BYUNTC Conference Videos

August 4, 2014 | 3 comments
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The videos from May’s conference are now available here. Read more »

A gospel born in grief

July 31, 2014 | 3 comments
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A gospel born in grief

It is time now to ponder, after the silence of bereavement. For me the gospel is sometimes hard to believe, often an intellectual challenge, but always a comforting presence. Things go wrong in this world (well, many things go right as well) but in our day and age the things that do go wrong seem to do that in a grand way. The downing of MZ17 was one of these. What comfort can I find in the scriptures, how does the Old Testament – as that is what we are reading at this time – relate to the afflictions... Read more »

I was a stranger, and ye took me in

July 30, 2014 | 60 comments
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Unknown

These children, fleeing death and devastation, have come to us. Yes, caring for them will cost us time and money and effort, but not caring for them will cost us our compassion. Read more »

Rankings, Money, and BYU

July 28, 2014 | 11 comments
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Rankings, Money, and BYU

Money magazine has just released a new ranking of U.S. universities that has received a bit of attention. BYU does quite well, landing in ninth place overall, just behind Stanford, Harvard, Harvey Mudd, and Cooper Union. Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #17: The Lord of Hosts has Spoken by Octave F. Ursenbach

July 27, 2014 | no comments
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Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #17: The Lord of Hosts has Spoken by Octave F. Ursenbach

The Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith lesson 17 covers “Sealing Power and Temple Blessings,” the ordinances restored through the priesthood which lead to our salvation, for salvation in the eternal kingdom is dependent on sealing, both to parents, to spouse and to children. The following poems addresses the role of sealing in our understanding of priesthood and of salvation. Read more »

Literary OTGD #31: My Friends and I by J. L. Townsend

July 27, 2014 | no comments
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Literary OTGD #31: My Friends and I by J. L. Townsend

Lesson 31 of the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual covers the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, which consist mainly of short statements meant to help guide our behavior. But its pretty easy to make these statements seem contradictory. We all agree that “pride goeth before destruction,” but what if it is pride in our work or in doing our best? And what do we say to parents who have “trained up a child in the way he should go” when that child does depart from the way? It is precisely these contradictions that the following... Read more »

Mourning and the Gospel

July 23, 2014 | 14 comments
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At this moment The Netherlands, like many other countries, are in deep mourning, shocked by the terrible news of the downing of MZ17 in the East of Ukraine. Each of us has somewhere in his or her network people who were in that flight; my faculty lost a whole family, the dean of Liberal Arts with his wife who worked in Communication Studies, and one daughter, a brilliant student who was in my Liberal Arts class last year. At this moment the news is completely dominated by images of a charred field with wreckage, masked soldiers trying to shut... Read more »

Literary OTGD #30: Strength by Mabel Jones

July 20, 2014 | one comment
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What benefit do we get from the temple? Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson #30 covers two renewals of the temple in ancient Israel; that of Hezekaih and that of his great grandson, Josiah. It also gives the example of Hezekiah’s fending off the Assyrians with the help of the angel of the Lord following his cleansing of the temple. This apparently comes because of his righteousness. Could it be the indirect result of cleansing the temple? Does the temple lend us strength? The following sonnet sees strength in the temple, comparing its outward appearance with the inward strength it... Read more »

A Baseball Team in Every Ward

July 19, 2014 | no comments
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A Baseball Team in Every Ward

In the late 16th century Henry IV of France expressed a desire that everyone in his realm would “have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” That idea showed up again in Herbert Hoover’s promise of a “chicken in every pot”—the politician’s promise of prosperity. I’m not sure whether “a baseball team in every ward” is a promise of prosperity or programming gone awry, but that is essentially what leaders of the MIA suggested in 1922—some years before Hoover made his ill-fated promise. They wrote: “Each ward should have an organized baseball club, and each stake should have an... Read more »

Literary Worship – Sacred Stones

July 18, 2014 | 8 comments
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As our one really unique Mormon holiday, Pioneer Day gives us a chance to look back and reflect on our ancestors and others who went before and made our way easier through their good lives and sacrifices. I think of it as a sort of celebration of our collective quest to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers. And because I love traveling and getting to know new places, thinking about my ancestors always involves a lot of thought about where they originally came from, and if I’m lucky, not just thought, but plane tickets and itineraries.... Read more »

