Monthly Archives: April 2011

“Policy” and “Doctrine”, This Time with Venn Diagrams!

April 30, 2011 | 37 comments
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“Policy” and “Doctrine”, This Time with Venn Diagrams!

Here’s the circle that represents everything taught by church members, from the uncontroversial (like faith and repentance) to the bizarre  (“King Arthur lost the priesthood for not listening to Merlin”): Now let’s add another circle for things taught by General Authorities. Every GA is a member of the church, so this circle is entirely encompassed by the first: Now another circle for things taught in General Conference. Most conference talks are given by General Authorities, but some are not (e.g. talks given by auxiliary leaders): Now let’s add one more circle for the words of the prophet (he’s always... Read more »

On the Proper Usage of “Policy” and “Doctrine”

April 29, 2011 | 59 comments
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We’ve enjoyed (or endured) countless discussions about which church teachings are “doctrines” and which are merely “policies”. Here’s my two cents: “policy” and “doctrine” aren’t opposites — they’re not even on the same axis. Doctrines are beliefs that are taught (in fact, the word “doctrine” comes from the Latin for “teachings”, suggesting that any belief taught in the church is, at some level, doctrine). Policies are organizational practices. Some doctrines are policies, some policies are doctrines, some are both, and some are neither. Determining that a particular teaching is policy doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not also a doctrine.... Read more »

Influence, Reflecting Badly and Mormon Culture

April 29, 2011 | 34 comments
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Influence, Reflecting Badly and Mormon Culture

The news yesterday that artist Jon McNaughton had pulled his artwork from the BYU Bookstore led me to ponder once again the influence that Church-owned businesses and institutions have on Mormon Culture. While these institutions seem focused on how what they carry and produce reflects on themselves and, ultimately, the Church, I worry that the variety of books, art, music and other Mormon cultural materials aren’t as available as they should be. Read more »

Heller is Senator: Appointment makes 6 Mormons in U.S. Senate

April 29, 2011 | 6 comments
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Heller is Senator: Appointment makes 6 Mormons in U.S. Senate

Yesterday, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval named LDS Church member and current member of the U.S. House of Representatives Dean Heller to replace Senator John Ensign, who has resigned effective May 3 rather than face an ethics investigation. The move increases the number of Mormons serving in the Senate to 6 while decreasing the number serving in the House to 9. Read more »

May 2011 FHEs

April 29, 2011 | 3 comments
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You can find an explanation of this series here. Read more »

NT Lesson 18 (JF): Luke 15, 17

April 26, 2011 | no comments
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NT Lesson 18 (JF): Luke 15, 17

Luke 15 As I learned from Bruce Jorgensen, it is important to read the parables of Luke 15 together. Consider the setting that Luke gives us in verses 1-2 and then imagine Jesus telling each of these parables in response to what happens in those verses: he hears the Pharisees and the scribes complaining because he eats with sinners, so he tells the parable of the lost sheep; evidently they don’t understand his point because he immediately tells another parable, that of the lost coin—I imagine a silent pause after the first parable, with Jesus waiting for the Pharisees... Read more »

Rivers of Living Water

April 26, 2011 | 8 comments
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It’s Easter and I, like Mary, have a hard time seeing what’s right in front of me. Read more »

Mormon Funerals

April 25, 2011 | 80 comments
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Mormon Funerals

How different are Mormon funerals than those done by other religions? For some strange reason I actually enjoy funerals (at least Mormon ones), despite the sadness of losing a loved one. We’ve had a couple of memorial services in our ward in the past few months, and while sitting through the most recent I wondered how our funerals are different from those of other religions. Read more »

Unchosen Suffering

April 22, 2011 | no comments
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Christ chose to let himself be in Satan’s power and in the power of the Romans. Its important that he chose, because it made him a willing victim. Its also important that he did not himself choose his sufferings. They were the choices of his tormentors. If he had chosen them, he would have been willing but not a victim. Read more »

What Today Means

April 22, 2011 | 22 comments
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Debating Mormonism

April 21, 2011 | 36 comments
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A few weeks ago I judged several rounds of a debating tournament held at the local high school. Teams from all over the state participated. Imagine walking by a high school cafeteria and seeing a couple of hundred students dressed in suits and skirts, chattering like all kids do but also pouring over notes and outlines for the upcoming matches. It was an impressive sight. Read more »

