Blog Archives

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 »

Mormons and Prosperity

February 8, 2010 | 51 comments
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Mormons and Prosperity

The Prosperity Gospel (which the linked Wikipedia article defines as “the notion that God provides material prosperity for those he favors”) is often associated with Evangelical megapreachers. But we all know there is a Mormon variation of the Prosperity Gospel lurking behind the ubiquitous references to blessings and how to earn them that populate LDS books, sermons, and discourse. So when I started reading my review copy of What the Scriptures Teach Us About Prosperity (Deseret Book, 2010) by S. Michael Wilcox, I was hoping that at some point the author would distinguish the Mormon view of... Read more »

Underwhelming Thoughts on Correlation

January 13, 2010 | 83 comments
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I confess that I am not a regular reader of the Church News, but I did happen to run across this recent piece, “Using proper sources.” I will note a couple of quibbles I have with the piece (which, as an unsigned post in the “Viewpoints” section, I take to be essentially a staff editorial), but in the end I think I agree on the need to avoid the use of “uncorrelated” supplementary sources or materials in class. Read more »

Good Thoughts on Teaching Sunday School

January 7, 2010 | 38 comments
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Good Thoughts on Teaching Sunday School

My second-favorite group blog recently posted a series on what’s wrong with Sunday School, showing once again that we bloggers are, if nothing else, talented complainers. So let’s talk teaching and collect a few simple suggestions for improvement. Read more »

Calling All Introverts

December 19, 2009 | 26 comments
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There’s hope! At least that’s the message of a couple of posts I read through lately (here and here) presenting an interview with Adam McHugh, the author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. By “Church” he means Evangelicals, not the LDS Church, but the discussion is still relevant to us. Read more »

Do We Need A Fifth Mission?

December 15, 2009 | 98 comments
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Do We Need A Fifth Mission?

The news is out that LDS leaders are adding a fourth mission for the Church: caring for the poor and needy. According to an official LDS spokesman cited in the Salt Lake Tribune article, the new mission (or purpose or emphasis) will be included in the new edition of the Handbook of Instructions to be issued next year. With a publishing deadline looming, I propose that we put our collective heads together and see whether we need a fifth mission as well. Perhaps adding a fourth mission alone is not enough to fill in the gaps apparently missed by... Read more »

December: Preparing for the Annual Sunday School Curriculum Reboot

December 7, 2009 | 18 comments
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December: Preparing for the Annual Sunday School Curriculum Reboot

In the Church, December means different things to different people. If you’re three, you will soon be exiled from that zone of energetic irreverence known as Nursery to your first real class, Sunbeams. If you’re a bishop, holiday cheer is tempered by the month-long grind of tithing settlement. But one change we all look forward to every year is the annual Sunday School curriculum reboot. The anticipation is palpable. Yes, even this year, with the Old Testament waiting in the wings. Any course of study gets old after twelve months. Universities run on quick 10-week quarters or endless 16-week... Read more »

Your View of Mormons in the Media

December 2, 2009 | 13 comments
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I recently had a short discussion with a journalism student about how Mormons and Mormonism get covered in the mainstream media and whether new online media, including blogs, do any better. I’ll summarize my responses below, but I invite readers to offer their own responses in the comments. 1. How do Mormons feel about increased coverage of Mormonism in the mainstream media that accompanied Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy? I don’t know any Mormon who resents the increased coverage or wishes the media would stop talking about Mormonism. Of course, it is nice when journalists who include references to Mormonism... Read more »

What Happened in Nauvoo, Part 3: Polygamy

November 18, 2009 | 19 comments
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Any history of Nauvoo needs to give an account of the secret practice of polygamy between 1841 and 1846. In Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise, Glen Leonard does this in about twenty pages as part of Chapter 13, “Foes Within: The Church of the Seceders.” Read more »

Hope and Children

November 13, 2009 | 7 comments
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Faith and charity get plenty of attention, but hope not so much. Pessimism, it seems, has become one of the guiding principles of modernity, reflected in the media, popular culture, and even academia. So I was surprised to find a philospher making the suggestion that children anchor our hope for progress and our conviction that life will be better for the next generation. Read more »

What Happened in Nauvoo, Part 2: Flourishing

November 4, 2009 | 3 comments
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This second installment discussing Glen Leonard’s Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise looks at the middle years in Nauvoo through about 1842, covered in the second section of the book (pages 123 to 269). Read more »

Sunday Afternoon in a Nutshell

October 4, 2009 | 92 comments
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President Uchtdorf conducted the Sunday afternoon session, featuring talks by Elder Holland, Elder Cook, Elder Neilson, Elder Renlund, Elder Ringwood, Elder Sitati, and Elder Christofferson, followed by closing remarks from President Monson. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks given. Read more »

Saturday Afternoon in a Nutshell

October 3, 2009 | 7 comments
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President Eyring conducted the Saturday afternoon session, featuring talks by Elder Oaks, Elder Hales, Elder Zeballos, Elder Callister, Elder Watson, Elder Anderson, and President Packer. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks given. Read more »

Saturday Morning in a Nutshell

October 3, 2009 | 16 comments
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President Eyring conducted the Saturday morning session, which featured brief remarks from President Monson and talks from Elder Scott, Sister Matsumori, Elder Clayton, Brother Osguthorpe, Elder Bednar, and President Uchtdorf. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks. Read more »

What Happened in Nauvoo, Part 1: Founding

September 29, 2009 | 12 comments
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A lot happened in Nauvoo that doesn’t get covered in Sunday School or the one-volume treatments of LDS history. But Glen Leonard’s Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise tells the story in detail from start to finish. Read more »

He Is Not in the Desert

September 12, 2009 | 46 comments
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“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; … do not believe it” (NIV Matt. 24:26). Read more »

Populism and the Early Church

September 3, 2009 | 13 comments
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I finally got my hands on a copy of The Democratization of American Christianity, Nathan O. Hatch’s look at how the egalitarian democratic spirit that pervaded post-Revolutionary America influenced five early American religious movements: the Christians (such as the Disciples of Christ), the Methodists, the Baptists, black churches, and Mormonism. Read more »

Two Kinds of Faith

August 24, 2009 | 13 comments
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I recently read Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, Terry Eagleton’s critique of the contributions to that debate by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens (who he conflates via the memorable moniker “Ditchkins”). It’s less than I’d hoped for, but Chapter Three, “Faith and Reason,” raises issues and questions about that most basic of First Principles, faith. Read more »

Life on the Fringe

August 8, 2009 | 24 comments
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I’ve seen several links but no discussion of the Slate piece on the hypothetical future role of Mormons, “The Catholic Church helped preserve Roman civilization. Can Mormonism do the same for America?” It’s part of an eight-part series on the theme How is America going to end? by a Slate senior editor. Read more »

New Primary Lesson Needed

August 5, 2009 | 29 comments
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Suggested lesson topic: What to do when you are seven years old and do not want to go to church. Yes, I finally watched the video of the seven-year-old kid who drove away in the family car to avoid going to church (see posts at Get Religion or the SL Trib for details and the video). The story coyly refrains from noting which church the kid was fleeing, but the video comes courtesy of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office, so I’m just guessing … Read more »