High School

Driving my daughter to Seminary and then to high school this morning, I learned an amazing amount about the social structure of Middleton High School. According to my daughter, the most despised group is the “Populars.” This is ironic because, as you may know if you have teenagers, the Populars aren’t … they just act like they are. The “Semi-Populars” (at this point, I am already beginning to think that she is making this up as we go) are really the most popular. These are kids who don’t act popular, but are really decent people, usually with a good sense of humor. The Freaks are fun. Well, at least those who are into drama and art. Some people are freaky in a creepy sort of way, and they are definitely not fun. The Druggies come in at least two varieties: Mild and Hard Core. The former are just dumb, but the latter might be dangerous. The Jocks are what they…

A Smoot Book

Kathleen Flake of Vanderbilt divinity school has just published what looks like a very interesting book with UNC press. She traces out the history of the Reed Smoot hearings, arguing that they were a pivotal event in defining the role of religion in American public life. Reed Smoot was an monogamist Apostle who was elected to the Senate at the turn of the 20th century. At the time, many Mormons continued to be polygamists from pre-Manifesto plural marriages. In addition, there had been a large number of secret, post-Manifesto plural marriages. These marriages, along with accusations that the Church controlled Utah politics led to a challenge to the seating of Mr. Smoot. The hearings were a protracted ordeal for Smoot and the Church, and eventually President Joseph F. Smith was called to testify before the Senate committee. Smoot was eventually seated and served into the 1930s. For many years the Mormon branch in Washington D.C. met in Reed Smoot’s living…

Great Sermons

In our casting about essential Mormon texts and our questing for Mormon literary achievement, I think that we frequently foget on of the great Mormon mediums and one that we have produced in huge quanties, with occasional examples of great quality. I am talking about sermons.

Lying to Our Children

When I arrived home from work yesterday, my wife calmly informed me that she had just lied to our son. Sullivan, our oldest, has many quirky preferences (like a lot of other children, I believe) and he can be quite stubborn (gee, I wonder who he inherits that from?). One of his quirky preferences is that his sandwiches be made with grape jelly, not any other flavor, and especially not strawberry. I consider this preference to be quirky because Sullivan can’t really tell the difference once the sandwich is made. Yesterday we had a household crisis — we were out of grape jelly of any kind. Sullivan initially asked for grape jelly and was told that we were out. He then refused to eat any sandwich not containing grape jelly. And so he watched suspiciously as my wife reached into the fridge and pulled out a jar labeled “four berry” jam (one that I had bought a week earlier, because…

“One Flesh”

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to spend more time with my wife, and since she didn’t object, this is one resolution that I have kept. My motivation is partly short term — my wife is my best friend, and I enjoy our times together. But I also am motivated by the idea of eternal companionship. Indeed, I like all of the doctrines of unity: marriage, Zion, exaltation. These concepts inspire me. With regard to marriage, we are told that “man [shall] leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Genesis 2:24. Also, “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” 1 Cor. 11:11. I understand these scriptures to mean that I must become one with my wife in the same way as Jesus become one with the Father. I can think of no better way of doing this than reading…

The Passion vs. The Last Temptation

(I blush to confess that) I’m old enough to remember the release of The Last Temptation of Christ. While there was some discussion of the film in the student ward I attended, I don’t remember it being nearly as big a kerfuffle (or “brou-hahr-hahr” as they say around here) as The Passion has been. I’m sure that not nearly as many Mormons saw The Last Temptation as will see The Passion. I can think of several possible reasons for this:

The Books to Be Written

Let’s see if we can start a discussion that doesn’t revolve around homosexuality and same sex marriage. (What a sexually obsessed bunch we are!) A while back, one commenter suggested that what we needed in addition to a list of “must read” Mormon studies texts is a list of books that haven’t yet been written but should. In the spirit of that question, let me offer some ideas.

The Meaning of Sodom and Gomorrah

There is an interesting exchange over at The Metaphysical Elders between The Historian and The Lawyer over the proper interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I am inclined to think that the Historian has the better of the argument, but you can judge for yourselves.

FHE with a future defense attorney

So, tonight our Family Home Evening was a review of our Family Laws, which were composed when the kids were 6 months, 2, and 4 years old, and which need review and minor adjustments pretty often. We thought that our 7-year-old, and maybe our 5-year-old were ready for the notion that actions can have both natural consequences and consequences imposed by an authority of some sort. We chose what seemed like a simple example–driving through a red light (natural consequence: accident, imposed consequence: ticket). The following discussion ensued:

Marriage According to Biblical Principles

A February 25 statement by Congressman Jim McDermott highlights some of the potential problems of arguing that marriage should be (as the Presidential prayer team has suggested) based on “biblical principles.” Such as: A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. Ouch! (See also this blog providing further textual support for the passages the Congressman didn’t give verses for). (Link via Heidi Bond).

S.T.D.’s – Sexually Threatening Discussions

Stake visitors amble through the hallways during Sunday School time of ward conference in an urban Chicago ward. Suddenly, bellowing from the young women’s classroom, comes the teacher’s mighty voice: “Chastity means NO SEX, NO SEX, NO SEX!” Just how do we communicate sexual standards in understandable, meaningful, practical ways?

