The Approaching Zion Project: Work We Must, but the Lunch Is Free

August 21, 2013 | 43 comments
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As summer ends, my time to engage with Nibley's social criticisms has begun to return. Of course, I say that the week before classes begin, so a couple things I want to point out before we get started: first, this is a long, detailed chapter. Read more »

The Day Creationism Died

August 21, 2013 | 22 comments
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It was January 5, 1982, the day United States District Court Judge William R. Overton issued his memorandum opinion in McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education. Plaintiffs challenged an Arkansas statute that required Arkansas public schools to “give balanced treatment to creation-science and evolution-science.” The Court found that “creation science has no scientific merit or educational value as science” and that “the only real effect of Act 590 is the advancement of religion.” As such, it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and was struck down as unconstitutional. Langdon Gilkey, a theologian who testified... Read more »

Rexburg

August 19, 2013 | 44 comments
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Rexburg

What is it like to move to Rexburg? If you’ve ever driven across the country, you’ve probably stopped for gas or lunch in some town you’ve never heard of and observed in astonishment that people not only live there, but appear to lead lives as happy and meaningful as any other American. Those lives may include more baseball or rodeo than you would choose for yourself, but the people there seem content enough. You see parks and schools and streets with decent-looking houses and a reasonable number of stores, and you wonder what it would be like if you... Read more »

Confessions of a Former Stay-at-Home Mom

August 18, 2013 | 46 comments
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Confessions of a Former Stay-at-Home Mom

After nine years as a stay-at-home mom, I recently got a full-time job. I’ve been working for a month now, which seems long enough to state some preliminary observations about how things are going. The short answer is, I am happier than I’ve been in quite a while. I have way more patience for my children when I come home at six o-clock from an office full of adults than I did when I was at home with them all day. My emotional resources are magically magnified by being away from home during the work-day doing something interesting and... Read more »

SMPT 2013 Reminder/Travel Funding

August 14, 2013 | 3 comments
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The August 23rd proposal submission deadline for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s 2013 Annual Meeting is approaching. The conference will be held at Utah Valley University, October 31-November 2, with the theme, “The Atonement.” For a fuller discussion of the theme and submission information, see the Call for Papers flyer (PDF), or the Call for Papers web page. Student Travel Funding: SMPT has some funding available, on a competitive basis, to defray travel costs for student presenters. Travel funding awards of a value up to $700 each will be made on the basis of (a) merit of... Read more »

Malian elections, a good loss for an LDS candidate

August 13, 2013 | 6 comments
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The Malian presidential elections have run their course and have produced a new president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The second runner Soumaila Cisse has conceded and congratulated the new president. The election ran in two phases, first between all 28 candidates, and then a second phase between the two front runners. After the first phase, Keita had 39% and Cisse 19%. There was, as we know from an earlier blog, an LDS candidate, Yeah Samake. He ended with 0.56% in the first run, and has extended his congratulations to the winner. For our Mormon fans of Samake, some... Read more »

On Faithful Puzzlement, Belief, and Choice

August 12, 2013 | 29 comments
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I thoroughly enjoyed Rosalynde’s FAIR talk, “Disenchanted Mormonism”! Thank you, Rosalynde! I really like the way she presents doubt as something that can be a productive and legitimate place to inhabit indefinitely, even while there is an active hope for greater knowledge and confidence in the future. I also really like how she embraces what we don’t choose, including the fact that we (at least many of us) are members of the body of Christ and of the church largely independent of personal choice. I have a question for Rosalynde, though: isn’t there still a pretty significant form of... Read more »

Maybe We’re All Right

August 12, 2013 | 25 comments
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2013-08-11 Blind Monks Elephant smaller

The story of the blind men and the elephant is as useful as it is widespread. It features in Jain, Buddhist, Sufi and Hindu lore and has also  been applied in modern physics and biology. In case you haven’t heard it before, the essence of the story is that a few blind men each touch a different part of an elephant (like the tail or ear or leg or tusk) and each conclude that the elephant is like the part that they see (brush, fan, pot, or spear). Depending on the version of the story, they either cooperate to understand... Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #16: The United Uplift of the Hand

August 11, 2013 | 2 comments
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Literary Lorenzo Snow #16: The United Uplift of the Hand

When we speak of unity it is often difficult to understand exactly what we need to do to achieve it. The teachings of Lorenzo Snow in the current Priesthood/Relief Society lesson manual (lesson 16) try to address this, but I’m not quite sure that they give the specifics needed. Should we be united politically? What does such unity mean? There are many elements of society today that are by nature divisive, and politics is clearly one of them. Does the gospel offer a better way to decide political questions, a more united way? The author of the following poem... Read more »

