General Doctrine

Understanding Eternity

February 27, 2013 | 6 comments
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Understanding Eternity

When I read Stephen Peck’s groundbreaking novella A Short Stay in Hell the idea that struck me more than any other was how little we know about the idea of eternity–and how unfamiliar we are with how long eternity is. We simply have no way of comprehending the time involved. We live in a world where we have limited time and must decide how we use the time we have. Read more »

How a concussion made me think of Stephenie Meyer and Francis Hutcheson

January 30, 2013 | 10 comments
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thehostcover

Last semester, my first semester studying Greek, I sustained a mild concussion. I have mostly recovered now. I still have problems with bright lights that makes nighttime driving intolerable, but for the most part, I’m functioning normally. But for a few weeks there, I couldn’t think straight. It hurt to concentrate. Reading even a light novel was difficult, and translating Greek was nigh impossible. Just looking at Greek letters caused me pain. But my handwriting was spectacular. Any notes I took about lectures I attended during that time are the most clearly written, beautifully precise notes I have ever... Read more »

Mormonism: How Thinkable Is It?

January 22, 2013 | 7 comments
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Mormonism: How Thinkable Is It?

This is the second post on Adam Miller’s Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2012; publisher’s page). In this post I’ll discuss Chapter 8, “The Gospel as an Earthen Vessel,” a suggestive symbol that Adam borrows from 2 Corinthians 4:7: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” Read more »

Glory to God; Peace on Earth

December 23, 2012 | 7 comments
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Glory to God; Peace on Earth

Some time ago while singing Christmas carols at a non-Mormon event, I suggested that the group sing “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains.” I was greeted with blank stares and questions. “What song?” “Never heard of it.” It turns out I was so immersed in Mormon culture (I still am to a large degree) that I didn’t know that “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains” is an LDS hymn by a 19th century Utah author, and is therefore unknown to most non-Mormon audiences, even though its doctrine is universal enough for most of them. Read more »

Finding My Heavenly Mother, Part 3 (Eternal Polygamy Edition)

October 16, 2012 | 66 comments
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Finding My Heavenly Mother, Part 3 (Eternal Polygamy Edition)

Since polygamy will keep rearing its ugly head every time we try to talk about Heavenly Mother, I’ve given it its very own post, as promised. Polygamy occupies an uneasy place in the psyche of many Mormons today. Although the practice was abandoned by the church in the early 20th century, it is exotic and taboo enough that it continues to be one of the public’s primary associations with Mormons. However, even within the church, the idea of polygamy (and specifically, polygyny) continues to complicate theology and life. Today I’d like to take a deeply personal look at some of the... Read more »

The blood of Israel in Europe

September 25, 2012 | 46 comments
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The blood of Israel in Europe

At a multi-stake conference in Berlin in 2010, Area President Erich W. Kopischke quoted Joseph Smith as having declared that “England, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium have a considerable amount of the blood of Israel among the people which must be gathered out.” Read more »

Troubling Dreams

April 26, 2012 | 21 comments
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I keep my visions to myself.Have you any dreams you’d like to sell? Mormons tend not to keep their visions to themselves. In his recent General Conference talk “How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life,” Elder Richard G. Scott seems to be inviting Mormons to do the same with their dreams. Read more »

Esoteric Mormonism: Marginal or Mainstream?

April 11, 2012 | 15 comments
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Esoteric Mormonism: Marginal or Mainstream?

I recently finished reading Samuel Brown’s In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (Oxford University Press, 2012; publisher’s page). It’s an impressive book, although I disagree with the implicit argument of the book that the esoteric branch of Joseph Smith’s eclectic and diverse theology is central to his thinking and, by extension, should be central to present-day Mormonism. It is a book anyone interested in Mormon Studies should read (twice), but probably not the first or even second book on Joseph Smith that a practicing Mormon should read. Read more »

Mormon Doctrine: Confusion or Clarity?