Lawyers on the Front Line

Apparently, there was a globally broadcast pow-wow of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society yesterday, during which Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke, condemning the wickedness of the world, quoting Robert Bork on the usual subjects, and calling upon LDS lawyers to work to stem or slow the tide of evil all around us–not just for the sake of the church, but also on behalf of “ordinary people who need your professional protection.” Surely at least one or two of the dozens (hundreds?) of LDS lawyers who visit, comment or blog here heard Elder Packer’s remarks. Any comments? The Deseret News article mentions a list of 21 specific vices which Elder Packer checked off one by one; I’d be interested to know what they are.

“Good Books”

How are we to understand the injunction to “study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people”? More to the point, how do we choose the books we will or will not read? This post was inspired by The Da Vinci Code, which I have been reading with my wife. One of my vices is that I love a well-written mystery. While this book has occasional moments of suspense, Dan Brown is a clumsy writer who makes the story as tedious as it is implausible. But I am not here to do a book review. Instead, reading this book has prompted some thoughts about the nature of “good books.”

Today’s Church Statement on Immigration

Apropos of our recent political discussions, the Church released a statement today proclaiming neutrality on a Utah immigration bill and saying “The Church repeats its oft-stated caution to members that they should never infer that the church endorses their personal political positions.”

Hello, Out There!

Early this morning, our Site Meter rolled over the 20,000 visitor mark. Kaimi noted the first 10,000 five weeks ago, on January 22. That first 10,000 required nine weeks of blogging. Based on traffic this week — which passed 400 visitors per day for the first time on Wednesday — we will reach the next 10,000 sometime well before the end of March. Although I rarely purport to speak for all of the bloggers on this site, I think that I can safely venture the following: we all appreciate the opportunity to engage in this forum, and express thanks to our visitors, particularly those who take the time to share insights about Mormonism. Keep coming back, and tell your friends!

Around the blogs

I had to post an around-the-blogs when I read this post by Autumn about her mission papers. Key quote: “Autumn,” he said “You’re pretty attractive, you’re smart, you have a fun personality. Why don’t you just get married instead?” Yikes! In other blogs: Dave discusses Mormon Shakespeares again; Bob Caswell discusses priorities of church members; some Metaphysical Elders discuss the Mormon (reverse?) diaspora; and (not totally LDS related) Eric James Stone is now a professional author. Congratulations Eric!

A Statute of Limitations on Anonymity?

The Church is often accused of being secretive about its history. My tendency is to think that this is a bit overplayed. No less an iconoclast that Will Bagley (of Blood of the Prophets fame) has stated that he doesn’t think that there is any secret history of Mormonism to be written. This is not to say that there aren’t some documents that I would love to see!

On Teaching Seminary

As regulars here know, I teach early morning Seminary. I love the students in the class, which includes my 15-year-old daughter. My Seminary teaching style is relaxed. Today, for example, we covered the first couple of chapters in Job, intermittantly reading and talking. (“Could Satan really talk to God like that?” “Was Job a real person?”) Tangents — mostly generated by the random firing of dendrites inside the brains of the most outspoken young men — are a regular feature of the class. We laugh a lot. Once or twice a week, we eat breakfast. We learn something new on most days. And occasionally, we have a genuine spiritual experience.

Civic Religion – Again

For those not aware of the fact, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Locke v. Davey a few hours ago, holding that it did not violate the Free Exercise Clause for the State of Washington to exempt divinity degree applicants from an otherwise available scholarship fund. I am not going to comment here on the opinion itself, but there was a line from Justice Scalia’s dissent that brought to mind an earlier discussion here at T&S on civic religion.

Turning BYU into Bob Jones

Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon on one reason the Federal Marriage Amendment is necessary: “Religious freedom, too, is at stake. As much as one may wish to live and let live, the experience in other countries reveals that once these arrangements become law, there will be no live-and-let-live policy for those who differ. Gay-marriage proponents use the language of openness, tolerance and diversity, yet one foreseeable effect of their success will be to usher in an era of intolerance and discrimination the likes of which we have rarely seen before. Every person and every religion that disagrees will be labeled as bigoted and openly discriminated against. The ax will fall most heavily on religious persons and groups that don’t go along. Religious institutions will be hit with lawsuits if they refuse to compromise their principles.”


Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season for many Christians. At Christmastime, there was some conversation about the virtues of non-Mormon worship, including the observance of the Christian calendar.

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like Unto…a Starbucks?

Jesus loved teaching with metaphors from the mundane. You remember the stories in Matthew: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed….like unto leaven….like unto treasure hid in a field. He holds up a comparison and invites his listeners (sometimes with His help) to extract meaning and insight. Imagine my surprise in a recent epiphany that the kingdom of heaven in my day is also like unto a Starbucks!

Welcome Our New Guest Blogger: Linda Hoffman Kimball

Many of you may already know Linda Hoffman Kimball from her work as a columnist at beliefnet.com and for Exponent II. Or from her novels (Home to Roost and The Marketing of Sister B). Or perhaps from the essay collection she edited, Saints Well-Seasoned: Musings on How Food Nourishes Us — Body, Heart and Soul. Her latest work is Chocolate Chips & Charity: Visiting Teaching in the Real World, which has already cracked Cedar Fort’s Bestseller List even though it just came out in January. I first met Linda in the Hyde Park Ward on the South Side of Chicago, where she, her husband (Chris) and three children were the backbone of a very transient ward. Like me Linda was baptized into the Church during college (Wellesley College), having been raised a devout Methodist. After Wellesley, she earned an MFA from Boston University, where her thesis was on Art as Propaganda in Nazi Germany. She now lives in Evanston, Illinois,…