A Generation of Artisans and Scholars

Here’s a link to a little manifesto of mine just published by the good folks over at the excellent Junior Ganymede blog. In short, I argue that Latter-day Saints in the U.S. need to stop our tendency to go into white-collar careers and, instead, focus on professions in the humanities, because we need that to build a strong subculture, in order to stop the current mainstream culture from destroying our families.

Men and Porn

A friend of mine who works in the IT industry told me about this experience he had about a decade ago.

A guy in the cubicle next to his asked him to come over and look at his screen. My friend did and saw that his coworker had a pornographic image on display. He quickly turned away and said something like, “Thanks but no thanks.”

The coworker teased and scolded him a bit about being a prude and said, “C’mon, don’t pretend you don’t like it.”

And this is where the story gets memorable for me. My friend said, “I’m not pretending I don’t like it. I’m sure I would like it. That’s why I have to force myself to avoid it.”

I think that’s a great lesson for all of us.

“I know what you Christians believe.”

A response to accusations against Christians about being judgmental. Perhaps those making the accusations don’t understand just how universally we view the fallen state of humanity, and our need to all come to Christ with “a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” including me, and you, and all of us.

A Timeline for the Book of Ether

Ether timelineAs I continue to work on a single timeline integrating all the scriptures of the LDS Church, I’m still worried about how to split up Ether and match it with the Old Testament. In my draft from last year, I have the Jaredite character Lib congruent with King David, and the end of the Jaredite record running well into the Nephite timeline.

Today, I started over on that. My basis for this revision is to start with the very popular and well-supported theory that the Jaredite city of Lib (and the king its named for) is actually the historical Olmec city of San Lorenzo. San Lorenzo flourished from about 1400-1200 BC.

Also, the Book of Omni is actually unclear about how long the Mulekites were established in the Western hemisphere before they met Coriantumr.

For the sake of convenience, I’m dating the meeting of Coriantumr at about 550 BC, and, based on the San Lorenzo theory (and also for convenience), dating Lib at abut 1350.

(There will be lots of estimating and rounding here, since none of this can be precise, and since the splitting and mixing of Ether into the Old Testament will have to still consider creating a coherent narrative. Take all of this with a grain of salt–this is much more speculation than science, after all.)

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Beautiful Bible Audio

A few weeks ago I had to drive out of state alone, and found this dramatized reading of the Book of Psalms on YouTube. I like the voice, as well as the peaceful, yoga/spa music in the background. I listened to most of this on the drive, and it was very pleasant. I should do this more often.

There are some audio files of the Book of Mormon on YouTube–the only really decent voice is on the church’s own version, and none of them have music. Alas, who will meet this need?

How Rare a Possession: The Book of Mormon

Watched this oldie with the fam a little while back. I’ve always loved how it celebrates the Book of Mormon: how amazing its very nature is and how powerfully it touches lives. As a film, the intro is perfect, the 1st half of the main film is done a bit too earnestly, and the 2nd half is nearly perfect (while some of the cut-away scenes from the Book of Mormon are great, others haven’t aged well). Still, this is a treasure. I wish we had more films like it, and I wish more people would watch it. (Seriously, why does this only have 18,000 views? It should be 18 million!)

Favorite Quotes from Wilford Woodruff

 

51h11zNkx2L._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_“However good we may be we should aim continually to improve and become better. We have obeyed a different law and gospel to what other people have obeyed, and we have a different kingdom in view, and our aim should be correspondingly higher before the Lord our God, and we should govern and control ourselves accordingly, and I pray God my Heavenly Father that his Spirit may rest upon us and enable us to do so.”

The Life and Ministry of Wilford Woodruff

 

We are liberated from these things, the cloud of darkness is taken from us, and the light of eternal truth has begun to shine upon our minds. …

This I count one of the greatest blessings that God has given to the children of men, to have the plain truth pointed out to them. …

Where is the man or woman that comprehended anything about God or about eternity until Joseph Smith revealed the fullness of the gospel? I could read of those things in the Bible which we now believe in and receive, but I was surrounded by the traditions of the world and could not comprehend them.

We are now taught, from time to time, the plain principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the plan of salvation—the way to live in order to have the approbation of our Father in Heaven. Is not this a blessing above all blessings? If this people could comprehend their blessings they never need have an unhappy moment. If this people could comprehend the position they stand in and their true relationship to God they would feel perfectly satisfied, and they would realize that our heavenly Father is merciful unto us and that he has bestowed great and glorious blessings upon us.

Chapter 1: The Restoration of the Gospel

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Who Was Abinadi?

075-075-abinadi-before-king-noah-full

If you’ve read the Book of Mormon, you’ve likely seen this old painting; it’s of the prophet Abinadi confronting the court of corrupt King Noah. He appears here in stereotypical Old testament glory–white beard, defiant pose, an aging yet still powerful frame.

