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 »

Intellectual Disaffection and “The Biggest Tax Cut in History”

November 1, 2013 | 26 comments
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There are lots of stories on the Internet about people who have discovered things about Mormon history and left the Church. Indeed, these kinds of exit narratives have reached the point of cultural saliency that the New York Times and other media outlets have picked up on the story. I have repeatedly read or heard people claim that we are in the midst of an unprecedented wave of intellectual apostasy. I am skeptical. Before I explain why, I hasten to add that I have absolutely no doubt that many people learn things about Mormon history that they did not... Read more »

SMPT at UVU: “The Atonement”

October 30, 2013 | 2 comments
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Abstracts are now available for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology conference this Thursday, October 31st-Saturday November 2nd. Almost two dozen presentations will directly address the theme of “The Atonement,” alongside related principles such as sin, repentance, freedom, and redemption. A number of other presentations by both Mormons and non-Mormons will address other aspects of Mormon belief including orthodoxy/heterodoxy, business ethics, and the theological importance of gender. Notable sessions include: “Works,” by Daniel W. Graham (Brigham Young University) “Mormonism and the Problem of Heterodoxy,” by Dennis Potter (Utah Valley University) “Rethinking Penal Substitution,” by Paul Owen (Montreat College)... Read more »

Earth Stewardship: Doctrine, Principle, or Heritage?

October 30, 2013 | 12 comments
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I was recently told that earth stewardship is not a doctrine nor a principle of the gospel; rather, it is a heritage. Read more »

Why same sex marriage is not an attack on the institution of marriage: experiences from Europe

October 29, 2013 | 136 comments
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Why same sex marriage is not an attack on the institution of marriage:  experiences from Europe

A Dutch Mormon non-same-sex marriage: a proud father with his daughter The involvement of the LDS church in the issue of same sex marriage in the United States runs very deep and is highly emotional. The battle for proposition 8 was intense, highly visible and centrally directed and seemed at the time to result in a repeal of the liberty for same sex partners to formally and legally marry in California. At the time it drew a lot of attention in Europe as well, reflected in major articles in journals, newspapers and magazines. One of these was Time Magazine,... Read more »

Children Like Ender

October 28, 2013 | 12 comments
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Children Like Ender

As a friend of mine living in Germany informed me, Ender’s Game has already started to play in some markets, and the United States release is coming up this week. With that in mind, I thought I’d return to the novel once more. In the days before The Hunger Games and Battle Royale made the idea of children murdering each other part of mainstream entertainment, the combination of very young characters and serious violence was one of the more provocative and controversial elements of Ender’s Game. Young Ender Wiggin is only six years old when he beats another child to death, and... Read more »

Literary DCGD #41: Lines on the Death of Lorenzo D. Barnes

October 27, 2013 | one comment
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The idea that every member is a missionary depends on a certain kind of commitment to the Church. For the Church to make the kind of progress outlined in D&C Gospel Doctrine Lesson 41 missionaries, even member missionaries, must be willing to make the sacrifices necessary. Recently, the level of commitment that some missionaries end up making has been very public — the Church seems to have switched policy and made public information about missionaries who died in the field. At last report the number who have died is up to 12 (probably fewer than the number of currently... Read more »

Happy Young-Earth-Creationist New Year!

October 23, 2013 | 29 comments
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Happy Young-Earth-Creationist New Year!

According to Bishop Ussher and his famous calendrical calculations, on Oct.23 4004BC, God said “let there be light” and created the Earth. That makes today the Earth’s 4004+2013=6017th birthday, and a new year. Read more »

Upcoming Conferences

October 21, 2013 | 4 comments
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There is an embarrassment of riches on the Mormon Studies scene in the next few weeks. Read more »

The Metaphysics of Sealing

October 21, 2013 | 74 comments
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2013-10-21 SLC Temple

As Mormons, we practice a faith full of ritual ordinances. We are taught in scripture that some of these ordinances, like baptism, are necessary for salvation. We are also given very specific instructions for performing these ordinances, and failure to execute them properly seems to nullify their efficacy. Taken together, the precise instructions for carrying out ordinances and their eternal significance seem dischordant. When we are immersed during baptism, does the water actually do something? If not, why is it so strictly required? I know of three three conventional attitudes to this problem. The most straight-forward is to believe that... Read more »

Literary DCGD #40: Baptism for the Dead

October 20, 2013 | 5 comments
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Literary DCGD #40: Baptism for the Dead

