Blog Archives

The Political Limits of Agency

March 9, 2004 | 42 comments
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Mormons frequently invoke the idea of “agency” (whatever that means) in political discussions. We generally invoke it in liberal ways, as a justification for not regulating some for of behavior. What I want to question is this easy link between “agency” and liberalism. In the formulation given by John Stuart Mill, liberalism invokes freedom as a reason to abstain from regulating self-regarding activity. I think that when Mormons invoke the idea of “agency” to make liberal arguments they generally do so in some sort of a vaguely Millian way. However, given the theological uses to which the concept of... Read more »

Charity and the Ex Post/Ex Ante Dilemma

March 5, 2004 | 35 comments
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We are supposed to help those who are in need. The scriptures seem to be quite clear about this. And that, of course, is the problem. I have phrased the issue in what legal theorists call the ex post perspective. We take need as given and the morally relevant question is what our response to the need should be. Our decision is seen as being an after-the-fact (in this case the fact is need) event. The problem, of course, is that we can also look at our decision from what legal theorists call an ex ante perspective. Rather than... Read more »

More on the Passion

March 5, 2004 | 10 comments
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Greg Easterbrook has a great comparison of Gibson’s Passion with Frano Zepherelli’s Jesus of Nazareth. I am a huge Zepherelli fan and I quite liked Jesus of Nazareth, although I haven’t seen The Passion. Easterbrook’s conclusion is that the Zepherelli’s is a better movie because it has more narrative and characterization and sticks more closely to the Gospels. Easterbrook writes,”The Christ story is among the most compelling ever told, yet directors can’t resist adding invented characters who are unnecessary.” The same can be said of the Church’s recent film Testaments, which is supposedly about the Book of Mormon, but... Read more »

Shameless Self-Promotion

March 4, 2004 | 4 comments
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For those who are interested, I have started a new blog called Tutissima Cassis. The idea is that I will blog on law and politics over there, and religion over here. Enjoy! Read more »

A Smoot Book

March 3, 2004 | 6 comments
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A Smoot Book

Kathleen Flake of Vanderbilt divinity school has just published what looks like a very interesting book with UNC press. She traces out the history of the Reed Smoot hearings, arguing that they were a pivotal event in defining the role of religion in American public life. Reed Smoot was an monogamist Apostle who was elected to the Senate at the turn of the 20th century. At the time, many Mormons continued to be polygamists from pre-Manifesto plural marriages. In addition, there had been a large number of secret, post-Manifesto plural marriages. These marriages, along with accusations that the Church... Read more »

Great Sermons

March 3, 2004 | 53 comments
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In our casting about essential Mormon texts and our questing for Mormon literary achievement, I think that we frequently foget on of the great Mormon mediums and one that we have produced in huge quanties, with occasional examples of great quality. I am talking about sermons. Read more »

The Books to Be Written

March 2, 2004 | 29 comments
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Let’s see if we can start a discussion that doesn’t revolve around homosexuality and same sex marriage. (What a sexually obsessed bunch we are!) A while back, one commenter suggested that what we needed in addition to a list of “must read” Mormon studies texts is a list of books that haven’t yet been written but should. In the spirit of that question, let me offer some ideas. Read more »

The Meaning of Sodom and Gomorrah

March 1, 2004 | 17 comments
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There is an interesting exchange over at The Metaphysical Elders between The Historian and The Lawyer over the proper interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I am inclined to think that the Historian has the better of the argument, but you can judge for yourselves. Read more »

A Mormon Image: Mormons on the Picket Line

February 26, 2004 | 37 comments
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A Mormon Image: Mormons on the Picket Line

Mormons have a well-deserved reputation as a conservative bunch. Hence, I have to include this wonderful image of leftist Mormons on the picket line. Read more »

A Statute of Limitations on Anonymity?

