referenced above. They invite us to not only consider the voices we hear and events we see but also those we do not: “Who is present but unheard? Who is suffering and why?” But they also invite us to question the perspectives of the narrators: “What are the assumptions this person…

Saints 3: Thoughts from Scott Hales and Jed Woodworth

I hope by now it’s apparent that I am a fan of the Saints history series and that I’ve been really looking forward to Volume 3, which comes out on the 22nd.  I will say, it’s fantastic, but you’ll get to read more of my thoughts next week.  Today, however, Kurt Manwaring published an interview with Scott Hales (General Editor and lead writer) and Jed Woodworth (General Editor and lead historian) that discusses the volume.  What follows here is a co-post to the interview. In Volume 3, we’re entering an era in the volume where the Church begins to become the modern Church as we know it, and with the growth that comes during that era, it becomes more difficult to capture all the different threads of the Church’s worldwide history.  Hales and Woodworth discussed some of how they deal with that growing complexity in a way that doesn’t bloat down the narrative: Scott Hales: When we’re considering a story for Saints, we look for three things. First, we’re looking for interesting stories—stories that will engage readers. Second, we’re looking for sacred stories—stories that show people making and keeping covenants with God. Third, we’re looking for stories that show change in the Church over time. We look for stories that help us advance the narrative and show how the Church changes and evolves under the Lord’s direction. Since we know we can’t make Saints a comprehensive history of the Church, our aim is to make it…

A Mother There: The Quotes Behind the Essay

I mentioned in my post last week that the BYU Studies article “A Mother There” by David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido had more quotes than I could put into that post.  Here is the follow-up with as many of the quotes cited in that article as I could find (excluding the ones presented last week).  It’s not everything cited, but it’s the vast majority.   Heavenly Wife and Parent   First Presidency (1916): Jesus Christ is not the Father of the spirits who have taken or yet shall take bodies upon this earth, for He is one of them. He is The Son, as they are sons or daughters of Elohim. So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring. Only such exalted souls have reached maturity in the appointed course of eternal life; and the spirits born to them in the eternal worlds will pass in due sequence through the several stages or estates by which the glorified parents have attained exaltation.[1]   Orson Pratt (1853): As God the Father begat the fleshly body of Jesus, so He, before the world began, begat his spirit. As the body required an earthly Mother, so his spirit required a heavenly Mother. As God associated in the capacity of a husband with the earthly mother, so likewise He associated…

The Future and the Church, Part III: Artificial Intelligence

To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, gains in machine learning technology are a “known unknown.” Unlike some other future changes and development, we are reasonably confident that the machine learning revolution (also known as artificial intelligence, but that is a loaded term) of the past 10 years will continue at least over the medium-term. I’m skeptical that we’ll ever reach “artificial intelligence” in the sense of being able to create a feeling, thinking being from a computer because, as I’ve discussed before, I don’t think our brains are just meat calculators.  Still, the machine learning revolution is exciting enough without Skynet. Recent machine learning models produce content that is uncannily human-like, and it is going to continue to continue improving. The GPT-3 system that produced the cited essay has 175 billion neural network parameters, whereas the GPT-4 system that will probably roll out sometime in the next couple of years will have over 500 times as many. While the computer might not be able to feel, it will certainly be able to perform sophisticated tasks that we now think of as requiring human intuition for.   So what does this mean for the Church? I can think of a few possibilities.  Gospel Information and Research In 2022 we can ask Alexa to tell us a joke, generate a random number between 1 and 10, or “play some country music.” However, with future advances in Natural Language Processing we’ll eventually be able to ask…

