Lessons in Representation

Today I was talking with an editor in my group about why she wouldn’t be in the office this afternoon. She was taking her two children to see the Wiggles. Now I admit that even though I’ve watched a bit of television in the past couple of years with my grandchildren, I’ve missed the Wiggles. Robin had been telling her daughter (I think her daughter is about four) that they were going to see the Wiggles. The little girl was excited and wanted to know whether the Wiggles would be on a big screen. Robin had to explain that they would see the Wiggles in person—and perhaps the little girl would actually get to touch a real Wiggle. At this point in the conversation, I told Robin a story about my daughter Bevin and books. It’s surprising how often I find myself telling stories about Bevin to explain the meaning of life. Bevin, now in her twenties, is developmentally disabled.…

Best Conference Blogging

With all due respect to others who tried their hands at Conference blogging, I think that the best commentary award goes to a string of posts over at Dave’s Mormon Inquiry Blog (See posts here, here, and here).

On the bearing of complicated and complicating testimony

In the comments thread of the post about Nate’s little problem, Ryan articulately described a related problem with Mormon liberals: “The reason I bring that up is that I believe the character and motivation transfer closely to the snark, which is simply the better-educated cousin of the simpler debunker. I have no problem with the beliefs of my less “orthodox” friends, who prefer to think more critically about church hierarchy, history, doctrine, etc. than I do. My problem is that they wish so often to be the cool, informed person that is able to show why the simple believers are foolish.” While I don’t think I’m (usually) boring or insulting, I did feel brought up short by Ryan’s critique, and I’ve been thinking about why.

On Privileges, Growth, and Gossip

In the legal world, the concept of confidential communication is expressed in certain privileges. The idea being that the communication in certain relationships needs to be protected by law, even if that communication would be relevant to a court proceeding. An example is the attorney-client privilege. Barring some dramatic exceptions (like a confession that the client plans to murder someone) anything that a client says to his/her attorney is protected by the privilege and will not be revealed in court proceedings. Another privilege, that we don’t hear much about in the church, is the clergy-penitent privilege. A confession to a spiritual leader is protected and confidential.

Hello and Goodbye to Guest Bloggers: Julie Smith & Karen Hall

We would like to thank Julie Smith for a wonderful two weeks of guest blogging and we hope that she will continue to participate here in the comments. We also want to introduce our newest guest blogger, Karen Hall. Karen graduated from BYU where she studied Russian. She then went on to Harvard Law School. While there, she clawed her way to the top of the Latter-day Saint Student Association hierarchy, and ended her law school days as President of that illustrious organization. Needless to say, she ruled with an iron fist, and the LDSSA descended into chaos and apostacy upon her move to Washington, DC, where she practices law and wastes time on the internet. Welcome Karen!

12 Questions for . . . Armand Mauss

We are pleased to announce that Armand Mauss has agreed to be the first participant in the newest regular feature at T&S, “12 Questions.” In this feature, we will be “interviewing” some of the bright stars in the Mormon firmament. And you, dear reader, may participate by submitting the questions. [See here and here for the questions and answers]

Mission Reunion

I enjoy conference because I always feel the Spirit during some talk or another, and usually during several. This time, in the Saturday morning session, Elder Todd Christopherson struck a note that I heard several more times in other sessions when he spoke of grace and of our lives as a gift to give the Savior in response to his grace. And I was touched by President Hinckley’s very personal talk, as well as by what seemed a farewell from Elder Maxwell. But for me the most important part of conference this time was something outside of conference: my missionary reunion.

Moses as a Key to Theology

We tend to think of theology in discursive terms—as a collection of ideas or propositions. When we talk about the development of theology we are apt to trace the history of abstractions such as faith, hope, love, priesthood. With Joseph Smith, I’ve come to believe it is much more enlightening to attend first to characters and to the plots, language, discussions that collect around them. Again and again these characters inhabit stories that preview and explore situations very like those facing Joseph and the community of faith gathering around him. Following key characters thus becomes a tool for tracing developments in early Mormon history. Viewed within this context. Moses becomes a key to Mormon theology (or at least a prime exemplar of what I’m talking about).

General Conference: Sunday Afternoon Session

Last session. Do any of you look for themes in Conference? Sometimes I think that the talks are part of an integrated whole, and other times I think that Conference is like a smorgasbord, with talks on various topics so that everyone can find something. If Conferences have a theme, what would it be this year? How about this: the role of families in the last days.

General Conference: Sunday Morning Session

Do people attend the chapel to watch this session of Conference, even when they get it in their home? That has been the custom in some places where I have lived, but I stayed at home, not wanting to discover any such custom here. Not to diminish any of the talks, but I thought the highlight of this session was Liriel Domiciano. Wow!

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!

Apologies

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.