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 Small Group Dynamics

July 26, 2015 | 30 comments
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Far and away, when I am in a small group and decisions need to be made, most people would prefer that someone else make them.  There are notable, and loud, exceptions.  Four year olds, for example, very much want to make decisions.  But for most  adults, I’ve found that the majority typically  prefer that someone else ponied up and decided where we go to eat or in what order things will occur.  This is because, one presumes, they are not so concerned about the exact decision making them happy.  They are generally willing to go along with most reasonable things.... Read more »

BYU New Testament Commentary Conference

July 20, 2015 | 20 comments
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If you are in Provo on July 31st: Read more »

Selecting New Apostles

July 20, 2015 | 58 comments
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From the Salt Lake Tribune, a variety of reflections on the upcoming selection of two new apostles for the LDS Quorum of the Twelve. Many of those quoted in the article favor a pick that would advance ethnic or international or gender diversity. No one made the obvious prediction: a married white male from Utah with a law degree. Read more »

Another Proclamation?

July 14, 2015 | 69 comments
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For the second week, LDS wards and branches in the USA and Canada were presented with the Letter over the signature of the First Presidency, the Statement over the title of the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the unsigned background material in Q&A form accompanying the Letter. These have all been officially published at the Mormon Newsroom. Social media continues to report a variety of reactions at the local level: some bishops simply read the Statement with no discussion, others conducted a... Read more »

Some things Jana Riess gets wrong about the Church and religious freedom

July 9, 2015 | 51 comments
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I like and respect Jana Riess a great deal, but she has a blog post up on religious freedom in which she makes a number of mistaken claims that are worth pointing out. First, she suggests that the Church´s commitment to religious freedom is shallow or poorly thought out. After all, she says, wouldn´t a robust support for religious freedom include minority religions such Rastafarians? Yes it would. However, since 1990 at least the Church has vigorously supported legislation that allows Rastafarians and other minority religions to challenge laws burdening their practices. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the... Read more »

Symposium on Mormon Theology and Social Issues, July 9th at BYU

July 9, 2015 | one comment
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Participants in the Wheatley Seminar on “Mormon Theology and Social Issues” are presenting papers in the Harold B. Lee Library Auditorium at BYU on Thursday, July 9th. See the schedule below. SECOND ANNUAL WHEATLEY SEMINAR SYMPOSIUM FAITH SEEKING UNDERSTANDING “MORMON THEOLOGY AND SOCIAL ISSUES” 10:00 Brock Mason, “Marriage and Sexuality: A Mormon View” 10:30 Kim Berkey, “’As in Adam all Die’: Temple Robing and Dying in Mormon Thought” 11:00 Joe Spencer, “The Moral Stakes of Philosophy’s History” 11:30 Alan Clark, “Inheriting the Enlightenment” 12:00 LUNCH BREAK 1:30 Jonathan England/Spencer Green, “Communal Environmentalism” 2:15 Randy Powell, “Capital Punishment: A Mormon... Read more »

Revisiting President Packer on “Scientific Neglect” and Meetings

July 3, 2015 | 5 comments
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Revisiting President Packer on “Scientific Neglect” and Meetings

Given that my studies have involved the interpretation of Genesis, science, and evolution, Elder Packer and I have not always seen eye to eye. I remember well on my mission when Time Magazine ran the cover article about Mormon finances. This made it all the way to France, where we had a copy, and my companion Elder West really focused in on their description of Elder Packer as “the LDS Church’s hard-line number 3 man.” And indeed, he had and has that reputation. But around 2007, while I was teaching volunteer Institute in Urbana IL, we attended a CES fireside for CES... Read more »

Winning the peace

July 3, 2015 | 20 comments
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Winning the peace

The supreme court has decided, so now in all of the USA same sex marriages are legal. With this landmark decision the USA has joined the many nations in the world where such a union has become official, and from the Netherlands, the first country where these marriages became official, we extend a warm welcome to America. Great that you joined the swelling crowd who thinks that LGTB should not be discriminated against, also not in marriage issues. You are becoming a ‘modern nation’ now (I hope you recognize a European ‘tongue-in-cheek’). In an earlier blog I explained how... Read more »

The Perversity of Orthodoxy

July 1, 2015 | 62 comments
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I could have called this post “Same-sex marriage: The Belgian perspective,” but it includes more. “The perversity of orthodoxy” – that’s how one of the members in our Belgian ward identified the broader issues which triggered this post. He called me on Sunday afternoon, upset by a Sacrament meeting talk that same morning and in need to vent frustration. Perhaps “perversity” was too strong a word. Maybe “perfidy”? Probably too weighty a word, too. At least “the insensitivity of some who defend orthodoxy” or “the indelicacy of some church statements in the US in relation to the international church”?... Read more »

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #27

June 30, 2015 | 11 comments
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New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #27

So here’s the plan: each week that the gospels are covered in Sunday School, I will post one question from my book along with a brief discussion of the issues that it raises. Most ancient manuscripts of Mark end after 16:8 and early Christians do not seem to know any of this chapter after verse 8. The style, vocabulary, and themes in Mark 16:9–20 are quite different from the rest of Mark. Therefore, the vast majority of scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark originally ended with verse 8 and that verses 9–20 are a later addition by another author.... Read more »

A Nation Divided

June 26, 2015 | 66 comments
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Today our government has taken another step toward moral upheaval, or, if we think more optimistically, toward a crisis that will reshape it and its relationship toward the people it governs, potentially in a constructive manner. The government of the United States of America presents itself, in Lincoln’s immortal words, as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Its premise is that the legitimacy of government depends on the consent, and not merely the passive, but the active consent, participation, and support of the governed. Today’s Supreme Court ruling mandating same-sex marriage across the... Read more »

