Missionary Work in the Pre-Correlation Age, My Grandfather’s “Mormon Doctrine,” and Mormonism’s (Un)Systematic Theology

My grandfather's 3-volume "Mormon Doctrine."

My grandfather took a train to Toronto, Canada, to start his LDS mission in 1948. After a very brief stay at the mission home, he was off with his new companion to find converts. The Church was very small at the time in the area. Big cities like Toronto and Oshawa had branches, but most small towns lacked a single member and the missionaries were left to travel long distances, usually once every few weeks, to neighboring villages in order to gather with missionaries and have a makeshift … [Read more...]

Who is Speaking for Me?

In 1960, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon famously faced each other in the first televised presidential debates in American history. Nixon appeared sickly and sweaty; Kennedy handsome and strong. Not only did the debates have a major impact on the outcome of the presidential campaign, but they heralded a new era for American media: we wanted to see ourselves represented in the images of our leaders. More than just a cosmetic satiation, the need to see ourselves reflected in our role models … [Read more...]

Expanding Our Languages of Religious Experience

“I can imagine Jesus befriending my grandfather, too, frying up some breakfast for him, talking things over with him, and in fact the old man did report several experiences of just that kind. I can’t say the same for myself. I doubt I’d ever have had the strength for it. This is something that has come to my mind from time to time over the years, and I don’t really know what to make of it.”    - John Ames, Gilead During a visit from a couple women in my ward last week, we were … [Read more...]

On Mormon Marriage Anxiety

I was 27 when I got married. That was well after most of my friends, whose wedding functions I attended. It was also after two younger sisters had preceded me into marital bliss. When my marriage did occur, it happened to the relief of some distant relations and other parties who had started to worry that I was malingering in bachelorhood. And it was also something of a relief to me, who had started to believe them. For this reason I’m sympathetic about what I and many I’ve talked with … [Read more...]

Scrap It: An Historian Contemplates Her Imaginary Photo Albums

People approach personal recording keeping in different ways. Historian Rachel Cope, who clearly chose the right profession, kept her dolls as a child so future scholars could see how children’s toys changed over time. I approach record keeping by feeling bad about doing it too little. A year and a half ago, when I learned I had cancer but did not yet know the prognosis would be positive, the weight of two unfinished projects immediately settled in to haunt me. The first was my … [Read more...]

Community of Christ Sings: A New Hymnal for a Divided Global Church

“You hold in your hands a vital mission tool!” proclaims the foreword of the Community of Christ’s new hymnal, Community of Christ Sings—the first comprehensive hymnal issued by the church since 1981. This new worship resource contains 664 hymns, responses, chants, and praise songs; half of these songs have never appeared in the church’s past hymnals. Perhaps the most consequential part of Community of Christ Sings lies in its “core repertoire,” or more than 100 specially selected … [Read more...]

How Old Almanacs Help to Explain the “Nones”

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Huntington Library looking at almanacs from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Strangely, looking at them historically illuminated for me the category “nones” (people who affirm no particular religious tradition). I think of almanacs as the smart phones of an earlier era, or, more accurately, smart phones as the present-day, more interactive versions of the earlier almanacs. These old almanacs are a compact source of numerous layers of information. … [Read more...]

The “Value” of the Book of Mormon

As part of a project I’m currently at work on, I’ve been reading as systematically as possible through the literature on the Book of Mormon that has been produced by adherents to the Community of Christ movement (formerly, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). It’s been a remarkably instructive experience for me, and I hope that the written result of my studies will be available in published form at some point. In the meanwhile, I thought I’d offer a few … [Read more...]


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