"I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained. " - Walt Disney
Question #83521 posted on 09/13/2015 9:40 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I want to do my part to promote religious freedom. I'm a poor college student and cannot donate much time or money, but what can I do to help?



Dear Dallin,

Despite how long it's taken me to answer, I'm really glad you asked this question. 

For those who read the question and thought, "Oh, that's not really an issue I need to worry about," STOP THINKING THAT WAY RIGHT NOW and keep reading. I can't promise my writing will be amazing (though here's to hoping, but this is an incredibly important issues that affects all of us,&nbspregardless of religious affiliation. I promise to make this answer thorough yet not boring if you promise to keep reading.  (To help with it not being boring, turn on these songs while you read.)

With that all said, I'm excited to answer your question, but first I'd like to give it a little more context. 

Why is Religious Freedom Important?

Before this question, I hadn't thought too much about religious freedom. I knew that my dad often worked with it, so I assumed that only well-established professionals and government workers could do anything about it. 

This is so not true. 

Alexander Dushku explained it well when he wrote, 

"It is high time that religious liberty ceased to be primarily a legal issue, one to be debated exclusively by lawyers, law professors, and judges. Religious liberty is as much about our culture and how we live together as free and equal citizens as it is about legal theories and lawsuits. And how we live together is not, ultimately, for lawyers, law professors, and judges to decide. That is something that all of us are going to have to figure out." (Same-Sex Marriage and Now What?, emphasis added)

Why is it about our culture? Put simply, "[r]eligious freedom is the architecture that gives diverse beliefs space to coexist—the essence of democracy. Without religious freedom, all rights suffer. It applies to religious and nonreligious views." So we're not singling out any specific sect or group here. True religious freedom is not exclusive; if one seeks to claim it personally, one has to afford it to others as well.  Therefore, this is an issue that affects us all. 

The writers below touch some reasons in greater detail, so I'll just end this section with these two quotes:

“Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, Chapter 22)

“We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul. (Doctrine and Covenants 134:4)  

(To see what the bretheren have to say on the matter, see any of the following: Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom Loving Others and Living with DifferencesBe Strong and of a Good CourageLet Your Faith ShowThe Cost—and Blessings—of DiscipleshipNo Other GodsStand Strong in Holy PlacesLamentations of Jeremiah: Beware of BondageLet There Be Light)

What happens without religious freedom? 

"Okay, but is it really that big a deal?" Yeah, it really is. Here are some questions to consider if religious freedom erodes:

For Individuals

FREE EXPRESSION: Will religious viewpoints be suppressed in the public square and other places where people live out their lives?

PARENTS TEACHING CHILDREN: Will parents of school children be able to ensure that their religious values aren’t undermined through classroom instruction or intimidation?

THE WORKPLACE: Will employees be able to maintain their religious identity in the workplace and be reasonably accommodated when work and religious duties conflict?

PROFESSIONAL CREDENTIALS: Will professionals lose or be denied licensing for expressing religious views or declining to provide services that are available elsewhere but that are at odds with their beliefs?

SMALL BUSINESSES: Will family and religiously oriented businesses be able to maintain their values in the face of anti-discrimination laws?

COLLEGE CAMPUSES: Will campus student groups be able to select their own leaders or express a religious message?

FREEDOM FROM RETALIATION: Will those who voice beliefs be retaliated against?

For Churches

RELIGIOUS EMPLOYMENT: Will churches continue to have the right to employ people that affirm and live the church’s beliefs? Will they be forced to provide employment benefits that contradict their beliefs?

PRIVATE PROPERTY: Will churches be able to build and maintain houses of worship and other facilities? Will they be able to preserve their religiously important properties for activities that are consistent with their religious beliefs?

TAX EXEMPT STATUS: Will churches and schools that affirm the traditional definition of marriage lose their tax-exempt status? Will
donors’ contributions be tax deductible?

ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT RESOURCES: Will religious organizations be able to participate on equal terms with other non-profit organizations in government programs and the use of government facilities and properties?

RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS: Will religious schools be able to maintain their religious values and standards while also retaining their accreditation and the ability to participate in federal educational and research programs?

(I won't answer these now because I want to get on to your question, but I think they're important questions to ponder in order to understand the importance of religious liberty as it stands today.)

Taking Action 

Defense through Legal Actions

Here's an incredible example of religious freedom being defended by an average citizen, then supported by our legal system. 
To briefly summarize, an inexperienced lawyer of small practice helped his church when a former pastor/teacher sued the church after she had been let go. After the church won the initial case, the EEOC  (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) picked up the case and appealed it to a higher court, where the church lost. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty appealed the case to the Supreme Court, and the decision sided with the church 9-0. The opinion said the government has no place intruding in something like that. 
A main point of the case has to do with The Ministerial Exception, which recognizes the right of a church to exempt employees from certain Title XII requirements (i.e. a church can fire a minister if their teaching isn't supported). The decision set an important precedent to maintain that right for religious organizations. The lawyer was in over his head, defending the church purely as a volunteer, but kept faith that it would work out. The Becket Fund wanted to protect the special relationship churches hold with their ministers, including their right to hire and fire them. 
The video gives more council at the end to those wishing to support religious liberty, including making yourself aware of the issues and available to help. I felt it was important to include in this answer to show that we're not completely under attack. The government can and will support religious freedom, as shown in this case. As the protagonist of the story proclaims, "These are issues courts are willing to take seriously and to defend. If this is an issues that you hold dear, fight for it!" 
In Discussing Differences

Zed talks more about this below, but I wanted to include an excerpt from an essay by Alexander Dushku, which addreses how we deal with differences in beliefs. He first analyzes the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, noting that it is socially and culturally acceptable to have different beliefs on the matter of abortion (as opposed to cases involving racism and discrimination, which create a moral and social taboo for those opposed). He states:

"...[F]or me, a critical question at this juncture is this: How is it that opposition to abortion was able to secure a place of respectability in our culture and law?  The answer is no doubt complex.  But assuredly one reason is that religious and other pro-life voices decided that they would not, indeed could not, remain silent.  They spoke up.  They refused to be intimidated.  They organized.  They insisted on their rights of free speech.  And they learned to make their case with reason, civility, and even love.  To be sure, there were extremists within their ranks—those willing to disregard the law and even commit crimes against those with whom they disagreed.  They had to be denounced and removed from the movement.  There were missteps and mistakes, course corrections and recalibrations.  But, eventually, the pro-life movement found its voice and succeeded in convincing about half the American people of the rightness of its beliefs.  Of course, not much has changed legally.  The Supreme Court still insists that abortion on demand is a fundamental constitutional right.  But regardless of your views on Roe v. Wade, the fact remains that those opposed to abortion can still be full and equal citizens, participating in all walks of life—from school teacher, to businessperson, to lawyer, to President of the United States."  

Dushku then shifts focus to a more current event: the recent decision on gay marriage. 
"...In my view, the effect of the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision on religious liberty will depend, to a great extent, on people like you and me.  If supporters of traditional marriage retreat—if they are intimidated into silence—if they give up trying to find the right words and arguments to defend their beliefs—if they do not stand as witnesses and living examples of the goodness of their beliefs—and if people of goodwill do not, at least, stand up for the rights of others to dissent in good faith and yet still be numbered among us as our fellow citizens, neighbors, colleagues, and friends—then the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision will indeed be a disaster for religious liberty.
But if those who support traditional marriage are examples of what is highest and best about their beliefs—if they, like the pro-lifers, refuse to be silenced—if they find ways to explain and persuade with reason as well as kindness, meekness, and love—and if they cheerfully but resolutely endure the indignities that will be visited on them, and without bitterness ask only for toleration, understanding, and respect for their basic rights as Americans—then I believe that, ultimately, the great goodness and decency of the American people will rise up and our culture and law will carve out and protect enough space so that people of faith who maintain traditional beliefs about marriage, family and sexuality can participate fully in all aspects of American life.
"That will not happen all at once.  Those who hold such beliefs are assuredly in for some difficult and uncertain times.  Sacrifices will have to be made.  Carefully chosen lawsuits will have to be filed.  We may even lose some friends on Facebook, and perhaps even some real friends.  But I am hopeful that, in the end, if we stand firm, both our culture and the law will accord those who believe in traditional marriage the respect and freedom they deserve.
"... Indeed, if support for traditional marriage is equated by our society and culture to racism, then every negative outcome that [the previous speaker] just warned about—and worse—will become a very real risk... If, in the aftermath of the same-sex marriage decision, our nation follows the example set in the wake of Roe v. Wade, then religious liberty will survive.  There will be hard times, to be sure, but eventually there will be accommodations for those who dissent from the new gay marriage orthodoxy."
Again, Zedability gives a great perspective on this in her answer so I won't expound too much. In short, I think we are all called to defend our rights, but there's a delicate balance between disagreeing and being disagreeable. As always, we can look to Christ and our church leaders as examples. 

Individual Action

So, with all that background, we come to your actual question: What can you personally do? 

In his April 2015 conference address, Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom, Elder Hales said, “Don’t walk! Run! Run to receive the blessings of agency by following the Holy Ghost and exercising the freedoms God has given us to do His will.” The whole talk is packed with truth and I highly recommend reading it. In the interest of conciseness, I'll point out that he urges us to 

  • become informed,
  • join with others,
  • work side by side to protect religious freedom,
  • and be examples.  

Similarly, a presentation at a recent seminar for religious freedom counseled citizens interested in protecting religious freedom to do the following: 

  • Be an example of the believers
  • Engage in your community
  • Educate yourself
  • Watch for developments
  • Stand up for religious freedom in your individual capacity
  • Support organizations that promote religious freedom
Change Your Paradigm

Finally, don't believe the lie that just because you don't have excessive funds doesn't mean that you can't do important things with your money. This goes for any cause, not just religious freedom. I highly recommend reading The Soul of Money by Lynn Twist to better understand this, but I'll include a pertinent quote now:
"Taking a stand is a way of living and being that draws on a place within yourself that is at the very heart of who you are. When you take a stand, it gives you authenticity, power, and clarity. You find your place in the universe, and you have the capacity to move the world.
"One of the great dynamics of money is that it grounds us, and when we put money behind our commitments it grounds them, too, making them real in the world. We can wish for better schools, a clean environment, and world peace; we can even volunteer, but when we also put our money behind those intentions, we become really serious about them. Money is a great translator of intention to reality, vision to fulfillment. 
"...All people at all times in all sectors of society in all chapters of history [can take a stand for their commitments]. People with little or no money are just as capable of directing the flow of money and resources in meaningful ways as those with much more money. Purely in the act of taking a stand, they create the clearing and the context for conversation that invites others to step forward and be heard."
So, you are are a college student with limited time and limited funds. Put them to use! Consciously choose to use your money and resources to support your beliefs and intentions. Just as the Lord's servants were not asked to do more than they were able, we do not need to single-handedly defend religious freedom. We just need to devote our efforts to the One who can magnify and develop them. 
Our efforts don't need to be extravagant. I think the way we support our beliefs should be similar to how we live the gospel; our commitment is shown through daily, small acts instead of occasional grandiose endeavors. Both are good, but I think true growth and true commitment will come easier as we choose to live in a way that ground us in our beliefs. 
Take care, and thanks for your desire to do more.
-Auto Surf
posted on 09/15/2015 12:08 p.m.
For a fantastic perspective on this, please see Elder Rasband's recent BYU Devotional, which will soon be available on speeches.byu.edu.

-Auto Surf
Question #83486 posted on 08/18/2015 10:14 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,
I have just been informed that yellow watermelon exists. I don't know why but I am way beyond curious and need to try one! The only problem is, in all my years living in Utah I've never seen one. Where is the closest place to Provo that I can find yellow watermelon? Also, if you're so inclined to try it, let me know what you think of the taste. Thanks for your help and have a great rest of your summer!
-Mr. Melon


Dear Melon, 

I went to Maceys, Walmart, and Winco before I almost gave up on trying to track down this weird fruit. I have had one before and it was nowhere near as delicious as a normal watermelon so I wasn't too motivated to drive all over to find one. However, I heard that they sold them at Trader Joe's so I made the trek up to Salt Lake City.

And behold! A great* yellow watermelon!


*Using the granola bar box as a reference, you can tell that yellow watermelons are significantly smaller than normal watermelons. It does weigh about the same as mini-watermelon though.


The weirdest part about this was not that it was yellow, but that it was seedless. I was surprised that there were no seeds when it was marked and sold as a seeded yellow watermelon. 


I was able to get 6 decently sized slices from half of the yellow watermelon. It was just as juicy as a normal watermelon so I was expecting it to be just as delicious. Sadly, I was mistaken. Too me, it wasn't nearly as sweet as a normal watermelon. However, plenty of websites describe yellow watermelons as being sweeter than normal watermelons and having a slight honey flavor. I don't like the taste of honey so that may be one of the main reasons why I wasn't impressed with it. 


One of my least favorite things about mini-sized watermelons is how much you get from them. Half of the watermelon gave me roughly 3 cups of watermelon chunks. It takes longer to peel and slice the watermelon than it does to eat it! It's barely even worth it!

So, for me, I would give yellow watermelons 3/10 stars. They're not good but if they were the literal last fruit on Earth, I could eat it. 


Question #83282 posted on 07/29/2015 7:22 p.m.

Dear Frère Rubik,

What would be the plot of a movie called Provokyo Drift? What songs would be included in the soundtrack in addition to this? Would there be sharks? Gymnastics?

-Stick It


Dear To-The-Man-Eosis,

You walk into the dark theater, popcorn and drink in hand, looking for a good spot where you and your significant werf can enjoy the movie/disrupt others with your unruly NCMO's. 

Or perhaps you drive into a drive-in theater in your family's suburban with a bunch of your friends, caring less about the movie than you do about getting some extremely delicious hamburgers.

As you settle down into your seat and apply some chapstick/stand in line at the grill and avoid eye contact with old family acquaintances, you see it:



Preview image.jpg


Over a black screen, the following words appear:

He was the fastest driver in school.

Cut to clips of cars zooming around turns by the coast of California, cheering teenagers, and a shot of someone wearing sunglasses, as seen from their rear-view mirror. 

But after spending two years on his feet,

Cut to a shot of the main character, Shawn, hacking through vines in the Amazon rain forest as a missionary.

Happy valley is going to this hotshot a new kind of drift

A Mazda 3 is shown zooming down the rock canyon road on a snowy winter day.

That will leave him...

Cut to the interior of the Mazda. Shawn is driving, accompanied by his Japanese friend, Lee.

Lee: Slow down, man, you're taking this turn way too fast!

Shawn: I know what I'm doing! I've still got it!

...Ice Cold.

The Mazda skids across the road and plows into a snowbank on the opposite side. As steam rises from the hood, Lee shouts "I TOLD YOU!"

Next Election Day,

Squeeze's "Cool For Cats" begins to play as we see Shawn and Lee sitting at a table at The Wall.

Shawn: So what's this thing called again?

Lee: The Provo Underground Racing Circuit. It's a year-round racing competition around all of Utah county. And, someone from the Village Guys is always in the lead.

Shawn: You mean that weird disco band that came up with the Y.M.C.A.?

Lee: No, genius, that's The Village People. The Village Guys are a super-exclusive racing group that meet every Saturday under the Village.

As Lee says that, we see shots of bros wearing flat-billed hats and polo shirts, flexing their muscles, racing cars, and doing summer sales for security companies.

Lee: And again, they always win.

Shawn: Except for this year.

Lee: That's a nice sentiment, dreamboy. There's just three things:

He holds up a finger.

Lee: One, you can't drive worth a darn in the snow,

Cut to Shawn, blocking the exit to an apartment complex's parking lot, desperately trying to free his Mazda from the snow as a group of irate students look on.

Lee: Two, you've got no idea how to drive a stickshift,

Cut to Shawn, parked in a Station Wagon on a slight incline. He turns the key in the ignition, and the car's engine starts.

Shawn: Yes, yes, yes!

A second later, the engine cuts out, and the car starts rolling down the hill.

Shawn: No, no, no!

Back to Lee at The Wall.

Lee: And three, that Mazda of yours is going to get smoked off of the line. Every.

Cut to Shawn at the starting line of a race against two bros in Mustangs. The flag waves, and they zoom off, leaving him and his Mazda stuck at the line.

Lee: Single.

At the finish line of a different race, two chargers cross neck and neck, with Shawn's Mazda coming in a couple of car lengths behind.

Lee: Time.

The interior of Shawn's car. He pounds the steering wheel and hangs his head in frustration.

Cut back to Shawn, chewing pensively on some fries.

Shawn: Well, alright, sensei, if you're so wise, what do you suggest we do?

Lee sits back in his chair, slurping his Italian soda through a straw.

Lee: Well...I might know someone who can help.

Cut to Shawn and Lee walking into a garage, approaching someone who is working under a red Mini Cooper raised up on cinderblocks.

Lee: Hey, Mad Dog! How's it hanging? Listen, I know how things went the last time we met up...

Shawn: Yo, Mad Dog! My name's Shawn! How's it hanging bro..."

At this, the person rolls out from under the Mini on a skateboard, revealing a girl with blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, her face smudged with grease.

Shawn:...ooooo nope. Nope. You are not a bro.

The girl, Maddie, gives a disgusted sigh and then rolls back under the car.

Lee: Ooh, nice one. You just let that chauvinist side shine right on through.

The music changes to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," and we see Shawn, Lee, and Maddie at a table in the Snack Zone of the Library.

Shawn: So what exactly qualifies you to give me driving advice?

Maddie: I'm from Canada and I grew up helping my dad in his auto shop. If there's anything to know about snow or cars, I know it.

Shawn: Well, that's all well and good, but that still doesn't change the fact that you're a g---

Maddie winds back her arm, ready to slap Shawn.

Lee: Oh, you've done it now.

Shawn: Guuuuuuuuuuuuuu...

Maddie slaps Shawn across the cheek.

Maddie: That's for not having the guts to say it.


Maddie slaps his other cheek.

Maddie: And that's for saying it.

Lee laughs, Shawn rubs his cheeks sheepishly.

The shot cuts back to Maddie's garage, where her red Mini now sits finished on the floor.

Shawn: Alright, alright, you know your stuff. I'll give you that. But you honestly expect us to win in a Mini?

Maddie: You haven't seen this Mini in action yet.

Cut to an open road in the middle of the field, the Mini flying down it. Shawn yells in exhilaration; Maddie laughs.

Werf Werfenheimer

Various shots of Shawn: Racing his Mazda back in California, leaning out the Mini and pumping his fist after winning a race, smiling and turning to Maddie.

Werfette Werfenson

Shots of Maddie wiping sweat off of her face in her mechanic uniform, acrobatically jumping over two bros' shoulders, leaning in to kiss Shawn.

and Werf-Werf Werfon

Scenes of Lee eating a slice of pizza, helping Maddie fix up the Mini, and cheering at the front of a crowd as Shawn races by in the Mini.

with Werfin Werfington

Shots of the main Bro drinking a protein shake, slamming Shawn against a shark tank in an aquarium, and angrily trying to ram Shawn and Maddie in the Mini off the road while driving a Dodge Challenger.


A head-on shot of the Mini and a Mustang charging toward the finish line.

The Blessed and the Furious: Provokyo Drift

Cut to Shawn sitting at a computer, then excitedly turning around.

Shawn: Hey guys, have you seen this? Sometimes the dress looks black and blue, other times it's white and gold!

Lee facepalms, Maddie rolls her eyes and walks away.

November 2016

With Music By:


Taylor Swift

Crash Test Dummies


Talking Heads


Damien Rice

and more...


Awestruck, you are completely oblivious to your significant werf's attempts to hold your hand/the burger which you dropped into your lap and is now dripping sauce all over your good pants. 

Then, the next trailer plays, for The Divergent Games: Breaking Dawn and the Half-Blood Maze Runner, and you quickly snap back into your awkward, sticky, non-Provokian reality.

-Frère Rubik

Question #83180 posted on 07/20/2015 6:45 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

When did the Church become all about families? Sure, sure, it's "always been about families." But not <i>really</i>, you know? Like, if the 13 Articles of Faith were written today by the modern prophet, it would be unthinkable that what we believe about eternal families wouldn't be one. Or why there's no mention of the idea of eternal families in the Book of Mormon. In more modern times, I know that the song "Families Can be Together Forever," predates the 1995 Proclamation to the World on the Family. And I also know that the idea of sealing all of the family of Adam together goes back to the first introduction of temple ordinances by Joseph Smith. But it seems clear that family is a focus in a way that seems different from any time in the past.

We Mormons are really good about finding the scriptures or the quotes that say what we are hoping to show (like how the teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual are snipped together quotes from a life time of talks and sermons). That's a nice way to show that, like I said above, the doctrine has always <i>included</i> teachings related to the family. But my question is, when precisely did the entire cultural and doctrinal push of the Church become families? Or are we in a "family" phase/decade of the Church teachings, like how we've had "missionary" phase (SWK's "every member a missionary/lengthen your stride") or Book of Mormon phase (ETB's "flood the earth").

To be extra clear, I'm not trying to imply that "family" isn't an important focus just because it hasn't always been one. And I absolutely accept that our theology, from the very beginning, has included teachings and doctrine about the eternal nature of the family. I really just want to learn when the current cultural/doctrinal focus on the family came about? Pre-Proclamation? Post-Proclamation? Would charting topics addressed by the General Authorities in conference talks show this?


-My Father Has a Family, It's MEEEE!!!


Dear MEEEE!!!,

I wasn't sure what to make of your question at first, since then it seemed to me that you were asking when the Church leadership got together and said "alright, let's start talking about families a bunch." That seemed rather unlikely to have happened. But, in thinking about the later portion of your answer (where you mention the "missionary phase" and the "Book of Mormon" phase), I think I have a better understanding of what you meant. While there might not necessarily be meetings to decide what the Church is going to emphasize, God will inspire the prophets to speak out on certain things and emphasize certain things in their teachings, and the collective result of all of that will be an emphasis on the subject in the Church.

At least, that's what I hope you were getting at, because that's kind of what I based the rest of my answer on.

With that in mind, the best way to determine the starting point of this emphasis seemed to be what you suggested: charting topics General Authorities addressed in General Conference. The only problem was, I picked this question up kind of late, and didn't necessarily have time to pore over decades of Conference addresses.

The solution (or, at least, my solution) came while I was at a fireside about the Church's apps and other technological resources. The presenter mentioned the Citation Index, and that seemed like the best way to do my analysis.

Here's what I did: I first scanned The Family: A Proclamation to the World for any scriptures it cited about families. There was only one listed, so I next went to the "Family" entry in The Guide to the Scriptures. I didn't have time to include all of the scriptures listed in my analysis, so I tried to pick ten that I felt would be best represented over the years (those ended up being Gen. 1:27-28, Deut. 6:7, Prov. 22:6, Psalm 127:3, 2 Nephi 25:26, Mosiah 4:14-15, 3 Nephi 18:21, D&C 68:25, D&C 93:40, D&C 132:19, and Moses 2:27-28).

