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!”

Announcement: Two Firesides This Weekend in the DC Area

It’s been a remarkably good Monday morning. Chilly, but I scored a $72 long-sleeve Merino wool bike jersey for $18 recently, and so went out for a 24-mile ride in 40 degree weather.

Chilaquiles!

Made myself chilaquiles afterwards. Bit of a foodie here.

But more importantly, we’ve crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s, so… I will be in the Washington DC area this weekend, doing two firesides. I know this announcement is sudden; technically I’m coming out for a family funeral, but I’d talked to people before about doing this, and now I have opportunity. Continue reading “Announcement: Two Firesides This Weekend in the DC Area”

How to Build Resilient Faith: An Almost Ensign Article

In late 2014, I heard the story of a friend of a friend who had lost faith and left the Church. I wished there was something semi-authoritative I could have pointed to which would have shifted this person’s paradigm in healthier and more robust directions. Yes, there’s lots of material like that… but not directly published by the Church. Frustrated I couldn’t find something, I decided to write it myself, for catharsis. I did a little research, wrote up an article in Ensign style, and passed it around to some academic and Church-employed friends, who encouraged me to submit it.

To my surprise, the article received enthusiastic acceptance, Continue reading “How to Build Resilient Faith: An Almost Ensign Article”

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”

Genre… and the Temple

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

If you follow me, you know I talk a lot about the importance of recognizing genre in scripture: podcast here, Sperry symposium here, posts here, here, etc.

Evolution is also a topic I address with some frequency, such as here (a BYU guest lecture) and here (in context of “what prophets know”).

I also talk a lot about Genesis, how and why it’s historically been misread (e.g. my presentation here and accompanying post here), as well as the parallels in Moses and Abraham (last year at the Joseph Smith Papers conference and this year at FAIR, transcript not up yet.)

And I’m writing a book on Genesis 1 where I tie a lot of this stuff together… but I’ve left a lot of hardest writing for last, including my chapter on the temple. So, let’s talk.  Continue reading “Genre… and the Temple”

Genesis and Evolution: A BYU Guest Lecture

Creation of the Sun, Sistine Chapel

BYU’s Late Summer Honors offered a course recently called, “What Does it Mean to be Human? A Scientific and Spiritual Journey into Human Origins.” I was invited to take a 3-hr class period to talk about what Genesis has to say about evolution and the place of humanity in creation. I’ve presented much of what I said before, in other venues, but virtually everything was new to these freshman honors students. By necessity, I tried to keep it simple and use some humor. Continue reading “Genesis and Evolution: A BYU Guest Lecture”

Some quick and short book notes

My image.

As is my wont, I’m excited about a few books, two popular and two more academic.

First, Peter Enns has a new book coming early next year, How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That’s Great NewsEnns is one of my favorite authors, an academic who can also write for normal people. In fact, my Mom’s been reading his Genesis for Normal People and loving it. (Enns has been on the Maxwell Institute Podcast a few times and spoken at BYU.) For a content summary from the publisher, see here.

Second, Kyle Grenwood’s edited collection, Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages should appear in the next month. Greenwood’s book on science and cosmology in the Bible is on my top 10 list for the early chapters of Genesis.

A claim is often made like “Christians have always interpreted Genesis literally until science came along!” There’s a lot wrong with that claim, which I’ve written about…somewhere. I can’t find my own darn post. Greenwood’s volume will not be the first to tackle the various interpretations of Genesis throughout the ages, but I hope will do it well and in an accessible and popular way. It’s no good for academics to know this stuff if it doesn’t filter down to popular discussion and debate. Continue reading “Some quick and short book notes”

The Scientific Deformation and Reformation of Genesis: How “Science” Messed It Up, but Also Fixes It

Ben contemplating his words at Petra.

I was grateful for the invitation to speak at UVU’s Mormon Studies Conference on Mormonism and the Challenges of Science, Revelation, and Faith in February 2018. I spoke about how and why we’ve come to understand the creation chapters of Genesis certain ways, and then participated in a panel on evolution with two BYU biologists. You can watch my presentation here (scroll to the bottom and click on my name to launch the video.) My slides aren’t visible, but you can download them here (pdf) to follow along. Continue reading “The Scientific Deformation and Reformation of Genesis: How “Science” Messed It Up, but Also Fixes It”