All posts by stallioncornell

Dinner Table Politics: Scandal Scandal! Scandal!

The latest episode of Dinner Table Politics is online!

The accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh prompt Abby and Jim’s discussion about scandals past and present, including Clarence Thomas, Bill Clinton, and presidents stretching all the way back to George Washington. Kennedy, Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Jefferson – even Washington himself were all subjects of salacious rumors, many of which turned out to be facts.

When scandal arises, why does who you vote for impact who you believe? What was Gloria Steinem’s “One Free Grope” rule? And, on a less important note, what is the proper way to pronounce “harassment?”

Download the episode here.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.


_________

Also, if you missed last week’s episode, here it is:

Abby and Jim asked who was the “Senior Trump Official” that wrote the anonymous Op-Ed in last week’s New York Times? We review the list of suspects, including Jon Huntsman, Jr., Larry Kudlow, Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway, and Melania Trump. (It probably wasn’t Melania Trump.)

Also, are we living in a computer simulation? Elon Musk says yes, but Abby only says maybe.

Download last week’s episode here.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

Dinner Table Politics: Save the Polar Bears!

The latest episode of Dinner Table Politics is online!

 

Abby and Jim discuss Climate Change and what’s to be done about it. Did Obama do enough? Should Trump do more? How did the problem start? What’s to be done about it? And will any of the measures designed to fix it do any good? Bjorn Lomborg and James Hansen get their say, and the Paris Climate Agreement is put under the microscope. Abby also reveals her long-term plans for Jim’s funeral.

And for those of you who may have missed last week’s, because I failed to post about it here, that one was about religious freedom. Abby and Jim discussed the passing of John McCain, an American hero, and then discussed the separation of church and state. What does the Constitution have to say about religion? Is Utah’s Proposition 2 a political issue or a moral one? And should Scientology become the state religion of Rhode Island? Sen. Alan Simpson, C.S. Lewis, and Karl Rove all get mentioned, too, for reasons that are better left unexplained.

Download the latest episode here.

Download last week’s religious freedom episode here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

 

Dinner Table Politics: Eliza Returns!

Eliza and Jim at the Queen Victoria Monument outside of Buckingham Palace

Fresh from her internship in Malawi, Eliza returns to Dinner Table Politics to discuss how gender roles affect income and education, as well as other things she learned on the other side of the world. (Spoiler alert: It seems Trump has fans in Africa, too!)

Jim and Eliza then discuss the events she missed here in the United States, including the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination and whether or not he views Roe vs. Wade as “settled law.” Paul Manafort’s convictions on eight felony counts prompts an impeachment discussion, and, in the midst of the podcast recording, Michael Cohen plead guilty to eight more felonies! Could it be that Robert Mueller’s “witch hunt” is coming up with more than a few real witches?

Also, which member of the Royal Family would Eliza be willing to die for?

Download the latest episode here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

 

The Church Formerly Known as Mormon

“The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name he has revealed for his church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

So said President Russell M. Nelson, President of said church, the one with the unwieldy name that will never enter common parlance, because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has eleven syllables, and “Mormon” only has two.

But that’s not going to stop us from going to war against nearly two centuries of colloquial speech. “We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with his will,” President Nelson said. “In recent weeks, various church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months.”

That information will likely include the fate of mormon.org, the “I’m a Mormon” media campaign, and, of course, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, all of which are at the forefront of Church communications and, apparently, out of harmony with the will of the Lord. “LDS” is now verboten, too, which is a problem, as LDS.org is the LDS Church’s official website – oh, wait, I mean the official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Having invested billions of dollars to define the word “Mormon,” we will now engage in a Quixotic attempt to keep people from using a word we’ve labored to define since 1830, and which we will now try to pretend doesn’t exist.

Call me faithless if you want to, but I just don’t get it.

It’s not like we chose the label “Mormon.” It was inflicted on us by our critics, and there was no escaping it. (The same is true, incidentally for the label “Christian” in the New Testament, as Acts 11:26 makes clear.) Eventually, we embraced it, and it became part of our identity. Every attempt to purge it from who we are has failed miserably, and this latest attempt, even though it has the imprimatur of revelation and the will of the Lord, is likely to fail, too.

