Practical Home Teaching


It finally happened. I had sort of given up hope that it would ever happen. But it just did, moments ago, in Elder Holland’s talk during the Priesthood session of GC. [Read more…]

The Importance of Education

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I have previously done two blog posts on our young, budding basketball star, Jabari Parker, the first on whether he should serve a mission and the second on whether he should jump to the NBA. I’m now going to make it a trilogy. [Read more…]


Today is my birthday (I just turned 58, which I realize is ancient by blogging standards). This morning on the train ride in for some reason I reflected on how, for a few short years, I was destined to become some stripe of scientist, and how through various poor decisions I made along the way I managed to foreclose that particular path in my life. [Read more…]

Anatomy of a GD Lesson

Yesterday I taught lesson 29 on Alma 36-39. I thought I would try to break down for you how I approach teaching a class like that and how in fact this particular class went. When you stand up in that room and begin the class, you really don’t have any idea how things are going to go or what direction the class might take the lesson which, especially if you’re an introvert, could be (in Alma’s words) an “inexpressible horror” (Alma 36:14), but more often (for me at least) is simply exhilirating. [Read more…]

The History and Symbolism of Temples

While looking for something else, deep in a desk drawer I stumbled upon my notes for a fireside I was asked to give on the captioned subject in my ward back in 2011. I thought I would share them here in case some of you may find them useful. [Read more…]

Why (Really) Did You Go on a Mission?



A guest post by Mette Harrison on Jana’s Flunking Sainthood blog caused me to ask the question in the title of myself. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what the answer was. [Read more…]

Yo, Dre, I got something to say!


Two related points about the Book of Mormon: [Read more…]

Missionary Fights


While reading Rosalynde’s excellent review at Dialogue of Craig Harline’s (also) excellent Way Below the Angels, for some reason my mind turned to an experience from my own mission when I got into a fight with my companion. [Read more…]

The New Arrington Bio


At the recent MHA Conference at Snowbird, Utah, I spent some time between sessions browsing the books in the sponsor rooms. I had flown to Utah for the conference and so had precious little space for books. One I knew I was going to purchase so I could start reading it there at the conference and on the flight home was Gregory A. Prince, Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History. I just finished the book moments ago. [Read more…]

MHA Snowbird 2016


OK, I’m opening up a thread for discussion of all things MHA during its 2016 conference at the Cliff Lodge, Snowbird Ski resort, in the mountains just east of Salt Lake City. [Read more…]

Others in the Land?

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Tomorrow’s GD lesson begins with these verses from Mosiah 25:

 And now king Mosiah caused that all the people should be gathered together.

 Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness.

 And there were not so many of the people of Nephi and of the people of Zarahemla as there were of the Lamanites; yea, they were not half so numerous.

[Read more…]

Review of JSP Documents Vol. 4


Let me begin by warning our fair readers that I do not claim the historical chops of, say, my blog mates J. Stapley or WVS, but I do claim a layperson’s interest in Mormon history. So this will be more of a personal reaction than a scholarly dissection.

[Read more…]



So this Sunday’s GD lesson is Mosiah 7-11. The very first verse of the reading, 7:1, reads as follows:

 And now, it came to pass that after king Mosiah had had continual peace for the space of three years, he was desirous to know concerning the people who went up to dwell in the land of Lehi-Nephi, or in the city of Lehi-Nephi; for his people had heard nothing from them from the time they left the land of Zarahemla; therefore, they wearied him with their teasings. (Emphasis added.)

[Read more…]

Putting Women on a Pedestal (Nephite Edition)


So I’m reading Mosiah 1-3 to prepare for tomorrow’s lesson on King Benjamin’s speech. Recall from Mosiah 2:5 that it was not just men present; it was also their wives, their daughters, their granddaughters who were there. [Read more…]

Restoring Harmony


I had heard that the Church was restoring some of the historic sites in Harmony Township, Pennsylvania (now Oakland Township), but I hadn’t heard any of the details. Well, yesterday I received my BYU Religious Education Review (Winter 2016), which features two articles that give details on this project. [Read more…]

Sympathy for the Devil



So if you manage to make it through the Allegory of the Olive Tree, you’ll come to the story of Sherem in Jacob 7. [Read more…]

My School of the Prophets


A long time ago I was called to be my stake’s “institute teacher.”[1] I had taught lots of Gospel Doctrine classes in the stake, and I have always endeavored to make my classes interesting and on the level of a good BYU Religious Education course, and apparently someone had noticed that effort and decided to let me teach on a stake-wide basis. I took the call as quite an honor and of course accepted. [Read more…]

Hebrew School in the BoA?