NT Lesson 17: Mark 10:17-30; 12:41-44; and Luke 12:13-21; 14; 16

April 20, 2011 | no comments
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NT Lesson 17: Mark 10:17-30; 12:41-44; and Luke 12:13-21; 14; 16

Given the quantity of material in these chapters, rather than try to cover everything, I will focus my questions on the verses from Mark and selections from the verses in Luke. As you read this material, be sure to ask how it applies to us who live in the latter-days. What do these verses teach us about taking up our cross (cf. Jacob 1:8, 3 Nephi 12:30, and perhaps Alma 39:9)? What do they teach about riches (not what do we recall others saying that they teach, but what do they really teach)? What does the parable and explanation... Read more »

Brooding Upon the Waters

April 20, 2011 | no comments
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Lately I’ve been thinking about the Hebrew notion that water represented formlessness, chaos, and by extension sin, the devil, and mortality. The notion has some currency in modern scripture. Read more »

Fry Sauce or Sriracha?

April 19, 2011 | 35 comments
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There can only be one. Read more »

Jesus, our Only Joy be Thou

April 18, 2011 | 16 comments
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Err — only? Read more »

Reading Scripture in the 21st Century

April 16, 2011 | 18 comments
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Reading Scripture in the 21st Century

I recently read Thinking Through Our Faith: Theology for Twenty-first-Century Christians (Abingdon Press, 1998) by C. David Grant, a professor of religion at TCU. The book might be described as a short prologue to a 21st-century approach to theology, one that takes full account of science, historical criticism, and pluralism — in short, the sort of book you probably would not encounter in a BYU undergraduate religion class. Read more »

Inoculation for Mormons Behaving Badly

April 14, 2011 | 44 comments
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Last June Dave Banack discussed the idea that LDS Church members should be inoculated for troubling LDS doctrinal and historical issues. I don’t think that idea has been completely explored, but I do think inoculation might be useful in one area where our (i.e., Mormon) sub-culture doesn’t use it: the news. Read more »

Be Ye Perfect

April 12, 2011 | 70 comments
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Be Ye Perfect

The gospel instructs us in a certain way of being imperfect. Here, salvation turns on practicing what Elizabeth Bishop calls “the art of losing.” Jesus famously describes this art of losing in Matthew 5:48. “Be ye therefore perfect,” he says, “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Here, the term “perfection” indexes that “certain way” that is peculiar to both Jesus and the Father. The baseline meaning of perfection, of teleios, is completion. But what kind of completion? My suggestion is that, rather than burying Jesus’ teleios beneath layers of curdled metaphysics and ripe fantasy, we... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 16: John 9-10

April 12, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 16: John 9-10

Chapter 9 Verse 1: Chapter 8 ends with the phrase “passed by” and chapter 9 begins with those words. Did the events of chapters 9-10 happen as Jesus was leaving the temple precincts, or did they occur later? (See verse 14 for a clue.) Why is it important that the man has been blind since birth? As you read the story, ask yourself, How we are like the blind man: in what ways are we or have we been blind from birth? How do we come to see? What do we see when we have been healed? Verses 2-5:... Read more »

Amens

April 9, 2011 | 25 comments
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I wonder sometimes if our kids don’t think that “amen” means “thank heavens that’s over!” Read more »

Blogging on the Road to Damascus

April 8, 2011 | 7 comments
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Blogging on the Road to Damascus

Transcripts of the recent General Conference have been posted at LDS.org, including President Uchtdorf’s talk “Waiting on the Road to Damascus.” The talk was mostly a word of encouragement to those members of the Church who, for various reasons including self-doubt, are not full participants in their local wards. The focus of the talk was on the invitation to get past or around whatever the issue is, not on the details of the difficulties or doubts some people face. Of course, his comments on blogging and social media were the most interesting part of the talk. He made these... Read more »

Do we still teach homemaking?

