Literary Worship: Eve

June 14, 2014 | 4 comments
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Fruit of the tree

Two of the most inspiring parts of life to me are seeing new places and learning new things. So it’s no surprise that I’ve long been fascinated with the story of Eve, the woman who lived in Paradise and gave it up to see and experience things she could never have imagined, and learn things that would change her forever. The traditional religious line has been to condemn Eve for her fateful choice and blame her for the evils of our fallen world. But as Mormons, we think differently. As Orson F. Whitney described it, the Fall was a... Read more »

Priors

June 12, 2014 | 14 comments
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Question_mark

In statistics, a popular approach is to think of the statistician as having a set of views (“priors” or “prior distributions”) that are based on past evidence and when new evidence comes in, one integrates that information in and forms a new set of beliefs (“update your priors”).  So, for example, if I think I am brilliant in math, a series of poor math test grades even after studying might convince me to reassess that belief.  Alternately, I could stick with my priors and treat the new evidence as flawed or not informative because I am mad or upset.  This is... Read more »

Will No One Rid Me of This Turbulent Priest?

June 12, 2014 | 37 comments
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Will No One Rid Me of This Turbulent Priest?

“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” According to popular tradition, this is the line that King Henry II blurted out after repeated disagreements with Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. (There are several variations, such as “who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”) Four of Henry’s knights interpreted this as a royal command and set off for Canterbury, where they slew Becket while he prayed at the altar. How should we understand the knights’ actions? Should we view them as following orders, or as acting on their own initiative? There are multiple possible interpretations. For instance,... Read more »

Mourning with those that mourn

June 11, 2014 | 41 comments
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Mourning with those that mourn

Job 1: 20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. Job 2: 11 ¶Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort... Read more »

He was naked, and not ashamed

June 11, 2014 | 16 comments
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I leaned into the aisle and looked back. And all the way at the back of the chapel, I saw my 3 year old strolling down the aisle, wearing nothing but a Curious George t-shirt and his glory be. Read more »

Who is Israel?

June 9, 2014 | 22 comments
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Who is Israel?

When teaching Institute recently to a class of LDS students in our ward, I used the term ‘Latter-day Israel’ and met with a surprised silence: they had never heard the term. Yet, all of them were second generation members, born and raised in the church and thoroughly schooled in whatever the church had thrown at them, several had performed a mission and as university students (most of them) they had read their church books. Being a convert member now for almost 50 years, I suddenly realized how much the discourse on Israel had changed in the church. Maybe this... Read more »

Times and Seasons has finished moving

June 6, 2014 | 2 comments
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We have moved servers this weekend, and during the move the site was temporarily not able to accept any comments, nor did we have any new posts until after the move was finished. If you can see this post, then the move is complete and you can make comments normally. New posts should start appearing shortly. Read more »

Elliot Rodger, Sex, the Good Life, and the Peril of Rights

June 5, 2014 | 58 comments
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There are certain things that we need and desire. Among these is love and sex. I conjoin two words, but I mean it to refer to a single whole, the embodied connection of affection, commitment, and pleasure that comes in the mutual giving of two people of themselves to each other. That. It’s a longing that has deep roots in biology and human experience. It seems a good candidate for a necessary component of a good life. The problem comes when that truth – that a good and complete life includes love and sex – combines with our dominant... Read more »

Sustained Criticism

June 4, 2014 | 80 comments
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While it is possible that some Church leaders in the past may have been fallible, it falls to us now to follow our current Church leaders unfailingly. Read more »

False Choices and Fence Holes

June 2, 2014 | 117 comments
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2014-06-02 The Good Shepherd

It is very common in the Bloggernaccle to talk about an exodus of members from the Church. These members are usually described as a cohesive demographic. The two examples I’ve seen most frequently are (1) young Millennials who are disillusioned by the discrepancy between real history and CES whitewashing and (2) good women whose contributions and perspectives are devalued and rejected by the institution at large. I don’t have any insider or objective data on these concerns, and so I couldn’t say where they fall on the spectrum from urban legend to imminent crisis, but I suspect the problem... Read more »

Another (Partial) Response to Brother Otterson

May 31, 2014 | 80 comments
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As I indicated in my last post, I am very, very happy with this response from Brother Otterson, for two reasons: Read more »

The three voices of the Scriptures

May 31, 2014 | 11 comments
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The three voices of the Scriptures

