Search Results for: tolkien

Tolkien on Scripture Study

The single most important piece of writing about scripture study that I’ve read is Tolkien’s essay, Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics. Or, more precisely, the most important piece of writing about scripture study that I’ve ever read is Tolkien’s allegory of the man and the tower, contained in his essay, “Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics.” I’ve written before about how I see the most pervasive themes in Tolkien’s writings as among the most pervasive themes of the Book of Mormon (see these posts). But this post is not about how Tolkien’s work relates to the content of the scriptures; it’s about how it relates to how we approach them. This allegory is probably the piece of writing that has most improved my scripture study. [Read more…]

The curse of the land: dragon-sickness in Tolkien and in the Book of Mormon.

There’s a handful of books that I return to again and again. Among that handful are the Book of Mormon, the New Testament, and Tolkien’s works. And a recurring theme that I find winding through both the Book of Mormon and in Tolkien’s stories is that of cursed, elusive treasure.

The prophet Samuel, the Lamanite, pronounces this curse on the Nephites in his day, prophesying that “whoso shall hide up treasures in the earth shall find them again no more, because of the great curse of the land.” Helaman 13:18. Samuel goes on at length: “[Y]e are cursed because of your riches,” he says. “And also your riches are cursed because ye have set your hearts upon them.” Helaman 13:21. To put in concrete terms the elusiveness of the riches, Samuel uses the highly evocative adjective “slippery.” God “curseth your riches, that they become slippery, that ye cannot hold them; and in the days of your poverty ye cannot retain them,” he says. Helaman 18:31. [Read more…]

Tolkien: The Quenta Silmarillion

ImageThe Tale of the Silmarils introduces readers to many of the themes found in the Lord of the Rings (LOTR): the lust for power, the struggle against an evil lord, the frailty of men (and elves), war, and ultimate redemption. It is altogether a grimmer tale than LOTR but one which enriches any reading of Tolkien’s main works.

The Quenta Silmarillion (QS) raises several questions which are interesting in the philosophy of religion. I say religion deliberately as the QS offers a rather useful view of the construction and development of myth, sacred or otherwise. Obviously Tolkienism is not a religion: His sub-creative sojourn in Faerie is consciously fictional but the creation itself is, I think, in some ways true. More basically, his is also simply the construction of a story, which is how most religions begin. More on this here.

Two philosophical problems present themselves in the QS: free will and theodicy. On free will, the term employed by Tolkien is “doom.” The elves who vow to regain the Silmarils, leave Valinor, and kill their kin at Alqualondë, find themselves under the Doom of Mandos:

Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever. [Read more…]

Tolkien: Tom Bombadil as God

tom-bombadilHey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo! Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow! Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!

I am going to return to The Silmarillion anon but in the meantime, here’s something to cause MCQ and RAF certain pain. [Read more…]

Tolkien: Cosmogony

Blogging the Ainulindalë and Valaquenta from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion

ambarkanta-grrrod-silmarillion-john-ronald-reuel-tolkien-lord-of-the-rings-three-ages-arda-middle-earth-map-fantasy-1920x2560

[Read more…]

Tolkien: On Fairy Stories III

imagesHaving briefly considered Tolkien’s defense of fantasy fiction and asked whether the Book of Mormon partially treads the borderlands of Faërie, I want to finish this look at Tolkien’s thought by saying something about three works that further illuminate Faërie: the poem Mythopoeia, and the short stories Leaf by Niggle and Smith of Wootton Major. We thereby cover the canon of Tolkien’s literary philosophy.  [Read more…]

Tolkien: On Fairy Stories II

I think the Book of Mormon treads the borderlands of Faërie.

1st-Age-01-First-Two-Voyages-of-the-Elves-to-Aman

[Read more…]

Tolkien: On Fairy Stories

First let us raise a toast to “the Professor” on this his 121st birthday.

[Read more…]

Review: zion earth zen sky

Charles Inouye has written a remarkably beautiful book.

zion earth zen sky is by far the most personally enjoyable book I have read in some time. It is a profoundly spiritual and theologically rich book, but contains little by way explicit theological argumentation. It does not attempt to prove its theological points by reasoned syllogisms from premises, nor does it, for the most part, proceed from a close reading a scriptural text. It is, rather, grounded in insights won from the author’s highly personal application of simple, familiar, perhaps even unremarkable points of latter-day saint belief, in the context of a life heavily influenced by personal and familial Buddhist beliefs and practices.

