Sunday, August 31, 2008

BiV's Blog of the Month

This weekend just happens to be the perfect time to showcase a blog that I have recently discovered. It's called:


The blog is made up of Amy, Joel, KWS, and Stephanie from the right, and bigbaldDave, Mike, Rick, and the Wizzle from the left. The blog has been up since January, and averages maybe ten posts a month. This leaves time for plenty of discussion, and they've had anywhere from 9 to 188 responses to the posts. As one would expect, there is commentary on health care, California's Proposition 8, abortion, and the U.S. Presidential elections. But the group also includes fun and interesting posts such as Fat America and The Value of Not Cheating on Your Flippin' Wife.

The posts are imbued with an LDS viewpoint, whether liberal or conservative. One of the recent posts introduces all of the permabloggers. They have fascinating stories and it's interesting to see how they came to develop their particular political views. If you love politics and debate, head on over and make a few comments.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Stuart Falls in Love

Last night my daughter's boyfriend asked her to marry him. His name is Stuart, and he took her up to Stewart Falls in Provo to pop the question. I met him earlier this month and he and I have been in cahoots--I sent him my ring which no longer fits (size 4!!) to propose with. Truly I am not ready for my children to start getting married. I cannot think of what he will call us. Mom and Dad seems strange. First names? Perhaps. DH wants Stuart to call him "Dr. B!" I never called my in-laws anything. Except, after the children were born I referred to them as Grandma and Grandpa. What do you call your in-laws? Was it uncomfortable at first?

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain's Gal Pal

John McCain's shocking choice of a running mate, Alaska governor Sarah Heath Palin, is unlikely to garner supporters from the Democratic side of the fence. She brings a strong anti-abortion stance to the ticket and opposes gay marriage. Recently photographed for an issue of Vogue magazine, she describes how she was first dressed in "a bunch of furs." (Furs?? Are you kidding me? Do people still tolerate this?) Although she made a point of noting that she wasn't the high-society, fur-wearing type, she tellingly let the political incorrectness of fur-wearing slide. In fact, she has spoken up to prevent environmentalists from naming the polar bear as an endangered species. She is a proponent of petroleum development and favors drilling in Alaska's protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. So I don't expect many Obama supporters to suddenly change their vote on account of McCain's new running mate.

But as I've read about this little-known candidate, I've gained some respect for her and I now believe that she will be a dynamite addition to the Republican ticket. Says pundit William J. Dyer, "Sarah Palin is walking, talking, governing proof that feminism, motherhood, and conservatism aren't inconsistent." He has been championing her cause on the Beldar Blog, where you can read about some of her more impressive accomplishments, and follow video links for a peek inside her family life. (Great links, really--you must check them out, ESPECIALLY the ones in the 7th paragraph.)

Palin has been a natural leader since she led her high school basketball team to the state finals as "Sarah Barracuda." I admire her initiative in overturning her own party's ethics-violating leadership to become governor and clean house in our country's largest State. She has taken on Alaska's powerful oil industry and has increased the state's treasury.

I respect her pro-family position after seeing that she puts her money where her mouth is. When her last pregnancy was discovered to be a Down's Syndrome child, she never considered termination. "We understand that every innocent life has wonderful potential," Palin told AP when her fifth child, Trig, was born in April. By all accounts she has negotiated family life in an exemplary manner while performing strongly as a politician. Her pro-life stance did not keep her from exercising a veto that granted benefits to gay state employees and their partners in Alaska. Bloggers consider her weak on foreign affairs, but she's been shown to be sharp on the issues. She recently visited her troops from the Alaska National Guard in the Middle East.

Most interestingly to me, she's climbed through local and state politics on her own--not based on her parents' or her husband's influence. Her father, Chuck, would rather be moose-hunting than be involved in politics. "Holy cow," he exclaimed when he found out she'd been chosen as McCain's running mate. Palin's husband, Todd, does not have a college degree, and had spent nearly 20 years as a blue-collar employee in the oil fields of the North Slope. His grandmother is an elder of the Curyung tribe of the Yup'ik Eskimos.

