The District of Utah has had a busy week. As I’m sure you heard (and if you haven’t, you ought to read Kaimi’s post first), Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down as unconstitutional. A week ago, in the wake of the decision that didn’t actually legalize polygamy, I looked at the potential tax consequences of that decision and, fairly anti-climatically, determined that there were none. Plenty of electrons will be spilled going over this decision but, again, I suspect that the tax consequences will be underexplored.
On Friday, December 13, the Judge Waddoups, a district court judge in the District of Utah, held that Utah’s criminalization of polygamy was unconstitutional. Partly, anyway.
More on that in a minute. I suspect that this opinion will reverberate throughout the blogosphere and the mainstream media, with the reporting displaying various levels of accuracy. The question I suspect won’t get much play, though, is, what are the tax consequences of this decision?
The Twitters tell me that 80 years ago today, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, thus ending Prohibition.
Whatever you think about Prohibition, it’s probably worth noting the Pres. Grant was not a fan of its end. In fact, he addressed the end of Prohibition—and Utah’s role in ending it—at General Conference in 1934. Here’s an (annotated by me) excerpt of what he said:
Sometime in late 2003 or early 2004, Steve Evans told me I needed to check out his[fn1] website: rameumptom.blogspot.com. At the time, the nascent bloggernacle was so young that By Common Consent didn’t yet have a name (I think the name was voted on sometime during that first year). He may have also pointed me to Times & Seasons, or I may have found it linked on his blog. But I found T&S at approximately the same time.
Early in the Small Plates of Nephi, Ishmael and his family join Lehi and his family in the wilderness. In spite of their likely close proximity, though, we don’t know much about Ishmael.[fn2] Nephi and his brothers found favor in Ishmael’s sight. Although at various times Ishmael’s sons and daughters act for or against Nephi, we don’t have any sense about where Ishmael falls in the Laman & Lemuel/Lehi & Nephi continuum.
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.
Over at Keepaptichinin, Amy Tanner Theriot has a wonderful post talking about family associations, and providing some guidelines for how to put together a successful association. In the post, she mentions that family associations can qualify as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entities. At the mention of Code sections (and revenue rulings!), my ears perk up, and I thought I’d give a little more information about the tax side of such organizations. But before you read my post, you need to read Amy’s. Because everything I know about family associations I learned reading her post, then doing a little Westlaw research. Because of that, basically nothing I write here will mean much unless you’re familiar with what Amy wrote.
Yesterday, the Art Institute had a family program tied into its new exhibit, Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity. The Art Institute’s family programs are inevitably excellent, so we decided to bike down, look at the exhibit, and then let the kids make the related art. The museum’s about 6.5 miles from us on the Lakefront Trail and, even though there and back would be the longest ride my oldest had ever taken, we figured she could make it. So we loaded up, the oldest on her bike, the next on a tagalong behind me and the youngest on a bike seat on my wife’s bike. 6.5 miles turns out, though, to be a lot for a young child and, since I had to be back home to take our car to be serviced in the early afternoon, we decided on the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier instead. At 5.5 miles, it cut off two miles round-trip. We spent a couple hours playing at the Children’s Museum and, at 1:00, headed back to our bikes. As I was unlocking them, my second pointed to my rear tire, which was completely flat. I pumped it up quickly and we started to rush home, but a quarter mile later, it was clearly not going to hold enough air. So we stopped in some grass, let the girls play, I held my wife’s bike, and my wife started to remove my back tire. I had a pump and…
This chapter (understandably) overlaps significantly with the previous chapter, Gifts. These are, after all, discourses he delivered at various times, to various audiences, with common themes. I’m reading them separately, though, and different things hit me at different readings. So, like always, I won’t discuss everything Nibley focuses on (and I’ll try to not spend too much time on things I’ve discussed previously). With that out of the way, on to the chapter.
I could see them before I crossed Michigan Avenue into Grant Park. There were probably five of them, holding big yellow signs with blocky letters, Bible verses. It seemed out of place, fifty feet in front of the entrance to the Chicago Blues Festival, but maybe I just didn’t understand the logic behind it. I don’t remember the verses the signs promoted, and the picketers seemed nice enough, holding signs but not harassing the passersby, passersby who, like me, basically ignored them. Maybe they’d picked out verses of scripture with special applicability to fans of the blues; then again, maybe these were just generic holy protest signs.
Another confession: I had a really hard time with this chapter. And it’s not just because I read it sitting in an airport waiting for a plane that was delayed for an hour and a half. Rather, it’s because of the way Nibley speaks of the wealthy. Certain of his descriptions feel, to me, so laughably one-dimensional—so moustache-twirling, tying-the-heroine-to-the-tracks—that I find myself fighting both his prose and my instincts to not just dismiss his entire piece out of hand.
Now that I’ve read my first chapter of Approaching Zion, a couple more caveats before we get started. First, I’m not going to bother summarizing what Nibley said. Instead, I’m going to try to engage it, responding to ideas that engaged me, whether I agree or disagree. Second, I’m not going to try to engage with the full text; in Chapter 1, there were two things that really spoke to me, and one more that I’m going to mention and defer until a later installment. Feel free, in the comments, to engage with what I’ve engaged with, what I’ve said, or something else in the chapter that you feel needs to be responded to. With that, let’s go!
I have a confession to make: I’ve never read Hugh Nibley’s Approaching Zion. I’m serious. I mean, I bought it years ago, probably before my oldest daughter was born. I’ve lugged it through at least six or seven moves. And it’s sitting on my bookshelf, taking up valuable real estate. But, though I’ve nibbled here and there, I’ve never even read a complete chapter.
