A Colorful God: Review of ‘The Garden of Enid’

Image result for the garden of enidReview of Scott Hales, The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl, Part One (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016).

When I was still in elementary school, I used to remove the “funnies” every Sunday morning from the paper in order to read the latest strip of Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes. My love of Star Wars combined with a steady diet of the Sci-Fi Channel provided by my dad–including Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Quantum LeapSliders, Stargate SG-1, and so on–led me to develop a love for the character Spaceman Spiff. These specific strips were pretty rare, so any time they were in the paper I would cut them out and keep them in a folder. I can’t answer as to why I did this exactly. It was probably akin to director Joel Allen Schroeder in his documentary Dear Mr. Watterson who plastered his childhood room’s wall with C&H strips. Nonetheless, I did it. And I treasured those strips for a long time, trying my best to keep them wrinkle free in an everyday school folder. I was devastated when the paper stopped running the strip (Watterson’s final C&H strip ran in December 1995). Sometime after the final strip, I received The Calvin & Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book as a gift. It was the first in what became my 5-book collection and features an introduction by Watterson, which discusses the transition of comics, his influences, the constraints of Sunday strip formats, an explanation of the recurring characters, etc. But the best part is his commentary on the various strips, no matter how brief. For example, the strip where Calvin breaks his dad’s binoculars features this insert from Watterson: “I think we’ve all gone through something like this story. You die a thousand deaths before you even get in trouble.” Comments like this give us a peek into the genius behind the art. They also remind me why I love Calvin & Hobbes. The writing is full of nostalgia, wisdom, practicality, imagination, and, obviously, humor. And yet, it is very much rooted in everyday life.

Continue reading “A Colorful God: Review of ‘The Garden of Enid’” »

The Policy on Gay Couples, and the Priesthood Ban: A Comparison

I’ve heard people wonder what relationship there might be between the Church’s policy banning gay couples including their children from the church, and Brigham Young’s ban against blacks holding the priesthood, including access to the temple. I thought I’d look into this to see what parallels might exist.[1]

Brigham Young and Interracial Marriage

In the new republic, some felt that African Americans intermarrying with whites could introduce widespread infertility, jeopardizing the existence of the white race or its de-evolution.[2] Brigham Young adopted these ideas and would eventually implement the priesthood and temple ban, apparently to prevent black and white couples from engaging in temple marriage. In 1847 he became aware of several black priesthood-holding Mormon men married to white LDS women. Speaking of one of these LDS interracial couples, he shared his thoughts about the couple and their child:

If they [the couple and child] were far away from the Gentiles they wo[ul]d all have to be killed[.] [W]hen they mingle seed it is death to all.

If a black man & white woman come to you & demand baptism can you deny them? [T]he law is their seed shall not be amalg[a]mated.  Mulattoes are like mules[,] they cant have the children, but if they will be Eunuchs for the Kingdom of God’s Heaven’s sake they may have a place in the Temple.”[3]

Young states his belief that the couple’s mixed-race child, or mulatto is like a mule, unable to reproduce. He points out that when such couples reproduce, “it is death to all” indicating either that all interracial families should be killed, or perhaps that the seed of mulattos that were able to reproduce would spread infertility through the population and eventually bring “death to all” (also believed at the time). He says the preferred solution would be to kill the family, but he fears gentile (non-Mormon) reprisal. He affirms interracial couples can be baptized, but could only have access to the temple as eunuchs (probably meaning celibate). Continue reading “The Policy on Gay Couples, and the Priesthood Ban: A Comparison” »

Christ’s Unassuming Kingdom: A Review of “One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly”

A preliminary note on audience: I’m new to the blog as a writer, but I’ve been reading since Chris started it all so I realize we’re not all Mormons here. I assume a Mormon audience in this post because it seemed fitting for the review. I’m hoping it’s useful to give Mormons and non-Mormons alike a sense of how the faith feels to me from the inside right now. (But really, I’m just trying to preach to Chris.)

 

100-birds-draft

Ashley Mae Hoiland’s new book One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly is the newest installment in the Maxwell Institute’s Living Faith Series. I was a big fan of the series already, and Ashmae’s book only improved it. Like the other books, it ably reveals how familiar parts of Mormon faith and practice shine with a light we have forgotten or perhaps overlooked.

But One Hundred Birds also stands out in some really significant ways.

The distinguishing characteristic of the book is its femininity. I’m told One Hundred Birds is the first Maxwell Institute monograph* by a woman (a reason for both rejoicing and repentance), but it’s not merely the bare fact of a woman’s voice in the series, or the conversations the series takes part in, that is notable. And it’s not just the presence of a woman’s stories either. (The storytelling of Sam Brown’s First Principles and Ordinances drew almost exclusively from the Mormon Women Project.) It’s the feminine content of the book that adds exciting substance to our conversations about the conditions and possibilities of contemporary Mormonism. Continue reading “Christ’s Unassuming Kingdom: A Review of “One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly”” »

The Vision of All: A Review

Image result for the vision of all spencerReview of Joseph M. Spencer, The Vision of All: Twenty-Five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016).

