The Practical Atonement

December 4, 2013 | 17 comments
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This is the third of three posts on the atonement (see here and here). What effect, if any, does the atonement have on your day-to-day life? Does it change how you think, how you feel, or how you act? I think most Latter-day Saints would agree that the atonement is not simply about something that will happen at some distant point in the future (Judgment Day) when, thanks to the atonement, one might be pronounced sinless and eligible to enter a resplendently glorious celestial world instead of being cast down to hell, away to outer darkness, or off to... Read more »

The Fourth Point: Caring for the Poor and Needy

December 2, 2013 | 52 comments
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2013-12-02 Pres Kimball

In 2009 the “threefold mission” of the Church was extended to include a fourth point: “to care for the poor and needy.” Obviously practical charity is not a new concept for Mormonism. The very same chapter that included the famous “If any of you lack wisdom…” verse that led ultimately to the First Vision also contains this emphatic assertion: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27) This New Testament precedent was echoed in modern revelations. For... Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #23: Stanzas

December 1, 2013 | 3 comments
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Literary Lorenzo Snow #23: Stanzas

There is no shortage of poetry about Joseph Smith, the subject of lesson 23 of the Lorenzo Snow manual. But Snow’s views on Joseph Smith are focused not on his martyrdom or on his role as the initial prophet of this dispensation. Instead, Snow focuses on Joseph Smith’s character—an unusual subject for the early Mormon poetry I’ve collected so far. But the following poem does briefly mention some of Joseph Smith’s character traits: Read more »

Literary DCGD #46: Zion

December 1, 2013 | no comments
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Literary DCGD #46: Zion

Perhaps the most difficult issue in discussing the idea of Zion is defining exactly what we mean. Even though D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson #46 is titled “Zion—The Pure in Heart,” its first section is titled “The word Zion has several meanings” and lists no less than six. Of these, I’ve seen evidence in Mormon poetry for two or three definitions. First, the early Mormon poets used Zion in a millennial sense, to mean “The New Jerusalem.” They also used ion to mean “The dwelling place of those who are exalted,” or perhaps even simply “Those who are exalted.” And,... Read more »

Hodayot: A Dead Sea Scroll Thanksgiving

November 28, 2013 | one comment
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Hodayot: A Dead Sea Scroll Thanksgiving

  One of the non-Biblical texts from the Dead Sea cache is known as hodayot or the Thanksgiving Scroll or Thanksgiving Hymns  (or 1QHa and 1QHb, for you scroll groupies). It is so named because of the repetition of the line ‘odeka ‘adonai  “I give thanks to You, O Lord…” The scroll is lengthy, nearly thirty columns, and fragments of seven copies have been found. Alas, the text is quite fragmented, and not terribly exciting to read, so I’ll link to Wikipedia instead of the text. While these poems/hymns/psalms “resemble the biblical psalms in many ways, these poems show a... Read more »

Bittersweet Thanksgiving

November 27, 2013 | 10 comments
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We grew up. All of those kids I went to high school with. Not just high school; my family never moved, so I started in with them in kindergarten and went through to graduation. Part of me never felt like I fit in. Being the only Mormon in my class may have had something to do with that. Not that many new people moved into our little town, although many of us have since moved away. How many, I’m not sure, as I’m one of the ones who left. But every once in awhile, I get a glimpse into... Read more »

The Theological Atonement

November 26, 2013 | 8 comments
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The Theological Atonement

Last week I posted The Atheological Atonement, noting that the LDS Church affirms the atonement but not any particular theory of the atonement, and suggesting this is actually not a bad “official” position for the Church to take. This post takes a different approach: if the Church were to move towards a publicly stated theory of the atonement, in which direction should it move? I will be relying on Gustaf Aulen’s (1879-1977) fine little book Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement (Macmillan Co., 1966; American edition, 12th printing, trans. by... Read more »

Money for Nothing and the Housing for Free

November 25, 2013 | 22 comments
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Methodist Episcopal Church and Parsonage, Iroquois, South Dakota 1900s 2.preview

On Thursday, November 21, the district court of the Western District of Wisconsin declared (part of) the parsonage exemption---a special tax provision for certain religious persons---unconstitutional. Read more »

Religious and Secular Authority: Frying Pans and Fires

November 25, 2013 | 3 comments
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Who cares if you're probably gonna sink? Get out of the boat anyway.

