Blog Archives

A Short Post on How It Feels to Be a Moderate

April 5, 2014 | no comments
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Faith, Revelation, and Jewish Parallels

March 27, 2014 | 11 comments
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Some Jewish reading recently has triggered some LDS thoughts and parallels. I jotted these down in between lengthy organic chemistry homework sessions, so they’re less refined than I’d like, but still important to get out there. (I’m trying to shed my perfectionist writing tendencies.) James Kugel is an insightful and approachable Hebrew Bible scholar. He’s also an Orthodox Jew who retired from Harvard to go live in Israel. Kugel’s How to Read  the Bible details differences between how ancient and modern audiences understood the Bible and why, exposition which many people find disturbing or even undermining of faith. Read more »

What are the best Ensign articles?

March 9, 2014 | 25 comments
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We have four missionaries in our ward, with ipads. They have complete access to the LDS.org library, but (per their mission president’s wishes) little else in terms of reading/enrichment material. I keep mentioning different books, as is my wont (see here, here, and here), and telling them “all you need to do is read,” so they’ve been frustrated at the apparent lack of access to “the good stuff.”  Read more »

An Offhand Apologia of Sorts, and some Reflections

February 26, 2014 | 51 comments
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I exchange emails with a good number of LDS people. Some of them are simply looking for information, a pointer to the right article or scripture or background. Some of them are finding their spiritual footing to not be as firm as it used to be, which is highly disconcerting. No one enjoys just trying to stay afloat while the waves keep breaking over you. One such exchange recently ended with a personal question, given X, Y, and Z, why do *you* stay? It was a busy day, and I only had five minutes (dangerous to write something serious... Read more »

Mormon Appropriation of Fundamentalism and Its Outcomes (u)

February 9, 2014 | 53 comments
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Mormon Appropriation of Fundamentalism and Its Outcomes (u)

The last post I whipped off quickly and in frustration was surprisingly well-received. This post was similarly written, and may require editing. Update: I have good reason to believe that the Ensign article in question did not and definitely does not fully reflect its author’s position. This post is not about the author, nor even the Flood itself. (For that, please go read my Flood post first.) After 16 years, however, the article’s content is still easily and prominently accessible to members, with the authority of The Ensign and his BYU position behind it, and that remains highly problematic.... Read more »

Benjamin the Scribe: My Old Testament Gospel Doctrine column

February 4, 2014 | 6 comments
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Benjamin the Scribe: My Old Testament Gospel Doctrine column

Perhaps redundantly, I’m announcing my  Old Testament column at Patheos, called Benjamin the Scribe. I post a lesson each week, with thoughts, analysis, background, handouts, links, and articles. I also have some other things, such as a link to my other writings (in which I demask my two past internet personalities), and a screencast about the Rediscovery of  the World of the Old Testament. Given my schedule (classwork and MCAT study), most of my posts will be there instead of here for at least a few months. You can subscribe to get an update whenever a new post goes... Read more »

Faulconer, Sorenson, Welch, and Others on Scripture Study and Teaching

December 28, 2013 | 5 comments
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Some borrowed thoughts I’ve found provoking recently. Read more »

The Old Testament and Why Bible Translations Differ: My Religious Educator Article

December 18, 2013 | 11 comments
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The Old Testament and Why Bible Translations Differ: My Religious Educator Article

BYU’s Religious Studies Center publishes The Religious Educator, a little-known LDS journal that deserves wider recognition. Read more »

God, the Necessity of Scholars, and the Old Testament: A Long Post and a Short Announcement.

December 15, 2013 | 25 comments
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God, the Necessity of Scholars, and the Old Testament: A Long Post and a Short Announcement.

