Blog Archives

2016 Gospel Doctrine- Recommended Resources on the Book of Mormon (updated)

December 19, 2015 | 40 comments
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2016 Gospel Doctrine- Recommended Resources on the Book of Mormon (updated)

As with the Old and New Testaments, here are my suggestions for this year’s study of the Book of Mormon. (Edit for newcomers: Who am I and why do my suggestions have any merit?) Read more »

On Ben Carson’s Adventism, Creationism, and the Bible

November 17, 2015 | 50 comments
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On Ben Carson’s Adventism, Creationism, and the Bible

I wrote a piece at ReligionandPolitics today about how Ben Carson’s SDA beliefs put him close to the source of creationism. Please give it a read. Ronald Numbers, eminent historian of science, creationism, and Seventh-day Adventism offered useful critique of an earlier draft, my thanks to him. There were a few questions I wanted to address beyond what I wrote, that get more into the history of interpretation. What was the genesis (sorry) of the seven-day structure of Genesis 1?  Wasn’t young-earth creationism the only understanding of Genesis until Darwin and evolution force a reevaluation of it? Below, some quick and dirty... Read more »

SMPT Teaser: A Close Reading of Alma 32

October 6, 2015 | 13 comments
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SMPT Teaser: A Close Reading of Alma 32

I’m presenting this Saturday at the conference in Provo. I’ve kicked some of these ideas around for a while, but only started work on them in earnest recently. I’m addressing conceptions of faith and knowledge in Alma 32 through close reading. For me, that process entails creating a bibliography to see what’s been done, and working through the chapter closely and slowly, looking for patters and connections, textual issues, and logical flow. Read more »

The KJV and the Thereofs Thereof

September 26, 2015 | 44 comments
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The KJV is archaic and foreign today, but did you know it was already archaic and outdated when it was published in 1611? The translation team was instructed to follow earlier translations like The Bishop’s Bible (1568) and only change where they thought necessary. But the Bishop’s Bible was itself a revision of yet earlier translations, all the way back to Tyndale (1525)! This means the translators were not starting from scratch, but essentially critiquing and updating earlier work. The English used was not the current vernacular language of the people when it was published. The abundance of “barbed wire”... Read more »

The JST, Moses, and the Flood in Seminary: How Much complexity?

September 25, 2015 | 86 comments
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Blinding

I happened to sit in on an early morning Seminary class today, working on Moses 8. I haven’t been in a Seminary class since I graduated high school, which was… a while ago. But I noticed something that went completely uncommented on by the manual, that I could see. Read more »

Quotes of Note- Elders Ballard and Packer on Meetings

September 12, 2015 | 10 comments
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(I was trying to find President Packer’s statement about meetings for second post on 1 Corinthians, and realized it had disappeared from LDS.org. I’ve relocated it on the Wayback Machine, and the link below is correct. The source is no longer a “recent address” so it had disappeared from lds.org) Elder Ballard- “Are you using the ward and stake councils effectively as they were intended? Don’t let them become meaningless exercises in organizational bureaucracy. The way some leaders conduct council meetings, you would think they really believe in a fourteenth article of faith: ‘We believe in meetings—all that have been... Read more »

Teaching Old Testament for Seminary

August 13, 2015 | 24 comments
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Teaching Old Testament for Seminary

You recently got called as a Early Morning Seminary teacher, and feel surprisingly sanguine about it. Then you found out that you’re starting with Old Testament this September, and all of a sudden, your confidence in the face of world-weary, eye-rolling teenagers plummeted. Why is this so tough? The audience is hostile and sleepy. You teach every day, without the luxury of a whole week to think through your 45 minute lesson. You’ve got to get in there every morning to teach about the longest book we know the least, with the hardest material that is also the most foreign, culturally speaking. Not... Read more »

Another View of the Seer Stone

August 5, 2015 | 21 comments
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Another View of the Seer Stone

Yesterday by invitation, I attended  the first known joint press conference between the LDS Church and its cousin, the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or RLDS.) The occasion was the release of the 2-part 3rd volume in the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith Papers, the Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of the Mormon. As with the others, these books are hefty, high-quality, and thought-provoking. While available at Amazon (part 1, part 2), they will also be available in their entirety online soon.  Read more »

Revisiting President Packer on “Scientific Neglect” and Meetings

July 3, 2015 | 6 comments
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Revisiting President Packer on “Scientific Neglect” and Meetings

