What changed my mind was the interest from others and the desire to, at the very least, point people to an outline of the presentations and especially to point them to some of the referenced literature. If there is anyone out there who attended and would like to add a different or additional view of what was said, please do so in the comments. My own additional thoughts about specific points will be in parentheses. If there are exact quotes, I’ve used the appropriate punctuation, otherwise the notes reflect my best summary of what was said.
Richard Bushman spoke first and outlined the following points:
- Watch your moral compass when confronting questions of doubt or disbelief. Some may decide to throw all their values away, because of disbelief or feelings of betrayal on one or two points. This is a mistake.
- If you are married and wading through a faith crisis, be sensitive to the perspective of your believing partner. It may be terrifying for them.
- Beware of dogma on both sides. (I think he was referring in part to those who reject black/white thinking they see in the Church but end up being very much black/white in their opposition to the LDS Church or religion in general.)
- He was arguing against the idea that Mormonism does not engage thoughtful intelligent people and used a list of Mormons on the faculty at Harvard to illustrate his point. He added that these individuals are very much believers – not just doing it for cultural reasons etc.
- He began to discuss the problems of the Book of Abraham and cited the work of Kevin Barney, including his recent presentation in Europe. After acknowledging the challenges of the text, he summarized his main point as an agreement with Barney’s view: Critics of the Book of Abraham like to focus on the exotic Egyptian material; that is the strength of their argument. But what of the English Book of Abraham? That had to come from somewhere, and it’s an impressive text. (It seemed like he was essentially saying that we can keep an open mind about how things worked for Joseph, but looking at the final product as a determination of the value of the text is important)
- “Historical problems come and go.” Bushman cited the lack of any use of the word “polygamy” in Church publications for a good portion of the 20th century. Not because they were trying to hide something but because they didn’t know how to talk about it. He mentioned that the more we understand these issues and discuss them, the less of a burden they seems to be to the Church and its members. He predicted that the Book of Abraham would eventually be an example of this. “Let’s get the whole picture of the BofA out there.”
- While talking about our search for truth, he mentioned that he dislikes the term “investigator” because we should all be investigators.
- He then began to talk of this own faith and experience with Mormonism and the LDS Church. To boil it down, he described his faith in terms of the impact it has on his life. Does it change him for the better? Does it lead him to goodness? He then concluded by stating something to the effect of – the evidence of the power of Mormonism is found in the Mormon people.
(This talk was pretty straightforward and I appreciated his faithful approach to honest inquiry.)
Fiona Givens spoke next and outlined the following points:
- Referring to him simply as “Joseph”, she read the following quote: “If men do not comprehend the character of God they do not comprehend themselves”
- She read a relating quote about the nature of God from American Congregationalist minister Henry Ward Beecher. Of course my attempts to “look it up later” have been fruitless. But, you should all get a hold of Beecher’s work anyway. It’s in there somewhere.
- In reference to the idea of a suffering God, she cited Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’m not sure on the exact quote, but its probably one of these: “Our God is a suffering God” or “(We are) summoned to share in God’s suffering at the hands of a godless world.”
- She mentioned D&C 91, which was an answer to a question about the value of the Apocrypha. Reminding us that “There are many things contained therein that are true.” (She seemed to be making a point about the Mormon mantra of accepting and embracing truth where ever it comes from – stating, “The Apostasy was full of truth”
- Reminding us of the unique understanding of the Fall in Mormonism, she spoke of Eve as a “Mormon heroin”.
- Sin is essential for our journey
- Guilt/shame should draw us closer to God
- About Perfectionism: she reminded us of the different translations of the New Testament use of the word perfect. Essentially, its more correct to say – wholeness. We often misuse it.
- She mentioned the story of the Woman and the Dragon in Revelation 12, but can’t remember how she used it. (doh!) Still well worth the read though.
- Using the Book of Abraham, she painted a picture of a “waiting God”. Essentially, there is no cut off for “wholeness” but God waits for us to develop and grow – meaning forever. Of course, she explained this much more beautifully than I am able, but she essentially was highlighting Mormonism’s universalist heritage. She used some words from Joseph Smith to back it up.
- One of the most striking ideas she presented was the idea that love and wrath cannot co-exist and that she rejects them as a co-description of the God she worships. God is love – period.
- All this talk of universalism and a “waiting God” seemed to be a way for her to help people have patience with their own doubts and difficulties. To find faith in a loving God who accepts his children with grace. To recognize that God suffers with us.
