The Imaginary Deuteronomists

I enjoy Margaret Barker’s work, but I take it with quite a few grains of salt. One of the basic assumptions of her work is that the Hebrew bible was corrupted by a group of people called the “deuteronomists.” This is derived from a theory in biblical studies, articulated in the work of Martin Noth beginning in the 1940s.

Noth imagined that a single deuteronomist was responsible for producing an ideologically slanted history from the book of Deuteronomy to 2 Kings. Later scholars ran with his idea and found “deuteronomic” influence elsewhere, eventually seeing a deuteronomist conspiracy in the time of Josiah and beyond.

Like anything in biblical studies, what started as a simple discrete theory was turned into THE GRAND EXPLANATION for huge numbers of things we see in the bible. And again, it’s a core assumption in the work of Margaret Barker.

But is it true?

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David Butler, Margaret Barker, and the scam golden plates

“How could the recently-found gold plates reflect so much of the findings of David Butler?”

The answer is, the forger probably doesn’t know the work of David Butler. But people who are attached to the work of Margaret Barker will tend to see her narratives validated in the work of the forger.

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Does religion make us violent?

Religion is often described as a source of violent behavior, and in some cases that may be true.

But what about for Latter-day Saints?

And why might one person interpret religious teachings in a way that condones violence, while another person with the same religious teachings interprets them in the opposite way?

We explore these questions in this presentation.

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Chaos in the Church

Time to learn another big word: entropy.

Entropy is the second law of thermodynamics. It’s one of the great laws of the universe. Without getting too science-y, it basically means that without some kind of an influence that brings order, things tend toward chaos, randomness, decay, and disorder. The normal state of the universe is chaos, not order. By contrast, God’s influence invites order; it brings organization to things that would otherwise exist in chaos.

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Mapping Empathy and Knowledge, Latter-day Saint Issues and Influencers

What happens when our empathy is high, but our knowledge is low? or in reverse, what happens when our empathy is low and knowledge is high?

Data is not the same thing as narrative information, and narrative information is not the same as knowledge. These are very important distinctions that indicate our level of knowledge. Where we map onto this chart has immense consequences for our church experiences, our gospel conversations, our ability to relate to others, and our ability to appreciate the decisions of church leadership.

In this presentation, we explore these questions and discuss some examples of issues and influencers.

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On the Hiring of Aaron Sherinian

What do hiring decisions indicate about the organizations that enact them? For many organizations, hiring decisions don’t carry any particular weight beyond measures of employee competence. For religious organizations, however, alignment with a religious mission is critical.

Latter-day Saints do not believe any of their leaders are infallible, and the same goes for church employees. However, there is a meaningful distinction in perceptions between called leaders who help direct the Church, and hired employees who execute the instructions of those leaders. 

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Feeling God’s Particular Love

There’s a quote from Jonathan Haidt’s “The Happiness Hypothesis” that has haunted me ever since I read it many years ago:

As in Plato, Christian love is love stripped of its essential particularity, its focus on a specific other person. Love is remodeled into a general attitude toward a much larger, even infinite class of objects. Caritas and agape are beautiful, but they are not related to or derived from the kinds of love that people need. Although I would like to live in a world in which everyone radiates benevolence toward everyone else, I would rather live in a world in which there was at least one person who loved me specifically, and whom I loved in return. (emphasis added)

I have long and easily felt God’s love in the general sense, “stripped of its essential particularity”. I know that God is good, and because God is good He treats everyone kindly and patiently. Of this I have no doubt. But am I loved, in particular? I know the answer is yes, but I have long struggled to actually feel that love. 

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When Scholars Dismiss Miracles

What did President Russell M. Nelson mean when he said to “never take counsel from those who do not believe”?

Why is it possible to create miracle-free alternatives to sacred history?

Should we be unsettled when we read that someone has created a narrative of our sacred history that denies miracles?

What is the role of memory in retaining the stories of miracles in our sacred history?

We discuss these questions and more in this presentation. YouTube narration below:

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