Then, using the Citation Index, I counted up how many times each of the scriptures was cited in a particular decade. I figured that, at the end, if there was a heavier emphasis on families, it would show up in an increased amount of citations for a particular decade.

After compiling all of the results in a spreadsheet, this is the graph I made of the results:

Scripture Graph.PNG

(I thought I'd just comment here that the "Pioneers-1940's" section is just what I called everything that came from the Journal of Discourses, which is probably why it is so huge.)

Looking at this data, it's not as drastic of a difference as I was expecting. In general, I'd say that the emphasis on family has been growing fairly steadily over time, with a slight bump in the 60's and a noticeable increase starting at the 90's. The 60's bump might have come about because of President McKay's call to reemphasize Family Home Evening in 1965, or also possibly because of the turbulent social revolutions going on at the time. I'd probably peg the growth since the 90's on the Family Proclamation, but there were a fair number of citations from before 1995 as well.

So, that's the info I have for you. I know it's not super clear; I by no means claim to be an expert in this sort of thing. Heck, I don't even know if my conclusions are even valid. But, it was the best I believe I could do.

For a look at all of the data I compiled (and some other graphs I made out of the data), check out this link. If you'd like to keep talking to me about the topic or want to flush out the data with more scriptures, feel free to shoot me an email and we'll see what we can come up with.

-Frère Rubik

posted on 07/21/2015 9:10 a.m.
Chèrs Frère Rubik and Meeee,

BYU linguistics professor Mark Davies has created a corpus of LDS General Conference talks ( http://www.lds-general-conference.org ), which is very useful for this sort of analysis.

For this question, I did a search on the word "family" and set the results to return the number of hits by frequency, then compiled this histogram:

X - 100 hits per million words

1850s - XXXX
1860s - XXXX
1870s - XXXXX
1880s - XXXX
1890s - XXXX
1900s - XXX
1910s - XXX
1920s - XXX
1930s - XXX
1940s - XXXXX
1950s - XXXXXX
1960s - XXXXXXX

You'll notice that there's been a general increase from the 1930s to the present, but the biggest jump occurs in the 1970s, when the frequency doubles in comparison to the previous decade (probably due to the Church's response to the Equal Rights Amendment and related cultural issues).

So, in response to the original question, one interpretation of the data is that the Church became "all about families" in the 1970s. As for defining the "missionary" or "Book of Mormon" eras, I'll leave that as an exercise for the student.

- Katya
Question #83081 posted on 07/12/2015 4:44 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

So, 10,000 VND (Vietnamese Dong) back in the mid-1940s. How much money would that be worth today (in USD)?

I can't figure out how to look up exchange rates that far back and adjust for inflation, etc.

- An Amateur Historian


Dear you, 

There's a reason this information is so difficult to find: the simple fact is that currencies often have complicated histories that make comparison really hard. The North Vietnamese đồng, for example, was only introduced for the first time in 1946, when it replaced the French Indochinese piastre at a ratio of 1-to-1. But it was circulated by the Viet Mihn communists during a war in which they were trying to kick the French out of the country, so it spent several years competing against the piastre as the dominant form of money. It was revalued multiple times over the next couple of decades, pegged to several different currencies at different times, and ultimately replaced by the đồng of a reunified Vietnam in 1978. 

So when you ask about 10,000 đồng back in the mid-1940s, you must want to know about its value when it was first introduced in 1946. This is going to take a few leaps, though, so buckle your seat belt.

Exchange information 1 (1946) đồng =
When it came out in 1946, the đồng was pegged to the piastre. 1 (1946) piastre
In December of the previous year, the piastre had been pegged to the French franc at a rate of 17-to-1. 0.0588 (1946) franc
The value of the French franc had seen a swift decline in the post-war years. In 1946, one franc was worth about 0.075 (2007) euros. 0.00441 (2007) euros
The average exchange rate in 2007 was about 0.73 euros to the dollar. 0.00604 (2007) dollars
The average dollar inflation rate since 2007 has been about 1.91%, meaning that $6.04 in 2007 had the same buying power as $7.03 in 2015. 0.00703 (2015) dollars










Ergo, 10,000 đồng in 1946 would have been about $70.30 today.

You're welcome, &c.

Heidi Book

P.S. Feel free to double check my math and submit a correction if it's off. Also, some sources certainly seemed more reputable than others, so you might want to mosey on over to those sites and see if you can determine whether they're telling the truth.


Dear 100 Hour Board,

Do you think North and South Korea should unify or just encourage North Korea to develop as a separate country? It's taken Germany almost a generation to even out, and all the gaps in education, technology, and health in the two Germanies didn't seem as stark as it is between the Koreas.



Dear pat,

Yikes! Sorry for holding this over so long. Personally, I think your intuition is right. German reunification was a miracle in a lot of ways (like, can we take a minute to be totally blown away that it happened peacefully?), but it still came with a huge price tag: some estimates place the cost at $2.5 trillion in the twenty-five years since the collapse of the wall. What's more, vast differences continue to exist between West and East. The eastern economy has struggled to get on its feet, and the net cash flow still moves from the wealthier, western areas to the poorer, ex-Soviet ones. Frankly, German reunification is still ongoing.

And yes, the Korean situation is worse than the German one. The ratio of North Koreans to South Koreans is higher than the ratio of East Germans to West Germans was in 1990, meaning that the economic burden on South Korea would be disproportionately large, and the difference in infrastructure (education, health, communication, transportation, resources, etc.) is much greater between the two Koreas than it ever was between the two Germanys. (Germanies? Ha.) Overall, Korean reunification would be a bigger task than German reunification.

Many of the specifics depend on how reunification takes place. I'm going to outline a handful of semi-plausible scenarios and explain what the consequences might be of each. Keep in mind that I didn't know anything about Asian politics until I sat down to write this answer, so my opinion is admittedly inexpert.

1. North Korea and South Korea reach an agreement and enter a federation or confederation. Frankly, this route seems the least likely. South Korean president Park Geun-hye has declared reunification a goal of 2015, and by some accounts, North Korean officials have, too. The trouble is, neither side plans on reunifying on the other's terms. The border between the two countries is one of the most heavily militarized in the world, and shots were fired between the two armies as recently as October; the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that Seoul and Pyongyang don't exactly get along. South Korea is a young democracy and North Korea is an oppressive dictatorship. I can't begin to fathom how they would work out a viable government. But if they managed to do so, it probably wouldn't be a good thing. Democracy in South Korea is present but frail (especially given recent scandals involving corruption and abuse of authority), and it's only been around for a couple of generations. It's possible that its people have yet to develop a true democratic consciousness. Entering willingly into a federal government with North Korea would mean making concessions to a dictatorship that would certainly threaten the quality of its democracy. It would potentially extend the human rights abuses of the Kim regime to South Korean citizens. On the other hand, it would mean that South Korea would have the ability to help North Korea financially but still retain control and discretion over its own economy. This could help it to avoid the avalanche of financial burdens that would undoubtedly descend in the fourth scenario.

2. North Korea takes over South Korea. This scenario is almost (but not quite) as unlikely as the first. For starters, the international community would almost certainly take up arms in defense of the South, and there's no way the North has the military power to overcome the South and its allies. (It could be a truly terrible war, of course, especially if North Korea resorted to its nuclear arsenal, but I don't think it'd win.) If, however, western anti-war sentiment were strong enough to prevent an intervention from world powers in the US and Europe, or if China decided to throw its considerable military might behind North Korea, or [insert other possibilities here, including the desolation of the Americas by a Chicago-sized comet or an unexpected alien invasion], I suppose it's conceivable that the North might be able to take over the South. This mode of reunification would almost certainly be a REALLY TERRIBLE THING. Democracy in South Korea would collapse, insurgencies would break out, and hostility from the international community would be at an all-time high. The cost of unifying would be the expansion of human rights abuses and the breakdown of popular rule on the Korean peninsula. I don't know enough to predict what the economic consequences of such a move would be, but they might have something to do with Kim Jong-un seizing South Korea's increasing wealth for himself to build extravagant palaces or snuggle with at night à la Prince John in Robin Hood. There's a lot of evidence that South Korea's prosperity has stemmed from its democratic reforms and its increasing openness to international markets; if it were to suddenly revert to the extreme isolationism and protectionism of North Korea, the floodgates would close and its economy would stagnate.

3. South Korea takes over North Korea. This scenario is almost (but not quite) as unlikely as the second. We tried it in the 1950s, after all. But citizens of advanced democracies have grown increasingly wary of sending troops into battle, and we've learned our lesson about getting involved in land wars in Asia. South Korea is unlikely to attempt an invasion without international support. If, however, this terribly unlikely event were to take place, the consequences would involve all of those listed in the next scenario, plus any additional problems that may come from the resulting hostility to South Korean rule. This could include insurgencies, attempted coups, and full-scale engagements with the North Korean military. The whole operation suddenly gets a lot more expensive as soon as you have to send thousands of troops in to keep the peace. 

4. The Kim regime collapses of its own accord, and South Korea assumes control. This, more or less, is what happened in Germany, and it is certainly the most probable of the four. This fascinating article discusses at length why even a best-case-scenario reunification would be costly. As yayfulness mentioned to me, "One of the greatest fears in South Korea is the collapse of the regime in the North (almost as scary as its continued existence) because of the utter humanitarian crisis that it would create. Rather, the humanitarian crisis already exists, but the collapse would suddenly give South Korea both the ability and the duty to do something about it." We know that North Korea lacks the infrastructure to provide its citizens with basic healthcare, sanitation, and nutrition; were its citizens suddenly to fall under South Korean jurisdiction, the government would be overwhelmed with the immense task of bringing the northern areas up to par. It would create a huge source of stress on the economy.

tl;dr: Scenarios 1-3 are terrible, and scenario 4 is long and painful at best. Would it be worth it? If it meant that Korea turned into an Asian version of Germany, a bastion of democracy and economic strength in a fairly volatile region of the world, I'd say yes. But I'm not one of those who will have to foot the bill. 

Yours, &c.

Heidi Book


Dear 100 Hour Board,

What's the difference between BYU Police Officers and Provo or any other Police Officers? I heard that if there was an emergency on campus you were supposed to call the BYU Police (801-422-2222) instead of 911, is that correct? If so, why? Do they still have the same rights and duties as other police officers? Can they pull you over? Arrest you? What about Security guards?

-Jimmy Felon


Dear Felonius,

I called the police station dispatch and had a very pleasant conversation as I asked one of the women on duty your questions. 

She first observed that both Provo and BYU police departments are staffed with sworn officers. Utah state law states:

A law enforcement officer has statewide full-spectrum peace officer authority, but the authority extends to other counties, cities, or towns only when the officer is acting under Title 77, Chapter 9, Uniform Act on Fresh Pursuit, unless the law enforcement officer is employed by the state.

In essence, this means a Provo or BYU officer could legally make an arrest anywhere in the state of Utah if they were to witness a crime, as they are both state-employed officers. A police officer from another state—say, North Dakota—also has the right to pursue, arrest and detain someone in Utah if werf "enters this state in fresh pursuit and continues in fresh pursuit of a person in order to arrest him on the ground that he is reasonably believed to have committed a felony in another state."

That's all good and fun, but you asked me about BYU and Provo officers, not people from made-up places. While Provo and BYU are both are on equal legal footing, they have different jurisdictions. Police calls that take place on campus are in the jurisdiction of the BYU PD. If a call takes place off of campus, it occurs in the jurisdiction of the Provo police. The departments work closely together and officers from one department will assist the others as needed, perhaps to direct traffic at the site of an automobile accident or respond to a call that comes in at a busy time.

We'll use feral teenagers and honey badgers to help us understand the intricacies of this system:

Say I'm taking a leisurely stroll from the Board lair beneath the [redacted] on campus late one evening and go dumpster diving for some food. I find a box of inexplicably pristine turkey drumsticks—you know, the kind that make you feel like you're a super-cool caveman when you bite into one—and am chowing down happily. I make the mistake of walking too close to Helaman Halls and am instantly ambushed by a pack of feral EFY childrens rumored to have been running wild on the premises for several weeks. They sock me in the stomach, bludgeon me with blackjacks fashioned from bicycle handlebars and unceremoniously sink their snaggled teeth into every leg they find, bird and human alike.

Fortunately for me, a nearby couple breaks off their NCMO for a few moments. Noticing something out of the ordinary is threatening their remaining shreds of dignity—though they know not what— they call 911 and reach the Provo PD.  As the crime is playing out on BYU campus, it is in the jurisdiction of BYU's police department. The call to Provo is quickly redirected to BYU PD dispatch, who assigns an officer to respond to the call. After determining my location, the officer responds quickly and with a few judicious bursts of pepper spray is able to both disperse the freshmen and pleasantly season my turkey drumsticks. After brushing the dirt off the poultry pieces, I thank her kindly and continue off campus. I'm just a few blocks away from my off-campus apartment and walking along a stream when something rustles in the bushes.

I screech with fear, but I relax when I see it's just a small, furry animal. And just one, all alone and probably lost. "Aren't you cute," I tell it, offering it a smoked leg of poultry "Want a nibble?"
"You disgust me completely," says the honey badger in perfect King's English. "A half-eaten drumstick? What do you take me for, a college student?" the badger rasps in a voice not unlike Jack Nicholson. "No, I don't want your stupid food. But if you'll take out your wallet and smartphone and toss them this way, I'd be much obliged."
Mouthing soundlessly like a beached carp, I shake my head in disbelief.
"Whatsamatter, badger got your tongue?" The ratel chuckles at its own joke, the sound curiously like wet gravel crunching underfoot.
"No, I'm just..." I trail off at a loss for words. 
"Well, get on with it," snaps the honeyed thief impatiently. Then, with a touch more sweetness, "I've got to be at Devonshire at half past midnight, see."
Dumbly, I pull out my valuables and toss them in front of the furry felon. There's no helping it.
"Thanks, guv'nor."

At that moment, a sound like a dozen howler monkeys jacked up on Red Bull explodes out of the underbrush. "THE PARTY BUS IS COMING!" Dirty simian shapes dash from the undergrowth, grabbing me roughly and pulling me haplessly to the ground. The feral EFY tribe has tracked the all-natural hickory-smoked aroma of my unsheathed turkey drumstick, and this time there is murder in their eyes. They don't notice the honey badger, but one particularly dim-witted and gangly child crows in triumph as he hold my wallet and phone aloft. Another bandito slams my head down roughly against the asphalt, and as the stars clear from my vision I see the badger's eyes narrow ever so slightly, and a vein pulses angrily on its forehead.


The next few minutes are a blur of screams, scratches, and shredded t-shirts, for no amount of teeny-boppers yelling "CHUBBY BUNNY" could ever be enough to counter the honey badger's furious attack. I manage to crawl to the safety of the bushes. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to block out the sounds of destruction. I keep them shut for a long time. When I finally open them again, the Provo police are trying to coax a traumatized tween for information. All they get is a frightened fragment of a sentence: "...it takes what it wants!" squeals the lad, fear woven in his voice. It's fortunate the police showed up when they did, responding to an anonymous call complaining about "those darn kids making a ruckus outside." As the call took place outside BYU Campus, the Provo PD received it and responded accordingly. The battered feral children are captured and released safely into the wilds of Nevada where they are still rumored to roam.

As for the honey badger, it and a significant number of smartphones and wallets cannot be located. A warrant is posted for its arrest, but even the police know it is an exercise in futility. After all, honey badger don't care.

It takes what it wants.


--Ardilla Feroz 


Dear 100 Hour Board,

What are the arguments for and against allowing the children on illegal immigrants to be citizens if they are born on US soil? I believe that the "if they're born here they're a citizen" policy is in the constitution (or am I mixing that up?) but beyond that I could use some pointers.


has an opinion but doesn't understand the other side


Dear Reader,

I think your desire to understand the other side of an issue is fantastic. Let's start with some background:

First of all, you're right about the constitution: the first section of the fourteenth amendment does provide citizenship to all people born within U.S. jurisdiction:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In 1898, the Supreme Court overturned a portion of a law called the "Chinese Exclusion Act" that would have denied citizenship to Chinese immigrants who would otherwise qualify. That decision set the precedent for the interpretation of section 1 (often referred to as the "Citizenship Clause") that provided citizenship to nearly every person born within the United States. The historical purpose of section one was to prevent states from revoking or denying citizenship to people of color. However, Justice Horace Gray, writing for the majority, pointed out that the amendment's broad language did not provide any restrictions in bestowing citizenship to others as well:

It is declaratory in form, and enabling and extending in effect. Its main purpose doubtless was, as has been often recognized by this court, to establish the citizenship of free negroes, which had been denied in the opinion delivered by Chief Justice Taney in Dred Scott v. Sandford, and to put it beyond doubt that all blacks, as well as whites, born or naturalized within the jurisdiction of the United States are citizens of the United States... But the opening words, "All persons born," are general, not to say universal, restricted only by place and jurisdiction, and not by color or race...

I'm not sure what side of this issue you're on, so I'll provide a brief section both supporting and opposing the citizenship clause.

The Citizenship Clause is important and should be upheld.

Before we go any further, it might be helpful to remember that Church doctrine on this subject is that, although countries have every right to enforce their borders, the family unit (and individuals) must be treated with respect.

Even under our current immigration system our country clearly fails to live up to those goals. Illegal immigrants continue to arrive, often fleeing terrible circumstances in other countries. The difficulty of the journey here should be a testament to the desperation of these people. Literally hundreds die each year trying to get here. It's also worth keeping in mind - before you argue that people should simply immigrate legally - that unless you have money to get an education and then find an employer willing to spend thousands of dollars in attorneys fees to try and keep you here, or have a family member that lives here, there is essentially no legal immigration path for people coming from countries like Mexico. It's not a matter of "waiting in line" - there essentially is no line for these people to wait in

Once they get here, those that arrive do not enjoy the same protections that the rest of us do. This creates a second-class citizenry in our country. Even relatively simply tasks such as registering for public school, picking up prescriptions that require ID, or driving to work become difficult or impossible. Many of these people were brought here when they were young - often only two or three - and are culturally American. Imagine growing up in North Carolina but not being a legal citizen. The Church has to go through tremendous hoops to allow these people to serve missions. Despite what you may have heard, these people are not lazy. On the contrary, they are extremely hardworking people that often do jobs most Americans would never dream of doing in order to provide for their family. Nearly all of them would happily pay taxes, back taxes, and even a financial penalty if it meant legal status here.

At this point, you may, correctly, wonder what all this has to do with the citizenship clause. Even if I've successfully convinced you that the plight of these people needs attention, you might still be wondering why we can't simply grant legal status - but not citizenship - to those who are born here. My response to that is more moral than legal or political.

The citizenship clause gives hope to families here who cry at night afraid that they will be deported. It is a comfort to those that would otherwise believe where they were born will be a stain not only on their lives, but also their children's, grandchildren's and great-grandchildren's. It gives hope to the man who risked his very life to get here so his children would not be stuck in the world that he was. Most importantly, it prevents the sub-citizenry our country's immigration policy from becoming permanent and generational. Did these people break the law? Yes. Most did it to save the lives of their families. Will our own animus or prejudice as Americans force entire families into a cycle of poverty forever? Will we refuse to forgive them?

Haven't we all, at one time or another, approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven't we wished, with all the energy of our souls for mercy, to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed? ...There is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment. ("The Merciful Obtain Mercy," Diter F. Uchtdorf)

Below, you will see "counter-argument" me argue that we can't fix the world. I agree. I recognize that illegal immigration is only a symptom of broader issues in the world, some of which our country simply doesn't have the power to solve. However, consistent with gospel principles, I do not believe this is an excuse. We are, both individually and as a country, morally obligated to do what we can to help our neighbor.

The Citizenship Clause is bad and should be repealed.

Although the above argument is a nice sentiment, it ignores the operational reality of a difficult and complex issue.

With every immigrant that comes to the United States, Mexico loses a person with skills, diversity, and abilities that could otherwise assist the country. Many citizens of this country, in supporting more liberal immigration legislation, often talk about their experiences meeting a young "bring, energetic, enthusiastic" individual who they wanted to be able succeed in life. This is indicative of the very problem illegal immigration causes. When we perpetuate policies that allow those with an economically bright future to come to the United States, we deprive Mexico of another individual who might otherwise have skills to assist the country. This is not the Gospel way - rather, we are encouraged to lift where we stand

There is no permanent solution to illegal immigration that does not involve improving the economic situation of our neighboring countries. Enforcement and stronger border patrol, in addition to being hugely expensive, have been only marginally successful at reducing the amount of immigrants coming illegally to the United States. So yes, any policy (including the citizenship clause) that encourages people to come here instead of remaining in their home country puts U.S. immigration policy on an unsustainable path.

This isn't an anti-immigration position. A big part of a sustainable immigration policy could, for example, include allowing younger people from impoverished countries to come here, get a high quality higher education, and then return to their home countries to use their education to improve their situation.

Finally, I want to push back against my other self's implication that we are morally obligated to allow people from struggling countries to come to the United States. My other self took a piece of Church doctrine designed for application to the individual and applied it to a government's situation. Doctrine that is intended for the individual, though it can teach us about how we should think about government and it's goals, can't always be directly applied to the actions elected officials take without some modification. Think, for example, about our Church's doctrine regarding war compared to how we think about an individual who choses to kill another.


For the record, I personally believe that the citizenship clause should be upheld. Although I think there are plenty of operational difficulties with illegal immigration, I have much more sympathy for the first argument.

- Haleakalā

Question #82662 posted on 06/05/2015 12:03 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

In reference to Board Question #82614, WHO in the world thought, "Oh, hey, her milk's not coming out. Why don't we put cabbage on her chest and see if that works?!"

Also, how is cabbage different from lettuce or anything else green? Why not put lettuce on a woman's chest? Or...for that matter, a pile of grass?



Dear Confused,

In ancient times and days of past
The Grecian people did often ask,
"Dear sir, what do I? How do I get by?
I feel great pain, you see
Knowing a mushroom has poisoned me."

Others came to and fro
Wanting to let their bruises go 
From blue to green, green to yellow
Or maybe to make their drunken rage mellow. 

And so the doctors searched diligently
For a cure that would not feel so criminally
Difficult to produce or digest
And easy to maintain by even the un-deft.
And in that time and age,
Full of plague, poor, and phage,
They needed to find something
and maintain-able
Instead of needing an operating table

They pondered and plundered until one day, 
The experiments and trials finally gave way
To a reliable source, a powerful, cure-all thing
With an exterior colored light, frothy green.

Seemingly magical, the thing possessed 
Healing properties; it put sickness to rest. 
Sore throats, pneumonia, and rheumatism
Could be cured by a simple human-ism
Using the juices, veins, and nutrients.  
Just by harnessing the power of nature
Colic and hangovers were stripped of their danger.
When feeling melancholy, with boils or wards,
All one needed was to look forwards
And frolic through the cabbage fields.  

