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  1. A couple last things, just published this week by Ben Spackman on his blog. Interpreting Scripture, History, Science, and Creation: A Free Course by Me! A course syllabus https://benspackman.com/2020/05/04/interpreting-scripture-history-science-and-creation-a-free-course-by-me/ Also, Ben Spackman explains how he teaches Genesis as a church Institute teacher: Teaching Genesis at Institute https://benspackman.com/2020/05/04/teaching-genesis-at-institute/ This is all great stuff. I highly recommend them, if you feel that simplistic explanations are no longer enough.
  2. Here's a great presentation at a recent FairMormon conference that I think makes the point even better than my original post: A Paradoxical Preservation of Faith: LDS Creation Accounts and the Composite Nature of Revelation https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2019/a-paradoxical-preservation-of-faith?fbclid=IwAR3ZdogxsEmsYGEJEdXLd_5yCVmHD1QgyJKjQQf7A4vhJMqi7t5xR70v1hM While I'm at it, here's a great interview with Richard Bushman from a few years ago. One of the best things I've ever heard - about a range of LDS questions, including what's in this thread. 182: Perspectives – Richard Bushman https://mormondiscussionpodcast.org/2015/11/perspectives-richard-bushman/
  3. Here's a great presentation at a recent FairMormon conference that I think makes the point even better than my original post: A Paradoxical Preservation of Faith: LDS Creation Accounts and the Composite Nature of Revelation https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2019/a-paradoxical-preservation-of-faith?fbclid=IwAR3ZdogxsEmsYGEJEdXLd_5yCVmHD1QgyJKjQQf7A4vhJMqi7t5xR70v1hM
  4. My take-aways from all this: The problem: We have some 1950s prophets teaching some things we realize are now apparently not true, or are at the very least are limited and simplistic. Some people see this kind of thing and have their faith shaken. Many others don't even realize it, and these kinds of teachings continue to persist in our church. So what can we learn from this? The church and our history are apparently more complicated than we thought. The teachings we are talking about are not about the core gospel. They are in the realm of science, history, and Bible studies. These are areas where we are continually learning, and will continue to do so. We shouldn't expect the last word on these kinds of things, even from experts and scholars, much less "general" authorities who are talking outside their expertise. The Bible is complex. We shouldn't assume we understand it just by reading the text and coming up with our personal interpretation, and reading our own ideas into it. Bible scholars call this eisegesis. A better way is exegesis: "Exegesis includes a wide range of critical disciplines: textual criticism is the investigation into the history and origins of the text, but exegesis may include the study of the historical and cultural backgrounds of the author, text, and original audience." (Wikipedia) Prophets are just people too. The belief that the Lord leads this church is a foundation of our church. But that doesn't mean that everything a prophet says is the last word on something, especially if they are speaking about subjects outside core doctrine, or speaking on their own. See Elder Oak's talk in Oct. 2019 general conference, "Trust in the Lord": https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/10/17oaks?lang=eng As @laronius said at the top of this discussion, our ultimate guide to truth is the Holy Spirit. Regarding Bible studies: A good place to start is the book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, by E. Randolph Richards, Brandon J. O'Brien. https://www.amazon.com/Misreading-Scripture-Western-Eyes-Understand/dp/0830837825/ Unfortunately, the church's excellent Gospel Topics Essays do not yet include official guidance in matters of Bible studies. So I have turned to faithful LDS scholars such as Ben Spackman, and BYU professors such as Eric Huntsman and Julie Smith. Ben Spackman has a great list of resources, beginning with this page: https://www.timesandseasons.org/harchive/2014/10/recommended-nt-resources-part-1-translations-text-and-the-bible-in-general/ Here's a great article from BYU professor Julie Smith: The Next Generation's Faith Crisis https://www.timesandseasons.org/harchive/2014/10/the-next-generations-faith-crisis/ When it comes to the Bible, some of our problems arise because of translation. The King James Version, while it has beautiful language, is not the greatest translation. There is nothing stopping us from supplementing our studies with better, modern translations. The New Revised Standard Version is what Bible scholars quote from when they publish in their journals: https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-Revised-Standard-Version-NRSV-Bible/#booklist
  5. Not at all. You have grossly misunderstood my intent and my motivation. If you have not carefully read what I said, and also carefully read the two articles I posted, I encourage you to go back and do that.
