Author: Marc Bohn

Terryl Givens on What It Means to Sustain

Below is a letter Terryl Givens recently wrote on what it means to sustain Church leadership. It is an outgrowth of an actual correspondence between Brother Givens and a friend, and is posted with Givens’ permission. The friend holds strong feelings about recent changes made to the Church Handbook of Instruction and had asked Givens how someone could sustain a leadership that he or she believed had acted in error or unrighteously. Dear [Friend], I am glad you followed through with your question. [How can I sustain a leadership that I think has acted in error or unrighteously]. It is one that is on a lot of minds these days. The word sustain only appears in the scriptures once, so I think it is a pretty important moment to infer its exact meaning. D&C 134.5, admonishes us to “sustain and uphold” the respective governments in which we reside. Now notice that we don’t have to like or agree with a great deal that…

Guest Post: All Flesh


John Gustav-Wrathall is the newly-elected president of Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends, an international organization founded in 1977 to support LGBTQ/SSA Mormons and their families, friends and Church leaders. Following his election, I invited Gustav-Wrathall, a personal friend, to draft a post on his thoughts about the new policy, his interactions with Church leaders, and what he thought important that members know. The post below is the product of that invitation. For those who don’t know him, Gustav-Wrathall is an adjunct professor of American Religious History at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, where he teaches future Protestant ministers about Mormonism (and other religions). He is the author of Take the Young Stranger by the Hand: Same-Sex Relations and the YMCA (University of Chicago Press, 1998), has published articles in Sunstone and Dialogue on being gay and Mormon, and is the author of the Young Stranger blog, which he has maintained since 2007. Though excommunicated from the Church, John has a testimony, and has been active in his south…

Welcome to Guest Blogger Dave Evans

Times and Seasons is pleased to welcome David K. Evans as our latest guest blogger. Dave is a Senior Economist in the Chief Economist’s Office for the Africa Region of the World Bank and holds a Ph.D in economics from Harvard University.  In the wake of last year’s Ebola outbreak, Dave has also become talk radio and cable news’s go to source on the economic effects of the epidemic in West Africa, with appearances on BBC, Bloomberg, CNN International, and Diane Rehm, among other outlets. Dave is engaging, thoughtful and one of the most well-read individuals I’ve ever met. He and his wife Diana have three brilliant children and are staples of the Rolling Valley Ward in Springfield, Virginia.

DC Institute Class

Thomas B. Griffith (D.C. Circuit Court judge and former BYU General Counsel, Senate Legal Counsel, Bishop and Stake President) is teaching an institute class at the Chevy Chase building this fall on early Church history, with a focus on “Joseph Smith as Everyman.”   The class starts Tuesday, September 2nd at 7pm and will run every Tuesday night throughout the fall. You can register either upon arrival or in advance at the Church’s Institute site.  Please spread the word. Brother Griffith is a fantastic teacher and having a class from him on this topic is a rare opportunity — it is sure to be stellar.

Sounding the Secularist Alarm at BYU

Ralph Hancock has a provocative article in the March edition of First Things in which he raises concerns about the specialization/secularization he sees occurring at Brigham Young University: “For some decades, BYU had managed a compromise between the academic mainstream and its own aspiration to a distinctive mission. [While encouraging excellence in the scholarly communities in which we participate, leaders have also] urged the faculty to resist hyper-specialization, by which we seek merely to ‘imitate others or win their approval,’ and instead to assume the responsibility of ‘those educated and spiritual and wise [to] sort, sift, prioritize, integrate, and give some sense of wholeness… to great eternal truths.’ But the machinery of specialization was already in place, and it has only accelerated. “While the mainstream academic suppression of all questions of transcendent purpose and of associated moral limits was taken as a given across the disciplines, and while most researchers and teachers deferred intellectually, in their specialized professional capacities, to the authority of a rationalist and reductionist framework of understanding, they were not for the most part concerned to draw the moral,…

Do exemptions from the ACA’s ‘contraception mandate’ threaten religious liberty?