It seems an odd oversight, frankly: in Approaching Zion, Nibley describes what constitutes a Zion society, and what we need to do to establish such a Zion society; I’m deeply interested in how society and the law can promote social justice and a better world. So it seems like a natural fit, right?
As a child in the 80s, I remember often feeling a low-level dread. Not constant, not to the extent that it interfered with enjoying life, but the dread of a Cold War child that, any minute, the happy world I lived in might be destroyed in a hail of nuclear fire.[fn1] It didn’t have anything to do with my parents, who didn’t spend any significant amount of time talking about the risk of all-out war. And I don’t recall talking about it at school or at church. But it kind of underlay the culture, emerging not infrequently from the 6:00 news. And then, of course, in 1989, that fear began to crumble. Sadly, fear returned in 2001, and we (meaning, myopically, we in the United States) now live lives of heightened awareness of tragedy, awareness that a person with a bomb or a gun can emerge in the most unexpected places and shatter the peace that we enjoy. I don’t want to comment on the tragedy in Boston; like many people, I’ve watched it in impotent sadness on Twitter and other places on the web. I mourn for those who have been hurt or killed, who have lost friends and loved ones, but I don’t have anything helpful or insightful to bring to the table.[fn2] I do, though, have one request to Sacrament meeting speakers on Sunday: please don’t talk about the bombing. Or at least, please don’t talk about…
One issue that people seem to raise against extending priesthood to women is its effect on men. Men, the argument goes, will be less engaged in the Church if priesthood is not a male-only domain. Because this is a practical, rather than a normative, claim, it doesn’t call for a revelatory solution. Moreover, to the extent male engagement is a real problem, the problem continues even if and after the prophet receives a revelation making priesthood available to men and women. And if it’s a real problem, we need to deal with it. Keeping men engaged at the expense of women is not a justifiable goal, but keeping men engaged is. As Julie points out on another thread, we “need to consider how to keep a generation raised on ‘yours is a sacred duty . . .’ rhetoric active after they aren’t unique any more.” The good new is, I don’t think it would be that hard to continue male engagement even in a world where all members could hold the priesthood. I assume, of course, that it isn’t exclusivity in holding the priesthood that encourages male engagement; rather, it is the ability to exercise that priesthood by, among other things, serving in callings that demand the use of priesthood.[fn1] If I’m right in my assumption, the easy solution is this: smaller wards. In my Chicago ward, we’ve been blessed with very active, engaged members. But not a whole lot of them.…
Recently, the U.S. Tax Court issued an opinion of at least glancing interest to the Mormon community (and, for that matter, any tithe-paying religious community). The plaintiff in the case is the president of Compliance Innovations, Inc. He’s also a life-long Mormon who currently serves as a shift coordinator at the Manhattan temple and a stake scouting coordinator in his New Jersey stake. Also, George has incredible outstanding tax liabilities.
It’s a big day today—100 years ago, on February 3, 1913, Delaware ratified the 16th Amendment, meaning it had been ratified by the necessary 36 states. And, with the ratification of the 16th Amendment, the U.S. could constitutionally impose an income tax.
I know, I said a year and a half ago that I wasn’t going to see The Book of Mormon. But then it came to Chicago and, in spite of the fact that it is sold out through at least March, a friend set me up with a ticket. So I’ve now seen the show. I’m not going to review it, though. It’s already been widely reviewed, and frankly, I don’t have the musical theater chops to provide a credible review.
I met Tigre pretty soon after arriving in my second area. He was a solid man, all muscle but his midsection. As I got to know him, I learned that both his muscle and his gut were well-earned. The muscle because Tigre taught karate for a living, and owned his own studio. The gut? You have never seen such a mountain of rice, covered with an avalanche of beans, as this man ate for lunch.
Mid-December is creeping up on us, bringing with it finals and the end of another semester. This year, as a result in the change in missionary ages, mid-December may also herald a tidal wave of new missionaries. Growing up, I heard not-infrequent stories about missions. But I remember only the rarest stories of the MTC. So, To better prepare you for the MTC,1 here’s an MTC story. Merry Christmas! When I was in the MTC, we had three classes a day, for three to three-and-a-half hours per class. To break up the monotony and make sure missionaries had some minimal daily physical activity, we took a walk every day in our afternoon class. My district considered itself musically talented–when we sang hymns in class, we sang them in 3-part harmony. At some point during our two months in the MTC, we decided to take our act on the road. As we walked, we sang, Portuguese hymn books in hand. We practiced our language, our singing, and made the people we passed smile. Until one day, our afternoon teacher came in without his customary smile. He told us that someone had told him that singing during our walks was inappropriate (it disturbed others, maybe? or made them feel bad about themselves because they weren’t as talented as we were?) and to knock it off. That day on our walk, we hummed hymns in 3-part harmony.2
There is, I’ve been told, a Facebook meme going around, juxtaposing a decaying house and the San Diego temple to support the argument that churches should not be exempt from taxation.
And, like Facebook memes everywhere, this one is dumb. Dumb primarily because it is a tautology that doesn’t say anything. Because of course a tax-exempt organization does not pay taxes that a non-exempt individual pays. That’s pretty much the definition of tax exemption.
Of course, saying that a Facebook meme is dumb and tautological makes for a pretty short and boring post. Far more interesting, imho, is to take seriously the point that the people spreading the picture are trying to make, and complicating that rhetorical picture a little bit.