Given that my studies have involved the interpretation of Genesis, science, and evolution, Elder Packer and I have not always seen eye to eye. I remember well on my mission when Time Magazine ran the cover article about Mormon finances. This made it all the way to France, where we had a copy, and my companion Elder West really focused in on their description of Elder Packer as “the LDS Church’s hard-line number 3 man.” And indeed, he had and has that reputation. But around 2007, while I was teaching volunteer Institute in Urbana IL, we attended a CES fireside for CES... Read more »

C.S. Lewis on Inspired Adaptation and Myth

June 25, 2015 | 14 comments
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C.S. Lewis on Inspired Adaptation and Myth

I wrote recently that there’s no reason why God, who spoke to ancient Israelites “in their weakness, after the manner of their language” could not adapt familiar myths so “that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24.) Here, I cite that prophet-with-a-small-p “Elder” C.S. Lewis, who argues that inspiration can include adaptation of uninspired sources.  Read more »

How the New Perspective on Paul Illustrates the Science-Religion Creation Debate

June 24, 2015 | 17 comments
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How the New Perspective on Paul Illustrates the Science-Religion Creation Debate

(As with many of my posts, this is kind of trying things out, thinking them through in public and on the fly. It’s messy, so I welcome thoughts and substantive corrections.) In order to keep track of my research, I’ve been making a timeline of three kinds of events relevant to our understanding of Genesis: First, events in LDS history that impinge on the interpretation of Genesis, e.g. the 1911 BYU controversy or BH Roberts- Joseph Fielding Smith Debate (1930s). Second, events that lead to the recovery of ancient Near Eastern context of Genesis 1, such as the discovery/decipherment of Akkadian (Babylonian... Read more »

Harnessing Fresh RM Enthusiasm to Train Future Leadership

June 17, 2015 | 22 comments
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It’s a truism that lots of people read few books. And certainly as we get married, have jobs, kids, responsibilities, many of us find our leisure time is spent simply recovering from the day and picking cheerios out of the carpet.  Moreover, lots of people who DO read just don’t have  interest in history, doctrine, or scripture and choose to read other things. But then, you have recently returned missionaries. Read more »

Guest Post- Taking Six Years to Teach the Book of Mormon

May 24, 2015 | 10 comments
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This post comes from Mom S. Over the last six years, we’ve had many conversations about the relevant books she was reading, questions that arose, and teaching ideas. I asked her to share some thoughts on this class and its effects.  Some time ago, I was asked to teach an adult scripture class in our ward. It was originally an extra activity for the Relief Society sisters but was expanded by the bishop to include any brothers who wanted to attend. I picked the Book of Mormon for the curriculum having learned from personal experience (16 years early morning... Read more »

On Conflation; or, Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater in 1911

May 20, 2015 | 63 comments
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Oftentimes, we’re presented with what appears to be a package deal: If you accept A, you accept B-G as well. If you reject A, you reject B-G as well. Just as often, however, what appears as a package can and should be unpacked,  critically and carefully examined to see if it really is so. In 1911 Provo, a controversy erupted over some teachers at BYU. Horace Cummings, the education commissioner, was sent down to investigate and make a report. Telling the entire story is beyond the length and attention span of the average blog, so I’ll just link to it... Read more »

NT Wright on Genre and Reading

March 29, 2015 | 2 comments
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NT Wright on Genre and Reading

  One of the themes I’ve explored repeatedly in talking about Genesis and Bible interpretation in general is that of genre, and the necessity of recognizing the genre of the material we’re reading. Today I came across a easy-to-understand analogy for this. Read more »

Initial Short Speculation on Three Book of Mormon Passages and Ancient Cosmology

March 22, 2015 | 32 comments
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Initial Short Speculation on Three Book of Mormon Passages and Ancient Cosmology

Part of writing a book about ancient cosmology and Genesis 1 is… reading lots about ancient cosmology and Genesis 1. In doing so, I’ve had some thoughts about three Book of Mormon passages. I’ve generally set these on the shelf, so these are initial thoughts which upon further investigation may turn out to be highly significant or completely baseless. But I float them here for public interest and as a reminder to myself later. Read more »

Genesis- Various thoughts and notes on a Saturday night.

January 24, 2015 | 15 comments
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Genesis- Various thoughts and notes on a Saturday night.