[Spiritual Languages] On Coyotes and White Stones

Thus far I have played it safe. I have kept to spiritual languages that make sense to me and that, at least to some extent, I understand. This week we are continuing on a theme begun last week, but off the beaten track, at least off the beaten track of WEIRD (Western Educated Industrial Rich Democratic) culture, to which I myself belong. Last week we discussed how science can be a language of the spirit because creations not only testify of a creator, they teach the nature of their creator. In the case of the creator God, we discussed how through science the material creation can teach us about and connect us to our Heavenly Parents, thus creating a spiritual language. When it comes to the material world speaking through science I think most of us are generally ok with that. But there is another kind of spiritual language via the material world that crops up all throughout Judeo-Christian history, as well as in the modern restoration’s history, that, at least for WEIRDos, we tend to be extremely uncomfortable with, and can be very patronizing about. We are going to talk about how material objects themselves may be direct sources of spiritual communication. Decades ago, right after my mother was born, my grandfather and a friend were making visits around the Navajo reservation where my mother’s family lived. It took several days to travel across the entire reservation, and they…

Scattered Thoughts on Conference

Asking and seeking are clearly not the same as demanding. The former is Joseph Smith at 14, the latter is Martin Harris with the lost pages, and I think this distinction is evident to most people who watched the talk in good faith.  Earlier I talked about how it seemed that many of the brethren came from inactive households, now there are two more that I didn’t know about until their conference talks: Elder Cook and President Ballard. Again, something to buoy up people who feel otherized because their family situation doesn’t match some ideal template.   I also see some chatter on why the brethren keep hitting the Proc. “Everybody knows what the Church’s position is, can’t they move on?” Yes,  I don’t think anybody is unclear on the Church’s position, but some are still promoting the “hold on and the Church will change” perspective on Proc issues, which I think does more harm than good (I would believe this just as much if I was on the other side of the issue), whereas the more times the Church hits this the harder it is to walk back. In international relations this is called “costly signaling,” and I suspect it’s intentional. The sooner this point gets across the sooner people can stop halting between two opinions and make their life decisions accordingly.   It does look like growth rates are starting to rebound. As I’ve mentioned before, some of this…

Mother in Heaven: The Quotes Behind the Essay

On the Saturday evening session of General conference, Elder Renlund stated that: “Very little has been revealed about mother in heaven but what we do know is summarized in a Gospel Topic found in our Gospel Library application. Once you have read what is there, you will know everything that I know about the subject.” While there were cautions he offered that have raised concerns in some sectors of the Church, there is also a strong affirmation for the Gospel Topics essay on the subject. In that light, I felt that it was appropriate to collect and present all of the quotes about Heavenly Mother that were referenced in that article to make them more easily accessible. (With the caveat that the Paulson and Pulido BYU article that is referenced is extensive enough that the quotes referenced in that essay will be presented in a separate post.)   Susa Gates on a Zina D. Young recollection from 1839: An interesting sidelight is given to this time through a possible glimpse of the thought-kernel which grew into such fragrant bloom in the full-voiced poem of Sister Snow [“O My Father”].  It was told by Aunt Zina D. Young to the writer [Susa Young Gates] as to many others during her life.  Father Huntington lost his wife under the most trying circumstances.  Her children were left desolate.  One day, when her daughter Zina was speaking with the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the…

[Languages of the Spirit] Science

“We are obsessed with ourselves. We study our history. Our psychology, our philosophy…Much of our knowledge revolves around ourselves, as if we were the most important thing in the universe. I think I like physics because it opens a window through which we can see further. It gives me the sense of fresh air entering the house. What we see out there through the window is constantly surprising us.”[1] Carlo Rovelli   “The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God…All these are kingdoms, and any[one] who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God.” D&C 88:45, 47   In explaining his belief in God, scientist Francis Collins (a world leaders in genome research), expressed something that many believers can relate to when he said, “I’ve never heard God speak out loud to me. That’s not an experience I have had.” For him, like for so many, God does not speak with an audible voice. There is, however, another way that God reaches him. “I believe God did intend, in giving us intelligence, to give us the opportunity to investigate and appreciate the wonders of his creation.” I am not a scientist. Science bored me to tears when I was…

