Money Management

After teaching my GD class last week, I looked ahead in the lesson manual, and was dismayed that the next two lessons are grounded in genealogy stuff.  I figure I can do one lesson on that, but two in successive weeks is a little much for me.  Now that the Church has been planted in Utah territory and we’re not really doing straight history any more but more topical things, the lessons seem to be getting very repetitive (such as lots of missionary work and prophets/continuing revelation).   Last week, in the lesson on preparation and self reliance, we talked about food storage and 72-hour kits.  We had a great discussion humming when we ran out of time, so I made an executive decision to continue with the next topic I had in mind for last week’s lesson, which was personal finance and dealing with money.  So this post outlines some of the things I expect we’ll talk about in tomorrow’s class. [Read more…]

Latter-day Virgin

Earlier this month I had a birthday.  My in-laws gave me a lovely card, which included a gift certificate to Barnes & Noble.  With the closing of Borders it had been quite a while since I had had occasion to find myself in a bookstore, so I went to the local B&N with the gift card burning a hole in my pocket.  The first thing I decided to pick up was Arabic for Dummies and an Arabic dictionary.  I kind of enjoy going through the basics of a language, even if my knowledge of that language remains superficial.  I’ve done it with German, and Russian, and most recently French, and at some point I’d like to take a run at Arabic, as daunting as that alphabet looks to be. [Read more…]

Cove Fort

For many years our annual family vacation each August was to drive to Utah and visit relatives (a fairly common pattern for Mormons living in the Midwest with family back West).  As our kids got older, they started to rebel against doing that every single year.  So we came up with a compromise: we would do Utah every other year, and in the alternate years do something else.  Our first non-Utah effort would be Tennessee; two years later, we would do Washington, D.C. and Virginia.  We enjoyed the change of pace, and they were fun vacations. [Read more…]

The Facts of Life

Scene: North Junior High School, DeKalb, Illinois, circa 1969.  I’m 11 years old and attending sixth grade. Several of us are milling about in an otherwise empty classroom, waiting for the teacher to come, when a kid in my class screams out the f-word for some reason.  Being the Mormon goody-two-shoes that I was, I quickly admonish him not to use such language, adding as a toss-away after thought, “Besides, that word doesn’t even mean anything!”  He looked at me kind of funny for a moment, and then he broke out laughing.  He proceeded to tell me not only does the word have a meaning, he explained to me exactly what it was.  Shocked, I assured him my parents would never do such a thing!  But it didn’t take very much playground research to discover that, crass as he was about it, my acquaintance had been right, and I had now been enlightened as to this basic fact of life. [Read more…]

Mormon Leftover Women?

On the train coming home from work this evening I read an article in my Chicago Tribune about the phenomenon of shengnu, or “leftover women,” in China.  (Here is a copy that is not behind a pay wall.)  You really should read the article, but for the lazy among you I’ll try to hit the high points:

The Old Salt Lake Mission Home

Most of you who have served a mission spent a considerable amount of time in the Missionary Training Center in Provo (or elsewhere).  Robert Kirby’s recent article about surviving the old Salt Lake Mission Home made me realize that my five-day sojourn there for a domestic mission is an experience that probably few here ever had.  So I thought I would pull out the old journal and share my contemporary perceptions.  I was in the Mission Home for five days, from October 15th to 20th, 1977.  (Note: When I read the Kirby piece, my initial thought was that I found the Home to be fine, but I only spent five days there and not two months.  But rereading my journal, I several times called it “a drag,” so I guess I had forgotten that impression of my [limited] time there.) [Read more…]

FAIR Conference 2013

I was invited to speak at the very first FAIR Conference, which took place at Ben Lomond, California in 1999.  (If anyone is interested, my presentation from that year, “A Tale of Two Restorations,” comparing the restorations of Joseph Smith and Alexander Campbell, is available here.)  At that first gathering, the number of speakers almost exceeded the number in the audience, but still it was a lot of fun, and somehow I’ve managed to get back every year since.  The second year it was held at Alta, and then at the Provo Women’s Center (who knew Provo had a Women’s Center?), then at UVU, and for the last number of years at the Southtowne Exposition Center in Sandy.  This year’s edition will be August 1-2 (it’s always the first Thursday and Friday in August) at the new Utah Valley Convention Center near the Marriott in Provo.  Below is the schedule of presentations.  If anyone is interested in coming, here is the registration info.  Once again I’ll be there, keeping my attendance streak intact for another year.  Here are the scheduled presentations: [Read more…]

