A Paradoxical Preservation of Faith: LDS Creation Accounts and the Composite Nature of Revelation

Creation of the Sun, Sistine Chapel

My 2019 FAIRMormon Conference presentation is up now, here. There’s a lot in the footnotes as well.

The takeaway is this: Many LDS have unsustainably fundamentalist assumptions about the nature of revelation, prophets, and scripture. The conflict these cause sometimes leads to a loss of faith, instead of recognizing and reexamining the assumptions.

I draw on a variety of things to argue against these assumptions, to argue that revelation is composite, that is, always contains divine and human aspects, and we should expect those. It’s ok, though, because it’s a progressive, iterative process. As time goes on, the human progresses towards the divine until the categories overlap completely. But we’re not there yet and won’t be for a long time.

So I take Acts 15:28 as my paradigm for understanding Church leadership. “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.”

Paradoxically, it is by recognizing and understanding the presence of the human that my faith in the divine is preserved.

Give it a read.

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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”

“Absolutist” Revelation and Creation Accounts in Moses, Abraham, and the Temple

I presented a short paper at the Joseph Smith Papers conference a few weeks ago, a spin-off from my Genesis 1 manuscript. (I presented an expanded version at the 2019 FAIR Conference.)
My basic argument was this. Certain common conceptions of revelation, which I term “absolutist,” cannot account for the major textual, doctrinal, and other differences between Genesis, Moses, Abraham, and the temple; this suggests we need to think and teach about revelation differently and in more depth.  Continue reading ““Absolutist” Revelation and Creation Accounts in Moses, Abraham, and the Temple”

A Short Announcement and a Seattle Fireside on Reclaiming the Literal Interpretation of Genesis

First, I’ve had a lot of Facebook friend requests from readers. I’m taking a break from Facebook to focus on my preparation for my three qualifying exams in spring: American Religious History, Reformation History, and History of Science. However, I will continue posting things to the Benjamin the Scribe Facebook page. I suggest you both Like and Follow that page. (I put a link to it and my GoFundMe  at the end of every post, but apparently, not everyone makes it that far.)

Second and more exciting, Friday Nov. 2 at 7:30, I’ll be speaking at a home in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. My topic, “Reclaiming the Literal Interpretation of Genesis: A Short History of How It Went Wrong,” expands on several of my previous papers, presentations, and podcasts (scroll down). Seating is limited, so you must RSVP to this email address. If there are seats remaining, you’ll receive the home address.

See you there.

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. 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, with subtitles.  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”

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 12: Genesis 40 onwards

Joseph in Egypt, by Tissot. Public domain, via wikiart.

These chapters carry on the novella of Joseph in Egypt. It’s over 10 chapters, which is a lot of time and space to devote to one story about one person; creation occupies 3 chapters, by contrast. Why so much space? What makes this story so significant that it was told and retold, and eventually merited being written down? Is there anything of doctrinal value, from an LDS perspective? What, then, from the Israelite perspective?I don’t have a good concise answer for that, but it’s a good question to think about. Continue reading “Gospel Doctrine Lesson 12: Genesis 40 onwards”