When cooled and mashed, 
And even juiced the thing surpassed
All the medicines used before. 
And so cabbage grew forever more.

It did withstand the tests of time, 
Passing down through family lines
Because of its glucosinolate patterns
(And newly found reaction with cancers.)

And even now it serves to be
A common household remedy,
So much so that the Board of hours
Gets asked about its healing powers.

And so go now, my dear Confused
Experiment yourself, see how it's used.  
Let us know what you think;
We're always here, right at the brink
Of another 100 hours.  

-Auto Surf, who is just as confused as you are about why that needed to be a poem, but hopes you enjoyed just the same.

p.s.- tl;dr The Greeks started using it medicinally and it's been used since in a variety of ways. The chemical make up is unique from lettuce and grass, so it's helpful in curing a lot of ailments. 

All information found on Wikipedia and WHFoods.

Question #82380 posted on 05/05/2015 11:38 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Where can I hear a recording of the recent gay marriage supreme court case argument? Also, I heard on the radio that this case will be as historical as Brown v Board or something like that. What do you think?

-Knows nothing about politics


Dear Reader,

You have no idea how glad I am you asked.

The court divided oral arguments for Obergefell v. Hodges, the gay marriage case, into two parts. The first part was about whether the fourteenth amendment (which guarantees "equal protection") requires states to issues marriage licenses to same sex couples. (Basically, the question is "are bans on gay marriage constitutional?") The Court calls this part of the oral arguments "question one." Question one is The Question we've all be waiting for the court to consider. You can find the Court's official audio for question one here, and the transcript here. If you've never listened to Supreme Court oral arguments before, you might find the Oyez Project audio helpful. As it plays it will identify who is speaking for you.

The second question, although somewhat less interesting, provides important clues about potential compromises and other aspects of the Justices' thinking. You can find the official court audio here and the transcript here. Question two asks whether states are required to recognize the marriages performed in other states. In other words, if a same sex couple gets married in state A and then moves to state B, is state B required to recognize their marriage if they don't perform same sex marriages? Question two is only relevant if the court decides there is no constitutional right to marry in question one.

Listening to Supreme Court oral arguments can be a little disorienting, so allow me to give you some background information that might help your listening.

The Supreme Court has been very hesitant to rule on gay marriage in the past. The first (relatively recent) time the Court considered a case that included "the marriage question" (as question one is sometimes called) was in 2013. That case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, was actually argued before the Court, but the court ultimately ruled that one of the parties in that lawsuit did not have standing, which basically means they dismissed the case on procedural grounds and declined to actually answer the "marriage question."

The Court also declined to grant a writ of certiorari in another gay marriage case several months ago from the state of Utah. (A writ of certiorari means the court has agreed to hear a case.) That was surprising to many legal scholars, who had thought the Court would be anxious to accept another gay marriage case to resolve such a fundamental constitutional question. Four justices must vote to accept a case, but those votes are secret so it's difficult to know what changed between Hollingsworth v. Perry and the Utah case, or what changed between the Utah case and the case the court is now considering.

Unlike Hollingsworth v. Perry, no one really believes that the parties in Obergefell v. Hodges lack standing, so this case is unlikely to be rejected on procedural grounds. Once the Supreme Court issues a writ of certiorari, it's unusual for it not to issue a ruling. It seems like this time we really are going to get a ruling on the constitutionality of banning same sex marriage

It's pretty clear where 8 of the justices stand on this issue, but there are 1, and possibly two, swing votes. Here's where most legal scholars think the justices lean:

Support a Constitutional Right

to Same-Sex Marriage

Swing Vote

Do Not Support a Constitutional Right

to Same-Sex Marriage


Justice Stephen Breyer

Nominated by Bill Clinton


Justice Elena Kagan

Nominated by Barack Obama


Justice Anthony Kennedy

Nominated by Ronald Reagan


Justice Samuel Alito 

Nominated by George W. Bush


Justice Antonin Scalia

Nominated by Ronald Reagan 


Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Nominated by Bill Clinton


Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Nominated by Barack Obama



Justice Clarence Thomas

Nominated by George H. W. Bush


Chief Justice John Roberts

Nominated by George W. Bush

We're more certain about some of these justices than we are about others. For example, although it's not super likely, some people have speculated that a question asked by the Chief Justice during the oral arguments for question one (the marriage question) might have been an effort to set up a compromise that would allow same sex marriage by applying existing sex discrimination law rather than accepting a broader view of the fourteenth amendment. That would mean he would actually vote in favor of same sex marriage. (He's the "kind of" swing vote I was counting earlier.) On the other hand, we're pretty sure about Justice Ginsburg. She has been fairly vocal about her support for gay rights and several months ago she became the first Supreme Court Justice to perform a same-sex marriage. Nothing's certain, but this is the way we think they're leaning.

As you've probably noticed, Justice Kennedy is going to play a very important role in the outcome of this case. He spoke very little during the oral arguments (which is not unusual for him), but he had good questions for both sides. If you want to get a sense of where this case may go, play close attention to what Justice Kennedy has to say.

You're going to hear three lawyers argue during the oral arguments for question one. They each had thirty minutes. The first lawyer to argue was Mary Bonauto, the lawyer for the gay couples. The second lawyer you're going to here is Donald Verrilli. He's the current Solicitor General and is there representing the United States, or more practically, the current administration. He argues for the gay couples. The final lawyer you'll hear is John Bursch. He directly represents the state of Ohio (which James Obergefell, the gay man trying to marry his partner, is suing in this case) as well as the states of Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky, for reasons that aren't important to get into right now. He's arguing in favor of the gay marriage ban.

There are a few nuances that might help you understand what you're hearing. First of all, interruptions from the justices are not uncommon. In fact, it's the basic format of the typical Supreme Court oral argument. The arguing lawyer normally doesn't get very far into their initial statements - they can go anywhere from a few minutes to only a few short sentences - before one of the justices interrupts with a question. This isn't unique to this high-profile case. It's also not uncommon for most questions to come from justices who are expected to oppose your position. For example, when Mr. Bursch argued in favor of the gay marriage ban, the majority of the comments came from Justices Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan, all of whom believe that bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional (we think).

Second, the justices never directly address each other. This is important because sometimes the Justices are having "arguments" with each other by asking the arguing lawyer very leading questions. For example, if Justice Sotomayor makes a point about something that opposes the current arguing lawyer's case, Justice Alito, perhaps sympathetic to the lawyer's cause, could say to the lawyer: "...but wait a minute Mr. So-and-so. I thought that the Such-and-such Act of 2011 said x-y-z thing. Wouldn't that make Justice Sotomayor's point irrelevant?" At times the arguing counsel can struggle to get a word in inbetween the justices' comments.

Third, you need to understand that Mr. Bursch, the lawyer arguing in favor of the gay marriage ban, isn't actually arguing that marriage is between a man and a women. Rather, he's arguing that voters have a rational basis for choosing to pass an amendment (or law) defining it as such without necessarily being motivated by animus. Animus is ill will or hostility towards a person or group of people. Under his view of the world (one in which laws curbing the activities of LGBT people are only subject to rational basis scrutiny, as opposed to heightened or strict scrutiny) that's all he needs to do to win. It has do with the different levels of judicial scrutiny, an explanation of which is beyond our scope here. Suffice it to say that there's some ambiguity about which level of judicial scrutiny applies to LGBT people, and because of this ambiguity Mr. Bursch believes he can win merely by proving that the voters of Ohio (as well as Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky) were not motivated by animus when they defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. 

When you listen to the oral arguments for question two you'll hear two lawyers. For reasons that aren't important, different lawyers represented the same parties for question two. The first lawyer you'll hear is Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, who argues on behalf of the couples. He argues that states that don't perform same sex marriages should still be required to recognize same sex marriages that occur in other states. The next lawyer you'll hear is Joseph Whalen, arguing on behalf of the states. He'll argue the opposite. All the advice I gave about listening to question one also applies to question two.

Okay, now I've covered everything you need to know to listen to the oral arguments. Go listen and then come back and read the rest of this answer!

So what happens now? The justices held their conference on Friday, where they took an initial vote and gave out assignments for who will write the opinions. Typically, the most senior member of the "winning" side gets the first claim on writing an opinion. They can either do it themselves or they can hand it off to a more junior justice. The Supreme Court has been tremendously successful at maintaining confidentiality about opinions before they're released, so we're unlikely to hearing anything before they want us to. Technically, they could release their decision any day they're scheduled to be in session, but as a practical matter the Court typically releases decisions for high-profile cases the last day of the term. That's currently scheduled for June 29th, but that may change. In some prior terms when the Court didn't complete all its opinions in time, it simply added more non-argument days to the term. No one really knows what the decision is going to be. Prior to the oral argument, most people believed the Court was likely to strike down bans on same sex marriage. Although most people still believe that's likely, the general census seems to be that the oral arguments were not the "slam dunk" for the couples that everyone was expecting.

Up until now I've tried to be impartial, but now I want to answer the second part of your question and tell you what I think. I'll also answer some potential criticisms of my opinion. 

Honestly, my biggest issue with the gay rights movement has never been the changing definition of marriage. Maybe that makes me a bad person, but I don't think so. What's always bothered me about the current gay rights movement is their lack of respect for religious conviction. Unlike racial discrimination, the traditional definition of marriage is firmly rooted directly in the doctrine of many major religions, certainly not just Christianity. As a result, religious values and people of a religious conscience have been a more direct target of this civil rights movement. That's a problem for me, and I've written about it before. Some people would respond by pointing out that Mormons don't follow all Old Testament teachings, or even all teachings by early modern prophets. For reasons that I think are already obvious to most of our readers, that fundamentally misunderstands how religion generally (and our Church specifically) operates. 

Despite my concerns about the implications for religious freedom, my biggest issue with this case is about the potential loss of certain democratic aspects of our republic. Issues about homosexuality are extremely complex. How do we decide difficult issues? Democracy! Democracy is a beautiful thing. It requires neighbors, friends, and others to come together and speak with each other. You have to persuade other people you are right. This was well described by Paul Clement, a well known Supreme Court lawyer, in United States v. Windsor, another important gay rights case:

The last point I would simply make is in thinking about animus, [remember, animus means 'ill will' or 'hostility'] think about the fact that Congress asked the Justice Department three times about the constitutionality of the statute. [part of the Defense of Marriage Act] ... Now the Solicitor General wants to say, well, it was want of careful reflection. Well, where do we get careful reflection in our system? Generally, careful reflection comes in the democratic process. The democratic process requires people to persuade people. That's what the democratic process requires. You have to persuade somebody you're right. You don't label them a bigot. You don't label them as motivated by animus. You persuade them you are right. That's going on across the country. 

I want to draw your attention to a potential criticism of my concern about loss of democracy. It was well articulated by a comment Justice Kagan made during the arguments for question one:

Mr. Bursch (remember, he's the guy representing the states): When you enact social change of this magnitude through the Federal courts, [you] cut off ... dialogue and say one group gets their definition [of marriage] and the other is maligned as being irrational or filled with animus. And that's not the way that our democratic process is supposed to work.

Justice Kagan: Of course Mr. Bursch, we don't live in a pure democracy; we live in a constitutional democracy. And the Constitution imposes limits on what people can do and this is one of those cases. ­­We [the Court] see them every day; we have to decide what those limits are or whether the Constitution speaks to something and prevents the democratic processes from operating purely independently; isn't that right? 

(page 74 of the transcripts, edited slightly for readability)

I agree with Justice Kagan in principle. We are a constitutional democracy, and the Constitution - of necessity - preempts the democratic process (unless we chose to amend it) in order to maintain the rule of law. But there's a problem with her logic, which was described by Justice Scalia during the oral arguments for Hollingsworth v. Perry:

I'm curious, when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791? 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted?

To accept that the fourteenth amendment bars bans on same sex marriage, you logically must accept one of three facts. First, you could say that the citizens of the United States intended to legalize gay marriage when they ratified the fourteenth amendment in 1868. In this case, it became unconstitutional to bar gay marriage as soon as the amendment was ratified. However, this is a demonstrably false premise. Legislators were not trying to legalize gay marriage when they ratified the fourteenth amendment. The second possibility is that the legislators simply hadn't thought through the fourteenth amendment when they passed it. Had they, they might have realized that one of the implications of "equal protection" was that gay couples would be able to marry. I assume the problems with this view are self-evident.

The third view - and the one most cited by those who would have the Court take an active roles in social issues - is that the meaning of the fourteenth amendment changed as society's understanding of "equal protection" changed.

This is problematic. First of all, we already have a way for our country's laws to change as our understanding of right and wrong changes - its called the democratic process. We elect legislators. We as citizens apply our moral and religious conscience. We talk to each other. We work together. We do our best to do the right thing. That's how our country makes changes. We work together.

The most common response by gay marriage proponents would be "This is a matter of civil rights. It shouldn't be subject to the democratic process." It's a dangerous thing to say your position shouldn't be subject to the democratic process. How do you distinguish what is and is not a legitimate civil rights claim? For example, many people (including me) believe that they have a civil right to bring their religious views into the marketplace - even if it means that we don't serve gay and lesbian weddings. Laws protecting these rights have been unpopular in some areas, but fortunately for me, this is a civil right. It isn't subject to the democratic process. Right?

Come to think of it, these people believe that animals have civil rights that are in some ways comparable to humans. This person believes that pedophiles are being denied certain civil rights under current law. This person feels that the country's current anger towards the "one percent" is discrimination worth comparing to Nazi Germany. Merely using the words "discrimination" or "civil rights" can't constitute the only reason something circumvents the democratic process, otherwise all these people's positions should be enacted immediately. Merely being a minority as a demographic matter can't be the exception either. (Otherwise members of the Church, pedophiles, and the richest one percent in the country would all qualify.) 

So I'm concerned, I guess, by the changing definition of marriage. But I'm much more concerned about the implications of the process.

Phew! That was probably way more information than you ever wanted. Believe it or not, we've only just scratched the surface of information relevant to this case. We skipped a lot of stuff. If you want to know more about these kinds of issues, you should start reading better coverage of the Court. Most major newspapers (The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Washington Post, for example) have pretty good coverage. SCOTUSblog also does a great job. And, of course, you can ask the Board questions. I love this stuff, and I'd be happy to further elaborate on any of the things I skipped over in this answer, even if it means I have to look stuff up.

Also, if this whole thing was "tl;dr," here's a summary: Basically lots of smart people (and some less smart people, like me) have really strong opinions and despite the fact that we've all yelled at each other and written every conceivable argument, no one really knows what's going to happen. No one knows how this case will be viewed in the future. Sorry. Oh, and you can find the audio here.

- Haleakalā

Photographs of the justices courtesy of SupremeCourt.gov.

Question #82278 posted on 04/29/2015 4:14 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Do I have to have watched other Marvel movies to "get" their new ones? It seems like there are like 10 movies now and there is no way I can catch up on them all. At this point should I just never watch the new ones?

-I haven't only see the first Thor movie


Dear Wade,

Short answer: no. The movies are usually pretty self-contained. If you're somewhat familiar with the major players you should be able to "get" the movies. There will be references and Easter eggs you might not get, but then again if you're not familiar with the comics you won't get all of those anyways.

If you want a [SPOILER HEAVY] synopsis of the MCU, I've written one from memory below. This covers a lot more than what you need to know for watching Age of Ultron (and you probably need like, none of it to watch Ant-Man) but it's all leading up to the two-part Infinity Wars movie.

So we start with the creation of the universe. There existed four Cosmic Entities: Entropy, Infinity, Death, and Eternity. The Cosmic Entities created six singularities. This is depicted on a mural in the temple on Morag in Guardians of the Galaxy. The mural is also shown again in the flashback that the Collector shows to the Star-Lord & co. This flashback shows a lot of ancient cosmic history. The singularities are what's called Infinity Stones - essentially six immensely powerful objects. An ancient and powerful race known as the Celestials wielded the power of the Infinity Stones to do things like destroy planets. A group of beings attempted to use one of the stones, the Orb, but the power consumed them. At some point the Orb was contained and hidden in a temple on the planet Morag.

The next major event in the universe we learn about in the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. A long, long time ago a radical faction of an alien race known as the Kree developed a contingency plan in which they experimented on humans to try and turn them into super soldiers. They built temples which contained Terrigen Mist which would "activate" the latent DNA inside the humans that had been experimented upon. They also left objects known as Diviners which would lead humans to the temples the Terrigen Mist. The Kree at some point have a war with the Nova Corps., an army consisting mostly of Xandarians and based on the planet Xandar. The Kree really hate the Xandarians.

OK, so if that stuff sounded a little weird, buckle in. Earth (Midgard) is part of the Nine Realms, nine planets that are connected cosmically. What exactly that means is hard to explain. Thor explains it as being connected with something like a cosmic tree. Every 5,000 years the Nine Realms align and the spatial separation between them becomes bridged with portals. The last time this happened (before it happened again in Thor: The Dark World) a guy named Malekith lead a race known as the Dark Elves in an attempt to destroy the Nine Realms. They use an object known as the Aether, which is also an Infinity Store (even though it's a liquidy/gaseous thing and not a stone at all). They are defeated by Bor, Odin's father, and Bor sends the Aether away to somewhere where it will not be found.

Thousands of years later, a race known as the Frost Giants attempt to take over Earth and invade Norway. When the Frost Giants return to their homeland of Jotunheim, Odin leads a battle against them. Odin is victorious and they return to Asgard with the Casket of Ancient Winters (a Frost Giant weapon) as well as a Frost Giant baby. Odin raises the baby as his son (Loki) along side his birth son, Thor. At some point, one of the Infinity Stones (the Tesseract) that was in Odin's possession on Asgard is moved to the village in Norway that the Frost Giants invaded. When and why, to my knowledge, are never explained. Also at some point Loki makes a deal with the Mad Titan, Thanos, in which he receives a weapon of a race known as the Chitauri. This Chitauri scepter may or may not contain an Infinity Stone. At the time of this writing, I believe that the current opinion is that it is an Infinity Stone, based on a teaser clip for the Infinity Wars movies. Either way, it's important and we'll come back to it.

There are some more interactions between Asgard, the Kree, and Earth but nothing really of significance (unless you want to watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in which case it will all be explained anyways). Next what happens is the events of Captain America: The First Avenger. During WWII, the Nazis have a science research group known as HYDRA. They're obsessed with superpowers and mystical objects because they are led by a guy named Johann Schmidt who believes that magic from history is all based on science. Schmidt captures a German Jewish scientist named Dr. Erskine and makes Erskine use a super soldier serum that Erskine developed on him. The serum was unfinished and burns his face and makes his head look like a red skull (so everyone starts calling him the Red Skull). Erskine flees to America and meets up with Howard Stark who was working in the Strategic Scientific Reserve, America's military science division. Together they begin working on perfecting the super soldier serum. Schmidt invades Norway and steals the Tesseract and starts using it to build WMDs.

Enter young Steve Rogers. Steve wants nothing more to fight for his country but he is too small and scrawny. He is rejected from serving while his best friend, Bucky Barnes, prepares to be sent over seas. Rogers is approached by Dr. Erskine who recruits him to be the pilot for the super soldier program. Steve agrees and the super soldier serum works. Unfortunately, right as he is finished being transformed into a super soldier, a HYDRA assassin kills Dr. Erskine. So, no more super soldiers. Unfortunately the military doesn't think one super soldier is enough to actually send into battle, so they have him become a character to promote war bonds. While doing a show in Europe, Steve learns that Bucky's regiment has been captured so Stark and Agent Peggy Carter (British agent working with the SSR) fly Steve into the war zone. Steve drops in and rescues Bucky & co. Then the military lets Steve lead a group called the Howling Commandos, which included Bucky. Also, he gets a shield made out of this super awesome material called vibranium that's virtually indestructible. The Howling Commandos blow up a bunch of HYDRA bases and they raid a train to capture Armin Zola, Schmidt's right-hand man. Unfortunately during the raid Bucky falls off a cliff to what is presumed by everyone else to be his death (spoiler: people rarely die in these movies).

With Zola captured, they are able to locate the main HYDRA base and they attack it and confront Schmidt. They find he has a ton of bombs powered by the Tesseract on a plane going to blow up major US cities. Steve confronts Schmidt on the plane and Schmidt tries to handle the Tesseract but he is vaporized (or maybe teleported somewhere, because the Tesseract can do that). The plane has already taken off and is on auto-pilot. The Tesseract falls out of the plane and into the ocean somewhere. Steve's only way of stopping the destruction of the US is to put the plane down. As he does, he's on the radio with Peggy (there's a romance there) and he tells her to save a dance for him and it's heart-breaking. He puts the plane down in the icy ocean and gets frozen.

Stark searches really hard to find Steve but is unable. He does find the Tesseract and that's put under the care of the SSR. After the war, Peggy is relegated to secretarial duties at the SSR (and she is not happy about it) - this is the events of the show Agent Carter. Some people steal a bunch of dangerous inventions from Howard Stark and try to frame him as a traitor. Peggy helps clear Stark's name and reveals that it was actually a Russian terrorist group called Leviathan and that the US military did a bunch of really shady things. They're stopped, and a guy named... I don't remember his real name, but his super villain name is Doctor Faustus. Basically he's a really powerful hypnotist in the show and he was working for Leviathan. Anyways, he is put into the same jail cell as Armin Zola, HYDRA scientist. That's foreshadowing for something but their work together hasn't been explicitly stated yet. The good news about all of this is that Peggy earns more respect from the SSR and starts getting real spy work assignments. One of those involves her uncovering the Diviner. In the process, they run across a bad guy named Daniel Whitehall. We'll come back to him.

Eventually, under the direction of Peggy, Stark, and Nick Fury (Sr.) the SSR becomes S.H.I.E.L.D. Zola is allowed to collaborate with S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists as part of Operation Paperclip. Meanwhile apparently a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. is secretly HYDRA. Also Whitehall is HYDRA. They operate in the shadows so no one figures this out. However, a few decades later Zola is dying and puts his mind into a computer in the bunker where Steve Rogers went through boot camp. Also he designs an algorithm that will identify potential enemies to HYDRA. It's not used for a while, though, so we'll come back to that.

The next few events, I'm not sure when they happen. (I've tried to do this in chronological, as opposed to movie release date, order.) But they're pretty important. Thanos adopts (at least) two daughters, Gamora and Nebula. A Kree named Ronan the Accuser kills the family of Drax the Destroyer. Nick Fury Jr. takes over S.H.I.E.L.D. in his father's place. An alien impregnates a woman named Meredith Quill. A few years later, Meredith Quill is dying and her young son, Peter, is taken aboard a spaceship by ravagers who were hired to return him to his father but instead Peter ends up becoming a Ravager with them. Once again, we'll come back to those.

Back on earth, Maya Hansen invents Extremis, a regenerative serum and Tony Stark humiliates Aldrich Killian of Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.). A scientist named Bruce Banner becomes a test subject for a gamma ray experiment designed to recreate the super soldier serum. It goes wrong, and now Bruce becomes the Hulk when he gets angry. Bruce goes into hiding and tries to learn to control the Hulk.