On Winter Quarters

Sometimes called the “Valley Forge of Mormondom”, Winter Quarters was the primary (thought not exclusive) location that Latter-day Saints in the United States of America lived between their forced exodus from Nauvoo and their efforts to move westward to the Great Basin region. In a recent interview with Richard Bennett, Kurt Manwaring discussed the history and legacy of Winter Quarters with the president of the Mormon Trail Center at Winter Quarters.  What follows here is a co-post to the interview (a shorter post with quotes and some discussion), but feel free to also read the full interview here. As the Latter-day Saints planned to leave Nauvoo due to increasing hostility from their neighbors, they had to explore options for where to go next.  Richard Bennett explained some of what their plan was when they began to evacuate Illinois in 1846: The original Latter-day Saint plan of exodus, as laid out by Brigham Young and his colleagues of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, and with advice from various members of the Council of Fifty, was to locate a new “Zion” home for the Saints somewhere “over the Rocky Mountains.” The Prophet Joseph Smith may have indicated on different occasions that the Saints would have to go west to escape mounting persecution, but he never specified a precise location. Nor did Brigham Young announce a firm destination, although he clearly felt that he would know the site when and where he laid eyes…

“Royal Families” in the Church and Spiritual Special Sauce

And think not to say within yourselves,We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. –Matthew 3:9 The mythos of the Latter-day Saint royalty that I bought into while growing up in the Utah of Utah went something like this: some families happened to give rise to a lot of functional, financially successful church leaders because their family had some spiritual special sauce that was transmitted from generation to generation, and this special sauce leads to both occupational and spiritual successes as a natural outgrowth of being super spiritual.  I’m not going to blame the Church for this childhood belief since one would be hard pressed to see it taught anywhere, but I do have the sense that this narrative is still in the cultural air even if it is less of a thing now than it was in the past, so it is worth addressing why and how it is false. In his Mormon Hierarchy series Michael Quinn ran the numbers for how many early Church leaders were related to other Church leaders, and it does look like in pioneer-era Utah there were a lot of within-family appointments. If there was an era when dynastic, royal Mormonism was a reality it was then. Furthermore, the boundaries between the political, business, and religious were much more porous, so religious status often accompanied financial and political…

The Future and the Church, Part II: Longer Human Lives

There has always been a need for those persons who could be called finishers. Their ranks are few, their opportunities many, their contributions great. …I pray humbly that each one of us may be a finisher in the race of life and thus qualify for that precious prize: eternal life with our Heavenly Father in the celestial kingdom. I testify that God lives, that this is his work, and ask that each may follow the example of his Son, a true finisher.” -President Monson The history of human lifespan predictions is essentially the history of people theorizing that there’s some biological, natural ceiling for average lifespan, only to have that ceiling shattered. A derivative of a famous visualization in Science shows this history in one pithy image, with the sidebars being different hypothesized ceilings to average human life expectancy.  However, like Moore’s Law predicting the increase of computing power, there’s little in the way of underlying theory driving this observation, and it too has to end at some point unless you think humans have it in them to eventually live to be a million years old. However, we still don’t have a clear picture for where that ceiling is, so for now extrapolating forward past trends that have been uncannily accurate in the past (specifically, we gain 2.5 more years of life for every decade since the 1840s) seem to be our best estimate for now. When we do this we find…

The Book of Abraham Book

I once had a teacher who loved to say that: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”  To some degree, this is not infrequently the case when it comes to studying issues in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Let’s Talk About the Book of Abraham is an easy-to-read summary of the important scripture text from the Pearl of Great Price. Egyptologist Kerry Muhlestein recently discussed the book with Kurt Manwaring.  What follows here is a co-post to that interview (a shorter post with quotes and some discussion), but feel free to read the full interview here. There are a lot of interesting questions to ask about the Book of Abraham, its origin, and nature.  For example, one question is whether or not the text of the Book of Abraham is directly based on the text that was on the papyrus or not.  Muhlestein shared his view that ultimately: We cannot tell for sure. There is some evidence that it was. Joseph Smith certainly spoke of it that way, and that is pretty weighty evidence. Further, the more I research the life and interests of the priest who owned the papyrus fragment which contains the original of Facsimile One, the more I become convinced that this priest would have been very interested in the text of the Book of Abraham. That is circumstantial evidence that the text of the Book of…

[Languages of the Spirit] Doubt

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[1] 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[2], but other times is the source of all light and truth and makes the role of the Holy Ghost a little more ambiguous[3]. 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…

How Old Are Latter-day Saint Bishops?

