Blog Archives

On Authority

September 30, 2004 | 44 comments
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Authority is a central concept in Mormon theology and practice. It is an issue that anyone thinking about Mormonism must come to grips with. The well-worn criticism that Mormonism is overly authoritarian or that Mormons place “too muchâ€? faith in their leaders misses the point. Mormonism is inherently authoritarian. Concepts of authority are part of what define Mormonism. Anyone who believes that they can offer some account or interpretation of Mormon theology while at the same time ducking this issue or reducing it to a few cautionary bromides about individual responsibility and critical thinking is kidding themselves. Read more »

What is a KGB Sympathizer to Say?

September 27, 2004 | 25 comments
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Several years ago I found myself at a restuarant in Berkeley, California with some of my elders. They were bright, friendly, and very kind to me. I enjoyed the evening, and I am glad that I was invited. During the course of the conversation one of the interlocutors, a disillusioned returned-missionary from someplace in the former Soviet Union, began talking about the Church. She had decided that she wanted to write a story about a Russian convert to Mormonism. The convert would be a former KGB agent, who upon joining the Church would feel immediately at home in the... Read more »

The New Godbeites

September 24, 2004 | 8 comments
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During the course of its history the Church has spawned more than its share of schismatic organizations. During the Nauvoo period William Law and others disaffected with Joseph over polygamy, temple ordinances, the political Kingdom of God, and radical teachings about the nature of God formed the New Church, which was meant to institutionalize Mormonism in its pure form before it was infected by the Nauvoo era innovations. After the abandonment of polygamy Musser and others broke off to found the various fundamentalist sects. Indeed, since the Manifesto, virtually all of the Mormon schismatic groups have been on what... Read more »

Sunstone Boilerplate

September 24, 2004 | 316 comments
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For any who doubt that Sunstone at time struggles for new ideas, check out Nadine Hansen’s “The Garden of My Faith” . The essay was originally delivered as a “Pillars of My Faith” lecture at a Sunstone Symposium. As near as I can tell, the “Pillars of My Faith” lecture is sort of like the Storrs Lectures of the Sunstone subculture: an honor bestowed on those who have paid their dues and presumably have something to say. Hansen’s essay doesn’t miss a cliché as she tells of her efforts to weed out white washing, over-correlation, sexism, and homophobia from... Read more »

Admiral Hyman Rickover and the Apostle

September 24, 2004 | 44 comments
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I don’t know about you, but of all of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve, Richard G. Scott has always struck me as the sweetest and most patient. I have no personal experiences or special information to back this up. It is just my impression. I wonder if this is in part the lingering influence of Admiral Hyman Rickover. Read more »

Shameless Self-Promotion, or Thoughts on Writing an Apologetic Article

September 21, 2004 | 23 comments
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The most recent issue of the FARMS Review has arrived, and it finally contains my article, “‘Secret Combinations’: A Legal Analysis”. I actually wrote this article two years ago, so it has been a while in coming. It is fun to finally see it in print. The article is essentially apologetic. I am trying to respond to the claim that the phrase “secret combinationâ€? was exclusively associated with Masonry in Joseph Smith’s time and that as author of the Book of Mormon Joseph was producing, among other things, an anti-Masonic pamphlet. The real question, of course, is why I... Read more »

Mormon Images: Office Decor and the Place of Mormonism in American History

September 20, 2004 | 34 comments
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Mormon Images: Office Decor and the Place of Mormonism in American History

A few weels ago I finished my stint at the public trough and left the service of the federal courts. I know work for the law firm of Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood in Washington, DC. The identity of the firm is significant only because this is the firm (and office) where Rex E. Lee practiced law for many years. There is actually a three-foot tall bronze statute of Lee outside the office’s moot court room (named in Lee’s honor). As you might expect, the firm’s DC office hosts a sizable continent of LDS attorneys and their office decor... Read more »

Chastity and Terrorism

September 16, 2004 | 85 comments
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What are the root causes of terrorism? Poverty (problem: most terrorists seem to come from middle class or upper middle class Middle Eastern families). U.S. hegemony (at least in part). Embarrassment and rage at the decline of Islamic civilization (almost certainly). Another recent candidate has emerged: Chastity. Read more »

The Challenge of Adam-ondi-Ahman

September 13, 2004 | 36 comments
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Various debates about the historicity of scripture have captured a fair chunk of the Mormon intelligentsia (and pseudo-intelligentsia) for the last decade or more. The “Big Issue” of course is the Book of Mormon. This seems to have replaced evolution and the creation story of Genesis as a situs for conflict about the scriptures. Lost in all of this is my question: What are we to make of Adam-ondi-Ahman? Read more »

Is Liquidity the Root of All Evil?

August 20, 2004 | 17 comments
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Money is the root of all evil, or so we are told. What exactly does money do that makes it so nefarious? Should we simply understand this as being a reference to wealth or to money in particular? Read more »

The Oddity of Comfort

August 17, 2004 | 10 comments
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Comfort is a concept that holds pride of place in the gospel. We learn that an important part of our baptismal covenants is the promise to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” Elsewhere, we learn that one of the reasons for Christ’s suffering and atonement was so that he could “know how to succor his people.” This leads to the question: Why is comfort important? Read more »

My Wife Has Noticed That I Am A Nerd

August 14, 2004 | 22 comments
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I have been reading Wallace Stegner’s wonderful novel Crossing to Safety this afternoon. The book tells the story of a friendship between two academic couples. It is beautifully written, with more than its share of gently wise observations about friendship and the academy. I understand why it was so tremendously popular among our friends in Cambridge. Definitely worth a read. The book contains the following snippet of dialogue, which I just read. A young graduate student has just driven four hours from Boston to the the cabin of his girl friend’s family in Vermont or New Hampshire. After sheepishly... Read more »

