Mormon Thought

Doctrine – Theology – Philosophy

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 »

Sister Beck and Daughters in My Kingdom

October 9, 2011 | 7 comments
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Sister Beck and Daughters in My Kingdom

Having spent the past eight months in Tunisia, where our tiny L.D.S. group had very little formal structure, I had almost forgotten what it was like to go to a Church meeting without husband and children in tow. Attending the General Relief Society Meeting with a few friends was like a welcome home. I had found the new Daughters in My Kingdom book at my parents’ house when I arrived a few days before the General Relief Society Meeting, and somehow gotten the idea that it had come out months ago and was more or less required reading before... Read more »

LDS Men Aren’t Incredible

September 22, 2011 | 110 comments
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Wheat & Tares ran a fun post earlier this week titled LDS Men Are Incredible … although the URL string shows that the original draft title of the post was “Why Men Suck.” That kind of marks off the two ends of the spectrum, doesn’t it? That’s a nice lead-in for the question: What remarks are going to be directed at LDS men in next week’s General Conference? Read more »

Desert and a Just Society

September 18, 2011 | 99 comments
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The 2010 poverty level in the U.S., we learned on Tuesday, is the highest it has been since 1993. In 2010, about one in six Americans lived below the poverty line. In June, 14.6% of Americans received food stamps. To some extent, the high poverty rate is probably related to the high unemployment rate, which was 9.1% in August. I throw out all of these numbers to suggest that, as a society, we have a problem. That problem needs to be fixed. And we, as Mormons, undoubtedly have something that we can bring to the discussion of how to... 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 »

Mormonism and Social Justice

September 12, 2011 | 64 comments
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Recently, we’ve seen some distrust of religions that advocate social justice, from sources as diverse as the political punditry and lay Mormons. The criticism is unfounded, of course, and strikes me as ahistorical and anti-Catholic. The term “social justice” comes from 1840, when the Jesuit scholar Luigi Taparelli as he worked through the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. As you look at Jesuit schools’ mission statements, you begin to understand how central social justice is to the Jesuit identity. I teach at a Jesuit law school. Part of our mission is to “prepare graduates who will be ethical advocates for justice and... Read more »

12 Questions with Grant Hardy – part II

September 8, 2011 | 10 comments
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12 Questions with Grant Hardy – part II

Here is the conclusion of Times & Seasons look at Grant Hardy’s new book Understanding the Book of Mormon, and the second half of our 12 Questions interview: Read more »

12 Questions with Grant Hardy – part I

September 7, 2011 | 30 comments
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12 Questions with Grant Hardy – part I

To cap off our roundtable review of Grant Hardy’s new book Understanding the Book of Mormon we’re fortunate to feature an interview with the book’s author. The interview will be posted in two parts. Our thanks to all who have participated, and especially Bro. Hardy. 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 »

Mormon Studies Courses

September 5, 2011 | 22 comments
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Mormon Studies Courses

A few years ago I came across a list of Mormon Studies courses complied by BYU professor Gideon Burton in 2008, the same year that the Claremont Graduate University started their Mormon Studies program and a year after Utah State started its program. Since it has been a few years, I thought Gideon’s list should be updated. I believe it gives a sense of how Mormon Studies is developing. Read more »

YSA and the Bible: Observations from a KJV Conference

August 26, 2011 | 51 comments
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YSA and the Bible: Observations from a KJV Conference

On Saturday June 11,  nearly 200 YSA gathered at the Lincoln Center chapel, the same as houses the Manhattan Temple, for a YSA conference that centered on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Saturday from 1-4, three one-hour workshops were held on the Bible. Three Bible Nerds were on hand to teach:  Jon H (MA, Biblical Studies, Yale) covered the writing and transmission of the books of the Bible; Jon R (MA, New Testament, Duke) spoke on using modern translations and other study aids, with extensive slides and books on display; We each submitted a brief teaser... Read more »

Bible, Church, and Mystic

August 24, 2011 | 19 comments
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On a recent trip, I took along as reading material Christianity: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2004) by Linda Woodhead. Like all of the books in the wildly successful VSI series, the book is short but informative. I want to focus on the author’s analysis of how views about divine power and earthly authority can be used to classify Christian churches and denominations, then try to place Mormonism and the LDS Church within that classification scheme. Read more »

Grant Hardy and Personal Scripture Study

August 19, 2011 | 11 comments
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Grant Hardy and Personal Scripture Study