And now, a story.

I was serving as a Mormon missionary- pardon me, I mean a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – in Scotland back in 1989 when then-Church President Ezra Taft Benson gave a masterful talk on the evils of pride. (Actually, it was read by President Hinckley, as President Benson was too ill to address his fellow Mormon – oops, I mean his fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – at the time.)

The talk was probably the most powerful message of President Benson’s entire tenure in the Church, and I recommend its contents to you without qualification. The problem was that it included the following paragraph:

In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin. Therefore, no matter how the world uses the term, we must understand how God uses the term so we can understand the language of holy writ and profit thereby.

Nothing wrong with that, right? After all, language changes considerably over the years, and how a word is used in holy writ is not always compatible with how it is used in colloquial speech. The word “charity,” for instance, is seldom used in conversation the way it is employed by Paul in the King James translation, and most modern versions of the Bible render the word as “love” instead. The fact that the scriptures don’t ever have Mosiah telling his son Ammon, “Hey, look at all those arms you cut off! I’m proud of you, kiddo!” doesn’t mean that using the word in that context is a violation of God’s will.

Or does it?

I was sitting in a sacrament meeting in Galashiels, Scotland, when a visiting member of the High Council of the local Mormon congregation – I’m so sorry, I mean the local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – referenced President Benson’s talk and made it clear that the primary message he had received was the word “proud” was now not to be used in any positive context. Now when his kid came home with a good grade, or, say, he chopped off a lot of arms, he would say he was “pleased,” not “proud.”

I thought this was just one guy, but in the weeks, months, and even years to follow, I sat through scores of sermons where “pleased” became the preferred synonym for “proud.” It wasn’t until 2010 – 21 years later! – when Dieter Uchtdorf made me pleased to say “proud” again.

“For a while it almost became taboo among Church members to say that they were “proud” of their children or their country or that they took “pride” in their work,” President Uchtdorf said. “The very word pride seemed to become an outcast in our vocabulary.”

Gee, ya think? But then President Uchtdorf set the record straight:

I believe there is a difference between being proud of certain things and being prideful. I am proud of many things. I am proud of my wife. I am proud of our children and grandchildren.

I am proud of the youth of the Church, and I rejoice in their goodness. I am proud of you, my dear and faithful brethren. I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as a bearer of the holy priesthood of God.

He was also the first member of the First Presidency to admit to drinking Diet Coke. Bless him.

The “proud” taboo, however, was largely due to a misunderstanding of a prophet’s intent, not a direct prophetic decree. President Nelson seems quite serious about this, and I fully expect we’re going to hear about this in October as we devote a great deal of time and energy to undo centuries of prophets lauding Mormons, Mormonism, LDS stuff, and all the shibboleths we’re no longer supposed to say.

I fear a worst case scenario where this becomes the central focus of our attention, and the dawn of a sort of pharisaical uneasiness where anyone who slips up and says “Mormon” will be judged as being critical of the prophet. But the word has too much history and is too easy to use for the world to comply, and eventually, maybe 21 years later, an apostle will call himself a Mormon in a Conference talk, and it will all be over.

Or maybe not. Another thought comes to mind.

Mormons – what am I thinking? I mean members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – conduct official business under the authority of what’s commonly called the “Melchizedek Priesthood.” But as D&C 107 makes clear, that’s not what it’s actually called.

There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood.

Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest.

Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.

But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.

So, to summarize, to avoid frequent repetition of the name of Deity, they chose to give the most important priesthood that had a long, unwieldy name a nickname instead, referencing a great prophet whose moniker also coincidentally began with an M.

Aren’t we making precisely the opposite move here?

The more I think about this, the more frustrating it is. We’ve already spent a whole lot of your tithing dollars on the word Mormon – if this was upsetting to the Almighty, it would have been nice to know that prior to buying so much network TV time. And now we’re going to spend millions of dollars to try to go to war against two centuries of colloquial speech?

