Studying Egyptian hieroglyphs with Hugh Nibley

    First, an article in the Deseret News about the new Lee Groberg/Mark Goodman film:   “Old Joseph Smith PBS documentary remade into new docudrama depicting ‘American Prophet’s’ polarizing life”   ***   I’m in a reminiscing vein, so I thought that I might tell about another early experience with Hugh Nibley.   I started off at BYU as a mathematics major.  But I soon realized that, while I admired mathematicians and mathematics, this wasn’t my particular strength and it wasn’t… Read more

Ancient Arabia’s “Frankincense Trail”

    Still plodding along:   Frankincense is a fragrant gum resin consisting of small white chunks and beads that can easily be ground into a powder. When burned, this powder gives off a pleasant odor like that of balsam. The resin, milky white in color, was probably produced in the central district of Hadramawt, along the Indian Ocean coast of southern Arabia. From there, it was exported to Palestine and other parts of the Mediterranean world. The caravan routes… Read more

Three items regarding the testimony of David Whitmer

    But, first, two quite distinct but related items from the religious liberty front:   “Will Barronelle’s faith cost her everything?”   “I’m a T-Shirt Maker With Gay Customers and Gay Employees. I Still Was Sued.”   ***   Compare and contrast these stories:   “Special Needs, Special Love”   “A Moral Duty to Abort”   ***   Darn.  Somebody brought this 2005 article to my attention earlier today, and I failed to make a note of who it was…. Read more

“But it’s still possible, right?”

    Continuing with some passages from Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes, A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016):   “Our models are mixtures of well-tested theories, reasonable assumptions and guesses; as Richard Feynman [d. 1988; 1965 Nobel laureate in physics] noted, ‘it is not unscientific to make a guess.’  Science happens when we ask the Universe whether we guessed right.  Otherwise, the experimenter is doing little more than stamp collecting, and the theorist… Read more

Thomas Jefferson (and I) on Calvinism

    My wife is currently doing some study of Thomas Jefferson, and particularly of his religious views and the so-called “Jefferson Bible.”  (She just returned on Friday from a trip out to, among other things, the Smithsonian Institution, where Jefferson’s Bible resides, and to Monticello.)  She brings the following passage to my attention, from an 11 April 1823 letter that Jefferson wrote to John Adams:   DEAR SIR, — The wishes expressed, in your last favor, that I may continue in… Read more

Some notes on the “Weak Anthropic Principle”

    Drawn from Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes, A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016):   In 1973, the Australian cosmologist Brandon Carter delivered a now-famous address in Warsaw in which he spoke of what he called the “Weak Anthropic Principle.”  “We must be prepared,” he said, “to take account of the fact that our location in the universe is necessarily privileged to the extent of being compatible with our existence as observers.”… Read more


      The winner of the Interpreter Foundation’s 2017 Ruth M. Stephens Article Prize has been chosen.  See the announcement here.   ***   A nice “Mormon Message,” this one (slightly more than four minutes long) based on remarks by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Council of the Twelve and filmed partially in France:   “Weaving Our Spiritual Tapestry”     ***   The eminent British New Testament scholar N. T. Wright speaks, in a lecture delivered in… Read more

Lessons from Muslims

    Matthew Wheeler kindly brought this BBC story, from back in June 2016, to my attention:   “Pakistani Muslims build Christian church”   May there be many more such stories.  And may we hear about them.   ***   Just a reminder that I’ll be speaking tonight on “Mormons and Muslims.”  The fireside is aimed at singles, but I doubt that the organizers would turn couples away at the doors.  It will take place at 7:00 PM, in the chapel… Read more

My first meeting with Hugh Nibley

    Partially quoted this evening by Sister Joy D. Jones in the General Women’s Session of the October 2017 General Conference:   “Never try to destroy a man. It is our mission to save the people, not to destroy them. The least, the most inferior spirit now upon the earth, in our capacity, is worth worlds.”  (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:124)   Wonderful, that.   ***   For those who might care and who might be in the… Read more

From Prophet to Prophet-Statesman

    Pressing forward with my manuscript on Islam for Latter-day Saints:   Nevertheless, Muhammad’s transformation from prophet to prophet-statesman had profound consequences for the nature of the religion that was developing—Islam. This is because the nature of his example to the Muslims changed along with his change of role. Chris­tians who want an ideal model to follow naturally look to Jesus of Nazareth as the person who most perfectly embodies their faith. But Jesus never held any political office… Read more

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