on (re)claiming the name Mormon

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Over the weekend, Nancy Ross published an interview with Kerry Pray about her new book The Book of Queer Mormon Joy on the Exponent II blog. One thing that stood out to me about the interview is the way that Pray’s feelings about the word “Mormon” echo my own: “Ex-Mormon” never felt quite right because you don’t actually stop feeling Mormon when you have been one your entire life! It’s your culture and your heritage and where you come from.

📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ for Apostle of the Poor: The Life and Work of Missionary and Humanitarian Charles D. Neff, by Matthew Bolton

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Neff is one of the most influential figures in the recent history of Community of Christ. On my second read of this biography, I’m less comfortable with some of the imperial and colonial aspects of RLDS expansion in the late 1960s, but for all Neff’s complicity in those attitudes, he also worked hard to shed his own (and his church’s) ethnocentrism and exclusivity, and I appreciate that. I’ve joked about this before, but it’s wild that he was a contemporary of Ezra Taft Benson.

faith in heaven vs. faith in hell

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I’ve written a few posts recently trying (somewhat awkwardly) to express an idea that’s been on my mind a lot over the past few years: That I want to respect someone’s right to hold a particular belief while being more skeptical about their right to insist that others hold that belief. A few days ago, going through Day One’s “On This Day” feature, I found to my delight that I had written something to this extent a few years ago and then forgotten about it since.

📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️🖤🖤 for A Way of Life: Understanding Our Christian Faith, by Tony Chvala-Smith

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This rating isn’t fair! I’ve praised this book in the past, and it really is an excellent introduction to modern Community of Christ theology. I just happened to reread it at a time where I’m hungering for something different in terms of theological writing, so this rating reflects what I got out of the book in this moment, not all that the book actually has to offer.

labyrinths vs. mazes

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As I blogged elsewhere a couple of days ago, I’ve recently purchased the most recent (and maybe last?) album from the folk rock Québécois band Les cowboys fringants, whose music I’ve been listening to since 2011. Their lead singer, Karl Tremblay, passed away far too young from cancer last November, which made this album a bit of a surprise, but Tremblay had managed to contribute to some of the songs before his death, and the rest of the band managed to put the rest of the album together in their grief.

yet more on Independence temple theology

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On the way home from work today, I listened to the latest episode of the Salt Lake Tribune’s Mormon Land podcast, recapping the recent LDS General Conference. The two guests—Emily Jensen and Patrick Mason—were both great, and even though I have no interest in watching General Conferences myself, I’m really grateful for the Tribune’s coverage. Patrick Mason made a comment about possible Latter-day Saint temple theologies that struck me as interesting in the context of what I’ve been writing recently about Community of Christ Independence Temple theology, and I wanted to capture it here.

more thoughts on Independence temple theology

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This past week, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the opening of RLDS (now Community of Christ) priesthood to women, the Community of Christ YouTube channel posted a video that was originally recorded back in 1984, during and after that year’s World Conference. From the very first second, it is very clearly a product of the 1980s, and I love it for that. Here’s a link, but I have more to write afterwards on a specific part of the video:

Community of Christ's Holy Week

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I am not great at observing the different seasons of the liturgical year. A good friend of mine once responded to this complaint with “Welcome to living a liturgical year life,” so I gather that to a certain extent, this is how everyone feels about it. It always feels a little frustrating to me, though, because I love the idea of the liturgical year. I attended a spiritual retreat sponsored by my congregation last Saturday, and one of the activities we did was to string together some painted wooden beads representing the different liturgical seasons as we read about what each of those different seasons represents.

history, Elijah, and the Kirtland Temple

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As I’ve written before, I don’t necessarily believe that the dubious historicity of a particular religious event ought to undermine its theological significance, but I do strongly believe that dubious historicity undermines the ability of an individual or organization to insist that others agree with their theological conclusions. To take a major example, the unlikelihood of a literal resurrection in scientific terms isn’t going to stop me from finding value in the resurrection story at Easter, but it sure as heck is going to stop me from insisting that my atheist spouse make that story an important part of her life.

some thoughts on Independence Temple theology

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I have spent far too much time blogging this week (even before the sale of the Kirtland Temple was announced), but weeks like this don’t come often, and I feel like holding onto this week’s thoughts will be important in the years to come. So, here’s another post! A friend recently suggested that I subscribe to the daily meditations sent out by Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation, and today’s was lovely, focusing on finding God in all things.

more thoughts on Kirtland (with gratitude for Lach Mackay)

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For as quickly as I felt like I came to peace with the sale of the Kirtland Temple, I’ve had conversations and encounters since yesterday’s post that make it clear that I still have a lot of work to do processing all of this in the weeks, months, and years ahead. I’ve heard from a lot of people in pain: people who have been to Kirtland dozens of times but never want to go again, ordained women in Community of Christ who are angry that the new owners of the temple can’t respect their ordination, and yet more.

