Blog Archives

How to Read the Bible

October 21, 2010 | 19 comments
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Last month I did a series of posts on religion and science; the theme for November is interpreting the scriptures. (Since November basically ends when Thanksgiving hits, I’m borrowing a week from October.) First up: a few thoughts on Steven McKenzie’s book How to Read the Bible: History, Literature, and Prophecy — Why Modern Readers Need to Know the Difference, and What it Means for Faith Today (OUP, 2005). Read more »

Sunday Afternoon in a Nutshell

October 3, 2010 | one comment
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T&S does not run open posts — we figure readers ought to be listening to Conference rather than yakking online during the sessions. Instead, we do post-session summaries and posts looking at individual talks. Comments welcome. President Uchtdorf conducted the concluding Sunday afternoon session, featuring talks by Elder Perry, Elder Bednar, Elder Lawrence, three more Seventies, Elder Ballard, and President Monson. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks given. Parenthetical comments in italics are my own comments. Read more »

Sunday Morning in a Nutshell

October 3, 2010 | 12 comments
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President Uchtdorf conducted the Sunday morning session, featuring talks by President Eyring, Elder Packer, Elder Jensen, Sister Cook, Elder Oaks, and President Monson. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks given. Parenthetical comments in italics are my own comments. Read more »

A Writer on Science and Religion

September 30, 2010 | 12 comments
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In this final installment of this month’s series of posts on religion and science, I will present a different take on things from the perspective of a celebrated writer. Marilynne Robinson won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for her novel Gilead. She also delivered the Terry Lectures at Yale in 2009, resulting in the book Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self (Yale Univ. Press, 2010), from which I draw the following quotations and summaries. Read more »

Science and Religion: Enemies or Partners?

September 19, 2010 | 16 comments
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For the next installment in this set of posts, let’s consider the relation between science and religion. In a mildly tedious but well-organized book, When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? (HarperCollins, 2000), Ian Barbour lays out four basic forms that the relation between science and religion can take: Conflict (either science or religion is correct, but not both); Independence (science and religion refer to different domains or aspects of reality); Dialogue (where discussions about method, metaphysics, and metaphor can enlighten both scientists and theologians); and Integration (natural theology or theology of nature approaches try to unite some... Read more »

Correlation is Killing Sunday School

September 13, 2010 | 147 comments
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Once upon a time, there was Sunday School, an independent auxiliary whose officers were appointed by senior LDS leaders and whose primary task was to develop a Sunday School curriculum, and commission and supervise the writing of lesson manuals. They did a nice job. Then came Correlation. Read more »

Jonah, overboard.

September 6, 2010 | 9 comments
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If you haven’t heard the story in Sunday School yet, you will shortly (Jonah 1). Surprisingly, the combination of God and bad weather is still a potent force in the modern era — my stake was praying for rain earlier this year. But here is a more colorful Jonah-like account with sailors, storms, and witches from the 17th century. Read more »

An LDS View on Science and Religion

September 3, 2010 | 36 comments
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Continuing the conversation begun in my earlier post (God and Science), let’s look at the Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry titled “Science and Religion.” It provides a good summary of what might be termed the conservative LDS position on the topic. The article opens on a positive note: “Because of belief in the ultimate compatibility of all truth and in the eternal character of human knowledge, Latter-day Saints tend to take a more positive approach to science than do some people in other religious traditions who also claim a strong foundation in scripture.” While it is true that “Latter-day Saints”... Read more »

God and Science

August 30, 2010 | 22 comments
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The conflict between science and religion is generally overstated. But it is certainly true that science is the matrix that most people of our day — believers or not — use as the basis for understanding the natural world we live in. Atheists and agnostics stop there; believers add a supplemental layer of faith to their view of the universe that includes a doctrine or idea of God and that reflects a view or theory of how God acts (or doesn’t act) in the natural world. So does science strengthen our faith or threaten it? Is it easier or... Read more »

Myth and Ritual

August 16, 2010 | 2 comments
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Like some of you, I’ve been reading a book or two on the Old Testament, this year’s Sunday School course of study. Most recently I read Susan Niditch’s Ancient Israelite Religion (OUP, 1997), described in the jacket blurb as “a perceptive, accessible account of the religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Israelites.” Too often our approach to the Old Testament is essentially cherrypicking — highlighting passages that affirm our own beliefs and understanding while skimming over or simply ignoring everything else. We can do better. Niditch takes a worldview approach, suggesting we ought to strive to see how... Read more »

Where Is Mormonism Headed?

August 11, 2010 | 18 comments
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That theme is addressed from many different angles in The Future of Mormonism series at Patheos. It might be the best online event on Mormonism I’ve seen, with contributors drawn from across the Mormon spectrum. Here are a few highlights. Mormonism in the New Century by Armand Mauss — Mauss sees the retrenchment-assimilation pendulum swinging back toward assimilation as the Church moves into the 21st century. He lists several signs of this “new posture of diplomatic outreach by the church leadership.” Mormon Publishing, the Internet, and the Democratization of Information by Kristine Haglund — Dialogue’s editor weighs in on... Read more »

Perceptions of Mormonism

August 9, 2010 | 72 comments
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The Deseret News posted an article (“Mormons need to work to increase favor“) summarizing remarks by Gary Lawrence at the recent FAIR Conference held last week in Sandy. He addressed perceptions of Mormonism, based on data gathered by his polling firm. We’ve got some problems, it seems. Read more »

Ripples in History

August 3, 2010 | 9 comments
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I recently finished Victor Davis Hanson’s Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), with the give-it-all-away subtitle How wars of the past still determine how we fight, how we live, and how we think. Generalizing a bit, not just wars but many major events and some small, unnoticed ones send ripples into the future, silently influencing future generations. Could the present, our present, have turned out differently? Read more »

What Did We Lose?

