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.


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.

Mormons Leading the Way to a “New Dark Age”?

Darren Roulstone was kind enough to pass along a pointer to an article in the most recent issue of Fortune, which lies unread on my nightstand. The article — entitled “Which Nations Will Go Forth and Multiply?” — is adapted from Phillip Longman’s book The Empty Cradle. The main thrust of the article is that declining fertility rates bring lots of benefits, along with some risks for the future. Longman describes the worst-case scenario as follows: Even more sobering are the implications for modern civilization’s values. As urbanization and globalization continue to create a human environment in which children become costly impediments to material success, people who are well adapted to this environment will tend not to reproduce…So where will the children of the future come from? Increasingly they will come from people who are at odds with the modern world–who either ‘don’t get’ the new rules of the game…or who believe they are (or who in fact are) commanded…

More Prooftexts

I was inspired by Kristine’s post to think about prooftexts. My nomination is 2 Timothy 3:16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Spiraling Downward

Having ventured into the realm of high generalization about cultural systems, in my second entry I wish to raise my game to a still higher level. We have heard many warnings recently from Church leaders about American and world culture spiraling downwards. While this diagnosis can be debated (it is always the best of times and the worst of times), a pessimistic mood has prevailed at Church headquarters. Some relief was granted in this last conference when a few talks struck the theme of “Don’t Despair.” I believe there are grounds for adopting the pessimistic stand because morally and religiously our culture has been hollowed out. Neither our theological beliefs nor our moral standards are supported in the cultural systems that dominate our society: capitalism, democracy, and science.

The Passion at week seven

The Passion of the Christ was released seven weeks ago today. In that time it has become: # 8 highest grossing movie of all time # 1 highest grossing February release of all time # 1 highest grossing non-English movie of all time # 1 highest grossing February weekend # 1 highest grossing R-rated movie of all time # 2 highest grossing 7th weekend By next week it will have overtaken Jurassic Park for the seventh spot on the all-time list.

The Real Issue

What follows is a post on homosexuality. I am deeply sorry about this, because by and large I think that this is a very stale topic. Accordingly, I hope that any discussion that follows this post will focus on the particular questions that I pose, rather than spinning off into another SSM free for all.

100 Celebrities Can’t Be Wrong

Apparently the huge DC rally for abortion isn’t materializing as planned. The major pro-abortion and feminist groups, plus the ACLU, have been preparing a huge demonstration in Washington to protest the Bush administration’s policies protecting fetal life. I signed up on their mailing list early on and have received impassioned letters pleading for money. One letter said they were organizing the largest march on Washington — ever. Apparently they thought the original title, “March for Choice,” wasn’t getting the emotional response they sought, so it’s now called the “March for Women’s Lives.” (No, not the lives of the 1800 women who are dismembered by abortion every day.) According to, the planners fear the march won’t meet expectations, and have recruited Hollywood celebs to increase turnout. This got me thinking. Does anyone trust the opinions of egomaniacal multi-millionaires like Sheryl Crow, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Christina Aguilera, and Alec Baldwin (who still refuses to keep his promise to leave America),…

My letter to Meridian Magazine

I’ve been silently stewing for the past few days about Meridian Magazine’s endorsement of Holocaust denial. (I know, there are ways to read it that make it look marginally less ugly — it’s still problematic, I think). And then, today, a family member forwarded me a Meridian article (“look at this cool article!” — not the same one, I should add) and I finally flipped, and decided to act. I get a _lot_ of forwarded e-mail protest letters from friends and family. Protest this, protest that, write a senator, write CNN. I usually ignore them. But I’ve become quite familiar with the form. And I put that familiarity to use.

Who is Julie?

Unlike some of our other bloggers, Julie has been remarkably prompt in providing the administrators of this site (also known from time to time as “The Quataverate” or sometimes simply as “The Big Four”) with biographical information and a picture. Hence, I am pleased to announce the the “Julie Smith” link on the side bar is fully operational. Have you ever longed for an answer to that all consuming question, “Who is Julie Smith?” Your long wait is over. Just click here.

Sinners, all

I have some strange childhood memories. One of the most vivid is my baptism day. October 31, 1981. Unfortunately, the memories of the baptism itself are somewhat hazy, but what I remember clearly is this feeling of being completely cheated by happenstance. I had an October birthday, and our stake did primary baptisms on the last Saturday of the month. In 1981 that meant I was getting baptized on Halloween, and there lay the problem. In my eight year old wisdom, I knew that I’d be pure and sin free upon getting baptized, but I thought that the chances of getting through an entire Halloween without sinning were slim to none. I was mad that the other kids weren’t baptized on so tempting a day, and therefore their “cleanliness” would last much longer than mine. That just was not fair, in fact, it was so not fair that I distinctly remember the feeling 23 years later.

Now We are Ten

We’re very happy to add another name to the list on the right of the page. Julie Smith, whose stint as a guest-blogger included terrific posts like The Talk I’ve Never Given and Why We Doze in Sunday School, has agreed to continue casting her pearls before, well, us. We hope that with two women speaking, Times and Seasons will seem more like General Conference. [ ;>)] Welcome, Julie!!

Purse and Scrip

The early apostles were commanded to go preach the gospel, carrying neither purse nor scrip. Early missionaries in the restored church were similarly commanded: And thou shalt take no purse nor scrip, neither staves, neither two coats, for the church shall give unto thee in the very hour what thou needest for food and for raiment, and for shoes and for money, and for scrip. Somewhere along the line, missionaries began taking purse and scrip. We now pay almost $400 a month to serve a mission. The missionaries in the field receive their stipend each month, and pay their rent, food costs, clothing costs, and such. I recognize that this change is probably a bureaucratic necessity. (It also dovetails better with today’s emphasis on financial responsibility — how responsible is it to eschew purse and scrip?). And yet I wonder sometimes if something has been lost. Today’s missionaries may have greater certainty about where their next meal is coming from,…

More Capitalism

Rather than post a comment deep in Richard’s wonderful thread about capitalism, I thought I’d bring my thought to the front of the queue. The question of whether capitalism is compatible with the gospel was answered the moment Richard listed the fruits of capitalism: immense salaries, notoriety, perks, honor, authority, power, and influence. In other words, pride and the vain things of the world.

My Least Favorite Prooftext

Here it is: What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. (Doctrine & Covenants 1:38)

Capitalism and the Gospel

Claudia enjoyed her two weeks of fame on the T&S blog, and I am looking forward to my time in the blogger’s chair. We have few enough venues for informal exploring and reflecting, and this seems to be one of the best. My initial question is: Are capitalism and the gospel at odds with one another? I am not thinking about greed and cruelty, the usual line of criticism against capitalism, and I am not suggesting socialism as a better course. My thoughts were spurred by the General Conference talk on “the heart of a mother.” As I listened to the talk, the speaker (whose name I missed on my web-originating broadcast) was promoting motherhood over against career, and that is where I think capitalism undermines the church and the gospel.