The Next Century of Book of Mormon Studies

For at least one very obvious reason, I’ve been thinking a good deal lately about the past, the present, and especially the future of academic study of the Book of Mormon. What roads have led us from the beginnings of academic study of the book into the twenty-first century? What’s been accomplished with the Book of Mormon over the past decade or so? What needs doing immediately, what needs attention over the next twenty or thirty years, and where ought... Read more

Why Mormon Feminism Should Be About Men Too

Anyone who has spent time in a feminist Mormon housewives discussion forum knows how frequently arguments break out over whether a new member has mansplained. So when I saw that the fMh blog had published an article addressed exclusively to wannabe male feminists, I hoped they would publish advice to help new members avoid these miscommunications. Instead, Reese Dixon managed to produce one of the most sexist and narrow-minded articles I’ve yet to see from a contemporary Mormon feminist. In... Read more

There Will Be Blood

On Saturday President Obama took to the podium in the Rose Garden and announced that he had decided that in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its own people, resulting in well over a thousand casualties including hundreds of children, he believed that the United States “should take military action against Syrian regime targets.”  Acknowledging paralysis at the level of the United Nations Security Council and a lack of will even among our closest allies, he... Read more

A Plea for Identity on the Internet

I recently watched a preview for The Fifth Estate, the new film about WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange.  At one point in the trailer, which seems to me to lean toward an image of a crusader for democracy and free speech, Benedict Cumberbatch earnestly portrays Assange as telling a hushed crowd, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. But if you give him a mask, he WILL tell you the truth.” I don’t buy it. Much as... Read more

The Rejoicing and the Torment of Religion

All-too-often these days we hear about the rise of doubt and the loss of certainty with regard to religious faith; the rise of angst and the loss of confidence; the rise of sorrow and the loss of joy; the rise of suffering and the loss of innocence; the rise of the ‘nones’—or the ‘nons,’ whichever you prefer—and the loss of believers. The trend in America has (relatively recently) finally begun to align itself with that which has characterized Europe for... Read more

On Science, Faith, and Evidence

There is perhaps no idea I hear at church that I find more wrong, or more dangerously wrong, than that faith is a will to believe in the absence of evidence. I understand where the idea comes from, of course. Religious belief is not simply dictated by logic and observation. To get from even the strongest evidence to the acceptance of any particular creed requires an act of interpretation; ultimately, in some sense, it requires a choice. But the choice–take... Read more

The Ethics of Bad Friends and Good Art

“We can keep being friends, just so long as you know you’re a bad one!” What a line. Hannah Horvath, everyone’s favorite narcissist, coked out of her mind and newly freed of her inhibitions, captured the entire ethos of the show Girls, in 15 words. The scene came back to me when I saw yesterday’s new trailer for the next season of the show. It looks fabulous. Hannah’s cut her hair! Jessa’s reappeared from Peru/Bali/the South Bronx! The inevitable manslaughter-suicide of... 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... Read more

A Review of Darren Wilson’s “Finding God in the Bible”

“Read any commentary and it’ll pretty much explain the symbolism. My question is much, much simpler than that.” — Darren Wilson, Finding God in the Bible, pp. 193-194 The title is intriguing: Finding God in the Bible. It seems meant to work against what is now a several-centuries-old tradition of interpreting biblical texts without reference to God, without insisting that scripture is to have anything more than canonical weight. And Bill Johnson’s foreword to the book would seem to confirm... 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: Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds. Gordon B. Hinckley — LL COOL J (@llcoolj) August 6, 2013 That quote... Read more
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