The Sunk Cost Fallacy

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the sunk cost fallacy. For those who are not, or need a refresher, below is a useful explanation:

Individuals commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort) (Arkes & Blumer, 1985). This fallacy, which is related to status quo bias, can also be viewed as bias resulting from an ongoing commitment. For example, individuals sometimes order too much food and then over-eat ‘just to get their money’s worth’. Similarly, a person may have a $20 ticket to a concert and then drive for hours through a blizzard, just because she feels that she has to attend due to having made the initial investment. If the costs outweigh the benefits, the extra costs incurred (inconvenience, time or even money) are held in a different mental account than the one associated with the ticket transaction (Thaler, 1999).

Arkes, H. R., & Blumer, C. (1985), The psychology of sunk costs. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 35, 124-140.

Thaler, R. H. (1999). Mental accounting matters. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. 12, 183-206.

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Environmentalism is a Christian Issue

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Bridal Veil Falls (taken from utahvalley.com)

I remember growing up thinking that one of the worst possible things you could do was litter. I recall many times when my parents would vocalize their disgust witnessing people throw trash out of their car windows or seeing garbage littered across the park. It was ingrained in me not to litter from such a young age.

My family also started recycling when I was younger. We started by having to divide up the cardboard, plastics, glass, and paper and drop it off at recycling bins behind our local grocery store. When recycling become more commonplace, my parents paid to have it picked up with our trash. My grandparents composted much of their waste as well. I grew up knowing there were simple steps to limit the waste being put into landfills or oceans.

I also grew up thinking that these were things that good people just did. Good people care about the earth right? And in my mind, my little midwestern Mormon community was full of good people. [Read more…]

Gospel Scarcity and Abundance

This is a guest post by Fashion Chavez-Rabe. Fashion has been slowly migrating north for 13 of the past 14 years. After a year in France, she spent 3.5 years in San Salvador, 6.5 in Mexico City, 3 in Seal Beach, and just recently moved to Toronto with her four children and husband, who isn’t in the military but just changes jobs a lot. She teaches high school English now and again. An earlier version of these thoughts was first posted on Fashion’s personal blog.

“. . . thou knowest the greatness of God;
and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”

2 Nephi 2:2

Seek and ye shall find has several applications. What we “find” in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is often just a reflection of our outlook on life. In other words, we project onto the gospel how we view the world and ourselves. [Read more…]

Joseph Smith’s Sermons: MHA 2018

One of the sessions at the Mormon History Association this year (Boise, Idaho, June 2018) focused on a new volume from Oxford University Press titled, Foundational Texts of Mormonism: Examining Major Early Sources. (edited by Mark Ashurst-McGee, Robin S. Jensen, and Sharalyn D. Howcroft) One the chapters was written by yours truly, “Joseph Smith’s Sermons and the Early Mormon Documentary Record.” Since I think this volume deserves a continuing readership I’ve decided to post my talk at the panel session—based of course on my chapter in the book. I hope it tempts you to add the book to your Mormon text library. I’ll be reviewing some of the other chapters in the book from time to time. I hope this will intrigue you enough to take a look for yourself.
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Lesson #27: The Influence of Wicked and Righteous Leaders #BCCSundaySchool2018

1 Kings 12-14; 2 Chronicles 17

Jerry BoamIn this week’s reading, the Old Testament finally enters the world of history as, for the first time, we read something in the text that we can verify, and precisely date, from an external source. This occurs in 1 Kings 14:25: “And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem.” We know that there was a Shishak. We know that he invaded Judah and Israel. And we know that it happened in 926 BCE

This little bit of historical detail is important, as it allows us to date–if not precisely, at least approximately–the time of the United Monarchy and the split between Israel and Judah. All of this happened in the 10th century BCE. [Read more…]

The Rest of the Lord

I recent read Adam Miller’s new book, “An Early Resurrection”, a book I recommend (book review forthcoming). One of the parts that stuck with me was a brief discussion about the “rest of the Lord”, as found for example in Moroni 7:3 –

Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.

