This from Richard John Neuhaus at First Things (scroll way down): [A] recent national survey asked administrators and students about the First Amendment. Only 21 percent of administrators and 30 percent of students knew that the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom. Only six percent of administrators and two percent of students knew that religious freedom is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment. Only 41 percent of administrators and 32 percent of students believe that religious people should be permitted to advocate their views by whatever legal means available. On the other hand, 74 percent of students and 87 percent of administrators think it ?essential? that people be able to express their beliefs unless?and then come a host of qualifications, all amounting to the condition that their beliefs not ?offend others.?
If you check out the links from “Kristine Haglund Harris” on the side bar you will notice that, depending on which of her three names you clikc on, you will be taken to either the website of The Republican National Committee, The National Rifle Association, or Bush/Cheney’04. This choice of links constitutes extreme action on the part of one of the site administrators in an attempt to get Kristine to send in her biographical information and a picture, so that we can get an introduction page for her like the rest of the permanent bloggers. In the mean time, we are taking suggestions for other right-wing sites that we could link to Kristine’s name.
I am feeling testy today, so I thought that I would post on a subject I have been thinking about for a while: the most over rated text in Mormon studies. Perhaps it is part of being raised in a prophetic, leader-revering culture, but there is a tendency on the part of Mormon intellectuals toward hagiography. Not of church leaders of course. (Being Mormon intellectuals has liberated them from anything so crass.) Rather, I am talking about hagiography by Mormon intellectuals of Mormon intellectuals. (See the article on Quinn.)
One of my most prized worldly possessions is a complete set of the Journal of Discourses. I love these books. I love the way that they look. It probably has something to do with my fascination with law books, which they closely resemble. I also love the sermons. They are a wonderful mass of exhortation, speculation, advice, brow beating, and occasionally sublime testimony. They also have a wonderful ability to surprise you. A couple of Sundays ago, I pulled down a volume at random and started reading a sermon. (I do this from time to time.) While I was doing this, I came across the following attack by Brigham Young on New Testament religious communism. No joke:
Last week’s Sunday School lesson, like many in our ward, was a string of scripture verses taken out of context, interspersed with quotations from random General Authorities on the keywords in each verse. Many talks assume a similar format these days. It occurred to me that these lessons and talks would not have been possible even five years ago, and that perhaps we ought to spend a little time paying attention to the changes wrought by lds.org.
We’ve got time for one more navel-gazing blogosphere (err, bloggernacle choir) post, and here it is. I’m now accepting nominations for Post of the Month for March 2004. Here are the rules:
So this weekend, while lounging in bed milking a minor illness for all it was worth, I stumbled upon one of the best talks I have ever heard: BYU English Professor Steven Walker’s “Humor in the Bible,” which you can listen to or read from www.byutv.org (Just search by title under Find a Talk.)
Now that we may have an idea of what to call the Mormon blogosphere (it seems like many people are favoring “Bloggernacle Choir“), let’s mention some posts I found interesting: -Jeremy has a great post over at Orson’s Telescope discussing 1970’s antifeminist literature. (Key quote: “You must first dispense with any air of strength and ability, of competence and fearlessness or efficiency and acquire instead an air of frail dependency upon men to take care of you.”). -Bob Caswell explores the weighty issue of missionary work that consciously avoids unfavored ethnic groups. -At BCC, Aaron Brown wonders if we don’t talk too much about Satan. -Kim Siever discusses the idea of baptism washing away our sins. -Uber-commenter Clark Goble discusses the idea of creation ex nihilo. -Finally, Sci over at the Metaphysical Elders discusses whether the power of prayer could be shown through empirical testing. My suggestion: We could all try this out by praying for the comments function at…
The Revealer, a religion blog affiliated with NYU and the Pew Trusts, notes that while the Jewish and Catholic blogospheres have their own names (jBlog and St. Blog’s Parish, respectively) the Mormon blogosphere lacks any sort of nifty moniker. Such a deplorable situation clearly cannot be allowed to continue! So, what exactly should we call the LDS blogosphere, which is getting rather large, interesting, and multifacted? (See our sidebar for some links). Here are a few ideas of mine: The Blog of Mormons Blogham Young University Salt Blog City Latter-Day Blogs LDB’s (?) My personal favorite is Latter-Day Blogs. It seems like the least unwieldy, while still sufficiently descriptive. What do T & S readers think? Any opinions on these options, and does anyone have any better ideas?
