On the Significance of Mormon Wars

June 28, 2004 | 7 comments

One of the interesting questions to ask in the current discussions of war and peace is whether the history Mormon wars tells us anything about how Mormons ought to think about these issues. Read more »

A Model of Information and Prophetic Counsel

June 28, 2004 | 8 comments

Suppose Heavenly Father wishes to convey some important information to us that will be useful to our salvation. Now we know that He can communicate with us but that He limits that communication to be based on faith (ours or those around us). Thus, getting answers from God involves a cost in terms of faith and effort (see D&C Section 9). Starting from this point, one can write down a simple model of prophetic guidance that lets us understand what we observe: Assume everyone wishes to know some value T (if it helps, pretend it is the exact percentage... Read more »

Welcome Fred Gedicks

June 28, 2004 | 2 comments

Welcome to our newest guest blogger, Fred Gedicks. Fred has been a professor of law at Brigham Young University for fourteen years, teaching classes in constitutional law and telecommunications. His research on has focused on religion and society, constitutional interpretation, and Mormon studies. He was a visiting professor at UNC-Chapel Hill last fall, and will be visiting at the University of Utah this fall. Read more »

An American Church

June 28, 2004 | 27 comments

In the vigorous debate about Iraq happening below, Laurie Burk (hi, Laurie!) wrote: “In the Mideast, America is still viewed as a Christian nation. In most of the world the LDS church is still viewed as an American church, and the violence of the Iraq war is seen as American instigated violence. And violence does not advance the cause of Christ.” I will leave the Iraq debate to that thread, but I am interested in the idea of an American church. I heard this often on my mission, and I heard it just last week in Germany. It was... Read more »

Rooting for BYU

June 27, 2004 | 15 comments

Adam’s post about Rafael Araujo started me thinking about a debate that rages from time to time on BYU sports boards: whether Church members should feel obliged to be BYU sports fans. The reasoning in favor of this proposition goes something like this: BYU is supported by Church funds and managed by the Prophet and other General Authorities of the Church; in furtherance of BYU’s mission, the Board of Trustees and BYU’s President have endorsed an athletic program, partly because it performs a missionary function for the Church; therefore, all Church members should rejoice when BYU fields a successful... Read more »

A Mormon Image: Gadfield Elm Chapel

June 27, 2004 | 6 comments
A Mormon Image: Gadfield Elm Chapel

One of the interesting factoids of church history is that for a brief period in the 1840s there were more Mormons in Great Britain than in the United States. Beginning with the mission of the Twelve to England, Mormon missionaries were very successful in Britain, especially in the so-called “potteries” region around Manchester. (Momon missionaries didn’t seem to do so well in London, and Wilford Woodruff had some choice things to say about the city in his journal.) The greatest missionary success came among the so-called United Brethren. The United Brethren were a splinter group that had broken off... Read more »

Book of Mormon FHE: Lesson Three

June 27, 2004 | 3 comments

BMS: Lehi Leaves Jerusalem MBM: The Wilderness Read more »


June 27, 2004 | 13 comments

I recently returned from a teaching stint in Europe, and this morning I was thinking about a small incident that prompted some Gospel-related thoughts … not about war. Two of my children and I were traveling from Bath to London, and we decided to take the scenic route, which allowed us to stop at Stonehenge on the way. We were all quite enamored with the ancient structure, which I found oddly inspiring. My children (ages 10 and 8) listened intently to their self-guided tour recordings and asked interesting questions. They were genuinely engaged. Read more »

Church Materials in MP3

June 27, 2004 | 6 comments

Is this old news? The Church is now offering the Book of Mormon, D&C, General Conference, Church magazines, and certain other materials in MP3 format. The audio site is here. The Church’s website also has some downloads for handhelds, and music downloads. Check out the music player by clicking the name of the song you would like to hear. Pretty cool stuff. Read more »

The Anti-Nephi-Lehite Puzzle

June 26, 2004 | 59 comments

In the rather endless recent comments on war, torture, and politics, both Rob and Dan have made variations on the claim that it is better to suffer death rather than commit certain sorts of moral wrongs. Rob’s claim to me is more interesting, because as a pacifist he seems to claim that it is better to be killed rather than kill another. Dan and Rob, are of course, free to object that I am putting words in their mouths (which is probably correct), however, the basic proposition raises an interesting question: Why might killing be worse than death? Read more »