What is this rest? [Read more…]

Lesson 26: “King Solomon: Man of Wisdom, Man of Foolishness.” #BCCSundaySchool2018

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Luca Giordano – Dream of Solomon

 

This week’s lesson overviews the life of David’s successor and son, Solomon. The overall theme of his life, as it is presented in the biblical text is, much like the story of David’s rape of Bathsheba, a theme of the King’s glory, favor with God, and ultimately, fall from grace. [Read more…]

Spiritual Anchors

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
   —Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach”

Here are three things that I learned when I was very young and that have had an enormous influence on my spiritual life.

  1. Satan can hear every word I say but can never read my mind.
  2. If I repent and am forgiven, and then commit the same sin again, my previous repentance will be revoked.
  3. If a prophet or Church leader tells me to do something that is wrong, and I do it anyway, then I will be blessed for my obedience and the Church leader will be punished.

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Isaiah in 2 Nephi FHE Project

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This Sunday’s GD lesson is going to be on the Psalms, and our teacher asked me to do a short explanation of parallelism in Hebrew poetry as an enrichment activity. I plan to do a very brief summary of some of the things I wrote in my article “Understanding Old Testament Poetry” from the June 1990 Ensign. [Read more…]

Lesson 25: “Let Every Thing That Hath Breath Praise the Lord” #BCCSundaySchool2018

This week’s lessons covers Psalms—as in, all the psalms. Here are some things to keep in mind as we get started:

  • “Psalms” in Hebrew means “praises,” or תְּהִלִּים; “Psalms” comes from the Greek ψαλμοί or psalmoi, which means “songs” or “words that accompany music.” The Book of Psalms is the Bible’s songbook, full of emotion, prayer, pain, gratitude, despair, and praise. As Blair wrote last month, the psalms “sanctify our joy and grief, our anger and doubt, as well as our hope and faith.”
  • There are 150 psalms, written by various authors, many of them written by David. However, because in some cases the psalms have been translated out of their original poetic format, and because of copyist errors, etc., scholars debate how the psalms should be numbered, or what their original formats might have been.
  • The psalms are old, and they were written over a span of possibly five centuries.

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On Being a Social Mormon

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Marching against the 12-hour workday, 60-hour workweek

A while back I met a friend (I’ll call him Steve) and several of his colleagues for lunch. Steve is a good member missionary and his colleagues know he’s a Mormon, and I eat often enough with the group that they know I am too. Anyway, I mentioned that I’d seen a recent article in The New York Times featuring the work they do and even a photo of someone from their department. Steve’s boss exclaimed:  “What’s a Mormon doing reading the Times?!” His jaw dropped further when I told him I’m not just a reader but a subscriber to boot.  [Read more…]

Dear American Taxpayers, Thank You for Saving My Life

 

Keira Shae wrote this letter in November of 2011 as part of a class assignment for a course at Utah Valley University. It was published in the Daily Herald a few months later and reprinted in several other newspapers across the country. It is reprinted as an appendix to Keira’s new book How the Light Gets In, which will be published by BCC Press on July 24. Among the comments the letter received when it was first published were “I’m not accepting your thanks because I was taxed, I did not not willingly give. I wouldn’t have really supported you.” And “a dead child is better than a welfare child.” We believe that our BCC Readers will do much better in the comments section, and we offer it to you as our gift to you on this Fourth of July.

 

cover-light_gets_in-6x9in-frontDear American Taxpayers,

My name is Keira, and I am twenty-three years old.  I am the daughter of an uneducated, meth-addicted prostitute who was the single mother of six children.  Since 1987, you have supported me as you paid your taxes. You are the sole reason I am alive today. I am writing to thank you for it. I hope this message gets to you. [Read more…]

“We Are a Nation of Refugees”: An Interfaith Call for Compassion and Positive Action

 

Note: The following statement was released this week by the Evansville Executive Interfaith Partnership–a remarkable collection of people of faith and goodwill centered in the Southwestern corner of Indiana of which I, dear reader, am a part.

An open letter to politicians and Americans everywhere: 

For most of our history America has been a safe destination for people seeking a better life.

