Sunday Sermon: The War in Heaven and Human Agency

My wife, Kristine K. (disambiguation: not the same as Kristine), and I both delivered  sermons today in the Slate Canyon 13th Ward in Provo. I spoke first, on the War in Heaven, and then she spoke on the Creation. I’m posting my sermon now, with Kristine’s to follow shortly, as I believe that it will also resonate with readers of BCC.

For the vital part that the war in heaven plays in LDS theology, much about it remains unclear. The phrase itself derives from Revelation chapter 12, which depicts “a great red dragon” whose “tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (vv. 3-4, NRSV). Then, we read, “war broke out in heaven.” This seems to have been instigated by Michael and his angels, as the text mentions their aggression first, going on to say that “the dragon and his angels fought back, but were defeated” (vv. 7-8, NRSV). The effect of this defeat is that Satan “was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (v. 9, NRSV).

[Read more…]

The Annunciation

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

The Feast of The Annunciation

Isaiah 7:10-14 (KJV), Psalm 40:5-11 (KJV), Hebrews 10:4-10 (NRSV), Luke 1:26-38 (KJV), 1 Nephi 11:14-22, Moroni 7:22-26, 29-32

The Collect: Father, we thank Thee for the ministration of angels as agents of Thy grace, revealing the incarnation of Thy Son Jesus Christ, as announced by an angel to Mary, Thy servant and chosen vessel both to bear Christ’s body and lifelong testimony of Him. May we heed that angelic message and exercise faith in Christ, becoming sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. [Read more…]

Do they know?

A Talk About a Talk About a Talk?

A Talk About a Talk About a Talk?

As recently as 2012 I was serving in a bishopric that still assigned talks the traditional way.

Take, for example, the following email I sent a ward member about the topic of an assigned talk: [Read more…]

Second Sunday in Lent

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Second Sunday in Lent

Genesis 12:1-4 (KJV), Psalm 121 (KJV), Romans 4:1-17 (KJV), John 3:1-21 (KJV), Jacob 4:4-8, 3 Nephi 20:35

The Collect: Father, grant us through thy mercy a renewed desire to search the scriptures and a new appreciation of the spirit of prophecy, that our faith may be strengthened in this holy season! May our strengthened faith manifest itself in works that resonate with those who have gone astray, drawing them back into the fold, renewing their desire to seek the gifts of faith and repentance, that they might once again be sanctified by the Sacrament of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, who is one with Thee and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen. [Read more…]

Event: “Milton and the Anonymous Authority of De doctrina Christiana,” 3pm on 11 March at BYU

In addition to our blogging, BCC permas do occasionally write other, non-internet type things. If you’re interested in witnessing this strange phenomenon, I will be giving a talk, “Milton and the Anonymous Authority of De doctrina Christiana,” next Tuesday, March 11, at BYU. It will take place at 3pm in B042 JFSB. Here is an abstract: [Read more…]

A Kick in the Gut

From one birthday to the next — there but for the grace of God go we all:

Civil War in London. Unimaginable?

[Read more…]

Hunger Banquet 2014

BYU Hunger Banquet 2014, Co-hosted by The Kennedy Center for International Studies at BYU (source: http://tinyurl.com/lfz42t3)

BYU Hunger Banquet 2014, Co-hosted by The Kennedy Center for International Studies at BYU (source: http://tinyurl.com/lfz42t3)

BYU’s 24th annual Hunger Banquet yesterday was a perfect way to welcome in Fast Sunday and as a prelude to the upcoming season of Lent beginning this week. The Hunger Banquet was a wonderful success, as it has been in past years, and I would like to express my thanks to the students from various initiatives across campus and the Kennedy Center for their work in continuing this important experience for the community. Fasting today on the food I received as someone assigned to the “developing world” in last night’s events has directed my mind to the less fortunate even more starkly than on a normal Fast Sunday. [Read more…]

Jesus in Isaiah 52:13-53:12

We in the Church—along with many other Christians—read the “Fourth Servant Song” in Isaiah 52:1353:12 as transparently about Jesus. It’s kind of hard not to: phrases like “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” fit the Christological narrative almost too perfectly. And yet the presence of this passage in the Hebrew Scriptures suggests the possibility of a reading that has nothing at all to do with Jesus, because Jews obviously do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. So what is this other reading? More pointedly, why should we as Christians bother to look beyond the seemingly straightforward identification of the “servant” in this passage with Jesus?