But nothing in the text warrants this flight of fancy–indeed, the Book of Mormon doesn’t describe Abinadi’s age or appearance at all. Before the sermonizing proper, the only clue we get about him is that he came from “among them,” presumably meaning that he was part of their society, and not an outsider like Samuel the Lamanite would be later.

This raises some interesting questions for me, and the answers might depend on his unknown age.

Was he of the generation of Zeniff, that first king of this group who had originally led them back into the old lands to establish a new colony there?

Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon analyzes this story and presents Zeniff as a naive and idealistic do-gooder, and then his son Noah as the kind of spoiled brat who might be the result of indulgent parenting by that naive and idealistic do-gooder.

In light of that analysis, if Abinadi was a contemporary of Zeniff–one who had emigrated into the wilderness with him from the established Zarahemla settlement–then he might have been as old as these paintings depict him as, and maybe he, too, was a zealous idealist. Seeing the noble values of his own generation, then, abused and broken under the lazy thumb of Noah would have been more than just disappointing–his always contrarian heart might have been moved to rebel against the status quo by following the examples of past prophets, just as he had done decades before when he followed Zeniff out into the wilderness to found their acsetic sect in the first place.

That scenario makes sense to me, but it seems there’s nothing in the text to confirm or deny it. Maybe Abinadi was a younger man, a contemporary of Noah himself, trying to reestablish a righteous society that he only dimly remembered from his own youth under King Zeniff.

Who knows? If any reader sees anything in the text that bears on this at all, please share.

Early Christian Fathers

fathersI’ve been reading a great collection of writings by Christian leaders from just after New Testament times. I’ve largely enjoyed it, but as I get into the second half, I’m stalling out–my enthusiasm for this one is just winding down, so I’m putting it back on the shelf for now (sorry, Justin Martyr).

The Ensign had a great article about these writings in the August 1976 issue.

Of the documents I’ve read so far, all were at least good, and some were really great. The four marked with an A+ I highly recommend to everybody. Here are my notes and quotes:

 

THE FIRST EPISTLE OF CLEMENT: A+

This one comes from a bishop who knew and was mentored by the Apostles, and his letter is amazing. It’s actually from within the first century, making it contemporary with the New Testament, and was even included in some early versions of the New Testament. It isn’t canonized scripture for us, but it isn’t far off…the Spirit is there in this one.

35 How blessed and amazing are God’s gifts, dear friends!  2Life with immortality, splendor with righteousness, truth with confidence, faith with assurance, self-control with holiness! And all these things are within our comprehension.  3What, then, is being prepared for those who wait for him? The Creator and Father of eternity, the all-holy, himself knows how great and wonderful it is.  4We, then, should make every effort to be found in the number of those who are patiently looking for him, so that we may share in the gifts he has promised.  5And how shall this be, dear friends? If our mind is faithfully fixed on God; if we seek out what pleases and delights him; if we do what is in accord with his pure will, and follow in the way of truth. If we rid ourselves of all wickedness, evil, avarice, contentiousness, malice, fraud, gossip, slander, hatred of God, arrogance, pretension, conceit, and inhospitality.

 

THE LETTERS OF IGNATIUS, BISHOP OF ANTIOCH:  A-

There are seven of these letters–as a whole, I give them an A-, but his letters to the Romans and to the Philadelphians each get a solid A, and my favorite, to the Ephesians, gets an A+. A quote:

9 I have heard that some strangers came your way with a wicked teaching. But you did not let them sow it among you. You stopped up your ears to prevent admitting what they disseminated. Like stones of God’s Temple, ready for a building of God the Father, you are being hoisted up by Jesus Christ, as with a crane (that’s the cross!), while the rope you use is the Holy Spirit. Your faith is what lifts you up, while love is the way you ascend to God.

You are all taking part in a religious procession,185 carrying along with you your God, shrine, Christ, and your holy objects, and decked out from tip to toe in the commandments of Jesus Christ. I too am enjoying it all, because I can talk with you in a letter, and congratulate you on changing your old way of life and setting your love on God alone.

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Anti-Christian Irony

The Saturday Night Live clip below is very popular (over 3 million views in 2 days, so far), and perfectly illustrates the irony of our era: here we have a mainstream media giant disrespecting Christians for having the audacity to suggest that the mainstream disrespects Christians. Just let that one sink in for a minute.

In a related note, I recently read this review of the movie that that SNL skit was based on: God’s Not Dead 2. The reviewer at the AV Club writes six paragraphs about it: the start of the 2nd paragraph briefly mentions the narrative aspect of the film, and the 3rd goes into some examples of the cinematic quality of it.

But all the rest of the review is nothing more than a hostile denial that the worldview espoused in the film is valid. That’s it. No argument, no rationale, no further criticism of the film as a work itself. Just gainsaying the very idea that the film’s message could possibly have any value.