For hundreds of years, people from all over the world have flocked to our borders to escape famine, poverty, war, political oppression, natural disasters, religious persecution, and tyranny.

We are not merely a nation of immigrants; we are a nation of refugees. America is a place of refuge, and this has become one of the most profound and important truths in our nation’s story.   [Read more…]

Study Bible Bleg

I’m going to be quick here: after years with an iPhone, I’ve switched to an Android phone. That switch came with one unexpected loss: the Lumina app.

The Lumina app is great. Not only does it have the text of the NET Bible, but it has the notes from the study Bible. And it is free.  [Read more…]

Colorful Socks

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JD is a gay man in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — and he still attends!  
He could still really use a friend there.  His colorful church socks get lonely too. This piece is a follow up to a previous one  Part 1.

Last month, I wrote about my struggles as a gay man in the Church.  There, like everywhere, my LGBTQ friends and I have received numerous pieces of repetitive advice.  As we approach the end of Pride, I want to provide my reactions to some common themes.

Until we consider the real implications of our statements, actions, and policies, we are not prepared to minister to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.   [Read more…]

Via Ferrata Failures and Life

I just got back from a trip to the Swiss Alps where we did some hiking. We strongly considered doing a Via Ferrata hike while we were there. It cost about $50 each to do on our own (for equipment rental), or $125 each with a guide, and since this one isn’t considered that difficult, we thought we’d do it on our own. The Via Ferrata from Murren (the town where we were staying) to Gimmelwald (a 30 minute walk from there), takes about 2.5 hours and includes drops of 600 metres. Here’s a quick video that you should watch before you proceed so you understand what a Via Ferrata hike is: [Read more…]

Lesson 24: “Create in me a clean heart.” #BCCSundaySchool2018

This lesson has two parts: (1) The story of David’s rape of /adultery with Bathsheba, his murder of Uriah to cover it up, and his discovery by the prophet Nathan, and (2) Psalm 51, which tradition says is David’s repentant response to the episode. [Read more…]

Sharing Holy Spaces

When my niece was 12 years old, I told her that if she picked a foreign language and stuck with it until she graduated from high school, I would take her to the country of her choice that spoke that language.  This smart, hard-working girl just graduated from high school, having completed AP Spanish.  On Tuesday we leave for Spain, with a brief stopover in Rome.  I’m beyond excited.

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2018 Preach My Gospel edition

This week the church released a new edition of Preach My Gospel. I have a fondness for this document as when it was first released, a young missionary serving in my ward stood up and testified of his gratitude that missionaries were now going to be able to follow the spirit. My wife and I looked at each other and almost in unison said, “That was what was wrong with our missions!”

I haven’t read through the entire new document, but my quick look showed new changes galore. Unsurprisingly, it has been updated with more recent GA quotes. President Oaks’ 2014 sermon on women and the priesthood shows how female priesthood authority is becoming catechismal:
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Saul and the Zero Tolerance Trap #BCCSudaySchool2018

Note: This is a follow up Lesson 22: “The Lord Looketh on the Heart,” which discuss 1 Samuel 9–11; 13; 15–17. Today’s post is about Chapter 14, which got lost in the cracks. It may also have something to do with a contemporary social issue, but, of course, that is purely incidental.

1 Samuel 14 explains the second of the three events that caused God to reject Saul as Israel’s king. The other two get a lot more lesson time because their morals can be easily adapted to the standard call-and-response format of the Sunday School Liturgy.

In Chapter 13, Saul is condemned for initiating a sacrifice on his own athority–thus proving that only priesthood holders can perform valid ordinances. And in Chapter 15, Saul is rejected for insufficiently destroying everything in the city of Amelek because he wanted to hold back some of the best animals for the Lord–demonstrating (just in case we needed another reminder) that “to obey is better than to sacrifice.” [Read more…]

A Mormon’s Guide To Coffee Breaks and Happy Hours

Ah, summer.  That glorious time of year when young Mormons break out of their BYU / CES cohort cocoons and take internships and entry-level jobs amidst us coastal heretics.

