Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men

Our mission Christmases were mostly lonely times, but God gave us a gift on the second one. We had made little scrolls that we tied in red ribbon. On the scrolls we had printed a short message that said: “Silver and Gold have we none, but that which we have we give unto you. Two thousand years ago the Savior said, ‘Peace I leave with you, Peace I give unto you.’ We give you our love, and our wish that the Savior’s peace be with you.” We went caroling to the members and the neighbors and left them with a scroll.

The Little Drummer Boy

When I was 15, my Grandma Joe cried as she read this story from the newspaper to me and my brothers and sisters. Seeing the story touch her helped it touch me. “I am a poor boy too” has been my favorite line from The Little Drummer Boy ever since.

Eddi’s Service

This is my favorite Christmas poem. It’s funny, and bittersweet, and captures very well, I think, the transcendent point of the humble event at the heart of this holiday, a point powerfully expressed in the carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” when we sing: What can I give Him / Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd / I would give a lamb. If I were a wise man / I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: / Give my heart. That is, we give whatever we can, to whomever we can. He will always receive it (Matt. 25:40). Also, as someone who grew up on a farm and milked cows on many Christmas Eves and Christmas mornings, I appreciate the reverence of the animals in the poem; for of course, as we all know, at midnight on Christmas Eve all animals can talk. Enjoy, and to all my fellow Times and Seasoners, and…

Evolution

As is evident from my participation on this blog, I am not a scientist, but I enjoy reading good, non-technical, science writers. One I really like is Carl Zimmer, who blogs at The Loom. He writes a lot about evolution and genetics. Ady Hahn (our guest blogger who is currently on Christmas break) promised to talk about evolution later, but after reading the latest entry at The Loom, I feel the desire to press the issue.

The Foreknowledge of God

I just fulfilled a longstanding promise to myself: I finally read the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. I have had many false starts on this project over the years. Asimov was not a great stylist, though he had many interesting ideas. The Foundation books are animated by one such idea: psychohistory. For those who haven’t read the books, I would describe psychohistory as the use of history, psychology, sociology, and mathematics to examine the behavior of large groups of people. While individual behavior cannot be predicted, psychohistory can (more or less) accurately predict the fate of millions. Is this how God works?

Sex

Is it good, bad, or neutral, to have sex before marriage? This topic comes up often in discussions in many places. The church has taken the unambiguous position that pre-marital sex is wrong. For us as members, what does the church’s teaching mean about its (and our) attitudes about sex generally?

Hugh Nibley on Learning, Working, and Wealth

The STQ: Material Prosperity thread has been a good one to follow; I’ve some strong (if somewhat inchoate) feelings on the whole topic of righteousness and wealth, but haven’t taken the time to put them down. However, both A Humble Scientist and Clark Goble have made reference in their comments to the writings of Hugh Nibley on these matters, and that reminded me of a favorite Nibley passage of mine. This is from “Deny Not the Gifts of God” (in Approaching Zion, pg. 145): “What are we instructed to do, then, in our falled state? One of the shortest and most concise sections of the Doctrine and Covenants tells us, ‘Let your time be devoted to the studying of the scriptures; and to preaching, and to confirming the church…and to performing your labors on the land‘ (D&C 26:1). The Great Triple Combination–farming, church, and study. Even so Adam was told to cultivate his garden, preach the gospel among his children…

Mere Mormonism

A while back, Russell suggested the possibility of a Mormon holiday to celebrate Joseph Smith’s birthday. Last Sunday, I took at least part of his suggestion to heart in my Elders’ Quorum lesson

Our “High Church” Christmas Eve

The first Christmas my wife and I were together (1993), Melissa wanted to attend a Roman Catholic Christmas midnight mass, a longstanding wish of hers. I’d never attended a midnight mass either, and so we did: late on the evening of December 24th, we and some friends attended a lovely mass at St. Francis of Assisi parish, in Provo, where I found singing the Christmas hymns (during communion and the recessional) to be more fulfilling than I think I ever had previously. By the next morning, Melissa and I decided that we needed to attend a church service every Christmas Eve. That we have done every year since, bringing our children along as they’ve been born and have grown. We’ve attended midnight masses since then, but have mostly opted for Protestant services earlier in the evening: Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Baptist, and Presbyterian. We’ve come to realize that many Protestant denominations have more-or-less formalized certain Christmas Eve services, with the lighting…

A Mormon Image: Quilting the Tree of Life

What counts as art is an interesting question. We have a bias toward thinking of art in terms of oil paintings, bronze statues, or marble carvings. One of the unfortunate effects of this bias is that it makes much of the art done by women invisibile. You’ll note that most of the work done in those mediums has been done by men. However, if we expand our sense of what constitutes art, there are mediums where women clearly dominate. Consider quilting.

