What a weird, profound, and beautiful book. This is a very Mormon novel, and in all the best ways. It takes Mormonism seriously—even literally—but not uncritically. I’d wager that Peck has read Grant Hardy, and my favorite bit in an amazing book is a throwaway joke about farewell expressions in French in a way that only someone who knows and loves the Book of Mormon would do. More than all of that, it is a profound and optimistic (but never naïve) story about redemption knowing no bounds.
Such an interesting book. I’m going to have to get a copy to read one day.
link to ‘Maxwell Institute Podcast #157: Latter-day Saints in the French Imagination, with Corry Cropper, Daryl Lee, and Heather Belnap - Neal A. Maxwell Institute’
Steven Peck’s “A Short Stay in Hell” gets better each time I read it.
I’m a teetotaler, so some of my microbrewing grad school friends once declared that I would make a good “beer eunuch”—I could be trusted to hold onto a barrel (or whatever—I don’t know how this stuff works) without abusing that trust.
Yesterday, I wrote a post on Jephthah, a figure in the book of Judges who makes a commitment that if God helps him out in battle, he’ll sacrifice the first thing that exits the door of his house when he returns home. Robert Alter notes that there’s been a lot of rabbinic and scholarly effort to make sense of this but that in “any case, it is a rash vow.” Indeed, the vow goes wrong, and Jephthah winds up in a situation where’s he believes he’s committed to offer up his daughter in sacrifice.
Some of the most troubling passages in the Christian canon have to do with the sacrifice of children in the name of God. Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac is perhaps the most obvious example of this, but there are other examples that (ought to) raise as much concern in the mind of the believer. Perhaps the most interesting (to me) story along these lines is found in Judges 11:31 (I’m using Robert Alter’s fantastic translation throughout this post), where one of the eponymous judges, a man by the name of Jephthah:
The fediverse is great and all, but for me, it won’t be complete until there’s a Mormon instance of Mastodon at curelom.social.
During the last few years I spent as a practicing Latter-day Saint, one recurring pet peeve that I had was the overbroad use of the term “gospel” to refer to all Latter-day Saint doctrines, teachings, and beliefs. In hindsight, learning to separate the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ from everything that I believed was a major part of my faith transition—and my ability to continue in Christianity even when the version that I was used to started to no longer work for me.
I am a big fan of the Book of Mormon. It’s one of the reasons that I stuck with Community of Christ when transitioning out of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know the book is problematic, and I doubt its historicity, but I’m still an advocate for making some religious meaning out of it.
There are diverse opinions about the Book of Mormon in Community of Christ, and while there’s plenty of room to believe lots of different things, the default institutional view tends to be either indifferent or suspicious of the text.
The inconsistency here is infuriating. When I was in grad school, I had the philosophy that I (a Mormon working toward a PhD) couldn’t rule out the possibility of working at BYU. There’s still a lot that I like and respect about BYU, but seeing the way they’re putting the squeeze on their employees makes it clear that I could never have survived there.
link to ‘BYU requires new hires to waive their right to clergy confidentiality’
Learned about the Trib article from this blog post, which I think also makes some solid points. It’s one thing to prefer that outside organizations not provide materials, but if BYU isn’t doing anything itself…
link to ‘BYU Tramples Queer Students, Again – Wheat & Tares’
I’ve long lacked confidence in my own opinions (as a general rule—I can also be an opinionated jerk), so even the simplest disagreement with a position I’ve taken can take some wind out of my sails. When I read the official Latter-day Saint response to the recent AP story, I didn’t agree with it, but it still slowed me down some. “Maybe I should consider things from another point of view,” I thought.
This reporting is from a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t paying enough attention at the time, and recent events make me regret that.
link to ‘The Teen Who Helped Expose the Boy Scouts’ Pedophilia Epidemic, and the Mormon Church’s Cover-Up’
I haven’t attended the Latter-day Saint congregation I officially belong to since March of 2020, and I’m coming up on one year of being an official member of Community of Christ. It’s pretty clear to me—and, likely, to others—where my religious future is headed.
Yet, I’ve always expected that I would remain a de jure—if not de facto—member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Even if it’s not the right spiritual home for me or my family any more, and even if I have major disagreements with it, this church has been an important part of my life, and I’ve always wanted to preserve that by retaining my official membership.
