Suddenly remembering Ioan Culianu

Suddenly remembering Ioan Culianu July 25, 2022


The Sun as I haven't seen it.
It’s entirely possible (though very unlikely) that this NASA/SDO public domain photograph, taken from several feet above the surface of Earth, shows the world-encircling power of the Interpreter Radio Show.  With this kind of coverage, it is conceivable that the very first electronic broadcast that alien worlds intercept from our planet will be a “Come, Follow Me” discussion led by a volunteer for the Interpreter Foundation.  Which would be very good luck, and might preserve us all from annihilation.  After all, consider the alternative:  If intelligent and concerned interstellar life forms first became aware of Earth via the utterances of certain political figures or reality television stars, they might feel themselves forced to take powerful action in their own self-defense.


These new items went up on the website of the Interpreter Foundation earlier today:


Interpreter Radio Show — June 26, 2022

For the first half of this episode of the storied Interpreter Radio Show which has now (shorn of commercial and other interruptions) been processed and archived for your enjoyment, regular monthly hosts Steve Densley, Matthew Bowen, and Mark Johnson are joined by Spencer Kraus for a discussion of Spencer’s recent Interpreter review of two books by Jonathan Neville.  The second hour of the show, by contrast, features a roundtable discussing the upcoming Come Follow Me lesson #32 (Job 1–3; 12–14; 19; 21–24; 38–40; 42).  Every week, rain or shine, the Interpreter Radio Show can be heard on Sunday evenings from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640.  If radio hasn’t yet come to your region of the globe, however, don’t fret:  You can still listen in live on the Internet at


Interpreter Radio Show — July 3, 2022


If you want to hear Neal Rappleye, Jasmin Rappleye, and Hales Swift — joined by special guest Spencer Kraus — discuss the upcoming FAIR conference, this episode of the Interpreter Radio Show, which originally aired on 3 July 2022 but which has now been edited and cleansed of commercial and other distractions — is precisely the episode for you. The second portion of the show is a roundtable discussing the upcoming Come Follow Me lesson #33 (Psalms 1–2; 8; 19–33; 40; 46).  The Interpreter Radio Show is broadcast on a weekly basis, and can be heard live on Sunday evenings from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640.  But that’s only along the Wasatch Front.  Happily, though, through the miracle of modern computers you can listen to the show live on the Internet via


Interpreter Radio Show — July 10, 2022

In the first portion of this, the 10 July 2022 episode of the Interpreter Radio Show, which has been edited to remove commercial breaks and archived for your listening pleasure, Terry Hutchinson, John Gee, and Kevin Christensen discuss the publications of Noel Reynolds and the importance of his scholarship.  The second portion of the show is devoted to a roundtable discussing the upcoming Come Follow Me lesson #34 (Psalms 49–51; 61–66; 69–72; 77–78; 85–86). The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard each and every week on Sunday evenings, from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640.  Or, if that’s not what floats your boat, you can listen to it live on the Internet at




Here’s a timely article by Cassandra Hedelius that I appreciated seeing:


“Thank Heaven for Apologetics: In a world jam-packed with intellectual sophistry often toxic to genuine faith, the value of clear thinking about difficult questions is immense and even eternal.”




I experienced an interesting and very nostalgic blast from the past today.  While looking for something else altogether, I came across the name of Ioan Petru Culianu.  I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I hadn’t thought of him in a very long while.  My late and much lamented friend Bill Hamblin and I met Dr. Culianu — a Romanian-born scholar just a few years older than we were who had earned doctorates in both Italy and France — at an academic conference in California, and we hit it off immediately.  Based on the paper that we had just presented (and that he had plainly liked) we even ended up publishing an article in a new journal, entitled Incognita, that he was just launching at the time:  “Neoplatonism and the Medieval Mediterranean Magical Traditions.”


Unfortunately, Incognita went defunct not long thereafter.  Why?  Because Professor Culianu died.  On 21 May 1991, just after noon, at the age of only forty-one.


I still remember how I heard the news:  I had called him in his office in Swift Hall, at the University of Chicago, in order to discuss a new project on comparative “magical” traditions that he had invited me and Bill to join.  But a secretary answered.  “I’m sorry,” she said, when I asked to speak with him.  “He was murdered earlier today.”


You can perhaps begin to imagine my shock.


The crime — a single shot to the back of the head, execution-style — has never been solved, but it is widely assumed that it was a politically-motivated assassination committed by elements of Romania’s tottering Communist regime.  He had been a vocal dissident and critic.  He had been a remarkably prolific author, and a number of items were published about him after his death, including Ted Anton, Eros, Magic, and the Death of Professor Culianu ; Elemire Zolla, Ioan Petru Culianu; and Umberto Eco, “Murder in Chicago,” in The New York Review of Books for 10 April 1997.


I like this short article about him:  “Ioan Petru Culianu, argonaut of the 4th dimension.”




It’s always a struggle to keep up with the sheer volume of horrific material that continues to flow from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File©, and I sadly confess that I often find myself falling behind in the never-ending struggle to stay current.  But, at this moment, I’m happy to be able to share a quartet of hideous links that should prove gratifyingly infuriating and offensive:


“JustServe featured in Colorado 4th of July parade”

“Church renovates South Africa youth center damaged in hailstorm”

“Church refurbishes Congolese school in central Africa”

“Maryland members make 20-mile trek possible for teenage boy in a wheelchair”




Finally, here, for your possible interest, is the description of the Interpreter Foundation’s theatrical film Witnesses that has now been posted on the website of the Association for Mormon Letters in the wake of Witnesses having claimed the Association’s 2021 Film Award:



Witnesses. Directed by Mark Goodman; written by Mitch Davis; executive produced by the Interpreter Foundation.

Mitch Davis has penned a powerful screenplay that explores one of the more controversial and perhaps misunderstood episodes of the restoration: how David Whitmer (Michael Zuccola), Oliver Cowdery (Caleb J. Spivak), and Martin Harris (Lincoln Hoppe) could possibly see the golden plates as the heralded “three witnesses” and yet fall away from Joseph Smith (Paul Wuthrich) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mark Goodman takes a polished and professional approach to the script, producing a period-accurate film with powerful dramatic performances, stunning scenery and cinematography, a moving orchestral score, and effective pacing and editing. The frame narrative, as told by an aged Whitmer (Paul Kandarian), is a structural approach seen before in films about LDS church history, but Kandarian’s performance adds weight and conviction to the entire story, presenting the narrative as fact instead of conjecture. Goodman and Davis’s characters have weight and realism, and they manage to present these early church leaders as both admirable and humanistically flawed.



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