Category: Cornucopia

If Everybody is a Leader No One is a Leader

“Followers of God” Anecdotally it seems that 21st century society is obsessed with “leadership.” Students are encouraged to be leaders, we are raising a generation of leaders, and leadership is considered a virtue up there with honesty and hard work. This sentiment has always struck me as being a little Ponzi-scheme-ish. Quite simply, by definition not everybody can be a leader, and emphasizing leadership not so implicitly degrades the followers, when in actuality the leaders are nothing without the followers. If anything, I think there are too many people trying to be leaders, and that aspiring to be a leader is not necessarily a virtue, with a surplus of people wanting to be leaders without a willingness to be a follower. The phrase “overproduction of elites” comes to mind (I got the term from Ross Douthat at the NY Times, but I’m not sure if it’s original to him). We have raised a generation  or two that they will all be presidents, A-list actors, public intellectuals, great civil rights leaders, and yes, General Authorities, and not with the idea that having a typical 9-5 job, family life, and secretarial calling is a fulfilling and worthy existence. As a result, we’re left with a bunch of disgruntled middle agers who didn’t “make it” because the number of slots available is drastically less than the number of people aspiring for them. (As an aside, a common critique of this point is that…

A Book worth tracking down: “Drat! Mythed Again”

Drat! Mythed Again: Second Thoughts on Utah by: Steve Warren Most people, I find, have never heard of this book, but it’s one I referenced often growing up, as we had a copy in my house. My parents weren’t sure exactly when they picked it up, but it’s 1986 copyright date indicates it had to be after they moved to Alaska.

Judging and Being Judged By Church Leaders

Dalle-3 image. I tried to make a highly watercolor-ish version of Christ washing the Apostle’s feet, but in the end couldn’t get rid of the halos.  There is a certain class of very online member and ex-member that seems to have a particular relish for finding the faults of leaders. Of course, relishing in the personal failings of others is by definition anti-Christian. We are required to grant grace to people unconditionally.  But even if it’s wrong and can lead to soul-cankering spite, I still kind of get it.  When a particularly elitist or judgmental leader gets his comeuppance and his failings are laid bare there can be some understandable schadenfreude, or even a schadenfreude-by-proxy when it happens to one of his colleagues. A derivation of JST Matthew 7 is that if you judge others unrighteously (and sometimes righteously), then you too will be judged, sometimes by those you presume to judge. You can’t hold leaders up to some ethereal plane of existence but then ask for understanding of their humanity when the awkward subject of serious leadership failings comes up; you can’t have your cake and eat it too.  When I was a missionary my then-mission president (who I do not think reads T&S, plus with visa waiting I had three mission presidents, plus besides some silly little things was a spiritually powerful man I was privileged to serve under) would ask me the question “why are you on…

Pope Francis, Mid-Level Management, and Fruits

Lately the Catholic world has been abuzz about a Vatican-sponsored Synod where, according to the media, Pope Francis is challenging deeply held teachings. Of course, if one actually reads what Pope Francis is saying it’s more complicated, and a lot of the more sensational takes are just click bait. Pope Francis is not a throat slitter, and he’s treading carefully here. I’ve been confused at times by conservative Catholics taking issue with Pope Francis, since his statements have been more or less party line. He’s not, say, calling for female ordination or formally loosening up the Catholic Church’s restrictions on abortion or birth control, for example. However, I’ve learned the concern is not what he is saying–again, he is careful–but rather his actions, promotions, and decision-making. While he might not say the quiet part out loud in regards to changing the Catholic Church’s position on gender, sex, celibacy, and authority the people he’s been promoting in the US Church and elsewhere most certainly have, and it’s happening enough that it’s pretty clear to Vatican watchers where his sympathies lie; his official, carefully crafted statements notwithstanding. This got me thinking about our own situation. Years ago I was at a lecture sponsored by a Church-adjacent organization. One of its leaders was fairly well known for being of a certain ideologica/theological bent, and during the discussion somebody of another ideological bent but higher up on the org chart  walked in (but not that high,…

Calls to the Quorum of the Twelve: An Analysis

For something relatively out of the blue, I want to take a moment to consider potential future candidates for the Quorum of the Twelve.  The Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are the highest in authority in the Church and are important in policy making and in defining the doctrine of the Church, so the people who are chosen to serve in these quorums are important to Church members.  I believe that it’s best to not talk about these types of things in the aftermath of a death in their ranks (or when the possibility of such is likely in the near future), so I figure now is as good of time as any to discuss the issue. In the modern Church, most things are run by councils where several individuals have the ability to express their thoughts and often have an opportunity to accept or reject a proposal. That is a part of the administrative genius of the Church that Joseph Smith put in place to insure that things could continue after the death of charismatic leaders, such as himself, and to increase the likelihood that things are being done in accordance with God’s will (more people checking something, the more likely they are to catch errors). This system seems to carry over to the selection of a new apostle. President Hugh B. Brown (1883-1975) recalled that: In calling a new apostle the president of the church…

