My Seminary class just completed 1 Samuel, which tells the story of Saul’s reign over Israel. As you know, the people of Israel demanded a king to replace the corrupt judges. (1 Samuel 8:19-20) Samuel was inspired to choose Saul. On the day before they met for the first time, the Lord told Samuel, “To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel.” (1 Samuel 9:16) Samuel does, in fact, annoint Saul, and the people accept him as their king. (1 Samuel 10)
A while ago we had some discussion about a popular question among church members: why there are not more great LDS writers, more “Mormon Shakespeares.” Various ideas were suggested, among them that church callings take up too much time for a nascent Mormon Shakespeare to begin filling up her folios. Let me articulate another reason, hinted at (but not explicitly discussed) in the earlier thread: Church members have an Iago Problem. We are generally incapable of creating believable truly evil characters. We just don’t have the skill set to breathe life into an Iago. And without Iago, there can be no Shakespeare.
Hi everyone. We just switched servers — what a headache! Hopefully this looks exactly the same as the old place. A few things to note: 1. Timesandseasons.org e-mail will be temporarily down. You can e-mail me at kaimi *at* wengerfamily.com . Look for everyone else’s e-mails (if you want to e-mail them) on their personal blog site or description. 2. The domain name (DNS) is not fully resolved, and it seems to still be pointing at the other site sometimes. Since the DNS was being wacky, I set up a redirector at the old host, so you should end up here anyway. :) The only difference will be the address bar, and even that should return to normal once the DNS settles down. 3. There will probably be little bugs here and there — let me know of any you come across, we’ll get them resolved.
It looks like “The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology” has finally decied to go public. You can check out their new website (very slick) at www.smpt.org. In addition, they will be sponsoring a conference at UVSC on March 19-20 on Mormon Theology. (link here) As a lawyer, I thought it is interesting that one of the things that they cite as spurring the formation of their society is the increased awareness of the importance of the 19th century Mormon experience for the constitutional interpretation of religious freedom. Note: T&S’s Jim Faulconer is the chairman of this august organization.
There has been an interesting discussion of guilt over at Bob and Logan’s blog. In response to some comments that I made, Russell makes the following intriguing remark:
Our very own Russell Arben Fox, who has endorsed Dick Gephardt on this site, is flirting with not thinking that Bush is the Great Satan. If I may over simplify Russell’s comments in a really gauche way, it seems that since Bush has been coming out in favor of spending lots of money on good stuff, that he seems (in policy terms) to be migrating toward Russell’s preferred position of social conservatism and economic egalatarianism. Of course, Bush isn’t quite there, but Rusell (and my friend David Bernstein) make an interesting point.
Shortly before his death Joseph Smith began making plans to move the main body of the Saints to someplace in the American west. After his assination, Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve continued to flesh out these plans, ultimately choosing to move the Saints to the Great Basin. In making their plans they depended on the reports of John C. Fremont and on the maps of the American west that his expeditions had created. Here is one of them.
Some discussion has come up in recent threads over how members are to reconcile church teachings with political beliefs. To date, the political beliefs examined have been largely liberal ideas which are seen by at least some as conflicting with church values. However, the church also takes positions that may be seen as counter to conservative ideas. One recent example is the church’s decision to prohibit members from bringing guns into church, even where the members are licensed concealed-carry permit holder. (See the BYU article about the policy, link via the Pollyanic Steve Evans). What is a strongly pro-Second Amendment, gun-rights church member (there are quite a few such members) to think of that policy?
Latter-day Saint worship services and chapels are rather plain and utilitarian. How much of that do we owe to early Latter-day Saint conversion patterns? What if those patterns had been different?
I work as a law clerk for a federal appellate judge. As part of my work, I routinely assist in the enforcement of legal rules that I think are unwise or even unjust. Of late I have been wondering about the morality of what I do every day.
We’ve had some extended discussions of abortion here in recent threads. One topic has not been discussed in any detail, and it’s one that I find interesting. Are church members required to be pro-life? (That is, opposed to legal availability of abortion). Or may they be pro-choice — (in favor of allowing abortion under the law)? The church has taken a solid position on the morality of abortion itself. The church web site makes clear: “The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in [certain] rare cases.” However, this does not answer the question of whether members must oppose the existence of legal abortion.
