Singing in ten-thousand part harmony

This is one of those posts where the reader has to zag through a preliminary feint and counter-feint before arriving at the beginning. Last week a writer named Joni Hilton wrote an article for Meridian Magazine in which she criticized "liberal Mormons" for all manner of personal and theological errors, charging that, among other transgressions, liberals are "cafeteria Mormons" who observe only the convenient parts of Mormonism. This morning Patrick Mason wrote a thoughtful rebuttal to … [Read more...]

What we can’t know about social conservatism

Elder Oaks’s General Conference address last week has predictably prompted a lot of discussion, much of it circling gay marriage. I want to pay attention to a different passage from the address, one that is admittedly secondary to the primary message but that caught my attention nevertheless. Providing evidence for his point that marriage and married childrearing are losing their significance as the primary social forms for reproduction, he cited the following: •The United States now … [Read more...]

All such good works to walk in: motherhood and female achievement

Yet another article on the crowded intersection of motherhood and career is making the rounds this month. Elizabeth Corey, a professor at Baylor University, has written a reflective and erudite piece for First Things that is prompting discussion among my sisters and friends. She makes no policy recommendation, assumes no position in the culture wars, but explores the seemingly intractable dilemmas facing young adult women in a melancholy key. She argues cogently, if necessarily … [Read more...]

Modesty and the Imaginary Me

I’ve written on this topic before, taking different approaches but generally coming down in favor of “modesty” -- by which I mean the collection of social norms and teachings that regulate LDS dress and grooming. Sure, I sometimes object to the way it is taught or the emphasis it receives in our teachings, but overall I believe that LDS modesty standards can be constructive and humane elements of our gender culture. Even though I would prefer that we take a more expansive understanding of … [Read more...]

Stay-at-home mothers are not moochers

It's gender week on Salt & Seed! As a gimmick to motivate myself and to build readership, I'm going to put up a short post on a gender-related topic every day this week. Check back each day to see what's new. By Friday I expect to have alienated almost everybody! A woman I really respect decided to go back to work last year. She had been home with her kids for years, but now, she felt, the time had come to quit mooching -- her word -- off her employed husband and begin contributing … [Read more...]

“Austenland” is much better than the critics are saying

It is a truth universally acknowledged -- or nearly so -- that “Austenland,” the film-child of writer Shannon Hale, director Jerusha Hess, and producer Stephenie Meyer, is a dud. Male reviewers in particular have not been kind. I’d like to file a minority report. True, the off-beat wackiness, which probably reflects the sensibility of director Jerusha Hess, is an odd match with the romantic plot, which itself is a bit hackneyed; and the slapstick gags go flat by film’s end. But I was … [Read more...]

On earth as it is in heaven: more on social construction

I wanted to add a postscript to yesterday's post. I suggested yesterday that the plan of salvation as it is currently taught, that is as a comprehensive three-act progress of the soul, is a good example of the way that church teachings are built. Using suggestions and gestures gathered from scripture, we harmonize, systematize, elaborate, and infer -- guided, we hope by inspiration -- until we arrive at application-ready religious precepts capable of guiding our modern lives and choices. For me, … [Read more...]

The Great Existential Struggle of the Bi-monthly Gospel Doctrine Teacher

I teach Gospel Doctrine in my ward. Lesson 19 was up last week, covering the plan of salvation from pre-mortal beginnings through eternal life. It was not an easy lesson to prepare, probably the hardest I've tackled this year. Part of the problem was the sheer scope of the subject matter: from eternity to eternity in thirty minutes or less, with the problem of evil thrown in. I find this kind of grand overview lesson daunting to prepare and boring to execute, since there's little time for … [Read more...]


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