Some may look askance at the 72-year-old McCain's choice of VP. Because of his age, his choice of a running mate is rightly scrutinized more than usual. I predict that after Americans get to know the engaging personality and solid qualifications of Sarah Palin, they will greatly approve. No review of this 44-year-old female would be complete without mentioning her attractive good looks. Palin was Miss Wasilla in 1984 and remains highly photogenic. She is certain to enliven the McCain candidacy for voters who are currently fence-sitting.

Born-Again Mormon

When I went to the Missionary Training Center a year after becoming a member of the Church, I earned the nickname "born-again Mormon" because of my evangelical Christian background and my enthusiasm for Christ and his teachings. At the time I saw no conflict between my acceptance of Jesus as my personal Savior and my conversion to Mormonism. And I still become dismayed when I encounter conflict between the two groups. Since my days at the MTC, I haven't heard the term "born-again Mormon" used to describe someone who has experienced a change of heart depending on the Savior to rescue them from sin and yet who embraces the truths of the restored gospel. The term is instead used to signify a Mormon who has left the Church because of their conversion to a brand of evangelical Christianity.

Such is the case with Micah Wilder and his Christian rock group, Adam's Road.

I knew the Wilder family quite well when we lived in Indiana. Micah's mother was the RS President when I was Compassionate Service leader, and we worked closely together. My husband home taught the family, my oldest daughter had a crush on their son, and I babysat the youngest Wilder daughter. We haven't been in touch in quite a while, but Micah and his band have recently been in the news. Apparently he changed his views while on a mission, was sent home two weeks early and influenced several missionaries and a recent convert from the Florida area who have joined together in this band. His brother, a talented pianist, soon followed, along with other members of the Wilder family. His mother, a professor at BYU, resigned her position and left the Church with her husband and the boys.

It is difficult for me to come to terms with my reaction to this news. I feel greatly saddened that these young RM's were unable to find the love of Jesus within the Church. Since I know the family, I've listened to several hours of interviews with these young men and I don't agree with many of the conclusions that they have made. I think that the Mormons DO rely on Christ's atonement to save us. Although we have doctrinal differences, there are also large differences among the Christian sects. I really believe that we are worshipping the same God and the same Jesus.

I don't know if all my Mormon friends would agree that they are "born again," or that the sacrifice of Christ has already saved them. What about you? Can you say, as these young men do: "I am saved--my life is yours alone"?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Week With the Vampires

I took a short break from blogging to have a marathon reading of the Twilight series--no, I won't be apologizing for it! I'm a reader of everything and anything, and there is very little that I don't enjoy in some way. This series was no exception. Just mark me down as another middle-aged woman making an escape into the thoughts of a pretty teen-aged girl with two immortally gorgeous men madly in love with her. These books were marginally better than the standard romance novel as they dealt with themes of good and evil and, interestingly, the theme of restraint. The "family" of good vampires Stephenie Meyer writes about have decided to live on the blood of animals rather than indulge their blood lust for humans. And Edward, the main heart-throb, valiantly holds back his all-consuming desire to gobble up his ingenue girlfriend, Bella.

I've been fascinated by the interest for these books among Latter-day Saint readers. Personally, I don't censor my children's reading--I'd rather discuss the disturbing parts with them--but occasionally if I find them bringing home trash I will apply my favorite test: Mom reads the spicy parts of the book aloud in the kitchen, embarrassing the teenagers so much that usually the book is immediately returned unread. Were I the type to censor, however, I'd probably include the Twilight series in my list of "inappropriate for Mormon teens."

Latter-day Saint reviews of Meyers' novels tout them as being clean and sex-free, but nothing is farther from the truth. In these books, desire is thinly veiled as blood lust. Although Edward resists, it is always on his mind, and drives the book from page to page. Beginning with the third novel, Bella begins to actively tempt Edward to consummate their relationship, both with physical sexual relations (so she can experience love as a mortal) and with blood-letting (so she can afterward become his immortal companion).

The goriness found in each of the books was something I found unpleasant. Though not enough to bother a generation raised on prime time TV, there were many graphic descriptions of war, cruelty to animals and a bloody childbirth rivaling scenes from The Exorcist.

