Blog Archives

Truth and Contradiction in Religious Communities

September 2, 2014 | 9 comments
Guru Nanak with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana and Sikh Gurus. (Wikimedia)

A couple of weeks ago I listened to the audiobook of Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction. As that was the first thing I’ve read on the topic (other than a multitude of Wikipedia entries) I by no means consider myself some kind of expert, but I was struck by several parallels and differences between Sikhism and Mormonism. The little I have learned has already helped me to see my own faith in new ways. In terms of similarities, Mormonism and Sikhism are both relatively new religions that arguably constitute a culture or a people (in addition to a religion)... Read more »

We Are Made to Suffer

August 18, 2014 | 46 comments
2014-08-18 Guernica

In centuries gone by the best you could hope for in the case of an aching tooth would be that someone would yank it out, but thanks to modern medicine we can detect cavities and fill them before they start to cause any pain at all. Of course, the drilling of the tooth itself is painful, so you can have your tooth numbed with an injection. Someone jabbing a sharp needle into your gums isn’t a walk in the park either, so you can have some topical gel applied before the shot. Just to recap: you get a numbing... Read more »

Comfort Those That Stand in Need

June 30, 2014 | 20 comments
2014-06-30 Waters of Mormon

Behold, here are the waters of Mormon and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort… Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord? (Mosiah 18:8-10) This passage has been on my mind a lot over the past couple... Read more »

Scriptural Meanderings

June 16, 2014 | 4 comments
2014-06-16 Lehi Prophecies

Last week I started reading the Book of Mormon again from the beginning. The first day, I made it through 1 Nephi 1. The second day, I made it through 1 Nephi 2:1. For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life (1 Nephi 2:1) “Behold,” says The Lord,... Read more »

False Choices and Fence Holes

June 2, 2014 | 117 comments
2014-06-02 The Good Shepherd

It is very common in the Bloggernaccle to talk about an exodus of members from the Church. These members are usually described as a cohesive demographic. The two examples I’ve seen most frequently are (1) young Millennials who are disillusioned by the discrepancy between real history and CES whitewashing and (2) good women whose contributions and perspectives are devalued and rejected by the institution at large. I don’t have any insider or objective data on these concerns, and so I couldn’t say where they fall on the spectrum from urban legend to imminent crisis, but I suspect the problem... Read more »

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

April 28, 2014 | 14 comments
2014-04-28 Dresdenfiles Quote

This post is a follow up to my two previous posts As Much As I Know Anything and What It Would Take To Not Believe. I have to start out by clarifying something that I didn’t define well enough in a previous post. I made the statement that we cannot not believe, but that depends on a definition of belief that isn’t universal and that I should have made more clear. Obviously we can choose to not believe in lots of things individually. But when I think about belief I have something more holistic and systemic in mind. Our... Read more »

What It Would Take to Not Believe

April 14, 2014 | 47 comments
2014-04-14 Karl Popper

There was one question in response to my last post that I particularly wanted to answer, but wasn’t able to at the time. This is the question, which was posed by Sebastian Dick: “What would it take to convince you that (in as much as you know anything) propositions such as God exists or the BoM is historical are false? Or do you consider such propositions unfalsifiable?” This post is my answer. It is not a trite cliché that everyone has to believe in something. It is the literal truth. When your life has ended and you look back... Read more »

As Much As I Know Anything

March 31, 2014 | 28 comments
2014-03-31 Before the Pulpit

“Out of curiosity, what makes you believe in Mormonism? Or God for that matter?” This is a question I got from a close friend, more or less out of the blue, the Wednesday before last in a Facebook conversation that had been—up to that point—mostly about how much I love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve been asked that, but it’s a question I’ve struggled unsuccessfully to answer in the past. I’ve tried on more than one occasion to sit down and write out my reasons, but I always failed. Eventually I gave... Read more »

Human Evolution: Problems and Possibilities

March 17, 2014 | 35 comments
2014-03-17 Sun Over Earth

I agree with Jonathan Green’s description of how most Mormons tend to think about evolution vs. creation. To recap, we tend to: Affirm an active role for God in the creation of human beings Accept basic science as it relates to genetics, natural selection, geology, etc. Reject attempts to force an either/or choice between points 1 and 2. As a general rule, Mormons are happy to embrace science and religion, and do not see a necessary conflict between the two. When it comes to the usual hullaballoo over religion vs. science, this is certainly correct. There just isn’t any... Read more »

