Snippets from my Dissertation Proposal on the Roots of LDS Creation/Evolution Conflict in the 20th Century

I’ve gone through multiple refining drafts of my dissertation proposal. My main problem, said my advisor, is atypical; most people at this point have the bulk of their research ahead of them, but I already have enough for two books and half a dozen papers. The trick is filtering, narrowing, and tightening. A good amount of material will be saved for the future book(s) based thereon. So here are some snippets of thought, brain-storming, and writing from along the way. Continue reading “Snippets from my Dissertation Proposal on the Roots of LDS Creation/Evolution Conflict in the 20th Century”

Henry Eyring Sr., Church Magazines, and the Wrong Meeting: “Everyone was Very Nice to Me”

I’ve written a bit about Henry Eyring before (here in connection with General Conference and creationism, and here on Church authority and argument.) He’s a central figure for talking about 20th century science-and-religion arguments in the Church, which you can read about in his Faith of a Scientist, his biography Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring, and this article from The Search for Harmony called “Agreeing to Disagree: Henry Eyring and Joseph Fielding Smith.” Continue reading “Henry Eyring Sr., Church Magazines, and the Wrong Meeting: “Everyone was Very Nice to Me””

The Most Important Question I’ve Been Asked

I had a heavy weekend, between flying cheaply (read: uncomfortably and really early), a family funeral, and TWO related firesides: one on how Latter-day Saints came to read scripture in stark anti-evolutionary ways, the other on making sense of LDS creation accounts in light of what we know about both scripture and science.

During the Q&A, a young sister missionary assigned to the Visitor’s Center asked a practical question.

“As missionaries, what can we do to promote this kind of understanding as we teach the simple truths of the Gospel?”

Continue reading “The Most Important Question I’ve Been Asked”

Inerrancy among Church Employees about Church Materials

I recently had a conversation in a public Facebook group (since deleted by an admin) about the “printing error” in the 2020 Book of Mormon manual. I raised some substantial concerns, filled out with a number of links to my own research and posts about cursing in scripture (e.g. here and in my forthcoming posts on 2 Nephi 1-5). Two S&I (Seminaries and Institute) /COB (Church Office Building) employees responded by bearing testimony of the Curriculum and Correlation process and berating anyone who dared hold any other opinion.

These testimonies constituted de facto witnessing of inerrancy (not the first I’ve seen) and also violated Elder Ballard’s directive specifically to S&I teachers; “Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue.” I even called them out on avoiding the central issues, which received no response.  Continue reading “Inerrancy among Church Employees about Church Materials”

Mormon History Association Conference 2020: Scripture, Science, Interpretation, and Fundamentalism

Notices are going out for the MHA Conference this year, to be held in Rochester NY, June 4-7. The schedule is not up yet, but a panel I organized has been accepted, entitled “Developing LDS Exegesis, Hermeneutics, and Epistemology from 1876-1980: Trends and Influences.” Continue reading “Mormon History Association Conference 2020: Scripture, Science, Interpretation, and Fundamentalism”

Old Manuals, Unintended Consequences, and the Optimistic Turn of “Come Follow Me”

At an amazing S&I address a few years ago, Elder Ballard described past curriculum as well-meaning, but inadequate.

It was only a generation ago that our young people’s access to information about our history, doctrine, and practices was basically limited to materials printed by the Church. Few students came in contact with alternative interpretations. Mostly, our young people lived a sheltered life. Our curriculum at that time, though well-meaning, did not prepare students for today

Continue reading “Old Manuals, Unintended Consequences, and the Optimistic Turn of “Come Follow Me””

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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“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”