Blog Archives

Misattributed Quotes of Note: Henry Eyring (Sr.) on Babies, Bathwater, and Authority

May 5, 2012 | 16 comments
By
Misattributed Quotes of Note: Henry Eyring (Sr.) on Babies, Bathwater, and Authority

This wisdom is often attributed online to Elder Henry B. Eyring, but none provides a source.  It was Henry Eyring Sr., non-Apostle and brilliant prolific scientist who gave this nugget of wisdom. However, Henry Eyring Jr. apparently took the lesson to heart, as he has said similar things. And perhaps he quotes his father somewhere.  “There are few ways in which good people do more harm to those who take them seriously than to defend the gospel with arguments that won’t hold water. Many of the difficulties encountered by young people going to college would be avoided if parents... Read more »

Reading Tom Wright’s New Testament Commentary for Everyone

April 25, 2012 | 24 comments
By
Reading Tom Wright’s New Testament Commentary for Everyone

Writings on the scriptures often comes from one of two perspectives. 1) Devotional-but-clueless, i.e. the author is able to read/write devotionally on a passage because they don’t know any other way to read it. They don’t address context or difficulties or objections or avoid pitfalls, because they’re completely unaware of them. It’s often trite and shallow (and I don’t think you necessarily need length to have depth, lead to reflection, or inspire.) Lest I be misunderstood, it is entirely possible to be devotional and clueless, but still meaningful,  I just think it’s rare and find little value in spending... Read more »

Conference Plug: Mormons and the Internet

March 27, 2012 | one comment
By

Want to be discussed, dear reader? Engage in naval gazing? Hear voices and see faces of names you’ve only read and intellectually crushed on? A reminder of the conference to be held at UVU on Thursday and Friday and appropriately live-streamed over the internet, featuring various luminaries from all corners as John Dehlin (of Mormon Stories), Joanna Brooks (various), Ardis Parshall (Keepapitchinin and others), Scott Gordon (of FAIR), David Charles (of Patheos), James Faulconer, Patrick Mason, Jana Reiss, and others. Joanna Brooks and Jana Reiss will be doing readings on Wednesday, and it’s not clear if those will be... Read more »

What Happened Last Thursday at Institute: l’Affair Botte Goes Local

March 14, 2012 | 7 comments
By
What Happened Last Thursday at Institute: l’Affair Botte Goes Local

(I’m jumping because of the Bott stuff, but will still put up my 2 posts on Genesis 2-4 and Creation/temples post.) Instead of beginning on the Flood on Thursday as planned, I decided to take 5 minutes to talk about the mark of Cain in Genesis 4, and the curse on Canaan in Genesis 9. We never got to the flood, but ended up having a wonderful (I think) 2.5+ hour conversation about the priesthood ban, the eisegesis and various theories it engendered, the role and fuzzy definitions of tradition, policy, and doctrine in the Church. We also covered... Read more »

Institute Report: Genesis Week 5 (corrected)

March 6, 2012 | 8 comments
By
Institute Report: Genesis Week 5 (corrected)

(We’re a few weeks behind here on the blog. I hope to catch up. Most important for my students: We WILL have Institute this week, contrary to what I said last Thursday.) Tonight we finished off Genesis 1 and introduced the second creation account in Gen 2. Had a few more people, so I started by recapping Walton’s theory of functional creation (references in previous post.) Seven days It’s long been noticed that days 1-3 parallel days 4-6. Walton argues that days 1-3 create three primary and basic functions, while 4-6 create functionaries that either carry out those functions,... Read more »

Brief notes on Laman, Lemuel and Cursing

February 11, 2012 | 13 comments
By
Brief notes on Laman, Lemuel and Cursing

(Corrected!) I hope it’s not too late to post this, and equally that it will still be useful in this quick and dirty form. Though long, I’ve included the scriptural passages for quick skimming, since I doubt they’re familiar. We’re familiar with blessings in the Church- patriarchal blessings, blessings on the food, blessings of health, etc. But blessings have a counter-part that Israelites were just as familiar with and we have no background for: cursings. I wanted to write a typology of curses for my dissertation, but it turned out my advisor’s advisor (three generations of UChicago!) had already... Read more »