Among laypeople, one sometimes finds a distrust of scholarship as it applies to the Bible, particularly if that scholarship runs against a traditional interpretation, or if tells you an obvious face-value reading you favor doesn’t really mean what you think it does. LDS have competing traditions towards serious scripture study. On the one hand, we are not a Bible-based (or even Book of Mormon-based) religion, where doctrine comes primarily through exegesis and interpretation. No sir, we’ve got prophets! We make an end run around all that stuff. We don’t believe you must attend college and be trained for the ministry... Read more »

The Old Testament, Scripture, Apostles, the Priesthood Ban, and Theological Diversity: Calibrating Our Expectations

December 12, 2013 | 45 comments
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The Old Testament, Scripture, Apostles, the Priesthood Ban, and Theological Diversity: Calibrating Our Expectations

(I’m probably cramming too much into this mishmash of a post, but frustration over certain conversations has collided with academic stress and lack of time to refine it. I may regret it, so consider this a preview, a beta.) The expectations we bring to reading scripture can radically affect our reading, our faith, and our communities. One frequent assumption, traditional in many religions, is that revelation (and scripture, as a subset of revelation) must be monolithic, unified, in harmony, univocal, internally consistent. This is not the case, and it is not an accident. Let’s back up, though, particularly as we... Read more »

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Reading and Resources!

December 4, 2013 | 53 comments
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Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Reading and Resources!

December has finally arrived! For the last six months, I’ve felt like Old Testament is just around the corner. Finally we’re into the last loose stretch of D&C and I can put up the first Old Testament post. With the cyclic return to the Old Testament comes the perennial question, how do I make sense of this? Where should I turn to read “out of  the best books”? Look no further, friend, for here is a scattered list. (I’ve been even busier than anticipated, and just don’t have time to polish or add images.) First, though, a note. All the books... Read more »

Hodayot: A Dead Sea Scroll Thanksgiving

November 28, 2013 | one comment
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Hodayot: A Dead Sea Scroll Thanksgiving

  One of the non-Biblical texts from the Dead Sea cache is known as hodayot or the Thanksgiving Scroll or Thanksgiving Hymns  (or 1QHa and 1QHb, for you scroll groupies). It is so named because of the repetition of the line ‘odeka ‘adonai  “I give thanks to You, O Lord…” The scroll is lengthy, nearly thirty columns, and fragments of seven copies have been found. Alas, the text is quite fragmented, and not terribly exciting to read, so I’ll link to Wikipedia instead of the text. While these poems/hymns/psalms “resemble the biblical psalms in many ways, these poems show a... Read more »

On Missions, Books, and Seriously Going Off the Deep End, Plus a Paean to my Second MP (U: Now with pics)

November 7, 2013 | 28 comments
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On Missions, Books, and Seriously Going Off the Deep End, Plus a Paean to my Second MP (U: Now with pics)

I was always somewhat bookish, even before my mission. Read more »

Happy Young-Earth-Creationist New Year!

October 23, 2013 | 27 comments
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Happy Young-Earth-Creationist New Year!

According to Bishop Ussher and his famous calendrical calculations, on Oct.23 4004BC, God said “let there be light” and created the Earth. That makes today the Earth’s 4004+2013=6017th birthday, and a new year. Read more »

A Series of Announcements; or, Be Excited, Be Very Excited

October 13, 2013 | 34 comments
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A Series of Announcements; or, Be Excited, Be Very Excited

Forgive the personal indulgence. I realized that I had been participating in the online LDS world for 10 years, and I had some things to say of a personal and public nature. Read more »

The Bible in Jacksonville

August 4, 2013 | no comments
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The Bible in Jacksonville

I wrote some lectures on the Bible to present in Paris, although due to scheduling and communication conflicts, only the first was actually delivered. I’m now scheduled to do two of them in Jacksonville, FL in the next two weeks. These will be held at the LDS Chapel on 440 Penman Rd. in Jacksonville. The first is next Sunday at 7PM (flyer below), the second (similar to my presentation here) will be Friday the 23rd, same time and place. Given that I speak English slightly better than French, these will probably be a bit more spontaneous and expansive. If... Read more »

“Rediscovering the World of the Old Testament”- A Report

June 20, 2013 | 13 comments
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“Rediscovering the World of the Old Testament”- A Report

As noted a few weeks ago, I gave my first of three lectures last night, on the Rediscovery of the World of the Old Testament.   It was open to the public, and although several groups of an inter-religious nature were invited (apparently the local ward has had some contacts and activities with them before), I think most of the 30-odd in attendance were LDS. I prepared about 35 slides, with a projecteur, divided into three parts. 1) Why “Rediscovery”? In short,  the full “World of the Old Testament” was lost. We had nothing but the Bible. It was akin to having... Read more »

The Philosophies of Men… Mingled with Monopoly (updated)

June 1, 2013 | 37 comments
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The Philosophies of Men… Mingled with Monopoly (updated)

Something insidious infects our children from the moment they’re born. It’s unstoppable. It surrounds us, burrows in deep, far below our conscious minds, and like a computer virus, writes subtle programming that dictates our worldview, our attitudes, and assumptions, shaping our very reflexes… Read more »

Giving lectures in Paris on “The Bible from Yesterday to Today”- Help me narrow my topics.

