Author: Kaimi Wenger

We have, ahem, lifted the restriction on commenting about socialism

And I’ll bet you didn’t even know that it was there. But it was — inadvertently –for just under a month. Here’s why: We got spammed about a month ago, with a glut of comments advertising web sites that sell drugs. (Mostly, the kind of drugs Gordon previously discussed here). There were a whole bunch of web sites listed, many of which included the word “Cialis” (which is the name of one of the drugs advertised). Rather than individually block a whole bunch of web sites (the names were all along the lines of free-cialis.com or get-cialis.com or the like), I set the blacklist to automatically block any comment with the word cialis in it. I mean, what legitimate commenter would want to put that drug name in a comment anyway, right? And there were no complaints (this is not that unusual of an event; we update our blacklist often to keep out spammers), until last week. A perfectly innocent…

Effects of the Ex-Mormon Lunatic Fringe

A few weeks ago, Jeff Lindsay posted a humorous discussion of the “Exmo” computer virus that turns otherwise sane people into spiteful, obsessive anti-Mormons. In the comments on his blog, many ex-Mormons offered thoughtful and reasonable discussion, and objected (politely but firmly) to his apparent characterization of all ex-Mormons. This in turn led to a revision, where Lindsay suggested that perhaps a better title would be the “Rare Former Mormon Who Becomes a Raving Anti-Mormon Quite Unlike Most Ex-Mormons Who Are Really Nice and Intelligent People virus.” I agree with the comments on Jeff’s blog, to the extent that they demonstrate that many former church members are reasonable, nice, intelligent, and happy people. I have friends who are former church members; we’ve got some very nice blog commenters who are former members, and at least one very nice commenter who may be in the process of leaving the church. It is clear to me that many former members are decent…

Zelph Examined

John Hatch has a not-to-be-missed examination of Zelph over at By Common Consent. (For those not familiar with Zelph, the very short version is that Joseph Smith, on finding a burial mound in Illinois, stated that the remains were of Zelph, a great Nephite general, and scholars, critics, and apologists have been writing reams on Zelph ever since). New DNA evidence makes Zelph look potentially problematic. John concludes that there are five reasonable possibilities for interpreting the Zelph story. His post is very interesting, and highlights some of the tensions and questions relating to Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling, modern scientific theories, and apologist work attempting to reconcile the two.

LDS-themed Bloggers Need Not Tolerate Anti-Mormon Google Ads

Jeff Lindsay has the scoop: When I first started this blog at Blogger.com, I was surprised to see ads for anti-Mormon sites appearing at the top of my page. I sent a complaint in to technical support. Wonderfully, they listened and upgraded my account to an ad-free blog. I have noticed some other LDS folks with blogs have anti-Mormon ads showing up. Don’t settle for that kind of abuse, brothers and sisters. It’s a route that Orson’s Telly (current ad: “Out of Mormonism: Tools for Reaching LDS Mormons with the True Christian Gospel”), By Steve’s Consent (recently graced with “Are Mormon Beliefs Biblical?”) might consider taking. Plus (though I haven’t noticed anti-Mormon ads on them), it’s something that other blogspot users like Grasshopper, Demosthenes, the Brothers Bell, and Motley Vision might want to keep in mind, should anti-Mormon ads start (or continue, as the case may be) appearing on their blogs.

Mormonism and Quetzalcoatl in Court

While we’re on the topic of court decisions about the church, it’s always fun to mention the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Alvarado v. City of San Jose, 94 F. 3d 1223 (1996). The plaintiffs in that case sought to enjoin the installation (and later, force the removal) of a Quetzalcoatl statue, on the grounds that, inter alia, it violated the California Constitution because it promoted Mormon beliefs. The court dismissed the claim, noting: While Mormons are clearly a recognized religious group, the evidence presented by the plaintiffs does not support a First Amendment argument. The writings suggest that, according to certain Mormons, ancient worshippers of Quetzalcoatl were in fact worshipping Christ. Historically, Mormon missionaries taught that Christ had revealed himself to native Mesoamericans in the form of Quetzalcoatl or the Plumed Serpent long before he appeared to man in the human form known to Christians. This attribution of Christian or Christ-like qualities to ancient religious symbols and practices does not,…

Can a Good Mormon have a Drinking Game Named After Him?