Literary DCGD #31: The Lord of Hosts has Spoken

August 11, 2013 | no comments
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The doctrine of eternal marriage, discussed in D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson 31, is clearly tied to the priesthood (the authority by which such marriages are performed) and to salvation, for salvation in the eternal kingdom is dependent on sealing, both to parents, to spouse and to children. The following poems addresses the role of sealing in our understanding of priesthood and of salvation. Read more »

A Mother Here – New Art and Poetry Contest

August 10, 2013 | 4 comments
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A Mother Here

There have been LDS art contests in the past, either sponsored by LDS church institutions or by private organizations, but none have yet focused on Heavenly Mother as their theme. That changed this month with the newly announced A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest. Aiming to stimulate the visual and poetic expression of Heavenly Mother, as well as highlight the nascent divinity that resides in women as well as men, monetary prizes in excess of $2200 will be awarded to the best entries. The contest accepts two-dimensional art submissions to be considered in its visual arts awards, and... Read more »

Invite the IRS to Your Family Reunion

August 9, 2013 | 8 comments
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Over at Keepaptichinin, Amy Tanner Theriot has a wonderful post talking about family associations, and providing some guidelines for how to put together a successful association. In the post, she mentions that family associations can qualify as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entities. At the mention of Code sections (and revenue rulings!), my ears perk up, and I thought I'd give a little more information about the tax side of such organizations. But before you read my post, you need to read Amy's. Because everything I know about family associations I learned reading her post, then doing a little Westlaw research. Because... Read more »

Guest Post: The Parable of the Two Sons

August 7, 2013 | 8 comments
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My friend and neighbor has written a beautiful parable that I am pleased to share with you today. David Harding works actively in his ward and neighborhood. His daughter is my daughter’s best friend. As those of you with children know, it is a great blessing to have your offspring fall in with good people who help support them as they grow into themselves. Periodically, maybe once or twice a year, David writes something that he thinks could be shared beyond his close circle. The topics range, but as often as not they are gospel related. And so I’m introducing... Read more »

Further Thoughts on Sin

August 5, 2013 | 32 comments
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Further Thoughts on Sin

Last week I wrote about the conflict between a basic axiom of human behavior (we tend to see ourselves as heroes in our own stories and rationalize our behavior accordingly) and the requirement that sinful actions be in some sense deliberate in order to be sinful. I did this primarily by suggesting that, while the original commission of a sinful act often occurs under duress of some sort (thus mitigating against it’s nature as a deliberate choice), we frequently compound that sin by subsequently trying to rationalize it. I’d like to conclude (for now, anyway) my posts on this subject... Read more »

The Bible in Jacksonville

August 4, 2013 | no comments
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The Bible in Jacksonville

I wrote some lectures on the Bible to present in Paris, although due to scheduling and communication conflicts, only the first was actually delivered. I’m now scheduled to do two of them in Jacksonville, FL in the next two weeks. These will be held at the LDS Chapel on 440 Penman Rd. in Jacksonville. The first is next Sunday at 7PM (flyer below), the second (similar to my presentation here) will be Friday the 23rd, same time and place. Given that I speak English slightly better than French, these will probably be a bit more spontaneous and expansive. If... Read more »

Literary DCGD #30: Dedication Hymn

August 4, 2013 | 2 comments
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Literary DCGD #30: Dedication Hymn

Our doctrine of performing ordinances on behalf of the dead is unusual among the religions of the world. Many religions pray for the dead, Mormonism actively performs the same saving ordinances that the living must have. These teachings were introduced during the Nauvoo period, and baptisms for the dead were performed in the Mississippi at that time, until the basement of the Temple was complete and ordinances could be performed there. At that point Mormonism learned that these ordinances belonged in the Temple, and this understanding was captured in the following poem by William Wines Phelps, written for the... Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #15: Our Missionaries

August 4, 2013 | no comments
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Literary Lorenzo Snow #15: Our Missionaries

For many members of the Church the most intense period of “faithful, energetic service in the Kingdom of God” during our lives is our missionary service. So it is no surprise that many of the ideas expressed in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow lesson #15 are characteristics that we associate with missionaries—service as “ambassadors of Christ,” and “helping others receive salvation” are quickly listed as things that we too should adopt in our service in the Kingdom. Often we use missionary service as an example for how our own service should be conducted. But,... Read more »

Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part III

July 30, 2013 | 9 comments
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Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part III

My main motivation was jealousy. I was fantastically jealous that my wife was running the coolest book club I’d ever seen. Read more »

Some Thoughts on Sin

July 29, 2013 | 20 comments
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2013-07-29 Milgram

The textbook definition of sin is doing something that you know to be wrong. And yet, as has been frequently noted in fiction, villains (almost) never think to themselves, “Gee, I’m doing something wrong now.” We each live out narratives in which we star as the protagonist. We are the heroes of our own stories. How can we reconcile these two notions: first, that sin requires a knowledge that what we are doing is wrong and second, that no one really believes what they are doing is wrong at the time that they do it? I’m going to rely... Read more »

Literary DCGD #29: Farewell to Nauvoo

July 28, 2013 | 3 comments
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I’ve long thought that Nauvoo was a kind of Mormon Camelot, a shining, hopeful city built on consistent, righteous principles that fell apart amid internal dissension. While I wouldn’t push the analogy too far, I think it kind of works on the surface, especially given the standard portrayal of Nauvoo in lessons like Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson 29 and in the following poem. Read more »

Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part II

July 25, 2013 | 15 comments
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Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part II

The first time I remember, it happened – of course – because I was searching for things on the internet. If I remember correctly, it even happened because I was researching for a Sunday School lesson. I read about Gallatin Missouri Read more »

Not quite “Faith in Every Footstep”

July 24, 2013 | 19 comments
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It’s no surprise that my favorite book about the pioneers was not written by a Mormon. Read more »

Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part I

July 24, 2013 | 13 comments
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Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part I

I’d never seen anything like it. It wasn’t just Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? (which was opened on the living room coffee table with a pen resting on top). There was a pile of anti-Mormon literature in various stages of being read sitting around the room. Read more »

Gone Fishin’

July 23, 2013 | 11 comments
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What kind of associations does the idea of fishing raise for you?  Leisure time?  Quiet?  Peace?  Stillness?  (Hopefully not a few beers.) Read more »

An Information-Rich Gospel: Correlation and the Growth and Maturation of the Church

July 22, 2013 | 160 comments
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The gospel of Jesus Christ is a rich, complex, and beautiful thing. It can’t be fully absorbed in one sitting, or one decade, or one lifetime. The gospel is information-rich. A recent New York Times article talks about Mormons who are led to question their faith by information about the church that they find, e.g., on the internet. The article seems to suggest that the gospel cannot survive in an information-rich environment. Mormons believe, however, that “the glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:6), and “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance” (D&C 131:6). Information,... Read more »

Faithful Obedience or Malicious Compliance?

July 22, 2013 | 50 comments
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2013-07-22 Wheels Within Wheels

Malicious compliance is the idea of using the letter of the law to intentionally violate the spirit of the law. It is perfect obedience. It is also sabotage. Since so much trouble seems to arise from the gap between the letter and spirit of the law, we might reasonably ask: why not close the gap? Why not just write down the spirit of the law in the first place? I think the answer is at least in part that whatever is written down and then read and interpreted by a human being is necessarily going to fall short of the... Read more »

Getting Dirt in Jesus’ Eyes

July 21, 2013 | 14 comments
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You are probably familiar with Mark 2:1-12, because it is hard to forget a story about a guy getting lowered through a roof. Read more »

Literary DCGD #28: A Prayer

July 21, 2013 | no comments
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Despair is, I think, one of the most difficult parts of the human condition. While the sources of our despair today are very different from those suffered by the early saints, the feelings are just as real and difficult. Where do we turn for peace? The following poem explores the despair we all feel—the same discussed in Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson #28—and provides an answer to it. Read more »

The Glory of God is (Not-Too-Much) Intelligence

July 19, 2013 | 40 comments
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In a recent facebook thread (sparked by this post at Patheos), commenters have been talking about intellect and Mormonism. That conversation helped crystallize some thoughts that have been percolating in my mind for a while, about how the LDS community has a complicated and sometimes conflicted discourse about the importance of intelligence, intellect, and education — and some of the interesting ways in which that tension plays out. On the one hand, there is a significant strand of LDS thought that puts extremely high value on intelligence. The paradigmatic statement here, of course, is that “the glory of God... Read more »

Should I Pay For My Child’s Mission?

July 19, 2013 | 16 comments
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1945_1366037191

Yes. I mean, I don't know exactly, but still, yes, probably. Read more »