The Egyptian Book of the Dead is a large body of writings, used from the New Kingdom to the Ptolemaic Period, that is meant to help one obtain a place in the afterlife among the gods. In July of 1835, Joseph and several others purchased a collection of Egyptian antiquities, including four mummies and a number of papyri. Joseph soon announced that among this papyri was a Book of Abraham, which he eventually would translate, publish in the Times and Seasons, which would be printed as part of the British Mission pamphlet A Pearl of Great Price, which would be canonized as scripture in 1880. Interest in the JS Papyri has focused on the papyri thought to relate in some way to the Abraham text, namely the Hor Book of Breathings and the Sheshonq Hypocephalus. But this little collection also included three Ptolemaic era copies of the Book of the Dead. The most extensive fragments are from a Book of the Dead belonging to someone named Tshemmin; one fragment belonged to a woman named Neferirnub. (The third Book of the Dead belonged to someone named Amenhotep, but has not survived.) [Read more...]
You can read the full paper here.
Grant Hardy, “The King James Bible and the Future of Missionary Work”—Synopsis
The King James Version of the Bible has a long and storied history, but the LDS Church is entering a period when the drawbacks of that 400 year old translation will become more and more apparent, for several reasons: [Read more...]
And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.
Matt B.’s excellent post requires, I believe, a footnote on the name “Jimmer.” Inasmuch as that proper name has now invaded the lexicon, being used as noun, verb, adjective and even adverb, surely interested persons are going to come looking here, in the Mormon blogosphere, for a lexical treatment of the word. [Read more...]
In Sunday School recently we discussed the story of Nicodemus, whose encounter with Jesus is depicted in John 3. In this famous encounter, Jesus tells Nicodemus that being “born again” (or “born from above,” as most interpreters probably correctly argue) is a prerequisite for “see[ing] the kingdom of God.” A member of my ward argued against a view he sees as prevalent in which being “born again” is seen in typically evangelicalistic terms as a one-time event at which time a person is first and finally saved. This class member worried that a) not every LDS has such a powerful spiritual experience, and b) even those who have such a powerful spiritual experience will often waver in their sense of having been born again.
I agreed with this gentleman, a view that has been strengthened by my study of early Mormon adoption theology. [Read more...]
Unity with Mormon Christology
Despite the complaints of some Christians, Mormon beliefs regarding Christ are in many ways very traditional, so it was no surprise that Clark (and others) were worried about the RSV’s use of “young woman” rather than “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14. [Read more...]
For part one, see here.
Unity with the Brethren
For Latter-day Saints, the route to truth is through revelation, available to the individual through the Holy Spirit but at all times to be guided by those authorised to reveal doctrine to the church (= the Brethren and their institutions, e.g. Correlation). [Read more...]
People might rightly ask why Anglophone Latter-day Saints still use the King James (Authorized) Version of the Bible when there are new translations available which better represent the ancient sources and their languages.
The purpose of this series of posts is not to offer a defence of the KJV nor to criticise its use. Rather, I wish to try to explain, particularly for a non-Mormon audience, why Mormons use the KJV, or to state it differently, what the use of the KJV says about the modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In short, I believe that the use of the KJV underlines the importance of unity to the LDS Church: unity with Joseph Smith and the Restoration, unity with the Brethren, and unity with traditional Mormon Christology. [Read more...]
The recent tragedy in Arizona, in which Jared Lee Loughner attempted to kill Representative Gabrielle Giffords, leaving six dead and 14 wounded, has led to a national conversation about the place of civility in our nation’s public discourse. Much discussion has centered on attempts to implicate our toxic political environment as a cause, balanced by reciprocal attempts to exonerate those who have used violent language and imagery in the public square. At this point it seems clear that Loughner suffers from mental illness; whether political ranting served as a trigger for his actions is simply not known at this time. But quite apart from questions of causation, having this conversation at all is, I think, a very worthwhile thing. [Read more...]
Here are some of the things I hope will come out of our class discussion this Sunday as we introduce the New Testament. (For those offended by my sense of liberality in how I use (or not) the manual, this is in essence my elaboration of item 1 under “Additional Teaching Ideas” for Lesson No. 1.) [Read more...]
I’m planning to wrap up the OT and cover a little bit of the intertestamental period in GD Sunday, with the intention of setting the table for our 2011 NT curriculum year starting the following week. I’ve been busy, first with work and now celebrating the holiday with family, so I thought I’d take a moment and jot down some thoughts about the gist of some of the things I hope will come out of the lesson in two days. [Read more...]
