A Partial Response: Philosophy

June 8, 2004 | 26 comments
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I want to thank the many people who took the time to comment on my initial post. You’ve showed me that this guest-blogging stint will be both more stimulating and more time-consuming than I anticipated. I hope it is understood that I cannot possibly respond to all, or most, or even more than a very few of these comments. I’ll try to write two posts today, the first (this one) addressing the philosophical questions raised by Jim F and others; the second post will bring things back to Mormonism. I think the latter is important because this could easily... Read more »

Sex and Kids: A Practical Question

June 8, 2004 | 19 comments
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Last night, Melissa and I watched the new version of Peter Pan. We wanted to see if it was appropriate viewing for the family; though a marvelous film, we decided it wasn’t. This version very clearly turns the tale into a coming-of-age/growing-up/sexual-awakening story, and while we both thought it was told with terrific humor, great sensitivity and tact, and wonderful visuals, we agreed that it was probably too much for our oldest–Megan, who will be 8 in August. Maybe when she’s 10 or so. Anyway, in coming to this conclusion, we found ourselves wondering about how, and when, we... Read more »

Where is the Mormon Jurisprudence?

June 8, 2004 | 14 comments
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People regularly make the observation that Mormons are more concerned with orthopraxis than orthodoxy. In other words, Mormons are more concerned with right behavior than with right belief. The evidence in support of this claim seems fairly overwhelming in my mind. The fact of the matter is that we allow a huge diversity of beliefs on fairly fundamental questions (the nature of God and the nature of man for example), even though we frequently paper over the pluralism with equivicol and vague language. One the other hand, we worry a great deal about proper behavior: The Law of Chastity,... Read more »

New Bloggernackers, Redux

June 8, 2004 | 2 comments
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The appearance of new, interesting LDS-themed blogs is becoming a weekly occurence. This week (today, actually, via technorati) I noticed two new bloggernackers that I thought I should point out: Dallas Robbins promises a “Latter-Day Slant on Art, Religion, and Culture.” That sounds like a fun new voice in the bloggernacle. (As long as he’s not trying to horn in on the gay-marriage-commentary market — we’ve got that one cornered here!). And the Mormon Wasp is a blog by Justin Butterfield (any relation to frequent commenter Randy?) that aims to provide “a barbed take on all things Mormon offered... Read more »

Why Won’t They Call it ‘Partial-Birth Abortion’?

June 8, 2004 | 39 comments
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Though the act of aborting a partially-born baby is logically called ‘partial-birth abortion,’ the media refuse to use the term when describing the act. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby explains why. Yes, he thinks the fact that 97% of editors and journalists at major newsrooms identify themselves as being pro-choice is a factor. Jacoby doesn’t address this point, but most press reports of the clash over abortion refer to one side as “abortion rights” activists or groups, and to the other as “opposed to abortion rights” or “anti-abortion.” Because the media has decided to avoid the terms ‘pro-choice’ and... Read more »

An Addendum

June 7, 2004 | 7 comments
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After I wrote my earlier post, I realized I should have been more precise about something. I know that all orthodox faiths place limits on philosophical reflection. For example, an orthodox Catholic is not free to speculate about whether God is Trinity or whether abortion is actually a virtue. But I was trying to point to a substantive difference between all other Christian sects and Mormons in this regard: the Mormon limitation seem to be more primary (or radical) in that it demands that believers resist fundamental tendencies of Western thought that go all the way back to the... Read more »

Taking the Slums Out of the People?

June 7, 2004 | 48 comments
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In 1990 Revered John Heinemeier gathered with other local ministers to solve the housing crisis in East Brooklyn. Together they developed an innovative housing program to construct 5,000 single-family housing units designed for lower-income buyers. East Brooklyn Churches (or EBC) had a long-term vision of what they needed done but there was much to overcome. These neighborhoods were crumbling, impoverished and drug-ridden. The majority of middle class families had long since fled the area. The EBC found inspiration for their ambitious endeavor in the story of Nehemiah who had been sent by the King of Babylon in 420 back... Read more »

Mormonism: The Postmodern Faith

June 7, 2004 | 59 comments
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First off, let me thank Russell, both for inviting me to contribute to Times & Seasons and for his flattering comments about me. After that introduction, I fear I may disappoint. As Russell notes, I spent two years teaching at BYU, and have enjoyed dozens of email exchanges about LDS-related matters with the handful of good friends I made during my time on campus. Since I don’t have An Agenda for the following two weeks, I think I’ll start by sharing a few thoughts that have grown out of those exchanges. Read more »

Excommunicating the President of the Church (and some possible complications)

June 7, 2004 | 21 comments
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Suppose that Gordon B. Hinckley really started misbehaving, sinning left and right, and generally leading the church astray. Some might find this unlikely on theological grounds, after all President Woodruff said: The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the... Read more »