Every year since I, a young grasshopper, first engaged in this ritual 10+ years ago, I hear Mormons ask the same questions time and time again.  For those just leaving Zion and entering Babylon, I’ve prepared this handy guide to common workplace dilemmas.

The “Coffee Break” Problem

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The Immigration Debate and a Fact-Based View of the World

Swedish medical researcher Hans Rosling spent his entire career trying to convince Western nations that we have a fundamentally messed up view of everybody else in the world. In public forums, private meetings, and viral TED talks, Rosling presented comprehensive data to demonstrate that–contrary to Western opinion–most people in the world are not starving to death in rat-infested s***holes. Most people, in fact, are doing much better than they ever have.

Rosling created the data-rich, interactive web site Gapminder before he died in 2017. HIs children Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund completed the book he was working on when he died. In April of this year, they published Factfulness in 24 different languages in the hopes of convincing global policymakers to start basing their decisions on an accurate picture of the world.

Many people need to read this book. Americans trying to understand the immigration issue need to read it twice, because the picture of the world that comes out of the data is fundamentally at odds with the assumptions underlying much of the debate. [Read more…]

On Hypocrisy

A week ago I published a post calling for kindness, and in the days that followed I’ve made some comments here that left other participants in the thread wondering whether I really meant it. Today I’m less interested in defending those comments than in exploring the dilemma and trying to inch toward doing better. Kindness is very important to me, but, to be honest, I can feel pretty lost when I try to figure out how exactly to be kind in any given moment.

Jesus saved some of his harshest words for hypocrites. The fiercest chapter in the gospels is easily Matthew 23, where Jesus rails against the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. To me, the most damning of the many damning things he says there comes near the beginning of the chapter: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them” (Matt. 23:2-4, NRSV).

Have I, in calling for kindness, laid upon others a burden that I am unwilling to take up myself? I think that the answer, to some degree, has to be yes. [Read more…]

Announcing God’s Tender Mercies by David Dollahite

GTMAs you all know, we here at BCC Press are committed to serving up the best long-form content available in the Mormon world, and today, we are proud to prove it once again with our newest release, David C. Dollahite’s wonderful conversion memoir, God’s Tender Mercies: Sacred Experiences of a Mormon Convert.

If you don’t know David, you definitely should. He is a Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University and the author or co-author of six other books, including Deseret Book’s Successful Marriages and Families in 2012 and the textbook Religion and Families, published by Routledge in 2016. In God’s Tender Mercies, he tells the story of his own conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his mission, his marriage, and his international work as a scholar of family life. [Read more…]

A Heart in Tune

I need to say some things to my fellow saints about the family separations at the border, but to explain it we need to first talk about music for a moment. Whether you sing or play an instrument yourself, or have only seen others perform, you know the familiar ritual of tuning the instrument. Here is a video of the cacophonous yet strangely beautiful process:

It begins with a loud, clear note from an accurate source: an oboe, piano, tuning fork, or the most trusted vocalist in the ensemble holds a single reference note. Everyone else tunes up and down until all converge to match the source. Until all are in tune. In church, we often use this as a metaphor, speaking of being “in tune” with the Spirit, meaning that we need to listen to the source of truth, and adjust ourselves until our hearts produce the same notes, that is, the same responses, judgements, and actions that Jesus would produce. So far so good.

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In Memoriam Stephen E. Robinson, 1947-2018

Friend of the blog, historian/theologian Janiece Johnson, was kind enough to offer her thoughts on long-time BYU religion professor Stephen E. Robinson.

