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”

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”

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 10: Genesis 24-29

Esau sells his birthright, by Matthias Stom. Public domain, via Wikipedia.

  1. One of the aspects of scripture study as commonly practiced by LDS is the idea of applying the texts to ourselves. While we use Nephi’s term “likening” (1 Nephi 19:37) to refer to this, we haven’t really understood what Nephi means by it, which I’m not going to analyze here.
    What we do instead, typically, is to read the scriptures expecting to find one of two things:
    We look for simple models of modern standards of behavior (and then putting ourselves into their situation). This is what Schlimm calls “Searching for Saints,” as this kind of reading “gives readers what they’ve come to expect from the Bible: stories of saints whom they can imitate in their own lives….Some people prefer instead to search for ethical principles that undergird the Bible’s stories. This tactic assumes that biblical narratives are not too far removed from Aesop’s fables.” But then what do we do with these “saints” who don’t act saintly? When the Bible models behavior we don’t want our kids to emulate?
  2. We look for simple doctrinal concepts we expect to be there, which we wish to propagate and emphasize, like “you should marry in the covenant” or “Jesus is the god of the Old Testament.”

Continue reading “Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 10: Genesis 24-29”

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 09- Abraham 1:1, 5-20; Genesis 15-17; 21-22

Caravaggio’s Sacrifice of Isaac. Public domain, via Wikipedia.

This weeks’s chapters are difficult and socially significant like last week’s, which makes them difficult to write on. My approach, therefore, will be to come at it from a few disconnected directions in which I ask questions I don’t really have good answers to. Before moving on, I strongly recommend you read Robert Alter’s literary translation and commentary on chapter 22 as well as my post on why all the chapters leading up to Genesis 22 are important for Genesis 22.

What makes this chapter difficult and uncomfortable? (BTW, if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, I’d suggest you’re either not paying attention, or haven’t really thought about it.) Continue reading “Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 09- Abraham 1:1, 5-20; Genesis 15-17; 21-22”

Lesson 08- Genesis 13; 14:1-2, 8-24; 18:16-33; 19:1-29

I suspect this lesson will be somewhat charged and sensitive, given the variety of experiences and views among LDS. And be aware, due to the nature of the text, some of the discussion below could be traumatic to people who have been sexually assaulted. Note also that  I do not consider what I write in these posts to be “how I would teach the lesson” as much as useful background, details, and resources; I don’t think I would use language this blunt in a class unless I was certain no one would be traumatized by it.

I expect many people will approach the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from one of three perspectives. Continue reading “Lesson 08- Genesis 13; 14:1-2, 8-24; 18:16-33; 19:1-29”

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 7- Abraham 1:1-4; 2:1-11; Genesis 12:1-8; 17:1-9

Original mudbrick gate at Tel Dan, dating to the Patriarchal period

First, here’s a Spotify playlist of mine to put you in mind to read the Old Testament. It’s Middle Eastern, foreign, archaic, a little mystical and mysterious. It’s probably not anything like actual Israelite music, but it fits my preconceptions.

Second, let’s establish some basic facts. Continue reading “Gospel Doctrine Lesson 7- Abraham 1:1-4; 2:1-11; Genesis 12:1-8; 17:1-9”

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 6- Moses 8:19-30; Genesis 6:5-22; 7:1-10

A cuneiform fragment of Atrahasis, an ancient Mesopotamian flood story related to Genesis. Public domain.

Reading: Moses 8:19-30; Genesis 6:5-22; 7:1-10

Since I first wrote this four years ago, it has been one of the most-popular, most-read posts, and one I refer people to often, because it was where I laid out my longest argument introducing people to the idea of genre in scripture. Continue reading “Gospel Doctrine Lesson 6- Moses 8:19-30; Genesis 6:5-22; 7:1-10”

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 04- Moses 4; 5:1-15; 6:48-62

Adam and Eve, by Michaelangelo.

Adam and Eve, by Michaelangelo.

Let’s talk about origins. We seem to think origins are important; “where we came from” forms a part of our our identity, helps us understand ourselves. This is pretty deeply embedded and reinforced in our culture in a number of ways.  Superhero movies tend to begin with an origin story. Even Batman movies, as often as we’ve seen it and as much as we know it, typically begin by retelling the trauma of young Bruce seeing his parents shot. Jennifer Lopez sang, “Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got; I’m still Jenny from the block; Used to have a little, now I have a lot; No matter where I go, I know where I came from.” Or look at arguments about the importance of Rey’s parentage in the recent Star Wars film (SPOILERS!) Continue reading “Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 04- Moses 4; 5:1-15; 6:48-62”