Author: Kaimi Wenger

Faith versus Proof

One thing that has always fascinated me is the tension in the church between faith and proof. We tell people they should pray about the Book of Mormon and receive a testimony of its truth and of the prophet Joseph Smith. And then we spend lots of time and energy trying to prove that they are true. What do we use as proof? The Lehi stone. Chiasm. The health benefits of the Word of Wisdom. The Civil War beginning in South Carolina. And a thousand whispered rumors like the idea that the Dead Sea scrolls contain the prophecies of Lehi.

The Iago Problem

A while ago we had some discussion about a popular question among church members: why there are not more great LDS writers, more “Mormon Shakespeares.” Various ideas were suggested, among them that church callings take up too much time for a nascent Mormon Shakespeare to begin filling up her folios. Let me articulate another reason, hinted at (but not explicitly discussed) in the earlier thread: Church members have an Iago Problem. We are generally incapable of creating believable truly evil characters. We just don’t have the skill set to breathe life into an Iago. And without Iago, there can be no Shakespeare.

Welcome to the New Place

Hi everyone. We just switched servers — what a headache! Hopefully this looks exactly the same as the old place. A few things to note: 1. e-mail will be temporarily down. You can e-mail me at kaimi *at* . Look for everyone else’s e-mails (if you want to e-mail them) on their personal blog site or description. 2. The domain name (DNS) is not fully resolved, and it seems to still be pointing at the other site sometimes. Since the DNS was being wacky, I set up a redirector at the old host, so you should end up here anyway. :) The only difference will be the address bar, and even that should return to normal once the DNS settles down. 3. There will probably be little bugs here and there — let me know of any you come across, we’ll get them resolved.

From My Cold, Dead Hands?

Some discussion has come up in recent threads over how members are to reconcile church teachings with political beliefs. To date, the political beliefs examined have been largely liberal ideas which are seen by at least some as conflicting with church values. However, the church also takes positions that may be seen as counter to conservative ideas. One recent example is the church’s decision to prohibit members from bringing guns into church, even where the members are licensed concealed-carry permit holder. (See the BYU article about the policy, link via the Pollyanic Steve Evans). What is a strongly pro-Second Amendment, gun-rights church member (there are quite a few such members) to think of that policy?

Is it okay to be a Pro-Choice Mormon?

We’ve had some extended discussions of abortion here in recent threads. One topic has not been discussed in any detail, and it’s one that I find interesting. Are church members required to be pro-life? (That is, opposed to legal availability of abortion). Or may they be pro-choice — (in favor of allowing abortion under the law)? The church has taken a solid position on the morality of abortion itself. The church web site makes clear: “The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in [certain] rare cases.” However, this does not answer the question of whether members must oppose the existence of legal abortion.

The Mormons Take Manhattan

The New York Daily News discusses the recent influx of Mormons into New York City. (Via my colleague Wendy Cassity). The numbers are interesting — up from 1700 to 4000 members over the past 10 years alone. And there are apparently 25,000 members in the five boroughs. (Though as a member of a Bronx ward, I have to wonder what percent of the 25,000 are actually active). The article also discusses the new buildings, which have to be an exciting development for Manhattan members. (See Claudia’s earlier post mentioning the choreography of multi-multi-ward buildings in Manhattan).

1 Nephi 13

I don’t get to attend Sunday School often, but yesterday I was able to attend an interesting lesson taught by Logan. The major topic was the great and abominable church. The discussion made me wonder about one thing (which we discussed briefly in class). The scripture talks about removal of plain and precious things from the Book of the Lamb (which appears to be the Bible). I was wondering — how exactly did / does this occur?

AFA “Poll” and (Dis)Honesty?

A recent episode reinforces my distrust of self-styled “family” and “Christian” political groups: The American Family Association set up a “poll” last month on their web site titled “America’s Poll on Homosexual Marriage.” The “poll” asked people whether they approved or disapproved of gay marriage. The AFA promised that “Results of this poll will be presented to Congress” — presumably as some kind of reflection of nationwide attitudes. (Of course, any attempt to suggest that the results of a self-selected “poll” were representative of the population would have been statistically unsupportable. While a properly conducted, random poll of sufficient size can be a valid statistical representation of the opinions of the population, a self-selected poll cannot). The AFA eventually decided not to present the results to Congress, after gay marriage supporters learned of it and began voting in large numbers. The reason given for the change was that the “poll” now “represent[ed] something other than what we wanted it to.”…


I just wanted to note a few numbers that I thought interesting. Early this morning, the blog passed the 10,000 visitor mark. That counter began on November 21st — two months ago yesterday — so we have had 10,000 visits in 2 months. (This metric doesn’t count repeat visits from the same person on the same day). The level of positive response was certainly not anticipated by me. (Just look how excited I was two months ago, when we started to get 65 visitors a day). I remain amazed and gratified at the fact that people are this interested in our discussions, and I hope that my co-bloggers and I can continue to post interesting enough discussion that people see T & S as a worthwhile place to visit.

