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

Friday, March 29, 2024

Religious kids do better with mental health

Kids in religious families have fared better in the smartphone era, with smaller rises in mental illness. and I believe it is primarily due to being anchored in real-world communities with rituals and obligations, low anomie. Thanks ...

A surprising result from Jonathan Haidt's research is that religion seems linked to better mental health in young people. It's a rare chink of light in an otherwise bleak picture on the effects of smartphones on teenagers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Daniel Kahneman dies at 90

I've spoken about Daniel Kahneman and his book, Thinking: Fast and Slow at conferences because of his insights into behavioral economics and how that affects the way people analyze and discuss topics related to the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon. 

The Wall St. Journal summarized his work here:

Excerpt, with parts relevant to the topics on this blog in bold:

Kahneman and his friend Amos Tversky, who died in 1996, upended traditional economic assumptions that people consistently act rationally and with their self-interest at heart. Instead, experiments conducted by the two Israeli-born psychologists showed that when presented with complex situations, people often rely on rules of thumb that can lead them to behave irrationally.

Insights from Kahneman and Tversky’s work were widely adopted in many fields beyond psychology and economics, including law, marketing, government, investment management and even the planning of giant infrastructure projects. 

[and discussions about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon.]

The two found that people derive patterns and probabilities based on small sets of data, not understanding the role of randomness—for instance, ascribing skill to a fund manager who beat the stock market a couple of years in a row, and not recognizing the role of luck. They also found that people tend to feel losses much more keenly than gains.

This leads to the phenomenon of loss aversion, where, for example, investors are less willing to sell a stock that has fallen below the price they bought it at than they would be to sell the same stock, at the same price, if they had registered a gain.


Largely on the basis of this work, Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2002—an honor that Tversky, had he lived, would likely have shared. ... his and Tversky’s work provided the framework for economists to develop behavioral economics.

“It’s like, suppose there’s somebody who discovers that the Earth is round and then that sets off the explorers,” said Richard Thaler, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business economist who won the economics Nobel in 2017. “Pick up any issue of the American Economic Review and there will be one or two articles that are explicitly behavioral, and you know that wouldn’t have happened without Amos and Danny.”


Kahneman’s work found a greater audience with the publication of his 2011 book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” which reviewed his research with Tversky and popularized the idea that people are guided by two modes of thinking: “fast” thinking, which operates quickly and automatically, and “slow” thinking, which is more deliberative.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Tumult precedes "something very extraordinary"

Jonathan Edwards, ""Some Thoughts Concerning the Revival."


A great deal of noise and tumult, confusion and uproar, and darkness mixed with light, and evil with good, is always to be expected in the beginning of something very extraordinary, and very glorious in the state of things in human society, or the church of God. 

As after nature has long been shut up in a cold dead state, in time of winter, when the sun returns in the spring, there is, together with the increase of the light and heat of the sun, very dirty and tempestuous weather, before all is settled calm and serene, and all nature rejoices in its bloom and beauty. 

It is in the new creation as it was in the old: the Spirit of God first moved upon the face of the waters, which was an occasion of great uproar and tumult, and things were gradually brought to a settled state, till at length all stood forth in that beautiful, peaceful order, when the heavens and the earth were finished, and God saw everything that he had made; "and behold, it was very good" [cf. Genesis 1]. 

When God is about to bring to pass something great and glorious in the world, nature is in a ferment and struggle, and the world as it were in travail. 

As when God was about to introduce the Messiah into the world, and that new and glorious dispensation that he set up, he shook the heavens and the earth, and shook all nations [Haggai 2:6–7]. 

There is nothing that the church of God is in Scripture more frequently represented by than vegetables; as a tree, a vine, corn, etc., which gradually bring forth their fruit, and are first green before they are ripe. 

A great revival of religion is expressly compared to this gradual production of vegetables, Isaiah 61:11, "As the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations." 

The church is in a special manner compared to a palm tree, Canticles 7:7–8; Exodus 15:27; 1 Kings 6:29; Psalms 92:12. 

Of which tree this peculiar thing is observed, that the fruit of it, though it be very sweet and good when it is ripe, yet before it has had time to ripen, has a mixture of poison.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

AI in the Church

Nice overview here:

1/ For context, I'm referring to an internal Church workforce broadcast with Elders Gong and Pingree today. I don't think I'm legally allowed to disclose certain specifics, but here are some takeaways I think would be appropriate to share:

2/ First, Elder Gong showed he is VERY familiar with the AI. He shared how he and his family are using ChatGPT and demoed the amazing capabilities of Sora (video generation). Then he shared an audio DeepFake trained on his talks that was freaky accurate in reproducing his voice.

3/ His DeepFake demo was actually a positive one. But he noted it's definitely a two-edged sword. Opponents of the Gospel will increasingly use Deep Fakes to lead people astray. Members need to be prepared for that attack vector and develop spiritual discernment.