(This talk had a profound effect on me and I absorbed a lot of the ideas pretty well, but its difficult for me to explain. What I heard was a plea to view God anew – ridding ourselves of the destructive ideas that run contrary to love and grace. Although I have not read “The God That Weeps”, based on reviews, it seemed like her talk loosely mirrored her thoughts from the book. So, I’ll be checking that out real soon.)
Terryl Givens spoke last and outlined the following points:
- Citing someone who’s name I can’t for the life of me remember, he said “Philosophy is what you do when you haven’t found the right questions.”
- We tend to privilege reason (suggesting that we shouldn’t)
- Faith is a choice
- Many of us want someone to be keeper of our conscience
- Some prophets are more inspired than others. (I don’t think he was implying that we should disregard certain prophets but that they all have different gifts)
- Overcome with evil = overcome with the suffering from evil
- Brother Givens retold the story of Helmuth Hübener: a German LDS youth who was executed because of his opposition to the Nazis. He highlighted the fact that his ward actually excommunicated him because of his views. (later posthumously reinstated into the Church after the war was over) The point of the story hit home to me in the Q&A when I personally asked the following question:
“You’ve written that we should ‘be grateful for our doubts.’ I have personally learned to do that. But that embrace of doubt does not go over well in our Church communities. How would you advise we address that tension?”
After relaying a story about a bishop who openly “did not know” but believed, he revisited the Hubener story by saying “Helmuth Hubener stood up to the Nazis and his ward family and we’re afraid of a little Church culture?”
- There was a phrase he used – “Solidarity with the desolate.” And this seemed to be part of a general point that living in doubt can be enlightening and powerful – especially in community.
- He later said something that related to this – “Cognitive Dissonance is a fact of our existence. I choose to believe.”
(As with Sister Givens’ talk, this one is hard for me to retell, though I was really effected by it in a positive way. Givens has written an essay called “Letter to a Doubter” (highly recommend) which he seemed to be referencing in his talk. In general, the message I heard was that we should embrace this life with all of its doubts and deserts. Be grateful for it. Figure out which of our assumptions about the Church or prophets etc. are false and leave them behind. Drinking deeply from the revolutionary ideas given to us through Joseph Smith will yield a beautiful image of God and our spiritual journey within God’s plan.)
There was a Q&A after each speaker and in the end a panel discussion. At one point, Brother Bushman asked the attendees about the top issues/problems that people struggle with. What I found fascinating was that, in general, Church history really didn’t come up. A much bigger problem, people seemed to be saying, was specifically how the Church approaches its history and especially, how the Church approaches those that find difficulty with history. All of the other topics mentioned were more relevant to how people relate to the contemporary Church as well – gay marriage, being single in the Church, temple wedding exclusion, correlation etc.
Another interesting note from Q&A: someone asked the panel what they thought of the Ordain Women movement. Brother Bushman invited his wife Claudia to stand and give her thoughts. She basically acknowledged the “2nd class” role of women in the Church, but also expressed doubt that giving women the priesthood was the answer. If I remember correctly, Sister Givens also expressed that there is a need for more female influence in the Church organization, but also expressed doubt that giving them the priesthood was the answer.
The meeting was actually a difficult time commitment for me- 10-3 on a Saturday, but well worth it in the end. A positive and encouraging spiritual presence was most certainly there and finding fellowship with the other attendees was surprisingly rejuvenating. I’m so grateful for those that put it together and especially those that spoke to us.
In a few days, I’ll probably post a “part 2″ of this with some additional thoughts about faith and doubt. For now, I hope this information will be useful to someone out there.
(PS. Christian J = CJ Douglass)]]>
Since the time I understood the basic idea of it, I have always believed in the Hindu concept of Karma. In its most basic form, that idea of Karma is summed up by the aphorism, “What goes around comes around.” This sense of Karma sounds godless, as if the thing that “goes around” (that which you send out into the world) just automatically “comes around” (comes back to you) without any intervention from any party, including God. This sometimes seems to be the case, but the Hindu idea of Karma includes the concept of a deity, who is active in the process of distributing the fruits of a person’s acts. This idea is may be expressed as: “God does not make one suffer for no reason nor does He make one happy for no reason. God is very fair and gives you exactly what you deserve.”
