Friday, January 2, 2015
A Different Sort of Blog
Welcome to mormonomics & mormonethics. Don’t let the name fool you. The posts that follow this one will not discuss economics or organizational ethics from the vantage point most Mormons inhabit in twenty-first-century America, which frankly has little in common with the perspectives of, say, Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. Instead, these posts will explore ideas that I believe most Mormons would embrace, if only they were aware of them. In order to create some sort of context for what I intend with this blog, let me review a little personal history.
A long time ago, I was an MBA student at BYU. After graduating, I spent nine years on the Marriott School faculty. During that time, I grew increasingly interested in understanding why people are often damaged by their entanglements in modern organizations. What I discovered is that the values most large organizations adopt and promote are at odds with the values held by most individuals. And what occurs at the organizational level creates inevitable systemic problems that trouble both our national economy and our unique political machinery. While both major political parties are pretty much owned by corporate interests, the Republican Party seems unusually determined to give corporations and those who run them as much power in America as possible. Consequently, it seems odd to me that so many Mormons vote Republican. I’ll address this particular paradox in a variety of ways in future posts.
Anyway, after squeezing nine years out of a one-year contract at the Marriott School, I pursued a variety of career opportunities. I was a literary agent for a year, representing mostly management consultants. This was an enlightening experience, in more ways than one. (There may be a post sometime about this too.) Let me just say here that after ghostwriting a million-selling book for one of our clients, I left to start my own business (my wife claims I was self-unemployed). I produced a wacky day planner with a business partner and did free-lance editing, which included a book by a former vice president of Ford Motor Company and another by the president of Blockbuster Video. I also tried to write the great American novel (which, of course, never quite panned out). I also went back to the Marriott School part time to edit their alumni magazine. All this eventually led to a position as senior editor with the Liahona, the LDS Church’s international magazine. After a few years, an organizational shakeup moved me down the hall to the Ensign. Working at Church magazines gave me a unique view of the Church —from “the belly of the beast,” as it were—where I discovered some surprising things, one of which was that the same organizational values that drive corporate America are alive and well in the Church’s corporate side (and to some degree in its ecclesiastical side too). I will undoubtedly go into more detail in future posts about this observation.
I left Church headquarters in 2006 and since then have been serving as editorial director at BYU Studies, which publishes the oldest Mormon studies journal, started 56 years ago this month by Clinton Larson. So, if you were under the impression that Mormon studies is a recent development somehow tied to the Internet, you couldn’t be more mistaken. As part of my responsibilities, though, I have read a great deal of LDS history. And it has been fascinating to see how drastically Mormons (both institutionally and individually) have changed over the decades. In essence, we have traveled an improbable path that has taken us from being radical, theocratic, anticapitalist polygamists to being conservative, Constitution-loving, died-in-the-wool capitalist monogamists. And this transition creates some inevitable cognitive dissonance for modern-day Mormons, especially as pieces of our history become more widely visible through the Internet.
In addition to editing articles on topics ranging from translation theory and Mormon Cinema to cosmology and game theory (anything with even a tangential LDS connection), I try to keep up on what’s being written in the expanding field of Mormons studies. So I read Dialogue and Sunstone, Journal of Mormon History and Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, as many books by both established and up-and-coming scholars as I can find time for, and I drop by the bloggernacle now and then to see what’s trending there. I also still dabble in economics and organizational ethics and try to write a bit of fiction. And I’d get a whole lot more done if not for a serious sports addiction. Whatever.
My rather unusual career and all the reading I’ve done have given me a very unconventional view of both the world and the Church, at least when stacked up against standard Mormon fare. So this blog is bound to upset the apple cart for some who might stumble upon it. That’s fine. It’s intentional. Most of us need to have our assumptions challenged from time to time. We get too comfortable with our prejudices and don’t consider alternative points of view. Many miles ago on my odd career path, the Business Department had me teaching a class of engineering students who were earning master’s degrees in management. After one of my lectures, the bell rang, and the students dispersed. But one of them stopped at the door, turned, and shouted, “Finally, a nonconformist at BYU!” I’m pretty sure he meant it as a compliment, so I took it that way. Well, with that much warning, let me welcome you again to mormonomics & mormonethics, a most unusual LDS blog. Let the fun begin.