Friday, April 30, 2004



Responding to Nancy Pelosi (specifically, her comment that "I believe that my position on choice is one that is consistent with my Catholic upbringing, which said that every person has a free will and has the responsibility to live their lives in a way that they would have to account for in the end"), James Taranto of makes a rather incisive obervation:
Pelosi's faith is between her and God, but does she really think that the church's moral teachings amount to nothing more than "every person has a free will and has the responsibility to live their lives in a way that they would have to account for in the end"? Even devil worshipers have free will and responsibility and have to account for the way they live. Does that make them Catholics by Pelosi's lights?



Today I came across a very interesting article by Philip Lawler at (emphases mine):
Forty years after John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic elected to the White House, another Democratic senator from Massachusetts finds himself caught up in a controversy over his Catholic faith. But there is a revealing difference between the cases. In 1960, the first JFK sought to neutralize the effects of anti-Catholic prejudice. This year, John F. Kerry seems intent upon exploiting anti-Catholic sentiment to his own political advantage.

Despite repeated admonitions from American bishops (first private, then public), Mr. Kerry insists that he will continue to receive communion when he attends Mass. Thus he puts himself in direct conflict with the Catholic hierarchy, which teaches that the senator's outspoken support for legal abortion renders him unfit to receive the Eucharist. Mr. Kerry may gain a few votes by casting himself as a man of conscience, at odds with bishops whose bungling of a sex-abuse scandal has made them unpopular. But a dispassionate observer--even one who rejects Catholic teachings--should recognize Mr. Kerry's posture for what it is: an assault on the faith he claims to revere.
The Catholic Church has always taught that abortion is a grave matter, punishable by excommunication. Last year, in an instruction on the duties of Catholic political leaders, the Vatican drew the logical inference, saying that Catholic politicians are morally obligated to oppose legal abortion.
In Boston, Mr. Kerry's own spiritual leader, Archbishop Sean O'Malley, has said that the senator--and others who reject church teachings on the dignity of life--should not receive the Eucharist. But he also made it clear that dissident Catholics should not be turned away if they present themselves for communion, as the defiant senator continues to do.
That attitude seems to perplex Vatican officials. At a news conference last week, Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Vatican's top official for liturgical affairs, was pressed by an American reporter for his opinion on the matter. Without mentioning names, Cardinal Arinze set a clear general rule about Catholics who are not in good standing: "If they should not receive, it should not be given."
Mr. Kerry and his supporters would be sure to portray any disciplinary action as an effort to influence the November election. For this reason most bishops, no doubt, would prefer not to address the issue in a campaign year. But the real question is whether a public figure should enjoy all the benefits, spiritual and material, of a faith that he has betrayed.
Lawler is spot-on. Kerry and Pelosi are of course free to adopt whatever stance they like, but then the Catholic Church is likewise entitled to such freedom, including witholding Communion from nominal Catholics who reject the teachings and authority of the Catholic Church.

Thursday, April 29, 2004



Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry are both Catholics who are also pro-abortion despite their Church's opposition to abortion. Yet both of them have made headlines in regards to taking Communion. Here's a story on Pelosi:
Top House Dem Says She'll Take Communion

By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., like John Kerry a Catholic who supports abortion rights, said Thursday she will continue to ask for Holy Communion in spite of Vatican opposition to pro-choice Catholics doing so.

"I fully intend to receive Communion, one way or another. That's very important to me," Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference.
The head of a task force of U.S. bishops said Tuesday that Catholic politicians who advocate policies contrary to church teaching on abortion and other issues may risk sanctions that fall short of denial of Communion.
Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat who was raised in a devout Italian Catholic home, told reporters, "I believe that my position on choice is one that is consistent with my Catholic upbringing, which said that every person has a free will and has the responsibility to live their lives in a way that they would have to account for in the end."
And here's a story on Kerry (requires login):
Kerry Ignores Reproaches of Some Bishops

