Second Life and the Second Estate

From a hillside in Missouri, one can look out upon a relatively nondescript valley verdant with seasonal crops. It is to here, it is said, that Adam and Eve fled upon expulsion from the Garden of Eden and offered prayer to God and it is to here, it is said, that Adam will gather his posterity at the last day. Adam-ondi-Ahman, as Joseph Smith called the valley, is a locus of human-divine communication and visitation in Mormon theo-history.There is, however, another Adam-ondi-Ahman in the … [Read more...]

Mormons and Basketball in the Philippines

“There are good Mormons, rogue Mormons, drunk Mormons, polygamy Mormons. But one thing they all have in common is basketball.” -Rick Majerus, former University of Utah head basketball coachMormons have a unique love affair with basketball, as Matt Bowman has deftly analyzed elsewhere. From the pickup games and (slightly) more organized local leagues sponsored by Mormon stakes and wards to 2011’s Jimmermania, and from LDS Prophet Thomas Monson’s casual backslap of former Utah Jazz head co … [Read more...]

Ghost Stories

I'm revisiting Judith Richardson's Possessions: the history and uses of haunting in the Hudson Valley as I start thinking about nineteenth century spiritualism for a new book project, and this time I've been struck by her emphasis on place.  The tangled and broken landscape of the Hudson Valley, full of cliffs and culverts and sharp bends in the river, makes for an ideal habitat for the unquiet dead. But just as powerful is the cultural landscape, marked since the seventeenth century with the … [Read more...]

Dan Brown’s “Inferno”: An Eternal Return

I just finished reading Inferno, Dan Brown’s latest book. I’m no expert on Brown, though I have also read The Da Vinci Code. He is justly derided as a bad writer, but he is a good storyteller and sets his attractive characters in compelling locations. I think that Brown’s popularity also comes from his ability to touch on big cultural issues and questions—sometimes overtly and sometimes more indirectly—in familiar, reassuring ways. He touches on them, but doesn’t resolve them for the reader. He r … [Read more...]

The Illuminated Mundane

In Washington, DC, I didn't have a good view of the Venus Transit. It was cloudy until sunset, so I pulled up NASA's livestream from a telescope in Hawaii. For close to an hour, I flipped between the last tasks of work and the flickering image of a tiny dot sliding across the surface of a giant, shaggy circle. The light from the window, still warm and gray and pink at 7:30, hurt my eyes when I looked away from the screen. The transit won't happen again until 2117, a year that even our … [Read more...]

A Mormon Massacre Site and Places within a Space

The LDS church has purchased the site of the most infamous event of the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri—the site of the Haun’s Mill Massacre. The previous owner of the site, the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), announced the sale of the historic ground in an April 3, 2012 e-mail. Originally approached by the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation about the purchase over a year ago, the Community of Christ eventually sold Haun’s Mill and th … [Read more...]