I love doing close readings of scripture. The normal way to do this is reading linearly through the entire book of scripture. An other great way is to study by topic. Each helps you see things you might miss using only the other method. While I’m glad our gospel doctrine has encouraged reading all scripture, part of me kind of wishes there was something akin to the Gospel Principles class. Just with broader topics and focused on reading our key texts rather than simple answers. My goal here is to do that sort of thing with a particular focus on the Book of Mormon. It’ll take time and may follow a somewhat circuitous route. With luck I’ll make a post each week in this series. I’ll be mixing the two methods I mentioned slightly as I’ll typically pick a few texts related to the topic and then do a close reading of them. I was kind of encouraged by a recent…
Many of you may have seen the J. Golden Kimball stage show from a number of years ago. He was the infamous swearing general authority. I must admit I first heard it on my mission when a companion had some tapes of the show. We were in the southern states where J. Golden had served as a mission president during its more dangerous era. It was a very different portrait of general authorities than I was used to. One of the best known stories was his going off and telling wards they were going to hell. He was sometimes told he had to go back and apologize. According to the stage show he’d blame this on phone calls. “It’s that damn contraption the telephone that gets me in trouble. Before it was invented I could go out and say anything and come back and deny it. Now they call Heber and before I get back he’s waiting for me at…
Imagine you walk outside under a beautiful blue sky, the sun warm on your skin. Now someone comes up to you and tells you that you must believe the sky is orange and the air cold. Can you do it? If not, does that mean your beliefs are freely chosen? Can you choose to believe?
As rumored for a while the Huntsman family has bought the Salt Lake Tribune. Both the Tribune as well as the Deseret News have been struggling for quite a while. The drying up of classified ads has hurt newspapers across the country the last 15 years. For a relatively small market like Utah to have two major papers really has been difficult economically. However unification has always been controversial due to the relationship of both papers to the whole Mormon question. Historically the Salt Lake Tribune arose to be a critical voice against Mormons. It was part of the Godbeite movement in the late 19th century. Godbe wanted religious and political reform in Utah. The fact that the other main paper, the Deseret News, was controlled by the LDS Church allowed for both perspectives to be voiced.
A few years ago in October 2012 the Church dropped the age for missionaries from 19 to 18 for men and 21 to 19 for women. There are various speculations of why the Church did this although I don’t think anyone knows for sure. (A popular explanation is that it cuts down on young men leaving the church when they go to college for their Freshman year) Regardless of why the Brethren did this, at the time I was concerned that it would lead to less effective missionaries. We now have a few years worth of data so we can examine the effect, In my view the most recent Church data in particular tells a story of a drop in missionary effectiveness.
One last post, before my non-philosophical blogging stint is done. One thing I’ve thought of with recent events in the middle east was the parallels to the Book of Mormon. I know that’s not exactly an original point to make, but I think the Book of Mormon has a lot of parallels both regarding our enemies as well as how we act towards our enemies. Dan Peterson has long written about the strong parallels between the Gadianton movement and various guerilla movements and insurgencies. I’ve listened to him describe extensive parallels, for instance, between Mao’s insurgency in China and events in the Book of Mormon.
Now that I finally have a child, one of my enjoyable activities with him is to read to him before bed. The one problem I face is not in selecting poetry I want to read, but learning how to read it properly aloud. I’ve scanned Google for some suggestions. They all tell me what I already know. Don’t put too much emotion in it (over acting). Don’t pause at the line breaks – it makes it choppy. Basically they tell me not to do the thing I can’t seem to keep from doing!
I confess, having grown up in Canada that I still have a hard time thinking of this week as Thanksgiving. To me it was back in October. (That’s Columbus Day for you Yanks) Since my parents lived way out in Nova Scotia I never went home for the US Thanksgiving either. So my memories of Thanksgiving consist either of going hiking or climbing, joining in a “joint-sorrow” dinner of singles trapped in Provo, or else driving up to Alberta to hang out with my brother, eat pizza and ice climb. Now that I’m married and with a bride who has family in the area, I’m still getting used to it all. Truth be told, I think I’d rather be out skiing. But that’s me.
I thought I’d put up a slightly different kind of post and get at a pet peeve of mine from back in the days when I was single. (i.e. only a year and a half ago) The big question is, outside of Church, where does a single Mormon go to socialize? The problem is, of course, that Church culture orients our socializing around Church activities. But if you are cursed to be in a ward where you “don’t enjoy the company” or they don’t have good activities, where do you go? Further, Church activities are primarily focused around a kind of extension of the youth programs that seem fine until you hit about 22 or 23 when they start seeming immature or boring.
I know it’s the weekend and blog activity drops way down on weekends. However I thought some might find this discussion interesting. I’ve been blogging about it on my website the past few days, but have primarily been focusing on abstract phenomenological and semiotic aspects of the problem. The basic issue gets back to the whole Sheri Dew Nazi reference. Over on LDS-Phil we had this (to me) extremely interesting discussion of why her comments were inappropriate. Quite a few people I really respect strongly suggested that to use the holocaust as a metaphor diminishes and denigrates the holocaust.
My background within the Mormon “intellectual” community is primarily within the science community. Even now, most of my friends have ties to the science community and despite the “personae” I might convey as a philosopher-geek, I’m really much more of a physics-geek in my own mind. One thing that I’ve long wondered about was the relationship between science and Mormonism. I don’t just mean among active, or even inactive Mormons, but rather the effect Mormon culture has on engendering a scientific mindset.
One nice thing about blogging here is that I can talk about topics I don’t get to on my blog – specifically politics. However what I find interesting is what Mormonism can bring to the political arena. One thing that has long been on my mind are the lessons of our past. The example of Mormon history was often discussed back in the days following Waco and the tragedy there. However what has been little discussed is how the problem of Mormonism and pluralism in places like Illinois, Ohio, or Missouri can help us learn how to deal with the problem of assimilation of Islamic people in many places – especially Europe.
First thanks to everyone for actually allowing me to write on topics unrelated to my blog. Hopefully I can live up to some of the excellent guest bloggers from over the past year. (Damon Linker was among my favorites.) One thing I’ve noticed of late is that my favorite series on Times and Seasons has been neglected. I speak, of course, of the essential texts series that was so enjoyable in the early days of this blog. Beyond encouraging those who’ve not read through those lists to do so (and add their own comments) let me suggest another useful list: Essential Net Resources.