Category: News and Politics

Politics – Current Events – Media

Four sources of the Apocalypse

With the past two months, I have read — for various reasons — four different novels laying out apocalyptic events within the United States. Here are the novels, in the order I read (or re-read) them, and with the reasons why I read them: — Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (1977): a comet fragments and strikes the Earth in numerous places, collapsing much of world civilization, including the United States. I’ve read this several times before; I saw it cited on a blog (Samizdata) in a discussion on “the best end-of-the-world novels”  and decided to dig it out and read it again.

Bye-bye, Bybee?

A week ago, the New York Times joined the growing chorus of commenters calling for Judge Jay Bybee’s impeachment. Is impeachment really going to happen? And what should we think about the issue?

Own Worst Enemy

Its tempting to shrug off the news that Deseret Book has taken Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books off the shelves because of customer complaints. After all, Deseret Book has a right to run its business how it pleases. And as Clark Goble observes, in his comment on Beliefnet on this issue, it may be Deseret Book trying to differentiate itself from other bookstores. But I see a problem.

A Ponzi Scheme Trifecta?

Looking through the news over the past few days, I was surprised at the number of ponzi-schemes perpetrated by Mormons in the news these days. I’ve seen three in the news in the past week, two of which involved men who were Bishops at the time.

Memories of Bill Orton

Presidential campaigns aside, one of the first political races I can remember paying attention to growing up was the 1990 congressional race between Karl Snow and new comer Bill Orton to fill retiring Rep. Howard C. Nielson’s 3rd District congressional seat. I was 12 at the time and delivered the Utah County Journal, a free area newspaper.

Conscience in the Obama Era

I linked yesterday on the sidebar to Stanley Fish’s latest editorial in the New York Times, which takes as its occasion the possibility that President Obama will revoke the “conscience clause” allowing health care providers the right to refuse to provide certain services. I thought I’d add a few thoughts here.*

Contemplating Missionary Work in Cuba

The Obama administration announced yesterday that it is easing a handful of restrictions imposed by the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Among other things, Cuban-Americans will now be allowed to travel to Cuba as much as they like and will be free to send money and gifts to friends and relatives without securing travel or export licenses from the Treasury or the Commerce Department.

Notes From All Over – Comments

I’ve always liked our  posts allowing comments on the “Notes From All Over” in the sidebar. So I thought I’d try keeping it alive. Instead of simply leaving an open thread, I thought I’d number and give a summary of the items that appeared this past week:

Asking the Right Question

The news yesterday was that President Obama will hold a Passover Seder in the White House tonight, the first time a Seder has been held in the White House. So, who is going to ask him to hold Family Home Evening some Monday night?

The Double-Minded Essence of Mormonism

A while ago I was reading some sermons from the 1880s in the Journal of Discourses.  The 1880s, of course, is the decade when the anti-polygamy crusades were at their most intense.  Thousands of Mormons were incarcerated, the Brethren were in hiding from the law much of the time, and every time you turned around there was a new law confiscating Mormon property or disenfranchising Mormon voters.  Hence, I was surprised to come across a sermon in which George Q. Cannon spoke unironically of his admiration for George Edmunds.  Edmunds was a Republican Senator from Vermont, and the chief proponent of harsher anti-Mormon legislation in Congress.  Cannon noted that he disagreed with Edmunds and thought him mistaken.  Nevertheless, he said in effect that he thought Edmunds an admirable man of principle.  Cannon’s remarks reveal a deep double-mindedness in nineteenth-century Mormonism, a double-mindedness whose preservation surely counts as one of the triumphs of the modern Church.

Same-Sex Marriage in the News (but not the Newsroom)

Lots of movement on the SSM front today (and this week in general).  Today, Vermont’s legislature passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage.  Also, Washington D.C.’s city council passed a bill recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages.   Meanwhile, last week the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that same-sex couples had a right to marry under the state constitution.  And the California court will rule on the Prop 8 appeal in the next two months.  (I don’t think the appeal will succeed.) There is no official statement that I’m aware of about these recent developments (the Newsroom is silent so far; the most recent releases on Prop 8 or SSM are two month old discussions of Prop 8 filings).  Will the church weigh in on these new  developments with official statements or California-like campaigns?  One thing is for certain — the last word on the topic is not yet in, and there will probably be lots of news in this area within the next few years.

When is Sin Tax a Sin?

The new tobacco tax in the United States took effect yesterday, which tripled the amount of tax collected on each pack of cigarrettes, and probably raising the cost of a pack to as much as $9. The tax is the single largest increase in tobacco taxes in history. For an LDS audience, this probably seems all fine and good. You aren’t likely to complain about a sin tax if you aren’t committing that sin. And, to be honest, its hard to imagine a sin tax that LDS Church members would be particularly vulnerable to (perhaps ice cream?) But even if we aren’t vulnerable, isn’t there a limit to sin taxes?

