The District of Utah has had a busy week. As I’m sure you heard (and if you haven’t, you ought to read Kaimi’s post first), Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down as unconstitutional. A week ago, in the wake of the decision that didn’t actually legalize polygamy, I looked at the potential tax consequences of that decision and, fairly anti-climatically, determined that there were none. Plenty of electrons will be spilled going over this decision but, again, I suspect that the tax consequences will be underexplored.
Author: Sam Brunson
Sam Brunson grew up in the suburbs of San Diego and served a Brazilian mission what seems like a millennium ago. He went to BYU as an undergrad and found that a freshman saxophone performance major made his eventual English major look like a practical choice. After toying with teaching critical theory or becoming an author, Sam did what all good English majors do and chose law school. At Columbia, he met his wife, got a degree, and got a job as a tax associate at a New York firm. Several years later, he managed to escape the clutches of big law and landed a job teaching tax and business law at Loyola University Chicago. While Sam, sadly, does not play much saxophone these days, he and his wife do have two beautiful girls with whom he loves to spend time when he’s not pondering important questions like whether the transactional net margin method of transfer pricing constitutes an arm’s length price within the interquartile range.
Decriminalizing Polygamy (and, of Course, Tax)
On Friday, December 13, the Judge Waddoups, a district court judge in the District of Utah, held that Utah’s criminalization of polygamy was unconstitutional. Partly, anyway.
More on that in a minute. I suspect that this opinion will reverberate throughout the blogosphere and the mainstream media, with the reporting displaying various levels of accuracy. The question I suspect won’t get much play, though, is, what are the tax consequences of this decision?
Happy(?) Repeal Day!
The Twitters tell me that 80 years ago today, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, thus ending Prohibition.
Whatever you think about Prohibition, it’s probably worth noting the Pres. Grant was not a fan of its end. In fact, he addressed the end of Prohibition—and Utah’s role in ending it—at General Conference in 1934. Here’s an (annotated by me) excerpt of what he said:
Money for Nothing and the Housing for Free
On Thursday, November 21, the district court of the Western District of Wisconsin declared (part of) the parsonage exemption—a special tax provision for certain religious persons—unconstitutional.
Personal (Bloggernacle) History
Sometime in late 2003 or early 2004, Steve Evans told me I needed to check out his[fn1] website: rameumptom.blogspot.com. At the time, the nascent bloggernacle was so young that By Common Consent didn’t yet have a name (I think the name was voted on sometime during that first year). He may have also pointed me to Times & Seasons, or I may have found it linked on his blog. But I found T&S at approximately the same time.
The Death of Ishmael[fn1]
Early in the Small Plates of Nephi, Ishmael and his family join Lehi and his family in the wilderness. In spite of their likely close proximity, though, we don’t know much about Ishmael.[fn2] Nephi and his brothers found favor in Ishmael’s sight. Although at various times Ishmael’s sons and daughters act for or against Nephi, we don’t have any sense about where Ishmael falls in the Laman & Lemuel/Lehi & Nephi continuum.
Bless This Food
So I had every intention of posting the next installment in the Approaching Zion Project today. But Labor Day weekend (and, specifically, houseguests, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and a Cubs game) intervened and, well, I’m not ready.
But Monday night’s dinner with our guests brought up a question, and I thought I’d ask for an unrepresentative sampling of answers.
The Approaching Zion Project: Work We Must, but the Lunch Is Free
As summer ends, my time to engage with Nibley’s social criticisms has begun to return. Of course, I say that the week before classes begin, so a couple things I want to point out before we get started: first, this is a long, detailed chapter.
Invite the IRS to Your Family Reunion
Over at Keepaptichinin, Amy Tanner Theriot has a wonderful post talking about family associations, and providing some guidelines for how to put together a successful association. In the post, she mentions that family associations can qualify as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entities. At the mention of Code sections (and revenue rulings!), my ears perk up, and I thought I’d give a little more information about the tax side of such organizations. But before you read my post, you need to read Amy’s. Because everything I know about family associations I learned reading her post, then doing a little Westlaw research. Because of that, basically nothing I write here will mean much unless you’re familiar with what Amy wrote.
Should I Pay For My Child’s Mission?
Yes. I mean, I don’t know exactly, but still, yes, probably.
