Introducing Orwell

When my wife first met me, she thought I was “too cool for school”… she now thinks that I am “only cool for school.”

43 Posts
Mormon “News”-room and Deseret “News” — Just Merge Already Jun. 23rd, 2014 at 4:18 am

Journalism teachers everywhere, rejoice! Utah’s own Deseret “News” continues to provide you with the gold standard for real-world examples of manipulative reporting. Here is the latest specimen, courtesy of Whitney Evans:
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Two, Four, Six, Eight, Do Not Excommunicate: An Open Letter to Mark M. Harrison, Scott M. Wheatley, and Bryan C. King Jun. 14th, 2014 at 12:41 am

Dear Bishop Harrison, President Wheatley, and President King:

In the next few weeks you might all find yourselves presiding at disciplinary councils for either Kate Kelly or John Dehlin. Here is my advice to you:

You must not excommunicate them. You do not want to be George Wallace.
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Awesomely Awful Modesty Creep Stories Jul. 15th, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Two modesty creep anecdotes too awesomely awful not to share:
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A Woman’s Priesthood Duty Apr. 25th, 2013 at 2:57 pm

EmJen’s latest at BCC, the recent prominence of Ordain Women, and my having just watched an adaptation of Tess of the d’Urbervilles have all reminded me of an article in the New Era that I read last summer at my parents’ house, entitled “Your Aaronic Priesthood Duties,” by Paul VanDenBerghe. It’s boilerplate church magazine stuff, nothing remarkable whatsoever. It tackles the subject by office — deacon, teacher, priest — you know the drill.

However, on page seven, there is an unexpected addition: “Young Women and the Priesthood.” My first reaction was mild surprise that it had actually occurred to someone at the New Era to at least include a shout-out to the young women (however unsatisfactory) in such an inherently male-centric article. Naturally, its content is exactly what you would expect: even though women can’t hold the priesthood, its blessings are available to all, blah, blah, blah, you get the holy ghost and gifts of the spirit, etc.

Then the part that made my blood pressure rise:
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Apparently, Abraham Lincoln Lived at the Beehive House Mar. 20th, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I recently moved back to the Salt Lake area after several years on the east coast. Every day, my bus passes in front of the Beehive House, and it occurred to me that, despite the fact that I grew up in Utah, I could not remember ever having visited it. You know how it is, you never visit the sites you live closest to.

So I went. Well, here’s what I learned there:
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All Are Alike unto God… Mar. 2nd, 2013 at 12:49 am

So, by now, I know you are all aware of the new editions of the scriptures and the much talked about changes to headings, introductions, study aids, etc.

I am generally pleased with the direction (if not always the destination) of the majority of the “adjustments” I have looked at so far. The new introduction to Official Declaration 2, for example, is receiving a lot of attention:

The Book of Mormon teaches that “all are alike unto God,” including “black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.

Questions on the divine origin of the ban aside (full disclosure — I personally don’t believe it was of God), I cannot get over the irony of citing that particular verse from 2 Nephi in the context of expanding the pool of those who may be ordained to the priesthood.

If “black and white” are equal in the sight of God in terms of their eligibility for the priesthood, why, then, aren’t “male and female”?

Dear President Dalton — I have a daughter… Jan. 21st, 2013 at 12:01 am

Dear President Dalton,

I have a daughter. Her world is young and innocent, brimming with a child’s intensity of feeling — ecstasy and despair are infinitely magnified when confined to only four years of life. Though to an adult her joys are simple and her sorrows trivial, every one of her tears hits me with equal weight, no matter their cause.

As of yet, she has no notion of what it means to be a woman in today’s society, much less in the church.