In March, the Supreme Court will hear a pair of cases on whether for-profit employers can claim a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer health plans cover contraceptives without any out-of-pocket expense because the use of contraceptives violates their owners’ religious beliefs. In a Washington Post op ed this week, Fred Gedicks, the Guy Anderson Chair at BYU Law School (and a prior T&S guest blogger), flips the case on its head, claiming that it is actually exemptions from the “contraception mandate” that pose a threat to religious liberty. The op ed briefly summarizes a journal article that Gedicks has co-authored in the forthcoming Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. As Gedicks closes the op ed with an explicit appeal to his “minority faith,” I’m curious to what extent Gedicks’ line of reasoning resonates with other Mormons. In brief, Gedicks argues that “[e]xempting ordinary, nonreligious, profit-seeking businesses from a general law because of the religious beliefs of their…

A Look at the Political Affiliations of Some Prominent Members

A friend recently drew my attention to a new website that catalogs Utah voter registration data in a searchable format that was purportedly purchased from the Herbert administration. After checking the voter registration data of a few friends and acquaintances, I thought it would be interesting to identify the party registrations of some prominent members of the Church. Any other fun finds to add to the list? First Presidency Thomas S. Monson, registered Republican Henry B. Eyring, registered Republican Dieter F. Uchtdorf, unaffiliated voter Quorum of the Twelve Boyd K. Packer, registered Republican L. Tom Perry, registered Republican Russell M. Nelson, registered Republican Dallin H. Oaks, registered Republican M. Russell Ballard, registered Republican Richard G. Scott, registered Republican Robert D. Hales, registered Republican Jeffrey R. Holland, registered Republican David A. Bednar, unaffiliated voter Quentin L. Cook, unaffiliated voter D. Todd Christopherson, unaffiliated voter Neil L. Anderson, registered Republican Relief Society General Board Linda K. Burton, unaffiliated voter Carole M. Stephens, registered…

New Missionary Policy

“I am pleased to announce that, effective immediately, all worthy and able young men who graduated from high school or its equivalent regardless of where they live will have the opportunity of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18 instead of age 19…. today, I am [also] pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19 instead of age 21.” ~President Thomas S. Monson, General Conference Morning Session October 6, 2012 Discuss.

The Waylaying of Brandon Flowers

Despite being unfairly ambushed on the subject of religion prior to a recent performance on the Norwegian-Swedish television show Skavlan, Brandon Flowers admirably stood up for his faith, shying away from neither the battery of questions on his Mormonism by Norwegian journalist Fredrik Skavlan and others nor the full-on frontal assault on Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and God by surprise guest Richard Dawkins.  While it was clear Flowers would have rather been talking about his music and his band, he nevertheless responded directly to questions about whether he actually believes the origin story of the Mormon faith and proactively cut into a Dawkins’ screed about the Book of Mormon being a work of “charlatanry.” In the face of being waylaid by the sophists, Flowers’ true character shone through. He’s a credit to Mormons everywhere.

Kiewit Power Constructors Co. Gets ‘Jimmered’

Case Background: Kiewit Power Constructors Co. contested a National Labor Relations Board decision to reinstate two fired electricians for threatening workplace violence.  Kiewit Power had warned the electricians that their breaks were too long, and that they may need to take them in a different location.  The electricians responded by saying things would “get ugly” if they were disciplined and the supervisor “better bring [his] boxing gloves.”  In reinstating the electricians, the NLRB found  the statements “were merely figures of speech made in the course of a protected labor dispute.”   Kiewit appealed the decision and case landed in front of the D.C. Circuit this past Spring. Outcome: Kiewit got “jimmered” by the D.C. Circuit in an opinion authored by the Hon. Thomas B. Griffith this past fall.  In relevant part: To state the obvious, no one thought that Judd and Bond were literally challenging their supervisor to a boxing match. Once we acknowledge that the employees were speaking in metaphor, the…

Sam Brunson Joins Times & Seasons

Times & Seasons is happy to announce that Sam Brunson has agreed to join our happy blogging family as a permanent contributor. For those unfamiliar with Sam, the introductory post on him can be found here and his posts to-date are available here.

