Natural Disasters

December 30, 2003 | 12 comments
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John P. Pratt’s recent column at Meridian sent me reeling. (Thanks to Brent for the pointer.) While Pratt tries not to overstate his thesis, the gist of the column is that God (sometimes?) punishes local populations for their wickedness by inflicting natural disasters. The Old Testament is replete with such occurrences, but as regular patrons of this blog know, my understanding is that many (perhaps most) of these stories are metaphorical. Even if you disagree with me about that, I hope that we can agree that Pratt’s analysis is sadly deficient. Read more »

Church Members and Financial Scams

December 29, 2003 | 24 comments
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A recent story in Deseret News discusses yet another recent financial scam that victimized thousands of church members. (Link via Dave). This one, according to the news, was a classic Ponzi scheme. Church members are, in my observation, unusually susceptible to Ponzi schemes, multi-level marketing, Amway and similar programs, and other get-rich-quick devices. (I know, there are differences between Ponzi schemes and some types of legal multi-level marketing. As far as I am concerned, they are all dubious devices for removing money from the gullible.) I have wondered over the years why church members are more likely to be... Read more »

Insightful Discussion over at Dave’s

December 29, 2003 | 5 comments
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I like our lengthy discussions, and do not want this blog to become a “portal” or collection of links a la Instapundit. (“Look at this link. Read the whole thing. Indeed.”).* However, there is a time and place for all things, including basic links. To wit — I just noticed Dave’s post about Mormonism and Christianity, and while I don’t have anything to add to it in the way of analysis, I certainly recommend it to our readers. A sample: Mormons feel chronically misunderstood by the rest of Christianity. This is understandable, given the persistence of the silly question... Read more »

Mormon Doctrine: The Legacy

December 29, 2003 | 21 comments
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A few years ago, another law professor asked me what I thought of Richard Posner’s legacy with respect to law and economics. For those of you who do not inhabit this world, Posner is generally credited with popularizing the economic analysis of law, partly through his articles, but largely through the influence of his book, Economic Analysis of Law, now in its sixth edition. At first blush, discussion of his legacy might seem silly. Surely, the great Richard Posner had a salutary influence on the so-called Law & Economics Movement. But we wondered whether Posner’s proclivity for overreaching and... Read more »

“Goodly Parents”

December 29, 2003 | 15 comments
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Jim reminds us that next week begins a change in the Gospel Doctrine curriculum. This year’s course of study is, without a doubt, my favorite book in the world, The Book of Mormon. I hope to see a vigorous discussion of Jim’s provocative study questions, but I am going to anticipate him by a week or two with a post about the first verse of the Book of Mormon: “I, NEPHI, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father.” In my humble opinion, this verse does not mean what... Read more »

God and Football

December 29, 2003 | 6 comments
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Living in Wisconsin, I have observed that the line between religion and football is thin. During my formative years, I was the lone Minnesota Vikings fan in a small Wisconsin town. Fortunately for me, the Vikings were quite good during the 1970s … although never quite good enough to win the Super Bowl. More importantly, the Green Bay Packers stunk during those years. After I joined the Church in the early 1980s, I stopped paying attention to professional football because I wanted to keep the Sabbath Day holy, and professional football does not have much to recommend it in... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 1

December 29, 2003 | 6 comments
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For some time I have created study notes for members of my Gospel Doctrine class. I hand them out a week before the lesson (unless I’m behind, as has occasionally been the case). For the most part the notes consist of questions about the passage assigned for reading. I have avoided commentary, hoping that the questions would be a vehicle for people to think for themselves about the readings. These questions are intended to provoke thought; I usually have no particular answer in mind myself. Since some of those who haunt this list may find the study questions useful.... Read more »

Meeting Times

December 28, 2003 | 7 comments
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One of the familiar New Year’s rites for Mormons is the changing of the meeting times. My ward is moving from 11:30 to 1:30 meeting times. I’m not thrilled — the 11:30 time had its drawbacks (primarily that Sacrament Meeting fell right in the middle of nap time and lunch time), but a 1:30 starting time means that church doesn’t end until 4:30, and we won’t be home until after 5. That means that we will get less done on Sunday. (Sunday mornings are pretty much wasted time, but I occasionally get something productive done on Sunday afternoon after... Read more »

