Blog Archives

Kurt Vonnegut

April 14, 2007 | 46 comments

There was a time, during my senior year in high school, when I listened to the Doors and Pink Floyd for the sake of their lyrics, and memorized modern poetry, and read Kurt Vonnegut. Read more »

Mitt Romney, commencement speaker

April 9, 2007 | 43 comments

Misinformation about Mormonism is nothing new, so the bloopers in Kenneth Woodward’s editorial about Mitt Romney’s upcoming speech at Regents University in today’s New York Times don’t disturb me much. What annoys me is Woodward’s argument about how Mormons should talk about themselves. Read more »

The Revelation of Reymund

April 3, 2007 | 10 comments

At the moment, I’m looking at prognostications and popular prophetic tracts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and last week I came across the following Read more »

Your Mormon problem

March 28, 2007 | 59 comments

Do all job seekers, academic or otherwise, share Mitt Romney’s “Mormon problem?” Where do you list your religion on your CV? Nowhere. Everywhere. Read more »

To the ABD fathers in Zion

March 20, 2007 | 215 comments

Over the last several years, I’ve gotten to know a good number of Mormon men whose life goal is to land an academic job in order to provide for their family. Read more »

Humility in the academic job market (or, why you shouldn’t forget about BYU)

March 13, 2007 | 48 comments

In a job interview, the rhetorical approach you are looking for is “I can solve all your problems for you”: increase enrollments, raise the department’s research profile, advise the student club, pull in outside funding, the whole enchilada. (Can you really do all this? Of course you can! You now have a Ph.D., right?) Now is not the time for false modesty. Humility, however, is an essential part of your job search. Read more »

Especially for Mormon graduate students (or, why you should forget about BYU)

March 6, 2007 | 52 comments

One of the most difficult stages of graduate school comes near the end, when the massive effort required to complete a dissertation collides with the existential crisis of finding a job Read more »

Fireside notes

March 2, 2007 | 8 comments

What does an apostle, who himself had spent a long time away from his young family for military service, who has himself experienced grief and loss, say to a congregation of American servicemen and -women and their families in a distant country, many of whom have been to Iraq or have lost friends there or will soon be in Iraq for an unknowable duration, and who have traveled in many cases for hours to hear an apostle speak? What Elder Ballard said last night was: Read more »

Talk like a Pirate Day

February 27, 2007 | 16 comments

September 19 is Talk like a Pirate Day. But every day is Talk like a Pirate Day for me. Arrrr! Read more »

Linguistic answers to theological questions

February 19, 2007 | 25 comments

The southern German and Austrian greeting Grüß Gott! ‘may God greet ’ is perceived by many local members and American missionaries as a too-frequent or otherwise inappropriate use of a divine title. Read more »

Does coffee make you unclean?

February 12, 2007 | 31 comments

In the Pentateuch, we find two ways of doing wrong. There is the more familiar sequence where a person sins by violating divine law and must atone for the guilt, but also the sequence where a person becomes unclean through contact with a tabooed person or object and must be ritually cleansed. Read more »

Colligite fragmenta ne pereant

February 8, 2007 | 14 comments

In a manuscript I’m looking at right now, I’m trying to find what verses two or three biblical citations refer to. Before I declare them to be hopeless cases, do any of the three sound familiar to you? Read more »

The problem with “liberal Mormon”

February 5, 2007 | 54 comments

The problem with “liberal Mormon” is not the liberal Mormons, whoever they might be, but rather the term used to classify them. It seems to me that the term is used as a catch-all for at least five mostly unrelated things. Read more »

The King and Us

January 28, 2007 | 8 comments

Today my wife visited a ward conference in Grafenwöhr, representing the stake YW presidency. As of today, Grafenwöhr is a US servicemen’s ward; until now it’s been a branch. For a meetinghouse, the ward rents a local hall. Before it was used as a church, the building was a bar, and then a strip club. Also, Elvis once performed there, approximately where the young women now have their classroom. Some LDS meetinghouses have longer and nobler histories, but I would guess few have had such close brushes with fame. Read more »

Cars, Buses, and Suicide Bombing

January 25, 2007 | 14 comments

Going without a car means giving up some control over the safety of yourself and your family, or the illusion of control. Read more »

Cars, Buses, and the Von Trapp Family Singers

January 12, 2007 | 110 comments

Public transportation is a wonderful thing. Read more »


January 8, 2007 | 11 comments

The people of Zion were of one heart and one mind and dwelt in righteousness. Our goal is to be like them. Are we? It’s hard to be sure, since we can’t easily know what’s in another person’s heart. Read more »

Mitt, the Mormons, and the Democrats’ Mountain West Strategy

December 29, 2006 | 27 comments

The Democratic electoral strategy for 2008 and Mitt Romney’s candidacy might just give Mormons more political influence than they will ever have again in a presidential election. The combination of the two will certainly give the McCain campaign a bad case of indigestion. Read more »

When bad things happen to good music

December 14, 2006 | 30 comments

You purists can scoff, but I think Christmas with the Cambridge Singers is a great Christmas album. “What sweeter music” never fails to bring me back to the first time I heard it: December, fifteen years ago, when I was broke and desperately unhappy Read more »

Never look at the trombones

December 6, 2006 | 50 comments

I largely agree with Kaimi’s thoughts on how the Church is usually content to let teachings and statements of earlier authorities fade into obsolescence through silence, rather than through any kind of formal pronouncement. But I think that the opposite, that the silent treatment is intended as an informal repudiation, might not be true in all cases. I don’t think that any general authority will provide a clear answer on nineteenth-century polygamy any time soon, but I don’t think their silence will provide any guidance, either. Read more »

Wave theory

November 29, 2006 | 22 comments

Family trees are familiar and similarly dissatisfying models in historical linguistics and in the history of religion. Read more »

Bill Shrives

November 23, 2006 | 2 comments

For forty years, Bill Shrives was a train signal supervisor for Southern Pacific Railroad. Every day, the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people depended on his doing his job conscientiously and correctly. As with nearly everyone who plays an important part in keeping the economy humming, it is safe to say that nearly no one thought about Bill Shrives when their train sailed safely past the signals he inspected. Read more »

I am thankful for my appendectomy

November 20, 2006 | 13 comments

One night last March, I went to bed feeling fine but woke up four hours later with abdominal pain that wouldn’t go away. I finished the ensuing day in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy, for which I am very grateful. Read more »


November 14, 2006 | 9 comments

The government of Slovakia granted the Church official recognition on October 18. Read more »