Another reason I might restrict this series from my children is that I detest young adult literature that portrays parents as goof-balls. Bella's divorced parents are barely functional. After basically caring for her neglectful and emotionally immature mother during her childhood, Bella goes to live with her father, who seems unable to feed himself as well as being clueless as to her activities and blissfully unaware that Edward spends each night awake in his daughter's bed as she sleeps entwined in the vampire's cold arms.

I will say that the novels are engaging and interesting. Though the characters are one-dimensional, they have charm and personality. One of the criticisms of the Twilight series has been gender roles, and this is one that I looked for as I read. I found that in the end, I was not too disturbed by this aspect of the books. Yes, Bella is a young and annoying "fainting female" protagonist wooed by a 107-year-old male chauvinist. But in a literary sense, her lack of restraint is a foil for the continence practiced by the vampires. Her inability to sever her relationship with the other male love interest, the shape-shifter Jacob, may be irritating at times, but it contributes to this theme and adds conflict and tension to the story. In the final book, Bella has developed as a character and as a woman. She defends and stands by her choices despite the males' pressure. She discovers and gets in touch with her unique abilities. She is able to use her formidable force to protect her loved ones and repel the forces of evil, rather than depending on the male figures for rescue, as she did at the end of the first book.

In the end, I can't find myself being too critical, although Bella will never replace Buffy in the hearts of vampire afficionados.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Are you still getting those "Obama is a non-flag-saluting Muslim" emails?

originally posted at Mormon Matters

In a June of 2006 speech, Barak Obama spoke honestly about the uncertainties of belief. "Faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts," Obama declared. "You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it." Senator Obama laid down principles for how to discuss faith in a pluralistic society, including the need for religious people to translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values during public debate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Coming to a Temple Near You!

Significant changes have been taking place in family history work. A new genealogy program has been rolled out selectively to members of the Church by temple district. Today, the Columbia, South Carolina Temple went online with the new familysearch program, allowing those of us in the temple district to submit our temple names at home on our own computers. This brings the total temple districts using the system to 82. All week I've been loading my genealogy into the new database. Now that I have a little bit of familiarity with the system I thought I would review it for my bloggy friends.

One of the biggest reasons for the change was to alleviate the problem of duplication of ordinances. I think the new system does a great job on this. As you type in your names, you can immediately see if anyone else has been working on them or if the ordinances have been done. It is a lot more user-friendly than the old temple-ready which you had to go to a genealogy library to use. This week I entered in my and my husband's first 6 generations, of which I thought I had all the ordinances done. I discovered about 30 missing temple ordinances, which I was able to submit there and then. I now have the printed out sheets with barcodes which I can take to the temple when I am ready to perform them.

New familysearch is set up like a wiki, and you can combine the names which have been duplicated, find people who will share information, and share your own research. If someone has submitted information you disagree with, there is a place to dispute their findings. (That's the fun of genealogy for me!)

A big problem for me on the site was the limited capability of submission. If you only have say, a few hundred names or so, it is easy to type them in or download a GEDCOM. But for those of us with thousands upon thousands of names it becomes a problem. One must split their PAF files into smaller pieces and download less than 1,000 names at a time. This becomes confusing as you try to keep track of which families you've put in. The program tells you generally not to put in your large GEDCOMs, since you will probably be duplicating information. But unless you check each name one by one, you don't know which names are on there. (I haven't tried the Insight program, which is the best way to merge duplicate records, because I don't want to have to spend money on it!)

Along with the temple submission program, the Church is in the process of digitizing all of their microfilmed records. I have been waiting for this for years. They really have been slow getting their collection online. I hear that most of the records should be up by 2012. It's about time.

I think it's probably a good thing that each new generation has a new genealogy program and has to go through their information yet again. It helps to reveal problems and errors which have been perpetuated. If you haven't been to yet, go try putting in at least a few generations of your family and see how it works!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dialogue Review: The Grandest Principle of the Gospel

It's time for the fall issue of Dialogue magazine, and doesn't this article sound scrumptious? “The Grandest Principle of the Gospel”: Christian Nihilism, Sanctified Activism, and Eternal Progression" by Jacob T. Baker. In this article, Baker explores why many of the early Mormon Apostles and writers, and even evangelical scholars, believed that the doctrine of eternal progression was Joseph Smith's most innovative idea, rich in possibility and potential. He focuses on the period directly following the Manifesto of 1890 and the reordering of Mormon theology which took place. Baker states:

