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Politics – Current Events – Media

Birthday of the New Colossus

October 28, 2011 | 51 comments
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Birthday of the New Colossus

The New York Public Library posted on Facebook this morning that today is the 125th anniversary of  the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. While intended and generally thought of as an icon of freedom, its place in New York harbor, through which much immigration to the United States has passed, has meant that it is also considered a symbol of immigration. Read more »

The Forbes Shuffle

October 24, 2011 | 16 comments
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The Forbes Shuffle

Forbes’ annual look at the 400 richest Americans was released last month, so I thought I would again take a look at the Mormons on the list, and was surprised to find a different Mormon on top of the list. Aaron B. claimed last May that Steven Udvar-Házy is LDS, and I have been able to verify that at least his wife is from an LDS family. Udvar-Házy now tops the Mormons on the Forbes list. Read more »

How Are You Celebrating?

October 22, 2011 | 21 comments
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No, today isn’t a national holiday. It’s not any particular religious festival. We’re more than a week away from Halloween, a month from Thanksgiving, and a couple months from Christmas. The only reason you have today off (assuming you have today off) is because today is Saturday. And yet . . . On October 22, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Tax Reform Act of 1986, a bipartisan bill. That law, signed 25 years ago today, was the last fundamental tax reform in which the U.S. has engaged. Among other things, it broadened the tax base, reduced... Read more »

Do Mormons Get a Seat at the Table?

October 20, 2011 | 29 comments
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Do Mormons Get a Seat at the Table?

I just started reading the recently published Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promise, by Kevin M. Schultz (OUP, 2011). With Mitt Romney’s Mormon-ness continuing to be an oddly fascinating topic for the mainstream media, a point of criticism and ridicule for journalist comedians (they think they are journalists, I think they are comedians), and a strategic weakness to be exploited by Rick Perry and possibly other candidates, Tri-Faith America seems like a very timely book. Read more »

Background: Elder Oaks and the Charitable Deduction

October 19, 2011 | 19 comments
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Yesterday, as Marc pointed out, Elder Oaks testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee in favor of the deduction for charitable giving. He argued that the charitable deduction is vital to the nation’s welfare. Why, though, these hearings on the charitable deduction? Is it under attack? In case you haven’t been following the politics of tax and budgeting recently (of course, who hasn’t?), I thought I’d provide a little background to the hearing. The Deduction for Charitable Donations The charitable deduction is an itemized deduction (more on that later). It’s one of the older deductions in the tax... Read more »

Is the ‘Mormon Moment’ larger outside the U.S.?

October 17, 2011 | 18 comments
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Is the ‘Mormon Moment’ larger outside the U.S.?

I’ve been looking at Google’s ngram viewer this weekend, at the instigation of my fellow blogger, Wilfried Decoo, and what I came across implies that the “Mormon Moment,” starting in this case with Mitt Romney’s first run for the presidency, may have had a larger impact in places outside of the U.S. than it has had in the U.S. Read more »

All the Single Mormons

October 14, 2011 | 103 comments
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All the Single Mormons

I wouldn’t be shocked if, in April’s General Conference, I were to hear a reference to “All the Single Ladies,” the cover story of this month’s Atlantic. In spite of its utter not-Mormonness, Kate Bolick’s article is oddly resonant of a strand of discourse we’ve been hearing in the Church for the last several years. In case you haven’t read the article, a quick summary: the author finds herself still single at 39, in spite of having had plenty of relationships and in spite of the fact that she expected, at least for some portion of her life, to... Read more »

About Jobs

October 6, 2011 | 32 comments
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About Jobs

I should probably be responding to General Conference, given the timing and what I’ve been reading recently. And I still plan to respond to a couple of Conference issues. But the many recent news stories about Jobs has got me thinking about that instead. As I’ve pondered Jobs I think there is an important distinction that we are missing. Read more »

Free Your Pulpit

October 3, 2011 | 12 comments
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Free Your Pulpit

On Sunday, as we luxuriated in General Conference (however we followed it), we missed an annual tradition: Pulpit Freedom Sunday. A quick background on Pulpit Freedom Sunday: on July 2, 1954, Lyndon Johnson proposed that Section 501(c)(3) (the Internal Revenue Code section that exempts, among other things, churches, universities, and the NCAA from tax) be amended to prevent exempt organizations from campaigning on behalf of or against candidates for office.  There’s no legislative history, and, in fact, no record of the voice vote on the amendment. But it passed. Note, though, that the prohibition wasn’t particularly aimed at churches;... Read more »

The Church and Taxes

September 29, 2011 | 25 comments
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The Church and Taxes

The Church cares about taxes. It doesn’t really seem to care about the details of tax policy, of course. I’ve never seen the Church weigh in on the appropriate tax rate, tax base, or even the appropriate type(s) of tax (e.g., an income or consumption tax, a retail sales tax or a VAT, or whatever) a government should impose. But still, it makes explicit and implicit nods that indicate that, ultimately, it cares both about its tax position and that of its members. The Church and (Its) Taxes Like (essentially) every other church in the U.S., the LDS church is... Read more »

Which Mormon are You Voting For?

September 26, 2011 | 14 comments
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Which Mormon are You Voting For?

