Reading Nephi – 4:20-38

October 29, 2015 | 25 comments
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Reading Nephi – 4:20-38

Zoram is another critical element of this narrative. Once again, we learn later in the Book of Mormon that there was controversy concerning Zoram’s departure from Jerusalem and joining Lehi’s expedition—enough controversy to eventually fuel a serious political movement and secession (Alma 31-35). It’s another instance of Nephi portraying himself as heroic, faithful and possessed of a liberal spirit. One certainly hopes that Lehi’s later blessing of Zoram corroborates Nephi’s account—but Zoram’s joining the Lehite project is another oddity. Why does Zoram join them so readily? He was from the lower classes, perhaps made naturally compliant on account of... Read more »

Panel on Mormon Apologetics

October 26, 2015 | 4 comments
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Panel on Mormon Apologetics

If you are in the Provo area next week: Read more »

Reading Nephi – 4:3-19 (part II)

October 25, 2015 | 22 comments
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Reading Nephi – 4:3-19 (part II)

So is this my contemporary sensibilities, my modern moral compass set in a fantastically different, less physically grueling and brutal world that recoils from Nephi’s terrifying justification? Undoubtedly—although that in itself certainly makes it no less right. But the text itself and Nephi’s manner of disclosing and addressing this event offers evidence that something was rotten in Nephi’s Denmark. Read more »

Reading Nephi – 4:3-19 (part I)

October 25, 2015 | 30 comments
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Reading Nephi – 4:3-19 (part I)

Once again, reading these difficult passages, I see something prodigious in Nephi, something my soul longs after. At the same time, however, my soul recoils, and chapter four is the realization of the danger inherent in Nephi’s faithful outlook. I want to think that Nephi’s mistake was youthful inexperience—faith and zeal untempered by the wisdom and moral constraint of realizing that every human one confronts is a child of Heavenly Parents and a brother or sister . Contextualizing our lives within the scriptures seems so right. This is how I want to read them—this is how I... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 3:31-4:3

October 23, 2015 | 9 comments
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Reading Nephi – 3:31-4:3

They misplaced the chapter break. We’ve reached a hard spot in the Book of Mormon for me—perhaps the hardest spot in Nephi’s record. The text in chapter four challenges me on multiple fronts every time I read it. I hope that my wrestling with it is fruitful and faithful, but often it’s merely implacable. One thing that I can see clearly is that we here get Nephi’s commentary on the nature of miracles and the way they interact with human reason and trust. All of us have Laman and Lemuel within us. Analyzing the variables of our life, we... Read more »

How Technology is Changing the Church

October 22, 2015 | 43 comments
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At checkout on a recent visit to my favorite SLC bookstore, I was rewarded with a free book: After 150 Years: The Latter-day Saints in Sesquicentennial Perspective (Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, 1983). Loyalty has its perks. A bit dated at 32 years, but this chapter caught my eye: “Testimony and Technology,” by LDS historian James B. Allen. What he didn’t see coming: The Internet. Read more »

Reading Nephi – 3:15-30

October 20, 2015 | 19 comments
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Reading Nephi – 3:15-30

There really is something terribly compelling about Nephi. It’s hard not to be won over by his absolute commitment and tenacity. I want to bracket all my inevitable reading of an older political authority justifying the legitimacy of his reign, countering his opposition’s narratives concerning crucial events at the genesis. Instead, I want here to simply let myself be taken in by a youth who displays this unyielding faith and optimism. It strikes me that this is precisely the attitude and commitment that brings about change. How—in the context of ancient Holy Land Jerusalem—can God transplant a faithful family,... Read more »

Every Scar is a Bridge to Someone’s Broken Heart

October 19, 2015 | 11 comments
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788 - Thrice

Perhaps we literally need to feel our own pain in order to feel the pain of others. From a scientific perspective: The ability to feel the pain of others is based on neurobiological processes which underlie pain experience in oneself. Using innovative methods, an international research team headed by psychologist Claus Lamm from the University of Vienna could show that a reduction of self-experienced pain leads to a reduction in empathy for pain in others as well. From an aesthetic perspective (I realize screamo is not everyone’s idea of a pleasant Monday morning. Lyrics are below the video clip):... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 3:1-14

October 18, 2015 | 20 comments
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Reading Nephi – 3:1-14

There’s a reason why this—the return for the plates—is the first event Nephi mentions following their departure from Jerusalem. I wonder if there’s not also an inspired reason for it to come upfront. Lehi’s theophany and departure is the rupture that opens a new dispensation. The story of the retrieval of the record of Laban is the founding of Nephite history, the origin of Nephite political legitimacy, and perhaps even the founding of Nephite religion. Once again, there is a great deal going on in this story, with absences that are as revealing as what gets stated. Nephi subtly... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 2:16-24

October 16, 2015 | no comments
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Reading Nephi – 2:16-24

I’ve no desire to rob those who are physically large with a means of relating themselves to Nephi. But I can’t for the life of me see how we connect “large in stature” with physically large. The contrast in this clause is with young—which I suppose might be intuitively connected to physical size—my children... Read more »