Temple and Family History work (discussed in Gospel Doctrine lesson #40) are perhaps the most unique of LDS doctrines. The doctrine behind them solves both the problem of making salvation universally available and the need for high-church ceremony in a religion that focuses on low-church ideals in its regular worship. The origin of this doctrine appeared in Mormonism in late 1840, and by the following year it was popular enough that it was the subject of the following poem. Read more »

Everybody Ought to Have a Body

October 16, 2013 | 12 comments
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A distinctive Mormon doctrine related to creation and stewardship is the idea that embodiment is a necessary prerequisite for god-like exaltation. This doctrine includes within it the ideas we can be exalted to become like God, and that God himself has a physical body. The soul of man is the spirit and the body. Although we believe we had a premortal existence as spirit children of God, we were not completely created until we were born into our physical bodies. Our mortal parents acted as co-creators with God in having us. Our bodies are the temples in which our... Read more »

Does God Help Find Car Keys?

October 14, 2013 | 47 comments
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Does God Help Find Car Keys?

I remember reading a story in the Ensign while I was on my mission. The story was about a police officer who had been searching for a toddler who had been lost when his mother’s car was stolen while the child was still in the back. The mother was desperate to be reunited with her child, and time was running out. The police officer prayed, he followed a hunch, and the child was found and returned to his parents safe and sound. The story bothered me. It wasn’t the story itself. I have had miraculous experiences in my own... Read more »

A Series of Announcements; or, Be Excited, Be Very Excited

October 13, 2013 | 34 comments
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A Series of Announcements; or, Be Excited, Be Very Excited

Forgive the personal indulgence. I realized that I had been participating in the online LDS world for 10 years, and I had some things to say of a personal and public nature. Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #20: A Marvel and a Wonder

October 13, 2013 | no comments
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James H. Hart

We often use the phrase “a marvelous work and a wonder” to describe the restoration and subsequent spread of the gospel across the earth. And this work is marvelous and wonderful, as lesson 20 of the Lorenzo Snow manual discusses. As a story it has conflict and drama and surprise. And it is, I think, easy to see the hand of God moving the work forward. It may be, however, that the work doesn’t move forward in a straight line, continually growing and improving. Our history shows, I think, some steps back, times when problems led many to leave... Read more »

Literary DCGD #39: The Records of Our Dead

October 13, 2013 | no comments
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Lula Greene Richards

The doctrine of baptism for the dead is unique to Mormonism among religions today. Our focus on performing ordinances on behalf of those who haven’t been part of the Church in this life leads us to genealogical research to discover enough information to distinguish between individuals, and sometimes even allowing us to discover who our ancestors were—what kind of people they were and what were they like. While our family history efforts are rightly focused on getting temple work done for our ancestors, we should find value also in getting to know those ancestors, and in that way building... Read more »

International Day of the Girl

October 11, 2013 | 8 comments
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International Day of the Girl

Today is the International Day of the Girl.  Yesterday, the Deseret News devoted an article to it but 24 hours later, no one had yet commented. Another article appeared today, but as of now, no comments yet. Perhaps there is no need to voice support for something everyone agrees on? Still, worldwide, tens of thousands of children have been conducting activities to support education for girls, following the lead of Malala Yousafzai. Anything to report from Utah? Other themes of the Day deal with forced girl marriages and teen pregnancies due to poverty and lack of sexual education.  In my home... Read more »

New Summer Seminar in Mormon Theology

October 10, 2013 | one comment
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New Summer Seminar in Mormon Theology

The Mormon Theology Seminar and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship are pleased to announce the First Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology, “A Dream, a Rock, and a Pillar of Fire: Reading 1 Nephi 1.” Read more »

Standing as Witnesses

October 8, 2013 | 30 comments
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Ronan’s post this morning reminded me of something I had written but hadn’t gotten around to posting: Read more »

Men, Women, and Priesthood Session

October 7, 2013 | 149 comments
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Men, Women, and Priesthood Session

In case you haven’t heard, members of the Ordain Women movement tried to attend the priesthood session of general conference and were turned away. I think that turning them away was a mistake, but I also think that it would be a bad idea for women to begin attending the priesthood session of conference. First, why I think excluding Ordain Women was a mistake. I can understand why Church authorities would turn away the Ordain Women activists. The rationale, it seems to me, would be something along the lines of, “This is an attempt to turn a sacred meeting... Read more »