An excerpt from the first chapter of my recently released book, Nothing New Under the Sun: A Blunt Paraphrase of Ecclesiastes: Chapter One Privileged, loved, educated, wealthy, this is what I saw: emptiness, futility, vanity. Everything is ephemeral. Everything crumbles to dust in your hands. Everything passes away. There is no escape. What good does it do to work hard and get ahead? Whole generations are born, suffer, work themselves to exhaustion, and die with nothing to show for it—all while the world spins in place, unmoved by their coming or going. The sun rises, the sun sets, and then it rises again. The winds, indifferent, rush past. Rivers empty endlessly into a sea that will never be full. All of this, relentless, repeats again and again. It uses me up. No matter how many stories I’m told or how much beauty I see, it’s never enough. I’m still left wanting more.
The Third Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology “A Preparatory Redemption: Reading Alma 12–13” Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California June 1–June 15, 2016 Sponsored by the Mormon Theology Seminar in partnership with The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship In the summer of 2016, the Mormon Theology Seminar, in partnership with the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University, will sponsor a seminar for graduate students and faculty devoted to reading Alma 12–13. The seminar will be hosted by Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, from June 1 through June 15, 2016. Travel arrangements, housing, and a $1000 stipend will be provided for admitted participants. The seminar will be led by Adam Miller and Joseph Spencer, directors of the Mormon Theology Seminar, with assistance from Brian Hauglid, director of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book…
“Christ & Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7″ The Second Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology Conference Program
“Christ & Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7” The Second Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Theology Conference is free and open to the public Saturday, June 20, 9am-5pm The Refectory Union Theological Seminary 3041 Broadway New York, NY 10027
At 7pm on Thursday, May 21, Writ & Vision will host a roundtable discussion on grace. Participants include Adam Miller, Joseph Spencer, and Jenny Webb. The discussion will focus on President Uchtdorf’s April 2015 General Conference address, “The Gift of Grace,” Adam Miller’s Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan: An Urgent Paraphrase of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and a close reading of 2 Nephi 25:23 (“for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do”). The event is open to the public. Writ & Vision is located at 274 West Center Street in Provo, Utah.
Religion isn’t about sin. Thinking that religion is about sinning (or not sinning) is like thinking basketball is about fouls. You should stop fouling but you can’t make the game be about fouls. That’s an impossible way to play basketball. And, more, it’s an impossible way to be religious.
From the pen of George Handley: There are those who are infected by nostalgia and yearn for a nineteenth-century Mormonism because, I suppose, they imagine that the prophets then seemed more willing to condemn capitalism or to preach environmental stewardship and that Mormons were more communitarian, less materialistic, and more obligated under the law of consecration to work to eliminate poverty.
From the pen of Jim Faulconer: Joseph M. Spencer’s most recent book (unless he has done another in the few weeks since this one was published) is For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope (Kofford Books, 2015; 157 pages, with index). I go back a long way with Joe, back to when he was still a recently-returned Mormon missionary and still an undergraduate at Brigham Young University.
I’ve published a new little book, Grace Is Not God’s Backup Plan: An Urgent Paraphrase of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It’s an experiment both in reading Paul and in self-publishing. My family and I were reading N. T. Wright’s “Kingdom Translation” of Romans and the kids were having a blast. Paul’s a great read in contemporary English. They loved, especially, Paul’s rhetorical questions (“Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Certainly not!”) and I loved, especially, the force of the letter when read out loud.
I’ve been practicing a kind of Mormon maximalism for a long time now. This impulse toward maximalism is itself religious in spirit. More, the impulse is aesthetic. It’s driven by a kind of wild hunger for the feel (literally, the aesthesis) of words, facts, theories, things, and people. I’m roaming the earth, eating everything in sight.
I’ve been practicing a kind of theological minimalism for a long time now. This impulse toward minimalism is itself religious. And it’s aesthetic. It doesn’t have to do with whether particular things are true or false (though, rest assured, such judgments must also be made), it has to do with the feel (literally, the aesthesis) of Mormonism as it’s lived.
