Five things you should know about the BYU-Idaho dress code

September 19, 2013 | 66 comments
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Five things you should know about the BYU-Idaho dress code

There are five things you should know about the BYU-Idaho dress code. The first thing—that BYU-Idaho has a dress code—is probably redundant, since that seems to be the only thing that people outside of Rexburg hear about BYU-Idaho. Read more »

Just because you heard it at church, doesn’t make it true.

September 18, 2013 | 69 comments
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Or mean that you must repeat it. Because sometimes people say things in church are are just plain not true. Read more »

“Hearing Cosmic Harmony Again”—Dan Peterson Delivers BYU Summerhays Lecture 2013

September 18, 2013 | no comments
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summerhays

Thursday at 7pm in the JSB Auditorium at BYU, Dan Peterson will speak on how our understanding of the natural world through history has reinforced or weakened belief in God. His title for the 2013 Summerhays Lecture is “Hearing Cosmic Harmony Again.” Here is an introduction from the Summerhays Lecture web page: For many centuries, religious believers of all stripes have affirmed, in the words of the Psalmist, that “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy work.” But, although the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins could still exclaim that “The world is charged... Read more »

Paradigms and Stumbling Blocks

September 16, 2013 | 72 comments
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2013-09-23 Tipping Point Graph

I started thinking about the phrase “stumbling block” recently. It’s such a common phrase that it’s easy to take its significance for granted. And maybe miss its meaning and current relevance. The literal meaning of the words is obvious, and “stumbling block” is in that sense basically the same phrase as “tripping rock”. But “tripping rock” is fresh and so it forces you to take a look at what the words actually mean: a stone that causes people who are walking somewhere to fall. Why should such an apparently innocuous concept be so deeply ingrained in scripture that it... Read more »

Literary DCGD #36: Past, Present, Future

September 15, 2013 | no comments
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Literary DCGD #36: Past, Present, Future

The place of Utah in LDS history is occasionally a topic of lessons like Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson 36. And while today not all church members live in Utah or want to live there or feel that it is a place to admire, still, it is hard to argue with the fact that Utah played an important role in the formation of what Mormonism is today. As the lesson observes, the pioneers went to a place that no one wanted, a veritable desert, and created an impressive civilization. Its hard to say what they would think of... Read more »

Mortality

September 13, 2013 | 12 comments
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Mortality

I have family members who have died recently, others who are dying, and some who tell me confidently every time we talk, “You know, I won’t be around much longer…” Read more »

It’s time to change early morning seminary

September 12, 2013 | 123 comments
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School’s back in session. Several weeks of early mornings have burned through the summer sleep reservoir. Inevitably, the debate over school start times sputters to life, ignited this year by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who tweeted “Common sense to improve student achievement that too few have implemented: let teens sleep more, start school later.” Duncan’s statement references both the sleep science suggesting that teenagers’ circadian rhythms shift toward later wake and sleep times, and the small but growing initiative to delay high school bell schedules to better accommodate the students’ biological reality and, potentially, improve their academic performance.... Read more »

The Life and Times of Parley P. Pratt

September 12, 2013 | 2 comments
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The Life and Times of Parley P. Pratt

I recently finished reading Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (OUP, 2011), by Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow. Most Mormons know Pratt by name from reading the Doctrine and Covenants. A few Mormons have read Pratt’s autobiography, which gives some idea of the extent of his missionary travels, but provides little detail about his influential writings or his busy family life (he had 9 wives and 23 children at the time of his death). Any reader of this biography will come to appreciate just how significant a role Pratt played in the early LDS Church,... Read more »

Temple and Observatory Group At NYC

September 9, 2013 | no comments
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The Temple and Observatory Group, which sponsored an event in July in Provo featuring Richard Bushman, Fiona Givens, and Terryl Givens is bringing the same lineup to New York City. Come listen to the three speak about negotiating LDS history and faith challenges on Saturday, September 28th from 10am – 3:30pm at 390 Broadway 3rd floor in Manhattan. (Here’s a copy of the official flyer.) Additional events are being planned for the East Coast in coming months including Washington, D.C. (October 19) and Boston (November 9). You can visit the website to keep informed (and learn about the groups’... Read more »

A Game Theoretic View of the Atonement

September 9, 2013 | 13 comments
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2013-09-09 John Forbes Nash

The Prisoner’s Dilemma came up in the comments to a post of mine from about a month ago. I outlined my thoughts very briefly there (see comment #12), but I’d like to return to them in more depth today. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is perhaps the most important scenario studied in game theory, and “it shows why two individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so.” To understand the analysis, however, I’ll need to back up and give a very brief game theory primer.   In game theory, a game is a situation... Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #18: Brigham Young

