David O. McKay on Evolution and Reading Genesis

One part of my book on Genesis 1 (trying to finish this summer) addresses the question "Why can't we just believe what our Church leaders have said about Genesis 1?" Well, that presumes two things, first, that a unified interpretation of how to read Genesis has existed among them, and second, that such a unified interpretation (if it existed) had come about via revelation.I examine three Church presidents to demonstrate the variety of views. On one extreme is Brigham Young, and on the other s … [Read More...]

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 22: Alma 5-7

Alma has divested himself of the judgeship to go on a mission of sorts, to his own people, and stir them up in the ways of remembrance. These three chapters were also individual units in the 1830, so let's look at what they contain.Alma 5- Preaching at Zarahemla, "according to Alma's own record" (5:2) which Mormon apparently has in his possession. This discourse ends rather abruptly.Alma 6- Summary of the aftermath of his preaching at Zarahemla, Alma's regulating the church, and travel s … [Read More...]

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 21- Mosiah 29, Alma 1-4

Today we move into the Book of Alma.The stories of Alma Sr. and Alma Jr. are a major focus of the Book of Mormon; If we start in Mosiah 17, where Alma first appears, and count through the end of the Book of Alma, it's roughly 40% of the entire Book of Mormon, by wordcount. (I generated this using Bibleworks 10, though it is off by a bit, because my electronic text doesn't include original chapter or book headings. Total Book of Mormon count is roughly 267,000 and Mosiah 17-Alma is roughly … [Read More...]

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 20: Mosiah 25-27, Alma 36

(Posted from the Middle of Nowhere, Michigan.)This lesson has us jump to Alma's retelling of his experience being unconscious for three days, in Alma 36. The story of Alma the Younger is actually told in three places, not just two: Mosiah 27:8-37 (roughly contemporary), Alma 36 (Alma jr. recounting to his son Helaman), and Alma 38:6-8 (Alma Jr. recounting to his son Shiblon.) See the chart here and the article reprinted here. During his time unconscious, Alma is shown a different perspec … [Read More...]

Scripture, Context, and Genres: Scattered Reading

I'm spending a lot of my time writing about the idea of "context" right now, both for my book and also for a BYU paper, tentatively accepted for the 2017 Sperry Symposium. Below are a few fun things I've turned up recently.In the past, I've used the idea of scripture as a collected edition, an anthology or library, to talk about both the presence of different genres in scripture and quiet fears about "slippery slope" interpretations (see here.) It's hardly a surprise, but recognizing the " … [Read More...]

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 19: Mosiah 18-24

Mormons have a thing about Doctrine, with a capital D. We try to define it, we argue about it, we prioritize it. We even misquote scripture about "bearing down in pure testimony" (Alma 4:19), er, "pure doctrine" which is not a scriptural phrase, and I'm not even sure what it means. We tend to read scripture looking for doctrine. Sometimes, because of cultural expectations about how to identify doctrine, we can't see it when it's right in front of us.I think we are conditioned to … [Read More...]

Mormons, Evangelicals, Tradition, and Sunday School

  When it comes to frustrations with Gospel Doctrine class, one problem is that we don't pay a lot of attention to context, and we like to casually shoe-horn modern doctrinal concepts or concerns into any old bit of verse that seems to relate. This is really only made possible by ignoring context, and not reading. For example, I wrote this in 2007. I happened to be home once last year during a lesson on some chapters from Isaiah. The teacher did a decent job, but the comments all tended in one … [Read More...]

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 18: Mosiah 12-17

It's been a busy week. I capped off the semester by editing an 11,000 word chapter of mine for a new Old Testament series out of BYU, then writing 13,000+words for my classes, and then a fellowship application due later today. So below is an intro, and I'll try to add more details later. I want to plug Book of Mormon Central for collating published scholarship on lessons- See here for today's links and summaries. What they have is partly based on my own old work.Most of today's chapters invo … [Read More...]

Stephen L. Richards on science, religion, questions, and General Authorities

On May 31, 1925, Elder Stephen L. Richards gave the baccalaureate sermon to the graduating class of BYU, which was quite small at the time. This was in the lead-up to the Scopes trial (which is why I'm reading it), and Richards, a lawyer, had been an Apostle for 15 years at this point. His address was printed in the Improvement Era in September, after the Scopes trial had concluded. (On which, see this great book.)That issue also eulogizes William Jennings Bryan (who had died suddenly right … [Read More...]

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 17: Mosiah 7-11

I have an awful lot on my plate in the next week, so this is straight out of my previous notes. If I have time next week, I'll return and revise.First, a summary.Mosiah 7:1 Mosiah sends a much later follow-up team to the group that had gone in Omni  27-30 (Amaleki’s brother went with them), and then we start the account of the original group in Mos 9:1.Group 1 leaves (Omni 1:27-30/Mosiah 9:1). Zeniff isn’t the leader, but present. They see Lamanites, dispute among themselves, and kil … [Read More...]