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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Reformation Readings for Reformation Day (Oct 31)

One of my qualifying exams is in Reformation history. As the story goes, Oct 31 is the day Martin Luther nailed his 99 95 theses to the door of the church, so Oct 31 is sometimes known as Reformation Day. What many people don’t know is that a) this story doesn’t mean what people think it does and b) it might not even have happened. Continue reading “Reformation Readings for Reformation Day (Oct 31)”

“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””

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”

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”

A Vague Post on Joseph Fielding Smith, Evolution, and Other Sides of His Story

Screen Shot 2016-11-02 at 9.07.09 AMPeople are multi-faceted and complex. It’s very easy to develop an attitude of putting either a halo or a black hat on someone from one incident, one aspect of them, particularly when it’s a historical figure. It can be hard to get a full picture of someone. Elder Maxwell once said that the tragedy of Elder McConkie was that he had the most fantastic sense of humor, and no one in the Church knew it. (See my old post here.)

It’s well known that Joseph Fielding Smith was strongly opposed to evolution, embraced a young earth creationist view, and consequently had arguments with other General Authorities for much of his life. Continue reading “A Vague Post on Joseph Fielding Smith, Evolution, and Other Sides of His Story”