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Politics – Current Events – Media

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 »

“Clown Questions” and Expectations

June 19, 2012 | no comments
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“Clown Questions” and Expectations

A week ago, baseball phenom Bryce Harper briefly topped twitter’s trending topics when he characterized a reporter’s question as foolish. The Toronto-based reporter had asked Harper (who, in case you don’t know, is a 19-year-old LDS player in his rookie year) if he was going to take advantage of Canada’s more liberal drinking laws (which allow drinking at 19 instead of 21) to celebrate his home run during the game, and if so, what brand of beer he would drink. Harper replied, “I’m not answering that. That’s a clown question, bro.” Read more »

Forbes List Update

May 31, 2012 | 8 comments
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I’m a bit behind in putting together my lists, so I won’t analyze this too much. As I’ve done with each of the major Forbes lists of the wealthy, here is a summary of the Mormons who appear on the list of the world’s billionaires that Forbes published last month. While there is certainly a bit of churn on the overall list, the Mormons on the list have remained relatively in the same place since I last looked at them in October. Read more »

Go Home, Christians

May 17, 2012 | 43 comments
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I live in a small town. We get lots of visitors and they’re all welcome, even the slednecks who take over the town once a year for a weekend of drinking and driving (up the mountain on snow machines). But a group has finally found the limit of a friendly tourist town’s welcome: Christians. Read more »

A Nation of Heretics?

April 17, 2012 | 20 comments
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Ross Douthat posted a column adapted from his new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (Free Press, 2012). Mormons are used to denigrating references — recall Mitt Romney’s response to the Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, “I’ve heard worse” — but it still has some shock value for most American Christians, who generally think they deserve a pat on the back instead of a kick in the … shin. Welcome to the club, fellow heretics. Read more »

Tax Day![fn1]

April 17, 2012 | 11 comments
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By 1908, Elder Heber J. Grant had begun to lead LDS lobbying on behalf of Prohibition. By 1917, Utah had joined the ranks of the "dry" states, and on January 16, 1919, Utah became the 35th state to ratify the 18th Amendment. In October of that year, the Volstead Act implemented the Amendment, and alcohol was banned in the U.S. 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 »

A Mormon Mirage Disrupted

March 27, 2012 | 6 comments
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A Mormon Mirage Disrupted

We’re all familiar with unintended consequences. Recent news reports claim that the unintended consequence of last year’s Libyan civil war, which resulted in the death of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi. According to these reports, many of Gaddafi’s trained warriors were ethnic Tuaregs from northern Mali. When they returned after the Libyan war, these fighters joined the long-simmering Tuareg rebellion, which heated up suddenly in January. The result? Last week a group of Malian soldiers staged a coup, ousted the Malian government, and cancelled the forthcoming elections. Yes, the same elections that featured an LDS candidate, Yeah Samake. Read more »

Don’t forget the theological issue in posthumous baptisms

March 14, 2012 | 30 comments
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It occurred to me the other day when I read Givens’ beautiful description of why we perform ordinances for the dead that our response to some critics of the practice of posthumous baptism may be too defensive. In response to those who believe that baptism or some other ordinance or event is required to enter God’s Kingdom, shouldn’t we go on the offensive and ask them what they are doing about those who were never baptized? Near as I can tell, hundreds of millions, if not billions, of humans have died without even having heard the gospel of any... Read more »

Mormons, Increase, and Gifts

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

Policing Submissions for Baptisms for the Dead

March 7, 2012 | 44 comments
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And it’s in the news again. We have Elie Wiesel’s name slated for baptism, baptisms performed for Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal’s parents, baptism performed for Anne Frank (for the ninth time!), baptism performed for Daniel Pearl (who was killed in part, at least, because he was Jewish), and baptism performed for Gandhi. This in spite of the Church’s agreement (in 1995!) to remove Holocaust victims from the database. And, apparently, the Church has now sent out a strongly-worded letter to be read in Sacrament meetings. In the letter, the Church (strongly) reiterates the prohibition on submitting celebrity and Holocaust victim... 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 »

Enough, already!

February 15, 2012 | 111 comments
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Enough, already!

I was a little annoyed to hear it on the radio again yesterday. The Church was apologizing because apparently over-enthusiastic members had performed temple ordinances for recently-departed Jews, AGAIN! This time the situation was particularly egregious because the Jews involved are the parents of the late Nazi-hunter and war-crimes expert Simon Wiesenthal. Can those who keep submitting these names stop already? Read more »

Exploring Romney’s Tax Return

January 25, 2012 | 16 comments
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Like most people who've looked at Romney's return, I have to say: there's nothing terribly interesting there. Okay, let me walk that back: there's a lot of hugely interesting things, if you're interested in all the many ways a person can earn income, and all the many forms a taxpayer has to fill out when the taxpayer is broadly invested. Still, there are a couple things that I thought I'd highlight: Read more »

A Romney Tax Return Placeholder Post

January 24, 2012 | 19 comments
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Right now, I have 200+ pages of Mitt Romney’s 2010 tax return clogging up my work printer. He’s a Mormon, it’s a tax issue, I’m a tax guy, so there will clearly be a blog post in the near future. Unfortunately, I also have a job and a family and obligations (and did I mention it’s 200+ pages?), so that post may or may not happen in the next couple days. I’ve glanced through really quickly and, even though it’s fascinating, there doesn’t seem to be anything terribly surprising (his effective rate’s a little lower than I expected, but... 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 »

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 »

An Argument for Huntsman

December 22, 2011 | 33 comments
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An Argument for Huntsman

With the impending vote, most Mormons may assume that Mitt Romney is the clear favorite. He has been the most consistent front runner for the Republican nomination for President this year, and his views may be most consistent with those of most Mormons. So why vote for Jon Huntsman, Jr.… 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 »

Black Friday

November 25, 2011 | 44 comments
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Yes! The Dow is back down to 11,232! I feel a little like Jonah sitting on the hill, waiting for the fireworks. Hearing that news on the radio brought me my biggest smile all day. Of course, Jonah was roundly rebuked, because Nineveh repented in ashes, and he still was annoyed they weren’t destroyed. He clearly had an attitude problem, and lots of people might say the same about me. The Super Committee’s lame punt is just the most recent sign of the overall trend, though: at an institutional level, we haven’t even really admitted there is a problem,... Read more »

A Missionary Reminiscence on Christmas

November 25, 2011 | 13 comments
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A Missionary Reminiscence on Christmas

When the mission president announced to our small group of greenies that I was going to Strasbourg, I shrugged the resigned shrug of a missionary who knew nothing about anywhere but was willing to go wherever. One of the sisters expressed jealousy; Strasbourg, she said, was one of the best cities in the mission. She was right, and it would not be a good thing. Strasbourg is and was beautiful pre-Christmas.* Several weeks passed before I fully acclimatized to the major time-change, and the schedule of missionary life, but I loved Strasbourg almost instantly. The eastern area of France... Read more »

Why Bloom, et al are wrong

November 22, 2011 | 12 comments
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Why Bloom, et al are wrong

Harold Bloom’s recent NY Times article on Mormonism & politics was tremendously disappointing. The sheer volume of poorly (or dishonestly) researched writing on Mormonism this season is exhausting; and to get this sort of long worn-out, conspiracy minded expression of clichés from someone as well educated as Bloom is downright disheartening (though to be fair, we’ve gotten a good deal of serious journalism as well). But I’m actually not much interested in that side of Bloom’s article. Let me quickly bring up two other points from the article. First, Bloom states this: The founding prophet Joseph Smith…highly original revelation... Read more »