Call for Papers: Book of Mormon Studies

Book of Mormon Studies: Toward a Conversation

Academic study of the Book of Mormon has never been more promising than at present. Royal Skousen’s work on producing a critical text is nearing completion, and the Joseph Smith Papers Project is making the manuscripts of the Book of Mormon widely available. Terryl Givens and Paul Gutjahr’s work has provided a basic outline on the reception history of the book. Brant Gardner has provided students of the Book of Mormon with a richly sourced and substantive commentary. Grant Hardy has introduced the content and the depth of the Book of Mormon into the larger academic world, and scholars associated with Community of Christ have recently made a case for renewed interest in the volume. The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies has begun to provide a space where various kinds of serious research on the book can be published. Book of Mormon Central has laid the foundation for a comprehensive archive of previous scholarly work. The Mormon Theology Seminar has begun assembling a body of close theological readings of specific texts. And promisingly, non-Mormon academic presses and journals have begun to publish important work on the Book of Mormon.

In the hopes of furthering all these developments, and of encouraging the pursuit of other directions, we would like to announce a conference to be held on October 13–14, 2017 at Utah State University. The purpose of the conference is twofold. First, we wish to gather scholars invested in serious academic study of the Book of Mormon and provide them with a venue to present their work and receive feedback and criticism. Ultimately, we aim to foster a community of academics interested in the Book of Mormon. To this end, the conference has no centralizing theme, but instead invites papers on any subject related to the Book of Mormon, from any viable academic angle. Second, in gathering interested scholars, we hope to use the occasion of a conference to lay the groundwork for a sustainable (but minimal) organization that can sponsor regular (annual or biannual) conferences on the Book of Mormon. To this end, the conference will include a meeting attempting to institutionalize a regular, repeating event for gathering scholars working on the Book of Mormon. We therefore invite the submission of full papers to be considered for presentation at the conference, particularly from scholars interested in promoting academic work on the Book of Mormon.


Three awards for most outstanding papers will be given:
$750 first place
$500 second place
$250 third place
One award for most outstanding graduate student paper:

KEYNOTES: Jared Hickman (Johns Hopkins University) and John Turner (George Mason University)
DATE: October 13–14, 2017
LOCATION: Utah State University

Send submissions to Submissions must include a full-length paper (3500–4000 words, excluding notes), a 300-word abstract, a brief CV (no more than two pages), and full contact information (including student status if applicable). Complete details available at

Announcement: Faith and Knowledge 2017

Faith Promoting Rumor is happy to learn of the upcoming Faith and Knowledge conference. For more details about the conference, visit the website



FEBRUARY 24-25, 2017

The Faith and Knowledge Conference was established in 2007 to bring together LDS graduate students in religious studies and related disciplines in order to explore the interactions between religious faith and scholarship. During the past five conferences, students have shared their experiences in the church and the academy and the new ideas that have emerged as a result. Papers and conversations provided thought-provoking historical, exegetical, and theoretical insights and compelling models of how to reconcile one’s discipleship with scholarly discipline.

In keeping with these past objectives, we invite graduate students and early career scholars in religious studies and related disciplines (e.g., women’s studies, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, history, literature, etc.) to join the conversation. We welcome proposals addressing historical, exegetical, and theoretical issues that arise from the intersections of LDS religious experience and academic scholarship. Final papers presented at the conference should be brief, pointed comments of ten to fifteen minutes. Please visit for more information on themes and topics explored at previous years’ conferences.

Proposals should include a paper abstract of no more than 250 words and a brief CV. Please submit proposals by December 2, 2016 to Christopher Jones at chrisjones13 AT gmail PERIOD com. Notifications of acceptance or rejection will be sent by December 16, 2016.

The registration fee will be $25 for graduate students and $50 for early career scholars. For individuals whose paper proposals are accepted, hotel accommodations for two nights and all meals on Saturday will be provided; travel expenses will be reimbursed based on a sliding scale.