Mormon thinkers of this period understood the purpose of all activity—premortal, mortal, and postmortal—to be the achievement of human deification and also understood that the joy of eternal progress applies to all intelligences, including God.
I am well aware of the difference in emphasis among many of the sects who believe that heaven is a place of peace and rest, and the Mormon view that purposeful work and acquisition of new knowledge continues in the eternal realms. I, for one, hope that there are liberal quantities of both. Mormon mothers can certainly use a considerable period of cloud-sitting! Baker makes a good point that Mormon writers have sometimes exaggerated Christian ideas to contrast and extol the virtues of our own. We mischaracterize these groups when we imagine them to be all about harp-playing and never about growth. However, the doctrine as presented by Joseph Smith and expanded by Brigham Young and later leaders has a majesty and power unsurpassed by other parties of religionists.

As I read the quotes Baker includes in his paper describing the doctrine of eternal progression in exultant terms, I couldn't help but marvel. These early Mormon writers present the idea of deification as an impetus to mental activity, an idea which takes hold of the acolyte and lures him/her to greater and greater efforts: "in a way that wearies not." I found these statements quite inspiring. If, in the past, you have been one of those Latter-day Saints who feels uncomfortable with the theosis aspect of eternal progression, I would point you to this article. It is presented in a way which will surely touch your soul, no matter what your doctrinal reservations.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Teaching to the Women

I just had the most fascinating experience in a BYU student ward.

I'm visiting with my daughter in Provo, and I attended Church with her ward yesterday. After Sacrament Meeting, she urged me to attend her Social Relations class. It was taught by the Bishop's wife, and they were going to discuss the Temple. Several couples in the ward plan to be married by the end of the month, and some will be going on missions. Sister R took it upon herself to prepare them for this major event that they would soon be experiencing.

I knew things would be different when I saw that she had her temple packet with her on the table. Sister R gave the most amazing presentation I have ever seen. I found myself wishing that a video would be made and sent around to show all teachers of the Temple Prep class how it was done. She unapologetically described each part of the Temple experience, from the symbolism of entering past the first "gate" with your Temple recommend (which she waved in the air), to how to recover your new name if you forget it. She had some of the young men in the room squirming as she explained a relatively new policy that you could wear your bra under your garment top, or your underwear underneath the bottoms in the case of periods or yeast infections. Everything was presented in a faithful, testimony-building, no-nonsense way. The young people were enthralled. And what's more, she presented her remarks to the women.

Although the class consisted of an equal amount of college-aged young men and women, her remarks were completely female oriented. Continually she referred to your escort as "she," talked about the woman who would lay her hands on your head, discussing the authority she held, and the woman who would take you through the veil. Sister R's husband, the Bishop, who was sitting in the back of the room, stood several times to add to her remarks, and twice noted that, "for the men, of course, they will have a male escort," and similar clarifications.

I was fascinated by this turn-around in teaching style. The Bishop seemed just a tad annoyed that his wife was presenting a female perspective on the Temple to a mixed audience. But I was eating it up! Although the men don't always realize it, this is the experience we women have each Sunday as we are presented a male view of the scriptures, a male view of the priesthood, a male view of life. I contrasted the experience with last Sunday's SS lesson, in which I was taught about Alma, Amulek, and male missionary work with never a thought to how a woman might fit in to the scene. Sister R's lesson, on the other hand, had the females in the room actively engaged in their relationship to the temple and the males in the periphery.

This was a great object lesson to both men and women on how teaching directed to a particular gender tends to marginalize and silence the other. Try it! As an experiment next time you teach, style the lesson so that it is addressed entirely to the female gender. Does this make a difference in how males are included?

Optimally we will come closer to a style in our teaching which will include all of our audience, males and females, single and married, parents and childless, old and young. Let's strive for this ideal!

Please DON'T Follow Along in Your Own Scriptures...

cross-posted at FMH, see comments there.

