I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I should talk about in my inaugural post on this blog. Quite honestly, when I agreed to do a stint as a guest blogger, I thought it would be pretty easy. But, lately, it seems that all my Mormonism-related thoughts have been trite and meaningless. For example, I considered drafting a post complaining about one of the teachers Elders Quorum and his refusal to teach out of the manual. But, honestly, I think that post would have just ended up being a rant about a quorum discussion outlining the evils of facial hair (true story, by the way) and I don’t think that’s what the faithful readers of this blog are looking for.
This looks like the sort of conference that makes me sad at times that I don’t live in Utah:
Of late I have been thinking of late about how to read Mormon scriptures. In particular, I have been working on some passages in the Book of Mormon on legal interpretation and thinking about how best to approach these sections. By and large, it seems to me that there have been three basic models of how to read LDS scriptures. First, there has been what I think of as an external, sectarian reading. This consists essentially of proof texting in debates and discussions with Protestant outsiders. There is a sense in which this is the oldest kind of LDS hermeneutic. The first Mormons to carefully study the scriptures with Mormon eyes were looking for biblical verses with which to answer Campbellite critics and other Protestant naysayers of the Restoration. The second LDS hermeneutic has been internal. It is aimed not at outsiders but at Latter-day Saints and it has served two purposes. The first, and in my opinion overwhelmingly the most important, reading has been homiletic. We have used the scriptures as a way of motivating ourselves to godly action. On this view, the successful use of scriptures is measured not by integrity to the text per se but rather by the effectiveness of the reading in leading others to live better lives. The second part of this internal hermeneutic has been the elaboration of Mormon doctrine as a body of systematic theology using the scriptures as sources. The third mode of LDS hermeneutic has…
Continuing part 1 , part 2, and part 3. Nephi’s response to his brothers directly attacks their understanding of Moses’s significance.
Continuing part 1 and part 2. Laman and Lemuel offer up their gloss on the story of Moses in verse 22 and in so doing model a particular type of scriptural and legal interpretation. They say: And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like him. (1 Ne. 17:22) There is a great deal that is going on in this sentence.
Laman and Lemuel make their appearance in chapter 17 in verse 17, where they say:
The Book of Mormon is a reliquary in prose. In some extensive sections and at some critical moments, what drives the narrative is the question: how did a set of golden plates, a steel sword, a ball of curious workmanship, a breastplate, and two translucent stones end up inside a stone box buried in a hill in the state of New York? For a religion that attaches little to no significance to relics, it’s striking that large sections of our distinctive book of scripture are concerned with the provenance—the origin and the later cultural significance—of a particular set of holy artifacts.
One of the subterranean threads running throughout the Book of Mormon is the mystery of whose bones are heaped upon the land northward.
Penguin Books has just published a “Penguin Classics” edition of the Book of Mormon edited by Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp. Penguin Classics, of course, are the paperback editions of literary staples like Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. They are printed and marketed largely as texts for college classes. The assumption is that a text included in the Penguin series has become a stable part of the high-brow diet of books, or at least ought to be. It is worth reflecting a little bit about what this edition of the Book of Mormon might or might not mean. The Penguin book itself is based on the 1840 edition of the text rather than our current edition of the scriptures. The text was chosen because this was the last version that Joseph Smith was personally involved in editing. Also strictly speaking there is no standard 1830 version of the text for the simple reason that Grandin edited the book as he was printing it, with the result that different copies of the 1830 edition contain different versions of the text. Our current edition, in contrast, contains an elaborate set of interpretive aids that were added long after Joseph was murdered. Hence, the Penguin edition is printed without versification or the current chapter breaks, both of which were added in Utah by Orson Pratt. Rather, it is printed as regular prose â€“ much like a novel â€“ with the original chapter breaks, which were…
And a great sleep did come over the land; yea, verily, there was much dozing and nodding of heads in all of the sabbath schools.
Let’s read the Book of Mormon as a commentary on American constitutional law and vice versa. Alma 30:7-10 reads:
If this is common knowledge I completely missed it. So I post this in memory of all those who also slept through indecent chunks of early morning Seminary.
Amazon.com has an algorithm for noting the “Statistically Improbably Phrases” in any given book. The idea is to look for word combinations that are uncommon generally but common in the book in the hope that this provides potential buyers some insight into what the book is about. Here are the ones for the Doubleday edition of the Book of Mormon:
As I was re-reading conference, I came across this closing statement by President Hinckley:
Not too long ago, I stumbled across the PBS presentation of Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel (2d ed. 1999). It reminded me of dealing with the book at college and enjoying the ideas presented and the sweeping take of world history that it offered. But while watching the presentation and contemplating the message of the book itself, I was reminded about how much Diamond’s whole analysis depends solely on inference from extremely scant historical evidence.
Market Dominant Minorities
One of the most important scriptural texts for the theological consideration of poverty is to be found in Alma 32. This chapter discusses Alma’s mission to the Zoramites. During a sermon on the hill Onidah, Alma is approached by a group of impoverished individuals who were “poor in heart, because of their poverty as to the things of the world” (v. 4). In effect, because of poverty and social exclusion, these people had become an ideal audience for Alma’s missionary efforts. So the question arises: Is poverty therefore a virtuous force, bringing people to Christ who would otherwise reject the gospel message?
