Best of the Blogs – Week of July 30, 2017

Best of the Blogs – Week of 30 July 2017


I hope everyone is following along at home. Saskia of Juvenile Instructor gets into Chapter 9 of “A House Full of Females,” and if you need a great pitch to read this book (which I’m still holding strong as my “Best Book of 2017”), this is the chapter review you should read.
Some context – Duane Boyce published an article in “The Interpreter” that has been getting some distribution among the online Mormon groups for various reasons. Boyce’s article, titled “A Lengthening Shadow: Is Quality of Thought Deteriorating in LDS Scholarly Discourse Regarding Prophets and Revelation? Part One,” really goes after the tension happening in some Mormon academic circles, and has been bubbling below the surface for a while – some could say ever since the breakup of FARMS and the Maxwell Institute, others might say ever since the Mormon internet became a thing.  Lindsay’s Part 1 is here, but in the last week Boyce published “Part Two” to his “A Lengthening Shadow” article, and Lindsay has responded. Boyce’s “Part Two” went after Mormon academic Grant Hardy and (Lindsay’s words) his “impressive work, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide” (which, for the record, I agree – I wanted to make it clear that is how Lindsay wrote it). This is written in very academic fashion, but Lindsay concludes with the following: “Finally, let me remind readers that in spite of my strong disagreement with conclusions and methodology, Boyce is sincerely seeking to strengthen the faith and thinking of Latter-day Saints, and I apologize if my own tone in challenging him is too harsh. He makes numerous points that many readers might perceive as well reasoned and intelligent. But I think that at least some of his targets do not deserve the criticism he levies, and in his passionate effort to condemn sloppy LDS scholarship, has made some unfortunate errors in scholarship himself.” The entire piece is well worth a read, and I’m glad to even see a conservative Mormon scholar offer his reservations to Boyce’s (frankly) blatantly offensive, overly aggressive, and needlessly petty squabble with other Mormon scholars.
I love hawkgrrrl’s questions she poses at the end of each blog post. She goes into the context of the 1844 LDS Succession Crisis after the death of Joseph & Hyrum Smith. She poses the following questions:
Would you follow Brigham Young and the twelve to the west, accepting polygamy as part of the bargain?
Would you consider Ridgon’s authority superior and followed him to Pennsylvania when he claimed the twelve tried to harm him?
Would you believe Strang’s claim to the prophetic mantle was most compelling?
Would you stay in Nauvoo, waiting until Joseph’s son reached his age of majority?
Would you leave the movement with so much confusion?
You’ve got to read the whole thing before you start answering them, but she does a great job playing around with a few of those spaces.
Lynnette explores two sides of the same coin: “But my point here is that you can’t credit the church for the positive situations, but then dismiss negative ones as not the fault of the church but rather of isolated members, or the individual herself. To say that a gay Mormon questioning the worth of his life is unrelated to church teachings on the subject makes about as much sense as saying that the decision of a couple to marry in the temple is unrelated to church teachings on the subject—neither of these things happen in a vacuum.”
Confessions of an Elder (Steve Evans, By Common Consent)
Good job by Steve Evans for addressing this. I got a very similar question about the same National Geographic video in a Facebook message earlier this week. “First, this video is a clown show. It’s so oversensationalized. Good heavens, an elder in the church is dealing! An ELDER! In other words, like pretty much any dude over 18? When you use the term ‘Elder’ in some Protestant faiths, it means something, a position of seniority. With Mormons, however, becoming an Elder is largely an expected rite of passage. Emphasizing the title as NatGeo does here is just a rhetorical ploy to make this drugslinger appear to be more involved in the Church than he probably really is. Dressing him in a white shirt and black tie, the repeated footage of his hollowed-out scriptures, it’s all intended to replicate towards non-members the common tropes of Mormonism, while displaying to members a near-total ignorance of the faith. (Mormons know it’s artificial because of the footage of the stained glass)”
Friend-of-the-Report Jana Riess looks at recent Gallup data showcasing the American public’s gradual (and that should be emphasized) acceptance of polygamy (a whopping 17%, compared to 7% back in 2003): “But there’s clear generational difference, which suggests to me that it’s not just the “Sister Wives” effect that’s driving the greater acceptability of polygamy now versus four or fourteen years ago. It’s also the fact that younger people, with their broader sexual ethic (yes, even among Mormons) are aging into the survey pool. Among Mormons of the Boomer/Silent generation, for example, just under 7% said polygamy was OK, compared to 13% of GenXers and 23% of Millennials.
Jeff Lindsay is attending the 2017 FAIRMormon Conference for the first time, and blogging the proceedings and his thoughts. Want to see what’s going on (but not pay or attend)? Jeff has you covered here. It’s not exactly my cup of tea (or Postum or hot chocolate or whatever people are drinking these days), but there are quite a few papers I’m interested in reading or hearing. Hopefully FAIR publishes some of the video proceedings after the conference is over?
Here’s another seminar I wish I was going to this year – the Maxwell Institute Summer Seminar is being held “in the basement of the Joseph F. Smith Building on BYU Campus,” and WVS has his thoughts on the wrap-up of the morning session. The Summer Seminar was mentored by Phil Barlow and Terryl Givens, with the theme of “Mormonism Engages the World.” Again, another great recap of another very interesting seminar.
Millennials seem to be all the rage these days. If I have to sit through another workshop or conference at my day-job that talks about how we can more fully attract or engage Millennials, I just might scream – and I’m considered a Millennial myself (born in ’84). Ryan Gottfredson of Leading LDS, which focuses on LDS Leadership methodologies, has a post up “to help leaders in the LDS Church understand why Millennials are unique, what their needs are, how their needs and philosophies may clash against LDS tradition, and what LDS leaders can do to better support, serve, and reach a generation that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have a hard time relating to and understanding.” This was a really really good piece, mostly because I think it could be valuable for LDS leaders and others to discuss and debate within ward councils or other leadership meetings. I hope Gottfredson comes back to write more about the subject, because he relies on something underutilized within Mormon circles regarding this discussion – legitimate scholarly research. Very highly recommended, if anything, for the jumping-off points.
Banack recounts a story told by Elder D. Todd Christofferson at a new mission president seminar about a returned missionary who completed his mission, but had concerns, specifically about the multiple accounts of the First Vision. Banack offers his observations as to how he would have approached the matter, and asks the comments to do the same in one paragraph or less.
“The Trek East: Mormonism Meets Japan, 1901 – 1968” by Shinji Takagi (published by Greg Kofford Books) won the 2017 Mormon History Association’s “Best Book on International Mormon History” award. Jeff T reviews the book for Juvenile Instructor, concluding “The Trek East should interest those studying Japanese Mormonism as well as lay readers interested in Mormon missions. The Trek East is a fine starting-point narrative which future scholars should refine and build from.”
THIS WEEK IN MORMON HISTORY (courtesy of TodayInMormonHistory.com)

