Blog Archives

Reading Nephi – 3:1-14

October 18, 2015 | 20 comments
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Reading Nephi – 3:1-14

There’s a reason why this—the return for the plates—is the first event Nephi mentions following their departure from Jerusalem. I wonder if there’s not also an inspired reason for it to come upfront. Lehi’s theophany and departure is the rupture that opens a new dispensation. The story of the retrieval of the record of Laban is the founding of Nephite history, the origin of Nephite political legitimacy, and perhaps even the founding of Nephite religion. Once again, there is a great deal going on in this story, with absences that are as revealing as what gets stated. Nephi subtly... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 2:16-24

October 16, 2015 | no comments
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Reading Nephi – 2:16-24

I’ve no desire to rob those who are physically large with a means of relating themselves to Nephi. But I can’t for the life of me see how we connect “large in stature” with physically large. The contrast in this clause is with young—which I suppose might be intuitively connected to physical size—my children... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 2:8-15

October 13, 2015 | 10 comments
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Reading Nephi – 2:8-15

This passage doesn’t seem to reflect well on Nephi. I don’t blame Nephi. To the degree that any of us have good reason to think poorly of family members who have wronged us, I think that the older man Nephi has cause to think poorly of his brothers. But how can we not also see the older, embittered Nephi projecting back on his brothers here? Our memories are inevitably colonized by our present experiences—sometimes glamorized and sometimes darkened. If I read past Nephi’s retrospectively projected interpretation, however, I am deeply moved by Lehi’s wisdom and love. There is no... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 2:1-7

October 11, 2015 | 3 comments
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Reading Nephi – 2:1-7

Here is the great rupture. Nephi acknowledges that it came in a dream—a dream that made a coherent narrative of the details of Lehi’s life. Did he feel like a failed prophet? Did his heart break? Or did he feel vindicated or at least consoled in joining that host of ancient prophets who were rejected by their people—or was that a later, literary reconciliation? Regardless, the dream tells him to leave the Land of Promise. Again, forsaking the idea that this was a dramatic overnight event, and recognizing instead that it likely took place over the course of some... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 1:18-20

October 6, 2015 | 4 comments
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Reading Nephi – 1:18-20

Two contrasts strike me in verse 18: a contrast between the way that Nephi uses the word ‘marvelous’ and a contrast between the visions and prophesying he attributes to Lehi here, and what we just got in verse 14. To begin with a word on the latter, I’m heartened that Lehi’s prophesying included beautiful, affirming, psalms; I trust his public messages did too, even if Nephi didn’t note this fact. I never hear the word ‘marvelous’ used to neutrally reference a marvel. It’s always used as a synonym to ‘wonderful.’ Marvels and wonders only receive a positive valence today;... Read more »

Statements on Heavenly Mother

October 3, 2015 | 4 comments
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Statements on Heavenly Mother

I appreciated the loving tribute Elder Holland just gave to all mothers, and in particular to our Heavenly Mother. In the wake of that talk, I’m reposting some of the quotes on Heavenly Mother collected in Paulsen’s & Pulido’s BYU Studies article, “A Mother There.”  It’s a valuable resource to actually have before us a sampling of what church authorities have said over the years, and is one way to express the love and gratitude in my own heart. And now the quotes: “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 1:7-17

October 2, 2015 | 15 comments
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Reading Nephi – 1:7-17

Joseph Smith remarked on visions that they are something that overcomes the visionary—that is, they’re physically exhausting. After the famous vision he shared with Sidney Rigdon (D&C 76), Sidney was apparently quite overcome, and Joseph quipped, “He’s not as used to this as I am” (or something to that effect, a la Truman Madsen). Thus it appears to have been the case with Lehi—overcome after his experience in the presence of God (a pillar of fire being a typological Old Testament symbol for the presence of God), he casts himself upon his bed. But God wasn’t yet done with... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 1:1-6

September 30, 2015 | 5 comments
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Reading Nephi – 1:1-6

‘I, Nephi’ begins his record in a remarkable manner, and I’m tempted to write long-windedly exploring the labyrinth of the first verse. I’m grateful that he acknowledges goodly parents and not just a goodly father. Some have certainly had only goodly fathers and not goodly mothers (Disney loves this scenario), but as written, I see a reflection of my own life in the first line of the Book of Mormon—of all of our lives. We have goodly Parents — Heavenly Parents. And, accordingly as Nephi notes, we have been taught somewhat in all of their learning, and are continuing... Read more »

Reading Nephi – Headnote

September 28, 2015 | 69 comments
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Reading Nephi – Headnote

What would I write now if I were to give an account of some stretch of nine formative years of my life in a paragraph, serving as the key markers of a short bio I’d then write Read more »

Reading Nephi – Series Introduction

September 28, 2015 | 19 comments
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Reading Nephi – Series Introduction

I’ve been reading Nephi all my life. Read more »

Seerstones and the Sacred

August 5, 2015 | 65 comments
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Seerstones and the Sacred