Further information will be posted on the website


Richard Lyman Bushman, Columbia University
Kim Berkey, Harvard Divinity School
Zachary Davis, Harvard Divinity School
Daniel Gullotta, Yale Divinity School
Rachael Givens Johnson, University of Virginia
Christopher Jones, Brigham Young University
Joseph Stuart, University of Utah

Redaction Analysis and the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document

We are pleased to offer the following guest post from friend of the blog “Steve.” (Update: An earlier version of this post did not preserve correct formatting for the analysis). 

Modern biblical scholarship has developed several literary tools to help understand the origins and development of scriptural texts. Among the most prominent are source analysis and redaction analysis. (Redaction is a fancy word for “editing.”) These can be complicated endeavors, especially when they are applied to ancient documents in dead languages, yet the basic ideas are not difficult. Source analysis seeks to identify the written sources utilized by later writers, and redaction analysis looks at the way those authors purposefully adapted those sources.

Source analysis and redaction analysis can be useful in trying to understand other texts as well, and here I want to apply them to the recently released Doctrinal Mastery Core Document. Elder Ballard mentioned this new program in his Feb. 26, 2016 address to CES teachers, and it appears that the initiative has been in preparation for some time, since the printed manual has an “English approval” date of 2/15. The manual begins with an essay for CES instructors, “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” which includes guidelines that could be very helpful: 1) act in faith, 2) examine concepts and questions with an eternal perspective, and 3) seek understanding through divinely appointed sources. As a seminary teacher myself, I appreciate the insight and wisdom here, including

• “Whatever the source of our questions may be, we have been blessed with the ability to think and reason and to have the Lord’s influence expand our minds and deepen our understanding.”
• “During times when we may not immediately find answers to our questions, it is helpful to remember that although Heavenly Father has revealed all that is necessary for our salvation, He has not yet revealed all truth.”
• “It may also help to examine historical questions in the proper historical context by considering the culture and norms of the time period rather than imposing current perspectives and attitudes.”
• And in responding to students’ questions, “Listen attentively before you respond, seeking to clarify and understand the actual questions they are asking.” and “offer to search for answers, and then follow through by sharing what you learn.”

The majority of the handbook, however, consists of a summary of nine key Doctrinal Topics: The Godhead, The Plan of Salvation, The Atonement of Jesus Christ, The Restoration, Prophets and Revelation, Priesthood and Priesthood Keys, Ordinances and Covenants, Marriage and Family, and Commandments. Many readers will recognize this list from the “Come Follow Me” curriculum for youth Sunday School, Young Women, and Aaronic Priesthood that was introduced in 2012, along with the “Basic Doctrines” section of the Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual that was released that same year.

Here is where scholarly tools can be handy in tracking the development of what seems to be a churchwide, top-down effort to consolidate and reinforce LDS doctrinal teaching. Source analysis is not a problem since the sources are readily identifiable. The “Doctrinal Topics” section of the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document (2016) appears to have been adapted from the “Basic Doctrines” section of the Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual (2012; pp. 572-76), and in any case, Doctrinal Mastery itself cites the ultimate source for both: True to the Faith (2004). In addition, there are passages that have been adapted from Preach My Gospel (2004).

Redaction analysis comes into play when we compare Doctrinal Mastery to the BOM Seminary Teacher Manual and then to True to the Faith and Preach My Gospel—identifying key differences, noting changes in emphasis from 2004 to 2016, and then making hypotheses concerning the motivations for those modifications. The last step is admittedly the most speculative, but I think that the evidence is clear enough to allow for some educated guesses.

The first step, comparing the 2016 Doctrinal Mastery to the 2012 BOM Seminary Teacher Manual is easily accomplished by copying the relevant sections into Word documents and then using the “Compare Documents” feature. The two are similar enough to yield immediate results. For instance, the information on God the Father has been modified as follows (underlining indicates additions; strikethroughs are deletions):

God the Father is the Supreme Ruler of the universeBeing whom we worship. He is the Father of our spirits (see Hebrews 12:9). He is perfect, has all power, and knows all things. He is also a God of perfect mercy, kindness, and charity.just, merciful, and kind. God loves each of His children perfectly, and all are alike unto Him (see 2 Nephi 26:33). His work and glory is to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man.

