The Anarchy of Revelation

I recently finished Jon Krakauer’s book about Fundamentalist Mormons, called Under the Banner of Heaven: The Story of a Violent Faith (I know, I know, I am about a year behind in my reading list). The book was a fascinating read, though often frustrating for its reductionism, historical inaccuracies, and sometimes sophomoric view of religion. However, he does seem to make an interesting point about what I like to call the Anarchy of Revelation.

Introducing Taylor Petrey

We have another guest blogger starting today: Taylor Petrey. Taylor lives in Medford, Massachusetts and is getting ready to begin his Ph.D program at Harvard Divinity School with an emphasis in the New Testament and early Christianity. Taylor grew up (appropriately enough) in Taylorsville, Utah and served a mission in Italy. He graduated from Pace University in New York City. (His lengthy stay on the island of Manhattan doesn’t seem to have caused any lasting harm.) He has also graduated from Harvard Divinity School with a Masters of Theological Studies. He speaks or reads Italian, German, Ancient Greek, and Coptic. He is currently studying Hebrew. He’s one of the smartest and most interesting people I know, and many of my fondest memories from law school are of meeting Taylor for lunch. He lives off of the generosity of his wife Stacey, a former investment banker who now rules the universe in New Hampshire. (States in New England are ridiculously small.)…

Some Thoughts on My Colossal Ignorance

I suspect that I am destined to spend my life feeling inferior to those with Ph.D’s. The summer after my junior year in college, I worked for a law professor and decided that he had about the coolest job in the world. I have been working toward an overpaid tenured sinecure at a law school ever since. One of the disadvantages of pursuing the law is that I am more or less condemned to perpetual dilettantism, constantly dabbling in the disciplines of others. I try to overcome these nagging insecurities by reading books, but I find that this is not working. I am still basically ignorant about pretty much everything. And it looks as though this condition is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

A Guest Blogger

We’re very excited to welcome our latest guest blogger: Ben S. Ben is a Ph.D. student in near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, with a specialization in Comparative Semitics. (What is that? Ben explains on his web site, “Comparative Semitics is a broad language approach to the Near East. That is, I focus on no particular geographical region or time period. I study the major languages from each, more as a philologer than a linguist.”). Ben teaches institute in Chicago, sometimes writes for FAIR, and has his own moderately quirky web site which includes some very useful church resources. Ben has been a frequent commenter here, and his comments are uniformly good. We’re looking forward to reading his posts.

Utah and Massachusetts

I’ve noticed a few interesting statements linking the two states lately. The Boston Globe notes that: In Massachusetts, 16 percent of poll respondents said that they belong to “no religion,” only slightly above the national average of 14 percent (and below Utah’s 17 per cent). (Link via Philocrites). Meanwhile, Danithew notes John Kerry’s recent statement of how Mormonism is mainstream (and how that affects Massachusetts): “I think that over the course of this convention, people are going to see a Massachusetts that’s very much like America,” he said. “It’s interesting: the last four governors of our state have all been Republicans. We now have a Mormon Republican who originally came from Utah. Our state is as mainstream as any.” So the masses of marauding Mormons have made Massacusetts more mainstream? (How’s that, alliteration-haters?). Is this the beginning of a trend? (And did it start with sweet Sunstone symposiasts who schlep in from sunny Swampscott, snickering at silly syllogisms?). Will we…

The Next Apostle

Yesterday in Church, someone asked, “So, who will be called as the next Apostle?” I responded with great certitude, “Merrill Bateman.” Of course, I have no idea whether Elder Bateman will become the next Apostle, but former BYU Presidents have a good track record in that regard. Actually, I didn’t find the question all that interesting because I know so few people who are legitimate candidates that the likelihood of my guessing correctly is close to zero. Only when another member of the ward suggested the name of someone I knew — someone not currently a General Authority, but who has reputedly “positioned himself” for such a calling — did I begin to contemplate the selection process.