September 8, 2013 | 2 comments
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Literary Lorenzo Snow #18: Brigham Young

The world today treats leaders with honor and deference, giving those who manage to become leader of government and society the benefits available to the rich, while shielding them from many of the cares of life, and, at times, from their own errors and sins. Lesson 18 in the Lorenzo Snow manual makes it clear that such benefits and deference are not what Church leadership are about (and I wonder if governmental and other leadership shouldn’t also avoid these trappings). Instead, Church leadership is about serving others, and whatever benefits from that leadership should come after this life. The... Read more »

Literary DCGD #35: Wakeful Winter Nights

September 8, 2013 | 4 comments
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In recent years the attention on the tragedy of the Martin and Willie handcart companies seems to have increased. Their situation and rescue has been the subject of books and movies (and lessons) in a process that seems to mythologize the events. The current lesson (#35 in the Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine manual) explores the saving nature of the rescue, and compares that to the Savior’s atonement and our own responsibility to save those who are lost. The following poem helps to set the stage for this discussion, describing the difficulty and the courage necessary to face it. Read more »

What BYU-Idaho does right

September 5, 2013 | 37 comments
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What BYU-Idaho does right

You might be surprised to learn that the church maintains not one but two large universities, including one about 280 miles north of Provo. The existence of BYU-Idaho is one of those things that seems to easily escape notice, even for Mormons in the middle of a vigorous debate about what must be done about BYU and LDS higher education. While the low level of scrutiny that BYU-Idaho receives is in general salutary for the university, it’s unfortunate for the discussions of higher education, as some of the most interesting experiments in the American university system today are being... Read more »

Bless This Food

September 4, 2013 | 38 comments
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saying_grace-large

So I had every intention of posting the next installment in the Approaching Zion Project today. But Labor Day weekend (and, specifically, houseguests, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and a Cubs game) intervened and, well, I'm not ready. But Monday night's dinner with our guests brought up a question, and I thought I'd ask for an unrepresentative sampling of answers. Read more »

Complicity

September 4, 2013 | 23 comments
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Complicity

It's one thing to know that what you are witnessing is wrong; it's another thing altogether to know what to do about it. I do know that inaction is often taken as tacit approval, and I do not want to be guilty of the sin of complicity Read more »

The Abyss of Nothing and Everything

September 2, 2013 | 17 comments
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2013-09-02 The_Scream

I often heard, growing up, that teenagers think they are immortal. I always thought this applied to other teenagers. For the most part I didn’t get into the sorts of shenanigans that make adolescence famous. I felt I had a perfectly rational aversion to death and dying that manifest itself in, among other things, a general trepidation about learning to drive. Passing other cars at a cumulative speed of 100mph with only a few inches and some yellow lines as separation is still a kind of scary thing, I think, if you stop and consider it. It wasn’t until I... Read more »

Literary DCGD #34: Farewell to my Mother

September 1, 2013 | 3 comments
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When we discuss the Mormon trek, the focus is almost always on the physical suffering that many of the immigrants endured while traveling west. While certainly the physical struggle to cross the plains (covered in Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 34) was difficult, the pioneers suffered in other ways also. For example, many left family behind, generally compounded by their conversion to Mormonism, and often assuming that they would never see their family members again. The poem below describes just such a situation. Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #17: The Power of Song

September 1, 2013 | no comments
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Literary Lorenzo Snow #17: The Power of Song

Many of our hymns have a martial air to them, often echoed in their messages. We are called “Christian Soldiers,” marching on to war, and we call to the “Elders of Israel” to join the campaign. And often the Priesthood is called “God’s Army” in an attempt to emphasize, I suppose, its size and power and the brotherhood we often feel in the priesthood. The following poetic excerpt not only captures some of that brotherhood, but also explains clearly that this “army” is not a military, but something far different, more like what is described in Lorenzo Snow lesson... Read more »

We Are All the Work of Thy Hand

August 26, 2013 | 12 comments
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2013-08-26 We Are All The Work Of Thy Hand WITH TEXT

A number of years ago, a friend wrote me an email that included this reminiscence: Friday was my last day of spring break. I had worked all through the break, and really wanted to do something fun, something indulgent. I immediately thought of the only thing I have ever done when I wanted to be indulgent in past years– go to Barnes and Noble. I have always been haunted by a trip to the temple 20 or 30 years ago, and an old mission friend was along. We went to the book store, and he just loaded up with... Read more »

Walk This Way

August 25, 2013 | 6 comments
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Notice how similar these three passages are: Read more »

Literary DCGD #33: To President Brigham Young

August 25, 2013 | no comments
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Literary DCGD #33: To President Brigham Young

