Turning Wine into Water

In a rather strange opening miracle, the author of the Gospel of John depicts Jesus as working a familiar Dionysian miracle of turning water into wine.  Mormons have undone this entirely, turning wine into water.  The modern sacrament prayers go so far as to change the wording of the revealed prayers, substituting “water” for “wine.”  This wasn’t always so.

In the early days of the Church, LDS followers drank wine from a common cup.  The founding church order given in April 1830, revised in 1833 and again in 1835 declares that wine should be used (D&C 20).  Around the end of 1832 and beginning of 1833, wine is again referenced as the drink that is used in the sacrament.

Continue reading “Turning Wine into Water”

Now Reading… Bad Religion

Published this AM, by Ross Douthout.  Amazing what Kindle can do, no?

So the “problem,” so far, is the loss the great orthodox Christian center.   And this means heretics, among whom Douthout places us.  He writes:

Heretics are often stereotyped as wild mystics, but they’re just as likely to be problem solvers and logic choppers, well-intentioned seekers after a more reasonable version of Christianity than orthodoxy supplies.  They tend to see themselves, not irrationally, as rescuers rather than enemies of Christianity–saving the faith from self-contradiction and cultural irrelevance” (335).

Looks like that shoe fits, no?  Makes me think about all the denunciations of Trinitarianism as a “mass of confusion.”   I wonder, though, did JS really produce a more rational or reasonable version of Christianity?

Well, we shall have to see where Douthout takes his ideas…




B.H. Roberts and the Mormon Political Left by Chris Smith

FPR would like to thank Christopher Carroll Smith for this guest post. Chris is an emerging Mormon Studies scholar out of Claremont Graduate University, in the tradition of Jan Shipps.

B. H. Roberts, a member of the First Council of the Seventy, is better known for his efforts as an apologist than as a politician, but this is a man who was regarded by some of his contemporaries as the most prominent Democratic orator in the state of Utah. Roberts, in fact, was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1898, but the House refused to seat him because he was a practicing polygamist. Roberts also played an important role in shaping the state constitution when Utah was admitted to the Union.

Continue reading “B.H. Roberts and the Mormon Political Left by Chris Smith”

Capital Punishment and LDS Doctrinal Development

This morning my facebook and twitter feeds were inundated with declarations by my Latter-day Saint friends decrying capital punishment and the execution of Troy Davis last night. “I want to take this opportunity to voice my outright and unequivocal opposition to the death penalty,” said one. “A sad day to be a Georgian,” lamented another. I wasn’t really surprised, but I am fascinated by how the tide of public support of capital punishment has ebbed among Mormons in my own lifetime. Continue reading “Capital Punishment and LDS Doctrinal Development”

Mormon Women’s Texts and the New RS History, “Daughters in My Kingdom”

The much-heralded Relief Society history Daughters in my Kingdom commissioned by General President Julie B. Beck is now available online and will soon be distributed to Relief Society sisters all over the world. My preliminary reading of the book got me thinking about religious texts for Mormon women: what they are, their effectiveness and usefulness to LDS females, and how this latest work compares with what has gone before. I’d like this to be an interactive post, as commenters may be able to reference texts I haven’t thought of, as well as provide uniquely personal ideas about the effects these texts have had upon their lives. Continue reading “Mormon Women’s Texts and the New RS History, “Daughters in My Kingdom””

On Biblical Scripture

The Problem

What makes Biblical Scripture, Scripture for LDS Christians?*

Historically one prominent model for the authority of Biblical Scripture in Christian history (including for some Latter-day Saint thinkers) is the Prophetic-Inspiration Model: the person who writes the text is divinely inspired by God to write the very words that are recorded.  This model entails that the human being is a puppet of sorts for the divine will, a tool that can be used for the divine purpose, namely composing Sacred Scripture.  In this view, any text so authored is worthy of the category Scripture because, in the end, its wording is really determined by God (even while still partaking in human language).  This model therefore equates the words of the prophet figure with Revelation. However, although the prophet figure ultimately cannot be held responsible for the final text, the fact that it is composed, even if only instrumentally, by a prominent religious leader otherwise considered to have been commissioned of God, gives credence to the view that the text’s authority rests in the divine. Continue reading “On Biblical Scripture”

Speculation Upon The Kody Brown Polygamy Case

Taken from remarks made by a panel at the 2011 Sunstone Symposium. Participants were Kaimi Wenger, asst. professor at Thomas Jefferson Law School; Ben Winslow, multi-media journalist for Fox 13 News; DeWayne Hafen, practicing polygamist from Baja California; Cheryl Bruno, permablogger at FPR. Also remarks made at a meeting of the Apostolic United Brethren in Rocky Ridge, Utah, 8/7/11.