Upgrading Our Lay Clergy Model

July 17, 2014 | 73 comments
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People are still trying to digest the consequences of the Kate Kelly trial. Just today FMH posted dozens of reports showing how arbitrary the LDS disciplinary process can be and Exponent posted on the feasibility of bringing some level of informed consent to the worthiness interview process. At T&S, we have recently posted and discussed in comments shortcomings of the Kelly trial and problems with apostasy trials in general. Let’s take a step back and ask a more general and hopefully less contentious question: Has the Church outgrown the lay leadership model? Are there any practical alternatives? Read more »

Faithful priesthood narratives?

July 17, 2014 | 117 comments
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Faithful priesthood narratives?

some of those who speak in opposition to women's ecclesiastical enfranchisement do so because they can't imagine what a faithful, coherent narrative of our dispensation could possibly look like if women's priesthood role were restored and developed or if they did receive the Melchizedek Priesthood Read more »

James Faulconer – Making Things Harder

July 15, 2014 | 11 comments
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James Faulconer – Making Things Harder

It seems to me that the scriptures offer two types of revelations: (1) they reveal things you didn’t already know, and (2) they reveal that you didn’t know many of the things you thought you knew. Both kinds of revelation are pivotal. And each tends to depend on the other. James Faulconer’s new series of books — The Book of Mormon Made Harder, The Doctrine and Covenants Made Harder, The Old Testament Made Harder, and The New Testament Made Harder (forthcoming) — can help on both of these fronts. Though, to be fair, they’re especially good at the latter. Read more »

Literary OTGD #29: To President Brigham Young by Eliza R. Snow

July 13, 2014 | 4 comments
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Eliza R. Snow

There are at least two potential problems when there is a leadership transition—the transition plan or procedure isn’t always known ahead of time, and those involved don’t always follow the plan or procedures. Mormonism’s initial experience with transition didn’t go well—I suspect for both reasons—and the transitions elsewhere in the scriptures often seem unexpected also. For example, the transition from Elijah to Elisha described in Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #29 is unexpected by the Israelites, who search for Elijah for three days after Elisha succeeds him. It is, of course, Mormonism’s difficult initial transition, following the death of... Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #16: My Child and Thine by Ellen Jakeman

July 9, 2014 | no comments
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Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #16: My Child and Thine by Ellen Jakeman

Parenting sometimes seems like a Mormon obsession. We believe it has a significant effect on the success of children both in this life and in the life to come, so it is often the subject of Mormon sermons and lessons, such as chapter 16 of the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. We often find inspiration for how to handle parenting issues in Mormon teachings about the nature of our Heavenly Father and our relationship to him. Mormons assume and rely on the idea that our relationship to our Heavenly Father is similar to our relationship with our earthly parents. This... Read more »

Literary OTGD #28: The Still Small Voice by George H. Brimhall

July 9, 2014 | one comment
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Literary OTGD #28: The Still Small Voice by George H. Brimhall

The story of Elijah listening for the voice of the Lord (1 Kings 19:9-13) is frequently used by Mormons to describe the manner we can receive revelation. Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #28 includes that story, along with others discussing Elijah’s acts as prophet, but focusing on his listening to the Lord to accomplish those acts. While it is undeniably important for a prophet like Elijah to listen to the still small voice, in latter days Mormons emphasize that all people should receive revelation, an idea that is found in the following poem. Read more »

A More Nuanced Approach to Scripture

July 9, 2014 | 27 comments
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I am so thankful that we are gently backing away from a literal understanding of scripture. Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #15: The Marriage Vow

July 8, 2014 | 6 comments
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While the marriage practiced in the Church and taught in chapter 15 of the Joseph Fielding Smith manual is different than that taught and practiced outside of the Temple and the Church, still the underlying commitment to marriage and many of the promises made are very similar. Even after the Church under Joseph Smith introduced celestial marriage in the 1840s, the protestant views of marriage common in the U.S. still resonated for Mormons (as they do today) In fact, the following non-Mormon poem about marriage was published in the Nauvoo Mormon newspaper The Wasp on the last day of... Read more »

