The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Why an 80-year-old children's book feels newer and more grown-up than the high-tech PG-13 epics recently based on it.Reviewing the Hobbit movies at this point would be, well, pointless. If you care about these things (and I do), then you already know that the Hobbit movies are bad Tolkien fan-fiction1 or even a parody—The Battle of the Five Armies reuses material from the Lord of the Rings movies in such silly ways that I’m half convinced it’s making fun of them. On the other hand, if you don … [Read more...]

Review: “Selma”

Selma deserves a Best Picture win, because even with all of its imperfections, it is a story that engages with history honestly and insightfully. It highlights an important part of the civil rights movement, enlightens a common narrative of a historical figure, yet respectfully keeps the integrity of Dr. King’s legacy intact.It is good history as far as narrative filmmaking goes. Somehow I’ve managed to keep up with most of the Oscar nominees this year, and a disproportionate number of them a … [Read more...]

Announcing the 2nd Wheatley Summer Seminar

Announcing the 2nd Annual Wheatley 2015:The 2nd Annual Wheatley “Faith Seeking Understanding” summer seminar will run from June 22 through July 10, 2015.  It is being sponsored by the Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University and is under the direction of Professor Terryl Givens, Wheatley Fellow and Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond. From the announcement: What are the general contours of Christianity’s efforts to find a marriage of belief and intellec … [Read more...]

Doubting at Zion’s Gate

Through happenstance, two of my recent reads synergistically centered on doubt and the thresholds of religion.In the first, Elmer Miller’s Nurturing Doubt, the author reflects on his time as a Mennonite missionary in the Argentine Chaco (exactly where I served my LDS mission) and his later return as a professional anthropologist. He relates how his experience in ministering to the Toba, an ethnic group native to the Chaco, caused him to question the utility of the Christian message and A … [Read more...]

Resolutions and Desires

I’m terrible at New Year’s resolutions. I’ve read all read the strategies for proper goal-setting—manageable, concrete tasks, tell a buddy, be accountable, etc., etc. But a missing ingredient I think I’m just beginning to understand is the significance of desire (and not just the cliché “you have to want it for yourself” kind of advice).I think many failed resolutions result not simply from insufficient willpower or poor strategizing, but from not being honest with myself about what the resol … [Read more...]

Joseph Smith Papers: Documents Volume 3

A couple of weeks ago, I participated---by Skype---in the launch event for the newest Documents volume of the celebrated Joseph Smith Papers Project. I assume the project needs no introduction at this point, having already published more than a half-dozen volumes. The installment I'll review here is already the third published volume in the Documents series (though note that seven or more volumes are projected in this series!). I'll just say a bit about this volume, and perhaps about the … [Read more...]

On Doctrinal Authority

This essay represents a very short, and provisional set of ideas about the topic as I am just beginning to think about it more seriously. So much of the so-called “faith crisis” in contemporary Mormonism hinges on these issues, but very little theoretical work has been done on it.For a while now, Mormons have been concerned with doctrinal authority, especially what is authoritative and the consequences of deviating from it. Most recently the question has arisen concerning prophetic fal … [Read more...]

Funeral Lessons from Emma Lou Thayne

In the weeks before Emma Lou Thayne’s death I have been pondering how it was that an interaction with her felt so different from encounters with other people. In conversation, she was consummately present, loving, and curious. Her approach felt to me like this: "I know there is something really exceptional about you, and I can't wait to ask you questions and listen to you until I find it. It won't take long."This post has a devotional edge; funerals lead me in that direction. I came to know E … [Read more...]


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