coming to peace with the Kirtland Temple sale

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Yesterday, Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that the former had sold the Kirtland Temple, other historic sites, and some important documents and artifacts for $192.5 million dollars. As the title to this post suggests, I’ve pretty quickly come to peace with the decision, and I want to explain some of that process in this post. However, there are some conflicted emotions lingering beneath that peace, and I want to make clear that the goal of this post is not to tell anyone how to feel about this.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on 'Kirtland Temple purchased by LDS church for $192.5 million'

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I have my own (complicated) thoughts to share on this later, but more than anyone else, I’ve wanted to hear from David Howlett (and, okay, Lach Mackay). Appreciate Jana’s coverage here. link to “Kirtland Temple purchased by LDS church for $192.5 million”

the weakness of the Bible as an argument for an expanded canon

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A week and a half ago, I wrote a post arguing that the Bible is actually more of a weak point than the Book of Mormon for fundamentalist, literalist attitudes toward Latter-day Saint scripture. That post—like this one—was inspired by an Introduction to Scripture class that I’m currently taking through Community of Christ’s Temple School. The first lesson did a lot of work to play up the Bible as the main scriptural foundation of Community of Christ and is doing some respectful but firm downplaying of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants.

text for recent Beyond the Walls sermon

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Last Sunday, I gave a sermon on the Temptation of Jesus for a Beyond the Walls service by the Toronto Congregation of Community of Christ. The whole service was great, and I was happy to make my small contribution to it. It’s been recorded and archived here: As I did the last time that I gave a sermon, though, I wanted to share the text I preached from:

the Bible—not the Book of Mormon—as weak point of Mormon apologetics

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Almost a year ago now, Stephen C. at the Mormon blog Times and Seasons wrote a post asking what might be an “extinction-level event” for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There’s a lot of interesting speculation in the post, but the passage that I copied down at the time was this one: Of course, the truly fatal circumstance is if the President of the Church stopped believing in the truth claims.

another upcoming sermon for Toronto Congregation of Community of Christ

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Last July, I gave my first sermon for a Community of Christ congregation, preaching on the Parable of the Samaritan. I guess I didn’t do too badly, because their pastor reached out in December to ask me to give another sermon this month. On January 21st, I’ll be preaching on Matthew 4:1-11, covering the Temptation of Jesus. This has been a fun passage to revisit and see with new eyes. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to say just yet, but I’ve got plenty of notes and ideas and am looking forward to nailing things down over the next week and a half.

Bethlehem in the Nativity and in the West Bank

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Earlier this year, I read Guy Delisle’s excellent comic Chroniques de Jérusalem twice in the course of two months. I began by finally checking out the English translation from a local library to give it a try (I like Delisle, but I’d had trouble getting into this particular comic in the past). Then, as I was getting into it, my brother-in-law texted me from New York to say he was stopping by a local French bookstore and ask if I wanted anything.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on 'Call to Life | Daily Bread | Community of Christ'

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Seeing an official publication of my church advocate for public transit is a beautiful combination of two of my favorite things. I’m very pleased! link to “Call to Life | Daily Bread | Community of Christ”

songs that should be hymns but aren't (yet?)

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Over the summer, I wrote about a favorite Community of Christ hymn. Without repeating the entire post here, one of my favorite things about it is that it was never written as a hymn. Rather, it was a song written by a folk song as a call for peace that got adopted into the Community of Christ hymnbook in 2013. I thought about these details last weekend as I was listening to Ici-bas, a favorite song by French Canadian folk rock band Les cowboys fringants—I figured that this song would make for a pretty good hymn, too, even if it probably has a bit more swearing than your typical hymn.

📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️❤️🖤 pour Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood, par Gregory A. Prince

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Rereading this book after a few years, and it continues to be great! The organization could be more clear, and it sometimes feels repetitive, but it provides important historical detail that allows the reader to understand Latter Day Saint priesthood in new ways.

📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️❤️🖤 for Restorations: Scholars in Dialogue from Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by Andrew Bolton and Casey Paul Griffiths

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This was an interesting read, and there are portions of it that I expect to come back to later. However, I was surprised by how often I felt like I already knew what was being covered. Given my familiarity with both faiths, I expect that I’m not the target audience (anymore) for this volume.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on 'Church Marks Indigenous Peoples' Day | News | Community of Christ International Headquarters'

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I’ve been attending Community of Christ for over three years now, and I’m still surprised by all the little things it does that the LDS Church would never do. Both churches were born with problematic attitudes towards indigenous peoples of the Americas, but while Community of Christ isn’t perfect, I’m impressed with the steps it takes. link to “Church Marks Indigenous Peoples’ Day | News | Community of Christ International Headquarters”

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on '629 | Open Topics | Wallace B. Smith | Re-Post – Project Zion Podcast'

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I love this interview so much and for so many reasons. I haven’t been a member of Community of Christ long enough to have personal connection with Wallace B. Smith, but I have a lot of respect for him. link to “629 | Open Topics | Wallace B. Smith | Re-Post – Project Zion Podcast”

40 books that have shaped my faith

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A friend of mine recently asked whether I had a list of books “that have been particularly impactful or interesting,” especially in the realm of spirituality and religion—and suggested that if I didn’t already have such a list, I could put one together for one of my next blog posts. It took me a while to actually put the list together, but it’s ended up being a really interesting exercise. Of the forty books that I’ve picked, some have been more influential than others.

which Jesus?

