Author: Nate Oman

I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah (autobiographical blogging here), and attended Brigham Young University from 1993 to 1999. Between 1994 and 1996, I served in the Korea Pusan Mission. While at BYU, I mainly studied political science and philosophy. (I was lucky enough to take several classes from T&S's Jim Faulconer.) I also took just enough economics to get myself in trouble. After graduation, I married the fabulous and incredible Heather Bennett (now Oman) and worked on Capitol Hill for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) while Heather finished graduate school at George Washington University. Beginning in 2000, I attended Harvard Law School, escaping with my JD in June, 2003. After practicing law for awhile, I became a law professor at William & Mary Law School. Somewhere along the line, Heather and I managed to have a son and a daughter.

Mormons, Gentiles, Suffrage, and the Courts

In 1870, the Utah Territorial Legislature passed an act giving women the right to vote, making Utah the second jurisdiction in the United States to given women the vote. (Wyoming was the first in 1869.) In 1887, Congress revoked the territorial law in the Edmunds-Tucker Act, and women were denied the vote until Utah was admitted as a state in 1896. Less well known is that there was an 1880 judicial attack on women’s suffrage in Utah.

Nephite Legal Reasoning

There are lots of legal stories in the Book of Mormon, but there is not much in the way of legal reasoning. One of the few exceptions is found in Alma 30, which tells the story of Korihor the Anti-Christ.

From the Archives: Models of Women and the Priesthood

A favorite topic of speculation (and angst) among many Mormons and Mormon-watchers is whether or not women will get the priesthood. It is an interesting topic, but I think that most of the discussions of it are pretty uninteresting. The reason for this, I think, is that they are in the thrall of a single, rather simple model of what it means to “get� the priesthood.

From Charisma to Bureaucracy in Two Pages

About two weeks ago I went to the University of Richmond to do some research on Mormon history. Thanks to Terryl Givens, Richmond has acquired a set of the Selected Collections DVDs that were released a while ago by the Church Archives. Hence, I found myself in a library carrel in Virginia reading Orson Hyde’s handwritten 1834 minutes for the Kirtland High Council.

Karl Llewellyn and Joseph Smith on the Couch

Do you ever have one of those odd moments when you are seeing something unfamiliar and suddenly it becomes extremely familiar? Or perhaps you see something very familiar but it suddenly reminds you of something equally familiar but totally different? I had one of those experiences today.

The Place of Ranting in Mormon Thought: A (Longish) Response to Russell

I have been thinking all weekend about Russell’s post attacking the Mormon legislators who voted in favor of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The post was a rant. Russell is disgusted and outraged, but there was more to the post than that. Russell didn’t simply think that the Mormon legislators were wrong. He thought that they had betrayed their Mormoness at some deep level. I’m trying to figure out whether or not there is any value in what Russell has done.

Thoughts on the Sacrament

Kiskilili poses the following very interesting question: Often appearing to be caught between pronounced sacramentalist tendencies (ordinances effect real change that goes beyond their symbolic import) and an underdeveloped theology regarding the significance of our so-called “non-essentialâ€? ordinances (no transubstantiation for us!), we seem at a loss to explain clearly the difference between a non-priesthood holder reciting the blessing over the bread and water of which people then contemplatively partake, and the same situation when a priesthood holder pronounces it. Implicit in Kiskilili’s question, it seems to me, that the presence or the absence of the priesthood must make sense in some way other than symbolic import because symbols are inherently conventional and there is no reason that we couldn’t simply rearrange the symbols differently and have the same meaning. Hence, the reference to transubstantiation, which presumably provides a powerful way of understanding the sacrament in other than symbolic terms. Let us imagine, however, that we lived in Kiskilili’s proposed…

Dangerous Stories

Driving to work today, I had an odd epiphany. It occurred to me that there is an odd symmetry between the danger that “liberal” and “conservative” Mormons see in story telling.

From the Archives: Condorcet, Brigham, and Succession to the Presidency

Condorcet was a French social theorist in the opening decades of the 19th century and is credited with first discovering a paradox of majority voting that bears his name. Here is the paradox: Imagine that you have a group of three people (A,B, and C) who are voting on three different alternatives (X, Y, and Z). A prefers X to Y and Y to Z. B prefers Y to Z and Z to X. C prefers Z to X and X to Y. If X is paired in a vote with Y, then X wins (A and C against B). If Y is paired with Z, then Y wins (A and B against C). But — and this is the kicker — if Z is paired with X, then Z wins (B and C against A). In other words, even if the individual preferences of A, B and C are transitive, the collective preferences of A, B, and C are…

Getting it wrong, kinda sorta…

OK, let’s ask a relatively simple question: Why do non-Mormon accounts of Mormon theology so often seem grotesque? To avoid derailing the discussion immediately, let me concede that there are non-Mormon folks who “get” Mormon theology, etc. etc. etc. On the other hand, if you are a Mormon and have not seen, heard, or read some non-Mormon describing Mormon theology as a pastiche of ridiculous beliefs about magic underwear, visitors from outer space, and eternal sex in the hereafter you haven’t been paying much attention to what your neighbors think about you.

Artists and Mormonism

Motley Vision has been playing host to an interesting discussion on Mormon aesthetics. The question du jour from the Sunstone Symposium seems to be whether or not one can be a Great Artist (or any kind of Artist) and still be a member of the Church. Two out of three panelists were apparently skeptical. For myself, I suspect that we are operating with a rather parochial definition of Artist, furthermore one that is ill suited to both the theology and demographics of Mormonism.

Taking the Book of Mormon Seriously

Over at BCC Taryn has an interesting post on the Book of Mormon and socialism. Her basic claim is that the Book of Mormon endorses socialism. At one level, I think that she is absolutely correct, on another level I think that the claim is vacuous.