Author: Kaimi Wenger

The “War on Porn”

A recent article about the Justice Department committing new resources to prosecute a “war on porn” has started lots of discussion in the blogosphere. (See here, here, here). Many people think that setting up an office with 32 prosecutors, plus assorted investigators and FBI agents, is a misguided use of resources, given current budget deficits and the ongiong war in Iraq. And this isn’t child porn we’re talking about — some of the targets of the new investigation include soft-core cable programs on HBO, and adult movies offered at hotels on pay-per-view. What should we think of this effort, as church members? I’m a bit conflicted. Porn is clearly a problem; it is clearly a bad thing; and I hate to go on the record as being in favor of porn. On the other hand, I’m skeptical of laws telling people that they can’t voluntarily watch adult movies. (Child porn is a completely different issue — those laws should definitely…

Post of the Month Winner for March

The secret panel has convened, the judges have decided, the votes are in, and the Post of the Month for March 2004 is Nate Oman, How Mormons Became White, which narrowly beat out Julie Smith’s Why We Doze in Sunday School for the most points. Overall, I think that the event was a great success. There were a number of excellent posts nominated, and the whole process got me (and hopefully many others) to read back over and examine some of the very interesting posts of the last month. I had a lot of fun. Congratulations again Nate (I’ll be in touch about your prize), and I hope to hear from everyone again at the end of April.

Revelation, Regularity, and Monotony

In a few days, we will have the privilege of hearing from our leaders in General Conference. And they will discuss . . . well, we can’t say for sure, but it’s a pretty good bet that they will mostly discuss the same things that were talked about at the last General Conference. (Though Russell may think otherwise). Every month we also get the Ensign. It is extolled as the words of the living prophets. And every month, it seems to repeat, more or less, many of the same messages and ideas as it did last month, or the month before. This can be embarassing to us as church members. We eagerly explain to our non-member friends that we have a living prophet who tells us what God is saying. The inevitable question is then, “What has he prophesied lately?” And the letdown answer is, “Well, um, we need to pray, read the scriptures, and do our home teaching.” Are…

Under-rated Hymns

In the chorister’s thread, some discussion has come up (okay, it’s been mostly me) about under-rated hymns. I think that this is an interesting enough subject to deserve its own thread.

Notes from around the Bloggernacle Choir

Now that we may have an idea of what to call the Mormon blogosphere (it seems like many people are favoring “Bloggernacle Choir“), let’s mention some posts I found interesting: -Jeremy has a great post over at Orson’s Telescope discussing 1970’s antifeminist literature. (Key quote: “You must first dispense with any air of strength and ability, of competence and fearlessness or efficiency and acquire instead an air of frail dependency upon men to take care of you.”). -Bob Caswell explores the weighty issue of missionary work that consciously avoids unfavored ethnic groups. -At BCC, Aaron Brown wonders if we don’t talk too much about Satan. -Kim Siever discusses the idea of baptism washing away our sins. -Uber-commenter Clark Goble discusses the idea of creation ex nihilo. -Finally, Sci over at the Metaphysical Elders discusses whether the power of prayer could be shown through empirical testing. My suggestion: We could all try this out by praying for the comments function at…

The Nameless Mormon Blogosphere

The Revealer, a religion blog affiliated with NYU and the Pew Trusts, notes that while the Jewish and Catholic blogospheres have their own names (jBlog and St. Blog’s Parish, respectively) the Mormon blogosphere lacks any sort of nifty moniker. Such a deplorable situation clearly cannot be allowed to continue! So, what exactly should we call the LDS blogosphere, which is getting rather large, interesting, and multifacted? (See our sidebar for some links). Here are a few ideas of mine: The Blog of Mormons Blogham Young University Salt Blog City Latter-Day Blogs LDB’s (?) My personal favorite is Latter-Day Blogs. It seems like the least unwieldy, while still sufficiently descriptive. What do T & S readers think? Any opinions on these options, and does anyone have any better ideas?

Kibitzing about Kibbutzim

A recent story suggests that Israel’s Kibbutzim — a widespread form of communal settlement — may be moving towards a more capitalist model. (Link via David Bernstein). As Mormons, this is an interesting development. Scholars have pointed out that there are some similarities between Israeli communal groups and early LDS consecration. The decline of the kibbutz may be similar to the decline of consecration. Of course, members who want to live more of the law of consecration today may still decide that they want to do less kibitzing and more kibbutzing.

