September 19, 2020

    One of the questions that must inescapably be answered with regard to the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon involves their character, their personalities, their sanity — which inevitably comes down, at this distance in time, to the question of their public reputations.  Now, of course, their public reputations suffered considerably from their association with Joseph Smith and the Restoration.  So indicators of what people thought about them prior to their involvement with Joseph and the recovery of… Read more

September 18, 2020

    Over the course of many years, students of the traditions about Muhammad and his companions worked out a complex and sophis­ticated system for testing and classifying hadith. Some hadith reports were ranked as sahih, or “sound,” which is to say that all of the links in their isnads, their chains of transmission, were good ones going back directly to the purported source of the tradition, who was usu­ally the Prophet himself.[1] A slightly less reliable group of traditions… Read more

September 18, 2020

    New, today, in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship:   “The Expanse of Joseph Smith’s Translation Vision” Brant A. Gardner Review of Samuel Morris Brown, Joseph Smith’s Translation: The Words and Worlds of Early Mormonism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020). 314 pages. $34.95 (hardback). Abstract: Samuel M. Brown opens up a new and expansive view of Joseph Smith as a religious thinker. Written for an academic audience, Brown is intentionally dealing with what can be seen and understood about Joseph Smith’s various translations, a term that… Read more

September 17, 2020

    Don’t forget the Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses Conference, which begins on Friday evening, 18 September 2020, and continues on Saturday, 19 September 2020.  You can watch it at no charge.   In honor of the conference, I share again a column that I first published in the Deseret News on 30 January 2014:   The scripture John 11:35 (“Jesus wept”) is well known as the shortest verse in the King James Bible. It’s less known, however, as one… Read more

September 17, 2020

    I share, here, something of a preemptive response from the Evangelical Protestant philosopher Douglas Groothuis to critics of the notion of “intelligent design” and, specifically, to skeptics of William Dembski’s “design inference”:   [S]ome reject design explanations in principle, claiming that they use the failed “God of the gaps” strategy — invoking the supernatural instead of working out a sufficient naturalistic explanation.  Put another way, the God of the gaps brings in God only to cover our ignorance… Read more

September 17, 2020

    Actually, what I have been saying is an oversimplification. It was only gradually that the chain of transmitters, known in Arabic as an isnad, became a required part of a hadith report. For approxi­mately the first century after the death of the Prophet, no special care was taken in the transmission of traditions about him. Perhaps the Muslims could not imagine anybody willing to lie or to forge in the name of religion. If so, they were naive,… Read more

September 16, 2020

    At 7:00 PM on Friday night, Elder Bruce C. Hafen and Sister Marie K. Hafen will kick off the Interpreter Foundation’s first conference on the Book of Moses, which is being co-sponsored by Brigham Young University’s Department of Ancient Scripture as well as by our sister organizations, Book of Mormon Central and FairMormon.  It will be my privilege to introduce Elder and Sister Hafen.  I hope that you’ll tune in for all or at least part of the conference,… Read more

September 16, 2020

    Continued:   According to William Dembski, while both contingency and complexity are required for the inference of design to kick in, neither contingency nor complexity nor even a combination of the two is sufficient to fully justify such an inference.  Both must be present. along with what Dembski calls specificity or specification.   If an object or an event is to be properly described as “designed,” he says, it must exhibit a pattern that is independent of mere… Read more

September 16, 2020

    The opposite of sunna, first in pre-Islamic Arabia and ultimately within Islam itself, was bid‘a (“innovation”), which eventually came to mean “heresy” Thus, the Islamic community became a conserva­tive one in which “heresy” was divergence from the established prac­tice of the community. (It might be seen why one sect of Islam claimed for itself the title of Sunni. They were calling themselves orthodox—and, not accidentally, implying that those who disagreed with them were heretics.) Again in keeping with… Read more

September 15, 2020

    I published this column in the Deseret News on 28 April 2016.  Its publication had been unaccountably delayed for a long time and, when I discovered that delay — I had been out of the country for a prolonged period and had lost track — I pushed it forward as fast as I could.  It was urgent to me because I knew that Senator Bennett was seriously ill.  I was, accordingly, relieved and happy that, as a member… Read more




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