General Conference: Saturday Morning Session

I love General Conference! This morning/afternoon, I watched it from my home in Wisconsin. Modern technology is wonderous to me. I recall President Kimball talking about the Lord’s hand in developing technology that would spread the Gospel to the whole earth. We have seen that development in a most dramatic way over the past few decades. The following are some thoughts generated by the Saturday morning session:

To What End Blogging?

I’m curious about the function that blogging serves for you. The blog is such an interesting, borderland genre. (And I will candidly admit here that the bulk of my personal experience with blogs and blogging has turned on a certain motherly voyeurism of my very verbal, bright, and prolific son.) A really great blog can read, it seems, like a well-honed, mini essay. A continuing interchange can take on the shape and the heat of a spirited conversation, or an argument. I’m often impressed with the quality of the writing and thinking I see. (And sometimes, of course, blogging is far less than this.) Also there’s a continuing quality to a blog that is closer to a journal or diary, or soap opera, as it charts the ins and outs of personal and communal experiences.

Most Embarrassing Moments, Gospel Style

As an adult convert to the Church, I had plenty of embarrassing moments of adjustment along the path to integration. Mostly, these were caused by excessive zeal, rather than lingering bad habits. For example, there was the formal meal when I realized that I had just taken one bite of a dessert that contained trace amounts of alcohol. I excused myself from the table, dashed from the restaurant, and drove to the house of my “mentor” (a young returned missionary), who assured me that I wasn’t going to hell … at least for that. This was a bit embarrassing, to be sure, but it does not hold a candle to my most embarrassing moment.

The Church as a Corporation: Part II

What follows is a continuation of my earlier thoughts on church legal histroy (see Part I). Despite the absence of comments, I hope someone is reading this stuff. If not who cares. I have access to the Moveable Type software, therefore I get to post what I want to.

The Church as a Corporation: Part I

I have been doing a bunch of research of late on the history of corporate law. As I was doing so, I was struck by how much of early Mormon history could be illuminated by the evolution of corporate law. What follows in this and subsequent posts are essentially my research notes. We have enough lawyers and law geeks visiting this site, that I hope there will be at least some audience for this stuff. I even think that this stuff could be interesting to non-lawyers, and none of what follows is technical.

Revelation, Regularity, and Monotony

In a few days, we will have the privilege of hearing from our leaders in General Conference. And they will discuss . . . well, we can’t say for sure, but it’s a pretty good bet that they will mostly discuss the same things that were talked about at the last General Conference. (Though Russell may think otherwise). Every month we also get the Ensign. It is extolled as the words of the living prophets. And every month, it seems to repeat, more or less, many of the same messages and ideas as it did last month, or the month before. This can be embarassing to us as church members. We eagerly explain to our non-member friends that we have a living prophet who tells us what God is saying. The inevitable question is then, “What has he prophesied lately?” And the letdown answer is, “Well, um, we need to pray, read the scriptures, and do our home teaching.” Are…

General Conference Predictions*

Six months ago, just before the October 2003 General Conference, I e-mailed the following statement to several friends of mine: “I predict at least one complete sermon addressing nothing but the necessity of defending ‘traditional marriage,’ with possibly multiple others touching on such topics as ‘legalizing morality,’ treating people with same-sex attraction with sympathyand so forth. Furthermore, I’ll go out on a limb and make a further, more dubious, prediction: someone, or several someones, will either implicitly or explicitly link the final passage in the Proclamation on the Family (‘We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society’) to the current effort to pass a federal marriage amendment, thereby making it essentially official church policy to actively oppose any efforts to block the passage of that amendment. And that means that supporting or endorsing efforts to legalize same-sex unions will, again, be…

Do Dogs Go to Heaven?

We recently had to put our dog down. It has been a traumatic experience in our family and has given rise to the inevitable theological quandry: What is the precise spiritual status of animals? I have repeatedly heard people cite to Moses 3:7 — “all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word” — as a proof text for the claim that animals have souls (or at least dogs; I don’t think that anyone believes that cats have souls). However, if you look carefully at the scripture, it won’t really bear this interpretation. First, it mainly seems to be reconciling the dual creation accounts in Genesis: one is spiritual and the other is physical. Second, in context it seems that only human beings are directly referenced as having spirits. Is there a better source for the common Mormon belief that dogs have spirits? If they do, are their spirits co-eternal with God? Are…

Mormon Literature Won’t Be Left Behind Again!

Once I brought up the issue of Mormon literature, asking for recommendations and opinions about fiction written by and for the LDS audience. (The thread rapidly turned into another throw-down about R-rated movies, but that’s neither here nor there.) I haven’t been able to do much fiction reading since then, but I still like to keep up on what’s available via the Deseret Book catalogue, as much as I gripe about it, if only to know what I’m missing. (Hey, Sam and Charly’s son is all grown up and serving a mission!) The latest catalogue made one thing pretty clear to me: Mormon authors have caught the Left Behind wave.

April Fools Fun

This site lists the Top 100 April Fools Hoaxes of All Time. What is #1? The Swiss spaghetti harvest (“real, home-grown spaghetti”). The site has the actual BBC footage. Cool!


The Chicago Sun Times has a piece on the State of Illinois’s apology to the Church for the expulsion from Nauvoo. Is there a kind of analogy between such an apology and baptism for the dead, doing for another what he cannot do for himself? Does our welcome of that apology say anything to us about how we ought to think about other, similar apologies, such as to Native Americans or slaves?

