Causing Others to Sin

Kristine raises some interesting points in her discussion of modesty. The comments (which have been very interesting so far) have made me reflect on an argument I often hear raised by church members: Women shouldn’t wear revealing clothes, because that will make men think unchaste thoughts about them. (This particular argument isn’t in the comments to Kristine’s thread; Ben Huff comes somewhat close, when he argues that women have a heavier modesty burden than men, due to the sinful nature of the world). As I’ve suggested before in comments on this blog, I don’t find this reasoning to be particularly convincing.

Rebekah

I’ve been thinking about Genesis 27 where, according to the headnote, Rebekah ‘guides’ Jacob in receiving a blessing intended for Esau. Even the Institute manual concedes that this story “is a troubling one in many respects.”

Thanks Jim S

All good things come and go, which explains why Jim Siebach’s term as a guest blogger has come and gone. Thanks, Jim, for your thought-provoking contribution.

Colleges with Lots of LDS People

I just noticed that we have gotten a few visits from the internet search engine query “colleges with lots of LDS people” and similar searches. I don’t think that there’s currently anything on the site that answers that question. And it’s certainly a potentially useful thing to know. Here is my two cents on the subject, and if enough commenters weigh in, maybe we can get a good idea of where colleges are that have lots of LDS members.

Modesty and Shame

We’ve had a few teasingly warm days in the last few weeks, and so my children are starting to want to be as scantily clad as possible. I’ve been horrified as I’ve shopped for summer clothes for my 5-year-old daughter–everything is spandex and mini and halter-topped and sex-kitten sandals *in size 5!* It’s awful. On the other hand, I scandalized my visiting teacher last year, when she was kind enough to visit teach me at the beach (because it’s the only place my children can play by themselves for 15 or 20 minutes and not end up bleeding), by letting the above-mentioned daughter change her clothes on the beach without any elaborate towel-draping subterfuge. So I’ve been thinking about the relationship between modesty and shame, and how to teach one with as little of the other as appropriate.

The Polygamists are Coming!

A couple of months ago, I made reference to a fine and informative collection of articles in the Salt Lake Tribune, titled “Living the Principle: Polygamy on the Border”. Among the many fascinating tidbits included in those reports were descriptions of tensions and splits among the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints. It appears that the current FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs, has become unpopular and tyrannical, and several polygamist families, led by those whom he’s excommunicated or simply by folks who want to get away from the man, are relocating. (I found to my surprise that one divided faction has put down roots in a small community just over the Idaho border in British Columbia, which would be about seven miles from our family cabin.) Anyway, my friend Scott in Texas informs me that at least one small West Texas town is in an uproar over the possibility that the FLDS are considering a mass exodus to their backyard. Fortunately, according to…

The Criminal Law of Deseret

On January 16, 1851, the legislature of the State of Deseret passed a 34-section law entitled “Criminal Laws of the State of Deseret.” It actually makes for interesting reading. In 1851, the Mormons had been in Utah for only four years. The Territory of Utah had been formed in 1850, but federal authority in Utah was weak to completely non-existent. It would be another six years before any serious outside authority in the form of Johnston’s Army arrived. In other words, Mormon theocracy was firmly in the saddle, the real legal authority was clearly the State of Deseret and not the Territory of Utah, and Mormon political independence was probably as nearly complete as it has ever been. Hence, the laws that they chose to pass are particularly interesting as an insight into Mormon theocratic ambitions.

Doing

Over at Sons of Mosiah, commenter Kent Bailey made a comment that has gotten me thinking. He writes: Compare the number of hours you spend in Church meetings each month to the number of hours you spend out in the community giving service. For me, the ratio is about 20 to 1. If it is ok to do the Lord’s work on the sabbath (actually more than “ok”), wouldn’t our sabbath be better spent, say working at the DI or in a soup kitchen — as opposed to sitting in meetings all day? If the Savior were here, I doubt he’d be spending his entire sabbath in church meetings or at home. It’s an interesting question: Do we spend too much time meeting and not enough time doing?

