The Physicality of the Atonement

March 11, 2004 | 16 comments
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All of the discussion about The Passion has prompted thoughts about the importance of the physical in the Atonement. This topic has been touched briefly in some of the comments below, with Melora opining that “Christ’s atonement did not need to be violent and bloody,” and Matt responding, “but the atonement was preordained to parallel the violent and bloody slaughters of the sacrificial lamb.” I am interested in the unspoken premise of these arguments, namely, that the physical pain and death endured by Jesus was part of the Atonement. In my view, the physical pain the Jesus experienced at... Read more »

Utah Near the Bottom for Public Corruption

March 11, 2004 | 10 comments
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A recent study ranked all fifty states according to how corrupt they were. As a measure it used the ratio of public officials convicted of corruption to the population as a whole. Lousiana came in first, as the most corrupt state in the country. (Actually D.C. is more corrupt, but it didn’t count as a state.) Nebraska came in as the least corrupt state. Utah ranked the sixth least corrupt state after Nebraska, Oregon, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Colorado. Interestingly, Idaho, which I believe is the second most Mormon state in the Union, came in as the 17th most... Read more »

About the McKay Quote…

March 11, 2004 | 7 comments
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As part of a different project, I found myself trying to track down the specifics of the famous quote: “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” It’s possibly the most oft-repeated General Authority statement is the contemporary church; certainly it would give even certain famous statements by Joseph Smith a run for their money. President David O. McKay made this statement, as far as I can tell, at least twice from the pulpit during general conference; once as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve in April 1935, and once as president of the church... Read more »

What Do (and Should) We Call Our Brothers and Sisters?

March 11, 2004 | 20 comments
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Last night, at our weekly elder’s quorum presidency meeting, I was struck once again at a verbal habit of our secretary: he refers to just about everyone in the ward as “Sister (or “Brother”) .” I’m “Brother Russell.” The elder’s quorum president is “Brother Craig.” The Relief Society president is “Sister Mel.” In 35 years of life in the church, I’ve never before met someone who regularly speaks this way to fellow ward members in casual conversation. I’m familiar with this locution primarily through its historical association with Brigham Young, particularly via the writings of Hugh Nibley... Read more »

Using Religious Arguments

March 11, 2004 | 25 comments
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The discussion of the PETA ad has got me thinking about another question: Is it proper to use religious arguments to persuade a religious believer when you yourself do not accept the religion in question? Read more »

The Mormon Jesus

March 11, 2004 | 17 comments
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I tried to ask this question earlier, in the context of The Passion, but it pretty quickly got lost in another round of beating the moribund R-rated movies horse. So I’ll ask again, without the attempt at pop-culture referentiality. How has Mormon Christology changed in the last half-century or so? And why? Read more »

Reality TV, Morals and Marriage

March 11, 2004 | 7 comments
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I just read an article in the March 2004 issue of Harper’s Magazine by Francine Prose titled, “Voting Deomcracy Off The Island: Reality TV and the Republican Ethos.” It’s a rather long, impassioned exploration of the messages and influence of reality tv programs that I found quite disturbing, especially given the popularity, growth, and perceived innocuousness of such programs. She notes incentives for deceit and dishonesty; institutionalized deceit on the part of producers; cruelty and humor at the expense of others; “morality as an albatross or obstacle” to success; that “every human being can and will do anything for... Read more »

STQ: Temples & World Peace

March 11, 2004 | 7 comments
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My Seminary class has just started studying the Book of Isaiah. Chapter 2:2-4 contains the oft-quoted verses: And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD?s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his... Read more »

Enhancing Nature

March 10, 2004 | 41 comments
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At first blush, this may not seem like a serious entry, but it is. (Well, mostly serious anyway.) The other night, I was watching television just before midnight. I don’t remember the program for sure, but since I have a limited palate, it must have been Law & Order, Monk, or a college baskeball game. In other words, nothing that would have signalled to me that I should be especially cautious about the commercials. Suddenly, I was assaulted by a commercial featuring a woman talking about “that special part of a man’s body.” I could not believe what I... Read more »

A Mormon Image: Elijah Abel

March 10, 2004 | 16 comments
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A Mormon Image: Elijah Abel

Elijah Abel is generally thought to be the first black Mormon. (Click on the picture to the right for a larger image.) He was most likely born into slavery and escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad. In 1832 he was baptized by Ezekial Roberts. In 1836 he was ordained an elder, most likely by Joseph Smith. He was later ordained a Seventy and during the course of his life he served at least three proselyting missions. He came west with the Saints, settling in Salt Lake City, where he worked on the Salt Lake Temple as a carpenter,... Read more »

If you happen to be in California this weekend . . .

