Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Native Americans descended from a single ancestral group in Asia

Excerpts of Native Americans Descended From A Single Ancestral Group, DNA Study Confirms from Science Daily

ScienceDaily (Apr. 29, 2009) — For two decades, researchers have been using a growing volume of genetic data to debate whether ancestors of Native Americans emigrated to the New World in one wave or successive waves, or from one ancestral Asian population or a number of different populations.

Now, after painstakingly comparing DNA samples from people in dozens of modern-day Native American and Eurasian groups, an international team of scientists thinks it can put the matter to rest: virtually without exception, the new evidence supports the single ancestral population theory.

"Our work provides strong evidence that, in general, Native Americans are more closely related to each other than to any other existing Asian populations, except those that live at the very edge of the Bering Strait," said Kari Britt Schroeder, a lecturer at the University of California, Davis, and the first author on the paper describing the study.

"While earlier studies have already supported this conclusion, what's different about our work is that it provides the first solid data that simply cannot be reconciled with multiple ancestral populations," said Schroeder, who was a Ph.D. student in anthropology at the university when she did the research.

The study is published in the May issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

The team's work follows up on earlier studies by several of its members who found a unique variant (an allele) of a genetic marker in the DNA of modern-day Native American people.

"There are a number of really strong papers based on mitochondrial DNA — which is passed from mother to daughter — and Y-chromosome DNA — which is passed from father to son — that have also supported a single ancestral population," Schroeder said. "But this is the first definitive evidence we have that comes from DNA that is carried by both sexes."

A critique of BYU Studies' critique of the Gospel of Judas

A BYU Studies issue focusing on the Gospel of Judas caught the attention of April DeConick, professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University. At The Forbidden Gospels Blog she comments about Mormon scholars & the Gospel of Judas:

The articles also give an interesting perspective on the reception history of the Gospel of Judas within the Latter Day Saints tradition, since all the articles address the issue of this text (and other Gnostic texts) from the LDS interpretative trajectory. From this perspective, the Gospel of Judas holds no relevance. In and Q&A section, the editor writes:
A few oft-quoted NT scholars with radical views claim that it overturns the record of Jesus as we know it from the traditional Bible. But for the LD Saints, the Gospel of Judas fails as a "Gospel" because it fails to recognize the Atonement of Jesus Christ as the way to salvation. Early Christian scholars rejected it as apostate in AD 150-200, and LD Saint scholars agree (p. 6).
This complete rejection of the Gospel surprised me, given that so many LDS doctrines are similar to Gnostic ones. In one of the articles, Gaye Strathearn actually mentions this:
For LD Saints, a study of Gnosticism can be a valuable pursuit. For example, it is an important resource for understanding the complexity of the growth and development of the early Christian Church. In addition, it is possible that a text from the Nag Hammadi Library, the Gospel of Thomas, could contain some authentic sayings of Jesus that are not recorded in the canonical Gospels, although it would be difficult to identify them with any sense of certainty. For LD Saints in particular, a study of Gnostic groups shows that they accepted some teachings that have certain parallels with LDS doctrines: a belief that we have a premortal existence as spirits, that a number of levels of salvation are possible, that the restoration of lost knowledge is essential for salvation, and that a type of marriage, associated with the Holy of Holies in the temple, is required to return to the highest level of salvation. These types of teachings are not prominent in modern traditional Christian theology. Thus the Gnostic texts indicate that, in antiquity, these were important issues for some Christians. LD Saints, however, must be cautious. They must guard against any endeavor to study Gnostic writings with the purpose of identifying proof-texts for their own doctrine" (pp. 32-33).
So there is a certain uneasiness about the Gospel of Judas found throughout these six articles, and an attempt by the LDS scholars to emphasize that this newly discovered text is not "orthodox" for their tradition, to send out cautions to their readers not to identify with it, and to distance themselves from it.