BOSTON, April 11 — Rejecting the admonitions of several national Roman Catholic leaders, Senator John Kerry received communion at Easter services today at the Paulist Center here, a kind of New Age church that describes itself as "a worship community of Christians in the Roman Catholic tradition" and that attracts people drawn to its dedication to "family religious education and social justice."...
As I understand the Catholic Code of Canon Law (as explained by an online friend, A Random Catholic), Kerry and Pelosi have not only lost access to Communion, but their membership in the Catholic Church is on the line:
--"A person who procures a successful abortion incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication." Canon 1398, 1983 Code of Canon Law

--"Those who are excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion." Canon 915, 1983 Code of Canon Law

--"Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life." Canon 2272, 1983 Code of Canon Law
Abortion is a complex, emotional and divisive issue. I think President Bush had it right when he said "[G]ood people disagree on [abortion], but surely we can agree on ways to value life by promoting adoption and parental notification." Despite my personal abhorrence for elective abortions (that is, those performed for convenience sake, and not for overriding concerns such as the life of the mother and pregnancies from rape or incest), I'm persuaded that there are many folks who do not find abortion morally objectionable - at least not to the degree I do - but who are otherwise decent, reasonable people.

That said, a day may come when society at large will look back on our day and be repulsed by our views on abortion (not unlike the way we now look at previous generations and shake our heads at the prevalence of racism). Time will tell.

Update: I should point out that Mormon politicians (like Mitt Romney, the govenor of Massachusetts) also wrestle with this issue.



I can't help but be surprised at how popular the Osmonds are overseas. I knew they were still popular in Asia, but Scotland?
The son of seventies’ pop heart-throb Donny Osmond has left Rutherglen after being mobbed by the media.

Donny’s son, Brandon, had been volunteering in the British Heart Foundation’s Main Street store.

But news of the Mormon missionary’s arrival in the Royal Burgh hit the headlines across Scotland, forcing the 19-year-old to flee the town.



I'm sure all the readers of this blog (both of you) are worried about my sparse posting of late. No worries. Last week I was graduating and this week my computer is on the blink (I'm posting this from a friend's computer). I hope to get to the point of posting every day. It's not like there's a dearth of things to talk about . . .

Monday, April 26, 2004



Yet again we have a neighborhood opposing the construction of an LDS meetinghouse (in Park City, Utah):
Some Snyderville Basin residents are resisting efforts by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a 16,500-square-foot meetinghouse near their homes, citing increased traffic and degradation of their mountain views.
The debate has turned nasty lately. A church-sponsored neighborhood informational meeting left both sides bitter.
Trailside resident Tim Drain fears his three children, who ride bicycles and skateboards in the neighborhood, will be in danger from increased traffic. "With this proposal, I'd have five days a week, 52 weeks a year of (heavy traffic) use in my neighborhood," he said.
There are legitimate planning issues, Greenhalgh [the head of the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission] said. But he also sees a not-in-my-backyard attitude.

"People are enjoying the quietness and beauty of the mountains. Having an edifice erected in the neighborhood can be offensive to them, Greenhalgh said. "The definition of an environmentalist is the last person to move into the neighborhood."
So Mormons create "heavy traffic" to their buildings five days per week, every week of the year? Gimme a break. Mr. Drain's complaint is absurdly overwrought.

I would honestly like to know if other religions face the same consistent opposition to building houses of worship as do the Mormons.



USA Today is carrying a very nice article and picture about the new LDS Manhattan Temple.

Update: Two interior pictures of the Manhattan Temple are here.

Sunday, April 25, 2004



I graduated from BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School on Friday (April 23). Law school was a great experience and I am looking forward to taking the Utah Bar Exam in July.

