Author: Nate Oman

A Smoot Book

Kathleen Flake of Vanderbilt divinity school has just published what looks like a very interesting book with UNC press. She traces out the history of the Reed Smoot hearings, arguing that they were a pivotal event in defining the role of religion in American public life. Reed Smoot was an monogamist Apostle who was elected to the Senate at the turn of the 20th century. At the time, many Mormons continued to be polygamists from pre-Manifesto plural marriages. In addition, there had been a large number of secret, post-Manifesto plural marriages. These marriages, along with accusations that the Church controlled Utah politics led to a challenge to the seating of Mr. Smoot. The hearings were a protracted ordeal for Smoot and the Church, and eventually President Joseph F. Smith was called to testify before the Senate committee. Smoot was eventually seated and served into the 1930s. For many years the Mormon branch in Washington D.C. met in Reed Smoot’s living…

Great Sermons

In our casting about essential Mormon texts and our questing for Mormon literary achievement, I think that we frequently foget on of the great Mormon mediums and one that we have produced in huge quanties, with occasional examples of great quality. I am talking about sermons.

The Books to Be Written

Let’s see if we can start a discussion that doesn’t revolve around homosexuality and same sex marriage. (What a sexually obsessed bunch we are!) A while back, one commenter suggested that what we needed in addition to a list of “must read” Mormon studies texts is a list of books that haven’t yet been written but should. In the spirit of that question, let me offer some ideas.

The Meaning of Sodom and Gomorrah

There is an interesting exchange over at The Metaphysical Elders between The Historian and The Lawyer over the proper interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I am inclined to think that the Historian has the better of the argument, but you can judge for yourselves.

A Statute of Limitations on Anonymity?

The Church is often accused of being secretive about its history. My tendency is to think that this is a bit overplayed. No less an iconoclast that Will Bagley (of Blood of the Prophets fame) has stated that he doesn’t think that there is any secret history of Mormonism to be written. This is not to say that there aren’t some documents that I would love to see!

Civic Religion – Again

For those not aware of the fact, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Locke v. Davey a few hours ago, holding that it did not violate the Free Exercise Clause for the State of Washington to exempt divinity degree applicants from an otherwise available scholarship fund. I am not going to comment here on the opinion itself, but there was a line from Justice Scalia’s dissent that brought to mind an earlier discussion here at T&S on civic religion.

Managing the Donor Base

I have been meaning to write about this for a while, and Brayden’s comments on the centralization of budgeting have spurred me on. So here is Nathan Oman’s based-entirely-on-meager-evidence-and-speculation theory of Church financing. Or at least a part of it.

The Landscape of Memory

I am facinated by the way in which a place carries with it the memories of a people. The Civil War provides an example of what I am talking about. The trauma of that event is seared into the landscape of the eastern United States.

My Big Problem With the Big Commandment

The greatest commandment, so says Jesus, is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. I confess that I have always had a difficult time understanding, let alone obeying this commandment. I take it to mean that God wants me to love everyone. I frankly find the idea of this impossible.

Mormons and Lord Devlin

When Mormons get up set about things like abortion, pornography, SSM, constitutional prohibitions on anti-sodomy laws, and the like they frequently talk about how these kinds of developments threaten to undermine society’s “moral fabric.” However, I don’t think that we have been sufficiently reflective about this rhetoric. I think that Lord Devlin can help us understand why.

The Coming of the Clone Wars

One of my best friends is a biochemist, and he recently pointed out to me that while the a great amount of ink is spilled and blogs filled with debate about SSM, in his mind a farther reaching event has occurred: South Korean (Hanguk mansae!) scientists have cloned a human cell and grown it into a blastocyst.

What is “Church Doctrine” Good For?

The discussion of “church doctrine” on this blog has thus far focused on what might be called its soteriological significance. However, it seems to me that this is hardly the only reason that one might want to be able to understand “church doctrine.”

President Bush, Operation Give, and Matt

If you scroll down our list of links, you will find one to Operation Give (the “Give Toys to Iraq” button), which was set up by Matt and a national guardsman from Utah to provide charity to Iraqi children. This morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Bush praised the work of Operation Give.

Chaplinsky in Zion

According to the Deseret News, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is considering a city ordinance that would ban some of the more extreme street preaching around Temple Square.

We Love You Pakistan!

I was just checking over our site statistics. We seem to have settled into a groove of about 250 to 300 unique visitors per day. Our readership continues to be disproportianately concentrated in the Eastern United States. However, as the map below indicates, five percent of our recent visitors seem to be coming to us from Pakistan.

What is Church Doctrine?

As Mormons we often like to speak as though we have a well settled body of doctrine that provides determinate answers to some set of questions, but is silent as to other questions. Thus, someone makes some comment in Sunday School with which we disagree, and we are able to say, “Well that is your opinion, but it is not church doctrine.” My question is how do I figure out if something is church doctrine or not.

Mormon Monasticism

I have frequently heard people make the claim that there are no Mormon monks. This may be true, but as I was reading a book on medieval legal history this weekend, I was struck by the fact that Mormon monasticism is quite common.

A Society for Mormon Philosophy

It looks like “The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology” has finally decied to go public. You can check out their new website (very slick) at In addition, they will be sponsoring a conference at UVSC on March 19-20 on Mormon Theology. (link here) As a lawyer, I thought it is interesting that one of the things that they cite as spurring the formation of their society is the increased awareness of the importance of the 19th century Mormon experience for the constitutional interpretation of religious freedom. Note: T&S’s Jim Faulconer is the chairman of this august organization.


There has been an interesting discussion of guilt over at Bob and Logan’s blog. In response to some comments that I made, Russell makes the following intriguing remark:

Will Russell Support Bush?

Our very own Russell Arben Fox, who has endorsed Dick Gephardt on this site, is flirting with not thinking that Bush is the Great Satan. If I may over simplify Russell’s comments in a really gauche way, it seems that since Bush has been coming out in favor of spending lots of money on good stuff, that he seems (in policy terms) to be migrating toward Russell’s preferred position of social conservatism and economic egalatarianism. Of course, Bush isn’t quite there, but Rusell (and my friend David Bernstein) make an interesting point.

A Mormon Image: Fremont’s Map

Shortly before his death Joseph Smith began making plans to move the main body of the Saints to someplace in the American west. After his assination, Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve continued to flesh out these plans, ultimately choosing to move the Saints to the Great Basin. In making their plans they depended on the reports of John C. Fremont and on the maps of the American west that his expeditions had created. Here is one of them.

Office, Oaths, and Sins

I work as a law clerk for a federal appellate judge. As part of my work, I routinely assist in the enforcement of legal rules that I think are unwise or even unjust. Of late I have been wondering about the morality of what I do every day.

Poverty and Inequality

Rusell’s post below leads me to post a question that I have been meaning to throw out for some time. When we look at the plight of the poor, what is the evil that we see: poverty or inequality?