Author: Russell Arben Fox

The Greatest Mormon Halloween Costume Ever

Via frequent T&S commenter, former guest-blogger, and all-around well-connected guy Jonathan Green, comes this, a priceless document of what happens when Mormonism collides with modern American Halloween festivities. The man in the costume is Brother Bill Atkinson, and the costume itself…well, see for yourself. And enjoy.

Meanwhile, Back on the Farm…

…it’s been a great year, one of the best my father can remember. The Fox family farm brought in over 90,000 bushels of wheat, including about 30,000 bushels of our high-protein dark northern spring (averaging about 80 bushels an acre for the latter, a particularly good crop). Some wild oat grass got into part of the farm, cutting down on the yield from about 400 out of our total 1800 acres, but otherwise there is little to complain about. The Amoths–a Mennonite family that have managed and farmed land for our family for three generations, and soon four–have every reason to be proud.

Happy 5766!

Today is Rosh Hashanah, and everyone here at Times and Seasons wishes a happy new year to our Jewish friends. (Here are a few Jewish-themed posts from the past.) If there’s a synagogue here in Macomb, IL, I’m unaware of it, so there will be cultural dimension missing from our family celebrations tonight. Still, Melissa will make her chicken soup and challah bread, and we’ll share stories from the Old Testament with our children. I hope everyone reading this, both Jew and Gentile (and Mormon), does the same. Shana Tova, everyone!

From the Archives (Sort Of): Back to Primary

After a little over a month in our new ward, here in Macomb, IL, I’ve received a calling. It is the exact same calling I had in our last ward, right down to taking care of the Weblos. And I’m delighted. First, because I know the routine. Second, because it’s nice to know where you’re supposed to be–and for a bishopric that’s known me for only a few weeks to pray and then ask me to serve in basically the same area I’ve served in for most of my church-going adult life…well, that just gives me a sense of confirmation about my niche. I wrote about my return to Primary after a brief detour over a year ago; my feelings about Primary haven’t changed since then. So check out that post, and leave a comment there, if you’re so inclined. In meantime, wish me well–I’m free of elder’s quorum once more!

Of Gluttony and Gardens

The Seven Deadly Sins have fallen on hard times. Codified by Pope Gregory I in the sixth century, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride enjoyed a robust career in the Middle Ages, inspiring countless works of art. In the current Cathechism of the Catholic Church, however, these seven sins warrant exactly one paragraph (out of nearly 3000). Which is just as well, I suppose–positive invocations of morality probably help a lot more than simply listing sins, which often only encourages further (often Pharasaical) list-making. Still, there is one good thing which can come from such explicit lists: they make it hard to rationalize away something that we ought to strive mightly to avoid. In my judgement, our church leaders do a good job at preventing us from forgetting about the perils of lust, greed, wrath, envy and pride. Sloth I’ll leave for another day. But gluttony? This, I fear, is one that’s been allowed to slip through the…


There’s a new family which just moved into our ward; the father is also a new professor at WIU, like myself, and he’s occupying a temporary slot here, trying to figure out what will come next, also like myself. So we have a fair amount in common. We had them over for dinner on Monday, and I discovered something else we have in common: Katrina. Or rather, how close we came to being in its path.

What They Art (for 40 Years, and Counting)

Today, August 20th, the youngest of my eight siblings, Baden Joseph Fox, married Mary Ellen Smoot in the Salt Lake temple. We weren’t able to attend, which was doubly unfortunate, this being a particularly notable day in Fox family history. You see, on the same date their last child was married, my parents, James Russell Fox and Kathleen Jolley Fox, were married in the Salt Lake temple, 40 years earlier. This post is for them.

Leaving Jonesboro

This past Sunday was our last in the Jonesboro ward. We’re moving to Illinois on Saturday, and while we’ll have a chance to say goodbye at greater length to some of our closer friends over the next few days (to say nothing of when the elder’s quorum shows up to help pack the truck!), for the most part our partings on Sunday were final. (At least in the short term, that is; in the long term, who knows? We may well find ourselves visiting or even living in Jonesboro again someday, a prospect which I wouldn’t mind one bit.)

Vielen Dank, Jonathan!

Leider ist die Zeit des Jonathan Green zum blog mit uns zu einem Ende gekommen. Er war ein wundervoller Gast-blogger, der uns sehr viel unterhielt und unterrichtete. Danke so Jonathan und wir hoffen, dass Sie fortfahren, an Times & Seasons hier teilzunehmen!