[Read more…]

The Author and Finisher of our Faith: Reflections On #NaNoWriMo

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” – George Orwell

November 30th marked the end of #NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, an online write-athon where writers all over the internet attempt to finish a novel in November. The word-count goal is 50k, which in 2019 came out to 1,667 words a day. There’s a whole website dedicated to helping motivate writers through the slog that is putting words on a page, and a whole other website called Twitter where writers go to complain about how hard writing is. (George Orwell would have had plenty to add.) 

[Read more…]

The Power of God Unto Salvation #BCCSundaySchool2019

Reading: Romans 1-6.

This week has us finishing Acts and going into the epistles. This means we’re no longer going chronologically. Instead, we’re going more or less by author and more or less by topic (though each epistle jumps around a bit). It also means that we’re not really reading a story anymore, we’re reading artifacts. For the most part, we’re no longer concerned with the story, but with the teachings contained in the letters of the apostles. We’re moving from events to doctrines, and Romans is arguably the most doctrinal of all the books of the New Testament. [Read more…]

Glossopoeia: The Gift of (Invented) Tongues

 

“Atan lantanë tana atani ëuvar; ar atani ëar tana haryar olassë.”

– 2 Nephi 2:27, author’s translation in Quenya

andries_ataremma

A calligraphic tengwar version of The Ataramma, the Lord’s Prayer in Quenya, by Danny Andries. Tengwar is one writing system that Tolkien invented for his invented languages. Source: http://www.ambar-eldaron.com/gwaith/andries.htm#aeadarnin.

 

Warning: this post is weird. It descends into depths of Tolkien nerdery previously unheard-of at BCC. Ye be warned.

Today is Tolkien Reading Day. Every March 25th the Tolkien Society chooses a theme and encourages readers to read their favorite passages from the professor’s work that relate to that theme, and read them on this day. This year’s theme is Tolkien and the Mysterious. That’s a topic with a lot of material, but one of the elements that contributes most to the sense of mystery—the sense that there is more to the story behind the story, is the presence of invented languages in Tolkien’s stories. Not just nonsense words with a “translation” in English, but full languages with internal rules of grammar, etymologies, and alphabets. This post will be an exploration of the idea of invented languages as it relates to the idea of the gift of tongues. [Read more…]

Missionary Communication Rules: How Folk Theology Works (and Doesn’t Work).

 

rawpixel-1054561-unsplash

The church announced today that effective immediately, missionaries can text, call, instant message, and video chat with their families at home on their preparation day, repealing the old rule that missionaries were only allowed to call home twice a year (Christmas and Mother’s Day), and were otherwise only allowed to email (and before sometime in the early 2000s, only write letters).

I imagine that this change is motivated at least in part by a concern for the emotional and mental health of missionaries. As long-distance communication has become cheaper and more ubiquitous, the world has become more and more interconnected. This is a double-edged sword: it makes long-distance and online friendships easier, but a side effect of that is that many people find it easier to primarily make friends with people online which means that IRL connection and friendship get harder. It can also be even more isolating when you grow up using online communication to make and maintain friendships, and then the ability to have online and log-distance connection is suddenly taken away. I’m no expert, but I suspect that this has a lot to do with the fact that many missionaries today find the mission experience, as rewarding and fulfilling as it is, to be seriously challenging to their emotional and mental health. And at some point, we have to ask ourselves whether that challenge is a necessary or worthwhile one. The church has now decided that it’s not. I think this is a very good thing. [Read more…]

Even He Can Be Redeemed

Sam Brown is a medical researcher, ICU physician, and author of several books, including In Heaven As It Is On Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death.

I love Richard Wagner’s music. Love it. My wife hates everything about Wagner. Hates him. She dry heaves when I forget and mention some opera of his I’ve enjoyed. I guess I don’t blame her. His music is loud and muscular. If you’re not in the mood, he sounds a bit like a glamour metal band resting its weary haunches on power cords, hoping to stir up faint echoes of adolescent passions. But his music is much more than that. [Read more…]

Lesson 16: “I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord” #BCCSundaySchool2018

 

P1150002_Cognacq-Jay_Rembrandt_anesse_de_Balaam_rwk

Rembrandt’s visualization of Balaam, his ass, and the angel- Mbzt, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23551459

[Read more…]

Sure He’s Heavy, But Still: He’s My Brother


Hey everyone! No, no, calm down, it’s just me, your Uncle Russell. Don’t freak out; here, let me close the window behind me. Is everyone here? Great!

