Blog Archives

Policy, Doctrine, and Revelation

January 18, 2016 | 78 comments
Policy, Doctrine, and Revelation

These three concepts exist, for most Mormons, in a tangled web. This has become especially evident in recent months as members have reacted to the Church’s new policies regarding same-sex married couples and their children that were announced in November. This discussion was stoked again following Elder Nelson’s recent remarks, leading to Dave’s post last week pondering: Policy or Revelation? The subtext to this question seems pretty clear: doctrine (often used synonymously with revelation in this discussions) doesn’t change. (For example, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism states that doctrine is “fixed and unchanging.”) And that’s the subtext that dominates all... Read more »

Introducing Gerald Smith

January 15, 2016 | 3 comments
Schooling the Prophet

I’m pleased to introduce Dr. Gerald Smith for a round of guest posts here at Times & Seasons. He will be sharing a series of posts about his new book, Schooling the Prophet, How the Book of Mormon Influenced Joseph Smith and the Early Restoration (published by BYU Press and the Maxwell Institute.) I was lucky enough to be an early reader for the project, and was really struck by his unique approach to studying the Book of Mormon and how it had shaped the views and beliefs of Joseph Smith. Outside of Mormon studies, Dr. Smith is a... Read more »

The Expanse: Mormons in Space

January 4, 2016 | 16 comments
The Expanse Mormon Poster - Detail

The Expanse is an acclaimed novel series by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck writing under the pen-name James S. A. Corey. The first novel, Leviathan Wakes, was released in 2011 and nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Abraham and Franck have released a book a year since then, with Caliban’s War in 2012, Abaddon’s Gate in 2013, Cibola Burn in 2014, and Nemesis Games in 2015. Babylon’s Ashes is slated for June 2016, and three more untitled sequels are scheduled for 2017-2019. The SyFy channel, in an attempt... Read more »

In Their Own Language

December 7, 2015 | 28 comments
753 - Current MI Logo

“For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fullness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language.” D&C 90:11 Introduction This post begins with a simple question: does the Maxwell Institute (formerly FARMS) publish scholarship that treats the Book of Mormon as an ancient text? Or, in the words of Bill Hamblin, has the new leadership at MI “undermin ancient Book of Mormon studies” in favor of “modern Mormon Studies in its broadest sense” to the point where the Maxwell Institute today is “Sunstone South”? It’s a sensitive... Read more »

The Assurance of Love

November 2, 2015 | 39 comments
776 - Hendrick ter Brugghen - The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

About a week ago, I came across an interesting quote from a talk President Hinckley gave during the October 1981 General Conference (Faith: The Essence of True Religion). He quoted a journalist who had recently given a speech during which the journalist had said that “Certitude is the enemy of religion.” (I’d be fascinated to see the full text of this journalist’s remarks, or even just learn his name.) President Hinckley’s response is challenging for someone like me. After all, I started out blogging at Times and Seasons with a series of posts about epistemic humility. (1, 2, 3,... Read more »

Every Scar is a Bridge to Someone’s Broken Heart

October 19, 2015 | 11 comments
788 - Thrice

Perhaps we literally need to feel our own pain in order to feel the pain of others. From a scientific perspective: The ability to feel the pain of others is based on neurobiological processes which underlie pain experience in oneself. Using innovative methods, an international research team headed by psychologist Claus Lamm from the University of Vienna could show that a reduction of self-experienced pain leads to a reduction in empathy for pain in others as well. From an aesthetic perspective (I realize screamo is not everyone’s idea of a pleasant Monday morning. Lyrics are below the video clip):... Read more »

Reading the Book of Mormon for the First Time Again

October 5, 2015 | 5 comments
The giant, angry pterodactyl makes sense at the end. Wait for it.

I read the Book of Mormon all the way through several times as a teenager. Between multiple readings and a knack for remembering anything that comes in the form of a story, by the time I was 19 I knew the Book of Mormon as well as any other 19 year old I met. Now I’m 34, and I routinely meet people whose familiarity with the text far, far outstrips my own. Sure, some of that comes from the fact that I know more Mormon studies folks now than I did as a teenager, but I’m not talking about... Read more »

“A woman is a woman no matter what, but manhood can be lost.”