And this is the most pressing issue facing the Church today?

Now don’t get me wrong. I have learned that “sustain” does not mean “agree,” and I sustain President Nelson and will do my best to comply with his plan here, even though I think it is more than a little goofy. I just worry that the imprimatur of revelation – “the Lord has impressed upon my mind” – is likely to try the faith of many who will become discouraged when the word “Mormon” refuses to conveniently slide down the memory hole.

We’re being set up for failure. Because no matter how many times we say The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – too frequent repetition of the Lord’s name, anyone? – the fact remains that “Mormon” isn’t going to go away. And I hope we don’t have to wait 21 years to realize that.

Dinner Table Politics: International Edition

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

This is the first episode of Dinner Table Politics that has been formatted specifically for radio, with the possibility of being broadcast on KSL! Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

Abby and Jim, fresh from a visit to London and France, discuss the history of the British crown and the differences between the governments of the USA and the UK.  Learn why Oliver Cromwell was the LeBron James of his day and whether or not Winnie the Pooh was named after Winston Churchill.

Many questions: would America be better if Donald Trump were only the head of state, not head of government? (Or vice versa?) Why does D-Day still matter over seven decades after the fact? And is Disney’s animated Robin Hood movie historically accurate?

Download the latest episode here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

Dinner Table Politics: Free Speech Edition (Plus Aliens)

The latest episode of Dinner Table Politics is online!

Jim and Abby discuss free speech, most notably how expensive it is. A political attack from 1800 comes under scrutiny, as does the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

Plus: should James Gunn be rehired as the Guardians of the Galaxy director? Why can’t we go back to the moon? (Hint: It’s a wardrobe problem.) And is the best proof that no alien life exists the fact that none of it has tried to contact us?

Download the latest episode here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

Dinner Table Politics: Medicare, Woodward, and the White House Bachelor

The latest episode of Dinner Table Politics is online!

Abby and Jim ask the question: Is Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for All!” proposal a good idea? (Spoiler alert: no.)


Also, Bob Woodward’s latest book calls to mind “Bobby B’s” Watergate history, and Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Who Is America?” comes under fire for helping to create the divisions it seeks to expose.

Plus – Arthur the Aardvark’s sister D.W. needs to tell us what her initials stand for, and a White House version of The Bachelor is an idea whose time has come.

Download the latest episode here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

Dinner Table Politics: Best Presidents Edition

With Donald Trump’s approval rating soaring among Republicans and sinking with everyone else, Abby and Jim discuss their picks for the best presidents in history and why Thomas Jefferson left his presidential tenure off his tombstone.

Abby doubts that Jim had the word “jowls” in his vocabulary at the time of Nixon’s resignation, and she also identifies who was the heaviest president (Taft) and the one with the the best tan (Kennedy), and why weight doesn’t necessary correlate with presidential greatness.

Also, who was uglier – Abraham Lincoln or Daniel H. Wells?

Download the latest episode here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

Dinner Table Politics: Trump, Russian, and How to Pronounce “Magnitsky”

Abby and Jim discuss President Trump’s disastrous summit in Helsinki and why George Will called the Commander-in-Chief a “sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.” That leads to the incredible story of Bill Browder and the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which leads Abby to predict that Melania will likely soon be jumping out of airplanes a la Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.

Also, is the EU really a foe? Why does the difference between integrative and distributive trade matter? And how is Vladimir Putin’s attempt to get vengeance on Bill Browder like the Battle of Hogwarts?

Download the latest episode here.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

 

Articles of My Personal Faith

The LDS Church has 13 official Articles of Faith that have been canonized as scripture, and I believe all of them. Over time, I have come to a more comprehensive understanding of my own personal faith, and I have compiled a list of additional things I, personally, believe.

This list is in no way comprehensive and is certainly not infallible. It is also subject to revision, addition, and subtraction as circumstances may warrant. I have resisted the temptation to number them, because they are listed not in order of importance but in the order in which I thought of them.