I had a little time to kill this afternoon, so I decided to run a deltaview comparison of Abraham 4 and 5 against Genesis 1 and 2 to get a good visual map of the variations from the latter to the former. The results were fascinating. Some of the changes seem to have been influenced by Joseph’s studies with Joshua Seixas in the Kirtland Hebrew school (as a number of scholars have opined over the years). I’m at work without resources (in particular my copy of the Seixas grammar), but I thought I would try to identify some of the changes that to me seem most likely to have had a Hebrew-based motivation. These are just a series of (very) rough notes for my own future reference, but I thought some of you might find them interestintg as well: [Read more…]

Grind upon the Face of the Poor


So as usual I’m beginning to read the assignment for next Sunday’s GD lesson. I’m in 2 Nephi 26 when I come to verse 20 (the verse is quite dense, so I’ve broken it into lines to make it easier to parse): [Read more…]

Isaiah in the BoM


So I’m preparing for lesson #9, which is the Isaiah lesson, and doing some of the reading. I come to 2 Nephi 12:16, which reads as follows: [Read more…]

JST 1 Cor. 7:1-2

I thought I would share here a snippet from my BYU NT Commentary Conference presentation this past summer. My paper was on the JST of 1 Corinthians. We have a tendency to want to see the JST as almost entirely involving textual restorations, but I frankly didn’t see any of that in 1 Corinthians. The largest category of changes I saw were what I called “Alternate Translations (without Positing any Change in Underlying Text.” I present below the first change I discussed under that category. [Note that by “alternate translations” I intended to take an agnostic stance as to whether these translations were interlingual (presumably by inspiration, since Joseph didn’t actually know Greek) or intralingual (i.e., a paraphrase or English rewording of Joseph’s exemplar, the KJV).

[Read more…]

Pluralizing The Book of Mormon


There is a long standing debate as to how to pluralize The Book of Mormon. I’ll give you my take; please share yours in the comments. [Read more…]

Gospel Discussion Group

From time to time I’ve made oblique references on the blog to a Gospel Discussion Group my wife and I were a part of in the mid-90s here in the Chicago area. I remember that as an idyllic time, and I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you more about it. [Read more…]

Who’s on First?

So I was reading 2 Nephi 3 in preparation for this Sunday’s GD class, and I realized I kept getting lost. At one point I thought the text said that Joseph Smith was descended from Joseph son of Lehi (which would also make him descended from Lehi himself), until I realized I was confusing Joseph of Egypt as a speaker with Lehi. As I looked over the text, I realized how very confusing it was. There are multiple quotations, some of which are nested, but per KJV usage without quotation marks. It is often difficult to tell what the antecedent to various pronouns is supposed to be. So I copied verses 6-22 and used square bracketed inserts to try to keep track of who was speaking, and braces to try to keep track of who was being referred to. I’m not sure I got it all right;  I found verse 18 particularly vexing. In any event, I think this is a good illustration of the need to read closely, because in my initial quick read I had totally butchered who was referring to what. [Read more…]



For the past 30 years I have commuted by train into the City of Chicago. After pulling into Union Station, I walk up the steps to Madison Street and cross the Chicago River to get to my office. On Thursday mornings I grab a copy of the Chicago Reader, a weekly alternative paper, to read on the train ride home. [Read more…]



I happened to be on one of those Lands of the Book of Mormon tours, and we were taking a rest in a town in Guatemala. I was browsing in a dusty shop that sold all sorts of things to western tourists, when my eye focused on what looked like three gold plates with chicken scratch inscriptions on them. They weren’t really gold but only looked like it, and I was about to turn away and look at something else in the shop, when I realized that the chicken scratches were actually paleo-Hebrew. I’m not very good with that ancient form of writing, but with a little effort I picked out the following text: SPR LMN BN LCHY. I was stunned to realize that these words mean “The Book of Laman, Son of Lehi.” I could scarcely believe my good fortune; I had stumbled upon the lost record of Nephi’s oldest brother! I immediately set upon translating the record, the result of which I set forth below: [Read more…]

Five Pillars


Many years ago (I don’t have a really clear idea of exactly how many), I was sitting in sacrament meeting when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the missionaries. They had been talking to a Muslim man in the gym, and were way out of their depth, so they asked if I would come and talk to him with them. I said sure, and slipped out of the chapel towards the gymnasium. [Read more…]

Our Moribund Missionary Department?


We used to have a guy in our ward (since moved to another state), a great person, young father, taught seminary and the kids loved him. He had studied business at BYU (I think including an MBA) and he does a lot of recruiting for his employer. One time we were talking, and I asked him about what they look for in new hires, and he explained to me the process and the exercises they put potential new hires through to test their ability to think on their feet, to problem solve, to think creatively, to get things done. Although I can’t recall the details, I do recall being deeply impressed by this young man and his business and organizational acumen, and thinking that if I ran a business and needed someone like him I would have hired him on the spot. I’m sure there are lots of people in the Church like that with various educational backgrounds who have similar kinds of training and abilities. [Read more…]



On my mission, whenever I would read about the angel asking Nephi “knowest thou the condescension of God?” in 1 Nephi 11:16, I would kind of smirk to myself and think, “No” (which as a 19-year old kid I thought was hilarious). The fact was I didn’t even know what the word “condescension” meant, much less grasp the concept intended by “condescension of God.” I was only beginning to come to a sense of curiosity about the scriptures, but for some reason my curiosity didn’t really extend to this expression. And somehow I’ve gone all these years without really giving that expression a second thought. But in preparing for Sunday’s lesson I of course read the passage once again, and decided perhaps it is finally time that I try to get a handle on what the angel is trying to show Nephi here. [Read more…]

Financing the Book of Mormon


One of the gifts Santa brought me was Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirmaat, From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 2015). I had asked the old guy for this book with the thought that it would help me in preparing my introductory lesson this coming Sunday, in which I wanted to focus on the production and publication of the book. That meant I had to read it quickly, but it was an easy read and I just finished it yesterday. [Read more…]