Perception of Gays

A recent Meridian Magazine article discusses gay marriage. While the article has been praised elsewhere in the blogosphere, I thought the article as a whole was unconvincing, and there was one sentence in particular that I found disturbing. Ms. Barlow states that: “There is no societal benefit to homosexual unions which are based primarily on genital stimulation and the perception of love.” Quite frankly, anyone who thinks that gay relationships are based primarily on “genital stimulation” (wow – she can’t even bring herself to say “sex”!) should actually meet a few gays. Or even crack open a newspaper once in a while and read about committed, long-term gay relationships. Many Mormons seem to have the idea that all gays are wild partiers running naked around Greenwich Village. (And if that were true, then gay marriage might be a bad idea — but it’s not the case.)

Quick Note on Spam Comments

We have been hit with a batch of spam comments over the past 2 days. (I guess it’s a sign that we have hit the big time.) If you haven’t seen them, here’s an idea of what they look like: “The sky is green.” -John Jones. The text is always nonsense, and the name will be linked not to an e-mail address but directly to the spammer’s site. It may be a hosting or gambling site (those are the two that have hit us so far). The combination of nonsense text (they use what appear to be randomly generated, short phrases, hopefully in hopes of seeming like a legitimate poster) and a hyperlinked name is the indication that it’s a spam comment. When we see these, we will delete the comment and ban the IP address from further comments. Readers may notice these spam comments sometimes (there will be some inevitable lag between the time they go up, and the…

Amateur Music in the Church

I was recently thinking about music in the church. To be specific, I was wondering about the church policy of not hiring professional musicians, but simply plugging the best available members into any slot where they can conceivably fit. I have been ward organist myself, despite my complete lack of training on the organ. Our current ward organist is Logan’s lovely and talented wife, who has also (I believe) had no formal organ training. This is not to critique her efforts (or my own); we have both done pretty well, I think, especially with liberal use of the Bass Coupler button. I have also, while living in New York, attended the Manhattan First Ward. The organist there is no mere pianist-pressed-into-service, but a bona fide, trained specialist in the instrument. The result — as anyone who has attended that ward can attest — is awesome. It is also, in my observation, the exception rather than the rule. The “Kaimi or…

Mormonism and Christianity

“Are Mormons Christian?” The question comes up again and again, and causes no small amount of frustration and hard feelings between Mormons and (other?) Christian groups. The response of the church, and of many members, has been to assert “Of course we’re Christian! We believe in Christ, don’t we?” Mormons are frustrated that that assertion doesn’t answer the question. After all, Christians, including those who believe that Mormons are not Christian, state that the requirement for Christianity is acceptance of Christ. If that’s the sole requirement, then Mormons are in (The church states “Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He was the Creator, He is our Savior, and He will be our Judge.”). However, Dave’s recent discussion of a Methodist examination of differences between Methodism and Mormonism made me rethink the question. Are we all being a little too simplistic? That is, is Christianity defined solely by belief in Christ, or is there more to being “Christian”?

LDS Blogosphere watch

A number of interesting posts have appeared in the LDS blogosphere over the last few days. I will probably write a bit more in-depth commentary on one or more of these when I have a little more time (or someone else will). For the moment, let me just point out: Dave’s examination of a Methodist committee report on whether Mormons converting to Methodism need rebaptism. Jan’s not-to-be-missed discussion of church authority and spousal abuse. and Logan’s discussion of what church meetings women may conduct.

Medicinal Marijuana, the Word of Wisdom, and the Nyquil Exception

The Word of Wisdom instructs us to avoid certain harmful substances. Present-day leaders have told us that we must avoid illegal drugs as well. However, a general exception is made for drugs prescribed by a doctor. In addition, there is, in my observation, a widespread belief that over-the-counter medicines such as NyQuil are permitted to be used for valid medical reasons (despite containing substances such as alcohol). This makes me wonder: What about medical marijuana? May a church member take medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor? And if it is not prescribed by a doctor, could the perceived right to certain types of (word-of-wisdom-violating) self-medication — the “Nyquil exception” — also allow a church member to use marijuana?

Essential Texts Again

In December Greg posted the very interesting question of what the five essential texts in Mormon studies are. The thread generated a lot of comments. A follow-up thread also got some comments. I just went through and tallied votes thus far. The results are interesting. Besides being a potential catalog of essential texts, the results also illustrate the broad range of ideas that people consider “Mormon studies”. A total of eight (sort of) texts received more than one vote.

On the lighter side

As a parent, I often wonder if I watch my kids well enough. They seem to disappear sometimes at church, escaping to the drinking fountain or to crawl under tables in the cultural hall or to turn off the lights during sacrament meeting. However, I can now give myself a reason not to feel so bad — at least my children haven’t (yet) climbed into a toy vending machine. The story of the determined (and limber) vending machine boy is a pretty funny bit of recent news (including a great picture), and yes, it ends well.

Do we have to love Saddam?

