The Summer 2014 print issue of Dialogue arrived in my mailbox last week. Among other fine articles is a ten-year look back at Mormon blogging by Dialogue Web Editor Emily Jensen. The article consists of about 70 paragraph-length quotations from selected Bloggernacle posts over the years, in ten categories: theology, homosexuality, feminism, race, Mormon studies, public conversations, history, Dialogue, personal essays, and miscellaneous. The Dialogue website adds a few supplementary blog posts that did not make the print article, but to get the print article itself you will need to subscribe. Below are links to the T&S posts that appeared in the article.
On Tuesday, Ally Isom, Senior Manager of Public Affairs with the LDS Church, encouraged listeners to have respectful conversations about their concerns with and faith in the Church.
On Friday, December 13, the Judge Waddoups, a district court judge in the District of Utah, held that Utah’s criminalization of polygamy was unconstitutional. Partly, anyway.
More on that in a minute. I suspect that this opinion will reverberate throughout the blogosphere and the mainstream media, with the reporting displaying various levels of accuracy. The question I suspect won’t get much play, though, is, what are the tax consequences of this decision?
The Twitters tell me that 80 years ago today, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, thus ending Prohibition.
Whatever you think about Prohibition, it’s probably worth noting the Pres. Grant was not a fan of its end. In fact, he addressed the end of Prohibition—and Utah’s role in ending it—at General Conference in 1934. Here’s an (annotated by me) excerpt of what he said:
Sometime in late 2003 or early 2004, Steve Evans told me I needed to check out his[fn1] website: rameumptom.blogspot.com. At the time, the nascent bloggernacle was so young that By Common Consent didn’t yet have a name (I think the name was voted on sometime during that first year). He may have also pointed me to Times & Seasons, or I may have found it linked on his blog. But I found T&S at approximately the same time.
Ten years is a long time, even in the real world. When Adam put up the first Times and Seasons post on Nov. 19, 2003, there was no WordPress. There was no Bloggernacle. There were just six T&S permabloggers (Nate, Matt, Adam, Kaimi, Greg, and Gordon) and a handful of commenters. Those were the days. Below are links to fifteen or twenty representative posts from the first year, with a few commenter names thrown in to give credit to the early followers of the blog.
So I had every intention of posting the next installment in the Approaching Zion Project today. But Labor Day weekend (and, specifically, houseguests, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and a Cubs game) intervened and, well, I’m not ready.
But Monday night’s dinner with our guests brought up a question, and I thought I’d ask for an unrepresentative sampling of answers.
Over at Keepaptichinin, Amy Tanner Theriot has a wonderful post talking about family associations, and providing some guidelines for how to put together a successful association. In the post, she mentions that family associations can qualify as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entities. At the mention of Code sections (and revenue rulings!), my ears perk up, and I thought I’d give a little more information about the tax side of such organizations. But before you read my post, you need to read Amy’s. Because everything I know about family associations I learned reading her post, then doing a little Westlaw research. Because of that, basically nothing I write here will mean much unless you’re familiar with what Amy wrote.
Yesterday, the Art Institute had a family program tied into its new exhibit, Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity. The Art Institute’s family programs are inevitably excellent, so we decided to bike down, look at the exhibit, and then let the kids make the related art. The museum’s about 6.5 miles from us on the Lakefront Trail and, even though there and back would be the longest ride my oldest had ever taken, we figured she could make it. So we loaded up, the oldest on her bike, the next on a tagalong behind me and the youngest on a bike seat on my wife’s bike. 6.5 miles turns out, though, to be a lot for a young child and, since I had to be back home to take our car to be serviced in the early afternoon, we decided on the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier instead. At 5.5 miles, it cut off two miles round-trip. We spent a couple hours playing at the…
This chapter (understandably) overlaps significantly with the previous chapter, Gifts. These are, after all, discourses he delivered at various times, to various audiences, with common themes. I’m reading them separately, though, and different things hit me at different readings. So, like always, I won’t discuss everything Nibley focuses on (and I’ll try to not spend too much time on things I’ve discussed previously). With that out of the way, on to the chapter.
I could see them before I crossed Michigan Avenue into Grant Park. There were probably five of them, holding big yellow signs with blocky letters, Bible verses. It seemed out of place, fifty feet in front of the entrance to the Chicago Blues Festival, but maybe I just didn’t understand the logic behind it. I don’t remember the verses the signs promoted, and the picketers seemed nice enough, holding signs but not harassing the passersby, passersby who, like me, basically ignored them. Maybe they’d picked out verses of scripture with special applicability to fans of the blues; then again, maybe these were just generic holy protest signs.
Another confession: I had a really hard time with this chapter. And it’s not just because I read it sitting in an airport waiting for a plane that was delayed for an hour and a half. Rather, it’s because of the way Nibley speaks of the wealthy. Certain of his descriptions feel, to me, so laughably one-dimensional—so moustache-twirling, tying-the-heroine-to-the-tracks—that I find myself fighting both his prose and my instincts to not just dismiss his entire piece out of hand.
