Parsing the Longest Sentence in the Book of Mormon

3 Nephi 21:1-7 is the longest sentence in the Book of Mormon, clocking in at 392 words.

It’s an odd section anyway, or so I thought when I first read it. Here we have none other than the resurrected Jesus Christ teaching the righteous survivors of an apocalyptic destruction. After a declaration of basic doctrines, a version of the Sermon on the Mount, and some beautiful healing and angelic ministering miracles, most of the rest of 3 Nephi focuses on the not-terribly-exciting subject of the gathering of Israel.

I used to find that anti-climactic. No parables, no conflict, no drama at all, really–most of the famous visit to the New World is a dry lesson on one aspect of the future.

And this sentence may be the weirdest part. Jesus tries to make a simple point, but seems to keep getting distracted and going back to start over. It’s easy to get lost in the jungle of syntax here.

I broke the passage up by highlighting some key repetitions and setting off parenthetical details, using colors and indenting. I think the major point comes across more clearly this way.

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The Prophet Option: A Mormon Review of The Benedict Option

41QY+zZAzfL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_If you’re an active Latter-day Saint with any interest in The Benedict Option, I have good news for you: you’re pretty much already living it.

Rod Dreher’s bestseller isn’t actually a tirade against American society–that’s too far gone to even really bother with at this point–it’s a call to arms to rescue what’s left of Christianity in the West. We do this, Dreher says, by ignoring the mainstream and living our religion fully.

Dreher is an excellent writer; his observations, anecdotes, and advice are all solid. Still, the formula he gives is surprisingly basic. The fact that this pattern is supposed to be a rebellious throwback to the seriousness of medieval monks is an even better illustration of how far we’ve gone astray than any gloom and doom statistic.

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Wonder Woman is Basically Eve

Wonder Woman is a great movie, but I couldn’t help noticing how much it fits a scriptural template for Latter-day Saints:

(wee bit spoiler-y folks; you’ve been warned)

This movie is about a demi-goddess who’s the only one to recognize her evil demi-god brother. He’s trying to force humanity into his vision of paradise, but she ultimately realizes that all individuals are both good and bad and must choose love on their own. There are a lot of speeches about what we “deserve” vs. what we “believe” (with object lessons in justice vs. mercy). She and the man she loves inspire each other and set an example for others. She is part of the confrontation where the power of the gods casts her evil brother out. Then, she stays in the world of mortals to serve them and show them the way to love.

I wonder if the screenwriter consulted the Pearl of Great Price, or if this is just a coincidence!

How Keeping the Sabbath Holy Is Like Being a Jedi

YodalukedagobahOne of Luke Skywalker’s frustrations in The Empire Strikes Back is that he is stuck on Dagobah while a war rages around the galaxy. His friends are racing away from the Empire while he’s standing on his head and lifting rocks in a lonely swamp. Giant ships play hide and seek among asteroids and face off against weird monsters, and he has to listen to proverbs from a little green preacher.

This is the life of a Christian on Sunday.

While the rest of the world continues to run around having adventures, those who would be spiritual warriors are quietly pondering ancient scriptures at home, listening to sermons in meetings, singing resolute and reverent hymns with a small community, and otherwise holding back from the normal fray in order to develop inner spiritual strength.

It’s often boring. It seems like a waste of time, just as Luke thought he was wasting his time. But such periodic training is necessary to really be ready for that fight of life during the rest of the week.

Standing on his head and lifting rocks was the best thing Luke could have been doing at that time–he needed it so he’d be able to resist the dark side and help his friends.

Ditto for us. We need the Sabbath and its observance. It may seem odd, but such time apart from the public battles is part of our life as disciples.

Vote For the Best Book in the Bible, Round 2 of 6

Round One is finished, and half the books in the Bible have survived. But only half of those survivors will make it to the third round. Vote here, until next Sunday. Please comment below with your thoughts! :)

Results from the first round are below, with my comments.

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Genesis is the obvious winner. Exodus is great, but the second half is mostly dry instructions about the tabernacle and its use, while Genesis is one of the oldest and most epic records of the human race. My fantasy bracket last week has Genesis making it to the final four.

