research on anti-feminist online Mormonism referenced in Salt Lake Tribune column

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I enjoy reading Natalie Brown’s columns for the Salt Lake Tribune, so it was a real honor that she referenced research that Amy Chapman and I did on the “DezNat” Twitter movement in last Saturday’s installment. In particular, Brown referenced a comment I made to the Tribune last summer that our findings highlighted anti-feminist influences on the DezNat movement (which has typically been criticized for its far right influences) and that while the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

trying to define a non-theist God

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As I write this, I’m almost done with a reread of Gérard Siegwalt’s La réinvention du nom de Dieu (Reinventing God’s Name), which is not an easy read (my French is pretty good but not accustomed to theological treatises) but has a lot to offer for thinking about what Christianity might look like today. Of the many things that I’m getting from this reread, one of the things I appreciated most is that Siegwalt has helped me understand a concept that I’ve been trying to get my head around for a year or more: the idea of a non-theist God.

follow up on not having control over my own research

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Back in December, I wrote a frustrated post about an article I’d submitted to a special issue that was now being repackaged into an edited volume, in which my research would appear as a chapter. At the time, I wrote about how frustrated I was at the lack of control I had over my own research output. I might well have consented to having my work reprinted in this new format, but I was frustrated that my consent was neither sought nor necessary for the process.

how to translate 'restoration' and different views on religion

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There are a couple of other things that I’d wanted to write about today, but a memory suddenly popped into my head just now, and I wanted to get it written down while it was still fresh. About a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, I was working with a Mormon studies organization to collect stories from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Community of Christ, and other denominations descended from Joseph Smith Jr.

some people get Mormons, but lots of people don't

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A lot of Mormons1 have a persecution complex that isn’t really well founded, but it is true that a lot of people don’t really get Mormons. One of my favorite stories from my time as a Latter-day Saint missionary is when a well-meaning friend of ours told us to get rid of our distinctive nametags, because they made us look too much like Jehovah’s Witnesses (the joke here is that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t wear nametags—it’s Latter-day Saint missionaries who do that).

the difficulty of imagining the kingdom of God

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In recent years, I’ve enjoyed seeing the “kingdom of God” in a new way than I’d understood it growing up. To take one example, here’s a quote from Mormon blogger Michael Austin in a By Common Consent post: The Kingdom of God was and is part of the world of human possibility: something that people could build in the middle of whatever other kingdoms they inhabited by acting with charity, forgiveness, and compassion.

giving ordination another go

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Way back in August 2019, I copied into my journaling app a post by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin on the Community of Christ website. I’m glad I did so, because a recent website redesign has deleted this post and a lot of other old content! At the time, I was slowly but thoroughly exploring Community of Christ, trying to figure out if it was the place for me in the context of my changing faith.

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.

Guitar Hero 2, Eurovision, and Wikipedia: rediscovering Freezepop

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Some time after I moved out of the house for college (etc.), my younger siblings pooled some money to buy a used PlayStation 2 and a few games, including Guitar Hero 2. When I was home for summers and breaks, I got some exposure to new-to-me music through playing that game with them. As a huge fan of Homestar Runner, I naturally appreciated the appreciation of Trogdor, but one of the songs that stuck out most to me was Freezepop’s less talk more rokk:

follow up on research ethics implications of Twitter's 'general amnesty'

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This is just a few words to say that this post that I wrote back in December 2022 has suddenly become relevant. In short, some of my recent work has been on an online Mormon community that has some overlaps with the far-right. In between my collection of the data and eventual publication of our various articles, my co-author and I have noted some prominent accounts’ being suspended from Twitter. Because we work hard to not use identifiable quotes in our writing, and because of Elon Musk’s decision to unsuspend nearly all suspended accounts after taking the platform over, I’ve been checking accounts I knew to previously be suspended as we work on a new manuscript.

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.

setting up POSSE-style microblogging with a Hugo static site and Micro.blog

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I was recently talking to some friends about how I’ve been working to make my Hugo blog the center of my online presence. In particular, even though I didn’t know the term at first, I’ve been trying since 2019 to follow the POSSE strategy of “Publish (to) Own Site, Send Elsewhere” (note that, in the grand tradition of many tech acronyms, everyone agrees what the acronym means, but there are multiple ways of understanding what it stands for exactly).

Stack Exchange and digital labor

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Today, Stack Overflow announced that it was entering into a partnership with OpenAI to provide data from the former to the latter for the purposes of training ChatGPT, etc. I’ve used Stack Overflow a fair amount over the years, and there have also been times where I tried to get into some of the other Stack Exchange sites, contributing both questions and answers. I haven’t really been active on any of these sites in recent times, but I still decided to take a couple of minutes this afternoon and follow the advice of one outraged Mastodon post: delete my contributions and shut down my accounts.

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.

merci Karl, merci Melissa

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Lundi matin, une amie et une collègue à moi est décédee bien trop jeune suite à un cancer. Ce n’est que quelques jours plus tard que j’ai appris l’existence du nouvel album des Cowboys fringants, un album posthume de Karl Tremblay qui lui aussi est décédée bien trop jeune suite à un cancer. Je suis content de pouvoir entendre Karl chanter sa propre mort pendant que je pense à la disparition de mon amie Melissa.

assessment as proof of learning or as learning itself?