About fifteen years ago, Harold Bloom — a freakishly brilliant and productive literary critic at Yale — turned his attention to American religion and fell in love with Joseph Smith. Among other things, Bloom identified Joseph’s “religious genius” with what he called the basic insight of Jewish history: truely successful new religions transform themselves into a new people. In essence, he argued that one of the things that sets Mormonism off from other “American” religions (or as Bloom would say, manifestations of “The American Religion”) is that Mormons, unlike say Southern Baptists, became a people. There is a sense in which we are as much nation and ethic group as church. So, I am curious about the nature of Mormon nationalism.
A couple of weeks ago Kaimi posted a question about God’s perfection and eternal progress. That led to various discussions, including discussions of foreknowledge and what it means for him to forget the past. I don’t want to resurrect that whole thread, but I’ve got some more or less random responses to some of the issues that I wanted to post and only now have time to do so.
Since the last request for technical assistance was a resounding success, I’m hoping to duplicate the feat. The current question involves a moderately advanced (or at least, beyond my current skill) movable type question and a bit of HTML (the query string function). Here goes:
Lesson 13: Jacob 5-7 We will concentrate on chapter 5, the longest chapter in the Book of Mormon. However, because chapters 4 and 5 were one chapter in the first edition of the Book of Mormon and I think that Jacob 4:15-18 are an essential to understanding the allegory, I suggest that you read them as part of the lesson. Rather than the usual verse by verse list of thought questions, here are two outlines of the chapter followed by a few general thought questions on chapter 5 and then several questions on chapters 6-7.
I’ve just returned from a week-long stay in Utah, my longest visit to the Mormon Heimat in quite a while. My observations follow:
I received an email from my CES coordinator today. Attached to the email was a letter from the CES Administrators’ Council about The Passion. It reads: We have received questions about Mel Gibson?s new movie, ?The Passion of the Christ.? The Church has not made an official statement regarding the movie. We have been given the pamphlet, For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God. We should encourage the youth to follow the standards explained in the pamphlet, including those regarding movies. Also, it would not be profitable to spend class time discussing the pros and cons of attending it. If students seem confused and want further guidance, please encourage them to talk with their parents and priesthood leaders. CES personnel, however, should refrain from taking a particular stance on specific movies when the Church has made no official statement. The Church is in a tough position on issues like this, and asking CES personnel to refrain from…
Good morning, sisters and brothers. Well, those of you in the audience who know me know that I have a real interest in gender issues; some of you know that I specialized in such things in school. And I continue to read about and think about these things quite a bit. And I think I can finally say that I have come to a conclusion. And my conclusion is this: the Church is sexist. (Steal glance over shoulder at bishop’s face if possible.) And, quite frankly, (pause here for effect) I don’t know why you men put up with it.
Many thanks to Greg Allen, who posted early, often, and well here at T&S. I suspect that he won many new fans for greg.org, and we look forward to hearing from him again soon. Our newest guest blogger is Julie Smith, a native Houstonian who earned a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin and an MA in Biblical Studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, where she specialized in women in the New Testament. You know her here as “Julie in Austin,” but you might also be familiar with her book, Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels, which according to Julie “contains over 4,000 questions (no answers) and attempts to get LDS readers to really think about the scriptures and to introduce them to the various approaches of academic biblical studies.” Julie teaches at the LDS Institute in Austin, Texas. She is married to an engineer, and has two children, whom…
We’ve never been on the receiving end of the Relief Society’s meal brigade until now. (We recently came home with the new baby.) It’s certainly been a great help; we’re really grateful for peoples’ efforts on our behalf, but it also means some adjustments (mental and logistical) on our part. The funny thing is, in NYC, we hardly ever cooked, ate home-cooked food, or even ate at home before. Because of work, etc., we usually went out to eat, or else we ordered in. Interestingly, the RS here has adapted accordingly; sometimes, someone’ll call us from their office to let us know to expect Thai food. A couple of times, the elaborate meals that arrive have far exceeded the expectations and habits of people accustomed to grazing or grabbing a slice of pizza on the way home. And in the mean time, our doormen keep wondering how such a feeding network is even possible in the city. How does this…
A recent story suggests that Israel’s Kibbutzim — a widespread form of communal settlement — may be moving towards a more capitalist model. (Link via David Bernstein). As Mormons, this is an interesting development. Scholars have pointed out that there are some similarities between Israeli communal groups and early LDS consecration. The decline of the kibbutz may be similar to the decline of consecration. Of course, members who want to live more of the law of consecration today may still decide that they want to do less kibitzing and more kibbutzing.
