King David and the Doctrine of Blood Atonement

June 24, 2010
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King David and the Doctrine of Blood Atonement

OT SS Lesson #24 The following statement was made by the LDS Church last Wednesday in conjunction with the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner by firing squad in Utah.  I see this as a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of what was taught in the past regarding the doctrine.

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Faith, Knowledge, Belief and Stochastic Theory Part 3: Putting It All Together

June 23, 2010
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In part one I introduced the problem I see with our current understanding of faith, introduced some basic statistics, and weakly drew a comparison to faith. In part two I introduced deductive and inductive reasoning, and showed how Bayesian inference leads to good inductive reasoning. I also gave a brief example of how this might work in real life. In this post I would like to put all these concepts together into at least one way of viewing faith, knowledge, and belief. I will do this by examining the plausible reasoning of three individuals: a stereotypical believing Mormon, a Mormon…

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The Mormon Therapist on Parental Concerns re Toddler Masturbation

June 23, 2010
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The Mormon Therapist on Parental Concerns re Toddler Masturbation

Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist.  She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com. I am LDS, married, and a stay at home mom of a 2 year old son. He’ll be 3 in October. My concern is about his increasing interest in masturbation. I’m frustrated by the lack of guidance I’ve found on parenting websites, where pediatricians do not deem early masturbation…

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Joseph and Sidney: A Strained Friendship

June 22, 2010
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Joseph and Sidney: A Strained Friendship

The friendship between Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith is very fascinating.  Sidney was one of the earliest, and most impressive converts, joining the church in December 1830.  His training as a Baptist minister was especially helpful to Joseph, and he often preached many wonderful sermons.  As time wore on, there were some really interesting issues between Joseph and Sidney.  Richard Van Wagoner wrote a biography called Sidney Rigdon: Portrait of Religious Excess.  The Missouri and Nauvoo periods were especially tumultuous. With Sidney running the church in Quincy, Joseph and others were still in the Liberty Jail.  Through the first 10…

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Mormonism: Nature Religion or Social Religion?

June 22, 2010
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Mormonism:  Nature Religion or Social Religion?

“God against Man.  Man against God.  Man against Nature.  Nature against man.  Nature against God.  God against nature–very funny religion!” ~Dr. D. T. Suzuki.  Is Mormonism as a restorationist church a “nature” religion or a “social” religion or something in between?

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Official Doctrine vs. Personal Speculation

June 21, 2010
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Mormonism, in its very short history, has a rich tradition of theological speculation.  The foundations of the Church were based on burning desires to know concrete answers about the great mysteries.  The existing answers in the early 19th century felt stale or unsatisfying as the world was changing and new frontiers opened up.  Formerly settled religious questions were thrown back into the ring for debate.  This happened within a frontier tradition attempting to interpret and combine ideas from the newly forming materialistic sciences with the long-established magical world view held in western culture.

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Father’s Day Reflections

June 20, 2010
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Father’s Day Reflections

Stop to capture your answers as you read through the scenario.  Imagine . . .  You have set off to climb a mountain, in search of a fabulously rare stone.  (1)What is your impression of the mountain as you stand at its foot? . . .  After a hard search, you still haven’t found the stone, and now the sun has fallen.  (2) What will you do next? . . . You have finally discovered the stone you were seeking.  (3) What kind of stone is it?  Describe its size, weight, and value. . . Now it is time to come down from…

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How Many Mormons Does It Take to Screw in a Lightbulb?

June 19, 2010
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Today’s post is by Matt Workman.  I waited backstage with my small troupe of comedians. One more act to go, then it was our turn to perform. Would the act on before us whip the crowd into a frenzy? Take all the steam out of the room? Perhaps overshadow our under-rehearsed sketch? The performance started and it took us a while to figure out what was happening, but soon it was painfully obvious: our lead-in act was a PowerPoint presentation. It may not surprise you to learn that the venue for this particular comedy performance was a church activity organized…

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Faith & Doubt

June 19, 2010
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Today’s guest post is by Glenn.  When I was at BYU, I got interested in the study of folklore – the way that traditional culture informs our understanding of the world. I worked in the BYU folklore archives cataloguing missionary stories – encounters with the three nephites, miraculous experiences (some easier to believe than others), initiation stories of greenie missionaries, cautionary tales — just a whole bunch of really interesting stuff. I was hooked.

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Faith, Knowledge, Belief, and Stochastic Theory Part 2: Inductive Reasoning

June 18, 2010
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Faith, Knowledge, Belief, and Stochastic Theory Part 2: Inductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning is a form of reasoning in which the conclusion can be drawn directly from the premises. The idea is to show that the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. For example: Bridges built using sound engineering principles are safe. The Bay Bridge was built using sound engineering principles. Therefore, the Bay Bridge was safe (at least when it was built). This form of reasoning is reliable, at least as far as logic goes, producing correct conclusions from the premises.

