Determining Doctrine Using Excel

Note: this post does not render well at low screen resolutions.

In my last post, I discussed Michael Ash’s book Shaken Faith Syndrome and his assertion that “The onus is upon us to determine when [Church leaders] speak for the Lord.”

I think everyone has their own mechanism for processing Church teachings; for some of us, the mechanism is very simple (“a Church authority said it, and therefore it’s Gospel…”), which often demands turning a blind eye to contradictory statements by other Church authorities. At the other extreme, a personal process for determining the soundness of a teaching can get so complex, weighing teachings against so many epistemological models and critical theories, that it becomes next to impossible to commit one’s heart to any given teaching.
In this post, with a nod to a couple of my favorite treatments of our approach to doctrine from Nate Oman and J. Nelson-Seawright, I’ll outline my model. This is a process I do subconsciously whenever I hear or read teachings from Church leaders or members, and when I gave it some thought a few nights ago, I realized that this process is more or less a weighted scoring system that translates neatly into a spreadsheet.

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My Zombie Knee

Is it just me or are zombies invading popular culture?

I injured my knee (torn ACL) and had surgery a couple of weeks ago. To repair the ACL, they took a ligament from a cadaver and attached it to my knee. When I explained the procedure to a co-worker (before I had surgery), she exclaimed mildly horrified, “You’re going to have a zombie knee?!” Word about my zombie knee got around the office, and the jokes started pouring in. Some wondered if my knee would start wandering around while I was asleep. Others speculated on the gender and sexual orientation of the donor ligament and the functional effects it would have on my behavior. But they were just warming up. Read more »

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I Don’t Think She’s All That Bad….

Well, conservative talk radio is all bent out of shape about Obama’s pick for new supreme court judge. I feel kind of good about it myself. But I read on the plot level and love reality TV, too, so consider the source. She just doesn’t seem all that bad to me. Read more »

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RIP Truman Madsen

Truman Madsen passed away this morning. His bio is here. Here’s the summary:

Truman G. Madsen is a philosopher, essayist, teacher and biographer. He is emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Brigham Young University, and was Director of the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem. He held the Richard L. Evans Chair in Religious Studies at BYU. He has been guest professor at Northeastern University, Haifa, and Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He sponsored several symposia on comparative religion published as Reflections on Mormonism, The Temple in Antiquity, and Chosenness and Covenant in Judaism and Mormonism. Among his volumes on Mormon thought are: Eternal Man, Christ and the Inner Life, Four Essays on Love, The Highest in Us, The Radiant Life. Five Classics, Joseph Smith, the Prophet., Defender of the Faith, a biography of B. H. Roberts and On Human Nature. He is one of the editors and a contributor to the five-volume Macmillan Encyclopedia of Mormonism. He is married to Ann Nicholls Madsen. The couple has three children and a Navajo foster son.

Our prayers are with his family and friends.

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Shaken Faith Syndrome’s Hard Medicine

My wife and I recently had a group of friends over for dinner, and at one point in the evening one of my friends saw my copy of Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling on a table in our living room. This provoked an unexpected conversation about Church History, as my friend mentioned that a co-worker of his in the office had recently showed him the wikipedia page on Joseph Smith. My friend’s reaction to this wikipedia page was typical of a member of the Church unfamiliar with the details Joseph Smith’s history: the word “shaken” is definitely the best way to describe what his thoughts and feelings were. Read more »

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The Garbage That Litters My Life…

In my nine years in the inner city, I have had the “opportunity” to pick up a considerable amount of garbage from around my yard and street that has been so nicely left there by randoms persons. I have become a bit of an “expert” on the subject of litter and have noticed some very interesting things about it. Here are my observations:

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Mormon History Association 2009 Conference Roundup

Attention readers: If you have the slightest interest in learning more about Mormonism, you really should attend one of the conferences by the Mormon History Association (MHA) and John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA) — or even both. You’ll have a terrific time, you’ll meet great people, you’ll learn a ton, and you’ll come away with terrific memories. So if you’re looking to visit Independence, Missouri with your family some time in the near future, you might as well do it this September or next May, when these conferences will be taking place there. Drop by the conference, and you’ll be hooked for sure.

Attending the annual MHA Conference is like spending a single day at Disney World: You have a really great time, but you can only ever see a small fraction of what it has to offer. There are so many amazing and fascinating sessions that it’s difficult to choose which ones to attend.

I was excited to attend this year’s MHA conference in Springfield, Illinois. Here are just a few highlights of the conference: Read more »

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Terrorists and the Mythical Man Month

During this recent Obama/Cheny smackdown (in fact, let’s just put the two in a UFC ring and get it over with), I was thinking about the argument that our policies are creating more terrorists than we are killing or capturing. I have no idea how to approach answering that question, but it made me think of a more important fallacy embedded in that claim.

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Living In The Inner City – My Charity Faileth

Recently a post by Annegb resulted in a comment by DKL which I found fascinating. In his comment, DKL mentions that he is tired of living in an area, where the people just don’t give a darn. He then had some interesting discussions with others about the issue. I can certainly relate to DKLs point of view. My wife and I live in a city that is overall very poor and racially mixed. We originally moved here as we loved working with the youth in our ward who lived here. We even had two kids from the ward live with us for a few years before they went to college – we looked at them as “our” kids since both of their parents were dead. That was the beginning of the end…

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Sacrament Smackdown

Some time ago I witnessed a Sacrament Meeting Smackdown, but I am still not sure if it was intended as such or just an inadvertent stab.
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Religious Holidays

When traveling or on vacation my family rarely attends Church. Frankly, it is enough of a pain to get everyone ready, attend meetings, and wrestle the monkeys when we’re operating out of our home. While on vacation all of this becomes both harder and less worthwhile. There are no callings to fulfill, so we’re not of service to anyone. Participation in classes is fraught with peril, as you don’t want to appear to be the jerk Utah Mormon spreading the one true gospel. Not knowing anyone makes the entire experience a bit distant and alien.