The picture below is for the Commencement Exercises for all of BYU which took place on Thursday, April 22. The law school graduates are the ones closest to the camera. Only about 35-40 of us showed up (out of 160 or so). I suppose many were too busy to attend, but I'm glad I did.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Napoleon Dynamite


Jared Hess, a former BYU student, has directed a film entitled Napoleon Dynamite (the trailer is available here). It's received rave reviews ever since it made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

Oh, and another good thing about it: It's not about Mormons. I haven't been particularly thrilled with the glut of Mormon-themed movies that have come out during the last few years. It's good to see a Mormon make a movie about something other than his faith.

Don't get me wrong. I think Hollywood has vastly underestimated the market for movies that explore religion in a reverential, rather than hostile and profane, manner. (I think Mel Gibson's The Passion has sparked a trend towards films which reverence religious belief.) However, I think Mormons have a broad spectrum of skills and interests, in addition to faith, which can be expressed on film. I hope Jared Hess leads the way in getting other Mormon moviemakers to broaden their horizons a bit.



A good friend of mine emailed me the URL for Jordan Fowles' blog, a BYU grad who is attending law school at the University of Michigan. Jordan's blog also has a good list of other "Mormon Bloggers," so check it out.

Having the Appearance of Cussing, but Lacking the Power Thereof...


Here's an interesting article on pseudo cussing. BYU is, not surprisingly, mentioned:
With cable television liberally salting shows with the four-letter word that starts with F and government regulators effectively banning the same word from broadcast airwaves, a new middle ground has opened where euphemistic substitutes for the term flourish. In fact, popular culture in general is taking a shine to the cutesy, sound-alike cousins of the expletive, which are popping up on radio and television, in ads and offices, on playgrounds and at home.
Even toddlers are picking up the lingo. "A woman told me her 2-year-old told her to 'Shut the frickin' door,'" said Timothy Jay, author of "Cursing in America."
Euphemisms such as "flipping," he says, are viable alternatives that traditionally protect listeners from the offensive word and protect speakers from breaking a taboo.
Among Mormon students at Brigham Young University campuses these days, "fetch" is one substitute for the curse word, but not as popular as "flippin', freakin' and freak," says Kay Ushijima, a BYU student preparing a senior thesis on the topic.
Mormons are supposed to avoid even "the very appearance of evil." So what's the alternative? Aren't there some non-profane, non-vulgar, non-obscene exclamations out there? What about quoting Robin's expletives from the old Batman TV series ("Holy diabolical plot, Batman!")?

I served as an LDS missionary in the Taiwan Taipei Mission, where a favorite exclamation was the Chinese phrase "Zao gao!" (literally, "messy cake"). It seemed innocuous enough.

On a final note, the website of the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Lubbock, Texas seems to take the (messy) cake when it comes to avoiding cussing. They even find "Holy cow!" out-of-bounds:
Holiness is an attribute, a perfection of God in which we view God separated from all sin (morally and spiritually). A cow has no soul, it is a-moral and is without a I spirit. These kind of words have a way of making light of God's character. There also is nothing Holy about smoke. It too, is a euphemistic way of using a word with a wrong intent to make it seem acceptable, and with lightness (in vain).
(Cows don't have souls? Ah, never mind, that's a discussion for another day.)



The Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News the Provo Daily Herald and KSL are all reporting the arrest of 57-year old David James Gomez (pictured) based on 125 counts of sexual abuse for allegedly molesting boys while he was a Mormon bishop a decade ago.

This is a breaking story, so additional details will no doubt be forthcoming.

Sunday, April 18, 2004



My family and I were on Temple Square during General Conference (the Saturday afternoon session). On my way to pick up my car I snapped a few pictures of the protestors. Their presence was, shall we say, underwhelming. And the hecklers had them outnumbered, anyway, as you can see here:

Saturday, April 17, 2004



Here's another thought about the baptism for the dead issue. In the news item I mentioned below we find the following (emphasis added):

"We are very hopeful that we will be able to convince the church to stop," Ernest Michel, chairman of the New York-based World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, said Friday. If not, Michel said, his group will consider other options, "possibly legal steps."

