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God’s Blessings and Labor Crises: On Ammon Bundy’s Theology

By November 30, 2018


Ammon Bundy, the erstwhile hero of the loosely organized anti-government militia movement in Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada who engaged in a 41-day standoff with federal authorities in 2016, made something of a splash on Tuesday when he weighed in on the latest reports of border officials tear gassing asylum seekers at the Mexico-U.S. border in a 17-minute long video streamed live on his facebook page.

To the surprise of many news reporters and his own supporters, Bundy defended the refugees, criticized the actions of the Trump administration, and dismissed popular conservative conspiracy theories regarding the immigrants as “a bunch of garbage”:

“[Trump] has basically called them all criminals and said they’re not coming in here. It seems that there’s been this group stereotype. But what about those who have come here for reasons of need? … What about the fathers,the mothers, the children, who have come here and are willing to go through the process to apply for asylum so they can come into this country and benefit from not having to be oppressed continually by criminals?”

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Attend MHA

By May 23, 2018


Last week commenter acw wrote: “As one who hasn’t ever attended but has considered it,, could you also post some kind of MHA for newbies guide? Like why and how to come/participate, etc.” Below I provide a general description of what to expect and how to attend. In a subsequent post I’ll talk about the whys and hows of my experience at MHA as an avocational historian. We’re hoping to get together a few other what-it’s-like posts from different perspectives.

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History of LDS Youth Programs

By May 17, 2018


The LDS Church recently announced that it will be severing its ties with the Boy Scouts of America and is creating a new program for all the children and youth in the Church. With this announcement, there have been discussions (here and here) about what these changes could mean for the youth programs in the Church, particularly for young women. Knowing the history of the LDS youth programs for the past one hundred years can help put all of these recent announcements in perspective.

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The Eagle Scout in General Conference

By May 11, 2018


On Tuesday the Church Newsroom announced a “Plan for Worldwide Initiative for Children and Youth” that will change, among other things, Personal Progress and the Church’s relationship to Scouting. Yesterday I wrote about mentions of the Personal Progress program in General Conference. Today I look at mentions of the Eagle Scout award.

[Edit: Due to a very embarrassing error on my part, I only searched from 1940 to the present. There were two mentions of Eagle Scouts before 1950: In 1924 then-President Heber J Grant quoted approvingly a letter published in the Improvement Era that enthused at some length about Mormon scouting and included the line “There are more boys of advanced rank and a greater percentage of Eagle scouts than in any other section of America” (1924 April, p 155). In 1923 Apostle Richard R Lyman said, in a talk on training young people, “You cannot know what real scouting is until you have at least one Eagle Scout in your troop” (1923 April, p 157).]

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The Personal Progress Program in General Conference

By May 10, 2018


 

On Tuesday the Church Newsroom announced a “Plan for Worldwide Initiative for Children and Youth”. On the associated FAQ page it says that, among others, the “Personal Progress” program “may be affected by this change” beginning in 2020. In a preliminary effort to better understand the context for these potential changes, I looked at what has been said about Personal Progress in General Conference (or, at least, has been published in the Conference Report editions of the Ensign).

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Mormonism in the Travel Ban Supreme Court Case

By May 7, 2018


Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments surrounding President Trump’s travel ban. The arguments centered around whether the president had authority to issue such a ban, whether the ban targeted Muslims, and how long the ban would last. Public responses have fallen largely into two camps: that the ban is a continuation of presidential campaign prejudice against Muslims, or that the ban protects national security based on confidential information.

A telling article in the Salt Lake Tribune last week gave some historical context for the Supreme Court situation. During World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which authorized the removal of Japanese-Americans to internment camps because of a potential threat to national security. Fred Korematsu refused to be removed, was arrested, and argued that the order was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled that the executive order was constitutional and that national security took precedence over protection against racial prejudice. This court case was not the only source of presidential authority over national security in relation to race and migration, but it was a symbolically important one.