The Book of Mormon predicts additional scripture coming forth and presumably being added to the canon. A vast number of extra-biblical texts ( here or here for example) have been uncovered since the publication of the Book of Mormon, yet there is no indication that leaders of the church have perused the idea of their canonization, nor of Mormon scholars recommending texts for canonization. Joseph Smith vigorously explored a number of ancient texts including Egyptian papyri (some of his translation was canonized, some was not), the Kinderhook Plates a parchment (canonized), & parts of the bible (some parts canonized). But it appears that persuit of extra-biblical additions is suspended for the time being.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Iowa Judge waives waiting period; gay couples to wed today

Judge waives waiting period for gay Iowa couple

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A same-sex Iowa couple will be allowed to wed as soon as Monday after a judge allowed them to bypass the state's three-day waiting period.

Same-sex couples in Iowa began applying for marriage license Monday after a state Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay unions took effect.

The high court issued an order early in the day confirming that the appeals process in the case has officially concluded.

The Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous and emphatic decision on April 3 made Iowa the third state to allow same-sex marriage, joining Massachusetts and Connecticut. Vermont has passed a law that will take effect in September.

Read the entire article here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Working Papers in Mormon Studies

ByCommonConsent reports: (hat tip Mormon Conferences)


We are pleased to announce the first meeting of the Working Papers in Mormon Studies.
Wednesday, April 29, 8pm, at the University of Utah. We'll be discussing a fascinating treatment of textual and oral culture in the earliest revelations to Joseph Smith. Location is below the fold.

Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building
University of Utah
215 South Central Campus Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
Room 351

Visitor parking is available immediately northwest of the building.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Deseret Book pulls "Twilight" from it's shelves

Deseret Book has pulled all of Mormon Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series it's  shelves.  The very popular series targeted the teen-age girl audience.  A hallmark of the book is the emphasis of celibacy outside of marriage.

Deseret book said:

"Our top priority is to meet the needs of our customers, who increasingly represent a variety of viewpoints. Like any retailer, our purpose is to offer products that are embraced and expected by our customers. When we find products that are met with mixed review, we typically move them to special order status."

Deseret Book has a history of restricting controversial books, including pulling books from it's shelves, or difficulties with some authors who publish through Deseret Book (for example the recent biography of Spencer W. Kimball).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mormon Stories available again

John Dehlin put together an large and excellent set of materials regarding issues surrounding the church call Mormon Stories.  It's purpose was to provide open & honest communications about the church with the assumption that full understanding of issues was the best way to help  troubled members of the church.

After some concerns, John took down Mormon Stories, but has brought it back for archival purposes. 
Here is the content of Mormon Stories

Podcasts: (Note — Click here for instructions on how to easily download the podcasts).

My Interviews for Sunstone Magazine

Mormon Matters Panel Discussions

Foundational Presentations For Me

Select Writings

YouTube Videos

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Responses to the National Organization for Marriage commercial

In the continuing battle over gay marriage, a recent commercial put out by The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has come under criticism.  A number of parodies & responses have been filmed.  Some make reference to the Mormon church, which some believe was behind the organization of NOM, or to Mormon polygamous marriage.

CESNUR Conference comes to Salt Lake

For a great opportunity to attend a world class conference on new religious movements, consider the CESNUR conference this June in Salt Lake.

The 2009 International Conference Mainstreaming and Marginalization of Religious Movements

An International Conference organized by CESNUR and The J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah in association with ISAR, The Office of Mayor - Salt Lake City Corporation, and The Suitter Axland Foundation.

Salt Lake City, Utah, 10-14 June 2009

Between Mainstreaming and Marginalization: Mainstreaming and Marginalization of Religious Movements

Conference Details can be found here. Topics include:

