Blog Archives

The Anti-Nephi-Lehite Puzzle

June 26, 2004 | 59 comments
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In the rather endless recent comments on war, torture, and politics, both Rob and Dan have made variations on the claim that it is better to suffer death rather than commit certain sorts of moral wrongs. Rob’s claim to me is more interesting, because as a pacifist he seems to claim that it is better to be killed rather than kill another. Dan and Rob, are of course, free to object that I am putting words in their mouths (which is probably correct), however, the basic proposition raises an interesting question: Why might killing be worse than death? Read more »

On Being Called to the Law

June 26, 2004 | 12 comments
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War, peace, gay marriage…whatever…lets talk about something important and interesting: My great, great grandfather. Read more »

Political Sins

June 25, 2004 | 25 comments
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In the comments on a recent thread, Russell suggested that he could be morally culpable because at the time of the invasion of Iraq, he believed that the United States was justified in doing so. He now thinks otherwise. He suggests that his previous beliefs may well have made him complicit in some moral evil. To put words in Russell’s mouth (one of my favorite pass times), he thinks that he was sinning a couple of months ago because of what he was thinking. It is an interesting question. Read more »

A New Guest Blogger: Frank McIntyre

June 24, 2004 | 2 comments
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We want to welcome our newest guest blogger, Frank McIntyre. Frank is currently an assistant professor of economics at BYU. He grew up in Kansas, went to the Y, served a mission in Portugal and recently finished up a Ph.D at Stanford. His main research interests are wage and welfare policies in the United States and Brazil. I find it a little disturbing that people that I started college with are now professors, but such is life. Frank and I met our freshman year at BYU, and I am eternally in his debt for saving me from flunking my... Read more »

The Eternal Significance of Cucumbers

June 23, 2004 | 37 comments
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This evening the Oman family ate cucumbers in triumph. The euphoria came from the fact that these cucumbers were the first fruits of our garden. We (meaning mainly Heather) have toiled in the soil, mixing the sweat of our brow with earth, water, and sky to bring forth vegetables! This is heady, elemental one-with-the-earth kind of stuff. The cucumbers, of course, taste infinitely better than those pathetic, commercially grown things you buy in the store. Which brings me, of course, to the apparent decline in prophetic counsel on gardens. Read more »

What is with Dialogue?

June 21, 2004 | 14 comments
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Last week, I got my copy of the summer issue of Dialogue in the mail, and it left me scratching my head at the editorial practices (and politics) in Mormon studies. In particular, I was puzzled by the sudden facination with Quakerism. Read more »

The Hipness of Divine Society

June 17, 2004 | 10 comments
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The idea of “social construction” is really hip in the social sciences and the humanities, or at least it was really hip a decade or two ago. Generally the concept gets invoked with another idea, namely “essentialism.” Here is how the game works. We take some quality – say race – and then we argue about its nature. If we are essentialists (and it is pretty unhip to be essentialist about anything), then we would argue that race is somehow an inherent, natural, biological quality. If we are social constructivists (and being the hip, smart people that we are,... Read more »

The Industrial Organization of the Gospel

June 15, 2004 | 21 comments
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Over at another blog, I recently commented on the evolution of the American military. Spouting off uninformed thoughts about institutional evolution having proved fun, I wanted to offer some thoughts about the evolution of the Church, particularly the missionary program. Of late, there have been two big shifts that are, I think, a symptom of a sea change in how the Church thinks about itself as an organization. The first is the call to “raise the bar” for missionaries, and the second is abolishing scripted missionary discussions. Here is how I see these changes. Read more »

A Great Read on the MX Missile

June 14, 2004 | no comments
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Envy and Regret

June 9, 2004 | 34 comments
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Lots of people believe lots of different things. There are many different religions. How do we cope with this issue? Read more »

Where is the Mormon Jurisprudence?

June 8, 2004 | 14 comments
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People regularly make the observation that Mormons are more concerned with orthopraxis than orthodoxy. In other words, Mormons are more concerned with right behavior than with right belief. The evidence in support of this claim seems fairly overwhelming in my mind. The fact of the matter is that we allow a huge diversity of beliefs on fairly fundamental questions (the nature of God and the nature of man for example), even though we frequently paper over the pluralism with equivicol and vague language. One the other hand, we worry a great deal about proper behavior: The Law of Chastity,... Read more »

Excommunicating the President of the Church (and some possible complications)

June 7, 2004 | 21 comments
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Suppose that Gordon B. Hinckley really started misbehaving, sinning left and right, and generally leading the church astray. Some might find this unlikely on theological grounds, after all President Woodruff said: The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the... Read more »

Ambivalence v. Delight

June 3, 2004 | 18 comments
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In her fascinating post on ambivalence, Melissa suggests that ambivalence may be an endangered theological virtue among Mormons. “Endangered” because we tend to valorize those without religious ambivalence and lack examples of healthy and productive ambivalence. “A virtue” because Melissa suggests that it is theologically productive. By this, I take it that she means that ambivalence leads to questioning, analysis, synthesis, and revelation. I am doubtful. Read more »

