The Iowa Electronic Markets

As we move through election season, the polls start coming fast and furious; the pundits punditorate, the politicians spin, the news media pretend not to spin, bloggers blog, and everybody offers the inside scoop as to the outcome of the election. How is one to aggregate all this information into the best possible guess as to who will win the presidential election? One excellent way to do it is to pay people to be right. This is exactly what is done at the Iowa Electronic Markets. If you are sure that John Kerry is going to be the next U.S. President, you can got to the IEM website and buy Kerry stock. Currently, for 46 cents one can buy an option to get $1 if Kerry wins. Bush costs about 54 cents. If you are sure Kerry is the man, this is an easy way to make money, $46 now will get you $100 in just a few months.

International Mormon Sites

In one of our threads, WilfriedDecoo, a European Latter-day Saint, was kind enough to draw our attention to www.idumea.org, a very nicely done web portal for French Latter-day Saints. I would like to add this and similar sites to our collection of Mormon links. If you are aware of any other Mormon dedicated sites, please post URLs in the comments section, regardless of language. I realize that there are a fair number of non-English language anti-Mormon sites. I am not especially interested in these. I leave it to readers with the proper language skills to judge for themselves what is or is not an anti-Mormon site. Thanks in advance for your help!

Illegal Work and the Minimum Wage

Last Saturday my advisor informed me that he never wanted to read my dissertation again, which was his way of saying he was ready to sign off. So I thought I would amuse everyone (well, me anyway) with a very brief recap of my findings. Let me assure you that there is no Mormon angle to this work, so if you are offended by the secular, feel free to move on.

This Post Is Mostly True, +/- 3%

There is a maxim that the man with two watches never knows what time it is. The funny thing about this is that the man with one watch certainly doesn’t know any better than the man with two, he just thinks he knows what he does not. The man with two watches can maintain no such illusion of certainty because he has two watches with two (possibly ever so slightly) different times. He has been forced to recognize the existence of error. Socrates would be proud.

Marx: Mormonism and Theories of Religion IV

My titles were too long and hard to distinguish in the “Recent Comments” section, so I have switched the order around. The next theory in this series is that of Marx, just in time for the lifting of the ban on socialism! Like the others, Marx’s theory is reductionist. As a former Marxist myself, I find this particular kind of reductionism unpersuasive. However, this theory of religion became more than just a theory. For a good part of the 20th century a huge portion of the earth’s population subscribed to this theory. For this reason alone it derserves to be seriously considered.

Bloggernacle Notes: Clark’s Reading Club

We’ve probably been remiss not to note this new bloggernacle development: Blogger and uber-commenter Clark Goble has started a reading club. He’s working through chapters of McMurrin and Ostler at the moment. He’s given these works a nicely detailed discussion so far. Clark’s first installment, covering pages from McMurrin, is available here. His second installment, covering the beginning of Ostler, is here. And Dave, over at the Mormon Inquiry blog, has posted his own responses to Clark’s McMurrin post here. Readers who are interested in philosophy or theology of Mormonism are likely to be interested in Clark’s and Dave’s discussions.

We have, ahem, lifted the restriction on commenting about socialism

And I’ll bet you didn’t even know that it was there. But it was — inadvertently –for just under a month. Here’s why: We got spammed about a month ago, with a glut of comments advertising web sites that sell drugs. (Mostly, the kind of drugs Gordon previously discussed here). There were a whole bunch of web sites listed, many of which included the word “Cialis” (which is the name of one of the drugs advertised). Rather than individually block a whole bunch of web sites (the names were all along the lines of free-cialis.com or get-cialis.com or the like), I set the blacklist to automatically block any comment with the word cialis in it. I mean, what legitimate commenter would want to put that drug name in a comment anyway, right? And there were no complaints (this is not that unusual of an event; we update our blacklist often to keep out spammers), until last week. A perfectly innocent…

World Religion vs. Global Religion (and Brain Drain)

I have been thinking about the international church lately. This is a field that has practically been ignored by LDS and non-LDS observers alike. This is pretty sad since we are growing so much more quickly internationally than domestically. There is a marked increase in attention paid to such areas by church leadership, but since we have really only begun this process of introspection, we have a long way to go. I have two thoughts on the international church right now:

The Return of Frank

We are pleased that Frank McIntyre has returned to finish his guestblogging stint. Just to refresh everyone’s memory, Frank is a professor of economics at BYU and has the distinction of saving me from ruin in my first philosophy class at BYU. (Full story here) Enjoy the show.