Last time we used Duke’s National Congregations Study to see how racially representative Latter-day Saint bishops were of the Church. Today we’ll look at how old Latter-day Saint bishops are compared to their peer congregational leaders in other traditions. If we take the two most recent waves (2012 and 2018) of the survey and calculate the means and confidence intervals, it looks like Latter-day Saint bishops are relatively young (with an average age of 51) compared to congregational leaders from other traditions. I’ll admit to being surprised, I knew that Catholic priests tended to be older, but I guess I envisioned Protestant pastors as being more hipster, youth minister types (that’s not a dig, just my false, apparently, image). When we look at the distribution of bishop’s ages it’s “left skewed,” which means that there are some bishops that are much younger than average, but not a lot of bishops that are much older than average, with the “modal,” i.e. most standard bishop being in the 55-59 range. The youngest bishop in this sample is 32, and the oldest is 68. To whoever the 68-year old bishop is: R Code library(foreign) library(dplyr) DCS = read.spss(“LOCATION”, to.data.frame=TRUE) DCS = filter(DCS,(YEAR==2018) | (YEAR==2012)) DCS<-DCS[!is.na(DCS$CLERGAGE),] MeanTable <- DCS %>% group_by(DENOM) %>% summarise( AvgAge = mean(CLERGAGE), sd = sd(CLERGAGE), n = n(), se = sd / sqrt(n) ) write.csv(MeanTable, “LOCATION”) LDS = filter(DCS,DENOM==’Mormon’) table1<-as.data.frame(table(LDS$CLERGAGE))    

The Future and the Church, Part I: Reproductive Technologies

Series that dives into future technologies and trends, and what they might mean for the Church. Rachel’s tomb in Bethlehem, where Jewish women pray for fertility. “Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”-Matthew 2:18 My wife and I would love to have a large family, we would have ten kids if we could, but unfortunately nature doesn’t always cooperate, so we *only* have six. Eye rolls aside, serious infertility can be particularly painful in a highly pronatalist church (there’s a reason infertility issues take up half of Genesis). I, along with many people I am sure, know plenty of Latter-day Saints who wanted nothing more than a traditional big LDS family (and who would have made absolutely incredible mothers and fathers), only to face the stress of the cursed single line on pregnancy test after pregnancy test. Adoption helps obviously, but it is expensive and difficult enough that many still cannot have the number of children they want. While some forms of privilege have been reified in our discourse (e.g. white privilege), others are less visible and talked about, but their relative invisibility doesn’t make them any less painful. In the case of the Church, “fertile privilege” is a very real thing.(As a sidebar, while a common rejoinder to this is that the Church should resolve this by de-emphasizing the reproductive imperative, many of the people making this argument wouldn’t have a problem with…

What If …. Chad Updated the Doctrine and Covenants? Part 3

Joseph Fielding McConkie recalled that when the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve were discussing adding the documents that are now Sections 137 and 138 that Elder Bruce R. McConkie had a few other suggestions.  One was to add two Articles of Faith about the restoration of the Gospel and the Plan of Salvation (to which Thomas S. Monson good-naturedly responded: “We all know there are only thirteen Articles of Faith, not fifteen”).[1]  McConkie also suggested adding several excerpts from the Joseph Smith Translation to the Pearl of Great Price, the entire Wentworth Letter, and the Lectures on Faith.[2]  While these weren’t accepted into the official canon of the Church, Joseph Fielding McConkie indicated that these, along with the official expositions from the early 20th century known as the Origin of Man and Father and the Son, Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse, and Joseph Smith’s Sermon in the Grove, were still regarded as scripture by Elder McConkie.[3] I agree with some (though not all) of these suggestions, which dovetails nicely into my hypothetical series about what I would do if I were asked to update the Doctrine and Covenants.  Reviewing from last time, the goals I have in mind in this theoretical project are that updates to the scriptures must do the following: Increase faith in and worship of our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Teach core doctrines with power and clarity. Comfort the weary and inspires…