This week and last, I’ve been reading up on Mormons’ commitment to both the language of the King James Version (Philip Barlow’s Mormons and the Bible is a fantastic read) and what is seen as the authoritative text of the Book of Mormon. In Paul Gutjahr’s The Book of Mormon: A Biography, he quotes the official Latter-day Saint Scripture Translation Manual as including the following guidelines for translators of the Book of Mormon:
I haven’t watched Stranger Things 4, but it’s interesting how media depictions of Mormonism often get some of the details wrong, folding it in with broader conservative Christianity instead of focusing on its unique weirdness. This often confused me as a kid, especially when adults would wonder if I were allowed to play games with supernatural themes or… sing songs?
link to ‘Stranger People | Times & Seasons’
One of the highlights of the summer has been getting an article accepted in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. This article takes as a starting point Cragun and Nielsen’s argument (also published in Dialogue) that:
what is really at play in the debate over the use of “Mormon” is legitimacy.
Cragun and Nielsen are writing in 2009, at a time when Big Love is on the air and the April 2008 FLDS Temple raid is (or was recently) on the news.
Over the past several months, I’ve been slowly working my way through Mark Scherer’s three-volume The Journey of a People, the most recent quasi-official history of Community of Christ. The first volume was interesting, since it covered an era of Mormon history that I’m familiar with from a perspective that I’m not familiar with. I found the second volume a bit harder to get through—some individual sections were fascinating, but it seemed to lack an overall throughline or narrative.
A couple of weekends ago, I had my first experience with a Community of Christ Reunion camp. Kiddo and I only stayed for a long weekend rather than the whole week, but it was still a great experience. By far the best experience I had at Reunion was a Monday morning class for young adults and “90s kids” (which is not a label I’ve ever actively applied to myself, but it fit just fine.
The title of this post is a bit misleading. My wife and I aren’t really big on “Parent’s Day” celebrations: Years of Latter-day Saint “all women are mothers” (read: motherhood is the most important part of womanhood) Sunday services grated on us during our years of infertility, and even now that we are parents (and aren’t practicing Latter-day Saints—though my current denomination certainly isn’t immune from a cringeworthy celebration of parents either), it’s just not a thing we do.
So, so many wild things in this article. I grew up loving this hymn and had no idea it had roots in blackface minstrelsy. Hope the Church will take it out of its next hymnbook, but I’m not holding my breath. The real kicker is Brigham Young’s concern about blackface—not because it’s racist but because it’s degrading to white people.
link to ‘What the Latter-day Saint hymn ‘Love at Home’ has to do with blackface’
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been putting a lot of work into adjusting my online presence, a project that I expect to last through most of the summer. In dividing my website into distinct subareas and pivoting from a single Twitter account to a number of Mastodon accounts, I’m trying to do something about the context collapse that’s been keeping me from sharing some of the big things going on in my life lately.
Thanks to a recommendation from BoingBoing, I just finished reading a Business Insider article describing a recent video in which Marjorie Taylor Greene:
predicted that identifying as heterosexual will be a thing of the past within a period of less than 200 years thanks to LGBTQ-inclusive sex educators, who she called “trans terrorists.”
More specifically, Greene was quoted as saying that heterosexual extinction would come about “probably in about four or five generations.
Listening to The Aquabats tonight and remembering how I pegged the Mormon connection when I was first listening to them because of subtle allusions to food storage and pioneer hymns.
I suspect that there is nothing as damning in Mormon history as Mormons’ failure to own up to that history, and Jana’s writing here captures that nicely.
link to ‘‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ raises the question: Are Mormons dangerous?’
Reading about Mike Lee’s attempts to interfere with the election reminds me of the missionary companion who dreamed of rising high enough in the FBI to be ready to help Salt Lake carry out a coup if needed.
Latest guest post on official blog of far right Gab platform could have been a Latter-day Saint General Conference sermon. Sure, rejecting truth and embracing evil sounds bad, but there are a lot of assumptions that need to be surfaced and interrogated about what both terms mean.
Lots of thoughts about this. As someone with an education PhD who teaches and researches outside traditionally education topics, I want to emphasize that the prevalence of education PhDs is a symptom, not the actual problem. In my teaching and research outside my home discipline, I work hard to learn the content and communities that I’m branching into. The disdain for those content and communities at BYU Religious Education is the real problem here and therefore what I’m really worried about.
Remembering the time that the only person at church who understood my dissertation research was the one who worked for the state of Michigan doing social media surveillance of social justice movements.
Angry at myself tonight for not noticing spousal abuse perpetrated by someone I worked with regularly while it was happening. Angrier still at those I know who were aware of it and did nothing.