Thursday, January 29, 2015

Religious Liberty Mingled with Discrimination



by Kyle:


I want to take 38 seconds and applaud the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their support of laws that would protect LGBT people from discrimination in areas of housing, employment, and services. This is a good step in the right direction to not only do the right thing, but also to repair relationships with the LGBT community and allies.

I said 38 seconds because that is the time I calculated that was spent in actual support of non-discrimination laws during the 19:43 long "news conference."

Unfortunately, the Church’s support rings hollow. Nowhere in this "news conference" was any real concern expressed for the LGBT community and the persecution they continue to face today (except for maybe 6 seconds when Sister Neill F. Marriott acknowledged that there have been centuries of persecution and violence against homosexuals).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Review: On Zion's Mount



by Quinn Rollins:

As a history teacher and a Mormon and a voracious reader, I love discovering new books that overlay religion and tradition and history. Even when the “new book” came out in 2008. One of my favorite history professors recommended a book in passing: Jared Farmer's book On Zion's Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape. The professor was using his book as an example of how our views of geography change according to our own perspectives and needs, even when the land itself doesn't. As a longtime resident of Utah and a history teacher myself, I was interested in the subject and checked the book out.



What I found was a fascinating look at how we create the landscape around us, based on our culture, philosophy, and needs. It's also about how legends are created and passed on from generation to generation, including some that I had heard growing up, and even passed on to my own sons. The book is focused on the Utah Valley—the valley just to the south of my home in Salt Lake City—where the city of Provo and the Mormon Church-owned Brigham Young University is located. Utah Valley was historically the home of bands of Ute Indians, who used the ample fishing grounds of Utah Lake and the Provo River to build up their food supplies. The valley was visited in 1776 by Fathers Dominguez and Escalante, who were trying to find a convenient route from Santa Fe to Monterrey, and is described as a an oasis in the desert of the Great Basin by Farmer.

The focus of the Indians, of the Mountain Men, and of the early Mormon settlers in the 1840s, was always on Utah Lake. For food, for the streams that fed into it (which could be diverted for irrigation), for the center of civilization. Despite that focus, Brigham Young (president of the Mormon Church, and first territorial governor) didn't want his people to settle in Utah Valley, fearing it would provoke violence with the Utes. Not all of Brigham's flock were sheep however, and soon enough there were Mormons settling along the shores of Utah Lake, and a war erupted between the Utes and the trespassers. All of this is set up in the first section of On Zion's Mount, Liquid Antecedents. As I read, I was struck by the similar focus on water and the valley that Lehi gives us in 1 Nephi Chapter 2: "And it came to pass that he called the name of the river, Laman, and it emptied into the Red Sea; and the valley was in the borders near the mouth thereof. And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness! And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!" It’s a different way of thinking about landforms than we typically do, and Farmer carries us forward. 


Monday, January 26, 2015

Mormonism: Post John Dehlin



by Pete Busche:


I’m sure much will be said in the coming days about the pending disciplinary action of John Dehlin. I believe it is unwise to take either side, or even allow for the division of opinions to take place (many will claim he is an apostate heretic, others that he is a martyr, these should both be disregarded). At the end of the day, John is just a man. He made an honest choice based on his own experiences and knowledge, as we all must do. He’s not without flaws: I’m wary of all the media attention he has garnered, he has turned much more negatively-biased in his podcasts and I’m sure (as all do) has other imperfections. However, I wish to view him in much the same way I believe the LDS Church would have us view someone like Joseph Smith Jr. or other church historical figures: very imperfect men that have done great things, especially when you consider the complete body of work (and of course I’m not insinuating Dehlin is in anyway prophetic).

I would like to share a part of my personal journey of faith and how people like John Dehlin and dozens like him have helped me (and several thousands of others, I’m sure) come to a more honest, authentic belief system. This is not a chance to harp on mistakes by the church, point fingers, etc., only to spread open, positive dialogue on matters of great importance. #ShareGoodness if you will.

The Start of a Faith Crisis

I grew up in a typical Utah Mormon household. We went to church every week, had Family Home Evening, scout camp, mutual—the whole “eternal round.” It was a very blessed and happy upbringing, but i was obviously sheltered in Davis County, Utah (I didn’t know what “Latino” meant until I was almost 16). All my friends were LDS, and I was completely ignorant to the experience of the few non-Mormons around me. Although I would call myself inquisitive, I rarely questioned anything about the church and wanted to fit the perfect mold for what I believed a “good Mormon” was. The only items that baffled me before my mission were: 1. What in the world happened to Oliver Cowdery? and 2. Why in the world was my BYU Singles’ Ward Council meeting dedicating a good half hour to promoting Prop 8 in California?

