Blog Archives

Happy Ratification Day!

February 3, 2013 | 9 comments
By

It's a big day today---100 years ago, on February 3, 1913, Delaware ratified the 16th Amendment, meaning it had been ratified by the necessary 36 states. And, with the ratification of the 16th Amendment, the U.S. could constitutionally impose an income tax. Read more »

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

January 30, 2013 | 19 comments
By
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

(Assuming, of course, that Maria is a full-time ordinance worker at the Washington, D.C., temple.) Did you know that the Church owns an apartment building in Maryland? That it houses temple ordinance workers there? And that the apartment building is, legally, a convent? Read more »

Authenticity and The Book of Mormon

January 3, 2013 | 39 comments
By

I know, I said a year and a half ago that I wasn't going to see The Book of Mormon. But then it came to Chicago and, in spite of the fact that it is sold out through at least March, a friend set me up with a ticket. So I've now seen the show. I'm not going to review it, though. It's already been widely reviewed, and frankly, I don't have the musical theater chops to provide a credible review. Read more »

A Mission Story: Tigre

December 14, 2012 | 26 comments
By
A Mission Story: Tigre

I met Tigre pretty soon after arriving in my second area. He was a solid man, all muscle but his midsection. As I got to know him, I learned that both his muscle and his gut were well-earned. The muscle because Tigre taught karate for a living, and owned his own studio. The gut? You have never seen such a mountain of rice, covered with an avalanche of beans, as this man ate for lunch. Read more »

An MTC Story

December 12, 2012 | 42 comments
By

Mid-December is creeping up on us, bringing with it finals and the end of another semester. This year, as a result in the change in missionary ages, mid-December may also herald a tidal wave of new missionaries. Growing up, I heard not-infrequent stories about missions. But I remember only the rarest stories of the MTC. So, To better prepare you for the MTC,1 here’s an MTC story. Merry Christmas! When I was in the MTC, we had three classes a day, for three to three-and-a-half hours per class. To break up the monotony and make sure missionaries had some... Read more »

Facebook Memes and the Property Tax

November 27, 2012 | 39 comments
By
Facebook Memes and the Property Tax

There is, I've been told, a Facebook meme going around, juxtaposing a decaying house and the San Diego temple to support the argument that churches should not be exempt from taxation. And, like Facebook memes everywhere, this one is dumb. Dumb primarily because it is a tautology that doesn't say anything. Because of course a tax-exempt organization does not pay taxes that a non-exempt individual pays. That's pretty much the definition of tax exemption. Of course, saying that a Facebook meme is dumb and tautological makes for a pretty short and boring post. Far more interesting, imho, is to take seriously... Read more »

But Is It Priestcraft?

November 20, 2012 | 72 comments
By

In popular Mormon discourse, priestcraft seems to be the descriptor of choice for things that we don’t like. Paid clergy? Check.1 CES? Check.2 Deseret Book? Check. Authors of religious books? Maybe check.3 It’s fair, I think, to be suspicious of financial interests that are wrapped up with the Church. At the very least,  such interests raise the specter of conflict-of-interest. But—and here’s the big question—is it priestcraft?4 According to the Book of Mormon, “priestcraft” is comprised of five criteria:5 Preaching Setting oneself up as a light In order to get gain In order to get worldly praise Not pursuing... Read more »

Romney’s CRUT – Updated (10/30 at 7:30 pm)

October 30, 2012 | 40 comments
By

Maybe you’ve heard: Bloomberg News reports that Romney escaped taxation on some of his income by donating it to the Church, only that he donated less than he said he did, only that he didn’t have to donate as much as he said he would, or something like that. Confused? Fair enough. I’ll try to walk through what happened (though estate tax isn’t really my specialty, and I haven’t ever worked with a charitable remainder unitrust (“CRUT”). A CRUT is an irrevocable trust. What that means, essentially, is that it is a legal entity that an individual can form.... Read more »

