Jonah: Gently Raise The Sacred Satire

I confess I once read Cleon Skousen’s “Thousand Years” books–don’t hold it against me. Specifically, I remember reading his The Fourth Thousand Years and his take on Jonah, where he told the story about a sailor who fell overboard and was swallowed by a whale, but survived, somehow, in its belly, to be released by his fellow whalers after they landed the beast.[1] This episode was then offered up as anecdotal assurance of the historicity of the Jonah story. It was kind of like Thor Heyerdahl meets The Accidental Tourist, a reluctant demonstration of possibility. My favorite part of the story was when the sailor’s skin was bleached from soaking in buckets of whale vomit and he lost huge fistfuls of hair, yet, other than that, he was pretty much good-to-go afterwards. Okay, I thought, so maybe this was something I could believe in with a straight face afterall. [Read more…]

What Is The Meaning Of This?

Someone once asked this thought provoking question: “What is the meaning of the Bible?” Other authors have attempted to answer this question as it is asked by people in general, but this is the first guide designed to respond to this person’s question specifically.[1] [Read more…]

The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri (2d ed.): A Book Review

If the writings of Hugh Nibley, Leonard Arrington and Lowell Bennion are the “classic rock” of Mormon studies, and if Hugh Nibley is the Led Zeppelin of classic Mormon studies, then Nibley’s The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment (MJSP), recently released in a new 2nd edition, is Nibley’s digitally remastered “Stairway to Heaven.” [1] [Read more…]

I’m Not Your Chloe!

My wife and I started watching DVDs of “24” last fall. Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s crack cocaine in handy disk format. In fact I’m right now in withdrawal waiting for the last season to get released at Blockbuster. Couldn’t watch it on TV with commercials and all that “waiting a week between episodes” crap–messes up my fix.

Halfway through Season Three I realized something. My wife thinks I’m her Chloe. [Read more…]

Notes on Alma, Huck and the Mourner’s Bench

Here’s an interesting passage from Mosiah 18:9, suggesting, on its face, that mourning with those who mourn is a Christian duty (which I believe):

9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life–(emphasis added)

A similar phrase appears in Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” At first glance, Alma’s speech seems to echo the Sermon on the Mount, literally multiplying that beatitude times two. But Mosiah 18:9 may have a closer cousin found in a touching and amusing passage from chapter 20 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: [Read more…]

Whither MoTab?

Ronald Reagan called it “America’s Choir.” It won a Grammy in 1959 for “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and numerous other awards. It has the longest running radio show in history. Of course, it’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, one of the brightest jewels in the crown of Mormondom. No doubt many readers even heard a performance of MoTab patriotic tunes over the July 4th weekend. However, some recent observers have suggested MoTab needs to catch up with the times. Here are a few suggestions along those lines. I invite yours as well. [Read more…]

“I Can See People But They Look Like Trees Walking”: Seeing Jesus in Mark’s Gospel

A while back Julie and I had a brief discussion about The Gospel of Mark during which I half-heartedly suggested that Mark produced a sort of “Reader’s Digest” gospel later improved upon by Matthew and Luke (Mark is missing “Q” after all) and she begged to differ, maintaining Mark is a concise literary masterpiece. I basically agreed with this assessment, being personally impressed with Mark’s vigorous, gritty account, but I still found it a bit too “pamphlet-like.” Julie also said Mark should be heard rather than read, the process no doubt experienced by the author’s original audience. So I took Julie at her word and recently listened to Mark on cassette in the car. She’s right. And what did I hear this time around? Loud and clear: the disciples are depicted as clueless about who Jesus was and what he was teaching [1], sometimes humorously so. [Read more…]

Sons and Daughters of the Law

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Bat Mitzvah for the 13 year old daughter of my friend, a former neighbor. Yarmulke-less, my wife and I sat down in Temple Emanu-El, waiting for the service to begin. Immediately I regretted declining a complimentary kippah (yarmulke is Yiddish; kippah is the Hebrew equivalent; kippot is plural) offered to me at the entrance, although I wasn’t entirely sure if I was supposed to wear it as a gentile. But, either way, no one cared except me. The many colorful kippot seemed to move about in the room like flowers in a breeze, their colors ranging from serious black to cheerful watermelon. To my surprise, many women wore them, a more recent egalitarian development.[1] [Read more…]

Bible Dating Tips for Men

I had originally planned to follow up on my earlier “Holy Kiss” bit with a series on courting and marriage tips, but since my claims to romantic experience now have been exposed for the fraud that they are, I’ve decided to approach these topics with an appeal to biblical authority, rather than to my own questionable credentials. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should also state that, well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I got married I actually gave up dating–I just didn’t have the time for it anymore. So even my own marginal courting experience is … dated. [Read more…]

