A Translation for Latter-day Saints


Not only do we have the new Maxwell Institute Study Edition of the Book of Mormon by Grant Hardy hot off the presses, we have now also been blessed with a study edition of the New Testament prepared by Thomas A. Wayment specifically intended for Latter-day Saint readers. The timing of this publication is particularly propitious, for tomorrow (i.e., December 31, 2018) begins our 2019 Sunday School curriculum focus on the New Testament. Further, under the new two-hour block system, individuals, families or informal groups will now bear more of the burden and responsibility for pursuing such study, so this new volume has the potential to be a primary resource that our people can turn to as they tackle our NT curriculum. [Read more…]

Maxwell Institute Study Edition


15 years ago, Grant Hardy published a landmark volume in BoM studies: The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003). This was the first attempt to put forward an actual scholar’s edition of the text of the Book of Mormon. I reviewed this volume in Kevin L. Barney, “An Elegant Presentation,” FARMS Review 16/1 (2004), available here. Suffice it to say, my review was highly positive. 15 years later, Grant has published a new study edition, with the standard title of the BoM (i.e., The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ) followed by the subtitle Maxwell Institute Study Edition. In this review I shall refer to the new edition as the “MISE.” [Read more…]

I Am a Christian Boy

When President Nelson urged us to no longer use the word “Mormon,” I could see where he was coming from and sympathize with the intention. The official name of our Church focuses on our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, information the nickname “Mormon” does not by itself communicate. But I could also see a serious difficulty in bringing such a vision to fruition. Whatever we might try to do in-house, externally no one is going to use a nine-word substitute (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) for a single word (Mormon). [Read more…]

A Resource for Your 2019 NT Study

In about two months as the calendar turns we will begin a new course of Church and home-based study focusing on the New Testament. The home-based aspects of this curriculum kind of require us to figure out how we want to approach it, and the encouragement of study groups provides another venue for some dedicated study. So I thought it might be helpful to point folks to a resource I believe they will find useful to that end: my Footnotes to the New Testament for Latter-day Saints. Old timers should already be aware of this resource, but I suspect it will be new to more recent readers.
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Missionary Policies

A friend received a letter from their mission announcing new policies specific to that particular mission (which mission is unimportant for purposes of this post; I want to use the letter as a springboard to think about best mission practices generally). I wanted to share a few thoughts about these proposed policies. First, the relevant extract from the letter: [Read more…]

Notes on Two-Hour Church

I spent last weekend with a childhood friend doing Nauvoo. So I learned of the announcement of two-hour church in the Browning gun shop, from a senior missionary with an earbud in his ear listening to Conference. The rumors have been around for years, but now the long promised day has finally come. Hallelujah! [Read more…]



In 1965 when I was six going on seven, my father got a job as a professor of education at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL, two hours due west of Chicago. So I grew up there, from second grade through high school. For decades I have lived just an hour east of DeKalb, and my MIL still lives there, so I go back to visit often, most recently a week ago yesterday as a fellow DeKalbian and I made our way to spend a weekend in Nauvoo.[1]

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In SS today the topic was Hosea. I would like to offer two comments on the early discussion in the class (I didn’t have an opportunity to make these points in real time during the class, so I want to make them here.) [Read more…]

Face to Face

Those of you who don’t know me may be surpirsed to learn that I’m not actually a young adult (I haven’t been one of those for decades now). But (while watching my Bears play the Packers) I decided to crash the Face to Face event this evening emanating from across from the temple in Nauvoo. Elder Cook presided and led the event; I was particularly interested to hear what historians Kate Holbrook (Sam’s favorite person on the planet) and Matt Grow would have to say. They had time to respond to nine questions. What follows are simply my raw notes, with no real attempt to try to fill them in from memory.

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The Expanded Canon


Review of The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism & Sacred Texts, edited by Blair G. Van Dyke, Brian D. Birch and Boyd J. Petersen (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2018). [Read more…]

Who’s on First?