But I fear that day.
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Women Praying in General Conference: Responding to the Top Four Objections Jan. 15th, 2013 at 10:51 pm

See the relevant Facebook page here. These are the four most common objections:

  1. “There are bigger problems in the world so this is therefore petty — and shame on you for caring.”
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Let Them Pray – The Prophet Is Dead: Thoughts on the Mormon Culture War Jan. 13th, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Taking a cue from Cynthia L., I am resurrecting this post in light of the discussion on women praying in General Conference (brought to you by the masterminds behind the pantsapocalypse). Why? Because the idea that allowing a woman to pray in GC would require some kind of revelation is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. How can anyone really be against that, least of all God? Also, I reject the exclusively top-down model of revelation so, even if a revelation were necessary, bringing up the subject should not be taboo.

On a related note (since these things always come up in discussions of this kind), I refuse to accept the binary “either-it’s-all-true-or-it’s-all-a-fraud” nonsense, entertain the “there-are-worse-problems-in-the-world-so-this-is-therefore-petty-and-shame-on-you-for-caring” dismissal, tolerate the “my-[female relation, friend, or acquaintance]-doesn’t-care-so-neither-should-you” brush-off, or give Jesus the credit for misogyny or inequality in the Church.

The original comments on this post can be found here. It is from June, 2010, so naturally the caffeine situation is out of date.


When Roland Barthes declared the author dead (I paraphrase), he didn’t know he was talking about Mormon doctrine (which is an excellent demonstration of his point, it turns out). When it comes to “eternal truths,” who has the final author-ity? Who is the definitive last word on what we accept as God’s will? The obvious answer is, of course, the prophet(s).They speak, we believe and follow. It’s as simple as that, right? Not so fast.
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Why the BYU Caffeine Issue Matters — a Non-exhaustive List Sep. 14th, 2012 at 5:21 pm

A non-definitive list of scattered thoughts on the BYU caffeine controversy:

1. It was never about the caffeine, but BYU’s handling of the situation.

  • No one believed it for a second when BYU spokesperson Carri Jenkins alleged that there is no demand* for caffeinated soda at BYU — disingenuous at best, even for a PR person.
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Testimony Mar. 24th, 2012 at 12:29 am

I was profoundly moved by this — so much so that I have broken my blogging vow of silence. I just haven’t been able to get it out of my mind and feel compelled to share it.

By the title, one might think it’s a Mormon Message from the Mormon Channel. I assure you it is not. I wish it were. All Mormons should watch it.

George P. Lee Dies… Jul. 30th, 2010 at 12:32 am

…and if you don’t know he was excommunicated and for what, the Deseret News isn’t going to tell you. The only thing they’ll give up is that he “[…] served as a general authority for nearly 14 years” — as if he went emeritus or something (although the divorce is certainly fishy).

The Salt Lake Tribune is more forthcoming, naturally; so, I thought this could serve as counterpoint to the notorious SL Tribune bias post from a while back. At any rate, perhaps this passage from the Tribune article best sums up the situation:

“George P. Lee is one of the truly tragic figures in modern Mormon history,” Armand Mauss, an LDS sociologist in Irvine, Calif., said Thursday. He was “both created and destroyed” by changing Mormon teachings and policies regarding native peoples.

Anyway, I’m going to deliberately copy the entirety of the (short) DN article below so that, if/when it gets updated, no one’s going to tell me that I didn’t read carefully enough.

But what I really want to know is shouldn’t we have stopped using his middle initial when he ceased to be a general authority?
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Visit Disneyland – Vermont: The Joseph Smith Birthplace Monument Jul. 9th, 2010 at 7:22 pm

As I exited the car in the small parking lot at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Monument near Sharon, VT, I was immediately overcome with a feeling that I can only describe as otherworldly… something I knew I had felt before, though in a much different context. It was quite a Saturday’s Warrior moment.

No, it wasn’t the spirit. You see, in the woods surrounding the visitors’ center, they pipe in a constant stream of choral music. Now, I have nothing against the song “My Heavenly Father Loves Me,” choral music, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (quite the contrary, really). However, when brought together in the situation described here, I have to admit that I was a little creeped out.