So there’s a change in divine title (actually a return to the TTTF wording), a simplification of phrasing, and the addition to two scriptural allusions.

There are a fair number of revisions, but significant deletions from 2012 to 2016 include

We are to use the earth’s resources with wisdom, judgment, and thanksgiving (see D&C
• [The Fall] has a twofold direction—downward yet forward. In addition to introducing physical and spiritual death, it gave us the opportunity to be born on the earth and to learn and progress.
• [a detailed explanation of the Apostasy]
The word baptism comes from a Greek word meaning to dip or immerse. Immersion is symbolic of the death of a person’s sinful life and his or her rebirth into a spiritual life, dedicated to the service of God and His children. It is also symbolic of death and resurrection.
• [God’s commandments include] having a spirit of gratitude (see D&C 78:19)

And among the additions are

Gender is an essential characteristic of each person’s premortal, mortal, and eternal
​identity and purpose. The Fall In the Garden of Eden, God joined Adam and Eve
​in marriage
[followed by several more sentences that emphasize the nature and ​consequences of the Fall]
• More than passive belief, faith true faith in Jesus Christ leads to action and is expressed by the way we live
• [an explanation of Zion]
• Keeping the commandments will always bring happiness and blessings from the Lord

What is perhaps most striking, however, is the increased emphasis on Church authority, as can be seen in these modifications:

• [Prophets] denounce sin and, warn of its consequences., and help us avoid deception
• If we faithfully receive and obey the teachings of the President of the Church, God will bless us to overcome deception and evil (see D&C 21:4–6).

IndividualsAs we study the words of prophets, we can learn truth and receive guidance. While God gives revelation through prophets to guide all of His children, individuals can receive revelation to help them with their specific needs, responsibilities, and questions and to help strengthen their testimonies. Most revelations to leaders and members of the Church come through impressions and thoughts from the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost speaks to our minds and hearts in a still, small voice (see D&C 8:2–3). However, personal inspiration from the Lord will never contradict the revelation God gives through His prophets.
• Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood pertaining to His Church. He has conferred upon each of His Apostles all the keys that pertain to the kingdom of God on earth. The President of the Church is the only person authorized to exercise all of those priesthood keys.
• All of the blessings, ordinances, covenants, and organizations of the Church are administered under the authority of the President of the Church, who is the President of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The development of LDS doctrinal discourse from True to the Faith and Preach My Gospel to Doctrinal Mastery is a little more difficult to track since it requires comparing paragraphs that are scattered throughout the 2004 publications, but the differences are even more pronounced. (It should, however, be kept in mind that True to the Faith consists of a series of short essays, while Doctrinal Mastery is a cut-and-paste document that often lacks the clarity, argumentative flow, and precision of the former.)

First, a few stylistic notes:

• In every instance, “flesh and bones” has been changed to the singular “flesh and bone,” which is odd since the former expression is scriptural (5 times in the NT, BOM, and D&C), while the latter is a non-scriptural innovation.
• TTTF conscientiously used gender-inclusive language. In 190 pages, the word “mankind” appeared 8 times, always in scripture quotations. DM uses “mankind” seven times in eight pages, never in quotations. One wonders why “people” didn’t work. A stark example occurs where TTTF “A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people” is changed to DM “A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and man.”
• The new title “Prophet of the Restoration” is used twice in DM to refer to Joseph Smith. It never appeared in TTTF.
• DM is especially fond of the term “saving ordinances,” which appears 6 times in its eight pages; in TTTF “saving ordinances” are mentioned only 5 times, scattered across nearly 200 pages.

