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.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on 'Call for Submissions: The Deleted Comments Department - Exponent II'

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Bookmarking for future research. What a fascinating (if frustrating) interplay of social media platforms and religious authority. link to “Call for Submissions: The Deleted Comments Department - Exponent II”

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.

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.

scripture's authority comes from shared story rather than history

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About a week ago, I felt like I was going through an audio drought—I wasn’t listening to any audiobooks, my podcast consumption has continued to go down in recent months, and I just wasn’t listening to anything while doing the dishes or whatever. This wasn’t necessarily a problem (it’s been good in terms of mindfulness, for example), but it had gone on long enough that I decided that I wanted something to listen to.

📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ for Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, by Nadia Bolz-Weber

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I bought this book with a gift card and to thumb my nose at an obnoxious visiting authority at a Latter-day Saint stake conference from over four years ago. This guy spent the Saturday evening session of the conference complaining about young adults who supported gay marriage and parents who pushed back against school discipline instead of giving their kids a whuppin’ (his words, not mine) and then still had the gall to talk about how great Mormonism is because it doesn’t believe in a fire and brimstone angry God.

an 'enmediated' God

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Mormon theology doesn’t really do incarnation. Latter-day Saints believe in an embodied God and that (nearly) all humans will be resurrected to perfect bodies after this life and inevitable death. Latter-day Saints are also not Trinitarian and see Jesus and God the Father as more distinct than most Christian traditions do. Between those two beliefs, Jesus’s taking on a mortal body is not really a big deal—it’s kind of par for the course for any human, whether or not they are the Savior of the world.

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I didn’t learn to swear until I was in my 30s, so I have a lingering suspicion that I wind up sounding like Captain Kirk in Star Trek IV.

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Remembering my sister’s BYU roommate who called ketchup and mustard “toppings” because she was deeply uncomfortable pronouncing the first two syllables of the word “condiment.”

📚 bookblog: ❤️❤️❤️❤️🖤 for The Lost Cause, by Cory Doctorow

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I’ve read a LOT of Doctorow in 2023—including Walkaway twice, Red Team Blues twice, and relistening to Little Brother—so I can’t help but place this hopeful solarpunk novel in the context of these others. Even though The Lost Cause touches on some of the same themes as Walkaway, I like the latter book a lot better, though perhaps because it feels less “real” than a book about paramilitary Maga Clubs and impending climate catastrophe.

📚 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 The September Six and the Struggle for the Soul of Mormonism, by Sara M. Patterson

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This is an excellent, thorough book on the purity system of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the excommunications of the “September Six” and many others for their violations of that purity system. I bought the book out of personal interest, but I think it will be professionally valuable as well. I knew much of what was in the book, but what I didn’t know was important, and I am grateful for the volume and hope that many will read it to learn about this important period in Mormon history.

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Maybe not clicking with Utah is because so many of my interactions with Utah and Utahns involved being defensive about or emphasizing my being from somewhere else. Even in my Mormonism, I was a Kentucky Mormon, and I filtered a lot through that perspective.

attending a conference 'among my own kind'

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One paper that I read and reread as I was starting to get into Twitter research was Anatoliy Gruzd, Barry Wellman, and Yuri Takhteyev’s “Imagining Twitter as an Imagined Community,” published in a 2011 issue of American Behavioral Scientist. I thought of this paper again yesterday; more specifically, I thought about the anecdote that the article begins with: Barry and Beverly Wellman moved to Toronto more than 40 years ago.

Alma the priesthood counter-example

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Last Sunday, I attended a Latter-day Saint Elders Quorum meeting for the first time since March of 2020, when I taught Elders Quorum on the last Sunday before Latter-day Saint services shut down because of COVID. I had enjoyed most of the sacrament meeting (I took issue with some parts of some talks, but I have to admit that I miss the size, songs, and sense of community of Latter-day Saint services), but Elders Quorum turned out to be kind of a disappointment.

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I think academia undervalues teaching and that teaching-focused faculty deserve more status, recognition, and compensation. Yet, I’m still suspicious of the new BYU-Idaho president’s comments on the need for “a faculty free of the obligations of research.”

upcoming research talk on DezNat for Bainbridge Latter-day Saint fireside series

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A couple of months ago, Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune mentioned the work that Amy Chapman and I have been doing on the far-right-influenced DezNat movement. Shortly after Peggy’s article was published, someone who coordinates an unofficial series of Latter-day Saint-related firesides reached out to us about speaking to their group about our research on the DezNat movement. Before accepting, we made it clear that our work isn’t devotional, neither of us are practicing Latter-day Saints, and our work could be understood as critical of cultural and institutional Mormonism; however, the fireside organizers said that they were used to getting into controversial topics related to Mormonism and that our work was welcome with them.

📝 writeblog: spent 1:14:04 on 'publish Mormon conservatism on Gab study'

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Soooo very close to being done here, but need to take care of something else.