[Read more…]

Martin Luther, Reformer

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

The Feast of Martin Luther, Reformer, 1546

Isaiah 55:6-11 (NRSV or in Luther’s Translation, 1545), Psalm 46 (BCP Psalter, Coverdale, 1662 or Luther, 1545), John 15:1-11 (KJV or Luther, 1545), Doctrine and Covenants 93:39, 2 Ne. 25.23-25, Alma 29:8 [Read more…]

A Kiva Family Home Evening

. . . do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again;
and your reward shall be great,
and ye shall be the children of the Highest . . .

Luke 6:35

Several years ago our family received one of the most interesting and long-lasting Christmas presents we have ever received from another family in the extended family’s Christmas exchange. The thoughtful family who had drawn our family’s name contributed a modest sum of money on our behalf to the microlending organization Kiva. The idea was that they supplied the money as a gift to us and it was up to us to choose recipients for microloans using that money. This has been a gift that keeps on giving as the loans get paid back and we then have the opportunity to lend that money again to other recipients of our choice. [Read more…]

Transgressors in Eden

This Sunday in Sunday School, we’re going to study the Fall.[fn1] The lesson quotes Elder Oaks distinguishing sin from transgression[Read more…]

The Book of Mormon and the King James Version

Many people find problematic the extent to which the Book of Mormon quotes the King James Version of the Bible, because this practice can make the Book of Mormon look more like a cobbled-together 19th-century text than a translation of an ancient artifact (bearing in mind Joseph Smith’s idiosyncratic usage of “translation”). Without claiming to offer a solution to this conundrum, I’d like to put forward an 1820s analogue, in which the translator of a recently recovered text relied uncritically on the King James Version, in the process masking some interesting details of the scriptural text presented.

[Read more…]

By Common Consent: Reflections on Mormon Political Theology

Jason K. is an English professor specializing in Milton and currently at work on a book project studying political theologies during the English Civil War period. The organizer of the Mormon Lectionary Project series here, this is his first post as a regular guest blogger at BCC.

For my first non-lectionary post, I thought I’d adapt some earlier ruminations on this blog’s eponymous scripture.

In a recent Sunday School discussion, D&C 20:63—”The elders are to receive their licenses from other elders, by vote of the church to which they belong, or from the conferences”—was referenced as an example of church government by common consent. The notion of voting, however, seems more democratic than LDS church government typically is. In this case the general membership is not voting to select elders, but to grant them licenses, authorizing them to function elsewhere. My question is: why go through the formality? Why can’t the person in authority to ordain elders simply issue the license and have done? In addressing this question, I suggest that Richard Baxter’s work of political theology, A Holy Commonwealth (1659), offers a helpful analogue to LDS practice.

[Read more…]

The Mormon Lectionary Project: Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

The Feast of Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader, 1968

Exodus 3:7-12, Isaiah 40:3-8, Psalm 77:11-20, Psalm 98:1-4, Luke 6:27-36, Helaman 13:25-29 [Read more…]

A Mormon Homily for Rosh Hashanah

Leshana Tova Tikoseiv Vesichoseim Le’Alter LeChaim Tovim U’Leshalom — “May you be inscribed and sealed for a Good Year and for a Good and Peaceful Life”


[Read more…]

The Body as a Temple

No need to go to the temple. Your body is one!

In 1 Corinthians 6:19, it says:  “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”  As some Mormon youth teachers used to like to say to encourage chastity:  “Your body is a temple, and he doesn’t have a recommend!” or as I saw on a tee shirt:  “Your body is a temple, not a visitor center.”  This scripture is often trotted out in opposition to tattoos or piercings, likening those actions to vandalism of the exterior temple walls.  It’s also used to support the Word of Wisdom, and this interpretation isn’t unique to Mormonism.  Other faiths use it to enforce modesty, anti-smoking and temperance.

But what if this scripture is not referring to our individual bodies, but the body of saints?  Consider this passage from 1 Corinthians 12: 12-14: [Read more…]

East vs. West: Spiritual Smackdown

As an American living in Asia, I often experienced cultural disconnects.  A peer or friend would make a comment so obviously based on assumptions or values I didn’t share that I realized that my own values and assumptions must sound equally foreign to them.

