The Living Church

Metaphors are an inexact science. But sometimes they can capture feelings and anxieties in a way that scientific language rarely can. Perhaps that is why scriptural texts are filled with metaphoric language: the body of Christ, the stone cut from the mountain, the living waters. In the revelation designated as the “preface” to the Doctrine and Covenants, it is declared that the Church is not only “true”—a description over which many religions have battled—but also that it is “living.” The gospel, … [Read more...]

Missionary Work in the Pre-Correlation Age, My Grandfather’s “Mormon Doctrine,” and Mormonism’s (Un)Systematic Theology

My grandfather took a train to Toronto, Canada, to start his LDS mission in 1948. After a very brief stay at the mission home, he was off with his new companion to find converts. The Church was very small at the time in the area. Big cities like Toronto and Oshawa had branches, but most small towns lacked a single member and the missionaries were left to travel long distances, usually once every few weeks, to neighboring villages in order to gather with missionaries and have a makeshift … [Read more...]

Thinking Historically as a Christian (And/Or a Mormon)

This last weekend, during the Saturday morning session of General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Dieter Uchdorf of the First Presidency offered one of the most meme-worthy quotes for scholars of Mormonism. (You know, if Mormon scholars did memes.) While explaining that there are a number of possible reasons why some would choose to leave the Church and giving the particular example of being nagged by “unanswered questions,” he admitted that “there have b … [Read more...]

Mormonism, Interfaith Marriage, and the Practice of Pluralism

Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning. (D&C 22:1) As America continues to navigate the intended and unintended consequences of pluralism, interfaith marriage has become a significant arena of interest. This week, Stanley Fish highlighted Naomi Schaefer Riley’s new and provocative ‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America. In t … [Read more...]

Mending a Fractured World

In his Bancroft Prize-winning book, Age of Fracture, Daniel Rodgers tells the story of how, following the 1970s, America's intellectual world fell apart. Ideas that were taken for granted during the mid-twentieth century, like national consensus, gender norms, racial identities, historical meaning, and market-based capitalism, fragmented into numerous directions. The social unrest of the 1960s (which challenged traditional assumptions), the end of the Cold War (which eliminated the nation's most … [Read more...]

Thanksgiving as a Political Arena

Perhaps because it always falls several weeks after elections, Thanksgiving is never very politicized. (Perhaps the ritual of gorging oneself on turkey and stuffing is too sacred to be profaned.) While we certainly have enough political debates throughout the calendar year, and we are now gearing up for the nauseating annual “War on Christmas,” Thanksgiving is often seen as a benign and happy holiday in which all people, regardless of political or religious beliefs, are thankful for the ble … [Read more...]

Narrating the LDS Past: Past and Present

[Yesterday, I had the privilege of virtually attending the blogging event held in honor of the Joseph Smith Papers most recent contribution: Histories, Volume 2.]On the day the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830, Joseph Smith claimed a revelation that "there shall be a record kept among you." The Joseph Smith Papers Project, which has been going strong for over a decade and has now published its sixth of a projected twenty to twenty-five volumes, is perhaps the … [Read more...]

Individualism, Communalism, and the Foreign Past of Mormonism

For verily I say unto you, the time has come, and is now at hand; and behold, and lo, it must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion. For a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven; That you may be equal in … [Read more...]