Recent Happenings in the Bloggernacle

The bloggernacle is buzzing. Over at Wump Blog, frequent commenter and bloggernacle evaluator Danithew (also our resident chupa-cabra specialist) has created a list of the top ten Mormon blogs. (Full disclosure: His assessment is that T & S is number one; and yes, I should really be trying for a tone of false modesty here, but I don’t know if I could pull it off). Meanwhile, Danithew’s ranking is very interesting and has kicked off some debate over in his comments. Who was included? Who was omitted? Were there any egregious slights? Take a look at who the top ten are, and then tell the chupa-cabra expert your thoughts! Meanwhile, Jeff Lindsay at Mormanity (unranked: controversial? you decide) has an interesting post up about an ancient manuscript called the Narrative of Zosimus, and its parallels to the Book of Mormon. Also, Unrandom Thoughts (unranked and protested: controversial? you decide) has some interesting statistics about baptisms as a percent of membership.…

UofU and Theatre Student Settle

Christina Axson-Flynn’s lawsuit against the University of Utah garnered lots of attention, but I am not sure that we have discussed it here. The events took place in 1998, and revolve around Axson-Flynn’s experience in the University of Utah’s Actor Training Program (ATP). When she refused to use vulgar and profane language, her instructors pressured her to “get over it.” In the face of her refusal to change her views, the instructors escalated the pressure, and she ultimately decided to leave the program. In the wake of her withdrawal, she sued the University and her instructors for violating her First Amendment right to refrain from speaking and for violating her free exercise rights under the First Amendment. After losing both claims on the defendant’s motion for summary judgment in the U.S. District Court, Axson-Flynn won a double reversal at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. This entitled Axson-Flynn to pursue the lawsuit in the District Court, but earlier this week,…

It’s not easy being wearing green

Over the the-blog-that-dare-not-speak-its-name, Aaron B. has some interesting observations about the (lack of) righteousness of green-wearing missionaries. Straight from the mouth of his mission president, we have it: Elders who wore dark pants were “dignos de ser representantes de Cristo.” [Translator’s note: This means “worthy to be representatives of Christ”]. Elders who wore green pants were most definitely NOT “dignos de ser representantes de Cristo.” The moral dividing line between the colors was completely black and white (green). . . . We got treated to a fire and brimstone lecture (I exaggerate, but not by much) meant to inculcate the strongest of taboos regarding the color green. You could’ve been forgiven for thinking that Christ himself was offended at the color. I’m shocked that I heard this rule as late as I did, and I can’t believe my mission president was so callous as not to tell me this crucial law of heaven. Had I heard this earlier, I might…

12 Questions for Rodney Smith

Rodney Smith, the president of Southern Virginia University, has agreed to participate in our next installment of 12 Questions. Smith took over as president of SVU in June 2004, after serving at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law (University of Memphis) as the Interim Dean and Herff Chair of Excellence in Law. Among other positions, he has been a law professor and administrator at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Capital University Law and Graduate Center, and the University of Montana School of Law. He was also the City Attorney in Bishop, CA for two years. Smith received a Doctorate in Juridical Science from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a graduate of BYU’s law school.

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…

Where is God?

Some of you are probably tired of retellings of conversations with putatively precocious toddlers that are supposed to elicit some great insight or something. If so, I apologize in advance. But last night my 2.5 year old son stumped me pretty well.

Church Growth in Latin America

“Clutching the Book of Mormon and dressed in a white starched shirt and neatly pressed charcoal colored slacks, Willy Guzman walked across the cracked sidewalks of Zona 6 in Guatemala City to the shiny, white church that rises above the modest and mostly shanty flats of the neighborhood. As it neared 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning, the streets were bustling with men dressed in Western-style suits and women in skirt suits pushing baby strollers, all making their way towards the church. ‘Everyone walks to church,’ Guzman explained, ‘so as not to make anyone work on this day of worship.’” Sound like a paragraph or two from the church news? Nope — it’s the lead-in to a very nice article on MSNBC, titled “Mormon Conversions Surge in Latin America.”

Thanks, Fred

Fred beat me to the punch announcing the end of his stint as a guest blogger, but I want to thank him anyway, even if tardily. Fred not only raised issues that generated much discussion, he set an even and friendly tone in them and in his responses. He showed many of us how we can talk to each other about matters over which we may have deep disagreements and remain civil. And I don’t think anyone–guest blogger or permanent–has been as conscientious about replying to those who responded to his blogs. Thanks very much Fred.

Thanks

Dear Times and Seasoners, I had hoped to make another post, but other matters intervened and my time expired before I could get back. I was impressed by the level of discourse, and learned a lot. Thanks for the exchanges. Fred

Sunday Play … Again

The issue of Sunday play is a perpetual discussion-starter in Mormondom. Some celebrate as courageous those who refuse to dishonor the Sabbath by participating in sporting events. Then there is this story. On Saturday, Todd Miller, BYU golfer and son of golfing legend Johnny Miller, qualified to play in the Sunday final of the Utah State Amateur, then declined to play. Miller said: “What I do on Sunday is way more important than winning a tournament. I don’t look down upon people who play on the Sabbath. I would just feel like a hypocrite in my own heart if I did. I made that decision, and I’m going to stick with that.”

Music Notes, July 11

I don’t do great Sunday School lessons like Jim and Julie, but I do write short notes on the music for our ward bulletin most weeks. Mostly I shamelessly steal from Karen Lynn Davidson’s book on the hymns, but sometimes I plagiarize from other sources as well, and I occasionally have an original thought. I’m going to start posting my notes here, too, on the off chance that someone might find them interesting.

