Rationality Redefined

[This is a “reprint” of part 1 of a series I posted on my home blog, ldsphilosopher.com]

Early Greek philosophers saw reason as the conduit through which human beings could access the unchanging certainties of the cosmos. This perspective actually makes some sense. We may age, wither, and die, but the Pythagorean theorem remains unchanged through time. The conclusions of rational thought were seen as the bedrock truths at the bottom of our swiftly changing world.

This understanding of human reason implies that rational people will converge on the same ideas. An interesting, subtle, but extremely important side effect of this point of view is expressed aptly by John Locke: “All that is voluntary in our knowledge, is the employing or withholding any of our [rational] faculties. … But they being employed, our will hath no power to determine the knowledge of the mind one way or another.” Thus, the conclusions of rational thought are inevitable.

Modern philosophers have, to some extent, rejected this ancient perspective on rationality. Instead, reason has been seen as Continue reading

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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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Sacrament Meeting Talks: A More Excellent Way

Some sacrament meeting talks are more meaningful, insightful, and applicable than others. Certainly natural ability comes into play, but one of the biggest problems, from my experience, is that most speakers follow a “same old” generic pattern. There is nothing inspired or authoritative for this pattern, and in fact in many cases it can dull or deaden what could otherwise be enriching and inspiring sacrament meetings.

I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s efforts, faith, or testimony. Rather, I bring good news. It’s not hard, if one is willing, to raise the standard of sacrament meeting talks. It requires (a) recognizing the “same old” pattern as simply one way of giving a talk (and probably not the best way) and (b) being willing to try something new. I think you’ll like it.

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Beyond the Sunday School Answers: Tips for LDS Teachers

I’m going to say what many Latter-day Saints are thinking, but some are afraid to say: Sunday School is often mediocre.

I really don’t wish to gripe. I definitely realize that each person — teachers and students — need to do their part. I also recognize that most teachers try hard and take their callings seriously. But certainly Sunday School doesn’t have to be the mind-numbing chore that it seems to be for many members. We can do much better!

In this post, I offer ten simple tips that could radically improve Sunday School lessons. (Yes, I will be that bold.) These tips are simply suggestions from myself, a Latter-day Saint who has done a fair amount of teaching and thinking about this issue. They can be applied by virtually anyone, in my opinion.

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Highlights from General Conference, October 2008

I thought I’d take a minute and discuss what I consider to be the highlights of this weekend’s semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Why I Hate the Theory of Evolution

A more appropriate title to this blog post would be “Why I hate that the public schools teach ‘creation’ by evolution and do not teach the Biblical account of creation,” but aside from being too wordy, I thought the inappropriate title might persuade more people to read this entry. After all, the second title might lead one to think that I’m in favor of creationism and who wants to hear another argument for creationism? Well, you’ll be happy to hear that I frankly don’t care for creationism (and for that matter, I don’t care much for intelligent design…or Ben Stein). But in spite of my apathy toward creationism, I am still greatly miffed by this country’s ridiculous replacement of one creation story (evolution) with another (the Biblical account). Continue reading

The Restoration of the Laborer, the Role of Government, and Michelle Obama

As I’ve been reading the first third of the Book of Mormon, I’ve been thinking about the “laborer in Zion.”

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