Finding Hope From The Westboro Baptist Church

A Westboro Baptist Church protest. (Wikimedia Commons, alterations by Cody Ray Shafer).

For years, the Westboro Baptist Church have been synonymous with bigotry. I learned this when they protested at my high school in 2004 over a production of The Laramie Project (documented by my embarrassing teenager blog). A large counter protest was organized, and an event originally sparked with hate turned into a largely positive, jovial affair. The Phelps clan were woefully outnumbered, and they left rather quickly, while the crowd left behind cheered and laughed and prayed together. As an … [Read more...]

Death, Sealing Power, and “Trusting into Transformation”


[Preliminary note: This is the first of two posts relaying insights from a few years of reflecting on Mormon ideas about salvation and family in light of Sam Brown’s masterful study of early Mormonism, In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death.] My favorite invocation/description of what Mormons call “the sealing power” comes from the eulogy that inspired the King Follett Discourse, Joseph Smith’s boldest challenge to the brand of Calvinism popular among ma … [Read more...]

Religious and Gay: A Catholic-Mormon Dialogue (Part 2 of 3)

This is part 2 of a 3-part discussion with Alex Griffin and Eve Tushnet. In the first post, Alex and Eve discussed discourse on homosexuality in Mormonism and Catholicism. In this post, they discuss what elements of their faiths and other faiths they have found useful in interpreting their sexual orientation. In the third post, they turn their questions toward each other. In the third post, they turn their questions toward each other. What cultural, theological, scriptural, or ri … [Read more...]

The Problem with “Conscience”

The last time a state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) made news, I argued that the law’s critics were letting the word “discrimination” distract them from the real issues at stake. Everything I said then bears repeating: not all discrimination is wrong, not all wrongful discrimination should be illegal, and sometimes religious freedom really does give people the right to discriminate.But it’s only fair to acknowledge now, with another RFRA controversy lining outrage-mongers’ pocket … [Read more...]

Junia The Apostle and Mormonism’s Priesthood

Most Mormons don’t know it yet, but Romans 16:7, "Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was," may soon become one of the most important and contested verses in our community. If we look at how other Christians dealt with their own internal struggles over women’s ordination, we can see that in the 1980’s-1990’s, this text received a dramatic increase in attention from mainline Protestant and Evan … [Read more...]

What do we mean by “Another Testament”?

Before 1981, the Book of Mormon was simply the Book of Mormon; since then, however, it has borne the subtitle “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” I suspect that this addition had several purposes. First almost certainly was to draw attention to Christ in a church that many consider non-Christian.[1]  Second would be to clarify the relationship of the book to the Bible: not a replacement, but An Other Testament like the Old and New ones.Growing up, I always read “testament” as “testimony”: in … [Read more...]

Why Do Americans Love Pope Francis?

The other day, I was talking to my students about how the press has been giving Pope Francis very positive coverage. We hear often about phone calls he makes to a grieving, troubled people, or about his latest rejection of the costly privileges of the papacy. Facebook lights up with photos of the pope embracing disabled people, or indulging the antics of children. We’re still in the honeymoon phase with this pope and the press and average Americans, no doubt, will grow more critical of the c … [Read more...]

We Are Special!: Religion, Historical Memory, and Regional Identity

Over the last week I’ve been re-reading Carol F. Karlsen’s book on witchcraft in Puritan New England and, strangely, this has reminded me how deeply religious traditions have shaped regional cultures and identities in the U.S. I grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, one of the centers of the witchcraft hysteria of 1692. We’d visit Salem and all the historical (and tacky) commemorations of that event. I assumed everyone knew a lot about the Puritans and witchcraft. And the Pilgrims and how they settl … [Read more...]