Annotations to Saturday PM session, April 2016 General Conference

#LDSConf

Ronald A. Rasband (12)

Is this going to be an indirect address to the “opposed” crowd? Interesting.

Good job pre-empting the seduction of young people into trendy doubt and denial. Yeah, this is totally an indirect response to the “opposed.”

“His servants: you and me.”

Is Edwin Markham the first poet quoted in this conference? I could teach a whole semester of American Lit based on the citations in any given general conference.

Elder Rasband phrases his counsel in terms of questions and answers, just as President Uchtdorf did in his response to the “opposed.”

I’ve been reading a great collection called Early Christian Fathers, an anthology of writings from the second generation of church leaders after the original Apostles died. Just like the New Testament itself, the biggest theme is using basic doctrines to combat apostasy. Just yesterday I read the epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, where 7:2 says this:

But I swear by Him for whose cause I am a prisoner, that from no human channels did I learn this. It was the Spirit that kept on preaching in these words: “Do nothing apart from the bishop; keep your bodies as if they were God’s temple; value unity; flee schism; imitate Jesus Christ as he imitated his Father.” [emphasis added]

This message is always important, and isn’t going away anytime soon.

 

Neil L. Andersen (12)

The gospel preserves truth about family and stands against the world’s degradation of it. Awesome.

A message to the children of such families is a great idea, but how will they get it? They’re not watching General Conference. Should we all make a concerted effort to deliver this talk to them?

This talk is full of great role models, and not just for the young.

Elder Scott once gave a powerful talk to us all about striving to come as close to an ideal family as possible for each of us; that talk dovetails nicely with this one: “Do the best you can while on earth to have an ideal family. To help you do that, ponder and apply the principles in the proclamation on the family.”

Actually, this talk seems more like it’s for us than for the youth themselves. We have to make these kids a priority.

I was one of these youth 25 years ago, and my ward and seminary class heroically tried to fellowship me–I rarely responded well then, but I’m very grateful now. They planted a seed.

Another personal story about ministering and meetings in Africa! Nothing in conference is a coincidence, guys.

“The children not only came, but came running.”

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Annotations to Saturday AM session, April 2016 General Conference

These aren’t just traditional notes, in the sense of summaries and highlights. Rather, these are mostly connections, commentary, footnotes, and such. #LDSConf

 

President Henry B. Eyring

Elder Oaks also based a talk on the parable of the sower in last April’s General Conference.

“Choose to have our hearts softened and seeds nourished” by this weekend’s conference.

This is handy how-to of getting the most out of conference.

He choked up a bit as he started, and then periodically throughout. When President Eyring speaks, he means it. You just have to love this guy!

 

 

Mary R. Durham (Primary 2nd)

“Kick off the weight of this world that we carry, so we can keep our children afloat.”

Quotes Elder Bednar on Holy Ghost. I wonder how leaders in the meeting feel when other speakers suddenly quote them.

“Increase the spiritual capacity of our little ones.”

learning the spirit by a life of immersion, like learning a language the same way–clever analogy, rings true.

Quotes Elder Scott, and I’m reminded again of how we recently lost him.

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Mormon Upanishads: General Conference

A few years ago I read a collection of great Hindu scripture called upanishads, a word which means “an instruction, the sitting at the feet of a master.” I love the idea of canonizing and revering such wisdom–that’s a whole way of life in itself. The cartoons here illustrate a cliché, but we do actually get to live this cliché in real life; we get to hear our own upanishads today: General Conference is this weekend.

'Yes, I can tell you the meaning of life, but then I would have to kill you.'

'You know, it's a lot easier to just follow me on twitter.'

Recommended: BookofMormonCentral.Org

To mark today’s 186th birthday of the Book of Mormon, I wanted to share this amazing resource about it.

Book of Mormon Central has been online for about three months now, and I keep liking it more and more.

At first, I worried that it would only be a collection of apologetic materials, which would be redundant, as FairMormon has that abundantly covered.

As the weeks have gone on, though, I’ve seen much more breadth to it: yes, there is plenty of timely and appropriate “defending the faith” stuff, but they also feature plenty of material about simply understanding the text, as well as analyzing how it works as a written text, and even how to use it to improve our faith and discipleship. (Most all of these take the form of short pieces presented as answers to common questions, called “KnoWhys.”)

In short, it has already become the most comprehensive Book of Mormon web site.

This site announces its mission as “to increase and diffuse knowledge of the Book of Mormon,” but it really is more than that: this whole site is a giant love letter to the Book of Mormon. They love it. They celebrate it. This isn’t missionary work as much as it is a big romantic gesture. Consider their beautiful #BoMday hashtag on social media!

They sponsored a “Book of Mormon Temples” fireside recently and it’s already on their fledgling but impressive YouTube channel. It’s worth your time, and it’s not the work of casual fans, but devoted fanatics who love the Book of Mormon with a passion.

This great web site could help all of us have a bit more of that passion.