Liberal Arts

Economics – Law – Philosophy – etc.

Modern Christology

January 3, 2016 | 10 comments
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I recently read Alan Spence’s Christology: A Guide for the Perplexed, a short but very helpful discussion of the topic. I’m going to use it to reflect a bit on Mormon Christology, particularly as it relates to modern Christological commentary on and criticism of the doctrines that emerged from theological debates in the early Church. First, let’s define the problem. Read more »

“That They Might Have Joy”: Conquering Shame Through At-one-Ment

November 21, 2015 | 17 comments
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“That They Might Have Joy”: Conquering Shame Through At-one-Ment

*Film spoilers* Steve McQueen’s 2011 film Shame is one of the most devastating movie experiences I’ve had in recent memory. I’m wading into potentially touchy Mormon territory given its NC-17 rating and subject matter, but I think it’s worth the risk. In short, the film follows Brandon (an incredible Michael Fassbender) as he struggles with his all-consuming sex addiction; one that includes frequent pornography viewing and masturbation at both work and home, casual sexual encounters (including one in a gay bar despite being quite straight), and multiple hired sex workers. In the midst of his nihilistic despair, we witness his withdrawal from those around him,... Read more »

A Mormon Minimalism

March 4, 2015 | 23 comments
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A Mormon Minimalism

I’ve been practicing a kind of theological minimalism for a long time now. This impulse toward minimalism is itself religious. And it’s aesthetic. It doesn’t have to do with whether particular things are true or false (though, rest assured, such judgments must also be made), it has to do with the feel (literally, the aesthesis) of Mormonism as it’s lived. Read more »

Where is the door? How do WE knock?

March 30, 2014 | 98 comments
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Salt Lake Temple doorknobs

One of the gems of my mission was the opportunity to spend an evening with a Bishop from the RLDS (now Community of Christ) Church Read more »

Mormonism at the Scopes Trial

February 28, 2014 | 29 comments
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Mormonism at the Scopes Trial

I read Edward J. Larson’s Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (Harvard Univ. Press, 1997) earlier this month, and was surprised to see the Book of Mormon appear in one of Clarence Darrow’s arguments to the court. Funny how little mention there is of the Scopes Trial in LDS discourse, given how often evolution seems to come up. I have some ideas on that. But first the interesting arguments made to the court by Darrow. Read more »

Mormon Christianity: A Sympathetic View

February 13, 2014 | 7 comments
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Mormon Christianity: A Sympathetic View

Stephen H. Webb’s Mormon Christianity: What Other Christians Can Learn From the Latter-day Saints (OUP, 2013) has a lot to offer both LDS and non-LDS readers. My acquaintance with Amazon titles on Mormonism makes me think it would have attracted a much larger non-LDS readership had it been titled How I Escaped From Mormon Christianity. Happily for mainstream LDS readers, the book is listed at Deseret Book, where an author search under “Webb” sorted by popularity puts the book just above Melodie Webb’s 250 Ways to Connect With Your Family and just below the ebook version of Isabelle Webb’s... Read more »

Mormon Christianity: A Little Bit Catholic

January 25, 2014 | 8 comments
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I’m about a third of the way through Stephen W. Webb’s Mormon Christianity: What Other Christians Can Learn From the Latter-day Saints (OUP, 2013). Webb is a Catholic professor of philosophy and theology turned writer. His Catholic perspective on LDS doctrine and his evident sympathy for the LDS approach to Christianity make this insightful outsider treatment of LDS theology quite refreshing. I will no doubt post a longer discussion of the book in a week or two, but here is a quotation highlighting some similarities between Catholic and Mormon approaches to Christianity (apart from both traditions being the target... Read more »

Reasoning Together – Zion

January 2, 2014 | 9 comments
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Reasoning Together – Zion

We talk about Zion in a lot of different senses, but I think most of these share the general idea of communally gathering, developing, sharing, and partaking in everything that is lovely, virtuous, or praiseworthy or of good report. How do we do this, both collectively and individually, on both a theological and political level? Once again (obviously) I can’t adequately answer that question here. But once again I’m bothered by a lot of the discussions I see flying around our virtual and ward-level worlds. I don’t like the divisive,  polemical way in which these discussions are framed –... Read more »

Reasoning Together – Prophets

December 31, 2013 | 22 comments
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Reasoning Together – Prophets

Here’s the main point: I don’t think either our history or our theology supports traditional and currently widespread – though often unarticulated – notions of what a prophet is.  Read more »

Same-Sex Marriage Bans and Tax

December 21, 2013 | 7 comments
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District-Utah

The District of Utah has had a busy week. As I'm sure you heard (and if you haven't, you ought to read Kaimi's post first), Utah's ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down as unconstitutional. A week ago, in the wake of the decision that didn't actually legalize polygamy, I looked at the potential tax consequences of that decision and, fairly anti-climatically, determined that there were none. Plenty of electrons will be spilled going over this decision but, again, I suspect that the tax consequences will be underexplored. Read more »

Gay Polygamy in Utah!

December 20, 2013 | 27 comments
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Gay Polygamy in Utah!