  6. Yes, I agree. The purpose of my post is not to bash or speak evil of our prophets. My purpose is to raise awareness. Many LDS members do believe prophets are infallible, and that what prophets say is always consistent with other prophets and the scriptures. They also learned overly simplistic, fundamentalist narratives from some prophets in the past. These beliefs are causing a lot of damage now in the church. There is a reason that the church no longer sells McConkie's book Mormon Doctrine. But the problem persists. For example, Ben Spackman, the author of those two articles, is a seminary teacher. He reports that many volunteer seminary teachers still teach out of books like Skousen's The First 1000 Years, which is full of speculation and not at all doctrinal. These overly simplistic narrative are no longer enough for people who are becoming more educated via the internet, modern scholarship, etc. If you look at that first article I posted, it gives great examples of the problem. People do leave the church when they don't follow your first sentence, and rely too much on what a prophet says.
  7. A significant new post by Ben Spackman, one of my favorite LDS scholars. It hurts to realize that some of our 20th century prophets were overly fundamentalist, and have given us simplistic or incomplete narratives. But I think it's important to understand. I feel that now in the 21st century, some people who leave the church are actually rejecting false or limited understandings that are really not part of our doctrine at all. Encultured Prophets and the Firmament of Genesis: Peter Enns Continued https://benspackman.com/2010/11/09/encultured-prophets-and-the-firmament-of-genesis-peter-enns-continued/ More background: The 1950s: A Fundamentalist Shift https://benspackman.com/2020/01/07/the-1950s-a-fundamentalist-shift/
  8. Many years ago I found a book called something like "The Complete Idiots Guide to Zen Living." I learned a lot of useful things from that book. I decided that the core, simple teachings of Buddhism - such as mindfulness, letting go of negative feelings and attachments, accepting reality - would greatly benefit American culture if we adopted them. For example, imagine what the freeways would be if everyone adopted the attitude that we're all flowing together, and accepted that congestion happens, etc. Also, as LDS members, letting go and accepting reality are big steps toward being able to forgive and repent. And mindfulness - what better way to feel the Spirit and hear answer to our prayers that to be entirely living and listening in the present moment.
  9. I have struggled mightily with the OP topic, in ways I'm not going to go into. Overall, I think politics and our LDS membership are bad combinations. It is highly inappropriate to discuss politics in church - you will certainly offend someone, and nothing will drive the Spirit away faster. I think we should realize that politics is a worldly thing. We should rise above the mere philosophies and ideologies of the world. We can think higher than that - our gospel has shown us the way. There is good in most or all parties. Most people who follow a certain ideology or party do so because it focuses on things they think are the priorities. We all want basically the same end-goals - a safe, free, prosperous world. We just differ on how to get there. I'm certain that if people sat down, left their ideologies at the door, and practiced Steven Covey's principles (seek first to understand, etc.) - then most reasonable people could arrive at constructive compromises and pragmatic solutions to problems. Besides ideological us vs them thinking, I think the biggest problem now is that people are poorly informed about issues, or only hear one side of the arguments. Also, the media and many of our leaders are actively trying to divide us and encourage partisan fighting. Here is an excellent book about that: Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media Makes Us Despise One Another, by Matt Taibbi. https://www.amazon.com/Hate-Inc-Todays-Despise-Another/dp/B0854P6WHH/. A fascinating interview with the author: How The Press Makes Us Hate Each Other, https://radiowest.kuer.org/post/how-press-makes-us-hate-each-other As far as the media in general: Graph: How Biased is Your Favorite News Source? https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/media-bias-chart
  10. I went to BYU many years ago. Growing up in "the mission field," it was the only place I wanted to go. I spend high school seeing a lot things that I didn't want to see anymore - I wanted a place where people were trying to live by gospel standards. Overall, I loved BYU. I did get annoyed by the end with some of the superficial restrictions in the honor code (no beards?). But like anything if you focus on irritations and annoyances, they grow larger; whereas if you focus on all your blessings and the wonderful things around you, you will be happier and more grateful. I got an excellent education at BYU, met countless wonderful people, had innumerable great experiences that I would never have had at a secular university. I'm sure if I had gone to somewhere else it could have been great in other ways. But looking back, I would make the same choice again without hesitation.
