News and Politics

Politics – Current Events – Media

Mormons and Politics

November 12, 2014 | 3 comments
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Readers may be interested in a recent episode of the “Research on Religion Podcast,” featuring Quin Monson (BYU) and Dave Campbell (Notre Dame) discussing their new book Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics (also co-authored with John C. Green). The book is the first full length study by professional political scientists of the place of Mormons in contemporary American politics. Scholarly discussions of Mormonism tend to be dominated by those trained either as historians or else (more recently) in religious studies. The work of Monson, Campbell, and Green is important because it brings in a bit more... Read more »

Reading and Writing (Genesis): Books, books, and more books

November 12, 2014 | 14 comments
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I have a few things in my way before being able to work full-time on Genesis 1- a recalcitrant article draft, some travel, volunteer work, etc. In the meantime, I’m making slow but good progress. I’m beginning to suspect the most important parts of the book will be the first two sections dealing with groundwork/assumptions and LDS entanglements with Genesis, not the last two sections on the ancient Near Eastern context or the text/translation itself. I’m interested in a lot of things that are secondary or tertiary to the main thrust of the book, such as the history of biblical... Read more »

Doux Commerce in the City of God

November 10, 2014 | 6 comments
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I just put up an essay at the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) that readers of this blog might find interesting. It’s a response to some of Hugh Nibley’s writings on Zion and commerce. Nibley was famously critical of the mercantile ethic, arguing that trade and capitalism were fundamentally hostile to the ideal of Zion. This essay takes a more optimistic view of commerce, drawing on the ideas eighteenth-century thinkers like Montesquieu, who saw in the rise of markets a fundamentally pro-social force with the potential to limit violence and conflict. I’ll let readers judge the ultimate merits of... Read more »

I Need My Kids

November 10, 2014 | 32 comments
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Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter in "Raising Arizona".

Last month, my friend Betsy VanDenBerghe wrote a piece for Real Clear Religion inspired alternately by Pope Francis and the Coen brothers’ 1987 comedy Raising Arizona about Why Children Are Better Than Pets. Her central question was: What would a society of adults skewed toward childlessness, like the perpetually barren Time magazine beach couple, look and act like without having acquired the altruism, personal growth, and wisdom that bringing up children generally bequeaths on those who undergo parenthood? Her piece really resonated with me. My life has not gone at all as planned over the last several years. Without going into... Read more »

2015 Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology

November 6, 2014 | 4 comments
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2015 Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology

The Second Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology “Christ and Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7” Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York June 8—June 20, 2015 Read more »

Q&A with Myself

November 4, 2014 | 42 comments
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Q. Are you an apologist or neo-apologist? A. No, I’m just a philosopher. Others have said I’m an apologist, but I’ve never been interested in apologetics. Mormonism can stand on its own two feet and it doesn’t need me to defend it. Read more »

The Next Generation’s Faith Crisis

October 31, 2014 | 95 comments
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The Next Generation’s Faith Crisis

Let me share a friend’s story; it won’t be new to you. He was raised in the church, did all the things, went on a mission, blah blah blah, and in his 30s, heard for the first time that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by looking at a stone in a hat. Read more »

Mormon Weakness

October 30, 2014 | 20 comments
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My position is a weak one. But the question is: why? Read more »

Constructive Thoughts on the Curriculum Shift

October 29, 2014 | 15 comments
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As I’ve stopped hyperventilating over the leak of this forthcoming change, I’ve had some thoughts. I have a general rule when I’m in Gospel Doctrine that I try not to say anything unless it’s constructive (or the teacher says something really flagrantly crazy/wrong, which is rare in my experience.) Let me open with this positiveness, then. BYU’s RelEd has some fantastic people, some new hires, and good things happening. I’ll single out the Advanced Book of Mormon class. The two Fall 2014 sections are not the first time this class has been taught. The two “regular” Book of Mormon classes are prerequisites, the syllabi... Read more »

Letter to a CES Student

October 28, 2014 | 100 comments
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It’s important to keep our tough questions about Mormonism in perspective. And, especially, we need to keep the genuinely urgent questions front and center. The big problems are straightforward. We’re dying here. You and I. We’re getting sick, we’re getting old, and we’re dying. Our lives are small and our time is short. Our days are filled with suffering of all kinds: distress, worry, boredom, frustration, and loss. Read more »

New BYU Religious Ed and CES Curriculum

October 27, 2014 | 83 comments
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According to this letter posted on William Hamblin’s blog, big changes are afoot.   Read more »

Alma and Apocalypse

October 27, 2014 | 9 comments
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Alma and Apocalypse

