Thursday, February 24, 2011

Speaking Engagements

The preliminary programs for the Sunstone West symposium and the Mormon History Association conference are out. I will be speaking at both. At Sunstone I will present a paper titled "Ancient Metal Records--A Notion Preposterous in Joseph Smith's Day?" and at MHA a paper titled "The Mormon Endowment and the 'Christianization of Freemasonry.'" My session at MHA will be shared jointly with Clair Barrus (who will speak on "Oliver Cowdery's Rod of Nature") and Clinton Bartholomew (on "Cipher in the Kirtland Show: The Royal Arch Cipher and Joseph Smith's Conception of Ancient Languages").

Other presentations at these conferences that I am especially looking forward to:

Joe Geisner, "Very Careless in His Utterances: Editing, Correcting, and Censuring Conference Addresses," Sunstone.

Paul Crabtree and Laura Compton, "The Spin of Art: How Art Influences the Message of History," Sunstone.

Christopher Smith, "'Right of the Firstborn': Lineage and Heredity in the Theology of Joseph Smith," Sunstone.

Newell Bringhurst, "Campaign: Prospects for Success versus Potential for Failure," Sunstone.

Grant Underwood, "Transformations in Mormon Soteriology: A Historical Overview," MHA.

Stephen J. Fleming, "'The Welfare of Our Souls': The Smiths' Folk Rites and the False Dichotomy between Religion and Magic," MHA.

Joseph Probert, "The Influence of Elite Design on Temple Worship in the 1890s," MHA.

Don Bradley, "'Angel with a Drawn Sword': Kirtland Roots of Nauvoo Polygamy," MHA.

Ugo Alessandro Perego, "'Poisoned Springs'? Scientific Testing of the More Recent Anthrax Theory," MHA.

Michael Harold Paulos, "'Horrib[le] Caricature[s]' and 'Hideous... Cartoons': Political Cartooning and the Reed Smoot Hearings," MHA.

Connie Lamb, "Symbols of the LDS Relief Society," MHA.

Stephen C. Tayson, "Rites of Affliction in Mormon History: The Case of Mormon Exorcisms," MHA.


Oh... perhaps here is a good plate to also mention that I've been given a date for my book to finally be out: by April 15th!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gay Marriage and "Religious" Freedom

LDS church owned Deseret News* reports: "Religious groups should unite to protect the religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a speech Friday [Feb. 4th 2011] at Chapman University law school."

In this speech Elder Oaks said, "Along with many others, I see a serious threat to the freedom of religion in the current assertion of a 'civil right' of homosexuals to be free from religious preaching against their relationships. Religious leaders of various denominations affirm and preach that sexual relations should only occur between a man and a woman joined together in marriage. One would think that the preaching of such a doctrinal belief would be protected by the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion, to say nothing of the guarantee of free speech. However, we are beginning to see worldwide indications that this may not be so."

Although I agree with Elder Oaks that free speech is (and should be) a protected civil right, when reading this remark, I wondered to myself, If homosexuals sincerely identify marriage as a religious experience, what then? Would the Brethren then unite the Church and community to defend these religious rights?

The answer should be obvious. Of course not, but why? As I see it, the fight against gay marriage is less about religious freedom and more about the complete opposite: the desire to impose religious standards upon others.

"There's a real irony," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, "because he [Oaks] doesn't understand the meaning of religious freedom.… What they want to do is to curtail freedom for gays. They're not for freedom. They're for theocracy in matters of marriage."**

*Scott Taylor, "Elder Dallin Oaks calls for unity in protecting religious freedom," Deseret News (5 Feb. 2011).
**Mitchell Landsberg, "Religious freedom under siege, Mormon leader says," LA Times (5 Feb. 2011).