Friday, January 23, 2015

10% Happier



by Eliana:

I walked by the new nonfiction book shelf at my library and a title caught my attention:


I didn't read the small text to notice that this was a memoir of sorts. All I saw was 10% Happier. It seemed intriguing and realistic. So I took it home.

Now I'm finished. It was interesting, though I don’t know anything about the author, Dan Harris, a news anchor for ABC news. Basically he tells of his career and finding meditation. That's what makes you 10% happier: it doesn't fix your life of course but it helped him change his whole way of thinking. Here’s a clip of him briefly discussing this:



For me and probably other Christians generally, meditation has always been mixed with prayer for me. But quiet thoughtfulness is different than meditation. Pondering I guess is the word I would use—thinking, feeling, working something out in your mind. Meditation is trying to be silent though, to not think about problems or anything. I appreciated Harris' descriptions of this, as well as his honest description of dealing with different 'gurus' or perspectives on mindfulness.

I feel like I need to try meditating, to give it ten minutes a day for a month, and see if it is a positive experience for me. I'm fairly sure, based on science and common sense, that it would be good. Maybe I'll report back. Here is a basic guide to meditation.

So, fellow Mormons, do you meditate? How do you feel about adding Buddhism to your Christian faith? Share your experiences, please.

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Eliana Osborn was raised on cold weather and wild animals in Anchorage, Alaska, setting the stage for her adult life in the Sunniest Place on Earth in Arizona. She grew up in the church and didn't know there were places where conformity was preached. She has degrees. She writes. She teaches. She has some kids. She even has a husband. She's trying to do her best.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Saintspeak 25: The Letter T



by Seattle Jon:

Another installment from Saintspeakthe mormon humor dictionary from Orson Scott Card. Previous installments can be found here. Reproduced with permission from Signature Books.

Telestial Kingdom  1. The only place in the hereafter where no one will be surprised to see anyone except himself. 2. The only place in the hereafter where you won't have to make a bunch of new friends. 3. The only place in the hereafter where there will be enough Mormons to hold a really good softball tournament.

Temple Recommend  The Church's equivalent of a good credit report.

Temple Square  The place where tourists who thought they were getting away from it all discover they're just getting into it.

Terrestrial Kingdom The eternal dwelling place of those who did everything they were told without once wondering why.

Testimony  An attempt to explain in words what words cannot explain, to people who cannot understand you unless they already know.

Thou  The second person singular pronoun in English. If you occasionally use the second person singular correctly in your prayers, people in the ward will think you made a mistake. If you use it often, they'll think you're a bit odd. If you use it elegantly and consistently, they'll think you're a self-righteous prig.

Tithing  The celestial kingdom annual activity fee.

Tracting  What missionaries do whenever they can't find any members to visit.

Translated Correctly  What the Bible wasn't wherever it refutes my argument.

Trunky  The normal state of a Mormon missionary.

Truth  What the Saints will have all of, as soon as it clears Correlation.

Two Years Supply  If half the Church would get a two-years' supply instead of one, the rest of us could ignore the whole thing and the Church would be, on the average, obedient.

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Seattle Jon is a family man, little league coach, urban farmer and businessman living in Seattle. He currently gets up early with the markets to trade bonds for a living. In his spare time he enjoys movies, thrifting and is an avid reader. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Japan Fukuoka mission field. He has one wife, four kids and three chickens.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gifImage credit: Signature Books (used with permission).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

15 Minutes in the National Gallery of Art: Adoration of the Magi



by Shawn Tucker:

Series Note: The best way to experience Washington D.C.'s National Gallery of Art is in short intervals. The thing is like the Costco of art museums! Too often when people go they stay too long and look at too much, and it all becomes a big, beautiful blur. So this will be an ongoing series of posts that use a room or even just a painting from that museum and connect it with a song or poem to create what I hope is a productive and satisfying 15 minutes.


We're moving through the halls of the National Gallery of Art, and now we are deep in the Renaissance. Look at this painting—this is the sort of painting that we have museums for. This is Botticelli's Adoration of the Magi. The magi are the wise men. At the center is the Blessed Virgin Mary wearing her traditional red and blue and holding the Christ child wearing.