In his introduction to the Book of Isaiah a couple years ago, my Gospel Doctrine teacher (inspired by this post) compared Isaiah’s writings to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. The beauty, complexity, and sheer ecstasy of the piece he said were similar to the layers of abundant wisdom and meaning found within the pages of Isaiah. As the post linked above describes it,

Continue reading “The Vision of All: A Review” »

MHA 2017 Call for Papers Deadline Extended

Dear members and friends of the Mormon History Association:

Due to recent requests, we have extended the deadline for proposals for the 2017 MHA conference to be held in the St. Louis, Missouri metro area, to 1 November 2016. Please see the Call for Papers HERE for additional information. We will still send notification of acceptance or rejection by 15 December 2016.

Kind Regards,

David W. Grua Janiece Johnson

MHA 2017 Program Co-Chairs

mhaconference2017@gmail.com

Council of Fifty minutes: anti-American sentiment, theocratic aspirations, and institutional transparency

a1-coverMatthew J. Grow, Ronald K. Esplin, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, and Jeffrey D. Mahas, eds., The Joseph Smith Papers, Administrative Records, Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846, Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, Matthew C. Godfrey, general eds. Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2016. Hardcover. 734 pp. $59.95. ISBN 978-1-62972-242-9.

If you follow Mormon studies through journals, blogs, and social media, you’ve no doubt become aware of the significance of this volume. For those who don’t, here is a synopsis of what the Council of Fifty was and why this organization is historically important to Mormonism: Continue reading “Council of Fifty minutes: anti-American sentiment, theocratic aspirations, and institutional transparency” »

Emma Smith’s ‘Elect Lady’ predecessors

As part of a discussion on the gospel topics essay on Women, Temple and Priesthood, I looked briefly at Emma Smith as an “Elect Lady” who was to be “ordained” by Joseph Smith to expound and exhort (D&C 25:7). I’ve since looked a bit more of the idea of an Elect Lady in the 18th and 19th centuries, in particular two other “Elect Ladies” in American religion who preceded Emma. Their religious movements shared a number of curious parallels to Joseph Smith and Mormonism which would emerge five decades after their establishment.

Jemima Wilkinson

Jemima Wilkinson

Continue reading “Emma Smith’s ‘Elect Lady’ predecessors” »

Why I don’t consider myself a “faith-transitioned” Mormon

Minolta DSCWe all use labels whether for self-identification or to identify others. All too often, labeling others is used as a method of marginalization. However, this is not always the case. Labels can also be used to empower. For example, we label others as heroes, not with the intent of denigrating but rather, perhaps, in recognition of rare acts of bravery and selflessness. For the majority of her life, my mother felt different from her sibling and peers. By a few, she was simply called dumb or annoying. This negatively affected her self-esteem and sense of worth. It wasn’t until her adult years that she was finally diagnosed as having a learning disability. This label gave her a tool by which she could understand and ultimately accept her differences. Labels can be helpful. But labels also carry with them a certain expectation of shared experiences. Among many Mormons (particularly those engaged in social media) the term “faith transitioning” has become a common label for those whose faith and comfort with the Church has been somehow disrupted.

I don’t consider myself a “faith-transitioned” Mormon. Continue reading “Why I don’t consider myself a “faith-transitioned” Mormon” »

Co-Creators With God: A Review of “Writing Ourselves”

Review of Jack Harrell, Writing Ourselves: Essays on Creativity, Craft, and Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016).

My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things…come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy. – Norman Maclean [1]

Maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It (and the Robert Redford film inspired by it) is a fine example of uncovering the sacred in the mundane and the profundity of a craft or task. Though there is much more to the memoir than this, the idea that one’s craft can become pregnant with such meaning is an important takeaway. Early on, Maclean explains the tedious labor of learning the purely functional elements of fly fishing: “So my brother and I learned to cast Presbyterian-style, on a metronome.”[2] It was a craft that must be done with great care. “If our father had had his say, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.”[3] It was part of the Maclean boys’ “religious training” to never be late for “church, work, and fishing.”[4] These three all operated under the same metaphysical assumptions, the same religious framework. It was through fly fishing that Maclean’s alcoholic and gambler brother Paul (played by Brad Pitt in the film) became his best self. While witnessing “the last fish we would ever see Paul catch,” the Maclean brothers’ father simply states, “He is beautiful.”[5] The struggle with the enormous trout transformed Paul. He was the very messiness of humanity endowed with divinity; “a distant abstraction in artistry and as a closeup in water and laughter.” He was, in the words of his father, “a fine fisherman.”[6] Through his art, grace was made manifest. Continue reading “Co-Creators With God: A Review of “Writing Ourselves”” »