Progress and Perfection Reconciled

October 1, 2014 | no comments
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Progress and Perfection Reconciled

  Peace like a river. Read more »

Who Likes Deseret Book?

September 30, 2014 | 24 comments
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Who Likes Deseret Book?

If you are a Bloggernacle regular, probably not you. You most likely have little sympathy for their fluffy books and a whole heap of disdain for their other kitschy products. Read more »

Visitor at a missionary reunion

September 30, 2014 | 10 comments
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This week is missionary reunion week in the Salt Lake area and elsewhere. I thought of sharing the following in a mild poetic form. Read more »

Magic and Mechanisms

September 29, 2014 | 81 comments
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2014-09-29 Magic and Mechanisms

In her talk “The Evolutionary Roots of Religious Adaptation” for the Mormon Transhumanist Association, Chelsea Strayer hit on one of the fundamental sources of tension between devout and academic perspectives on faith: the distinction between process and purpose. She gave the example of evolution, emphasizing that when she teaches evolution it is fundamentally a discussion of process rather than purpose. Despite this, however, she recounts that: Every time I teach an evolution class… I have one student walk away and say, “Hey, you just told me that God doesn’t exist. You just proved that.” And I’ll have student... Read more »

General Women’s Meeting

September 27, 2014 | 49 comments
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It is my nature to be cynical and critical and to focus on flaws, so when I tell you that the General Women’s Meeting was nearly perfect, that’s really saying something. Read more »

Temple and Observatory Group Event in Minnesota

September 23, 2014 | 7 comments
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Capture

The Temple and Observatory Group, which has sponsored other events in Utah, Virginia and New York, is offering a seminar for those in the midst of a faith transition or crisis in the Minnesota area. The event features Terryl and Fiona Givens and Spencer Fluhman. Come listen to the three speak about negotiating LDS history, faith challenges and transitions on Saturday, September 27th from 10:30am – 3:30pm at 6125 Shingle Creek Pkwy, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430 (library). Lunch will be provided. Please sign up on the Facebook page as seating is limited. Note: there are no tickets for this... 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 »

What to Expect When You Are Expecting . . . A Bishopric Call

September 15, 2014 | 80 comments
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What to Expect When You Are Expecting . . . A Bishopric Call

So a dear friend of mine just got called to a new bishopric and wants to know the known knowns, the known unknowns, and, of course, the unknown unknowns. Read more »

My Experiment with Five Minute Prayers

September 15, 2014 | 27 comments
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2014-09-15 Prayer 01

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been setting a timer every time I say my evening prayers. This might sound like an absolutely terrible idea and, in some ways I guess it is. So before I tell you how that has worked out for me, let me explain why I would even consider such an idea in the first place. It starts with the idea of the curse of success. I first encountered this concept in Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose. They wrote that when a policy or technology becomes successful, it can be known more... Read more »

In Your Heart and Mind

September 11, 2014 | 9 comments
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My son came stomping into the house from the garden a month ago, demanding I punish his sister, Read more »

Elder Ballard: “Don’t Talk Too Much”

September 9, 2014 | 78 comments
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Today Elder Ballard spoke at the Europe Area Sisters’ Meeting. (Yes, the same meeting with the poster flap.) You can see the video here. Read more »

A self-guided walking tour of Higher Criticism

September 9, 2014 | 22 comments
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A self-guided walking tour of Higher Criticism

So I wrote another book. At first I thought that I was writing a short article to explain why two different Reformation-era prophecies share the same title, but the project kept expanding. Along the way, I changed the way I think about biblical textual criticism and the Documentary Hypothesis. 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 »

A temple, a temple, we already have a temple

September 2, 2014 | 13 comments
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Our invented tradition': the 'sea' as a baptismal funt

Yes, we do, a lot of temples, more than ever in history. We are, as the leaders never stop telling us, a temple building people, and if anything distinguishes us from our fellow-Christians it is our temples. For us the temple is a crucial religious and ritual focus, the apex of our notion of holiness; it is also somehow a link with a distant past, with the deep salvation history of mankind, through Israel. Indeed, one of the themes running through the Old Testament is exactly that of the temple. But what is temple, and what continuity is there... Read more »

Truth and Contradiction in Religious Communities

September 2, 2014 | 9 comments
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Guru Nanak with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana and Sikh Gurus. (Wikimedia)

A couple of weeks ago I listened to the audiobook of Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction. As that was the first thing I’ve read on the topic (other than a multitude of Wikipedia entries) I by no means consider myself some kind of expert, but I was struck by several parallels and differences between Sikhism and Mormonism. The little I have learned has already helped me to see my own faith in new ways. In terms of similarities, Mormonism and Sikhism are both relatively new religions that arguably constitute a culture or a people (in addition to a religion)... Read more »

