Guest Post: The Parable of the Two Sons

August 7, 2013 | 8 comments
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My friend and neighbor has written a beautiful parable that I am pleased to share with you today. David Harding works actively in his ward and neighborhood. His daughter is my daughter’s best friend. As those of you with children know, it is a great blessing to have your offspring fall in with good people who help support them as they grow into themselves. Periodically, maybe once or twice a year, David writes something that he thinks could be shared beyond his close circle. The topics range, but as often as not they are gospel related. And so I’m introducing... Read more »

Further Thoughts on Sin

August 5, 2013 | 32 comments
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Further Thoughts on Sin

Last week I wrote about the conflict between a basic axiom of human behavior (we tend to see ourselves as heroes in our own stories and rationalize our behavior accordingly) and the requirement that sinful actions be in some sense deliberate in order to be sinful. I did this primarily by suggesting that, while the original commission of a sinful act often occurs under duress of some sort (thus mitigating against it’s nature as a deliberate choice), we frequently compound that sin by subsequently trying to rationalize it. I’d like to conclude (for now, anyway) my posts on this subject... Read more »

The Bible in Jacksonville

August 4, 2013 | no comments
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The Bible in Jacksonville

I wrote some lectures on the Bible to present in Paris, although due to scheduling and communication conflicts, only the first was actually delivered. I’m now scheduled to do two of them in Jacksonville, FL in the next two weeks. These will be held at the LDS Chapel on 440 Penman Rd. in Jacksonville. The first is next Sunday at 7PM (flyer below), the second (similar to my presentation here) will be Friday the 23rd, same time and place. Given that I speak English slightly better than French, these will probably be a bit more spontaneous and expansive. If... Read more »

Literary DCGD #30: Dedication Hymn

August 4, 2013 | 2 comments
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Literary DCGD #30: Dedication Hymn

Our doctrine of performing ordinances on behalf of the dead is unusual among the religions of the world. Many religions pray for the dead, Mormonism actively performs the same saving ordinances that the living must have. These teachings were introduced during the Nauvoo period, and baptisms for the dead were performed in the Mississippi at that time, until the basement of the Temple was complete and ordinances could be performed there. At that point Mormonism learned that these ordinances belonged in the Temple, and this understanding was captured in the following poem by William Wines Phelps, written for the... Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #15: Our Missionaries

August 4, 2013 | no comments
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Literary Lorenzo Snow #15: Our Missionaries

For many members of the Church the most intense period of “faithful, energetic service in the Kingdom of God” during our lives is our missionary service. So it is no surprise that many of the ideas expressed in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow lesson #15 are characteristics that we associate with missionaries—service as “ambassadors of Christ,” and “helping others receive salvation” are quickly listed as things that we too should adopt in our service in the Kingdom. Often we use missionary service as an example for how our own service should be conducted. But,... Read more »

Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part III

July 30, 2013 | 9 comments
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Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part III

My main motivation was jealousy. I was fantastically jealous that my wife was running the coolest book club I’d ever seen. Read more »

Some Thoughts on Sin

July 29, 2013 | 20 comments
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2013-07-29 Milgram

The textbook definition of sin is doing something that you know to be wrong. And yet, as has been frequently noted in fiction, villains (almost) never think to themselves, “Gee, I’m doing something wrong now.” We each live out narratives in which we star as the protagonist. We are the heroes of our own stories. How can we reconcile these two notions: first, that sin requires a knowledge that what we are doing is wrong and second, that no one really believes what they are doing is wrong at the time that they do it? I’m going to rely... Read more »

Literary DCGD #29: Farewell to Nauvoo

July 28, 2013 | 3 comments
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I’ve long thought that Nauvoo was a kind of Mormon Camelot, a shining, hopeful city built on consistent, righteous principles that fell apart amid internal dissension. While I wouldn’t push the analogy too far, I think it kind of works on the surface, especially given the standard portrayal of Nauvoo in lessons like Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson 29 and in the following poem. Read more »

Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part II

July 25, 2013 | 15 comments
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Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part II

The first time I remember, it happened – of course – because I was searching for things on the internet. If I remember correctly, it even happened because I was researching for a Sunday School lesson. I read about Gallatin Missouri Read more »

Not quite “Faith in Every Footstep”

