Blog Archives

Thoughts on the Sunstone Symposium

July 21, 2004 | 23 comments
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There is an interesting exchange of ideas about the Sunstone Symposium happening at various other blogs. John Hatch, a Sunstone mucky-muck, has a shameless plug over at some other blog. Dallas Robbins, a vetern Sunstone Symposia attender, has a good rant on what’s wrong with the symposium, viz it’s too expensive, has poor quality control, and endlessly recycles the same issues. The comments at Dallas’s site are worth checking out. They include guest appearances by Dan Wotherspoon, editor and supreme dictator of Sunstone, as well as John Hatch, who as I noted is a lesser Sunstone baron. T&S’s Kristine... Read more »

I am Orthodoxy

July 9, 2004 | 22 comments
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Most Mormons, especially those who grew up in the Church, labor under the delusion that they know what constitutes Mormon orthodoxy, typical Mormon beliefs, and the like. I am increasingly of the opinion that we are basically wrong about this. Here is why: Read more »

Belated Good-Bye

July 2, 2004 | 4 comments
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I missed it at the time, but last month Rhee Ho Nam died. The name probably means very little to most of you, but Brother Rhee was one of the noble and great ones. A very early convert to the Church in Korea, he served as the first Korean stake president, and at one time was the president of the mission where I served: Korea Pusan. When I was a missionary, you would still lots of Rhee Ho Nam stories from members in Pusan. After I returned from my mission and re-enrolled in BYU, Brother Rhee taught one of... Read more »

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Elder McConkie

June 30, 2004 | 72 comments
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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Elder McConkie

I grew up in a home where I was taught from my earliest childhood to be skeptical of Elder Bruce R. McConkie. I was taught that he was overly dogmatic and that his urge to systemization was inconsistent with the spirit of continuing revelation and the core of the restored gospel. Good honor-thy-father-and-thy-mother-that-thy-days-may-be-long-upon-land child that I was, I imbibed this ethos and by the time I arrived at college I had a deep, anti-McConkie strain. While in the MTC I served with a missionary who was one of Elder McConkie’s grandsons. He (the missionary not the apostle) informed me... Read more »

The Odd Double Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

June 29, 2004 | 11 comments
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Of late I have been reading Joseph Smith’s History of the Church (also sometimes known as the Documentary History of the Church) in the mornings before I start work. Reading it raised fun little puzzle for me about the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood. Read more »

On the Significance of Mormon Wars

June 28, 2004 | 7 comments
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One of the interesting questions to ask in the current discussions of war and peace is whether the history Mormon wars tells us anything about how Mormons ought to think about these issues. Read more »

A Mormon Image: Gadfield Elm Chapel

June 27, 2004 | 6 comments
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A Mormon Image: Gadfield Elm Chapel

One of the interesting factoids of church history is that for a brief period in the 1840s there were more Mormons in Great Britain than in the United States. Beginning with the mission of the Twelve to England, Mormon missionaries were very successful in Britain, especially in the so-called “potteries” region around Manchester. (Momon missionaries didn’t seem to do so well in London, and Wilford Woodruff had some choice things to say about the city in his journal.) The greatest missionary success came among the so-called United Brethren. The United Brethren were a splinter group that had broken off... Read more »

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 »