The General Conference Mirth Index – Take 2

September 25, 2015 | 7 comments
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The General Conference Mirth Index – Take 2

I always enjoy the opportunity to laugh a little bit in general conference. In January, I introduced the General Conference Mirth Index (for the October 2014 conference), which sums up the number of laughs for each talk. As we enter into the next General Conference this weekend, let’s see how much laughing we did last April. A quick recap. To calculate this, I listen to each conference talk and record the number of instances of laughter that I hear. (Note that I’m not counting jokes or judging what is a joke; I’m only counting what induces laughter.) I listen... Read more »

“A woman is a woman no matter what, but manhood can be lost.”

September 21, 2015 | 143 comments
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861-The-Suicide-of-Edouard-Manet-LARGE

The title of today’s post (“A woman is a woman no matter what, but manhood can be lost,”) is a quote comes from a long and interesting article from the Pacific Standard: Why Men Kill Themselves. There’s a lot that is interesting in the article, especially about some of the gender differences that lead to a much higher suicide rate for men as compared to women. Although there are certainly wide variations between cultures in the overall rate of suicide, it turns out that “In every country in the world, male suicides outnumber female.” The article reminded me of Valerie Hudson... Read more »

The Abomination of Desolation (Mark 13:14)

September 18, 2015 | 15 comments
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The question of what the “abomination of desolation” (Mark 13:14) is came up in my recent post, so I thought I’d post a draft version of my work on this topic for the BYUNTC Mark volume. Read more »

Thoughts on a Modern English Translation of the Scriptures

September 17, 2015 | 47 comments
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The Church recently announced that is going to be publishing an LDS “translation” of the Bible in Portuguese. I put “translation” in scare quotes because this is not a new Portuguese version of the Bible translated from the original Greek and Hebrew. Rather, it takes a previous Portuguese translation now in the public domain and updates its archaic language for modern Portuguese readers, adding LDS study aids. This is not the first time that the Church has issued new versions of the scriptures to make their language more digestible for members. For example, the original translation of the Book... Read more »

It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

September 16, 2015 | 26 comments
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It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

  Julie Rowe’s prophecies of an imminent end of the world have been getting a bit of attention lately. So this might be a good time to review Jesus’ teachings on the matter.   Read more »

What is Mormon Doctrine?

September 16, 2015 | 37 comments
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What is Mormon Doctrine?

For decades I’ve been fascinated at the regular conflation of doctrine, policy, and practice among members. We tend to claim the policy of today as not just practical, meaningful, and inspired, but as doctrine. Until it changes and we forget all about it. One example that comes to mind is the “doctrine” from my childhood of only taking the sacrament (and only passing the sacrament tray) with the right (covenant-making, clean, dextro) hand and never with the left (unlucky, dirty, sinistro) hand. Somewhere between the church of my childhood and my 30s, this teaching disappeared from all teaching manuals, missionary... Read more »

Reading Genesis

September 15, 2015 | 11 comments
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Reading Genesis

The latest entry in the how-to-read-the-Bible genre is How to Read the Bible (HarperOne, 2015) by Harvey Cox, a Harvard divinity prof who has been around since the sixties (his classic The Secular City was published in 1965). The first chapter is devoted to Genesis. He offers some helpful perspectives to go beyond simply plodding though chapter by chapter, verse by verse, trying to follow what is going on or being said. Here are four approaches to shape one’s reading. Read more »

Teaching Genesis, Sort Of

September 12, 2015 | 79 comments
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Teaching Genesis, Sort Of

A new year of LDS seminary is just starting up, and this year’s course of study is the Old Testament. The first week of lessons gives some Mormon framing: (1) an introduction to the Old Testament (it “contains images, symbols, and teachings about the Lord Jesus Christ” and “in the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is known as Jehovah”); (2) a review of the Plan of Salvation (essential elements: Creation, the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the Atonement); (3) a module on how to study the scriptures; and (4) a lesson on the Bible (with a timeline starting with... Read more »

Quotes of Note- Elders Ballard and Packer on Meetings

September 12, 2015 | 10 comments
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(I was trying to find President Packer’s statement about meetings for second post on 1 Corinthians, and realized it had disappeared from LDS.org. I’ve relocated it on the Wayback Machine, and the link below is correct. The source is no longer a “recent address” so it had disappeared from lds.org) Elder Ballard- “Are you using the ward and stake councils effectively as they were intended? Don’t let them become meaningless exercises in organizational bureaucracy. The way some leaders conduct council meetings, you would think they really believe in a fourteenth article of faith: ‘We believe in meetings—all that have been... Read more »

The Love of God

September 10, 2015 | 6 comments
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The Love of God

    The Sun by Edvard Munch It’s been one of those weeks. You know, the kind with too many hurried mornings to get to school before the bell rings and too few slow afternoons to help you remember why you hurried in the first place. The kind of week where the laundry will get done and the bills paid and the children raised and the home kept and the dreams stoked. The kind of week where all those true blessings felt a little like burdens. The kind of week where the questions about faith and fact break across... Read more »

Introducing Meg Conley

September 10, 2015 | 5 comments
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Utah wedding and portrait photography

I am excited to introduce Meg Conley as our newest guest-blogger here at Times and Seasons! Meg Conley is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in topics of womanhood and motherhood. Her website, megconley.com, is quickly becoming a nationally recognized platform for women’s issues and day to day inspiration. She has appeared on Good Morning America, Nightline and The Steve Harvey Show. Her writing regularly appears on The Huffington Post. She is also, as she puts it, “the mother of two sparkling girls and married to the kind of man that lights the days.” I’ve been a big fan of... Read more »

Do Mormons Have a Duty to Vote?

