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United Brethren is currently on blog sabbatical.


Sahar: The Church in Turkey

Sahar's final post is about her life in Turkey (where she is studying for a PhD). One hopes that Turkey--if it really wants EU membership--will improve its religious freedom laws.
The Church in Turkey

The church in Turkey consists of 3 branches. The first and main branch is in Istanbul. The membership records of that branch show 30 members, but about 15-20 attend church every Sunday. There is another branch in Adona which has about 30 members. The third branch is in Ankara and this is the branch I have been attending for about a year now.

Our branch in Ankara consists of 15 members. Regular attendance in the branch each Sunday is about 8-10. We have an American family in the branch with two cute girls. We have another American who is here also for a short time. The only family we have who is here on a long time basis is the Kilickaya family who are Turkish. Mehmet Kilickaya was the first Turkish member of the church. He was baptized in Denmark. His wife later joined the church and became the first Turkish person to be baptized by the hands of a Turkish priesthood holder (her husband Mehmet) in Turkey. They are an amazing couple with remarkable conversion stories.

We have had our share of trouble in the Ankara branch. We had a hard time finding a meeting place since it is not legal to meet as a church group in houses. We used to meet in our branch president’s house, but after receiving threats we were forced to find a different meeting place. For now, we meet at the American army base in Ankara, which is not really a perfect place because to enter the base a person needs to obtain permission. So, when a friend of mine says, “I want to come with you to church,” I have to apologize and say: “Sorry I have to get you a permit first.”
On BYU, Guy Fawkes, and Bloggersnacking

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Utah. I was there to give a faculty lecture at the BYU religion department (speaking about my FARMS-funded ancient beekeeping project). For this mission-field blogger, it was also fun to schmooze with some of the bloggernacle elite.

First up, FPR's John C., an old mate from Johns Hopkins. John C. is a wonderful human being and funny to boot. I stayed with John and his wife in Orem. Much to my delight they had planned a Guy Fawkes bonfire in their yard, complete with an effigy of old Guy, that dastardly continental Catholic who tried to blow up Parliament 400 years ago today.

At BYU, I ran into Frank McIntyre in his nasty, pre-fab office. During the lulls in our conversation about socialized medicine, Frank told me of the joys of tracing IP's.

The Great and Spacious SLC Bloggersnacker was at the Fowles' home. Alli is the best and most patient host ever: she supplied the cheese and the pumpkin soup and raised nary an eyebrow over our bannergate gossipping. Bob Caswell (who designs his anti-BYU posts around his wife's experiences there, it seems) told us that he wasn't that liberal. The Fowles brothers, J-Max and the ever cheerful John Dehlin debated (nay, argued) over the virtue of ad-hominem attacks and whether Sunstone was evil. It was decided in the end that Steve Evans was indeed evil, and that he should stop paying all these people to comment on how much they love him. Ryan Bell, on the other hand, is not evil, even though he admitted that he hates law and only practices it because he wants to get rich.

The other consensus: bloggernacle denizens are not normal Mormons.

Oh, and John F. claims he was taught about Joseph's peepstone in CTR class.
Latter-day Saint Liberation Front

Latter-day Saint Liberation Front has joined the "Founding Islands" of the Mormon Archipelago. We have it on good authority that Roasted Tomatoes and Serenity Valley are real people. We think their names may be fake, though.
Get yer Mormon Archipelago T-shirts

Everyone needs a Mormon T-shirt, but Moroni-Nike swooshes are so lame, don't ya think? Enter the Mormon Archipelago into this gaping breach. We are now selling T-shirts via Zazzle. Thanks to Rusty for the graphics and Mark for two of the slogans. The $3.57 that we make will go into the Great Mormon Archipelago Webspace Fund (aka J.'s wallet) and for buying stamps so we can send out junk-mail advertising for the Archipelago journal.

And in case you were wondering: Mormon Archipelago equals the entire community. Wear your Bloggernacle T-shirt with pride (or loathing, if you're the Snarker).

Hurry: Zazzle is offering free shipping through October 30 (ZAZZLEFS1005 at checkout).