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men

December 24, 2003 | 4 comments
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Our mission Christmases were mostly lonely times, but God gave us a gift on the second one. We had made little scrolls that we tied in red ribbon. On the scrolls we had printed a short message that said: “Silver and Gold have we none, but that which we have we give unto you. Two thousand years ago the Savior said, ‘Peace I leave with you, Peace I give unto you.’ We give you our love, and our wish that the Savior’s peace be with you.” We went caroling to the members and the neighbors and left them with... Read more »

The Little Drummer Boy

December 24, 2003 | 4 comments
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When I was 15, my Grandma Joe cried as she read this story from the newspaper to me and my brothers and sisters. Seeing the story touch her helped it touch me. “I am a poor boy too” has been my favorite line from The Little Drummer Boy ever since. Read more »

Eddi’s Service

December 24, 2003 | 3 comments
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This is my favorite Christmas poem. It’s funny, and bittersweet, and captures very well, I think, the transcendent point of the humble event at the heart of this holiday, a point powerfully expressed in the carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” when we sing: What can I give Him / Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd / I would give a lamb. If I were a wise man / I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: / Give my heart. That is, we give whatever we can, to whomever we can. He... Read more »

Evolution

December 24, 2003 | 23 comments
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As is evident from my participation on this blog, I am not a scientist, but I enjoy reading good, non-technical, science writers. One I really like is Carl Zimmer, who blogs at The Loom. He writes a lot about evolution and genetics. Ady Hahn (our guest blogger who is currently on Christmas break) promised to talk about evolution later, but after reading the latest entry at The Loom, I feel the desire to press the issue. Read more »

The Foreknowledge of God

December 24, 2003 | 3 comments
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I just fulfilled a longstanding promise to myself: I finally read the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. I have had many false starts on this project over the years. Asimov was not a great stylist, though he had many interesting ideas. The Foundation books are animated by one such idea: psychohistory. For those who haven’t read the books, I would describe psychohistory as the use of history, psychology, sociology, and mathematics to examine the behavior of large groups of people. While individual behavior cannot be predicted, psychohistory can (more or less) accurately predict the fate of millions. Is this... Read more »

Sex

December 23, 2003 | 29 comments
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Is it good, bad, or neutral, to have sex before marriage? This topic comes up often in discussions in many places. The church has taken the unambiguous position that pre-marital sex is wrong. For us as members, what does the church’s teaching mean about its (and our) attitudes about sex generally? Read more »

Hugh Nibley on Learning, Working, and Wealth

December 23, 2003 | 11 comments
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The STQ: Material Prosperity thread has been a good one to follow; I’ve some strong (if somewhat inchoate) feelings on the whole topic of righteousness and wealth, but haven’t taken the time to put them down. However, both A Humble Scientist and Clark Goble have made reference in their comments to the writings of Hugh Nibley on these matters, and that reminded me of a favorite Nibley passage of mine. This is from “Deny Not the Gifts of God” (in Approaching Zion, pg. 145): “What are we instructed to do, then, in our falled state? One of the shortest... Read more »

Mere Mormonism

December 23, 2003 | 16 comments
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A while back, Russell suggested the possibility of a Mormon holiday to celebrate Joseph Smith’s birthday. Last Sunday, I took at least part of his suggestion to heart in my Elders’ Quorum lesson Read more »

Our “High Church” Christmas Eve

December 23, 2003 | 12 comments
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The first Christmas my wife and I were together (1993), Melissa wanted to attend a Roman Catholic Christmas midnight mass, a longstanding wish of hers. I’d never attended a midnight mass either, and so we did: late on the evening of December 24th, we and some friends attended a lovely mass at St. Francis of Assisi parish, in Provo, where I found singing the Christmas hymns (during communion and the recessional) to be more fulfilling than I think I ever had previously. By the next morning, Melissa and I decided that we needed to attend a church service every... Read more »

A Mormon Image: Quilting the Tree of Life

December 22, 2003 | 4 comments
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A Mormon Image: Quilting the Tree of Life

What counts as art is an interesting question. We have a bias toward thinking of art in terms of oil paintings, bronze statues, or marble carvings. One of the unfortunate effects of this bias is that it makes much of the art done by women invisibile. You’ll note that most of the work done in those mediums has been done by men. However, if we expand our sense of what constitutes art, there are mediums where women clearly dominate. Consider quilting. Read more »

The Lord’s Prayer

December 22, 2003 | 6 comments
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I’ve been thinking about prayer lately and would be interested in other’s ideas about some questions that have been part of that thinking. Specifically these question have to do with the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 7:1-4; 3 Nephi 13:5-14). Here are the verses in question (from Matthew, the longest version, with the differences from the version in Alma marked by underline), each verse followed by a few questions for thought. I’m interested in your thoughts on my questions as well as your own questions. Read more »