April 5, 2012 | 53 comments
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Mormon doctrine is showing up in unlikely places lately, including the campaign trail, where earlier this week Mitt Romney squelched a questioner’s short speech that started off quoting from the Pearl of Great Price. I suspect that will not be the last doctrinal question of this campaign. But the glare of heightened publicity and attention that comes with having an LDS candidate on the presidential ticket is making it evident that Mormon doctrine — simply what it is and what it isn’t — is just not all that clear. Read more »

The Not-So-Great Apostasy

February 8, 2012 | 50 comments
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The Not-So-Great Apostasy

I have seen several notices publicizing an upcoming conference at BYU, Exploring Mormon Conceptions of the Apostasy. Sounds interesting, particularly in light of the one-paragraph blurb stating goals for the conference, which challenges rank and file members of the Church as well as scholars to reconsider LDS views of “the Great Apostasy”: Examining claims of historical apostasy is a pertinent task for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For the last hundred years, the Great Apostasy narrative has shaped Latter-day Saint historical assumptions, contributed to the construction of Latter-day Saint social and theological identity, and... Read more »

Under the tree: LDS Beliefs

December 22, 2011 | 12 comments
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Under the tree: LDS Beliefs

The latest book to digest Mormon doctrine for the popular LDS audience is LDS Beliefs: A Doctrinal Reference (Deseret, 2011), by four BYU religion professors: Robert L. Millet, Camille Fronk Olson, Andrew C. Skinner, and Brent L. Top. Entries are alphabetical, with authorship and cited sources listed following each and every entry. It’s out just in time for Christmas and will no doubt find its way under the tree in many LDS homes, as well it should. The best way to summarize the strengths of this one-volume reference work is to compare and contrast it with other modern attempts... Read more »

Interest Never Sleeps

December 9, 2011 | 18 comments
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Hypothetical: Alex and Pat both want a Kindle Fire. Alex goes to the local brick-and-mortar Amazon store, pays $200 cash, and takes a Kindle Fire home. Pat goes to the bank, gets a loan for $200, goes to the local brick-and-mortar Amazon store, pays the $200, and takes a Kindle Fire home. Who made the better decision? *** In the Church, we’re suspicious of debt. Sure, we get a pass on student loans, a modest house, a first car, but, as a general rule, our leaders discourage incurring consumer debt, and celebrate those who have escaped debt’s clutches. Having... Read more »

John Wesley on the Pride Cycle

November 9, 2011 | 11 comments
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Re-reading the second half of Paul Johnson’s A History of Christianity last week, I ran across this interesting commentary penned by John Wesley. Here’s what he wrote sometime in the late 18th century (quoted at page 368; emphasis added): Read more »

Making Mormon Documents Available

October 12, 2011 | 23 comments
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Making Mormon Documents Available

Following each General Conference I prepare a list of “Conference Books”—the works cited by speakers in the printed version of their talks. The list is always fascinating. But this time I noticed something that led me to rethink one aspect of the Church’s manuals: availability. Read more »

Elder Cook and Theodicy

October 10, 2011 | 25 comments
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My last year at BYU, I sat through an Elders Quorum lesson where the teacher discussed the etymology of “atonement.” I was skeptical that it actually derived from “at-one-ment,” and, immediately after church ended, I walked across campus to the Writing Center, keyed in my code, and pulled out the Center’s OED. And, to my surprise, I learned that, although it looks suspiciously convenient, atonement does come from “at-one-ment.” Fast-forward a decade or more. I continue to be skeptical of stories that seem a little too pat and convenient, including Elder Cook’s story of the missionaries who didn’t board... Read more »

Creationism and LDS Seminary

September 15, 2011 | 66 comments
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Creationism and LDS Seminary

