BYU Religion Dean on Premortal Life, Part II: Scripture “Mastery”

This is part II of a post begun a week and a half ago in response to a devotional lecture given by Terry Ball, dean of the BYU college of religious education. That discussion centered on what I argued to be the problematic connection Ball makes between the pre-existence, Isaiah 28, and mortality. This post focuses on the scriptural aspects of his argument. … [Read more...]

BYU Religion Dean on Premortal Life, Part I: Race and Nobility

Last week Terry Ball, Dean of the College of Religious Education, gave BYU's weekly devotional address (mp3 file available here, Daily Universe report here). His talk raises many issues relevant to recent discussions here and elsewhere. My reaction to his talk will be divided into two posts: first, a discussion of some of the problematic themes that Ball raises, and second, an analysis of the way this Professor of Ancient Scripture handles scripture. … [Read more...]

Judah, Joseph, ‘Chastity’, and Authorial Intent

Most LDSs who have actually read Genesis 38 and 39 have undoubtedly had the thought, or heard the thought, that the juxtaposition of these two chapters teaches important lessons about chastity (see the OT SS manual, where this is made explicit). After all, in the former we have Judah's wicked sons, the second of which (Onan) 'spills his seed' and dies because of it, and then Judah himself is trapped by his penchant for a prostitute. In the latter, we have the righteous Joseph who, unwilling to … [Read more...]

What readers bring to texts

Last week we learned of the discovery of another example in an increasingly long line of forged memoirs: Margaret "Jones" Seltzer was discovered to have forged the story of her life as a gang-affiliated, drug-running youth in LA, when her sister saw her picture in the NY Times and ratted her out. Of the many journalists covering the incident and those like it,NPR's Scott Simon makes several points worth remembering (they've been made many times before) about the nature of genre in … [Read more...]

Neutrality, Stumbling Blocks, and the Path of Least Interference

A discussion begun over at BCC propelled a train of thought that has been chugging along in my mind for some time. Amri Brown's cousin, on being called as bishop, decided to give up Diet Coke: So, why, why is he giving up Diet Coke? He says it is because he never wants it to be a stumbling block to those in his ward. There are members of Church that do believe caffeine is against the Word of Wisdom and he doesn’t want that to get in the way of him being able to act as their bishop. ... He says t … [Read more...]

Ten Tidbits about the Old Testament

This post joins the previous ones of similar title on the New Testament and Book of Mormon.I make no claims that these are the biggest nor the most tantalizing, but here are ten tidbits about the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) that receive little attention (in my experience) in Church settings. I'm intentionally leaving out the better known biggies, such as JEDP, two or three Isaiahs, or the fact that "history" in the modern sense wasn't an operative category for the authors of the Hebrew … [Read more...]

(Anti-)Intellectualism in the Church

A very good friend of mine, MantiHigh, wrote me recently to suggest that I include in some future post a discussion of some issues of (anti-)intellectualism arising in recent General Conference talks. I thought s/he spelled out things nicely, and in a different way than is usually done (I'm sure the commenters will let me know if I'm wrong.) In any case, with MantiHigh's permission, I copy the following for your discussion: Anti-intellectualism in the Church is a favorite concern of mine given … [Read more...]

Ancient Justification for Modern Practice

Kevin Barney's post over at BCC has me thinking about the ramifications of female Apostleship (capital A): What it would mean if we came to agree that the New Testament bore strong witness to there having been women in roles now held only by men?* The question, when placed within the larger framework of our penchant for finding ourselves in the past, presents an interesting dilemma: Could a future opening of the Priesthood to "all worthy persons (not just males)" find scriptural justification … [Read more...]


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