Liberal Arts

Economics – Law – Philosophy – etc.

How a concussion made me think of Stephenie Meyer and Francis Hutcheson

January 30, 2013 | 10 comments
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thehostcover

Last semester, my first semester studying Greek, I sustained a mild concussion. I have mostly recovered now. I still have problems with bright lights that makes nighttime driving intolerable, but for the most part, I’m functioning normally. But for a few weeks there, I couldn’t think straight. It hurt to concentrate. Reading even a light novel was difficult, and translating Greek was nigh impossible. Just looking at Greek letters caused me pain. But my handwriting was spectacular. Any notes I took about lectures I attended during that time are the most clearly written, beautifully precise notes I have ever... Read more »

Finding My Heavenly Mother, Part 4 (Literary Edition)

January 8, 2013 | 3 comments
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Finding My Heavenly Mother, Part 4 (Literary Edition)

Also see part 1, part 2 and part 3. In a 1944 essay (“Is Theology Poetry?”), C.S. Lewis remarked, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” As one who embraced Christianity later in life, Lewis had a keen appreciation of how a new discovery of belief can throw a bright reflected glory on the world and everything in it. The mind, which craves new connections of any kind, takes a special delight in those intellectual connections that carry an associated... Read more »

Facebook Memes and the Property Tax

November 27, 2012 | 39 comments
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Facebook Memes and the Property Tax

There is, I've been told, a Facebook meme going around, juxtaposing a decaying house and the San Diego temple to support the argument that churches should not be exempt from taxation. And, like Facebook memes everywhere, this one is dumb. Dumb primarily because it is a tautology that doesn't say anything. Because of course a tax-exempt organization does not pay taxes that a non-exempt individual pays. That's pretty much the definition of tax exemption. Of course, saying that a Facebook meme is dumb and tautological makes for a pretty short and boring post. Far more interesting, imho, is to take seriously... Read more »

The God Who Weeps: Faith

October 25, 2012 | 20 comments
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I agree with The God Who Weeps that faith is a decision, but I disagree about the site of this decision. Read more »

Finding My Heavenly Mother, Part 2

September 18, 2012 | 60 comments
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Finding My Heavenly Mother, Part 2

 The same drive which called art into being as a completion and consummation of existence, and as a guarantee of further existence, gave rise also to that Olympian realm which acted as a transfiguring mirror to the Hellenic “will.” The gods justified human life by living it themselves—the only satisfactory theodicy ever invented.    - Friedrich Nietzsche   During part 1 I described for you my personal awakening to the existence of Heavenly Mother. In this post, I’ll explore some of the implications that discovery had for the way I view God, religion, and myself. (Also see parts 3 and... Read more »

Entirely Privately

September 6, 2012 | 41 comments
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When I lived in New York, I could have told you what virtually all of my friends paid in rent. It was a fairly common topic of conversation, and the conversation was one of two types: the can-you-believe-I-pay-$2,000-for-this-dump, or can-you-believe-I-only-pay-$3,500-for-this-apartment. I didn’t really think much of it; I didn’t put much stock in financial privacy. And it wasn’t just the amount I paid in rent—as an attorney at a big firm in New York, if you wanted to know how much I made, you basically just needed to know the year I graduated from law school, the firm I... Read more »

Moroni Torgan, Yeah Samaké, and Political Neutrality

August 21, 2012 | 6 comments
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As a result of its political neutrality policy, the Church is not going to endorse Mitt Romney in his bid to become President (or, for that matter, Harry Reid in his bid to be reelected to the Senate). There are probably a number of reasons for the Church's desire to avoid endorsing a candidate but, as I've said previously, one reason may well be the tax consequences of such an endorsement. (Short refresher: technically, the IRS could revoke the Church's tax exemption, meaning the Church would owe taxes on all of its income other than donations, and that Church... Read more »

Charitable Profit

July 12, 2012 | 44 comments
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About six months ago, I got an email asking (a) if I knew anything about low-profit limited liability companies (“L3Cs”) and private foundations, and (b) if I’d be willing to be a guest lecturer in a class, explaining what they were and how they function. I did know something (though at the time not much) about them, so I said I’d do it, then spent several weeks immersing myself in the theory and practice behind L3Cs. It turns out that Loyola’s business school offers an elective class in Social Entrepreneurship. The point of the class, from what I can gather,... Read more »

Taxing Churches: A Response

June 21, 2012 | 27 comments
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Oh no—somebody on the Internet is wrong while I’m on vacation! But duty calls. Recently, Ryan Cragun, a sociology professor, along with students Stephanie Yeager and Desmond Vega, argued that the government subsidizes religion by about $71 billion a year. He thinks this is wrong, and that religions should pay their fair share. I have no problem with his making this argument—tax exemption costs the government significant revenue (though his $71 billion is based on really, really poor assumptions—more on that later), and should be examined carefully and critically. But Prof. Cragun’s analysis is not the careful and critical... Read more »

Post-structuralist Mormon?