It hasn’t always been this way. I used to relish attending in other places, seeing firsthand the universality of the gospel, and finding instant friends. Now though I find a certain joy and renewal in a break from the Sunday routine. Perhaps when my children are old enough for the ordinance of the sacrament to once again be more than an especially quiet portion of the hour long wrestling match I’ll feel differently but for now I rather enjoy our “religious holidays.”

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Stake Conference Via Satellite And The Stock Market

We just had our second multi-stake conference by satellite for the Northeastern US. Elder Eyring was the presiding authority. I appreciated a previous post on the issue by Gordon Smith. His question was “what was the point of the satellite stake conference?” I must admit the first one I went to was strange. It felt like General Conference but you were watching it occur in a very small room with just a couple of GAs there – it seemed a bit awkward.

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The Tin Foil Indicator

So far during the year and nine months of our marriage, my husband and I have never bought tin foil. I realized that today as I was prepping some baked potatoes and unfurled the last of our second-to-last roll. Granted, we don’t use tin foil that often and we started off our marriage with about four rolls scavenged from Dave’s bachelor pad (he was the last one to move out, which meant that we had to clean everything but we also got to keep everything. Still not sure we got the better end of the deal). But as I wrapped the potatoes in the foil, I thought a little wistfully that at some point we are actually going to have to buy the things that we’ve generally happened into gratis. Who ever buys soy sauce, for example? We’re still working on the two and a half bottles from Dave’s old apartment. And there’s no need to buy napkins if you go to Five Guys often enough to have a ready stock from the last trip. I’ve given up saving the little packets of ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard that come with sandwiches, but if I hadn’t, we’d have quite a store of those, too. And that brings me to the Tin Foil Indicator of Economic Prosperity.

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“Wasted” Service In The Church?

Over the last couple of years my wife has been the Compassionate Service Leader for our Relief Society. One of her mandates has been to serve those who truly are in need to focus our ward’s limited resources where they can do the most good. In doing this, she has nearly eliminated the “meals for childbirth, health problems, etc.” that seems to be a hard and fast rule in the Church except in circumstances where there is truly a “need” and what an uproar that has caused. Now it is not because my wife has a problem with giving meals for people who have babies, a surgery, etc, but given our wards limited resources, there appears to be, at times, some “wasted” service.

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Why I Love Country Music

I was never a big country music fan until a couple of years ago. We started driving to New Hampshire occassionally to recreate and the only available radio stations were country. I started listening to it and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was no longer (for the most part) the twangy stuff I remember from my youth but was enjoyable to listen to. In addition, the words of the songs were actually meaningful and were about real life events (both good and bad). And I have actually found myself getting teary eyed occassionally due to some of the songs (a clear sign of aging). I must now admit that I listen to country 75% of the time or more now and have really moved away from my old standby of top 40. The other 25% of my time is now taken with oldies (still love Elvis or Def Leppard) and classical music. Perhaps I am getting old afterall… Any other country fans out there?

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Mother’s Day Funnies

I know a ward that plans to celebrate this year by presenting each woman with a letter. I suppose the idea was to have kids write their mothers’ a letter of appreciation, which is a fine idea, but it really only pertains to about 1/3rd of the women in the ward. The single women, those who have not had children, those with older children, and those with children who do not come to Church are kind of left out. Never fear, a plan has been constructed to have other ward members write letters to those other women. What they will say that will be both Mother’s Day apropos and sensitive, I don’t know. I DO know that Elders Quorum last week was spent writing letters to women who would not receive them from their children. I am terrified for these women. Read more »

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Notes on Gender: a Silver Bullet Theory of Female Attraction?

Recently, the Ensign and the New York Times ran articles dealing with aspects of female attraction; the Ensign article, found here, is the story of a woman who received a spiritual confirmation about who she should marry, then had a crisis of faith when her marriage came crashing down in disappointment over her husband’s inability to meet her expectations.

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6 States Now Allow Gay Marriage – When Do We Reach A “Tipping Point”?

Maine and New Hampshire have joined the ranks of states allowing gay marriage. There are now 6 states that allow gay marriage: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Iowa. The California Supreme Court is set to rule imminently on whether Prop 8 was constitutional. States that already recognize domestic partner rights include New Jersey, California, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia.

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The M.R.S. Degree

File this under unsolicited advice:

I have a pretty wide practical streak. Although I had many impractical interests, I ensured that I got a practical education and college degree with which I could be employed immediately. Certainly, I am not alone in this, but as a young Mormon woman, it was more rare than I would have imagined.

In fact, we have a whole body of humor around young women who, we joke, attend college just to meet someone to marry. Read more »

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In Which Andy Rooney Speaks His Mind

****The e-mail cited below is an internet hoax. Andy Rooney didn’t say these things. I skimmed through it hastily and liked the point about 70% of the population being 70% of those arrested (which I don’t believe is true, either) and put it up to stir the pot. I then left for work and didn’t get back till the next day. Had I been watching, it would have been deleted after comment #2.

DKL and I have discussed deleting it now, but I believe many good arguments have been raised; therefore, I’m leaving it up. I hate it when people are having a good argument and the host blog shuts it down abruptly; the blog equivalent of “hanging up” on one. It leaves one feeling disrespected, rejected, and resentful. Read more »

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