Category: Cornucopia

Loosening the iron grip of the King James Version of the Bible?

A couple of years ago, Elder Richard Maynes (of the Presidency of the Seventy) quoted Matthew 13:44 in his conference talk: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” But wait a second! The King James Version of that verse reads differently: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” Elder Maynes has quoted, instead, the Revised Standard Version. This surprised me because the official version of the Bible used by the Church in English is the King James Version. From the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the KVJ has been preferred (despite Joseph Smith’s corrections). When the Revised Standard Version was released in 1952,…

Children at the Pulpit?

Yesterday was testimony meeting (for some of you, fast and testimony meeting). By good fortune, I have never had much anxiety about the “ward crazies” who say such interesting things on open mic Sunday — by good fortune, the wards I have attended have not had this challenge. But I do see the standard mix of young children, probably three or four per testimony meeting, some who manage on their own, some who manage with parental prompts, some who require a word-for-word script whispered into their ear. It’s cute if it’s your own kid; it’s not a big deal if it’s someone else’s; it must be a bizarre experience for non-LDS visitors. Why do we do this?

Maxwell Institute 2017 Summer Seminar Announced

The Maxwell Institute just posted a call for applicants for its next summer seminar. The topic is Mormonism Confronts the World: How the LDS Church has Responded to Developments in Science, Culture, and Religion. The seminar runs June 26 through August 3, 2017. Plenty of time to find a topic and clear out six weeks of your schedule. Anyone with a topic to suggest is free to share it in the comments.

The Expanse: Mormons in Space

The Expanse is an acclaimed novel series by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck writing under the pen-name James S. A. Corey. The first novel, Leviathan Wakes, was released in 2011 and nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Abraham and Franck have released a book a year since then, with Caliban’s War in 2012, Abaddon’s Gate in 2013, Cibola Burn in 2014, and Nemesis Games in 2015. Babylon’s Ashes is slated for June 2016, and three more untitled sequels are scheduled for 2017-2019. The SyFy channel, in an attempt to relive the glory of its Battlestar Galactica  days, is adapting the novels for television. The first four episodes were released online, and the fifth episode airs tomorrow evening. I’ve read all the novels and enjoyed them a lot (especially the fourth and fifth) and I’ve seen each of the first four episodes twice (and find them promising.) But that’s not…

“A woman is a woman no matter what, but manhood can be lost.”

The title of today’s post (“A woman is a woman no matter what, but manhood can be lost,”) is a quote comes from a long and interesting article from the Pacific Standard: Why Men Kill Themselves. There’s a lot that is interesting in the article, especially about some of the gender differences that lead to a much higher suicide rate for men as compared to women. Although there are certainly wide variations between cultures in the overall rate of suicide, it turns out that “In every country in the world, male suicides outnumber female.” The article reminded me of Valerie Hudson Cassler’s article for Square Two: Plato’s Son, Augustine’s Heir: “A Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology.” The article, a response to Taylor Petrey’s attempt to show how Mormon theology could be retrofitted to be compatible with eternal homosexual relationships, had a tremendous impact on how I view gender and religion. In the article, Cassler allows that “No doubt Petrey would argue that what he is advocating…

What is Mormon Doctrine?

What is Mormon Doctrine?

For decades I’ve been fascinated at the regular conflation of doctrine, policy, and practice among members. We tend to claim the policy of today as not just practical, meaningful, and inspired, but as doctrine. Until it changes and we forget all about it. One example that comes to mind is the “doctrine” from my childhood of only taking the sacrament (and only passing the sacrament tray) with the right (covenant-making, clean, dextro) hand and never with the left (unlucky, dirty, sinistro) hand. Somewhere between the church of my childhood and my 30s, this teaching disappeared from all teaching manuals, missionary discussions, and the gospel principles class. (My search was not exhaustive and I haven’t renewed that effort, but I could not find this teaching in any current materials at the time.) 

