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!”

Science and History as Myth and Fiction: Exploring Some Common Labels

(Originally published in 2010 elsewhere) Most people know the genre of “parable” because they’re in the Gospels, but “myth” is poorly understood and the term carries a lot of negative baggage. Like “literal” you have to be very careful throwing around the term without defining it. One simple definition of myth is that myth is worldview in narrative form. That is, it’s a way of explaining one’s conception of how the world works in everyday language or story form. Continue reading “Science and History as Myth and Fiction: Exploring Some Common Labels”

Announcement: Two Firesides This Weekend in the DC Area

It’s been a remarkably good Monday morning. Chilly, but I scored a $72 long-sleeve Merino wool bike jersey for $18 recently, and so went out for a 24-mile ride in 40 degree weather.

Chilaquiles!

Made myself chilaquiles afterwards. Bit of a foodie here.

But more importantly, we’ve crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s, so… I will be in the Washington DC area this weekend, doing two firesides. I know this announcement is sudden; technically I’m coming out for a family funeral, but I’d talked to people before about doing this, and now I have opportunity. Continue reading “Announcement: Two Firesides This Weekend in the DC Area”

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”

BYU Studies, Evolution, and Faith: Some Clarification (Updated!)

We recently put forth an open call for abstracts for a special issue of BYU Studies dedicated to biological evolution, LDS faith, and practice. I am the guest editor overseeing the non-scientific submissions and as such, would like to emphasize a few things from the call that seem to be getting overlooked. Update: Please note, we have extended the abstract submission deadline from February 1 to March 1Continue reading “BYU Studies, Evolution, and Faith: Some Clarification (Updated!)”

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”

The 1950s: A Fundamentalist Shift

Several scholars have identified a LDS shift in the mid-20th-century towards a kind of fundamentalism. In 1980, for example, Leonard Arrington reflected in his journal on the

[emergence] at BYU in the 1950s…. particularly in the College of Religion [of] A sort of Mormon Fundamentalism like Protestant Fundamentalism [which] Emphasizes Biblical literalism, rejects the Higher Criticism [in biblical studies, and] the law of evolution… Continue reading “The 1950s: A Fundamentalist Shift”