Martha’s Sacrament Revisited

In these challenging times, an experience I posted fourteen years ago on Times and Seasons comes back to mind. How would I draw a conclusion now? This was the experience: *** Martha was one of the older sisters in our branch. We counted a scant dozen of them, singles and widows, making more than half of the congregation and being its very backbone. When I got to know her, Martha was in her sixties. Huge by nature and strong from her lifelong labors as a market woman, she lived in a modest but sunny apartment, four flights high. Rent and utilities took most of her tiny pension, but she managed. Every Sunday the happy woman rode to church on her big black bicycle, rain or shine. She entered our old rowhouse as if it were a palace, beaming faith and friendship. In the living room, meaning our chapel, she gave talks and testimonies with a stentorian voice, developed during her years on the market place, praising Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon like she had exalted her Jonagolds and luscious tomatoes grown in the summer sun. Each time, at the end of her tribute, emotion would fracture her fluency to a choking whisper and tears would flow. Ah, Martha, what a force you were in our Primitive church! Then came the stroke, one night. Only hours later a neighbor heard her moaning. Hospital. Next Martha had no choice. Paralyzed…

Is it a Sin to Binge Watch Netflix?

We all know that the defining sin of the Nephites was pride.  But what about the defining sin of the Lamanites?  From the very beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi focuses on one particular vice.  “[A]fter they had dwindled in unbelief” the Lamanites became “full of idleness and all manner of abominations.”[1] He later calls them an “idle people.”[2]  When the Anti-Nephi-Lehies famously buried their weapons of war, they also made a covenant that “rather than their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.”[3] The Lamanites’ sin of idleness is, in fact, the mirror image of the Nephites’ sin of pride.  The Nephites successfully overcame the sin of idleness, but then used their surplus “despising others, turning their backs upon the needy, and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.”[4] What is worse: spending the days of your probation pursuing “treasures on earth”[5] or idling it away?[6]  It doesn’t really make a difference to the people you could have helped.  The sheep don’t care if you forgot to feed them because you were too selfish or because you were too lazy; either way they don’t get fed.  It’s the spiritual equivalent of choosing your Mammon in the form of extra vacation days or a cash payment. What’s the 21st century equivalent to spending our days in idleness?  It’s allowing the “next episode” timer to…

Times and Seasons Welcomes William Barlow

Times and Seasons hopes you will join us in welcoming our latest guest blogger, William Barlow. He is an attorney and graduate of Harvard Law School, where he regularly wrote for the Harvard Law Record, including a guest appearance on Fox News Business. William received his undergraduate degree in history from Duke University.  Following law school, William was an M&A attorney at a New York law firm for over three years before transitioning to North Carolina.

Pagans and Christians in the City (1/2)

Steven Smith (who has occasionally favored us with comments here at T&S) is not the first to describe our current cultural moment as a new conflict between pagans and Christians. As Smith describes at length in Pagans and Christians in the City, others, on both sides of the divide, have done so using the same language. Smith does argue quite convincingly, however, that this new conflict of pagan vs. Christian is not merely an apt metaphor, but a sober description of the American religious landscape.

Voir dire

Voir dire, from Norman French, is pronounced “jury selection” by normal people, but I had always stayed one step ahead of the law and never seen it first hand.

Your apocalyptic hymnbook

Hymns are useful evidence of religious practice. Hymns are a basic element of personal devotion, but at the same time the compilation of the hymnbook is carefully monitored by church leaders and the performance of hymns is modeled during the sessions of General Conference and other broadcasts, so hymns lie somewhere between high theology and lived religion. Our hymnbook provides an insight not quite like any other source on what Latter-day Saints believe.

In the world

Is the world a generally wonderful place that is constantly improving and generally better today than it ever has been? Or, to restate the obvious, do we live at peril every hour in a world we must avoid becoming part of, and is this alienation from the world a fundamental part of the message of Jesus? As is usually the case with such things, the answer to both questions is: yes. And this is perhaps nowhere more clear than in Yellowstone National Park.

Loosening the iron grip of the King James Version of the Bible?