The Lord’s Prayer

I’ve been thinking about prayer lately and would be interested in other’s ideas about some questions that have been part of that thinking. Specifically these question have to do with the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 7:1-4; 3 Nephi 13:5-14). Here are the verses in question (from Matthew, the longest version, with the differences from the version in Alma marked by underline), each verse followed by a few questions for thought. I’m interested in your thoughts on my questions as well as your own questions.

The beginning from the end

As I was preparing my Sunday School lesson for today, I hit on the idea of using the phrase, “know the beginning from the end” as the hook for class discussion. It is an odd phrase, though I hear and see it fairly regularly in LDS talks and writings. My point was that by knowing the end (as both final point and purpose), we would understand what came before. Thus, Revelation?the revelation of Christ?is a book about the meaning of human history that we see if we understand the end of that history in Christ. But I ran into trouble when I found out that the phrase isn’t a scriptural one.

Lord of the Rings

I saw the third installment tonight. The triology is an awesome accomplishment, but I still liked the books better than the movie. As you may know already, the movie has generated a plethora of Christian reviews (see here for links), mostly positive. Does this strike anyone else as odd?

Baptisms for the Dead

This morning I had the privilege of participating in a youth temple trip to Chicago. My job was to act as a witness in baptisms for the dead. While many Mormons revere this ordinance, people outside the Church often take offense. In fact, a story in tomorrow’s New York Times describes how the Church is under fire again for baptizing Jews.

Mormon Cursing

While reading Wilford Woodruff’s diaries recently, I discovered that I have been living in a cursed part of the country. What am I to make of this, and the more general phenomena of Mormon cursing?

Should I subscribe to Sunstone again?

Sunstone magazine is different things to different people: a gadfly; a breath of fresh air; a gripefest; scholarship for nonscholars; a needed Mormon arts outlet; an enabler of apostate rantings. For me, it was a first introduction to a broader range of Mormon thought than I was raised with. Unlike Nate’s youth, mine was devoid of discussions of hermeticism and hermeneutics over the dinner table.

A Delicate Question

In the interest of fostering discussion, I want to solicit thoughts from the vast hordes of T&S readers (that is how we think of you). We all like to hear from loved ones, and you would hate to discourage contact from those who are far away. Thus, how do you approach the delicate issue of a loved one who spams?

Truth

An interesting discussion has sprung up over at Bob and Logan’s blog (which really needs a catchier name) on the nature of truth. What exactly do church members mean when they say that something (the church, the principle of tithing, the law of gravity) is true? What variations are there in the definition of this word?

What Are You Doing on December 23rd?

One interesting point from the Christmas Devotional a couple of weeks back which I’ve thought about a few times since then was that both Elder Faust and President Hinckley made particular note of the fact that Joseph Smith was born during the Christmas season–on December 23, 1805, to be exact. The way they drew attention to the birthday of Smith–who was, completely aside from the language in Doctrine & Covenants section 135, indisputedly the most important individual in the whole history of the church–reminded me of something an old friend of mine from Texas once asked me: why don’t Mormons celebrate December 23rd? This really got me thinking, since I take holidays quite seriously. Back in November Kaimi asked if there was, or ought to be, something formally “Mormon” about the way we celebrate Thanksgiving; I didn’t think much of that idea. In a few days I’ll probably post something on how Mormons celebrate (or don’t celebrate) Christmas, and how…

CTR Rings to be Banned in France?

As though Americans needed more evidence of the absurdity of France’s government, today Chirac proposed a law to ban students from wearing religious tokens in school. Chirac thinks this is a moral battle — his conscience leads him to prohibit Jewish boys from wearing yarmulkes at school: “In all conscience, I believe that the wearing of dress or symbols that conspicuously show religious affiliation should be banned in schools.”