In Understanding the Book of Mormon, Grant Hardy argues that an important part of the Book of Mormon’s meaning emerges from how it alludes to, comments on, or patterns itself after other stories, such as Joseph in Egypt, the Exodus, and the Fall. Another such story not discussed by Hardy but central to understanding the Book of Mormon is, I think, the end of the world. Read more »

New Polygamy Essays

October 22, 2014 | 125 comments
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Read them here, here, and here. I’ll leave the squabbling over whether they fairly represented the historical situation to those who get paid the big bucks to consider those questions and instead look at a tangential issue: how they depict the way that prophets receive revelation. Read more »

Mormonism Isn’t About Mormonism

October 22, 2014 | 6 comments
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It’s a mistake to think that Mormonism is about Mormonism. Read more »

Announcement: Faith & Knowledge Conference at UVa

October 20, 2014 | no comments
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THE FIFTH BIENNIAL FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE CONFERENCE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA FEBRUARY 27-28, 2015 The Faith and Knowledge Conference was established in 2006 to bring together LDS graduate students in religious studies and related disciplines in order to explore the interactions between religious faith and scholarship. During the past four conferences, students have shared their experiences in the church and the academy and the new ideas that have emerged as a result. Papers and conversations provided thought-provoking historical, exegetical, and theoretical insights and compelling models of how to reconcile one’s discipleship with scholarly discipline. In keeping with these... Read more »

The Body of Christ

October 16, 2014 | 39 comments
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“Is the church true?” This question is, I think, poorly posed. It seems ill-suited to the kind of existential burn that might compel me to ask it. It seems like a bad fit for what I’m after in a white-knuckled prayer. Read more »

Recommended NT Resources part 2: General and Reference (updated)

October 15, 2014 | 22 comments
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Recommended NT Resources part 2: General and Reference (updated)

Many of these can be purchased in paper, kindle, or from Logos or Accordance. (I’m a big Logos user.) As with all my recommendations, take them with a grain of salt. I neither fully endorse nor vouch for everything said in these, but you will certainly learn and grow by reading them. Samples are often available from Amazon or Google books, and in some cases I’ve linked to others here or in the past. If you missed it, part 1 is here. Read more »

A Hypothesis for Columbus Day

October 13, 2014 | 18 comments
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1 Nephi 13:12 refers to Bartolome de las Casas. Discuss. Read more »

Our Prayers and God’s Messy Plans

October 13, 2014 | 9 comments
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The Council of Gods, Giovanni Lanfranco (From Wikimedia Commons)

I taught lesson 35 today, which covers Amos and Joel. As usual, I benefitted a great deal from Ben Spackman’s Patheos posts, and in particular his discussion of Amos 3:6 and Amos 3:7. The latter, of course, is the famous scripture we all learn in seminary: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Ben included a short paper about the meaning of the word “sod” (“secret”) and its relation to the idea of a divine council. The word refers to both private discussion and the product of such discussions.... Read more »

Meeting the Mormons

October 12, 2014 | 26 comments
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Meeting the Mormons

Imagine that the Meet the Mormons movie was made any time between, say, 1940 and 1990. I think we know almost exactly what it would have looked like: Read more »

I was a stranger, and ye took me in

July 30, 2014 | 61 comments
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Unknown

These children, fleeing death and devastation, have come to us. Yes, caring for them will cost us time and money and effort, but not caring for them will cost us our compassion. Read more »

As Instructed

June 18, 2014 | 100 comments
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On Tuesday, Ally Isom, Senior Manager of Public Affairs with the LDS Church, encouraged listeners to have respectful conversations about their concerns with and faith in the Church. Read more »

Her 15 Minutes at an End: Ultra Violet dead at 78

June 14, 2014 | 22 comments
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Her 15 Minutes at an End: Ultra Violet dead at 78

Isabelle Collin Dufresne, known as Ultra Violet, died this morning after a battle with cancer. She was 78. Dufresne was perhaps the most famous Mormon artist that most Mormons haven’t heard of. But at the height of the Pop Art movement and Andy Warhol’s Factory, Ultra Violet was well known in the New York art scene, and she is still well remembered for her memoir of that time, Famous For 15 Minutes: My Years with Andy Warhol. Read more »

Boko Haram, 200 schoolgirls and us

May 14, 2014 | 11 comments
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Boko Haram, 200 schoolgirls and us

The French president Francois Hollande is convening an international conference with the countries around Nigeria on the question how to deal with Boko Haram, Michelle Obama addressed the USA on the plight of the abducted schoolgirls: all through the western world the media react to this incident in North Nigeria. Last Saturday I gave an interview on Boko Haram for the national Dutch radio: the media have ‘discovered’ Boko Haram, and so have international politics. Of course the furor is completely justified, especially when the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, announced that he would sell the girls, either... Read more »