“Forty years later,” Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke writes, “an attorney named Dale Minami persuaded a court to vacate the conviction [against Korematsu] based on new evidence that the government had lied about the ground for the interment order.” In 1983, Korematsu won an appeal against the original Supreme Court decision, and in 1988 the federal government issued $20,000 in reparations to each surviving interned Japanese-American.

So, what does this court case mean for today’s travel ban? And why are you reading it on a Mormon History blog?

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Race, Gender, and Material Religion in Salt Lake City’s Utah Jazz Shrine

By May 1, 2018


In the past few weeks, a shrine to the NBA’s Utah Jazz has appeared next to Ken Sanders Books in Salt Lake City. The shrine features a confluence of religious figurines (none Mormon as of this writing), flowers, photos, Jazz memorabilia, and candles. J Stuart and Cristina Rosetti thought it would be an ideal opportunity to discuss lived religion and material religion within Mormonism. The authors acknowledge that the shrine isn’t uniquely Mormon, but we feel that there are some aspects of Mormonism that shine through when examined closely.

JS: I have jokingly referred to praying to the basketball gods for favor in NBA games and playoff series. I loved seeing that someone had actually created a shrine, seemingly to the basketball gods, on behalf of the Utah Jazz. After my immediate basketball nerdery ebbed, my religious studies nerdery surfaced and I thought about how peculiar it was for there to be a shrine to anything in a place as Mormon-heavy as Salt Lake City. Of course there are fewer Mormons in Salt Lake County than throughout Utah, but it still struck me as particularly Mormon. Mormonism is both a lived and a material religion that believes in the “presence” of supernatural beings directing events and people on the earth. Robert Orsi calls these forces “the gods,” as he explains in History and Presence, “Presence is real, but not necessarily good, not necessarily bad, and it is rarely either good or bad, as these words are understood in ordinary social discourse.” Presence is simply taken as for granted for many Mormons. Mormonism began with the apparition of heavenly beings and individual Mormons have continued to report their “presence” to the current day. This shrine is another way for Mormons to acknowledge “presence” in a way that doesn’t contradict what many of their leaders saying about the uselessness of praying for sports teams. What do you think, Cristina?

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“A little bit of that in there, too”: Arcade Fire and Mormon Heaven

By April 27, 2018


This is the latest installment in a very sporadic series of posts on Mormonism and music. And by very sporadic, I mean the first such post in nearly seven years. Previous posts include “Of Mormon Fundamentalism and Outlaw Country Music” and “Conveying Joseph Smith: Brandon Flowers, Arthur Kane, and the Mormon Rock Star Image.”

_______________________

Win Butler. Screenshot from “Put Your Money on Me” music video.

Arcade Fire is a Canadian indie rock band. Their lead singer, Win Butler, and his younger brother and bandmate, William Butler, were raised by a Latter-day Saint mother in northern California and suburban Houston. Though neither is a practicing Mormon today, the Butlers have had mostly positive things to say about their LDS upbringing. Here’s Win in a 2010 interview:

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From the Archives: Mormonism in Barbados (Almost), 1853

By March 13, 2018


(detail from John Arrowsmith, Map of the Windward Islands, 1844. Click on image for original)

Last month, Elder Dale Renlund visited the West Indian island of Barbados, which he dedicated for the preaching of the gospel. The timing of his doing so carries with it some special significance. As Elder Renlund noted in his remarks, the West Indies Mission was first dedicated thirty years ago, in 1988. And it was, of course, forty years ago this summer that the temple and priesthood ban denying black women and men certain blessings and opportunities in the church was lifted, which opened up Barbados and the other predominantly black Caribbean islands for full-fledged missionary work. 

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Succession in the LDS Presidency: Past and Present

By January 3, 2018


President Thomas S. Monson, sixteenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away last night surrounded by family in his Salt Lake City home from effects related to aging. We share our sympathy and support for his family and all those affected by his death, notably sixteen million or so Latter-day Saints.

There will be time for historical retrospectives at a later date. At this time, I thought it would be helpful to review how an LDS Church President is called and sustained by the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. This section is taken from the Mormon newsroom, I would encourage you to read the rest here. At the bottom of this post, I’ll share some helpful links on the historical development of succession in the LDS Church.

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