STQ: Material Prosperity

My Seminary class is just finishing the book of Deuteronomy and moving into Joshua. This is an important moment in the history of Israel, as the Children of Israel are finally allowed to enter the Promised Land. Of course, Moses is deprived of the right to accompany them, and before he leaves he offers a blessing.

Families: Isn’t It About Time?

Many of you will recognize the title of this post as the tag line for the Church’s latest ad campaign. A previous campaign proclaimed, “Time? I’ve got as much as anybody!” We in the Church are obsessed with time. In a post below, Ady discusses the challenges of being an LDS woman and a scientist. Like all of us, Ady feels the pull of various responsibilities, and the constraints imposed by the scarce resource, time. In my view, time management is one of the most important tasks we face in this life.

Models of Women and Priesthood

A favorite topic of speculation (and angst) among many Mormons and Mormon-watchers is whether or not women will get the priesthood. It is an interesting topic, but I think that most of the discussions of it are pretty uninteresting. The reason for this, I think, is that they are in the thrall of a single, rather simple model of what it means to “get” the priesthood.

Gay Marriage Humor

This was sent to me by my friend Dan Burk, who is currently a visiting professor at Berkeley: The consecration of Gene Robison as bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese of the Episcopal Church is an affront to Christians everywhere. I am just thankful that the church’s founder, Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine of Aragon, and his wife Anne Boleyn, and his wife Jane Seymour, and his wife Anne of Cleves, and his wife Katherine Howard, and his wife Catherine Parr are no longer here to suffer through this assault on traditional Christian marriage. — Paul Emmons, Westchester University

Mormons and the ACLU – Short Redux

A while ago I posted on my blog, discussing whether a good Mormon can also be a good member of the ACLU. (I concluded that it is possible to be both — see the four-part discussion, 1, 2, 3 and 4; see also links to further discussion here). That multi-post discussion in turn kicked off a lengthy e-mail discussion on the LDS-Law list. Now, a reader of this blog e-mails in with an interesting piece of information: This reader was an ACLU member before baptism. Since joining the church, he reports that in his temple recommend interviews, he is asked if he is still affiliated with the ACLU.

The Mormon Blogosphere

I just noticed that my friend and ward member Logan Bobo now has his own blog. As I look at Logan’s blog, I wondered whether we at Times and Seasons have been neglectful of our peers in the Mormon blogosphere. I think we may have inadvertently neglected to discuss other LDS bloggers. So here is a short post dedicated to that topic. (Warning: Post discusses Kaimi’s idiosyncratic blog-surfing preferences).

Christian Taxation

We have been interviewing candidates for a position as tax professor, but here is a question that I haven’t dared to ask any of them: So, how do you feel about reforming the tax code to accord with moral principles of Judeo-Christian ethics? If you haven’t heard, this is the premise of Professor Susan Pace Hamill’s still-controversial proposal, published last year in the Alabama Law Review.

What is the Purpose of the BYU Dress and Grooming Code?

BYU is often ridiculed for its dress and grooming code. The basic argument is that it is silly. It places undue emphasis on essentially trivial issues of facial hair and hemlines. A more telling critique claims that by focusing on trivialities it actually affirmatively stunts real moral development. I think that all of these criticisms, while perhaps true, miss the REAL genius of the BYU Dress and Grooming Code. Their basic mistake is that they assume that the purpose of the Code is for students to follow it, when, in reality, the whole raison d’etre of the Code is to be violated!

On Being a Female LDS Scientist

So where do I begin? First of all, there are not many LDS scientists to begin with and I?m not exactly sure why. There are approximately 2000 LDS scientists currently according to this link. I don?t know how many of those are women. What?s interesting is that Utah produces more scientists per capita than any other state for the last 60 yrs, 75% of whom are LDS. Of these, 83% percent classified themselves as strong believers and 90% of these felt that their religious beliefs and science theories could be harmonized. I think these statistics show that there is a great love for learning amongst LDS people and that most don?t believe that science and religion are mutually exclusive. Here?s a great paper on science & LDS scientists by Robert L. Miller.