Now, I know your mom and dad are out, and you’re planning a special surprise party for Daniel’s 50th birthday when they return–what do you mean, how do I know? Well, I’m the author here so, duh: I’m omniscient. No, that does not mean I’ve been spying on you. Please, put down your phones. Look, I just figured this would be a good time to let you in on some secrets about your dad. [Read more…]

On Human Evil

“No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he’s got rid of all the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and deficient skulls; till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.”–G.K. Chesterton, The Secret of Father Brown

 

I hold two literary opinions that I rarely discuss with friends, because they are the sorts of opinions that make one unpopular. The first is that CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series is better than JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The second is that GK Chesterton’s Father Brown is a better detective than Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. In both cases, my reasoning is the same: there are far more serious and profound ideas at stake in Lewis and Chesterton’s work than there are in Tolkien’s and Doyle’s. The latter works are entertaining. The former are important. [Read more…]

Self-Reliance: faith in Christ, consecration, stewardship, the prosperity gospel and “the deceitfulness of riches.”

I spoke in church yesterday. My assignment was to speak about self-reliance. This post is adapted from that talk.

1. Spiritual Self-Reliance: there is no such thing.

I confess that I don’t really like the term self-reliance, because strictly speaking, there is no such thing as spiritual self-reliance in the gospel. The scriptures, the Book of Mormon in particular, are as clear as can be that we are to rely only on Jesus for salvation (see e.g., 1 Nephi 10:6, 2 Nephi 31:19, Moroni 6:4). [Read more…]

Changing the Sacrament Prayers: an example of the role of human agency in revelation.

This LDSLiving article popped up in my twitter feed yesterday. The church has revised the French version of the sacrament prayer. I don’t know enough French to really have an informed opinion, but based on my knowledge of Spanish, and my spotty knowledge of Latin, it seems to me like the change is from a word meaning willing, in the sense of willing, or wanting to do something to one that means willing in the sense of available, or disposed to do something. The idea is to more closely match the English version. (And, incidentally, this also aligns more closely with the official Spanish version, which uses “son dispuestos.”)

I would be curious to know the process that led to this change. The change was announced over the First Presidency’s signatures, which suggests either that the First Presidency made the decision, or at least that somebody in the translation department brought to the First Presidency for approval. Who brought the issue to the attention of the decision maker? What were the discussions like? What kind of information did they rely on in making the decision?  [Read more…]

Why I Wrote This Book

Steven Peck
This book is unusual. In more ways than one. Well, maybe in more ways than ten. It’s a book about theology written by a Biologist. More strange perhaps is that I actually believe that science matters to theology, and visa-versa. Not a watered down science, mind you, but a full-bodied science that embraces all that that word means. No punches are pulled here. Well, that’s the wrong metaphor because it sounds like Science and Theology are entering a cage match in a winner-take-all blood fest. I need something that captures the idea that Theology and Science need each other. That they are better together than apart. That both become something richer and more compelling when they are holding hands on the beach and looking at a sunset than when they are duking it out in the ring. So what metaphor captures that? I know Frodo and Sam in Mordor. There we go. Frodo and Sam carrying the ring of falsehood into hostile territory to toss the thing into the Fires of Doom.
[Read more…]

Enoch and the Silmarillion Part VI: Conclusions.

 

It turns out, the lesson of pity that Nienna teaches in The Silmarillion applies remarkably well to God’s tears in Joseph Smith’s Enoch revelations. I’m not suggesting that Tolkien was secretly a devotee of Joseph Smith, or that he was intentionally hiding encrypted keys to understanding the visions of Enoch as Easter eggs in The Silmarillion. Rather, I am suggesting that seeing what lessons The Silmarillion draws out of the image of a weeping goddess can open us up to seeing the image of the weeping God in Enoch’s visions in new ways that might not be obvious given the history of how we have read those revelations. [Read more…]

Enoch and the Silmarillion Part V: How the Weeping Goddess Might Move us Beyond the Sovereignty Debate.

The lesson of pity that Nienna teaches in the Silmarillion is a lesson that applies with equal force to the image of God weeping in Enoch’s vision. [Read more…]

Enoch and the Silmarillion Part IV: The Elves’ Weeping Goddess.

Buckle up, because this one is going to get super nerdy. [Read more…]

Enoch and the Silmarillion Part III: Enoch’s Weeping God and the Divine Sovereignty Debate.

The image of the weeping God has inspired debates over whether God’s omnipotence is absolute, or is in some sense limited. Those debates are interesting, but I’m going to suggest that perhaps they miss the point of the image of the weeping God as it is presented in the Enoch revelations. [Read more…]

Enoch and the Silmarillion Part 1: Context and Structure of the Tale of Enoch.