Botticelli is clearly not shooting for historical accuracy. Mary does not look like a poor Jewish woman, and the deep background looks like Tuscany. There is no manger, and the setting actually looks like the ruins of some building. Botticelli painted this work in Rome. The buildings are Roman ruins with a large wooden framework on top. This is an important and complex symbol. Catholics believe that God built Christianity on the foundation of the classical world. That world had passed away, but God's kingdom emerged from it. The humble wood of Christ's cross becomes the framework of a new roof that we see on top. That framework would eventually become the cathedral roof of God's kingdom on earth.

Botticelli wants to make Christ's advent, mission, and relation to the present as real and vivid as possible. Notice the even, delightful deployment of strong colors throughout the work. Notice the central focus and casual symmetry of the composition. Of course we could also see more going on here. Notice the faces of the wise men. Do you see how Mary’s face is fairly generic, as it is just an idealized woman's face? Do you see how many of the wise men look like real people? This is because those are not generic faces; they are the faces of the people who paid for the work. The magi were very popular in Florence at the time. There was a confraternity that celebrated them with a parade every five years. The fact that these are faces or portraits also explains why there are so many wise men and such a large retinue.

When you go to the National Gallery of Art or any other museum with Italian Renaissance art (or Italy!), you will notice lots of paintings of the worshiping wise men. And by lots I mean lots and lots and lots. You will also notice far fewer worshiping shepherds. Oh, and I cannot think of one painting of the Rich Man and Lazarus. That makes sense, because paintings were expensive, rich people paid artists to make them, and rich people wanted paintings that showed God's approval of rich people like themselves. Yes, this work is a show of humble devotion, but it also shows God's approval of the wealthy, powerful people featured here.

So let's listen to two songs with this painting. The first one emphasizes the devotional nature of this work. It should be familiar. Look and listen and see how these go together.



And then there is this song.



This may not be familiar; rarely is 90's Ska music compared with Italian Renaissance art. To what degree might the song describe Botticelli? Was he just a sell out for the rich? Let these two songs rattle around in your head next time you see one of those Italian adoration of the magi pictures.

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Shawn Tucker grew up with amazing parents and five younger, wonderful siblings. He served as a missionary in Chile during the Plebiscite and the first post-dictatorship election. After his mission, he attended BYU, where he married ... you guessed it ... his wife. They both graduated, with Shawn earning a BA in Humanities. Fearing that his BA in Humanities, which is essentially a degree in Jeopardy, would not be sufficient, Shawn completed graduate work in the same ... stuff ... at Florida State University. He currently teaches at Elon University in North Carolina. He and ... you guessed it ... his wife have four great children. Twitter: @MoTabEnquirer. Website: motabenquirer.blogspot.com.

Friday, January 16, 2015

MMM: Seeds of Unorthodoxy



by Kristine A:

I had always been a strict orthodox Mormon, probably the Mollyest of Mormons. No R-rated movies. No second pair of earrings. I went to Ricks College and threw away all of my shorts and tank tops. I believed that womanhood = motherhood (and motherhood = priesthood) and that a woman's place was in the home. In 2011, after ten years of marriage and one IVF baby, against all rational thought we took a job cross country in Virginia that was a pay cut; leaving a house in Idaho we rented out at a $400/month loss and creating a need for me to work full-time. It didn't make sense, but we prayed about it and it felt right. Little did we know what lay in store for us in Virginia.

I think I can pinpoint the exact moment my faith transition began. I had a Virginia friend share some posts from Modern Mormon Men on Facebook and I began following MMM. Shortly after I read two posts about patriarchy, "The Modern Patriarch" and "The Reluctant Patriarch." I'd never even conceived that a Mormon man could not embrace patriarchy. I'd always embraced "girl power" and "proper roles of women" and had felt that unnamed tension. These two posts left me examining my own beliefs, and I ended up talking to my husband about how I never had been totally comfortable with patriarchy. He looked at me like I was Captain Obvious. Apparently for ten years he had struggled with the fact that I was not exactly submissive and easily entreated towards the presider of the home. He said he knew within a month of marriage that his successful, independent, confident, dynamic wife was not going to fit in the leadership model of the family he'd been hoping for, no matter how orthodoxly Molly Mormon I was. The conversation ended with his promise that the only purpose of the priesthood is to serve, so if I ever felt my daughter and I weren't being served enough by him - I should just let him know and he'd make course corrections. It may seem innocuous, but it was the first time I'd allowed myself to question whether anything my Church had given me was God’s will.

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