A Bloggernacking Mix-and-Match Game

Let’s try a slightly different spin on the “Around the Bloggernacle” post. Below are four five questions and four five links to discussion and/or answers in the bloggernacle. Can you match them up? Have fun! Question 1: How many is too many in a baby blessing circle? Question 2: What should church members think of civil weddings? Question 3: How should we distinguish between rights and blessings? Question 4: How can we reconcile God’s perfection with his freedom? Question 5: Is it possible that eternal progression takes place through memetics? Answers (in mixed-up order): a: Link here b: Link here c: Link here d: Link here e: Link here (Answer key below).

PoMo Mormon Enchantment

I am delighted that Gary Cooper came to my defense with such honesty, passion, and insight on the question of “enchantment.” Yes, this is exactly what I had in mind. But before I say more on that, I’d like to settle things up with Jim F. . . .

Another Bloggernacking Opportunity of Sorts

Steve wants some fresh ideas for BCC, and he’s willing to let the best idea(s) be posted there. What does this mean? Simply that the time has never been better to polish up that ten-page masterpiece on the hidden connection between the King Follett Discourse, the Adam-God Theory, and Zelph, and then notify Steve. Perhaps your name will be on the next BCC post! (Details over at BCC).

Heidegger, Pomo, enchantment, . . .

Russell and Damon have asked some challenging questions, and answering them will take me more space than is appropriate for a comment, so, since three and one-half single-spaced pages goes too far for any response, I’m going to respond to their questions (and say something about enchantment) as my own post. I’m not sure what that does to the other discussions going on under Damon’s posts. I hope I’m not making it completely impossible for someone to follow the various discussions. Rather than try to integrate my responses into one coherent essay, I’ll just respond to points more or less serially. I’ll try to provide links to the places where Russell and Damon raise their questions so that readers can see the questions in context.

Sunday School Lesson 22

Lesson 22: Alma 5-7 In these chapters we have two magnificent sermons by Alma the Younger, more than enough material for several Sunday School lessons. These materials will focus on chapter 5, with a few things also from chapter 7. To whom is the address of chapter 5 given? How is it particularly relevant to their situation? To whom is the sermon in chapter 7 given? How is it particularly relevant to their situation?

Unstable Y

And now, from the “science imitates Andrea Dworkin” department, an interview today in the New York Times science section discusses, inter alia, the genetic problems caused by the relatively unstable Y chromosome: Unlike all other chromosomes, the Y doesn’t get a chance to mix with any other chromosomes. . . . It gets passed on from one male to another, and it cannot repair mutations through genetic recombination. Moreover, the Y chromosome is subject to a higher mutation rate than other chromosomes because it is perennially confined to the male germ line. Male germ line cells and their DNA divide very, very fast to keep up with sperm production. Most mutations occur when DNA divides. So the Y is intrinsically unstable. By my estimate, in about 5,000 generations – 125,000 years – male fertility will be roughly 1 percent of what it is now. Mutations in Y chromosomes are already known to reduce male fertility. So I see a slow…

A Partial Response: Philosophy

I want to thank the many people who took the time to comment on my initial post. You’ve showed me that this guest-blogging stint will be both more stimulating and more time-consuming than I anticipated. I hope it is understood that I cannot possibly respond to all, or most, or even more than a very few of these comments. I’ll try to write two posts today, the first (this one) addressing the philosophical questions raised by Jim F and others; the second post will bring things back to Mormonism. I think the latter is important because this could easily develop into a debate about theory. I’d enjoy that, but I’m unsure if it would be a good use of the Times and & Seasons website. So, on to philosophy, postmodernism, Heidegger, etc. . . .

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…

Where is the Mormon Jurisprudence?

People regularly make the observation that Mormons are more concerned with orthopraxis than orthodoxy. In other words, Mormons are more concerned with right behavior than with right belief. The evidence in support of this claim seems fairly overwhelming in my mind. The fact of the matter is that we allow a huge diversity of beliefs on fairly fundamental questions (the nature of God and the nature of man for example), even though we frequently paper over the pluralism with equivicol and vague language. One the other hand, we worry a great deal about proper behavior: The Law of Chastity, the Word of Wisdom, participation in the Church, etc. In this context, I have frequently heard Mormonism compared to Judaism, which is taken as a paradigmatically orthopraxic faith. Which leads to me question: Why haven’t Mormons developed a jurisprudence.

New Bloggernackers, Redux

The appearance of new, interesting LDS-themed blogs is becoming a weekly occurence. This week (today, actually, via technorati) I noticed two new bloggernackers that I thought I should point out: Dallas Robbins promises a “Latter-Day Slant on Art, Religion, and Culture.” That sounds like a fun new voice in the bloggernacle. (As long as he’s not trying to horn in on the gay-marriage-commentary market — we’ve got that one cornered here!). And the Mormon Wasp is a blog by Justin Butterfield (any relation to frequent commenter Randy?) that aims to provide “a barbed take on all things Mormon offered in the spirit of The Wasp, a short-lived (April 1842-April 1843), sharp-edged, Nauvoo, Illinois, newspaper.” Welcome to the bloggernacle!

