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

Joseph Smith and the value of councils

    In his article “Lost Teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other Church Leaders” (in Grow and Smith, eds., The Council of Fifty: What the Records Reveal about Mormon History, 73-90),  Professor Gerrit J. Dirkmaat of BYU writes that the recent publication of the minutes of the Nauvoo Council of Fifty “is easily one of the most important events of the last decade for expanding our understanding of early Mormon history.  Only the JSP’s [The Joseph Smith Papers’] publication… Read more

Questions often unasked and perhaps unanswerable

    Continuing with the extraction of some quotations from books that I’ve been reading:   If at the beginning there was only a primal fireball of the tiniest extent but of the utmost density and temperature, the question inexorably arises: Where did it come from?  And what was the cause of the unimaginably gigantic primal explosion?  Where did the immeasurable energy of the cosmic expansion come from?  What brought about its tremendous initial force? That is the fundamental riddle… Read more

Extraterrestrial intelligence and the existence of God

      Since April 2001, Michael Shermer has written a regular monthly column in Scientific American titled “Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye.”  The publisher of Skeptic magazine, Shermer earned a Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University in 1991.  Notwithstanding the title of his Scientific American column, he is an atheist.   In January 2002, Shermer’s column was called “Shermer’s Last Law.”   In it, he drew upon the famous Third Law  propounded by… Read more

“Muhammad’s Reception Among the Arabs,” Part Two

    Continuing with the narrative:   In 622, the Prophet and his followers emigrated from Mecca to Yathrib. This emigration, or hijra, as it is called in Arabic, now serves to mark the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Notice that the calendar does not start with the Prophet’s birth, nor with the beginning of the Qur’anic revelation, but with the emigration to Yathrib. Why? Because Muhammad went from being merely a prophet, a voice crying in the wilderness, to… Read more

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