April 8, 2011 | 14 comments
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A guest post from our friend and colleague emeritus, Russell Arben Fox. The title of this post isn’t a snark; it’s an open question, about which I am genuinely curious. (I’m also giving a presentation on this topic next week at the Midwest Sunstone/Restoration Studies conference, so my ulterior motive is a fishing expedition for anecdotes from the Collected Saints of the Bloggernacle.) Read more »

Forms of Agency

April 7, 2011 | 46 comments
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Forms of Agency

Agency is closely linked to power. Without power, we cannot make choices, and without choices we have no agency. It is by our power to help, to learn, to build that we exercise agency. Each of these — helping, learning, building — are forms of agency. (Agency is also closely linked to work and value, but I’ll come back to those later.) I’m fascinated by the idea of “forms of agency”. Most of us tend to exercise agency in only a very few forms, limited by our ignorance of the options available. For example, if you decided to bake... Read more »

Regime Change in the LDS Church

April 6, 2011 | 19 comments
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I recently finished America’s Three Regimes: A New Political History (OUP, 2007) by Morton Keller, a retired history prof at Brandeis. The author suggests there have been three enduring American political regimes: a deferential-republican regime that lasted from the Revolution until the emergence of true party politics (Whigs and Democrats) during the 1830s; a party-democratic regime marked by strong party identification and increasing voter mobilization that lasted until roughly the Great Depression; and a populist-bureaucratic regime that saw the rise of big government, the rise of the independent media, and the decline of party identification and effectiveness. Can LDS... Read more »

Structures

April 5, 2011 | 4 comments
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Not every scholar agrees (as if!), but some identify the following structure in Matthew’s Gospel: Read more »

The Implied Statistical Report, 2010

April 5, 2011 | 16 comments
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The Implied Statistical Report, 2010

A couple of years ago my post The Implied Statistical Report, 2008, looked at what can be learned from a detailed examination of the data the Church releases each April Conference. This conferences’ data includes an additional statistic not found in earlier reports, the number of Church Service Missionaries, which led me to look again at the statistics to see if I might find something else. Read more »

Serving God with Our Minds: SMPT Conference This Weekend

April 4, 2011 | 6 comments
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This weekend at BYU, the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology will hold its 8th Annual Meeting on the theme, “Serving God with Our Minds—The Place of Philosophy, Theology, and Scholarship in a Prophetic Church.” Featured speakers include Patrick Mason, who will soon be taking the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont, Alan Wilkins, a former Academic Vice President and currently Associate Director of the Faculty Center at BYU, and Jack Welch, Robert K. Thomas University Professor in the BYU Law School. Sessions will address themes including the role of theology in devotional life, prophets and... Read more »

What About Portable Temples?

April 4, 2011 | 42 comments
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In his Sunday morning session remarks in general conference, President Monson told stories of great sacrifice offered to reach temples for sacred ordinances. He told of those in the Amazon who travel thousands of miles to the temple in Brazil. He told of the dedicated Tahitian man who — with his two sons — spent a total of six years, living away from the family, working in nickel mines to earn the money to get the family to the New Zealand temple. Given the recent local emphasis from the church on keeping families together, I was surprised to hear... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 15: John 7-8

April 3, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 15: John 7-8

WARNING: Longer than usual notes. I agree with the generally accepted scholarly conclusion that John 7:53-8:11 is a later insertion into the original text. So I will deal with John 7:1-42 and John 8:12-59 as one narrative, the story of what Jesus does at the feast of the tabernacles. Then I will deal with the story of the woman taken in adultery separately. Chapter 7 Verses 1-5: In verse 1, to what is John referring with the phrase “these things”? Refer to the end of chapter 6 (e.g., John 6:66) to recall what things happened that caused him to... Read more »

Sunday Afternoon Session

April 3, 2011 | 5 comments
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President Eyring conducted the last session of this April 2011 General Conference. Speakers included Elder Scott, Elder Christofferson, Carl B. Pratt, Lynn G. Robbins, Benjamin De Hoyos, C. Scott Grow, and Elder Holland. Readers are invited to leave a comment with their overall reaction to Conference and their sense of the general themes stressed by the speakers. Read more »

Sunday Morning Session

April 3, 2011 | 2 comments
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Sunday Morning Session

President Henry B. Eyring conducting. Discourses by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder Paul B. Johnson, Bishop H. David Burton, Sister Silvia H. Allred, Elder David A. Bednar and President Thomas S. Monson. Perhaps even more so than previous sessions, the theme of this session was the Church Welfare program. President Eyring mentioned the 75th anniversary of Church Welfare in his opening remarks, and the remarks of both Bishop Burton and Sister Allred focused on Welfare. Read more »

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