I firmly believe that Latter-day Saints not only have nothing to fear from the academic world, but have a divine obligation to learn from and take seriously “secular scholarship.” I believe the Lord when he instructs his people to learn from the best books. However, there seems to be a profound mistrust of scholarship by many members of the church. Two recent episodes:

1. Recently in my elders quorum, a newly married convert of the church asked what resources for studying the scriptures members of the quorum had found useful, including other translations. My EQ president hastily insisted that members only read those publications which have been produced by the church because of the risk of learning “false doctrine” from other books. He seemed utterly alergic to the idea that members of the church might be interested to know something more than what the manuals supply.

2. In a recent post by eccentric blogger Mark Bulter, he matter-of-factly stated: ” The ivory tower is a better approximation to the great and abominable church than any other organization ever was.” Here, the dismissal of research that might cause him to modify his reading of scripture was justified as a righteous, pious act. Meanwhile, those who belong to the “ivory tower”, his slur towards academics in the “humanities and social ‘sciences'”, you know, the ones in the “cult of the natural man”, are depicted as being in league with Satan himself. I am sure that he would like to see BYU get rid of all of its professors in these fields. Basically, the only things he thinks we need to learn can be taught in a training camp somewhere in the mountains, which will prevent us from being infected by these so-called scholars.

Basically, I want to know where this impulse comes from in the church. Does this have to do with our isolated and isolatinist history in the 19th c.? Does this have to do with a demonstrable number of people going innactive who have actually learned something outside of Mormonism? Personally, I remain optimistic about Mormons and Mormonism in relationship to “secular scholarship”, but why do so many of my brothers and sisters disagree?

Historical Mormon Smackdown: Relative General Authority Edition!

Last week, blogpoll went nuts and I made a mistake which meant that the people say that a member of the Presidency of the Seventy has more impact on the church than the general Relief Society President than the general Sunday School President.

In a further effort to fill out my flow-shart of popular understanding of church hierarchy, we have the following:
Which priesthood body has a greater impact on my church experience: the Presiding Bishopric or the Presidency of the Seventy?

The Presiding Bishopric is the governing body of the Aaronic Priesthood (but are overseen by the Quorum of the Twelve and God). They are primarily concerned with overseeing the physical and financial needs of the church.

The Presidency of the Seventy is concerned with overseeing the growth and maintenance of the worldwide church in a more ecclesiastical sense (but are overseen by the Quorum of the Twelve and God). I believe that they also preside over the other seventies in the same limited sense.

Please click on the link below to vote and comment below. I will post daily results and try to figure out how to do screen captures so you can see the final results yourself.

Click here to take survey

Historical Mormon Smackdown: Auxiliary Edition [Corrected; Please vote again]

It appears that although we are meant to pay closer attention to the teachings of the current prophet, this does not extend to his wife. No matter; we plow ahead.

Historical Mormon Smackdown: Auxiliary Edition! [Corrected]
Who has more influence on your church experience: Bonnie D. Parkin or A. Roger Merrill?

Bonnie D. Parkin, General Relief Society President

A. Roger Merrill, General Sunday School President

Vote Below and Discuss:

This poll was corrected after Justin, whose research skills far outweigh my own, pointed out that GA’s are no longer in the Sunday School Presidency and that Elder Bateman (to be particular) was no longer the Sunday School President (which makes the whole darn thing work better to my mind anyway).
The poll is closed until I can figure out what is wrong with it.

For Christ’s Sake 1: Romans

The expression “for Christ’s sake” occurs four times in the Authorized Version of the New Testament. Three instances occur in the authentic Pauline letters (Rom 15:30-31, 1 Cor 4:10, and 2 Cor 12:10), while one is in Eph 4:32. Very similar expressions such as “for Jesus’ sake,” or “for his name’s sake,” or “for the gospel’s sake” may also be found. For the moment, let’s look at the expression in Romans:

Continue reading “For Christ’s Sake 1: Romans”

An open letter to the webmaster (or why out-of-context quotes are bad)

“Happiness and spiritual progress lie in following the leaders of the Church.”
—Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Ensign, May 1999, 37

I love the church, the gospel, and the prophets. I am a particularly big fan of Elder Oaks. But this quote, found without context on the page, is kinda creepy, huh.

Let’s put it in context. It is from a talk about Martin Harris. In it, Elder Oaks describes Harris’s life, emphasizing the good about him. He covers his alienation from and then reconciliation with the church. After covering the events of Harris’s life and his unwavering testimony of the Book of Mormon, Elder Oaks draws the following conclusions.

What do we learn from this example? (1) Witnesses are important, and the testimony of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon is impressive and reliable. (2) Happiness and spiritual progress lie in following the leaders of the Church. (3) There is hope for each of us, even if we have sinned and strayed from a favored position.

In this context, the quote is much less creepy. It is inspiring even. It’s meaning is more fully informed. It is no longer a vaguely brainwashy message from on high, but rather an example of how the gospel ultimately blessed the life of a great man, an example we can learn from.

The church is in the habit of putting quotes up at its website, generally drawn from the General Conference talks of the quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. In general, I think it is a good idea, but they should try to remember that context helps one to understand the intended meaning. It allows us to grasp the whole picture a little better. So, dear webmaster of the site, please stop using a random generator for the quotes we see there. Read them over carefully and decide if the acontextual message you send out is one that we really want to say. From your neighbor, the Mormon.

Um, Ow!

“If you feel that Heavenly Father is not listening to your petitions, ask yourself if you are listening to the cries of the poor, the sick, the hungry, and the afflicted all around you.”
—Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
Ensign, May 2001, 74

Historical Mormon Smackdown! Evo-NDBF Edition

Remember back when I posted a weekly poll…good times. Well, since the Bloggernacle Times has started up again, I’ve decided I can go back to the well, too.

When last we spoke, the Old Testament was making sure that the Pearl of Great Price hied back to Kolob (rim-shot). This week, a reason to really bicker:

Who has the most influence on faithful LDS scholarship?
President Joseph Fielding Smith or Elder B. H. Roberts

President Smith is the son of the son of the brother of Joseph. He was the President of the Church (although not while most of his controversial stuff was initially published). He has written several books for the edification of the priesthood quorums. President Smith refused to countenance the idea of organic evolution.

Elder Roberts was an orphan encouraged into the church by Joseph Smith. He was a clear, forthright, and honest thinker and theologian. Many of his books were written for courses for priesthood quorums. Elder Roberts created a theory of pre-Adamites to explain the scientific evidence as he understood it.

There you go, please vote. I should also say that the idea for this week’s smackdown came from an “a random John” comment somewhere, but I can’t remember where. If you know what I am thinking of, please let me know and I’ll post the link.