Dave Banack wrote just two weeks ago–here at Times And Seasons–about the atheological atonement. His two conclusions were first, that the Church doesn’t have a specific theory of the atonement and second, that this is  probably a good thing: The Church’s prior forays into theology have produced questionable results. Silence on the subject gives LDS thinkers leeway to publish their own helpful speculative discussions. In any case, it’s the atonement that will save you, not a theory of the atonement or even the one true theory of the atonement. I definitely agree with the general wariness of formal theology... Read more »

Personal (Bloggernacle) History

November 24, 2013 | 6 comments
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PHB1_high1

Sometime in late 2003 or early 2004, Steve Evans told me I needed to check out his website: rameumptom.blogspot.com. At the time, the nascent bloggernacle was so young that By Common Consent didn't yet have a name (I think the name was voted on sometime during that first year). He may have also pointed me to Times & Seasons, or I may have found it linked on his blog. But I found T&S at approximately the same time. Read more »

Literary DCGD #45: Marriage

November 24, 2013 | no comments
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Literary DCGD #45: Marriage

The Mormon conception of marriage is central to our theology and understanding of the next life. We see marriage as the beginning of eternal families, and a key element of eternal progression. Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson #45 explores this belief, but, I think, doesn’t quite get at how or why marriage might be so central to eternal life. The following poem may explain somewhat. Read more »

Times and Seasons: The First Year

November 21, 2013 | 5 comments
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Ten years is a long time, even in the real world. When Adam put up the first Times and Seasons post on Nov. 19, 2003, there was no WordPress. There was no Bloggernacle. There were just six T&S permabloggers (Nate, Matt, Adam, Kaimi, Greg, and Gordon) and a handful of commenters. Those were the days. Below are links to fifteen or twenty representative posts from the first year, with a few commenter names thrown in to give credit to the early followers of the blog. Read more »

Happy 10th Birthday, Times and Seasons

November 19, 2013 | 8 comments
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Happy 10th Birthday, Times and Seasons

I’m not sure what it is about this time of year that leads to the anniversaries that we have this week. In the U.S. many are obsessed with the coming 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Today is the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, leading to an effort this year to get many in the U.S. to memorize the address. And on November 19, 2003, Adam G. posted the first item on Times and Seasons, a post entitled “Whatever I say three times is true.” Since I wasn’t involved at the time, I’ll defer to someone... Read more »

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Business and Theology

November 18, 2013 | 20 comments
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2013-11-18 The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The study of management—of human beings going about their ordinary business of making a living—is one of the richest and most profound venues for the study of theology. Once you’ve considered the idea, it seems obvious. But of course, most of us don’t consider that idea. I never did, until very recently. What could be more antithetical to spiritual reality than the world of business? Even if I thought Hugh Nibley’s critiques on business were a disappointingly infantile digression from an otherwise heroic figure, the idea that the world of mammon could actually be a source of spiritual insight... Read more »

Literary DCGD #44: The Nauvoo Legion

November 17, 2013 | no comments
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Literary DCGD #44: The Nauvoo Legion

Mormons believe in being good citizens, and Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine lesson #44 discusses a little how that is supposed to work. We are supposed to participate, obey the law and to serve others in our communities. But are there limits on this responsibility? How much should we give to our communities? Are there limits on the sacrifice we should make? Things we should not do? In the following poem, Eliza R. Snow lauds those who serve the Nauvoo community, in response to a very real need at the time: defense against mob violence. And some of the... Read more »

The Atheological Atonement

November 13, 2013 | 24 comments
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The Atheological Atonement

I presented a paper on vicarious atonement at the recent SMPT Conference. To prepare the paper, I reviewed the various theories of the atonement offered by Christian theology as well as the LDS view(s) of the atonement. I came to two mildly surprising conclusions. Read more »

The Missing Mormon Literary Renaissance

November 11, 2013 | 96 comments
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2013-11-11 Kurt Vonnegut

Mark Oppenheimer wants to know why there are no great Mormon writers. More specifically: In the United States, Jews, blacks and South Asians, while they have produced no Milton or Shakespeare — who has, lately? — have all had literary renaissances. Mormons are more likely to produce work that gets shelved in niche sections of the bookstore. And as it turns out, Mormon authors themselves wonder if their culture militates against more highbrow writing. They have a range of possible explanations. Now, before we get to the question of why there are no great Mormon writers, I have to... Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #22: Remember the Poor

November 10, 2013 | 2 comments
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Literary Lorenzo Snow #22: Remember the Poor

Its been a decade or more since practicing “random acts of kindness” became a kind of fad here in the U.S. I’ve always liked the concept, and I’ve practiced it on occasion. But I don’t think its a substitute for the kind of doing good to others that Lorenzo Snow manual lesson #22 is talking about. While “random acts of kindness” might be a starting point, its no substitute for “mourning with those that mourn” or “comforting those that stand in need of comfort.” Perhaps the difference between the random, transitory nature of the “random acts of kindness” fad... Read more »

