Cosmology

I have a line in my book about Joseph Smith being the Copernican theologian par excellence. Does that stimulate any thought? Does Joseph Smith’s theology exploit the possibilities opened up by an infinitely expanding universe?

Compendium

Since my time as a blogger is drawing to a close, I am going to riddle you with all the ideas I jotted down for possible entries. To permit people to respond to them individually, each one will occupy an entry but with no development. You can develop them as you wish. The first on my list: How does this group come down on the classic questions of God’s power? Is he an absolute God who created everything, knows everything, and has all power? Or is he a contingent God who a) learned to be God, b) is eternal but so are we, c) organized the earth out of pre-existent matter, d) is teaching us to be gods like himself.

More Bloggernacking

Over the past few days, I’ve noticed (inter alia): Steve Evans (Thurston-Evans?) musing about hyphenation of last names in the LDS world; Mat Parke discussing having Elder Eyring in the class he taught; David Sundwall noting news items about the new Manhattan Temple; Jeremy Grimshaw discussing (unreasonable?) abortion regulation in Utah; and finally, not in the Bloggernacle but over in neighboring St. Blog’s Parish, an incredibly interesting series of posts (1, 2, 3, 4) over at the Mirror of Justice, dealing with laws against religious conversion in India, and of issues that proselytizing creates more generally.

Thank you!

Yesterday — exactly five months after the counter started — we received our 50,000th visit. I guess we must be doing something right, because folks keep on coming back. We’re getting between 800 and 900 visits per day. I want to say thank you, to all of our readers. Reader participation has made this site what it is today. Oh, many or all of us — Nate, Gordon, Matt, and certainly myself — are quite capable of chatting on for hours, with or without an audience. But this blog has become more than Kaimi or Nate chatting on about issues we find interesting. It has become a community of sorts. And it has done that because of our readers. So thank you, thank you all, because I really enjoy participating in the community that T & S has become.

Polyamory

As is often the case, Matt Evans was way ahead of the curve when he discussed polyamory back in January with the post, “The Conservative Case for Group and Sibling Marriage.” But here is a new angle (at least to me): some Unitarians are now actively promoting polyamory. The money quotation: It’s the new polygamy, and according to the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, their relationships are at least as ethical as other marriages — gay or straight. At least as ethical? The implication, of course, is that they may be even more ethical. How so? Consider this from Jasmine Walston, president of the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness: “Polyamory is not an alternative to monogamy. It’s an alternative to cheating. For some of us, monogamy doesn’t work, and cheating was just abhorrent to me.” As Meg Ryan said (often) in Joe Versus the Volcano: “I have no response to that.” But I am sure someone else here does.

The Bloggernacle – It’s Official

David Winer, whose full-time job as a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School is to track the blogging phenomenom, and is therefore as authoritative as anyone on blogosphere nomenclature, has referred to the LDS corner of the blogosphere as “the Bloggernacle.” Times & Seasons delivers! Our own Kaimi Wenger raised the issue, Grasshopper coined the moniker 26 minutes later, and the rest is one month of history.

Belated notice

I just noticed the recent debate raging (again) in the blogosphere about baptism for the dead. Not that there are a lot of new ideas on the topic, but it’s somewhat interesting to see the same ideas get kicked around again. (See here and here; see also Adam’s recent post on the same subject here). And, while I was noticing this little debate, I also noticed that one of the members of Begging to Differ is a self-identified Mormon (who also, I should note, has stated that he does not intend to blog much about religion).

All Night Long

Two nights ago, I stayed up all night finishing a draft of my paper for a conference this Friday. At 2 a.m., one of my eight-year-old twins emerged from his bedroom and was wondering whether he could have breakfast. I sent him to bed, but he was back an hour later. Of course, I was in no mood to debate, and I sent him to bed again. The next morning, my wife reminded me that he had been sick and had not eaten well for a couple of days prior. Arrrgghh!! Guilt … welcome to my life as a nocturnal father of five.

A New Blog

I just came across a new site, The BYU Law Blog by a recent graduate from J. Reuben Clark Law School. The site is worth checking for the picture of conference protesters surrounded by counter-protesters. My favorite is the guy holding the sign reading “There is no Dana, only Zuul!” Ghostbusters, of course, is one of the great neo-liberal movies of all time! Entrepreneurs save the world, which is nearly destroyed by an officious and ignorant EPA regulator. Classic!

Infantilizing Our New Converts

Several weeks ago a friend bore his testimony, and I was amazed at his warmth and power. He spoke precisely in the manner which Richard Bushman has suggested, relating in simple terms how the Gospel has affected his life. I’ve been this man’s friend since he came into the Church. I taught him in gospel essentials, and I watched him as he went to the temple. But it wasn’t until this testimony that I saw him as an equal.