Institute Report: Genesis Week 4

February 6, 2012 | 13 comments
By
Institute Report: Genesis Week 4

This week, we continued talking about Enuma Eliš and Genesis 1, beginning with a review of some of the similarities we talked about last week. Similarities- 1) Opens with temporal clause. 2) pre-creation darkness 3) precreation cosmic waters 4) wind/spirit 5) division of the waters to create space for human existence 6) a solid “roof” created to restrain the cosmic waters from reentering that space. There are also stark differences, which generally fall under the category of semi-polemical monotheistic reinterpretation. That is, while Genesis shares with Mesopotamia (as well as all the other ancient Near Eastern cultures we know of)... Read more »

Institute Report:Genesis week 3

February 1, 2012 | 10 comments
By
Institute Report:Genesis week 3

(updated!) Attendance down a little this week; I know one student had a date, the weather was poor (no one likes to travel in the rain), and so on, but I also heard that last week was too much for at least one person. But, I felt this week went quite well, and we finally got into Genesis itself. As per the syllabus, class today was divided in two parts. And due to my own schedule and time commitments this week, I’m afraid my notes here are much rougher, less complete and posted later than I’d wish. I. Tools... Read more »

Institute Report: Genesis Week 2

January 24, 2012 | 10 comments
By
Institute Report: Genesis Week 2

I was gratified to see most of the class come back, but we’ll see if it happens again. (Update: Here’s the tentative syllabus for the next few weeks.) I was really apprehensive about today, for two reasons. First, the material in this lesson was largely groundwork for the next few weeks, and really shouldn’t stand on its own, because you don’t see the payoff. Time constrained me, though.  Second, this is some of the most tentative material I’m working with, and I’m hesitant about some of it. I’m still working it out in my own mind, but this seems... Read more »

The Standard Packet, the Book of Mormon, and Critical Thinking at BYU

January 20, 2012 | 23 comments
By
The Standard Packet, the Book of Mormon, and Critical Thinking at BYU

Perhaps due to the authoritarian structure of the Church, students at BYU (more than elsewhere?) come to college expecting Pure Truth to be bestowed by The Authorities (i.e. professors) on those less enlightened (i.e. students), instead of learning how to engage data and arguments. I’ve often distributed a collection of readings and articles to students in my Institute and BYU classes. These help introduce and reorient students towards a broader perspective of LDS intellectual engagement, approaches, and critical thinking. Essentially, this is accomplished through stories, historical/doctrinal/cultural engagement, scholarly engagement and explicit guidelines. My “standard packet” has varied a bit from... Read more »

Institute Report: Genesis, Week 1

January 16, 2012 | 19 comments
By
Institute Report: Genesis, Week 1

If there’s sufficient interest,  I will post some general notes, handouts and materials here instead of mailing out everything to my class. Handouts are pdf format and have live links embedded. I felt the first week went well; in contrast to the last time I taught this, few students had a science background, and only 1-2 had previous experience with me. I introduced myself and established some formal bona fides. The more important informal trust that comes from personal experience and knowing someone will come over time, I hope. I had students introduce themselves, give a bit of their... Read more »

Scripture Unchained: A New York Institute Announcement

January 7, 2012 | 13 comments
By
Scripture Unchained: A New York Institute Announcement

After taking off 18 months or so, I’m returning to teaching Institute in my free time. Beginning January 12, 8 PM in the Union Square chapel of Manhattan, I’ll be teaching a class called “Genesis, with an Introduction to Studying the Bible in Hebrew.” The Institute Director added the last part, but I don’t mind one bit. I’m quite looking forward to it. Institute can really be a breath of fresh air, especially for those who are looking for a deeper exploration of the scriptures than Sunday School allows. After all, there’s no schedule to follow, no manual to... Read more »

