Happy Pioneer Day

The following are excerpts from a lecture on “Mormonism and the American West” that I will be delivering at the Chautauqua Institution this Thursday, July 24, as part of their week-long series on “The American West:  Religious Evolution and Innovations.”Happy Pioneer Day!  Today [July 24] is the day we celebrate the Mormon pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.  Pioneer Day is actually more of a cultural holiday than a religious one.  There are no special religious rites or rituals … [Read more...]

In Praise of Cafeteria Mormonism

It was both troubling and fascinating (something like watching a car wreck) to witness the dustup of the past few days over the unfortunate column by LDS author Joni Hilton excoriating what she dubbed “liberal Mormons.”  I’m sure that Sister Hilton is a wonderful person who may or may not regret at least some of both the tone and substance of what she wrote, not to mention the minor firestorm she set off.  I have no idea why she feels the way she does, or what prompted her to write the column in … [Read more...]

There Will Be Blood

On Saturday President Obama took to the podium in the Rose Garden and announced that he had decided that in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its own people, resulting in well over a thousand casualties including hundreds of children, he believed that the United States “should take military action against Syrian regime targets.”  Acknowledging paralysis at the level of the United Nations Security Council and a lack of will even among our closest allies, he assert … [Read more...]

Justice, Law, and Politics

Reflections on the Case of Edward Snowden Happy birthday, America!For all of you thinking about getting the country a gift, the good news is that you don’t have to worry about giftwrapping, since the government (and Google, and Amazon, and Apple) already knows what you’re going to give, when you got it, and how much you paid!The Edward Snowden case, following on the Bradley Manning and Julian Assange leaks and others in recent years, has opened a national conversation on the … [Read more...]

A Time of War, a Time of Peace

This past weekend I was in Washington, DC, attending the third decennial symposium (entitled “A Time of War, a Time of Peace”) of the LDS National Security Professionals Society.  This is a small but serious group of Latter-day Saints who work in various sectors of the sprawling U.S. national security apparatus; participants included people from the military, State Department, Defense Department, CIA, National Defense University, Congressional Research Office, “clandestine services,” and so forth … [Read more...]


However improbably, on Thursday Pope Benedict XVI will retire.  Much has been said and will be said about what this means for the Catholic Church, in terms of having a pope living within shouting distance of his living predecessor.  Benedict promises that his retirement will be a quiet one, dedicated to prayer and writing.  He is not giving up his calling as a consecrated servant of God, but admitting that at age 85 he no longer possesses the “strength of mind and body” to lead the church on a da … [Read more...]

Why Romney’s Loss is Good for Mormonism

The Mormon Moment died at approximately 11:00pm on Tuesday night.  Mormonism, however, will be just fine.  In fact, it may even come out of this week in a better situation than had its most famous son won the presidency. … [Read more...]

The Politics of Jesus

Tonight we will hear two presidential candidates talk about United States foreign policy.  Though it won’t be phrased quite so baldly, much of their conversation will be about when our nation should send its sons and daughters to kill and be killed – or more likely in our era, when we should send unmanned drones to kill other people’s sons and daughters.  All of this will be framed by way of preserving national security and promoting peace.  (Indeed, one of the two men on the stage is a Nobel Pea … [Read more...]