There are 28 thoughts on “Light and Perspective: Essays from the Mormon Theology Seminar on 1 Nephi 1 and Jacob 7”.

  1. As I was reading about Sherem and Jacob, I kept waiting for “the author” of the article (I was under the impression it was someone else) to refer to or quote Kevin Christensen’s article on Sherem and Jacob and Barker, amazed they knew so much but hadn’t referenced it. I went to the top to see who the author was, and had a good laugh when I saw “Kevin Christensen”. You could/should have quoted yourself for the great content you had in that article.

  2. I sense polarity, incivility, and an unsatisfying “he said, she said” tension in many of these “Thoughts.” We are warned against such (3 Nephi 11:28,29).
    Must one be increasingly subjected to multiple paragraphs-long opinions, retorts and counter-opinions in the name of “free speech,” seemingly abided by ‘The Interpreter’ editors?
    All “Thoughts” contributions are refereed; can’t he/she/they recommend considered restraint, good will, and tact in his/her/their feedback, when sensed? (I ask that question of ‘The Interpreter’s’ editors and consultants, as well as of some undisciplined writer/contributors.)
    The last two paragraphs in a short essay by Michael Gerson in today’s ‘Deseret News’ seem appropriate: “Those who see politics [e.g., “Thoughts”] only as a method to defeat enemies and advance favored aims have lost sight of something important. We should honor democratic values such as civility, not only because they make our system function, but because they make our system noble.

    “We should treat our fellow citizens with respect because we share a role in, and responsibility for, an experiment in self-government that remains the last, best hope of earth.”

  3. I love the insight that the tau on the forehead, the mark Jacob may have alluded to in his comment on looking beyond the mark, is a stylized cross. One magnificent fruit of Margaret Barker’s work (and of Kevin’s elaborations/explications) is the great light it shines on the conflict between Jacob and Sherem. I see a great deal of evidence that theological and political differences between Lehi and Josiah are replicated in the conflict between Sherem (agent of the second king, who seeks to shore up the king’s political position vis a vis the high priest, Jacob) and Jacob, like Lehi a prophet, and like his father, one who cleaves to an older theology in which there is Father, Mother, and Son and who rejects the stringent monotheism of the Deuteronomist Josiah. For that (and many other fine insights in this essay), I extend my thanks.

  4. Since we are trading quotations, see below. I realize that the subject is more complicated than portrayed here, but it makes its point well and is food for serious thought when engaging in Bible scholarship for Latter-day Saint audiences:

    Elder Mark E. Petersen:
    We must be very wary of the teachings of men [and women] so that the wisdom and the teachings of men do not take us off on a tangent that will get us into difficulty.
    In our line of work, we must avoid sectarianism—avoid the philosophies and doctrines of men which were so denounced by the Lord in the first vision to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Just because we have an avid desire for learning is no reason why we can set to one side any of the things which the Lord has said and decide that some worldly cleric is a greater authority. We must remember that the word of God is our great authority, and we must determine to avoid bringing sectarianism into our instruction. That is vital. . . .

    No matter how impressed we may be with the views and the learning of the wise men [and women] of the world, if those views are contrary to our revealed truths, they are wrong!…
    We can no more accept the wisdom of the world on doctrinal matters than could Joseph Smith. We must be as strong in resisting the influence of these worldly doctrines as was he, and we must protect our students from them just as he has protected us….
    We are not to accept these worldly people as authorities in doctrine, no matter how many degrees they may have nor how much research they have done. They do not know doctrine. If they did, they would be in the church of Jesus Christ. That is the reason they sustain the churches of the world. They do not know doctrine, and that is the reason they discount what we teach and oppose us on every hand. Then why should we accept them as authorities?