I’ll be honest. Seerstones spark a fire in my bones, a connection to an earlier, earthier, more tangible, and sacral-infused Mormonism. And that’s a Mormonism I need in my life right now. Read more »

My morning with McBaine and Wiman

November 20, 2014 | 3 comments
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As happens every now and then, I had a furious, fortuitous conjoining that so filled the boughs with fruit that they now creak and threaten to break. And language—especially quick language—isn’t likely to succeed in conveying the experience. What follows is a quick, momentary set of notes. But I don’t want to let it pass or hold back; I want to attempt to capture and share a moment of clear resonation. Riding in to work I was reading two books: Christian Wiman’s utterly unparalleled My Bright Abyss (review forthcoming) and Neylan McBaine’s desperately needed Women at Church. The one... Read more »

Women and the Church – Constructively Engaging the Arguments

August 24, 2014 | 104 comments
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Women and the Church – Constructively Engaging the Arguments

I’m going to describe the dialectical geography as I see it, in order to try and help readers at T&S do better at constructively engaging the arguments in what I consider to be an issue of absolutely fundamental importance. Read more »

Faithful priesthood narratives?

July 17, 2014 | 117 comments
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Faithful priesthood narratives?

some of those who speak in opposition to women's ecclesiastical enfranchisement do so because they can't imagine what a faithful, coherent narrative of our dispensation could possibly look like if women's priesthood role were restored and developed or if they did receive the Melchizedek Priesthood Read more »

Knocking With My Sisters

June 22, 2014 | 41 comments
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IMG_1268

One of my most recent posts was an attempt to honestly explore (or at least ask) the question: “How do faithful members collectively petition our prophets to petition the heavens?” The scriptures and the early days of our church are replete with faith-inspiring examples. How do we do it now that we’re millions strong? The answer – as the events of the last two weeks have thrown in dramatic relief – is that we don’t have one. Many others have noted the fact of Kate Kelly’s disciplinary council arising from (as many think) her aggressive tactics courting media and engaging non-Mormons... Read more »

Mourning with those that mourn

June 11, 2014 | 41 comments
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Mourning with those that mourn

Job 1: 20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. Job 2: 11 ¶Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort... Read more »

Where is the door? How do WE knock?

March 30, 2014 | 98 comments
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Salt Lake Temple doorknobs

One of the gems of my mission was the opportunity to spend an evening with a Bishop from the RLDS (now Community of Christ) Church Read more »

Awkward Discourse, Awkward Practice

March 3, 2014 | 23 comments
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Awkward Discourse, Awkward Practice

Let me say up front that I’m a big fan of the Church’s new Gospel Topics section. And the most recent entry “Becoming Like God” is perhaps my favorite. I thought the author contextualized the topic well, and I especially liked the section entitled “How do Latter-day Saints envision exaltation?” In part because of the nature of the topic, and in part because the author courageously included two full paragraphs on our Heavenly Parents, however, this article manifests our incongruent, sometimes incoherent, and at the least wholly awkward way of discussing all things women in the Church. There’s nothing... Read more »

Everyday Redemption

January 21, 2014 | 7 comments
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Everyday Redemption

Strutting down the driveway, whistling with a snow shovel over my shoulder I had a moment where I was struck by the absurdity of the scene. I smiled. Then I wondered at it and how it came to be. Late morning, and gloriously the DC area shuts down at the mention of snow. So I’m still in my pajamas, hanging the picture frames I’ve been meaning to get at for some time. “James, quick, there’s a car stuck out there. Get your shovel and go help.” “Oh. Sure.” That was it in terms of words and thought. But even... Read more »

Reasoning Together – Zion

January 2, 2014 | 9 comments
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Reasoning Together – Zion

We talk about Zion in a lot of different senses, but I think most of these share the general idea of communally gathering, developing, sharing, and partaking in everything that is lovely, virtuous, or praiseworthy or of good report. How do we do this, both collectively and individually, on both a theological and political level? Once again (obviously) I can’t adequately answer that question here. But once again I’m bothered by a lot of the discussions I see flying around our virtual and ward-level worlds. I don’t like the divisive,  polemical way in which these discussions are framed –... Read more »

Reasoning Together – Prophets

December 31, 2013 | 22 comments
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Reasoning Together – Prophets

Here’s the main point: I don’t think either our history or our theology supports traditional and currently widespread – though often unarticulated – notions of what a prophet is.  Read more »

Responding as Mandela

December 8, 2013 | 3 comments
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Responding as Mandela

Driving to work Friday morning the news reports were of course all about Nelson Mandela who had passed away the night before. Mandela was unquestionably a savior on Mt. Zion in the Mormon sense Read more »

Mortality

September 13, 2013 | 12 comments
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Mortality

I have family members who have died recently, others who are dying, and some who tell me confidently every time we talk, “You know, I won’t be around much longer…” Read more »

Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part III

July 30, 2013 | 9 comments
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Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part III

My main motivation was jealousy. I was fantastically jealous that my wife was running the coolest book club I’d ever seen. Read more »