Changes to subsections:

• The TTTF essay on “Plan of Salvation” was expanded to include subsections on “The Creation” and “The Fall”; a section on “Blessings through Knowledge of the Plan,” focusing on reassurance, meaning, and joy, was deleted.
• DM drops the helpful subheadings from the TTTF essay on “Atonement of Jesus Christ” (e.g., “Universal Redemption from the Fall” and “Salvation from Our Sins”) and instead inserts “Faith in Jesus Christ” and “Repentance.” There are, however, no subsections anywhere on baptism or the gift of the Holy Ghost, as one might expect from the 4th Article of Faith. (Contrast this with PMG Lesson 3: The Gospel of Jesus Christ, where faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end are all given equal weight.)

A few significant changes:

• The explanations in TTTF and PMG of how the atonement of Christ is related to both spiritual and physical death are much clearer than in DM, where the description of the Atonement is somewhat opaque by comparison.
• The section on the Great Apostasy in DM is shorter and softer in its implications, observing that “Although there were many good and honest people who worshipped God according to the light they possessed and received answers to their prayers, the world was left without divine revelation through living prophets.”
​• Unlike TTTF, DM includes an explanation of “dispensation,” which is adapted from
​PMG, p. 44.
• There are a couple of new references to women in the “Priesthood and Priesthood Keys” section of DM: “All who serve in the Church—men and women—are called under the direction of one who holds priesthood keys,” and “Those who are ordained to the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods enter into the oath and covenant of the priesthood. . . . Women are likewise promised the blessings of exaltation as they are faithful to the covenants they have made with the Lord.”
• In TTTF, the covenant renewed during the sacrament is always that of baptism; in DM there appears to be a doctrinal innovation by which the sacrament renews all our covenants, with baptism and the oath and covenant of the priesthood being specifically mentioned.
• There is a new paragraph in DM that has no precedent in either TTTF or PG, or even the BOM Seminary Teacher Manual: “One of the earliest commandments given to man was to keep the Sabbath day holy. God commands His children to honor Him by doing His will rather than our own on the Sabbath, and He promises great blessings to those who keep His day holy (see Isaiah 58:13–14).” While the new emphasis on the Sabbath may be laudable, the opening assertion is simply not true. According to the scriptures, although the Lord honored the Sabbath at the Creation, he did not command humans to do so until the time of Moses—long after the many commandments given to Adam and Eve, Enoch, Noah, the Brother of Jared, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Overall Assessment

Even though there are a few helpful clarifications in DM (for instance, on the concept of dispensations), in general it appears that the new document was not as carefully written or as well thought-out as its predecessors. And many of the choices made in excerpting, modifying, and adding to TTTF and PMG seem to have been motivated by recent concerns, probably arising from difficult issues in Church history, same-sex marriage, and women and the priesthood. Compared to its sources, DM puts much more emphasis on obedience and Church authority, as opposed to agency, personal revelation, or the joys of living the gospel. For instance, the section on “Prophets and Revelation” in DM is nearly entirely concerned with revelation to Church leaders, while the four-page essay on “Revelation” in TTTF is mostly about personal inspiration. In fact, there is very little in DM about the role of the Holy Ghost in providing guidance or helping individuals discern truth from error. (It would be interesting to test these observations by comparing the new Doctrinal Mastery scriptures with the current Scriptural Mastery scriptures. Out of a total of 100, twenty-three have been replaced.)

In reading nearly any section of TTTF alongside the corresponding DM paragraph, the differences are striking. True to the Faith is written in the second-person voice, addressing youth directly and individually. It quotes scripture, offers reasons, acknowledges feelings, and suggests applications. In general, its tone is one of gentleness, persuasion, and invitation. Doctrinal Mastery takes the form of more hard-edged, propositional statements, which can make it sound like a creed or a catechism. Some of the disparity is due to length, of course, but even the relatively concise doctrinal summaries in Preach My Gospel are, at least to my ear, much warmer and more appealing.

There is always a danger of reductionism when choosing just a few key themes from the rich teachings of the scriptures and the Restoration. That is to say, any system of belief that is constructed from a set of doctrinal statements may answer some questions or make sense to some believers, while leaving out other aspects of our religion that speak more powerfully to young people with different concerns or sensibilities. In any case, the challenge of helping the next generation of Latter-day Saints develop and sustain faith is one of the most daunting, and important, tasks of our time. However effective or ineffective Doctrinal Mastery may turn out to be, we are fortunate that True to the Faith and Preach My Gospel are still readily available as resources.

