Author: Kent Larsen

Saturday Morning Session

Since we’re not doing open threads during the sessions of conference, we’re trying to start comment threads at the end of the session, so that once you have heard and thought a little about the entire session and the individual talks. So take your notes during the sessions, and let us know after the session is over. Here’s a few thoughts on Saturday Morning’s session of conference. I’d welcome your thoughts also.

Whence Our Open Conference Thread?

Times and Seasons has historically hosted an open thread for comments on each session of conference as that session was being broadcast. We’re trying something new this year. I’m posting this as a bit of notice to our readers, and in an unofficial attempt to explain.

Information for the Next Six Months

The first weekend of April is a time when we look for information, for an understanding of the changes that have happened in the last six months and how that will help us prepare for the next six months. This is because the first weekend of April begins the baseball season.

When is Sin Tax a Sin?

The new tobacco tax in the United States took effect yesterday, which tripled the amount of tax collected on each pack of cigarrettes, and probably raising the cost of a pack to as much as $9. The tax is the single largest increase in tobacco taxes in history. For an LDS audience, this probably seems all fine and good. You aren’t likely to complain about a sin tax if you aren’t committing that sin. And, to be honest, its hard to imagine a sin tax that LDS Church members would be particularly vulnerable to (perhaps ice cream?) But even if we aren’t vulnerable, isn’t there a limit to sin taxes?

The “anti-Mormon” label

Some years ago I had the idea that Mormonism needs an “anti-defamation league”–a group that reviews news coverage and other public actions and publicly condemns those actions that clearly defame Mormons and Mormonism. But I’ve since decided that this is probably not a very workable idea.

Garment Rights?

Do we have a right to wear garments? If we do, how far does that right go? What , kind of right is it? Is it a human right? Or a legal one that might disappear and reappear as we pass national boundaries?

Who Should Have Been Mormon of the Year, 1990-2007

This final of three posts, covers Times and Seasons reader Last Lemming’s suggestions for Mormon of the Year for the years 1990 through 2007. We already posted on Monday his picks for 1950 through 1969 and on Wednesday 1970 through 1989. I suspect as these posts get into more familiar and more recent territory, more of you will have comments and suggestions about who Last Lemming suggested and who should have been suggested instead.

Key to the Science of Unity

Our ward has been exploring the idea of Unity in our sacrament meeting talks this month, and I’ve heard the same attribution to Elder Dallin H. Oaks several times. It apparently comes from a “News of the Church” article in June 2007 which discusses the growing diversity in the Church. According to the article, Elder Oaks “said that the growing diversity among the members is simply a condition, not a Church goal. The real goal is unity, not diversity.” Perhaps’ I’m not listening closely enough, but the  discussions of this idea seem to have missed the balance of what was attributed to him in the article, in which Elder Oaks says, “We preach unity among the community of Saints and tolerance toward the personal differences that are inevitable in the beliefs and conduct of a diverse population.” In my view this is actually the key to unity (be it science or art). The key to unity is, in fact, the…

First Mormon Studies Fellowships Announced

Mormon Studies took another step forward this week with the announcement of two doctoral fellowships in Mormon Studies. Courtesy of the George S. and Delores Doré Eccles Foundation, the two fellowships will be awarded one a year this year and next. With any luck, the fellowships will be repeated in future years, assuming that they successfully lead to dissertations.

Who Should Have Been Mormon of the Year, 1970-1989

This second of three posts, covers Times and Seasons reader Last Lemming’s suggestions for Mormon of the Year for the years 1970 through 1989. We already posted on Monday his picks for 1950 through 1969 and on Friday morning we will list his picks for 1990 through 2007. I suspect as these posts get into more familiar and more recent territory, more of you will have comments and suggestions about who Last Lemming suggested and who should have been suggested instead.

