To Hell in a Handbasket – Conflating Prosperity and Peace with Righteousness


Some years ago a psychologist with whom I was acquainted described a study that was done at Brigham Young University in which Mormon college students were purportedly shown pictures of people or families and asked to rate which were more righteous. The students apparently overwhelmingly identified those people who looked wealthy as righteous and those who looked poor as less righteous.

Keep in mind, I heard this only by word-of-mouth, so appropriate provisos regarding folklore and memory &c. apply. And even if the study as described to me is accurate, I do wonder if there might have been a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy problem with the study itself: if you ask people to judge others based purely upon their appearance in a picture it isn’t entirely surprising that they will be judged by superficial, visual differences, because that is essentially what you have asked for. It would have been interesting, but hardly less problematic I think, had the students judged all of the wealthy looking people as less righteous and all of the poor looking people as righteous.

Much has been written regarding what some have dubbed the “Prosperity Gospel” or the idea that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and that poverty is a sign of sinfulness or sloth. It is an idea that has periodically been popular in many Christian denominations and has sometimes influenced Mormon culture too. Continue reading

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Official LDS Magazine Provides a Detailed Account of the Translation of the Book of Mormon


Image credit: From Darkness unto Light Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon by Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat

In recent decades, some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have developed an oversimplified understanding of the process by which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. Some have placed undue emphasis on artistic renditions of Joseph Smith translating from the golden plates that have been included in official church lesson materials.

When they discover that the process wasn’t as they had thought; that Joseph Smith translated large portions of the Book of Mormon through a seer stone without looking directly at the plates, often with the seer stone placed into a hat for convenience to block out the light, some people have struggled with sudden doubt about the church. Continue reading

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Iranian Blogger Warns of Internet Centralization after 6 Years in Prison

In 2008, Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan was imprisoned by the Iranian government. He had been sentenced to 20 years, but he was unexpectedly released after 6 years.

Having been isolated from the Internet for so long, he is dismayed by the changes he sees in how the Internet is used and how information is organized and consumed.

Blogging allowed for complex, decentralized, distributed networks of information. But social networked streams are centralized and hierarchical.

He writes:
The prominence of the Stream today doesn’t just make vast chunks of the Internet biased against quality — it also means a deep betrayal to the diversity that the world wide web had originally envisioned.

The Stream, mobile applications, and moving images: They all show a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet. We seem to have gone from a non-linear mode of communication — nodes and networks and links — toward a linear one, with centralization and hierarchies.

The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.

Read Hossein Derakhshan’s full essay here:

Despite many technological problems, one reason why email continues to be used instead of many of the alternatives that have been proposed is that it is truly decentralized. Many alternatives offer superior features for communication, but they invariably run on centralized services instead of being distributed and decentralized.

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Conway’s Law + Wiio’s Laws = Software!

Conway’s Law:

Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.


I think there is a lot of merit in the idea that a designed system, like a software application, will naturally reflect the communication patterns within the organization that created it. And a software system that has been under development for years becomes a historical record of the communication patterns and structural interactions (good or bad) of the organization through time.

Combining Conway’s Law with Wiio’s Laws of Communication “human communication usually fails except by accident” leads to some interesting questions about system development.


Here is the original 1968 paper by Melvin Conway from which the thesis was taken:

It’s long but very interesting.

And here is the Wikipedia article citing additional research on the topic:

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LDS Apostle D. Todd Christofferson Did NOT Say that it is Okay for LDS Members to Support Same-Sex Marriage


Even though the partial transcript I made of an interview with LDS Apostle D. Todd Christofferson is a few months old, in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, the post has received a considerable number of views during the last three days. Most of these visits are coming from Facebook conversations to which I do not have access, but I imagine that the transcript is being used in debates by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reacting to the Supreme Court’s action.

I think it is clear from the parts that I have transcribed that Elder Christofferson did NOT say that there is nothing wrong with members of the church supporting same-sex marriage. He said that expressing personal support for same-sex marriage in social media would not be cause for discipline (as long as it wasn’t part of an organized effort to undermine the church). Continue reading

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