Last year, a colleague in India made a statement that I found very unsettling.  He said:  “When we focus on results nothing changes.  When we focus on change we see results.”  Since this claim was made in a business setting in a results-driven culture, I was taken aback.  I had to ask him to repeat it several times, yet it still flew in the face of everything I believe as a business person.  I really was at a loss how to respond to someone who believed that.  Was he really saying you should get an A for effort and that results didn’t matter?  If so, that explained a lot about the results I was seeing from his group! [Read more…]

Covenants — Is the Lord Bound?

This IndentureThis post began as a response to J. Stapley’s recent post about Ordinances but quickly veered off in a tangent that would have constituted a threadjack of his post, so I’ve posted it as an independent contemplation.

J. was exploring possible origins of Mormon use of the word “ordinance” (or early influence as to the use and meaning of the word) in legal usage in his post and especially in the ensuing discussion in the comments (J. notes that he is beginning to think that “JS . . . was explicitly using legal language” when using the term “ordinance”). I think “covenant” also falls into this category of a term coopted from legal usage to express a religious teaching. [Read more…]

Keys

Roman Key

A Roman iron key, c. 1st–3rd century AD. 185 mm (7 1/4″) long, “head” of key measures 2 1/4 x 2 3/4.”

As Rebecca J just noted, the theme for youth instruction for the month of June is priesthood and priesthood keys. In the revelations of Joseph Smith, the Biblical leitmotifs of opening and closing, of binding and unbinding, and of sealing and unsealing all come to be associated in deeply significant ways with the priesthood orders of the Church. In this post, I will focus on the theme of opening and closing as it connects to the imagery of keys.

[Read more…]

Mormon Maori Prophecies and Apostasy

I must admit, before my trip to New Zealand over the holidays I had never heard of the Mormon Maori prophecies.  I knew that there are many Polynesian church members.  I was aware that the most popular religion in the island of Molokai (the spiritual center of Hawaii) is Mormonism, and that there are many Samoan and Tongan church members.  As for the Maori, I knew that they were Pacific Islanders.  I knew the men danced the haka and the women danced with poi balls.  I knew that they once practiced cannibalism (practice makes perfect!) and were considered fierce by early European seafarers who visited the islands.  I knew that one of their greetings (touching foreheads and sharing a breath) is similar to the Eskimos (rubbing noses).

[Read more…]

King Follett and Clouds of Meaning

We’ve just experienced the Mormon preaching festival. That is, general conference! In addition to inspired teaching, it gives the outside world a chance to experience some of the variety of Mormon address. And besides, I’ve been toiling over chapter 7 of the book, rewriting, rethinking some, and redoing other. This represents mental suds rising to the top of my brain-glass.

Texts are always encased by interpretation. Generations come and go, and interpretation floods over texts, at least those that rise to surface (paradoxically), via unearthing by graduate students or rediscovery by the public, or just constant devotion, etc. Scripture is no exception, and everyone, not just Nephi, deploys a kind of rationalization with circumstance and inspiration to come up with a correlated understanding, whether that be official, communal, familial, or even “backlistial.” Among Mormons, Joseph Smith’s sermons are quite often seen as doctrinal in some sense, a sense I won’t attempt to make precise.
[Read more…]

UVU Conference Reminder: The Expanded Canon, April 4-5, 2013

uvulogo_overThis week, Utah Valley University plays host to what promises to be a fascinating conference on Mormonism’s scriptural canon. Five reasons you should attend: [Read more…]

Groundbreaking scriptural heading changes: Official Declaration 2

2013-02-28_20-48-47_158Not since 1981 (and maybe even before, I’ll let the textual/scriptural scholars determine the amount of change versus other scriptural compilations) have this many changes been made to our modern Mormon quad.

So needless to say (but I guess I need to say it anyway) it’s incredibly exciting.

The Joseph Smith Papers lists many of the heading adjustments here. And here is the scripture comparison (warning, at least for me it was a long download.)

And while there is a lot of new scriptural commentary to peruse, compare, and explore, I’m going to jump right to Official Declaration–2 as it still is Black History Month for a few more hours here.

