There comes a point of impasse for most readers of the Book of Mormon. Either you can believe in angels, seer stones, and gold plates, or you cannot. If you cannot, the Book of Mormon is likely to forever languish on the shelf next to the Bhagavad Gita that the Hare Krishnas similarly foisted upon you. After all, who can take such a preposterous book seriously?
Jana Riess comes to us as one of the regular Dialogue participants.
I just returned from a very encouraging conference for young Mormon scholars–the first-ever gathering of LDS graduate students who are getting advanced degrees in theology and religious studies. About 40 such students, plus a few spouses, convened at Yale Divinity School on Friday and Saturday. We had folks from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, UNC, Claremont, Iliff, the University of Durham, and the GTU, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few schools. (All of our sessions were held in the RSV translation room, which felt very auspicious and cool.)
Sixteen students presented papers on everything from the Deutero-Isaiah theory and the Book of Mormon to the question of whether an LDS scholar is ipso facto a defender of the faith. All these papers were sandwiched between some great opening remarks by Richard Bushman, who helped conceive and organize the conference, and a closing session by Terryl Givens, who gave us a fascinating sneak preview of his cultural history of Mormonism, due out in August from Oxford University Press. [Read more...]
Salt Lake City Aug 2006
As Latter-day Saints many of us feel confident in our belief in God and our understanding of his attributes. We are often quite adamant, truthfully so, that we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, the Eternal Son of God. These two figures justly receive the majority of our devotions. The Godhead, though, contains another entity, what other Christians call the Holy Spirit and we prefer in its older English translation–the “Holy Ghost.” [Read more...]
Our canonical texts are stridently negative about the practice of “wresting the scriptures.” Wresting the scriptures is said to lead to our own destruction (2 Peter 3:16, Alma 13:20), to lead us far astray (Alma 41:1), and to produce contention (D&C 10:63). What, exactly, is this dangerous thing, this sower of chaos, this “wresting” of the scriptures? [Read more...]
Nowhere in the New Testament will you find a condemnation of slavery, nor an updating of the Mosaic slave code. Instead you have stuff like Ephesians 6 where slaves are told to be “obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling”; and Philemon, where Paul sends back a runaway slave to his Christian owner. Jesus does not raise a word against the practice. [Read more...]
If you have been paying close attention to my posts here thusfar, you may have noted a theme. I’ll be a bit more explicit about it here. We, Mormons, don’t know how to righteously dissent with our leaders (or our Leader). In fact, generally speaking, we frown on dissent, no matter how well intentioned or politely put. We certainly have assurances that God is at the helm of the church, both public and private. But I wonder if we sometimes read too much into that, arguing that anything the Brethren say is the Word of God and not to be questioned. On the other hand, there are those for whom the advice of the Brethren and other Priesthood leaders is considered to have no greater weight than anybody else’s. That also seems to be an extremity. Of course, most Mormons live between the extremes of these two poles. However, should we?
The scriptures have something to say about this problem. In fact, they have several things to say about it, sometimes revolving around the same scriptural figure.
I wrote the Old Testament section, Ed Snow the New Testament section.
Clearly, Mormon sexual doctrine is influenced by the Bible. It would therefore seem important for us to understand what the Bible says on the subject of homosexuality. [Read more...]
Any early present for Anti-Christ day: 6/6/06.
Did you know that Jesus was Lucifer? (That’ll get Ed Decker going.) Well, perhaps only in philological geekdom. [Read more...]
I was browsing through some of our cuneiform tablets and spotted this otherwise unexciting receipt. The last two lines are kind of cool though.
The tablet is dated to the 5th day of the month of Addaru in the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon = 585 BC. This is only a year or two after the final fall of Jerusalem and the deportation of the Jewish elite. [Read more...]
Paul Y. Hoskisson, ed. Sperry Symposium Classics: The Old Testament. Salt Lake: Religious Studies Center, BYU, and Deseret Book, 2005.
Andrew C. Skinner. Prophets, Priests, and Kings: Old Testament Figures Who Symbolize Christ. Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 2005.