    We understand the Bible better than any other people. It is not because we are smarter than they are. But we understand the Bible better than the rest of the world because of the new light we have received from heaven in modern times. This additional light is part of the new revelation of God which has been given to the Latter-day Saints. Just as Joseph Smith, after his first vision, knew more about the nature of God then the best–schooled clerics of the world, so we know more about the meaning of the Bible for the same reason.
    No matter how bright other religious teachers may be, they do not have the light of revelation to guide them. They do not even believe in modern revelation. Therefore, we do not and cannot regard them as authorities in interpreting the doctrines of the Bible. They may do research on the history or the geography of the Holy Land and may know more about those subjects than the Latter-day Saints who have never made that kind of research. We are grateful for knowledge of that kind and believe that it may develop much useful information which can be very helpful to us when properly used.
    Nevertheless, these men are not authorities on doctrine. We must not suppose they are, and we must not put their views on doctrine ahead of ours. Ours comes by revelation. Those men are not inspired. They may be ever so skilled in other things, but they are not to be depended upon as interpreters of the meaning of the doctrine of the scriptures.
    Some may think we speak from a sense of egotism when we talk like this, but of course that is not so. It is simply a case of the wisdom of man versus the revelations of God. There is simply no comparison between their uninspired worldly-wise opinions and the actual word of God as given to us in modern revelation. We as teachers in the Church must teach the revealed word of God. We have no need for the uninspired conjectures of the clerics of the world concerning the doctrines of Christ. That is why we do not send our men to divinity schools. We do not encourage our men to go to these schools. We have had a few go and some have come back almost spoiled, so far as we are concerned, because they have brought back so much sectarianism with them that, as a matter of fact, their actual faith in some instances has been shaken. We do not encourage that. That is why we so much prefer our own training in the revealed word. (“Avoiding Sectarianism,” address to religious educators, 22 June 1962; in Charge to Religious Educators, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: The Church Educational System and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982], 114.)

    • I agree 1000%!!! That quote is precisely what the scriptures mean when they say that Christ taught as one having authority and not as the scribes.

      The scribes could quote the scriptures and scriptural commentaries endlessly; they could site all the latest research and scientific knowledge of the day; they could, with great sophistication, graft the philosophies of men onto the gospel tree. But they denied the power of God & truths of the gospel by subordinating it to worldly wisdom because “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43).

    • I think, perhaps, that we are missing the point here (and I don’t know if anyone will read this comment or not, as it’s so late!)

      Jana Riess, I think, is the person in question. And the question is: Assuming she is either no longer active, or is actively committing heresy, should we study anything she has to say, or look to her for any insights?

      I think that the key here is using the spirit of discernment. The Lord said of the Apocrypha that there was much good in it, that was useful. But that there was much error in it as well.

      I look at Margaret Baker–who is, of course, a preacher of another faith. Yet she has had enormous influence on LDS scholarly thought recently. Is she right? I’m sure she is on a lot of things! Is she authorized? No, and we must be careful to not accept everything she says as true, because it’s not all true. But she has much of value to say, and with the Spirit of Discernment, we can sift through and find the good while properly rejecting the error. Same with C.S. Lewis, who while alive most certainly would not have accepted the doctrines of the Restored Gospel…. yet who can doubt that he was inspired of the Lord?

      So can Riess have value? Maybe; I don’t know, I have never read her works. Perhaps she has some insights to be gained from the Sherem confrontations; and it is profitable to start there, while at the same time realizing that her views on other subjects are no good.

      It may well be that she is of a type that praises the prophets of old while she stones the living ones, like many did in Jesus’ time. Many of the Pharisee’s and Rabbi’s back then likely had great insight onto Jeremiah or Isaiah’s words, even while they denied the Christ. So do we reject the great Hillel, for instance, because he didn’t follow the Savior? No… we just recognize what Hillel is good at and use that, while rejecting the rest. I think the same can be said of Riess. If we accept her apparent apostasy, certainly we should scrutinize what she says more closely, but I don’t think it’s enough to reject it out of hand. The Lord used Cyrus and other wicked people; certainly insights can come from an apostate as well…. as long as we don’t let ourselves get seduced into going away from the Lord.

      My two cents.

      • Vance, those seem to be fairly reasonable thoughts to me.

        25 years ago I attended a lecture in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, given by Emanuel Tov, who spoke on the dead sea scrolls. In attendance on the stand was then-Elder Russel M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. Elder Holland conducted the meeting. Tov gave an excellent lecture and Elder Holland indicated afterward that he considered it excellent himself and even said that if the building wasn’t a dedicated house of the Lord that we would all have applauded.

