Fruity Con Law at Meridian

The ever exciting Meridian Magazine has been running a series of articles that purport to be “Constitutional Primers,” explaining to Mormons the way that the constitution functions. The most recent one argues that what is known as “selective incorporation” under the 14th amendment is a mistake. This doesn’t sound all that interesting or exciting, but it actually is. I promise.

Sunday School Lesson 19

Lesson 19: Mosiah 18-24 Chapter 18 Verse 1: Many of the conversion stories in the Book of Mormon are more detailed and more dramatic than this brief description of Alma’s repentance. (Compare Enos’s story and Alma the younger’s, for example.) Why might this story be told so briefly?

The Value of Esotericism

When I began participating in online discussion forums, I selected the nickname “Grasshopper,” rather than using my real name. One of the perceived benefits of the Internet is our anonymity (except on this onymous blog, of course). Benefit, yes, but also a drawback, to some extent, since someone posting pseudonymously is clearly hiding something and cannot be fully trusted, right?

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A New Blog

Check out Political Juice a new left-leaning political blog by a Mormon. The author has promised a series of posts on Mormonism and Politics. His first one is on the death penalty. There is no stunning theological or political insights here, but he does have a nice collection of quotes from Brigham Young and Joseph Smith on the topic as well as a discussion of everyone’s favorite doctrine…blood atonement!

The End and the Beginning

We are sad to announce the end of Ben Huff’s stint amongst us as a guest blogger. Thanks for the laughter and the tears, Ben. We will never forget you. (Especially if you continue to comment here, as we hope you will). Our sorrow at Ben’s passing, however, is mitigated by the fact that we are happy to announce our newest guest blogger, Christopher Bradford, who is also known by the codename “Grasshopper,” a hold over from his days in the KGB. Brother Bradford runs his own blog, Let Us Reason and has been an active participant in various on-line Mormon fora for many years. In the “real world,” Brother Bradford works as an internet consultant in Minnesota. We look forward to reading what he has to say!

A Mormon Theogony

Theogony is not a topic that comes up a great deal in discussions of Mormon theology. We tend to take the eternity of God for granted and as often as not end up affirming the eternity of man as well. The closest we generally get to discussion of the birth of the gods is when we ask the peculiarly Mormon question of how God progressed to become God. Orson Pratt, however, did get down to more fundamental questions of origins.

Do the Meetings Really Even Matter? (Thoughts on the Sacrament)

I sense a common theme, or at least a common presumption, to recent posts by Julie and Kristine (which is not to reduce either of their posts to the point I’m making; there’s a lot more to both of them than this). Specifically, both seem to be concerned with, exasperated by, or otherwise focused on the “public” operations of the church: leadership, callings, classes, etc. You know, all the stuff which happens on Sunday: this lesson on Lamentations needs to get taught even though that baby over there is screaming his head off and no one can hear a word being said; meanwhile the bishop has been led (presumably by revelation, but who knows?) to call a young man struggling with his testimony teach the Gospel Principles class to inactives and new converts, while a brand new convert with serious mental and physical handicaps has been appointed Scoutmaster. For all these reasons and more (infants on the loose, inexplicable policies…

The Painful Truth of “The RM”

Seems like pretty much all my friends love to hate that glorious Halestorm movie, The RM (but Eric Snider liked it!). Reminds me of how a lot of people find their next-younger sibling annoying : ) Okay, I grant it was positively painful to watch! as often as not. But I was baffled enough by it (and prideful enough, since it was my idea to drag my friend to see it that day) that I suspended judgment until the end. And as I walked out, I realized it was absolutely brilliant, and the more I thought about it, the more brilliant I thought it was. So, despite the unappreciative masses, here is why I think The RM is not just a clever satire of Mormon culture but a stunningly insightful commentary on what it is to be a disciple of Christ . . .

Revelation and the Brotherhood of Man

Ha! I can beat Nate Oman at pompous blog titles any day (even when I’m just recycling one aspect of his question in less philosophically sophisticated terms!). And I apologize for the gendered language, but “The Siblinghood of Humankind” just ain’t got that swing. Astute readers (or literate nine-year-olds, really) will have noticed by now that I have a teensy tiny little problem with authority, especially when other people have more of it than I do. It has occurred to me that I have long since passed the age when such authority issues are appropriate, and even the age when they’re appealing in a Rebel-Without-a-Cause sort of way, and that my life might be easier if I would just get over it already. So I’ve been trying hard to figure out just why it is that I can’t cheerfully acknowledge other people’s stewardship over me and get on with the obedience training. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

A Sunday Poem

Here’s your RDA of George Herbert: IESU Iesu is in my heart, his sacred name Is deeply carved there: but th’other week A great affliction broke the little frame, Ev’n all to pieces: which I went to seek: And first I found the corner, where was ‘I’, After, where ‘ES,’ and next where ‘U’ was graved. When I had got these parcels, instantly I sat me down to spell them, and perceived That to my broken heart he was ‘I ease you,’ And to my whole is IESU.