Fallibility, Trust, and Commercial Development

March 10, 2014 | 108 comments
2014-03-10 Philly Dev Site

I’ve written about the fallibility of our leaders before (here, here, and here) because I think it’s important for us as members to develop greater spiritual independence and because the unrealistic expectations held for the leaders (as often by the critics as by the devout) set people up for unnecessary disappointment. But the concept of fallibility, like the even trendier concept of doubt, can be overplayed. Leaders are fallible, yes, but that doesn’t preclude room for trust. The proximate cause of my ruminations was the announcement of the Church’s addition of a chapel and a commercial apartment tower next... Read more »

Thanking God’s Advocates, the Promoters of the Cause

February 24, 2014 | 27 comments
2014-02-23 John_Martin_-_Sodom_and_Gomorrah

Today in Gospel Doctrine I played the role of Devil’s advocate. I spent the last 10 or 15 minutes leading a discussion about the children who died when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, when God sent the Flood, when Christ died on the cross and Nephite cities were burned, buried, and sunk, and when Alma and Amulek watched as women and children were burned to death before their eyes. Several of the commenters sought to defend God’s justice using familiar arguments (like the idea that there are some things worse than death) or evasions (like the idea that maybe... Read more »

UPDATED: The 1st Annual Wheatley “Faith Seeking Understanding” Summer Seminar

February 11, 2014 | one comment

UPDATE: The deadlines and notification date have been pushed out an extra month to give additional time for people to submit. The new deadline is March 28, 2014. (Notifications will go out by April 15, 2014.) The 1st Annual Wheatley “Faith Seeking Understanding” summer seminar will run from July 14 through August 1, 2014.  It is being sponsored by the Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University and is under the direction of Professor Terryl Givens, Wheatley Fellow and Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond. From the announcement: What are the general contours of Christianity’s efforts to find a... Read more »

What Are Gender Roles Good For?

February 10, 2014 | 150 comments
2014-02-10 Grace Hopper Quote

The argument against perpetuating normative gender roles has two prongs. First, there is the argument that gender roles do not offer anything that is not available to human beings autonomously determining their own roles. Second, there is the observation that no set of gender roles applies universally. There will always be those who, because of individual nature or life circumstance, cannot conform to the prevailing gender roles. In practice, those who conform least are most marginalized. Taken together, gender roles appear to offer little substantial benefit but carry genuine cost. So what’s the case in favor of gender roles?... Read more »

Are Prophets Superheroes?

January 27, 2014 | 19 comments
Are Prophets Superheroes?

Superheroes are a different breed. For a lot of them, this is literal. Most of the well-known superheroes in the Marvel Universe (Fantastic Four, X-Men, Avengers, etc.) are mutants. One of the central themes is the tension between ordinary humans and those genetically gifted with extraordinary mutant powers.  Other superheroes start out as perfectly normal human beings before something happens to set them apart. Peter Parker is consecrated by the bite of a radioactive spider. The Green Lanterns are called and chosen by an ancient alien race at the center of the Universe and endowed with power rings that... Read more »

I Believe in Gender Roles

January 20, 2014 | 158 comments
2014-01-20 Gender Roles

It is an ancient and time-honored tradition of fathers to leap out from behind corners and startle their little kids. According to the venerable template, the little one will shriek in faux terror and scamper away in expectation of pursuit. My son has different ideas. If my son is startled by something truly unknown, like the low-flying medical helicopter that often passed over our apartment in Michigan, then he will get scared. But if he can identify the source of a perceived threat, then his instinctive reaction is immediate and unrestrained aggression. This has been the case at least... Read more »

Women and the Priesthood: What’s the Conservative Position?

January 12, 2014 | 75 comments
2014-01-13 No Girls Allowed

Although general terms like “liberal” and “conservative” should always be handled with care, there’s a basic understanding that the movement to ordain women is predominantly a liberal movement and that the skeptics are predominantly conservative. Broadly speaking, this is correct. But some go farther and argue that the default conservative position is to defend the status quo. This is a grave error. The error arises from a misunderstanding of how conservatism operates in a Mormon context. That basic idea of conservatism is “retaining traditional social institutions.” This is always more complex than merely a reflex to defend the status... Read more »

Varieties of Divine Eclecticism

January 6, 2014 | 37 comments
Temples, and everything that goes with them, are at the heart of what Mormonism has to offer the world.

