Blog Archives

Institute Report: Genesis, Week 1

January 16, 2012 | 19 comments
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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
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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
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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
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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 pursuit, 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 in two translations. 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. On the very first day, we learned the Greek... Read more »

Quotes of Note- Elder Holland on Boats and Struggling Swimmers

December 7, 2011 | 9 comments
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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 »

Thinking About Genesis

September 9, 2011 | 40 comments
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Thinking About Genesis

Any thorough LDS discussion of the early Genesis chapters must do several things. Read more »

Books of Interest to the LDS Nerd

September 6, 2011 | 18 comments
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Books of Interest to the LDS Nerd

A few of these are forthcoming, a few have appeared recently. I am compelled to read them all, as soon as I can get to them. Now Available Charles Harrel,“This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology (Kofford Books) “In this first-of-its-kind comprehensive treatment of the development of Mormon theology, Charles Harrell traces the history of Latter-day Saint doctrines from the times of the Old Testament to the present.” I have my doubts that someone who does not equally control original Biblical sources and LDS history, as well as the vast amounts of secondary literature on historiography, exegesis,... Read more »

Orcrist the Philistine-Cleaver

August 28, 2011 | 7 comments
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Orcrist the Philistine-Cleaver

One of the difficulties in reading the Old Testament is an unconscious assumption of uniformity between their time and ours. Modern readers often assume that they shared the same doctrinal understandings, worldview/Weltanschauung,assumptions, or culture as we do today. This is not the case, and often contributes to difficulties of interpretation and understanding.1 The Old Testament worldview and cultural setting turns out to have much in common with Lord of the Rings.2 If you want to get a general feel for the world of the Old Testament, watching or reading Lord of the Rings approximates that foreignness in general, if... Read more »

YSA and the Bible: Observations from a KJV Conference

August 26, 2011 | 51 comments
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YSA and the Bible: Observations from a KJV Conference

On Saturday June 11,  nearly 200 YSA gathered at the Lincoln Center chapel, the same as houses the Manhattan Temple, for a YSA conference that centered on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Saturday from 1-4, three one-hour workshops were held on the Bible. Three Bible Nerds were on hand to teach:  Jon H (MA, Biblical Studies, Yale) covered the writing and transmission of the books of the Bible; Jon R (MA, New Testament, Duke) spoke on using modern translations and other study aids, with extensive slides and books on display; We each submitted a brief teaser... Read more »

So long, farewell

August 14, 2004 | 4 comments
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This is my last post, out with a whimper. Read more »

Being fair to FAIR

August 2, 2004 | 25 comments
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I confess to being involved in apologetics. I enjoy it. Read more »

O Death…

July 26, 2004 | 6 comments
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Due to the juxtaposition of certain events, I have recently been contemplating life, death, and the eternities. Read more »