Mormon Thought

Doctrine – Theology – Philosophy

Book Review: The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History

December 15, 2014 | 12 comments
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Book Review: The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History

I don’t have time to do a proper review of the 490 pages of The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History (Signature Books, 2014), edited by Jedediah S. Rogers, so I am just going to start writing and see what happens. The book hits the bookshelves today, so it’s a potential Christmas gift for the Mormon history fan in your life. Read more »

The Mormon Challenge, Part 1: Creation

December 4, 2014 | 21 comments
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The Mormon Challenge, Part 1: Creation

Continuing with my project to actually read the LDS books I buy, I’m now reading The New Mormon Challenge (Zondervan, 2002), a serious book about Mormonism by a bunch of Evangelical scholars, edited by Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser, and Paul Owen. Apart from our mere existence, two things about us really trouble Evangelicals: our relentless growth (which has apparently leveled off since the book was published) and our huge corps of missionaries (which has ballooned since the book was published). We are a threat. That perhaps explains why Evangelicals feel justified in disparaging Mormons from their pulpits, classrooms,... Read more »

Teaching Like The Prophets

November 28, 2014 | 8 comments
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I think the recently announced changes to the CES and BYU Religious Education requirements could be really great. Far from paying less attention to the scriptures, as some have worried, I suggest the new model pays more attention to the scriptures, in what might be the most important way. In the scriptures, Christ and the prophets focus their teaching on true doctrine above all, and refer to prior accounts to support this goal. The scriptures are designed to teach us spiritual truths, and these should be the primary focus of teaching today. The scriptural texts are one of the... Read more »

Historians Saying Interesting Things … About Mormonism

November 6, 2014 | 5 comments
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Between the new polygamy essays at LDS.org and the new religion curriculum at the BYUs, there has been a lot to argue about this week. Let’s try something a little friendlier: The Mormon History Association’s Tanner Lectures: The First Twenty Years (U. of Illinois Press, 2006). It has been on my shelf a couple of years now. I recently pulled it down as part of my new plan to actually read the LDS books that I buy. The book contains 21 articles, all variations on “Mormonism and X” but all terribly interesting. That template derives from MHA’s format for... Read more »

Your New and Improved BYU Religion Core

November 3, 2014 | 39 comments
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After several days of rampant speculation and gnashing of teeth (here, here, here, and here) the new BYU religion core has been officially announced at LDS.org. Read more »

A Crazy Wild Reformation Day

October 31, 2014 | 24 comments
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A Crazy Wild Reformation Day

For some reason, kids in my neighborhood don’t celebrate Halloween: they do Reformation Day instead. Right around 5, the little tikes start pounding on doors, dressed as characters of the Reformation and absolutely clamoring for people to tell them more about the big event. Read more »

Two Approaches to Isaiah

October 15, 2014 | 10 comments
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This is going to be a post about Isaiah that does *not* talk about Second Isaiah. After addressing the transmission of the text of Isaiah, I will contrast two different approaches to reading and understanding that book and, more generally, any scriptural book. Read more »

Losing Our Youth?

October 8, 2014 | 44 comments
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So I stumbled upon a Rod Dreher article at Beliefnet, “The Church’s Lost Generation” (and by “Church” he means generic Christians). It is clear from General Conference themes that senior LDS leaders are now aware (finally) of our youth retention problem and the broader faith versus doubt problem that seems to be on everyone’s mind lately. Dreher makes it clear we are not the only ones worried about the problem. Everyone is losing their youth, it seems. Read more »

Isaiah 29:21

October 2, 2014 | 16 comments
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Isaiah 29:21

A friend recently said she needs a “new approach” to studying the Book of Mormon. I’m not sure what her old approach was, Read more »

The Unwritten Order of Things, Revisited

September 22, 2014 | 40 comments
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At last night’s Stake Leadership Training Meeting, the stake president announced the first two speakers, both bishops. The second was assigned the topic “the unwritten order of things.” Hard to think of a topic more likely to spin out of control — I braced for the worst, and prepared myself for the upcoming train wreck by Googling up a copy of Elder Packer’s actual remarks at the 1996 BYU devotional and (#3 on the Google search) Julie’s 2009 post “The Problem with the Unwritten Order of Things” and the 103 spirited comments to that post. Read more »

On Not Reading the Book of Mormon

September 16, 2014 | 8 comments
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Having heard nice things about the odd little book by Pierre Bayard How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (ht: someone out there), I finally found it. And read it. Summary: You read a very, very small slice of all published books. You forget most of what you read, so you retain only a small part of the few books you actually read. Worse yet, you bend and twist what you do remember to fit your own personal matrix of ideas and experiences. So what is in your head after reading a book, even more so for a... Read more »

Practical Apologetics: The First Vision

September 4, 2014 | 86 comments
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It’s not surprising that the First Vision has become one of the faith issues that gets kicked around the Internet these days. Visions are personal experiences of one particular person, so little effort or justification is needed for a third party to doubt or disbelieve another’s account of a vision. Most Mormons find it easy enough ignore or reject visions recounted in other Christian traditions without much reflection. As Steven C. Harper notes, “It is vital to recognize that only Joseph Smith knows whether he experienced a vision in 1820. He was the only witness to what happened and... Read more »

