On Doctrinal Authority

This essay represents a very short, and provisional set of ideas about the topic as I am just beginning to think about it more seriously. So much of the so-called “faith crisis” in contemporary Mormonism hinges on these issues, but very little theoretical work has been done on it.For a while now, Mormons have been concerned with doctrinal authority, especially what is authoritative and the consequences of deviating from it. Most recently the question has arisen concerning prophetic fal … [Read more...]

Funeral Lessons from Emma Lou Thayne

In the weeks before Emma Lou Thayne’s death I have been pondering how it was that an interaction with her felt so different from encounters with other people. In conversation, she was consummately present, loving, and curious. Her approach felt to me like this: "I know there is something really exceptional about you, and I can't wait to ask you questions and listen to you until I find it. It won't take long."This post has a devotional edge; funerals lead me in that direction. I came to know E … [Read more...]

I Even Remain Alone?: Reflections on Eve Tushnet’s “Gay and Catholic”

About two years ago Ralph Hancock, a BYU professor of political philosophy, met with the Claremont Mormon Studies Student Association. As I reflected on the ensuing conversation, which had quickly veered into the troubled waters of Mormonism and same-sex marriage, I formulated two questions which I feel would have turned the discussion down less well-trodden—and hence potentially more productive—paths.First, I would have asked Hancock, “As non-heterosexuality poses existential questions categ … [Read more...]

Post-Civil War Communalism and the Lamoni Order

RLDS church in Lamoni, circa 1907. Courtesy of Alma Blair.

Few experiments in religious communalism better exemplified the blending of American industry with religious socialism than did Joseph Smith, Jr. and the Mormons. Despite failed attempts by the Mormons to establish permanent communal societies in Ohio and Missouri, the ethos of religious socialism persisted, and in many ways still persists, within the Latter Day Saint restoration movement. Among the various institutions that sprang from Joseph Smith, Jr.’s innovations, many attempted to maintain … [Read more...]

The Liberal Soul, by Richard Davis

“How can a good Mormon be a Democrat?”If you’re Mormon and politically conservative, you’ve probably asked yourself that question. I certainly have, though it’s been a very, very long time. (Another question on my mind back then: “Why do people hate the Backstreet Boys?”)I had thought a lot about my faith and my politics—I’d read my Pres. Benson and my Rush Limbaugh, my Joseph Fielding Smith and my Ayn Rand—and I’d concluded that the one led pretty directly to the other. The War in Heaven … [Read more...]

“Toxic Religion”? The Parable of the Pan

DSCF2811

There are “winners and losers” in the wake of the acknowledgment by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that its founder, Joseph Smith, practiced polygamy [and in the subsequent media coverage] . The church itself is a clear winner. This step in the direction of transparency signals Mormonism’s maturity and adaptability in the twenty-first century. The acknowledgment is also vindicating for Mormon intellectuals who have worked hard to promulgate a nuanced narrative of Mormon history t … [Read more...]

Consecrating the widow’s mite

GCtalks

The Filipino widow’s miteThe widow’s mite is a poignant story, but one in which we might be missing the point Jesus meant to convey. What if instead of admiring the woman’s sacrifice, he was instead lamenting that her condition was countenanced by the people all around her, particularly those with substantial means? What if he was criticizing both that the rich garnered public approbation for their generous donations made out of their surplus, and that the woman, after consecrating her all, … [Read more...]

Helvetica

According to the official style guide of The Church, “Mormon” implies an individual, not an institution. But while it can be a label for a person, “Latter-day Saint” remains the preference. "Mormons" the guide explains, is “acceptable."And acceptable it is. Swaths of Latter-day Saints have now deemed themselves “Mormons,” not only in speech but in their Facebooking. The words “I’m a Mormon” (or “ Soy Mormon,” or perhaps even “Ich bin ein Mormone,” but lets not get ahead of ourselves) are now … [Read more...]


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