Next, we have the events of Iron Man. Tony Stark, son of Howard Stark, is a military contractor. He's demonstrating a missile in Afghanistan when he is abducted terrorists known as the Ten Rings who had been hired by Obadiah Stane, Stark's corporate rival, to abduct Stark.. During the abduction, shrapnel becomes lodged in Tony's chest but fortunately he is prisoner with someone who is also a super genius, Yinsen. They build an electromagnet to keep the shrapnel from killing Tony but they also have to invent a power source for it, called the arc reactor. They also secretly build a suit of armor and Tony uses it to fight their way out. Yinsen dies, but Tony is rescued. Back in America, Tony builds a new suit and a new arc reactor. He uses it to save the city where Yinsen was from. Iron Man becomes a thing. Pepper Potts, assistant/love interest of Tony's, discovers Stane's involvement with the Ten Rings and informs Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. Obadiah Stane and the Ten Rings build an Iron Man suit based of Tony's original design and they steal Tony's arc reactor to power it. Tony defeats Stane, and Stane dies in the process. Tony publicly announces that he is Iron Man. He is then approached by Fury about joining a superhero team he's trying to put together.

Then we have The Incredible Hulk which could probably be debated is not really canon. It's not even worth watching, in my opinion. The only things you need to know is that Bruce is still in hiding, Dr. Samuel Sterns has Hulk's blood (I think, something with gamma radiation at least) drip onto his brain and he becomes super genius villain guy known as the Leader (although he hasn't done anything yet), and Emil Blonsky becomes the Hulk-like villain Abomination (although we don't see him again). So really the main thing is that Bruce is in hiding, and Tony Stark approached evil-ish military general and father of Bruce's (ex-)girlfriend, Thunderbolt Ross, about starting a team.

OK, so I've already held this way over 100 hours even though I planned to be extremely brief but now I'm going to try and actually be brief. The problem with doing this from memory is I kept remembering more things and going back and adding them. Since we're going chronologically, we've technically only finished the first two movies. Maybe if someone asks another question I'll do the following more detailedly.

Iron Man 2 has nothing really significant for the plot of the larger Marvel drama in it other than the introduction of Black Widow and a post-credit scene of Mjolnir. Thor comes to Earth, battles with his brother Loki who is actually a Frost Giant, meets up with S.H.I.E.L.D. Loki brainwashes Dr. Eric Selvig to work on the Tesseract in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s possession. Captain America is uncovered in the ice and recruited for the Avengers initiative. Loki uses the Tesseract under the direction of Thanos to invade Earth. The Avengers assemble. The Avengers win! Coulson dies. The Hulk is amazing. Loki's staff is in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s possession and Thor returns with the Tesseract and Loki (as prisoner) to Asgard.

Iron Man 3 may or may not play into the new Avengers movie. I'm not sure as I haven't seen it yet (but will tomorrow!). Here's what you would need to know if you do need to know it: Tony creates a bunch of suits and has his AI, J.A.R.V.I.S., control them. And Extremis is kind of a super-soldier serum now.

Phil Coulson is not dead thanks to T.A.H.I.T.I. (yes, another acronym) but now has alien blood inside him that will drive him to find the Kree temple. He starts a new team of non-powered S.H.I.E.L.D. agents searching for "gifted" people. Also HYDRA is looking for powered people. They have conflicts but Coulson doesn't know it's HYDRA yet.

Thor: The Dark World occurs during another convergence. The Dark Elves try to take over but are stopped. The Aether is sent to the Collector. Also, Frigga dies. And Odin is dead? Probably? I don't remember if that was confirmed but people never die in these movies. And Loki is pretending to be Odin.

Then in Captain America: The Winter Soldier we find out HYDRA was inside S.H.I.E.L.D. all along! And Bucky is a brainwashed assassin for HYDRA. And Nick Fury Jr. dies (just kidding he actually doesn't). But S.H.I.E.L.D. falls apart. Coulson starts his own S.H.I.E.L.D. and goes after HYDRA. They pretty much get rid of it at this point, but not entirely. It's important to know that HYDRA now has Loki's staff and two twins, Wanda and Peter Maximoff. There's an intro given about them in one of the companion comic books but it's not really important. And another S.H.I.E.L.D. starts up, not led by Coulson. But they are investigating Coulson and his secrets.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantastic movie and you should watch it. If you don't, what you need to know is that Thanos hires Ronan to get the Power Orb but Peter Quill gets to it first. Peter teams up with Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, and Drax to defeat Ronan. The Power Orb is put in the protection of the Nova Corps. Ronan is probably/most likely dead but who knows? It might have been a Skrull impersonating Ronan that whole time. (That is a wild theory based on nothing except that it'd be a shame to not utilize Lee Pace again.)

And there you have it. Sorry it got really brief at the end.

TL;DR Superheroes. Bad guy named Thanos. Powerful objects.

Not all of this will be relevant to the most imminent Marvel movies but it should have everything you should know for those. I don't know how much background will be provided in the movies, but I'm assuming you're not going to have to be as familiar with the comic books as I am to get them.


posted on 05/20/2015 5:51 p.m.
Dear past self,

Someone recently composed an Imgur GIF gallery that not only has cool animations, but also is more accurate than mine on certain chronological issues and the relation of when events happened relative to other events. I highly recommend.

Question #82234 posted on 04/17/2015 2:32 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

In the continental United States, what is the furthest in miles you can be from a temple and where is it?



Dear my synesthesia thinks Emma is a beautiful name (mostly deep green),

Did you know that I love questions like this?

I love questions like this.

Luckily for you, I had already collected most of the data that I needed in Board Question #70656. I updated the data to include the five temples announced since then, and then selected from that group all temples in the US. I also included several temples in Canada and Mexico; as you'll see in my maps, some parts of the United States are closer to temples in Mexico or Canada than temples in the US. Before actually researching the answer to your question, I created Thiessen polygons around each temple. The area inside of a Thiessen polygon is closer to the temple at the center of the polygon than it is to any other temple I've included on the map.

temple polygons.png

This map doesn't answer your question, though—it can tell you which temple is closest to each point, but not which point is furthest from a temple. For that, I turned to buffers. I started with a buffer at 200 miles, then added another buffer at 250 miles and a third at 300 miles. You can see the output below. I colored all distances under 200 miles from a temple in lime green, distances 200-250 miles from a temple in green, and distances 250-300 miles from a temple in aqua. All distances over 300 miles were left in white.

temple buffers.png

Looking closely at the map, you can see several areas over 200 miles from a temple: small areas in northern Montana, central Nevada, and western Minnesota, and larger areas in southwest Texas, central Arkansas, West Virginia, the Florida panhandle, northeast Maine, northern Michigan and Minnesota, and the central Great Plains states. A few of these areas contain segments that are more than 250 miles from a temple: southwest Texas, the Florida panhandle, northern Maine, west-central Kansas, the border of Nebraska and South Dakota, and almost all of Michigan's upper peninsula. In fact, if you look really close, you might be able to see a small speck of white in Michigan.

For your convenience, I created another map, zoomed in on the peninsula.

more UP.png

All of the area in Michigan shown in white on this map is between 300 and 325 miles from a temple. I did some investigation on Google Maps, and for the most part it looks thoroughly uninhabited, including quite a bit of land protected in state and national parks/forests/lakeshores. The only city that Google deemed worthy of showing is Munising, population 2,355. From a bit of browsing on Wikipedia, it looks like there are a few other communities in the area with populations ranging from the low hundreds to just over 1,000, but nothing much larger.

There is a ward in Marquette, just inside the 300-mile mark, but there are no wards or branches in the white area on the map.

There you have it!


Question #82214 posted on 04/22/2015 11:14 a.m.

Dear El-ahrairah and 100 Hour Board friends,

In the spirit of Board Question #76245, would you please create a zodiac of Board writers? And also horoscope-y personality descriptions based on birthdays?

You are all the absolute best.



Dearest Sheebs,

During the beginning of time but after the creation of the world, Bryghym Yyyng created the zodyac calendar to help writers keep track of questions that took a really long time to answer. He used the names of the 12 most prolific writers of all time as the names of the months, and flung their constellations into the night sky. He also provided this handy table so we wouldn't have to figure out our own destinies:

SymbolLong.Wyrmish nameEnglish translationStart and Stop DatesConstellation Looks LikePersonality description
Katya The Physics Chick March 21- April 19 A nun with a cross You are, without argument, the best of the zodiac. Your thirst for knowledge and love of power lead you to far outstrip your rivals, whom you beat over the head with your holy cross.
30° Jyckys Lyzyrys Laser Jock April 20- May 20 Cyclops (the X-Man) You enjoy sports, but only if you can involve lasers somehow. This trait will lead you to much fulfillment in life, but also much ruined sports equipment. Avoid playing sports with friends. You are compatible with Azryelites.
3 ಠ_ಠ 60° Uffysh Uffish Thought May 21- June 20 Grumpy face Your voice is gruffish, your manner roughish, and your temper huffish. You are compatible with Wyldyrf-y-Syyrynites.
90° Azryel Death June 21-July 22 No stars in this section You and everyone you love will die.
120° Myco Mico July 23-Aug. 22 A monkey You have a rich personality and a plethora of strengths and weaknesses, but you have to search the archives to find out what they are.


150° Mystyrys Hymblys Humble Master Aug. 23- Sept. 22 Master Wugui After many years of hard work and meekness, you are the humblest person you know.

180° Yyllyw Yellow Sept. 23- Oct. 22 A yellow You have a yellow, fun-loving personality. You are very tech-savvy and are compatible with everyone but Uffyshites and Wyldyrf-y-Syyrynites.
8 ?
210° Pyndyngys Rytyngys Rating Pending Oct. 23- Nov. 21 A question mark You are very observant. You are also continually trying to figure out where you stand in life. But don't worry, you are suitable for children.
9 【•】
240° Wyldyrf y Syyryn Waldorf and Sauron Nov. 22- Dec. 21 Two grumpy men You see all, and then grumble about it. You build fulfilling relationships with Uffyshites and other Wyldyrf-y-Syyrynites, even though you'd never call them that.
10 270° Wyrm Lydy Dragon Lady Dec. 22- Jan. 19 The Great Wyrm To most, you appear to be nothing out of the ordinary. As soon as they turn their back, however, you metaphorically devour them. Then you physically devour them.
11 300° Myrgyyryte dy Synty Jyst Marguerite St. Just Jan. 20-  Feb. 18 A pimpernel You love high-class things, like Englishmen and the theatre. You are compatible with barrels of Mycoites.
12 :-D 330° yyyfylnyss yayfulness Feb. 19- March 20 Happy face Whatever your stage in life, you know your place in the world. You also know Lesotho's place. And Iqaluit's place. And Male's place. And Novaya Zemlya's place.

Also, everybody's lucky number is always 27.

-El-ahrairah, a happy Yyllywite

Question #82197 posted on 04/12/2015 6:14 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Why did the folks over at Microsoft change Word's default settings to Calibri, 11 pt font, multiple spacing, and space between paragraphs? I hate all of those things, and beyond that, most standards require the old default settings (you know, TNR and 12 pt font). Were the users clamoring for the change or was it some top-down attempt to impose new standards on everybody?

-Goudy Stout


Dear me, too,

TSG explains below why they did it, but did you know that you can change the default? With the help of my friendly neighborhood Paint program, I've put together a tutorial for you.

First, let's change the font defaults:



(Technically, you don't have to set the default font to Times New Roman. You could choose Goudy Stout or Felix Titling or, my personal favorite, Garamond. You could even use the "text effects" button at the bottom to set your roommate's Word defaults to semi-transparent, 3-D Webdings. I've always thought that would be funny.)


Now, let's change the paragraphing defaults:




See? Now there aren’t any stupid spaces between paragraphs and we’ve gotten rid of that awful Calibri font for good. Your “normal” template, which is the one that Microsoft Word pulls up automatically when you open a new document, is now defaulted to the specifications you want, not the ones Microsoft arbitrarily decided to impose. In fact, you can set defaults for anything you want within Word simply by clicking on that little arrow in the corner of each box. Cool, huh? (You’re welcome. I accept payment in the form of cash, chocolate, or votes on the Senate floor.)

I don’t know whether the process looks the same on a Mac, but I imagine it’s probably similar. Do a little clicking around in the style of the tutorial above and you’re sure to eventually stumble upon the right series of steps.

Good luck!

Yours, &c.

Heidi Book

Question #82118 posted on 04/19/2015 11:28 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

The Other Tishbite seeks guidance from The Board concerning the keeping of time.

Chapter 12

1. And it came to pass that nearly half a year had passed, and The Other Tishbite sought no further knowledge from The Board.
2. For behold, having learned of the schedule of the Subway kiosk and the cost of heating the LSB, he was filled, for a season.
3. But it came to pass that in the fourth month of the two-thousand and eleventh year, a small disputation arose which did cause him to again seek knowledge from The Board.
4. For in times past, The Other Tishbite had made his record according to the reign of the Worthens.
5. But behold, in these times he was sorely troubled, for he wist not what to write.
6. For verily it was the second year in which the Worthens had reigned, but their reign had not yet lasted a year.
7. And so it came to pass that The Other Tishbite did make his petition of The Board, that he might correctly keep the record of his days at BYU.
8. And so it was. Amen.

-The Other Tishbite


Section 4

The Other Tishbite inquires concerning the recording of time. The reckoning of days is established.

1. For lo, behold, there were great many disturbances in the land concerning the reckoning of days.
2. For behold, the people were sore confused, and thus the Other Tishbite besought the writer Mo concerning this thing.
3. For he did seek an answer from the Word of the Board concerning the recording of time.
4. For lo, they knew not whither to call this year the second year of the reign of the Worthens or the first year of the reign of the Worthens.
5. It being a new year following the beginning of the reign of the Worthens, and yet a full year had not yet passed.
6. For the records had called the preceding year the first year of the reign of the Worthens, and they feared because they knew not what to do.
7. This is the question the Other Tishbite did ask. And this is the answer the Other Tishbite did receive:
8. So there may be faith and understanding in this thing, let the decree go forth that this is the first year of the reign of the Worthens.
9. The preceding year being the last year the Samuelsons did reign, and this being the first full year in the reign of the Worthens.
10. And lo, the people called the preceding year the last year of the reign of the Samuelsons and they they called this year the first year of the reign of the Worthens.
11. And thus is the Word of the Board touching the passage of days, as given through its writer, Mo.
12. And behold, great peace and understanding were had by the Other Tishbite and the readers of the Board.
13. And lo, thus were the reckoning of days established. And so it was, amen. 

Question #82028 posted on 04/29/2015 4:56 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Let me set the scene. A Broadway big shot is roaming the internet, when suddenly he stumbles upon the 100 hour board. He is so moved by the website; it's entertaining yet emotional, snarky yet serious, ridiculous yet beautiful. So he decides it's the perfect inspiration for the next musical he produces.

100 Board the Musical! All it needs is a plot and a cast. So, dear writers, what will this stunning show be about? The history of the board, the adventures of HFAC, saving the earth from tunnel worms, or some other compelling tale? And who would you get to play the writers on Broadway?

Tl;dr: 100 hour board musical-choose your cast and plot.



Dear jaiphal,

After days and weeks of fevered dreams
Of thoughts awake, and thoughts asleep
The musical which the man had wrought
Which spoke of some strange mystery

And responses from th' house and keeps
Of writers who forgot to sleep
Who obviated their school and work
In their quest to shed the mud and murk

Of uncertainty from all queries that appeared
In 100 hours or so, this thing they held dear
"Y-yes!" he stammered as he scribbled
"This idea from the heavens hath dribbled"

"And when on Broadway I make my debut
My music the critic's voice will soothe 
Whilst for my favorite website I garner
Bazillions of pageviews without a warning

"Hugh Jackman for the lead I'll cast
As the good Sir Insomniac
And Nick Offerman will for a fact
Moonlight as the Great M.O.D.A.Q.

"Sandra Bullock shall for Certainly sing,
Robert De Niro does Haleakala's thing
Julia Roberts shall the lovely Tally M. play
As Soulful by Cate Blanchett is portrayed.

"Judi Dench is full of ability
And classy 'nough to play Zedability
I'll bet Audrey Hepburn practically begs
For the part of Owlet on the stage.

For Divya I shall knock on the door
Of that Indian actress, Kareena Kapoor
And for the part of the tech-inclined Yellow
Jeff Bridges for me is the perfect fellow.

"Meryl Streep would be Ms. O'Malley
And Grace Kelly Heidi Book shall be
Whilst the actress Penelope Cruz
Will study Squirrels' every quote and ruse

"While from Scotland El-Ahrairah's not
Young Sean Connery's got the 'brows to take a shot
Yayfulness just might steal the show
Portrayed as he'll be by Russell Crowe

Vienna's character (and awesome eyes)
I hope to be played by Aishwarya Rai
CPM's talents multifarious would be
Best portrayed by Christopher Lee

Now as for Concorde... let me consider this:
She'll require someone with more finesse
Someone who's got spunk, not afraid to be sassy
Beautiful inside and out, smart, and classy 

Hilarious yet insightful at the drop of a pin
And careful enough not to let zombies in.
With all that out there, my primary choice
Would be Jamie Lee Curtis lending her voice 

It won't be hard to find someone to be Ardilla
How 'bout some hobo eating paint chip quesadillas?
Now the actors are set, how 'bout a plot?
(Not that Broadway cares a lot)

Titles are more important, that I see
So how about the Board Identity?
Perhaps they'd sing about when they'll try
To discover where Matt Damon hides 

Beneath the tunnels of the HFAC they'd search
And rather quickly put that ruffian in the lurch 
But whilst for the knowledge they went a' questin'
Their resolve was to be sorely tested

Tunnel worms! They attacked the writers in a flash
Who with wit and verve did their best to strike back
But tunnel worms don't care—freshmen they eat
With Especially for Youth kids being a special treat

43468_m.Tunnel Worm Card.jpg (from Board Question #43468)

"But maybe," said M.O.D.A.Q., "worms will make an exception"
As they set off in the Marriott Center's general direction
And when from the last caverns they'd fled a'pressin
They delightedly discovered Women's Conference in session 

"Enough food for years!" Inverse Insomniac sang.
"I'm not so sure," said Soulful,"They'll cause stomach pains."
"Who cares!" said Squirrel, "though it's out of the question
"That these women will cause worms severe indigestion."

Indeed, thought Anne, for there certainly was a reek
Of chocolate cinnamon bears,
Mint brownies 
and other gross things.

As the worms cornered writers
(Who thought they were toast)
They heard the voice of the person
They feared respected the most

Why, it was Matt Meese!
Way up in the rafters
He released down the solution
To their pending disaster.

Billions of Otter Pops fell
Sugared ice all cascading
Until the Marriot Center was full
Th' worms hunger abated.

The writers were saved,
Tunnel worms all appeased
Womens conf all a'moved
To some place overseas.

"And so ends the musical"
said its soon-to-be writer
"And the people of Broadway
Will become that much wiser."

--Ardilla Feroz

Question #81932 posted on 04/03/2015 10:28 a.m.

Dear and esteemed 100 Hour Board,

I have a hypothetical question for you. Let's say that, suddenly, earth's gravity changed so that the shell between the deepest part of the ocean and somewhere in the atmosphere experiences just enough gravity to counteract any "centrifugal force" that would fling anything out. In other words, everything is weightless. And there's some kind of force field keeping the atmosphere in. What would be the results of this on the world's oceans? Weather? Vegetation? Other things? Feel free to explain any assumptions you make where my scenario isn't clear. Thanks a ton!



Dear El-ahrairah, (man, I'd forgotten how hard that is to spell!)

It sounds like you're basically asking about life with dramatically reduced gravity—there's enough gravity that stuff will drift downwards (the oceans won't just float up and mix with the air, creating an algae apocalypse and ending all other life), but nothing close to what we're used to. For the sake of argument, let's talk about gravity of 1-5% of normal. This would actually have some pretty sweet effects. 

Flight under human power would be easy. Currently, human-powered airplanes require around 0.5 hp, something close the max power output of someone is excellent physical condition (source). That's the amount of power needed to overcome drag, maintain airspeed, and (through speed) generate lift. Lift needed is directly proportional to gravity, so at 5% gravity you'd only need 5% of the lift. I think this stuff behaves in a linear-ish way at low speeds, so that would be in line with a power output of 0.025hp, which an average person can put out all day. Similarly, building airplanes would be much easier.

Hopping would be a preferred mode of transportation for humans and animals. Max jump height is proportional to gravity; in 1% gravity, you can jump ~100 times as high. Your jump motion would need to be jerkier, or your first tiny push off from the ground would send you drifting, but with practice the results could be impressive. A current average vertical jump height of ~22 inches would become a height of 183 feet. (Landing after falling back from that height would also feel no worse than falling from 22 inches currently does, although you might bounce back up, and both the up and down trips would take 100x as long.) Elevators and stairs don't make sense any more, and hopping/gliding/flying becomes generally preferable to walking. 

Kangaroo robots would replace cars. In microgravity, wheeled vehicles don't work well because they can't get traction, which is proportional to gravity. The wheels will skip around just off the ground instead of providing forward motion. For this reason, hopping robots are being developed for missions to low-gravity asteroids. Similarly, on a low-gravity planet you'd want hopping robots or something similar rather than cars.

Terminal velocity is proportional to the square root of gravity, so with 1% gravity terminal velocity for a human would be 12 mph (rather than 120 mph at present). That means that a skydiver would only reach the speed we currently see with a fall from 10 feet or so. People could skydive without parachutes.

Wind, currents, and weather would change dramatically. With less gravity, convection forces driving the movement of air and water (winds and currents) would be proportionally reduced. Because of this, many ocean currents would collapse. Temperatures and nutrients in oceans would experience less convective and current-driven mixing and more stratification, which would influence sea life (mostly for the worse). Without currents and winds redistributing heat, weather would correspond more closely to latitude; for example, northern Europe would be much colder without the Gulf Stream. The lack of wind would also tend to reduce the amount of water from the oceans that makes it inland, turning much of the earth's area into desert. Thunderstorms and hurricanes, as they are driven largely by convection, would likely not occur. 

Slow-motion ocean waves would be a thing, because wave speed is proportional to the square root of gravitational acceleration. So the same wave in the same place would move 10x slower in 1% gravity. There would also be some potential for waves to grow much taller, as there's less restoring force, although having less wind would also reduce wave formation. Any kind of sloshing or liquid-handling activity could show similarly odd behavior.   

The human body would get all messed up, as bone and muscle mass atrophy and fluids are redistributed throughout the body.

Trees could be much taller. Currently, gravity limits the height of the tallest trees by limiting by their ability to get water from their roots to their upper areas, but this limit would obviously move way out. Competition for sunlight could then get pretty crazy. (Although again, primarily on the coast due to the lack of rain inland.) Tumbleweeds, dandelion seeds, and the like could travel much farther, which could cut both ways as they might also be less likely to take root. Giant living floating/bouncing tumbleweed-type-things might be possible. 