As I stepped out into what I expected to look and feel (and sound) like nature, I was caught unaware by an ethereal, disembodied soundtrack. I felt like I had just arrived at Disneyland… a sensation only enhanced as the music changed gears from primary songs / hymns to the choir’s Showtime album.
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Signs of the Times: Church Plans Approved for Non-Cookie Cutter Temple Jun. 16th, 2010 at 6:17 pm

The end of days is upon us. First, the Utes go the Pac-1?. Now, the Church breaks with their current temple mold. Behold:

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The Prophet Is Dead: Thoughts on the Mormon Culture War Jun. 3rd, 2010 at 6:11 pm

When Roland Barthes declared the author dead (I paraphrase), he didn’t know he was talking about Mormon doctrine (which is an excellent demonstration of his point, it turns out). When it comes to “eternal truths,” who has the final author-ity? Who is the definitive last word on what we accept as God’s will? The obvious answer is, of course, the prophet(s).They speak, we believe and follow. It’s as simple as that, right? Not so fast.
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I Don’t Understand the Atonement and Neither Do You Jun. 1st, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Dane Laverty over at Times and Seasons recently wrote a post called “Reasoning the Doctrines” in which he says the following: “It makes no sense to me that someone had to suffer infinitely before God could forgive us.”

As we all know, members of the church often pride themselves on knowing “the whole truth,” on having answers to questions that everyone else in the world (allegedly) asks themselves all the time. So, as far as the atonement goes, in the great debate over saved by works vs. saved by grace, in my experience most Mormons see our particular model of [works (i.e. “all you can do”) + Jesus’ grace = forgiveness] as uniquely coherent, as if we are the only ones that have this redemption thing figured out.

So let me just throw it out there: None of this makes sense to me. I don’t understand the atonement and I don’t believe that anyone else does. If you do, here’s your chance to explain it to the rest of us.
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The Book of Mormon: the Musical — And they did gather themselves together to sing, and to dance, and to make themselves merry… Apr. 14th, 2010 at 6:04 pm

It’s like the 116 pages all over again — only this time it’s not translation, but musical attempts to teach doctrine. It was only a matter of time. Behold, suddenly a BYU MDT degree has gained a modicum of practicality:

The long-rumored Broadway writing debut of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone finally has a date: The Book of Mormon, described as a traditional musical comedy with untraditional subject matter, will open in March 2011. Parker and Stone, who earned an Oscar nomination for the musical genius they displayed in the big-screen South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut, are penning the book, music, and lyrics with Robert Lopez, a Tony winner for Avenue Q. (Lopez has said the South Park movie was one of his major influences writing the gloriously perverse puppet show.) Parker will direct with Jason Moore, who earned a Tony nomination for Avenue Q and most recently staged the irreverent Shrek the Musical. The show will be produced by Scott Rudin and Anne Garefino. The cast will be announced at a later date.
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The Hierarchy of Handouts Dec. 31st, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Mosiah 4:

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just–

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

Some people in Utah think that the area surrounding Temple Square is the panhandling capital of the world. I don’t know if that’s true — I’m not well traveled or well educated enough to say for sure. However, it it’s at least in the top twenty, I submit that Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, would crack the top five.
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Close Encounters with Priestcraft Nov. 29th, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Brother Rock always creeped me out. He was one of those people who you hope never to see again. But you always do… and when you do, they shake your hand and focus a glassy, unblinking gaze directly into your eyes and say, with a meaningful smile, “I knew we would meet again,” as if they had already seen every detail of your encounter in a vision.
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Doctrinal Commentary on Especially for Mormons #4: “Discerning Between the Spirit and Satan” Oct. 31st, 2009 at 3:48 pm

EFM.jpgThe fourth installment in a continuing series in which the author probes the hidden treasures of wisdom in that bastion of seminary education, Especially for Mormons. The previous three issues can be found here: 1, 2, 3. Today’s text: “Discerning Between the Spirit and Satan.”

Doctrinal Commentary on Especially for Mormons is pleased to present this special Halloween guest commentary by Omni J. Edwards, a seminary teacher in Malad, Idaho. His insightful analysis of “Discerning Between the Sprit and Satan” allows us a rare glimpse into the spiritually nourishing instruction that he provides the youth of the church every single day.
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