Sunday School Lesson 29

Lesson 29: Alma 36-39 Alma 35:15-16 explains why Alma says the things in these chapters to his sons, Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton: because he grieved for the hardness of the hearts of the people to whom he and others had been sent as missionaries. (See Alma 31:6-7.) How does that explain what he says, especially since one of the three sons to whom he speaks, Helaman, was not part of that mission?

Was Polygamy Good for Women?

I think there is an unexamined assumption that polygamy in general is misogynistic, as if there were an equation in our minds and three or four or five women were needed to be ‘equal’ to one man in a polygamous worldview. I am wondering if we might explore that assumption.

Music Notes, July 25

No history lesson today, just my favorite story about one of the hymns we’re singing. The LDS poet Emma Lou Thayne relates this story about her friend, Jan Cook, who moved from Salt Lake City to a remote part of Africa: “[Her husband’s] work had taken them and their three small children there, and any meetings attended were in their own living room with only themselves as participants. By their third Christmas, Jan was very homesick. She confessed this to a good friend, a Mennonite; Jan told her how she missed her own people, their traditions, even snow. Her friend sympathized and invited her to go with her in a month to the Christmas services being held in the only Protestant church in the area, saying that there would be a reunion there of all the Mennonite missionaries on the continent.

My False Dichotomy is Better than Your False Dichotomy

Over at Sons of Mosiah, Bob Caswell criticizes the popular labeling dichotomy of “Chapel Mormons versus Internet Mormons.” (Which, by the way, is the topic of an upcoming Sunstone symposium panel reputed to include at least one dazzlingly brilliant bloggernacker). To replace that outmoded framework, Bob suggests using his own recently invented dichotomy: Internet Mormons and Magazine Mormons. So, are you an Internet Mormon? Are you a Magazine Mormon? Do you think Bob is nuts to give us yet another useless dichotomy? Weigh in over at SOM, where the conversation has been quite interesting.

My Pioneer Ancestors

I joined the Church in February of 1962, as a teenager living in San Antonio, Texas, where my father was stationed at the time. (He was in the Army, studying hospital administration at Fort Sam Houston, in a Baylor extension program.) My parents and my younger brother joined at the same time. My parents were both from Knob Noster, Missouri, near Warrensburg, in Johnson County, about fifty miles east of Independence. Many of my ancestors were living in the area when the Saints were in Independence and probably took part in the persecutions. If I understood my mother correctly, I am related, collaterally, to Governor Boggs. As a result, genetically my heritage has something to do with the Saints move west to Utah, but it isn’t the kind of relation to the Utah pioneers that would qualify me to join the Sons of the Utah Pioneers.

175th Anniversary of the Book of Mormon

March 26, 2005, will mark the 175th Anniversary of the printing of the Book of Mormon. Our ward is using this event as a catalyst to challenge every member of our ward to read the Book of Mormon. Reading just one chapter per day, the entire Book of Mormon will be finished by its 175th anniversary if one begins reading by next Saturday, July 31. Our sacrament meeting topic for August 8 will be the Book of Mormon, and we will stress the importance of the Book of Mormon and its blessings. To keep the program at the forefront, and to build on the collective preparation, we are going to have several sacrament meetings organized around a theme from that weeks reading. On October 10, the theme will be King Benjamin’s sermon, as Mosiah chapters 2 through 5 were part of that week’s reading.


The baptismal interview was proceeding smoothly. “Do you drink coffee?” asked Elder Jones. “I quit,” replied Janey with a smile. “Alcohol?” “No, I don’t.” “Do you use tobacco?” “I haven’t done that for years.” “Do you use any illegal drugs?” “Hmm, not since Monday — just kidding. No, I don’t.” “Okay, just one more Word of Wisdom question. Do you eat meat sparingly, and only in time of winter or famine?”

Chess, Shar’ia & Church Callings

According to legend, the game of chess arose out of a family squabble. Two brothers were warring for the throne of an Indian kingdom. After one brother killed the other in battle, he invented chess to show his mother how he had brought about his sibling’s demise. Another story has an Indian philosopher inventing the game as a way of instructing young princes in the art of war. Regardless, authorities agree that chess was first played in India in the fifth century A.D. From there it migrated to Persia, where it was eventually picked up by the Arabs. The game emerged as an issue in medieval Islamic jurisprudence, which leads naturally to the discussion of church callings.