Mainstream Mormon publications on scripture studies follow a four-year calendar; after all, how large would the market be among rank-and-file Mormons for a book on the Old Testament in a year when the Sunday School reading is the Doctrine and Covenants or the Book of Mormon? Don’t most Mormons like to basically pretend that the Old Testament doesn’t even exist during the off years in the Sunday School calendar? [Read more...]
Two old posts from the Feminacle, unrelated except in my mind, and a recent visit from my parents have got me thinking.
Over at FMH, Emily S. posted one of my favorite poems, about the austere and lonely “offices of love” which even the least skilled or emotionally savvy parents often perform for their children. Meanwhile, in the trenches of the mommy wars, a a guest poster and several commenters seem very certain of their superiority to their parents in terms of commitment to marriage and the ability to make it work. Naturally, I hope they are right. Divorce stinks, especially for kids, and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t aspire to atone for the sins of the last generation and make a better world for our children. Still, perhaps because of my advancing age (:)), and my pained awareness of the thousand ways I fail my children despite my best efforts, I feel a great deal of sympathy for the parents whose children describe their failures so starkly.
It seems to me that we have lost something in our sophisticated understanding of our parents and our “dysfunctional families of origin.” [Read more...]
In some ways, Joseph and the early Saints set about restoring, not just the practices of early Christianity, but also of ancient Israel. As such, they/we were both Christianand Old Testament “primitivists,” seeking to restore the primitive, and presumably superior, institutions of a previous culture.
Since much of the bible is the story of the relationship of one tribe, ”the Israelites”with God, the primitivist Mormons were intensely interested in that tribe. They prepared for the “literal gathering of Israel,” the Book of Mormon identified a new world people as Israelites, and the European Saints, though non-Israelite “Gentiles,” considered themselves to be spiritually of Israel, or to be of Israel through adoption.
But many Saints came to view themselves as literally of Israel; they believed they were genetically descended from Israel (through Ephraim). The Mormon tendency towards a literal “Israelism” seems to have played out over time. [Read more...]
When I was on my mission, back in the late-Jurassic before quads were common, we used to call our scriptures “sticks.” In our flipcharts was a painting of Ezekiel, holding a scroll in each arm, one representing the Bible and the other the Book of Mormon, representing the scene portrayed in Ezekiel 37:15 et seq. It did not take long, however, for me to see the problems with this traditional understanding. The writing was actually on the wood, not on a parchment scroll wrapped around the wood. Further, the context of the passage clearly had to do with the reunification of the tribes, not scriptural records. [Read more...]
Kevin Barney studied classics at BYU, where he worked as a teaching assistant to S. Kent Brown. He has published a couple of dozen articles on Mormon scripture, and is currently working on a book to be entitled _Footnotes to the New Testament for Latter-day Saints_, which is scheduled to be published by Covenant later this year. He practices tax-exempt finance law in Chicago.
When Ronan introduced this series at BCC, he mentioned euphemisms as a possible topic, so I would like to follow that lead.
There are some topics that inherently have the potential to offend the squeamish: genitalia, nakedness, sexual intercourse, homosexual acts, excretory functions, death, possible affronts to God, and so forth. There are several possible strategies to soften these types of topics. One could simply avoid them altogether; one could dance around them with some sort of circumlocution; or one could euphemise them. That is, one could use a mild, delicate or indirect subsititute for the offensive word or concept. (Of course, in the case of one’s enemies, one could go the other direction and employ a dysphemism, which is the opposite of a euphemism, such as Beelzebub “lord of the flies” for Beelzebul “Baal the prince.”) [Read more...]
David J from Faith-Promoting Rumor has provided this Mormon Dummies’ Guide to the names of God in the Old Testament. Every Kool Kat has to know his El Shaddai’s from his El Elyon’s.
In the cultural milieu in which the OT was written, knowing the name of a person or thing opened up channels of communication between the two. The one who knows the name of a person or deity can appeal to that person or god. [Read more...]