        But neither of these apostles were there to learn new doctrine or to obtain an improved interpretation of any scriptural text from this fine Jewish scholar, who did not believe that Jesus was/is the Christ. Neither of them could be taught doctrine about God and the plan of salvation by Tov. But both of them wanted to know more about the DSS, which were a popular subject of scholarly study at that time, and Tov was an expert. So they enjoyed learning from him, as did I.

        Here is another instructive little episode, taken from the life of Elder McConkie (as written by his now-deceased son Joseph, chapter 14 of The Bruce R. McConkie story):

        While returning from a conference assignment, he was reading one of those books while waiting for a plane and discovered some material by a sectarian scholar that harmonized perfectly with the restored gospel. As he boarded his flight, he met Marion G. Romney, then a member of the First Presidency, who was also returning from an assignment. He said, “President Romney, I have got to read this to you. This is really good stuff,” and proceeded to share his newfound treasure. When he was finished, President Romney said, “Bruce, I have to tell you a story. A few years ago I found something that I thought was remarkable confirmation of Mormonism written by one of the world’s great scholars. I read it to J. Reuben Clark, and he said, ‘Look, Marion, when you read things from the great scholars of the world and they don’t agree with us, so what? And when you read something like that and you find they are right on the mark and they agree with us, so what?'”
        My father thought that a good lesson. We err when we seek confirmation for our doctrines from the world.

        Personally, I suppose that if some scholar of the world named Barker or Shipps (or whomever) studies our scriptures or doctrine or history and gives an opinion on it, I am glad when it is friendly, but it carries no substantive weight with me, for the reasons given by all of these apostles. (History, culture, geography, and lingustics are often another matter.)

        I won’t look to the scholars of the world for my interpretations of Old Testament texts, nor to quasi “members” who publicly speak critically of the Brethren so often. I don’t think Brothers Joseph and Brigham would either if they lived in our day.

        • Thanks for the response!

          I would like to disagree, though, because your way is perilously close to saying “why study at all? It’s not saving!”

          Take, for instance, John W. Welch’s “Legal cases in the Book of Mormon.” Fascinating stuff, to my mind. He has lots of insights, and places Sherem, Abinidi’s trial, Nehor, Korihor, and others into proper ancient Israelite context. It’s good stuff.

          But… does it matter, really? It’s not going to lead anyone to salvation, most likely. I mean, how many people are going to say “I was all set to disbelieve the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith until I read how Alma followed Leviticus precisely with regards to apostate cities, before Ammonihah was destroyed! I’m convinced! Where’s the font?” Highly unlikely scenario.

          So why study it? It’s not part of repentance, faith, baptism, etc.

          In that regard, what is the difference between a text from Welch, or a text from Shipps or Baker? Are they valuable? Is only Welch valuable? What if he apostatizes… does that invalidate his work done while he was a faithful member? Are none of them worthwhile and we should ignore it all and only focus on the standard works–certainly a reasonable answer as well. Either scholarly study and texts have value or they do not. Certainly if they do, skepticism is warranted (after all, there are lots of faithful members who promote all sorts of contradictory theories of Book of Mormon geography–they can’t all be right!).

          I personally think scholarly study has merit, and it is best to read and study and take what is good and discard what is not. I’m not looking to confirm our doctrine (in many ways, we don’t even have doctrine in lots of these areas!); but to find a new way to think. Maybe someone has a thought that proves fruitful, after all–even if I disagree with them on many or even almost everything.

          • Vance,
            The difference is between the worth of the scholarship of the world, and the worth of the scholarship of true believers (like Jack Welch).

            But you are asking a question that strikes at the heart of the justification for the very existence of NAMI and Interpreter and the BYU RSC and FAIR.

            I think Elder Holland answered that question last November:

            “But any scholarly endeavor at BYU—and certainly anything coming under the rubric of the Maxwell Institute—must never principally be characterized by stowing one’s faith in a locker while we have a great exchange with those not of our faith. … ‘Bracketing your faith’ is what those in the field call it and it does not apply at Brigham Young University.”

