Individualism, Communalism, and the Foreign Past of Mormonism

For verily I say unto you, the time has come, and is now at hand; and behold, and lo, it must needs be that there be an organization of my people, in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion. For a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven; That you may be equal in … [Read more...]

Weed, Mormonism, and the Language of Sexual Politics

The Josh Weed story continues, as evidenced by the recent ABC News Nightline interview and continuing articles, blog posts, and mushrooming comments. The country is fascinated with this homosexual man with a purportedly happy and [even sexually] fulfilling marriage of over ten years.  He has raised interesting questions about the nature of homosexuality, marriage, and self, that I think have done a great deal to deepen and broaden the conversation.In tackling one of the many elephants in the … [Read more...]

The Mormon “Persecution Complex”

Among self-conscious Mormons and attuned outside observers, there is a popular perception that Mormons have a peculiar sense of their own reproach. Both their beliefs and their sociocultural history, some believe, breed Latter-day Saints to be acutely aware that they are beleaguered in broader society, a feeling that’s sometimes called a “persecution complex.” Mormons are, according to this line of thought, highly sensitive to their own social marginalization. Because of this sensitivity, they ar … [Read more...]

Mormon ‘Niceness’

Before there was The Book of Mormon musical, Trey Parker and Matt Stone were the wicked masters of South Park, and in a 2003 episode titled “All About the Mormons,” Mormons were their prey. A new Mormon family moved into the South Park neighborhood, and the episode revolved around the encounter between this disturbingly happy clan of Mormons and the usual cast of precociously postmodern grade-schoolers. In some ways, it was a premonition of what was to come later with The Book of Mormon; it gave … [Read more...]

Sports as a Religious Legacy

When Olympic season appears on the horizon, I tend to recall how I was a disappointment to my parents. Well, only on one account but it was significant: I was not athletically inclined.My parents were my mother and grandmother, and they loved sports. My Grandma graduated from BYU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education. She was one of the first white women to hike across the Grand Canyon from the North to the South Rim. She taught PE at Farrer Junior High School, where her … [Read more...]

Everything is Spiritual

Every few years, someone publishes an in-depth look at the financial holdings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The articles’ tone varies—sometimes deadpan, sometimes scandalized, sometimes even admiring—but it seems they all express some sort of surprise. “It’s a church,” they seem to say. “Why does it own businesses?”With the Mormon Moment now entering its fourth millennium (or so it feels to me), it was only inevitable that someone would write yet another version of the “ … [Read more...]

Emma Smith and Ecumenical Miscommunication

July 10 was the 208th birthday of  Emma Hale Smith Bidamon, wife of Joseph Smith, Jr. In Kirtland, Ohio where I have worked for the past nine summers, the staff at the Community of Christ’s Kirtland Temple organize a July 10th hymn festival in the temple that celebrates Emma’s life. Since the first hymn festival in 2004, three Mormon traditions with a presence in Kirtland participate each year—the relatively conservative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS); the moderately liberal Co … [Read more...]

“Sister Wives” as Cultural Work

I got sucked into watching “Sister Wives,” I’ll admit it. Having deliberately avoided it for the entire first season, I fell prey one cloudy Sunday when TLC was running a marathon in the lead-up to the second season. It’s compelling stuff to watch as the Kody Brown and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn deal with dramas ranging from sibling squabbles (inevitable in a family with seventeen children), to adding a fourth wife into the mix, to fleeing from Utah officials into a life … [Read more...]