September 21, 2015 | 143 comments

The title of today’s post (“A woman is a woman no matter what, but manhood can be lost,”) is a quote comes from a long and interesting article from the Pacific Standard: Why Men Kill Themselves. There’s a lot that is interesting in the article, especially about some of the gender differences that lead to a much higher suicide rate for men as compared to women. Although there are certainly wide variations between cultures in the overall rate of suicide, it turns out that “In every country in the world, male suicides outnumber female.” The article reminded me of Valerie Hudson... Read more »

Introducing Meg Conley

September 10, 2015 | 5 comments
Utah wedding and portrait photography

I am excited to introduce Meg Conley as our newest guest-blogger here at Times and Seasons! Meg Conley is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in topics of womanhood and motherhood. Her website,, is quickly becoming a nationally recognized platform for women’s issues and day to day inspiration. She has appeared on Good Morning America, Nightline and The Steve Harvey Show. Her writing regularly appears on The Huffington Post. She is also, as she puts it, “the mother of two sparkling girls and married to the kind of man that lights the days.” I’ve been a big fan of... Read more »

Do Mormons Have a Duty to Vote?

September 7, 2015 | 19 comments
We'll get back to Trump towards the end.

You might think that this is a strange question, and that of course everyone has a duty to vote. That’s part of being a good citizen, isn’t it? Well, there’s a growing body of opinion that says this isn’t so. It all starts widespread agreement that voting doesn’t make a lot of sense from the perspective of an individual voter. Your chance of swaying a national election—of being the decisive vote—is for all practical purposes zero. So there’s no benefit to voting. But there are costs. There’s the gas you pay for the drive to the polling place and... Read more »

Introducing Walker Wright

September 2, 2015 | 2 comments
Introducing Walker Wright

After citing him on multiple occasions here at Times and Seasons (for example here and here), I’m very pleased to announce that Walker Wright will be joining us for a guest blogging stint. Walker is an MBA student at the University of North Texas, and his primary interests are in the theology of work and sacralizing the mundane. Walker has written for Square Two, presented at Sunstone, Mormon Transhumanist Association, Faith & Knowledge, and Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, and is contributing a chapter to Julie Smith’s forthcoming Come, Let Us Reason Together: Dialogues with Scripture. He also blogs at Difficult Run, Worlds... Read more »

Privilege and the Family

March 30, 2015 | 81 comments
932 - Dom Viol Chart

In a post at By Common Consent over the weekend (What has two thumbs and doesn’t give a crap about the Family?), Rebecca J writes that “If I’m not currently standing up for the Family, it’s… really just that I don’t care enough about the Family. I don’t think I care at all.” She goes on to write: I’m really not sure what they mean. I mean, it can’t mean that I’m supposed to be speaking out against divorce or same-sex marriage or unwed parenthood because if it did, they would just come out and say that,... Read more »

When Symbolism isn’t Symbolic

February 16, 2015 | 11 comments
969 - Batman Featured Image

A few weeks ago I listened to an episode of This American Life with an unfortunate title: Batman. The title, which really doesn’t set the right tone for the episode to follow, refers to Daniel Kish, a blind man who taught himself to echolocate as a child. He gets around the world relatively unaided (including, for example, riding a bike) by clicking and then listening to the echoes. This ability has made him world famous, but it really shouldn’t be so unusual. And perhaps the most chilling thing is the fact that most blind kids will intuitively start clicking or snapping or stamping... Read more »

On Reading Scripture and Being Human

February 2, 2015 | 39 comments
Darwin's Monkey - Square

About three weeks ago, David Bokovoy wrote an interesting blog post on historicity in the scripture in which he argued that questions of historicity are unhelpful anachronisms that tend to miss the point of scripture: It’s important for modern readers of the Bible to recognize that biblical historians were not motivated to write their accounts out of antiquarian interest. The past was far too important a tool for these authors to simply recount what really happened. Instead, biblical authors used history as a tool to convey themes concerning the God of Israel and his relationship to his chosen people.... Read more »

Announcing the 2nd Annual Wheatley “Faith Seeking Understanding” Summer Seminar

January 19, 2015 | one comment
2015 01 19 Wheatley Institution Header

The 2nd Annual Wheatley “Faith Seeking Understanding” Summer Seminar will be held from June 22 – July 10, 2015 under the direction of Professor Terryl Givens. Here’s the seminar description: What are the general contours of Christianity’s efforts to find a marriage of belief and intellect? Does Mormonism face the same challenges as the broader Christian tradition? What are the contributions of Mormon theology to current debates in the political and cultural realms? How reasonable are LDS positions on the family, marriage, pro-life and end of life issues? Is the Mormon theological tradition an asset or a handicap in... Read more »

Reconciling Shame and Guilt

January 5, 2015 | 19 comments

Last year was my first year teaching the Old Testament in Gospel Doctrine, and I benefited a ton from Ben Spackman’s Patheos blog. So I’m starting off this year by reading some of his recommended books for teaching the New Testament (list continues here and here). First up? Misreading the Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible. The point of Misreading the Scripture is that the Biblical authors left certain cultural assumptions unspoken because they took them for granted. When we read the Bible today, we fill in those gaps with our own cultural... Read more »