Around the blogs: Karen Hall discusses gender discrimination

In a very interesting post up at By Common Consent, Karen Hall takes on the issue of gender discrimination in the church. She writes: My concern is the insinuation that women are powerless to affect change in the church. I simply don’t think that is true, and that we have every obligation to use our time, talents, and means to improve and build the church. Think these situations are isolated? How much attention is payed to the scouts vs. the young women in your ward? Think about the jokes about the frivolousness of Relief Society. I think the relevant question is how do we respond to the numerous cuts, insinuations, and “bone-headed” remarks that we are sooner or later exposed to. I think we have four options. 1) Over time we start to believe the message that women’s experiences in the church are less valuable than men’s. (Sadly, a common reaction.) 2) We “turn the other cheek” recognizing the ridiculousness…

If You Could Hie To Kolob – Lyrics

One of the recurring internet searches (on search engines such as Google) that brings people to this site is “If You Could Hie to Kolob Lyrics.” We get hits from variations of that search at least three or four times per week. So, in an effort to respond to this need and serve our readers, who apparently want to find these lyrics, here they are:

Political Leanings

Steve Evans and Mathew Parke recently set up a new blog for discussing LDS thought from a liberal perspective. I hope to weigh there as well sometimes. In the inaugural substantive post, Steve made the interesting observation that even liberal Mormons are pretty conservative in general. Using the imperfect indicator of the online Political Compass test, Steve and I both turned out to be more-or-less left-leaning centrists (as did Steve’s wife Sumer). I’m curious as to how our group of readers places on the spectrum (I’ve seen Russell’s score somewhere on his blog, but I don’t know anyone else’s). And so I invite T & S readers to post their own scores as comments to this thread. A tally will be kept.

If you happen to be in California this weekend . . .

The Miller-Eccles Group has a speaker coming that sounds quite interesting. March 13, 2004 Speaker: Prof. Karen Torjeson Subject: LDS and their place in the Mosaic of Early Christian Belief-and-Why Claremont Graduate University Wants to Establish a Chair of Mormon Studies Time: 7:30 p.m. You will enjoy a riveting a stimulating presentation on comparisons and contrasts of Latter-day Saint doctrine and teachings with early Christianity, particularly with respect to the Godhead and Christology; the place of Mormonism in the mosaic of Christian belief and practices; Claremont Graduate University’s relationship to the Dead Sea Scrolls (and any connection to BYU’s scroll and manuscript preservation and digitization efforts); Why Claremont is interested in establishing a Chair for Mormon Studies (what is there about Mormonism that is worthy of study by the wider academic community). I omitted the location from this blog post to save it from spam-bots, because it appears to be a private home. Interested readers should go to the the…

The Progression and Perfection of God

I’ve been thinking recently about how to reconcile the two ideas of the perfection of God and the principle of eternal progression. We read that God is perfect; and therefore we may think that he has reached some end point or finish line in his progression. At the same time, we read that as God is now, man may become, and we are told that our exaltation will involve eternal progression; these two ideas, read together, suggest that God continues to progress. (Query: Does this refer to the Father? The Son? Both? Since we believe that the God we generally deal with is Jesus, this post will relate mostly to Jesus in his role as God, but many parts can apply to both). How can we reconcile the ideas of a perfect God and a God who continues to progress? One potential resolution that I like is to suggest that God has perfected himself as an individual, and is now…

State v. Bell and Changes to Marriage

Bob Herbert’s New York Times column cites to an 1872 Tennessee case that upheld a law prohibiting interracial marriage. See State v. Bell, 66 Tenn. 9. The Tennessee Court wrote that: Extending the rule to the width asked for by the defendant, and we might have in Tennessee the father living with his daughter, the son with the mother, the brother with the sister, in lawful wedlock, because they had formed such relations in a State or country where they were not prohibited. The Turk or Mohammedan, with his numerous wives, may establish his harem at the doors of the capitol, and we are without remedy. The Court, of course, was wrong. Interracial marriage statutes were held unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia in 1967, and none of the parade-of-horribles scenarios has come to pass in the forty years since. The difference between the threatened result in that case and the actual result when Loving was decided is instructive. The court…

Lying to Our Children

When I arrived home from work yesterday, my wife calmly informed me that she had just lied to our son. Sullivan, our oldest, has many quirky preferences (like a lot of other children, I believe) and he can be quite stubborn (gee, I wonder who he inherits that from?). One of his quirky preferences is that his sandwiches be made with grape jelly, not any other flavor, and especially not strawberry. I consider this preference to be quirky because Sullivan can’t really tell the difference once the sandwich is made. Yesterday we had a household crisis — we were out of grape jelly of any kind. Sullivan initially asked for grape jelly and was told that we were out. He then refused to eat any sandwich not containing grape jelly. And so he watched suspiciously as my wife reached into the fridge and pulled out a jar labeled “four berry” jam (one that I had bought a week earlier, because…

Marriage According to Biblical Principles

A February 25 statement by Congressman Jim McDermott highlights some of the potential problems of arguing that marriage should be (as the Presidential prayer team has suggested) based on “biblical principles.” Such as: A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. Ouch! (See also this blog providing further textual support for the passages the Congressman didn’t give verses for). (Link via Heidi Bond).

