Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Inclusion leads to unity

In April 2021 General Conference, Elder Gary E. Stevenson taught:

The Lord expects us to teach that inclusion is a positive means toward unity and that exclusion leads to division.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/04/15stevenson?lang=eng

The importance of his teaching cannot be overstated.

On this blog, as well as my other blogs and books, we include all points of view. I link to and discuss multiple working hypotheses, always hoping this leads to unity (which is not the same as agreement). Everyone who loves, lives by, and seeks to share the Book of Mormon ought to feel a sense of unity of purpose, even if we have different ideas about its setting, historicity, and origins.

Yet leading LDS intellectuals oppose inclusion and actively exclude even faithful members whose interpretations don't perfectly align with their M2C and SITH theories.

Specifically, the editorial policies of fairlatterdaysaints.org, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter and others specifically and adamantly exclude those of us who don't accept M2C and SITH. 

Maybe someday they will change. No one is asking them to abandon the theories they have promoted for decades.

We just ask them to accommodate multiple working hypotheses so Latter-day Saints can make informed decisions. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Consensus building-MormonBookReviews

If you don't know about him already, you should start watching Steven Pynakker's youtube channel Mormon Book Reviews. He is doing more to explore and explain all the facets of the Restoration than anyone else I know of.

He recently posted an interview we did about my book Infinite Goodness, which examines the influence of Jonathan Edwards on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRZ2J2lsksk

In my view, the Book of Mormon is the fulfillment of long-held Christian hopes and dreams, including those expressed by Jonathan Edwards. There is tremendous potential for all Christians to come together and pursue the glorious future that Edwards described, as I discuss in the book.

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On this blog we've discussed the pros and cons of consensus. Often, groups seek consensus for purposes other than seeking truth. They can seek consensus for harmony, for consolidation of common beliefs, for financial reasons, and for lots of other reasons that may or may not be productive.

In other cases, individuals or groups who have differences of opinion can unite by finding common ground in the pursuit of truth.

It has been said that a necessary condition of any "solution" is to live in truth, and to address the facts honestly.

Regarding the Book of Mormon, there has been a long-running debate over the existence of biblical passages in the text, along with nonbiblical language drawn from other sources, such as The Late War.

Critics claim such evidence shows Joseph Smith composed (copied or plagiarized) the text. Believers deny Joseph read those sources because he was mostly uneducated and illiterate.

What both sides seem to have overlooked is that evidence of composition is also evidence of translation.

Translators necessarily draw upon their personal lexicons to express the information from the original source into the target language they are translating into. Thus, if Joseph translated the plates as he claimed, he would have had to draw upon his own lexicon, or mental language bank. And he could have acquired that lexicon only by reading (or, possibly, hearing) the Bible and related Christian writings.

My study led me to focus on Jonathan Edwards, whose works were easily accessible to Joseph Smith, as I explain in my book Infinite Goodness


Monday, September 6, 2021

High culture, but not high demand

I saw the excerpt below in the WSJ and thought of how it relates to Church history and culture. 

As an artist, I encourage everyone to become familiar with the Center for Latter-day Saint Arts.

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High Culture, Not High Demand

‘How many Americans pay attention to serious contemporary literature, art, or music?’

https://newcriterion.com/issues/2021/9/culture-as-counterculture

Kindle and Spotify give us a degree of access to “the best which has been thought and said” that a Medici or a Rockefeller couldn’t have bought at any price, while simultaneously reminding us that almost no one cares.

For instance, if you search for Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on Spotify, the most popular recording of the most popular piece in the classical repertoire is the one made in 1984 by Herbert von Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic. The first movement has been streamed about 1.5 million times, the third about half a million (which tells a story in itself). By contrast, the hit song “Driver’s License,” by the teen pop star Olivia Rodrigo, was released in January 2021 and by the end of May it had been streamed 800 million times. . . .

Of course, Spotify and Kindle are imperfect measures of the true currency of any work. But they confirm the impression that people devoted to high culture must already have: that they are members of a very small minority. Just how small is impossible to say with any confidence. How many Americans pay attention to serious contemporary literature, art, or music? An estimate of one-half of one percent of the population—1.6 million people—would surely be on the high side.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The ideal school

 The ideal school would teach health, wealth, & happiness.

It‘d be free, self-paced, & available to all. It‘d show opposing ideas and students would self-verify truth. No grades, no tests, no diplomas - just learning. Actually, you’re already here. Careful who you follow.
@naval
"When building habits, choose consistency over content. The best book is the one you can’t put down. The best exercise is the one you enjoy doing every day. The best health food is the one you find tasty. The best work is the work you’d do for free." @naval

Monday, August 30, 2021

China wins the future

Twenty years from now, this will be the most important news from 2021. While American and European kids, including teenagers (and young adults), spend most of their time playing videogames, Chinese kids study, exercise, and maintain personal relationships.


China Limits Videogames to Three Hours a Week for Young People

New regulation will ban minors from playing videogames entirely between Monday and Thursday

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-sets-new-rules-for-youth-no-more-videogames-during-the-school-week-11630325781?mod=hp_lead_pos2


SINGAPORE—China has a new rule for the country’s hundreds of millions of young gamers: No videogames during the school week, and one hour a day on Fridays, weekends and public holidays.