            “So if the university is to reflect the best the Church has to offer by way of a world-class academic endeavor, no apologies to anyone, then the Neal A. Maxwell Institute must see itself as among the best the university has to offer as a faithful, rich, rewarding center of faith-promoting gospel scholarship enlivened by remarkable disciple-scholars.”

            https://www.lds.org/church/news/be-faithful-disciple-scholars-even-in-difficulty-elder-holland-says-at-maxwell-institute?lang=eng

            Note Elder Holland said, “Faith-promoting gospel scholarship.”

            In my view, Pres. Clark, Pres. Romney, Elder McConkie and Elder Petersen all answered the question with great clarity of whether Barker and Shipps scholarship has much value for Latter-day Saints, fine people that they may be.

            • I am unclear how faithful saints doing good faithful work implies, much less requires, the denial of scholarship to non-LDS. I prefer what I seem to remember from Joseph and Brigham, that we are willing to take and understand truth regardless of its source.

  5. Since we are trading quotations, see below. I realize that the subject is more complicated than portrayed here, but it makes its point well and is food for serious thought when engaging in Bible scholarship for Latter-day Saint audiences:

    Elder Mark E. Petersen:
    We must be very wary of the teachings of men [and women] so that the wisdom and the teachings of men do not take us off on a tangent that will get us into difficulty.
    In our line of work, we must avoid sectarianism—avoid the philosophies and doctrines of men which were so denounced by the Lord in the first vision to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Just because we have an avid desire for learning is no reason why we can set to one side any of the things which the Lord has said and decide that some worldly cleric is a greater authority. We must remember that the word of God is our great authority, and we must determine to avoid bringing sectarianism into our instruction. That is vital. . . .

    No matter how impressed we may be with the views and the learning of the wise men [and women] of the world, if those views are contrary to our revealed truths, they are wrong!…
    We can no more accept the wisdom of the world on doctrinal matters than could Joseph Smith. We must be as strong in resisting the influence of these worldly doctrines as was he, and we must protect our students from them just as he has protected us….
    We are not to accept these worldly people as authorities in doctrine, no matter how many degrees they may have nor how much research they have done. They do not know doctrine. If they did, they would be in the church of Jesus Christ. That is the reason they sustain the churches of the world. They do not know doctrine, and that is the reason they discount what we teach and oppose us on every hand. Then why should we accept them as authorities?

    We understand the Bible better than any other people. It is not because we are smarter than they are. But we understand the Bible better than the rest of the world because of the new light we have received from heaven in modern times. This additional light is part of the new revelation of God which has been given to the Latter-day Saints. Just as Joseph Smith, after his first vision, knew more about the nature of God then the best–schooled clerics of the world, so we know more about the meaning of the Bible for the same reason.
    No matter how bright other religious teachers may be, they do not have the light of revelation to guide them. They do not even believe in modern revelation. Therefore, we do not and cannot regard them as authorities in interpreting the doctrines of the Bible. They may do research on the history or the geography of the Holy Land and may know more about those subjects than the Latter-day Saints who have never made that kind of research. We are grateful for knowledge of that kind and believe that it may develop much useful information which can be very helpful to us when properly used.
    Nevertheless, these men are not authorities on doctrine. We must not suppose they are, and we must not put their views on doctrine ahead of ours. Ours comes by revelation. Those men are not inspired. They may be ever so skilled in other things, but they are not to be depended upon as interpreters of the meaning of the doctrine of the scriptures.
    Some may think we speak from a sense of egotism when we talk like this, but of course that is not so. It is simply a case of the wisdom of man versus the revelations of God. There is simply no comparison between their uninspired worldly-wise opinions and the actual word of God as given to us in modern revelation. We as teachers in the Church must teach the revealed word of God. We have no need for the uninspired conjectures of the clerics of the world concerning the doctrines of Christ. That is why we do not send our men to divinity schools. We do not encourage our men to go to these schools. We have had a few go and some have come back almost spoiled, so far as we are concerned, because they have brought back so much sectarianism with them that, as a matter of fact, their actual faith in some instances has been shaken. We do not encourage that. That is why we so much prefer our own training in the revealed word. (“Avoiding Sectarianism,” address to religious educators, 22 June 1962; in Charge to Religious Educators, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: The Church Educational System and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982], 114.)