  • Mainstreaming of Esotericism as the Wests Third Religion
  • Marginalizing Religion Through the Courts of Law: A Strange Case in Kazakhstan
  • Unity and Contention Over Zion: Latter Day Saints and the Independence, Missouri Temple Lot
  • That Sacred Spot: The Independence, Missouri Temple Lot and Its Meaning to Latter Day Saints
  • The Independence, Missouri Temple Lot: A Photographic History
  • The Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and the Quest to Build a Temple in
  • Zion
  • After the Avatars Mahasamadhi: The Passing of Adi Da Samraj and the Challenges of Securing His Legacy and Growing a New Spiritual Tradition
  • Shocking News, Wake-Up Calls and Spiritual Renewal
  • Adidam, Controversy, and Ex-Members
  • Transcendental Realism and Radical Narrative in Adi Da Samrajs The Orpheum
  • The Rebirth of Sacred Art: Reflections on the Aperspectival Geometric Art of Adi Da Samraj
  • Mainstreaming and Marginalization Through Literature
  • Oriana Fallaci, Mormonism and Anti-Mormonism
  • New/Old Mormon Family Values: Between Big Love and Twilight
  • Recent Issues: Utah, Arizona and Texas Polygamy and the Law
  • George Leslie Mackays Mission to Formosa: Indigenized Gospel, Cult of Native/Christian Womanhood, Ancestor Worship, and the Contextualizing of Presbyterianism in Taiwan
  • Mackay, Miscegenation, and Mormonism: Having the Courage or Lack Thereof to Cross the Color Line for Christ
  • Portrait of Heathen/Bible Womanhood: Minnie Mackay, Aboriginal Converts to Christianity, and Victorian Female Association
  • The Early Christian Encounter with Taiwanese Religious Culture
  • The Critical Line throughout the Scriptures: Life Annotated in Witness
  • Lees Recovery Version of the Bible
  • Religion, Sexuality and Marginalization
  • Islam and Incest: The Case of Incest in Turkish Society
  • Italian Gay and Lesbian Believers: Fissiparous Belonging or Clash of Values?
  • Marginalizing Heterosexual Monogamous Marriage The Cultural and Legal Assault on the Christian Ideal
  • Defending Mormonism
  • Some Specific Mormon Issues
  • Modernity, Postmodernity and Mormonism
  • Mormon Religiousness and the Enduring Significance of Gathered
  • Communities
  • Mitt Romneys Presidential Campaign: Confronting the Mormon Question
  • The Mormon Quest for the Presidency: Past Candidates and Future Perspectives
  • Built from Books: Literary Relationships to Contemporary Paganism
  • Human Well-Being and Misfortune in Contemporary Druidry
  • The Concept of Traditional Religion in Latvia Ideology, Politics and
  • Law
  • Utah, Arizona and Texas Polygamy: Historical Issues
  • Globalization, Mainstreaming and Marginalization
  • Religious Bricolage in Iran: A Case Study of Iran Reiki Class
  • Buddhism in Salt Lake City: A Doorway to the first American Buddhist Census
  • Ethics of Inter-Religious Dialogue
  • Religion Among Chinese Immigrants to Torino, Italy
  • Mainstreaming and Marginalization of Movements in/from the Middle East
  • The Nur Movement in Turkey and Internationally
  • Fethullah Gulen Movements Call for Moral Guidance in Contemporary Society
  • Accusations Against Baha'is Within the Context of Islamic Heresiography
  • Mainstreaming and/or Marginalization in Mormon History
  • Apples and Oranges: What Was Different About Mormon Violence in American West?
  • Bountiful and Controversial: The Saga of Canadian Polygamy
  • Building an Organization: Mormon Fundamentalists and the Creation of New Sects
  • State-Sanctioned Raids and Issues of Religious Freedom: The 1984 Island Pond Raid and the 2008 FLDS Raid
  • 14,30-17 / Field Trip: Salt Lakes Diverse Religious Heritage
  • New Religious Movements Between Mainstreaming and Marginalization I
  • True Children of True Parents: The Triumphs and Travails of the Children of Sun Myung Moon
  • The Scientology Critic Group Anonymous: A Research Paper
  • Impact of Ultra-Spiritual Theologies on Society: Both Threats and Benefits
  • The Common Good
  • Mainstreaming and Marginalization of Esotericism and Magic
  • Popular Metaphysics in the Shaping of American Identity: The (Process)
  • New Thought Movement as a Mainstream or Marginalized Phenomenon?
  • To Die as a Rosy Cross: A Panacea?
  • Aliens and Atheism: The 'Central Raelian' Argument for the Non-existence of God
  • New Religious Movements Between Mainstreaming and Marginalization II
  • Between the Will of God and That of Man: Exploring the Army of Marys
  • Transition from a Catholic Pious Organization to a New Religious Movement
  • From 'Cults' to Cultures: Bridges as a Case Study in a New Evangelical
  • Paradigm on New Religions
  • The Falun Gong Self-Immolation Video: Framing, De-Framing
  • Between Rhetoric and Sensationalism: Coverage of Falun Gong in Western Media
  • Issues of Religious Freedom Throughout the World
  • Fifteen Years and More: Religious Freedom Before the European Court of Human Rights
  • Legal Possibilities in Case of Violation of Personal Rights
  • Aumism and the European Court of Human Rights: A Case Study of Avoidance

