Against Civic Religion

December 9, 2003 | 43 comments
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Some time ago, Russell and Adam challenged me to explain what was wrong with cyrpto-protestant prayers in the public schools. What follows is my response along with some general thoughts on civic religion. Read more »

A Mormon Image: The All-Seeing Eye

December 8, 2003 | 34 comments
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A Mormon Image: The All-Seeing Eye

During the nineteenth-century all-seeing eyes were a common Mormon image. They seem to have been borrowed from Masonry and represented the presence of God. Accordingly, the symbol was frequently associated with temples, and appears in numerous places on the interior and exterior of the Salt Lake Temple. This image, however, is much earlier and comes from the St. George Tabranacle. Read more »

State v. Oman

December 8, 2003 | 2 comments
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What a surprise! Nate looks like such a mild-mannered guy. Yet, as this case makes clear, the State of Ohio put Nathan Oman in prison for four years for drug trafficking! I’m still trying to figure out how someone can attend Harvard Law School while in an Ohio prison — maybe it has something to do with grade inflation. (One of the great benefits of a name like Kaimipono Wenger — and potential drawbacks as well — is that everything refering to someone with that name actually refers to me). Read more »

Church Boundaries and Political Gerrymanders

December 8, 2003 | 7 comments
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Greg’s post below on the criteria used in drawing ward boundaries, reminds me of another interesting issue: the use of ward boundaries as a criteria for drawing political boundaries Read more »

LDS Fiction Writers

December 8, 2003 | 14 comments
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Below we are discussing books in the Mormon Studies genre, but one of our readers — Sid Sharma from Ann Arbor — emailed me to inquire about LDS authors who write “modern, literary fiction.” Good question. Who are some LDS authors we really love to read? Anyone care to share a review of a favorite LDS author? Read more »

Why Marriage Deserves Constitutional Protection

December 8, 2003 | 6 comments
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Maggie Gallagher’s response to conservatives who have expressed qualms about amending the constitution to define marriage is superb. She approaches the issue from two angles. First, on the federalism argument, she points out mundane matters that are part of the constitution, and wonders why these topics merit nationwide uniformity, rather than state-by-state experimentation, but that the fundamental institution of society is beneath the constitution. Second, she makes a passionate argument about the importance of marriage to civilization, and the devastating effects weakened marriage has and will have on our culture. Read the whole essay. By reminding me how high... Read more »

Ward “Gerrymandering”

December 8, 2003 | 10 comments
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The confluence of Kaimi’s post and a well-written article by Jeffrey Toobin in the latest New Yorker, as well as a recent discussion with a local church member, have led me to wonder: What principles should the Church apply when gerrymandering ward boundaries? Read more »

Tithing Settlement

December 7, 2003 | 12 comments
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It’s that time of year when the signup list for tithing settlement goes up on the Bishop’s door. My wife and I always try to get the first appointment, mainly because we usually live some distance from the chapel and we don’t want to make the trek back once we are home. So we had our session right after church today. Every year, as we go through this ritual, I wonder: what is the purpose of tithing settlement? Read more »

Duty to stick with a dysfunctional ward

December 7, 2003 | 37 comments
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This is a topic that has been on my mind quite a bit lately — what is a member’s duty to stay with a dysfunctional ward? I have been thinking about it because, well, I am currently in a dysfunctional ward. We have a hard time keeping major presidencies (such as the Bishopric and the Elders Quorum) filled. We are on massive life support from high council and missionaries (16 in the ward). We see dozens of baptisms each year, but almost all are inactive within 6 months. Some of those who didn’t immediately go inactive were immediately given... Read more »

The Federal Government as Public Nuisance

December 7, 2003 | 4 comments
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I think that most Mormons are aware of that during the last half of the nineteenth century relations between the Church and the federal government were often chilly at best. Most Mormons, however, are unaware of the some the creative legal tactics employed by their nineteenth-century coreligionists. Read more »

My Link to Pearl Harbor

December 7, 2003 | 3 comments
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On December 7, 1941, my father was 16 years old. His life would change forever on that day. Shortly after President Roosevelt told the nation about the “day that shall live in infamy,” my father entered the Navy. He fought on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, but don’t ask him about it. Even 60 years later he cannot tell his stories. He is a great storyteller, unless the stories are about war. The few times I have seen him try, he has broken down in tears. These are the only times I have seen my father cry. Read more »

Boys club?