The new Seminary manual on the Old Testament approaches the authorship of Genesis in a reductive and simplistic way. (HT: David Tayman, who also did the Israelite cosmology art below.) Ask students if they know who wrote the first book in the Bible. After they respond, invite them to turn to Genesis 1 and look in the title to see who wrote the book of Genesis. (You may want to explain that in addition to writing Genesis, Moses wrote Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price also contains Moses’s writings.) Now, this... Read more »

Taking Control of Your Gospel Doctrine Class… Because You’re the Teacher

December 13, 2014 | 68 comments
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Taking Control of Your Gospel Doctrine Class… Because You’re the Teacher

I’ve wondered how much blame for  “uninformative” (Pres. Kimball’s description) or “uninspiring” (Elder Holland’s paraphrase) teaching in Gospel Doctrine comes from collective failure. Yes, a good teacher can do wonders, but if many classes don’t really talk about the scriptures in question, it’s because virtually no one but the teacher has read them. Read more »

Recommended NT Resources, part 3: History and Commentary

November 27, 2014 | 16 comments
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(Cross-posted at Benjamin the Scribe.) First, Amazon is offering 30% off any physical book you buy for the next two days, by entering HOLIDAY30 at the checkout. Great time to pick up that hardcover Jewish Study Bible,  Jewish Annotated New Testament, NRSV, or similar “expensive” hardcover you can’t get otherwise. Amazon link to the details. Short list. This was really hard to put together, much more than my OT list.  Read more »

Short Musings on the Wu-Tang Clan, Ezekiel, and Church Curriculum

November 23, 2014 | 7 comments
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Short Musings on the Wu-Tang Clan, Ezekiel, and Church Curriculum

Yesterday at a restaurant with my parents, I heard a nice bluesy instrumental over the audio system. I’m a blues fan, and liked it so much I flagged down the waitress to ask what it was. She went to check, and reported to our mutual surprise, that that particular song was “Slow Blues” by the Wu-Tang Clan! I don’t know much about Wu-Tang or the ODB, but I’m familiar enough to know that this is not their usual genre. Most of their music, from what I can tell, is fairly explicit rap. I imagine their CDs (if they still exist)... Read more »

Reading and Writing (Genesis): Books, books, and more books

November 12, 2014 | 14 comments
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I have a few things in my way before being able to work full-time on Genesis 1– a recalcitrant article draft, some travel, volunteer work, etc. In the meantime, I’m making slow but good progress. I’m beginning to suspect the most important parts of the book will be the first two sections dealing with groundwork/assumptions and LDS entanglements with Genesis, not the last two sections on the ancient Near Eastern context or the text/translation itself. I’m interested in a lot of things that are secondary or tertiary to the main thrust of the book, such as the history of biblical... Read more »

Constructive Thoughts on the Curriculum Shift

October 29, 2014 | 15 comments
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As I’ve stopped hyperventilating over the leak of this forthcoming change, I’ve had some thoughts. I have a general rule when I’m in Gospel Doctrine that I try not to say anything unless it’s constructive (or the teacher says something really flagrantly crazy/wrong, which is rare in my experience.) Let me open with this positiveness, then. BYU’s RelEd has some fantastic people, some new hires, and good things happening. I’ll single out the Advanced Book of Mormon class. The two Fall 2014 sections are not the first time this class has been taught. The two “regular” Book of Mormon classes are prerequisites, the syllabi... Read more »

Recommended NT Resources part 2: General and Reference (updated)

October 15, 2014 | 22 comments
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Recommended NT Resources part 2: General and Reference (updated)

Many of these can be purchased in paper, kindle, or from Logos or Accordance. (I’m a big Logos user.) As with all my recommendations, take them with a grain of salt. I neither fully endorse nor vouch for everything said in these, but you will certainly learn and grow by reading them. Samples are often available from Amazon or Google books, and in some cases I’ve linked to others here or in the past. If you missed it, part 1 is here. Read more »

Recommended NT Resources, Part 1: Translations, Text, and the Bible in General

October 10, 2014 | 22 comments
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Recommended NT Resources, Part 1: Translations, Text, and the Bible in General

(Cross-posted at Benjamin the Scribe) We’re 80% of the way through our Old Testament, and the time has come to start looking forward. As I did for the Old, so I will do for the New. This time, I’ll break it up into a few posts, probably a few weeks apart. (Part 2, Part 3 are here.) As before, the absolute best and easiest thing you can do to increase the quality and frequency of your Bible study is to supplement your KJV with a different translation. You can do it with a free app or website, or go old... Read more »