Blog Archives

Sacred Space at BYU

April 30, 2009 | 14 comments

A conference announcement that makes me wish I were closer to Utah: Read more »

Mormons as Minorities

April 16, 2009 | 3 comments

Today I gave a presentation to the William & Mary chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Society on “Mormons as Minorities” in which I discuss some of my research on Mormon legal and political history (and other stuff). If you are interested, you can listen to the presentation here. Read more »

What I Learned about Mormon Courts (and the Writing of Mormon History)

April 13, 2009 | 17 comments

For those who are interested in Mormon legal history, my article “Preaching to the Court House and Judging in the Temple” was just published in the most recent issue of the BYU Law Review. (You can download a copy of the article here.) This article provides my own take on the rise and fall of civil cases in church courts in the nineteenth-century. Of course the story of how nineteenth-century Mormons took lawsuits over broken contracts, wandering cows, disputed property lines, and the like to their local bishops has been told before, most elaborately in Ed Firmage and Collin... Read more »

The Double-Minded Essence of Mormonism

April 8, 2009 | 16 comments

A while ago I was reading some sermons from the 1880s in the Journal of Discourses.  The 1880s, of course, is the decade when the anti-polygamy crusades were at their most intense.  Thousands of Mormons were incarcerated, the Brethren were in hiding from the law much of the time, and every time you turned around there was a new law confiscating Mormon property or disenfranchising Mormon voters.  Hence, I was surprised to come across a sermon in which George Q. Cannon spoke unironically of his admiration for George Edmunds.  Edmunds was a Republican Senator from Vermont, and the chief... Read more »

An Image from General Conference

April 4, 2009 | 32 comments
An Image from General Conference

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Reading Nephi Reading Isaiah at BYU

March 27, 2009 | 3 comments

This looks like the sort of conference that makes me sad at times that I don’t live in Utah: Read more »

What My Father Did

March 16, 2009 | 34 comments
What My Father Did

A few weeks ago my father retired after spending three decades working for the Church Historical Department.  I’m no doubt guilty of an excess of filial piety, but I think that the Church and Kingdom are better for the work that he did.  Read more »

A New Book for the Mormon Canon

February 22, 2009 | 7 comments

There are a number of Mormon pamphlets and books that have achieved a kind of semi-canonical status within Mormon studies. Everyone agrees, for example, that Parley P. Pratt’s Key to the Science of Theology or John Taylor’s Mediation and Atonement are key texts for understanding nineteenth Mormon thought. If any evidence is needed, both texts, I believe, are still in print. At the very least both have produced modern reprints. I have a proposed addition to the canon, George Q. Cannon’s A Review of the Decision of the Supreme Court in the Case of Geo. Reynolds v. the United... Read more »

A Mormon History Bleg

February 20, 2009 | 10 comments

Do you know of any good source dealing with Mormon attitudes toward and/or involvement in the Spanish-American War? Please give me your ideas in the comments. Thanks! Read more »

Getting over Nibley

February 15, 2009 | 36 comments

Of late I have been thinking of late about how to read Mormon scriptures.  In particular, I have been working on some passages in the Book of Mormon on legal interpretation and thinking about how best to approach these sections.  By and large, it seems to me that there have been three basic models of how to read LDS scriptures.  First, there has been what I think of as an external, sectarian reading.  This consists essentially of proof texting in debates and discussions with Protestant outsiders.  There is a sense in which this is the oldest kind of LDS hermeneutic.  The... Read more »

Michael Scott and C.S. Lewis

February 4, 2009 | 23 comments

While I don’t really have a television, there are a couple of shows that I regularlly watch through Netflix or  Among them is The Office.  I actually think that some of C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on the nature of love help to make sense of Michael Scott.  Read more »

Commentary on 1 Ne. 17, concluded

February 3, 2009 | 2 comments

Continuing part 1 , part 2, and part 3. Nephi’s response to his brothers directly attacks their understanding of Moses’s significance. Read more »

The Political Uses of Debt and Mormon History

January 30, 2009 | 9 comments

Yesterday’s discussion got me thinking about debt, in particular the political uses of debt.  Here, I think that the experience of the American Revolution and the failure of the Confederacy may have something to tell us about Mormon history. Read more »

Commentary on 1 Nephi 17, pt. 3

January 26, 2009 | 8 comments

Continuing part 1 and part 2. Laman and Lemuel offer up their gloss on the story of Moses in verse 22 and in so doing model a particular type of scriptural and legal interpretation.  They say: And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his... Read more »

Commentary on 1 Nephi 17, pt. 2

January 22, 2009 | 2 comments

Laman and Lemuel make their appearance in chapter 17 in verse 17, where they say: Read more »

Regarding Carol Lynn Pearson

January 18, 2009 | 16 comments

Over the holidays I discovered the poetry of Carol Lynn Pearson, which I have been enjoying. At times she spills over into the trite or saccharine, but on the whole I like it. There is nothing agonistic about it, which is the reason that Terryl Givens doesn’t much care for it. I think that he’s right, however, that by taking Emily Dickinson (another poetess I’ve recently started reading) as her model, the conciseness of her style frequently rescues her from smugness. At its best, there is an engaging naivete in her verse, a kind of simple purity that skates... Read more »

Commentary on 1 Nephi 17, pt. 1

January 15, 2009 | 11 comments

This is the first of a series of posts in which I will be offering some commentary on 1 Nephi 17. Why that particular chapter you ask? The answer is that I believe that chapter 17 is setting forth a method of scriptural interpretation that proved to be very important both for the Book of Mormon and for Mormonism generally. Furthermore, what I find fascinating about the story is that ultimately it is about the legal interpretation of scripture. Read more »

Nature and Cities

December 19, 2008 | 30 comments

I often find walking in nature a spiritual experience, for want of a better term. Growing up, I think that I found my testimony in part by tramping through the Wasatch Mountains and watching thunder storms roll across the Great Salt Lake. Today, I am likely to have real moments of reverence and gratitude to the divine while watching mist play across the still waters of the James River in the early morning or enjoying the power of a big Atlantic storm slamming into my bit of the world. I realize that there are some real dangers with identifying... Read more »

Past and Present

November 30, 2008 | 15 comments

It’s an intellectual banality to point out that how one thinks of the present structures how one thinks about the past. The cliché, however, is useful when thinking about Mormon history. Read more »

Why Conservatives Should Support Same-Sex Marriage Legislation

November 17, 2008 | 78 comments

Rod Dreher, I think, has a it right. Conservatives ought to support same-sex marriage legislation. Read more »

The Canonization of the Book of Mormon?

November 10, 2008 | 29 comments
The Canonization of the Book of Mormon?

Penguin Books has just published a “Penguin Classics” edition of the Book of Mormon edited by Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp. Penguin Classics, of course, are the paperback editions of literary staples like Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. They are printed and marketed largely as texts for college classes. The assumption is that a text included in the Penguin series has become a stable part of the high-brow diet of books, or at least ought to be. It is worth reflecting a little bit about what this edition of the Book of Mormon might or might not mean. The Penguin book... Read more »

2009 LDS Law Students Conference at Harvard Law School

November 3, 2008 | 8 comments

The J. Reuben Clark Society’s annual student conference will be held this year at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Registration is now open, and I urge LDS students, lawyers, and interested laypersons to attend. FYI. Read more »

An Open Letter to Michelle Obama

November 2, 2008 | 49 comments

Dear Michelle, First, let me say how much I’ve enjoyed getting to know you over the last couple of months. Read more »

A New Summer Seminar on Mormonism with Terryl Givens and Matt Grow

October 16, 2008 | 3 comments

From Givens: Read more »