LDS Hermeneutics

My least favorite thing about graduate studies in biblical studies was coming to the realization that there was a multisyllabic, Latin- or Greek- derived word for everything, and that precious few of these words would be found in a standard dictionary. Elder Dallin H. Oaks had an experience with this:

Quick bloggernacking

I haven’t a lot of time today, and the bloggernacle keeps getting bigger (and harder to keep track of). Here are a few things I’ve noticed over the past few days: Jordan Fowles’ interesting discussion of the topic “Is God a Retributionist or a Utilitarian?” (spoken like a true law student); DP’s comments on why church members should turn off the TV this week; Discussion of garments for sale, by Kim Siever and DP; The Baron of Deseret comments about how we should view polygamy today; he also discusses recent LDS-mainstream movies; Sunstone editor and BCC contributor John Hatch asks, “What can Mormonism offer to young people?”.

Another new face

We’ve been happy to have Karen Hall as a guest for two weeks. Her posts have been thought-provoking and interesting. We’re also happy to announce a new guest blogger, who will also be here for two weeks. He’s someone who may be familiar to readers who frequent the bloggernacle. He is the inimitable Steve Evans. Steve was a law school classmate of mine. He is a proud resident of Babylon — err, Manhattan — and a “big law firm” attorney as well. In addition, he is the driving force behind By Common Consent, a liberal LDS group blog. And, as a glance at the sidebar shows, he knows how to use the comment button. Rumor has it that Steve speaks French; he is also known to associate with Canadians. Welcome, Steve!

Why Didn’t God Answer My Prayer?

It’s not a new question; indeed, it’s one of the oldest questions. And I have no fresh insight to bring to it either; it is a deep, profound, and serious matter of faith and theology, whereas my thinking at the moment is self-centered, mean, even a little angry. Still, tonight it’s my question nonetheless.

Testifying

The question is how do we testify. I have come to feel that our formulaic “I know …”does not serve as well as we would hope. In a discussion, it stops the conversation. We are announcing that our belief is highly personal and therefore not subject to examination. The listener is likely to feel okay, you have your belief; I hope you enjoy it. He or she may even feel we protest too much. No one ever says “I know this table exists.” The opening “I know” may function like the word “undoubtedly;” it conveys the opposite of what it purportedly means. An experience a few years back led me to believe another kind of testimony is more effective, but it is a kind of testimony we have not necessarily prepared ourselves to bear.

Sacred Space

Nate Oman suggested I tell you a little about the Sacred Space conference we are planning with the Columbia Religion Department and the Auburn Theological Seminary to help note the dedication of the Manhattan New York Temple. It originated last spring when I asked Robert Millet, Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at BYU if he would be interested. The Evans chair has money for sponsoring just such enterprises. He thought it worthwhile and so I talked to the chair of the Columbia Religion Department. They are wary about denominational programs but after making various pleas and taking advantage of the fact that the chair lives downstairs from us, we received their approval. Meanwhile I ran across the Auburn Theological Seminary, an independent group that is embedded within the Union Theological Seminary building. Auburn does not train students, but they specialize in multi-faith education. Though Presbyterian in origin, Auburn’s director of such programs is a Jewish rabbi. He thought…

Quick Note on the Blogroll

We’re trying out Bloglines, which has some advantages over our old blgoroll program, Blogrolling. For example, it allows us to categorize blogs. Also, it allows us to read posts in one place (aggregation). It has a few differences, however. The main difference is that it requires an RSS feed. Non-RSS blogs are, for the moment, clumped together in a group at the end of the blogroll. In addition, I should note that (1) The determinations of category were made on the fly by Kaimi, and should not be viewed as etched in stone. If you think that your blog is more accurately described as “political” or “journal” or “Mormon-themed” or whatever and it is currently in another category, you can let me (or Nate, or Gordon) know. We’re likely to agree with you. (And new categories may always arise, as we tinker with this feature). (2) I couldn’t export blogs, so I had to re-enter them all. I may have…

The Case Against (Temporal) Perfection

In this month’s Atlantic magazine, Michael J. Sandel makes the case against perfection. Last month we had a vigorous discussion about “Enhancing Nature,” which focused on the use of medical technology (or herbal remedies) to enhance physical appearance. Sandel talks about similar issues (muscle enhancement, memory enhancement, growth-hormone treatment, and reproductive technologies that enable parents to choose the sex and some genetic traits of their children), but focuses on gene therapy. Interestingly, he connects these debates to the topic of human agency.

A Mormon Image: The Vault

The Granite Mountain Vault lies hidden away on the north face of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City. Built by the Church in the early 1960s, the Vault lies under 700 feet of stone, and was meant to withstand a nuclear blast. Contrary to the ramblings of your crazy uncle, it safeguards mainly genealogical microfilm. There is an manmade lake inside that keeps humidity at the optimal level. Alas, it is no longer open for public tours.

Sunday School Lesson 15

I apologize that I’m posting these materials so late. One problem is that it is the end of the semester, but the real problem is that I started making notes as I read and ended up with seven pages of questions. That seemed like a few too many to be useful, so I’ve been editing. I hope they are not too late to be useful.

Belief and Practice

I said, “I don’t think that belief is central to LDS religion: it is important only as part of the practice of religion, not in itself,” and Susan asked, “Are you saying that LDS religion helps you to practice religion better and live better than you would otherwise?” Good question.