Part 2: The Vanguard

There are many terms that get employed in metaphor so often that they begin to lose any real meaning. “The Vanguard” is one of them. In the age of machine guns and smart bombs, the term has lost much of its impact, but it is worth looking at one more time. In ancient battles the vanguard were the first troops to enter battle. The vanguard was responsible for the first wave of attack, and the vanguard always suffered the worst casualties. Battle has always been a nasty affair. It is brutal. And the kinds of battles over religion, family, and belief we are waging today can be equally as brutal. The scars are not physical, but the emotional scars can run deeper and have a more lasting effect.

Historically speaking, battles were often very short–many times a matter of minutes–and the important actions by a few were often the pivotal points to entire conflicts. The rest of the troops were often there only for defense or support. Even in very large battles the actions of the few brave souls that rushed in first made all of the difference. The vanguard advances the battle; the vanguard determines what the fronts are; the vanguard determines when and where the war can end. More

Part 1: Here I Stand

My relationship with Mormonism is complex. I have served as a commentator, critic, research, occasional defender, and a former member. I have been in the shoes of the skeptic and the believer; I have lived on both sides of the fence. My views on Mormonism represent a natural growth and progression—one that I think has been healthy and productive although it has proceeded through many patches of personal suffering. Real growth often entails pain and moving from one stage of life to another and is usually not easy.

My progression out of Mormonism began early in my childhood. Seeds of doubt were planted very young that took a long time to germinate and grow. I was never in hurry to get out of the Church and never really wanted to do so. Mormonism was not just my faith it was also my place in the world. It represented who I was and how I interacted with the world and was a large part of our family and cultural identity. Following my faithful mission and my return to BYU, I sought ways to make the faith work even though the gulf between the Church and reality were increasingly at odds. The world view that was perpetuated by the Church and the reality that was supported by reason, observation and science were irreconcilable when given more than a surface view. I believe there was always with me uneasiness—a general sense that something was just not right which grew over time to the point of being unbearable. Of course, during this phase I usually bought into the party line perpetuated by the Church which suggested that any problems were not with the system, but were with me. More

The OTHER Mormon Moment

Many of you have heard of the “Mormon Moment,” and the items that have happened through the last year:

    Mitt Romney as a legitimately viable candidate for the Republican party candidate for President of the United States
    The Book of Mormon Musical cleaning house at the Tony Awards
     

    The “I’m a Mormon” campaign, focusing on the “everyday” folks that make up the LDS church.

As a matter of fact, if you need a refresher, just pick up the infamous Newsweek magazine from the middle of June this last year.

Many people feel that this our “arriving” moment, where Mormons are now taken seriously as a culture and as a religion. People are now examining the nuances that make Mormons who they are (for example, the the phenomenon of Mormon Mommy Blogs), scholarly interests have been increasing over the years (Oxford University Press seems to have five different books coming out about Mormon Studies), and it being commonplace to hear about Mormons from places like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

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Why The Church Hasn’t Condemned Its Racist Past

As a result of its interpretation of the Bible as forbidding interracial dating, Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina did not admit any black students prior to 1971.  Between 1971 and 1975 it admitted married, but not single, black students and in 1975 began to admit both married and single black students.  Nevertheless, it continued to forbid interracial dating, punishing (or in the first instance simply not admitting) those who engaged in it.  This was a very costly principle.  In 1982, after years of wrangling in court, it was finally determined that the IRS was within its rights to revoke BJU’s tax exempt status based on its racist policies retroactive to 1970, to collect over a million dollars in back taxes and to collect taxes going forward. More

Sojourner in the Lone and Dreary World: Two Years Among the Apostates

My first foray into the online Mormon world occurred when I was 18 years old.  As a young clean-cut Mormon getting ready to go on a mission, I was looking for anything about Mormons my own age, and people who could understand not only why I was choosing to live the way I did, but why I was choosing to go to Korea for two years. Mormons from highly-populated Mormon areas seemed to be living in the “promised land,” the land of “milk and honey.” I never thought my initial journey on that now-defunct message board would lead me here.
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Towards A Mormon “Hall of Fame” of Books

Reading has always been in my blood. I can distinctly remember being 9 years old, losing feeling in my arm, being propped up on my elbow while underneath the covers with a flashlight and a book, and quickly turning the light off and switching positions any time I heard my parents walking outside my bedroom door. I have vivid memories of blasting through the first 4 books of the Harry Potter series on vacation when I was 16 years old, a stack of John Grisham books when I was 17 (and on vacation), and countless others.