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hawaii's Future Today

Interesting details regarding LDS church involvement in battling same-same marriage in Hawaii in the 90s came to light when Fred Karger filed a complaint that the church had not been complete in reporting it's financial involvement in California's battle over proposition 8.

The following documents were included as supporting evidence detailing the setup of a Hawaii's Future Today. 

Following is an excerpt of Karger's "Re: Fair Political Practices Commission Complaint" describing the creation of Hawaii's Future Today

In 1995, at the request of then Mormon Church President Gordon Hinckley, Church leadership identified the type of committee they wanted to create to stop same-sex marriage in Hawaii , and they set it up.
The attached documents tell the story of how the Mormon Church established their front group in Hawaii to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in that state after the Hawaii Supreme Court heard the case.  The Mormon Church established its front group called Hawaii s Future Today (HFT) in the fall of 1995, 3 years before the election to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Hawaii .
They hired lobbyists, consultants, campaign managers, attorneys and had one very high ranking Mormon on the Board, Jack Hoag, the recently retired Chairman of the Church-owned First Hawaiian Bank.  They were able to get money into Hawaii s Future Today (HFT) that would go unreported (documents attached to this complaint and on our web site: ).  These actions hid their direct involvement while creating a coalition to lead the effort. 
They raised nearly all of the money from Utah and other mainland Mormons.    Eventually the Mormon Church gave $400,000 directly to the campaign committee close to the election, but received much criticism for that large contribution.  They switched strategies after that campaign and in subsequent elections, did not contribute directly to campaigns opposing same-sex marriage. Instead, they sought contributions from their members directly as they did last year in California .
The attached documents reveal exactly how the church created Hawaii 's Future Today.  They recruited the Chair, Debi Hartmann (see recent Bay Area Reporter story by Dan Aiello), and Co-chairs, Jack Hoag and Father Marc Alexander and other Board members, got the funds to HFT, and ran and funded it from Salt Lake using many top Church officials.  Its stated mission was to fight casino gambling, prostitution, and same-sex marriage, but defeating same-sex marriage was its sole objective. 

Out-of-wedlock births hit record high

Selections from Out-of-wedlock births hit record high by Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Nearly 40 percent of babies born in the United States in 2007 were delivered by unwed mothers, according to data released last month by the National Center for Health Statistics. The 1.7 million out-of-wedlock births, of 4.3 million total births, marked a more than 25 percent jump from five years before.

Statistics such as these, which include for the second year in a row a bump in teen pregnancies, after a 14-year decline [provide] increased likelihood of poverty and greater high school dropout rates.

Other data released last month showed the percentage of unwed mothers differs from race to race. While 28 percent of white women gave birth out of wedlock in 2007, nearly 72 percent of black women and more than 51 percent of Latinas did.

According to a 2008 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 9.8 million single mothers versus 1.8 million single fathers.

When California Cryobank, which claims to be the world's largest sperm bank, opened its doors in the late 1970s, 99 percent of its business catered to couples grappling with male infertility. Now, that market in the sperm donor world accounts for less than 14 percent.

About 50,000 women delivering babies each year are single moms by choice, said Mikki Morrissette, author of "Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman's Guide," and founder of the online resource Choice Moms.

Read the entire article here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

NY governor introduces gay marriage bill

Excerpts of NY state governor introduces gay marriage bill by Edith Honan

New York Gov. David Paterson on Thursday introduced a bill to allow gay marriage in the state, likening the effort to civil rights struggles and brushing aside objections from religious leaders.

If the bill becomes law, New York will follow Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa in legalizing gay marriage.