I just noticed that Dana Stevens at Slate.com has created a set of rules for the Ken Jennings Jeopardy drinking game. (Scroll down, it’s the second item on the linked page). Among the rules: 1) If KenJen misses a question, everybody drinks once. If one of his opponents gets that same question right, drink again. 2) If KenJen misses a Daily Double, drink twice. . . Everybody drinks once whenever: a) Alex Trebek mentions Ken’s affiliation with the Mormon church . . . This creates some fun questions. Can Ken get in trouble for any drinking that he inspires? (Does this create a religious duty not to answer wrongly?) And does anyone else think it’s kind of strange to have a drinking game inspired by a Mormon? On the other hand (given that we can’t exactly support Ken in this particular manner), perhaps we need to adapt the idea. It could become the LDS KenJen Ice-Cream game, or perhaps the…

A Guest Blogger

We’re very excited to welcome our latest guest blogger: Ben S. Ben is a Ph.D. student in near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, with a specialization in Comparative Semitics. (What is that? Ben explains on his web site, “Comparative Semitics is a broad language approach to the Near East. That is, I focus on no particular geographical region or time period. I study the major languages from each, more as a philologer than a linguist.”). Ben teaches institute in Chicago, sometimes writes for FAIR, and has his own moderately quirky web site which includes some very useful church resources. Ben has been a frequent commenter here, and his comments are uniformly good. We’re looking forward to reading his posts.

Utah and Massachusetts

I’ve noticed a few interesting statements linking the two states lately. The Boston Globe notes that: In Massachusetts, 16 percent of poll respondents said that they belong to “no religion,” only slightly above the national average of 14 percent (and below Utah’s 17 per cent). (Link via Philocrites). Meanwhile, Danithew notes John Kerry’s recent statement of how Mormonism is mainstream (and how that affects Massachusetts): “I think that over the course of this convention, people are going to see a Massachusetts that’s very much like America,” he said. “It’s interesting: the last four governors of our state have all been Republicans. We now have a Mormon Republican who originally came from Utah. Our state is as mainstream as any.” So the masses of marauding Mormons have made Massacusetts more mainstream? (How’s that, alliteration-haters?). Is this the beginning of a trend? (And did it start with sweet Sunstone symposiasts who schlep in from sunny Swampscott, snickering at silly syllogisms?). Will we…

My False Dichotomy is Better than Your False Dichotomy

Over at Sons of Mosiah, Bob Caswell criticizes the popular labeling dichotomy of “Chapel Mormons versus Internet Mormons.” (Which, by the way, is the topic of an upcoming Sunstone symposium panel reputed to include at least one dazzlingly brilliant bloggernacker). To replace that outmoded framework, Bob suggests using his own recently invented dichotomy: Internet Mormons and Magazine Mormons. So, are you an Internet Mormon? Are you a Magazine Mormon? Do you think Bob is nuts to give us yet another useless dichotomy? Weigh in over at SOM, where the conversation has been quite interesting.

Meat

The baptismal interview was proceeding smoothly. “Do you drink coffee?” asked Elder Jones. “I quit,” replied Janey with a smile. “Alcohol?” “No, I don’t.” “Do you use tobacco?” “I haven’t done that for years.” “Do you use any illegal drugs?” “Hmm, not since Monday — just kidding. No, I don’t.” “Okay, just one more Word of Wisdom question. Do you eat meat sparingly, and only in time of winter or famine?”

Highway Bloggery

“Highway bloggery” is just another way of saying “Around the Blogs” since the same title gets old after a while. (It does sound vaguely immoral, but I’ll stick with it rather than repeat myself yet again in a title.) So: -Jan Lynn puts her own unique spin on foreordination, predestination, and why God lets bad things happen: It’s “Puppets in the Hands of a Sociopathic God.” -Jeff Lindsay continues to sparkle, with a post titled “Warning: EXMO Virus alert.” Among the effects of this nefarious computer virus are “Alteration of logic processing, such that the writings of Ed Decker appear to be logically sound” and “Large quantities of spam sent to everyone in the address book.” Check out Jeff’s site for information on how to protect your computer from this virus. -Aaron Brown is at it again, with a post about wacky mission companions. -Celibate JL has a funny, lengthy serialization of her latest relationship. Has she found “the one”?…

Elder Maxwell

Last General Conference, Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s talk was a collection of friendly reminiscences. Last night, the church’s wordsmith passed away. The leader who provided us with the wonderful imagery of straightening deck chairs on the Titanic, and who always seemed to spin off gems like “If we entertain temptations, soon they begin entertaining us!”, is now smithing words with the smith of worlds. We’ll certainly miss him here on Earth.

