“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”

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”

An essay on the nature of prophetic knowledge, with a side helping of evolution

Ben contemplates his words, at Petra.

Regardless of what you think about evolution, it poses a problem. In the past, the issue might have been framed as “since we know scripture is true, the science behind evolution must be false. How do we make sense of this?”

Today, the hypothetical teenager might wrestle with this question from the other side. “Since we know human evolution is true, and God knows all truth, why don’t God’s earthly proxies like scripture and prophets seem to know it?” Continue reading “An essay on the nature of prophetic knowledge, with a side helping of evolution”

D&C Gospel Doctrine Lesson 42: Some important background and resources on OD2

Rubens, Cain Slaying Abel (Public domain)

Rubens, Cain Slaying Abel (Public domain)

This, I think, is important enough for a post. Lesson 42 on Continuing Revelation highlights Official Declaration #2, the written aftermath of the 1978 revelation. So whether you’re teaching or commenting, you should get informed, because there’s a lot of misinformation and tradition out there.

First, get familiar with the Gospel Topics Essay called Race and the Priesthood. If you’re a teacher, Elder Ballard thinks you ought to know this material “like the back of your hand” and “If you have questions about them, then please ask someone who has studied them and understands them.” Well, below are two. Continue reading “D&C Gospel Doctrine Lesson 42: Some important background and resources on OD2”

Announcement: MI Seminar Conference on Thursday

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 11.23.59 PMThe Maxwell Institute Seminar draws to an end with a public conference this Thursday. I’ll be speaking at 9:40 on Mormonism as Rough Stone Rolling: Towards a Theology of Encountering the World.

The full schedule is below.

 

Mormonism Engages the World”

Thursday, August 3
9:30 AM to 4:30 PM MST

Brigham Young University
Joseph F. Smith Building
Education in Zion Theater

Co-sponsored by the Mormon Scholars Foundation and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

MORNING SESSION

9:30 AM
Welcome and Invocation

9:40 AM
Ben Spackman
“Mormonism as a Rough Stone Rolling: Towards a Theology of Encountering the World”

10:10 AM
Amber Taylor
“A Patriotism of Peace: Suffrage, Americanization, and the Peace Movement among Early Twentieth-Century Mormon Women”

10:40 AM
Jessica Nelson
“World War II and Making Modern Mormonism”

11:10 AM
Richelle Wilson
“The Disenchantment of Callings: From Consecration to Delegation”

11:40 AM
Aubrie Mema
“The Suffering Christ: Finding the Tragic in Mormon Art”

12:10–1:25
LUNCH BREAK

AFTERNOON SESSION

1:30 PM
Randy Powell
“Savin’ for a Rainy Day: Mormon Food Storage and the Survivalist Movement”

2:00 PM
Adam Brasich
“‘An Everlasting Order’: Fundamentalist Mormonism’s Response to the Great Depression”

2:30 PM
Gavin Feller
“Modest with a Little Mystery: Television, Swimsuits, and Mormonism in 1950s America”

3:00 PM
Liz Brocious
“Invitation to a ‘Mix and Mingle’: Bringing a Mormon Theology of Agency in Conversation with a Secular Theory of Self”

3:30 PM
Ty Mansfield
“‘Eternal Companions’: Orders of Priesthood, Victorian Romanticism, and Shifting Narratives in Mormon Discourse on Marriage and Family”

4:00 PM
Norma Calabrese
“Mormonism: (The Challenge to Become) a Glocal Church in a Globalized World”

“Glocal” btw, is a combination of global and local.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.

My MHA Presentation and Reconciling Science with Scripture

Ben contemplates his words, at Petra.

Ben contemplates his words at Petra.

 

Here is a copy of my MHA presentation text, “Early LDS Attempts to Reconcile Scripture with Science: Pre-Mormon Pre-Adamites and Intellectual (In)Dependence.” What assumptions did early 20th century LDS have, and who were they reading, while debating evolution, death before the fall, pre-adamites, etc.? Continue reading “My MHA Presentation and Reconciling Science with Scripture”

Transitional Mormonism, Part 2: An Earlier Transition

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 11.37.26 AMWhat do I mean by “transitional Mormonism”? (Part 1 is here if you missed it.) I take the idea from the title of Thomas Alexander’s award-winning book Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930, now in a 3rd edition. Alexander was a BYU professor, and wrote this as part of a commissioned 16-volume history of the Church that did not come to fruition. This time period was a particularly tumultuous one both for the LDS Church and America, with major intellectual, social, scientific, and technological changes. Among other things, the “modernism crisis” with Darwinism/evolution, “higher criticism,” and the rediscovery of the ancient near east  led to the creation of fundamentalism (an intellectual response to the crisis) as well as Pentecostalism (a spiritual response.)

The LDS Church existed in the same environment, and many major changes to policy, doctrinal understanding, and LDS culture happened during this period Alexander chronicles. These changes discomfitted many LDS, who reacted in a variety of ways including both intellectual and actual schisms. For those not well acquainted with LDS history, I would characterize this period as the bridge between “Joseph Smith’s church” and the “modern church.”

What are these discomfitting changes? To pick a few major ones Alexander covers well and hold my interest

  1. The ending of (mainstream) lived polygamy
  2. The beginning of geneaological research and the associated centrality of the temple. That is, until this time, it seems the importance of learning about your ancestors and doing their temple work and sealing was not understood; consequently, most Mormons (including Apostles) were endowed, married, and then didn’t have any theological motivation to return. Once Wilford Woodruff put an end to the idea of “adoption” and emphasized geneaology, the need to attend to proxy ordinances greatly increased.
  3. The codification/standardizing of the Word of Wisdom and its elevation to a temple recommend question. Among others, see Mike Ash “Up in Smoke” and Edward L. Kimball, “The History of LDS Temple Admission Standards”
  4. Doctrinal regulation/centralization 

I suspect Mormonism has now entered a similar transitionary period as the one Alexander describes from 100 years ago. Certainly, Mormonism is always changing in some way or another so in a later post I’ll explain why I think we’re into another major transitionary period and why. I’ll also describe a parallel transition that I suspect is informing LDS leadership. In the meantime, check out Alexander’s book.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.