  6. Kevin, this was a masterful review that calls attention to some important evidences of antiquity in the Book of Mormon and some rich avenues for further exploration. Many thanks for your continued thinking and scholarship relative to Margaret Barker and the ancient world of Lehi, as well as many insights in looking at the scriptures.

    I also agree that we should be willing to entertain valuable insights and scholarship from people with whom we may disagree strongly on some core issues. Without that approach, we would loses of knowledge from many great minds, including C.S. Lewis and virtually all non-LDS scholars, and from many in our own circles, including, say Hugh Nibley, whose liberal political leanings and maverick quips on many issues were a concern to some in his day. Thank you for sifting out gems of knowledge from so many sources!

    • Thanks Jeff. I appreciate your insightful comments here, and your always thoughtful contributions elsewhere. And speaking of the always provocative and timely Nibley, when contemplating polarized thinkers, I am reminded of these paragraphs in his “The Unsolved Loyalty Problem”:

      “It can be shown by a most convenient syllogism that since God is on our side we cannot show any degree of toleration for any opposition without incurring infinite guilt. In the fourth century everybody was officiously rushing to the defense of God; but John Chrysostom’s pious declaration that we must avenge insults to God while patiently bearing insults to ourselves is put in its proper rhetorical light by the assumption of Hilary that an insult to himself is an insult to God. Therein lies the great usefulness of the doctrine of guilt and innocence by association that became so popular in the fourth century: one does not need to quibble; there is no such thing as being partly wrong or merely mistaken; the painful virtue of forbearance and the labor of investigation no longer embarrass the champions of one-package loyalty. No matter how nobly and austerely heretics may live, for Augustine they are still Antichrist—all of them, equally and indiscriminately; their virtues are really vices, their virginity carnality, their reason unreason, their patience in persecution mere insolence; any cruelty shown them is not really cruelty but kindness. Chrysostom goes even further: the most grossly immoral atheist is actually better off than an upright believer who slips up on one point, since though both go to hell, the atheist has at least the satisfaction of having gratified his lust on earth. Why not? Is not heresy in any degree a crime against God? And is not any crime against God an infinite sin?”

      “The insidious thing about such immoral conclusions is that they are quite logical. The cruelty of the times, says Alföldi, “cannot fully be explained by the corruption of the age; . . . the spirit of the fourth century has its part to play. The victory of abstract ways of thinking, the universal triumph of theory, knows no half-measures; punishment, like everything else, must be a hundred per cent, but even this seems inadequate.” Compromise is now out of the question: God, who once let his sun shine upon the just and the unjust, and let the wheat and tares grow together, now insists that the unjust should cease to exist, that only wheat should grow in the earth, and that only sheep should inhabit it.”

      Joseph Smith and Brigham Young offered a much more magnanimous thought world, open, patient, expansive, and for me, attractive and persuasive, rather than coercive. Even Alma the Younger, while admitting his desire to “speak with a voice of thunder” confesses the sin in that, and acknowledges that “I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.” (Alma 29).

      It it nice to be able to contribute now and then, while enjoying the delicious feast provided by so many others.

  7. Steve Marsh posted this from Brigham Young. I’d seen it before, but it is timely.

    “It floods my heart with sorrow to see so many Elders of Israel who wish everybody to come to their standard and be measured by their measure. Every man must be just so long, to fit their iron bedstead, or be cut off to the right length; if too short, he must be stretched, to fill the requirement.

    If they see an erring brother or sister, whose course does not comport with their particular ideas of things, they conclude at once that he or she cannot be a Saint, and withdraw their fellowship, concluding that, if they are in the path of truth, others must have precisely their weight and dimensions.

