Guest Bloggers

Data, Doctrines, & Doubts: Improving Gospel Instruction

September 2, 2015 | 27 comments
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Data, Doctrines, & Doubts: Improving Gospel Instruction

I’m grateful for the invitation and excited to participate here at Times & Seasons. The following is a talk I gave in our recent Stake General Priesthood meeting as the newly called Stake Sunday School President. While many of the ideas below were conceived independently, I was heavily influenced by some of Ben Spackman’s writings (especially the quotes) when it came to their final form. Big thanks to him. I’ve been asked to speak tonight on improving gospel instruction in the home and at church. So much time could be dedicated to analyzing the best teaching methods and the how-to of engaging gospel lessons.... Read more »

Introducing Walker Wright

September 2, 2015 | 2 comments
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Introducing Walker Wright

After citing him on multiple occasions here at Times and Seasons (for example here and here), I’m very pleased to announce that Walker Wright will be joining us for a guest blogging stint. Walker is an MBA student at the University of North Texas, and his primary interests are in the theology of work and sacralizing the mundane. Walker has written for Square Two, presented at Sunstone, Mormon Transhumanist Association, Faith & Knowledge, and Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, and is contributing a chapter to Julie Smith’s forthcoming Come, Let Us Reason Together: Dialogues with Scripture. He also blogs at Difficult Run, Worlds... Read more »

Guest Post: The Parable of the Two Sons

August 7, 2013 | 8 comments
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My friend and neighbor has written a beautiful parable that I am pleased to share with you today. David Harding works actively in his ward and neighborhood. His daughter is my daughter’s best friend. As those of you with children know, it is a great blessing to have your offspring fall in with good people who help support them as they grow into themselves. Periodically, maybe once or twice a year, David writes something that he thinks could be shared beyond his close circle. The topics range, but as often as not they are gospel related. And so I’m introducing... Read more »

Guest Post: Mental Health, Mortal Life, and Accountability Part 5: The “Greater Sin”/ Sane Repentance & Forgiveness

January 31, 2013 | 11 comments
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Now knowing a portion of my background, you can probably guess I’ve had opportunity to give a fair amount of consideration to the concepts of personal responsibility, repentance, and forgiveness. Please take this post as exactly that, my own considerations on these topics, long thought out, studied, prayed... Read more »

Guest Post: Mental Health, Mortal Life, and Accountability Part 4: Accommodations in LDS Activities and Meetings

January 28, 2013 | 12 comments
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During graduate school (in a different field of study), I worked in the university’s office for staff and students with disabilities.  I learned a great deal about the Americans with Disabilities Act, and about how individuals with a variety of disabilities qualify for and obtain accommodations in their work and... Read more »

Guest Post: Mental Health, Mortal Life, and Accountability Part 1:”Exceeding Sorrowful, Even Unto Death” (Mark 14:34)

January 12, 2013 | 19 comments
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Not many years ago, a younger sibling of mine sought to stop her unbearable emotional pain by ending her mortal life.  While she succeeded in completing her suicide, she did not consciously chose this path, and she is not fully accountable for her desperate and tragic actions.... Read more »

The Opposite of Epistemic Humility

December 19, 2012 | 14 comments
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The Opposite of Epistemic Humility

In my first three pieces I’ve spent an awful lot of time talking about epistemic humility. Now I’m going to talk about what I consider to be the antithesis of epistemic humility: extremism. My definition of the term is non-standard, but I believe it both fits as the antithesis of epistemic humility and matches our intuition that there’s something to extremism that is more than merely being far removed from the mainstream. After all, if you live in a society where child sacrifice is the norm and you... Read more »

On Learning from False Models

December 18, 2012 | 21 comments
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On Learning from False Models

In this post I want to present a secular example of epistemic humility. As with the religious example, I hope that this one will also provide some intrinsically interesting ideas. I also plan on reusing these ideas in the next couple of posts. Like my first example, the second highlights the fertility that arises from knowingly maintaining contradictory views. In this case the conflict is between the highly stylized model of human behavior used by economists (homo economicus or the rational agent) and real, live human beings.... Read more »