Introducing (Again) Jonathan Green

A little while ago, Times & Seasons was pleased to announce that Jonathan Green–scholar, master of trivia, academic vagabond and world-class T&S commenter–had agreed to grace our blog with a guest stint. Since his initial post, however, he’s been on the move, taking his family from Charleston, South Carolina (where he had a visiting position at the College of Charleston) to Lansing, Michigan (where he will take up a visiting position at Michigan State University), with stops at Arkansas (where he and his family visited Chez Fox and we shared some nice BBQ ribs) and Illinois in between. (Yes, I know it’s not a direct route; don’t ask.) Now they’re in California, and since they apparently have couple of weeks of consistent internet access before them, Jonathan ready to wow us. So, once again, welcome to T&S, Jonathan!

Thoughts on Ricoeur

Paul Ricoeur, the French phenomenologist and scholar of hermeneutics, has passed away at age 92. He was a profound and important thinker, especially for those interested in addressing the problem of belief–in the Bible, the reality of evil, the possibility of justice, the meaning of life–in the midst of our skeptical, modern world. Several months back, when Jacques Derrida died, Jim and I ended up writing dueling posts. Perhaps that’ll happen again. I’d certainly be happy if it did, since I’d very much like to read Jim’s assessment of Ricoeur’s work, and perhaps something on its relationship to our own religious concerns. In the meantime, as before, my long, philosophical ramblings have been confined to my own blog; you can read them here. Paul Ricoeur, RIP.

On Pentecost, Without Fear

Today is Whitsunday, the Day of Pentecost, commemorating the day when the apostles “were all filled with the Holy Ghost,” as Jesus had promised they would be. I’ve written about Whitsunday before, about how I’ve never, to my knowledge, experienced any comparable spiritual manifestation or revelation, and also about those small gifts of belief that I yet hope are mine nonetheless. This year (coincidentally?), I find myself thinking about many related matters–about how much I yearn for some sort of clear answer or witness or sign or confirmation regarding what my family and I should do about this major decision which stands before us, and about what it would mean to not–perhaps to never–receive one. We’ve collected every bit of data we can; we’ve pestered friends and family and colleagues for advice and insight; we’ve prayed and fasted. And yet there it remains: a choice between paths which are both characterized by far more unknowns than knowns. If a choice…

Of Popes, Post-Mortal and Otherwise

John Fowles’s comment on the Pope (namely, that he “has been a true Christian his whole life and a marvelous example of Christian charity and love to the whole world….I am confident that he will make the right choices in the spirit world”), made at By Common Consent and picked up (out of context) by the Salt Lake Tribune, has inspired a series of sharp exchanges at BCC. The argument there (which is a good one to read through) basically boils down to whether or not the belief that the spirit of Pope John Paul II, now presumably in the spirit world, will or ought to embrace the fulness of the restored gospel and accept vicariously the LDS ordinances of baptism, etc., in order to receive exaltation, exhibits “presumption, arrogance, myopia, and ignorance” (to quote one Sally M.). That is, it’s an argument about the quality and standing of our beliefs. That’s a discussion worth having. But I’d rather have…

Death of a Prophet

When Pope John Paul II was named “Man of the Year” in 1994 by Time Magazine, I cut off the cover, framed it, and put it up in our apartment. We kept it up, from one apartment to the next, for a couple of years, and even at one point had a framed photo of President Hinckley on the wall next to it as well. (No visitor ever commented on our arrangement, though I often wonder what some of them may have thought.) So yes, you could say I was a major fan of the Pope. I mourn his passing, and I was glad to hear President Hinckley’s kind comments about the man. He deserved nothing less–and indeed, probably deserved much more. Am I saying that we owe something–something beyond simple respect, perhaps–to this pontiff, whether as a man or as a leader of the Roman Catholic faith, or even both? Yes.

The Consolation of Doctrine (For Tessa, and All Who Love Her)

Last week my newest niece, Tessa Alene Fox, was buried. I never saw her alive. Neither did anyone else in my family, nor did her parents, though they got to know her, at least little bit, during the nine months she grew inside my sister-in-law’s body. One afternoon, only days before Tessa’s due date, she stopped moving; by the following morning, their doctor confirmed their fears: Tessa was dead. My sister-in-law was induced, and gave birth to her child’s lifeless body without complications later that day. The umbilical cord was wrapped around Tessa’s neck not once, not twice, but four times. It was so tight that the doctor couldn’t unwrap it, but rather had to cut it off.

