Come Follow Me: Alma 8-12

My picture, from the Kidron Valley.

My picture, from the Kidron Valley.

Once again, the lesson and chapter divisions cut across the 1830/original chapter divisions, breaking up logical units. In particular, today’s chapter 12 extended into chapter 13:9, where it terminates appropriately with an “amen.” Then a new section began in 13:10-15:19. It is after 13:10 that Alma transitions into speaking about Melchizedek and high priests, which I shall take up next week. (Teaser: I think Alma’s invocation of high priests is a direct response to the objection that the tree of life is blocked by cherubim and a flaming sword.) Continue reading “Come Follow Me: Alma 8-12”

Henry Eyring Sr., Church Magazines, and the Wrong Meeting: “Everyone was Very Nice to Me”

I’ve written a bit about Henry Eyring before (here in connection with General Conference and creationism, and here on Church authority and argument.) He’s a central figure for talking about 20th century science-and-religion arguments in the Church, which you can read about in his Faith of a Scientist, his biography Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring, and this article from The Search for Harmony called “Agreeing to Disagree: Henry Eyring and Joseph Fielding Smith.” Continue reading “Henry Eyring Sr., Church Magazines, and the Wrong Meeting: “Everyone was Very Nice to Me””

Come Follow Me: Mosiah 29, Alma 1-4

Today we move into the Book of Alma.

The stories of Alma Sr. and Alma Jr. are a major focus of the Book of Mormon; If we start in Mosiah 17, where Alma first appears, and count through the end of the Book of Alma, it’s roughly 40% of the entire Book of Mormon, by wordcount. (I generated this using Bibleworks 10, though it is off by a bit, because my electronic text doesn’t include original chapter or book headings. Total Book of Mormon count is roughly 267,000 and Mosiah 17-Alma is roughly 99,400.)
Why did Mormon choose to spend so much time on the period of the Almas, and so little on, say, 4th Nephi? Is it source dependant? (Mormon can’t write what he doesn’t have sources for.) Is it something about the material that Mormon found particularly useful or relevant?

Continue reading “Come Follow Me: Mosiah 29, Alma 1-4”

Come Follow Me: Mosiah 25-27, Alma 36

My picture, from the Kidron Valley.

My picture, from the Kidron Valley.

This lesson has us jump to Alma’s retelling of his experience being unconscious for three days, in Alma 36. The story of Alma the Younger is actually told in  three  places, not just two: Mosiah 27:8-37 (roughly contemporary), Alma 36 (Alma jr. recounting to his son Helaman), and Alma 38:6-8 (Alma Jr. recounting to his son Shiblon.) Continue reading “Come Follow Me: Mosiah 25-27, Alma 36”

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 19: Mosiah 18-24

My bookshelf

My bookshelf

Latter-day Saints have a thing about Doctrine, with a capital D. We try to define it, we argue about it, we prioritize it. We even misquote scripture which supposedly says “bearing down in pure doctrine” (Alma 4:19), when it actually says “pure testimony.” “Pure doctrine” is not a scriptural phrase, and I’m not even sure what it means. We tend to read scripture looking for doctrine. Sometimes, because of cultural expectations about how to identify doctrine, we can’t see it when it’s right in front of us. Continue reading “BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 19: Mosiah 18-24”

Come Follow Me: Mosiah 12-17

I want to plug Book of Mormon Central for collating published scholarship on lessons- See here for today’s links and summaries. (What they have is partly based on my own old work.) Most of today’s chapters involve Abinadi, his preaching, his words. We tend to read our scriptures without regard for where they came from, or how we got them, but that kind of context is often important. We tend to read direct speech (e.g. “And Abinadi said…”) as verbatim records, but should we? And what difference does it make? Continue reading “Come Follow Me: Mosiah 12-17”

Interpreting Scripture, History, Science, and Creation: A Free Course by Me!

Red brick store in Nauvoo, where the first endowments were done on May 4, 1842.

Edit: I’ve added this syllabus to the main menu at left, and simplified the url for easy access, to

May 4th holds significance in LDS history: it’s the day Joseph Smith introduced temple ordinances in the upper room of the red brick store in 1842. The temple ties together a number of questions, like: Continue reading “Interpreting Scripture, History, Science, and Creation: A Free Course by Me!”

Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures: Why We Need MORE

Melvin Cook, famous chemist and ardent LDS young-earth creationist, thought scripture should be interpreted literally, e.g.

My analysis is intended to be strictly literalistic; in my view, intellectual honesty requires literalism in the interpretation of the scriptures.

President Joseph Fielding Smith also made repeated statements about the necessity of reading scripture literally.

I agree with them. But I’ll go one better and do something they never seem to have done: I’m going to define the term “literal.” Continue reading “Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures: Why We Need MORE”