Author: Russell Arben Fox

Belated (But Earnest) Thanks to Clark

The Thanksgiving holiday distracted us from thanking Clark Goble for his guest-blogging stint. It was a honor to have Clark join us at the same time we celebrated our first anniversary; his blog, Mormon Metaphysics, has long been and remains one of the very finest in the whole Bloggernacle, and the man himself is one of our all-time comments champs. While with us, Clark shared that blogging talent by way of inquiring about the political lessons of Mormon history, the relationship between science and Mormonism, the importance of Thanksgiving, and much more, including a rant about dating in Provo. Many thanks Clark, and keep up the commenting! Update: ok, so maybe our thanks weren’t quite so belated as we thought…Clark managed to slip in one more post, just under the wire. Way to push the envelope Clark!

Will the Church Need Me / Will the Heathen Heed Me / When I’m Sixty-Four?

Ok, so it doesn’t work as well as the Lennon/McCartney original. Still. Consider this a more or less open thread on the topic of serving “senior missions” (has the church settled on a specific nomenclature yet?). Some months ago, after listening to a talk at a stake conference, or perhaps a general conference address, it suddenly hit me: by the time I am retirement age (sometime in the 2030s), serving a mission with one’s spouse as a senior couple will be nearly as expected, and perhaps even nearly as common, as is it for young men to serve missions today. My track record with predictions is spectacularly poor; still, given the continual and increasing emphasis the church leadership has placed on such missionary work, it seems inevitable that the numbers of those who serve will only increase, and with it an increase in expectations. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but let me kick things off with some…

Jacques Derrida, Dead at 74

Derrida’s passing is probably of interest to almost no one here, and the number of people who will be able to come up with a connection between Derrida and Mormonism is no doubt even fewer. (That is, I think there’s only one: Jim.) Still, though Derrida was ultimately not that important to me either philosophically or spiritually, and though I was never a scholar–or much of fan–of his work, Derrida nonetheless intersected with my life and thinking in an important way. Further thoughts from me here; perhaps, if we are fortunate, Jim will share some Derrida-inspired theological reflections on the man’s accomplishment as well.

Mission Reunions

It’s General Conference time, which means it’s also the time for mission reunions in Utah. There’s no rule which says you can’t have a reunion at some other time or some other place, of course, but this seems to be the custom which has evolved. More power to it, I say. That is, in principle. In practice, I’ve attended exactly one reunion of my mission–Korea Seoul West–in my life. I stayed for about 15 minutes, then left. I’ve never had any desire to participate in one since.

Sexual Healing

What is it? Well, it’s: A) a wonderful, groovy (and, well, yes, “dirty,” but in a good way, if you know what I mean) soul tune by the late, great R&B and pop artist, Marvin Gaye; B) an essential gospel principle.

Rosh Hashanah

Over at my own blog, I’ve posted some (as is my wont, lengthy) reflections on the importance of celebrating holidays, even those that aren’t, strictly speaking, one’s own. The occasion, of course, is that today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. (Actually it began last night at sundown, but the formal holiday is today.) As I’ve mentioned a few times before here at Times and Seasons, I’m a fan of holidays–I think their religious, historical, communal and moral importance to one’s personal and family life can only with difficulty be overstated. And that goes especially for religious holidays (despite the fact that, as I note, the closest connection I have to the Hebrew people is through my brother-in-law’s wife.) In any case, holidays of such importance as the Jewish New Year deserve a little bit of thought from us Mormons, especially considering the important parallels between our two peoples. Shana Tova, everyone!

Back to Primary

When we moved to Jonesboro, I found myself called into the elder’s quorum presidency, which is the first time I’ve ever served in any kind of executive capacity in the church. (Being a district leader in the mission doesn’t count.) I served with two elder’s quorum presidents, and found myself seeing church service, and the economics and politics of running a ward, from what was for me an entirely new and somewhat fascinating angle. But all experiences must come to an end, and when our elder’s quorum president was called into the just-reconstituted bishopric, I was released. After floating free for about a month, I was returned to what is, surely, my natural habitat. Primary.

Swifter, Higher, Stronger

The 2004 Olympics have come to an end. Melissa and I are not complete Olympic junkies, but we watched and followed closely numerous athletic events, as we do every four years. I’m not much of a sports fan, last competed in an athletic contest when I was in junior high (cross-country: I was pretty good at running away from people), and know very little about most of the events we watch. But the intensity and quality of these men and women, and of what they can make their bodies do, is often compelling. It’s captivating to watch Australian Ian Thorpe’s long arms pierce the surface of the water on his way to yet another gold medal, or watch Ladji Doucoure of France power his way through the 110 hurdles, hitting every single one and yet desperately stay in contention until tumbling forward over the last one at the very end. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, indeed.…

Baptism and the Unworthy Vessel

Last Sunday, I confirmed our oldest daughter, Megan Elaine Fox, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her baptism, performed by me, had taken place the day before. It went pretty smoothly, aside from the fact that I forgot to bring my white clothes to the church, and had to rush home and back again at the last minute, desperately afraid that the car (whose gas gauge light was flashing “low fuel” the whole time) was going to stall at some intersection, and I would end up running a couple of miles, white pant legs flapping in the wind as I dodged cars, while everyone was waiting for me at the church. Oh, and then I panicked just before going into the font: was it “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ”, or “Having been commissioned by Jesus Christ”? (Cut me some slack here; I’d only performed the ordinance three times before in my life, the last…

