*Warning: Lengthy and self-indulgent blathering!* On Sunday, I had what might have been, for a better person, a humbling experience. For me, it was merely humiliating. I was playing a violin solo for the special musical number during Sacrament Meeting. This in itself is a little embarrassing for me–I was a decent violinist a long time ago, but haven’t taken lessons or practiced seriously in many years, so I’m really not very good anymore, but there’s nobody better in my ward, and I’ve thought it important to offer my talents, such as they are, even though a bushel feels to me like a better place for them–ad Dei majorem gloriam and all that.
We are reading the Book of Mormon as a family, and last night we came to the story of Amulek and Zeezrom. Would it surprise you to learn that Zeezrom is my favorite character in the Book of Mormon? Of course, Zeezrom was a lawyer, who is described as “a man who was expert in the devices of the devil.” (Alma 11:21) At one point in the exchange with Amulek, Zeezrom attempts to purchase Amulek’s testimony against God, and Zeezrom fails. (Alma 11:22) But when Amulek describes spiritual death, “Zeezrom began to tremble.” (Alma 11:46) Then Alma jumps in, calls Zeezrom a liar and reads his mind — “Now Zeezrom, seeing that thou hast been taken in thy lying and craftiness, for thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit.” (Alma 12:3) At this…
The greatest commandment, so says Jesus, is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. I confess that I have always had a difficult time understanding, let alone obeying this commandment. I take it to mean that God wants me to love everyone. I frankly find the idea of this impossible.
Lesson 8: 2 Nephi 6-10 This week’s Sunday School materials are much longer than previous ones. It isn’t that there is so much more material, but that I decided to try to cover the whole assignment rather than only part of it. I came to that decision because we often stop reading the Book of Mormon when we get to Isaiah and I wanted to see how Isaiah’s teaching are connected to the events of the Book of Mormon as well as its teachings.
Russell mentioned that he is “a doubting, debating, Socratic philosopher.” I’m at least sympathetic. Neither of us would be doing what we do?teaching philosophy of some kind?were that not true. I’m happy to say that the longer I live, the less often I have difficult religious doubts, the more I feel that my intellectual life and my religious life are of a piece. But that has not always been true.
from “The Brewing of Soma”–John Greenleaf Whittier Dear Lord and Father of mankind, Forgive our foolish ways! Reclothe us in our rightful mind, In purer lives thy service find, In deeper reverence, praise.
Last week, Kaimi made this Comment: “Possibly the greatest rock song of all time: Hotel california.” This was followed by a few expressions of incredulity, including this from cooper: “Hotel California??????? Ugh! Gross. Blech!” Kaimi defended his choice on grounds that the song had a great guitar solo, and he backed up his assertion with this ranking. When I heard Hotel California on the radio today, it reminded me of this exchange and started me thinking. Rock music can be rated along various other dimensions: best vocal (should we just agree by acclamation that Bohemian Rhapsody wins this?), best drum solo (anything by Keith Moon), best rock ballad (hmm, “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd?), etc. How about the most inspiring rock song ever?
When Mormons get up set about things like abortion, pornography, SSM, constitutional prohibitions on anti-sodomy laws, and the like they frequently talk about how these kinds of developments threaten to undermine society’s “moral fabric.” However, I don’t think that we have been sufficiently reflective about this rhetoric. I think that Lord Devlin can help us understand why.
One of my best friends is a biochemist, and he recently pointed out to me that while the a great amount of ink is spilled and blogs filled with debate about SSM, in his mind a farther reaching event has occurred: South Korean (Hanguk mansae!) scientists have cloned a human cell and grown it into a blastocyst.
Hey. I keep noticing all kinds of references to Catholic thought around here. Is this a new trend in Mormon studies? The influence of _First Things_? A preoccupation of Mormon lawyers? A fluke coincidence of personal interests? What?
Perhaps nothing outwardly sets Mormons apart from the rest of society more than our adherence to the Word of Wisdom. And for insiders, as someone once said on this site, the Word of Wisdom just *feels* important. I’m far more likely to offend the Sabbath day, forget a fast, skip hometeaching, use inappropriate language, break the speed limit, or commit dozens of other sins of omission and commission than I am to join my friends sipping tea at a Chinese restaurant.
As I drove home from work today, I heard an announcement for an upcoming program on Wisconsin Public Radio dealing with the topic of contentment. Implicit in the announcement was an assumption that contentment is a worthy life goal. This caught me off guard. Honestly, it has never occurred to me to pursue contentment. I’m not sure I even know what it means.
Perhaps it is just me but it seems that there is a certain greying that has been happening in the “establishment” voices of the unestablished sector of the Mormon intellectual economy.
Randy Barnett has an interesting post up at the Volokh Conspiracy, giving a persuasive argument about why legislative judgments of morality are not a particularly good basis for legal punishments or restrictions. Barnett makes the very interesting initial assertion that: “A legislative judgment of ‘immorality’ means nothing more than that a majority of the legislature disapproves of this conduct.” Responding to a critique of this position by Rick Garnett, Barnett then elaborates: Consider the claim that homosexuality is immoral. I strongly disagree. Now what? In a contest between a majority of state legislators and me and those who agree with me, what privileges the legislature’s judgment of morality? In what way are they experts? How does being elected to the legislature qualify them to make these judgments? Do they hold hearings on the morality of homosexuality and offer reasons for their conclusions? Or do they just press a button and register their vote? Most importantly, how can we assess the…
Despite Russell’s recent paean to “slackerdom,” I have the sense that many of you who post and comment here care a great deal about your work, and that you enjoy it. If President Hinckley stood up at the next Priesthood Session and told you that you should all quit your jobs to stay home with your children, what would you do? How would you feel about it? (For the sake of simplifying the discussion, leave out for the moment the financial implications of such a course–I just want to know how you would feel about giving up your career to be a stay-at-home parent).
This recent New York Times article discusses how important gay marriage has become for conservatives, providing many conservative groups with a new focal point. Indeed, gay marriage (or the specter of it) is probably a more important issue to conservatives than it is to liberals. For many liberals, the issue is relatively unimportant, compared with, say, war in Iraq, federal judiciary appointments, drilling in Alaska, and deprivation of civil liberties under the Patriot Act. Meanwhile, for many conservatives, gay marriage seems to be the most important issue. And that difference in relative importance influences how politicians approach the question.
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.
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…
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.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the University of Utah history department decided last week not to extend an offer to D. Michael Quinn. The reasoning behind the decision is interesting.
The discussion of “church doctrine” on this blog has thus far focused on what might be called its soteriological significance. However, it seems to me that this is hardly the only reason that one might want to be able to understand “church doctrine.”
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:
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.
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?
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 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.
Adding further to the discussion of whether or not homosexuality can be considered natural, an article in today’s New York Times discusses the apparently prevalent phenomenon of gay penguins. Who would have thought?
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 …