December 7, 2003 | 75 comments
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I wonder why so few women comment on this site or take part in discussions of philosophy as it relates to LDS ideas. Women continue to be in the minority in philosophy everywhere, though they are gaining numbers. But they are almost absent among LDS philosophers and philosopher-lawyers. How come? Read more »

Christmas Trees

December 6, 2003 | 4 comments
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I have sometimes heard of a couple, married for many years, who suddenly divorces, and I’ve wondered how that could happen. But each late November or early December reminds me: it was probably the Christmas tree. I confess that I think they look pretty. I like having one in the house at Christmas. But they are so difficult to set up and decorate–and doing so involves so much tension–that I have yet to understand why anyone has a Christmas tree. Read more »

The Risks of Voodoo

December 6, 2003 | 12 comments
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In a comment to my post below, Paul offers the following from Bruce R. McConkie on the story of Balaam’s ass: “This is a true story, a dramatic story; one with a great lesson for all members of the Church; one that involves seeing God, receiving revelation, and facing a destroying angel in whose hand was the sword of vengeance. It includes the account of how the Lord delivered a message to the prophet in a way that, as far as we know, has never been duplicated in the entire history of the world.” This is one reason to... Read more »

We’ve Been Busy…

December 5, 2003 | 10 comments
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Just to explain my absence…Melissa gave birth to Alison Edra Fox at 2:36pm this afternoon, CST. She weighs 7 lbs. 9 ounces, has a lot of hair, and all her fingers and toes. Melissa is doing fine, and we’re all very, very happy. More reports as they become available…. Read more »

Thanks!

December 5, 2003 | 6 comments
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A lot of people are reading this blog now. Over the past few days, we have been averaging over 140 visitors per day, and we are headed in that direction again today. I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of the visitors, especially those who make great comments. This is a fun place to be, and we hope you continue to enjoy it. Read more »

Serpents & The Fall

December 5, 2003 | 4 comments
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In a comment to my entry below about biblical inerrancy (“Balaam’s Ass“), Brent writes in connection with his experience substitute teaching in Seminary: I came across several commentaries about the serpent speaking and Balaam’s ass. Some of these also mentioned other scriptural references (I think some in Revelations) which I mention “beasts” talking. Some of these individuals have theorized that in fact, because of the fall, animals, being lesser intelligences cannot communicate verbally, but that God can loose their tongues and allow them to speak. For purposes of this post, I am not interested in whether this theory of... Read more »

A Mormon Image: The 19th Ward Chapel

December 5, 2003 | 4 comments
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A Mormon Image: The 19th Ward Chapel

When Brigham Young laid out Great Salt Lake City in the 1840s, he modeled it on the Mormon experience in Nuavoo. Thus, the city was divided into wards, which were combined to form the original Salt Lake Stake of Zion. In all there were nineteen of these wards, and they continued to be the core units of the Church in Salt Lake for many, many years. This chapel, built in 1890, housed one of those original wards. Read more »

Balaam’s Ass

December 5, 2003 | 11 comments
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This post picks up on a theme that was touched on in some earlier discussion on the topic of Bible inerrancy. In that earlier discussion, Adam took the position that a presumption of Bible inerrancy was useful, and I am finally writing a response: Balaam’s ass! Read more »

Sex and Censorship at NYU

December 5, 2003 | 4 comments
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I just have a millisecond to blog today, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to link this story about the (gasp!) despicable censorship at NYU, that well-known bastion of conservative thought. Apparently they are refusing to let a film student film actual sex for her film project. Read more »