It’s late September and LDS high school students really should be back at school … and back at seminary. This year’s course of study is the Old Testament, which covers (or has already covered) Genesis 1 and the Creation. I hope LDS seminary teachers can teach Creation without teaching Creationism. But I fear some LDS teachers won’t or can’t make that distinction, so it is likely some LDS seminary students are going to go home this week thinking Creationism is the LDS view about Creation. That is very sad and sets up LDS kids to have a bad experience... Read more »

Books of Interest to the LDS Nerd

September 6, 2011 | 18 comments
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Books of Interest to the LDS Nerd

A few of these are forthcoming, a few have appeared recently. I am compelled to read them all, as soon as I can get to them. Now Available Charles Harrel,“This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology (Kofford Books) “In this first-of-its-kind comprehensive treatment of the development of Mormon theology, Charles Harrell traces the history of Latter-day Saint doctrines from the times of the Old Testament to the present.” I have my doubts that someone who does not equally control original Biblical sources and LDS history, as well as the vast amounts of secondary literature on historiography, exegesis,... Read more »

Doctrine and Practice

June 23, 2011 | 33 comments
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I enjoyed Alison’s post from a couple of weeks ago, Does Gender Matter?, but I’m a little confused how the pieces fit together. The post appears to accept the nonscriptural, uncanonized Proclamation at face value, stating: “Gender is part of who we are and who we have always been. It is important. It matters.” That makes it difficult to argue for reform of what is identified as a problem: “The church uses gender to delineate authority, callings, and roles.” However, there is a different way to see the issue. Read more »

Taking Section 89 Seriously

June 2, 2011 | 107 comments
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Taking Section 89 Seriously

Which revelations we cherish and consider central, and which one’s we sideline and (sometimes literally) forget is surely a result of a complex host of variables. Local culture and politics are obviously a huge deal. The Word of Wisdom is a revelation that is particularly interesting Read more »

Making Mormons in the 21st Century

May 5, 2011 | 24 comments
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Jan Shipps always has something interesting to say about Mormonism. An essay you might not have run across is “Making Saints: In the Early Days and the Latter Days,” in Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science Perspectives (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1994). It turns out that becoming a Latter-day Saint (or acquiring the characteristics of Mormon ethnicity) involves more than just conversion or joining the Church. Read more »

Sunday Morning Session

April 3, 2011 | 2 comments
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Sunday Morning Session

President Henry B. Eyring conducting. Discourses by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder Paul B. Johnson, Bishop H. David Burton, Sister Silvia H. Allred, Elder David A. Bednar and President Thomas S. Monson. Perhaps even more so than previous sessions, the theme of this session was the Church Welfare program. President Eyring mentioned the 75th anniversary of Church Welfare in his opening remarks, and the remarks of both Bishop Burton and Sister Allred focused on Welfare. Read more »

Saturday Afternoon Session

April 2, 2011 | 5 comments
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Saturday Afternoon Session

Pres. Uchtdorf conducted again, and following the customary audit report and statistical report, talks were given by Elder Boyd K. Packer, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Russell J. Maynes, Elder Cecil O. Samuelsen, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder M. Russell Ballard. Read more »

Balancing Political Positions with the Church and the Gospel

March 29, 2011 | 106 comments
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Balancing Political Positions with the Church and the Gospel

My earliest memory of conflict over Church decisions came because of a local stake division and boundary changes.I remember my mother venting about how one high councilor in one stake prevented the boundary change from following local political boundaries, which would have, in my mother’s view, give Church members a more unified voice in local politics. Read more »

Tsunami

March 14, 2011 | 26 comments
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Tsunami

I am sure that many of you have been following the stunning events in Japan: earthquake, tsunami, meltdown. Our first personal reaction to such events is always concern and sympathy for those swept up in the ongoing human tragedy. The first LDS institutional response, when resources are available, is to forward relief supplies and helping hands to those in need of assistance. But at some later point comes personal and institutional reflection. Is this just the sort of natural tragedy that happens from time to time, or is it a divine sign of the end times? Or both? Read more »