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!

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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.

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 3.05.20 PM

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:

bible1bible2

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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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Vote in the LDS “Best Books” Tournament, Round Three!

And then there were eight. Which books will survive this round? Only one Nibley title gets to move on. Only one non-Nibley FARMS-era book remains in the running. And we have to choose between Jesus the Christ and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Why? Because in the end, there can be only one.

LDS “Best Books” Tournament, round 3

[This page will remain open for two weeks.]

 

The Beautiful Book of Mormon

I have a video on YouTube about evidences for the Book of Mormon, and it attracts comments from a lot of people who want to launch the same few, stale criticisms. But one recent critic called out the quality of the book’s content, saying it’s bland and shallow.

Just as with the evidences, this kind of thing will always be debatable, with the determined critic denying any value to the book even if it were somehow shown to be equal to Shakespeare. Still, there are a number of things that come to mind about the spiritual and literary power of the book.

My family and I recently read 3 Nephi 5. It’s mostly a loving, careful exposition on the nature of keeping and editing records. Sounds dull, huh? But it’s written with such an obvious affection for the topic that it’s hard not to find it infectious. The affection is infectious.

Question for the critics, though: why is this chapter here? If it’s a fraud that’s meant to elevate the author or automatically reflect the environment of its creation, then where is there anything in 3 Nephi 5 that promotes devotion to Joseph Smith? Where is there an obsession with record keeping in his life or town before 1830?

Or how about Helaman 7? When we came across that for family scripture study a while ago, and after reading it, I told the fam that the next day would just be reviewing that chapter in even more detail, because it was so deep. I’d read it innumerable times before myself–we all had–but this time I noticed just how powerful its lament and jeremiad are.

I’m moved by how passionate the address is: it begins with a note that “he did exclaim in the agony of his soul.” Isn’t that a wonderful phrase? That’s verse 6; in verse 14 he announces that he has climbed a  tower to “pour out my soul unto my God, because of the exceeding sorrow of my heart.” He castigates his curious audience because they are about to “hurl away your souls” (v. 16). He goes on to deliver some of the most incisive character analysis this side of Tolstoy.

And certainly, none of this is necessary if the Book of Mormon is a hoax. Nothing there forwards any hidden agenda. All it does–all the entire Book of Mormon does–is convince people to faithfully follow Christ.

[So much more could be added here–this post could become its own book! I’m a fan of this summary of the value of the Book of Mormon’s contents, and this podcast is a worthwhile introduction to the literary nature of the text.]

April 2017 General Conference–Annotated

This post will be updated frequently throughout the weekend with my notes on General Conference.

SATURDAY MORNING

President Eyring–The Gathering of God’s Family

  • “~The love that comes closest to the love we felt in the pre-existence: parental love~”
  • Testifies of the reality of Elijah’s visit
  • Encouraged to learn the lives and personalities of ancestors
  • Prioritize time for family history work–“wear tennis shoes” and run faster to get more done! :)
  • Technology like computers exists to facilitate this work
  • But technology is no substitute for revelation!

M. Joseph Brough (YM 2nd)–Heavenly Father’s “Care Package” For Us

  • I like the idea of our whole way of life as a “care package” full of blessings.
  • commandments,”I found peace in seeking Heavenly Father’s will,” priesthood leaders, ultimate gift is in John 3:16
  • Repentance is a gift!
  • Be with the youth, connect youth with Heaven, “The time must come when each must stand alone,” let the youth lead

Elder Clayton (70)–The Plan of Salvation, Happiness, and Love

  • Pillars of eternity reference–thanks BRM!
  • Summary of Savior’s ministry–“went about doing good”
  • D&C 19 as an example of love–yes!!!
  • “We all must graduate from this mortal body to achieve our eternal rewards”
  • Quotes from the Living Christ
  • Invitation: each day, come unto Christ…Moroni 10:32

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