Times & Seasons Welcomes Sam Brunson

Times & Seasons is excited to introduce Sam Brunson as our latest guest blogger.  Sam grew up in the suburbs of San Diego and served a Brazilian mission what seems like a millennium ago.  He went to BYU as an undergrad and found that a freshman saxophone performance major made his eventual English major look like a practical choice.   After toying with teaching critical theory or becoming an author, he did what all good English majors do and chose law school.  At Columbia, he met his wife, got a degree, and got a job as a tax associate at a New York firm.   Several years later, he managed to escape the clutches of big law and landed a job teaching tax and business law at Loyola University Chicago.  While Sam, sadly, does not play much saxophone these days, he and his wife do have two beautiful girls with whom he loves to spend time when he’s not pondering…

Times & Seasons Welcomes Brad Strum

Times & Seasons is excited to introduce Brad Strum as a guest blogger.  Brad lives and works in the DC area as an economist, where he has been since earning a Ph.D. in economics at Princeton University.  Before grad school, he served in the Russia, Rostov-na-Donu mission and attended Brigham Young University, earning undergraduate degrees in economics and mathematics.   Going back even further, Brad grew up in a military family, living in a number of places around the U.S.   When he isn’t working, Brad enjoys many activities, including tennis, biking, dancing, reading, discussion groups, and spending time with family and friends.

Notable Race-Related Changes to Footnotes and Chapter Headings in the Standard Works

Marvin Perkins is a Latter-day Saint music producer who is currently the Public Affairs Co-chair for the Genesis Group and who has worked to nurture understanding between African Americans and Latter-day Saints and attack misconceptions (see our 12 Questions series with Brother Perkins from 2009).  This morning, Brother Perkins circulated the following email to his “Blacks in the Scriptures” listserve (which is re-posted here with his permission): ______________________________ Friends, Many of you have recognized the new website.  Some of you have recognized that with the new site also came changes to chapter headings and footnotes in the scriptures.  Not nearly as significant in number as the changes that were made in the 1981 edition of the LDS scriptures, but equally confirming on the messages being conveyed.  Here are a list of the changes that I’m aware of, along with some thoughts and two very compelling short videos below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts as you prayerfully review the…

Unique Outreach by the Rochester Stake

This week, the Rochester Stake in New York is sponsoring a special performance of Carol Lynn Pearson’s Facing East, to be followed by a fireside featuring a discussion led by the Rochester Stake President. Notably, the performance is being directed by Jerry Argetsinger, who was the long-time director of the Hill Cumorah Pageant throughout the 90s, and costume design is being handled by Gail Argetsinger, a Tony award-winning costume designer who designed and supervised the construction of thousands of pageant costumes during the 90s. For those unfamiliar with Facing East, it is the story of a Mormon couple who is grappling with the suicide of their gay son. It was written by Carol Lynn Pearson, a Mormon playwright and whose husband (and the father of her four children) left her to confront and explore his own homosexuality.  He returned to live with her 6 years later after being diagnosed with AIDS, with Sister Pearson caring for him in the months…

An Unexpected Gift

06-17-2010 090

At 3:28 this morning we welcomed a new son into the world. As one would expect, congratulations and well-wishes have come flooding in from friends and family all day. And for all of these we have been moved and grateful. First thing this morning, however, we received a congratulatory gift we hadn’t anticipated. Women housed in the Alexandria Detention Center had sent us a hand-crocheted blanket, cap and set of booties. (In Packer yellow-and-green for my Cheese-head wife no less). Both modern and ancient scripture admonish us to serve the “least” of those among us, noting that doing so is akin to serving Christ himself. My wife and I found ourselves touched that, at such a sacred and spiritual time for our family as the birth of our new son, we had been remembered by some gracious women who, by some standard, might consider to be the “least” of those in our society today. Humbled by the act, we resolved…

