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Category Archives: Scripture

Would Jesus Fit In?

HawkGrrrl asks some questions about whether Jesus might fit into the modern Mormon mold:

Some folks have developed some weird notions about Jesus that in fact differ greatly from the Jesus represented in the books of the Bible (which were written many years after his death anyway). The Jesus I hear people talking about is feminized and sometimes even, dare I say, Republican. As Mormon Heretic pointed out yesterday, Jesus’ behaviour was often much edgier than we tend to think; he would suffer the little children to come unto him, even if there was no other adult present to chaperone them. He would talk to women one on one without making a big deal out of it or wetting himself out of fear of what people might think.

When I read about Jesus in the Bible, it’s hard to imagine a version of that person attending church. What would a modern Mormon Jesus look like? I picture Daniel Faraday from LOST, a skinny, edgy, nervous guy who is the smartest person in the room and unfathomable to the rest of us but with kind, soulful, discerning eyes. Or so I imagine. Of course, if he’s attending an LDS church, he will also have to be dressed and groomed like an Eisenhower era federal agent, and my imagination simply isn’t that good. So Daniel Faraday in a white shirt with a skinny black tie is the closest I can get.

What would Jesus do if he were attending a Mormon church? Based on what’s written about him, here are a few things I think we should expect:

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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in History, Scripture

 

Communalism and the Foreign Past of Mormonism

Benjamin Park of Patheos looks at the early community focused nature of Mormonism:

“You didn’t build that.” This one-line quip of Barack Obama has received plenty of attention. The topic of pundit television shows, talk radio, and a plethora of made-for-Facebook posters, that brief sentence has struck a nerve amongst the American ideal, based on the myths of Andrew Carnegie and Donald Trump, of self-made man. In this country, our national myth declares, one’s potential is only limited by desire and effort. This is a narrative founded by Benjamin Franklin, sacralized by the Transcendentalists, and crystalized by Henry Ford. This particularly “American” mind-set has also been adopted as a core of Mormon culture in the 20th and 21st centuries: the hard-working, forward-moving, and success-attaining image so poignantly represented in Mitt Romney.

Yet such an individualistic refrain has an unusually communal religious pedigree. The verses quoted in the epigraph, which represent a large thrust of Joseph Smith’s expanded scripture, were part of a revelation Smith received in March of 1832. Prior to that, he had previously received a handful of revelations outlining an economic worldview hinged upon communal sharing, principles that were referred to as the Law of Consecration. The basic premise was simple: all possessions, talents, and any other form of ownership are due to divine appointment, and all humans were mere stewards working toward communal stability. To believe in private ownership was to overlook the hand of Providence, and to assume personal precedence over communal need was a severe sin.

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Posted by on August 5, 2012 in History, Scripture

 

Driving the Pharisaism Out of Our Souls

A timely topic from Wallace Goddard

The Pharisees were already irritated with Jesus; He and His disciples had gathered grain to eat on the Sabbath. As if His disregard for the rules of righteousness were not offensive enough, for good measure He claimed that He was Lord of the Sabbath! Jesus sure knew how to rile up the Pharisees.

They followed Him to the synagogue and set the trap. They pushed a man with a withered hand before Him and asked “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?” (Matthew 12:10).

The Pharisees knew that Jesus had often healed on the Sabbath. If He suggested that His actions were acceptable, He would be in clear violation of the Jewish law. If He suggested that healing was not acceptable on the Sabbath, He would be condemning Himself and His previous actions. The Pharisees had Him in their trap.

Jesus, in His masterful way, invited an understanding of law: “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”

Now the Pharisees were in the trap. They would rescue a sheep but not a child of God on the Sabbath? What kind of shepherds were they?

Jesus turned to the man whom the Pharisees had turned into an uncomfortable object lesson. Jesus saw a struggling and stunted human. He reached for him—as He does for all of us: “Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other” (Matthew 12:13). What a healer!
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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Scripture

 

Is Preemptive War A Christian Principle?

By Hugh Nibley

There is no possibility of confrontation here between Good and Bad. This is best shown in Alma’s duel with Amlici. The Amlicites are described as coming on in all the hideous and hellish trappings of one of our more colorful rock groups, glorying in the fiendish horror of their appearance (see Alma 3: 4-6). Alma on the other hand is the “man of God” (Alma 2: 30) who meets the monster Amlici “with the sword, face to face” (Alma 2: 29), and of course wins.

Yet the Nephites consider that debacle to be “the judgments of God sent upon them because of their wickedness and their abominations; therefore they were awakened to a remembrance of their duty” (Alma 4: 3). The moral is that whenever there is a battle both sides are guilty.

Nobody knows that better than Captain Moroni, whose efforts to avoid conflict far exceed his labors in battle. When he sees trouble ahead, he gets ready for it by “preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God” (Alma 48: 7). His military preparations are strictly defensive, and he is careful to do nothing that will seem to threaten the Lamanites; all of his battles are fought on Nephite soil (see Alma 48: 8-10).

We are repeatedly reminded that Moroni is “a man that did not delight in bloodshed” (Alma 48: 11). By him “the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives” (Alma 48: 14).

Any thought of preemptive strike is out of the question; Moroni even apologizes for espionage, for if they only have sufficient faith God will “warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger; And also, that God would make it known unto them whither they should go to defend themselves. “This is a great load off their minds”and his [Moroni’s] heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity” (Alma 48: 15-16). Resisting iniquity where? In the only place it can be resisted, in their own hearts.

Not only is a preemptive strike out of the question but Moroni’s people have to let the enemy attack at least twice before responding, to guarantee that their own action is purely defensive (see Alma 43: 46). The highest compliment that Alma can pay Moroni is “Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon” (Alma 48: 18), who, as we have seen, renounced all military solutions to the Lamanite problem.

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Posted by on August 3, 2011 in Scripture

 

The Meaning of Kolob

Joseph Antley, a student of history and ancient Near Eastern studies, speculates on the concepts behind Abrahamic astronomy:

I am not an Egyptologist, nor do I have any formal training in Egyptology. But I do love the Pearl of Great Price’s Book of Abraham, and I enjoy learning about ancient Egypt. With that said, although I’m confident in my conclusions on this issue, I would encourage readers to take my thoughts on this subject with a grain of salt.

Abraham 3 is such a powerful chapter, and it’s one that I worry is too quickly glossed over by most Latter-day Saints. In the chapter, the ancient patriarch sees a grand vision of the cosmos through the Urim and Thummim. From this vision comes several controversial doctrines unique to Mormonism, such as the existence and nature of “Kolob” and God’s physical presence in the universe.

It is not uncommon to hear speculation among Church members about what Kolob is and where it might be. Theories have been given that Kolob is actually the star Polaris, or the star Sirius, or a star at the galactic center. However, all of this wondering about Kolob’s place in the universe—assuming Kolob is actually a physical star—is “looking beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14). People who have this narrow view of the contents of Abraham 3 never see the important meaning of the chapter, which has little to do with celestial bodies in the universe. We imagine it as being something more mysterious than it is, while really Abraham 3 can be very simple to understand.

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Posted by on March 15, 2011 in Scripture

 

Sunday School Correlation Deficiencies

Dave Banak shares his view that Correlation is Killing Sunday School:

Once upon a time, there was Sunday School, an independent auxiliary whose officers were appointed by senior LDS leaders and whose primary task was to develop a Sunday School curriculum, and commission and supervise the writing of lesson manuals. They did a nice job. Then came Correlation.

Obviously, manuals are still being written and lessons are being taught. No, strike that — manuals are not being written. We are using Sunday School manuals written in the last century, recycled every four years. It is as if Correlation, having successfully shrunk the gospel of Jesus Christ down to a list of a few dozen gospel keywords, has now narrowed the LDS curriculum to a fixed set of lessons linked to the LDS standard works but driven and directed by the Correlation topic list. There is nothing new under the sun.

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Posted by on November 5, 2010 in Scripture

 

The False Gods We Worship

IMHO, Spencer W. Kimball’s greatest sermon, as timely today as when it was first given:

… Some time ago I chanced to walk outdoors when the dark and massive clouds of an early afternoon thunderstorm were gathering; and as the large raindrops began to drum the dusty soil with increasing rapidity, I recalled the occasional summer afternoons when I was a boy when the tremendous thunderheads would gather over the hills and bring welcome rain to the thirsty soil of the valley floor. We children would run for the shed, and while the lightning danced about we would sit and watch, transfixed, marveling at the ever-increasing power of the pounding rainfall. Afterward, the air would be clean and cool and filled with the sweet smells of the soil, the trees, and the plants of the garden.

There were evenings those many years ago, at about sunset, when I would walk in with the cows. Stopping by a tired old fence post, I would sometimes just stand silently in the mellow light and the fragrance of sunflowers and ask myself, “If you were going to create a world, what would it be like?” Now with a little thought the answer seems so natural: “Just like this one.”

So on this day while I stood watching the thunderstorm, I felt — and I feel now — that this is a marvelous earth on which we find ourselves: and when I thought of our preparations for the United States Bicentennial celebration I felt a deep gratitude to the Lord for the choice land and the people and institutions of America. There is much that is good in this land, and much to love.

Nevertheless, on this occasion of so many pleasant memories another impression assailed my thoughts. The dark and threatening clouds that hung so low over the valley seemed to force my mind back to a theme that the Brethren have concerned themselves with for many years now — indeed a theme that has often occupied the attention of the Lord’s chosen prophets shince the world began. I am speaking of the general state of wickedness in which we seem to find the world in these perilous yet crucially momentous days: and thinking of this, I am reminded of the general principle that where much is given, much is expected (see Luke 12:48).

The Lord gave us a choice world and expects righteousness and obedience to his commandments in return. But when I review the performance of this people in comparison with what is expected, I am appalled and frightened. Iniquity seems to abound. The Destroyer seems to be taking full advantage of the time remaining to him in this, the great day of his power. Evil seems about to engulf us like a great wave, and we feel that truly we are living in conditions similar to those in the days of Noah before the Flood.

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Posted by on May 21, 2010 in History, Money, Scripture