By now you’ve heard the news. A federal judge in Utah just ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. This follow on last week’s ruling, from a different judge, that portions of Utah’s polygamy statute were also unconstitutional. What does it mean? Obviously, it means the advent of gay polygamy!! It won’t stop until everyone is married to everyone else, in one giant gay-polygamous-mega-wedding. Let the festivities begin! Okay, maybe not. Let’s go through the rulings, piece by piece, to see what they say, and what their effects may be. Read more »

Decriminalizing Polygamy (and, of Course, Tax)

December 14, 2013 | 11 comments
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sister_wives_tv_series_logo

On Friday, December 13, the Judge Waddoups, a district court judge in the District of Utah, held that Utah's criminalization of polygamy was unconstitutional. Partly, anyway. More on that in a minute. I suspect that this opinion will reverberate throughout the blogosphere and the mainstream media, with the reporting displaying various levels of accuracy. The question I suspect won't get much play, though, is, what are the tax consequences of this decision? Read more »

Happy(?) Repeal Day!

December 5, 2013 | 12 comments
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prohibition_ends_repeal_day_cocktails

The Twitters tell me that 80 years ago today, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, thus ending Prohibition. Whatever you think about Prohibition, it's probably worth noting the Pres. Grant was not a fan of its end. In fact, he addressed the end of Prohibition---and Utah's role in ending it---at General Conference in 1934. Here's an (annotated by me) excerpt of what he said: Read more »

Money for Nothing and the Housing for Free

November 25, 2013 | 22 comments
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Methodist Episcopal Church and Parsonage, Iroquois, South Dakota 1900s 2.preview

On Thursday, November 21, the district court of the Western District of Wisconsin declared (part of) the parsonage exemption---a special tax provision for certain religious persons---unconstitutional. Read more »

The Approaching Zion Project: Work We Must, but the Lunch Is Free

August 21, 2013 | 43 comments
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VN99070lg

As summer ends, my time to engage with Nibley's social criticisms has begun to return. Of course, I say that the week before classes begin, so a couple things I want to point out before we get started: first, this is a long, detailed chapter. Read more »

Invite the IRS to Your Family Reunion

August 9, 2013 | 8 comments
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Over at Keepaptichinin, Amy Tanner Theriot has a wonderful post talking about family associations, and providing some guidelines for how to put together a successful association. In the post, she mentions that family associations can qualify as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entities. At the mention of Code sections (and revenue rulings!), my ears perk up, and I thought I'd give a little more information about the tax side of such organizations. But before you read my post, you need to read Amy's. Because everything I know about family associations I learned reading her post, then doing a little Westlaw research. Because... Read more »

The Approaching Zion Project: How to Get Rich

July 9, 2013 | 9 comments
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Donald-Trump-How-To-Get-Rich

So here we are, a day early (or, um, six days late, if that's the way you want to look at it). Since we're here, let's take a look at Nibley's next approach toward Zion: Read more »

The Approaching Zion Project: How Firm a Foundation! What Makes It So

June 26, 2013 | 11 comments
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Rome-St.-Peters-Basilica-In-Morning-Moon-over-church

Interestingly enough, this chapter seems to be less focused on Zion and more focused on the Church more broadly. Still, Zion sneaks in, even discussing the Church. As always, a couple things I found interesting: Read more »

The Approaching Zion Project: Deny Not the Gifts of God

June 19, 2013 | 32 comments
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stones

This chapter (understandably) overlaps significantly with the previous chapter, Gifts. These are, after all, discourses he delivered at various times, to various audiences, with common themes. I'm reading them separately, though, and different things hit me at different readings. So, like always, I won't discuss everything Nibley focuses on (and I'll try to not spend too much time on things I've discussed previously). With that out of the way, on to the chapter. Read more »

The Approaching Zion Project: Gifts

June 5, 2013 | 19 comments
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gifts

For the third (and, I hope, final) time, I read this chapter on an airplane, taking notes as I read it. And there are just a couple quick things I want to highlight and discuss, and one sentence that really troubled me. Read more »

The Approaching Zion Project: Zeal Without Knowledge

May 29, 2013 | 17 comments
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Approaching Zion

For the second time, I read this chapter in an airport and on an airplane returning home. With that as my full preface, let's jump into this chapter: Read more »

The Approaching Zion Project: What is Zion? A Distant View

May 15, 2013 | 98 comments
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Movie-PerilsOfPauline-RRTracks-01

Another confession: I had a really hard time with this chapter. And it's not just because I read it sitting in an airport waiting for a plane that was delayed for an hour and a half. Rather, it's because of the way Nibley speaks of the wealthy. Certain of his descriptions feel, to me, so laughably one-dimensional---so moustache-twirling, tying-the-heroine-to-the-tracks---that I find myself fighting both his prose and my instincts to not just dismiss his entire piece out of hand. Read more »

Stewards of Prudence and Altruism

May 8, 2013 | 4 comments
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Prudence and altruism combined allow us to delay personal gratification or even make sacrifices for the benefit of future people who have not yet been born. The hearts of the fathers must turn to their children Read more »

The Approaching Zion Project: Our Glory or Our Condemnation

May 8, 2013 | 21 comments
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Garden_of_Eden,_Eden,_TX_IMG_1834

Now that I've read my first chapter of Approaching Zion, a couple more caveats before we get started. First, I'm not going to bother summarizing what Nibley said. Instead, I'm going to try to engage it, responding to ideas that engaged me, whether I agree or disagree. Second, I'm not going to try to engage with the full text; in Chapter 1, there were two things that really spoke to me, and one more that I'm going to mention and defer until a later installment. Feel free, in the comments, to engage with what I've engaged with, what I've... Read more »