In a comment to my post below, Paul offers the following from Bruce R. McConkie on the story of Balaam’s ass: “This is a true story, a dramatic story; one with a great lesson for all members of the Church; one that involves seeing God, receiving revelation, and facing a destroying angel in whose hand was the sword of vengeance. It includes the account of how the Lord delivered a message to the prophet in a way that, as far as we know, has never been duplicated in the entire history of the world.” This is one reason to love this blog. Thanks, Paul, for bringing that to my attention. While this definitely gives me pause, I will confess to being as stubborn as a donkey on this topic.
This post picks up on a theme that was touched on in some earlier discussion on the topic of Bible inerrancy. In that earlier discussion, Adam took the position that a presumption of Bible inerrancy was useful, and I am finally writing a response: Balaam’s ass!
I’ve been thinking of late about immortality and Mormonism. My question is whether or not you can be a Good Mormon and a Good Homeric Hero. I am unclear on the answer, but Moroni and John Taylor seem to suggest that for at least one Good Mormon being a Homeric Hero was just fine.
Next summer I have to give a paper on the loss of hope, despair. Since I have to deliver it and discuss it in another language, I’m starting early. Right now I’m working on trying to give an accurate account of hope on which I can then base a discussion of despair. So, hoping that writing this will help me get my thinking going and that what I say may be of interest to you in some way, I’m going to try to say something about hope in a series of fragments ending with some questions.
I am interested in the question of how to think about scripture and I am an academic philosopher. One consequence is that I?m also interested in how the two things are related to each other. Here are some not-fully articulated thoughts on that question. They won’t come as a surprise to someone who has read some of my other things?another take on a familiar theme. As I understand scriptural texts, they are not philosophical and cannot be turned into philosophical texts without changing them drastically. [FN: Ricoeur has discussions of the issue in several places, for example, in Time and Narrative; in Figuring the Sacred; in his essays on the Bible, written with LeCoq; and in his essay in Phenomenology and the ?Theological Turn.?] I take it that is the unreflective folk-view manifest in LDS concerns about philosophers and the standard interpretation of ?mingling the philosophies of men with scripture.? (My own understanding of that phrase is that it means not substituting common sense, in the literal sense of that term, for revealed truth.) Latter-day Saints aren?t the only ones to believe that there is some kind of contradiction between scripture and philosophy. For example, Alain Badiou has argued that at least some scriptural texts, specifically Paul?s letters, are anti-philosophical as well as anti-rhetorical, but that isn?t necessarily a criticism of those texts [FN: Saint Paul, La fondation de l?universalism (Paris: PUF, 1997)].
In Institute we wondered why God would give contradictory commandments: Adam and Eve were told to multiply and replenish the earth, and they were told not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. These commandments, the scriptures plainly state, contradict each other. See 2 Nephi 2:22-23.
Perhaps second only to regular features as a reliable blog standby are lists. I know, I know, such posts usually generate endless quibbling about meaningless personal preferences. But I want to propose what I think will be a worthwhile exercise. I want to know, what are the five essential texts in Mormon studies?
In my course on Business Organizations, I teach the law of principals and agents. Under this body of law, the notion of “free agency” is nonsensical, since a person becomes an “agent” only by attaching himself to a principal, at which point the person is no longer free. By contrast, in religious studies, the term “free agency” (or just “agency”) connotes free will, which is a complex and deeply interesting topic, though not the topic of this post. In this post, I want to use the law of agency to propose a different way of thinking about ourselves as agents.
Other things have been keeping me busy, but Nate reminds me that I have yet to follow up on my comments about Native Americans and Lehite descent. Nate suggests that: Yes it is true that lots and lots of Mormons think that the Book of Mormon provides the only account for Native American ancestry. Yes it is true that there are probably a whole lot of general authorities that subscribe to this view. So what? I find this assertion absolutely baffling. “A bunch of general authorities — the people we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators; the people who are in direct contact with God — subscribe to a certain view of scriptural interpretation. And Nate’s response to this is “So what?”?? Wow.
As Gordon points out, we all seem to be enjoying our post-Thanksgiving naps just a little too much. Before moving too far on from the Thanksgiving theme, I think it is appropriate to reflect on what Thanksgiving means in particular, to Latter-Day Saints. However, the discussion of what Thanksgiving means to Latter Day Saints raises a threshold question: Is there a distinct LDS attitude, approach, or spirit towards Thanksgiving — an LDS Thanksgiving identity — or are we as church members merely hangers-on to the broad Protestant Thanksgiving tradition?
I admit it — I started this whole mess, in part because I was quite surprised by some of the Historian’s comments. (This post will include some text which is in the comments section of Nate’s earlier post, for purposes of putting my discussion in one place).
I had an experience today related to Kaimi’s discussion of race and hymns. I am the new Elders’ Quorum Instructor in our ward, which like Kaimi’s includes a substantial number of recent, African-American converts. I was teaching from the first chapter of the John Taylor manual, and during my preparation, I decided to pull the full text of the sermons that are quoted in that chapter. It turns out the bulk of the chapter is taken from a really wonderful sermon given by John Taylor in 1860. One of my pet peeves is the way in which we tend to take full sermons and chop them up into paragraph sized thoughts in our lesson manuals. In particular, John Taylor was a lucid and organized thinker and you lose something by not reading the full text of his sermon. Thus, I was excited to find that most of chapter one comes from a single sermon and that the sermon is short enough that at least some people would read it and appreciate it. I decided to make a copy of the sermon and distribute as a hand out in my class. The problem comes in the last paragraph, where Elder Taylor is rebuking the Latter-day Saints for their swearing and drinking. He said: There is nothing smart about all of this. A negro, a Hottentot, or an Indian can do that. There is nothing in these practices that bespeaks an intelligent…
I don’t see it. You view Paulsen’s position as a “rejection of the idea that God the Father had a father who then had a father and so on ad infinitum,” but nothing in the excerpts you have quoted seems inconsistent with that notion. Perhaps you are resting on this statement: “There is only one … fount of divinity.” Obviously, Paulsen is attempting to respond to the idea that Mormons are polytheistic — a most grievous sin in the eyes of some so-called Christians. But whether God the Father is Himself part of a larger plan does not seem to be addressed at all by this statement. For our purposes, He is the sole “fount of divinity.” If there are other founts of divinity for other people not within our realm is irrelevant to me, which is why, I suppose, we do not have more information about that possibility.