Another Reason not to see The Passion

March 19, 2004 | 14 comments

See here for the AP story, here for Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s witty riff. Read more »

“Mommy, I was wishing that!”

March 19, 2004 | 5 comments

Last night I attended the Pinewood Derby races for my sons’ cub scout troop. My wife loves woodworking of all sorts, so I have never made a Pinewood Derby car. At our first Pinewood Derby, now many years ago, my oldest son thought that the highest numbers on the electronic scoreboard were best, so he was excited whenever his car came in sixth out of six. My wife quickly learned the tricks of the trade, and he won the next year. Read more »

Causing offense

March 19, 2004 | 21 comments

Kristine raised the issue of whether and how “critical belief,” in other words belief that is both believing and independently thoughtful about various issues in the Church, is possible. (I hope she’ll agree that I’ve more or less captured her question.) For me that raises another (broader?) question: what bounds do my relations with others put on my behaviors, including criticism? Since I doubt that the connection between the two is obvious to anyone but me, let me explain: Read more »

Temple Murals Errata

March 18, 2004 | 11 comments

In my post below, I wrongly stated that the Ghana temple was the first one to have murals. My bad. Los Angles (1956) was the last temple to have murals before the recent spat of temple building. The Winter Quarters Temple didn’t have murals, but it has very large, framed paintings in the ordinance rooms. This paved the way for the Columbia River Temple, which was the first recent temple to have true murals. Since then, murals have been included in the temples listed in this comment. In addition, there have been murals in the Monteray, Mexico temple, and... Read more »

God and Game Theory

March 18, 2004 | 23 comments
God and Game Theory

Ars Disputandi, which is a journal on the philosophy of religion, has a review of what looks like a very interesting book using game theory to analyze stories in the Old Testament. Game theory is part of the rational-actor branch of social science. It attempts to understand social interactions by creating mathematical models of different “games” and then deriving the optimal strategy for pursuing those games. The most famous example is the so-called prisoner’s dilemma. (The optimal strategy in a single round game is to rat; in a multi-round game it is to co-operate and punish non-cooperators). So here... Read more »

Apologia of a critical believer

March 18, 2004 | 35 comments

In the long comments thread on Karen’s post on women’s issues, Brent has done the inevitable: accused those who criticize the “revealed structure” of the church of faithlessness. Brent gets kudos for stating his opinion forthrightly and eloquently. His is a criticism that gets to the heart of many divisive discussions between Mormons of different temperaments and ideological persuasions, so I am hijacking the comments thread to address the issue separately. Read more »

Next Up: Methodists

March 17, 2004 | 9 comments

This just in: The “2004 Yearbook” reports on 215 U.S. church bodies with a record high total membership exceeding 161 million. Leading any other single U.S. church is the Catholic Church, reporting 66,407,105 adherents, followed by the Southern Baptist Convention (16,247,736) and the United Methodist Church (8,251,042). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ranks 5th (5,410,544). … From 2001-2002, major U.S. churches that grew included the Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Assemblies of God, American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., Jehovah’s Witnesses and Church of God (Cleveland, TN). Recording membership... Read more »

Ward Web Sites

March 17, 2004 | 4 comments

So my wife took my daughters to Enrichment Night tonight, and I was trying to remember why. Is it the Relief Society’s birthday? Some sort of mother-daughter bonding event? Or perhaps the women of the Church have finally had enough and they are simply taking over. Then I had a bright idea: check the ward’s website! Sure enough, it lists Enrichment Night for tonight. When I click for more details, I am prompted to give a username and password, which I navigate successfully. My reward: Wednesday, 17 March 2004 Enrichment Night 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM Hmm. That was... Read more »

Around the blogs: Karen Hall discusses gender discrimination

March 17, 2004 | 21 comments

In a very interesting post up at By Common Consent, Karen Hall takes on the issue of gender discrimination in the church. She writes: My concern is the insinuation that women are powerless to affect change in the church. I simply don’t think that is true, and that we have every obligation to use our time, talents, and means to improve and build the church. Think these situations are isolated? How much attention is payed to the scouts vs. the young women in your ward? Think about the jokes about the frivolousness of Relief Society. I think the relevant... Read more »

A Mormon Image: Ghana Temple Murals

March 17, 2004 | 6 comments
A Mormon Image: Ghana Temple Murals

Beginning with the Saint George Temple, our temples use to include murals. Generally the endowment would progress from a creation room, to a garden room, to a world room, to a telestial room, and finally to a celestial room. From the Saint George Temple to the Los Angles Temple, the practice was to put murals on the walls of the creation, garden, and world rooms showing some version of creation, garden, and world. Then for a long period of time, these murals disappeared from our temples. With the Ghana temple, they are back. Read more »

More Family Night Fun at the Harris House

March 16, 2004 | 10 comments

For reasons that remain opaque to me, my two oldest children (ages 7 and 5) have lately become enamored of the story of the ten cleansed lepers, and regularly ask to have it told to them. Last night, during family home evening, they asked to hear it again. We obliged, and when we got to the part where the one returns to give thanks, Steve asked, “And what did Jesus say?” Sam (3) said “You’re welcome!” After I picked myself up from the floor, it seemed to me that, in fact, this might have been the expected response from... Read more »

How Mormons Became White

March 16, 2004 | 79 comments

As we all know, in 1978 the President Kimball and the Quorum of the Twelve (sans two members) recieved a revelation proclaiming that all worthy males — regardless of race — could now recieve the priesthood. Following the long and torturous course of the “Negro Doctrine” as it was called would, of course, require a great deal of careful discussion and research. No one in his right mind would attempt to do so in a blog post. Here goes. Read more »

Q: Do you know LDS artists Greg and Linda Christensen?