Give Mormon liberals a break

The follow post reproduces a post at M* nearly identically. 

Spending any time at all on social media can rapidly distort your sense of reality when it comes to what most Mormons believe. We often forget that more than half of Mormons live outside of the United States and that almost none of these people care about the petty concerns of the various factions out there. In my relatively conservative ward in rural South Dakota, most people don’t follow any of the blog-based battles. Most people are simply too busy getting kids to and from school and various events, as well as doing their callings and trying to find time to go to the temple, to worry about the latest outrage fest.

But every once in a while I follow some on-line conversation down the rabbit hole and end up shaking my head at the angst among various factions. And apparently — unbeknownst to me — there are a LOT of apologist Mormons who hate Mormon liberals. And I am not talking about slight disagreements — I am talking about real hatred (at least in their on-line expressions).

I am not going to defend everything ever Mormon has ever done in the liberal world. I am sure there are mistakes and exaggerations out there.

But I will defend my vision of the importance of liberalism, and it is really quite simple: Satan is happy to use deception to convince people not to be religious and not to believe in the Church. Good liberals simply point out the deception and provide another way of looking at things that supports a faithful point of view.

So imagine you were on the Sanhedrin when Christ was brought up for trial (see Matthew 26:57-67). The accusers were looking for false witnesses. I see liberals as the people willing to stand up and point out the deceptions going on. I see the liberals as those willing to point out all of the good things Jesus did. I see the liberals as those willing to protest a nighttime, unjust trial. I see the liberals adding their testimonies that Jesus is the Christ. What could possibly be wrong with opposing injustice, false reports and outright lies?

 One of the questions I ask myself is: what would I have done if I had been in Jerusalem at that time? Would I have spoken up for the Savior? Would I have even had a testimony? Would I have been one of those people silently standing by? Would I (God forbid!) been one of those people actively trying to persecute the Savior?

I think the same things about the events in June 1844 in Illinois. Would I have been willing to travel to Carthage with Joseph Smith? Would I have been willing to criticize the political environment that allowed him and Hyrum Smith to be killed? Would I have been willing to stand up to the Carthage Greys and point out his innocence? Or would I have remained silent in the face of so much public hatred for the prophet?

We are at a time when much of the world is opposed to our prophets and apostles. We are still a peculiar people. So much of the supposed “information” the public (including many fellow members) has about the Church is either false or highly exaggerated. What could possibly be wrong about trying to set the record straight?

It is ironic that many apologetic Mormons who appear to hate the liberals are sometimes liberals themselves. I have seen people who say they are against liberals set the record straight when somebody says something that is obviously wrong like, “you know, all of those Mormons still practice polygamy.” The apologetic Mormon will, rightly, point out that this is simply not true. So, what is wrong with an liberal doing the same thing about another issue?

My wish is a simple one: in my experience most people have good intentions. This certainly applies to Mormon liberals, even the annoying ones who write things you don’t like. Give these people a break. They are not perfect and none of them pretend to be. But their intentions are good. They are the people who see themselves defending the innocent, the innocent Savior and the innocent prophet. Every Mormon who has gone to Church for any length of time has liberalized the faith in one way or another. Don’t let yourself feel disdain for people who are trying to do this on a regular basis. They are not necessarily heroes (although some of them may be), but they are certainly trying to do what is right. And that is a very good thing.