Church Sticks with Boys

Church Sticks with Boys

As Dave Banack wrote yesterday, in spite of some public huffing and puffing, the church has decided to continue the relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. They have also decided to continue to seem unaware that the first word in the organization’s title makes it gender-exclusive. With equal concern for the substantial number of youth who live outside the United States and Canada, the Church will continue to evaluate and refine program options that better meet its global needs. The correct wording should be “with equal concern for the substantial number of male youth who live outside the United States and Canada.” The powers that be, again, haven’t noticed that it’s not “youth who live outside the United States and Canada” who don’t have access to scouting. It’s male youth who live outside the United States and Canada and female youth from every corner of the globe. In other words, there are far more female youth without the resources, infrastructure, incentives, support, and awards than…

Religion in America: Who Needs a Church?

The Pew Research Center is releasing the results of its “extensive new survey” on religion in America. In “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” it summarized changes for reported religious identification: Evangelical Christians dropped 0.9% (from 26.3% of the US population in 2007 to 25.4% in 2014), Catholics fell 3.1%, Mainline Protestants fell 3.4%, and “Unaffiliated” rose 6.7% (from 16.1% to 22.8%). Overall, adults identifying themselves as Christian dropped from 78.4% to 70.6%. America is becoming less religious and less Christian.

Women in General Conference: It’s Not a “Primary Voice”

As I watched the first General Women’s Session of conference (at least the first not retroactively declared as such) last night, I was once again taken aback by the vocal styling of the female speakers. As much as I love hearing women speak, almost every time I hear one in a general church meeting it requires extraordinary effort to focus on the message while ignoring the twinge in the back of my jaw at the awkward, stilted speech patterns. I respect and admire these women, but I much prefer to read their words than listen to them. As soon as the first woman had uttered two sentences, I became apprehensive about all the social media posts that would refer to the “Primary voice.” Women are always accused of assuming a strange, forced lilt , as if all those listening are mentally handicapped and need special accommodation in order to understand the message. While thinking about it again this morning, it occurred to me for…

4 o’clock

A few years ago, my sister handed me a lumpy white envelope for Christmas. I opened it carefully, able to feel the jumble of small parts beneath my fingertips. Inside were perhaps 30 or 40 small, dark seeds. “Um. Cool,” I said, mystified.

Recommended NT Resources, Part 1: Translations, Text, and the Bible in General

(Cross-posted at Benjamin the Scribe) We’re 80% of the way through our Old Testament, and the time has come to start looking forward. As I did for the Old, so I will do for the New. This time, I’ll break it up into a few posts, probably a few weeks apart. (Part 2, Part 3 are here.) As before, the absolute best and easiest thing you can do to increase the quality and frequency of your Bible study is to supplement your KJV with a different translation. You can do it with a free app or website, or go old school and buy hardcover. I do both. Below are some recommendations on Bibles. (If the idea of reading a non-KJV application bothers you, see my Religious Educator article at the bottom, which includes Apostolic examples of non-KJV Bible use in The Ensign and General Conference.)

Do Women Count?

Here are the words that President Uchtdorf used in his talk at the General Women’s Meeting:   I am honored to have this opportunity to be with you as we open another general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the coming week the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles will meet with all the General Authorities and general auxiliary leaders, and the remaining sessions of our worldwide general conference will follow on the coming Saturday and Sunday.

A supplementary lesson plan for October 2014 Sharing Time, week 2

I love Primary. It’s my favorite place to serve in the Church, and if I had my way I’d serve there for the rest of my life. This month’s Sharing Time theme is “‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ Came from God to Help My Family.” Looking through the October lesson plans in the 2014 outline, week 2 caught my eye: “Marriage between a man and a woman is essential to God’s plan.”  The topic — the importance of marriage — is one that matters a lot to me. I thought that the suggested lesson plan could do more to make the material applicable and memorable for all children. So just for fun, I put together a supplementary lesson plan that covers the same topics, but — I hope! — makes it more relevant for more kinds of families.  Enjoy! Week 2: Marriage is essential to God’s plan for men and women Tell the story of God creating Adam…

Forgetting Kolob

General Conference is the central forum for official instruction in Mormon doctrine. Conference has very wide viewership among church members, and its influence is magnified by the widespread reach of Conference talks in the Ensign. The last General Conference in which Kolob was mentioned — the star where God lives — was in 1969. In 1969, President McKay briefly alluded to the idea of Kolob as an actual belief: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints always have known through revelation of the numberless creations of God. They are taught that somewhere out in that great expanse of space is the great star Kolob that we sing about in the hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob.” Abraham of old was shown in vision these kingdoms, and he said: “And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones…

The Crucible of Doubt – A Review

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.

