Author: Nate Oman

Spring Planting

Spring is here with a vengeance, and I don’t think there can be any real argument but that the land south of the Mason-Dixon Line does spring better than any other region of the country.

RSR and the William & Mary Book Store

Much to the consternation of my wife (who handles our money), I am a rather frequent visitor to William & Mary’s book store. It has been a while since I glanced through their religion section (of late I have been buying poetry or history), but the other day I did glance through the “Mormon” section to see what they have.

Mormonism and the Memo to the Dean

Earlier this week I engaged in what I am told is an annual academic ritual, and wrote a memo to the Dean explaining what I have done this year in terms of teaching, scholarship, and service. Since I have been engaged in a number of projects related to Mormon studies, the question arises should I include these in the memo? Does Mormonism “count” academically speaking?

Intelligences and Zion: An Essay in Mormon Political Philosophy (part I)

The following is an essay that I wrote several years ago and never published. I have divided the essay into four posts that will run over the next couple of days. Academics regularlly present unpublished papers at workshops where they get feedback and criticism. I want to experiment with a blog-based version of the same thing in which folks offer thoughts and criticism of the essay as they read it. Enjoy!

Scripture and Interpretation: Some Thoughts Inspired by “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”

A couple of weeks ago we had stake conference, and among other things the visiting authority talked about “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Among many good and true things, he said that we ought to treat the Proclamation as scripture and that the only reason it was not added to the Doctrine & Covenants is because President Hinckley didn’t want us to all have to go out and buy new scriptures. I don’t want to read too much into what was clearly an off the cuff remark, but this struck me as a rather facile attempt to explain the status of the Proclamation. It did get me thinking, however, about the status of such texts.

The Power of Prayer

I am something of a realist and a cynic. I assume that I basically have little or no power over the universe, and that there is almost nothing I can do to change that. You know the story of the guy walking along the beach and throwing back star fish. Someone points out that there are more star fish than he can possibly save, and he replies, “Perhaps, but I made a difference to that one,” throwing another star fish back into the ocean. I have to confess that my sympathies tend to be with the questioner.

The Institute for Mormon Studies

The various threads about the position at CGU has gotten me thinking about what Mormon scholarship needs, and I think that it is probably not a chaired position in Mormon studies, welcome as such a thing might be (especially if it allows a prolific scholar to churn out a lot of high quality work on Mormon studies). Rather, I think that Mormons ought to look to the libertarian wing of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy for models.

The Cursing of Mormon Lawyers

Cursing, it would seem, forms something of a theme in Mormon legal history. Not only was it a way of dealing with unsolved crimes, but it also seems to have been used as a way of controlling frivolous litigation.

Secret Laws, Theocracy, and Cows

In 1847, the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley and set up a frankly theocratic government. The highest legal authority was the High Council, which had the right to promulgate laws, as well as to try and punish criminal offenses (usually with fines or public whippings). Just as one would expect from a fanatical theocratic despotism, the High Council spent most of its time legislating about cows. Initially this was done by passing a law whereby all stray livestock was impounded and the owner of the strays was required to pay a fixed fine. The rule was enforced by either the High Council itself or else by a bishop’s court. The initial rule, however, gave bishops very little flexibility in deciding cases, and the High Council ultimately decided that the fixed fine should be dropped in favor of a rule giving the bishops that right to decide each case “as justice requires.” The main effect of this seems…

The Church’s Tax-Exempt Status, 1860s style

The Church today jealously guards its tax exempt status, and I suspect that there is a group of lawyers whose sole job it is to sit around worrying about the ways in which the IRS might assess taxes against the Church. It turns out that the feds have tried to tax Church properties and income in the past.

The Ninth Amendment Argument for Monogamy

The ninth amendment to the constitution is one of those wonderfully vague constitutional provisions that delights arm-chair theorists and annoys judges who might actually have to figure out what it means. It reads: The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. It turns out that this provision was an unlikely character in some of the earliest legal battles over polygamy.