Faith is a Work in Progress

December 14, 2012 | 12 comments
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I appreciate the kind welcome to T&S and all the good comments and questions. I know I haven’t responded to some of them yet, and I’ll try to rectify that soon, but I wanted to make sure I had this post ready to go. My goal is to live up to my promise to walk through a religious example of epistemic humility in action. At the end of the last post, I suggested that one of the dangers we face when our beliefs conflict with each other is... Read more »

The Wise Man Doubts Often, And Changes His Mind

December 12, 2012 | 20 comments
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I’m happy to have a chance to do a guest stint here at Times and Seasons, and over the next two weeks I want to use my borrowed soap box to talk about epistemic humility. Epistemic humility is an awareness of the limits of our ability to know. It is an admission that we are ignorant of things that are true and that we accept as true things which are not. Hence the title, which comes from a longer saying of Akhenaten: “The wise man... Read more »

Nothing to Apologize For (Part II)

July 25, 2012 | 63 comments
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I argued in Part I that the move from “apologetics” to “Mormon Studies” requires a bracketing of truth claims that may serve legitimate scholarly purposes, but that carries with it certain significant risks.  The New Mormon Studies presents orthodoxy as stifling and itself as intellectually liberating, but it risks purveying a more subtle and powerful conformism, the conformism of secular academic prestige and careerism.  This is intended, not as a condemnation, but as an alert.  We ought to embrace... Read more »

Nothing to Apologize For (Part I)

July 20, 2012 | 75 comments
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The recent unpleasantness at BYU’s Maxwell Institute has, the reader will have noticed, triggered much comment on the internet, including celebrations in some quarters over the supposed demise or at least eclipse of certain defenders of the faith at the Institute —characterized by some as apologists — who have been willing over the years to call out arguments they see as weakly reasoned and hold critics of the Church to account for their claims.   Although I do not... Read more »

Globetrotting, Mormon-Style

July 8, 2012 | 14 comments
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Globetrotting, Mormon-Style

One of the things almost sure to be heard in testimony meeting after someone has traveled (whether it’s across the ocean or just to the next town over) is an expression of gratitude that “the Church is the same no matter where you go.” To a certain extent, it’s true. We all sing the same hymns, although every ward congregation seems to have its particular favorites. We all read the same scriptures. Sunday meetings follow the same general format, even if the meetings are in a different order. Thanks to Correlation, Sunday School and other lesson manuals are standardized... Read more »

Single Moms and Adoption — Another Perspective

June 12, 2012 | 45 comments
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Single Moms and Adoption — Another Perspective

I have been fascinated by the idea of adoption for a long time. Growing up, I knew a few people who were adopted, and the idea of bringing home your baby from Korea or the Ukraine always seemed exotic to me. But my obsession really took off when I got my Patriarchal Blessing. After gushing about the children that would be born to me, a totally out-of-the-blue paragraph began with the words, “I bless the love of your family to extend to other children . . . ” Suddenly, adoption was part of my envisioned Mormon “happily-ever-after,” and I... Read more »

Homeschooling Then and Now

October 13, 2011 | 73 comments
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Homeschooling Then and Now

As was mentioned in my introduction a week or so ago, my parents homeschooled us “back in the good old days when homeschooling was weird and subversive, not hip and progressive.” I’m now homeschooling my own children, and it’s interesting to note how the movement has evolved during the past 25 years. My adjectives describing the change don’t fit perfectly, of course, but they are representative of general trends, at least in how the perception of homeschooling has changed. When my mother decided she’d like to keep me home from kindergarten in 1985, it was a bizarre and scary... Read more »

Mormons Do Care about the Earth

October 3, 2011 | 109 comments
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Mormons do care about the earth. We care about preserving, protecting, and maintaining it. We care about the earth because 1) We love God, 2) We care about other people, and 3) We believe in the intrinsic value of the earth. Read more »

Charity Unbidden

September 28, 2011 | 23 comments
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Saturday night, several talks of the General Relief Society Broadcast addressed charity. I was left with the general impression that we should want to cultivate feelings of charity towards others, and that as we desire to have charity, we will gain it. I carry a sketch book and pencils with me. An adult only church meeting like the Relief Society broadcast  is the perfect place for me to sit quietly and sketch portraits of the people around me. I like to study faces and postures, to see the effects of life written on the body. I like to look... Read more »