Magic and Mechanisms

In her talk “The Evolutionary Roots of Religious Adaptation” for the Mormon Transhumanist Association, Chelsea Strayer hit on one of the fundamental sources of tension between devout and academic perspectives on faith: the distinction between process and purpose. She gave the example of evolution, emphasizing that when she teaches evolution it is fundamentally a discussion of process rather than purpose. Despite this, however, she recounts that: Every time I teach an evolution class… I have one student walk away and say, “Hey, you just told me that God doesn’t exist. You just proved that.” And I’ll have [another] student say, “You just proved that God is the smartest person ever.” I’ll have two students, same lecture, walk away with both of those [impressions]. The whole talk is fascinating—and definitely worth watching in its entirety—but it’s the tension between process and purpose that I want to focus on. Let me give another example of this. Walter van Beek’s excellent piece A…

Temple and Observatory Group Event in Minnesota

The Temple and Observatory Group, which has sponsored other events in Utah, Virginia and New York, is offering a seminar for those in the midst of a faith transition or crisis in the Minnesota area. The event features Terryl and Fiona Givens and Spencer Fluhman. Come listen to the three speak about negotiating LDS history, faith challenges and transitions on Saturday, September 27th from 10:30am – 3:30pm at 6125 Shingle Creek Pkwy, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430 (library). Lunch will be provided. Please sign up on the Facebook page as seating is limited. Note: there are no tickets for this event and registering on the Facebook page is not required to attend. It just helps the organizers estimate the number of people who will be attending.

My Experiment with Five Minute Prayers

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been setting a timer every time I say my evening prayers. This might sound like an absolutely terrible idea and, in some ways I guess it is. So before I tell you how that has worked out for me, let me explain why I would even consider such an idea in the first place. It starts with the idea of the curse of success. I first encountered this concept in Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose. They wrote that when a policy or technology becomes successful, it can be known more for the hardships it illuminates by contrast rather than for the good it accomplishes. When everyone’s situation is universally awful, no one complains. When an imperfect solution makes the situation better for most but not all, it risks being vilified for the resulting disparity. In some sense, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suffers from the curse of success…

A temple, a temple, we already have a temple

Yes, we do, a lot of temples, more than ever in history. We are, as the leaders never stop telling us, a temple building people, and if anything distinguishes us from our fellow-Christians it is our temples. For us the temple is a crucial religious and ritual focus, the apex of our notion of holiness; it is also somehow a link with a distant past, with the deep salvation history of mankind, through Israel. Indeed, one of the themes running through the Old Testament is exactly that of the temple. But what is temple, and what continuity is there among the temples? What is the ‘third voice’, the one of the author, on the temple tradition in the religion of Israel and Judah? We focus first on Jerusalem. It all starts, as everything in the bible, with Moses, with the Pentateuch. Exodus gives a wonderfully detailed description of the ark and especially of the tabernacle, richly decorated, with lots of…

Truth and Contradiction in Religious Communities

A couple of weeks ago I listened to the audiobook of Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction. As that was the first thing I’ve read on the topic (other than a multitude of Wikipedia entries) I by no means consider myself some kind of expert, but I was struck by several parallels and differences between Sikhism and Mormonism. The little I have learned has already helped me to see my own faith in new ways. In terms of similarities, Mormonism and Sikhism are both relatively new religions that arguably constitute a culture or a people (in addition to a religion) and that both have fraught historical relationships with larger faith traditions. Sikhs, for their part, have historically worked hard to stress their distinctiveness from Hinduism. Mormons, in contrast, have recently stressed our desire to be included within Christianity. In both cases, however, the exact nature of the relationship is complex and subject to change and controversy. The contrast that stood out…