4/ Spiritual discernment was a major theme. We were referred to Pres. Nelson's 2018 prophecy: "In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost."

6/ Several departments also demoed amazing advances using AI I can't talk about. But I can share te FamilySearch prototype storyteller demo because it was shown publicly at RootsTech earlier this month. You can watch that awesome demo here:

8/ But back to my main point: Elder Gong discussed prompt engineering and LLMs and applications as fluently as a software engineer. It was obvious from this broadcast that the Brethren are hyper-aware of this and other modern-day developments. The Church is in good hands! /end

PS: I just saw that the Church Newsroom wrote an article on the principles they shared from the broadcast. Awesome!

News Release

Guiding Principles for the Church of Jesus Christ’s Use of Artificial Intelligence

In a meeting with employees worldwide, Elder Gong urges reliance on the Spirit, wisdom, and trusted sources while using AI

Emergent technologies including in construction, communication, and transportation have allowed the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to reach out to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest tool to help the message of Christ spread throughout the earth.

 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Knowing that the proper use of AI will help the Church accomplish God’s work of salvation and exaltation, the Church has issued the following guiding principles for using AI. These were introduced to employees of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, by Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (co-chair of the Church Communication Committee) and Elder John C. Pingree of the Seventy (executive director of the Correlation Department).

“We can create appropriate balances in our perceptions, plans, and implementation of generative AI that are realistic both of opportunity and challenge — put another way, that are neither giddy nor alarmist,” Elder Gong said of these principles.

Spiritual Connection

  • The Church will use artificial intelligence to support and not supplant connection between God and His children.
  • The Church will use artificial intelligence in positive, helpful, and uplifting ways that maintain the honesty, integrity, ethics, values, and standards of the Church.


  • People interacting with the Church will understand when they are interfacing with artificial intelligence.
  • The Church will provide attribution for content created with artificial intelligence when the authenticity, accuracy, or authorship of the content could be misunderstood or misleading.

Privacy and Security

  • The Church’s use of artificial intelligence will safeguard sacred and personal information.


  • The Church will use artificial intelligence in a manner consistent with the policies of the Church and all applicable laws.
  • The Church will be measured and deliberate in its use of artificial intelligence by regularly testing and reviewing outputs to help ensure accuracy, truthfulness, and compliance.

“The guiding principles are intended to support the responsible use of AI by the Church workforce,” Elder Pingree said. “These principles may also be helpful for members and friends of the Church as they navigate a world changing due to AI.”

The Church of Jesus Christ sees several opportunities with AI including in family history work, accelerating and automating processes, and great potential for language translation and interpretation. Generative AI may also offer natural language queries and prompts to help Latter-day Saints find current, accurate information from designated, grounded, and approved Church sources, such as

“Overall, I am optimistic about our ability to use these AI technologies wisely and effectively, and to protect Church members and friends from deceitfully spread falsehoods or untruth,” Elder Gong said.

Elder Gong acknowledged that some people will weaponize AI tools. Of particular concern are deepfakes, the fictitious or malicious use of someone’s name, image, and likeness. These are most likely to happen to people — such as Church leaders — who have a recognizable face and voice, a significant amount of video and audio in the public domain, and known and motivated antagonists.

Elder Gong said reliance on the Holy Spirit, wisdom and trusted sources can help inoculate against deepfakes.

The Holy Spirit

“‘Light and truth’ are a scriptural definition of intelligence,” Elder Gong said, speaking of Doctrine and Covenants 93:36. “While generative artificial intelligence may be quick to offer information, it can never replace revelation or generate truth. If something does not feel right or is inconsistent with what you know is true, seek to discern before believing.”


“Wisdom,” the Apostle said, “helps us use knowledge, experience, and judgment to make good decisions. The scriptures remind us: ‘blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom’ (2 Nephi 28:30). Draw from your experiences and apply wisdom to know what is true.”

Trusted Sources

Because so many voices vie for our attention, it is critical we “anchor ourselves with trusted sources of truth,” Elder Gong said. These include “the Holy Ghost, scriptures, words of the prophets, and the Church’s authoritative website,”

The Church of Jesus Christ will, as needed, address deceitful content through official Church channels.

Elder Gong gave two cautions for employees and service missionaries as they use AI in their work. First, he said, they should avoid the temptation to use the speed and simplicity of AI to oversaturate Church members with audio and visual content. Second, he said, is a reminder that the restored Church of Jesus Christ is not primarily a purveyor of information but a source of God’s truth.

“The Holy Ghost only attests to truth,” Elder Gong said. “The Holy Ghost must always be able to attest to the truth and authenticity of all we say and share both in our form and in our content.”

Elder Gong said he is optimistic the Church of Jesus Christ can use AI tools wisely and effectively and protect Latter-day Saints and friends of the faith from deception.

“As employees and missionary volunteers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you have opportunity to learn about, understand, and apply artificial intelligence wisely, according to the guiding principles outlined [above], as we advance the Lord’s sacred work together,” Elder Gong said.