Church History

Joseph Smith, Justice Frankfurter and the Great Writ

January 28, 2005 | 31 comments

It is time for the post that you have all been waiting for, the one of the place of Mormonism in habeas corpus jurisprudence. Read more »

David O. McKay: Father, Teacher, Prophet

January 7, 2005 | 29 comments

On Sunday I received this year’s course curriculum for RS and Priesthood: a diminutive paperback with a striking portrait on the cover, entitled Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay. Read more »

A Mormon Washington Post?

December 30, 2004 | 12 comments

Among other reasons that I like living in Washington DC is the Washington Post. It is on occasion of course a partisan rag, but, hey, it is my partisan rag. It is certainly much better than the trash that they read in some city farther up the coast. The world might have been different, however, had the Post gone Mormon. Apparently it almost did. Read more »

How Corporations Saved the United Order (kind of)

December 23, 2004 | 9 comments

One of the great advantages of blogging is that you can ramble on regardless of whether or not what you are saying is of any interest to anyone else. Hence this post. I feel it is time that we had the discussion that you have all be waiting for: The one on real estate leases, corporate law, and the United Order. Read more »

The Church and the Tribe

December 15, 2004 | 16 comments

The church seems to have replaced the tribe as God’s pattern for organizing his people–or has it? When God covenanted with Abraham, the covenant was with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:7-8+). This covenant was to be fulfilled in part through Abraham’s righteous leadership as a father Read more »

Galen, Holmes & Hot Drinks

October 18, 2004 | 29 comments

One of the odder bits of Mormon interpretation is the strange life of “hot drinks.â€? These are the actual beverages forbidden by the Word of Wisdom. As we all know they have come to mean coffee and tea with hot chocolate and Diet Coke forming border cases for some, and no one really objecting to herb tea or hot cider. What is going on here? Read more »


October 12, 2004 | 17 comments

One of my more prized possessions is a small chunk of limestone. It is about 8 inches long, roughly the size of two fists. Its value lies in the fact that is is a piece of one of the shattered sunstones of the original Nauvoo temple. Read more »

The Nauvoo Printing Office

October 11, 2004 | one comment

I went to Nauvoo this weekend and found this, which reminded me of all of you. Read more »

A Book I Would Like to See

October 8, 2004 | 6 comments

With luck we should soon be hearing from Professor Royal Skousen, who is the mastermind of the critical text of the Book of Mormon. There is another critical text edition that I would like to see: A critical text of the Doctrine and Covenants. Read more »

Mormon Images: Office Decor and the Place of Mormonism in American History

September 20, 2004 | 34 comments
Mormon Images: Office Decor and the Place of Mormonism in American History

A few weels ago I finished my stint at the public trough and left the service of the federal courts. I know work for the law firm of Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood in Washington, DC. The identity of the firm is significant only because this is the firm (and office) where Rex E. Lee practiced law for many years. There is actually a three-foot tall bronze statute of Lee outside the office’s moot court room (named in Lee’s honor). As you might expect, the firm’s DC office hosts a sizable continent of LDS attorneys and their office decor... Read more »

A Matter of Taste

September 8, 2004 | 3 comments

I just received an announcement for a talk next week in our business school. The title is “Practicing Polygamy with Good Taste: The Evolution of Inter-organizational Collaboration in the Life Sciences.” The paper on which the talk is based has a different title, but the reference to polygamy has me wondering about this person’s perception of polygamy. Given the implicit contrast, I assume that he views polygamy negatively, but I have never thought of polygamy as being a matter of taste. Then again, last week in priesthood meeting, the subject of the Church’s website was raised by the teacher,... Read more »

Davis Bitton: “I Don’t Have a Testimony of the History of the Church”

August 25, 2004 | 18 comments

Davis Bitton, one of the Mormon church’s most prominent historians, has written an essay with the provocative title, “I Don’t Have a Testimony of the History of the Church.” First delivered at the 2004 FAIR Conference, his purpose is to distinguish the gospel, of which he has a testimony, from church history, of which he does not. Meridian Magazine has published the essay here. I don’t find his reasoning persuasive. Read more »

“Our Mothers (and Grandmothers) Knew It”: The Testimony of Talitha Cumi Garlick

August 22, 2004 | 5 comments
“Our Mothers (and Grandmothers) Knew It”: The Testimony of Talitha Cumi Garlick

