“Are Mormons Christian?” The question comes up again and again, and causes no small amount of frustration and hard feelings between Mormons and (other?) Christian groups. The response of the church, and of many members, has been to assert “Of course we’re Christian! We believe in Christ, don’t we?” Mormons are frustrated that that assertion doesn’t answer the question. After all, Christians, including those who believe that Mormons are not Christian, state that the requirement for Christianity is acceptance of Christ. If that’s the sole requirement, then Mormons are in (The church states “Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He was the Creator, He is our Savior, and He will be our Judge.”). However, Dave’s recent discussion of a Methodist examination of differences between Methodism and Mormonism made me rethink the question. Are we all being a little too simplistic? That is, is Christianity defined solely by belief in Christ, or is there more to being “Christian”?
Have you seen “The Mona Lisa Smile?” I loved it. Not only was it at my beloved Alma Mater, the most beautiful campus in the U.S., but showed it when I was there. Long, long ago. Not everyone loved the film. My classmates are planning to sue the producers for devaluing their education. But it was accurate in spirit if not in detail.
One of the perennial (and perennially fun) debates in legal theory revolves around the issue of commidification. In this context commidification means the ability to take something and sell it. Thus, we have all sorts of fun debates about prostitution, markets in adoption rights, surrogate mothering contracts, and the like. So does Mormonism offer us anything that gives us any unique traction in these debates, or as Mormons do we simply argue about these sorts of issues in the same way as everyone else?
We meet in a city structure six stories high which has been home to eight units, manageable when we had two chapels. When a temple using all of the fifth and sixth floors and parts of the first and second floors began to take shape in the building, chaos ensued. The three single wards met together (stake conf. every Sunday) and a family ward, a Spanish branch, and a deaf unit began to meet together, every space used at all hours. A new and different church with many things going on that never used to. For me, the transformation is that my jobs are now off the books.
The Mormon student group at Harvard Law School is sponsoring a conference for LDS law students to be held next month at Harvard. All interested parties are invited. Below is a message from one of the event organizers.
A number of interesting posts have appeared in the LDS blogosphere over the last few days. I will probably write a bit more in-depth commentary on one or more of these when I have a little more time (or someone else will). For the moment, let me just point out: Dave’s examination of a Methodist committee report on whether Mormons converting to Methodism need rebaptism. Jan’s not-to-be-missed discussion of church authority and spousal abuse. and Logan’s discussion of what church meetings women may conduct.
On Saturday I went to an LDS stake leadership meeting via satellite. I soon realized that I wasn’t too interested in the two major messages, the importance of trying to preserve the family and the subordination of all Church auxiliaries to the priesthood. I’ve heard those a few times. I remain unconvinced that Jehovah and Joseph Smith were advocating marriage and the family as we know them, and being an old auxiliary leader, I know that it is unwise to expect much help from the priesthood.
I have been working on this post for a while, and I have finally given up (for the time being) on trying to make my thoughts more coherent. So be warned, what follows involves some rather rambling discussions of legal theory and legal history. I disclaim any warranties explicit or implied. Read at your own risk. Void where prohibited. One of my main academic interests is contract law and contract theory. As a result, I am fascinated by the theological idea of “covenant.” Generally, when people talk about “covenant” and “contract,” they distinguish them by saying that “covenants” involve spiritual things, while contracts are merely commercial transactions. They then go on to describe a covenant as a set of recipricol promises. We promise X and in return God promises Y. I tend to think that this whole approach to the question is wrong.
Last Sunday, I blessed Alison Edra Fox in sacrament meeting. It was a mob scene; for reasons far too complicated to go into here, all of my six brothers were present in the circle, as was my younger sister’s fiance, my father and father-in-law, a couple of friends and the bishop. We barely had room on the stand. I’ve blessed three children now, and I’m still not sure what I’m doing, or why I say what I do. Am I saying a prayer, expressing my fondest fatherly hopes and wishes for my child with as much faith as I can muster? Am I, on the other hand, exercising a kind of patriarchal power, making certain promises (contingent upon my daughter’s obedience, perhaps?) on her behalf? A little bit of both?