Religious Music

October 18, 2012 | 12 comments
By
Religious Music

I'm a big fan of religious music. Some, at least. Read more »

My Notes on Priesthood Session, October 2012

October 6, 2012 | 8 comments
By

I had planned on giving a brief summary of Priesthood Session tonight; unfortunately, some family/logistical issues kept me from getting to our Church building until well after the session had started, so I’m afraid I missed the first speaker. And I’d planned on bringing my iPad to take notes on, but I accidentally left it at home, and was left with my phone for note-taking. But, in spite of the technical difficulties I faced, it was an enlightening and uplifting session of Conference. Below are my notes, with only the smallest edits for clarity and to fix some autocorrect... Read more »

An Immodest Proposal

October 3, 2012 | 54 comments
By

As Sarah noted, Saturday and Sunday bring us our Fall semiannual General Conference. As part of our twice-yearly ritual, we'll hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir up to three times: one session of Conference Saturday, one session Sunday, and the Music and the Spoken Word broadcast before the first Sunday session. Read more »

Romney’s Tax Highlights

September 24, 2012 | 17 comments
By

Okay, I took a quick look through the Romneys' 2011 tax return. There's plenty that could be said (it is, after all, a 300+ page document), but I only want to highlight a couple things. Note that my explanations are based on reading his returns; to the extent I ascribe motive to the Romneys, it's not because I know their hearts, but because that's what the tax returns look like. Read more »

Romney Released His 2011 Tax Returns Today.

September 21, 2012 | 65 comments
By

Is anybody else excited? Read more »

Entirely Privately

September 6, 2012 | 41 comments
By

When I lived in New York, I could have told you what virtually all of my friends paid in rent. It was a fairly common topic of conversation, and the conversation was one of two types: the can-you-believe-I-pay-$2,000-for-this-dump, or can-you-believe-I-only-pay-$3,500-for-this-apartment. I didn’t really think much of it; I didn’t put much stock in financial privacy. And it wasn’t just the amount I paid in rent—as an attorney at a big firm in New York, if you wanted to know how much I made, you basically just needed to know the year I graduated from law school, the firm I... Read more »

The Upside of Returned Missionaries

August 29, 2012 | 16 comments
By

I want to note, upfront, that although this post was inspired by Rachel’s and Alison’s excellent recent posts, it is not meant in any way to respond to them. I fully agree with them that there are returned missionaries—even active, temple-attending returned missionaries—who do bad things. And those bad things can, physically, spiritually, and emotionally, hurt people around them, especially where the people around them (reasonably) believe that returned missionaries should not do bad things. Moreover, being male, my relationship with (male) returned missionaries did not have the same structural inequities Alison and Rachel describe, even when I was... Read more »

Moroni Torgan, Yeah Samaké, and Political Neutrality

August 21, 2012 | 6 comments
By

As a result of its political neutrality policy, the Church is not going to endorse Mitt Romney in his bid to become President (or, for that matter, Harry Reid in his bid to be reelected to the Senate). There are probably a number of reasons for the Church's desire to avoid endorsing a candidate but, as I've said previously, one reason may well be the tax consequences of such an endorsement. (Short refresher: technically, the IRS could revoke the Church's tax exemption, meaning the Church would owe taxes on all of its income other than donations, and that Church... Read more »

The Kirtland Church: A Review of Hearken O Ye People

August 10, 2012 | 8 comments
By
The Kirtland Church: A Review of Hearken O Ye People

I received my review copy of Hearken, O Ye People at work; I opened it and began to read on the El heading home. And, from page 1 (or, actually, page xvii), my jaw dropped. Staker started his book with an almost-15-page chronology of Kirtland, beginning in May 1796 as a group begins to survey townships in the Western Reserve and ending on July 6, 1838, when Kirtland Camp leaves Kirtland to settle in Missouri. For that chronology alone, Hearken, O Ye People is worth its price, at least for those form whom the Kirtland years are overshadowed by... Read more »

