Teaching the book of Revelation

I am a Gospel Doctrine teacher in my ward and I love the job. I like talking about the scriptures with ward members and usually I have to restrain myself from indulging in my interest in symbols, questions of language and translation, New Testament history, etc. I understand that the class isn’t a scholarly class and I avoid making it one. As I see it, my job is to discuss the Good News with members of the class, not to indulge in my scholarly interests, and I try to stick to the job. However I’m finding it next to impossible to get interested in teaching one lesson on the book of Revelation, much less two.

A Fun Discussion

There has been an interesting discussion over at the Metaphysical Elders on the perennial “Iron Rod v. Leahona” debate. In runs from this post to this post. Also, they seem to have added comments, although you have to go to the main page to see them, i.e. you can’t comment on archived posts.

New Blogger!

Jim Faulconer has agreed to come on board as a permanent blogger. Unfortunately, because Jim has real job he will only be posting a couple of times a week.

STQ: Translation

Ever since Nate and Greg started features, I have had my eye out for something that I could contribute. Tonight, as I was preparing my Seminary lesson for tomorrow, I got some inspiration : how about a Seminary Thought Question? OK, let’s try this out. If you like it, we’ll do more. If you don’t like it, we’ll just pretend this never happened. The idea is for me to pose a gnarly question from my Seminary preparation, a question with no obvious right answer, and then allow for discussion. Here goes STQ #1 …

The “P” Word, Again

Polygamy is in the news once again. CNN reports that an excommunicated member was banned from discussing his ideas about polygamy with his daughter in a child-custody case, and is now suing for the right to teach her about polygamy.

These aren’t the droids you’re looking for

It is sometimes funny to see what google combinations have brought visitors to the site. We just got a hit on our old-version blogger blog (we moved to MT three weeks ago, and will eventually dismantle the old site) from the following Google search: “topless alberta statutes” This is particularly odd because none of the words in that search are on the old site! I was sufficiently puzzled that I re-ran the search in Google, and didn’t see any link to the site — but that’s definitely the referrer on a hit from this very afternoon. Odd.

How to Make a Mormon Political Theory

How should Mormons use Mormonism to think about law and politics? My question is not about what the “right” Mormon answer is to this or that issue. Rather, it is about how we go about constructing a Mormon theology of politics. It seems that we have three possible alternatives.

Mormons as Sports Fans

After reading the amazing conversation on gay marriage below, I am in the mood for something a little lighter. How about sports? Mormons enjoys sports as much as any group … maybe more than most, since we are sober at sporting events. Anyone out there who is associated with BYU knows that the football team is a passion for many Mormons, perhaps even more so after two straight losing seasons. Just visit Cougarboard or CougarBlueII and you can witness the continuing interest in BYU football, even though the season ended several weeks ago with an ignominious loss to the University of Utah by a score of 3-0.

Fatherhood, Again

Since Adam has been linking to articles from First Things, I suppose I ought to post here also an entry from my blog which refers to what is, in my opinion, one of the best things the magazine has ever run (the fact that it was written by a close friend of mine of course has nothing to do with my assessment of the essay’s quality). The essay, “Fatherhood, 2002,” is a wise, reflective, incisive look at the needs and hopes of most of those who are becoming parents (and particularly fathers) at this moment in our history. While Damon and his wife Beth are just rookies at the parenting game (they have one boy), I’ve yet to read any single essay that expressed my own aspirations, and self-understanding, in regards to being a “modern” father as well as this one did.

A Mormon Image: The All-Seeing Eye

During the nineteenth-century all-seeing eyes were a common Mormon image. They seem to have been borrowed from Masonry and represented the presence of God. Accordingly, the symbol was frequently associated with temples, and appears in numerous places on the interior and exterior of the Salt Lake Temple. This image, however, is much earlier and comes from the St. George Tabranacle.

State v. Oman

What a surprise! Nate looks like such a mild-mannered guy. Yet, as this case makes clear, the State of Ohio put Nathan Oman in prison for four years for drug trafficking! I’m still trying to figure out how someone can attend Harvard Law School while in an Ohio prison — maybe it has something to do with grade inflation. (One of the great benefits of a name like Kaimipono Wenger — and potential drawbacks as well — is that everything refering to someone with that name actually refers to me).

LDS Fiction Writers

Below we are discussing books in the Mormon Studies genre, but one of our readers — Sid Sharma from Ann Arbor — emailed me to inquire about LDS authors who write “modern, literary fiction.” Good question. Who are some LDS authors we really love to read? Anyone care to share a review of a favorite LDS author?

Why Marriage Deserves Constitutional Protection

Maggie Gallagher’s response to conservatives who have expressed qualms about amending the constitution to define marriage is superb. She approaches the issue from two angles. First, on the federalism argument, she points out mundane matters that are part of the constitution, and wonders why these topics merit nationwide uniformity, rather than state-by-state experimentation, but that the fundamental institution of society is beneath the constitution. Second, she makes a passionate argument about the importance of marriage to civilization, and the devastating effects weakened marriage has and will have on our culture. Read the whole essay. By reminding me how high the stakes of the marriage debate are, she’s struck me with fear for our country.

Ward “Gerrymandering”

The confluence of Kaimi’s post and a well-written article by Jeffrey Toobin in the latest New Yorker, as well as a recent discussion with a local church member, have led me to wonder: What principles should the Church apply when gerrymandering ward boundaries?