Warning: A Rant

Babies are making me crazy. I can’t talk over them in Gospel Doctrine and I can’t hear over them in Relief Society. For a Church that’s so pro-family, why is that we do nothing for the 0-17 month crowd except force their parents to spend two hours each week trying to get them to stop licking people’s shoes?

Godspeed

Lyle Stamps, law student and frequent T&S commenter, has been called up to serve in Iraq as a sergeant in the 250th Signal Battalion, Company A, Cherry Hill, New Jersey Army National Guard. His unit has not yet shipped out, but presumeably will be doing so in the near future. Best wishes Lyle. We will keep you in our prayers. Make sure that you drop us an email or post a comment when if you get access to the internet.

Sensible Kobe Bryant Commentary

I’ve been hearing and reading about what a great player Kobe Bryant is, since he is putting up good basketball numbers while also defending himself at trial. I haven’t been particularly impressed with that feat. And I just noticed an ESPN column by writer Jason Whitlock that is more in line with my own feelings. He writes: “As good as [Kobe] played Tuesday, just think: If the idiot hadn’t stepped out on his wife and slept with a teenage woman he didn’t know, he might have been even better Tuesday night. . . . These are the dangers of a high-profile, married man sleeping with a teenager he’s only known for 30 minutes.” I agree. Writers should not be making this man out to be a hero because he is being forced defend himself from rape allegations — a position he is in only because he either made a horrendous decision (rape) or merely a very bad decision (“mere” adultery).…

Ambulation in Mosiah 4

Ambulation in Mosiah 4. Part 1. King Benjamin has infused his sermons with a theology heavily freighted with corporeal rhetoric. I mean by that, he preaches the gospel of Christ, and living the divine life, by using lots of sensory verbs–seeing, hearing, tasting–and lots of mental operations–believing, knowing, understanding, speaking, asking, rejoicing. He also uses lots of ambulatory verbs: such as walking, standing, running, wandering, falling. Rhetorical ambulation proceeds to itinerancy: travelling a path or taking a journey. I want to explore the significance of the ambulatory and itinerant images. (I haven’t a thesis, only a number of heuristic themes.) So, an informal meditation on a theology of ambulation, in two parts.

Shape-Shifting Lizards — Could They Be in Your Ward?

Since some readers may lack the stamina to wade through 200 comments on the Elite Religion thread, let me make a separate note of a gem of a website mentioned by Dan Peterson. Dan writes: For those who’ve wondered — and (let’s be truthful) who hasn’t? — whether the Church is actually controlled by demonic entities in the form of reptilian humanoids, or lizard men, you’ll find the evidence you’ve been seeking on this explosive Web site. The web site is at This Link, and is mostly links to other sites with more, err, evidence. And don’t let anyone fool you — decide for yourself whether or not “Brigham Young was a reptilian shape-shifter that totally brainwashed founder Joseph Smith”! (Perhaps this explains Eric’s Stone’s Star Trek enthusiasm (recall the Kirk-versus-the-Lizard episode) — and doesn’t Eric look just a little bit like a lizard-man in that picture with Mr. Scott? Also, note that the Post of the Month for April…

The One True (Un-Micro-)Cosmic Church of Jesus Christ

What is it that unites the Church of Jesus Christ? Wherein lies our unity? In a recent discussion of baptism on lds-phil, amiable Protestant Joel Wilhelm asked some rather specific questions about the LDS understanding of baptism, and a very involved discussion ensued. After about a week, Joel remarked, ‘thus far what I have seen here seems to be a mirror image of debates within Protestantism or Catholicism about the sacraments, salvation without baptism or outside the church, etc. I am a bit more confused about “what Mormons think” and will try to sort it out more as I have time.’ Mormons thus appear to be a microcosm of the larger Christian world, a community that recreates in miniature the diversity of the larger community. This is sort of, but not quite, right. In response, Mark Butler observed, ‘The normative doctrine of the Church is broad enough to encompass dozens of traditional sects. The authority of the priesthood is the…

Some More Thoughts on Oaths

As I have a tendency to do, I have been reading law today. In particular, I came across a case dealing with the old rule against party testimony. Originally at common law, a party to a lawsuit could not testify in the suit. There were two justifications for the rule. The first was that the parties to a suit had an incentive to lie in their own interested and therefore their testimony was unreliable. The second justification was that testimony was given under oath, which gave it grave theological significance. Perjury was more than a crime. By virtue of the oath it was a grave sin for which one could be damned. The sin was not lyng per se, but rather oath breaking. The judges reasoned that the law should not present parties to litigation with such a grave temptation. Much better to do without party testimony and not risk people damning themselves.

So You Want to Be a Blogger . . .