    Let us be patient with one another. I do not altogether look at things as you do. My judgment is not in all things like yours, nor yours like mine. When you judge a man or woman, judge the intentions of the heart. It is not by words, particularly, nor by actions, that men will be judged in the great day of the Lord; but, in connection with words and actions, the sentiments and intentions of the heart will be taken, and by these will men be judged.”
    Brigham Young

  8. The review begins with this quotation from Smith: “[I]t would be foolish to ignore an avenue that could potentially provide new insights into the Book of Mormon narrative.” This sounds to me like someone trying to justify something they have written that could also “potentially provide” no insight or poor insight. Anyone could say that about an “avenue” they like, even critics. Such an argument needs to persuade by strength of evidence and reasoning, not by calling those who disagree fools.

    In this case, the reviewer gives us this: “what Messianism MIGHT mean for Lehi in Jerusalem.” “Smith raises the possibility,” “could have,” “it only makes sense,” “She even postulates,” “might have known,” all of which qualifiers must be present to be intellectually honest, but none of which give one any confidence in what is presented–near fiction. To me, this is what is called “looking beyond the mark.”

    Unlike the review author of this essay, I personally fail to see any value in such speculation. Also unlike the author, I have no interest in disagreements between authors-scholars (Smith-Barker) on such subjects, but allow others to enjoy such exercises all they please (such as the reviewer).

    I do not believe an Old Testament prophetess had any substantial influence over Lehi’s prophetic ministry or the Book of Mormon and that such ideas are pure speculation. I think the Brass Plates had enormous influence, as did the revelations of God (Lehi’s dreams and visions).

    If my views are deemed uncharitable because they point out the weakness in someone’s scholarship or reasoning, I would disagree.

    Further, I see speculative opinion from Jana Reiss commended by this reviewer, but after reading of her criticisms of the Brethren and church policies (for years) in her Religion News blogs and reposts in the Salt Lake Tribune, I find myself in strong disagreement there as well. Jacob was a prophet filled with the spirit of discernment, Sherem was an anti-Christ; alternate readings by critics won’t change that.

    • Rather than calling people fools, Julie Smith’s comment invokes the Biblical wisdom tradition embodied in Proverbs that frequently contrasts those who seek wisdom and knowledge, and those hate knowledge and delight in scorn (e.g. Prov. 1:22). It’s not derisive in her essay, but an apt call to personal introspection. As she has recently completed an 900+ page commentary on the Gospel of Mark, as part of the BYU New Testament Commentary, a significant achievement and honor. I think that she, more than most, demonstrates her status as one who both seeks and and dispenses knowledge.

      But thanks for you permission to explore scripture and knowledge. I enjoy doing so, find that it leads to the expansion of my mind and the enlargement of my soul, both qualities that have a great deal to do with whether and how a person experiences charity, which does not typically demonstrate narrow-mindedness and a contracted soul.

      Since I see Jacob’s mark as an invocation the priestly anointing with the Name, I think it can be associated with whether we have “the image of God engraven on [our] countenances” (Alma 5:19), we ought to look to ourselves, to “a change of heart… the song of redeeming love” and to how we treat one another.

      And Jana’s insightful essay casts insight into Jacob as a true prophet and real person and shows Sherem as an anti-Christ. She’s not re-visionary, but enlightening and faith affirming in this essay. I rather you have relied on hostility rather than perception. You posted in a similar vein on Steve Smoot’s blog, where he reviewed these two books a while back, similarly ignoring the actual content of her essay.

      Recommended reading: Christ’s Emancipation of Women in the New Testament by Lynn Hilton Wilson.

      • Kevin,
        Glad you enjoy what you do.

        I am often called narrow-minded, hostile, contracted, and so forth by those who don’t mind the philosophies of men/women woven into what they consume, so no problem, I am used to it.

        I see it this way. If I read someone’s blog (like a Julie or Jana), and I find it contains feminist or LGBT activism and/or constant criticism of the Brethren, that will make me very wary of their writings I find in other venues. I, like Kent Jackson, don’t think they can separate what they promote in their blogs from what they write elsewhere.

        If I find a reviewer (like you for example) praising such writings (despite all those qualifiers), then I think I have a perfect right to point out a contrary view. And since when is it narrow and contracted to disagree with a review?

