Podcast: Mormon Stories in Shorts

In December 2013, Scott Hales bought himself an iPad and a digital drawing software program. He was in the final stages of finishing his PhD dissertation and was ready to try his hand at a lighter medium.

Dusting off his dormant art-major-dropout skills, he started drawing comic strips about a self-proclaimed weird Mormon girl. Enid is fifteen and on a journey of self-discovery. She explores the area between doubt and belief while grappling with doctrine and church history she seeks to understand.

Her struggles are compounded by living in a non-traditional family. She finds herself in a parenting role during her teenage years when she most needs a nurturing support system. Her home life is anything but the ideal she hears about at church.

The comic started out as an experiment, but Scott soon realized he had discovered an effective tool for examining more closely the potholes in the road. It is Enid’s quirkiness that creates a safe space for readers. If Enid’s thoughts uncomfortably mirror the readers’ at times, the laughter can easily be attributed to her oddness. And so Hales deftly leads an expedition through the idiosyncrasies and the beauties of Mormon culture.

It’s tempting to label Hales’s work as satire, but the potential sting of his message is short-lived and meant to work as an antiseptic. By encouraging readers to laugh at Mormon peculiarities, Hales hopes to create an environment where thorny topics can be talked about in an open, honest, and faithful manner.

Particularly helpful is the launch pad he constructs for discussion of painful issues. He embraces faith crises, uncomfortable history, Mormon social mores, the nature of faith, as well as what he has called “disputed space.” Sharing these vignettes with family and friends may invite discussions that otherwise could go unexplored, unexamined, and unresolved.

The Garden of Enid shows Hales’s bravery to own the good, the bad, and the sublime in the Mormon story. Its success will hopefully encourage others to similarly create works that constructively help Mormons balance their relationship between God, community, and church.

Join Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast as she interviews Enid creator Scott Hales.

John Dehlin has a woman problem

If you are interested in the details of the latest battle between various Mormon apostate groups and people, you may find this post worthwhile.

To sum up:  John Dehlin has a huge problem with some of the women who were supporters and/or employees at one time.  He is accused of underpaying his employees, taking a huge salary for himself and not being honest in his financial disclosures.  And apparently now Kate Kelly hates him.

Speaking of priestcraft, you can read more about it here.

Book Review: “Dime Novel Mormons”

[Yes, this is the 3rd review M* has done of this book. You should read the review anyway.]

When I was a kid, I read a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories that was mostly unabridged, and I have been hooked on Holmes ever since.  However, there was one small bit of abridgment that I overlooked at the time (looking back at the book – my mom still has it – there was a footnote mentioning this) where the “Mormon” parts of A Study in Scarlet were taken out, with the reasoning that those chapters didn’t deal with Holmes.

Fast forward a decade and a half (give or take a few years), and I’m on a mission for the LDS (Mormon) church.  When out looking for people to teach, suddenly everyone is asking us about The Avenging Angel and Danites, saying things like “you guys have one whacked out history, dudes!”  The one time I broke mission rules (I was a pretty strait-laced, rule keeping guy, which often caused massive amounts of conflicts with my companions, especially since the president would deliberately give me slacker, disobedient companions so I could “whip them into shape” – ugh, not fun; anyway back to the review . . .) was watching that movie, just so I could see what everyone was talking about. Continue reading

Podcast: Tough Questions about Mormon Polygamy with Brian and Laura Hales

Few aspects of Joseph Smith’s life have been scrutinized more in recent years than his personal practice of polygamy.

Some readers’ first exposure to Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy comes from reading sensational headlines. Exaggerations and assumptions fill internet discussions, podcasts, and newspaper articles, so it is hard to know where to go for accurate information.

The temptation by some authors to fill in historical gaps often results in distortions that stir up emotions and create tantalizing soundbites that, even if largely fictional, may generate unnecessary fear and confusion.

Polygamy is part of the collective Mormon past that many struggle to understand. Current members have no cultural or religious basis to situate plural marriage. Members in pioneer Nauvoo shared that same struggle. When Benjamin Johnson first heard of it, he recalled: “If a thunderbolt had fallen at my feet I could hardly have been more shocked or amazed.”

Early Mormon polygamy is a historical puzzle that can at best be awkwardly reconstructed from fragmentary recollections. But it is apparent from reminiscences that those who practiced it were convinced it represented a religious practice instituted by God.

Church Historian Matt Grow noted that the more complicated the history, the more nuanced conclusions should be. Mormon polygamy was undoubtedly complicated, warranting provisional conclusions.

In this interview, Daniel C. Peterson of the Interpreter Foundation interviews Brian and Laura Hales about the most common questions asked about Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.

Join us for this candid discussion about what can and cannot be known about Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.

This episode is a joint production of LDS Perspectives and the Interpreter Foundation.

Access a transcript of “Tough Questions about Polygamy” at the LDS Perspectives website.

On Dementia And Traitors

A few months ago I posted about Riley, a relative I am seeking to protect.

Earlier this week Riley drove from the east coast to a western state without stopping. After at least one encounter with highway troopers, Riley eventually drove off the road into a highway median, then left their car and walked into the traffic lanes of the interstate. Riley was pulled from the road by a concerned passerby, to whom Riley’s friends and family owe a great debt of gratitude.

In two ER visits since then, Riley has been given a diagnosis of dementia, complete with pretty pictures of Riley’s brain showing evidence of the silent stroke that likely occurred in 2015. Apparently silent strokes occur 14 times more often than the strokes that manifest as physical weakness such as slurred speech. While there is no obvious outward manifestation of a silent stroke, a silent stroke can damage the portion of the brain related to impulse control, judgement, and mood regulation.

Dementia

As various health problems, such as silent stroke, are associated with aging, we see one reason some are nervous about the advanced age of most Church leaders, given that death by assassination and apostasy no longer keeps the average age of the leadership relatively low. 1

Yet as I am observing in the case of Riley, it is possible for a person to continue to function with dignity when surrounded by loving friends and family. The Bible gives us the analogy, telling us of a time Noah was impaired. One group mocked him, inviting others to see the drunken nakedness of their leader. The other group covered his nakedness and allowed him to sleep off the inebriation in peace.

If the Church were led by a Q1 (as in the case of Riley with their own estate and person), I would agree there could be concern. But the Church is led by a Q15, making it unlikely that failure of any single individual could derail the Church.

Traitors

But it is not the ravages of old age on Church leaders that causes most to lose faith. It is a belief that Church leadership at some point became traitors to the cause of Christ. We see this with Snuffer and his followers. For many of those losing faith over “polygamy,” their concern is that Joseph allowed carnal desire to overcome his devotion to God’s path. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Deaths (David W. Patten, Joseph Smith Jr., Parley P. Pratt) and apostasy (roughly half of the apostles and other senior leaders of the Church from 1837 to 1847) kept the average age of Church leaders relatively young in the first decades of Church history.