Adventures in Strangism

The last three months of my mission were spent in Pueblo, Colorado, just prior to my return home in mid-October 1979.  While I was in that area I read Russell R. Rich, “Nineteenth-Century Break-offs,” Ensign (September 1979), which includes several paragraphs on James Jessee Strang and the Strangites.  This was my very first exposure to Strangism; I had never heard of it before reading that article.  The last sentence of the Strang portion of the article reads as follows: “Since 1922 there have been two factions in the group with a total of about 250 members centered in Voree, Wisconsin; Boyne City, Michigan; Kansas City; Pueblo, Colorado; and Artesia, New Mexico.”  The accompanying footnote lists several books and a number of personal interviews conducted by the author, including ones with Joseph Flanders and Mrs. Milo Flanders in Pueblo, Colorado, on July 6, 1960. [Read more…]

The Book of Abraham

I just returned from a couple of weeks in Europe where I presented at FAIR conferences in Darmstadt, Germany and Milan and Rome, Italy, on the Book of Abraham.  (Other presentations included topics like the Book of Mormon, race issues, polygamy, and Joseph Smith’s visions.)  This was my first trip to Europe and I had a great time.  Now that I’m back, I thought I would post my remarks on the BoA here for your interest and so that I can conveniently refer people to them in the future.  [Read more…]

GD Lesson 23: “Seek Learning, Even by Study and Also by Faith”

Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the lesson in the comments.

This lesson is all about the value of education, both secular and spiritual, a duality suggested by the key phrase “by study and also by faith” (which also happens to be the title for the two-volume Nibley Festschrift).  Certainly translating that duality of approach into practical terms would be one possible approach to take in this lesson. [Read more…]

To Date within or without the Church?

The last time I saw my daughter, she told me that she had decided to be more proactive about meeting people.  She had signed up for a (free) online dating service, and had recently gone out with four different guys.  None of them was a hit, but the evenings were pleasant enough and she felt good about actually trying and putting herself out there.  I was proud of her and told her so. [Read more…]

GD Lesson No. 17, The Law of Tithing

We didn’t have anyone signed up to do this lesson, but since I just taught it today I thought I’d give a report on what transpired here in case it is useful to those of you who have not had it yet. [Read more…]

More Polygamy on TV

So I’m flipping channels this evening and happen upon a new show on the National Geographic Channel, called “Polygamy, USA.”  It premiered a week ago; the second episode, “Winter’s Ball,” will run later tonight.  Unlike Sister Wives, which focuses on a single family, or the Dargers, also a single family, this show gives a broader picture of the Centennial Park group in Arizona.  (Centennial Park split from the FLDS back in the 80s, and don’t practice the abuses encouraged and required by Warren Jeffs.) [Read more…]

Maharat Rachel Finegold

rachelfinegold.phpThe discussion concerning the ordination of Mormon women is a thing these days.  When seeking to think about these issues in a broader context, it has been common to compare the experience of Catholic women.  But I thought it might be instructive to take a comparative look at the latest development in the modern Orthodox wing of Judaism.  Rachel Finegold, a 32-year old Chicago woman, is poised to become the first ordained woman hired as clergy by an Orthodox synagogue. [Read more…]

Help Thou Mine Unbelief

In the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference, Elder Holland (hereafter “EH”) gave an address with the title “Lord, I Believe.”  He sets the stage by recounting the story of the father of an afflicted child, desperate for whatever help might be afforded.  The disciples were not able to provide the needed blessing.  The father then appealed to Jesus with last-resort desperation: [Read more…]

Measuring Home (and Visiting) Teaching

When I first moved to this area, the EQP extended a call to me to be the Executive Secretary over HTing.  And I was all prepared to turn him down flat; no way did I want to get sucked into that morass.  But he had anticipated my reaction, and told me he had just come from Stake leadership training, in which they had authorized contact by any method necessary.  While in-home visits by two HTers still constituted the gold standard, casual visits in other locations, phone calls, letters (this was a little bit pre-email, I think) would all count.  So with that qualification I accepted the call.  And of course we had 100% home teaching every month.  Whoever hadn’t been visited (very broadly defined) by the last week, I’d just send letters to them to make sure everyone was covered. [Read more…]

How to get our youth passionate about the BoM

I don’t know how I didn’t think of this before. The answer is simple. [Read more…]

A Small Glimpse of What Could Be

In my GD class today on AoF 4, I asked if the name John Wentworth meant anything to anyone. A couple of people mentioned the Wentworth letter. I then talked about the letter, some of the other numbered lists of beliefs from the time, and the canonization of the AoF as part of the PoGP. By the time I got to that point, there were three comments from three different guys: [Read more…]

D&C Lesson 8: The Restoration of the Priesthood

As Joseph and Oliver worked on the translation of the Book of Mormon, they came to this passage in 3 Nephi 11: [Read more…]