        But I always get violent reactions from feminist/LGBT activists when I sound the alarm about their work, whether they be open about it or more subtle like these authors.

        In one of his prophetic messages to all the church, President Nelson warned “Those same threats are among us today. The somber reality is that there are ‘servants of Satan’ embedded throughout society. So be very careful about whose counsel you follow.”

        Jana Riess then wrote this: “I am in that camp. I sit here heartbroken that the Church is not only standing by this regrettable policy but enshrining homophobia as God’s will. It seems that now, by holding these views I am not just objecting to a here-today-gone-tomorrow policy in the handbook. I’m actively resisting the will of the Lord as revealed through his holy prophets. Elder Nelson closed with dire warnings about people like me.”
        https://religionnews.com/2016/01/11/mormon-lgbt-ban-was-revealed-to-the-prophet-as-gods-will-says-elder-nelson/
        and
        https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/worldwide-devotionals/2016/01/becoming-true-millennials?lang=eng

        Am I now precluded from following the prophet’s counsel?

        Having reviewed the titles, and read some of the content, of Riess’ other many blogs, only one conclusion is possible, she is an open and admitted dissident. This dissident is them somehow permitted to write a chapter in a book published by NAMI (using tithing funds). In my opinion, such should not have been the case.

        Like I say, you are welcome to read and write what you want, and I am welcome to disagree with it, but as for me and my house (despite someone telling me I am losing the countenance of Christ), we will see things how they really are and avoid falling prey to the subtleties of the dissenters. President Packer called doing such becoming a Watchman on the Tower.

        Again, glad you enjoy your Old Testament discussion. And I remain free to be able to think Julie’s argument, with all its qualifiers, to be wrong. And to see all of Jana’s writings for what they are.

        • As you yourself suggest, Dennis, your views might well be taken as uncharitable and narrow-minded. At the very least, they do not comport with the attitude of Joseph Smith, who said variously:

          “One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 199; HC, V:499 (9 July 1843).

          “…the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter Day Saints and sectarians was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived it’s members of the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter Day Saints have no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time.” (The Journal of Joseph: The Personal Diary of a Modern Prophet, p. 203)

          “We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true Mormons.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316.)

          We need to exercise tolerance and forbearance in our judgments on fellow Saints, and indeed upon anyone who brings to us their sincere conclusions about the nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We might just learn something.

          • Robert,
            No offense meant, but those quotations are constantly used by various people to get someone to believe something false they are promoting.

            This is what Elder McConkie said about one of your Joseph Smith quotations, and it applies in substance to all of them:

            Joseph Smith tells us of an experience he had with a man by the name of Brown in the early days. This man was taken before the high council for teaching false doctrine. He had been explaining the beasts in the Book of Revelation. And he came to the Prophet, and the Prophet, with him present in the congregation, then preached a sermon on the subject, and in fact told us what the beasts mean. In the sermon he said:
            “I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (History of the Church, 5:340.)
            That statement applies to [false] doctrines of the lesser sort. If you err in some doctrines, and I have, and all of us have, what we want to do is get the further light and knowledge that we ought to receive and get our souls in tune and clarify our thinking. Now, obviously, if you preach one of these great basic doctrines and it is false, and you adhere to it, you will lose your soul. (Mark L. McConkie, ed., Doctrines of the Restoration: Sermons & Writings of Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989], 339.)

            I think Brother McConkie makes quite a point there, worth careful consideration.

            For myself, if I have the choice of going to a NAMI book, with chapters written by people whom I know have unorthodox and/or critical views, and who elsewhere promote the philosophies of men mingled with scripture, I am not going to break a sweat devouring their work.

            Instead, I am going to go to faithful scholars I know I can trust; that aren’t tainted with the false views of the world; that know their stuff and can rightly divide between truth and error. That is their purpose in my view anyway. Otherwise we need no Interpreter or BYU RSC or FAIR. When dissidents infiltrate, I can try to love them and so forth, but it doesn’t mean I have to swallow their theories. If that is narrow minded and these other epithets being thrown my way, fine–I’ll take it.