But experience teaches us that not all the good or bad things that happen to ourselves or those around us are deserved, either due to good acts or bad acts. It is almost axiomatic that bad things happen to good people and vice versa. Of course, our judgment about who is a “good person” and who is a “bad person” may be deeply flawed, but even factoring in some reasonable margin for error, it seems clear that the world is not set up or run in perfect fairness. If that is the case then, what role does this concept of Karma play? To me, the answer is found when we focus on our attitude and our feelings, rather than simply on events and occurrences.
Two people might have very similar events happen in their lives that might objectively be called tragic or happy, but the two people might have very different attitudes or reactions to those events. One way to think about Karma is to think of it as the thing that causes us to be able to be happy regardless of bad ocurrences we may experience or, conversely, causes us to be angry or unhappy even in the face of good events or experiences.
Wikipedia has this to say on the concept of Karma:
Karma is not punishment or retribution but simply an extended expression or consequence of natural acts. Karma means “deed” or “act” and more broadly names the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, that governs all life. The effects experienced are also able to be mitigated by actions and are not necessarily fated. That is to say, a particular action now is not binding to some particular, pre-determined future experience or reaction; it is not a simple, one-to-one correspondence of reward or punishment.
Karma is not fate, for humans act with free will creating their own destiny. According to the Vedas, if one sows goodness, one will reap goodness; if one sows evil, one will reap evil. Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their concomitant reactions in this and previous lives, all of which determines our future. The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate response.
While we may not precisely share a belief in reincarnation as is found in Hinduism, we as Mormons do believe that we are eternal beings: i.e., we lived in some fashion long before coming into this mortal existence and will continue to live in some fashion long after we leave it. We may not have many mortal lives in our belief system but in our system we will certainly have many types of lives other than our mortal existence throughout the eternities, including both before and after our current life. If that is the case, perhaps Karma can be seen as an eternal law that causes us to be able to find peace and happiness in our current life and/or in our future life. Something like this eternal law:
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
-Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21
Therefore, if we want to happy in this life, or in our future eternal life, we have to do the things that will cause that result. The concept of Karma suggests that it is our own actions and words and attitudes that will cause our immediate and future happiness or unhappiness.
In this sense, it seems to me that the concept of Karma is very similar to certain Christian concepts and to those same concepts found in Mormonism. To me, the most important of these is this one:
And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
- 3 Nephi 14:1-2 (emphasis mine).
Is that not an almost perfect expression of the idea of Karma? You will be judged the same way that you judge others. You will be measured the same way you measure them. Does that terrify you? Maybe it should.
I have thought about that scripture often in terms of the final judgment. Christ is standing there to perform his role as the judge of all who have lived, and the question he asks before rendering judgment on each of us is, “Let’s examine how you have judged your fellow man, then we will know how to judge you.” That is concerning enough, but what if it’s more than that? What if God uses that same criteria to judge whether we are to get the blessings and help or the peace and happiness that we ask for or need on a daily basis? Perhaps that’s exactly what is happening, and why the idea of Karma and of Judgment should be an immediate and pressing concern for each of us.
What goes around comes around. Perhaps sooner than we think.]]>
10 frequently asked questions regarding Temple Clearance and Temple Cancellations.
Having divorced my husband, and talked with my local leaders at length I’ve decided to share what I have learned with others in the hopes that they’ll have a greater understanding of the process—whether for their own benefit or for the benefit of those around them.
Before I start, let me first define the two:
Temple Clearance: Sought by the man when he wants to remarry. He is sealed with his first wife, and will be with the woman he is marrying—men cannot seek clearances if they are not engaged.
Temple Cancellation: Sought by the woman. She is no longer going to be sealed with her former husband, and is likely to be sealed with another man in the near future—women can seek clearances if they are not engaged, but it is highly discouraged.
Both require a temple recommend before beginning each process. Both processes are the exact same and use the same form, only a different box is marked at the top. Both processes are individual; a woman seeking a cancellation does not satisfy the requirement of her former spouse needing a clearance to marry in the temple.
#1: What is a Clearance/Cancellation?
A clearance/cancellation is sought by members who have married in the temple, but for whatever reason those marriages have been civilly disbanded and they seek to marry someone else within temple walls. As stated earlier, a clearance is sought by the male, a cancellation by the female. If the male is seeking to remarry in the temple, he is required to have a clearance. A clearance does not end previous sealings he has participated in. If the female is seeking to remarry, she is required to have a cancellation. A cancellation removes previous sealings. Women need cancellations because they cannot be sealed with more than one spouse at a time. Men need a clearance to ensure they are up to date on payments as set by the divorce decree and are not living with their former spouse in sin. Men can be sealed with more than one spouse at a time.