July 24, 2013 | 19 comments
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It’s no surprise that my favorite book about the pioneers was not written by a Mormon. Read more »

Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part I

July 24, 2013 | 13 comments
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Restoring the Paths to Dwell In – Part I

I’d never seen anything like it. It wasn’t just Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? (which was opened on the living room coffee table with a pen resting on top). There was a pile of anti-Mormon literature in various stages of being read sitting around the room. Read more »

Gone Fishin’

July 23, 2013 | 11 comments
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What kind of associations does the idea of fishing raise for you?  Leisure time?  Quiet?  Peace?  Stillness?  (Hopefully not a few beers.) Read more »

An Information-Rich Gospel: Correlation and the Growth and Maturation of the Church

July 22, 2013 | 160 comments
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The gospel of Jesus Christ is a rich, complex, and beautiful thing. It can’t be fully absorbed in one sitting, or one decade, or one lifetime. The gospel is information-rich. A recent New York Times article talks about Mormons who are led to question their faith by information about the church that they find, e.g., on the internet. The article seems to suggest that the gospel cannot survive in an information-rich environment. Mormons believe, however, that “the glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:6), and “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance” (D&C 131:6). Information,... Read more »

Faithful Obedience or Malicious Compliance?

July 22, 2013 | 50 comments
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2013-07-22 Wheels Within Wheels

Malicious compliance is the idea of using the letter of the law to intentionally violate the spirit of the law. It is perfect obedience. It is also sabotage. Since so much trouble seems to arise from the gap between the letter and spirit of the law, we might reasonably ask: why not close the gap? Why not just write down the spirit of the law in the first place? I think the answer is at least in part that whatever is written down and then read and interpreted by a human being is necessarily going to fall short of the... Read more »

Getting Dirt in Jesus’ Eyes

July 21, 2013 | 14 comments
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You are probably familiar with Mark 2:1-12, because it is hard to forget a story about a guy getting lowered through a roof. Read more »

Literary DCGD #28: A Prayer

July 21, 2013 | no comments
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Despair is, I think, one of the most difficult parts of the human condition. While the sources of our despair today are very different from those suffered by the early saints, the feelings are just as real and difficult. Where do we turn for peace? The following poem explores the despair we all feel—the same discussed in Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson #28—and provides an answer to it. Read more »

The Glory of God is (Not-Too-Much) Intelligence

July 19, 2013 | 40 comments
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In a recent facebook thread (sparked by this post at Patheos), commenters have been talking about intellect and Mormonism. That conversation helped crystallize some thoughts that have been percolating in my mind for a while, about how the LDS community has a complicated and sometimes conflicted discourse about the importance of intelligence, intellect, and education — and some of the interesting ways in which that tension plays out. On the one hand, there is a significant strand of LDS thought that puts extremely high value on intelligence. The paradigmatic statement here, of course, is that “the glory of God... Read more »

Should I Pay For My Child’s Mission?

July 19, 2013 | 16 comments
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Yes. I mean, I don't know exactly, but still, yes, probably. Read more »

Two Nuns Walk Into A Church

July 16, 2013 | 9 comments
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Two Nuns Walk Into A Church

Almost 7, in the village church of Kernascléden, in the heart of Brittany, which is the heart of Catholicism in France. The sign on the door says Vespers are at 7, just like they are every night, even tonight, July 14, when most people in France are singing the Marseillaise instead of the Gloria. I always like Vespers, but I wonder what in the name of the Abbé Sieyès they could possibly sound like in a remote place like this? A harried five-parish pastor coaxing along a few reedy voices? Not exactly. Two youngish nuns in tan habits enter... Read more »

Faith Crisis in a Secular Age: We’re All Thomas Now

July 15, 2013 | 43 comments
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2013-07-15 Secular Age

The principle behind Mathew 10:34 (“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword”) is not that Jesus came to foster contention (see, e.g., 3 Nehi 11:29), but that the presence of the Savior forces people to make decisions. C. S. Lewis’s trilemma is an example of what I have in mind: we must accept that Jesus was mad, that he was evil, or that he was divine. That he was a nice guy who taught good principles but was not divine is not compatible with the textual description... Read more »

Mythbusters: The Kneeling Camel Edition

July 14, 2013 | 28 comments
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A good portion of the next RS/PH lesson concerns the story where Jesus states that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom. Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #14: Be Thou My Strength