Times & Seasons Welcomes…A Gentile*

June 7, 2004 | 4 comments
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In our continuing effort to bring something new to the Bloggernacle, Times & Seasons is delighted to welcome on board our latest guestblogger–Damon Linker, current editor of First Things magazine, one of the premier religious journals of opinion and commentary in the United States. Damon is probably the most intelligent outside observer of Mormonism I have ever had the pleasure to know. He studied and received a Ph.D. in political philosophy at Michigan State University**, after which he taught for two years at Brigham Young University, where he did such a smashing job that at least a few of... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 21

June 5, 2004 | 5 comments
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My apologies for posting this so late. I’ve had family visiting, so blogging has had to take a back seat, along with Sunday School preparation. I think I’ll have the next lesson up by Sunday or Monday evening. Lesson 21: Mosiah 29, Alma 1-4 Mosiah 29 Verses 7-9: Aaron has just been converted in a miraculous manner, and he is obviously serious about his conversion. His mission is evidence of that. Nevertheless, here we see Mosiah worried that being king might destroy him. Does he lack confidence in his son? If so, why? If not, how do you explain... Read more »

Bungling the Basics?

June 4, 2004 | 20 comments
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Several weeks ago during lunch at a professional conference a colleague told me that the LDS missionaries had knocked on his door recently. I took a deep breath and immediately commenced mental preparations for whatever he was going to ask me. This particular colleague is a philosopher of religion so I was fairly sure he was going to ask me about some bit of LDS history or theology. But, I was wrong. Read more »

12 Questions for Sarah Barringer Gordon, part two

June 4, 2004 | 2 comments
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Here’s the second half of our dialogue with the esteemed Professor Gordon. I’m sure everyone joins me in thanking her for such intelligent and provocative responses to our questions. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out her landmark book, The Mormon Question. Again, our questions are in bold and her responses follow in plain text. Enjoy! 7. There has been some discussion here at Times and Seasons about the apparent analogies and disanalogies between the nineteenth-century antipolygamy movement and the current battles over same sex marriage. To what extent do you think... Read more »

A Horror, Ended

June 3, 2004 | 16 comments
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For many years, a story haunted me. It was a story told in graphic detail to a bunch of priests and teachers, one of whom was me, by a doctor in our stake; a story about a baby boy who lost his penis during a botched circumcision, and who was then surgically altered to become female by his ignorant parents and by malicious doctors in order to cover up the “mistake.” The larger point of the story, of course, was to impress upon us the level of wickedness and sexual disregard in the world today by way of an... Read more »

Ambivalence v. Delight

June 3, 2004 | 18 comments
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In her fascinating post on ambivalence, Melissa suggests that ambivalence may be an endangered theological virtue among Mormons. “Endangered” because we tend to valorize those without religious ambivalence and lack examples of healthy and productive ambivalence. “A virtue” because Melissa suggests that it is theologically productive. By this, I take it that she means that ambivalence leads to questioning, analysis, synthesis, and revelation. I am doubtful. Read more »

Play Group vs. Book Group and other Barriers to Sisterhood

June 3, 2004 | 41 comments
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As sisters in Zion, Mormon women are taught to develop feelings of love towards each other. The Relief Society is ideally an organization where “charity never faileth” and close bonds of friendship and sisterhood are cultivated. Sadly, though perhaps not surprisingly, this doesn’t always happen. Read more »

Bloggernacking: New Bloggernackers Edition

June 3, 2004 | 13 comments
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There are some recent entrants to the bloggernacle. Here are a few: A Motley Vision is a blog on “Mormon literature, criticism, publishing and marketing — plus film, theater, music, and pop and folk culture” by William Morris (who is also a frequent commenter here at T & S). Jeff Lindsay has a new blog dealing with Mormon apologetics, called Mormanity. Provo Pulse is a blog about life in (you guessed it) Provo, Utah. Also, Gary Cooper has started his guest stint at Doctrinal.net and if his first post is any indication, his contributions will be well worth reading... Read more »

12 Questions for Sarah Barringer Gordon, part one

June 2, 2004 | 6 comments
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Without further ado, we are pleased to present Professor Gordon’s responses to questions submitted by the T&S community. Questions are in bold; her preface and responses are in plain text. Look for the second half Friday. (For background on Professor Gordon and her work, click here.) * * * First and most important, I would like to thank Nate Oman, Greg Call and other member of Times and Seasons for your interest in my work and for the opportunity to participate in the forum. I will try to keep my answers short, but the questions you all have posed... Read more »

Ambivalence as a Theological Virtue?

