Author: Frank McIntyre

Clark Goble on deck.

We’re delighted to welcome Clark Goble back to T&S! Clark grew up in Canada in that part that appears like a strange looking foot extending south and east of Maine. There in the city of Halifax he watched the church grow from a small branch into numerous wards eventually even getting a temple. His father taught physics there which must have been addictive since both Clark and his brother studied physics as well. Clark always dreamt of going on a foreign mission and prayed that this would be so. He soon realized that God both had a sense of humor and that it was tied to overly literal interpretations of prayers when he was sent from Canada to Louisiana. Upon returning to BYU Clark decided he had a masochistic streak and studied mathematics, physics and philosophy until being informed by numerous letters that he had far too many credits to be allowed to continue at BYU. During this era Clark…

Entitled

lamanandlemuel

I very much enjoyed Elder Renlund’s comments on entitlement. First, because he made clear one of the reasons why we should be very conscientious about how we give help. It affects the receiver’s spiritual progression. Second, the King Benjamin-esque tie-in to all of us who, like any Church welfare recipient, are beggars before God. Lastly, because while he laid into bad attitudes, whining, and murmuring, his central story was about someone missing the sacrament. A story whose happy ending relied upon a saint telling the Branch President, one hopes charitably, that a priesthood holder, a deacon in this case, made a mistake in performing his calling. And a Branch President who took care to see that mistake corrected. Because people do make mistakes. I think there was an implicit lesson, secondary to the main one about the Sacrament and the Savior, that we can and should give leaders information to help them correct mistakes. We just need to do it…

Saul Callings

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Saturday Morning conference referenced how Samuel was unsure that Saul was the right man to lead Israel. With the benefits of hindsight, one indeed wonders about the choice. Saul, in the end, had some serious problems as King. Does God call people knowing that they will, to a significant degree, fail? Yes, I think he does. I think he does it all the time. Yet sometimes I think people see someone called to a calling and, if it does not work out well, they question if the calling was inspired. Now, I don’t think that all callings are perfect. But nor do I think that just because things don’t work out storybook perfect does it mean the calling was not inspired. And to layer it on, I think a calling can be inspired even if God knows the person will not accept it. I even think a calling can be inspired even if the person shouldn’t accept it. A calling, even…

 Small Group Dynamics

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Far and away, when I am in a small group and decisions need to be made, most people would prefer that someone else make them.  There are notable, and loud, exceptions.  Four year olds, for example, very much want to make decisions.  But for most  adults, I’ve found that the majority typically  prefer that someone else ponied up and decided where we go to eat or in what order things will occur.[1]  This is because, one presumes, they are not so concerned about the exact decision making them happy.  They are generally willing to go along with most reasonable things. Let me stop and remind you that this is my general experience.  Perhaps you live in a world of sharp elbows and loud demands.  Perhaps you teach fourth graders or lawyers or interact regularly in some other highly vocal and demanding group.  Or maybe you make lots of high stakes decisions on a regular basis where people care deeply about the…

Priors

Question_mark

In statistics, a popular approach is to think of the statistician as having a set of views (“priors” or “prior distributions”) that are based on past evidence and when new evidence comes in, one integrates that information in and forms a new set of beliefs (“update your priors”).  So, for example, if I think I am brilliant in math, a series of poor math test grades even after studying might convince me to reassess that belief.  Alternately, I could stick with my priors and treat the new evidence as flawed or not informative because I am mad or upset.  This is especially applicable on days when new, perhaps startling or emotional, information comes out and everyone, or at least a bunch of bloggers, jump in to say what they think is really going on.  In many cases I think they are largely working off their priors, rather than off the new information. In light of that, it is often best to avoid…

Whining at Moses

Moses Parts the Sea

Now that we’re up to Exodus in Sunday School,  I am reminded once again of how much murmuring and whining the Children of Israel do.  Clearly the major theme of Exodus is God’s power to save.  But packed in there is a pretty strong message that God’s people:

We’ve All Been Set Up

You have to turn and look.

We’ve all been set up for failure. Consider the plan: go to Earth and obey the commandments.  How likely is that to turn out well?  Add in that part with Adam, Eve, and the fruit and I think it is pretty clear that this was a set up to force us to… turn to God.  Failure makes us humble.  Repentance changes our hearts.  Which is the goal: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. So when someone complains about a standard being too high or that we are setting people up for failure by expecting things like chastity, honesty, modesty, tithing or whatever else.  Well, they may be right.  Failure, after all, was part of the plan. (this post owes debts to, but no has no claims on, Nathaniel’s post here and the fireside speaker in my ward last week).

Dell, Obedience, and Parachute Mishaps

or Sell!

Last week, as the PC market faced DOOM!, Dell had a potential buyer, Blackstone, back out.  While that was not particularly interesting to me, what happened next was.  Another investor, Oakmark Funds, sold their 24.5 million Dell shares.  To quote: A “potential acquirer with access to non-public information decided to end its quest to acquire Dell at a higher price. Since they had information we didn’t, we believed it was prudent to assume they might be right. So we sold our stock and will put the proceeds into other stocks that we are more confident are undervalued,” said Bill Nygren, co-portfolio manager of the Oakmark Fund… Blackstone, in their private dealings with Dell, likely saw things that Oakmark could not.  And what Blackstone saw freaked Blackstone out.  Oakmark took that as a signal that now was a good time to not own 1.4% of Dell. This is a great example of a person recognizing his own ignorance and then leveraging…

I’m a Mormon Easy Chair and I believe that women

Not an easy job.