Carlos Boozer on Utah

As one who has turned into something of  Boozer-apologist this past year in the face of attacks on him by some disgruntled Jazz fans, I was buoyed to see an account of a recent Boozer interview yesterday in the Deseret News. When the Miami-area sports station host interviewing Boozer called Utah  “gorgeous” but “a horrible place to live, horrible,” Boozer said: “Nah, it’s not that bad. You know, I’m raising my kids out there. It’s pretty nice.  We have a good time out there with our basketball team, successful of course. That’s the frontcourt of it, the most important thing of it. And it’s a great place to raise your kids. And it is beautiful.” The host kept at it though, asking: “But those Mormon people are crazy, aren’t they? I mean, the Mor…” At which point Boozer, cut in saying:  “Nah, they’re not bad at all. They’re not bad at all. Yeah. Not bad at all.” Here’s hoping Utah…

Times & Seasons Welcomes Ralph Hancock

While Rana Lehr-Lehnardt’s guest run continues, Times & Seasons is happy to introduce our next guest blogger, Ralph Hancock. Ralph is a long-time professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University. He is the author of Calvin and the Foundations of Modern Politics, as well as of numerous edited volumes, articles and chapters.  His forthcoming book, The Responsibility of Reason (Rowman & Littlefield),  addresses the meaning and limits of reason through a triangulation involving de Tocqueville, Heidegger and Strauss.   Ralph has also translated three books (including one with his son Nathaniel) and numerous chapters and articles from French, and has organized and directed more than a dozen scholarly conferences and colloquia concerning philosophical and religious dimensions of public issues. He holds degrees from BYU and from Harvard University. Ralph is also the founder and president of the John Adams Center for The Study of Faith, Philosophy and Public Affairs, which aims to resist the  narrowing of the notion of “reason” to…

Renewed Call for Photo Submissions

Since instituting the “A Mormon Image” series last fall, our submissions have slowed from a glut to a trickle.  As a result, we thought we would issue a new call for photographs to be considered for inclusion in the series. The instructions for submissions can be found here and the images we have featured since kicking off the series can be viewed here.

Times & Seasons Welcomes Rana Lehr-Lehnardt

Times & Seasons is happy to introduce our newest guest blogger, Rana Lehr-Lehnardt. Rana is a mother of three who just finished up her first semester teaching at the University of Missouri at Kansas City Law School. After spending several years in the D. C. area, Rana and her family are adjusting to life in Liberty, Missouri where her husband, Mark, has established a corporate and international trade practice. Before finding her way to the University of Missouri, Rana attended law school at BYU, clerked on the Tenth Circuit for Judge Terrence O’Brien, earned an L.L.M. from Columbia Law School, worked at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, and served as the legal adviser for the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. In her Missouri ward, Rana is in the YW presidency where she encourages the young women to question openly, think critically, and search diligently. Please give Rana a warm and hearty T&S welcome.

Requesting Priesthood Lines of Authority


In the course of an interesting email exchange today, I learned that a good friend and I had had similar experiences in trying to track down our priesthood lines of authority. After being ordained Elders, we both asked our fathers if they had copies of their lines of authority, both said they thought they did somewhere, but both ultimately could never come up with them. My friend then approached his uncle, figuring that he might have the same line as my friend’s father, but without success. Fast forward ten years. His uncle randomly found his line of authority and remembered my friend asking for it. They were both surprised to learn though that the uncle had been ordained an Elder by his Bishop, not by his father as is the current custom. Unfortunately this Bishop was not Bishop when my friend’s father would have been ordained, so my friend was still no closer to tracking down his own line of…

This Mormon Life

This American Life

Several weeks ago the NPR program This American Life aired a stunning segment on Gordon Gee, the Latter-day Saint President of Ohio State University, and his daughter Rebecca. The segment revolved around a series of letters Gordon’s late wife Elizabeth wrote to their daughter as she was dying of cancer.  Rebecca was 16 at the time of her mother’s death, and the letters were to be given to her each year on her birthday for thirteen years. Rebecca, however, gradually drifted from the Church, while the letters from her devout mother focused heavily on the deep yearnings she had for her daughter to remain close to the Mormon faith and marry in the temple. Gordon, meanwhile, began to find himself caught in between these letters from his late wife and his daughter, with whom he remained close. The segment, as is typical of This American Life, is handled deftly with balance, in a way that leads you to understand and…

Claremont Conference: What Is Mormon Studies?


