STQ: Blind Obedience

The words “blind obedience” have a negative connotation. They imply something different from “obedience,” standing alone, which is generally thought to be a good thing. The expression “blind obedience” could suggest faith in the face of uncertainty, but it doesn’t. Instead, it suggests unquestioning adherence to inherently imprecise rules, even in the face of silly or adverse consequences.

Thoughts (Mine and Others’) on Raising Kids

I had thought I’d write something about Mormonism and lawyers today (look around: they’re everywhere!), but as it turned out, all my blogging time and energy was taken up by a discussion, started by Harry Brighouse over at the group blog Crooked Timber, dealing with child-rearing, commercialism, and the degree of control one can (or should) exercise over the environment in which you raise your kids. Harry’s post, to a certain extent, is a follow-up on another intra-blog discussion (in which I also participated) dealing with a much simpler question: why don’t kids walk to school anymore? But the current dialogue is going way beyond that, dealing with a whole range of matters including tv watching, popular culture, neighborhood planning, PBS, computer games, and much more. There’s even some pretentious (yes, me again) thinking about the connection between religious belief and the intellectual capacity to resist the demanding, materialist, careerist tempo of modern life. It’s been one of the most…

Thanks Dan

Dan Peterson has ended his stint as a guest blogger and we are grateful that he was willing to take the time to do so. Dan is one of the busiest people on the planet–as well as one of the brightest–so we were especially happy for his participation.

Rescuing an Orphaned Thread (aka Lazy Blogging)

Last week Nate wondered about how to define “church doctrine.” Near the end of the comments thread, two people very articulately wondered about why we should bother doing so. (Here’s a link to the full discussion). Greenfrog asked: “At the risk of being perceived as a bone-headed realist, doesn’t that suggest that searching for some meaningfully mandatory set of doctrines is missing the point? If such a set of doctrines really isn’t an operationally determinate criterion, why should we conclude that it matters?” Joseph Spencer then usefully reminded us that the word “doctrine” simply means teaching, and posited that the function of church doctrine is not to systematically address every theological question that could come up, but to teach members to look at the world differently. I’m not sure I have anything useful to add, but I think these are interesting questions, so I want to consider them again and try to ask some related ones:

Gratitude and Technology

This week I discovered that I had a retinal tear. Within a couple of hours I also discovered that it was relatively easy to fix. Moderately painful for a few minutes, but a few zaps of the laser and I was “as good as new.” (I’m sure that Janice, my wife, often wonders just how good “new” was that it should be the standard for what I am now.) I am grateful for the knowledge and technology that could turn what not-so-long-ago could have been a disaster into a minor, momentary irritation.

Sunday School Lesson 7

Lesson 7: 2 Nephi 3-5 Chapter 3 Verses 1-25: Notice the use of types and shadows: Lehi blesses his son Joseph by telling him of Joseph of old who prophesied of Moses and the latter-day Joseph. Presumably this blessing to Joseph was more than just information. Presumably it gave him something he could use in his own life. In addition, it compares Moses and Joseph Smith in a way that helps us understand each better. Is this use of types and shadows the way that we are to apply the scriptures to ourselves? Of what types do we see shadows in today’s world?

Small request for technical assistance

Since the move to the new server, most things have gone reasonably well. One little thing is still bugging me; I’ve tried a few ways to fix it, and have been unsuccessful. I’m wondering if any of our readers have the knowledge to help (required knowledge will be a little bit of understanding of Java, PHP and/or CGI). UPDATE: Got it! Thanks to Quinn Warnick , the fiction editor for Irreantum, the magazine of the Association of Mormon Letters, for the tip.

A topic for Sunday: Praise

A few weeks ago in our Sacrament Meeting, we sang 4 hymns composed by Eliza R. Snow, in honor of the 200th anniversary of her birth. One line from one of those hymns has been on my mind since then. It’s from this verse: He lives! He lives! We humbly now Around these sacred symbols bow, And seek as Saints of latter days To do His will and live His praise.

The Worst of Times

Tonight the Church Education System sponsored a satellite broadcast from Temple Square, featuring Elder Boyd K. Packer. As an early morning seminary teacher, I was invited to attend. Elder Packer and Elder Eyring, who introduced him, both made comments to the following effect (paraphrasing): “the world has never been more wicked, and it will not get any better.” I have no reason to dispute this, but why are General Authorities (and, by way of imitation, members) so fond of saying such things?


The Book of Mormon uses the term “priestcrafts” as follows: “priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.” (2 Nephi 26:29) Last weekend, I visited the “local” LDS bookstore (located about two hours away, near the Chicago temple) and discovered a new book about Jesus, written by a man I had met several years ago while practicing law. Although we met only briefly, my impression of this man was very favorable, and I am pretty certain that he could teach me a thing or two about Jesus. Nevertheless, whenever I visit an LDS bookstore, the verse quoted above about priestcrafts pops into my head. Mormons tend to associate that idea with televangelists, but I wonder …

