Blog Archives

Dear Brandon Sanderson

January 15, 2008 | 34 comments

A few months ago, Kaimi asked you a few questions about your experience as a Mormon author. You not only responded, but your answers were interesting and thoughtful. In fact, your answers suggested that you might just be the kind of author whose books I would enjoy. So I bought Mistborn. Read more »

Prayer and parascripture

December 20, 2007 | 27 comments

‘Parascripture’ was the term Hugh Nibley used to refer to popular statements of religious sentiment that weren’t actually found in scripture, and that can sometimes be the vehicle for foreign ideas to find a home in a Mormon setting. An example in recent circulation is, “If you want to talk to God, pray; if you want God to talk to you, read the scriptures.” Read more »


December 17, 2007 | 3 comments

That stands for “Historian In, Historian Out”–Times and Seasons bids farewell to one historian, Paul Reeve, and welcomes another, David Grua. Read more »

Orality, Literacy, Apostasy and Restoration

December 4, 2007 | 40 comments

In the historiography of communication, orality refers to reliance on the spoken word as well as to the corresponding institutions and habits of mind, while literacy means not just the ability to read, but also the mental habits and social institutions that attend the use of writing, or more specifically the use of an alphabetic writing system, or the particular cognitive framework that has developed along with the alphabetic systems of Western Europe. The Mormon concept of a historical apostasy can be described in terms of orality and literacy. In fact, Brian Stock, an eminent historian of medieval literature,... Read more »

Sorting voices from the dust

November 19, 2007 | 17 comments

When we read the Book of Mormon, whose voice do we think we are hearing? Trying to answer that question, I think, is one of the essential moves in a Mormon mode of interpretation. Consider, for example, 2 Nephi 2:17, where Lehi pauses to speculate on Lucifer’s origins: Read more »

Romantics and their Fragments

November 7, 2007 | 8 comments

Reading the Book of Mormon is a lot like reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.” Read more »

Notes on Halloween

November 1, 2007 | 31 comments

1. I don’t like Halloween. When we moved to Germany, I was looking forward to spending a couple years without interference from the least export-worthy American holiday celebration I can imagine. 2. Since I was last here, Halloween has been exported to Germany. Read more »

The Morning Star

October 21, 2007 | 9 comments

We don’t often refer to Christ as the morning star, although there’s good scriptural precedent for the metaphor, and several 16/17th century Lutheran hymns (my particular target of religious envy) make use of it. Read more »

Books, Mormons, Interpretation

October 17, 2007 | 36 comments

The topic of the 2008 conference of Mormon Scholars in the Humanities is “Interpretation: LDS Perspectives.” I won’t be there, unfortunately. But if I were to attend, I know what I would talk about. Read more »

A reader wants to know…

September 20, 2007 | 33 comments

A T&S reader has a question about daily family scripture study. How have you made it work in your home? To what extent do the words “daily,” “family,” “scripture,” and “study” apply? Read more »

Only in the Mormon Church

September 10, 2007 | 96 comments

When we first moved to our current ward, for an initial stay of only a year, I was asked to serve as a counselor in the elders quorum presidency before I had attended a single sacrament meeting here. A year ago, we returned to the same ward, and yesterday we discovered that that previous elders quorum president and my wife are eighth cousins. And all this time we had assumed we were the exceptions in a ward and stake where everyone seems to be related to each other. Read more »

Cosmos: a personal view

September 4, 2007 | 58 comments

In 1980, when I was nine, for thirteen weeks running, I watched Cosmos on Sunday nights with my father. Read more »

We’re number 68!

August 21, 2007 | 34 comments

BYU shot up over 50 places in the university rankings that were just released this week. Not in the US News and World Report rankings, where BYU continues to bounce around the 70s, but in the Washington Monthly rankings of universities’ based on their contributions to society, where BYU went from 124 to 68, right between Loyola Chicago and Brown. Read more »

Suggestions for expatriate Mormons

August 14, 2007 | 71 comments

I don’t know of any Americans planning to move into my ward soon. If there were any, I wish they would understand a few things from the outset. (If you’re contemplating a foreign assignment in an industrial nation, some of this might apply to your situation as well.) Read more »

Brigham Young and the history of reading in the West

July 30, 2007 | 38 comments

Brigham Young’s condemnation of novel reading during the last two decades of his life is a perfect example of a much-studied moment in the history of reading, the hypothesized “reading revolution” of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But the peculiar trajectory of Brigham Young’s attitude, from wary tolerance of novel reading to blanket combination of it, is unusual. Read more »

Mormon literature: the horror, the horror?

July 20, 2007 | 32 comments

One of the frequent laments about Mormon literature is that so much of the Mormon experience is tied to spiritual experience, which is very difficult to describe in prose. Mormon authors facing that problem could learn a trick or two from Stephen King. Read more »

Before the cradle

July 15, 2007 | 6 comments

There are songs that make me feel that God is all and I am nothing, and that God has given me everything and I deserve none of it, although that is far too precise and theological a description for an experience that is almost entirely pre-rational. Read more »

A German mirror on Mormons in American religion and politics

July 4, 2007 | 23 comments

Gerhard Spörl, reporter for Der Spiegel, surely did not have an easy task. After his editors at the finest German-language news weekly on the planet took notice of a German Mormon apostle and a Mormon candidate for the U.S. presidency, they gave Spörl the responsibility for interviewing Dieter Uchtdorf, visiting the church offices in Frankfurt, and trying to explain Mormons and their religion to a million German readers (article in English translation here). Read more »

Laie and statistics

June 29, 2007 | 27 comments

If you’re applying to BYU-Hawaii, should Dartmouth be your safety school? Read more »

Living in the limelight

June 25, 2007 | 41 comments

Sometime on or before November 4, 2008, the Romney campaign is going to tank. (Dwelling too long on the possibility that he won’t tank is not good for the cardiac health of both his supporters and his opponents, so we’ll ignore that possibility for now.) After the Romney candidacy is no more, how are we Mormons going to make people notice us? Read more »

The wisdom of one-room schools

June 22, 2007 | 31 comments

I think Kaimi’s metaphor is apt, maybe in more ways than he intended. Every few weeks, or every few days, there’s another discussion of polygamy, and some country hick who’s new to the big city suggests in breathless wide-eyed wonder that plural marriage was a way to care for widows and other women without families. Thereupon much merriment ensues among those who are wise to the ways of the world. Who could be so naive? But then I read what Richard Bushman told the Pew Forum a few weeks ago: Read more »

The reader in Mormon literature

June 10, 2007 | 24 comments

What I dislike most about discussing Mormon literature is the all but inevitable moment when someone disparages the low artistic taste and congenital stinginess of Mormon readers. So let me set out the foundation for any discussion of Mormon literature and its readers: Readers owe authors nothing. Not a single copper-plated cent. Not a second of their time. Nothing. Read more »

The recycled image

June 1, 2007 | 14 comments

Does source study make us better readers? I, Hercules, Duke of Ferrara, we now have in our city of Ferrara several nuns miraculously redolent of holiness, and above all the worthy sister Lucy of Narnia Read more »

The Mormon reader in the national market

May 26, 2007 | 24 comments

Writing for a Mormon audience may be wasting the potential influence of Mormon readers. Read more »