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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 »

Missions, 15 Years Later

August 6, 2012 | 21 comments
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Today is the 15th anniversary of the end of my mission. (Note that I can’t entirely remember what I mean by that—I’m pretty sure that August 5, 1997, was my last day of proselytizing, the 6th I got on an airplane, and the 7th I arrived home. But it has been 15 years, and I’m not 100% sure.) And what does that two years mean to me, 15 years later? On one level, not a whole lot. I don’t think about it a whole lot; my days are much more likely spent occupied by the Internal Revenue Code. Or... Read more »

Dam Comments

August 1, 2012 | 34 comments
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Dam Comments

Too much attention to those awkward stones just adds to them and makes a dam, and I seriously don’t want to have to bring out the dynamite and blow it away. 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 »

Urban Mormonism

June 17, 2012 | 12 comments
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As the sacrament was passed in the rural ward we attended today, my younger daughter looked at the deacons passing the sacrament and asked, “Why are those kids doing that?” (My wife tells me that my older daughter noticed the same thing.) — Just in case it’s not clear what my daughters are talking about, there is one teenage boy in our ward (but another turns 12 in a month or so!). And that’s not a significant outlier in my perhaps limited experience. So my daughters have rarely seen a bunch of 12- and 13-year-olds get up after... Read more »

Mother’s Day, 1996

May 13, 2012 | 12 comments
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I sit, waiting for the phone to ring. I haven’t spoken to my parents since December and, though I love what I’m doing, I love them, too. But I’ve been sitting here for almost an hour. I’m not 100% sure of the time zone difference between eastern Brazil and the western United States, but I’m pretty sure they’re late. In this area, none of our members have phones. One of our member’s father has a phone, but, in order to call, I’ve promised that it won’t cost him anything. It’s a party line, something I’d heard about in the... Read more »

Adventures in Family History, part 2

May 8, 2012 | 13 comments
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One Sunday evening, several months ago, I was playing around on FamilySearch, clicking back through my father, his father, his mother (or something like that), etc. After twists and turns—twists and turns I recorded so that I could get back there again—I discovered that I have ancestors from Jersey. No, not that Jersey, the one famous for Bruce and the MTV show. Its namesake, the one in the English Channel. Through my clicking, I learned that my great-great-great-grandmother was born in Jersey in 1838 and died in West Bountiful in 1912. For most, this probably wouldn’t be remarkably meaningful. I... 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 »

Just Say No?

March 28, 2012 | 19 comments
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Just Say No?

We have had horrible luck while traveling with finding church services through Mormon.org. On one trip, the address it gave didn’t exist. (How do I know? After nearly an hour of looking, asking people in the shops nearby, meeting up with friends who were also looking, well, we never found it.) On another, church started an hour after Mormon.org claimed it did. So I’m gun-shy about trusting Mormon.org when I’m looking for church services. Which is why, last summer, on vacation, when my wife saw an older couple wearing missionary name-tags, we decided to confirm when and where the... Read more »

Mormons, Increase, and Gifts

March 13, 2012 | 24 comments
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An unscientific poll: (Poll inspiration here.) Read more »

The Bott Gaffe: A Chronology [Updated 6Mar12 9:45p]

March 2, 2012 | 48 comments
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The Bott Gaffe: A Chronology [Updated 6Mar12 9:45p]

Since Wednesday, when I read the Washington Post article that cited BYU Professor Randy Bott, I have been surprised at two elements of the news and commentary I’ve read about it. First, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the unanimity of the response—no one that I’ve seen has tried to defend the ideas that Bott expressed. Second, I’ve been surprised at the speed of the official response. If it is possible, the response makes the views expressed by Bott seem anachronistic to Mormonism today. And I hope this response will make clear to those who still maintain some version of... Read more »

My Cri de Coeur to Randy Bott [Updated][Update 2]

February 28, 2012 | 121 comments
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The Church has responded, both with respect to Dr. Bott’s statement and with a statement on the Church and race. I’m adding the text of each to the bottom of the post, but I want to highlight these two excerpts: We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church. The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not... Read more »

Romance, MTC Edition

February 14, 2012 | 6 comments
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Romance, MTC Edition