DC Institute Class

August 11, 2014 | one comment
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Thomas B. Griffith (D.C. Circuit Court judge and former BYU General Counsel, Senate Legal Counsel, Bishop and Stake President) is teaching an institute class at the Chevy Chase building this fall on early Church history, with a focus on “Joseph Smith as Everyman.”   The class starts Tuesday, September 2nd at 7pm and will run every Tuesday night throughout the fall. You can register either upon arrival or in advance at the Church’s Institute site.  Please spread the word. Brother Griffith is a fantastic teacher and having a class from him on this topic is a rare opportunity — it is sure to be stellar. Read more »

FAIR Conference, Day 2

August 8, 2014 | 11 comments
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Below is the agenda for Day 2 of the FAIR Conference in Provo with brief bios of the speakers. I will be adding summaries of some of the sessions as the day goes by. (Disclaimer: these are on-the-fly summaries for general information and discussion. Please consult audio recordings or the transcripts that FAIR releases in a week or two for accurate details.) Full bios are available at the speakers page. You can get online streaming of the conference sessions. Read more »

FairConference, Thursday Afternoon Sessions

August 7, 2014 | one comment
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Bob Rees A review of Earl Wunderli’s Imperfect Book   Started with this Card Colour changing trick video (http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/colour-changing-card-trick-outtakes/) to illustrate that too much focus on one thing can cause you miss the many other things that are going on. What aren’t you noticing? Emerson said,  “Tell me your sect, and I’ll tell you your argument.” How we approach the Book of Mormon will determine what we find within it.  Rees was impressed with Earl’s thoroughness. He has read extensively and carefully. He approached as though cross-examining it in a court of law, and like any good lawyer making... Read more »

A Baseball Team in Every Ward

July 19, 2014 | no comments
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A Baseball Team in Every Ward

In the late 16th century Henry IV of France expressed a desire that everyone in his realm would “have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” That idea showed up again in Herbert Hoover’s promise of a “chicken in every pot”—the politician’s promise of prosperity. I’m not sure whether “a baseball team in every ward” is a promise of prosperity or programming gone awry, but that is essentially what leaders of the MIA suggested in 1922—some years before Hoover made his ill-fated promise. They wrote: “Each ward should have an organized baseball club, and each stake should have an... Read more »

Literary Worship – Miracle

June 25, 2014 | 5 comments
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Miracle

I find the story of the woman with the issue of blood, found in all three Synoptic Gospels, both odd and beautiful. Like most of the recipients of Christ’s miracles, she excites sympathy within me. Twelve years is a long time to be sick, especially with an illness that renders you and anyone who touches you perpetually unclean. She must have been lonely. It makes me wonder how many times she did get touched during those years–how many people braved the social and religious taboo to offer her a bit of human care or comfort. Did she have a... Read more »

As Instructed

June 18, 2014 | 100 comments
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On Tuesday, Ally Isom, Senior Manager of Public Affairs with the LDS Church, encouraged listeners to have respectful conversations about their concerns with and faith in the Church. Read more »

What We Don’t Read in the Bible

May 28, 2014 | 51 comments
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Do you ever read the bits of scripture that are excluded from our Sunday School lesson manuals? If you are only looking up certain passages, it is as though the rest of the text doesn’t exist. Read more »

Church Discipline: A Comparison

May 22, 2014 | 6 comments
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From Socrates in Athens to Galileo in Rome to John Scopes in a small town in Tennessee, trials make great drama. So it is not surprising that LDS disciplinary proceedings, essentially mini-trials, get so much attention, especially in the age of blogs and Facebook. I shared my thoughts on the topic three years ago in Church Discipline in the Internet Age. This post takes a different approach. Ever heard of Mars Hill Church? Read more »

Stirring Up the Saints: The Mormon Reformation

May 2, 2014 | 4 comments
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So I read Bigler and Bagley’s The Mormon Rebellion: America’s First Civil War, 1857-58 (U. of Oklahoma Press, 2011) last week. It will certainly convince you that the Utah Territory of the 1850s was the Wild Wild West as much as it was Zion. Checking the footnotes, it seems like the narrative is built primarily on reports from dissenters, which I suppose is where you turn for facts if you think Mormons were all liars, thieves, and murderers. There wasn’t much historical context provided, say about levels of violence in other western settlements or maybe something about that Second... Read more »

The Rise of Biblical Criticism and the Mormon Response

April 20, 2014 | 13 comments
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“The rise of biblical criticism” is the title of a section in Jaroslav Pelikan’s Whose Bible Is It? A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages (Viking, 2005). Those pages are a short and objective introduction to what is variously called biblical criticism, historical criticism, higher criticism, or the historical-critical method. This discussion is sort of a set up for my upcoming review of David Bokovoy’s new book Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis — Deuteronomy (Kofford Books, 2014), which I will be posting in two parts over the next couple of weeks. Read more »

The Book of Mormon as Literature

April 3, 2014 | 9 comments
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One can read the Book of Mormon as canonized scripture, to guide the Church and its members in doctrine and practice, or as a sign of Joseph Smith’s calling to bring forth new scripture and establish a restored church. Then there is the possibility of reading the Book of Mormon as literature, to enlighten, uplift, and inspire the reader. So, how literary is it? How exactly does one read the Book of Mormon as literature? Read more »

Where is the door? How do WE knock?

March 30, 2014 | 98 comments
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Salt Lake Temple doorknobs

One of the gems of my mission was the opportunity to spend an evening with a Bishop from the RLDS (now Community of Christ) Church Read more »