Does History Matter …

In the public debate about abortion? This afternoon I attended the inaugural meeting of the American Constitution Society at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Professor Jane Larson discussed the history of abortion regulation in the United States. Professor Larson has written two amicus briefs to the United States Supreme Court on this topic. What follows are notes taken during the meeting.

Lighter Fare

In the long tradition of Mormon women trying to ease discomfort of all kinds with food, I thought I’d try to distract us from contentious topics with casserole talk. My children have recently discovered Jello. This is a development I have worked hard to avoid for 7 years, and I am chagrined. Naturally they love it–after all, what’s not to like about a tasty combination of sugar, animal hooves, petroleum byproducts, and scary chemical dyes? But my resistance to this peculiarly Mormon food has been a point of honor for me for a long time, and I’m having a small identity crisis.

Of Flappy Birds & Marauding Marsupials

Those of you who spend a lot of time in the blogosphere are undoubtedly aware of the Ecosystem, sponsored by The Truth Laid Bear. The purpose of the Ecosystem is to classify blogs based on links. The most popular are names you probably know: Instapundit, Daily Kos, Eschaton, Andrew Sullivan, etc. The Top 10 are referred to as Higher Beings. The next 20 are Mortal Humans, which is followed by 70 Playful Primates, thus rounding out the Top 100. The blogs that I read most often (other than Times & Seasons) appear just below that level and are called Large Mammals. Almost 400 blogs currently make this cut.

STQ: Chosen People

My Seminary students were never more united than this morning, when they all agreed that my “thought question” for today was not very interesting. Not one to be deterred by a little opposition, I decided to float the idea here.

Chariots of Fire

This morning in Seminary, I showed my students some clips from Chariots of Fire. We have been studying Isaiah, and I love the scene where Eric Liddell is preaching to a congregation in Paris while taking Sunday off from the 1924 Olympics. (Do they understand what he is saying with his Scottish accent?). During that scene, interposed with images of athletes stuggling to compete in slow motion to the haunting music by Vangelis, Liddell quotes from Isaiah 40:29-31: He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

The David and Jonathan of the Primary

Kristine’s description of her lunch with Esther Peterson got me to thinking about other women I wish I could have met. I was somewhat surprised that Louie Felt and May Anderson popped into my mind. These two women were the first two presidents of the Primary. Between them they presided over the Primary from 1880 (at its beginning) to 1940. Louie Felt was a plural wife; May Anderson never married. (May was quite a few years Louie’s junior.) Neither had children. I take my title from the title of an article about the two that appeared in the Children’s Friend, the magazine they edited together for decades.

Intimate Enemies, The Passion, and Joseph Smith

I’ve been interested in one line of recurring discussion in all the talk about Mel Gibson’s movie. (Keep in mind I’m focusing on “talk” about the movie; I haven’t yet seen the movie.) On the one hand, the charge that the movie is anti-Jewish. On the other, the counter that it’s not; that it’s telling the gospel story of crucifixion, the atonement. My point would be that these two views may not be exactly contradictory. I recently reread The Origins of Satan (1993) by Elaine Pagels. Her argument has framed my own response to discussions about Gibson’s movie—and to my thinking recently about Joseph Smith’s “prologue” to his New Translation of the Bible (contemporary Mormons know this prologue as Moses 1).

Easter Music

Everyone listens to Handel’s Messiah at Christmastime, but it was originally performed at Eastertime, and the Easter portion of the piece has some gorgeous and infrequently performed gems, like the tenor aria “Behold and see if there be any sorrow” and the soprano aria that follows “But thou didst not leave his soul in hell.” So if you haven’t listened lately, dust off your CDs and listen to the WHOLE THING, not just the MoTab recording of the “highlights.” There are lots of good recordings out there, but I like Christopher Hogwood’s with the Academy of Ancient Music, because I like the chorus with boys instead of women. (yeah, it’s hard to be a feminist and early music critic at the same time!) I also like the clean sound of the smallish chorus, but if you want a big loud sloppy Hallelujah Chorus, you might not like this. I also LOVE Boston Baroque’s recording, which is even lighter and quicker,…

A Mormon Among the Yuppies

Confession time. I am a lawyer. It is now official. Last week the Board of Bar Examiners sent me my certificate stating that I am duly liscensed and qualified to practice as an attorney and counselor at law before the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Yesterday, I recieved in the mail an offer from the D.C. office of an international law firm, which I will probably accept. What this means is that I am on the threshold of the land of the Yuppies.

Keeping the Faith

I’ve been thinking recently of people I met in my twenties. Where we are now—that memory thing. A post a few weeks back by your own Jim Faulconer sent me on this most recent tour down memory lane. Jim was a person I met in my twenties—in the honors program reading room at BYU. At BYU I also met Mike Quinn, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Janice and David Allred. . . . . We were all idealistic, faithful, bookish Mormons, beginning our adult lives. From what I know, I believe that we’ve all “kept” the faith.

Faith, Works & Presidential Politics

Yesterday, John Kerry spoke in a chuch and invoked biblical support for an attack on “our present national leadership.” Kerry alluded to the following passage from James 2:14-17: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Kerry asked rhetorically, “When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?”

Why do we have choristers?

Rather than hijack the discussion of Russell’s post, I’ll post my question separately: I wonder why we insist on a chorister every time we sing. In most cases no one is really following the chorister anyway; we follow the pianist. Having grown up a Protestant, I know that a congregation can have very good singing with no chorister.