Time Is On Our Side

I’ve posted a version of this over at my new blog; I thought it might be appropriate here too. Enjoy. Melissa and I have been married for eleven years today. We were married on a Friday the 13th, back in 1993, in the Salt Lake City Temple, on a beautiful (though windy) day at the height of the summer marriage season. There were, during that whole day, there in the busiest temple in the whole church, exactly four weddings. Come 2:30pm, we had the place completely to ourselves. Never doubt that nervous Mormon brides and grooms aren’t every bit as suspicious as the rest of the population.

The Mormon Take-over of Nauvoo is Proceeding According to Plan

Honestly, I don’t have anything to say about this article, except that 1) it’s a nice little bit of slice-of-life reporting, 2) doesn’t get anything egregiously wrong so far as I can tell (which is always a relief), and 3) isn’t telling us anything that couldn’t have been predicted the moment the Nauvoo temple was announced. What I want to know is: why is the Mormon take-over of Kirtland going so sluggishly by comparison? We should be running that place by now. But no, we haven’t even bought the original temple back yet! Don’t tell me that the native sons and daughters of rural northeastern Ohio are so much more defiant of Mormon goodwill, savvy, and up-front cash than are the disgruntled locals of western Illinois. (And it’s not like the Community of Christ couldn’t use the dough.) Somebody better get their priorities straight. Yeah, I know what you’re all saying: “Oooh, but Brother Fox, we have to recapture Nauvoo…

When I’m a Mission President…

…pigs will fly. But until then, I can imagine. The article which Kaimi referred us to in the previous post has sparked a very nice, rambling discussion about church growth rates in Latin America and elsewhere. More importantly, it has reminded of the excellent, wide-ranging work of Dave Stewart, a church member who has spent over a decade gathering and synthesizing information on how our mission program actually works (or doesn’t), and compares the rather undeveloped state of “Mormon missiology” to that of other congregations, who have thought long and hard about what constitutes real growth, what makes for real and lasting conversions, and how missionaries and the rank-and-file membership can work together. I first ran across Stewart’s stuff a couple of years ago, and was deeply impressed then; I’m still impressed now. His collected research is thorough, somewhat repetitive, and no doubt could be criticized by professional statisticians, sociologists, and numerous others. But that doesn’t stop it from being…

A Modest Terminological Proposal

Or maybe not so modest. You all decide. Here it is: can we T&Sers, and perhaps in time the bloggernacle community in general, come to an agreement, if only for purposes of discussion, on what is and is not meant by “liberal” and “conservative” in Mormon contexts? Because it seems that everytime these labels arise, confusion abounds.

More on Elder Packer and Beards

The thread following Dan’s post on the church’s apparent (and inconsistent) “tonsorial jihad” has come to focus on the matter of “unwritten policies” and the existence of an “oral law”–something Jim doubts that any culture can exist without. I agree with him–there is and must be a place for mores, for unwritten guides to belief and behavior, in any healthy society. But it’s worth thinking a little more deeply about what this dynamic should and shouldn’t involve, in the church and elsewhere.

Apologies from Damon

Unfortunately, Damon Linker won’t be able to complete the second week of his two week guest-blogging stint with T&S; some unexpected work and personal responsibilities have overwhelmed him for the moment, and he doesn’t think he’ll have the time or energy to contribute as he would like, much less be able to do justice to the many excellent comments which his last post elicited. Some of those comments were rather severe, as he knew they would be–you can’t be a non-Mormon professor at BYU and not know that saying Mormons aren’t Christians will strike a huge nerve–but that didn’t bother him at all; he was anxious to engage those who disagreed with him. Tragically, real life has intervened. We wish Damon well, and hope to have him blogging back here at T&S as soon as the fates allow.

As Expected…

…the Supreme Court has taken a pass, reversed the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision, and dismissed Michael Newdow’s suit against the Pledge of Allegiance on the technical grounds that he is not his daughter’s custodian, and therefore he has no standing to bring a complaint on her behalf. The case was 8-0 in favor of dismissal (Scalia had recused himself). Full story here. I suppose watching the Supreme Court actually try to ban the words “under God” from the Pledge would have been entertaining, as would have been an attempt on their part to constitutionally affirm this particular bit of civic religion. (For the record: broadly speaking, I’m probably quite a bit more open to the idea of an “established” civic religion than your average American–but given the tenor of arguments which surrounded this particular case, specifically those which claimed the phrase “under God” was constitutional because it was merely “ceremonial,” I never thought it was a particularly important battle to…