The Quest for the Historical (Mormon) Jesus

In the last three centuries of Jesus research, an important and powerful idea emerged that helped to frame the goals and limitations of the debate: the Jesus of “history” and the Christ of “faith” were not, and need not be, the same thing. The theological claims made about Jesus, like the idea that he atoned for the sins of the world, are simply outside the scope of historical analysis. Historical claims are bound by the rules of modern historiography, while theological claims operate by different rules altogether. The inevitable tension between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith has been addressed by a number of subtle thinkers, though the issue remains controversial. I am interested in a distinctive problem for Mormons who wish to engage in historical Jesus research. The problem fixes itself on three nodes. First, Mormonism attests to additional sources about Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. Second, if historically reliable, these sources make it impossible to separate out the claims of faith from the claims of history. Third, these sources do not confirm the character of an eschatological Jesus that has emerged from historical studies. The additional sources about Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection include the Book of Mormon, as well as some revelations of Joseph Smith and others. In most cases, these sources contain depictions of Jesus that represent an amalgamation of the different perspectives of the canonical gospels and Christian theology.  The Book of Mormon appears to be a harmonization of these different traditions about Jesus. Second, if historically reliable, these additional sources make claims about Jesus that break the neat separation between historical and theological approaches. For instance, the Book of Mormon claims that Jesus appeared on the American continent after his resurrection appearances (the gospels themselves do not agree on these). It is impossible to resolve the problem of the resurrection appearance of the Book of Mormon in historical analysis in the way that scholars of the historical Jesus have done for biblical resurrection appearances. The knowledge of Nephites about Jesus does not follow the rules of historiography, not even the rules of historiography for religious phenomena. Third, the image of Jesus that appears in these texts, who is giving a Sermon on the Mount, or thinking about the atonement, or talking about eschatology in the distant future, among other things, resembles very little any of the major camps’ of historical Jesus scholars. Less generously, even accounting for the dependence of the Jesus in Mormon sources on the Bible, the teachings and actions of the Mormon Jesus diverge from the gospels in a number of important ways. While the Jesus in Mormon sources remains dependent on a harmonization of the gospels, such a harmonization is idiosyncratic and develops those traditions in ways that depart from the biblical sources. In light of these issues, it seems that the quest for a historical Mormon Jesus is, strictly speaking, impossible. The historical sources of the Mormon Jesus are too dependent on claims that lie outside of the rules of historiography. Only one option remains for the Mormon who wishes to engage in historical Jesus research: they may treat the Mormon sources about Jesus as products of the environment in which they first appear. This historiographical claim is not a theological claim, it is simply following the rules of historiographical analysis. The distinctive problem in the question for the Mormon historical Jesus is not then a historiographical one, it remains theological. How does one reconcile the Jesus of history with the Christ of [Mormon] faith? The relationship between Mormon theology and the historiography of ancient scripture remains an unanswered question for me.

Too Close to Call? Daniel Peterson in the Deseret News

Recently, FPR bloggers have alleged that Daniel Peterson’s recent Deseret News column closely followed the author’s summary of a book he was reviewing, without attribution. At least one commenter has asked for more evidence of this claim.

In response, I want to demonstrate the close relationship between Peterson’s review and the author’s work at a textual level. I present the two texts in a linked PDF below, one marked as written by Daniel Peterson [DCP] and the other by the author, Robert J. Hutchison [RJH] .

Underlined text indicates an identical or  nearly identical relationship between the two texts.

Strikethrough text shows what DCP did not include from the original source.

Italics identify the expansions DCP makes to the original source.

It appears that Peterson elaborated a point in some cases, substituted synonyms in others, rearranged the order of some clauses, and lifted entire phrases and sentences in others. A quick examination shows that roughly 80% of the original source is reproduced nearly identically in Peterson’s column, though this quantification is only an estimate.

I am confident in my belief that in an academic environment this would violate any school’s code of conduct requiring original work and attribution of sources. I believe that editors and publishers in most venues would most likely determine that the unattributed work follows the original source too closely in this case. How the Deseret News implements its writing policies is its own business.


Mac and Cheese Apologetics

When I think of Mac and Cheese, I tend to think of the boxed product of tiny noodles and a cheese powder. I’ve eaten it many times in my life. It made many appearances on my plate as a child, and I have many positive associations with it. It was an expression of love from my parents, a part of American food culture, and no doubt satisfied my hunger and cravings many times.

As I grew older, I became aware of several critiques of mac and cheese. I think that these fall into five different categories:

1. Mac and cheese is not the only food out there.

There is a rich culinary world out there that can bring pleasure and sustenance. One’s diet should consist of lots of different kinds of food in order to be well-balanced.