China on Monday issued strict new measures aimed at curbing what authorities describe as youth videogame addiction, which they blame for a host of societal ills, including distracting young people from school and family responsibilities.

The new regulation, announced by the National Press and Publication Administration, will ban minors from playing videogames entirely between Monday and Thursday. On the other three days of the week, and on public holidays, they will be only permitted to play between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The announcement didn’t offer a specific age for minors, but previous regulations targeting younger videogamers have drawn the line at 18 years old.

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The link on videogame addiction explains:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/tencent-plummets-as-china-takes-aim-at-online-videogames-11627962018?mod=article_inline

The state-owned Economic Information Daily published a feature on Tuesday, saying excessive gaming could have ill effects on children and highlighting experts’ calls for tighter regulation.

“Society has come to recognize the harm caused by online gaming and it is often referred to as ‘opium for the mind’ or ‘electronic drugs,’” the original article said. This line didn’t appear in the updated version. In both versions of the article, the newspaper said gaming addiction was on the rise, affecting children’s studies and causing alienation.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Outstanding talk about BYU by Elder Holland

Definitely a must-read if you missed it:

https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/elder-jeffrey-r-holland-2021-byu-university-conference

Excerpt:


 imagine the pain that comes with a memo like this one I recently received. These are just a half-dozen lines from a two-page document:

“You should know,” the writer says, “that some people in the extended community are feeling abandoned and betrayed by BYU. It seems that some professors (at least the vocal ones in the media) are supporting ideas that many of us feel are contradictory to gospel principles, making it appear to be about like any other university our sons and daughters could have attended. Several parents have said they no longer want to send their children here or donate to the school.

“Please don’t think I’m opposed to people thinking differently about policies and ideas,” the writer continues. “I’m not. But I would hope that BYU professors would be bridging those gaps between faith and intellect and would be sending out students that are ready to do the same in loving, intelligent and articulate ways. Yet, I fear that some faculty are not supportive of the Church's doctrines and policies and choose to criticize them publicly. There are consequences to this. After having served a full-time mission and marrying her husband in the temple, a friend of mine recently left the church. In her graduation statement on a social media post, she credited [such and such a BYU program and its faculty] with the radicalizing of her attitudes and the destruction of her faith.”[6]

Fortunately, we don’t get many of those letters, but this one isn’t unique. Several of my colleagues get the same kind, with most of them ultimately being forwarded to poor President Worthen. Now, most of what happens on this campus is wonderful. That is why I began as I did, with my own undying love of this place. But every so often we need a reminder of the challenge we constantly face here.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Unity vs the narcissism of small differences

Last night I attended a wonderful fireside with outstanding music and talks. Here's the program.

https://bookofmormoncentral.org/blog/free-virtual-fireside-an-intimate-evening-with-the-welches-and-christoffersons

Everything about the evening was enjoyable, uplifting and inspiring. It couldn't have been better. 

This type of event is the reason why I endorse 90% of what Book of Mormon Central (BOMC) does. I respect, admire, and personally like everyone involved with BOMC . 

I was happy to greet and see several of the participants and those who wore the BOMC name tags (that surprisingly looked quite a bit like my own missionary name tag,* except with the BOMC logo instead of the Church's logo).

As readers here know, I don't mind that BOMC teaches M2C and SITH. People can believe whatever they want.

My only problem with BOMC is their refusal to acknowledge, let alone accommodate, other faithful interpretations of the scriptures and Church history. BOMC is an intellectual dead end in these areas, as evidenced by its Mayan logo.

Worse, BOMC employees and supporters aggressively attack other faithful members of the Church who don't accept their interpretations. It's inexplicable to me, except for the narcissism of small differences.

Here's a common description:

The narcissism of small differences is the thesis that communities with adjoining territories and close relationships are especially likely to engage in feuds and mutual ridicule because of hypersensitivity to details of differentiation.

Unlike BOMC, those of us who still believe what Joseph and Oliver taught about setting, historicity and origins of the text continue to recognize and accommodate alternative faithful interpretations, because we're fine with people believing whatever they want. I regularly link to their material. I want people to know what they believe and teach. We adopt the practice of recognizing multiple working hypotheses because the healthiest approach is to have everyone agree on all the facts and then consider a variety of interpretations while we all await new information. 

Unity results from mutual respect, not from enforcing only one of multiple working hypotheses.

I continue to hope that BOMC, its employees and supporters, will someday recognize that what unites us--our shared love for the Book of Mormon and our desire to share it with the world--is far more important than our differences of opinion about the setting, historicity, and origins. 

We'll know if and when that happens because BOMC will change its logo to replace the Mayan glyph with the actual language of the Book of Mormon--English. And BOMC will recognize and accommodate alternative faithful interpretations.

Will that ever happen?

Probably not.

But meanwhile, we continue to love and appreciate our M2C friends and colleagues and hope we can encourage them to do likewise.

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*For those who don't know, my wife and I are currently serving a service mission.