Sex and Kids: A Practical Question

Last night, Melissa and I watched the new version of Peter Pan. We wanted to see if it was appropriate viewing for the family; though a marvelous film, we decided it wasn’t. This version very clearly turns the tale into a coming-of-age/growing-up/sexual-awakening story, and while we both thought it was told with terrific humor, great sensitivity and tact, and wonderful visuals, we agreed that it was probably too much for our oldest–Megan, who will be 8 in August. Maybe when she’s 10 or so. Anyway, in coming to this conclusion, we found ourselves wondering about how, and when, we should have “the sex talk” with Megan. We both agree that we wanted her to learn about such matters from us before any one else, but we also don’t want to rush things she isn’t ready to handle, just to make sure she gets it from us first. We talked about our own experiences with learning the facts of life–Melissa’s parents…

Times & Seasons Welcomes…A Gentile*

In our continuing effort to bring something new to the Bloggernacle, Times & Seasons is delighted to welcome on board our latest guestblogger–Damon Linker, current editor of First Things magazine, one of the premier religious journals of opinion and commentary in the United States. Damon is probably the most intelligent outside observer of Mormonism I have ever had the pleasure to know. He studied and received a Ph.D. in political philosophy at Michigan State University**, after which he taught for two years at Brigham Young University, where he did such a smashing job that at least a few of those who worked with him tried, in vain, to find some way around BYU’s current (and unfortunate, if you ask me) mandate for hiring only Mormons into tenure-track positions. (I can remember telling Damon at a conference that if he’d only convert, they’d roll out the red carpet for him. He declined.) Currently, he spends his time arguing with–and editing the…

A Horror, Ended

For many years, a story haunted me. It was a story told in graphic detail to a bunch of priests and teachers, one of whom was me, by a doctor in our stake; a story about a baby boy who lost his penis during a botched circumcision, and who was then surgically altered to become female by his ignorant parents and by malicious doctors in order to cover up the “mistake.” The larger point of the story, of course, was to impress upon us the level of wickedness and sexual disregard in the world today by way of an anecdote which presumed the principle of gender essentialness. I’m not sure it worked; trying to scare or horrify someone into righteousness and/or orthodoxy usually doesn’t. But I never forgot the story, and I always wondered what kind of hell that child had been thrust into. An awful one, as it turns out. Over the years I would occasionally hear different versions…

My Gifts (Whitsunday Reflections)

This past weekend wasn’t just Memorial Day; according to the traditional liturgical calendar, it also included Whitsunday, a celebration of the Day of Pentecost and the spiritual gifts bestowed upon the early disciples on that day. Acts 2:2-4: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And there were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” I have never personally experienced anything remotely like this, or indeed, remotely like any of the spiritual gifts promised to the faithful by Paul or Moroni. I have never seen or been party to a healing that struck me as having anything miraculous about it. I have never prophesied, nor directly witnessed the fulfilling of a prophecy. I…

The Polygamists are Coming!

A couple of months ago, I made reference to a fine and informative collection of articles in the Salt Lake Tribune, titled “Living the Principle: Polygamy on the Border”. Among the many fascinating tidbits included in those reports were descriptions of tensions and splits among the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints. It appears that the current FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs, has become unpopular and tyrannical, and several polygamist families, led by those whom he’s excommunicated or simply by folks who want to get away from the man, are relocating. (I found to my surprise that one divided faction has put down roots in a small community just over the Idaho border in British Columbia, which would be about seven miles from our family cabin.) Anyway, my friend Scott in Texas informs me that at least one small West Texas town is in an uproar over the possibility that the FLDS are considering a mass exodus to their backyard. Fortunately, according to…

Do the Meetings Really Even Matter? (Thoughts on the Sacrament)

I sense a common theme, or at least a common presumption, to recent posts by Julie and Kristine (which is not to reduce either of their posts to the point I’m making; there’s a lot more to both of them than this). Specifically, both seem to be concerned with, exasperated by, or otherwise focused on the “public” operations of the church: leadership, callings, classes, etc. You know, all the stuff which happens on Sunday: this lesson on Lamentations needs to get taught even though that baby over there is screaming his head off and no one can hear a word being said; meanwhile the bishop has been led (presumably by revelation, but who knows?) to call a young man struggling with his testimony teach the Gospel Principles class to inactives and new converts, while a brand new convert with serious mental and physical handicaps has been appointed Scoutmaster. For all these reasons and more (infants on the loose, inexplicable policies…

My Daughter, the Universalist

During sacrament meeting yesterday, I was reading to Caitlyn, our four-year-old, from New Testament Stories, an illustrated scripture-reader which the church first published over twenty years ago. She turned to the story of “The Ten Young Women,” and asked me to read it to her. Which I did: I read about the ten young women, waiting at the door with their lamps burning; I read about the bridegroom who would open the door, but no one knew when; I read about the five women who were wise, and had brought extra oil for their lamps, and the five women who were not wise, and had not. I read how the five wise women refilled their lamps while the other five left to buy more oil when all their lamps burned out; I read how the bridegroom came in the meantime, and invited the five wise women in to the wedding; I read how the other five women came back, found…

Why Didn’t God Answer My Prayer?

It’s not a new question; indeed, it’s one of the oldest questions. And I have no fresh insight to bring to it either; it is a deep, profound, and serious matter of faith and theology, whereas my thinking at the moment is self-centered, mean, even a little angry. Still, tonight it’s my question nonetheless.