The New York Daily News discusses the recent influx of Mormons into New York City. (Via my colleague Wendy Cassity). The numbers are interesting — up from 1700 to 4000 members over the past 10 years alone. And there are apparently 25,000 members in the five boroughs. (Though as a member of a Bronx ward, I have to wonder what percent of the 25,000 are actually active). The article also discusses the new buildings, which have to be an exciting development for Manhattan members. (See Claudia’s earlier post mentioning the choreography of multi-multi-ward buildings in Manhattan).
What first caught my attention with respect to the Gospel was the sheer size of it. For my first ten or fifteen years of consciousness, growing up in a semi-active part-LDS home, the Church, to me, represented boring meetings, lackluster hymn-singing, and little more. Other things in 1960s California seemed much more exciting, and, frankly, there was little home pressure to think otherwise.
Rusell’s post below leads me to post a question that I have been meaning to throw out for some time. When we look at the plight of the poor, what is the evil that we see: poverty or inequality?
I don’t get to attend Sunday School often, but yesterday I was able to attend an interesting lesson taught by Logan. The major topic was the great and abominable church. The discussion made me wonder about one thing (which we discussed briefly in class). The scripture talks about removal of plain and precious things from the Book of the Lamb (which appears to be the Bible). I was wondering — how exactly did / does this occur?
A week and a half ago, Jennifer (I don’t recall her last name) came to our door. It was raining out and Jennifer, who was wearing jeans and an old knit sweater, was soaked and shivering from the cold. I’d never met her before. She was short and fat, had tattoos on her forearms; her hands were calloused and her face had heavy lines–she looked to be in her late 40s, but poverty (and abuse) can age you prematurely. She was desperate for $13 so she could afford a bus ticket to Oklahoma to visit her ailing mother, and had–in a wet garment bag–a wedding dress she was willing to sell. She told me that she’d already walked downtown (they had no car), and tried to sell it at a couple of second-hand stores, but no one would buy it. She stood dripping on our doorstep pleading with me, fumbling with the zipper of the bag, explaining to me the…
Larry Ribstein, a corporate law professor at the University of Illinois, has an interesting blog on the treatment of business in the movies. He argues, among other things, that the generally negative portrayal of business is in film does not reflect some ideological bias against commerce. Rather, it is a reflection of the tension between the “creative types” who make movies and the studio executives who control them. I wonder if there is not a similar economic explanation for the generally poor treatment of religion in the movies.
1 Nephi 16-22 (1 February 2004) As usual, I’ve not written questions on every chapter or for every verse in the chapters I’ve covered. Chapter 16 Verses 1-2: Nephi’s brothers tell him that the things he has said are too hard to bear (verse 1). What have they heard that has caused that response? In verse 2 Nephi explains why they find the truth to be hard. Which meaning of “hard” is relevant, “difficult to understand” or “difficult to bear”? What does the fact that the wicked are cut to their center by the truth tell us about wickedness and truth?
Mormons believe in revelation. Within limits. Admittedly, what I am about to say is a gross overgeneralization, but I hope that it will provoke some interesting discussion. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a rich tradition of public and private revelation, but in my experience, most members of the Church do not trust in their own ability to receive revelation. Moreover, those who profess to receive revelation often are viewed with skepticism by other members. Given that our history includes lunatics like the Laffertys, such skepticism is not without foundation. Nevertheless, I think we shortchange ourselves through our fear.
