In late 2014, I heard the story of a friend of a friend who had lost faith and left the Church. I wished there was something semi-authoritative I could have pointed to which would have shifted this person’s paradigm in healthier and more robust directions. Yes, there’s lots of material like that… but not directly published by the Church. Frustrated I couldn’t find something, I decided to write it myself, for catharsis. I did a little research, wrote up an article in Ensign style, and passed it around to some academic and Church-employed friends, who encouraged me to submit it.
To my surprise, the article received enthusiastic acceptance, Continue reading “How to Build Resilient Faith: An Almost Ensign Article”
My post on inerrancy generated… a large amount of traffic and conversation. I read a great number of comments on Facebook, Twitter, and forums and message boards, across the spectrum of LDS commitment and faith. I want to take this opportunity to revisit, clarify, and add. I can’t do it all here; some will require another post.
Continue reading “Inerrancy: a Followup”
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”
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”
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”
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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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”
This post is a follow-up to my essay on the nature of nature of prophetic knowledge. Although I’ve quoted Stephen L. Richards at length before, it turns out I’ve never posted this important excerpt. Continue reading “What Prophets Know: A Short Follow-up”
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”
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”