Tithing Settlement

It’s that time of year when the signup list for tithing settlement goes up on the Bishop’s door. My wife and I always try to get the first appointment, mainly because we usually live some distance from the chapel and we don’t want to make the trek back once we are home. So we had our session right after church today. Every year, as we go through this ritual, I wonder: what is the purpose of tithing settlement?

Duty to stick with a dysfunctional ward

This is a topic that has been on my mind quite a bit lately — what is a member’s duty to stay with a dysfunctional ward? I have been thinking about it because, well, I am currently in a dysfunctional ward. We have a hard time keeping major presidencies (such as the Bishopric and the Elders Quorum) filled. We are on massive life support from high council and missionaries (16 in the ward). We see dozens of baptisms each year, but almost all are inactive within 6 months. Some of those who didn’t immediately go inactive were immediately given major callings and overwhelming responsibilities, and that made them inactive. I play a major role in running the Elders’ Quorum, and my wife does the same for the primary (I also spot-teach Sunday school, pinch-hit on organ when needed, and play primary piano on a weekly basis). We are aware that, if we were to leave, it would be a major…

The Federal Government as Public Nuisance

I think that most Mormons are aware of that during the last half of the nineteenth century relations between the Church and the federal government were often chilly at best. Most Mormons, however, are unaware of the some the creative legal tactics employed by their nineteenth-century coreligionists.

My Link to Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, my father was 16 years old. His life would change forever on that day. Shortly after President Roosevelt told the nation about the “day that shall live in infamy,” my father entered the Navy. He fought on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, but don’t ask him about it. Even 60 years later he cannot tell his stories. He is a great storyteller, unless the stories are about war. The few times I have seen him try, he has broken down in tears. These are the only times I have seen my father cry.

Boys club?

I wonder why so few women comment on this site or take part in discussions of philosophy as it relates to LDS ideas. Women continue to be in the minority in philosophy everywhere, though they are gaining numbers. But they are almost absent among LDS philosophers and philosopher-lawyers. How come?

Christmas Trees

I have sometimes heard of a couple, married for many years, who suddenly divorces, and I’ve wondered how that could happen. But each late November or early December reminds me: it was probably the Christmas tree. I confess that I think they look pretty. I like having one in the house at Christmas. But they are so difficult to set up and decorate–and doing so involves so much tension–that I have yet to understand why anyone has a Christmas tree.

The Risks of Voodoo

In a comment to my post below, Paul offers the following from Bruce R. McConkie on the story of Balaam’s ass: “This is a true story, a dramatic story; one with a great lesson for all members of the Church; one that involves seeing God, receiving revelation, and facing a destroying angel in whose hand was the sword of vengeance. It includes the account of how the Lord delivered a message to the prophet in a way that, as far as we know, has never been duplicated in the entire history of the world.” This is one reason to love this blog. Thanks, Paul, for bringing that to my attention. While this definitely gives me pause, I will confess to being as stubborn as a donkey on this topic.

We’ve Been Busy…

Just to explain my absence…Melissa gave birth to Alison Edra Fox at 2:36pm this afternoon, CST. She weighs 7 lbs. 9 ounces, has a lot of hair, and all her fingers and toes. Melissa is doing fine, and we’re all very, very happy. More reports as they become available….


A lot of people are reading this blog now. Over the past few days, we have been averaging over 140 visitors per day, and we are headed in that direction again today. I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of the visitors, especially those who make great comments. This is a fun place to be, and we hope you continue to enjoy it.

Serpents & The Fall

In a comment to my entry below about biblical inerrancy (“Balaam’s Ass“), Brent writes in connection with his experience substitute teaching in Seminary: I came across several commentaries about the serpent speaking and Balaam’s ass. Some of these also mentioned other scriptural references (I think some in Revelations) which I mention “beasts” talking. Some of these individuals have theorized that in fact, because of the fall, animals, being lesser intelligences cannot communicate verbally, but that God can loose their tongues and allow them to speak. For purposes of this post, I am not interested in whether this theory of talking animals is true (though I suspect that the careful reader could discern my feelings), but rather in the possible significance of talking serpents.

A Mormon Image: The 19th Ward Chapel

When Brigham Young laid out Great Salt Lake City in the 1840s, he modeled it on the Mormon experience in Nuavoo. Thus, the city was divided into wards, which were combined to form the original Salt Lake Stake of Zion. In all there were nineteen of these wards, and they continued to be the core units of the Church in Salt Lake for many, many years. This chapel, built in 1890, housed one of those original wards.

Balaam’s Ass

This post picks up on a theme that was touched on in some earlier discussion on the topic of Bible inerrancy. In that earlier discussion, Adam took the position that a presumption of Bible inerrancy was useful, and I am finally writing a response: Balaam’s ass!

Sex and Censorship at NYU

I just have a millisecond to blog today, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to link this story about the (gasp!) despicable censorship at NYU, that well-known bastion of conservative thought. Apparently they are refusing to let a film student film actual sex for her film project.

How Joseph Smith Restored Greek Religion

I’ve been thinking of late about immortality and Mormonism. My question is whether or not you can be a Good Mormon and a Good Homeric Hero. I am unclear on the answer, but Moroni and John Taylor seem to suggest that for at least one Good Mormon being a Homeric Hero was just fine.