Real Americans, Reality Checks, Kenyan Last Names

During the just-concluded U.S. presidential elections, various Republican candidates drew opprobrium for referring to “the real America,” “the real Virginia,” and so forth. Presumably, the “real” versions of these various geographic and political entities were basically Republican, made up of people with center-right ideology and conservative Christian faith. Such rhetoric is not particularly new; as a former resident of the San Francisco area, I have over the last decade routinely encountered dismissive comments about the Americanness of people like me who live in major metropolitan areas, have worldwide social networks, and occasionally eat spring mix salads in the place of iceberg lettuce. [Read more…]

JRCLS Fireside

Consider it your chance to interrupt Kaimi having fondue with the legendary (yes, he really exists!) Greg Call. Also, to discuss same-sex marriage. Really! [Read more…]

What’s a Newsroom for?

Many have highlighted the LDS Newsroom’s very interesting coverage of the discussions surrounding Proposition 8, in particular the document entitled, “The Divine Institution of Marriage.” The analysis of this document and the arguments and doctrine it contains I leave to more talented and audacious bloggers than myself (suffice it to say that like any other political document, it contains things that I find convincing and things I do not), but what I find infinitely more interesting than the immediate squabble over Prop 8 is the nature of the Newsroom itself and this document in particular. “The Divine Institution of Marriage” gives us an opportunity to revisit and microwave one more time that most rewarmed of topics, that of defining and delineating our notions of what constitutes doctrine. [Read more…]

Republicans are from Mars, Democrats are from Hell

This month’s Sunstone contains an absolutely awesome reader letter explaining the relationship between Republicans, Democrats, politics, and righteousness. It goes like this: [Read more…]

Cohabitation and Common-Law Marriage

Marriage is an important institution to the Church. [Read more…]

Memorial Day: The Costs of War and Those Who Bear Them

What follows are my thoughts for Memorial Day, generated in no small part from extended conversation and correspondence with a family member of mine this weekend. Jon (not his real name) is a veteran of the Iraq war. [Read more…]

The Next Step

Stop me if this sounds familiar. I’m indebted to the always-handy BYU 100 Hour Board, as well as the LDS Church History site’s exhibit on Primary. [Read more…]

Best Sermon I’ve Heard in Years

I just spent a half hour feeling the spine tingles and intermittently moist eyes I associate with the presence of God. I do not mean for a moment to deify a politician, no matter how eloquent. I do not intend to urge any particular voting patterns and am sympathetic to those who support all three current contenders for the American presidency. I do not intend to imply that God has provided his seal of approval for any particular political campaign. I do not mean that our own church leaders do not write and deliver magnificent sermons. I do not mean by this post to attack the Romney campaign, the conservative movement, or the Republican Party. I am also self-conscious about the complaints about the sentimentalization of the youthful senator from Illinois or the crowds of fawning liberal groupies wandering after the self-proclaimed agent of change. Even so, I felt to confess that the first thirty minutes of Obama’s speech today stirred my soul. Whatever happens in the US election, I thank God for this moment of moral and spiritual clarity.

Messianic Prophecy and the Meaning of Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday. Christians worldwide will commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a spring day sometime during the first half of what we have come to refer to as the first century of the Common Era. Much can be said here about the social, political, and historical context of what the Gospel accounts portray as a momentous (if ironically so) event. I propose a reading of this story* for which one particular element of the sociopolitical context is especially relevant: Jesus’ “triumphal” entry was not the only procession into Jerusalem that day. [Read more…]

Abortion Theology

john f. is a lawyer with an interest in literature, foreign languages, history, theory, and comparative religion. He has been blogging with his brother Jordan F. at a bird’s eye view since July of 2004 and has been commenting at By Common Consent for even longer. In ancient Bloggernacle history they were once described as “the most dangerous minds on the net” although they never quite figured out what this meant except they are pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment.

The anniversary of Roe v. Wade today falls within an election season that could conceivably threaten a fissure in the coalition that the Church seems to have formed in recent decades with Evangelical Christians on certain social issues, including abortion. Specifically, the vocal opposition of many Evangelical Christians to Mormonism and the faith of its adherents has found new outlets in the mainstream media because their view of Mormonism and its adherents now has some relevance on the national political stage as a result of Mitt Romney’s candidacy for the presidency. The increased intensity of Evangelical denunciations of Mormons has also given opportunity to reflect on the political positions of Evangelical Christians (and other creedal Christians) and, more specifically, why they take those positions. [Read more…]

Commencement speech

The following is the text of the speech given by graduating BYU senior Ashley Sanders at the BYU alternative commencement. It is posted with permission.