Animals would face all kinds of screwy evolutionary pressures. Kangaroos might take over the world. Snakes might have a hard time getting traction. Elephants might end up with much skinnier, longer legs. As vegetation grows taller, the rewards to a giraffe-like build would increase. Average height-to-weight ratios would change to approach a number more optimal for the new gravity. (I wish they did multi-generational studies on mice in the ISS.)

Modern industry would in some ways become much more challenging. Most chemical processes, from pharmaceuticals to petrochemicals or refining, rely on gravity-driven separations between gases and liquids and/or liquids of different densities, all of which would become dramatically slower. Things that in today's world hold themselves down would need to be tied down, or they'd bounce away when jostled. 
Fire would act funny; compare a candle in normal gravity to a candle in zero-g, both pictured below. This would also tend to have screwy results for heavy industry (most power generation comes from fire), and even for the existence of civilization depending on how it influenced cooking. Of course, cooking would be goofy regardless: how will you reliably keep food from bouncing out of a pan? Would large-scale agriculture even develop in a world where cooking bread from grains was challenging? 
Civilization would likely collapse. Much of our livestock would bound out of its enclosures, it would stop raining across most of the world, wheeled mechanical harvesting machines and the like would stop working, industry would collapse, fire would no longer work normally, and everyone would have some much fun just bouncing and flying around that they might not even notice most of the above until mass starvation set in. 
So, it would be fun to fly around in 1-5% gravity for a while, but if you've found the Board's old experimental global anti-gravity machine, my heartfelt advice would be to not turn it on.

~Professor Kirke

Question #81889 posted on 04/01/2015 7:14 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I have some questions about repentance. When we repent we won't suffer for that sin in the eternities and we can have it wiped away so we can return to God's presence. I know repentance doesn't take away consequences like if you had sex and got pregnant just because you repent doesn't mean you're not pregnant anymore. But what about sins that impact someone emotionally? Like for example pornography. We know that it does all kinds of bad things to the brain, does repenting take those emotional consequences away? Also if you do a sin repeatedly like gossip and then repent when you repent should you repent for the current time you gossiped? Or are you really repenting for all the other times you gossiped because clearly since you are continuing the sin then you didn't truly gossip in the future? If you keep making the same sin again despite trying really hard does that mean you're just not strong enough or that deep down you're not truly sorry or you don't love Christ enough?

Also when we sin we make it so God can't bless us (because obedience brings blessings). So let's say God was going to bless you with a spouse but then you lied or stole something and then you repented. Do you get the opportunity for that blessing back? Or do you miss out on all the blessings you would have gotten in that time period when you were disobedient and didn't have the spirit to guide you?

When the scriptures say though your sins be as scarlet they will be as white as snow what does that really mean? Does God really forget that we made that sin? What about the consequences of those sins? Like if you were mean and tried to make restitution but the person now hates you? Or doesn't He remember the blessings you didn't recieve because you didn't keep the commandments?

You know how we are supposed to repent daily? What if you forget to repent one day and then you forget what sinful things you did that day? Can you repent for sins you made in the past or times you hurt someone's feelings and you don't remember? Is it possible to ever feel completely clean and worthy and at peace with God besides being baptized? When you repent during the week and take the sacrament is that when your sins are washed away for that week?

What are some other things you've wondered about repentance?

-I've made some mistakes I regret/I'm just wondering (do you know this song? It's pretty good)



Some days I sound exactly like you. Most days I know better. Today I know better, and I'm going to tell you what I know. Tomorrow, you may have to tell me the same thing back again, and I won't believe you. Maybe by the time you read this, you'll be feeling okay again. Maybe you'll still be stuck in the spiral of shame and sadness and won't be able to hear me. Have you tried therapy? I recommend it. Anyway, you're about to get a really empathetic, really long, dose of the gospel as Uffish understands it.

You're right about some points. Repentance isn't a time machine, and it can't undo the past. However, I see you as being wrong on several points, and I'll explain them as best I can.

First, the difference between repentance and the Atonement. Repentance is a process that we can go through through the power of the Atonement. It signals our willingness and dedication to be on God's side. Repentance, though, doesn't buy us freedom from the suffering that our own actions would cause us. That's the Atonement. I don't really understand the specifics of how the Atonement works, of course, but man, I'm so glad for it. Repentance is what I can do, but it's not enough on its own. It doesn't heal me. Luckily, the Atonement DOES heal me, and it's always functioning.

Next, emotional and mental wounds are, as I understand them, much like physical ones. Yes, engaging with pornography can teach you some false concepts that might be difficult to unlearn. You might need help to break the habit and to figure out what's true and what's not. You'll need to learn to stop picking off the scab and let the wound heal, and you may need some antibiotics. But having viewed pornography once or many times does not make you incapable of change or healing. Of course, you can't have never seen pornography once you've viewed it, and you know that. But it doesn't have to inform your thought process forever.

I also sometimes struggle with my most oft-repeated sins, such as your hypothetical gossiping. If I do it again after I thought I repented, then was that real repentance? Isn't repentance never doing it again? I guess I failed! And if I've been doing repentance wrong, then how should I do it right? I'm so confused! And God's Atonement is perfect, right? If it's not helping us, it's our fault, not his. So if I'm not getting better, that's my fault, and maybe I'm permanently broken. Maybe I'm not strong enough or dedicated enough to make it. Maybe I'll be sent to the island of misfit toys who just can't hack it.

Nonsense. Brad Wilcox is your friend here. Watch his devotional His Grace is Sufficient, and bookmark it. Watch it often. Check out his book The Continuous Atonement. (As an English teacher, I have to say some of his rhetorical techniques really rub me the wrong way, but that doesn't mean he isn't making good points. It just means I think he dresses them up annoyingly. Give it a chance anyway.) I'll give you the short version of both. God's grace (or, as we call it, the Atonement) isn't just about giving us a second chance. It's about giving us unlimited chances, and also about building us up so that we're strong enough to take them. If you get up one more time than you fall down, you're a winner. So when you mess up, don't give up. Don't give in to thinking that you're not strong enough or sorry enough or that you don't love God enough. Just try again. Try harder or try smarter if you can. Try again the regular way if you can't. If you're trying, you're making progress, even if you can't see it.

Also, God can bless us. Always. When we're righteous, we may have a greater capacity for blessings. So let's say your blessing-cup is atrophied right now, and can only hold a golden coin or two, and a whole crown falls past, but you can't catch it in your tiny little cup. Will you ever get the chance to catch that crown again? Maybe, maybe not. Does it matter? Your cup can grow again, and as it does, it will fill up. You may get that one crown, or another, or several, or you may get all golden coins or rubies or whatever. You will not live with a crown-shaped hole in your cup for all eternity. You may regret that now, but I can't imagine us still regretting them in the eternities, can you? "Oh, if only I hadn't lied about what grade I got on my math final, I would have had a 2-month head start on my current level of righteousness/happiness, and I would have gotten to marry Jimmy. As it is, I'm 2 months behind where I could have been, and I'm married to dumb ol' Greg." Yeah, sometimes I look at my patriarchal blessing and I wonder if by making various mistakes, I've missed out on various blessings. I may have, I may not have. If that was a snapshot of my possible future back when I got it (and I'm not sure quite how it works), then sure, that may not be a path open to me anymore. But when I am not in the throes of depression, I believe that there's a path equally bright for me, now. And if I murder a man and get addicted to drugs and become a prostitute, I believe that (with an incredible amount of work and maybe not in this life) there is an equally bright path for me, even then. Don't cry over missed opportunities. Look forward, when you can, to the next ones.

You ask if God forgets our sins. I don't know that God gets repentance-induced amnesia. I think that him remembering our sins no more is more about that not being information vital to understanding you, anymore. Let's say I had a peanut allergy as a child, but for some reason, I grow out of it as an adult. My mom probably hasn't forgotten that I had the allergy, but when she sees me, she doesn't think "peanut allergy!" anymore. And she can give me a peanut butter sandwich, if I'm hungry.

I think the scarlet to snow-white transformation isn't, again, a time machine that means the scarlet never existed. But I think it means that you can be whole and perfect again. If you've been a jerk, and someone can't forgive you, your repentance can't force them to change their mind. It is their (unwise) choice to hold the grudge. But the repentance/Atonement combo can turn you into a kind person. The sort of great person that treats others wisely and compassionately. While you can't make choices for others, you can make choices for yourself, and those choices can make you whole again. You can be free of the pull of pornography or gossip or whatever you're thinking of. You have not done any damage that cannot be fixed. No, not even that secret sin that you're thinking of. Or that recurring shortcoming. You're not broken past repair. You're not a crumpled paper that can never quite be smooth or a board with nail holes in it or a wineglass mended clumsily with glue or a white dress with a blood stain that will never wash out. You can be smooth and unblemished and as white as snow again. That is what the Atonement means. You can be as good as new. The Atonement doesn't heal us mostly. It heals us all the way.

Lastly, you ask about the specifics of repentance: how it works daily vs long term, and if you can repent of things you don't quite remember, and where, exactly the sacrament and baptism fits in. Here's my favorite metaphor. Life is a journey--a path to heaven. (When I draw this in Relief Society, heaven looks part like a crown and part like a castle, because I can't draw.) Sometimes we wander off the path, on purpose or by accident. Repentance is realizing that we're moving in the wrong direction, and turning and moving towards castle-heaven again. Maybe it will take 18 tries to get back on the path. Maybe as soon as we get on the path, we fall back down the same slope. Doesn't matter. Keep trying.

So I don't know when, exactly, the penalty for my sins is lifted off. I'm sure I don't remember everything wrong that I've done. I try to fix the things I do know I've done wrong. Sometimes I don't try as hard or as effectively as I would like to. Usually I don't. Sad, yes, but normal. But I try. And occasionally I reflect on my life and my character, and I think about how I could do better. If I'm wise, I also think about how far I've come. For me, "trying to be a better person" and "repentance" are the same thing. That's something I can do daily. I am not making fast progress, and I often backslide. That's crushing. But when I'm most emotionally balanced, and when I'm honest, I know I am going to be all right. Why? Because I want to be all right. I have that righteous desire. I don't have many claims to greatness, but I have promised myself I will not give up, and if I notice I've given up, I'll try again. Since God also wants me to be all right, and he will help me when I try to improve, and he will never give up on me, I will succeed, given time. As Blues Traveler says, "coasting to the bottom is the only disgrace." (Go listen to their song "Just Wait," and imagine the speaker is God. It fits.)

Don't give up on yourself. It's normal to try and fail and try and fail and fail and fail and fail and try and fail and try and fail and try and fail again. I recently taught the RS lesson called, "Principles of True Repentance," which I mostly recommend. There's a great bit in there about how the examples in the scriptures are dramatic, and teach us about how clean and strong we can become, but do NOT give an accurate representation (at least for 99.99% of the population) of the speed at which the process happens. It's gradual. You'll fail often. You won't see the progress you make unless you look for it, and sometimes not even then. But if you want to be better, and it looks like you do, I think you'll be all right, as long as you can keep trying. So do it. Don't give up. You will be okay. You'll be better than okay. You'll be amazing and perfect. But if all you can imagine right now is okay, than hold on to that. You will be okay. So will I.

TL;DR: Repentance is great, but the Atonement is better. Take advantage of it by both trying not to suck and by trying to be awesome, or in other words, by repenting. Maybe also by talking to a therapist. You have fallen short, yes, and you will continue to fall short. That's normal. Dust yourself off and try again. You have not broken yourself beyond repair. You cannot. If you keep trying, you will improve, although you may not notice the process. Also, listen to that Brad Wilcox talk.

-Uffish Thought

Question #81860 posted on 04/01/2015 4:45 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I have a question about trials. I am having a huge struggle with anxiety (social anxiety, to be precise). I didn't know that this was a thing until about a year ago, and since then I've realized that this has been a part of my life for at least ten years. It's been really hard. I've gotten to a point where I am unable to deal with everyday life, I go through depressive episodes, and I don't even feel like myself anymore. (I am seeing a therapist, just fyi.)

Sometimes I ask myself why this is a thing, and why I have to have this struggle in my life. My first thought is that we're all here to have trials and grow, and this just happens to be my trial right now. I sometimes think that I have to overcome this because it's meant to help me become a much better person. Which I think is true, to a point; I will be a better person after overcoming this trial than I am now.

The problem I'm having with this is that I'm pretty sure that if I didn't have this struggle, the person I am now would be even better than the person I would be after overcoming it... Does that make sense? This thought makes it hard to believe that this trial really was given to me to make me stronger. I feel like it was either something that just happened, or I didn't do what I should have in order to prevent it. Essentially, I feel like there is no purpose to this trial.

If that's the case, how am I supposed to deal with it? I've gotten through my struggles before by believing that they happen for a reason. Well, that isn't working. This is probably the biggest struggle I've ever had, and feeling like it's purposeless makes it much harder to deal with. So what should I do? Or what can I try? Am I looking at everything all wrong?

-so tired


Dear tired,

In the LDS Church, we have some common patterns for the way we talk about certain experiences in our life, particularly trials. The standard LDS trial narrative (the kind of thing you might hear in Fast and Testimony Meeting) roughly follows this pattern: (1) I was going along in my life, trying to be a good person, (2) I had this really difficult trial come up out of nowhere, (3) it was so hard that I even started to doubt my faith, but then (4) I decided to double down on prayer/fasting/temple attendance/etc. (5) I finally made it through my trial with the help of the Gospel, (6) now I understand why I went through it or why it was “meant” to happen, and (7) I'm in a better place than I was before because I have learned so much about myself and about the Gospel and my faith is stronger than ever because of this trial.

Now, I have no problem with stories of this type. I fully believe that that many people go through this type of trial and that they are representing their experiences honestly. The problem I see is that not all trials follow this pattern. Some trials leave you worse off than you were before. Some trials last for months or years with no end in sight. Some trials not only don’t end, they get progressively worse. Some trials end, but they seem pointless, in retrospect.

I think the first big thing to remember in your situation is that not all trials fit the Standard LDS Trial Narrative™. To be honest, the reason that we hear that genre of narrative so often is more because it’s easy to digest within our belief system and because it reaffirms our faith and less because it is actually representative of the lives of most people.

The second point I want to make is that some trials really are random (and that’s OK). I tend to divide bad things into three categories: (1) bad things caused by randomness, (2) bad things deliberately caused by someone else, and (3) bad things I naturally brought upon myself.

Category (1) includes things like natural disasters, random genetic mutations, and freak accidents. Category (2) includes things like cruelty, theft, and murder. Category (3) includes things like doing things to my body that I know will hurt it, procrastinating until something is a much bigger problem than it originally was, and generally choosing today’s wants over tomorrow’s needs. (It should be noted that most things in life do not actually fit entirely into one of these categories. E.g., there is a degree of randomness to most natural disasters, but there are still some areas that are more statistically prone to them than others. Someone may chose do something terrible to me that is partially motivated by a mental illness beyond his or her control. I may not have all of the information I need to make the choices today that are best for my future, etc.)

You’ll notice that what’s missing from my taxonomy of trials is . . . God. Some people believe that God actively causes every single thing that happens in the world (including all of the bad things). I am of the opinion that most of the bad things that happen in the world happen because we live in a fallen world and God allows them to happen, which means that sometimes other people choose to do bad things to us and sometimes terrible things happen that nobody wanted to have happen at all.

You could still say that God causes category (3) bad things in the sense that if we disobey his commandments, we will be punished for it. Even then, I think that most sins tend to carry within them their own punishment and don’t require God to stand at his computer, hovering over a “smite” button (to paraphrase an old Far Side cartoon).

Even if we accept that there are a lot of bad things in the world that stem from the choices of others or from randomness, we still have a tendency to want to push things into the (3) category. It’s an odd phenomenon, because you’d think that we wouldn’t want to blame ourselves for the bad things that happen to us that genuinely aren’t our fault. However, choosing to shoulder the blame for our trials gives us the illusion of control. (“If I brought this trial on myself by insufficient righteousness, then I can get rid of it by being a better person.”) It also gives us an excuse not to extend empathy to others who are in difficult circumstances. (“Well, if they had just kept the commandments, this wouldn’t have happened to them!”)

In your situation, especially, please don’t blame yourself for your illness. Yes, there are times when health problems result from not taking care of your body properly, but when it comes to mental health, there are so many other factors at play that blaming yourself is generally counterproductive. (In addition, mental health problems affect the very tool you use to make diagnoses—your mind—which means that it’s particularly easy for people with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses or to blame themselves for having those conditions, in ways they would never do if they had a tumor, an infection, or a broken bone.)

The third point I’d like to make is that our meaning in life can come from how we turn to God as we live with our trials, not necessarily from God tailoring each trial specifically to us. Even if we accept the idea that some trials seem random, we still have the tendency to try to make them fit into a more meaningful narrative. Think of the ups and downs experienced by characters in a romantic comedy—they might seem random to the characters within the story, but from the perspective of a reader looking at the whole story, every conflict or setback has a purpose that thematically fits the story and eventually propels the characters towards their happy ending.

As human beings, we tell stories in order to make sense of life. Conversely, we often look at the events in our life and try to make them fit into the a tidy narrative structure, where every event has a clear purpose. Unfortunately, many people face challenges in life that would make for pretty poorly-structured fiction. (Once there was a person who really wanted to do something and spent a long time trying to do it, but in the end, he wasn’t ever successful. Once there was someone who got really sick for 5 years and pretty much didn’t get anything done in that time. Once there was someone who was trying really hard to keep everything together but in the end her life still fell apart and and things got a lot worse for her and her family.) Letting go of that narrative structure can seem scary, but it's better than beating yourself up for not being able to force your life to fit an arbitrary pattern.

Of course, finding meaning outside of the common and comforting narratives we're used to can be very challenging. I’m reading a book right now called I Can Do Hard Things with God. It’s a collection of essays by Mormon women about dealing with very difficult trials (suicide, severe mental illness, divorce, death of a child, etc.). One of the essays is by a woman named Kylie Turley who has two progressive chronic illnesses and talks a lot about how her condition doesn’t fit into our standard narratives, especially because her health is only going to get worse. She doesn’t shy away from the pain and sadness she feels, but near the end of her essay, she says:

The angel Gabriel told Mary, “With God nothing shall be impossible.” I used to imagine that Gabriel’s “impossible” things were astonishing healings, dramatic environmental wonders, and spiritual marvels. To be healed would indeed be miraculous—black-and-white, intense, direct, grandiose, and marvelous; I revel in the possibility and pray daily for the mere chance. But there is another type of miracle, slow and hazy, so unhurried and obscure that I have to squint my spiritual eyes and search my soul to know if I see it at all. The misty miracle lingers in daily-ness, a sacrament cup filled one meager drop at a time, a soul sanctified by a slow redemptive burn, a chapter in the book of life written word by exquisitely painful word. I am starting to understand the power of a God and the suffering of a Savior who are with me moment by unbearable moment, hour upon painful hour, and day upon drawn-out day, bringing a semblance of grace and peace, illuminating a deep darkness. I see Their handiwork in the “chronic” help given me by godly friends, neighbors, and family around me. . . . Through Him, nothing is impossible. “Help thou mine unbelief.”

I think one of the most difficult things about the kind of problem you’re dealing with is that it deprives you of the opportunity to serve others. It’s one thing to be in a situation where you want something selfish or worldly and you have to give that up for something you know is more righteous. It’s much harder, in my opinion, to be in a situation where you have a righteous desire to make a contribution, but your health or some other external circumstance is making that impossible. The opportunity cost of what you could be doing with your time or energy can be as painful as the disease, itself.

My last point to you is that it’s OK to throw all of your problems back on God, even the problem of not knowing what to do about your problems. (This is similar to the advice I give in Board Question #71755, which might also be helpful for you to read.) If you’re feeling like your situation is purposeless, have you told God that? Have you asked for some reassurance as to your worth in His eyes? Have you asked for daily grace to sustain you even as you can’t see your way through this challenge? I’ll warn you, the answers I get when I ask these kinds of questions are almost never the answers I want or expect, but sometimes I get answers that are better than anything I would have chosen for myself.

- Katya


Not all trials fit the Standard LDS Trial Narrative™. Some trials really are random (and that’s OK). Our meaning in life can come from how we turn to God as we live with our trials, not necessarily from God tailoring each trial specifically to us. It’s OK to throw all of your problems back on God, even the problem of not knowing what to do about your problems.

Question #81848 posted on 03/31/2015 8:08 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board music buffs (Cognoscente et al., looking at you),

Imagine taking a recent or contemporary music group back in time. (You pick the group and the target time period.) How would this have influenced music's subsequent development?

To get at a similar idea from a more general perspective, how much do you think music is influenced by individuals vs. impersonal societal trends, technology, etc.?

~Professor Kirke


Dear Kirke,

This exercise is called a counterfactual, a beloved pastime of history buffs and time travel enthusiasts. I spent a day thinking about this, and it's hard to make any definitive claims. There are so many thresholds of innovation in music history. The invention of the printing press helped establish and promulgate a standard form of notation and spread existing compositions farther than they had ever traveled before. The invention of the phonograph changed how people viewed music completely, from a composition and performance to a recorded commodity. The invention of electronic instrument amplifiers in the 1930s changed the sound of an entire century of popular music. Going back in time and altering any of these revolutions would have unimaginable effects on the history of music.

To answer your second question first, I think music is influenced primarily by broad social and cultural trends and technology, and secondarily (and on a smaller time scale) by outstanding individual artists. Music followed culture throughout the common practice period—there was Baroque architecture and Baroque music, and Romantic art and Romantic music. The Jazz Age wasn't just about the music, it was about the culture and literature and the Harlem Renaissance. Music reflects the zeitgeist of the artists that compose and play it. That's why, despite the fun of imagining Jim Morrison play a set in an Elizabethan court, I don't think you would influence music's development very drastically unless you didn't take a particular artist more than a generation or two into the past. Any more and there would just be too much of a gap in understanding and context. Even the greatest European composers wouldn't know what to make of modern rock-and-roll—it's too deeply rooted in 12-bar blues, which came from old negro spirituals and gospel music, which has its origins in Africa. It would sound like cacophonous folk music, as foreign to their ears as Indian or Chinese tonal scales sound to American listeners.

Here's an example why: Igor Stravinsky. He's generally considered to be one of the greatest composers of the modern era. His works shocked audiences because they flew in the face of established tonality and rhythm, but they were written in reaction to the high Romanticism of dudes like Mahler. Romantic artists wrote flowery and passionate compositions in contrast to the perceived restraint of the Classical era. Classical artists were exploring the simpler clarity ignored in the Baroque era, which favored complex and intricate pieces. If a time traveler whisked away Stravinsky back into any of those previous eras, his music would have been considered the work of a madman. Heck, when The Rite of Spring debuted in Paris in 1913, in Stravinsky's own era, it was so poorly received that it literally started a riot right there in the theater. And yet, it's now considered one of the most influential works of the last century. Context is important.