Will the Real Mormonism Please Step Forward

Mormons are efficient. We are a large, hierarchical faith that runs like a corporation. The Brethren are powerful leaders with the ability to dictate the minutiae of members lives and call forth vast resources at the drop of a hat. Mormon congregations are well oiled machines. They even have so-called “home teachers” that visit members each month just to check up on them and insure that they are serving their proper roles in the Mormon juggernaut. Something like this image frequently appears in media accounts about the Church, and we as often as not like to repeat some version of it to ourselves. How many times have you gleefully heard members discuss the swift efficiency with which Mormons have sped relief supplies to disaster ridden areas. I have to confess, however, that I don’t really buy this image. The reason is that I actually go to church every week.

Effects of the Ex-Mormon Lunatic Fringe

A few weeks ago, Jeff Lindsay posted a humorous discussion of the “Exmo” computer virus that turns otherwise sane people into spiteful, obsessive anti-Mormons. In the comments on his blog, many ex-Mormons offered thoughtful and reasonable discussion, and objected (politely but firmly) to his apparent characterization of all ex-Mormons. This in turn led to a revision, where Lindsay suggested that perhaps a better title would be the “Rare Former Mormon Who Becomes a Raving Anti-Mormon Quite Unlike Most Ex-Mormons Who Are Really Nice and Intelligent People virus.” I agree with the comments on Jeff’s blog, to the extent that they demonstrate that many former church members are reasonable, nice, intelligent, and happy people. I have friends who are former church members; we’ve got some very nice blog commenters who are former members, and at least one very nice commenter who may be in the process of leaving the church. It is clear to me that many former members are decent…

Sunday School Lesson 31

Lesson 31: Alma 43-52 The manual gives this overview of the material in the lesson: a. Alma 43–44. Led by Zerahemnah, the Lamanites come to battle against the Nephites, seeking to bring them into bondage. The Nephites, led by Moroni, fight to defend their families and their liberty. The Nephites prevail because they are “inspired by a better cause” and because they exercise faith in Jesus Christ. b. Alma 45:20–24; 46. Amalickiah desires to be king and causes dissension among the Nephites. Captain Moroni raises the “title of liberty” to inspire the people, and they covenant to follow God. Amalickiah and a few of his followers join the Lamanites. c. Alma 47–48. Through treachery, Amalickiah becomes king of the Lamanites. He incites the Lamanites to fight against the Nephites. Captain Moroni prepares the Nephites to defend themselves righteously. d. Alma 49–52. War continues between the Nephites and the Lamanites. The king-men desire to set up a king over the Nephites,…

The Mormon Mafia

I don’t know how it works in other cities, but Washington, DC is definitely a town with a well established Mormon Mafia. What this refers to is a network of Mormon professionals — lawyers, lobbyists, Hill staffers, and the like — who are acquainted with one another and tend to help out with professional advancement. I have to admit that I am a beneficiary of this “system.” I have now secured two jobs at least in part because of networks Mormons. I am of two minds about this phenomena.

Best Colleges for Young Single Mormons

All of our permanent bloggers are married, so we do not talk much about the life of single members, except by way of remembrance. This morning, however, I had one of those milestone events that marks the aging of a father as I spoke with my daughter about her college plans. We had explored this topic before, but only in fairly general terms, and over the past six months she has been receiving college brochures at a pace that would rival a top high school quarterback. Today she listed some of the colleges she was considering, and I was surprised by some of her choices, mainly because they are in locations that do not seem to hold much promise for finding LDS peers. (Given that she has spent most of her life in such locations, I suspect that this factor did not even enter her calculation.) That started me thinking: what are the best undergraduate colleges in the US for…

Mormons From Utah

The New York Times is reporting that “Mormon genes are hot.” To a scientist, the single greatest attraction of Utah – and its biggest distinction in a nation of rootless wanderers – is stability. For more than 150 years, largely because of the Mormon church, the state has been a magnet to people who mostly stayed put. A relatively small founding population was fruitful and multiplied – aided in the 19th century by polygamy, adding a unique wrinkle to the genetic trail. With its emphasis on family records and genealogy, the Mormon church, officially the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then created a treasure trove of details about those people.

Mormonism and Theories of Religion III: Durkheim

This follows up on the previous entries in this series here and here. Emile Durkheim is one of the most important founders of modern sociology. He is also one of the most important figures in the study of religion. Like Tylor, Frazer, and Freud, his theory of religion is also reductionist. It seeks to explain religion by pointing to something other than religion itself.

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…

Elder Holland v. Professor Ackerman

Last week I got to do the “Teachings of Our Times” lesson in Elders’ Quorum. These are the lessons that take a recent set of conference talks as the text. This months lesson included Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s recent sermon “A Prayer for the Children.” We used the talk and the lesson as a springboard for a good discussion on the Gospel and theories of education.

