Mormon Handcart Pioneers

C.C.A. Christensen, Handcart Pioneers, 1900

One of the most poignant times in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came in the fall of 1856, when two companies of Mormon handcart pioneers became trapped in winter storms and endured roughly two hundred deaths before their rescue and November arrival in Salt Lake City. The self-sacrificial perseverance [Read More...]

The Secularization of Christian Holidays

Weinachtsmarkt

The Christmas season starts early in Germany as well. Some stores have had their displays out for weeks, and bakeries are already churning out the Stollen and Plätzchen. I’m trying to imagine what December in Germany would be like if American-style jurisprudence reigned. Christmas markets across Germany (organized by cities) would become “Winter markets” or [Read More...]

The Book of Mormon in 15 (or so) Days

C.C.A. Christensen, "The Hill Cumorah," ca. 1878

I’m re-posting the below, which originally appeared in two separate segments at Religion in American History: After years of studying the history of Mormonism, I finally resolved to read the tradition’s founding scripture in short order: the Book of Mormon in fifteen days. Because of its large print and easy-to-read format (I’m not quite as [Read More...]

Luther and the Word of God

Martin Luther did not want to preach in Wittenberg’s city church. The year was — most likely — 1513. Luther later commented that he “was chosen against my will to preach here.” He was afraid of what he considered a great responsibility. “I shall not live a quarter-year,” he feared. Germany is currently just more [Read More...]

The Issue of our Day

This week I read a news article that broke my heart and called me to repentance. In the midst of the fight over the budget and debt ceiling, in the midst of the ongoing saga of the “Bling-Bling Bishop” in Germany, and in the midst of football season, most of us (myself included) have been [Read More...]

Elizabeth Smart’s Story

Most visitors to the internet this week have probably noticed that Elizabeth Smart has just released a memoir of her horrific ordeal. Ten years after her rescue, she details her abduction and captivity and explains how she transcended the evils she experienced. My review is here. Warning: the book induces nightmares, especially when you have [Read More...]

Billy Graham’s Legacy

If evangelicals are those who like Billy Graham, I’m in the club. I attended two Graham crusades, one in Rochester, NY, ca. 1990, and the other in Louisville near the end of Graham’s public ministry. At the first, I came forward to (re)dedicate my life to Christ. [Like many of us, I have done that [Read More...]

Das Buch Mormon

About a year ago, I asked for advice about how to structure a course on American evangelicalism. Many first-rate suggestions were forth-coming. This fall, I’m teaching a course on Mormonism in Heidelberg, Germany (gluecklicherweise auf Englisch, sonst waere es mir sehr peinlich). For the next year, I am residing at the Heidelberg Centre for American [Read More...]

Anti-Mormon Humor

Brigham Young's Widows Mourn His Passing

It’s so easy to make fun of Mormons that The Book of Mormon: The Musical didn’t even mention polygamy. The golden plates — where are they now? The Garden of Eden — where is it? No coffee? The preceding three questions may violate the spirit of Episcopal Bishop of Utah, the Rev. Scott Hayashi’s plea [Read More...]

Evangelicals and White Supremacy (part II)

While a national denomination fitfully advanced an agenda of social justice and civil rights, my local congregation fractured. The session moderator, a host of leading congregants, and much of the attendance disappeared. Week by week, the numbers dwindled. Empty pews were disillusioning. Across the country, congregations were leaving and joining a splinter denomination, and bitter [Read More...]


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