Some of you have already heard about the recent direction to LDS sacrament meeting speakers not to ask their listeners to follow along with their scriptural citations. In many wards, a letter has already been read over the pulpit, stating in part:

"In order to maintain an atmosphere of reverent worship in our sacrament and stake conference meetings, when speakers use scriptures as part of their talks they should not ask the congregation to open their own books to the scriptural reference. Also, members should not use visual aids and their sacrament meeting or stake conference talks. Such teaching methods are more effective in classroom settings and leadership meetings. We believe these adjustments will enhance the spirit of our worship services.

When I first heard these directions I was puzzled. Why would turning to the scriptures detract from the spirit of meetings? I wondered about these things, but wasn't unduly bothered.

UNTIL today when I heard a more detailed explanation. I am visiting in Utah, and attended my daughter's BYU ward today. After two short talks on the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, the Bishop stood up to speak. He first addressed his remarks to those who might have been worried that women could not participate in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. He said that having the responsibility for the ordinances compared to his being the wage-earner for the family. "I go to the bank and put in the money," he said, "and my wife uses the account and spends it all. She has all the blessings and I have the responsibilities."

Next he turned his attention to those who might have been bothered by the recent instructions about Sacrament Meetings. He mentioned that he had been invited to a special leadership meeting to explain the rationale behind this. He told the congregation that whoever is presiding in a meeting is the authority and should not allow his power to be lost. This power would be taken away if a speaker said, "will the audience please do such-and-such." In the same way, he continued, a chorister should not ask the audience to stand, but should instead turn to the Bishop and ask his permission for such an action to be performed.

I was horrified that this was the reasoning behind the recent change. Do we think we are going a bit overboard on the power trip?????

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gods in Embryo

If I had to pick my one favorite presentation at the Sunstone Symposium this year, this presentation by Hugo Olaiz would be it: "Are We Still Gods in Embryo? The Mormon Doctrine of Human Deification."

Hugo impressed me from the start with his presence when he realized that both the moderator and the respondent for his session, the illustrious Michael Quinn were not present. He began his own session and launched right in to his talk, which was brilliant. At the risk of vastly simplifying what he had to say, I'd like to just give you a few of my impressions and then urge you to order the full talk if you are interested in this topic.

Hugo explained that human deification (as expressed by the couplet "As man is now, God once was; as God is now, man may become) contains two distinct concepts, one that God has progressed and perhaps may still be progressing from some human form to a divine state; and the other that man may reach this state also. We often call this "eternal progression," but in this talk Hugo preferred to use the more specific term "deification." His paper discussed the observation that, although early Mormon thinkers had vigorously debated and elaborated upon this doctrine, there is a distinct change in how we approach it today. The first half of the couplet, the one dealing with the progression of God, has become nearly invisible, and while we retain the possibility of deification for man, it is reimaged as "eternal progression," with its bolder implications being tamed.

For those who have been in the Church as long as I have, this shift is remarkably clear. I remember the days when deification was actively taught in our church meetings. To me the shift to a doctrine more compatible with evangelical Christianity is quite clear.

After concluding his talk, Hugo opened the session to questions, then with just fifteen minutes left, Michael Quinn came sailing up the aisle, panting heavily. Although Hugo's talk was cogent and engaging, and would have stood quite well on its own, Michael's addition added emotion and drama to the proceedings. Michael referred to the history of Christianity and showed how early Christianity defended its doctrine of monotheism against outside threats with violence and bloodshed. He said that if we did not understand this history, we would not have a clear view of where the modern Christian world stood regarding polytheism. Now we have our LDS leaders and theologians seeking to ally themselves with the Christian movement and to deemphasize our early teachings. If we do this, Michael dramatically warned, we are trading our birthright for a mess of pottage.

Michael's speech was so stirring, it made me want to leap to my feet and applaud. Later, during the Q&A, he added to the defense of Joseph Smith's early teachings on deification by giving a beautiful word picture of Joseph opening window after window in a large room, bringing light flooding in, and leaving a legacy for later generations to formulate into unified doctrines.

So, what do you stand, readers? Are you comfortable with a milder form of our doctrine which aligns more closely with Christian thought? Or do you identify with Joseph and his bold but perhaps discomfiting proclamations on the nature of God and man?

BiV with Michael Quinn

Friday, August 8, 2008

Firestorm Breaks out at Sunstone!