Book Review: The Crucible of Doubt

August 30, 2014 | 50 comments
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Book Review: The Crucible of Doubt

Terryl and Fiona Givens, The Crucible of Doubt, Deseret Book, 145 pages. Read more »

The Problem with Local Change

August 29, 2014 | 53 comments
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Imagine that everything in the church is precisely the way that it is now with two exceptions: Read more »

Book Review: The Miracles of Jesus

August 29, 2014 | 5 comments
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Book Review: The Miracles of Jesus

 Eric D. Huntsman, The Miracles of Jesus, Deseret Book, 164 pages. Read more »

Women and the Church – Constructively Engaging the Arguments

August 24, 2014 | 104 comments
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Women and the Church – Constructively Engaging the Arguments

I’m going to describe the dialectical geography as I see it, in order to try and help readers at T&S do better at constructively engaging the arguments in what I consider to be an issue of absolutely fundamental importance. Read more »

In Dialogue: The Best of Ten Years of Mormon Blogging

August 24, 2014 | 3 comments
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The Summer 2014 print issue of Dialogue arrived in my mailbox last week. Among other fine articles is a ten-year look back at Mormon blogging by Dialogue Web Editor Emily Jensen. The article consists of about 70 paragraph-length quotations from selected Bloggernacle posts over the years, in ten categories: theology, homosexuality, feminism, race, Mormon studies, public conversations, history, Dialogue, personal essays, and miscellaneous. The Dialogue website adds a few supplementary blog posts that did not make the print article, but to get the print article itself you will need to subscribe. Below are links to the T&S posts that... Read more »

About Social Media

August 19, 2014 | 17 comments
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Elder David A. Bednar just delivered a talk on social media at BYU Education Week. The text of the talk is already posted at LDS.org (video also available). You are probably going to be hearing about this one so you’d better go read it. Here are the highlights. Quotations in the italicized blockquotes; my commentary in plain text following the quote. Read more »

We Are Made to Suffer

August 18, 2014 | 46 comments
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2014-08-18 Guernica

In centuries gone by the best you could hope for in the case of an aching tooth would be that someone would yank it out, but thanks to modern medicine we can detect cavities and fill them before they start to cause any pain at all. Of course, the drilling of the tooth itself is painful, so you can have your tooth numbed with an injection. Someone jabbing a sharp needle into your gums isn’t a walk in the park either, so you can have some topical gel applied before the shot. Just to recap: you get a numbing... Read more »

12 Questions for Miranda Wilcox and John Young, Editors of Standing Apart—Part II

August 16, 2014 | 8 comments
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Here are the six remaining questions in our series with Miranda Wilcox and John Young, continued from Part I. 7. How much of what you do in this book should we understand as theology, as opposed to, say, history? Miranda: Religious communities perform theological work when they tell historical narratives. Remembering and memorializing their divine origins is crucial for communities to maintain distinctive self-identities and to realize their divine mandate. We see examples of this process when Israel retells the story of their ancestors’ deliverance from captivity in Egypt or when Lehi’s descendants retell the story of their family’s... Read more »

The Hypothetical “Missionary Library”

August 15, 2014 | 41 comments
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The Hypothetical “Missionary Library”

As a companion piece to Dave’s post on missionaries, let’s talk about the approved missionary library. I have concerns about what missionaries study, know, and teach. The typical missionary develops far more motivation to read and study “the literature of the Church” than before the mission, but is far more restricted, although mission presidents have leeway to relax this. Certainly the primary content of missionary study should be scripture and the doctrine, but I think by narrowing the library too much, we miss real opportunities both for the missionaries themselves and the people they teach. Read more »

Salt Lake City, We Have a Problem

August 15, 2014 | 101 comments
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Artist's rendering of a serious problem.

It has always been the case that some missionaries “come home early,” as the gentle phrasing goes. It turns out that more missionaries are coming home early than ever before. The percentage is now into the double-digits, and it turns out the folks in Salt Lake City are already well aware that we have a problem. This is based on information quietly passed down the priesthood chain, coupled with an urgent request to extend support and guidance to our young men and women as they prepare for and depart on LDS missions. So the leadership recognizes there is a... Read more »

Book Review: Way Below the Angels

August 13, 2014 | 17 comments
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Book Review: Way Below the Angels

Craig Harline, Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled but Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary This may be the most painful book I have ever read.   Read more »

Book Review: A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

August 12, 2014 | 21 comments
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Book Review: A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

How much did I like this book? So much that I do not regret the night of sleep that I lost to my inability to put it down. (That has literally never happened to me before. I always hate myself in the morning.) 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 »

A Day in the Life

August 11, 2014 | 5 comments
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I wrote this a few months ago and forget to post it. Read more »