Blog Archives

An Open Letter to Michelle Obama

November 2, 2008 | 49 comments
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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
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From Givens: Read more »

The Difficulty of Theological Interpretations of Mormon History

October 9, 2008 | 26 comments
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Providing a theological interpretation of Mormon history is tricky. I’ve argued elsewhere that one of the reasons that Mormons care so much about history is that in some sense they regard it has having a normative force. Part of how we understand God’s will is by offering an interpretation of our past that sees in it the working out of God’s purposes. On this view, God is involved in the story of the Restoration and a careful parsing of that story will reveal something about God. This, of course, is the sort of thing that sets the teeth of... Read more »

BYU in the Memory of the AAUP

September 23, 2008 | 23 comments
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Among the other academic spam that I get are regular emails from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which is always eager to remind me of their fights for academic freedom, higher salaries for professors, and various trendy and hip progressive causes. Today, the AAUP sent out an email commemorating the ten year anniversary of its censure of BYU. I thought that readers might enjoy a trip down memory lane to the bad-old-days of Mormon intellectual life in the 1990s and a view of events through outside eyes: Read more »

Evil Speaking

August 21, 2008 | 59 comments
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In the Old Testament God likens his relationship to the House of Israel as that of a bridegroom to his wife. In the New Testament, the Church is described as the bride of Christ. The choice of the image of marriage, it seems to me, is hardly accidental. It provides, I think, the background for the commandments against speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed and by extension — I believe — the Lord’s Church. Belief and membership — the two ideas that we use most commonly when thinking about our relationship to the Church — are, it strikes me,... Read more »

My Williamsburg Discrimination Story

August 19, 2008 | 52 comments
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Adam’s post about the California Supreme Court’s recent decision, and the resulting brawl in the comments got me thinking about the basis of discrimination. In 1998, while I was a senior at BYU I spent a semester in Williamsburg, Virginia doing research in the archives at the College of William and Mary. The week before my job in Williamsburg was to begin, I drove down from DC, where I had been working over the summer, to find a place to stay. I had three options. One turned out to be unfurnished, which took it off the list. The second... Read more »

Reading Psalm 137 as a Microcosm of Discipleship

July 11, 2008 | 12 comments
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Psalm 137 is one of those wonderful and paradoxical passages of scripture that contains within itself a universe. Read more »

FTA: Dating, Jane Austen, and the Virtues of Chastity

July 8, 2008 | 49 comments
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Like most rugged and red-blooded American men I have long enjoyed the work of Jane Austen. Read more »

Korihor and the United States Reports

July 1, 2008 | 40 comments
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Let’s read the Book of Mormon as a commentary on American constitutional law and vice versa. Alma 30:7-10 reads: Read more »

From my Missionary Journals

June 27, 2008 | 14 comments
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I was recently rereading my missionary journals. Read more »

Searching for a Sense of Place in Viriginia (a bleg)

June 17, 2008 | 39 comments
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I am at a stage in life when I think a lot about place. After a decade or so of moving every 1 to 3 years, our family has arrived on the banks of the James and there is a very good chance that this is where my children will grow up. My interest in place is heightened of course that I live a mile from the site of Jamestown — first English settlement in America — and work in Williamsburg — colonial capital of Virginia and, as one acquaintance put it to me “Disney Land for history major.”... Read more »

The Oddity of God’s Promises

June 12, 2008 | 29 comments
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I basically pay my mortgage by thinking about contracts and promises. It is a tough job, but someone has to do. Of late, I’ve gotten to thinking about God’s promising. Consider these two quotes: Read more »

Walking by Faith with Popper and Quine

June 3, 2008 | 56 comments
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A while ago I was having one of those oft repeated conversations about faith, doubt, and intellectual reconciliation. My thoughtful interlocutor asked, “Is there anything that you could learn that would cause you to abandon your beliefs?” The clear assumption of his question was that there was something distinctly fishy about a set of beliefs that cannot be falsified. It is an assumption worth thinking about. Read more »

Changing Mormon Musical Aesthetics?

April 22, 2008 | 117 comments
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I didn’t blog about it at the time, although I thought about it. But now it’s up on You Tube, so here goes. Read more »

The Two Problems with Mormon Finitist Theodicies

April 21, 2008 | 74 comments
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I have been listening to the papers that were presented at the recent conference of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology. At the conference there was a presentation on that perennial favorite, finisitist Mormon theodicies, in this case a nicely nuanced comparison of Mormon thinking with the process theology of David Griffin. I was disappointed, however, that the authors didn’t more squarely face the two strongest objections to Mormon finitist theodicies. Indeed, I have yet to see what I think of as adequate responses to either of these issues. Read more »

Nature and Doing Good

March 8, 2008 | 14 comments
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Among my many other vices, I like to read poetry. Read more »

Theology and the Public Square in Utah

March 5, 2008 | 35 comments
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The Salt Lake Tribune recently ran a column written by Grant Palmer arguing that Christian salvation turns not on the performance of ordinances but rather on an ethical life. Theologically speaking, the article (as Dave has pointed out nicely) is a pretty pedestrian, anti-sacramental, and essentially Protestant reading of the New Testament. The really interesting question raised by the article is not its theology, but rather what it is doing on the editorial page of an mainstream, secular newspaper. I think that we can safely dismiss the notion that the column was published because the Trib has taken it... Read more »

The Church Historian’s Press and the Argument in Favor of Mordred

February 25, 2008 | 21 comments
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The Church issued a press release today annoucing the creation of a “Church Historian’s Press” to handle the publication of the Joseph Smith Papers. (The press release also mentioned “works related to the church’s history and growth.”) I am not quite sure what the rationale for this is. Previous volume of the papers were published by Deseret Book, which did a nice enough job, although of late the physical publication standards at Deseret Book have been falling. Perhaps the new imprint is to insure library quality production values. Maybe it just reduces administrative hassle to have the production done... Read more »

From Theophany to Ritual

February 24, 2008 | 11 comments
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I thought that one of Richard Bushman’s most provocative arguments in Rough Stone Rolling was his interpretation of the temple endowment, and I’ve been surprised that it hasn’t generated more interest. Read more »

Mormon Law and Islamic Law

February 19, 2008 | 9 comments
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Mormonism, so goes a well-worn trope, is more into orthopraxis than orthodoxy. That is, we tend to care more about right conduct — e.g. loyalty to the kingdom, keeping covenants, following commandments, etc. — than right belief — e.g. the precise nature of divine progression or the correct location of Kolob. This raises the question, however, of why Mormonism hasn’t really developed any sort of a formal jurisprudence. Looking at church courts in the nineteenth century and comparing Mormon “law” to Islamic law sharpens the issues Read more »

Interpretation: Latter-day Saint Perspectives

February 19, 2008 | 2 comments
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Read more »

A Presidents’ Day Poem

February 18, 2008 | 15 comments
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A poem for Presidents’ Day: Read more »

Preaching to the Court House and Judging in the Temple

February 16, 2008 | 5 comments
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For the last year or so, I have been doing research on Mormon church courts in the nineteenth century. Until about 1900, it was expected that Mormons would not sue other Mormons in secular courts, but would take their disputes to their local bishop or high council. I’ve been looking at three inter-related questions: How did the Mormon court system develop, why did Latter-day Saints take civil disputes to church courts, and why did they ultimately abandon the church courts? I have now posted a more or less final version of my paper on SSRN, where you can down... Read more »

A Poem and a Sermon

February 9, 2008 | 6 comments
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First, the poem: Read more »