Indulge me a moment in some reflections on how I think about a portion of my scholarly life and activities in personal, religious terms. Nearly 40 years ago, Eugene England delivered an address to young BYU students called “Good Books or True Religion? Defining the Mormon Scholar.” In this essay, England lays out a vision of the Mormon scholar modeled on Elder B. H. Roberts: You must develop your own vision of what, as an intellectual, your contribution to the… Read more

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 overthrow tyrannies within the soul. –… Read more

  “IF WE CAN’T FIX IT, IT AIN’T BROKE.” Because I live in Hong Kong, whenever I’m in the States I tend to notice all sorts of little things and to recklessly ascribe deep cultural meaning to them. So when I read this slogan on the wooden sign nailed on the outside of the car repair shop, it struck me as a charming specimen of Americans’ optimistic, can-do attitude. The wooden sign was a play on the original saying,  “IF… Read more

Few people are brave enough to publish their diary, and yet that is what Aleesa Sutton has done in Diary of a Single Mormon Female. Starting with a recent singles adult activity that Sutton jokingly describes as a savanna, full of competing lionesses but low on prey (I’ll just note that I’ve met many desperate-for-marriage LDS men, so I do not support this stereotype), Sutton then retraces the steps that have brought her to where she is today: “Mormon and… Read more

It was both troubling and fascinating (something like watching a car wreck) to witness the dustup of the past few days over the unfortunate column by LDS author Joni Hilton excoriating what she dubbed “liberal Mormons.”  I’m sure that Sister Hilton is a wonderful person who may or may not regret at least some of both the tone and substance of what she wrote, not to mention the minor firestorm she set off.  I have no idea why she feels… Read more

I am an independent scholar. Not independently wealthy unfortunately – I have to earn my bread – but I am one of the growing number of people with PhDs who, for a wide variety of reasons, are not pursuing a traditional career track of teaching and scholarship, but rather have day jobs that variously engage our talents – academic and otherwise – while we continue to engage in the life of the mind on our own terms.   I’ve only… Read more

In the nineteenth sixties and seventies, an “anti-cult” movement emerged in America, assailing religious movements like Krishna Consciousness and the Children of God and Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple with the word “cult.”  The anti-cult movement was secular, and as such attacked these movements in secular language: it popularized concepts like ‘brainwashing’ and ‘deprogramming,’ warned that such religious movements were not really religious but rather elaborate means of self-gratification erected by charismatic leaders who wanted to exploit the young, and generally… Read more

  A recent flurry of debate and discussion over the issue of women’s roles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has provoked exasperation and hurt on multiple fronts. Advocates for an expansion of women’s ecclesiastical authority and responsibility point to the underrepresentation of women in church leadership structures (here, and here). For instance, during the four main sessions of the church’s worldwide General Conference last weekend, only two out of twenty-eight sermons were delivered by women (7%). In… Read more

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 been… Read more

Last month the LDS Church reinforced its advocacy of religious freedom by further expanding the resources on that subject available at its Newsroom website. In addition to launching a social media campaign focused on galvanizing support for religious liberty, the Church released several new video segments on the subject in an effort, according to its news release, to “help people of conscience everywhere understand the importance of protecting religious freedom.” One clip is an introductory message from Church Apostle L…. Read more

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