The Big Move Part 1

We have been in the process of moving from one state to another due to a job change. It has been quite an experience. I thought it should be broken into a series of posts given there have been some interesting and challenging experiences in this move. The first big challenge was making the decision to change jobs.

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Roman Polanski

I am reading about Roman Polanski in the news and I’m trying to understand the stunned outraged reactions of some European figures. Read more »

Vacation Days

My daughter has no school today. Read more »

Obama TV

I tried to get every other blogger to post on this, but nobody took me up on it. So I’ll introduce the question: what do you think about the president appearing on TV 24-7 and trying to entertain people on comedy late night?

I don’t have strong opinions, but I do think appearing on talk shows like this is beneath the presidency. I don’t think any president should do it. I think this type of behavior is lacking in dignity and respect for the office they hold and seems a bit desperate. I don’t approve of it. It emphasizes personality over principles and seems to be turning the office into a struggle for popularity. I’m embarrassed for the president.

What do you think?

Too Much Fun at the Fathers and Sons?

Shamelessly filched from

When Priesthood Leaders Are Wrong… and Admit It

It’s hard to admit you’re wrong. It’s especially difficult if you are in a position of leadership, because when you’re wrong it’s often in front of a lot of people. Admitting you are wrong as a priesthood leader has an added degree of difficulty because you are ostensibly guided by the Spirit in the things that you do in relation to your calling, so admitting you are wrong can also carry the implication that you aren’t following the Spirit. So I’m always impressed to come across experiences where priesthood leaders have the courage and humility to admit error. One of the most impressive examples that I’ve come across recently is Joseph Fielding Smith. Read more »

E-mail Forward from Sister T.

Sister T. has been sending me forwards for a while. Most of them I really wouldn’t choose to receive. OK, all of them. Let’s just say they really picked up when a black man started looking like a serious contender in the last political primary season. Today I got one that was a PowerPoint presentation; since it had “Jesus” in the title, I figured (hoped) it wasn’t political, so I looked at it. Read more »

ATTN: Utah Readers, “Nobody Knows” to air on KUED

KUED-Channel 7 will be airing Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons, the groundbreaking new documentary on the history of African Americans in the LDS church by Margaret Young and Darius Gray. (Reviewed on this blog by Devyn S.)


    Wed, Oct 7 at 9:00 PM MDT
    Sun, Oct 11th at 4:00 PM MDT

KUED World Channel

    Thu Oct 8th, 2008 at 7:00 PM MDT

KUED-Channel 7 is the television station of The University of Utah. It is a PBS member station that broadcasts to the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. Major regional cable providers carry KUED-Channel 7, so check your cable provider for channel information and listings.

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to see this outstanding documentary that has been years in the making. Please spread the word to friends and family in the area.

RIP: Irving Kristol

IrvingKristol.jpgIrving Kristol died yesterday of lung cancer at 89. A titan of political and social theory, he invented neoconservatism. He was, by the accounts of everyone who knew him, an absolute prince of a man. And he had among the most vigorous minds in American political thought, as he made obvious whenever he wrote or spoke.

Among his accomplishments, aptly summarized by Wikipedia, are the following:

He was an editor and then the managing editor of Commentary magazine from 1947 to 1952; co-founder (with Stephen Spender) of the British-based Encounter from 1953 to 1958; editor of The Reporter from 1959 to 1960; executive vice-president of the publishing house Basic Books from 1961 to 1969; Henry Luce Professor of Urban Values at New York University from 1969 to 1987; co-founder and co-editor (first with Daniel Bell and then Nathan Glazer) of The Public Interest from 1965 to 2002;. These were originally liberal publications. He was the founder and publisher of The National Interest from 1985 to 2002.

Kristol was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a fellow emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute (having been an associate fellow from 1972, a senior fellow from 1977 and the John M. Olin Distinguished Fellow from 1988 to 1999). As a member of the board of contributors of the Wall Street Journal, he contributed a monthly column from 1972 to 1997. He served on the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1972 to 1977.

In July 2002, he received from President George W. Bush the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Kristol was married in 1942 to the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb. They had two children, Elizabeth Nelson and William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard. His family dog, Sniffy, was said to be the inspiration for Snoopy, which was created by his then neighbor Charles M. Schulz.

I am not, myself, a neoconservative. My own conservatism tends to be an economically-focussed version of traditional conservatism with a hint of libertarian conservatism — probably best described as American Thatcherism. But on a gut level, I’ve always felt a strong sympathy for the neoconservative outlook, and I’ve always admired Kristol’s transformation from a radical liberal into a conservative who helped other liberals to make the same transformation and helped to shape American foreign and domestic policy for decades.

Mormons in Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol

Dan Brown's The Lost SymbolWhen KSL published this article a few years ago suggesting that Dan Brown had the LDS Church in its sights, a lot of people feared he would do to the Church what he did to the Catholic Church in his Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code.

A prompt poster with the handle “neworder” over at Mormon Apologetics got a hold of an early copy of the book, and only found a couple of peripheral mentions of Mormonism in the book.

I got a hold of a copy of the book today and gave it a quick scan as well, and my impression is the same as neworder’s. From what I can tell the LDS Church does not play any significant role in the plot. The book is selling very briskly, and it’s been #1 at Amazon for weeks now.