Giving Up

June 26, 2004 | 8 comments

Some months ago my wife and I were treated during ward conference to a lesson taught by a member of the stake presidency (and not the one you’re thinking of, either). We always learn a great deal from this counselor, although, because he generally fails to think through the implications of his presentations, what we learn is typically not what he intended. On this particular occasion he shared with us an incident from the summer of his 16th year, directed to the topic of perserverence. Addressing himself most especially to the youth of the ward, he described how he... Read more »

On Being Called to the Law

June 26, 2004 | 12 comments

War, peace, gay marriage…whatever…lets talk about something important and interesting: My great, great grandfather. Read more »

Orrin Hatch Channels J. Golden Kimball

June 26, 2004 | 25 comments

A recent article from the nefariousliberalmedia discusses the recent spike in Senate profanity. I’m proud to see that Utah senator and church member Orrin Hatch is one of the politicians who has been putting blue language to public use. Well I say, it’s about time. There ought to be more profanity in Congress, not less. After all, Senators are important public figures. If they swear, others might start swearing as well, and that can’t be a bad thing, can it? Civility is over-rated. Politeness is for the namby-pamby. Contention may be of the devil, but it gets the votes.... Read more »

Reconciling the Iraq War and Christianity

June 26, 2004 | 145 comments

Critics of the Iraq War are quick to argue that because Saddam hadn’t killed Americans and didn’t pose an immediate threat to Americans, the war wasn’t justified. I don’t know of anyone — Howard Dean, Al Gore, Michael Moore — who believes America would have been wrong to overthrow the Baathists had the Iraqi state gassed thousands of American women and children, thrown scores of Americans into plastic shredders, tortured American children in front of their parents, and tyrannically oppressed millions of Americans living in Iraq. In other words, the critics think the Iraq War is immoral because Saddam’s... Read more »

Constitutional Turnabout

June 25, 2004 | 34 comments

According to reports this week, the leadership of the United States Senate is currently considering whether to bring to a vote a proposed constitutional amendment to define the nature of marriage. There is widespread agreement that the proposal lacks the necessary votes to pass, suggesting that the vote is primarily intended to make a political issue of the proposed amendment’s subject matter during an election year. Still, many constituencies remain highly exercised over what they perceive to be the necessity of such an amendment to resolve the matter of single-sex marriage. Curiously, these constituencies seem largely to be the... Read more »

Do Children Need to Be Protected From Religion?

June 25, 2004 | 12 comments

So suggests this somewhat disturbing column in the Christian Science Monitor. (Link via ecitsuJ, which also has some interesting follow-up commentary). Read more »

What Does a Priesthood Blessing Give That a Similar Prayer Does Not?

June 25, 2004 | 22 comments

I have the Melchezidek Priesthood. It gives me authority to officiate in certain ordinances and the responsibility to obey all the commandments and serve those around me. This I understand. Here is the question. If I bless someone as a Priesthood holder, is that blessing more likely to occur than if I were to have simply stood there and offered a prayer for their recovery? Perhaps this question is not sensible. Perhaps the effect of the Priesthood is to change what or when I pray. I am open to that. I think the question is sensible and the answer... Read more »

Political Sins

June 25, 2004 | 25 comments

In the comments on a recent thread, Russell suggested that he could be morally culpable because at the time of the invasion of Iraq, he believed that the United States was justified in doing so. He now thinks otherwise. He suggests that his previous beliefs may well have made him complicit in some moral evil. To put words in Russell’s mouth (one of my favorite pass times), he thinks that he was sinning a couple of months ago because of what he was thinking. It is an interesting question. Read more »

Twelve Differences Between Taxation and Robbery

June 25, 2004 | 34 comments

This is a short primer on the differences between taxation and robbery. At times these two phenomena are sufficiently difficult to differentiate that perhaps such a discussion will be helpful. Feel free to append your own differences to the dozen provided: 1. Taxation is done by a group of people that claim to represent you. Robbers do not claim to represent you. Read more »


June 24, 2004 | 16 comments

Occasionally there is some odd comment here or there on this site alluding to “rational choice” models. Now almost nobody in economics uses this phrase, because you don’t need a word to describe what everyone is doing. Yet rationality seems to get some non-economists excited. Why? Read more »

