May 28

What Would Jesus Do?

As Christians, we talk a lot about the imitation of Christ; Jesus, we are told, provided us not only with teachings, but also with the example of his life to follow. However, I find that putting this into practice is often more difficult than questions along the lines of “what would Jesus do?” might make it appear. Since few people would argue that we are all required to be itinerant miracle-workers and die excruciating deaths, it’s clear that at least to some extent, we have to make judgment calls about just which aspects of Christ’s life we are expected to imitate. Continue reading

May 26

Thoughts from Julian

In the year 1373, at the age of 30, Julian of Norwich had a series of visions, published as the Revelations of Divine Love. I’ve read the work a couple of times, and I find it good medicine for the overly neurotic soul. While I might not accept all the details of Julian’s theology, I love her picture of a God who is approachable, who is infinitely kind, who isn’t nearly as troubled by our constant failings and mistakes as we are. Continue reading

May 24

Joseph Smith Sphinx

When I was in Utah this past month, I visited the Gilgal Garden, which supposedly is on a lot of tourist information for Salt Lake City, but that very few local residents are even aware of. It’s this odd statue garden where a man named Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. handcrafted huge stones into sculptures that represented his beliefs. The garden contains a variety of sculptures, including “The Monument to the Trade” and “The Monument to the Priesthood,” though my two favorites are the “Captain of the Lord’s Host,” which is a carved figure with a big boulder for a head (how can you not like a statue that just has a big boulder for a head?) and the Joseph Smith Sphinx. Continue reading

May 23

Reflections of a Utah Mormon

Okay, I was actually born in California, but my family moved to Utah the summer I was five years old, and I don’t remember much before that time. (I do recall wondering how we would attend church after the move, as I’d gleaned from Primary that we were the “one true church,” which I took to refer to the physical building we attended. Little did I know that there would be “true churches” on every block.) I lived in Utah County for the next eighteen years, from the time I started kindergarten to the time I completed my undergraduate education at BYU. Continue reading

May 12

Reclaiming the Body

The dualism of Descartes still heavily influences contemporary understandings of the mind-body problem. It also heavily influences the church’s own form of dualism: spirit-body.

According to Cartesian dualism, each individual is made up of a mind and a body. The two are linked, but the mind has precedence over the body (who can forget Descartes famous “I think, therefore, I am”?). The source of initiative, rationality, and all other good things, is the mind, while the body is dangerous, transgressive, emotional, etc. (An interesting side-note: many feminist scholars have published on how the mind-body division was imposed onto the man-woman division, where men become assocated with the elevated, rational mind and women with the transgressive, emotional body.) In today’s society, we still have not escaped this dualism. People still trust rationality (a quality of the mind) over emotionality (a quality of the body). Bodies and Continue reading

May 11

The Ethics of Missionary Work

First of all, before I find myself pelted with tomatoes (or perhaps Books of Mormon) by an army of RMs, let me clarify that I don’t think that sharing something which you’ve found life-changing, something which you think could have tremendous potential benefits for others, is a bad thing to do; in fact, quite the contrary. Nonetheless, I am troubled by much of our discourse about missionary work. I keep coming back to the question of whether it’s morally acceptable to enter into a relationship with another human being with a view towards using that relationship to accomplish some other end (even a laudable one), rather than seeing the relationship as an end in and of itself. Continue reading

May 10

Mothers in the Book of Mormon

It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and I would like to bet that at least one person in every ward is going to read the one mother-related scripture in the Book of Mormon. “Yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” (Alma 56:47-48) Have you ever wondered who those faithful women are? Continue reading

May 08

Bored by Church History

There. I said it.

The flaw is in me, not in the discipline of history, which I just don’t have much of a mind for. Kiskilili and Elbereth–who study very different aspects of it in very different ways–both have a much better intuitive sense of history than I do, and Lynnette earned a couple of degrees in it before finding her calling in theology. Me, I’d rather wander around in the abstractions of philosophy than have to deal with the tedium of what actually happened. Continue reading

May 06

Tales of Sacrament Meeting

The T&S thread on chapel seating got me thinking about my memories of sacrament meeting over the years. I don’t recall that my family sat consistently in one place when I was a kid, though I do remember a lot of sitting in the hard folding chairs in the cultural hall. As I recall, younger sisters could be very useful for helping the time go by. When I was an early teen, I would take one of my younger sisters for a walk during the middle of the meeting, ostensibly because she needed to stretch her legs. Another sister spent sacrament meeting drawing mazes; she reminds me of the time when she left to use the restroom and was quite unhappy when she came back to find that I’d “livened up” her maze with various comments and threats. Continue reading

May 03

On Questioning

I’ve been reading a lot of Luther lately. He makes the point over and over that human reason is insufferably arrogant in its attempts to understand God; God’s actions may sometimes appear absurd to us, but it is not our place to judge. Faith, he says, includes believing in the goodness of God even if he decides to damn everyone; it is presumptuous of reason to question God’s mercy based on the fact that some end up in hell, even if they had no possibility of doing otherwise. Luther, like Augustine, in asserting the priority of grace over freedom (we do not have the power to opt for faith; God must work that in us), has no solution to the question of why God elects some and not others. For him, that decision is part of the hidden will of God, and it is not our place to pry into such matters. Continue reading

May 01


I was that proverbial and justly despised snot-nose, a gifted child. I remember being separated out from my kindergarten class with a few others into a special group for those of us already reading. I remember taking what I’m now sure was an I.Q. test at the end of first grade, sitting on a large chair in a strange office as a strange woman read me strings of numbers from a book and told me to recite them to her backwards. (So much of childhood consists of navigating adults’ inscrutable directives.) I remember the advanced reading and math classes that provided “enriched” activities. (Who was being subjected to the “impoverished” activities, I wonder now?) I remember the gifted class I attended every morning for an hour in third grade. The work was engaging enough, but there was a tense watchfulness about the teachers. I rarely felt that I pleased them, nor did I ever feel quite at ease in that room. Continue reading

May 01

Faith and the Imagination

I’ve recently been doing work on the imagination and self-narrative, and it’s made me think a lot about the role of imagination in faith. This isn’t at all to say that I see faith as equivalent to belief in something imaginary, but simply that I think our faith is always shaped by our imagination. Our understanding of the divine is inevitably mediated by what we imagine it to be–we carry some kind of picture or image of God in our minds based not only on our life experience but also on the ways in which we’ve made sense of that experience, the connections we’ve drawn between events, the meanings we’ve constructed. And such processes are fundamentally imaginative in nature. Continue reading