“Read any commentary and it’ll pretty much explain the symbolism. My question is much, much simpler than that.” — Darren Wilson, Finding God in the Bible, pp. 193-194 The title is intriguing: Finding God in the Bible. It seems meant to work against what is now a several-centuries-old tradition of interpreting biblical texts without reference to God, without insisting that scripture is to have anything more than canonical weight. And Bill Johnson’s foreword to the book would seem to confirm… Read more

Last week, I logged onto facebook to see my newsfeed crowded with excited links from various Mormon friends to hip hop pioneer LL Cool J’s twitter feed. Confused, I clicked over to discover that the man best known for the early 1990s hits “I Need Love” and “Mama Said Knock You Out” had tweeted to his 3.8 million followers the following: Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds. Gordon B. Hinckley— LL COOL J (@llcoolj) August 6, 2013 That quote comes… Read more

A few weeks ago, during an unusually long summer excursion away from home, my wife and I had the opportunity to spend a few days staying with my paternal grandparents. It turned out to be a nice time with them in their quiet, settled home. In part, this was an opportunity simply to be in their company; as they advance in age, and we continue to live at a distance, there’s no guarantee of when we’ll see them next. But… Read more

The past several months, I’ve been trying to cultivate a practice of personal meditation (with halting success). After being introduced through a podcast to centering prayer (as taught by Catholic Thomas Keating, who draws on traditions of the Desert Fathers, St. John of the Cross, The Cloud of Unknowing, and others), and wandering tentatively into westernized Buddhist thought, I felt I’d arrived at a refreshing oasis. Perhaps part of the reason for my relief at this new practice stemmed from… Read more

Every summer, our family spends some time at a cabin in rural Utah and attend church nearby. Many of the men in the local ward earn a living through physical labor. They are strong; they are big; they have masculine presence. And then they speak, and they cry, and every member of the congregation sees that manly men, even those who won a medal in last night’s rodeo, cry and love. One of their talks in particular has stayed with… Read more

Recently, I finished John G. Turner’s excellent Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet. It is an eminently fair-minded biography that should prove to be the definitive account of Young’s life. Personally, I came away from the biography with far greater insight into Young’s spirituality and his theological contributions to Mormonism—one of the many wonderful pay-offs for reading Turner’s 400-page tome. I also came away from the biography with a previously held picture of Young confirmed: he was a harsh individual prone to… Read more

In her post “Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’: An Eternal Return” earlier this week, my colleague Susanna Morrill observed that Dan Brown has a knack for telling familiar stories in a language of standard tropes. As Susanna showed, Brown’s work taps into a variety of American anxieties, and it reflects a number of movements in American thought. Susanna’s observations approached Brown with a wide-angle lens, and she ably illuminated the ways in which Brown’s latest whodunit novel featuring the intrepid “religious symbologist”… Read more

I just finished reading Inferno, Dan Brown’s latest book. I’m no expert on Brown, though I have also read The Da Vinci Code. He is justly derided as a bad writer, but he is a good storyteller and sets his attractive characters in compelling locations. I think that Brown’s popularity also comes from his ability to touch on big cultural issues and questions—sometimes overtly and sometimes more indirectly—in familiar, reassuring ways. He touches on them, but doesn’t resolve them for… Read more

Over the course of the 20th century, LDS narratives about early Christianity shifted dramatically in one respect. While earlier accounts explained that the Great Apostasy occurred due to the failure of church leaders, by the 1980’s retellings of the Great Apostasy narrative blamed the general membership for going astray. LDS narratives about early Christianity, like most other Christians, have a great deal to do with constructing a meaningful identity. In this way, these narratives have a different goal than those… Read more

The past decade has witnessed a remarkable surge of interest in the Book of Mormon—or at least of interest in making the text of the Book of Mormon available and accessible. Beginning, in many ways, with the 2003 publication of Grant Hardy’s Reader’s Edition of the Book of Mormon (published by the University of Illinois Press and based on the 1920 edition), what might almost be called a kind of movement has taken shape: Penguin published a handsome reprint of… Read more

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