Leonard Arrington: A View of Our Recent Past

ArringtonGreg Prince’s landmark biography of Leonard Arrington will be available at the end of May. Leonard Arrington and The Writing of Mormon History is the first biography to draw on Arrington’s 20,000 pages of journals. Of particular interest is Arrington’s time as Church Historian, from 1972 to 1980. Tonight I had the privilege of attending a presentation where Greg talked about his new book.

1972 ushered in a time of significant restructuring in LDS Church leadership. The Prophet and First Presidency had previously led the Church as a nearly flat organization, with little intentional coordination between individual fiefdoms. The apostles, for example, were merely charged to bear witness to the world, which largely consisted of presiding at Stake Conferences.

President Harold B. Lee wished to see more coordination (or correlation) between the different instructional aspects of Church hierarchy. At the same time, the Church had requested a study of the organization, asking how its management structure could be updated to reflect best practices. One of the notable recommendations was a true historians department, one that was not merely an adjunct responsibility of an ecclesiastical leader with no formal history training.

President Lee decided to heed the recommendation, and selected noted historian Leonard Arrington as the first “real” historian for the Church. The grand experiment would fail in less than 10 years. Continue reading

What I think about when I don’t want to go to Church meetings

I’m sure that every reader of this blog has experienced days — perhaps even months or years — when it is really difficult to get motivated to go to Church or specific church meetings.

Let me make this clear: I got baptized in my 30s and still have some of the fire of a recent convert, but I occasionally feel negative thoughts about a church meeting.

You are not alone if you feel this way. And you probably have some very good reasons for some of those negative thoughts.

Does this sound familiar?

Sacrament meeting: your kids will not sit still, and they fight with each other, and they run down the aisle, and they are noisy, and you, the parent, get absolutely nothing out of the meeting because you spend the whole time chasing them down or trying to keep them under control. Or if you don’t have young kids, how about the Sacrament Talk of Doom that is poorly organized, includes doctrine that is not correct or is horribly boring?

Your calling: you have been called yet again to (fill in blank here) calling that you really don’t like. The people you teach are not inspired and sit silently for an hour while you desperately try to get them to participate.

Priesthood: Once again, Brother Know It All is teaching, and he is spouting his crazy ideas. You look at your watch about 20 times during the lesson.

Relief Society: Once again, Sister Molly Mormon is teaching, and she is making you feel bad about yourself because you don’t do all of the activities she does.

The point here, ladies and gents, is that we all have felt these things at one time or another. There is nothing wrong with you if you have had these thoughts.

I have found that when these negative thoughts come into my mind I can drown them out with positive thoughts. Here are a few suggestions:

Continue reading

2016 BYU Women’s Conference: Live Streaming Information

BYUWC 2016From our friends at BYU Women’s Conference:

Elder Dale G. Renlund has invited YOU to prepare for the closing session of Women’s Conference!

“Ruth and I are looking forward to speaking at the BYU Women’s Conference on Friday afternoon (April 29). The theme for the conference is ‘One in Charity.’ We plan to share our thoughts about what charity is, the relationship between unity and charity, and where charity comes from.

“​In preparation for that session, we invite each of you to study Mosiah 4. Pay particular attention to defining ‘this’ in verse 12.

“We look forward to being with you great sisters on Friday.”

—posted Monday on Elder Renlund’s Facebook page

We’re excited this invitation is extended to everyone, both those in attendance and the rest of the world!

We are thrilled that LIVE STREAMING will be available for both general sessions on Friday, April 29th on the homepage of lds.org, and on the Mormon Channel. The live streaming will be available in both English and Spanish.

Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, will speak during the Friday morning session at 9:00 a.m. mountain time.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Ruth L. Renlund will speak at the closing general session on Friday at 3:45 to 5:00 p.m. mountain time.

Please share Elder Renlund’s invitation and the live streaming information with all who can’t attend Women’s Conference in person. We can’t wait to be with you tomorrow!”

As a personal note, I always enjoy my trips to BYU Women’s Conference — and not just for the delicious desserts! It is exciting and humbling to be among the great women of the Church, and to all be there focused on learning, improving and growing in our sisterhood. I hope that everyone will tune in to watch, and even if you can’t, that you will accept Elder Renlund’s invitation to study Mosiah 4.

Oh, to be an Angel!

Tizian_004Robb Smith puts forward an interesting premise regarding the authorship of Alma 29.

Most of us are most familiar with the opening passages of Alma 29 from hearing it sung:

“O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!”

The chapter summary tells us this chapter is written by “Alma, who desires to cry repentance with angelic zeal—The Lord grants teachers for all nations—Alma glories in the Lord’s work and in the success of Ammon and his brethren. About 76 B.C.”

Yet Robb invites us to consider that this desire to proclaim universal repentance and salvation comes not from Alma, but from Mormon. We know that there was not originally any chapter demarkation between Alma 28 and Alma 29. Thus the words we so often presume are coming from Alma flow immediately after an extended segment that seems to come from Mormon.

I love this reading of Alma 29. And then I run into the verses where the author talks about the success of his brethren, who have been up to the land of Nephi (Alma 29:14-15). This is where my ability to see what Robb sees fails me for a moment.

Even so, there is power in imagining these words coming from Mormon. To read Robb’s entire paper, click on O That I Were an Angel. Let me leave you with a short segment from the paper, where Robb argues how we can see Mormon as the author of even Alma 29:14-15. Continue reading

Book Review: Nothing New Under the Sun, by Adam S. Miller

Just over a year ago, I reviewed Adam S. Mller’s recently released great little book, “Grace is not God’s Backup Plan”, a new paraphrase of the book of Romans, which helped to explain grace in useful terms.

Now, Adam does a similar paraphrase, but on what is perhaps the most dismal and depressing book in the Bible: Ecclesiastes. In fact, the full title of the book is, “Nothing New Under the Sun: a Blunt Paraphrase of Ecclesiastes“.  The word, “blunt” is very apt, as the Preacher does not mince words. Thankfully, Adam takes the teachings of the Preacher and paraphrases them, updating them to our day and expounding from within the paraphrase the key points of each chapter.

In my study and blogging on Ecclesiastes, I’ve noted how bleak the Preacher is. Adam, however, may have found the silver lining. He explains that while the Preacher does teach that there is “nothing new under the Sun” and that “all is vanity”, it is this very hopelessness that makes the book so important.

Discussing the human desire to avoid hardships, pessimism, and crassness (all found in Ecclesiastes), he notes: “But the cost of avoidance is high. As Paul insists, in order to become Christian, we must first learn to be hopeless. Hopelessness is the door to Zion.”

This immediately made me think of the prophecies of the last days, in which Zion will be established.

And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.

And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety. (D&C 45:67-68)

In this instance, the hope of Zion only comes after there is no other hope. And so it is with Adam’s paraphrase. Ecclesiastes means hopelessness, until combined with Paul’s teachings on hope and grace.

As with his paraphrase of Romans, his short discussion on Ecclesiastes is followed by a powerful paraphrase of each chapter. In fact, he shares it twice, once as prose and the second separated by verse.

For anyone wanting to better understand this ancient work, and how it aptly applies to our materialistic world today, I highly recommend this book, as well as Adam’s previous book, “Grace is Not God’s Backup Plan.

You may also want to read Adam’s excellent book, “Letters to a Young Mormon