Presentation on Belonging

Why do we sometimes feel like we don’t belong?

Who is responsible for belonging?

What are things that individuals and institutions do that decrease people’s sense of belonging?

What are reasonable expectations for ourselves and others?

These are discussion points in our presentation on belonging, based on Ben Pacini’s briefing to BYU-I faculty. Slides, discussion, and resources below.

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Changing the Church

Does the church need to change?

Yes. the church has changed a lot over the years, and will continue to evolve into the future.

But what specifically needs to change, and why? And what are good and not-so-good ways for members to think about change in the church? What do we as human beings bring to the equation?

Below are the presentation, our discussion of the slides, and some of the resources cited in the presentation.

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Getting Along < Shared Belief < Conversion

The Book of Mormon is an absolutely remarkable text of religious psychology. At various points in the text, certain terms are used to make fine distinctions between very specific states of mind and heart. And the consequences of these states of mind and heart are spelled out in terms of social trends in communities.

When I say I know the Book of Mormon is true, part of that statement includes my conviction that it conveys real history of real people and real phenomena. The other part of that statement is that its unique picture of religious psychology is accurate. This morning, my reading in 3 Nephi reinforced this conviction in me.

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On Informed Consent

I consented to be baptized a Latter-day Saint at the age of 8, and my basic understanding was that everyone was doing it, so I may as well too. Plus, a girl I had a crush on was baptized, so I didn’t want to feel left out of that club.

There are a lot of things I was not informed about when I gave my consent at the age of 8, and I’ll offer a list of some of them here.

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A God of Order in a World of Chaos

Why are we here?

There are many answers to that question, even among groups of people who hold the same religious beliefs.

But a good representative statement from Evangelical Christianity is found in pastor Rick Warren’s best-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life:

The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.

…You exist only because God wills that you exist. You were made by God and for God—

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Three Writing Samples

When scholars talk about authorship of scripture, sometimes they look at changes in tone, genre, setting, or perspective as evidence of multiple authorship.

Below are three samples of my own writing that inform my thinking about this. The total time span of these samples is roughly 25-30 years. If you didn’t know it was me, is there any way you would guess that these are the same author?

Scholars often describe a big problem in the field of Biblical Studies, a lack of external controls. In other words, they make judgment calls about shifts in genre, tone, perspective, setting, etc. indicating multiple authorship, without looking at known examples of these things in other places. Well, here’s a personal example. We could also do this exercise with restoration scripture, or with artistic materials like poetry and music. For example, U2’s October sounds nothing like Zooropa, but it’s exactly the same band, just 12 years apart. As people evolve, their communications evolve.

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Learning to think…about faith

If we are serious about learning, we need to be mindful of our reasoning. It’s a process that adds a lot of work to all of our learning, but it’s absolutely essential if we want the best possible outcomes in our learning process.

When evaluating the truthfulness of a particular claim, we need to understand some basic rules of inference in order to sidestep fallacies that muddle our thinking. It’s common for those without this kind of training to focus exclusively on whether or not a particular claim is factual and disregard whether that claim logically supports the conclusion being drawn.

If you have never studied logic, here is a brief primer on some basic concepts (thanks to Meagan Kohler for her assistance!). Or, you can skip down to some concrete examples for Latter-day Saints.

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What does it mean that the church is true?

Is the church “true?” I believe so, and that question matters a great deal to me. Why? Well, for starters, I pay 10% of my income to this institution, and devote a lot of time and energy to it. I have no interest in doing all of that just for the sake of belonging to a community (I can join or form any number of communities) or out of a sense of heritage, or any fear-based reasons, like “how else would I raise my kids?!!” There are a number of belief communities that I have belonged to throughout my life that I no longer belong to, because I no longer hold the beliefs that stand at the center of each of those communities’ existence.
But how does one even go about deciding whether the church is true? There are a number of questions that inform our views of whether “the church is true” or not, and below are the questions I personally use for arriving at my answer. If you haven’t gone through the exercise of writing down a list like this, I highly recommend it as a way of bringing clarity to your seeking. My list:

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