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In his closing sermon at the 2019 Community of Christ World Conference, prophet-president Steve Veazey asked a guiding question for the church: Are we moving toward Jesus, the peaceful One? It’s pretty clear from the formatting of this question—and even clearer from its translation into French and Spanish, the other working languages of Community of Christ—that Veazey’s phrase “the peaceful One” is meant to describe Jesus as a being who is inherently peaceful and who exemplifies peace for the whole world.

on hymns that acknowledge our shortcomings

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Yesterday, during my regular Community of Christ congregation’s services, we sang hymn #72 from our hymnal, entitled “Gather Us In,” which the Beyond the Walls Choir has beautifully interpreted in the video below: As we sang, I was struck by the last half of the second verse, which reads: Gather us in, the rich and the haughty; gather us in, the proud and the strong, give us a heart so meek and so lowly,

things to offer vs. things to impose

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A friend of mine invited me to attend a Community of Christ worship service tonight, a brief reference during which got me thinking about what Community of Christ folks call Joseph Smith’s “grove experience” but that I grew up referring to as his “First Vision.” This got me thinking (and reading) about the different accounts of this experience, including Smith’s 1832 account, where he writes: I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year of my age a piller of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee.

RSS, APIs, and automating the lectionary readings (and other stuff, too)

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I am one of those people who responds to a lot of work coming my way by ignoring that work and instead trying to think about how to change my routines and workflows. With the summer coming to an end and a new academic year approaching, I’ve been reading productivity books, thinking about the software that I use, and wondering what needs to change. switching to Habitica In particular, as I’ve posted over the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about switching habit trackers.

how does a churchgoing agnostic talk about religion with his kid?

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This summer, I’ve taken advantage of my 9-month contract with the University of Kentucky to have lots of adventures with kiddo while my spouse (who has a 12-month contract) continues at her job. It’s been a real delight! A couple of Fridays ago, we drove to Danville, a town in Central Kentucky where I spent a summer as a high schooler but haven’t been back to since. We bought her a book, me some amazing chocolate mint tea, and had a great time exploring fun shops and public art in adorable downtown Danville.

radical early Christianity

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One of the biggest perks of working in academia is access to an academic library. Don’t get me wrong: I deeply appreciate and regularly visit my local public libraries, and kiddo and I have made a couple of visits to her school’s summer library hours (which is an amazing idea). There’s something about the breadth of an academic library, though, that can really come in handy sometimes. For example, I was recently reading an article by Dan McClellan on Bible translation in Latter-day Saint contexts and noticed with interest his reference to David Bentley Hart’s translation of the New Testament.

text for today's Toronto Congregation sermon

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As I wrote earlier in the week, I gave today’s sermon for the Toronto Congregation’s inclusive online worship service. The service was recorded and can be found at the YouTube link below: I really enjoyed participating with Beyond the Walls. I had some idea of how much work they put into making this look like a professional production, but getting to peek behind the scenes and see how much work they put into juggling different cameras, testing and managing audio, and everything else made me really appreciate what they do all the more.

upcoming sermon for Toronto Congregation of Community of Christ

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Next Sunday, I’ll be giving the sermon for the Community of Christ Toronto Congregation’s Beyond the Walls inclusive online congregation, speaking on the Parable of the Samaritan (more often called the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but my sermon will explain why I’m going for that name instead). I had been planning to post about the sermon after the fact, but the links for the YouTube live events went up today, so I thought I might share them ahead of time.

📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️🖤🖤 for Autobiography of Elder Charles Derry, by Charles Derry

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This is a fascinating bit of history. Derry was an early convert to Mormonism who emigrated from England to Utah, became disgusted with polygamy and what he saw as an abusive system of tithing and church governance, and returned to the American Midwest, where he joined the RLDS church and became a leader and missionary in that denomination. Like The Giant Joshua, it’s odd to read something that is so clearly “a pioneer story” but isn’t uniformly positive.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on '78 | Common Grounds | Trinity Sunday – Project Zion Podcast'

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Really loving this (six year old) podcast episode. I don’t care much about the Trinity except when it’s understood in the ways that Karin Peter and Susan Ocley describe here. link to ‘78 | Common Grounds | Trinity Sunday – Project Zion Podcast’

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on '584 | What’s Brewing | A Path Forward for Chicago – Project Zion Podcast'

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Bookmarking this for later. Community of Christ isn’t very big in Kentucky, and I wonder how digital technologies could help connect us and provide people easier ways to visit us. This seems like an interesting model. link to ‘584 | What’s Brewing | A Path Forward for Chicago – Project Zion Podcast’