September 7, 2015 | 19 comments
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We'll get back to Trump towards the end.

You might think that this is a strange question, and that of course everyone has a duty to vote. That’s part of being a good citizen, isn’t it? Well, there’s a growing body of opinion that says this isn’t so. It all starts widespread agreement that voting doesn’t make a lot of sense from the perspective of an individual voter. Your chance of swaying a national election—of being the decisive vote—is for all practical purposes zero. So there’s no benefit to voting. But there are costs. There’s the gas you pay for the drive to the polling place and... Read more »

Data, Doctrines, & Doubts: Improving Gospel Instruction

September 2, 2015 | 60 comments
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Data, Doctrines, & Doubts: Improving Gospel Instruction

I’m grateful for the invitation and excited to participate here at Times & Seasons. The following is a talk I gave in our recent Stake General Priesthood meeting as the newly called Stake Sunday School President. While many of the ideas below were conceived independently, I was heavily influenced by some of Ben Spackman’s writings (especially the quotes) when it came to their final form. Big thanks to him. I’ve been asked to speak tonight on improving gospel instruction in the home and at church. So much time could be dedicated to analyzing the best teaching methods and the how-to of engaging gospel lessons.... Read more »

Introducing Walker Wright

September 2, 2015 | 2 comments
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Introducing Walker Wright

After citing him on multiple occasions here at Times and Seasons (for example here and here), I’m very pleased to announce that Walker Wright will be joining us for a guest blogging stint. Walker is an MBA student at the University of North Texas, and his primary interests are in the theology of work and sacralizing the mundane. Walker has written for Square Two, presented at Sunstone, Mormon Transhumanist Association, Faith & Knowledge, and Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, and is contributing a chapter to Julie Smith’s forthcoming Come, Let Us Reason Together: Dialogues with Scripture. He also blogs at Difficult Run, Worlds... Read more »

Covenant and Speech

August 31, 2015 | 84 comments
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Membership in the Church is a covenant relationship. We repeat this to ourselves a great deal but generally aren’t clear exactly what we mean by it. Often, we imagine a covenant as a contract, a set of reciprocal promises. Given what the scriptures say about covenants, this isn’t a false way of thinking about it, but it is seriously incomplete. The most powerful image of covenant in the scriptures for me is the image of marriage. Israel, we are told, is like the (often faithless) spouse of God. A marriage is a relationship that is defined by reciprocal promises,... Read more »

Reminder: SMPT deadline Tuesday Sept. 1

August 31, 2015 | no comments
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Paper proposals for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology’s 2015 Annual Meeting are due soon—Tuesday, September 1. There have been a number of strong submissions already, and we are looking forward to more. For full details on the conference and the call for papers, see the original announcement. Read more »

Church Sticks with Boys

August 27, 2015 | 34 comments
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Church Sticks with Boys

As Dave Banack wrote yesterday, in spite of some public huffing and puffing, the church has decided to continue the relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. They have also decided to continue to seem unaware that the first word in the organization’s title makes it gender-exclusive. With equal concern for the substantial number of youth who live outside the United States and Canada, the Church will continue to evaluate and refine program options that better meet its global needs. The correct wording should be “with equal concern for the substantial number of male youth who live outside the United States and Canada.”... Read more »

Church Sticks With BSA

August 26, 2015 | 25 comments
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Church Sticks With BSA

At least for the moment, as announced in this statement posted at the Mormon Newsroom: “Church to Go Forward with Scouting Program.” So despite the sharply worded LDS statement released a month ago at the Newsroom expressing frustration with BSA for the timing and content of the decision to allow gay scout leaders to serve and despite Internet rumors that an LDS-BSA divorce was imminent, this troubled marriage will continue, at least for now. How long will this last given declining support for BSA among the LDS rank and file? And what does this mean for LDS youth and... Read more »

The Most Important Question about the Future of Mormonism

August 24, 2015 | 48 comments
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A couple of weeks ago, Patheos had a fun series of blog posts on the future of the Mormonism. (I’m too lazy to provide a link; Google it.) Most of the contributions were insightful and interesting, but I was struck that none of them put front and center what I think is the more important question facing the Church today. Mormonism is driven, ultimately, by missionary work. If you look at the development of our theology, for example, it has largely been formulated in the context of polemics driven by the needs of proselytizing. We articulate our theology through... Read more »

“Another Important Step Forward in the Restoration of the Gospel”

