Our home, photo by Ashley Thalman

Have you ever tried reading a plain English version of the biblical Book of Ezekiel to a 10-year-old?

I have, and it’s weird. On a whim one Sunday morning, I pulled it out to read to my son, recounting how Ezekiel finds a brick, draws a picture of Jerusalem on it, and lays on his right side for 390 days — only to then lay on his left side for 40 days while intermittently yelling at the brick and eating bread baked on human feces.

What’s the lesson there for a 10-year-old? …

Some of my ancestors: William Ogden, Sr. and family + Charles Layton and family (including Charles’s mother, Bathsheba)

A Meditation on Evolution and Purpose

For most my life, I’ve thought of my heritage as coming from a single tradition: Mormonism. That’s my people, who I am—part of a pioneer story.

It’s like this: Six generations ago, my ancestor William Ogden joined the LDS Church in Lancashire, England and immigrated to Richfield, Utah. On my Layton side, Samuel Leighton joined the LDS Church seven generations ago in Bedfordshire, England and then immigrated to Kaysville, Utah, where his grandson Charles became a polygamist. (I descended from Elizabeth Bowler, his first wife.)

But what about my line before all this?

As far as I can find, my…

Trump and University of Utah students / Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

Two weeks ago, I wrote a letter to LDS Trump supporters that got far more attention than I expected. The response was almost uniformly positive, but I also received several messages I feel are worth addressing.

Why? Because I’m haunted by the words of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer. “Trump will never leave office peacefully,” he says. “The types of scandals that have surfaced in recent months will only continue to emerge with greater and greater levels of treachery and deceit. … I’m certain that Trump knows he will face prison time if he leaves office.”

I believe Cohen is…

Photo credit: George Frey / Getty

Growing up in Utah County during the nineties, I couldn’t hear the end of Bill Clinton’s sex scandal in the White House. It was one of the first stories in my political awareness, and the whole thing affected me so deeply that for years if you’d asked me what I thought of the Democrats, I would have told you they were horrible—almost solely because of what Clinton did. It seemed to me that my entire community agreed, and I understood that a sex scandal like Clinton’s was a deal breaker for Latter-day Saints.

Then along came Trump, a man who…

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Recently, a friend messaged me. “You used to be a moderate free thinker,” he wrote, “but somehow the left got you. Retrace your steps and let me know what it was.” I’ve heard similar things from other people, including a loved one who wrote to me saying, “I see the media is convincing you.”

These sentiments weren’t completely unexpected given the things I’ve written lately, so I thought I would take my friend’s invitation and retrace my steps.

Has the left “got me”?

Here’s my story.

Until my mid to late 20s, I was a constant and ardent conservative. I…

On the left, a depiction of Jesus that Latter-day Saints are familiar with (photo by Kim F, Creative Commons). On the right, a painting of a bearded man from around time and place of Jesus.

When I grew up, like many LDS kids my age, I frequently sang a primary song about Jesus:

I’m trying to be like Jesus;
I’m following in his ways.
I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers,

“Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.”

It’s a beautiful…

Photo by Martha Dominguez de Gouveia on Unsplash

Why my recent (relatively meager) $517 medical bill worries me

At 9pm on New Year’s Eve last year, our 4-year-old fell and split his head open right beneath his eyebrow. The split was just barely big enough to require medical attention, so we drove to an urgent care — the only one still open at 9pm on New Year’s Eve — and got it glued shut by a doctor. It took the doctor less than 10 minutes, and we were on our way.

This week, almost 4 months later, we got a bill for $517. Since the cut was glued shut a few hours shy of 2020 and since we…

Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

In Utah, workers in tech jobs make an average of $102k.
Workers in non-tech jobs make an average of $58k.

A government official shared a version of this stat last week at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit, and it immediately struck me. I thought of those in non-tech jobs who make far more than $58k, from doctors to lawyers to real estate executives.

But I also thought of those who make far less. People on the periphery. The men and women, mostly middle-aged, who helped put on the Tech Summit we just attended. They prepped our food, served us lunch…

Forging onward, ever onward.

Provo is beautiful. Photo by Devin Justesen.

In 2011, I discovered, as faithful LDS scholar Richard Bushman phrases it, that “the dominant narrative of Mormonism isn’t true.” I’d been a Mormon living in Utah Valley my whole life. I’d served a two-year mission, graduated from Brigham Young University, married in the temple, and had my first kid. Then one day, after reading a stack of books and articles about Mormonism, something clicked. Mormonism couldn’t adequately answer—and would never be able to answer—the questions I had about the religion. The dominant narrative wasn’t true.

I no longer knew how to live. I’d relied on my religion for my…

Shapiro hasn’t wrestled with the most difficult questions about his worldview

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

In his book, The Right Side of History, Ben Shapiro argues that Western civilization is the best civilization that has ever existed on Earth.

We’re the best, Shapiro’s reasoning goes, because we’ve embraced Judeo-Christian values from the Bible along with natural law from the ancient Greeks. To the extent we continue to embrace these traditions we’ll continue to enjoy material prosperity, freedom, and happiness. To the extent we reject these traditions, we’re toast.

Since the undercurrent here is that Western civilization is better than Eastern civilization, you’d think that somewhere along the way Shapiro would define what he means by…

Jon Ogden

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