“The Grandeur of God”

“The Grandeur of God” August 4, 2021


Moroni, JS, and gold plates
Joseph Smith receives the plates of the Book of Mormon. According to one commonly-suggested scenario, “Moroni” (in the white robe) was really Rev. Sidney Rigdon, and the “plates” were really the manuscript of a bad novel purloined from the late Rev. Solomon Spalding.  It seems once again, though, that this theory cannot withstand scrutiny.  So sad!  (Image from




The latest installment of Kyler Rasmussen’s series of Bayesian blog entries has now appeared on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:


“Estimating the Evidence Episode 5: On Witnesses”


A link also went up today to a recording — shorn of commercial interruptions — of a recent installment of the Interpreter Radio Show:


Interpreter Radio Show — July 18, 2021

The discussants for the 18 July 2021 broadcast of the Interpreter Radio Show are Terry Hutchinson, Kris Frederickson, and Mike Parker. In the first half of this two-hour episode, they discuss pioneers and Pioneer Day. The second portion of the show, by contrast, is a roundtable discussing the upcoming Come Follow Me lesson #35 (D&C 93). The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard Sunday evenings from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640, or you can listen live on the Internet at




The first presenter at this morning’s FAIR conference was Kirk Magleby, who delivered interesting,  well-illustrated, and informative remarks on “Unforgettable Hugh Nibley,” mingling biographical explanations and his own personal reminiscences.  Nibley will figure prominently today because of the appearance of the new book Hugh Nibley Observed.


Next, Ryan Dahle introduced “Evidence Central,” a great new resource that I’ve wanted to see created for many years and that is finally beginning to appear.


The statistician Paul Fields, backed by a group of co-workers, then provided a simply stunning update on the statistical analysis of the Book of Mormon text — demonstrating, so far as I can see, that the purported writers of Book of Mormon were almost certainly real distinct people, and that claims of plagiarism from — or even of vague “influence” by — nineteenth-century pseudo-biblical texts (e.g., the Spalding manuscript, The Book of Napoleon, The Late War, and etc.) seem to be statistically indefensible.  I’ve always found so-called “wordprint analysis” of the Book of Mormon extremely impressive, and I’m delighted to report, after this fortieth-anniversary update, that I still do.  In my judgment, it constitutes an enormous challenge to critics of the Restoration.


After the lunch break, Brittany Chapman Nash, author of the very new book Let’s Talk about Polygamy talked very calmly, lucidly, reasonably, and faithfully about polygamy.  I enjoyed her talk, and I bought the book.


Next, Jeffrey Mark Bradshaw, a vice president of the Interpreter Foundation, led off with some words about Hugh Nibley and then proceeded to address the subject of his title:  “Since Hugh Nibley: Remarkable New Findings on Enoch and the Gathering of Zion.”  His remarks drew from his imminently forthcoming book Enoch and the Gathering of Zion: The Witness of Ancient Texts for Modern Scripture.


The penultimate speaker was Hanna Seariac, whose title was “Handmaids of the Lord: The Ancient Function of Women in Temple Ordinances.”  I’m afraid that I missed part of her presentation, because I was busy doing an interview.  But I heard most of it, and it was a very nice survey coupled with some thought-provoking analysis.  She gave special attention to the term handmaid, which she connects with “priestesshood” and even, as I understood what she had to say, with the temple.


Finally, Tarik LaCour provided an “Intro to Mormon Natural Theology.”  I’m deeply sympathetic to his position and his argument, so, of course, I very much liked what he had to say.  From The Devil’s Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce:  “Admiration, n.: Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.”


Afterwards, I spoke with a friend who has long been a declared enemy of natural theology.  I agree with him that reasoning alone, and certainly reasoning from the laws of nature, does not and cannot supplant divine special revelation.  But I think that it can create wonder, and foster openness to the idea of the divine.  In fact, so simple a thing as a beautiful sunset can open our minds to God.  So why should a realization of the precision of the fine-tuning of the universe for life not be able to do the same thing?  And that is all I ask of it.


“God’s Grandeur,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


This was a satisfyingly good day.  We sat at the back of the conference room, at a table that featured examples of books published by the Interpreter Foundation, a couple of specimens of the Interpreter journal, and other materials.  From where I sat, it seemed that the conference room was full to capacity, or very nearly so.  It also seemed that a sizable proportion of the audience, though by no means all, was masked.  And that didn’t upset me even a tiny little bit.


The Interpreter Foundation ran a one-minute “commercial” during the program today — I expect that it will also be available online, as part of the streaming of the FAIR conference — for our forthcoming two-part documentary or docudrama, Undaunted: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.  I continue to predict that it will be available sometime around the first, or at least the first half, of October.  We’re still contemplating different methods of distributing it, and haven’t yet decided exactly what we’ll do.


All of the above was written on the floor of the 2021 FAIR conference.  We’re home briefly, but we’ll be returning shortly for the dinner that FAIR puts on during each annual conference for the speakers, volunteers, and etc.  It’s a good time to meet up with people whom we don’t ordinarily see very often.



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