March 9, 2004 | 3 comments
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The Miller-Eccles Group has a speaker coming that sounds quite interesting. March 13, 2004 Speaker: Prof. Karen Torjeson Subject: LDS and their place in the Mosaic of Early Christian Belief-and-Why Claremont Graduate University Wants to Establish a Chair of Mormon Studies Time: 7:30 p.m. You will enjoy a riveting a stimulating presentation on comparisons and contrasts of Latter-day Saint doctrine and teachings with early Christianity, particularly with respect to the Godhead and Christology; the place of Mormonism in the mosaic of Christian belief and practices; Claremont Graduate University’s relationship to the Dead Sea Scrolls (and any connection to BYU’s... Read more »

A Mormon Image: PETA Goes After the Mormons

March 9, 2004 | 47 comments
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A Mormon Image: PETA Goes After the Mormons

Vegetarians seems to be making a serious bid for Mormon converts. Check out this story and this bill board: I can only assume that they have been reading T&S. For extended commentary, including links to the Church PR Deptartment’s reaction go to A Soft Answer. Read more »

The Political Limits of Agency

March 9, 2004 | 42 comments
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Mormons frequently invoke the idea of “agency” (whatever that means) in political discussions. We generally invoke it in liberal ways, as a justification for not regulating some for of behavior. What I want to question is this easy link between “agency” and liberalism. In the formulation given by John Stuart Mill, liberalism invokes freedom as a reason to abstain from regulating self-regarding activity. I think that when Mormons invoke the idea of “agency” to make liberal arguments they generally do so in some sort of a vaguely Millian way. However, given the theological uses to which the concept of... Read more »

Committees and Technology

March 9, 2004 | 11 comments
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We’re all aware of church committee meetings, the bane of our existence. (The oft-recycled joke is that the “Fourteenth Article of Faith” goes something like “We believe in meetings, correlation, committees, sub-committees, . . .”). In a recent thread, Steve Evans comments: My suggestion: embrace technology — the e-committee is the future of the Church. Is the e-committee — having meetings through chat, e-mail or IM — a good idea? I can think of reasons that it might not work well –the digital divides between rich and poor and between young and old; lack of knowledge of computers; potential... Read more »

The Progression and Perfection of God

March 9, 2004 | 48 comments
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I’ve been thinking recently about how to reconcile the two ideas of the perfection of God and the principle of eternal progression. We read that God is perfect; and therefore we may think that he has reached some end point or finish line in his progression. At the same time, we read that as God is now, man may become, and we are told that our exaltation will involve eternal progression; these two ideas, read together, suggest that God continues to progress. (Query: Does this refer to the Father? The Son? Both? Since we believe that the God we... Read more »

Babies in the Temple

March 8, 2004 | 7 comments
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When my wife was still about 8 months pregnant, she stopped by the ______ Temple (location deleted to protect the innocent) to inquire about any guidelines they had regarding attendance while pregnant. (Like how the airlines won’t let you fly, etc.) The matron looked at her with great concern and said, “You’re not planning on having the baby here, are you? Because we’d strongly discourage that.” We were rather stunned, both at the idea and that someone felt the situation warranted mentioning it at all. Read more »

Dealing with the day-to-day

March 8, 2004 | 11 comments
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Jedd asked whether some of our blogging couldn’t focus on more day-to-day challenges. I’m sympathetic to his request. It made me think of my own experience, a time when I could have used advice. Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 11

March 8, 2004 | 16 comments
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Lesson 11: 2 Nephi 31-33 Chapter 31 Verse 2: What does the word “doctrine” mean? Why is what Nephi and Jacob have written sufficient? Sufficient for what? The phrase, “the doctrine of Christ” can be understood to mean “the doctrine that comes from Christ” or “the doctrine about Christ.” Which meaning do you think Nephi intends? Read more »

Discussing the Gospel

March 8, 2004 | 45 comments
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Over the course of the past four months, several people on this blog have mentioned that they appreciate the opportunity provided by T&S to discuss the Gospel in depth. Does this strike anyone else as odd? Read more »