Teaching from the Pew: When the Manual Authorizes Subverting the Teacher

December 17, 2011 | 26 comments
By
Teaching from the Pew: When the Manual Authorizes Subverting the Teacher

A thought inspired by Aquinas’ review, which focuses on the teacher, instead of the manual. If I had any Photoshop skills, I’d have put the manual in the middle of that ring. Reference comes from Aquinas’ post. I taught the Teacher Training course for a few months earlier this year, which meant I spent a lot of time with Teaching:No Greater Call. I discovered an important and surprisingly subversive story p. 214-15, presented below with minor editorializing in brackets and bolding. “In our new ward my husband and I discovered that the Gospel Doctrine class wasn’t... Read more »

Gospel Doctrine New Testament Midterm and Final

December 12, 2011 | 24 comments
By
Gospel Doctrine New Testament Midterm and Final

We’re nearing the end of our New Testament study for the year; what have we learned? Shall we assess? Back in 2006, when I was still engaged in my Sisyphian PhD pursual, I taught an Honors Acts-Revelation class at BYU, which was a lot of fun. We learned a little Greek, read some introductory scholarship, and the New Testament.  Students had an outside assignment each week, and a reading assignment for each class period, on top of the New Testament passages. Generally speaking, students responded very positively. Of course, on the first day, we learned the Greek alphabet, and... Read more »

Quotes of Note- Elder Holland on Boats and Struggling Swimmers

December 7, 2011 | 9 comments
By
Quotes of Note- Elder Holland on Boats and Struggling Swimmers

Unfortunately inspired by a personal experience related to me recently, I present a rebuke of sorts  and a call for more Christ-like compassion by Elder Holland. “When a battered, weary swimmer tries valiantly to get back to shore, after having fought strong winds and rough waves which he should never have challenged in the first place, those of us who might have had better judgment, or perhaps just better luck, ought not to row out to his side, beat him with our oars, and shove his head back underwater. That’s not what boats were made for. But some of... Read more »

A Missionary Reminiscence on Christmas

November 25, 2011 | 13 comments
By
A Missionary Reminiscence on Christmas

When the mission president announced to our small group of greenies that I was going to Strasbourg, I shrugged the resigned shrug of a missionary who knew nothing about anywhere but was willing to go wherever. One of the sisters expressed jealousy; Strasbourg, she said, was one of the best cities in the mission. She was right, and it would not be a good thing. Strasbourg is and was beautiful pre-Christmas.* Several weeks passed before I fully acclimatized to the major time-change, and the schedule of missionary life, but I loved Strasbourg almost instantly. The eastern area of France... Read more »

Quotes of Note- McKay on Running the Church

November 21, 2011 | 38 comments
By
Quotes of Note- McKay on Running the Church

“Men must learn that in presiding over the Church we are dealing with human hearts, that individual rights are sacred, and the human soul is tender. We cannot run the Church like a business.”-David O. McKay Diaries, May 17, 1962, as quoted in “David O. McKay and the Twin Sisters’: Free Agency and Tolerance” by Gregory Prince, Dialogue 33:4 (Winter 2000):13. I read this as saying, we need to be sensitive to other people; we cannot make hard decisions and simply say, “this is business, not personal” as if real people were not involved. I wish we had more... Read more »

Finally, Family Scripture Study that Works for Us

November 17, 2011 | 24 comments
By
Finally, Family Scripture Study that Works for Us

My family is not very large (C and, uh, me. Not even a cat), so schedules aren’t hard to coordinate. We’re both active in the Church, and bibliophiles who regularly read and study our own scriptures,  and yet we’ve never been able to have productive scripture study together. I am largely to blame for that, since our questions and interests tend to not overlap very much and mine are too arcane and rabbit-hole-ish to be productive for her. In spite of trying several times, it’s never lasted long. I have memories of my teens, bleary-eyed hot breakfast at 5:15,... Read more »