As we read our scriptures, something we tend not to think too much about is who’s point of view we are being given. This is called Point of View (POV) analysis, and basically there are three types. First person POV is the actor telling his own story in his own voice, using first person pronouns. Generally his perspective is limited to what he could know at the time (that is, he doesn’t comment on the movement of armies far away, for he has no way to know those details).[1] Third person perspective is when a nameless narrator recounts events in third person voice and using third person pronouns. The perspective of such a narrator could be either limited to what an observer could know in that space and moment, or it could be “omniscient,” meaning the narrator knows all aspects of the story irrespective of space and time. [Read more…]

In Praise of the JSPP


The Joseph Smith Papers Project announced just a couple of days ago that the Council of Fifty Minutes, which have been in print for awhile, are now available online. And I thought this would be a good opportunity to praise the Church for the creation and its support of this magnificent scholarly endeavor. [Read more…]

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the sunk cost fallacy. For those who are not, or need a refresher, below is a useful explanation:

Individuals commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort) (Arkes & Blumer, 1985). This fallacy, which is related to status quo bias, can also be viewed as bias resulting from an ongoing commitment. For example, individuals sometimes order too much food and then over-eat ‘just to get their money’s worth’. Similarly, a person may have a $20 ticket to a concert and then drive for hours through a blizzard, just because she feels that she has to attend due to having made the initial investment. If the costs outweigh the benefits, the extra costs incurred (inconvenience, time or even money) are held in a different mental account than the one associated with the ticket transaction (Thaler, 1999).

Arkes, H. R., & Blumer, C. (1985), The psychology of sunk costs. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 35, 124-140.

Thaler, R. H. (1999). Mental accounting matters. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. 12, 183-206.

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Isaiah in 2 Nephi FHE Project


This Sunday’s GD lesson is going to be on the Psalms, and our teacher asked me to do a short explanation of parallelism in Hebrew poetry as an enrichment activity. I plan to do a very brief summary of some of the things I wrote in my article “Understanding Old Testament Poetry” from the June 1990 Ensign. [Read more…]

MHA Conference Boise 2018


This evening marks the beginning of the 2018 Mormon History Association Conference in Boise, so I’m opening up a post for commentary on all things MHA through the end of the conference on Sunday. [Read more…]

Papyrus Amherst 63

After more than a century, we finally have a complete scholarly edition of Papyrus Amherst 63.[1] Let me tell you a little bit about this document and then mention some aspects of it that have intrigued Mormons. [Read more…]

What’s New with the ERA

So last night at just moments before midnight I received an email alerting me that the Equal Rights Amendment had (finally!) passed the Illinois House by a vote of 72-45, with one vote to spare (71 votes were needed so as to comply with a 3/5 supermajority for Constitutional amendments under Illinois law). For a number of years now one chamber or the other would pass it, but not both, and both have to pass it in the same session for the approval to be effective. But the Senate passed it in April and now the House yesterday. This ratification came more than 45 years after the amendment was passed by Congress! (News sources speculate that perhaps the #MeToo movement may have finally pushed it over the top.) [Read more…]

8 or 4?

I’m guessing that for most of you, as long as you can remember Sunday School has followed a four-year rotation: OT, NT, BoM, D&C/Church History. I suspect at least some of you young pups may be surprised to learn that when Correlation first rolled out the new Sunday School program after 1971 the rotation was actually eight years long, spending two years rather than one on each volume of scripture. At some point in the late 80s or early 90s[1] the Church went to the four-year rotation we’ve become accustomed to.[2] [Read more…]

President Nelson’s 1st GC Report Card

I made a good faith effort to watch all of Conference this past weekend. I missed a few pockets here and there (in part due to doing taxes), and I missed the whole of the Sunday afternoon session due to a family Easter dinner. But I caught most of it. And for his first effort as the actual President of the Church, I found the result very encouraging. I’m giving President Nelson an A on my report card. Below is what stood out for me: [Read more…]