Leviticus is underrated. It’s controversial, but thoroughly infused with Atonement imagery, and it demands careful reflection in a way that Numbers just doesn’t.

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Three Reactions To The LDS Church Dropping Boy Scouts For Older Teens

This is a very good thing. Besides the great insights in today’s Deseret News article, I think the following:

1. Yes, Scouting has been ineffective for older boys. The last time I was a Scout leader, it was with Venturing, and the program could have been better. Boys that age are either Eagles (or close), or have checked out completely. I was taught at multiple trainings that unless a boy was almost done, to stop hounding him on it and move on to whatever their actual needs and interests were–I spent most of my time in that calling focusing on other things, personalized for the boys we had. This advice now seems to be spreading institutionally.

2. I’ve long been concerned that Scouting has become something of a cult in part of the Church–some people are so obsessed with it that the rituals, uniforms, emblems, etc. of Scouting have become a false priesthood. Really. That alienates a lot of boys, and distracts others. A focus on actual saving ordinances, growth, and service is good. The activities of Scouting–camping, fishing, hiking, etc.–are awesome and will stay, but the activity arm of the auxiliary needs to be in better perspective. I once served with a bishop who said that Duty to God was more important than Scouting, and he was widely ignored. He was ahead of his time.

3. Let’s be honest, a lot of this is Robert Conquest’s second law in action–“Any organization not explicitly right-wing, sooner or later becomes left-wing.” Scouting is trying to kill itself and our efforts to intervene have been unsuccessful. Today’s announcement is not the end of this for the Church or for Scouting. They will keep getting worse, and we will have to keep pulling further away.

Vote For the Best Book in the Bible, Round 1 of 6

There are 66 books in the King James Version of the Bible, and in most English-language editions. But if we had to choose just one as the best, most important part, which one would it be?

Vote here.

This contest is set up like any single elimination tournament, with 64 initial competitors: the books of Ezra and Nehemiah have been combined for this purpose here, as the 2nd and 3rd epistles of John have been. This also means that all books with a “First” and a “Second” part have those parts set against each other

The standard order of books has been used instead of any attempt at seeding. This has the appeal of order and simplicity, but it will make for some hard choices in round 1: you must choose between Job and the Psalms, and between Hebrews and James. Half the gospels will disappear.

A purely popular vote will determine the winners in each round; voting will remain open for a week at a time, from Sunday to Sunday.

Comments and discussion are appreciated here. The goal is to promote reading and thinking about the Bible, Western Civilization’s ultimate classic and God’s gift to us.

For what it’s worth, here is a completed bracket: my own personal choices for how I would ideally see this all go. Not a prediction, just my own favorites.

Bible Brackets

Conversation With a Man Who Hates the Bible

A couple of weeks ago, a public Facebook group for teachers that I belong to posted about a local protest by the Westboro Baptist Church. Another teacher commented: “Ya, the bible is just a book written by men who wanted to control people. It is a phony document professing that a being lives in the sky and watches over us yada, yada. Really! I hope we as teachers teach our students to study science and to look at facts and research for their answers to their questions about the universe and our existence. These people are crazy!”

I private messaged him, and the following exchanged ensued:

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Reviewed But Not Recommended: Facing the Giants

Facing_the_giantsI’m a big fan of the Christian movies Fireproof and War Room, so I was looking forward to Facing the Giants, which looked like basically the same thing, but with high school football.

The other two movies have actual struggles and hard change and some serious real world difficulties in them…but not Facing the Giants.

In the first act of this movie, we see all the things wrong in the life of a losing football coach at a private Christian school: a failing job, a broken down house and car, infertility. Then he decides to turn his life over to God more fully, and suddenly everything magically turns around. He gets a new car. His wife gets pregnant. His team wins the state championship.

No, I don’t have a problem with the concept of miracles, but I don’t like a story where it’s that easy, or that selfish.

This movie turns God into Santa Claus, just waiting for us to say the right words politely enough before showering us with all the toys we want.

The big change he makes as a coach is really just doing his job a little bit better than before. And merely for that, a player’s father buys him a new car. What a materialistic gospel this movie preaches! It’s the definition of cheap grace.

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