It doesn’t take a law degree to understand the ins and outs of the Kody Brown Polygamy case currently being filed in Utah. But it does take an understanding of a few key points. For example, to how many people do you have to be married to be prosecuted for bigamy in Utah? Did you answer two or more? Nope. It’s zero. Continue reading “Speculation Upon The Kody Brown Polygamy Case”

Should Mormons in the “Diaspora” Celebrate Pioneer Day?

It has only been in recent years that I have slowly become aware that not every convert to the Church shares my deep identification with the Mormon pioneers. I have loved the epic story of the trek to the Salt Lake Valley. I appreciate its archetypal connotations. My heart thrills with the stories of the pioneer heroes and heroines, and I consider each of their stories part of my legacy as a Mormon, though my LDS heritage begins with myself.

In the last few years there has been some grumbling by members who don’t have Mormon pioneers in their genealogy that it annoys them to celebrate the July 24th holiday, a commemoration of the day the first company of pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. Continue reading “Should Mormons in the “Diaspora” Celebrate Pioneer Day?”

Edward Tullidge’s Miltonian “Gathering of the Grand Council of Hell”

In 1858 Edward Tullidge wrote to Brigham Young to volunteer himself as the epic chronicler of the Restoration. The off-and-on again British convert to Mormonism enthusiasticaly described his fifteen-thousand-line epic style biography of Joseph Smith, “The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century.” He compared his work to Homer and John Milton and promised more to come.1 Evidently, Tullidge never completed the project.2 Fortunately, however, one chapter was published in The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star in January 1858. I located a scanned image via Google Books,3 but since I couldn’t find a reliable transcription online I decided to furnish one for your reading, copying, and pasting enjoyment. I numbered the lines for easier reference. For this post I put together a quick comparison between Tullidge’s chapter and Milton’s Paradise Lost. Continue reading “Edward Tullidge’s Miltonian “Gathering of the Grand Council of Hell””

Faith Promoting “Problems”

A few weeks ago my Bishop asked me to be the speaker at the monthly Bishop’s Youth Discussion. I’ve spoken at several of these events and enjoy teaching the youth so I quickly agreed. When I asked what subject I should speak on he thought for about 5 seconds and asked that I speak on the prophet Joseph Smith. This is an interesting occurrence since 9 times out of 10 church leaders ask me to speak on topics that have to with the scriptures, but in this case:  Joseph Smith. Preparing and delivering my remarks has drawn my mind to reflect on Joseph Smith, Church History, etc. over the past few days so I share a few autobiographical thoughts akin to some fairly recent posts found here by Enoch and here by TT.

In the last 18 months I have come to realize just how complex the prophet (and human being) Joseph Smith is. Never again will I look at him the same. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing only time can tell; however, I feel blessed to have somewhat of a better understanding about the history of our founder. Magic, seer stones, masons, plates and all, I feel that I am a more informed person having learned what I have learned. Many have asked me how I can know the things that I know and still have a desire to be a Mormon (just last night in fact). The answer, like Joseph, is complex but certainly entails these points: (1) I feel that the gospel as taught by the LDS Church (despite many concerns) helps me and my family to be better people, (2) I find it comforting to belong to a group of people that know how to serve and push me to serve more, (3) I love belonging to a group with such a rich history and tradition. I would be dishonest if I didn’t feel a need/want to carry on this tradition (at least the parts I like :)) (4) It’s fun! I’ve met a number of amazing people in the church that make life better and certainly a whole lot more interesting. Strangely enough though, I must say that many of the more “human” episodes in Joseph’s life (and in Church History) have helped me to feel closer to Joseph than before. Why? Because he is not just an infallible fairy tale that my parents tell me about anymore. He is a real man that makes real mistakes and is yet (according to my faith) a prophet of God. How prophets are nothing more than human and yet represent the divine is quite a paradox and yet, paradox describes my faith so adequately. I believe it was Richard Bushman in a podcast who said something to the effect of, “if you don’t have paradox in your life, then you are not living.” This is certainly not to say that I have found ways to view all the less-than-stellar moments in our church’s history (not to mention present situations/happenings) that are helpful and make sense, but I have found enough to continue. And so it is that many of the events in our Church’s history that have been seen as “problems” have, in an odd sort of way, become faith promoting problems.