Internationalizing Mormon Leadership: The Normal Pace

October 14, 2015 | 40 comments
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Internationalizing Mormon Leadership: The Normal Pace

In the Salt Lake Tribune of October 5, Jana Riess regrets that the top leadership of the Mormon church is all-white and overwhelmingly American, and that the recent apostolic callings missed the chance to reflect the church’s international diversity. Others have expressed the same disappointment. I can appreciate their concern, but I wonder how many non-American Mormons would agree. Are we certain that an apostle from Brazil or Kenya would be preferred by most Mormons in 130 other countries above a seasoned leader from Utah? Or did some of those disappointed Americans perhaps react from a “white guilt /... Read more »

All the Lights Were Red: Thinking About Reform in Mormonism

October 13, 2015 | 124 comments
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A funny thing happened on the way to the conference. On Saturday morning I was driving to the final day of the SMPT Conference held on the BYU Campus. I hit the main BYU intersection near the Marriott Center. My light was red. There were cars stopped at other approaches as well. Everyone was stopped. All the lights were red. As I had been thinking Mormon thoughts while driving down Provo Canyon and onto campus, that seemed like a sign: Nothing is changing. No movement. Full stop. Read more »

Reading Nephi – 2:8-15

October 13, 2015 | 10 comments
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Reading Nephi – 2:8-15

This passage doesn’t seem to reflect well on Nephi. I don’t blame Nephi. To the degree that any of us have good reason to think poorly of family members who have wronged us, I think that the older man Nephi has cause to think poorly of his brothers. But how can we not also see the older, embittered Nephi projecting back on his brothers here? Our memories are inevitably colonized by our present experiences—sometimes glamorized and sometimes darkened. If I read past Nephi’s retrospectively projected interpretation, however, I am deeply moved by Lehi’s wisdom and love. There is no... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 2:1-7

October 11, 2015 | 3 comments
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Reading Nephi – 2:1-7

Here is the great rupture. Nephi acknowledges that it came in a dream—a dream that made a coherent narrative of the details of Lehi’s life. Did he feel like a failed prophet? Did his heart break? Or did he feel vindicated or at least consoled in joining that host of ancient prophets who were rejected by their people—or was that a later, literary reconciliation? Regardless, the dream tells him to leave the Land of Promise. Again, forsaking the idea that this was a dramatic overnight event, and recognizing instead that it likely took place over the course of some... Read more »

The Sabbath Day: Its Meaning and Observance

October 7, 2015 | 12 comments
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The Sabbath Day: Its Meaning and Observance

This was a talk I gave a month or so ago as part of High Council Sunday. In preparation for this talk, I read through Elder Nelson’s April Conference address on the Sabbath, in which he stated, “I am intrigued by the words of Isaiah, who called the Sabbath “a delight.” Yet,” he continued, “I wonder, is the Sabbath really a delight for you and for me?” Well, Joseph Smith revealed that the Lord’s day should consist of “confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord” (D&C 59:12), so here’s my confession: the answer to Elder Nelson’s... Read more »

SMPT Teaser: A Close Reading of Alma 32

October 6, 2015 | 13 comments
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SMPT Teaser: A Close Reading of Alma 32

I’m presenting this Saturday at the conference in Provo. I’ve kicked some of these ideas around for a while, but only started work on them in earnest recently. I’m addressing conceptions of faith and knowledge in Alma 32 through close reading. For me, that process entails creating a bibliography to see what’s been done, and working through the chapter closely and slowly, looking for patters and connections, textual issues, and logical flow. Read more »

Reading Nephi – 1:18-20

October 6, 2015 | 4 comments
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Reading Nephi – 1:18-20

Two contrasts strike me in verse 18: a contrast between the way that Nephi uses the word ‘marvelous’ and a contrast between the visions and prophesying he attributes to Lehi here, and what we just got in verse 14. To begin with a word on the latter, I’m heartened that Lehi’s prophesying included beautiful, affirming, psalms; I trust his public messages did too, even if Nephi didn’t note this fact. I never hear the word ‘marvelous’ used to neutrally reference a marvel. It’s always used as a synonym to ‘wonderful.’ Marvels and wonders only receive a positive valence today;... Read more »

Doers of the Word: SMPT Conference Next Weekend

October 5, 2015 | no comments
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The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology holds its 2015 conference next Thursday-Saturday (Oct. 8-10), at BYU, on the theme, “Doers of the Word: Belief and Practice.” Speakers include Noel Reynolds, Sam Brown, David Paulsen, Jennifer Lane, and about 30 others from Minnesota to Hawaii, including T&S’s own Jim Faulconer, Rosalynde Welch, Nate Oman, Ben Spackman, Adam Miller, and Ben Huff. Session themes include analysis of Book of Mormon rhetoric, the role of choice in faith, divine foreknowledge and human freedom, renaissance thought on a Christian restoration, the role of narrative in repentance, and the social nature of the... Read more »

The Three Neophytes

October 5, 2015 | 60 comments
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The Three Neophytes

Some thoughts on the new members of the Quorum of the Twelve: Read more »

Reading the Book of Mormon for the First Time Again

October 5, 2015 | 5 comments
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The giant, angry pterodactyl makes sense at the end. Wait for it.