The new version now begins: “Book of Mormon teaches that ‘all are alike unto God,’ including ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33). [Read more…]

A darn shame

I cannot, in good conscience, recommend that my gay friends investigate the church. [Read more…]

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #6: “I Will Tell You in Your Mind and in Your Heart, by the Holy Ghost”

Notes, commentary, and questions for LDS Sunday School teachers using the ‘Doctrine & Covenants and Church History’ manual. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the lesson in the comments.

This covers much the same material as the last lesson, historically and thematically.  The emphasis continues to be on Oliver Cowdery’s experiences translating the Book of Mormon and, specifically, his attempts to recognize the spirit of revelation in his own life.  While the emphasis of last week’s lesson was more on preparing yourself to receive revelation, this week’s lesson has more to do with recognizing what on earth is going on when it happens.

First of all, go to the new Revelations in Context resource at lds.org and read the article by Jeffrey Cannon on Oliver Cowdery’s Gift.  While you are hopping around, go to Robin Jensen’s post on last week’s lesson and read that as well.  Now return to this post and feel bad; I’m neither as knowledgeable, nor as good a writer as those guys. Oh well.

If there is one message to take from all of the sections being covered this week (and last week) it is this: revelation is not easy work. [Read more…]

The Priesthood is not a superpower

I ordained my son a deacon a couple of weeks ago.  The first thing he did when we got home was to facetiously wave his hands toward a chair and attempt to move it with the power of his mind and/or Priesthood.  I immediately told him, “The Priesthood is not a superpower.”  It is something that, I suppose, bears repeating. [Read more…]

Nativities

A Christmas memory: At some point in my teenage years my mother purchased a new nativity set, a Fontanini. I didn’t eagerly await the unwrapping of the nativity scene in the same way I did the Dickens Village; it was a tradition each year for my parents to purchase one new piece for the village. Possibly my favorite Christmas memories consisted of watching the village grow year after year. When I finally left home the Village had become quite substantial. But the preparations for the traditions into which we spoke and enacted every Christmas were not complete until the Nativity had been unwrapped and carefully and lovingly arranged on the table. The placement of the Nativity allowed the celebration to officially commence.

[Read more…]

What I want from a Nativity film

I find most Bible films to be unsatisfying. Here’s what I would like to see in a Nativity film:

1. Authentic-looking actors. I realise that a film is by its very nature make believe, but any attempt to reproduce the biblical world has to look and sound right. [Read more…]

The Enduring Fragility of Love

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Christian love is not romance, affection, and sentimentality.  It is transgressive, a love that disturbs and destabilizes as much as it binds and connects. Slavoj Zizek calls Christian love an unplugging or uncoupling [1] Love unplugs us from our original organic communities (families, circles of chosen intimate friends) in order to inscribe us within a larger community. Not that it severs all familial ties, but that it severs us from the belief that there must only be familial ties, or better: That familial ties must increase and expand, and do so exponentially. Love does this through re-orienting the ways in which we value and interact with knowledge.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  [Read more…]

Review: Howard C. Stutz, “Let the Earth Bring Forth: Evolution and Scripture”

Title: Let the Earth Bring Forth: Evolution and Scripture
Author: Howard C. Stutz
Publisher: Greg Kofford Books
Genre: Evolution/Religion
Year: 2011
Pages: xvi, 87
Binding: Softcover
ISBN13: 978-1-58958-126-5
Price: $15.95 ($9.95, Kindle)

“One of the greatest tragedies in recent times has been the extensive promulgation of creeds that have created chasms between science and religion. At no time in the history of humankind has science provided a more comprehensible panorama of the universe in which we live. Nor has there ever been a time when God has more clearly revealed Himself and His purposes to His children. Why then should there be so much apparent conflict between science and religion?” (xix).

Let the Earth Bring Forth is the culminating testimony of a man who spent his life successfully exploring the realms of faith and science. In addition to earning a Ph.D in genetics at UC Berkeley and teaching at Brigham Young University, Howard C. Stutz (b. 1918) served in various church callings from bishop, to high councilor, to stake patriarch. In university and church settings he interacted with students who were unsure of how to make sense of evolution from a faithful perspective. Shortly before passing away in 2010, Stutz completed his manuscript to “point out the harmony which exists between the theory of speciation by organic evolution and revealed truths contained in hold scriptures” (xv).

Stutz repeatedly emphasizes a few guiding principles throughout the book: [Read more…]

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