Reading is what also got me into a more intellectual/scholarly based look at religion, and Mormonism in general. I realized when I was on my mission that the correlated Deseret Book published books and materials just weren’t whetting my whistle. I wanted something with a bit more substance, a bit more meat, something to help me understand my religion a bit better. After I returned home, I took a break to decompress from my mission, but as I returned to college, I was excited to experience BYU-level religion classes. Little did I know that my classes would be glorified CES Institute classes, with the same milk-type lessons and stories I had heard from my youth.

As I explored the bloggernacle, I realized there were people out there looking for a similar dialogue. I found the main Mormon periodicals, and I started expanding my library aside from the “bestselling” Deseret Book items that left me wanting more.  My time in the online Mormon world has shown me that I’m not the only one that feels this sense of yearning for what is considered to be a “good” book for Mormon research. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked through blogs or Google with the search string “Essential Mormon Books,” or something along those lines.

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Answers

Answers

I have attended something like 450 testimony meetings in my life and four times as many sacrament meetings, not to mention countless hours of sunday school, primary, Relief Society, seminary, Institute, a mission, and home and visiting teachers.  In all those hours one message loomed —

WE HAVE THE ANSWERS! ! ! !  We HAVE the answers.  We have the ANSWERS.  We have THE answers.

WE have THE answers!!!

But what answers, exactly, does the church have?  Consider, for instance, the classic: How do I get to the Celestial Kingdom? More

Christmas Fears

Last week I was invited to a gathering of moms and kids from my husband’s ward.  (They split the wards just after I quit attending so I don’t actually know many of the people my family attends church with.  My daughter, however, spends every Sunday with these children [and their mothers – who chiefly seemed to be members of the Primary presidency] and so I thought I ought to go and get acquainted.) As we were sitting around the kitchen one mom raised her concerns about how to break it to her kids that Santa isn’t real. Image(s) courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

She told us that when she was a girl her mother played up the Santa thing to the hilt.  She would wake up Christmas morning not just to presents and some half-eaten cookies, but also sooty footprints in the living room and reindeer tracks in the yard.  Her mom put enormous energy into making certain her kids believed in Santa (and the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc).  But then — on their ninth birthday — she took them out for ice-cream and just gave it to them straight — “Santa isn’t real.”

Imagine the broken hearts. More

Advice

I was 9 or 10 that summer.  I lived to swim, ride my bike, play with my dolls and cars, read and daydream.  The future seemed far away and church was just something I went to.  We were at a ward campout when the bishop pulled me aside to ask how I was doing.  My dad was living in LA that year, going to school, and the rest of us had stayed behind.  My mom was working crazy hours as a dance instructor and choreographer and I am sure the people around us worried about her, all alone with six kids under 11 years old, and about us.  Bishop was my dad’s climbing buddy, an English professor at the local college and a great guy, the first bishop to stick in my brain.  I remember the conversation.  We sat on a couple of big rocks surrounded by pine trees, people from the ward coming and going around us and he told me I should always remember this advice: More

The First Book of Ed

This is the accurate account of me, Ed, and my family. I am the previously unmentioned youngest son to my parents Lehi and Sariah, and have four older brothers, being called,(beginning at the eldest) Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi (goody two shoes). As you will notice, my account is much more precise than my windbag brother.

Dad said the Lord warned him to depart out of our home, the land of Jerusalem, because he proclaimed unto the people one too many times they better stop their wicked ways. Several groups threatened to kill father just to shut him up. Father made us pack up and take a three days’ journey into the wilderness. More

What’s in a name . . . ?

I am still scared to say it.

My secret name.

My name that belongs to every other woman who received her endowments on the day I received my endowments . . . my name that isn’t sacred or even, really, special . . . only . . .

Names are weird things.

They can give you power — I used to think about this when I was a missionary.  No-one got to know my name, but I always jumped right in to calling everyone else by their first name: “What is your name? Sue, (You don’t mind if we call you Sue, do you? Great!) Sue, what do you know about God? . . .”  An investigator, who was just out of rehab, insisted that we go by our first names with her.  “That’s what we do in group and I like it better,” she’d say.  But it was so uncomfortable.  Suddenly we were on a level playing field with her.  There is a reason why they call our missionaries, “Elder.”  They may not be old and wise, but they’ve got the name! More

The Mormon Christ

The Mormon Christ

There has been a great deal of talk lately regarding whether or not Mormons are Christians. This is not a new argument, it is actually as old as the church itself. When the Church was first founded many thought the nickname of “Mormon” was somehow a reference to Mohammed and that the church was in fact an Islamic faith. In the here and now though the argument is made popular again because of a Mormon Presidential candidate. The press would like to know how Americans feel about having a president who comes from what some see as an unusual faith perspective. More