[Cross-posted at Maxwell Institute blog]

Believing Christ was published in 1992, though I first read it on my mission. Though not on the approved reading list, my grandma sent it to me in Argentina. It was a critical time for me, no matter how early I got up and how hard I worked, I never felt like I had done “all I could do”—Nephi’s words felt more like a weapon than a balm. Though Robinson himself might have tired of his bicycle parable, it was the first significant turn that Latter-day Saints took toward grace. Many have built on it, but Robinson’s work was the foundation. (Listen to Robinson’s comments from the conference on grace sponsored by the Wheatley Institute for the 25th anniversary of Believing Christ here.) For me personally, it was vital. It was the first time I actually began to recognize that no matter how much I worked, I could not earn God’s grace. I had to choose to receive the gift, and only then could it change me.
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On Loaves and Fishes

Editors Note: On July 24, BCC Press will publish How the Light Gets In by Keira Shae. This memoir is the story of a girl growing up in a poor, non-Mormon family in Provo, Utah and encountering abuse, drugs, prostitution, family separation, and profound poverty in the shadow of the Temple and the LDS Church’s flagship university. She eventually converted to the Church after experiencing kindness from an LDS foster family as a teen. Here is a small taste of what you will encounter in this wonderful, terrifying, and ultimately transcendent true story.

 

cover-light_gets_in-6x9in-frontI don’t know when I first heard the proverb about teaching a man how to fish and feeding him for a lifetime. But I’m sure it came from my Mormon neighbors when I was growing up in Utah Valley. My family was not Mormon, and we were very poor. And, in the both the metaphorical sense and the literal sense, none of us had the slightest idea what to do with a fish.

When my mother moved to Provo, she was a thrice-divorced high-school drop out with five small children. Most of our neighbors were LDS and seemed wary of us. Our non-Mormon neighbors were often absent, private, or avoidant.

When we were truly desperate–and we often were–we would seek out help beyond government assistance, which included churches. Most often, it was the LDS church. We discovered quickly that there was no church soup kitchen, no non-perishables stored at individual meetinghouses, no instant help if we were desperate. In those times, my siblings and I would wander the neighborhood begging for a spare can of peas or a can of tuna, and then mix it together over the heating element and eat it out of the pot. [Read more…]

Mormonism and the Prosperity Gospel

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Mette Ivie Harrison is a well-known mystery and young-adult novelist and frequent guest here. She is the author of The Book of Laman, published by BCC Press.

Most Mormons have no idea what the “prosperity gospel” is, and if you point them to typical TV evangelicals, they insist that Mormonism is nothing like that. Yet, there are far too frequent occasions when I find myself biting my tongue about something a fellow Mormon says, either casually, at a wedding or other social event, or on the stand during a talk, that translates into precisely that: prosperity gospel.

For the sake of clarity, let me give a useful definition of “prosperity gospel:” a modern version of the gospel in which those who follow God in strict obedience are given blessings of wealth, health, and power. [Read more…]

How to Use the Bible to Break Democracy

 

Let me take an aside to discuss concerns raised by our church friends about separating families. Many of the criticisms raised in recent days are not fair or logical and some are contrary to law. First- illegal entry into the United States is a crime—as it should be. Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.–Attorney General Jeff Sessions

 

Poor Jeff Sessions; he just can’t buy a break. All he did was remind people that obeying the law is a good thing, and all of a sudden he is facing a firestorm of criticism about his use of a Bible passage to defend his policy of separating children from their parents at the border. What is even the point of a scripture like Romans 13 if you can’t use it to support the law?

So far, most of the reaction to Sessions has focused on the fact that the Bible also supports things like families and treating children well. Others note that the same scripture that Sessions invoked was also invoked by proponents of slavery and opponents of the American Revolution. This is all true, but it doesn’t quite get to heart of Sessions’ argument. What he actually said was even more insidious than these criticisms would suggest. [Read more…]

Let’s talk about the remarkable Psalms #BCCSundaySchool2018

The 104th Psalm is an arresting remix of Genesis 1, making it one of the earliest examples of hip-hop on record.1 As the King James Version has it:

Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain…

Here we see God appearing with the grandeur of a king, donning his royal robe in preparation for his work of creation—”don” is the term Robert Alter uses in his translation:

LORD, my God, You are very great.
Grandeur and glory you don.
Wrapped in light like a cloak,
stretching out heavens like a tent-cloth.2

This psalm heavily samples from the creation account where God said “Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good…And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night…” (Genesis 1:3–4, 14).

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