If I wanted to get the biggest reaction out of a particular period, I would take a modern version of something back to the artists who first pioneered the genre. Imagine taking a modern electronic synthesizer or Pro Tools suite to the guys in Kraftwerk in 1970 and showing them the potential of electronic music. Imagine what young B-boys in the Bronx in 1979 would say if you gave them a box set of the greatest hip-hop recordings of the last 30 years.

Or, instead, enjoy the greatest musical counterfactual in movie history: "All right, this is an oldie... well, it's an oldie where I come from."


Question #81833 posted on 03/31/2015 6:50 p.m.

Dear The Board,

Optimistic. and I recently decided to make attack ads about people we know, because, well, we were bored and it sounded like fun. And it was. So will you please choose a fellow Board writer and make an attack ad about them? You know the drill: dramatic music, unflattering pictures, quotes taken out of context, blatant lies, that sort of thing. For example, I think we have the right to know about Katya's plans to raise taxes in order to fund her own private experiments on orphaned Irish puppies.

- Genuine Article


Dear Ms. Article,

Sadly, we weren't able to get the video to be embedded here on the site, but I'm happy to present an ad that will make you think twice about Gimgimno. It's saved for posterity here on the Board, or you can view it on YouTube here.

Not the type to click on links because you can't be bothered? The video is 34 seconds long, and I can assure you it will be worth every one of those seconds of your time. Trust me. Just like you can't trust Gimgimno. What is he hiding?

- D.A.R.E.

Question #81788 posted on 03/30/2015 7:08 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I was reading question Board Question #71545 to my roommate and when I said, "Stained Glass, and Animal Restraint," she thought I had was talking about a class called "Stained Glass and Animal Restraint." What would be the syllabus for such a class? What department would it fall under? Would it have prerequisites?

-The Cousin of Freshwerf


Dear you and your cousins:

Course Syllabus

Stained Glass and Animal Restraint, HIST 489

Instructor:     Dr. Portia of Belmont

Office:          The Universe

Email:           portiaofbelmont@gmail.com

Office Hours:  24/7



Textbooks: Animals in Early Medieval Art, Carola Hicks. Animal Encounters, Contacts and Concepts in Medieval Britain, Susan Crane

Prerequisite: HIST 202, equivalent, or instructor's permission

Purpose and Objective

What is the relationship between master and servant, the archetype of the Wolf as embodiment of The Wild and the Dog as Man's Best Friend? Did this relationship between Man and Beast change over the course of the Medieval era? What is the history of domestication of animals in the Western world, and how does one see this relationship reflected in Christian art?

This course will explore the meaning of restraint as found in animal imagery throughout Medieval European stained glass artwork. As Carola Hicks puts it, "animal ornament is a crucial element in Medieval art, especially in Britain where pagan imagery from the Celtic and Germanic traditions was adapted for use in Christian art." From the patron saint of Animals, St. Francis of Assisi, to Ambrose's views of birds as models of "social and sexual restraint" (Crane, 84), we will explore the Medieval view of animals, wild and restrained, through primary sources, written and visual. 


Unit 1: Tally Ho! Medieval Hunting: Praxis and Social Norms

From the woven Bayeux tapestry to stained glass images such as the one shown above, Medieval Europeans had a near-talismanic relationship with hunting dogs. We'll discuss how the hunt penetrated all manner of literary and visual metaphors. For example, The Parlement of the Ages presents an early "stages of man" allegory using a young hunter with his crossbow ... and, of course, his trusty dog on a leash. 


Unit 2: All Creatures Great and Small: St. Francis and Love of Animals, Unrestrained

What would St. Francis's views on animal restraint be? It's easy to guess that he may have had more sympathy with the stand of PETA than his contemporaries. By viewing animals as agents in their own right, St. Francis set the stage for Enlightenment-era debates regarding the status of the souls of animals, and what our responsibilities and obligations towards them may be as human actors.

As a Christian saint, we'll have ample opportunity to examine stained glass representations of Francis from throughout Medieval Europe, and debate how the current Pope Francis may or may not carry on his legacy.


All university policies regarding cheating, harassment, and untoward behavior apply. Be prepared for a collaborative project with the School of Arts, to be discussed in further detail the first week of the course.

---Dr. Portia of Belmont

Question #81769 posted on 03/29/2015 1:20 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

If not for the 3/5's compromise in the constitution would Lincoln still have been our president. I know there are a ton of variables, but just assuming that southern states got to count their slave population for their slice of the electoral college.



Dear what do you mean I'm less than b,

That's a really interesting question, actually. For those of you who aren't as familiar with the ins and outs of the U.S. Constitution as b and I are, the Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3, and it reads as follows:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free Persons, including those bound to a Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Simply put, only free people were counted when determining how many representatives each state would have in the House. Predominantly slave-holding states felt this was unfair, and wanted to have their slaves count toward that end. A compromise was reached in which three-fifths of the slave population of those states would count toward apportionment of Representatives. That was a good thing for those states, as many of them had large numbers of slaves, sometimes as much as nearly 50% of the overall population of the state. This gave those states more power in the House than they might otherwise have had, and possibly contributed to slavery persisting as long as it did.

So how would the election of 1860 have changed if those slaves had been counted as full people when apportioning out Representatives and votes in the electoral college? Well, to understand that, we'll first need to understand how the election looked in the first place. I've created a helpful map, which you can see below:

1860 actual.png

It's a commonly repeated fact that Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election despite winning less than 40% of the popular vote and not appearing on the ballot in nearly any of the Southern states, but this map shows just how sizable an electoral victory he ended up with. His 39.7% of the popular vote translated into 180 electoral votes, more than the other three major candidates combined. John Breckinridge, the Southern Democratic candidate who supported expanding slavery into the western territories, won nearly all of the Southern states, just missing out on the Border states. Stephen Douglas actually came in second in the popular vote with 29.5%, but ended up with just 12 electoral votes (Missouri's nine and three of New Jersey's seven). Lincoln's support may have been sectional, but the fact is that with so many people living in the North, that section alone was more than enough to carry the election.

But remember, we're not counting 40% of the population of those Southern states. How would the electoral college look if we added them in?

It's actually a trickier process than it seems on the surface. Representatives are apportioned based on the population of their states, which we calculate every ten years during the Census. After those results come in, Congress will generally pass a apportionment bill that establishes the number of Representatives for each state. The 1850 apportionment bill, which was still in effect during the 1860 election, not only established those numbers, but also set a cap of 233 Representatives in the House, which was the current amount at the time. That means that until stated otherwise, when the House was reapportioned, there were a total of 233 seats to go around, so adding Representatives to one state required taking them from another. So if we're going to add Representatives to the South (and we'll need to, if we have an additional 40% of the population we need to take into account), we'll need to take them away from Northern states.

The numbers Congress may have come up with may have been different, but I think mine seem reasonable. I took the total population of the United States in 1850 (2,319,876) and divided it by 233 to see how many people each Representative would represent. That gives us 99,536 people, which I rounded up to 100,000 for simplicity's sake. For every 100,000 people in a state's total population, I gave them one Representative, generally rounding up. That means that Vermont, with an 1850 population of 314,120, got three representatives, while Rhode Island, with a population of 147,545 got two. After checking to make sure that I had a total of 233 Representatives and therefore 303 electoral votes (remember, Washington D.C. couldn't cast electoral votes for the President until the 23rd Amendment in 1961), I came up with the map below. This assumes every state still goes for the same candidate, since while we're counting the state's full population, we're still counting the same votes, since blacks (free or slave) weren't allowed to vote:

1860 reapportioned.png

Some of the Northern states have fewer votes and some of the Southern states have more, but ultimately, it's not enough to really make a difference. Lincoln's electoral votes drop from 180 to 172, but he only needs 152 to win. He still has more than Breckinridge (79), John Bell (40), and Stephen Douglas (still 12) combined. So even if it weren't for the Three-Fifths Compromise, Lincoln would still have won comfortably.

But why stop there? We've already decided to count the South's slave population in apportioning Representatives. If we're going to count them as full people for the purposes of apportionment, why not count them as full people for the purposes of voting? Let's assume that all of the slaves in the South are allowed to vote for whichever candidate they choose.

To figure out how that would change the election, we're going to have to make a few assumptions. First, we're assuming that not only are the slaves allowed to vote, they're allowed to vote free of pressure or harassment. That's a brave assumption, given the wave of Jim Crow laws that prevented blacks from voting freely in the South for generations, as well as general intimidation practices. But since we're already rewriting history, let's go ahead and rewrite it so that they can vote freely. Determining who they'll vote for is trickier still. We can't just look to the North for general voting trends, since blacks weren't allowed to vote anywhere in the U.S. during the 1860 election. We could look at future elections, but that only gives us a sense of party loyalty. A person voting for Ulysses Grant in 1868 wouldn't necessarily have voted for Lincoln in 1860 any more than a person voting for Barack Obama in 2008 would necessarily have voted for Al Gore in 2000.

We're going to have to be a little reductionist here. For the purposes of this thought experiment, I've decided that slaves are going to be single-issue voters, and that their single issue is going to be slavery. The Republican party wasn't as overtly abolitionist as it was in 1856, but it was at least sympathetic to the cause. Lincoln is probably going to be the top choice of slaves in 1860. Douglas and Bell were neutral on slavery, and as mentioned earlier, Breckinridge supported spreading slavery into the Western territories, even in cases where those territories' populations didn't support the practice. (It will come as no surprise to you, I'm sure, that Breckinridge served as a general in the Confederate army after he lost this election.) I'm assuming that when slaves are allowed to choose between these four candidates, 80% of them are voting for Lincoln, 10% each are voting for Douglas and Bell, and 0% will vote for Breckinridge. An inexact method, to be sure, but since we don't have any sort of polling data on the subject, it'll have to do.

Of course, as we mentioned earlier, Lincoln didn't even appear on the ballot in many of the Southern states. (Nor did Breckinridge in many of the Northern states, for that matter.) I decided that in states without Lincoln on the ballot, slaves would split their vote 50-50 between Douglas and Bell, and in cases where Douglas wasn't on the ballot either, slaves went 100% for Bell.

The last bit is the easiest. While we're extending suffrage to the slaves, we're also assuming that not all of them are going to be able to or choose to vote. Voters still have to be over 21 and male to vote in this election. A quick look at the 1860 Census shows that about 44% of slaves were 21 or older at the time, and about half of them were male. Voter turnout was 81% in the 1860 election (one of the highest in history!), so only 17.8% of slaves are actually going to end up voting in the Southern states. We're keeping the apportioned votes the same for this, as you can see below:

1860 suffrage.png

Looks quite a bit different, doesn't it? Lincoln still carries the North handily, and in this case, he very nearly wins Virginia, too, taking 80% of the state's 87,473 voting slaves. (Consider that Bell actually won the state with 74,481 votes in 1860. That's an awful lot of disenfranchised voters.) In fact, with Breckinridge not receiving a single slave vote, he loses all of his states except for two, and he probably only wins South Carolina because at the time, its electoral voters were appointed by the state legislature rather than determined by the popular vote. It wouldn't have mattered how many slaves were voting if the legislature was unchanged. (Of course, if slaves were permitted to vote, the legislature may have had an entirely different makeup.) Bell carries most of the South due to picking up the slave vote. And it doesn't make an ounce of difference, because Lincoln still has 172 electoral votes to Bell's now 107. He's still our President.

Of course, had slaves been given a full vote, everything would been different. Maybe they have a chance to effect some real change in government. Maybe these four candidates stand for different things. Maybe different candidates for the presidency emerge. There's lots to consider. Political science is a complex field with lots of variables, like you said. But even if we don't and can't take all of them into account, it's still fun to think about how things might have turned out differently, isn't it?

- D.A.R.E.

Question #81660 posted on 03/25/2015 8:31 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I recently made a fruit fly trap by putting red wine vinegar in a glass bottle along with a couple drops of dish soap. A few weeks later I noticed that the red wine vinegar hard quadrupled in volume!!! No one had added any other liquids to the bottle. I tried this experiment again only to see that the level on the bottle continued to climb. How is this happening??

- Lindsey Brown


Dear You,

I set up an experiment with red wine vinegar with a few drops of dish soap in it, marked it with a permanent marker, and set it on top of my fridge. 

Here's the following picture to show what took place after 153 hours, or a little more than six days:

red wine vinegar.jpg

it is a supr grate pickshur, amirite?

As you can see, the vinegar level has not risen. If anything, it had fallen. I could wait three more weeks to see what happens, but I feel like this trend would just continue. 
Now, I'm going to try and be open-minded here: You tell me specifically what brand of red wine vinegar and what brand of dish soap you used and I will try the experiment again with you so we can see what happens. If it does indeed rise, I'll do some serious chemistry sleuthing to see what's happening (though what Man, Certainly says sounds logical if there is a change.)
You go and prepare another sample of your vinegar-soap mixture. Announce to your roommates you are preparing one and put it somewhere where they will notice it and ostensibly be tempted to tamper with it if that's what's going on (if they read the Board, this probably won't work.) 

Now, prepare one more sample in secret and put it somewhere they won't think to check, like under your bed or something.

We would now have three samples: Two controls—one at your dwelling, one at mine—and one experimental jar in public.

This setup will help you determine once and for all what is going on with yo' flytrap: Is there some chemical process taking place, or are your meddlesome peasant roommates to blame?

Email me if you're game. ardilla[dot]feroz[at]theboard[dot]byu[dot]edu.


--Ardilla Feroz 

Question #81552 posted on 03/16/2015 10:24 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Let's say that Voldemort tried to kill Harry and the Killing Curse's backlash killed the Dark Lord (like in canon), but that baby Harry was killed by the ceiling collapsing on top of him. How would this affect the lives of the other characters, especially those deeply affected by canon!Harry, like Ron, Hermione, Snape, etc.?

-Chaos Legion


Dear Chaos, 

To be honest, I'm still not sure why Voldemort didn't just toss Harry out the window. He was a year old- it would have been super easy to just kill him with his bare hands and then move on with life. That tiny little plot detail could have undone the entire Harry Potter world, but that would have negated the point of the entire series and of course, we wouldn't be aware that that had happened because Harry Potter would never have been written. But before we delve into how the world might be different, we must first answer the question we have already posed:

Why Didn’t Voldemort Just Toss Harry Out the Window?

The biggest thing we must consider is that Voldemort didn't know the curse wouldn't work when he used it. If he had had access to some sort of window into the future (which raises a whole 'nother point, considering the availability of seeing the future, which will be discussed below) he might have seen that the curse would backfire and destroy his body, eventually leading to the whole story arc. If he had seen that the curse would backfire, he might have chosen another way to kill Harry.

What if Voldemort Knew the Curse Wouldn’t Work?

So let’s say that he knew the curse was going to backfire. Just because he knew that would happen doesn’t mean that he knew why it was going to happen. Voldemort didn’t fully understand love, after all, given the circumstances of his conception and birth. I’m sure that he was familiar with the concept of love, and what it entailed. What he was fuzzy on was the power that love imbued people with and the strength of love. After all, it was Lily’s love for Harry that caused the curse to backfire. Voldemort wasn’t stupid, though. He knew that most parents loved their children, and I’m sure that he was aware that Harry’s parents deeply loved him. But it would be a bit of a stretch to assume that the curse backfired because of love.

I mean what a foreign concept! The killing curse had never failed before (in recorded history), so it’s doubtful that anyone had any idea that it was fallible, and even if they did have some idea that it was fallible, they likely didn’t know what could cause it to fail. As a side note, this part of the plot and the world-building is a bit problematic. Rowling never tells us how long magic has been around, but it can be easily assumed from the text that magic has existed for a very long time. I can’t really quantify that, other than that we know magic is archaic and longstanding. So if it’s the case that magic has been around before, it’s likely that the killing curse had been used a substantial amount of times. How could it not have been? The wizarding world has likely seen its fair share of warfare and bloodshed.

It’s hard to imagine that it took that long (again, I can’t quantify how many years here, but a substantial length of time) for anyone to discover that the killing curse could fail and backfire on the wizard who cast it. I find it hard to believe that at some point in history, someone didn’t sacrifice themselves for a loved one and die by the killing curse, only to have the killer try to use the curse again on the loved one and have it rebound. Those were the ingredients, right? Love protects the second (or third, theoretically) person who is about to become a potential victim. As long as someone with a substantial amount of serious, deep love sacrifices themselves first, then the person they sacrificed themselves for should be able to escape the curse.

So my question is: How did this not happen at any point before Harry’s family came along? Sure, the whole of wizarding society has its fair share of miscreants and evildoers and whatnot, but people sacrifice themselves all the time! We saw it several times alone in the current canon. I will grant Rowling a bit of leniency here though (how thoughtful of me!): even if it did happen and had been recorded and the wizarding world was well aware that the killing curse could be rendered useless by the power of love, it had probably not been rendered useless on very many infants before. Harry was probably one of the youngest to have been saved by this caveat.

So let’s go back to Voldemort finding out somehow that the curse would backfire, but not understanding why. Let’s go back to assuming that Harry would have been the first one to survive. In this instance, Voldemort might have been more careful the night that he approached the Potters’ home. He might have been more cautious about using the killing curse in general. If it was to backfire on Harry, who’s to say that it wouldn’t backfire on Lily or James first? Of course, if he had used divination, or required someone to use it for him (or let’s say he had found a slightly more helpful prophecy than the one he decided to base his actions on) he would have seen that it would only have backfired on Harry. He might have then felt safe to use it on Lily and James and use another means to dispose of Harry.

Why Wouldn’t a Time Turner Have Been Involved?

Voldemort probably wouldn’t have felt safe in making any assumptions about what would cause the curse to backfire. A time-turner would have been an impossible addition to this plot line. If he had decided to use the killing curse anyway and it had backfired, he wouldn’t have been able to use a time turner, and the bedroom of a baby is no place to try to stop yourself. Voldemort would have been smart enough to not be confused by the sudden presence of himself in Harry’s room (had Voldemort somehow been able to use a time-turner) but it could have become messy very quickly and the whole time-travel thing that involves stopping yourself from destroying yourself is messy and I really don’t think we can consider it, since again, he wouldn’t have been in any kind of shape to turn back time.

Did it Have to be The Killing Curse?

So we’ve ruled out a time-turner in this situation. Are there any other curses or means whereby Voldemort could have killed a baby? I would err on the side of no. I don’t believe that any other killing curse exists- at least not one that kills someone immediately. If that were the case, it surely would have been included in the canon, or at least in the big three curses that Harry and the others learn in Defense Against the Dark Arts. There were probably other magical means that Voldemort could have killed infant Harry, but at that point they probably would have all been messy or rather time consuming. Voldemort wouldn’t have been as pressed for time at that point (because the rebounding of the curse is what destroyed the Potters’ home and alerted everyone else) but he might have felt hassled by slower methods.

Why Didn’t Voldemort Have Someone Else Kill Harry?

A better solution would have been for one his Deatheaters to kill Harry instead. Rowling’s canon says nothing about whether or not that might work. Technically, you might be able to assume that Lily’s protection would protect Harry regardless of who cast the killing curse, but there’s also an equally safe assumption in saying that it would have only protected Harry from Voldemort. Thus, a Deatheater could have been responsible for Harry’s death. Voldemort liked to do the killing himself, but if he was facing a certain demise either way, I think he still might have been willing to have someone else do it for him.

Another possible scenario would have Lily dying last, and Harry dying in the middle. But even that raises thorny questions. If Lily had died last, her love would not have been able to protect Harry, since she was required to sacrifice herself first to save him. But then why didn’t James love save Lily or Harry, even? James surely loved Lily and Harry. The movie (no, it’s not canon-sue me!) shows James sending Lily off to go protect Harry, while he faces Voldemort first. This isn’t a crazy assumption to make overall, though. I’m sure that even in the book, he was likely trying to protect his wife and son before he was killed first. In that vein of thought, his love should have been deep enough to be able to save Lily. If he had saved Lily, then Voldemort would have tried to kill her next and the curse would have rebounded off of Lily (via James’ protection) and destroyed Voldemort, leaving Lily and Harry to live out the rest of their lives.

Why Didn’t James’ Death Protect His Family?

So the question here is: why didn’t James’ death protect his family? Was his love not as deep for Lily as Lily’s was for Harry? Is there some sort of subtle commentary about the love that a mother has for her child being paramount to spousal love? Perhaps there is, because as we know, James’ death did nothing to save his wife. There’s simply not enough context in the canon to know for sure why James’ death did not save Lily and then Harry.

Heidi Book suggested that it was perhaps the result of Lily having a choice, and James not having that same choice. She references Voldemort telling Lily to stand aside, telling her that she didn’t need to die too. So we know that James needed to die, and Lily didn’t. James didn’t have the choice to die, even if he did die protecting his wife and son. Because Lily could have lived otherwise, but still made the ultimate sacrifice for her son, she was able to protect Harry in a way that James couldn’t. This is actually a really plausible theory that I didn’t think about when I originally wrote this, but I’ve added it in now, because it adds a dimension that wasn’t there before.

So if we go off of the working assumption that James’ death would do nothing to protect the rest of his family, we could then have Voldemort killing Harry second and Lily third. It would be fairly easy to incapacitate Lily without killing her and wrest the baby from her arms. We don’t know if Lily used magic against Voldemort to try and protect Harry in her last moments, but even if she did, Voldemort was a seriously powerful wizard and Lily was no match for him, magically or physically. With Lily unconscious or magically bound or something, it would have been a moment’s work to use the killing curse on Harry. At that age, Harry had no deep emotional bond with his mother. Frankly speaking, no one year old is capable of any of that kind of stuff, so there’s no way that we can even begin to assume that he could sacrifice himself in order to protect his mother. Harry would have died instantly, and then it would have been a breeze for Voldemort to turn his wand on Lily and finish the job.

This altered scenario assumes that Voldemort would have understood why the killing curse would end up backfiring on him, but if we’re still under the assumption that Harry would have been the first to survive the curse, then it’s unlikely that even Voldemort could have figured out that it was the protection Lily’s love that would be the cause. Dumbledore clearly was able to figure that out later, but Dumbledore was one of the wisest wizards to ever live and we have no idea how he figured it out, or how long it might have taken it him. So there’s no indication at all that Voldemort would have been able to understand.

Going back to somewhere near the beginning, we can start to put some of the pieces together in a more clarifying and illuminating manner. We know that Voldemort couldn’t just throw Harry out a window or dispose of him non-magically because he didn’t know the curse was going to backfire. If we operate under the assumption that he knew it would backfire, we could potentially assume a few scenarios that would leave Harry dead and Voldemort alive. But those get thorny and raise some questions that only Rowling could answer, such as:

Why Didn’t Voldemort Use Divination to See that the Curse Would Fail?