Lest anyone miss it, here is a gem from Grasshopper that was hiding in the comments: Jonah was a prophet, swallowed by a whale. When he was on board, the ship just couldn’t sail. So they tossed him over, next thing that he knew, Nineveh repented, Jonah had to, too. Swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet, won’t get away; Swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet, swallow the prophet; he’ll find the way. I hereby nominate this song and Kaimi’s “Put Potatoes with the Veal” (which I can’t find; what thread was it in, Kaimi??) as the inaugural entries in the Times and Seasons Satirical Song contest. Entries must fit with a hymn tune or Primary song from the LDS canon. Prizes will be awarded on the entirely rational and objective criterion of how much Diet Coke I splurt through my nose while reading the entries. Entries which cause lightning to strike my computer will be disqualified.
See here for the AP story, here for Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s witty riff.
Last night I attended the Pinewood Derby races for my sons’ cub scout troop. My wife loves woodworking of all sorts, so I have never made a Pinewood Derby car. At our first Pinewood Derby, now many years ago, my oldest son thought that the highest numbers on the electronic scoreboard were best, so he was excited whenever his car came in sixth out of six. My wife quickly learned the tricks of the trade, and he won the next year.
Kristine raised the issue of whether and how “critical belief,” in other words belief that is both believing and independently thoughtful about various issues in the Church, is possible. (I hope she’ll agree that I’ve more or less captured her question.) For me that raises another (broader?) question: what bounds do my relations with others put on my behaviors, including criticism? Since I doubt that the connection between the two is obvious to anyone but me, let me explain:
In my post below, I wrongly stated that the Ghana temple was the first one to have murals. My bad. Los Angles (1956) was the last temple to have murals before the recent spat of temple building. The Winter Quarters Temple didn’t have murals, but it has very large, framed paintings in the ordinance rooms. This paved the way for the Columbia River Temple, which was the first recent temple to have true murals. Since then, murals have been included in the temples listed in this comment. In addition, there have been murals in the Monteray, Mexico temple, and the Nauvoo Temple (although these were commissioned after the temple was dedicated).
Ars Disputandi, which is a journal on the philosophy of religion, has a review of what looks like a very interesting book using game theory to analyze stories in the Old Testament. Game theory is part of the rational-actor branch of social science. It attempts to understand social interactions by creating mathematical models of different “games” and then deriving the optimal strategy for pursuing those games. The most famous example is the so-called prisoner’s dilemma. (The optimal strategy in a single round game is to rat; in a multi-round game it is to co-operate and punish non-cooperators). So here is an exmple of applying this kind of thing to the Bible.
In the long comments thread on Karen’s post on women’s issues, Brent has done the inevitable: accused those who criticize the “revealed structure” of the church of faithlessness. Brent gets kudos for stating his opinion forthrightly and eloquently. His is a criticism that gets to the heart of many divisive discussions between Mormons of different temperaments and ideological persuasions, so I am hijacking the comments thread to address the issue separately.
This just in: The “2004 Yearbook” reports on 215 U.S. church bodies with a record high total membership exceeding 161 million. Leading any other single U.S. church is the Catholic Church, reporting 66,407,105 adherents, followed by the Southern Baptist Convention (16,247,736) and the United Methodist Church (8,251,042). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ranks 5th (5,410,544). … From 2001-2002, major U.S. churches that grew included the Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Assemblies of God, American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., Jehovah’s Witnesses and Church of God (Cleveland, TN). Recording membership losses were The United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and United Church of Christ…. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), an American-born church, continues to grow remarkably, remaining the fifth largest church in the nation. Among the 15 largest churches, the LDS also reports…
So my wife took my daughters to Enrichment Night tonight, and I was trying to remember why. Is it the Relief Society’s birthday? Some sort of mother-daughter bonding event? Or perhaps the women of the Church have finally had enough and they are simply taking over. Then I had a bright idea: check the ward’s website! Sure enough, it lists Enrichment Night for tonight. When I click for more details, I am prompted to give a username and password, which I navigate successfully. My reward: Wednesday, 17 March 2004 Enrichment Night 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM Hmm. That was almost pretty cool.
In a very interesting post up at By Common Consent, Karen Hall takes on the issue of gender discrimination in the church. She writes: My concern is the insinuation that women are powerless to affect change in the church. I simply don’t think that is true, and that we have every obligation to use our time, talents, and means to improve and build the church. Think these situations are isolated? How much attention is payed to the scouts vs. the young women in your ward? Think about the jokes about the frivolousness of Relief Society. I think the relevant question is how do we respond to the numerous cuts, insinuations, and “bone-headed” remarks that we are sooner or later exposed to. I think we have four options. 1) Over time we start to believe the message that women’s experiences in the church are less valuable than men’s. (Sadly, a common reaction.) 2) We “turn the other cheek” recognizing the ridiculousness…