An interesting discussion has been going on in the blogosphere about the comments of Catholic Cardinal Martino, who spoke of Saddam Hussein: “I felt pity to see this man destroyed, (the military) looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures . . . Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him.” In response to this statement, Professor Bainbridge wrote that the Cardinal “comes off looking like an idiot.” Mark Kleiman then took Bainbridge to task and suggested that the Cardinal was filling his Christian duty to love Saddam Hussein. Then, Stuart Buck adapted C.S. Lewis to suggest that loving one’s neighbor may mean “a desire that someone gets exactly what he deserves [whether good or bad].” Finally, Kleiman critiqued both Lewis and Buck, writing: Lewis was a brilliant prose stylist, an awfully clever fellow, and…

Examining Moroni’s Promise

Moroni’s Promise has had increasing use in missionary work and in the church generally, starting with (I believe) President Benson’s emphasis on using it to show that the Book of Mormon is true. Now, in a recent blog entry, Dave critiques Moroni’s Promise as essentially being an unfair test, which allows church members to accept positive results but disregard any negative results. Dave writes: There’s an ugly side to Moroni’s Promise if you don’t play along with the Mormon script. “[I]f ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of [the Book of Mormon] unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4). So obviously (to the convinced Mormon) a person who doesn’t get nice Holy Ghosty feelings about the Book of Mormon (1) is insincere; or (2) is sincere but irresolute, lacking real intent; or (3) is sincere and determined but lacks faith in God. Plenty…

Famous Mormons

Practically every church member I know likes to talk about famous Mormons. Of course, there aren’t a lot, and my experience has been once the discussion gets past a few well-known members — Steve Young, Orson Scott Card, Dale Murphy, Shawn Bradley, Danny Ainge, Donny & Marie — the conversation tends to skew towards the “I heard that xx was Mormon too!” direction. However, I just noticed (via Rachel Woods LDS) a web site that lists famous Mormons. How cool is that?

Church Members and Financial Scams

A recent story in Deseret News discusses yet another recent financial scam that victimized thousands of church members. (Link via Dave). This one, according to the news, was a classic Ponzi scheme. Church members are, in my observation, unusually susceptible to Ponzi schemes, multi-level marketing, Amway and similar programs, and other get-rich-quick devices. (I know, there are differences between Ponzi schemes and some types of legal multi-level marketing. As far as I am concerned, they are all dubious devices for removing money from the gullible.) I have wondered over the years why church members are more likely to be deceived. A few possible factors come to mind.

Insightful Discussion over at Dave’s

I like our lengthy discussions, and do not want this blog to become a “portal” or collection of links a la Instapundit. (“Look at this link. Read the whole thing. Indeed.”).* However, there is a time and place for all things, including basic links. To wit — I just noticed Dave’s post about Mormonism and Christianity, and while I don’t have anything to add to it in the way of analysis, I certainly recommend it to our readers. A sample: Mormons feel chronically misunderstood by the rest of Christianity. This is understandable, given the persistence of the silly question “Are Mormons Christian?” But apologists and missionaries alike seem certain that there are simple and correct answers to all questions or criticisms of Mormon doctrine, teachings, and history, and that they, as Mormons, can provide these explanations. Of course, when Bruce R. McConkie, a Mormon apostle, tried his hand at a systematic exposition of Mormon doctrine, it was deemed to be…

Meeting Times

One of the familiar New Year’s rites for Mormons is the changing of the meeting times. My ward is moving from 11:30 to 1:30 meeting times. I’m not thrilled — the 11:30 time had its drawbacks (primarily that Sacrament Meeting fell right in the middle of nap time and lunch time), but a 1:30 starting time means that church doesn’t end until 4:30, and we won’t be home until after 5. That means that we will get less done on Sunday. (Sunday mornings are pretty much wasted time, but I occasionally get something productive done on Sunday afternoon after church). I was just wondering how this ritual fits in to Mormon history, and to the general religious landscape. Is the January 1st meeting-time change a recent development in the church? Does anyone (Jim?) know where the idea came from? How does this fit in to the change to 3-hour block meetings? And, is this a little bit of sui generis…


Is it good, bad, or neutral, to have sex before marriage? This topic comes up often in discussions in many places. The church has taken the unambiguous position that pre-marital sex is wrong. For us as members, what does the church’s teaching mean about its (and our) attitudes about sex generally?


An interesting discussion has sprung up over at Bob and Logan’s blog (which really needs a catchier name) on the nature of truth. What exactly do church members mean when they say that something (the church, the principle of tithing, the law of gravity) is true? What variations are there in the definition of this word?

Mormons and the ACLU – Short Redux

A while ago I posted on my blog, discussing whether a good Mormon can also be a good member of the ACLU. (I concluded that it is possible to be both — see the four-part discussion, 1, 2, 3 and 4; see also links to further discussion here). That multi-post discussion in turn kicked off a lengthy e-mail discussion on the LDS-Law list. Now, a reader of this blog e-mails in with an interesting piece of information: This reader was an ACLU member before baptism. Since joining the church, he reports that in his temple recommend interviews, he is asked if he is still affiliated with the ACLU.