(In case you’ve been living in a cave and don’t know who Manti Te’o is, read my prior post from before the revelation that his dead girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never even existed.) When Deadspin first broke this story, my first thought was that this was a closeted gay strategy to explain why he wasn’t dating girls. But that was before reporters started digging in earnest and information about what happened started trickling out. I had assumed that Manti had not dated during his 3 1/2 years at Notre Dame, but a couple of ND sources with knowledge informed me that was not the case. Also, if this were set up to shield Manti from questions about his sexuality, the mastermind would have been a friend of his and setting all this up for his benefit. But we now know he created the fake Kekua persona previously and tried to play other people with it as well. So I gave up on the gay angle. [Read more…]

From the archives: Not Letting Women Open Sacrament Meeting Redux

This post from 2012 has become topical again due to All Enlisted’s new campaign on the issue. Reading the original comments thread here is a must, as several key data points are clarified or corrected in the discussion (see especially J. Stapley’s comments). This is the third in a series of archive posts on the topic [#1, #2].

I realize this is an old subject; see for instance this prior discussion. For those who have been living in a cave, starting I believe in 1967, women were not allowed to give the opening prayer in sacrament meetings, apparently on the theory that such meetings were “priesthood” meetings and had to be opened by priesthood authority. I think there may have been a letter rescinding this position within about six months or so, but it was definitely done away with by 1978: [Read more…]

Ecclesiastical Abuse

The demographic of the Bloggernacle and the Facebook groups that feed off it skews to the young. For most of the participants, if something happened before Al Gore invented the Internet, it may as well not have happened at all. But for those of us a little bit older, we actually remember those pre-Internet days. We used to read, you know, dead trees and stuff, not just pixels. [Read more…]

Marriage by Proxy

You know, the Mormon practice of performing religious sacraments for the dead by living proxies is irredeemably weird to a lot of people. This morning I saw a story on the Today Show that might help some folks to better understand this unusual religious practice. [Read more…]

Visiting Other Churches

In high school I had a speech class where we had to match up with another class member and learn about him or her. I was paired with a girl who lived down the street from me, and for some reason I went into missionary mode and in the course of our discussion I invited her to church. She (rather brilliantly in retrospect), said she would be happy to go to church with me, if I would in turn go to church with her. And I froze. I had never set foot in a non-LDS church in my young life, and the prospect of doing so freaked me out, so I declined and backed out of the whole thing. (Adult me wishes teenage me just went ahead and did it.) [Read more…]

20 Years

The Relief Society lesson was on service opportunities in the community. They brought in a guest speaker, from a local nonprofit called the Kenneth Young Center, who talked to the sisters about various ways to make a difference. When the lesson was over, they thanked their guest, and the sisters went about their merry ways. Surely they were too burdened with keeping the home fires burning, with their church responsibilities, and for many their jobs, to give the lesson a second thought. [Read more…]

Brother Manti

I am a sports fan (particularly football, basketball and MMA). And I’m a Mormon. So naturally I also like to follow LDS athletes. I know it’s totally irrational, but when an LDS athlete does well, I perceive the Church as being just a little bit more true. Weird, I know, but I can’t help myself. [Read more…]

New BoM Resources Tool

This is just a short note to make sure you are aware of a new BoM Study Aid assembled by Hales Swift and Neal Rappleye. I noticed that Julie gave it a thumb’s up in her GD lesson notes, so I took a look at it myself. [Read more…]


Recently a friend on Facebook told a story about a CPR class he attended. The instructor showed in detail how to do it, and a Mormon guy in the class sheepishly asked, “Uh, what if it’s a lady?” The instructor incredulously paused, and then said “I really don’t think she’ll mind, since you’re saving her life.” The Mormon dude seemed unconvinced. [Read more…]

The Need for Better Temple Prep

I have long been an advocate of the need for better temple preparation classes and materials. This is grounded in my experience actually teaching the temple prep course (the entire course in one instance; individual lessons by assignment in a couple of others.) [Read more…]

Notes on Apologetics

Over the last couple of days I’ve seen a number of comments around the Bloggernacle and on Facebook that reflect some fundamental misunderstandings of Mormon apologetics in general and FAIR in particular. (Such as a confusion of material on the Mormon Dialogue Board with FAIR, and such as attributing material from the FARMS Review to FAIR.) I thought it might be worthwhile in light of this kind of persistent misunderstanding to share my comments on apologetics from this past summer’s Sunstone Symposium. Kaimi organized a session on the topic, featuring him, me, Bridget Jack Jeffries and John Charles-Duffy. Below I have attempted to produce a rough transcript of my comments. At the end I have reproduced the questions, followed only by my own comments (not those of the other panelists). (To hear the entire session, you may order a download from Sunstone for under $3.00.) [Read more…]


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