The Mormon Case for Criminal Justice Reform

In October 2015, Senator MIke Lee gave what I believe to be one of the single most important public policy addresses of our generation entitled The Conservative Case For Criminal Justice Reform. In his address to the heritage foundation, Senator Lee lays out a conservative and moral basis for supporting efforts to reform our criminal justice system and focus on the rehabilitation of criminals. This is an excerpt of my favorite part, but implore you to read his powerful address in full:

“If there is one thought I can leave with you today, it’s this: criminal justice reform doesn’t call on conservatives to compromise our principles, but to fight for them. It’s about making our communities—the little platoons of service and cooperation at the heart of our republic—safe and prosperous and happy.


It’s about basing our laws, our court procedures, and our prison systems on a clear-eyed understanding of human nature—of man’s predilection toward sin and his capacity for redemption—along with an uncompromising commitment to human dignity.


Respect for the equal dignity of all human life, no matter how small or weak, and for the redemptive capacity of all sinners, no matter how calloused, is the foundation for everything that conservatives stand for. Our approach to policing and punishment should be no different. So, as I see it, criminal justice reform properly understood represents principled conservatism at its best.” (Emphasis added)

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Divine Doctrines and Policies

As I’ve listened to conversations regarding the latest church policy regarding SSM, I have been increasingly frustrated by discussions over the distinction between doctrine and policy. Some members seem to use this distinction as a cudgel in order to claim that they sustain prophetic leadership without actually agreeing with Church policy. In this mindset, doctrine’s come from God, but policies are purely man made or arbitrary. But this is a gross distortion of reality.

I believe that an accurate conception of church policy is essential in order to truly remain rooted in the Gospel while living in a society which is deeply opposed to church doctrine and policy. Church policy can best be understood as a divinely inspired, and at times commanded, application of the Doctrines and Principles of the Gospel. Continue reading

Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet

I’ve taken a few days without writing (much) on the new policy changes regarding same-sex marriage and children raised in same-sex households. First, because I wanted to wait for an official church statement before offering supposition (and then was just too busy afterward). Second, because I know that many people are hurting as a result of the changes, and I don’t want to add to their pain in any way. Continue reading

Crowned With Sheaves Like Nephi of Old: Devotional Usage of the book of Mormon Among the Early Saints

Terry Givens in his prodigious and highly regard work, By the Hand of Mormon: An American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion, advances a thesis that has since become commonly accepted among Mormon Scholars and bloggers. In it, he discusses the importance of the Book of Mormon to the early members of the Church and describes how the book was primarily used as a symbol and tangible manifestation of the restoration, rather than for its theological or devotional value. I have great regard for Terryl Givens, having been a Mormon Summer Scholar in the program that he runs. And I think his thesis has been very valuable in helping Mormons understand the changing role of the Book of Mormon and to more seriously dedicate ourselves to study of the text itself.

Nevertheless, while I do believe that Terryl Givens offered very valuable insights and is largely accurate, I also think his thesis glosses over the various devotional ways that the Book of Mormon was used by the early Saints. Moreover, although his theory acknowledges nuance and counter examples, it has since been spread and amplified in a more exaggerated fashion to suggest that early leaders completely ignored the spiritual value of the Book of Mormon.

In this post, I want to offer a couple of prominent examples that I have found in early church history that illustrate the ways that the Book of Mormon was used not only as a symbol, but as a source of inspiration and spiritual guidance.

D&C 33:8

Of course, one of the most prominent examples of devotional usage of the Book of Mormon comes from the Lord himself through the Prophet Joseph Smith. In D&C 33, the Lord calls missionaries to gather his elect from the four corners of the earth, and promises them that if they open their mouths they will “become even as Nephi of old, who journeyed from Jerusalem in the wilderness.” This is an unusual reference to Nephi, because of all of the characters of the Book of Mormon Nephi does not come to mind as a great or successful missionary. And yet, Nephi had incredible visionary experience and was at times filled with such greater power that his message literally shook the listeners to their core. And Nephi was a great teacher expounding on the scriptures, another theme from this section of revelation (See D&C 33:16). And some have even speculated that additional missionary exploits of Nephi might have been contained on the 116 lost pages and that these stories might have been told by early members of the church. Regardless of whether that theory has any truth in it, it is clear that these words would have had meaning to those inspired to go out a serve, and that Nephi served as an exemplar of a man of vision and courage.
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