In Sunday School today, while talking about what it means to be chosen, I used an example that I thought was straightforward. I said, “The bishop has been chosen, but not because he is more righteous or smarter than everyone else in the ward.” No one disagreed with me straight out, but I was surprised how many people wanted to qualify what I said with “Yes, but . . . .”
We had some wonderful discussion about Zion in the lengthy comments on Material Prosperity, and I would like to revisit the topic here. My visit to India will end this week, and I have been confronted again and again with thoughts about helping the poor. Today, we visited a government heritage park; as we walked along a path, we came upon a family — two parents and a small child — sitting atop a pile of used bricks. Our guide explained that they were employed by the park to turn the bricks into dust for use in the restoration materials. They lived on site. The mother was using a small hammer, like we would use to hang a picture in our living room. The sight of mother and child moved many of us nearly to tears.
Lesson 3: 1 Nephi 8-11; 12:16-18; 15 In order to keep the lesson materials within a usable limit, I’m going to focus on chapter 11, referring to other chapters in the context of that one. Verse 1: Compare the personage who responds to Nephi’s desire with that who responded to Lehi (1 Nephi 1:5-6). Are they the same being? How does Nephi’s desire to know what his father had seen (see 1 Nephi 10:17), presumably a desire expressed in prayer, differ from his prayer in 1 Nephi 2:16? Three things seem to precipitate Nephi’s vision: he wants to know what his father has seen, he believes that God can reveal that to him, and he is pondering in his heart. The word ponder originally meant “to weigh,” and based on that meaning it came to mean “to weigh something mentally.” What meanings does the word heart have in the scriptures? What does it mean to weigh something in your heart?…
I welcome all this logistical talk about journals. I think the computer is the only way, because it establishes the text, but technology is such and computers are so disposable that a hard copy is essential and may be what lasts. Burning a CD is an interesting idea, but that technology may also be limited. I keep a month’s entries in a single computer file, adding to it each day. At the end of the month, I print the month out, punch holes, and put it in a binder, and I begin the next month. What to print it on is my current question. For several years I have used the back sides of the beautiful stationery my parents left, but I am now out of several reams of that. I may have to get some expensive rag, bond, archival paper to show that I value the project. Which I do, although I never go back to reread.
In his attempt to overcome the ‘secularist’ charge and to prove he understands religion, Howard Dean said this week, “[f]rom a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people.” Let me start by noting that if this statement is typical of the quality of Dean’s thinking “from a religious point of view,” it’s not hard to figure out why Dean isn’t religious. Even if he isn’t religious, he’s not an idiot, either, so his argument must have made sense according to his secular worldview. (Andrew Sullivan seems to think it’s compelling, too.) By religious and secular standards, this argument is foolish, no matter that many otherwise-intelligent people have been hoodwinked by it. Too many people think that if they can only prove their behavior is biologically based, due to factors beyond their control, true to their innate identity, or “natural”, then their behavior is justified. But being “born that…
Due to popular demand, I invite nominations for the Times & Seasons Essential Scholarly Papers in Mormon Studies list. Double credit awarded for links to the article.
The Word of Wisdom instructs us to avoid certain harmful substances. Present-day leaders have told us that we must avoid illegal drugs as well. However, a general exception is made for drugs prescribed by a doctor. In addition, there is, in my observation, a widespread belief that over-the-counter medicines such as NyQuil are permitted to be used for valid medical reasons (despite containing substances such as alcohol). This makes me wonder: What about medical marijuana? May a church member take medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor? And if it is not prescribed by a doctor, could the perceived right to certain types of (word-of-wisdom-violating) self-medication — the “Nyquil exception” — also allow a church member to use marijuana?
In December Greg posted the very interesting question of what the five essential texts in Mormon studies are. The thread generated a lot of comments. A follow-up thread also got some comments. I just went through and tallied votes thus far. The results are interesting. Besides being a potential catalog of essential texts, the results also illustrate the broad range of ideas that people consider “Mormon studies”. A total of eight (sort of) texts received more than one vote.
