The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards “The Book of Mormon does not supplant the Bible. It expands, extends, clarifies, and amplifies our knowledge of the Savior. Surely, this second witness should be cause for great rejoicing by all Christians.” - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving from George Washington

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. 

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.


G. Washington (his actual signature)



Shortly after the Thanksgiving Proclamation was written, it was lost for 130 years. The original document was written in long hand by William Jackson, secretary to the President, and was then signed by George Washington. It was probably misplaced or mixed in with some private papers when the US capitol moved from New York to Washington, D.C. The original manuscript was not placed in the National Archives until 1921 when Dr. J. C. Fitzpatrick, assistant chief of the manuscripts division of the Library of Congress found the proclamation at an auction sale being held at an art gallery in New York. Dr Fitzpatrick purchased the document for $300.00 for the Library of Congress, in which it now resides. It was the first official presidential proclamation issued in the United States.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

First Principles

This summarizes my approach to Church history and Book of Mormon issues:

“Don’t just follow the trend… It’s good to think in terms of the physics approach or First Principles. Which is rather than reasoning by analogy, you boil things down to the most fundamental truths you can imagine and you reason up from there.” | Elon Musk


Start with the most fundamental truths--what Joseph and Oliver said--and reason up from there. 

When we do that, the narrative makes sense. The New York Cumorah, the translation of the plates with the Urim and Thummim, the restoration of the Priesthood and temple keys, and all the rest.

In the process, we can set aside all the other commentary and speculation by modern intellectuals in the citation cartel.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Comments on Givens' All Things New

I've commented before on the Givens' book All Things New, which places a bizarre emphasis on the word "woundedness" which appears in the 1830 Book of Mormon but which Joseph replaced in subsequent editions.


1837 through present

Neither will the Lord God  suffer that the Gentiles shall  forever  remain  in  that  state  of  awful  woundedness which thou beholdest that they are  in, because of the plain and  most precious parts of the  Gospel of the Lamb which  hath been kept back

(page 31, line 2–6)

Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness, which thou beholdest they are in, because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back

(1 Nephi 13:32)

Alan Hurst wrote an outstanding discussion about the Givens' book All Things New. Hurst titled his article "The Natural Man is an Enemy to God."

It would have been interesting to have Hurst comment on Jonathan Edwards' sermon on this topic, in which he explained how "Natural Men are God's Enemies." This is essential reading to understand the context of King Benjamin's address, which alludes to the concept but doesn't explain it.

Of course, not many Latter-day Saints are familiar with Jonathan Edwards. Hopefully that will change as we move forward.

Hurst's article is well worth reading.



April 18, 2022

A Friendly Rejoinder to Fiona and Terryl Givens’ “All Things New: Rethinking Sin, Salvation, and Everything in Between,” in Three Parts.


The natural man is an enemy to God”: It’s not a rhetorical flourish dropped carelessly into a single Book of Mormon sermon. It would make a decent subtitle for the whole book, which begins with God telling a prophet His own chosen people are so corrupt that He’s about to destroy them, and then plays variations on the same theme for most of the next 530 pages.

Testing the simulation

For those interested in physics and simulation theory, here's a helpful introduction/overview:


24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

(Abraham 3:24–25)

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Interfaith fireside in Lake Oswego, Oregon

Last Sunday (Nov 6, 2022) a wonderful interfaith fireside titled "Building Bridges" took place here in Oregon in the Lake Oswego stake center (near the Portland temple).

The first speaker was from the BYU Law School who had recently returned from Vietnam. She did a nice job talking about natural bridges made from living roots (see slides below).

The other speakers included a rabbi, a gay Christian minister whose sister wouldn't be in the same room as his husband, a female minister who met with a group of 5 Jewish, 5 Muslim, and 5 Christian women for many years, black minister known for energetic preaching whose wife gave the opening prayer and who talked about the Black experience with discrimination, and a Muslim from Yemen who is President of the Muslim Education Trust in Tigard, Or. 

The black minister said white ministers ask him what book they should read to understand. He tells them, don't read a book, but come walk with me. Everyone has reasons to think and feel what they do, but we can overcome fear with intentionality. Each person has an opportunity and responsibility to build human bridges. 

All the speakers had 5 minutes, and most took 10-15, naturally.

The Muslim pointed out that anciently, people from Yemen could travel to China and back, to southern Europe and west Africa, all without a visa to trade goods. But colonialism erected barriers that persist today. He said if not for Islam, Judaism wouldn't have survived Christianity. His mother used to take care of his Jewish neighbors, etc.

The event was broadcast on zoom and was recorded, but I don't have the link yet.


Some of the slides.


Thursday, November 3, 2022

Universities and multiple working hypotheses

If our LDS intellectuals would embrace the ideas set out by Ben Sasse in this excerpt, we wouldn't have a dogmatic citation cartel that insists on compliance with their M2C, SITH, and other dogmas. 

If only...


From Sen. Ben Sasse’s testimony Tuesday before the University of Florida board of trustees, which was considering his nomination as university president:

I’m a romantic when it comes to the importance of education and the mission of a university. Students aren’t machines and a university isn’t an assembly line. Education, properly understood, isn’t exclusively—or even primarily—about transmitting information. Education is about learning how to humbly and meaningfully engage ideas.

A library card and internet access will get you far in the simpler business of acquiring information. But it takes a community of learners—and that’s what a university is—to engage ideas. . . .

A healthy university must challenge young men and women with new and even uncomfortable ideas. A healthy university must embrace debate. A healthy university will welcome complicated truths and explore eye-opening perspectives. A healthy university will challenge assumptions and consider alternatives. A healthy university stays humble by understanding that the quest for knowledge and truth is a life-long endeavor. No wise person ever concludes they know it all. A healthy university affirms the dignity of every human being and builds a community of inclusion.

Life is short. How are we, who are all destined for dust, going to redeem our time? Deep down we know we need things bigger than consumerism and power politics. None of us is the center of the universe—that’s something that all of us, from freshmen students and new presidents to tenured faculty and hall-of-fame coaches, need to remind ourselves. This is a community of ideas and communities of ideas are built on trust and respect. You can have communities of power or you can have communities of respect. A university is supposed to be a partnership built on that trust and respect.

A healthy university works to expose students to a wide range of opinions, to challenge their assumptions, and to help them refine their arguments. Not because we want to indoctrinate them on what they must think, but because we want to teach them how to think for themselves, how to wrestle with competing truth claims. Agree to disagree and then disagree profoundly and passionately. Argue with sharp minds and open hearts. See the best in the other side. As we say in our family: argue hard and hug anyway.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Optimism vs. pessimism

"It made sense to be pessimistic in the past. But modern society is far safer, with limited downside and unlimited upside. Adapting for modern society means overriding your natural pessimism."