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Time to Study the Old Testament…Again – Part 8 – The Names

June 18, 2010
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One thing that has always intrigued me about the English version of the Old Testament were how the names, the Hebrew names, were modified away from a Hebrew pronunciation.  Sometimes the names are close and sometimes not even. The key to pronouncing a Hebrew name or any Hebrew word is that he accent is always syllable .

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Being heard when you complain

June 17, 2010
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I came home one day from Sacrament meeting and my wife had a sheet of paper, on official church stationary, titled “First Presidency Statement on Birth Control.”  It had been passed out in Relief Society with instructions not to mention it to husbands.  The statement seemed somewhat suspect, though I had a good idea of its actual author and why it had been promulgated the way it had been.  It wasn’t long until there was a visit from Salt Lake and the matter was resolved.  No one ever gave me any problems as a result of my complaint about the…

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Homosociality and the Friendship Between David and Jonathan

June 17, 2010
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Homosociality and the Friendship Between David and Jonathan

OT SS Lesson #23 The story of David and Jonathan is one of the most inspiring examples of true friendship anywhere.  Our LDS SS manual firmly places this lesson within the mainstream view of Biblical exegesis, presenting the two as strong personal and platonic friends.  As I studied the covenant made between these young men in 1 Samuel 18, I was touched by the loyalty shown by the young Jonathan, because he “loved [David] as his own soul.”  Because of this love, Jonathan relinquishes his hopes for his father’s throne in deference to God’s choice.  In a symbolic and ceremonial gesture,…

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Home-teaching and motivation: A view from an organizational psychologist

June 16, 2010
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Home-teaching and motivation: A view from an organizational psychologist

Today’s guest post is by Benjamin O. I’ve wanted to write this for a long time.  First I need to make a few disclaimers–one, to the best of my knowledge no serious research regarding the motivation of home-teaching pairs has ever been published.  That’s a huge disclaimer.  I’d be happy to be proven wrong.  Second, because of point one, virtually all of what I say here is logic applied to what we do know about motivation to conform to a new situation.  Third, if there’s anything that we know about behavioral psychology, it’s that it is incredibly difficult to make…

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The Mormon Therapist on “I don’t feel safe talking to my husband about sex.”

June 16, 2010
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The Mormon Therapist on “I don’t feel safe talking to my husband about sex.”

Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist.  She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com. You have mentioned the importance of communicating with our spouse about our view of sex–not just the fantasies. I don’t feel like I can do that with my husband. He is not a safe place to go for me. We have a different opinion about how and how often…

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United Order vs Consecration

June 15, 2010
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United Order vs Consecration

I always thought the United Order and Consecration were the same thing.  I’ve been reading a book called Great Basin Kingdom by Leonard Arrington (former church historian) and learned they are actually different.  The basic difference to me seems to be that with Consecration, one gave all they owned to the church, and then were given back “what they needed.”  With the United Order, it seems to have originated out of various economic cooperatives established to give fair, reasonable prices and jobs to the Mormons.  In some cases, saints could choose to consecrate all their possessions to the United Order, but…

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Equal Parenting: Feasible or Not?

June 15, 2010
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Equal Parenting:  Feasible or Not?

There was an interesting article in NYT about the parenting equality in Sweden.  Sweden’s practices are probably the most advanced in terms of creating parental equality, although they go a little too far for my tastes.  As a business person things like 120 paid days of sick time per year for child care seem a little tough to work around.  Nevertheless, the article highlighted some of the obstacles to creating true equality in parenting.

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The Mormon Therapist on the Color Gray

June 13, 2010
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Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist.  She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com. I think so many people want a clear “black and white” answer on many issues. Instead our leaders and the Lord give us great freedom (leeway so to speak) to live our religion. A lot of people seem to be on a quest to “decide” what our Heavenly Father…

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Choice Seer, Spokesman, and Scribe

June 12, 2010
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Choice Seer, Spokesman, and Scribe

Guest Post by Christopher C. Smith Chris has a BA from Fresno Pacific University in Biblical Studies, an MA from Wheaton College in History of Christianity, and is pursuing a PhD from Claremont Graduate University in Religions in North America. In the tradition of Jan Shipps, he is a non-Mormon with a particular focus on Mormon Studies and Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon records in 2 Nephi 3 a very interesting prophecy attributed to the biblical patriarch Joseph of Egypt, according to which a “choice seer” would be raised up from the fruit of Joseph’s loins in the latter…

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How tech-savvy is your faith?

June 12, 2010
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I understand that we cannot text message faith. I remember hearing a lesson (at least a couple times over the course of six years of Aaronic Priesthood classes) about the necessity of humanity in faith and the Gospel. We cannot simply build robots (I believe one was named Cal…Q. Later) who regurgitate the lessons. And in fact, the lessons have become more organic and human with new materials. But, still, we live in 2010 and we are moving forward. Technology is a part of much of our lives. How much do we use it to supplement our faith? A while…

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Mormon Marriage Ref: The Johansen’s Daughter is Cohabitating!