Missions, 15 Years Later

August 6, 2012 | 21 comments
By

Today is the 15th anniversary of the end of my mission. (Note that I can’t entirely remember what I mean by that—I’m pretty sure that August 5, 1997, was my last day of proselytizing, the 6th I got on an airplane, and the 7th I arrived home. But it has been 15 years, and I’m not 100% sure.) And what does that two years mean to me, 15 years later? On one level, not a whole lot. I don’t think about it a whole lot; my days are much more likely spent occupied by the Internal Revenue Code. Or... Read more »

Book of Mormon Word Cloud [updated]

July 27, 2012 | 17 comments
By
Book of Mormon Word Cloud [updated]

I’ve been curious what a word cloud of the Book of Mormon would look like, so , just for fun on a Friday, I finally made one. I don’t have a lot to say about it, other than that “unto” seems to be a very popular word (which doesn’t really surprise me, but I didn’t expect, either). “Lamanite” shows up more than “Nephite,” though the usage of both is dwarfed by “people.” I took the text from the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, and I copied it from here, and I made the cloud using WordItOut. (Note... Read more »

Charitable Profit

July 12, 2012 | 44 comments
By

About six months ago, I got an email asking (a) if I knew anything about low-profit limited liability companies (“L3Cs”) and private foundations, and (b) if I’d be willing to be a guest lecturer in a class, explaining what they were and how they function. I did know something (though at the time not much) about them, so I said I’d do it, then spent several weeks immersing myself in the theory and practice behind L3Cs. It turns out that Loyola’s business school offers an elective class in Social Entrepreneurship. The point of the class, from what I can gather,... Read more »

Taxing Churches: A Response

June 21, 2012 | 27 comments
By

Oh no—somebody on the Internet is wrong while I’m on vacation! But duty calls. Recently, Ryan Cragun, a sociology professor, along with students Stephanie Yeager and Desmond Vega, argued that the government subsidizes religion by about $71 billion a year. He thinks this is wrong, and that religions should pay their fair share. I have no problem with his making this argument—tax exemption costs the government significant revenue (though his $71 billion is based on really, really poor assumptions—more on that later), and should be examined carefully and critically. But Prof. Cragun’s analysis is not the careful and critical... Read more »

Urban Mormonism

June 17, 2012 | 12 comments
By

As the sacrament was passed in the rural ward we attended today, my younger daughter looked at the deacons passing the sacrament and asked, “Why are those kids doing that?” (My wife tells me that my older daughter noticed the same thing.) — Just in case it’s not clear what my daughters are talking about, there is one teenage boy in our ward (but another turns 12 in a month or so!). And that’s not a significant outlier in my perhaps limited experience. So my daughters have rarely seen a bunch of 12- and 13-year-olds get up after... Read more »

Not Ready for Naptime

June 8, 2012 | 10 comments
By

Tomorrow, the Chicago Tribune is hosting the Printers Row Lit Fest. If you like books, there are all sorts of cool things to do. What am I going to do at the festival? Two words: Justin Roberts. In my opinion, he’s the best kids’ musician out there. This will be the third Justin Roberts and the Not Ready For Naptime Players concert that my family has seen. Plus, we’ve been to WBEZ’s So Many Ways to Tell a Story twice, and he wrote songs with the kids at both of them. But wait, you say, this is a Mormon... Read more »

The Approaching Zion Project: Index

May 28, 2012 | no comments
By
The Approaching Zion Project: Index

Because Nibley’s Approaching Zion has 18 chapters, the Approaching Zion Project will eventually include at least 19 posts. You can find a link to the full text of Approaching Zion here, and links to all of the installments of the Approaching Zion Project below: Prologue 1. Our Glory or Our Condemnation 2. What Is Zion? A Distant View 3. Zeal Without Knowledge 4. Gifts 5. Deny Not the Gifts of God 6. How Firm a Foundation! What Makes It So 7. How to Get Rich 8. Work We Must, but the Lunch Is Free 9. But What Kind of Work? 10. Funeral Address... Read more »