Nephi as the first autobiographer?

One of the most interesting things about the small plates of Nephi is the first person narrative which recounts his own life. The text begins famously "I Nephi," and gives a personal account of Nephi's family history, personal reflections, and all this is done in the first person. This is extremely rare in ancient and classical literature. What are we to make of this? … [Read more...]

The Record of John

Doctrine and Covenants 93:6-18 promises that if we are faithful, we shall receive the "fulness of the record of John." The context of this promise is somewhat strange. Jesus Christ is the first person narrator, who begins to quote John's testimony of Jesus. So, we have Jesus speaking in the first person quoting John speaking in the first person bearing testimony of Jesus in the third person. Okay, so that is kind of weird. But that is not all that is weird about this passage. It is not at … [Read more...]

Elder Holland’s Subversive Message?

At the risk of stirring controversy against my absolute favorite Apostle, I want to ask a few questions stemming from his engaging discussion of Scripture and modern prophecy and his dialogue with biblical studies.Elder Holland's talk in General Conference was part II of his discourse on Mormonism's place with respect to "Christianity". He begins by giving justifications for an open canon, namely, why the various statements about not adding to or taking away from a given book (Revelation) … [Read more...]

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...]

Jesus and the Sabbath

Jesus is depicted in the Gospels as healing on the Sabbath. This healing frequently caused disputes between Jesus and his contemporaries. Why? There are a few options to explain these episodes.1. The popular view is that the Jews were evil and they didn't believe in healing people and used the Sabbath as an excuse to condemn Jesus. The problem with this view is that Jesus's opponents had no problem with the healing, only healing on the Sabbath. Jesus was free to heal six days of the week. … [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...]