The beginning from the end

December 22, 2003 | 7 comments
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As I was preparing my Sunday School lesson for today, I hit on the idea of using the phrase, “know the beginning from the end” as the hook for class discussion. It is an odd phrase, though I hear and see it fairly regularly in LDS talks and writings. My point was that by knowing the end (as both final point and purpose), we would understand what came before. Thus, Revelation?the revelation of Christ?is a book about the meaning of human history that we see if we understand the end of that history in Christ. But I ran into... Read more »

Lord of the Rings

December 20, 2003 | 10 comments
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I saw the third installment tonight. The triology is an awesome accomplishment, but I still liked the books better than the movie. As you may know already, the movie has generated a plethora of Christian reviews (see here for links), mostly positive. Does this strike anyone else as odd? Read more »

Baptisms for the Dead

December 20, 2003 | 9 comments
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This morning I had the privilege of participating in a youth temple trip to Chicago. My job was to act as a witness in baptisms for the dead. While many Mormons revere this ordinance, people outside the Church often take offense. In fact, a story in tomorrow’s New York Times describes how the Church is under fire again for baptizing Jews. Read more »

Mormon Cursing

December 19, 2003 | 9 comments
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While reading Wilford Woodruff’s diaries recently, I discovered that I have been living in a cursed part of the country. What am I to make of this, and the more general phenomena of Mormon cursing? Read more »

Should I subscribe to Sunstone again?

December 18, 2003 | 40 comments
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Sunstone magazine is different things to different people: a gadfly; a breath of fresh air; a gripefest; scholarship for nonscholars; a needed Mormon arts outlet; an enabler of apostate rantings. For me, it was a first introduction to a broader range of Mormon thought than I was raised with. Unlike Nate’s youth, mine was devoid of discussions of hermeticism and hermeneutics over the dinner table. Read more »

A Delicate Question

December 18, 2003 | 5 comments
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In the interest of fostering discussion, I want to solicit thoughts from the vast hordes of T&S readers (that is how we think of you). We all like to hear from loved ones, and you would hate to discourage contact from those who are far away. Thus, how do you approach the delicate issue of a loved one who spams? Read more »

Truth

December 18, 2003 | 12 comments
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An interesting discussion has sprung up over at Bob and Logan’s blog (which really needs a catchier name) on the nature of truth. What exactly do church members mean when they say that something (the church, the principle of tithing, the law of gravity) is true? What variations are there in the definition of this word? Read more »

What Are You Doing on December 23rd?

December 18, 2003 | 22 comments
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One interesting point from the Christmas Devotional a couple of weeks back which I’ve thought about a few times since then was that both Elder Faust and President Hinckley made particular note of the fact that Joseph Smith was born during the Christmas season–on December 23, 1805, to be exact. The way they drew attention to the birthday of Smith–who was, completely aside from the language in Doctrine & Covenants section 135, indisputedly the most important individual in the whole history of the church–reminded me of something an old friend of mine from Texas once asked me: why don’t... Read more »

CTR Rings to be Banned in France?

December 17, 2003 | 9 comments
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As though Americans needed more evidence of the absurdity of France’s government, today Chirac proposed a law to ban students from wearing religious tokens in school. Chirac thinks this is a moral battle — his conscience leads him to prohibit Jewish boys from wearing yarmulkes at school: “In all conscience, I believe that the wearing of dress or symbols that conspicuously show religious affiliation should be banned in schools.” Read more »

STQ: Material Prosperity

December 17, 2003 | 91 comments
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My Seminary class is just finishing the book of Deuteronomy and moving into Joshua. This is an important moment in the history of Israel, as the Children of Israel are finally allowed to enter the Promised Land. Of course, Moses is deprived of the right to accompany them, and before he leaves he offers a blessing. Read more »

Families: Isn’t It About Time?

December 17, 2003 | 6 comments
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Many of you will recognize the title of this post as the tag line for the Church’s latest ad campaign. A previous campaign proclaimed, “Time? I’ve got as much as anybody!” We in the Church are obsessed with time. In a post below, Ady discusses the challenges of being an LDS woman and a scientist. Like all of us, Ady feels the pull of various responsibilities, and the constraints imposed by the scarce resource, time. In my view, time management is one of the most important tasks we face in this life. Read more »