The Daughters of Zelophehad

On several occasions, I have asked rooms full of adults if anyone could relate the story of the daughters of Zelophehad to us. No one has ever been able to do it. That’s a shame. This story needs to be brought forth out of obscurity, to grace the flannel boards in Primary, to star in Family Home Evening (it does in the Smith house!), and to take its rightful place in the cozy canon alongside Jonah, Daniel and his lions, and Nephi.

Except Die

Every night (whenever I can) I tell bedtime stories to the kids. They’re largely improvised, from a blend of mythology, literature, movies, and whatever else I’ve thought about lately. They’re usually serialized (“And tomorrow we’ll find out how they fought that giant. . .”). In any given night, our intrepid adventurers are likely to come across giants, dragons, witches, balrogs, castles, jedis, hydras, medusa (a favorite), robots, spaceships, invisibility, magic potions, magic wands, lightsabers, and lasers. I enjoy telling the stories, and the kids enjoy hearing them. This leads to some fun conversations with Sullivan, our oldest (almost seven), about the nature of God. He’s been told that Heavenly Father is eternal, and that that means that Heavenly Father can’t die. This morning our discussion went along these lines:

Sunday School Lesson 20

Lesson 20: Mosiah 25-28; Alma 36 Warning: the materials for this lesson may be the longest I’ve produced so far. As always of course, they are intended only to help you think about the material. No lesson could cover all of the significant ideas and questions that come up in these chapters. The first part of the materials is a chronology created by Arthur Bassett. I post that chronology in response to Tom Johnson’s note (here) that I was not clear about the chronological relation between Mosiah and Alma in the materials for Lesson 19.

Visiting Jershon

There are some fun goings-on over at Sons of Mosiah. Bob Caswell wants to know how big is too big when it comes to blogging. It’s a good question and a good post, and it has generated some interesting comments. (A related question is “how big is too big” for a comments chain — I certainly have a hard time keeping up with the uber-chains of comments we sometimes see around here. By way of illustration of “how big is too big?”, perhaps everyone should hit the Sons of Mosiah comment thread, so that we can see at what point Bob posts “Enough! Stop the madness!”). Also, just when I was despairing of ever having enough time to put together an “around the blogs” thread, Cooper (aka Daughter of Mosiah) went and made one herself. It’s a useful collection of links to some recent goings-on inside and outside the bloggernacle. Enjoy!

Quorums

I’ve been working on discovery lately, and in reviewing of documents (board minutes, internal e-mails) I often come across the term “quorum.” Of course, for a board meeting, a quorum has a particular meaning: It is the minimum number of board members who must be present for the board to make decisions. We use the word a little differently in the church (or do we?) — we typically refer to the word’s second definition of “a select group.” But beyond that difference, what exactly do we mean when we talk about quorums?

Mormonism, Liberalism, and Social Epistemology

In the most recent issue of Philosophy & Public Affairs, Allen Buchanan, a philosopher at Duke, has a very interesting article entitled “Liberalism and Social Epistemology.” He starts his argument with the observation that our knowledge of the world is inescapably dependent on social institutions. It is social institutions that allow for specialization, which in turn carried great advantages in terms of knowing the world. These advantages, however, come at a price. We must cede a certain amount of epistemic independence to authorities. This, he argues, creates great dangers. Certain authorities can be badly – horribly – wrong. He points to the examples of teachers and scientists in the Third Reich who lent authority to Nazi ideology, leading many people to accept its truth. His other example is teachers, parents, and ministers in the segregated South, who inculcated ideas of racial superiority etc. The danger, according to Buchannan, is two fold. First, there is the moral danger that we will…

The Media

Recent comments elsewhere have discussed the question of the media: Whether it is reporting properly, whether it is politically impartial, and whether the answers to those questions are a problem. There is clearly a diversity of opinion among T & S readers on these topics. This thread is everyone’s chance to air their views about the media. However, I really don’t want this to become a mudfight. And, it has been my observation that people are (more so than usual) willing to speak without support on this topic. So, for this thread alone, I’m asking for an added set of comment procedures to be followed. The usual set of comment policies applies. (No personal attacks and so forth, see here for details). In addition to the usual rules, I would like to keep out broad, unsupported stand-alone statements — “The New York Times always publishes anti-American articles” or “Rush Limbaugh always makes incorrect statements” or “The media always . .…

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?