When I was a missionary from 2000-2002, we taught about the Restoration in the third discussion. We often drew a picture to convey the core concepts. There was a mirror (representing the Church) a string (representing the Apostles) and a nail (representing Christ). The Apostasy came about, we taught, because the Apostles died, and so the string was cut, and so the mirror fell, and so it was destroyed. If you want to see clearly, you cannot tape together the shattered shards of a mirror. So too, we taught, Christ had to abandon the broken remnants of His former... Read more »

Leaders are Fallible (No, Really)

December 30, 2013 | 78 comments
Nephi saw the Tree of Life only because he believed, but was not satisfied.

The changes at the Gospel Topics section of (which I wrote about two weeks ago) and especially the Church’s new Race and the Priesthood article have rekindled questions about the fallibility of Church leaders. After all, the Church’s current position completely disavows the past practice of denying the priesthood to blacks and all but explicitly states that the practice was an error from the start. Chalk it up with Adam-God and blood atonement and poor Brother Brigham seems to be batting 0.000 at theological innovation. It’s difficult to reconcile such grave errors with the statement, canonized in Official Declaration 1, that “The... Read more »

This Is War Like You Ain’t Seen

December 23, 2013 | one comment

I’m spending time moving my family into our new home and getting ready for Christmas, so here’s a song from Dustin Kensrue’s Christmas album This Good Night Is Still Everywhere. It’s not the usual sound, but that’s part of why I like it so much. (And now I’m going to get some Mannheim Steamroller going…) Read more »

Gospel Topics at, A Change of Direction?

December 16, 2013 | 27 comments
Gospel Topics at, A Change of Direction?

I told my Gospel Doctrine class yesterday afternoon that since we had run out of lesson manual for the year we were going to go rogue. Then I proceeded to give the first lesson I’ve ever given (I think) in which I exclusively used officially-approved Church materials.  I could pick anything I wanted to teach about, and I choose to cite three videos and four articles from the Gospel Topics section of And yet I did feel like there was something quietly revolutionary about the material we covered in the lesson. The article that has riveted the Bloggernaccle and even... Read more »

Zion, Mortal Loneliness, and The Hall of Records

December 9, 2013 | 21 comments
Zion, Mortal Loneliness, and The Hall of Records

In my imagination there is a hall of records in the future Celestial Zion where anyone can review the mortal life of any other person as seen from their perspective. It is an imposing structure in its own right, one part great library and one part museum, but it lies in the shadow of grander and more glorious edifices. The business of Zion will be eternal progression, and so the hall of records receives fewer visitors than the other communal spaces of learning. It is vast and solitary place. A person could enter and spend an entire day walking... Read more »

The Fourth Point: Caring for the Poor and Needy

December 2, 2013 | 52 comments
2013-12-02 Pres Kimball

In 2009 the “threefold mission” of the Church was extended to include a fourth point: “to care for the poor and needy.” Obviously practical charity is not a new concept for Mormonism. The very same chapter that included the famous “If any of you lack wisdom…” verse that led ultimately to the First Vision also contains this emphatic assertion: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27) This New Testament precedent was echoed in modern revelations. For... Read more »

Religious and Secular Authority: Frying Pans and Fires

November 25, 2013 | 3 comments
Who cares if you're probably gonna sink? Get out of the boat anyway.

Dave Banack wrote just two weeks ago–here at Times And Seasons–about the atheological atonement. His two conclusions were first, that the Church doesn’t have a specific theory of the atonement and second, that this is  probably a good thing: The Church’s prior forays into theology have produced questionable results. Silence on the subject gives LDS thinkers leeway to publish their own helpful speculative discussions. In any case, it’s the atonement that will save you, not a theory of the atonement or even the one true theory of the atonement. I definitely agree with the general wariness of formal theology... Read more »

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Business and Theology

November 18, 2013 | 20 comments
2013-11-18 The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The study of management—of human beings going about their ordinary business of making a living—is one of the richest and most profound venues for the study of theology. Once you’ve considered the idea, it seems obvious. But of course, most of us don’t consider that idea. I never did, until very recently. What could be more antithetical to spiritual reality than the world of business? Even if I thought Hugh Nibley’s critiques on business were a disappointingly infantile digression from an otherwise heroic figure, the idea that the world of mammon could actually be a source of spiritual insight... Read more »