"Anyone that has ever experienced degradation or intolerance would understand the solemn duty and how important it actually is," Paterson, the state's first black governor, told a news conference in Manhattan.

Paterson was accompanied by city and state leaders, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The bill is again expected to be passed in the Assembly. In the Senate Democrats hold a majority for the first time in more than 40 years, but it is slim -- 32 to 30 -- and at least one Democrat has said he opposes the measure.

Lawmakers in New Hampshire and Maine, which offer same-sex couples some form of legal recognition, also are weighing bills to allow gay marriage.

Paterson, who said he was christened a Catholic, said gay marriage is the "right way" from a spiritual standpoint.

Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Special task force to address Utah's high prescription drug abuse problem

Today, professions met to discuss a first of it's kind task force being set up in Utah to address the issue of Utah's high perscription drug abuse problem.  More here.  A 2007 federal study of painkiller use found Utah leads the nation in nonmedical use of prescription with 6.5 percent of the population using drugs without a doctor's order.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Conference clip #1 on Viral Video charts

A short Easter video from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints quickly spread over the weekend to become the top "viral" video on the Internet, according to the Viral Video Chart.

The four-and-a- half-minute video was extracted from an address delivered by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, at the faith's general conference on April 4–5, in which he spoke of the final moments in the life of Jesus Christ and talked directly to those who feel alone or abandoned.

Read the entire article here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

BYU law prof is the first high-profile Mormon to be chosen for the Obama administration.

President Barack Obama on Friday picked Brigham Young University law professor Larry EchoHawk to lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs, making him the first high-profile Mormon and first Utahn to join the administration's senior ranks.

EchoHawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, has lived and worked throughout the West. He made history in 1990 as the first American Indian elected to statewide office when he won Idaho's attorney general race. After a failed bid for Gem State governor, EchoHawk, a Democrat, relocated to Utah, where he started teaching courses on criminal law and federal Indian law at BYU.

Read the rest of the article here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quest for the Historical Jesus

The Historical Jesus

By Rex Weyler
Author, blogger

I set out five years ago to write "The Jesus Sayings" (Anansi, 2008) with a simple goal. I wanted to know: Did a real Jesus exist in history? And if so, what did he actually say and do? Scholars have labored over these questions for centuries, and offer no simple answers, but evidence exists to guide such a quest.

Some historians believe the Jesus story is a composite of myths, and indeed later writers attached certain legends to his name. Nevertheless, some 200 ancient sources - sayings collections, gospels, letters, and fragments - attest to Jesus traditions during the two centuries after his death. Most scholars believe the diversity of accounts suggest a real Jesus - Aramaic Yeshua - who strode barefoot and poor from the Galilean hills into history.

The earliest physical evidence of a Jesus story, called "P52," a little scrap of papyrus the size of a cash register receipt, appears a century after his life, in about 125 A.D. The fragment contains 110 Greek letters comprising twelve complete words, with Jesus explaining that he came into the world, "to witness the truth."

The earliest complete gospel manuscripts appear in the fourth century, so we may fairly wonder how well Jesus' message survived centuries of oral transmission, and lost written accounts. Text scholars have pealed back layers of language, compared texts, and concluded that source documents appeared before any narrative gospels were written. These include the gospel of Thomas and other source material used by Mark, Matthew, and Luke.

These earliest accounts describe a divine kingdom "like a mustard seed," a small thing that grows as a wild plant. We hear Jesus tell the poor to stop worrying about their comforts, to look inside, find the light within, and to share that light with the world. In this earliest layer, Jesus tells followers that spiritual grace does not come from ritual or belief, but from acts of compassion.

Archeologists have uncovered the gospels of Mary, Philip, and other early followers that shine fresh light on the Jesus story. Reading this material transformed my understanding of the simple and humble teacher from Galilee. For example, we learn from these ancient sources:

1. The earliest Jesus followers were not Christians at all, but peasant Jews (Ebionites, Nazoreans, and the Thomas sect), who did not necessarily think of Jesus as a messiah, but as a human teacher.