A couple of years ago, Elder Richard Maynes (of the Presidency of the Seventy) quoted Matthew 13:44 in his conference talk: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” But wait a second! The King James Version of that verse reads differently: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” Elder Maynes has quoted, instead, the Revised Standard Version. This surprised me because the official version of the Bible used by the Church in English is the King James Version. From the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the KVJ has been preferred (despite Joseph Smith’s corrections). When the Revised Standard Version was released in 1952, an editorial in the Church News stated, “For the Latter-day Saints there can be but one version of the Bible” — the King James Version. J. Reuben Clark published a book in 1956 entitled Why the King James Version. (This is all laid out in Philip Barlow’s Dialogue article.) In 1992, the First Presidency released a statement saying the following, “While other Bible versions may be easier to read than the King James Version, in doctrinal matters latter-day revelation supports…

Maxwell Institute 2017 Summer Seminar Announced

The Maxwell Institute just posted a call for applicants for its next summer seminar. The topic is Mormonism Confronts the World: How the LDS Church has Responded to Developments in Science, Culture, and Religion. The seminar runs June 26 through August 3, 2017. Plenty of time to find a topic and clear out six weeks of your schedule. Anyone with a topic to suggest is free to share it in the comments.

The Expanse: Mormons in Space

The Expanse is an acclaimed novel series by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck writing under the pen-name James S. A. Corey. The first novel, Leviathan Wakes, was released in 2011 and nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Abraham and Franck have released a book a year since then, with Caliban’s War in 2012, Abaddon’s Gate in 2013, Cibola Burn in 2014, and Nemesis Games in 2015. Babylon’s Ashes is slated for June 2016, and three more untitled sequels are scheduled for 2017-2019. The SyFy channel, in an attempt to relive the glory of its Battlestar Galactica  days, is adapting the novels for television. The first four episodes were released online, and the fifth episode airs tomorrow evening. I’ve read all the novels and enjoyed them a lot (especially the fourth and fifth) and I’ve seen each of the first four episodes twice (and find them promising.) But that’s not what prompted me to post about them to Times and Seasons. Nope, the reason I thought I’d tell you about The Expanse is that Mormons feature relatively prominently in both the books and the TV series. So, without giving any major spoilers away, I thought I’d write a quick review of how Mormons are portrayed in what could potentially be a fairly major new TV series. This is the first scene in the series that references Mormons. It comes just…

“A woman is a woman no matter what, but manhood can be lost.”

The title of today’s post (“A woman is a woman no matter what, but manhood can be lost,”) is a quote comes from a long and interesting article from the Pacific Standard: Why Men Kill Themselves. There’s a lot that is interesting in the article, especially about some of the gender differences that lead to a much higher suicide rate for men as compared to women. Although there are certainly wide variations between cultures in the overall rate of suicide, it turns out that “In every country in the world, male suicides outnumber female.” The article reminded me of Valerie Hudson Cassler’s article for Square Two: Plato’s Son, Augustine’s Heir: “A Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology.” The article, a response to Taylor Petrey’s attempt to show how Mormon theology could be retrofitted to be compatible with eternal homosexual relationships, had a tremendous impact on how I view gender and religion. In the article, Cassler allows that “No doubt Petrey would argue that what he is advocating is the construction of or, alternatively, the realization of, a plethora of genders, not one gender,” but she points out that: When I read Petrey’s essay, I see a different bottom line: Women are no longer necessary for the Plan of Happiness to obtain. Women are no longer necessary for temple sealings to take place. Women are no longer necessary for the work of the gods in the eternities, or for there to be brought forth spirit children: indeed, there…

What is Mormon Doctrine?

What is Mormon Doctrine?

For decades I’ve been fascinated at the regular conflation of doctrine, policy, and practice among members. We tend to claim the policy of today as not just practical, meaningful, and inspired, but as doctrine. Until it changes and we forget all about it. One example that comes to mind is the “doctrine” from my childhood of only taking the sacrament (and only passing the sacrament tray) with the right (covenant-making, clean, dextro) hand and never with the left (unlucky, dirty, sinistro) hand. Somewhere between the church of my childhood and my 30s, this teaching disappeared from all teaching manuals, missionary discussions, and the gospel principles class. (My search was not exhaustive and I haven’t renewed that effort, but I could not find this teaching in any current materials at the time.) 