Besides welcoming Claudia, we want to thank Ady for sitting in as a guest blogger. It has been good for us to have a perspective other than the legal-philosopical-political perspective of the blogging crew here. A scientist’s perspective keeps us on our toes.
Every day for the year of 2003 I read a diary entry by Samuel Pepys, the incomparable 17th century English diarist. The ten-year Pepys diary is being put online a day at a time by Phil Gyford, a British computer person, (www.pepysdiary.com) and the international community that has gathered and comments on the daily entries is similar to this, a tight ingrown, but very learned and witty group.
We are pleased to welcome Claudia Bushman as our newest guest blogger. Dr. Bushman is a historian by training and has taught at Columbia University for many years. Her books include How America Discovered Columbus, In Old Virginia: Slavery, Farming, and Society in the Journal of John Walker, Mormon Sisters: Women of Early Utah, A Good Poor Man’s Wife, Mormon Domestic Life in the 1870s: Pandemonium or Acadia, Mormons in America (with Richard Bushman), Building the Kingdom: A History of Mormons in America (with Richard Bushman), and many others. She is one of the founders of Exponent II, a Boston-based magazine focusing on Mormonism and women’s issues. In addition, historian Richard Bushman has the distinction of being married to Professor Bushman.
Despite Brigham’s frequent attacks on the profession, there are a lot of Mormon lawyers. Some LDS thinkers have posited all sorts of troubling reasons why this is so. Nibley sees it as a symptom of moral decline, and I have repeatedly seen it used as evidence of excessive Mormon materialism or anti-intellectualism. However, today I realized that it might be about something else entirely: book binding.
As a parent, I often wonder if I watch my kids well enough. They seem to disappear sometimes at church, escaping to the drinking fountain or to crawl under tables in the cultural hall or to turn off the lights during sacrament meeting. However, I can now give myself a reason not to feel so bad — at least my children haven’t (yet) climbed into a toy vending machine. The story of the determined (and limber) vending machine boy is a pretty funny bit of recent news (including a great picture), and yes, it ends well.
I really like the beginning of the semester. The last week of Christmas break seemed to drag on forever because I was anxious to get started. I liked the beginning of the school year when I was a child. Those times were associated with new clothes and new pencils and pencil boxes and getting to meet my new teacher. I still have a thing for pencils and pencil boxes, as well as fountain pens, but now the excitement of a new school term is harder to explain.
Evolution has been a topic of much debate in many Christian churches, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church). Members fall into various categories: those who reject evolution outright, those that accept some principles of evolution, and those that accept the theory of evolution in its entirety thus far. I fall into the middle camp since I accept some principles of evolution such as adaptation and natural selection, but I find some parts of the theory problematic. However, I believe that the theory of evolution is currently the best scientific theory that attempts to explain how life began on Earth. I also don?t think that the theory of evolution necessarily precludes belief in God. As an LDS biologist, I?ve taken several courses on evolution and I?ve extensively read papers on both sides of the evolution/creation debate. In this essay, I will focus mainly on the pro and cons of evolution, and its place in…
The title for this post is a little cryptic, I admit. But let me explain. The Cheiko Okasaki thread is a really wonderful one, if you haven’t been following it. It has turned into a wonderful series of thoughts and arguments about the proper (that is, safely within LDS moral guidelines) boundaries for male-female associations, whether at work or in the church. I have some ideas about what, in practice, adhering to those boundaries ought and ought not involve, but (as usual), my thoughts have been sidetracked by a more theological concern. In one of his comments, Matt shared the following, very revealing anecdote–though what it reveals is not, I think, immediately clear:
No, this post is not about a Richard Dutcher movie (though Brigham City was interesting and well-acted). I am referring to Tasha Oldham’s remarkable documentary, “The Smith Family.”
There is an interesting post on “The Strange Career of Mormon Structuralism” over at the Metaphysical Elders about the relationship between structuralism and the thought of Hugh Nibley. I am not sure that I agree with everything in the post, but it does raise some interesting questions
Mormonism managed to make it as National Geographic’s photograph of the day.