Of Brigham and Bridger

Jim Bridger and Brigham Young are two very important people in the Euro-American colonization of the American west. Their relationship with each other, however, was complicated. Kurt Manwaring recently discussed that relationship with Jerry Enzler in connection with Enzler’s biography, Jim Bridger: Trailblazer of the American West. What follows here is a copost to the full interview (a shorter post with quotes and some commentary), but feel free to hop on over to the full interview here. Young and Bridger only met on one occasion–June 28, 1847, as the vanguard company of Latter-day Saints settlers made their way west. Bridger was an experienced trapper and frontiersman that the Saints consulted for information about the areas they were considering settling. As Enzler summarized: Jim Bridger gave them a lengthy description of the lands ahead as well as his recent trip to California. Young and other members of the Church had been studying Frémont maps and journals, and Bridger pointed out that Frémont was in error when he depicted Great Salt Lake connected to Utah Lake as one continuous body. Several Latter-day Saints recorded Jim Bridger’s extensive description of the Great Basin and surrounding area. Bridger told them that the Indians south of Utah Lake grow corn, wheat, and other grains in abundance. One common story from this meeting is that Bridger was quite negative about the prospects of settling along the Wasatch Front in what is now Utah, going as far…

[Languages of the Spirit] Messiness is Next to Godliness

Last week we learned how everything is made of spirit; that it is the substance of creation. This is critical to different spiritual languages because there are so many different manifestations of spirit. In fact, if the Book of Abraham is to be believed, everything we see is a manifestation of spirit, and they each have their own kind of language. Faith fits into this in a very particular way. We are creators. That’s what this whole life thing is about: the creation of creators. Being a creator is written into our DNA, and we are always creating, even without realizing it. God is trying to help us to be a certain kind of creator—not meaning we are clones creating exactly the same things in exactly the same ways, but that we are all creating in our own unique ways yet with a harmony of purpose. Critically, what we create is dictated by our faith. We create what we have hope and trust in because that is where our efforts and energies and thoughtfulness go. Faith is the perspective through which our understanding is arrived at and our decisions are made. Faith is not just a thing we have or don’t depending on whether or not we believe. Everyone has faith. You can’t not have faith. Instead of being a spiritual thing you do or don’t have that makes it so you can or can’t hear the spirit, I would…

In Defense of Boundary Maintenance at BYU

BYU’s recent policy changes that appear to be geared towards reinforcing the institution’s Latter-day Saint character are causing consternation in some circles, so I thought now would be a good time to be the bad guy and make a case for why proactive faculty boundary maintenance is needed for an institution like BYU to fulfill its mission. Like a lot of other people, I get the sense that recent changes are bellwethers for future shifts to come, so this will probably be a relevant topic for the next little while. First, a common response is that a religiously sponsored institution can positively reinforce its religious mission while still allowing faculty to challenge the teachings of the sponsoring institution. However, the whole idea of a religious institution of higher education is the belief that a synthesis of the faith’s framework and the traditional academic venture is synergistic in some way. Challenging the faith’s framework itself doesn’t fit into that; using that framework as a lens through which to view academic learning does.  If you don’t hold to the premise that religious institutions are right to perform any boundary maintenance, if you’re okay with an anti-Mormon teaching a religion class as long as they have an MDiv, then this is the part in a “choose your own adventure” book where it tells you to skip to the end, but as a parting note I would just add that there’s plenty of ideological boundary maintenance…

Are Black and Hispanic Men Called as Bishops as Much as White Men?