Why Won’t They Call it ‘Partial-Birth Abortion’?

Though the act of aborting a partially-born baby is logically called ‘partial-birth abortion,’ the media refuse to use the term when describing the act. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby explains why. Yes, he thinks the fact that 97% of editors and journalists at major newsrooms identify themselves as being pro-choice is a factor. Jacoby doesn’t address this point, but most press reports of the clash over abortion refer to one side as “abortion rights” activists or groups, and to the other as “opposed to abortion rights” or “anti-abortion.” Because the media has decided to avoid the terms ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ because of their ambiguity, pro-lifers would be wise to call themselves “fetal rights groups.” It’s better to be known what you are for — fetal rights — than what you are against — abortion. And in the case of ‘fetal rights’, the media would have no justification to avoid calling a fetal rights group a fetal rights group.

An Addendum

After I wrote my earlier post, I realized I should have been more precise about something. I know that all orthodox faiths place limits on philosophical reflection. For example, an orthodox Catholic is not free to speculate about whether God is Trinity or whether abortion is actually a virtue. But I was trying to point to a substantive difference between all other Christian sects and Mormons in this regard: the Mormon limitation seem to be more primary (or radical) in that it demands that believers resist fundamental tendencies of Western thought that go all the way back to the Greeks — and that are considered to be indistinguishable from common sense for Catholics and most Protestants today and quite possibly have been since the second or third century. Hence their postmodernism — or rather their attempt to fashion a genuine, stark alternative to the fundamentally Athenian character of Western thought, whether secular or religious. That’s it for now. More tomorrow.

Taking the Slums Out of the People?

In 1990 Revered John Heinemeier gathered with other local ministers to solve the housing crisis in East Brooklyn. Together they developed an innovative housing program to construct 5,000 single-family housing units designed for lower-income buyers. East Brooklyn Churches (or EBC) had a long-term vision of what they needed done but there was much to overcome. These neighborhoods were crumbling, impoverished and drug-ridden. The majority of middle class families had long since fled the area. The EBC found inspiration for their ambitious endeavor in the story of Nehemiah who had been sent by the King of Babylon in 420 back to Jerusalem to facilitate the rebuiling of the city. “You see the trouble we are in, How Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the walls of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer in disgrace.” So, the Nehemiah Housing Project was begun

Mormonism: The Postmodern Faith

First off, let me thank Russell, both for inviting me to contribute to Times & Seasons and for his flattering comments about me. After that introduction, I fear I may disappoint. As Russell notes, I spent two years teaching at BYU, and have enjoyed dozens of email exchanges about LDS-related matters with the handful of good friends I made during my time on campus. Since I don’t have An Agenda for the following two weeks, I think I’ll start by sharing a few thoughts that have grown out of those exchanges.

Excommunicating the President of the Church (and some possible complications)

Suppose that Gordon B. Hinckley really started misbehaving, sinning left and right, and generally leading the church astray. Some might find this unlikely on theological grounds, after all President Woodruff said: The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. The implication seems to be that the Lord will “call home” any prophet who strays too far from the divine “programme.” Looking at the scriptures, however, suggests another possibility: Excommunicating the President of the Church.

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…

Sunday School Lesson 21

My apologies for posting this so late. I’ve had family visiting, so blogging has had to take a back seat, along with Sunday School preparation. I think I’ll have the next lesson up by Sunday or Monday evening. Lesson 21: Mosiah 29, Alma 1-4 Mosiah 29 Verses 7-9: Aaron has just been converted in a miraculous manner, and he is obviously serious about his conversion. His mission is evidence of that. Nevertheless, here we see Mosiah worried that being king might destroy him. Does he lack confidence in his son? If so, why? If not, how do you explain Mosiah’s remarks?

Bungling the Basics?

Several weeks ago during lunch at a professional conference a colleague told me that the LDS missionaries had knocked on his door recently. I took a deep breath and immediately commenced mental preparations for whatever he was going to ask me. This particular colleague is a philosopher of religion so I was fairly sure he was going to ask me about some bit of LDS history or theology. But, I was wrong.

12 Questions for Sarah Barringer Gordon, part two

Here’s the second half of our dialogue with the esteemed Professor Gordon. [Click here for part one.] I’m sure everyone joins me in thanking her for such intelligent and provocative responses to our questions. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out her landmark book, The Mormon Question. Again, our questions are in bold and her responses follow in plain text. Enjoy! 7. There has been some discussion here at Times and Seasons about the apparent analogies and disanalogies between the nineteenth-century antipolygamy movement and the current battles over same sex marriage. To what extent do you think that cultural and legal strategies employed by antipolygamists are (or are not) available to those who now seek to define marriage as between a man and a woman? I was waiting for this one!