Sunday School Lesson 27

Lesson 27: Alma 30-31 We are all familiar with the story of Korihor, sufficiently familiar that we may read it too quickly. When we read quickly, we tend to skim over the text and “see” in it what is already in our heads rather than what it says. So take time to read through this story slowly, looking for places where it says things that you do not expect it to say. Those are places where you are likely to learn something new. Since Alma 31 fits naturally with Alma 32-35, lesson 28, I’m going to include it in those lesson materials rather than here.

Sinlessness

We often say that Christ was sinless, that he was the only sinless human being. Surprisingly, that isn’t a teaching that we find often in the scriptures. The word “sinless” doesn’t occur in the scriptures. Using the sacrificial type, two scriptures describe him as “without spot” (Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 1:19). We infer his sinlessness from other scriptures and, especially, from the teaching of latter-day prophets. But what does it mean to say that he was sinless?

I am Orthodoxy

Most Mormons, especially those who grew up in the Church, labor under the delusion that they know what constitutes Mormon orthodoxy, typical Mormon beliefs, and the like. I am increasingly of the opinion that we are basically wrong about this. Here is why:

Limits of the Law of Chastity

Wendy’s comment in the latest SSM thread provoked an interesting discussion between my wife and I yesterday. Wendy wrote: Is same-sex kissing a sin? What about same-sex flirting and dating? Can a same-sex couple live together, love each other, come to church holding hands and sit together in the chapel, hold callings and be okay church-wise, as long as they don’t have sex? This comment relates to the broader issue: What exactly does the law of chastity prohibit?

A Practical Matter

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what is so troubling to me about some of the recent discussions of abortion. Aside from the distressingly obvious lack of female participants in the discussion, I think the thing that makes me twitchiest is the discussion of whether or not rape victims should be *allowed* to hear from a compassionate bishop that abortion is an acceptable course. I’ve been thinking a lot about how a bishop could provide appropriate and helpful counsel in that situation, and I have to say that I think the odds are stacked against him, even before he opens his mouth.

Looking on a woman to lust

I ought to avoid making a mountain out of a molehill and derailing the current discussion (though one more argument about same-sex marriage is the last thing I’m interested in, so I don’t really mind if it gets derailed). Nevertheless, I think I should explain some of the cryptic remarks I made about lust more fully. Besides, I’m an academic. What else could I do but make mountains out of molehills.

Still More “Around the Blogs”

Jeff Lindsay is up to it again, explaining about the use of occult symbols (or are they? cue scary music) in LDS temples. (Next up: Do church members really sacrifice goats inside the temple? Or is that only done in stake centers?). Mormon Wasp has some interesting history about church statements on government regulation of marriage. There are more statements than you thought, and they make fun reading. Finally, the unsinkable Aaron Brown has a new post up at BCC. The title: “More MTC Antics.” Need I say more?

The Nature of Satan, as Explained by a Seven Year Old

Seven-year-old: Satan doesn’t have a body. Me: That’s right. 7-YO: So he’s a Spirit. Me: Yes. 7-YO (getting more excited): That’s kind of like a ghost. Me: Yep. 7-YO (who has been playing a lot of pac-man lately) (very excited): So if you eat a power pill, then Satan turns blue, and then you can EAT HIM! Me: (trying very hard not to laugh) Umm, not quite . . .

The Meaning of the Mormon Republican Majority – Final

This thread is about played out, but a couple of final comments. 1. Clinton was one of the most gifted politicians of our time, and moved the national Democratic Party towards the center–think intervention in Bosnia & Kosovo, welfare reform, NAFTA & free trade–where it needs to be if it is to escape longterm structural minority status. Had Gore been able to run on Clinton’s record, Election 2000 would have been no contest . . .

Church Supports Amending Constitution to Preserve Marriage

From the church’s website: The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement today. This is a statement of principle in anticipation of the expected debate over same-gender marriage. It is not an endorsement of any specific amendment. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints favors a constitutional amendment preserving marriage as the lawful union of a man and a woman.”

Around the Blogs, July 7

I’ve noticed a few items recently: The Baron has a series of posts explaining why you don’t really have to burn all of your Metallica CD’s (or tapes, as the case may be) to prove that you’re a good Mormon. Can Mormons really listen to (gasp!) “heavy metal”? Read the Baron’s post on “Evil Music” to decide. Also, Jeff Lindsay is on a roll. First, he notes a recent announcement by that well-known group, Saints Alive Total Anticult Network about a surprising (?) new cult. Then, he delves into a subject near to my own heart — the threat to society caused by lawyers. (Though no mention is made of the danger from lawyers who listen to heavy metal). Demosthenes wonders if there are theological problems with the idea of space colonization (which Adam discussed earlier here at T & S). In particular, he wonders if LDS scriptures relating to the celestial glory of Earth suggest that we shouldn’t just…

Catholic Thought

As Latter-day Saints, we often see the world in the terms given to us by Protestants. That isn’t surprising because they are those with whom we’ve had the most interaction as well as those from among whom most of us have been converted. I’m a prime example; before I joined the Church I thought about studying to become a Protestant minister. But the Protestant view of the world isn’t the only one and it isn’t necessarily the best. We often adopt that understanding of the Reformation without reflection, not only because Protestantism is, for us, a major intellectual inheritance, but also because we recognize the important role that the Reformation played in preparing the world for the Restoration.

Sunday School Lesson 26

Lesson 26: Alma 23-29 Those who may not have a printed lesson manual can find it here. At the heart of this material we have the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, converts of the sons of Mosiah. That story has a great deal to teach us today, but it may not be what we expect, whether we read it as a story of pacifism or as something else.