Announcing Volume 173 in The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley

Several years ago I fell asleep reading Nibley’s Abraham in Egypt, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Volume 14, and had the following dream that appeared to be a future FARMS press conference, circa 2063 AD. [1] I hope it is prophetic. [Read more…]

“Greet one another with a holy kiss”

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time with the social kiss. Kissing girlfriends as a teenager, this I figured out fairly quickly, and, besides, it was done in the dark without witnesses. The social kiss, however … I’m still awkwardly working on that one. Maybe I should practice in front of the mirror. The problem is that social kissing techniques differ widely. My favorite is when women draw their faces closely together, careful not to touch, then they both say almost in unison,”muu–waaaA!” and slowly back away so no one gets hurt. When it happens to me–I view myself as an unwilling participant here, a victim–I kind of stare at bystanders with that desperate-plea-for-help look in my eyes, but they just stand there doing nothing. And to further complicate things, I go and read in the bible that this kind of thing was an early Christian ritual. Paul keeps reprimanding people all the time to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”(see Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; and 1 Thessalonians 5:26). Which leads me to my question: How come this ordinance was never a part of the Restoration of All Things? [Read more…]

The Scripture Channel

I recently fell asleep one night while reading the scriptures. It wasn’t because they were boring me, I was just dog-tired. A suggestion–someone needs to print a version that has special drool resistant pages. Anyway, here I was asleep the other night, face down on the bible and I have this dream. Whether it was inspired or not, I leave to you. In the dream, there was a big screen TV, and the following commercial advertisement came on. [Read more…]

Trial and Error at Easter

In 1985 I was asked to speak on Easter Sunday about the death and resurrection of Jesus. As an earnest first year law student, I felt qualified to focus at length on what I knew to be the numerous violations of “due process” under Jewish law during the trial of Jesus. I had exhaustively studied the accounts written by Talmage and McConkie and was moved by the stinging irony of Jesus, Israel’s lawgiver as the premortal God of the Old Testament, being tried as a transgressor of that very law by judges who violated that very law in conducting this trial. I spoke with more emotion than was my habit, my outrage clearly audible in my voice. Several members came to me afterwards, visibly moved by my remarks. Little did I know that 12 months later I would no longer believe the particulars I had declared that Easter Sunday about the Jewish trial of Jesus. [Read more…]

A FestBlog for Wayne Booth

A festschrift is a book published in honor of a renowned academician by his/her former students and close colleagues, meaning something like celebratory publication in German. Several Mormons have been so honored: Hugh Nibley, Eugene England, Richard L. Anderson and Leonard Arrington come to mind. However, I’ve never seen one for Wayne Booth, the deceased author of The Rhetoric of Fiction, among his other universally acclaimed works. Booth was also a frequent observer of Mormonism, the faith that reared him, set him on his way and then allowed him to come back and sack out in the basement of Sunstone every now and then[1]. How important was this guy? He was arguably the most important U.S. figure in literary theory in the 20th Century. If I were ever asked to contribute to an Essays in Honor of Wayne Booth collection, it would be the essay I’ve posted below called “The Rhetoric of Cheerleading.” In fact, consider this a Wayne Booth Festblog. I invite each of you to make your own contribution in his honor. [Read more…]

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John: The Original Fab Four

As great as the Beatles were in their individual careers (the inclusion of Ringo as great is questionable here, but I suggest “It Don’t Come Easy” squeaks him by), something was definitely lost when they disbanded. The whole was truly greater than the sum of the parts. I guess it’s possible that McCartney’s “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude” and “Let it Be” could have been written with Wings, but I seriously doubt it. Which leads ineluctably to the next question–what about the original Fab Four: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? No, I’m not asking whether McCartney could have written the gospels after the Beatles folded (or before, although it makes you wonder), but whether the four gospels harmonized as a whole are greater than the sum of their accounts individually? Let’s explore this issue.

[Read more…]

Just How Uninspired is the Song of Solomon?