The panel on "Mormon Motherhood, Choice or Destiny" was a response by five women to Julie Beck's Conference talk, "Mothers Who Know," which was so controversial in the bloggernacle last October.  I was interested to hear their thoughts on Julie Beck's official pronouncement on women's roles in the LDS Church.  I thought Margaret Toscano's talk was particularly cogent--expressing dismay for the presentation by our General RS President of only one approved way to be a mother, but also for the dismissal by many LDS women of Julie Beck's words as a leader but not of Russell Ballard, or Russell Nelson's subsequent talks which basically presented the same view. Interestingly, the Bloggernacle's own fmhJanet presented the most defensive view of motherhood, though she did note the dangers of letting our children become our whole world.  "It's too much for one person to stand," she said, "being someone's whole world." 

If you want to hear more about what the speakers said, order the Sunstone tape, 'cause I lost my notes!  But the most interesting part of the session were the comments following the speakers.  As soon as moderator Janice Allred opened the floor for discussion, a woman leaped to her feet and marched to the microphone.  She grabbed it off its stand and, agitated, stated, "I am so offended that I was not asked to be on this panel!"  Not all LDS women's views had been represented, she explained.  The panel had not expressed the views of the many Mormon women who feel their greatest work is in the home.  She particularly targeted Margaret, questioning if she would be welcome in the Toscano home because she did not have a Masters degree or a PhD. 

Another woman stood and expressed how alienated she felt in her LDS ward because of her decision not to have children.  She related the many inappropriate questions that were asked of her and the condemnation that was placed upon her by her gospel sisters.

Sitting in the back row with the Zelophehad's Daughters, I marveled at the outpouring of emotion, not only at this session, but at the original talk given by Sister Beck.  As was mentioned by the panel, this came from a wide range of women, from stay-at-home moms to the most radical.  Its seems that SAHMs were overwhelmed by the image of perfection presented, which they felt they could never live up to.  Working women saw the talk as presenting only one pattern of faithful womanhood.  Nevertheless, the opposition to the talk has been perceived as being largely from feminists.  Feminism has as its goal the championship of choice for all women to decide how they will structure their lives.  It seems to me that among the mothers who stay at home, they cannot feel their choice is validated unless all women are urged to make that same choice. 

How did you react to Julie Beck's conference talk?  Why do you think this polarizing talk still has the power to stir up a hornet's nest of LDS women?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Public Display of Religion

originally posted at Mormon Matters

Sanya Richards, Olympic athlete, is confident that she will be the first to cross the finish line in the 400 meter race.   91,000 fans at Beijing National Stadium and millions more on television will be watching the event.  Richard plans to drop to her knees, say a quick prayer and then point skyward in spiritual appreciation. This might not be a problem if the Olympics was being held in any of a number of countries. However, the Chinese government frowns upon public displays of faith outside state-sanctioned religious events and does not allow proselytizing.

Types of Spirituality--Sunstone Workshop

As I've said before, Susan Skoor, Apostle and member of the Council of the Twelve in the Community of Christ church (RLDS) is an exceptional individual.  She has a presence about her that is almost tangible.  She engages with each person she meets, and has the knack of making them feel heard.  My first day at the Sunstone Symposium was spent in her 3 1/2 hour workshop--it flew by like 30 minutes.

Susan (In my reports of Sunstone, I'm going to use the first names of all the presenters, just to be consistent, and because there is a great feeling of comeraderie here) began her workshop with a short devotional.  She played a recording of a song with words by St. Francis of Assisi, lit some candles, had a prayer, gave a short sermonette on Jesus and social change, and ended with a rousing hymn complete with clapping and swaying.  Little did we know as she was leading us in the devotional, that she was modeling four types of spirituality about which she would instruct us.  There are

