Category: Mormonism

Answers to Questions You Should Have Asked

By , January 16, 2016 8:33 pm

From Tyler Cowen’s always interesting website Marginal Revolution:

7. Mormonism, and other relatively strict religions, can have big anti-poverty effects. I wouldn’t say I ever believed the contrary, but for a long time I simply didn’t give the question much attention. I now think that Mormonism has a better anti-poverty agenda than does the Progressive Left.

Next question?

And Now for the Rest of the Story

By , October 21, 2014 10:12 am

So I was on Facebook this morning, and I read the following headline:

Report: 21 US cities restrict sharing food with homeless people

Among other cities, the article mentioned Salt Lake City, home to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Can’t have that in a city so famously religious now, can we?

Turns out we don’t have that, or if we do, it’s not because the city is heartless towards the poor. No, can’t be that because, as one poster noted, Salt Lake City is a model for San Francisco on homeless solutions.

The lesson? Well, at least one of the lessons is that there is almost always another side to a story.

Cross posted at

My Wife’s (Almost) Favorite Song

By , April 30, 2014 9:48 am

For the uninitiated, Alex Boye used to be a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Here he is, this time singing “Goin’s Home” with the Choir.

Why I Post What I Post

By , March 3, 2014 1:17 pm

In light of my recent posts on Arizona SB1062, the bill that Gov. Brewer vetoed the other day, I feel I need to be clear: I don’t hate gays or lesbians. I am not a homophobe. As the saying goes, I have friends (and relatives) who are gay or lesbian. I wish them well and, for the most part*, support them in their quest for equal rights. My religion challenges me to love all people. I try to do that. Most of the time I succeed.

No, my posts—and posts like them on other subjects—come from a deep-seated belief in the value of religious liberty and from an ongoing frustration with those on the left who label my side, the conservative/religious side, “haters,” “deniers,” “misogynists,” “fascists,” “homophobes,” and “racists,” among other things. I know in my heart that I’m none of those things, and I’m confident that all or the vast majority of the conservatives/religious people I know are not. Thus, I’ve made up my mind to push back whenever I see those on the other side of an argument cavalierly throw around such evil epithets posing as reasoned argument.

I want to stress the word “cavalierly.” I am not a Pollyanna. I realize there are people–people on both sides of the aisle–who are, in fact, haters, deniers, misogynists, fascists, homophobes, and racists. When they act out on those traits, they should be called out. That said, it seems that the best way to do that is on a case-by-case basis rather than to label an entire groups of people unfairly and, generally, for political purposes.

That is all.

*I support traditional marriage, again not out of any animus towards the LBGT community but out of a belief in the nature and purpose of marriage that I won’t go into here. I do support civil unions.

Cross posted to

Family, Fathers, Community . . . and Church?

By , December 6, 2013 11:16 am

You don’t have to be a believer to have a good family. And some families manage to get by without a father, whether because of divorce, death, or abandonment. Others seem all right and do okay without the interaction inherent in a vibrant community. But can I tell you how thankful I am for my membership in a church that stresses the importance of all three, not only stresses their importance but fosters their development?

Last night, for example, I sat in the basement of my bishop’s home with 12 or 13 other men and women–leaders of the various organizations in my church or ward–calendaring for the upcoming year. As we discussed in-service training for teachers, next year’s 4th of July breakfast, and a possible international night in the cultural hall of our chapel (food and festivities from a variety of nations and ethnicities), we also discussed the needs of people within our ward’s boundaries* and how we could help them.

Every year, we have a “Ward Salmon Fry” in early September. This year we changed the name to “Neighborhood Salmon Fry,” so people in our neighborhood of other faiths might feel more welcome to that annual gathering. In the early morning of virtually every holiday–Memorial Day, for example–the young men and women of our ward place flags on the lawns of any and all in our neighborhood. That evening, they return to retrieve the flags. And on and on.

In the end, these efforts build community. In the end, such activities strengthen families and let people know they are not alone. And in the end, our little corner of the United States is a little stronger, perhaps a little safer, and possibly a better place to live. The efforts of other churches in our area to do similar things that increase that sense of community and belonging.

Then comes Sunday, and I get to sit in a pew and be reminded of my responsibilities as a husband and father. Once or twice a month, someone at church will ask whether I’ve done my home teaching (Mormon men and woman are assigned to visit members in their homes at least once a month to visit and to simply check up on their well being). Of course, the corollary is that my wife and I receive such visits into our home at least once a month. (One of the beauties of this “Home Teaching” or “Visiting Teaching” program is that we are assigned people to visit or be visited by. We don’t get to choose. Thus, I often spend time with people I might otherwise not associate with. The benefits of that should be obvious.)

I should mention that I live in a middle class and certainly not wealthy neighborhood. I’d be surprised if the average home price exceeded $180,000. It’s about as racially mixed as Utah gets, with a fair number of blacks, Latinos, and Asians, all of whom I know on a first name basis, many of whom have been in my home. I should also mention that I’ve seen and felt the same kind of support in wards in inner-city Lansing, Michigan and in some of the poorest parts of Brazil.

I was reminded of the importance of all this when I read a piece today by Walter Russell Mead, titled Obama Flub’s Inequality Message. The title is unfortunate because I not writing this to take pot shots at President Obama, though I agree with Mead that he and others need to focus more on the following:

. . . there’s plenty of evidence that unwed childbearing, father absence and fraying kinship and community networks exacerbate the problems of low-income people and make it incredibly hard for them to gain a foothold in the middle class. These are thorny problems that aren’t easily solved by the kinds of government measures Obama champions.