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…

Ambivalence v. Delight

In her fascinating post on ambivalence, Melissa suggests that ambivalence may be an endangered theological virtue among Mormons. “Endangered” because we tend to valorize those without religious ambivalence and lack examples of healthy and productive ambivalence. “A virtue” because Melissa suggests that it is theologically productive. By this, I take it that she means that ambivalence leads to questioning, analysis, synthesis, and revelation. I am doubtful.

Bloggernacking: New Bloggernackers Edition

There are some recent entrants to the bloggernacle. Here are a few: A Motley Vision is a blog on “Mormon literature, criticism, publishing and marketing — plus film, theater, music, and pop and folk culture” by William Morris (who is also a frequent commenter here at T & S). Jeff Lindsay has a new blog dealing with Mormon apologetics, called Mormanity. Provo Pulse is a blog about life in (you guessed it) Provo, Utah. Also, Gary Cooper has started his guest stint at Doctrinal.net and if his first post is any indication, his contributions will be well worth reading (as most of us know anyway, having read his frequent comments here). The bloggernacle is growing quite fast. (I’ve probably missed more than a few new entrants; if so, let me know by comment or e-mail). The most comprehensive list that I’ve seen is in (you guessed it) another new blog, called DeserNet, which is actually a sub-blog, maintained by David…

12 Questions for Sarah Barringer Gordon, part one

Without further ado, we are pleased to present Professor Gordon’s responses to questions submitted by the T&S community. Questions are in bold; her preface and responses are in plain text. Look for the second half Friday. (For background on Professor Gordon and her work, click here.) * * * First and most important, I would like to thank Nate Oman, Greg Call and other member of Times and Seasons for your interest in my work and for the opportunity to participate in the forum. I will try to keep my answers short, but the questions you all have posed are challenging (in the best sense of the word) and thought-provoking. I apologize in advance for any long-windedness. Most of all, I look forward to engaging in a dialogue about the meaning and worth of scholarship with a new group of people, and especially to learning from the process. Last, a warning: I am typing my responses on a laptop while…

Ambivalence as a Theological Virtue?

In her book, The Religious Imagination of American Women, Mary Farrell Bednarowski suggests that to understand the lived religious experience of American women one must appreciate the ambivalence they experience in their religious traditions. According to Bednarowski this ambivalence is not to be identified as a state of confusion, indecisiveness or vacillating equivocation. Rather, ambivalence is the reflective position of religious women who experience both a deep sense of belonging and an equally strong sense of alienation and distrust. Thoughtful American women, she argues, are committed and connected to their religious communities, but also critical of the religious traditions which define those communities. She explains that the virtue of ambivalence “stirs up love and hate, attraction and repulsion, devotion and impatience . . .” Bednarowski argues that such ambivalence is a virtue that ought to be cultivated since living in the unsettled tension of ambivalence has great potential for theological creativity. Interestingly, Bednarowski points to Mormon women as among those…

A few news items

The New York Daily News has a fun little story about LDS missionaries in New York City. CNN has an interesting story about legal issues arising from churches using public parks for baptisms. Is the ACLU involved? (And on whose side?). Check the story to find out. The New York Times has a short article on the debate over abstinence-only sex education.

Goodbye, Hello

Ahem. We’d like to release grasshopper with a vote of thanks for his excellent contributions as guest-blogger. All in favor, please go back and reread his posts, which were hefty enough to merit a second reading! And, of course, visit him at Let Us Reason for continuing lessons in careful and articulate thinking about all things Mormon. Also, at this time, we are pleased to welcome Melissa Proctor as our newest guest blogger. Melissa holds an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Yale Divinity School and is currently a doctoral student in Religion at Brown University. She teaches Gospel Doctrine in her ward. And, besides being staggeringly brilliant and well-read, and speaking several languages you may or may not have heard of, she makes exceedingly yummy bread and strawberry jam. (I’m stopping now, because she made me promise not to go on too long about her many accomplishments and talents, *not* because I couldn’t go on at great length!!)

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…

Easterbrook, Dark Matter, and the Olive Leaf

A year ago, Gregg Easterbrook articulated the interesting idea that “dark matter” (a substance most scientists now believe exists, and is a major component of the universe) may be a manifestation of the spiritual world. He wrote: Suppose it turns out to be correct that the preponderance of matter and energy in the universe occurs in a form that’s around us everywhere, and yet we cannot sense or see it; that there is a pervasive physical reality that passes through ours with hardly any direct interaction. This is practically a definition of the spiritual plane. Easterbrook’s position has been criticized by others, but has always sounded like a nice theory to me. In particular, I was just thinking how we can understand this as church members, because of certain verses in the section of the Doctrine and Covenants we call the Olive Leaf.