Video Interview about Seminary, Complexity, Manuals, and Other Fun Stuff

There’s a large group on Facebook for Seminary teachers, where they ask questions, share ideas and lesson plans, etc. I’ve been a (sometimes not-very-detached) observer there, and recently participated in a live-streamed interview with Jenny Smith about various things around teaching seminary. I’ve uploaded it to youtube for wider watching, below with some notes. Continue reading “Video Interview about Seminary, Complexity, Manuals, and Other Fun Stuff”

Come Follow Me: Philemon

Philemon used to be covered with Philippians and Colossians, and consequently, it went ignored. (Do you remember the last time Philemon came up in Gospel Doctrine?)  However, Philemon merits our close attention. It’s short and it offers a great discussion point for something really relevant and important. So, I’ll go long on Philemon (and the bottom has some old-post leftovers about Philippians and Colossians.) Continue reading “Come Follow Me: Philemon”

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”

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”

“That which is Demonstrated, We Accept with Joy”: Mormons, Scripture, and Evolution

Creation of the Sun, Sistine Chapel

Creation of the Sun, Sistine Chapel

You might have noticed an op-ed on Mormonism and evolution in the Salt Lake Tribune by me, responding to discussion of the place of evolution in Utah science standards. I’m a historian of religion/science with some scientific training, not a scientist, so I generally leave detailed argument and refinement to the actual scientists.

But history can tell us a lot here. I’m convinced that evolution and faith in God can coexist. The short version is, Mormonism has no official position on evolution, BYU unapologetically teaches human evolution, but no one has (yet) offered a good way of squaring this with scripture. Watch this space 😉 Continue reading ““That which is Demonstrated, We Accept with Joy”: Mormons, Scripture, and 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”

Kenton Sparks on Genre

In the LDS Perspectives podcast, I alluded to this passage from Kenton Sparks’ section in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters. I think he captures very concisely and clearly the nature of genre; A genre is a pattern, established by identifying the characteristics it has in common with other similar things. This is why it’s so important to study ancient Near Eastern literature outside the Bible. By putting the Bible in conversation with texts from roughly the same time and place, we gain more examples and are  better able to identify shared characteristics. (Sparks does this here in a more academic handbook style.) Notably, many of these texts were undiscovered or unable to be read and understood until the last century. (See my screencast on the rediscovery of the ancient Near East.) Continue reading “Kenton Sparks on Genre”