Mormon Orientalism

June 1, 2004 | 51 comments
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Some time ago, Richard Bushman wrote an essay entitled “The Colonization of the Mormon Mind.” In it he argued that Mormons who have looked at the Mormon past have largely adopted the attitudes of those who colonized and ultimately dominated 19th century Mormondom. Hence, we tend to view things like “theo-democracy” and plural marriage as embarrassments and see nuclear, vaguely Victorian looking families as good, mirroring the attitudes of the federal officials who crushed Mormon peculiarity in the 19th century. The hip and lit crit amongst us will recognize the influence of Edward Said in Bushman’s argument. In his... Read more »

A Mormon Image: Joseph in the New York Review of Books

May 27, 2004 | 4 comments
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A Mormon Image: Joseph in the New York Review of Books

For those ever-so-hip, black-turtleneck wearing New Yorkers in our midst, I felt that I would do what I could to relieve any anxiety that you might have about the potential un-hippness of Mormonism. Hence this image of Joseph Smith, which appeared in no less an oracle of Manhattan sophistication than The New York Review of Books. I have to confess that I am a bit mystified as to the significance of the shovel. A reference to money digging perhaps? Digging up the Gold Plates? Who knows. Interestingly, Joseph did visit New York City once in his life. It has... Read more »

Church PR and the CIA

May 27, 2004 | 24 comments
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As many people are aware, the Church currently employees a New York based PR firm. The topic has come up from time to time in press accounts about the Church, and journalists have labored mightily to make this into an interesting fact. I am doubtful. However, there are some interesting Church PR stories, including the one about how CIA agents distributed Church materials in Europe during the Cold War. Read more »

The Criminal Law of Deseret

May 25, 2004 | 19 comments
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On January 16, 1851, the legislature of the State of Deseret passed a 34-section law entitled “Criminal Laws of the State of Deseret.” It actually makes for interesting reading. In 1851, the Mormons had been in Utah for only four years. The Territory of Utah had been formed in 1850, but federal authority in Utah was weak to completely non-existent. It would be another six years before any serious outside authority in the form of Johnston’s Army arrived. In other words, Mormon theocracy was firmly in the saddle, the real legal authority was clearly the State of Deseret and... Read more »

Gordon in China

May 21, 2004 | no comments
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Mormonism, Liberalism, and Social Epistemology

May 20, 2004 | 20 comments
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In the most recent issue of Philosophy & Public Affairs, Allen Buchanan, a philosopher at Duke, has a very interesting article entitled “Liberalism and Social Epistemology.” He starts his argument with the observation that our knowledge of the world is inescapably dependent on social institutions. It is social institutions that allow for specialization, which in turn carried great advantages in terms of knowing the world. These advantages, however, come at a price. We must cede a certain amount of epistemic independence to authorities. This, he argues, creates great dangers. Certain authorities can be badly – horribly – wrong. He... Read more »

Fruity Con Law at Meridian

May 19, 2004 | 23 comments
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The ever exciting Meridian Magazine has been running a series of articles that purport to be “Constitutional Primers,” explaining to Mormons the way that the constitution functions. The most recent one argues that what is known as “selective incorporation” under the 14th amendment is a mistake. This doesn’t sound all that interesting or exciting, but it actually is. I promise. Read more »

Adam-God in the Hymnal

May 18, 2004 | 11 comments
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I made an exciting discovery some time ago. It seems that Adam-God lives on in the pages of the current LDS hymnal. I write, of course, of that well-loved favorite, “Sons of Michael He Approaches,” hymn 51. Read more »

A New Blog

May 17, 2004 | 26 comments
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Check out Political Juice a new left-leaning political blog by a Mormon. The author has promised a series of posts on Mormonism and Politics. His first one is on the death penalty. There is no stunning theological or political insights here, but he does have a nice collection of quotes from Brigham Young and Joseph Smith on the topic as well as a discussion of everyone’s favorite doctrine…blood atonement! Read more »

The End and the Beginning

May 17, 2004 | 4 comments
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We are sad to announce the end of Ben Huff’s stint amongst us as a guest blogger. Thanks for the laughter and the tears, Ben. We will never forget you. (Especially if you continue to comment here, as we hope you will). Our sorrow at Ben’s passing, however, is mitigated by the fact that we are happy to announce our newest guest blogger, Christopher Bradford, who is also known by the codename “Grasshopper,” a hold over from his days in the KGB. Brother Bradford runs his own blog, Let Us Reason and has been an active participant in various... Read more »

A Mormon Theogony

May 17, 2004 | 21 comments
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Theogony is not a topic that comes up a great deal in discussions of Mormon theology. We tend to take the eternity of God for granted and as often as not end up affirming the eternity of man as well. The closest we generally get to discussion of the birth of the gods is when we ask the peculiarly Mormon question of how God progressed to become God. Orson Pratt, however, did get down to more fundamental questions of origins. Read more »