Daily Archives: 19 February 2004

Times & Seasons: A Mormon Blog

I grew up among both missionaries and heathens, and still retain what I hope is a healthy respect for both camps, so long as the methods of the missionaries are not coercive and (not or) the reaction of the heathens is not violent. I’m interested in different religious (and irreligious) perspectives, so long as they are reasonable and (not or) tolerant of alternative views. (I don’t regard “antireligious” as a synonym for either “tolerant” or “enlightened.”) In that spirit, I’d like to recommend for those with religious interests a fairly new Mormon group blog Times and Seasons. I have no interest in adhering to Mormonism or (substitute your religion here) ________, but I find that Mormon perspectives (mea culpa: I first wrote “a Mormon perspective”) sometimes challenge my facile assumptions about such issues as legislating morality, or about how much religion shapes political views, or about who qualifies to be counted as a minority or as part of a diaspora, and so forth. Here’s a sample of some of the issues discussed on Times and Seasons, “quite possibly the most post-liberal, yet acclaimed, onymous Mormon group blog in history.” The comment sections are generally lively and civil.

Don’t Drink, Don’t Smoke

Perhaps nothing outwardly sets Mormons apart from the rest of society more than our adherence to the Word of Wisdom. And for insiders, as someone once said on this site, the Word of Wisdom just *feels* important. I’m far more likely to offend the Sabbath day, forget a fast, skip hometeaching, use inappropriate language, break the speed limit, or commit dozens of other sins of omission and commission than I am to join my friends sipping tea at a Chinese restaurant….

–The WoW replaced polygamy as something that sets us apart and makes us a peculiar people. Feeling like an outsider is, in some ways, integral to Mormon culture, and WoW adherence fosters this feeling.

Contentment

As I drove home from work today, I heard an announcement for an upcoming program on Wisconsin Public Radio dealing with the topic of contentment. Implicit in the announcement was an assumption that contentment is a worthy life goal. This caught me off guard. Honestly, it has never occurred to me to pursue contentment. I’m not sure I even know what it means.

Legislative Judgments of Morality

Randy Barnett has an interesting post up at the Volokh Conspiracy, giving a persuasive argument about why legislative judgments of morality are not a particularly good basis for legal punishments or restrictions. Barnett makes the very interesting initial assertion that: “A legislative judgment of ‘immorality’ means nothing more than that a majority of the legislature disapproves of this conduct.”

(Blog) Marital Demographics

It suddenly occured to me last night that our group’s marital homogeneity is rather striking. Consider: We have eight bloggers; we live in different locations; we come from different professions; we have different political beliefs; we find a lot to differ on.

We are all married and all have children…. This makes us unusual in the world. At work, school, or social groups, there is often a sizable single contingent. Many people are happy to avoid marriage altogether, and even married colleagues are unlikely to begin having children very soon.

Polygamists in the Pen

This is a photograph of George Q. Cannon, then First Counselor in the First Presidency to John Taylor, and other polygamists taken while Cannon was incarcerated for unlawful cohabitation (polygamy) during the 1880s….

Comment: “Group photos of men incarcerated for polygamy were extremely common, and were displayed as a symbol of loyalty to the Gospel. Interestingly, although there were women incarcerated as part of the anti-polygamy raids, I have never seen any photos of them. The few who were imprisoned were jailed for either contempt of court (refusal to testify against fellow Saints) or fornication. The charge of fornication, in the 19th century, was most often used to punish prostitutes. The few inditements against polygamist women were self-conscious attempts by federal officials to brand Mormon women as whores. This (along with the relative rarity of such cases) may account for the lack of photographs.”

Resenting Our Baptism of Your Dead

Comment: “I had exactly this discussion …. Everyone seemed satisfied that their people (everyone there was Jewish or married to a Jew, or me) would be able to reject the baptisms for themselves. Plus, one woman noted, it was a great way to boost your membership numbers. I said yeah, but it doesn’t help your attendance percentages.”

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Tribute to Iranian and Iraqi Bloggers

I’d like to pay tribute here to the multitude of Iranian bloggers (aka Weblogestan) many of whom will be blogging their phony elections instead of voting on February 20, thanks in no small measure to pioneer and blogfather Hossein Derakhshan (aka Hoder), born in Tehran, but resident in Toronto since December 2000.

And I’d like to pay equal tribute to the smaller but growing numbers of Iraqi bloggers, pioneered by Salam Pax before the invasion and many blogfathered by Zeyad afterwards, who have been recording the successes and failures of both the occupation and the international media.

Here’s a sense of how revolutionary the message of the new medium has become in Iran, from Persianblogger‘s recent essay about Weblogestan:

The final example I will discuss is Hossein Derakhshan, the person who sparked off the vulgarity debate in the first place with his piece about the inherent contradictions between Islam and human rights. The work of Derakhshan, or Hoder, is a prime example of defiance against the cultural hegemony of the Iranian intellectual class. He can even be seen as trying to establish a new kind of cultural hegemony in the blogosphere; one that values self-expression, individualism, and even hedonism against any kind of traditional authority [15] . As far as language is concerned, Hoder says his blog is the “scratchpad of my mind” (2003b) and his language “is consciously messy” (2003a). He prefers to spend his time writing a new entry instead of going back over what he has already written to correct possible grammatical or spelling mistakes (ibid). Additionally, he has no qualms about coining new terms (like donbaalak for trackback, and linkdooni for linkdump – both blog-related terms) without feeling any need to consult a linguistic authority, and is especially good at putting carnivalesque twists on familiar expressions, like “aytiollaahi” [16] , which combines “IT” (information technology) and “hezbollaahi” and refers mockingly to religious conservative technocrats, and “fakhr-ol internet hazrateh muvebel taaip (saad)” [17] , which both expresses extreme devotion for MovableType (a prominent blogging tool) and pokes fun at the Prophet Muhammad (or his devotees at least) by making use of a popular phrase that is used to praise him. Interestingly enough, Hoder does not share the same attitude towards the English language as he does towards Persian. Being an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, he has bemoaned several times the difficulties of writing essays in English, and he once linked to an online resource with guidelines on writing well in English, which he described as “very useful”. Hoder’s approach to cultural hegemony, then, is highly differentiated between Persian and English speech communities: whereas he directly assaults authority in the former, he feels a need to assimilate in the latter.

UPDATE: Click here for English translations of live election reports from Persian blogs.

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Mars Rover Blog

Here’s a tribute to the farthest outlier of all, the Mars Rover Blog. Sample transmissions:

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