Welcome Our Newest Guest Blogger: Kristine Haglund Harris

Regular visitors to this blog will recognize Kristine as the outspoken, ABBA-loving, mother of three who currently has a vice grip on second place (among non-bloggers) in the Comments sweepstakes. Just this week, I learned that Kristine’s brother Rich was my student two years ago at Vanderbilt Law School. While living in Tennessee, I also met Kristine’s father, who is a Professor of Physics at Vanderbilt. Having spent several years in Germany in her youth, Kristine was naturally drawn to the study of all things German at Harvard (A.B.) and Michigan (M.A.). She tells me that her youngest child will be in preschool three mornings a week next fall, so she is considering a move back to school to finish her Ph.D., “though not in German — something more practical, like history or religion.” (That last comment being partly TIC, I think.) She has also been a Summer Fellow (2003) at the Smith Institute of Church History. We are all…

Abortion Rights and the Two-Headed Baby

A while back on an abortion-related thread, one commenter broughtup the old idea that abortion rights could suggest conjoined twins might have a right to kill the twin. That line of argument may no longer be dealing in hypotheticals. Doctors are now preparing to remove the second head from an infant born with two heads. The second head, while not attached to a body of its own, has a partially formed brain, eyes, ears, and lips, and its mouth moves when the baby breast-feeds.

Blog(ger) Marital Demographics

It suddenly occured to me last night that our group’s marital homogeneity is rather striking. Consider: We have eight bloggers; we live in different locations; we come from different professions; we have different political beliefs; we find a lot to differ on. We are all married and all have children. (See documentation for Nate, Russell, Kaimi, Adam, Jim,Gordon; Matt’s status is documented on a family webpage that I’ve seen, but don’t know if he wants linked on the public site; I don’t believe Greg has any online documentation, but I can attest to his marital-parental status, having been in his ward for years).


I just took the entertaining “Belief System Selector” (what religion are you?) online quiz (link via Minnow’s Pond). And the results are in: I’m not really a Mormon! According to the quiz, I match up to: 1. Mainline – Liberal Christian Protestants (100%) 2. Mainline – Conservative Christian Protestant (93%) 3. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (92%) 4. Jehovah’s Witness (83%) 5. Orthodox Quaker (77%) 6. Eastern Orthodox (69%) 7. Roman Catholic (69%) 8. Seventh Day Adventist (68%) 9. Liberal Quakers (65%) 10. Bahá’í Faith (63%) Hmm, I wonder if that means I can’t be in the Elders Quorum presidency any more. But seriously, perhaps the most interesting result was that Jehovah’s Witness scored so high for me. Mindi had a similarly high JW score (93%). Are Mormon and JW belief systems really that similar?

Another blog of interest

The new group blog Mirror of Justice promises to be “A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.” And some very smart people are blogging there. It’s probably worth keeping an eye on, as it could be very interesting.

A Mormon Image: Polygamists in the Pen

In one of the comments below, Judy Miller of the Utah State government asked about the image of the prisoners in our masthead. A large, framed version of this photograph hangs in my office, so I thought I would say a little about it.

President Bush, Operation Give, and Matt

If you scroll down our list of links, you will find one to Operation Give (the “Give Toys to Iraq” button), which was set up by Matt and a national guardsman from Utah to provide charity to Iraqi children. This morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Bush praised the work of Operation Give.


According to the Lycos 50, which tracks internet usage, the unfortunate incident in the Super Bowl halftime (involving Janet Jackson and some very poor sartorial decisions) may have set a record for the most-searched event in internet history. Janet beat several other high-search events, garnering, for example, five times as many web searches as the Columbia explosion. Apparently the only possible contender for most-searched event is September 11. The calculation is tricky, but in the aggregate, the events appear to have generated about equivalent search traffic. Aaron Schatz writes on Lycos 50: “Prior to this week, the most-searched event in the history of the Lycos 50 over a one-day period was the September 11 attack on America. Although it is very difficult to compare searches for the two events, it looks like the Super Bowl halftime show was the equal of September 11 when it comes to Internet attention. That is, to put it bluntly, mind-blowing.” Yes, it is.

Chaplinsky in Zion

According to the Deseret News, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is considering a city ordinance that would ban some of the more extreme street preaching around Temple Square.

Should Mormons Avoid R-Rated Legal Opinions?

You remember the case: Mormon acting student at the University of Utah files suit because she felt that her free speech and free exercise rights were violated by her acting teachers’ requirement that she say f–k and g—–m in classroom performances. The federal district court tossed the suit, but the student just won her appeal, keeping the case alive (caveat clicker: the court’s opinion contains profanities) .

We Love You Pakistan!

I was just checking over our site statistics. We seem to have settled into a groove of about 250 to 300 unique visitors per day. Our readership continues to be disproportianately concentrated in the Eastern United States. However, as the map below indicates, five percent of our recent visitors seem to be coming to us from Pakistan.

What is Church Doctrine?

As Mormons we often like to speak as though we have a well settled body of doctrine that provides determinate answers to some set of questions, but is silent as to other questions. Thus, someone makes some comment in Sunday School with which we disagree, and we are able to say, “Well that is your opinion, but it is not church doctrine.” My question is how do I figure out if something is church doctrine or not.

The Greatest Film of All Time

I’ve felt rather guilty about not posting more during my guest stint here. My e-mail has been on the fritz, I have been out of town, and . . . Well, anyway, even though it’s really late at the moment, I simply have to post something to salve my conscience.