Quotes of Note: Elder Hafen on Independence

November 14, 2011 | 43 comments
By
Quotes of Note: Elder Hafen on Independence

Quotes of Note will be a recurring series of lesser-known General Authority statements of interest, as conversation starters. I’m starting with a favorite. “We need to develop the capacity to form judgments of our own about the value of ideas, opportunities, or people who may come into our lives. We won’t always have the security of knowing whether a certain idea is “Church approved,” because new ideas don’t always come along with little tags attached to them saying whether they have been reviewed at Church headquarters. Whether in the form of music, books, friends, or opportunities to serve, there... Read more »

Breaking Gender Stereotypes at the Dinner Table

October 23, 2011 | 32 comments
By

Given that my wife is female and her heavy and varied involvement with food (cooking school, PhD in Food Studies (scroll to bottom), sometimes-food-blog, etc.), most people assume she’s doing all the cooking at our house. Not so. In fact, even before we were married, I did so much of it  that at our sealing we laughed when Grampa said (tweaking us both in turn), “Now Ben, when you come home, and C. has burned the roast…” We maintain a strict division of labor in the kitchen. She does all the baking, and most of the French and American... Read more »

Definitely a cult. Maybe.

October 18, 2011 | 11 comments
By
Definitely a cult. Maybe.

A recent CNN blog post referred to a “cult” and described their sacred rituals as  “completely violent, mind controlling and alarming.” Indeed? Let’s examine. The worshippers gather together in the countryside, on the land of the leader’s extended family. He stands at an altar before them and shouts in a loud voice, reciting the strict and detailed requirements of the adherents which he claims (don’t they always claim this?) came from God, governing their eating habits, sexual habits, hygiene habits, even where they can live and whom they can marry. The worshippers chant their agreement in unison after each... Read more »

Beyond Translation: Job and Isaiah at Ugarit? Part 2

October 12, 2011 | 17 comments
By
Beyond Translation: Job and Isaiah at Ugarit? Part 2

In Part 1, I promised some Biblical examples of where translation alone fails to convey all the meaning an Israelite would have grasped. I’ve broken these examples into three fuzzy categories. 1) Israel is often described in the Torah as a “land flowing with milk and honey.” We probably all have milk and honey in our kitchen, yet not quite what is described here. In the Old Testament, milk doesn’t usually come from cows, and honey doesn’t come from bees. Cattle were primarily used for beef, while milk came primarily from goats, only rarely from cattle. Israelites didn’t raise... Read more »

Priests, Babylonians, and Seven 24-hour Days of Creation

September 15, 2011 | 32 comments
By
Priests, Babylonians, and Seven 24-hour Days of Creation

Even though it comes first in the Bible, Genesis 1  represents the youngest of three Israelite creation traditions. As happens in culture and even inspired religion, traditions of the past were once again adapted and (re)appropriated to meet the needs of the time. Genesis 1-2:4 is generally believed to have come from a priestly tradition associated with the tabernacle/temple, and received its current form sometime around the Babylonian exile (which explains some of its anti-Babylonian polemics, which go totally unnoticed by modern readers.) Several characteristics of Genesis 1-2:4a suggest priestly and temple associations, but the most important for our... Read more »

Beyond Translation: Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, part 1

September 10, 2011 | 23 comments
By
Beyond Translation: Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, part 1

Communication is not just about words, but the context, culture and worldview in which they are embedded.1 A simple translation of words will fail to communicate the entire message, because it doesn’t include this information. The complexities of communication are manifest in obvious and less obvious ways; sometimes we know what we’re missing, and sometimes we don’t. Here are some examples. Teenagers can carry on entire conversations at the dinner table or on Facebook by quoting movies their parents haven’t seen. If it goes far enough, the parents realize that something beyond the actual spoken words is being communicated.... Read more »