  • Thinkers--who approach religion by study and research.  They love scriptures, sermons, being on time, order, planning, and worship services based around a theme.
  • Feelers--are inspired by emotion, passion, testimony.  They emphasize conversion and transformation, and fellowship and relationships are important to them.
  • Mystic--experience God in silence, contemplation, and meditation.  They have great sensitivity, are intuitive and experience leaps of faith.  To them, God is a mystery.
  • Advocates--Theirs is a lived religion.  They feed the poor, do their home teaching, and focus on living the gospel. They tend to be critics, and their goal often becomes transforming systems.
In the workshop, we answered a series of questions to see what our predominant style of spirituality was.  We had a little fun with it, guessing the styles of some of the Community of Christ and LDS Apostles.  But then Susan cautioned us that the goal of this exercise was not to label people but to explore the good and dangers in all of them.  My first impulse as we were discussing the four types was to identify the LDS Church with one of these, but her point was that all 4 were found in Jesus' ministry.  This exercise could help to identify where we need to expand our faith journey.  It helps to recognize others' styles as legitimate and meaningful in the Church community, and to allow for all of them in our worship.

I especially liked Susan's speculations about the younger generation.  She said that the thinkers were leaving organized religion for science, the feelers were meeting their need for fellowship on the internet, the mystics were becoming detached and forming "the Church of the Bookshelf"--grabbing pieces of different systems of thought to embrace a spirituality that is uniquely their own, and that the advocates were leaving for politics and non-profits.  We spent some time developing plans for churches who have an interest in drawing these seekers back into organized religion and discussed ways to meet their needs in our congregations. 

This was an enlightening experience and I enjoyed working with the other workshop participants and hearing their ideas.  Soooo...what type of approach appeals to you out of these four types of spirituality.  What do you think I am?  (I'll let you know in the comments--it might surprise you.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sunstone Bound

I'm almost packed, and I'll be leaving on the first plane out for Sunstone!  I'm looking forward to all the sessions and the get-togethers that are planned.  I'm presenting as part of a panel on meaningful approaches to scripture.  It will be held at 11:15 on Thursday, so if you are around, come and see me!

After the Symposium, I'll be sticking around for a few days in Provo to greet my missionary when she returns home on the 13th.  Hopefully I will find access to a computer to log my impressions of the week.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Binding Members to the Church

originally posted at Mormon Matters

President Hinckley has reminded that we all need at least three things to remain firmly in the faith—a friend, a responsibility, and “[nourishing] by the good word of God." (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Converts and Young Men,” Ensign, May 1997, 47)   Church leaders have recognized that these things are helpful in holding members to the Church, especially the new convert. 

Saturday, August 2, 2008

BiV's Blog of the Month

It's that time again, readers!  Time to highlight another great Mormon blog which has shown outstanding achievement in the past month.  Drumroll please! :



The writer of this blog, S. Faux, is a PhD in the area of cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. He is a college teacher, and a fan of Darwin.  He has been a member of the Church all of his life, and over the years has written thoughtful essays on Mormon topics. Many of these are included on his blog.  He decided to share them when LDS members were encouraged to do so by the Church.  Browse the sidebar, which includes a list of all of his essays.

In the month of July, Faux posted 32 essays on Mormon topics.  A good starting place in perusing his blog would be to read his piece Lehi's Three Sacrifices: A Relationship to the Festivals of Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles.  In an introduction, he considers it his "most important blog essay in terms of providing an intellectual contribution."  It is an essay describing the Book of Mormon as a book written from a Jew to a Jew, and highlights the Hebrew meaning of the sacrifices made by Lehi.  Faux states:

"The primary lesson of this essay is that the Book of Mormon has a depth and richness that makes it worth serious scholarship. Dismissing the book as mere frontier literature does an injustice."
 Another essay I particularly enjoyed reading  was Overwhelmed by the Spirit of Revivalism, in which Faux describes the early Latter-day Saint religion as "standard Christianity on steroids."  In the essay he makes the point that we "cannot understand our own Church history without understanding the religious history which preceded and concurred with the formation of our own Church."  Thus, we owe a debt of gratitude to those spiritual predecessors, who were sincerely and legitimately seeking God. They established a way and pattern for Joseph Smith to watch.

Other outstanding essays from the month of July include Abe Lincoln and the Mormons: Did Joseph Smith meet with and talk to President Lincoln?  Church History is NOT Church Testimony: How the proper use of Church history can provide perspective; and an interesting apologetic article Ancient Quotations in the Book of Mormon.

I hope you will enjoy reading Mormon Insights, and will continue to visit frequently.