Every semester, one of my principal goals in my tax classes is to get my students to engage with the Internal Revenue Code. And it’s harder than you might think: often they don’t read the Code itself, focusing instead on the explanations in their casebook. And their aversion to reading the Code is completely understandable: unlike court decisions, the mainstay of law school, there is no narrative flow, no character, no imagery, nothing that we traditionally latch onto in order to immerse ourselves in a text. And frankly, using the casebook isn’t a bad short-term decision. The casebook explains... Read more »

An Unsettling Book: Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon

August 18, 2011 | 11 comments
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An Unsettling Book: Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon

This is the fourth in a series of reviews of Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide (OUP, 2010) that we are posting this week at Times and Seasons. It says something about the book that there is still a lot to talk about. Read more »

Grant Hardy’s Subject Problem

August 16, 2011 | 27 comments
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Grant Hardy’s Subject Problem

Criticisms of the Book of Mormon generally fall into one of two categories: objections to its historical claims on the one hand, and on the other critiques of its literary style. The two prongs are often combined in a single attack, for instance in the suggestion that the awkward style of the book reflects the naïve voice of an unlettered youngster. For their part, the book’s defenders also tend to elide the two categories, arguing that passages of inelegant prose are better understood as latent Hebraisms laboring under English syntax. Most of the time, of course, devout readers of... Read more »

Call for Papers: 3rd Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference

August 15, 2011 | no comments
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3rd Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference Annual Conference of the Associação Brasileira de Estudos Mórmons (Brazilian Mormon Studies Association –ABEM) January 28, 2012 São Paulo, Brazil Call for papers “Mormonism and its relationship with other denominations” The Mormon religious tradition is based on the concept of an apostasy by all Christian denominations and their consequent lack of divine authority, hence the claim to be the “only true and living church.” In contrast, this same tradition emphasizes its members’ broader religious freedom, and even their need, to recognize and seek the whole truth from any source, including other religious traditions. This... Read more »

Who Wrote the Gospels?

August 5, 2011 | 41 comments
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It always helps to know who wrote what you are reading, and Bible books are no exception. The four gospels, in particular, present interesting questions of how the narratives were composed and who did the composing. Read more »

The Parable of the Talented Endowment Tax

July 14, 2011 | 51 comments
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Governments impose taxes in order to raise revenue that, in turn, funds government function and services. In designing a tax system, tax theorists generally try to create provisions that will raise revenue without significantly altering taxpayers’ economic choices. That is, ideally, taxpayers will act in approximately the same way as they would have in a world without tax. But we can’t hit the ideal. The income tax alters people’s actions, because it alters the price calculus. One way is in our work-leisure decisions. Assume with me that I earn $10 an hour. That said, I enjoy not working, too–my... Read more »

A Patriotic Chosen People?

July 4, 2011 | 58 comments
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Yesterday in the Sacrament Meeting I attended, we closed singing the Star Spangled Banner (I managed to suppress the urge to yell “Play Ball” at the end). While going through the typical sacrament meeting in the U.S. before the July 4th Independence Day holiday, I couldn’t help thinking about what role patriotism should play in my life. Read more »

Handbook 2: Chapter 1—the Plan

July 3, 2011 | 15 comments
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Handbook 2: Chapter 1—the Plan

Last week I began a series of posts that will examine Handbook 2, the policy handbook that the Church put online last Fall. Since so many local leaders are urged to read and study the handbook as part of their callings, I hoped to provide an interesting forum to do that. Chapter 1 of the Handbook is an overview that tries (I believe) to put the Handbook’s policies in procedures in the context of the plan of salvation. I encourage you to read the chapter before commenting, since you may have more topics to discuss: Read more »

Handbook 2: Introduction

June 25, 2011 | 29 comments
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Handbook 2: Introduction

After the Church posted the text of the 2nd volume of its administrative handbook (formerly known as the Church Handbook of Instructions—CHI) last fall, a few bloggers looked at the handbook, including our own Dave Banack. 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 »

Immigration Where?

June 13, 2011 | 20 comments
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Immigration Where?

When I was on vacation a few years ago I picked up a local paper and found a number of articles about the problems that area was facing because of illegal immigration. Predictably there was crime committed by the illegal immigrants, and a lot of hate towards them. For an American nothing there was unusual–except that I was in South Africa. 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 »