What survived from Second Temple Judaism

    Another passage from one of my books in progress:   The new gospel preached by Jesus and Paul and the other apos­tles was, in a certain sense, the universal reformed Judaism of which Hellenistic reformers—at least those of the better sort—had long dreamed. The blessings of Abraham were now available to all, provided only that they accepted Jesus and his teachings. “There is,” wrote Paul, “neither Jew nor Greek . . .  for ye are all one in… Read more

“A Marvelous Manifestation”

    I briefly cited Orson F. Whitney — a future member of the Council of the Twelve who would serve in that office from 1906 until his death in 1931 — in my previous post:   “‘How to Fight Loneliness'”   That set me to thinking just a bit about Elder Whitney.  So, in that spirit, I share a quotation from his memoirs that may already be familiar to most of my readers.  But it’s a  wonderful passage, and… Read more

“How to Fight Loneliness”

    We’re just back from a very good Italian dinner at the Chef Alfredo Ristorante Italiano in Cedar City with a friend who lives there in town.  Again, I’m amazed at the good restaurants and good theater that can now be found in southern Utah.   Before going to our friend’s house and then, with her, out to dinner, we watched a matinee performance of Neil LaBute’s play How to Fight Loneliness, directed by the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s longtime co-artistic… Read more

Judaism survived, despite the odds

    A bit more from what will likely be my next book:   Paul Johnson well summarizes the catastrophic changes in the fortunes of world Jewry: In the short-term perspective of the second century AD, the Jews appeared to have been a powerful national and religious group which had courted ruin, and achieved it. During most of the first century, the Jews not only constituted a tenth of the empire, and a much higher proportion in certain big cities,… Read more

“Chloroform in Print”?

      The British educator and literary scholar Arthur Henry King was an adult convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Here is his candid report of his initial response to the Book of Mormon:   It took me a long time to appreciate the Book of Mormon. When I started to read it, I thought it was an awful bore. Then I gradually found (it took me about two years) that I was wrong. I… Read more

It’s No Longer the Southern Utah That I Knew as a Child

    We’re down here in southern Utah to take in the Fall 2017 plays at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City.  (What can I say?  I married a theater major.)   Last night, Thursday, we attended a performance of William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (Abridged).  It’s a rollicking farce in which three male actors play the Chorus, Antipholus, Dromio of Syracuse, Puck, Oberon, Holofernes, Ariel, Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, the Dauphin, Mistress Quickly, Sir John Falstaff, Proteus, Valentine,… Read more

What about the Book of Mormon?

    Another passage from a manuscript in progress:   What kind of a book did Joseph Smith produce? Bernard DeVoto, a literary critic from the mid-twentieth century, denounced it as “a yeasty fermentation, formless, aimless, and inconceivably absurd.”[1] But this is precisely what the Book of Mormon is not.[2] Hugh Nibley, almost certainly to be considered the leading modern student of the Book of Mormon, is much more accurate when he remarks that, “If any modern man, however great… Read more

Joseph Smith: A diamond, perhaps, but very much “in the rough”

    Some notes from one of my manuscripts:   One hostile Palmyra contemporary of the young Joseph Smith branded him “lounging, idle; (not to say vicious,) and possessed of less than ordinary intellect.”[1]  In light of Joseph’s subsequent history, this verdict is impossible to sustain.  Orson Hyde, closely associated with Joseph Smith from his conversion in 1831—he became a member of the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835—was certainly closer to the mark when he observed of… Read more

For Liberty — even when it involves Christians, or even MORMON Christians

    First, a few thoughts from the English economist and philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873):   “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”   “We have a right . . . in various ways, to act upon our unfavorable opinion of anyone, not to the oppression of his individuality, but in the exercise of ours.”… Read more

Books about two men regarded as prophets

    This week’s iteration of my regular “Defending the Faith” column has appeared in the Deseret News:   “New edition of ‘Accounts of Divine Manifestations’ is a significant work of Mormon scholarship”   ***   But now for a few more lines from my forthcoming but not yet completed book on Islam for an LDS audience:   The Qur’an warned the Muslims that believers are not exempt from testing and from affliction, and indeed they were not. “Did you… Read more

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