I read the Book of Mormon all the way through several times as a teenager. Between multiple readings and a knack for remembering anything that comes in the form of a story, by the time I was 19 I knew the Book of Mormon as well as any other 19 year old I met. Now I’m 34, and I routinely meet people whose familiarity with the text far, far outstrips my own. Sure, some of that comes from the fact that I know more Mormon studies folks now than I did as a teenager, but I’m not talking about... Read more »

2015 Gen Conf–Sunday Afternoon

October 4, 2015 | 5 comments
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These are just my notes as I scribbled them and, considering how illegible my handwriting is (even to myself), you will not want to quote them word for word! Read more »

A 15-year-old’s Notes about Sunday Morning Gen Conf

October 4, 2015 | one comment
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Sunday Morning Session–October 4, 2015 Conducting–Dieter F. Utchdorf Song, Prayer, Song   Thomas S. Monson Let your light so shine…be an example unto others–We let others see our light by being an example Being an example in word Being an example in conversation Charity Be an example in spirit Faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time Purity Ronald A. Rasband (new apostle!) A few days ago he was called…interesting I always think it would be awkward to quote someone in conference who is at that conference The Lord doesn’t condone sinful conduct, but... Read more »

A 12-year-old Takes Notes on His First Priesthood Gen Conf Session

October 3, 2015 | one comment
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General Priesthood Session Opening Song: Let Zion In Her Beauty Rise Invocation: Elder Johnson Song: Jesus The Very Thought Of Me Read more »

A 9-year-old Child’s Notes on Gen Conf Sat afternoon

October 3, 2015 | 7 comments
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I love the primary kids choir. They are full of adrenaline. They are about as old as me. They look cute. I like their clothes. It is funny to me that they are so wiggly, even on TV. So. Three new apostles. Wow! Pretty awesome. Read more »

The random thoughts and perspectives of a 17-year-old kid about the Sat. Morning Gen Conf session

October 3, 2015 | 3 comments
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So my mother comes into my room while I am reading a Ranger’s Apprentice novel, and says, “Hey bud! Want to write a blog post about Saturday Morning Conference session?” First thought: Zombie Apocalypse. No! There is absolutely No. Flipping. Way. I am going to write a blog that thousands of people could read, comment on, and maybe even be enlightened about. (Yeah, people sometimes do that. I can enlighten people. Occasionally.) Why am I typing this out now? Don’t ask me. Sometimes I am tempted to ask my therapist if he can crack open my head and see... Read more »

Statements on Heavenly Mother

October 3, 2015 | 4 comments
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Statements on Heavenly Mother

I appreciated the loving tribute Elder Holland just gave to all mothers, and in particular to our Heavenly Mother. In the wake of that talk, I’m reposting some of the quotes on Heavenly Mother collected in Paulsen’s & Pulido’s BYU Studies article, “A Mother There.”  It’s a valuable resource to actually have before us a sampling of what church authorities have said over the years, and is one way to express the love and gratitude in my own heart. And now the quotes: “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of... Read more »

Saul Callings

October 3, 2015 | 5 comments
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Saturday Morning conference referenced how Samuel was unsure that Saul was the right man to lead Israel. With the benefits of hindsight, one indeed wonders about the choice. Saul, in the end, had some serious problems as King. Does God call people knowing that they will, to a significant degree, fail? Yes, I think he does. I think he does it all the time. Yet sometimes I think people see someone called to a calling and, if it does not work out well, they question if the calling was inspired. Now, I don’t think that all callings are perfect. But... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 1:7-17

October 2, 2015 | 15 comments
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Reading Nephi – 1:7-17

Joseph Smith remarked on visions that they are something that overcomes the visionary—that is, they’re physically exhausting. After the famous vision he shared with Sidney Rigdon (D&C 76), Sidney was apparently quite overcome, and Joseph quipped, “He’s not as used to this as I am” (or something to that effect, a la Truman Madsen). Thus it appears to have been the case with Lehi—overcome after his experience in the presence of God (a pillar of fire being a typological Old Testament symbol for the presence of God), he casts himself upon his bed. But God wasn’t yet done with... Read more »

My Life as a Mama Dragon

September 30, 2015 | 44 comments
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My Life as a Mama Dragon

Today I am pleased to share a guest post by my 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.   Last weekend in Provo, Utah, I attended the Annual International Conference of Affirmation, a support organization for LGBT Mormons, family and friends. This was my second conference, so I already knew it would be... Read more »

Reading Nephi – 1:1-6

September 30, 2015 | 5 comments
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Reading Nephi – 1:1-6

‘I, Nephi’ begins his record in a remarkable manner, and I’m tempted to write long-windedly exploring the labyrinth of the first verse. I’m grateful that he acknowledges goodly parents and not just a goodly father. Some have certainly had only goodly fathers and not goodly mothers (Disney loves this scenario), but as written, I see a reflection of my own life in the first line of the Book of Mormon—of all of our lives. We have goodly Parents — Heavenly Parents. And, accordingly as Nephi notes, we have been taught somewhat in all of their learning, and are continuing... Read more »