Teach the Doctrine


This morning I attended a regional auxiliary training originating in Chicago and reaching as far as Minneapolis, I believe. The featured speaker was the second councilor in the General Sunday School Presidency. The focus of the presentation was principles derived from the Church’s Teaching in the Savior’s Way initiative, and part of the presentation entailed modeling what is supposed to happen in Teaching Council meetings. [Read more…]

He Rejoiced


So in GD today we did lesson 9, which includes the story of the miraculous birth of Isaac in Abraham’s and Sarah’s old age. The teacher mentioned that where the KJV said Abraham laughed at the news he was about to become an aged father, the JST corrects that to “he rejoiced.” At first I didn’t give it a second thought, because I vaguely recalled that change. But then a woman sitting behind me said that the name Isaac actually means “he laughed,” and she asked me if I could confirm her understanding, which I did, pointing out that Isaac is an anglicized version of the Hebrew name  Yitzhak (or Itzhak), which comes from the verb “to laugh” (the Y represents an imperfect verb form). (The Lord directed Abraham to name his son Isaac in Genesis 17:19.) And then the teacher said something like “And now we know it also means ‘he rejoiced.'” And the lesson proceeded from there. [Read more…]

Belonging to Isaiah the Prophet


I’ve subscribed to Biblical Archaeology Review for a long time. I recently got the latest issue, which includes an article by Eilat[1] Mazar, “Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?” The article is about the bulla pictured above. (A bulla is a piece of clay bearing a seal impression.) It would certainly be exciting to have a physical artifact relating so closely to the great prophet! [Read more…]

Masonic Influence on LDS Temple Worship


I recently read an account of a person’s loss of faith in the Church. Among several challenging issues this person mentioned was learning of the Masonic influence on Mormon temple worship. I had a different experience with learning about that issue, and I’d like to describe it on the off chance the PTB might learn something useful about how best to expose our young people to this sort of thing. [Read more…]

Trek the Movie

So a new Mormon film is coming out in April titled “Trek the Movie.” You can watch the trailer here [Read more…]

Why is it so hard for LDS to find marriage partners?

Somebody apparently added me to a Facebook group called “LDS Doctrines, Questions, and Insights.” This is not a Bloggernacle type of group, but a very mainstream one (it has 14,000 members). I haven’t paid much attention to it, but I noticed a long thread discussing this question: “Why we the single members of the Church find it difficult to get a partner to marry?” [Read more…]

A Commentary on the JST of 1 Corinthians

I have written a paper with the captioned title and posted it on SSRN. You can read it here. I’d like to tell you a little bit about the genesis of this project. [Read more…]

Toward a Paradigm of JST Revisions

As our GD curriculum turns to the OT, we are going to start getting many comments in our GD classes based on the JST. In my experience these comments will invariably be based on an assumption that all such emendations reflect (in English) the original text of the passage, the KJV having been corrupted somehow. And that widespread assumption in most instances at least will be wrong. [Read more…]

The Slaughter of the Innocents


16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

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Lead us not into temptation


Pope Francis has been in the news recently for suggesting a change to the Lord’s Prayer. (Indeed, there was a story about this on the Today Show just moments ago.) As succinctly summarized by the Washington Post,

The words in the Lord’s Prayer that ask, “Lead us not into temptation,” can cause confusion, Francis said. To make it clear that God would not lead anybody toward sin, the pope suggested a better translation of the Greek prayer from the New Testament would be something along the lines of, “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

Predictably, he has been receiving significant push back, the sentiment being “Leave the Lord’s Prayer alone!” [Read more…]

A New Church in Chicago



I used to be part of the regional public affairs group, so I knew the Church was constructing a new church building on a prime parcel of real estate at 822 North Clark Street in Chicago. But I wasn’t really clear on the schedule. Well, earlier this week I got a flier to the effect that the building was done and they were going to give tours this weekend. The first tour would be at 3:00 p.m. Friday afternoon (i.e., today), which was perfect for me, so I decided to hop in a cab and go check it out. [Read more…]