The Claremont Mormon Studies Student Association is holding its Spring 2010 Conference on April 23 and 24 on the theme What Is Mormon Studies? Transdisciplinary Inquiries into an Emerging Field. The Conference line-up is as follows: Keynote Address Jan Shipps – Indiana University-Purdue University Critical Approaches to Mormon Studies Loyd Ericson – “Where is the Mormon in Mormon Studies?  Subject, Method, Object” Cheryl L. Bruno – “Mormon History from the Kitchen Window: White is the Field in Essentialist Feminism” Blair Van Dyke – “How Wide the Divide? The Absence of Conversation between Mormon Studies and Mormon Mainstream” Christopher C. Smith – “What Hath Oxford to do with Salt Lake?” Challenges Facing Mormon Studies Adam S. Miller – “A Manifesto for Mormon theology” Jacob Rennaker – “Through a Glass, Darkly? Biblical Studies, Mormon Studies, Parallels, and Problems” Greg Kofford – “Publishing Mormon Studies: Inside Looking Out” Scholar Panel Brian Birch  – Utah Valley University J. Spencer Fluhman – Brigham Young University…

Do daughters make you more conservative?

Photo belonging to James Neeley via Flicker

Tyler Cowan revisits the topic in a post today (HT: Sheldon). I vaguely remember someone in the bloggernacle posting on this in years passed, but my cursory search didn’t turn up much. So, as I’m curious what others make of the research, I thought I’d throw it out to the wolves again. Cowan quotes a new article that states in relevant part: Washington (2008) finds that, controlling for total number of children, each additional daughter makes a member of Congress more likely to vote liberally and attributes this finding to socialization. However, daughters’ influence could manifest differently for elite politicians and the general citizenry, thanks to the selection gradient particular to the political process. This study asks whether the proportion of female biological offspring affects political party identification. Using nationally-representative data from the General Social Survey, we find that female offspring induce more conservative political identification. We hypothesize that this results from the change in reproductive fitness strategy that daughters…

Remembering Stewart Udall

McKay and Johnson

Stewart Udall, U.S. Secretary of the Interior under Kennedy and Johnson and a prominent member of a prolific Mormon political dynasty, passed away Saturday morning at his home in Sante Fe, New Mexico, according to a statement from his son, Senator Tom Udall. Known affectionately as “Stew,” he was ninety years old and the last surviving member of Kennedy’s original cabinet. While he did not remain an active Latter-day Saint in his later life, he nevertheless kept close ties with the Church and continued to self-identify as a Mormon, claiming that he was “Mormon born and bred, and it’s inside me… I prize my Mormon heritage and status.” More than that, throughout his adult life he served as an important intermediary for the Church on both political and religious matters. Background and Public Life Stew was the son of former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Levi S. Udall. He was born in the small town of St. Johns, Arizona in 1920 and…

T&S Introduces Dane Laverty as its Newest Blogger

Almost two months to the day that we invited him to guest, Dane Laverty has continued to blog with us at a prodigious pace.  We are now happy to report that he is a guest no longer, but will be joining T&S as a full-time blogger. Dane is a resident of Salem, Oregon and Sacramento, California. He graduated from BYU in contemporary dance, supports his family as a computer programmer, and is attending Willamette University as a business student. He is also a prolific reader and — as we have seen — blogger. We certainly look forward to more of his thought-provoking posts in the months and years to come. Welcome aboard Dane.

Testimonies of the Bloggernacle

Conference Center Pulpit

A friend asked whether I was aware of any good collections of testimony or “Why I Believe”-type posts in the Bloggernacle. Nothing really sprung to mind, so I thought I’d issue a call for people to share their favorites here. I’ll compile a running bullet-point list below of the suggestions.

Times & Seasons Welcomes Dane Laverty

As Maren Mecham continues her guest run here at T&S, we’d like to cordially welcome our newest guest blogger, Dane Laverty.  Dane is a resident of Salem, Oregon and Sacramento, California. He graduated from BYU in contemporary dance, supports his family as a computer programmer, and is attending Willamette University as a business student. Thoughtful and well-read, Dane is certain to have some great posts in store. Please give him a warm and hearty T&S welcome.