July 14, 2013 | 2 comments
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Literary Lorenzo Snow #14: Be Thou My Strength

What do we mean when we talk about help from God? Our religion, and lesson 14 in the Lorenzo Snow manual, teaches us that we should rely on God for the help. Yet when we think about how this help actually works, it isn’t about God doing things for us, at least not usually, its about the guidance and strength that he gives us so that we can do what needs to be done ourselves. That is the strength that is described in the following poem. Read more »

Literary DCGD #27: Charity and True Patriotism

July 14, 2013 | no comments
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Literary DCGD #27: Charity and True Patriotism

We often assume in our perception of trials and challenges that the trials aren’t our fault, that these challenges are something that happens to us instead of something that happens as a result of our choices. While it is certainly true that some trials—natural disasters for example—are not by our choice, others are at least the consequence of our own choices. And, in some cases, we actually choose to undertake things that we know will be difficult. Does that mean that they are not still trials? Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson 27 illustrates this. The Church members during... Read more »

A Mormon Moment in Mali?

July 11, 2013 | 12 comments
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A Mormon Moment in Mali?

Many Mormons in Utah are aware of the fact that a converted Mormon is running for president in Mali. Indeed, Yeah Samake, an important social entrepreneur in Mali, joined the Church in 2000 while studying at the BYU, and indeed he has registered as a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections in 28 July 2013. He is the mayor of Ouélessébougou, a community consisting of a small town and a group of villages in South Mali. Based on his success as mayor, he is running for president, already in 2012, but again in the present elections. Election campaigns cost... Read more »

I’m not sorry

July 10, 2013 | 19 comments
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The problem with repenting is that it is not just an intellectual exercise. It’s emotional. To repent, one must feel penitent. But how can you repent when you don’t feel like repenting? Read more »

The Approaching Zion Project: How to Get Rich

July 9, 2013 | 9 comments
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Donald-Trump-How-To-Get-Rich

So here we are, a day early (or, um, six days late, if that's the way you want to look at it). Since we're here, let's take a look at Nibley's next approach toward Zion: Read more »

Free Will, Existence, and the Uncreated

July 8, 2013 | 50 comments
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Free Will, Existence, and the Uncreated

I’ve written about theology before for Times And Seasons, but I haven’t actually done very much theology here or elsewhere in public. I have two reasons for finally taking the plunge. The first is selfish: I don’t think my ideas are going to get any better closeted in my own head. No one who creates really likes criticism, but ultimately its necessary if you want to get any better. The second is perhaps a bit more altruistic. I’ve written that theology is a kind of worship, and I’d like to illustrate what I mean by that. Mormons believe that this... Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #13: Oh! The Daughters of Zion

July 7, 2013 | 3 comments
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What is the purpose of the Relief Society? While we think we understand its purpose based on what the women’s organization does today, the things that Relief Society does have changed radically since its founding in 1842. And the Lorenzo Snow lesson on the Relief Society shows this change, since his comments reflect a focus on charity and providing for the poor that we don’t hear much today—since that function is now handled by the welfare program. But before the welfare program was developed in the 1930s, the Relief Society WAS the welfare program. It collected and stored foodstuffs... Read more »

Literary DCGD #26: To Elder W. Woodruff

July 7, 2013 | no comments
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Our understanding of missionary work has changed and evolved substantially over Mormon history. Where we know assume that missionaries are young, during the 19th century missionaries were more mature and married. Where the sacrifices of missionaries today are usually parts of life postponed, during the life of Joseph Smith they meant real hardship for families, the missionary begging for food and even danger of physical assault. Still, then, as now, those brought to a knowledge of the gospel were grateful, as was the author of this poem. Read more »

A Good Samaritan, Chicago-Style

July 6, 2013 | 7 comments
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Divvy Bike

Yesterday, the Art Institute had a family program tied into its new exhibit, Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity. The Art Institute’s family programs are inevitably excellent, so we decided to bike down, look at the exhibit, and then let the kids make the related art. The museum’s about 6.5 miles from us on the Lakefront Trail and, even though there and back would be the longest ride my oldest had ever taken, we figured she could make it. So we loaded up, the oldest on her bike, the next on a tagalong behind me and the youngest on a bike seat on... Read more »