August 19, 2015 | 49 comments
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“Another Important Step Forward in the Restoration of the Gospel”

Yesterday, President Oscarson announced on her Facebook page that she was now assigned to be a member of the Missionary Executive Council. President Burton is now a member of the Priesthood Executive Council (which has been renamed the Priesthood and Family Executive Council) and President Wixom is now on the Temple and Family History Executive Council. In an article in the Deseret News, former General RS Presidency member Sheri Dew said that “This is yet another important step forward in the restoration of the gospel.” Read more »

Explain Maine

August 18, 2015 | 32 comments
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Explain Maine

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Planting the Seed: Theological Works by LDS Women

August 16, 2015 | 24 comments
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Planting the Seed: Theological Works by LDS Women

So a friend of mine is going to shepherd a much-needed project: an index of theological, exegetical, historical, and doctrinal writings by LDS women. Read more »

Teaching Old Testament for Seminary

August 13, 2015 | 24 comments
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Teaching Old Testament for Seminary

You recently got called as a Early Morning Seminary teacher, and feel surprisingly sanguine about it. Then you found out that you’re starting with Old Testament this September, and all of a sudden, your confidence in the face of world-weary, eye-rolling teenagers plummeted. Why is this so tough? The audience is hostile and sleepy. You teach every day, without the luxury of a whole week to think through your 45 minute lesson. You’ve got to get in there every morning to teach about the longest book we know the least, with the hardest material that is also the most foreign, culturally speaking. Not... Read more »

Seer Stones and the New Narrative

August 10, 2015 | 55 comments
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Seer Stones and the New Narrative

A week ago, the Church released a suddenly iconic photograph of Joseph Smith’s favorite seer stone, and also posted at LDS.org an article by three LDS historians, “Joseph the Seer,” to be published in the October 2015 Ensign. It seems clear that the image plus the content of the article are going to rewrite the standard (“official”) LDS narrative concerning Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon text. I’m concerned it may also bring folk magic back into that narrative and even back into mainstream LDS culture. That seems like a step in the wrong direction. Read more »

Review: Fresh Courage Take, or What It’s Like to Be a Mormon Woman

August 7, 2015 | 14 comments
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Review: Fresh Courage Take, or What It’s Like to Be a Mormon Woman

I recently read the new book Fresh Courage Take: New Directions by Mormon Women (Signature Books, 2015; publisher’s page), edited by Jamie Zvirdin with a foreward by Joanna Brooks. Twelve enlightening essays reflecting the plight, fight, and delight of being a Mormon woman circa 2015. You might ask: Not being a Mormon woman myself, who am I to write a review of this book? I know at least a few Mormon women rather well (mother, wife, daughter). Also, I have read lots of blog and Facebook posts by articulate Mormon women sounding some of the same themes and experiences,... Read more »

YW Lesson: How Do I Prepare Now to Become a Righteous Wife and Mother?

August 6, 2015 | 22 comments
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YW Lesson: How Do I Prepare Now to Become a Righteous Wife and Mother?

The first line of this lesson reads, “To prepare to be a righteous wife and mother, young women should focus on the Savior and on developing Christlike attributes,” so that’s what I decided to focus the lesson on. Read more »

Seerstones and the Sacred

August 5, 2015 | 65 comments
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Seerstones and the Sacred

I’ll be honest. Seerstones spark a fire in my bones, a connection to an earlier, earthier, more tangible, and sacral-infused Mormonism. And that’s a Mormonism I need in my life right now. Read more »

Another View of the Seer Stone

August 5, 2015 | 21 comments
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Another View of the Seer Stone

Yesterday by invitation, I attended  the first known joint press conference between the LDS Church and its cousin, the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or RLDS.) The occasion was the release of the 2-part 3rd volume in the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith Papers, the Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of the Mormon. As with the others, these books are hefty, high-quality, and thought-provoking. While available at Amazon (part 1, part 2), they will also be available in their entirety online soon.  Read more »

Society for Mormon Philosophy & Theology 2015 Call for Papers

July 30, 2015 | no comments
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The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology will be meeting at Brigham Young University, October 8-10, 2015. This year’s conference theme is “Doers of the Word: Belief and Practice.” From the Call for Papers: The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology invites paper proposals on any aspect of Mormon belief, including its philosophical ramifications. We particularly encourage submissions on this year’s theme. Religious faith is not merely a matter of belief but of action. Indeed, several passages in scripture suggest that true belief cannot be separated from action. In John 7:17, for instance, Jesus indicates that the practice of... Read more »

My Theory of the Church’s Statement on the Change in BSA Policy

July 29, 2015 | 122 comments
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Yesterday my Facebook feed erupted with posts by LDS friends expressing dismay over the Church’s announcement that it would reconsider its relationship with the BSA in light of the BSA’s announcement that it would now allow gay scoutmasters. After all, the BSA policy allows local troops to set their own guidelines regarding gay scoutmasters, and in any case the Church has no objection to gay scoutmasters, so long as they are living the law of chastity. Why the sharp response from the Church? I have a theory about, this, but it is only a theory. In 2000, the U.S.... Read more »