I taught the captioned lesson in Gospel Doctrine today (with Artemis in attendance!), and it went very well. I’m sharing my notes with my Bloggernacle friends as a little early Christmas gift. Enjoy! [Read more...]
When you teach GD and have to prepare a new lesson every week, you start to notice little things in the scriptures that have eluded you in the past. I confess that I’ve never focused on Jeremiah 31:22, which in the KJV reads as follows: [Read more...]
I’ve got two lessons under my belt in my new GD teaching gig, and it’s going fine. Being the teacher has forced me to actually, you know, read the scriptures (when I’m a student in class I tend not to actually read the assignments), and I’ve been noticing a lot of little things that most class members aren’t aware of or that just sort of slip by them, which if properly appreciated I believe could enhance the experience of reading that venerable version. So I thought I’d share some of those thoughts here and solicit your additional insights. [Read more...]
I was recently called to what will be my fourth tour of duty teaching Gospel Doctrine class. [Read more...]
If the Constitution ever hangs by a thread, the Elders of Israel will save it. But how will we know for sure that it’s “hanging”? How exactly will we “save” it? When will this long-awaited day come to pass? No one knows.
This is regrettable, for we Elders of Israel are always anxious to exercise our mad saving skillz, but we know not where to do it. And unless the beneficiaries of our skills are literally “hanging by a thread,” we sure as heck aren’t interested in lifting a finger on their behalf. No, we reserve our salvific energies for episodes of high drama! Therefore, as we await the anticipated constitutional apocalypse, it’s worth considering other ways to exercise our talents.
And so I ask you: What other holy documents are literally “hanging by a thread” in these Latter Days, threatened by neglect, misinterpretation, or whatnot? To which other sacred text should we Elders of Israel direct our sustained attention, so we can ride in heroically on a White Horse to save it?
(Poll beneath the fold)
Anyone who has listened to Handel’s Messiah will be familiar with this commonly used prooftext of a physical resurrection from Job 19:25-26: [Read more...]
I stumbled across Ecclesiastes because of a reference in a novel about a year ago, and I’ve read it from front to back several times since. It reminds me of a TS Eliot poem, whirling around with its repetitive motifs and images, asking questions without answers, providing what seem to be contradictions. The pessimistic tone, the positions it takes which approach a sort of existentialism, these speak to me. Since the book only got a passing reference in Sunday School last week, here’s a few favorite passages for people to comment on:
Repentance, Insurance, and What I think is wrong with President Obama’s approach to the BP Oil Spill
I tend to think that, as a church, we don’t understand repentance very well. We have the 5 Rs down, but we still have the wrong attitude regarding it. It is viewed too often as distasteful or as unfortunate, instead of taking on the role that I think it has in the scriptures and in the Gospel. That role being the engine of the Atonement in our lives; the primary means for our becoming like the Father. I think that the reasons that we see repentance primarily in a negative light are, first, that we are ashamed of our sins (and we should be) and, second, we just don’t think repentance is powerful enough. My purpose today is to argue that the second of these reasons is based on unrealistic and unscriptural ideas about what repentance can do.
The comparison between insurance and repentance is a problematic one, but I’m going to make it anyway. [Read more...]
Reposted, and edited, in light of the use of the ephod in 1 Sam 23 (part of the Gospel Doctrine reading)
The Book of Mormon translation mechanism is surrounded in mystery. [Read more...]
For a kid in the 1970s, Mormon-themed media was pretty scarce. So I was nothing less than astounded one Saturday afternoon to turn on the TV and discover a movie about the Nephites and Lamanites!
Of course, they weren’t called by those names, but they fit the images perfectly. There was a group of “whiter,” more civilized Indians — new settlers in the land — who were building a city centered on a temple/pyramid (the Nephites). Outside their walls lurked a group of traditional Hollywood Indians, loincloth-clad and living in teepees (the Lamanites).
Even better, the Lamanite chief was none other than Yul Brynner. In my family, Brynner held an essentially canonical role in Cecil B. DeMille’s scriptural epic The Ten Commandments. [Read more...]
This just a short, two part series on sustaining. This first post tries to ask some questions regarding the purpose of sustaining (both others and ourselves) and the second post will look at the process of sustaining by examining the question of whether we sustain the person or the office. [Read more...]
Troubled with the carnage unleashed by Moses, a friend wrote me the following: [Read more...]