OK, you finished it, or got close. Maybe you were done months ago, maybe you read 100 pages in the last day.*
In our recent tirades about the obvious evils of deer, it was noted , once again, that some scholars think that the horses mentioned in the Book of Mormon may not have been horses, but another hoofed animal. The common one that lives in the right place is similar to a deer. Unfortunately, such comments often are made in the context of how funny it is to think of riding deer into battle.
A couple quick thoughts on recent prophetic moves.
Yesterday at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, here at Notre Dame, I attended a service of prayer and lamentation called “Tenebrae”, remembering the darkness of the night when Christ suffered in Gethsemane and was arrested, and anticipating his death. It closed with a final candle carried out, leaving us in complete darkness, and the congregation producing a loud noise, like the rolling of the stone to close the grave. Today I had a conversation with some friends, in which we reflected on the meaning of these events, and the difference in the darkness from a Mormon point of view.
The first installment of Phillip Barlow’s excellent 12 Questions raises the interesting question of whether the Church will ever produce a modern language edition of the Book of Mormon in English. The answer is that it already has.
One last post, before my non-philosophical blogging stint is done. One thing I’ve thought of with recent events in the middle east was the parallels to the Book of Mormon. I know that’s not exactly an original point to make, but I think the Book of Mormon has a lot of parallels both regarding our enemies as well as how we act towards our enemies. Dan Peterson has long written about the strong parallels between the Gadianton movement and various guerilla movements and insurgencies. I’ve listened to him describe extensive parallels, for instance, between Mao’s insurgency in China and events in the Book of Mormon.
I’ve been witness to many discussions, in and out of the bloggernacle, questioning the importance of some of the stories in the Book of Mormon.
William Blake wrote two poems that are usually studied together. These two poems, titled “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” explore the idea that as the Lord God created these animals, He isolated his own (seemingly contradictory) characteristics of meekness and ferocity and imbued each of these creatures with one of them. William Blake is inviting us to ponder how the isolated characteristics of a lamb and a tiger can share the same space in the heart of divinity. I only mention these poems in order to recognize that the issues and questions I’m raising and discussing have been pondered since a long time ago by far greater minds. And perhaps by some rather silly ones as well.
Professor Royal Skousen has gone far beyond what we asked of him and provided a full and fascinating response to our twelve questions.
During this election season in the U.S., I have been troubled repeatedly by the tone of political discourse among my friends, in my community, on the internet, and in the mainstream media. I have been astonished by the extent to which the dominant motivation for political action has become hate. Most people I know are voting against a candidate for president, not in favor of ideas that might improve our country or the world. Last night, while reading in Alma 43 with my family, I perceived in the portrayal of Zerahemnah elements of both major candidates for president, and read with sadness the description of the then-wicked Lamanites — symbolic, in my account, of those who allow themselves to be manipulated by purveyors of hate. Consider the following passages (emphasis added): Zerahemnah appointed chief captains over the Lamanites, and they were all Amalekites and Zoramites. Now this he did that he might preserve their hatred towards the Nephites, that he might bring them into subjection to the accomplishment of his designs. For behold, his designs were to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites; this he did that he might usurp great power over them, and also that he might gain power over the Nephites by bringing them into bondage. And now the design of the Nephites was to support their lands, and their houses, and their wives, and their children, that they might preserve them from the…
The most recent issue of the FARMS Review has arrived, and it finally contains my article, “‘Secret Combinations’: A Legal Analysis”. I actually wrote this article two years ago, so it has been a while in coming. It is fun to finally see it in print. The article is essentially apologetic. I am trying to respond to the claim that the phrase â€œsecret combinationâ€? was exclusively associated with Masonry in Joseph Smithâ€™s time and that as author of the Book of Mormon Joseph was producing, among other things, an anti-Masonic pamphlet. The real question, of course, is why I would bother with such a project in the first place.
About two weeks ago, the Church announced that Doubleday would be publishing a new edition of the Book of Mormon for general readers. How does it differ from the one that you and I use? “The new hardcover edition will reflect design changes introduced by Doubleday to make the volume more easily read and understood by a non-Mormon audience, but will remain faithful to the text itself. For example, the new edition will not include the exhaustive cross-references and index included in the volume used by Church members.” The list price of this new book is $24.95 (though you can pre-order on Amazon for $16.97). Hmm … less for more. Not the usual marketing pitch, but Sheri Dew, who played a crucial role in getting the project off the ground, believes that the new book fills a niche: The purpose of this project is to extend the reach of the Book of Mormon. I have wished a dozen times for a book to give away that is more substantial than the standard blue softback BOM, but less expensive and less intimidating than the leather-bound set. This edition fills that gap. Furthermore, if you’re not a Church member, aside from calling the missionaries where do you get a Book of Mormon? This commercial edition will be on shelves in Barnes & Noble, in airport shops-all over the country. It’s there with the Bible, the Koran, and the Talmud as real religious…