One of the gloriously enriching experiences in marriage – at least in my marriage – is all of the truly wonderful people that my wife has brought into my life. One of these persons is Sarah Bringhurst Familia – a brilliant, homeschooling mother, who also happens to be a pillar of global citizenship. Since marrying, she and her husband have lived in a number of exotic locations, including Utah, California, The Philippines, Ireland, Italy, and most recently Tunisia. With both a degree and lots of life experience centering around the Middle East, she’s a trenchant observer of current affairs... Read more »

Desperately Seeking Seniors

September 19, 2011 | 78 comments
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Desperately Seeking Seniors

I was surprised a week ago when a senior missionary serving in our ward said that the Church is struggling to get senior missionaries, something that an article in the Deseret News last week confirmed. But my senior missionary friend went further than the article did, saying that the number of senior missionaries has declined by 40% in the past decade. Read more »

Desert and a Just Society

September 18, 2011 | 99 comments
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The 2010 poverty level in the U.S., we learned on Tuesday, is the highest it has been since 1993. In 2010, about one in six Americans lived below the poverty line. In June, 14.6% of Americans received food stamps. To some extent, the high poverty rate is probably related to the high unemployment rate, which was 9.1% in August. I throw out all of these numbers to suggest that, as a society, we have a problem. That problem needs to be fixed. And we, as Mormons, undoubtedly have something that we can bring to the discussion of how to... Read more »

Mormonism and Social Justice

September 12, 2011 | 64 comments
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Recently, we’ve seen some distrust of religions that advocate social justice, from sources as diverse as the political punditry and lay Mormons. The criticism is unfounded, of course, and strikes me as ahistorical and anti-Catholic. The term “social justice” comes from 1840, when the Jesuit scholar Luigi Taparelli as he worked through the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. As you look at Jesuit schools’ mission statements, you begin to understand how central social justice is to the Jesuit identity. I teach at a Jesuit law school. Part of our mission is to “prepare graduates who will be ethical advocates for justice and... Read more »

Mormons and Meaning on September 11

September 11, 2011 | 50 comments
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In the comments to Pres. Monson’s article on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog one Church member claimed that “Not one single LDS employee working in the Twin Towers was at work that morning.” This is, of course, incorrect. In fact, one of the LDS employees working in the towers died in the attack, as did two more on planes and two in the Pentagon. Read more »

Books of Interest to the LDS Nerd

September 6, 2011 | 18 comments
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Books of Interest to the LDS Nerd

A few of these are forthcoming, a few have appeared recently. I am compelled to read them all, as soon as I can get to them. Now Available Charles Harrel,“This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology (Kofford Books) “In this first-of-its-kind comprehensive treatment of the development of Mormon theology, Charles Harrell traces the history of Latter-day Saint doctrines from the times of the Old Testament to the present.” I have my doubts that someone who does not equally control original Biblical sources and LDS history, as well as the vast amounts of secondary literature on historiography, exegesis,... Read more »

Mission Finances, Part 2 [edited 8/26/2011]

August 25, 2011 | 22 comments
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Pop quiz: when you think “Mormons” and “US Supreme Court,” what do you think? (The correct answer is, of course, Reynolds.) For many of us, though, another... 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 »

Mormon Myths

August 11, 2011 | 77 comments
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If you haven’t read “Five Myths About Mormonism,” a piece at the Washington Post by Joanna Brooks, you should. There are plenty of Mormon myths out there, but few people are going to visit the LDS Newsroom or the Mormon Defense League to upgrade their ideas about Mormons and what we believe. We need more articles like this in the mainstream media to get the message out. Read more »

The Tax Exemption and the Church’s Political Leanings

July 18, 2011 | 28 comments
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In light of the Church’s recent policy statement banning some Church authorities from endorsing candidates, and the speculation that the Church’s political neutrality derives from its desire to stay tax-exempt, I thought I’d present a brief primer on the tax exemption. The Revenue Act of 1894 probably represents the birth of the modern federal income tax. An inauspicious birth, to be sure–it was struck down as unconstitutional in 1895–but the birth, nonetheless. True, it was enacted 19 years before the 16th Amendment permitted direct taxation (whatever that is), but it set the stage for the income tax to come.... Read more »

Mormons Drafted

June 15, 2011 | 8 comments
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Mormons Drafted

Last week Major League Baseball held its most important annual draft, indicating interest in more than 1,500 possible players. As far as I can tell, just two of them are Mormon, down from 6 last year. Read more »

Immigration Where?

June 13, 2011 | 20 comments
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Immigration Where?

When I was on vacation a few years ago I picked up a local paper and found a number of articles about the problems that area was facing because of illegal immigration. Predictably there was crime committed by the illegal immigrants, and a lot of hate towards them. For an American nothing there was unusual–except that I was in South Africa. Read more »

Where are the Mormon Community Leaders?

June 6, 2011 | 46 comments
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At the end of a recent White House meeting with a Mormon focus group White House officials asked an illuminating question: Who are the LDS Community leaders that the White House should try to recognize? Read more »

Evangelical Incivility

June 2, 2011 | 19 comments
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I am guessing many readers have already stumbled across a controversial opinion piece posted at Patheos last week, Warren Cole Smith’s “A Vote for Romney Is a Vote for the LDS Church.” Smith is the author of the book A Lover’s Quarrel With the Evangelical Church, so it is clear where he is coming from. In fairness to Patheos, it should be noted that the article was part of an online symposium on faith and social conservatism offering a variety of viewpoints, including “Yes, Christians Can Vote for Mormons,” “In Defense of Mormons,” and Nate Oman’s “The LDS Church... Read more »