Highway Bloggery

“Highway bloggery” is just another way of saying “Around the Blogs” since the same title gets old after a while. (It does sound vaguely immoral, but I’ll stick with it rather than repeat myself yet again in a title.) So: -Jan Lynn puts her own unique spin on foreordination, predestination, and why God lets bad things happen: It’s “Puppets in the Hands of a Sociopathic God.” -Jeff Lindsay continues to sparkle, with a post titled “Warning: EXMO Virus alert.” Among the effects of this nefarious computer virus are “Alteration of logic processing, such that the writings of Ed Decker appear to be logically sound” and “Large quantities of spam sent to everyone in the address book.” Check out Jeff’s site for information on how to protect your computer from this virus. -Aaron Brown is at it again, with a post about wacky mission companions. -Celibate JL has a funny, lengthy serialization of her latest relationship. Has she found “the one”?…

Elder Maxwell

Last General Conference, Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s talk was a collection of friendly reminiscences. Last night, the church’s wordsmith passed away. The leader who provided us with the wonderful imagery of straightening deck chairs on the Titanic, and who always seemed to spin off gems like “If we entertain temptations, soon they begin entertaining us!”, is now smithing words with the smith of worlds. We’ll certainly miss him here on Earth.

Happy Birthday Kaimipono!

Our omni-benevolent admin and blogger extraordinaire, the “seeker after righteousness,” turns 30 today. All the best, Kaimi. I hope you get some time today with Mardell, Sullivan, Kace and Indigo and not just Cravath, Swaine and Moore.

Thoughts on the Sunstone Symposium

There is an interesting exchange of ideas about the Sunstone Symposium happening at various other blogs. John Hatch, a Sunstone mucky-muck, has a shameless plug over at some other blog. Dallas Robbins, a vetern Sunstone Symposia attender, has a good rant on what’s wrong with the symposium, viz it’s too expensive, has poor quality control, and endlessly recycles the same issues. The comments at Dallas’s site are worth checking out. They include guest appearances by Dan Wotherspoon, editor and supreme dictator of Sunstone, as well as John Hatch, who as I noted is a lesser Sunstone baron. T&S’s Kristine Haglund Harris will be a participant on a panel at this year’s symposia on Chapel Mormons v. Internet Mormons, a variation on this topic has already discussed ad nausem in this forum. I don’t know if other bloggers will be making any appearances. I certainly hope that the Bloggernacle will exert some positive influence on Sunstone, a possibility that I have…

Humanitarian Crisis

In 1994, to the everlasting shame of the Clinton administration and the then-Democratic congress (which would be replaced later that year), the United States stood by and watched as three-quarters of a million people were killed during a three-month period in Rwanda. After the fact, the whole world was willing to call this an act of genocide, but while the killing was actually taking place, we did nothing to stop it. A similar tragedy is taking place today, a decade later, in the Darfur region of Sudan. It is being brilliantly documented by New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof, whose columns focus on individuals who have suffered horribly, being displaced, raped, and mutilated, watching their families killed. The most optimistic statistics are that 30,000 people have been killed and a million displaced thus far, and that by year-end, an additional 300,000 will have been killed. More pessimistic statistics suggest up to a million dead by year-end. President Bush, understandably wary…

Sunday School Lesson 28

Lesson 28: Alma 32-35 Warning: this set of study questions is long, probably the longest I’ve done so far. If you bother to go through them, I think you’ll see why. If you don’t, it probably doesn’t matter why, but this should give you some idea: In the first edition of the Book of Mormon, Alma 30-35 are one chapter (16). 1. Korihor (30) 2. Zoramites (31-32a; 35) 2a. the poor in spirit (32a) 2b. faith and the atonement (32b-34) 3. Separation of the Ammonites from Jershon (35) This suggests that we should read these stories as a piece, as a story about how Alma deals with different forms of apostasy. Alma’s sermon in chapters 32 and 33, with Amulek’s response to Alma’s sermon, are the conclusion or climax of the story. Notice that the division between chapters 32 and 33 occurs in the middle of the sermon, breaking it up artificially. The result is that we tend to treat…