… should not get ordained to the priesthood. I know that reasonable chairs can disagree, but as Frank’s easy chair, I know what to expect once women are ordained. Frank is going to spend a lot more time sitting on me. Probably asleep. Sure, it will start with a little story time to the kids, but the end is both obvious and predictable. Naptime. Admittedly, I have a steel reinforced frame and ample cushioning, but Frank is not a light guy. Nor, to put it frankly, is he getting any lighter as the years pass. So if you care about more than just people and consider all the world’s marvels, please don’t forget us — the oppressed easy chairs of the world. The downtrodden. Keep Frank off of me. And that will be a fantastic step forward for the community, and a cause to rejoice. Hi, I’m Frank’s easy chair and I have no idea what the Church should do…

Welcome Maren Mecham

We are delighted to welcome Maren Mecham as a guest for the next couple weeks.  Maren Mecham is a native Northern Virginian, earned her BFA from BYU and was a photographer for the church before moving to Palo Alto, CA, where she produced portraits and computer graphics. She has lived in the East, Northeast, Midwest, Intermountain West, California, Norway, Egypt and Turkey. She is married to a Middle East political scientist who is a professor in Vermont, but they temporarily live in Virginia while he is on sabbatical and is working in DC. She is raising 2 girls and 2 boys. Her personal blog is at http://thirtymarens.blogspot.com and her photography can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/by_maren/. Welcome!

Charity Free Riding

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As we all know, the gospel is overrun with economic doctrine.  On that note, I noticed a quote about free riding from President Monson (which I just saw at Mormon Times): “I am confident it is the intention of each member of the church to serve and to help those in need,” he said. “At baptism we covenanted to ‘bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.’ How many times has your heart been touched as you have witnessed the need of another? How often have you intended to be the one to help? And yet how often has day-to-day living interfered and you’ve left it for others to help, feeling that ‘Oh, surely someone will take care of that need.’” Under reasonable assumptions it is not hard to show that if people only give out of an altruistic desire to see others better off, and they have no personal gain (emotional or otherwise) from being the giver, than…

“Fathers do not mother”

Kaimi put up a sidebar link to a NYT piece on parenting. It had an interesting quote: “Fathers tend to do things differently, Dr. Kyle Pruett said, but not in ways that are worse for the children. Fathers do not mother, they father.”

President Monson wins the prize

President Thomas S. Monson

So Slate keeps track of who it considers the most powerful octogenarians and President Monson tops the list.  If ever there was a list where Mormons could shine that did not have to do with singing and dancing I guess it makes sense that it would be “powerful old men”.  To loosely paraphrase President Hinckley, isn’t it wonderful to have somebody in there with decades of experience who is not moved about by every wind of doctrine?

Royal Skousen’s 12 questions — The Critical Text Version

Last month we posted Royal Skousen’s discussion of his work on recovering the earliest version of the Book of Mormon, along with some updates.  Unfortunately, that post garnered some annoying formatting problems — mostly due to the new format T&S adopted this year.  We’re happy to now present to you mark III of Royal Skousen’s 12 questions interview.  Royal Skousen’s book, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, was published last month by Yale University Press and yes, you can order  it at Amazon.

12 Questions and a Book by Royal Skousen

5 years ago we published one of my favorite “12 Questions” posts, in which Royal Skousen discussed in some depth what he has learned from his extensive work on the earliest editions of the Book of Mormon.  His book, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, is being published in September by Yale University Press (and yes, you can order  it at Amazon right now).  To mark this milestone, Royal was kind enough to update his “12 questions” discussion, which we have posted below, for the benefit of those who did not catch it the first time.   Enjoy!

Morality Polling

Suppose you take a “wisdom of the crowds” approach to morality (not that you should). Well then what could be more informative than a poll telling you what actions are morally wrong and what aren’t? Enter Gallup’s recent poll… Tip: Adultery is still wrong. Polygamy also out.

Pew Facts

The Pew study has this awesome little database for comparing religious groups. Check it out.   Did you know 7% of Mormons are Hispanic and 22% are Democrat or lean Democrat?  And only 44% of Mormon adults are men?  We need affirmative action!!

YoutuBYU

You will all be delighted to know that youtube appears to be up and running on BYU campus again. Perhaps in part thanks to this. UPDATE:  It’s blocked again.

DNA Delight

A recent DNA study has gotten some attention, both on our sidebar and in a post by J. Nelson-Seawright at By Common Consent. The Mormon question that inevitably comes up from such a study is does it cast any light on the question of whether Lehi really landed in the Americas long ago? J. Nelson-Seawright discusses some possible ramifications if the study (or ones like it) do matter. Let me make clear that, for those who think Lehi landed in an already populated America, this study is basically irrelevant.

Optimal Tithing

Suppose that we had a base 8 system instead of base 10, perhaps because, in this hypothetical world, we had 8 fingers rather than 10. Would we pay 1/8 our increase, or do you think it would still be one tenth? Or, to reverse causality, what are the chances we have ten fingers so that we’d develop a base 10 system that would make it easier to count out our tithing?

General Conference redux

Perhaps the Thursday following General Conference should be declared some sort of Mormon holiday, as that is when written transcripts of the sessions are due out.  Here’s the link where they should show up sometime today.  Check it out if you are looking to catch that talk you didn’t quite stay awake for (or your kids were jumping on your head during).   Elder Oaks’ talk was a particular hit with me, but I think there were some things in Elder Bednar’s talk that I’d like to take another look at.  

BYU Church History Symposium, Feb 27th

Church Historian Marlin K. Jensen and Asst. Church Historian Richard E. Turley Jr. will be among the many speakers at this year’s BYU Church History Symposium.  The event is free, open to the public, and requires no registration.   More information can be found at the symposium web page.   Full announcement below.