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...]

Priesthood, Temple, and Semantics

Most people know that in our current arrangement, young men tend to receive the priesthood at age 12, when they are ordained to the office of Deacon in the Aaronic priesthood. This has been the case only since the 1880's or so, according to this fascinating Journal of Mormon History article. (That page it opens to isn't blank. You just have to scroll to see the text.) … [Read more...]

More on the New Perspective on Paul

There has been some interest in this topic on the LDS blogs recently. I think that as we enter into the debate, it is important that we not get sucked into a faith vs. works understanding of the NPP. I offer the following short piece which was written for another context which is why it lacks specific LDS reflections, but which in my view comments on a more up to date status questiones of the NPP. … [Read more...]

The Father of Jesus

It is clear that for many early Christian authors, the Virgin Birth was unknown. Paul seems to know nothing about it, and neither does Mark. John has a pretty clear view that God is the Father of Jesus, but never gets into the biological relationship. Lot's of people are called "Son of God" without it meaning that God is the biological father. In fact, the story of the Virgin Birth is only known to Matthew and Luke for certain (though both tell the story with some significant differences) … [Read more...]

The Christmas Post: Happy Winter Solstice

The holiday for late Roman deity Sol Invictus, the Unconquerable Sun, was celebrated on December 25. I say late Roman deity because it was under the influence of eastern religions in the late second and third centuries CE that Sol Invictus (aka, Elah Gabal, its Syrian name) came to prominence. To be more specific, the Hellenized Persian deity Mithras was also born this day (and sometimes conflated with Sol Invictus in this later period). Along with a series of Egyptian cults, Mithras and Sol … [Read more...]

Some Notes on Reading Hebrew (and Greek)

I taught Old Testament in Institute last semester, but we only did Genesis. I'll try to post some thoughts on that at a later time. We're continuing with the OT, and adding something new and spicy; students who come 30 minutes early will also be learning some Biblical Hebrew. … [Read more...]

The New Spanish LDS Bible

Some of you may have heard that the LDS Church has undertaken a massive project of providing a Spanish edition of the Bible that is similar in scope to the English LDS Bible, including cross-references to Restoration scriptures, a Bible Dictionary, and explanatory footnotes. They have received copyright permission for one of the influential Spanish translations of the Bible and are using this as the basis for the new edition. I do not have all the details to the endeavor (I would love more … [Read more...]