Remembering William Jennings Bryan

I’ve been watching the PBS television series “God in America” on Apple TV. It’s a history of religion in America told in six one-hour segments, beginning with the Massachusetts Bay colony and ending with Obama. If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend it highly – it’s very well done and I learned a lot.One of the segments devotes some time to William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes Trial. I have a lot of respect for William Jennings Bryan, in spite of the fact that he was on the wrong side of the … [Read more...]

First the baby, then marriage

A friend of mine recently told me about some acquaintances of hers that just had their second child, but aren’t married because they don’t feel they can afford to get married. I thought it sounded crazy. If anything’s expensive, it’s having kids! (The calculator tells me it’ll cost over $300,000 to raise each of my kids.)Apparently this phenomenon is common. The 2010 U.S. census results are in, and for the first time there was a question on cohabitation. They found that 28 … [Read more...]

The Purpose of Pain

I gave birth to a beautiful 7 lb girl two weeks ago. I wanted a natural delivery, and my midwife suggested the “hypnobirthing” method of dealing with pain. The method is all about breathing. One is supposed to be able to put oneself into a state of deep relaxation though breathing exercises. My hypnobirthing book said that, with practice, many hypnobirthing mothers can put themselves quickly into such a state of relaxation that contractions feel like nothing more than “tightening” and that th … [Read more...]

The Deseret News as the Church’s political voice?

The New York Times ran an article last Sunday titled "Mormon-Owned Paper Stands With Immigrants." It described how the Deseret News' often sympathetic writing about illegal immigrants has incurred the wrath of it's "conservative, mostly Mormon, readers." The article claims that any editorial the paper runs carries the Church's unofficial seal of approval and hence has the power to shape opinions in the largely Mormon Utah legislature, which could be particularly important right now since the … [Read more...]

Adam-ondi-Ahman in Africa

For $100, you can learn your ancestors' migratory history on the earth.  National Geographic's Genographic Project is seeking to learn more about human migration by analyzing the DNA of people around the world, including National Geographic readers who are interested in submitting their own cheek swab and in return getting a map of either their patrilineal or matrilineal migration pattern out of Africa.The idea that all humans derive from a group of people in Africa who began their diaspora … [Read more...]

Eyes to See

Is seeing something that just happens when light hits your retina, or is it a mental process?  In two books I recently read, scientists describe what it’s like to see things, and they describe it as more than a simple sensory function.For example, William Herschel, an astronomer from the late eighteenth century described his “art of seeing” like this: … [Read more...]

Sacred music and the Establishment Clause

My last post on patriotic music in church got me thinking of sort of the opposite side of that coin - sacred music in the public sphere.  Specifically in public schools.   Last year, a U.S. Appeals Court in New Jersey upheld the Maplewood - Orange County school district's decision to ban all religious music in school performances.  The ban had been in place since 1990, but when the school district expanded it to include instrumental versions of religious songs in 2004, a parent filed a lawsuit sa … [Read more...]

Patriotism and God

It's Independence Day this Sunday, and chances are each Mormon ward will sing at least one of the three patriotic hymns in our hymnal.  If my ward sings the national anthem, a friend of mine will quietly protest.  She refuses to sing the United States national anthem in Sacrament meeting, not because she doesn’t like to sing it, but because she feels it’s not appropriate in that context.  And she's not the only one who questions the presence of patriotic music in church.  Services at other Christ … [Read more...]

The First and Great Commandment

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" asked the Pharisees.Jesus answered,  "Thou Shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”I like this exchange between Jesus and his detractors quite a lot.  I like that Jesus has given us one unifying concept for all … [Read more...]

Mr. Blanchard Was Right – Failure is Inevitable

Science appeals to me because of its ability to identify objective truths.  You can describe something true about carbon in a way that’s much harder to do about a novel or a painting.  But although I like science, I’m not a math person -  I studied biology in college because it let me learn science while mostly avoiding equations.  So it took a special teacher to make me like a really math-oriented science like physics.  Mr. Blanchard (I changed his name), my high school physics teacher, was able … [Read more...]