The Purpose of Gospel Doctrine Class

The discussion below under Utah Mormons has rekindled a longstanding question for me: why do we have a Gospel Doctrine class? Elder Harold G. Hillam offered a very interesting history of the Sunday School Program of the Church in the August 1999 Ensign with an article entitled, “Sunday School: Oil for Our Lamps.” The Sunday School program of the Church dates back to the mid-1800s, when the focus was on teaching children the Gospel. Gradually the target age range for Sunday School lessons expanded to the system that we have today.

Consecrated Computer Geeks

As some have noticed the over all quality of the Church’s internet presence has been on the increase of late. In part this is no doubt simply the result of the Church cautiously exploiting a new medium, but I think there may be more to it than that, or so my brother-in-law tells me. In the interest of spreading unfounded faith-promoting rumors, here is the story as I understand it.

Mormonism and Theories of Religion II: Freud

This is the second installment in this series, begun here. Freud has had a huge impact on thought in the 20th century. He was a truly revolutionary thinker, to such an extent that the statement “We are all Freudians now” certainly rings true. Among the many subjects he treated, religion was a particular interest for him. He dealt with it in three books, Totem and Taboo, Future of an Illusion, and Moses and Monotheism.

Utah Mormons

Since things are a bit slow around here today (unless you are interested in Zelph), I will take the opportunity to contemplate with you a silly question that has been on my mind from time to time lately: what is a “Utah Mormon”? I started wondering about this a few Sundays back, when a visitor to our Gospel Doctrine class started answering all of the questions with great authority. When I learned that he was from St. George, and I immediately thought, “Oh, it figures. He’s a Utah Mormon.” Then I started wondering how I could identify him as one of this breed.

Who is the Church Exactly?

So Mormons have a lay ministry. Hence, there is a real sense in which we are “the Church.” This raises some interesting questions about what counts as official Church action and what doesn’t. Consider the case of Martin v. Johnson, 151 Cal. Rep. 816 (Cal.App. 1979).

Zelph Examined

John Hatch has a not-to-be-missed examination of Zelph over at By Common Consent. (For those not familiar with Zelph, the very short version is that Joseph Smith, on finding a burial mound in Illinois, stated that the remains were of Zelph, a great Nephite general, and scholars, critics, and apologists have been writing reams on Zelph ever since). New DNA evidence makes Zelph look potentially problematic. John concludes that there are five reasonable possibilities for interpreting the Zelph story. His post is very interesting, and highlights some of the tensions and questions relating to Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling, modern scientific theories, and apologist work attempting to reconcile the two.

LDS-themed Bloggers Need Not Tolerate Anti-Mormon Google Ads

Jeff Lindsay has the scoop: When I first started this blog at Blogger.com, I was surprised to see ads for anti-Mormon sites appearing at the top of my page. I sent a complaint in to technical support. Wonderfully, they listened and upgraded my account to an ad-free blog. I have noticed some other LDS folks with blogs have anti-Mormon ads showing up. Don’t settle for that kind of abuse, brothers and sisters. It’s a route that Orson’s Telly (current ad: “Out of Mormonism: Tools for Reaching LDS Mormons with the True Christian Gospel”), By Steve’s Consent (recently graced with “Are Mormon Beliefs Biblical?”) might consider taking. Plus (though I haven’t noticed anti-Mormon ads on them), it’s something that other blogspot users like Grasshopper, Demosthenes, the Brothers Bell, and Motley Vision might want to keep in mind, should anti-Mormon ads start (or continue, as the case may be) appearing on their blogs.

Mormonism and Quetzalcoatl in Court

While we’re on the topic of court decisions about the church, it’s always fun to mention the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Alvarado v. City of San Jose, 94 F. 3d 1223 (1996). The plaintiffs in that case sought to enjoin the installation (and later, force the removal) of a Quetzalcoatl statue, on the grounds that, inter alia, it violated the California Constitution because it promoted Mormon beliefs. The court dismissed the claim, noting: While Mormons are clearly a recognized religious group, the evidence presented by the plaintiffs does not support a First Amendment argument. The writings suggest that, according to certain Mormons, ancient worshippers of Quetzalcoatl were in fact worshipping Christ. Historically, Mormon missionaries taught that Christ had revealed himself to native Mesoamericans in the form of Quetzalcoatl or the Plumed Serpent long before he appeared to man in the human form known to Christians. This attribution of Christian or Christ-like qualities to ancient religious symbols and practices does not,…