A query that I’ve gotten a surprising number of times is, “How do I set up a blog?” I’ve been answering these individually, which has resulted in some nice conversations with readers. However, I thought it might be best to streamline this process, as well as pre-emptively answer the question for anyone who doesn’t want to ask me by e-mail. My credentials, upfront: I can’t claim any special expertise (I have no advanced degrees in blogging), but I do run most of the technical side of T & S. If that’s sufficient credentials for you, and if you want to set up a blog, read on.

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for

The votes are in on the Post of the Month ballots for April 2004. Kaimi has plugged the numbers into the Excel spreadsheet that knows all, and in a fun twist, Kristine Haglund Harris was narrowly edged out by . . . Kristine Haglund Harris! The top vote-getter was Kristine’s original, thoughtful, and alliteratively-titled post “Laundry, Lizards, and the Sisters of Lazarus” at By Common Consent. It’s an insightful discussion of Mary and Martha, and the difficulty of making time for gospel study among the many mundanities of life — I encourage everyone to go read it. That post narrowly beat out Kristine’s post at Times and Seasons, “On the Bearing of Complicated and Complicating Testimony.” (As we’ve all noticed, Kristine has a penchant for clever titles — not to mention clever posts). Congratulations Kristine on your excellent April post(s). I’ll be consulting with my co-bloggers to see if we can think of an appropriately wacky prize. And thanks to…

Welcome James Siebach

I’m happy to say that James L. Siebach, a colleage in BYU’s philosophy department, is our new guest blogger. James is a specialist in the philosophy of late antiquity and in medieval philosophy. And, like others among us, he served a mission in Korea. He is also a formidable opponent in an argument, so be forewarned.

A good Fisking

I disliked the recent Meridian article by Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse blaming all of the ills of the world on feminism, but I didn’t have time to sit down and explain why. Fortunatey, Kim Siever, over at his spiffy newly-refurbished blog, did have the time for such an exercise. He gives a nice critique of some of the flaws in the article. (Did he miss any potential critiques? I’m certain that if he did, our astute readers will notice and comment).

True to the Faith

True to the Faith was introduced to the Church in the April 2004 Ensign: “The Church has issued a new doctrinal guidebook aimed at youth, young single adults, and new members. True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference is a collection of brief, simple statements on gospel doctrines and principles. Almost 200 pages in length, the book is intended to supplement the scriptures and the counsel of current Church leaders. Young men and young women may use it as a resource to assist them in achieving their Duty to God and Personal Progress awards. The book is designed to accompany the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and explains the doctrine behind the standards it contains. Priesthood quorums and Relief Society groups may also offer the book to new members to better acquaint them with the doctrines of the restored gospel. True to the Faith is available at Church distribution centers for $1.50.”

Mormon Nominated to D.C. Circuit

For those who follow such things, President Bush has just nominated Tom Griffith, current general counsel for BYU, to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. For the non-law geeks of the universe, the D.C. Court of Appeals is an intermediate level appellate court (just below the Supreme Court) and after the Supreme Court it is widely regarded as the most important court in the United States, frequently serving as a training ground for Supreme Court justices. (Three of the nine current justices — Scalia, Thomas, Ginsburg — previously served on the D.C. Court of Appeals.) If confirmed, Griffith, to my knowledge, would be the first Mormon to serve on the Court and (in informal terms) the highest ranking Mormon ever in the federal judiciary. Tom graduated from BYU, worked for several years as a CES director before going to law school at Virginia. Prior to taking his current job at BYU, he was Senate Legal…

I Love to See the Temple

Today I went on the open house tour of the new Manhattan New York temple. It was, as expected, a great experience. The temple is in the old stake center building. The first and second floors and the fifth and sixth floors are the temple; the third and fourth will remain a chapel (that split layout seems decidedly odd to me). The anti-Mormons were outside, as expected: A half-dozen well-dressed professional-looking folks, one hippie-looking yeller, and a cute-as-a-button little girl, perhaps seven years old, who was cheerfully handing out pamphlets about why polygamy is bad. (If I have a moment, I’ll try to go get pictures one of these days).

Light bloggernacking

I’ve just noticed a few goings-on today that may be of interest: The Sons of Mosiah have a new, snazzy layout. They also have a new guest-blogger, Robyn Goodwin.* John Hatch has posted an interesting discussion of post-Manifesto polygamy over at the polygamy blog, BCC. I can all but guarantee that there’s something for everyone — to disagree with, that is — in his discussion. Finally, I noticed that Universalist Unitarian (UU) blogger Philocrites has a new post discussing the question, “How universalist is Mormon theology?” Check out the discussion, and you can find out how universalist Mormons are. That’s all for today — happy reading! * Little-known fact: Mosiah had not only sons, but daughters. In fact, his daughter Eowyn went to the Lamanites as well, and famously struck down an evil Zoramite chief of whom it was said that no man could slay, as she cried out “I am no man.” Or, of you prefer the book text,…