Blog Archives

Mourning and the Gospel

July 23, 2014 | 14 comments
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At this moment The Netherlands, like many other countries, are in deep mourning, shocked by the terrible news of the downing of MZ17 in the East of Ukraine. Each of us has somewhere in his or her network people who were in that flight; my faculty lost a whole family, the dean of Liberal Arts with his wife who worked in Communication Studies, and one daughter, a brilliant student who was in my Liberal Arts class last year. At this moment the news is completely dominated by images of a charred field with wreckage, masked soldiers trying to shut... Read more »

Laughing with the Bible

July 6, 2014 | 17 comments
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Laughing with the Bible

Humor in the Scriptures? Come on! The Gospel is serious matter, isn’t it? Yet, humor is there, sometimes clear, sometimes disguised, but the ‘third voice’—the reading of the text from the viewpoint of the author—can be very funny. We saw Balaam being topped by a she-ass, very amusing, but there is a larger example, more elaborate and veiled, but definitely funny. It is the entire Book of Jonah, the prophet-in-the-fish and the most productive way to read it might well be as a satire. Why? Let us run through the story: Jonah was called by the Lord to go... Read more »

It always starts with a book

June 24, 2014 | 5 comments
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It always starts with a book

When the Lord wants to ‘refresh’ the gospel, He brings forth a book, it seems. The Restoration was triggered with the Book of Mormon, for the Reformation the first printing of the bible in German was indispensable and Christianity became something else than a Jewish sect the moment Paul’s letters and the early gospels came together as the core of what later would become the New Testament. We as LDS are a Religion of the Books, and that plural irks our fellow Christians to no end: it should be one Book. However, if they would read their own Book... Read more »

Who is Israel?

June 9, 2014 | 22 comments
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Who is Israel?

When teaching Institute recently to a class of LDS students in our ward, I used the term ‘Latter-day Israel’ and met with a surprised silence: they had never heard the term. Yet, all of them were second generation members, born and raised in the church and thoroughly schooled in whatever the church had thrown at them, several had performed a mission and as university students (most of them) they had read their church books. Being a convert member now for almost 50 years, I suddenly realized how much the discourse on Israel had changed in the church. Maybe this... Read more »

The three voices of the Scriptures

May 31, 2014 | 11 comments
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The three voices of the Scriptures

I love the Old Testament, both as an anthropologist and as a Mormon. None of our other Standard Works has as many wonderful stories as the OT, and none raises as many questions as this longest and most complex of all Scriptures. Now that we plough our way through it in Sunday School, we noticed how hard these stories are, and even harder are the parts we skip. That has everything to do with the purpose of these tales, what I call their ‘voices’. Jonathan Green correctly reminded us in his blog that the ‘Why told’ question is more... Read more »

Reading Bileam: an embarrassing prophet and us

May 23, 2014 | 8 comments
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Reading Bileam: an embarrassing prophet and us

The Gospel Doctrine class gives quite some attention to one of the strangest stories in the Old Testament, the one of the prophet Bileam, or Balaam; I just taught it in our ward in the Netherlands. The story is strange in many ways, and with a personage that is surrounded by miracles one easily assumes that he is fictive to start with. But he really existed and as an important prophet! When studying anthropology at Utrecht University, during the archeology course the professor told us about his visit to Deir ‘Alla, a site on the East Bank of the... Read more »

Boko Haram, 200 schoolgirls and us

May 14, 2014 | 11 comments
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Boko Haram, 200 schoolgirls and us

The French president Francois Hollande is convening an international conference with the countries around Nigeria on the question how to deal with Boko Haram, Michelle Obama addressed the USA on the plight of the abducted schoolgirls: all through the western world the media react to this incident in North Nigeria. Last Saturday I gave an interview on Boko Haram for the national Dutch radio: the media have ‘discovered’ Boko Haram, and so have international politics. Of course the furor is completely justified, especially when the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, announced that he would sell the girls, either... Read more »

A house with a gun is not a home

April 22, 2014 | 191 comments
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Everybody was shocked by the news that on April 19 in Utah a three year old girl killed her two year old brother with a shotgun. Poor boy, poorer girl and still poorer parents, what a tragedy, also for the wider family, the ward, the community, the church, in fact for everyone. This is exactly what should never happen. Such an accident always depends on a string of improbable circumstances: the fact that the gun was within reach of toddlers, that it held still one bullet, that mother or father were just out of sight at that very moment,... Read more »

‘Traditional Marriage’: what are we speaking about? An anthropological view

February 12, 2014 | 87 comments
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‘Traditional Marriage’: what are we speaking about? An anthropological view

A modern Kapsiki groom, leading his bride (first one behind him) with her friends to the dancing ground No discussion in present Mormondom tops the issue of same-sex marriage. In the debates the notion of ‘traditional marriage’ is used, especially by people who want to limit marriage to a monogamous heterosexual union. Julie Smith, in her excellent guest blog, has shown that the gender division of providing and nurturing that is usually thought to be an integral part of so-called ‘traditional marriage’, does really not hold, but the notion as such is highly problematic. First, what is marriage? Like... Read more »

Why same sex marriage is not an attack on the institution of marriage: experiences from Europe

October 29, 2013 | 136 comments
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Why same sex marriage is not an attack on the institution of marriage:  experiences from Europe

A Dutch Mormon non-same-sex marriage: a proud father with his daughter The involvement of the LDS church in the issue of same sex marriage in the United States runs very deep and is highly emotional. The battle for proposition 8 was intense, highly visible and centrally directed and seemed at the time to result in a repeal of the liberty for same sex partners to formally and legally marry in California. At the time it drew a lot of attention in Europe as well, reflected in major articles in journals, newspapers and magazines. One of these was Time Magazine,... Read more »

Why is climate change not popular in Deseret?

October 7, 2013 | 33 comments
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Why is climate change not popular in Deseret?

The weather comes and goes, the climate stays. At least, that is what we were taught in our youth, but nowadays the stability of climate is in heavy weather, for the climate is changing. In windy and rainy Holland the weather is an obvious conversation starter; a Nepalese anthropologist who did his fieldwork in the Netherlands in the ‘80s was struck by our constant speaking about the obvious, the weather; he thought the reason was that everything else in this country was under control, man-made or well-regulated, so the weather was about the only variable item we could mention... Read more »

Climate and gospel

October 3, 2013 | 83 comments
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Climate and gospel

About a year ago I took the liberty of asking the Brethren what their opinion was on climate change. My reason was that we as Dutch have a temple below sea level, probably the only one in the world. How did the Brethren envisage the future of the Dutch temple, considering sea level rise due to perceived and expected climate change? As LDS temples are destined for eternity, what are the long-term perspectives of this particular House of the Lord? Is it going to be flooded when the waters rise, inundated when the ‘inconvenient truth’ hits Holland? We as... Read more »

Malian elections, a good loss for an LDS candidate

August 13, 2013 | 6 comments
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The Malian presidential elections have run their course and have produced a new president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The second runner Soumaila Cisse has conceded and congratulated the new president. The election ran in two phases, first between all 28 candidates, and then a second phase between the two front runners. After the first phase, Keita had 39% and Cisse 19%. There was, as we know from an earlier blog, an LDS candidate, Yeah Samake. He ended with 0.56% in the first run, and has extended his congratulations to the winner. For our Mormon fans of Samake, some... Read more »

A Mormon Moment in Mali?

July 11, 2013 | 12 comments
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A Mormon Moment in Mali?

Many Mormons in Utah are aware of the fact that a converted Mormon is running for president in Mali. Indeed, Yeah Samake, an important social entrepreneur in Mali, joined the Church in 2000 while studying at the BYU, and indeed he has registered as a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections in 28 July 2013. He is the mayor of Ouélessébougou, a community consisting of a small town and a group of villages in South Mali. Based on his success as mayor, he is running for president, already in 2012, but again in the present elections. Election campaigns cost... Read more »

And shall not lead astray: the Church and ‘infallibility’

June 14, 2013 | 46 comments
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And shall not lead astray: the Church and ‘infallibility’

As Mormons we follow the prophet, we proclaim, lifting our right hand at many Church occasions, for ‘he shall not lead us astray’. Quite a few General Conference talks urge us to heed the words of the Lord’s anointed, to follow his counsel as the true Iron Rod for our ecclesiastical lives. ‘When the prophet speaks, the debate is over’ First Counselor N. Eldon Tanner wrote in the Church’s Ensign magazine August 1975, echoing an Improvement Era’s message of June 1945, and this message comes to us over and over again. Read more »