I love the Old Testament, both as an anthropologist and as a Mormon. None of our other Standard Works has as many wonderful stories as the OT, and none raises as many questions as this longest and most complex of all Scriptures. Now that we plough our way through it in Sunday School, we noticed how hard these stories are, and even harder are the parts we skip. That has everything to do with the purpose of these tales, what I call their ‘voices’. Jonathan Green correctly reminded us in his blog that the ‘Why told’ question is more... Read more »

The Prophetic World War Z

May 30, 2014 | 6 comments
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The Prophetic World War Z

When reading the Old Testament, the essential thing to keep in mind is not This is what happened but This is what someone thought was important for later readers to remember. Read more »

A (Partial) Response to Brother Otterson

May 29, 2014 | 62 comments
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There is a lot that could be said about Michael Otterson’s recent open letter. I think it does a lot to heal the immense pain and anger that many people—especially those who do not support Ordain Women–have felt in recent weeks as a result of how Church PR has (mis)handled Ordain Women. So thank you, Brother Otterson. There are a few places where I think it falls short of the mark, however; this post pushes back at just one statement: Read more »

Otterson: Context Missing from Discussion about Women

May 29, 2014 | 23 comments
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Below is a letter from Michael Otterson, Managing Director of Public Affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that the Mormon Newsroom asked Times & Seasons to consider publishing. Comments on various blogs over recent months about what Church leaders should or should not think and do about women’s roles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prompt me to provide some context from an insider perspective that may be helpful. Recently a woman posted this comment on a blog: Please understand that not women who wish to be seen in all their worth... Read more »

What We Don’t Read in the Bible

May 28, 2014 | 51 comments
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Do you ever read the bits of scripture that are excluded from our Sunday School lesson manuals? If you are only looking up certain passages, it is as though the rest of the text doesn’t exist. Read more »

A Brief Note on History, Angels, and Such

May 23, 2014 | 24 comments
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Let’s say that the historicity of the Book of Mormon could be demonstrated irrefutably. (Say that Nephi returned in a cloud of glory, held a press conference, and pointed us to incontrovertible archeological proof.) Would I tune in to watch? Yes. Would this convince me to join or stay in the church? Read more »

Reading Bileam: an embarrassing prophet and us

May 23, 2014 | 8 comments
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Reading Bileam: an embarrassing prophet and us

The Gospel Doctrine class gives quite some attention to one of the strangest stories in the Old Testament, the one of the prophet Bileam, or Balaam; I just taught it in our ward in the Netherlands. The story is strange in many ways, and with a personage that is surrounded by miracles one easily assumes that he is fictive to start with. But he really existed and as an important prophet! When studying anthropology at Utrecht University, during the archeology course the professor told us about his visit to Deir ‘Alla, a site on the East Bank of the... Read more »

Church Discipline: A Comparison

May 22, 2014 | 6 comments
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From Socrates in Athens to Galileo in Rome to John Scopes in a small town in Tennessee, trials make great drama. So it is not surprising that LDS disciplinary proceedings, essentially mini-trials, get so much attention, especially in the age of blogs and Facebook. I shared my thoughts on the topic three years ago in Church Discipline in the Internet Age. This post takes a different approach. Ever heard of Mars Hill Church? Read more »

Literary Worship: The Lost Sheep

May 21, 2014 | 3 comments
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shepherd

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Middle East, where in many places shepherds still live with their sheep, sleeping with them at night and following them around all day to keep them out of trouble. It’s a common enough sight to see a weather-beaten man walking among a dozen or more sheep and goats as they range through wadis and small valleys, nibbling at the sparse vegetation and scampering from hilltop to hilltop. The whole scenario always strikes me as timeless and exotic; it’s something I never imagined in my American world of fences and orderly... Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #11: The Restoration by Gustive O. Larson

May 18, 2014 | 4 comments
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Gustive O. Larson

The restoration of priesthood keys is a vital part of LDS teachings, something that is emphasized repeatedly in lesson manuals, such as chapter 11 in the current Joseph Fielding Smith manual. It is also one of the most emphasized elements of the lessons taught by LDS missionaries. So it is no surprise to find the restoration of priesthood keys as a central element in the following poem, composed by a young LDS missionary in 1922. Read more »

Literary OTGD #18: What Will They Do, Let History’s Page by Charles A. Rogers

May 18, 2014 | 2 comments
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As the Children of Israel entered the promised land, they also faced a change of leadership, with all that entails. As Moses doesn’t cross the Jordan, Joshua is called to lead the Israelites, cross the Jordan and subjugate the territory promised. Lesson 18 of the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual portrays this time as a time when the Children of Israel re-commit themselves to serving the Lord behind a new leader. Following the death of Joseph Smith, the nascent Mormon people also had to face a change in leadership, and (although in a somewhat different manner) cross a river... Read more »