12 Questions Answers! for Ken Jennings

King of Double Jeopardy, media sensation and newly minted millionaire Ken Jennings has graciously agreed to participate in our 12 Questions interview feature. However, because Ken is averse to answering questions, we will accomodate his request that we supply nothing but answers and leave the questions to him. ; ) Feel free to ask Ken questions, oops, I mean provide answers, in the comments. If for some reason you want to keep your answer secret, you can email it to Matt (matt @ times and seasons). The T&S staff will select 12 answers from the submissions and will post Ken’s responses in a future post.

A Quick, Technical Post to Help Our Friends the Jews

I first noticed through Eric Stone’s blog that some website owners are now setting up links intended to influence search engines in a particular positive way: Previously, the top search engine result for the word Jew was an anti-Semitic site. This unfortunate result was due to search engine technology, which uses algorithms that count the number of links from web sites based on the word searched for (see explanation). Because search engines use these algorithms, results can be changed if enough site owners create links to different targets. (Indeed, results for searches for “Jew” are already changing; I checked today, and the anti-Semitic site had fallen to #2). Here at Times and Seasons, we want to do our part to help combat hatred of the Jews. I consider many Jewish people to be friends. So we’re throwing the weight of our own humble little Pagerank-6 site behind the deserving movement to make searches for Jew go somewhere other than to…

Name Calling

I am a pretty informal guy. With few exceptions, I address everyone I know by first name. Two of the exceptions are in the Church: “Bishop” for the bishop, and “President” for the stake president … unless I know them really well, in which case I tend to use their titles only at Church functions.

“On Equal Grounds”

The story of Korihor in Alma 30 contains many lessons for the modern audience. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most interesting part of the chapter to me is the discussion of law in verses 7-11. In particular, this discussion is bookended by the concept of equality: 7. “Now there was no law against a man’s belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.” 12. “… Nevertheless, there was no law against a man’s belief; therefore, a man was punished only for the crimes which he had done; therefore all men were on equal grounds.” In an earlier post, Jim Faulconer asked a question that I would like to revisit here: What does it mean to be “on equal grounds”?

Book of Mormon (Doubleday)

About two weeks ago, the Church announced that Doubleday would be publishing a new edition of the Book of Mormon for general readers. How does it differ from the one that you and I use? “The new hardcover edition will reflect design changes introduced by Doubleday to make the volume more easily read and understood by a non-Mormon audience, but will remain faithful to the text itself. For example, the new edition will not include the exhaustive cross-references and index included in the volume used by Church members.” The list price of this new book is $24.95 (though you can pre-order on Amazon for $16.97). Hmm … less for more. Not the usual marketing pitch, but Sheri Dew, who played a crucial role in getting the project off the ground, believes that the new book fills a niche: The purpose of this project is to extend the reach of the Book of Mormon. I have wished a dozen times for…

Waugh on Unexamined Faith

The really terrific discussion in the comments on Jim’s “Unexamined Faith” post puts me in mind of a favorite passage from Evelyn Waugh. I was saving it for Epiphany, but it fits here. It’s from an early (bad!) novel, _Helena_, and it’s a bit overwritten and treacly, but, well, some of us like that sort of thing!

Inspired Jeopardy

We would be remiss if we didn’t tip our collective hat to Ken Jennings, who is setting records on the Jeopardy game show. Many of the news stories about Jennings discuss tithing or his Church affiliation generally. My favorite is this spoof: According to a source within the Mormon church, a team of investigators have started looking into the life of this bright young husband and father of one…. “This is bad, real bad,” our source said. “Mormons do best when they are flying under the radar. At our core we are a fragile, shallow religion. One tremor like this game show thing could make us implode.” Our source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said a fact finding inquest has quietly begun on the Jeopardy champ. “We’ve started to look into this Jennings fellow and we want to know how he slipped into Mormonism in the first place. He obviously is quite intelligent and we normally don’t go…