March 16, 2004 | 3 comments

We missed a fireside the other evening (ahh, the new joys of a screaming baby) given by “well known LDS artists Greg and Linda Christensen,” who apparently created art for the Manhattan Temple. I’ve poked around online, but I couldn’t find any information about them. Does anyone know of info, images, or work they’ve done? Read more »

Arresting Ministers

March 16, 2004 | 4 comments

The State of New York is charging two Unitarian Universalist ministers with a misdemeanor for solemnizing a marriage without a liscense. (Story here) The Unitarians have long granted gay couples religious unions, but they have not exercised the power delegated to them by the state to create legal marriages. Given the ubiquitious comparisons between the gay marriage legal kerfuffle and the anti-polygamy crusades, is there a parallell here? Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 12

March 15, 2004 | no comments

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Appropriate Language

March 15, 2004 | 39 comments

Between teaching Seminary and raising five children, I have plenty of opportunities to consider the topic of appropriate language. The other day, for example, one teenager referred to another as a “brown noser.” I asked, “Do you have any idea what that means?” Blank stare. Another piped up, “Yeah, it means that he sucks.” Arggh! Read more »

March Madness

March 14, 2004 | 20 comments

Earlier tonight the NCAA announced the men’s basketball tournament bracket, and BYU barely made the field for the second year in a row. Also for the second year in a row, BYU will be playing the defending national champion, though most “experts” give BYU a better chance this year against Syracuse than they had last year against Connecticut (which was a fairly close game, by the way). Some of my best memories from my time at BYU are connected to sports, but I will confess to being surprised when Merrill Bateman, then President of BYU and member of the... Read more »

If You Could Hie To Kolob – Lyrics

March 14, 2004 | 60 comments

One of the recurring internet searches (on search engines such as Google) that brings people to this site is “If You Could Hie to Kolob Lyrics.” We get hits from variations of that search at least three or four times per week. So, in an effort to respond to this need and serve our readers, who apparently want to find these lyrics, here they are: Read more »

An Extraordinary Collection of Mormon Historical Materials

March 14, 2004 | 9 comments

I was researching the rarity of some early Church documents my stepfather collected over the years, when I came across John Hajicek’s website, It seems he’s a non-LDS resident of Independence, Missouri, and he has amassed what looks like the largest collection of LDS-related historical materials, rare books, manuscripts, and artifacts in private hands. It makes for truly fascinating reading. Has anyone ever seen or studied this or any other significant collection of historical Church materials? Read more »

Did Somebody Say Gay? Gay Mormon Art Stolen from SLC Exhibit

March 13, 2004 | 32 comments
Did Somebody Say Gay? Gay Mormon Art Stolen from SLC Exhibit

An annual exhibition of gay pride-related artwork opened at Salt Lake Community College, and artist Don Farmer’s photos of two RM’s hooking up while wearing their missionary tags became the immediate center of attention. First came shouting matches at the opening, protesters trying to remove the photographs, police being called, and administrators relocating the show from the lobby to a classroom. Then, two days later, the photos turned up missing, stolen. The SLTrib reporter lazily kicks off her article with, “But is it art?” Unequivocally, yes, it is. Is it good or not? Doesn’t matter now; it’s certainly effective. Read more »

Political Leanings

March 13, 2004 | 82 comments

Steve Evans and Mathew Parke recently set up a new blog for discussing LDS thought from a liberal perspective. I hope to weigh there as well sometimes. In the inaugural substantive post, Steve made the interesting observation that even liberal Mormons are pretty conservative in general. Using the imperfect indicator of the online Political Compass test, Steve and I both turned out to be more-or-less left-leaning centrists (as did Steve’s wife Sumer). I’m curious as to how our group of readers places on the spectrum (I’ve seen Russell’s score somewhere on his blog, but I don’t know anyone else’s).... Read more »


March 12, 2004 | 51 comments

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Woman charged with murder for refusing C-section

March 12, 2004 | 22 comments

Hey, all you legal eagles! Somebody please explain what in the world the Utah D.A. who’s charging Melissa Rowland with murder for refusing a cesaearean section could be thinking. Read more »

The Filmody of the Latter-Gays

March 12, 2004 | 55 comments

Having bled dry the secular culture, filmmakers have had to find new wine to fill the old bottle of liberating oneself from convention. They’ve found a homegrown subculture juicy enough to do it. Transgressively moral Mormon, I present you to yourself. You’re the wine. An alert reader ran across a film called Latter Days and suspected it might have something to do with, well, us. As this sympathetic article shows, it does. Read more »

The Physicality of the Atonement

March 11, 2004 | 16 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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 »