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”
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”
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. Continue reading “BYU Studies, Evolution, and Faith: Some Clarification”
A friend asked me for some references on how Evangelicals think about scripture, so I naturally turned it into a blogpost. Let me introduce this with a few basic points about definitions and history. Continue reading “Understanding Evangelicals and Scripture”
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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Creation of the Sun, Sistine Chapel
BYU’s Late Summer Honors offered a course recently called, “What Does it Mean to be Human? A Scientific and Spiritual Journey into Human Origins.” I was invited to take a 3-hr class period to talk about what Genesis has to say about evolution and the place of humanity in creation. I’ve presented much of what I said before, in other venues, but virtually everything was new to these freshman honors students. By necessity, I tried to keep it simple and use some humor. Continue reading “Genesis and Evolution: A BYU Guest Lecture”
As is my wont, I’m excited about a few books, two popular and two more academic.
First, Peter Enns has a new book coming early next year, How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That’s Great News. Enns is one of my favorite authors, an academic who can also write for normal people. In fact, my Mom’s been reading his Genesis for Normal People and loving it. (Enns has been on the Maxwell Institute Podcast a few times and spoken at BYU.) For a content summary from the publisher, see here.
Second, Kyle Grenwood’s edited collection, Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages should appear in the next month. Greenwood’s book on science and cosmology in the Bible is on my top 10 list for the early chapters of Genesis.
A claim is often made like “Christians have always interpreted Genesis literally until science came along!” There’s a lot wrong with that claim, which I’ve written about…somewhere. I can’t find my own darn post. Greenwood’s volume will not be the first to tackle the various interpretations of Genesis throughout the ages, but I hope will do it well and in an accessible and popular way. It’s no good for academics to know this stuff if it doesn’t filter down to popular discussion and debate. Continue reading “Some quick and short book notes”
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 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. 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, with subtitles. 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”
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”