A controversial event in Church history occurred when Brigham Young and Sidney Rigdon both presented their arguments to the Church regarding who should lead after the death of Joseph Smith. Many members of the Church have heard that when Brigham Young rose to speak, he seemed to sound like and even look like Joseph Smith, indicating to many witnesses that the mantle of the Prophet had fallen on Brother Brigham. I had long wondered if this story was simply wishful thinking. But when I later found the brief autobiography of my ancestor, Talitha Cumi Garlick (after two marriages, it... Read more »

The Drama of Procedural Nonsense

August 14, 2004 | 3 comments

I appreciate Kaimi’s post about the jury instructions in Reynolds. But I do object to his claim that the procedural arcana at the beginning of that opinion are of no interest today. The substantive law that they deal with — the number of grand jurors necessary in an Article II territorial court — are not of current interest, but the issue is the final chapter of a dramatic story that tells you something about the world of legal hardball that 19th century Mormons played in. Read more »

Was Polygamy Good for Women?

July 25, 2004 | 18 comments

I think there is an unexamined assumption that polygamy in general is misogynistic, as if there were an equation in our minds and three or four or five women were needed to be ‘equal’ to one man in a polygamous worldview. I am wondering if we might explore that assumption. Read more »

My Pioneer Ancestors

July 24, 2004 | 11 comments

I joined the Church in February of 1962, as a teenager living in San Antonio, Texas, where my father was stationed at the time. (He was in the Army, studying hospital administration at Fort Sam Houston, in a Baylor extension program.) My parents and my younger brother joined at the same time. My parents were both from Knob Noster, Missouri, near Warrensburg, in Johnson County, about fifty miles east of Independence. Many of my ancestors were living in the area when the Saints were in Independence and probably took part in the persecutions. If I understood my mother correctly,... Read more »

Belated Good-Bye

July 2, 2004 | 4 comments

I missed it at the time, but last month Rhee Ho Nam died. The name probably means very little to most of you, but Brother Rhee was one of the noble and great ones. A very early convert to the Church in Korea, he served as the first Korean stake president, and at one time was the president of the mission where I served: Korea Pusan. When I was a missionary, you would still lots of Rhee Ho Nam stories from members in Pusan. After I returned from my mission and re-enrolled in BYU, Brother Rhee taught one of... Read more »

The Odd Double Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

June 29, 2004 | 11 comments

Of late I have been reading Joseph Smith’s History of the Church (also sometimes known as the Documentary History of the Church) in the mornings before I start work. Reading it raised fun little puzzle for me about the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood. Read more »

On the Significance of Mormon Wars

June 28, 2004 | 7 comments

One of the interesting questions to ask in the current discussions of war and peace is whether the history Mormon wars tells us anything about how Mormons ought to think about these issues. Read more »

On Being Called to the Law

June 26, 2004 | 12 comments

War, peace, gay marriage…whatever…lets talk about something important and interesting: My great, great grandfather. Read more »

Joseph’s Phrenology Report

May 27, 2004 | 8 comments

I know, I know, this is something you're more likely to see from Nate, but I couldn't resist, especially after seeing Nate's post of the Joseph Smith caricature.

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Church PR and the CIA

May 27, 2004 | 24 comments

As many people are aware, the Church currently employees a New York based PR firm. The topic has come up from time to time in press accounts about the Church, and journalists have labored mightily to make this into an interesting fact. I am doubtful. However, there are some interesting Church PR stories, including the one about how CIA agents distributed Church materials in Europe during the Cold War. Read more »

Moutain Meadows in the Supreme Court

May 3, 2004 | 2 comments

De Toqueville once remarked on the strange habit that Americans had of eventually turning every great question of politics and policy into a lawsuit, and presenting the issue to the courts for resolution. As it turns out, the Mountain Meadows Massacre also eventually found its way into a lawsuit and in the fullness of time reached the Supreme Court of the United States. Read more »

The Church as a Corporation: Part III

April 29, 2004 | 10 comments

Here are a few more odds and ends about the Church as a corporation that I was able to find out. First, I wanted to correct two mistakes in my earlier posts. I recently found out that after Joseph Smith was murdered, it was not Brigham Young and the Twelve who succeeded to the office of trustee-in-trust. Rather, Bishop Newel K. Whitney was appointed, which means that he was the legal agent in charge of Church property during the City of Joseph period. Second, upon rereading the corporate charter granted to the Church by the State of Deseret, I... Read more »