#2: What is the process for the Clearance/Cancellation?
Since both processes are the same, except for which box is marked at the top, which word I use is not important for this answer.
Step 1: You meet with your bishop and say you’re seeking a cancellation.
Step 2: Your bishop, stake president, former spouse, and yourself each write a letter. Your letter will state why you are seeking a cancellation, why the marriage ended, and any sins that have been committed during and after your marriage and any church discipline that has been taken to resolve those sins. Your former spouse’s letter is going to ask for their opinion on the pending cancellation (for a clearance it also asks if the former husband is up to date on payments as set by the divorce, I have not seen a requested response letter for a cancellation before so I do not know this to be true for a cancellation as well). Once your bishop, former spouse and your letter are written and received, your bishop sends them to your stake president who writes his own letter and sends them to the First Presidency.
Step 3: You wait on average three to six months (my former husband has been told the process can take up to a year) before the First Presidency gets back to you. You’ll be told if the cancellation has been granted or denied. If granted, that is it. If denied, you start the process all over again.
#3: Am I sealed to my former spouse? (Capitalization used for emphasis and clarity, not for volume)
You are not sealed TO anyone but God. You are sealed WITH your spouse in as far as you are legally married, participated in the sealing ordinance together, honor the covenants you have made AND choose to be with your spouse after you die. Even if you are married and sealed with your spouse, you DO NOT have to be with them in the hereafter—free agency is available to all, all the time. When your divorce is finalized, or covenants are broken, the sealing ordinance as far as your spouse is concerned is no longer valid. You do not covenant TO your spouse, you covenant WITH your spouse. When you and your spouse are no longer together, you are expected to hold your side of the bargain as an individual, which for the most part dribble down to honoring God. Anything covenant that requires a spouse to do (such as procreation) is no more.
#4: What about the children born in the covenant?
Children born in the covenant are sealed with their parents no matter the outcome of the marriage. No child is barred from a parent who has been excommunicated. If either parent remarries, the children are not sealed with the new spouse unless they choose to do so at the age of 18.
#5: How long do I have to wait before I seek a clearance/cancellation?
Rule of thumb is you have to be divorced for a year, and then be engaged to someone worthy of making those covenants. Exceptions are frequent for this rule.
#6: What blessings are lost with a cancellation?
This is specific to female members, because they are the only ones who have to seek a cancellation, and not understood by male members. This includes anyone in my local leadership. The general theory is the D&C scriptures that relate to polygamy. This is the question I myself am most confused about, and never received a proper response to.
#7: Does my letter have any influence?
Your letter’s impact depends on who you are. Bishop, Stake President: A lot—your opinion is the most valued as it comes from a place of church leadership. The person filing the application: A little less than Bishop and Stake President—it’s your application. The person responding to the application: little, if any—you are more likely to cause a delay than to cause a denial of the request simply because anything you say is taken with a grain of salt.
#8: What about Marie Osmond (or any other exception)?
Exceptions are made all the time regarding this process. Why, I do not know. But until you are the exception, you are the rule.
It’s also a general rule that you can only go through this process for three different individuals before you are barred. Again, exceptions are made but you are the rule until you are an exception.
#9: Where can I learn more?
There are sections written in the handbook available to all members on lds.org, otherwise the only place to learn more is to talk to your local leadership, request to look through their handbook (you are allowed access to this, you just have to ask for it) and write members of the First Presidency. Don’t expect a response from that last one though.
#10: I am engaged to someone who has to go through this, what can I do to help?
Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, you will be asked to write a letter as well. This is up to their Bishop to decide. Otherwise the most you can do is to be supportive and understand that this takes time. Do not set a date on the calendar as chances are you will have to cancel it, your significant other will be notified if their clearance/cancellation has been granted or not and you two can decide together where to go from there. You were not there when the covenants between the two were taken, and it is up to your significant other to carry the burden—because it is theirs and theirs alone. As an outsider to the relationship, nothing you say matters.]]>
We need to meet him today, with the dust of the street on our shoes and in our souls.]]>
If the choice is taxes or tithing?
consumer/student loan debt or tithing?
child support or tithing?
medical bills or tithing?
If you’re receiving Church assistance to make ends meet should you also be paying 10%?