Why didn’t Voldemort use divination to see into the future and ascertain whether or not he would be successful? Had he done that, he would have been able to avoid the whole shebang that followed. He was already operating almost completely under the contents of Trelawney’s prophecy, so clearly he believed in divination quite deeply. It’s a little strange that he would so deeply believe in divination when he was such a powerful and intelligent wizard already. Contrast that belief with Hermione’s derision of the art, and it’s an interesting comparison. But that’s beside the point. If Voldemort believed in the art of divination and prophecy (and he clearly did, especially if he was taking a prophecy from Trelawney (of all the seers!) so seriously!), surely he would have consulted some other seer for further information? It’s a bit odd to me that he wouldn’t have. But then again, Voldemort was arrogant and had a sizeable ego.

He may have assumed that this was a no-brainer of an operation and would not take him long. We can see evidence of his ego in the fact that he wanted to get an entire matching set and take out the whole family. He could have just marched in there and killed Harry directly (he would have died if his mother had not died before him) and solved the whole thing, but left Lily and James alive (or even killed them second and third), but instead he decided to kill from the top down, collecting pieces, if you will. So we could potentially excuse away his lack of preparation in consulting an oracle or further prophecy by using his ego. I don’t think that’s a particular strong excuse, but it makes sense and it would account for it. And frankly, there aren’t too many other explanations that would outline why he wouldn’t have consulted anyone else to look into the future. It seems to be a readily available enough resource (albeit more of an art than a science, really), but maybe Voldemort believed so readily in prophecy that he figured it was set in stone and again, pretty simple to take care of.

But all of this is ignoring the simple fact that Voldemort had already been splitting his soul at this point. He wanted to use Harry’s death to make his final horcrux. (Side note: some have said that Voldemort intended to turn Harry into a horcrux, but how could this be true? Like Nagini the horcrux, Harry would have continued to live, and it would be patently unsafe to keep a sliver of your soul in the living body of the person prophesied to destroy you. To create a horcrux required taking a life, and Harry’s life was going to be the price of Voldemort’s final horcrux.) After all, what better way to remember you cinching up the game by destroying the competition than by turning a baby’s death into a soul-carrying memento, right? It’s appropriately dark for Voldemort. And as we know, it takes some seriously dark magic to split your soul and create a horcrux. And what curse constitutes darker magic than Avada Kedavra? Voldemort’s pride and ego got in the way here again. He was so intent on creating a horcrux out of Harry’s death that he was dead-set (no pun intended) on using the killing curse against him.

Was Harry a Horcrux or Not?

I did some more reading on horcruxes here, and discovered that Harry is actually not technically a horcrux, even accidentally made, as I suggest below, and as Rowling says. There’s actually quite the controversy on whether or not Harry was actually a horcrux. Rowling and her canon say that he is, but fans and the Harry Potter Wikia ardently insist that he is not a complete horcrux. I address both possibilities in various parts of this. The following is the argument against Harry being a horcrux:  When Voldemort’s curse rebounded, it caused what remained of his soul to split, with one fragment dying with his body, while the other fragment rebounding and inserting itself into the closest living thing: Harry. So because this was not intentional and Harry was not actually killed, he could not technically be his own horcrux, in a manner of speaking. Harry just held onto Voldemort’s soul fragment until his final encounter with Voldemort. This explains a lot, actually, as we later learn that the soul fragments within Horcruxes have some magical and even physical powers. Recall Slytherin’s locket trying to strangle Harry and causing the wearer to be moody and have dark thoughts. If Harry had been a horcrux, he would not have a particularly pleasant (or normal) person to be around and even though he was very angsty in some of the books (as well as Ron), he did not have that effect on everyone, and therefore we know that a seventh horcrux was never made.

In the end we do know that the soul fragment in Harry didn’t really affect his personality. It did have physical effects on him, allowing him to connect with whatever remained of Voldemort via dreams and intense pain when he was near Voldemort, but the fragment clearly wasn’t able to interact with Harry’s soul. This raises a completely unrelated question, but would it have been possible for the other horcruxes to somehow connect, communicate or pull on the soul fragment within Harry? I mean, Harry wore a horcrux for several months on his body. Presumably (barring our incomplete knowledge as to the residence of the soul), the soul fragment in the locket was pretty close to the soul fragment within Harry. With the power that the fragments had, it’s a little surprising to realize that they didn’t have any interaction or pull on each other. The soul fragment within Harry was not strong, but the one in the locket was strong. And yet, it still tried to strangle Harry. I wonder if the horcruxes were able to communicate with each other, because apparently a horcrux soul fragment could not communicate with a non-horcrux soul fragment. I don’t think that the soul fragment in the locket had any clue that a soul fragment resided within Harry.

This realization that Voldemort really wouldn’t have used any other means than the killing curse to kill Harry because he wanted to use his death to make his last horcrux almost completely undoes pretty much all of the theorizing up above (which was still important, despite being negated). Voldemort would never have used a deatheater or any other means to kill Harry. If the curse had worked, or Harry had died by other means, then Voldemort would be missing out on his prize horcrux. It gets thornier again if we assume that Voldemort knew the curse would backfire. If he had known the curse would backfire, but was still set on making Harry’s death the last of his horcruxes, he might have taken Harry hostage while he attempted to figure out why the curse would backfire. And overall, the prophecy said that one must kill the other, so Voldemort still would never have entrusted the killing of Harry to anyone but himself. As far as we know, he came to the Potters’ home that night completely alone. The canon does not suggest that anyone came with him.

At this point, we can’t assume if Lily’s protection was ever going to wear off or not. I think we could perhaps say that her protection was lifelong, so Voldemort would never have been able to use Harry’s death to create his final horcrux. At some point, he might have grown bored of Harry and disposed of him, or he might have turned Harry into a tool. Harry was good, yes, but under Voldemort’s tutelage, he might have grown just as dark and twisted as Voldemort. But then, would Voldemort have taken Harry in to train him? What incentive would he have had to try and turn the boy who supposedly would destroy him into a trained, dark wizard? That would never have ended well for Voldemort. It’s far more likely in this instance, that with the proposed assumptions dawning on Voldemort, that he would have just sucked it up and considered other ways to kill Harry in a normal fashion – or at least in a fashion that didn’t require the killing curse.

If there was some other way to kill Harry without using the killing curse that simply took longer or was messier, Voldemort probably could have easily taken infant harry and then killed him via those other methods on his own time. But then again, Lily’s protection might also have extended to other methods of magical killing that were dark, but maybe not as dark as avada kedavra. The real hole in the plot here is in not understanding the full capabilities of Lily’s gifted protection. If we understood its extent and abilities, it would be far easier to theorize Voldemort’s various potential actions in different scenarios. And if I wanted to add another major hole, I would also add our lack of understanding about the history of dark magic. Considering how the plot revolves around the use of dark magic, it’s really somewhat surprising that we know so little of its history, usages and limits. Adding those two together (so really, the understanding of dark magic, and the understanding of defense against dark magic) would allow us so much more insight in Voldemort’s mind the night that he killed Harry’s parents.

Even if it didn’t have to be dark magic that killed Harry, Voldemort was still limited in the magical ways that he could have done it. For instance, it was suggested on Reddit that Voldemort could have just conjured up a large rock and dropped it on Harry, but we are reminded of Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration. Hermione notes five exceptions to the law, but we only know that one of them is food, meaning that any wizard can conjure up food without having to know where it exists somewhere in the world. Rocks and other related sundries might have been an exception, but if they weren’t, Voldemort would have had to go rock hunting, pick out the perfect rock to crush a one year old, and then transfigure it. It’s certainly not an elegant way to kill your infant enemy, and if Voldemort was one thing, it was elegant.

We also mustn’t forget the true depth of Voldemort’s belief in magic. Magic was more important, more powerful to him than anything any Muggle could have ever created. Dark magic was even more powerful. With that kind of mindset, it’s easy to see why he was so sure that the curse wouldn’t backfire. All of this explains exactly why Voldemort couldn’t/wouldn’t kill Harry by any other means than the killing curse (a rock is about as non-magical as you get). Assuming he knew that the curse would backfire still doesn’t open very many other avenues for killing Harry, given Voldemort’s personality and propensities.

So we know (and can pretty safely assume) that there wasn’t really any way for Voldemort to kill Harry. So if Harry was going to die that night, it would have been by some other cause. With all of that out of the way, we can move slightly out of the realm of magic and into the realm of actual, real-life possibilities. The house had just been blown up since the curse had backfired (as you said) and we know that the house was reduced to rubble. Hagrid references pulling Harry from the remains of the home. We know that it wasn’t just a simple hole in the roof or a blown out window, either, since Harry goes back to the remains of the home he lived in for only a year. Voldemort’s physical death caused some serious damage.

In all reality, there’s not really any particular reason that Harry should have survived the destruction of his home. He’d just been branded with what was likely a very painful, fresh scar on his forehead. It’s hard to believe that he didn’t suffer any other immediate, physical effects from the curse backfiring, but Lily’s protection was strong, and the canon doesn’t mention any other effects, so we must assume that he escaped the curse mostly unscathed. However, it’s unlikely that Lily’s protection extended to physical, non-magical infrastructure, but again, this is where our limited knowledge of the extent of Lily’s defense leaves us high and dry.

I’m inclined to say that Harry probably should have died in the explosion or in the collapse of the house, but clearly he somehow survived. Whether this was just a happy miracle, or by magical intervention, we’ll never know.

More on Whether Harry was an Actual Horcrux:

However, at this point, Yayfulness pointed out that Harry wouldn’t have died in the roof collapse almost assuredly. At this point, he would have been turned into the accidental horcrux, and as we know, horcruxes can’t be destroyed easily at all. A roof caving in would absolutely not kill Harry in his new status as a horcrux. So technically, Harry’s pretty indestructible at this point- there’s really only a few very slim chances that he would have died, and any death in the aftermath of Voldemort’s explosion would have been pretty dang impossible. My retroactive research after this conversation with Yay reminded me that Harry wasn’t actually a horcrux, accidental or not, so he actually wasn’t as immortal as we think. Really, it was just pretty impossible for Voldemort to kill Harry, but it was completely possible for Harry to die by natural, non-magical/non-Voldemort causes.

But then again, why didn’t Harry die when he was stabbed by the basilisk? Surely that would have killed him, since the basilisk fang destroyed Hufflepuff’s cup and Riddle’s diary? I think we could probably safely explain that one away via the Pheonix and his tears. It’s not a super strong argument and it certainly has holes, but it’s the only way we can explain it within the canon, unless Lily’s protection was still in effect at that time. I decided to do some additional research on this and found that Rowling herself had commented on this question:

“I have been asked that a lot. Harry was exceptionally fortunate in that he had Fawkes. So before he could be destroyed without repair, which is what is necessary to destroy a horcrux, he was mended. However, I made sure that Fawkes wasn't around the second time a Horcrux got stabbed by a basilisk fang, so the poison did its work and it was irreparable within a short period of time.... I established early in the book, Hermione says that you destroy a Horcrux by using something so powerful that there's no remedy. But she does say there is a remedy for basilisk poison but of course it has to be administered immediately and when they stab the cup later - boy I'm really blowing this for anyone who hasn't finished the book - there's Fawkes, is my answer. And thank you for giving me a chance to say that because people have argued that quite a lot.”

So there we go, Fawkes is the answer and that’s why the basilisk didn’t kill Harry, and that’s why Harry is, essentially, immortal, provided he IS actually a horcrux. Although when we look at the other horcruxes that were destroyed by the basilisk fang (the diary and Hufflepuff’s cup) we note that they were destroyed almost immediately when pierced by the fang. Harry wasn’t destroyed immediately, and there was definitely some time (the space of a few seconds to a minute or more) as Fawke’s descended to Harry. If he had been a horcrux, shouldn’t he have been immediately destroyed when the fang pierced his blood stream? Perhaps it takes longer for basilisk venom to destroy a horcrux in a living thing. But either way, Rowling’s quote suggests that she intended for Harry to be a horcrux, not just a vessel for Voldemort’s soul fragment.

Horcrux or not, we can all agree that a piece of Voldemort’s soul was within Harry.

Okay, Almost Time for the Character What-If’s:

Despite the fact that the roof caving in would NOT have killed Harry, we’ll go ahead and pretend that it does. We’ll completely throw away the accidental horcrux making and say that that didn’t happen and that Harry died, and the piece of Voldemort’s soul died.

Lily’s protection apparently only protects in the case of magical injury and Harry does end up dying that night. So what happens, you ask? How does the world of everyone else change in the aftermath? The biggest question here is:

Is Voldemort Actually Defeated if Harry Wasn’t a Horcrux?

I originally assumed that Voldemort was defeated when Harry died (because if Harry wasn’t a horcrux, then Voldemort only had six fragments left), but then Zed pointed out that that was a bit of a hasty assumption. Technically, one soul fragment would be enough to keep a wizard alive in his unfavorable, incorporeal state, as proven by the fact that the very few magical folk who had made a horcrux had only made one. So if Voldemort had been blown up that night, he still technically would have been able to be restored by Wormtail or anyone else who was equally dedicated. I’ll admit that it’s very likely that Voldemort would have been restore-able. Seven is the most powerful wizarding number, and with only six, it’s likely that Voldemort would not be as powerful as he might have been with seven fragments, but he could still come back to some semblance of his powers.

Is Voldemort Actually Defeated if Harry Was a Horcrux?

The answer here is probably no. If Harry was a Horcrux and did manage to die that night somehow (we know that that’s highly unlikely) in a roof collapse involving magical fire or a basilisk fang, Voldemort would be weaker, but also again still restore-able. So that brings me to my next and final question which is the assumption I base all of the following character stories on:

Is Voldemort Actually Defeated if Harry died?

Regardless of whether he was a horcrux or not, I choose to make the assumption that yes, Voldemort is defeated. His Death Eaters were aware of the prophecy and knew that one must kill the other. They didn’t know about the horcruxes, though. Very, very few were aware those existed. Without that knowledge and with the understanding that both Harry and Voldemort had perished (why would they ever believe that Voldemort had survived?), the Death Eaters wouldn’t be as committed to Voldemort, for obvious reasons. If you’ve believed that your leader had just died, but his nemesis had lived you would likely go after his nemesis and try to revive your leader. But if both leader and nemesis die, revenge has very little point and the prophecy appears to have been fulfilled. The Death Eaters would not be likely to stick around to try and restore Voldemort, and for that reason, I assume that Voldemort is actually defeated if Harry dies.

I could, of course, assume that Voldemort isn’t defeated when Harry dies, but that would nearly double the length of the character follow-ups below and this answer is already horrendously long. I’ll just sum up very quickly what would happen overall: Neville would end up being Voldemort’s next target (just to cover the bases), Dumbledore would have an epic battle with Voldemort, and Hermione and Ron would have nothing to do with the fighting.

Okay, Time for Character Stories:

Of course, this is all purely conjecture, but then again, this whole thing has just been a load of conjecture, assumptions and canon-based discussion. Taking Harry completely out of the equation changes the world entirely, and what happens in the world. Buckle your seatbelts, because this question is only about to get longer as I dissect what might have potentially happened to the rest of the characters (provided the assumption that Voldemort never regains his powers and returns):


Let’s start with Ron, since he was Harry’s first real friend. His life would have been arguably very, very different. He first met Harry at Hogwarts, after they had been sorted into Gryffindor. Up until this point, his life would have been relatively unchanged with or without Harry’s presence. Voldemort would still have been destroyed. Technically, he would have been off living his less-than-human self, but without his seventh horcrux in Harry (Harry would have died, and with him, the accidental horcrux that he created in Harry would have died) he wouldn’t have been able to reconstruct himself completely and return to his old powers.

So at this point, Voldemort is effectively defeated, with Harry being the sacrifice for this defeat. The rest of the wizarding world probably doesn’t know that Harry’s death was caused by the house caving in. They might have assumed that somehow Harry’s death also caused Voldemort to die, at which point, the prophecy may have resurfaced and Harry’s death would have been explained away as a necessary sacrifice for Voldemort’s demise. Infant Harry would have been lauded by the wizarding world and venerated as the infant who saved everyone by dying. Hooray! Cheery thoughts!

However sad this might be, to Ron’s family, this was a welcome boon. Molly had a bunch of young boys at the time of Harry’s death, and was probably pregnant with Ginny. She was likely saddened by the sacrifice made by an infant she never had anything to do with, but now it meant there was hope for her children to grow up in a safe environment. Ron probably would have grown up hearing the story once or twice, but not really dwelling on it. Since Harry wasn’t alive, he and his story wouldn’t have been the objects of such fascination and reverence. Harry’s story would probably not have had a huge effect on Ron growing up.

A fun side story might entertain the thought of Molly naming her newborn daughter Harriet, or something similar in remembrance of the infant that died. In fact, if Harry had died, it’s very likely that many young wizarding children born after his death would have received the same name, or some derivative.

The story for Ron really starts changing when he gets to Hogwarts. Without Harry to be his friend, he would have likely been good friends with Seamus and Dean. He probably still wouldn’t have had a lot of patience for Neville, but even Neville would have been drastically different. I won’t give Neville his own section, but after the demise of Voldemort and death of Harry, it’s unlikely that his parents would have been targeted by the Deatheaters (his parents were tortured around 1982), who would have probably died out (since Voldemort would never again regain his old powers, Wormtail would have never worked to help Voldemort, and the rest of the Deatheaters would have gone back to their old lives, or gone to Azkaban) and Neville would have grown up in a relatively stable household, despite his family’s fears that he was a squib.

So Neville probably wouldn’t have been as jittery and fearful and self-conscious as he was, and Ron would have gotten along just fine with him. It’s not too difficult for four similar young men to get along fine, especially without Harry to create some divisiveness in the group (like it or not, Harry was divisive without every really meaning to be).

Ron would have never been a stellar student, still, but he might have been more relaxed and easy-going. He would have been plagued by less self-doubt. As good as a friend to Ron as Harry was, Harry overshadowed Ron and Ron had already been overshadowed his whole life by his older brothers. Without Harry as his best friend, Ron’s talents and personality would have shone through a little more and he might have been less prone to his fits of moodiness.

I think he still would have tried out for the Quidditch team, and I think he also would have made the team. He wasn’t a fabulous player, but he wasn’t awful. Without Harry causing his self-doubt and fears he would have been a stronger player and without Harry’s obvious skills on the team outweighing his own, he would have ranked a little bit higher. But who would have been seeker if Harry was not there to fill that role? It’s hard to say. Ginny (or Harriet, if we go with that little plot addition) would have filled that role in her second year, most likely, but until then, for those first two years without Harry or Ginny, an older student would have had to fill the role and Gryffindor would probably not have been nearly as successful in Quidditch. Similarly, they probably wouldn’t have won House Cup, without Harry and his escapades causing Dumbledore to top the scales heavily in Gryffindor’s favor (side note: seriously, why did no one ever call Dumbledore out publicly on his obvious favoritism?)

Ron wouldn’t have had Scabbers, either. His family would still have been poor, but Ron might have been sent to school with a toad, but in all likelihood, he would have shared an owl with his brothers. Scabbers would not have been the beloved family pet passed down through the brothers, and Hermione’s cat would then not eat Scabbers, causing less contention between Hermione and Ron (not that any contention between them would really exist in a Harry-less future)

All in all, I think Ron would have had a fairly average, boring life. I don’t think he would have married Hermione, though. By Rowling’s own admission, Hermione and Ron should never have been gotten together in the first place. It’s an unnatural pairing, but even if Harry was absent (since Harry and Hermione would have been the obvious pairing), it’s doubtful that she would have married Ron. Ron took a while to warm up to Hermione, and Hermione didn’t make friends easily. Ron would have continued to see her as stuck-up and insufferable and Hermione wouldn’t have been so fondly accepted into Gryffindor as she would have been with Harry.

Ron might have gone on to marry Lavender Brown, but given how annoying Lavender was and how messy that relationship was, I still don’t really see that happening as much. He may not have even gotten into a relationship with Lavender Brown. He might have gone after some other girl in another House. I think if Harry died, Ron’s love life would be drastically different and he would marry someone we were never introduced to in the books. Ron might have graduated and gone on to work at the Ministry of Magic like his father, in a quiet department that was more clerical than anything else.

Basically, I predict a pretty normal, non-spectacular life for Ron that is very similar to his father’s. I don’t predict quite the same level of poverty or as many children, but Ron is by no means rich. He merely lives a quiet, comfortable lifestyle with his wife a few children.


While Ron’s life is drastically altered, I actually see Hermione’s personality playing out pretty much the same way that it did in the book. Of course Hermione didn’t grow up knowing about Harry Potter or Voldemort, or The Boy Who Died, but she would have read about it before school started and would have been familiar with the story. However, it would have likely just been another story in a long litany of magical histories that she would have read and it probably wouldn’t have had the same effect on her that it would have on Ron’s family and the families of other wizards.

So Hermione goes to school, and gets sorted into Gryffindor. Harry’s presence had had no effect on Hermione up until and past her sorting, so I’m fairly confident that the Sorting Hat would still place her in Gryffindor. However, the troll would have never been let in (on account of Quirrell not being possessed by Voldemort) and Hermione would never have really had a reason to become friends with Ron. The two would have likely avoided each other and Hermione probably would have continued to be fairly snooty until her later years as she grew up and matured. I don’t imagine that Hermione would have had too many friends outside of the females in her year who were in Gryffindor, and even then they might have been irritated with Hermione.

I think Hermione would have continued to be far too eager to prove herself, and to engage in learning. I think she would still have been granted a time turner in her third year, but without Sirius Black on the loose (more on him below), she would have continued to have been entrusted with the time turner.

There’s two ways this could go from here: Hermione could either be completely overwhelmed by her ambition, burn out and continue quietly and slightly less manically through her years at Hogwarts after a nasty mental breakdown, or she could end up succeeding wildly and becoming one of Hogwarts’ top graduates. I think it might be a mix of both. I think with the time turner in play she would continue unchecked with her ambition until the professors would start noticing how run-down and ragged she was. Her lack of a social life would give her more time to do homework, but eventually even she would be overcome. Her professors would insist on moderation with the time turner, but Hermione would still be wildly ahead of the rest of her peers.

As a result of Harry not being around, Hermione would miss out on a lot of valuable life experiences that helped shape her into the brave, humbler, determined woman she became. She would, of course, miss out on the troll. She would not be turned into a cat, or petrified. She would not have to use obliviate on her parents, or go on the lamb. She would finish her education, and get a high-paying, top job at the Ministry of Magic. After a few years of that job, she would be invited back to Hogwarts to teach, since she was the best in her class and was one of the best students ever seen, behind Dumbledore and Voldemort, of course.

To be completely honest with you, I see Hermione growing older and more similar to Minerva, perhaps even taking over her post as transfiguration professor. Eventually, Hermione would become Headmistress of Hogwarts. She would be wiser and capable of that post at that age, even without the experiences that shaped her. However, I see equal likelihoods of Hermione being single. That’s not to say that she wouldn’t have love interests, or even get married, but I just don’t see Hermione as really settling down with anyone. She’s very ambitious and high-powered and love was never high on her list. With such successes, she definitely doesn’t marry Ron, and there aren’t too many other people that she could or would marry. I vaguely entertained the notion of her marrying Percy, but they’re both too high-strung and high-powered. Percy and Hermione would be constant competition, but Hermione would pull ahead. Percy was too peevish to go too far. Hermione knew how to charm and work with adults.