July 13, 2010 | 8 comments
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What Did We Lose?

In 70 AD, the Romans capped their extended campaign to crush a Jewish revolt by destroying the magnificent temple in Jerusalem. The Jews lost their temple. Earlier, they had lost political autonomy and the kingship; later, in 132 AD, another Jewish revolt was suppressed and Jews were barred from living in or even entering Jerusalem. Despite this loss of temple, king, and land, the Jews adapted and Judaism endured. In the 19th century, Mormons had their own sharp if somewhat less dramatic struggle with American government and culture. What did we Mormons lose? Read more »

The End of the World

July 2, 2010 | 16 comments
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The End of the World

I took a stroll through the End of the World last week. Brought the wife and kids and a picnic lunch. It was beautiful, as always. But one of these days (and it won’t be long) it will be gone. Maybe us too. Read more »

New Mormon Blog at Beliefnet

June 21, 2010 | 3 comments
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Jana Reiss, former T&S guest blogger and author of Mormonism for Dummies, is running a new Mormon blog at Beliefnet: Flunking Sainthood. Put a link in your blogroll (do people still do blogrolls?) and visit often. Having myself previously hosted a Mormon blog at Beliefnet, I have some idea of the challenge the new blog is facing. The problem can be put very simply: (1) few people who aren’t Mormon have much to say about Mormonism, and (2) there aren’t too many Mormons hanging around the Beliefnet site. But it just seems wrong that one of the most popular... Read more »

Inoculation Works

June 18, 2010 | 40 comments
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I finally picked up and read a copy of Simon Southerton’s Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church (Signature, 2004) a couple of weeks ago. Yet I still attended church last week and have not drafted a resignation letter. Inoculation works. There’s nothing particularly new in the book — it summarizes mainstream academic views about the origins of the native inhabitants of the Americas, reviews more recent DNA evidence that confirms the mainstream view, then critiques mainstream LDS beliefs about the Book of Mormon and the peopling of the Americas. It is not a book... Read more »

A Peek Inside the Temple

June 11, 2010 | 15 comments
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A Peek Inside the Temple

On May 28, a press conference was held in the South Visitors’ Center on Temple Square to unveil a new public exhibit: a cut-away scale model showing the interior architecture and layout of the Salt Lake Temple. The LDS Newsroom and Deseret News posted detailed stories with additional images; in this post I just want to toss out a few ideas for discussion. Read more »

Review: Losing My Religion

May 15, 2010 | 22 comments
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I admit that when approaching William Lobdell’s Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America — and Found Unexpected Peace (HarperCollins, 2009), I expected the standard debunking treatment that is so familiar in news and entertainment media these days. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find a balanced and engaging narrative that mixes accounts of the stories Lobell covered while a religion reporter for the Los Angeles Times with details of his own journey into, then out of, faith. Lobdell’s journey and reporting Lobdell’s journey began in his late twenties, when he first attended... Read more »

Beliefs and Causes

April 23, 2010 | 32 comments
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Beliefs are complicated and sometimes strangely resistant to facts. I don’t mean religious beliefs in particular, but everyday beliefs about how the world works and how it is that we come to hold them. That’s what I took away from a recent reading of Lewis Wolpert’s Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief (W. W. Norton, 2006). Here’s an example from the chapter on paranormal beliefs. A stage magician performed fake psychic phenomena in front of two groups of university students. One group was told that he was a magician, while the other group was told... Read more »

Priesthood Session in a Nutshell

April 4, 2010 | 9 comments
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President Eyring conducted, with music by a BYU priesthood choir (with an expressive and energetic conductor) and talks by Elder Oaks, Elder Rasband, YM President Beck, and the First Presidency. This was an amazingly upbeat meeting. President Monson called this one of the best priesthood meetings he ever attended. Read more »

Sleep, Success, and Seminary

March 4, 2010 | 86 comments
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Sleep: it’s more important than you think, especially for teenagers. Here’s from George Will’s latest column, “How to ruin a child“: Only 5 percent of high school seniors get eight hours of sleep a night. Children get an hour less than they did 30 years ago, which subtracts IQ points and adds body weight. Read more »

Genesis and Genre

February 25, 2010 | 49 comments
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When we read Genesis, what exactly are we reading? The distinctions and categories we modern readers bring to books and narratives (fiction or nonfiction; science or folk tale; history or literature; poetry or prose; author’s original text or quoted source) may not serve us well when we read the Old Testament, a collection of ancient literature. Its writers used different conventions. What were they? What exactly are we reading when we read Genesis? Read more »

Lineage: A Troubling Concept

February 17, 2010 | 72 comments
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Here’s a quote from Lesson 7, “The Abrahamic Covenant,” that caught my attention in Sunday School: The great majority of those who become members of the Church are literal descendants of Abraham through Ephraim, son of Joseph. Those who are not literal descendants of Abraham and Israel must become such, and when they are baptized and confirmed they are grafted into the tree and are entitled to all the rights and privileges as heirs. Read more »