Blog Archives

The First Vision of Lienhard Jost

December 9, 2015 | 7 comments
By

Just before Christmas in 1522, an illiterate laborer from Strasbourg named Lienhard Jost lay in his bed at night and prayed. He had literally felt the ground shifting under his feet when an earthquake had struck while he was cutting wood in the forest that day, but he was even more unsettled by the ongoing religious controversies and by rumors that the world would be destroyed by a second Deluge in little more than a year. Read more »

Three Footnotes on Moroni and the Swastika

November 20, 2015 | 10 comments
By

My review of David Conley Nelson’s Moroni and the Swastika, a book about Mormons and the church in Nazi Germany, was just published in Dialogue. To summarize my review briefly: the book’s primary arguments are wrong, it distorts the facts and documents that it takes as evidence for those arguments, and the writing is imprecise and sensationalist in ways that are more typical of religious polemic than mainstream scholarship. Read more »

Linguistics and belief

November 10, 2015 | 29 comments
By

I don’t want to write about gay marriage. So let’s talk about linguistics first. We acquire language in childhood through a long process of listening to and eventually reading the language output of competent speakers of English (or whatever languages prevail in the communities where we grow up). As we are exposed to countless examples of language, we start to build up an internal model of English. We hypothesize about the rules of English and use our hypotheses to generate English statements unlike any we have heard before in response to new situations. Over time, as our hypotheses are... Read more »

Inoculation, Apologetics, Intellectuals, and Blogging

June 4, 2015 | 82 comments
By

In preparing people to face a skeptical world, we should not confuse inoculation with the administration of poison by degrees. Read more »

The Package Deal

April 29, 2015 | 45 comments
By
The Package Deal

If families couldn’t be together forever, the church could likely avoid many of the controversies concerning its history and contemporary practices. Read more »

Ecumenicalism

April 2, 2015 | 2 comments
By

Jeder soll nach seiner Fasson selig werden—everyone may find sacred bliss in their own way, in Frederick the Great of Prussia’s formulation of enlightened commitment to religious tolerance. Nowhere is this sentiment more evident today than at a community health club. Read more »

The historicity window

March 18, 2015 | 69 comments
By
The historicity window

Book of Mormon historicity is not a unitary entity or a binary concept. It has at least three primary components, each of which offers a spectrum of possibilities Read more »

Urkirche, Urtext

February 18, 2015 | 32 comments
By
Urkirche, Urtext

I don’t believe in the historical Jesus Read more »

Most Mormons

January 16, 2015 | 33 comments
By
Most Mormons

I distrust Most Mormons. Whenever I see Most Mormons, I’m inclined to disagree with whatever is being said. If it were possible, I’d like to do away with Most Mormons entirely Read more »

Pray for the Cougars

December 19, 2014 | 18 comments
By
Pray for the Cougars

Pray for the Cougars. Or the Tigers. Take your pick. Either one is fine as far as I’m concerned. Or if you’re not into college football, pray for something else. Read more »

All things testify of Joseph Smith: on the ethics and theology of faith-promoting legends

December 1, 2014 | 7 comments
By
All things testify of Joseph Smith: on the ethics and theology of faith-promoting legends

While faith should be founded on truth rather than fiction, we shouldn’t overlook how devotional legends reflect creative and democratic processes of theology-formation. Here, for example, is a faith-promoting legend that might have been Read more »

Alma and Apocalypse

October 27, 2014 | 9 comments
By
Alma and Apocalypse

In Understanding the Book of Mormon, Grant Hardy argues that an important part of the Book of Mormon’s meaning emerges from how it alludes to, comments on, or patterns itself after other stories, such as Joseph in Egypt, the Exodus, and the Fall. Another such story not discussed by Hardy but central to understanding the Book of Mormon is, I think, the end of the world. Read more »

A self-guided walking tour of Higher Criticism

September 9, 2014 | 22 comments
By
A self-guided walking tour of Higher Criticism

So I wrote another book. At first I thought that I was writing a short article to explain why two different Reformation-era prophecies share the same title, but the project kept expanding. Along the way, I changed the way I think about biblical textual criticism and the Documentary Hypothesis. Read more »

