Blog Archives

Recently uncovered texting conversation from 1600 BC

November 7, 2015 | 85 comments

Shem: Oh great. Moses just posted a new policy. Mannassah: More animals we can’t eat? S: Nope, it says we wander in the desert until we are all dead. Read more »

Saul Callings

October 3, 2015 | 5 comments

Saturday Morning conference referenced how Samuel was unsure that Saul was the right man to lead Israel. With the benefits of hindsight, one indeed wonders about the choice. Saul, in the end, had some serious problems as King. Does God call people knowing that they will, to a significant degree, fail? Yes, I think he does. I think he does it all the time. Yet sometimes I think people see someone called to a calling and, if it does not work out well, they question if the calling was inspired. Now, I don’t think that all callings are perfect. But... Read more »

 Small Group Dynamics

July 26, 2015 | 37 comments

Far and away, when I am in a small group and decisions need to be made, most people would prefer that someone else make them.  There are notable, and loud, exceptions.  Four year olds, for example, very much want to make decisions.  But for most  adults, I’ve found that the majority typically  prefer that someone else ponied up and decided where we go to eat or in what order things will occur.  This is because, one presumes, they are not so concerned about the exact decision making them happy.  They are generally willing to go along with most reasonable things.... Read more »


June 12, 2014 | 14 comments

In statistics, a popular approach is to think of the statistician as having a set of views (“priors” or “prior distributions”) that are based on past evidence and when new evidence comes in, one integrates that information in and forms a new set of beliefs (“update your priors”).  So, for example, if I think I am brilliant in math, a series of poor math test grades even after studying might convince me to reassess that belief.  Alternately, I could stick with my priors and treat the new evidence as flawed or not informative because I am mad or upset.  This is... Read more »

Whining at Moses

April 14, 2014 | 12 comments
Moses Parts the Sea

Now that we’re up to Exodus in Sunday School,  I am reminded once again of how much murmuring and whining the Children of Israel do.  Clearly the major theme of Exodus is God’s power to save.  But packed in there is a pretty strong message that God’s people: Read more »

We’ve All Been Set Up

February 21, 2014 | 22 comments
You have to turn and look.

We’ve all been set up for failure. Consider the plan: go to Earth and obey the commandments.  How likely is that to turn out well?  Add in that part with Adam, Eve, and the fruit and I think it is pretty clear that this was a set up to force us to… turn to God.  Failure makes us humble.  Repentance changes our hearts.  Which is the goal: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. So when someone complains about a standard being too high or that we are setting people up for failure by expecting things like chastity, honesty, modesty, tithing... Read more »

Dell, Obedience, and Parachute Mishaps

April 28, 2013 | 17 comments
Dell, Obedience, and Parachute Mishaps

Last week, as the PC market faced DOOM!, Dell had a potential buyer, Blackstone, back out.  While that was not particularly interesting to me, what happened next was.  Another investor, Oakmark Funds, sold their 24.5 million Dell shares.  To quote: A “potential acquirer with access to non-public information decided to end its quest to acquire Dell at a higher price. Since they had information we didn’t, we believed it was prudent to assume they might be right. So we sold our stock and will put the proceeds into other stocks that we are more confident are undervalued,” said Bill... Read more »

I’m a Mormon Easy Chair and I believe that women

March 21, 2013 | 134 comments
I’m a Mormon Easy Chair and I believe that women

… should not get ordained to the priesthood. I know that reasonable chairs can disagree, but as Frank’s easy chair, I know what to expect once women are ordained. Frank is going to spend a lot more time sitting on me. Probably asleep. Sure, it will start with a little story time to the kids, but the end is both obvious and predictable. Naptime. Admittedly, I have a steel reinforced frame and ample cushioning, but Frank is not a light guy. Nor, to put it frankly, is he getting any lighter as the years pass. So if you care... Read more »

Welcome Maren Mecham

January 11, 2010 | 9 comments

We are delighted to welcome Maren Mecham as a guest for the next couple weeks.  Maren Mecham is a native Northern Virginian, earned her BFA from BYU and was a photographer for the church before moving to Palo Alto, CA, where she produced portraits and computer graphics. She has lived in the East, Northeast, Midwest, Intermountain West, California, Norway, Egypt and Turkey. She is married to a Middle East political scientist who is a professor in Vermont, but they temporarily live in Virginia while he is on sabbatical and is working in DC. She is raising 2 girls and 2... Read more »

Charity Free Riding

December 15, 2009 | 17 comments
Charity Free Riding

As we all know, the gospel is overrun with economic doctrine.  On that note, I noticed a quote about free riding from President Monson (which I just saw at Mormon Times): “I am confident it is the intention of each member of the church to serve and to help those in need,” he said. “At baptism we covenanted to ‘bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.’ How many times has your heart been touched as you have witnessed the need of another? How often have you intended to be the one to help? And yet how often... Read more »