The Approaching Zion Project: How to Get Rich
So here we are, a day early (or, um, six days late, if that’s the way you want to look at it). Since we’re here, let’s take a look at Nibley’s next approach toward Zion:
A Good Samaritan, Chicago-Style
Yesterday, the Art Institute had a family program tied into its new exhibit, Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity. The Art Institute’s family programs are inevitably excellent, so we decided to bike down, look at the exhibit, and then let the kids make the related art. The museum’s about 6.5 miles from us on the Lakefront Trail and, even though there and back would be the longest ride my oldest had ever taken, we figured she could make it. So we loaded up, the oldest on her bike, the next on a tagalong behind me and the youngest on a bike seat on my wife’s bike. 6.5 miles turns out, though, to be a lot for a young child and, since I had to be back home to take our car to be serviced in the early afternoon, we decided on the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier instead. At 5.5 miles, it cut off two miles round-trip. We spent a couple hours playing at the Children’s Museum and, at 1:00, headed back to our bikes. As I was unlocking them, my second pointed to my rear tire, which was completely flat. I pumped it up quickly and we started to rush home, but a quarter mile later, it was clearly not going to hold enough air. So we stopped in some grass, let the girls play, I held my wife’s bike, and my wife started to remove my back tire. I had a pump and…
The Approaching Zion Project: How Firm a Foundation! What Makes It So
Interestingly enough, this chapter seems to be less focused on Zion and more focused on the Church more broadly. Still, Zion sneaks in, even discussing the Church. As always, a couple things I found interesting:
The Approaching Zion Project: Deny Not the Gifts of God
This chapter (understandably) overlaps significantly with the previous chapter, Gifts. These are, after all, discourses he delivered at various times, to various audiences, with common themes. I’m reading them separately, though, and different things hit me at different readings. So, like always, I won’t discuss everything Nibley focuses on (and I’ll try to not spend too much time on things I’ve discussed previously). With that out of the way, on to the chapter.
King Noah’s Blues
I could see them before I crossed Michigan Avenue into Grant Park. There were probably five of them, holding big yellow signs with blocky letters, Bible verses. It seemed out of place, fifty feet in front of the entrance to the Chicago Blues Festival, but maybe I just didn’t understand the logic behind it. I don’t remember the verses the signs promoted, and the picketers seemed nice enough, holding signs but not harassing the passersby, passersby who, like me, basically ignored them. Maybe they’d picked out verses of scripture with special applicability to fans of the blues; then again, maybe these were just generic holy protest signs.
The Approaching Zion Project: Gifts
For the third (and, I hope, final) time, I read this chapter on an airplane, taking notes as I read it. And there are just a couple quick things I want to highlight and discuss, and one sentence that really troubled me.
The Approaching Zion Project: Zeal Without Knowledge
For the second time, I read this chapter in an airport and on an airplane returning home. With that as my full preface, let’s jump into this chapter:
The Approaching Zion Project: What is Zion? A Distant View
Another confession: I had a really hard time with this chapter. And it’s not just because I read it sitting in an airport waiting for a plane that was delayed for an hour and a half. Rather, it’s because of the way Nibley speaks of the wealthy. Certain of his descriptions feel, to me, so laughably one-dimensional—so moustache-twirling, tying-the-heroine-to-the-tracks—that I find myself fighting both his prose and my instincts to not just dismiss his entire piece out of hand.
The Approaching Zion Project: Our Glory or Our Condemnation
Now that I’ve read my first chapter of Approaching Zion, a couple more caveats before we get started. First, I’m not going to bother summarizing what Nibley said. Instead, I’m going to try to engage it, responding to ideas that engaged me, whether I agree or disagree. Second, I’m not going to try to engage with the full text; in Chapter 1, there were two things that really spoke to me, and one more that I’m going to mention and defer until a later installment. Feel free, in the comments, to engage with what I’ve engaged with, what I’ve said, or something else in the chapter that you feel needs to be responded to. With that, let’s go!
The Approaching Zion Project: Prologue
I have a confession to make: I’ve never read Hugh Nibley’s Approaching Zion. I’m serious. I mean, I bought it years ago, probably before my oldest daughter was born. I’ve lugged it through at least six or seven moves. And it’s sitting on my bookshelf, taking up valuable real estate. But, though I’ve nibbled here and there, I’ve never even read a complete chapter.
It seems an odd oversight, frankly: in Approaching Zion, Nibley describes what constitutes a Zion society, and what we need to do to establish such a Zion society; I’m deeply interested in how society and the law can promote social justice and a better world. So it seems like a natural fit, right?