June 2, 2004 | 37 comments
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In her book, The Religious Imagination of American Women, Mary Farrell Bednarowski suggests that to understand the lived religious experience of American women one must appreciate the ambivalence they experience in their religious traditions. According to Bednarowski this ambivalence is not to be identified as a state of confusion, indecisiveness or vacillating equivocation. Rather, ambivalence is the reflective position of religious women who experience both a deep sense of belonging and an equally strong sense of alienation and distrust. Thoughtful American women, she argues, are committed and connected to their religious communities, but also critical of the religious traditions... Read more »

A few news items

June 1, 2004 | 4 comments
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The New York Daily News has a fun little story about LDS missionaries in New York City. CNN has an interesting story about legal issues arising from churches using public parks for baptisms. Is the ACLU involved? (And on whose side?). Check the story to find out. The New York Times has a short article on the debate over abstinence-only sex education. Read more »

Goodbye, Hello

June 1, 2004 | 28 comments
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Ahem. We’d like to release grasshopper with a vote of thanks for his excellent contributions as guest-blogger. All in favor, please go back and reread his posts, which were hefty enough to merit a second reading! And, of course, visit him at Let Us Reason for continuing lessons in careful and articulate thinking about all things Mormon. Also, at this time, we are pleased to welcome Melissa Proctor as our newest guest blogger. Melissa holds an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Yale Divinity School and is currently a doctoral student in Religion at Brown University. She teaches Gospel Doctrine... Read more »

My Gifts (Whitsunday Reflections)

June 1, 2004 | 16 comments
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This past weekend wasn’t just Memorial Day; according to the traditional liturgical calendar, it also included Whitsunday, a celebration of the Day of Pentecost and the spiritual gifts bestowed upon the early disciples on that day. Acts 2:2-4: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And there were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit... Read more »

Easterbrook, Dark Matter, and the Olive Leaf

June 1, 2004 | 4 comments
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A year ago, Gregg Easterbrook articulated the interesting idea that “dark matter” (a substance most scientists now believe exists, and is a major component of the universe) may be a manifestation of the spiritual world. He wrote: Suppose it turns out to be correct that the preponderance of matter and energy in the universe occurs in a form that’s around us everywhere, and yet we cannot sense or see it; that there is a pervasive physical reality that passes through ours with hardly any direct interaction. This is practically a definition of the spiritual plane. Easterbrook’s position has been... Read more »

Mormon Orientalism

June 1, 2004 | 51 comments
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Some time ago, Richard Bushman wrote an essay entitled “The Colonization of the Mormon Mind.” In it he argued that Mormons who have looked at the Mormon past have largely adopted the attitudes of those who colonized and ultimately dominated 19th century Mormondom. Hence, we tend to view things like “theo-democracy” and plural marriage as embarrassments and see nuclear, vaguely Victorian looking families as good, mirroring the attitudes of the federal officials who crushed Mormon peculiarity in the 19th century. The hip and lit crit amongst us will recognize the influence of Edward Said in Bushman’s argument. In his... Read more »

Moroni over Modernism

May 31, 2004 | 23 comments
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Moroni over Modernism

This may be old news to Manhattanites, but I see that the Church has recently announced that the temple there will be getting a steeple and Moroni. I have somewhat mixed feelings about this. Certainly the changes will help with “branding” (for lack of a better word). But I always liked the building’s fairly pure modernist bent, which blends in well with the surrounding neighborhood (especially Lincoln Center), and has become somewhat rare in Mormondom. Moroni comes, I think, with no small aesthetic cost, but perhaps one worth paying. For more on Mormon architecture and aesthetics, see this thread. Read more »

China Reflections

May 29, 2004 | 6 comments
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China Reflections

Last week Nate pointed to some of the entries on my other blog about my visit to China. Far from being an expert on China, most of what I know was learned during that week, often from tour guides or Chinese law students and professors. On the other hand, merely being in a place results in a type of learning not available in books. How many words would it take to describe the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that accompany a trip to the Silk Market? Or the experience of standing atop the Great Wall? I can show you... Read more »

Collective Action: Is it a Problem?

May 29, 2004 | 6 comments
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Given our dependence on a lay ministry and an (almost) all volunteer workforce, the fact that the Church operates at all is something of a miracle. Most of us credit (perhaps self-servingly) the “20” in the “80-20 Rule,” that is, those few individuals in every ward who seem to be shouldering the greatest burdens. As my time in the Church has lengthened, my affinity for the 80-20 Rule has waned. The Rule makes sense only when you count all of those nominal members who have no emotional attachment to the Church, but these people are largely excluded from the... Read more »

The Curtain Draws on Seminary

May 29, 2004 | 8 comments
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My year as a Seminary teacher ended today. This job is one reason among many that I have been absent from T&S for the past month or so. The time demands on an early morning Seminary teacher, when added to having a full-time job and trying to raise five children … well, let’s just say that this was not an easy year for me. Next week is Seminary Graduation, but I will be out of the country, so we had our own little graduation party today. One feature of today’s class was reading some of the funny comments that... Read more »

Feminist Agitation, Mormon style

May 28, 2004 | 2 comments
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Julie’s post on the daughters of Zelophehad and the ensuing comments reminded me of a story I read in a locally-published book called An Ensign to the Nations: History of the Oakland Stake. It seems that in the late 70s, the Church’s opposition to the ERA caused a bit of an uproar in the Oakland Stake, particularly in the Berkeley ward. During an especially tense period, Paul H. Dunn of the the First Council of the Seventy came to town to speak at a missionary program in the Interstake Center auditorium. Because of previous protests involving the ERA, there... Read more »

Happenings

May 28, 2004 | no comments
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