How Joseph Smith Restored Greek Religion

December 4, 2003 | 17 comments
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I’ve been thinking of late about immortality and Mormonism. My question is whether or not you can be a Good Mormon and a Good Homeric Hero. I am unclear on the answer, but Moroni and John Taylor seem to suggest that for at least one Good Mormon being a Homeric Hero was just fine. Read more »

…And Now The Movie

December 4, 2003 | 2 comments
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Of course we always knew it would happen, but we didn’t think that it would happen so quickly: Times & Seasons has been made into a movie, with Helen Hunt and George Clooney, no less. At anyrate, the script has been written. Check it out here Read more »

Hope

December 4, 2003 | 7 comments
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Next summer I have to give a paper on the loss of hope, despair. Since I have to deliver it and discuss it in another language, I’m starting early. Right now I’m working on trying to give an accurate account of hope on which I can then base a discussion of despair. So, hoping that writing this will help me get my thinking going and that what I say may be of interest to you in some way, I’m going to try to say something about hope in a series of fragments ending with some questions. Read more »

A Mormon Image: A Photograph of Joseph?

December 3, 2003 | 19 comments
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A Mormon Image: A Photograph of Joseph?

Some believe that this image is a photograph of the Prophet Joseph Smith. If they are right, it is the only known photographic image of Joseph . . . Read more »

What if Davis v Locke arose in Utah?

December 3, 2003 | 3 comments
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As I read Dahlia Lithwick’s coverage of the Davis v Locke oral argument, I wondered what approach the court and press would have taken had the case originated in Utah. Dahlia writes: bothered by the fact that Davey had his scholarship revoked simply because he’d declared a double major in pastoral ministries and business administration. According to Kennedy, Davey could have just declared the business major, taken theology courses, and kept his funding. Kennedy asks, over and over, “What is the state interest in denying him funding simply because he declared a double major?” Finally Ruth... Read more »

Philosophy & Scripture

December 3, 2003 | 14 comments
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I am interested in the question of how to think about scripture and I am an academic philosopher. One consequence is that I?m also interested in how the two things are related to each other. Here are some not-fully articulated thoughts on that question. They won’t come as a surprise to someone who has read some of my other things?another take on a familiar theme. As I understand scriptural texts, they are not philosophical and cannot be turned into philosophical texts without changing them drastically. [FN: Ricoeur has discussions of the issue in several places, for example, in Time... Read more »

The Contradictory Commandments of Adam and Eve

December 2, 2003 | 8 comments
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In Institute we wondered why God would give contradictory commandments: Adam and Eve were told to multiply and replenish the earth, and they were told not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. These commandments, the scriptures plainly state, contradict each other. See 2 Nephi 2:22-23. Read more »

Bushman beats Brodie

December 2, 2003 | 45 comments
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Perhaps second only to regular features as a reliable blog standby are lists. I know, I know, such posts usually generate endless quibbling about meaningless personal preferences. But I want to propose what I think will be a worthwhile exercise. I want to know, what are the five essential texts in Mormon studies? Read more »

A Mormon Image: C.C.A. Christiansen

December 2, 2003 | 4 comments
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A Mormon Image: C.C.A. Christiansen

Since blogs seem to thrive on regular features, I have decided to start one here at T&S. Because my father is an art historian and a curator at the Museum of Church History and Art, I have always been interested in the images and art that Mormonism has produced. Thus, I will begin regularlly posting samples of it to this blog, along with a little bit of commentary. I begin with C.C.A. Christiansen Read more »

The Utah Domination Clause

December 2, 2003 | 2 comments
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Under the Utah Constitution, “here shall be no union of Church and State, nor shall any church dominate the State or interfere with its functions.” The interesting part of this is the Domination and Interference Clauses. What might they mean? Read more »