Come Support Our Bloggers at the Sunstone Symposium!

SunstoneSeveral Worlds Without End bloggers will be presenting at the upcoming Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium, held at the University of Utah from July 30 to August 2, 2014. If you’re in the neighborhood, we’d love if you’d show your support by attending their sessions!

The most—uh, colorful?—of the presentations will undoubtedly be Michael Reed’s “Off-Label Uses for Consecrated Oil and Holy Water.” Mike will chronicle the use of consecrated oil and water for enemas by nineteenth-century Church leaders. I have to take some of the blame for Mike presenting on this topic. I’ve been daring him to do it since he first told me about it a couple years ago. :)

On Friday at 2:00 PM, Cheryl L. Bruno will present “Sealing and Salvation in Early Mormonism: Perspectives on the Law of Adoption.” This is a long-time research interest for Cheryl, so the audience can expect a well-documented and well-polished presentation. Continue reading “Come Support Our Bloggers at the Sunstone Symposium!” »

Faith & Knowledge Conference CFP

I am very happy to announce the 5th biennial Faith & Knowledge Conference to be held at the University of Virginia February 27-29, 2015.  The CFP may be found here:

http://www.faithandknowledge.org/

The first F&K conference, held in 2007 at Yale Divinity School, was borne out of Richard Bushman’s desire to provide a venue for Latter-day Saint graduate students in religious studies (and related disciplines) to explore new ideas and discuss the challenge of studying religion critically as LDS believers.  Richard invited Taylor Petrey, Ariel Bybee Laughton, and myself to join him in organizing a conference with these specific goals in mind.

Without question, the 2007 Faith & Knowledge conference has had a profound and positive impact on both my academic and spiritual life.  I know many conference attendees from past conferences have similar feelings.  Past F&K conference attendees, have formed lasting and meaningful friendships with like-minded scholars and, speaking personally,  it has been gratifying to see so many conference attendees go on to make significant contributions not just to Mormon Studies, but to the wider academy as well.

 

Emma’s Awareness: A Response to Brian Hales’ JMH Letter to the Editor

43A-Image Emma Smith Bidamon Writing_editedIt has come to my attention that Brian Hales has commented on my article Keeping a Secret: Freemasonry, Polygamy, and the Nauvoo Relief Society, 1842-1844 which was published in the Fall 2013 issue of Journal of Mormon History. Brian’s comments appear in the Letters to the Editor section in JMH 40, no. 3 [Summer 2014]. In order to give a timely response to his remarks I reproduce them here, with my responses given in bold italics. Please join in with your observations as well!

Emma’s Awareness Continue reading “Emma’s Awareness: A Response to Brian Hales’ JMH Letter to the Editor” »

Genesis of Doubt

jesus_knocking_at_ur_door1

Matthew 7:7–11 (NRSV)

 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Recent events in the LDS Church have caused me to reflect on both my relationship with the institutional Church, as well as how I went from being a pretty solid conservative (theologically) Mormon to holding liberal views today which differ substantially from my previously held beliefs.  Of course, having studied the phenomenon of narratives generally, and specifically how they function within social groups borne out of tension with a larger religious community/tradition, I recognize that whatever I may relate here, regardless of my sincerity and efforts to be as accurate as possible, is not a reliable source of establishing real-world happenings.[i]  This is not to say that such a recitation is completely unreliable in this regard but rather, simply an acknowledgment that for someone looking to establish real-world fact, this brief essay has the value of a memoir, as opposed to a diary. Continue reading “Genesis of Doubt” »

Miller Eccles Study Group – Texas Edition: Adam Miller and the Spirituality of Boredom

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love those who interest you, and hate those who bore you. But I say unto you, Love those who bore you…

- Matthew 5:43-44 (Adam Miller Translation)

 

This past weekend (June 27-29), Adam Miller was the speaker for the Miller Eccles Study Group here in Texas. My wife and I were able to attend the Saturday study group as well as the Sunday Fireside. The study group covered Adam’s latest book Letters to a Young Mormon and consisted of some rather intimate, interactive readings. The Sunday fireside, however, was on a completely different subject; one that Adam has covered in other conferences: boredom. Adam began with an experience familiar to most Latter-day Saints: Continue reading “Miller Eccles Study Group – Texas Edition: Adam Miller and the Spirituality of Boredom” »

Loyalty in the Church

“If you can’t follow ‘The Brethren,’ why don’t you just leave?”