  11. I agree with everything you have said. However, I don't know if we have the luxury of continuing with the simple narratives we learned in the past. It's true that digging deeper feels like opening a can of worms. But we have the counsel from the scriptures to seek out learning, not to be ignorant. And I think the can of worms has already been opened by the internet. Our youth and other members are hearing and learning things that need to be addressed. Elder Ballard has spoken about that. The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century, Elder M. Russell Ballard https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/broadcasts/article/evening-with-a-general-authority/2016/02/the-opportunities-and-responsibilities-of-ces-teachers-in-the-21st-century?lang=eng My problem has been that, as a lifetime member who went to seminary, had religion classes at BYU, has read the scriptures many times, etc. - I find that what I feel that I need more than anything now is questions. I know the basics, all the Sunday School answers. But there is so much more to learn, and I'm getting bored with hearing the same lessons at church all the time. As I have learned more about Biblical studies it has felt like leaving the lazy river and immediately heading down the category 5 rapids. I don't know why learning has to feel so perilous. Or, another metaphor - it's like taking the red pill, if you've seen The Matrix. If I was looking for reasons to get upset and leave the church because of being taught what feels like a naive and simplistic narrative in the past, I could easily do that. But like Abraham, I am a person who desires to have knowledge, and I'm very grateful for what I've been learning. I agree that what matters most is loving God and loving your neighbor. That's what this life is about. But we also have that doctrine that no one can be saved in ignorance - we're all going to need to learn a lot more, eventually.
  12. "Adam" in the Hebrew is not necessarily a proper name of a person. The Hebrew word means "a human" or "mankind." I was reading about this recently, and I find it fascinating. A recent translation of the Hebrew Bible by the Jewish scholar Robert Alter renders Genesis 1:26 like this: "Let us make a human, in our image, by our likeness...." Alter's footnote about this says the Hebrew "adam" here means "a human," and it discusses the original Hebrew text thus: "The term 'adam, afterward consistently with the definite article [the, as in 'the adam'] which is used both here and in the second account [Genesis chapter 2] of the origins of mankind, is a generic term for human beings, not a proper noun. It also does not automatically suggest maleness, especially not without the prefix ben, "son of," and so the traditional rendering "man" is misleading, and an exclusively male 'adam would make nonsense of the last clause of verse 27." Alter translates Genesis 1:27 like this, formatting it as poetry: "And God created the human in his image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them." Modern prophets have indicated that Adam was a real person, and that the story of Adam and Eve has great spiritual value. But I think we have to be careful assuming Genesis is a literal historical account, the way we would understand modern history. It is the creation story of the ancient Hebrews, passed down from unknown authors and times, and codified around 300 BC when the Hebrew Bible as we have it was put together, if I remember correctly what I've read from Bible scholars.
  13. I think polygamy is an interesting topic in many respects. Brian and Laura Hales have recently published an excellent, in-depth study of the history and doctrine surrounding this topic: Joseph Smith's Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding https://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Smiths-Polygamy-Toward-Understanding/dp/1589587235 If you want a lot more detail, they have an additional 3-volume series as well. Addressing the OP, if I remember correctly, the Hales' books would indicate the following: The popular idea that polygamy is a higher law that we all would ideally be following is not necessarily doctrine. Joseph Smith did indeed resist the commandment to him and obey it with great reluctance. This was partly because of his concern about how Emma would react. (His worries were confirmed ) Joseph Smith submitted to polygamy out of obedience. Polygamy was very difficult to live. (It was not some sort of sex party, as some people with more lurid imaginations have assumed.) We don't know all the reasons for why polygamy was instituted in the church (although the Hales' books do examine these questions in depth). My personal take-away from reading these books is that polygamy was given by the Lord to early modern church leaders as a lesson and challenge in obedience. (Only a minority of LDS practiced polygamy in the 1800s.) We don't know all the why's about it. The Lord's mind and ways are not our own. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are my ways higher than your ways, And my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). Brigham Young did supposedly make a lot of statements saying polygamy was a higher law. However, I always chuckle at this quote supposedly from him: "The introduction of the doctrine of polygamy was the first time in my life that I desired the grave, and I could hardly get over it for a long time. And when I saw a funeral, I felt to envy the corpse its situation." -- Brigham Young Of course the go-to place to begin to understand this is the church's official Gospel Topics Essay: Plural Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/plural-marriage-in-the-church-of-jesus-christ-of-latter-day-saints?lang=eng
  14. A couple sci fi come to mind: Jupiter Ascending This is the perfect movie for me - space opera, escapist, interesting new angles on the genre. I thought it was a lot of fun. Doesn't get much love on IMDB - only 5.3 out of 10 https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1617661/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_4 Passengers (2016) Another space movie. The ship seems so wonderful - I want to travel on it! I think the low ratings from critics were partly due to it coming out right after the 2016 election results, and grouchy critics weren't in the mood for this kind of movie. Also, I think some people (many women?) are angered at the choice the man makes for the woman (OK, but empathize with his situation a little; and also - what would have ended up happening to the woman at the end of the movie if he hadn't made that choice?) Rotten Tomatoes - 31% critics's rating, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/passengers_2016 IMDB is kinder at 7/10, but I think this score used to be lower - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1355644/
  15. My sister lived in San Antonio for many years. They loved it there.