Stewardship

November 10, 2013 | 3 comments
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Stewardship

When I was in college, I took a Shakespeare class. The text was one of those huge editions of the complete works, with lots of notes further expanding its length. Read more »

Literary DCGD #43: Entreaty

November 10, 2013 | no comments
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What exactly is the “whole armor of God?” Lesson 43 of the Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine manual explores this concept, drawing from D&C 27:15-18, and its inspiration, Ephesians 6:13-18. But while both these scriptural texts point to principles that represent various pieces of body armor, its sometimes hard to see how these principles actually protect us. If we look at an actual struggle, what pieces of armor will we see in use? The following poem may provide some insight. Read more »

“Cannot Change”

November 7, 2013 | 93 comments
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This announcement from the newsroom (related to ENDA and a statement from Harry Reid that “the church is changing” ) contains this sentence: “As such, traditional marriage is a foundational doctrine and cannot change.” Read more »

On Missions, Books, and Seriously Going Off the Deep End, Plus a Paean to my Second MP (U: Now with pics)

November 7, 2013 | 28 comments
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On Missions, Books, and Seriously Going Off the Deep End, Plus a Paean to my Second MP (U: Now with pics)

I was always somewhat bookish, even before my mission. Read more »

BYU-Idaho: the next ten years (I)

November 6, 2013 | 20 comments
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BYU-Idaho: the next ten years (I)

BYU-Idaho is much different today than it was in 2001, when it changed its name from Ricks College and started to offer bachelor’s degrees. It shouldn’t detract from the accomplishments of the last decade to say that the university is still a work in progress; institutional change takes a generation.  There are more changes in store, challenges that soon need to be faced, and pitfalls that have to be avoided. Read more »

8 & Up

November 5, 2013 | 42 comments
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The Church has announced that starting in 2014, there will be a General Women’s Meeting twice per year, with women, young women, and girls ages 8 and up invited to attend. Read more »

Conference Announcement

November 5, 2013 | no comments
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The 2013 Conference of the European Mormon Studies Association, in cooperation with the Brigham Young University London Centre, will take place on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th of December in London.  Read more »

The Death of Ishmael[fn1]

November 5, 2013 | 7 comments
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The Death of Ishmael[fn1]

Early in the Small Plates of Nephi, Ishmael and his family join Lehi and his family in the wilderness. In spite of their likely close proximity, though, we don't know much about Ishmael. Nephi and his brothers found favor in Ishmael's sight. Although at various times Ishmael's sons and daughters act for or against Nephi, we don't have any sense about where Ishmael falls in the Laman & Lemuel/Lehi & Nephi continuum. Read more »

Beware Instrumental Beliefs

November 4, 2013 | 66 comments
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2013-11-03 Evolution

Back in 2009, Pew Research released a research package on public opinions about evolution in honor of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. Just last month, a friend on Facebook posted the headlining chart from that package, and a lively debate ensued. The tone of the folks posting this chart (I saw it on several walls) was one of exaggerated dismay, e.g. “A depressing — but unsurprising — revelation about Mormons.” The fact that the result fit so neatly alongside myriad preexisting cultural skirmishes should have been a major indicator that the results were unreliable, however. Lots of... Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #21: Real and Ideal

November 3, 2013 | 9 comments
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Literary Lorenzo Snow #21: Real and Ideal

I’m usually a little uncomfortable when we discuss the evils of the world, as happens in Teachings of Lorenzo Snow lesson #21. Its not that I don’t see evil in the world, but its that I also see good there. And the optimist in me even sees some progress—the world getting better than it was. The following poem makes me wonder if the whole dichotomy of the world v. the kingdom of God should be seen in another way. Is the problem not, in part, that the world doesn’t see life from an eternal perspective? Is the world focusing... Read more »

Literary DCGD #42: The Prophet Turned the Key

November 3, 2013 | no comments
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Literary DCGD #42: The Prophet Turned the Key

The Mormon belief in continuing revelation (the subject of Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine Lesson #42) is rare if not unique among Christian religions, and it is one of the features of Mormonism most promoted. What is perhaps less discussed is the range of meanings of this term in Mormonism. We use it to mean everything from impressions each of us receive personally to written documents produced by the Prophet and accepted by the body of the Church as scripture. Revelation is perhaps most effective when it leads to a significant change in our behavior, or the behavior of... Read more »

Book Review: The Mormon Image in the American Mind

November 1, 2013 | 10 comments
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Book Review:  The Mormon Image in the American Mind

 J. B. Haws, The Mormon Image in the American Mind:  Fifty Years of Public Perception, Oxford University Press. Read more »