Notes, some of them quite old and in need of updating, toward a future book:   Emma Smith, in an interview with E. C. Briggs (1856) — “. . . she remarked of her husband Joseph’s limited education while he was translating the Book of Mormon, and she was scribe at the time, ‘He could not pronounce the word Sariah.’ And one time while translating, where it speaks of the walls of Jerusalem, he stopped and said, ‘Emma,… Read more

    From Chris Impey, University Distinguished Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, in his fascinating book How It Began: A Time-Traveler’s Guide to the Universe (New York and London: W. W. Norton and Company, 2012), 211-212:   Acceleration answers a long-standing question about the expanding universe: will it expand forever or one day collapse?  Dark energy, as much as we know about it, is an implacable force making space expand faster and faster.  With insufficient… Read more

    Continuing the manuscript:   In the ninth century, translation from Greek into Arabic devel­oped rapidly. Since possibly the middle of the eighth century there had been periodic translations, but the ninth century saw the estab­lishment of a systematic, organized effort. The caliph al-Ma’mun, son of Harun al-Rashid, founded a translation bureau called the Dar al-Hikma (“House of Wisdom”), which was presided over by a Nestorian Christian named Hunayn ibn Ishaq.[1] (Hunayn’s son eventually succeeded him in the leadership… Read more

    Some extracts from Chris Impey, University Distinguished Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, in his book How It Began: A Time-Traveler’s Guide to the Universe (New York and London: W. W. Norton and Company, 2012):   When astronomers first became aware that the universe is expanding, they realized there was tension between light and dark.  If the expansion had been much more rapid than we observe, the gas would have thinned out too rapidly… Read more

    Still moving forward with my Islam-for-Mormons manuscript:   In the meantime, an immensely rich civilization—rich in every way—had been created. A bare bones description of this vast realm and of the marvelous art and architecture, literature, music, philos­ophy, and science that it produced would far exceed the space avail­able in this book. It seems to me, however, that a good method of giving at least an impression of the riches of Arabic civilization (and of the broader Islamic… Read more

    From the British astrophysicist and theologian David Wilkinson, God, Time and Stephen Hawking: An Exploration Into Origins (London: Monarch Books, 2001):   There is one other possibility which may be of help in holding together miracle and law.  If God is moment by moment sustainer of the physical laws, then science could be seen as simply describing his normal mode of working.  But God must be ultimately free to work in unusual ways.  Imagine parents bringing up their child.  If… Read more

    Sharon Eubank, whom I know and very much respect, has sounded an important theme of late:   “Caring for the poor is less about ‘stuff,’ more about ‘filling hunger for human contact,’ says Sister Eubank at BYU”   “Humanitarian Acts Must Be Rooted in Relationship, Sharon Eubank Says: LDS Charities leader discusses role of faith-based groups at legal conference in Sydney”   With their characteristic disingenuousness, certain critics of Mormonism and the Church have taken Sister Eubank’s remarks to… Read more

    Moving forward in classical Islamic history:   By the time that the ninth century was well underway, however, the caliph’s office had grown much weaker. There were several rea­sons for this. First, the caliphs had begun to rely upon imported soldiery. The old military fire had gone out of the Arabians—those who had actually come from the Arabian Peninsula, or whose ancestors had done so. They were rich, comfortable, and had little enthusiasm for toilsome and risky adventures…. Read more

    Rough notes from a book in progress:   Orson Pratt, who knew Joseph very well from their first acquaintance to the Prophet’s death in 1844, described Joseph Smith’s educational level as follows: Cultivating the earth for livelihood was an occupation, in which he employed the most of his time.  His advantages for acquiring literary knowledge, were exceedingly small; hence, his education was limited to a slight acquaintance, with two or three of the common branches of learning.  He… Read more

    Every once in a while, I read a complaint by some critic of the Church or other about the odd and uniquely Mormon habit of using middle initials in the names of Church leaders — leaders like Heber J. Grant, David O. McKay, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, and Henry B. Eyring.   This complaint always reminds me of still other Mormon leaders, such as Ulysses… Read more

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