I could potentially see Hermione having a daughter similar to herself, but with personality differences enough to cause some disharmony and issues, but beyond that, I don’t see Hermione having any other children. Her associations with Ron and Harry softened her, if you will.

Hermione might have still had her flirtations with Viktor Krum during her fourth year, but even though the book is a bit misleading in accidentally convincing you that they are much older, Hermione is still only fourteen and Krum is much older and much more famous than she. He would be fascinated with her and she with him, but I don’t see that romance lasting any longer than Hermione’s graduation from Hogwarts. Viktor was simply not smart and snappy enough for her. He was no idiot, despite some of his portrayals in the book, but Hermione needed more personality than he had to offer.

Also, Hermione would likely never have any run-ins with House Elves and would therefore not create SPEW. She would not have any run-ins with centaurs, either, since Dolores Umbridge would have had no reason to be posted at Hogwarts.

Hermione’s daughter grows up pretty much at Hogwarts and while she excels in school, she wants to be an auror and have a more exciting life than the academic life of her mother. She rebels, leaves school without graduating and gets pregnant young. Hermione turns her anguish into books and becomes a very prolific writer, revolutionizing the transfiguration texts and inventing several major spells that she is well known for. Out of Harry’s would-be friends, she is the only one that manages to really make a name for herself long term.


Draco’s life without Harry in it is also interesting to consider. His father would have likely continued a seedy underground life, but his heydays would have been over. Lucky to have escaped arrest, Lucius and his family would remain fairly wealthy, and probably involved in some shadier deals in Knockturn Alley. Draco might have been slightly less bitter and angry, however.

With Harry’s death and Voldemort’s downfall, the Malfoy’s wouldn’t have their scapegoat anymore. There was no object to hate for the downfall of their leader and while Draco would have grown up hating the Potters and Harry in particular, he wouldn’t have hated everyone else quite as much. I still think that he would have been a vindictive, mean boy, but not to the extent that he was in the books.

He would have eventually grown up and grown out of it, marrying some blonde Slytherin (definitely not Pansy) and having one or two aristocratic children. His father’s wealth and his own status would have assured him a job upon graduation and he would have been able to live comfortably, especially since they would still have Dobby in their possession. His life would be drastically changed, of course, but in positive ways. His life would have been far more stable, even if it was dark. He also would have had no reason to hate Ron or Hermione and he probably would have been only vaguely familiar with who they were. He would not have resorted to his darker tactics in the later books.

Draco is eventually arrested for fraud and sentenced to two years in a low-security wizarding prison. His wife leaves him during that time, but his two children are adults by then and are very like their father. They stand by him and Draco eventually sets up shop in Knockturn Alley, doing little more than selling the kinds of things his family used to own.


Ah, Ginny. What would happen to her without Harry in her life? Like Ron, I think that Ginny would have had a fairly mundane life. She would have done well in school and also been one of Gryffindor’s better Quidditch players, playing alongside her brothers for a few years. For the most part, however, I think Ginny would be unremarkable.

She wouldn’t have been as shy and insecure her first year because Harry wasn’t there to make her nervous. She wouldn’t have had a crush on him, and resorted to spilling her feelings into Riddle’s diary. And Riddle’s diary wouldn’t have even made it to her in the first place! It’s hard to say what would happen to Voldemort’s horcruxes, but I think that even if his loyal followers did make an effort to collect them, that they would eventually hit a dead-end and be unable to help Voldemort. So Ginny would never have been brought into the Chamber of Secrets, and she would not have been traumatized or controlled by Voldemort at any point in time.

Ginny would eventually grow to be more secure (if she was still insecure and shy in the first place) and would have been a perfectly likable, productive member of Gryffindor. I could easily see her continuing to date and eventually marrying Dean, especially since Dean would have likely been one of Ron’s good friends. It’s a pretty natural assumption for me, actually. Dean and Ginny had a fairly decent relationship, and without Harry distracting her she would have happily settled into life with Dean.

I think Ginny might have worked a bit- she might have still played professional Quidditch for a little bit, but as a lower-ranked player and eventually I think Ginny would retire to be a home-maker, like her own mother. Without Harry and all of the ambitions and allure and fame that came with him, she wouldn’t really have any reason to be unhappy with a life at home. She and Dean would have three or so kids and life would be just fine and dandy for her. I could also see Ginny returning to Hogwarts to teach as she was also pretty good with her wand.

She and Dean eventually divorce when their youngest is about thirteen and Ginny moves to Scotland where she raises her children and teaches at Hogwarts. Dean goes off and does who knows what. He wasn’t important enough as a character for me to want to follow. He just replaced Harry in Ginny’s life.


Hagrid would have continued to get himself into trouble, I’m sure, but not to the extent that he did when Harry was around. Hagrid would have still been expelled from Hogwarts, and still living on the property, but the night that Harry died he would have shown up to the rubble of the house on Sirius’ motorbike and brought back Harry’s body to Dumbledore with great sadness.

I think it’s easy to assume that Hagrid would have been greatly saddened by this. He’s really a very soft-hearted man, and holding the body of a crushed infant would be so, so painful to him. He would be relieved that Voldemort was gone, but I think he would always secretly protest the cost of getting rid of Voldemort. He would never be fully comfortable with venerating Harry for the sacrifice he made unknowingly.

Hagrid would still be very trusted by Dumbledore, but he would never be a center fixture at Hogwarts. He would go on tending his pumpkins, taking food to Aragog and generally getting into minor scrapes and troubles with his love of dangerous creatures. He would eventually be entrusted the Care of Magical Creatures class, but without Draco’s vindictiveness, he would not get into as much trouble and the class would be a decent one.

Furthermore, I think Hagrid would be kind of lonely. He didn’t have very many friends, especially among the students, and without Harry I think that both Hermione and Ron would never really get to know Hagrid or have anything to do with him. I think when Madame Maxime comes along in the fourth book that he would strike up a slightly longer romance with her that continues off and on. However, I don’t think that Hagrid ever marries or has any children.

Nor does Hagrid ever visit the giants, as Dumbledore later has him do. I think all-in-all Hagrid fares alright. He’s lonely, but he doesn’t realize how lonely he is, because he never had friendships to compare his loneliness with. Also, he’s still always deeply saddened over the night that he pulled Harry’s body from the wreckage and carried it to Dumbledore. He’ll never forget the tiny package, which he carefully and respectfully wrapped in his coat. He froze the entire motorbike ride back to Dumbledore, but to Hagrid and his sense of love and duty, no sacrifice was too small to make for The Boy Who Died.  


It’s pretty easy to try and figure out what Sirius Black would be doing if Harry had died. He would most likely still be alive, but would he still be in Azkaban? The books never say how long Sirius was sentenced to Azkaban for, so it could have been a life sentence. A life sentence would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible for Sirius. He recounts that he was kept sane by the knowledge of his innocence, but with such bleak, dark surroundings, how sane could he really be kept, especially over the course of many decades?

Sirius was spurred to escape after seeing a picture of Wormtail in the Daily Prophet, but if Wormtail wasn’t with the Weasley family when they went on vacation (and we have already decided that Wormtail doesn’t make it to the Weasley family) then Sirius may not have been spurred to escape. I think eventually Sirius may have attempted an escape, but he would have been older and more grizzled and his chances of success would have been much lower. I think that while Sirius ends up staying alive, his future is still very grim. After Harry dies, he is now also blamed for the death of a child, and the wizarding world hates him even more. With Wormtail deep in hiding and not likely to come out anytime soon, no one ever suspects any different. There is no one to clear the record, and Sirius remains in Azkaban until he is either released, or he dies.

Alternatively, I could see him writing to Dumbledore, pleading for help. I know that Dumbledore knows the truth and would believe Sirius, but with the evidence stacked against Sirius, I think that Dumbledore would have great difficulty in getting Sirius out. The wizarding world would also be furious and likely shun Dumbledore, since they would never be so sure of Sirius’ innocence.

I guess I could still see there being a chance of Sirius escaping. Like I said, he would have attempted it later, but he still would have done it. There would be a lot of alarm, but when nothing comes of his escape, everything would die down and Sirius would live a lonely existence, spending most of his time as a large dog, scaring the living daylights out of the remote people he passed, but mostly doing no harm other than to root through some garbage cans or sleep in an opened garage. He would live with immense guilt for the rest of his life, wondering if there was some way that he could have saved any of the Potters.

The Dursley’s

Ah, the Dursley’s. They probably escape with the most positive changes in their lives (according to their own needs and desires, that is) in a Harry-less world. After they receive word of the Potters’ deaths, Petunia is secretly relieved. She’s a little sad deep down that her sister is dead, but she never knew her nephew, really, and it’s such a relief to her that she doesn’t have to hide and worry about the strangeness in her family ever being revealed. Dudley grows up as spoiled as ever, and without anything to check him, ends up in some trouble with the law.

However, by the time this happens, Vernon has risen in the business world and has made several lucrative deals, including the one that was destroyed by Dobby in book 2. They have a holiday house in Majorca and Petunia is delighted with the fact that she can lord it over all of her neighbors. In fact, they have moved from Privet Drive to a ritzier neighborhood. It’s still essentially the same, but the Dursley’s go on with life. There are no strange owls, and there are certainly no issues with a boy living in a cupboard or in a boarded-up room. Dudley’s trouble with the law is soothed by his father’s money and business connections and Dudley goes on to be a rather large bully of a man.

He marries in his early twenties at the insistence of his parents to the daughter of one of his father’s business connections. Of course Vernon would use his son as a pawn! The two have two equally spoiled girls who Petunia absolutely dotes on. No more is ever heard or said of the Potters’.

Petunia was somewhat worried that the nasty wizards would show up with their bodies and ask the Dursley’s to make funeral arrangements, but Harry and his parents were buried in their village and a very lovely monument was erected to them. Petunia was a little perturbed when she found out about the monument, but she quickly got over it, deciding that being alive and free of the wizarding world was worth a stupid monument to her sister and her no-good family.

At the age of 63, when his two granddaughters are 11 and 13, Vernon has a massive heart attack and drops dead. Petunia loses even more weight and becomes an even nastier crone while Dudley falters a bit. He tries to take over his father’s firm and keep his father’s business contracts going, but Dudley has no business expertise. How could he when his father bought him his university degree?

Dudley’s family returns to their former middle-class lifestyle and his daughters grow up slightly less spoiled, but still fairly rotten.


Snape’s story in a Harry-less world is still pretty sad. He obviously hated James and was still in love with Lily, but he feels a sort of weird ambivalence toward the death of Harry. He was a double agent, as we know, but in the aftermath of the Potters’ death he goes back to the good side and gives up the double agent stuff. Every now and again he dips back into that world to check up on the whereabouts and activities of certain Death Eaters, but for the most part it is obvious that his loyalties lie with Dumbledore.

The death of Lily deeply scarred Snape and he was never the same. James’ death had no effect on him, and the death of the Potter baby was merely another death to him. He had little attachment or concern for the child, and in truth, he was happy to be rid of Voldemort.

But now, his life seems to have very little meaning anymore. Everything he did was to protect Lily, and now Lily is dead, and he doesn’t even have Harry to bully or keep an eye on. He teaches potions at Hogwarts and remains a reclusive teacher. He is not as biting and bitter as he used to be, although that still does come out at times. Instead he is deeply sad and lonely, similar to Hagrid. The death of an infant always has that effect on people, even the most seemingly hardened. Snape doesn’t bully Hermione or Ron in the slightest because they are nothing more than two Gryffindor students to him.

Every now and again he reminisces on what might have happened if Lily had married him- if Harry had been his son. The scenario changes every time. What if James and Harry had died and Lily had lived? What if Harry had been his son and Voldemort had still come after them? Snape’s heart grows heavier over the years as he realized the futility of these thought exercises, but they come to him so easily. In his mind, Harry is a tall man, with the eyes of his mother, but the same dark hair as Snape. He is healthy and intelligent and a Slytherin. Sometimes Snape catches himself smiling crookedly as he imagines himself and his son teasing Lily that they are both Slytherins and she is a Gryffindor. But then he reminds himself that Lily is many years dead, and Harry was never his son, anyway.

He still slightly favors Draco and the other Slytherins, but what we are really discovering in a Harry-less world is that everyone is far less polarized than before. People are calmer and more moderate. The extremes no longer exist and Snape only mildly dislikes everything that isn’t Slytherin. After Dumbledore dies and Minerva retires, Snape becomes headmaster of Hogwarts, but only for a very brief amount of time. The school is fine under his administration, but Snape is old and his heart is not in it. He prefers his dark dungeons and the sad memories he still carries around. He returns to the dungeons and an arithmancy teacher becomes headmaster for a few years before Hermione comes around and takes over.

Snape never marries, and he never has any children. He dies one cold December morning just before Christmas in his icy chambers in the dungeon. The last word he breathes is “Always.” His funeral is respectable, if not frigid, and a new potions teacher is quietly hired, replacing Snape, who never told anyone about how broken his heart really was.


Dumbledore is never quite the same after Harry’s death. He feels responsible, somehow, even though it wasn’t he who betrayed the Potters. He is devastated that an entire family was wiped out at the cost of destroying Voldemort. He feels responsible because he was the one who more or less groomed Riddle and brought him into the wizarding world. He saw what Riddle was becoming, but was unable to stop him in his formative years.

Dumbledore is well aware of what year Harry would be in, and he’s well aware that Harry likely would have been in Gryffindor. He is no longer partial to Gryffindor, but when he looks at the classmates that would have been Harry’s peers and friends; he feels that same deep sadness that Hagrid and Snape feel. None of the three men ever share this feeling, but they all carry it together in a way, each connected to the Potter family.

Dumbledore continues as headmaster at Hogwarts for a few years longer after Harry would have graduated Hogwarts, but his heart is longer in it. He feels has now failed twice with two separate dark wizards and he is old and frail. Even he cannot live forever. He retires to a little house on the seaside where he knits socks and dies quietly. He has a lavish funeral and is remembered well in death; even though his life was never quite as glamorous as it would have been had Harry lived. 

Fred and George

Fred doesn’t die, obviously. He continues on with George and the two run a successful magical gag shop for many years. Fred marries Angelina Johnson and they have four children together—all of them boys. George gets married late in life and doesn’t have any children. The two become rather famous and wealthy and enjoy lording it over Ron, who shrugs it off and takes home free things for his own children.


Percy marries Penelope Clearwater and they have two children, both boys who are very much like Percy. Percy and Penelope end up divorcing and Penelope gets full custody of the children. Percy works himself into old age very quickly at a menial desk job at the ministry. He dies in old age very humbled, with neither of his sons by his bedside. His sons both die childless.

Tonks and Lupin

Lupin obviously doesn’t die, and Tonks and Lupin end up having a lovely time together. They have their first son from the books but they also have another son and daughter, all three of which are metamorphmagus. Tonks and Lupin are a fairly happy couple and grow old together and raise their children, all of whom graduate from Hogwarts with good jobs as happy, well-liked and productive members of society. Lupin  and Tonks name their second son James Harry Lupin in memory of James and his lost son. They visit the Potter memorial once a year on the eve of Voldemort’s demise to pay their respects.


Wormtail goes off to hide after the explosion in which he frames Sirius and is never seen or heard from again. In reality, he stowed away on a cargo ship from London that was meant to go to Canada. Wormtail was fairly confident that he could live undercover amongst the Canadian witches and wizards. The ship ended up docking in the Hudson harbor and Wormtail sets up a seedy wizarding shop in the American version of Diagon Alley. He marries a plump, spinster witch and the two live out the rest of their days. Wormtail never pays for his crimes and he is never caught.

Minor Characters and Other Details

Luna Lovegood and her father would continue writing their magazine and escape persecution. Luna and Neville would get married and have one very awkward son who is luckily at least a little more down to earth than his mother. Neville and Luna never have anything to do with Harry and their magazine remains relatively unknown and somewhat mocked by the larger wizarding world. Luna does end up discovering that nargles are real, however, and after that the publication has moderate success and their son is not bullied at Hogwarts.

The basalisk would eventually die deep underground in the Chamber of Secrets and that entire side of the school would smell terribly for a few years until the carcass had rotted away, leaving the skeleton to sit in the darkness. It will not be found until the bathrooms are renovated during Hermione’s time as headmistress. Moaning Myrtle will haunt the bathroom less and less after the renovations, especially now that the years have passed and most of the new students don’t really know who Voldemort is. She will develop a brief crush on Neville’s son, but eventually even Myrtle will leave.

In fact, many of the ghosts will begin to leave the castle in the coming years. Peeves is eventually banished by Minerva in a fit of anger and the other ghosts spread out as Hogwarts becomes a more mundane, usual place.

The Triwizard Tournament is held in Ron and Hermione’s fourth year and the same students participate. Cedric wins easily and the tournament is then regularly scheduled. Cedric becomes somewhat famous and becomes a professional Quidditch player. He marries Cho Chang and they have two daughters who become professional models in the wizarding world (they have to have those, right?).

The Ministry undergoes an overhaul in Hermione’s days there and Dolores Umbridge and many other corrupt officials are removed unceremoniously. They aren’t really heard from again. The new Minister of Magic goes on to forge important alliances with many groups of creatures, including the centaurs and giants. All in all, life in a Harry-less world goes on. It is almost a century before another dark wizard arrives on the scene, and in the modern world it is harder for a dark wizard to go unnoticed and he is quickly taken care of.

Fleur Delacour does NOT marry into the Weasley family, because she never met them. She competed respectably in the Triwizard Tournament, flirted a lot with Krum despite his interest in Hermione and then went on with her life. Her sister did not almost die in the second challenge, and Harry was of course not there to save her not-really-dying sister. After Krum finishes his flirtations with Hermione, he turns his attention back to Fleur Delacour. The two get married and have one daughter before they separate amicably for a few years. They continue to get back together off and on and remain in the wizarding spotlight. Krum goes on to great success as a Quidditch player and is known as one of the best. He regularly sends Hermione Christmas and Birthday cards. She never responds to them.

Dobby the house elf remains in the servitude of the Malfoys. Despite Draco’s improvements, Dobby is still mistreated. Hermione eventually passes laws during her time in the Ministry to ease the burdens of the house elves and Dobby is eventually freed on his 68th birthday. He travels to Hermione’s home where he presents himself and begs her to take him on as her house elf. She rejects his offer, but he stays anyway and becomes more live-in help than anything else. Hermione pays him generously and takes him with her everywhere, including back to Hogwarts when she accepts a teaching position. Even without Harry, the two become good friends.

Minerva (whose name I have conveniently left out of this entire missive because I forgot how to spell it and I’m too lazy to look it up) continues to teach at Hogwarts until Dumbledore retires. She takes his place and is a perfectly fine headmistress for many years before she too retires to a pristine cottage in the countryside.

So there you have it: The fates and lives of most of the Harry Potter cast if Harry had died that night (I skipped Neville and kind of just lumped him in with Ron and with the minor characters- that might be an unforgiveable for some of you guys, but for real, Neville would be SO boring without Harry and the prophecy and what not—it might have never come out that the prophecy was even targeting him as well as Harry). Most of their lives would be pretty boring, even if the exact details aren’t correct. And let’s be real: SO much would change between the books. Quirrell would never have been attached by Voldemort and he probably would have been hired at Hogwarts. The Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching post would not have been cursed and Quirrell might have stayed there for many years. At the very least, someone capable would have easily filled the post.

Snape might have even eventually filled it, had his associations with Voldemort been forgotten or had he really desired the post. With the death of Lily and Harry and his deep sadness, he never quite had the same desire for the post as before. The Sorcerer’s Stone would have remained at Hogwarts for many years, before finally being transferred back to Gringott’s where it would eventually be destroyed (also under Hermione’s mandate—I imagine Hermione passing a lot of regulations and laws during her time in the Ministry of Magic).

Bellatrix Lestrange would have been an interesting one to follow. She was always in love with Voldemort and so eager to follow his every word. But after Voldemort’s demise she would have been sent to Azkaban and I don’t think she would have ever emerged. She would have gone insane. Secretly, she might have even enjoyed the soul-sucking atmosphere of Azkaban. She never had much of a soul to suck.

The Black house would remain empty and unused, and eventually the wizarding world would sell it off in an auction and it would be bought by none other than Horace Slughorn, who would use it as a trophy to store his prizes and collectables. He prefers a comfortable lifestyle though, so he would never dare to live there. He will still run the Slug Club and still teach at Hogwarts, but he will only teach briefly and the Slug Club will never gain much traction, especially after Cedric Diggory refuses to attend.

Essentially, the books would suck if Harry had died young. I mean, that’s kind of an obvious point. Harry is the reason there is a plot. Without him, the books are pretty pointless and they’re just an exercise in world-building. For the most part, the books are pretty airtight. One thing I noticed as I read around and studied up for this answer was that almost all of the plot holes have potential answers. Rowling didn’t even have to retroactively answer a lot of questions for the plot holes to be filled. And her world-building is so airtight that her readers can answer a lot of the questions for her.

Of course, it’s still completely entertaining and fun to speculate as to what might have happened to the characters had Harry died that night, so long as we remember the fact that Harry was pretty much immortal and that this is all impossible speculation. Yayfulness remarked that it was kind of a downer to realize that Harry was immortal for pretty much the entire series, and I think he’s right. It ruins a lot of the suspense once you pick apart the specifics of Voldemort’s attack and why Harry survived it, but it still makes sense. All of those times that Harry could have been killed and he wasn’t?

One thing I still do want to know is how detailed Rowling’s plans were. Some people think that she didn’t have the horcurxes all planned out before she revealed them in the last few books, while others thing that everything aligned too perfectly in the earlier books for the horcruxes to be an idea that came along accidentally as she was finishing them up. I think Rowling’s world-building was the strongest in the earlier books, and while those ideas may have been vaguely there, the finer details definitely came to her more as she wrote the later books.

All in all, if you couldn’t tell, I’m a bit obsessed with theoretically analyzing Harry Potter. The whole “Why didn’t Voldemort just chuck Harry out the window?” question has bothered me for forever and this question finally forced me to do some research on it. Reddit and the Harry Potter Wiki were all very helpful, as were the other writers references throughout this answer who provided commentary and additional thoughts and explanations.  In the end, like I said, I’m still just very impressed with Rowling’s world building. The plot holes are very easily filled and understood, although I still think that we could benefit more from a more clear understanding of Lily’s sacrificial protection and how that worked, as well as a more nuanced understanding of the killing curse.

Tl;Dr: I just wrote the longest Board answer in four straight hours and now I can't feel my hands. Also I kind of never want to talk about Harry Potter ever again after this answer.