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Recently, an idea has been bubbling in my head that’s the culmination of months—even years—of thinking about how I assess in my courses. I’ve typically taken the pretty-standard approach that assessment is the process of students’ proving that they’ve learned something. What if, though, assessment is itself the proof of the process of students’ learning something. That is, what if we doled out points for students’ proving that they appropriately participated in learning activities and then trusted the learning to happen on its own?

in memory of a mentor

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This morning, Mormon studies scholar Dr. Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye passed away after a years-long struggle with cancer. Melissa was an amazing scholar, fantastic mentor, and just great person, and I think a lot of people—even just those who knew her professionally—are going to be spending time writing, thinking, and crying about her today and in the weeks to come. Other people will have more, and more important, things to say than I do, but I’m deeply grateful for Melissa, and I want to show that gratitude by sharing a few thoughts of my own.

falsifiability and Mormon apologetics

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Back in early March, as part of my flurry of posts about the Kirtland Temple, I wrote something about some of the dubious historical bits associated with Latter-day Saint beliefs about the significance of a purported visitation of the biblical prophet Elijah to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. That post has gotten a lot of hits over the past few weeks: According to my excellent, privacy-conscious analytics provider, it’s up to 70 hits over the past 30 days, 55 of which were over the week leading up to April 15th, when I got my last email digest.

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.

some praise for Dumbing of Age

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I’ve been a big fan of webcomics since I first discovered they existed in the early-to-mid 2000s. I’ve been following Order of the Stick for about twenty years(!), I’ve read the entire web run of Dr. McNinja, xkcd makes frequent appearance in my lecture slides, and there are other comics that I’ve jumped in and out of over time. It hasn’t been that long since I started following Dork Tower again, but last Fall, it did a crossover with Dumbing of Age, which I mentally noted I should check out sometime.

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:

more on stories (not history) as the source of faith

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Just over a month ago, I found and blogged about a Thomas Römer quote that I had been trying to hunt down for quite some time. I’m continuing to listen to Römer’s lectures, and in the one I’m currently listening to, he revisits the idea from before. As before, I don’t want to miss the chance to write it down for future reference, and I figure a blog post is as good an opportunity as any to do so.

Arthur Dent, the bulldozer, and generative AI

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This week, I decided to see if it was worth relistening to the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series. I’m having trouble committing to things to listen to right now, and I’ve found in recent years that I don’t enjoy H2G2 as much as I once did, so it’s hard to say whether I’ll follow through with this. However, I did get far enough in to the first episode to enjoy Arthur Dent’s confrontation with Mr.

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.

religious authority, Mormonism, and Instagram

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As I hinted at in a recent linkpost, something really interesting happened this week that serves as a sort of microcosm of my research interests related to online Mormonism and religious authority. Here’s a rundown of what happened, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune (and republished here via MSN). First, a leader of the official Latter-day Saint women’s organization gave a sermon last Sunday, one quote from which was uploaded to the official Latter-day Saint Instagram account:

do you want to be good or to be optimized?

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This Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic from yesterday spoke to me at a deep level: My first thoughts went to generative AI, an area in which I feel like a fetishization of optimization is crowding out really important questions of what is good. As I put it in a university survey earlier today, there are undeniable benefits to the use of AI tools, but there are important questions as to who benefits.

more space for depression and grace

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I’ve been (very slowly) digitizing old journals, letters, and other text-based keepsakes over the past few years. This involves both scanning the original documents but also typing them up to enter into my Day One journaling app (and make them searchable). Because a solid majority of the letters and keepsakes that I had were related to my time as a Mormon missionary, I’m still chipping away at that era of my life.

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.

what would Doctorow University look like?

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One of my favorite academic anecdotes to share in conference rooms and university hallways is for my dissertation defense, two of my committee members were there via telepresence robot. This is less impressive post-2020, when a lot of defenses happen entirely over Zoom, but it’s still different than an online-only defense, so the story still attracts some interest. At any rate, as good as I thought my story was, I got a real kick out of this bit in the prologue to Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom:

libraries could be the best streaming services

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Membership in one of my local libraries includes access to Freegal, a kind of janky, third-tier music streaming service. The selection isn’t fantastic, but my tastes in music aren’t exactly mainstream, and over the past four years, I’ve found a lot of music I like available through the service. In fact, because you can download a limited number of tracks per week, I have Indochine songs, Gérard Lenorman albums, and even the Stranger Things soundtrack all saved to my phone so that I can bypass the jankiness of the service and the official app.

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.

hooray for faculty collegiality

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My unit is currently hiring three new faculty members, which means that we’re right in the middle of nine(!) campus visits. We’re all getting well practiced at talking about the strengths of our unit and why people might want to work here. One thing that we’ve said over and over in meetings and interviews with candidates is that we work together well and get along with each other, too (we also acknowledge that this is not true 100% of the time, but that the exceptions prove the rule).

📚 spreading the word about the Cory Doctorow Humble Bundle 📚

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Cory Doctorow is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve also (mostly) appreciated the work of Humble Bundle over the past decade. When I learned this weekend that there’s an ongoing bundle of Doctorow’s fiction, I was ecstatic. The only thing that I was disappointed about is that I’ve already bought so many of these titles… however, that still wasn’t enough to stop me from buying all 18 items (it helps that while I own many of these already, most of the ones I own are in formats rather than epub, so now I’m a multimodal owner).

un souvenir ludique de Grenoble

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Il existe à Grenoble un magasin des jeux nommé « Les contrées du jeu ». Il y a seize ans cette semaine, alors que j’habitais à Grenoble, j’y suis entré m’offrir le jeu « Wings of War ». J’ai toujours une carte de fidélité comme preuve de cette transaction : Il n’y a rien de profond dans ce souvenir, mais j’ai beaucoup de petits souvenirs du temps que j’ai passé en France et en Suisse qui semble avoir une grande importance malgré cette manque de profondeur.