(Next: MA bling.)
Grandpa Smith and the Witches (Archive)

It's always been a slight puzzlement that a religion that has an aversion to playing with face cards (occultic?) celebrates Halloween (also occultic?) with abandon. I'm glad, though, because I get to dress my son as Yoda today without guilt.

Anyway, here's my Halloween post.

In the famous Salem witch trials of 1692, Joseph Smith's great-great-grandfather Samuel Smith and Samuel's father-in-law John Gould testified against Mary Easty and Sarah Wilds. Both women were executed. Here are the court records:
The deposistion of Samuell Smith of Boxford about 25 yers who testifieth and saith that about five years sence I was one night att the house of Isaac Estick sen'r. of Topsfeild...and as I was agoeing whom that night about a quarter of a mille from the said Esticks house by a stone wall I Received a little blow on my shoulder with I know not what and the stone wall rattleed very much which affrighted me my horse also was affrighted very much but I cannot give the reson of it.

The Depotion of John Gould aged about 56 yeares or theire about Testifeth and saith that some time sence...sister Mary Redington tould mee as she was Coming from Salam With her Brother Redington that GoodWife Wilds did strive two or three times to pul her doune of her horse one time she did strive to pul her doune in a brooke but she did set her selfe with all her strenke she Could and did git out of the brook and soone after she was got out of the brooke she said that GoodWife Wilds did pul her doune bakwords of her horse and held her doune so as she Could not helpe her selfe tell her Brother Redington and Sarg't Edmon Townes did Come and helper...
Rather flimsy testimony I would say, at least for "witchcraft".

Anyway, it's ironic that Joseph's detractors often accuse him of dabbling in the occult. Whilst stories of seer stones and "peeping" are accepted by informed Mormons today (for example, Rough Stone Rolling pp. 48-52), rebuttals of some of the more lurid claims can be found at Search under "magic". But folk religion seems to have existed alongside Christianity among the poor of the American frontier, and I think some of this rather benign superstition still lingers in modern Mormonism. Urban legends about protective garments would be one example.

Anyway, further reading on Mormon "magic" this Halloween would include:

- Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series (based loosely on the Joseph Smith story) celebrates the magic "knacks" of Alvin's family.
- John L. Brooke, Refiner's Fire - the making of Mormon cosmology (read FARMS review for LDS apologetic response).
- D. Michael Quinn - Early Mormonism and the magic world view (also read FARMS review)

Happy Halloween!
"Lost" in the Bloggernacle

Spurious allusions between tv/movies and Mormonism are widespread. If people can seriously suggest that Yoda was based on Spencer W. Kimball, then I can make connections between Lost and the Bloggernacle. Utterly fatuous, I' m sure, but here goes:

BCC and its pals in the Mormon Archipelago are clearly the front half of the plane. We're the cool, friendly ones. Times and Seasons, being evil, are the Others (aka the Dharma Initiative?) I'll let you decide who Ethan is. Banner of Heaven, being kooky, are the back half. Alternatively, BoH could be the Others, full of mystery, possibly fake. Where would that leave T&S? The boring, fatty real-world flash-backs? Time to have a wee/make a cup of tea and wait for the real action to get going. Actually, this seems more befitting of M*. The other Bloggernacle islands, atolls etc. can only be the extras who fold clothes in the background.

As for individual bloggers (besides evil Ethan who is whoever you want him to be; and drawing on the BCC/MA crew only, see above):
  • Kate - My wife will kill me if I choose anyone but her (same goes for Shannon). So let's say Rebecca and the FMH crew: sassy, sexy, independent
  • Jack - OK, he's dishy, so again I have to be careful here. As he's the boss, one would think of Steve, but Steve's funny. Jack ain't. John Hatch has the moodiness
  • Hurley - Gotta be Steve: the physical similarity is spooky
  • Locke - Pretty weird, but cool too, and HARD. Stapley, then. Or Don, 'cos he's old.
  • Sawyer - Handsome, snarky. One out of two would again suggest Steve. Aaron Brown, perhaps?
  • Charlie - OK. Me. I play the guitar, I have the accent, I snort...
  • Michael - Exceptionally nice guy. Choose from Rusty or Geoff J. Will he find Walt? What does the future hold? Is Lost the council of heaven?
  • Walt - John Fowles. Where's he gone?
  • Jin - For speaking a language above most of us: Nate Oman. Wait, he's an Other, possibly the evil genius (Alvar Honso) behind it all along with Wenger. So it must be Justin Butterfield
  • Sun - Dave. Because he and Justin belong together (I still miss the DMI-Wasp superblog)
  • Rose - Not seen very often, but good for calming things down a bit: Karen, Kristen J, KHH, Elisabeth*
  • Boone (or the teacher who got blown up) - choose your favourite dearly-departed blogger
*Not technically in the BCC/MA, but should be.
The Wailing Wall