Tomorrow morning, a bunch of Provoans (and presumably others) will wake up with a brand new ring on their left ring fingers. To all of you: congratulations and good luck! This, though, isn't your story. Read more »

Alan Lomax and All the Good

January 31, 2012 | 10 comments
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Alan Lomax and All the Good

Today, were he still alive, Alan Lomax would have celebrated his 97th birthday. I confess that I wasn't familiar with Lomax until after I got married. The long and the short of it: Alan Lomax was a folklorist and an ethnomusicologist. 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 »

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 »

Harold Bloom, the Byrds, and Me

November 30, 2011 | 16 comments
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About a week ago, James posted a reflection on Harold Bloom’s (frankly awful) New York Times op-ed. Rather than directly responding, though (other than expressing his rightful disappointment), James engaged with Dr. Bloom’s allegation that Mormonism and Protestantism are converging. Though concerned about such a convergence, James ultimately (and rightly, I believe) doesn’t think we’re headed inexorably down that path. That said, Dr. Bloom is right that the Church has changed a lot between 1844 and 2011. Change is inevitable and, as Ecclesiastes tells us, is to be expected. And, frankly, there have been a number of changes that,... Read more »

Things for Which I’m Thankful

November 24, 2011 | 7 comments
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1. My family. I haven’t said much about them on this blog, and will continue not to say much about them here, but I’m certainly thankful for them. 2. Social networks. And I mean this on all sorts of levels. Facebook has brought me back in touch with friends from high school with whom I otherwise wouldn’t have any contact. But I’m also thankful for IRL social networks: my colleagues, my neighbors, members of my ward, my kids’ friends’ parents. I’m thankful for the community that can happen when the guy comes out to repair your internet, and it... Read more »

Clean-Shaven

November 1, 2011 | 53 comments
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I shaved today. My beard (of at least the last two-and-a-half years) is gone. Read more »

14.1 Million

August 12, 2011 | 107 comments
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In the comments to Dave’s post discussing Joanna Brooks’s discussion of myths about Mormonism, the conversation is getting hung up on whether her citation of 14.1 million members is disingenuous or not. That discussion, I believe, misses the point. Why? Baseline. First, because 14.1 million is as good a number as any. Sure, in a real discussion of how many Mormons there are, you need to do a whole lot more work to define what you mean by “Mormon.” There are some areas that are clear: for example, it’s hard to argue that a person who has been baptize... Read more »

Blogging on the Road to Damascus

April 8, 2011 | 7 comments
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Blogging on the Road to Damascus

Transcripts of the recent General Conference have been posted at LDS.org, including President Uchtdorf’s talk “Waiting on the Road to Damascus.” The talk was mostly a word of encouragement to those members of the Church who, for various reasons including self-doubt, are not full participants in their local wards. The focus of the talk was on the invitation to get past or around whatever the issue is, not on the details of the difficulties or doubts some people face. Of course, his comments on blogging and social media were the most interesting part of the talk. He made these... Read more »

The hidden apologetics of Banner of Heaven

June 22, 2010 | 35 comments
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Scott at Bloggernacle Times has been putting on a very impressive Behind the Music retrospective about the old Banner of Heaven blog.  The hair, the women, the trashed hotel rooms — it’s all there, complete with interviews with band members (Brian G. comes clean about the infamous “no brown M&M’s” contract), groupies band aids, and even the occasional critic. In fact, about the only point that Scott seems to have missed so far is the group’s hidden apologetic purpose. What apologetic purpose, you ask?  Only that a widely read book — also widely perceived as hostile towards the church... Read more »

New Mormon Blog at Beliefnet

June 21, 2010 | 3 comments
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Jana Reiss, former T&S guest blogger and author of Mormonism for Dummies, is running a new Mormon blog at Beliefnet: Flunking Sainthood. Put a link in your blogroll (do people still do blogrolls?) and visit often. Having myself previously hosted a Mormon blog at Beliefnet, I have some idea of the challenge the new blog is facing. The problem can be put very simply: (1) few people who aren’t Mormon have much to say about Mormonism, and (2) there aren’t too many Mormons hanging around the Beliefnet site. But it just seems wrong that one of the most popular... Read more »

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