Boko Haram, 200 schoolgirls and us

May 14, 2014 | 11 comments
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Boko Haram, 200 schoolgirls and us

The French president Francois Hollande is convening an international conference with the countries around Nigeria on the question how to deal with Boko Haram, Michelle Obama addressed the USA on the plight of the abducted schoolgirls: all through the western world the media react to this incident in North Nigeria. Last Saturday I gave an interview on Boko Haram for the national Dutch radio: the media have ‘discovered’ Boko Haram, and so have international politics. Of course the furor is completely justified, especially when the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, announced that he would sell the girls, either... Read more »

Literary OTGD #17: The Mountain Standard by Parley P. Pratt

May 10, 2014 | no comments
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Literary OTGD #17: The Mountain Standard by Parley P. Pratt

Approaching the promised land has to influence leaders to remind their followers of how they should act when they enter the long-sought utopia. The goal is to live as God would have them live, covenanting to live in righteousness and harmony. In the case of Moses, as described in Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson 17, he gives instructions to the Israelites to help them remember their covenants. He urges them to obey the commandments and remember God and to be mindful of the rock of their salvation. While the experiences of the Mormon pioneers are similar to those of... Read more »

Literary Worship: Living Waters

May 10, 2014 | 4 comments
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water drop_4910678169_3b95ec3c02_b

A few weeks ago I shared with you the first of my Sacrament poems, Bread of Life. For some reason, just the act of sharing it made me feel closer to my faith than I’ve felt in a long time. So I’ll take the liberty of sharing a second poem, in the hope that it might help both me and perhaps someone else. I’ve always loved the symbolism of the Sacrament. The idea of Christ literally feeding us is so evocative of the deep necessity we all share for his love and Atonement. I can appreciate that from an aesthetic... Read more »

Practical Apologetics: Keeping the Faith

May 9, 2014 | 111 comments
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Another installment in my occasional series (see here, here), this one prompted by a fine little two-page article titled “Keeping the Faith” in, of all places, the BYU Magazine. The Church, both the membership and leaders, finally seems to be waking up to the fact that the Church is losing its youngest adult cohort, the Millennials. What exactly is the problem? What can be done at the local level to address the problem? What can LDS leaders do at the Church-wide level to address it? Read more »

Understanding Anger against Mormon Missionaries

May 6, 2014 | 64 comments
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Understanding Anger against Mormon Missionaries

We sometimes hear stories about Mormon missionaries who are confronted with angry people. We praise the missionaries for suffering for Christ like the apostles of old. We condemn the iniquity of those who loathe the messengers of the Lord. I am going to take up some perspectives of those angry people—because of my mother and others I’ve known over the years. And thousands I do not know. In other churches, missiology experts have been studying at length this topic of tensions, conflicts, and social damage resulting from Western missionizing, including the ethical issue of intra-Christian proselytism. We Mormons seem... Read more »

Why I Watch Game of Thrones

May 3, 2014 | 34 comments
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Bran-stark_193560-1152x864

Since Nathaniel mentioned Game of Thrones and why he doesn’t watch it in his wonderful post earlier this week, I thought I’d give you a few lines on why I do watch the series. Much ink has been spilled over the gratuitous sex and violence in Game of Thrones. I’ll admit that I roll my eyes over the fact that every conversation that can possibly take place whilst the person speaking (or at least someone else in the room) is having sex, does. Still, I think what tends to bother people even more is the sense that there are no boundaries to the... Read more »

Literary OTGD #16: The Saint by W. G. Mills

May 2, 2014 | no comments
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Literary OTGD #16: The Saint by W. G. Mills

The story of Balaam, as discussed in Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson 16, is about a prophet’s struggle with obedience and the requirements of political leaders. As portrayed in the Bible, Balaam follows the commandments of the Lord, but he attempts to get gain by currying favor with a political leader needed. I think this issue of obedience is fascinating, something that, if we all think about it, we also face.  We all have employers, friends, and others who try to influence us, sometimes against what we know the Lord would have us do. Our response is sometimes to... Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #10: Jane Mason’s Truth

May 2, 2014 | no comments
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Lesson 10 of the Joseph Fielding Smith manual discusses our search for truth, citing many of the prophet’s statements on how we are to obtain knowledge of the truth and on the value of truth in our lives. President Smith teaches that truth is something we should seek and value—ideas that can be found in the following poem. Read more »