Okay, we’ve all read this little note scribbled in the JST bible manuscript: “The Songs of Solomon are not Inspired Writings.” This is attributed to Joseph Smith himself, but I suspect someone somewhere is writing an article to be published by FARMS demonstrating that DNA found on the page shows that this was not written by Joseph but by one of his scribes, thereby letting Joseph off the hook. But, for argument’s sake, let’s assume this statement comes from the Prophet himself. If so, then why does the D&C quote from the Song of Solomon on several occasions? [Read more…]

Created in the Image of a Creator

A lawyer, scientist and engineer sit talking about God. “I’m telling you, God’s a scientist–he cloned Eve from Adam,” says the scientist. “No, he’s an engineer–he constructed the heavens and the earth before he made humans,” says the engineer. Both of them look at the lawyer, who seems stumped. Then the lawyer speaks up, “No, you’re both wrong. Before the heavens and the earth were created there was chaos–now just who do you think created that?” Well, at any rate, God is a creator. My question today: what does it mean to be created in the image of a creator? [Read more…]

Worship as Study (Or, the Frog Analogy)

As I indicated earlier, study is a form of worship for me. Also, it just so happens that worship is something I study. Is that circular in some way? Is it like hooking up a transmitter from your mouth to your brain so you can tell your brain what to think? (I vaguely recall this as a surgical procedure once performed by Buckaroo Bonzai.) I suggest it is a peculiar thing when you start studying your own worship, your own faith. [Read more…]

Josephus, Zacchaeus and the Startling Deeds of Jesus

Are the writings of Josephus evidence for the Historical Jesus? Maybe, maybe not. I think so. Here’s a brief breakdown of this issue, along with some thoughts on, in the words of Josephus, the “startling deeds” of Jesus, as illustrated by the story of Jesus’s friend Zacchaeus, that tree-climbing tax collector. [Read more…]

“To Avoid the Too Frequent Repetition”

At Ricks College in 2000, during a speech on faith, an LDS leader explained:

“Out of reverence and respect for the name of the Savior and to avoid the too frequent repetition of His name, please keep in mind that as I now use the word “faith” I am referring to the more accurate and complete phrase of “faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” (see Elder David A. Bednar, “According to thy Faith,” Ricks College Devotional, August 29, 2000, available in archives).

I’ve always been puzzled by this concept among Mormons–the too frequent repetition of His name. Is this a commandment, a practice, or something else? I know it’s a part of being reverent, but what does that exactly have to do with frequency? Writing perhaps where angels even fear to post, I will take a brief, and, I hope, respectful, look at this topic, trusting what I say won’t offend anyone but open the door to a useful dialogue.

[Read more…]

The Top 10 Mormon Lesson Manuals… Ever

Here’s a list of my top 10 LDS lesson manuals ever. Did I hear someone snicker? Shame on you–some of my favorite books were once church lesson manuals. Perhaps it’s because you are too young or didn’t have parents who kept their old manuals next to balls of twine on sagging bookshelves in the basement, just inviting you to blow off the dust and read them like I did. I’m talking about nothing less than the golden age of LDS Church manuals here. [Read more…]

007 Things About Q

Getting back to the Historical Jesus (although expect a few more detours now and again). Let’s turn to the gospels, specifically to that scholarly gadget known as “Q” and the “synoptic problem” and their relationship to the search for the Historical Jesus. You, the reader, have a license to kill any of the following you find objectionable. [Read more…]

Study as Worship

According to the rabbis (i) one of God’s first creations was the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), (ii) God studies Torah for three hours every day (hmmm, in “God Years” (I’m not dyslexic) that’s … about … 125 years every day) and (iii) out of respect, whenever God reads Torah, he stands. On this brief detour from the Historical Jesus, I want to suggest study as a form of divine imitation, a form of worship. [Read more…]

Did Jesus Exist? (Plus a Bonus Swipe in the General Direction of Some Polemicists)

Opponents in polemical religious debate are always on the lookout for a handy silver bullet. Some students of Mormon thought like to load their revolvers with “Mormons aren’t Christians” (which is not the topic of this blog). On another note, some observers of Christianity prefer “Jesus Never Existed” ammunition. I’ve always considered both of these claims on the ridiculous side, distractions really, from far more important issues. But in the search for the historical Jesus, we need to consider the question how we “know” he existed. [Read more…]

Who’s/Whose Jesus?

Ed Snow is a Mormon humorist yearning to be taken seriously. It doesn’t help that his writings evidence a wide variety of inconsistent theological and historical views, found mostly in the pages of Sunstone, Dialogue, Irreantum, The Sugar Beet, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, and FARMS Review of Books, among others. He authored Of Curious Workmanship: Musings on Things Mormon published by Signature Books. Ed is a banking and finance lawyer in Atlanta.

Some of my Baptist friends say Mormons worship a different Jesus. If so, one is led to ask just how many are out there? [Read more…]