C.S. Lewis on Inspired Adaptation and Myth

June 25, 2015 | 12 comments
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C.S. Lewis on Inspired Adaptation and Myth

I wrote recently that there’s no reason why God, who spoke to ancient Israelites “in their weakness, after the manner of their language” could not adapt familiar myths so “that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24.) Here, I cite that prophet-with-a-small-p “Elder” C.S. Lewis, who argues that inspiration can include adaptation of uninspired sources.  Read more »

How the New Perspective on Paul Illustrates the Science-Religion Creation Debate

June 24, 2015 | 17 comments
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How the New Perspective on Paul Illustrates the Science-Religion Creation Debate

(As with many of my posts, this is kind of trying things out, thinking them through in public and on the fly. It’s messy, so I welcome thoughts and substantive corrections.) In order to keep track of my research, I’ve been making a timeline of three kinds of events relevant to our understanding of Genesis: First, events in LDS history that impinge on the interpretation of Genesis, e.g. the 1911 BYU controversy or BH Roberts- Joseph Fielding Smith Debate (1930s). Second, events that lead to the recovery of ancient Near Eastern context of Genesis 1, such as the discovery/decipherment of Akkadian (Babylonian... Read more »

Pilate and Jesus, a colonial view

June 23, 2015 | 9 comments
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Pilate and Jesus, a colonial view

In studying the last days of Jesus, like in lesson 26 of Gospel Doctrine, we habitually view the complicated chain of events that led to Jesus’ death from the viewpoint of the victim, with the dominant party furnishing the bad guys, the culprits of the story. Evidently, the Jewish authorities are prime suspects, but throughout Christian history one specific player has had a very bad press, Pontius Pilate. Most Christians have at least partly blamed him for the crucifixion, pointing either at his ruthlessness or at his presumed lack of spine, or even both. That, however, is the view... Read more »

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #26

June 23, 2015 | no comments
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New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #26

So here’s the plan: each week that the gospels are covered in Sunday School, I will post one question from my book along with a brief discussion of the issues that it raises. As you read Mark 15, look for irony. Consider why so much in this chapter is ironic and what you should learn from it. (adapted from Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels) Read more »

“Christ & Antichrist” Conference Program, NYC 6/20

June 19, 2015 | one comment
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“Christ & Antichrist” Conference Program, NYC 6/20

“Christ & Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7″ The Second Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology Conference Program   Read more »

Harnessing Fresh RM Enthusiasm to Train Future Leadership

June 17, 2015 | 22 comments
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It’s a truism that lots of people read few books. And certainly as we get married, have jobs, kids, responsibilities, many of us find our leisure time is spent simply recovering from the day and picking cheerios out of the carpet.  Moreover, lots of people who DO read just don’t have  interest in history, doctrine, or scripture and choose to read other things. But then, you have recently returned missionaries. Read more »

2912 Mornings: Reflections on 16 Years of Early Morning Seminary

June 17, 2015 | 17 comments
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2912 Mornings: Reflections on 16 Years of Early Morning Seminary

This morning I am thrilled to share a guest post written by my amazing mother, Christie Frandsen. Christie is a gifted teacher, leader and speaker, and has taught early morning seminary, Institute, and adult scripture classes for many years in Southern California. She has also been involved in Girl Scouting for decades in many significant leadership capacities. She is the mother of eleven children and grandmother of eighteen. It’s 4:25 in the morning. I wake up with a start, instinctively look at the clock and see that I have 5 more minutes of blessed sleep before the alarm rings. I turn it... Read more »

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #25

June 16, 2015 | no comments
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New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #25

So here’s the plan: each week that the gospels are covered in Sunday School, I will post one question from my book along with a brief discussion of the issues that it raises. Why was a story as embarrassing as Peter’s betrayal included in the scriptures? Consider D & C 1:24–28.   (adapted from Search, Ponder, and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels) Read more »

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #24

June 9, 2015 | no comments
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New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #24

So here’s the plan: each week that the gospels are covered in Sunday School, I will post one question from my book along with a brief discussion of the issues that it raises.   Scholar Fernando Segovia lists seven different scholarly approaches to John 14-17: (1) Historicizing: the discourse is completely accurate, therefore chapter 15 occurs in a different location (because of 14:31). (2) Transpositional: sometime during transmission, the chapters were rearranged. (3) Redactional: there is a second speech (chapters 15–16) which is a different version of the first speech (chapter 14). (4) Symbolic: 14:31 is understood symbolically. (5) Unfinished: the... Read more »

“Christ & Antichrist,” June 20, New York City

June 4, 2015 | 2 comments
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“Christ & Antichrist,” June 20, New York City

“Christ & Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7″ The Second Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology Conference is free and open to the public Saturday, June 20, 9am-5pm The Refectory Union Theological Seminary 3041 Broadway New York, NY 10027 Read more »

Inoculation, Apologetics, Intellectuals, and Blogging

June 4, 2015 | 82 comments
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In preparing people to face a skeptical world, we should not confuse inoculation with the administration of poison by degrees. Read more »

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #23

June 2, 2015 | one comment
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New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #23

So here’s the plan: each week that the gospels are covered in Sunday School, I will post one question from my book along with a brief discussion of the issues that it raises. Some scholars conclude that women were present at the Last Supper. They cite the following evidence:   (1) Compare Mark 14:28 with Mark 16:7. (2) Referring to “one of the twelve” in Mark 14:20 means that there were others present (see also Mark 14:16 and 17). (3) The tradition for Passover was for women to be present and it would have been worthy of mention if Jesus... Read more »

Elder L. Tom Perry, 1922-2015

May 30, 2015 | 13 comments
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Elder L. Tom Perry, 1922-2015

The church announced that Elder Perry died today.  Read more »