God Gives US TV Sets To Please Our Eyes and Gladden Our Hearts: Two Mormon Views of the Prosperity Gospel

Here's a brief transcript from a filmstrip intended for Mormon audiences, "The Lord's Laws of Prosperity." It's undated, but the LDS Church Library places it in the mid-1960s. Narrator: Certainly it is within the province of the Lord to bring prosperity to anyone he considered worthy of it....Man: Is he talking about spiritual prosperity or temporal prosperity?Narrator: (Chuckle) I’d say both.  He says The good things of the earth.”  I’m sure the Lord requires that we acknowledge his han … [Read more...]

Apologetics Again—But This Time with Feeling

Violent, sudden, and calamitous revolutions are the ones that accomplish the least. While they may succeed at radically reordering societies, they usually cannot transform cultures. They may excel at destroying the past, but they are generally impotent to create a future. The revolutions that genuinely alter human reality at the deepest levels---the only real revolutions, that is to say---are those that first convert minds and wills, that reshape the imagination and reorient desire, that … [Read more...]

LL Cool J, Accidental Mormon?

Last week, I logged onto facebook to see my newsfeed crowded with excited links from various Mormon friends to hip hop pioneer LL Cool J's twitter feed. Confused, I clicked over to discover that the man best known for the early 1990s hits "I Need Love" and "Mama Said Knock You Out" had tweeted to his 3.8 million followers the following:https://twitter.com/llcoolj/status/364587417795166208That quote comes from a 1994 farewell address to recently-deceased church president Ezra Taft Benson … [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 Humanist’s Book of Mormon

The past decade has witnessed a remarkable surge of interest in the Book of Mormon---or at least of interest in making the text of the Book of Mormon available and accessible. Beginning, in many ways, with the 2003 publication of Grant Hardy's Reader's Edition of the Book of Mormon (published by the University of Illinois Press and based on the 1920 edition), what might almost be called a kind of movement has taken shape: Penguin published a handsome reprint of the 1840 edition of the book; … [Read more...]

Mormon Patriotism and the Cultural Reading of Scripture

Harold I. Hopkinson, "That We May Be Redeemed" (1989). This painting, which depicts Wilford Woodruff's visitation from the Founding Fathers, was commissioned by the LDS Church in the Constitution's bicentennial year.

At the New York Review of Books blog, Garry Wills recently asked some important questions about Mormonism and the Constitution. Recalling discussions he had with an LDS student two decades ago who believed that America’s two founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, were both inspired, Wills raised several provocative questions: Should every section and article of the original Constitution—including those that perpetuated slavery—be considered inspired? If the text … [Read more...]

On Mormon Secularization and Politics

Mormonism has been secularizing since 1833. (For those keeping score at home, that’s three years after Mormonism’s institutional birth.) Politics—or more specifically, Mormons’ engagement with and capitulation to the secular nation-state—is the primary culprit.“Secularization” is a loaded term, carrying for many the notion of anti-religion. But by saying that Mormonism has secularized I’m not suggesting that Mormonism is secular, in the sense of not being oriented toward the sacred. And I’ … [Read more...]


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