Who Should Have Been Mormon of the Year, 1950-1969

I received an unexpected and fun email message after we began selecting the 2008 Mormon of the Year from Times and Seasons reader Last Lemming, who had made his own selections for Mormon of the Year for each year since 1950! In this first of three posts, we will include his suggestions for the years 1950 through 1969. We will follow on Wednesday morning with his picks for 1970 through 1989 and on Friday morning for 1990 through 2007. I suspect as these posts get into more familiar and more recent territory, more of you will have comments and suggestions about who Last Lemming suggested and who should have been suggested instead.

Times and Seasons 2008 Mormon of the Year: Mitt Romney

Image via Wikipedia After careful consideration, the staff of Times and Seasons has selected Mitt Romney as Mormon of the Year, our annual designation of the Mormon who had the greatest impact or influence on Mormons and Mormonism in 2008. During 2008 Romney concluded the most credible presidential campaign of any Mormon to date and dominated the U.S. national news early in the year like no single Mormon has in recent memory. He garnered a great deal of both praise and criticism, gaining him significant endorsements as well as important detractors. Remarkably, his supporters included many Evangelical Christians, which helped break down the unfortunate views of some Evangelicals toward Mormons. Also on the international scene, numerous press articles mentioned Romney’s membership in the Mormon Church, thus contributing to the image of the Church abroad. Romney was not merely a very visible Mormon, however; his Mormonism was a major influence on the course of his campaign, in both positive and negative…

Vote for Mormon of the Year

This post opens the voting for Mormon of the Year. Votes will be taken until midnight Eastern Time on Monday, January 5th, at which time the voting will close. The voting mechanism will attempt to restrict votes to one per person. THE WINNER OF THE ONLINE VOTE IS NOT NECESSARILY THE MORMON OF THE YEAR!!!

Reviewing News about Mormonism for the Year

OK, now that we’re looking at the Mormon of the Year, I’d also like to look at what the big news stories were for the year. In a lot of ways its been a very busy news year, with, by my count, three big stories dominating: Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy The confusion of the LDS Church with the FLDS Church in the news The Mormon role in the successful effort to pass Proposition 8. But there were also smaller, important stories that happened during the year, especially if you include in News about Mormonism news about people who are Mormon.

Who Should Be Mormon of the Year?

Its that time of year. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is traditionally the media’s time for reflection on the past year — the time when we see story after story on the best or most important stories of the year, or the most important person of the year (as Time magazine just named — no surprise there). I enjoy these looks at the past year, and given how much LDS Church members don’t usually know much about news that involves the Church, it seems to me these lists might be quite useful. So let me pose the question: “Who should be the Mormon of the Year?”

Of Courses

I recieved one of those continuing education catalogs in the mail today (from Lehman College, not BYU), and glancing through it, I began to wonder why the courses are all very basic. The courses are all introductory, and seem to be for those looking to start a career in relatively low-skill professions. I suppose there is good reason for this–colleges offer courses that people want to take. But with the rise of the Internet and “distance learning” shouldn’t  the reverse be happening also? Shouldn’t these tools result in a lot of small, narrowly-focused courses, more academic in nature? Perhaps even courses that are more narrow and more open than what can be provided when students are seeking degrees? There might not be enough students at one university for these narrow courses, but there may be enough students at 10 or 100 universities or more. For example, what about courses in Mormon Studies?

Each in his Own Language

BYU’s Religious Studies Center recently announced that it had begun publishing books in Spanish, Portuguese, and German, an encouraging development, given how little is being produced outside of English. In his blog post about the news, Richard Neitzel Holzapfel writes: Today, it is estimated that there are nearly 7,000 spoken languages in the world, of which some 2,600 have a writing system. He goes on to say: Equally impressive is the effort to provide translations of the Book of Mormon to the world. Today, the complete Book of Mormon has been translated into seventy-nine languages, and selections are available in another twenty-three languages. This represents 99 percent of the languages spoken by Latter-day Saints. Efforts continue to translate this book into more languages to fulfill the Lord’s command. What he doesn’t say is that, in terms of the work still to be done to fill the directive in D&C 90:11, that “Every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel…

The Gospel and Immigration

A High Priest I know is in crisis. He is an immigrant who, like many other Church members, came to the US without a visa, according to what I understand of the situation. After arriving here he joined the Church, and eventually fell in love and married a U.S. Citizen, a wonderful, faithful Church member. This situation would normally put him on track for a green card and U.S. citizenship. But this brother is facing deportation, and his ward and stake are praying for a miracle that will keep him here in the United States.

