Growing Evidence Links Utah Suicides to Altitude

Provo Temple nightI just read this very interesting article about the “Utah Paradox” which is that we are both the happiest state and also the one with the highest use of antidepressants. On top of that, we’ve long had a high suicide rate that many church critics have attempted to link to Mormonism. It’s also been known for a long time that Utah is part of the “suicide belt” — a group of states that all have a high suicide rate (with Utah often being the best of that belt. Since both Provo and Las Vegas are both in the belt, and have little in common culturally, the suspicion that altitude’s effects on the brain is a leading cause of suicides has floated around for decades.

Now there is growing evidence that this might just be the right hypothesis.

Unfortunately this might also mean that Mormonism might not get to take full credit for being the happiest state either. Read the article to find out why.

This is a good little fact to know, however, to deflect church critics with when they try to link all manner of church beliefs to suicide.

What the Church Taught About “Polyandry” in 1943 (and also 1960)

imageI wanted to set the record straight about what the Church taught about what we sometimes now call “polyandry” throughout the 20th century. I will probably need to do more research to build a full timeline about how the Church understood such marriages differently over time — as happens when histories get passed down through the generations. But here is a stark example of how it got taught.

Many of you — if you didn’t even know until recently that Joseph Smith was sometimes sealed to women that were already civilly married — might be surprised that the church did have a teaching on the subject. In fact, I have been aware of these “polyandrous” marriages since I was a fairly young adult. Why? Because I went down to my local Deseret Books store and picked up a copy of John A. Widtsoe’s Evidences and Reconciliations and read it.

Widtsoe was a famous scientist that also happened to be a Mormon apostle. He had a column in the Improvement Era called “Evidences and Reconciliations: Aids to Faith in a Modern Day” where he answered people difficult gospel questions, not unlike the answers to questions column in the modern Ensign magazine or even these new essays that the Church is putting together. These columns were then collected into a rather famous book called simply Evidences and Reconciliations. I had been eyeing the book for years since my mission hoping to eventually buy it and read it.

One of the questions posed to Widtsoe was “Did Joseph Smith Introduce Plural Marriage?” And as part of his response, he says the following:

Another kind of celestial marriage seems to have been practiced in the early days of plural marriage. It has not been practiced since Nauvoo days, for it is under Church prohibition. Zealous women, married or unmarried, loving the cause of the restored gospel, considered their condition in the hereafter. Some of them asked that they might be sealed to the Prophet for eternity. They were not to be his wives on earth, in mortality, but only after death in the eternities. This came often to be spoken of as celestial marriage. Such marriages led to misunderstandings by those not of the Church, and unfamiliar with its doctrines. To them marriage meant only association on earth. Therefore any ceremony uniting a married woman, for example, to Joseph Smith for eternity seemed adulterous to such people. Yet in any day, in our day, there may be women who prefer to spend eternity with another than their husband on earth.

Such cases, if any, and they must have been few in number, gave enemies of the Church occasion to fan the flaming hatred against the Latter-day Saints. The full truth was not told. Enemies made the most of the truth. They found it difficult to believe that the Church rests on truth and virtue.

The literature and existing documents dealing with plural marriage in Nauvoo in the day of Joseph Smith are very numerous. Hundreds of affidavits on the subject are in the Church Historian’s office in Salt Lake City. Most of the books and newspaper and magazine articles on the subject are found there also. (For a fairly condensed but complete discussion consult Andrew Jenson, Historical Record, Vol. VI, pp. 219-236; Joseph Fielding Smith, Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage, pp. 67-94; Woman’s Exponent, Vol. III and IV; The Deseret News, especially in 1886) Continue reading

Guest Post: Another Baja California Book of Mormon Model

book-mormonAfter making a post on a Baja California Book of Mormon model, I was contacted by Beau Anderson who has put together his own Baja California model. I told him I’d let him do a guest post to present his own theory. I am not sure what to make of the model itself, but I could appreciate the accessibility of his approach, which involved marking in Google Earth where he thinks the various landmarks fit so that you can easily compare it to the Book of Mormon and decide for yourself if this is something you’re interested in or if you want to discard it.

The Book of Mormon has been in print for nearly two centuries now and during that time, many people who believe that the book is true have put a lot of effort into finding out where the events described in the book actually took place. These efforts have resulted in a large number of theories and claims about evidence supporting the history described in the book, but none of these theories or claims has created a consensus among believers regarding where events in the Book of Mormon took place.

Continue reading

A Choice Land: Book of Mormon Geography

book-mormonI recently came across a new and interesting Book of Mormon geography theory that I wanted to pass along even though I haven’t researched it much yet and so can’t say what I think of it. Your feedback on this would be welcome. The theory is explained at this website.

So here is the key behind it. The Book of Mormon mentions that the Nephites took seeds from Jerusalem and brought them to the promised land. Now seeds can’t grow in unlike climates, so that immediately reduces all possible Book of Mormon lands to climates that can grow seeds from Jerusalem. They then took all other geographical factors mentioned in the Book of Mormon and further reduced the possibilities. They ended up finding a surprisingly high ‘hit rate’ with none other than Baja California.

Is there any thing to this theory? I don’t know. But I like their thinking in any case. Even if this turns out to be total poppycock, it’s the right sort of poppycock. This is a really good example of ‘sticking your neck out’ with a theory. The last person to do this was the much maligned Rodney Meldrum. For all the things he gets obviously wrong, I have to get him credit for actually bothering to not merely abstract things until there is little or not chance of disproving the existence of Nephites and actually managing to come up with a solid falsifiable theory — supposedly the mark of all good scientific theories. In fact Meldrum’s theory was so solidly falsifiable that it has in fact been falsified. This may sound like a joke, but in fact this means he was really doing things the right way from a scientific perspective. If only we could now get him to admit he was wrong and stop selling books.

So now we have yet another solidly falsifiable theory. It will be interesting to see what comes of this.