A New Guest Blogger: Frank McIntyre

June 24, 2004 | 2 comments

We want to welcome our newest guest blogger, Frank McIntyre. Frank is currently an assistant professor of economics at BYU. He grew up in Kansas, went to the Y, served a mission in Portugal and recently finished up a Ph.D at Stanford. His main research interests are wage and welfare policies in the United States and Brazil. I find it a little disturbing that people that I started college with are now professors, but such is life. Frank and I met our freshman year at BYU, and I am eternally in his debt for saving me from flunking my... Read more »

Public Service Announcement: Phishing

June 24, 2004 | no comments

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A Modest Terminological Proposal

June 24, 2004 | 33 comments

Or maybe not so modest. You all decide. Here it is: can we T&Sers, and perhaps in time the bloggernacle community in general, come to an agreement, if only for purposes of discussion, on what is and is not meant by “liberal” and “conservative” in Mormon contexts? Because it seems that everytime these labels arise, confusion abounds. Read more »

Civil Disobedience

June 24, 2004 | 62 comments

I received rather a shock some few days ago, reading through the Ensign report of the April 2003 General Conference Priesthood Session, which I had been unable to attend in person. In the course of a talk on worthiness, addressed primarily to young men preparing for missionary service, Bishop David Burton casually drops the following bomb into the midst of a homey sports metaphor: “Our participation in life’s important events may be jeopardized if we fail to follow the rules contained in our Father in Heaven’s commands. Involvement in sexual sin, illegal drugs, civil disobedience, or abuse could keep... Read more »

Belated Thanks

June 23, 2004 | 8 comments

I have to apologize for not thanking Melissa Proctor for her excellent guest-blogging. I was hoping to provoke her into another post or two, but she is ever-so-diligently preparing for qualifying exams and writing a dissertation prospectus, and has steadfastly refused all of my wiles. So, hearty, if somewhat belated, thanks to Melissa for some quietly thought-provoking posts. If you’re looking for a break from all the war talk, I’d suggest a re-reading of hers. (I’m still trying to figure out what to think about “Deseret.”) Read more »

A Peek Behind the Scenes at T&S

June 23, 2004 | 13 comments

Our gentle readers may be interested to know that Jim’s post on discussing politics grew partly out of some extended e-mail discussion that has gone on today among the T&S regulars about a perception among readers of a conservative tilt in the comments and discussions here (there were a few e-mail complaints from readers; a few of the regular bloggers–cough, khh, cough–were feeling a little oppressed). After reading and responding to this flurry of e-mail, I checked in just in time to read the exchange on the Elder Packer and Beards thread about how the conservatives are oppressed around... Read more »

Politics in the Church

June 23, 2004 | 97 comments

Why is it that conversations about political and quasi-political topics among Latter-day Saints almost always devolve quickly into posturing and name-calling? And why, in my experience, does it seem that those who are conservative are more likely to head in that direction first? I admit that my perception may be biased by the fact that I’m “liberal” (read “middle-of-the-road” everywhere but among American Latter-day Saints). I may overlook more easily the faults of those who agree with me. Nevertheless, my impression is that because they are the mainstream of the Church, conservatives often tend to be smug about their... Read more »

The Eternal Significance of Cucumbers

June 23, 2004 | 37 comments

This evening the Oman family ate cucumbers in triumph. The euphoria came from the fact that these cucumbers were the first fruits of our garden. We (meaning mainly Heather) have toiled in the soil, mixing the sweat of our brow with earth, water, and sky to bring forth vegetables! This is heady, elemental one-with-the-earth kind of stuff. The cucumbers, of course, taste infinitely better than those pathetic, commercially grown things you buy in the store. Which brings me, of course, to the apparent decline in prophetic counsel on gardens. Read more »

Three Statements on War

June 23, 2004 | 3 comments

My previous post on LDS Ethics and torture generated not only a good deal of discussion on the particular topic, but on the related question of military service and just war. Since there appears to be quite a lot of pent-up interest in this topic, I am going to give it its own thread. To get the ball rolling, I provide three statements by Presidents of the Church during the latter Twentieth and early Twenty-First Century: Read more »

More on Elder Packer and Beards

June 23, 2004 | 58 comments

The thread following Dan’s post on the church’s apparent (and inconsistent) “tonsorial jihad” has come to focus on the matter of “unwritten policies” and the existence of an “oral law”–something Jim doubts that any culture can exist without. I agree with him–there is and must be a place for mores, for unwritten guides to belief and behavior, in any healthy society. But it’s worth thinking a little more deeply about what this dynamic should and shouldn’t involve, in the church and elsewhere. Read more »