Losing a Child

March 7, 2004 | 28 comments
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On March 5, 1987, my son Neill Earl Smith was born. Three months later, he died of pneumonia. He was a victim of a rare neurological disorder known as Werdnig-Hoffman Syndrome. He would be 17 years old now. My wife and I have had five other children, but I still miss him. Read more »

A Nepotistic Link

March 7, 2004 | 7 comments
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My brother (who is normally a sportswriter) has this article in today’s Deseret News, dealing with Mormon tours of Central America. Noel Reynolds, Stephen Houston, and Brian Birch weigh in. I’ll have to tell him that Sorenson’s book is “An Ancient *American* Setting . . .” Read more »

T&S = Instructor’s Manual

March 7, 2004 | 5 comments
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I just returned from a conference in Oregon, and found an email from a T&S regular, who related a story about her husband using one of our discussions to teach a Seminary class. I have done the same thing (several times), and I was wondering whether anyone else has had a similar experience. Do you ever use the insights gained here in teaching? Read more »

Mormon Baby Names

March 6, 2004 | 32 comments
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Is this an archetypal thing for a new father to be doing on a Saturday night, sneaking a post while/whenever the kid is asleep? We just went through a nerve-wracking and overly self-conscious process to coming up with 1) lists of baby names, 2) baby naming approaches, and 3) ways to avoid blundering into some naming meta-trend we weren’t aware of. Ultimately, we named our daughter Ada Catherine, inspired by my wife’s great great-grandmother, Ada Philena. Of course, both double names and great grandmother-era names are both trends in themselves. So, is it a particularly Mormon trend? What is/are... Read more »

Thanks Linda, and Welcome Greg

March 6, 2004 | 5 comments
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Linda Hoffman Kimball’s illustrious run as a guest-blogger ended yesterday, and I’m sure everyone here joins me in thanking her for the great posts. Hopefully we’ll hear from you again soon, Linda! Our newest guest blogger, Greg Allen, joins us today. I was a fan of Greg’s critically-acclaimed blog for a while before I came across a post that outed him as someone who could contribute to our discussion here. Here’s a bit of a bio: Read more »

State v. Bell and Changes to Marriage

March 5, 2004 | 17 comments
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Bob Herbert’s New York Times column cites to an 1872 Tennessee case that upheld a law prohibiting interracial marriage. See State v. Bell, 66 Tenn. 9. The Tennessee Court wrote that: Extending the rule to the width asked for by the defendant, and we might have in Tennessee the father living with his daughter, the son with the mother, the brother with the sister, in lawful wedlock, because they had formed such relations in a State or country where they were not prohibited. The Turk or Mohammedan, with his numerous wives, may establish his harem at the doors of... Read more »

Charity and the Ex Post/Ex Ante Dilemma

March 5, 2004 | 35 comments
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We are supposed to help those who are in need. The scriptures seem to be quite clear about this. And that, of course, is the problem. I have phrased the issue in what legal theorists call the ex post perspective. We take need as given and the morally relevant question is what our response to the need should be. Our decision is seen as being an after-the-fact (in this case the fact is need) event. The problem, of course, is that we can also look at our decision from what legal theorists call an ex ante perspective. Rather than... Read more »

Righteous or Wicked?

March 5, 2004 | 28 comments
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I once asked a sage I know, “Do Mormons believe the nature of man is good or evil?” He answered, “Yes.” How wonderful, how zenny, how true. Read more »

More on the Passion

March 5, 2004 | 10 comments
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Greg Easterbrook has a great comparison of Gibson’s Passion with Frano Zepherelli’s Jesus of Nazareth. I am a huge Zepherelli fan and I quite liked Jesus of Nazareth, although I haven’t seen The Passion. Easterbrook’s conclusion is that the Zepherelli’s is a better movie because it has more narrative and characterization and sticks more closely to the Gospels. Easterbrook writes,”The Christ story is among the most compelling ever told, yet directors can’t resist adding invented characters who are unnecessary.” The same can be said of the Church’s recent film Testaments, which is supposedly about the Book of Mormon, but... Read more »

Favorite Colmunist(s)

March 4, 2004 | 28 comments
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It’s completely off-topic, but I saw Greg’s comment about Maureen Dowd, and thought that it might be fun to start a discussion of our favorite, and / or least favorite, columnists. Read more »

Shameless Self-Promotion

March 4, 2004 | 4 comments
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For those who are interested, I have started a new blog called Tutissima Cassis. The idea is that I will blog on law and politics over there, and religion over here. Enjoy! Read more »