I believe the Book of Mormon is exactly what it purports to be – not a fraud or “inspired fiction,” but an ancient religious record translated by the gift and power of God. It is the anchor of my testimony and the primary reason that, despite all my frustrations with the LDS Church, I will remain an active and faithful member. 

I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the theologically truest church on the earth. If I discover a truer church, I will join it, although I don’t anticipate such a church existing. 

I believe other churches teach a great deal of truth, and that a great deal of truth can also be found in schools, in nature, in science, in entertainment, and, really, just about anywhere you look.  

I believe that “whether by mine own voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same” means that the Lord honors the things he says through his servants, not that everything his servants say is the word of the Lord. 

I believe that Latter-day Saints have an unhealthy aversion to the concept of Christ’s grace, and that has resulted in many Mormons believing that they earn the majority of their salvation, which is wildly incorrect.

I believe the fifteen men who serve in the highest offices of the Church are good and righteous men. I also believe there is a vast overabundance of members qualified to be apostles, and that there are at least fifteen men and women in my own ward alone who are as good and righteous as the fifteen men who serve in the highest offices of the Church. 

I believe I have as much direct access to heaven as Russell M. Nelson does. 

I believe that temples need not be nearly as ornate as they are and that we should spend far less money on them. 

I do not believe that the U.S. Constitution is or will be hanging by a thread, or that the Mormons will be called upon to save it. 

I believe that agency and infallibility are incompatible, which means prophets can make mistakes, sometimes very big ones. 

I believe that the denial of the priesthood and temple blessings to people of African descent was, indeed, a mistake, perhaps the biggest mistake the modern Church has ever made.

I believe the November 2015 policy punishing innocent children of gay parents is the biggest mistake that is currently on the books. 

I believe that there is a great deal of further light and knowledge the Church needs to receive with regard to our LGBT brothers and sisters, and that we are not actively seeking that knowledge with the vigor commensurate with the love we should have for our fellow children of God.

I believe that no question should ever be feared or blithely dismissed, and that it is possible to directly confront the thornier elements of Church history and doctrine and come out with a strengthened testimony on the other side. 

I believe the possibility of the ordination of women ought to receive more careful and prayerful consideration than it has gotten thus far. 

I believe that mixtures of religion and politics are toxic by default. 

I believe the BSA has never had a mandate from heaven and that nearly all of my childhood traumas can somehow be traced back to the Boy Scouts of America. I’m immensely grateful to the Church for finally severing that connection. 

I believe militant atheism is intellectually ridiculous. It’s one thing to doubt the existence of God; it’s another, much dumber thing to be certain no God exists. 

I believe that religion has nothing to fear from science, and that the Old Testament makes no effort to distinguish the literal from the figurative and is therefore useless as any sort of scientific treatise.

I believe that truth exists independent of human interpretation thereof. That includes truth of all kinds – scientific, moral, ethical, spiritual, and musical. 

I believe D&C 121 provides the template for how all authority should be wielded, regardless of whether that authority is sacred or secular.

I believe that “Mormon Doctrine” by Bruce R. McConkie, “The Miracle of Forgiveness” by Spencer W. Kimball, and “For Young Men Only” by Boyd K. Packer were all well-intentioned works that ended up doing far more harm than good. In particular, Elder Packer’s pamphlet, given to me when I was twelve years old and had no earthly clue what he was talking about, severely warped my adolescence by making me afraid of my own body. 

I believe every temple sealing should be directly preceded by a non-temple wedding ceremony that anyone can be invited to attend, because no parent should be denied the right to see their children get married, and alienating an existing family is a terrible way to mark the creation of a new one. 

I believe “Us vs Them” is a terrible way to live your life, regardless of who is “Us” and who is “Them.” 

I believe most sports analogies are directly inspired by Satan. 

I believe people who believe all manner of nonsense should be welcome in the Church, provided they are not actively seeking to tear down the faith of other members.

I believe it is in the best interests of both priesthood leaders and children to have parents present during interviews. 

I believe kindness is a mandatory prerequisite for all of our interactions with other human beings.


I believe that’s all I have for now, but I reserve the right to revise and extend these articles as occasion permits.