Though this isn’t the place for a detailed review, I will just say that readers will find in this book another Robert Langdon thriller. Fans of Brown’s prior novels will find this one just as exciting of a page-turner. Those who found his prior efforts lacking will find nothing here to change their opinions. In short, it’s a fun and diverting read, but those expecting Moby Dick will be disappointed.

Still, to the public relations issue, should we Latter-day Saints breathe a sigh of relief that we escaped the attention of Dan Brown, or should we be offended that the author doesn’t consider Mormons capable of pulling off a grand and ancient conspiracy?


I do recognize that “Council” is not a verb; my title is a play on the word “counsel.”

Not long ago I attended a Stake Council meeting. It was my first and I will likely not be invited back, but it was quite fascinating to me. I was there representing the Young Women organization, and the two other women present represented the Relief Society and Primary. They whispered back and forth to each other but said almost nothing to the Council. I did. Read more »

The Elephant in the Waiting Room

The debate over health care reform in our country has been nothing if not entertaining. Each side has created an exaggerated cast of demons which they nobly oppose. Depending on your political leanings you probably find the demons of one side or the other to be the more real threats. Unfortunately neither side has decided to seriously target the one demon that we can all agree is real, but choose to ignore.
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9/11 From My Wife’s Perspective

Though a day late, I thought I’d talk briefly about my wife’s experience on 9/11/01. (When I lived in DC, I missed out on all the traumas: I was out of town for 9/11, I was out of town for the anthrax attacks, and I was out of town for the sniper. I guess my alibi is ironclad.) My wife was driving to work on I-395 just before it crossed the Potomac. She heard a huge boom and turned and saw a black cloud coming out of the Pentagon. She happened to have her work’s digital camera with her in the car that day (they were still quite rare in those days), and so she pulled it out and snapped a couple of photos.

Plane as it hits the Pentagon

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As a member of our local Jewish Community Center, I got this invitation to KosherFest: Read more »


9/11 was mostly a regular day for me, so I don’t have many specific memories.

September 11th 2001 found me in a rural village in western Kenya. I had already been living there for several years and continued living there for several years after. My mud house was divided into two rooms; I kept water collected from a river in a large tank inside my home (having already had one kept outside stolen) and used candles for reading.

My normal routine after returning from the school where I taught was to:
1–figure out what to make for dinner out of the limited ingredients available to me and not in need of refrigeration; this was almost always something that included chopped onion and tomato, so I cut those then
2– splash bath (it was most comfortable to bathe in unheated water after my bike ride or walk home, about 6 kilometers); I had to carry the water in a bucket out to my outhouse/bathing room
3–make dinner as I listened to the KBC news from 6:30-7
4–read as long as my eyes could take it with candles
5–bed at about the same time I retired when I was 7

That night, I got as far as making dinner with the news when I heard, about 3/4s of the way through that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Read more »

Welcome New Perma-blogger: Burgess

We’re proud to announce an exciting new addition to our perma-blogger roster: Burgess. Burgess is well known for bringing us his poetic musings, as well as his unique point of view to such topics as BYU Grounds Crew Poetry, the BYU Standards Office. More recently, he’s posted an interesting analysis of the 2009 Burma Trespassing incident against Aung San Suu Kyi. He is a welcome addition to our blog.

Good for her.

Laura Bush, that is. I heard this morning that she is voicing her support for President Obama’s desire to deliver a beginning-of-school message to be aired in public schools this week. As you’re probably aware, this move on the President’s part has provoked quite a response from people concerned about public schools now becoming a site of political indoctrination (c’mon, folks–when hasn’t it been? I remember my elementary school teachers wearing black ribbons the week after a union proposal had been defeated). Amid the frenzy of advance and retreat in this little political skirmish, the former First Lady seems to be holding up the white flag of non-partisanship. As one who has taught high school and who’s willing to bet at least $3 that 75% of the students will be sleeping/talking/texting through the message anyway (poor President Obama–I think he overestimates his ability to influence the school-aged youth. Now if, say, Simon Cowell told them to study hard…), I’m grateful that someone is showing the good sense to deflate the situation a bit.

Happy Back-to-School, everyone!

Cosmo Poetry

(Written with Scott Calhoun)

I didn’t know that Cosmo, BYU’s official cougar mascot, wrote poems until I recently read a collection of Cosmo poetry, entitled My World is Blue and White: Not For Cougar Fans Only.  The collection contains over seventy written by dozens who have worn the Cosmo costume over the years, gone out week after week to give their school 110%, and have never asked for anything except a few high-fives and the cheers of thousands.

For starters, I never knew of the emotional costs of the whole tryout process, especially when over a hundred compete each year for one coveted slot. This may be seen in the following poem, “The Winter of Our Tryouts.”

In a room almost empty of hope
we wait to hear the news
of who will stay
and who will go,
cast out
cut low.

Some sit in the corners,
and hide their face,
some of us quietly play Uno,
or stare into space.

We retreat into our own little holes:
so many broken dreams,
so many dead souls.

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Storied Histories

Every Sunday this year I sit through the Doctrine and Covenants Sunday School lessons. This time through (and many times before), the teacher has decided to emphasize Church History rather than the scripture. I have no doubt that the Institute manual suggests that they do so. But every week I find myself wondering: why are we so obsessed with our history? Read more »

Happy International Bacon Day

The anticipation is over, and that day that we’ve been waiting for all year long has finally arrived. I wish you and your loved ones a happy International Bacon Day.

For those of you who doubt that crack is not as addictive as bacon, this little video will set you straight.

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