Literary OTGD #27: Our Kings by Henry W. Naisbitt

July 8, 2014 | no comments
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Literary OTGD #27: Our Kings by Henry W. Naisbitt

It seems likely that today we (in most western democracies) aren’t influenced by leaders the same way that the children of Israel were by their kings (at least as described in Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #27). I suspect that all else being equal, democracy reduces the influence of individual leaders. Still, the example of the influence of their rulers, for good or evil, is instructive today. And the following poem highlights the qualifications of leaders and how their influence is felt by those that they lead. Read more »

Re-reading Job by Michael Austin

July 7, 2014 | 4 comments
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Re-reading Job by Michael Austin

Michael Austin, Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem Read more »

Laughing with the Bible

July 6, 2014 | 17 comments
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Laughing with the Bible

Humor in the Scriptures? Come on! The Gospel is serious matter, isn’t it? Yet, humor is there, sometimes clear, sometimes disguised, but the ‘third voice’—the reading of the text from the viewpoint of the author—can be very funny. We saw Balaam being topped by a she-ass, very amusing, but there is a larger example, more elaborate and veiled, but definitely funny. It is the entire Book of Jonah, the prophet-in-the-fish and the most productive way to read it might well be as a satire. Why? Let us run through the story: Jonah was called by the Lord to go... Read more »

Death and How to Live It

July 2, 2014 | 14 comments
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Death and How to Live It

I recently spent time in London with the Mormon Theology Seminar. Most of our days were occupied with work, but we had a little time to play tourist. I did all of the things that a first-time visitor to London is supposed to do: Read more »

Calibrating Apostasy

July 1, 2014 | 71 comments
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The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles released a short three-paragraph statement on Saturday June 28, 2014, posted at the Office of the First Presidency page at LDS.org. It seems like a helpful and timely statement responding to issues raised in the wake of Kate Kelly’s excommunication on June 23, 2014. In particular: Read more »

Upcoming Book Events – July 2

June 30, 2014 | 2 comments
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Books

If you’re around and interested, Zion’s Books (274 W. Center Street, Provo) will be hosting a roundtable discussion with myself, David Bokovoy, and Joseph Spencer at 6pm on Wednesday, July 2. Janiece Johnson will moderate the discussion.  Our topic: “Is Scripture Relevant?” Read more »

Comfort Those That Stand in Need

June 30, 2014 | 20 comments
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2014-06-30 Waters of Mormon

Behold, here are the waters of Mormon and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort… Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord? (Mosiah 18:8-10) This passage has been on my mind a lot over the past couple... Read more »

What Are the “Blessings of the Priesthood”?

June 28, 2014 | 111 comments
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What Are the "Blessings of the Priesthood"?

Ordain Women isn't asking to have "access to the the ordinances all need to return to God" — something both women and men clearly already have. Rather, they are asking to be ordained to the priesthood and to be allowed to administer those ordinances as men do. Read more »

David F. Holland on Women in the Church

June 27, 2014 | 77 comments
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There is no shortage of interviews, essays, rants, and diatribes that you can read on the topic of women in the LDS Church generally or on Kate Kelly’s excommunication specifically. Read more »

The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies

June 26, 2014 | 8 comments
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The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies

What I tend to lack in quality, I hope to make up for with quantity. And what I lack in training and credentials, I hope to gather and borrow. In many ways, these maxims have guided the time I’ve invested in a project called the Mormon Theology Seminar. Read more »

Literary Worship – Miracle

June 25, 2014 | 5 comments
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Miracle

I find the story of the woman with the issue of blood, found in all three Synoptic Gospels, both odd and beautiful. Like most of the recipients of Christ’s miracles, she excites sympathy within me. Twelve years is a long time to be sick, especially with an illness that renders you and anyone who touches you perpetually unclean. She must have been lonely. It makes me wonder how many times she did get touched during those years–how many people braved the social and religious taboo to offer her a bit of human care or comfort. Did she have a... Read more »

For the Beauty of the Earth

June 25, 2014 | 14 comments
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The latest move by the Church on the environmental front is the production of a beautiful, 94 second spot on the Mormon Channel. Read more »