About 15 years ago I wrote a short piece for a Sunstone Symposium panel on the topic of Mormons in the Military. It was focused on my personal experiences as a Latter-day Saint dealing with the armed forces rules on religion and the chaplains specifically. A number of things have developed since then, so it seems worthwhile to revisit the topic and elicit readers’ own experiences.
As the Churchâ€™s membership has become predominantly non-American and non-English speaking, the question of how to construct a Mormon ethnic identity within the wide variety of existing cultures worldwide has become a present concern for millions of Latter-day Saints.
In his new book, Claiming Christ, Professor Robert Millet, in dialogue with Evangelical scholar Gerald McDermott about the commonalities and differences of Mormonism and the varieties of Evangelical Christianity, makes the observation that the notion of labeling Latter-day Saints as â€œnot Christianâ€ is a fashion that became widespread only about twenty years ago.
While watching last weekendâ€™s General Conference, with the sustaining of President Monson and the calling of new people into Church leadership, one of the things I felt is how fortunate the Church is to have as its leaders men and women who have achieved significantly in many walks of life. This is in contrast to most other denominations, where people with these skills would be excluded from formal church leadership. For example, what other church has attorneys in its most senior leadership?
Ardis Parshall has presented in previous postings â€œThe CSI Effect and Mormon Historyâ€, 3/20/2008, and â€œAnd Yet Another Joseph Smith Photograph”, 4/1/2008, arresting images that have, at first glance, an arguable relationship to our known historical depictions of the Prophet Joseph Smith, but turn out, on further research, to have no chance of being what we wish they were. In commenting on Ardisâ€™ second post (#14, #48), I pointed out the reasons why there are likely to be a great many old images that resemble our mental image of the Prophet, and why it would be extremely difficult to verify any of them as a real image of Joseph.
To help us compensate for the shortage of lawyers at T&S, Raymond Takashi Swenson has agreed to guest blog for a week or two.
Elder Packer’s article in this month’s Ensign closes with some thoughts on Evolution that have the potential to stir up a debate on the issue within the Church after several relatively quiet years.
Mormons contributed to Mitt Romney’s campaign over the past year and half in some pretty eye-popping numbers (see, e.g., here and here). As such, I decided to comb through the campaign finance contribution records to see who exactly some prominent Mormons were donating to this past election cycle.
An Onion article out today, like most good Onion articles, works off a premise that’s largely true. The headline reads “Rock-Bottom Loser Entertaining Offers From Several Religions” and the money quotes are:
Just over a month ago, Kaimi posed a question asking how exactly our Latter-day Saint beliefs should translate into specific ideas on the issue of immigration. His blog post was provoked by press accounts of meetings that Elder M. Russell Ballard and other Church officials had just had with members of the Utah legislature from both parties. These sorts of meetings are nothing unusual; they’ve actually become a matter of tradition. Before each general session, party leaders in both the House and Senate meet separately with Church officials to discuss any issues of importance. What set these particular meetings apart, however, was the increasingly hardline immigration measures the legislature was set to consider during the upcoming legislative session.
The Church issued a press release today annoucing the creation of a “Church Historian’s Press” to handle the publication of the Joseph Smith Papers. (The press release also mentioned “works related to the church’s history and growth.”) I am not quite sure what the rationale for this is. Previous volume of the papers were published by Deseret Book, which did a nice enough job, although of late the physical publication standards at Deseret Book have been falling. Perhaps the new imprint is to insure library quality production values. Maybe it just reduces administrative hassle to have the production done in-house, particularlly in light of the way that technology has been dropping the costs of publishing. Or perhaps something bigger is afoot.
I thought that one of Richard Bushman’s most provocative arguments in Rough Stone Rolling was his interpretation of the temple endowment, and I’ve been surprised that it hasn’t generated more interest.
Mormonism, so goes a well-worn trope, is more into orthopraxis than orthodoxy. That is, we tend to care more about right conduct — e.g. loyalty to the kingdom, keeping covenants, following commandments, etc. — than right belief — e.g. the precise nature of divine progression or the correct location of Kolob. This raises the question, however, of why Mormonism hasn’t really developed any sort of a formal jurisprudence. Looking at church courts in the nineteenth century and comparing Mormon “law” to Islamic law sharpens the issues
For the last year or so, I have been doing research on Mormon church courts in the nineteenth century. Until about 1900, it was expected that Mormons would not sue other Mormons in secular courts, but would take their disputes to their local bishop or high council. I’ve been looking at three inter-related questions: How did the Mormon court system develop, why did Latter-day Saints take civil disputes to church courts, and why did they ultimately abandon the church courts? I have now posted a more or less final version of my paper on SSRN, where you can down load it.
(The following is an excerpt from a larger study on the concept of “gospel culture”, which I have been working on. I hope that comments will help me correct and refine this aspect on Americanness). For the past few decades, in their efforts at internationalization, church leaders have stressed that this is “not an American Church”, but an international, universal Church.
The Marty Center at the University of Chicago has posted this interesting article by Kathleen Flake on President Hinckley’s funeral. Here is the money passage from the piece:
In Religious Literacy, Stephen Prothero considers the decline of religious knowledge in America, much of which relates to the failure of institutions (family, school, church, university) to maintain a “chain of memory” that transmits religious knowledge from one generation to the next. President Hinckley helped Mormonism avoid this failure. Mormon memory is alive and well.
One thing that church leaders said in their recent meetings with state lawmakers: Let’s take a humane approach to immigration. The Deseret News reports that: