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Literary DCGD #4: Interview with David Whitmer

January 20, 2013 | 4 comments
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Literary DCGD #4: Interview with David Whitmer

I think that we often think of witnesses as something outside of the event, added to fill a particular need or satisfy the desires of the world. But I wonder if this perception might not be incorrect, if witnesses are not, in fact, an important part of the process of communicating truth. A testimony is, after all, what a witness provides, and, at least in the church, it is hard to imagine communicating truth without testimony. In the fourth D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson witnesses to the Book of Mormon are an important part of the story of the scripture’s... Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #2: For Baptism

January 15, 2013 | 6 comments
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From the beginning of Mormonism, Baptism has been a central focus of our preaching. Baptism must be done in the correct manner and by the correct authority, and should be followed by the gift of the Holy Ghost. And this is the focus of the second lesson in the Lorenzo Snow manual used in Priesthood and Relief Society. Of course, our baptisms have always been accompanied by hymns, and the following hymn appeared in Emma Smith’s first hymnal in 1835... Read more »

Literary DCGD #3: The Young Seer

January 15, 2013 | 6 comments
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Of our mythic founding stories, the First Vision is surely the most important. It appears regularly in manuals and conference talks, as well as in the missionary lessons, where it is among the first things that converts to Mormonism learn. So naturally it is a frequent subject for Mormon poetry. But most of the poetical treatments of the First Vision that come to my mind are descriptive, tell what happened instead of the role of the First Vision in the... Read more »

Guest Post: Mental Health, Mortal Life, and Accountability Part 1:”Exceeding Sorrowful, Even Unto Death” (Mark 14:34)

January 12, 2013 | 19 comments
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Not many years ago, a younger sibling of mine sought to stop her unbearable emotional pain by ending her mortal life.  While she succeeded in completing her suicide, she did not consciously chose this path, and she is not fully accountable for her desperate and tragic actions.... Read more »

Times and Seasons 2012 Mormon of the Year: Mitt Romney

January 11, 2013 | 34 comments
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Times and Seasons 2012 Mormon of the Year: Mitt Romney

After due consideration the staff of Times and Seasons has selected Mitt Romney as the 2012 Mormon of the Year, our annual designation of the Mormon who had the greatest impact or influence on Mormons and Mormonism during the year. Read more »

Literary DCGD #2: Praise ye the Lord

January 6, 2013 | no comments
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Literary DCGD #2: Praise ye the Lord

The second Doctrine and Covenants lesson makes the point that this modern scripture talks and teaches of Christ. That focus was easy to find in many Mormon poems and hymns, but the following poem has the advantage of talking about the Lord for what He has done for the Latter-day Church. Eliza R. Snow probably needs no introduction for most members, as her poetry still appears frequently in our hymnals. And in this poem her combination of praise for the Lord with references to the latter-day work makes this a good match for the lesson. Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #1: Provo Sunday School

January 6, 2013 | 4 comments
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Literary Lorenzo Snow #1: Provo Sunday School

I love the first lesson in the Lorenzo Snow manual. It seems like Snow’s love of learning is second to none among latter-day Prophets. And his statements about learning are wonderful: “Though we may now neglect to improve our time, to brighten up our intellectual faculties, we shall be obliged to improve them sometime. We have got so much ground to walk over, and if we fail to travel to-day, we shall have so much more to travel to-morrow.” Read more »

Vote for Mormon of the Year 2012!

December 31, 2012 | 22 comments
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This post opens the voting for Mormon of the Year. Votes will be taken until midnight Eastern Time on Monday, January 7th, at which time the voting will close. The voting mechanism will attempt to restrict votes to one per person. The order of the choices is set at random, and is different each time the form is presented. THE WINNER OF THE ONLINE VOTE IS NOT NECESSARILY THE MORMON OF THE YEAR!!! Read more »

Literary DCGD #1: On the Latter-day Dispensation

December 30, 2012 | 2 comments
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Literary DCGD #1: On the Latter-day Dispensation

The initial lesson in the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History course of study points out that the revelations found in the text are meant for our time and cover our dispensation, while the history presented is the history of our people, as opposed to those who lived aeons ago. This course should, therefore, be relevant to us today in a way that the other Gospel Doctrine courses can’t hope to accomplish. The poem below discusses not only a few of the major events that opened our dispensation, but also follows the prediction often made; that our dispensation has... Read more »

The Opposite of Epistemic Humility

December 19, 2012 | 14 comments
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The Opposite of Epistemic Humility

In my first three pieces I’ve spent an awful lot of time talking about epistemic humility. Now I’m going to talk about what I consider to be the antithesis of epistemic humility: extremism. My definition of the term is non-standard, but I believe it both fits as the antithesis of epistemic humility and matches our intuition that there’s something to extremism that is more than merely being far removed from the mainstream. After all, if you live in a society where child sacrifice is the norm and you... Read more »

On Learning from False Models

December 18, 2012 | 21 comments
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On Learning from False Models

In this post I want to present a secular example of epistemic humility. As with the religious example, I hope that this one will also provide some intrinsically interesting ideas. I also plan on reusing these ideas in the next couple of posts. Like my first example, the second highlights the fertility that arises from knowingly maintaining contradictory views. In this case the conflict is between the highly stylized model of human behavior used by economists (homo economicus or the rational agent) and real, live human beings.... Read more »

Why Literary Gospel Doctrine Lesson Posts

December 17, 2012 | 5 comments
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For the past year each Monday afternoon my “Literary BMGD” posts have appeared each Monday — perhaps confusing some readers who have wondered exactly what these posts were all about. And those who clicked on them to read what they had may have been surprised to find that they were… poetry. What exactly is BMGD and why poetry? If I am going to continue these posts, I should probably explain: Read more »

Faith is a Work in Progress

December 14, 2012 | 12 comments
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I appreciate the kind welcome to T&S and all the good comments and questions. I know I haven’t responded to some of them yet, and I’ll try to rectify that soon, but I wanted to make sure I had this post ready to go. My goal is to live up to my promise to walk through a religious example of epistemic humility in action. At the end of the last post, I suggested that one of the dangers we face when our beliefs conflict with each other is... Read more »

The Wise Man Doubts Often, And Changes His Mind

December 12, 2012 | 20 comments
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I’m happy to have a chance to do a guest stint here at Times and Seasons, and over the next two weeks I want to use my borrowed soap box to talk about epistemic humility. Epistemic humility is an awareness of the limits of our ability to know. It is an admission that we are ignorant of things that are true and that we accept as true things which are not. Hence the title, which comes from a longer saying of Akhenaten: “The wise man... Read more »

Nominate the 2012 Mormon of the Year

December 7, 2012 | 40 comments
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Its that time of year again. The media will soon start reviewing the important news stories of the year, Time will soon select its Person of the Year (Mitt Romney has been nominated); so we should get busy selecting the Mormon of the Year. For those who don’t remember, T&S selected Mitt Romney as the Mormon of the Year for 2008, Harry Reid for 2009, Elizabeth Smart for 2010 and Jimmer Fredette for 2011. As in the past, the choice does not mean that the person is a good Mormon or even a good person. This designation is solely about... Read more »

Literary BMGD #48: My Friends and I

December 3, 2012 | no comments
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Literary BMGD #48: My Friends and I

The final lesson for the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine class covers Moroni 7-10, the final Book of Mormon prophet’s closing advice to readers, including teachings about faith, hope and charity, the conditions of salvation, spiritual gifts, the role of the Holy Ghost, and how to judge between good and evil. The motivation for this latter counsel is somewhat captured in this poem, which looks at the extremes to which our friends can sometimes push us, and the feeling of being lost or torn between opposites that can happen if we try to follow their advice. Read more »

Literary BMGD #47: While of these emblems we partake

November 26, 2012 | no comments
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Including the sacrament prayers in Moroni 4, and indeed all the instructions in Moroni 2 through 6, seem almost like an afterthought to the Book of Mormon—kind of like “Oh, yeah, you’ll need to know this stuff too.” And these instructions only make sense if they are written for us today, for Moroni himself is apparently the only surviving follower of Christ at his time and place. Evidently the peoples of the Book of Mormon had this information recorded elsewhere and Mormon didn’t include it where it was given (presumably at the time of Christ’s visit). Of course, the... Read more »

Literary BMGD #46: Trials and Happiness

November 19, 2012 | 3 comments
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Literary BMGD #46: Trials and Happiness

I often wonder how Mormon managed to keep it together. He saw his own civilization decaying around him, perhaps while he was in the midst of abridging the record of the Jaredites, summarizing the details of their decline and destruction, which was so similar to his own. Yet despite this, in the final chapters of Ether (12-15 are covered by this lesson), Mormon talks about the role of faith. Its an example of faith, I suppose, that he was able to show its importance while he himself must have felt in the midst of trials. And perhaps it is... Read more »

Literary BMGD #45: Song of the Exiled Saints

November 12, 2012 | one comment
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Literary BMGD #45: Song of the Exiled Saints

The Book of Ether contains the story of the Jaredites — a story that parallels the overall history told in the Book of Mormon. And, as I’ve observed here before, the story also is somewhat similar to that of the early Saints, who travel to a foreign land at the direction of the Lord, seeking a place where they may live in righteousness. Ether 1-6 tells the beginning of this story, including the revelations given to the Brother of Jared, his exemplary faith and the journey of his people to the promised land. While their home has descended into... Read more »

Literary BMGD #44: The Book of Mormon

November 5, 2012 | no comments
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As Mormon completes his own record in Mormon chapters 7, 8 and 9, he prophesies about the role that the Nephite records will have in the future, saying that the record will come forth in the latter days, in a day of great wickedness, and urging readers of the book to believe in Christ. This role of the Book of Mormon was a very common theme in Mormon poetry, including this poem, written under the pseudonym “Equator.” Read more »

Literary BMGD #43: Christ’s Ministry to the Nephites, part III

October 29, 2012 | no comments
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Literary BMGD #43: Christ’s Ministry to the Nephites, part III

Mormon, the book in the Book of Mormon written by its compiler, is perhaps the most depressing of the book of scripture. It might be subtitled ‘the Decline and Fall of Nephite Civilization.’ And its author was all but hopeless in his assessment. But unlike Gibbon’s perhaps better known description of decline and fall, Mormon also describes the future effects of his record, predicting that millions will be convinced to come to Christ by the story he tells. In the following poem, Parley P. Pratt also traces this same history, in part three of his poetic description of Christ’s... Read more »

The God Who Weeps: Faith

October 25, 2012 | 20 comments
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I agree with The God Who Weeps that faith is a decision, but I disagree about the site of this decision. Read more »

Book of Mormon Comics

October 24, 2012 | 12 comments
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iPlates_Volume_1_Cover_for_Kindle

I love stories. A narrative strikes me as the most fundamental way of ideas with other people. And by ideas, I mean not only the bare events of the narrative, but also abstract concepts, morals, and emotional truths. It makes sense to me that our basic scriptural texts have strong narratives. The Old Testament is a collection of stories, with the consequences of one generation’s choices setting the stage for the actions of the next. The Book of Mormon also has very strong narratives. Other classic stories that we are familiar with, we feel free to reimagine. We update... Read more »

Literary BMGD #42: The Gospel

October 22, 2012 | no comments
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In the final minutes of his visit with the Nephites (3 Nephi 27), Christ makes clear that the church established for the Nephites must bear his name and teach his gospel. He even specifies elements of his gospel: the atonement and resurrection, the final judgment, repentance, baptism, faith in Jesus Christ, the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. I don’t think it would be very hard to connect any Mormon doctrine to this list. Read more »