May 22, 2012 | 12 comments
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I played with deconstruction a little bit this semester. It probably wasn’t a good idea; I didn’t feel I had a firm grasp on Derrida; his ideas squirmed away from me like slippery little fish. But it seemed like so much fun, like such a powerful tool; how could I resist? It was like fire beckoning, or the primitive call to throw rocks off a cliff, or the closed box full of some unknown something. It was seductive to be sure; that didn’t stop it from being a bad idea. One paper I wrote shortly after attempting to read... Read more »

Exploring Mormon Thought: Sex

April 20, 2012 | no comments
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Exploring Mormon Thought: Sex

I don’t know much about God (which is probably pretty obvious), but I have thought a lot about sex. Read more »

Polygamy 2012

April 19, 2012 | 21 comments
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Once upon a time, family law was a marginal legal topic that didn’t make many headlines the way constitutional law or criminal law so often do. But gay marriage and Prop 8 have propelled family law and marriage to the legal center stage. In an odd parallel development, “the family” has, over the last few years, moved to the center of LDS doctrine and practice as well, with “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” being the most visible evidence of that change. We are living in an intersecting perfect storm of changing family law, family doctrine, and family... Read more »

The Implied Statistical Report 2011

April 11, 2012 | 30 comments
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The Implied Statistical Report 2011

Over the past few years I’ve put together an analysis of the cumulative information in the Church’s statistical reports. Three years ago I posted The Implied Statistical Report, 2008, and last year I titled my analysis The Implied Statistical Report, 2010. Over this time I’ve tried to improve my methods and the data available, collecting data from a few different sources. This year I’ve again looked at the data and discovered something unexpected: The Church’s real growth is actually faster in the U.S. and Canada than it is in the rest of the world. Read more »

Taxing(?) City Creek Reserve, Inc.

April 4, 2012 | 24 comments
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Taxing(?) City Creek Reserve, Inc.

The other day, Nate responded to many of Jana Riess's criticisms of the City Creek mall in Salt Lake. As I read her piece, one sentence jumped out at me. Read more »

Exploring Mormon Thought: The Homogeneous?

March 21, 2012 | 61 comments
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Exploring Mormon Thought: The Homogeneous?

In chapter 8 of The Attributes of God, Ostler continues grappling with the question of human agency in relation to God’s foreknowledge. The professional literature generated by this kind of theological question is wide and deep and the field is no particular speciality of mine. On these kinds of questions, Ostler is much better read than I am. The basic problem is this: “If there is anything in circumstances which precludes a person from exercising a power, then the power cannot be exercised under those circumstances” (249). Blake argues that God’s strong foreknowledge is just the kind... Read more »

Taxing the United Order

February 28, 2012 | 24 comments
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Taxing the United Order

The United Order appears (for now, at least) to be a relic of the 19th century; since them, the mainstream Mormon church hasn't attempted to institute any large-scale communal economic structure based on Acts 2. And, frankly, I don't have any reason to think that it will in the 21st century; the Law of Consecration seems to be something different than economic communalism (though economic communalism fits within the Law of Consecration). Read more »

Mitt Romney’s Tithing Problem (?)

January 18, 2012 | 76 comments
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Mitt Romney’s Tithing Problem (?)

ABC broke the news: Mitt Romney has donated millions of dollars worth of stock to the Mormon church. SEC filings disclose that a Bain partner donated $1.9 million of Burger King stock to the Church; in addition, the Church has received stock of other Bain holdings, including Domino's, DDi, Innophos, and the parent company of AMC Theaters. But why? Why would Romney give the Church equity stakes in bad fast-food chains, second-rate pizza chains, and other such holdings? Read more »

The Scholar of Moab: Interviduality

January 17, 2012 | 24 comments
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The Scholar of Moab: Interviduality

How many am I? Read more »

Sex-Ed and Social Justice*

January 10, 2012 | 30 comments
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***WARNING: This post mentions sex. I use the word a lot in this post. If that makes you uncomfortable, this may not be the post for you.*** Over the summer, the Bloomberg administration announced that, for the first time in two decades, public school students in New York would be required to take sex-ed. The curriculum the administration recommended---HealthSmart (middle school and high school) and Reducing the Risk---include, among other things, lessons on abstinence and birth control. Read more »

Interest Never Sleeps

December 9, 2011 | 18 comments
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Hypothetical: Alex and Pat both want a Kindle Fire. Alex goes to the local brick-and-mortar Amazon store, pays $200 cash, and takes a Kindle Fire home. Pat goes to the bank, gets a loan for $200, goes to the local brick-and-mortar Amazon store, pays the $200, and takes a Kindle Fire home. Who made the better decision? *** In the Church, we’re suspicious of debt. Sure, we get a pass on student loans, a modest house, a first car, but, as a general rule, our leaders discourage incurring consumer debt, and celebrate those who have escaped debt’s clutches. Having... Read more »

Phantom Limb

November 22, 2011 | 15 comments
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I can’t speak to your experience. I can’t speak even to my own. But I’ll tell a story. I remember the day and time and place that I stopped believing in God, but not the date. Read more »

Politics and Members of the Church

November 11, 2011 | 19 comments
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The Catholic church, that is. Read more »

Utah Women in the Labor Market

November 4, 2011 | 41 comments
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The Atlantic Cities, currently one of my favorite sites, has, over the last several days, run a series looking into the best states for working women (both generally and in the "creative class"). What leaped out at me: Utah's a pretty bad place to be a working woman. Read more »

Mormons and Muslims

October 24, 2011 | 62 comments
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Mormons and Muslims

I had a university professor who lived in Iran and ran a television program dedicated to classical Persian music prior to the Islamic revolution. He spent a lot of time during the seventies crossing sketchy borders into various ‘Stans. One of his tools for successful border crossing (not to mention survival) was a pamphlet he wrote himself, highlighting similarities between Mormons and Muslims; things like a founding prophet, directly revealed scripture, fasting, and polygamy. I was intrigued by his comparisons, and this class was one of the many things that prompted me to study Arabic and learn more about Islam.... Read more »