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”

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 45: Daniel 1,3,6 AND Esther 3-5, 7-8.

Today we are rushing through  Daniel AND Esther, although next week is devoted solely to Daniel 2. What’s interesting is how the comparison between Daniel and Esther actually serves the manual’s purpose, which is to “help class members have the courage to live according to gospel standards.” How so? 

Daniel doesn’t hide his Jewishness, even being a bit extravagant, while Esther is apparently able to pass, to fly under the radar as a non-Jew. Significant, perhaps, that

“noticeably absent [in Esther] is any mention of God or of religious observance (prayer, Jewish dietary restrictions, traditional modesty, and endogamous marriage).”-The Jewish Study Bible.

Indeed,

“there is no mention of Jerusalem, the temple, the law or the covenant as is found in other postexilic books.Unlike the book of Daniel, which also is set in the court of a pagan king, there are no prayers, apocalyptic visions or miracles….Esther shows no concern for the dietary laws when taken into the court of a pagan king, she conceals her Jewish identity, and she pleases the king in one night more than all the other virgins. When she risks her life for her people, she does so only after Mordecai points out that she herself will not escape harm even if she refuses to act.”- Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry, & Writings “Esther, Book of.”

Thus, Esther seems quite assimilated, by comparison to Daniel. (Some have wondered if this is the reason Esther is the only book that has not been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls biblical texts.) Continue reading “Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 45: Daniel 1,3,6 AND Esther 3-5, 7-8.”

“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”

“You either believe the scriptures or you don’t”

Ben contemplates his words, at Petra.

“You either believe the scriptures or you don’t.” I have, on occasion, been accused of wresting or disbelieving scripture. More often than not, this accusation has come from well-meaning people of my own faith who don’t understand how interpretation of scripture works. Often, they don’t even understand that interpretation exists.

It is impossible to read scripture without making an implicit claim as to what a passage means, which is “interpretation.” So everyone is interpreting, all the time, consciously or unconsciously. Continue reading ““You either believe the scriptures or you don’t””

The Future Faith of Our Seminary Students

Ben contemplating in Petra.

This is a long post, with four sections, but I ask you to read it because I think it’s important.

I first explain the nature of my concern, the two emblematic issues involved, and conclude by inviting you to do something.

Intro/Why I’m concerned

The 2019 Seminary manual for Old Testament is now available. I skimmed through some early bits, and I’m concerned for the future faith of our LDS youth. Continue reading “The Future Faith of Our Seminary Students”

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”

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 33: Jonah and Micah

IGNORE THE WHALE!

…pay no attention to the whale. (From Michael L. Baird, flickr.bairdphotos.com)

Jonah is four short chapters. I’ve done a lot with Jonah in the past, addressing the short book several times, from several angles, including the history question. In brief, if you’re focused on the “whale” instead of the last four verses of chapter 4, you’re entirely missing the point. Continue reading “Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 33: Jonah and Micah”

Raymond Brown on Understanding and Teaching Complicated Historical Issues

Raymond E. Brown SS, was a Catholic priest and Bible scholar, known for his Introduction to the New Testament, his volumes in the Anchor Bible Commentary series, and other academic and semi-popular works. He also wrote a popular book called 101 Questions on the Bible which has some really great stuff. As you might expect from the title, he presents this in Q&A format.

Several questions address the nature of scripture and genre, but also how to teach and preach passages where there is a large difference between scholarly understanding and popular traditions. (Virtually all the italics are mine.) Continue reading “Raymond Brown on Understanding and Teaching Complicated Historical Issues”