Marriage, part 1: Why difference matters

This is the first in a five-part series on marriage, wherein I discuss charity in marriage, why the gay community should favor marriage between a man and a woman, and why Latter-day Saints are not positioned well to defend against gay marriage.

In all three scriptural accounts of the physical creation, Adam is created of the dust of the earth, while Eve was created of Adam (Genesis 2:7, 21-22; Moses 3:7, 21-22; Abraham 5:7, 15-16). Adam, upon seeing woman for the first time, notes the significance of this division when he calls woman bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. What is striking to me is what Adam says next: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (v. 24 in Genesis and Moses, emphasis mine). Were they not already one flesh before God removed the rib from Adam’s side?

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Mormon Creation Narratives and Creation by Evolution

I once heard it said when I was a young undergraduate that the creation accounts – particularly that of Abraham – fit very well with evolutionary accounts of creation. A casual read of Abraham seems to confirm this: earth, void; waters divided from earth; plants come up from the earth; fish and fowl; beasts of the earth; man. This sort of progression would make sense from an evolutionary perspective – creation evolves from simple to complex.

But add Moses’ account into the mix and things become a little dicier. Continue reading

Literal Confusion (about D&C 137)

I’m not usually a literalist about the scriptures, but I’m a little baffled by a verse I read today and the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 137. This section is the account of a vision Joseph Smith had of the celestial kingdom. He names Adam and Abraham, as well as his parents, as inhabitants, likely those who were saved “by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

And then he mentions his brother, Alvin. Joseph “marvels” that his brother Alvin is there, “seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.” And then the great revelation that “All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.” Of course, this revelation plays a big part in understanding why we do work for the dead in our temples…right?

Here’s my question: What was Alvin doing there in the celestial kingdom when his work hadn’t been done yet?

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Can you be a good Mormon and want to be a millionaire?

“Can you be a good Mormon and want to be a millionaire?”

This question, or something very much like it, was posed in my Sunday School class last week. I think the very question says something interesting about the asker, but since my short answer (“No”) would not have gone over terribly well, and my longer and more justified answer would’ve taken over the lesson, I thought a blog entry might be a good place to explore the issue.

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The Kingdom of God Is Among Us

Whenever I hear people talk about the kingdom of God, it seems like it’s always referred to in the future tense. Lately, I’ve begun to wonder if the kingdom of God isn’t already all around us.

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The Restoration of All Things

Many of us compartmentalize our lives in a way that would seem strange to scholars of past centuries. We talk about our religious lives and our academic lives as though they were two separate things, divided in a way that protects one from the effects of an error in the other, as a bulkhead on a ship may protect other compartments from being flooded by water. However, this modern separation of our academic and spiritual life is a very recent development. I believe that the division between spiritual and secular knowledge is a false distinction, and, as Richard Williams has pointed out, found nowhere in scripture.1

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Fold Your Arms and Be Reverent!

Now that I have kids in primary, I find myself falling into the same trap that I’ve ridiculed in the past: when I want my kids to be quiet in church, I don’t say “be quiet!” Instead, I say, “be reverent,” as though the two were the same thing. Often times, being reverent means, in part, being quiet. After reading a story in the newspaper about an autistic boy who was kicked out of church, and the judge that upheld it, I began to think more about what it might mean for my own kids to be reverent. Continue reading

Pew Forum Question Does Violence to Mormon Belief

A recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study, in which over 35,000 Americans were interviewed, had an interesting result. According to this Time article, the Pew Forum study found that

70% of respondents agreed with the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life.” Even more remarkable was the fact that 57% of Evangelical Christians were willing to accept that theirs might not be the only path to salvation.

Agreement was also made here by 83% of Protestant Christians and 79% of Catholics.

The Time article goes on to say,

In fact, of the dozens of denominations covered by the Pew survey, it was only Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who answered in the majority that their own faith was the only way to eternal life.

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Rough Stone Rolling vs. No Man Knows My History: The Heavyweight Championship of Joseph Smith Biography

The following is a paper I wrote a few years ago in a history class about Joseph Smith from Grant Underwood at BYU.

Released in 2005, Richard L. Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling has been hailed by many as the definitive biography of the Mormon founder. It is only natural, then, to put the book in the ring with Fawn M. Brodie’s classic, No Man Knows My History—without question the most famous, and controversial, biography of Joseph Smith to date. In this paper I compare the two biographies according to four criteria: (1) key similarities and differences, (2) characterization of Joseph’s personality, (3) coverage of key events, and (4) interpretation of teachings and doctrine. Continue reading

Abraham 2:16: “Eternity was our covering and our rock and our salvation”

In the spirit of my wanting more posts that comment on specific scriptural passages, I am providing this commentary on Abraham 2:16. I wrote the following as a brief paper for a Pearl of Great Price course that I took as an undergraduate at BYU:

After He rescued Abraham from the murderous priest of Elkenah, Jehovah led Abraham and his family to the land of Haran (Abr. 2:3-4). While there, they avoided the sore famine of their native Ur, prospered economically, and “won” many souls unto the Lord (vv. 5, 15). Haran was not Abraham’s final destination, however; while there, Jehovah promised to send him to “a strange land,” the land of Canaan, where he and his future posterity, if obedient to God, would dwell forever (v. 6). Abraham’s journey from Haran to Canaan must have had special significance, considering the way Abraham writes about it: “Therefore, eternity was our covering and our rock and our salvation, as we journeyed from Haran by the way of Jershon, to come to the land of Canaan” (v. 16).

Why did Abraham speak of his journey in this way? Continue reading

Isaiah vs. E.O. Wilson (a play)

A brief play from Wendell Berry’s Life is a Miracle:

Isaiah (finger in the air and somewhat oblivious of the historical superiority of the modern audience): The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as of the flower of the field.

Edward O. Wilson (somewhat impressed, but nevertheless determined to do his bit for “evolutionary progress”): But . . . but, sir! Are you aware of the existence of the electromagnetic spectrum?

CURTAIN

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Highlights from General Conference, April 2008

I thought I would take a moment and express what I consider to be some of the highlights of General Conference. I encourage others to leave a comment and do the same.

Of course, the major highlight is President Thomas S. Monson.

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Mayan Weaving, American Relations with China, and Remembering Suffering through Narratives


This post comes from a presentation I gave this semester in response to a lecture on Mayan weaving given by Allen Christensen, a talented Maya scholar at BYU.

I am also writing this in response to the discussion on relationships with China that Doug raised several days ago.

There is an interesting correlation between how Mayans and Christian Americans connect themselves with their religious narratives and how they produce clothing. This is one small way of exploring how Americans have become insensitive to human suffering in relationships with China and other poor countries. Continue reading

Do Tattoos and Piercings Remain in the Resurrection? A Case Study in a Pragmatic Approach to an LDS Theology of Possibilities

As I have mentioned before, I am giving a presentation tomorrow afternoon (Thursday, March 27) at the University of Utah, for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology conference. My presentation is entitled “Toward a Latter-day Saint Theology of Possibilities.”

The basic logic of the underlying problem I tackle in my presentation is that (a) there is a tenuous relationship between authority and freedom in the Church, (b) there is not a clear cut authoritative theology that is sufficient to guide Latter-day Saints in all matters of life, (c) Latter-day Saints cannot help but construct folk beliefs, (d) folk beliefs are not bad in themselves; the problem occurs when these beliefs are seen as closed folk beliefs (CFBs), rather than open folk beliefs (OFBs). Continue reading