What "legal steps" does Mr. Michel have in mind? What cause of action could he cite? How has he (or any other Jew) been damaged?

I suppose they could sue for breach of contract (citing the agreement the Church signed in 1995). I still think it would be difficult to prove damages.

Friday, April 16, 2004



A recent news item I've found interesting is the objection from some quarters to the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead (also called "vicarious baptism" or "proxy baptism"):

Researchers say that Mormons have continued to posthumously baptize Jewish Holocaust victims into their faith despite a promise to discontinue the practice.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long collected names from government documents and other records worldwide for posthumous baptisms. Church members stand in to be baptized in the names of the deceased non-Mormons, a ritual the church says is required for them to reach heaven.
In 1995, the Mormon church acceded to demands by Jewish leaders that the denomination stop posthumously baptizing Jews. But Helen Radkey, a Salt Lake City researcher, said on Friday that the process still hasn't ended.

This rite, apparently wholly unique to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a part of temple worship performed by observant Mormons.

Not everyone is getting worked up about this. Eugene Volokh and Erik Jaffe, both of The Volokh Conspiracy, don't see anything objectionable out it:

Volokh: If you're Mormon, then presumably you'd want your relatives baptized. If you're not Mormon, then presumably you would think that some Mormon in some temple somewhere going through some ritual while mentioning people's names would be spiritually pointless. It would have no effect on the people, on their afterlives (if you think they have afterlives), on God, or on anything else. So what's the problem?
The Mormons aren't forcing anything on any living person. They're not exhuming anyone's body. They aren't insulting anyone, except insofar as they're suggesting that their religion is the right one, and that people ought to want to convert to it -- and if that itself qualifies as an insult, then it seems to me that people are too easily insulted.

Jaffe: I actually find it somewhat endearing that Mormons are concerned enough about my erstwhile soul to try and protect it in a non-intrusive manner after my death. Other religious groups are not so considerate and instead seek to intimidate the @#%$ out of you or otherwise confront and demean you while you are alive in a supposed effort to save your soul. I have my doubts about the true motives of the hell-and-brimstone types, but the Mormons seem perfectly genuine to me. At worst it is no-harm, no-foul; at best they do me a great service.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is similarly unimpressed:

I could not care less if the Mormons baptize me after I'm dead. It won't affect me. I'll always be a Jew – in this life and the next. If this is part of Mormon practice and belief, and they do it in the privacy of their own ritual, and it doesn't affect me in the slightest, why should I care? People's beliefs are their own business. It's how they treat others that is everyone's business. What I care about is how much the Mormons support Israel today, not what they do with Jewish souls in what they regard as the afterlife.

There's a discussion on this subject at Zion's Lighthouse Message Board that has more links.

More: My comments in the ZLMB discussion are under the online handle "Smac."



Well, it looks like I'm not the first Mormon lawyer (or, more specifically, "Mormon soon-to-be lawyer") to get a blog (no surprise there, I guess). Nate Oman, who is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Harvard Law School, has started Tutissma Cassis. His previous blog A Good Oman is still available.

Nate also has The Kolob Network, a website intended as "a place where scholars and students of Mormon studies can exchange current research." Both sites sound interesting.

Inaugural Post


Welcome to the BYU Law Blog! This will (hopefully) blossom into a useful resource for past and present BYU law students, faculty members, friends, etc.

My name is Spencer Macdonald. I am a 2004 graduate of J. Reuben Clark Law School. I work at a small firm in Provo, Utah and work primarily in business litigation. On the home front, I am married and have 3 1/2 children.

This is my first attempt at a blog, so bear with me a bit. The content will be a mix of what I personally find interesting and important: current events, religion, politics, the occasional movie review.

I've been reading blogs for a couple of years now. My favorites include Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit, Eugene Volokh and his co-conspirators at The Volokh Conspiracy, James Lileks' The Bleat, Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, Walter Olson's Overlawyered and Stefan Sharkansky's Oh, That Liberal Media.