Humanitarian Crisis

In 1994, to the everlasting shame of the Clinton administration and the then-Democratic congress (which would be replaced later that year), the United States stood by and watched as three-quarters of a million people were killed during a three-month period in Rwanda. After the fact, the whole world was willing to call this an act of genocide, but while the killing was actually taking place, we did nothing to stop it. A similar tragedy is taking place today, a decade later, in the Darfur region of Sudan. It is being brilliantly documented by New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof, whose columns focus on individuals who have suffered horribly, being displaced, raped, and mutilated, watching their families killed. The most optimistic statistics are that 30,000 people have been killed and a million displaced thus far, and that by year-end, an additional 300,000 will have been killed. More pessimistic statistics suggest up to a million dead by year-end. President Bush, understandably wary…

A Quick, Technical Post to Help Our Friends the Jews

I first noticed through Eric Stone’s blog that some website owners are now setting up links intended to influence search engines in a particular positive way: Previously, the top search engine result for the word Jew was an anti-Semitic site. This unfortunate result was due to search engine technology, which uses algorithms that count the number of links from web sites based on the word searched for (see explanation). Because search engines use these algorithms, results can be changed if enough site owners create links to different targets. (Indeed, results for searches for “Jew” are already changing; I checked today, and the anti-Semitic site had fallen to #2). Here at Times and Seasons, we want to do our part to help combat hatred of the Jews. I consider many Jewish people to be friends. So we’re throwing the weight of our own humble little Pagerank-6 site behind the deserving movement to make searches for Jew go somewhere other than to…

The Glory of Defeat?

I know I’m risking starting yet another SSM war, but I wanted to point out an interesting op-ed in today’s New York Times. Thomas Frank writes that the constitutional amendment movement was designed to fail: They went with a constitutional amendment, the one method where failure was absolutely guaranteed — along with front-page coverage. Then again, what culture war offensive isn’t doomed to failure from the start? Indeed, the inevitability of defeat seems to be a critical element of the melodrama, on issues from school prayer to evolution and even abortion. Failure on the cultural front serves to magnify the outrage felt by conservative true believers; it mobilizes the base. Failure sharpens the distinctions between conservatives and liberals. Failure allows for endless grandstanding without any real-world consequences that might upset more moderate Republicans or the party’s all-important corporate wing. You might even say that grand and garish defeat — especially if accompanied by the ridicule of the sophisticated — is…

Times and Seasons: Disaster Compliant

A quick administrative note here. We’ve had occasional technical difficulties, though nothing too debilitating so far. Still, I was concerned that a technical problem could potentially bring the site down, and there would be no way to notify anyone as to what was going on. Our host had a brief service disconnection on Sunday — about an hour, as far as I could tell — and I was a little worried at the time, wondering how long it would last, and how to notify readers about what was going on. It belatedly occurred to me that our original blogspot.com location could be put to a good use. Since the move to timesandseasons.org, waaaay back in November, we had not used this blogspot site for anything. (It did/does serve as an interesting archive — and take a look at the early sidebar! — but that’s about it). So, as of today, I’m designating that location, www.timesandseasons.blogspot.com , as a technical/disaster back-up…

Recent Happenings in the Bloggernacle

The bloggernacle is buzzing. Over at Wump Blog, frequent commenter and bloggernacle evaluator Danithew (also our resident chupa-cabra specialist) has created a list of the top ten Mormon blogs. (Full disclosure: His assessment is that T & S is number one; and yes, I should really be trying for a tone of false modesty here, but I don’t know if I could pull it off). Meanwhile, Danithew’s ranking is very interesting and has kicked off some debate over in his comments. Who was included? Who was omitted? Were there any egregious slights? Take a look at who the top ten are, and then tell the chupa-cabra expert your thoughts! Meanwhile, Jeff Lindsay at Mormanity (unranked: controversial? you decide) has an interesting post up about an ancient manuscript called the Narrative of Zosimus, and its parallels to the Book of Mormon. Also, Unrandom Thoughts (unranked and protested: controversial? you decide) has some interesting statistics about baptisms as a percent of membership.…

It’s not easy being wearing green

Over the the-blog-that-dare-not-speak-its-name, Aaron B. has some interesting observations about the (lack of) righteousness of green-wearing missionaries. Straight from the mouth of his mission president, we have it: Elders who wore dark pants were “dignos de ser representantes de Cristo.” [Translator’s note: This means “worthy to be representatives of Christ”]. Elders who wore green pants were most definitely NOT “dignos de ser representantes de Cristo.” The moral dividing line between the colors was completely black and white (green). . . . We got treated to a fire and brimstone lecture (I exaggerate, but not by much) meant to inculcate the strongest of taboos regarding the color green. You could’ve been forgiven for thinking that Christ himself was offended at the color. I’m shocked that I heard this rule as late as I did, and I can’t believe my mission president was so callous as not to tell me this crucial law of heaven. Had I heard this earlier, I might…