I often wish the President of the United States (all of them) would more often use the bully pulpit much like speakers in my church use the church’s pulpit. Use it to speak to the themes of family, fathers, and community; to tell (shame?) absentee fathers into shouldering their responsibilities; to plead with young men and women to marry first, have children later; to encourage young and old to get more involved in their communities. In church, we refer to this as a call to repentance, which is just another word for change. All of this would ultimately strengthen the family (families of all types) and thereby strengthen the community.

Yes, economics are important, but without a firm foundation of family, fathers**, and community, all that economic help is apt to trickle into a sink hole rather than help anybody.

*In the Mormon church, local congregations are called “wards,” each of which have defined boundaries. Approximately 10 wards make up a “stake.” Wards typically have around 250-300 members.

**To the women reading this, I speak of fathers not because they are more important than mothers but because to my knowledge, we don’t have an epidemic of absentee mothers.

Street Contacting with Pzazz

By , October 21, 2013 4:50 pm

Without comment, other than to say that as good as my street contacting was 40 years ago in Brazil–Rio, Vitoria, and Joao Pessoa–I was no match for what these NYC missionaries did.

And that scripture at the end? It’s from The Book of Mormon:

And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and ahappy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are bblessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out cfaithful to the end they are received into dheaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it. (Mosiah 2:41)

Praise to the Man

By , June 27, 2013 10:25 pm

Music appropriate to commemorate this day, 169 years ago, June 27, 1844.


1. Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.
Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
Death cannot conquer the hero again.
2. Praise to his mem’ry, he died as a martyr;
Honored and blest be his ever great name!
Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,
Plead unto heav’n while the earth lauds his fame.
3. Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.
Ever and ever the keys he will hold.
Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,
Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.
4. Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;
Earth must atone for the blood of that man.
Wake up the world for the conflict of justice.
Millions shall know “Brother Joseph” again.
Text: William W. Phelps, 1792-1872
Music: Scottish folk song

Music for a Sunday Evening

By , June 23, 2013 11:01 pm

Fantasia on Early Latter-day Saint Hymns is one of my favorite choir pieces. Arranged and directed by Mack Wilberg and performed by BYU’s Concert Choir, it tells the story of the Mormon gathering to Zion, or the story of our journey from the pre-existence to life on earth and back to our Father’s presence, or _______ (insert your own interpretation). Unfortunately, I can’t find a YouTube video of the performance, so you’ll have to just listen. Here are the words:

Fantasia on Early Latter-day Saint Hymns (“Yes, My Native Land” “Redeemer of Israel” “The Glorious Day Is Rolling On”)

Yes, my native land I love thee.
All thy scenes I love them well.
Friends, connections happy country!
Can I bid you all farewell?

Can I leave thee, Can I leave thee,
Far in distant lands to dwell?
Can I leave thee, Can I leave thee,
Far in distant lands to dwell?

Holy Scenes of joy and gladness,
Ev’ry fond emotion swell.
Can I banish heartfelt sadness,
While I bid my home farewell?

Can I leave thee, Can I leave thee,
Far in distant lands to dwell?
Can I leave thee, Can I leave thee,
Far in distant lands to dwell?

Bear me on, thou restless ocean:
Let the winds my canvas swell.
Heaves my heart with warm emotion,
While I go far hence to dwell.

Glad I bid thee, Glad I bid thee,
Native land farewell, farewell.
Glad I bid thee, Glad I bid thee,
Native land farewell, farewell.
Redeemer of Israel, Our only delight,
Oh whom for a blessing we call,
Our shadow by day and our pillar by night,
Our king, our deliv’rer our all!

How long we have wandered
as strangers in sin,
And Cried in the desert for thee!
Our foes have rejoiced when
our sorrows they’ve seen,
But Israel will shortly be free.
The glorious day is rolling on, All glory to the Lord!
When fair as at creation’s dawn the earth will be restored.
A perfect harvest then will crown the renovated soil,
And rich abundance drop around without corroding toil.

For in its own primeval bloom, Will nature smile again:
And blossoms streaming with perfume, Adorn the verdant plain.
The saints will then, with pure delight, Possess the holy land:
And walk with Jesus Christ in white, And in His presence stand.

Then while the pow’rs of darkness rage, With glory in our view,
In Jesus’ strength let us engage, To press to Zion, too.
For Zion will like Eden bloom: And Jesus come to reign,
The saints immortal from the tomb, With angels meet again.
Words by Samuel Francis Smith, William W. Phelps, and Eliza R. Snow. Hymn tunes by Jacques Rousseau, Freeman Lewis, and anonymous. Musical setting by Mack Wilberg. From “All Creatures of Our God and King: Hymns of Faith and Praise,” by the Brigham Young University Concert Choir, Mack Wilberg, Conductor. Tantara Records

Music for a Sunday Evening

By , January 20, 2013 8:58 pm

My Mormon friends will recognize this as the tune to If You Could Hie to Kolob. My non Mormon friends will wonder what the heck Kolob is. In either case, as you read up on those subjects at the links, listen to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s magestical Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus:

Here’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing If You Could Hie to Kolob. Unfortunately, the video has some problems:


1. If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?

2. Or see the grand beginning,
Where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation,
Where Gods and matter end?
Methinks the Spirit whispers,
“No man has found ‘pure space,’
Nor seen the outside curtains,
Where nothing has a place.”

3. The works of God continue,
And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression
Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter;
There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit;
There is no end to race.

4. There is no end to virtue;
There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom;
There is no end to light.
There is no end to union;
There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood;
There is no end to truth.

5. There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.
There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.

Text: William W. Phelps, 1792–1872

Sissel with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

By , December 2, 2012 4:33 pm

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