I’d like to do a series of posts on the tale of Enoch as it is found in the Pearl of Great Price. There is a lot of interesting stuff in there, and I’ll probably take note of a few interesting tangents along the way, but where I’m ultimately going with this is that I want to make a comparison between the weeping God of Enoch’s vision, and Nienna, the weeping goddess of Tolkien’s fictional epic, the Silmarillion, and see what insights I can draw out of such a comparison.

But first, I want to put the text of Enoch’s vision in its context as a part of Joseph Smith’s biblical revision project. None of what I write below is groundbreaking, but I think it helps to summarize it before getting into the text. [Read more…]

Lesson 4: “Remember the New Covenant, Even the Book of Mormon.” #DandC2017

Lesson 4 in the Doctrine and Covenants Sunday School curriculum is entitled “Remember the New Covenant, Even the Book of Mormon,” a phrase taken from section 84. According to the manual, the objective of the lesson is to get class members to “recognize the Lord’s hand in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and to encourage them to study the Book of Mormon, follow its teachings, and share it with others.”

I apologize in advance that the way I went with this post probably doesn’t make it a very good Lesson outline; instead of short statements followed by incisive questions that get a good discussion going, I ended up with basically a long comment on some themes in the canonical texts, followed by some questions at the end. So I wouldn’t necessarily recommend following this post as a lesson plan itself, but I hope there may be some useful insights in the post and in the comments that you can work into a lesson if you are teaching this material. [Read more…]

Endowment and Eucharist V

JKC concludes his guest series.

Finally, the conclusion of my series about how the endowment and the eucharist perform similar functions. (For the rest of the series, see Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.) I’ll apologize in advance for getting a little personal in this one. Thanks for indulging me! [Read more…]

Endowment and Eucharist

Jared Cook, who occasionally comments in the bloggernacle under his initials JKC (the K is for Kimball), was born in Ogden, Utah, raised in Rochester, New York, served a mission in Phoenix, studied English at BYU, went to law school in Minneapolis, and then returned to Rochester where he lives now and works as an employment lawyer. He’s a lifelong member of the church and a lifelong democrat. He’s a father of three, husband of one, and a lover of the outdoors, Tolkien, and history (especially obscure church history, medieval history, and Mormon history). He cannot flatter himself that he is a writer, but he does occasionally scratch out the odd poem or essay.

“How the Endowment is to the Kirtland Temple as the Eucharist is to the Last Supper (Part I).”

This is series of posts that will attempt to gather and put down some of my thoughts about the LDS temple endowment. [Read more…]

The Christmas Story (X). Luke: The Scene of Jesus’ Birth.

[Part 9 is here. Part 11 is here.]

[You can find the whole series here.]

Luke has told us about the birth and the circumcision of John the Baptist, and now he begins his narrative of the birth and presentation of Jesus. He spends more ink here since obviously this is his main point in the prologue of the ministry.

In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled [RSV Luke 2]

It’s a census. It’s known that Augustus had a census now and then to get an idea of the population in various places, however he never commanded an empire-wide census. But remember that Luke’s view is a global one, and he wants this to follow that picture. Another thing to recall is that Luke is writing many years after the death of Augustus (August 14AD -yes the month is named for him) and the other events he’s telling us about. Consider trying to recall the highlights of the years of the U.S. presidency of William Howard Taft. It gives you some idea about Luke’s story. You have some general ideas about Taft perhaps, but probably not details about him. You probably don’t recall details of his role in the “Big Burn” and the forest service in 1910. But you may have some kind of general picture, legends of Augustus, if you’re Luke. Luke wants us to understand that this is an event that has world-wide significance.
[Read more…]

Five Blessings from Reading (Really Reading) the Five Books of Moses

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

A few months ago, I began reading the Old Testament, a book of scripture which I have never before been able to read all the way through (the closest I ever came was 25 years ago while on my mission in South Korea; reading from Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version of the Bible, I made it all the way through Jeremiah, at which point I simply couldn’t take it any more and gave up). This reading, once I determined that I was going to do it right, involved my trusty Revised English Bible (my favorite translation out of the four or so I own) and Robert Alter’s wonderful translations and commentary. Just before Christmas I finished working through his largest chunk of the Old Testament, The Five Books of Moses, and I figured I ought to be able to come with at five statements of gratitude for my reading of this, the oldest and most foundational text of the whole Western religious and philosophical tradition. [Read more…]