Kate Kelly’s excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the many conversations surrounding it provide insight not only into current divisions and attitudes within Mormonism, but also into the meaning of Mormonism itself. For some, Kate Kelly is apostate, going against Church teachings and leading believers away from the truth; while for other believers, Kate Kelly is expressing her loyalty and sincere love for the Church by addressing important issues of gender inequality. This is a rather polarized issue within the Church, and the press and blogosphere have made it an international spectacle. This division of course is not new.

In 1938, the Improvement Era published an opinion piece titled, “As a Prophet Speaks.” Its author, Richard L. Evans (member of the IE editorial board and future Apostle), tapped into personal observations about how Mormons react to public utterances of Church leaders following General Conference or other church gatherings. There are the “faithful and undisturbed,” who essentially agree with whatever is said. Others are Satan-inspired and love to find fault. But finally, there are “the most definitely heroic,” those “who sacrifice their own inclinations and interests out of loyalty to the chosen leaders of the Lord.” In facing contradiction between Church teachings and personal conscience, such heroes “find themselves paying some sacrifice either of pride, opinion, or material advantage, notwithstanding which they are numbered among the faithful in the acts of their lives because they believe that inspiration transcends man-made thinking and planning.”[1]
Continue reading “Loyalty in the Church” »

Room for All in this Church

groupCatsDogsWe face a difficult and pivotal moment in Mormonism as LDS leaders and church members wrestle more openly with complicated aspects of our faith, its doctrine, and its history—often in spaces afforded by the Internet. In light of possible disciplinary action against prominent voices among us, we the undersigned Mormon bloggers and podcasters affirm the value of the conversations that take place in the LDS “Bloggernacle” and express our hopes for greater understanding and compassion from all of us involved in current tensions. Continue reading “Room for All in this Church” »

The Prodigal Half-Quorum of “Lost Apostles”

Lost-Apostles-682x1024Title: Lost Apostles: Forgotten Members of Mormonism’s Original Quorum of Twelve
Authors: William Shepard and H. Michael Marquardt
Publisher: Signature Books
Genre: Mormon History
Year Published: 2014
Number of Pages: 400
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN13 978-1-56085-228-5
Price $35.95

Have you ever put on your winter coat for the first time of the season, reached into the pocket, and pulled out a forgotten twenty-dollar bill? The feeling of elation upon discovering an unexpected treasure is what awaits Mormon history aficionados when they pick up “Lost Apostles,” by the two highly qualified and veteran historians William Shepard and Michael Marquardt. The book recovers the long-ignored stories of six of the original members of the Mormon Quorum of Twelve Apostles: the acquisitive Lyman Johnson, his brother and physician Luke Johnson, the intellectual John Boynton, long-misjudged Thomas Marsh, Restorationist seeker William McLellin, and the privileged libertine William Smith. Continue reading “The Prodigal Half-Quorum of “Lost Apostles”” »

Faulconer and the Nietzschean

Back in March of this year (2014) James Faulconer posted a blog article entitled ‘Two Kinds of Religion’ where he mentions that Nietzsche, “… may have been right in his arguments about one kind of religion, but his criticisms don’t apply to the second.” The specific argument he mentions comes from a passage from Nietzsche’s first book ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ that amounts to an accusation that Christianity is so oriented towards the world-to-come that they devalue the present world we actually inhabit. Thus the two kinds of religion mentioned in the title, those kinds that Nietzsche’s critique finds merit and those kinds where it does not. Faulconer naturally finds himself participating in the latter kind and explains why this is so but one of his last remarks struck me as interesting:

Broadened, ritually pure religion demands covenant life with God and my sisters and brothers. That is not life spent waiting for something else. It is life with them here and now, a life of work creating, maintaining, and expanding the bonds of that covenant and its obligations.

My understanding of Nietzsche is that his greatest and most interesting criticisms apply directly to the sentiment held here by Faulconer and not the one explained above. This got me wondering; just what would a Nietzschean critique of Mormonism look like?

Continue reading “Faulconer and the Nietzschean” »

New Content at the Joseph Smith Papers website

New Content at the Joseph Smith Papers website include a history of the church in Missouri

New Content at the Joseph Smith Papers website includes a history of the church in Missouri

The Church History Department has announced a major update to the Joseph Smith Papers website. Additions and enhancements include among other things, new finding aids, histories Joseph Smith assigned others to write, a letter to Emma Smith and a new enhanced document viewer.

One of the interesting items now available online is the so-called “Sixth Gathering” of the Book of Commandments. Continue reading “New Content at the Joseph Smith Papers website” »