Now that I’ve read my first chapter of Approaching Zion, a couple more caveats before we get started. First, I’m not going to bother summarizing what Nibley said. Instead, I’m going to try to engage it, responding to ideas that engaged me, whether I agree or disagree. Second, I’m not going to try to engage with the full text; in Chapter 1, there were two things that really spoke to me, and one more that I’m going to mention and defer until a later installment. Feel free, in the comments, to engage with what I’ve engaged with, what I’ve said, or something else in the chapter that you feel needs to be responded to. With that, let’s go!
I have a confession to make: I’ve never read Hugh Nibley’s Approaching Zion. I’m serious. I mean, I bought it years ago, probably before my oldest daughter was born. I’ve lugged it through at least six or seven moves. And it’s sitting on my bookshelf, taking up valuable real estate. But, though I’ve nibbled here and there, I’ve never even read a complete chapter.
It seems an odd oversight, frankly: in Approaching Zion, Nibley describes what constitutes a Zion society, and what we need to do to establish such a Zion society; I’m deeply interested in how society and the law can promote social justice and a better world. So it seems like a natural fit, right?
Our sisters and brothers in the bloggernacle have turned their virtual relationship into doing tangible good for those in need. Yesterday, Lisa at fMH announced the Tracy McKay fMh Scholarship. I remember last year when Tracy’s ward financial assistance was cut and the immediate action by her fellow bloggers to raise enough money to get her through her last semester. fMh is working on an endowment to make the scholarship permanent and contributions tax-deductible. (Last year, we just gave money because it was needed, it was the right thing to do, and that mattered more than a tax deduction.) In the meantime, any single Mormons mothers who are in need of financial assistance may apply for this year’s scholarship. For complete information, check out the post at fMH.
I know, I said a year and a half ago that I wasn’t going to see The Book of Mormon. But then it came to Chicago and, in spite of the fact that it is sold out through at least March, a friend set me up with a ticket. So I’ve now seen the show. I’m not going to review it, though. It’s already been widely reviewed, and frankly, I don’t have the musical theater chops to provide a credible review.
I met Tigre pretty soon after arriving in my second area. He was a solid man, all muscle but his midsection. As I got to know him, I learned that both his muscle and his gut were well-earned. The muscle because Tigre taught karate for a living, and owned his own studio. The gut? You have never seen such a mountain of rice, covered with an avalanche of beans, as this man ate for lunch.
There is, I’ve been told, a Facebook meme going around, juxtaposing a decaying house and the San Diego temple to support the argument that churches should not be exempt from taxation.
And, like Facebook memes everywhere, this one is dumb. Dumb primarily because it is a tautology that doesn’t say anything. Because of course a tax-exempt organization does not pay taxes that a non-exempt individual pays. That’s pretty much the definition of tax exemption.
Of course, saying that a Facebook meme is dumb and tautological makes for a pretty short and boring post. Far more interesting, imho, is to take seriously the point that the people spreading the picture are trying to make, and complicating that rhetorical picture a little bit.
As Sarah noted, Saturday and Sunday bring us our Fall semiannual General Conference.
As part of our twice-yearly ritual, we’ll hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir up to three times: one session of Conference Saturday, one session Sunday, and the Music and the Spoken Word broadcast before the first Sunday session.
When I lived in New York, I could have told you what virtually all of my friends paid in rent. It was a fairly common topic of conversation, and the conversation was one of two types: the can-you-believe-I-pay-$2,000-for-this-dump, or can-you-believe-I-only-pay-$3,500-for-this-apartment.[fn1] I didn’t really think much of it; I didn’t put much stock in financial privacy. And it wasn’t just the amount I paid in rent—as an attorney at a big firm in New York, if you wanted to know how much I made, you basically just needed to know the year I graduated from law school, the firm I worked for, and the website for NALP.[fn2] My salary was there for the viewing. After my first stint in New York, while living in the DC metro area, an acquaintance bought a house. And he mentioned the price[fn3] at his housewarming party. His wife was mortified. She explained to him that that is a number you don’t mention in public. It…
Today is the 15th anniversary of the end of my mission. (Note that I can’t entirely remember what I mean by that—I’m pretty sure that August 5, 1997, was my last day of proselytizing, the 6th I got on an airplane, and the 7th I arrived home. But it has been 15 years, and I’m not 100% sure.) And what does that two years mean to me, 15 years later? On one level, not a whole lot. I don’t think about it a whole lot; my days are much more likely spent occupied by the Internal Revenue Code. Or my kids. My wife. My calling. Blogging. But although its explicit significance has diminished in my life, I still feel fallout from my mission’s underlying repercussions. (Fallout in a good way, naturally.) Principal among these is that my commitment to the Church and the gospel solidified over those two years. This is not to say that, without a mission, I wouldn’t…
Oh no—somebody on the Internet is wrong while I’m on vacation! But duty calls. Recently, Ryan Cragun, a sociology professor, along with students Stephanie Yeager and Desmond Vega, argued that the government subsidizes religion by about $71 billion a year. He thinks this is wrong, and that religions should pay their fair share. I have no problem with his making this argument—tax exemption costs the government significant revenue (though his $71 billion is based on really, really poor assumptions—more on that later), and should be examined carefully and critically. But Prof. Cragun’s analysis is not the careful and critical examination that the tax treatment of churches deserves. His piece has a number of significant problems. I’m not going to address all of the problems, including the fact that he appears unaware that there is an extensive academic literature that explores the place of a tax exemption for churches,[fn1] but I am going to address a handful of his assertions. In…