2. Jesus (Yeshua) was a peasant Jew from, "the People of the Land," an inter-married culture that harboured pagan beliefs about Asherah, the queen of heaven, Tammuz the suffering servant, and other heroes and deities. The northern name, Israelites (Isra el im), distinct from southern Judeans, meant "Defenders of El," the consort of Asherah in Canaan.

3. "Nazorean" and "Magdalene" may be honorific titles that had nothing to do with towns. A Nazorean is "separated" (nazar) from common society by righteousness. The Magdalene is the "tower," (magdal) of the flock, the people's queen. We possess no confirming evidence of a first century Nazareth or Magdala. Fourth century writers under Emperor Constantine assigned towns to these popular titles.

When we peal back the layers of legend we may arrive at something close to a real, historical Jesus. We find a humble peasant teacher, who comforted the poor with a divine kingdom in the here and now, "spread out on the Earth." We discover that kingdom, he said, by knowing ourselves and by giving to others. As simple as this message appears, even today, it could enlighten the world.

Rex Weyler is the author of "The Jesus Sayings: The quest for his authentic message" (Anansi Press, 2008); "Greenpeace: The Inside Story" (Raincoast, 2004); and "Blood of the Land, a history of the American Indian Movement."

By David Waters  |  April 10, 2009; 2:07 AM ET

Saturday, April 11, 2009

John Whitmer Books

Three new publications from John Whitmer Books, JWHA, and the Community of Christ Seminary Press have just been released: Visit John Whitmer Books for more information

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Washington DC Council votes to accept other states' gay marriages

D.C. Council Votes to Recognize Other States' Gay Marriages

By Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig, Washington Post Staff Writers

The D.C. Council voted today to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, on the same day that Vermont became the fourth state to legalize same-sex unions.

Domestic partnerships are already legal in the nation's capital. But today's vote, billed as an important milestone in gay rights, explicitly recognizes relocated gay married couples as married.

The initial vote was 12-0. The unanimous vote sets the stage for future debate on legalizing same-sex marriage in the District and a clash with Congress, which approves the city's laws under Home Rule. The council is expected to take a final vote on the legislation next month.

Read the rest of the article here.
More can be read here:

Vermont legalizes same-sex marriage -- legislature overrides governor's veto

Vermont has become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage — and the first to do so with a legislature's vote.

The Legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.

The vote came nine years after Vermont adopted its first-in-the-nation civil unions law.

It's now the fourth state to permit same-sex marriage. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa are the others. Their approval of gay marriage came from the courts.

See also:

Quorum of the Twelve APOSTATES sustained at General Conference

A spell checker mishap labeled a caption of a picture of the LDS
Church's 2nd highest quorum as the Twelve "Apostates" rather than
"Apostles" at BYU's Daily Universe student news paper. Nearly 19,000
papers were recalled and re-issued because of the mistake.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies

The Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies is designed to promote the academic study of religion at the graduate and undergraduate levels. The journal is affiliated with the Religious Studies Program at Utah State University. Our academic review committee includes professionals from universities throughout the Intermountain West specializing in the religions of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Mormonism, as well as specialists in the fields of Psychology, Anthropology, and Sociology of Religion.

The first issue of the Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies is slated for electronic publication in the summer of 2009. The second issue will be published the following Winter.

The journal is unique in three ways:

1. The IMW Journal is entirely student run with an academic review board consisting exclusively of scholars in the field. The staff consists of USU students. Though student editors participate in screening submissions, membership in the academic review board is limited to professional scholars.

2. The IMW Journal seeks submissions from students throughout the Intermountain West. Whereas the vast majority of undergraduate or graduate journals limit submissions to their respective universities, the IMW Journal actively promotes the study of religion throughout the region. The journal is enhanced through diversity. The university and program is promoted via the journal's outreach efforts.

3. The IMW Journal takes full advantage of the benefits of electronic publishing. Publications enhance any young scholar's curriculum vita. Students are limited to the number of semesters they are eligible and able to submit their research to journals in order to meet the deadlines of graduate school applications. The journal publishes materials on an ongoing rather than a periodic basis, eliminating any backlog between acceptance and publication. It is conceivable that an article could be submitted and published electronically within one semester.