Consumerism vs. Stewardship

September 26, 2011 | 79 comments
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The following is a modified excerpt from my presentation at Sunstone this summer. We live, not only in a capitalist, but a consumerist, society. Our society is all about spending, acquiring, cluttering, and replacing, not about maintaining, restoring, renewing, and protecting. It is cheaper to buy new than to repair old.  We live in a disposable country, where everything is trash, if not now, then soon. How did we get here? One of the best explanations I’ve found is in the work of the social theorist Max Weber (1). He examined the correlation between the Protestant religious belief and... Read more »

Times & Seasons Welcomes Ben Spackman

August 26, 2011 | 14 comments
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Times and Seasons is pleased to welcome Ben Spackman as our latest guest blogger. Ben received his BA in Near Eastern Studies from BYU and an MA in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago, focusing on philology and Semitic languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic. During his graduate summers, he taught New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Biblical Hebrew at BYU. He has taught various courses in a volunteer capacity for the LDS Church Education System since 2003. Most recently, Ben was the managing editor of the Mormon Portal at Patheos.com. Ben has lived... Read more »

What If President Monson Endorsed Mitt Romney?

July 19, 2011 | 37 comments
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What If President Monson Endorsed Mitt Romney?

In his talk at the close of the April 2008 General Conference, President Monson talked about the blessing we had received, both as members of the Church and, specifically, over the course of the conference. He ended his talk with counsel: parents are to love and cherish their children, youth are to keep the commandments, those who can attend the temple should, and we should all be aware of each other’s needs. But what if, in closing his remarks, President Monson had said, “My dear brothers and sisters, I feel strongly that Mitt Romney is the best person to... Read more »

The Tax Exemption and the Church’s Political Leanings

July 18, 2011 | 28 comments
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In light of the Church’s recent policy statement banning some Church authorities from endorsing candidates, and the speculation that the Church’s political neutrality derives from its desire to stay tax-exempt, I thought I’d present a brief primer on the tax exemption. The Revenue Act of 1894 probably represents the birth of the modern federal income tax. An inauspicious birth, to be sure–it was struck down as unconstitutional in 1895–but the birth, nonetheless. True, it was enacted 19 years before the 16th Amendment permitted direct taxation (whatever that is), but it set the stage for the income tax to come.... Read more »

The Parable of the Talented Endowment Tax

July 14, 2011 | 51 comments
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Governments impose taxes in order to raise revenue that, in turn, funds government function and services. In designing a tax system, tax theorists generally try to create provisions that will raise revenue without significantly altering taxpayers’ economic choices. That is, ideally, taxpayers will act in approximately the same way as they would have in a world without tax. But we can’t hit the ideal. The income tax alters people’s actions, because it alters the price calculus. One way is in our work-leisure decisions. Assume with me that I earn $10 an hour. That said, I enjoy not working, too–my... Read more »

In Praise of the Administrative Function of the Prophet

July 11, 2011 | 29 comments
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When I was just off my mission, President Hinckley announced that, in answer to a question about how to provide temples to smaller LDS communities, he had been inspired to construct smaller temples. There was a palpable sense of excitement at BYU, as we saw the prophet make what we regarded as a prophetic announcement. And, as a result of this revelatory change, we waited with baited breath for other announcements of revelatory changes. Occasionally I run across complaints about the bureaucracization of the leadership of the Church. The complaints seem to suggest that that’s not the role of... Read more »

Summer 2011 Syllabus

July 8, 2011 | 31 comments
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Part of my job as a law professor is to model to students what a transactional attorney does. As part of that, I include in my syllabus a list of things media that they ought to consume in order to understand the world a business lawyer functions in. The list is not exhaustive, by any means, nor should they necessarily read or listen to all of it, but it provides a slice of intelligent commentary on the world I’m teaching them how to enter. If you were preparing people to do what you do, what resources would you recommend?... Read more »