The Drama of Procedural Nonsense

August 14, 2004 | 3 comments
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I appreciate Kaimi’s post about the jury instructions in Reynolds. But I do object to his claim that the procedural arcana at the beginning of that opinion are of no interest today. The substantive law that they deal with — the number of grand jurors necessary in an Article II territorial court — are not of current interest, but the issue is the final chapter of a dramatic story that tells you something about the world of legal hardball that 19th century Mormons played in. Read more »

International Mormon Sites

August 3, 2004 | 9 comments
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In one of our threads, WilfriedDecoo, a European Latter-day Saint, was kind enough to draw our attention to www.idumea.org, a very nicely done web portal for French Latter-day Saints. I would like to add this and similar sites to our collection of Mormon links. If you are aware of any other Mormon dedicated sites, please post URLs in the comments section, regardless of language. I realize that there are a fair number of non-English language anti-Mormon sites. I am not especially interested in these. I leave it to readers with the proper language skills to judge for themselves what... Read more »

The Return of Frank

August 2, 2004 | 2 comments
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We are pleased that Frank McIntyre has returned to finish his guestblogging stint. Just to refresh everyone’s memory, Frank is a professor of economics at BYU and has the distinction of saving me from ruin in my first philosophy class at BYU. (Full story here) Enjoy the show. Read more »

Will the Real Mormonism Please Step Forward

August 2, 2004 | 14 comments
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Mormons are efficient. We are a large, hierarchical faith that runs like a corporation. The Brethren are powerful leaders with the ability to dictate the minutiae of members lives and call forth vast resources at the drop of a hat. Mormon congregations are well oiled machines. They even have so-called “home teachers” that visit members each month just to check up on them and insure that they are serving their proper roles in the Mormon juggernaut. Something like this image frequently appears in media accounts about the Church, and we as often as not like to repeat some version... Read more »

The Mormon Mafia

August 1, 2004 | 21 comments
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I don’t know how it works in other cities, but Washington, DC is definitely a town with a well established Mormon Mafia. What this refers to is a network of Mormon professionals — lawyers, lobbyists, Hill staffers, and the like — who are acquainted with one another and tend to help out with professional advancement. I have to admit that I am a beneficiary of this “system.” I have now secured two jobs at least in part because of networks Mormons. I am of two minds about this phenomena. Read more »

Elder Holland v. Professor Ackerman

July 29, 2004 | 31 comments
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Last week I got to do the “Teachings of Our Times” lesson in Elders’ Quorum. These are the lessons that take a recent set of conference talks as the text. This months lesson included Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s recent sermon “A Prayer for the Children.” We used the talk and the lesson as a springboard for a good discussion on the Gospel and theories of education. Read more »

Consecrated Computer Geeks

July 29, 2004 | 14 comments
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As some have noticed the over all quality of the Church’s internet presence has been on the increase of late. In part this is no doubt simply the result of the Church cautiously exploiting a new medium, but I think there may be more to it than that, or so my brother-in-law tells me. In the interest of spreading unfounded faith-promoting rumors, here is the story as I understand it. Read more »

Who is the Church Exactly?

July 28, 2004 | 17 comments
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So Mormons have a lay ministry. Hence, there is a real sense in which we are “the Church.” This raises some interesting questions about what counts as official Church action and what doesn’t. Consider the case of Martin v. Johnson, 151 Cal. Rep. 816 (Cal.App. 1979). Read more »

The Book of Mormon in Court

July 27, 2004 | one comment
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I think that most people know that passages from the Bible pop up from time to time in judicial opinions. For example, many old common law rules turned on the distinction between acts that were malum in se (that is wrong in and of themselves) and malum prohibitum (that is wrong simply because they are legally proscribed). The Ten Commandments were regularly used as a touchstone in making this distinction. The question presents itself: What sort of a life – if any – has the Book of Mormon led in the pages of the court reporters? Read more »

Introducing Taylor Petrey

July 26, 2004 | 8 comments
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We have another guest blogger starting today: Taylor Petrey. Taylor lives in Medford, Massachusetts and is getting ready to begin his Ph.D program at Harvard Divinity School with an emphasis in the New Testament and early Christianity. Taylor grew up (appropriately enough) in Taylorsville, Utah and served a mission in Italy. He graduated from Pace University in New York City. (His lengthy stay on the island of Manhattan doesn’t seem to have caused any lasting harm.) He has also graduated from Harvard Divinity School with a Masters of Theological Studies. He speaks or reads Italian, German, Ancient Greek, and... Read more »

Some Thoughts on My Colossal Ignorance

July 26, 2004 | 66 comments
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I suspect that I am destined to spend my life feeling inferior to those with Ph.D’s. The summer after my junior year in college, I worked for a law professor and decided that he had about the coolest job in the world. I have been working toward an overpaid tenured sinecure at a law school ever since. One of the disadvantages of pursuing the law is that I am more or less condemned to perpetual dilettantism, constantly dabbling in the disciplines of others. I try to overcome these nagging insecurities by reading books, but I find that this is... Read more »

Chess, Shar’ia & Church Callings

July 22, 2004 | 51 comments
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Chess, Shar’ia & Church Callings

According to legend, the game of chess arose out of a family squabble. Two brothers were warring for the throne of an Indian kingdom. After one brother killed the other in battle, he invented chess to show his mother how he had brought about his sibling’s demise. Another story has an Indian philosopher inventing the game as a way of instructing young princes in the art of war. Regardless, authorities agree that chess was first played in India in the fifth century A.D. From there it migrated to Persia, where it was eventually picked up by the Arabs. The... Read more »