Legislative Judgments of Morality

Randy Barnett has an interesting post up at the Volokh Conspiracy, giving a persuasive argument about why legislative judgments of morality are not a particularly good basis for legal punishments or restrictions. Barnett makes the very interesting initial assertion that: “A legislative judgment of ‘immorality’ means nothing more than that a majority of the legislature disapproves of this conduct.” Responding to a critique of this position by Rick Garnett, Barnett then elaborates: Consider the claim that homosexuality is immoral. I strongly disagree. Now what? In a contest between a majority of state legislators and me and those who agree with me, what privileges the legislature’s judgment of morality? In what way are they experts? How does being elected to the legislature qualify them to make these judgments? Do they hold hearings on the morality of homosexuality and offer reasons for their conclusions? Or do they just press a button and register their vote? Most importantly, how can we assess the…

The Importance of Gay Marriage to Conservatives

This recent New York Times article discusses how important gay marriage has become for conservatives, providing many conservative groups with a new focal point. Indeed, gay marriage (or the specter of it) is probably a more important issue to conservatives than it is to liberals. For many liberals, the issue is relatively unimportant, compared with, say, war in Iraq, federal judiciary appointments, drilling in Alaska, and deprivation of civil liberties under the Patriot Act. Meanwhile, for many conservatives, gay marriage seems to be the most important issue. And that difference in relative importance influences how politicians approach the question.

Small request for technical assistance

Since the move to the new server, most things have gone reasonably well. One little thing is still bugging me; I’ve tried a few ways to fix it, and have been unsuccessful. I’m wondering if any of our readers have the knowledge to help (required knowledge will be a little bit of understanding of Java, PHP and/or CGI). UPDATE: Got it! Thanks to Quinn Warnick , the fiction editor for Irreantum, the magazine of the Association of Mormon Letters, for the tip.

Abortion Rights and the Two-Headed Baby

A while back on an abortion-related thread, one commenter broughtup the old idea that abortion rights could suggest conjoined twins might have a right to kill the twin. That line of argument may no longer be dealing in hypotheticals. Doctors are now preparing to remove the second head from an infant born with two heads. The second head, while not attached to a body of its own, has a partially formed brain, eyes, ears, and lips, and its mouth moves when the baby breast-feeds.

Blog(ger) Marital Demographics

It suddenly occured to me last night that our group’s marital homogeneity is rather striking. Consider: We have eight bloggers; we live in different locations; we come from different professions; we have different political beliefs; we find a lot to differ on. We are all married and all have children. (See documentation for Nate, Russell, Kaimi, Adam, Jim,Gordon; Matt’s status is documented on a family webpage that I’ve seen, but don’t know if he wants linked on the public site; I don’t believe Greg has any online documentation, but I can attest to his marital-parental status, having been in his ward for years).

Uh-oh.

I just took the entertaining “Belief System Selector” (what religion are you?) online quiz (link via Minnow’s Pond). And the results are in: I’m not really a Mormon! According to the quiz, I match up to: 1. Mainline – Liberal Christian Protestants (100%) 2. Mainline – Conservative Christian Protestant (93%) 3. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (92%) 4. Jehovah’s Witness (83%) 5. Orthodox Quaker (77%) 6. Eastern Orthodox (69%) 7. Roman Catholic (69%) 8. Seventh Day Adventist (68%) 9. Liberal Quakers (65%) 10. Bahá’í Faith (63%) Hmm, I wonder if that means I can’t be in the Elders Quorum presidency any more. But seriously, perhaps the most interesting result was that Jehovah’s Witness scored so high for me. Mindi had a similarly high JW score (93%). Are Mormon and JW belief systems really that similar?

Another blog of interest

The new group blog Mirror of Justice promises to be “A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.” And some very smart people are blogging there. It’s probably worth keeping an eye on, as it could be very interesting.

Priorities

According to the Lycos 50, which tracks internet usage, the unfortunate incident in the Super Bowl halftime (involving Janet Jackson and some very poor sartorial decisions) may have set a record for the most-searched event in internet history. Janet beat several other high-search events, garnering, for example, five times as many web searches as the Columbia explosion. Apparently the only possible contender for most-searched event is September 11. The calculation is tricky, but in the aggregate, the events appear to have generated about equivalent search traffic. Aaron Schatz writes on Lycos 50: “Prior to this week, the most-searched event in the history of the Lycos 50 over a one-day period was the September 11 attack on America. Although it is very difficult to compare searches for the two events, it looks like the Super Bowl halftime show was the equal of September 11 when it comes to Internet attention. That is, to put it bluntly, mind-blowing.” Yes, it is.