📝 writeblog: spent 1:43:34 on 'publish Mormon conservatism on Gab study'

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It’s a work weekend, and these posts need coding. Nearly finished with these, but now it’s time to wind down for the day.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on 'Addison Graham: Latter-day Saints should not admire Hungary’s ‘family values’'

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Very happy to see this op-ed emerge—especially from a BYU student. Fidesz is not a party Latter-day Saints should praise or look up to. link to “Addison Graham: Latter-day Saints should not admire Hungary’s ‘family values’”

Novák, Orbán, and Ballard: the far right and Mormon boundary maintenance

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Next month, I’m flying to Salt Lake City to attend the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion to present some of my work about social media, religion, and the far right. I’ll be presenting on three different projects at SSSR—this was biting off more than I could chew, but since two of them connect with Mormonism, Salt Lake suggested the possibility of a larger-than-usual audience for that work, so there you go.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on 'President of Hungary Discusses Faith and Family Values at BYU'

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Look, I don’t know much about Hungarian politics, but it seems to me that it would take a hell of a lot of self-confidence to brag about an ally of Viktor Orbán visiting BYU. This feels like wading into the culture wars in a way that the LDS Church usually tries to avoid. link to “President of Hungary Discusses Faith and Family Values at BYU”

📝 writeblog: spent 1:16:16 on 'publish Mormon conservatism on Gab study'

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I need to present on this in about a month at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, so it’s time to hussle! I spent some time coding Gab posts according to a codebook I put together last week.

Esther is an ironic heroine for conservative Christians

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I’m pretty sure I remember exactly where I was when I realized that Esther 100% slept with the king before he chose her as his queen. I was sitting in a top-floor office in one of two villas on Chemin William Barbey in Chambésy, Switzerland. I lived on the bottom floor of the villa with some other office staff of the Switzerland Geneva Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this office was where I did my religious studies every morning before heading out into a larger office where I helped with legal, vehicle, and other assorted logistical issues for the mission.

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One of the Vice journalists currently reporting on the Tim Ballard allegations just followed my (now dormant) Twitter account, and I’m going to take that as validation of my research on far-right Mormonism.

the Christian symbolism of the name 'Mormon'

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preface A quick preface: This is a post that I originally wrote nearly two years ago for By Common Consent. Lately, it’s been bugging me that I don’t have a version of it up on my own site, and since I haven’t had a lot of time this week to write anything original, I’m going to repost this here. This post elaborates on one of my favorite close readings of the Book of Mormon.

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Today, I’m remembering the family friend from a Latter-day Saint congregation I grew up in who heard me in a church settng quote some scripture on the need for the rich to give to the poor and then took me aside to ask how liberal my school friends were and give me some cautionary advice.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on 'Persecution, Truth and the Trans Agenda – Wheat & Tares'

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Solid post. I think it’s often helpful to ask whether Latter-day Saint logic applies to things that don’t get Latter-day Saint approval. link to ‘Persecution, Truth and the Trans Agenda – Wheat & Tares’

caffeine

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I grew up not drinking tea or coffee because of religious convictions—a habit that ultimately stayed with me longer than those convictions! Over the course of the two years I spent as a Mormon missionary, I taught a number of people that (among other things) they should adopt the same convictions and also give up tea and coffee. One of the most interesting lessons on this subject I had was with Jonathan.

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This is an admittedly fuzzy memory, but I was thinking today about the time some unit at BYU brought in a French thinker to speak on the importance of “the family,” but instead of the conservative religious arguments I was expecting, the guy’s talk had monarchist vibes.

des crêpes proustiennes

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Ma fille aime bien les crêpes au Nutella, et ça fait un petit moment qu’on n’en a pas fait. Comme elle est malade depuis quelques jours, c’était le bon moment ce soir de reprendre cette petite tradition. En mangeant ma première crêpe, j’ai été rempli d’un tas de souvenirs, comme si c’était la madeleine de Proust. Je n’ai pas envie d’écrire sept tomes sur le sujet, mais pourquoi pas un petit blog ?

new revelation that confirms old ideas

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I’m a fan of Dan McClellan’s YouTube channel—he posts a lot there (nearly everything is a repost from TikTok), and I watch most of what he posts. Yesterday, he posted an interesting video on the “Lucifer” name and character in the Bible, describing how traditional Christian ideas about the figure are all post-biblical innovations that don’t neceessarily line up with the text. In particular, the name “Lucifer” is an artifact of the Vulgate, and even in the Vulgate, the name itself is a reference to a Babylonian king, not to a fallen angel who became the devil.

a report on tea drinking

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In early May, I decided to give tea a try. I’ve enjoyed herbal teas over the years, but I grew up never drinking actual tea (or coffee, which I still have never tried), so this has been a new(ish) experience for me. Over the past two months, I’ve acquired a couple of tea infusers as well as a variety of different teas that I’ve been trying, and tonight I felt like writing about some of the teas I’ve tried so far:

rejecting one fundamentalism to accept another

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Nearly a year ago, I wrote a post about an important part of RLDS history that I mostly love but also get slightly annoyed by. In short, Wallace Smith, who was then prophet-president of the RLDS Church, was put on the spot by a local seminary professor, who asked the following question: If our mutual studies of Christianity and the RLDS Church were to discovere that there was a discrepancy between what Jesus taught and what Joseph Smith taught, which would you accept?