Another advantage the IMW Journal has in producing a quality product is the active participation of Dr. Charles Prebish, the Chair of Religious Studies at Utah State University. Dr. Prebish is the founding editor-emeritus for the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, the first online peer-reviewed journal in Religious Studies. Dr. Prebish has agreed to advise the Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies, instructing and counseling the editors in a successful student initiative.

More can be read about the journal here.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Oldest Stone Blades Uncovered

From ScienceNOW for April 2, 2009

Now it appears that more than 500,000 years ago, human ancestors living in the Baringo Basin of Kenya collected lava stone cobbles from a riverbed and hammered them in just the right way to produce stone blades. Paleoanthropologists Cara Roure Johnson and Sally McBrearty of the University of Connecticut, Storrs, recently discovered the blades at five sites in the region, including two that date to between 509,000 and 543,000 years ago. "This is the oldest known occurrence of blades," Johnson reported Wednesday here at the annual meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Iowa Court unanimously voids same-sex marriage ban

Excerpts of Iowa Court Voids Gay Marriage Ban  by Monica Dave and Liz Robbins 

Iowa became the first state in the Midwest to approve same-sex marriage on Friday, after the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously decided that a 1998 law limiting marriage to a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

The decision was the culmination of a four-year legal battle that began with a suit filed on behalf of six same-sex couples in the lower courts.

The Supreme Court said same-sex marriages could begin in Iowa in as soon as 21 days, making Iowa only the third state in the nation, along with Massachusetts and Connecticut, to legalize gay marriage.

"We have a constitutional duty to ensure equal protection of the law," the Iowa justices wrote in their opinion. "If gay and lesbian people must submit to different treatment without an exceedingly persuasive justification, they are deprived of the benefits of the principle of equal protection upon which the rule of law is founded."

"The concept of equal protection, is deeply rooted in our national and state history, but that history reveals this concept is often expressed far more easily than it is practiced," the court wrote.

Iowa has enforced its constitution in a series of landmark court decisions, including those that struck down slavery (in 1839) and segregation (cases in 1868 and 1873), and upheld women's rights by becoming the first state in the nation to allow a woman to practice law, in 1869.

Opponents of same-sex marriage criticized the ruling.

State Senator Paul McKinley [stated]: "Though the court has made their decision, I believe every Iowan should have a voice on this matter and that is why the Iowa Legislature should immediately act to pass a Constitutional Amendment that protects traditional marriage, keeps it as a sacred bond only between one man and one woman and gives every Iowan a chance to have their say through a vote of the people."

Advocates of same-sex marriage said they did not believe opponents had any immediate way to overturn the decision. A constitutional amendment would require the state legislature to approve a ban on same-sex marriage in two consecutive sessions after which voters would have a chance to weigh in.

Iowa has no residency requirement for getting a marriage license, which some suggest may mean a flurry of people from other states.

In one part of the decision that focuses on religious opposition to same-sex marriage, the justices seemed to anticipate negative reactions, saying they considered the unspoken reason for the ban on same-sex marriages to be religiously motivated. The justices said marriage was a "civil contract" and should not affect religious doctrine or views.

"The only difference is civil marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects a more complete understanding of equal protection of the law," the justices wrote.

Maura Strassberg, a professor of law at Drake University, after a quick review of the 69-page decision,  said  "What is really stunning is that it's unanimous."

Al Gore meets with LDS leaders

Al Gore met with President Thomas S. Monson and other leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints yesterday (Thursday, April 2nd) and presented a 30 minute presentation about global warming and co2 emmissions.

Other Christian denominations have adopted the global warming crisis as a moral issue.  However LDS church leaders to date have not expressed concerns over the issue nor asked it's membership to get involved.  Three years ago a church spokesman indicated "the church has not taken a position on this issue, and I don't expect any new developments in the near future."   A search of produces one hit on "Global Warming" in the past 15 years ("Take Responsibility ..... global warming didn't make you late for class" -- New Era,  April 2009)

However the church has participated quietly in some green initiatives, including admirable green inititaves in the reconstruction of down town Salt Lake. 

Read more about Gore's visit and