A recent episode reinforces my distrust of self-styled “family” and “Christian” political groups: The American Family Association set up a “poll” last month on their web site titled “America’s Poll on Homosexual Marriage.” The “poll” asked people whether they approved or disapproved of gay marriage. The AFA promised that “Results of this poll will be presented to Congress” — presumably as some kind of reflection of nationwide attitudes. (Of course, any attempt to suggest that the results of a self-selected “poll” were representative of the population would have been statistically unsupportable. While a properly conducted, random poll of sufficient size can be a valid statistical representation of the opinions of the population, a self-selected poll cannot). The AFA eventually decided not to present the results to Congress, after gay marriage supporters learned of it and began voting in large numbers. The reason given for the change was that the “poll” now “represent[ed] something other than what we wanted it to.”…
Here’s a fairly balanced story from the front page of today’s New York Times on the minor controversy surrounding Martin’s Cove in Wyoming. For those new to this story, the land in question is purportedly the place where the Martin and Willie handcart companies were stranded in the winter of 1856, and it is presently owned by the US Bureau of Land Management. When a prior deal giving the Church access to the site expired in 2001, the Church sought to purchase the land outright. The Wyoming senators, however, responding to a some public concerns, worked to block the necessary legislation. The Church then sought a lease of the property, and Congress agreed to a renewable 25 year deal, which was tucked into an energy bill and signed by President Bush in December.
The extended discussion of Matt’s last post has got me thinking about abortion. I freely admitt that this is not a subject that I have actually spent a lot of time on, so I can’t claim that what follows is informed by either deep reading or deep thinking. What I have tried to do is put together an argument that makes sense out of the Church’s somewhat modified pro-life position, i.e. no abortion with limited exceptions of for rape, threats to life, etc. Warning, what follows contains a fair amount of pseudo-philosophical rambling.
We are pleased to announce our newest guest blogger . . . drum roll . . . Dan Peterson. Dr. Peterson is a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Brigham Young University. He studied in Cairo and recieved his Ph.D. from UCLA. He is undoubtedly the best professor of medieval Islamic philosophy that I had during my entire undergraduate education. In addition to his work on Islam, Dan Peterson has long been associated with The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and is the editor of the ever so aptly and felicitously named FARMS Review. Contrary to the information contained in the BYU directory, however, Professor Peterson is, alas for him, not the Director of the BYU Jerusalem Center.
I just wanted to note a few numbers that I thought interesting. Early this morning, the blog passed the 10,000 visitor mark. That counter began on November 21st — two months ago yesterday — so we have had 10,000 visits in 2 months. (This metric doesn’t count repeat visits from the same person on the same day). The level of positive response was certainly not anticipated by me. (Just look how excited I was two months ago, when we started to get 65 visitors a day). I remain amazed and gratified at the fact that people are this interested in our discussions, and I hope that my co-bloggers and I can continue to post interesting enough discussion that people see T & S as a worthwhile place to visit.
VISUAL: Color video footage of fetus, 20-25 weeks gestation, in her mother’s womb sucking her thumb. NARRATOR: “Why are some babies aborted? It’s not because her mother was raped. It’s not because her mother’s life or health are in jeopardy. It’s not because her father isn’t supportive. It’s not because she was unplanned. It’s not even because her mother doesn’t want a baby. Then why are these babies aborted?” VISUAL: Screen goes black while “aborted” said. Black screen lasts for 2 seconds.
A recent Meridian Magazine article discusses gay marriage. While the article has been praised elsewhere in the blogosphere, I thought the article as a whole was unconvincing, and there was one sentence in particular that I found disturbing. Ms. Barlow states that: “There is no societal benefit to homosexual unions which are based primarily on genital stimulation and the perception of love.” Quite frankly, anyone who thinks that gay relationships are based primarily on “genital stimulation” (wow – she can’t even bring herself to say “sex”!) should actually meet a few gays. Or even crack open a newspaper once in a while and read about committed, long-term gay relationships. Many Mormons seem to have the idea that all gays are wild partiers running naked around Greenwich Village. (And if that were true, then gay marriage might be a bad idea — but it’s not the case.)
I was invited to be a guest blogger a couple of weeks ago and jumped right in with a piece that day. I probably filed more pieces than I should have, but I was testing the principle that if you have a place to write, you will find something to write about. I think the principle is true. Several times a day a topic occurred to me, something I would not ordinarily write about, most of which I didn’t use. So I had something to say.
So says the Village Voice in its latest issue. Here’s the link. (Thanks to greg.org (no relation) for the pointer.)