Interpreting Scripture, History, Science, and Creation: A Free Course by Me!

Red brick store in Nauvoo, where the first endowments were done on May 4, 1842.

Edit: I’ve added this syllabus to the main menu at left, and simplified the url for easy access, to http://BenSpackman.com/syllabus

May 4th holds significance in LDS history: it’s the day Joseph Smith introduced temple ordinances in the upper room of the red brick store in 1842. The temple ties together a number of questions, like: Continue reading “Interpreting Scripture, History, Science, and Creation: A Free Course by Me!”

Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures: Why We Need MORE

Melvin Cook, famous chemist and ardent LDS young-earth creationist, thought scripture should be interpreted literally, e.g.

My analysis is intended to be strictly literalistic; in my view, intellectual honesty requires literalism in the interpretation of the scriptures.

President Joseph Fielding Smith also made repeated statements about the necessity of reading scripture literally.

I agree with them. But I’ll go one better and do something they never seem to have done: I’m going to define the term “literal.” Continue reading “Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures: Why We Need MORE”

The Philosophies of Men, Mingled with Monopoly

Something insidious infects our children from the moment they’re born. It’s unstoppable. It surrounds us, burrows in deep, far below our conscious minds, and like a computer virus, writes subtle programming that dictates our worldview, our attitudes, and assumptions, shaping our very reflexes… Ahem. Shifting away from threatening apocalyptic movie-trailer voice, I’m speaking, of course, about culture and tradition,  Continue reading “The Philosophies of Men, Mingled with Monopoly”

Joseph Fielding Smith’s Assumptions

The future is difficult to plan right now, but I’m happy to report my proposal for the American Academy of Religion (AAR) national conference has been accepted. It traditionally meets with the Society of Biblical Literature in a massive multi-day conference attended by thousands. This year it’s in Boston, mid/late November. I pray by then we’ll be back to some kind of normalcy. Continue reading “Joseph Fielding Smith’s Assumptions”

How to Build Resilient Faith: An Almost Ensign Article

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”

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”

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”