Mary and the Annunciation as a Model for Scripture Study

At the opening of BYU’s 2019 Reconciling Evolution workshop—which focuses on biology pedagogy with religious students— Associate Academic Vice-President John Rosenberg represented the University in welcoming the dozens of participants to BYU. He spoke on the pursuit of knowledge, using medieval depictions of Mary, Gabriel, and the Annunciation. I have adapted from my notes for this post, by permission.

Continue reading “Mary and the Annunciation as a Model for Scripture Study”

“We don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden”: Genre and the Temple, Part 3

See here and here for parts 1 and 2

Some Latter-day Saints, including some General Authorities like Joseph Fielding Smith, have tried to resolve apparent discrepancies between scripture and science on the age of the earth by asserting that “we don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden.” The implication is that the while the earth went on existing, potentially for millions or billions of years, Adam and Eve remained effectively in stasis in the garden planted eastward in Eden.

I see three arguments against this view.

Continue reading ““We don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden”: Genre and the Temple, Part 3″

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 http://BenSpackman.com/syllabus

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.

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 did: I’m going to define the term “literal.” Continue reading “Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures: Why We Need MORE”

Science and History as Myth and Fiction: Exploring Some Common Labels

(Originally published in 2010 elsewhere) Most people know the genre of “parable” because they’re in the Gospels, but “myth” is poorly understood and the term carries a lot of negative baggage. Like “literal” you have to be very careful throwing around the term without defining it. One simple definition of myth is that myth is worldview in narrative form. That is, it’s a way of explaining one’s conception of how the world works in everyday language or story form. Continue reading “Science and History as Myth and Fiction: Exploring Some Common Labels”

Robert Alter, at BYU and on deep sale

Robert Alter is an emeritus professor of Hebrew, Literature, and Jewish Studies at UC-Berkeley. He recently completed his entire translation and commentary on the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament, in traditional Christian terms). It’s a lovely 3-volume hardcover set retailing for $125. However, Amazon

currently has it for about $65, with a checkbox coupon for another $21 off. This is a screaming deal on the magnum opus of a wonderful scholar, Continue reading “Robert Alter, at BYU and on deep sale”

BYU Studies, Evolution, and Faith: Some Clarification (Updated!)

We recently put forth an open call for abstracts for a special issue of BYU Studies dedicated to biological evolution, LDS faith, and practice. I am the guest editor overseeing the non-scientific submissions and as such, would like to emphasize a few things from the call that seem to be getting overlooked. Update: Please note, we have extended the abstract submission deadline from February 1 to March 1Continue reading “BYU Studies, Evolution, and Faith: Some Clarification (Updated!)”

The 1950s: A Fundamentalist Shift

Several scholars have identified a LDS shift in the mid-20th-century towards a kind of fundamentalism. In 1980, for example, Leonard Arrington reflected in his journal on the

[emergence] at BYU in the 1950s…. particularly in the College of Religion [of] A sort of Mormon Fundamentalism like Protestant Fundamentalism [which] Emphasizes Biblical literalism, rejects the Higher Criticism [in biblical studies, and] the law of evolution… Continue reading “The 1950s: A Fundamentalist Shift”