Hugh Nibley, Prophet

That is, truth-teller. Far greater than his scholarship, in my opinion, was his unwavering determination to speak plainly about what he understood to be the plain teachings–the social, economic, political and cultural teachings–of the prophets. By so doing he changed lives, and even, I think, saved souls. Of course, the actual “value” of his interpretations can be disputed; certainly it is the case that his somewhat flaky, scripturally inspired socialism/environmentalism/pacifism/agrarianism/what-have-you-ism never amounted to a solid foundation upon which one could erect laws, establish policies, distribute goods, enforce treaties, and basically get things done. It was, in other words, strictly speaking, useless. But still.

Proxy Baptizing Holocaust Victims = Fanaticism?

That’s the implication of this angry piece by David Velleman, a philosophy professor at the University of Michigan. Reading about the activities of certain evangelical groups to proselytize in the wake of the tsunami catatrosphe (some of which, I agree, are more than a little insensitive), Velleman reflects upon his discovery, over a decade ago, that his long-dead family (Dutch Jews, all) had been subject to some proxy proselytizing themselves:

Ashes to Ashes

The idea of Ash Wednesday is to mark a period–a period of mourning and chastening, discipline and devotion–of 40 days before Easter. The significance of the 40 days goes without saying. But why ashes?

The Gospel in Paradise

For nine days at the end of January, my wife and kids and I were on the Big Island of Hawai’i, enjoying paradise in the company of my parents, who own a time-share condominium there and visit there every January. They’d decided that it’d been too long since they’d spent any amount of time alone with us or our children, and invited us to come along; we didn’t say no. We’d been to Hawaii before, but this was, without doubt, a vacation to remember: delicious fruit, beautiful weather, gorgeous scenery, long talks with my mom and dad, swimming and golf and snorkeling, and a night of kalua pig. For photographs, see here; for my typically long-winded ruminations on Hawai’i and vacations in general, see here. But for here at T&S, some thoughts about the gospel and the church in paradise. Of course, a couple of week-long visits doesn’t give me any expertise, though my parents have spent enough time there…

Gender Crisis in the Fox Household

I’m the Webelos and 11-year-old Scouts leader in our ward; we meet at the church every Wednesday, which is the day of the week pretty much everything youth-related happens. Given that many people drive quite a distance to make it to various meetings and activities, it’s not unusual for a few families to show up en masse and stay through the evening, with the younger kids tearing apart the nursery or playing games while the adults carry out their responsibilities. This is common enough that it’s become a kind of “play-date” for many children in our ward, our own girls included. Every other week Megan, our 8-year-old, has Primary Activities Day (PAD); this past Wednesday was an off-week, but she wanted to come with me and play during my Webelos/Scout meeting anyway. She played tag in the cultural hall for a while, but then joined up with my boys when I brought them out for exercises; they’re working on their…

Some (Long) Thoughts on Mormon Political Theology

This past weekend I flew down to New Orleans to participate in a panel at the Southern Political Science Association on “The Theory and Practice of Mormon Politics.” The panel was originally proposed and organized by our own Nate Oman and frequent T&S commenter Jeremiah John, a graduate student at Notre Dame; unfortunately, Nate wasn’t able to join us, so in the end the panel consisted of papers from me, Jeremy, and Roger Barrus from Hampden-Sydney College, with comments from former T&S guest-blogger Damon Linker. Ralph Hancock, a BYU professor of political science, chaired the panel. What follows is some lengthy notes on the event, obviously somewhat skewed by my own perspective and preferences.

Can a Good Mormon Be a Socialist?

One of the great benefits of having Nate Oman and Frank McIntyre as regular bloggers here at T&S is that they can rapidly and thoroughly devastate the flakey assumptions which underlie my repetetive calls for social arrangements which prioritize public goods and community maintenance over individual choice and economic growth. This is a good thing: it’s good to be corrected by people who have more knowledge than you, and it’s good to be humbled. I’m confident this post will continue in that tradition.

Leavitt to HHS?

Well, perhaps now we’ll see if, as discussed at length on this site, there is anything particular a Mormon can offer to discussions of stem-cell research or family welfare policies. President Bush has just nominated former Utah governor Mike Leavitt to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. My guess: don’t expect to see Mormon theology mingle with Republican orthodoxy anytime soon.

Saying No to Baptism: A Philosophical Account

A couple of days ago, Bob Caswell reposted at BCC a wonderful old post of his, dealing primarily with the complications of missionary work in an area (in this case, Bulgaria) where there are significant racial, social, and economic factors which get in the way of preaching the gospel to everyone equally. In the comments following that post, Gary made an observation which has been made many times before, but which probably cannot be repeated too often: