Why are we here?
Where are we going?
What does “judgment day” mean?
How does God judge souls?
Is there such thing as “sad heaven?”
These are all discussion points in this presentation. Slides below:
Continue reading “Presentation: Judgment Day is Underway”
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.
Continue reading “Getting Along < Shared Belief < Conversion"
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.
Continue reading “Three Writing Samples”
I finished the Book of Mormon again a few weeks ago. This year, I didn’t have a specific theme to focus on, but I knew I wanted to do a writeup of impressions, and I had a thought to focus on 3 Nephi. It’s maybe the spiritual summit of the Book of Mormon text, but to be honest in all my readings of the BoM, I’ve never really applied myself to understand that book like I have others.
Here at the outset, I want to make a claim about the Book of Mormon in general, and 3 Nephi in particular. If you have never heard of Marcion and his heresy, he was a theologian in the early Christian community who developed a strong position that the God of the Old Testament was not the same God who had come in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. In Marcion’s thinking, The Jewish/Hebrew Jehovah was mean-spirited, ruthless, and cruel, while Christian Jesus of Nazareth was completely different: kind, loving, merciful, and so forth. Therefore, they could not be the same entity.
Parts of the Marcion heresy are still alive and well today, even among wonderful Christians around the world. But Latter-day Saints bring to our understanding a Book of Mormon witness that Jehovah and Jesus are one and the same. And 3 Nephi is the book where this reality is shown with the most clarity. 3 Nephi thoroughly destroys the Marcion heresy.
Continue reading “3 Nephi and The Revealed Christ”
For believing Latter-day Saints, universalism speaks to a legitimate problem and a legitimate yearning.
The problem universalism speaks to is as follows: exaltation is the product of choices in the direction of eternal life (God’s life) that are made by souls who see their options with clarity. In mortality, many of us — to some extent all of us — have trouble seeing our choices with clarity. Some of the reasons for this (sin, rebellion) are within our control, but other reasons for our inability to see clearly (culture, trauma, neurological wiring, lack of opportunity) are to some extent not within our control. So after this life, there will be periods of time where people come to see reality with the clarity that has not been possible in mortality. Universalists are confident that everyone who sees with this clarity will choose eternal life, or that God will somehow unilaterally impose eternal life on everyone, regardless of their choices.
The legitimate yearning that universalism answers is the desire to be with loved ones for eternity. Latter-day Saint universalists see in the statement “families can be together forever” not a statement of possibility, but a statement of divine intention. They view any possibility of eternal separation from loved ones as being contrary to God’s plan, and view the eternal gathering of our Heavenly Parents’ children as being an ideal that is fully within our Heavenly Parents’ power to achieve.
There is a degree of legitimate truth in these universalist ideas, and we would do well to honestly acknowledge that.
Continue reading “A Love Note to the Universalists”
Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world.
And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.
Behold, I, the Lord, have looked upon you, and have seen abominations in the church that profess my name.
Behold, verily I say unto you, there are hypocrites among you, who have deceived some, which has given the adversary power; but behold such shall be reclaimed; (D&C 50)
Nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God (Joseph Smith)
How can I tell when my thoughts and feelings are my own, or revelation from God? How can I tell if an emotionally-satisfying narrative or activity is good for my soul, or would lead me away from God?
The answer to both questions is discernment.
Continue reading “What is Discernment?”
This week I finished the Book of Mormon again, and if I were to guess, I would estimate it was somewhere around my 40th completion of the book.
This was one of the most impactful and mind-expanding readings I’ve ever done. And yes, I’m aware that I say that every time.
Continue reading “The Book of Mormon, Cover to Cover again”
Introduction: Expanding our Categories
Epistemology is the study of knowledge. In discussions of epistemology, it is common practice to make distinctions between belief, justified belief, and knowledge. Generally unaware of these distinctions, Latter-Day Saints have sometimes employed binary categories of knowing/not knowing in expressions of personal conviction, and doctrine/not doctrine when discussing boundaries of belief. We embrace more and better distinctions among these concepts. Professions of knowledge are appropriate when one possesses experiential or revelatory confirmation of a principle; when one possesses none of those things, professing knowledge out of cultural or other forms of pressure can have the effect of thwarting our spiritual progress, giving us the sense that we have arrived at an important destination when in fact we have barely begun the journey. Personal knowledge of gospel truths is a lifetime pursuit, and until knowledge is obtained, the decision to exercise hope, belief, trust, or confidence is a perfectly valid form of faith.
Continue reading “What Do We Know, And How? A Look At Orthodox Latter-Day Saint Epistemology”