The “anti-Mormon” label

Some years ago I had the idea that Mormonism needs an “anti-defamation league”–a group that reviews news coverage and other public actions and publicly condemns those actions that clearly defame Mormons and Mormonism. But I’ve since decided that this is probably not a very workable idea.

The Miracle of Forgiveness

Thursday night I heard a short piece on the radio that brought me close to tears. Part of NPR’s on-going series of personal essays called This I Believe, the segment illustrated for me the meaning of true forgiveness as perfectly as anything I’ve ever heard. The essay was delivered by two people, Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino. Ronald is a man who spent 10 1/2 years in prison for a crime he did not commit based primarily on testimony given by Jennifer, a woman who had mistakenly picked him out of a line-up as the man who had raped her.

Politics versus Sectarianism

I recently finished The Theocons: Secular America Under Seige and put up a short post on it elsewhere. But as I continue to mull it over I have a different idea to float than I discussed in the other post, namely that the rejection of Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate by religious conservatives in the Republican Party marks a triumph of sectarianism over politics that will undermine (or already has) the political influence of the theocons, to whatever extent you grant they have had influence.

Too Much Truth?

Blogger and journalist Rod Dreher posted an op-ed piece at USA Today, “How much ‘truth’ is too much?” It reviews in passing the author’s personal journey from faithful Catholic journalist reporting on the abuse scandals in the Catholic Church to Orthodox Christian who prefers to avoid repeating that experience a second time in his new church.

Ooooobama!

The swearing-in of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States is just around the corner. It’s an exciting time to be living in Washington, DC – even if we don’t dare leave our house to brave the swarm of people descending on the nation’s capital to watch the inauguration. Even our not-quite-two-year-old daughter is catching Obama-fever. We haven’t gone out of our way to teach her anything about Obama, but she still has absorbed quite a bit (it helps that the city is absolutely SATURATED with Obama-related stuff).  She now points to pictures of Obama and yells, “Oooooobama!!“

Key to the Science of Unity

Our ward has been exploring the idea of Unity in our sacrament meeting talks this month, and I’ve heard the same attribution to Elder Dallin H. Oaks several times. It apparently comes from a “News of the Church” article in June 2007 which discusses the growing diversity in the Church. According to the article, Elder Oaks “said that the growing diversity among the members is simply a condition, not a Church goal. The real goal is unity, not diversity.” Perhaps’ I’m not listening closely enough, but the  discussions of this idea seem to have missed the balance of what was attributed to him in the article, in which Elder Oaks says, “We preach unity among the community of Saints and tolerance toward the personal differences that are inevitable in the beliefs and conduct of a diverse population.” In my view this is actually the key to unity (be it science or art). The key to unity is, in fact, the…

The Totality of Mortality

When I picked up my manual to prepare to teach Gospel Doctrine this Sunday, I figured it would be a lesson about the spirit of Elijah (second week = section 2 = turning hearts, etc). I was surprised and delighted to find that Lesson 2 is instead about the atonement, highlighting powerhouse passages in Doctrine & Covenants sections 19, 76, 88, and 93. While reading the material I was reminded of a favorite quote from Chieko Okazaki on the topic and had a hankering to share it.

Times and Seasons 2008 Mormon of the Year: Mitt Romney

Image via Wikipedia After careful consideration, the staff of Times and Seasons has selected Mitt Romney as Mormon of the Year, our annual designation of the Mormon who had the greatest impact or influence on Mormons and Mormonism in 2008. During 2008 Romney concluded the most credible presidential campaign of any Mormon to date and dominated the U.S. national news early in the year like no single Mormon has in recent memory. He garnered a great deal of both praise and criticism, gaining him significant endorsements as well as important detractors. Remarkably, his supporters included many Evangelical Christians, which helped break down the unfortunate views of some Evangelicals toward Mormons. Also on the international scene, numerous press articles mentioned Romney’s membership in the Mormon Church, thus contributing to the image of the Church abroad. Romney was not merely a very visible Mormon, however; his Mormonism was a major influence on the course of his campaign, in both positive and negative…

Semiautomatic Madness

“Gun sales in the waning months of 2008 saw a dramatic spike in Utah, a trend gunowners say is propelled by the election of Barack Obama and a faltering economy . . . At Kearns’ Impact Guns, assault weapons, such as AR-15s and AK-47s are out-of-stock after a post-election rush.” Will someone please explain to me why any civilian would want or need an AK-47?

Who Should Be Mormon of the Year?

Its that time of year. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is traditionally the media’s time for reflection on the past year — the time when we see story after story on the best or most important stories of the year, or the most important person of the year (as Time magazine just named — no surprise there). I enjoy these looks at the past year, and given how much LDS Church members don’t usually know much about news that involves the Church, it seems to me these lists might be quite useful. So let me pose the question: “Who should be the Mormon of the Year?”