Of course, many will say that tithing is a privilege and that taking it away from people (as an institutional rule) would be depriving them of blessings. The problem I see, is we know the blessings of tithing do not always come in the form of money. Maybe the greater blessing for you at this moment is to get yourself right financially.]]>
“We would all sit up a little straighter if it was Moses right?” And on and on about the complacency of modern life and the ease in which we receive the Word. Its true, many of us do live a more comfortable life than our forebears. And for many in history, scripture (or information of any kind) was terribly hard to acquire. But those are not the reasons that we value some prophets more than others.
I’m aware that a main theme of the Mormon narrative is the sameness of God’s prophets throughout time and place. And although I think this is a historically dubious claim (at least the way we commonly teach it), I understand its utility in the way we try to view the living prophet.
The problem is that we’ve already decided – theologically/institutionally – that some prophets really do weigh differently. We like to say that the latest Conference addresses are the same as scripture for at least the 6 months following. But that’s really not the same as placing it in the canon for time and all eternity. It’s not. Thank heaven it’s not, right?! Sure, we like to revive the words of modern prophets and find the wisdom that God revealed through them. But we all know that this is heavily cherry picked to align with our contemporary sensibilities (or revelations). And even then – manuals do not equal canon.
Of course, this should all be non controversial. And that’s the point. Its right in front of our nose and we talk as if its not. Its right in the fabric of official Church teaching.
So, Thomas S. Monson does not weigh the same as Joseph Smith or Jeremiah or Paul and that’s OK. It has been for quite a long time.]]>
If there are those who identify as Democrats or Republicans, I would at least call it an even balance. When it comes to family, the vast majority of couples started having children after both husband and wife had finished their higher education and in many cases, the woman has had a number of successful years as a professional. When it comes to homosexuality, let’s take for granted that its a very inviting, loving and non judgmental place – when it comes to members of the ward who would identify as gay but also concerning the broader gay community (the proof of this assertion could be another post entirely).
As for basic testimony and teaching, this ward is full of very committed and even passionate believers in the Atonement of Jesus, the Restoration and in today’s Church structure and leadership. I would also add though, that its not uncommon to hear the less-talked-about aspects of Church history or doctrine in this ward, particularly in relation to peep stones, polyandry or anything else you might find in Rough Stone Rolling (for example). In fact, Bushman might be the most quoted individual in GD after Church leaders and C.S. Lewis.
Now take this ward and insert a Gospel Doctrine Lesson on the Priesthood. The whole of the lesson goes as you might think – “power to act in the name of…” etc, etc. With about 5 minutes remaining, the teacher throws out the question, “What is the role of women in the priesthood?” Chirp, chirp, no one says a word for at least a solid minute. “I would love to get a woman’s perspective on how you operate in the priesthood and what is your role.”, the teacher encourages.
Finally, a man in the class raises his hand and says a few words about revelation and the changes that have taken place in Church doctrine and policy. “There’s no reason to think that women won’t one day hold the same authority as men”, is the gist of what the man says. Suddenly, a number of hands shoot up – all women. One by one, they give articulate responses to the question, none of which talk of something missing. None that speak of a future day. In fact, without exception, they each describe the joy in their present “partnership” and role. Each answer is unique and not entirely predictable or rehashed. Each answer is, in the end, in support of the current status of women in relation to the priesthood. Now, imagine the lesson ends and the women in the room swarm around those who spoke and thank them for what they said and express solidarity and support.
Yes, this happened in my ward and, I have to admit, it left me feeling a little humbled. To put it plain, I have a fairly radical view of women and the priesthood. In short, I think they should hold it, the same as men. And I think the best reason is that it might benefit us all. That is, female voices in leadership at all levels of the Church would better accomplish the goals and missions of the Church and in carrying out the teachings of Jesus. Women being able to lay hands on their children, bless their infants, baptize and confirm their converts and bestow God’s power, when no man is in sight would work for the greater good.
Sure, it would turn the whole Church structure upside down. But, I see no doctrinal justification for a male only priesthood. I mainly view it as a tradition that may have been useful at one time, but less so now and in the perceivable future.
As a man, does my opinion count in the face of so many women in support of the existing state of affairs? I’m finding that the answer is – not so much.
Sure, this was a very small sample of the opinions of women of the Church. I know that there are many women who do, in fact, agree with me and my views (to some degree or another). But, the world in which we operate is our local, face to face world. I know the internet has great power but, at the end of the day, the world that we live in and influence most is among the people we see and associate with in real time. And when I look at the women in my sphere who smash to pieces the common stereotypes of the oppressed, submissive or blind Mormon woman, I find their words extremely compelling – if only because they are women and I am not.