November 11, 2009 | 60 comments

Utah is not part of the Midwest.    Idaho is also out.  That is all. Read more »

“Fathers do not mother”

November 9, 2009 | 60 comments

Kaimi put up a sidebar link to a NYT piece on parenting. It had an interesting quote: “Fathers tend to do things differently, Dr. Kyle Pruett said, but not in ways that are worse for the children. Fathers do not mother, they father.” Read more »

President Monson wins the prize

October 22, 2009 | 21 comments
President Monson wins the prize

So Slate keeps track of who it considers the most powerful octogenarians and President Monson tops the list.  If ever there was a list where Mormons could shine that did not have to do with singing and dancing I guess it makes sense that it would be “powerful old men”.  To loosely paraphrase President Hinckley, isn’t it wonderful to have somebody in there with decades of experience who is not moved about by every wind of doctrine? Read more »

Royal Skousen’s 12 questions — The Critical Text Version

October 3, 2009 | one comment

Last month we posted Royal Skousen’s discussion of his work on recovering the earliest version of the Book of Mormon, along with some updates.  Unfortunately, that post garnered some annoying formatting problems — mostly due to the new format T&S adopted this year.  We’re happy to now present to you mark III of Royal Skousen’s 12 questions interview.  Royal Skousen’s book, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, was published last month by Yale University Press and yes, you can order  it at Amazon. Read more »

12 Questions and a Book by Royal Skousen

September 6, 2009 | 68 comments

5 years ago we published one of my favorite “12 Questions” posts, in which Royal Skousen discussed in some depth what he has learned from his extensive work on the earliest editions of the Book of Mormon.  His book, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, is being published in September by Yale University Press (and yes, you can order  it at Amazon right now).  To mark this milestone, Royal was kind enough to update his “12 questions” discussion, which we have posted below, for the benefit of those who did not catch it the first time.   Enjoy! Read more »

PSA — email junk from Wegame

August 7, 2009 | 9 comments

So if you get an email over the next little while purporting to offer you pictures or a message from someone you know, and the email comes from Wegame, it’s very likely junk. Read more »

Explaining the Puzzle of Cross-State Differences in Bankruptcy Rates

June 30, 2009 | 39 comments

Bankruptcy rates vary alot across states.  With a fairly simple statistical model, Lars Lefgren and I explain about 70% of these differences in a paper just published in the Journal of Law and Economics.   For cross sectional work using survey data, where you are looking across states at a point in time, explaining 70% is pretty darn impressive. Read more »

Morality Polling

June 29, 2009 | 11 comments

Suppose you take a “wisdom of the crowds” approach to morality (not that you should). Well then what could be more informative than a poll telling you what actions are morally wrong and what aren’t? Enter Gallup’s recent poll… Tip: Adultery is still wrong. Polygamy also out. Read more »

Things to be thankful for

June 19, 2009 | 11 comments

If the gravitational constant were just a little bit different than what it is, you would not be here.  Nor, for that matter, would anything else.  So we’ve got that going for us. Read more »

Commuter trains in Utah

June 12, 2009 | 147 comments

I just returned from a short presentation by Mike Ransom on the Utah commuter Frontrunner rail line.  It is a lesson in how to not spend money. Read more »

Pew Facts

May 26, 2009 | 16 comments

The Pew study has this awesome little database for comparing religious groups. Check it out.   Did you know 7% of Mormons are Hispanic and 22% are Democrat or lean Democrat?  And only 44% of Mormon adults are men?  We need affirmative action!! Read more »


May 18, 2009 | 10 comments

You will all be delighted to know that youtube appears to be up and running on BYU campus again. Perhaps in part thanks to this. UPDATE:  It’s blocked again. Read more »

DNA Delight

May 14, 2009 | 46 comments

A recent DNA study has gotten some attention, both on our sidebar and in a post by J. Nelson-Seawright at By Common Consent. The Mormon question that inevitably comes up from such a study is does it cast any light on the question of whether Lehi really landed in the Americas long ago? J. Nelson-Seawright discusses some possible ramifications if the study (or ones like it) do matter. Let me make clear that, for those who think Lehi landed in an already populated America, this study is basically irrelevant. Read more »

Optimal Tithing

May 11, 2009 | 28 comments

Suppose that we had a base 8 system instead of base 10, perhaps because, in this hypothetical world, we had 8 fingers rather than 10. Would we pay 1/8 our increase, or do you think it would still be one tenth? Or, to reverse causality, what are the chances we have ten fingers so that we’d develop a base 10 system that would make it easier to count out our tithing? Read more »