Great picture from the New York Times of a Mormon woman (left) at the Wailing Wall :

"I never really dreamed that I would make it there someday, but it was a dream come true. I had a very peaceful feeling when I was at the wall, and I was thinking about Jesus and that he could have been there. Just the thought of that was very overwhelming. I thought it was great that, with all those people of different faiths, we could all get together. And it was interesting to see how they were worshiping. They had their faces in the book and were moving their bodies back and forth. Then the way they have the women on one side and the men on the other: the young men were getting their bar mitzvahs, and the mothers were all standing on their chairs to try and see what was going on." NYT Travel, October 9, 2005.
Gettysburg, Pa.

The family and I spent Columbus Day at Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania. One marvels at the blood and horror that reigned over these green fields in July 1863. I kept thinking about an image from the movie Kingdom of Heaven when Christians and Muslims fight desperately at the walls of Jerusalem. The camera pans up to give a gods' eye view of the carnage. From on high, the human combatants don't look like brave knights, or heroic mujahaddin. They look like swarming ants, no better than animals (except animals don't go to war).

Consider how God views our penchant for killing:
And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood. (Moses 7:33)
As we came to the cemetery at Gettysburg, my son asked me who were the" good guys" and who were the "bad guys." I paused for a moment. War is so often framed in those terms. I am no pacifist, but have come to realise that the "just wars" we herald do not always make war just. The Battle of Britain was just, fought by "good guys." The fire-bombing of Dresden was not just, nor the atrocity at Hiroshima. War, even with the banner of justice behind it, quickly becomes the theater of hate, of evil, of all that is devilish.

"They were all good guys," I told Jacob, for who am I to judge the soul of this unknown infantryman lying in the soil of Gettysburg?

But, be certain that there are bad guys, those masters of war who build the bombs and the guns, who play with the world like it's their little toy.* They rule even now, fighting unjustified pre-emptive wars, blowing up civilians with suicide bombers, building nuclear weapons when they should be building their people earthquake-proof homes.

We have been called to "renounce war and proclaim peace" (D&C 98:16). Sometimes, for some of us, these are words only spoken, not truly embraced.

*HT: Bob Dylan.
The Perils of Polybloggy

Dave's gone fishing.

This is a sad moment in the Bloggernacle. Dave has universal "cool," DMI is a 'nacle highlight, and he even made it to Beliefnet's Blog Heaven.

So why's he gone? Ostensibly because he's busy right now and can't commit time to three blogs. That's right, Dave is a Bloggernacle polyblogger: DMI, Bloggernacle Times, and BCC. But (and here's the rub), he will still be blogging at BT and BCC. His own blog, the venerable DMI, has been offered up on the altar of Walmart.

Been there, done that. Who can resist the lure of the Big Blogs? If I have a great idea for a post, do I plonk it at United Brethren where it may be read by 100 people, or at BCC where a 1000 people will likely read? It's all about fame, baby, and we all want that. But Dave's gone fishing, UB has only now (I think) recovered from the great BCC sell-out, Stapley hardly ever posts at Splendid Sun (although they are invariably good posts). Will John C. and Ned save their best stuff for VSoM.? Is Fowles going to pull out the stops for BT or the View? There are many others in this predicament.

So, what's the future of small blogs? It's easy really: use the Mormon Archipelago. Here, all blogs get fairly equal billing. In theory it shouldn't matter where I post as you'd see all of them at the same page at the Archipelago (whether United Brethren, Bloggernacle Times, or By Common Consent). The Archipelago is the NFL parity draft of the 'Nacle, our very own agrarian revolution. The small blogs must survive to keep the big boys honest. And those of us who polyblog (and it's great really) need no longer have a "favourite wife."