2. Mac and cheese is a delicious, but non-nutritious food.

Some may argue that there are lots of great things about mac and cheese, but it is not nutritious and should not be a part of anyone’s diet. It fills you up, but does not contribute to the things you actually need from food to create a healthy body and mind.

3. Mac and cheese doesn’t belong in this restaurant. 

The particular restaurant that we are creating doesn’t need to offer mac and cheese because it is regularly available in other locations. The cooks in this restaurant are trained in different cuisines. Some of which may seem exotic to those who are used to eating mac and cheese. Their dishes may not be built around any noodle or cheese product at all! Still, these dishes have an audience that may or may not overlap with mac and cheese lovers, and those who are preparing them are not obligated to also serve mac and cheese because some other customers demand it.

4. Some mac and cheese is bad, but that doesn’t mean it is all bad.

Gourmet mac and cheese is delicious, and much healthier than the cheap, mass produced kind. This view accepts many of the problems with mac and cheese, but seeks to reform the image of the product by producing better versions (not just taking 20-50 year old boxes off the shelf and serving it as fresh food).

5. Mac and cheese is disgusting.

In this view, there is nothing redeeming about mac and cheese. It is simply gag-inducing garbage food. Those who make it and those who enjoy it are awful people who are the cause of all that is unholy in our society. If we can simply destroy mac and cheese, we will bless the lives of millions who will thank us and our posterity in perpetuity.

For defenders of mac and cheese, it seems warranted to pay greater attention to the kind of critiques one is actually facing. There is a great deal of difference between these different perspectives. For instance, treating critics in the #2 or #4 category as a hostile attack on the same order as #5 may be rhetorically persuasive, but misses the actual argument. Perhaps a better dialogue will lead to more healthy, and better mac and cheese overall.

Polygamy and Same-Sex Marriage: The Contagion Theory

The recent policy changes in the LDS church treat polygamy and same-sex marriage as analogous in two ways. First, they are explicitly defined as “apostasy,” resulting in automatic church discipline. Second, the children of such relationships receive the highest level of scrutiny before they are allowed to join the church. Why are these two kinds of relationships, and the children of such relationships, subject to such treatment? We might note that other sexual and relationship sins will result in church discipline, including fornication, adultery, and homosexual acts. However, this does not explain why the children of polygamous and same-sex relationships are also subject to scrutiny. Children of fornicating or adulterous parents are not excluded from church membership or put under ecclesiastical monitoring.

Continue reading “Polygamy and Same-Sex Marriage: The Contagion Theory”

New Series: Tips on Being an Independent Scholar

Over the years, primarily under the leadership of smallaxe, FPR has amassed an amazing series for LDS interested in pursuing graduate education in religious studies. It consists of interviews, best practices, an orientation to the process, and things to consider about this career path. It also has interviews and tips from people who have studied at different schools, and even interviews from those who have gotten tenure track jobs.

We have now decided to launch a new series about another path as an independent scholar in the world of Mormon Studies, broadly defined. An independent scholar is someone who conducts research and publishes their work outside the traditional academic framework. Many of these individuals hold advanced degrees, but not all. Many have full-time careers in other fields. Some publish in academic venues, including university presses or academic journals. Others publish in venues that target a more popular readership.

Mormonism has, for various reasons, produced a massive group of independent scholars of various ideological backgrounds, a wide variety of formal academic training, who approach publishing and the goals of their research in diverse ways. In this series, we hope to spotlight some of these individuals, and get their perspectives on this path.

If you are an independent scholar, and would like to contribute to the series, please contact us at faithprorumor AT gmail DOT com.

Why BYU Destroyed Ancient Book of Mormon Studies

Mostly because it isn’t very good scholarship, but also because it hasn’t produced a single new idea in twenty years. This is not to say that the Book of Mormon is not ancient, only that the scholarly field that attempted to build up around it failed on its own merits, which have much to do with the leadership style of those who see themselves as founders of this movement.