May 13, 2013 | 8 comments
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Giving lectures in Paris on “The Bible from Yesterday to Today”- Help me narrow my topics.

I’ve been asked to give a series of three 1-hr lectures on the Bible in French, to be held at three different LDS chapels in Paris, beginning in mid-June. (Yes, we’re currently in Paris, where man can live on bread alone. Quite happily, too.) These lectures will be open and advertised to the public, as a kind of open-door/public education thing. They’re still to be finalized and scheduled, but I’m trying to narrow down my topics, which will not be Mormon-centric. Each lecture must be freestanding, because we’re not going to get the exact same group each time, though... Read more »

Books! A small timely plug (updated!)

April 5, 2013 | 2 comments
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Books! A small timely plug (updated!)

As you know, we are to study out of the best books, which entails reading. President Hinckley once lamented, “I confess that I am constantly appalled by the scarcity of my knowledge, and the one resentment I think I carry concerns the many pressing demands which limit the opportunity for reading.” Read more »

Everything is a Remix, Genesis Edition: Intro

April 3, 2013 | 5 comments
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Everything is a Remix, Genesis Edition: Intro

In this recent post (which I plan to revisit in the near future) and others, I mentioned the discovery of various ancient Near Eastern texts related to Genesis, such as Enuma Elish. The relationship between these accounts and Genesis has never been definitively settled, though dominant interpretive trends have been clear. At first, German scholars such as Friedrich Delitzsch, driven largely by Protestant bias against the Hebrew Bible and a good bit of anti-Semitism, seized on them as the original sources of Genesis, assuming the relevant bits had been taken more-or-less whole cloth from the Israelites neighbors. This undermined longstanding assumptions of their originality or uniqueness,... Read more »

And when they had sung an hymn…

March 31, 2013 | 5 comments
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Mark 14:26 records “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” Sometimes people have asked, did they have a hymn book? What did they sing? Israelites did indeed have a hymn book; it was called the Book of Psalms, and certain Psalms were sung on different occasions. Some were sung as one ascended to Jerusalem for certain feasts and holy days, others at the crowning of a new king, others in the temple/tabernacle to accompany certain sacrifices. Notably, the Psalms for Passover were referred to as The Hallel, Psalms 113-118. Hallel should... Read more »

Study Genesis and the Gospels through Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, this weekend only (updated)

March 23, 2013 | 9 comments
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Study Genesis and the Gospels through Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, this weekend only (updated)

One issue that appears repeatedly when studying scripture is dealing with conflicting accounts and multiple perspectives. We have four Gospels that vary in detail, several creation stories, both inside the Bible (Gen 1-2:4, 2:4ff, and the scattered watery Chaoskampf account), and outside (Genesis accounts, Book of Moses, Book of Abraham, Temple), as well as two conflicting accounts of Israelite history (Samuel-Kings vs. Chronicles), and two interpretations of the destruction of Ammonihah (Alma 16-17 vs 25, see Grant Hardy’s article). Our modern tendency is to treat all of these, and indeed nearly all scripture, strictly as history, although bad or... Read more »

Genesis vs. Science: Background, Readings, and Discussion

March 18, 2013 | 22 comments
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Genesis vs. Science: Background, Readings, and Discussion

One of the problems that crops up with Genesis is its proper context or genre, what background it should be read against. That is, modern western English readers have a particular worldview with various questions and issues. When they read Genesis, they naturally place it into that setting, and read it against that background, which creates conflict. It’s as if we’ve summoned an expert witness to trial, only to surprise her with questions far outside her area of expertise. Although she gives strong indications to that effect, the judge forcefully says, “Just answer the questions please!” The lawyers seize... Read more »

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