One more time, from the pen of Ben Peters: One of the most tempting yet misplaced complaints lodged against Joseph Spencer’s For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope might be that, for all its talk about Zion, For Zion does nothing to suggest actionable proposals or bullet points for how to build Zion.
From the pen of Ben Peters (see previous post): Chapter five in Joseph Spencer’s For Zion turns to what he calls “the space of hope.” Here his discussion focuses on the space of “what remains to be seen” and to a similar effect as chapter four on the time of hope.
From the pen of Ben Peters: I’m thrilled and humbled to take part in this roundtable. By way of introduction, I’m Ben Peters, a husband, a father of four, a media historian and information technology theorist (more on my work here), a lifelong member, a long-time T&S reader, and first-time poster. My family has lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma since 2011, following an education trek stretching from Provo and Stanford to New York and Jerusalem. A disciplinary mutt, I have no real business commenting on the work of professional philosophers, especially chapters likely to trip up readers more careful than I am. Those wanting a scholarly review of his argument will have to look elsewhere. With that warning, read on as I think out loud in three installments about the central proposition of the second quarter of For Zion (chapters four through seven): all we have to hope for and consecrate, even that which remains to be seen, is already present. —————————————————— “The…
The first chapter of For Zion lays the groundwork for Spencer’s reading of Paul’s theology of hope. It focuses especially on Paul’s letter to the Romans. Understanding the details of this “theology of hope” is crucial to understanding Spencer’s full account of what’s at stake in the law of consecration.
Whatever happened to Zion? Whatever happened to the law of consecration? Aren’t these things from a long time ago? Or for some time way in the future? No. They are only ever for now. Saying that we’re not ready for Zion is like telling a guy lost in the desert he’s not ready for water.
The Book of Mormon is a messianic text. As messianic, it means to interrupt and overwrite our normal experience of time. When this overwriting occurs at the level of the individual, it’s called repentance. When this overwriting occurs collectively, it’s called gathering. Both kinds of overwriting implicate the other.
Q. Are you an apologist or neo-apologist? A. No, I’m just a philosopher. Others have said I’m an apologist, but I’ve never been interested in apologetics. Mormonism can stand on its own two feet and it doesn’t need me to defend it.
My position is a weak one. But the question is: why?
It’s important to keep our tough questions about Mormonism in perspective. And, especially, we need to keep the genuinely urgent questions front and center. The big problems are straightforward. We’re dying here. You and I. We’re getting sick, we’re getting old, and we’re dying. Our lives are small and our time is short. Our days are filled with suffering of all kinds: distress, worry, boredom, frustration, and loss.
It’s a mistake to think that Mormonism is about Mormonism.
“Is the church true?” This question is, I think, poorly posed. It seems ill-suited to the kind of existential burn that might compel me to ask it. It seems like a bad fit for what I’m after in a white-knuckled prayer.
Fiona and Terryl Givens’ The Crucible of Doubt is a nearly perfect book. I hope that a million Mormons read it. Crucible manages to do what all great religious writing must: it sacrifices the impulse to prove its religion and, instead, takes up the yoke of living it.
It seems to me that the scriptures offer two types of revelations: (1) they reveal things you didn’t already know, and (2) they reveal that you didn’t know many of the things you thought you knew. Both kinds of revelation are pivotal. And each tends to depend on the other. James Faulconer’s new series of books — The Book of Mormon Made Harder, The Doctrine and Covenants Made Harder, The Old Testament Made Harder, and The New Testament Made Harder (forthcoming) — can help on both of these fronts. Though, to be fair, they’re especially good at the latter.
Let’s say that the historicity of the Book of Mormon could be demonstrated irrefutably. (Say that Nephi returned in a cloud of glory, held a press conference, and pointed us to incontrovertible archeological proof.) Would I tune in to watch? Yes. Would this convince me to join or stay in the church?