Genesis 12 is the first Old Testament chapter that focuses entirely on the life of Abram. It describes his and Sarai’s departure from Haran and journey to the land of Egypt. The LDS Church’s Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual does not assign this chapter in Sunday School, except as an “additional reading” to Lesson 8. Its exclusion from the formally-assigned chapters saves the curriculum writers from having to come up with “How-can-you-apply-this-to-your-daily-life?”-type questions for passages like this one:
Aaron R. (AKA Rico) returns again with some thoughts on Lehi.
In Terryl Givens’ ‘very short introduction’ to the Book of Mormon he describes Lehi’s (first) vision in the following terms: ‘No details of the vision, no particulars of any message, are available to distract from the fact of the visitation itself, given to a man who shares neither the public prestige, nor, so far as we can tell, the national stewardship of his contemporary Jeremiah. Jerusalem then, for a time, has some, perhaps ‘many’ prophets, who do not neatly fit into a clear Church structure. Lehi then takes his family out away from the city, which is their literal and spiritual home, and effectively starts a new religious movement that appears to be far more Christ-centered. Moreover, it has a de-centralised view of revelation and the spiritual gifts and also has a far more multi-faceted view of the nature and locale of Zion. The puzzle then is, if Lehi was a contemporary of Joseph Smith (instead of Jeremiah) could his ‘new’ revelation and direct call be tolerated or incorporated as part of a broader Restoration movement? Or would he be branded an apostate, like Hiram Page . [Read more...]
Recent complaints from Iran that the British Museum is unreasonably delaying the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder reminded me of this old post. Beware everything you ever read about the Cyrus Cylinder.
I have been reading Bruce Feiler’s Where God Was Born. In it, Feiler travels the Middle East in search of the foundational places of the Bible. It’s enjoyable enough if a little preachy — most of the people he meets (rabbis, imams, priests, scholars) seem to have consistently and improbably eloquent defenses of religious universalism on their lips. It’s also very Old Testament-centric, unsurprising given Feiler’s Judaism. Mormons will enjoy his conversation with an LDS soldier on top of the ziggurat in Ur, although he commits the unforgivable “Church of the Latter-day Saints” mistake. [Read more...]
Many readers will remember my Back Row series on the Doctrine and Covenants. I wanted to continue writing about the scriptures connected with Sunday School, but the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is far more complex than the Doctrine and Covenants, and I’m just an interested amateur. So I’m calling in reinforcements. This week, I’m joined by Kiskilili from Zelophehad’s Daughters, as well as Ronan, John C., and Kristine all from BCC. (Because the documents are all complicated and in some ways different, this series will focus on Hebrew Bible texts discussed in Sunday School, with Pearl of Great Price and JST texts referred to when they are of interest for the Hebrew Bible but not placed at the center of attention.)
JNS: This week’s Back Row discussion focuses on Genesis 2-3, the Hebrew Bible reading for the fourth Sunday School lesson this year. Here, we’re asked to talk about one of the most-interpreted narratives in human history, the Adam and Eve narrative. To get things started on the right note, I’d like to make the popular point that the narrative is about Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. [Read more...]
LDS people place a lot of confidence in the scriptures. We believe that the answers to most of our questions and challenges can be found in the pages of the canon. If you are faltering in your faith, you need to read the scriptures more. If you are struggling with temptation, read the scriptures more. If you are experiencing difficulties of any kind in your life, you will find guidance in the holy scriptures.
Many readers will remember my Back Row series on the Doctrine and Covenants. I wanted to continue writing about the scriptures connected with Sunday School, but the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is far more complex than the Doctrine and Covenants, and I’m just an interested amateur. So I’m calling in reinforcements. This week, I’m joined by Seraphine and Kiskilili from Zelophehad’s Daughters. (Because the documents are all complicated and in some ways different, this series will focus on Hebrew Bible texts discussed in Sunday School, with Pearl of Great Price and JST texts referred to when they are of interest for the Hebrew Bible but not placed at the center of attention.)
JNS: The Old Testament begins with a slight surplus of creation narratives. Chapter 1 and the first three verses of Chapter 2 tell one complete story of the creation of the world and all life. Chapter 2 begins a basically different story that continues into Chapter 3 (and therefore beyond the confines of this Sunday School lesson). So let’s quickly acknowledge two familiar explanations for the excess of creation. First is the Documentary Hypothesis, which I think convincingly argues that the two Hebrew Bible creation stories were drawn from different texts and then placed side by side in the Book of Genesis. Note, among other classic evidences for this argument, that God in Chapter 1 is named God, whereas in Chapter 2 he’s named the LORD/YHWH.