Pardon our appearance…

We’ve just completed upgrading the software that runs Times and Seasons. The upgrade requires us to also update the files that control how the site looks. It may take a while for us to get Times and Seasons to the way we want it to look, so please be patient.

What Should Mormons Do?

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Mormon employees at the University of Phoenix benefited from discrimination based on religion, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The University settled the suit, paying $1.9 million to 52 employees (an average of more than $36,000 each!) and agreeing to a “zero-tolerance” policy to religious discrimination, but did not admit wrongdoing. What’s up with that?

What of the Mormons (in Congress)?

The results are in, and the Mormon officials in congress is facing some changes as a result. From what I can tell, the new congress will include either 5 or 6 Mormons in the Senate and 9 in the House of Representatives. [FWIW, outside of the U.S., I only know of 1 LDS Church member currently serving in a national legislature, down from 4 eight years ago.]

A Marvelous Work and a Cacophony

Last week’s sacrament meeting was unique. While on the surface it was just the annual Primary Sacrament Meeting program, the room was packed and the overflow took up most of the cultural hall. But the best part was the congregational hymns, a joyful cacophany that mangled the hymns, making them hard to understand, but communicating clearly the spirit.

Mormon Halloween: Its Origin and Destiny

I’m not sure whether or not Halloween is actually “Mormon” to any significant degree. Mormons generally participate in the holiday here in the U.S., of course. And we even have a few requirements of the holiday in a Church setting — for example, we don’t allow masks at Church-sponsored Halloween events. But I don’t think that these facts quite give us a Mormon Halloween. Perhaps what we need is a good, Mormon-specific monster!

Essentials in Church Categorization

Marc Bohn’s post yesterday on how Mormonism is classified became a legal issue reminded me that the issue of how Mormonism is classified is anything but clear, especially when non-Mormons are doing the classifying. We say we are Christian, and evangelicals claim we are not. We don’t want to be called Catholic or Protestant (or Eastern Orthodox for that matter, but that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue). But despite our intentions, Mormonism is classified in all sorts of different ways by many different observers and for many different purposes. We’ve been classified all over the place.

A Compendium of Mormon News?

For the past couple weeks I’ve received email reports, forwarded to me from a friend, written by a lawyer who is LDS and who is prosecuting a counselor in a Stake Presidency in a ponzi scheme. The situation is sad, the email messages fascinating and the news that this is a counselor in a stake presidency can’t be found anywhere. Should it? I think so.

Key to the Culture of Mormons

Last Saturday I gave a walking tour of Mormon history sites in lower Manhattan, one of the services our stake history committee offers regularly. One stop on the tour is the location where an early LDS newspaper, The Mormon, was published by John Taylor. That newspaper featured an interesting statement in its masthead–what it called The Mormon Creed.

The Great Unity

Last weekend I went to the penultimate game in Yankee Stadium, and the next night watched the last game on television, complete with its post-game wake. Over nearly 20 years I’ve attended meetings there, letting a place and a culture become an almost religious part of my life. Its a Temple of baseball.

Doctrines of Localization

In April, 1998, President Hinckley visited New York City to speak at a special fireside held in Madison Square Garden, and our stake provided a 100+ voice choir for the event. I remember thinking at the time that with all of the talented Church members in New York City, the choir should be permanent.

Only a Clerk

Soon after I was made a ward clerk 20 years ago this month, I walked into the clerk’s office to find a xerox copy of an article posted there. The article was the text of a letter, sent by one of my predecessors, to the Church’s membership department, and had somehow found its way to Sunstone. It was titled “A Religion of Clerks.” The author, Randal Quarles, has since served as Undersecretary of the Treasury.