In fact, I happen to know one of these women quite well. A woman that I have so much respect for – not just for her abilities and work as a mom, but for her intellect, integrity and broad range of talents. A woman who’s views in so many other aspects of life I would describe as “feminist”. And after giving her my best argument for why women should hold the priesthood, the response was essentially this: “I think you undervalue the current contribution of women in the Church. I think you don’t realize how vital the role is that we currently play.”
What is a man supposed to say to that? My rebuttal was received respectfully, but in the end my gender seems to put me at a disadvantage.
I essentially said this: I don’t undervalue women’s role in the Church regarding the priesthood, I correctly value the role of an ordained priesthood holder in the Church. Because that is exactly what I’ve been taught my whole life – to hold the priesthood is HUGE. In fact, we are semi-annually chided for not exalting it enough!
The conversation was long and detailed. Suffice it to say, I still hold to my views and still worry about the future of the Church in regards to the lack of female influence. But, I’ve been forced again to rethink things a bit and maybe even consider that I’m wrong. At the end of the day, maybe advocating for a genderless priesthood is unrealistic. Especially if the chorus of voices against such a policy change are women. As it currently stands, I find a long held theory of mine continually validated: If the majority of Mormon women wanted the priesthood, they would have it.]]>
It’s been a two-year labor of love. I love the story and I love the people in the story. I can’t even bring myself to call them “characters”. They’re certainly more real to me than half the people I know on Facebook.
The book, while not a Mormon book per se, is awash in Mormon questions and Mormon answers. Polygamy, gay marriage, and the meaning of love and faith and family in the wake of the end of oil. It also asks what happens to a global, hierarchal Church when the wells go dry …
So what do you do with a hard-won global empire when the global low fuel light is flickering? Do you call everyone home? Do you shutter operations and pray for a miracle? Cold fusion, perhaps? The Second Coming, maybe? The answer came, one Sunday morning, five years before the oil stopped flowing. In a letter translated into 180 languages and read from every pulpit.
Brother Husband, Chapter 5
Want to hear more?
Chapters 1–4 are available as an audio preview on Soundcloud:
You can also like Brother Husband’s fanpage on Facebook.
But here’s the question for you: how do you imagine the end of oil might affect the Church? Assume the end of oil also spells the end of reliable electricity … how do wards change? How does worship change?]]>
“Generally church members are encouraged to wear their best clothing as a sign of respect for the Savior, but we don’t counsel people beyond that.”
-Scott Trotter, Church Spokesman
This is one of those times that the backlash has become a bigger story than the original issue. Apparently, those who are opposed to women wearing pants to church (and apparently there are quite a few people in this category) are escalating the rhetoric beyond any reasonable level. I’m not sure why this would be a hot-button issue for people.
If you are a woman, will you wear pants? Please let me know your thoughts on this issue and if you have an explanation for why some people seem to have such a problem with this.]]>
As this period presumably is drawing to a close with the end of Romney’s candidacy, it will be interesting to see the effect that this increased attention has and continues to have on the Church and the public. I suspect that it has been mostly positive for the Church, as the Church has taken the opportunity to deliver new messages on what the Church is and is not, as well as updating its image. Will the end of Romney’s candidacy mean that the Church will fade back into relative obscurity, or will Mormonism continue to be a presence on the national and international media stage? Time will tell, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the best and worst that came out of this time period.
My favorite part of this cultural phenomenon is the Book of Mormon musical. Irreverent, even profane, but fun and lovable nonetheless, this piece of pop-cultural song and dance fabulousness signals a certain coming-of-age for the Church. Mature people and institutions have to be able to withstand some fun being poked at them, and this musical did that in a pretty loving way, as only Trey Parker and Matt Stone can do. Even people who don’t like the musical have to admit that it shows a ton of talent and, though it may not be a good representation of current beliefs and practices of the Church, in tone and spirit it got a lot of things right and is actually really funny.
My least favorite part of the past few years of media attention has been the ridiculous pontificating by know-nothing media talking heads like Lawrence O’Donnell who, without even the pretence of citing sources, presume to comment on the history and origins of Mormonism. No religion ought to be demonized in the national media by pundits speaking out of their butts, and the past few years had no shortage of this kind of thing. I will be glad if the end of the “Mormon Moment” means at least some respite from this kind of media trash-talking.
What are your nominations for the best and worst of this cultural phenomenon?]]>