Blog Archives

Temples and God’s Discount Function

March 26, 2007 | 15 comments

I think that one of the reasons that God commanded Brigham Young to build the Salt Lake Temple was to signal his discount function. Read more »

The 16th Century Origins of a Mormon Idea

March 19, 2007 | 11 comments

The Mormon court system emerged from the much older tradition of ecclesiastical discipline among the English Protestants who settled North America. Read more »

Mormonism and the Memo to the Dean

March 16, 2007 | 13 comments

Earlier this week I engaged in what I am told is an annual academic ritual, and wrote a memo to the Dean explaining what I have done this year in terms of teaching, scholarship, and service. Since I have been engaged in a number of projects related to Mormon studies, the question arises should I include these in the memo? Does Mormonism “count” academically speaking? Read more »

The Poetry of Red Rocks

March 7, 2007 | 15 comments
The Poetry of Red Rocks

I am currently doing some research on Mormon legal history, and earlier today found myself reading through an old issue of Western Humanties Review from 1951. Read more »

Intelligences and Zion: An Essay in Mormon Political Philosophy (part IV, concluded)

February 24, 2007 | 10 comments

To read the previous sections of this essay, go here (Part I), here (Part II), and here (Part III). Read more »

Intelligences and Zion: An Essay in Mormon Political Philosophy (part III)

February 23, 2007 | 10 comments

To read the first section of this essay, go here (Part I) and here (Part II). Read more »

Intelligences and Zion: An Essay in Mormon Poltical Philosophy (part II)

February 22, 2007 | 18 comments

To read the first section of this essay, go here. Read more »

Intelligences and Zion: An Essay in Mormon Political Philosophy (part I)

February 21, 2007 | 17 comments

The following is an essay that I wrote several years ago and never published. I have divided the essay into four posts that will run over the next couple of days. Academics regularlly present unpublished papers at workshops where they get feedback and criticism. I want to experiment with a blog-based version of the same thing in which folks offer thoughts and criticism of the essay as they read it. Enjoy! Read more »

What is Church Doctrine? One Possible Theory…

February 20, 2007 | 23 comments

Church Doctrine is a ubiquitous idea among Mormons, but in some ways it is quite mysterious. Read more »

Brigham Young and the Spectacle of Litigation

February 16, 2007 | 15 comments

On February 24, 1856, Brigham Young delivered a blistering attack on lawyers and law courts. Read more »

Scripture and Interpretation: Some Thoughts Inspired by “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”

February 13, 2007 | 142 comments

A couple of weeks ago we had stake conference, and among other things the visiting authority talked about “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Among many good and true things, he said that we ought to treat the Proclamation as scripture and that the only reason it was not added to the Doctrine & Covenants is because President Hinckley didn’t want us to all have to go out and buy new scriptures. I don’t want to read too much into what was clearly an off the cuff remark, but this struck me as a rather facile attempt to... Read more »

The Power of Prayer

February 6, 2007 | 31 comments

I am something of a realist and a cynic. I assume that I basically have little or no power over the universe, and that there is almost nothing I can do to change that. You know the story of the guy walking along the beach and throwing back star fish. Someone points out that there are more star fish than he can possibly save, and he replies, “Perhaps, but I made a difference to that one,” throwing another star fish back into the ocean. I have to confess that my sympathies tend to be with the questioner. Read more »

Thoughts on Trying to Teach the Priests How to Read the Scriptures

February 1, 2007 | 14 comments

I am the secretary in my ward’s young men’s presidency and occasionally teach lessons to our priest’s quorum. I recently taught a series of lessons on how to study the scriptures better. Read more »

Further Complications in Excommunicating the President of the Church

January 17, 2007 | 32 comments

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post on the procedure for excommunicating the President of the Church. In doing a bit of research on the history of the church court system, I came across some interesting complications in the story. Read more »

The Institute for Mormon Studies

January 15, 2007 | 18 comments

The various threads about the position at CGU has gotten me thinking about what Mormon scholarship needs, and I think that it is probably not a chaired position in Mormon studies, welcome as such a thing might be (especially if it allows a prolific scholar to churn out a lot of high quality work on Mormon studies). Rather, I think that Mormons ought to look to the libertarian wing of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy for models. Read more »

The Bushman Diaries

January 7, 2007 | 32 comments

On the Road With Joseph Smith: An Author’s Diary by Richard Bushman is a very difficult book to get a hold of, which is unfortunate. Read more »

A Really Long Post about Mitt Romney, Damon Linker, and Pope Pius V

January 2, 2007 | 71 comments

In 1570, Pope Pius V issued his bull Regnans in Exelcis, a pontifical act that seems to be creating problems for Mitt Romney and the Mormons. Read more »

Are Mormons American? Can They Be?

December 19, 2006 | 133 comments

Thanks to Mitt Romney’s candidacy, I suspect that the Mormons-as-bizarre-ridiculous-and-perhaps-dangerous theme will be increasingly with us in the months to come. There are two reasons for this: one parochial and one fundamental. Read more »

The Cursing of Mormon Lawyers

December 18, 2006 | 19 comments
The Cursing of Mormon Lawyers

Cursing, it would seem, forms something of a theme in Mormon legal history. Not only was it a way of dealing with unsolved crimes, but it also seems to have been used as a way of controlling frivolous litigation. Read more »

The Judicial Use of Mormon Cursing

December 16, 2006 | 12 comments

I have posted before on the now largely forgotten Mormon tradition of cursing. As you would expect, I have found that Mormon cursing also has a legal angle. Read more »

Space and Time in Mormon Thought

December 13, 2006 | 22 comments

One of Einstein’s great discovery was that time and space were intimately related concepts. It is an insight that one ought to keep in mind when thinking about Mormonism. Read more »

Secret Laws, Theocracy, and Cows

December 12, 2006 | 26 comments
Secret Laws, Theocracy, and Cows

In 1847, the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley and set up a frankly theocratic government. The highest legal authority was the High Council, which had the right to promulgate laws, as well as to try and punish criminal offenses (usually with fines or public whippings). Just as one would expect from a fanatical theocratic despotism, the High Council spent most of its time legislating about cows. Initially this was done by passing a law whereby all stray livestock was impounded and the owner of the strays was required to pay a fixed fine. The rule was... Read more »

A Summer with Terryl Givens and Richard Bushman

December 11, 2006 | 16 comments

FYI Read more »

The Church’s Tax-Exempt Status, 1860s style

December 7, 2006 | 33 comments

The Church today jealously guards its tax exempt status, and I suspect that there is a group of lawyers whose sole job it is to sit around worrying about the ways in which the IRS might assess taxes against the Church. It turns out that the feds have tried to tax Church properties and income in the past. Read more »