February 26, 2004 | 8 comments
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The Church is often accused of being secretive about its history. My tendency is to think that this is a bit overplayed. No less an iconoclast that Will Bagley (of Blood of the Prophets fame) has stated that he doesn’t think that there is any secret history of Mormonism to be written. This is not to say that there aren’t some documents that I would love to see! Read more »

Civic Religion – Again

February 25, 2004 | 13 comments
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For those not aware of the fact, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Locke v. Davey a few hours ago, holding that it did not violate the Free Exercise Clause for the State of Washington to exempt divinity degree applicants from an otherwise available scholarship fund. I am not going to comment here on the opinion itself, but there was a line from Justice Scalia’s dissent that brought to mind an earlier discussion here at T&S on civic religion. Read more »

Jello and The Saga of the Restoration

February 23, 2004 | 7 comments
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Jello and The Saga of the Restoration

I don’t really believe in coincidences since my last visit to Palmyra, New York, where I learned of the deep relationship between Jello and Mormonism Read more »

Deserving One’s Wages

February 23, 2004 | 14 comments
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Russell’s qualified repudiation of the idea that all those with a six-figure salary are on their way to hell has got me thinking about wages and what one can deserve. Read more »

Managing the Donor Base

February 20, 2004 | 8 comments
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I have been meaning to write about this for a while, and Brayden’s comments on the centralization of budgeting have spurred me on. So here is Nathan Oman’s based-entirely-on-meager-evidence-and-speculation theory of Church financing. Or at least a part of it. Read more »

The Landscape of Memory

February 19, 2004 | 19 comments
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I am facinated by the way in which a place carries with it the memories of a people. The Civil War provides an example of what I am talking about. The trauma of that event is seared into the landscape of the eastern United States. Read more »

My Big Problem With the Big Commandment

February 17, 2004 | 18 comments
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The greatest commandment, so says Jesus, is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. I confess that I have always had a difficult time understanding, let alone obeying this commandment. I take it to mean that God wants me to love everyone. I frankly find the idea of this impossible. Read more »

Mormons and Lord Devlin

February 13, 2004 | 5 comments
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When Mormons get up set about things like abortion, pornography, SSM, constitutional prohibitions on anti-sodomy laws, and the like they frequently talk about how these kinds of developments threaten to undermine society’s “moral fabric.” However, I don’t think that we have been sufficiently reflective about this rhetoric. I think that Lord Devlin can help us understand why. Read more »

The Coming of the Clone Wars

February 13, 2004 | 39 comments
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One of my best friends is a biochemist, and he recently pointed out to me that while the a great amount of ink is spilled and blogs filled with debate about SSM, in his mind a farther reaching event has occurred: South Korean (Hanguk mansae!) scientists have cloned a human cell and grown it into a blastocyst. Read more »

The Greying of Mormon Studies

February 12, 2004 | 42 comments
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Perhaps it is just me but it seems that there is a certain greying that has been happening in the “establishment” voices of the unestablished sector of the Mormon intellectual economy. Read more »

University of Utah Rejects Quinn

February 9, 2004 | 13 comments
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According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the University of Utah history department decided last week not to extend an offer to D. Michael Quinn. The reasoning behind the decision is interesting. Read more »

What is “Church Doctrine” Good For?

February 9, 2004 | 14 comments
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The discussion of “church doctrine” on this blog has thus far focused on what might be called its soteriological significance. However, it seems to me that this is hardly the only reason that one might want to be able to understand “church doctrine.” Read more »

A Mormon Image: Polygamists in the Pen

February 5, 2004 | 12 comments
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A Mormon Image: Polygamists in the Pen

In one of the comments below, Judy Miller of the Utah State government asked about the image of the prisoners in our masthead. A large, framed version of this photograph hangs in my office, so I thought I would say a little about it. Read more »

President Bush, Operation Give, and Matt

February 5, 2004 | 4 comments
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If you scroll down our list of links, you will find one to Operation Give (the “Give Toys to Iraq” button), which was set up by Matt and a national guardsman from Utah to provide charity to Iraqi children. This morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Bush praised the work of Operation Give. Read more »

Chaplinsky in Zion

February 4, 2004 | 4 comments
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According to the Deseret News, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is considering a city ordinance that would ban some of the more extreme street preaching around Temple Square. Read more »