Author: Greg Call

Did Brigham hate your 501’s?

Here’s the lead from an article in today’s New York Times: “IN the 1830’s, when men’s pants were first tailored with buttons visible down the front of the fly, the Mormon leader Brigham Young discouraged the population from wearing them, calling them ‘fornication pants.’”

RSR reviews collected

With four excellent reviews here on T&S, as well as other discussions around the bloggernacle, you may think you’re covered as far as initial responses to Rough Stone Rolling.

Supplementing Angels

A not-so-hypothetical from a reader: Your daughter’s AP English class is using Tony Kushner’s Angels in America as a central part of a semester’s curriculum. You are friends with the teacher and would feel comfortable suggesting that she supplement the Angels module with another book or short story dealing with Mormonism from a different, hopefully “insider,” perspective. What work of Mormon literature would you suggest?

Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, published last year, is not so much a memoir or autobiography, but rather a series of snapshots, each drenched in cultural references, that together create a approximation of Mr. Zimmerman’s character. One of those snapshots gives us Dylan living in an apartment in Greenwich Village owned by a mysterious autodidact named Ray. It’s 1960, Dylan is new to New York, and unknown to the burgeoning folk scene in New York. He hasn’t yet written his first song, but he knows about Joseph Smith and the Adam-God theory.

12 (or so) Questions for Kathleen Flake

Back in November, we solicited questions for Kathleen Flake, author of the terrific book The Politics of American Religious Identity (2004). We are now pleased to present her responses. Thanks Professor Flake! 1. How have you negotiated the tension between focusing on Mormon studies versus the broader issues within your discipline? How have your faith and your interest in Mormon studies affected your career at Vanderbilt, if at all? My focus has not been on Mormonism as an end in itself. Rather, I have experimented with using Mormonism as a tool to understand the “broader issues.”

“Let us walk through the door”

In honor of this holy day, I offer a favorite poem: “Seven Stanzas for Easter.” John Updike wrote it in 1960 as a university student, as I understand, and published it in a periodical called The Lutheran. ___ Make no mistake: if He rose at all it was as His body; if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle, the Church will fall.

Dealing with Abuse in the Church

Over the last few years, there has been a barrage of accusations, civil suits, and settlements involving child sex abuse that have crippled Catholic dioceses all over the country, both financially and spiritually. Our Church has experienced the same types of issues, but, so far, on a much smaller scale.

A Memory of Professor Farnsworth

Yesterday I received an email announcing that my Contracts professor, E. Allan Farnsworth, had passed away. He was a genuinely kind person and a prolific scholar, and a generation of lawyers has relied on his treatise to get through consideration, the parol evidence rule, and the statute of frauds. I’ll always remember him, though, for scaring the heck out of me as a first year.

Do Mormons Care About Modern Architecture?

Last month’s issue of Dwell, a shelter/design magazine, featured a cover story about a gorgeous modernist home in Salt Lake City’s Emigration Canyon (pictured below). I hadn’t heard much about modernism in Utah, so I was excited to see how the writer would frame the story and contextualize her account of the home. She took the easy way out, for the most part.

Flake on the Crisis of 1905 and the Re-Orientation of Mormonism

We are soon approaching the year when we’ll celebrate the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s birth. As we do so, we should also reflect back on the 100th anniversary of his birth, and the legacy of that extraordinarily chaotic period. In The Politics of American Religious Identity, Kathleen Flake vividly illustrates that in 1904 and 1905, the Church was in the midst of deep and grave crisis.

Can a Good Mormon be a Meritocrat?

I’m not a big fan of much of David Brooks’s writings, as he is often too Manichean to be useful (here’s a good parody). But in the opening pages of Bobos in Paradise, Brooks does a nice job of describing the shift in American culture from a class structure based on lineage or money to one based on education and achievement.

Sunday with Prophet Bob

Last night, after helping get the kids to bed, I went to a Bob Dylan concert. I’ve never been to a rock concert on a Sunday before, but I made an exception for Dylan. I’ve had to pass up seeing him on several other prior occasions because of finals, work, or because the show was on a Sunday. But I just couldn’t bring myself to miss him again. I don’t regret it.

Stanford Regrets Adding Insult to Injury

I don’t know how I missed this, but apparently during halftime of last week’s Stanford-BYU game, the legenday Stanford Band’s halftime act included five dancers wearing wedding veils — a not-so-subtle dig at the opposing school’s founder. Not to worry, though, the Stanford athletic director issued an apology Monday.

Brigham Young, Frontiersman

In 1940, 20th Century Fox released Brigham Young, an extravagant epic starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, a 29-year-old Vincent Price (as Joseph Smith), and Dean Jagger as the title character. The film’s world premiere was in Salt Lake City, and the studio spared no expense in promoting the film. The stars were flown into Salt Lake, took part in a parade down Main Street, and dined with President Heber J. Grant in the Lion House. The film premiered simultaneously in seven theatres in Salt Lake — unheard of at the time — and each was filled to capacity. When released to the rest of the nation, the title was changed to Brigham Young, Frontiersman, and it did fairly well at the box office. Last year, the film was released for the first time on DVD, with a great commentary by BYU professor James D’Arc, and other interesting features. I watched it last night. There are two distinct threads to the…

Ivan Karamazov Rebutted

I rarely devote much time to the poetry in the New Yorker. Sad to say, if I don’t recognize the poet’s name or the subject matter doesn’t immediately draw me in, I move on. But this poem from last week’s issue grabbed my attention, and I thought it worth sharing. It was written by Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz, who passed away three weeks ago. If there is no God, Not everything is permitted to man. He is still his brother’s keeper And is not permitted to sadden his brother, By saying that there is no God. –Czeslaw Milosz (Translated, from the Polish, by the author and Robert Hass)

12 Questions for Rodney Smith, part two

Here is the second half of President Smith’s responses to your questions (for part one, click here). We thank him for his participation and extend our best wishes to both him and Southern Virginia University. 7. If the Church offered to take over SVU and turn it into BYU-Virginia, would the trustees go for it? Or does the institution value its independence from the Church and wish to maintain that independence?

12 Questions for Rodney Smith, part one

We are pleased to present the first half of our 12 Questions for President Rodney Smith of Southern Virginia University (for part two, click here). For more information on President Smith and SVU, click here. 1. What were the driving forces behind the creation of SVU? Truthfully, SVU was created as a matter of inspiration, not to the church or its leaders but to a few very able and faithful members of the church, who saw the need for a university in the LDS tradition in the East. I encourage you to visit campus and you will come to better understand why I can say this without hesitation. Each day I have been here I have witnessed a miracle that responds to a very real challenge. This may sound a bit unlawyerly of me to speak in this manner, but it is true.

Movies About the Afterlife

There have been some particularly heavy discussions here lately, so I thought I’d offer up something ultralight. Now I like books as much as the next person, but I’m not one of you bring-a-book-on-a-date-so-I-have-something-to-read-while-she’s-powdering-her-nose guys. I will, however, admit to viewing some 37 movies in the last six months (according to my Netflix records). Anyway, I was ruminating this morning about the best movies about the afterlife.

Cutting Out Middle Management?

The Deseret News reports a “profound change” coming to Church administration. Beyond the substance of the changes, I find it somewhat interesting that this article centers on statements from a non-PR Church employee speaking at the Sunstone Symposium. Is this more evidence that the early-90s chill is thawing?

Happy Birthday Kaimipono!

Our omni-benevolent admin and blogger extraordinaire, the “seeker after righteousness,” turns 30 today. All the best, Kaimi. I hope you get some time today with Mardell, Sullivan, Kace and Indigo and not just Cravath, Swaine and Moore.