Church property confiscated
United States Attorney General files suit and confiscates the property of the church as well as that of the Perpetual Immigration Fund Corporation.
[Source: Tungate, Mel, Mormon Polygamy, http://www.tungate.com/polygamy.htm]

Counselor Gordon B. Hinckley is a speaker with RLDS president Wallace B. Smith at the RLDS Auditorium in Independence, Missouri, where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir also performs a concert “to the sell-out audience of 5200.”
[Source: The Mormon Hierarchy – Extensions of Power by D. Michael Quinn, [New Mormon History database ( http://bit.ly/NMHdatabase )]]

First Presidency counselor Jesse Gause and Zebedee Coltrin leave Kirtland on a mission. Jesse never returns. Frederick G. William is later appointed to the First Presidency. Records, including a revelation, are quietly modified to reflect this change.
[Source: Kenney, Scott, Saints Without Halos, “Mormon History 1830-1844,” http://web.archive.org/web/20120805163534/saintswithouthalos.com/dirs/d_c.phtml]

First Presidency Letter: “Brethren recommended to the temple for second anointings should be men of experience whose integrity to the work of the Lord is beyond question, and who are known for their continued faithfulness, as it would be very unfortunate thing indeed for a man to receive the higher blessings and aftewards apostatize. The question of age would naturally be a consideration in recommending for the higher ordinances, but it is not to be understood for a moment that you should wait until brethren become old before recommending them to receive these blessings. The chief qualifications are worthiness, fitness and unshaken integrity, and these should be combined in man thus recommended whether they occupy presiding positions or not: but as a matter of course the brethren occupying presiding positions, such as those of the stake presidency, high counsilor president of the high priest’s quorum, patriarch and bishop are suppose to be in possession of these qualifications.”

Brigham Young publicly discusses the possible secession of the Mormon theocracy from the United States and the establishment of an independent kingdom. Heber C. Kimball issues a curse upon President Buchanan and predicts his untimely death (JD 5:129).
[Source: Wikipedia, Utah War, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_War#Timeline_of_events]

Brigham Young dissolves the School of the Prophets in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah because of breaches in the meeting’s secrecy that end up in the anti-Mormon Salt Lake Tribune.
[Source: The Mormon Hierarchy – Extensions of Power by D. Michael Quinn, [New Mormon History database ( http://bit.ly/NMHdatabase )]]