June 11, 2010
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While the situation described may be common, the names, events, and dialogue etc. are all fictional. Here’s the situation: David and Sue Johansen have been married for 20 years. They have four children: 19 (girl), 15 (girl), 12 (girl), and 8 (boy). The oldest just finished up her sophomore year in college, about a two-hour drive away. She is doing very well in school, majoring in biology and pre-med with a 3.8 GPA, and her boyfriend of nearly two years is an education major, planning to teach high school English in an inner-city school. Needless to say more, they are…

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The Release

June 11, 2010
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The Release

With every calling in the Church, a release comes at some point. With the exception of Apostles and Prophets, death is usually not the circumstance that warrants the release.  There seems to be a time frame in some cases like Stake Presidents (9 years), Bishops (5 Years), and Mission and Temple Presidents (3 Years). Most are a few years or so. In the past, it was not usual that a clerk or Bishop might serve 25 years!  Or that a Sister might have been in Primary for 50 years! But, nowadays, that is not the case.

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Of course [fill in the blank] isn’t worth trying to save

June 10, 2010
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We all know some groups are not redeemable.  Democrats, heretics who think Christ can be your friend, those who abuse children.  If they aren’t redeemable, then they aren’t worth trying to save?  Or are they?

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You Can’t Ride Two Donkeys With One Ass: Saul and Spiritual Rebirth

June 10, 2010
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You Can’t Ride Two Donkeys With One Ass: Saul and Spiritual Rebirth

OT SS Lesson #22 Ever since I was introduced to the word “liminal,” I have claimed it as my own. This word describes a threshold or a transitional position — a balancing point between two states of being. For many years I have felt poised on the threshold between two totally different ways of viewing the world. One is scientific and rational. The other is a place where angels materialize and shake your hand, where dreams have meaning, where God’s words come out of men’s mouths when they lay their hands on your head.

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Faith, Knowledge, Belief, and Stochastic Theory Part 1

June 9, 2010
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Faith, Knowledge, Belief, and Stochastic Theory Part 1

Faith has always been a perplexing topic for me. The definitions we hear in church, and in the scriptures seem to come up short. Furthermore, faith is almost always accompanied by a discussion of knowledge and belief. But faith is generally what is defined in the scriptures, and we typically just accept the colloquial meanings of knowledge and belief.

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The Mormon Therapist on Sex Talk

June 9, 2010
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The Mormon Therapist on Sex Talk

Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist.  She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com. My husband and I don’t really talk during sex. What’s there to talk about? I’m certainly not going to talk about something other than sex because then I get distracted and the mood totally dies. Or we can talk about sex, but talking about sex while you’re actually doing…

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Are you sure you’d like to live the United Order?

June 8, 2010
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We had an interesting discussion on my Prayer and Politics post.  (Unfortunately, we talked more about politics than prayer.)  The discussion focused on economic policies.  Many people don’t like President Obama’s push to “redistribute wealth”.  I made the statement that “the United Order was all about redistribution of wealth, so there would be no poor among us. Brigham went out of his way to lambast capitalism’s evils.” Ken S replied that

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Mixed Belief Marriages

June 8, 2010
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Mixed Belief Marriages

What should a church member do if their spouse is a non-believer?  This is something that many couples encounter, either because one spouse ceases to believe or because one spouse converts and the other does not.  What should the church advise these believing spouses who ask?  What is the “doctrinal” implication in these situations?  Does this put the believing spouse’s salvation at risk as some fear?

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Absolute Truth, Inclusivism, Lumen Gentium, and Emeth

June 7, 2010
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Guest post by Thomas In C.S. Lewis’ final Narnia book The Last Battle, there is a powerful scene of an encounter between the Christ-symbolizing lion Aslan and Emeth, a noble-minded worshipper of the false Calormene demon-god Tash: “[The Lion] touched my forehead…and said, Son, thou art welcome.  But I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.  He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.  Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and…

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Then I Will Believe

June 6, 2010
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Our guest post today is by SilverRain, who blogs at The Rains Came Down. When Jesus was suffering on the cross at Calvary, those who put Him there surrounded Him to mock Him. They jeered, “If [thou art] the King of Israel . . . come down from the cross, and we will believe . . . .” (Matt 27:42) I have emerged from the other end of a marriage that stripped me of my ability to trust myself. It is taking hard work to believe the things that I have survived. I have been accused of things I did…

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Facebook Declarations

June 5, 2010
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Facebook Declarations

Today’s guest post is by Matthew Workman.  I lived a few blocks from Venice Beach for many years, so I thought I’d seen quite a few surprising things in my life. But nothing quite prepared me for this. A long-lost friend of my older sister put in a friend request on Facebook and I accepted because I’m fairly promiscuous that way.

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