Hypersensitivity and Trolls: A Codependent Dysfunction

December 8, 2014 | 23 comments
2014-12-08 Troll-No-Powers

Introduction My first posts at Times and Seasons were about epistemic humility, which is the awareness of the limits of knowledge. One of the common responses I got at the time was to ask how conviction was compatible with such an emphasis on uncertainty. The quote I led with (“The wise man doubts often, and changes his mind.”) seemed like a perfect setup for the ominous lines from Yeats’ The Second Coming: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” The answer is that even if one accepts the adage that “all models... Read more »

When to Disobey

November 24, 2014 | 110 comments
2014-11-24 Naughty Dog

I’ve been having some interesting conversations about the high cost of membership in the Church. We believe, in general, that the cost of being a Mormon is high and that this is a good thing. Sacrifice leads to faith. We pour a lot of time and a lot of energy into the Church, and this helps us value our membership more than if the Church asked less of us. But it can be taken to extremes. There are reasons to say “no” to something our leaders ask of us, and foremost among those is the sake of our families.... Read more »

Announcing the BYU & Maxwell Institute 2015 Summer Seminar

November 20, 2014 | no comments
Maxwell Institute Logo

UPDATED: The original version of this post didn’t include the link to the application form. That link was added on Dec 10, 2014. In the summer of 2015, the Neal A Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University, with support from the Mormon Scholars Foundation, will sponsor a summer seminar for graduate students, CES educators,  and other qualified individuals, on “ORGANIZING THE KINGDOM: PRIESTHOOD, CHURCH GOVERNMENT, AND THE FORMS OF LDS WORSHIP.” The seminar continues the series of seminars on Mormon culture begun in the summer of 1997. This iteration will be conducted by Terryl Givens, Professor of Literature and... Read more »

I Need My Kids

November 10, 2014 | 32 comments
Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter in "Raising Arizona".

Last month, my friend Betsy VanDenBerghe wrote a piece for Real Clear Religion inspired alternately by Pope Francis and the Coen brothers’ 1987 comedy Raising Arizona about Why Children Are Better Than Pets. Her central question was: What would a society of adults skewed toward childlessness, like the perpetually barren Time magazine beach couple, look and act like without having acquired the altruism, personal growth, and wisdom that bringing up children generally bequeaths on those who undergo parenthood? Her piece really resonated with me. My life has not gone at all as planned over the last several years. Without going into... Read more »

Our Prayers and God’s Messy Plans

October 13, 2014 | 9 comments
The Council of Gods, Giovanni Lanfranco (From Wikimedia Commons)

I taught lesson 35 today, which covers Amos and Joel. As usual, I benefitted a great deal from Ben Spackman’s Patheos posts, and in particular his discussion of Amos 3:6 and Amos 3:7. The latter, of course, is the famous scripture we all learn in seminary: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Ben included a short paper about the meaning of the word “sod” (“secret”) and its relation to the idea of a divine council. The word refers to both private discussion and the product of such discussions.... Read more »

Magic and Mechanisms

September 29, 2014 | 81 comments
2014-09-29 Magic and Mechanisms

In her talk “The Evolutionary Roots of Religious Adaptation” for the Mormon Transhumanist Association, Chelsea Strayer hit on one of the fundamental sources of tension between devout and academic perspectives on faith: the distinction between process and purpose. She gave the example of evolution, emphasizing that when she teaches evolution it is fundamentally a discussion of process rather than purpose. Despite this, however, she recounts that: Every time I teach an evolution class… I have one student walk away and say, “Hey, you just told me that God doesn’t exist. You just proved that.” And I’ll have student... Read more »

Temple and Observatory Group Event in Minnesota

September 23, 2014 | 7 comments

The Temple and Observatory Group, which has sponsored other events in Utah, Virginia and New York, is offering a seminar for those in the midst of a faith transition or crisis in the Minnesota area. The event features Terryl and Fiona Givens and Spencer Fluhman. Come listen to the three speak about negotiating LDS history, faith challenges and transitions on Saturday, September 27th from 10:30am – 3:30pm at 6125 Shingle Creek Pkwy, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430 (library). Lunch will be provided. Please sign up on the Facebook page as seating is limited. Note: there are no tickets for this... Read more »

My Experiment with Five Minute Prayers

September 15, 2014 | 27 comments
2014-09-15 Prayer 01

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been setting a timer every time I say my evening prayers. This might sound like an absolutely terrible idea and, in some ways I guess it is. So before I tell you how that has worked out for me, let me explain why I would even consider such an idea in the first place. It starts with the idea of the curse of success. I first encountered this concept in Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose. They wrote that when a policy or technology becomes successful, it can be known more... Read more »