            But I think it is more being wise and seeking the spirit of discernment.

  9. Thanks for your review Kevin! Nice job. I really like your balance of praise and thoughtful critique. I have wondered if the debate between Josiah as a “good” reformer or a “bad” reformer could be assuaged a little if we draw a parallel to the Protestant Reformation. Protestant movements reacted to the sacraments of the Catholic church, among other things, believing they were corrupt or apostate forms of the original teachings of Jesus. Consequently they ejected the sacraments and promoted a more inward and non- or less-sacramental way of worship according to their interpretation of the NT, not realizing that the Catholic sacraments had some basis in true early Christian concepts and Jesus’ “secret tradition” of the temple. Likewise, could it be that there was a real corruption of the temple and rituals in Josiah’s day–e.g., false forms of worship towards the temple relics, etc–and that he sought with good intention, like the Protestant reformers, to establish a more inward form of worship? But did he, in his zeal, go too far, abolishing those relics and rites that had their foundation in true forms of worship in earlier periods? In other words, can we view the reforms of Josiah as a move in the right direction but also a move in the wrong direction, similar to the Protestant Reformation that got some things right but, in their zeal, rejected many things that were central to the Jesus’ teachings and preserved in the Catholic tradition? History repeating.

    • Thank you. I agree that this could be a useful model for approaching the situation with Josiah, a potential map to the territory, to provide and initial orientation and suggest possbilities. Though as always, the map and the territory will not be exactly the same things.

  10. Pingback: Light and Perspective: Essays from the Mormon Theology Seminar on 1 Nephi 1 and Jacob 7 - Kevin Christensen - The Mormonist

  11. Thanks Jeff. I appreciate your insightful comments here, and your always thoughtful contributions elsewhere. And speaking of the always provocative and timely Nibley, when contemplating polarized thinkers, I am reminded of these paragraphs in his “The Unsolved Loyalty Problem”:

    “It can be shown by a most convenient syllogism that since God is on our side we cannot show any degree of toleration for any opposition without incurring infinite guilt. In the fourth century everybody was officiously rushing to the defense of God; but John Chrysostom’s pious declaration that we must avenge insults to God while patiently bearing insults to ourselves is put in its proper rhetorical light by the assumption of Hilary that an insult to himself is an insult to God. Therein lies the great usefulness of the doctrine of guilt and innocence by association that became so popular in the fourth century: one does not need to quibble; there is no such thing as being partly wrong or merely mistaken; the painful virtue of forbearance and the labor of investigation no longer embarrass the champions of one-package loyalty. No matter how nobly and austerely heretics may live, for Augustine they are still Antichrist—all of them, equally and indiscriminately; their virtues are really vices, their virginity carnality, their reason unreason, their patience in persecution mere insolence; any cruelty shown them is not really cruelty but kindness. Chrysostom goes even further: the most grossly immoral atheist is actually better off than an upright believer who slips up on one point, since though both go to hell, the atheist has at least the satisfaction of having gratified his lust on earth. Why not? Is not heresy in any degree a crime against God? And is not any crime against God an infinite sin?”

    “The insidious thing about such immoral conclusions is that they are quite logical. The cruelty of the times, says Alföldi, “cannot fully be explained by the corruption of the age; . . . the spirit of the fourth century has its part to play. The victory of abstract ways of thinking, the universal triumph of theory, knows no half-measures; punishment, like everything else, must be a hundred per cent, but even this seems inadequate.” Compromise is now out of the question: God, who once let his sun shine upon the just and the unjust, and let the wheat and tares grow together, now insists that the unjust should cease to exist, that only wheat should grow in the earth, and that only sheep should inhabit it.”

    Joseph Smith and Brigham Young offered a much more magnanimous thought world, open, patient, expansive, and for me, attractive and persuasive, rather than coercive. Even Alma the Younger, while admitting his desire to “speak with a voice of thunder” confesses the sin in that, and acknowledges that “I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.” (Alma 29).

    It it nice to be able to contribute now and then, while enjoying the delicious feast provided by so many others.

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