We often make assumptions about the past based on our perspective today, and the current Gospel Doctrine lesson about Brigham Young and succession in the presidency is no exception. We know that the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve becomes the new Prophet, and it is easy to assume that this was always understood. But following the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, that question was far from clear among many members of the Church. Even six months later, when this poem was written, those members who followed Brigham Young often assumed that he would remain president of the... Read more »

Bloggernacle PSA: fMh Tracy McKay Scholarship

August 23, 2013 | no comments
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"If you haven't heard around the 'nacle-- The fMh Tracy McKay Scholarship fund drive is in full force! Last year many around the bloggernacle rallied together to help the awesome Tracy McKay finish the last few months of her degree when her ward could no longer help her out. fMh is keeping the tradition going by helping more single Mormon mothers go back to school. Read more »

Literary DCGD #32: Lines on the Assassination

August 22, 2013 | no comments
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Literary DCGD #32: Lines on the Assassination

The martyrdom of Joseph Smith was a shock to his people and one that, as their successors, we still remember and still feel. But in the days following his assassination, the reaction of Church members was one of outrage. While we today see the martyrdom as “sealing his testimony,” then the members of the Church saw this as a failure of the state, with a feeling that the state was somewhat complicit in these murders. But despite that the brothers were immediately... Read more »

The Approaching Zion Project: Work We Must, but the Lunch Is Free

August 21, 2013 | 43 comments
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As summer ends, my time to engage with Nibley's social criticisms has begun to return. Of course, I say that the week before classes begin, so a couple things I want to point out before we get started: first, this is a long, detailed chapter. Read more »

The Day Creationism Died

August 21, 2013 | 22 comments
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It was January 5, 1982, the day United States District Court Judge William R. Overton issued his memorandum opinion in McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education. Plaintiffs challenged an Arkansas statute that required Arkansas public schools to “give balanced treatment to creation-science and evolution-science.” The Court found that “creation science has no scientific merit or educational value as science” and that “the only real effect of Act 590 is the advancement of religion.” As such, it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and was struck down as unconstitutional. Langdon Gilkey, a theologian who testified... Read more »

Rexburg

August 19, 2013 | 44 comments
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Rexburg

What is it like to move to Rexburg? If you’ve ever driven across the country, you’ve probably stopped for gas or lunch in some town you’ve never heard of and observed in astonishment that people not only live there, but appear to lead lives as happy and meaningful as any other American. Those lives may include more baseball or rodeo than you would choose for yourself, but the people there seem content enough. You see parks and schools and streets with decent-looking houses and a reasonable number of stores, and you wonder what it would be like if you... Read more »

Confessions of a Former Stay-at-Home Mom

August 18, 2013 | 46 comments
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Confessions of a Former Stay-at-Home Mom

After nine years as a stay-at-home mom, I recently got a full-time job. I’ve been working for a month now, which seems long enough to state some preliminary observations about how things are going. The short answer is, I am happier than I’ve been in quite a while. I have way more patience for my children when I come home at six o-clock from an office full of adults than I did when I was at home with them all day. My emotional resources are magically magnified by being away from home during the work-day doing something interesting and... Read more »

SMPT 2013 Reminder/Travel Funding

August 14, 2013 | 3 comments
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The August 23rd proposal submission deadline for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s 2013 Annual Meeting is approaching. The conference will be held at Utah Valley University, October 31-November 2, with the theme, “The Atonement.” For a fuller discussion of the theme and submission information, see the Call for Papers flyer (PDF), or the Call for Papers web page. Student Travel Funding: SMPT has some funding available, on a competitive basis, to defray travel costs for student presenters. Travel funding awards of a value up to $700 each will be made on the basis of (a) merit of... Read more »

Malian elections, a good loss for an LDS candidate

August 13, 2013 | 6 comments
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The Malian presidential elections have run their course and have produced a new president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The second runner Soumaila Cisse has conceded and congratulated the new president. The election ran in two phases, first between all 28 candidates, and then a second phase between the two front runners. After the first phase, Keita had 39% and Cisse 19%. There was, as we know from an earlier blog, an LDS candidate, Yeah Samake. He ended with 0.56% in the first run, and has extended his congratulations to the winner. For our Mormon fans of Samake, some... Read more »

On Faithful Puzzlement, Belief, and Choice

August 12, 2013 | 29 comments
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I thoroughly enjoyed Rosalynde’s FAIR talk, “Disenchanted Mormonism”! Thank you, Rosalynde! I really like the way she presents doubt as something that can be a productive and legitimate place to inhabit indefinitely, even while there is an active hope for greater knowledge and confidence in the future. I also really like how she embraces what we don’t choose, including the fact that we (at least many of us) are members of the body of Christ and of the church largely independent of personal choice. I have a question for Rosalynde, though: isn’t there still a pretty significant form of... Read more »

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