Rankings, Money, and BYU

July 28, 2014 | 11 comments
By
Rankings, Money, and BYU

Money magazine has just released a new ranking of U.S. universities that has received a bit of attention. BYU does quite well, landing in ninth place overall, just behind Stanford, Harvard, Harvey Mudd, and Cooper Union. Read more »

The Prophetic World War Z

May 30, 2014 | 6 comments
By
The Prophetic World War Z

When reading the Old Testament, the essential thing to keep in mind is not This is what happened but This is what someone thought was important for later readers to remember. Read more »

Supernatural Selection

March 7, 2014 | 77 comments
By
Supernatural Selection

If I had to estimate what the median Mormon adult currently thinks about the origin of life, or the model that the church as an institution is most comfortable with, I would describe it as non-exclusive evolution through supernatural selection. Read more »

Don’t hate me just because my trek was awesome

January 9, 2014 | 14 comments
By
Don’t hate me just because my trek was awesome

When it comes to handcart reenactments, we spend too much time on all the wrong questions, questions like: How much physical suffering is needed for a youth-appropriate spiritual experience? Personally, I’d like to minimize the suffering in my spiritual experiences, thank you very much. Or anxious hand-wringing, like: Do handcart reenactments distort the historically authentic experiences of pioneers who traveled to Utah by various means and responded in individually determined ways to the contingent experience of physical exertion and deprivation over which a superstructure of religious Exodus narrative had been established amid a plethora of competing counter-narratives? Again, I’m... Read more »

BYU-Idaho: the next ten years (II)

December 26, 2013 | 26 comments
By
BYU-Idaho: the next ten years (II)

To keep the rest of this post in context, let me repeat that I think Rexburg is a fantastic place, that BYU-Idaho has gotten the most important things right in its transformation from a junior college into a four-year university, and that its dress code is not a terribly important issue. The university’s path forward to becoming the kind of university it hopes to be, although not simple, is clear enough. Another tricky question for the future of the university is how to strike the right balance between local heritage versus consistency with the system flagship in Provo: How... Read more »

BYU-Idaho: the next ten years (I)

November 6, 2013 | 20 comments
By
BYU-Idaho: the next ten years (I)

BYU-Idaho is much different today than it was in 2001, when it changed its name from Ricks College and started to offer bachelor’s degrees. It shouldn’t detract from the accomplishments of the last decade to say that the university is still a work in progress; institutional change takes a generation.  There are more changes in store, challenges that soon need to be faced, and pitfalls that have to be avoided. Read more »

Five things you should know about the BYU-Idaho dress code

September 19, 2013 | 66 comments
By
Five things you should know about the BYU-Idaho dress code

There are five things you should know about the BYU-Idaho dress code. The first thing—that BYU-Idaho has a dress code—is probably redundant, since that seems to be the only thing that people outside of Rexburg hear about BYU-Idaho. Read more »

What BYU-Idaho does right

September 5, 2013 | 37 comments
By
What BYU-Idaho does right

You might be surprised to learn that the church maintains not one but two large universities, including one about 280 miles north of Provo. The existence of BYU-Idaho is one of those things that seems to easily escape notice, even for Mormons in the middle of a vigorous debate about what must be done about BYU and LDS higher education. While the low level of scrutiny that BYU-Idaho receives is in general salutary for the university, it’s unfortunate for the discussions of higher education, as some of the most interesting experiments in the American university system today are being... Read more »

Rexburg

August 19, 2013 | 44 comments
By
Rexburg

What is it like to move to Rexburg? If you’ve ever driven across the country, you’ve probably stopped for gas or lunch in some town you’ve never heard of and observed in astonishment that people not only live there, but appear to lead lives as happy and meaningful as any other American. Those lives may include more baseball or rodeo than you would choose for yourself, but the people there seem content enough. You see parks and schools and streets with decent-looking houses and a reasonable number of stores, and you wonder what it would be like if you... Read more »

The aporias of the meethinghouse library

June 28, 2013 | 17 comments
By

One of the rare privileges of being Sunday School President in a Mormon congregation – second only to holding the keys for sounding the bells to end class on the hour – is the occasional opportunity to fill in for the meetinghouse librarian. Read more »

Firing professors, June 1993. A personal view.

June 18, 2013 | 31 comments
By

Twenty years ago, I held up one half of the largest sign at a student protest in response to the non-renewals of two BYU professors. Read more »