Church Sticks with Boys

Church Sticks with Boys

As Dave Banack wrote yesterday, in spite of some public huffing and puffing, the church has decided to continue the relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. They have also decided to continue to seem unaware that the first word in the organization’s title makes it gender-exclusive. With equal concern for the substantial number of youth who live outside the United States and Canada, the Church will continue to evaluate and refine program options that better meet its global needs. The correct wording should be “with equal concern for the substantial number of male youth who live outside the United States and Canada.” The powers that be, again, haven’t noticed that it’s not “youth who live outside the United States and Canada” who don’t have access to scouting. It’s male youth who live outside the United States and Canada and female youth from every corner of the globe. In other words, there are far more female youth without the resources, infrastructure, incentives, support, and awards than there are male youth. But the “equal concern” being offered “the substantial number of youth” just isn’t very equal.

Religion in America: Who Needs a Church?

The Pew Research Center is releasing the results of its “extensive new survey” on religion in America. In “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” it summarized changes for reported religious identification: Evangelical Christians dropped 0.9% (from 26.3% of the US population in 2007 to 25.4% in 2014), Catholics fell 3.1%, Mainline Protestants fell 3.4%, and “Unaffiliated” rose 6.7% (from 16.1% to 22.8%). Overall, adults identifying themselves as Christian dropped from 78.4% to 70.6%. America is becoming less religious and less Christian.

Women in General Conference: It’s Not a “Primary Voice”

As I watched the first General Women’s Session of conference (at least the first not retroactively declared as such) last night, I was once again taken aback by the vocal styling of the female speakers. As much as I love hearing women speak, almost every time I hear one in a general church meeting it requires extraordinary effort to focus on the message while ignoring the twinge in the back of my jaw at the awkward, stilted speech patterns. I respect and admire these women, but I much prefer to read their words than listen to them. As soon as the first woman had uttered two sentences, I became apprehensive about all the social media posts that would refer to the “Primary voice.” Women are always accused of assuming a strange, forced lilt , as if all those listening are mentally handicapped and need special accommodation in order to understand the message. While thinking about it again this morning, it occurred to me for the first time (I know, I’m slow—and thus probably do need the Primary voice…) that the women aren’t using a “Primary voice” at all. They are, generally speaking, emulating the male “General Conference authority voice.” We are accustomed to hearing men speak in the old-style oratory voice, with the odd, mid-sentence pauses, and the plodding emphasis. But hearing the same speaking style in a higher range is far less common. Being so unfamiliar, it puts us back in a place of openly…

4 o’clock

A few years ago, my sister handed me a lumpy white envelope for Christmas. I opened it carefully, able to feel the jumble of small parts beneath my fingertips. Inside were perhaps 30 or 40 small, dark seeds. “Um. Cool,” I said, mystified.

Recommended NT Resources, Part 1: Translations, Text, and the Bible in General

(Cross-posted at Benjamin the Scribe) We’re 80% of the way through our Old Testament, and the time has come to start looking forward. As I did for the Old, so I will do for the New. This time, I’ll break it up into a few posts, probably a few weeks apart. (Part 2, Part 3 are here.) As before, the absolute best and easiest thing you can do to increase the quality and frequency of your Bible study is to supplement your KJV with a different translation. You can do it with a free app or website, or go old school and buy hardcover. I do both. Below are some recommendations on Bibles. (If the idea of reading a non-KJV application bothers you, see my Religious Educator article at the bottom, which includes Apostolic examples of non-KJV Bible use in The Ensign and General Conference.)

Do Women Count?

Here are the words that President Uchtdorf used in his talk at the General Women’s Meeting:   I am honored to have this opportunity to be with you as we open another general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the coming week the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles will meet with all the General Authorities and general auxiliary leaders, and the remaining sessions of our worldwide general conference will follow on the coming Saturday and Sunday.

A supplementary lesson plan for October 2014 Sharing Time, week 2

I love Primary. It’s my favorite place to serve in the Church, and if I had my way I’d serve there for the rest of my life. This month’s Sharing Time theme is “‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ Came from God to Help My Family.” Looking through the October lesson plans in the 2014 outline, week 2 caught my eye: “Marriage between a man and a woman is essential to God’s plan.”  The topic — the importance of marriage — is one that matters a lot to me. I thought that the suggested lesson plan could do more to make the material applicable and memorable for all children. So just for fun, I put together a supplementary lesson plan that covers the same topics, but — I hope! — makes it more relevant for more kinds of families.  Enjoy! Week 2: Marriage is essential to God’s plan for men and women Tell the story of God creating Adam and Eve. After he created the earth, the plants and the animals, God knew the world was not complete until he created men and women. Have a child read Genesis 1:27, and ask the rest of the children to put their hands on their heads whenever they hear the word “create.” Explain that God created two humans so that they could help each other and take care of each other. He said “It is not good for the man to…