On Criticism

I think that it is important to discuss a technical term in LDS culture as it overlaps with a term in academic discourse: criticism. This term and its related forms (critical, critic, etc) is extremely important concept in both worlds, with an almost exactly opposite valuation.For Latter-day Saints, to be "critical" is very negative. It implies a negative view of ones leaders, the Church, and by implication for many, God and Christ themselves. We covenant not to practice this kind of … [Read more...]

African American Spirituals and the Mormon Pioneers

In honor of the 161st anniversary of the Saints entering the Salt Lake Valley, I would like to explore the relationship between two of the most profound spiritual movements of the 19th century: ante-bellum African American spirituals and the rise of Mormonism. While the vast majority of work with regard to African Americans and early Mormonism has focused on the explicit role that African Americans played in Mormonism, and LDS attitudes to African Americans, I would like to examine some shared … [Read more...]

The Holy Person in Mormonism?

Eve's recent post at ZD on the magical GA got me thinking about how such a phenomenon fits in the larger history of Christianity. The LDS conception of religious potency is so closely intertwined with hierarchical leadership that it is not surprising that these businessmen and lawyers are able to receive such devotion by those seeking ecstatic or thaumaturgic experiences. What is interesting to me is whether or not the religiously potent can exist outside of the structures of LDS authority, as … [Read more...]

Bloggernacle Bullies

I don't venture into other blogs as much as I used to, mostly because of time. Lately, however, either I have been procrastinating a bit more than usual, or there is a uptick in the kinds of posts that I am interested in, so I have been following a few more blogs. One of the things that I have noticed is that there seem to be new bullies that weren't there before. Of course, there have always been bloggernacle bullies, but some come and go. What I am interested in is some sense of how these … [Read more...]

Salt Lake City

In a nod to our friends at A Motley Vision, and in advance of this weekend's Conference, I offer the following, as is, with no commentary, except to say it's often refreshing to see the familiar through strange eyes. Salt Lake CityPompous Mormon symmetry. Everywhere marble: flawless, funereal (the Capitol, the organ in the Visitor Centre). Yet a Los-Angelic modernity, too -- all the requisite gadgetry for a minimalist, extraterrestrial comfort. The Christ-topped dome (all the Christs here are … [Read more...]

The Problem with Laughter

Last night I attended a baptism that was accompanied by much laughter and merry-making, which was at times shushed by many of those in attendance. The LDS practice of "reverence" as a means of producing the conditions for spiritual experience sets boundaries around certain kinds of laughter. In other contexts, "loud" laughter is prohibited. When we fast, we are supposed to abstain from laughter as well as food (D&C 59:15). These particular ways of regulating laughter are not unique to … [Read more...]

The Future of Heavenly Mother

Heavenly Mother (HM) has proven to be a very potent and productive figure in the history of Mormonism. She has been put to use for all sorts of theological and political agendas. Even the silence about her functions to promote a certain political agenda. I want to briefly review some reflections on the history of HM, and offer a theory for why I think she will play a more prominent role in Mormon discourse over the next few decades. … [Read more...]