A lot of people have asked me: if you disagree with what BYU or the government does, why don’t you just go someplace else? (A favorite suggested location is Berkeley.) I only know one way to answer them, which is to tell them that I love this place, and want it to be what it can be. After I answer this way, there is always another question: If you love it, why do you criticize it? My answer is the same: because I love it, and because I believe that integrity requires a mix of staying and going, charity and chastisement, and because I want to go to a school and live in a country that let me do all of the above. [Read more…]

Graduation Day, 2007

April_2007_peace-signs-7289e-cropped-350-pixVP Cheney’s speaks at BYU’s commencement later today (at 4pm). At noon BYU students and faculty demonstrated in a “Go Forth – Establish Peace” rally. It was held at the west entrance to campus, at the “Enter to Learn – Go Forth to Serve” sign.

In general, it was focused on peace. The most prominent signs were 10’ tall scrolls with Peace written in 28 languages. Some of the other signs were:

“Support this: “Therefore, Renounce war and proclaim peace. D&C 98:16”
“If we’re going to fight a war, let it be a war on poverty”
“1/2 the world lives on less than $2 a day”
There were a few signs that targeted Cheney such as, “Was it Divine Inspiration to Vote Bush/Cheney…or just Temporary Insanity.” [Read more…]

Dear Mr. Cheney

I was thinking about you the other evening. Manchester United and AC Milan were playing soccer on the TV. It was a great game. I enjoyed it. During halftime I fired up the interwebs and saw that 9 US soldiers had died in Iraq. ‘Oh well,’ I thought, and continued watching the game.

Then it it hit me. Young men my age are sacrificing their lives for their country whilst I get to chomp my Ikea crispbreads and enjoy the footie. It’s not fair.

Not fair for people like me, I mean. [Read more…]

Sit-in at BYU’s JFSB Quad

Demonstrators, April 4, 2007, BYU

Demonstrators, April 4, 2007, BYU

Here’s a shot of today’s demonstration/sit-in/protest at BYU. By my rough estimate, there were about 250 students and faculty participating at any one time, with a total count during the 2 hours of 700-800 (not counting passers-by).

Some of the signs hoisted by the participants were:
“One Nation under…..Surveillance.”
“That’s Ok, I didn’t need my civil rights anyway.”
“Cheney should go to…..BYU.”
“You Lied [under large photo of Cheney] — They Died [with large photo of Bush made up of 1″ photos of what may have been servicemen and women].”
“Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Torture.” [Read more…]

RFK at BYU in 1968


As bloggers have pointed out in the recent discussions over the prospect of Vice-President Cheney speaking at BYU, Senator Robert F. Kennedy spoke at BYU on March 27, 1968. [Read more…]

Cheney at BYU: my view from Europe

I fully understand that given Dick Cheney’s offer to speak at BYU’s commencement, BYU and the church would have little choice but feel obliged to honour the sitting Vice President. [Read more…]

Four years

Inspired by Russel Arben Fox, I thought I’d repost something I originally wrote on the eve of the Iraq War. It was not a policy critique, but an attempt to position current events into the continuum of history: [Read more…]

Neighbors and the Tragic Commons

I had a long talk with a friend and colleague about the experience of being not Mormon in the midst of Mormondom. One example this friend provided of a frustration with the institution of Mormonism is the presence of Seminary buildings adjacent to the campuses of public secondary schools and the existence of so-called “released-time” in which non-participants are ghetto-ized while participants receive their religious education without any additional time commitment on their part.

By way of confession and disclaimer, I have a memory of a ninth grade seminary teacher invoking the anti-Christ clause to eject me from class (I was preaching evolution in a rather insulting tone), and playing a tenth-grade teacher’s pious hopes of my eventual submission by using “released time” to get something to eat at the local diner until I was fully and finally ejected from the seminary program for truancy. (I went on to teach Institute classes part time toward the end of college in partial penance.) As far as my view as a parent, if we live in a setting where our children are offered “released time” at the relevant time in their lives, I think we would allow them to participate, though we would not push them to do so.

[Read more…]

Fighting the Good Fight

When we think about morality in our personal lives, we often focus on the simple, mundane choices that we face. Should we pay our tithing or not? How hard should we work at our jobs? How should we react when others criticize us? These are indeed moral choices, yet all of us face larger, more defining decisions every day. Let me sketch one such decision that we all currently face, as well as my belief about what the moral decision is — and some of the reasons that I’m not making that moral choice.

The longstanding genocidal conflict in the Darfur region of the Sudan has spread into the eastern regions of neighboring Chad. As in Darfur, Arab militias from Chad and from across the border in the Sudan (called the janjaweed) are now slaughtering black African residents of the region wholesale. There are political aspects of the struggle, but much of the killing seems purely racial, purely genocidal. [Read more…]

The Sacrifice of Service

The following notice was published in the Nauvoo Neighbor in Jan 1844.