Church Growth in Latin America

“Clutching the Book of Mormon and dressed in a white starched shirt and neatly pressed charcoal colored slacks, Willy Guzman walked across the cracked sidewalks of Zona 6 in Guatemala City to the shiny, white church that rises above the modest and mostly shanty flats of the neighborhood. As it neared 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning, the streets were bustling with men dressed in Western-style suits and women in skirt suits pushing baby strollers, all making their way towards the church. ‘Everyone walks to church,’ Guzman explained, ‘so as not to make anyone work on this day of worship.’” Sound like a paragraph or two from the church news? Nope — it’s the lead-in to a very nice article on MSNBC, titled “Mormon Conversions Surge in Latin America.”

Limits of the Law of Chastity

Wendy’s comment in the latest SSM thread provoked an interesting discussion between my wife and I yesterday. Wendy wrote: Is same-sex kissing a sin? What about same-sex flirting and dating? Can a same-sex couple live together, love each other, come to church holding hands and sit together in the chapel, hold callings and be okay church-wise, as long as they don’t have sex? This comment relates to the broader issue: What exactly does the law of chastity prohibit?

Still More “Around the Blogs”

Jeff Lindsay is up to it again, explaining about the use of occult symbols (or are they? cue scary music) in LDS temples. (Next up: Do church members really sacrifice goats inside the temple? Or is that only done in stake centers?). Mormon Wasp has some interesting history about church statements on government regulation of marriage. There are more statements than you thought, and they make fun reading. Finally, the unsinkable Aaron Brown has a new post up at BCC. The title: “More MTC Antics.” Need I say more?

The Nature of Satan, as Explained by a Seven Year Old

Seven-year-old: Satan doesn’t have a body. Me: That’s right. 7-YO: So he’s a Spirit. Me: Yes. 7-YO (getting more excited): That’s kind of like a ghost. Me: Yep. 7-YO (who has been playing a lot of pac-man lately) (very excited): So if you eat a power pill, then Satan turns blue, and then you can EAT HIM! Me: (trying very hard not to laugh) Umm, not quite . . .

Around the Blogs, July 7

I’ve noticed a few items recently: The Baron has a series of posts explaining why you don’t really have to burn all of your Metallica CD’s (or tapes, as the case may be) to prove that you’re a good Mormon. Can Mormons really listen to (gasp!) “heavy metal”? Read the Baron’s post on “Evil Music” to decide. Also, Jeff Lindsay is on a roll. First, he notes a recent announcement by that well-known group, Saints Alive Total Anticult Network about a surprising (?) new cult. Then, he delves into a subject near to my own heart — the threat to society caused by lawyers. (Though no mention is made of the danger from lawyers who listen to heavy metal). Demosthenes wonders if there are theological problems with the idea of space colonization (which Adam discussed earlier here at T & S). In particular, he wonders if LDS scriptures relating to the celestial glory of Earth suggest that we shouldn’t just…

Welcome to SLTrib Readers

Hello, readers of the Salt Lake Tribune. You’re probably here because of Peggy Fletcher Stack’s recent story. Dan Burk’s original post is more than a week old, so it’s in our archives rather than the main page. CLICK HERE to go to that post. Feel free to look around, to read over other posts, and to make comments about the posts. Please bear in mind that the blog’s Comment Policies prohibit comments that personally attack or insult other commenters. Welcome, and we hope you enjoy the blog!

Oman as Evidence of the Book of Mormon

No, not Nate Oman or David Oman McKay. I’m talking about the country of Oman — in fact, the entire Arabian peninsula. Jeff Lindsay explains over at Mormanity: Some of these photos help demonstrate the plausibility of the place Bountiful in First Nephi, said to be due east of Nahom/Nehhem, which puts Bountiful on Oman. Remember, it’s a place the anti-Mormons have said simply couldn’t be there. (They also denied the possibility of the River Laman in the Valley of Lemuel, and now we’ve got photos of an entirely plausible candidate for that, thanks to the Nephi Project.) Does Oman provide evidence of the Book of Mormon? Check out Lindsay’s site and decide for yourself!

No Rest for the Wicked?

I’ve always thought that one of the more interesting scriptures is the verse in Isaiah that states, Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! After all, the somewhat humorous way to read this is: If you’re going to be an alcoholic, sleep in.