Korihors, Secular Humanism, and the Book of Mormon

The topic of Korihor, noted Book of Mormon anti-Christ, has come up in Mormon discussions recently. The identification of Korihor with various contemporary groups or individuals marks such as illegitimate and dangerous. Boundaries, separation, and vigilance against such ideas is warranted. One of the most popular interpretations is that Korihor teaches secular humanism, situating secular humanists (and often religious humanists) as not only heretical, but also demonic. It is worth mentioning that the text justifies Korihor’s murder on the basis of his beliefs, so the violence of the comparison to modern individuals is something to think about.

A while ago, co-blogger RT and I discussed the question of Korihor’s supposed “secular humanism” in relationship to the Book of Mormon’s place in history. The problem, as I explained, is that the Book presents itself as an ancient text, but that secular humanism is an entirely modern phenomenon. Basically, secular humanism is anachronistic to the Book of Mormon’s narrative. Check out my post outlining a non-secularist reading of Korihor here, and RT’s response connecting Korihor to the 1829 controversy over atheist-skeptic Abner Kneeland here.

We are left with a seeming paradox. The use of the secular humanism line of interpretation in the Korihor account does certain kinds of religious boundary maintenance in Mormon discourse, but at the same time threatens to undermine the Book of Mormon itself.

On Pseudonyms and Insults

Reflecting on the behavior of certain other co-bloggers at Patheos and their commenters on the question of pseudonyms, I was inspired to repost some ideas on this from last year.

Let me share my observations about being a pseudonymous Mormon blogger for over a decade.  There is a common belief that bloggers who “hide” behind a pseudonym will abuse that position to do bad things.  My experience, however, has not born this out.  Instead, the pseudonymous blogger is often the target of rude treatment that is not only socially acceptable but even cheered on by some.

The use of a pseudonym becomes an occasion for those who use their real names to 1) indulge in a false sense of moral superiority; 2) engage in name-calling against those who do not use their real names because they dehumanize the person they are interacting with; and 3) discount arguments because of the perceived unreliability of their source. Continue reading “On Pseudonyms and Insults”

John Gee, Biblical Studies, and Credentials

John Gee has alleged that Biblical Studies degrees at elite universities do not require history or archeology. As evidence, he looks at the minimum course requirements, and in a few cases at general exam areas. The immediate implication of this claim is targeted at David Bokovoy, whose PhD is from Brandeis in Hebrew Bible–the first target of Gee’s “analysis.” The broader implication is that people with Biblical Studies degrees are less qualified to speak about the ancient world relevant to the Bible than others with archeological or historical degrees. Gee has been insulting LDS graduates of these and other programs online and even to their face for years.

Continue reading “John Gee, Biblical Studies, and Credentials”

Does the word “apology” appear in the scriptures?

Recently it has been suggested that the word apology does not appear in the scriptures as a reason for why Church leaders do not apologize. Of course, there are lots of things that church leaders do that are not in the scriptures, but is it really the case that the idea of offering an apology is a non-scriptural principle?

If one searches the King James Version, the English word “apology” does not appear. The English word apology derives from the Greek word apologia, which does not mean to be sorry, but rather a legal defense. The Greek word apologia does appear in the Bible, but because it doesn’t mean what the English word means it is not the best place to look for the concept of an apology of regret and sorrow.

Continue reading “Does the word “apology” appear in the scriptures?”

LDS Curriculum and the Priestly Hermeneutical Tradition

A guest post from from friend-of-the-blog Silence Dogood.

The recently announced changes in CES curriculum represent something much more than what is taught at BYU campuses, institutes, and seminaries. Rather, it is an embodiment of a particular strain of scriptural interpretation that plays a central role in the modern Church.

One could argue that Mormonism was founded upon the question of scriptural interpretation. Joseph Smith, upset that the many religions of his day “understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible” (JSH 1:12), came to see direct revelation as the only escape from a circular hermeneutical crisis. Such was the birth of the LDS tradition’s emphasis on continuing revelation, but it also inaugurated different—and perhaps, competing—trajectories of scriptural interpretation.

Continue reading “LDS Curriculum and the Priestly Hermeneutical Tradition”

Reminder: Faith and Knowledge Conference Deadline!

Nearly 10 years ago, this conference came together as the first dedicated space for LDS graduate students in religion and related fields.  If that applies to you, don’t miss out on being a part of something really special!



University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA

February 27-28, 2015

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 four 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 faithandknowledge.org 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 November 7, 2014 to Christopher Jones at chrisjones13@gmail.com. Notifications will be sent by November 22.

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 one night 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: faithandknowledge.org.



Richard Lyman Bushman, Columbia University

Carl and Susan Cranney, Catholic University of America

Rachael Givens Johnson, University of Virginia

Christopher Jones, College of William and Mary

Joseph Stuart, University of Virginia

…Like All the Other Nations

The book of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament contains an account of the debate over gaining a king in Israel. This text from the Deuteronomic History reports an anti-monarchical perspective revealed some serious concerns about the idea of having a king over Israel. Prior to the monarchy, Israel was ruled in a loose confederate tribal system. God was considered to be the king of Israel. The Israelites did not think that this was a particularly effective governing system because they were constantly being overrun by rival territories with more centralized forms of power. They approached the prophet Samuel and demanded that he establish a king over Israel. In Mormon terms, they wanted to be more like “the world.”

Continue reading “…Like All the Other Nations”

Pseudonyms Rule, Names Drool

Judith Donath, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has put forward an argument that we have been making for years: pseudonyms are better for online communication.  The Harvard Magazine article discusses the argument in more depth, but basically suggests that anonymity and pseudonymity are two different things.

According to her new book, she, “contends that well-managed pseudonyms can strengthen online communities, an idea that contradicts the conventional wisdom that fake names bring out the worst in people, allowing ‘trolls’ to bully others or post hateful, destructive comments without consequences.”  

Continue reading “Pseudonyms Rule, Names Drool”