This announcement, probably meant to benefit German immigrants living in the sixth ward, warmed my heart and made me think of a church functioning as a Christian community. I wanted to imagine myself stumbling out across the ice of the Mississippi to gather wood for my destitute coreligionists.

But then I read on, placing the notice in immediate context. [Read more…]

Archbishop Smackdown

John Sentamu, Archbishop of York (he of the “prophetic enactment”, Anglicanism’s number two man), has come out swinging against media bias, the liberal elite, the Muslim veil, and Christmas commercialism. File under: when religious leaders speak their mind. For a staid old church, this stuff is a breath of fresh air. [Read more…]

Accountability; or, Don’t Vote Republican

Both the empirical study of politics and political philosophy have identified two competing models of voting. People sometimes engage in issue/ideological voting, in which they evaluate the competing candidates’ or parties’ stands on the major political debates of the day and vote in favor of whoever is closest to what they believe to be right. Alternatively, people can engage in approval voting, in which they evaluate the job performance of the politician or party currently in power, voting in favor of that party if things are going well and in favor of the opposition if things are going badly. Both models of voting have important roles to play in keeping a democratic political regime on track. Without issue voting, popular views on what policy ought to be really never enter into the policy-making debate. Without approval voting, parties and politicians face no consequences for misbehavior.

This post is an argument that, in 2006, Mormons ought to engage in approval voting and work to remove Republicans from political office — regardless of whether the Democrats seem to be better or worse on the issues. [Read more…]

George W. Bush is not a man of God

George W. Bush is not a man of God…at least not my God. There is a possibility that he is devoted to some other God. I may even speculate about that as we move along. [Read more…]

Random Sampler

As the powers that be have failed to do their hometeaching for the past couple of months (and yes, as your unofficial 2nd counsellor in your BCC elders quorum, I am calling you to repentance, Steve and Ronan), I have taken it upon myself to emulate another section of the Ensign. Or, failing that, I would like to write a series of brief notes, because I don’t have enough material at the moment for one long post. [Read more…]

Wars and Rumors

The Catholic church has spent centuries refining its theology of “just wars.” This theology partly reflects biblical ideas, including Old Testament and New Testament statements about the necessity of conflict to defend the Kingdom of God. In part, the just war doctrine also reflects the pragmatic needs of a church that has helped govern much of a continent for hundreds to thousands of years.

Compared with the Catholics, Mormons have unique theological resources for constructing a theology of war. The Book of Mormon, in particular, contains extensive texts about righteous and wicked warfare. If we were to describe a theory of righteous warfare on the basis of the Book of Mormon, what would it look like? [Read more…]

Why I Favor Gay Marriage

The Church’s recent statement on the proposed federal marriage amendment has spurred threads at M* and a lengthy one (well over 300 posts at the time of this writing) at T&S. A lot of this discussion has focused on the politics of the proposal and the legalities of federalizing the definition of marriage. [Read more…]

Mormons for Al Gore

Alas, this Mormon cannot even vote in the US, so my support of Mr. Gore is about as useful as a hanging chad. But I can cheerlead from afar. You see, in Britain or Bangladesh, the American presidency matters, and this Briton thinks Al Gore should be the next President of the United States (again). Question is, will he run? (I hope so.) [Read more…]

Conference Report (Immigration)

Saints from around the world convened on Temple Square yesterday, and here’s my report of the conference proceedings–of two immigration bills before the U.S. Congress. I’ll summarize some of the public policy April_2006_statute of liberty jig 239 pix 4  pieces gone supernovachoices offered by the proposed changes, then end with these questions:

Do LDS scripture and teachings inform your/my/our attitudes towards U.S. immigration policy, and, should they?

But first, here are some notes on the context in which we find ourselves:

  • Through the mid 20th century, U.S. laws regarding who could immigrate to the U.S. (and who could become a citizen) were racially restrictive, with a judicially and legislatively expressed goal of shaping the U.S. populace to be “white.” As one of various instances of this, in 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act preventing Chinese from immigrating here. As another, in 1921, Congress established a temporary quota system expressly designed “to confine immigration as much as possible to western and northern European stock”; this quota system was made permanent in the National Origin Act of 1924 (these quotas were ended in 1965).
  • The U.S. response to the presence of large numbers of illegal immigrants has been varied. In the early 1930s, we [Read more…]

“All Major Political Parties”

The hot church-related news of the week involves this year’s variant on the traditional statement on political parties. In addition to the standard instructions about not using church buildings for political purposes and participating in the democratic process, this year’s statement contains something new. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the statement says:

Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of all major political parties.

[Read more…]

Palestinian Mormon on Hamas and the Wall

Sahar, my Palestinian Mormon friend, wrote me an email which, with her permission, I am posting here. She talks about the election of Hamas and her adventures scaling the security barrier around Bethlehem. (Sahar is currently a PhD student in Turkey and has previously posted at United Brethren here, here and here.) [Read more…]