The other day I realized that Duke University’s National Congregations Study, which includes about 87 randomly sampled LDS wards, has information on the race and ethnicity of the “person who is the head or senior clergy person or religious leader in your congregation,” which I assume in the Latter-day Saint case is the bishop, so I decided to see if we can glean any information about how racially representative leadership is relative to membership. Upfront, statistically this is very much seeing through a glass darkly, but frankly I think it’s the only information that we non-COB employees have on this subject, so it’s worth taking a look. The NCS had four waves: 1998, 2006, 2012, and 2018. The NCS piggy backed off of another survey that is taken almost every year, the General Social Survey, with some individuals asked more detailed questions about their religious congregation. (For the wonks; weights with small cell sizes can get squampous, plus the GSS that the NCS is based on is a relatively self-weighted survey already, so for my purposes here I’m not going to worry about the weights). If we simply look at the racial/ethnic composition of Latter-day Saint bishops by year we have the following table. (For some reason WordPress is cutting off the image; apologies.) As you can see, we only have 23 wards/branches in 2018, 19 in 2012, 35 in 2006, and 9 in 1998. However, this isn’t nothing. Obviously, the vast majority…

What If …. Chad Updated the Doctrine and Covenants? Part 2

Continuing my hypothetical series about what I would do if I were asked to update the Doctrine and Covenants (and still keeping in mind that I have no plans to actually do so and I’m 110% sure the Church doesn’t have any plans for me to do so either), we come to looking at editing documents currently included in the Doctrine and Covenants.  In the last couple decades, we’ve had an explosion of research into and availability of the root documents behind the Doctrine and Covenants in the form of the Joseph Smith Papers Project.  This provides us with the opportunity to examine sections and to work to bring them into greater conformity to what Joseph Smith said and did, as well as some potential opportunities for expanding sections here and there.  Along those lines, I will examine Section 130 and Section 131.  On the other hand, there are a few opportunities to edit sections that do not reflect current understandings in the Church (I’m looking at you, Section 132).  There aren’t a huge number of edits that I would make, so the aforementioned three sections with be the focus of the post. Reviewing from last time, the goals I have in mind in this theoretical project are that updates to the scriptures must do the following: Increase faith in and worship of our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ Teach core doctrines with power and clarity Comfort the…

Margarito Bautista – A Forgotten Revolutionary in Latter-day Saint History

Elisa Eastwood Pulido’s biography, The Spiritual Evolution of Margarito Bautista (Oxford University Press, 2020), provides a fascinating glimpse into one of the more significant but controversial figures in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico.  An important founding figure among Mexican Latter-day Saints, Bautista was a successful missionary who helped to spread the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in Mexico, Arizona, and Utah; the father of family history efforts among Mexican Latter-day Saints; the most prolific indigenous author of Mormon literature to date; and a ceaseless advocate of empowering Mexican Latter-day Saints.  Yet, despite his promise as a charismatic teacher and leader in the Church, his criticism of Euro-American leaders of the Church for their paternalism born of racial prejudice and staunch loyalty to the vision of Mormonism he was taught when he converted in 1901 (including ideals of communalism and plural marriage) led to his ultimate excommunication from both the Church and from a splinter movement in Mexico known as the Third Convention.  His efforts within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Third Convention, and his own fundamentalist Mormon group mark him as a worthy candidate for a biography and Elisa Eastwood Pulido delivers beautifully in sharing his remarkable story and life. The biography is billed as a spiritual biography, following Bautista’s religious life and thought as he flirted with Methodism and then journeyed through various…

[Languages of the Spirit] You Shall Know it by its Fruit

“The entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’…The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5: 14, 22-23   Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants is, in my opinion (which is correct), one of the most radical, beautiful works of theology ever written. While I could happily do a whole series about it, there is one particular part of it I want to draw upon for the sake of this series. The revelation in Section 93 starts with describing the nature of Christ, his greatness and glory and goodness. This is familiar and comforting language describing God. So far so good. Generally, however, the language that describes God is used to show how very, very different God is from humanity (who, the interpretive narrative often interjects, are kind of gross but whom God seems to inexplicably love sometimes anyway). Section 93, however, goes in a very different direction. Jesus, the revelation says, was with God before the world was, became perfect because he learned a bit at a time, and is made of the spirit of truth, the same as God. These traits are what define him. Again, other than the teaching that Christ needed to learn (which deserves plenty of attention), this is pretty standard stuff. But here Christ adds something of paradigm shifting importance. These same things that are true of…