New Liberal Mormon Folklore – The Nephites Left Samuel the Lamanite’s Prophecies out of the Scriptures

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As I have mentioned before,  self-styled “Intellectual” and Liberal Mormons are just as susceptible to proof-texting, unexamined cultural constructs, and their their own set of folklore as anyone else.

In the Book of Mormon account of the visit of Jesus to the descendants of Lehi in the New World, after his resurrection from the dead, the scriptures recount that Jesus reviewed the scriptural records kept by the prophet Nephi.

During the last few years, I have periodically encountered members of the church who have imposed a reading on that portion of the Book of Mormon that goes something like this: Continue reading

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Getting It Wrong: How Not to Save LDS Youth in a Secular Age

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For those of you who may not already know, during the last few months there has been a bit of an intellectual brawl going on among a handful of influential Mormon academics. The most recent verbal scuffles have revolved around significant changes at BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, formerly known as the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS).

I may make some observations about the Maxwell Institute controversies in a future post, but today I have some thoughts related to a specific essay by one of the contributors to the recent debates:

Brother David Bokovoy is a brilliant young professor of languages and literature with a speciality in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East. On December 26th, he published a blog post entitled “How to Save LDS Youth in a Secular Age“.

He begins his essay relating an experience in which he attended a presentation for those involved in teaching LDS youth.

According to Bokovoy’s account, drawing upon the 2nd epistle of Peter in the New Testament as his text, the presenter encouraged the teachers to help the students “avoid the cunningly devised fables that often appear online and instead rely upon the prophets of Jesus Christ, who like Peter himself, are witnesses of Christ’s divinity”. The presentation concluded by citing two LDS historians who had asserted that they had “never learned anything in their studies that had ever caused them to have doubts that Joseph Smith was a true prophet”.

At the end of the presentation, Brother Bokovoy engaged with the presenter to express an alternative, dissenting approach:

I’m not convinced that when LDS youth face challenges due to information they’ve learned through the internet that in most instances they’re struggling with ‘fables.’ What they’re mostly struggling with are fact; facts like Joseph Smith really did marry very young women and other men’s wives, or that Brigham Young was married to as many as 55 women, or that biblical scholars universally recognize that the author of 2 Peter wasn’t, in fact, Peter, an eyewitness to Jesus’ life and teachings.

Instead of worrying about fables, I believe that we need to do a better job helping our students process challenging facts into their religious convictions. I believe we need to alter our approach and stop giving students the impression that there is never any good reason to doubt or question their faith. Instead, we need to help students incorporate questioning as a meaningful contribution to a spiritual journey. We need to stop creating the crisis.

Now, I actually agree with some of what Brother Bokovoy is saying here. We do need to help youth and young adults incorporate challenging facts in ways that are consistent with faith. But there are some very troubling things about Bokovoy’s assertions that deserve more careful analysis and consideration by faithful members and scholars. Continue reading

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Christmas vs “Present Day” – Jesus is the Gift

While quite conservative and orthodox in their views, my parents were exceptionally experimental and willing to break with societal conventions and expectations in raising their children. It was only later in life that I realized how radical we sometimes were.

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There was a time during my childhood when my mother and father became concerned that our Christmas was becoming too focused on materialism and receiving gifts and insufficiently focused on celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. They also recognized the social pressure often put on children that reinforced a materialistic approach to Christmas, even in otherwise religious contexts. For example, at church on the Sunday after Christmas day, the talk among the children in Sunday School would inevitably revolve around what they got for Christmas. And there was often an unfortunate element of pride as children compared the trendiness or expense of their gifts. Continue reading

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Ends vs Means – The Problem with President Obama’s Immigration Proposal

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I just read the transcript of President Obama’s Immigration Announcement.

Honestly, I agree with a lot of the points he makes. As I have mentioned previously, illegal Immigration is a difficult problem. How do we be fair to those who play by the rules, while still dealing with the realities of families and economics while still respecting the law? How do we balance justice and mercy?

But, regardless of the merits of his proposals, as I have tried to repeat over and over: the ends do not justify the means. Good ends can be pursued through unwise or wicked means.

The President cannot unilaterally decide to change law by executive decree. Law must be changed through proper constitutional procedure through the Congress. That is the whole point of the separation of powers the Constitution establishes. It may be inconvenient, but it helps protect us from tyranny.

Imagine if the next president is a Republican. Should he be able to simply decree that certain large corporations will be exempt from taxes because he believes it will help the economy and create jobs? No. The President is not a king.

This is similar to my objections to President Obama’s “Net Neutrality” proposal.

Now, I know that many people are frustrated by gridlock in the government. But in my view, gridlock is a feature, not a bug. It is an intentional consequence of the separation of powers and checks and balances.

There are plenty of people who disagree with me, however, and think that these constitutional roadblocks are outdated and irrelevant to our modern world. That may be a legitimate criticism. However, the proper course of action is to make your case, persuade enough people of that view, and amend the Constitution through proper procedure to rectify the inadequacy.

Ignoring constitutional limits and usurping powers is the wicked road to tyranny.

So don’t let the fact that the ends are good and the motivations good lead you to think that the means are therefore justified or worth it.

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President Eyring Reads from the LDS Family Proclamation to Pope Francis and Religious Leaders at Vatican Summit

Though you may not hear much about it in national media, there is a remarkable colloquium going on this week at the Vatican, hosted by Pope Francis. The purpose of the summit is to join religious leaders from many different churches and traditions in defense of complimentary man-woman marriage.

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Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be thrilled to know that this morning President Henry B. Eyring, of the First Presidency of the Church, addressed the Pope and the other religious leaders of the colloquium and read significant portions of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Continue reading

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